Tag Archive | religious right

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

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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)

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.

To Conquer the Kingdoms of Sin — more confessions of a queer ex-evangelical

Jesus doing a facepalm next to a rainbow: “Guys, I said I hate FIGS”

Jesus literally never said anything about gay people. And in fact, the 6 Biblical passages that seem to say so now do not at all in the original languages. (click to embiggen)

I saw this interesting article being shared this morning: The Southern Baptist Church is in a multi-decade decline and it is accelerating. That article is by Ed Stetzer, who is a statistics guy who has held a job with the Southern Baptist Convention with responsibility to study membership and so forth. This article is his farewell as he accepts a distinguished teaching position at Wheaton College. In the article, he tries to dispel the myths that some within the church keep bringing up as part of a mass denial of the fact that the denomination has been shrinking for many years and there is no sign that the bleeding of the membership is going to stop1.

He tries in the article to layout the problems that denomination is failing to address. And he makes a nice point that simply praying for something without doing the work to make it happen is not merely impractical, it’s actual contrary to the teachings of the Christ they claim to follow.

But he doesn’t come out and say what really needs to be said. I can’t tell for certain if he is being vague in his comments about how they need to engage with the culture and spend less time pursuing culture wars because he knows the article wouldn’t be published if he is blunt, or if he is afraid to say it, or if he’s in denial himself.

He tiptoes around it, saying things like “As of yet, we’ve not made it to the point where we have… become known for what we are for rather than what we are against.”

But the clue that leads me to believe he probably is still in a bit of denial is when he says, after implying that the church is waging battle on two many fronts of the culture war, “For many of our neighbors, our warring is interpreted as being against them.”

No, Mr. Stetzer, it is not an interpretation Or perception that you are warring on us. Fundamentalist evangelical churches and affiliated organizations are literally attacking a whole lot of their neighbors.

The attacks on queer rights are the ones I most often link to or comment on, but that isn’t all of it. And even if they were, the way the fight is waged is a series of assaults on the lives and well-being of the queer people in question. At the same time that the church and related institutions keep cozying up to the special interests of big business and billionaires. So they are both ignoring Jesus’s teachings of “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone,” as well as “sell that you have, and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.”

Long before I reached a point where I could fearfully say outloud to a friend, “I think I might be gay3” I chafed at the church’s political choices. It wasn’t until my midteens (the early 1970s) that the SBC officially stopped opposing racial segregation. Even after that, a lot of churchs and affiliated organizations actively opposed civil rights laws, including the Voting Rights Act. That didn’t seem to line up with the command to Love Thy Neighbor.

I’m old enough to remember when official Baptist theology was not pro-life. In fact, among those Baptists willing to voice their anti-Catholic beliefs, the Catholic Church’s strong stand against abortion was used as an argument that Catholics were not a Biblical faith. Seriously! Southern Baptists used to look at the verse in the old testament which stated that a person who injured a pregnant woman such that she lost the baby was not the same as fatally injuring a child and was no worse than injuring a non-pregmant woman as proof that unborn babies were not yet people.

The shift in abortion was a calculated one by a number of evangelical leaders who met in the 70s to discuss what to do about fundraising now that segregation didn’t whip up the troops to donate. Again, that sudden about-face made no sense to teenaged me.

When Falwell’s so-called Moral Majority rose as a political force and allied itself strongly with the Republicans and doubled down on opposing women’s rights, gay rights, medical treatment for AIDS patients, and nondiscrimination laws in general, that was the final straw.

If there are people in the fundamentalist evangelical community in general–and Southern Baptists in particular–who want to turn around this downward spiral in membership, they have to change. They have organizations like Alliance Defending Freedom suing left and right to thwart gay and trans rights as well as lobbying politicians to pass anti-queer laws. Jesus never said a thing about queer people, but he commanded his followers take care of the poor, the sick, prisoners and even to welcome refugees4. Where is the evangelical organization suing government officials for withholding funds for the poor or the homeless or the disabled? Where is the evangelical organization lobbying in politicians for more funding for the poor, the homeless, the sick, the disabled or resettlement of refugees?

Their usual argument is some BS about charity being a private duty, rather than a governmental one. But you can’t demand that government enforce your private religious beliefs about marriage and gender and so forth while claiming to believe that government shouldn’t do these other things your holy book actually demands.

