Author: Amanda Marcotte
“Christianity is a faith that professes to defend the meek and the humble, but many Christians—at least of the more fundamentalist stripe—tend to be more interested in propping up unjust systems and using religion as a cudgel to bully the weak. Obviously, there are plenty of Christians who aren’t massive hypocrites, but when it comes to using religion as a weapon to push hard-right ideology, deeply un-Christian behavior runs rampant. Here’s a few examples of some of the more egregious recent sins of those who claim to be holier than thou.
1) Attempted murder. Tim Lambesis, the lead singer of the Christian metal band As I Lay Dying, was recently arrested in California for trying to hire a hit man—who turned out to be an undercover police officer—to murder his estranged wife. Lambesis and his wife were deeply invested in evangelical Christian culture, even embracing the enthusiasm for overseas adoption that has spread in recent years in the community by adopting three children from Ethiopia.
Lambesis’ alleged crime was the weak choice of just one man, of course, but the rush of online support he got after his arrest killed any hope that followers of Christian rock are made better people for their fandom. Lambesis fans flooded Twitter with such heartwarming sentiments about Lambesis’ wife such as, “Bitch must be crazy/annoying” and “His wife was probably a cunt anyway.” One even suggested, “Praying never trumps taking action.”
2) Enthusiastic support for bullying. The Christian right group Focus on the Family is so supportive of public school students’ “right” to gay-bash that they’ve started a campaign to combat anti-bullying programs called True Tolerance.People for the American Way put together a report on what amounts to a Christian pro-bullying campaign. Christian right activists attack anti-bullying initiatives in schools by claiming they amount to “indoctrination” of students into the “homosexual lifestyle,” even though the programs in question are simply telling kids not to beat up or tease other kids for perceived sexual non-conformity. Focus on the Family pretends it isn’t openly fighting for the protection of gay-bashers by denying that anti-gay bullying is a real problem, but that excuse fools no one who has ever been or even known a teenager.
3) Starving the poor. The biblical Jesus Christ went around helping the poor and the sick and famously fed people with loaves and fishes. His modern-day conservative followers prefer to snatch food from the mouths of the hungry. Tennessee Republican congressman Stephen Fincher showed what lengths conservative Christians will go to ignore their savior’s obvious teachings regarding charity and poverty, when he deliberately quoted, out of context, a Bible verse that says, “Anyone unwilling to work should not eat,” to defend cuts to SNAP, the federal food assistance program.
Not only was the quote out of context—it’s clear that Jesus was all for feeding the poor and alleviating their suffering—it was also a deeply dishonest characterization of people who use food stamps. For one thing, when you have 8% unemployment, it’s just asinine to suggest the problem is that people don’t want to work. But beyond that, research shows that over 90% of welfare benefits go to people who currently have a job or are elderly and disabled and can’t work. In other words, even by the measure of the verse Fincher quoted, the people he would deny food to are entitled to it, having met the basic standard of being willing to work.
4) Demanding the breakup of loving families for ideological reasons. The Christian right loves to go on and on about the importance of family, but what they don’t often admit is they are only talking about their families. The Christian right is forever trying to take away the right to parent from gay people by interfering with gay adoptions, banning gay couples from using reproductive technologies, and in the case of religious right talk show host Bryan Fisher,encouraging his audience to kidnap children of gay parents and give them to straight people.
This obsession with declaring loving parents unfit because they disagree about religion and politics has even grown beyond this. Writing for the Christian publication Charisma, Republican strategist Raynard Jackson demanded that MSNBC commentator Krystal Ball lose custody of her daughter. Ball isn’t gay, but she has taught her daughter that being gay is okay, which Jackson felt was enough to break up Ball’s family.
5) Denying people basic bodily functions as punishment for non-conformity. The Delaware legislature is quickly advancing a bill that would protect the rights of transgender people to live as the gender they identify with instead of the one they were assigned at birth. Focus on the Family is going nuts, and one main reason is its hostility to transgender people using public restrooms. It’s even gone so far as to suggest that transgender women are sexual predators who just want access to women’s rooms in order to rape cisgender women.
In reality, transgender people want to use public restrooms for the same reason the rest of us do: biological necessity. As Zack Ford of Think Progress notes, this isn’t just a medical, but also a safety issue as well. Making people who present as male use the women’s bathroom, for instance, could be perceived as a threat that could result in fearful or even violent confrontations that are wholly unnecessary. Once again, Focus on the Family’s willingness to let the threat of violence back up its opposition to gender non-conformity runs in strong opposition to the non-violence Christians are supposed to espouse.
6) False testimony. The Christian right loves championing the Ten Commandments and demanding they be hung in every public space imaginable. It’s a weird fetish, since they tend to honor one in particular—“Thou shalt not bear false witness”—more in the breach than in the observance. Christian right activists lie about evolution, women’s bodies, and gay people. One recent and notable example is Mark Regnerus, a right-wing Christian sociologist who has become famous for his tendency to publish intellectually dishonest attacks on gay people.
Regnerus started his spate of false testimony with a fundamentally dishonest study purporting to show that gay parents were worse for children than straight parents. The study was quickly denounced as “bullshit” by a member of the editorial board of the very journal that published it, in no small part because Regnerus only included straight parents from intact marriages while his gay sample drew largely from divorced people and people who had multiple relationships while raising their children. (Some of them didn’t even identify as gay!)
Despite being publicly exposed for giving false testimony, Regnerus is doubling down, making nit-picky and fundamentally dishonest criticisms of studies that show happy gay couples do as well as happy straight couples in the child-rearing game. Apparently, he missed the part of his training as a sociologist where they teach you to compare apples to apples, and resents anyone who suggests that’s an important part of a properly controlled study.
7) Exploiting sick people. The Christian Post reports that Christine Daniel, a former doctor and ordained Pentecostal minister, was sentenced to 14 years in prison and told to pay over $1.2 million in damages to people she conned into believing that her herbal supplements would cure them of cancer. Daniel hawked her fake cancer cure on Trinity Broadcasting Network’s “Praise the Lord” program, and was found to have done things like telling a patient who still had full-blown breast cancer that she was cured. Authorities claim that at least one patient of Daniel’s would have lived if she had gotten proper medical treatment instead of relying on Daniel’s snake oil.
8) Using your position as a religious authority to rape minors. Sexually exploiting minors is such commonplace behavior in churches that Dan Savage of theStranger had to limit his blogging about it to just youth pastors, lest he get overwhelmed trying to note every sex crime committed by a minister, priest, deacon, or any person with authority in a Christian church. Nowadays, having a person in authority arrested for a sex crime is as fundamental a part of being a right-wing Christian church as having anti-abortion pamphlets in the entrance hall to the sanctuary.
Amanda Marcotte co-writes the blog Pandagon. She is the author of It’s a Jungle Out There: The Feminist Survival Guide to Politically Inhospitable Environments.