It's my next column for the Lancaster Sunday News,
and it goes something like this:
Forgive me if I seem a bit angry today.
Why? Well, you may have heard about a recent attack on a UCC church in Middlebrook, Virginia. The interior was trashed, the walls were spray-painted with hateful, homophobic epithets, and the vandals attempted to start a fire with the congregation's hymnals. The attack came days after the UCC's General Synod approved a resolution affirming same-sex marriage.
As I say, you may have heard about this--as long as you don't rely on news outlets geared to conservative Christian churches.
I've checked. So far, there's been no report on the assault from the Christian Bible Network, none from the Christian Post, nor from Persecution.org or Voices of the Martyrs. The websites of Albert Mohler, Gary Bauer, Jerry Falwell, and Pat Robertson are all silent. Christianity Today's Weblog, which carries news of just about everything happening in the Christian world, has yet to carry the news. Nor has Agape Press, which picks up within days stories of persecution--no matter how minor--against Christians around the world.
So I have to ask: why not? Why this silence?
Where is the outrage?
I'd love to be proved wrong on this. Please, prove me wrong. But to date, no major conservative Christian news organization has carried this story.
Again, why not? Why hasn't the religious right spoken out against this offense?
I know what some folks will write in to tell me: same-sex marriage and homosexuality are abominations, offenses against God's clear and concrete moral ordering of the universe. Therefore, this doesn't count as persecution.
First of all, in the United Church of Christ's polity, the General Synod "speaks to, but not for, the church". That the national gathering affirmed same-sex marriage does not mean that local congregations do. The congregation in question in fact had no statement on the question one way or another. Even the suggestion that the crude bigotry perpetrated on this church should be overlooked because of a decision they didn't make is reprehensible.
Nor do I recall it saying anywhere in the Bible that churches being torched is acceptable if they don't agree with a particular doctrine. I do seem to remember Jesus praying "that they may be as one" (John 17:11).
Whatever you may think of the General Synod's actions, vandalizing churches is not a Christian response. The leaders of conservative churches need to stand up and say so, loud and clear.
They need to do so not just as leaders of the Church universal, but as leaders of civil society.
For freedom of conscience works both ways. It protects those who oppose same-sex marriage, and those who advocate for it. It protects conservatives and liberals, traditionalists and postmodernists, and so on. The price of freedom, it is often said, is eternal vigilance--not against the enemies of liberty "out there"--but against our own intolerance and self-satisfaction. If conservative churches want to be free from persecution, as they so often claim, if they want to take their rightful place in the public square, then they need to shoulder the burdens that go along with those things.
They need to say, loud and clear, that violence in the name of traditional values is not a Christian activity. Not now, not ever.
They need to say, loud and clear, that violence in the name of conservative social policies is not a Christian activity. Not now, not ever.
They need to say, loud and clear, that what happened to this congregation in Virginia is unacceptable, and that the offense is not just against that church but against all Christians.
They need to say that persecution against any religious group for any beliefs--no matter how controversial--is unacceptable. That does not constitute an endorsement of those beliefs; only of the God-given liberty to pursue them without fear of harassment, intimidation, or arson.
They need to say that moral authority can only be preserved if one is willing to extend the same freedom to others that one would claim for oneself. They need to say that Christians are called to emulate Jesus, who poured himself out in love and humility on behalf of humanity (Phil. 2:7).
They need to say these things, or explain why they will not.