Tag Archive | religious right

Haste to prepare the way, or an ex-evangelical explains christianist attitudes toward Israel and Israelies

PSSSST DON'T TELL BENJAMIN NETANYAHU BUT GOP CHRISTIANS ONLY WANT TO MPROTECT ISRAEL SO IT IS STILL AROUND LONG ENOUGH FOR GOD TO DESTROY PER REVELATION OTHERWISE WE DON'T GET OUR SECOND COMING! THEY'RE WELCOME! MRS BETTY BOWERS MRS BETTY BOWERS AMERICA'S BEST CHRISTIAN MEME

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As a child growing up in Southern Baptist churches, I was taught a lot of contradictory things about Jewish people, Jewish religion, and the Jewish state. On the one hand, they were god’s chosen people and we, as followers of god, are obligated to protect them. On the other hand, if they don’t convert to christianity, they will spend eternity in hell. On the first hand, certain verses in the bible predict dire consequences to any enemies of Israel, and therefore we must always, always, always support every action and policy of the nation of Israel and its government. On the other hand, they rejected Jesus when he was on earth and executed him, so they betrayed god and became tools of the devil. On the first hand, the book of Revelation says that a nation called Israel will exist when the Battle of Armageddon happens, ushering in the final destruction of the planet and bringing Jesus back from heaven to create a new kingdom of his faithful—therefore we must support the government of the modern nation of Israel and defend it from other nations, no matter what. On the other hand, modern Jewish theology supposedly descends from the Pharisees, who were the villains in a couple stories in the gospels, and therefore is more proof that they are tools of the devil, untrustworthy, et cetera.

I could keep going.

Before I continue, a couple of disclaimers: I have considered myself an ex-Baptist and an ex-Christian for a long time. I have often said I didn’t leave the church, the church drove me (a gay man) away. I was also the kind of nerd who read the Bible, on my own, cover-to-cover more than once (and had rather large swaths of it memorized). My passion for social justice was instilled at early age by some of the teachings of the church and its holy book, even as the contradictions I often observed in the teachings and practices of the church and their selective reading of that text fueled my doubts.

The negative attitude of many christians toward Jewish people has a long history, going back at least to the Third Century. And a lot of the rationalizations make no sense. As a for instance, take the “they reject him and executed him” argument. According to christian teachings, Jesus’ entire purpose for being sent to earth was to be sacrificed as a payment for human sin and make salvation possible. God’s plan required Jesus to be rejected and executed. Never mind that it was technically the Roman governor who ordered the execution, you can’t blame the crowds who supposedly demanded his death because they were just enacting god’s plan, right? Not the devil’s plan, god’s plan!

Similarly, taking various verses in the bible where the name Israel is used to metaphorically refer to all Jewish people collectively, and not a specific legal entity controlling a specific territory on the map to refer to the modern state of Israel is shaky reasoning, at best. And people today trying to claim that anyone who is critical of any specific policies of the current government of Israel is anti-semitic is equally absurd. And it’s pretty rich coming from Republicans, some of whom brought Holocaust deniers to the recent State of the Union Address, for instance.

All those contradictory things about Jewish people that evangelicals believe are baked deeply into the reasoning of the political rightwing in America. And it manifests in interesting ways. For instance, if anyone expresses any sympathy for the Palestinean people, the first thing that any journalist or pundit from Fox News and the like will ask is, “Does Israel have a right to exist?”

And it’s a bullshit question.

During the Obama administration, when Republicans would criticize things the government was doing, none of these talking heads ever asked them, “Does the United States have a right to exist?” When someone criticizes a policy of the government of Germany, or Mexico, or Japan or France, no one asks the person, “Does Germany/Mexico/Japan/France have a right to exist?”

And the truth is, no nation has a right to exist. A nation is a political and economic organization that has asserted control over a particular territory. A nation contains people, but the nation is not, itself, a person. People have a right to exist, but legal fictions that we create, like corporations, governments, social clubs, and so forth don’t.

And if anyone turned that question back on any of those talking heads—if a person who criticized the Israeli government would reply, “You’ve been critical of the U.S. government in the past, do think that the United States has a right to exist?” They would be offended and claim that it’s off-topic or not the same thing at all.

One of the reasons they think the “Does it have a right to exist” is a reasonable question is because they don’t perceive Israel as being just a government and its territory. They perceive it as the mythic entity cherry-picked from the bible. It is the chosen people of god, and it is a thing that must exist in order to bring about the second coming of Jesus. More than that, their reading of scripture demands that this mythic entity be embroiled in conflict, bloodshed, and the occasional war. Because again, the promised second coming and a new kingdom where they walk on streets paved with gold and all that can’t happen without horrible things happening in a place called Israel.

All of the other anti-semitic things they believe—the Jewish people are greedy, that they are untrustworthy, that they work in secret in various evil conspiracies and so forth—some from that betrayal of god thing. Evangelical thinking in particular is very ethno-deterministic. For a long time they opening taught that black people were descendants of either the biblical character of Cain or Noah’s son Ham. In either case, as descendants of those characters who were cursed by god, doctrine held that they were inherently less moral, less intelligent, and so on. Similarly, they believe (even if they are often less open about it these days), that because of the things their ancestors did, that now all of them are inherently aligned with evil.

