Pastors’ Corner Teaching Moment: Help Your Congregation’s Conversations on Florida’s So-Called ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill
It’s a tough topic to bring up in church. Florida has passed the bill that opponents disingenuously dub the “Don’t say gay” bill, and now controversy over homosexuality is erupting all over again. Believe me, I know how hard it can be. I’ve been verbally roughed up over it myself.
But this could be a golden teaching opportunity for you, too, because it’s tough at home, too, when kids ask their parents about this topic. Tough at work, when it comes up around the water cooler.
I’m sure it’s a thousand times tougher if you happen to live in Florida, but it’s a live question everywhere. So my question for pastors and teachers is this: Now that it’s hitting the news again, how ready are your people for the questions? Will they know how to answer, from a loving, truthful, biblical point of view? They can be, if you help get them there. If not, then we can count on a lot of them being tongue-tied and anxious, wondering if the truth really is true.
I know that as their shepherd, that’s the last thing you want. And now is the time to help them. If not you, then who? Feel free to send them to this page, please, but don’t lose your opportunity to help. Here are some ways to begin.
Four Important Notes on How to Have These Conversations
A few important notes as I begin here. First, this isn’t about answering questions at church, but out in the secular world, which gives no respect to the Bible. When we say, “The Bible prohibits this or that,” their response could range from, “Why pay attention to an ancient holy book?” to “I really don’t like your Bible.” We can head that off by holding firm to our biblical standards but explaining them in terms the modern world understands.
Second, I have done my best to find opponents’ best arguments. If we can answer them at their best, then we can answer them at their worst, too. I only had room for one here, but it’s one of the most challenging objections.
Third, language is key, and our opponents are very, very skilled at using it. “Don’t say gay” is a great example. That’s not the bill’s name, in fact it’s a dishonest distortion of what the bill says, but it stuck. I put it in the headline here not because I think it’s the right name for it, but because people searching for answers to the bill are going to look for it under that name. One of the first rules in debates on homosexuality is to make sure you define your terms, and ask the other person to do the same.
Fourth, it’s often better to respond with questions than with answers. I’ll illustrate below, with a few suggested follow-ups.
‘Tell Me How This Bill Teaches Tolerance, Caring, Loving, … Anti-Discrimination’
One of the best challenges I’ve seen is from Democratic Florida state senator Tina Polsky:
What we really need to be doing is teaching tolerance, caring, loving, anti-discrimination, anti-bigotry. Tell me how this bill does that. Tell me how this bill is helping us create kind, giving, tolerate [sic] adults. I don’t see it. I see it as exactly the opposite.
There’s a lot of appeal in that statement. Who doesn’t want to “create kind, giving … adults”? But there’s a whole lot wrong with it, too. I have lots of questions for Senator Polsky, including:
- Who is mostly responsible for teaching children their values? Schools? Or parents?
- Who is most effective in teaching children their values?
Answer: definitely parents. Schools have much less effective impact.
- What then is the problem with a bill that keeps parents’ input at the center of their kids’ education? Especially up through third grade, which is what this bill is about?
- What do you mean by tolerance?
“Tolerance” is one of the first and best examples of leftists’ language-mangling of language. When they demand “tolerance” they mean that we must silence any disagreement with moral actions and attitudes they approve of. We cannot criticize any form of sexual behavior, even to our own children. So our views must be completely suppressed, in favor of theirs. How is that remotely “tolerant”? Sounds more “totalitarian” to me.
Take ‘Discrimination’ and ‘Bigotry’ Off the Table
Then there’s another word they’ve distorted to their advantage: “discrimination.” It’s a power word. It gained its power by way of its use in the very important discussions on racial discrimination, and now leftists think they can use its power for just about everything. They throw it at us, expecting us to duck. But it’s not even relevant, and here’s how you can show that, by means of some good questions.
- What do you mean by “anti-discrimination”? Do you think all discrimination is wrong?
No one thinks that. Everyone discriminates over whom they’ll let fill cavities in their teeth, let manage their money, or baby-sit their children. Do liberals think open white nationalists should be hired at public schools? Ask them. Leftists hope we won’t notice their linguistic malpractice here. They throw the word “discrimination” at us because they think we’ll cave out of fear.
- Is there anything wrong with discriminating against immorality?
They’ll find some way to say, “But this isn’t immorality!” They might even say, “You only call it immoral because you’re a bigot.” Don’t fall for it. Stay the course. Ask them again, and make them answer.
- Is there anything wrong with discriminating against immorality? Especially with very young children?
Hold Them To It
Keep repeating the question till they answer. Here the conversation may branch in a couple directions. They might say, “There’s no such thing as immorality. Everything’s relative.” In that case, ask them, “Then I’ll keep on holding to my position, since you don’t think it’s morally wrong.” Enjoy their reaction.
Or they might say, “Yes, yes, it’s okay to discriminate against immorality.” That’s when you can take that power word “discrimination” off the table: “Great! We agree discrimination is okay, if it’s discriminating against immorality. We don’t disagree on discrimination at all! We just disagree on whether homosexuality is immoral. So, would you do me the favor of taking that word ‘discrimination’ out of the discussion from now on?”
You can do something similar with “bigotry,” though I don’t have space to fill that in for you here.
What Are Schools For?
It’s impossible to predict how these conversations will go, but I could easily imagine you turning the tables with a final question or two:
- What are schools for? Do we have schools for the purpose of teaching sexuality? Is that why they exist? What effect does this sexual teaching have on kids’ learning basic skills of reading, writing, and arithmetic?
- What’s your research base? What proof do we have that teaching kids these sexual things is good for them in the very long run?
The true answer to that last question is chilling, really, because there is absolutely no long-run data to work from. You don’t need to know one shred of psychology or sociology or training to know that. Not enough time has passed, so there’s no way anyone could possibly have long-term data on such new teaching methods.
We do know, though, that early sexualization is bad for children. So the last question of all might be,
- Is this or is it not a hugely risky social experiment you’re running on our children? Who’s giving informed consent to it? Shouldn’t parents have a say in it? Or just the state?
And if they say it’s the state, the answer in Florida would be, “That’s exactly what this bill is for, thank you very much. Florida has looked at this experiment and made its decision. So, what’s your problem now?”
It’s Not the Whole Answer, But …
I wish I could give you more here today, so that you could equip your people to answer every possible question or objection. I wish I could have made it so practical it would work in every situation. That’s not possible in a single article, obviously, especially one being written on very short notice. You’ll find more in my current Pastors’ Corner series on homosexuality and sexual identity. It’s an ongoing series, but this is current news, so I felt it important to interject this in the middle of it.
At any rate, this illustrates how one might be able to answer challenges on this news topic. More than that, though, I hope it demonstrates the fact that we’re not in the losing position here. We can answer the challenges. In fact, we can turn it back on the challengers. We can make it the question it needs to be, a question of parental rights and responsibilities, and a question on morality. That’s as far as I can take it today. I hope it’s helpful
Tom Gilson (@TomGilsonAuthor) is a senior editor with The Stream and the author or editor of six books, including the recently released Too Good To Be False: How Jesus’ Incomparable Character Reveals His Reality.