Sunday, April 29, 2012

Doug Phillips Uses Titanic Disaster to Lambaste Feminism, Modern Society

April 15th marked the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic in the Atlantic Ocean en rout to New York City. Amidst the countless events commemorating the disaster was a Vision Forum gala, infused with the values of the Christian Patriarchy Movement. Earlier this month, Vision Forum and the Christian Boys' and Men's Titanic Society sponsored an event in Branson, Missouri called "Titanic 100: An International Centennial Event." The event featured music, performances, costume events, stories, and interactive experiences such as an Edwardian Ladies Tea.

For Doug Phillips and the Vision Forum, the event was not only a commemoration of the Titanic, but an opportunity to revise history and promote Christian Patriarchy ideals. In the days leading up to Titanic 100, Phillips promoted the idea that men on the Titanic embodies a "women and children first" ethic, in contrast to modern society that denigrates women.

For example, Doug Phillips appeared on the April 13th edition of Truth That Transforms, the radio show of Truth In Action Ministries (formerly Coral Ridge Ministries). The show began with reflection on the 100th anniversary of the Titanic disaster, followed by a discussion of Doug Philip's Christian Boys and Men Titanic Society. At the 9:19 mark, Phillips claimed that the men on board the Titanic were infused with Christian views, whereas cultures that embrace "evolution" and "paganism" supposedly treat women poorly.
"The people that were on board the deck of the Titanic at that time were individuals that grew up in a culture which was distinctively Christian in its perspective of the role of men and women. And there's an interesting contrast because in the year 1898, a French vessel called La Bourgogne sunk, and when it sunk, the sailors and the officers literally threw women and children into the water, beat them over the head, and the men lived and the women died. And it sent shock waves throughout the entire world. People said how could such a thing happen? And in trying to understand why that happened, the commentary was they grew up in a culture that embraced evolution. It was the struggle of survival of the fittest. They grew up in a culture that had been the culture of the French Revolution, which had rejected Biblical Christianity and embraced paganism, and the consequence is that men treat women horrifically. Now, we flash forward to the year 2012, and this year, our president has finally taken us over the abyss, and we have full-fledged commitment to women in the front-lines of combat in overseas battles ... That's the first time in the history of the west that any nation has formally endorsed such a thing, and it represents a radical departure from the values that were embodied on board the ship in 1912."
Phillips ignores the fact that women's status is much higher in modern society than it was one hundred years ago, when women's roles were tightly constrained, women could not vote, domestic violence and marital rape were a husband's prerogative, child abuse was kept secret, and victim services as we know them were nonexistent. And that was just for white American women -- the plight of African-American women and children at the time was much worse.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Commentary Tidbits

My apologies for not posting for the past few days. Work has been extremely busy this week. Don't worry -- I'll be back to my normal posting schedule next week, with plenty of good posts to share.

Religion Dispatches: Today We Pray for Women for Whom Pregnancy is Not Good News ...

AlterNet: After a Generation of Extremism, Phyllis Schlafly Still a Leading General in the War on Women

Politicus USA: America Faces the Specter of Religious Apartheid

Media Matters: Huckabee: Hate-Crime Laws Are "A Form Of Reverse Racism Or Reverse Sexism"

Canyonwalker Connections: Scott Lively Brings the “Ugly Jesus” with Him

Mother Jones: The War on Women: Sex-Trafficking Edition

Xtra: Family Research Council blames us for prostitution

Ms. Magazine: Group Opposes VAWA Because Act Helps Lesbians

News Tidbits

al-Arabiya: U.S. pastor to burn Qurans, Prophet ‘images’ if Christian cleric executed

Christian Science Monitor: What African Evangelicals think of Florida's Quran-burning preacher

American Independent: Jobs for Christians

ESPN: Ron Brown defends anti-gay stance

Philadelphia Gay News: Drexel LGBTs organize against Chick-fil-A event

Huffington Post: Planned Parenthood Worried It's The Target Of New Undercover Sting

Huffington Post: Missouri 'Don't Say Gay' Bill: GOP Sponsors Wary Of 'Homosexual Agenda'

Seattle Post Intelligencer: Gay marriage “simply can’t happen”: Catholic pastor

Gaystar News: Christians seek judicial review over bus advert ban

Pink News: Catholic school ‘urged pupils as young as 11 to sign anti-gay marriage petition’


Harmless, a faith-based independent film, is a horror movie about a box of p0rnography that unleashes unholy forces on an unsuspecting family. The point of the movie, it seems, is that p0rn is dangerous and should be avoided. One News Now quotes producer Rich Praytor as stating that people often learn values through entertainment and mass media, and that the movie is intended to teach people about the dangers of pornography. The Harmless project is currently striving for $12,500 on Kickstarter (see www[dot]kickstarter[dot]com/projects/1969648737/harmless).

