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.

Never Let Other People Define Your Reality

“For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)

From the time my children were born I exhorted them to obey as a mantra the title of this article. God is to be our Revelator, not mere man! As Isaiah said, “Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils: for wherein is he to be accounted of? (Isaiah 2:22)

The verse of Scripture that preceded this article tells us that nothing can separate us from the love of God to those who “…call upon the name of the Lord.” (Romans 10:13) We are frequently hammered over the head by perhaps well-intentioned people within and without the Church as to how to think and behave in order to be a Christian. Preachers and evangelists frequently bombard us with guilt-inducing sermons designed to make us feel fragile and fallen. Of course, we are fragile and fallen creatures, and that is why the Church is a hospital for the spiritually sick.

One example of seeking to define others’ realty is that on this very day, a Methodist pastor, Rev. Frank Schaeffer, who blessed the union of his gay son’s marriage was told in a “church trial” that he must renounce same-sex marriage or be defrocked as a minister in the Methodist church. This pastor has stated that he will continue to bless same-sex unions, and it’s very likely that he’ll be defrocked by that denomination. This courageous man refuses to let anyone or any institution define his reality for him!

What a travesty that this church would seek to define his reality and punish him for showing love and acceptance to God’s gay children. It is an outrage that bespeaks the loss of credibility to a church that claims to have “open heart, open hands, open doors.” It is attempting to usurp the conscience of Rev. Schaeffer and enact punishment that violates its very stated tenets.

There is nothing that we can do that takes God by surprise! God is not stupid! He has known from the foundation of the world what each of us would do and how each of us would respond to the free gift of His Sacrifice on our behalf. Moreover, He knows us better than we know ourselves! “Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compassest my path and my lying down and art acquainted with all my ways.” (Psalm 139:2-3)

Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ! Not even our sins! That’s the Good News of the Gospel!

We even see this type of God’s unmerited favor to us in the Old Testament. “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who dealeth all thy diseases; Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who croweth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies … As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressioins from us … For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.” (Psalm 103:2-4, 12-14) And that is what we all are: mere dust whom God has inscrutably chosen to use to fulfill His will on this earth.

The easiest way to go astray is to let others, including denominations and other professing Christians, tell us what to think and how to act and, thereby, put us into bondage to their views of the world and their view of how a Christian is to think and act. Clearly, we don’t want to cause a weaker brother or sister to stumble or cause hindrance to the proclamation of the Gospel. Moreover, we are to struggle to live up to God’s will for each of our lives. However, it is a struggle, not an accomplishment. Even the Apostle Paul said that with his mind he served the law of God; “…but with the flesh the law of sin.” (Romans 7:25)

You must not be inauthentic, manifesting seemingly desirable attributes as peace and sweetness when you don’t possess these attributes. God has called us all to be authentic so He can use us as we are and as He and He alone can mature us in the faith. You may solicit others’ advice regarding problems in your life, but if these people love you they will respect your choices, even if they disagree with them.

There has been a long tradition in Catholicism that one’s “informed conscience” trumps any papal pronouncement, Church dogma, and teachings from the Magesterium, or teaching arm, of the Church. There is good reason for this tradition, and that is that in Christianity one size doesn’t fit all. You aren’t a Christian on the basis of what you do as much as you are a Christian on the basis of what you are; what you are is comprised of God’s imputation of His righteousness to you because you trust Him.

Let God have His way with you and never let others define your reality or put you into bondage to their views of the world. Their views may be right for them, but not necessarily right for you.

Some Christians are more mature than others. However, it is God Who does the maturation process within each of us—an accomplishment that no human being can achieve. Before we can mature, we must become broken before God; unfortunately, others may likely home in on our frailties and brokenness—the very qualities that God can use to mature us in the faith and enact His will upon the earth.

Therefore, practicing this article’s title will set you free to be more fully used by God! “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” (John 8:36) And LGBT, and all, Christians are free, if we truly internalize the Gospel that Jesus taught and epitomized!

Brains in Our Shorts

RELIGIOUS legalists have been obsessed with sex — and especially with other people’s sex lives — for many hundreds of years. Their attitudes toward Jesus’s mother have demonstrated that obsession quite clearly. I believe the Virgin Birth story in Luke points to the doctrine of Christ’s unique divinity and humanity. Though I believe in the truth of it, and see no constructive or edifying reason why anyone might need to “debunk” it, I don’t see the Virgin Birth, in or of itself, as the point.

Why are legalists so concerned about the sex life of a woman who lived on this earth 2,000 years ago? Is that really showing a reverence for Mary? This obsession with the sexual behavior of other people — living or dead — degrades us. It puts our brains in our shorts. A common lament of social conservatives is that sexual immorality (as they define it) is evil because it degrades us, dragging our minds down from heavenly things into the dirt. Perhaps, when they say that, they should be addressing it to themselves.

