Yesterday, Friday June the 26th 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court decided in favor of extending marriage rights to gay people. Those saying that the court redefined what marriage is need to read the actual text of the decision. Kennedy wrote a paean to marriage, not a redefinition of it. And of course, the usual suspects declared that they would go on with the fight, blah, blah, blah and so on and so forth. That was unsurprising.
But then…afterward, something amazing, something that lifted my heart to a place where I will never again doubt the power of love, and the essential goodness of (most of) my fellow Americans happened. The rainbows came out…
Look…just look…at all the expressions of joy and affirmation. Go ahead and sniff that it’s just kowtowing to the militant homosexual agenda…and surely some of this, particularly among the corporate entities, is Hey There’s A Market There Let’s Make It Like Us And Spend Money! But look, just look for a moment, and the breath and depth of the expressions of joy at the decision. The sincerity of it, the massive scope of it, is something you need to grasp, if you can. Even if your prejudices can’t allow you to see the people for the homosexuals, at least try to understand that there are lots of people who aren’t homosexuals, who are absolutely thrilled that now their fellow Americans who are gay have equal rights in marriage. Look at this carefully, all of you declaring now that you will keep on fighting this, because it’s why you lost, why you will keep loosing this fight.
Everything you think you know about gay people is wrong, and especially, emphatically this: that homosexuals don’t love, they just have sex. It’s why you keep miscalculating again and again and again our willingness to go on fighting no matter how much damage you could do to us. But more critically, it’s why you miscalculated, profoundly, what would happen when your lies lost their power over us, and we began to live our lives openly. You thought “normal” people would be disgusted when they saw the reality of our lives. You really thought that. You probably still think that.
They are disgusted. At you.
It’s one thing to keep on inciting prejudice and hate at the people who live on the other side of the tracks, in the ethnic and racial enclaves, at Those People that American, to its shame, still largely keeps segregated. It’s another when it’s your own children, your brother and sister, your neighbors, your co-workers, the people in your everyday lives.
Prejudice lies. It lies about other people. But first, it lies to you. You think you see reality, but you don’t. Others, not succumbing to prejudice, loving life, and willing to live in the world as it really is for better or worse, do. Anything that keeps you from seeing the world as it really is, makes you weak. The denouement came with the Proposition 8 trial. You’d built a multimillion dollar industry propagating one pseudo scientific lie after another about gay people you hoped would win the masses over, or at least enough voters. But be honest with yourselves for at least one thing: it was mostly to convince yourselves you weren’t really just a bunch of bigots after all. And when it came time to defend all of it at trial your prize experts ran away, all but two who nearly conceded our case for us on the witness stand. In the end the rest of the country saw your case against gay equality for the half-assed pile of pretentious crap that it is. The witness stand is a very lonely place to lie said Boies. Lonelier still is the bathroom mirror. Your prejudices lied to you. But you let them do it.
Surely you noticed how quickly everything came apart after that. Whatever doubts existed before Prop 8, they are gone now. Our humanity is understood. We are neighbors. We are family. We are fellow Americans. We have been embraced.
And you? Well…you are what you’ve always been. Still able to look at this torrent of love and support from the rest of America, convinced that most everyone agrees with you, and ultimate victory will be yours. So you dig yourselves deeper into the gutter. It doesn’t have to be. Listen to a gay man who gave a little beauty to this world and was wronged horribly and fatally by prejudice: “We are all in the gutter,” he said, “but some of us are looking at the stars.”
We are not all in the gutter, despite your best efforts to keep us there with you. And if you can’t bear to rise your gaze high enough to look at the stars, at least look at the rainbows. They are rainbows of joy and love…from Americans to Americans. Look at them. There’s the way out.
This came across my Facebook stream just now…I won’t go into detail about why it felt like a punch in the stomach. I came out to myself when I was still a teenager, and doing the research, seeing what the closet had done, was doing, to gay men of my generation and before, vowed never to let myself get locked inside of it. But I have seen what it did to so many good hearts, to one I have loved, to so many others who were not so stubborn as I…or lucky…
‘I’m a gay man but married a woman’
Nick, who is in his 50s, has been married to his wife for 30 years. He is also gay.
He thinks his wife had suspicions about his sexuality for years, but things came to a head when he had an affair with a man.
“She asked if I wanted to leave and I didn’t. She’s my best friend really above all else, so we’ve decided we would like to remain together as best friends,” he says.