Evangelicals got themselves into this ridiculous hypocrisy because of two things: leaders who are addicted to money or power of both; and the dearly held evangelical myth that they are always the persecuted. The nakedly greedy leaders like Joel Osteen and Franklin Graham harp on the culture war issues and characterize any gains for “other” people as an assault against “true Christians” and rake in the dough. More sincere leaders like the late Billy Graham become so blinded by the thrill of access to Presidents and Congresspeople and other leaders, that they let their proximity promote the fearmongering of unscrupulous politicians.

And too many of their congregants eat up the rhetoric, becoming so inflamed with the fervor to fight so-called evil, that they don’t see the real evil they are inflicting on others. Instead of looking at other people as the neighbors they are commanded to love and care for, they see them as armies of sin. And their advocacy, donations, and rhetoric constitute very real attacks on people, not sin.

If they want to stop this decline, it won’t come from a new emphasis on evangelizing, as Stetzer asserts in his article. That would be as meaningless as praying without working. Instead, they need to focus on things their Christ actually told them to do: love your neighbor, feed the hungry, take care of the sick, clothe those who have nothing, be kind to the meek and powerless.

Do good, and people will see those good works and will stop feeling like enemies under attack.


Notes:

0. The title of today’s post is a lyric from the hymn “The Kingdom is Coming” word by Mary B. Slade, music by Rigdon M. McIntosh, # 409 in the 1956 Baptist Hymnal.

1. When I first read his assessment that the church will cease to exist for all intents and purposes in decades, my only thought was, “Darn! Not sooner?”2

2. Don’t get me wrong, I was raised Southern Baptist and I have a lot of fond childhood memories of deep friendships there. But as I have said many times, I didn’t abandon the church, the church drove me away.

3. Which didn’t happen until I was 25.

4. Again, I learned my strong sense for social injustice by reading the Bible they claimed to follow.

Bigot Bulletin: Principal and Police Officer who harassed students at Oregon high school are both fired

“Good news: An oregon high school police officer and principal have been fired for anti-LGBT discrimination, including telling gay students they were going to hell, and forcing them to read the Bible as punishment for being gay.”

(click to embiggen)

I decided that this can’t wait until Friday. This is an update to a news story I shared as part of a previous Weekend Update: Oregon School Officials Who Discriminated Against Gay Kids Fired.

For some background: Gay teen says she went to school resource officer after getting bullied — and he told her she’s going to hell. The “resource officer” is a local police officer assigned to the school supposedly for the purpose of protecting the students. But he wasn’t the only problem. The principal of the school punished gay kids who reported incidents of being harassed (including at least one incident where the principal’s son nearly ran two of the other kids down with his car while yelling anti-gay slurs). Teachers who tried to help the kids in varying ways were retaliated against by the Principal and the district Superintendent, and so on.

So the Oregon Department of Education sent in an investigator. The local officials admitted to several issues, including that they had forced the gay kids to read and recite passages from the Bible as part of their punishment. The ODE investigator issued a report finding that the actions of the officials probably constituted illegal discrimination under Oregon law as well as a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s requirement of separation of church and state. A final finding was pending, but the state ordered to school district to come to a settlement with the kids and their parents by the end of April. They didn’t.

During that time, many more former and current students came forward, with more incidents of anti-LGBT and racial discrimination. Meanwhile, the ACLU was pursuing a lawsuit against the district.

Monday things came to a head: ACLU OF OREGON REACHES SWEEPING SETTLEMENT WITH NORTH BEND SCHOOL DISTRICT OVER LGBTQ DISCRIMINATION AND BIBLE READING.

How sweeping?

  • Principal fired
  • District dismisses Resource Officer and requests local police assign a new officer
  • District will create a diversity committee (keep in mind that teachers already tried to set up a Gay-Straight Alliance and were stopped by the principal) which will hold celebrations for Coming Out Day and Ally Week and will issue an annual report on how the school is doing on issues of diversity, inclusion, et cetera
  • District will hire an anti-discrimination expert to help them craft policies to appropriately respond to harassment and discrimination
  • District will donate $1000 to a local queer support group

Additionally, as a result of the state investigation, the district will be under supervision of the state ODE for at least five years while all of this is monitored. The remaining bit of less than awesome news from my point of view on this is that even though the state’s investigation and the discovery process of the lawsuit found that the district Superintendent knew about all of this and committed some of the retaliation from teachers who tried to help the queer kids, he isn’t being fired. Maybe everyone assumes with the state breathing down his neck he’ll behave?

