Responding to the LGBT Movement's Southern Strategy
Truth with Grace

John Stonestreet
December 17, 2014
Reproduced with Permission

If you were trying to expand acceptance for "LGBT rights" where would you launch a public relations blitz? Well, the Human Rights Campaign, which calls itself "the largest national LGBT organizer in the South," has decided the answer is Mississippi. Yes, deeply conservative Mississippi, where just 22 percent of the voters believe that so-called same-sex marriage should be legal. It's the focus of a $310,000 PR campaign called "All God's Children" and it's promoting tolerance for lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgendered people, as well as their lifestyle decisions.

The initiative includes television commercials, phone calls, door-to-door canvassing, and online advertising. It sounds a lot like the work that goes into an evangelistic campaign, as does the language being used: "We are all God's children," the campaign says. "It is only for God to judge, not us. We need to treat everyone with respect."

The campaign in the Magnolia State is part of a larger, $8.5 million effort that includes the Bible-belt states of Arkansas and Alabama. HRC says that "a faith-driven, Christian values-focused message is the most effective way to boost support for LGBT equality in the South."

So how should Christians respond? Well, as Christians, we should already be teaching and demonstrating the inherent dignity of all people, because we are all made in the image of God. This is a powerful message for two reasons. First, it's true . And second, the Human Rights Campaign is trumpeting one of the most destructive messages of our time: that our deepest identities are no deeper than our sexual inclinations and choices.

But when we get dignity right, we have the grounding from which to stand up for anyone, including those who identify as LGBT, when they are being mistreated. And, we can also lovingly reject whenever special rights are called for because of someone's lifestyle choices. Our identity and worth is based on who we are, not what we do.

On the other hand, if we respond to this kind of propaganda using "us" versus "them" vocabulary, we inadvertently agree that peoples' sexual inclinations constitute their identity - and that a behavior based on identity is legitimate. This is not a Christian understanding of human identity. It devalues the imago dei we all share. When Christians respond to the LGBT "community" without that theological undergirding, we inadvertently endorse a very bad anthropology at the root of our sexual confusions.

And of course we need to teach in our churches what the Bible says about foundational matters of human life and sexuality. Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention notes that HRC's ad blitz "confronts Bible-Belt spirituality mixed with biblical illiteracy." We can't assume that even Christians know what the Bible says about marriage, sex, and human flourishing.

Christians say "no" to various expressions of sexual sin not because we are pinched, uptight, narrow, and unloving. We say "no" to counterfeits because God has a greater "yes"! The real thing - God's great, brilliant plan for sexuality.

And the church should respond by finding more tangible ways to reach out to, and truly love, members of the LGBT community. The HRC campaign calls for love. But no one should out-love Christians! And we must also offer hope and redemption to all of us who live in such a sexually broken culture.

You're a sinner and so am I, and we need to remember that our religiosity is no protection against sin or temptation, in Mississippi, or anywhere else.

So as we go forward, let's speak and act with humility, asking God to empower us with as much grace as truth.