Monday, January 26, 2015

News Tidbits

Edge Media Network: Possible GOP Candidates Pitch Ideas at Conservative Forum

Raw Story: ‘Our god wins’: Bobby Jindal tells atheists his hate group prayer rally is ‘a time-honored tradition’ 

New York Times: As Vatican Revisits Divorce, Many Catholics Long for Acceptance

Pew Research Center: House Catholics are trending Republican

The Detroit News: West Michigan towns riled by atheist's crusade

The Lynchburg News & Advance: Transgender community rallies against conversion therapy

The Telegraph: Vicar tries to stop Rev Libby Lane being consecrated as Church of England's first female bishop

Commentary Tidbits

Godless in Dixie: Sex and Christianity Make Strange Bedfellows

Freak Out Nation: Unhinged Woman Climbs Onstage At Iowa Freedom Summit, Starts Rambling Incoherently

Al Jazeera America: The culture wars come to Duke

RH Reality Check: ‘Legitimate Rape’ and the March for Life

The Irish Atheist: The Troll from Under the Bridge

Salon: “The world has gone to hell”: A weekend at the Iowa Freedom Summit 

Mother Jones: Despite Legalizing Gay Marriage These States Forbid Teaching About Gay Sex 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Bill Jack, Who Demanded Anti-Gay Cake, Is Filling in for Kevin Swanson

As discussed in a prior post, Worldview Academy co-founder Bill Jack has filed a religious discrimination complaint against Azucar Bakery in Denver, Colorado. Jack filed the complaint after bakery owner Marjorie Silva refused to write an anti-gay message on a Bible-shaped cake, according to KDVR Fox 31.

I recently learned that Bill Jack not only promotes his right-wing worldview at Christian homeschool events, but that he's an interim co-host on Kevin Swanson's Generations with Vision show. Bill Jack and Steve Vaughan have been co-hosting Generations with Vision during Kevin Swanson's sabbatical, showing themselves to be every bit as right-wing as Swanson. I've provided a few Generations with Vision quotes from Bill Jack to paint a portrait of the man behind the anti-gay cake controversy.

First, in a January 14th show entitled "Cannibalism!", Jack briefly discussed the book Savage Harvest by Deckle Edge, which discusses the disappearance of Michael Rockefeller in New Guinea in 1961. At the 9:22 mark, Jack claimed that the New Guinea Asmat tribe, which allegedly killed Rockefeller, fell into violence and depravity because they turned from God.
"They performed perverted sex acts. They practiced polygamy. They drank each other's urine. They covered themselves in human blood. These are disgusting practices, and these are a people who had abandoned or had drifted away from God, so they had accepted myths, and they were practicing the results of these myths. And so what happened was they had become cannibalistic."
Vaughan and Jack also discussed Ryan Bell, the Seventh-Day Adventist pastor who stopped believing in God after living as an atheist for a year. At the 14:03 mark of "Cannibals!", Jack called atheism a "parasite" on Christianity.
"Atheism is really just a parasite on the body of Christianity. They cannot have a culture that is good without God. Men cannot be good without God, despite what people like Richard Dawkins, famed atheist, says ... Without God, you cut the heart out of civilization. Without God, you cut the heart out of history."
In a January 7th show entitled "Sex, Lies, and the Genderbred Person", Jack blasted people who looked askance at the Response Louisiana. At the 7:49 mark, he mocked dissenters as "Christophobes" who allegedly seek to oppose Christianity and stifle free speech.
"There is this call for a revival, and to express free speech by praying to God, by talking to God, and there are those who want to squelch free speech on a tax-paid institution's campus, hosted by the governor of the state. You know what? If Christians were protesting the LGBTQ rally at LSU, Christians would be called censors and bigots ... So what we have here is the opposition to Christianity ... Christophobes who are trying to squelch free speech, who are trying to be censors and bigots because they don't want to allow free speech. They don't want to allow the discussion of an opposing world view. That is happening all over the country."
Later in "Sex, Lies, and the Genderbred Person", Vaughan and Jack criticized comprehensive sex education, including sex ed provided by Planned Parenthood. At the 26:50 mark, Jack claimed that Planned Parenthood wants to make "pigs" out of children.
"This is what Planned Parenthood does. They want your children to be pigs. They want them to wallow in the muck. And what we need to do is, we as Christians need to expose evil ... Shine the light of truth and grace on such activities. So I urge you as homeschooling parents to investigate what's being taught in public school and to expose it."
In a January 2nd episode entitled "From Heil Hitler to Heil the Secular State", Vaughan and Jack criticized an anti-gun advertisement filmed at a charter school, likening such messages to Hitler Youth propaganda. "The school has become an enclave of totalitarianism in our day, just as it was in Hitler's day," Jack said at the 7:28 mark. Jack accused ominous movements of targeting young people at the 10:48 mark, oblivious to the fact that this is exactly what fundamentalist Christian homeschool advocates like himself do.
"It doesn't matter whether it's a totalitarian government or even the most benign and, well, apparently innocent attempt to bring about peace and justice. They always go with the youth. They try to indoctrinate the youth."
The irony continued at the 1:45 mark, when he lamented that young people are supposedly being used as "puppets" and "pawns" by progressives.
"Ideas do have consequences. Good ideas, excellent consequences; bad ideas, devastating consequences, and it is our youth who suffer. It is our youth who are being used as puppets and as pawns, and that is why we need to re-establish a Biblical worldview in our culture. We need to establish truth and justice based on God's word, not on some man's view."
Jack mused on "The Poisonous Mushroom", a story from an anti-Semitic children's book called Der Giftpilz. At the 23:10 mark, he likened public school education to Hitler Youth indoctrination.
"They're teaching anti-Christian doctrine, they're teaching secularism to students through arithmetic, through geography, through history, through psychology,  through every subject area, and most parents are not aware of what's happening, and as a result, children are being used. They are being, well, enlisted into the modern-day Hitler Youth movement. And pretty soon, parents are going to reap what they sow if we don't wake up and realize how the government schools are abusing our children."
In conclusion, Bill Jack's commentary on Generations with Visions reveals a great deal about his outlook. In Jack's eyes, secularism, non-Christians, LGBTQ rights advocates, and Planned Parenthood are depraved opponents of Christianity, ensnaring the next generation with their wiles. In this paranoid worldview, Christians are to imbue the surrounding culture with a "Biblical worldview", lest society continue to sink into sin. Those who think otherwise are caricatured as modern-day Nazis, indoctrinating children through a modern-day Hitler Youth.

