[Ed. Note — Due to increasing interest in this topic both regionally and nationally, qnotes staff decided to publish an early release on Aug. 17 of the Aug. 20 print issue's editorial by Matt Comer.]
The unfortunate truth is that there are people in and around Charlotte who, despite their stated goals, seek not to unite, but rather break apart communities. These folks, motivated by a “life-or-death” mission, seek to push LGBT people back into the closet and even into the grave — both literally and figuratively. Perhaps the most well-known are now-convicted stalker and street preacher Flip Benham and professional anti-gay malcontent Dr. Michael Brown of Concord’s FIRE Church and FIRE School of Ministry.
In 2009, Brown sought to disrupt Pride Charlotte, the annual LGBT Pride festival here on whose organizing committee I sit this year, through his “God Has a Better Way” rally and campaign. Like Prides the world over, the day serves for LGBT people and their friends and families as a time to simply gather and celebrate their lives, loves, struggles, victories, culture, art and community. For Brown and his church, however, the event is nothing short of a call to battle — a sign of a “demonic agenda” that seeks to overtake the Queen City and the world.
I covered Brown’s 2009 “Better Way” campaign extensively here at qnotes and at my personal blog in “On the Edge: Religious militancy in the Queen City” (interstateq.com/archives/3708/), an in-depth report on the radically violent and militaristic religious rhetoric employed by Brown and his associate, evangelist Lou Engle. Often, Brown and Engle paint the political, social and religious disagreement over LGBT equality as a life-or-death battle and struggle against evil, demonic powers.
Brown has challenged and refuted my claims that his words have the potential to inspire real acts of violence, saying that that he’s always clear about his words’ meanings.
“[T]ime and again, any time I teach on the subject of homosexual activism, I state emphatically that gays and lesbians are not my enemies, that they are people loved by God, people for whom Jesus died, and that the only enemy we are fighting is the devil himself,” he wrote in response to the report.
But, the conflation of Satan with LGBT people and our struggle for peace, equality and justice is, at its core, damaging to any prospect of truly peaceful outreach, especially considering Brown’s consistent use of “battlefield” rhetoric. Where’s the line? At what point is an LGBT person merely a victim of this so-called “demonic agenda” and when does this concept of “enemy” and “foe” extend to include both Satan and those Brown or his followers might see as a player in some supernatural, Satanic game to overtake the world?
For any rational and reasonable person, it might be difficult to understand how a protest of a peaceful LGBT community festival is akin to dying on a battlefield or, say, a martyred priest’s challenge to the Nazis. Yet, it is with such outrageous language that Brown has approached his second “Better Way” rally and protest at which he hopes to gather as many as 1,000 others to join him in “reaching out” and “resisting” LGBT people and our movement for justice.
Brown’s campaign seems peaceful enough on its surface. I have little doubt that on the day of the festival it will be. Regardless, it remains utterly incumbent upon each of us to understand and be aware of the underlying impetus and motivation for Brown’s actions and words, which I’ve argued are dangerous and for which the line between allegory and actualization is unclear and largely unforeseeable with an ultimate potential to incite both hatred and violence against LGBT people.
Brown’s inflammatory rhetoric continues to this day. More chilling, however, is the involvement of his colleague Engle in the African nation of Uganda. There, lawmakers have proposed legislation, dubbed the “Kill the Gays” bill by LGBT peoples around the globe, that would have imposed harsh prison sentences and capital punishment upon gay and lesbian citizens there. Despite telling American audiences he would not be supporting the radical bill, denounced by governments the world over, once in Uganda Engle stood on stage with the bill’s sponsor and anti-gay religious leaders and gave his blessing to their movement.
As in 2009, Engle, who compares young Christians to soldiers and prayer to machine guns, will make an appearance at Brown’s “Better Way” event this year. [Ed. Note -- Since this article's publication, "God Has A Better Way" organizers have announced that Lou Engle will not be able to participate in this year's activities, having been called away to other business the weekend of Pride Charlotte.]
It is sad, indeed, after witnessing so much religiously-inspired violence throughout the world’s history that religious people in America would fall victim to such allegory and rhetoric today. Every atrocity ever committed in the name of God began with words; later, after years, decades or generations, those words became real. Such a movement has taken root in Uganda, where LGBT people fear for their lives and for their families.
Brown — whose deep commitment to God, intellect and passion could be put to so much better use — refuses to contemplate the consequences of his words and continues to associate with Engle, a man who has blessed the potential genocide of LGBT people.
Charlotte should be known as a place where all are welcomed and cherished as full people and as children embraced by a loving creator. There should be no room or tolerance provided for the constant vilification of LGBT people or any other here. The agenda pushed by Brown, Engle and other radical, so-called “Christians” is clear and unambiguous. As evidenced in Uganda, it does not have a happy ending.
I call on Charlotte — its elected, civic, business and religious leaders of all faiths — to publicly reject and denounce the inherently violent ideologies that underpin this movement to halt LGBT equality. God does indeed have a better way and our city deserves better than what Brown and Engle have to offer. It is time for this city to reject their agenda and instead take up the one true gospel championed by Christ: peace, equality, justice, community and inclusion. : :