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September 29th, 2019


A comic book series I’m currently following, titled Second Coming is a comic take on both Christianity and Super Heroes. Jesus is sent back to earth to be mentored by a Superman clone, Sunstar, because God doesn’t think he’s manly enough. There’s a line of dialogue in issue 3 that really speaks to an issue I had with Christianity before I walked away from religion altogether. The scene is Jesus is confronted by a group of homophobes in front of an LGBTQ bar…

Phobe: I have to say I don’t think God is very happy with the choices you’re making.

Jesus: He never is.

Phobe: Were you to die now, you would go to Hell, where demons would stab your eyes out with forks, roast you over an open flame ns, I don’t know, feed you to goats or something. The scriptures are a little unclear…

As Paul says in First Corinthians…

Jesus: Who?

Phobe: The Apostle Paul.

Jesus: What?! I don’t know any Paul.

Phobe: Paul, the guy who wrote half the New Testament!

He spent his life spreading the word of Jesus Christ.

Jesus: I asked James to spread my word. I asked Peter to spread my word. I never even asked Paul to spread the jelly!

I laughed for hours after reading that. There’s an old joke about how Protestantism represents the ascendancy of Paul over Peter, and Evangelical Protestantism represents the ascendancy of Paul over Christ…

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Who?

May 13th, 2015

That Old Time Sales Pitch

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?

Christian fundamentalism is a capitalist construct: The secret history of American religion

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.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on That Old Time Sales Pitch

September 30th, 2014

Gaining A Body, While Losing A Heart

This came across my Facebook stream this morning…

Another Year of Decline for U.S. United Methodists

Unfortunately, 2013’s picture is no different from previous years: the vast majority of annual conferences are in a membership and attendance decline.

This is written from a religious conservative point of view, so it’s unsurprising they see the decline of the progressive churches in the denomination as validation of their stand against the homosexual menace. But look closer, at what the self assured fail to see right in front of their noses…

It’s hard not to look at the list of fastest declining annual conferences in light of the continuing debates over Scriptural authority and sexual morality within the United Methodist Church. Of the 16 fast-declining conferences listed above (excluding Rio Grande’s unusual circumstances), at least 12 have passed resolutions at recent annual conference sessions stating their support of the LGBTQ movement, and another (Alaska) belongs to a jurisdiction that has done the same. Meanwhile large and growing UM annual conferences have overwhelmingly rejected such resolutions.

And there it is…“passed resolutions”.  Oh they did, did they?  Yes, and that’s all those churches Could do for their LGBT members and their families and friends…pass resolutions.  They can’t marry the same-sex couples within them. They can’t allow their gay members to fully participate in church life. So the people of conscience in them are leaving. But note that this isn’t conservatives leaving liberal congregations, that’s people leaving Methodism because they can’t in good conscience stay.

Yes, yes…some conservatives in those churches may also be moving to other congregations more in tune with their bar stool prejudices, but that can’t explain the numbers you see there. What’s happening is people in more liberal parts of the country are leaving the denomination itself.  And it goes further…

“Nones” on the Rise

The number of Americans who do not identify with any religion continues to grow at a rapid pace. One-fifth of the U.S. public – and a third of adults under 30 – are religiously unaffiliated today, the highest percentages ever in Pew Research Center polling.

That’s an article from October 2012, but more recent Pew polling finds the trend continuing. Look here…

…many of the country’s 46 million unaffiliated adults are religious or spiritual in some way. Two-thirds of them say they believe in God (68%). More than half say they often feel a deep connection with nature and the earth (58%), while more than a third classify themselves as “spiritual” but not “religious” (37%), and one-in-five (21%) say they pray every day. In addition, most religiously unaffiliated Americans think that churches and other religious institutions benefit society by strengthening community bonds and aiding the poor.

With few exceptions, though, the unaffiliated say they are  not  looking for a religion that would be right for them. Overwhelmingly, they think that religious organizations are too concerned with money and power, too focused on rules and too involved in politics…

And over and over again what you see triggering this abandoning of organized religion is distress over the way churches are treating women and gay people. And in denominations structured in a rigid top down hierarchy, that distress is going to be most pronounced in the progressive congregations that can do nothing except utter polite words of protest. Unlike denominations such as Baptists (I was raised in a Baptist household), they can do nothing other than appeal to the conscience of the powers that be. But that tomb is sealed. Or…they can walk out the door.  And maybe just keep going.  But for people raised in those churches, that can be a horribly traumatic experience. Like the wounded survivors of a bitter divorce, they’re deeply reluctant to go back to the altar.  More and more people, especially young people, seeing the cheapshit prejudices of their neighbors being cloaked in and even validated by their religions, find themselves not only on the other side of the church door, but questioning the whole christianity/religion thing.

So there is an overall decline in religiosity happening now in America and the west, even as the conservative churches gain membership. That isn’t growth, it’s hardening of the arteries.  Of course the more conservative churches are holding onto, or even growing membership: they’re fine with the law the hierarchy is laying down on those matters.  Some of the commenters in that article above seem to realize this and they’re fine with that. They want the progressives out. They may get their wish. But the ones that go, whether they remain Christians or not, will eventually find there is a richer, more deeply spiritual life to be lived out in the world, than inside a tomb.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Gaining A Body, While Losing A Heart

June 25th, 2013

All You Need To Know About Them Is They Are Your Fellow Americans

It’s spit on atheists day at Time Magazine.   Joe Klein steps up to the plate…

Time’s Joe Klein Takes Obligatory, Inaccurate Cheap Shot At Nonbelievers

While discussing the aftermath of last month’s tornadoes in Oklahoma, Klein writes:

But there was an occupying army of relief workers, led by local first responders, exhausted but still humping it a week after the storm, church groups from all over the country — funny how you don’t see organized groups of secular humanists giving out hot meals…

Yeah…funny that. But as that Huffington Post article says, it isn’t true.

At the Friendly Atheist blog, Hemant Metha runs off a list of other post-tornado aid efforts from humanist organizations:

— Foundation Beyond Belief raised over $45,000 for Operation USA and the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma.

— Atheists Giving Aid raised over $18,000 that will be given to local relief groups in Moore, Oklahoma and directly to families that need help.

— Members of the FreeOK atheist group helped families who needed wreckage removed from their property.

— Local atheist groups such as the Oklahoma Atheists, Atheist Community of Tulsa, the Lawton Area Secular Society, Norman Naturalism Group, and the Oklahoma State Secular Organization have organized volunteers, resources, and blood drives.

— Organizers of the FreeOK conference going on this weekend held a literacy drive yesterday to “benefit the schools affected” by the tornadoes.

There were more examples in that article from Red Dirt Report, and also this which struck me as soon as I read it as eminently typical of the sort of people Klein is holding up as selfless godly saints…

Red Dirt Report also relays an unfortunate anecdote in which members of a religious organization called Freedom Assembly of God walked off a cleanup site after learning that the volunteers working next to them were atheists. They apparently couldn’t bring themselves to work alongside nonbelievers, even to help a family whose home had just been destroyed.

Charles de Gaulle once said that patriotism is where love of country comes first, and nationalism is where hatred of everyone else comes first. In the same vein American is where love of your fellow countryman comes first and Christianist is where hatred of everyone outside your church comes first. You can be one but not both.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on All You Need To Know About Them Is They Are Your Fellow Americans

July 12th, 2009

Just So We Don’t Have To Talk About What Louts We Allowed Ourselves To Become

Once upon a time, it may surprise you to learn, the American Puritan set wasn’t so afraid of the natural world.  In fact, they embraced it with a passion very much akin to the environmentalists of today.  My favorite American landscape painter, Fredric Church, embodied the thinking in those days.  His absolutely stunning landscapes were representations not merely of nature’s awesome beauty, but also of the eternal spiritual truths one may behold within.  They were revelations on canvas for "…those who have eyes to see and a mind to understand". 

