this week’s example of bigoted child abuse in the church: child sings ‘ain’t no homo gonna make it to heaven’ in church

Some people ask me why I spend so much time debating the issue of the legalization of same-sex marriage. Apart from the academic side of the intellectual argument, and the textual/theological argument, we often forget that the outcome of this debate and the charges and claims made during the debate itself hurt real people and adversely affects their lives. And I’m not just speaking about those gay individuals who are discriminated against on a daily basis, but I’m also referring to the children who are taught to mock and even hate by their parents from a very young age in church!

For example, watch this latest video taken from the Apostolic Truth Tabernacle in Greensburg, Indiana, the same town where a gay high school student at Greensburg Community High School in Greensburg IN, Billy (William) Lucas, recently took his own life apparently due to the anti-gay bullying he was receiving from his peers.

Listen to the lyrics of the song sung by the child, and watch the reaction of the adults in the audience.

The child sings the following lyrics:

I know the Bible’s right, somebody’s wrong.
I know the Bible’s right, somebody’s wrong.
Romans one and twenty-seven (Rom 1:27)
Ain’t no homo going to make it to heaven.

Watch the room full of white adults stand and cheer and laugh in approval. The pastor nods and laughs. They are celebrating bigotry. They are celebrating their belief that gay Americans are going to burn in hell. One person is even heard to yell proudly, “That’s my boy!” And toward the end of the video, they have the child sing it again. Note that in the first performance, there is another child standing with the boy, and they boy ends after one verse, but in the second performance (see the 1:07 mark in the video), there is no second child, and the little boy sings the verse multiple times. This was no accident or lapse in judgment, it was an encore performance!!!

And what’s worse, from this point on, this child knows that every time he calls a gay individual a “homo,” he’ll have the cheering support of his church behind him. Remember, he’s a child: someone taught him this song! Every time he condemns a gay individual to hell, his parents will applaud. They might even invite him up in front of the church to sing of the gay individual’s condemnation to the church, who will shower him with applause and laughter.

This is child abuse. It is hateful indoctrination at its worst.

The pastor in the video is Jeff Sangl of the Apostolic Truth Tabernacle at 1114 Westridge Parkway W in Greensburg, IN 47240. You can email Pastor Sangl at jsangl@tds.net or call him at the church office at (812) 662-8224. You can also contact him at his family business (I kid you not), the Flatrock Whitetail Deer Farm, where they raise whitetail deer to hunt them at (765) 525-9488.

Apparently, shortly after this video was posted online, and the public outrage began, the pastor abruptly left on vacation. The church immediately posted a statement on its website, stating among other things:

The Pastor and members of Apostolic Truth Tabernacle do not condone, teach, or practice hate of any person for any reason. We believe and hope that every person can find true Bible salvation and the mercy and grace of God in their lives.

We are a strong advocate of the family unit according to the teachings and precepts found in the Holy Bible. We believe the Holy Bible is the Divinely-inspired Word of God and we will continue to uphold and preach that which is found in scripture.

So once again, while the church simply denies that they teach hate, the video shows otherwise. AND, we see that the church is quick to excuse and dismiss its abhorrent behavior by invoking religious freedom stating that “we will continue to uphold and preach that which is found in scripture.” Once again, even in their non-apology, “religious freedom” is used to excuse hatred taught to children.

THIS is why I take this issue so seriously. What “thoughtful conservatives” see as the simple upholding of “traditional marriage” is all too often manifest as teaching children to mock and hate their neighbor…in church. It has to end, and I for one as a scholar of religious studies, will stand with the oppressed on this one.

imagine that picture of you protesting same-sex marriage 40 years from now: YOU ARE ‘THOSE PEOPLE’

Imagine that picture of you protesting same-sex marriage 40 years from now, with your Bibles and your flags and your signs:

Imagine how stupid you are going to look in 40 years: Mixed Marriage vs. Same-sex marriage.

Imagine how stupid you are going to look in 40 years: Mixed-race marriage vs. Same-sex marriage.

In 2008, I wrote:

“I ask Californians, especially Christians, to look within their hearts and ask themselves whether we want to treat homosexuals today as we treated women in the 1920’s, and blacks in the 1850’s. Will we look back in 40 years’ time in disgust and shake our heads and ask how we ever voted to deny civil rights to groups based upon a personal sexual choice?”

An artist sums up what I wrote in one picture.