If the trailer is ay indication of the movie's content, I have serious reservations about Harmless. Just to be clear, I do take issue with some forms of p0rnography. I think there needs to be a mature public discussion about p0rn, focusing on issues such as depictions of violence and degradation of women, compulsive use, and the commodification of our sexuality. Having said that, I do not think the answer is to depict all p0rn as some evil, Satanic spectre, which is more likely to produce fear than reasonable, evidence-based  discussion.

Hat tip to Truth Wins Out. For more information about Harmless, visit harmlessmovie[dot]com

Sunday, April 22, 2012

This American Life on John Smid and Love In Action

The April 13th edition of This American Life shared the story of "ex-gay" ministry Love In Action and its former executive director, John Smid. The episode, entitled "Own Worst Enemy," charts Smid's evolution from an ex-gay leader to a gay-affirming Christian, due in part to the influence of a gay filmmaker. Smid had lead Love In Action for more than twenty years before his startling resignation in 2011, when he admitted that he was gay and acknowledged the failures of ex-gay efforts.

According to This American Life, Smid realized that he was gay after marrying a woman in his late teens and having two children. Smid and his wife divorced, and after living as a gay man, Smid converted to Christianity and came to believe that he didn't have to live "that way." During his time with Love In Action, he observed that parents of gay teens were reaching out to the organization, motivating him to develop an ex-gay program intended for teenagers, Refuge.

One young gay man had a nightmarish experience with Refuge. In 2005, 16 year-old Zach Stark wrote that he was gay on his MySpace account. When his parents discovered that he was gay, they forced him to attend Refuge against his will. Stark wrote about his experiences at Refuge on MySpace, drawing the attention of his friends and LGBT activists. The controversy prompted an investigation by the Tennessee Department of Children's Services, which concluded in June 2005, according to ABC News.

This American Life shared what Stark wrote about Refuge, including the program's stringent rules: no hugging or physical contact (save for things like brief handshakes); men were supposed to dress like "men" and women like "women,"; no one was to wear clothing from Calvin Klein or Abercrombie & Fitch; and any sensual dreams, fantasies, or temptations were to be reported to a staff member.

Soon, pro-LGBT protests were taking place outside of Love In Action, protests that included gay filmmaker Morgan Jon Fox. Fox would later release a documentary about Stark's order called This Is What Love In Action Looks Like. "It was impossible not to want to help him," said Fox, who added that John Smid was elusive during the protests.
"We knew that John Smid was head of the organization, and essentially he was the enemy in this situation ... He never came and addressed us. There was a one day, he was driving and then he stopped for one moment, and we made sure at that very moment we saw him, because it was kind of like this ... like seeing Sasquatch. We never got to see him."
Smid admitted that he was nervous when the protests first took place. Several weeks later, Fox asked to meet with Smid. In Smid's office, Fox told Smid about his life as a gay man, including the process of coming out, the pain of feeling unaccepted by his family and peers, and the joy of feeling accepted by the Memphis community. Smid was pleasantly caught off guard.
"And I thought, wait a minute. This is not what I expected. This guy seems to be vulnerable and honest and humble ... I don't hate this guy. How could I hate him? He just came into my office and treated me with respect and was honest himself, and he seemed open, and I didn't know what to do with it."
Even though Smid refused to participate in an on-the-record interview with Fox, the two men were on friendly terms, meeting over coffee and talking for hours. Eventually, Love In Action shut down the Refuge program. Smid admitted to Fox that Refuge had been a bad idea and was not an effective way to reach out to teens.

The ongoing dialogue between Fox and Smid eventually bore fruit. In 2008, Smid resigned from Love In Action, and in 2011, he came out with several startling admissions. In a blog post at Grace Rivers ministries, Smid wrote that sexual orientation is intrinsic and innate, adding that "... transformation for the vast majority of homosexuals will not include a change of sexual orientation. Actually I’ve never met a man who experienced a change from homosexual to heterosexual." He added that while immersed in the ex-gay subculture, he had ignored interpretations of the Bible that didn't match up with his own. After leaving that subculture, Smid began to see scripture in a new light.
"When I was at LiA I never taught a session on the scriptures regarding homosexuality that I understood. I know that sounds strange but it is true. I didn’t teach them because I really had never studied them for myself. I merely quoted what I saw that others had written on the issue ... Now that I am not submerged into one sided perspectives, I am open to studying and reading the scriptures for myself, I am finding so many rich truths that I wasn’t ever made aware of before. For the first time in all of these years, the scriptures that many have said refer to homosexuality are making sense! I am reading them in context. I am asking questions about who the passages were written to. I am asking what was being talked about, and why the words were written in the first place."
The April 13th edition of This Modern Life serves as a reminder that fundamentalists can and do open their eyes. Smid is a living example of how people can leave behind restrictive belief systems and evolve. While Smid admits that he is still trying to figure out what it means for him to be gay, his new found honesty with himself has made the world a little healthier for his LGBT brethren. The story also reminds listeners that the activism of people like Fox can have surprising results. For those of us committed to LGBT rights, Fox's story is a reminder to keep striving for equality.

