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It’s Not Just Uganda: Behind the Christian Right’s Onslaught in Africa April 3, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Africa, Human Rights, Kenya, LGBT, Nigeria, Religion, Right Wing, Zimbabwe.
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For years now, evangelical activists from the United States have been speaking out against homosexuality and cheering on antigay legislation all over Africa.

As their influence has waned at home, antigay evangelists from the United States have been flexing their sanctimonious muscles influencing policymakers in Africa. (Photo: Travis Lupick / Flickr)

In Uganda, being gay can now earn you a lifetime in prison.

Last month, the East African country was again thrust into the international spotlight after President Yoweri Museveni signed into law a draconian bill that criminalized homosexuality. The high profile, on-and-off battle over the so-called “kill the gays” bill has drawn headlines for years as the most extreme example in a wave of antigay legislation on the continent. But homophobia in Africa is not merely an African problem.

As the gay rights movement has gained traction in the United States, the more virulently homophobic ideologies of the religious right have been pushed further out of the mainstream and into fringe territory. But as their influence has waned at home, right-wing evangelists from the United States have been flexing their sanctimonious muscles influencing policymakers in Africa.

For years now, evangelical activists from the United States have been injecting themselves into African politics, speaking out against homosexuality and cheering on antigay legislation on the continent. The influence of these groups has been well documented in Uganda. The now-defunct Exodus International, for example, sent Don Schmierer, a board member, to Uganda in 2009 to speak at a conference alongside Scott Lively, a pastor who was later sued by a Ugandan gay rights group for his role in promoting human rights violations against LGBTQ people. The two participated in a disturbing anti-gay conference, where speakers blamed homosexuals for the rise of Nazism and the Rwandan genocide, among other abhorrent acts. Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, a hard-right Christian group that is active in U.S. politics as well, similarly supported anti-gay laws in Uganda. At the peak of controversy over the “kill the gays” bill, Perkins praised the Ugandan president for “leading his nation to repentance.”

But such groups aren’t just active in Uganda. They have promoted antigay legislation in Kenya, Nigeria, and Zimbabwe, just to name a few other places. The support ranges from popular agitation and sideline cheerleading to outright intervention.

In 2010, for example, when Zimbabwe began the process of drafting a new constitution, the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ)—a Christian law firm founded by evangelist Pat Robertson—launched a Zimbabwean counterpart called the African Centre for Law and Justice. The outpost trained lawyers for the express purpose of putting a Christian stamp on the draft of the new constitution.

The African Centre joined forces with the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe (EFZ), an indigenous organization, to promote constitutional language affirming that Zimbabwe is a Christian nation and ensuring that homosexuality remained illegal. These and other hardline views are outlined in a pamphlet distributed by the EFZ and ACLJ. Jordan Sekulow, the executive director of ACLJ, announced that his organization would lobby for Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe in political and religious circles in the event of any controversy over the provisions, despite the fact that the Zimbabwean president has been sanctioned by the United States and the European Union for violating human rights. Last year, Zimbabwe’s new constitution, which includes a ban on gay marriage, was approved by an overwhelming popular vote.

ACLJ’s Kenyan-based offshoot, the East African Center for Law and Justice (EACLJ), made an effort to lobby against Kenya’s progressive new constitution as well. In April 2010, a report on the group’s website called homosexuality “unacceptable” and “foreign” and called for the Kenyan constitution to clearly define marriage as between a man and a woman, thus closing the door on future laws that could attempt to legalize same-sex marriage. In this case the ECLJ was unsuccessful, and the new constitution was approved without any language regarding same-sex marriage.

Pat Robertson’s entanglements in Africa go well beyond Zimbabwe and Kenya.

In 1960, Robertson created The Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), which broadcasts through cable and satellite to over 200 countries. Robertson is a co-host on the 700 Club, arguably CBN’s most popular show. From his perch on the show, Roberts has made a seemingly endless variety of inflammatory remarks about LGBTQ people and just about everyone else that does not fall in line with his own religious thinking.

In the United States, Robertson’s vitriol can be brushed aside as the antiquated ravings of a fringe figure. Not so in much of Africa. A survey conducted in 2010 found that 74 million people in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, had watched at least one CBN show in the previous year. That’s a remarkable reach considering Nigeria is home to over 80 million Christians.

Robertson’s influence plays into an increasingly hostile political climate for gays in the country. Last January, Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan signed into law the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act, which provides punishments of up to 14 years imprisonment for a gay marriage and up to 10 years for membership in or encouragement of gay clubs and organizations. The enactment of the law was followed by a wave of arrests of gay men—and widespread denouncement from the international community.

The religious right, however, doesn’t see Nigerian laws regarding homosexuality as a gross violation of human rights, but rather as protection of “traditional marriage.” In 2011, on the heels of the Nigerian Senate passing an earlier version of the anti-gay law, President Barack Obama announced that the United States would officially promote LGBTQ rights abroad as part of its development framework. In response, the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute denounced the administration’s directive for putting “U.S. foreign policy on a collision course with religious freedom.”

MassResistance, a Massachusetts-based organization that bills itself as a “pro-family” activist group, praised Nigeria when the Nigerian House passed an earlier version of the bill that President Jonathan signed into law on January 7. In a statement, the group said that African nations are “feeling the brunt” of the gay rights movement, claiming that the “huge spread of AIDS” and the “breakdown in society caused by the homosexual movement seems to bring more general social destruction in African cultures than in the West.” Anti-gay laws in Nigeria have enjoyed unequivocal support from some hardline evangelical groups in the United States, with some going so far as to travel to Nigeria to spread anti-gay sentiment.

