Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Commentary Tidbits

Leaving Fundamentalism: Christian Medical Fellowship: Sickness "caused by demons"

O-blog-dee-o-blog-da: Scott Lively Poised to Cause More Anti-Gay Persecution: An Odious Letter to the Russian People

The Advocate: Rick Perry’s Backward Thinking on the Boy Scouts

Bartholomew's Notes on Religion: Kamal Saleem Speaks alongside World War Two Resistance Heroine

Teach Not Preach: Masturbation as a ‘borderline homosexual activity’?

The Atheist Camel: Why I Despise Catholicism and Those Who Keep it Alive

The Atheist Pig: Popes Gone Wild!

News Tidbits

Dallas Voice: Anti-bill would cut funding for Texas school districts that offer domestic partner benefits

Dallas Voice: Robert Jeffress reaffirms anti-gay stance after Tebow controversy

Aljazeera: The rise of Europe's far-right voices

The Telegraph: Christian group challenges ban on gay poster campaign

Irish Independent: Get thee behind me, Satan: The secret world of Irish exorcists

New York Times: Germany: Morning-After Pill Allowed for the Victims of Rape, Bishops Say

Tribune 242: Bahamas Bishop: Gays Had Bad Childhood

AllAfrica: Liberia: Clergy Exclaims Against Gay Rights Advocates

Interfax: Ten Commandments Party Established in Russia

Gay Star News: Cameroon must uphold anti-gay law to 'protect' the world, say Catholic lawyers

Gay Star News: Ex-gay advocate says pro-gay school groups are like Nazi skinheads and KKK

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

ACLJ Establishes Affiliate Office in Brazil

The American Religious Right is a sophisticated movement, networking and outreaching with like-minded people across the globe. Outreach can take the form of affiliate offices overseas, giving such groups international influence. One example of a globally connected right-wing organization is the American Center for Law and Justice.

The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) is a legal advocacy and litigation organization with a decidedly anti-abortion, anti-LGBTQ equality stance. Since its creation in 1990 by Pat Robertson, it has advocated for crisis pregnancy centers, the Defense of Marriage Act, public Ten Commandments displays, and a host of other Religious Right issues. The ACLJ is headed by chief counsel Jay Sekulow and executive director Jordan Sekulow, who have a history of right-wing activism and comments.

Political Research Associates reports that the ACLJ is branching out to South America. In a January 26th report, Jandira Queiroz reported that Filipe Coelho was launching a Brazilian branch of the ACLJ in Goiânia, Brazil. Coelho heralds from a devoted evangelical family with close ties to the Sekulows. According to the report, Coelho opposes an anti-homophobia bill currently under consideration in Brazil, arguing that “homosexuals are trying to treat homosexuality as if it were a race, while it is really an attitude, a behavior.”

The Brazilian Center for Law and Justice (BCLJ) is only the most recent ACLJ overseas affiliate to arise. According to its website, the ACLJ has affiliate offices around the globe in Russia, France, Israel, Pakistan, Kenya, Zimbabwe, and South Korea. For example, Political Research Associates' 2012 report Colonizing African Values: How the U.S. Christian Right Is Transforming Sexual Politics in Africa, describes the efforts of ACLJ's African affiliates in drafting policy and resisting LGBTQ rights in Kenya and Zimbabwe.

Queiroz speculated that branching out into Brazil was a strategic move for the ACLJ, as Brazil is a large Christian country with a rapidly growing Protestant population. As a result, evangelical representation in politics is expanding, and the ACLJ/BCLJ may be seeking a niche in this growing political scene. To boot, Brazil also "exports" religious ideas to its South American neighbors, Queiroz observes, making it a powerful cultural as well as economic force in the region. Brazil also has a politically active LGBTQ movement, as well as its own Religious Right voices that oppose LGBTQ rights legislation.

However, Queiroz reminds readers that the BCLJ/ACLJ's influence over the Brazilian political scene is far from solid yet. The presence of other evangelical groups means that the BCLJ/ACLJ will encounter competition.
"Brazil is a country of contradictions. It can produce the Brazilian Carnival and lay the intellectual foundation for the Christian conservative group American Society for Tradition, Family and Property. It has a president who worked on the shop floor and was educated by the Roman Catholic Left, and it is home to right-wing Christian empires such as the Universal Church and the Assembly of God Victory in Christ. This country, just as the poets have said, isn’t for beginners. Whoever wants to navigate its wonderful byways must tread carefully. If BCLJ pursues a legal and diplomatic focus through one-on-one networking, it may someday find a niche for itself among the powerbrokers. But it is organizing in a very competitive environment, one in which evangelicals have already made a vigorous bid for political power and have found ways to generate huge cash resources. So BCLJ’s path to power is far from clear."
As I've emphasized before, Religious Right activism is a global issue. The ACLJ's expansion into Brazil and other countries is indicative of an organization that is thinking globally as well as nationally. No doubt the ACLJ's international affiliates will defend right-wing causes, now that worldwide progressive causes and cultural fault lines are more prominent than ever. while the result of the ACLJ's expansion overseas remains to be seen, international advocates for LGBTQ equality, reproductive rights, church-state separation should be aware of its presence.

For additional commentary, visit the following links.

Buzzfeed: American Christian Legal Group Exports Anti-LGBT Agenda To Brazil

Friday, February 22, 2013

Video: Clergy Abuse and the Conclave

With Pope Benedict XVI's retirement approaching, a conclave will soon convene to select the next Pontiff of the Catholic Church. However, appalling church responses to clergy sexual abuse scandals have left some observers wondering if Cardinals Mahoney and Dolan should take part in the conclave at all. NBC News discussed the controversy during its February 22nd evening news.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

FRC Leader Condemns LGBTQ Equality in Charisma Magazine Column

Charisma Magazine, the online Christian magazine that warns readers about demon nookie and gender-bending ghosts, recently shared a commentary piece condemning homosexuality. In a February 12th column at Charisma Magazine, Family Research Council senior vice president Rob Schwarzwalder insists that the Bible limits sexual activity to one man and one woman in marriage. (Actually, no; the Bible condones polygamy and concubinage, but that's another discussion.) He frowns on efforts to "diminish the Bible's teachings about homosexuality", lumping homosexuality together with adultery and fornication as a sin. His frustration, it seems, stems from progressive theological attempts to reinterpret scripture in LGBTQ-friendly ways.

Schwarzwalder defends Christians who condemn homosexuality, insisting that people of faith must accept certain moral standards without picking and choosing. He ignores the fact that all faith communities engage in selective interpretation of holy texts to some degree, that many interpretations of scripture exist, and that Christians and Jews are not monolithic in their approaches to sexuality.
"First, evangelical Protestants, faithful Catholics and Orthodox Jews don't pick and choose their moral standards. We accept them, based on our belief in the divine inspiration of our written texts, and how we see them vindicated in human experience.

