Every Monday in Citizenship Confusion, Alan Noble discusses how we confuse our heavenly citizenship with citizenship to the state, culture, and the world.

One of the main themes of my column recently has been the tendency of U.S. Christians to think of themselves as “persecuted.” So, it was with great interest that I read DefendChristians.Org’s list of the Top 10 “anti-Christian” acts in the U.S. of 2011, as chosen by their readers.

While some of these “acts” are legitimate instances of persecution, the dominant theme of the list is the loss of political and cultural favor. The most interesting act was #1: the passage of SB 48 in California which mandated that public schools teach students about the contributions of homosexuals to our country.

How could teaching the historical fact that homosexuals have accomplished important things be “anti-Christian”? This is how DefendChristian.Org described the act:

“California Governor Jerry Brown signs a bill forcing public school curriculum and textbooks to “celebrate” homosexual, transgender and bisexuals.”

In their article on this bill, the site urges readers to join the effort at StopSB48.org to repeal the bill. And according to StopSB48.org and the Family Research Council’s president, Tony Perkins:

“[SB 48] will require public schools to teach children as young as five not only to accept but also to endorse transgender, bisexual, and homosexual identity and behavior.”

Another major Christian organization fighting the bill, SaveCalifornia.com, describes the dangers of SB 48 this way:

“Children as young as kindergarten must be taught to admire persons who engage in homosexuality, same-sex “marriages,” bisexuality, and transsexuality. . .”

“Children must be taught to support the political activism of so-called ‘Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Questioning’ (LGBTIQ) political groups.”

“Teachers are required to positively portray homosexuality, same-sex ‘marriages,’ bisexuality, and transsexuality.”

This bill is an “anti-Christian” act because it imposes a non-Christian morality upon our children, forces them to admire homosexuals, forces them to support the homosexual political agenda, and prevents teachers from pointing out the negative aspects of these sexual orientations.

The problem is that the bill requires none of these things. Here’s what the bill actually says:

“[The bill] require[s] instruction in social sciences to include a study of the role and contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans, persons with disabilities, and members of other cultural groups, to the development of California and the United States.”

It also forbids the adoption of instructional material that “contain any matter reflecting adversely upon persons on the basis of race or ethnicity, gender, religion, disability, nationality, sexual orientation. . .”

DefendChristians.org, StopSB48.org, The Family Research Council, and SaveCalifornia.com all misrepresented this bill by grossly exaggerating what it required.

They would probably respond that the wording of the bill is vague enough that some schools could abuse it to promote or “celebrate” homosexuality, which is possible, but the bill does not require it. The bill only requires a “study of the role and contributions” of these groups and forbids teachers from teaching anything that reflects “adversely upon persons on the basis of . . . sexual orientation.”

There are legitimate concerns about SB 48 (e.g. the vague language which could lead to abuses of the law), but overwhelmingly, the Christian organizations that have fought against the bill have grossly exaggerated and misrepresented the bill, much to their shame. Instead of honestly and charitably noting that people of various sexual orientations have done great things while calling for clearer language in the bill, these groups presented a straw-man version of the bill and called for its repeal.

I have three take-aways from DefendChristians.org’s top-10 list and the Repeal-SB 48 movement:

1. The readers of DefendChristians.org conceived of SB 48 as an “anti-Christian” bill, when in reality it was an contra biblical-morality bill. We have grown so attracted to the idea of persecution that when the worldly government does not favor our moral system, we take it as an attack on us and our beliefs, rather than a sign of how the Church’s failure to be a witness to the world has led to a shift in society’s morals.

2. The response to Christianity’s decline as the defining moral system in our nation has been largely political and forceful. DefendChristians.org called upon its readers to contact NBC and demand that they fire the person responsible for leaving out “Under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance before two sporting events. If NBC will not choose to support our faith, we must force them to. Similarly, if California and its government accepts and promotes sinful lifestyles, we must use political pressure to force them to change. This is another instance of Christian nihilism.

3. Many Christian organizations misrepresented the facts of this bill and framed it as an attack on our children. While it is true that the bill was poorly worded and could potentially lead to abuses, for Christians to present worst-case-scenarios as the clear and stated intention of the bill is dishonest.

