Tag Archives: religion

Set our hearts at liberty — more confessions of a queer ex-evangelical

“The problem with (some) christians: That they think they are bing that guy (points to Jesus being lashed and tortured) whilst behaving like those guys (points to the roman soldiers beating Jesus).”
“The problem with (some) christians: That they think they are being that guy (points to Jesus being lashed and tortured) whilst behaving like those guys (points to the roman soldiers beating Jesus).”
Marriage, as we know, is a blessed arrangement. We also know that it’s an ancient tradition. Except, of course, exactly what that arrangement was and how it was arranged has been a constantly changing thing for all of human history. For instance, in some of the Ancient Greek city-states the tradition of male line inheritance required that if a man of property died without a son, a surviving daughter or granddaughter of child-bearing age would be forced to marry her closest male relative and that husband would then become the heir. Many societies didn’t merely allow a man to hve more than one wife—it was expected! There were fewer societies that allowed a woman to have more than one husband, but those existed, too. Even if we restrict ourselves to the Judeo-Christian traditions, remember that the Biblical King Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines.

Most European traditions didn’t assume monogamy was part of marriage until something between the 6th and 9th Centuries AD. Christian teachings didn’t start treating marriage as a sacrament until the 16th Century AD (despite that oft-quoted verse about “what god has joined together”). The same sort of people who quote that verse while demanding that secular law follow their tradition ignore the parts of the New Testament where the Apostle Paul condemned marriage as a waste of time, and only grudgingly said that if a man found himself so burning with lust it distracted from evangelizing should he marry.

The modern notion of marriage being about two people who fall in love and decided to pledge themselves to each other didn’t really become common until the 1700s. Now, it’s true that songs and poems and such from the 12th Century on waxed rhapsodic about courtly love, but it was considered the exception, rather than the rule.

All of these facts contradict what I was told about marriage growing up in Southern Baptist churches. Marriage, according to them, was a sacred institution that had existed unchanged since the beginning of time. And it had always been about a man and a woman who love each other and commit to a lifetime together. And once married, no matter what the circumstances, the two are bound together in love and divine grace, et cetera.

And they really did mean no matter the circumstance. I sat through more than one sermon where the pastor said that even if you make a mistake and marry the person god didn’t want you to, once you exchange your vows before god, that person is now the right person.

Despite the above, as far as I know, every single Baptist church we had ever been a member of had at least one married couple in which at least one member had been married to someone else before, been divorced, and had now re-married. And most people in the church treated the second marriage as just as sacred and eternal as the ideal they kept talking about. The usual hand-waving was the god forgives everyone who repents, and therefore if someone has committed the sin of divorce, but now has sincerely repented and pledged to make it work this time, well, god’s going to bless that.

Of course, before many members of a congregation were willing to go to that step, the divorced person would have to suffer for a while. They had to have a moving tale of the pain and heartache and regret they went through to show the sincerity, you see. Because someone had to be to blame, right? And if someone is to blame, then they must be punished. Like the women in this story: For Evangelical Women, Getting a Divorce Often Means Taking All the Blame.

That idea, that divorce is always wrong, doesn’t just hurt women who are in bad marriages. It also hurts children. I’ve written more than once about how my father was physically and emotionally abusive. When my mom shared her pain and fear with people at church, the answer was always the same: if she had enough faith, god would change dad.

No matter what evidence was presented.

When I was 10, my dad beat me on a Sunday afternoon with a broom handle while calling me the worst names imaginable. By the time he was done not only was I covered in bruises and contusions and worse, I had a broken collar bone. I had to be taken to the emergency room. Later that week—while my arm was still in a sling, I was bruised everywhere, and stitches visible on my face—our pastor looked me in the eyes and told me that if I would just be obedient and act the way my father wanted, Dad wouldn’t have to be so strict. Keep in mind, Dad had sworn off religion a few months before I was born. He refused to set foot in church and wasn’t the slightest bit friendly or welcoming when the pastor visited our home. Yet still, because of their theology about marriage and the husband’s role as master of the home, anything bad that happened to the rest of us was our fault.

I don’t know everything the pastor said to Mom, because I was taken away by one of the church ladies (who scolded me some more for upsetting my father so much he did this to me) while the pastor talked to Mom in private. But Mom came out of the meeting convinced that it was her fault. If she just had enough faith and loved Dad enough he wouldn’t be this way.

Somehow that doesn’t seem like the wise plan of a loving god, you know?

What brought all of this to mind today is this odd little bit of news I came across: Hate Group NOM Allows Web Domain To Expire. The National Organization for Marriage was at the forefront of the battle against gay civil unions, marriage equality, gay adoption rights, and several related fights for years. They poured millions of dollars into ad campaigns to defeat gay rights initiatives and so forth. They have insisted again and again that they don’t hate gay people—they are just defending traditional marriage.

