Sunday, June 26, 2016

News Tidbits

Washington Post: Trump now proposes only Muslims from terrorism-heavy countries would be banned from U.S.

Raw Story: ‘Kill the gays’ pastor has a pulpit-stomping meltdown after he’s booted from online fundraising

KFOR News Channel 4: Supreme Court sides with family accused of not teaching kids while waiting "to be raptured"

Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel: Palm Beach County considering a ban on conversion therapy for gay, lesbian children

Edge Media Network: 'Ex-Gay' Support Group Leader Blasts Gay Men Who Challenged Tenn.'s Therapy Bill

CNN: Tony Perkins: Trump better for LGBT Americans than Clinton

Reuters: Brazil's Bible, beef and bullets lobby backs Temer, unfazed by scandal

Commentary Tidbits

New York Times: Kentucky’s Ark Defies Science but Evokes a Version of Christianity

Leaving Fundamentalism: The Terrifying Entry Conditions for Abusive Christian Reform Homes

New York Magazine: Top Evangelical Leader Suggests Trump Was Recently Born Again

Metro News: Because dinosaurs: Why Alberta must evolve beyond creationism

"Nice" Responses to the Orlando Shooting Don't Erase Past Homophobia

Following the Orlando massacre at the Pulse nightclub, some Religious Right figures responded with naked hatred. Others took a more subtle approach, denouncing the shooter's violence and extreme homophobia without rejecting homophobia completely. By doing this, they created the appearance of compassion, but refused to grapple with their own bigotry.

First, on June 12th, Sen. Ted Cruz released a statement denouncing the "act of vicious terrorism" and expressing sympathy for the victims and their loved ones. After urging Americans to work together to defeat Islamic extremism, Cruz proceeded to attack Democrats ("Democrats will try to use this attack to change the subject"), and President Obama and Hillary Clinton (who will supposedly use Orlando to undermine gun rights).

Perhaps the most disingenuous part of Cruz's statement was his condemnation of Islamic extremists' homophobia.
"For all the Democrats who are loud champions of the gay and lesbian community whenever there is a culture battle waging, now is the opportunity to speak out against an ideology that calls for the murder of gays and lesbians. ISIS and the theocracy in Iran (supported with American taxpayer dollars) regularly murder homosexuals, throwing them from buildings and burying them under rocks. This is wrong, it is evil, and we must all stand against it. Every human being has a right to live according to his or her faith and conscience, and nobody has a right to murder someone who doesn’t share their faith or sexual orientation. If you’re a Democratic politician and you really want to stand for LGBT, show real courage and stand up against the vicious ideology that has targeted our fellow Americans for murder."
How ironic that Cruz would condemn Islamic extremist homophobia while ignoring the fundamentalist Christian homophobia that he and his ilk have promoted for years. This is the same Ted Cruz who opposed same-sex marriage during his now defunct presidential campaign. This is the Ted Cruz who appeared on stage at the Freedom 2015: The National Religious Liberties Conference alongside the viciously homophobic Kevin Swanson. This is the Ted Cruz who accepted the endorsement of IHOP pastor Mike Bickle, who has raged against the "gay agenda" for years. This is the Ted Cruz who welcomed the support of countless homophobes, such as Phil Robertson, Flip Benham, and Ron Baity, while running for president. Does Cruz really expect us to believe that he cares about LGBTQ people now?

The Benham Brothers also weighed in after the Orlando shooting. In a video posted at CNS News and MRC TV, the brothers expressed sympathies for the families of the lost. "Our hearts are just broken for the families and for the victims of those who were killed at the gay bar, the gay club in Orlando, Florida," Davin Benham said, according to CNS News. "No one should ever be targeted like this, this ISIS plot. And clearly they’re targeting homosexual people." The brothers expressed relief that a similar incident may have been prevented at Los Angeles Pride.

