It all started back in 2012: Jerry Falwell Jr & his wife met a young pool boy on vacation. Then they started ‘helping’ him.. The Falwells were staying at a ritzy hotel in Miami, where 21-year-old Giancarlo Granda was working as a pool attendant. The hunky young man started mysteriously spending a lot of time with the middle-aged couple during their stay. And later he started flying with them on their private jet to various places. He was seen hanging out with the couple on many occasions, without any explanation.
Pro-Trump Pastor Jerry Falwell Gave Hot Young Pool Boy $1.8 Million & Flew Him First Class on Personal Vacations While Promoting Anti-Gay “Christian Values” as Liberty University President. Shortly after befriending the pool boy, the Falwells asks some associates to help them find a business they could buy in order to give their new friend “a good income.” They eventually settled on purchasing a “youth hostel” in Miami, providing the $1 million down payment on the mortgage (the property was valued at more than $4 million at the time), plus $800,000 to renovate the place. After the renovations, promotional material for the hostel listed the former pool boy as the owner, though later court papers list the owner as a shell company that is owned by the Falwells, their son, and one other family member.
This youth hostel was actually the first part of this whole sordid affair that came to light in 2017 when a reporter for Politico wrote: My Weekend at the Falwells’ South Beach Flophouse and Falwell, Jr. Opened ‘Gay-Friendly’ Youth Hostel With 21-Year-Old Pool Boy . The hostel offers what is described as dorm-like accommodations for $20 a night. There is a bar on the premises, a liquor store next door, and a sign on the front door that lists things not allowed inside, including both politics and religion. It is also described as veery gay friendly, with posters for cabaret shows at local gay clubs on display in the aforementioned bar, for example. In other words, it is a business making money on things that Falwell, his ministry and his university all regularly and vitriolically condemn. But you’ll notice when you read that story that most of the reporter’s concern is about possible tax-evasion that this purchase of a youth hostel may represent.
The story finally started registering when this happened: Jerry Falwell Jr and pool boy sued over business venture. Two Miami businessmen, a father and son with the names Jesus Fernandez Sr, and Jesus Fernandez, Jr. had consulted back in 2012 or 2013 with the former pool boy about possible business ventures that he could enter into with the backing of the Falwells, and they had at least one meeting with both Jerry Falwell Jr. and Granda the pool boy. They allege that they were promised shares in the business and other payments, which have not been forthcoming. It was in depositions for this trail that the amount of money the Falwells had given to the pool boy (that $1.8 million above) was revealed. Falwell claims it was a loan, but has so far not produced any proof that there is a repayment plan or that any money has been coming back to them.
Still, at these point it is all a little odd, and several people were making guesses about the nature of the relationship between the Falwells and the pool boy (I mean, why did they suddenly take an interest in a much younger pool attendant to the point of flying him around in their private jet, putting him up at their home at least once, and handing him nearly two million dollars?). Those of us who were guessing various sexual shenanigans (are the Falwells into something like a hot-wife or cuckold kink? Do they just like threeways?) weren’t being taken seriously.
Until this bombshell: Exclusive: Trump fixer Cohen says he helped Falwell handle racy photos.
So Michael Cohen (currently serving a 3 year federal prison sentence for tax evasion, bank fraud and campaign finance violations over his hush payments made to a porn star Donald Trump had an affair with in order to keep the affair secret) was asked by Jerry Falwell Jr to recover some “racy photos, the kind that should remain private between a husband and wife” that someone was trying to blackmail him with. Cohen flew to Miami, and claims that he met with the person, made some kind of offer, and that the person destroyed all of the photos–except one that Cohen himself kept. This happened just a few months before the 2015 Iowa caucuses, and crucially, just before Jerry Falwell, Jr stunned a lot of people by endorsing Donald Trump. An endorsement which, by the way, has been widely reported to have been engineered by Cohen.
Some people will ask why this whole sordid affair is newsworthy. First of all, Jerry Falwell, Jr. is a public figure who regularly endorses political candidates and causes, encouraging his large following to vote and donate in these political issues. He does with the aid of several large tax-exempt organizations (some of which are legally forbidden from advocating specific political causes, by the way). There are legitimate questions about just how much of his supposedly private for profit business ventures have been financed with tax exempt donations to the non-profit entities. In which case, these businesses are being financed illegally with taxpayer money. Among the favorite targets of Falwell’s tax-payer subsidized condemnations are the civil rights of gay people, the health and reproductive rights of women, the civil rights of muslims, et cetera and ad nauseam.