Second, our acceptance of these tenets is not merely intellectual ... Unlike mere intellectual assent, since we believe our moral standards are issued by a God with Whom we have a relationship, and to Whom we owe our core allegiance, we cannot keep them neatly confined to the space within our crania. In other words, we are obligated by our Creator not just to acknowledge the correctness of what He has said but to live accordingly."
By claiming that believers do not "pick and choose" their moral standards, he absolves homophobes from having to reflect on their beliefs and jettison unjust attitudes. Healthy faith is a dynamic process, characterized by inward reflection and evolution of beliefs, not static adherence to dogma.

He insists that right-wing Christians harbor no ill will toward LGBTQ persons, insisting that they are not placing burdens upon the LGBTQ community. Right-wing Christians' opposition to LGBTQ rights is presented as a moral imperative rather than prejudice.
"I know of no conservatives who wish to disrupt homosexual homes. We don't want to be invasive any more than we want to be coerced ourselves. But we reject the redefinition of marriage on theological grounds, as well as on a surfeit of sociological data showing that children benefit most by being raised by a mother and a father.

This is not bigotry. It is not hatred. It is not homophobia. It is, to quote one of my pastors, theophobia. We fear God, and thus we submit to what we believe is His revealed will. No one is requiring any homosexual to do anything. Catholics, Protestants and Jews who believe biblical morality is absolute and final are being asked to treat homosexuality as morally neutral behavior. Yet we do not believe it is, and thus cannot countenance its widespread social or legal acceptance any more than we accept heterosexual cohabitation.

No one is demanding that any homosexual become a heterosexual, or that homosexuals be in any way harmed, demeaned, or persecuted. To the contrary, true Christians should and do show the love of Christ to every image-bearer of God, whether that person is homosexual or heterosexual. Period."
First, by preventing same-sex couples from marrying, visiting partners in the hospital, adopting children, or seeking protection from discrimination, right-wingers ARE disrupting their "homes". Anti-LGBTQ policies and the lack of just LGBTQ policies create real problems and heartache for millions of people who cannot marry their soulmates, visit sick partners in the hospital, become adoptive parents, or seek legal recourse when treated unjustly.

Second, Schwarzwalder cites no research showing that children are better off when raised by opposite-sex couples than by same-sex couples. To boot, he ignores studies that show no ill effects of being raised by same-sex parents. For example, a 2004 study published in Child Development found no statistically significant differences in psychosocial adjustment and school performance between adolescents raised by same-sex couples and adolescents raised by opposite-sex parents. The quality of the parent-child relationship was a much stronger predictor of school adjustment than family type, the study found. A 2008 review of 19 studies on same-sex parents published in the Journal of GLBT Family Studies found that children raised by same-sex and heterosexual parents did not differ significantly in terms of cognitive development or psychological adjustment. Moreover, the National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study found no statistically significant differences between children of lesbian couples and children of heterosexual couples in terms of quality of life. To boot, none of the children of lesbian parents in the study reported experiencing sexual or physical abuse from their parents. Instead of suggesting that same-sex parents are inadequate, Schwarzwalder should do some research.

Third, by refusing to legitimize LGBTQ people, Schwarzwalder is condemning an entire population as aberrant and unworthy of equality. Saying that you love all people, gay or straight, isn't the same as showing them love by acknowledging their rights. Yes, Rob, this is homophobia.

In perhaps the most offensive part of the column, Schwarzwalder accuses "homosexual activists" of bullying and threatening homophobic "traditional believers". In a mind-boggling reversal, those who seek to deny rights to an entire community are depicted as victims, while those who are denied equality are cast as villains. So much for love!
"Coercion and repression are the signs of fascism. No one, in any sphere, is either coercing or repressing homosexual men and women. Rather, homosexual activists seek to shut down those who believe their behavior is immoral. Raise a moral concern about homosexuality and immediately accusations of bigotry and hatred are showered upon you. The outraged viciousness of the response is commensurate with the intensity of one's allegiance to full cultural and legal affirmation of homosexuality. Since traditional believers won't change on this point, efforts are made to bully us into silence or reserve our beliefs for our homes and the four walls of our houses of worship. We are called names, are threatened in late-night phone calls, or, in the case of my colleagues and I at the Family Research Council, we become the intended targets of a would-be assassin's bullets, as last summer's shooting at our building demonstrates."
Schwarzwalder's commentary features the usual Religious Right tropes on LGBTQ issues: homophobia as a allegedly unchanging moral standard, homophobia as harmless, homophobes as victims of combative "homosexual activists", and contempt for LGBTQ persons masquerading as "love". These anti-gay tropes are getting old. Does the Religious Right think that repeating the same rhetoric over and over makes it true?

Commentary Tidbits and Chest Congestion

Soup: good for what ails you.

Ugh. What I thought was an annoying cold has turned into the flu. Coughing, congestion, aches, and fatigue will not stop me from providing my readers with good links, however!

Triangulations: Stop saying “the Bible says”!

Permission to Live: On Being Evangelized

Box Turtle Bulletin: Gay Lobby Prevents Tebow from Endorsing Anti-gay, Anti-Catholic, Anti-Judaism, Anti-Mormon Pastor. How Dare We??

The Political Packrat: Vatican Gay Sex Ring? Why Am I Not Surprised?

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Christian Right Activism is a Global Issue

Cross-posted at Love, Joy, Feminism.

Many of us are familiar with the political and social activism of the Religious Right in the U.S., having observed its affronts to LGBTQ equality, reproductive rights, and religious pluralism. It's easy to think of the Christian Right as an American problem, but we must also remember that it's a global matter as well. As progressive bloggers and activists in the U.S. keep an eye on the Religious Right, we must also pay attention to right-wing Christian activism on the international stage.

Many key organizations among the American Religious Right network internationally. A well-known example is the role of American religious figures such as Scott Lively and Lou Engle in encouraging homophobia in Uganda, where a draconian anti-gay bill is currently under consideration. Documentaries such as Vanguard's Missionaries of Hate and God Loves Uganda explore the anti-gay activism of American evangelicals in Uganda, as do exposés such as Box Turtle Bulletin's Slouching Toward Kampala and Political Research Associates' Colonizing African Values: How the U.S. Christian Right is Transforming Sexual Politics in Africa.

