Back in March of 2013, Rush Limbaugh, who has been married four times, lamented about marriage equality, “The issue is lost. I don’t care what the Supreme Court does. This is inevitable. And it’s inevitable because we lost the language on this.”
The problem was, he complained, conservatives ever associating the word “marriage” with unions that were clearly not, in conservative eyes, marriages.
“As far as I’m concerned, once we started talking about gay marriage, traditional marriage, opposite-sex marriage, same-sex marriage, hetero marriage, we lost. It was over.”
Yet Limbaugh, who has never been good with the whole reality “thing,” has himself been unable to let it go, lost cause or not.
Now he is blaming gay marriage for the decline of Christianity in America – specifically “less than 1 million gay activists” who have “bull[ied] and steamroll[ed] an entire country.”
From yesterday’s edition of The Rush Limbaugh Show:
“And in some cases female and lesbian ministers, which you might think in some cases could cause people to leave those churches. “Those denominations — the Methodists, the Presbyterians, the Lutherans — dropped a lot of members.”
Right. It’s female and lesbian ministers who drove people away, not an unrelenting message of hate.
They have left their churches because of social issues and the evolution of their churches to social areas they didn’t want to go and don’t feel comfortable being in. If you look at the evangelical churches, they haven’t lost anything. Their membership is holding pretty steady. Where the message has remained, where the mission has remained the same, where the members of the church don’t think any corruption is taking place. They’re still hanging in there.
Some might say, the churches that haven’t fallen pray to the dark side. All of this silly social evolution.
Like I said. He isn’t good with the whole reality thing.
“How is it,” he asked finally, “that 70 percent of the population can be bullied and silenced and coerced into accepting societal evolution with which they disagree because of their religious beliefs?”
He is pulling numbers out of his backside, but his conclusions are mistaken whatever the numbers. A minority did not bully a majority. And gay activists did not cause a decline in Christian numbers. Christianity did.
A.H. Armstrong relates for us the legacy of Christian intolerance. According to Armstrong, “the triumph of Christianity carried in it, as perhaps all such triumphs do, the seeds of future defeat. The Church in the fourth century took what it wanted and has been paying for it, in one way or another, ever since.”
In other words, you just can’t blame the recent rise of fundamentalism in the form of the Religious Right. I mentioned the other day the lack of any Republican edicts of toleration, but this has been going on for a long time:
The choice of the way of intolerance by the authorities of Church and empire in the late fourth century has had some very serious and lasting consequences. The last vestiges of its practical effects, in the form of the imposition of at least petty and vexatious disabilities on forms of religion not approved by the local ecclesiastical establishment, lasted in some European countries well into my lifetime. And theoretical approval of this sort of intolerance has often long outlasted the power to apply it in practice. After all, as late as 1945 many approved Roman Catholic theologians in England, and the Roman authorities, objected to a statement on religious freedom very close to Vatican II’s declaration on that subject. In general, I do not think that any Christian body has ever abandoned the power to persecute and repress while it actually had it. The acceptance of religious tolerance and freedom as good in themselves has normally been the belated, though sometimes sincere and whole-hearted, recognition and acceptance of a fait accompli. This long persistence of Theodosian intolerance in practice and its still longer persistence in theory has certainly been a cause, though not the only cause, of that unique phenomenon of our time, the decline not only of Christianity but all forms of religious belief and the growth of a totally irreligious and unspiritual materialism.
Not that Limbaugh’s form of Christianity is all that spiritual, or lacking in materialism. But the point stands. Christianity is to blame for its own demise. This should come as no surprise to any of us who have witnessed the “culture war” atmosphere of the past few decades.
Conservatives, on the other hand, have had a difficult time coming to grips with America’s changing demographics and attitudes, despite many of their own attitudes being fairly recent developments.
Witness a chat had by Bill O’Reilly and Megyn Kelly back in 2013 concerning Proposition 8. Kelly revealed that she thought Tony Perkins did not have a compelling argument against marriage equality.
“That’s where the compelling argument is,” O’Reilly told Kelly. “We’re Americans. We just want to be treated like everybody else.”
“That’s a compelling argument. And to deny that, you’ve got to have a very strong argument on the other side. And the other side hasn’t been able to do anything but thump the Bible.”
You get the sense O’Reilly wishes they had something more, but they don’t. Limbaugh was angry with O’Reilly and Kelly of course, but they didn’t start the fire.
And the Bible isn’t particularly anti-gay, as has been pointed out many times, despite the efforts of anti-gay activists to turn it into one, long, anti-gay diatribe. Eating shellfish is as sinful as laying with another man, and the circumstances of two men together are far less clear-cut than the eating of the shellfish. Nor did Jesus make any pronouncements against gays and lesbians, let alone transgenders.
As Armstrong pointed out, it is the persecution and the repression by Church authorities that have been, and continue to be the problem. These are the issues that have been noted in studies concerning the rise of the Nones, and the lack of attraction “traditional” values hold for Millennials.
Simply put, there is no “good” news in the Religious Right’s religion. It’s all judgment. And it’s apparent to all that the people doing the judging don’t have any moral high ground to stand on.
Rush Limbaugh, who is in decline himself, can blame gay activists for this decline, but he really should be blaming himself as the ugly face of persecution and repression that is driving young people away from what the Church is selling.
 A.H. Armstrong, “The Way and the Ways: Religious Tolerance and Intolerance in the Fourth Century A.D.” Vigiliae Christianae 38 (1984), 1-2.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.