In his essay, Church and Luminism: Light for America’s Elect, David C. Huntington says of Church’s painting, The Andes of Ecuador, that it is…

…a joyous paean to a divine universe.  The very composition appears to soar in exaltation.  All, as it were, becomes a resurrection.  The light of the sun expands without effort to touch and bless the whole earth.  The atmosphere itself bears the higher message of the painting.  In Cotopaxi, however, the sun must suffer for the evils of this world.

Church painted Cotopaxi in 1863 and many understood it to be a parable for the nation in the midst of a bloody civil war.  Understand, these were not your trite modern bible story paintings.  They were realistic, almost hyper realistic, awesomely beautiful landscapes.  Church twice visited South America, drew many sketches in oil on paper of the natural wonders there.  As well as any modern day naturalist, Church took pains to make sure that every detail of his landscapes were true to nature.  And yet they were created by an artist for a viewing public that took for granted that the natural world and the revelations of the Bible not only did not contradict one another, but did in fact emphasize one another. 

Cotopaxi is a geological parable, a proverb drawn from the sacred "volume in stone".  The canvas is as charged with the spirit of prophesy as is Bushnell’s discourse.  "The word, the meaning and the expression" of the great Andean volcano becomes a "revelation" to "those who have eyes to see and a mind to understand".  Cotopaxi is nature’s type for the regeneration of America.

Once upon a time in America, religion was not at war with the natural world.  In fact it was the pride of many biblical literalists that Americans held a special regard for the natural sciences.  Some even believed that it was here in North America (some said it was Yosemite Valley) that the Garden of Eden had once been located.  Much of the 19th century efforts to protect and preserve the natural wonders of America were based in no small measure on these deeply religious people’s intent to venerate that "sacred volume in stone"…

For those who will have remarked the visible absence of an explicitly Christian context in The Personal Narratives and Cosmos of Alexander von Humboldt, works which twice inspired Church to visit South America, McCosh’s treaties would seem to provide a missing link between Church’s religious and Humboldt’s secular approach to natural history.  Typical Forms and Special Ends in Creation is a dedicated Calvinist’s guide to the "Science of Design".  Geology is viewed as a Bible in stone, infallibly inscribed with the story of creation.  Like the verbal Bible, known to the generations who lived without the benefit of the new dispensation of science, the physical world is as much, so McCosh tells us, the word of God as is the word recorded by the prophets and the apostles.

And then Darwin came along and scared the steaming shit out of all of them, and they never forgave science for it.  It takes courage, and a little humility, to look God in the face and ask a question, because you might just get an answer.  Why yes Pope Urban, Gallilao and Copurnicus were right…the earth isn’t at the center of the universe after all.  And oh…by the way…neither are you… 

After Darwin, America’s religious purists retreated back into a padded room prison of Bible idolatry which has corrupted them ever since.  It is not a matter simply, of science verses the Bible.  Religion that teaches its faithful to deny any fact that contradicts its dogmas makes liars out of them.  First to themselves, then to their neighbors.  When lying to yourself becomes a daily necessity, to lie to your neighbors becomes simply a fact of life. 

Witness the routine, almost offhanded lying by the modern religious right in their war against their gay and lesbian neighbors.  A good recent example is provided by Timothy Kincaid over at Box Turtle Bulletin

Reports are coming in that some people collecting signatures in opposition to the new marriage law in Maine are doing so under false pretenses (Sun Journal):

Gerard Caron walked into the Auburn Post Office and was met by a woman with a pair of clipboards.

“This petition is against gay marriage and this other petition is to support gay marriage,” she said, according to Caron.

The Poland man said he asked her why there would be a petition to support something that already happened, referring to the petition “in support of” gay marriage.

“She just kinda gave me a little grin and didn’t say anything,” he said.

Then he looked at the two petitions and discovered they were identical, both were supporting the repeal of the same-sex marriage law, Caron said.

There is no way this person honestly made that mistake.  It was a lie.  A simple, easy, toss-off lie for Jesus.  We are doing God’s work and that means we have to lie.  Eventually the lying becomes so ingrained in one’s day to day life that it goes unnoticed.  What was a pious duty becomes a habit of two-facedness.  Thus, during the Dover Pennsylvania Intelligent Design trial, Alan Bonsell, then on the Dover Pennsylvainia school board, may have actually believed it when he told Judge John Jones that he didn’t know who the money came from to purchase copies of Of Pandas and People, a creationist textbook, even though he himself had handed his father the check for $850 to buy them…a check that a former board member had given him, from the proceedings of his church’s fund raiser for the books

The judge also wanted to know why the money needed to be forwarded to his father, why Buckingham couldn’t have purchased the books himself.

Bonsell stammered.

"I still haven’t heard an answer from you," Jones said.

"He said he’d take it off the table," Bonsell said.

"You knew you were under oath?" Jones asked at one point.

Yeah he knew he was under oath. This is what fundamentalism brings people to.  More specifically, it’s what idolatry brings people to.  They are not worshiping God the creator.  They are worshiping a book.  After Ben Stein’s film Expelled came out, National Review columnist John Derbyshire smacked out into the open what his fellow movement conservatives are loath to speak of publicly

When talking about the creationists to people who don’t follow these controversies closely, I have found that the hardest thing to get across is the shifty, low-cunning aspect of the whole modern creationist enterprise. Individual creationists can be very nice people, though they get nicer the further away they are from the full-time core enterprise of modern creationism at the Discovery Institute. The enterprise as a whole, however, really doesn’t smell good. You notice this when you’re around it a lot. I shall give some more examples in a minute; but what accounts for all this dishonesty and misrepresentation?

My own theory is that the creationists have been morally corrupted by the constant effort of pretending not to be what they are. What they are, as is amply documented, is a pressure group for religious teaching in public schools.

The shifty…  That’s it exactly.  It’s the shifty.  But Derbyshire doesn’t dig deeply enough into the cause.  It isn’t simply creationists are pretending not to be a religious pressure group.  Morality in the fundamentalist world is a constant struggle to have it both ways.

All this was churning in my thoughts the other day when I came across this post by Marv Knox, Editor of the Baptist Standard.  Marv thinks it’s time for Baptists to talk about homosexuality.  Here’s what talking looks like to Marv…

I’m not a geneticist or a biologist, so I don’t know if someone is “born homosexual.” I do know many homosexuals who swear they did not choose their orientation and never would choose to feel this way. Still, a direct reading of Scripture says sexual relations are designed by God to be enjoyed between one woman and one man exclusively within the bonds of marriage. While I empathize with the pain and grief of homosexual friends, I believe the Bible says their option is to remain celibate. I do not belittle their suffering, because the sex drive is one of the most powerful forces on Earth, but I also cannot ignore what seems to me the plain teaching of Scripture. Likewise, I do not feel their same-sex yearnings alone comprise sin. Humans are responsible for actions, not feelings. So, we must differentiate between homosexuality and homosexual activity.

There’s lots here to unpack, but if the first thing that strikes you is how shallow this man’s empathy is for his gay "friends" you don’t grasp what it means to talk about…well…anything, in fundamentalist circles.  It all comes back to the bible, and ultimately there is no talk because there are no questions.  Questions aren’t permitted.  Only answers.  Does your job bite?  Well, Ephesians 6:5-8!  Are credit card companies ripping off the public?  Well, Psalm 37:21!  Origin of the species?  Well, Genesis 1:20!  Homosexuality?  Well, Leviticus 20:13! 

Talk about homosexuality? Sure…as long as we already know what the answers will be.  Talk to homosexuals?  By all means…to save them. You can talk all you want as long as you don’t listen.

Marv empathizes with the pain and grief of his homosexual friends.  Some of my best friends are…  But he is also perfectly willing to join in the pummeling of them because that’s what the bible tells him he must do.  This he regards as friendship.  Look at that, if you have the nerve.  His "friends" are in pain and grief.  Marv is not looking the other way while they suffer.  He’s looking right at it, adding his own righteous measure to it, and calling that empathy.  He must.  The bible calls us to love our neighbor, and to kill the homosexual…

Mark 12:31 And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these. 

Leviticus 20:13 If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them. 

