The pastor’s church building is covered by a Historic Landmark Preservation Ordinance. As such, any renovations, remodels, or alterations have to be approved by the Landmark’s Preservation Commission. The church has never, ever applied for such permission, and in the last several years has erected the sign upon which they keep posting hateful messages, they removed ornamental ironwork from another part of the building, they removed a second floor balcony, they added an exterior door, and they added a marble fence. Not only did they fail to apply to the Landmark Preservation Commission, they didn’t attempt to get ordinary building permits for any of these alterations.
Way back in May of 2013, the Landmark Preservation Commission issues a warning letter about the violations. The church ignored it. Last March, after many attempts for nearly two years to get the church to respond, the city issued a citation. The church ignored that. The church continued to ignored numerous notices until finally last August when the pastor presented his defense to a judge. Said defense consisted of the claim that other churches have broken the same law, but no one cites them because they don’t put homophobic messages on their sign. He’s being persecuted for his beliefs, you see. The judge didn’t care, found them guilty of five violations, ordered the church to pay $1,850 in fines, and ordered them to work with the appropriate agencies to bring the building into compliance.
The church then changed their sign (as pictured above) to read: “We won, we won! Have a nice day you damned homos.” They didn’t win. Not one of their arguments was accepted. The judge ruled against them on every count. I guess that because he didn’t order a wrecking ball to destroy the whole building that very day, they decided that meant they won. I don’t know.
Because they haven’t made any effort to even discuss how the building would be brought into compliance, the city has issued new citations. But since the church wouldn’t pay the $1,850, I don’t think they’re going to cough up the $11,500 any time soon. The pastor claims that the church simply doesn’t have the money for the fines. Now, given how easy it was for a pizza parlor that wasn’t even facing a boycott or fines to get anti-gay people to crowdfun hundreds of thousands of dollars (let alone the money that bakeries, wedding venues, and other businesses run by homophones have been able to raise), I find it very difficult to believe Atlah World Missions couldn’t get donors to kick in for these amounts that are quite small by comparison. I think it’s fair to conclude that they have no intention to pay, and clearly no intention to fix the building.
But they can sure spew the hate, can’t they?
Spewing hatred is what a lot of people who claim to be Christian do: . It should come as no surprise when their followers act on that hatred: Here’s What We Know About The Suspect In The Planned Parenthood Shooting And then they get all defensive when any of us point out that said rhetoric inspires people to violence: Mike Huckabee: The Anti-Abortion Movement Has No Responsibility For “Domestic Terrorism”.
And just to be clear, Planned Parenthood Shooting Wasn’t the First — And It Won’t Be the Last, “Mass shootings at Planned Parenthood and other reproductive health clinics might not be common, but violence and harassment are.”
But that’s not the only acts of terror that so-called Christians have performed in the last few weeks: Armed protesters intimidate mosque in Irving, Texas.
And: Bomb hoax and molotov cocktails thrown at Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center in Virginia. “It’s enough that it would lead a reasonable person to believe, given the location of where he was, given the time, he was there at three in the morning … what he said … It would lead you to believe that this guy is doing this because we are of this religious denomination or ethnicity or combination of both.”
And also: Five arrested in plot to bomb synagogues and black churches, btw, the headline of that report says three, but this follow-up, Federal, state weapons investigations lead to five local arrests report details the subsequent arrests.
So, pardon me if I have trouble feeling much sympathy for some members of the religious rightwing who claim that we are using violent tragedies to confirm a “narrative.” No, we’re too busy being victims of all this violence you’re encouraging to be worried about a narrative.
So, among the things I’m thankful for this year:
- My husband — sweet, kind, loving, smart, sexy, and way too awesome for the likes of me
- My friends — talented, entertaining, amazing, supportive, and inexplicably willing to put up with me
- purple, anything purple
- people who help other people
- people who sweat the details
- people who make good art
- people who love
- soy nog
- people who clean up after natural disasters
- rockets and satellites and space probes and all the cool things humans build to learn more about everything
- people who make other people laugh
- my family, yes even the most crazy, because they’re part of what made me who I am, and I’m sure that I drive them just as crazy as they drive me
- people who make music
- my job
- people who don’t sweat the small stuff
- my wonderful, talented, hard-working, long-suffering, handsome husband (who absolutely deserves to be on this list more than once!)