(Hat tip to Box Turtle Bulletin.)

TheCall Brazil

Lest we forget that American fundamentalism's influence stretches across the globe, I wanted to share this video from TheCall Brazil. The video features Lou Engle, in advance of a gathering of TheCall in Brazil scheduled for November 10th, 2012. See thecall[dot]com[dot]br for more information.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

GLSEN's Day of Silence Meets with Religious Right Derision

Friday, April 20th is the annual Day of Silence, sponsored by the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN). Pro-LGBT students around the country vow to be silent that day, drawing attention to the silencing effects of homophobic and transphobic harassment in schools. This year's Day of Silence has been officially endorsed by over a dozen organizations, including the National Runaway Switchboard, the Gay-Straight Alliance Network, and the American Civil Liberties Union LGBT & AIDS Project.

Anti-LGBT voices from the Religious Right are opposing the Day of Silence once again, as they have in previous years. For example, Focus on the Family has spearheaded the so-called Day of Dialogue, scheduled for Thursday, April 19th.  

The Day of Dialogue website claims that the day encourages "open dialogue" about God's love, relationships, sexuality, and gender. The website's front page asks readers if they've ever wished that their classmates could hear more about "what the Bible really says about His redemptive design for marriage and sexuality." It frames disapproval of homosexuality as a Christian response, neglecting to mention that many Christians are LGBT themselves or accepting of the LGBT community.

As you'll recall, Candi Cushman of Focus on the Family's True Tolerance project discussed the Day of Dialogue on The Janet Mefferd Show recently (see here). During the interview, Cushman described the Day of Dialogue as an antidote to pro-LGBT "propaganda" and "indoctrination."

The Day of Dialogue FAQs section does not smile upon GLSEN's Day of Silence. The FAQs claim that conversations about homosexuality in school can seem "stifled" and "one-sided," allegedly allowing little room for "discussion." It described GLSEN as "one of the nation's largest homosexual advocacy groups," which is encouraging students to "pressure" school officials to implement LGBT-friendly events and policies.  

The Day of Dialogue is rooted in conservative beliefs about sex and gender. The website's guiding principles section states that "God designed marriage as the one place for that sexual desire to be expressed. In fact, in the physical union of a husband and wife, there is also a spiritual union that occurs." The website's guiding principles also promote a view of men and women as "complimentary" and intrinsically different, stressing that "Our masculinity and femininity reflects things about God's character ... So being male or female isn't just about biology or cultural stereotypes."  

Emotional Incest and the Christian Patriarchy Movement

No Longer Quivering has devoted several posts to emotional incest in families invested in the Christian Patriarchy Movement. Sierra's most recent post, "Emotional Incest: The Mama’s Boy and the Other Woman," argued that the dominant-submissive roles dictated in Christian Patriarchy marriages make true love between spouses next to impossible. Hungry for human interaction, spouses may seek emotional fulfilment through their children, creating unhealthy parent-child relationships. The following quote from Sierra's post was so insightful that I felt compelled to share it.
The great irony of American Christianity is that the fundamentalist-evangelical idolization of marriage produces a lifestyle that strips marriages of all their rewards. All the spontaneity, affection, teasing, playing, adventuring, learning, growing, deepening, overcoming conflict, admiring of one another’s wisdom and maturity – all this stuff dies in the headship-submission model of marriage. What you’re left with is a boss and his employee, who hopefully like each other but are fixed in their relations to one another. Their relationship cannot grow because growth would shatter the mould.

And so fathers turn to daughters for admiration and affection, for the sense of validation they no longer get from their wives – and I would argue that they can’t get the same admiration or affection from their wives in this paradigm, because the wives are already commanded to do those things. Wives are compelled to love their husbands; husbands, therefore, have nothing to work for. Nothing to earn. Ironically, once fundamentalist-evangelical culture fully enshrines the stay-at-home daughter ideal, the same luster will probably fade away. Whenever you try to mandate love and respect, you create the conditions that prevent you from ever genuinely receiving those things.

