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February 27th, 2013
Religion As The Mirror In Which You See God
by Bruce |
The author Mary Renault once said (and I’m paraphrasing now because I don’t have that exact quote) that all politics, like sex, was merely a reflection of the person within, and that if you are mean and selfish and cruel it came out in your sex life and in your politics when what really mattered is you aren’t the sort of person who behaves like that. To that I would only add religion. If you are mean and selfish and cruel it will come out in your religion too, when what really matters is you aren’t the sort of person who behaves like that…
A provocative new study is challenging assumptions about the deterrent effect of religion on criminal behaviour.
The U.S. study found that through “purposeful distortion or genuine ignorance,” hardcore criminals often co-opt religious doctrine to justify or further their crimes.
Among the interviewees…
A 25-year-old criminal nicknamed “Cool” said he always does a “quick little prayer” before committing a crime in order to “stay cool with Jesus.” As long as you ask for forgiveness, Jesus has to give it to you, he said.
He also suggested that if a crime is committed against another “bad person,” such as a dope dealer or child molester, “then it don’t count against me because it’s like I’m giving punishment to them for Jesus.”
The interviews show that criminals will often employ “elaborate and creative rationalizations” to reconcile their belief in God and their serial offending, the researchers concluded.
As you read this article it isn’t hard to hear in the voices of these criminals every justification the religious right uses to prey on other people. Here is the voice of predatory christianism as if spoken on a minimalist stage. Strip the frippery away and you have a prison gang. How is it that murderers, robbers and thugs don’t see themselves that way? Well, don’t blame religion for it either. Humans have an amazing capacity to see only what we want to see…to lie to ourselves even when it is killing us, rather than admit an uncomfortable truth. Yes, actually…I’m a dick… The religious right uses Christianity the way a thief uses a crowbar. Here in that study, are the professionals.
February 14th, 2013
by Bruce |
Good morning, all you happy not lovers!
In a special speech to honor Valentine’s Day and discuss the meaning of love, the Bishop also said that being gay is a ‘condition’ that can be dealt with through a ‘life of chastity’.
“This Valentine’s Day we would also do well to focus on a more authentic understanding of the word ‘love’”, says Bishop Paprocki. Love is never having to say you’re sorry for destroying other people’s hopes and dreams of love and happiness.
So, Happy Valentine’s Day, all you lonely gay singles living out your righteous lives of celibacy. The Bishop of Springfield says, “You’re Welcome!”
February 10th, 2013
Valentine’s Day Broken Heart Countdown…No Rescue For The Rescuers…
by Bruce |
There was the guy I met on the path in Rock Creek Park. I was bicycling to work in those days because I didn’t have a car, and the path through the park was a good shortcut that allowed me to stay off the main roads. It was also a peaceful ride through the woods early in the morning. No busy buzz of traffic, no early morning commuter noise. I saw a cat laying on the side of the path and as I got close noticed it wasn’t moving. At first I thought it was dead, but as I slowed down next to it the poor thing raised its head and looked at me. It was in distress.
Another guy about my age comes bicycling up and together, me gently carrying the cat and him walking both our bicycles, we get the cat to his house, which was nearby. By the time we get there the cat has perked up a bit, but still isn’t moving much. It was a longhair of some sort, there was no blood anywhere on it and its coat was in good condition. But there was no collar so no way to tell who its owner was. Nothing seemed broken but you couldn’t be sure. The guy and his dad agreed to take it to a nearby vet. I went off to work.
After work I stopped by their house to ask about the cat. But I had nefarious motives. The guy who helped rescue the cat was beautiful, and had set even my dull gaydar ringing. On the walk back to his house we began chatting about this and that. There was an air of sadness to him. He spoke in soft, quiet tones as though he was sitting in church. His mother he said, had passed away some years ago and he and his dad lived together. He wasn’t sure what he wanted to do with his life but for now he was working part time and in school part time and hoped to get his degree soon. Somehow we begun talking about books we’d read and I’d thrown in a couple trolling comments about Lambda Rising bookstore, which he was familiar with enough that he knew where it was and where it had moved from, and when he mentioned he often used the path for an early morning jog I mentioned Billy Sive, the main character in the novel The Front Runner, and he replied that he was a vegetarian too and it was a better diet not just for runners but everyone.
