I received a lot of interesting replies. One person was particularly upset with me for sharing a meme similar to the one at the top of the post that talked about Jesus and his two dads. “Can’t you disagree without the blasphemy of saying god had a sexual relationship with Joseph?”
I responded by pointing out that the meme doesn’t mention sex, it simply affirms the Biblical texts which referred to Jesus as both the son of Joseph and the son of God. Then I said that the only blasphemy I saw were people trying to force some of their religious views into law, penalizing people who weren’t part of their flock. There were a couple of back and forths, but I had already promised myself that any bigots who chimed in would get two replies of me trying to clarify or whatever, and then after that my only reply to any further comments would be “Bless your heart.” So the discussion petered out.
blasphemy noun, Profane talk about something supposed to be sacred; impious irreverence.
I’m sorry, but I really was merely taking the Bible literally: the text calls Jesus the son of Joseph in some places, and the son of god in others. In fact, it refers to him as the son of Joseph more often than it calls him the son of god. The oldest surviving copies of the gospels never call him the son of god. And then there’s the whole genealogy in one of the gospels, showing how Jesus is descended from King David–through his father, Joseph!
So if it is profane to talk about Jesus having two dads, the profanity starts in the Bible.
If we’re going to get upset about any sex involving god, what about the nonconsensual impregnation of Mary? I mean, looking at the text, it’s pretty clear that god roofied Mary, then sent “the Holy Spirit to overshadow” her and conceive the child. I say nonconsensual because while an angel appears to Mary before it happens to tell her it is going to happen, at no point does the angel ask if she agrees to this thing. And really, Mary was almost certainly a teen-ager, confronted by a powerful otherworldly being who tells her that an even more powerful being is about the knock her up. With such a power differential, is the concept of consent even possible?
I’ve seen the arguments made, sometimes by people who claim to take the Bible literally, that this is just a standard divine intervention trope: Eqyptian and Greek mythology, for instance, are full of stories of gods having sons from mortal women. As if “everyone else is doing it” is a moral precept?
Among the many problems with people of various conservative types of Christianity imposing their beliefs on others through the force of law, is that even their own holy book isn’t very clear on these points. The person they have named their religion after, Jesus Christ, never once said anything about gay people, one way or the other. And believe me, there were gay people there in Galilee and Judea. If being gay was such a big sin, you would think he would mention it.
There are only six verses in modern English translations of the Bible that appear to refer to homosexuality directly. However, the four in the New Testament have only been that way since a re-translation in the 1920s. In the oldest versions of the text we have in the original languages (Arameic and Greek), the words were gendered references to temple prostitutes in two passages, the third is a reference to two separate sins (cheating on one’s spouse after making a monogamous committment, and having sex with someone before you have married). The fourth, meanwhile, no one knows. The Apostle Paul made up a greek word that occurs nowhere else in any ancient greek document my combining two existing words meaning bed and lewdness.
Honesty, given how opposed to marriage of any kind Paul was (he thought it was a waste of time and energy that would be better spent evangelizing), this might have been a word he coined to refer to those men who “so burned with lust” that they couldn’t concentrate on god’s work unless they married and had an outlet for the aforementioned lust. If so, then Paul was calling heterosexual marriage an abomination, not gay sex.
As to the old testament passages: modern Christians have no problem ignoring the other parts of Leviticus they don’t like (the prohibitions on bacon and shrimp, for instance), so it is difficult to take them seriously on this. Further, I’ve read more than one argument written by Jewish Rabbis that those texts should never be discussed out of context of the rest of the books (including a lot of commentaries and documents that were not absorbed into the Christian Bible), and are probably referencing some specific issues at the time of writing with men visiting temples of other gods and partaking of temple prostitutes. So it is more likely those verses are admonitions against idolotry and sex with someone other than one’s spouse after making a monogamous committment.
Please note I am paraphrasing. Wrestling with the Torah is a lifetime commitment of its own, and the fact that the church I was raised in has co-opted a not-terribly-well-done translation of the Torah doesn’t make me an expert.
Holy books, no matter whose holy books we are talking about, were written by humans. You can believe that they are divinely inspired if you wish, but the words were written by imperfect humans, using imperfect language, which is being read centuries later by other imperfect humans with imperfect understandings of languages that have changed during those centuries. Just to narrow it back down to the bible, that book itself contains many stories of people who were absolutely convinced that they knew what god wanted them to do, who turned out to be wrong. It also contains stories (go read an annotated version of the Saga of Sampson for one of the most entertaining) of people who were believed to be immoral or otherwise unsuitable for god’s work by all the godly people around them, who were actually the ones doing god’s work.