As citizens of heaven, persecution should be defined for us by the Cross and the long history of Christian martyrs; our response to the increasing secularization of our culture ought to be first and foremost spiritual and relational, not political; and our political statements, as all our statements, must be honest, charitable, and accurate.


  1. It’s also a mark of unexamined privilege when something that has nothing to do with the majority but merely gives more visibility to the minority (though I have issues saying that Christians and homosexuals are mutually exclusive minority and majority categories) is seen as an outright attack on the majority. This happens in pretty much any situation where there is a power differential: oh noes! more women being successful means that men are loosing some of our grip on power! We must stop and be concerned about the menz!

    Lolspeak aside, it is really bothersome to me when Christians see a move toward equality in the secular realm as persecution merely because it challenges their position of privilege in society. Guh.

  2. So if you were going to oppose this bill, how would you suggest?

    I oppose it on the grounds that it is a ridiculous bill. Do we seriously need to tie people’s accomplishments to their sexual behavior in some way? As in, “So and so invented this very handy device. Also, he was a pedophile.” What difference does that make?

  3. Brad,

    Yeah, I think there are lots of valid reasons for opposing it. The language is vague. Legislating curriculum is a bad idea. There are probably cheaper, less invasive (into the teacher’s work) ways of accomplishing the same goal. Etc.

  4. From this STOPSB48 picture, it appears that SB-48 is some law against white, middle class, two-children families.

    Or white kids ridding on the necks of their parents.

    Or maybe against using adults as horses. Yeah, probably that.

  5. Secular society is secular.

    The backlash against this bill is just silly. As Alan said above, there are a ton of legitimate reasons to oppose the bill without fanciful exaggeration.

    My experience with Christianity in the political arena is that it’s not actually about sharing the gospel and bringing people to Christ – it’s about ramming Christian ideals, morality, and culture down everyone’s throats whether they like it or not. There’s an agenda that’s arguably just as harmful as as the next guy’s political agenda. Eventually we’ll learn that we can’t force people not to do bad things that only hurt themselves, that we have to teach our children that such people do in fact exist, and that we must coexist peacefully with them in spite of ourselves.

  6. Many Christians are struggling to come to terms with the end of Christendom. Society is no longer majority Christian and the church needs to change how it interacts with society as a result. But change is hard…

  7. Good article. Thank you.

    I agree that to market the bill (and that is what it is, marketing) to be perceived as it has been is deceiving and therefore actually goes contrary to the morals we are defending.

    I personally oppose the idea that people will be merited for their sexuality rather than their accomplishments. It is affirmative action again. We have a bunch of people from history who have done things, so we will choose to talk about the gay ones because of the fact that they are gay rather than the scope of what they accomplished.

    It is also a ridiculous concept because then where do you stop? If the thesis is that minorities need to be spoken about to give their point of view, then what about other minorities? We don’t have enough days or months in the year to have all the such and such celebration days/months.

    These are not the best ideas for the foundation of a rule or best practice of social studies.

  8. I’ve gotta say…if this is their excuse for persecution, they ought to talk to Christians in North Korea or Iran.

  9. I agree this is not persecution, though the language is so vague that we may safely assume it will be abused; there are plenty of simple historical realities that could be interpreted as “reflecting adversely” on one group (Christians, pederasts, Pilgrims, Trotskyites, neo-liberals) or another (Cathars, Muslims, Jacobites, Stalinists, Great Society liberals), that we simply must encounter in real education (about the Albigensian crusade, about Arab culture, about the Mayflower, about “Socialism in One Country,” about the Straussian turn in intellectual culture). We may justly argue that students should not be exposed to these conflicts until they are adept in the intellectual virtues required to navigate these shoals, but….

    Well, isn’t that the point we might make against such legislation?

    Isn’t that the point such legislation prevents us from making to local school boards?

    Isn’t that the decision such legislation pressures us not to make in our own schools?

  10. Brad, in the same way that we teach that George Washington Carver invented peanut butter and he was black, we can also teach that Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling and he was gay. Straight forward, no nonsense, non judgmental facts.

    Both of these facts can lead to further discussions of the persecution of black people in the United States even in view of their innumerable contributions to modern society, or, alternatively, the persecution of gay people in the world in view of their innumerable contributions to modern society.

    Or is that what Christians are actually afraid of? That gay people would be looked at as “just as good” as every other person?

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