Discrimination, In Jesus Name
When I was four years old, I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior. Since that day, my faith was challenged multiple times by classmates, professors, strangers, and my own doubts and fears. Though it was difficult at times, I never gave up my beliefs, instead persevering through the struggle. I never once doubted my decision.
Last night was the first time in twenty-three years I questioned whether or not I’d made a mistake.
With a 10-9 vote, the Jacksonville City Council made history last night by failing to pass a bill that would add sexual orientation to the current Human Rights Ordinance, that already exists to provide protection against discrimination based on race, religion, gender, or disability. Specifically, the bill would have prevented someone from being fired, or being denied a hotel room or apartment, solely because they were gay. What was defeated by one vote was not the original bill. That one also included protections for the “T” in the “LGBT.” The amended version of the bill, which many said went too far to water down the original, removed protections for Transgender individuals, removed any legal ramifications for businesses found discriminating, and added additional religious exemptions for people concerned that the bill might “infringe on their moral rights.” That was the bill that failed by one vote. The original, fully inclusive bill, failed by a vote of 17-2.
When the votes all tallied up on the screen last night, and the red “no’s” drowned out the green, the City Council chambers erupted. What seemed like half of the people who had crowded into the standing room only area, proudly wearing their “Protect First Liberties” stickers, cheered and screamed, many of them shouting praises to Jesus. While I and many of my friends fighting for this bill stood up to leave, they kept cheering and clapping, yelling in our faces, “Praise to the Lord.”
The few people cheering that I managed to make eye contact with, looked back at me with what can only be described as victorious hatred.
These same people had clapped and nodded along with council member Daniels and Redman, who had claimed that this bill could lead to necrophilia, bestiality, and the recruitment of our children into the homosexual lifestyle. They murmured when council member Yarborough, who claimed his faith made him oppose the bill, openly accused a gay community leader of sending him an email that attempted to bribe and manipulate him. An accusation that was a bold faced lie.
Fighting back tears that eventually escaped once I reached my car, everything I’d experienced over the past few months flooded over me. The multiple council meetings, rallies and planning events I’d attended. The articles written for the bill, and ones I’d read against. The things I wish I hadn’t seen, heard, or experienced.
Last night, after witnessing parents carrying in their children, clutching “Chik-Fil-A” signs in their tiny hands, and seeing people stare at me with disgust, simply because I was wearing a red sticker and they had on a blue, I questioned whether or not I wanted to be a Christian anymore.
I’d never before felt so much hatred, fear, and anger, and never before been so disgusted by people who claimed to worship the same God. What made it even worse, was the fact that at every planning meeting, rally, and call to action event I’d attended for this bill, I never heard hatred from the gay community. Besides the one man who loudly and justifiably rallied against the Christians who were saying awful things about him, no one got angry. What I heard over and over from this community, who had been verbally and physically abused, was kindness. And an urging to focus on passing the bill, instead of protesting and calling names.
The name calling, shouting, protesting, and anger did come, but not from the LGBT community. It came from local Jacksonville Christians. Christians who repeatedly claimed that their “genuine religious belief” precluded them from treating someone who was gay like they’d treat anyone else. Believers who seemed so intent on obsessing over gay sex, that they failed to see the person standing in front of them. The person to which they were saying, as clear as they could, “you are not welcome in this city.”
None of this was new of course, I’d heard this kind of Biblical bastardization before. But what horrified me, and caused me to question my membership in their club, was the realization as I walked out of Council Chambers that they were glad I was crying. Happy to see me leave, defeated. They took joy in sending the message that I was not welcome. And the very worst part, is that some of them tried to cover this wolf of a message in the sheep’s clothing of “love.” The people hooting and hollering said to each other and the news cameras that, “we’re celebrating that we won, but that doesn’t mean we like discrimination.”
What I’d suspected, but became crystal clear to me last night, is what Christians as a group have become. They’ve become a people known more for their hate, than their love. They’ve transformed from a group of radicals who’d stop at nothing to proclaim the gospel of Christ, to a hoard of angry voters who’ll stop at nothing to oppress people who sin differently than them. And some of them like it. They enjoy being hated and being known for what they are against, instead of what they are for.
After I left City Hall last night and arrived home, I decided to take my dog for a longer than normal walk. Like I often do when I’m upset, I started to pray. What stopped me was a wave of anger and disgust, after realizing that the God I was praying to was the same one that the people celebrating in City Hall claimed to worship. So instead I just cried, and asked the Holy Spirit for comfort. When no comfort came, I silently asked him why he was letting me feel so alone.
What I felt him say I’ll never forget. You’re not alone. I’m crying with you.