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October 25, 2004

Comments

John

Well, I wouldn't take your bet, Hugo, but that aside, I emphatically agree with your last paragraph. A little pressure is no bad thing, and can indeed bring out weaknesses and areas which are not immediately obvious. One of my lads shame-facedly told me the other day, nearly in tears, that he was asked if he was a Christian by his classmates, and he said "No". He wears the gang patch, to fit in to boot. He told me he knows it's wrong, but does it anyhow, because of the pressure. That wouldn't have come out if he hadn't been asked. (I gave him a hug and some gentle advice on standing for the right thing; he's taken the patch off, for a start). Pressure is good, to a point. It makes one stronger.

Hugo

John, I have always had the feeling that we share a very similar commitment to youth -- as well as a similar style. Someday, I'm coming to worship with you in NZ. Don't know when, but someday.

John

I'll look forward to it, Friend.

josh

Hugo-

First time reader here, and a very interesting post. In true "me" form, I'm going to ask a question that is probably oblique at best:

Is this difficulty you speak of endemic to the Christian faith? Do you think it's necessary that Christians always (or even an overwhelming part of the time) be in a position of emotional scarcity and vulnerability--or not be Christians?

I don't know... I guess it ties into what you were saying about taking flack for being "truly" Christian. That an institution like Christianity must necessarily go against the grain of other institutions raises an interesting question for me: aren't the institutions problematic?

I don't know. Whenever I encounter someone involved with denominations or identities, I want to shake them and ask them for more radical critique. I feel like I can do that here for some reason. :)

In other words, aren't the Baptist/Pentacostal Republicans just carrying the opposite identity, with its own trappings, and standing up for their own (always almost) persecuted beliefs?

And now that I've asked my oblique, and likely irrelevant question, thank you again for your interesting blog!

-josh

Hugo

Thanks for the visit, Josh! Well, you're right on some level. Part of what we are doing is simply basic developmental work -- we know that young people need to develop a strong sense of identity. We know that they are hungry for an identity. And we also know that the Christian life involves being "in" the culture, but not "of" the culture. (One standard trope is that both left and right in the Christian world accuse the other side of capitulating to the culture!) So, teaching the kids the importance (and consequences) of taking a stand for what they believe in is a key, indispensable element of Christian formation.

NancyP

I have to say that Christian whining about discrimination gets a little thin when thinking about Semitic or Indian subcontinent folks who were shaking in their shoes after 9/11 - from the doctors to the gas station and quick-mart owners, they were scared of getting the crap beaten out of them. Working at a medical center, I knew there was serious apprehension, fortunately not fulfilled to the extent feared (only one beating and no deaths, could have been much worse, even though no comfort to the one man).

When was the last time you heard of an American Christian in the USA get their a-- whupped or murdered for being a Christian? Yet the so-called Christians don't have the wherewithal to emphatically state that violence against **all** of the following: gays, blacks, Jews, Arabs, dark-skinned folk that can be confused with Arabs) is not permitted to Christians. When someone gets their head bashed in outside a gay bar, the churches don't post sermons, why bashing is not Christian. 90-99% ignore it. The "ignore" numbers are a little lower for the other categories, but still high.

Have Dobson and the like not figured out that people diss them because they are so annoying? I would rather spend my time listening to the used car ads.

Stephen

"When someone gets their head bashed in outside a gay bar, the churches don't post sermons, why bashing is not Christian. 90-99% ignore it. The "ignore" numbers are a little lower for the other categories, but still high."

I'm very curious as to how this is known. Was there a poll done after the sermons? I've heard many a sermon on why the bashing of heads is a bad thing.

Dobson may be annoying but that doesn't make him false.

Steve

Hugo

Indeed, Stephen, you're right. Many conservative Christians have been explicit about condemning anti-gay violence. Dobson was quoted recently after the Jimmy Swaggart fiasco:

Though clearly opposed to lesbian and gay rights, most mainstream conservative Christian leaders have steered clear of explicit threats of violence such as those expressed by Swaggart. For example, earlier this week in a nationally simulcast forum on opposition to same-sex marriage cosponsored by Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council, the National Association of Evangelicals, and the Southern Baptist Convention, Focus on the Family President Dr. James Dobson said, “I'm not here to cast aspersions on homosexuals; they need our acceptance and respect... We are not hateful people.”

I can honor that. I don't hold the Christian Right responsible for Matt Shephard. I do think that one can be opposed to homosexuality on moral grounds and not hate gays and lesbians. I support same-sex marriage and full and total integration of GLBTQ folk into our society and our churches. But I respect the intentions of those who are not willing to go that far. Though there are a few nuts out there (like Fred Phelps), they are the minority.