Nick isn’t his real name – many of the couple’s friends and family don’t know he’s gay and he wants to remain anonymous to protect his wife.
….The couple chose to stay together not for the sake of children – they don’t have any – but because of their feelings for each other.
While the couple have stayed together, they no longer have a physical relationship and sleep separately.
Nick has promised his wife that he will never again have sex or a relationship with a man – he says he owes it to her.
But can he stick to that promise? He says: “I’m hoping so, it’s my intention to. It didn’t feel like a choice in the past, it felt like it was enforced on me. I’m now making that choice that I would like to, in a sense, remain celibate.”
Nick is a member of a support group called Gay Married Men, based in Manchester and founded 10 years ago. Men travel from around the country to attend meetings.
Group founder John says most of the men are older – they married women in the 1970s and 80s when society was more hostile to gay people.
Now society is more tolerant, they are more comfortable with coming out as gay. But why did they get married in the first place?
That last sentence is about as stupid a question as it gets, especially considering the sentence directly before it. Do you really not know why someone, taught since childhood that the worst thing a man could admit to was being a homosexual, that homosexuals are monsters, predators, might wish or do anything to make it not true. Can you not understand why, facing arrest and jail, the loss of family, friends, career, everything, might not want to do anything to make themselves heterosexual instead? Can you not understand how a cottage industry of ex-gay ministries offering bogus claims of a cure, telling gay men that if they just worked at it they could change, might convince many that marriage was the key to their salvation?
They’re still doing it…
They were lied to. There was nothing wrong with them. There was never anything wrong with them. But the lies did their work, kept the hated other from ever finding that happiness and joy and peaceful contentment in love that the scapegoat must never ever find. And that had its consequences…none of which, of course, fell onto the shoulders of the ones who told the lies. Many innocent women had to suffer too, so that gay men would hate themselves. But to that mindset, women don’t matter anyway. Scratch a homophobe, and deeper down inside you’ll find a misogynist.
John says the men are often quite desperate and struggling to cope with no support – many are suffering from quite severe depression.
“We’ve had bursts of tears when people have come because they’re so upset and also so relieved to find out there are other people that are just like themselves. Because that’s part of the problem, because we’re a myth, we don’t exist.
“We don’t exist in [the] gay world – we’re on the cusp of [the] gay world because we’re married men. We don’t exist in [the] straight world. So we seem invisible.”
The group members say they don’t judge anyone and Nick, who helps run the site, says his main message is that people don’t have to struggle alone.
Recently the trailer for the last movie Robin Williams made, Boulevard, was released. IMDB says of it that it’s about, “A married man’s (Robin Williams) long-suppressed sexual identity slowly emerges when picks up a male hooker (Roberto Aguire) and pays him for companionship rather than sex.”
The trailer is on YouTube, and it is so painful to watch, because Williams was such a great actor and great actors don’t just simply make you believe in the character, they make you feel what that character is feeling. It occurs to me that another great actor died shortly after playing the part of a gay man so completely inhibited and uncomfortable and miserable in his own skin it was very painful to watch.
For some of us it will always be a time before Stonewall. A few manage occasionally to struggle into that better world we’ve been working on since the riots, but it is painful, dangerous, heartbreaking. Nobody has the right to judge the ones who stay inside. They have to stay inside their comfort zones. Just consider yourself fortunate, lucky even, you didn’t get trapped in the closet, and keep working for that better world, where no gay kid ever again has to choose between their family, their career, their friendships, and all the hopes and dreams of love and happiness they ever had.
But the “crazy” ones always seem to have a respectable counterpart who makes a respectable living pumping out the rhetoric that ends up in the “crazy” one’s manifesto–drawing crosshairs on liberals and calling abortion doctors mass murderers–who, once an atrocity happens, then immediately throws the “crazy” person under the bus for taking their words too seriously, too literally.
I appreciate that freedom of speech is vital to democracy. I appreciate that. But these sorts of crimes don’t happen in a vacuum. And this kid isn’t the only one with blood on his hands. That said, don’t go looking at the obvious hatemongers either. The screamers. The Rush Limbaughs, the Michael Savages, the Ann Coulters, the Fox News Talk Radio gallery of race baiting demagogues. They may be completely sincere in their hatreds, but they have the platforms they do, because someone paid for them.
Someone paid for them.
