Can Christians Escape 'Hate' Label in Gay Marriage Debate?
- (Photo: Reuters / Mario Anzuoni)
"The essence of love,” he added, “is to desire the best for someone, and to act to bring that about. And I would argue that's what we think we're doing."
Sprigg may be all too aware of the “hate” label that Christian groups are slapped with.
Last year, the Southern Poverty Law Center added FRC to its list of anti-gay, hate groups for spreading “falsehoods” such as the claim that same-sex parenting is harmful to children. FRC President Tony Perkins rejected the “name calling” and said that to be silent on the issue of homosexual behavior is harmful and “in fact hateful.”
Sprigg also emphasized that he wants to see homosexuals spared from any harm, particularly emphasizing physical harm from health concerns like the AIDS epidemic. He does think, however, that Christians should make their motives clear about the issue.
"We may have to, I think, begin making that more explicit in everything, almost every time we talk about the subject,” he said.
Monica Meyer, executive director of the equal rights group Outfront Minnesota, supports gay marriage but doesn't believe that labels should be used against anyone, Christian or otherwise. She believes that eliminating labels is a key piece in trying to change the minds of pro-family supporters.
“What I find is that there [are] a lot of people who are moving to being more supportive and so I think, you know, trying to put a label on somebody definitely does not help in the process,” she said. She later added, “The labels don't work, of any kind, actually.”
“I can't speak for everybody ... I think that more often than not we as a society do better when we're trying to find our common ground,” Meyer commented.
According to a 2007 Barna Group study, 91 percent of young non-Christians said present-day Christianity is “anti-homosexual” and that Christians show “excessive contempt and unloving attitudes towards gays and lesbians.” A majority of young churchgoers also held this sentiment.
A former atheist, R. Brad White, even formed a non-profit last year in direct response to those who believe all Christians are intolerant, judgmental, hypocritical and homophobic. The organization is called Changing the Face of Christianity Inc.
But what worries Greg Quinlan, president of the Pro-Family Network, is that many Christians aren't standing in opposition to gay marriage for the sake of getting along with those on the other side of the debate.
"I am intolerant,” he said, “but I don't hate. Yes, there is a difference ... We have to turn the definitions around."
"Christians have to understand how to tell the truth in love, but it isn't love until you tell the truth. Now, we have to not be concerned about what other people think of us. We have to stop trying to be nicer than Jesus."
Quinlan's story is unique. Once gay himself, he has since become a Christian and now works to advance the pro-family movement. Regardless of whether or not Christians will ever shake their “hate” label, he said they should never back down from their position.
"When somebody calls us a hater ... we need to be all the louder, all the more persistent and consistent with our message,” he said.