Monday, September 26, 2011

Commentary Tidbits

New York Times: Why the Antichrist Matters in Politics

The American Prospect: The Bachmann Mystique

Atheist Camel: Seven Questions for Rick Perry

Crooks and Liars: Santorum: Socialists 'Teaming with Radical Islamists' to Spread Venom

They Gave Us a Republic: The Not So Great Generation

Box Turtle Bulletin: Scott Lively Admits "Love the Sinner/Hate the Sin" Was Just a Ruse

Daylight Atheism: The Duty of External Obedience

Right Wing Watch: Maddow Examines Cindy Jacobs's Claim That "The Land Is Starting To Rejoice" In Texas 

Christian Science Monitor: Does government do too much? That could depend on your view of God.

(Hat tip to Infidel753 for several of these links.)

News Tidbits

New York Times: Retailers Are Put on the Spot Over Anti-Gay Aid

Pink Paper: Street preacher in court after telling gay couple they are “evil people” 

LGBT Asylum News: In Brazil, rising Christian evangelism behind LGBT rights pushback

WKRG: Serve Time in Jail ... Or in Church?

Public Religion Research Institute: New Poll Shows Fine Line GOP candidates walk on climate change, evolution

Washington Post: Pope Seeks Protestant Allies to Combat Secularism

American Independent: Former NOM chair Maggie Gallagher heading up new ‘Marriage Anti-Defamation Alliance’

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Religious Right Around the Globe: Jesus Camp's Becky Fisher Preaches to Children in Singapore

Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady's 2006 documentary, Jesus Camp, followed the Kids on Fire summer camp in Devil's Lake, North Dakota. Pastor Becky Fisher, who headed the camp and ran a children's ministry at Christ Triumphant Church, urged children to "take back America for Christ", pray for godly judges, and end abortion. The video below captures scenes of heightened religious fervor in the documentary.

At one point in Jesus Camp, Fisher brings in Lou Engle to talk to the kids about ending abortion. This was my first introduction to Engle, and seeing him whip the children into a religious frenzy was disturbing.

Although the Kids on Fire summer camp has since shut down, Fisher still preaches to kids. This YouTube video shows Fisher preaching to Children in Singapore about performing the same miracles that Jesus did. Fisher asks children to pretend that they are dead, then asks other kids to lay hands on the "dead" children and pray for them to return to life.

At the 5:45 mark, after two play-resurrections, Fisher tells the young audience that other children have raised their pets from the dead.

"Do you see how easy that is? How many think you can do that? Isn't that easy? Can I tell you a secret? Don't laugh if I tell you this. You promise not to laugh? I know some kids that have prayed for their dead animals, and they came back to life again. Now not after they've been dead for ten years and in the ground, but after they just died, and they weren't breathing anymore, they laid hands on them and prayed for them, and called them back to life, and they came back to life. God can do anything. Say God can do anything. [Children repeat] God is all-powerful. [Children repeat] And God wants to use me. [Children repeat] And I can do the same miracles Jesus did." [Children repeat]
This is NOT healthy. Telling impressionable children that they can raise the dead only sets them up for disappointment and heartache later, when they find themselves unable to resurrect loved ones. Playing resurrection games sends a morbid message to children, and it certainly won't help them make sense of death.

Becky Fisher, sadly, has changed little from her Kids on Fire days. This video suggests that she continues to indoctrinate kids in Singapore, just as she did in the U.S.

(Hat tip to On Knees for Jesus)

For additional commentary, visit the following link.

New Nation: Jesus Camp Invades Singapore

The Good Atheist: Jesus Camp 2: Singapore Edition

News and Commentary Tidbits: Wall Street Protest Edition

While not a Religious Right issue per se, I wanted to post links on the Wall Street protests taking place in New York. The mainstream media has devoted very little attention to the subject, but attentive media sources and bloggers have filled the information gap.

Huffington Post: Occupy Wall Street Protest Escalates on Eighth Day

al-Jazeera: Arrests at New York's Anti-Wall Street Protest

Raw Story: Michael Moore: The Media Ignores Wall Street Occupation

Freak Out Nation: Wall Street's Reaction to the Protests

Freak Out Nation: Imagine if Tea Partiers Were Treated Like This: Wall Street Protesters Maced, Arrested, Tased

Quotes from the Fox News/Google Debate

(Click here if you're having trouble viewing the video.)

The Fox News/Google GOP Presidential Debate took place on September 22nd in Orlando's Orange County Convention Center. The debate included the usual Republican candidates, including Rick Perry, Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, Rick Santorum, Herman Cain, John Huntsman, Newt Gingrich, and Michele Bachmann. However, this was also the first official GOP presidential debate to include former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson. Debate topics included immigration, education, foreign policy, the economy, and social issues, prompting several controversial comments from candidates. For your reading pleasure, I've highlighted several quotes from the debate, specifically on federal departments, education, and gays and lesbians in the military.