Unfortunately, Uganda is not the only example of American Religious Right outreach. For instance, global symposiums such as the World Congress of Families conferences provide opportunities for Religious Right minds from around the world to network. The World Congress of Families views "statism, individualism and sexual revolution" as threats to the family, and its symposiums consistently challenge LGBTQ rights, abortion, and declining fertility. Past World Congress of Families symposiums have been sponsored by American Religious Right groups such as Alliance Defense Fund, Focus on the Family, and Concerned Women for America. NOM's Brian Brown, Concerned Women for America's Janice Shaw Crouse, anti-abortion activist Alveda King, and so-called "ex-gay" activist Richard Cohen are among the many Americans who have been scheduled to speak at World Congress of Families events. Errol Naidoo, founder of the South African Family Policy Institute, described networking with Sharon Slater of Family Watch International and Benjamin Bull of the Alliance Defense Fund at the Sixth World Congress of Families Conference.

Other large-scale gatherings allow American Religious Right leaders to connect with their overseas counterparts. For instance, Errol Naidoo told Joy Magazine that he was inspired to create the Family Policy Institute after attending the 2006 Values Voters Summit in the U.S. In a more recent example, National Organization for Marriage president Brian Brown enthusiastically wrote about his time in France while a massive anti-LGBTQ march was taking place.

American Religious Right groups are targeting both domestic and international audiences for outreach. In November 2012, the American Independent reported that NOM sought to target the international business of LGBTQ-supportive companies such as Starbucks. New Apostolic Reformation preacher Lou Engle, affiliated with TheCall and the International House of Prayer, promoted an international missionary effort called Mission Ekballo at OneThing 2012. TheCall's rallies across the globe in placed such as Brazil, Switzerland have already allowed Engle and other New Apostolic Reformation speakers to promote their flavor of Christianity to international audiences as well.

Just as Religious Right activists are on the move, so too are Religious Right ideas. Right-wing ideas, sadly, have legs. Consider how the following examples of international Religious Right rhetoric resemble that of American groups.

-- The Australian Family Association, an opponent of LGBTQ rights in Australia, argues that a family of father, mother, and children forms "the primary nucleus on which all other elements in human society rest," its website says, arguing that society "should recognise the different biological and psychological functions of the mother and father." The group claims that anti-discrimination legislation that would make sexual orientation and gender identity "protected attributes" would allegedly "violate the freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief for those who have sincerely and deeply held beliefs or values about sexual identity and expression." Like its American counterparts, the Australian Family Association claims that legalizing same-sex marriage would somehow disadvantage children.
"While two men might each be good fathers, or two women good mothers, neither couples can be both a mother and a father of their child. Children need not only the love of their own biological mum and dad, but to define their identity through that intimate, unique biological relationship. No same sex couple can define a child’s identity. Inevitably, research will be cited claiming that there is no evidence that children of same sex couples are disadvantaged when compared to children in heterosexual marriages."
-- The Australian Christian Lobby seeks "to see Christian principles and ethics accepted and influencing the way we are governed, do business and relate to each other as a community." It opposes abortion and same-sex marriage and claims to defend religious freedom. For example, in a February 2013 press release, the group warned that religious freedom could allegedly suffer after legislation "redefining marriage" passed in the UK's House of Commons.

-- L'Institute Civitas, a right-wing Catholic organization in France, urges supporters to restore une France chrétienne, a "Christian France". In a December 2012 blog post entitled "Cet antichristianisme qui se développe en France" ("This Anti-Christianity that Grows in France"), Civitas president Alain Escada accused opponents of anti-Christian hatred. Escada accused protesters at a Symposium for Life event in Biarritz of espousing "visceral" anti-Christian sentiments, claiming that they desired to undermine morality and the family. "Pour les fondamentalistes de la laïcité, l'ennemi c'est le christianisme." -- "For fundamentalist secularism, the enemy is Christianity", he wrote. In another blog post, Escada belittled same-sex marriage with language similar to that of American anti-gay activists. Escada claimed that if France legalizes same-sex marriage, France's future would be jeopardized and children would suffer. Only a man and a woman can bring about the birth of a child, he argued, urging readers to take up activism against same-sex marriage.

-- South Africa's Family Policy Institute claims that "marriage and the family is the foundation of civilization, the seedbed of virtue, and the wellspring of society", promoting "the Judeo-Christian worldview as the basis for a just, free, and stable society." In a January 15th, 2012 sermon at His People Christian Church in Cape Town, South Africa, Family Policy Institute founder Errol Naidoo insisted that South Africa must have a a Christian foundation. At the 11:30 mark, he had this to say.
"The church teaches mankind the law of God. Its role is to uphold God's word and bring all institutions of earthly government under Christ's sovereign rule ... The church is the pillar of a nation and it's also the ground. It lays the foundation of truth on which these godly institutions can stand, like family and marriage and civil government. You need a strong foundation of God's law for any nation to have a strong and firm foundation. If they don't have a strong and firm foundation of God's truth and God's word, that nation is in trouble. That nation begins to weaken. That nation begins to break down."
These are only a handful of examples of Christian Right voices across the globe. Granted, Religious Right groups are more prominent in some countries and less powerful in others, but all deserve our attention. If we value reproductive rights, LGBTQ equality, and religious diversity, we ignore the international presence of the Religious Right at our peril. Just as the American Religious Right stays abreast of global developments, so too must we stay informed about progressive struggles abroad. Just as the American Religious Right connects with and supports its international counterparts, so too must we support reproductive rights, LGBTQ, and religious freedom efforts abroad. The Religious Right does not limit its scope to the U.S., and neither should we.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

2013 CPAC Is Fast Approaching!

The 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), a project of the American Conservative Union, will take place on March 14-16 in Washington D.C. CPAC is an annual gathering of conservative political leaders and activists, with speakers serving as a who's who of the American right-wing. This year's scheduled speakers will include National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre, Sen. Rand Paul, Sen. Marco Rubio, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, among many others.

A celebration of right-wing culture, CPAC will include book signings for books such as Return to Order: From a Frienzied Economy to an Organic Christian Society. Among the many Citizens United films to be screened are Occupy Unmasked, which paints a sinister picture of the Occupy movement, and The Gift of Life, an anti-abortion film produced by former governor Mike Huckabee. CPAC film schedule will take plenty of jabs at Democrats, screening films such as The Hope & The Change and 2016: Obama's America, both of which are critical of President Obama. Hillary Clinton has by no means been forgotten, as CPAC is scheduled to screen Hillary The Movie as well.

As always, CPAC will offer a colorful array of right-wing workshops:

- “The Fight for Religious Liberty: 40 Years After Roe v. Wade"

- “Fatherless America: The Headwaters of Poverty, Crime& Social Dysfunction”

- “Stop THIS: Threats, Harassment, Intimidation, Slander & Bullying from the Obama Administration”

- “The United Nations vs. The United States: The End Run Around the American Way of Life"

While skimming the 2013 CPAC program, I noticed that the conference has devoted more attention environmental issues -- or rather, denying environmental issues. For instance, CPAC will host a screening of FrackNation, which defends hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") and confronts "threats, cops and bogus lawsuits questioning green extremists for the truth about fracking." Also on the conference's screening schedule is Truthland: Dispatches from the Real Gasland, which also defends hydraulic fracturing.