Mothers turn to their sons for a partner they can share things with, an individual who can be influenced, who can change and evolve without threatening anarchy ... Emotional incest is endemic to Christian patriarchy because that is the place where marriages go to die. In Christian patriarchy, the family is a little state with an executive head of government and a harried chief-of-staff. The husband’s elevation makes him lonely; the wife’s subjection makes her lonely, too. Patriarchal marriages are so tightly ordered, so constricting that the emotion, the life, the love and the spontaneity – the building blocks of romance – all ooze out the cracks and seep into the relationships of parents and children.
For more information on emotional incest and its destructive impact on children, check out the book Silently Seduced: When Parents Make Their Children Partners by Kenneth Adams.

Commentary Tidbits

God Discussion: National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference partners with Personhood USA

Salon: Abstinence Isn't Working

RH Reality Check: From Hate to Love: Why "40 Days of Prayer" is Under Attack by the Christian Right

Big Think: Christian Responses to the Reason Rally

Teresa MacBain at the Richard Dawkins Foundation: Locked Out: How the Church Responded to Their Pastor's Coming Out
(Hat tip to Infidel753)

News Tidbits

NPR: Christians Debate: Was Jesus For Small Government?

The Jewish Daily Forward: Jews Cast Wary Eye on Evangelicals

The Guardian: Gay 'conversion' therapies give moral authority to bullies, says ex-missionary

The Advocate: Study: Equality Opponents Say Their Own Marriages Aren't Threatened

Pink News: “Child Celebrities Opposing Kirk Cameron (CCOKC)”

Xtra: An Alberta Wildrose candidate on gays: “You will suffer the rest of eternity in hell.”

The Local: Swedish town rocked by second child exorcism       Trigger warning

Welcome to the Theocracy!

The ever-hilarious Betty Bowers takes another jab at the GOP with this video. Repent and reload!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Ba'al-ing Out: Fun Quotes from Life Today

The April 12th edition of Life Today featured Wallbuilders founder David Barton and former Fox News commentator Glenn Beck. During the third hour of the show, host James Robinson discussed the alleged "assaults" on values in our nation. Barton made his familiar claims, arguing that the founding fathers quoted the Bible extensively and that the Constitution was based on Biblical principles. For your reading pleasure, I'd like to share a few chuckle-worthy quotes from today's show.

At the 6:44 mark, James Robinson claimed that America was experiencing "an all-out assault" on values.
"Would you agree there's an all-out assault on faith, an all-out assault it seems on God, it seems on our founders, and even on the Constitution, an all-out assault on the family, on marriage, an all-out assault on life. We don't have the right to life anymore, we have the right to choose death, and literally not provide life to the most vulnerable, helpless being on the planet ... We've got an all-out assault on freedom, which includes the fertile field of opportunity, which God obviously wanted to take his people into, and we've experienced it in the free market."
At the 7:41 mark, Barton claimed that the Bible generates freedom wherever its principles are cultivates.
"The Bible produces freedom. Anywhere you take the Bible and use it in a civil nation, you will have a free nation. Real simple stuff. The Bible calls itself the law of liberty. You want liberty? Live by the scriptures."
Hilariously, Glenn Beck claimed that many people are unwittingly worshipping the Canaanite/Phoenician god Ba'al and "in bed with absolute evil" at the 10:52 mark.
"The one thing that the Lord has impressed on me in the last year is, like, most people don't know that God is waiting to do great miracle things with them, that they are going to do great good. I think most people don't know they're being used by evil. And some are. Some do know, but most people don't have any idea that they are in bed with absolute evil. It's not a Republican-Democrat thing. This is evil that is happening right now, and we have to call evil by its name, and I really think that we are a society globally that is now worshipping Ba'al. I think we are going right down that line ... We're not doing it consciously, but we are doing it. We are worshipping Ba'al, and it's a frightening realization that everything in the Bible is just a warning. 'Hey! See these patterns? Look at these spooky patterns. Don't do those things.' And we're doing them."
I'm used to hearing New Apostolic Reformation figures preach about pagan deities and demons, but this is the first time I've heard it from Glenn Beck. There's a first time for everything!

Hat tip to Right Wing Watch. To watch the episode, click here

After PFOX Controversy, Pro-LGBT Groups Distribute Fliers in Maryland

Back in February, Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays (PFOX) distributed 8,000 fliers to students at five high schools in Montgomery County, MD. According to the Washington Post and NBC Washington, the fliers claimed that no one is born gay, and that sexual orientation is based on "feelings" and "self-affirmation." Furthermore, the fliers offered help to students with "unwanted same-sex attractions." PFOX's fliers drew ire from pro-LGBT groups such as GLSEN, Truth Wins Out, and the Teaching Tolerance project, as well as Montgomery County School Superintendent Joshua Starr, who called the fliers "reprehensible and deplorable."