"A direct reading of scripture" says both these things.  We must love.  We must kill.  Therefore, to love the homosexual, is to kill them.  Or at least, to make sure they understand that God condemns them.

And let it be said that gay people are killed every year in this country by murderers who claim some measure of justification in the bible’s condemnation of homosexuality.  But while actually killing his homosexual neighbor may be more then Marv’s conscience will endure, twisting the knife in their hearts can be seen as a kind of tough love, the moral qualms at seeing yourself doing it washed, washed, washed away in the knowledge that you are simply obeying God’s will.  That isn’t you bringing pain and grief into the lives of your homosexual neighbors, it’s the fallen state of humanity…it’s Satan…it’s God’s will…not mine…  I am twisting this knife into your heart because God wants me to love you…

Once upon a time the righteous believed that God’s will could be seen in nature’s design.  Then one day nature informed them they weren’t the center of the universe and they turned away in anger.  But as Jacob Bronowski once said, when you discard the test of fact in what a star is, you discard in it what a human is.  The commandments were not written on the stone, but in the stone, and in the light of the sun and stars, and in the songs of birds, and the color of the tiger’s eyes and the fish’s scales, and in our flesh and blood and bones, and in our hearts.  To turn away from the natural world is to turn away from your human identity, and everything fine and noble a human being can become.  Then you enter the wasteland, where inflicting pain and grief upon your neighbor is regarded as loving them…where the death of love is embraced as the purest essence of it.  No Marv, let’s not talk about homosexuality.  Let’s talk about how you became so callow.  You need to understand why that happened.

by Bruce | Link | React! (2)

April 9th, 2009

Why I Am Not A Christian

So I’m scanning Andrew Sullivan’s blog, and come across his latest Malkin Award nominee

"Last June, a "500-year flood" ushered millions of gallons of water through eastern Iowa. In Cedar Rapids alone, more than 25,000 individuals were displaced in one day. Hundreds of millions of dollars in property damage was done. The Flood of 2008 is arguably the most destructive disaster that the state of Iowa has seen — at least, that is, until last Friday… Flood waters erode the soil. "Gay marriage" erodes the soul. A flood impacts for a decade. "Same-sex marriage" destroys generations. A flood draws a community together. "Homosexual marriage" tears the family apart. Communities recover from floods. The promotion of un-natural unions has an eternal consequence," – pastor Eric Schumacker, Baptist Press.

I’m 55, and single, and it’s looking now as though that is how my life will always be.  And I blame hatemongers like Schumacker for that.  The ones for whom hating gay people just isn’t enough.  The ones whose cheap bar stool hatreds have to be shared by everyone for them to feel good about themselves.  The ones who teach gay kid like the one I was once upon a time to hate themselves, just as much as their haters do, driving their knives deep into hearts only just learning what it is to feel desire, and glimpse a world of romance, trust, and tender joyful companionship.  The ones that drive a knife deep into a kid’s capacity to love themselves, let alone anyone else, and who do it, with a smile in the name of God, and once again in the name of Jesus, and then one more time in name of love.  I might have found a love of my own by now, were it not for gutter crawling human hating maggots like pastor Schumacker, who had to make me, and other human beings like me who mate to our own sex instead of the opposite, into their scapegoats for all the cheap failures of character within themselves.  We had to be monsters, so he could be righteous…and monsters aren’t allowed to love.

It isn’t that I reject the theology, although I do.  Somehow, all the little rules and regulations that come along with being a Christian as the kook pews percieve Christianity to be, don’t translate into loving your neighbor.  Or rather…love consists of sticking a little dagger with Jesus’ name engraved on it into your neighbor’s heart and praising God.  The earth was not created in six days…the rocks in the ground say different, and if God is that which created all that is, all that was, and all that will ever be, then the rock, not the word, is the testament of God, the original manuscript, God’s own handwriting.  But even the word means only what the reader says it means, and it seems, especially so when it’s telling you to love your neighbor.  Ah yes…love…   Feel the love for their gay neighbors in this life here: "Gay marriage" erodes the soul.  No.  Hate does.  And I have fought so very hard to keep it from eroding mine all my life, and especially whenever someone tries to put their Jesus dagger into my heart in the name of love. 

We love you…stab stab stab…  Can you feel our love?  Stab Stab Stab…  You may never know how hard that personal inner battle has been for me, or the cost.  I get angry.  Livid.  And I am all alone with it, with no companion of the heart to talk to, no smile to look for whenever I need reminding that life is good, and that the haters, the bigots, the human vampires who suck the love out of everything they look at aren’t important.  No hand to put into mine.  No companion of the soul to put my arms around for a little while, and feel that life is good and the world makes sense after all.  I put my head down on the pillow every night it seems, just a little bit angrier then the night before, just a little bit angrier then I thought it was humanly possible to be angry.  And I am all alone with it.  Alone with it, and the memories of all the near misses I’ve had in my life, when love seemed like it might just be possible after all, only to have that chance snatched away from me once again, in the name of love.

The promotion of un-natural unions has an eternal consequence…  But murdering another person’s ability to love, and accept love from another, apparently does not in his bible.  I would give up everything I have to have had the love of my life beside me.  I would wash dishes for the rest of my life, dig ditches, clean pigsties, live without anything but the clothes on my back to have had his smile to look at, and his hand to hold every now and then.  I would spend forever in Hell, knowing that even an eternity of pain could not touch the love I had shared once.  I could survive in Hell forever with that smile to remember, those moments spent in the arms of the one I loved.  If you don’t know what I am talking about then you have never loved and I feel sorry for you.

Homosexual marriage" tears the family apart…  All the gay children who were thrown out the door like they were so much human garbage.  All the gay sons and daughters who will go to their grave remembering the sound of their parent’s voices as they told them to burn in hell.  All the grieving parents who will go to their graves remembering how they drove their own children to suicide for the glory of God.  All the lonely people, bearing the wounds on their hearts that keep them from reaching out to another in trust, and then in love.  I dated one of these once and naively thought that if I loved him wholeheartedly I could heal that wound.  But even love can’t heal a wound that someone blames their own existence for.

Un-natural unions…  I know what Jesus would want me to do.  I have to forgive him.  I understand it.  I understand the necessity of it.  Jesus, whatever you think he was, was absolutely right about this one thing: we must love one another.  This poor world tears itself apart a little more every day with hate.  He would tell me I have to forgive this man, and all the others like him, who put all those knife marks on my heart.  And I can’t.  This world is so much poorer, and meaner, and smaller for the likes of him, and all for nothing more then so Schumacker can imagine the monster he sees every morning in the bathroom mirror is some other person, some other convenient scapegoat.  So many broken hearts, turned into someone else’s angel wings.  So many lost dreams of love and peace and joy, turned into other people’s stepping stones to heaven.  They say God never gives us a greater burden then we can bear, and some days I think that what I am being spared is that I will never know how, I will never know why, some folks can walk to heaven on the broken hopes and dreams of their neighbors with little tears of joy in their eyes.  It’s not that I reject the theology, it’s that I can’t forgive.  I just…can’t.  And that is why I am not a Christian.

Instead of loving your enemies, treat your friends a little better.
-Edgar Watson Howe 


[Edited a tad…]

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Why I Am Not A Christian

February 12th, 2009

People Of Faith…People of McFaith

You knew the culture warriors were a bitter lot, didn’t you?  This came across one of the gay news lists I subscribe to this morning…

20 Oklahoma legislators vote against recording gay pastor’s prayer in House Journal

Scott Jones, pastor of the Cathedral of Hope-Oklahoma City, delivered the opening prayer Monday in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, according to this report on Jones’ blog, MyQuest. The Cathedral of Hope-OKC is a congregation of the United Church of Christ that spun off from Dallas’ Cathedral of Hope, known as the world’s largest gay church.

The Rev. Scott Jones thanked his legislator, Rep. Al McAffrey, who asked him to pray to open Wednesday’s House session and acknowledged several in the gallery – "dear friends, my wonderful parents, and my loving partner and fiance, Michael.”

Jones is the pastor of the Cathedral of Hope — Oklahoma City.