On top of all of that, it appears that his endorsement of Trump, which came at a crucial moment just before the Iowa caususes, may have been a repayment to Cohen and Trump for helping to make the sex scandal of the “racy pictures” go away.
Falwell hasn’t just railed against what he calls sexual perversion, he has actively worked to roll back laws protecting everyone’s right to decide their own reproductive health, including trying to legally regulate what consenting adults (straight and queer alike) can do in the privacy of their own relationships. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has been paying attention to such issues for the last several decades that someone who publicly reviles other people for their personal sexual activity has some sexual skeletons in their closet, yet here, once again, that appears to be the case.
Now, we don’t know the exact contents of these racy pictures that Cohen paid someone to destroy. We don’t know for a fact whether the pool boy engaged in some kind of kinky sex with Mr & Mrs Falwell beginning in 2012 and continuing through early 2016 when they were still regularly seen in his company (remember, he was living, attending college, and running that business in Florida, which the Falwells live in Virginia, so all the times they were seen together weren’t merely a matter of happening to bump into a neighbor). We don’t know if that is what so endeared him to them that they shelled out $1.8 million to buy him a sketchy business in 2013. We don’t yet know how much money nor where said money came from that Cohen paid out to someone in Miami in 2015 to make the racy pictures go away. Likewise we don’t yet know who it was that was using those photos.
Now, since one of the times that the pool boy stayed at the Falwells’ mansion in Virginia was after Cohen made the racy photos go away, I think it is very clear that the pool boy wasn’t the person trying to blackmail them. It is very possible that the pool boy is in some of those photos—Cohen described the pictures as “very bad,” so they clearly can’t just be pictures of Falwell and his wife having sex all on their lonesome, as is implied by the phrase “of the sort that should remain private between a husband and wife.”
I have no beef with people living a monogamish relationship. I certainly don’t begrudge anyone the right to engage in kinky sex. One of the points I frequently make when talking about the injustice of sodomy laws, restrictions in reproductive rights, and civil rights for queer people is that as long as no one is getting hurt and everyone involved is a consenting adult—what people do to get their rocks off should be their own business, and outside the review of the law.
But I do have a beef with hypocrisy from people who are actively engaged in taking those kinds of rights away from other people. Particularly if they are either making their living from the tax payer (politicians, prosecutors, police, and so on) or making their living from tax exempt activities (which means indirectly funded by tax payers). If it turns out that Falwell’s decision to endorse self-described pussy-grabber Trump in the Republican primaries in part in gratitude for trying to make the scandal of the racy photos go away, well, we enter an entirely different level. Falwell more than meets the legal definition of a public figure, and this affair—whatever the salacious details—involves public money, the outcome of political campaigns, and the subsequent assault on the rights of LGBT people, women, immigrants, people who do not subscribe to Falwell’s brand of evangelical christianism, and others.
Giancarlo Granda, now in his late twenties and attending grad school in Georgetown, has issued a number of terse replies to various reporters over the series of events. When asked whether he knew anything about the photos, his reply was that he wasn’t the person who attempted to blackmail the Falwells. Which wasn’t exactly the question that was asked. He has a few other gripes with the way the story has been reported: Jerry Falwell’s Pool Boy: Stop Calling Me “Pool Boy”. Sorry, Giancarlo, that isn’t likely to happen. You were doing your job in a skimpy swimsuit as a pool attendant at a Miami hotel when the Falwell’s met you and pulled you into their life in whatever capacity. You went on those trips with them on their private, tax-exempt jet. And I don’t know anyone who believes it was because of your business acumen. So I’m not willing to think you’re a completely innocent victim in all of this.
It will be interesting to see what comes out of the Fernandez’s lawsuit. And if Cohen really did save one of the pictures, well, who knows what will happen, next?
