Follow other nations’ lead on gays? Careful what you ask for


In a closed-door meeting with Christian leaders last year, a man who’s something of hero of mine stood to make the case on why we must resist the rising tide of LGBT rights. He read what seemed like an approved checklist of talking points peppered with traditional interpretations of relevant biblical passages and sociological data. His arguments, though well trod, were sincere. But just before he concluded, my friend added a new appeal: Americans should listen to non-Western Christians on the matter. The faithful in many countries have held the line on traditional understandings of sexuality and marriage, and it would be arrogant for progressive Americans to ignore their brothers and sisters’ perspectives.

But if religious conservatives are truly awakening to the need to dialogue with global Christians, then let them be unchanging. It is inconsistent to exploit non-Western perspectives on LGBT rights but refuse to hear those same voices on matters such as nation building, the waging of imperialistic wars, immigration, environmental policy, and foreign aid. The inconsistency here leads me to believe that these calls are more about political posturing than a desire to really listen to our global brothers and sisters.

My friend is only one of many making these kinds of arguments. Ron Sider, author of the classic book Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, argued in Christianity Today that Christians should listen “to the vast majority of contemporary Christians (who now live in the global South)” on LGBT issues. Christian blogger Trevin Wax says he hopes the Supreme Court “will handle same-sex marriage like other nations have.” Wax adds that only 17 countries that belong to the United Nations have changed their laws to allow for same-sex unions.

But what Sider and Wax fail to present is exactly how foreign nations have handled LGBT rights. They do not disclose, for example that in seven countries, those convicted of homosexual acts can be executed, often by hanging or stoning. And they make no mention of the approximately 70 countries in which LGBT persons can be imprisoned for years or even for life.