Monday, April 30, 2012

The Monday Sermon: If You Twist Science In The Name Of Family And Morality, You're Still ... Lying.

Lying ... is lying ... is lying ... is lying. False research? Hell, it's only lying on a different level. And in a sense, it's worse, because it is much more premeditated: sometimes we lie on the spur of the moment to cover something up, but false research, twisted research, takes thought. Lots of it.

Many organizations in our country have become extensions of today's pulpit: The American Family Association, The Family Research Council, Focus on the Family spearhead a movement to legitimize hate and promote their form of "morality" through junk science and "research." The Barna Group, for example, touts itself as an unbiased pollster, but it's findings are anything but unbiased: George Barna's profile can be found on the website for Newt Gingrich's campaign, the section titled "Faith Coalition." 
He founded the Barna Research Group in 1984 (now The Barna Group) and helped it become a leading marketing research firm focused on the intersection of faith and culture.
The Family "Research" Council has done it time and time again: presented bad research as the truth. In fact, the use of discredited research such as Paul Cameron's studies about gays is what has prompted the Southern Poverty Law Center to list the FRC as a hate group. Ditto the American Family Association (Bryan Fischer) Ditto Abiding Ministries (Scott Lively). Ditto AFTAH (Americans for Truth About Homosexuality). Ditto NARTH (National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality). Ditto the late Chuck Colson's Prison Fellowship:
Chuck Colson and Prison Fellowship faked the data to make it appear as though taking part in their Christian rehabilitation program had a much higher rate of success in avoiding recidivism than it actually did. 
To the average American, false research has occasionally been exposed when it deals with homosexuality*. The machinations of Tony Perkins (FRC) and Bryan Fischer (AFA) have been questioned for years. But the truth is that false research has been demoralizing other religions and social arenas like Islam, women issues, and global warming for a good time as well.
The prolific use of shoddy research was on display when Rep. King used the dubious contention that over eight out of ten mosques in the U.S. advocate radical Islam as a rationale for holding congressional hearings on the radicalization of Muslim-Americans.The thoroughly debunked claim that extremists dominate over 80% of American mosques was first made by a Muslim cleric who has never been able to document or verify his assertion, but that hasn’t stopped anti-Muslim activists from repeating it ad nauseam. Frank Gaffney, Jr., of the Center for Security Policy, one of the most vociferous anti-Muslim ideologues, cited the phony statistic to defend his campaign to prevent the construction of mosques in America, and Religious Right leader Gary Bauer cited unnamed “experts” to support his allegation that those who disseminate “radical Wahhabist ideology” fund 80% of American mosques.
One typical evangelical response to global warming is given by the website Got (The Bible Has Answers!)
The “consensus” claimed by most global warming theorists is not scientific proof; rather, it is a statement of majority opinion. Scientific majorities have been wrongly influenced by politics and other factors in the past. Such agreement is not to be taken lightly, but it is not the same thing as hard proof.
Ah, politics! It's the best defense against true research. Two weeks ago, when researcher Robert Spitzer recanted his findings about the possibility of homosexual "change", the AFA and the FRC cited "politics" and the ferocious machinations of the "homosexual lobby."

"Liar Lair" and Vetting The Research.

The aggressiveness with which today's socially conservative organizations tout these pieces of misinformation is always limited to the people who will never question them, so one solution may be meet aggression with aggression: screaming  "lair, liar pants on fire!" But what about the morality of such aggression? This is probably where morality must be weighed and hate-enabling becomes far too heavy in the balance: make no stake about it, knowingly manipulating numbers and outcomes is intentionally harmful.

In our last Monday Sermon, we wrote about vetting your belief, and just as much as you need to vet your belief, you need to vet the research spouted by organizations that would make you distrust or hate a group, a religion or a science. 

You might say that vetting isn't enough, shouting "liar liar!' isn't enough. On the other hand, letting the lies go unchallenged is...a sin.

*TWO:NEW YORK — In a letter made available to Truth Wins Out, the authors of a book on the health of gay men have accused Focus on the Family of distorting their research. The researchers publicly repudiatedan article written by “ex-gay” activist Jeff Johnston in Focus on the Family’ web magazine, Citizen Link, which falsely linked homosexuality to childhood sexual abuse. This letter marks the tenth researcher in two years who has claimed that Focus on the Family misrepresented their work.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

A History Of Degenerative America In One Easy Lesson: A Christian Right Leader's Memories Of Fantasyland!