The way many anti-gay “moral” crusaders speak to and about gays is degrading not only to gays, but to themselves. When people like Rick Santorum, Ken Cuccinelli or Michele Bachmann say such things about love or marriage, they degrade their spouses and children, as well. They’re revealing their own darkened minds and cold hearts, and laying bare their own warped views of sex, love and commitment.

The Bible makes clear that people ought to treat others as they want to be treated, themselves. This means they should also treat others’ loved ones as they want their own loved ones to be treated. It also says that out of their mouths comes what is in their hearts.

Though these people talk incessantly about the subject of morality, they never really honestly deal with it. The disconnect between their apparent fascination with the subject — at least (and almost solely) where sex is concerned — amounts to what very much looks like a pathology. They want to control the conversation not because of what they do want to discuss, but because of what theydon’t. Every choice is favor of one thing is also a choice against something else. And the behavior of anti-gay Christians has become so glaringly un-Christian that their claim to be concerned about morality rings hollow and pathetically false.

I have a personal devotion to Mary. I firmly believe that she prays for me from Heaven, that she watches over me and that she helps to keep me faithful. I believe that all of those who are trampled underfoot by the powerful are — as her Magnificat very clearly says — especially beloved of God. Which certainly includes gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, both in and outside of the Christian fold.

Why the obsession, among anti-gay Christians, over whether she remained a virgin all her life? Thus may her compassion and concern for those they trample be ignored. I do believe Mary was a virgin, but I doubt she spends as much time thinking about that as she does about those who need God’s protection, and who cry out to her for help.

Not only do anti-gay Christians keep their brains in their shorts, but their hearts also seem to be stuck there. Thus do they demonize other human beings instead of reaching out to them with God’s love. “But we love the sinner,” they say, “and hate only the sin.” If it were a sin for us to fully live, and to love and be loved as we are best able, then God would hate us. That is a conclusion born not of hysterical hyperbole, as they charge when we reach it, but of honest and inescapable logic.

They may hate us, but God most assuredly does not. Nor do they get to interpret, for us, what it means for God to love us. They go right on trying to, but we won’t let them. Thus do they scream about “religious liberty” — apparently ignorant of the fact that it applies not only to them, but to us.

Pope Francis says it’s time for the heterosexual faithful to shift focus and reach out to us in genuine love — to listen to us, instead of preaching at us. Now those who claimed that the anti-gay pronouncements of his predecessors were “infallible” (and of course they did this, by implication if not by overt assertion) are falling all over themselves to assure us that this pope’s opinions are merely his own. What they really believe, evidently, is that they are infallible.

They believe that they are more loving than God “Himself.” What is becoming apparent is that they are idolaters who worship themselves, and that they would set up a counterfeit to genuine Christian faith. Thus do they want religious freedom only for themselves, and lie by omission by pretending that no other form of faith but theirs exists. In their grand crusade to protect their religious freedom, they certainly seek the power to crush ours.

I will deal with these issues more specifically in other essays. There’s too much here to do justice to it all in one. Suffice it to say that further conversation — and a deeper exploration — is urgently needed now.

We need not be afraid to have a conversation about morality, including sexual morality. Our adversaries are the ones who fear it. Which is all the more reason why we — of all people — must be the ones who insist on having it. The truth is on our side, not theirs. That’s why they shy away from real dialogue and attempt to divert it with lies.

Since the truth is, indeed, on our side, now is the time for us to stand up for it. God is on our side. Mary’s Magnificat makes that abundantly clear:

“My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
For he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me –
holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he promised our ancestors.”

Luke 1:46-55 (NIV)

“Duck Dynasty” Phil Robertson’s Theology: Dead or Alive?

Since a recent GQ Magazine article outed his homophobic and pro-Jim-crow views, left-wing commentators have declared open season on Phil Robertson, the patriarch of A&E’s “Duck Dynasty.” Robertson, based on his reading of Christian scriptures, considers homosexuality a sin and predicts that homosexuals will be excluded from the Kingdom of God.

In Salon, Joan Walsh pronounced Robertson a “bigoted pseudo-Christian.” Another Salon author, Brittney Cooper, a self-professed “reluctant Evangelical,” took aim at Robertson’s “conservative theology,” denouncing the “violence” that it “does to gay people in the name of God.”

Cooper’s Bible and Robertson’s Bible are the same. However, Cooper’s practice of “hermeneutic [interpretive] consistency” differentiates her from Robertson who likely reads scripture literally (as if a literal reading were possible). Those of us who treasure scripture would do well to emulate a thoughtful and compelling approach like Cooper’s. Hers is a living theology.

