Law and Order Christians

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“Law and Order” was a dog whistle used by the Nixon campaign in its well documented Southern Strategy to take the White House. It was heard by many, especially in the South, as a way of putting black people back in their place. If the concepts and practice of law and order are used to provide equality of opportunity and equal protection under the law, then they are an important basis for a flourishing society, but that was not what Nixon was appealing to. He and his advisors knew the message that an emphasis on law and order would send to white conservative voters, especially in the South. It was a law that protected the interests of white male supremacy and order that kept inequality in place. Sadly, that legacy continues to this day.

“Law and Order” Christians are also using similar language to keep persons who are LGBTQIA in their place. An appeal to God’s law is made to affirm the sinfulness of LGBTQIA persons and keep them from full participation within religious communities. In my denomination, the United Methodist Church, the appeal to law is expressed in the Book of Discipline, which in matters related to sexual orientation and gender identity functions as a book of law to keep persons who are LGBTQI from participating in the full life and ministry of the church. The Book of Discipline tells people who are LGBTQI that they are not compatible with Christian teaching and that they are not worthy of being married or ordained as ministers within the church. The law keeps them “in their place” and out of full participation in community.

An appeal to order is also used within the United Methodist Church to maintain the exclusion of LGBTQI persons from marriage and ordained ministry in the church. The Order of the ordained clergy is used as a mechanism to keep ministers from fully including LGBTQI persons by enforcing adherence to the exclusionary language and practices prescribed by the Book of Discipline. If clergy disobey and perform same gender weddings or become open about being LGBTQI themselves, they are charged under church law and often put on trial and removed from ordained ministry for their disobedience so that the order of exclusion may be re-established. When they disobey exclusionary prescriptions, they are told that they have broken the covenant of the Order that connects us as one united Church.

Law, order, and covenant are all used to keep LGBTQIA persons in their place, but when a law is unjust, it is no law at all; when order is used to exclude, it is simply a tool of discrimination; and when covenant is used to control, it becomes an instrument of manipulation rather than an expression of committed relationship. The maintenance of unity through exclusion is actually the maintenance of discrimination. It is likely not an accident that the Law and Order Christians are most powerful in the South where law and order have been used effectively for so long to keep people in their places. Excluding persons who are LGBTQIA from the full life and ministry has become the new Southern Strategy of the United Methodist Church.

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About Mark Y. A. Davies

Mark Davies is The Wimberly Professor of Social and Ecological Ethics and Director of the World House Institute for Social and Ecological Responsibility at Oklahoma City University. From 2009 to 2015, Mark was dean of the Petree College of Arts and Sciences and Wimberly Professor of Social Ethics at Oklahoma City University. Previously, Mark was dean of the Wimberly School of Religion at Oklahoma City University and Founding Director of the Vivian Wimberly Center for Ethics and Servant Leadership. Prior to becoming dean of the Wimberly School of Religion in 2002, he was associate dean of the Petree College of Arts and Sciences at Oklahoma City University and chair of the department of philosophy. Mark has published in the areas of Boston personalism, process philosophy and ethics, and ecological ethics. Dr. Davies serves on the United Methodist University Senate, which is “an elected body of professionals in higher education created by the General Conference to determine which schools, colleges, universities, and theological schools meet the criteria for listing as institutions affiliated with The United Methodist Church.” He and his wife Kristin live in Edmond, OK in the United States, and they have two daughters. The views expressed by the author in this blog do not necessarily represent the views of Oklahoma City University.
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4 Responses to Law and Order Christians

  1. gmd1952 says:

    Experts on relationships have long observed that the one thing that is absolutely toxic to a relationship is contempt. When one party holds the other in contempt the relationship is doomed. (of course grace can heal that contempt).

    The phrase, “ ‘Law and Order’ was a dog whistle” is a contemptible phrase implicitly holding those that beckon to that call as unreasoning brutes, dogs governed by their baser impulses. Of course those allies of the LGBT community will say, “No, we do not intellectually assert that of those who disagree with us.” and I believe you. However you EMOTIONALLY assert it and in relationships emotions play a significant role.

    With such strong negative emotions in play there can be no reasoned way forward for while the small & quiet voice of reason whispers Emotions shout and the shouting drowns out that small and quiet voice.

    To go forward contempt must be removed and our discipline points the way. “All persons are of sacred worth” and that must gracious idea must be applied holistically to both the mind and the heart. The challenge for those who seek greater inclusion of the LGBT community is to simply believe whole-heartedly the consistent testimony of those who seek a more limited inclusion of LGBT people, there is no fear or hate in our hearts only the desire to do what we believe is right. Lincoln put it just right. “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right.”

    Can you through the eyes of grace see us as more than Dogs? I pray you can.

    • From Dictionary.com, the definition of dog whistle Politics is: “a political strategy, statement, slogan, etc., that conveys a controversial, secondary message understood only by those who support the message.”
      It does not presume that the persons saying it or hearing it are dogs, it simply implies that the targeted group is hearing something different than others are hearing. This was certainly the case with Nixon’s use of law and order, and it is also the case with Trump during this election cycle.

  2. Terry M Gresham says:

    Reblogged this on okieprogressive.

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