Monday, December 15, 2008

"God Hates WHO?!" December 13 Counter-protest by Project 12

A handful of Project 12 students and staff went into the heart of downtown Chicago Saturday, December 13, to again stand against the Westboro Baptist Church's defamation of the character of God. (Sorry, no photos... we did get some video which I am trying to get copied for the web.)

Westboro Baptist, actually one extended family with a patriarch, Fred Phelps, became known initially for their "God Hates Fags" signs and website. But when they began picketing the funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq, carrying signs such as "Thank God for Dead Soldiers." If you feel an adrenaline rush, and not of a good kind, when thinking on such things, consider that Westboro finds that reaction just what they're looking for.

We focused our protest upon the fact that they misrepresent the Bible and God by nearly everything they say. This wasn't lost on passers-by, a number of whom thanked us.

One of our Project 12 students, Rebecca, attempted to communicate with an older woman leading the group (a woman I believe is Fred Phelps' daughter, and a spokesperson for Westboro). Rebecca said to her, "God is love."

Her response, delivered in the most disdain-laden tone imaginable: "Oooo, my itty bitty private parts!"

Rebecca's response? "But God is love!"

And later, on the way home in the van, Rebecca commented: "How can they be so lost that they don't know God is love? That's so sad!"

Pray for this group. They are easy to hate back, but that "natural" response isn't the right one.

I'll try to get back to blogging on more than Westboro...

Monday, December 08, 2008

Only one of us could go today to protest the "God Hates Fags (and everyone else)" people

Last Thursday, a van load of us Project12ers went downtown to protest a group called "God Hates Fags." The latter, however, didn't show as they'd said they would (though did show up elsewhere later in the day after we'd gone home).

Today, I couldn't get our Project 12 students sprung from their job and class responsibilities to go downtown with me. The G. H. F. people again had promised to show up, this time to picket President-Elect Barack Obama, who they (so predictably) say is the Antichrist.

And they were there this time as advertised.

"God Hates Fags"... and Barack Obama. Fred Phelps' Westboro Baptist Church
displays their signs on the corner of Michigan Avenue and Wabash, Dec. 8, 2008.
[Photo: Jon Trott]


I took up a spot across the street from them, not wanting anyone to think I was part of their group. My own signs read "Gays are Our Neighbors" and "Jesus' Answer to Hate was the Cross." Holding both signs was awkward, and it was quite cold, but since Monday had also prevented anyone else from showing up in opposition to Westboro, I stayed until they left around an hour after it began.

Chicago's well-known gay newspaper, Windy City Times, did cover the event (the reporter is an old friend from days when she was part of Queer to the Left and we worked on homelessness and poverty issues). A van pulled up, a guy jumped out and... well, let's say what he did with a water bottle mimicked one of Westboro's signs. A few minutes later, that van pulled up to me and I noted they were filming. Those inside told me they were doing footage for Showtime, asked me for a waiver (which I gave), and then drove off.

I handed out fliers to a few passers-by, mostly those who saw I was in opposition to Westboro and stopped to thank me. (The flier's contents I've posted in my Dec. 4 bit on Westboro.)

We hope to be present when Westboro shows up again in Chicago, perhaps this Saturday. By the way, Westboro... God LOVES you. Just thought you should know.

People Who Are Kind to Me: Thanks.

Two recent "15 minutes of fame" moments for me...

1. Christianity Today's Brandon O'Brien came to JPUSA and interviewed me, then put his reputation in further danger by actually posting a podcast of part of that interview on Audio Ur. Apparently even that isn't enough for him, as Leadership Journal's Winter 2009 issue will apparently offer even more of my brilliant babblings.

2. While I'm not a Christian Universalist, I do appreciate an apparently C. U. blog, Mercy Not Sacrifice, noting my blog entries re homosexuality and the Christian Right.

Okay, now that I've proven yet again that humility is not one of my strong suits, I'll shut up. But thanks, guys.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

NO SHOW!! Fred Phelps' "God Hates Fags" Fails to Appear in Chicago After All...

Where was everybody?!

A few passers-by were the only people we initially saw where the "God Hates Fags" /
Westboro Baptist Church had said on its website it would march
against Barack Obama. Ah, well. We'll save our signs and try again!


As I posted yesterday, our Project 12 program's students went downtown today in order to picket the picketers. The infamous Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church (actually all members of his own biological family), were set to tell Barack Obama, the Canadian embassy, the Chinese embassy, and the Democratic National Party, that Phelps' gawd hates them. We thought Jesus ought to be represented. So we made signs, wrote up a press flier, and drove our old rickety Project 12 van downtown to the Federal Building on South Dearborn.

But... We were there. Numbing cold weather was there. Lots and lots of police were there. Barracades were there. After a while a self-proclaimed satanic group called "S. I. N." (Sodomite Insurgency Network) was there. (We tried to talk with them but they had no interest in our message.) Who was not there, however? Westboro Baptist Church. No idea on why.

UPDATE: It appears that Westboro changed the time of the event as well as the targets of it. They may or may not be appearing later today (near noon) at 233 N. Michigan Avenue. That is a severe scale-back from what had been planned. They also plan (if they're to be believed) to appear at the same spot a number of times this month (as this pdf from their website lists).

At any rate, here we were:


Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Project 12 Response to "God Hates Fags" Chicago-area Protests

Project 12 students will be gathering in downtown Chicago tomorrow to voice our opposition to the message of Fred Phelps’ Westboro Baptist Church. The latter will be picketing the offices of Barack Obama, the Canadian and Chinese embassys, and the Democratic Party headquarters.

Below is the text of a flier we will hand out at tomorrow’s events downtown. Hopefully, photos and perhaps even video will appear here and on http://project12.wordpress.com tomorrow.

God loves Fred Phelps.
God hates Fred’s hate.

God commands us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. We affirm that loving our neighbor means robustly loving the homosexual, the non-Christian, even loving Fred Phelps and his family. This is the message we of Project 12 (a discipleship program sponsored by Chicago’s Jesus People USA Evangelical Covenant Church), offer here today. Our message is an attempt at one Christian response to the very unchristian message of Westboro Baptist Church.

Fred Phelps and his extended family misrepresent both God and the Bible in their continuing assault on homosexuals, Jews, U. S. servicewomen and servicemen, other Christians, Swedes (?), and various others. Selective and out of context interpretation of Scriptures does not make one’s own moral darkness into Christian theology. From our biblical viewpoint, Mr. Phelps’ teachings are not Christian in any way, shape, or form.

We mourn the spiritual wasteland Mr. Phelps has led his family into, as well as the incredible pain he and his family have inflicted on others all over the world. Mr. Phelps over and over again violates the heart of the gospel – Grace.

The book of Proverbs, Chapter 26:4-5, says two things about someone who refuses wisdom:

“Do not answer fools according to their folly,
or you will be a fool yourself.”

And,

“Answer fools according to their folly,
or they will be wise in their own eyes.”

In short, Project12 understands that to come here today is somewhat of a fool’s errand. By speaking out we are calling more attention to Mr. Phelps, thereby fulfilling his felt need for media attention. That is frustrating. But as the second half of the above verses point out, if we do not answer Mr. Phelps’ assault on our neighbors, we are not fulfilling the calling of God to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. Proverbs also says:

“Lying lips conceal hatred,
and whoever utters slander is a fool.”
Proverbs 10:18

We are here today to bear witness to the Triune God of Love, who to bridge the relational gap between human and human, and God and human, sent his own Son. That is the good news of the gospel.

Fred Phelps’ failure to understand that God is a God of Love rather than Hate lies at the heart of his own agony. We sincerely pray that Fred will hear God’s truth and learn of God’s all-encompassing love, but in the meantime we must stand against his false message that God hates our neighbors.

Hating human beings on God’s behalf is a hellish deception, and smolders at the heart of much darkness in the world.

Sincerely,
The Students and Staff of Project 12 Discipleship Training School
939 W Wilson Avenue, Chicago IL / 60640

Contact: Jon Trott (jon@jpusa.org) Phone: 773 633 6026
Websites: http://project12.us http://bluechristian.blogspot.com http://www.jpusa.org

Thursday, November 06, 2008

California's Proposition 8 Same-Sex Marriage Ban Passed: Should Evangelicals Be Glad?

