Saturday, June 30, 2012

Teacher Allegedly Wanted Youth to Cut Out Demons

Earlier this month, the Tampa Bay Times reported that Danielle Harkins, a 35 year-old literacy teacher in St. Petersburg, FL, was charged with child abuse. Harkins reportedly told several teenagers to lacerate and burn themselves during a ritual intended to exorcise demons. (Hat tip to On Knees for Jesus.)

Commentary Tidbits

The New Civil Rights Movement: Bombshell Letter: 200+ PhDs And MDs Question Scholarly Merit Of Regnerus Study

Equality Matters: NOM Hosting Summer Student Conference At “Ex-Gay” Church

AlterNet: Is the Bible a Threat to National Security?

Rock Beyond Belief: When you pray...

News Tidbits

MSNBC: Christian group backs away from gay 'cure'

Minnesota Public Radio: Gay-rights advocates protest Exodus ministry gathering

ABC News: Not Christian Enough? Job Seeker Sues Company for Asking When He Was 'Saved'

Reuters: Uganda anti-gay bill draws church, donor battle lines

Washington Blade: Maryland same-sex marriage opponents report $88,000 in debt

Baltimore Sun: Appeals court upholds ruling against Baltimore pregnancy center ordinance

The Advocate: Westboro Follower Running for Kansas School Board

Courthouse News: Rape Victim Can Sue for Denied Contraception

Washington Post: Catholic groups’ lawsuits will continue

Washington Post: Arlington lawsuit says priest sexually assaulted woman during ‘exorcisms’    Trigger warning

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Liberty Counsel Seeks to Dismiss SMUG Suit Against Scott Lively

Earlier this year, the Center for Constitutional Rights filed a lawsuit in U.S. federal court against Abiding Truth Ministries founder Scott Lively, on behalf of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG). The suit alleged that Lively's anti-gay activism in Uganda constituted persecution of the Ugandan LGBT community. According to the New York Times, the suit also named four co-conspirators: Stephen Langa (the organizer of a 2009 anti-gay seminar in Uganda), Martin Ssempa (an anti-gay Ugandan religious leader), and David Bahati (the Ugandan MP behind a draconian anti-gay bill). The background of the suit, including Lively's anti-gay efforts in Uganda, were discussed in a prior post.

On June 22nd, Liberty Counsel submitted a motion to dismiss the SMUG suit. According to the motion paperwork, Liberty Counsel claims that U.S. federal court does not have appropriate jurisdiction over the case. In a companion memo, Liberty Counsel argues that Lively's "non-violent political speech" is protected by the First Amendment, and that it does not constitute persecution. Moreover, the memo says that SMUG has not demonstrated that persecution based on sexual orientation or gender identity is "universally accepted and clearly defined," nor has it alleged conduct on Lively's part that violates "universally accepted" international norms. (See www[dot]liberty[dot]edu/media/9980/attachments/pr_motion_to_dismiss_lively_062212.pdf)

In a June 27th press release, Liberty Counsel called the Center for Constitutional Rights a "George Soros-funded, radical “civil rights” group." It insisted that Lively's anti-gay activism in Uganda was little more than "civil, peaceful, political discourse." Furthermore, Liberty Counsel chairman Mat Staver lambasted the SMUG suit as an attack on the "supremacy" of the Constitution. “SMUG is seeking to render the bedrock protections of the First Amendment subservient to the vague and fluid dictates of international law,” he insisted. (See www[dot]lc[dot]org/index.cfm?PID=14100&PRID=1206)

In a June 29th statement, Scott Lively called the Liberty Counsel motion a "masterpiece," ridiculing the SMUG suit as "bogus and frivolous." (See www[dot]defendthefamily[dot]com/pfrc/newsarchives.php?id=6149954)

Some voices from the right took note of Liberty Counsel's move. For example, a June 27th article at Charisma News called the SMUG suit an "attack" on Lively by the "gay agenda," using language from the Liberty Counsel press release. Additionally, in a commentary at World Net Daily, Bob Unruh argues that "sharing Christian belief" is not a crime against humanity, calling Lively's anti-gay rhetoric an expression of "biblically based belief." Thus, Unruh correlated homophobia with Christian faith, ignoring the fact that one is not necessarily a reflection of the other.

I'm disappointed but not susprised that Lively and the Liberty Counsel would seek dismissal of SMUG's suit. SMUG and the CCR have taken a bold step in publicizing Lively's homophobia and holding him accountable for his rhetoric, and I am eager to see if their suit moves forward.

Hat tip to Right Wing Watch. For additional commentary, visit the following link.

The Slowly Boiled Frog: Liberty Counsel seeking dismissal in SMUG v. Scott Lively

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Commentary Tidbits

Talk to Action: Nessie a Plesiosaur? Louisiana To Fund Schools Using Odd, Bigoted Fundamentalist Textbooks

Politicus USA: Celebrate Pulpit Freedom Sunday by Calling for Politically Active Churches to Pay Taxes

Rethinking Vision Forum: Vision Forum and When Youth Group is "Contrary to Scripture"

Mother Jones: The GOP's Dead-End Marriage Program

The Way Forward: Rebellion and How an Authoritative God Deals with It

Right Wing Watch: Janet Mefferd has No Use for Gay Rights 'Talking Points' that Make 'No Mention of Sodomy'

Think Progress: From ‘The Avengers’ to ‘Prometheus,’ The Rise of the Christian Superhero

Patheos Atheist: Movie Theater Discriminates Against Atheists

News Tidbits

New York Times: Fox News Reporter Hired as Vatican Media Adviser

Washington Blade: Gay Catholics protest ‘Fortnight for Freedom’ rally

Chicago Tribune: Nuns on the Bus protest campaign rolls into Chicago

Haaretz: Conservative blogger Pamela Geller lashes out at L.A. Jewish federation over nixed speech

New American Media: God, Gays, Ganja and Mexican Politics

American Independent: Gay marriage foes tout conservative-backed parenting study

Courthouse News Service: Christian Station Accused of Rape Cover-Up

Pink Paper: Australian Salvation Army apologises for officials anti-gay comment

Los Angeles Times: U.S. Supreme Court declines case over mountaintop cross

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Vision Forum Hosts Conference on Food and the Family

Vision Forum, a Christian patriarchy movement ministry headed by Doug Philips, is hosting a conference entitled "The Reformation of Food & the Family" on July 12-14 in San Antonio, TX. The conference centers around issues of food, nutrition, health, hospitality, and family as they relate to Christian faith. 

