An open letter to Donna Reddick:
I'm writing this for Desiree. She's a student at Miami Sunset Senior High, where you teach business technology. A few days ago, she sent me an e-mail recounting an incident that happened on campus last week.
It seems that on three successive days, the morning announcements, which are televised throughout the school, featured student-produced segments on the subject of gay rights. On the first day came comments from students who took the pro position. On the second day came remarks from a counselor who spoke of the need for students to respect one another. On the third day came you.
You and a few students, actually. One told classmates homosexuality was "unacceptable in the eyesight of God." Another said gays were "unrighteous." The coup de grace, though, was you, invoking Sodom and Gomorrah and telling students homosexuality was "wrong according to the Bible" because God ordered humanity to multiply, which gay couples cannot do.
Desiree was, to put it mildly, upset. In the e-mail, she accused you of bigotry and wondered how a gay student could ever again feel assured of fair treatment in your class. I tend to agree. She also suggested that you crossed the line between church and state, an accusation about which I'm more conflicted. It seems to me there's a difference between proselytizing for a religion and explaining how one's faith has influenced one's opinion. You're entitled to think what you think, no matter how stupid it might be.
But I'll leave those questions for others to parse. My biggest frustration lies elsewhere. Put simply, I've had it up to here with the moral hypocrisy and intellectual constipation of Bible literalists.
By which I mean people like you, who dress their homophobia up in Scripture, insisting with sanctimonious sincerity that it's not homophobia at all, but just a pious determination to live according to what the Bible says. And never mind that the Bible also says it is "disgraceful" for a woman to speak out in church (1 Corinthians 14:34-36) and that if she has any questions, she should wait till she gets home and ask her husband. Never mind that the Bible says the penalty for going to work on Sunday (Exodus 35:1-3) is death. Never mind that the Bible says the man who rapes a virgin should buy her from her father (Deuteronomy 22:28-29) and marry her.
I'm going to speculate that you don't observe or support those commands. Which says to me that yours is a literalism of convenience, a literalism that is literal only so long as it allows you to condemn what you'd be condemning anyway and takes no skin off your personal backside. As such, your claim that God sanctions your homophobia is the moral equivalent of Flip Wilson's old claim that the devil made him do it.
You resemble many of your and my co-religionists, whose faith so often expresses itself in an obsessive focus on one or two hot-button issues - and seemingly nowhere else. They're so panicked at the thought that somebody might accidentally treat gay people like people. They run around Chicken Little-like, screaming, "Th' homosex'shals is comin'! Th' homosex'shals is comin'!" Meantime, people are ignorant in Appalachia, strung out in Miami, starving in Niger, sex slaves in India, mass murdered in Darfur. Where is the Christian outrage about that?
Just once, I'd like to read a headline that said a Christian group was boycotting to feed the hungry. Or marching to house the homeless. Or pushing Congress to provide the poor with health care worthy of the name.
Instead, they fixate on keeping the gay in their place. Which makes me question their priorities. And their compassion. And their faith.
If you love me, feed my sheep.
For the record, Ms. Reddick, the Bible says that, too.
- Leonard Pitts Jr., winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, is a columnist for the Miami Herald.