However, Jason Benham reminded viewers that they still disapprove of homosexuality, but they do not believe that violence is a legitimate expression of those sentiments.
"We as Christians believe that homosexuality is wrong, and ... these two Islamic extremists ... believe it is wrong. But our response is different. We've been going to gay pride marches for the last decade, and we're planning on going this year to the Charlotte gay pride march. But you know what? We're going to bring the love of Jesus, to people that need Jesus. Look, these are our gay brothers and sisters, and we need to stand up for them now. That's our Christian response."

Translation: We're nice homophobes, not like those bad homophobes who kill people.

Jason Benham's claim that he and his brother love gay people is laughable. Recall that the Benham brothers' claim to fame was losing an HGTV series due to David Benham's offensive comments about gays. The two men have an extensive history of homophobic remarks and have publicly opposed pro-LGBTQ legislation. They can attend a pride march and talk about the "love of Jesus", but it won't make people forget their history of intolerance.

Finally, World Net Daily co-founder Joseph Farah decried the massacre in an online column. In a June 12th commentary piece entitled "All Americans Have Something in Common Today", Farah admits that the Pulse shooting was a hate crime committed in cold blood. "Was the Pulse nightclub attacked because it was a gathering place of homosexuals? I don’t doubt it for a minute," he writes. Farah explains that murdering LGBTQ people is wrong, no matter how one feels about LGBTQ issues.
"I must note, for the record, that whatever real Americans think about “gays,” lesbians, transgenders, bisexuals, they don’t hold murder in their heart for them. Whatever issues Christians may have with the LGBT agenda being foisted on them by politicians eager to court their support as an interest group, they don’t hunt down people who identify with that lifestyle and kill them. Whatever conservatives may think about national bathroom policies dictated from the White House, they don’t dream of killing sprees of vengeance."
Farah thinks that one can oppose LGBTQ equality without being hateful, which is false. The LGBTQ community is demanding equal rights, not foisting an "agenda" on Christians. Farah cannot even condemn the Orlando massacre without taking swipes at LGBTQ people.

Farah's swipes should not surprise us, given his history of denigrating LGBTQ people. In past World Net Daily columns, Farah mocked same-sex marriage activists and Hamas in the same breath, claimed that same-sex marriage could lead to polygamy and incest, and branded gays a "self-interested minority" whose activism set the stage for the Penn State abuse scandal. It's a shame that the Orlando massacre did not dent his anti-gay attitudes.

The Religious Right could have used this tragedy as an opportunity for self-reflection. A hate crime of this magnitude should have forced them to recognize LGBTQ people's humanity and question their own bigotry. Unfortunately, they've blamed everything else for the Orlando shooting except the homophobia they helped cultivate. Some blame the victims. Others blame national impiety. Some even blame immigration policies. None of them want to blame homophobia as a whole, because that would force them to admit that they fed the fires of hatred that galvanized Omar Mateen.

Of course, these figures don't want to be seen as heartless. They condemn the shooter. They offer compassion. They claim to love the LGBTQ community. However, most people see through their facade. Their history of anti-LGBTQ activism speaks louder than any of their words.

There is no such thing as "nice" bigotry. Bigotry is bigotry, and it differs only by degree. If the Religious Right truly wants to honor the people who were killed or injured in Orlando, its members must renounce bigotry outright and atone for their anti-LGBTQ activism.

Fellow blogger Infidel753 sums up the matter succinctly.
"The gist of it is that the less-murderous form of homophobia promoted by most fundamentalist Christians -- denouncing homosexuality as a sin, wanting to "cure" it by prayer or "therapy", and the many forms of ostracism and denigration and discrimination promoted via "religious freedom" bills and other laws targeting gays -- should be accepted and embraced since they are, after all, not as bad as actually killing gays as the Islamists do.

By this kind of argument, the Holocaust should have legitimized and justified lesser forms of anti-Semitism, since those who wanted to subject Jews to lesser abuses than the gas chambers could similarly have pointed out that their bigotry was different in character from Hitler's; blacks, too, should have accepted and embraced the oppression of the Jim Crow era since it was not as bad as slavery.  The idea that a group should simply accept certain forms of abuse against itself, because other forms of abuse which others want to inflict would be even worse, is one that can be made only from a position of utterly oblivious privilege.  It seems to be the default Christianist response to Orlando, though."