I get such a bee in my bonnet on these stories because of my own experiences being bullied as a kid. More than one teacher and administrator told my parents that until I acted like “the other boys” or “normal” there was nothing they could do to prevent the bullying incidents. Never mind that some of the worst bullying came from teachers. In middle school I was called “faggot” and “sissy” by four specific teachers far more often than most of the other kids. And then there was the time I was the one threatened with expulsion for being bullied again and again, unless I attending regular counseling sessions where, apparently, the counselor was trying to teach me to act like a normal boy.

A lot of people think that those kinds of days are behind us, but these incidents happening for the last several years at this school are merely one of many such cases. Fortunately, the ACLU keeps coming in to represent the students, and again and again the districts wind up paying big penalties for their discrimination, bigotry, and bullying. As Dan Savage has asked (many times) when will public school administrators get it through their thick heads?

And I agree with Dan on another thing. This story is a good reminder to go make a donation to the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon!

Weekend Update 5/12/2018: At least some good news

(click to embiggen)


Yep, it’s a weekend.

Even though I love the show and have watched it faithfully for five years, I wasn’t very surprised when Brooklyn 99 was canceled by Fox. One of the things the show excelled at (besides doing diversity right) was tackling important issues in a thoughtful way that was still funny hell. And let’s face it, diversity, thoughtfulness, and nuance are not exactly in Fox’s wheelhouse. Which isn’t to say the Fox’s entertainment network doesn’t carry diverse show. What I mean is that the people who make the business decisions are less likely to feel sympathy for such shows. No matter how much executives (at any network) may insist that it’s just about numbers and the bottom line, you can point to many examples of shows with worse numbers being kept around. Bias and sympathy do figure into how they see the numbers.

Goodbye, ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine.’ And thank you. It is a great show it is funny, and I agree with Mark Hamill who said on twitter that it was one of the great workplace comedies of all time, up there with shows such as The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Taxi.

Fortunately, the twitter storm and fan petitions and praise from famous actors and comedians seems to have paid off: ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’ saved by NBC and Brooklyn Nine-Nine Cast Praises Fans After NBC Saves Canceled Fox Show: ‘You Did This!’.

It is worth noting that among the NBC executive comments quoted in the various articles about the show is a reference to the fact the Brooklyn 99 was a show created and produced by a division of NBC-Universal, and sold to Fox originally. Not being a show that Fox made internally means that profits from syndication deals for reruns are not as high as they would be for a show of similar popularity that had been wholly owned by Fox. This also probably figured into NBC’s decision to give the show a 13 episode sixth season. They get a lot of good PR out of the move, will presumably get acceptable ratings for those 13 episodes, and will get just a little bit more out of syndication having these additional episodes int he can.

I fully expect this to be the final season of the show. I suspect the writers and show runners will think of it that way: write a good send-off that leaves a possibility for continuing, but don’t count on it.

Related: I think it was not good that a number of fans who were screaming, before the NBC announcement, about their fave show being removed were doing so by denigrating other shows. First of all, come on, don’t attack things other people like merely because you don’t. It doesn’t matter how much you may dislike another series (whether it be movies, TV shows, books, whatever), that doesn’t mean that there are not people who genuinely like it. It’s okay to critique, especially if a show is overtly racist (I’m looking at you, Roseanne reboot) or gratuitously misogynist (and now looking at you, Supernatural), but dismissal is not the same as critique.

There other thing, it isn’t really relevant. The shows most people were mentioning were not Fox shows. At least if you’re going to make an observation about, “How dare they cancel my fave while keeping X on the air” choose something that involves the same they. Pick something that Fox is keeping on the air to make your comparison to, like the very derivative 9-1-1, for instance.

Anyway, at least those of us who love the show will get some more Brooklyn 99. I can just quietly sob in the corner over hear that we can’t say the same for another of my favorites: Fox Cancels Fan Favorite Lucifer After Three Seasons.


Now let’s have a couple things that are more typical for a weekend update: Anti-Gay Former Michigan Assistant AG Loses Appeal To Keep His Law License. I’ve written before about this self-loathing closet case who target, stalked, harassed, and encouraged others to harass and send death threats to a young gay man who had been elected student body president of the same university the assistant attorney general had graduated from years earlier. Note that the guy used state equipment to do the stalking and to post the online harassment, as well as doing a lot of it when he was supposed to be working. In one incident, when neighbors had called in the suspicious car that had been circling the block where the student lived, the guy lied to police saying that he was staking out someone for a legitimate investigation.

