Former Bishop of New Hampshire Gene Robinson, in his new column at the Daily Beast, weighs in on recent comments by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby on the connection between violence in Africa and LGBT marriage equality:
It is absurd to buy into a group of murderers’ rationalizations for their actions, unintentionally giving legitimacy to the perpetrators’ reasons for murder. The Archbishop certainly knows that the reasons behind such violence are complicated and numerous, including both religious and long-standing cultural conflicts. Surely, these Muslim extremists were looking for a “reason” to murder their Christian countrymen, and as is so often the case, they used “let’s blame the gays!”
The Archbishop should also know that you don’t resolve the anger and violence of bullies and hostage-takers by giving in to them. They will be emboldened in their tactics and will only demand more and more. I’m reminded of the abused wife who blames herself for her abuse and resolves to try not to do anything to provoke her husband because she is “responsible” for her own mistreatment. Her liberation is dependent on her rejecting the notion that her behavior is the cause of the violence against her. Similarly, Archbishop Welby would have done well to put the blame directly where it belongs—on the murderers themselves—instead of insinuating that indeed, Anglicans working for LGBT rights elsewhere “caused” this atrocity.
So how might the Archbishop have responded differently? Perhaps something like this: “Look, the church must consider many things in discerning whether a change is warranted in our consideration of blessing the marriages of same-sex couples: what scriptures says, how the church’s historical understanding has developed, and our own experience of gay couples’ relationships. We are in the midst of that discernment right now. In addition, we must always be aware that our decisions here in England are being watched by the world’s 80 million Anglicans and their enemies; sometimes being used as an irrational and unwarranted excuse by those enemies for violence against Christians. I have seen the graves of those who have suffered because of these unjust and irrational connections between LGBT people and murder, and it breaks my heart…
While the Archbishop is right to point out that LGBT activists in the Church should be aware that their words and actions can cause unintended harm to others around the world, he should take his own advice and realize that his words can likewise cause harm—to the millions of LGBT Anglicans and wider LGBT community around the world. While we deeply grieve the deaths of Christians anywhere, we should also grieve and oppose the oppression, violence and deaths perpetrated on LGBT people around the world. After all, they are victims too.
Bishop Robinson’s full piece from the Daily Beast is available here.