As my Bible professor in my university days was fond of saying, “The text keeps telling us that we can’t find all of the answers in the text. We have to think and develop compassion and a sense of justice on our own. And that’s a lot of work.”
If your argument that people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, asexual, pansexual, trans, nonbinary et cetera don’t deserve equal rights is to quote your holy book without applying compassion, testing the situation against the notion of justice, and just thinking about whether you are even holding yourself to a similar standard, then you aren’t doing the work. You are failing your fellow humans. You are failing at your own religion.
And you are failing to regard the life and well-being of some of your neighbors with reverence. And that is true blasphemy.
I wasn’t going to comment on the story about the kid who is admitting now that he lied several years ago when he woke up from a coma and told an extremely elaborate and detailed story of going to heaven and playing with angels. I was a little disturbed to learn that there is an entire genre of such books about people who claim to have gone to heaven while unconscious (and related materials) being sold in “Christian” bookstores (the Washington Post calls the genre “heaven tourism”). Now that I think about it, I know exactly how that kind of snake oil would be gobbled up by a lot of people, and I shouldn’t be surprised that some people are willing to sell anything, as long as they make a profit.
Then an acquaintance posted one of the articles on Facebook, and another person commented that they were appalled that the publishers and the kid’s father have been exploiting this transparently false story for years, which prompted another person to become very outraged. “Are you going to tell some poor sick six-year-old who’s just awakened from a coma, ‘Proof, or shut the frak up?'” Read More…
I’m not even sure where to begin. Pastor Manning’s most recently posted youtube video explains how NASA’s Voyager spacecraft proves that homos are perverts, with a long digressive rant about rectums. Pastor Driscoll’s supporters have been trying to distance themselves from recently unearthed postings on the church’s forums in which Driscoll explained that god created each woman as a special home for a particular penis.
You can’t make this crazy stuff up!
On the one hand, good for these folks for taking a stand. However, I should point out that the driving impetus appears to be things such as:
Among other things.
Their new sign says that individuals and churches that support “homos” will be cursed with cancer, HIV (the virus that causes AIDS), syphilis, stroke, madness, and itch, then references I Corinthians 6:9: “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind…” Interestingly they don’t reference the next verse, which is a continuation of the sentence, “nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.”
That’s important because Pastor Manning spent time in prison in both New York and Florida for burglary, robbery, larceny, criminal possession of a weapon, and other things. So verse 10 would seem to say that Pastor Manning may not be so welcome in the kingdom of God.
But less snarkily, look at another word there: “revilers.” A reviler is someone who insults or verbally abuses someone else, someone who criticizes abusively. Such as someone who calls people devils, or calls for whole classes of people to be stoned to death. That sort of thing.
I know that Pastor Manning is using one of the more hateful translations of the Bible. Since 1946 certain people have decided that the scriptures weren’t anti-gay enough, and they went through changing verses where it isn’t entirely clear what they are referring to to explicitly says “homosexual.” But the two words that used to be translated into english as “effeminate” and “abuses of themselves with mankind” are not so clearcut.
Scholars argue a lot about what the Apostle Paul meant there. Paul wrote in greek, which had a word for men who have sex with other men already, but Paul didn’t use that word. Greek also had a word for male temple prostitutes, and Paul didn’t use that word. Instead, he made up a word, arsenokoitai. That words has never appeared in any other Greek text at all. It appears to be a compound of the words “man” and “beds.” If Paul was condemning homosexual behavior, why would he make up a new word when words already existed for it? And also, it is important to note that he uses specifically male-gendered nouns, so if Paul was condemning homosexual behavior, it was only gay male homosexual behavior: so apparently lesbians are fine, as far as Paul is concerned.
My own guess, based on how much of a misogynist Paul appeared to be, and how much he despised sex of all kinds (the fundamentalists all ignore Paul’s other admonishments where he condemns marriage and having children as an anti-Christian waste of time that would better be spent preparing for Jesus’ return; yes, Paul was against people marrying and raising families), is that Paul was making a general condemnation of all kinds of sexual and romantic behavior, here. And he aimed it at men because Paul didn’t really believe that women mattered, or at the very least he didn’t believe that women made choices of their own, but rather simply did what men told them to do.
