Wineke: Christians, relax, gay people aren’t coming for you

If you were to listen to the right wing of American politics and American Christianity, you would be in a panic.

From Franklin Graham (Billy’s son and successor) to Mike Huckabee (who thinks he should be president), comes warning that gay people are about to take over your churches and businesses and put you in jail.

“Everyone knows what the direction of gay marriage is going next,” said Rich Lowry, editor of “National Review” magazine. “Now that the Supreme Court has imposed its edict on the land, the question is whether the religious institutions and people of faith will still be permitted to act on moral beliefs that the court has proclaimed as bigoted and deeply wounding.”

Graham and Huckabee announced that they will go to jail before they allow the government make them preside over marriages between two men or two women.

Graham also warns that “God’s judgment” will be visited on our nation now that the Supreme Court has abandoned moral principles. Graham, incidentally, recently moved Billy Graham Evangelistic Association funds out of Wells Fargo Bank because the bank featured a same-sex couple in its advertising.

So, what’s with these people? Are they really that paranoid?

A couple of things are going on, I think.

One is that the right wing has been able to raise millions and millions of dollars over the year by promoting fear and disgust of gay and lesbian people. They have painted them as promiscuous, disease-ridden libertines, and to some extent, I think they began believing their own stereotypes.

The idea that two men or two women wish to make lifelong commitments of love and fidelity to each other does tend to undermine the stereotype.

A second thing that’s going on is that the right wing has been engaged in a struggle to wrap outright bigotry in the banner of “religious freedom.”

Huckabee, among others, is calling on elected country clerks to defy the law and refuse to issue legal marriage licenses to gays and lesbians. Others seem worried that bakers and photographers may be forced to provide services for same-sex weddings.

And that does lead to an interesting question: If you’re in business, just how ethical is it to refuse service to a legal customer? Can you deny service to an interracial couple? To divorced Catholics who wish to remarry? To Muslims or atheists? Does “religious freedom” cover all forms of bigotry?

This could come back to bite churches, I suppose. There are some beautiful churches that make pretty good money renting their sanctuaries to couples who want a stained-glass backdrop to their nuptials. My guess is that the courts would be reluctant to interfere with church policies for sanctuaries and fellowship halls, but if you’re going to be in the church marketing business for profit, you might want to think about what comes next.

I think these guys are fearful of gays on the march because they have guilty consciences.

When the law was on the side of anti-gay bigots, the law excused all sorts of prejudice and discrimination. For many years, you could be arrested for just being gay. State and federal tax laws treated married people far more beneficially than single people — and the laws prohibited gays and lesbians from marrying. Well, you know all that.

What happens when society changes, however, is that those who rejoiced in bigotry start to feel afraid that the tables will be turned on them.

That’s why society has been so fearful that the descendants of former slaves might demand reparations. That’s why white people are fearful of affirmative action programs. That’s why we rejoice when members of a Charleston church say they “forgive” a white guy who killed nine of their members but take in stride the fact that eight black churches have burned to the ground in the past week.

We’re always afraid we’re going to get what’s coming to us. But we can relax. Married gay and lesbian people are just going to go back home and live their lives in peace. They’re not coming for our churches — in fact, they’re about the only people left who are trying to get into our churches.