In an article at Alternet, Katherine Stewart observed that the school district could exercise discretion in what materials it sent home with students, until a Christian group called the Child Evangelism Fellowship successfully sued to have its fliers distributed by the school district. She cited the current PFOX flyer controversy as an example of the problems that erupt when separation of church and state blurs.

On April 11th, a coalition of pro-LGBT organizations launched a counter-offensive. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center website, the SPLC, Equality Maryland Foundation, and Parents, Family, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) distributed nearly 50,000 fliers to all 25 Montgomery County high school students to counter PFOX's propaganda.

Images of the fliers are available for viewing here. The PFLAG/SPLC fliers stress than sexual orientation is innate, that many religious congregations are affirming of the LGBT community, and that so-called "reparative therapy" is highly dubious.

According to the Washington Post, a Montgomery County Board of Education policy committee has recommended a ban on flier distribution in middle and high schools by outside groups. The committee is scheduled to deliver its recommendation to the Board of Education on April 30th, and a final vote is expected in June.

I'm pleased that three pro-LGBT organizations challenged PFOX's toxic messages. LGBT youth should not be fed homophobic propaganda, and frankly, neither should their straight counterparts. Rather, they deserve fact-based, affirming reminders that it's okay to be LGBT, and that welcoming communities exist. Let's hope their pro-LGBT fliers have neutralized the messages of the previous PFOX fliers.

GLAAD Releases Report on Religious Voices in Media

Anti-LGBT Religious Right figures such as Rick Santorum and Tony Perkins have made their voices heard in the news media, as we've all observed. But just how prevalent are anti-LGBT religious voices in the media, and how representative are they of the religious community at large? A new report sheds light on the matter.

The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) and the Center on Religion & the Professions just released a new report entitled Missing Voices: A Study of Religious Voices in Mainstream Media Reports About LGBT Equality.

The report discusses ways in which the American news media depicts religious voices in its coverage of LGBT issues. During a time in which both religion and LGBT equality have become important issues in the public square, this report couldn't be more timely.

The study examined LGBT-related content from 15 mainstream news outlets and broadcast programs from January 2009 to July 2011. The most commonly cited sources in LGBT-related news content were politicians or government officials (28%), community members (22%), activists and advocates (21%), and religious spokespersons (9%). Of the organizations coded for religious affiliation, over 50% were evangelical Christian groups.

Of the messages conveyed by those cited in news stories, 50% were positive toward LGBTs, roughly 32% were neutral, and roughly 19% were negative. However, religious spokespeople were more likely to provide negative messages than the general sample. Roman Catholic and evangelical Protestants were more likely to share negative messages, but mainline Christians and black Protestants were more likely to share positive messages.

The report observes that the media often depicts religion and LGBT issues as opposed to each other (the "gays versus religion" frame). When media outlets use religious sources in news stories on LGBT issues, they are likely to cite conservative Christian sources who view LGBT rights negatively. On the other hand, pro-LGBT sources cited in news stories are frequently presented without any notation of their religious affiliation. The news stories studied in this sample did not consistently cite progressive, pro-LGBT religious voices. The report concludes that such imbalances in media ignore religious pluralism in the U.S. and obscure the presence of pro-LGBT religious voices.

The authorship speculates that religious illiteracy may play a role in this imbalance. The report notes that even journalists can suffer from religious illiteracy -- a lack of knowledge about religion, even the religion one espouses -- which in turn can contribute to polarized media depictions of religion and LGBT issues.

Missing Voices serves as a reminder that the relationship between religion and LGBT issues is more complex than it appears in the media. While anti-LGBT religious voices figure prominently in the news, they have a disproportionate presence. We must remember that religious figures do not speak in one voice on LGBT issues, and a growing number of religious leaders and organizations support the LGBT community. Furthermore, LGBT Christians are living reminders that religion and LGBT status need not be diametrically opposed. In short, GLAAD's latest report serves as a reminder that balanced coverage of these issues in the news is vital.

For additional news and commentary, visit the following links.

Huffington Post: Where Are the Pro-LGBT Religious Voices in Mainstream Media?

Instinct: Pro-LGBT Religious Voices Underrepresented In The Media, Finds New GLAAD Study

Commentary Tidbits

Telling Secrets: Religion and Politics

Religion Dispatches: “One of Us”: Rick Santorum and the Politics of (Very Big) Family

Gay USA: Lesbian filmmaker prays the gay away at Bachmann & Associates

The American Prospect: My So-Called Ex-Gay Life

Box Turtle Bulletin: NOM Loses Control Of Web Presence

The New Civil Rights Movement: “Gay Marriage” Is Out! “Sodomy Based Marriage” Is In!