Originally the Michigan Attorney General claimed to have investigated the instances and said the guy was merely expressing opinions. Then, after the parents of the harassed gay student were interviewed on TV about the incident, a prosecutor announced he would run against the AG to clean up the department (and polls showed he might win), then suddenly the AG asked an semi-retired judge to perform an outside investigation. While that judge couldn’t reveal the specifics of the original internal investigation, his own report indicated that all the evidence necessary to justify firing the assistant AG had been contained in the first investigation. Anyway, the anti-gay assistant AG was fired, then disbarred, and now he’s lost his last appeal of the disbarment.

Couldn’t happen to a more deserving guy.

Now, let’s hope that something similar happens to some school officials: Oregon school allegedly forced LGBTQ student to read Bible as punishment. Before anyone points out that there is a hearing coming up, please note that in the initial official report, the administrator who is disputing that these incidents constitute discrimination has admitted that the student was forced to read the Bible as punishment. So there isn’t really an “allegedly” there. The administrator and supervisor are only disputing that this and other incidents don’t count as discrimination. They aren’t denying that the things happened.

This is a public school, therefore a government-run institution, and the Constitution conservatives claim to love prohibits the establishment of religion, which means while acting in your official capacity you can’t use your religion to justify actions, and you sure as hell can’t force people to read your holy book to try to convince them to agree with you. Which, when you make a queer kid read the parts of the Bible you think condemn homosexuality as “punishment” of the crime of complaining about being called a faggot on school grounds, is clearly what the school official was doing.

The Oregon Department of Education has already made the finding that these incidents probably (duh) violate the state’s anti-discrimination law and the Constitution. I sure hope the ACLU is involved and these administrators get sued into oblivion.

It still isn’t unfathomable!

“Stop quoting people saying the bomber was a nice guy... he was an angry, hateful person— the bombs themselves are proof enough!”

Click to embiggen

It was bad enough that mainstream U.S. media didn’t start covering the story of the exploding FedEx packages being delivered in Austin, Texas until a white person was injured. Black man killed? No big deal. Black teen-ager killed (and another black woman injured by the bomb that killed the kid)? Again, no big deal. Even after the third bomb went off, injuring a hispanic woman, what did the FBI do? They issued a request for the bomber to call them.

The asked the bomber to please call them.

Two people killed by bombs in unexpected packages in less than two weeks, with local police saying they didn’t believe the attacks were random, and the FBI just says, “Well, maybe if we ask nicely the guy will turn himself in.” The Unabomber only killed three people with his bombs (over the course of 17 years), but he warranted the “largest manhunt in FBI history”?

I realize that it they might have been doing more than that behind the scenes, but given how several federal officials said they saw no link to terrorism and otherwise made very dismissive comments, I suspect not.

And now the bomber blew himself up after a short police chase (we don’t know if he killed himself on purpose or if his next explosive went off accidentally). And authorities are making more, “There’s no more threat” in the same breath that they admit they haven’t figured out if he had accomplices, nor how he picked his victims.

And headlines and subheads are mentioning how neighbors described the bomber as a nice guy.

First of all, several of those stories also quote friends reporting that he was “rough around the edges” and that he “would be intimidating and dominate every conversation.”

Apparently headline writing editors and such don’t understand some simple facts:

  • Nice guys don’t intentionally kill people with bombs
  • Nice guys don’t put on disguises to go into FedEx centers and mail bombs that are intended to kill the unsuspecting recepients
  • Nice guys don’t intimidate their way into dominating every conversation
  • Nice guys don’t post angry bigoted screeds about gay people being evil abominations
  • Nice guys don’t post angry screeds about women who get abortions or who take birth control
  • Nice guys don’t post angry screeds that some women deserve to be raped and argue that guys who commit rape shouldn’t be labeled sex offenders for the rest of their lives

And journalists, don’t say that you’re trying to be fair, or give both sides. He was a cowardly, hateful killer. There aren’t two legitimate sides to these incidents. There are victims, and there is the killer who was obviously a bad guy.