- people who dance
- people who do science
- kittens, puppies, adorable pictures, and all the sweet goofy things in the world
- people who build things
- technology that lets me carry my entire music library in my pocket, access the world’s libraries from the palm of my hand, read silly things people say halfway around the world, and complain about the most petty first world problems while standing in the checkout line at the grocery store
- people who care
- my extended chosen family, which yes overlaps with several other times on this list (not just the second)
- the crazy world of entertainment that gives us everything from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic to Ashe vs Evil Dead and everything in between
- sexy people (yes, including the cast of Magic Mike)
- my clever, patient husband who happens to be both an amazing computer resurrectionist and a damn good cook
Thank you, everyone who reads this. Where ever you are, whether you’re celebrating Thanksgiving today or not, I hope your life has more blessings than tribulations. May you be surrounded by love and filled with joy—because you deserve it!
My Grandma P. had all sorts of favorite old recipes, but most of them weren’t Thanksgiving fare (her chili was to die for!). But about ten years before she died, after she had let my Aunt Silly take over hosting the annual Thanksgiving dinner, Grandma brought this frozen cranberry salad which everyone loved. Really, really loved. And they begged her to make it again for Christmas. It became the dish she brought to all the holiday get-togethers from then on. For some reason, I never asked her to explain the recipe to me. I was a bit surprised, after Grandma died, when I found out none of my cousins, nor my aunt, nor Mom, had ever asked for the recipe. We had some discussions and realized that none of us agreed on all the ingredients we recalled being in it. It was frozen, it had cranberries, and orange slices, and Cool Whip mixed together, but also had layers. But some of us remember it having nuts, while some said it never did, and others remember coconut, while others thought it was marshmallows, and so on. I suspect it’s because Grandma had alway been an improvisational cook, so I bet she never made it exactly the same way, twice.
Over the years since, I experimented in an attempt to re-create it, and have come up with a process that gets something most of the family members agree is darn close. I know that Grandma probably made hers with canned cranberry sauce, but I always start with raw cranberries and mandarin oranges, cooking them down to make homemade cranberry sauce. In the tradition of none of us remembering it the same way, every year I intentionally do at least one different ingredient than the previous year. My sister keeps insisting Grandma’s had mini marshmallows (at least two cousins agree with her), while Mom and I are pretty sure it didn’t. But this year, for my sister, I’ve added mini marshmallows.
For the last fifteen years or so, Mom has made this thing she calls Mistake Salad. Originally she meant to follow a recipe she got from a magazine, but she skipped a major ingredient. But everyone liked what she made, so she’s kept doing it “wrong.” If you’ve ever heard the novelty song “Lime Jello Marshmallow Cottage Cheese Surprise,” this thing Mom makes is from a similar tradition. Except if there were a song about Mom’s, it would be called “Pistachio Pudding Pineapple Cottage Cheese Surprise.” And while that may not sound good, I assure you it is sinfully delicious.
Family holiday traditions are weird like that. Several years back my sister had Thanksgiving dinner plans go badly awry, and she wound up making spaghetti and meatballs, because that was what she had left that was fit to eat. Her oldest daughter (my niece) loved that Thanksgiving, and now spaghetti and meatballs is her favorite food to make for the holidays.
When I was young, the gravy served at big family meals was always so thick, it could have been served with a fork. After you spooned some onto your mashed potatoes and stuffing, he had to sort of mash it into the potatoes and the stuffing with your fork to get the flavor blended. A friend once explained that her family’s gravy was always thin and runny, so when you poured some on any part of your dinner, it flowed all over the plate, and everything got some gravy on it. For her, that’s the flavor of Thanksgiving: a bit of gravy on everything.