Upon closer inspection, however, the conference's fundamentalist Christian overtones become clear. According to the conference description, America's health problems are supposedly the result of Americans abandoning their "biblical bearings" and succumbing to self-indulgence.
"Our nation is obsessed with health and with fads about health and diet. One reason for this obsession is that we have lost our biblical bearings.

We are awash in a culture that de-prioritizes the values of Christian family life, and we have forgotten many of the basics which result in blessing because we have ignored the Scripture as the all-sufficient foundation for faith and practice.

Consider that the Bible warns against gluttony and urges moderation and self-control, but our generation is the most overweight, the most self-indulgent, and (not surprisingly) the most cancer-prone generation in the recorded history of our nation."
The conference description laments that mealtime is rarely an opportunity for families -- defined as "individuals serving the Lord in a unified household bound by a common faith and purpose" -- to come together anymore.

Vision Forum points to several alleged culprits for the decline of food and mealtime, including "growing statist control over the food supply," "fragmentation of the family," and of course, "the mass exodus of mothers from the household to the external workforce." In other words, if the goshdern government would get off our backs and women stayed in the kitchen, our food culture would be better!

The workshop schedule is very revealing. While the workshops on nutrition, illness, and local food look innocuous enough, other workshops have a distinctly fundamentalist flavor.

  • "Christian Manhood and the Seven Pillars of Exceptional Health: A Primer on How Fathers Can Demonstrate True Leadership In Shepherding Their Families To Wisely Steward Their Bodies for Maximum Kingdom Impact"
  • "Watching What You Eat? You’re Not the Only One...” A Legal Perspective on the Federal, State and Local Government’s Intrusion Into What We Eat, How Much and What We Feed Our Children"
  • "Can We Feed The World: A Biblical and Scientific Response to Statist, Environmentalist and Evolutionist Pessimism"

Thus, Vision Forum has managed to weave patriarchy, fear of so-called "statism", and distrust of environmentalism into a conference on food. Their distrust of environmentalism does not surprise me, given Doug Philips' hostility toward environmentalists and Earth Day. Still, it disappoints me because environmentalism, sustainability, and food are closely connected issues. A conference on food issues could have been a perfect opportunity to discuss the relevance of environmentalism on health and food.

The above workshop on "Christian manhood" was not the only patriarchal message among the workshops. Many of the workshops on hospitality, budgeting, and food preparation, were labeled "Ladies Workshops," as if only women performed these tasks. Given the Christian Patriarchy Movement's glorification of traditional gender roles, this is not surprising. (I wonder if I should tell them that I learned cooking from my father...)

To celebrate hospitality, "The Reformation of Food & the Family" will hold a ladies' tea hosted by Michelle Duggar and Beall Philips at the Menger Hotel. The ladies' tea will have an early 1900s theme, not unlike the Vision Forum's Titatic anniversary celebration, suggesting a longing for an earlier, more conservative era.

In short,  "The Reformation of Food & the Family" discusses food issues in a decidedly right-wing, Christian Patriarchy context. To be fair, some of the concerns of the conference are valid. For instance, the conference description is critical of processed food and steroid-laden meat, which should be of serious concern to all people who take their health seriously. "The domination of pre-processed, steroid-rich, genetically manipulated food in our diet is a reflection of the priorities of modernity — live, eat, and die fast, and don’t think too much about what you are doing," the Vision Forum website says. Additionally, mealtime does offer an opportunity for families to bond, which we should remember. Unfortunately, the positive messages of "The Reformation of Food & the Family" are entwined with negative messages that encourage patriarchy, distrust of government, and neglect of environmentalism's contributions to food issues.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Southern Baptist Convention Says LGBTQ Rights Are Not Civil Rights

MSNBC reports that on Wednesday, the Southern Baptist Convention's annual meeting in New Orleans voted to pass a resolution rejecting the notion that gay rights are civil rights. The resolution adopted by the SBC states that marriage is exclusively between one man and one women, and that opposite-sex marriage is not a social construct but rather an institution established by God. The resolution laments that "homosexual rights activists" have "misappropriated" the language of the civil rights movement. Gays and lesbians, it insists, do not have "distinguishing features of classes entitled to special protections." Same-sex marriage advocacy does not qualify as a civil rights issue because gays and lesbians do not "qualify as a class meriting special protections, like race and gender." Finally, the resolution encourages Southern Baptists to reflect on how they can extend "redemptive ministry" to people who "struggle with homosexuality."

While the resolution condemns "hateful rhetoric" and "hate-incited action," it is anything but affirming of the LGBTQ community. First, the document avoids using words such as "gay" or "lesbian." preferring terms such as "persons who engage in acts of homosexuality" or "those who struggle with homosexuality." In doing so, the SBC defines homosexuality as a pattern of behavior or an unwanted flaw rather than an intrinsic identity. Furthermore, by rejecting the idea that the LGBTQ community is a class deserving special protections, the resolution ignores widespread evidence of discrimination and violence against LGBTQ persons. The SBC's condemnation of hateful speech and actions rings hollow amidst its refusal to acknowledge the struggles of the LGBTQ population.

The SBC also stirred controversy earlier this week when its newly elected president spoke of gays in the same breath as racists and child abusers. Religion News Service reports that on June 19th, the SBC elected Rev. Fred Luter as its first black president. Shortly before the SBC meeting, Luter had ended a pastors' conference with a sermon about how God can supposedly change gays. "Only the word of God can change the heart of a racist. Only the word of God can change the desire of a child molester,” he said. "The word of God can change a lifestyle of a homosexual."