One such group is Family Watch International (FWI), another U.S.-based “pro-family” advocacy group. Formed in 1999 and headed by Sharon Slater, FWI boasts members and supporters from over 170 countries. In 2011, Slater was the keynote speaker at a meeting of the Nigerian Bar Association, where she touted her beliefs on homosexuality, telling delegates that they would no longer have religious freedom and homosexuals would prey on their children if they supported “fictitious sexual rights.” To Slater and her ilk, the rights of LGBTQ persons are imaginary.

FWI even wields influence within the United Nations. In early 2011, FWI co-hosted a “Global Family Policy Forum” in Phoenix, Arizona. Over the two-day event, FWI coached 26 UN staffers from 23 different countries in attendance on how to resist UN initiatives on gay rights. An FWI newsletter claimed that conference attendees were finally hearing scientific and clinical “evidence” that homosexuality was not genetically determined and could be cured by therapy.

To some, the belief that homosexuality is a disease that needs to be cured may seem too ridiculous to even entertain. But if the devout can’t win at home, they’ll take their message abroad. It’s up to the international community and African activists dedicated to human rights to put an end to this export of hate.

U.S. election: Charles Darwin gets 4,000 write-in votes in Georgia November 9, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Religion, Science and Technology.
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David Beasley
Reuters

ATLANTA- A Georgia congressman who attacked the theory of evolution found himself with an unlikely opponent in Tuesday’s U.S. election, when 4,000 voters in one county cast write-in ballots for the 19th century father of evolution, British naturalist Charles Darwin.

In a Sept. 27 speech, Paul Broun, a physician and member of the U.S. House of Representatives Science, Space and Technology Committee, called evolution and the Big Bang Theory, “lies straight from the pit of hell.”

Since Broun, a Republican, had no opposition in the general election, a University of Georgia plant biology professor, Jim Leebens-Mack, and others started a write-in campaign for Darwin, the father of the theory of evolution.

“We don’t feel our interests are being best served by an anti-science fundamentalist representing us on the Science, Space and Technology Committee,” Leebens-Mack told Reuters on Friday.

The write-in votes in Athens-Clarke County will not count officially since Darwin was never certified as a write-in candidate, but Leebens-Mack hopes the campaign will encourage a strong candidate, Democrat or Republican, to challenge Broun in 2014.

“I think there could be Democratic opposition, but even more likely is having a rational Republican who understands issues like global warming, scientific reasoning more generally,” said Leebens-Mack.

Broun received 16,980 votes in Athens-Clarke County, home of the University of Georgia, Broun’s undergraduate alma mater.

Broun’s office issued a statement on Friday that did not directly address Darwin, saying that the congressman “looks forward to representing the … constitutional conservative principles” of his constituents.

The statement also noted that Broun “received a higher level of support from his constituents in Athens-Clarke County this election cycle than in any of his previous campaigns.”

Conservative Christian goes undercover as a gay man October 17, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Human Rights, LGBT, Religion.
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Roger’s note: Shades of John Howard Griffin’s classic “Black Like Me,” which had a tremendous impact in the era of the Civil Rights movement.

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                    Tim Kurek

Courtesy of Tim Kurek                    Tim Kurek, who posed as a gay man for a year to understand the adversity homosexuals face in the Bible Belt.

                    Tim Kurek

Courtesy of Allen Media Strategies                    Timothy Kurek, centre, poses with friends on his first Pride Day in Nashville, during his year of pretending to be gay.

                    The Cross in the Closet

The Cross in the Closet, Tim Kurek’s book about his year-long experiment.

Laura Kane Staff Reporter, Toronto Star, October 17, 2012

When Timothy Kurek told his mother he was gay, she wrote in her diary that she would have rather heard she had terminal cancer.

Most of his Christian friends stopped speaking to him. “Jesus doesn’t love you anymore,” one said. As he sat outside a café in a gay neighbourhood, a stranger yelled “Faggot!” and threw a full two-litre bottle of cola at his head.

All terrible, painful experiences for a gay man — but Kurek isn’t gay. He’s a straight, conservative Christian from Nashville.

The aspiring writer went “undercover” as a homosexual for a year to understand the adversity gay people face in the Bible Belt. His book about the experience, called The Cross in the Closet, was released last week.

Kurek said the idea came to him after a friend came out as a lesbian. She told him, sobbing, that her family had disowned her.

“While she was crying in my arms, instead of loving her and trying to comfort her, my thoughts were … ‘Maybe I should give it a go and try to save her, get her to repent,’” he said.

Kurek was raised Independent Baptist and told that being gay was a sin. He remembers learning the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, and being taught that God destroyed the cities to punish homosexuality.

But after his experiment, he realized the voice in his head wasn’t God, but religious propaganda.

“I realized I had to kill that voice inside of me, because it was only hurting me and hurting others,” he said.

The only way he could do that, he thought, was to experience what his friend had just gone through. So in January 2009, when he was in his early 20s, he “came out” to his family, got a job at a café gay men frequented and started going to gay bars.

His family was outwardly supportive, although he later found his mother’s diary entry that revealed she was struggling. “I was actually pretty fortunate, compared to a lot of other LGBT folks,” he said.

The first time he went to a gay club, he panicked when a shirtless man began grinding against him on the dance floor.

“I didn’t know whether I needed to punch him in the face or go have a cigarette,” Kurek said.

So Kurek asked a friend, who he described as a “big, burly, black teddy bear,” to pose as his boyfriend, so he wouldn’t be hit on.

He didn’t have relationships with men, but did experience what it was like to wear the label of gay in the South, he explained.

He devotes an entire chapter to the first time he was called “faggot.” To his surprise, it made him weep.

“I had to be held back from attacking the person that did it. I never felt so violated and minimized in my entire life, because of that one word,” he said.