As I went through election results other than the incredibly joyful (and still tear-producing for me) election of Barack Obama, I noted that California's Proposition 8 had passed by a fairly large margin (5%). Proposition 8 defines marriage as between one man and one woman -- "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California" -- which reverses laws previously made in California allowing same-sex marriage.

This Proposition, perhaps not surprisingly, had intense backing from Evangelicals, including James Dobson and Rick Warren. The single largest organization behind it may have been the Mormon Church (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints [*] ). Protests state-wide in California are underway as I write these words.

My progressive Californian brother and I have had some sparky discussions re homosexuality, my "orthodox Christian" position seeming pure bigotry to him. (He's kind of a hero of mine, so I feel not so good re his assessment!) But regarding Proposition 8 being a bad idea, I found myself agreeing with him that it was a bad law.

I hope everyone reads to the end of what follows, because while no one may like my tentative conclusions, I don't want to be misunderstood re what those conclusions are. And even more than usual, I remind all that these thoughts do NOT represent any organization or entity with which I am associated, whether that be Jesus People USA Evangelical Covenant Church, Project 12, or whomever else I have written for, spoken for, bla bla bla. My views are solely my own.

Homosexuality and Scripture

Before fellow Evangelicals freak, let me reiterate: I believe God's Word that marriage as created by God is meant only for one woman and one man. I would submit that not only does Scripture contain verses directly targeting homosexuality as outside God's will (Lev. 20:13; Romans 1:26, 27; 1 Cor. 6:9-11; 1 Tim. 1:9-11), but also an overwhelming number of verses defining marriage as between one man and one woman. (Professor Linda Belleville wrote a multi-part article on sexuality and Scripture for us sometime ago, and here are parts One, Two, and Three -- the last most directly addressing homosexuality in Scripture. Parts four and five never got posted on line, sorry to say.)

God's marriage model remains that found in Genesis: 2:23, 24 : "Then the man said, 'This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one shall be called Woman, for out of Man this one was taken.' Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh" [NRSV]. This is reiterated in Matthew 19:5-6 and Mark 10:7-8. Paul reiterates the Genesis model twice more, once in a negative context regarding prostitution (1 Cor. 6:16, and the larger passage afterward expands into a discussion of the same heterosexual one man, one woman marriage), and once in a positive and startling context (Eph. 5:31,32).

What of polygamy? someone might ask. Yes, polygamy is abundant in the Old Testament, but never is it suggested that God founded such a practice. Further, it is expressly discouraged in the New Testament (no Elders or Deacons may be married to more than one wife / husband). In the biblical narrative, God tolerates things He doesn't like. A for-instance? The frivolous divorce laws under Moses, where a man could ditch his wife simply by writing a decree of divorce, Jesus negates by saying "It was because your hearts were hard" (Mark 10:5a, NIV) . Then Jesus sets the record straight on divorce, reminding his listeners of the heart of the law.

There are other arguments pro-gay folks attempt to argue from Scripture, including the rather sad (to me) argument that since David's love for Jonathan (my namesake) "surpassed the love of women," that love was sexual in nature. Such interpretation seems to me possible only in our western culture where male love is so circumscribed that love such as David's for Jonathan is automatically assumed to be sexual. Can't men love each other with incredible depth and even passion without it turning sexual? As a man, I hate this traditionalist view of males which (with a sense of irony) I note is being used by pro-gay forces.

But this isn't meant as an in-depth treatise on homsexuality in Scripture. My only point here is that within a Scriptural world view homosexuality appears to me to be excluded. I hasten to add that heterosexuality outside of marriage is also excluded, and that homosexual desires are not in themselves sins, but rather temptations.

FINE, Trott! Get back to Prop 8!!

So with the above beliefs, must I support Prop 8, as well as other present and future laws like it? Shouldn't we Christians attempt legislating marriage in in all fifty states as "one man, one woman" just like Genesis says? Isn't this one time bluechristian should read a little bit redchristian?

I don't think so.

Defining Marriage for ourselves vs. Defining Marriage for our Neighbor

I think we Evangelicals, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, and anyone else who holds to the one-man, one-woman definition of marriage on religious grounds are caught in a major difficulty when it comes to making it law. Not just on legal grounds, mind you, though I personally suspect that the "Traditional Marriage" people are about to provoke state courts, federal courts, maybe even the Supreme Court into doing the very thing they fear. But I think there's something ethically wrong here, frankly.

It was James Dobson, speaking negatively about Barack Obama's morals, who helped me begin clarifying for myself what seems wrong with Prop 8:

"What terrifies me is the thought that he [Obama] might be our president. . . might be in the Oval Office . . . might be the leader of the free world . . . might be the Commander in Chief," he said to Sean Hannity back in June of this year. "As I said a minute ago, the man is dangerous, especially in regard to this issue of morality. I can't tell you how strongly I feel about this. He's saying that my morality has to conform to his because we all have to agree or else it's not democratic."

Um.... I have at least three issues with the above.

(1.) Isn't this inverting the truth? That is, aren't WE the ones who are saying that everyone else -- from Hindu to Christian to Agnostic to Atheist -- must accept OUR morality as their morality?

(2.) When James Dobson claims that "my morality has to conform to [Obama's]" it shows mainly that Dobson is misreading the entire basis for the conversation. Who is demanding conformity more, a person who narrows marriage's definition for everyone or a person who widens it? Especially in the context of a secular polycultural democracy, it seems increasingly problematic to attempt legislating one subculture's version of marriage. The legal definition of marriage in America should reflect a wide spectrum of Americans' understanding, not just Christian Americans' understanding.

I don't like mixing up race with homosexuality because they to me appear quite different topics on a number of levels, especially the deepest moral and spiritual levels. But Prop 8 begs for the comparison to interracial marriage, because the way it frames same-sex marriage is highly similar legally to how segregationists framed interracial marriage. Using Dobson's logic, when the 1967 Supreme Court decision Loving vs Virginia prohibited state laws against interracial marriage, the state was forcing moral conformity on everyone. In actuality, churches could have and in fact still do (unfortunately!) teach against interracial marriage. That is their right. What isn't their right is to define marriage legally for everyone (as opposed to theologically for their own community).

(3.) Dobson's unspoken assumption here is that America is a Christian nation. No, it is not. It never has been. And as a fervent Christian, I never think it should be (or could be for that matter). It is true that "traditional" values -- sometimes Christian and sometimes not -- are eroding in America and have been for decades. Barack Obama could not have been elected President or even thought of running in the 1950s-early 1960s "Christian America" James Dobson wants to "restore." I grew up in that era, and I do *not* want to go back.

Aren't Dr. Dobson and Rick Warren attempting to enforce Christian belief when it comes to marriage, making that belief a required law rather than human choice? Many Christians want marriage to remain identified with a mono-cultural America, one rooted in Judaeo-Christian principles. Yet for me, who see in that same old paradigm the roots of a dangerous nationalism which I firmly believe could result in an all-out fascist state if not politically defeated, I find myself wondering if we need to rethink this whole "traditional values" thing. It -- once again -- assumes the myth of a once or future Christian America. Never was one. Never will be one. [**]

That is what bothers me about Proposition 8. Because, you see, Christians (along with all supporters of so-called "traditional marriage" [***] ) are assuming they have the right to define marriage not only for themselves but for everyone else as well. God could, of course, define marriage any way he wished simply by causing all same-sex individuals to start yearning heterosexually. But God doesn't use force very often, despite how many of his self-appointed spokespersons suggest he does. In fact, God is the most coy about relationship of any Person. He woos us in thousands of ways, yet never forces us into relationship with him and never requires of us that we force our neighbors to believe as we believe. EVER.

My question -- and despite all the above I remind everyone it is a question I'm answering for myself here, not you -- Do we as Christians really believe that pushing our moral values via legislation furthers the cause of Jesus Christ? I think Dr. Dobson, Rick Warren, and others who think they've won a victory have actually done something which may be immoral, not because it violates God's Word re marriage, but rather because it violates the heart of Love itself. It violates the opportunity each person has to discover God's Way for her or him self.

