Opinion: Where’s the outrage?

Matt Vroom

Matt Vroom

By Jon Monteith

Recently, outspoken evangelist Jimmy Swaggart gave a fiery sermon to his congregation that quickly made the evening news. Naturally, he was condemning homosexuals.

But it got a little more serious than the typical “gays are going to destroy the United States” babble. His words escalated into the following threat: “I’m going to be blunt and plain: If one ever looks at me like that, I’m going to kill him and tell God he died.”

According to news reports, members of the congregation applauded when they heard Swaggart’s threat.

I guess I’m not really surprised that such ignorance would be spewed out in an evangelical church setting. After all, evangelicals do a terrific job of using selective memory when discussing the word of God. Remember that part of the Bible condemning murder? Guess not, Jimmy.

But it is time to stop letting our expectations dull our reactions. Of course we expect evangelical leader Jerry Falwell to blame the gay community and pro-choice U.S. citizens for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks – saying they incurred the wrath of God. He’s a nut. He’s not even spiritual; he’s a tool used to politically mobilize the Radical Right.

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These expectations become a serious problem when we start to condone drastically inappropriate and harmful comments like the one Swaggart made. Freedom of speech does not excuse what he said. He used his platform as a “messenger of God” to say it’s acceptable to violate both religious and secular law to kill another human being.

We need to be vocal when such comments are made. If we sit back and let people say it’s OK to kill a gay person, we send the message that hate is just another part of our society. Why bother?

We should bother, because when we speak up and condemn hate, people like Swaggart are held accountable for their actions. As a result of his remark, the Internal Revenue Service is being asked to investigate the tax-exempt status of Jimmy Swaggart Ministries. This might sound like a slap on the wrist, but I doubt Swaggart will make the same mistake again.

It’s also important to realize that it is not the exclusive job of the gay community to react. After Swaggart’s sermon, a flood of condemnations poured in from the usual gay-rights groups (Human Rights Campaign, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, etc.). These organizations are effective in standing up for the gay community – but that’s also part of their job – so the statements begin to lose meaning over time.

Where are our allies? Politicians, peace-loving religious leaders and anybody who cares about the safety of their fellow U.S. citizens should be speaking as well. When a white supremacist advocates the killing of blacks, should only the NAACP respond? Of course not – that would be ridiculous.

In both cases, a minority group’s safety is being threatened over something its members cannot control. According to the American Psychological Association, sexual orientation, much like race, is not a choice – and when the minority is at risk, it is the duty of the majority to stand up and offer some protection. You can scoff at this if you so choose, but in doing so, you only are encouraging hate and violence.

Perhaps church leaders who actually listen to the Bible’s call for nonviolence should be leading the way in condemning Radical Right psychos like Swaggart. Monsignor Swetland, a leader of the Catholic community on campus, put it best when he said the Catholic Church needs to be more vocal in its disapproval of violence against gays. Well, we’re still waiting, and let me just say you’ve been doing a piss-poor job thus far.

It’s time for a bit more outrage from the public when it comes to condemning hatemongers like Jimmy Swaggart. Only a collective response will drive the point home.

Unless you think it’s a good idea for evangelical Christian leaders to threaten the lives of gays, I would consider speaking up.

Jon Monteith is a sophomore in LAS. He is the co-president of PRIDE. His column runs Tuesdays. He can be reached at [email protected].