To read additional commentary, visit the following links.

Fusion: These anti-LGBT politicians are sending prayers to Orlando massacre victims, whom they considered second-class citizens

Friendly Atheist: Bryan Fischer: We Don’t Want Gay People Dead; We Want Them Cured

The Maddow Blog: Cruz sees Orlando massacre as possible wedge issue

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Ungodliness is to Blame for Orlando, According to Some Religious Right Figures

Religious Right voices continue to chime in after the Orlando massacre. While some Religious Right figures have blamed gays for their own victimization, others are blaming an insufficiently pious society for the tragedy. In other words, some commentators see the massacre as a consequence of society's insufficient Christian faith and refusal to infuse laws with religious principles.

Two commentators come to mind. First, Kevin Swanson blamed the Orlando massacre on national sinfulness during a recent edition of his Generations with Vision radio show. At the 6:01 mark of his "Why the Orlando Shootings" show, Swanson claimed that America is collapsing because it is celebrating sin. Violence is a natural result of turning away from God, he argued.
"During the breakdown of an American republic, the breakdown of an entire empire, a civilization, a society is breaking down as the social fabric of the nation is unraveling, and that inevitably leads to a political and social collapse, and that's what we're witnessing in our present day. So hopefully, as Christians, we understand what is happening as man is destroying himself, but of course, the gospel of Jesus Christ still reaches ... those who are crying out for God's salvation from sin.
The problem of course with the nation is that not only have we sinned, but sin is now being institutionalized in just about every major institution in this country. That is, sin is preferred, and any form of righteousness is being persecuted across this country. Well today, we're going to talk about some of the effects of what happens when sin dominates in a nation. Violence, destruction, social unraveling is pretty much the result that we have witnessed and will continue to witness in the years to come." 
Swanson ignores the fact that society isn't collapsing and that Christian "righteousness" isn't being persecuted. Furthermore, Swanson's indictment ignores the complex roots of the Orlando shooting, including homophobia, Islamic extremism, and the shooter's personal issues. Rather than offer insight into the shooting, Swanson uses it as an opportunity to spout apocalyptic rhetoric and blame society for not sharing his religious beliefs.

A similar indictment came from American Pastors Network president Sam Rohrer during his appearance on the June 15th edition of The Steve Deace Show. While Rohrer reserved most of his condemnation for the "enemy ideology" of Islam and our "soft" political leaders, he claimed that God "removed his hand of blessing" from America because the nation rejected his laws. Those laws include "God’s design for the family", he said. (Hat tip to Right Wing Watch.)
"...God has removed his hand of blessing on this country because we've turned our back upon him, and when he removed his hand of protection, these kinds of things come forth ... God has made very clear that every nation that he has established, and He establishes all nations. We’re told that all nations are established by God, even the very geographical boundaries of the nations are determined, that when a nation, any nation, does what God says, meaning that they fear him, that they uphold and enforce God’s moral law and God’s design for the family and for the church and for civil government, all of those are his. When those things are done, then God will bless a nation.

One of those blessings are the increase of wealth. One of those things is a security and protection from the neighbors around them. Even the enemies will be at peace with them, we’re told in a number of places in scripture. But when a nation backs off of that, particularly a nation such as ours that has a very biblical basis in an understanding of biblical principles, that’s where our Constitution came from, Declaration of Independence before that came out of that. When those things were there and put in place, when a nation turns their back on those things as we have and increasingly, arrogantly doing, then at that point the justice of God says ‘I cannot any longer bless’ and these things which you’re doing will lead to not his lack of blessing, but insecurity and so forth. That is basically the sense of where it is."
Rohrer fails to understand that tragedies take place for specific reasons, not because God is angry at America. Infusing society and government with fundamentalist Protestant beliefs would not have extinguished the homophobia, extremism, and personal demons that likely drove Mateen.