Carol Brady might have told him to STFU (see below)

The Christian Right'as grip on reality has never been very firm, and now Rick Scarborough of Vision America proves it. In one short diatribe, Scarborough managed to show just how skewed the Christian Right's views of America have been. Read the quote, view the video below. It's worth taking apart point by point - just for the fun (and the reality) of it.
Scarborough: We’ve gone from Andy Griffith to Bart Simpson in my lifetime; we’ve gone from Leave it to Beaver to Beavis and Behind Head, from My Three Sons to Two and a Half Men, from the Brady Bunch to the Big Bang Theory, we’ve gone from the Partridge Family to Desperate Housewives, from Happy Days to Jerry Springer, and look at comedians, there used to be comedians like Bob Hope who epitomized class and loved his country, now we have Larry the Cable Guy being gross and crass, and Christians laugh, what used to amaze us now simply amuses us. We’ve gone from commentaries from such cultural icons as Eric Sevareid to Bill Maher and Rachel Maddow. Look at our movies; we’ve gone from True Grit to Brokeback Mountain, from musicals like the Sound of Music to Oklahoma, from showgirls to slasher porn. Our schools were once the envy of the world, now we have dropout rates exceeding fifty percent in some of our major cities, graduating seniors can’t even read the diploma they’re receiving. Prayer and bible study are out, metal directors and drug-sniffing dogs are in, the Ten Commandments are out, murder and mayhem are in, the theory of evolution is taught as fact while the fact of God is taught as theory, sex-education has become nothing more than the facilitation of fornication, complete with home study with the teachers, in many cases.
1. Andy Griffith was television's answer to Will Rogers. Unfortunately, it made buffoons of Southerners through characters portrayed by Don Knotts (Barney Fife), Jim Nabors  (Gomer Pyle) and George Lindsey (Goober Pyle). Even Frances Bavier's character (Aunt Bea) was non too bright at times. As to Bart Simpson, he's waaay more intelligent, dude!
2. Leave It To Beaver was America as it wanted to be, but never was. That is, unless we knew of any housewife who cleaned the house in pearls. Perhaps the only realistic character was the smarmy Eddie Haskell. We knew kids like Eddie, but we never knew any family even approaching the Cleavers. And unfortunately, we all know idiots Like Beavis and Butthead.
3. My Three Sons was an attempt to give credence to fatherhood by making the dad single and his sons mildly contemporary. It managed to cover up the problem of deadbeat dads which was real, but not well known. And while Two and a Half Men doesn't tackle social issues, the characters deal with one of today's most prevalent lifestyles: the surrogate family.
4. Making the comparison of the Big Bang Theory to The Brady Bunch is more apt to the study of our fictional past than Scarborough knows: while the BBT touts science, the Brady Bunch borders on science fiction. The show, with its cutesy-sweet characters living in a sprawling suburban dream house might have been scripted by aliens from Mars. The stars of TBB certainly knew that they were playing out-of-reality characters and, later on, had some fun going totally against type (see Florence Henderson's rendition of "When You're Good To Mama" below).

5. The Partridge Family was a cute, musical attempt to bring the sitcom up-to-date, after the Monkees/Beatles era. It  made Oscar winner Shirley Jones a hip, working mom and spawned a minor rock star in Sean Cassidy. But it never touched upon reality in the slightest. In comparison, Desperate Housewives has highlighted today's war on women: remember, the beginning premise is that the narrator killed herself and the angst generated by the plots was the key to the first riveting episodes.
6. Scarborough's pairing of Happy Days to Jerry Springer is probably the most outlandishly ridiculous comparison, like countering a kumquat with an elephant. Happy Days was a spoof on what the Beach Blanket Bingo crowd looked like at home. Jerry Springer is a spoof on the mores of trailer trash. Springer himself never took any of it too serious. 

7. Bob Hope's class was born of vaudeville's less seamier side, kind of vaudeville lite. Hope's humor was always created to counter the grim realities of life and war. Was it based on reality? Only in allowing the common man hope that he too could get Dorothy Lamour. Larry The Cable Guy was, ironically, born of the humor of Jeff Foxworthy who now hosts The American Bible Challenge. 

8. The most distinguished hallmark of the American society is and always has been change. - Eric Sevareid. 

Scarborough would have hated his Sevareid's guts had he bothered to find out what Sevareid thought - and what he stood for. Sevareid was definitely to the left of center and one of his proudest achievements was in obtaining Adlai Stevenson's last interview. If he were alive today, he'd probably be co-hosting uber-intelligent Rachel Maddow's show. 

9. True Grit's Rooster Cogburn was not exactly a nice man and any love affair with the likes of Katherine Hepburn (in any character) would have been out of character for a misogynistic egotist. Brokeback Mountain  delved into the psyches of "macho" men in the closet. Much closer to reality and Rick Perry (regardless of leather jacket) wouldn't you say?
10. Hollywood's first real "slasher porn - "Psycho" - was made five years before the Sound of Music.