Friday, September 23, 2011

News Tidbits

Air Force Times: Schwartz: Don't endorse religious programs

Christian Science Monitor: Pope arrives in Berlin to a dissonant welcome

San Diego Gay and Lesbian News: Meet NOM's new face of hate: John C. Eastman

Fox 19: Miami University could host controversial Westboro Baptist Church

The Advocate: Candidate Vows to Unseat Town Clerk Who Refuses to Marry Gays

CNN: Mideast Action at UN Casts Spotlight on Christian Zionism

American Independent: Perry’s Israel support plays well with Jewish, evangelical voters for very different reasons

Florida Independent: Suspended Priests for Life leader compares supporting abortion rights to supporting terrorism

Minnesota Independent: Bachmann’s campaign hires reflect far right-wing Christianity

Commentary Tidbits

Thursday, September 22, 2011

SNAP and CCR Take Complaint Against Vatican to the International Criminal Court

On September 13th, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), in collaboration with the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) made a formal request to the International Criminal Court to investigate the Vatican for crimes against humanity. According to a statement at the CCR website, the two groups filed a complaint alleging that Vatican officials systematically concealed sexual crimes perpetrated by Catholic clergy. After filing the request at the Hague, representatives from SNAP and CCR were scheduled to embarked on a tour of several major European cities. The tour was intended to encourage clergy sexual abuse victims to come forward and local diocese to turn over relevant evidence.

Founded in 1988, SNAP has long been a voice for victims of clergy sexual abuse. Through advocacy and education, SNAP has educated the public about clergy abuse and demanded accountability from perpetrators and their enablers. Furthermore, the CCR defended human rights for over four decades, pressing forward with cases on a range of human rights issues, including torture, extraordinary rendition, and environmental harm.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Commentary Tidbits: DADT Repeal Edition

Don't Ask, Don't Tell was consigned to history on Tuesday, much to the relief of LGBT advocates and servicemembers. For your reading pleasure, here are a few commentary pieces on the end of DADT.

The Advocate: Assurances of Equality in a Post-DADT World

Washington Post: Don't Ask, Don't Tell: A Christian Response

Edge Boston: The Repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell": An American Imperative

The New Civil Rights Movement: Don't Ask is Dead, But Not Second-Class Status of Gays in Military

People for the American Way: Don't Ask, Don't Tell Is History, But There's More Work to Do

A Feathre Adrift: Coming Out of the Bunker

Box Turtle Bulletin: DADT DEAD

Right Wing Watch: FRC: Pray that Don't Ask, Don't Tell is Reinstated

Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters: Hate Groups Promising to 'Monitor' DADT Repeal

Monday, September 19, 2011

Commentary Tidbits

Rethinking Vision Forum: Influencing the Homeschool Movement to take them into Patriarchy and Dominion

Advocatus Atheist: Insane Religious Speak

Media Matters: O'Reilly Returns To Demonizing Slain Abortion Clinic Doctor George Tiller

Dan Savage at Slog: Religious Conservatives Hate the HPV Vaccine Because They Want Women to Die

Politicus USA: John Hagee Says Hate is the Only Way to Save America

Truth Wins Out: TWO Protests Exodus in New Hampshire

Right Wing Watch: Bakker: "Anti-Christ Spirit" Of Liberalism Brining In The Last Days

News Tidbits

Washington Post: Anti-abortion protesters target clinic's landlord outside child's Maryland school

Ecuador Times: Illegal Clinics that Claimed to "Cure Homosexuality" Were Closed Down

CBS News: Michele Bachmann says anti-gay bullying "not a federal issue"

Pink News: Madonna flash mob greets anti-gay Republican Michele Bachmann

Pink News: Woman ‘too disgusted by gays to leave the house’

Newswise: Nontraditional Family Roles Promote Gender Equality

The Advocate: Focus on the Family Faced With More Layoffs

American Independent: Suspended Priests for Life leader proposes anti-abortion ‘religious order’

Minnesota Independent: Catholic priest’s support of efforts to ‘cure’ gays draws condemnation

Texas Independent: Perry invited to attend Florida pastor policy briefing as part of Christian voter drive

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Religious Right Around the Globe: Reinhard Bonnke and Witchcraft

Attendees burn "witchcraft" items at CFAN gospel crusade rally in Abakaliki, Nigeria.

German evangelist Reinhard Bonnke, founder of the international ministry Christ for All Nations (CFAN), has preached at Christian gatherings across the globe. His rallies in Africa draw thousands of attendees, and CFAN reports from the rallies speak of faith healings and ecstatic religious experiences. However, these same reports also speak of burning "witchcraft" items, and Bonnke has spoken of breaking alleged witchcraft curses at his rallies. Given the prevalence of violence against those accused of witchcraft in parts of Africa, Bonnke's rhetoric troubled me.