Several speakers from the conservative Heritage Foundation are scheduled to take part in a panel discussion entitled "Individuals, Liberty & the Environment: Seizing the Environmental Issue". The CPAC panel discussion comes after the January 2013 release of the Heritage Foundation report, Environmental Conservation Based on Individual Liberty and Economic Freedom, which critiques environmental laws and argues that "private property protections and free markets" offer promise for environmental protection.

Finally, a panel discussion entitled "How I Learned to Stop Worrying & Love Plastic Water Bottles, Fracking, Genetically Modified Food, & Big Gulp Sodas" will no doubt feature controversial messages about the environment.  Where might the speakers stand on environmental and food safety issues? Let's take a look.

One speaker, Julie Gunlock, is director of the Independent Women's Forum Women for Food Freedom project, the website for which insists, "Governments at every level are seeking to more vigorously dictate what Americans can and cannot eat.  This is government over-reach and paternalism at its worst." The project looks askance at government influence on food-related policy, advertising, and marketing, arguing that "Americans simply don’t need a nanny state to help them choose the food that’s best for them and their families."

Another speaker, Angela Logomasini, is a Senior Fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. The organization's website states its opposition to "policies based on the beliefs that prosperity threatens the environment, that the answer to every environmental challenge is more regulation, and that risks can be abolished by limiting human ingenuity."

Yet another speaker, Jeff Stier, serves as a Senior Fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research. The organization's Center for Environmental and Regulatory Affairs promotes "private, free market solutions" to environmental issues, frowning on "the perverse nature of many government-first environmental policies through the collection and promotion of regulatory horror stories, which attach human faces to very real problems caused by regulation." 

Noticing a pattern? Disdain for environmental regulation policies. The free market as the supposed solution to environmental issues. Disgust for the so-called "nanny state". This should be interesting, especially for observers who doubt such right-wing conclusions and want genuine answers to environmental problems. In the face of climate change, pollution. energy challenges, and concerns about sustainability, and in the wake of a massive climate change march in Washington D.C., we need substantive public discussions about the environment. I have doubts that CPAC will be a setting for such discussions.

CPAC, along with the annual Values Voters Summit, gives observers a picture of the issues drawing the attention of the American right-wing. As conference material becomes available this spring, I'll be eager to hear what messages circulate within CPAC's conference rooms.

For more information on CPAC, click here. For additional commentary, visit the following links.

Huffington Post: CPAC 2013 Adds Potential 2016 Candidates Marco Rubio, Rick Santorum To Speaker List

Politico: Sarah Palin to Speak at CPAC

The Maddow Blog: TRMS writing challenge: The missing CPAC panels

Commentary Tidbits

Barb's Gift of Gab: Hate is easy. Love takes courage.

The Way Forward: Evangelicals and Their Bible

Speaking When the World Sleeps: You can’t say no to God: conservative Christianity and consent

Religion Dispatches: Protesting Yoga in Schools, But Welcoming Bible Study

Red Letter Christians: When God No Longer Hates Fags

God Discussion: Americans triple their donations to Ugandan missions with introduction of 'kill the gays' legislation

Dallas Voice: Tim Tebow and Robert Jeffress were made for each other

San Diego Gay and Lesbian News: Disowning of gay children is the abomination

RH Reality Check: Increase in Legal Abortions in South Africa Galvanizes Anti-Choicers

Mother Jones: Insist That People Coexisted With Dinosaurs…and Get an A in Science Class!

News Tidbits

Reuters: Pope will have security, immunity by remaining in the Vatican

USA Today: Should cardinal tainted by abuse scandal vote for pope?

Women's eNews: Birth Control Mandate Faces Onslaught of Lawsuits

Ottawa Citizen: New study raises questions about religion as deterrent against criminal behaviour

Raw Story: Anti-gay preacher Bradlee Dean stopped from speaking at Florida high school

PR Web: Kirk Cameron Returns to Liberty University Campus, Offers Advice to Film Students

The Scribe: Focus on the Family president speaks at UCCS amid LGBT protests

Pink News: Head of Illinois Family Institute suggests that same-sex parents should be ‘cast into the sea’

Gay News Network: MP Alex Greenwich condemns Australian Christian Lobby

The Advocate: Gay Man Takes Down Antigay Preacher on Subway

Australian Religious Right Uses "Stolen Generation" Rhetoric to Condemn Same-Sex Couples

Why do so many voices from the Religious Right try to legitimize their activism by comparing their cause of choice to racial injustice? Increasingly, American anti-abortion voices have compared abortion to horrors endured by indigenous peoples. For example, in a video for TheEstherCall, Lou Engle compared abortion to the Trail of Tears. At TheCall Detroit, Engle used "shedding of innocent blood" to refer to both abortion and violence against Native Americans. At the 2011 Response Rally, Doug Stringer used similar rhetoric, condemning abortion and injustice against Native Americans in the same breath. Moreover, an anti-abortion display at the University of New Mexico framed abortion as a threat to Native Americans, with slogans such as "Color the redman gone" and "Today an Indian Boy was killed the Indian way".

Anti-abortion activists using such rhetoric neglect the fact that Native American women are less likely to have access to reproductive health services, but more likely to experience unintended pregnancies than their white counterparts. To boot, Native American women have been the targets of proposed legislation curtailing reproductive health funding. The irony of anti-abortion activists citing Native Americans is mind-boggling.

The Religious Right down under has also started using indigenous peoples as symbols for its political agenda, in this case to oppose reproductive technology use by same-sex couples. Voiced from Australia's Religious Right have condemned not only same-sex marriage, but also the use of in-vitro fertilization and donor conception by same-sex couples who wish to start families. More and more, however, they warn that same-sex marriage and same-sex couples use of reproductive technologies will result in another "stolen generation" of Australian children.

The term "stolen generation" refers to an estimated 100,000 children of Australian aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander descent who were taken from their biological families and placed with white families. Under an Australian government policy from 1910 to 1971, tens of thousands of Aboriginal children were placed with white families in order to assimilate them into white society, according to Time Magazine. Mixed race children children were most commonly targeted. The result was personal trauma for the thousands of children and families impacted by the practice, as well as cultural trauma for Australia's indigenous communities.

In a move of questionable taste, some Australian Religious Right figures warn that same-sex couple's use of reproductive technologies will create another "stolen generation". For example, the "stolen generation" analogy has been used on the Australian Family Association's website to argue against same-sex marriage in Australia. Tim Cannon, a voice from the Australian Family Association, wrote in a 2009 column in News Weekly that same-sex marriage would result in children being conceived by one biological couple but raised by another, same-sex couple. He warned that such arrangements would create pain and a sense of abandonment for any children created, comparing it to the trauma of the "stolen generation".

