Fox News contributor Bernard Goldberg told Bill O’Reilly last week that Republicans live in fear of “the organized Christian right.”
Goldberg and O’Reilly were discussing presidential candidate Ted Cruz, who recently asked a local reporter in Texas if the left — including the media — is obsessed with sex, after reporters repeatedly badgered him with questions about gay marriage and homosexuality. Both said that Cruz handled the question well, even though Goldberg admitted, “I’m not a fan of Ted Cruz.” But Goldberg had more to say.
“Ted Cruz could have said, of course, I have no animosity against gay Americans. Next question,” Goldberg said. “But you know why he didn’t? Because every Republican lives in fear of the organized Christian right. There may not be a lot of people in the organized Christian right, but they have a very big megaphone, and [Republicans] live in daily and deathly fear of what they would do…if you even say, ‘Oh, I have no animosity against gays,’ that’s what they’re afraid of.”
He added, “There are more than a few conservative Christians — I’m not saying a majority or anything like that — more than a few who not only are against gay marriage, Bill, but detest gays, period.”
Goldberg offered the hate mail he receives as proof of the Scary Christian Right Wing Monster.
“I know this because when I come on this program and say I’m for gay marriage, I don’t only get e-mails from people who are against it — fair enough. Reasonable people can disagree on that,” he said. “I get e-mails from people who write the most vile things about gays, and they proclaim their Christianity. And I know for a fact that you get the same kind of e-mails.”
Goldberg didn’t say how many of these hateful emails he’s received — five…ten…fifty? But he paints an evocative tale of a breathtakingly powerful Christian group — one that threatens to bring down the entire GOP — fueled by shadowy figures who refuse to evolve on marriage. And they’re all sitting in their parents’ basements in their underpants sending Goldberg emails or something.
Bill O’Reilly, who has 3.3 million viewers on an average night, countered, “I have to say, I don’t get many of those. And the fringe is different. ”
“Wait, wait. Hold on. I’m not willing to accept that it’s a fringe — you don’t know what percent — percentage it is, and I don’t know what percentage it is. I know it’s too many,” and animated Goldberg shot back.
So according to Bernie, it’s not a fringe and it’s “more than a few conservative Christians,” but not “a majority or anything.” So, somewhere between a fringe and the majority, I guess.
Which means he’s willing to entertain the possibility that these “vile” emails are representative of Christianity in the main.
Goldberg didn’t say what criteria he uses to judge these “vile” emails. If a Christian emails him and says she believes the traditional Christian teaching that unrepentant homosexuals (and thieves and liars, et al) are in danger of eternal punishment, does that go onto the “vile” pile on Goldberg’s desk?
That appears to be the case, as Goldberg explained in a column at Fox News on the topic,
[Christians are] against same-sex marriage, they say, because God is against it. (Trust me on this: I get truckloads of emails from angry viewers whenever I tell Bill O’Reilly I’m for same-sex marriage. Almost all quote, directly or indirectly, some portion of the Bible to make their case.)
Here’s the thing. I’ve been involved in conservative Christian circles since the mid-’80s — some of that time in churches of the fundamentalist Baptist variety — and I don’t know a single genuine Christian who would send a “vile” (“morally despicable or abhorrent,” according to Merriam-Webster) email about gay marriage to some guy on TV that they’ve never met, unless by “vile” you mean “Bible quoting.” While many Christians have both theological and public policy disagreements with gay marriage proponents, that doesn’t translate into hatred for individual homosexuals, who are human beings made in the image of God.
Certainly, there are some fringe elements who proclaim Christianity and espouse hatred and cruelty. Fringes exist in every walk of life. But hatred and true, authentic Christianity are incompatible. The problem is that we’ve redefined the word “hate” to include all sorts of things that are not inherently hateful — sincere policy disagreements, spirited rhetoric, saying that marriage is between one man and one woman — and communicating the the uncomfortable teachings of Christianity (including the belief that hell exists and some people actually go there).
But just to be clear, I’ll say it right now, on the off chance that Mr. Goldberg stops by to read it: I have no “animosity against gay Americans.” I also have no animosity toward any GOP candidates who say they have no animosity toward gay Americans, nor do I know of any Christians who would be bothered by a GOP candidate who made such a statement. (Also, I’d tell Bernie that stereotyping people — and judging the motives of an entire religious faith — on the basis of a bunch of angry emails from faceless viewers is very poor form.)