Ultimately, it's easier for Religious Right to blame society than to look long and hard at their own attitudes. The Religious Right is a vocal proponent of homophobia, but its adherents are reluctant to consider the ways that homophobic attitudes contribute to anti-gay violence. Unfortunately, self-reflection required humility and honesty, two virtues in short supply among the right.

News Tidbits

NPR: Inside Trump's Closed-Door Meeting, Held To Reassure 'The Evangelicals'

Religion News Service: Evangelicals give Trump much-needed boost after Manhattan summit

The Guardian: Trump warns evangelical leaders: 'Clinton will be worse than Obama'

Los Angeles Times: Faith-based colleges say California anti-discrimination bill would infringe on their religious freedom 

Associated Press: Mississippians take action against anti-LGBTQ ‘religious exemption’ bill

The Globe and Mail: Canada: Montreal Catholic archdiocese forbids priests from being alone with children

Pennlive: Ahead of possible Senate vote, Catholic House lawmakers call out Catholic Church, make push for child sex crime reform bill

WCPO: Man disrupted prayer, impersonated police officer at West Chester mosque

Fox 13: State supports Noah’s Ark theme park, not all residents on board

Reuters: Kentucky clerk opposed to gay marriage says state law negates appeal

Commentary Tidbits

Abi Bechtel: Always Them, Never Us: Parsing the Evangelical Response to Pulse

Vice: 'She Didn't Say Vagina': Sex Ed in Fundamentalist Christian Homeschool

Chicago Magazine: The Cult Next Door

Samantha Field: Things Not Even Tolerated by the World: Christians and Hypocrisy 

The New Civil Rights Movement: Trump Promises Evangelical Leaders He Will Strike Down Ban on Tax-Exempt Groups Engaging in Politics

Right Wing Watch: Donald Trump Taps Michele Bachmann, James Dobson & Other Far-Right Leaders For Advisory Board 

Think Progress: What Happens When Gay People Are Told That Homosexuality Is A Sin?

Homeschoolers Anonymous: Homeschooling as a Totalistic Tool

The Advocate: 9 Truly Terrible Reactions to the Orlando Shooting

Fundamentalists Spew Hatred After the Orlando Massacre

In the wake of the June 12th mass shooting in Orlando that left dozens dead and injured, the outpouring of homophobic hatred from some Religious Right figures has been jarring. While many Religious Right figures have expressed sympathy (no matter how disingenuous) for those shot at the Pulse gay nightclub, others have blamed the victims and spewed homophobic hatred.

  • Notorious misogynist and homophobe Steven Anderson, pastor of the Faithful Word Baptist Church in Tempe, Arizona, quickly mocked the Orlando shooting victims. "The good news is there are fifty less pedophiles in this world," he said in a video, according to Phoenix New Times. Anderson went on to blast the victims as "disgusting perverts" who seek to recruit youngsters into "their filthy homosexual lifestyle".

  • James David Manning, pastor of the ATLAH World Missionary Church in New York, insisted that gays posed a greater threat to America than Islamic extremists in the wake of the Orlando tragedy. "The sodomites are more dangerous to America and its well-being than the jihadis ... Show me how Muslims are stronger than the sodomites in terms of their destruction, their forces, their political power?" he said, according to Pink News.

  • In Sacramento, California, the pastor of Verity Baptist Church heaped scorn on the "sodomites" who died in the Orlando shooting. According to the Sacramento Bee, Roger Jimenez reportedly told his congregation that Orlando "is a little safer tonight," adding that, "The tragedy is that more of them didn't die. I'm kind of upset he didn't finish the job." Hundreds of Christian clergy members from the Sacramento City Pastors Fellowship condemned Jimenez' cruel rhetoric. Several days later, hundreds of protesters demonstrated outside Jimenez' church to show solidarity with the Orlando victims, according to the Guardian.