Meanwhile, you might enjoy this video: Rachel Maddow: Michael Cohen Said He Fixed ‘Racy Photo’ Problem For Falwell Jr (Rachel also warns you may feel the need to take a shower after hearing some of the details):
(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)
First, last night my husband and I saw Avengers: Endgame at the nearby theatre where you can get real food and drinks brought out to you. They make an nice Old Fashioned, by the way. Anyway, we had just gotten seated in the crowded theatre before the advertisements started and my phone buzzed—and before you say anything, I always shut it off before the Previews start and I put my watch into theatre mode, so I’m not one of those guys. Anyway, I check it and there is a panicked text message from one of my aunts who is scared that my husband or I are dead. Or something. Why, because she saw this news: 4 dead after construction crane crushes cars in Seattle.
I refrained from pointing out that since the greater metropolitan Seattle area has a population of about 1.5 million, the probability that Michael or I were part of an incident were four people died and three more were injured was about 0.0000046%. And statistically there is a traffic fatality in the region about once every three days. And we don’t actually live in Seattle, any more, and tend to spend our entire weekends up in Shoreline and Edmonds and the other neighboring suburbs. But I understand that it’s a very grisly image: you’re driving along, minding your own business, and several tons of steel fall out of the sky, crushing your car and several around you. As it was, the crane had fallen several hours earlier, when Michael and I were eating a late brunch in a Family Pancake restaurant in Edmonds. And at the time my aunt heard the news and panicked, we were sitting in a theatre in Mountlake Terrace—we weren’t in Seattle at all.
Today in follow-up news I learn there is kind of a connection: one of the four people killed was a student at Seattle Pacific University, where I attended years ago. I am happy to learn that the baby and mother who were among the injured were released from the hospital last night. I hope they have a speedy recovery.
Now, we go from tragic accident to another horrific mass shooting. On the last day of Passover as a synagogue, no less: Woman killed, 3 injured in shooting at California synagogue. Just horrifying the people think walking into a house of worship with an automatic weapons is a reasonable response to anything. And that the only thing that we could possibly do in this situations is the old thoughts-and-prayers BS: ‘The blood spilled today is on your hands’: Trump slammed for ‘thoughts and prayers’ comment after synagogue shooting.
Hate crimes are up since the alleged president was unduly elected. And they are being committed by angry white men who are often literally citing the pussy-grabber-in-chief during the execution of their crimes. This isn’t tragedy, this is part of an active campaign of hate and terror, encouraged by the person currently occupying the White House: Opinion: Why Poway Proves Again That Trump Has To Go. But also aided and abetted by the vast majority of the Republican Party. Yesterday I linked to a story about why Twitter doesn’t mass ban Nazis (Why Won’t Twitter Treat White Supremacy Like ISIS? Because It Would Mean Banning Some Republican Politicians Too), but there’s more to it than policy. The algorithms which work perfectly fine in other parts of the world to identify and ban Nazis and Nazi sympathizers to conform with local laws, sweep up a lot of Republican politicians, including the president. Not because the algorithms are less perceptive than humans, but because those politicians are saying, promoting, and encouraging the genocidal beliefs and policies of the Nazis.
And I will say it again: this isn’t a new phenomenon. The Republican Party has been the home of white nationalism since the sixties.
And those white nationalists are just getting bolder and bolder: Self-Proclaimed Nationalists Interrupt Author, Chant ‘This Land Is Our Land’ at Politics and Prose Bookstore. They’re completely oblivious to the fact that the land all of us U.S. citizens live on was stolen from Native Americans, who were massacred and driven off. It’s stolen land. I’m also irritated at them stealing lyrics from the guy who’s guitar famously sported the slogan, “This machine kills fascists.”
They were there because Jonathan Metzl, a professor of sociology, medicine, and health at Vanderbilt University, as at the store to do a reading and discuss his recent book, Dying of Whiteness: How the Politics of Racial Resentment Is Killing America’s Heartland. The protestors are apparently all former members of Identity Evropa, another white supremacist group many of whose members were recently identified as members of the military and police officers—who began losing their jobs because of some of the illegal activities associate with the group. The new group calls itself AIM (American Identity Movement), and was insisting that they had nothing to do with the old group, but that’s already been shown to be a lie.
In another act of thievery, I have to point at the the initialism AIM is also the name of the American Indian Movement, an group that advocates for Native America civil rights and so forth. So it’s not enough that they try to assert ownership of stolen land, but they’re operating under a stolen name, too.