News Tidbits

The Atlantic: Mission From God: The Upstart Christian Sect Driving Invisible Children and Changing Africa

Air Force Times: Air Force yanks document linking faith to leadership

New York Times: With Santorum Out, Evangelicals Edge Toward Romney, but Cautiously

WSBTV 2: Student refuses to go to graduation at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church

Los Angeles Times: Drag show at Catholic university draws protest

The Advocate: Leading Advocacy Groups Ask Catholic Bishops to Stop Supporting NOM

Gaystar News: Trans woman to sue Christian rehab center in Hong Kong

PBS News Hour Covers Ugandan Anti-Gay Bill

PBS News Hour recently covered Uganda's draconian anti-gay bill, and the role of American Religious Right figures such as Scott Lively in fomenting homophobia there. (Hat tip to Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters.)

Watch In Uganda, Gays Face Growing Social, Legal Hostility on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.

Monday, April 9, 2012

News Tidbits

New York Times: $30,000 Watch Vanishes Up Church Leader’s Sleeve

New York Times: Catholic Fund Cuts Off Aid Over Groups’ Affiliations

Washington Post: Praying for God to hurt someone is not illegal, judge rules

Washington Post: Pope Benedict XVI says church reform won’t come through open dissent

Talking Points Memo: Wisconsin Bombing Suspect May Have Attended Anti-Abortion Protests

Yahoo News: Tennessee seeks to question evolution in bill

American Independent: Former NOM head regrets wording of race memos

Washington Blade: Mormons working to overturn Maryland marriage law

ABC News: Rick Warren: Fundamental Differences Between Mormons and Christians

The Age: Ministries preying on gay shame

The Guardian: Archbishop panel member believes gay people can 'change' sexual desire

Commentary Tidbits

RH Reality Check: Abby Johnson Explains To CPCs How To Use Forced Ultrasound Bills To Lie and Get Women In the Door

Salon: Reformation of an evangelical

Mother Jones: Helping the Poor is Now Apparently Anti-Bible

Media Matters: Meet Todd Starnes, Fox’s Mouthpiece For Anti-Gay Hate Groups

Religion Dispatches: Kirk Cameron’s Monumental Reveals Subtle Influence of Christian Reconstructionism

Bloomberg: Romney’s Gaffes Won’t Cost Him As Many Votes As His Views

Cheap Signals: Conservative group to gather, bemoan 40 year old advance in sexual freedom

Blonde Nonbeliever: The Lure of Anti-theism

(Hat tip to Infidel753 for several of these links)

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Lou Engle's Anti-Abortion Speech Posted at EstherCall Website

Republic of Gilead has noted the lead-up to the EstherCall, an all-female anti-abortion event in Texas that culminated in a Dallas rally on Easter weekend. In preparation for the event,the EstherCall website posted recordings of Lou Engle's 2010 speech on abortion in Austin, TX, entitled "The Doctrine of the Shedding of Innocent Blood." The speech offers a revealing glimpse into Engle's views on abortion.

In the speech, Engle called for the reversal of Roe v. Wade, claiming that God wanted to do something powerful in Texas thirty-seven years after Roe v. Wade. He quoted Ezekiel 22:30, interpreting the passage as an expression of God's wrath over the shedding of innocent blood throughout Ezekiel 22. At the 3:22 mark of part I, Engle interpreted Ezekiel 22:30 thus.
"The context of this passage is that the nation, the government, the rulers, the priests and the prophets who are complicit in the shedding of innocent blood--when innocent blood is being governmentally sponsored, God says, 'I can't deal with this and I'm looking for an intercessor to say mercy, no, and will actually go to the wall to hold it back.'"
Engle said that God called Washington D.C. a "bloody city" because of "state-sanctioned shedding of innocent blood." He condemned abortion as an affront to the image of God, but also criticized men who pay for abortions, pastors who counsel abortion, and those who consume pornography as "defiling the image of God."

The Rhetoric Behind the EstherCall

As mentioned in a prior post, an all-female anti-abortion event called the EstherCall just wrapped up over Eastern weekend. On March 17th, 39 women (representing every year that has passed since Roe v. Wade)began a 21-day walk from an abortion clinic in Houston, TX to Dallas, TX, where Roe v. Wade began. The climax of the event took place in Dallas on Good Friday, where TheEstherCall rally prayed for the end to abortion. A YouTube video featuring TheCall founder Lou Engle, TheEstherCall founder Tracy Eckert, and Back to Life director Laura Allred invited viewers to participate.