For me, it isn’t a holiday dinner if there isn’t a relish tray (at least two kinds of olives, pickles, other pickled vegetables). For my husband, the dinner needs a green bean casserole—specifically the kind made with cream of mushroom soup and French’s fried onions. And afterward there has to be pie. Unless I’m feeling up to make cherries jubilee (the kind with flaming brandy! Fruit, sugar, ice cream, and fire! How can you top that for a dessert?), then I can live without pie.
This year it’s just going to be the three of us at my Mom’s. So we’re only going to have part of a turkey, and only a couple of side dishes. Though I can tell from the messages I’ve been exchanging with her that both of us have picked up a few extra things besides what we discussed when divvy-ing up the menu. So we’ll probably wind up with enough food to feed a dozen. It may be more than filling, but it will also be fun.
So, what are you having?
I didn’t begin, by the way. I’ve stopped attempting to communicate with him at all ever since the conversation a year or two ago while he was ranting about the War on Christmas where I tried to point out that not everyone who objects to manager scenes and the ten commandments in courthouses are foreigners who refuse to “learn our ways.”
So when I saw a news story today about a Pew poll showing that White Christians now make up less than half of the U.S. population, I realized this sort of irrationality is going to get a lot worse. Studies have already shown that people who are members of a privileged class start feeling as if something is being monopolized by another group when that group achieves 30% of the screen time or talk time, et cetera7. So now that White Christians actually do make up a minority, well, it’s not going to be pretty.
Of course many of them have felt that they were in the minority for a long time. I remember a few years back when the percentage of people who identified as non-Catholic Christian went below 50% that folks in the religious rightwing went bananas, claiming that Christians were now in the minority. This reveals a tiny piece of one of the major issues, here. Which is that a lot of the sorts of people who will non-ironicly talk about “taking back our country” don’t think that everyone (a lot of everyone) who claims to be a Christian actually is.
Another revelatory bit is an amusing string of posts that have been going around Tumblr. The original post talks about how sometimes the sheer cruelty of some homophobes makes them wish you could set them up with a blindfold, a stick, and a hornet’s nest, but tell them it’s actually a piñata. Someone else responded by commenting how casually anti-Christian most liberals are, and how they (the Christian commenter) are once again being demonized for their beliefs. The original poster then points out the the post said absolutely nothing about Christians, “but you chose to put yourself in there.” It isn’t liberals who define Christianity as anti-gay, it’s all the anti-gay people who call themselves Christians and claim that Christianity is anti-gay who have defined Christianity as anti-gay. The part that doesn’t often get acknowledged even on the liberal side, is that those folks refuse to accept anyone who doesn’t share their anti-gay views as part of their faith.
And I’m not just saying this because of a few Tumblr posts. During the lead-up to the 2012 Presidential Election, as Mitt Romney seemed poised to sew up the nomination, he met with the Rev. Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham, (and the current head of Billy Graham Ministries). After Romney promised to fight marriage equality tooth and nail, a large section the the Graham Ministries website which had been there up until that meeting that went into great detail “proving” that the Mormon Church is a cult, rather than a legitimate part of Christianity, simply vanished. Literally deleted without comment. And suddenly Franklin Graham and all of the rest of the rightwing evangelicals were endorsing Romney.
A similar thing happened with Graham Ministries and Liberty University and the Moral Majority and such a couple of decades before when they all stopped referring to the Catholic Church as a cult (which they often described as ‘the whore of Babylon”) and the pope as the antichrist. It was 1994, after two years of the Clinton presidency, and it was becoming clear that popular sentiment was become less explicitly anti-gay. There was even a big conference that resulted in a bunch of evangelical leaders and Catholic leaders signing a document that supposedly outlined common doctrine. Except the document was mostly focused on a list of political goals, not least of which was overturning gay rights laws where they existed, and opposing any expansion of anti-discrimination laws by adding sexual orientation or gender identity.