In sub-Saharan Africa, belief in witches still persists, as does fear of their alleged powers. Human rights organizations and news sources have reported on cases of people accused of being witches and then subjected to exorcisms, rejection by family, torture, or murderChildren are also be victims of witchcraft allegations, and cases of child abuse involving witchcraft paranoia abound. According to a 2010 UNICEF report, witchcraft allegations have been exploited by both traditional healers and charismatic churches in sub-Saharan Africa. Pastor-prophets identify supposed witches through dreams or visions, thereby reinforcing beliefs in witchcraft and witchcraft allegations.

Thus, when I watched a video of Reinhard Bonnke speaking of witchcraft and curses at a rally in Oshogbo, Nigeria, I was alarmed. Nigeria has witnessed witchcraft accusations and horrific violence as well, prompting a formal investigation in Akwa Ibom earlier this year. Although Bonnke did not advocate violence or persecution of accused witches, I fear that encouraging belief in witches and witchcraft is extremely irresponsible in that cultural environment.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

"It's Nazis or Nazirites"

New Apostolic Reformation preacher Lou Engle envisions the Biblical Nazirite vow as a transformative spiritual discipline, as described in his book Nazirite DNA. When Lou Engle spoke at the Empowered gathering in Tulsa, Oklahoma, he had this to say at the 1:04 mark.
"The doom of a nation can only be averted by a storm of glowing passions. Let me say it again. The doom of a nation can only be averted by a storm of glowing passion, but only those who have it can give it away. [Cheers from audience] I would clap as well to that sound except this is who spoke those words. His name was Adolph Hitler. And if God doesn't find the Nazirite burning man in a culture that is filled with lethargy and boredom, mediocrity, sexual immorality, God is looking for a burning man to attract once again a generation to the fires to the love of Jesus. And if God will not find his Nazirites, he'll find the alternative. It's Nazis or Nazirites. They said about Hitler's rallies, people would go to his rallies as skeptics and return as blazing fanatics. It is time once again to have a generation that has the flaming tongue because they have the flaming heart for Jesus. There is no alternative."

Thursday, September 15, 2011

News Tidbits

Huffington Post: Rick Perry At Liberty University: Faith And Foreign Policy Mixed In Evangelical Address

Colorado Public News: Focus on the Family Says It Is Talking to Abortion Rights Groups

American Independent: Anti-abortion-rights group to picket Catholic facilities after Priests for Life suspension

The Advocate: Mother of Suicide Victim Takes on Bachmann

Edge Boston: Anti Gay-Marriage Group Hails Election of NY GOP Congressman

Commentary Tidbits

Cartoon Movement: What Every Woman Should Know (comic on crisis pregnancy centers)

Camels with Hammers: Did Theocrats Swing Weiner’s District Republican?

Rethinking Vision Forum: Ignorance, Stupid Error, and Willful Intent: Vision Forum is still guilty of objectifying women and children

Love, Joy, Feminism: Taking Dominion by Doing Laundry 

Talk to Action: Burning Buddhas, Books, and Art: Meet the New Apostolic Reformation

Politicus USA: How The Pro Life Movement Gave Us Citizens United

Media Matters: Beck: I Would Die "To Protect The Jews, To Protect The Israeli State"

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Cursed Land of the Cannibals!

New Apostolic Reformation preacher Lou Engle has made some controversial comments about race (see here, here, and here). Another New Apostolic Reformation preacher, Cindy Jacobs, also made controversial comments about Native Americans in a recent edition of God Knows, where she accused early Native Americans of practicing cannibalism and leveling curses.

Mike and Cindy Jacobs devoted four weeks of the God Knows series to ways that the earth responds to human sin. The Jacobs claimed that the earth can be defiled from individual and corporate sin, but it can also be healed through Christian prayer and repentance. Household unrest, failures in ones life, and other problems can result from living on defiled land, they alleged. To boot, defilements may reduce the fertility of the land, thereby preventing abundant growth, they claimed.

As opposed to poor soil fertility, high soil salinity, or pollution? I thought.

The Jacobs urged viewers to research the history of their land through spiritual mapping to find out if any sinful influences defiled the area. For example, slavery and massacres are two historic horrors that can defile a landscape, Cindy Jacobs claimed. If Jacobs is correct, one wonders why acts of slavery (i.e., Leviticus 25:44-46, Deuteronomy 20:14) and carnage (i.e., Numbers 21:34-35, Numbers 25:1-5, Numbers 33:50-53) condoned in the Bible did not defile the land.

At several points in the broadcast, the Jacobs blamed prior indigenous inhabitants for alleged defilement of the land. At the 1:35 mark, Mike Jacobs asserted that the practices of previous cultures can contaminate land, citing the historic inhabitants of Mexico as an example.

