Monday, July 27, 2015

E. Dewey Smith Condemns Hypocrisy in the Church

"Bishop, don't tell me what the Bible says about homosexuals, and you change wives like we change underwear. Sit yourself, your hypocritical self down!"

High-profile homophobic Christians are easy to find, but it's also important to acknowledge Christians who speak out against homophobia. Pastor E. Dewey Smith of the House of Hope Atlanta in Decatur, Georgia has some strong words for homophobes in the Christian community. In a sermon posted on YouTube on July 23rd, Smith blasts homophobes for using Leviticus to condemn LGBTQ people while ignoring passages that are at odds with modern life.
"On one hand, you quote homosexuality is an abomination from Leviticus, but you say that right after you ate some shrimp, some catfish, and some lobster. You quote Leviticus while you're wearing a wool blend suit. It's also in Leviticus that you shouldn't wear mixed linens. It's in Leviticus that if your wife is on her cycle, that you shouldn't go in the same house with her or even sleep on the same bed with her. That's in Leviticus too. Here's my point: we pick and choose the scriptures that we want to use to beat folks up with, rather than look at our own lives!"
Smith reminded his audience that LGBTQ Christians have made many contributions to the church. He likened the dehumanization of LGBTQ people to the dehumanization of blacks under slavery.
"God said to me, here's the problem. You guys in the church can be so hypocritical ... You are guilty of condemning the Supreme Court system and preaching against something, but if you look at half of our choirs and a great number of our artists that we call abominations, that we call demons, we demonize and dehumanize the same people that we use, and we don't say nothing about the gay choir director because he's good for business. 'As long as the choir sounds good, I ain't saying nothing about his sexuality.' We have done what the slave master did to us: dehumanize us, degrade us, demonize us, but then use them for our advantage."
(Hat tip to the Advocate.)

Friday, July 24, 2015

News Tidbits

Daily Journal: Oath Keepers and militia 'guarding' local Armed Forces Career Center

Religion News Service: Pharmacists can’t claim religion to deny emergency contraception, appeals court rules 

Religion News Service: Southern Baptist leader Russell Moore to interview Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio at evangelical rally

USA Today: Baked in the cake: Legal battles follow gay marriage ruling 

Pink News: Clerk ‘fasted and prayed’ before refusing to marry gays

Gay Star News: Louisiana: Married gay man says he was denied communion at his mother’s funeral Mass

WMAZ 13: Dodge judge won't perform weddings, to protest same-sex ruling 

The Advocate: POLL: Thousands of U.K. Health Workers Believe in Gay 'Cure' 

Politico: Code Pink protesters disrupt Ted Cruz at rally

Commentary Tidbits

Christian Today: Protesting Mark Driscoll at the 02: Lone campaigner on why she took a stand

Vice: Why I'm Never Going Back to the Mormon Church

We Were Going to Be Queens: Mormonism makes family relationships difficult

Monsters and Critics: The Duggars Are Still Delusional

News*com*au: Aussie behind bizarre and ‘scary’ life-size replica of Noah’s Ark

Right Wing Watch: World Congress Of Families Feigns Ignorance About Supporting Anti-LGBT Extremism

Huffington Post: Exposing the Global Coalition of Organisations That Support Anti-Gay Laws Around the World

Inquisitr: Ex-Believers Accuse Jehovah’s Witness Leadership Of Covering Up Sexual Abuse

Washington Post: Living with the Amish is actually no romance novel, one woman explains

Wall of Separation: Arkansas Law Attacking LGBT Protections Goes Into Effect

Sunday, July 19, 2015

TLC Cancels "19 Kids and Counting"

The Duggar family has been reeling from a media firestorm over Josh Duggar's reported sexual abuse of children, including several of his sisters, as a teenage boy (more here). Public outrage mounted after details emerged of Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar's poor response to the abuse and their misguided attempts at damage control.

The Learning Channel (TLC) pulled the Duggar's reality show, 19 Kids and Counting, off the air in May shortly after the scandal broke. Now, TLC has officially canceled the show after a 10-season run, according to Talking Points Memo. Christian Today reports that fans have launched a petition to reinstate the show.

The Duggar family responded to the cancellation in a July 16th statement at their website, in which they insist that the family "overcame" the "terrible situation" of Josh's abuse.
"With God’s grace and help Josh, our daughters and our entire family overcame a terrible situation, found healing and a way forward. We are so pleased with the wonderful adults they have all become.