  • In Johnson City, Tennessee, Pastor Jesse Price of Beech Cliff Pentecostal Holiness Church put a message on the church's sign that read "God's wrath may be getting started to fall on the gays," according to WCYB.

  • In Buford, Georgia, the Back to the Bible Holiness Church posted a sign that read "God created man & woman; Satan made gays & transgender Gen 5:2", according to NBC 11 Alive. Vandals later covered the sign in black paint, reports the Associated Press.

  • In Fort Worth, Texas, Stedfast Baptist Church pastor Donnie Romero demonized LGBTQ people as "predators" who are "wicked" and "all worthy of death", reports CW 33.

  • Author Timothy Buchanan penned a commentary piece for Barbwire entitled "Orlando: What No One Wants to Consider". Buchanan wrote that homophobia "is a normal and natural response to something abhorrent" and cannot be eradicated. Rather than promote unity in morality, America has promoted diversity, which he calls a "weakness". Buchanan's angry, rambling column concluded than LGBTQ people should go back in the closet because their "defiant wickedness" is dangerous. (Hat tip to Right Wing Watch.)
"It’s worth considering that homosexuals, lesbians, bisexuals and transsexuals might be safer returning to the closet. Flaunting gross immorality and defiant wickedness that is hideous, odious and wretched to an overwhelming majority of people is a foolish and dangerous course of action."

This is the fruit that bigotry bears. This is the rotten, festering underside of the Religious Right. While some Religious Right voices feign sympathy for the Orlando victims, these hateful responses show the Religious Right's true colors.

When believers promote homophobic interpretations of religion that denounce same-sex intimacy as sinful and LGBTQ people as "abominations", this hatred is the result. When churches idolize heteronormative, patriarchal families and denigrate anyone who deviates from the paradigm, this hatred is the result. When fundamentalists demonize and dehumanize an entire community, this hatred is the result. A belief system infused with so much blind hatred is not only spiritually corrosive, but dangerous.

The silver lining here is that bigotry is driving more and more people away from fundamentalist Christianity. As more Americans learn to coexist with their LGBTQ neighbors, bigots will find themselves increasingly marginalized. Let that day come soon.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

News Tidbits

The Hill: LGBT group accuses Trump of courting hate groups 

Tampa Bay Times: LGBT pride flag raised after Orlando shooting 'unbearable' for Christian employee, Hillsborough commissioner says

Fox 4: Fort Worth pastor praises Orlando nightclub deaths

Associated Press: Religious conservatives attempt balance in Orlando response 

WHIO 7: UD faculty publish book examining Creation Museum

Christian Today: Josh Duggar sex scandal: Another girl steps forward to say she was also a victim

Military Times: Human cloning fear could stymie effort to provide wounded vets with fertility care 

Globe and Mail: Canada: Catholic school board chair revises sex-ed view after son reveals sexual abuse

LGBTQ Nation: UK: Because of bar sign supporting Orlando victims, customer accuses owners of ‘promoting homosexuality’

Commentary Tidbits

Raw Story: Trump to meet with 400 anti-LGBT evangelists one week after claiming to be a ‘friend’ of the gay community

Mother Jones: 1000 Evangelicals Gather to Hear the Gospel According to Donald

Mediaite: LGBT Activist Group Stages ‘Die-In’ Outside Trump Tower 

The Guardian: Why the shameful silence from the Catholic church on LGBT issues?

American Prospect: Will the Court Restrict Abortion to the Wealthy?

Scott Lively's Oblivious Response to the Orlando Shooting

Scott Lively, president of Abiding Truth Ministries and infamous anti-LGBTQ activist, penned a commentary piece for World Net Daily after the Orlando massacre. In his piece, "A Time for War: Take the Pledge to Protect America", Lively claims that he would have shot Omar Mateen if he were at the Pulse nightclub during the shooting. He refuses to admit that his homophobic activism played any role in the Orlando shooting.
"I have received some hate mail to the effect that my biblical stance against homosexuality is somehow responsible for “gay” Muslim Omar Mateen’s campaign of slaughter at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. It’s absurd on its face, but it affords me the opportunity to tell you this: If I had been present and armed when Mateen opened fire, I would have shot and if necessary killed him to protect the people in that bar, including the homosexuals. Not because I have in any way changed my mind about homosexuality – the Bible is crystal clear that it is an abomination before God that He (not me) will judge – but because the Bible also tells me to “rescue those being led to slaughter” (Proverbs 24:10-12).

