It Won’t Stop

I check my junk file every week and notice I sometimes receive emails from a watchdog group riding herd over evangelical ministries. Every now and again, I check out their latest news.

Recently there has been a lot of controversy regarding Acts 29, a large church planting ministry similar to the one I directed for a quarter of a century. They’ve grown rapidly, have a huge position in the market, and have managed to get themselves into a fair amount of trouble over the last few years.

Some of the complaints about the ministry come from pastors who started churches with them. They are upset over Acts 29’s lack of transparency over whether or not they still believe in a complementarian view of women. For those not schooled in evangelical language, that is the view that women are not to preach or serve as elders, and that the husband is the head of the family. It is a view held in opposition to the egalitarian view, which teaches gender equality.

I forget there is still a world in which intelligent people believe men are supposed to be in charge of their families and churches and pretty much everything else. It is so foreign to anything I have known over the last ten years that it leaves me dumbfounded when people say with a straight face that God expects wives to submit to their husbands.

Conflict over women’s roles in the family and the church is just one example of the fantasy bubble of evangelicalism. The evangelical bubble makes me chuckle until I realize how much damage is being done to our nation because of evangelical perspectives on gender. It is not as bad as the horrible misogyny of fundamentalist Muslims in Afghanistan, nor as bad as a fictional America in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, but it’s bad enough.

Currently there are more than 900 anti LGBTQ+ bills pending in legislative bodies across the United States, 407 of them in state legislatures, and 196 of them trans specific. Pretty much all of those laws are driven by evangelical Christian men. As long as evangelical skirmishes remained contained within their own ranks, I viewed them as a tempest in a teapot. I could shake my head and dismiss them as a dying breed. Not anymore.

It all started in the 1980s with the Moral Majority. Grassroots organizers encouraged evangelicals to run for school boards, local governments, and state legislatures. It turns out evangelicals are as good at organizing as they are bad at biblical interpretation. Because of the abilities of state legislatures to gerrymander districts, and because of our forefathers accommodation to rural states giving them outsize power in the US Senate and Electoral College, we now have a nation of minority rule. That minority is made up of white, evangelical Christians, and they believe it is their God-given responsibility to enforce their moral code on the entire nation.

Now that the Dobbs decision has been handed down, we see America waking up to the outsize power these groups wield. We can see the direct line from complementarian thinking to anti-abortion legislation. Women should not be given agency over their own bodies. God says so. Except of course, God never said so. Their doctrinal positions are based on a very narrow type of hermeneutics and exegesis best described as literalism or originalism. Within the world of most scripture scholars, this type of biblical interpretation was dismissed more than a century ago. Unfortunately, no one told fundamentalists and evangelicals that, and through shrewd manipulation, they now hold great political power.

Evangelical men have mounted a campaign to take away my civil rights and declare me a non-person. They want to eradicate me from the face of the earth. As I wrote a few weeks ago, one of the leading organizations rallying people against trans rights is the American Principles Project. Terry Schilling, president of the organization, was asked if their opposition will stop with bans on medical care for adolescents. He answered, “I want transition care to be thought of as horrific medical practices that happened in the past.” The end game is clear. These Christians will fight tooth and nail to eradicate all transgender rights. Barring trans kids from scholastic sports is just the beginning.

I know that once Millennials and Gen Z become the majority of the electorate things will change. They are far more socially liberal than their parents, and they already make up 42 percent of voters. By 2036 they will be 62 percent of the electorate. Once my generation dies off, there will be few left to fight against LGBTQ+ rights and women’s equality. But last I checked, my generation isn’t dying off all that quickly. Until then, trans folks ¬†and women are in trouble.

We need allies and apprentices on deck. Allies work from their own perspective to speak up on our behalf. Apprentices work at our direction to do the work. We need both groups. These attacks are not going away without a strong and vibrant resistance. I am grateful for those who are willing to speak up. There is no room for passive citizenship. Our nation’s future depends on active citizens willing to fight for equality for all Americans.

And so it goes.