As a believer in Jesus Christ, I have little interest in converting my neighbor to heterosexuality, or from homosexuality. What I am interested in is first of all to love my neighbor as myself, second only to loving God with my whole heart and mind and soul. Loving my neighbor is firstly about introducing him or her to Christ -- using words only where necessary. Prayerfully, I see Christian marriage itself as one of the greatest potential weapons of love in causing a non-believer to become attracted to Christ. Very prayerfully, I dare hope that sometimes even my own marriage might cause such attraction to observers of it. If a gay person enters into a relationship with Jesus Christ, wouldn't one assume that she or he might also encounter the words of Scripture? And wouldn't the Holy Spirit within that person aid them in beginning to see, and act on, a realization that homosexuality isn't what their Lord wants of them? The issues are hard to cope with, complex in scope. But I trust God's Grace (Agape love) over the law (of God or men) which biblically is said to lead to death.

As far as Proposition 8, I would have voted against it if it had been an issue here in Illinois. I probably would not vote for defining gay marriage as equivalent to one man and one woman -- I'd be violating my conscience (and God's Word) to do so. But I also would violate my conscience to vote for a Proposition that dictates what love is and is not to my homosexual neighbors. They, like me, make choices regarding love and right and wrong before a Personal, Holy, Just, and Loving God. Admitting some ambiguity in just how that unpacks as far as legislation goes, I believe I do God no service by engaging in "culture wars" wherein my ego rather than God's righteousness seems most reflected.

It does cause me suffering to think my neighbors will enter into relationships which are outside the will of a Loving God. And isn't part of my hesitation, even now, in actually posting these ruminations rooted in wishing I could avoid that suffering? It is incumbent on me to bear witness to God's ideas on marriage, even while I refuse to block the democratic rights of others to legally define marriage their own way. I also acknowledge that my own views on marriage cause my homosexual neighbor to suffer. She feels diminished when she realizes I do not see her relationship with her beloved as healthy or biblical. Yet I love my neighbor -- and I am talking about a real person here, not an abstraction. All I can do is bear witness to what God has done and is still doing in me, in my relationships, in my own broken but healing heterosexuality. And I can simply be silent, affirming her personhood even though unable to affirm all her choices.

It hurts to be a Christian, and the more it hurts the closer I suspect it gets to actually being real Christianity. But of course suffering and loving and failing and starting again can't really be the topics of legislation. The law kills. The Spirit gives life. As an Evangelical, I am indeed a person of the book. But I am also a person of the Living Word, Jesus Christ. If you are a fellow Evangelical who thinks I've terribly erred, pray for me that I would see better. If you are a homosexual and deeply troubled, even hurt, by what I've said here regarding the Scriptures, please forgive my ineptitude and gracelessness and pray for me that I learn better to communicate God's heart, not just my own mind. And if you are an observer, wryly fascinated by my obtuse and overly-verbose attempts to reflect both "Truth" and "Love," pray for me that I might understand far better how it's done.

-=-

I welcome feedback on this post... hopefully of a reasoned manner. I do moderate comments due to a few recurrent rascals, but will post almost all comments made unless they're downright hateful and/or astonishingly monofocused on topics which are off-topic. For more (and perhaps more intelligent) postings on this topic, see:

Randall Balmer's Huffington Post article takes Rick Warren to task: "Rick Warren on Prop 8: He Knows Better"

The Evangelical Outpost blog has some good back and forth: "Proposition 8: The Same-Sex Marriage Debate"


* Does anyone else find it odd that the Mormon Church -- founded in part on the doctrine of polygamous marriage -- would be a principal sponsor of Proposition 8?

** (Well, actually it's up to God what happens when all Creation is at last redeemed on that day of His appearing... a New America along with a New [fully redeemed and healed] Earth? Sorry, that's pretty theological for my non-christian readers).

*** "Traditional marriage" is one of the most unfortunate, as well as inaccurate, phrases I know. Marriage is so sexy, so adventurous, so challenging and painful and demanding and life-altering. "Traditional"? That term in addition suggests the usual male-dominant union of powerful husband, submissive wife, a model many of us Evangelical egalitarian / feminist types reject as overtly unbiblical. See http://www.cbeinternational.org for more on egalitarian biblical theology and support. They, by the way, have NOTHING to do with the views expressed here on Proposition 8.



BlueChristian's Election 2008 in Pictures

Instead of much text this time, I thought I'd offer some personal pictures of my family's 2008 election experience. Oh, and here's a very silly Obama moment we got on film...



And now that silliness is out of the way, here are some pics I took while being an Election Judge at a Precinct near our house:



I did sneak the above pic without really compromising anyone's anonymity as they voted... though it wasn't a secret who was voting for who... the final tally in this precinct was 331 some for Obama vs 21 for McCain.



Blue Christian (a.k.a., Jon Trott, yours truly) holds a royal flush of voter touchscreen cards (the little machine in front of me activates the cards for use in a touchscreen voting machine). Katy, my fellow judge, looks on.


Two of our fellow judges are keeping a lock on the main balloting machine/box.


Katy, Julie (a fellow JPUSAn), and Trina our PPA (the one that fixes it when we Judges manage to mess up the computer touch screen). The day was wildly busy through the entire morning, but slowed down in the afternoon. Everyone had the idea to vote early this year.



My grand daughter Naya again, wearing her Aunt Tamzen created Obama shirt, which while not fully visible here, reads: "OBAMA - I need a change. No, not my diaper."

Grant Park pics from my four children (plus the two boys' wives) who went down to see it all happen may be forthcoming...

Monday, November 03, 2008

VOTE!

Okay, I'm not here this Tuesday, Election Day. I'm busy being an Election Judge at a nearby Precinct in my neighborhood. I'll be up in seven hours (Lord knows when I'll go to bed, but 4 am is when I have to get up). Then, I'll watch this historic day go by from behind a pile of blank ballots that will shrink all day long. A whole lot. And, one way or another, tomorrow will be historic.

But your role is to go vote. I hope you vote for Barack Obama. But whoever you vote for, do vote. And vote the rest of the races as well. Tomorrow on our ballot, we have two very local referendums that will only affect a small number of Americans. But in my neighborhood, they could mean more affordable housing and more locally held jobs.

So yes, VOTE. And I'll see you in a day or two.

Young, Black, Female, and Evangelical: Why she voted Bush last time and Barack this time

I'm a middle-aged white guy. So let's hear from an Evangelical who's young, black, and voted for George Bush in 2004. Alissa Griffith explains (CBS News) how she and many other young black believers were impressed in 2004 by the double-barreled social issues of same sex marriage and abortion. The result was they voted for George Bush, helping to propel him back into the White House.

Not this time, though. "Four years later, I am still the young, black, evangelical, 'moral conservative' that I was in 2004 - and I support Barack Obama," she writes.

Alissa believes Obama's policies touch on many of the issues which are most important to her, including some not often seen on the radar of white Evangelicalism. Further, she dismisses single-issue voting with some fervor:

A vote for Obama is not a dismissal of morality in favor of social justice. It is an acknowledgement that morality encompasses much more than just abortion and same-sex marriage issues. Judging based on rhetoric throughout this election, Obama has exhibited his competency in social justice issues and McCain is still just trying to figure out why it matters.

Her critique is specific:

Unemployment, a poor economy, an expensive war, fatherless homes, high incarceration rates, poor education and a lack of access to higher education are at the forefront of all voters' minds. The presidential debates exposed John McCain's illiteracy on these issues.

But why are those issues able to trump the abortion issue? Yes, here race does matter:

This is of more consequence to black young evangelicals than the larger evangelical group because these issues disproportionately affect our families and our community.

Alissa's response to Evangelicals who think she's turning her back on the unborn is forthright.

We still think it is important to halt the outrageous number of abortions performed in this country, but we also are acutely aware of the plight of those people who did not have abortions and are struggling to raise their children in the inner cities of this country. We believe in prayer in schools, but disagree with abstinence-only education. We think that welfare is not the key to success, but we understand that some children will not eat without it. We roll our eyes at accusations of racism, but we can see the class differences and know that minorities populate the lower classes of America. We believe that people should pay for their crimes, but we know that capital punishment and longer prison sentencing are the fate of a disproportional amount of black men. We don't believe in handouts, but know that many black people simply can't afford higher education. We believe in morality, but believe the definition is too narrow.

And Alissa... I couldn't agree more.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Prophet of Pretend: James Dobson's "2012 Obama Letter" spells the end not for America, but for Focus on the Family

[What follows is an incomplete, badly edited set of observations and even rants. I have been pondering what to say, and how to say it, since reading Focus Action's "2012 Obama America" letter last week. I was so angry initially that everything I wrote sounded the same way. Some of that anger, and a bit of the shrillness (sorry) are in the below. But I had to address this. So, consider the below an incomplete set of thoughts more conversational than scholarly. As far as Dr. Dobson and Focus on the Family go, I may have to revisit them after the election is over.]