John

Quite right, Hugo. I have heard many sermons from our pulpit about the impermissibility of bashing, the unChristian nature of racism (from many groups, in many guises), and several sermons welcoming increased immigration, a very controversial subject. My Conservative Senior Pastor thumped the pulpit and shouted "No to the politics of Hate and division! I say that if in God's Providence He wishes Asian people to come here, we must welcome them, and welcome them with open arms". The next week, we welcomed a congregation of Korean Presbyterians into our building, to share it with us. Likewise, in which Church have you ever heard the pulpit declare that blacks and Jews are evil? Our Church is half-Maori, and our country has a thriving branch of Christian Friends of Israel, and we play football with the Black Power.
One last point. It's easy to say that Western Christians don't suffer persecution in a country with a Church attendance rate of 50%, like the US. Here, it's 12%. Christians have been beaten up in isolated incidents in the UK, Sweden, France, Canada, and here in NZ. A Salvation Army worker was beaten to death a few years ago by a drunken mob. Rare? Yep. So was Matthew Shepherd. And in actual fact, the unianimous Christian consensus was to condemn the killing-Would you like a link or two?. Ditto the murder of the Abortion Doctor the other year-The NACE rejected the theological rationale used by the killer, and condemned him as a murderer. Say what you like, use what stereotypes you like, Nancy, but you are plain wrong. About Dr. Dobson-He is held in great respect, not only in the US, but all over the world. You might not like him, but he is influential, and has earned that influence, not primarily because of politics. The man is a hero of mine not because of activism, but because there is one more mother who is a little less frazzled, one more father coaching cricket and a child who is more loved and more secure. That's what Focus does-Makes it OK to be a parent, and for that, I honour them, and him. Of course, I agree with him, which doesn't hurt! ;-)

NancyP

Sorry, my survey is less than scientific - it consists of published titles in the newspaper Sat. religion roundup and titles on church signs seen round town. Admittedly, the titles are sometimes cryptic, due to lack of sufficient plastic letters ;)

I do hold the conservatives responsible for not stating, ****every**** time they say "gay is bad", also "gays are our brothers and we do not beat our brothers". I also recognise that the actual bashers are not necessarily weekly churchgoers. However, the bashers swim in the same culture, they justify their bashing with the Bible, and this indicates that at some point their education, or that of their family, failed. Hence my contention that the conservatives need to be repeating the anti-bash message much more often, and not merely when they seek to distance themselves from an outrageous comment or heinous crime.

Dobson has learned his lesson. He got a fair amount of heat early on for not being explicit about no-bashing-by-Christians. He screwed up in the first broadcast or two after the Shepard murder, and then improved. And the hopeful thing is that some of the heat had to originate from his conservative listeners.

The Dobson I know is the one-hour version, not the 5 minute version. The shorter version is or was very secular in feel, and rather apolitical in terms of not mentioning specific legislation. The 1 hour version stokes anxieties in half or more of its segments, at least in even-numbered (election) years, and the parenting pearls, or lumps of coal, are accordingly reduced. To my mind there are several more useful (practical) parenting/marriage programs out there in conservative Christian syndicated radio-land.

Now NZ John says Matthew Shepard gay bashing incidents are rare. No, they are not. Few are publicized, unless there is actual murder - mere broken bones don't count, except for local gay newspapers. I can't think of a recent US case where a Christian was murdered by a secular specifically and only for being Christian. And sorry, NZ is both a smaller and a more peaceable country, so I don't buy the 12% churchgoing vs 50% churchgoing argument. Besides, that 50% US number is likely a lie, since Americans notoriously like to look good when self-reporting to the pollsters.

DJW

I can't speak to NancyP's point about the conservative Christian response to violence, but I've certainly seen plenty of "love the sinner, hate the sin" brand anti-gay Christians fail to live up to the slogan pretty spectacularly.

Since we're trading in anecdotes, I had a childhood friend who way gay. Well, he was never "out" to me or most of his friends (not surprisingly, the only teenagers who were in that small town were far, far more ostracized than anyone else, and subject to violence as well), but I certainly suspected. He grew up in a conservative Church that preached the above line all the time. In college, I beleive he came out and experimented with the kind of Christianity Hugo finds at All Saints. A few years of that, though, and he decided he couldn't do it, since be believed in his heart of hearts that homosexual acts are sinful.

Problem is, he had/has no desire to try to change his gayness. To him, it's a sin that God has decided to tempt him with. He's not interested in pretending he's straight or undergoing some dubious and painful process to try to force it to happen. He's planning to be a straight, single, celibate Baptist for the rest of his life, and he's made is peace with that (or at least that's what he puts out into the world; we're not really in touch much these days).