GOD TV and TheCall's website both featured livestream coverage of the EstherCall rally. When recorded video footage of the rally becomes available, be sure that Republic of Gilead will provide a play-by-play breakdown. In the meantime, I'd like to share some of the rhetoric and lead-up surrounding the EstherCall.

First, the Back to Life movement website posted commentary from the EstherCall women walking from Houston to Dallas. The list prominently featured women of color describing abortion with terms such as "black genocide" and "standing up for death." These words fit the anti-abortion movement's long use of racially charged rhetoric (see here, here, and here). Commentators gave various reasons for their anti-abortion activism, including the promotion of "purity" and the "beauty of motherhood." (More here.)

Next, the EstherCall blog features anti-abortion posts from women, including a March 21st post from Tracy E. of Dallas, TX. "If we could see into the deep crevasses of the abortionist’s activities," she wrote, "the whole of American society would find their hearts bent in deep travail and sorrow."

Tracy promoted the assumption that many women are distraught after terminating their pregnancies.
"Statistics prove that women who choose abortion suffer an indescribable heartache. Many find themselves tricked into a lifelong sense of self-betrayal, experience death to their heart’s emotions and an eternal longing for their lost child."
Actually, a 2011 study conducted by the UK's National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health suggests otherwise. According to the report, the rate of mental health problems among women with unwanted pregnancies was the same, regardless of whether they had an abortion or carried the pregnancy to term. No rigorous studies reliably demonstrated the prevalence of post-abortion mental health problems directly resulting from the abortion itself. I suspect that when women are not taught to see abortion as shameful and vile, they don't feel shameful and vile after the procedure.

Finally, in a message posted at TheCall's website, Lou Engle described the EstherCall as an opportunity "to pray for an undeserved mercy in America, the rescuing of our children and healing of women." He urged readers to participate in the event and "represent millions of post-abortive women whose pain is unbearable and whose cry has been stifled by fear and shame."

Revealingly, Engle expressed concern over the Supreme Court's review of President Obama's health care reform. He was most worried about contraception coverage under the Obama administration, incorrectly likening emergency contraception to abortion. "Contraception is a smoke screen in the argument because included is the systemization [sic] of the RU 486 pill, the Ella pill and other abortifacients," he wrote, ignoring the fact that emergency contraception is not an abortifacient. Later in the statement, Engle warned readers that emergency contraception coverage -- which he called "abortions beginning at conception" -- would spell doom for the nation.
"If the Supreme Court rules for the constitutionality of this health care reform it could forever embed abortion into the soul of this nation by delivering a wide spread entitlement for all Americans to obtain insurance covered abortions beginning at conception. We are on the slippery slope of a great rebellion perpetrated by a perverted science and only the prophetic praying church can rise to challenge these powers."
Unfortunately, Engle is not the first right-wing figure to demonize emergency contraception (see here, here, and here).

Of course, progressive voices have also shared commentary about the EstherCall. In a commentary at Religion Dispatches, Katie Toth argued that for EstherCall women, "power is only realized through the humiliation of themselves and their peers." Toth observes that while the Biblical Esther embodied cunning and courage, the EstherCall encourages female self-loathing, urging them to "turn that power in on themselves." Lou Engle's prominence within an all-female initiative, combined with the presence of 2000 male "Mordecais", suggests that patriarchal male dominance is alive and well at the EstherCall.

In short, the EstherCall is the latest anti-abortion outreach effort affiliated with Lou Engle, targeting women with messages about abortion's alleged evil. Amidst calls for healing women and protecting the unborn is familiar anti-abortion rhetoric, associating abortion with shame, guilt, and sin.

To learn more about the Esther Call, click here and here.   

Back from San Diego!

I'm back from San Diego! I haven't forgotten my loyal readers, so posting will resume soon.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

News Tidbits

I will be traveling over the next few days, so posting at Republic of Gilead will resume next week.

Washington Post: A clinic’s landlord turns the tables on anti-abortion protesters

Herald Journal News: Cache Valley man researches why people leave the LDS Church

Boston Globe: Anna Maria College cancels Victoria Kennedy’s commencement speech under pressure from Worcester bishop

American Independent: Some Minnesota churches concerned about NOM’s “wedge” strategy

The Advocate: Mitt Romney Is a NOM Donor, Document Shows

Pink News: Law proposed in Kansas will allow religious to veto anti-discrimination laws

Courthouse News Service: Gay Dances Were Too Much, Professor Says

Xtra: Anti-bullying bills spark protests at Ontario legislature

Gaystar News: God sends mice to punish pro-gay Tesco

Commentary Tidbits

Cognitive Dissenter: When God Teaches the Kids About Sex

Fallen from Grace: Independent Fundamentalist Baptists and the Secrets They Keep

Cognitive Discopants: What if God Threw a Flood and No One Came?