"I'm reminded that when we were in Mexico recently that there's an issue that they have that we saw from going to an anthropological museum there and in it, we found out what the worldview was of the original inhabitants of the land. See, one of the things that we talk about is that you may be experiencing the results or the consequences of what some previous culture even did on your land. Until that land's defilement is removed, Satan still has a legal right to cause ... the land not to produce like God would intend for it to produce."
At the 10:53 mark, Cindy Jacobs claimed that churches failed to prosper in part of West Virginia because it had been designated as a hunting ground by early Native Americans.
"For instance, there was a place in West Virginia. No church could prosper, and we found out when we studied that land that it had been designated by the natives as a hunting ground, and they put a curse on anybody who tried to live on their hunting ground, that they would be cursed if they ever tried to live there rather than use it for hunting properly. And the land was spewing out people, so they went and repented of that and broke that curse in the name of Jesus, and you know, there was change in that area."
At the 13:02 mark, Cindy Jacobs attributed strife in Texas congregations to cannibalism among early Native American inhabitants of the region. Instead of encouraging viewers to discover the roots of congregational strife, such as miscommunication or clashing personalities, Jacobs attributes strife in Houston and Galveston to cannibal Indians (!).

"You go and you you study the area, and you find out what happened. What did the indigenous people worship, you know? And if they did blood sacrifice, like, We found some area that are very very violent because the former culture was a murderous, violent--like in Texas here, and all the coast around Houston and Galveston, some of that area, the Native American people were cannibals and they ate people, and so you can see a manifestation of that in the churches where people turned against people and kind of cannibalized other people's ministries. So there's been a lot of prayer over that in Houston, Texas. They've done a lot of intercession over that and broke the curses on the land."
She praised the Response Rally for allegedly helping this "defiled" land rejoice once more at the 13:47 mark.
"We just had a prayer meeting in Houston a little week ago. The governor of Texas really as an individual instigated this. Thirty-five thousand people showed up to pray, and it was only a prayer meeting call within three months. Three month period of time. And what happened? The land is starting to rejoice because of that prayer."
Finally, an obligatory homophobic remark found its way into the discussion at the 18:42 mark, when Cindy Jacobs offered viewers advice for healing defiled land with their congregations.

"This is what you do. Study where you live, and then get together ... If it's a church, get your elders together. Ask forgiveness for any past sins in the church. If there were splits in the church, if there was any adultery, any kind of sexual sin at all, homosexuality, any kind of sin, affairs or whatever the pastors might have had of any kind, and ask forgiveness of that in the name of Jesus."
Once again, non-Christian religions and same-sex relations are branded as evil by a fundamentalist Christian. Two groups that have long experienced oppression -- Native Americans and LGBTs -- once again find their practices demonized by a Christian preacher. I personally found such comments tasteless in the way they framed traditional Native American religion.

(Hat tip to Right Wing Watch)

For additional commentary, visit the following links.

Scotteriology: Insane for Jesus: Cindy Jacobs (Again)

Lez Get Real: Perry's Prophetess of Misinformation

Commentary Tidbits

No Longer Quivering: "Taking Her Myself": A New Trend in Quiverfull Courtship/Betrothal

Right Wing Watch: Concerned Women for America: Real Feminism is Serving Your Husband

Warren Throckmorton: Is South Korea an Example of Dominionism in Action?

The Pragmatic Progressive: The Monsters Who Live Among Us
(Hat tip to Infidel753)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Reflections on the Tenth Anniversary of September 11th

Fence at Flight 93 crash site in
Shanksville, PA, 2008
Ten years ago, hijackers flew planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Another hijacked plane crashed in Shanksville, PA en route to its target. The September 11th tragedy was a turning point for the U.S., bringing new awareness but also new sorrows.

September 11th, 2001 lingers in my memory as a day of heartache. Glued to my television set, watching the nightmare unfold, I felt sorrow well up in me. Islamic extremists had reminded America just how dangerous radical religion could be. The hijackers had destroyed the Twin Towers and wounded the Pentagon, killing countless innocent people. Another plane lied in ruins in Shanksville, PA.  I wanted those responsible brought to justice, and I wanted healing for those who lost loves ones.

I grieved not only for the lives lost, but for the horrors that were bound to follow. I worried that my countrymen would lump law-abiding Muslims together with Islamic extremists, and that persecution of Muslims would soon follow. I also feared that my country might go beyond necessary justice in its pursuit of those responsible. With a heavy heart, I feared that the U.S. would retaliate on a grand scale in some way, and if war followed, many innocent people would perish in the fighting.

The years after the attack would bring with them enormous human suffering. The tragedy of September 11th was followed by an era of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, weakened civil liberties, and human rights violations in the name of "security." Ten years after the tragedy, some right-wing observers seem incapable of distinguishing Islamic extremism from Islam as a whole, spreading fear in their wake. The world looks darker to me now than it did on September 10th, 2001.

I also chafe at the way some Religious Right figures have framed September 11th. Some frame the tragedy as a Christian event (forgetting that the attack impacted people of many religions), while others attribute the attack to God withholding his protection.

