Proponents of the religious right have been in the business for a long time now of pretending that they and they alone mediate God to the rest of us. Remember when Anita Bryant, the wildly popular Southern Baptist anti-gay crusader (well, until her marriage crashed and burned [the gays made that happen, her shameless ex-husband maintained] and she went through multiple bankruptcies), solemnly assured us that God did not intend a woman to be president of the U.S.?
What Anita Bryant said in 1972:
A woman should not be president. It’s not the way God intended it to be.
Anita knew, you see. She and God were on speaking terms. The rest of us? Not so much. Only her right-wing, anti-gay, misogynistic reading of Christian beliefs and values gets to count as Christianity. When even many other Christians don't see gay people or the role of women in the way she and her right-wing white evangelical community does, she's right and they're wrong. There's one way — Anita's way — or the highway. Vote Republican, and you vote for God. There's just not any other way.
In some sectors of American society, not much has changed since 1972, has it? Go through the bible-belt part of the U.S. today, the area most dominated by right-wing white evangelicals, and you'll find the very same claims being made all over again to support Donald Trump, a man whose personal life and values could not be more at odds with fundamental Christian beliefs and moral values.
Fortunately, from the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s till today, there have always been strong alternative voices within the American churches reminding us that the right-wing white evangelical iteration of Christian faith is far from the whole story — that it's, in fact, a distorted, politicized and downright anti-Christian way of formulating Christian faith born out of the defense of slavery by white Southern churches. One such voice today: Rev. William Barber of the Moral Mondays movement. Here he is speaking at DNC:
I work to conserve a divine tradition that teaches us to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God. . . . I'm so concerned about those that say so much about what God says so little, while saying so little about what God says so much. In my heart, I'm troubled and I'm worried by the way faith is cynically used by some to serve hate, fear, racism, and greed. We need to heed the voice of the scriptures, we need to listen to their ancient chorus in which deep calls unto deep. The prophet Isaiah cries out, "What I'm interested in seeing you doing, says the Lord, as a nation is, 'Pay people what they deserve, share your food with the hungry. Do this, and then your nation shall be called a repairer of the breach.' " Jesus, a brown-skinned Palestinian Jew, called us to preach good news to the poor, the broken, the bruised, and all those who feel unaccepted.
As a Christian, one who spent fifteen years of his professional life working in historically black universities — because of my conviction, based on my experiences growing up in the segregated South as the Civil Rights movement challenged racial barriers, that civil rights for African Americans are a non-negotiable moral value — I'm grateful for the witness of Rev. William Barber and other Christians who challenge the claim of the religious right to speak in an exclusive way for God.
As a gay person whose own struggle for rights is grounded in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, too, I'm grateful to him and Christians like him for standing up for LGBTQ rights. Without the witness of such American Christians, I'd be tempted simply to write off Christianity as a morally defensible choice otherwise, given the counter-witness to Christian values provided in this country for far too long now by far too many American Christians.