Alternet: The new legal theory that enables homophobic evangelizing in public schools

Pat Robertson on "Satanic" Homosexuality

After all this time blogging on the Religious Right, I've encountered several instances of New Apostolic Reformation figures blaming demons for everything from indigenous religions to abortion to drug cartel violence. However, I wasn't prepared to hear such demon-rhetoric from Pat Robertson.

Right Wing Watch drew attention to Robertson's statements during the March 26th edition of The 700 Club. The last segment of the episode featured the story of Shawn Derritt and his "battle with homosexuality." After being sexually intimate with men in his youth, Shawn married a woman, believing that his "sin" was under control. Several years after they married, Derritt had affairs with other men, and when he confessed his infidelity to his wife, she was devastated. "Repentance and deliverance from his homosexual lifestyle" came from his devotion to God, the segment claimed. To watch the episode, visit www[dot]cbn[dot]com/media/player/index.aspx?s=/archive/club/700Club032612_WS&t=k&search=700clubepisodes

At the 54:22 mark, Pat Robertson speculated that demonic position could have been to blame for Derritt's affairs.
"The world today says, 'Okay Shawn, so you are gay. You want to go out and have affairs with men. That's cool. You have an absolute right to do that. Why not? So you're married. Well, that's too bad. So you're wife doesn't like it. Well, tough.' That's not the right attitude. The attitude is that this is sin. It's wrong, and Shawn realized it was wrong but he couldn't control it. But somehow, what an amazing wife he had ... How forgiving, how understanding. But that type of conduct is wrong, and it's time in society we say certain things are wrong. However you look at it, the man is married and has a child, and he's out having multiple affairs with men. He's picking them up on the street. So he's obsessed, he had a compulsion. I would think it is somehow related to demonic possession. I don't know what was driving him. The lust of the flesh, whatever you call it, but he needs to be set free. And he came to Jesus, and Jesus did what he does. He set him free."
In my opinion, the story is not so much a testament to divine healing as it is a warning about so-called "ex-gay" efforts. When people are pressured by their communities or belief systems to repress their sexual feelings, problems erupt. My heart goes out to Derritt, who has clearly been discouraged from accepting his natural feelings, and for his wife who has endured so much heartache.

To boot, Robertson's comments about demonic possession were NOT helpful. In Robertson's eyes, Derritt's affairs weren't a sign of repressed, unprocessed sexual feelings, but a result of demons. Instead of looking at Derritt's situation from a realistic angle, Robertson attributed his affairs to something supernatural. Could this be taken a step further? Could this lead people to brand homosexuality and bisexuality as results of possession? Absolutely, and that is why such demon-rhetoric is dangerous.

Right Wing Watch drew attention to more of Robertson's comments on the March 27th edition of The 700 Club. After a segment on the controversy surrounding Kirk Cameron's homophobic statements, Robertson said that homosexuality and abortion were Satan's attacks on society.
To watch the episode, visit www[dot]cbn[dot]com/media/player/index.aspx?s=/archive/club/700Club032712_WS&t=k&search=700clubepisodes

At the 12:08 mark of the episode, he had this to say.

"Isn't it amazing, though, that the media focuses on the fringe ... Apparently there is a little bit of area where we are totally violating God's commandments. Homosexuality is one of them, abortion is the other one, and I mean,  total violation of God's commandments. And this is the area that the media is focusing on, because they know this is the wedge that's being driven into our faith-based society ... This is where the devil is pointing in. It's an attack on marriage, and an attack on procreation ... You don't procreate if you're a homosexual. You can't have children. It's biologically impossible. The same thing, if you're abortion babies, you're taking life away. That's the attack of Satan against the society we live in."
Breathtaking. When a long-silenced group demands equal rights, or when women exert autonomy over their bodies, Pat Robertson sees "the attack of Satan."

As I've argued before, this kind of rhetoric is never constructive. By claiming that LGBT people (OR pro-choice voices, OR non-Christians) are under the influence of demons and Satan, people like Robertson preclude any meaningful engagement with those groups. It not only shrouds their humanity, but it makes it impossible to approach their claims in a meaningful manner. Pat Robertson and his ilk need to stop using religion to justify homophobia.

For additional commentary, visit the following links.

Rainbow Times: Creep of the Week: Pat Robertson for heterosexuality with demonic possession

Huffington Post: Pat Robertson On Homosexuality: It's Related To A Type Of "Demonic Possession"

Godissatan: Pat Robertson Blames Homosexuality on Demonic Possession