Luter told CNN that Christians are to love everyone, including gays, but stressed that he believes marriage is between a man and a woman. ""We're going to embrace [gays] as far as who they are, but we're also going to stand on biblical principles that the word of God has already established." Luter's election and the resolution both sent strong messages about where the SBC stands on LGBTQ issues.

Commentators have condemned the SBC for its anti-gay statement. Writing at Religion Dispatches, Candace Chellew-Hodge called the move "reprehensible" because the resolution is hypocritical and ignores the genuine struggles of LGBTQ people.

 "If a group—or class—of people is being blatantly discriminated against not just by churches, but by federal and state governments, and said group, or class, decides to rebel against that discrimination and claim its rightful place as full, tax-paying citizens of the United States of America, you can damn well bet it is a civil rights movement. Nobody copyrighted the phrase, and nobody can, on one hand say, “Yes, we see that you’re being wronged,” and then say, “but you have no right to work for your civil rights, or to call it a ‘civil rights’ movement.”

But the SBC certainly does want it both ways. They work in their “love the sinner, hate the sin” philosophy by being clear that while gays and lesbians should learn their place on the back of the bus, they certainly don’t want any harm to come to those (terrible, horrible, more sinful than the rest of us) people. The resolution is clear that the SBC abhors “any form or gay-bashing, whether disrespectful attitudes, hateful rhetoric, or hate-incited actions.” Which would be funny, if their resolution were not itself a prime example of gay-bashing, disrespect, and hateful rhetoric ...[T]he SBC can’t seem to understand that these sorts of resolutions are at the very heart of the continuing violence and discrimination against gay and lesbian people."
The SBC's myopia is deeply disappointing. Its actions this week suggest that it refuses to recognize the struggles of the LGBTQ community. The Southern Baptists, it seems, have a long way to go.

To read additional commentary, visit the following links.

Commentary Tidbits

Truth Wins Out: Exit, Don’t Enable the Roman Catholic Church

John Shore: Her letter: “My boyfriend, ex-gay ministries, and the church: FAIL”

The Week: Fight Church: Evangelicals who fight in the name of Jesus

The Way Forward: Mark Driscoll, the Pope of Seattle says Get on the Bus or I will Drive the Bus Over You

Good As You: Vast majority of Minnesota for Marriage cash comes from Catholic conference, MFC, NOM

An Apostate's Chapel: South Carolina Pastor Plays Dirty

Media Matters: Hannity Suggests Limbaugh Was Just "Trying To Be Funny" In His Misogynistic Attacks On Sandra Fluke

Salon: God Is A Weapon

Salon: Shocking Christian school textbooks

News Tidbits

Los Angeles Times: Southern Baptists: Churches can use 'Great Commission' instead

Washington Post: Who’s funding the Catholic bishops’ religious freedom campaign?

Bikyamasr: Christian hate, pig’s head, meets Arab-Americans at Dearborn festival

WFMY News 2: Baptist Church Sign Causing Stir, Accuses Clinic Of Racism

The Atlantic: Sexual Healing: Evangelicals Update Their Message to Gays

CNN: Harsh anti-gay preaching alarms gay rights supporters and Christian conservatives alike

Edge Boston: Anti-gay Marriage Group in Minnesota Raises $1.4 Million

Gaystar News: Bulgarian church plea as priest calls for gay pride stoning

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

More on Sean Harris, Pastor Who Told Audience to Punch "Effeminate" Sons

Remember Sean Harris of Berean Baptist Church in Fayetteville, NC, who told his congregation to punch their "effeminate" sons? Republic of Gilead has blogged on the aftermath of that sermon, as well as the reaction of Berean leaders to J. Lee Grady's commentary on male dominance. While wandering through the audio selections of the Berean Baptist Church website, I stumbled upon several other sermons and commentaries from Harris that I'd like to share with readers. Harris has much to say about environmentalism, feminism, progressive Christians, and the LGBTQ community.

Male Headship And Tebow's Father's Day Talk at Qualcomm Stadium

NFL quarterback Tim Tebow is famous for celebrating his Christian faith. On Sunday, June 17th, Tebow delivered a Father's Day talk at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, CA. Tebow shared the stage with David Jeremiah, pastor of the Shadow Mountain Community Church of El Cajon, CA. (See www[dot]shadowmountain[dot]org)

Tebow and Jeremiah spent much of their talk discussing faith, Jesus, and sports. However, at the 19:37 mark, Jeremiah called men to be "spiritual leaders" in the home. Sound familiar?

"There's one more thing that I think we need to talk about, because a lot of Christian guys here today, and I think one of the burdens we ought to have as men of God is that all of us as men step up to the plate and be the spiritual leaders in our family. There's so many today that think that, you know, that kind of stuff is for the woman, that's for the wife. I've actually had guys say, 'no, my wife takes care of that.' Well, she can't take care of it because she can't have the influence on your son. You're the only one who can, and a lot of times people say, 'why do these kids drop out of church when they get to be 13 or 14?' Many do so because they don't see their own fathers following through on their faith."

