War Is the Force that Gives Masculinity Meaning

In 2002, when Pulitzer Prize winner, Chris Hedges published War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, he wrote in depth about the warrior culture that is the USA. “The communal march against an enemy generates a warm, unfamiliar bond with our neighbors, our community, our nation, wiping out unsettling undercurrents of alienation and dislocation,” he wrote. “It gives us purpose, meaning, a reason for living.”

In 2014 the American military-industrial-media complex is still salivating for war to further line its pockets. And a president elected to get us out of two wars in which we were mired, displays caution but finds himself pressured on many sides to do something warrior-like.

The drumbeat includes the usual: ramping up of fear against an enemy, claims of a threat to what’s now called the “homeland,” and images of cruelty that invoke the sense that “we can’t let them get away with that, especially when they do it to Americans.” Few are interviewed in mainstream media who argue against the whole mindset.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders appeared briefly on “Meet the Press” in September for the first time in his career. But no Chris Hedges or Noam Chomsky is likely to appear as the debate centers on the best tactics of fighting the bad guys rather than how to change US policies that spawn terrorist groups.

In our culture, war is still the manly response; it gives conditioned manhood its meaning. With women in the military and LGBT people tolerated, a warrior reaction to any problem still won’t cause mainstream pundits to question any man’s masculinity, though it might cause them to question a woman’s femininity.

Even though there’s been a history of dissenters – Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr, to name two well-known examples – and a long history of anti-war movements, America still falls back on a war model to attack problems from literacy, to AIDS, to poverty, to drugs, to crime. The tools of war get more sophisticated, while we sell them to the world to use, even profiting off of selling them to those who become enemies.

For war to continue to give us such meaning as well as war-industry jobs, we need more than just the selling of each new war through exaggeration, lies, and fears. Those tactics must touch something already within so the public relations of warmongering will resonate inside us.

Mainstream conditioning of our children through our major institutions must still make warriors and warrior-support personnel out of them through molding their minds, if the propaganda of each new war is to be effective. And, sadly, the old gender role conditioning that enables this hasn’t changed as much as we’d like to believe.

In fact, the dominant Northern European/American views of gender and its limitations have heavily affected alternatives that would have been found traditionally among Native Americans, Hispanic peoples, Africans, and Asians. Even in a culture where children are being told that they can be anything they want to be, dominant institutions that supposedly provide “role-models” such as the NFL or Congress, have failed to move outside genderized boxes, and, as if it surprises us, failed miserably to challenge the status quo, as we’ve painfully been reminded recently.

It takes the equivalent of mental child abuse to take the little boy who was born with his complete humanity intact, and to convince him that he will be considered an American masculine hero if he is willing someday to go off to another country and kill other men or be killed by them. Notice how the title “hero” is now applied to anyone who does just that.

It also takes the equivalent of mental child abuse to take the little girl who was born with her complete humanity and all its possibilities intact, and convince her that the solution to her fears, second-place status, meaninglessness, and hopelessness is to find fulfillment in supporting one of these male warriors. She might even stay with an abuser if she’s convinced that he is her savior from all that she’s supposedly lacks in life.

But our mainstream culture still does it. It still defines male bonding and teamwork as a group of men getting together to beat, defeat, or kill another group of men. Every male sporting event on television celebrates it with the most popular often the sports that reward men for harder hits or knocking the other unconscious.

Our culture still awards its warriors for killing another man. A man can get a medal for killing another man, but still be killed for loving one.

Much of its religion is still in a fight against the cultural change that threatens to fully accept lesbians, gay men, and bisexual and transgender people who challenge gender roles. Mainstream media gives such religion disproportionate attention, enabling them to feel like noble, righteous warriors in the “culture wars.”

And our culture remains stuck in the old gender roles, with otherwise liberal people still talking about their masculine and feminine “sides” as if those categories mean something definite. Or using supposedly positive comments such as: “You’re too pretty to be a lesbian.” “But you’re too macho to be a gay man.” “She’s trans, but you can’t tell. She’s so pretty.”

Finally, it’s still quite useful to install the fear of getting close ones own gender that’s the heart of homophobia. Without that, it’s much harder for men to make other men their enemies. It’s easier to fear them as threatening competitors.

While walking with my then 2 ½ year old grandson down the street, we passed a gaping open sewer. He grabbed my hand and pulled me away, saying “Grampa, be careful. That’s dangerous.”

To that little boy, holding hands wasn’t something that men don’t do. It was how they protect each other in their common humanity.

But you can’t shoot someone when you’re holding each other’s hand to protect one another. You’re instead more likely to feel the common humanity that would make looking for alternatives to war obvious.

America’s Religiosity: A Gut Check of Its Christianities

It’s hardly news anymore that a growing number of Americans are checking the box “none” on surveys of religious belief. According to Pew Research Center polling, one-fifth of the public and a third of those under thirty are unaffiliated with any religious entity.

Among those left who still report being affiliated, the percentage of fundamentalists and other conservatives is increasing. It’s the pie that’s shrinking and leaving the right-wing to have a bigger share.

Relying on figures publicized by denominations is problematic. There are convenient ways for memberships to be counted.

But even the granddaddy of right-wingers, the Southern Baptist Convention, reported this year that it’s losing members and baptizing fewer people. Their response, of course, wasn’t to question their teachings but to assume they needed better marketing.

Those who are religiously addicted never question what they’re teaching. They’re so invested in it that to do so would be a real downer for their high of righteousness.

They always assume that it’s the packaging that needs up-dating. Hence the stagings of hipster churches, or prosperity mega-churches like Joel Osteen’s and Rick Warren’s that refuse not to smile.

These fundamentalist-with-a-positive-attitude approaches have become multi-million dollar empires. Many drawn into them cherish those positive feelings without commitment to their worn out hidden theologies.

They eschew the language and public demeanors of the Fred Phelpses or other regressive clergy who get national media attention for their otherwise insignificant congregations through outrageous anti-gay acts, burning Qurans, or rantings about divine punishment ready to rain down on the country for whatever cultural fears they can stoke in the gullible who feel they’re losing in the victories of American oligarchy.

It’s still this Christian movement that, like the addict in a family, gets most of the attention, steers the agenda, and keeps progressives in a defensive posture. There are a number of reasons for that.

First, and foremost, right-wingers are the religious category with the most money to spend on their causes. How many pastors would take a more progressive stand on numerous issues, believing that it’s what Jesus would do, if they weren’t afraid that key people would leave their churches, particularly the wealthiest givers, who’re usually conservative?

