Saturday, November 22, 2014

Caught between

Instead of listening to Obama's speech on immigration this past Thursday evening I went to a Detroit Symphony Orchestra concert. Four of the five works on the program were new to the orchestra, one a world premier. I had a fine time.

So I heard about what the prez. did through the regular news media, mostly NPR. The big question pundits batted around was why did Obama do it and why do it now after John Boehner said such action would "poison the well" (never mind that Boehner put a concrete cap over the well long ago). The answer to that question seemed to be such things as: (1) Because the Senate passed an immigration bill 16 months ago and the House hasn't taken it up and likely won't. Or (2) Because Obama could.

Essayist Terrence Heath proposes another possibility, one he considers "brilliant." This has a few pieces to it:

* There really isn't anything the GOP can do in response because the steps Obama took are all legal.

* The news is bringing out the conservative crazies, who are spouting all kinds of nasty – accusing Obama of such things as leading up to a civil war. Latinos know they are the target of that nastiness.

* The GOP can placate the crazies only by alienating Latinos. The GOP needs the crazies to stay in power now but will need the Latino vote to keep power in 2016. Because of Obama's move they won't get both.

One big regret – Obama didn't do this a month ago when it might have made a difference in the last election.

Using his senses

After my post yesterday I went out to a movie. It is one with rave reviews, but the only time I could see it during it's weeklong run was 9:45 on a Friday night. The movie is The Way He Looks and was shown at Cinema Detroit. I've been at this cinema once before. It's in an old elementary school and is minimal operation, but it shows movies not shown anywhere else in the area. I'm still puzzled by the pool table in the boys room.

Alas, there was a glitch last night. The movie is from Brazil, so is in Portuguese. When it started the subtitles weren't showing and it took a couple minutes for the staff to catch on. Then it took 25 minutes of fussing over the equipment and another false start before the small audience could watch and understand. The subtitles were finally in place, though we also got a frame counter on the screen as well. When the movie was over (at midnight) the owner gave us passes for a future show.

The story is about Leonardo and his friend Giovana. They are in high school. Some of their classmates make fun of Leo because he is blind. He uses a noisy braille typewriter in class, appears to stare straight ahead, and needs Giovana to walk him home. His parents are overly protective to the point he considers a foreign exchange program to get out from under them.

Then Gabriel joins the class. Soon Giovana feels ignored and it takes a while to sort through all that, with lots of misunderstanding along the way. So what in all that teenage angst caught my attention? The story explores (at least a little bit) the idea of sexual attraction in the blind. If Leo can't see and be aroused by the human form how does he discover he is gay?

The actor who played Leo did such a convincing job playing blind that I wondered if they found a blind actor. I don't know the answer to that. Though I thought the other aspects of the story were a bit lightweight, Brazil has nominated the film as their submission for best foreign film Oscar.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Montana and South Carolina!

The same-sex marriage ban in South Carolina was struck down at the district court level. The 4th Circuit denied an appeal. The Supremes didn't grant a stay. Even before that stay was officially denied, a judge began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

A district court in Montana declared that state's same-sex marriage ban to be unconstitutional. The state AG has vowed an appeal, though he probably won't get very far – the 9th Circuit has already ruled that such bans are unconstitutional. Marriages have begun.

So, yeah, South Carolina is getting same-sex marriage before Michigan – where the AG has filed briefs saying that because of the 6th Circuit decision to uphold the state's ban he wants to declare those 300 same-sex marriages from last March to be voided. Which makes this cartoon appropriate. I'm sure we'll get same-sex marriage before Mississippi – won't we?

The National Organization for Marriage has seen its fundraising plummet (only 50% of what they took in last year) and appear to be near death. Yay! Alas, since they are losing traction in America they are looking for friendly countries to set up shop – like Russia.

Truth and Reconciliation

I am finally able to publish my post about the Just Resolutions between Rev. Ed Rowe and Rev. Mike Tupper and those who filed complaints against them. The details were presented at a gathering in East Lansing last week. Ed and Mike are the Michigan United Methodist pastors who performed same-sex weddings. The Just Resolutions are the agreements they reached with the Michigan bishop. More details in my brother blog.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Holy Terror, part 2: Cast of characters

White discusses several leading people in the modern fundamentalist movement and what they contributed to where we are today. Some are well known – we've been battling them for 30 years. Others are new to me. White knew most of them personally and worked with them on a variety of book and film projects. The first one mentioned is Billy Graham, but mostly to say that while Graham was the best known Evangelical of the 20th Century, he was not a Fundamentalist. So, onward.

Next is Francis Schaeffer. He expounded on fundamentalist principles at L'abri, his compound in Switzerland. He wanted to restore fundamentalist principles to a religion that had strayed too far and he wanted to restore those same principles to America, which had also strayed too far (much more on this later). He was waging war to save both church and state. Schaeffer's 1981 book A Christian Manifesto was a call for fundamentalists to become politically active, to reclaim America for Christ.

No doubt Schaeffer was sincere in his beliefs and his goals. But his writings and speeches were full of incorrect interpretations (such as the Supreme Court and their ruling on prayer in public school) and hyperbole to rally the troops. Those techniques have been used consistently since then.

Though Schaeffer considered homosexuality to be "a part of the abnormality of the fallen world," he didn't exploit fear of gays for his fundraising.