11. Drop out rates in inner cities has always been high, especially at a time when segregation dictated a poorer education for African Americans. Besides, you can't drop out of a school you're not allowed to attend. 

12. Christian prayers were "in" because diversity was not an issue (especially in Scarborough's Southern Baptist school). 

 13. Of course, Scarborough saved the most salacious and fallacious for last when he said: " has become nothing more than the facilitation of fornication, complete with home study with the teachers, in many cases."

Has Scarborough ever visited the homes of today's youth pastors?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

From Mary Magdalene To Mary Haynes: The 2000-Year-Old War On Women And Religion's Role In It.

"A woman's compromised the day's she's born."
- Miriam "Vanities" Aarons, in Clare Booth Luce's The Women

Mary Magdalene was not a prostitute, but early Christian men seldom failed to realize it when trying to put women "in their place." It was St. Paul who nailed it in his letter to the Corinthians when he basically told women to shut up in church and to wear head coverings. And even though the early church had women deacons (and brave women who sometimes saved male Christian ass), the ensuing orthodox Christians knew a good thing when they saw it in making women like Mary Magdalene prostitutes and other women child-bearing chattel as meek (and virginal) as Mary the mother of Jesus.

For putting women up on a pedestal or down on a bed in a brothel was the best way to keep them out of the middle - and equal with men.

Of course, there have been matriarchal societies throughout history* and different attitudes towards women: e.g. in ancient Greece, the concept of a wife was quite different since a woman was taken in as the man's "sister" and subsequently became a more integral part of his family. But let's face it, the Western Civilization built upon Judeo-Christian standards has always compromised women.Women as equals to men is a very recent construct.

A construct most people, especially the Christian Right, still cannot countenance. The latest denunciation of Catholic nuns' endeavors in social justice have been denounced by Benedict XVI not only because he is trying to placate America's Christian Right, but also because as the mainstay of patriarchal Roman Catholicism, the pope must keep nuns (women) in their place. They, after all, have not been against certain issues which women should be against:

WASHINGTON (RNS) -- The Vatican has launched a crackdown on the umbrella group that represents most of America's 55,000 Catholic nuns, saying that the group was not speaking out strongly enough against gay marriage, abortion and women's ordination.


Mary Magdalene was compromised. Lucretia Borgia was compromised.** Eleanor of Aquitaine was compromised. Even Eleanor Roosevelt was compromised.*** With the exception of a celebratory few in entertainment and politics, American women have always been compromised. Religious organizations like the SBC have always seen to that. 

And sometimes it takes a strong dose of the truth to tell America's women that they are still compromised.

Every time I see The Women (screenplay by Anita Loos), I marvel at the innate intelligence of women: sure, women aren't REALLY that catty, vicious or vain, but the sophistication of the movie is remarkable - simply because women really have had to survive under the cloak of self-made machismo men have imagined. In a sense, The Women is a wake up call to women everywhere: you're compromised, all right, but you've been able to deal with being compromised for two millenium through an intelligence that belies men. Underneath the facade of "Park Avenue Playgirls" lies a will to survive no man can match.  

"This is today. Steven and I are equals. We gave ourselfves to each other of our own free will for life. And to compromise that is wrong. Shockingly wrong! 
That's what Mary Haynes thought. Although God is never mentioned in The Women, the presence of religion and imposed mores is pervasive and substantial: it allowed Mary to think that "morality" included a kind equality. But she comes to a rude awakening later when, in Reno, Miriam tells her the truth. Then the very end of The Women shakes us to the core with the ultimate truth: women are still compromised. When the question of self-respect (in going back to her wayward husband) is brought to the fore, Mary responds:

"Pride is something a woman in love 
can't afford."****

So there's always been, in a sense, a war on women by a society formulated by religion, and maybe when women counterattack the the primal causes of doctrine and the clergy, they can finally receive the one thing that has eluded them for the last two thousand years: respect. 

*The most recent being the matriarchal society of the Filipines.
** Her father, Pope Alexander VI used both her and her brother Cesare as political pawns. The portrait of Lucretia as a poisoning fem fatale was both fictitious and unjustified.
*** Eleanor's lack of beauty compromised her from day one: in a letter to his mother, Sara Delano, FDR actually apologized for it. Unflattering cartoons were used against her, hiding the fact that she was a superb stateswoman. 

****Gay men like me have always looked to strong or beleaguered women for inspiration and support. At the Castro Theatre in San Francisco, a showing of The Women, Mildred Pierce, or Auntie Mame guarantees a packed house overflowing with notepads at the ready. Even the camp classic Valley of the Dolls exudes a kind of female machismo. What they sense most, however, is the fact that women are compromised - retrained - in their lives by society, an aspect many formerly closeted gays know all too well. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

What War On Women?

