This is a perfect and, in my opinion, not unrepresentative example of how some evangelicals not only don’t care about LGB suicides, but also exploit them to advance an anti-gay agenda. David Barton, an evangelical minister and a “professor” at Glenn Beck’s “university,” cites high rates of suicides and shorter life expectancy as evidence that homosexuality is an “unhealthy lifestyle,” comparable to smoking or eating too much salt or fast food. He concludes: “Why don’t we [meaning the government] regulate homosexuality?”
LGB suicides don’t warrant even a shred of compassion or concern for Barton; his tone in discussing them is glib, and gloating. And the obvious implication of his comments is that high suicide rates and shorter life expectancies among LGB people are just what we should expect. That these are necessary and deserved consequences for being gay, and there’s nothing to be done to address these issues besides “regulating” homosexuality, whatever that means. Basically, he wants a society where the only options for gay people are either to suffer horribly or just cease to exist altogether – perhaps even to be executed for being gay. Very Christ-like of him.
Barton has a very well-established record of promoting not only extreme homophobia, but also racism, xenophobia, and historical revisionism (read: completely fabricated bullshit) intended to advance his hateful agenda. He claims, for example, that the three-fifths rule was an anti-slavery measure intended to benefit slaves (!!), that “slavery was not initially raced-based,” and that “Republicans . . . have led the fights for abolition, emancipation, voting rights, civil rights, and even integration, while Democrats have fostered racism for political gain.” Right.
Barton also opposes immigration reform on the grounds that, um, God drew the borders of the United States, and allowing open borders requires accusing God of making a mistake. He’s also been associated with virulently anti-Semitic groups and Holocaust deniers. And through Barton’s WallBuilders organization, these absurd lies about American history are peddled to countless homeschooling children around the nation, including children at my former church, who are being taught that the Founding Fathers were all Christian, that they never intended any meaningful separation of church and state, that the evangelical church and the country as a whole have never had a problem with racism, and so on.
There’s a common theme here, of course, of using religion as a cover for extreme hatred and bigotry. Hispanic immigrants? Jesus doesn’t want them here. Homosexuals? Jesus doesn’t want them to get married, have sex, or otherwise be treated like actual human beings. Civil rights? Real Christians know the Republicans are the real pro civil rights party. And on and on. I don’t think it’s coincidental that Barton defends such varied forms of bigotry. For him and largely white conservative evangelicals like him, these things are all connected. Barton and his ilk display a nauseating nostalgia for a time in America’s past when the supremacy of white, Anglo, Protestant Christian patriarchy was unquestioned and even more pervasive than it is today. They call for “restoring America” to its former virtue and glory – which is code for restoring America to a time when women couldn’t vote or own property, when people could be jailed or institutionalized for being LGBT, when black people, Jews, and non-Christians knew their place,
It can be tempting to just write people like Barton off, but some of these folks have tremendous influence. Barton has access, through prominent Republican and conservative leaders, to a huge conservative audience. As the clip above points out, Barton is the former co-chair of the Texas Republican party, and has campaigned for prominent Republican candidates like Sharron Angle and Mark Rubio. He’s not only an “instructor” at Beck University (try typing that with a straight face), he’s also a major “source” for Beck’s falsehoods about the history and present reality of race relations in the US.
And – as I found out while working on this post – his influence as a pseudohistorian now extends far beyond conservative homeschoolers and the Republican base. Barton was an “expert” witness in the Texas school board hearings which ultimately led to the conservative majority on the board ordering a state-wide radical revision of history textbooks to reflect a version of American history biased towards white, conservative Christians. As with Barton, the ideology behind the textbook revisions was extremely pro-capitalist (classist and anti-poor), racist, anti-sex (and presumably anti-LGBT), anti-separation of church and state, etc.
These ideologies are not separate or distinct for many white conservative evangelicals engaged in the “culture wars.” They’re all part of a vision to “restore” America to what they claim was a simpler, more moral time – but what in reality where many Americans’ rights and liberties were severely restricted, and white patriarchal supremacy was even more institutionalized in our culture and government than it is today. Barton illustrates how enmeshed a Christian exclusivism characterized by extreme and explicit homophobia, racism, and xenophobia is with the current culture of the Republican party.