In pushing society away from the sense that sexuality is binary, LGBT activists are using a long list of relatively new and unfamiliar terms: Gender nonconforming and genderfluid; androsexual and aromantic; bigender and biphobia; cissexism and cisnormativity, among others. While the scientific community has known for a while that the terms “man” and “woman” don’t fully account for a variety of ways human sexuality is expressed from birth, the broader society is only now being exposed to that reality.
That has brought with it natural tensions that accompany any significant change, as well as a less-healthy, uglier reaction borne of a tendency to assume the “other side” must have bad intentions.
Let’s face it. No matter your political leanings, evangelical Christians clearly have been asked to absorb an enormous amount of that social change. It’s been change that contradicts their long-held worldview that committed relationships between one man and one woman are the rightful foundation of a strong civilization. It’s a view based on their understanding of biblical scripture that dates back thousands of years.
We strongly believe that LGBT people have been mistreated and denied basic human rights over the years. But it makes sense that evangelical Christians would fight the legalization of gay marriage and the social equality of transgender people. It is not just bigotry driving concern over government mandates on contraception coverage in health plans and owners of florists being run out of business for not wanting to participate in gay weddings.
They’ve been asked to accept these changes, or at least not stand in the way of what we and many others consider long-overdue progress for marginalized groups, despite not understanding why those changes might be proper or necessary. Even non-evangelical Christians and those fighting for a broader set of civil rights protections can be excused for not fully understanding.
That’s why it was disheartening to hear the instantaneous backlash recently about the revelation (actually a resurfacing of a 15-year-old revelation) that Vice President Mike Pence adheres to the “Billy Graham Rule.” He tries not to dine alone with any woman other than his wife and takes other precautions to respect his marriage so as to not provide even a hint of impropriety.
He and those who believe as he does have been accused of either hating women or treating them as second-class citizens — though there is no evidence Pence has ever mistreated the women in his orbit or denied them earned promotions. It’s the kind of double standard that undercuts arguments for a greater tolerance of diversity.
Evangelical Christians likely won’t ever agree with social changes society is undergoing. But they are told to accept them anyway, even if they don’t fully understand why they are occurring. Some of that tolerance has to be reserved for traditions they are holding fast to, even if others don’t understand why they adhere to them.