So they don’t support Israel because they think the Israeli people deserve to be protected or that Israel is a great country. They support Israel because they think doing so will hasten the end of the world and fulfill god’s plan. Jewish people aren’t real people to them—Jewish people are sacrificial lambs whose blood is just one of the many prices they are willing to force other people to pay to get that mansion in heaven they think they’ve been promised.

And that’s how you get the same political party that inspires people to shoot up synagogs, that accuses rich Jewish people of financing every organization they disagree with, that claims that corrupt Jewish people control Hollywood, that refers to both neo-Nazis and Holocaust deniers as “very fine people” pretending to be angry because one freshman Congresswoman criticized some specific policies of the Israeli government and claim that she’s anti-semetic.


Edited to Add: I got a comment from someone who seemed to think the intent of this post was to explain every single aspect of the attitudes of all christian sects toward the Jewish people. So let me first point anyone thinking that to the title of the blog post where I used the word “christianist” and not the word christian. What is a christianist, you may ask? A christianist is one who claims to be a follower of Christ and His teachings but who actively engages in acts and deeds that are contrary to Christ’s teachings.

Second, my usual goal is to keep my blog posts to roughly 1000 words (for various reasons). It is not possible to explore every nuance of any question in 1000 words. Some things need to be left as exercises for the reader. Or expanded further in a later post.

Note: The title comes from the hymn “What if it were Today” by Mrs. C.H. Moore, #124 in the 1956 Baptist Hymnal

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Hate isn’t just a feeling: Attitudes and silence can cause as much harm as actions

Source: thedesmondproject.com/Homelessness-Info.html (Click to embiggen)

It’s estimated that about 1.7 million teen-agers are homeless in America at any time. Of those, about 40% identify as queer (that’s 680,000 kids). According to research by the True Colors Fund and similar groups, the single biggest cause of those queer teens being homeless is family rejection because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The next most common reasons are abusive homophobia or transphobia in their school, church, or community, even when their parents don’t go to the extreme of kicking them out. That bullying and rejection is why queer teens and children are five times as likely to attempt suicide than their cis and heterosexual peers. Note that the first study which concluded that the high queer teen suicide numbers is due to discrimination was concluded and published by the George H.W. Bush administration. Though numerous studies since have reached the same conclusion.

Similarly, when marriage equality began being enacted, the Centers for Disease Control and other agencies found that queer teen suicides and suicide attempts decreased by 14%. Which would confirm that perceptions of societal acceptance his a significant driver of the problem.

This is why I get so angry when politicians, such as our current Vice President, scream bloody murder when anyone criticizes the anti-gay policies and teachings of any of their favorite institutions. Adult religious freedom shouldn’t be an excuse to bully children to death. Period.

The rate at which LGBT teens are thrown out of their homes, bullied, and driven to suicide is exactly why queer adults and our allies get upset when, say, the wife of the Vice President of the United States goes to work at a Christian school which rejects queer students. It isn’t about her religious freedom, it’s about the health and welfare of children. And if you don’t believe me, you can listen to a queer person who attended and that very school:

Alumnus of Karen Pence’s anti-LGBTQ school speaks out

When we talk about this sort of thing in relation to private schools, a lot of people who think of themselves as open-minded respond by pointing out that attending a private school isn’t mandatory. As if a five-year-old kid is the one deciding which school their parents are going to enroll them into. Part of the problem with these institutions is that they are part of an entire ecosystem—an anti-gay (and usually also anti-science) bubble in which kids are brought up surrounded by misinformation. More than a little bit of that misinformation being quite harmful to one’s health.

Let’s get a few things out of the way. The overwhelming scientific and medical consensus is that sexual orientation is not a choice, it can’t be changed, and whatever the cause seems to be set sometime before the age of two. It is also the overwhelming scientific and medical consensus that the differences in health outcomes and such that are sometimes cherry-picked from studies to prove that being queer is harmful are actually evidence that anti-gay discrimination is harmful.

Queer kids are born in all types of families. And even when the adults around us don’t notice or suspect us from an early age, we all notice that something is different pretty early. And the older we get in an environment where our feelings and interests don’t match what is expected by the adults around us, the more we try to hide our true selves and contort ourselves into something that will please our elders and peers.

“When you’re young and consistently told that who you are is incorrect and needs to be eradicated, you listen and start to eradicate yourself.”
—Luke Hartman, Immanuel Christian alumnus

As Luke points out, being raised in a church that taught that gays are abominations, and going to a elementary school and then middle school where everyone believed that and the curriculum assumed that non-straight people don’t even exist, stunts a queer kids emotional growth. When none of the role models match their feelings, they just go through motions without many important social developments happening. It was only when he transitioned to a public high school (because the private school didn’t cover the upper grades) that he began to get a hint that people like him even existed.

“I believe the most hurtful messages are the ones that are expressed silently. It was an unspoken truth that being gay, or deviating from a narrow definition of sexual orientation or gender identity, was a no-fly zone.”
—Luke Hartman

They don’t learn how to form healthy romantic relationships in a context that matches their orientation. They also internalize all the absence as much as the outright bigotry. If the only possible acceptable visions of your future are things that you can feel in your bones aren’t who you are, well, that must mean that something is profoundly wrong with you. It’s like one queer author once observed: in myth monsters don’t have reflections and don’t cast shadows. If people like us don’t exist in any books, movies, stories, et cetera that we see growing up—if people like us aren’t reflected in the culture, and if our accomplishments aren’t acknowledged—then the only conclusion is that we are monsters.