Every time I see The Women (screenplay by Anita Loos), I marvel at the innate intelligence of their sex: sure, women aren't REALLY that catty, vicious or vain, but the sophistication of the movie is remarkable - simply because women really have had to survive under the cloak of self-made machismo men have imagined. 

Gay men have always looked to strong or beleaguered women for inspiration and support. At the Castro Theatre in San Francisco, a showing of The Women, Mildred Pierce*, or Auntie Mame guarantees a packed house overflowing with notepads at the ready. Even the camp classic Valley of the Dolls exudes a kind of female machismo.**

Yes, there is a war on women. But it's the same war women have been in for the past 2000 years in what is laughingly called "Western Civilization." In The Women, it's Miriam "Vanities" Arrons (Paulette Goddard) who puts it best: "A woman's compromised from the day she's born." And in movies like The Women, we're made to realize just what good, intelligent, witty warriors they are. 

More power to them.

* Often referred to as "Mildred Fierce".
** Helen Lawson: "They drummed you out of Hollywood so you come crawling back to Broadway, Well, Broadway doesn't go for booze and dope."

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Monday Sermon: What If What You Believe Is Really Just...Crap?

Belief is hallowed in our country.
Maybe a bit too much.

"I believe for every drop of rain that falls, a flower grows..." Nice. Inspirational. Not true, but who cares?(1) Statements of belief in any credo, philosophy, experience or person have always been sacrosanct to Americans. When "I believe" is uttered with any amount of intensity, it commands respect. "I believe in Joe Blow" rings with commitment. Sometimes "I believe" challenges the listener: NOT believing is decidedly wrong.

"It's what we BELIEVE!" is probably the most ubiquitous response to any criticism of religion. Visitors to the Creation Museum in Kentucky chimed "This is what we BELIEVE!" in defense of their prideful support. Many people divide the country into "us" and "them: "believers" and "non-believers." Belief has, in effect, become a catchall defense mechanism as well as a rally cry. It is a weapon for both defense and attack. And sometimes it becomes an unassailable fortress in war.(2)

It's no wonder that criticism of any belief system (especially involving blind belief) is almost immediately looked upon with an enormous amount of contempt. And if you can't stand the contempt, well, tough - you made a conscious decision to question the system and it's your fault if you're held in contempt. True believers (and they are all true believers) don't take criticism very well.

So what if some belief is such crapola, such bullshit, such cretinous crud  that its mere existence labels the believer as someone uneducated and out of touch with reality or -worse - an unmitigated moron? Young earth Creationism is perhaps a prime example: the Creation Museum in Kentucky, in its quest to somehow "adjust" science with belief, has a Tyrannosaurus Rex blissfully chomping on vegetation in the Garden of Eden. The idea that Adam and Eve may have romped with Pebbles Flintstone and Bam Bam Rubble has given legitimate scientists cause to call the museum's reasoning "Yabba Dabba Science."

The ensuing guffaws were well deserved, but they weren't enough to stop the Museum's creators from embarking on another piece of WTF: a "lifesize" rendering of Noah's Ark.(3)

Another example of belief that is absolutely ludicrous is snake handling. The practice of snake handling is still observed in rural parts of Appalachia and the South, with handlers believing that survival from snake bites gave evidence of grace and faith. Some handlers have imbibed poisons like strychnine to prove the New Testament's Mark 16: " and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them." Needless to say, there have been some fatalities in snake handler churches.

The belief that satanic forces are at work in everything that the believer does not consider God-sanctioned are, for the most part, irrational and ludicrous:

- Evangelist C. Peter Wagner:
...asserts that Catholic saints bring honor to the spirits of darkness, and promotes the burning of their statues in Argentina. Wagner asserts that the Holy Spirit came to his associate, Cindy Jacobs (a "prophet" in Wagner’s Apostolic Council of Prophetic Elders) and "told her that in [the Argentinian city of] Resistencia they must burn the idols, like the magicians did in Ephesus"

- The founder of Heartland Apostolic Prayer Network, John Benefiel, has posited that the Statue of Liberty is a demonic idol (see video below)(4)

And the belief in a vengeful God always smacks of medieval superstition:

- Pat Robertson proposed that Orlando's Disney World having a "Gay Day" would result in floods, hurricanes "and possibly a meteor."
- Cindy Japan-is--shaped-like-a-dragon Jacobs said that the unusual occurrence of a mass of birds falling dead in Texas was the result of the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

Belief and Faith

And the attitude of faith is the very opposite of clinging to belief, of holding on. Belief is clinging to a rock in the middle of a stream. Faith is knowing how to swim.
 - Alan Watts

Personally, I do not harbor a belief in God. I have, instead, a faith in God inextricably coupled with humanity: as creations, God is in all of us and faith in humanity is faith in God. One cannot exist without the other. It is the placement of God beside us, or rather, above us, that makes "believers" prone to self-loathing and have an inherent distrust of humanity. (Saint) Augustine of Hippo gave us the vehicle for self-loathing in Original Sin and its transmission through sex. "We're all sinners, born in sin" is the great leveling retort for many Christians who need to dispel any appearance of self-righteousness. 