So, while they like to claim that the word of god is inerrant and unchanging, they certainly are more than willing to forget all sorts of doctrinal differences in the name of preventing queers from having equal rights, or women from having control over their own bodies, or mega rich people having to pay taxes.
Because clearly when Jesus said to welcome foreigners, feed the hungry, visit the sick, clothe the naked, and so on, what he really meant was that god only helps those who help themselves… and happen to be white, and claim to be Christian, and never do anything foolish such as being born in poverty or in another country.
1. What’s the joke? “If I wanted to listen to my rightwing relatives most racist opinions I’d call them more often”?
2. First, there is the explicit notion that it’s perfectly okay to treat minorities poorly…3
3. It would be petty of me to also ask why a guy who hasn’t set foot inside a church in 30-some years except to attend someone’s funeral or wedding describes himself as Christian4.
4. And while church attendance doesn’t necessarily equate to belief, let’s just say no one in their right mind would describe his lifestyle as being even vaguely Biblical.
5. Note that it is not that Christians no longer make up a majority (They’re still about 70% of the population), nor even that Whites are no longer a majority. It’s that particular combination of being both White and a Christian. I think the more interesting statistic is that White Christians still make up about 70% of all Republican-leaning voters. While Democratic-leaning almost exactly one-third White Christian, a bit less than one-third non-White Christian, and then a bit more than one-third people of all races who either identify with another religion or none at all6.
6. Note that this still means that 64% of Democrats are Christian. So the Democratic Party is hardly the bastion of godlessness that some would have you believe.
7. Those same studies show that folks in the dominant group think that other groups are getting “equal time” when their representation or recognition amounts to 15%.
But my plan didn’t quite work out. Part of the issue was that about the time when a lot of people might need a little encouragement to keep going, I got bogged down in some of my own issues, and my previous fast pace slowed way down.
Today, shortly after noon, I crossed the 50,000 word finish line. Though I haven’t quite finished the story I set out to write, so I’m going to keep working and see just how high a word count I can rack up before the end of the month. But there is still a week left, and some topics have come up in my conversations with writing buddies on Twitter and similar forums.
The biggest one is the old cliché about quality vs. quantity. It manifests in various ways. One friend said that because he didn’t think a lot of what he wrote this month is moving his original plot along, that the word count is some sort of cheat. This misses the point of a rough draft: it’s all right to have a lot of bad stuff that needs to be revised, rewritten, or deleted later. It’s a lot easier to clean up a mess of words and sharpen it into a good story than it is to write the work from a blank page. Fill up the pages (virtual or otherwise) with all the ideas, and then clean it up later.
We all wish that what we did was sit down at the keyboard, typed the story from the beginning until the end, and then when we re-read it afterward, discovered that it was a complete masterpiece, perfect in every way. That isn’t reality, for anyone, no matter how talented or experienced. Yes, as you practice and improve, a lot more of your rough draft is good stuff that needs little clean up, but the only way you get to that point is to spend a long time writing far-from-perfect stuff. Improvement comes from doing things mostly wrong, trying something slightly different next time, and over time learning how to recognize the good stuff when you produce it, and how to discard the not-good stuff.
You have to produce a whole lot of bad art or writing before you can make good art. No matter how bad your writing is, some of it is going to be better than other bits. Keep practicing, and the ratio of bad-to-good will improve.
So don’t despair. Don’t give up. Don’t get down on yourself. At this stage, you’re not making a final product. The old joke is that making a sculpture of a noble horse is easy, you take a big rock and knock off all he pieces that don’t look like a horse. At this point you’re assembling as much rough draft as you can, so later you can cut away all the pieces that don’t look like a final story.
“Quantity produces quality. If you only write a few things, you’re doomed.”
Go read it, because she says what I wanted to say, only better!
I went through a long phase where I preferred science fiction over fantasy with a bit of self-delusion along the lines that somehow fantasy was “just making any old thing up” while science fiction required an understanding of science! Likewise, I often expounded the notion that hard sci fi was superior to all others because you were constructing your what-if scenarios inside even more demanding parameters. Somehow I was able to express those beliefs at the same time that I would read and re-read any Andre Norton book I could get my hands on because I always loved them. I’m not sure why it took so long for me to recognize the cognitive dissonance between the kinds of stories that moved me most, and the sorts of stories which didn’t but which I claimed were superior.