That leaves scars and deep trauma—trauma that studies show makes physical changes to the brain just like that seen in war zone survivors!

And that’s why it’s important to call out the people who claim they are just exercising their religious beliefs. They aren’t “merely” doing anything. They are imposing those beliefs on children. And before you let them claim that they have a right to raise their children as they like, let me remind you that children aren’t property. They are a responsibility. We impose severe penalties when parents physically brutalize and even kill their children. We need to realize that abuse and trauma isn’t limited to broken bones, contusions, and concussions.

Weekend Update 2/2/2019: Self-loathing always spills out as harm to others

Time for some more news that either didn’t make the cut for yesterday’s Friday Five, or I didn’t hear about them in time to include, or have new development since I linked to them. I’m running late today, so, let’s see if I can be quick!

First up, a follow-up to a story I shared quite a while ago. Background, about two years ago Oklahoma state legislator, Ralph Shortey, was caught in a motel room with a teen-age boy he had hired for sex. There were also illegal drugs in the room. Shortey had been a typical Republican politician pushing the typical family values lines, and yes, was even more vociferiously anti-gay than the typical Republicans (who are typically anti-LGBT, but don’t bring it up as often as Shortey did). Oh, and Shortey was wearing a t-shirt with a misogynist “make me a sandwich” joke when he was arrested. Anyway, of course he resigned in disgrace and has since been making the evangelical hate-radio circuit talking about how the devil made him do it and claiming he has begged god for forgiveness and that god has supposedly taken his gay cooties away. Anyway, Former GOP State Senator Ordered to Pay $125,000 to Male Teen He Was Caught with in Motel Room.

Shortey was convicted on federal sex trafficing charges and already been sentenced to 15 years in prison. Now prosecutors have requested restitution from Shortey to cover psychiatric treatment and such for the teen-ager. And the court has ordered Shortey to pay.

Sometimes there are consequences.

Previously when I’ve posted stories about self-loathing closet cases (particularly those in politics or otherwise having positions of authority and influence), I have sometimes received messages asking why I don’t feel sorry for these guys. The closet is a horrible place, and yeah, all of us who have been closeted said stupid and sometimes shitty things in order to deflect harassment from people around us. So to pre-emptively answer that: I’ll start considering feeling sorry for Shortey if and when he admits that he’s queer (whether gay or bi or pan or whatever), apologizes for his years of promoting hate, voting against gay rights and the like, apologizes for the harm his anti-gay rhetoric and laws caused to queer people, and takes real responsibility for the harm he caused his ex-wife and children.

I do feel sorry for the former Mrs Shortey (interesting note: when she divorced him last year, she asked the court to legally change her last name and those of her children, so that they would no longer have the same name as their disgraced father). I hope that she and the children are in a better situation.

I also feel bad about the young man who was selling his body and hiding who he was.

But the self-loathing closet case politician who is still hewing to the line that his own same-sex feelings are an abomination, and therefore all of of other queer people are abominations? Nope, not one iota of sympathy for him.

Also, let me repeat my call for journalists everywhere to investigate thoroughly the personal lives of vehemently anti-gay politicians, because they always seem to have this kind of secret in their life.

In other news: Arkansas Supreme Court Strikes Down Fayetteville’s LGBTQ Nondiscrimination Ordinance. The Republicans of Arkansas hate queers so much, that they passed a law banning cities and counties from granting equal rights to LGBT people. The city of Fayetteville had such an ordinance and for the last few years has been fighting in court to keep the law. They have now lost at the state supreme court.

How much must you hate queer people that you insist other people have to hate them too? That’s what this comes down to, after all.

There is also the incredible level of hypocrisy that the same party that screams about local control and how bad big impersonal government is for everyone, turns around and uses their control of higher levels of government to strip away local control.

But then, hypocrisy isn’t a bug in the hearts of so-called pro-family Republicans/fundamentalists, it’s a feature!

Sometimes someone needs an explanation

“I have been forced to explain homosexual relationships to my four year old because his uncle is gay. This incredibly difficult and traumatic conversation went as follows: Child: Why does Uncle Bob go everywhere with Pete? Me: Because they are in love, just like Mommy and Daddy. Child: Oh. Can I have a cookie?   We're all scarred for life. Scarred, I tell you.”

“I have been forced to explain homosexual relationships to my four year old because his uncle is gay. This incredibly difficult and traumatic conversation went as follows: Child: Why does Uncle Bob go everywhere with Pete? Me: Because they are in love, just like Mommy and Daddy. Child: Oh. Can I have a cookie?
We’re all scarred for life. Scarred, I tell you.”

I’ve been finding myself doing a lot of eye-rolling and teeth gnashing and biting my tongue lately over extremely asinine questions and assertions that cross my various information streams. Some of these are on social media, but a lot are also in news stories and/or coming out of the mouths of politicians, pundits, and so forth. When it happens on my social media, I sometimes decide to mute, block, or just unfollow the person. And when I mentioned that recently, someone asked didn’t I have a responsibility to educate people who unintentionally said bigoted things (or asked questions that are layered in all sorts of bigoted assumptions) so that they wouldn’t keep causing other people pain.