So there I was at his front door, and his dad answers and invites me in. The guy I’d met was there and the three of us sat in the living room and chatted for a bit, first to assure me that the vet had said the cat would be okay and they were going to take care of it until its owner could be found. Then the talk turned oddly to me…what did I do for a living, how long had I been living in Rockville, what were my interests, and so on. I didn’t mind the inquisition, which came almost exclusively from his dad. In fact I was wanting just then to make myself seem interesting enough to the guy who knew who Billy Sive was that he’d want to see more of me.
Oh yes…I work at a custom plastic shop over in Kensington, and in my spare time I paint landscapes and and draw cartoons. Plus I do photography work for a couple local newspapers and I’m working on a book of my art photography. I emphasized as I usually do when I’m trying to get someone’s attention, my creative side. As his dad chatted with me about my photography, I noted that I had his son’s absolute attention, and from the occasional sideways glances I could tell that his dad saw it too.
His dad asked about my political views and then, as casually as he could manage, asked how I felt about gay rights. And with all the nerve I could manage I replied that I was completely in favor of gay equality. At this point I almost expected to get shown the door, but his dad nodded his head and…smiled warmly. “That’s good,” he said, “that’s good.”
Dad…approves?! This was unknown territory for me, but I was more than willing to explore it. His son seemed very uncomfortable. Shortly after that his dad excused himself, saying he had work to do. When we were alone, his son set me straight.
Dad was a happy agnostic apparently, but when the mother died the son converted to Catholicism. And to be homosexual was a very grave sin (it later became a mere intrinsic disorder…). I could have argued it with him, but there’s a point where you just see it in someone’s eyes that it’s going nowhere. Perhaps he saw it in mine too. He didn’t try just then to get me to believe it too, just to make sure I knew he believed it.
So we shook hands and I left. Years later I experienced for myself the bottomless grief of my own parent’s deaths…dad first and then many years later, mom…and have never doubted since how despairing and vulnerable it leaves a person. And I have wondered ever since if that gay guy’s dad had been trying, not so much to set his gay son up with a nice boy, but trying somehow to awaken him out of grief. Life goes on…find someone to share it with… But there are those who prefer gay people pass the hours of our lives alone, and in despair. I have no idea if, absent one life hating priest somewhere anything might have come of it between us, but a even a brief walk in the garden might have done wonders for both of us just then. Which, of course, is exactly why he had to believe that love between men was a grave sin, and I had to believe he believed it.
[Edited a tad...]
November 28th, 2012
Feelings. Hungry, Hungry Feelings…
by Bruce |
“Here’s what we know about life. I have all kinds of natural feelings in my life and it doesn’t necessarily mean that I should act on every feeling. Sometimes I get angry and I feel like punching a guy in the nose. It doesn’t mean I act on it. Sometimes I feel attracted to women who are not my wife. I don’t act on it. Just because I have a feeling doesn’t make it right. Not everything natural is good for me. Arsenic is natural.” -Rick Warren
Hate is natural. Prejudice is natural. Who to hate is learned, but the capacity to hate is there, deep in the ancient pit within the human consciousness. We all carry the history of millions of years of life on earth within us every moment of our day. Tribalism is natural to us. To be afraid of the alien other, and to hate them, is natural to us. Blind obedience to the alpha leader is natural to us. The unthinking, bloodthirsty mob is in our blood. But so is love, so is kindness to the stranger, so is curiosity, and the yearning for truth and meaning. We are, by nature, civilization destroyers, but also civilization builders. The mindless beast is within us all. The good person is the one who will not unleash it within themselves, or in others. Do you want to be that good person Rick, or do you want to feed the beast? Every moment of your day Rick, it’s one or the other.
You’re right Rick. Just because you have feelings that does not make them right. What makes them right, or makes them profoundly evil, is how your feelings translate into acts. Do you help your neighbor in this life, or do you let the beast eat them? Who is your neighbor Rick?