Conservative theology attracts many of the rich because it justifies the accumulation of wealth. It preaches that wealth is as a sign of divine blessing.

Look at the right-wing Green family that owns Hobby Lobby. Their recent Supreme Court victory seemed to have little to do with their faith because they profited from selling what was made in a country that mandated abortion and had previously funded the contraceptives they discovered to be against their beliefs only when a president they wanted to destroy backed them.

The conservatives’ choice of Biblical passages to take literally is never “It’s harder for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter the kingdom of god” or “Give all you have to the poor and follow me” or the numerous passages in the Hebrew scriptures about usury that say never loan money and ask for ANY interest. And the dominant religion in any culture is the one that supports the status quo and its powerful.

Second, progressive churches regularly fail at acting progressive. They have progressive theologies, but aren’t sure what to do with them, often out of nervousness about upsetting the very status quo that marginalizes Christian progressives.

This has left challenging regressive Christianities to atheist, agnostic and skeptic organizations along with non-Christian religious movements. The established baptist-inspired Americans for the Separation of Church and State has been joined by more anti-religious groups such as the Freedom from Religion Foundation. And to the original American Humanist Association a growing list of others have been added.

Progressive churches have instead taken up charity activities. In the light of strategic conservative attacks on the government safety net, compassion seems to demand it.

But two observations need to be made here. Right-wing defunding of government assistance programs is a deliberate strategy intended to move liberal money away from politics into making up the difference through funding charities. This gives mega-rich corporations and right-wingers even more of an advantage in buying the political arena while progressive funds are diverted into charities.

But conservative churches do charity as well, and with their major goal to convert recipients to their brand of sectarianism. So, doing charity work, as admirable as it is, doesn’t distinguish progressive churches from fundamentalist ones.

In the mind of younger generations from Generation X to the Millennials, then, there is little reason to come back to a progressive church. These generations are looking for actions that speak to a sense of justice, not what goes on Sunday mornings inside some pious-looking building.

For the progressive church to grow, it will have to move beyond charity to taking a public place in the front line of justice work. For the ten years I was president of the board of a campus ecumenical ministry, what attracted students was exactly that.

Only when convinced we practiced justice, did they ask what we believed and how it fit. Did we march to stand for LGBT rights? Did we support the dignity and power of working people? Did we fight for ecological justice and the future of the planet? Did we live as if all oppressions are offensive and intersecting?

So, when the United Church of Christ filed a lawsuit to protect it’s first amendment right to perform same-sex marriages in North Carolina, that was a belated example of progressive Christianity standing out from all the regressive sectarianism. Their progressive action even led a Baptist alliance to follow them.

And that contradicts the third reason why the religious addicts have dominated national attention. Progressive Christianity has been defensive, always having to respond to what it isn’t, rather than on the offense.

When any position leads, people take notice. Then they see it as a real option, one that real people really believe, walking their walk not just talking some talk.

Robert N. Minor, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies at the University of Kansas, is author of When Religion Is an Addiction; Scared Straight: Why It’s So Hard to Accept Gay People and Why It’s So Hard to Be Human: and Gay & Healthy in a Sick Society. Contact him at www.FairnessProject.org

Ditch Your Religion, But Keep Your Faith

Despite the massive leaps and bounds the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community has made as a whole on the civil rights front — as judges across the country strike down state marriage bans and the marriage equality case makes its steady march to the U.S. Supreme Court and polls show growing support for full acceptance of LGBT people both in society and in the church — the reality is, most people still grapple with deep religious fears when they begin to come out to themselves and others.

Most of the conversations I have with people grappling with reconciling their faith and spirituality centers on their family — how their family will react, whether or not they should come out to their family now or wait, or how to deal with their family when they go off on homophobic rants. I dare say, the hardest group of people to deal with as we embrace our God-given identities as LGBT people are those closest to us – our families who have raised us and loved us, and who we know may reject us or fight against us if they know the truth of our lives.

When I wrote Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians, I focused mainly on how to deal with objections from strangers, friends or other people with whom we are not so emotionally invested as we are with our families. In fact, during workshops or book signing talks, most of the questions from audience members centered on how to respond to family members when coming out.

My own coming out experience with my family, relatively speaking, was easier than most. I was raised in a strict Southern Baptist family where homosexuality was hardly ever discussed, and when it was, it was with the strongest condemnation. I grew up knowing that God condemned homosexuality, but the very idea was a complete mystery to me, even as I became aware of my own strong attractions for other girls and no romantic or sexual feeling for boys.

Back in my day, we didn’t have out and proud celebrities or openly gay and lesbian pop singers. There were no positive portrayals of gay and lesbian people on television or in the movies. Homosexuals were mysterious people who lived in big cities, and even lived in the shadows there! There was no mention, whatsoever, of people who experienced gender identity issues. Transgender people were not even on the radar!

When I came out to my mother I was 16-years-old. I had been wrestling with my sexual orientation for years and finally had found a name for it — from a cover article in Rolling Stone magazine.

“Lesbian,” I said the word out loud for the first time while looking in the mirror.

“Lezzzzzz-beee-yunnn,” I rolled the word around on my tongue for a few minutes. “I am a lezzzzzz-beee-yunnn.”

I immediately hated the word. I still do. I prefer the politically incorrect word, “Dyke,” because it just sounds and feels stronger than “lesbian.”

But, I digress …

If my mother panicked when she heard that word come out of my mouth, she didn’t show it. She simply put her dishtowel down and said, “Well, it could be a phase. Don’t do anything about it right now and see how things go.”

I knew it wasn’t a phase, but let the matter drop.

At 18, I met my first girlfriend and told my mother, “It’s not a phase.”

Her exact words to me were, “I don’t agree with homosexuality. I think it’s wrong. But, you’re my daughter and I love you. You are always welcome in my house.”

My mother and I never had a deep conversation about homosexuality, but she was true to her word. I was always welcomed back home, as were all of my partners who accompanied me for Christmas and other visits.

My siblings, two brothers and two sisters who are all older than me, had their own various reactions, but every single one of them, whether they accepted my lesbianism (dykeism?) or not, have each remained welcoming and loving to me and my partner.

So, I got out easy when it came to coming out to my family. My first girlfriend was not so lucky. Her family disowned her, causing her much emotional pain and turmoil. I am happy to report that she and her family eventually made amends and are all happily co-existing now, but it takes time.