I had several answers—all of them true:

  • It takes a lot of time and energy to try to educate someone on these complex topics, and that’s time and energy I will never get back and which I’d rather spend on writing or editing my own stuff.
  • In my experience, very few people actually listen to your attempt to explain such things, they instead become defensive—sometimes extremely aggressively defensive. So you’re asking me to put myself into a fight.
  • I’ve been explaining these things my whole life—just look through this blog!—and it’s exhausting. Please refer to the first bullet.
  • One reason it is so exhausting to try to answer is because of what Foz Meadows once described as onion questions: “seemingly simple questions that can’t possibly be answered to either your satisfaction or your interlocutor’s because their ignorance of concepts vital to whatever you might say is so lacking, so fundamentally incorrect, that there’s no way to answer the first point without first explaining eight other things in detail. There are layers to what’s being misunderstood, to what’s missing from the conversation, and unless you’ve got the time and inclination to dig down to the onion-core of where your perspectives ultimately diverge, there’s precious little chance of the conversation progressing peacefully.”
  • Thousands of other people have been explaining all of these things. There is no shortage of information about these things out there. I’ve educated myself on all sorts of things that don’t directly affect my life, why can’t they do that, too?

However, K. Tempest Bradford recently shared a link to a post she wrote on this topic a few years ago, Pearls Before Swine – Or, Why I Bother and she makes some good points. I’d read the post before, but had forgotten. In the post she’s referring specifically to a long article that astronomer Phil Plait wrote, attempting to answer questions from people who don’t believe in evolution and so forth:

“I’m fairly sure that the reason the creationists in the Buzzfeed article asked such ragingly stupid questions is because no one has ever bothered to answer them seriously before. I know why that might be. Like I said, the questions are really stupid.

“So stupid they can inspire rage. Or stupid enough that it makes people shake their heads and think This Person is Not Even Worth It. Not everyone has the spoons to deal with crap like that.

“If one does have the patience to answer and explain in a real way it helps both the person asking the stupid question and it helps people who have to deal with the kind of people who ask those stupid questions. They can either offer up the knowledge as they understand it thanks to the helpful answers and info behind those links or they can say: “This post over here answers all of that and more, go read it and stop talking to me.” Drop that link and mambo, people!”

And it reminded me of a recent exchange with a friend who shared something with me that was chockful of misconceptions and concealed bigoted assumptions. And I decided that his friendship was probably strong enough to deal with the discussion, so I wrote about a thousand word email explaining the misconceptions, false equivalencies, and so forth. Even though he is a good friend and generally a nice guy, I have to admit I was a little worried he would be upset. Instead, he replied thoughtfully and realized, having read my explanation, that there were some things that he had been taking in and just accepting in various videos and articles and such that were similarly full of false equivalencies, straw man arguments, and so forth.

So, I’m reminded that not everyone gets defensive. Also, as Bradford observes: “Other people have come to me over the years, usually at conventions, and told me how they, at first, thought I was SO WRONG about race and the community and so angry… But then their anger and defensiveness went away and they pondered and listened and read other people saying the same things and finally came to a better understanding.”

I’m not going to go back and unblock any of the people I blocked this week and attempt to re-engage. I am going to think about whether I could keep a list of handy links to certain blog posts or articles on topics that come up again and again and share those links when it might help.

Weekend Update 1/12/2019: The wheels of justice may grind slowly, but Alex Jones, they grind on you!

“Regarding the use of 'it was just a joke' as a defense: If it was 'just a joke,' then there's no reason for you to be upset that people didn't find it funny. You just accept that the material fell flat, note it for future reference, and move on. If, however, it angers or frustrates you that people didn't find it funny or tell you that is was offensive, then it wasn't 'just a joke' to you. It was a belief that you shared in a joking manner and you're taking the rejection of it as a rejection of part of you. Be honest about that instead of asking others to pretend that they believe you were joking.”

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Once again some news stories either broke after I had finished this week’s Friday Five or new developments related to stories I’ve posted about before. And, as usual, I have a few thoughts to go along with the news links. Today we deal with a horrible person dealing with the consequences of just a small number of his horrible actions.

Families of Sandy Hook shooting victims win legal victory against InfoWars, Alex Jones. The families haven’t won their lawsuits, yet, but this is an important step in the trials: ALEX JONES MUST REVEAL INFOWARS DATA TO SANDY HOOK FAMILIES AS THEY WIN LEGAL VICTORY.

In case you don’t remember: the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting occurred back in 2012 were 20 six- and seven-year-old children (along with six teachers) were murdered by an angry 20-year-old. Alex Jones used to be a radio host (his show is carried only on the internet now) of a thing called Info Wars where he spouts all sorts of ridiculous conspiracy theories, while peddling gross survivalist food and other shit to his gullible (and fearful) listeners. And one of the conspiracy theories he pushed hard on his show for years was that Sandy Hook never happened, that no children actually died, and that the grieving parents people saw on the news were all actors.

And the issue is, that a bunch of people who are just as dangerous as the original shooter, believed him. They began harassing the parents, threatening them and their surviving children. They staked out the graves of the buried children and harassed anyone that visited those graves. The families have had to move and try to rebuild their lives several times because of the evil, deplorable followers of this greedy, evil, deplorable man.