- In an interview with CitizenLink, Focus on the Family's Timothy Goeglein described his experience of September 11th. He claimed that freedom is bestowed by God, not government, and that God's grace has prevented another such attack on U.S. soil. Goeglein stressed the importance of not secularizing September 11th, urging readers to see the date as "faith-laced" and "faith-undergirded." (See www[dot]citizenlink[dot]com/2011/09/09/friday-5-timothy-goeglein-recalls-911/)

- In a video posted at OneNewsNow, Michael Youssef discussed his visit to Ground Zero. Youssef made claims similar to those in The Ground Zero Mosque: The Second Wave of the 9/11 Attacks, insisting that the Cordoba House Islamic center in New York City was allegedly "the sign of Islamic triumphalism." He alleged that "they" (whoever "they" are) supposedly want to remove crosses from public spaces and churches, a theme he discusses in his book When the Crosses Are Gone. (See www[dot]onenewsnow[dot]com/Culture/Default.aspx?id=1429084)

- On the August 12th edition of The Jim Bakker Show, Jim Bakker claimed to have had a vision of the September 11th attack in 1999. At the 2:20 mark of this video, Bakker said, "I believe with all my heart 9/11 was somewhat of a judgment, only because God could have stopped it. I'm not saying God sent it. I don't know, but he does send judgment. But God had to let his hand down of protection for those planes to come in and hit those buildings. I believe it was a warning." (Hat tip to Right Wing Watch)

Still, the past ten years have brought glimmers of hope as well. On September 11th, people came together and united in the face of horror. Looking back, I take comfort in the resilience of my people, knowing that there will always be those who face chaos with courage. I know that in times of horror, there will always be people who set aside their differences and help others. Among my fellow Americans, there are many voices for human rights, and many people who have condemned extremism without succumbing to blind wrath and jingoism. Many look back on September 11th with a spirit of humility. As a nation, we are more mindful of religious extremism now -- and awareness of a threat is the first step in preventing it.

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Fence at Flight 93 crash site, Shanksville, PA, 2008

Two spaces come to mind when I reflect on September 11th. Back in 2008, I visited the Flight 93 crash site in Shanksville, PA. A green field stretched out where Flight 93 fell years before, its freshness hiding the land's harrowing past. A deep stillness hung over the site, and it was impossible not to feel humbled when walking those lands.

The official memorial had not yet been constructed, but a makeshift memorial had been erected near the field. A chain link fence stood before the field, decked with items left by visitors: firefighter jackets, hats, rosaries, shells, flags, and more. Private citizens had commissioned plaques dedicated to the Flight 93 passengers, several of which sat near the fence.

The spontaneous outpouring moved me. In this place of stillness and memory, people came to mourn, to reflect, and to give honor to the dead. It was a place of solidarity, and that gave me comfort.

Healing Field,
West Manheim Township, PA
A second space was to be found in a small town this weekend. On Sunday, I visited the Healing Field in West Manheim Township, PA, a memorial to those killed on September 11th. Hundreds of American flags stood in a field to signify those who had perished, each bearing a sign with the name and description of someone lost to the attack. Overhead, a huge American flag billowed in the breeze, suspended from two fire engine ladders. On a day of tragedy, here stood a place to breath, to honor the dead, and to remember. The atmosphere was one of reverence and peace, reminding me that Americans can bear witness to September 11th without succumbing to wrath.

Fascinating, how physical space and memory are so intertwined.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

On the tenth anniversary of September 11th, we can take stock of what has passed since 2001. We can guard against the threat of radicalism through knowledge, coordination, and justice. We must understand that war and blind wrath will not extinguish extremism, and may actually inflame it. We can go forward reflecting on ways to prevent religious extremism and create a more just and peaceful world.

The people who died in the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and Flight 93 should not be forgotten. The courage of the first responders (all of the first responders) should never be forgotten. Nor should their sacrifices, as many died on September 11th and others live on with health problems from exposure to the Twin Towers dust. September 11th impacted all Americans, regardless of race, gender, or religion, and all Americans must remember and draw wisdom from that day.

For additional commentary, visit the following links.

Life as a Reader: Lessons from 9/11

Four Monkeys: Sacred September 11th

Groping the Elephant: The Real Tragedy of 9/11

Politics Plus: Regretting 9/11 Twice

Human Rights Watch: Ten Years After September 11

Physicians for Human Rights: PHR Remembers Victims of September 11 Attacks and Thanks All Who Fight for Human Rights

For a post-9/11 musical interlude, check out Seif al-Din by Epica.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Commentary Tidbits

Salon: The dog-whistle dictionary: A GOP debate viewer's guide to coded Christian language

Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters: Slur spewing pastor taking center stage in North Carolina

Equality Matters: NOM: Homosexuality Is “Immorality,” “Evil,” “Darkness Parading Around As Light”

Wall of Separation: Memo To The Religious Right: On Sept. 11, 2011, Americans Can Pray – Even Without Government Direction