So perhaps belief in Original Sin is...crap. It certainly is the greatest guilt complex mankind has ever had, the kind that has forced him to compensate with a bravado of wars. 

The Power of Blind Belief

It's time we should qualify the term "belief" by saying that what is meant is really "blind belief", belief where no substantial proof exists, like belief in a myth or belief in a rumor. But that qualification does not lessen its power. Blind belief has erected monuments and created wars.

Perhaps the true power of blind belief lies in the hold it has on the believer: the one who believes that all gay men die in diapers believes (or wants to believe) everything Pastor Patrick Wooden puts forth. The power of blind belief can lead the believer to automatically respect almost anyone with an "Rev." in front of their name.(5)

Blind belief has a kind of "trickle down" effect: the blind belief people have in religion trickles down -with very few filters - to belief of everything their pastors say. And it is because it has few filters that blind belief is strong: education, for example, is a filter that "true" believers distrust and many times avoid. Qualify that: education outside of the system of blind belief. That's why people actually believe Rev. Patrick Wooden.

Blind belief also feeds people's self-righteousness: in order to feel righteous, people need to be enabled by a belief which is more superior, more uplifting, more...righteous than others. That's why organizations like Americans For Truth About Homosexuality have people like Patrick Wooden on their media broadcasts. The sheer righteous arrogance that comes out of men like Patrick Wooden, DL ("Down Low") Foster, Bryan Fischer and Pat Robertson is astounding.

Yet people believe them.

Vetting Your Belief

As we've seen in the Republican party, vetting is not a conservative's strong point (e.g. Sarah Palin). The same could be said for many "social" conservatives: if a candidate says "God" and "Bible" enough times, well, that's enough for them. (6)

And it's the same with some beliefs: "That ole time religion is good enough for me" merely says that the person has never been allowed (or allowed himself) to look behind what today is called his "belief." After all, to question a televangelist like Pat Robertson, a "Prophetess" like Cindy Jacobs or a "Pastor" like Rick Warren is to question what they preach. And they preach THE WORD OF GOD! Looking in the past to believers who promoted slavery, who caused wars, who tortured and killed in the name of God is! The authority of the Bible is never questioned, and neither is the authority of the pulpit. 

It's ironic that more than any other time in history, you (and by extension - we) need to vet your beliefs, simply because purveyors of the "crap" have expanded their horizons to such a degree that some of the beliefs they proselytize are more dangerous than ever: one only need to look to Uganda and Russia, and at home, our own state legislatures. The culture wars are real. And politicians who specially pander to the Christian Right are merely enabling those televangelists and pastors who shepherd their blind believers. 

So you need to vet your beliefs as well as expose the underpinnings of others. And maybe in vetting your beliefs, you shouldn't be afraid to call some of it "crap."

1. If it were true, we'd be drowning in nasturtiums.
2. Europe's 30-years' War pitted Protestants against Catholics and claimed approximately 2 million "believers."
3. The new theme park will cost an estimated $170 million - $55 million basically subsidized by the state of Kentucky. 
4. One response/comment to the video:
ctually, the 'name' of the statue in New York is "The New Colossus" and is symbolic of all things that are great about America. Freemasons had nothing to do with funding or constructing it, the statue was a gift to the United States from French Schoolchildren. This man is either stupid, ill-read, power hungry, or, most likely, all the above.
5.myself included.
6. In the case of Newt Gingrich, it was "God" "bible" and "mea culpas".

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Day The Bullies Get Yanked Out Of School: This Friday's Day Of Silence May Have Unexpected Results

A holiday for bullies is a holiday from bullies! Thank you FRC!

Look, bullying should not be taking place in our schools, every child in America should be able to go to school—public school, private school, wherever—without the fear of threat or being intimidated, regardless of what the cause is, whether they’re overweight, whether their religious viewpoints, no child should be bullied because they are effeminate or because of their sexual orientation or whatever, it shouldn’t happen, but we cannot allow these programs like the Day of Silence to come into our schools as a cover for the promotion of homosexuality.

"You're going to hell!" has always been a favorite slogan of bullies, especially ones with a Christian Right upbringing. Places like Tennessee have addressed the problem of bullying by actually passing "pro-bullying" legislation designed to allow kids to be bullied, if the bully states it's on religious grounds and he or she is simply expressing their religious beliefs.