His experience with "love the sinner, hate the sin" Christians has been nothing short of shameful. (He's written about it, and the essay I read online a couple of years ago was devastating and depressing. Unofortunately, google can't seem to find it anymore; perhaps he's taken it down.) He's been made to feel very unwelcome in a few different Churches. I know, and I'm sure he knows, they're not all like that, but his experience seems to offer further evidence for the thesis that anti-gay theology goes hand in hand with anti-gay bigotry as often as not.

(And Hugo, you're on a roll--another great post. As a straight white male, nothing bugs me more than straight white males complaining about how mistreated they are by society, blamed for all of societies problems, etc.; the straight white married Christian American male circa 2004 may well be one of the least oppressed and most priviledged people in world history, and they can't even relax and enjoy it because they're too busy whining about how they're oppressed...)

DJW

OK, I just read something else on Dobson and had to come back and talk about it. Dobson recently:
------------
Dobson said that Democratic candidate Brad Carson is a liar whose pro-gay agenda would doom humanity. He was careful to note that he was not "attacking the personhood" of Carson.

Link from Majikthese:
http://majikthise.typepad.com/majikthise_/2004/10/dobson_gays_wil.html
"Homosexuals are not monogamous. They want to destroy the institution of marriage," Dobson said.

"It will destroy marriage. It will destroy the Earth."
Dobson went on:

"Patrick Leahy is a 'God's people' hater," Dobson said.

"I don't know if he hates God, but he hates God's people."
--------------

Telling your followers that group of people X, simply by their very existence, are a tremendous and existential threat to your life, is a way of inspiring violence. And Dobson is smart enough to know that.

Tony

God will eventually have the final say about Gay marriage. Given what the scriptures say, i think God has already made it clear how He will treat the subject.

ex - Look what happen to Sodom.

Hugo

Ah yes, Sodom. The Lord is quite explicit about what the real sin of Sodom is...

Ezekiel 16:49-50

John

No, no. The Sodomites were quite capable of committing more than one sin at once. The Angels were quite clear on that.

Hugo

You're right, John -- we'll add in homosexual rape, as the context in which homosexual activity is discussed in Genesis is decidedly non-consensual.

John

Whether it's consensual or not....Oh never mind. You're baiting me again. ;-)

NancyP

not to mention, raped angels (and angels lying with mortal women), condemned elsewhere. Can't say I worry too much about raped and raping angels.

Lack of hospitality, lack of charity, as in various other comments on the Sodom story (eg, Ezekiel) is an ever-present sin. Don't you dare give me your tired, huddled masses, etc - let'em fry to death, lost in the desert on the Mexico-Arizona border. Not to mention the daily ignoring of no-heat, no-lights folks right here in the city. Fill in the blank for your own community and country.

Amanda

Gay-bashing is hardly rare, and that's why it only gets reported if it ends in spectacular murder most of the time. Anti-gay incidents are #2 on FBI's list of most common hate crimes, but the FBI thinks it's likely that's #1 but under-reported compared to other hate crimes because the victims are often far more ashamed/afraid to come forward for fear of bringing more abuse, fear that the police don't care, and fear of being exposed to an employer. Also, since a good number of anti-gay incidents have people who are actually heterosexual but perceived otherwise, these incidents go unreported because the victim too may have homophobic fears of the label "gay".

I do blame the Christian right for their rhetoric around gays and lesbians, even those who denounce violence. The endless dehumanizing language like "unnatural", etc. plus the indications that God himself disapproves of gay people create an atmosphere where plenty of people think that they are acting with their community's approval when they gay-bash. Believe me--when you call someone unnatural and godless and then admonish people not to hurt them, many members of your audience will think, "Well, he's just saying that because he knows that it's politically incorrect to advocate violence."

And that's the people that are listening. Those who are only half-listening mostly just pick up on the dehumanizing language.

Amanda

Also, thinly veiled threats of what God will do like Tony's here can translate nicely into very real threats on Earth.

John

Accusing Conservatives of (literal) gay-bashing might be fun for you, Amanda, but it's getting very tedious.

Amanda

Don't see where I did. Just said that it's disingenous to use authoritative positions to call hellfire on gays and call them dehumanizing names and then act all surprised if some people think that means that it's okay to treat them like they are less than human.

John

Sorry, let me rephrase that: Accusing Conservatives of promoting (literal) gay-bashing might be fun for you, Amanda, but it's getting very tedious.

Tony

Hugo: See Jude vs 7. "Likewise, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which in the same manner as they, indulged in sexual immorality and pursued UNNATURAL LUSTS, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire."

John

Quite right, Tony. As I said, Sodom was quite capable of more than one sin at once. It will be interesting what Hugo says to this; I've not heard a liberal exegesis of this verse, it seems to be ignored.

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