Monday, June 18, 2012

Commentary Tidbits

Speaking When the World Sleeps: The price of innocence

Ravings of a Semi-Mad Woman : Religicult

The Gospel Masquerade: Why I Believe IHOP is a Cult

Irreducible Complexity: How Fundamentalists Won the War and So Killed Christianity

Rethinking Vision Forum: Doug Phillips on the Threat of Population Decline

Freak Out Nation: Michigan is worried ‘Shariah Law is a comin’ to America’ but Dearborn’s Fundies are already here

Think Progress: Michigan House Passes Anti-Gay ‘License To Condemn’ Counseling Bill

Joe.My.God: Opposite-Married Gay Mormon Is Actually An Ex-Gay Reparative Therapist

The New Yorker: Bully Pulpit: An evangelist talk-show host’s campaign to control the Republican Party

News Tidbits

Reuters: U.S. bishops plan PR campaign to soften image

Los Angeles Times: Romney pleases Christian group with stance on Israel

Washington Post: Atheists challenge the tax exemption for religious groups

Detroit Free Press: Christian missionary group with pig's head taunt Arab-Americans at Dearborn festival

CNN: Key Catholic group drops support for White House contraception plan

CNN: Glenn Beck drops his name from Web network, promises media 'revolution'

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Creflo Dollar and Accountability

Creflo Dollar, pastor of World Changers Church in College Park, GA, is a well-known preacher of the prosperity gospel and the author of several books, including Winning in Troubled Times and Total Life Prosperity: 14 Practical Steps To Receiving God's Full BlessingProsperity theology claims that God rewards believers with financial well-being, and some of its most popular proponents include Creflo Dollar, Benny Hinn, and Joel Olsteen. Recent allegations that Dollar subjected his daughter to physical abuse have thrust him into the media spotlight.

Reuters states that Creflo Dollar was arrested on Friday, June 8th and charged with child cruelty and battery. Dollar's 15 year-old daughter reported that he struck her and choked her during an argument, a claim that her 19 year-old sister corroborated. According to CBS News, Dollar admitted that he spanked his daughter and wrestled her to the floor, but claimed that it was after his daughter hit him. Dollar has since been released from jail on $5,000 bail.

A 911 call from the day of the incident provides details. According to a June 12th CNN article, Dollar's daughter called Fayette County 911 and told the dispatcher that her father punched her, threw her to the ground, and threatened to choke her. According to the 911 recording, she said that the incident occurred after an argument about attending a party, in which she cried and told Dollar that she didn't want to talk to him. She added that this was not the first time such an incident had occurred.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that Rev. Samuel Mosteller, president of the Georgia chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, weighed in on the incident. According to the article, Mosteller claimed that the incident had been exaggerated because it involved Dollar, and he Dollar had been exercising his responsibility as a parent.

Dollar insists that he did no wrong. During a World Changers Church church service on June 10th, Dollar told his congregation that he did not punch or choke his daughter, according to CNN. In a service video, Dollar was greeted with riotous applause from his congregation, and cries of "Thank you Jesus!" rang out from the audience as Dollar walked to the podium. Judging from their jubilant applause, many members of his congregation have taken his side.

At the 1:33 mark, Dollar assured listeners that all was well in his home, lamenting the "culture of disrespect" with which parents must contend.
"Raising children in our culture ... of disrespect is a challenge, and a responsibility for all of us who are parents. As a church family, I want you to hear personally from me that all is well in the Dollar household."
At the 6:08 mark, Dollar asserted that "I should have never been arrested, never," and that "when the facts of this come out, you will be appalled." At the 3:02 mark, Dollar shared his version of events, insisting that he did not punch or choke his daughter.
"The truth is that a family conversation with our youngest daughter got emotional, and emotions got involved and things escalated from there. The truth is, she was not choked, she was not punched. There were not any scratches on her neck, but the only thing on her neck was a prior skin abrasion from eczema. Anything else is an exaggeration and sensationalism."
At the 4:23, he insisted that he loved his children and did not "put any fault" on them.
"I would never approach one of my children to intentionally inflict bodily harm. I love my children enough to establish proper boundaries and help them make right choices ... I will never put any fault on my children, as Jesus would never put any fault on me. I love her with all of my heart."
I scratched my head when Dollar insisted that he did not "put any fault" on his offspring, especially when  he alleged that the devil was behind this attempt to "discredit" him and the gospel and at the 6:39 mark.
"You've got to understand something. It's not as much against me as it is this message of grace. The devil knows in order to discredit the message you have to first of all discredit the messenger."
Dollar quoted Psalm 35:11-33, sharing passages such as "malicious witnesses testify against me" and "treacherous enemies ... plot against innocent people." For a man who just claimed that he did not "put any fault" on his children, he chose a rather accusatory Bible passage to quote. Chillingly, the man accused of wrestling his daughter to the floor ended his reading with the line, "Those who do evil are fallen. They are thrown down, never to rise again"

Even though Dollar admitted to spanking his 15 year-old daughter and wrestling her to the floor, he deflected any personal responsibility for the incident. In a moment of narcissism, he depicted himself a victim of the devil's malice, but failed to discuss whether spanking his daughter was responsible. He quoted scripture about "malicious witnesses" and "treacherous enemies," but failed to take real accountability for his role in what happened.
*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

Some commentators have mused on the connections between Dollar's theology and the assault accusations. For example, in a commentary at the Washington Post, Rahiel Tesfamariam speculates that the abuse allegations may spring from patriarchal and authoritarian church culture.
"There’s a fixation with orthodoxy and order in patriarchal cultures like the ones that shaped myself and Creflo Dollar that often breeds dogmatic thinkers. This is fertile ground for a parenting style that not only embraces corporal punishment as a necessary tool of discipline but views it as beneficial to the child. But there’s a difference between discipline and abuse, and that line can get very blurry when a parent believes that their authority justifies “loving acts of violence” against children in their care."
In a post entitled "7 Truths We Need to Tell About Creflo Dollar, Black Daughters and Violence", Crunktastic also made connections between authoritarian theology and violence against women and children.
"Our theology will kill us if we let it.  As the Bible thumpers love to remind us: “there is a way that seems right to a man, but the end thereof is destruction.” (Prov 14:12) Consider this my remix. Jesus already died, and I refuse to let the Black Church turn me into a martyr for its causes. I refuse to stand by while Black men (and women) use bad theology about headship and Black women and men use bad theology about “sparing the rod” to heap indignities on women and children in the name of God.  Our blind investment in patriarchy, and the kind of hierarchy it promotes in churches and families is not healthy for a people who continue to find themselves on the bottom of every social hierarchy that exists."
I think Tesfamariam and Crunktastic are on to something. What is the relationship between authoritarian theology steeped in hierarchy and obedience and men's mistreatment of women and children? As a society, we need to ask that question.