Also, stop with the “why did he do it” laments. He was angry. He was hateful. The bombs alone prove that. When you dig into the bigoted rants he posted online, the friends who describe his bullying behavior, and so forth—all of that corroborates the initial characterization as an angry, hateful, bad guy.

In one of the stories I read, the friend who described him as intimidating and dominating every conversation during High School, opined that since then he must have “succumbed to some sort of hate.” No, buddy, that intimidation and other behaviors you describe were clear signs of anger already there.

I understand why people often wind up describing the mass shooters and other killers of this type as a nice guy. Some don’t want to speak ill of the dead. Some don’t want to hurt the feelings of the family of the killer. Some are trying to absolve themselves of not having seen him for the danger he was. We don’t want to believe someone we know is a monster. Particularly when they are someone we are obligated to spend time with (we’re students at the same school, we are co-workers, we are related to them, we are friends with someone related to him, et cetera) we will make excuses and tell ourselves he’s just “rough around the edges” but under that we’re sure he’s capable of being a nice guy.

Now, I’m not saying that every angry high school boy is going to grow up to be a multiple murderer. Some of us discover the source of all the anger and learn to be better people.

That’s right, I said us.

I don’t claim to know all the sources of this guy’s anger, but part of me was cringing when reading that description of him dominating conversations by intimidating the other people in it—because I did that a lot. And it’s a form of interaction I can easily fall into to this day. I was lucky enough to first get out of the toxic environment caused by my abusive father when my parents divorce while I was a teen, but I didn’t understand for a long time that I was still carrying all the toxicity around. I was in my early twenties when a good friend was brave enough to call me out as being a verbal bully. Making me see for the first time just how much of the abuse I had internalized. It was a couple years after that before I was ready to admit that another source of my anger (and self-loathing) was being a closeted queer man. And it was during my coming out process that I was able to identify just how toxic the evangelical churches I was raised in were. It wasn’t just my abusive dad who filled me with all that poison.

Which gets me to one of the articles that pissed me off most: the New York Times describes the killer’s family as a tight-knit, godly one. That description, plus knowing he was homeschooled—plus those anti-gay, anti-abortion (complete with the usual slut-shaming plus ignorance of biology), pro-rape posts tells me what kind of religious background he came from, and therefore at least one source of that hate.

We don’t have to ask why. We already know, it’s just mainstream America doesn’t want to admit how much hate and anger is being cultivated in this country. It isn’t about the foreign so-called extremist groups recruiting. Because we aren’t willing to recognize the extent to which fundamentalist Christian churches are engaged in manufacturing these angry young men.


Edit to add: I found more information about some of his angry rants on line, so I updated the bullet list above.

Weekend Update 3/17/2018: Did no one see this coming?

Things you find in a closet (click to embiggen:

Another entry in my series on news that either came in after I posted my Friday Five, or new development in previously posted stories, or things that didn’t make the cut but deserve some commentary. This is also another in my series of posts pointing out that public figures who are most adamant about policing, judging, and criminalizing other people’s sexual behavior seem to always have some kind of immoral skeleton in their own closet.

Deputy Australian Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce resigns over sex scanda He’s a family-values politician, described as one of the “most staunch opponents of same-sex marriage” and gay rights in general, et cetera, has been having an affair with a staffer. Not only is he resigning his post, but he is leaving his wife (the mother of his four children) for the younger staffer who his pregnant. Did no one see this coming?

Last month in Utah we got first this headline: Rep. Jon Stanard resigns abruptly with little explanation followed up with this: Utah Rep. Jon Stanard, accused of meeting call girl for sex, used public money for hotel rooms. Before you ask, yes Stanard was also a typical family-values politician, pro-life, anti-gay politician: “Family values” politician Jon Stanard of Utah hates gay people… but he sure loves prostitutes!. Did no one see this coming?

Let’s not forget the governor of Missouri, arrested last week on charges that while he had his mistress tied up in bondage gear, he took pictures of her against her will, threatened to release the pictures to her family and the public if she told anyone about the affair they were having, and then did send the picture to someone. That’s three separate crimes under Missouri law. He’s refused to resign and had been blaming the whole thing on a jewish billionaire that the Republicans keep naming whenever they want to claim that protests aren’t genuine and so forth. Apparently somehow this guy forced him to take the pictures and store them on his computer and make the threats that were secretly recorded by the mistress’s husband? Well, things aren’t looking good for the family values, anti-gay, pro-life governor, as more bad news piles on: Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens’ nonprofit is an example of ‘secret cash’ trend, report says. So, the pro-family, anti-gay guy was cheating on his wife, blackmailing his mistress, sending revenge porn, and is breaking campaign finance laws. Did no one see this coming?

