Looking at Day One of the Southern Baptist's anti-LGBT conference

To start out the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, which they've titled “The Gospel, Homosexuality, and the Future of Marriage.”  I sent out the following tweet:

I did not know how prescient I would end up being.

Let's start with Barronelle Stutzman, the Washington florist who earned national attention, particularly from anti-LGBT groups and conservative media, when she chose to turn away a gay customer who sought services for his upcoming wedding.  This is literally all she did to earn the attention: Refuse service to a longtime client at what should've been the happiest time of his life.  She simply flouted local anti-discrimination laws because she wrongly believes that her personal faith gives her right to do so.

What happened with Ms. Stutzman showed up to speak at this ERLC conference?  Why she got a standing ovation, naturally.  Religion News Service national correspondent Sarah Pulliam Bailey made a Vine of the moment:

Ya know, as an avid theatergoer, I've seen my share of standing ovations for performances I personally found subpar.  But this standing ovation for someone who did nothing other than say no to a certain kind of customer because of a certain characteristic pretty much takes the cake.  Or the flowers, as it were.

But fake victimization and flawed assessments thereof are what defined day one of this event, which I have been tracking through the live feed and from reporters on the ground (Think Progress' Zack Ford and Equality Matters' Carlos Maza have been particularly prolific). And no outlet made a more egregious attempt than the Alliance Defending Freedom, the anti-LGBT legal outfit that managed to place a pair of attorneys on the Day One speaking roster.  It was at the conclusion of the ADF's appearance that Ms. Stutzman had her moment in the applause-happy sun, but even before that, the ADF pair (Erik Stanly and Kristen Waggoner) ran through every other fake victim who the anti-LGBT movement has tried to turn into both a martyr and a warning sign (not to mention a fundraising coup).  From bakers to photographers to inn keepers, the ADF told the crowd that all business owners are fair game and that anti-discrimination laws are really meant to "silence Christians," but that they will prevail if "God's word" gets its say.  The entire idea is to dupe the crowd—a crowd, I will remind you again, that came here for a conference all about opposing homosexuality and LGBT rights—into believing that they are the oppressed.

Oh, and when you thought it couldn't get worse, ADF's Stanley even parroted the falsely spun-up revisionist claim that the Matthew Shepard hate crime is a hoax: 

Because exploiting a tragic murder more than fifteen years after the fact, all so you can make it seem like there is some great big lie perpetuated against you and your "team," is what now happens at religious conventions?  Yikes!  Something went wrong somewhere along the way.

But the ADF was far from alone.  Albert Mohler, the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president who opened the conference, was also quite self-victimizing in his words.  Insisting that "What was condemned is now celebrated and what was celebrated is now condemned," Mohler was careful to clarify that he and his gathered masses are in the "should be celebrated but aren't" camp and that the loving gay couples who are achieving their rights, if not dreams, are in the "should be condemned but are instead celebrated" box.  In fact his entire speech, titled “Aftermath: Ministering in a Post-Marriage Culture," was geared toward the idea that same-sex marriage had actively done something to both ruin marriage and oppress people of faith.  Mohler left no room for the idea that maybe—just maybe—loving same-sex couples might add to the value of marriage.  Heck, he won't even concede that our marriages might be benign.  For Mohler and for this conference, there is now an "aftermath" to clean up if not change back.  How do LGBT people of good will even have a dialogue with that sort of mindset?  Sadly, I'm not sure they want us to.

Then there was Glenn Stanton, the Focus on the Family employee who notoriously claims, in an article that continues to run on Focus on the Family's website, that homosexuality is "a particularly evil lie of Satan."  Mr. Stanton titled his speech "Loving Your LGBT Neighbor."  However, he spent the entire thing insisting that homosexuality is "disordered behavior" and equated homosexuality with things like adultery.  Because that's what "love" is to this crowd: an insistence that even the most monogamous, loving, lock solid of gay unions begins on par with an extramarital affair and only gets worse from there.  And if you disagree with Mr. Stanton's view, you are just the intolerant person who refuses to accept this great love gift that he is offering.  Because they are always the victims, remember.  This is the through-line.

Or what about one of the final speakers of the first night, Sherif Girgis? Girgis, a co-author and protege of National Organization For Marriage cofounder Robert George, dedicated a large portion of his talk to celibacy.  Girgis positioned no sex as the ultimate calling for gay people.  "Celibacy is its own vocation that can point to the kingdom in another way," he insisted.  And in a particularly audacious turn, Girgis co-opted an twisted a popular pro-LGBT anti-bullying program, insisting that a gay friend of his "rejected the best Its Gets Better message ever: the kingdom."  He also referred to said gay friend as making a "choice." While Girgis didn't really play up the victim angle so much, it is implicit in his words.  After all, if celibacy is the truly great choice but the larger world overlooks it, then it's clear that Girgis believes programs like "It Gets Better" are steamrolling over messages like the one he delivered to this attentive crowd of over one thousand.

But perhaps the worst self-victimization could be found on Twitter.  I'd say that about 85% of the people following the hashtag on day one were pro-LGBT people monitoring the goings-on.  Which makes sense, considering we are the ones who actually suffer from these kinds of campaigns against us, our families, and our rights.  But as often happens during these kinds of events, the conference's defenders were insistent that the simple act of monitoring this conference to see what, exactly, these people were saying about (rather than with) us, was itself some sort of act of aggression.  I can't tell you how many times I, a married gay father who even grew up in the churches around the Nashville area where this conference is being held, was called a "troll" for simply engaging in discussion.  And I was far from alone.  Popular evangelical writer Rachel Held Evans summed up the frustration in a pair of pertinent tweets:

Sadly, I think her second tweet speaks not so much to the point as to the wish.  Judging by what I heard from participants and supporters, it doesn't seem like they want us to have a voice in the conversation.  Our voice—our truths, our pain, our happiness, our experiences, our families, our rights—all cut through the spin of this victim narrative that the speakers at this event are so forcefully pushing.  Because why actually hear us when you can talk about us instead?  The latter way is much easier.   

And this was just Day One.  I'm currently monitoring Day Two, which is extremely heavy on "ex-gay" propaganda.  I'll report back once I learn how, exactly, these forceful attempts to push us into the closet are somehow our fault. 

Note: GLAAD and the Human Rights Campaign Foundation released "In Focus: Faith, LGBT People, & the Midterm Elections,” a groundbreaking resource guide that empowers journalists to challenge anti-LGBT talking heads who mask bias as a ‘tenet of faith.’ The guide is designed to help the media provide accurate information about LGBT people and faith in the lead up to the 2014 midterm elections.

Mainstream media outlets use far fewer religious sources from Mainline Protestant, Jewish, or other denominations whose messages were predominantly positive and accepting of LGBT people. Far too often, outlets frame stories as "God vs. Gay," inaccurately representing the current climate of acceptance across faith communities today. The newly released guide seeks to correct these disparities in reporting. Read the report at www.glaad.org/vote.

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