United States: Baptists preach queer doublespeak

Candace Chellew-Hodge.

The 190th Annual Meeting of Southern Baptists, held on November 16 in Columbia, South Carolina, approved a resolution calling its pastors to preach against homosexuality — “to uphold the biblical standard of human sexuality against all onslaughts” — but also to “love and show compassion toward homosexuals and transgendered persons”.

Mixed in with this “hate is love” doublespeak is a great deal of defensiveness about the loss of social status by the US religious right.

The resolution said: “Southern Baptists and other evangelical Christians have been portrayed by the media as intolerant or dangerous because of our commitment to Christ and our belief in Biblical precepts.”

It seems unlikely that the Southern Baptists experience persecution in conservative South Carolina, but there are signs that evangelical hegemony over the culture of the US “Bible Belt” is weakening.

Queer rights activist and author Candace Chellew-Hodge, pastor of Jubilee! Circle United Church of Christ, said the resolution is “un-Baptist” on the Religion Dispatches blog on November 17.

She said Southern Baptists are historically “strong supporters of the separation of church and state”, and that as a Congregationalist denomination, the Southern Baptist should not speak on behalf of its members.

The use of “love” to justify the ideological bullying of a vulnerable group of people is evidence that the bedrock of American religious fundamentalism is volatile and shaky at this moment in history.