Truth Wins Out: Joseph Nicolosi and His Scamming Operation Kicked Out of Polish Medical School

Joe.My.God: The Way of the Mister

SPLC Hatewatch: 9/11 Rally to Include Hard Rightists From Around World

Righ Wing Watch: Joyner: "The Lord Is Using Islam" To Punish America for "Perversions" and "Abortions"

Right Wing Watch: Focus on the Family Doubles Down On Their Fight Against Anti-Bullying Programs

News Tidbits

New York Times: In Race for Weiner’s Seat, $75,000 From Foes of Same-Sex Marriage

San Diego Gay and Lesbian News: Fate of Uganda's "Kill The Gays" bill is unknown

Hartford Courant: A Student's Honesty Cost Her A Place At This Christian School

Houston Chronicle: Business, religion cited in North Carolina gay marriage events

Houston Chronicle: Conservative group head blasts BlueCross diversity

Los Angeles Times: South Africa's Zuma names controversial new chief justice

Oregon Live: Conservative Mars Hill Church will start services in Southeast Portland on Sept. 10

American Independent: Catholic Bishops claim feds’ birth control decision violates First Amendment’s religion clause

Minnesota Independent: Minnesota for Marriage hires NOM’s Christopher Plante

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Commentary Tidbits

Fallen from Grace: One Million Moms and Their Homophobic Agenda

Sibboleth: Christian Nation? Nope.

Aljazeera: Exposing religious fundamentalism in the US  

Cognitive Discopants: Nothing Says Fun Like Dead Egyptians! 

Huffington Post: Denying Evolution and Denying Global Warming: Is There a Biblical Link?

Right Wing Watch: Bachmann Gushes, Says Schlafly "Most Important Woman In TheUnited States In The Last 100 Years"

News Tidbits

KTLA Los Angeles: Emotions Flare at Church Meeting to Protest California Gay History Bill

Daily Monitor: Parents launch bid to pass shelved gays bill in Uganda

Washington Post: California science center pays group $110,000 over canceled 2009 showing of intelligent design film

New York Daily News: Anti-gay marriage group targets New York GOPers who voted for same-sex nuptials

365 Gay: California anti-gay history referendum faces uphill battle

American Independent: NOM awards Bachmann ‘A’ for abortion views in S.C. presidential forum

Florida Independent: St. Lucie anti-abortion group to protest sex ed funds

Devchelle on Dominionism

Monday, September 5, 2011

Rick Santorum Says the Darndest Things!

On Tuesday, August 30th, former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum spoke to students at Penn State's HUB-Robeson Center. Santorum answered questions from students on his presidential campaign, religious beliefs, and views on same-sex marriage. Predictably, his talk was brimming with dubious arguments against same-sex marriage, which he believes will undermine the "moral ecology" of America. However, a video of the talk is worth watching because of the challenge Santorum received from a student who criticized his stance on LGBT issues. (The original video is available on YouTube, but unfortunately its embedding function has been disabled, as it has been on videos of shorter excerpts.)

When asked why he did not support protection for same-sex marriage in the Due Process Clause and Equal Protection Clause of the 14th and 15th Amendments, Santorum's response at the 2:11 mark was predictable.

"Well, I don't find it there because I'm not an activist ... looks at the Constitution as a way to  justify my own personal beliefs and impose them on the rest of society. I don't think that's what the Constitution was there for. The Constitution was there to say what it said, not to say what future generations want it to say. From the standpoint of why I don't support a change in the marriage laws, because marriage is--I know I get criticized for saying, but marriage is what marriage is. Marriage existed before government, before the Constitution, before western civilization. Marriage has always been predominantly, overwhelmingly so, reflected in nature as such, the union of one man and one woman. It's reflected in nature, it's reflected in human society, from the very beginning of time."
Reflected in nature? Are you sure about that, Rick?

The Religious Right Around the Globe: Lou Engle Preaches to Russian IHOP

Lou Engle, co-founder of the International House of Prayer (IHOP), is a decidedly energetic preacher, sharing his New Apostolic Reformation ministry around the globe. Engle's anti-gay efforts in Uganda have been well-documented, and his outreach to Spanish-speaking audiences has been noted here. On YouTube, I stumbled upon a video of Engle preaching to Russian IHOP, which provided a unique opportunity to hear the messages he promotes abroad.

With fierce gusto, Engle delivered a passionate talk to a Russian IHOP audience through an interpreter. Many of the talk's topics were familiar, including the intercessory power of Nazarites, Nazirite DNA, the origins of TheCall, his son's Nazirite vow, and the alleged evils of abortion and homosexuality. However, this talk was unique in that it focused heavily on demons (specifically Jezebel), with talk of religion guiding government. As an added surprise, Engle made reference to a petition of 70,000 signatures that he received from the "homosexual community," a likely reference to a petition delivered to IHOP in February. What he had to say about the petition disappointed me, as it suggested that his anti-LGBT attitudes remain strong.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Bachmann and Beck Attribute Hurricane Irene to God

It was only a matter of time, I suppose. Since Religious Right voices have a habit of attributing disasters to God, it comes as no surprise that Glenn Beck and Michele Bachmann did the same with Hurricane Irene last week.