Perhaps it was my own relatively easy coming out that left me so unprepared to respond to those earnest readers who wanted to know how to deal with family members who want to argue the Bible or threaten to remove their love or financial support if they find out the truth. But, I think the true crux of the problem, especially for we LGBT people raised in Christian homes, is that our coming out challenges not only our parents or siblings image of us, but it challenges the religion both we, and our parents and siblings, have been raised to believe and follow.

Our families are often the source of many things for us including love, emotional and financial support and our sense of self and belonging. But, for those of us raised in Christian homes, our families were also the source of our knowledge about God and how God works in our lives and in the world.

From the cradle we are carted off to Sunday school, Sunday morning (and evening!) services, youth activities on Wednesday nights and church all week when the revival minister comes through town. Our lives center around the church – its activities, community and beliefs about God and the world.

What I discovered along my journey, though, is this: While our families may give us a religion, they most often fail to give us what we need the most – faith.

Losing Our Religion

There is a huge difference between religion and faith. I grew up knowing I was a Southern Baptist and was versed on all the beliefs being such a thing entailed. I was baptized when I was 6-years-old after accepting Jesus as my personal savior. I rededicated my life to Christ a million times during Vacation Bible School, Christian summer camps and every single night during revival weeks. I told everyone I knew about Jesus and how much he loved me and how much wanted them to believe in him and accept them as their personal savior and “be saved,” whatever that meant.

Actually, that was the problem. I didn’t know what any of that really meant. I knew all the words. I knew what to say to evangelize someone and how to pray the sinner’s prayer with them. I had a religion, alright, but I didn’t have a faith. Religion is a set of beliefs and principals that we follow … faith is knowing why you believe and follow those beliefs and principals.

It wasn’t until I left church that I discovered that religion and faith are two very different things. It wasn’t until I was forced by my admission as “an abomination before God” that I could even begin to fathom how to rid myself of religion in order to find my faith.

When I told my mom I was going to seminary, she looked up from her tomato plants long enough to say, “You’ll shipwreck your faith.” Because, in my Southern Baptist momma’s mind, asking questions – seeking faith with understanding instead of just assenting to a list of religious beliefs – will bring nothing but trouble.

She was right, sort of. I did shipwreck something in seminary, but it wasn’t my faith. I shipwrecked my religion, and it was the best thing that ever happened to me. Only when I was freed from the trappings and shackles of my inherited religion was I able to get down to the hard work of building a faith that could see me through all of the trials and troubles that would come in my life.

Along the way, I discovered that my images of God as a Southern Baptist youth — that image of God as the bearded man in the sky who “loves” you but will condemn you to an eternity in hell if you don’t toe the line and believe rightly — was a false god. I have struggled for many years over who God is and how God works in this world and the more questions I ask, the more questions I find.

This, friends, is the bedrock of faith — questions that beget more questions. Questions keep you from settling on one idea of God and concretizing that idea and making an idol out of it. That’s what religion wants us to do — pick and idea of God and stick with it, even if that idea doesn’t work anymore.

Some of the popular ideas of God floating around out there in religion include:

The Vending Machine God: Prayer goes in, stuff comes out. Until that day when it doesn’t and we find ourselves kicking God like that stuck vending machine, angrily demanding that God do what we have asked and being profoundly disappointed when God doesn’t.

The Superhero God: This is the god that swoops in and makes things right. We pray to this god in every situation whether it’s for the healing of a loved one, to find a job, sell a house or get a great parking space at the mall. This god is guaranteed to let us down when the loved one dies, the job falls through, the house never sells and we’re trudging to the store from the far reaches of the parking lot.

The Warrior God: This is the one who hates the same people you do, and from what I can tell, is the most popular form of religion out there right now.

There are many more iterations and images of God that we project onto the Holy in this world, and every single one of them is handed to us by religion – no assembly required. Here’s the truth, though: Every single one of those images of God will break down and disappoint us at some point.

The solution? Ditch religion and keep your faith.

Building a Mystery

God is not a god of religion, but of faith. To try to describe God, to capture an infinite force of love and mercy in mere limited human language, is a fool’s errand. Instead, the best way to talk about God is to simply say, “God is …” and refuse to end the sentence. Because when we end the sentence, even if we say, “God is love,” we set ourselves up for disappointment when we wonder why a loving God allows so much suffering in the world? (I imagine God would ask us the same question, why we allow so much suffering in the world?)

So, how do we get rid of religion and instead begin building a faith? We can start by learning the difference between the two.

  • Religion is concrete. Faith is mystery.
  • Religion is dogmatic. Faith is free to question.
  • Religion is certain. Faith has doubts.
  • Religion sees clearly. Faith sees dimly.
  • Religion has rules. Faith breaks them.
  • Religion is rigid. Faith is able to be awed.
  • Religion is the letter of the law. Faith is the spirit.
  • Religion loves with conditions. Faith loves unconditionally.
  • Religion says, “I know.” Faith is most comfortable when it’s say, “I don’t know.”
  • Religion’s power is in outside authority. Faith relies on our inner experience of God.
  • Religion says, “Be careful.” Faith says, “Step out, even if you can’t see the path.”

If you read over that list carefully with the ministry of Jesus in mind, you can see that what he sought to bring to us was not religion, but faith. Jesus was always pointing us to the mystery and beauty of life, to consider the lilies and the birds of the air. Jesus also spent most of his ministry breaking the rules of his day, talking with women in public, working on the Sabbath and “twisting” the Hebrew scriptures to encourage people to follow the spirit of the law instead of its rigid letter.

Jesus spent his short time on this earth trying to encourage us to stop following religion, represented in his time by the Pharisees, and instead grow our faith by looking within.

“The kingdom of God is within you,” Jesus tells us in Luke 17:21. This is where true faith can be found, not in the certain, rigid and unforgiving confines of religion.

What that means to us as LGBT Christians is this: We do not need to rely on the acceptance of the world, the church or even our families, because God has already fully accepted us as God’s beloved children.

Religion won’t tell you that, but faith will.

Ditching religion may not make it any easier to deal with rejection or arguments with family members, but I promise you, working to deepen your faith in God instead of cleaving to a useless religion, will help you get through the bad times — and teach you to love even those who hate or reject you.

That’s a faith worth building.

Candace Chellew-Hodge is a recovering Southern Baptist and founder/editor of Whosoever: An Online Magazine for GLBT Christians, and author of Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians, published by Jossey-Bass. She currently serves as the pastor of Jubilee! Circle, a progressive, inclusive community in Columbia, South Carolina. She is also a spiritual director and is currently taking on new directees. She blogs regularly at Religion Dispatches.

