Intolerance wears many faces these days
Last week Carrie Prejean, also known as Miss California, lost the Miss U.S.A. pageant because she committed the unthinkable crime–at least in Hollywood–of giving an honest answer to the politically charged topic of gay marriage.
“In my family, I … believe marriage should be between a man and a woman,” she said. “No offense to anybody out there, but that’s how I was raised.”
Prejean’s answer was neither hateful nor intolerant, but for these words she has been subjected to a litany of media backlash. Perez Hilton, the celebrity blogger judge that asked the question has gone on nothing less than a smear campaign on his blog site. Even Donald Trump, one of the owners of the pageant, said her answer “probably did cost her the crown.” It seems that Hollywood media is tolerant to everyone except for those who agree with the majority of the Americans, including–ironically–California, that the definition of marriage that has been around since the beginning of human history should remain intact.
What’s happened to Carrie Prejean over the past week has been nothing less than a media lynching for failing to toe the cultural elite party line. It’s intolerance. Plain and simple. I’m sure that many of my politically conservative evangelical friends are upset–and for good reason. So am I. But let’s get real for a minute. Without minimizing Prejean’s pain (nor her heroism for standing up for her beliefs), it’s likely that the former Miss California will get a hefty book deal out of this and will be a favorite in the evangelical speaking circuit for a long time to come. Meanwhile, over the past week, two eleven-year-old boys have hung themselves because of the merciless taunting by their peers for the perception that they were “gay.”
These two situations are vastly different in degree, but they’re not so different in kind. On the one hand, we have a woman that expressed a religious belief with political implications and the agents of intolerance splashed the blogosphere with hate speech. On the other hand, we have two dead boys because their perceived sexuality painted them as the other in the eyes of many.
For the record, there’s no evidence that Carl Joseph Walker- Hoover or Jaheem Herrera were actually gay, but not that it should matter. Just as racial bullying is socially taboo nowadays, so should sexual orientation bullying, but too often school officials look the other way when a child is bullied over perceived sexual orientation. Unless we want more young boys hanging themselves, this is going to have to change–and Christians should be leading the way in this effort.
Sadly, it seems that Christian leadership is lacking these days. Nowhere is the culture war more evident than in the two mostly highly visible faces of American Christianity–the liberal face and the conservative face. While most theologically liberal Christians would likely side with the Hollywood-blogger-induced smear campaign against Carrie Prejean, theologically conservative Christians are some of the worst perpetrators of hate speech against gay people–just ask any gay person.
Here is where the problem lies. On both sides of the so-called culture war the definition of tolerance has been lost. Both sides seem to think that the word “tolerate” equals “condone.” But the very definition of tolerance assumes genuine differences in beliefs and practices. Jesus was the most tolerant man to ever live. His entire life and ministry was characterized by pursuing genuine table fellowship with tax collectors, prostitutes, and drunkards, but that doesn’t mean that Jesus condoned extortion, prostitution, and drunkenness. Jesus didn’t condone their lifestyle, but He did affirm their humanity. For Jesus, every human being was–and is–infinitely valuable.
If Carry Prejean is a true Christian, and I have no reason to believe that she is not, then now would be the perfect time for her to speak up on behalf of young boys and girls across the nation harassed by bullies at school because of their perceived sexual orientation. Carry Prejean has a national platform. Tens of thousands of elementary and middle school children across the nation do not. They suffer in silence. It’s time that the world sees real Christianity looks like. While the body count rises, the clock keeps ticking.
Perhaps Carrie Prejean will respond. Maybe she won’t. It’s likely that Carry Prejean will never even see this article. So if we don’t see an anti-bully campaign from the former Miss California, let’s not hold that against her, because the important thing is not how Carrie Prejean will respond. The important thing is how will you and I respond?