December 22, 2006

Anti-gay Christians miss message

Column by Kevin Eigelbach

Cincinati Post -- When I glanced at the headline, "Second state Baptist group ponders Wal-Mart boycott," I was happy.

At last, I thought, Christians are getting organized against the evil retail empire.

I wondered if they wanted to boycott over Wal-Mart's repressive labor policies, for its union-busting at its American stores, or its exploitation of workers at factories in China.

Did they object to Wal-Mart's encouraging its workers to apply for Medicaid and other state benefits so the company doesn't have to pay for their health care?

Were they fired up about Wal-Mart's siphoning dollars from downtown stores all over the nation?

Alas, no. The Baptists weren't mad about any of those things. They were mad because Wal-Mart expanded its diversity program in a deal with the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.

Nothing makes Baptists madder than the thought of men having sex with men. They think it's just plain icky.

The story, which I found at, said that a Southern Baptists of Texas Convention resolution called on Baptists to "reflect Biblical values with their purchasing power, letters and influence."

An earlier Missouri Baptist Convention resolution encouraged Baptists there to "exercise moral stewardship" in their shopping.

Not to be outdone, the American Family Association called for a one-day boycott of Wal-Mart on the Friday after Thanksgiving.

On that day, some protestors showed up at the Wal-Mart in Richmond, Ky. The local chapter of the Kentucky Fairness Alliance held a counter-demonstration.

Alliance members asked for help from the Florence-based Kentucky Equality Federation, but the group decided not to get involved. The Federation decided that a counter-demonstration would just magnify an event that wasn't that big of a deal, President Jordan Palmer said.

The Florence hotel owner said it wouldn't surprise him if the Southern Baptist Convention organized a boycott, as it did over Disney's pro-gay policies. "I think they're religious fanatics," he said.

Palmer, who is gay, grew up the son of a Church of God minister. A Christian all his life, he attends a Methodist church in Lexington, where he lives part-time. 

"My dad has thinking similar to that of the Southern Baptist Convention, and he has not spoken to me since I was in grammar school, especially now that I am in politics and in newspapers and television," he said. "I incorporated this organization to shield me from personal legal liability because I have a lot to say as someone who never had a foundation in life other than the one I made for myself because of my sexual orientation."

"I think that people really miss the true message of Christianity and most world religions," he said. "I think they try to twist them to suit their beliefs."

The real message is about loving your neighbor. "It's not about boycotting people or condemning people, or telling people they're going to hell for the way they live their life," he said.

I agree.

In a few days, we'll celebrate the birth of Jesus, whom the Gospel writer John tells us was born not to condemn the world but to save it. Why do some people feel the need to condemn others, when Christ himself said he condemned no one?

In the case of gays and lesbians, I'm convinced it's because they are easy targets. They're different in a very tangible way. The idea of boycotting businesses because they don't discriminate against homosexuals might strike some Christians as a principled stand against an evil practice.

To the world at large, though, this kind of thing increasingly looks like a simple inability to accept something you don't understand. As a former Baptist, I wish the Southern Baptist Convention would stand up for something I could also get behind. Like the high cost of low prices.