LGBT advocates are divided on Kurek’s experiment. Helen Kennedy, director of Egale Canada, said he can never truly know what it’s like to be gay.

“He can’t see what it’s like to be a gay father, or to be an out man in a straight workplace,” she said. “He’s coming from a place of privilege.”

Irene Miller, president of PFLAG Toronto, agreed, but said she was hopeful the book would change some homophobes’ minds. “Within that evangelical culture, if they listen to his message, then it may do some good.”

When the year had ended, Kurek found his views had completely transformed.

“I went from being a very narrow-minded, hyperconservative Christian to an ally of the gay community,” he said.

His project not only changed him, but also his family and friends. When he revealed a year later that he was in fact straight, his mother said she understood that sometimes you need to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes to understand them.

She is now an avid supporter of gay rights. His new LGBT friends were also supportive, Kurek said.

And rather than destroy his faith, the experiment actually saved it. “To the conservative Christians who read my book, I say, ‘Hey, there’s a much better way,’” he said. “It’s God’s job to judge, it’s the spirit’s job to convict, and it’s my job to love.’”

Why I outed a Christian star August 13, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in LGBT, Religion.
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Sunday, Aug 12, 2012, www.salon.com

Why I outed a Christian starJonathan Merritt, left, and the author, right. (Credit: Willyum Baulkey)

I’ve been called a bully for exposing gay evangelical Jonathan Merritt. Even I secretly wonder: Was I right?

By

Ever since I outed an up-and-coming evangelical leader named Jonathan Merritt on my blog on July 23, one sentence has been running through my mind: I might have destroyed his life.

It’s not all the angry emails that made me doubt myself – although some have been wildly disapproving. One, from a longtime supporter, said, “Your actions are arrogant, insensitive, and nothing more. There is nothing brave, honorable or noble about what you’ve done. I am parting ways from you ashamed of you and what you have become.” Others called me a self-promoter and a bully. But their criticism is not what bothers me. As RuPaul once said, “What people say about me behind my back is none of my business.”

No, what bothers me, what overwhelms me with guilt, is the concern for what I’ve done to a person I care about. But then I think of how hypocrisy must be exposed. And I think of this: The truth sets you free.

In 2009, I emailed Jonathan Merritt to simply say I found his Op-Ed in USA Today to be interesting. He is a Christian whose writing on religious and environmental issues has been featured in two books and a variety of publications, from the Atlantic tothe Washington Post. Along with frequent appearances on “The O’Reilly Factor,” “Fox & Friends” and “CNN News,” Merritt has become a star among young people of faith. Oh, and his dad is the former president of the world’s largest Protestant denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention.

Jonathan and I exchanged a few emails, and a year later, in April 2010, we exchanged phone numbers. One night, we started text messaging one another. At this point, I perceived Jonathan to be a heterosexual male. Male he was, but not heterosexual. Jonathan’s text messages became flirtatious, and I became confused.

“Are you flirting with me?” I finally asked him. He admitted he was. And from there, the text messages became very explicit. It was only a matter of days before we met in person. Jonathan was going to be in Chicago at a conference, and he insisted that I be there. Not for the conference but for him.

I knew what it was to be a Christian in the closet. From 2006-2008, I was the host of a syndicated Christian TV show averaging 200,000 viewers a week. That ended after I watched a documentary titled “For the Bible Tells Me So,” a 2007 documentary that explains how the Bible has been wrongly interpreted to condemn LGBT people and same-sex relationships. That movie was the first gay-affirming message I actually listened to and understood, and it helped me unlearn decades of bad theology and scriptural misinterpretations.

I came out in 2008, and at the time I met with Jonathan, I was beginning a national speaking tour with a famous Christian singer, Ray Boltz. Ray had come out six months after me, and we decided to travel together sharing our stories. After our first show in Alabama, I drove to Chicago to meet Jonathan in the lobby of the downtown W Hotel. He had bright blue eyes and boy-next-door good looks. I was smitten. He seemed a little paranoid, though, and it wasn’t hard to figure out why. The hotel was filled with evangelicals in town for the Q Conference, which is like the young evangelical leaders’ version of a TED conference.

Jonathan and I left the hotel and took a taxi to a bar. After a few drinks we took another taxi to another bar. The alcohol was kicking in, and Jonathan’s inhibitions were coming down. In the second taxi, he began to unzip my hoodie after he realized I didn’t have a shirt on underneath. I was shocked by how forward he was — especially with the taxi driver in the car. After the second bar, Jonathan wanted to go to a grocery store for a bottle of wine. He’d had a lot to drink, but he didn’t forget to tell the cashier “no receipt.” As the title of his first book declared, he was “Green Like God.”

We made our way to my car, parked in an open and now empty parking lot. In the back seat of my stylish Oldsmobile Intrigue, Jonathan started chugging the bottle of Riesling and passed it off to me. I’m not one to chug wine, so I sipped. We were alone in the parking lot, surrounded by the skyscrapers.

I kept declining his advances. “I don’t want you to do something that will cause you to live a dishonest life,” I said. After all, my speaking tour was titled “Living True.” But Jonathan insisted it was fine. And I wanted him just as bad.

By the end of the night my lips were raw and chapped from his unshaven face. I felt a little dirty and used, but more than anything I felt bad for him. I knew the guilt that would ensue for him. I’ve been there. It’s so freeing when you connect with another gay person before you’re “out” but when it’s over, you reenter that world of secrets and lies. You’re surrounded once more by the immense social pressure to look and act a certain way within your faith community. Being gay makes you feel so alone. It makes you feel like you don’t belong, like you’ll never escape the torment and spiritual violence imposed on you by bad and broken theology.