November 15th, 2012
Justification By Love Alone
by Bruce |
Nobody expects the Minnesota Inquisition…
The Assumption Church, a Catholic congregation in Barnesville, Minnesota, does not mess around when it comes to fighting followers who support marriage equality.
The church’s priest, Rev. Gary LaMoine, told the family of 17-year old Lennon Cihak that he cannot participate in his scheduled confirmation because Cihak shared his opposition to the recently defeated amendment that would define marriage as one man and one woman.
Not only that, LaMoine is now denying Communion to the entire family, including Cihak’s parents, who have attended the church for decades.
It’s something to remind me how glad I am, even at this stage in my life, that I was raised a Baptist, if only for the satisfaction of knowing I’d have been on the pope’s shit list for that fact alone, never mind my homosexuality. The only thing better would be to have been born a Jew.
But more importantly, being raised in a Baptist household meant I was never taught to believe I had to ask permission from the clergy to have a spiritual relationship with my creator. I will probably never really understand how painful this all is for that family, and especially that boy who is now afraid his church won’t allow him to be buried with his parents, simply because he stood up for the human dignity of his neighbors. I want to tell them there is no shame in walking out that door and never looking back. But I know that isn’t their way. You have to let everyone find their own way. That was something else the faith of my childhood taught me.
I’m an atheist now, and I can only watch these things happening to good-hearted people from a respectful distance. Meanwhile the boy inside me who once went dutifully to church every Sunday wonders how anyone would want to take the body of Christ from the hand of someone who is pissing on his cross.
[Edited...there was something else about being raised in a Baptist household that in retrospect I needed to get in here...]
October 1st, 2012
You Have To Cut The Heart Out When They’re Young
by Bruce |
One small step taken against a widely practiced form of child sexual abuse yesterday in California…
The thing to remember here is this only applies to licensed therapists, not pulpit thumping hate mongers who are still as free as ever to stick a knife in a kid’s heart and twist it in the name of Christ, and then twist it again in the name of love. But already the usual suspects are screaming bloody murder…
In a statement on NARTH’s website, the group says the law will seriously jeopardize the livelihoods of “licensed therapists in California who would otherwise be willing to assist minor clients in modifying their unwanted same-sex attractions and behaviors.” It also will “supplant the rights of parents,” the group says.
Note the reliable appeal to the rights of parents. But no parent has the right to subject their child to sexual abuse and ex-gay therapy is just that. If you think that’s hyperbole I strongly recommend you listen to the stories of the survivors of ex-gay therapy and compare them to the survivors of other forms of sexual abuse.
Kendall said the therapy he underwent “led me to periods of homelessness, to drug abuse, to spending a decade of my life wanting to kill myself. It led to so much pain and struggle. And I want them to know that what they do hurts people. It hurts children. It has no basis in fact. And they need to stop.
The self loathing. The shame. The despair. Blaming yourself for what happened. People need to look at what this practice does to children. And not just ex-gay therapy but the general cultural shaming and bullying of gay kids. Really look at it. This is sexual abuse.
But the abusers won’t stop of their own accord. Oh no…the kids really wanted it you see…
…the law will seriously jeopardize the livelihoods of “licensed therapists in California who would otherwise be willing to assist minor clients in modifying their unwanted same-sex attractions and behaviors…
What those kids want is to be loved. They don’t want to be abominations in the eyes of God. They don’t want their parents breaking down in tears, screaming at them that they’re ashamed to be their parents. They don’t want to be monsters. But who told them they were? No Mr. Nicolosi, those kids didn’t want you feeling up their souls, poking around in the most secret private places of their hearts, you just told yourself they did. That’s how it usually is with the seducers of the too young to understand.
The only purpose this practice ever had is to make gay people hate themselves, and incidentally to excuse the righteous for hating them. You don’t have to be gay, so it isn’t our fault for making your lives miserable, it’s yours for being gay. You choose to be gay, so you choose to be persecuted. There’s a political side to ex-gay therapy, as justification and cover for anti-gay politicians, but beneith the surface there’s the core value: homosexuals must hate themselves, must accept they are society’s outcasts.