When McAffrey, D-Oklahoma City, asked in the session’s closing minutes that Jones’ prayer be made part of the House journal, the chamber’s official record, Rep. John Wright objected  

20 upstanding Oklahoma legislators objected to including Jones’ prayer in the record…a thing that is so routine nobody can remember when anyone ever objected to a prayer being included in the record. More Here. Note that the the Oklahoman (The State’s Most Trusted Newspaper) account of the incident characterizes the objectors as being merely "annoyed", and that their annoyance was over Jones’ opening remarks. But the prayer, which even "the state’s most trusted newspaper" characterized as a "generic prayer", was what they voted to remove from the record. You can almost hear Wright gritting his teeth when he tells "the state’s most trusted newspaper" that his motion was "not meant to be derogatory nor divisive nor in any way trying to cause diminishment of someone’s sense of self-worth."

Contacted later, Wright, R-Broken Arrow, said the practice of including a minister’s prayer in the House journal usually is reserved for Thursdays, the last workday for legislators.

That’s one side of his mouth. And here’s the other…spoken in practically the same breath…

"My actions were motivated by the faith, so now if you want to take it and cause the public to be inflamed about it, well, that’s at your feet,” Wright said.

Which brings me to This Post over at Pam’s House Blend. It’s about a book written by a researcher whose primary focus has been the authoritarian mindset.

Yesterday I came across a most interesting book, available on-line at The Authoritarians, which provides a significant body of scientific research that goes a long way to explaining why religious followers (and leaders) have such a hard time with us GLBT folk. The author [Robert Altemeyer] is a professor of psychology at the University of Manitoba and has been studying authoritarian people for decades as a psychological researcher.

Altermeyer is offering his book as a free download, or for $9.74 plus shipping for a bound edition.  Here’s a few excepts pinched off Pam’s…

p. 139-140: This chapter has presented my main research findings on religious fundamentalists. The first thing I want to emphasize, in light of the rest of this book, is that they are highly likely to be authoritarian followers. They are highly submissive to established authority, aggressive in the name of that authority, and conventional to the point of insisting everyone should behave as their authorities decide. They are fearful and self-righteous and have a lot of hostility in them that they readily direct toward various out-groups. They are easily incited, easily led, rather un-inclined to think for themselves, largely impervious to facts and reason, and rely instead on social support to maintain their beliefs. They bring strong loyalty to their in-groups, have thick-walled, highly compartmentalized minds, use a lot of double standards in their judgments, are surprisingly unprincipled at times, and are often hypocrites.

But they are also Teflon-coated when it comes to guilt. They are blind to themselves, ethnocentric and prejudiced, and as closed-minded as they are narrowminded. They can be woefully uninformed about things they oppose, but they prefer ignorance and want to make others become as ignorant as they. They are also surprisingly uninformed about the things they say they believe in, and deep, deep, deep down inside many of them have secret doubts about their core belief. But they are very happy, highly giving, and quite zealous. In fact, they are about the only zealous people around nowadays in North America, which explains a lot of their success in their endless (and necessary) pursuit of converts.

Emphasis mine.  Sound familiar?  The motion was not meant to be derogatory nor divisive nor in any way trying to cause diminishment of someone’s sense of self-worth…the practice of including a minister’s prayer in the House journal usually is reserved for Thursdays, the last workday for legislators…my actions were motivated by the faith, so now if you want to take it and cause the public to be inflamed about it, well, that’s at your feet…  Well that certainly explains that, doesn’t it senator?

I try, when I rail against this sort of thing here, to distinguish between fundamentalists and evangelicals, because the mindset between the two is categorically different.  Fundamentalists have certainty.  Evangelicals have faith.  They could not be more different things.  The fundamentalists’ certainty is hollow.  It is brittle.  It is delicate.  We are not gods after all, that we can have perfect understanding.  Uncertainty is the human condition, which is why we need faith.  But faith is also the companion to humility.  We are not gods.  We are human beings and we screw it up sometimes.  We need to keep that in mind from time to time, to insure we don’t screw it up even more.  But the fundamentalist is loath to admit their weaknesses other then to say by rote that they are sinners like everyone else…only forgiven.  This they know for a fact.  They are forgiven…and you are not.  Certainty.  But certainty collapses like a soap bubble at the slightest touch of reality.  So reality becomes the enemy.  So ‘truth’ becomes whatever keeps the bubble safe. 

Faith is not certainty.  Faith is trust, in the face of doubt.  Sometimes, terrible doubt.  Here is Fred Clark at his dazzling best, discussing the difference between the religious certitude of the authors of the Left Behind books, and faith…

Left Behind, pg. 196

The New Hope Village Church is being run by a post-rapture skeleton crew consisting of the apostate Rev. Bruce Barnes and get-back Loretta. Most of the following chapter consists of the long, sad saga of Barnes’ former sham-faith.

Before we dive into that extended monologue, a brief aside on the Rev. Barnes’ former vocation. He (re-)introduced himself to Rayford Steele as New Hope’s "visitation pastor," and repeatedly makes clear that his was a lesser, subordinate role to that of the senior pastor — the Rev. Vernon Billings. This is typical of the hierarchical structure among the staff at many nondenominational churches. This ranges from the senior pastor at the top (i.e., the pope) down through the various "associate" pastors, followed by "assistant" pastors — including visitation staff, like Bruce — on down to the youth pastor, who is just out of Bible College, wears jeans, and ranks somewhere just below the worship leader and just above the head usher.

"I was good at it," Bruce Barnes says of his role as visitation pastor.

This is not true. This cannot be true. All of Bruce Barnes’ extended testimony to Rayford and Chloe is premised on the idea that his getting left behind produced an epiphany of self-knowledge, but this newfound self-knowledge does not extend to the recognition that he cannot have been very comforting in his role as a half-assed poser of a visitation pastor.

Part of the problem here, I think, is that Tim LaHaye is, himself, was a senior pastor during his days at Scott Memorial Baptist Church in San Diego. I doubt he understands the nature of "visitation" ministry any better than Bruce Barnes does. Here’s how Barnes described that work:

"My job was to visit people in their homes and nursing homes and hospitals every day. I was good at it. I encouraged them, smiled at them, talked with them, prayed with them, even read Scripture to them."

Isn’t that nice? He smiled at them. But what Barnes/LaHaye don’t explain or seem to understand is why these people are stuck in nursing homes and hospitals. One gets the sense that an amiable visit from Barnes might have been welcomed by a parishioner who was, say, laid up for six weeks with a broken leg that would soon heal as good as new. But for a parishioner undergoing long-shot cancer treatments — adding the pain of chemotherapy to the already crippling pain of their disease in the hopes that maybe, maybe it would help them live long enough to see their youngest child graduate fifth grade — I can’t imagine that a visit from Guy Smiley would have been much help.

It’s not unusual for seminary students to experience a crisis of faith — and not every student’s faith survives this crisis. The common misperception is that this is due to all that book-larnin’ — that reading Bultmann or the latest from the Jesus Seminar is inherently dangerous to one’s faith. (Far safer to maintain a pose of anti-intellectual piety — which is, again, why many evangelicals prefer the safety of "Bible college" to the academic perils of seminary.) I suppose it’s theoretically possible that some suggestible seminarian might be overwhelmed by such exposure to liberal scholarship, but I’ve never met such a person. No, the real reason that seminary is a crucible for faith has nothing to do with intellectual study. It has to do with CPE.

CPE stands for "clinical pastoral education" — better known as the front lines. CPE has nothing to do with Vernon Billings’ job. It doesn’t involve preaching from a pulpit. It involves, rather, visitation — ministering to people in "nursing homes and hospitals."

Gordon Atkinson, the Real Live Preacher, refers to CPE as "Tear the Young Minister a New One" and describes how his own CPE experience led to a dark night of the soul:

… people facing death don’t give a fuck about your interpretation of II Timothy. Some take the “bloodied, but unbowed” road, but most dying people want to pray with the chaplain. And they don’t want weak-ass prayers either. They don’t want you to pray that God’s will be done. …

I threw myself into it. I prayed holding hands and cradling heads. I prayed with children and old men. I prayed with a man who lost his tongue to cancer. I lent him mine. I prayed my ass off. I had 50 variations of every prayer you could imagine, one hell of a repertoire.