If you are campaigning AGAINST same-sex marriage, that’s you. In the picture. That’s you. You ARE that person. You are the person in the picture that we look back on in disgust, shaking our heads, and asking, “How on earth were people EVER that mean? Why did they EVER believe that? How could those people discriminate against others that way? And use the BIBLE to do so?”

YOU ARE “those people.” And in an age of social media, where EVERYTHING is written down, captured, and remembered, it will be that much easier for us to show our children and grandchildren the faces and the names of those people who argued AGAINST the civil rights of others. And our children will look back in disgust at the images of people protesting same-sex marriage the SAME way we look back and shake our heads at the bigots protesting mixed-race marriage 40 years ago, or desegregation before that, or women’s right to vote before that, or slavery before that, and using the Bible to do so!

YOU ARE THOSE PEOPLE!

(HT: Rabbi Gershon Steinberg-Caudill via FB)

the irony of african-american support for banning same-sex marriage

Dr. Patrick Wooden Sr., pastor of the Upper Room Church of God In Christ, and his wife Pamela Wooden celebrate early returns that show strong support for Amendment One during an election night party at the North Raleigh Hilton on Tuesday, May 8, 2012.

Dr. Patrick Wooden Sr., pastor of the Upper Room Church of God In Christ, and his wife Pamela Wooden celebrate early returns that show strong support for Amendment One during an election night party at the North Raleigh Hilton on Tuesday, May 8, 2012. (Photo: Travis Long for NewsObserver.com)

OK, I’ll say it:

The sheer irony of many African-Americans, especially Christians, celebrating what they believe to be the biblically ordained suppression and discrimination of another group’s civil rights betrays the short memory of those who were once themselves oppressed for being nothing more than who they are.

This irony is not new; it has been discussed in the past regarding California’s Prop 8 here and here. Is the same true in North Carolina?

I am not an African-American, so one could argue that I’m not permitted to discuss this topic. But I must say that as one who is neither gay nor black, but who has written extensively about this topic for years now, to me this political demographic anomaly ranks among the grand ironies of our era.

I do believe one can make a case that the African-American community has once again been ignored as a voting block. It is not enough to argue simply that black churches are socially more conservative than their white counterparts. The fact is that much of the time and money spent on educating the public – especially Christians – about the problems of attempting to ban same-sex marriage upon biblical or ‘traditional’ grounds in a secular state has been spent on persuading the much larger white voting block, while comparatively little time and money has been spent on educating and entering into dialogue with the African-American community. Thus, the African-American community has once again been overlooked in favor of focusing attention, time, and money upon white groups for political advocacy efforts.

Whatever the underlying reason, the irony still remains: many African-Americans like Pastor Patrick Wooden (pictured) are actually celebrating the suppression of civil liberties (note: not religious liberties, but civil, secular, state liberties) of an otherwise oppressed group, who only want the same civil rights as those in the majority.

To me, the use of religion to suppress the civil liberties of a minority group of any race, religion, gender, color, or sexual orientation is shameful. For one underrepresented group to suppress another only increases the burden.

Repost and respond away!

so, rick santorum, what you’re saying is “be conservative: don’t go to college”

Don't wanna be conservative anymore so I went to college

Rick Santorum’s real beliefs on education are finally frothing up and boiling over. Unfortunately, he’s saying them aloud in public.

Kyle Munzenrieder wrote a brilliant response for the Miami New Times to Santorum’s most recent comments, as did The Hill‘s Daniel Strauss. Allow me to offer my own.

Rick Santorum finally said aloud what many fundamentalist Christians have felt for a long time: “be conservative: don’t go to college. And if you do go to college, make sure it’s a Republican party-approved private conservative Christian college. (I’m looking at you Liberty University, Bob Jones, Oral Roberts, Regent University, BYU, and Pepperdine.)

Listen to what Santorum told a Florida audience:

“It’s no wonder President Obama wants every kid to go college..the indoctrination that occurs in American universities is one of the keys to the left holding and maintaining power in America. And it is indoctrination.”

Evangelicals would prefer that students either attend schools with the words “evangelical,” “theological,” and “seminary” in the title (preferably all three) or not at all. Because according to Santorum’s and other evangelicals’ line of thought, when the nation’s top colleges and state universities educate students, it’s liberal indoctrination. But, when private conservative evangelical schools educate students, it’s not indoctrination; it’s a simple dissemination of facts (and by facts, I mean faith claims that are often contrary to scientific facts).