Some of it is pure stubbornness: you express an opinion at one point, and then you feel obligated to keep justifying your original statement. But when I finally started to recognize this particular contradiction, that didn’t seem a sufficient explanation. Until I had an epiphany.
The epiphany came from an unusual source. I was watching a recording of a question-and-answer session that sex advice columnist and gay rights activist Dan Savage was having after giving a talk at a university. A young woman had a question about why guys her age would be friendly and sometimes flirty with her and other woman she knew who weren’t “model thin,” but always distancing themselves before things got beyond friendship. Yet she found older men pursuing her. She feared that the older men were desperate because of some other flaw she hadn’t uncovered, and that younger guys were merely shallow.
Dan pointed out a couple of things. One was that every week since he’d become an advice columnist he received at least a couple of letters from straight guys who confessed that they were really attracted to bigger women, but terrified to admit it because they thought it meant something was wrong with them. In an aside, he said that he got similar messages from some gay guys about their attraction to big guys. He said the thing nearly all the letters had in common was that the letter writer was either in their teens or their twenties. At that age, Dan said, guys are still very focused on winning the approval of other guys. So they are much more concerned with appearing to be interested in the things they think others expect them to be interested in.
His conclusion was that a lot of the guys she thought were sending mixed signals were doing just that. They were genuinely attracted to her, but when they recognized what was happening, they bailed because they thought they weren’t supposed to be attracted to that kind of body. So his advice was to go ahead and take men who did express interest at their word, and if they didn’t otherwise set of alarm bells, there was nothing wrong with dating them. But also, she would find when she got a bit older, that there were plenty of guys who always had found her attractive, they just had to grow up enough to stop worrying about the approval of their friends.
I realized that I had started espousing those opinions about sci fi vs fantasty, and hard sci fi vs so-called soft science sci fi, and very cerebral sci fi vs action/adventure sci fi when I was in my teens, and I hardened those opinions in my early twenties. At the time it seemed that the fans I most admired all held that opinion. And the way that libraries often classified various books seemed to reinforce that. All of the “soft” sci fi and fantasy was filed in the young adult section or the children’s section of libraries that divided things up that way. Only the hard sci fi and certain kinds of action/adventure sci fi was over in the adult sections. Clearly fantasy and so forth was for less mature, and therefore less sophisticated, readers.
“If you’re going to break a rule, break it good and hard. My personal motto!”
—Aliette de Bodard
Especially since science fiction is supposed to be not just exploring limits, but pushing beyond frontiers into the unknown, we shouldn’t look down on things that vary from the familiar. That’s the whole point, right? It’s timid to worry about whether a story is supposed to go this way, or whether we’re supposed to like a particular kind of story, et cetera.
Isn’t science fiction and fantasy supposed to be about boldly going where no one has gone before?
But I saw an article last week which was trying to make the argument that because the whole thing was caused by a self-proclaimed YouTube Evangelist who is actually a con-man, that it was wrong for any of us to make fun of it or otherwise call it out.
Bull.Make no mistake: Joshua Feuerstein, the guy who made the YouTube rant (which got more than 12 million views on YouTube; I haven’t bothered to try to track down how many shares the version he shared to Facebook got) makes money from his rants, such as his laughable attempt to take down evolution (that got 2 million views) and so forth. He’s the same idiot that illegally recorded the phone call where he tried to get a bakery to make a cake and write a hateful anti-gay message on it (you may recall the baker offered to make him a bible cake, one she makes many times, but leave it blank and sell him the tool to write his own message on it; even offered to give him cake decorating lessons). He’s in the business of ginning up outrage and getting people to donate money to him so he can continue to fight the good fight. But here’s the thing: con-men like Feuerstein don’t just prey on the idiots who gave him $20,000 to purchase a special web spycam so he could expose the anti-Christian plots of… well, I don’t think he ever said. He also apparently never bought any such camera. They also cause real harm.