Hierarchy and obedience are recurring themes in Dollar's commentary. When I wandered around the World Changers Church website, I found several columns by Dollar that emphasized authority and obedience. For instance, "Obedience Controls Your Blessings" correlates God's favor with obedience and deference to church leaders. (See worldchangers[dot]org/monthly-ObedienceControlsYourBlessings.aspx)
"Resolve in your heart to love God enough to go to church and obey His Word even when you don’t want to. Love people enough to consider them during and after worship service. And love your leaders enough to honor their words. Your blessings are determined by your obedience!"
In "Understanding Spiritual Authority," Dollar emphasizes the importance of belonging to a church and submitting to its leaders. (See worldchangers[dot]org/monthly-UnderstandingSpiritualAuthority.aspx)
"There are people who believe it is unnecessary to submit to anyone in a position of church leadership, but it is God’s will for every Christian to be connected to a local church fellowship. He has assigned every born-again Believer to a particular church, headed up by a pastor after His own heart. Each person is to submit to his or her spiritual leader, as that leader follows Christ ... Where there is no true submission to God’s authority, the door is opened to rebellion (2 Thessalonians 2:10)."
Dollar clearly cherishes his pastoral authority and expects members of his flock to heed him, judging from these columns. Would it be any different in the Dollar home?

The Creflo Dollar incident should have us all reflecting on the problems created by authoritarian thinking, be it in the home or any other setting. Whatever the outcome of the Dollar case, this is an opportunity to ask what accountable parenthood looks like, and what we can do to prevent violence in the home. It is also an opportunity to discuss the dangers of authoritarian home life, the insidious influence of patriarchy, and the problems associated with corporal punishment.

For additional commentary, visit the following links.

Christian Agnostic: Creflo Dollar Denies Choking and Slapping Daughter…It was Only a Spanking?

The Daily Beast: Creflo Dollar’s Problematic Corporal-Punishment Defense

Essence: Do We Go Too Far Disciplining Our Kids?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Religious Right Around the Globe: Anti-Gay Gathering in Ethiopia

Anti-gay leaders in Ethiopia recently came together to condemn LGBTQ rights. According to Gaystar News, an anti-LGBTQ conference entitled "Homosexuality and Its Associated Social Disastrous Consequences" took place in African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa on June 9th. Gaystar News states that the conference was organized by Seyoum Antonious, president of United for Life, a conservative Christian organization.

The June 9th conference reportedly drew over 2,000 attendees, including Ethiopian government officials, religious leaders, and youth organization representatives. Ezega reports that several prominent religious leaders were in attendance, including Vice President of the Ethiopian Islamic Affairs Council vice president Azam Yussuf, Ethiopian Evangelical Church president Qes Wakeseyoum Edossa, and Sileshi Kebede, Special Assistant to the General Secretary of the Ethiopian Evangelical Churches Fellowship.

According to Gaystar News, Patriarch Abune Paulos of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church associated homosexuality with foreign influences, saying "Ethiopians do not need their identity to be dictated for them from outside no matter how wealthy or powerful the forces applying the pressure were." Paulos also read a statement by Ethiopian religious leaders lambasting homosexuality and urging international voices to stop undermining Ethiopian culture. The statement referred to homosexuality as an "infestation" and encouraged the Ethiopian government to punish people engaging in "sodomite activities."

According to Pink News, the conference also included a talk by a young Ethiopian man who alleged that he was "infected with the homosexual disease" when he was sexually abused at the age of six. The man now insists that he has been "cured" of his homosexuality.

This conference is not the first time anti-gay Ethiopian voices have condemned LGBTQ rights. During a gathering in Addis Ababa in December 2008, Ethiopian religious leaders encouraged the Ethiopian government to ban homosexuality in the country's constitution. Reuters reports that Patriarch Abune Paulos called gays "dumb, stupid like animals." Voice of America reports that Paulos and other religious leaders demanded the cancellation of an HIV conference sponsored by African Men for Sexual Health and Rights (AMSHER) in 2011.

This kind of rhetoric is all too familiar to LGBTQ rights supporters in the West. Homosexuality is demonized as an infection threatening society, a product and cause of sexual abuse, and as a pathology that can supposedly be "cured." The humanity of LGBTQ persons was quickly obscured by homophobic rhetoric. The conservative Christian presence at the anti-gay event is all too familiar to Westerners as well. The Addis Ababa conference serves as yet another reminder that religion-inspired homophobia is a dangerous force worldwide.

Commentary Tidbits

Brilliant at Breakfast: Why is the Sandusky trial getting massive media attention but we look the other way while pedophile priests get shuffled to another parish?

Ex-Gay Watch: Exodus International Has Lost Twenty Ministries

Talk to Action: Outrage In Alabama: PBS Employees Fired After Standing Against Bogus Religious Right History

RH Reality Check: Wichita Anti-Choicer Leaders Raising Funds for Multi-Million Dollar "Pro-Life Memorial" As Children Suffer From Budget Cuts

The Wartburg Watch: My Experience with Church Discipline at Covenant Fellowship

Media Matters: Rush Limbaugh Accuses Group Of U.S. Catholic Nuns Of "Hav[ing] Gone Feminazi"

Religion Dispatches: World Congress of Families Meets, Seeks a New Dark Ages

Hub Pages: Just Pray for Him: How the Christian Church Refuses to Hold Abusive Men Accountable

News Tidbits

Los Angeles Times: Catholic bishops say fight with Obama is over freedom of religion

Edge Boston: Minnesota Catholic School Fires Teacher Over Gay Marriage Stance

Chichester Observer: Patient told 'to turn to Jesus'

Pink News: Russian state radio interview with ‘gay cure’ therapist breached UK standards

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Berean Baptist Pastors and Patriarchy

In a June 6th column at Charisma Magazine entitled "The #1 Reason Why Christian Marriages Fail," J. Lee Grady delivers a beautifully progressive message about gender equality. Grady laments the pervasiveness of violence against women across the globe, which he attributes to "male superiority" and machismo. Male dominance, he argues, is one of the biggest threats to Christian marriages, which should be a relationship between equal. Male dominance is a result of the Fall, he argues, insisting that God never intended marriage to be a setting for domination or abuse. He urges men to treat their wives as equals, help their wives with everyday responsibilities, and encourage their wives to cultivate their gifts.