I started noticing something. When the doctors said someone was going to die, they did. When they said 10 percent chance of survival, about 9 out of 10 died. The odds ran pretty much as predicted by the doctors. I mean, is this praying doing ANYTHING?

Compare that with Barnes’ facile summary of his role as a "visitation pastor." If Barnes ever met with someone who was dying, he doesn’t seem to have noticed. The RLP goes on to describe the final, fatal blow that CPE dealt to his young faith. Her name was Jenny:

Thirtysomething. Cute. New mother with two little kids. Breast cancer. Found it too late. Spread all over. Absolutely going to die.

Jenny had only one request. “I know I’m going to die, chaplain. I need time to finish this. It’s for my kids. Pray with me that God will give me the strength to finish it.”

She showed me the needlepoint pillow she was making for her children. It was an “alphabet blocks and apples” kind of thing. She knew she would not be there for them. Would not drop them off at kindergarten, would not see baseball games, would not help her daughter pick out her first bra. No weddings, no grandkids. Nothing.

She had this fantasy that her children would cherish this thing — sleep with it, snuggle it. Someday it might be lovingly put on display at her daughter’s wedding. Perhaps there would be a moment of silence. Some part of her would be there.

I was totally hooked. We prayed. We believed. Jesus, this was the kind of prayer you could believe in. We were like idiots and fools.

A couple of days later I went to see her only to find the room filled with doctors and nurses. She was having violent convulsions and terrible pain. I watched while she died hard. Real hard.

As the door shut, the last thing I saw was the unfinished needlepoint lying on the floor.

A faith that matters, a faith that is worth anything real, or anything at all, has to be able to account for Jenny’s story. Her story, after all, is everyone’s story — the details of time and place may differ somewhat, but not the ending. You and me, and everyone we know, we’re all going to die. Hard. A faith that cannot account for this must give way either to despair or denial.

The faith described in Left Behind cannot account for this. It’s all about denial. Proudly so. "Can you imagine," Irene Steele gushes, "Jesus coming back to get us before we die?"

Can you imagine a visitation pastor bringing such a message to hospitals and nursing homes and people like Jenny?

This is what is missing from the megamall cathedrals of the heartland.  They have plenty of religion, but no faith.  Because faith takes a degree of courage.  They are in love with the bible, for its physicality.  It can give them any answer they want to hear.  But it takes a bit of nerve to look God in the face, and ask a question.  Because you might get an answer.  Why no Pope Urban…actually the earth isn’t at the center of the universe…and oh, by the way…neither are you…

This is why they hate gay folk.  Because we are people of faith.  I’m not talking about religious faith particularly.  But…faith.  It’s why the sincere prayers of a gay pastor had to be stricken from the record in Oklahoma.  Not because he was a gay man, not because his church practiced heresy, but because he kept his faith despite the multitude of pulpits thundering at him their certainty that he was an abomination in the eyes of god.  And so they hate us all…not because we are homosexuals, but because no matter how many times the likes of Sally Kern say we are a bigger danger to America then terrorists, no matter how many times they spit in our faces in the halls of government, or on TV, no matter how many anti-gay amendments they pass, no matter how many anti-gay conferences they organize, no matter how many millions of anti-gay pamphlets they print and wave in our faces, and in our neighbors faces, we still rise every morning, and go on about our lives, hoping for a better world then the gutter they live in, and want us to live in too…working for it in whatever small way we can, with whatever small things we have within us to give to it, despite the horrific torrent of hatred that surrounds us…knowing, somehow, deep down in our hearts, that the better world is out there somewhere.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on People Of Faith…People of McFaith

January 3rd, 2009

There Can Be No Morality Without Religion

Via KOS…A wee post from Effective Measure, a public health forum, titled, What Else Did You Expect From Horny Teenagers?   Remember it, the next time you hear some crackpot argue that religion is a precondition of moral behavior…

Evolution has hard wired a drive to reproduce in young, healthy humans. That’s how the species survives. Maybe you don’t want them to have sex and maybe they even promise they won’t, but biology is more powerful than parents or governments.

Or even…religious dogmas.  Like those that insist evolution is nonsense because it contradicts the biblical story of creation…

A study published in the journal Pediatrics followed 289 teenagers who said in 1996 they took a virginity pledge and compared them with 645 non-pledgers, taking into account religious beliefs and attitudes to sex and birth control. This was done because previous studies didn’t factor in the possibility that teens who pledge may be quite different characteristics that affect sexual behavior than those who don’t. So this was an attempt to compare "like with like," the main difference being that one group had promised not to have sex while the other didn’t. "Virginity pledges" are a prominent feature of the Bush administration’s abstinence only sex education programs that didn’t teach contraceptive practices.

Five years after taking the pledge:

  • 82% of pledgers denied ever having taken the pledge
  • Pledgers and matched non-pledgers did not differ in rates of premarital sex, sexually transmitted disease, and oral and anal sex behaviors
  • Pledgers had 0.1 fewer sexual partners in the past year but did not differ from non-pledgers in the number of lifetime sexual partners and the age of first sex (Jennifer Warner, WebMD News)

There was one significant difference between the pledge and non-pledge group, however. They were less likely to use condoms or any form of birth control when they did have sex.

You can’t blame them. No one told them how.

Here’s the thing you need to notice about this: Eighty-two percent of them denied ever having taken the pledge.  Not that they broke the pledge and had sex anyway, but that they denied they’d made it.  Eighty.  Two.  Percent.

This is where fundamentalism finds its dead end.  You can accept that the bible is literally true or you can accept the natural world as it really is but you can’t accept them both.  Fundamentalism won’t have it.  The simple, stark, finger of God writing it on the wall truth is this: fundamentalism corrupts its followers.  It has to.  When confronted by a fact, the honest thing to do, the moral thing, is knowledge it.  But fundamentalism demands that you deny any fact that contradicts its own truths.  What it instills in a person isn’t either a love or fear of god, but a casual acceptance of deception, first as a religious duty, then as a necessary part of every day life.  See it in Alan Bonsell testifying under oath that he did not know where the money had been raised to donate sixty copies of Of Pandas and People to his school’s library.  See it in the Proposition 8 advertisements that claimed same sex marriage would result in the forcing of churches to marry homosexuals.  See it in the eighty-two percent of teenagers in that study who denied they’d ever taken a virginity pledge.  Their religion didn’t change their sexual behavior.  It didn’t make them more moral.  It made them less likely to use condoms, more likely to catch and spread VD, more likely to get each other pregnant, and more willing to lie.  What their religion did for them in short, was take away their brakes.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on There Can Be No Morality Without Religion

November 18th, 2008

God Hates The Brains…Er…That He Gave Us…

The problem with his world is that too many people are getting an education…

Educated Catholics have sown dissent and confusion in the Church, claims bishop

The Rt Rev Patrick O’Donoghue, the Bishop of Lancaster, has claimed that graduates are spreading skepticism and sowing dissent. Instead of following the Church’s teaching they are "hedonistic", "selfish" and "egocentric", he said.

Bishop O’Donoghue, who has recently published a report on how to renew Catholicism in Britain, argued that mass education has led to "sickness in the Church and wider society".

"What we have witnessed in Western societies since the end of the Second World War is the development of mass education on a scale unprecedented in human history – resulting in economic growth, scientific and technological advances, and the cultural and social enrichment of billions of people’s lives," he said.

"However, every human endeavor has a dark side, due to original sin and concupiscence. In the case of education, we can see its distortion through the widespread dissemination of radical skepticism, positivism, utilitarianism and relativism.

"Taken together, these intellectual trends have resulted in a fragmented society that marginalizes God, with many people mistakenly thinking they can live happy and productive lives without him.