There’s the problem. Where is the money coming from to give hatemongers a platform to turn this nation into a tinderbox of mutual hatreds? Who is buying that air time, so enough people can be blindly aroused by hate, so republicans can elected, so the advertisers, the corporations, the deep pockets, that fund the hatemongers, get their taxes cut even more, get regulations that protect workers, consumers, and the environment repealed and financial oversight gutted? Follow the money funding the hatemongers, who inflame the passions, arouse the hatred, that finds its way sooner or later, eventually, to a killer, to a bloodbath, to its source. There’s the problem.
Race hatred killed those people. Without a doubt. But it had an assist from greed. Greed that doesn’t particularly care about race. I put it to you, that without that assist, we would not be reading many of the headlines today that we are. I put it to you, that without that calculation in the rarefied atmosphere of the corporate and financial boardrooms, that exacerbating divisions between Americans, and thereby to break apart the New Deal coalition, was preferable to accepting a world where their right to rake in tons of cash by any means they cared to rake it in might have some limits placed upon it, we might have made real tangible progress toward healing the race wounds of our nation. But it was not to be. Race hatred killed those people. But it was fed, it was kept alive, by greed.
Yes It’s Madness…But There’s A Method To It… (Message In A Bottle…)
Cracked Magazine, which is getting more known for it’s online lists of things (5 Classic Board Games With Disturbing Origins…4 Overlooked Consequences Of Spiderman Joining The Avengers….) just published 5 Things I Learned At A ‘Pray Away The Gay’ Camp. Here’s one of the line items…
#4. They Physically Torture You For Being Gay
“My hands were tied down and ice was placed on them while I was shown pictures of men. Later sessions would include copper heating coils, needles in my fingers, and electric shocks,” all while Sam was shown gay porn.
Then they’d take the coils away and show … men and women holding hands.
“I was never shown heterosexual sex, just heterosexual attraction,” Sam says. “I was just supposed to associate the touch of a man with pain.”
But a gay man is sexually drawn to other men. And in adults, those feelings of desire mature and evolve into deeper feelings of love and intimate trust and companionship. There’s no neat and tidy way to disconnect desire from human intimacy in adults. After decades of doing this to gay men, and witnessing for themselves the results of it, you might think they’d understand the damage they’re doing.
And you’d be right…
Obviously, despite the old saying, you can’t “heating-coil the gay away.” The torture didn’t make Sam straighter; it just made him terrified of sex, intimacy, and general human closeness.
The scapegoat has to hate themselves. They have to accept their lot in life is one of misery and pain and that they deserve it. And more importantly, they must be taught to fear anything that might lift them out of the pit of loneliness and despair: They must fear being loved.
“By the end, even hugging my father brought back flashbacks,” Sam said.
Sam isn’t alone — according to literally every scientific study, that’s exactly what happens to people who go through this kind of thing. Sex and physical intimacy are positive things that human beings seek out because they feel good, and you can’t trick the human brain into thinking something feels good by zapping it or burning it with hot copper coils. It only makes the feelings negative.
Evan Young, a graduating senior at Twin Peaks Charter Academy High School in Colorado, was recently blocked from giving his valedictorian speech and outed to his parents.
With a 4.5 GPA and a scholarship to Rutgers University, Young was selected as valedictorian of his graduating class. Although he had agreed to edit his speech according to Principal BJ Buchmann’s revisions, Young refused to exclude his admittance to being gay.
After Young refused to remove the statement from his speech, Principal Buchmann called the student’s father, Don Young. Don recalled the conversation to the Daily Camera:
“Mr. Buchmann called me and said, ‘I’ve got Evan’s speech here. There are two things in it that I don’t think are appropriate. One was he had mentioned another student’s name. And then there was his coming out that he was gay.’”
Evan was not allowed to give his speech and was not recognized as valedictorian at his May 16 graduation.
Look carefully: They didn’t just tell him he couldn’t give his speech…they denied him his honors as class valedictorian too. It was a rank the kid had achieved by virtue of his 4.5 GPA. But he was proud. And worse, he was a gay kid who had achieved.
There’s the problem. Gay kids have to hate themselves at least as much as they are hated, if not more. They must know they are unworthy. So they silenced Evan and took away his class rank. If they could have, they’d have erased from human memory the fact that he’d ever been his school’s valedictorian. They had to. The problem wasn’t that he would have told other gay kids that it was okay to be gay, but that he would have shown them by his example that they could rise themselves up and achieve too. That was the unforgivable sin.
This came across my Facebook stream the other day…
“I pray that the church will no longer be segregated,” he [pastor Danny Cortez] explained. “I pray that those who have been marginalized would feel safe in our churches. I pray that we as the church would set aside our difference and learn what it means to be the body of Christ.”