The kind of traditional marriage that says a woman must stick to her husband even if he beats her and their children severely, for instance.

The organization still exists, and its president, Brian Brown, is still sending out fear-mongering email blasts to supporters begging for money. The last time the IRS got them to partially disclose their donors (they have been under investigate for many years because they never file complete paperwork or comply with court orders to disclose campaign spending) their donations (and the number of donors) had dropped off significantly. NOM used to be an umbrella organization for at least 8 different “education and advocacy” funds and a bunch of Political Action Committees, now all but two of those have been shut down. Apparently last year each of those two remaining entities reported income of less than $50,000.

I’m hoping that the website lapsing is a sign this hate group is gasping out its dying breaths. Joe Jervis, who runs the Joe.My.God gay news blog, reports: “I’ve put in the required whopping $12 bid to snap up the domain, which will redirect to JMG if I’m successful.”

If you can’t muster the empathy to tell an abused child or an abused spouse that being a victim isn’t their fault, you don’t know what “love they neighbor” means. And you can’t claim to be following a loving god while doing and saying hateful things about whole categories of people.

The title comes from the hymn, “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling” by Charles Wesley, #2 in the 1956 Baptist Hymnal. All of the Baptist Churches I was ever a member of used the 1956 edition of the Baptist Hymnal. The next major update didn’t happen until 1991, by which point I was out of the closet and officially declared myself a former Baptist.

Celestial fruits on earthly ground, or a queer ex-evangelical looks at christianist thoughts on ‘chosen people’

“The problem with (some) christians: That they think they are bing that guy (points to Jesus being lashed and tortured) whilst behaving like those guys (points to the roman soldiers beating Jesus).”
“The problem with (some) christians: That they think they are bing that guy (points to Jesus being lashed and tortured) whilst behaving like those guys (points to the roman soldiers beating Jesus).”
Previously I wrote about several aspects of the contradictory attitudes that many evangelical Christians have toward the Jewish state and the Jewish people. Since I try to limit the length of my blog posts to digestible chunks, I didn’t go into every aspect of those attitudes in depth, my focus being primarily about how that particular subset of christianists proclaim their constant support for Israel and its people, while also acting (and sometimes talking) in very anti-Semitic ways. There are other ways these contradictions manifest to influences policies, political debate, and social interactions.

First, let’s handle a few caveats: I was raised Southern Baptist in the U.S., so I am most familiar with that particular subset of the larger evangelical/christianist/dominionist community. I have considered myself both an ex-evangelical and ex-Christian for many years—I didn’t leave the church, the church rather violently drove this queer science-loving person out. Finally, I use the word christianist in these essays to refer specifically to people who claim to follow Christ and his teachings, but who actively engage in words and deeds that are contrary to those teachings.

I have several times found myself in discussion with conservative christianists of various stripes on the topic of religious freedom where a person will insist they believe in religious freedom, but then say that being muslim ought to be illegal or something similar. When you try to point out the contradiction, many of them are genuinely confused. If you question them closely enough, you’ll find that many believe the word “religion” only applies to Christianity and Judaism.

One of the most public examples happened a few years ago when a state legislator in the south freaked out when she found out that the school voucher bill she had fought so hard to pass was being using by muslims in her state to divert tax dollars to their religious schools. She was absolutely livid in her first response, even though allowing parents to use tax dollars to send their kids to religious schools was exactly what the bill had been about. Her staffers and fellow Republicans had to explain to her that “religious schools” meant schools sponsored by any religion, not just Christian and Jewish schools.

A friend has told me the story of how back in school she had once signed up for a Comparative Religions class thinking she would finally get to learn what the differences were between Catholics and Lutherans and Methodists, et al—and how only a few minutes into the first class session as the teacher started talking about Buddhists and Muslims and Taoists and so on she started feeling really embarrassed. She hadn’t told anyone that’s what she was expecting, she was merely metaphorically kicking herself because none of the other religions had even occurred to her when she had read the description of the class.

There are the large number of christianists who insist that buddhism isn’t a religion, “It’s a philosophy!” I’ve been told many times that hinduism isn’t a religions—“It’s like greek mythology, no one believes it any more!” Tell that to the millions of people participating in the Ganesh festivals every year! And so on.

Since about 66% of the U.S. population identifies as christian, while people who subscribe to non-christian religions amount to only about 6% of the U.S. population, it isn’t difficult to understand why many americans would be less well informed on the topic of non-christian faiths. It’s easy to shrug this all off as people being clueless about things outside their own experiences, but it has real world consequences. It influences their decisions in the voting booth, and the policies they are willing to support.