I've cut Focus on the Family's James Dobson slack in the past, even in my harshest critiques. Not any more. Dr. Dobson has long been involved in a project to return America to a "Christian era" which in truth it never enjoyed. His enemies are the usual suspects: "far left" Democrats, gays, liberals, commies, and apparently naive young evangelicals willing to vote for Barack Obama. But especially gays (and we'll get back to that issue later).

This all comes to light on Dobson's political website, Focus Action, where he has published his most nightmarish fantasy, "Letter from 2012 in Obama's America." This pseudo-prophetic work of fiction takes place in 2012, and the narrator is telling us all about how terrible the new Obamafied America is. In short, America has gone to hell under Obama's alleged wimpy / socialist / Muslim-friendly / terrorist friendly / gay-marriage friendly / just plain unAmerican leadership.

This may be the most harsh thing I've ever said on this blog. But with this letter Dr. Dobson has created one of the more overtly fascist things I've seen from the Christian Right (and that's saying something!). By "fascist" I don't mean swastika-wearing, Jew-gassing Nazis. I mean people who are interested in forcing their fellow citizens into their imagined perfect world, who use the very word "freedom" itself to attempt taking freedom away. Here's Webster's definition of the fascism I speak of: "a tendency toward or actual exercise of strong autocratic or dictatorial control."

Fascism works using fear and hate. Usually, it works best by creating fear of someone (the "Other") which quickly is focused into a hatred of that "Other." This technique requires dehumanizing the other, treating her or him as a 3/5 person, so to speak. From there, it is an easy thing to legally marginalize that person and even commit legalized violence against that person. (The above is one reason, by the way, for me personally supporting gay Civil Unions -- and more on that later.)

Now that I'm in that far I might as well take it all the way. The Evangelical / Christian Right's treatment of women, also echoed by Focus on the Family, is fascist. This is where my personal pot of water comes to a boil. And it is easily documented. Read the elaborate (though faulty) theological edifices of the Southern Baptist Convention. The SBC's Southeastern Seminary has systematically stripped women from all real roles of leadership, even from the pulpit and from the mission field, and offers what amount to Home Economic degrees to women. To drive that point home, no men are allowed to take the course.

But I digress. The letter's admixture of fear and hate seems intended to bring a populace toward an autocratic leader by causing them to hate a wholly imaginary other:

[H]ere is a picture of the changes that are likely or at least very possible if Senator Obama is elected and the far-left segments of the Democratic Party gain control of the White House, the Congress, and perhaps then the Supreme Court. The entire letter is written as a “What if?” exercise, but that does not make it empty speculation because every future “event” described here is based on established legal and political trends that can already be abundantly documented and that only need a “tipping point” such as the election of Senator Obama and a Democratic House and Senate to begin to put them into place.


This isn't prophecy, it is only a "pretend" letter from 2012... except it isn't pretend. Its Halloween-like scenario is, according to the letter's preamble, "likely or at least very possible." So what we're dealing with is a "prophetic" letter here, and since it is allegedly prophetic, it therefore presumably carries with it the authority of God. James Dobson is thus made a virtual pope of Protestants, a voice we fail to heed at our own peril. (Remember those "young evangelicals" who voted for Obama? He's talking to YOU!) So, as our Christian authority on all things from family to White House, to whom we should listen without criticism, we shut off our brains and open our gosling mouths wide as he stuffs the worms of fear and rage down our throats: why we MUST NOT vote for Barack Obama!! Feel the wiggle?

Documented? Sure. Like there's a few footnotes. I and others have exposed numerous books on alleged "satanic ritual abuse," some of which were chock full of footnotes. I recall one book in particular which had multiple footnotes per sentence, yet with a bottom line that was patently bogus (it claimed that a massive intergenerational satanic "cult" of high-up politicians, money men, and religious figures was controlling world events). What I learned is to pay attention to the text and what it claims, not some sort of massive footnoting enterprise there to offer the appearance of actual scholarship. The text itself is what I find so incredibly, shockingly offensive. The footnotes rarely actually apply to the central fear and hate mongering "future" the letter claims to know about.

After the above mentioned introduction, the letter opens and immediately sets a tone for what will follow:

Dear friends,
I can hardly sing “The Star Spangled Banner” any more. When I hear the words,

O say, does that star spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

I get tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat. Now in October of 2012, after seeing what has happened in the last four years, I don’t think I can still answer, “Yes,” to that question. We are not “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” Many of our freedoms have been taken away by a liberal Supreme Court and a majority of Democrats in both the House and the Senate, and hardly any brave citizen dares to resist the new government policies any more.


Get it? Being a Democrat equals being unAmerican. Despite the fact that more Americans this year are Democrats. Voting Democrat to James Dobson means loss of freedom. And what is his "freedom"? A return to 1950s America is no freedom at all, and no one wants that. Yet all Dobson's dark prognostications are "proven" by a fictional letter written by a fictional character in the fictional and very apocalyptic 2012 of the actual writer's fevered imagination.

So when I look up the hammer and sickle are flying over my head, right? Oh, wait. That's the movie "Red Dawn." Maybe "2012 Obama's America" could be a sequel. As far as "tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat," that's my reaction to dinner trying to make a comeback.

Who, according to Dr. Dobson, is guilty for electing this cartoonishly evil slimeball dude with the overly dark skin to the Presidency?!

The 2008 election was closer than anybody expected, but Barack Obama still won. Many Christians voted for Obama – younger evangelicals actually provided him with the needed margin to defeat John McCain – but they didn’t think he would really follow through on the far left policies that had marked his entire previous career. They were wrong.


Dang, all those kids don't know how to vote. Maybe Focus on the Family should send someone with them to the polls to help them out. They should have done what the Benevolent Patriarch(alist) told you to do, and vote for John McCain. Sure, I know a few months back James Dobson said he'd never vote for or support John McCain, but I guess... he lied? This Obama dude has to be stopped at any cost!! Or is it more that Mr. Dobson and Focus on the Family are losing their grip over the present generation, that young evangelicals no longer even understand the scarey lingo and reactionary images Dobson presents as "Christian"? Could this be a power thing, the real nightmare for James Dobson in that his power base is aging itself out of existence? What about the fact that an estimated sixty-six percent of Hispanic Evangelicals are likely Obama voters? That doesn't bode well for Jim Dobson, either. We have seen the future, and it is brown and Democrat.

Here's a shocker! it turns out that Barack Obama is going to destroy the Boy Scouts of America, and/or make every scout the potential victim of a pedophile.

Boy Scouts: “The land of the free”? The Boy Scouts no longer exist as an organization. They chose to disband rather than be forced to obey the Supreme Court decision that they would have to hire homosexual scoutmasters and allow them to sleep in tents with young boys.


Sleep in tents with young boys?! Yikes, sounds like an Anne Rice vampire novel. (I will come back to this lie later.)


Elementary schools: “The land of the free”? Elementary schools now include compulsory training in varieties of gender identity in Grade 1, including the goodness of homosexuality as one possible personal choice. Many parents tried to “opt out” their children from such sessions, but the courts have ruled that they cannot do this, noting that education experts in the government have decided that such training is essential to children’s psychological health.


Wow, that is scary... as in ridiculous. If you really think the above is what voting for Barack Obama will lead to, I'll sell you Lake Michigan. Send me $20 and I'll email the whole thing to you. The above is fear-mongering. It is also, as if I need to note it, more "focus" on homosexuality, which seems to really be an interest of Dr. Dobson's. I mean, REALLY an interest. :

Businesses with government contracts: “The land of the free”? All businesses that have government contracts at the national, state, or local level now have to provide documentation of equal benefits for same sex couples. This was needed to overcome “systemic discrimination” against them and followed on a national level the pattern of policies already in place in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Seattle.


Two issues here, though arguing with a fantasy written by a right-wing hack is an exercise in stupidity of my own:

Issue One: If the government is funding (or helping fund) a business via using that business, shouldn't the government also get to call the tune as to fairness re hiring and firing in that business? That is, the government isn't forcing the business to do anything... unless that business wants contracts with the government.