I dropped Jonathan off a block away from his hotel at 4 in the morning. He gave me a kiss goodbye and got out of the car. As I drove the three hours back home, watching the sun rise in the east, I ran the night around in my mind. Will I get to see him again? Would he ever come out for me? What if I met his family – what would they make of me? I wasn’t head over heels for him, but I was crushed out, and I couldn’t help imagining a future together, even if part of me knew it was impossible. The sexting and Skype sessions continued for a few more months. Turns out, he did want to see me again. We made plans for another meeting in October 2010 in Atlanta.

But that meeting never took place. My speaking engagement was canceled, and we stopped communicating other than sending the casual “Happy Holiday” text message.

Outing Jonathan was not an easy decision. I mulled it over for more than a year and discussed it with friends. Those conversations always ended in, “Yeah, it’s probably not a good idea.” So, what changed my mind?

I was tired of the lies. I was tired of hearing Jonathan say that being gay is not “God’s best.” Meanwhile he enjoys the company of men. Jonathan’s approach to LGBT people and issues may be less extreme than that of the late Jerry Falwell, but in the end the results and message are the same: Your sexual orientation is a sin and you need to change with God’s help. It’s all lies — and the conversation not only needs to change but the leaders as well.

I’m tired of my humanity as a gay man being invalidated by hypocritical leaders like Jonathan, who then expect my support in return.

But I do feel conflict. I do feel a sense of guilt. And that’s because I do have one regret, which is not discussing it with Jonathan first. That was wrong of me. If I had to do this all over again, I would have contacted him first and then decided how to handle the situation from there based on his reaction. (Merritt has admitted in an interview that “we had physical contact that went beyond the bounds of friendship.”)

Outing a person is complex. There is no blanket formula for how and when and why to do it. I don’t think it’s right in every situation. If someone is in the closet and they’re not making an effort to demonize LGBT people, then I say, leave them alone. But if someone is using a public platform to discuss these issues, and doing that while hiding behind a false identity that ultimately destroys the foundation of the arguments they’re making, then, yes, a full disclosure of that person’s false identity is in order. Go to that person and let them know your intentions. If they refuse to come forward with the truth, then publicly call out their hypocrisy.

I am not asking people to “declare a side in this culture war” as the New York Times suggested in its interview with me. I am asking for our leaders to be honest and transparent. I know we are human. I know we all make mistakes, and there will always be hypocrites. But what is done in the dark can be brought into the light. So lead with integrity. Those are the kinds of leaders we need.

I may continue to be haunted by what I’ve done, but in my heart, I know the truth. Do I think I destroyed Jonathan’s life? I do not. I gave him the opportunity to live life at his best.

Azariah Southworth is a college sophomore at Indiana-Purdue Univ. of Fort Wayne majoring in Media & Public Communication. Once the host of a widely watched Christian TV show, he now dreams of being a cast member on “1 Girl and 5 Gays.”

More Azariah Southworth.

Is the Bible a Threat to National Security? June 30, 2012

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 Roger’s note: click on the link to watch this scary video: “MRFF just posted a video montage, which could easily be called the military evangelicals’ greatest hits, here.

Antiwar.com / ByKelley B. Vlahos
 

A military Bible paints war as religious devotion. What could go wrong?

June 26, 2012 |
 
 
 
Can a Bible be a “threat to national security”?

For years, the government has employed the risk of “national security” excuse to infringe on a wide range of freedoms — like the right to pass through an airport security checkpoint unmolested, or read library books without Big Brother peeking over your shoulder.

Michael L. “Mikey” Weinstein is trying to prove that there is more than one way to put the country at risk, and he’s found it in a heretofore unlikely place: the Bible.

Well, the Holman Bible. To be more exact, a version of the Bible that, for reasons still undetermined, was authorized with the trademarked official insignia of the U.S. Armed Forces emblazoned on the front cover. There is The Soldier’s Bible with the Army’s seal, The Marine’s Bible with the Marine Corps seal, The Sailor’s Bible and The Airman’s Bible, both with their respective insignia. The books have been sold for nearly six years throughout Christian bookstores, commissaries and PXs on U.S. military installations — and are still available on Christianbook.com, Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.

 It’s not the King James Version that the Gideons leave behind in hotel rooms drawers. The Holman Bible was commissioned and published by LifeWay Christian Resources, a subsidiary of the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Baptist denomination in the world, in 2003.

 

In a 1999 press release announcing the edition’s progress, Broadman & Holman Publishers called the new version “a fresh, precise translation of the Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek of the Old and New Testaments.” LifeWay President James T. Draper Jr. weighed in, saying there was a “serious need for a 21st-century Bible translation in American English that combines accuracy and readability,” adding, “the Holman Christian Standard Bible is an accurate, literal rendering with a smoothness and readability that invites memorization, reading aloud and dedicated study.”

The Holman Bible, or HCSB, has been popular with evangelicals for its references and study tools. Someone convinced each branch of the service they’d be perfect for the military, too. So the HCSB became the “official” Bible of the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines in 2004, complete with reader-friendly text and custom “designed to meet the specific needs of those who serve in the most difficult of situations,” according to the publishers.

In other words, aside from the text, the books are filled with “devotionals” and “inspirational essays” tailored to each branch of service. I was unable to get my hands on a copy by press time, but Amazon’s “peek” inside the book and several positive reader reviews confirm some of the contents, revealing what could only be described as a guileless conflation of both Christian and American military iconography. War and service as religious devotion.

In addition to the Pledge of Allegiance and the first and fourth verses of the Star Spangled Banner, there are excerpts from one of George W. Bush inaugural addresses and the Republican president’s remarks at a National Prayer Breakfast. Gen. George S. Patton’s famous Christmas prayer card from the field of battle 1944 is also included, as is “George Washington’s Prayer,” which has been widely circulated (and debunked) as proof of America’s Christian paternity.