"It shouldn’t surprise us that the shadows cast by the distortion of education, and corresponding societal changes, have also touched members of the Church. As Pope Benedict XVI puts it, even in the Church we find hedonism, selfishness and egocentric behavior."

Emphasis mine…so you know he’s not just talking about Catholics there.   The problem is simple.  How do you convince people that you’re better qualified to run their lives then they are, when they have brains enough to see right through you?  You can’t.

Religion doesn’t necessarily have to be an enemy of the human soul.  There is spirituality that seeks to nurture the best within us…that "better angel", and councils us to embrace our human nature, understand both its limitations and its potential, its darkness and its light, and treat them both with care and humility.  There is spirituality that encourages us and reach for the higher ground within, while acknowledging the Pit we are all vulnerable to.  But that is different from spirituality that teaches us to hate ourselves, so that others can rule over us.  Religion isn’t the only thing that can attack our souls in that way, but religions like that are out there and we have to watch out for them because they are poison.  But not all religion is poison. 

Ayn Rand said that all we need, all we should ever look to, is reason.  But we are rational beings, In Addition To everything else we are.  The modern brain is all that which makes us unique from the other animals of planet Earth, and also all that which we share with them, and have for hundreds of millions of years.  We are indivisible beings of intellect and beast, mind and body, present and past.  It is how we were created.  By one legend, risen up from the dust of the earth.  But the dust of the earth was already very old, unimaginably old, when we took our first breath and opened our eyes.  We are that vast unknowable past and the present both.  We are matter and spirit combined.  You can’t divide us down the middle without killing the human within.  We are human, precisely because we are all of these things.  We need spirituality that teaches us to treat ourselves, treat our human nature, with care, understanding, and a little humility.

But some religion, arrogantly, greedily, tries instead to pit one part of ourselves against the others, and in the process it rips our humanity apart.  Take away our minds and we become useful puppets, perhaps.  But take our minds from us and the spirit within withers and dies.  The mind needs the spirit, the spirit needs the mind.  Without one or the other we become ghosts.  Empty, tortured, soulless ghosts.  Just right for tyrants to leach their power dreams from.  Mr. O’Donoghue’s complaint isn’t that people are more selfish, it’s that they are less gullible.  When you earn your living teaching people to hate being human, so they will give you money in exchange for being forgiven for being human, you need a lot of gullible people. 

by Bruce | Link | React! (1)

November 15th, 2008

The Mormon Amendment To The California Constitution

The more people look at what happened in California, the more the vast scope of Mormon involvement in anti-gay politics, both in terms of money and organizational prowess, becomes known.  In this article in Today’s New York Times, the bottom line is made perfectly clear: without the vigorous support of the Mormon church, Proposition 8 would have failed.  The Mormon church wrote its will into the constitution of the state of California though lies and stealth, and lots and lots of money that its members were ordered to contribute…

Mormons Tipped Scale in Ban on Gay Marriage

As proponents of same-sex marriage across the country planned protests on Saturday against the ban, interviews with the main forces behind the ballot measure showed how close its backers believe it came to defeat — and the extraordinary role Mormons played in helping to pass it with money, institutional support and dedicated volunteers.

“We’ve spoken out on other issues, we’ve spoken out on abortion, we’ve spoken out on those other kinds of things,” said Michael R. Otterson, the managing director of public affairs for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as the Mormons are formally called, in Salt Lake City. “But we don’t get involved to the degree we did on this.”

Jeff Flint, another strategist with Protect Marriage, estimated that Mormons made up 80 percent to 90 percent of the early volunteers who walked door-to-door in election precincts.

The canvass work could be exacting and highly detailed. Many Mormon wards in California, not unlike Roman Catholic parishes, were assigned two ZIP codes to cover. Volunteers in one ward, according to training documents written by a Protect Marriage volunteer, obtained by people opposed to Proposition 8 and shown to The New York Times, had tasks ranging from “walkers,” assigned to knock on doors; to “sellers,” who would work with undecided voters later on; and to “closers,” who would get people to the polls on Election Day.

Suggested talking points were equally precise. If initial contact indicated a prospective voter believed God created marriage, the church volunteers were instructed to emphasize that Proposition 8 would restore the definition of marriage God intended.

But if a voter indicated human beings created marriage, Script B would roll instead…

…the “Yes” side also initially faced apathy from middle-of-the-road California voters who were largely unconcerned about same-sex marriage. The overall sense of the voters in the beginning of the campaign, Mr. Schubert said, was “Who cares? I’m not gay.”

To counter that, advertisements for the “Yes” campaign also used hypothetical consequences of same-sex marriage, painting the specter of churches’ losing tax exempt status or people “sued for personal beliefs” or objections to same-sex marriage, claims that were made with little further explanation.

Another of the advertisements used video of an elementary school field trip to a teacher’s same-sex wedding in San Francisco to reinforce the idea that same-sex marriage would be taught to young children.

“We bet the campaign on education,” Mr. Schubert said.

They lied through their teeth and they threw a torrent of hate and Mormon church money into it and they steamrollered over the rights of devoted loving couples so they could become gods in their own universe someday.  And now they’re upset that people are taking the fight back to them.

Mr. Ashton described the protests by same-sex marriage advocates as off-putting. “I think that shows colors,” Mr. Ashton said. “By their fruit, ye shall know them.”

And just what would you do, you gutter crawling bigot, if someone cut your ring finger off?   Laugh it off?  Shake the other guy’s hand?  No you wouldn’t.  But you expect us to roll over and play dead because we’re homosexuals and homosexuals don’t have feelings, and homosexuals don’t love, they just have sex.  There is no reason for us to be angry with you, because you didn’t take anything sacred away from us, because we don’t feel love the way you do, because we’re not human like you are.  We’re Satan’s followers, and we don’t have human emotions like you Future Gods In Training do.

Fruit…did you say?  Fuck you Ashton.  I’ve got your fruit right here.  You sow poison in the earth, you get poison back out of it.  Now eat it.  Or as another gay man, James Baldwin once said…

People who treat other people as less than human must not be surprised when the bread they have cast on the waters comes floating back to them, poisoned.

Baldwin wouldn’t have been allowed in one of your churches, even if he wasn’t gay, because according to your…prophets…black people were cursed by God and that’s why their skin is black.  Your church has been elevating the cheapshit prejudices of its barstool prophets into holy writ for generations and now and a reckoning is long overdue. This isn’t your private universe, it’s the United States of America and it belongs to all of us, not just you White And Delightsome Gods In Waiting.  The United States of America is not your private universe, and you are not gods, however highly you might think of yourselves.  So fuck off.

by Bruce | Link | React! (7)

November 14th, 2008

Reaping What You Have Sown…(continued)

And the unsurprises just keep on coming.  You know the old story about how so many right wing anti-gay warriors turn out to have gay children?  Phillys Schlafly?  Alan Keyes?  Charles Socarides, late of NARTH?  Recall how the man who spear headed California Proposition 22, which was the first swing at same-sex marriages back in 2000, Pete Knight, turned out to have had a gay son?  

Isn’t it interesting how so many of the most vitirolic gay haters have gay children of their own?  Like…they’re punishing their kids, by waging war on the entire gay community?  Like…all of us have to bleed, because hating their own flesh and blood just isn’t good enough?  Isn’t it so very…unsurprising…that 67 year old Gary Lawrence, Mormon, California State LDS Grassroots Director, and prominent organizer of the Proposition 8 campaign, has a gay son?  Surprise, surprise, surprise.

It’s worth remembering in the wake of Proposition 8, that Mormon abuse of their own gay children has been well known for some time now.  If you thought it was tough growing up gay in a Southern Baptist household, just listen to the stories of gay Mormon kids.  And…(Via Pam’s House Blend), like all the children of the anti-gay culture war, this particular son has his own heartbreaking story to tell

Matthew Lawrence, 28, of Santa Ana, California is just one of approximately 500 people who have contacted Signing for Something ( http://www.signingforsomething… )in the last few days to announce his resignation from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints because of the Mormon Church’s handling of and involvement in the gay marriage issue.  Matthew is gay and is the son of Gary Lawrence, 67, who is the "State LDS Grassroots Director" for the state of California.  (See… ).