First, Media Matters reported that on the August 26th edition of The Glenn Beck Program, Beck urged followers to store food in preparation for crises, insisting that Hurricane Irene was a message from God. An article from the Washington Post suggests that Beck was promoting the LDS virtue of food storage as a form of self-reliance.

"How many warnings do you think you're going to get, and how many warnings do you deserve? This hurricane that is coming through in the east coast, for anyone who's in the east coast and has been listening to me say, 'Food storage. Be prepared. Be somebody who can help others.' You've heard me say this for years ... I've been telling you, don't be in a panic situation. If you've waited, this hurricane is a blessing. It is a blessing. It is God reminding you, as was the earthquake last week, it's God reminding you you're not in control. Things can happen. Be prepared, and be someone who can help others, so when disaster strikes, God forbid, you're not panicking."
Beck seems to have realized that his comment created controversy. In a YouTube video attributed to Beck's recent talk at High Point Church in Arlington, TX, he gave the quote additional context. At the 4:29 mark of the video below, he had this to say.

"I got in trouble today, that I said--I don't even know where I was when I said it--but I said, 'This hurricane is a blessing." Yeah! Yeah, it is. Everything in our life is a blessing. My alcoholism was a blessing. Everything that went wrong in my life was a blessing. If it wasn't for all the bad that happened to me, and what I did with it, I wouldn't be standing here today. There is no bad that God--there is no lemon that God can't make into lemonade."
The merits of food storage notwithstanding, I do not believe that Glenn Beck knows the mind of God, nor do I think it's constructive to attribute divine causes to natural disasters. To boot, I doubt that everyone who lost homes, communities, and loved ones in the hurricane would call Irene a "blessing." This, alas, is yet another example of Glenn Beck being Glenn Beck.

Michele Bachmann also attributed Hurricane Irene to God, and like Beck, suggested that it was God trying to get people's attention. According to an August 29th article in the St. Petersburg Times, Bachmann told a Sarasota audience that she didn't know what else God had to do in order to get politicians' attention. She framed the East Coast earthquake and Hurricane Irene as God's attempts to get politicians to listen to the American people. Bachmann campaign spokeswoman Alice Stewart later told Talking Points Memo that the statement was "in jest."

Frankly, I don't know what disturbs me more: the idea that Bachmann may genuinely believe that God sent the hurricane, or that she would joke about it. Dozens of people died during Hurricane Irene, and countless more saw their homes and communities damaged. If Bachmann was indeed joking about God sending the hurricane to get politicians' attention, she showed startling insensitivity to Irene's victims.

What is at the root of this compulsion to see the divine hand in disasters? Is it a way of finding meaning in seemingly meaningless catastrophes? Is it a primal response to the sheer power and magnitude of natural disasters? More cynically, is it a means by which Religious Right voices can transform God into a sock puppet for their views? Perhaps all of the above are in play.

For additional news and commentary, visit the following links.

CNN: Glenn Beck: Hurricane Irene is a 'Blessing'

Washington Post: Mormon Glenn Beck: Hurricane Irene and East Coast Earthquake a 'Blessing' from God

Talking Points Memo: Michele Bachmann: Earthquake, Irene Were a Wake Up Call from God for Politicians 

Commentary Tidbits

Cognitive Discopants: Tips on Not Getting Duped Again, Part I and II

Colorlines: The Definitive Guide to Bigotry in the 2012 Republican Primaries (So Far)

Peterson Toscano's A Musing: Love in Action shuts down residential program

Talk to Action: Prayer Cures AIDS, Claims Uganda Health Minister Tied To New Apostolic Reformation

Politicus USA: From The Inside: Scammed by the Family Values Money Machine

Media Matters: Pat Robertson Suggests Viewer Leave Episcopal Church Over Gay Priest

The Advocate: The Culture of Satanic Panic 

Dispatches from the Culture Wars: Barber’s Bigoted Psychological Projection

Right Wing Watch: We Are Seeing Natural Disasters "Because Sin Has Reached Biblical Proportions"

News Tidbits

Daily Tarheel: UNC will look into Christian a capella group Psalm 100

Los Angeles Times: Rick Perry's furious effort to court Christian leaders

NPR: Justice Department Toughens Stance On Abortion Protesters

The Advocate: NOM's $100K Fund-raiser: $98,000 Short

American Independent: Operation Rescue president: FACE Act enforcement is political move to silence abortion protests

Florida Independent: Florida Family Policy Council gives award to ‘Choose Life’ couple

Glenn Beck, Human Rights, and Responsibilities

After hosting the Restoring Courage rally in Jerusalem, Glenn Beck was scheduled to give a talk at High Point Church in Arlington, TX. As a side note, Media Matters recently reminded readers that High Point Church canceled the memorial service of a Navy veteran in 2007 because he was gay.