Grady's column is refreshing in its respect for women. He takes violence against women seriously, acknowledging the connection between male violence and sexism. Whereas some Christian speakers praise women but stop short of rejecting patriarchy (i.e., Mike Bickle), Grady urges men to treat women as equals. Unfortunately, one church of recent notoriety disagrees.

Remember Pastor Sean Harris of Berean Baptist Church in Fayetteville, NC? Several weeks ago, Harris was soundly condemned for encouraging fathers to punch "effeminate" sons and scold "butch" daughters (see here and here). Harris' sermon not only reeked of homophobia, but it also suggested a worldview in which gender roles are extremely rigid. That misogyny reared its head once again in a podcast available at the Berean Baptist Church website.

In a June 7th podcast entitled “Why Christian Marriages Fail,” Harris sat down with Berean pastors Dwayne Smith and Steve Wilson to discuss Grady’s commentary. Harris condemned physical violence against women, reminding listeners that “guys hitting their wives is off limits” and that physically abused women are entitled to leave their abusers and seek safety. Unfortunately, Harris and the other Berean pastors seemed more concerned about defending Christian patriarchy that tackling the real-life issues that Grady’s column addressed. The pastors spent much of the interview criticizing the idea that unfair treatment of wives was the chief threat to Christian marriage.

At the 5:54 mark of the podcast, one pastor claimed that the degree of male dominance seen in foreign cultures isn’t a problem in the U.S. Rather, he saw equality between the sexes and a lack of rigid gender roles as a more immediate cause of marital problems in America.
"I also think that it needs to go further because really what he's saying is the root cause is the symptom, and in those cultures the root cause of sin is this cultural idea that, hey, 'I'm the man, I'm in charge, I'm the king, I'm the boss, I'm going to put you under the thumb,' but I don't find that really to be the problem in the United States of America. I think that I think the opposite, in fact, could be argued, that we've reached such a point in our American culture that everything is egalitarian that in many cases, some of the causes of marital problems in America is there is no defined roles. Nobody knows what's going on. I wish this guy would step up and take some leadership."
At the 7:07 mark, Sean Harris correlated male dominance with leadership in the home.
"Well, if I look at this statement, and it says male superiority is a global problem, is the number one reason why Christian marriages suffer and fail, I'm going to become less of a leader, because the assumption here is that you stop trying to be so superior as the husband of the house, and your life is going to get better."
The 7:36 mark featured the single most facepalm-worthy statement in the podcast. One pastor, completely missing the point of Grady’s commentary, assumed that violence against women across the globe had little to do with Christian marriages.
"Well, there's not many Christians in India. There's not very many Christians in Africa, and there's not very many Christians in the Middle East, especially in Afghanistan."
At the 7:54 mark, Another pastor claimed that parts of the world where violence against women is extreme tend to be placed with little Christian influence. The fact that violence against women occurs in Christian and non-Christian communities alike was not considered.
"You're pointing to folks outside of the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ that are putting on their wives, that are putting on their daughters something other that Christianity in this respect."
Grady’s assertion that male dominance is a result of Adam and Eve’s sin drew ire from the Berean leaders, who argued that Adam was created before Eve and was intended to be dominant. 1 Timothy 2, in which Paul endorses female subjugation on account of Eve’s sin, was quickly cited as evidence. One pastor called Grady’s ideas “theologically irresponsible” at the 9:11 mark.
"I think if he was saying that the male role leadership was corrupted after the fall, or was made more difficult after the fall, that would be accurate, but to say that the male leadership role was not until after the fall is entirely inaccurate and theologically irresponsible."
Sean Harris painted a glorified picture of patriarchal marriage at the 9:55 mark, arguing that the relationship between a dominant husband and wife mirrors that of Adam and Eve.
"In this case, he seems to argue that we need to understand that God's plan was never to have Adam in charge, but we would completely disagree with that. We would say that Adam is a picture of the coming Christ, the leader of the church, the king of the church, and that the bride is the picture of Eve and he glorious relationships is when the husband and wife get it right, and it becomes this picture of the gospel."
Predictably, one of the pastors disapproved of Grady’s attention to violence against women, complaining that Grady neglected women’s sins at the 12:11 mark. He seemed to forget that women are far more likely to be abused than men, preferring to categorize domestic violence as just another form of sin.
"He hasn't mentioned the sin of the ladies or the females in this at all, and it's a terrible thing that the male sin seems to show itself through this domination that he is clearly showing, and we would agree with that that this is a problem, not to minimize that in any way, but it's both sides are sinners. Both sides are the ones that have struggles with sin."
These men need a dose of reality. According to the 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, 35.6% of female respondents reported experiencing physical violence, rape, and/or stalking by an intimate partner at some point in their lives. A report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics states that in 45% of female homicide cases in 2007, the female victim was murdered by a spouse, ex-spouse, or romantic partner. Whether the Berean leaders want to admit it or not, mistreatment of women IS an American problem. It is not just another sin, but a social pathology born of misogyny that has destroyed countless lives. By failing to confront patriarchy and misogyny, the Berean leaders are refusing to confront the roots of male violence against women.

J. Lee Grady’s column could have been a opportunity for the Berean leaders to meaningfully address spousal abuse in their congregation. Instead, they seemed more concerned about defending male dominance and deflecting attention and responsibility off of violence in their own culture. Instead of recognizing violence against women as a scourge in their own community, the men envisioned it as a problem over there, in foreign cultures.

How do you reach men who cling to patriarchal power so tightly that they cannot see its evils? With men like this at the helm of some churches, I worry for any abused women in their congregations.