And so the fact that some of the families have finally found a court that will hear their case is pretty awesome. I hope he winds up penniless and on the street.

I also wish more of the idiots who have harassed the families were sitting in jail, but I’ll settle for Jones being ruined.

Weekend Update 1/5/2019: It’s ugly, oh, so ugly…

Once again some news stories either broke after I had finished this week’s Friday Five or new developments related to stories I’ve posted about before. And these are stories I want to make a bit more commentary on than I usually do with the Friday Fives. So, let’s jump into these things…

First, the shutdown is still a thingL Pelosi and Schumer Meet With Trump – Say He Vows to Keep Government Shutdown for ‘Years’ Over Wall Funding. And later in the day Trump confirmed his words. This is bad. There are hundreds of thousands of federal employees being forced to work without pay (and they are ordinary people who need to pay rent, buy food for their kids, et cetera), and hundreds of thousands more that have been sent home without pay. ‘I feel used and insulted’: Furloughed IRS employee on CNN shames Trump for treating him like a pawn.

This isn’t just bad for them, it is bad for the economy. What makes the economy work isn’t the giant billion-dollar companies or wealthy investors: it is ordinary people spending money day to day.

And the really insane part is contained in this article: Millions face delayed tax refunds, cuts to food stamps as White House scrambles to deal with shutdown’s consequences. Go read some of those quotes! There are a number of Republican congresspeople quoted who were cheering the shutdown a week ago, who are only now learning that government shutdown means that people who voted for them aren’t getting their foodstamps, or the social security checks, and won’t get tax refunds. There are Trump cabinet officials quoted in there who didn’t understand it.

They didn’t understand that ‘government shutdown’ means that the government shuts down!?!?

It isn’t just Trump who is ignorant and doesn’t know how things work. It’s like half the goddamn Republican party!

The thing is, they can end this. The first deal, the one Trump vetoed a couple of weeks ago, passed the Senate unanimously. The Republican-controlled Senate passed the deal with no wall funding already. Congress can override the President’s veto. Now, since new Congresspeople were sworn in and this is technically a new Congress, I believe that means that they have to first pass the deal again, let him veto it, and then if all the Senators who voted for it before, and a bunch of these Republican Reps in the House who are finally realizing what this means joins the Democrats on the reconsideration, BOOM, veto overridden and government is running again.

I’m going to repeat something that I say from time to time: the Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution with the assumption that it is Congress that runs the country. Article I of the Constitution describes the Congress, its powers, its responsibilities, and its limitations. Everything that follows in the Constitution (the Presidency, the Judiciary, the Amendment process, the Bill of Rights) are in relationship to the Congress. The President isn’t supposed to run the country, Congress is. And they can. I realize it means some Republicans (not even half of them—just enough to with the Democrats—reach two-thirds) growing at least a teensy bit of a spine.

I’m not terribly hopeful at the moment, but…

There are some Republicans with spines: Bush speechwriter uses Bible to slap evangelicals for sucking up to ‘unethical and racist’ Trump. Wow, he even understands what the Bible actually says!

“In this struggle, many evangelicals believe they have found a champion in Trump. He is the enemy of their enemies. He is willing to use the hardball tactics of the secular world to defend their sacred interests. In their battle with the Philistines, evangelicals have essentially hired their own Goliath — brutal, pagan, but on their side… A hypocrisy becomes unsustainable. A seed gets planted. And a greater power emerges, revealing new leaders and shaming those who reduce Christianity to a sad and sordid game of thrones.”

I think another point he makes is the most important:

“The employment of an unethical, racist, anti-immigrant, misogynist Giant is not likely to play well with women, minorities and young people, who are likely to equate conservative religion with prejudice for decades to come.”

Honestly, polling information indicates that’s already happened. Which actually gives me a lot of hope.

“After two years of Donald Trup, I've wondered why conservative votes still support him. I thought maybe they were still angry and afraid, or just ignorant and in denial, or racist, but that's not it. I've realized the reason they support Trump and love him is not because of any of those things. They love him because they ARE him. They have the same morals, prejudices, hatreds, and insecurities that Trump has. They're the same persons he is and they've always been that way. We see it now because Trump has given them permission to come out in the open and be who they really are. And, it's ugly.”

I know it muddles the point, but it’s both: they are angry and afraid and ignorant and hateful and racist and all the rest… (click to embiggen)

On the first day of Christmas Vacation, I drove into Trump Country…

After being up way too late finishing work for our latest impossible deadline, I slept in a little, then began packing up the car for a drive to my Mom’s. It’s always been a little awkward visiting the family, because as much as they think they are open-minded and accepting of my queer self and my bi husband, it is precisely the kind of acceptance where the person has to tell you that they are open-minded and not homophobic at all… and then proceed to make references to various queer stereotypes and so forth.

Things got a bit worse on some topics during the eight years that Obama was in office. Now things have gotten really bad since Trump was elected. So after the awkward Thanksgiving Day of 2016, we’ve contrived to not visit on the actual holiday. I drive down for a one day thing once or twice during December to say Merry Christmas, drop off presents, admire Christmas trees, hold one of the babies, take a few pictures, and that sort of thing. I also drive down for one-day visits several times outside of the holiday season.

