President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden visited relatives of the Orlando dead yesterday. While they paid their respects, however, some Christian fundamentalists chose to celebrate the massacre.
“The tragedy is that more of them didn’t die. The tragedy is – I’m kind of upset that he [Omar Mateen] didn’t finish the job!” said Pastor Roger Jimenez of Sacramento’s Verity Baptist Church. “I wish the government would round them all up, put them up against a firing wall, put a firing squad in front of them, and blow their brains out.”
Jimenez wasn’t the only one. According to The Washington Post, Pastor Steven Anderson of Faithful Word Baptist Church in Tempe, Ariz., also praised the shooting. “The good news is that at least 50 of these pedophiles are not going to be harming children anymore,” he said. “The bad news is that a lot of the homos in the bar are still alive, so they’re going to continue to molest children and recruit people into their filthy homosexual lifestyle. The other bad news is that this is going to now be used as propaganda not only against Muslims but also against Christians.” Love is not a threat. (Source: Getty)
This rhetoric is obviously extreme, but it’s also not new. Colorado pastor Kevin Swanson claimed the Bible demanded the death penalty for homosexual activity mere moments before introducing U.S. Sen Ted Cruz (R-Texas) at a “religious liberty” conference last fall. Most members of the Religious Right stop short of calling for the execution of LGBT people, but they have long promoted the idea that LGBT rights pose an existential threat to the family. Some have taken it even further than this: Focus on the Family founder James Dobson posited in 2014 that God would have to destroy America for its support of LGBT rights, just as he once destroyed Rome and Pompeii. Cruz’s father, Raphael, said something similar in 2015, not long before hitting the campaign trail for his son’s doomed presidential bid. The U.S. Supreme Court’s verdict on marriage, he claimed, “could destroy America.”
But reserve the gold medal for the Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver, who once said that marriage equality would be “the beginning of the end of Western civilization.”
And again: After Orlando, most members of the Religious Right expressed sorrow for deaths – but they did not apologize for the rhetoric they spewed in the years leading up to those deaths. Others, like The Federalist’s John Daniel Davidson, have argued the massacre wasn’t about LGBT people at all. In fact, Davidson implied, if you believed multiple reports that Mateen hated LGBT people and was enraged by the sight of men kissing you’re just a liberal stooge.
“If the Orlando massacre turns out to be just another terrorist attack by a radical Muslim who hates the West and loves ISIS, what use would it be as a domestic political weapon?” he wrote. People like John Daniel Davidson don’t want you think they’re excusing Omar Mateen’s violence. People like John Daniel Davidson want you think they’re just asking logical questions. But this is really all a smokescreen.
It is very convenient for the Religious Right to pretend that Omar Mateen did not actually intend to target LGBT people. It is necessary, even, for them to do so. They have to erase LGBT people from this event in order to convince themselves that it’s nothing to do with them. It’s nothing to do with the fact they’ve dehumanized LGBT people as dangerous deviants for decades, that they’ve agitated against equal civil rights on the basis that extending those rights will lead to the destruction of all we hold dear.
ThinkProgress reported earlier this week that from 2014 to 2015, there was a 20 percent increase in hate crimes against LGBT people. Rhetoric has consequences. Most people won’t become vigilantes, certainly. They’ll simply manifest prejudice in smaller ways. They’ll publicly humiliate you on the premises of their secular, for-profit business because hey, you can just go somewhere else, right? Maybe they’re your neighbors. Maybe they treat you like an evangelization project instead of a person. Maybe you’ll catch them muttering about moral ruin; quiet but audible, because the point is for you to hear them.
And if you succumb, one more death by a thousand cuts, your life becomes a culture war anecdote in death. See? Being gay isn’t healthy. That’s what they’ll say. But at least they didn’t say you should be executed, so don’t you dare call them bigots.
We’ve always had extremists. And banning Muslims isn’t going to solve the problem.