At least half of the animus and most of the money raised to pass Proposition 8 in California several years ago repealing marriage equality was raised by con-men like him. Most of the money raised to mount their legal defense of Prop 8 was raised by con-men like him. Most of the money and most of the votes needed to repeal Houston’s anti-discrimination law recently was fired up by con-men like him.The entire campaign in Washington state several years back to try to prevent domestic partnerships was orchestrated by two such con-men. One of them raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the campaign mostly from local donors, and then his financial filings revealed that throughout the campaign he paid directly to himself between $5,000-$20,000 every week in consulting fees for “website maintenance.” That’s in addition to paying himself a salary out of the money as the head of the campaign. The other guy, who is peddling his lies in Washington state only because Oregon’s department of revenue determined many years ago that his so-called ministry not only didn’t meet the legal definition of a church, but didn’t meet the definition of a non-profit charity, and had placed tax-liens on him for collection of back taxes. He raised tons of money, too, with all of his emails about the evil gay agenda. The problem was that the links included in those emails for donations were to his new church (we have more liberal laws for registering such things than Oregon does, and Oregon isn’t actually restrictive on that). But the church isn’t allowed to advocate for or against ballot measures.
He’s also the guy who fought all the way to the Supreme Court to try to keep the public records of who signed the Referendum petitions private, claiming that he received death threats. That prompted even ultra-conservative Justice Scalia to side with the pro-liberty forces in the case and say “participating in democracy requires a bit of civic courage.”
Both of them returned and squandered a bunch of money trying to repeal marriage equality in the state in 2012 when the legislature passed that.
The con-men themselves, whether they are internet douche bags like Feuerstein, or international hate-mongers like “Porno Pete” LaBarbera or Scott Lively or rabid anti-gay creep Brian Brown, may be in it more for the notoriety and the money, but they cause real harm. Lively, for instance, his being sued in U.S. court for crimes against humanity because of his activities resulting in the passage of “kill the gays” bills in Uganda and similar places. All of them contribute to the atmosphere of fear and hate that causes so-call Christian parents to kick their children out on the street for being (or being suspected of being) gay. They contribute to the bullying that drives 1500 children to commit suicide out of fear of being rejected by their rightwing families for being queer, gender-nonconforming, or trans. And yes, they even contribute to the mania that causes governors to try to ban refugees who are actually the victims of the terrorists that governors claim that they can only keep out by banning refugees.
They aren’t merely con-men or grifters. They’re hate-mongers and life-destroyers, too.I must confess that I have several reasons this particular issue annoys me. I’ve written before about love of holiday coffee blends and that it was a silly tradition shared with my late partner, Ray. So I have a bit of an obsession with Christmas-themed coffee, whether it be Starbucks’ Christmas blend, Peet’s Holiday Blend, Tulley’s Holiday Joy Blend, Caffe Ladro’s Fireside Blend, et cetera.
They are all meant to celebrate Christmas, not make war on it! Rich, warm, soothing coffee is about love, not war!
I love my Christmas blends, and every year I collect a bunch. I really do go the entire month making myself Christmas Blend and Holiday Blend and Holiday Joy Blend, and so forth. It’s part of my Christmas celebration. And yes, I’m a queer guy who is a taoist married to a pagan, but every year we put up a big Christmas tree in our living room. We cover our house in Christmas lights. We send Christmas cards. We say “Merry Christmas!” to people. We are not waging a war on Christmas or Christianity.
No, the only people doing that, are the folks like Feuerstein. Con-men who are trying to turn a buck by spewing hate and stirring up fake outrage in the name of Jesus. He warned us that such evil people would come forward and claim to be acting in his name. And he told us on the day of judgment what he would tell them:
“I know you not from where you are; depart from me, all you workers of iniquity.”
I wish we didn’t have to wait…