Last Thursday was surreal. After several last ditch efforts to convince the Indiana Senate that it should debate and vote on the issue of bias, or hate crimes, I was forced to accept that it isn’t going to happen. Not this year. Maybe not ever.
Nationally, the number of hate crimes is skyrocketing. Even Vice President Pence made a surprise visit to a historic Jewish cemetery in Missouri to condemn the recent vandalism that had occurred there. Meanwhile, his home state of Indiana is one of only five states left in America that is silent on the issue. But if Pence were in his second term as governor here, he would not be awestruck by the “inspiring” response from the people of Missouri. He would more likely be making sure Senate Bill 439 died, and stayed dead.
Luckily for Pence, and his staunchest Hoosier supporters, the Indiana bias crimes bill is dead even without his help. It is dead because the Indiana Family Association and the Indiana Family Institute want it dead. You remember these two groups. They were two of the main proponents of our now infamous Religious Freedom and Restoration Act in 2015.
We have heard repeatedly from them that RFRA was not about any group’s hatred for the gay community. Neither was it an attempt to discriminate against or deprive dignity from any member of the LGBT community.
Oh, yes it was. But I forgive them.
It turns out these two Christian based conservative groups oppose any legislation that provides any, and I mean absolutely any, legal protections for gays. Even they know that it is difficult, if not impossible, to humanely defend opposing enhanced penalties for the assault of a gay man or woman simply because they are gay. Or for being perceived to be gay. And for the purpose of scaring other people who are gay.
That opposition might not seem very Christian. And it isn’t.
Pope Francis said in June of last year that “the Catechism of the Catholic Church says: that gay people should not be discriminated against, that they have to be respected, pastorally accompanied.” He also said that the church must say it’s “sorry to this person that is gay that it has offended.”
I have been angry at the evangelical groups in Indiana for their cruelty toward my LGBT neighbors. But as Pope Francis would expect of me, I forgive them.
I was doing some reading after the exhausting day that Thursday turned out to be for me and came across an essay by Preston Sprinkle. He has a Ph.D. In New Testament and is a best selling author and a professor of theology. He wrote that “we evangelicals need to get beyond what we believe and pay attention to how we believe.” I was specifically drawn to Sprinkle’s view that while the Bible prohibits same-sex behavior, “the Bible also, and much more pervasively, prohibits withholding Christ’s love from those who don’t agree with us.”
This is clearly not how the evangelical IFA and IFI see the world. But again, I forgive them.
Dr. Gregory Tomlinson wrote in the Christian Examiner in December of 2015 that “Jesus was concerned with people believing self-righteousness was a ticket to heaven. He repeatedly expressed frustration with the sanctimonious who misinterpreted or misapplied God’s word.” A growing number of Christians see this unholy fear and hatred of the LGBT community as nothing more than a misinterpretation and misapplication of God’s word.
And I forgive them for that too. But no matter how many times I do, and no matter how hard it is for me, my forgiveness won’t change their minds. My anger toward them never did either. So what will?
I actually believe that as they learn from others of their own faith, they will learn to live in a more Christian like manner. I see Christianity the way Pope Francis does. I see Jesus as more loving than condemning. And I have always thought that Jesus would be less concerned with the literal contents of the Bible and far more concerned with its infinite meaning.
Indiana will not be able to protect people for being targeted because of bias towards who they are until it can come to terms with its tragic homophobia, which some disguise as Christian based. Ironically, I think it is faith itself that will see us through it. That and maybe a General Assembly with a little more courage.
One day they will learn Maya Angelou was correct: “It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, to forgive.”
I’m now patiently looking forward to that day. Not for me, but for them.