I recently wrote about the effort being funded by the Arcus Foundation to infiltrate the mainline and Catholic churches with the gospel of homosexuality. Arcus has poured millions of dollars into this effort in support of an agenda of radical sexual ethical change, which is designed both to change the nature of the churches and to support the larger secular effort to transform American society into a gay-positive one.

The Methodist Thinker (who has also reposted my effort) has sent me a very interesting report from the Center for American Progress. It is called Keeping the Faith: Faith Organizing for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Moral and Civil Rights in a Southern State by Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite and Marta Cook. Thistlethwaite, as any reader of this blog knows, is a regular contributor to the “On Faith” column at the Washington Post, where she is a tediously reliable voice for the far left of Christian thinking. She and Cook have turned out a study of LGBT efforts to infiltrate find allies and work with religious organizations in Tennessee, a study funded by–surprise!–the Arcus Foundation.

A couple of excerpts:

Increasingly, gay and transgender advocates are working with a growing group of faith allies to assert a compelling moral vision of inclusiveness, love, respect, and tolerance. These advocates and faith allies are working together to challenge messages that oppose equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans in both religious communities and in society at large.

Unfortunately, much of the opposition to equality for LGBT Americans over the years has come from organized religion. In particular, many conservative religious leaders and faith-based groups have been vocal in their views that to be gay or lesbian is a violation of God’s will. Beyond preaching, many religious leaders and groups have worked in the political arena to oppose legislation and policies that provide equality for LGBT Americans. Their efforts have distorted the public debate and the diversity of religious views on LGBT equality, hindered LGBT progress, and denied millions of Americans their God-given rights.

While it is crucial to support the First Amendment rights of faith communities to voice their beliefs, it is also crucial to oppose their efforts to impose their theology on a pluralistic democracy and deny justice and equality to millions of LGBT Americans. In addition, it is critical to raise up the voices of people of faith who are advocating for LGBT justice and equality. It is important to broaden and reframe the debate, to say that moral equality is as important as legal and social equality, and to show the advances that organized religion and people of faith have been making over the past years.

This is from the introduction. To their credit, for the most part the authors avoid inflammatory (and ridiculous) language such as accusing Christians of trying to “impose their theology on a pluralistic democracy.” But I guess they thought they needed to toss out some red meat at the start to get the reader interested.

It is interesting, however, that they include here the observation that the participation of individuals and groups upholding a traditional perspective on marriage and sexual behavior are “distort[ing] the debate.” It sounds as though the authors think there is something illegitimate about expressing such beliefs in a public forum. It seems they would prefer a public square where opinions contrary to liberal orthodoxy are simply not allowed, so as not to “distort the debate” by suggesting that there may be other ways of viewing an issue.

In a section entitled, “Tennessee as a case study on LGBT activism in a highly religious state,” the authors offer these conclusions:

•LGBT activists and faith allies in Tennessee have attained a remarkable level of success in a state with a high level of religious affiliation. Despite faith-based opposition that is well-organized and well funded, LGBT advocates have devel- oped creative strategies and messages regarding LGBT equality rooted in faith.

•Tennessee exhibits less of a religious/secular divide between faith groups and LGBT activists than exists in other states. Many LGBT advocates are them- selves faith leaders, and many LGBT organizations recognize that effective faith alliances and targeted faith messaging are critical to success.

•Despite these efforts, serious challenges remain within key faith communities, including white evangelicals, Catholics, and African-American churches. Key to increasing the success of LGBT organizing work in Tennessee is expanding faith alliances. In some cases that means crafting outreach strategies and collaborative efforts to meet communities where they are.

•While certain African-American faith allies are doing brave and significant work in Tennessee to support LGBT moral and civil equality, most do not come from historic African-American churches. African-American and white faith allies agree on the need for more reciprocity in raising issues of social and economic justice for African Americans alongside issues of equal legal rights for LGBT citizens of Tennessee. They see this as indispensible to having more African
Americans become a part of the LGBT movement in the state.

•In addition to cultivating faith allies and making a faith case for equality in Tennessee, growing the organizational and technological sophistication of the LGBT movement in Tennessee is essential to more effectively compete with well-funded and organized opposition.

Despite Thistlethwaite’s standing as a former seminary president and professor (I don’t know what, if any, faith background Cook has), it’s pretty clear that this report is written from the perspective of people who are trying to get churches to buy into an ethical stance that is meant to serve a political objective. There is no concern or interest expressed in this report for the faith communities’ theological or moral integrity, no qualms whatsoever in trying to get them to overturn biblical and historical teaching, all for political purposes. LGBT activists are encouraged to seek liberal allies in the churches, and join forces with them to achieve political ends. And if those allies are able to gain further allies in their churches, great.

Tennessee, of course, is a pretty conservative state, one where just over 50% of the population identifies with some form of evangelical Christianity, so it’s no surprise that virtually everyone mentioned in this report is from the Protestant mainline, which in any event is always going to be the most fertile ground for infiltrators such as Arcus or CAP. But most states aren’t so conservative, and evangelicalism is less influential elsewhere. Evangelicals in the mainline churches in more liberal states, especially, need to be on the lookout for alliances such as this, and be prepared to expose them for what they are–attempts by those outside the church to weaken, change, and co-opt it from within.