What do I want for Christmas? Well it’s the same thing as last year really. And ironically something everyone could give but most won’t. What is it? I want people to think about what they say and how they say it. I find myself subjected to hurtful hate against Christians and others daily on Facebook and Twitter. It really gets me down. Maybe that’s my depression. But what’s worst is so much of this hate comes in the name of anti-hate. If you say it, think about how you’d feel receiving it. And always assume you can’t read a person’s heart.
That this comes from people I admire, respect and think of as friends is really disturbing. Many are smart, well educated, well meaning people. Do they know how much they’re hurting others with their careless remarks?
One of the most offensive changes in our cultural climate the past few years to me has been the change in the way people ideologically bully others. The chief tool of this seems to have become throwing around words like “bigotry.” Calling someone a bigot used to be a major accusation not given lightly. Now it’s thrown around without major thought. And that’s a very destructive thing. In my experience, this change has come about because people have forgotten the distinction between bigotry and racism and have redefined the word. Ironically, in the process, by calling people “bigot,” they themselves have begun acting as bigots.
Dictionary.com defines bigotry as follows:
As you can see, strictly speaking, bigotry is an intolerance of different opinions, creeds and beliefs and acting to persecute anyone who holds such ideologies. It is not accusing people of being inequal for various differences. That’s racism, and it’s an important distinction. Let’s look at some examples.
I often hear Christians labelled as bigots when they take a stand that marriage is sacred and should be restricted to one man and one woman and not redefined to include same sex couples. Many of these same Christians would have no issue if the government created civil unions or some other form of marriage-like bond for same sex couples but they want to maintain the biblical definition of marriage. How is this bigotry? It’s not according to this definition. They are not saying same sex couples cannot have similar rights. They just don’t want to redefine a religious rite to mean something different than it’s biblically defined. The other difficulty is that many Christians believe for true forgiveness to occur, one must be repentant of the sin. And one must make an effort to leave behind the sinful behavior. In other words, one must attempt to and desire to change. For people who believe homosexuality is a choice, which is also completely unbiblical, this poses a problem as well because if you are born something, how can you be asked to change? They believe the Bible clearly states that all men and women are tempted with sin but we also all have the power to resist and not act on those impulses. Yet, here we are, all of us sinners, which means, we all fail to resist some temptations which we encounter. Equally.
While there are stricter, more conservative sects of Christians who consider homosexuality an abomination worse than other forms of sin and some who even go so far as to condemn gays as an abomination, this is not biblically correct. The bible does not rank levels of sin. The one sin singled out as worse than others is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. That’s the only one. Instead, the bible states many times that all sin is an equal abomination before God and that all men and women are equally sinners. Being a loving God, with faith in Christ, we are offered forgiveness and a second chance. That offer is extended to all sinners, not just straight ones. But because such diversity of beliefs exist, all Christians get painted with the same paintbrush. There are a number of other sects with varied beliefs, some far more liberal than this. Yet all get lumped together when Christians are called bigots, etc. by people who have no idea what those they are accusing really believe.
I believe the reason that people often call Christians bigots is because they don’t share these biblical beliefs. But the fact that they are in ideological disagreement does not make the other side “bigots” by the definition we see above. It just makes them in disagreement. In a country founded for religious freedom, this is an important distinction. Throwing around that term is incredibly wrong. It’s also incredibly hurtful. Even if you disagree with the biblical claims I state above, that does not make someone who believes those things a bigot. It makes them people who disagree with you. And the holding of a difference in belief itself is not bigotry. It is only when you are intolerant that it becomes bigotry. And as per the definition, that means being intolerant of the belief itself existing.
So persecuting Christians for that belief and labeling them incorrectly as bigoted becomes an act of bigotry itself. Those who take this view argue that the beliefs are discriminatory. But is that really the case? It’s more of a disagreement of definitions and the majority of belief holders are not going out to try and attack or otherwise harm or label or abuse same sex couples. Most would live in peace with them and let each have his or her own, so to speak, but they remain convinced the Bible is true and that its definition of marriage as God’s sacred union of one man and one woman is something that must not be violated. Those on the other side call this discrimination but if same sex couples can have the same rights through civil unions or something how is it really hurting or discriminating against them? It’s not actually. This is a matter of terms really. I have not been alone in suggesting that marriage be left to churches and all couples be offered civil unions by the government. In fact, some countries require this. In Brazil, you can marry in the church, but it’s not legal for the government until you have the civil government ceremony and filing. If these Christians can be accused of something, it may be lack of compassion for others is appropriate, certainly at times. But actual bigotry? In individual cases, yes, but overall? Hardly.