By smearing others in this manner, Jack reveals his black-and-white, us-versus-them view of the world. His bakery stunt can be understood as a way to challenge a society he sees as corrupt. In short, Bill Jack displays the paranoia and siege mentality commonly seen among Christian fundamentalist, and fundamentalist homeschool advocates in particular.

(Hat tip to Homeschool Apostate.)

News Tidbits

USA Today: 'Roe v. Wade' turns 42; thousands march in opposition

The Guardian: Thousands gather in 'March for Life' as activists seek to halt abortion 'through prayer'

Washington Post: Atlanta fire chief files discrimination complaint after losing his job over a religious book

Religion News Service: Baptist college president Ergun Caner resigns, citing son’s suicide

New Orleans Times-Picayune: Robertson family, business of Duck Dynasty fame to become focus of international traveling science exhibition

Gay Star News: ‘Ex-gay’ movement pioneer turned critic John Evans has died aged 80

Pink News: Catholics and Evangelicals join forces to ‘fight’ same-sex marriage

Commentary Tidbits

Explorations in Egalitarianism: John Piper, Rape, Seduction, and Sin-Leveling

The Root: I Spent MLK Day With Presidential Hopeful Ben Carson. Here’s What I Learned

Right Wing Watch: Bobby Jindal's Prayer Warriors Fret About Protests, Declare 'No-Go Zone For Demons'

Dianna E. Anderson: Christ Under the Gun: Owen Strachan Is Wrong About American Sniper

Wall of Separation: Ark Encounter Gave Kentucky Officials Inflated Attendance Projections

No Longer Quivering: March For Life Day & the Duggar’s Growing Political Activism: This Is Why They Are Dangerous for Our Country 

Salon: Religious right’s pope problem: Why Rick Santorum & co. are so desperately confused

Saturday, January 24, 2015

2015 March for Life Held in Washington D.C.

On January 22nd, the 2015 March For Life took place in Washington D.C. The annual rally marks the anniversary of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which acknowledged a woman's right to have an abortion. Thousands of anti-abortion activists gathered on the National Mall to hear speakers at the march rally, including Rev. Joseph Kurtz (the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops), Carl Anderson (Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus), and various lawmakers. C-SPAN posted footage of the 2015 March For Life, which can be viewed here.