The headline on this one is true, but leaving out a lot: Anti-gay discrimination just cost this judge 3 years of pay Vance Day is a state judge in Oregon, and you may recall that Oregan legalized marriage equality before the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling. This guy repeatedly had his staff construct an elaborate system that included lying to any same sex couple that came in to get married that the judge wasn’t there, and so forth. As the state Supreme Court ruled when handing down the punishment: “That screening process demonstrated to respondent’s staff that, in exercising his statutory authority and judicial duty to solemnize marriages, he would not treat all couples fairly.”

But that’s not all he’s being sanctioned over. Day also had a strange relationship with a veteran suffering from PTSD whose case in Veteran Treatment Court had been presided over by Day. Despite the veteran being under orders not to have guns (because of previous felony Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol convictions), Day provided him with a gun on at least two occasions, and promised the man that Day would somehow get his other legal restrictions lifted. These details make very little sense, at the moment. Day invited the veteran to dinner at his house before this things happened, and this was after the veteran had appeared in court in front of Day, and at some point after that the gun incidents took place. One reason we don’t have details is that Day has been indicted on three criminal counts over these incidents (all separate from the judicial suspension). Until this goes to trial we won’t know what was going on. Oh, and also, after some altercations with referees of his son’s soccer games, he lied and claimed a ref assaulted him. So, the pro traditional values judge who went to extreme links to deny some gays equal treatment in his court, has been making false criminal allegations against people he disagrees with, circumventing laws to give guns to a convicted felony, and committed other yet-to-be specified in court (when those indictments are unsealed) official misconduct. Did no one see this coming?

But I have to ask, why, oh why would a vehemently anti-guy official suddenly take a peculiar interest and start offering big promises to another man? I’m just asking.

In other news, Maine House candidate who attacked 2 survivors of Florida shooting drops out of race. Leslie Gibson is (again) a so-called family values, pro-life, traditional marriage supporting politician. He had called one of the teen survivors of the Parkland shooting a skinhead lesbian (whatever that means), and another a bald-faced liar. When members of his own party called him out, he issued an apology to the young woman he called a skinhead lesbian, but left the comments about the other student standing. This all happened when he was running unopposed for reelection to his state legislative seat. A few days later, on the last day to register, a young woman registered as a democratic candidate for the seat, and another republican registered to run again him. And that’s when he dropped out of the race.

Listen: you can’t simultaneously dismiss these high school students’ protests and such as meaningless because they are merely children and don’t know anything, and also attack them as if they are public figures involved in the process. That’s super hypocritical. And an asshole move. Anyway, he did the usual claim that he’s not dropping out because he did anything wrong, but because this controversy is a distraction.

Yeah, right. Good riddance.

Weekend Update (3/10/2018): Another homophobe arrested for being a sexual predator

“I refuse to take gun control suggestions from people who ave never touched a gun, eat soap, and get confused about which restroom to use. Merica.” “'How can you talk about gun control when you're never fired a gun' how y'all anit gay and you've never sucked cock?”

(click to embiggen)

Once again stories that didn’t make it into the Friday Five, or new developments in stories that did, have come to my attention. So I’m going to share them with you, along with some commentary and context. Dan Savage used to post this irregular feature on the blog of the Seattle biweekly newspaper, The Stranger called “Youth Pastor Watch.” He had a Google news alert looking for the key phrase “youth pastor” and he would post stories about youth pastors being arrested or charged with molesting girls or boys, having affairs with the wives of congregates, and occasionally other crimes. And there were always concern trolls asking why he only posted news of youth pastors committing crimes. So he started occasionally throw in a story about a Youth Pastor who was in the news for doing something good. And half the time the youth pastor who hadn’t committed a crime would be shown the post with his story in among all these horrible crime stories and he would post a comment to the blog to the effect, “Not quite sure what I’m doing in this post.” You can’t please everyone, I guess.

