This happened, if you remember, early last month. I meant to write something about it there but got caught up in other things so I’m writing something about it now. One of the reasons I’ve been slow to write something is that it’s rather hard to find details about this story. Even now, nearly a month after the story broke, I’ve had trouble finding news about the story from an unbiased source. Most of the information from the story comes from ideologically biased Christian sources who view the event as more proof that Christians are being persecuted and LGBT activists are evil violent people. Just look at some of the comments on the fox news article to see this in action. Though to be fair there have been some more balanced views of the issue like the post from Christ and Pop Culture.
First let me say that violence is wrong. These people didn’t deserve to be beaten. Though there behavior was crass, unnecessary and they should have known that that their presence would likely cause negative reactions from the crowd, they should not have been attacked. Unless someone is behaving violently first we have no right to become violent ourselves, A.K.A. self defense. Of course it’s possible the preachers were doing something to drive the altercation before the recording started, but from what I can gather from the story this seems to not be the case. So we do our movements no service when engaging in this sort of behavior unprovoked.
However, as I mentioned, Christians who oppose LGBT rights have been claiming that this as an example of how Christians are being persecuted and that the liberal LGBT movement is more intolerant than the Christian right which they decry for being intolerant. These people are wrong on multiple counts. First it should be noted that there is a highly unreported fact in this story. The main instigator of the violence against these preachers has been arrested 29 times since 1995, and has been convicted at least once for domestic violence, as reported here. Further, if you watch the whole video you see several other attendees try to separate this man from the preachers several times before violence ensued, because most of the people in the LBGT movement decry violence as much as anyone and could see that the man needed to cool off. Several other people got up in the preachers face and were rude and even tried to take away his sign but never touched him. However, even the man who eventually ended up punching the preacher actually advised a large crowd of people to disperse moments before the violence started by letting people know that police were coming. I can only assume that someone from the pride parade had called to complain about the presence of the preachers. The man who would eventually start punching the preacher actually started walking off with a few others.
What actually sets off the altercation is another man running up and trying to grab the sign away from the preacher. I imagine that he probably thought by running up suddenly without warning he would catch the preacher by surprise and run off with the sign. Unfortunately the preacher is about a foot taller and doesn’t let go. What resulted was a several seconds of tug of war between the two people while other people from both sides attempted to join in. After several seconds both of the men, as well as some others involved, fell to the ground, and the preacher ended up on top of the other man. This caused the man who had been leaving to run back over to help, seeing the preacher on top of another man and likely being already angry he probably assumed the preacher was attacking the man, and began to punch the preacher from behind. Of course, it’s hard to tell from the video if the preacher was actually punching the man underneath him, seconds after the altercation ended the man who was on the ground did intimate that he had been punched at least once by the preacher. It is also important that many of the other LGBT supporters there acted quickly to separate those who were fighting and and handed the broken signs back to the preachers after separating them.
It seems clear here that for Christians to complain about persecution or the horrible behavior of LGBT people is simply nonsense. The Christians held up signs intentionally designed to aggravate LGBT people at a gay pride parade, and unsurprisingly tempers between both groups flared until they hit a boiling point. It seems more like this is just a general example of how mob mentalities can cause anyone to do things they might not normally do. It doesn’t seem that any of the activists there set out to start a fight, a few of them just made a series of unwise choices that exacerbated a tense situation until violence happened. It’s not the first time humans have done this and it unfortunately wont’ be the last.
I would also argue that Christians who seem to think of this as an example of how they now face the same kind of persecution, for their religion, that gay people face, for their sexual orientation, is simply false equivalence. Gay people have faced decades of violent acts in this country from people with very similar messages to the one the preachers had, and many of these acts ended with much worse results than the preachers got. In fact hundreds of gay people have been straight up murdered by people who have imbibed bigoted notions about gay people based upon church teachings. There is a Wikipedia page about this which I looked up and was startled to find just how many times this has happened just in the last decade.
And most of these instances didn’t involve gay people showing up at somebodies church with an obnoxious sign that called Christians bigots or something equivalent to what these preachers were doing; these were people who were just minding their own business living life when suddenly they get accosted by people and beat to death. Now, some Christians might point out that these people are violent criminals and should be locked up, that they rightfully decry such violence too and it isn’t fair to judge them by the actions of their worst adherents. To them I say, yes, which is exactly why you shouldn’t Judge the entire LBGT movement by it’s worst defenders either. Still, you should take the time to acknowledge that the existence of people who have beaten homosexuals to death on the basis of similar arguments to the ones the preachers used might just give some of the pride parade attendees cause to be just a bit nervous with of such men present at their rally, Further, it ought to encourage sensitive, thoughtful people, whatever their religious beliefs, reason to present their arguments in a less combative manner in the future.