Well good luck with that. Your congregation, save for the few who’ve decided to walk out on it for your loving your son more than the Southern Baptist Convention, understands. And something Baptists understand, if not the SBC, is the local congregation is the community that matters when it comes to church business.
The convention’s Constitution states that “churches not in cooperation with the Convention are churches which act to affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual behavior.”
Homosexual behavior. Homosexual behavior. Homosexual behavior. That same-sex couples experience a wholeness of body and soul, love and desire, completely escapes them. Homosexuals don’t love, they just have sex. That really is the thinking here. They are utterly incapable of seeing the son for the homosexual, the father for the Endorser Of Homosexual Behavior, the congregation for the Church Not In Cooperation.
Cortez’s letter comes just days before the the Southern Baptist Convention could vote to exclude New Heart Community Church at its scheduled in Baltimore later this week.
My poor city. Hasn’t it had enough bad publicity? I can see it now…The Southern Baptist Convention votes to exclude yet another Baptist church for being hospitable to its gay family and neighbors…in a state whose citizens voted For allow same-sex marriage…just days after Ireland did the same…
Some years ago, a young adult fresh out of high school struggling to find a workable career path, I fell in with some friends of a friend who had a shop building custom speakers and sound equipment cases for bands. In addition to building speaker and equipment cabinets, they also had an impressive sound system of their own design capable of filling a theater, which they would rent out along with their services as sound guys whenever a band needed something a bit more than the bar sized sound systems they had with them.
To make a long story short, one day while I was out with them doing a gig somewhere in Virginia, the manager of the band we were working with noticed my little lambda necklace. This was back in a time before the rainbow flag, when the lambda was the recognized symbol of the gay rights struggle. He points at it and says somewhat belligerently “Why are you wearing the gay symbol?” This was a period in my life where I was still being careful who to come out to, but at the same time I’d made a resolution to myself not to lie if cornered. Well, I was cornered just then, and hoping for the best I told him it was because I’m gay, “We don’t allow gays in our crew he says. Bernie, one of the co-owners of the speaker shop, begins laughing and saying that I’m just joking. Somehow this only made me dig my heels in more. “No, says I…I’m gay.”
Next day Bernie fired me, taking pains to insist it wasn’t because I’m gay…I just wasn’t working out. Somehow.
Time passes…the universe expands… Some years later I run back into the old friend who connected me with Bernie and George (the other co-owner). How are things? Fine, how about you? Blah…blah…blah… As we’re busy catching up with what’s been happening in our lives, Glenn asks me if I’d heard about what happened to Bernie. No, says I, what’s up with him? He’s in jail, says Glenn. Couldn’t keep his hands off of under aged girls, he says.
Glenn eventually stopped talking to me after friending me on Facebook and being shocked, shocked, to discover what a militant homosexual I am. Oh well. On judgement day let it be said I would rather stand before my creator as an unrepentant sodomite, than have to account for some of the heterosexual lives I’ve witnessed with my own two eyes.
Arrogance is thinking you’re entitled to someone’s trust anyway. This came across my Facebook stream just now…
“And for the people to say the science is decided on this is just really arrogant, to be honest with you. It’s this intellectual arrogance that now you can’t have a conversation about it even.”
Never mind that the science regarding global warming is about as solid as it gets, here’s the thing about that. Jacob Bronowski in his magnificent book and BBC series on the history of science, The Ascent of Man, devoted an entire episode to the difference between truth and dogma, titled Knowledge or Certainty. He begins with the face of his friend, Stephan Borgrajewicz who, like himself, was born in Poland. And he asks us, how well, how precisely, can we describe this man’s face? He asks a painter to render it, and says…
“We are aware the these pictures do not fix the face so much as explore it; that the artist is tracing the detail almost as if by touch; and that each line that is added strengthens picture but never makes it final. We accept that as the method of the artist. But what physics has now done is to show that that is the only method to knowledge. There is no absolute knowledge. And those who claim it, whether they are scientists or dogmatists, open the door to tragedy. All information is imperfect. We have to treat it with humility. That is the human condition; and that is what quantum physics says. I mean that literally.”