While in Christ I may choose to turn the other cheek regarding an offense against ME, I have no right to stand idly by when someone attacks YOU right in front of me. I have a biblical duty to defend anyone, regardless of their sexual proclivities, from murder if it is within my power to do so. I stand firmly against the sin of homosexuality and against the sin of violence toward homosexuals."
Lively called the shooting a "spiritual turning point in the Islamic war against the West", warning his readers about the growth of "global Islamist jihad". He contrasted Christian homophobia, which allegedly wants gays "saved and healed", with Islamic homophobia, which wants gays to be murdered. Lively never countenances the idea that homophobia itself is wrong, or that all homophobia contributes to a cultural atmosphere of homophobic violence.

Lively vows to use force to stop terrorists, should he find himself in the midst of a terrorist attack, and urges Christian men to take the same pledge. Considering how unlikely he is to find himself in such a situation, I doubt he'll ever need to act on his vow. Furthermore, a bystander would be powerless against a bomb blast or assault rifle in an actual terrorist attack, so his pledge is moot.
"Furthermore, I think the Orlando Massacre is a spiritual turning point in the Islamic war against the West that represents a literal call to arms for Christians – not because the victims were or weren’t homosexuals (though this is a wonderful opportunity to contrast our Christian love for “gays” – we want them saved and healed – with the demonic hatred of the Muslims who want them dead) but because the incident proves that the global Islamist jihad has metastasized beyond the reach of conventional warfare. I think all Americans, including Christians, should from this day forward be ready to personally respond to any terrorist incident with force. I hereby make a pledge that if I ever find myself in a situation where a terrorist begins killing people around me, I will take whatever action is necessary to stop him, even at the risk of my own life. I urge every Christian reading this column – especially the men – to take this pledge as well."
Lively suggested that the Orlando attack was merely the latest example of Islamic violence against westerners. In his usual livid fashion, he made sure to point out that the Ottoman Turkish sultan "demanded as part of his tribute from Christian Europe 500 boys per year to submit to homosexual sodomy as sexual slaves". After reflecting on the "barbarously cruel and relentless Muslim hordes" that threatened Europe in centuries past, he defended the Crusades as a legitimate response to "this centuries-long campaign of Muslim aggression".

Ever the homophobe and misogynist, Lively claimed that American children are being "brainwashed" with both "pro-Islam propaganda" and pro-LGBTQ messages. Instead, he argues, America should return to "masculine Christianity" and patriarchal families.
"These same schoolchildren that are being brainwashed with pro-Islam propaganda are also the subject of culture-wide radical LGBT social experimentation, turning our boys into girls, and girls into lesbians, just when the nation needs a return to a more masculine Christianity and the patriarchal family structure. That must end!"
Let's be honest. For all his talk of wanting to protect the Pulse patrons, Lively still feels contempt for LGBTQ people. He is using the Orlando shooting as an opportunity to to slam Muslims and champion his worldview, not to cultivate real empathy for the shooting victims.

Lively couldn't be more oblivious to the root causes of extremist violence. He encourages male dominance and toxic masculinity while ignoring the relationship between toxic masculinity, patriarchy, and mass killings. He promotes homophobia in the wake of a homophobic attack. He proposes a hateful, us-versus-them interpretation of religion in response to the crimes of a man infected by hateful, us-versus-them religion. His hypocrisy would be funny in less tragic circumstances.

We can't fight homophobia, patriarchy, and religious extremism with more of the same. We can't cure a case of poisoning with more poison.