Such rhetoric is not limited to the Australian Family Association. In a 2011 commentary at the Courier Mail, David van Gend of  the Family Council of Queensland argued that gay men raising children would create a "gay stolen generation" by robbing babies of mothers.

Voices from the Australian Christian LObby are also fond of the "stolen generation" analogy. In June 2012, Australian Christian Lobby managing director Jim Wallace used the analogy to condemn a court decision recognizing two men as the parents of a baby born through surrogacy.
"Love is not the issue here. Of course two men can love a child but they can never be a mother, no matter how hard they try," Wallace said in a statement. "The adoptive parents of many of the indigenous stolen generation also loved the children placed in their care but it was still a mistake to remove them from their biological parents."
In August 2012, Mark Brown, the Tasmanian director of the Australian Christian lobby, criticized Tasmanian Premier Lara Giddings' support for same-sex marriage by using the "stolen generation" analogy.
"I cannot understand why the Premier cannot see the link between forcing children to be removed from their biological parents between the 1950s and 1980s and gay marriage which also sets up a framework for children to be raised by someone other than their parents? ... “In 20 or 30 years, we will have a generation who will say, `who made the decision I should never have had a mother or father?"
To demonize same-sex parenting by speaking of it in the same breath as a human rights violation against Australia's aboriginal community is tasteless in the extreme. It trivializes the trauma of forced adoption by using the "stolen generation" as a cheap political symbol. Furthermore, it ignores the many same-sex couples who have raised happy, healthy children from prior relationships, adoption, or reproductive technologies.

To the Religious Right on both sides of the Pacific Ocean: stop using indigenous people as political symbols for your agendas. Stop trivializing human rights violations against indigenous communities by using them them to demonize abortion or same-sex marriage. Show respect not only to same-sex couples, but also to the survivors of cultural trauma and their descendants.

Commentary Tidbits

Slate: Trouble in Creationist Paradise

Reason Being: Post Hurricane Sandy: FEMA Not Providing Aid to Churches

Mother Jones: "We're Not Going to Be Pushed Around by the Antis"

Right Wing Watch: Tim Tebow to Address Anti-Gay, Anti-Catholic Megachurch

RH Reality Check: The Pope, Pregnant Children, and Violence Against Girls and Women

Salon: Pope Benedict XVI: His best of the worst

Washington Post: American Catholicism is at crossroads

Good As You: Springfield Bishop Says Pro-Equality Catholics "Harm the Common Good of Society"

News Tidbits

Yahoo News: EHarmony CEO: What ‘Really Damaged Our Company’

NBC News: 'Gay-free' prom idea backfires on supporters in Indiana town

New York Times: Four Years Later, Slain Abortion Doctor’s Aide Steps Into the Void

The Advocate: AFA, Aghast Gay Soldiers Could Be Buried at Arlington, Rallies Troops

Pink News: Canada: Liberal party leader defends charity work by government-funded Christian groups

Gay Star News: Congressman Tim Huselskamp: Obama seeks to destroy the family and reward gays

Gay Star News: Burkina Faso bishop warns gay marriage will destroy the world

Monday, February 11, 2013

Commentary Tidbits

The Advocate: No Pass for Attending the National Prayer Breakfast

Pink News: A pro-gay Catholic Church leader? Don’t get your Popes up

Right Wing Watch: Barber & Staver: When the Constitution was Written, Homosexuality was a 'Crime Against Nature' Punishable by Death

Friendly Atheist: Christian Pastor: I'd Rather Experience Chinese Water Torture Than Listen to a Woman Argue with Me

The New Civil Rights Movement: Gay Marriage Is a "Pernicious Lie of Satan", Says Focus on the Family

Slacktivist: The problem with evangelical sexual ethics is that we haven’t got any

News Tidbits

CNN: Pope Benedict to resign at the end of the month, Vatican says

Yahoo News: Abuse survivors groups react to pope’s resignation

Gay Star News: Pope favorite has defended African ‘Kill the Gays’ laws

CBC News: Canada: Funding stopped for anti-gay religious group pending investigation

Washington Post: As novelist, James Dobson portrays a bleak future for families

Washington Blade: Anti-gay group targets National Cathedral over gay marriage

My Wabash Valley: Indiana: Local Students Want "Traditional Prom", Gays Banned

Comic Relief: Westboro Mingle

Looking for that special someone? Tired of dating sites that just aren't hateful enough? Find your soulmate at Westboro Mingle!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

2013 March for Life

On Friday, January 25th, the 2013 March for Life rally took place at the National Mall in Washington D.C. An annual anti-abortion rally that draws thousands of participants, the March for Life features politicians and religious leaders who vocally oppose abortion rights. The 2013 gathering was momentous for two reasons. First, it was the first March for Life after the death of Nelly Gray, the march's founder, who was tenderly acknowledged by numerous speakers. Second, the march closely coincided with the 40th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, which speakers lambasted throughout the rally.

Amidst rhetoric that slammed Planned Parenthood and demonized pro-choice legislation was a common refrain that abortion was allegedly as human rights violation. For example, March for Life chairman of the board Patrick Kelly affirmed that the purpose of the march was still "to be the world's largest human rights demonstration, to overturn the tragic Roe v. Wade decision, and to build a culture of life in this great country." March for Life president Jeanne Monahan lamented that "55 million Americans" have died due to legalized abortion. "Abortion truly is the human rights abuse of today," she insisted, "and abortion is not good for women."

Monahan insisted that public disapproval of abortion is growing, claiming that being anti-abortion is the "new normal" in the U.S., with public opinion allegedly turning against abortion. She took delight in the widespread eruption of anti-abortion bills in various states, claiming that these held abortion clinics to high medical standards and supposedly helped inform women of their choices. Monahan encouraged the young persons in the audience to reflect on how "God wants to use each of you to bring a speedy end to the human rights abuse of abortion."

Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) appeared in a video speech, championing the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act and encouraging young activists to make abortion "a relic of the past". Later, Rep. Chris Smith (R-New Jersey), chairman of Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, tried to frame abortion as somehow harmful to women. At the 16:31 mark, he blasted abortion as a form of "violence against women" that leaves "wounded women" in its wake.
"Forty years ago this past Tuesday marks the U.S. Supreme Court's infamous, reckless, and inhumane abandonment of women and babies to the abortionists. Forty years of victims: dead babies, wounded women, and shattered families. Forty years of government-sanctioned violence against women and children ... The passage of time hasn't changed the fact that abortion is a serious, lethal violation of fundamental human rights and that women and children deserve better, and that the demands of justice, generosity and compassion require that the right to life be guaranteed to everyone."
In a similar vein, Congresswoman Diane Black (R-Tennessee) depicted abortion as somehow inimical to women's equality. At the 25:03 mark, she claimed that abortion rights somehow undermine women's freedom.
"Despite those inroads we have made toward gender equality, abortion on demand continues to undermine the freedom and the justice that generations of women have fought for. You know, the reality is that forty years ago after Roe v. Wade, one third ... of my daughters' and grandaughters' peers are not here today to benefit from the progress than we made and to share in the hopes and dreams of the future."
At the 26:01 mark, she resorted to the dubious argument that abortion necessarily causes physical or psychological harm for women.
"Pitting mothers against the unborn is not liberating. It's a horrible injustice that in the last forty years has resulted in ... 55 million aborted babies, whose mothers have gone on to live in many cases with severe physical, emotional and mental and spiritual scars."
At the 31:31 mark, Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) linked abortion with national immorality, stressing the supposed need for national "spiritual cleansing". I wondered if his comment about "hedonism of the moment" was a jab at people who, gasp, have sex that results in accidental pregnancies.
"I have a question for those who don't respect and won't respect life. Can a nation long endure that does not respect the sanctity of life? [Crowd shouts "No!"] Can a nation conceived in liberty carry its head high if it denies protection to the youngest and most vulnerable of its citizens? [Crowd shouts "No!"] Can a country founded on God-given rights continue to thrive without understanding that life is a precious gift from our creator? [Crowd shouts "No!"] I believe that great nations and great civilizations spring from a people who have a moral compass. Our nation is adrift, adrift in a wilderness where right and wrong have become subservient to a hedonism of the moment. I believe our country is in need of a revival. I believe our country is in need of a spiritual cleansing."
Family Research Council president Tony Perkins delivered a closing prayer for the rally, before participants took part in the annual march. At the 1:14:39 mark, he looked down upon pro-choice policies and court decisions.
"Father, we come before you today with hearts that are both heavy and hopeful, heavy for a nation that has wandered into the wilderness [inaudible] resulting in forty years of children created in your image, babies that you have declared to be blessings, declared by our courts as a choice, and our policies as burdens to be discarded. But we as your followers, your children, have hope that springs eternal. We stand here today praying for a working for a nation that will embrace life."
At the 1:15:23 mark, Perkins quoted Deuteronomy 30:19 as part of his anti-abortion prayer. The ominous context of that passage -- the Old Testament God threatening his people with destruction if they disobey his commands -- may have been understood by the audience.
"Today, forty years after the highest court in our land opened the door to this manifestation of a culture of death, a new generation stands before you. In the Old Testament, in Deuteronomy, through your servant Moses you put before a new generation the covenant that was over a thousand years old. It was this new generation's time of choosing. You said, "I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing. Therefore, choose life, that both you and your descendants may live."
The irony of quoting from Deuteronomy at a "pro-life" rally was striking, as Deuteronomy also contains accounts of divinely commanded slaughter of whole communities (including children) and commands execution of unruly children. I also found it ironic that Perkins quoted Deuteronomy at a rally demonizing abortion as violence against women, given that Deuteronomy condones many forms of gender-based violence such as slavery, abduction of foreign women as chattelrape of captured women, rape of women to punish impious men, mutilating women who protect their husbands, stoning women who don't bleed enough on their wedding nights, and forcing sexual assault victims to marry their rapists. Just sayin'.

In short, the 2013 March for Life demonized abortion as a human rights violation and a form of gender-based violence, but denying women their reproductive rights would better qualify. Predictably, the rally failed to acknowledge that abortion benefits women who are carrying unwanted or unsafe pregnancies, ignoring the horrors of the era before legal, accessible abortion. The rally contained ample rhetoric about ending abortion, but not much about realistically preventing unwanted pregnancies. The rally waxed poetic about babies and children, but offered few strategies for supporting children born into difficult circumstances. Several speakers alleged that abortion was violence against women, but these same people ignored the fact that actual violence against women (i.e., reproductive coercion, sexual assault) results in unwanted pregnancies that create demand for abortion.

If the participants in the March for Life want to end abortion, they need to end unwanted pregnancies by promoting comprehensive sex education, championing affordable and accessible contraception, and combating violence against women and girls. Undermining abortion access and ending Roe v. Wade will drive abortion underground and cause untold heartache, but they will not end abortion.

For additional information on the March for Life, visit www[dot]marchforlife[dot]org

To read additional commentary, visit the following links.

Policy Mic: March for Life 2013: Why the Anti-Abortion Rally Was An Epic Failure

Feministing: Pro-Choice on Amtrak

Towleroad: GOProud Will Cruise Through March for Life

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Ungodly Tentacles

Remember GOD TV co-founder Wendy Alec, who posted a post-election "prophesy" about President Obama on the GOD TV website? In this video, Alec prays to release the president from the demon Jezebel, vowing that he will be freed of "ungodly advisors" and "ungodly tentacles". Other New Apostolic Reformation preachers such as Lou Engle have referred to Jezebel as a demonic influence over politics as well.

Ooooookay then!

Commentary Tidbits

Medium: Damsel, Arise: A Westboro Scion Leaves Her Church

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington: The National Prayer Breakfast Lives On

What Would JT Do?: Most insulting fundraiser ever

Love, Joy, Feminism: Evangelicals, Homosexuals, and Child Molesters

The Way Forward: Steven Anderson and His Bible-Based Crazy Beliefs

Think Progress: Focus On The Family ‘Analyst’: Gender And Sexuality Are Only Determined By Procreation

News Tidbits

New York Times: National Prayer Breakfast Draws Controversy

Washington Post: Catholic bishops reject new contraception proposals

CNN: Lutheran pastor apologizes for praying in Newtown vigil

The Advocate: Is The Mormon Church Behind the Boy Scouts' Cop-Out?

The Tennessean: 666 on Tax Form Makes Man Quit Job to Save Soul

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The UK's Religious Right Laments Same-Sex Marriage Vote

The United Kingdom is one step closer to marriage equality for same-sex couples. BBC News reports that on February 5th, the House of Commons voted in favor of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill by 400 to 175. If passed, the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill would extend marriage rights to same-sex couples in England and Wales. The bill still has to pass through the House of Lords, but Prime Minister David Cameron hopes to enact the bill into law later this year, reports the New York Times.

The bill was a point of contention among Conservatives, with 127 Conservative MPs voting in favor of the bill and 136 voting against. The majority of MPs from the Liberal Democrats and Labour parties voted in favor of the bill, reports BBC.