These Bibles also feature “testimonials and encouragement from the Officers’ Christian Fellowship,” which has approximately 15,000 members across the military and whose primary purpose is “to glorify God by uniting Christian officers for biblical fellowship and outreach, equipping and encouraging them to minister effectively in the military society.” In other words they proselytize within the officer corps as part of an evangelical “parachurch” within the military.

A largely unfettered one, apparently, as one watches Pentagon officers commenting freely on camera — and in uniform — for this Bush-era promotional video for Christian Embassy, another federal government-wide “fellowship” with similar missionary goals.

One officer, Air Force Maj. Gen. Jack Catton, who said he worked on the Joint Staff at the Pentagon, described himself as “an old fashioned American and my first priority is my faith in God.” Pointing to his meeting with other officers under the auspices of Christian Embassy, he said, “I think it’s a huge impact because you have many men and women who are seeking God’s counsel and wisdom as we advise the Secretary of Defense.”

Then U.S. Brigadier Gen. Bob Caslan (currently promoted to lieutenant general as the commanding general at the U.S. Army’s prestigious Combined Arms Center at Ft. Leavenworth, Kan.) went so far as to say he sees the “flag officer fellowship groups … hold me accountable.”

“We are the aroma of Jesus Christ,” he added.

Something smells, all right, said Weinstein, who heads the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF). The roles of the officers in the video were later deemed improperafter MRFF demanded an investigation in 2007. As for the Bibles, Weinstein said he received some 2,000 complaints about them from service members over the last year. Weinstein, a former Air Force Judge Advocate (JAG) whose 2005 charges against the Air Force Academy in Colorado led to an investigation that officially found religious “insensitivity” against non- fundamentalists there, has gone on to expose a much wider climate of “top-down, invasive evangelicalism” at the institution and throughout the military as a whole.

“We’re fighting a Fundamentalist-Christian-Parachurch-Military-Corporate-Proselytizing-Complex,” Weinstein said told Antiwar.com last week, “and we have been fighting this for some time.” MRFF just posted a video montage, which could easily be called the military evangelicals’ greatest hits, here.

He said aside from “prostituting” the military insignia, the military’s endorsement of the Bibles violated federal separation of church and state, and continue to sanction an insidious culture of radical evangelicalism and discrimination throughout the services (as a Jew, Weinstein said he felt the sting of prejudice when he attended the Air Force academy in the late 1970s; his sons had it even worse, he claims, prompting his first formal complaint seven years ago).

Since then, “(MRFF) has had 28,000 clients and a hundred more each month,” said Weinstein, rejecting claims by his critics that they are all atheist. He insists that 96 percent of his clients are Christians (Catholic and Mainline Protestant) and that his is not a religious crusade. On the other hand, some 33 percent of chaplains are now evangelical Christians (Weinstein’s MRFF places that number at 84 percent), while only 3 percent of service members describe themselves as such.

“They are spiritually raping the U.S. Constitution, the American people and the men and women who are fighting for us,” said Weinstein, who never, ever minces words.

MRFF’s lawyers sent a formal letter to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta’s office in January. In it, MRFF charged that authorizing LifeWay to print its Bibles with the service insignia “is in violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution … and several regulations,” and that the authority should be withdrawn immediately or face legal action from MRFF.

Interestingly, according to the documents now available online, the Army, Navy and Air Force responded to the letter in February, insisting that the summer before Weinstein’s lawyers at Jones Day contacted the Pentagon, they had already pulled their trademark authorizations to LifeWay, for “unrelated reasons.” So, in effect, according to the military, the Southern Baptist Convention subsidiary no longer had use of the trademarks and the question was moot.

Weinstein responded with one word: “lies.” He told Antiwar.com that they were just informed of the letters in June, not in February. Furthermore, according to MRFF senior research director Chris Rodda, MRFF has obtained documents through Freedom of Information (FOIA) requests that indicated the “AAFES (the Army and Air Force Exchange Service, which runs the BXs, PXs, and other stores on military bases) was clearly concerned about the complaints about the Holman Bibles, with emails as early as June 6, 2011 from AAFES to LifeWay saying that these Bibles had ‘become a hot issue,’ and referencing and linking to a June 2, 2011 article on MRFF’s website as the reason they were becoming a hot issue.”

Nevertheless, according to a Fox News Radio story, LifeWay insists it’s “sold” all existing copies of the military Bible in question, and instead is printing the same Bibles with “generic insignias, which continue to sell well and provide spiritual guidance and comfort to those who serve.”

The AAFES told Fox News Radio it has 961 copies of the Bible left on shelves at 83 facilities. Weinstein doesn’t know how many are out there but contends that until each and every one is gone, “they’re still aiding and abetting the cause of al- Qaeda.”

Why? Because it is a national security issue if America is perceived as waging a religious war against the Muslim world. One can’t help but get that impression reading the added material in these Holman Bibles, suggesting that that God has blessed the American warrior for his existential struggle of good versus evil.

A crusade — and one playing right into the religious extremism on the other side, putting Americans overseas, and at home, at risk, said Weinstein.

His approach — which is as fiery and combative as the preachers he rebukes (he’s taken to calling the Pentagon, “Pentacostal-gon,”) — has drawn fire from a number of conservative Christian organizations and websites, which have labeled MRFF a bunch of zealous atheist agitators.

“Why should these Bibles be removed because of the demands of a small activist group?” Ron Crews, head of The Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, asked last week, adding in an interview with Fox News Radio that the Department of Defense was acting “cowardly” by backing down to MRFF.