An August 29th podcast recording of Beck's talk is available at www[dot]highpointchurch[dot]com/ under the podcast menu. In that recording of his talk, Beck defended Israel as he did at the Restoring Courage rally, claiming that Israel is not an "oppressor nation", nor is it committing genocide. (Some observers might disagree with this statement, of course.) What struck me most about this talk, however, was Beck's vitriol toward human rights efforts.

At several points in the talk, Beck spoke in harsh terms about the human rights movement. First, he warned listeners about "all the nutjobs in the world" gathering at the upcoming "Durban conference", which was likely a reference to the UN World Conference on Racism in Durban, South Africa. Also, during a reading of 1 Corinthians 13:4-5, he accused human rights movements of keeping records of wrongs in an unloving fashion.

"All these love movements, all these human rights movements, they keep detailed records of being wronged. Love makes no record of being wronged."
Later in the talk, Beck claimed that the human rights movement had been "perverted" into an impotent "chihuahua" that allegedly operates through fear.

"The human rights movements have been perverted. They are so upside down ... you don't even know what they mean anymore. They don't even know. Yes, they do know what they mean. It's not about love, and it's not about freedom. Dismiss them. Code Pink, all of these other groups. Dismiss them. You have no power except the power of fear, and I'm not fearful. It's like an elephant and a chihuahua. Everybody might think that little chihuahua really means something to the elephant, because it's barking and nipping its heals. Yapyapyapyapyapyap! At some point, the elephant doesn't even know the darn chihuahua is there. The elephant is lord. These movements who are engaging in fear and intimidation, that's a chihuahua. Dismiss them. Dismiss the lies, dismiss the corruption."
The YouTube video below provides audio attributed to another Beck talk, including some vitriolic words about the human rights movement at the 0:31 mark.

"These human rights organizations are a grotesque parody. Martin Luther King would be ashamed ... I've studied the pictures of him. I've looked at them. I put one on my desk for almost a year with him standing there in a group of people, linked arms, walking. The guy had death in his eyes. He knew he was going to die. He knew. So did everybody else there. They all had fear in their eyes. It was a moment in time, a snapshot, but he stood. For what? For equal justice and a chance for man to be free. We must understand that you cannot have a human rights movement without a human responsibility movement. So today, let us declare, we dismiss the parody of the human rights movement. We will fight for human rights when human rights -- and it's everywhere, in our own country and elsewhere -- we will fight for when human rights have been lost or are being trampled, but we will fight using human responsibilities."
In effect, these words belittle the present-day human rights movement by lampooning it as a toothless tiger that favors rights over responsibilities. I encourage anyone who embraces this straw man attack on the human rights movement to actually research what human rights defenders do. Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, PLAN International, Physicians for Human Rights, MADRE, and countless other organizations are devoted to investigating human rights violations, exposing atrocities, holding offenders accountable, and fostering reform. They alert the world to horrors such as war crimesunjust detention, torture, sexual violence, FGMtrafficking, and a host of other abuses. They hold governments accountable for how they treat human beings. They encourage supporters to take a stand against injustice by pressuring governments to redress human rights violations. In short, these organizations work tirelessly to defend human rights while encouraging observers to stand up for the rights of others. They do NOT resemble Beck's straw man.

As an antidote to alleged emphasis on rights over responsibilities, Beck has put forth his "Declaration of Rights and Responsibilities", available at www[dot]glennbeck[dot]com/2011/08/24/declaration-of-rights-responsibilities/. Beck's declaration contains ten responsibilities for readers, most of which are noble and reasonable, such as the responsibility to defend freedom of speech, to honor others' freedom of worship, to aid the less fortunate, and to speak up for those who are unjustly accused. (Some commentators find great irony in this.) Other tasks, such as accountability to God and the responsibility to uphold the Ten Commandments, reveal the Biblical flavor of the document.

Peppered with references to Biblical heroes and "nature's God", Beck's declaration rails against "political correctness" and the alleged silencing of opposing views. The document alleges that the more people focus on their rights, and the more they are allegedly told not to worry about their responsibilities, the more they lose those rights. I don't know why Beck believes that people are demanding rights while shrugging off responsibilities, but I don't see this in the human rights movement.

Beck's acrimony toward the human rights movement is not unique, since other Religious Right figures have looked askance at human rights efforts such as CEDAW, UNCRC, and a 2010 child marriage prevention bill. What troubles me is the way Beck caricatures human rights efforts, painting the movement as a individualist "chihuahua" while ignoring its many positive achievements. Is it because several human rights organizations demand accountability from Israel, a country that Beck lionizes? Is it because Beck wants to distinguish his "Declaration of Rights and Responsibilities" from the human rights movement? I don't know. What I do know is that we should honor human rights work while keeping an eye on anti-human rights movement rhetoric from the Religious Right.