Science, says Bronowski, “…is a very human form of knowledge. We are always at the brink of the known; we always feel forward for what is to be hoped. Every judgment in science stands on the edge of error and is personal. Science is a tribute to what we can know although we are fallible. ”
The arrogance that Bush is accusing those of us to believe the science of isn’t about the measured, careful judgements of the evidence of global warming. The arrogance we’re being accused of is to even think that science can tell us things about our world, about our universe, that the dogmas of the mob he represents cannot. There are two sides to this argument and it is not over the science, It is an argument about the nature of knowledge. One side believes that knowledge is something that is received. The other, that knowledge is something that is discovered, and which can always be challenged and discarded as new facts emerge. Whether it is religious dogma or political dogma, the practice of science rejects wholly the belief that any knowledge is certain, absolute, and can never be questioned.
That is the arrogance Bush means: that we think we can question for ourselves what the pulpit, the party leadership, the corporate interests tell us is true, and reject it if the evidence does not support it. That is not arrogance though it may seem like it to the authoritarians. It is humility. It is understanding and accepting the human status, that the god’s eye view is not ours, not anyone’s, not humanity’s to have, that every prophet who says thou shalt not question is a false prophet, that our lot in life is we must always ask ourselves what do we know, and how do we know it.
Prove to us that our understanding of global warming is incorrect. And if you can’t then tell us what authority you would have us follow, who says the fate of the human race and planet earth is of less importance than our blind obedience.
The idea that there may be something new under other suns is nothing new under the sun.
That’s why I’m mostly just kind of meh about this Damon Linker piece and the other (semi-)recent posts James McGrath rounds up on the subject. Linker hits on several of the “challenges … to the world’s religious traditions” that first contact with intelligent extraterrestrial life would introduce, but he misses the biggest one — the one explored by both Kepler and Wells. Kepler acknowledges the kind of questions Linker raises — “have they souls to be saved?” But then he quickly skips ahead to the more potentially devastating question: “Are all things made for man?”
That would be the Copernican shift in our theology forced by such an encounter. The main problem would not be that we would need to refine or reform how we think about God, but that we would have to completely upend how we think about ourselves.
Fred Clark is one of the most decent people you will read here on the Internet tubes. I could wish voices like his were heard more often in the popular culture. I was reading the other day one of the heavy hitters in the religious right arguing against the idea of other intelligent life in the universe, because of course the entire purpose of Creation was mankind. Okay I’m being a tad sarcastic about that, but not by much. And it reminded me of that day in the fields by a newly cut country road. It’s the same mindset.
I’ve told this story before, about the time when I was earning a living as an architectural model maker, and the shop owner I was working for at the time took his employees out to the countryside in late autumn to gather yarrow. Yarrow was a plant we used to make trees out of for the landscaping around our model buildings. At the end of a season the stalks were hard and the seed pods all dried up, and you could dip the pods in wood glue and sprinkle flocking (a finely shredded colored foam rubber) over them which made them look like little trees. Even better, you could then split the seed pods into smaller and smaller halves to get trees suitable for just about any scale you were working at.
So that day we all went to a place the shop owner, Ron, said was a likely place to find our quarry. Yarrow he told us, was very particular about where it grew in the wild. It had to be free of any shade trees or other competing bushes. It had to be open to the sky to allow lots of sun and rain. The best places he said, were where new roads had just been built, and the ground on either side cleared during construction. He had been scouting all summer for likely spots, and that day he led us to one. A new road that had just opened up county.
Ron was very much the devout fundamentalist. I had a job there because mom and I went to the same church he did for a time (I’d already left the church by this time, and mom eventually went elsewhere but stayed friends with Ron’s wife). Ron saw in my landscape paintings a talent he could put to use and despite the heavy air of religiosity in his shop I found I liked the work very much. He liberally scattered religious tracts all over the employee lunchroom, and held prayer sessions with his favorite, while the rest of us opted out for the safety of the shop and our work. I’ve written elsewhere about what he did to his gay son the day he came out to his family. I bring this up because of what happened that day we went yarrow hunting that I still vividly remember.
Ron passed out trash bags and told us to stuff them with every yarrow we could find. The bags would end up being stored in the attic space of his shop, and the contents used as needed for model landscaping. The idea was to get enough to tide us over until next fall.
So I wandered around looking for yarrow, and eventually my eyes got attuned to the shape of the things amidst all the other tall grasses we were wading through. I’d filled up one trashbag and was opening another when it occurred to me that I had no idea about the life cycle of these plants our workflow depended on. Might be a good idea I reckoned, to leave some behind so we’d have some next year. So I started leaving behind every third yarrow I came across. There was plenty there, so I figured we’d still get enough for another year’s work.