“MRFF must cease and desist their reckless assault on religious liberty. The Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty calls on Congress to investigate this frivolous threat and apparent discrimination against religious views by the DoD.”

But this “reckless assault” has offered the public a window into how much evangelicalism threads through the military ethos today — from the Pentagon buying guns with sights outfitted with biblical references, to born-again chaplains directing soldiers to hand out Bibles and proselytize among the Muslim locals in Afghanistan.

MRFF has accused Army chaplains of using religion in lieu of mental health counseling to aid battlefield stress, and drew attention to provocative displays of religious murals and crosses sprawled on walls at U.S. bases and on vehicles driven through the urban battlefront. MRFF has protested the taxpayer-funded “Spiritual Fitness Concert Series” performed on bases here in the states, and followed up on complaints by service members at Fort Eustis in Virginia who said they were punished by a superior officer for not attending. MRFF also helped put the brakes on an Air Force training program in 2011 that used the New Testament and the insights of an ex-Nazi to teach missile officers about the morals and ethics of launching nuclear weapons.

More recently, MRFF criticized a fighter squadron’s decision to switch back to its old “Crusader” moniker, complete with a Knights Templar red cross emblazoned on its planes. Under pressure, the Marines have since reversed that decision, returning to its old World War II-era “werewolves” nickname, earlier this month.

Weinstein said “predatory” evangelicals in the military “believe the Separation of Church and State is a myth, like Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster,” and he doesn’t mind putting his own reputation and safety on the line to smash that myth to pieces.

“If we’re catching them on things like this Bible, what the hell else is going on? Well, we know,” he said. “The Bible situation is not innocent, it is not innocuous, it is another raging example of this cancer.”

The Theology of Armageddon September 15, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Nuclear weapons/power, Religion, War.
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Published on Thursday, September 15, 2011 by CommonDreams.org

 

The woo-woo nuttiness of it all defies the imagination, beginning with the idea of a course in “Nuclear Ethics and Nuclear Warfare” at Vandenberg Air Force Base.

Nuclear ethics?

Does that mean no nuclear weapons should ever be used to promote sexual harassment?

Well actually, turns out the point of the mandatory course recently canceled by the Air Force after officers of numerous faiths complained to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation about it and TruthOut published an exposé in July — was to give officers in the first week of missile-launch training a Bible-verse-studded indoctrination in faux-Just War Theory, cynically known in the ranks as the “Jesus Loves Nukes” training.

“Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! He who sat upon it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war.”

This verse, Revelation 19:11, has nothing to do with Just War Theory, Christian or otherwise. It sounds more like the theology of Armageddon, or the ethics of end times — scary enough on the social fringe but, my God, here was the U.S. Air Force, guardian of the country’s nuclear arsenal, pushing it as a basic part of missile-launch training.

There were plenty of other religiously pushy declarations in this mandatory course, such as these words from Wernher von Braun, the Nazi rocket scientist who teamed up with the U.S. military after the war to develop its space and missile programs, regarding his surrender to the Americans in 1945:

“We knew that we had created a new means of warfare and the question as to what nation . . .we were willing to entrust this brainchild of ours was a moral decision more than anything else,” von Braun is quoted as saying. “We wanted to see the world spared another conflict such as Germany had just been through and we felt that only by surrendering such a weapon to people who are guided by the Bible could such an assurance to the world be best secured.”

This is too strange to be irony. The Nazi rocket wizard sought moral reassurance in Christian exceptionalism, and his words then became part of America’s official ethics of nuclear war: We’re with Jesus on that white horse, and if/when we launch Armageddon, we’re only doing the work of the Lord. To my mind, there are few people on the planet scarier than self-proclaimed “Christian soldiers,” at least those who feed from the evangelical trough and belong to the U.S. military, because their agenda transcends rationality. In righteousness they judge and make war.

But my sense of shock and awe over this nuclear ethics course isn’t simply about evangelicals in the military and their zeal to proselytize. It’s about the official sanctioning of a nuclear morality that allows their use: that transforms America and its military machine into an instrument of the will of God.

The canceled course was called Christian Just War Theory. Even leaving aside the “Christian” part, this theory — or rather the public-relations perversion thereof (Just Window Dressing) — is at the center of the smug delusions of armed righteousness in this country and beyond. Some form of it is used to justify every modern war when, in point of fact, an honest reading of just war theory makes modern war impossible.

“Civilians are never permissible targets of war . . .”

What part of this do we not understand? Even Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, has acknowledged the moral quicksand of modern war, commenting in 2003 that “we must begin asking ourselves whether as things stand, with new weapons that cause destruction that goes well beyond the groups involved in the fight, it is still licit to allow that a ‘just war’ might exist.”

Of course, the theory is always presented with wiggle room, making it, you know, fair for the war makers, too: “The weapons used in war must discriminate between combatants and non-combatant,” Vincent Ferraro explains in his discussion of the principles of the theory, as referenced atjustwartheory.com. “Civilians are never permissible targets of war, and every effort must be taken to avoid killing civilians. The deaths of civilians are justified only if they are unavoidable victims of a deliberate attack on a military target.”

Aha, loophole! While the actual point of the theory is to acknowledge — to bless — a people’s need to fight back in self-defense against an aggressor, or to protect the innocent, its language is so hopelessly wishy-washy that its blessing is there for the taking for any armed cynic who wants moral cover. A warring nation has unlimited permission to kill indiscriminately as long as it “makes every effort” to avoid killing civilians.

Thus Harry Truman announced, on Aug. 9, 1945: “The world will note that the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, a military base. That was because we wished in this first attack to avoid, insofar as possible, the killing of civilians.”

There is no moral honesty in a discussion of war for the simple reason that there can’t be. War is its own end, the perversion of every just cause. As soon as we begin worshipping it, we can tolerate moral authority only as a cover for our crimes. Before you know it, Jesus loves nukes.