Each year, to counteract bullying in schools, GLSEN (Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network) encourages students in schools to have a Day of Silence in solidarity with those students who have been bullied because they are gay (or have been perceived to be gay). And each year, proponents of the Christian Right scream that it is simply a tool of indoctrination into the "gay lifestyle."

Each year, more and more students have been participating in the Day Of Silence, much to the consternation of people like Tony Perkins (Family Research Council - FRC), Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association and Linda Harvey of Mission America. Two years ago, Tony Perkins was prompted to counteract the DofS with a "Day Of Dialogue."

It fell flat.

Probably because the "dialogue" Perkins insisted on was rather one-sided: just tell your teacher that you think you might be gay and go to the counselor who will hopefully pray the gay away. End of "dialogue."

This year, the strategy has taken a page from National Organization for Marriage's playbook: boycott. Hell, that "liberal" school is just as bad as Starbucks, so don't patronize it: this is, after all, a shameful indoctrination on the part of the school, so, just yank your kid out for the day in protest! The problem with this strategy is that it is bolstered with lies and misconceptions:

Pastor Looomer of a Connecticut school board talking to Tony Perkins:
At past events, GLSEN was caught distributing pamphlets that promote everything from child sex to pornography. “If parents [knew] the inappropriateness of the materials, they’d be enraged,”
Uh, there's a problem here: GLSEN has never distributed any such pamphlets. Total fabrication.

Another anti-gay, anti-GLSEN piece of reasoning comes from Mission America's Linda Harvey:
-The Day of Silence encourages students to nurture prejudiced, hostile and bigoted attitudes against Christians and others with traditional moral beliefs, and to spread inaccurate and harmful information.
Hmm... the "inaccurate and harmful information" being that homophobia (and bullying) is fueled by demonizers? The disingenuous ramblings of Tony Perkins in his above statement are hollow because neither Mr. Perkins nor the Christian Right have ever been that inclusive in anything. Perkins, in fact, only takes a back seat to Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association when it comes to demonizing and singling out gays for special ostracism:
On this day, thousands of public high schools and increasing numbers of middle schools will allow students to remain silent throughout an entire day... to promote GLSEN's socio-political goals and its controversial, unproven, and destructive theories on the nature and morality of homosexuality.
Parents must actively oppose this hijacking of the classroom for political purposes. Pleasejoin the national effort to restore to public education a proper understanding of the role of government-subsidized schools. You can help de-politicize the learning environment by calling your child out of school if your child's school allows students to remain silent during instructional time on the Day of Silence.
So the bullies are to get their own special holiday. But what if the schools and communities are so relieved by the lull in bullying that they plead with Tony Perkins and Bryan Fischer to keep them home?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Bringing Hate To Paradise: Will Bali Suffer From The Wrath of NOM?

Scott Lively, move over, there's a new international homophobia-spreader in town: the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) has attempted to go international with its DumpStarbucks campaign by targeting countries where homophobia is already established, but need a little push in the form of anti-Western sentiments. 
" we go international, expanding campaigns into Mandarin, Arabic, Turkish, Spanish, and Bahala (one of the chief languages of Indonesia) online ads will also start running in Egypt, Beijing, Hong Kong, the Yunnan region of China, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Oman and Kuwait."

The campaign may be an easy sell in countries where homosexuality is criminalized, but think of this: the "overspill" into countries that are gay friendly, like Bali. As part of the campaign to boycott Starbucks in Indonesia, NOM will be affecting what some people consider the closest thing we on earth have to "paradise."

And Bali is, by all accounts, very gay friendly.

Joe Jervis (Joe.My.God) is rightfully indignant at the thought of NOM's campaign targeting homophobic countries:
In what may be their single-most outrageous and repulsive move yet, NOM is attempting to whip up anti-gay fervor by expanding their Starbucks boycott into nations that put homosexuals to death or have other legal punishments for merely being gay.

The tactic certainly compliments their "drive-a-wedge" strategy. But it's necessary to look beyond the skulduggery of using already anti-gay societies and see what effects it might have on the peripheral societies such as Bali. Like it or not, Bali is intrinsically tied to Indonesia. And Indonesia is intrinsically tied to Bali's tourism and finances. Starbucks has dozens of franchises on the tiny island.

One glitch in a push by NOM in Bali:  92% of its religious community follows Balinese Hinduism with only about 5% following Islam and 2% following Christianity. NOM, of course, wishes that it was 92% Right Wing Christian or 92% Muslim.*

Sorry, NOM, But Bali Ain't Uganda

Scott Lively and Lou Engle had success in exporting homophobia to Africa: third world countries with little education were easily led by evangelicals who regaled them with stories and false statistics of the "evil homosexual lifestyle." It is common knowledge that both had a great deal of influence with the formation of Uganda's infamous "kill the gays" bill.** The First Lady of Uganda, Madam Mouseveni, a born-again Christian, welcomed them as well as other evangelicals in order to bolster the country's emerging Right Wing Christianity. Of course, calling for a boycott of Starbucks is not the same as pushing for capital punishment for gays. 