The point of his posts and my referencing the now is merely a subset of a bigger problem. The evidence of the hundreds, nay, thousands of virulently anti-gay pastors and politicians who have turned out to be hiding some sexual shenanigans of their own has reached the point that I seriously think it should be required of journalists and police to start sniffing around in the background of the vocal anti-gay folks. In hopes of stopping things like this for going on for years: After Threatening Suicide, Anti-gay Pastor Ronnie Gorton Indicted on 47 Charges of Sexually Assaulting Boys. One of this guy’s victims was under 13 years old when the sexual assaults started and went on for more than seven years. At which point he found another teen victim. For some more details Munford pastor indicted on 47 counts of sexually assaulting teens.

I don’t want to deny anyone due process. But this stuff is crazy.

Other pastors have similar secrets: Pastor was ‘counseling’ the young, naked man tied up in his car, he says. Please note that’s what he says, now. When the police first came up to the car parked on a well-lit residential street that neighbors had called in for suspicious activity, the pastor had a different story. The young naked man was bound in nylon rope, sitting in the front seat. The minister was sitting in the back and had to “re-arrange his clothes” when he saw the police walking up. That pastor didn’t identify himself right away, and tried to assure the cops nothing wrong was happening because “We were just playing. We meet up from time to time to play.”

Playing is not counseling. Clearly, the pastor was afraid he was going to be arrested for kidnapping or something, so he told the truth. Sexual play. The young man probably has a humiliation/exhibition kink, and the pastor like to jerk-off while making naked young men do whatever he says. Mostly technically not illegal (public nudity laws being a thing), but when you rant from the pulpit about the supposed sexual immoralities of other people, encouraging your congregation to oppose gay rights laws in order to stamp out perversion, et cetera… well, no one at all should be surprised when it turns out you have more than a bit of experience with that perversion.

And I’m going to have to remember this the next time:

“If you insist that ‘How can you talk about gun control when you’re never fired a gun’ is a valid argument, then I’m free to conclude that the only reason you could possibly have a legitimate opinion about gay sex is if you have a lot of experience with it.”

(In addition to that fact that this liberal queer blogger used to be a card-carrying member of the NRA, has owned guns, has used those guns to hunt various animals for food, and so forth, as I explained here. So by their logic I can indeed lecture them about gun control.)


ETA: And then I saw this story after posting: Medical Board Finds Ex-Gay Torture Psychiatrist Guilty Of Having Sex With Male Patients. It wasn’t just having sex. Two of the patients thought the groping and such was supposed to be therapy at the beginning. So there was some coercion/deception going on. One of the patients was an 18-year-old sent to the doctor by his parents…

When the roll is called up yonder, or queer confessions of an ex-evangelical

Me wearing part of the uniform for the interdenominational youth touring choir I was a member of for many years.

Me wearing part of the uniform for the interdenominational youth touring choir I was a member of for many years.

Just a few months ago I was trying to explain to a friend who lives in the U.K. the weird hypocritical dogma of the typical American fundamentalist Christian, and wound up mentioning that although I disagreed vehemently with many things that Billy Graham preached, I always felt his basic faith was sincere. This is in contrast to my opinion of Graham’s son who has taken over running the ministry, who both on air and in-person came across as an especially unethical used car salesman.

Even so, I was a bit surprised at my reaction to the news that the 99-year-old Billy Graham, oft described as “America’s Pastor,” died yesterday. Let’s make no mistake: while Graham was unusual among Southern Baptist ministers in the 1950s to embrace desegregation (“there is no segregation at the foot of the cross”) and at least gave lip service to decrying racism, he was an unrepentant homophobe. Statements he made over the years included: “Let me say this loud and clear, we traffic in homosexuality at the peril of our spiritual welfare.” Or: “Is AIDS a judgment of God? I could not be sure, but I think so.” Graham claimed to be non-partisan, but often came down on the Republican side of many issues. “At 93, I never thought we would have to debate the definition of marriage. The Bible is clear — God’s definition of marriage is between a man and a woman.” And it’s really hard to justify some of the comments he made while discussing Jews and the media with President Nixon in the 1960s.

But Billy could preach! Oh, how he could preach! It’s difficult to explain to someone who didn’t grow up in an evangelical community in the 50s, 60s, or 70s the cherished place Graham inhabited in the hearts of the faithful, semi-faithful, and faithful-adjacent. Graham wasn’t just held up as an example of a good man and great preacher, people were so certain he was inspired by god, that quoting him sometimes had a stronger effect than quoting from the scripture.