To get back to christianist attitudes toward Jewish people, the fact that many of them believe that the word “religion” only applies to a Christians and Jews isn’t a sign of ecumenical thinking. Because most fundamentalist and evangelical christians view Jews as just junior varsity christians. This takes a couple of different forms. Some of them think that Jews are god’s chosen people who just failed to recognize Jesus as the Messiah, but they are still faithful adherents to the oldest of god’s teachings and still worship the one true god—they just aren’t doing it quite right. Others think Jews used to be god’s chosen people, but because they didn’t recognize Jesus, they no longer are chosen, and in fact no longer worship the true god at all.

The latter group is where I believe most of the more aggressively anti-semitic actions and rhetoric originates. Even the ones who aren’t openly anti-semitic, only tolerate the continued existence of Jewish people because they believe there is a special duty to convince Jews to convert to christianity. It’s like they think god will give them a gold star for every Jew they convert.

They also have that attitude toward other non-christians: our worth, to them, is solely as potential converts. And the less likely they think we are to agree to become born-again, the less value they place on our lives. And that also, has real world consequences.

Note: The title of today’s post comes from “We’re Marching to Zion” by Isaac Watts and Robert Lowry, #308 in the 1956 Baptist Hymnal.

Blasphemy is as blasphemy does — an adventure beyond the dictionary with the anti-gays

“Jesus had two dads & he turned out just fine.”
(click to embiggen)
A few years ago one of the large anti-gay political action groups sponsored a protest march that was supposed to be in favor of “traditional” marriage. All of the signs and banners carried by participants in the rally were extremely anti-queer, and not one single sign was actually in favor of any kind of marriage. Now, because we monitor these things, I was one of literally thousands of queer and queer-allied people online who hijacked the hashtag of the anti-gay folks to post pro-gay memes and comments. There were so many of us queers and allies posting pro-queer rights comments, that we overwhelmed the bigots’ message, at least on social media.

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.

This goes way beyond double-standards!

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?'” Continue reading This goes way beyond double-standards!

Homo devils in space!

A pair of bigots.
A pair of bigots.
In case you didn’t already know that neither Pastor Manning nor Pastor Driscoll are even slightly acquainted with logic, the last couple week’s revelations will make it crystal clear.

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!

Continue reading Homo devils in space!

Leopard’s spots and sheep’s clothing, part 2

“Mars Hill Church” cartoon © David Hayward - See more at: http://nakedpastor.com/
“Mars Hill Church” cartoon © David Hayward – See more at: http://nakedpastor.com/
I’ve written a few times about Mars Hill Church, a local megachurch that has one of its many worship centers just 8 blocks from my house. This week, several people were tweeting or re-blogging this post: Are Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church sick?, which sums up many of the problems plaguing the church and its lead pastor. It’s gotten so bad that an evangelical organization that Mars Hill’s pastor founded has kicked out the pastor and his church: Acts 29 Network Removes Co-founder Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church From Membership.

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:
Continue reading Leopard’s spots and sheep’s clothing, part 2

Cursed be those who support homo devils

Pastor Manning's church is misconstruing scripture and broadcasting hate to the neighborhood. Again.
Pastor Manning’s church is misconstruing scripture and broadcasting hate to the neighborhood. Again.
So, I’ve written before about the church in Harlem with the church sign that has previously referred to white homo devils and called for the violent murder of gay people and has tried to portray themselves as victims of hate when people object to their signs (and sermons, and so forth), and have tried to disrupt fundraising events for homeless shelters for gay youth.

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.

Weekend Update

Copyright NBCI’m sorry that I’m not going to be as funny as the Saturday Night Live crew, but I had to share a few updates on some of the things I linked to just yesterday:

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:

Hundreds march in defense of traditional marriage.

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:

Small but dedicated ‘March for Marriage’ crowd occupies patch of Capitol grounds.

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!

Leader Of Neo-Nazi Backed French Hate Group Joins NOM’s March On SCOTUS.

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:

Presbyterian Church USA Votes To Allow Pastors To Perform Same-Sex Marriages.

Observations of a white homo devil

Photo by Duncan Osborne, via JoeMyGod.com
Pastor Manning is at it again.
Once again, Homophobic Harlem Church Erects New Anti-Gay Sign. One side, after declaring Harlem a Sodomite free zone, demands that someone (it doesn’t say who) stop sodomizing children is schools.

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.

Picture by Duncan Osbourne
The other side of the sign compares the way the church has been treated to a horrific racist bombing at a black church decades ago.
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

Bullied bullies, part 3

The “Jesus would stone homos” sign was vandalized.
The church sign which two weeks ago said that Homo white demons were stealing black men from good black women, and then followed up by proclaiming that Jesus would stone homos, has been vandalized. The vandals spray-painted “God is Gay” onto both sides of the sign. Security footage shows the guy initially trying to rearrange the letters on the sign, perhaps to spell out his message that way. It’s unclear.

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:

  1. It has to be verbal or physical aggression
  2. It has to be repeated over time.
  3. 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.