Issue Two: as someone who thinks Civil Unions are a good alternative to Gay Marriage (in that they take care of both the gay couple's civil rights and the religious community's proper sense of ownership re what "marriage" means), I think Christians who fight the above sort of thing are being neither wise nor neighborly. By all means, let's attempt to stuff our own definition of moral reality down everyone else's throat, until and if they gain power instead. Then, with our having tutored them on how it is done (with cruelty, unreason, and depersonalizing uniformity) we can have our turn as victims. Not very smart, Mr. Dobson. But since you're the oracle of God and I'm just a poor mutt Christian trying to follow Jesus, I guess you win the authority war. I am the authority of nothing, and you may quote me.

Public broadcasting: “The land of the free”? The Bible can no longer be freely preached over radio or television stations when the subject matter includes such “offensive” doctrines as homosexual conduct or the claim that people will go to hell if they do not believe in Jesus Christ. The Supreme Court agreed that these could be kept off the air as prohibited “hate speech” that is likely to incite violence and discrimination. These policies followed earlier broadcasting and print restrictions that were already in place prior to 2008 in Canada and Sweden.


Oh, please. This reminds me of the crazy -- and false -- charge that atheists had sued the FCC to force removal of all religious programming from radio. Despite the fact that this was not true, the rumor refused to die and continued to resurface in various forms over the years. I guarantee you that we'll be hearing all the right-wing folks on the radio and TV for years and years to come, no matter who's in the White House.

I could go on. But as Jim Wallis of Sojourners and others have already done a fine job overall, I'd like to get a little more focused on one aspect of the letter that really bothered me.

This started off as me reading about Dobson's take on Barack Obama. But it ended with me angry over his treatment of gays. I am trying hard to live in a biblical space regarding homosexuality. I believe Scripture does place homosexual acts (as opposed to temptation / orientation) outside the pale of right Christian behavior. Yet at the same time, I am commanded to love my neighbor.

What I think Dobson has done, is doing with this letter, and apparently will continue to do is to abuse self-identified gay people. And he has done so using the exact approach once used against women militating for the vote and blacks working for their civil rights. He has identified the "other" as the enemy. This is curious, since I myself have suggested for years that homosexuality should not be confused with feminism or race-related issues but is rather an issue with unique characteristics, biblically speaking. Yet James Dobson's twisted fantasy story makes of homosexuality a sin of special nature, a sin that is sensationalized into something... how do I say it... pornographic. In short, I am left wondering if a parent would want the writer of this letter to sleep in a tent with the boys!

Perhaps worst in this shrill bit of rightist propaganda is the conflation of two totally different sexual issues: homosexuality vs. pederasty. Homosexuals are no more likely to molest children than are their heterosexual counterparts. The entirety of the "Boy Scout" bit in this "pretend prophecy" is vile, cruel, and unloving in the most strictly Scriptural sense. There is so much else to loath about that letter, but for this one point alone I personally have moved from upset with Dobson to an anti-Focus on the Family activist. We cannot allow these cruel individuals and ministries to continue representing us to a watching world, much less our non-believing neighbors... some of who are gay!

We are required to bear witness to biblical ideals regarding sexuality, whether addressing homosexuality or America's norms re heterosexuality. But doing so, with great care and meekness and humility while admitting we too struggle with sexuality, is far different than Dr. Dobson's shrill, illogical, and immoral (yes indeed!) attack on our neighbors. I personally repudiate Dr. Dobson or Focus on the Family as representing the Christian Faith I believe in.

And it makes me extremely sad, not glad, to say so.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Is There Such a Thing as a "Pro-Life Feminism"?


Is there such a thing as a "Pro-Life Feminism"? Dang, I sure hope so. It is a position I've tried to articulate for years. I don't pretend it it is easy -- either mentally or emotionally -- to support womens' rights while also supporting the unborns' right to life. But for this poor male nimblewit, womens' rights have haunted me over the past fifteen years at least. And as I read and think and pray, I've had to discard all sorts of muck both theological and political, the "conventional wisdom" of an astonishingly reactionary Evangelical subculture. At the same time, I continue to encounter my own blindness re feminism's depth of critique. That is, I am handicapped by my maleness from existential knowledge of what being a woman means now, or has meant in the past. As those who've read my blogs, both bluechristian.blogspot.com and the moribund aremenreallyhuman.blogspot.com, may remember my lengthy and sometimes uneven journey.

Sarah Palin, whom I think would be a terrible president, nonetheless is a member of "Feminists for Life," one group whose name neatly encapsulates an anti-abortion position with a pro-feminist one. I hope they are more than a Republican front, however, as my cynicism forces me to ask the question. Are any of them voting for Obama, despite the pro-life portion of their name?

Meanwhile, it now appears Sarah Palin isn't willing to call herself a feminist any longer, as she did earlier in the campaign. Interviewed by Katie Couric of CBS a while back, and asked by Couric "Do you consider yourself a feminist?", Gov. Palin answered:

"I do. I'm a feminist who believes in equal rights and I believe that women certainly today have every opportunity that a man has to succeed, and to try to do it all, anyway."

But when asked days ago by NBC Nightly News' Brian Williams the same question, Gov. Palin's answer seemed aimed at her very conservative Evangelical base:

"I'm not gonna label myself anything, Brian. And I think that's what annoys a lot of Americans, especially in a political campaign, is to start trying to label different parts of America different, different backgrounds, different . . . I'm not going to put a label on myself."

Well, I have to put the feminist label on myself, because it has a whole lot to do with how I look at things. When I see on television a spokesperson (male and white) from the Southern Baptist Convention talking about pro-life issues, I experience the urge to either assault my television or regurgitate. The Southern Baptist Convention has removed women from nearly all positions of leadership within that denomination, even from the mission field where those women are winning hearts to Christ and serving with their hands the poorest of the poor. The level of offense this causes me cannot be measured on the Richter Scale.

It is of some comfort to find that so-called "secular" feminists also struggle with the pro-life issue, though usually those who do so in public get significant push-back against their efforts. Camille Paglia, writing on Salon.com, does some real soul-searching. (Thanks, Annie, for pointing this article out to me.) I don't agree with Paglia's conclusions in more than one respect, but they are worth hearing:

Let's take the issue of abortion rights, of which I am a firm supporter. As an atheist and libertarian, I believe that government must stay completely out of the sphere of personal choice. Every individual has an absolute right to control his or her body. (Hence I favor the legalization of drugs, though I do not take them.) Nevertheless, I have criticized the way that abortion became the obsessive idée fixe of the post-1960s women's movement -- leading to feminists' McCarthyite tactics in pitting Anita Hill with her flimsy charges against conservative Clarence Thomas (admittedly not the most qualified candidate possible) during his nomination hearings for the Supreme Court. Similarly, Bill Clinton's support for abortion rights gave him a free pass among leading feminists for his serial exploitation of women -- an abusive pattern that would scream misogyny to any neutral observer.

But the pro-life position, whether or not it is based on religious orthodoxy, is more ethically highly evolved than my own tenet of unconstrained access to abortion on demand. My argument (as in my first book, "Sexual Personae,") has always been that nature has a master plan pushing every species toward procreation and that it is our right and even obligation as rational human beings to defy nature's fascism. Nature herself is a mass murderer, making casual, cruel experiments and condemning 10,000 to die so that one more fit will live and thrive.

Hence I have always frankly admitted that abortion is murder, the extermination of the powerless by the powerful. Liberals for the most part have shrunk from facing the ethical consequences of their embrace of abortion, which results in the annihilation of concrete individuals and not just clumps of insensate tissue. The state in my view has no authority whatever to intervene in the biological processes of any woman's body, which nature has implanted there before birth and hence before that woman's entrance into society and citizenship.

On the other hand, I support the death penalty for atrocious crimes (such as rape-murder or the murder of children). I have never understood the standard Democratic combo of support for abortion and yet opposition to the death penalty. Surely it is the guilty rather than the innocent who deserve execution?

What I am getting at here is that not until the Democratic Party stringently reexamines its own implicit assumptions and rhetorical formulas will it be able to deal effectively with the enduring and now escalating challenge from the pro-life right wing. Because pro-choice Democrats have been arguing from cold expedience, they have thus far been unable to make an effective ethical case for the right to abortion.