As a teenaged Southern Baptist (very closeted) queer boy in the 70s, I was perhaps more acutely aware of how much Graham was revered than most. While many saw my flare for the dramatic as a troubling hint of queerness, others saw it as a calling from god to become a preacher. The combination of that theatricality with my ability to memorize and recall huge sections of the Bible, as well as a facility with language, and being quick-thinking on my feet had people talking about what a great preacher I would make when I was still in grade school. Once I was older, and had more experience thanks to musical groups, drama club, and the debate team, well, it surprised no one when elders of the church started trying to convince me to get ordained in my late teens.

At the same time, completely unbeknownst to me, Mom and several women in our church were meeting once a week to pray that god would “rescue” me from the temptation of homosexuality. I hadn’t come out to anyone, at all, at the time. And while there are been some very furtive sexual relationships with a few boys my age during middle school, by the time people’s suspicions had risen to that point I was celibate, secretly praying even more fervently than they were, and doing everything I possibly could to be straight.

Which is precisely why, when I was approached about ordination, I started meeting with one of the associate pastors and studying to become a minister. Like millions of religious queers before me, for some time I thought that embracing “full-time Christian service” might be the only way to make my feelings for other guys go away.

I should mention that in Southern Baptist churches at the time, ordination was something that happened usually at your local church before you went off to Bible college. Which is the reverse of the way most other denominations do it. So I was still a teen in my first year attending community college while meeting with the pastors and deacons of our church several times a week to study and pray about my future.

I wish I could say that what caused me to back out was an epiphany about my sexual orientation resulting in self-acceptance replacing the self-loathing I had been taught all my life. That tipping point wouldn’t come for a few more years, yet. I also wish I could say that it was learning that the origins of the Southern Baptist denomination were much more racist and pro-slavery than I had been taught. That shocked me a little bit, but I was already quite familiar with the fact that only a few years before this the Southern Baptist Convention had finally denounced segregation of the races.

What did bring me to my senses were two conversations that happened close together, each with a different deacon in our church.

In the first, the elder in question took issue with my continued interest in science, particularly my interest in astronomy and evolution. He was quite unimpressed by my argument that a god who could plan and carry out a plan involved 15 billions years of stellar evolution eventually leading to humans was a far more impressive feat then simply waving a magic wand and making everything at once. While he referenced the Baptist principle that interpreting the scripture was something each person must do on their own, he also made it clear that my adherence to scientific fact was not an asset for a pastor.

In the conversation with another deacon, I mentioned an article I had read recently in which I learned that Fred Rogers, famous as Mister Rogers on PBS stations, was an ordained Presbyterian minister, who considered his work producing the children’s show his ministry. I thought it was a great example of how doing god’s work could take many forms The deacon had a very different view. First, he pointed out that (in the opinion of typical Southern Baptists), Presbyterians were “soft” on Biblical inerrancy. Further, if Rogers was actually doing god’s work, he would use that daily television show to tell children directly the story of Jesus. Since he didn’t do that, he wasn’t doing god’s work, according to this deacon. Finally, he said, “You know that Billy Graham was raised Presbyterian? He joined the Baptists because we’re actually doing god’s work.”

And those two conversations were the final nails in the coffin of me becoming a Baptist minister. The epiphany I had after those conversations was that all of the church leaders who had been urging me to become a minister didn’t really see the makings of a pastor in me. Instead, they thought that anyone who had Talent, whether it be intelligence, a gift for language, or whatever, who didn’t use that to evangelize wasn’t doing god’s work. That simply being a good person and doing what you can to make the corner of the world you were in a better place and to love your neighbors wasn’t enough.

I didn’t call things off until the end of the Sunday evening Church service where, as part of the process, I delivered a sermon and otherwise conducted the service. I still think that my John 16:33 sermon is an incredible work of art. But even as I was giving it, I knew the whole thing was a mistake. I suspect if I hadn’t called it off, that the deacon who was so concerned about my love of science would have done what he could to derail things. Regardless, there were a few more times over the next couple of years that leaders in that church and related churches came to me and asked me to prayerfully reconsider become a preacher.

I had learned my lesson: if the evangelical faith couldn’t accommodate both scientific fact and Mister Rogers, well, it didn’t have a place for me, either. I didn’t find my real place until several years later, but that’s a story for another day.


Note: The title comes from the hymn “When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder” by James M. Black, hymn #482 in the 1956 Baptist Hymnal.

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