But we can’t let all this hatred turn us into haters ourselves! Neither can we allow these acts of terror and intimidation to succeed. I agree with Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein: The rabbi injured in the shooting wants Jewish people to ‘fill up the synagogues’.
“We’re not going to be intimidated or deterred. Terror will not win and as Americans, we can’t and won’t cower in the face of this senseless hate… A little bit of light pushes away a lot of darkness. We need a lot of light now.”
What does a self-loathing closet case anti-gay ex-Congressman do after somehow getting a sweetheart deal on his financial crimes prosecution?
So, disgraced former Republican Congressman Aaron Shock is in the news again: Former GOP Congressman Aaron Schock spotted at Coachella making out with a guy and What Happens at Coachella Doesn’t Stay at Coachella (If You’re Hanging with a Gay Right Wing Republican). He was a public official who voted for and campaigned on anti-gay causes. He tried to make it legal for people to fire folks merely for being suspected of being gay. He voted against amending federal hate crimes laws to include crimes where the victims were targeted on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, gender and disability. He voted against the repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in December 2010. He has never renounced those positions, even after resigned from office while he was being charged with a lot of financial malfeasance.
Last month prosecutors reached an agreement with Schock where all charges against him were dropped in exchange for him paying $42,000 to the IRS (taxes owed on a fraction of the money he illegally obtained while in congress) and $68,000 to his congressional campaign fund. As part of the deal, Schock’s campaign committee pled guilty to a misdemeanor count of failing to properly report expenses.
For years rumors circulated around about the anti-gay congressmen, because of his unusual fashion choices and the years of being unmarried and wealthy but always having unmarried male “roommates.” But things hit mainstream media after someone reported that his personal Twitter account and Instagram account was following hundreds of gay models and male athletes who were always known for posting pictures of themselves scantily clad. Shock abruptly unfollowed those hundreds of accounts en mass when a major news site finally mentioned the gay rumors
Then on a taxpayer-funded trip abroad Congressman Shock had this guy who was listed as a staff photographer (but he never took pictures) put in a hotel room with a door adjoining his, get upgrades and other things using programs that are usually meant for spouses, and so on. The supposed photographer sat with Shock at banquets similarly to the spouses of other congressmen on the trip, The supposed photographed posed in pictures standing beside Shock like the spouses of other congressmen and the American service members abroad they met with on the trip. Read that again: the official staff photographer didn’t take pictures, he posed as if he was the congressman’s spouse in the pictures.Let’s not forget the time when when he was walking around a gay neighborhood with reporters during Pride week where he was supposed to be talking about some urban issues but he kept getting distracted on camera with his eyes following the hot shirtless men who walked by. Those are among the many, many, many reasons that everyone with a lick of sense had been saying for years that the anti-gay (ex-)Congressman is probably a closeted gay man.
I’ve seen people–gay people–posting on some sites that Shock’s private life is his business, and if out gay guys want to hang with him, we shouldn’t judge.
He used the power of his office to cause harm to queer people. He used the power of his office to argue that anyone should have the right to fire, evict, or refuse to give medical services if they even suspect that person might be gay. He argued that employers and private citizens should be able to pry into other queer people’s private lives and discriminate against them. Until he makes amends for that by coming out, apologizing for the harm he caused, and make some kind of significant contribution to pro-queer causes, he has forfeited any right to a private sex life of his own. And I can absolutely judge any other queer people who friends with the douche who enabled hate crimes and more.
Leader of church that was the result of someone making up their own version of christianity says other people can’t make up their own version of christianity
I’m not going to link to Everett Piper’s full commentary (published in the Washington Times—a small far-right newspaper not to be confused with the prestigious Washington Post), but the article above has a link, and it’s not hard to find. The title of Piper’s commentary is: “Pete Buttigieg doesn’t get to make up his own Christianity.” And that’s just hilarious!
Because Piper is a member of the Weslyan Methodist Church (and is the president of a Weslyan Methodist college), which is a denomination that form in 1843 when it split off from the Methodist Episcopal Church, which officially split from the Church of England in 1784, which was formed in 1534 with King Henry VIII split with the Roman Catholic Church. And each of those splits were over doctrinal differences (yes, there was a specific personal and political aim that Henry was going for, but it was over a doctrinal dispute about what would constitute reasons for annulling a marriage). That means that each of those splits was because someone decided to make up their own version of christianity.