It’s almost comical: Evangelicals don’t want kids to go to America’s top colleges because they might actually learn something besides a fundamentalist, conservative, literalist, theologically-laced worldview, which often leads to a biblically defended suppression of the civil rights of groups that don’t look and/or think like they do. So, from a very early age, they encourage like-minded people to isolate and insulate their kids from any point of view other than their own by placing kids in home schools, private (approved conservative) Christian schools, conservative Christian colleges, and if they do attend graduate school, they often receive some fantastic degree in education, physics, and applied scripture from Southern Evangelical Theological Seminary (I made this title up. If it does exist, my point has only been further underscored.)

So just to clarify:

Public school: Liberal indoctrination
Home school: NOT indoctrination

Public High School: Liberal indoctrination
Christian High School: NOT indoctrination

Public or Ivy League university: Liberal indoctrination
Christian College: NOT indoctrination

R1 Research Graduate School: Liberal indoctrination
Evangelical Theological Seminary: NOT indoctrination

I shake my head.

HT: Jim West

UCLA Summer 2011 Course: Dead Sea Scrolls and Early Judaism with Dr. Robert R. Cargill

Course: Jewish Studies 170: Dead Sea Scrolls and Early Judaism
Instructor: Dr. Robert R. Cargill, UCLA
Date: Summer 2011, Block A (June 20 – July 29, 2011)
Time: MW – 12:00 to 2:15 pm
Room: Public Affairs 2270

Qumran Tower

The Reconstructed Tower at Qumran, facing southeast

Course Description:
This 4-unit course introduces the Dead Sea Scrolls and their relationship with early Jewish movements. The course will include extensive reading of the Scrolls in English translation (with discussion of some key Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek words), an examination of the archaeology of the site of Qumran, and a survey of the broader sociopolitical context of Second Temple Judaism (586 BCE – 135 CE) out of which the scrolls emerged. The history of the discovery of the scrolls will be discussed, as will the interpretative methods used by scholars studying the scrolls over the past 60 years. The class will explore issues of Jewish sectarianism, canon and “scripture,” the role of the Temple, the place of the Torah, the re-writing of texts, interpretation of prophecy, messianic expectation(s), liturgy, and will compare and contrast the text of the scrolls with early Christian and Rabbinic texts.

The course makes extensive use of virtual reconstructions of the archaeological site of Qumran and digitized texts. Each lecture will be video cast on iTunes U and exams are taken online via CCLE/Moodle.

Please contact Prof. Robert R. Cargill at cargill@humnet.ucla.edu for more info.

Click here for a .pdf flier of the course. Click here for the registrar’s course information.

three thoughts on egypt for 2/11/11

 

2-11-11 - Egyptian Democracy Day (image by Dr. Robert R. Cargill)

2-11-11 - Egyptian Democracy Day (image by Dr. Robert R. Cargill)

Here are three thoughts on Egypt for 2/11/11, the day Hosni Mubarak resigned the presidency:

  1. 2/11 did what 9/11 couldn’t: it showed that nonviolent Arab dissent can defeat what militant Arab dissent desired: a nation ruled by autocratic force.
  2. 2/11 used to be Islamic Revolution Day in Iran (here and here and here), establishing the present Islamic regime in Iran.
    Today, 2/11 becomes Democracy Day in Egypt.
  3. Less than two months ago, Egyptian Coptic Christians were massacred in a New Year’s mass in Alexandria (here and here and here). Today, the Egyptian President, Muhammad Hosni Mubarak, is gone. It was only when the people of Egypt – both Muslim and Christian together – rallied in a secular, nonviolent protest, that the people of Egypt united as one to take back control of their country.

Follow the celebration at UCLA’s Hypercities Egypt Digital Humanities project.

social justice in action: egyptian muslims form human shields for egyptian coptic christians

Muslims form a human shield around various Coptic churches during Coptic Christmas eve mass services around the country and at candle light vigils held outside, offering their bodies and their lives as protection while Coptic Christians worship inside.

Muslims form a human shield around various Coptic churches during Coptic Christmas eve mass services throughout Egypt and at candle light vigils held outside, offering their bodies and their lives as protection while Coptic Christians worshiped inside.