The pulpit thumping homophobe who gets caught preying on minors. The bar stool moralizer with a gambling habit. The family values politician who goes for a hike on the Appalachian trail. It’s the homosexuals who are destroying the moral fiber of society, surely not any of these. Our enemies say they are fighting against the normalization of homosexuality. But it isn’t what society and culture think of us, it’s that we might stop hating ourselves they won’t endure. If open homosexuality stops being the touchstone of moral decay, then where will the fingers point when another righteous culture warrior gets caught with their pants down? It’s having to look in a mirror and admit the crying wreckage they’ve made of their own lives was their own doing they’re fighting tooth and nail to prevent.
So the scapegoat must never think themselves worthy of being loved, must never know what it is to love, and be loved. Because love is patient, love is enduring, love can nourish and sustain through the worst of times. Because love can move mountains. Because the one thing you never want the scapegoat to be able to do is move mountains.
To make a scapegoat, you have to cut the heart out when they’re young.
August 20th, 2012
Hatemongering As Sacrament
by Bruce |
I’ve already posted ample evidence as to why the Family Research Council was officially designated a hate group – it’s not their policy positions per se, it’s their strategy of willfully and systematically lying in order to defame, and discriminate against, an entire class of American citizens – but it really does still amaze me that after everything this organization has said, and continues to say, about gay people, they have the nerve to lecture their victims about being mean.
It’s genius, really.
If they call you a pedophile, it’s just their religion.
You get the feeling the cross wasn’t good enough…gay people have to die for their sins too. It’s their religion.
August 15th, 2012
Disagreement Means Never Having To Say You’re Sorry
by Bruce |
The man who stood behind a pulpit in Miami and said of his gay neighbors that they are “vile”, and compared same-sex love to drug addiction and witchcraft, had this to say about all of that at a recent meeting with gay activists…
“Because [the far left] calls us bigots and hatemongers, what does that mean? They hate us? No, they just disagreed with our views and practices…”
You know, Al Capone disagreed with Eliot Ness. But there was a little more to it then simply a difference of opinion.
I strenuously disagree!
Just because I disagree with you does not make me a bigot… To say that gay people are merely disagreeing with one filthy lie after another thrown in our faces, let alone thundered from pulpits all over the nation to incite ever more violent passions toward us, is a way of sweeping the hate mongering that gets gay people beaten and murdered under the rug. But it isn’t mostly about face saving. Even more then that, what Hakimian is doing there is cheerfully spitting in the faces of the very people he attacks, trivializing the claims of injury his gay neighbors have placed at his feet, and others like him who keep thumping their pulpits at the homosexual menace. What, you vile creatures object to my calling you vile? Well we’ll just have to agree to disagree about that…
“They kept saying that because you don’t agree with us you don’t love us, you hate us. We tried to explain to them that love doesn’t mean Christians can’t disagree…”
Let us agree to disagree about your vileness, your sex addiction, your witchcraft…because I love you. Right, and love is the swinging baseball bat of a gay basher. He’s spitting in the faces of the people he has attacked, and it’s as deliberate as the attack itself. But with that placid, meticulously transparent I’ll pray for you smile on his face.
August 8th, 2012
The Thing About Running Up To The Edge And Barking Is Sometimes The Edge Collapses Underneath You
by Bruce |
Bryan Fischer does a pivot from supporting a christian (in his opinion) parent who defies a judgment giving her lesbian co-parent custody, to supporting the wholesale kidnapping of children from gay parents…
This tweet followed one about Mennonite minister Kenneth Miller, charged with aiding and abetting the kidnapping of the child Isabella Miller-Jenkins in a custody battle between a lesbian and her now ex-gay partner who fled to Nicaragua with the girl rather then obey a court order giving custody of the girl to her former partner. But the link below the tweet, to a story posted on the blog of The Witherspoon Institute…one of Mark Regnerus’ big money teats, by a man who blames his difficulties growing up on the fact that he was raised by a lesbian couple. (Naturally he ends his story with a big round of applause for Regnerus’ work and you can be sure that has no bearing at all on why the people who dropped a giant wad of cash on Regnerus saw fit to publish his story…) So Fischer here isn’t tweeting that an underground railroad is needed to support good christian parents when they decide to flee their homosexual past and take the kids with them. He’s saying that any kid being raised by homosexuals is in danger, and needs a few good christian child snatchers to get them out of it.