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Robert Koehler is an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist and nationally syndicated writer. His new book, Courage Grows Strong at the Wound is now available. Contact him at koehlercw@gmail.com or visit his website at commonwonders.com.

Evangelical Homophobia-Planting in Uganda: A Tough Seed With Poisonous Fruit May 10, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Africa, Human Rights, LGBT, Uganda.
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Tuesday 10 May 2011

by: Valerie Tarico, Away Point

Christian extremists in Uganda’s parliament are hoping that hunger and high gas prices will provide the cover they need to finally subject gay men to punishment of biblical proportions.  They haveintroduced a bill, up for vote on May 11, that seeks life imprisonment for gay sex and, for repeat offenders, the death penalty.  Last year, similar legislation was averted by international outrage.  President Museveni was afraid of losing valuable aid dollars, and after outcry arose across the West, with Barack Obama calling the law “odious,” Museveni prevented the bill from coming to a vote. 

Stopping the bill was insufficient to save the life of one Ugandan,David Kato, who was beaten to death with a hammer in January.  Kato was Uganda’s most outspoken gay rights advocate and had received many death threats before he was killed.  In the winter months before his death, one newspaper ran a front page photo of Kato with an anti-gay rant and a banner urging “Hang them.”   Last spring I traveled in Mozambique, where a full-page article in a local paper interspersed Bible verses, exhortations to spiritual living, and similar anti-gay vitriol.  Although leading fundamentalists like Albert Mohler appear increasinglyresignedto “tolerance” here at home, across Africa the marriage of Christianity and homophobia appears to be thriving—thanks in part to an American tendency to take our outdated wares and social movements overseas. 

Two years ago, I wrote an article that asked, “If the Bible Were Law, Would You Qualify for the Death Penalty?”  It described some of the thirty six causes for capital punishment listed in the Good Book, including cursing parents, witchcraft, being raped (only within the city limits), adultery, and of course, homosexual sex.   Mercifully, even the most old school American Christians seem to ignore the Bible on these points.  But one of the unfortunate consequences of Americans exporting biblical literalism to developing countries is thatpeople in those countries take the Bible literally– including the parts we all, missionaries included, wish they wouldn’t.  In Nigeria, American Pentecostalism has fused with local animism and resulted in children being beaten and burned as witches, just like the Bible prescribes.

In Uganda, American evangelism may besimilarly responsiblefor Kato’s death and the proposed law.  In March 2009, frustrated by their inability to block the gradual inclusion of gays in the universal human rights umbrella at home, Evangelical leaders traveled to Uganda and led incendiary workshops seeking to increase Ugandan fear that gay men are a threat to straight marriages and children.  It would appear that Uganda’s already fractured and restive society is reaping what the American missionaries have sown:  further contention and violence. 

“I don’t want anyone killed,” said Mr. Schmierer, one of the Evangelical leaders who traveled to Uganda two years ago.  “But I don’t feel I had anything to do with that [Kato's death].”  Many evangelicals, those who see the Bible as literally perfect, find it almost impossible to imagine that the Bible itself could be responsible for inciting violence or that those who preach biblical inerrancy could be complicit in that violence.  And yet other Christians, those who see the Bible as the imperfect record of the imperfect struggle of our spiritual ancestors, find this causal chain quite plausible.  According to theologian Thom Stark (The Human Faces of God),the biblical record attributes divine sanction in places to some of the worst of Iron Age impulses, including human sacrifice.  Unless we understand those writings in their human context we are bound to glorify passages that instead should teach us about the darkness in the human spirit.  And glorifying human darkness puts us at risk of enacting it. 

It is troubling that of the many offerings that might have been carried by American Christians to Africa in the service of theGreat Commandment, what has been carried instead are the seeds of homophobia—fear, hatred, and death.  It will take many voices raised together to reverse the damage done by a few misguided missionaries.  I hope those voices will be raised this week (petition here)and again next year, and for as many years as are needed until Uganda’s gay community can live in love and peace

 Valerie Tarico is a psychologist. She is the author of ‘Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light’. She is also the founder of WisdomCommons.org.

The Virgin Joseph? November 29, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in About Virginity.
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Roger Hollander, November 29, 2009

“If men could have babies, abortion would be a sacrament.”

I buy 99% of my reading second hand at thrift stores.  I get some really good deals, and after a careful browsing of the back cover I almost invariably pick reading that I enjoy.  I find the best buys at the Bibles for Cambodia thrift shop in Guelph, which is why it is ironic that it was there that I inadvertently chose a “Christian” novel (“Deeper Water,” Robert Whitlow).  Its blurb suggested it was a “legal thriller,” which I love, but I missed the small print that read “Christian novel.”  So be it.  I decided to read it, I made it to the bittersweet end (the crime is solved, but the morally pristine heroine has not yet been able to chosen between her two born-again suitors), and I have no regrets.  The work was well written, the plot and the characters were believable, including the protagonist’s Evangelical family and her Evangelical lawyer associates.

Having once myself fallen into the throes of Evangelical Christianity (back in the early 1960’s, after which I took the message of Jesus seriously, left the hypocritical church and dedicated myself to Marxist humanist revolution), I felt the portrayal to ring true.  The author’s point of view was both Evangelical and fundamentalist, but mercifully lacked the narcissistic and jingoistic neo-Fascist political outlook of contemporary American Fundamentalism.

Two things about the novel struck me.  One was what I consider to be the ingenuous belief that the Christian god of the literalist interpreted Christian Bible concerns himself with the daily minutiae of each and every believer (imagine the mega giga’s on the dude’s computer).  But, beyond that, the obsessive preoccupation with the female protagonist’s virginity.  This we take for granted, but I decided to do some critical thinking on the theme.