It is our prayer that the painful situation our family went through many years ago can point people toward faith in God and help others who also have lived through similar dark situations to find help, hope and healing, as well."
Once again, the Duggar's message seems to be "oh, it's in the past, everybody's moving forward". Given how Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar failed to grasp the gravity of the abuse, and given how their Quiverfull subculture silences and denigrates females, I highly doubt that Josh's female victims "found healing and a way forward".

I admit, I feel schadenfreude over the Duggar gravy train coming to a screeching halt. Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar promote a Quiverfull subculture that does a grave disservice to women and children. To boot, Michelle actively fought against equal rights for LGBTQ people through a transphobic robocall campaign. Finally, Jim Bob and Michelle failed to grasp the gravity of Josh's abusive behavior, failing to protect their daughters or get their son professional help after his abuse came to light. For so many reasons, I'm disgusted by the couple's choices, and I'm pleased that they're finally facing consequences for their actions.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

TLC will be exploring the issue of child abuse after the 19 Kids and Counting fiasco. In an online statement, TLC observed that "the recent attention around the Duggars has sparked a critical and important conversation about child protection." As part of this public conversation, TLC is collaborating with two victims rights organizations -- the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) and Darkness to Light -- to create a child sexual abuse awareness campaign. In a baffling move, TLC and its partners are working with the Duggar family to create a documentary on childhood abuse, which is expected to air later this summer.

My feelings about TLC's decisions are mixed. First, why did TLC wait this long to cancel 19 Kids and Counting? In my opinion, TLC should have canceled the show once it became clear that Jim Bob and Michelle completely mishandled the sexual abuse revelations in their household. Was TLC hoping that the scandal would blow over, allowing them to continue reaping profit off the show? When did they finally realize that the Duggars were a liability, and that the scandal was dragging the network's reputation through the mud? While I'm relieved that 19 Kids and Counting is off the air, I think TLC should have taken action sooner.

Second, while I applaud TLC's collaboration with RAINN and Darkness to Light, I question their decision to include the Duggars in an upcoming documentary about child abuse. Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar responded to their son's abusive behavior in all the wrong ways, making them the poster children for what parents of sexually abusive youth should not do. I hope that the documentary does not feature Jim Bob or Michelle or hold up their actions as an example of what parents should do.

When Josh Duggar's sisters/victims appear in the documentary, will they feel free to speak their minds, or will they feel pressured by their subculture to defend their brother and downplay the abuse? If the latter, I worry what message this will send to other sexual abuse victims. As Elizabeth Esther argues at Time, Jill and Jessa Duggar cannot offer victims a useful model for recovery because they are still being victimized by their fundamentalist subculture. The world of Quiverfull Christianity, purity culture, and Bill Gothard in which the sisters are immersed gives males power over females, silences women and children, and promotes toxic ideas about sexuality. In short, it does not provide abuse victims with tools for healing, and may even exacerbate abuse. The documentary must stress that sexual abuse is a serious matter, victims are not obligated to forgive their perpetrators, and no one should sweep abuse under the rug.

The content of TLC's child abuse documentary remains to be seen. However, I hope their collaborators can help them create a documentary that condemns abuse and champions victims. That would be a welcome act of contrition from the network.

To read additional commentary, visit the following links.

Think Progress: TLC Waited Two Months After Josh Duggar’s Sexual Abuse Came To Light To Cancel ‘19 Kids’

The Daily Beast: The Duggars' Road to Ruin

USA Today: Timeline of Duggar Sex Abuse Scandal

Fundamentalism's Unwritten Rules

Stuff Fundies Like recently shared a meme about unwritten rules in fundamentalism, which hit the nail on the head. Among Protestant fundamentalists, at least, unwritten rules abound for distinguishing the righteous from the unrighteous.

More times that I can count, fundamentalists assured me that all I had to do in order to be saved was to accept Jesus as my personal savior. They conveniently left out the fine print, which is required for believers to be considered truly saved in their camp. When one observes fundamentalists, the fine print quickly comes into focus:

(1) Thou shall tithe AT LEAST 10% of ones' gross income to the church, regardless of whether one is struggling with poverty, and regardless of whether the church is transparent about its finances.

(2) Thou shall adopt an anti-abortion, anti-Planned Parenthood stance, no matter how much evidence shows that reproductive health services help women.

(3) Thou shall adopt an anti-LGBTQ stance and support efforts to deny rights to the LGBTQ community.

(4) Thou shall resist church-state separation, no matter how fair or reasonable the wall of separation.

(5) Thou shall vote Republican, no matter how disastrous or unreasonable their policies.

(6) Thou shall support patriarchy. If female, thou shall submit to one's husband, no matter how foolish, selfish, or abusive his behavior. If male, thou shall lord over one's wife as a parent lords over a child. If bitterness and passive-aggression seep into one's marriage, thou shall not blame this patriarchal arrangement.