The gigantic, instantaneous coast-to-coast rage directed at Sarah Palin when she was identified as pro-life was, I submit, a psychological response by loyal liberals who on some level do not want to open themselves to deep questioning about abortion and its human consequences. I have written about the eerie silence that fell over campus audiences in the early 1990s when I raised this issue on my book tours. At such moments, everyone in the hall seemed to feel the uneasy conscience of feminism. Naomi Wolf later bravely tried to address this same subject but seems to have given up in the face of the resistance she encountered.

If Sarah Palin tries to intrude her conservative Christian values into secular government, then she must be opposed and stopped. But she has every right to express her views and to argue for society's acceptance of the high principle of the sanctity of human life. If McCain wins the White House and then drops dead, a President Palin would have the power to appoint conservative judges to the Supreme Court, but she could not control their rulings.

It is nonsensical and counterproductive for Democrats to imagine that pro-life values can be defeated by maliciously destroying their proponents. And it is equally foolish to expect that feminism must for all time be inextricably wed to the pro-choice agenda. There is plenty of room in modern thought for a pro-life feminism -- one in fact that would have far more appeal to third-world cultures where motherhood is still honored and where the Western model of the hard-driving, self-absorbed career woman is less admired.

But the one fundamental precept that Democrats must stand for is independent thought and speech. When they become baying bloodhounds of rigid dogma, Democrats have committed political suicide.

I find in Barack Obama someone who seems willing to forego his party's "rigid dogma" on abortion, to the extent he has echoed some of Paglia's language regarding the pro-life movement's legitimate ethical issues regarding abortion. While he is pro-choice, he seems unusually attuned to the suasive power of the unborn being actual human beings. His central argument, with which I disagree but carefully and tentatively, is that the woman carrying a child should have a right of privacy regarding her own choices re having an abortion and that government doesn't belong in the mix. That reasoning is the heart of Roe v Wade, of course.

For me, who's already blogged at length on why the Republicans will never overturn Roe and why I as a pro-lifer am nonetheless compelled to vote for Barack Obama, the issue of abortion remains large on my radar screen. I continue to hope that both camps -- pro-life and pro-choice -- can open their insular worlds up to the other in order to find at least some commonalities. Being pro-life for me means being pro-woman as well. And being pro-woman means that I acknowledge women's singular responsibility, biologically and therefore psychologically / intellectually / emotionally, regarding the unborn. What I hope to find is that the pro-choice movement under an Obama presidency can perhaps find room to re-examine stale doctrines birthed in the 1970s regarding the unborn as mere tissue, and replace those ideas with a far more humanizing, and therefore morally complex and challenging, set of realities regarding the unborn AND women... and men.

For those of us who are pro-life in a wider sense than that meant by the Christian Right and the Republican Party, we need to grapple with the painful realities of voting our consciences. I personally believe that voting for Barack Obama may decrease the actual numbers of abortions, as well as provide wholistic pro-life positions which may be far more attractive to feminists such as myself than are the anti-womanist positions often held (illogically, but historically) by many Catholic and Evangelical pro-lifers.

I realize this will irritate many readers. That is understandable. Each of us feels terrible pain over certain issues, things that become so central to our empathy re suffering and injustice that we tend to base everything else on those issues. In the past, I voted at times as a "single issue" pro-lifer. But history and my own experiences encountering feminism have led me to a place where I often feel sad and torn. It is a place where, with a very small "s" (let's not posture here, Mr. Trott), I do suffer. I think maybe that's where Christians should find themselves more often than they do.

We Americans want resolution, complete and total. But the reality is this: in some of life's deepest things, there is no simple resolution but rather a continuing struggle to find a place where love is expressed in an embracing way toward all parties involved. On this fallen planet, all our hearts ache. Injustice is everywhere, even in the attempts to do justice we humans attempt. Yet hopelessness is not an option. The struggle to love one another as Christ loved us continues. How that looks, whether in an election or at an abortion clinic, is something each human being must take up with that person's Maker.

Pray for me in my struggle to do so. Please.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

So that's where Republicans get it! Noam Chomsky, Muslims, and Fear Mongering in America's Historical Pedigree

"The [mythical] theme is 'We are about to be destroyed by a horrifying enemy.' And at the last minute, a super-weapon is discovered, or a hero arises such as Rambo... this goes right back to the Eighteenth Century..." - Noam Chomsky

Thanks to CNN's iReport pages, I ran across this thought-provoking video featuring professor Noam Chomsky being interviewed by American University Professor Akbar Ahmed. I think it offers some historical context regarding not only anti-Islamic expressions within America, but also (in a larger context) some of the fear/hate mythologies currently being attempted against the Democratic Presidential ticket by Republicans (see my previous two posts).



For more on and from Akbar Ahmed, I'd advise a visit to Journey Into America. And again... please don't forget to vote, preferably early if your state still has early voting open (Illinois, for instance has early voting until October 30).

New "Terrorists" mailer: Republicans ask us to insert head in toilet, swallow

Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what it fears, or be in dread. Isaiah 8:12 NRSV

Last night, I attempted a bit of humor here in posting my list of negative labels the Republicans have attempted to affix on Barack Obama. This morning, out comes a massively distributed Republican Party mailer:


And this morning I'm not laughing.

The flier is a load. And we're being asked to swallow it. Once again, the McCain/Palin folks are going back to the Karl Rove playbook of nasty, baseless, negative campaigning. And let's be honest here. What is being implied? "Terrorists don't care who they hurt" the flier's cover says. And below it, fake newsprint headlines reading "Terrorist. Radical. Friend of Obama" and "Obama Close Ties...Terrorist." Get it?! Obama... TERRORIST! The large airplane reminds us of 9/11... Ah. Obama, Al Queida. No logical connection exists, but this is about effective illogic, vile lies being used to stir up hatred and fear.

Inside, just to drill the message home...


Forgive all the exclamation points which follow, as I'm a bit peeved this morning...

First starts the whining over Obama actually wanting to talk to terrorists instead of blowing their countries to hell! "Barack Obama Thinks Terrorists Need a Good Talking to." OH MY GAWD! He might actually favor diplomacy over attacking nations without provocation! So if diplomats are terrorists, as opposed to bomb-wielding nations, I'm left wondering what, in light of that definition, Al Queida would be called. Using this Republican pretzel logic, Perhaps Osama bin Laden deserves the Nobel Peace Prize!

"Barack Obama. Not Who You Think He Is."
screams the banner along the bottom edge of this masterpiece of McCarthyite defecation. Well, I know who Barack Obama is. He's an American, he's a Christian, and he's a man who has spent his entire life in a disciplined effort to become a positive, unifying leader. His story (as evidenced in his two books) should (and I pray will be) an enduring part of our national legacy. Liars are fryers, baby.

I also know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, who John McCain, Sarah Palin, and the Republicans are. They are desperate people who are going to use the politics of fear and hate to attempt to win. This is frustrating, and scarey. Why? Because it worked in the past two elections. And despite Obama's current lead in the polls, I for one am not at all convinced that lead will hold up.

I have two messages for readers of this puny little BlueChristian blog.

One: This is short and sweet. Anyone who supports Barack Obama's candidacy for President needs to respond to this attack immediately by donating money to Obama's campaign. If you are really ticked at this, the Obama folks have a page just for us so we can make a specific, powerful statement. I'm going to do so today. I hope you will as well.

Two: Evangelical readers currently supporting John McCain and (perhaps even more enthusiastically) Sarah Palin. Can you step back for a moment and ask yourself why you would support a campaign capable of flinging this kind of hate-mongering poop? Can you ask yourself about your own theology -- and here I'm thinking about loving one's neighbor and loving one's God vs. embracing end times narratives from Hal Lindsay, Tim LaHaye, and such? The Republicans are counting on you as their base! That's the narrative here. They want you to be frightened of an American leader, a fellow Christian.

Let's get right down to it: they want you to believe Barack Obama is a closet Muslim terrorist. Well, do you? Honestly? You've seen him in the debates. Do you think he is anti-American? Do you think he is part of some massive conspiracy? Well, if you do, go ahead and vote for the Republicans. But if you sense they are lying about Barack, why would you trust them? We've been lied to for eight years. Here is a man with whom we may not agree on everything, but who has made repeated and thoughtful overtures to Evangelicals despite being slapped down in most of those efforts.