Rarely in modern times do we witness acts of solidarity and social justice that are truly life threatening. I am honored to say that I am proud of the Egyptian Muslims who protested the terrible militant attacks against Coptic Christians at the Saints Church in Alexandria, Egypt on New Years day. But it was the way in which they protested that was both impressive and self-sacrificial.

A mass of Egyptian Muslims formed human shields around various Coptic churches during Coptic Christmas eve mass services throughout Egypt and at candle light vigils held outside. They offered their bodies and risked their lives as protection against militant Muslim terrorists while Coptic Christians worshiped inside. It was an act of solidarity with their Christian Egyptian neighbors that spanned their different religions and got to the heart of both faiths: love of neighbor as social justice towards all.

Among those shields were movie stars Adel Imam and Yousra, popular preacher Amr Khaled, the two sons of President Hosni Mubarak, and thousands of citizens who have said they consider the attack one on Egypt as a whole.

“This is not about us and them,” said Dalia Mustafa, a student who attended mass at Virgin Mary Church on Maraashly. “We are one. This was an attack on Egypt as a whole, and I am standing with the Copts because the only way things will change in this country is if we come together.”

Egyptian Muslims literally offered their lives for their Coptic Christians brothers and sisters. They spoke with their bodies, uniting as one in Egypt against terrorism and religious intolerance.

Very, very well done. There is indeed hope for humanity if we can only see the inner light in every human being, as these advocates did today.

HT: JW

james mcgrath on agnostic christianity

The Thinker by Auguste Rodin

The Thinker by Auguste Rodin

James McGrath has written an excellent post on “Agnostic Christianity.” Dr. McGrath concludes:

For me, the answer to the question someone asked recently about Christian agnosticism is that there not only can be Christian agnosticism, but that in fact that is all we have. There are no people who have actual historical certainty about every historic Christian claim about Jesus. There are only people who have managed to attain a feeling of certainty. But being honest about the uncertainty, even though it can be unsettling to feel it, is not at all something to be ashamed of. Instead of describing it as “agnosticism” we could also call it “honesty.”

Dr. McGrath has written about this subject in the past, and I referenced him in an article I wrote for my friend, Jason Boyett, entitled, “On the Virtue of Doubt: A Brief Autobiography of the Skeptic in the Sanctuary.”

I recommend Dr. McGrath’s thoughts to anyone wrestling with issues stemming from a critical study of the biblical text.

texas only wants christians in the state legislature? really?

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus. (AP Photo)

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus. (AP Photo)

The conservative Christian right is getting desperate, and in Texas, their white hoods are peeking out from beneath their Sunday best.

According to a Fox News article by Judson Berger, there is a call from conservative Christian leaders to replace Jewish Republican Speaker of the Texas House, Strauss, with a conservative Christian:

“…several of Straus’ critics have noted how important it is that a Christian be named to take his place. These discussions have been made public by a series of media reports, drawing condemnation from some corners and making others in the GOP more than a bit uncomfortable.

In one e-mail conversation between two members of the State Republican Executive Committee, official John Cook stressed the need for a Christian to lead other Christians in the legislature.

“We elected a house with Christian, conservative values. We now want a true Christian, conservative running it,” Cook said in the Nov. 30 e-mail.”

Really? There is a Christian litmus test in order to hold elected office in this country? It’s not enough to be a conservative Republican, you have to be a Christian as well to be Speaker?

The article continues:

“At least one conservative activist has directly referenced Straus’ religion. Peter Morrison, who publishes a newsletter, wrote in a recent dispatch that Straus’ rabbi sits on the board of San Antonio Planned Parenthood. Morrison wrote that Straus lacks the necessary “moral compass” to hold his office and called his competitors “Christians and true conservatives.”

Asked about the column, Morrison said in an e-mail that he was “simply making factual statements” about Chisum and Paxton.”

This is yet another black eye for conservative Christians in Texas, who apparently advocate against Jewish Texas House candidates for Speaker in favor of conservative Christians. I wonder if they’d let Jesus serve as Texas House Speaker? Or is he too Jewish?

The Day After: Thoughts on the Response to the Overturn of Prop 8

It has begun. The response from those who supported California Proposition 8 is underway now that:

U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker said Proposition 8, passed by voters in November 2008, violated the federal constitutional rights of gays and lesbians to marry the partners of their choice.