To listen to Berean Baptist Church sermons, visit www[dot]bereanbaptistchurch[dot]org/media-audio.php

Commentary Tidbits

The Atlantic: The Religious Right Turns 33: What Have We Learned?

Buzzfeed: Glenn Beck's New Brand: Prophet Of Love

Media Matters: Five Things News Outlets Should Know About The Newest Same-Sex Parenting Study

Religion Dispatches: Ugandan Bishops Push Notorious Anti-Gay Bill

Rethinking Vision Forum: Vision Forum on Women and the Vote

Texas Freedom Network Insider: The Right’s Falsehoods and Distortions in the War on Birth Control

No Longer Quivering: How to Use a Woman’s Faith & Trust to Make Her a Willing Accomplice to Her Own Abuse

Booman Tribune: Why We Fight

Balloon Juice: Schooled By The Bayou

News Tidbits

Reuters: Vatican hopes for "mutual understanding" with U.S. nuns

Daily Monitor: Ugandan bishops want shelved anti-gay bill dusted

The Advocate: Show's Over for Teen Who Said Obama Made His Friends Gay

KLTV 7: Westboro Baptist Church protests Billy Graham, library

CNN: Megachurch pastor Creflo Dollar on his daughter: 'She was not punched'

Edge Boston: Two Survivors of Christian ’Ex-Gay’ Therapy Tell Their Stories

Edge Boston: Group Objects to Voting on Gay Issue at North Carolina Churches

Gaystar News: Australian coffee chain denies discrimination after Christian lobby donation

Monday, June 11, 2012

Anti-Abortion Activists Angry at United Methodists

The United Methodist Church's top legislative body, the General Conference, came together for its 2012 gathering in Tampa, FL from April 24th to May 4th. The General Conference, which draws hundreds of delegates from around the globe, meets every four years to discuss church policy and make revisions to the Book of Discipline and Book of Resolutions. Several anti-abortion activists are angry that the United Methodist Church policy still does not condemn abortion outright, and that the church continues to ally with the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.

- Lifesite News reports that After the 2012 United Methodist Church General Conference, Lifewatch president Rev. Paul T. Stallsworth was unhappy with the church's continuing stance on reproductive rights. In a May 14th statement posted at Christian Newswire, Stallsworth lamented that delegates did not have the opportunity to deliberate on abortion at the conference, baffled that the gathering found time to wrestle with the issue of homosexuality. (For more information on Lifewatch, visit www[dot]lifewatch[dot]org)

- In a June 6th post at the Bound 4 Life blog, Susan Michelle Tyrrell accuses the United Methodist Church of adopting an abortion stance that is incompatible with the Bible and the Declaration of Independence. She lambastes the United Methodist Church for supporting the "abhorrent" Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. Tyrrell criticizes the United Methodist Church's abortion stance because "the abortion ideology is fueled by the pit of hell and the demonic powers and principalities itself." (See bound4life[dot]com/blog/2012/06/06/united-methodist-church-pro-abortion-ideology-might-have-aborted-jesus/)

- In a May 22nd blog post, Jill Stanek praises anti-abortion activist Todd Bullis, who argued against abortion at the Custer Road United Methodist Church in Plano, TX. Stanek spoke approvingly of Bullis' attempts to "educate" Methodists about abortion through the use of graphic abortion pictures. (See www[dot]jillstanek[dot]com/2012/05/abortion-pictures-rile-members-of-pro-choice-church/)

To Religious Right anti-abortion voices, Christianity and an anti-abortion stance are inseparable. The idea that a major Christian church would not share their anti-abortion views has left several Religious Right activists steamed. Fortunately, denominations such as the United Methodists prefer a more nuanced approach to the issue, rather than a hard-line position that ignores the realities of unintended pregnancies.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Commentary Tidbits

Michael Kimmel: The Bible, Biology and Bigotry

Reason Being: Religion and Politics: Driving the U.S. Backwards

The New Yorker: Why We Don't Believe in Science

The New Civil Rights Movement: ENDA Gets Senate Hearing But Anti-Gay ‘Religious Liberty’ Dominionist To Testify

Washington Post: Vatican’s term ‘radical feminist’ says more about cardinals than nuns they rebuke

The Way Forward: Sexual Abuse in the Evangelical Church

News Tidbits

BBC News: Barre-Sinoussi: Pope wrong on condoms

CBS News: Rick Santorum forms new group to promote his ideals

New York Times: Abortion Qualms on Morning-After Pill May Be Unfounded

ABP News: Baptist group denounces ‘hate speech’

Xtra: Catholic doctrine bullies queer youth: expert

Pink News: Dutch Christian group may appeal after ‘gay cure’ therapy removed from health insurance

Pink Paper: Toronto Catholic educators battle bill that allows gay-straight alliance school groups

Gaystar News: Anti-gay marriage lobby accuses Australian TV show of breaking impartiality code

Gaystar News: Teen DJ says Obama 'makes kids gay'

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

"Test of Fire" Goes Viral

A political video created by a conservative Catholic group has gone viral over the past few weeks. The Advocate and Huffington Post report that Catholics Called to Witness commissioned a video called "Test of Fire: Election 2012." Produced by Creative Lab, the video urges Catholic voters to vote for "life" and "marriage" in November, although it does not mention presidential candidates by name. According to its website, Catholics Called to Witness is a faith-based organization that encourages Catholics to be active in the public square. Its political leanings are decidedly anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage, and pro-parental rights.

“Test of Fire” depicts a blacksmith hammering metal words in his forge amidst swelling music, as messages about principles and voting appear on the screen.

"In generations past, the Church has always been able to count on the faithful to stand up and protect her sacred rights and duties. This generation of Catholics must do the same."
At first, the blacksmith forges words such as JOBS, TAXES, and ECONOMY as the video discusses issues at stake in the 2012 presidential election. "But some issues are not negotiable," the video asserts as the blacksmith forges new words such as LIFE, MARRIAGE, and FREEDOM. "Forcing the Church to buy insurance that goes against her teachings is a violation of religious freedom," the video insists, reminding Catholics that their votes will be "recorded in eternity."