Mayor Pete is a member of the Episcopal Church, an American denomination that is part of the Anglican Communion. And the Episcopal Church has been accepting of gay and lesbian members, priests, and bishops for some years now. Mayor Pete wasn’t even one of the movers and shakers in that regard, so you can’t even accuse him of having made that particular doctrinal change.
Piper’s denomination, while being a splinter from a splinter of the Anglican Communion, has far more in common with fundamentalist evangelical denominations such as the Southern Baptists, than the Episcopal Church. And many of those fundamentalist evangelical denominations which Piper considers to be practicing his version of christianity are descended from groups that split from the Roman Catholic Church back in the year 1517, after Martin Luther nailed 95 theses (proposals for reforms) to the door of his church.
Each of the thousands of denominations are the result of someone deciding to make up their own version of christianity. If Piper is going to insist that no one has the right to do that, he darn well better resign from his current church and go join the Roman Catholic Church. Of course, if anyone confronted Piper about this, he would quickly deflect, because the real issue is that Piper and his co-religionists don’t think that denominations such as the Episcopalians are “real christians.” But he doesn’t want to admit that. Instead, he tries to cast this as somehow it is Mayor Pete all by himself deciding that queer people can be out and non-celibate and be good christians at the same time.
The fact that christian denominations such as the Episcopalians, the United Church of Christ, and the Presbyterians, welcome and affirm queer members is something Piper and his ilk want to ignore. Just as they keep pretending that it is only a minority of the U.S. population that favors marriage equality and civil rights protections for queer people.
And what really worries them is the growing support in almost all denominations, especially among younger christians, for full acceptance of and legal equality for gay, lesbian, bi, transgender, et cetera people. Because it’s just another reason why many of those unwelcoming denominations are seeing the membership shrinking. Of course, I’m not the only person to observe this: Why do right wing Christians find Pete Buttigieg so threatening? Here’s the answer — The attacks on the South Bend mayor from severe fundamentalists will surely continue in the months ahead.
I suspect that Mayor Pete won’t actually wind up as the party’s nominee, but I hope he keeps making the haters foam at the mouth! And the more they do, the harder it is for others to ignore the bigotry
If you want to know more about Mayor Pete and his candidacy for president: Who is Pete Buttigieg? Meet the gay millennial mayor surging in the Democratic primary.
Let’s begin with a series of stories that are specifically relevant here in my home state of Washington.
I have occasionally written before about our local perennial anti-tax, anti-gay, anti-well-anything-decent initiative filer Tim Eyman. A man whose full-time job for a couple of decades has been running these shitty initiatives to restrict the power of the legislature to raise taxes, to make it difficult for local governments and counties to raise taxes, to stop transit projects, to repeal gay civil rights protections and so many more. He famously planned to make his official announcement of filing one anti-gay initiative dressed in a pink tutu because he somehow thought that would be funny—one of his supporters showed up with a rented Darth Vader costume and convinced him to wear that instead.
A bit over a month ago his usually operation switched gears when the Attorney General filed a lawsuit against him and one of his paid signature gathering groups for campaign finance violations including money laundering and diverting a lot of funds for Eyman’s personal use. The state elections commission had already ruled on some of his earlier campaigns that this sort of thing was frequently happening, and in a settlement of those charges some years ago, Eyman agreed to never the the treasurer of an initiative campaign or similar operation. But that apparently didn’t stop the malfeasance.
So, right after that, he sent out a whining money beg to his supporters, in which he also mentioned that he was filing for personal bankruptcy and that his wife was divorcing him. And it is mostly in the realm of that separate bankruptcy filing that he came into the news this week: Judge refuses to let Eyman back out of bankruptcy. So, when he filed for bankruptcy, his claim was that between his wife leaving him and that fundraising has become less successful (which he was blaming on the lawsuit that had just been filed—I guess his argument was that donors heard rumors of the lawsuit coming and had stopped sending in money?), plus the estimated legal fees for defending in that lawsuit, that he was going broke. He filed for Chapter 11, which allows for a reorganization and gives the bankrupt person some same in how the finances are sorted out.