What I find fascinating is how similar the comments being made by all of the various talking heads are to one another. They don’t mention that Prop 8 barely passed with 52.2% of the vote, which was down from the 61.4% that the very same measure (Prop 22) passed with only 8 years earlier, they speak about how “over seven million voters voted for the measure.” They don’t speak about how certain groups regularly seek to bypass around our elected representatives (as we are, in fact, a democratically elected representative democracy), and use direct ballot initiatives to place what are now, in fact, unconstitutional measures on California ballots. Rather, we hear speak of how “activist judges” “disregarded the will of the people,” “set aside a democratic vote,” and “legislated from the bench,” as if the popular views of a voting public always produce fair and equitable laws. (Seriously, ask yourself: were the issue of slavery or the equal rights of African-Americans placed on the ballot in a southern state in 1860 – or 1960 for that matter – would the voting public abolished slavery? The fact that a war was fought to, among other things, defend the practice – with guns in the 1860s and water canons in the 1960s – may help answer that question.)

We are also hearing the “slippery slope” argument invoked at every opportunity: if now this, what’s next? Similarly, we are hearing form many Christians appeals to the Bible that Prop 8 supporters dared not make during the campaign for fear of revealing their obviously unconstitutional desire to influence the state with church directives.

Regarding the “illicitness” of homosexuality in the Bible, allow me to make a few brief observations. It is interesting that the other forms of what many refer to as illicit sexual behavior are actually condoned in the bible. Polygamy was all the rage until Paul encouraged Christians in 1 Cor. 7 to stop getting married altogether (unless, of course, you lacked self control, in which case he asked Christians to limit themselves to merely one wife). Marrying a bride-child under the age of 18 was the norm as long as her father agreed to the price he was paid for her. Incest wasn’t frowned upon because staying in the tribe was considered more important than staying out of your half-sister’s pants.

The point is, there are many things sanctioned in the Bible that are today considered criminal (slavery, suppression of women’s rights, etc.). Today we have remedied many of these things, despite what the biblical text says.

Likewise, there are sexual restrictions in the Bible that modern society has maintained because they are exploitative towards marginalized persons. You can no longer marry or have sex with a child, despite the fact it was done legally all the time in the Bible. It is exploitative of children and therefore forbidden. It is argued that many women in polygamous relationships are suppressed and exploited, so after much debate, the U.S. banished it. I am open to having the debate once again, as it is never wrong to revisit issues that were once decided long ago. But I think we’ll find that on both popular and civil rights grounds, polygamy will not pass muster.

The difference with homosexuality is that it is a decision made by two consenting adults with no victim. Because married couples no longer feel the pressure to produce children, and because few Americans no longer feel that sex is only for the “reproduction of children,” a childless relationship is no longer considered inappropriate. And, because there are no data showing that the presumed negative effect on children being raised outside of a relationship consisting of “one mother and one father” is any greater than children raised in families that have experienced divorce (and there is certainly no constitutional amendment barring divorce or barring divorced individuals from remarrying!) the “it’s bad for the children” argument also falls flat.

This generation has witnessed homosexuality depart the category of “illicit activity” (bestiality, polygamy, incest, etc.) and join the category of previously prohibited biblical activities that modern people (Christians and non-Christians alike) now find acceptable (like eating pork, mixing milk and meat in the same meal, planting different crops side by side, allowing divorced people to remarry, mowing the lawn on Saturday, allowing women authority over men, and, you know… not owning slaves!

“It’s icky” is no longer a good argument against gay marriage. Slippery slope arguments (like, “If we allow gay marriage, then what’s next? Polygamy? Marrying a goat?” etc.) also fall flat on a case-by-case basis because they exploit the civil rights of others (not to mention the goats). Appealing to biblical precedent is hypocritical (see slavery, genocide, etc.), and arguing that it’s “unnatural” casts aside hundreds of other human behaviors that are obviously unnatural and self-destructive like overeating, eating processed foods (what other animal does that?), smoking, drinking, and wearing makeup.

In the end, all that’s left is a simple appeal to the way it’s always been: “preserving traditional marriage.” And just like this same appeal to the status quo has time and again been defeated (slavery, women’s rights, etc.), so too has the restrictions on gay marriage. And this is a good thing. Of course, some will object and deny gay marriage, while others will speak out on the side of equal rights for all. But I believe in the end, many Americans will do as Jesus did and not mention the subject at all. Because most Christians and most Americans simply don’t care about what other people do in their bedrooms… unless a video of it can be accessed anonymously via the internet.

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