Images of people with rage-distorted faces chanting slogans and holding up signs with mottos like, “God hates fags,” and “Obama’s a baby killer” have damaged the evangelical movement in the eyes of many Americans. My sons and their families are evangelicals, so I know that hatred of those with different opinions and lifestyles is not typical of evangelicals—nor is it limited to them.
I was happy to see, on a recent Religion and Ethics Newsweekly program that Focus on Family, one of the more strident evangelical groups, is working to incorporate more Christian behavior into the defense of that they consider key moral issues.
Leaders of Focus on Family are now talking to gay rights and pro-choice groups in their Colorado Springs community. With their history of animosity, the process is difficult, but both sides feel it is worthwhile to meet together to seek common ground. Some mmbers of the FOF group, energized by previous leader James Dobson’s denouncement of liberals, feminists, and gay activists, accuse current leader, Jim Daly, of surrendering to the enemy.
It will be interesting to see how the change of leadership in FOF plays out. It’s much easier to lead a group by revving up fear and anger than by encouraging rational thought. And it’s human nature to prefer limiting our friends and associates to those who agree with us. Daly admits the harsh rhetoric and partisanship of the past have alienated young people. Will he be able to lead his group into a stance that keeps their moral values without hatefully opposing those who differ?
I think Mormon leaders have a similar situation to that of Daly. General Authorities have softened their stance on gay rights. They have come out for humane treatment of illegal immigrants. They espouse political neutrality. Still, with all the rules about what may and may not be used as source material for Church lessons and talks, far-out quotes from past leaders are often heard in talks, lessons, and discussions. It’s easier to rev people up against “so-called intellectuals,” gays, and feminists, than to put the genie back in the bottle and get members to exhibit more Christian behavior.