The Big Whopper

“Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain. (Exodus 20:7)

“Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.” (Exodus 20:16)

When they stop talking about the Bible and actually read it, people are surprised to find that there is no Commandment, per se against lying. At least, not one that simply says, “Thou shalt not lie.” I keep hearing that anti-gay Christians are biblical literalists – great sticklers for following Holy Writ to the letter. This must be why so many of them lie.

I’ve been watching the social conservatives’ reaction to the Republican Party’s 2012 presidential election loss with interest. Will they finally get a clue about the need to make the GOP relevant in the Twenty-first Century? The experts on political strategy have strongly counseled them to adapt. Recent developments suggest that they are indeed adapting, though the way they’re doing it offers little reason to hope.

Instead of accepting the truth that gay people exist, that we are not gay by choice and that most of us merely wish to live whole human lives like everybody else, the anti-gay Right is choosing to retreat into a lie. It isn’t really a new one, since they’ve been telling it all along. But now they want to craft it into a grand meme – to be accepted by everybody. A frustrating number of people – even those who consider themselves our allies – are buying into it.

It is, moreover, precisely because it’s becoming so apparent that it is not true that the Religious Right has decided to push it. Like science and reality, truth itself is their enemy. By sheer persistence – and in the face of public ignorance or indifference – they hope to establish their lie as accepted truth.

The grand meme, the Big Whopper, is that all Christians must be anti-gay, and that all gays must be anti-Christian. Sure, we’ve heard it before. At one time, many of us actually believed it. But it’s never been pushed, before, with such dogged determination and vehemence. This is an all-out, full-throttle campaign.

I don’t like to write so blatantly about politics here. I know this is a magazine about religious faith. But those who oppose our total inclusion in the human race are so utterly determined to drag politics into religion, and religion into politics, that it’s impossible to keep the two spheres apart. We can respond to what’s happening neither as Christians nor as Americans unless we understand how for the sake of our status as either, both are being threatened.

If the Religious Right is permitted to get away with this lie, they will be able to use their “religious freedom” as a blank check to make war on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. And if they proceed with their whopper brazenly enough, they think they can bluff it through.

The recently-failed Arizona SB 1062 “religious freedom” bill is a case in point. It’s already perfectly legal to discriminate against LGBT people in my home state, so this bill was redundant. Most people dismissed it as political grandstanding, but it actually had darker implications. It was a test run of the Big Whopper.

My own religious and moral principles are deeply offended by the Religious Right. I believe it comes as close to being the Antichrist as any entity that has ever existed. As I don’t want one dime of my money going to support it, it’s fine and dandy by me if they don’t “have” to serve me. But anybody who takes seriously that SB 1062’s intention was to protect my religious freedom is several crab puffs shy of a pu-pu plate.

How many people could these hucksters get to believe the meme? Judging from the spectacular way that the Arizona bill went down in flames, your guess might be, “not many.” But the issue of LGBT equality under the law is still being debated as if the Big Whopper can be unquestioningly accepted as truth. And as long as that remains the case, our enemies’ assault against us will continue to have traction.

The bill was hugely unpopular, not only in Arizona but around the country, because it was so obviously mean-spirited and transparently aimed at LGBT people. But the lie undergirding it – that a clear battle line can be drawn between godless gays and Christians who disapprove of “homosexuality” – was never really challenged. Not, in any case, by anyone whose viewpoint the mainstream media bothered to cite. We certainly had defenders among Christians in our state – lay and clergy, gay and straight. But the shapers of public opinion almost totally ignored them.

Dishonest memes, of the sort the Religious Right is now trying to ram through, are never based on self-evident truth. If they were, their propagators wouldn’t need to craft them as memes and ram them through. Journalists who do not carry water for these people – those who consider themselves our allies, or at least cultivate a reputation for fairness – need to be taken to task for aiding and abetting the Big Whopper.

Now that many Christian scholars and clergy are challenging – very articulately and effectively – whether the Bible actually condemns same-sex love, insecurity is motivating anti-gay Christians to assert themselves. They are driven by fear, because when the other side is presented, their own argument is revealed as hollow. This is why they’re trying so aggressively to get their prejudices enshrined in law. Responsible journalists — those who genuinely care about the truth – will no longer be able to ignore this if we insist on holding them responsible.

The point, at this juncture, is not even which side is “right” and which is “wrong.” It is that there are two sides – neither of which comes from a worldview that is anti-Bible or hostile to Christianity. But those who would deny this truth are truly anti-Christ, because they wish to stifle not only public debate but the very movement of the Holy Spirit. They are entitled to their own opinions, but not to their own facts.

It is an opinion that their interpretation of Scripture is the right one. It is a fact that it is not the only one. Those who hold to one opinion over the other are simply people with an opinion. Those who claim there’s only one opinion are liars and frauds.

My purpose, in this essay, is not to frighten, but to motivate – and to mobilize. To make readers aware of what is going on, and to issue a call to action. We can only fight the Big Whopper if we understand that it is being deliberately crafted, by those who know it is a lie, and that these knowing liars are promoting that lie with great determination.

They are taking God’s Name in vain, and they are bearing false witness against us. Each of those offenses violates one of the Ten Commandments. And they are misusing the Word of God in the service of their lies. Next time they wave the Bible in our faces, we should tell them to look up the Ten Commandments. For any honest student of Scripture, those would be pretty hard to miss.

We know they’re lying because they claim we don’t exist – when we know we do. We know they’re unscrupulous and utterly without principle because they’re willing to cynically hijack and degrade our faith in order to defeat us. We know that they’re dangerous, because those in Kansas – who crafted a similar Big Whopper bill – originally wanted to enable even police and fire departments to refuse to protect us, and because their cohorts in Uganda lobbied to have gay people killed. We must not underestimate how dangerous these people are, because it has become very clear that they will stop at nothing.

That is, unless we stop them. “You will know the truth,” Jesus told us, “and the truth will set you free.” Never has that been more true – and more urgent – than in the face of the latest Big Whopper.

Gays Force Religious Right to Lose All Sense of Morality

My goodness, how the impending threat of “gay tyranny” in God’s country, the United States of ‘Murica, has gotten Peter LaBarbera hot under the collar.

The founder of the laughably named Americans For Truth About Homosexuality, has penned a screed worthy of the Bigot Hall of Fame, located somewhere in the South, I’m sure (hey, now, I’m a born and bred Southerner, so I can say these things).