The state has since asked the court to convert this to a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, where all assets are liquidated and then the court decides how to parcel out to the debtors. They argued that the primary purpose of the filing was to protect his wealth from the lawsuit—in other words, to prevent any punitive action of the courts from actually, you know, punishing him. And to bolster their argument, they produced bank records showing that he is spending money and an incredible rate, among other things.
This news going public apparently is not going over well with the donors who had started sending in money for his legal defense fund. So Eyman had filed a counter motion to end the bankruptcy proceedings entirely, all but admitting that the only real point of the filing was to avoid being penalized later.
The judge didn’t let him out of the filing, but also didn’t grant the state’s request. What he did do was order that Eyman has to every month file a list of exactly what he’s spending his money on, along with an estimate of his expenses for the coming months, and that at a particular date ahead, file a budget that the court will enforce.
This comes one week after the judge in the lawsuit dealt him another blow: Tim Eyman loses in court, faces possible lifetime ban on managing political finances . The lawsuit is still in early stages. There isn’t a jury or anything, yet. But part of the process includes the state outlining the kinds of penalties they will ask the jury and the judge to consider. And one of those was a lifetime ban on having any management or control over the finances of any political campaign. Eyman countered that this would infringe on his constitution right to free speech, because the courts have ruled that political spending is a form of speech.
The judge ruled, based on Supreme Court rulings in the matter, that what the court has said that spending your own money for political reasons is protected speech, but not spending other people’s money. She also pointed out that similar lifetime bans have been handed out in various jurisdictions (such as the one forbidding him from being a treasurer of a political committee) without the courts ruling them unconstitutional. This doesn’t mean that he has been banned, it just means that it remains an option in the proceedings.
And all of this is separate from his criminal trial of stealing an office chair from a store: Watch-WA Anti Tax Zealot, Tim Eyman, Steals Office Chair from Office Supply Store- in campaign shirt. And don’t forget the follow-up: Tim Eyman films himself trying to return the chair he allegedly stole. I’m sorry, just watch the video in the first story. Tell me that was an accident! He claims that since he came back inside the store and bought other things, that he meant to tell the clerk about the chair, or that he thought he did tell the clerk. But witnesses at the scene note that he tried to decline the offer of one of the employees to carry take his heavy purchases out to his car on a handtruck, and when they wouldn’t be deterred, insisted that they stack the stuff up next to his car, then he fumbled with his keys for many minutes until the clerk went back inside.
My only regret on this story is that, since Tim is a well-to-do white guy, that he’ll only get a slap on the wrist for stealing a $70 chair.
Imagine for a minute how all of this would go down if he wasn’t white…
Now we go from anti-tax/anti-gay a-holes who troll the tax system, to another kind of troll: Online trolls hijacked a scientist’s image to attack Katie Bouman. They picked the wrong astrophysicist. So, along with the story about that image that scientists created from 5 million terrabytes of data from hundreds of telescopes around the world to finally get a look at the supermassive accretion disk around a supermassive blackhole, people were sharing images of astrophysicist Katie Bouman with the giant stack of hard drives.
A bunch of misogynist guys online started spreading the story that another scientist had done most of the work. And the put his picture and several lies into memes of their own to share. He came back at them, hard. Since these trolls are usually also anti-gay, it seems like a bit of poetic justice that the guy they tried to make into their anti-feminist hero not only wouldn’t play along, but also is openly gay. And he used the media attention to point out that we need to do more to encourage girls and women into pursuing science careers, and that his branch of study, astrophysics is especially in need of more diversity.
As both he and Bouman point out in the various stories: hundreds of scientists contributed. Many many algorithms were developed and used to pull data from the various kinds of telescopes involved. Bouman coordinated the assembly, and contributed algorithms of her own, but she never claimed to be the sole discoverer.
This kind of science takes a whole lot of people. Not just because there is a lot of data to get through, but because different people bring different perspectives, and as they interact, more interesting ideas emerge. So, we need more people in science, and we need more kinds of people in science!
And yet another kind of troll: More than half of banned books challenged for LGBTQ content – The American Library Association noted there’s a “greater number of challenges” to LGBTQ books — “especially those with transgender characters.”. Because of course they are. Dang it, why are people so scared of queer kids? Why?