Ron came over and pointed out I’d missed some. I explained what I was doing and why. I’ll never forget the look he gave me. Not one of exasperation (I’d already seen enough of those…Ron had…anger management issues…), but…patients. He saw a teachable moment in it.
He nodded his head. “I see where you’re coming from,” he said to me kindly, “but God gave us these things to use.”
And so I was instructed to get the ones I’d missed and pick every one I saw. It was disheartening because I knew he’d check now that he knew what I’d been doing. So I shifted gears and picked more slowly hoping he’d eventually decide he had enough and we could go and some plants might be left behind. I was more naive back then. People like that aren’t deflected away from their missions so easily. He got every single one near as I could tell. He’d have had us all working until the next morning if there were that many more there to be had.
The universe was created Just For Us. So of course there can’t be any other intelligent life out there. And global warming is a socialist plot. Anything that makes you question exploring every last natural resource, or for that matter your human neighbor, is socialism. Beware the ideology that regards humanity as anything less than the masters of the earth. Well…second only to God almighty of course. Maybe.
Not every person of faith sees it that way. Remember that. I’m not sure that we’ll ever detect signs of intelligent life beyond Earth in my lifetime. I am certain of this: if Franklin Graham is alive to see it, he will insist they’re evidence that demons are real. That mindset is not disillusioned so easily.
“One of my favorites was Rob Ingersoll. Ingersoll came in often and we’d talk. Like me, he had an artistic eye. I’d try to create really special arrangements for him. I knew he was gay, but it didn’t matter — I enjoyed his company and his creativity…”
Yes, yes…It didn’t matter, until it did. Which is to say it always mattered, just not until that moment in a way that she was willing to be honest with him about.
And now she’s surprised that one of her favorite customers reacted with a lawsuit. That’s more telling then that she refused her services. Favorite Ingersoll may have been, but clearly not as human as herself, Otherwise She Wouldn’t Have Been Surprised. It’s how Anyone would react to having their joy of getting married, of finding in this poor lonely angry world that special someone, that wholeness of heart and body and soul, having it suddenly treated like it was a dishonorable thing. Being told your feelings toward the one you love more than anything, the one that completes you, the one you would walk through fire for, are immoral, disgusting, offensive to God. But in a nice way. Ever so politely. I took his hands and said, “I’m sorry…” It cuts you deep. Especially since, if she’s to be believed, he had understood himself to be a favorite customer of hers.
But homosexuals don’t have feelings like the rest of us and so she’s surprised. She “felt terrible” when she should have felt deeply ashamed of herself. A flower shop isn’t a church and arranging flowers isn’t a religion. If Ingersoll was just a stranger who walked in off the street wanting flowers for his wedding her behavior would have been bad enough. But see how she does not seem to grasp that boasting about how friendly she’d become with him, Despite The Fact That He Was Gay, makes the heartlessness of it worse, not better. She had been given an opportunity to see a Person not A Homosexual and she couldn’t.
This is the part so many people miss about the anger of that reaction to getting slapped in the face by prejudice. Bad enough when it comes at you from strangers. He, if she is to be believed, opened up to her in a way gay people are Still highly uncomfortable with. He trusted her. Never mind she discriminated against a customer and a fellow American. This man trusted her enough to be open about himself. He trusted her enough to share his joy with her. She betrayed a friend.
This came across my Facebook stream this morning. It clarified something I’d wondered about the relationship between American fundamentalism and its veneration of brutal survival of the fittest capitalism. How do you get from the sermon on the mount to Jesus would want us to take food stamps away from poor families?
Henry Parsons Crowell was a purveyor of oatmeal. He is best known by business historians as the president and founder of Quaker Oats, one of the pioneers of the branding revolution. He used a combination of packaging, trademark and massive promotional campaigns and transformed oatmeal from a commodity into a trademarked product.
Crowell took oatmeal that used to be sold out of large barrels in your general store, put it into a sealed package, slapped a picture of a Quaker on it and guaranteed it pure. Now it no longer mattered who you bought your oatmeal from, only what brand you chose.
A company’s reputation was once rooted in its owner, but the trademark created this virtual relationship with consumers that was pure fiction. The trust that is engendered by a Quaker has no relationship to the company itself. There are no Quakers involved in that. Crowell was a Presbyterian.
He was also a purveyor of religion. And he did to American Evangelicalism what he did to oatmeal: he packaged and trademarked his brand of Christianity into a form that engendered a wholly fictional trust in its purity. It was that old time religion.