Anyway, Friday was the present-delivering run. I also needed to help Mom with two computer issues: bring her the replacement/upgrade iPad Michael had put together for her (and bring back her apparently dead one to see of Michael can resuscitate it) and fix a couple of things on her computer. The computer was, fortunately, remarkably easy to fix.

“How come people who don't believe in racism always believe in reverse racisim? How does that work? That's like believing in Santa but not in your parents.”The day went fairly well for the most part. There were some odd rants that came up with two different family members about a topic that I learned long ago that it is best to just bite my tongue and let them go. They will always believe everything they see on Fox News and whatever “Christian” news network they watch—regardless of how illogical or contradictory of other things they believe.

It’s not just that what they spout off is nonsense. It’s not just knowing that they vote for people who are actively trying to take my rights away. It’s not just that it hurts to hear people who taught me to love my neighbor say hateful hurtful things about whole swaths of humanity (including categories that I fall in). It’s also that I don’t feel safe in that community. It’s been a few years (but less than ten) since a random person in that community has felt the urge to call me fag out of the blue, but I see the looks. I can read the bumper stickers. I overhear the conversations at other tables in the restaurant.

If I brought that up, they would dismiss it. I know, because they did when I tried to explain years ago some of the reasons I am much happier staying in “the big city” as they say. It’s an amazing blind spot: they dismiss any racist or homophobe and so on as a single anomaly that I should just ignore, at the same time they are convinced that every single person who talks about racism or gay bashing or sexual assault is part of a vast satanic conspiracy that must be fought and defeated lest the world literally go down in flames.

And they don’t understand that they just said that I need to be exterminated in order to save their world.

So, yeah, I’m going to keep limiting my exposure to all that hate. I much prefer holidays with my chosen family.

Need a little angel sitting on my shoulder… or, save me from the well-meaning enablers

“Tis the season to be even GAYER than usual!”

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Some years before certain media hacks started claiming there is a War On Christmas, I was accused of (among other things) being part of an assault on that holiday. It was 2001, and my paternal grandparents were coming up on their 60th wedding anniversary. Their anniversary was late in December, because they moved up the wedding (originally planned for the following spring) after Pearl Harbor was bombed and the U.S. entered World War II because my grandpa immediately wanted to sign up and go defend his country. I had been living 1200 miles away from my grandparents since my parents’ divorce when I was a teenager, but had remained in relatively close contact with them. Relatively close, that is, until I came out of the closet at the age of 31. To describe the communication as cold and infrequent would be an understatement.

So I was a little surprised when, several months before the anniversary, some relatives from out there contacted me to invite me to a 60th Anniversary party, just before Christmas. I said that I would have to look into travel logistics, but it would be nice to see the old hometown again. The relative in question hoped that I would be able to stay through Christmas and so forth. I made the comment that I wasn’t sure how much time off Michael would be able to take, since he got a lot less paid vacation at his place of work than I did.

I could almost feel the temperature drop on the line. “Oh, no. You can’t bring your friend. You understand, that would really upset everyone.”

“You expect my husband to stay back in a hotel while I’m at the party?”

”No. We expect you to be sensible and leave your friend back in Seattle.”

“What?”

They then explained (as if I needed to be reminded) that Grandma and Grandpa were elderly and weren’t as open-minded as this relative currently talking to me. They explained how many of the equally elderly siblings of both Grandma and Grandpa were planning to attend. “You can’t expect people their age to put up with… um, well, you know.”

I said that, as a matter of fact, I could expect that. And if my husband wasn’t welcome, than neither was I.

That wasn’t the end of it. Several other relatives called, urging me to come. Reminding me that this might be the last time I could see them, and surely I wouldn’t want to spend the rest of my life regretting that, just over a silly thing like this? Where was my family loyalty? Where was my Christmas spirit?

It eventually reached the point where I said, rather angrily, “You want me to take several weeks off from work, fly to Salt Lake City, drive 6 hours in a rental car, to attend an anniversary and various other social events, including Christmas all the time pretending that I’m perfectly happy to be spending the holidays 1200 miles away from my husband! If Grandma told you your husband couldn’t come to Christmas dinner, would you go?”

“I’m just saying that your friend doesn’t belong at a family event.”

Recently I shared this story with a couple of friends while we were discussing family issues, and one friend who is ordinarily diplomatic and calm reacted to this part of the tale with a vehement, “F— them! He’s your husband and he’s sweet and smart and gives good hugs!”

And while 17 years ago I didn’t mention the hugs, my final words before hanging up were quite similar.

Seventeen years later, some of those family members still think that asking me to go to all that trouble and expense to be a closeted prop in their fantasy of a perfect 60th Anniversary Party/perhaps Final Extended Family Christmas Reunion was a perfectly reasonable request, and I’m the bad guy for not subjecting myself to that.

And I want to point out, that even after the initial call that ended with me saying that if my husband wasn’t welcome I wasn’t coming, I went ahead and did the research of what it would take to get there, maybe just to attend the party by myself and then come back home to spend Christmas with my husband. That’s why I talked about where I would fly into and how long the rental car drive would be assuming only typical winter driving conditions in the two mountain passes involved in the journey. I also want to point out that before they told me my husband wasn’t welcome, they had already told me that because of my “lifestyle” it was a given that none of the relatives who lived nearby were willing to have me stay in a guest room at their house, so two weeks at a hotel at my own expense was an assumed part of the event.