And there is nothing in 1 Corinthians at all about cancer, or the virus that causes AIDS, or itching.
But Manning sees lots of things that aren’t actually in the text. It’s very convenient for a man with as big an ego as his, and as long a history of abusing and using others as him.
The Washington Times (not to be confused with the award-winning, serious newspaper, the Post) is a regular donor to the anti-gay National Organization of Marriage, was the primary sponsor of yesterday’s anti-gay marriage march, and usually finds a way to spin every story about a step forward for gay rights as a victory for their side, concedes:
After rallying the troops for years, and even with one New York politician recruiting people for what he told them was “a free trip to Washington, D.C. to see the monuments” (that’s right, some bus loads of people didn’t even know what they were going to), they were only able to get “hundreds.” So my caption yesterday saying it was “tens” was slightly off.
But wait, there’s more!
The official hierarchy of the Morman Church is also a regular donor to any anti-gay political action committee or group you can name (even if they did try to tone it down and hide their involvement a bit in 2012; something several of us predicted would end once Mitt Romney’s run for the White House ended, and we were right), owns it’s own newspaper, the Deseret News, and it tried to put a slightly less defeatist spin in its headline:
Funny, neither site mentions the leader of a French neo-Nazi (remember, it isn’t hyperbole when they are literally members of a Nazi Party) organization wasn’t just at the event, she was one of the people leading the march!
The Wonkette, one of my favorite sites when I need a laugh, also covered the anti-gay march, but in their own way:
The Wonkette’s piece shows some pictures of some hateful signs. It’s worth noting that the people who organize this thing, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), keeps claiming that they are not anti-gay. They say we’re distorting their message when we call them anti-gay. They insist that they are simply defending traditional marriage, and not attacking anyone. But a quick perusal of the pictures at this article shows they are lying: Photos: Animus at #March4Marriage. You can see some more of the clearly anti-gay signs, read quotes from some of the speeches, and watch video interviews of some of the attendees to demonstrate the hate further: Inside NOM’s Second Failed “March For Marriage”. If you can stomach any more, the Daily Beast talked to a lot more of the attendees: Crucifixes, Gorillas, and Adult Diapers: My March Against Gay Marriage.
Just in case anyone ever tries to tell you that the people who oppose marriage equality aren’t anti-gay (and very ill-informed, too).
Meanwhile, in much more pleasant news:
Now, last time I checked, children were far more likely to be sexually abused (or at least meet their abusers) in certain churches, parochial schools, and orphanages. Other schools, yes, but not in nearly the numbers as the other places. In fact, the statistics show a rather strong correlation between how anti-gay the rhetoric of a church is, and how likely it is to harbor such child abusers.
Of course, this is all tangled up in notions that Manning has about sexual orientation that have been debunked by many, many studies now. And clearly he isn’t interested in facts.But what really takes the cake this time is the other side of the sign. The sign claims that the way the church has been treated since they’ve begun posting the previous homophobic and violent messages is the same as the horrific and despicable bombing of a church in Birmingham in 1963, when white supremacists bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church on a Sunday morning. A group of children were just entering the basement of the church for the children’s service, when the bomb exploded, injuring 22 people and killing four girls.
It was evil and totally reprehensible act whose victims were primarily innocent children.
And what horrors have been visiting on Pastor Manning’s church since his homophobic church sign messages have become news? A lot of news sites and bloggers made fun of them. A woman embarrassed a church employee by showing up to say she was there for her stoning. Someone vandalized the sign with spray paint.
And that’s it. As I wrote before, the spray paint vandalism was wrong, and shouldn’t have happened. But none of these things compare, in any way at all, to the horror or magnitude of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing.
Usually it’s clueless white people who make the mistake of trying to compare their minor inconvenience to actual hate crimes and acts of terror that resulted in bloodshed. Pastor Manning, as an African American, should therefore be doubly ashamed for this crass attempt at self-martyrdom.
I started to write that words can’t describe how Pastor Manning’s latest antics make me feel. Then I realized that someone has already described Manning and his ilk quite well:
Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.—Jesus, Gospel According the Matthew, chapter 7, verses 22-23
Pastor Manning, who has used the sign to proclaim anti-gay messages many times over the years before the “homo white devils” proclamation that got him headlines, has said he isn’t surprised, since homosexuals are “outright bullies” and he has been expecting “some violence.” He also claimed this was a violation of his right to free speech.