I mean…if you were raised in that culture like I was, doesn’t just reading that phrase make you hear it now…that song you heard over and over…
Give me that old time religion, Give me that old time religion, Give me that old time religion, It’s good enough for me.
Admit it. You’re hearing it right now. You’ll have that ear worm in your head all day. But it wasn’t just a church song…it was an advertising jingle.
I grew up hearing the phrase “that old-time religion” so often it became something you just accepted as fact without knowing how it came to be that in your mind. It wasn’t until much later in life I began to understand that American Evangelical Protestantism was “old” only in the sense that a Ford Model ‘T’ is an old automobile. Yes, yes…the tin lizzy is about as old as they come alright. But the automobile itself isn’t exactly old transportation technology (let’s give a nod of grateful thanks to Mr. Horse), and American Evangelical Christianity isn’t exactly old if you’re measuring back to the time of Jesus. Actually it’s a pretty new thing.
Generously, I just assumed that phrase “old time religion” harkened back to that first generation Americans born after the revolutionary war. That was the time of the “Great Awakening” and it would have been, so I thought, from grandparents and great-grandparents telling their stories to their grandchildren that the phrase “that old time religion” came from. But no…it was pure advertising technique, from the man who convinced people they could trust a brand name more than the local merchant they actually knew, by putting a smiling Quaker’s face and the word “pure” on the package. His oatmeal had no more to do with Quakers than his “Fundamentals of Christianity” were “old time religion”. But he knew how to sell a product.
And it was when Evangelicalism became a product that it became about money. All those megachurches and TV ministries with their leadership living in lavish luxury can trace their roots back to the moment in history when Evangelicalism became a product rich men sold, and people bought. It’s old time religion like Quaker Oats is Quaker and Country Time Lemonade Flavored Drink Mix is country lemonade.
Horrible as today was however, at least I did get a catcall out of it. While I was out on a cigar walk some guy in a passing car shouted Get a haircut at me. I haven’t heard that one in years. Made my day…
After three years tobacco free I am officially back to my cigar hobby. Because some days alcohol just isn’t enough, drugs are illegal, and it takes forever to come back down off a bullet to the brain. Yes…slowly killing yourself can be a hobby, you just need to take an geek like interest in the details.
In 1967 CBS ran a short lived comedy series called “He and She”. It was smart, witty, the main characters, a young couple in New York bantered with each other and the other characters in this very dry humor I just loved. I was attracted to it instantly and watched it religiously. So of course it was cancelled after just one season. There was a scene in the first episode, I forget the lead in to it, but the Dick Hollister character (a cartoonist!), played to perfection by Richard Benjamen was arguing with his wife Paula, played by Paula Prentiss, and she says to him exasperated “What are you’re saying!?” and Dick says “Never mind what I’m saying, just listen to me!”
Don’t you just hate conversations like that? Especially when it’s your manager and he keeps asking you what went wrong and every time you start telling him he interrupts and says he didn’t want to know that. “What went wrong?” “Well…A, B, C, D…” “I don’t want to know that…do you realize if we had done the entire operation manually we’d have been finished long before this?” “Well if I knew at the beginning what I know now…” “I don’t want to talk about that…”
He came down to my office and we went though the process. At least one of the problems I kept running into manifested itself for him. Some tasks fight you in a big way, but it’s the ones that fight you in every minute teensy little way possible that completely demoralize you. Either way, if my orders are to save the Kobayashi Maru don’t ask me why I’ve got a bat’leth sticking out of me afterward. Did you know that Klingons fight back? Surprised the hell out of me, let me tell you…
My attitude is this: why let stress kill you when can smoke a good cigar while death puts a scythe in your heart. Life is short. Never pass up an opportunity to enjoy something good.
For most of last week I was confined to quarters after 10PM, here in Charm City, aka Mobtown, aka Baltimore. I didn’t have it as bad as many here did…I have a small, but nice little Baltimore rowhouse to bounce around in and anyway I’m usually in bed by 10PM. I am not a service working trying to make ends meet on a job I suddenly can’t work because it’s closed during my shift. My income does not depend on tips from late evening revelers. And as the people of Hampden, a largely white neighborhood just down the street from me proved last Saturday, even if I strayed for a little while from the curfew orders, the police probably wouldn’t start beating the crap out of me. Unless I had one of my cameras and my press badge on me anyway.