Despite that, for a while I did consider subjecting myself to at least some of that as a sop toward an illusion of family harmony or something.

So I understand why some people who otherwise appear to be reasonable and even understand what it is like to be part of an oppressed minority, sometimes get up in arms when some of us are perceived as being less than tolerant of other peoples’ intolerance.

People are up in arms about Tucker Carlson Facing Advertising Boycott Over Immigration Comments to the point that supposedly reasonable people, like FiveThirtyEightDotCom’s Nate Silver to say that this is going to end all political discourse. The argument being that if we assume advertisers are endorsing everything that is said on a political analysis show, that soon we will have no actual debates.

I have four initial responses to this so-called argument:

1) Fox News, the network that broadcasts Tucker’s show, doesn’t classify his show as either news or analysis. In official filings with the FCC, in order to avoid what few regulations remain about libel and so forth, Fox News classifies nearly every pundit you have ever heard of as “entertainment.”

2) Tucker is not engaging in political analysis or debate, he is spewing lies (not opinions, lies) and inciting hatred against specific ethnic groups, religious groups, and transgender people. He is not making good faith arguments. To equate his program (and Bill O’Reilly’s whose earlier boycotts are being alluded to by everyone writing to defend Carson) with a serious political analysis program is a false equivalence. Incitement is not analysis. A lie is not a difference of opinion. Saying that some people don’t have a right to exist in our society is not a policy dispute. Locking up children in concentration camps after stealing them from parents who lawfully presented themselves at a border crossing to request entry is not a simple implementation of existing law. For some other analysis on this: Tucker Carson’s Racism is Not ‘Political’.

3) It’s a classic slippery slope argument. It’s the equivalent of saying that charging the alt-right guy with murder after he intentionally drove his car into a crowd and killed an innocent person means that now no one is ever allowed to state an opinion again.

4. It’s hypocrisy. None of these people ever scolded the National Organization of Marriage when they were trying to organize boycotts of companies that extended medical benefits to same-sex partners of their employees, or tried to get shows that included a single queer character canceled. None of these defenders of free speech said that those boycotts would lead to the end of all health benefits or all TV shows and movies. They only come out when it is the proponents of hatred that are threatened with consequences.

And to tie this back to my opening anecdote: here are the parallels.

  • My husband isn’t a friend and our life isn’t a lifestyle. He’s my husband. Trying to reclassify him doesn’t change the truth of our relationship.
  • Being civil if I bring my husband to a family get-together isn’t a Herculean feat that no one has ever been expected to perform at a family event. Big extended family get-togethers of every family include some people that others present don’t approve of but that makes nice and deals with it. Being disapproved of by half the family is practically the definition of in-law, in some families!
  • Bringing my husband to family events isn’t me forcing a political agenda on the family, nor does anyone being civil to him imply that they endorse everything that we believe. Just as Cousin Daisy bringing her husband that thinks the moon landing was faked doesn’t make any of us who are civil to them flat-earthers.
  • It’s hypocritical to claim that my declining the “invitation” which excluded not just my husband, but also my true self was the rude act, while the exclusion itself is merely a reasonable request. Yes, it was their party, and they can choose who to invite, but it is also my invitation which I can choose to decline. And while I had to get huffy on the phone, my huffiness was restricted to the relatives who were harassing me after I had already, as politely as possible, declined the invitation.

    Which isn’t to say that I believe the exclusionary invitation was the polite or correct thing for them to do in the first place, but no one is required to aid and abet their own denigration. Because it wasn’t just that my husband wasn’t invited, but also that I was expected to effectively go back into the closet for the length of my visit. I was expected to agree that there was something wrong with me, and something wrong with the person that I loved. Further, note that they didn’t just say he wasn’t invited to the party, they were insistent that he was not allowed to accompany me on the trip at all. Think about that, for a moment.

Me not attending the family event (at considerable trouble and expense) was not me abandoning my family. Nor was it a decision I should feel guilt and regret over for the rest of my life. Neither was it an attack on Christmas. Just as declining to be kicked in the teeth is not an assault on the would-be tooth kicker.

Finally, to be clear: when some of us contact companies whose products we use and express our displeasure that their money (money that ultimately comes from us) is being used to spread falsehoods and to incite or excuse violence, we are not telling anyone that they don’t have the right to any opinion that disagrees with us. This isn’t censorship, it is consequences.

Pure unbounded love thou art, or an ex-evangelical looks at trans hate in the church

Church sign reads: “God's love is unconditional as long as you are obeying Christ.”

Someone needs to look up ‘unconditional’ in a dictionary…

I was the kind of kid who asked my Sunday School teachers, ministers, and anyone else set as an authority in church questions that drove them crazy. I wasn’t doing it to be difficult—I never asked if god could create a rock so heavy he couldn’t lift it—but I often found myself on the receiving end of a scolding rather than an answer. I know part of that is just being a kid. Children, their minds not quite as burdened by assumptions, expectations, and conventional thoughts, often ask difficult questions. The rest of the problem was that I was smarter than average, had an early affinity for logic, a really good memory, and I was being raised in a denomination (the Southern Baptist Convention) that didn’t have a history of rigorous academia.

