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Alex Paterson

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  • Right-wing evangelicals are using Pete Buttigieg to attack progressive Christians

    Extreme anti-LGBTQ groups and media are even calling for Buttigieg to stop being gay and undergo conversion therapy

    Blog ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN & ALEX PATERSON


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Anti-LGBTQ groups and media are attacking progressive Christians as not "serious Christians" after openly gay and Christian Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg called out Vice President Mike Pence for his anti-LGBTQ policies.

    On April 7, remarking on his sexuality, Buttigieg said “that if Pence has ‘a problem with who I am, your problem is not with me -- your quarrel, sir, is with my creator.’" Pence has a long history of opposing LGBTQ rights, and he responded to the comments by accusing Buttigieg of attacking his Christian faith.

    Buttigieg is very open about his Christian faith. The New York Times described Buttigieg as “a devoted Episcopalian who fluidly quotes Scripture” and quoted him saying that his relationship with his husband Chasten “has moved me closer to God.” He has also cited his Christian faith as part of the reason he supports progressive policies.

    Despite his faith, right-wing evangelicals are attacking Buttigieg as anti-Christian and calling progressive Christianity -- particularly Christians who support LGBTQ equality and reproductive choice -- a “hypocritical farce” and “politicized sham.” Several outlets even said Buttigieg should stop being gay, suggesting that he undergo and support the dangerous and discredited practice of conversion therapy.

    Right-wing media and anti-LGBTQ groups say progressive stances on sexuality and abortion go against Christian teachings

    In response to Buttigieg’s comments, right-wing media and anti-LGBTQ groups attacked not only Buttigieg’s beliefs but also the entirety of progressive Christianity.

    Right-wing anti-LGBTQ commentator Erick Erickson penned a post titled “On Meet the Press, Pete Buttigieg Shows Why Progressive Christianity is a Hypocritical Farce” that suggested that Erickson’s hardline anti-LGBTQ and anti-abortion beliefs are the only acceptable form of Christianity. In the piece, Erickson claimed that “Buttigieg keeps trying to play a Christian on television” and cited Buttigieg’s beliefs as a reason why “progressive Christianity is so corrupt and flawed.” He also said that Buttigieg “wants to reject the inconvenient parts of faith he does not like,” pointing to his sexuality and stance on reproductive choice. In an earlier post, Erickson claimed that Buttigieg “is not really Christian so much as he is Episcopalian,” a point that he has repeatedly doubled down on.

    In a post on anti-LGBTQ outlet LifeSiteNews, writer Michael Brown said that Buttigieg's comments on President Donald Trump are “the height of hypocrisy” after Buttigieg criticized Trump for being “at odds with at least my understanding of the teachings of the Christian faith.” Brown referred to Buttigieg as “a professing Christian and practicing homosexual” and claimed that it is “utterly absurd” for a “serious Christian” to be “pro-abortion and ‘married’ to his same-sex partner.” Additionally, Brown implied that a “true follower of Jesus” cannot be gay and quoted a Bible verse suggesting that LGBTQ people will go to hell. He concluded by saying that “there is nothing Christian about” a “pro-abortion, practicing homosexual who claims to be a Christian calling out Trump’s alleged ‘hypocrisy.’”

    Peter LaBarbera, president of the extreme anti-LGBTQ group Americans for Truth about Homosexuality, released a statement titled “Pete Buttigieg's Fake Christianity: Democrat Mocks God by Using Him to Justify His Homosexuality.” LaBarbera called Buttigieg “a living, walking and breathing example of the politicized sham that is religious-left ‘Christianity’ today.” He continued, “Buttigieg quotes Scripture even as he defies it with his very public, and very fake, ‘marriage’ to another man,” adding, “No faithful Christian proudly identifies by his or her besetting sins, nor seeks to justify them before a holy God.”

    In an appearance on anti-LGBTQ media figure Todd Starnes’ Fox Nation show, extreme anti-LGBTQ group Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said that Buttigieg “has an issue with the words of Scripture.” Perkins also compared him to “wolves in sheep’s clothing,” claiming that Buttigieg’s progressive agenda is “not in line with the Scripture,” including his support for reproductive choice and same-sex marriage.

    Several outlets suggested Buttigieg denounce his sexuality and stop being gay

    Right-wing media and anti-LGBTQ groups doubled down on their attacks of Buttigieg’s identity by going so far as to say that he should stop being gay.

    In LaBarbera’s post, he asserted that “it is Buttigieg himself who is defiantly living out his own quarrel with God every time he proudly celebrates his sexual sin and, worse, uses God to justify it.” LaBarbera further called for Buttigieg to stop being gay, saying, “Christians should pray that Pete Buttigieg repents of his proud homosexuality and dedicates himself to serving Christ in Truth—rather than mocking Him for political gain.” He also subtly advocated for conversion therapy, saying that “homosexual behaviors … can be overcome through the grace and power of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 6), as testified by countless ex-‘gays’ and former ‘transgenders.’"

    In his LifeSiteNews post, Brown claimed that Buttigieg should come out and say he does “not affirm [his same-sex] desires, act on them, or celebrate them.”

    And in a blog titled “The Problem with Pete Buttigieg: His Sexual Conduct,” Bryan Fischer of the extreme anti-LGBTQ group American Family Association called for Buttigieg to “exit from the addictive and self-destructive behavior that is endemic in the homosexual community and set his feet on a higher path.” Fischer also suggested Buttigieg undergo conversion therapy, saying, “It’s unfortunate that Buttigieg never developed a relationship with Jesus Christ because Christ came in order to give ordinary human beings victory over exactly the kind of sexual temptation to which Buttigieg surrendered.” Fischer concluded that “the first question Pete Buttigieg needs to be asked: ‘Do you oppose reparative therapy for teens struggling with same-sex attraction, and would you make it a crime? Yes or No?’”

    These suggestions, both implicit and explicit, for Buttigieg to undergo conversion therapy and renounce his sexuality are part of the broader trend of extreme anti-LGBTQ groups and figures supporting a discredited practice that causes harm and even death.

    These opinions are extreme and not representative of most Christian viewpoints

    Attempts to discredit Buttigieg’s Christian faith reflect right-wing evangelicals’ broader efforts to create a false “God vs. Gay” dichotomy to pit religious people, particularly Christians, against LGBTQ people. However, anti-LGBTQ bigotry is not reflected in mainstream Christian beliefs, and the majority of members in most religious groups in the United States believe that homosexuality should be accepted. In May 2018, research from the Public Religion Research Institute found that “most religious groups now support the legalization of same-sex marriage” and although a majority of white evangelicals and Mormons still do not express majority support, “there is evidence that even these groups are trending toward majority support.”

    Right-wing media’s claims that Buttigieg’s marriage and progressive platform go directly against Christian beliefs further contribute to a misleading and destructive narrative that has been ongoing for decades. These assertions are untrue and do not reflect the strengthening support for LGBTQ rights in Christian communities in the U.S.