And while I am completely sympathetic with the protestors, the frustration and anger generally with police unaccountability, and was greatly relieved when our State’s Attorney leveled what seems to me to be thoroughly appropriate charges against the policemen and women involved in the death of Freddy Gray (there was a joke going around about how, acting on a request by the Roman Governor, the Baltimore City Police determined that Jesus fell into a box of nails and accidentally nailed himself to a cross…), I was mostly in favor of the curfew. Human consciousness isn’t all perfect rational thinking even when it keeps telling us it is. When a mob gets started…and we are every single one of us vulnerable to getting swept up in one…then it’s the lizard brain in charge and the first thing is you have to break up the mob.
But on twitter the other day Atrios was saying that curfews don’t solve anything and that is absolutely true too. A curfew doesn’t solve a problem anymore than a fire extinguisher does. A fire extinguisher puts out a fire. The fire was the problem you didn’t solve.
Yes that extension cord keeps getting hot…yes it’s a little frayed…but it still works…
For a good overview of the problem Baltimore (and the nation generally), didn’t, isn’t, won’t solve, read this…
There is a difference people keep missing, conveniently or ignorantly, between excusing violence and explaining it. Humanity didn’t fall from grace, we rose from the jungle and the hot African plains, seeking it. But we carry the jungle with us, and it lives within us…all of us…and any animal will fight back when it’s cornered. The problem isn’t the rioters, don’t be pointing your finger there, the problem is the attitude generally toward the neighborhoods that rioted, and the people who live in them. They are our neighbors, they are our fellow Americans, and look what we’ve done to them.
Except That The Reason You Hate Roe Has Nothing To Do With Abortion
Jeremy Hooper tweeted this today…
@goodasyouIf I were part of the “pro-life” movement, I’d be appalled at ham-fisted way anti-gay activists are selling “new Roe”
I heard a lot of this at the NOM Rally last Saturday. It was as if they’d accepted the fact that if not now then soon enough same-sex couples will gain marriage equality in the United States. There was a sense in it of The South Will Rise Again. You heard it over and over: yes we were stunned by the Supreme Court decision in Roe, yes we were demoralized and weary, but we rose up and got to work, and began to chip away at Roe, and we never gave up, and behold now how we are on the very threshold of reversing that hated decision. We can do the same if the court rules for the homosexuals. Yes, yes, but Hardwick v. Bowers happened in 1986, thirteen years after Roe (1973), and seventeen years later it was gone, and with it every state sodomy law and Roe is still there. You need to leave your cocoon of comfortable conceits about yourselves and your splendid little culture war and take a look at why that is. If you can.
Start by taking a good honest cold-eyed level headed look at why you think opposing abortion is so much like opposing same-sex marriage, because the only way they can be similar is if you never regarded the central evil of abortion as being the taking of a life, but rather the freedom of women to choose their own sexual and reproductive destiny. Then you can make a plausible case that Roe and same-sex marriage are similar battles: one being about the freedom and equality of women, the other the freedom and equality of homosexuals, both being about people whose freedom and equality you regard as a threat to yours. The freedom to dominate women. The freedom to scapegoat and persecute homosexuals. Seen in that light, yours isn’t a struggle to deny freedom to others, but simply a matter of defending your own sacred god given freedoms.
So let’s be honest here. Your fight over Roe was never about the fate of unborn children. But that was always staringly obvious. Your political henchmen are busy taking food out of the mouths of the Born children, grinding the public school system into the dirt, keeping healthcare out of the reach of poor families. So who really believes that you actually give a rat’s ass about the welfare of kids. And let’s continue being honest and admit that the fight over same-sex marriage isn’t about homosexuality either. Religious freedom…sure…if you define religious freedom as the freedom to scapegoat an innocent minority for your own failures of moral character because, and you would know this about yourselves better than anyone else, Christ on the cross just isn’t enough to wash your sins away.
So yes, from your point of view it’s easy to see how since you’ve been maintaining the fight against Roe, and even winning at chipping away at it, you can do likewise with same-sex marriage, should that be necessary. Perhaps you’ve forgotten your own rhetoric about abortion being a holocaust. Perhaps that holocaust keeps slipping your mind for some reason. Perhaps you never actually cared about all those millions of dead babies half as much as that women who can decide their own reproductive destiny aren’t yours to keep barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen anymore. But here’s the thing: nobody sane understands that gay couples getting married is like killing babies. The more you keep insisting it is, the more the rest of the country is going to see what their gay neighbors have seen and had to stomach for decades: you people are nuts.
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