What Persecution Is. is a series about faith, gender, sexuality, race, culture and identity. Starting out the series is explored between Jake Dockter (at The Great White Whale) and Sarah and Lindsey (at A Queer Calling). If you would like to join the conversation, please do, but let us know about it so we converse with you! We want to join in dialogue.
Last month, founder of the Q conference, Gabe Lyons made a series of posts about his friends, The Benham Brothers, and their reality show being cancelled by their network. Soon following, they had a dust up with SunTrust Bank, one of their lenders (which was quickly reversed). The cause of the hullabaloo was the Benham Brother’s open and public stance on homosexuality. The brothers had been in production on a reality show, “Flip It Forward,” with HGTV but the network decided to stop production. Some claim it had to do with an expose by Right Wing Watch who released a series of links and quotes from the bros and their dad. While most of the hatred, homophobia, Islamophobia, and other vitriol comes from their father, Flip Benham, the brothers did make serious and disgusting remarks. According to David Benham, we are at risk from “homosexuality and its agenda that is attacking the nation,” and a wide variety of other anti-gay ideas.
This article is not a list of their remarks. While I disagree with them and their homophobia, they do have the right to say them and to hold them. What this series is about is the response and the view, typified by Gabe Lyons, that the brothers and Christians like them are being discriminated against.
Soon after the cancellation of their program, Lyons made a post to Facebook in which he stated the Benhams, “are being discriminated against for holding historic Christian beliefs.”
Almost a week later, SunTrust put their relationship with the Benham’s on hold and Lyons responded with:
At no point did Lyons reflect on how our LGBTQ sisters and brothers might feel. He quickly came to rescue of these two affluent, white, and straight men. And soon after conservative Christians, echoing the #standwithphil ridiculousness and the strangely similar Chick-fil-A fiasco, flocked to support.
Here are a few: https://www.facebook.com/supportbenhambrothers and http://www.faithdrivenconsumer.com/flipthisdecision
But heres the question…
Not, “did they say it?”
Not, “Was HGTV right in canceling the show?”
Are they really being discriminated against? Are they being persecuted?
Last year Lyons made the news when he defended his friend, pastor and church leader, Louie Giglio. His piece, “Bullied on the President’s Stage” pointed out that Giglio had had his invitation to pray at the 2nd inaugural ceremony for Pres. Obama rescinded for anti-gay statements. Lyons claimed that Giglio was “the target of intolerance” for his views. The views in question are of Giglio stating that “being gay is a sinful choice and that gay people will be prevented from ‘entering the Kingdom of God.'”
Again, I am not here to debate Giglio or his views. Many have done so and we can save that for another time. But was he the “target of intolerance?”
I find it VERY hard to believe that the Benhams, Giglio, or Phil Robertson for that matter, have experienced anything at all like persecution or discrimination. Yes, they felt consequences for their views and actions. Yes, they had their views broadcast to a public and they had to answer for them BUT…is that persecution? Is that discrimination?
When Lyons and others cry “PERSECUTION,” I can’t help but think of The Princess Bride. “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
Compared to the discrimination that our LGBTQ family has felt over generations, being denied rights, being denied love, being denied salvation, being denied access to God or the body of Christ, and worst of all being denied their own identity… does having a real estate reality show cancelled really add up to discrimination? Is being asked to not pray symmetrical to the death threats, hate crimes, actual murders, denials, and mockings that gay and transgender and questioning people experience every day?
I don’t think so. I find that hard to swallow.
Yeah, they lost a few thousand dollars. Yeah, they lost some exposure. But really?
The Benham Brothers did not lose their jobs. They were not prevented from doing business. They were not prevented from engaging in their method of gaining income nor were any rights denied or infringed upon. They merely had a reality show, on top of their already thriving and lucrative business, cancelled (one of probably hundreds of programs piloted but not picked up for broadcast).
Giglio did not lose any job, did not have any rights denied, and did not lose any status or position. He was only asked to not attend due to a political decision, one of many made similarly every day. Pres. Obama also recently distanced himself from Beyoncé for a sequined outfit deemed inappropriate.
Are these men actually discriminated against, or are these just consequences? Can folks claim persecution for their right to marginalize others?
Stay tuned as we keep examining What Persecution Is. Help us have the conversation.