David Cameron called the vote "an important step forward". Labour Party leader Ed Miliband cheered the decision, asserting in a February 5th statement that "This is a proud day and an important step forward in the fight for equality in Britain." Before the vote, Co-Chair of the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Party Committee for Home Affairs, Justice and Equality, Julian Huppert asserted that same-sex marriage would strengthen the institution of marriage.
"Equal marriage will strengthen the important tradition of marriage in our society, ensuring it remains a vibrant institution well into the 21st century and beyond ... The state should not bar a couple who want to marry just because of their gender and the state should not bar a religious body that wishes to do so from conducting same-sex marriages.”
The February 5th vote demonstrates that MPs are increasingly embracing LGBTQ equality, a positive sign for LGBTQ rights in the UK. Predictably, the UK's Religious Right is livid, with several Religious Right groups slamming the vote. For example, in a February 6th press release, London-based Christian Concern voiced its disappointment. Christian Concern chief executive Andrea Minichiello Williams lamented that the UK's elected officials were "prepared to overturn centuries of legislation on marriage'. (See www[dot]christianconcern[dot]com/press-release/mps-responsible-for-%E2%80%9Cneedless-and-reckless-change%E2%80%9D-in-same-sex-marriage-vote)
"This is a sad day for Britain, when our elected representatives are prepared to overturn centuries of legislation on marriage. The essence off marriage has always been the union of one man and one woman. The vote today not only has the potential to overturn historic legislation but also centuries of a common understanding of marriage. No longer will a common understanding exist. There are many people – Christians and non-Christians – who will never accept that marriage can ever be anything other than between a man and a woman."
Like voices from the American Religious Right, Williams claimed that legalization of same-sex marriage would lead to religious persecution.
"We have seen Catholic adoption agencies close because of their views on marriage. We have seen employees demoted for commenting privately about their Christian views of marriage. We have seen civil registrars penalised for their views on marriage. All this has happened before any change to marriage laws. With the passing of this Bill, the trajectory is frightening. Freedoms we have valued for so long are set to diminish."
A UK evangelical group, the Evangelical Alliance, also made its displeasure known. In a February 6th statement, Evangelical Alliance director of advocacy David Landrum blasted the UK government for allegedly trivializing marriage as a "lifestyle choice". He accused the government of succumbing to "free market thinking" on the issue of marriage. (See www[dot]eauk[dot]org/current-affairs/politics/david-cameron-accused-of-privatising-marriage.cfm)
"The government wants to reduce marriage to just another lifestyle choice – like fashion or joining a club. They want minority groups to define it for themselves. But the problem with introducing free market thinking to marriage is that it is changed from a unique social institution that is primarily about children to just another contractual agreement between consenting adults. The government has no right and no mandate to privatise marriage."
Archbishop Peter Smith, vice president of the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, expressed disapproval of the vote in a February 5th statement. (See www[dot]catholicnews[dot]org[dot]uk/Home/News-Releases/Marriage-Comment)
"The Catholic Church continues to support marriage understood by society for centuries as the significant and unique lifelong commitment between a man and a woman for their mutual well-being and open to the procreation and education of children.

Marriage is rooted in the complementarity of man and woman. For these reasons the Church opposes the Government’s Bill to re-define marriage. Despite claims by supporters of the Bill that the central issue is one of equality, the Bill actually seeks to re-define marriage and will have consequences for society at large."
Finally, Christian Action Research Education (CARE) is a London-based Religious Right organization opposed to same-sex marriage. CARE defends its position with familiar rhetoric against same-sex marriage, calling it "an unproven and experimental social model" that could lead to "faith-based discrimination" against religious groups. CARE insists that opposite-sex marriage has always been "the natural context in which to raise children". (See www[dot]care[dot]org[dot]uk/marriage)

The UK Department for Culture, Media and Sport recent posted Myths About Equal Marriage: Setting Out the Truth, defending same-sex marriage and addressing religious and legal concerns surrounding the issue. On February 5th, CARE responded by posting its rebuttal, The Real Mythbusters: Setting Out the Truth. CARE provides commentary on arguments for same-sex marriage, arguing that legalization of same-sex marriage could have detrimental effects. For example, the document uses the familiar scare-tactic that marriage equality could open the door to polygamy. (See www[dot]care[dot]org[dot]uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/CARE-The-REAL-Mythbusters-Feb-2013.pdf)
"No one is suggesting that the Government intends to further redefine marriage. The point is simply that once you have redefined something that has never before been redefined, an important precedent is set, opening the door for further redefinition. During a Bow Group meeting in Parliament last year, a proponent for redefining marriage, Andrew Lilico, argued that the Government should not just legalise marriage between two people of the same sex but should allow polygamous marriages also. In Canada and in some US states, where same-sex marriage has been legalised, attempts are now being made to legalise polygamy. In the Netherlands, where same-sex marriage was legalised in 2001, three-way relationships have been given legal recognition through a “cohabitation agreement."
None of this should surprise observers of the American Religious Right, for whom this anti-LGBTQ rhetoric is all too familiar. The weak arguments against LGBTQ equality are the same, no matter what side of the Atlantic they come from. As public opinion shifts and the LGBTQ community demands equality, the Religious Right in both the UK and the United States will watch in disgust as their worlds evolve for the better.

Commentary Tidbits

New York Times: A Convenient Morality

Mother Jones: The Dark-Money ATM of the Conservative Movement

Zinnia Jones: Ex-gay Matt Moore confirms he was on Grindr

We Were Going to be Queens: In which John Dehlin turns into an oyster...

Ex-Mormon Mavens: Introvert Convert

News Tidbits

CNN: Catholic hospital says it was 'morally wrong' to argue fetus is not a person

Christian Post: Hobby Lobby's President Honored by National Bible Association

KOAA News 5: Focus on the Family, LGBT members speak on Boy Scout gay ban

NBC News: Family Research Council gunman pleads guilty to armed terrorism

Washington Blade: Mormons, religious groups file brief in support of Prop 8

TMZ: Tennessee State Senator: Homosexuality is Dangerous

Times Daily: Alabama coach suspended 10 days for anti-gay comments

Huffington Post: Gay 'Conversion Therapy' Proponents Defend Practice In New Jersey

Gay Star News: Real lesson of 9/11? Ban gay marriage, Christian author says

Gay Star News: Australian ex-gay group can’t find enough gays who want to be ex

Guest Post: Living a Double Life

The following post was written by Sheldon Cooper, who blogs at the Ramblings of Sheldon. According to his bio, "Sheldon was born into a fundamentalist Christian family. He made his profession of faith at only five years old and went to a Southern Baptist College for a year where he worked on a Biblical Studies minor. A crisis of faith lead him away from Christianity back in 2010 and around 2011 he began to consider himself Agnostic."