The “gay hysteria”-fueled rhetoric begins in the first couple of sentences as LaBarbera bemoans “how decades of court-imposed favored legal status for homosexuality have already stolen away our ‘freedom to be moral.'”

Really, Peter? The fact that gays and lesbians can get married in 17 states and judges are falling over each other to strike down state constitutional bans on gay marriage has left you bereft of a moral compass? So, I expect we can read the news reports of how you’re now knocking off banks, snatching purses and cheating on your spouse? Please, your “freedom to be moral” is a personal choice. Courts, and their decisions, have nothing to do with it.

Ah, but the right-wing blah-blah “criminalization of Christianity” rhetoric train wreck has just begun. He, of course, drags out a couple of tired examples of why gays and lesbians have no right – NO RIGHT, YOU HEAR ME? – to compare their “sin” with the “skin” of black people.

Do the media know or care that Blacks who believe Scripture that homosexuality is wrong repeatedly have been victimized by “gay” activism — which posits that approval of “gayness” and same-sex relationships trumps one’s personal religious and moral beliefs about sexual morality and marriage?

Does Peter care that there are black people who believe Scripture and don’t believe homosexuality is wrong and see, quite clearly, thank you very much, that discrimination against LGBT people, simply because of who they are or who they love is very much akin to the struggle for black civil rights?

Also, does Peter even realize that what LGBT people are fighting for is not the right to have a sexual relationship (Lawrence v. Texas already solved that problem), but to attain the same right to form life-long relationships that are legally recognized by state and federal governments and have nothing to do with “one’s personal religious and moral beliefs about sexual morality and marriage?”

I personally know married heterosexual couples who participate in a “swingers” lifestyle. I personally disapprove on a moral basis, because I believe in monogamy. But, they’re lovely people and their sexual proclivities have nothing to do with me so I live and let live because, hey, my “freedom to be moral” remains intact no matter what they do.

But, he buries the lead deep in his screed. What Peter is really, really afraid of is that if LGBT people are recognized as “normal” and given “special rights” as, y’know, equal, American, tax-paying citizens, then we’ll no longer be one nation “under God,” never mind that many LGBT people are also people of faith, who understand that religion is a personal thing and have no desire to, um, lord it over others, or cry “discrimination” when someone doesn’t believe like they do.

But, anyway, here’s the money shot:

[I]f true liberty is to survive in this Republic that professes to be “under God,” a boldly conservative state like Oklahoma or Texas will need to stand up to the judicial elitists and pronounce that it will not follow tyrannical SCOTUS or federal mandates imposing legal “equality” for manifestly unequal homosexual behaviors. Such a state would assert that our First Amendment freedom as Americans is sacrosanct — and superior to unnatural, man-made “gay rights” — because “inalienable” rights means not having the dictates of one’s faith and conscience squashed by the secular, soulless State.

Which, honestly, when you get right down to it, sounds an awful lot like a man named Theodore Bilbo, a Mississippi segregationist who wrote a book in 1947 called Take Your Choice: Separation or Mongrelization. I invite you to replace words like “racial integrity,” and “race,” and “racial purity,” with phrases like “traditional marriage,” and phrases like “the social equality of the races and to sanction intermarriage,” with “LGBT equality and ‘gay marriage'” (in scare quotes).

Nothing is more sacred than racial integrity. Purity of race is a gift of God, but it is a gift which man can destroy. And God, in his infinite wisdom, has so ordained it that when man destroys his racial purity, it can never be redeemed. This should be sufficient to show that any statement which says our Christian religion forces us to accept the social equality of the races and to sanction intermarriage as the private affair of the two individuals concerned is utterly and absolutely fallacious. If God gave the Negro the inalienable right to social equality and intermarriage with whites, then we must go further and say that He gave to the black man the right to destroy the white race. –Theodore Bilbo in Take Your Choice: Separation or Mongrelization, 1947

Which is to say that right-wing homophobia is simply the red-headed stepchild of right-wing racism. What Peter and his ilk really fear is the end of the divine right of white, straight men to make all the decisions in this country. White men who happen to be gay are seen as the worst traitors to their race, I mean, sexual orientation, which is why the right wing is so obsessed with not just their marginalization, but their utter and ultimate destruction. Do not be fooled, the opposition to LGBT equality is exactly the same as opposition to black civil rights all those years ago, a dying majority’s last ditch effort to retain its power and influence.

But, perhaps Peter is right all along. I fear that the re-emergence of the thoroughly immoral Jim Crow-type laws popping in state legislatures around the country, without any sense by their sponsors of the historic irony or stench of desperation they emit, really does prove that the right-wing has finally succumbed to its own madness and no longer has the freedom to be moral.

Candace Chellew-Hodge is a recovering Southern Baptist and founder/editor of Whosoever: An Online Magazine for GLBT Christians, and author of Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians, published by Jossey-Bass. She currently serves as the pastor of Jubilee! Circle, a progressive, inclusive community in Columbia, South Carolina. She is also a spiritual director and is currently taking on new directees. She blogs regularly at Religion Dispatches.

Fantasize with Me: Men Comfortable in Their Skin

This past month an All-American defensive lineman named by the Associated Press as the South East Athletic Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year told an interviewer from ESPN that he’s gay. Michael Sam from the University of Missouri announced to the world what teammates and coaches already knew: “I am an openly, proud gay man.”

Media speculation began as to how this would affect his chances in the upcoming National Football League draft. But his University of Missouri coach expressed unambiguous pride.

“We’re really happy for Michael that he’s made the decision to announce this, and we’re proud of him and how he represents Mizzou,” Gary Pinkel said. “Michael is a great example of just how important it is to be respectful of others, he’s taught a lot of people here first-hand that it doesn’t matter what your background is, or your personal orientation, we’re all on the same team and we all support each other.”

The NFL also released a statement of support:

“We admire Michael Sam’s honesty and courage,” NFL senior vice president of communications Greg Aiello said. “Michael is a football player. Any player with ability and determination can succeed in the NFL. We look forward to welcoming and supporting Michael Sam in 2014.”

There were critical responses, some laughable if they weren’t coming out of still deeply entrenched homophobia and anti-gay bias. Most repeated was the anonymous comment of an NFL player personnel assistant worried about chemistry: “It’d chemically imbalance an NFL locker room and meeting room.”

The majority echoed the positive support of Missouri’s coach. Some went so far as to challenge any of Sam’s critics to see if they’d be willing to denigrate the 6’2″, 260 pound defensive end to his face.

The assumption must be that this big, strong, manly, man’s presence would scare his critics into fear that they’d get their comeuppance in some manly violent sort of way. Don’t mess with a real man.