For Cooper, the “first and foremost” truth disclosed by the Bible is that “God is love.” Intent on making scripture consistent with this fundamental truth, she rejects passages that contradict it. Cooper acknowledges that the Bible sanctions slavery. But since she is certain that a loving “God is not a racist,” she rejects racist scriptural passages. She agrees with Robertson that the Bible “declares sex between men to be an abomination.” But since she is certain that a loving “God is not a homophobe,” she rejects homophobic scriptural passages.

Robertson would find Cooper’s approach anathema. Literalist Christians consider scripture to be the verbatim transcript of God’s revealed laws, beliefs, and commandments.

Contra Robertson, a living theology, according to Jewish theologian, Michael Fishbane, treats ancient, sacred writings as more than simple and fixed storehouses of information. A living theology, Fishbane writes in Sacred Attunement, includes an intentional, ongoing effort of “adaptation and clarification” of religious texts. This effort helps us remain alert to the traces of transcendence that break through our everyday consciousness and to “sustain (and even revive)” them “in the normal course of life.”

Readers of the Bible who eschew the effort of adapting and clarifying scripture cut themselves off from traces of transcendence. Their theologies are dead.

Also, the unquestioning acceptance touted by such as Robertson is neither coherent nor honest. Though literalist Christians believe that they take scripture at face value, they necessarily, at some level, interpret it.

On some issues the Bible is inconsistent or opaque. Martin Luther, who advocated relying on scripture to decide all issues, discovered that, at times, it is silent on important questions—for example, child baptism. As a result, each of us, whether we are aware of it or not, constructs meta-Bibles out of passages we select from the actual Bible. We assemble proof-texts that make sense to us or align with our commitments and values. We downplay Biblical proscriptions that inconveniently conflict with our favored mores—for example, the indifference of many contemporary Protestants to Jesus’ prohibition on divorce. Contradictory passages are set aside (Cooper does this with admirable transparency and clarity of purpose) or hyper-interpreted until they harmonize.

Consider in this regard, Robertson’s likely view that God so loved us that he sent his only Son to die for us on the cross. This is an interpretation of the crucifixion to which St. Paul hints in the New Testament but which did not enter the arc of Christian thought as a fully rendered doctrine until Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109) developed the satisfaction theory of Christ’s atonement.

Proof-texting and interpreting the Bible is unavoidable.

In addition, as Fishbane notes, the books of the Bible were spliced together. Varying worldviews and theological commitments are interwoven, sometimes within a single passage. Thus, scripture itself is an example of the work of interpretation and revision; its internal disagreements invite us—nay, prod us—to follow its lead and adapt and clarify. By doing so, we keep scripture and our theology alive.

Fishbane helpfully recommends reading events in the Bible as “theological expressions of primordial truth. The narratives of scripture thus become paradigms of perennial matters bearing on divine presence (both transcendence and immanence), as well as the human response to them.” More generally, “the old words of scripture are spaces for ever-new moments of spiritual consciousness and self-transformation.”

Christians like Robertson resist looking for such spaces and maintain their (imagined) literal grip on scripture. Joan Walsh calls Robertson a “bigoted pseudo-Christian” but she’s wrong about the “pseudo-Christian” part. Robertson is a Christian; his beliefs rest on interpretations at odds with those she prefers. There’s no doubt, though, Walsh is right about the “bigoted” part. Let’s be clear: Robertson’s dead theology is downright ugly.

References and Further Reading:

Magary, Drew. “What the Duck?” GQ, January 2014.

Cooper, Brittney. “Evangelical church’s ugly truth: ‘Duck Dynasty’ and Christian racists.”Salon, December 24, 2013.

Walsh, Joan. “2013: The year in whiteness. From Phil Robertson to Megyn Kelly, peddling white grievance became a bigger, crazier, more lucrative racket.” Salon, December 30, 2013.

Fishbane, Michael. Sacred Attunement: A Jewish Theology. Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2008.

Axelrod, Jim. “A&E can’t win on ‘Duck Dynasty’ flap.” CBS News, December 28, 2013.

Fixmer, Andy. “A&E Ends ‘Duck Dynasty’ Patriarch Suspension.” Bloomberg, December 28, 2013.

Author and editor, Myriam Renaud, is a Ph.D. Candidate in Theology at the University of Chicago Divinity School. She is co-organizing a conference, April 9-11, 2014: “God: Theological Accounts and Ethical Possibilities,” at the Divinity School (mainly funded by the Marty Center, free to the public). For more information, visit: http://divinity.uchicago.edu/god-theological-accounts-and-ethical-possibilities

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.

New Whosoever Podcast Features Jay Bakker

Jay Bakker is the son of famous television evangelists Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker. He grew up on the PTL (or Praise the Lord) club, and suffered terribly when his parents empire fell. Turning to drugs and partying eased the pain for awhile, but now Jay is out with a new book that describes not so much his fall “from” grace, but his fall to grace. Jay explains his “grace evolution.”