The message, in a nutshell, is that Catholics have a religious obligation to vote against reproductive rights and LGBTQ equality. One cannot wonder if the video's repeated use of fire imagery is a reference to hell. Frank Cocozzelli, writing at the Daily Kos, came to this very conclusion. The Slog's Dominic Holden came to this conclusion when he summarized the video's message as "Vote correctly or you will go to hell."
"What two votes can save Catholics from eternal damnation? Demoting the rights of gay Americans and stripping women of their own health-care choices, of course! And by all means, let's enrobe it in the pretense that Catholics have lost their liberty (in fact, their liberty is only constricted when they seek to use public funds for their anti-gay, anti-women agenda). But the Catholic Church is the victim here, we're told, so American Catholics need to rise up!"
The video will not doubt appeal to members of the Religious Right who oppose reproductive freedom and LGBTQ rights, but will it resonate with a wider audience? Given that LGBTQ equality is becoming more and more accepted in the U.S., and that most Americans (including many Catholics) support contraceptive use and contraception coverage, I wonder how well “Test of Fire” will be received.

To learn more about Catholics Called to witness, visit their website at www[dot]cc2w[dot]org

For additional commentary, visit the following links.

Shakesville: A Subtle Message: Vote for Obama, Burn In Hell

Commentary Tidbits

Religion Dispatches: Violence of the Lambs: The Legacy of Anti-Choice Extremist Father Norman Weslin

Think Progress: Therapy Survivor Calls Out Ex-Gay Advocate’s Bullying On Dr. Drew

Huffington Post: Tracking the Pastors (Four and Counting) Calling for the Death of LGBT People

Joe.My.God: Anti-Gay Hate Speech Compilation

Right Wing Watch: Religious Right Author Claims Environmentalism Will Destroy America, Introduce Fascist Tyranny

Politicus USA: Conservative Doctors, Nurses, Pharmacists Create Death Panels By Abusing Conscience Clause

The Guardian: How Christian fundamentalists plan to teach genocide to schoolchildren

RH Reality Check: Biblical Abortion: A Christian's View

Edge Boston: Fighting the Christian Right’s War Against Anti-Bullying Programs

News Tidbits

WBTV 3: LGBT Community Center takes donations in name of controversial pastor Charles Worley

Sacramento Bee: Watchdog investigating anti-gay-marriage group NOM for failing to report contributions

Washington Post: Vatican criticizes US nun’s book on sexuality, contains ‘defective understanding’ of doctrine

San Antonio Express: Abortion opponent says letter 'divinely inspired'

Ottowa Sun: Ontario MPPs pass anti-bullying bill

Pink Paper: Stop gay cure therapy insurance, says Netherlands Health Minister

A Few Moves Short of a Checkmate

A new anti-abortion website that posts short anti-abortion messages, Checkmake Pro-Choicers, is getting attention from progressive bloggers. According to its creator, Rebecca, Checkmate Pro-Choicers was created "to point out the stupid things that anti-lifers (or pro-deathers) have to say about abortion!" The Tumblr site states that abortion is "murder" and that the goal of the website is to dismantle the allegedly flawed logic of pro-choice people. (See checkmateprochoicers[dot]tumblr[dot]com/aboutme)

To be honest, the website is so over-the-top that I seriously wondered if it was a Poe at first. For example, in the "About Me" section, Rebecca writes, "Even though many girls who have abortions may be sluts, this blog is not about calling them sluts. It is about stopping the new holocaust!" My doubts were strengthened by several of the website's statements about abortion:

"Baby eagles are protected so why not baby people?"

"If everyone had abortions, there would be no more people."

"Being pregnant means no periods for nine months! How could you say no to that?"

"If most people getting abortions are poor, why don't they just get welfare? More babies = more money. Everyone wins."

Whether the website is genuine or a parody, some statements were just plain insensitive to women and girls facing unwanted pregnancy, including pregnancy due to rape.

"Mary was a 12-year-old single mother who didn't decide to have sex. She chose life."

"If your dad raped someone, do YOU deserve to be executed for his crimes?"

"Where is the movement to make rape, bank robbery, and murder of adult people safer for the criminal?"

The website also features common stereotypes about abortion, such as the discredited claim that abortion raises a woman's breast cancer risk.

"Which would you rather have? Motherhood or BREAST CANCER?"

Other statements blame pregnant women seeking abortions for having sex.

"If you don't want a baby, Don't spread your legs. It's 100% effective in not making babies."

"Didn't you CHOOSE to have sex?"

Statements such as "Didn't you CHOOSE to have sex?" ignore the fact that some women and girls seeking abortion had sex forced upon them, To boot, pregnancy women and girls do not choose to have gestational diabetes, dangerous blood pressure spikes, eclampsia, and other pregnancy complications that can endanger their health. Behind "Didn't you CHOOSE to have sex?" is the assumption that pregnancy is somehow a punishment for being sexual, and that women have no right to be sexual while exerting reproductive autonomy. Sadly, it's par for the course with many anti-abortion activists.

And, of course, I'd be remiss if I neglected the religious angle.

"Thou Shalt Not Kill"  --God

Did someone bother to remind Rebecca that the Bible is not anti-abortion? Is she familiar with passages such as Numbers 5:11-31 (which forces a woman accused of adultery to drink an abortion-inducing substance) and 2 Kings 15:16 (in which the Assyrians, as tools of God, rip open pregnant women)? 

Checkmate Pro-Choicers's reasoning is so facile that it's easy to assume that it's a scathing parody of anti-abortion rhetoric. However, because actual anti-abortion rhetoric is this absurd and insensitive in real life, Checkmate Pro-Choicers may be genuine. Whether the website is real or satire, it can nevertheless give us insight into the strange reasoning and lack of empathy among some anti-abortion activists.

To learn more, visit the Checkmate Pro-Choicers website at checkmateprochoicers[dot]tumblr[dot]com

To read additional commentary, visit the following links.