On the one hand we have another example of someone coming out who “does not fit the stereotypes of gay men.” That’s still a lesson society hasn’t learned — there’s no “the gay lifestyle” any more than there’s the heterosexual lifestyle.

Men who fit our culture’s masculine role can walk past someone, work with them, play along side them, and even be members of their families, without someone assuming they’re gay. “Straight-acting” men and women are less suspicious to most of us.

But though someone like Michael Sam might challenge our gay stereotypes, they do not challenge our straight masculine ones. They do not allow any man to take off his “straight-acting” mask, no matter what his sexual orientation might be without assumptions about his manhood and, therefore still, his queerness.

Even parents who advocate for their gay children can buy into the belief that if a little boy is somehow super-sensitive, creative, nurturing, caring, and gentle, he must be gay. It’s as if we are to write off heterosexuality as somehow hopelessly gendered, and heterosexual men as naturally the opposite sex of the (also stereotypical) feminine one.

Grown heterosexual males know they’re assumed to actually be gay and closeted if they don’t live the manly role because they’re too neat, nice, gentle, kind, and culture-oriented. One would hope that these men have gotten to the place where the assumption that they’re really gay doesn’t matter and won’t force them to “prove” that they’re actually real men.

We already have too many men who in fear of being thought of as gay respond by showing violently or otherwise in their treatment of women and gay men that they’re on the straight team. Insecurity in one’s sexual orientation, but even more so in one’s manhood, breeds hyper-masculinity in its stereotypical forms.

To assume that boys who don’t fit the “boys will be boys” stereotype must be gay is to somehow lose hope in heterosexual men. It’s to stop expecting heterosexual men to also be kind, nurturing, sensitive, and creative. It’s to give up on males.

And the result is the societal encouragement of boys to be, well, boys. It’s then to criticize them later for being out of touch with all that gets labeled their “feminine side” as if these suspect characteristics aren’t masculine.

And the ultimate giving up is to treat the male role as innate. All that’s left to do with men when they act too manly is to send them to anger management, drug them, or throw them in prison.

Football is a dangerous sport neatly fitting male stereotypes. Meanwhile, the news reports that chronic and traumatic brain injuries and resulting mental disease, concussion syndromes, and even suicide are the price paid by athletes so that money can be made and people can enjoy an “All American” sport.

And gay people have as much a right to all of the healthy and sick institutions a society gives to straight people, with all their consequences. That includes football, marriage, and the military.

But somewhere, somehow I’d like to fantasize that maybe even Michael Sam isn’t buying into the stereotype of masculinity that lingers behind so many discussions of his coming out. I’d like to think that unlike many gay men, he’s secure enough to let manhood be even more diverse than sexual orientations. And in an even wilder fantasy, I’d like to believe we’d celebrate masculine diversity without any limits.

I’m hoping that after breaking gay male stereotypes, Michael Sam and his generation can also reject masculine ones. I’m cheering for the day when no one assumes anything about what it is to be a real man, and that men can be comfortable embracing the whole range of human experience, especially the parts they’ve been told aren’t manly.

“I’m not afraid to tell the world who I am,” Michael Sam told ESPN. “I’m Michael Sam: I’m a college graduate. I’m African American, and I’m gay. I’m comfortable in my skin.”

Men are supposed to get real, not fantasize. But I’m still envisioning all humans someday soon as comfortable in the skin we’re in.

Robert N. Minor, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies at the University of Kansas, is author of When Religion Is an Addiction; Scared Straight: Why It’s So Hard to Accept Gay People and Why It’s So Hard to Be Human and Gay & Healthy in a Sick Society. Contact him at www.FairnessProject.org.

The Inevitable Will Take More Effort

As of this writing, 17 states have legal marriage equality. Six got there by a court’s decision, eight by legislative action, and three by popular vote.

It’s fun to say “as of this writing” because the political landscape is changing more quickly than most of us who’ve been working for human rights would ever have expected. It’s exciting.

The excitement also includes pleasant surprises along the way. Just this past month a federal judge in Utah, Robert Shelby – a registered Republican endorsed by Utah’s Tea Party Senator, Mike Lee, as an “outstanding judge” – ruled that Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.

This so shocked a state beholden to one dominant militantly anti-gay religious empire that its acting attorney general was unprepared to request a stay of same-sex marriages — and that judge didn’t order one! Last December Utah’s actual, duly elected Mormon attorney general had resigned over numerous charges of misconduct and unethical behavior.

The Utah panic began. On the one hand, the Utah State Tax Commission decided that married same-sex couples in Utah may file joint state income tax returns — a change from an earlier state position that wouldn’t have allowed them to file as married.

On the other hand, Utah’s acting attorney general began lawyering-up. After a two-week search, he hired three outside counsels who know what they’re doing according to Utah’s local right-wing think tank, the Sutherland Institute, which seems to be calling the shots for Utah’s state government,

Then another surprise on January 14th when another federal judge struck down as unconstitutional Oklahoma’s 2004 constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. US Senior District Judge Terrance Kern, a life-long Oklahoman educated at Oklahoma State and with a former 24-year private practice in Ardmore, described the ban as “an arbitrary, irrational exclusion of just one class of Oklahoma citizens from a governmental benefit.”

“Equal protection is at the very heart of our legal system and central to our consent to be governed,” Kern’s 68-page decision says. “It is not a scarce commodity to be meted out begrudgingly or in short portions. Therefore, the majority view in Oklahoma must give way to individual constitutional rights.”

Oh, oh. If this can happen among the conservative judges of Utah and Oklahoma, then who’s next? Missouri? Alabama? Texas?

And make no mistake about it — the right-wing is running even more scared that this can happen in their own backyards. It’s ready to play even more serious hardball to keep its cultural relevance apparent and its fund-raising up.

It can’t rely on “Duck Dynasty’s” bigotry alone. That national fad is soon to run its course.

Mat Staver, Dean of Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University Law School and radical right-wing Liberty Counsel, feels this threat along with all the other well-worn threats to his culture war crusades and fundraising that are coming at him. The courts cannot be trusted, he responded.

“They have no right to act as dictators to undermine not only the will of the people but something that is part of our constitutional history and even beyond that, part of our natural created order.” (Unless they agree with Mat.)

That was one of the saner, less panicky, responses. One headline read: “Obama Judge Invents Constitutional Right to Gay Marriage in Utah” You knew the right-wingers had to make this all Obama’s fault too.