It’s another Sunday morning in the St. Louis area. I wake up, get in my vehicle and drive to a church, and walk in the door. An elderly deacon hands me the church bulletin for the week, and gives the perfunctory and expected greetings.

I walk into the sanctuary where I am surrounded by people, some of which have known me since I was 12 years old, and sit down.

The praise band sings, the pastor gets up to give the sermon, it’s all a very familiar experience for millions of Christian people around the country. There’s a big difference here though between me and the people seated all around me

I’m not one of them. I don’t believe in Christianity anymore.

I was just like all the rest of them, maybe even more so. I believed from a very young age, made profession of faith at only 5 years old, baptized at 7. By the time I was 10 or 11, pastors were amazed that I could have discussions on advanced theology and Biblical subjects that quite frankly, most of the congregation either didn’t know, or had a hard time grasping.

I was always questioning, always wanting to learn more, and I think it was this curiosity that eventually lead me out of fundamentalism, but until this time I always wanted to know more, but only within the confines of what I already believed. As one of my favorite bloggers, Grundy of Deity Shmiety says, it’s it's hard to realize a counterpoint when all you've ever heard was point.

And I had heard plenty of point. From my elementary school experience in a school ran by a church that was a part of the Independent Fundamental Baptist organization, (they are a scary cult, I’m glad I left there in the 5th grade, I have an entire page on my blog dedicated to them), to my homeschooling until the 12th grade and spending my childhood/teen years in two different fundamentalist denominations, I was fully immersed in that world.

About 3 years ago, I gave it all up. After a nervous breakdown at college I was blamed for by family (it just “guilt”, you don’t have a “right relationship with god”), I believed those lies, and stating burying myself deeper into my faith.

Ironically, that’s what led me out of Christianity.

I started reading the Bible more, and what I read shocked me. It’s not as though I hadn’t read the more barbaric passages of the Bible before, such as the Old Testament law, the atrocities committed that were ordered by god (entire cities and tribes massacred by ancient Jewish troops), and even disturbing passages in the New Testament, like Paul condoning slavery.

Not reading it before wasn’t the problem, it was looking at it again without sticking my head in the sand about the reality that it represented, and not making excuses for it that started making me question god. Why is it that Jesus depicts in many ways a merciful, loving god (and modern Christianity tries to depict god this way), yet all of the Old Testament, and much of the New Testament (try reading the book of Revelation sometime), depicts the exact opposite?

Then I started truly seeing the suffering of this world and think that a loving. merciful god wouldn’t allow this to happen to people who didn’t do anything to deserve it. I soured completely on the idea of a the god of Christianity. I thought this might be a phase, I hoped it was, and that’s what some people I confided in led me to believe. It wasn’t.

I prayed for hours, hoping something would lead me back into Christianity. There was a sense of mourning, a loss of the very foundation of what I had built my life around for all these years. I simply did not want to leave Christianity, even as much as I was slipping away from it.

This is what convinced me that I truly was a dedicated Christian, despite what fundamentalists believe, if I wasn’t a “true believer”, then why was there so much confusion, guilt and grief involved ? If I never was the real deal, wouldn’t it have been easy for me to leave?

Eventually I knew, if I were to be honest with myself, and honest to who I really am, I had to convince myself that rejecting Christianity altogether was the right thing to do, it’s the only thing I could do in this situation.

After I left, I was shocked, shocked by what I was missing out on in life, by cutting myself off from the outside world, and I was shocked by the damage that fundamentalism causes in US society, depriving people like the LGBT community of their basic rights, the rampant abuse of children that goes on in fundamentalism. I was especially appalled at how many frightening cult groups that are out there, a fact I was made well aware of after researching my sister’s former church, which was a part of the Independent Fundamental Baptist organization after it’s pastor, Jack Schaap, plead guilty to sexual abuse charges. Seeing it all for the first time, with a new perspective can be overwhelming.

At least I knew where I stood, after some searching, trying to figure what I believed post-Christianity, and I even started my own blog, Ramblings of Sheldon, to talk about my past, and what I believe now, and I’ve had success unlike anything I would have ever dreamed of (an average of about 1.000 readers a week). The blog has helped me to confront my past, and move forward, it really has been “good therapy” like my blogging inspiration Godless Poutine, said it would be.

All was going OK, but a problem came up. Due to a change in work schedule, I couldn’t use work as an convenient way out of attending church, and if I didn’t attend, there would be many questions and rumors. Call me a coward if you will, but some personal circumstances make it rather impossible for me to come out as an agnostic right now, it will be at least a year before I can start making major changes like that, I’m not ready. for that at this point in my life.

My only other alternative was to go undercover, and that I have done, I’ve blended into the world of fundamentalism, and only have told a few people about my loss of faith. It’s not a comfortable place to be, stuck between 2 worlds, torn between delusion and reality, but that’s where I am, it’s frustrating. It turned out to be a unique opportunity though. I’ve always thought that there’s been a big disconnect between those in the skeptical community who have never experienced fundamentalism personally, and those who know it all too well, that many in the first group do not understand what being raised fundamentalist is like, or how the fundamentalist mindset works, or what it’s isolated culture is like.

I have started writing about my experiences inside fundamentalism in my blog series, Undercover Agnostic. I want to show people who may have never had this experience of living through it, what fundamentalism looks like from the inside. I want to show people the fundamentalist mindset and culture from someone who sees it personally, day to day.

I hope that my series gives people a new understanding of this world, and that maybe something good can come of the position I currently find myself in.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Commentary Tidbits

Friendly Atheist: A Proposed Religious Freedom Bill Would Exempt Religious Students from Work Conflicting with Their Beliefs

Pharyngula: Whoa, Missouri ... you’re not going to let this one pass, are you?

Slacktivist: White evangelicals and contraception: Reversal and revision redux

RH Reality Check: Urban Legends vs. The Pill: How the Christian Right Uses Propaganda Against Reproductive Rights

Love, Joy, Feminism: Birth Control: The Movie

Elizabeth Esther: Purity Culture Fallout: “I wanted to die because I had ruined ‘God’s plan for my life’”

Bitchspot: Apologetics: Not Even Speaking the Same Language

Religion Dispatches: Megachurch Pastor: We're “American Al Qaeda” for Opposing Homosexuality

Sunstone's Cafe: Can the Opposition of Fundamentalists to Homosexuals and Homosexuality be Explained as a Cultural Trait?

News Tidbits

NBC News: 'Gravely distressed': Religion looms large over Boy Scouts decision on gays

New York Times: Perry Fights Letting Gays in Boy Scouts

Gay Star News: Vatican says it's against gay hate but same-sex marriage is 'sick'

KGW Channel 8: Gresham bakers refuse to make same-sex wedding cake

Providence Journal: Cranston florist sued for refusing to deliver flowers to Jessica Ahlquist