Matthew Lawrence, in an e-mail interview with this diarist, said that although he is "extremely upset and frustrated" with his family and that he has "cut off communication with them," that "at the end of the day, I do love them."  The elder Lawrence was also the Mormon Church’s point man for the Prop 22 campaign in 2000.  Matt says, "I love my family so much, but it’s hard to not take this personally.  We had a brief falling-out over Prop. 22, but that got mended.  But two anti-gay initiatives in eight years, it’s impossible not to feel attacked."

Matthew was particularly hurt when "my father said that opponents of Prop. 8 are akin to Lucifer’s followers in the pre-existence."  (Printed in Meridian Magazine online, and reported in the Salt Lake Tribune… and other newspapers). Matthew’s plea to his father and others is "We can all agree to disagree and respect each other’s informed opinions and decisions, but don’t put me and Satan in the same sentence please." 

"This issue isn’t about gay marriage," writes Matthew. " This is about certain religious factions that believe homosexuality is disgusting, immoral and wrong and needs to be stamped out. . . .  It’s a problem to be ‘fixed.’" Matthew writes that his family sent him to multiple counselors during his youth, and even sent him to live with relatives in Utah which he writes was an attempt to "straighten me out" by living with what he describes as "homophobic cousins."  He said while in Utah it wasn’t unusual for his cousin to call him a "faggot" at school and that his "aunt and uncle did nothing to discourage his behavior." 

…don’t put me and Satan in the same sentence please.  Is this too much to ask?  Never mind the gay stranger down the street who wears horns every time you set eyes on them.  Never mind that same-sex couple you can casually condemn to eternal hellfire because they’re not part of your own family, but someone else’s, and it’s always easy to toss someone else’s children, someone else’s loved ones, into the fiery lake for all eternity.  Is it too much to ask you to stop demonizing your own children?  Is it too much to ask you to stop putting your righteous knives into their hearts too?  They want your love…they Need your love.  Can you stop putting them side by side with Satan in your eyes?  In your hearts?  At long last, is this too much to ask?



by Bruce | Link | React! (5)

November 12th, 2008

Imagine A Religion Based On Anime, LOL Cats, And Blogs…

Via Tom Tomorrow…  Tony Ortega over at The Village Voice blog gives a brief lesson in why Mormon theology assumes the form it does.  Basically, Smith cobbled it together from several fads that were just then sweeping the nation…

One of our favorite authors in the whole world, the late Fawn Brodie*, did the world a service by helping us all understand a really fascinating time in our country’s history — the wild, wild 1820’s.

Specifically, Brodie points out that three national fads had an especially tight grip on the minds of people in western New York in the early 1820s.

The first one is, Where did all these Indians come from?   After being practically wiped out in the New England states, they were no longer viewed as a threat, and in fact had just then begun to fall victim to a first wave of cheap romanticism.  James Fenimore Cooper, who Mark Twain also mocked scathingly, being a good example.  But more importantly, various men of the cloth had begun wondering where these dark skinned natives had come from, and of far greater importance, why the bible made no mention of them.  Ah…perhaps they are one of the lost tribes of Israel…

The second fad came about from news reports of the strange system of writing found in ancient Egyptian ruins.  The mysterious hieroglyphs.  The Rosetta Stone had been discovered, but it would still be years before someone finally figured out that the hieroglyphs represented vocalizations in the same way that letters of most modern alphabets do.  So there was endless fascinated speculation about what the hieroglyphs said.  Perhaps they held the key to the mysteries of the ancient world…perhaps they contained profound ancient wisdom long lost to us…

The third fad was a preoccupation with the treasure of the first Spanish explorers.  It was known that the Conquistadors had raped the ancient Mayan and Inca civilizations and carted back tons of gold to Spain.  But perhaps they had also buried some of it…somewhere…Hey…maybe right in my own back yard!!!

This third archaeological fad was not only amplified by the other two, it provided fertile ground for flim-flam artists. What better way to romanticize the (more exciting) past than to daydream about Indian gold or Spanish doubloons hidden away somewhere on your back forty? Quick to take advantage of that longing was an army of itinerant scammers: a man would arrive at a farm, claim to be a fortune-teller, and swear that he sensed the presence of buried treasure nearby. Some set the hook by showing the gullible a special "seer stone" that the fortune-teller claimed he could use to zero-in on buried gold. For a substantial fee, he’d dig up what was sure to be a whole cache of treasure that would make the farmer very rich. After being paid that fee, naturally, the fortune-teller would then make himself scarce. Farmers in western New York, in particular, seemed to be susceptible to the scam.

Hey…doesn’t this sound like the M.O. of a certain young man named Smith…


A man named Joseph Smith — who already had a court record for scamming a farmer in the buried-gold scheme — came forward and claimed that an angel had come to him four years earlier with a revelation.

What did the angel ask Smith to do? Are you ready?

— The angel, Smith said, directed him where to dig up a buried treasure, a set of gold tablets. (See: Fad Number Three, above.)

— The tablets were etched in a strange code that looked remarkably like Egyptian hieroglyphs. (See: Fad Number Two.)

— The angel gave Smith a special pair of seer stones that enabled him to read the hieroglyphs as easily as if he were reading English (a really creative combo of Fad Two and Fad Three).

— And what did the tablets describe? Have you guessed? Yes! It was the answer to the ultimate riddle, Fad Numero Uno: The super-cool, heretofore unknown and like, bizarre actual origin of North America’s Indian tribes!

Can I get an L-D-S!

Pray for future generations that no new religion is born in America in this day and age.  Ortega avers that all this may be why the Mormon church needs a convenient scapegoat…even more so then other American religious right theocrats…

It’s complicated. But anyway, try to understand that if your entire worldview was based on the completely unreliable ravings of an early 19th-century flim-flam artist with a harem fetish, you too might have a burning inferiority about your belief system, and you might manifest that inferiority by picking on the queers, who make an easy target and scare the bejesus out of your typical Mormon.

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain…look at all those queers trying to get married!!!

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Imagine A Religion Based On Anime, LOL Cats, And Blogs…

Reaping What You Have Sown…(continued)

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints didn’t just rend the marriages of thousands of devoted, loving same sex couples.  They have ground under foot a good many longstanding community ties to local businesses too…

El Coyote: An Uncompromising Faith

About 75 people showed up for the early lunch at El Coyote Cafe to listen to Marjorie Christoffersen explain her decision to contribute to the Yes on 8 Campaign. Most of those attending were men who had been customers of Margie’s restaurant for many years. Some were children of Mormons or had been raised in the faith. And while there was at least one who just wanted to vent his anger, most truly wanted to hear Margie out and, if possible, find a solution.

El Coyote Cafe has been a little neighborhood landmark for generations.  Timothy Kincaid over at Box Turtle Bulletin, when news of Christoffersen’s donation first became public, said of it…

El Coyote Café is a Los Angeles landmark. Over 75 years old, and still family owned, it is perhaps best known as the site of Sharon Tate’s last meal.

Locals know it as a favorite of many of who just want a meal and a drink, and don’t want to pay much to get it. A taco and enchilada with rice and beans is $9.50; pair that up with a margarita and you’re out the door for less than twenty bucks.

El Coyote is also delightfully tacky with a vast collection of “art”, the kind that includes paintings with windows that light up and frames made of shells. The waitresses wear huge Spanish dresses with lots of frills and most have been there for decades. It’s loud, it’s high in fat content and calories, it’s unsophisticated, and it’s always always busy.

But what makes El Coyote a delight is that its one of those places that are loved by straights and gays alike…

No more.  Marjorie’s is another of those thousand dollar donations that you just can’t ignore or write off as a simple response to the Mormon church’s call to support 8.  A thousand dollars isn’t pocket change.  You throw that kind of money at it, because you really want to see it pass.

And you certainly don’t want to see it undone afterward…

The first question to Margie was if she would be willing to make a personal contribution to the efforts to reverse the proposition. She responded, “I have to be faithful to my views and my church”, and quickly left the room. Her daughters remained behind, looking angry, dismissive, and indignant that those there would question their mother or them. They answered no questions nor made any statements.