Subscribe to Whosoever Godcasts here.

The Fight Has Only Begun

Now that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” may be, at long last, on its way out, LGBT Christians must do more than merely rejoice. There is work for us to do yet.

Christians have been a big part of the reason why the grievously discriminatory policy of DADT was such a linchpin of military “discipline” in the first place. Chaplains in the armed services have largely — and vociferously — supported it. But gay and lesbian servicepeople tend, like most of the young folks who enlist, to be among the most religious and responsible members of society at large. There aren’t a lot of wild hedonists interested in risking their lives for their country.

For straight Christians to treat all gays and lesbians like aliens bearing some evil pox from outer space is a grave injustice. It is a shameful slander. The integration of the military cannot be completed while the integration of the churches remains a work undone.

If, indeed, we are to enjoy a new openness in the military ranks, it must not be only the opportunity to show photos of our families or mention our spouse’s name. It must also allow us to share our faith — and specifically what it means to us as gays and lesbians. This will be an important witness, but it will not be easy. The sad fact is that many of those most likely to bully and harrass us for our openness will likely be straight Christians. Many of whom come from backgrounds where we are still vehemently hated and feared.

Those of us who are willing to serve in spite of this will still need all the boldness and courage they can muster. In some ways, with the lifting of the ban on our open service, the battle has only just begun. LGBT Christians all over America need to be aware of the task that still stands ahead of us. We can be of tremendous help by showing support for those brave young people in a variety of creative ways.

Through our welcoming churches, we can send care packages filled with comforts from home. We can send letters to buoy spirits weighted by the worries of war. We can, perhaps, even adopt a soldier whose family might not be supportive. And by all means, we can monitor how our friends in uniform are treated. We — speaking out as LGBT Christians — can hold chaplains to their responsibility to represent Christ to ALL who serve.

Opportunities abound for us to be helpful. We can truly support the troops by helping to support our own: bearing the rainbow flag right alongside the Stars and Stripes. If DADT is really ending, we have reason to celebrate. But in its wake, we must not rest too soon.

The Giant Lavender Rabbit

All these studies and surveys about the effects of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell serve only to show one thing — something largely missed by the media and most of the public. They show how truly irrational many people still are about homosexuality. They’ve gotten ahold of the wrong end of the stick. We’re all supposed to worry about the reaction of bullies and bigots who fear gays. It never occurs to the hysterics to worry about the problem that actually underlies the bullying and the bigotry.

What the military has is a crisis of discipline. It is afraid it can’t make straights who fear gays behave. It is really not the behavior of gays that is causing the problem at all. We are being scapegoated because we are a minority, and minorities are always easy to blame. But in so doing, our military succumbs to a cowardice shamefully unbecoming to an organization built on courage.

It is like being afraid to leave your house because of the giant, carnivorous lavender rabbit you’re sure must wait outside. You must refuse all invitations to go anywhere, and warn all visitors away, because of that big, evil bunny. You must sneak out the back way and tiptoe past the threat if you wish to venture beyond the confines of your house. There is no meat-eating rabbit out there in reality, and all the sane people in your life wonder why you’re so afraid. But though they keep telling you otherwise, you refuse to believe them, crouching inside and peeking out the windows to catch a glimpse of the evil monster lurking there.

The military, and the bigots who encourage such nonsense, believe in the carnivorous lavender rabbit. At least their behavior is every bit as irrational as if they did.

It is, at root, the same problem we face in our schools. The “Lord of the Flies” atmosphere that pervades them is not caused by gay kids being themselves. It is, in fact, a lack of discipline. Conservatives should understand this better than anyone else. But in their panic, they have lost sight of reason.

If no one else can get them to be reasonable, LGBT Christians should certainly do our best. Jesus Christ exhorted His followers to overcome fear with love and understanding. That anti-gay Christians lead the charge into the hysteria now gripping the military is a scandal and a disgrace. They must be told to buck up and stop the freakout. They can’t go on persuading others to believe in their Savior when they clearly aren’t willing to trust in Him themselves.

They seem to think they can do nothing about the skinheads, or gang-bangers, or Nazis, or convicted criminals in their ranks. They’d rather pick on the gays, not because we are really frightening but because they’re actually more afraid of the mayhem they’ve let loose in our armed services. They want to appease the thugs because those troublemakers are holding them hostage. “We mustn’t make waves,” they claim, “because we’ll make them angry — and then they’ll REALLY show us!”

Who’s really in charge, here? Is it the thugs — or We, the People? Polls overwhelmingly show that the people think gays should be able to openly serve. It’s time to drive that giant lavender rabbit back into the darkness where nightmares belong.