(7) Thou shall marry and have children, regardless of whether one wants to or can afford to do so.

(8) Thou shall defer to the pastor in all things.

(9) Thou shall circle the wagons around any Christian authority figure accused of illegal or unethical behavior, no matter how much suffering this inflicts on his victims.

(10) Thou shall adopt an inerrant interpretation of the Bible, no matter how abhorrent or antediluvian some of its passages may be. Thou shall ignore the passages that are incompatible with 21st century American life.

(11) Thou shall suppress one's natural feelings and faculties, including but not limited to doubt, critical thinking, sense of fairness, sexual desire, and anger.

(12) Thou shall adopt new fundamentalist language, including thought-terminating cliches and weasel words. Use of the Lord's name in vain, profanity, or the words "luck" or "magic" are grave sins deserving furious condemnation.

(13) If female, thou shall adopt arbitrary modesty standards, lest one be blamed for leading men astray. Thou shall cover up from head to toe and refrain from wearing pants.

(14) Thou shall ostracize those who will not join you. Thou shall fear and hate anyone outside of the fundamentalist bubble, thinly veiling one's disdain in language of "love". Thou shall act catty and passive-aggressive toward non-believers, apostates, and the "wrong" types of Christians if they refuse to join you.

(15) Thou shall despise nuance. Thou shall divide reality into black-and-white categories (saved vs. unsaved, Christians vs. "the world", masculine vs. feminine) and refuse to countenance shades of gray.

(16) Thou shall not respect the boundaries of others, especially when proselytizing.

(17) If Charismatic or Apostolic, thou shall speak in tongues, pray loudly and ostentatiously, and spout vague prophesies, lest the others question your faith.

I have no patience for high-pressure sales pitches that leave out the fine print. If fundamentalist Christians are going to proselytize, they should at least be honest about these unwritten rules of their faith.

News Tidbits

Talking Points Memo: Duggar Family Reality Show Finally Gets The Axe After Molestation Allegations 

Courthouse News Service: Gay Ugandans Suing Lively Seek Redactions

Gay Star News: Contractor sues Ford for firing him after he complained about it ‘promoting sodomy’

Pink News: Record broken by crowdfunding campaign for anti-gay bakery 

The Guardian: Australia: Sydney archbishop tells Catholics to resist being bullied into supporting gay marriage

Al*com: Roy Moore tells radical anti-abortion, anti-gay rights group that America is under attack

The Advocate: Pastor Encourages Christians to Fight Same-Sex Marriage Ruling With Guns

Commentary Tidbits

Al Jazeera America: America’s biggest terror threat is from the far right

Media Matters: 3 Deceptive Edits In The Video Claiming Planned Parenthood Is "Selling Aborted Baby Parts"

Spiritual Sounding Board: Christian Blogger Claims that Husbands Don’t Like to Use Words to Resolve Marital Conflict, Physical Force Works Better  

Evangelicals for Social Action: Please Stop “Loving” Us (to Death)

The Atlantic: Gay Marriage and the Future of Evangelical Colleges 

The Daily Beast: How the Religious Right Scams Its Way Onto the New York Times Bestseller List

Internment Camps, Sodomites, and Smelly Hotel Rooms

NOTE: This post contains strong language.

As mentioned in a prior post, Oath Keepers and ATLAH pastor James David Manning held an Independence Day gathering at the Eternal Light Peace Memorial on the Gettysburg Battlefield in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The Racial Reconciliation and Healing event included speeches and a wreath-laying ceremony in honor of the soldiers who died in the Civil War.

Videos of the event are now available on YouTube, and make for amusing and disturbing viewing. Even though racial harmony was the event's theme, speakers went off on tangents about unrelated pet issues. Oath Keepers speakers painted the government in ominous colors, while Manning spewed his usual vitriol about LGBTQ people.

As a funny side note, James Manning was not happy with his accommodations in Gettysburg. In a July 8th video entitled "Super 8 Motel in Gettysburg Is a Flea Bag", Manning had nothing but criticism for Gettysburg's Super 8 hotel, where his group reserved twenty-five rooms. He described the hotel as as a "dive" with smelly rooms and "arrogant staff" who treated his group "like dogs". Manning urged listeners to launch a national campaign against Super 8 until something was done about the Gettysburg Super 8 manager, Brian. At the 7:22 mark, he had this to say.
"I want you to unite with me. I plan to hold a rally out in--a prayer meeting out in front of the Super 8 Hotel in Bronx, New York on Southern Boulevard, [the] one near Yankee Stadium. We're going to announce the date that we will be out there, demanding that Brian be removed from the Super 8 Motel there in Gettysburg for treating us, a busload of Christians, people who bring over four-hundred people into Gettysburg every year, as if we were dirt. They were very vicious about their pricing, they were arrogant about their pricing, they were arrogant about their accommodations, their food service was unsanitized. They were very mean-spirited."
Funny, how a preacher renown for his mean-spirited words takes offense when mean-spirited behavior is directed at him, I thought.