This is where the culture war can take a turn for the very worst, and if you think these people are not capable of wholesale child snatching you need to refresh your memory as to what they’ve been capable of in the fight over abortion.
[Update...] As expected, Fischer is slyly sticking to his guns on the Miller case as though that was what he meant all along….
No kidnapping involved in Lisa Miller case. She left the US to keep her natural, biological daughter FROM BEING KIDNAPPPED. In Lisa Miller case, I’m advocating AGAINST JUDICIAL KIDNAPPING, in favor of keeping daughter with her own mother. In Lisa Miller case, lesbian who wanted sole custody of the daughter had NO legal or biological relationship to the girl. If any kidnapping involved in Lisa Miller case, it’s judges stealing a child from her mother and giving her to a stranger.
This is a standard technique of the kook pews, when cornered to pick a distraction and try to drag the conversation down and away from whatever was getting them mainstream static. But Fischer’s tweet about “Why we need an Underground Railroad to deliver innocent children from same-sex households” didn’t link to a story about the Miller case, but to the story of a man raised in a same-sex household which he blames for his life problems, published by The Witherspoon Institute which funded the Regnerus “study”. Never mind for a moment that even in the Miller case Fischer is claiming a right to ignore the rule of law wherever it gets in the way of his holy war on Teh Gay, there was no custody battle issue in the story he linked to, no issue of gay verses christian parent. Fischer was saying that Every household headed by same-sex parents is a danger to the children in them.
At minimum, it was a dog whistle endorsement of snatching these kids from their homes and Fischer isn’t walking back any of that, he’s merely waving the Miller case around as if that was all he was talking about. It wasn’t. Be assured that the right ears will have heard Fischer’s dog whistle, and nodded their heads approvingly.
And…If you thought the work of Mark Regnerus would only be used by the culture warriors to deny gay people the right to marry, you have been painfully naive.
July 30th, 2012
Some Of My Best Friends Are People Whose Ring Fingers I’ve Cut Off
by Bruce |
Le Dance Pathetique…as choreographed by Carmen Rasmusen Herbert, of the Deseret News…
I have several friends and family members who support gay marriage.
We’ve had lively discussions about our differing beliefs.
But nothing they say would make me love them less…
…or stop supporting them as people I care about.
I strongly believe in supporting the traditional family unit.
Le Curtian…Applaus a vous…
Note: Deseret News is the news organ of the Mormon Church. If you think they’d let anyone take a genuinely friendly attitude toward gay people in its pages I have some real estate on the planet Kolob to sell you.
May 22nd, 2012
Sowing The Wind…(continued)
by Bruce |
There’s a quote I read somewhere running through my mind right now, about how the way you get to peace is to work for peace…
A pastor turned Mississippi legislator is fearing for his life after activists say he endorsed the killing of gay men on his Facebook page.
Rep. Andy Gipson cited a Bible passage earlier this month to slam President Obama’s endorsement of gay marriage, saying he believed that homosexuals shouldn’t have the right to marry.
“The only opinion that counts is God’s,” he said, then quoted a Bible passage that he interprets to say that being gay is a sin.
He also quoted another passage:
“If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.”
The man behind the pulpit cites a passage from Leviticus, the one saying that God detests homosexuals and gives everyone a free pass to kill them, and now he’s worrying about death threats. Worry’s kinda like hindsight isn’t it…always 20/20. Here’s the thing about death threats…they’re worse then bullets. Bill Cosby gave a talk once about inner city gun violence in which he said that once you pull the trigger you can’t call that bullet back. Death threats are like that but worse. You can’t call them back and they multiply faster then tribbles. Some of them might come back home to you. Some of them might go zipping off to find people you love. I think the bible had something to say about that too…preacher… For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind…
Ah…here’s what I was looking for…
“Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal.” -Martin Luther King, Jr.