Who are we Evangelicals? That's what I'd like to know. I know who Barack is, and I know who the Republicans are... I've had years and years to watch them scream about abortion, then get into office and appoint pro-abortion justices. Go figure. I've seen them create a narrow litmus test set of issues (abortion and same-sex marriage) from which we are told to make every political decision. That day is over, people. Jesus cared about a LOT more than that. Read Matthew 25. Read the prophets, who along with immorality condemn Sodom and Gommorah for their mistreatment of the poor.

Evangelicals can no longer afford to believe the Republican version of reality. It ignores massive injustices outside that neat and small list of "family values." Affordable housing in my neighborhood is a "family value"... one ignored by the Republicans. And what about all the single parents -- most of them women -- who are more vulnerable than ever in this terrible economic recession we're experiencing? The Republicans say "pro-life," yet assault the poor repeatedly by stripping away programs offering rural and inner-city families hope.

No. No more. Evangelicals, are you willing to remain tools in the hands of hate mongers? We always seem to be on the wrong side of these things. From the days of slavery and lynchings, where entire huge denominations supported slavery (on what they called "biblical" grounds) to today, when those same huge denominations support the oppression and marginalization of women by men -- using the very same bible verses they used in the slave days -- we remain reactionary instead of biblically revolutionary. Where is that third way?

Barack Obama will not be the solution to all of this. Far from it. He's one man. And at times we may even find ourselves having to play the role of prophet against a man we voted for. That is the strange and salty role Christians are supposed to play. But hating is as unchristian as it gets. And the Republican Party's willingness to be hateful, to lie openly over and over again in hopes that their vicious assault on Barack Obama will give them the White House, should be a prime reason we stop being the "Republican base."

Base has another definition: "stresses the ignoble and may suggest cruelty, treachery, greed, or grossness." That, to me, sounds applicable to the Republican Party's treatment of Barack Obama. Can we, as the people of God, the Bride of Christ, continue to be part of that "base" (in both senses of the word) political crowd?

I of course have my own answer, but what matters is your answer.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

All the Nasty Things They've Called Obama: A List


I just couldn't help making a list of all the negative labeling Republicans have attempted to paste on Barack Obama. Why? Because they sometimes make me laugh, other times want to scream in frustration. If readers have more of this nonsense, please add it and I'll update this list. Try to add sources if it's something we all haven't already heard.

First, the oldie goldies:


Socialist

Do any of the nimblewits posting this term in reference to Obama/Biden even know what a socialist actually IS? McCain/Palin have defined it this way: "spreading the wealth around." Whoa! Mommy, there's a socialist under my bed spreading wealth around! Okay, just to help, here's the dictionary definition:

1: any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods
2 a
: a system of society or group living in which there is no private property b: a system or condition of society in which the means of production are owned and controlled by the state
3
: a stage of society in Marxist theory transitional between capitalism and communism and distinguished by unequal distribution of goods and pay according to work done. (Webster's)

In other words, people, it's exactly what George Bush just did when he partially nationalized our banks! And McCain's a socialist, too, since he voted yes on this bail-out. By the way, as far as McCain/Palin's own definition, "spreading the wealth around"... uh, that's what taxes do. Like you know, fund building highways or AIDS medicine for Africa or... bombs to drop on Iraq.


Communist

See above. Except worse.


Liberal

Dang. Liberal. Liberal means bad, right? Like they eat people and sacrifice cats in their basements. I think. Well, read the actual Webster's definition:

[O]ften capitalized : a movement in modern Protestantism emphasizing intellectual liberty and the spiritual and ethical content of Christianity b: a theory in economics emphasizing individual freedom from restraint and usually based on free competition, the self-regulating market, and the gold standard c: a political philosophy based on belief in progress, the essential goodness of the human race, and the autonomy of the individual and standing for the protection of political and civil liberties dcapitalized : the principles and policies of a Liberal party.

Hmm. Other than (a) the gold standard, and (b) the essential goodness of humanity, which all politicians believe in as long as we vote for them but none of us fully believe when pondering our ballots, I'd say that's a pretty Hallmark Card definition. Of course, if McCain doesn't like civil liberties, perhaps he could speak up now and save everyone the headache of voting for him come election day. After all, when it turned out Dubya didn't like political and civil liberties so much, it was too late for us to do much about it.


Extreme Liberal

This is a liberal with tattoos and piercings. Sometimes riding a Harley. Wait. Isn't John McCain the one that took his wife to Sturgis, SD, and suggested she run for a motorcycle momma award? Hm, begging for an expose...


Un-American

Everyone knows what this means. Anyone living in America who does not appear to agree with my interpretation of what being an American is.


"Boy"

"I'm going to tell you something: That boy's finger does not need to be on the button... He could not make a decision in that simulation that related to a nuclear threat to this country." - 49 yr old Geoff Davis, Kentucky congressman, about 46 yr old Barack Obama
Yep. In 2008. Nice how, no matter what, some things stay the same.


"not one of us"

See above. Almost any of the above, actually.


Antichrist

Coolest evil label ever. We "liberal communist socialist" people also use the word at times, though usually with a touch more irony than our conservative counterparts. The trouble with the label is, of course, that it is usually applied to fairly decent folks. Like Rush Limbaugh.

-=-

Second, some 2008 firsts, for a Presidential election at least:

Muslim
and/or
Arab

The obvious problem with both of these terms is that they contain a double insult; first, that Obama is being called something he is not (either Muslim or Arab), second that Muslims and / or Arabs are Un-Americans by default. Oh, and did anyone clue the Muslim/Arab haters that massive numbers of Muslims are not Arab (Indonesia, anyone?) while large numbers of Arabs are not Muslim. I apologize, however, for being factual.

One more thing, haters: a Muslim American could be President one day, and none of us would have to worry about head scarves or jihads... yep. This Evangelical Christian is telling you, not asking. The vast majority of Muslim Americans actually love their country! What malevolent idiocy to spread these lies or -- just as shocking -- to *believe* the lies! Or, as a 1970s era me would have said, "DUH!" The Bible would say "Love your neighbor as yourself..." but we're not gonna get biblical here because it might require cutting the locks from abandoned minds.


"friend of terrorists"

Bill Ayers Bill Ayers BillAyersBillAyersBill billayersbillayersbillayersbillayers bill -- aw, shuddUP!!

Hokay, well, that's about all I got. But just for fun, let's put them all together:

Barack Obama is a socialist/Arab/communist/Muslim/liberal/extremeliberal/unAmerican/"Boy"/not one of us/Antichrist!!

(And a friend of Bill Ayers BillAyersbillayersbillayersbillayers.)

And there, ladies and gentleman, we have the entirety of the Republican platform for 2008!

Cool Tool: Obama's "Check your tax savings!" machine

So you want to find out how much tax money you'd get back under Barack Obama's tax plan vs. John McCain's? Wonder no more. The Obama campaign provides a handy, 30 seconds of time tax plan tool to find out. Or, you can just check it out right here!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Campaigning via Conspiracy Theory: Ayers, Acorn, and Obama the Alien


I have written quite a bit about conspiracy theories, most of them having to do with urban myths regarding "Satanic Ritual Abuse," alleged inter-generational Satanists who brainwash their followers and sacrifice adults and children to the devil. A major feature of almost all these myths requires the existence of a secret super-cell of Satanists, often said to be world leaders. [Photo at left from "Conspiracylol.com"]

During the 1980s and on into the 1990s, I wrote various articles exploring the Satanist myths. Most of them promulgated by (sigh) my fellow Evangelicals and/or (in the case of the infamous Michelle Remembers) Catholics. I also took part in co-researched and written articles (plus one book, Selling Satan: Mike Warnke and the Evangelical Media), which exposed various "former satanists" and/or "former victims of satanists" as fakes.

And as a result, I realized that questioning everything anyone told me was a pretty good idea. That went double when it came to conspiracy theories, which as incredible stories demanded incredible evidence to verify. Or so my suspicious mind works. Heck, I'm so hard to convince I actually believe John Kennedy was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald. Alone.

Go with me just a little way on this.

Why, for instance, do we believe conspiracy theories. Or rather, believe some while disbelieving others? After all, by definition, a successful conspiracy has no evidential trail left to follow.

I think we believe conspiracy theories that agree with our own way of seeing, of understanding, and of locating evil. Locating? Yes, this is the single most important feature of a conspiracy theory. Evil must have a location. And, that location must be with other entities, almost always human, who are "other" than I and those closest to me. Commies (Joe McCarthy's insanity, remember?). Blacks (every black man wants to rape a white woman). Even whites... AIDS was designed to eliminate blacks, you know. And so on. There has to be an evil other.

