Anti-gay Pride outreach was spectacular failure

Editor's Note

Last month, I had the wonderful pleasure of working with a great group of friends, colleagues and volunteers to make Charlotte Pride a resounding success this year. Last issue, I thanked a great many people without whom the festival and the parade wouldn’t have been possible (goqnotes.com/24734/). But, in this column, I’ll turn my attention, as I have in times past, to Dr. Michael Brown, one of the area’s leading anti-LGBT activists.

For several years now, Brown has attempted to engage Charlotte’s local LGBT community. Over the past few years — last year a notable exception — Brown has often led a large group of his anti-gay followers into Charlotte’s annual Pride festivities. They’ve interacted with attendees, prayed with attendees and spread harmful, false and hate-filled messages — driving an already outcast community further away from the church rather than closer to it.

This year, though, Brown took up a different outreach strategy. There were no press releases or public proclamations. He held no large, flashy prayer service near the festival. There was no mass influx of red-shirted anti-gay missionaries. Instead, he says, and at nearly last minute, about 40 of his students at Concord’s FIRE School of Ministry and other friends of the school headed into the festival crowd, clipboards in hand, to administer a survey entitled, “Are You Open Minded?”

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I called his tactics underhanded, dishonest and deceitful, an assessment with which Brown has taken strong disagreement as we discussed together when I appeared on his radio show earlier this month (bit.ly/1dV3n3N). Brown has said he had no intent to deceive. Yet, several missteps led to a great feeling of distrust and deceit among some survey takers.

Several concerns became apparent after I spoke to some survey participants. Chiefly, the survey was administered by students, leading some to wrongly believe the survey was for some educational course credit.

“They seemed like they were students and it was for a class assignment,” one survey participant told me. “I never want to be one who won’t let someone do something educational.”

Yet, after several questions, the survey taker became increasingly uncomfortable with its direction and tone and stopped answering questions.

Some survey participants were not fully-informed about how their answers would be used — primarily, that they might be published in Brown’s nationally-syndicated column and broadcast on his nationally-syndicated radio show. It’s simply unethical to engage members of the public in a survey without fully informing them how their answers will be used.

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And, at least one survey participant with whom I spoke says survey administrators never identified themselves as being with Brown’s school; the would-be survey taker says he looked at the questions and quickly declined because they “seemed a bit baiting.”

Given Brown’s history, I believe, of falsely representing the aims of local and national LGBT advocacy efforts and the several missteps witnessed in the survey’s methodology, administration and publication, I can only conclude that the survey was designed for the simple purpose of pointing out some moral flaw in the attendees of Charlotte Pride. Further, the survey, and its ultimate publication in print and in radio, served simply to embarrass those who participated in it, demonstrated especially by two young women whom Brown’s staff videotaped and later published online as an “example” of what Brown called “moral confusion.”

Brown and I have had our many disagreements, and he and I will likely never see eye-to-eye on his use of militant, violent religious rhetoric. Yet, I believe him when he told me during his radio show that he had no intention to deceive. Brown has often stated that he seeks to honestly and intently engage with LGBT people. I’ve had a meal with him and spoken with him many times. But, his latest engagement tactic was a spectacular failure of honest outreach. Instead of sowing seeds of trust, it left a lasting impression of just the opposite; instead of inspiring further engagement, it left many fleeing from the conversation and feeling like they had been tricked. To his credit, Brown apologized on air to those who felt deceived.

I’d suggest that the survey and its results are best used not as some example of “moral confusion,” but rather as a phenomenal example for Brown and his students; that is to say, how best not to engage with the LGBT community. If Brown truly seeks honest conversation, one would hope all participants in that conversation would leave the exchange with a collective, positive experience. That many people felt otherwise should be a clear sign of “honest” engagement gone wrong. : :

more: Brown’s “Are You Open Minded?” survey consisted of seven questions. Read Matt’s answers to those seven questions online at his personal blog, interstateq.com/archives/5532/.

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Posted by Matt Comer

Matt Comer is a staff writer for QNotes. He previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015.

3 Replies to “Anti-gay Pride outreach was spectacular failure”

  1. Listen to Dr. Brown’s recent interview with Matt Comer: bit.ly/1dV3n3N

  2. Look, I heard you debate with Brown. When he asked if it was O.K. for a gay-owned apparel co. to refuse a t-shirt order with the Leviticus passage about sexuality, you wouldn’t answer him. Your voice cracked before you stammered, ‘maybe’.

    If you’re lifestyle -and the promotion of it- weren’t demonstrably harmful, why would Christians even care? What dog would we even have in this race? You think we just wake up each morning thinking, ‘what hateful ways can we push our ‘more righteous than thou’ worldview on the morally inept’? Do we gloat with smug superiority over others in order to defame and ostracize people? Our book calls for us (in multiple places) to seek out sinners with the word of God’s salvation. It’s in our doctrine to do this. It is also in our doctrine to be stewards to the culture, watchmen on the wall, and as such, we are commanded to resist harmful affronts to the God-ordained values in society. We do not seek the ‘freedom to hate’. We strive to live out our faith, and in ways to be active ‘stewards’ ‘watchmen on the wall’.

    Your assertion that Christianity is simply an order of institutionalized hatred is way, way off.

    1. Ronnie… Thanks for engaging me in conversation here. Admittedly, I was taken off guard by Brown’s question regarding gay businesses. But, given the time to think it out, I gave a much deeper answer in a personal commentary on my personal blog. You can read that at http://interstateq.com/archives/5532/.

      Regarding your other comments: You act as though this debate is gay v. Christian. It isn’t. It is Christian-talking-to-another-Christian about LGBT issues. I don’t believe that Christianity, as a whole, is an “order of institutionalized hatred.” My faith is one of grace, love, mercy, inclusion and advocacy for the poor, the weak, the hungry, the outcast and ostracized. My Jesus is one of compassion, a friend — not a foe — of sinners. There are many Christians who believe as I do; I wish much more of the church believed the same.

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