I don’t approve of vandalism. If there is anything that will make me have a violent reaction, it’s seeing some crap you can barely read spray painted across someone else’s private property. Admittedly, one of the reasons I have such a violent reaction is because of having the word “Fag” spray painted on my car when I was 17 years old. So any time I see spray paint like the words on that church sign, I have an immediate flashback to that morning when I came out of the house to drive to school and saw what some cowardly person had done to my car.
So, the first time I saw a news story with that picture of the hateful sign vandalized with the spray paint, my first thought was, “damn it, why did someone have to do that?”
That said, I pretty much everything that Pastor Manning said in interviews about this crime have been wrong. Not just quibblingly not quite accurate, but unequivocally, factually incorrect.
First, this is vandalism is not bullying. Bullying has very specific definitions according to the experts. In order to qualify as bullying the behavior has to satisfy three criteria:
- It has to be verbal or physical aggression
- It has to be repeated over time.
- It must involve a power differential.
All the experts further agree that the final criteria is the most essential. If that imbalance of social and/or physical power doesn’t exist, the behavior doesn’t induce the some long-term stress related trauma that typifies bullying. Bullying is socially coercive. The intent of bullying is not just to terrorize the victim, but to remind the victim that they are not in charge, that they don’t have a say in what happens to them. Bullying leverages all of the ways that we, as humans, are hardwired to conform or try to get along with “our people.” It is not merely being mean.
Spray painted words certainly can constitute verbal assault, but it is a bit muddled when those words aren’t implicitly or explicitly a threat. “God is Gay” isn’t a threat. Further, it is in direct reaction to (and covers up) words that absolutely did constitute a threat. A single act of self-defense, even one like this one which I think steps over the line, does not constitute an act of bullying.
It’s a single action, not repeated. So, under the second criteria it fails. Not bullying.
One man with a paint can does not have more social or physical power than the guy who has a church full of people, the pulpit from which to preach, the church sign that spreads his message to the whole neighborhood, a weekly podcast that spreads his message to whoever wants to hear it, a youtube channel to spread it further, and the ear of the entire rightwing-o-sphere to rush to his aid because of those mean, mean gays!
I mean really, how dare a homo object to your public declaration that gays should be stoned to death? Clearly the solitary homo with a spray paint can who objects is being the bully there, not the man using the power of the pulpit, podcasts, youtube, conservative radio, in addition to the sign to call for the violent execution of all the gays. [End sarcasm mode]
So, this incident doesn’t meet any of the three criteria to qualify as bullying.
Now, to the accusation that gays are violent. As I pointed out in part 1 of this series, contrary to what many on the right have been claiming, there are ten times as many hate crimes against gay, lesbian, trans, or bisexual people than crimes motivated by hate toward Christians. When you take into account what a large proportion of the population Christians are, and what a small proportion gay people make up, that makes the likelihood that a trans/gay/lesbian/bi person is going to be the victim of a hate crime monumentally more likely than a Christian is going to be targeted for such a crime.
Finally, the free speech argument. Do I really need to explain that the right to freedom of speech is not the same as the right to speech with no consequences?
Obviously, the pastor doesn’t understand this. Legally, freedom of speech means that the government cannot preemptively censor your expression, nor is it allowed to legally punish you merely for the content of your speech (with certain narrowly defined exceptions, such as making a credible threat to commit harm to another person, or communication in aid of a conspiracy to commit a crime, or the famous ‘yelling fire in a crowded theatre’). It does not mean that the government has to punish people who react badly to your speech. It does not mean that other people aren’t allowed to say bad things about the things you said. It does not mean that other people aren’t allowed to think you’re a horrible person because you have said hateful things.
And even though Pastor Manning doesn’t believe what he said was hateful, he knew he was proclaiming a message that would anger some of his neighbors. As Justice Scalia, of all people, said a few years ago when some rightwing Christians from my state were trying to prevent the release of the names of the people who had signed the petition to put an anti-gay measure on the ballot here in my state, “Politics takes a certain amount of civic courage. The First Amendment does not protect you from civic discourse — or even from nasty phone calls.”
Spray painting the words “God is Gay” doesn’t even constitute a nonspecific threat, so you can’t even make the argument that the vandal is trying to intimidate Pastor Manning into silence.