The D.C. metro area was brimming with anti-abortion gatherings in conjunction with the March for Life, including the following events:

  • Choices 4 Life sponsored an evening talk in Mount Vernon, VA on January 20th entitled "Rape Conception Myth Busters". The workshop was intended to help anti-abortion activists respond to questions about rape-related pregnancies.
  • Heritage Foundation hosted a panel discussion on January 20th entitled "Welcoming Every Life: Choosing Life After an Unexpected Prenatal Diagnosis", which discouraged parents from aborting fetuses with Down Syndrome and other disabilities.
  • The National Prayer Vigil for Life took place on January 21st at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.
  • The Franciscan Friars of the Renewal sponsored a Vigil for Life at the Mother Seton Church in Germantown, MD, the same town where Dr. LeRoy Carhart performs late-term abortions.
  • Students For Life hosted their 2015 National East Coast Conference on January 23rd in Upper Marlboro, MD, featuring speakers such as Family Research Council's Josh Duggar, Live Action's Lila Rose, Operation Rescue's Troy Newman, and Abby Johnson.

On the same day as the March for Life, the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) and Focus on the Family unveiled an upcoming conference. Evangelicals for Life will take place alongside the 2016 March for Life. "[W]e're wanting to cultivate a new generation of born-again men and women who care about the unborn, who care about their mothers and who care about consciences that are torn apart by the culture of death," said ERLC president Russell Moore, as reported in the Baptist Press.

Some Religious Right voices remain smug about the state of the anti-abortion movement. In a January 23rd commentary piece, Concerned Women for America's Penny Nance claimed that the March For Life was the "worst nightmare" of the pro-choice movement.
"The March for Life is always a somber event, even as we celebrate the enormous support for life in recent years. We march to remember the more than 56 million lives lost to abortion since the horrendous Roe v. Wade decision and to keep reminding the nation that we are better than this. We must do better.

And we are. For the first time in a long time more young people consider themselves pro-life than pro-“choice.” The abortion industry is so concerned about this trend they have even considered dropping the whole pro-choice label. The March for Life is the abortionists’ worst nightmare as the nation’s capital is overcome by thousands of young pro-life supporters and they are reminded of what the future awaits for them."
Considering that most Americans do not want Roe v. Wade overturned, I think Nance is overplaying her hand here.

After the March For Life, some Religious Right figures reflected on the future of the movement. Rob Schwarzwalder, senior vice-president of the Family Research Council, gave his fellow activists advice on how to ensure that abortion goes the way of slavery.
"When in the midst of a battle, it is hard to envision how to keep winning once the immediate fight is won, especially when the current battle is widespread and complex. But if social conservatives really want not just political victories but a shift in the cultural mindset such that abortion-on-demand will become as anathema as slavery, we need to think hard about what we can do to keep changing hearts and minds as we wage our present war against anti-natalism and human indignity and, once victory is achieved, how to sustain it indefinitely.

Does any of this mean pro-life advocates should decelerate our efforts? Not at all. But it does mean we need to expand the reach of our arguments about the dignity of human sexual intimacy as something reserved for two-gender, life-long marriage and the dangers of sex outside of the marital covenant. Education, persuasion, political activism and Godly prayer must always be our companions in this effort."
What can I write about the March for Life that I haven't mentioned before? The rhetoric, the arrogance, the attacks on reproductive freedom, the utter lack of empathy for women with unwanted pregnancies never changes. If we cannot reason with anti-abortion activists like these, we must resist their efforts to undermine reproductive rights.

To read additional commentary, visit the following links.

Slate: What Frustrated Pro-Life Activists and Politicians Are Saying at March for Life

Mother Jones: The Group Behind America's Biggest Anti-Abortion March Now Says Birth Control Causes Abortions

RH Reality Check: I Am Tired of Politicians Using My Grief for Their Gain

The Daily Signal: 24 Signs Spotted at the March for Life

Thursday, January 22, 2015

News Tidbits

CBC News: Pope Francis says Catholics don't need to breed 'like rabbits'

Associated Press: German rabbit breeders criticize pope's sex comments

Religion News Service: Days after ‘rabbits’ remark, pope praises big families

New York Times: To Some in California, Founder of Church Missions Is Far From Saint

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: House abortion vote scuttled amid objections by moderates, Georgia Right to Life

Huffington Post: Obama Is 'Not A Christian' Because He Supports The LGBT Community, Bryan Fischer Claims 

