Shaming the voice of Christ with fanaticism
I was shocked when it was revealed that Christian conservative lawyer John Carpay had compared the rainbow flag to the Nazi swastika. Not because Carpay had drawn the grotesque juxtaposition, but because it had taken so long for such a sentiment to be made public.
“How do we defeat today’s totalitarianism?” he asked rhetorically. “You’ve got to think about the common characteristics. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a hammer and sickle for communism, or whether it’s the swastika for Nazi Germany or whether it’s a rainbow flag, the underlying thing is a hostility to individual freedoms.”
He later apologized, explaining that he was actually discussing totalitarianism when he listed the rainbow flag with the emblem under which 12 million people were slaughtered in death camps — including, of course, many gay men. Such apologies are usually signs of being sorry because someone is caught, not because they are genuinely contrite. Change of heart and mind come about not due to pressure, but because of personal conviction.
I’ve known Carpay for many years, and he’s not an evil man. A little eccentric, extremely conservative, but not evil. What he is, however, is a committed right-wing Christian, and that’s a world few of us know well.
In the United States it’s enormously influential, in Canada less so but — as we saw with the leadership victories of Andrew Scheer federally and Doug Ford in Ontario — it can muster perhaps 20 per cent of any conservative race, and thus decide a vote.
At the heart of their beliefs is the conviction that there is a spiritual war taking place, and that the major battlefields are life and sexuality. The rights of women to control their bodies, or of gay men and women to live equally and enjoy the same rights as the heterosexual majority, are not signs of progress or liberty, but a satanic attack on God’s plan, and on the safety and sanctity of the Christian family.
Within evangelical circles and on the right of the Roman Catholic Church it’s a commonplace view, as any casual reading of socially conservative media platforms or blogs will show.
One of the books often quoted is The Pink Swastika, co-authored by the odious Scott Lively. He’s notorious for his anti-gay extremism, has advocated the criminalization of “the public advocacy of homosexuality”, and spread his venom in Uganda and Russia, where LGBTQ people live in fear of their lives. His book, subtitled “Homosexuality in the Nazi Party” is now in its fifth edition. No credible historian takes it at all seriously, but many Christian social conservatives certainly do.
At the epicentre of all this is fear, and in that it is not unlike the cult that has developed around bestselling author Jordan Peterson. Long powerless groups are finally speaking out and up for their rights, and whether they are women, gay, trans, native, or Black, their insistence on justice intimidates many of those who have long taken it for granted.
Within a conservative Christian context, it’s comforting to paint the entire struggle in spiritual colours, because if God is on your side it’s all going to be OK. Problem is, Jesus never mentions homosexuality, and is in fact stunningly indifferent to what some around him insist is sexual sin. Lesbianism is never referred to in the Old Testament, and the subject of homosexuality is spoken of a mere handful of times in the entire Bible. If any demand permeates the Gospels it’s love, acceptance, and the welcoming of the marginalized.
Carpay’s apology is irrelevant. What matters is that reactionaries shame the voice of Christ with their fanaticism, that Nazism is minimized by such grimy propaganda, and that LGBTQ people — still persecuted, humiliated, and killed in large parts of the world — have once again been assaulted.
The rainbow flag is a symbol of liberation, but the swastika is an icon of genocidal horror. That anybody should think otherwise, and use the cross to maintain their lunacy, makes this Christian very angry indeed.
Michael Coren is a Toronto writer.