All of this fun for progressives doesn’t call for complacency or major celebrations. The very panic all this puts the radical right-wing in means there are battles ahead no matter how inevitable the victory of justice seems.

The radical right-wing expects that the battle is at state and local levels. And as it did before with school boards, low-level judgeships, city councils, and county legislatures, its strategy is to fight under the largely nationally-focused media radar.

Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Ann Coulter are just as popular with them as they always were. And the Republican Party and many state legislatures and governors remain tightly in the grip of the Christian right-wing.

As C.J Werleman wrote last month: “the Christian Right now holds a majority of seats in more than half of all Republican Party State Committees. Nearly half of the Senate, and half of all congressmen have an 80-100 percent approval rate from the three most influential Christian advocacy groups: the Christian Coalition, Eagle Forum and the Family Research Council.”

As if giving up on the Presidency and counting on the redistricted House of Representatives to stifle progress, the Republican strategy is to control state politics with super-majorities. Note what’s happened in Wisconsin, North Carolina, Missouri and elsewhere.

The Christian right remains well-funded. Its media and grassroots organizational structures have gone nowhere, its think-tanks are well established, and it’s still convinced it’s playing a long-term strategy.

All of the recent setbacks we’ve been celebrating have only made its members more fearful and far angrier. They feel as if they are the righteous rats who’ve been cornered. And it’s more likely that because of this, the most vulnerable individuals among us will get mauled by their anger.

Out of our common humanity we must take responsibility for being prepared for all that’s about to come. We can’t let down our guard nor compromise our principles.

We can’t abandon other groups because we’ve already gotten ours. And we can’t start acting as if because something is inevitable, we can opt out of the rest of the process toward it.

There are miles to go before we sleep, and traveling them requires no naiveté now. With eyes wide open, Chris Hedges reminds us: “All ideological, theological and political debates with the radical Christian right are useless. It cares nothing for rational thought and discussion. Its adherents are using the space within the open society to destroy the open society itself. Our naive attempts to placate a movement bent on our destruction, to prove to it that we too have “values,” only strengthen its supposed legitimacy and increase our own weakness.”

Robert N. Minor, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies at the University of Kansas, is author of When Religion Is an Addiction, Scared Straight: Why It’s So Hard to Accept Gay People and Why It’s So Hard to Be Human, and Gay & Healthy in a Sick Society. Contact him at www.FairnessProject.org.

No Matter How Ugly It’s Going to Be, There’s Hope in 2014

The New Year can safely be forecasted to bring more of the same. Actually, it’s likely to be an exaggeration of the political craziness of 2013.

There are those who dream of sanity and bipartisan cooperation. I hope they had the pristine white Christmas they fantasized, too.

2014 actually is an election year, though it seems as if we’re always in one anymore. There are 33 US Senate seats being contested in addition to all 435 House seats. So, the pressure to do whatever it takes to raise money and buy votes is now in full swing.

The media circus will continue to predict whatever about the outcome, finding polls to keep cable channels’ viewers on edge. Political advertising money will flow more freely as corporatists target local and national races.

2013 ended with outsiders loving the schisms among Republicans. “‘Falling in line”‘ was collapsing, but it’s easy to make too much of this as wishful thinking.

Certainly, the ideologues representing remnants of Tea Partyism will continue to stick to their guns. Incumbents’ realistic fears of being primaried by someone to their right, no matter how conservative they vote, will increase the crazy talk.

There’ll be continuing, if slower, progress in the states on marriage equality. The religious right-wing won’t give up waging various fights against LGBT equality while baby boomers set their agendas.

We’ll be lucky if the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act goes anywhere this election year. But Republicans would give the Democrats social issues if it guaranteed that their rich friends get to hoard even more money.

Except for the religious extreme, the Republican Party will continue to prioritize the protection of the upper 1% and the redistribution of wealth upward. That trumps everything.

The Supreme Court will make it easier this year by loosening election laws further except for those that disenfranchise anyone who could threaten corporate rule. Don’t expect much from this corporate court.

Democrats and liberals will continue to be aghast at what FOX News and Republicans say in 2014, as if anything should surprise them. The lies will continue, and even when it’s pointed out that they aren’t true, they’ll be repeated — Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi; Handshake-gate; Socialist infiltration; Kenyan president; Threats to guns.

Democrats and liberal allies, including the President, will allow the Republican right-wing to continue to set the agenda. Democrats will move to the center claiming it’s good for the country, mom, and apple pie, while Republicans stand pat.

The President will give a lot of really good speeches. But he’ll cave to the Republicans while claiming it’s a necessity.

Establishment Democrats, under the guise of bipartisanship or effective governing, or another nice idea, will affirm the right-wing’s values by giving them credence and even joining them in “‘reforming”‘ the big three – Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. If the Republicans are successful, the Democrats will get away with what Republicans could never accomplish in crippling these programs.

Republican de-funding of social programs will mean more liberal money will move to charities to make up the difference, so that liberal money won’t go toward any political change that threatens business. Meanwhile even more corporate conservative money will flow into politics.

The fight against working people’s rights to bargain collectively will continue. But they’ll have to turn their attention to the organizing of fast-food and other low wage workers who are threatening to change the landscape for every working person.

The people will continue to rise up and support populists like Elizabeth Warren, Sherrod Brown, and Bernie Sanders. That will anger the Democratic establishment that will work to marginalize the Democratic populists, while the mainstream media support them with the ever-repeated claim that the people want politicians to move to “‘the center,”‘ as if there is one.

The media will continue to lose credibility as it continues striving to prove to the right-wing that it’s not liberal. People will rely more and more on the little and less-vetted information they get from Tweets and Blogs.

We’ll lament more mass shootings while they’re calls to loosen restrictions on weapons. As a result many innocents won’t be with us at 2014’s end to protect what the lobbying group for weapons manufacturers and distributors claims is a Second Amendment right.

America will continue to rise on the corruption index compared to other countries while it continues to defame European countries that don’t join it in corporatization. And the world will look on wondering what happened to that once-great experiment in democracy.

2014 won’t be a pretty year. But falling into hopelessness, hiding, turning inward, and refusing to fight all of this would be self-destructive, disempowering and a vote for the ugliness.

All over the country in almost every place, there are people who don’t want this, and many who’re doing something about it. Connecting to those who believe you can fight will be the most important choice we make in 2014.

Poet, activist Audre Lord was right when she said: “‘That you can’t change City Hall is a rumor being spread by City Hall.”‘ We don’t have to be optimists when we choose hope.

