I Am Not Responsible For Your Hate: World Vision, Evangelicals, and Emotional Blackmail

[content note: abusive rhetoric, mentions of domestic violence tactics]

When I was in middle school, I took a journalism class with an ebullient, loud, single woman named Ms. Durham. She was a loving teacher and began my interest in writing for the public, not just for the self. She was also the mother of several adopted children. She had decided at some point, early in her life, that she didn’t need to wait to get married to have kids when she had such a passion for raising them now. She was, to my knowledge, a good mother – she had a steady job, she loved, and she took good care of them.

Perhaps this situation was not the evangelical ideal of a mom and a dad and biological children, but that didn’t matter to Ms. Durham. These kids had a home where they were safe and fed, which was better than rattling around in the foster care system for years on end.

But to hear Trevin Wax of The Gospel Coalition talk, Ms. Durham doomed her kids to eternal suffering because she refused to get married to a MAN first. Yesterday, World Vision announced a small shift in hiring policy that announced they would be hiring married, gay, Christians to their organization. Employees must still sign a pledge barring them from having premarital sex, if single, and from the sounds of it, only monogamous gay people in already extant partnerships will be considered (how they are legally able to get away with that, I don’t know).

Naturally, evangelicals are incensed. Many are starting to search for new organizations that “hold to orthodox Christian standards.” Wax writes that while evangelicals search for a new organization to support, children will be the ones who suffer. The implication seems to be that those of us who support this slight shift in recognizing the humanity of gay people are responsible for the withdrawal of support from evangelicals.

Imagine me saying this next line with a Matthew McConaughey twang: Nuh-uh, not so fast, bro.

What Wax is doing here is a quick sleight of hand – he makes those who affirm marriage equality and LGBT rights responsible for the bigoted reactions to progressive movements. It’s our fault that children suffer because we gave them no choice but to withdraw support from poor kids. We who affirm that LGBT people are people must deal with the wrath and anger of evangelicals now – after all, if we hadn’t moved in this way, they wouldn’t have lashed out in response! If only we’d just stayed exactly how they wanted us to stay, if only we’d denied our rights and our humanity, then they wouldn’t have to make the children suffer!

Evangelicals, when they take this tack, join a rhetorical crowd that’s not really a pleasant one – people who abuse and blame their victims for that abuse. The rhetoric Wax uses throughout his article mirrors that of an angry husband who hits his wife for not making his dinner correctly, and then tells her that he wouldn’t have to hit her if she’d just do it right the first time. Evangelicals wouldn’t have to withdraw support from World Vision and thus make the children suffer if they’d just continue to cape to our unreasonable demands.

This is nothing short of emotional blackmail, a hamstringing rhetoric that holds the victims responsible for the abuser’s actions. It is disturbing and disgusting and should be beneath the church. But for a church that traffics in spiritual abuse day in and day out and sees no problems with using threats to get their way, it’s not that surprising.

The first step getting out from under abuse is recognizing what it is. And blaming queer people and our supporters for the bigotry and suffering levied at us is abusive. Full stop.

You chose to withdraw your support; we didn’t make you do it.

You chose to make children collateral damage in your ideological quest; we didn’t make you do it.

You chose to respond with hate; our existence didn’t change that.

It’s your decision, not ours. Own it.

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Update: According to a report from World Mag, the board at World Vision has decided to reverse its decision, less than two days after the announcement, probably (and unfortunately) in order to placate conservative evangelicals who were withdrawing support. This is extremely disappointing - not because World Vision reversed, but because evangelicals were able to hold this charity hostage for not complying with their narrow-minded bigotry.