Ends and means. Ends and means. Look at your means…there’s your ends. All you pulpit thumpers out there, pounding away, waving your arms at your flocks about the homosexual menace…do you not understand you are talking about your neighbors…and all the people in your pews looking back at you, hanging on your every word as you wave the bible around like a damn trophy…it’s their neighbors too that you’re babbling about. Don’t you get that? Their neighbors. And their kin. Their homosexual children. Their homosexual brothers and sisters. Their homosexual aunts, uncles, cousins. Their kin. That blood that verse talks about, the stuff that’s on the heads of homosexuals…that’s their blood too you moron! And yours…assuming you’ve got any in you.
May 14th, 2012
Because Persecuting Homosexuals Is The Only Reason I Have For Living
by Bruce |
Via Right Wing Watch…
Jim Garlow was on Daystar TV’s “Celebration” program to promote his recent book “Miracles Are For Real,” but before the discussion about his book began, Garlow and hosts Marcus and Joni Lamb spent several minutes talking about President Obama’s statement last week in support of marriage equality.
Garlow weighed in, declaring that religious liberty and “the radical homosexual agenda” were on course for a head-on collision in America because “they cannot both exist in the same nation at the same time.”
Because persecuting homosexuals is a sacrament more vital to one’s own salvation then being baptized. If homosexuals can live their lives in peace we might as well close the church doors and wait for the rapture because salvation just isn’t possible anymore.
Oh, but he’s not through yet…
Garlow warned that advances in marriage equality will eventually force the Christian church underground because the gay agenda is all about “coercion, and crushing, and taking away our liberties and freedoms.” But nonetheless, Garlow said, Christians must be willing to stand up and speak out in opposition even though “we are coming into an era where it could cost us everything, including our lives”
Whereas homosexuals don’t have lives. And if they do our relentless incitement of religious passions toward them certainly isn’t costing any of them theirs.
May 2nd, 2012
Oh…Is This Mike On…?
by Bruce |
Via Joe. My. God…
Sean Harris, pastor of Berean Baptist Church on Glensford Drive, said he does not advocate hitting children and wishes he could take back a remark encouraging fathers to punch boys who act effeminately…
…and let’s just forget completely about that part about cracking their wrists…
…But he defended his belief in the need to reinforce traditional gender roles in children. “If I had to say it again, I would say it differently, no doubt,” Harris said Tuesday. “Those weren’t planned words, but what I do stand by is that the word of God makes it clear that effeminate behavior is ungodly.”
Preaching at parents that they need to break the bones of their gay kids however being the epitome of godliness. So long as you say it differently. As the twig is bent so grows the tree…so parents I give you special dispensation to crack those dear little twigs back into Straightness when you see them going limp…
Coming Soon To A fundamentalist Church Near You! Pat downs for recording devices, and petitions to make taping anti-gay child abusive rants in church a class one felony punishable by stoning…
April 8th, 2012
I Am Not Obsessed With Sex Sex Sex Sex Sex Sex Sex Sex Sex Sex Sex Sex
by Bruce |
Roy Edroso writes gleefully about the argument Andrew Sullivan and Rod Dreher are having about what it means to be a good Christian. I won’t go into detail about it here, you should just go read Roy’s post over at Alicublog. But (since I can’t post comments over there because the JS-Kit commenting engine he uses is just too goddamned cranky) I want to just take note of one thing that leaped out at me. This is Dreher speaking…
It’s interesting how so many liberal Christians accuse conservatives of being obsessed with sex, yet so much of their own writing and activism focuses on sex and sexuality, especially homosexuality.
In case you missed it, Dreher is saying right there that whenever you talk about Teh Gay you are talking about sex. Equal marriage rights for gay couples? Sex. Protecting gay people from discrimination in the workplace? Sex. Anti-bullying campaigns in the schools to protect gay kids? Sex. The horrific rise in anti-gay violence in recent years? Sex.