His sign has been vandalized. I wish it hadn’t happened. I think we should be able to call out the Pastor’s hate speech for what it is without resorting to damaging property. Such as the woman who showed up and said she was there for her stoning.
But freedom of speech means that other people have the right to disagree with what you say, and to tell you they disagree, and even to be less than nice about it. It means we have the right to laugh at you, to call you a bigot, to tell other people the awful things you have said, and so on.
That isn’t bullying. That is simply consequences.
The church emphatically denied everything, calling the allegations ridiculous. Doing such a thing was antithetical to their mission.
The original accusation was soon corroborated when someone got hold of the contract (which outlined the procedure) from a particular marketing firm that does this on a regular basis for religious books. And more evidence began piling up, including allegations of crates of the book gathering dust in church storage rooms, and so forth.
And then, suddenly, the church admitted it:
While not uncommon or illegal, this unwise strategy is not one we had used before or since, and not one we will use again. The true cost of this endeavor was much less than what has been reported, and to be clear, all of the books purchased through this campaign have been given away or sold through normal channels. All monies from the sale of Pastor Mark’s books at Mars Hill bookstores have always gone to the church and Pastor Mark did not profit from the Real Marriage books sold either at the church or through the Result Source marketing campaign.
In other words, having insisting that they would never do such a dishonest and immoral thing, when they admit they did do it their excuses are that everyone else does it, it isn’t technically illegal, they are never going to do it again, the “true cost” isn’t as much as people say, and they gave the books away, so no harm. Oh, and the pastor didn’t profit from this unwise thing they did which they had swore up and down they had never done.
At a later point the statement commends the pastor for enduring these false accusations with grace. Except, of course, that they are totally not false.
This pastor has demonstrated, again and again, that he is one of the world’s biggest attention whores. So whether he actually made any money from it was never the point. The point was to be able to brag that he was a New York Times Bestseller writer… which (until now) had been plastered all over the church web pages, his personal web page, his twitter profile, on every single press release the church had issued since it happened, on posters for their various conferences and seminars, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
Over the weekend a non-apology letter has surfaced, where he spends a lot of time explaining how the pressures of trying to fulfill the mission that god has repeatedly called him to do forced him to do things he’s not proud of. He never says what any of those things are, though he did say things like, “my angry prophet days are over” and “I must learn to be humble.”
It’s hard to take the humble comment, or the apology, seriously when every other sentence is some kind of bragging about his calling from god, what a humble man he is, how he doesn’t deserve all the talent that god has given him, and so on.
Besides the blatant contradiction between first claiming that they never paid to manipulate a bestseller listing, then admitting they did it, they’ve lied many times before. I wrote before about their press release that (while equating all gay people with people living with AIDS) lied about working with the Lifelong AIDS Alliance. They issued several clarifications that just compounded the lie as the Alliance denied any relationship. No one from the church even called the Alliance to get basic volunteering information until after about the third clarification statement.
Pastor Mark has made too many misogynist and anti-gay sermons over the years to list, though I am particularly fond of both his sermon that compared wives to waterboarding, as well as the times he explained that his wife has to ask his permission if she wants to get her hair cut. Besides the dozens of times he’s made fun of, mocked, and otherwise denigrated effeminate men, there’s also his famous assertion that masturbation is clearly an act of homosexual sin.
And let’s not forget that several Christian news sites and scholars have been slowly demonstrating that large proportions of all of the pastor’s books are plagiarized from other, more obscure, Christian authors.
Driscoll commands a megachurch, which is a bunch of large congregations that meet in several locations around the region. His congregation tends to be younger and more well educated than the typical evangelical crowd. I’ve never really understood the appeal, particularly since he is so transparently egotistic. I understand why he, and the other leaders keep doing what they’re doing. Jesus himself had something to say about people like them:
“And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the money changers, and the seats of them that sold doves, And said to them, ‘It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but you have made it a den of thieves.'” — Matthew 21:12-13
As a 53-year-old white homo who has lived in liberal city for nearly thirty years, I will confess that I’ve dated a couple of black men. Neither of them were married to women, black or otherwise. And, thinking back on it, both of them pursued me, not the other way around. Of course, I dated the one guy in the late 80s, and the other in the early 90s, back when Reagan and the elder Bush were still in office… Read More…