The Advocate: Illinois, Virginia Seek 'Ex-Gay' Therapy Bans

LGBTQ Nation: Springfield, Mo., bishop objects to Catholic hospital’s same-sex benefits

Christian Post: 'Darkness' of Sexual Culture 'Gone Mad' Threatens America's Future, Says Evangelical Leader Tony Perkins 

Commentary Tidbits

The Nation: The Movement to Put a Church in Every School Is Growing

Al Jazeera America: Conservatives misfire on ‘pagan green’ pope’s encyclical

Mediaite: Rick Santorum Did Not Appreciate the Pope’s Breed ‘Like Rabbits’ Comment

Political Research Associates: Natural Deception: Conned By the World Congress of Families 

Washington Post: Republicans pulled a classic bait-and-switch with abortion bill

Ms. Magazine: New Study Shows More Than HALF of Abortion Clinics Face Threats

Salon: The right’s home-school conspiracy: How I helped GOP launch a religious war

Right Wing Watch: Lindsey Graham Tells Anti-Choice Activists: Need To Find 'Way Out Of This Definitional Problem With Rape'

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Who Is Bill Jack, the Man Who Demanded an Anti-Gay Cake from Azucar Bakery?

In 2014, several bakeries across the U.S. drew criticism for their refusal to bake cakes for same-sex couples. Now, an anti-gay Christian is unhappy with a Colorado bakery that refused his request for a homophobic cake. The man at the center of the controversy, Bill Jack, has a long history of fundamentalist Christian work.

According to KDVR Fox 31, Bill Jack filed a religious discrimination complaint against Azucar Bakery in Denver, Colorado, after the bakery refused to write an anti-gay message on a cake. Azucar Bakery owner Marjorie Silva said that Jack requested a Bible-shaped cake depicting two men holding hands with an "X" over them, inscribed with an anti-gay message. Silva refused to write the words, uncomfortable with presenting "hateful words" on a cake. In an earlier article at KDVR, Silva described him as "pushy and disruptive".

Bill Jack is co-founder of Worldview Academy, a Christian organization devoted to "helping Christians to think and to live in accord with a biblical worldview so that they will serve Christ and lead the culture". Worldview Academy hosts youth camps across the U.S., which instill young people with a "biblical worldview". Bill Jack also spent several years with the Caleb Campaign, a creationist youth ministry.

I recognized Bill Jack as a recurring teen track speaker at the annual convention of the Christian Homeschool Association of Pennsylvania (CHAP). Every spring, CHAP hosts its annual convention at the Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg, PA. The conference is decidedly conservative, with content that encourages suspicion of mainstream society and a fundamentalist interpretation of Christianity. I first blogged on the CHAP convention in 2011, after I observed talks by Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis and Doug Phillips of the now defunct Vision Forum. I continue to keep an eye on the CHAP website whenever the convention returns to Harrisburg, even if I can't attend in person.

Recently, CHAP made audio recordings of its 2014 convention workshops available for free download, including recordings of Bill Jack's teen track. Jack's workshops framed the world in dichotomous terms, one in which Christians battle against a monolithic secular society. Mainstream society was depicted not only as sinful, but something that Christians must "capture" and transform, lest it "capture" young Christians. Jack's worldview may help us understand why he locked horns with an Colorado bakery.

Given Jack's stance toward LGBTQ issues at CHAP, I'm not surprised that he asked a baker to make an anti-gay cake. In a CHAP 2014 workshop entitled "Counterfeit Reality", Jack spoke of same-sex marriage, incestuous marriage, man-car marriage, and pedophilia in the same breath. At the 0:28 mark, he had this to say.
"Can I legally marry my sister? ... No. It's outlawed in states. There are incest laws, right? There are laws against marrying too closely in the family. Can I marry my car? No, because it's an absurdity, right? So we draw lines everywhere. Just because two people love each other doesn't mean that they can get married, because marriage has a different set of rules than just the emotion of love, correct? ... There is an organization called North American Man-Boy Love Association, and these are men who want to have sex with little boys, and they say there shouldn't be any laws against that."
Jack looked askance at mainstream society in several talks. In one CHAP 2014 workshop entitled "Counterfeit Reality", Jack argued that mainstream culture is filled with "myth-information", a false reality based on secularism. In another workshop entitled "Seven Habits of Highly Suppressive People", Jack claimed that people who suppress God's truth do not honor God, and therefore become "futile in their speculation", leading to ideas such as evolution.