The Independence Day event featured messages of racial equality mingled with warnings about "exploitation of race". For example, the Oath Keepers website posted a transcript of Lyle Rapacki's speech, in which he stressed that all people are of "one blood" under God.
"Whether some like this truth or not, or want to believe or not, the Lord God created mankind upon the earth, and a black person or yellow person, is a part of the exact “race” that the white person is; THE HUMAN RACE. Since the Lord God created mankind, no person or people is “inferior” or “superior” based on their skin color, their language, or their geographical location on the earth. While it is true there is a division by skin color, language, and geographical location, these divisions were set into place by the Lord Himself. God’s Word explicitly states; we are all “of one blood” (Acts 17:26)."
Rapacki's speech also featured warnings about alleged "diabolical schemes" involving "exploitation of race" in the U.S., a country "divorced from God".
"One year ago today, Pastor James David Manning brought many of us to these hallowed grounds to begin a dialogue promoting healing and restoration between people of all color but of only one race – the Human Race! Pastor Manning asked us to come and start the process for reconciliation. Little did he know the riots of Ferguson, Missouri; Baltimore, Maryland; New York City were waiting to ignite! Little did he know exploitation of race would be employed as a political means to excite disruption to this country already under the diabolical schemes of transformation and change into a country divorced from God and the principles written in His Word that helped shaped the foundation of this nation!"
Oath Keepers founder Steve Rhodes also argued that the powers that be are scheming to divide the country along racial and economic lines at the 1:37 mark of this video. (See above)
"Right now, there is a very well-orchestrated attempt to divide this country along racial lines, along socio-economic lines, divide the police from the people, divide the military from the people, divide you in any way possible to get you fighting each other. So what we have to do is realize we're being manipulated and fight back against that manipulation and stand together, united."
His speech quickly turned into a jeremiad against the government. Rhodes criticized the U.S. executive branch for allegedly claiming too much power, first under President George W. Bush, then under President Obama. At the 8:02 mark, he claimed that our "totalitarian" government is overseeing an unaccountable "national security state".
"Each one of you now is subject to a claimed illegitimate power that's every bit as totalitarian as anything that Josef Stalin or Adolph Hitler claimed the power to do. Life and death over you. There is a secret kill list of people they will kill, and Americans may or may not be on it, have been on it in the past, that still exists to this day. That is where our country is ... What they're doing is they are creating East Germany right here, and it is over all of you. It's over every one of you. A national security state of unaccountable shadow governments that are hidden in secrecy. NSA, CIA, operating here at home, the FBI." 
What any of this had to do with racial reconciliation in America was beyond me.

ATLAH congregant Rhonda Herrington delivered a speech on Jesus' inevitable victory over a "sodomite world", which Right Wing Watch captured and shared. Cries of "Devils, go to hell where you belong!" and "Sodomites, go to hell!" rang out from the audience. When Manning arrived at the podium, he egged on the attendees' homophobia.

"Stand up and say sodomites, go to hell," Manning urged his audience.

"Sodomites, go to hell!" the audience shouted.

In another Right Wing Watch video, Manning oozed homophobia, defending his hatred as a righteous expression of "the word of God".
"The other day before leaving here, we had on our announcement board that all fags, all lesbos, all fag churches that burn in lust for human waste will burn in hell as human waste. [Applause] Two women--a family walked by of women and looked and said, 'Ain't that a shame. A church making such a statement. How awful that is. That's not God. That's not love," they said ... You need to understand that where we are at present in America and the church,people don't believe the word of God anymore. They walked away from it. But I do, and we're going to keep on preaching and teaching that fags, lesbos, sodomites and all other hell-raisers are going directly to hell, and I pray that God will let me sit some place where I can send them to hell."
The irony of all this made me chuckle. At an event ostensibly about unity, Manning urged hatred and division. At a gathering meant to cultivate harmony, Oath Keepers representatives encouraged fear and us-versus-them thinking. While the event gave lip service to racial reconciliation, it encouraged other types of bigotry, namely homophobia. What reconciliation or harmony can be realized by people whose worldviews leave little room for it?