And so it goes…

It was a very sad room that left today. I did not speak to anyone who said that they would continue to patronize the restaurant. They felt that they could no longer profit a woman who used their support to take away their rights. Many felt betrayed, some had lost a home.

No one stayed for lunch.

This is the sort of thing that leaves permanent wounds in a community.  The Mormon church charged like a bull in a china shop through one state after another, one community after another, one family after another, with no regard or compunction for the damage it was inflicting. All the broken hearts left in the wake of Proposition 8, the wounds of the children, the wounds of the parents, the wounds of brothers, sisters, friends, neighbors, are so much worthless rubbish…the rubble righteous men are regrettably compelled to step over on their way to attaining godhood.  Same sex couples had to be shut out of the marriage chapel.  Same sex love had to be denied a place in the heart of every neighborhood, every home.  If we don’t bleed, they aren’t righteous.  If the Mormon leadership cannot rip to shreds our hopes and dreams of love, then how on earth will their god ever know how devoted they are to him?  Our ring fingers had to be cut off, so they could become gods of their own private universes.  What matters the wreckage a single community, or of thousands of communities, when your own godhood is at stake?

Word of the boycott has spread around websites and Facebook. "We should put our money where our mouth AND support is AND NOT AT EL COYOTE," says a posting on one activist’s website.

The Times also received a letter threatening a boycott of an El Pollo Loco whose owner apparently contributed to the Prop. 8 campaign.

Sonja Eddings Brown of said the boycott threats have extended beyond eateries.

“We have received calls today from our members in Greater Los Angeles and other parts of the state indicating that today their businesses are being hurt because they contributed money,” she said. “People who contributed have been receiving calls from people dropping their business with them.”

It matters not.  Someday, they will be made gods for doing this.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Reaping What You Have Sown…(continued)

Reaping What You Have Sown…

He that diligently seeketh good procureth favour:
but he that seeketh mischief, it shall come unto him.

He that trusteth in his riches shall fall;
but the righteous shall flourish as a branch.

He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind…


From Daily KOS…  It isn’t just same sex families that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has torn asunder…

Mormons Resigning Despite Strong Heritage, Citing ‘Hatred’ by LDS Church

Mormons continued to register their resignations with, and post resignation letters to Signing for Something this week, citing "hatred" and "discrimination" among their chief reasons for quitting the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  These resignations come among the continuing backlash against the Mormon Church’s involvement in passing California’s Proposition 8 last week to take away the right of civil marriage for gays and lesbians.

Excepts of a few recent letters are posted here, with links to the full letters.

I am a gay man who, after serving a [Mormon] mission to the Netherlands, left the mormon church (although not officially) as they have no place for me. I’ve always felt that I didn’t need to upset my family or make waves by requesting that my name be removed from the records. After all, I didn’t recognize the church’s authority anymore so what was the point?

Since the LDS church has decided to VERY PUBLICLY extend their hatred beyond their realm I’ve decided that the time has come to make my voice heard, too. I resigned membership recently as has one of my friends from California who was recently married to his partner of 28 years.  See complete letter here:…

But now I see that there isn’t a community or a place for me. There’s not a place for the people I love. The Church is not a place for anybody who believes in equal rights and the Constitution of the United States of America. The Church is not pro-marriage, it is anti-gay. The leadership fights for bigotry and hate. The God I grew up with was perfect in His Love and Justice. Shame on the men who act so disgracefully in His name.  See complete letter here:…

Entire families are resigning:

As a member of the LDS church I was always taught to love one another and to treat everyone with a certain amount of respect. The position the church took on this particular issue went against everything I learned from the church. Not only was the church’s position discriminatory, but it was also hateful.

I found it extremely strange that it took the church 14 years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act to allow black members to hold the priesthood. I just excused this inaction as a mistake, but now as I see history repeat itself I realize that it wasn’t a mistake and the Mormon Church will always discriminate.

My whole family has been traumatized by the church’s efforts and will be sending in letters of resignations.  See the complete letter here:…

Emotions run deep.

For 45 years I served in every calling I was asked, in leadership, in service, in every capacity. I did it because I knew I was serving my Heavenly Father, a loving God. I continue to serve him and in doing so, I am resigning from this organization that I believe to be corrupt from the egos of mere men, that has strayed so far from its’ original mission to serve God and His people.  See the complete letter here:…

Resigning despite deep roots and strong ties:

I served an honorable and successful mission for the Church, and I am well aware of what is at stake. Though I will never forget–and do not regret–that experience, I cannot in good conscience remain a member of the Church.

I do not take this step lightly. My family connection with the Church is old and deep: my forebears were among the first handcart pioneers, arriving in the Salt Lake Valley in September of 1856. They endured much hardship for what they believed to be a just and righteous cause, and I am proud of that heritage. It is now time for me to honor their memory and take a stand for what I myself believe to be right.

The Church’s involvement in the effort to rescind a basic Constitutional right from California citizens is shameful and misguided. These are people whose desire to marry would only strengthen that civil institution, and would benefit and further family stability. And the campaign to deny them this right was a campaign of fear and lies, for which The Church should feel the deepest shame.

In offering their imprimatur to a mendacious, divisive, and unworthy political cause, Church leaders have, it seems to me, gone against both the spirit and the letter of Scripture, to wit:

"We believe that religion is instituted of God; and that men are amenable to him, and to him only, for the exercise of it, unless their religious opinions prompt them to infringe upon the rights and liberties of others;" See complete letter here:…

Even some not resigning are suffering abuse from family members:

I believe in the rights of all people, that two homosexual people who love and want to be with each other should have the right to do so. I believe that this right should be granted unto all people . . . .Every day as I drove to and from school I would pass by a major intersection where members of my church took turns holding signs promoting Prop 8 and telling fellow supporters to honk in agreement. . . . One day I came home and my brother was at our home visiting with his children. He bluntly asked me if I had honked or not. I was startled by his accusing tone and told him I had not. His eyes took on a blind rage as he demanded the reason to why I hadn’t honked. I lied and told him my horn wasn’t working but he didn’t buy it. He told me with a vinomous voice, "that is the stupidest and worst excuse i’ve ever heard." It was difficult for me to hold my tongue as he continued to harrass me, but soon I simply left the room telling him I had homework to do. At this point I knew that my true political beliefs could never be revealed to my family. . . . I will not resign from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints because I truly do love my religion, but that does not mean that I am willing to go against everything I know to be right just because our prophet has told me to. I think the church has no right to assume the inner thinkings of its members and take such an open stand of any political issue. . . . I love God, I love ALL people, I try to live the way God wants me to, I pray, I repent, I read the scriptures, I go to church. . . .I WILL NOT BE TOLD WHAT TO BELIEVE! So here I am, going against the church i’ve stood up for so many times, and for what? for the rights of the people, our people, we as the people. So sorry Bretheren, I love you, but I will not at this time stand by you as you attempt to make me your soldier of a war I don’t wish to fight. . . . I WILL STAND FOR WHAT I BELIEVE IN! Whether you will stand by me or stand against me, I WILL PREVAIL! And as my sunday school teachers have always taught me, "if you don’t stand for something, you will fall for everything." This is me standing, this is me choosing a side, and this is me telling all people that I WILL NOT STAY SILENT!  See the entire letter here:…

I guess they won’t have to excommunicate so many people after all…


by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Reaping What You Have Sown…

Well, Well…Isn’t This So Very…Unsurprising…

Just one more wee little nugget of information concerning that art director who just resigned from the California Music Theater after it was discovered that he’d given one-thousand dollars to support Proposition 8

Lisa West, regional spokeswoman for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said Eckern is a member "in very good standing" and the Mormon church supports his decision to resign. 

Now you know how he could work side by side with gay people and shake their hands and smile in their faces, take their money, then cut off their ring fingers and wonder why everyone is so angry with him…

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Well, Well…Isn’t This So Very…Unsurprising…

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