Jack's antipathy toward mainstream society was on full display in a teen track talk entitled "The Four Duties of a Good Soldier of Christ Jesus". During the talk, Jack encouraged teens to be "good soldiers" for God. "If you want to be a good soldier of Jesus Christ, you need to understand your duties," he told listeners. Their first duty, he explained at the 34:12 mark, was to avoid being "captured".
"First duty of a good soldier, first duty: do not get captured. Do not get captured, because not only are you of no use to your side, but the enemy will use you against your own troops. We have seen that numerous times in numerous conflicts in recent years where in the Middle East, the enemy has said, 'You bomb these positions [and] you will be killing your own troops because we have taken some captive, and we're going to place them in these strategic locations, and if you send missiles there, you will be killing your own troops'."
Specifically, teens were to evade "capture" by secular culture. "Secularism is not held up as the best thing in most cultures," he insisted, ignoring the existence of secular states and secular proponents worldwide. At the 35:21 mark, Jack demonized secularism as an alleged religion that seeks to exclude God from society.
"Secularism is what were talking about here in context. Secularism is the belief that there may or may not be a god. According to Webster's dictionary, secularism is indifference to or rejection of or exclusion of religion and religious considerations. Now I hate to take exception with your great-great-great-great-granduncle Noah, but this is not the proper definition of secularism. In fact, he would take exception with that if he were living because he took his definitions from scripture. This is not the proper definition of secularism. Secularism is not exclusion of religion, it is not the rejection of religion, it is  not indifference toward religion. Secularism IS a religion. It is the belief that there may or may not be a god, but even if there is, he is irrelevant in history, art, science, literature, music, philosophy. You see, we compartmentalize our lives. We become schizoid. Do not be taken captive."
In keeping with the war theme of his talk, Jack encouraged his young listeners to take the surrounding culture "captive" at the 38:08 mark.
"If you're not to be taken captive, then what should you do as a good soldier of Jesus Christ? Take something captive. What should we take captive? Well, if you take a look at the command, it is that we are to capture the culture, not the flag."
Amidst his talk of the Great Commission and multiplying the kingdom of God, Jack scoffed at "fun" as one of the corrupt values of mainstream culture. At the 20:21 mark, he called fun "unbiblical".
"'Fun' is an unbiblical word. Fun depends upon circumstances. Fun is driven by environment ... You know what the closest reference to 'fun' is in scripture? You know what the closest reference is? It is the the word 'folly'. What does folly mean? Foolishness. Goofiness. Silliness. Stupidity."
At the 21:15 mark, he criticized mainstream culture for allegedly holding fun in such high esteem.
"Fun is what we hold as our highest value in the culture. We have become a nation of fun junkies, and that's not what scripture calls us to, is it?"
Good soldiers don't have fun, Jack insisted. Rather, Christians are to have joy, which comes from obedience to God. A "worldview of difference" distinguished fun from godly joy, he told his teenage audience. Jack playfully coached his teenage audience on how to reply "Nooooo" when their parents asked them if they had fun at the CHAP convention.

Jack's stunt at Azucar Bakery may be a reflection of the worldview he put forth at the 2014 CHAP convention. If one sees mainstream society -- including its growing acceptance of LGBTQ equality -- as a deluded, sinful force, one will feel compelled to challenge it. If one believes that right-wing Christians are at war with a corrupt culture, acts such as the bakery stunt take on larger significance.

While people who think like Bill Jack are not uncommon, I remain optimistic. More and more people recognize the merits of pluralism and a secular state. More and more people are advocating for LGBTQ equality. I have a feeling that many youth who participated in Bill Jack's workshops at CHAP will someday realize that they are not in a zero-sum battle against mainstream society. Jack's bakery stunt may be an attempt to "capture" culture, but in the long run, it will not succeed.

UPDATE: I discovered that Bill Jack has been providing commentary on Kevin Swanson's rabidly right-wing Generations with Vision show. I explore his commentary on the show in more depth here.

To read additional commentary, visit the following links.

Talking Points Memo: Man Files Discrimination Complaint After Denver Bakery Won't Make Anti-Gay Cake

The New Civil Rights Movement: Anti-Gay Religious Zealot Files Discrimination Charges Against Pro-Equality Baker

To download audio recordings of workshops from the 2014 CHAP convention, click here.