Finally, I promised at least some good news, and here it is! The first official teaser for Star Wars Episode IX dropped, and it is so good! Sometimes I wish we lived in a galaxy far, far away, where evil can be defeated with courage, ingenuity, and a light sabre…
STAR WARS: EPISODE IX – THE RISE OF SKYWALKER Teaser Trailer [HD] Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher:
(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)
Celestial fruits on earthly ground, or a queer ex-evangelical looks at christianist thoughts on ‘chosen people’
First, let’s handle a few caveats: I was raised Southern Baptist in the U.S., so I am most familiar with that particular subset of the larger evangelical/christianist/dominionist community. I have considered myself both an ex-evangelical and ex-Christian for many years—I didn’t leave the church, the church rather violently drove this queer science-loving person out. Finally, I use the word christianist in these essays to refer specifically to people who claim to follow Christ and his teachings, but who actively engage in words and deeds that are contrary to those teachings.
I have several times found myself in discussion with conservative christianists of various stripes on the topic of religious freedom where a person will insist they believe in religious freedom, but then say that being muslim ought to be illegal or something similar. When you try to point out the contradiction, many of them are genuinely confused. If you question them closely enough, you’ll find that many believe the word “religion” only applies to Christianity and Judaism.
One of the most public examples happened a few years ago when a state legislator in the south freaked out when she found out that the school voucher bill she had fought so hard to pass was being using by muslims in her state to divert tax dollars to their religious schools. She was absolutely livid in her first response, even though allowing parents to use tax dollars to send their kids to religious schools was exactly what the bill had been about. Her staffers and fellow Republicans had to explain to her that “religious schools” meant schools sponsored by any religion, not just Christian and Jewish schools.
A friend has told me the story of how back in school she had once signed up for a Comparative Religions class thinking she would finally get to learn what the differences were between Catholics and Lutherans and Methodists, et al—and how only a few minutes into the first class session as the teacher started talking about Buddhists and Muslims and Taoists and so on she started feeling really embarrassed. She hadn’t told anyone that’s what she was expecting, she was merely metaphorically kicking herself because none of the other religions had even occurred to her when she had read the description of the class.
There are the large number of christianists who insist that buddhism isn’t a religion, “It’s a philosophy!” I’ve been told many times that hinduism isn’t a religions—“It’s like greek mythology, no one believes it any more!” Tell that to the millions of people participating in the Ganesh festivals every year! And so on.
Since about 66% of the U.S. population identifies as christian, while people who subscribe to non-christian religions amount to only about 6% of the U.S. population, it isn’t difficult to understand why many americans would be less well informed on the topic of non-christian faiths. It’s easy to shrug this all off as people being clueless about things outside their own experiences, but it has real world consequences. It influences their decisions in the voting booth, and the policies they are willing to support.
To get back to christianist attitudes toward Jewish people, the fact that many of them believe that the word “religion” only applies to a Christians and Jews isn’t a sign of ecumenical thinking. Because most fundamentalist and evangelical christians view Jews as just junior varsity christians. This takes a couple of different forms. Some of them think that Jews are god’s chosen people who just failed to recognize Jesus as the Messiah, but they are still faithful adherents to the oldest of god’s teachings and still worship the one true god—they just aren’t doing it quite right. Others think Jews used to be god’s chosen people, but because they didn’t recognize Jesus, they no longer are chosen, and in fact no longer worship the true god at all.
The latter group is where I believe most of the more aggressively anti-semitic actions and rhetoric originates. Even the ones who aren’t openly anti-semitic, only tolerate the continued existence of Jewish people because they believe there is a special duty to convince Jews to convert to christianity. It’s like they think god will give them a gold star for every Jew they convert.
They also have that attitude toward other non-christians: our worth, to them, is solely as potential converts. And the less likely they think we are to agree to become born-again, the less value they place on our lives. And that also, has real world consequences.
Note: The title of today’s post comes from “We’re Marching to Zion” by Isaac Watts and Robert Lowry, #308 in the 1956 Baptist Hymnal.
Haste to prepare the way, or an ex-evangelical explains christianist attitudes toward Israel and Israelies
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
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:
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.”
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.
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!
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.