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March 27, 2007

Mohler’s conflicted dogma: Protestors keep focus on Seminary president’s message of intolerance

Twelve activists were arrested Monday during a sit-in outside the office of Dr. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. The group, part of a national, interfaith gay-rights group called Soulforce, was attempting to meet with Mohler to discuss an essay he posted on his Web site on March 2, in which he suggested that science may soon reveal homosexuality to be a genetic condition for which a test could be developed and, through the use of some kind of non-specific prenatal treatment, eventually be eradicated.“Religious intolerance is the primary source of homophobia in society,” said Jarrett Lucas, co-director of “Equality Ride,” a subset of Soulforce in which 50 young people — gay and straight — are traversing the country in two buses, one East Coast and one West. The groups stop at various conservative Christian colleges to counter messages of intolerance, according to Kyle DeVries, who showed up at the seminary campus on Lexington Road around 10 a.m. Monday with a group of 22. He said they were there “to demand an apology from for remarks he made that essentially called for eugenics for gay people.” After sitting outside Mohler’s office for more than an hour, the group met briefly with Lawrence Smith, the seminary’s vice president for communications, to whom they delivered a statement. “His comments suggest that people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender do not deserve the right to live as they are, true to their identity,” the statement read in part. “However, where President Mohler sees distortion, we see diversity.” Smith said Monday that he asked the group to leave after delivering the statement. The 12 who refused were arrested and charged with criminal trespassing. Smith called them a “professional protest group” and said campus security called Metro Police for help removing the group from campus. Smith wouldn’t comment on the substance of either the group’s message or Mohler’s, countering that the protestors were simply there to make a scene and not to discuss the validity of Mohler’s assertions. The Louisville-based Fairness Campaign held a vigil in conjunction with Soulforce Monday evening in front of the seminary. About 20 people stood along Lexington Road, with signs like “Faith is Fairness” and “Honk 4 Fairness.” Cars honked about every five seconds. At one point, a couple of seminary students engaged protestors in discussions about Mohler’s comments. “It just made me angry,” said Katie Anderson, a Fairness volunteer. “That’s who they are. That’s who they were created to be.” There are numerous problems with Mohler’s latest assertions about homosexuality, which have caused a media maelstrom in recent weeks. First, to suggest that homosexuality is not a choice — and thus cause the heads of thousands of believers to whip around in unhinged disgust — would mean God’s own creation is, by this logic, flawed. Evangelical Christians like Mohler often cite the Fall to justify the profound disconnect between a merciful, omniscient and loving God, and His application of sin to the human condition, a nice way of saying the facts don’t fit the argument. Mohler abdicates this responsibility further from his God, writing that homosexuals still have a moral responsibility to abstain from acting upon their natural, even genetic, sexual attractions; while the moral choice is not within the grasp of the homosexual, he suggests, the moral responsibility to never act upon natural, God-given impulses is. Simply put, Mohler’s God is one of double standards, as the writer Harold Meyerson recently suggested in The Washington Post.Second, by suggesting the scientific manipulation of a fetus, Mohler contradicts the logic the church is so quick to use in the abortion debate — that the fetus lacks a choice in the matter, and therefore no decision should be made on its behalf (never mind trying to reconcile the “humanness” of the fetus with this line of thinking). In a response to the criticism his initial essay received, posted on his site on March 16, Mohler writes that he never directly advocated eugenics. Rather, he spends a lot of time slamming people interested in using Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis to predetermine things such as gender, eye and hair color, and so forth. He allows the idea of genetically engineering the sexual orientation of a baby — and the possibilities that could arise therein — to just hang there.“How many parents — even among those who consider themselves most liberal — would choose a gay child?” he writes. “How many parents, armed with this diagnosis, would use the patch and change orientation?” (The patch Mohler refers to is suggested in an article he cites — the idea is that a patch applied to the mother’s stomach could inject hormone treatments into the child to reverse the course of the homosexual gene.) He envisions a snowballing of abortions once people — particularly “liberals” — can learn whether their child will be gay and act on it. Mohler calls on Christians to fight this impending festival of abortion, surreptitiously (maliciously?) offering that it will be the liberals who eradicate homosexuals by aborting fetuses determined to be homosexual.Among the remnants of this intellectual car crash is not a single mention of his position on stem cell research or how he may reconcile that with this.Meanwhile, the Christian with the gay baby is left with a profound moral dilemma: violate God’s Will by having an abortion; violate God’s Will by giving birth to a child with two original sins rather than the one; or violate God’s Will by engaging in genetic manipulation of one of His creations? Now I’m confused.Nowhere in any of Mohler’s recent literature on this subject does he suggest that every person in this country — homosexual, mentally or physically disabled, red hair or brown, ugly or pretty as a rose — is predestined with the right to live his or her life unimpeded by bigotry and prejudice and uncorrupted by the melodramatic, confused dogma of people like himself. We live in a country that holds those truths to be self-evident; this is a cornerstone of our society. For Mohler to suggest this — that “if a biological basis is found, and if a prenatal test is then developed, and if a successful treatment to reverse the sexual orientation to heterosexual is ever developed, we would support its use as we would unapologetically support the use of any appropriate means to avoid sexual temptation and the inevitable effects of sin” — is both a profoundly irresponsible social gesture and a fervent display of hypocrisy.Perhaps for Mohler, the end will justify the means and humanity will one day become a series of robotic variations on the aged white male. After all, it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.