Another example. Recently Lowes pulled ads from a Michigan local TV show about ordinary American Muslims. Lowes was immediately labelled bigoted. But the CEO of Lowes received thousands of letters from potential customers around the country decrying sponsorship of the show, so he made a business decision that it was a headache he didn’t need. Courageous? Maybe not. Bigotry? Hardly. There’s no value judgement being made here about religion. It’s about where advertising dollars can be most effective in promoting the business. Period. Yet they are labelled bigots. Incorrect.
Yet another example. Actress Angie Harmon recently spoke about how she was treated in Hollywood when she answered a question about her politics, revealing herself as Republican: “When I quote, unquote came out I had no idea I was doing something that was detrimental to my career. It never occurred to me. I’m an American. I’m going to have an opinion as everybody else does and I was asked a question. The fact that it was turned into that I was a gay hating racist was just heartbreaking. It was really horrible. The fact that most of my close friends are gay. After I quote unquote came out as a Republican, one of my dearest gay friends said to me, ‘You’ve got to go on a T.V. show and tell everyone you like gay people.’ I was like, ‘Why?’ He was like, ‘Because you’re a Republican.’ I was like, ‘I’m sorry who’s stereotyping who?”
Yes, that’s right, automatic labeling and assumptions based on beliefs. Am I the only one who sees how wrong this is? How ignorant and hateful it is?
To me, this opposition is more a stubborn refusal based on a desire to “win” an ideological battle (itself a bigotry against anyone who disagrees) than it is about legitimate discrimination. So the accusers in labeling others bigots, themselves become bigots. Ironic, isn’t it? Most of the vitriol and rhetoric these days has one aim: to totally discredit anyone with opposite beliefs. It’s not really about the truth nor is about the mutual respect and harmony they claim to demand. They want to win. And in a country founded on respect for different beliefs and ideas, that’s a crime. The worst perpetrators are people who are educated and smart and should know better. In fact, they often do. That lack of character is the real danger to America, not opposing beliefs.
In fact, these are the same people who preach “tolerance” while being intolerant. There is a difference. Let’s look quickly at these definitions.
To disagree with someone’s choices or views is not the same as being intolerant. It is not acceptance, of course. But intolerance? Hardly. Yet another misused term that’s being improperly employed here. To not allow others to think freely even when they disagree with you is to be intolerant. It’s also to be bigoted. Who are the real bigots and intolerant ones in these situations?
I once was a camp counselor. We had kids of all backgrounds, beliefs, etc. One day someone heard a rumor that I was Christian and asked me about it. I said, yes, I am. They asked my belief about what the bible says about homosexuality. I said “I believe the bible says it is sin.” That’s it. Period. They said thanks for being honest, walked away and told everyone I was a bigot. I was persecuted as a gay basher and gay hater. Forget the fact that one of the kids I was closest too that year was gay. I never treated him or any of the other students any differently. I never even broached the subject of their sexuality with them. I never talked about my faith. The mere fact that my opinion existed made me a hater. But who was the one being hated? Who was the one not being tolerated? Who was not being accepted?
I’ve gone out of my way on #sffwrtcht, the Twitter chat I host, to allow discussion of a wide variety of topics. Both homosexual fiction and Christian have been discussed. I’ve promoted books with gay characters and books with Christians characters. My own preferences don’t enter into it. All I ask is that we keep our discussions and web content family friendly. Am I really the intolerant one?
Let me close with another Angie Harmon quote from the same article: “Look our forefathers moved here for freedom of speech and wanting to be able to have their own opinion. I don’t care if you’re Republican or a Democrat or a Liberal, getting crucified for the way you think or believe, obviously if it’s not hurting anyone, it’s just Un-American.We’ve become so intolerant of each other that it’s just sickening. It’s just heartbreaking. United we stand, divided we fall. We have got to learn to be tolerant of each other. It’s pretty obvious we’re not going to al think the same way but we’ve got to learn to appreciate every American for the fact that they have the right to think the way they do.The Democrats have the right to think the way they think, the Republicans have the right to think the way they think. I might not understand everything a Democrat or liberal thinks but hey let’s be honest, I don’t understand some of the things the Republicans think, but that doesn’t make me some dumb hick that doesn’t have the right to live here.”
I know exactly how she feels.
For what it’s worth…
Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novel The Worker Prince, a Barnes & Noble Best SF Releases of 2011 Honorable Mention, the collection The North Star Serial, Part 1, and has several short stories forthcoming in anthologies and magazines. His second novel, The Returning, is forthcoming from Diminished Media Group in 2012. He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chatevery Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. He can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Excerpts from The Worker Prince can be found on his blog.