The son of Francis is Frank Schaeffer, who grew up in the compound and is now repudiating his father's work. I wrote about Frank a few times in the past: here, here, and here. He apparently has a regular gig at Huffinton Post explaining fundamentalism while debunking it. This Frank Schaeffer is not the United Methodist pastor who performed a same-sex wedding for his gay son. That one spells his name with only one "f" and I frequently misspelled it when I wrote about him.

W. A. Criswell was for fifty years the senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas. In 1969 he preached a sermon titled, "Why I Preach the Bible is Literally True." This was the "shot heard round the denomination" and started the purge of progressives and moderates from the leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention.

In 1980 Criswell preached his first sermon against homosexuality. This sermon is the source of most of the lies that have been told and retold about us: He said the story of Sodom and Gomorrah is about homosexuality rather than inhospitality as the bible itself says. He misused the six other "clobber" passages to condemn us. He used faulty science to claim homosexuality is an acquired sickness that is curable. He conjured fear of gays and lesbians, on the march to secure rights. He railed against the teaching of sex education in schools. He used a few examples to declare all gay people live miserable lives. He concluded by saying gays may also accept the healing power of Jesus. And if they don't...

Before he died in 2002 at the age of 92 Criswell saw and regretted the pain caused by his demand that everyone agree with him about the inerrancy of the bible. Though Criswell laid the foundation of the Fundie view of homosexuality (and probably didn't regret that), he did not use homosexuality and fear of it to raise money.

About the time Francis Schaeffer was writing his Christian Manifesto Jerry Falwell was developing the Moral Majority. Schaeffer had put out the call to war; Falwell recruited and trained the troops. His first difficulty was getting over a psychological barrier – all his training was towards shunning those outside his denomination, but he needed fundamentalists in other denominations to help wage his war. Falwell later said, "Francis Schaeffer told me that in the past God used pagans to accomplish his will. Why shouldn't we?"

Falwell was a master of spin. His platform has four planks: Pro-life (women shouldn't have control over their reproductive rights), pro-family (no rights for gay people), pro-moral (but our definition of morality), and pro-American (making this a Christian nation by ending the separation of church and state).

Falwell, Paul Weyrich (a Jew), and Richard Viguerie (Roman Catholic) mastered mass-market mail to rally the troops to begin electing like-minded supporters to every level of government. In the 1980s they exploited fear of the "godless Soviet empire." Once communism collapsed in Europe Falwell and company exploited fears of millions of unborn babies and of the gay agenda. His letters described all this as a declaration of war. Their high point (so far) was in 2004 when their minions elected a fundamentalist president and established a firm hold on the House and Senate.

Pat Robertson created his own separate media empire and used it to push the Fundie agenda, including bashing sexual minorities. That empire is huge, reaching millions, and is well funded.

James Dobson also had a huge following through his own media outlet, Focus on the Family. He became the enforcer. If he didn't like what a politician was doing he would rant about it, prompting his listeners to inundate the politician's mail, email, and phone. It got to the point that some politicians called Dobson before a major decision. That was especially true of Bush II when the decision was judges for federal courts and justices for the Supreme Court (more on this later). Through this Dobson showed his intent of driving moderates out of the GOP.

Dobson created action councils around the country. While many of them had the word "family" in the organization's name, the names were different enough to avoid easy tracing back to Dobson. These local councils could do the political enforcement at the local and state level. Through his empire Dobson has become "the most powerful and the most influential voice on the religious right."

A key part of Dobson's efforts was to use the lies Criswell developed to demonize gay people. Part of it was because he saw us as a threat, part of it was because he could raise millions of dollars that way.

Mel White includes D. James Kennedy in this cast of characters. Kennedy is the head pastor of the huge Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in South Florida. Kennedy uses that platform to spout a more extreme version of what Dobson, Robertson, and Falwell say.
D. James Kennedy was the perfect shepherd to guide his flock away from the real problems of justice, mercy, and truth every Sunday with a fundamentalist Christian mix of patriotism, cheap grace, pseudopsychology, and scary apocalyptic warnings of what might happen to America if... If the evil Soviet empire triumphs... If homosexuals have their way with our children... If feminists destroy the family... If pro-abortionists continue killing a million unborn babies yearly... If criminals, teenage gangsters, drug peddlers continue to roam our streets.. If pornographers... If the internet... If Hollywood... If activist judges... If Hillary Clinton...
Kennedy was a signer, though not author, of A Manifesto for the Christian Church that was signed by 460 Fundies in 1986. This document includes a list of essential truths. At the top of the list is the inerrancy of the bible, which is
the test for all truth, including philosophies, books, values, actions, and plans, and the final measurement of all God wants mankind to know about law, government, economics, business, education, arts and communication, medicine, psychology, and science.
According to the Manifesto when a nation obeys the bible it will be blessed, when it disobeys it will be cursed. It is America's task to teach the rest of the world of God's laws. In the list of social evils, abortion is at the top followed by homosexuality, well above treatment of the poor (#5) and racial discrimination (#8). Since the bible must be taken literally the response to homosexuality must be the death penalty.

Schaeffer issued the call to arms. Criswell supplied the propaganda and the urge to purge. Falwell and Robertson supplied the troops. Dobson bullied the politicians. And Kennedy trumpeted their ultimate dream.