Before I get further, let me get a couple of disclaimers out of the way: I have considered myself an ex-Baptist and an ex-Christian for a long time, so some people will want to dismiss anything I say on these topics out of hand. On the other hand, I learned my deep sense of social justice from that church and more specifically their holy book. I was the kind of nerd who read the Bible, on my own, cover-to-cover more than once (and had rather large swaths of it memorized). I have often said I didn’t leave the church, the church drove me (a gay man) away.

One of the big problems I had, again and again, was the many times that teachers and leaders in the church would insist that god’s love and mercy were unconditional—and then they would lay out a whole bunch of conditions that one must meet to earn that love. At first they said you had to believe in him order to get his love and mercy. And don’t forget obey him, or you won’t receive his love. And obey him in the right way, not the way other churches say to do it, or you won’t receive his love. And ignore these parts of the holy book, but these other parts you must interpret exactly as we say, or you won’t receive his love.

That’s an awful lot of conditions one must meet to qualify for supposedly unconditional divine love.

It’s not just unconditional divine love that the fundamentalist evangelicals don’t understand. They have a similar misapprehension of civil rights. Tony Perkins heads to Fox News to defend Trump administration’s latest attack on trans rights. This takes a little bit to unpack. If you missed the news this weekend, the New York Times got hold of a memo from the department of Health and Human Services that outlines how the government could erase all trans rights: ‘Transgender’ Could Be Defined Out of Existence Under Trump Administration. More details became available quickly thereafter: The Trump Administration Wants to Define Gender as Biological Sex at Birth.

An important clue in this memo is the assertion that previous definitions of sex “allowed the Obama administration to wrongfully extend civil rights protections to people who should not have them.”

Tony Perkins mention above is the leader of the Family Research Council, an evangelical fundamentalist hate group that spends all its time an energy not on helping families, but rather on attacking gay rights and transgender rights and so forth. And he has made a very similar argument for years: gay, lesbian, and trans people don’t deserve civil rights protections.

Which means he doesn’t understand what a civil right is: rights aren’t deserved. You have them because you exist, period. They aren’t privileges. The Declaration of Independence referred to rights as “inalienable”—they can’t be transferred or removed. We can argue about what is or isn’t a right, but not who has them. Everyone has them. The moment you argue that some categories of people shouldn’t have their rights protected, well, that’s taking you a very long way down the fascist road.

And it isn’t something that Christians should be fighting for. They are commanded to love everyone, including their enemies. And as the Sermon on the Mount makes clear, love isn’t just about warm fuzzy feelings, it’s action. Love means lifting people up. Love means standing up for people. Love means doing good for people who disagree with you. Love means not just taking care of your own, but taking care of everyone who needs help.

Perkins and his ilk justify their opposition to the rights of transgender people by frequently making the claim that the Bible clear says that there are only two genders. It is true that the Bible frequently refers to two genders, but none of those references say that those two are the only possibilities, nor does it give a definition of those genders. While some portions make a big deal about what sorts of behaviors are appropriate for one gender or the other, other passages contradict those notions. And there there are a few places where the text asserts very insistently that gender is unimportant. Such as:

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female; for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.”
—Galatians 3:28, Holy Bible, King James Version

Which seems to back the notion that god’s love really is unconditional, so maybe his so-called followers should stop trying to enforce divisions.


Note: The title comes from the hymn “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling” by Charles Wesley, #2 in the 1956 Baptist Hymnal

Three-day Weekend Update: Words and Images

I frequently save memes, cartoons, and the like to use as an illustration for a blog post or Friday Five. I always gather a lot more than I can actually use, so every now and then I share some the I didn’t use.

“Two people you should never trust: A religious leader who tells you how to vote, and a politician who tells you how to pray.”

Very important advice to remember. (Click to embiggen)

“1. 92 year old former President working for free to make the world a better place. 2. A cult leader charging the US $3million a weekend so he can golf.”

Jimmy Carter remains one of my heroes. Even though he lost the re-election, I’m still proud that the first time I voted in a Presidential election it was for Carter. If only he had won that time, the world would be a better place… And in case I’m not being clear, Ronald Reagan pushed the Republican party harder to racism, misogyny, and sectarianism than it had been, setting the stage for Trumpism. (Click to embiggen)

A rich man standing on a literal mountain of money points aa finger accusingliy at a woman on the ground holding a sign the says “Raise the minimum wage.” Rich man is yelling “Your greed is hurting the economy.”

It is truly frightening how not just the rich, but most everyone else, has forgotten that the secret to financial success for a corporation and the nation it inhabits is to insure that the workers can afford to buy all those goods and services the corporations are selling. (Click to embiggen)

Breaking News: Aliens announce this morning that they will NOT pay from Trump's Space Force.

Sometimes the stupidity of Cadet Bonespur is mind boggling… (Click to embiggen)

Cartoon of Trump holding a hammer and standing near Jesus, nailed to a cross. Trump says, “I don't like loser.”

I wish I could be surprised at how thoroughly the religious right has embraced an evil, hateful, lying, cheater traitor. But I grew up in that community, and racism is a fundamental part of that culture. (Click to embiggen)

“Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.”

Speaking of misusing religion… (click to embiggen)

Man holding sign which reads “Southern Hospitality means welcoming immigrants.”

…and so do the teaching so Christ and the underlying principle of the U.S.A. (Click to embiggen)

And to try to end on a more happy note… (Click to embiggen)

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