by Jim Powers
In 1955 pastor Fred Phelps founded a small Primitive Baptist church in Topeka, Kansas. He named it Westboro Baptist Church (WBC), and it averages around 70 members, primarily members of his family.
WBC gained national notoriety when in 1989, and continuing through the early 2000’s, the church focused its efforts on actions against Gay people. Members of the church would disrupt military funerals, celebrity funerals and public events with their protests and signs portraying the slogan “God Hates Gays.”
Phelps died in 2014, and while the church still exists, some family members have left the group because of the hostile actions of the group.
While WBC was on society’s fringe in its heyday, hate for and attacks on Gay people have gone mainstream in current times. Groups describing themselves as Christian have browbeat school boards around the country with attacks on pronouns. Students should only be referred to by teachers with pronouns consistent with their sex. Males referred to only with the pronoun “he,” females with the pronoun “she.” Under no circumstances should a child be called by the neutral pronoun “they,” even if he child identifies with a gender different than their sex.
Since these folks claim to be Christians, I can only conclude that they believe that God hates theys. Maybe I’m a slow reader, but I can’t find anywhere in the New Testament where God or Jesus hates anyone. In fact, such a belief is anathema to Jesus’ teaching.
When I was a kid, females who preferred sports and jeans rather than dolls and frilly dresses were commonly referred to as tomboys. The term tomboy was not a pejorative term, just an observation of fact. It seems to me that in modern times, a lot of folks have confused the meaning of the words sex and gender, somehow conflating them to refer to the same thing. The words have different meanings.
Sex refers primarily to physical and biological traits. Sex is determined by chromosomes, genes, hormone levels and reproductive and sexual anatomy.
Gender refers to socially constructed roles. When I was a kid, boys played sports, hunted, and fished, built model cars, and got into fights. Girls played with dolls, wore dresses, played house, learned to sew, and cook. Boys expected when they were adults to work at a job, support the family, mow the lawn, and park in front of the TV in the evening. Girls expected as adults to work in the home, have babies, raise kids, cook the meals, clean the house.
These roles, though, were merely social constructs that changed dramatically over time as society changed. If sex and gender were the same, the roles would not have changed. Boys would always conform to the roles we assumed when we were kids.
We’ve always defined ourselves in different ways regardless of our sex. I am far more like my mother than my father. I have more her personality and share more of her interests. That is probably because my mother determined that she did not want me to grow up believing that roles were fixed. She insisted that I learned to cook, wash dishes, iron clothes (I know, what’s an iron), clean house, polish a floor. She didn’t want me to be dependent on someone else to handle the basics of life. If I chose not to marry, I would be able to take care of myself. If I did marry, I would help my wife rather than treat her as an unpaid maid. I ended up marrying a woman with a career more important than mine. I wrote software, she taught children. We have always been equals.
While the idea of a war on pronouns seems silly, such a war actually exists as folks on the Right fight to return us to a time when there were rigid gender roles, when men were boss, and women were subservient. Even to the point of demanding that school districts ban gender neutral pronouns.