But it's a start. 

NOM's problem with Bali, however,  lies not only in a different religion, but a different mindset - and more advanced education. As the richest province in Indonesia's archipelago, it has a level of sophistication in art, literature and sciences that cannot be matched, even in Jakarta. In other words, it's "world class," not "third world class." Paradise has standards to uphold. 

So the DumpStarbucks campaign will tank in Paradise. But that is not to say that we should think it will not be successful in any of the other supremely homophobic countries on NOM's list, the irony being that most of the countries are Muslim.

The enemy of my enemy is my friend.

* Same thing - at least in terms of homophobia
**As did Rick Warren before the awarding Uganda the sobriquet of "Purpose Driven Nation." Warren's BBF in Uganda was Martin Ssempe, the "eat da poo poo" pastor (so called because he has claimed that homosexuals ingest feces on a regular basis). 

Monday, April 9, 2012

Is Christianity Worth Saving?

Crucial question. Crucial answer.

It's the day after Easter. The chocolate Easter bunnies have given up their retail space to Mother's Day cards and purple vestments are tucked away in church closets. Easter lilies and cymbidium corsages* may see another week of life but most of the trappings of Easter must wait resurrection in the coming year. Easter, the very soul of Christianity, its raison d'etre, will be stored away like Christmas ornaments.

Today's Christianity, the one we see on television, the one posted relentlessly on YouTube, the one touted endlessly in GOP campaign speeches, however, will not be tucked away for future use. Its vehement chest-pounding was seen in Pastor Dennis Terry's introduction of the "Jesus Candidate" Rick Santorum.** It's hypocrisy was seen in Pastor Terry's back-peddling response to criticism in the ubiquitous "...but we LOVE everyone!"

Andrew Sullivan's recent views on today's Christianity certainly brought home the fact that Christianity has been ruined by the last 50years' worth of televangelists, moralizers, priests, politicians... and people like Terry. 

"There's so much bad religion right now in this country that I felt it was important as a Christian to say, 'This is not what I believe. This is not what many of my fellow Catholics believe. We want to return to the message of Jesus and the gospels, not these obsessive battles over contraception or gay marriage or these other, I think, political issues, where Jesus really, really avoided politics at all costs," Sullivan said.

And the "Bad Religion" Sullivan speaks of is reeking havoc on everyone: last Friday, Lou Engle rewrote Scripture in calling upon women to emulate Queen Esther in fasting and prayer, demanding that they humiliate themselves for all the abortions they had. And Pastor DL ("Down Low") Foster insinuated that gays are worthy of death while advertising his "retreat" for men fighting same-sex attractions.


It's all well and good for some conservative and progressive Christians to say "They're not one of us! They don't speak for us!" but such response is ...lame. And while we realize that freedom of religion restrains the "other" Christians from pummeling their righteously arrogant brothers, stronger means of chastisement  are called for. But what? Excommunication?  Hardly. Take, for example, the situation with today's Southern Baptist Convention and its steadfast 14th century views about women, gays and sex. Then look at its stranglehold on Tennessee. In order to bring Tennessee back into the 21st century, we would have to virtually eradicate the Southern Baptist denomination in that state altogether. True, Southern Baptist churches claim autonomy, but autonomy is a mythical beast trotted out once in a while to cover up the fact that churches who stray from the SBC agenda are severely chastised - financially as well as socially. 

So if they can't chastise the Christian Right, can't curtail the charlatans, the Fundamentalists, the Religio-political Establishment, what is the rest of Christianity to do? Can Christianity be saved? 

More to the point, is Christianity worth saving? This is where qualifiers come in: Christianity may be worth saving, but today's Christianity may not be worth the effort. 

Maybe it's time to scrap everything and start all over again.

* My mother loved cymbidium orchid corsages because she could put them in the refrigerator and they'd last until the next Sunday. I loved them too because they were easier on my allowance.
**Terry's now infamous speech framed the Christian Right's hatred of dissenters with two words heard over the internet: "Get Out!!"

Friday, April 6, 2012

Writing About the Twisted World of DL Foster

When passion is involved, it can take a long time to write about something, especially something newsworthy. That's the frustration a journalist/reporter/blogger can face: immediacy can fall to the wayside. The Christian Right's obsessions with sex and homosexuality seemed to peak last week, with the National Organization for Marriage leading the way for bigotry with its "wedge memo." 

It didn't.

I will be busy this weekend writing about the twisted world of "ex-gay", rabidly anti-gay Pastor DL Foster. 
Wish me luck.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Holy State-Of-The-Ark Politics! $50 Million In Tax Dollars Go To Replicate Noah's Compulsive Hoarding!