We can face the ugliness even when we’d prefer that our anthem be Louie Armstrong’s “‘It’s a Wonderful World.”‘ Wherever we are, however we can, we can do what says to the world that we’re not giving in or giving up.

It requires that we be there. And that is what actually does change things. Change is not just silly talk about some crazy dream.

No romantic, American historian Howard Zinn put it this way: “‘History is instructive. And what it suggests to people is that even if they do little things, if they walk on the picket line, if they join a vigil, if they write a letter to their local newspaper. Anything they do, however small, becomes part of a much, much larger sort of flow of energy. And when enough people do enough things, however small they are, then change takes place.”‘


Robert N. Minor, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies at the University of Kansas, is author of When Religion Is an Addiction; Scared Straight: Why It’s So Hard to Accept Gay People and Why It’s So Hard to Be Human: and Gay & Healthy in a Sick Society. Contact him at www.FairnessProject.org.


Top 10 List of Anti-Christian Acts of 2011

The folks at DefendChristians.Org asked their readers to list their top ten “anti-Christian acts of 2011.” The list is filled with the usual right wing “religious liberty” outrages including the shutting down of Bible studies and people being fired from their jobs for supporting “traditional marriage.”

Gays and lesbians round out the top two “anti-Christian” acts of the year:

2) President Obama declared June “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month” and hosted a White House celebration by homosexuals.

1) California Governor Jerry Brown signs a bill forcing public school curriculum and textbooks to “celebrate” homosexuals, transgenders and bisexuals.

The list is not shocking, given the ultraconservative bent of the Web site, but it does beg the question of what kind of acts should be considered “anti-Christian.” In my study of the Bible and its portrayal of the life of Jesus, I can’t seem to find any passages where Jesus talks about gay people, or public schools, or any of the things this group is up in arms about. Instead, I find a dirt poor homeless preacher traveling from town to town telling people to love their enemies, give to the poor and needy, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and find ways to unite with each other instead of constantly bickering about who is God’s favorite.

So, in that spirit, I present my own list of “The Top 10 Anti-Christian Acts of 2011,” in no particular order.

1. The poverty rate in America rose to 15.1% in 2010, its highest level since 1993. In 2009, 14.3% of people in America were living in poverty.

2. While the Iraq war may have officially ended, at least 10 wars are ongoing around the globe, causing more than 1,000 deaths per year.

3. There are 925 million people in the world who are going hungry of those, 17.2 million are Americans.

4. While overall crime rates have dropped around the U.S., hate crimes continue to be a problem. Despite the noise being made by the religious right that they are the victims of religious persecution, it’s Jews who top the list of victims of religious hate crimes. Nearly 72% of religiously motivated hate crimes are directed at Jews with Protestants being targeted 2.7% of the time. In the race category, the religious right’s favorite scapegoat, Latinos are the most popular, but gay men are the target nearly 60% of the time for sexual orientation hate crimes.

5. There was a 3% rise in the number of homeless people from 2008 to 2009, while “31 of 50 states and the District of Columbia – had increases in their homeless counts. The largest increase was in Louisiana, where the homeless population doubled.”

6. Statistics show that 9 out of 10 gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender children are bullied at school. That bullying has caused numerous suicides of gay teens over the past two years. Religious organizations have been out front in defending the bullies and opposing measures that would specifically name sexual orientation in anti-bullying laws. In Michigan, religious groups almost got an exemption for religious beliefs, which would have given them unbridled power to bully LGBT children in the name of God.

7. The income gap continued to grow in 2011 with the richest 10% controlling two-thirds of America’s net worth.

8. The unemployment rate fell to 8.6% in December, the lowest since March 2009, but 13.3 million people remain jobless. The real unemployment rate, however, could be as high as 11%.

9. The Catholic Church claims a right to discriminate against LGBT people in matters of adoption, while one Catholic Cardinal compares gays and lesbians to the KKK.

10. The vandalism of a gay-inclusive nativity scene at a church in Claremont, California and a Christmas-themed billboard at St. Matthew in the City in Auckland, New Zealand continues to show that Christians of all stripes can’t seem to understand Jesus’ command to love each other. The billboard in Auckland, which showed the Virgin Mary gasping over a positive pregnancy test, particularly incensed Catholics, who made a public display of their vandalism.

Jesus wept.

NOM: Shame on Me … Not

My partner and I often play a game called, “So, what I hear you saying is …” In this game, we take a statement and turn it into something completely opposite of what the other person said. For instance, if my partner says, “I like the way you fill out those jeans,” I would reply, “So, what I hear you saying is, I’m fat and need to drop a few pounds.” Or, if I tell my partner, “I love doing things for you,” she may reply, “So, what I hear you saying is, you think I’m high maintenance.”

The folks over at the National Organization for Marriage know this game we play very, very well. NOM has always been known for turning what an opponent says completely on its head in an effort to make themselves look better and their opponent worse. So, it’s no shock that NOM, which only has a passing relationship with the truth, plays this little game while trying to get in a personal attack on me.

Their first shot across the bow is to be too lazy to actually fact check how to spell my name. There is one “o” in my name, not two. It’s Chellew-Hodge – two “e’s,” and one “o.” Hello, cut and paste is your friend!

Then, they get on to their “So, what I hear you saying is …” portion of the game by quoting a piece I wrote in Religion Dispatches:

“To win civil rights, one of the last steps is to make it shameful to be against the rights of the group fighting for recognition.”

Anyone who is not bent on reading demonization and hatred into every little thing written about them would find that sentence quite clear. But in their little game of “So, what I hear you saying is …” the sentence apparently means “it must become ‘shameful’ for people to believe that children deserve a mother and a father, and that marriage is between one man and one woman.”

Not even close.

Instead, since they can’t fathom my meaning, let me spell it out simply for them (Note to NOM, read slowly and several times if you must for it to sink in):

I am saying that marriage rights for gays and lesbians will be won when those who oppose it are shamed by their belief that gay and lesbian couples are somehow “less than” a heterosexual couple raising children. No one should ever be shamed for believing children deserve a mother and a father – hell, I wish my own childhood had not been destroyed by the heterosexual shame of divorce. Every child deserves two parents – or even one parent – who loves them beyond all measure, who provides for them, and is dedicated to raising them with integrity and pride in who they are.

What is shameful is that anyone would deny a child the love (and the protection of that child that marriage currently offers) to any set of parents simply because of the gender mix of said parents.

So, NOM, what I hear you saying is that the only way you can make your argument look good is to distort and lie about the arguments of your opponents.