One of the best examples of this is found in the painful, even terrifying novel by Bernard Malamud, The Fixer. A Russian-Jewish peasant finds his life in peril due to the false anti-Semitic myth that Jews often sacrificed babies in secret ceremonies. The novel is, of course, rooted in the reality of what Christians often believed about their Jewish neighbors (and in the reality of violence committed against Jews by such Christians).

Another example of this lies in the current distribution of a rabidly anti-Islamic video 18 million households nationwide (though particularly in "swing states" currently drifting toward Democrat Barack Obama). Radical Islam, the videos claim, has been discovered to have an inside plan to take over America, a plan led by seemingly innocent American leaders. By video's end, one suspects that all Islam is radical, and (by necessity) nearly all American Muslims (as well as Arab Christians) may be "one of them."

And of course playing into this conspiratorial theme above are threads from the Republican Party (via both the McCain/Palin campaign directly and others backing them but not officially connected). "Who is Barack Obama?" one McCain ad asks. "A friend of terrorist Ayers," is the answer, the "Ayers" of course not really being necesssary other than as a cover for running such an unhinged conspiratorial message. That beat goes on as of today via "Robo-calls" (automated calls) by the Republican National Committee:

Hello. I'm calling for John McCain and the RNC because you need to know that Barack Obama has worked closely with domestic terrorist Bill Ayers, whose organization bombed the U.S. capitol, the Pentagon, a judge's home and killed Americans. And Democrats will enact an extreme leftist agenda if they take control of Washington. Barack Obama and his Democratic allies lack the judgment to lead our country. This call was paid for by McCain-Palin 2008 and the Republican National Committee at [of course I deleted the number!].

The above illustrates the thing with conspiracy theories: Most conspiracy theories make no sense!

Break the above quote down, and it becomes a series of unconnected factoids which require the listener's own bias to make cohere into a single unified story.
Obama knows a guy. The guy, when Obama was 8, was involved with the '60s radical group, Weather Underground. The group blew some stuff up and killed two people. Democrats will enact an "an extreme leftist agenda" if they "take control" of Washington. Obama and his terrorist/commie buddies lack the judgement to lead the USA.

Each sentence in itself is independent of the previous one or the next one. The parts do not make one whole, but instead are illogically thrown together. The reader processes them and by so doing experiences either an instinctive "a ha!" moment or (I hope) just as instinctive recoils from the attempt to create fear, and an explanation for that fear, at Obama's expense.

My most riveting moment re the absolute non-rationality of conspiracy theory came while interviewing a parent of one of the children allegedly abused by supposed satanist Ray Buckey (the now-infamous McMartin Preschool case, where both Ray and his mother were found not guilty). Looking very somber, this upper-middle class mother told me about how one child at McMartin was abused by Raymond... who at the time was over 100 miles away from where the abuse occurred.

Startled, I attempted to correct her. "But Ray was 100 miles away... he'd have had to be two places at the same time!"

She nodded understandingly. "Oh, yes. Those Satanists can do anything."

So, apparently, can the Republicans, at least where inventing conspiracy theories are concerned. Consider the latest one involving ACORN, a social activist group with whom I have worked a few times (though years back). The group among other things is known for regularly doing voter registration drives, paying folks to get others signed up to vote. The obvious happens. A small number of hired registrars end up falsifying voter cards, creating voters who do not exist.

So what does the Republican Party say about ACORN... with who their own candidate John McCain has worked in the past?

Allegedly, ACORN is involved in subverting the nation's voting process, despite the fact that non-existent voters can't very well vote. And, should someone show up to attempt voting for them, there is the small matter of signature comparison required by most polling places (all of them in Illinois, for instance).

Meanwhile, the Republican Party is attempting to strip new voters from Ohio's (and other swing states') registration logs. That's no conspiracy. That, for the Republican Party, seems business as usual.

And speaking of business as usual, how about yet another Republican Conspiracy Theory (RCT's we can call 'em) regarding the Democrats having started this financial mess by allowing Freddie Mac to lend to poor borrowers? John McCain's attempt to paint Barack Obama as fomenter of class warfare seems to be the classic case of man pointing one finger at other man while pointing three more back at himself.

Conspiracies in real life inevitably fall apart for the most pedestrian of reasons. A secret may be safe with one human, but once a second, third, or fourth human is included, the conspirators have the devil of a time not leaking it to someone.

Anyway, my favorite conspiracy theory about Barack Obama is that we know so little about him that it won't be until he is elected we find out his real name is Bxqz Oxynana from the planet Xerx, and that he's here to enslave humanity. Turns out Xerxians like nothing better than human beings... lightly toasted with a dab of Zyx spread.

Don't believe it? Disprove it, then!! Remember, beware the Alien Obama! Vote for Obama and we're ALL GONNA DIE!!!!!!!

Uh, pass me the Zyx.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Vice President Cheney Hospitalized Again for "Abnormal Heart Rhythm"


Christian lefties such as myself are reminded this morning of the need to pray for those with whom we disagree. Vice President Dick Cheney is experiencing abnormal heart rhythm, and is headed to George Washington University Hospital. Mr. Cheney has had four heart attacks in the past. This episode is not a heart attack, but was detected during a checkup. I urge all Christians to pray for Vice President Cheney today. [CNN] Update: Mr. Cheney is back at work and plans on a visit to his doctors tonight.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

"123456..." Worst Pro-Obama Video EVER!

A Project12 student, Danielle, brought the following very serious message (NOT) to my attention. In order to bring about world peace and solve the current economic crisis, here it is... 1 2 3 4 5 6.... HERE WE GO!



(Gotta lighten up bluechristian once in a while!)

Newsweek on Joel and Victoria Osteen: "What's God Got to Do with It?"


Admission here. I have never liked Joel and Victoria Osteen's version of Christianity. For one thing, he smiles way too much. (And no, I'm not kidding.) For another thing, his low-key but ever-present focus on "prosperity gospel" messages leaves me wondering how he would play in Darfur or various other ravaged portions of this world. No, he seems to me a uniquely American phenomenon, part of our long history of "Prosperity" / Faith preachers including Reverends Copland, Hagin, Creflo Dollar (best preacher name EVER!), and all the way back to Father Divine.

But that could all be me. I'm a bit of a brooder, a doubter, a cup half-empty kind of guy.

Maybe that's why I resonated with Newsweek's Lisa Miller, who subjected the Osteens to what appeared to me a theological critique. For instance,

Prosperity preachers are neither new nor unique in America, but the Osteens' version seems especially self-serving. Victoria's book betrays her interest in the kind of small gratifications that rarely extend to other people, let alone to the larger world. She recommends that women take "me time" every day, and indulge occasionally in a (fat-free!) ice cream. She writes repeatedly about her love for the gym. Her relationship advice is retrograde dross: submit to your man, or at least pretend you're submitting, and then do what you want anyway. "I know if I just wait long enough," she writes, "eventually my idea will become Joel's idea, and it will come to pass." When I asked her how she kept her two children interested in church, she answered that even though they were a broccoli and lean-meats household, she gave them doughnuts as a special treat on Sundays. All this is fine, in the pages of a women's magazine or a self-help book. But what has God got to do with it?


"What's God got to do with it?" Shades of Tina Turner, that is my question exactly. And when one throws Jesus into the mix -- Jesus in turn introducing suffering, taking up one's cross to "follow me" -- things get even stranger for the Osteens.

The biggest lie -- and that's a very strong word for folks I think are probably quite sincere -- hidden in the Osteen's theology is that God is there to please us. That's exactly 180 degrees wrong. We are here to please God, to adore God, to pursue God, though in all of those things He precedes us and draws us. (Not, however, "irresistibly" -- I'm not a Calvinist.) But God is God of all peoples in all places, many of those places completely antithetical to and unable to comprehend the sort of Americanized Christianity offered by the Osteens.

There is tremendous blessing and fulfillment in loving God, a God C. S. Lewis once called "a hedonist at heart." God does want to bless us. But he also, and on a deeper level I believe, wants us to enter into the suffering this world knows every day, every hour, every second. Such a calling, central to the biblical message, is completely absent from Prosperity preaching.

Joel Osteen smiles too much.