Gopher Wood is EXPEN$IVE! 

Uh, what the hell IS gopher wood?

"Make thee an ark of gopher wood;rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch. And this is the fashion which thou shalt make of it: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, the breath of it fifty cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits. A window shalt thou make to the ark, and in a cubit shalt thou finish it above; and the door of the ark shalt be set into the side thereof; with lower, second and third stories shalt thou make it."

That's it folks. Everything else is pure imagination and speculation. The ark was a friggin' box 450' long, 75' wide and 45' tall made out of wood that's never mentioned again in the Bible and certainly doesn't exist today. It had one lousy window about 45" square and one side door (size? who knows?). 

So the chubby boat with the house on top is really pure fiction, based upon drawings and etchings like that of Gustave Dore' (see below)
Americans United for Separation of Church and State are protesting the plan to provide $11M in Kentucky state road improvements to support the Christian theme park where the centerpiece attraction is an alleged replica of Noah's Ark.
Added to that $11M are $40M in sales rebates!

The rationale behind all of this is that the Ark Park will bring in a great deal of traffic ... and revenue to the area. Makes you wonder, though, if the same consideration would be given to a Buddhist Theme Park with a 200 foot statue of Buddha. 

The Creation Museum

All rationales aside, the Creation Museum from which the Ark Park is a spin-off has had a healthy one million visitors since its construction in May, 2007. The $27 million enterprise was immediately blasted as "a monument to scientific illiteracy" by scientists, and the sight of dinosaurs romping with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden gave vent to the term, "Yabba Dabba science." Case Western Reserve's eminent astro-physicist, Lawrence Krauss formed a protest of some 600 scientists (see below). Of course Ken Ham, founder of Answers in Genesis, the Museum's parent organization came back with the zinger "Lawrence Krauss Blasphemes Our Lord."
The there's the juicy problem the Creation Museum had with Adam:

The evangelicals behind the just-opened Creation Museum are up-in-arms upon discovering that they hired a Sirfuxalot Model (Eric Linden) to portray Adam in one of the videos they've been showing to children. Additionally, the AP reports that Linden also owns the domain Bedroom Acrobat, a sexually suggestive site where he has appeared posing with a transvestite.
And science  has not let up on the simple fact that the Creation Museum plays fast and lose with it (science). One glaring point: the museum posits that all dinosaurs were vegetarians and some turned to being meat eaters after "The Fall." What about T-Rex and his huge teeth? Simple: all the better to eat coconuts with. PZ Meyers had this to say about the handling of dissent at the museum:

At the Creation "Museum", one of the jobs of the guards is to suppress criticism. They hover about in rather conspicuous uniforms, armed with tasers, and some use police dogs to check out the visitors. They don't want dissent expressed in their building, and they admit it themselves.

Cuts to Education But $43 million to Noah's Ark

While Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear handed in a state budget that cut 6% from education, he steadfastly included a $43 million tax rebate to the Ark.  Beshear, a Democrat (!) sees the venue as a money-maker for Kentucky, while it's creator Ken Ham (of AiG) is unabashedly Evangelical:
“When people say the money donated for the full-size Noah’s Ark should be spent instead on feeding the poor or giving to another cause, they are essentially arguing that no money should be given to building the Ark Encounter. Yet consider the words of the Great Commission given by Jesus Christ.” The “Great Commission” refers to Jesus’ calling of his disciples to spread their beliefs throughout the world.
So the Ark Encounter IS FOR PROSELYTIZING. And woe betide anyone who thinks differently:

PZ Meyers:At the Creation "Museum", one of the jobs of the guards is to suppress criticism. They hover about in rather conspicuous uniforms, armed with tasers, and some use police dogs to check out the visitors. They don't want dissent expressed in their building, and they admit it themselves.
A Big Joke

It never ceases to amaze the rest of the world how American, Right-wing Christianity continues to embarrass the rest of us. True, it has made its forays of bigotry and stupidity into parts of the world yearning to join the 21st century (think Uganda)* but the clowns of God (leaders) keep pummeling us with a maniacal ferocity of all things unreasonable and inane. Speculation about the Ark Park should produce some very outlandish, very comic questions, e.g. will the Ark feature all the animals? Will it have room for waste (or was Noah the world's grand scale polluter)? What languages will be confounded at the Tower Of Babel? Yiddish? 

Perhaps the Kentucky legislature is playing an enormous joke on its taxpayers by sanctioning another enormous joke: the Ark Park will ultimately cost $172 million and Ken Ham will continue to thumb his nose at the poor.

*Pat Robertson is still fighting to get a Christian theme park in the Holy Land.