But no, he’s not obsessed with sex. He’s a bigot who can’t see the people for the homosexuals. He is a man who simply cannot grasp that homosexuals might have lives too, apart from their bedroom shenanigans, just like the heterosexuals do. Heterosexuals have lives, homosexuals have sex.
Remember, this is the guy who wrote an entire post off of a news story about a man surviving the home invasion massacre that killed his entire family, to vent about how shocked he was to discover “a bisexual culture” in East Texas. No he’s not obsessed with sex, he’s a bigot. His hated other is that ingrown hair, that burr under his saddle, that itch he just can’t scratch. Everything he reads that even remotely touches on gay people, even the massacre of an entire family, becomes a story about sex because that is all homosexuals amount to. He is not obsessed with sex. He’s obsessed with homosexsexsexsexsexsexsexsexsexsexsexsexuals.
April 6th, 2012
The Friend And Mentor Who Helpfully Hands You That Little Bottle Of Pills
by Bruce |
I’ve been meaning to post this since I saw it back in January…
Memories of a gay man’s suicide loom over Fremont Presbyterian Church
On July 23, 1992, Thomas Paniccia, an Air Force sergeant, announced he was gay on national television. On the anniversary of that day 15 years later, Paniccia drove to an undeveloped cul-de-sac in Roseville several blocks from his home and waited to die.
Paniccia, 43, had swallowed an overdose of prescription pills and placed a three-page letter on his dashboard.
The Rev. Donald Baird, pastor of Fremont Presbyterian Church, was one of the people who received copies of the letter. Baird was his mentor, friend and pastor…
Pastor. Mentor. Ahem. Yes. And such a good one.
Fremont, the largest Presbyterian congregation in the Sacramento area, has faced the biggest crisis in its 129-year history: the decision to leave the national church. Fremont leaders believe the national church has strayed from biblical teachings, and they decided to break ties after the denomination approved the ordination of openly gay clergy.
During the debate and following that decision, some church members raised Paniccia’s name. What about Tom, they asked. His death three years ago reminded them that the decision they made would affect people who called the church home.
Despite Paniccia’s struggle, he had felt accepted. They didn’t want that welcoming and inclusive environment to change.
Outside of a small circle, Paniccia’s story has never been told, yet has weighed on many of those making decisions about the church’s future. They remembered a gay man who loved his church.
“He wasn’t open about it. It didn’t matter anyway,” said Donna Cavness, who was a friend and had worked with Paniccia. “He had a lot of wonderful gifts. He was good to be around.”
Paniccia’s close friends said he was conflicted about his faith and sexuality.
David Larson rented a room in his home to Paniccia and knew him for more than a decade. He also received a copy of Paniccia’s suicide note.
“As a close personal friend, I unfortunately realized Tom’s inability to accept being gay combined with his religious views is what I believe led to his suicide,” Larson said.
Welcoming. Inclusive. Now let’s talk about what it means to be a friend to a gay man…
Baird does not believe Paniccia’s struggle to reconcile his faith with his sexuality drove him to suicide and said that Paniccia would support the church’s decision to leave the national denomination.
Since the October vote, longtime members have left the congregation. As pastor, Baird has received hate mail. Church members may have to pay millions of dollars to the national church to keep the 5-acre church property across from California State University, Sacramento.
And next week, local Presbytery officials will call for an investigation of the Fremont vote to determine whether there are enough church members opposed to the split and who want to stay with the national denomination.
Still, Baird said Fremont must leave.
Following Christ is not supposed to be easy or convenient, he said. “If a church loses its integrity, it ceases to be a church,” Baird said. “The world changes. God’s word doesn’t.”
The pastor said Paniccia believed the same. He was committed to the teachings of his faith, Baird said. “Tom had the same beliefs, he understood.”
He sat in his office looking at a photo of Paniccia in the church directory.
“He was like a son to me.”
Consider for a moment, the horrifying possibility that this is true. Some parents of gay children throw their kids into the street with undisguised contempt. Others buy them the poison, the bottle of pills, buy the rope, hand them the gun, lovingly gift wrapped with a little card that says, I Love You Very Much…
Visit The Woodward Class of '72 Reunion Website For Fun And Memories, WoodwardClassOf72.com