First of all, I remember from my theological studies (Princeton Theological Seminary, 1963-1964) that some scholars use “maiden” instead of “virgin” for the original Hebrew and Greek word that traditional Bible translators translate as “virgin.”  “Maiden” would refer to an unmarried woman who is not necessarily, well, virgin, as we understand the word (that is, intercourse-free).

Contemporary Evangelical Christians, not to mention fundamentalist Muslims, Jews, etc. consider that their god is cognizant of the various marriage rituals, secular and religious, that constitute “marriage” in modern society, and that he insists that women shall not have had sexual intercourse prior to entering into that arrangement.  But hey, what about men?  Why not the Virgin Joseph?

Granted that if you asked a believer should a man be “virgin” before marriage, she or he would probably say yes, perhaps however with a sly wink on the side.  To the credit of the author of my Christian novel, he had his female Christian protagonist equally obsessive about her dress and manners so as not to tempt members of the opposite sex into sinful thoughts and desires.  What he doesn’t address, however, with respect to our heroine’s two Christian suitors, is the sexual attraction I would expect to be included in the attraction that induced them to become suitors in the first place (the author does constantly refer to her physical beauty).  Are we to believe that the attraction is strictly limited to the woman’s character and beliefs?  That certainly wasn’t my experience when I fell in love and married when I was an Evangelical Christian, and I cannot believe that I was an exception.  Where is Jimmy Carter when you need him?

Neither did my author give any mention to his heroine’s sexual desires or fantasies.  Does he want us to believe that she was entirely an asexual being?  That Christians have no sexual drive until marriage, at which time it somehow automatically it pops into gear?  I don’t think so.  I think Evangelical Christians acknowledge sexual drives and categorize them as sinful (an offence against their god) before marriage but suddenly somehow transformed into a gift from god after marriage (to be used however, only according to the instructions from the manufacturer that come with the product; that is, with the approved partner, with anyone else we’re back to sinning).

Now let’s go back and look at what it means for a woman to be “virgin,” to abstain from sexual intercourse before marriage.  If she does not have sex with single or married men, then with whom are these men to have sex?  Well, for married men that’s a no-brainer, their wives.  But if unmarried virgin women are not to have sex with single men, and single men are not to have sex with either single or married women, then there is no escaping the logic the Christian god wants good Christian men as well to be “virgins” prior to marriage.

Fair enough.  But why then all the obsessive preoccupation with the Virgin Mary and absolutely no mention of the Virgin Joseph?  You cannot bring in the Old Testament patriarchal values or what Saul of Tarsus (who later became Paul the sexual moralist) wants us to believe about his god’s view of the different roles of men and women, to explain this.  Yes, Christian women are to be submissive and obedient to their husbands, but definitely not to either a single or married man who asks for sexual intercourse while she is still single.  She must remain virgin, and therefore logic allows for no other option for the Christian male to remain virgin as well.

While the Evangelical Christian (as well as Roman Catholics and other religious fundamentalists) will probably acknowledge this to be true, again what they cannot explain why in all their discourse, female virginity takes on the color of an absolute while male virginity hardly deserves a mention.

For me the answer is obvious, especially in light of the patriarchal (man controlled) structures, theologically and institutionally of virtually all organized religion.  It can be summarized in a single word.

Misogyny.

In looking for an image to go with the article, this is what I found on Google under “male virgin”

Barack Obama, Linda Douglass, and Little Ole LGBT Me December 22, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Human Rights.
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www.huffingtonpost.com

Karen Ocamb

There’s a saying in the 12 Step programs about being sick and tired of being sick and tired.

It’s at this point — generally your own personal version of rock bottom — that you surrender and admit something has been screwing up your life.

Well — I guess that’s where I am now. I’m sick and tired of hope.

I wanted to explain this to Linda Douglass, Obama’s heavy-duty spokesperson, when she called unexpectedly and unsolicited at 7:30 Friday morning. But I was taken aback. When she started to identify herself, I stopped her and said, “I know who you are. I remember you from your time as a reporter here in L.A.” – before CBS News moved her to Washington to cover the Justice Department. I was once a small time producer at CBS News and admired Douglass’ journalistic talent.

But Linda did not call to chat about our different career paths. She called me as the news editor of LA’s two largest LGBT publications — IN Los Angeles and Frontiers magazines — to talk about evangelist Rick Warren, who President-Elect Barack Obama selected to deliver the Inauguration Invocation. In case you haven’t heard, there’s been something of a firestorm from LGBTs over the choice.

Obama chose Warren, Linda said, primarily because Obama “has a strong belief in seeking common ground with those people with whom he disagrees on important issues” so difficult discussions can be conducted with civility. Obama admires Warren’s efforts on behalf of the poor and people with HIV/AIDS and climate change, she said, but he disagrees with Warren on issues involving the LGBT community, women’s reproductive rights, and other issues.

The goal, Linda said, was to make this “the most open and inclusive Inauguration in history, including all points of view.” The choice of Warren “was about his seeking common ground with somebody who is trying to be a voice of moderation” to others in the Christian Evangelical movement and beyond through his book “The Purpose Driven Life.”

“This is a choice that reflects these steps toward inclusiveness,” Linda said, adding that the Inaugural program is being rolled out very slowly and by the end, the Big Picture will be revealed as including a “very diverse, inclusive set of people” and an environment that reinforces the belief that “we’re stronger when we’re united. That’s the goal.”

Linda urged me to urge my LGBT readers to look at Obama’s Warren choice in the context of “the Big Picture — a set of goals that have to do with making sure every voice is heard and making possible progress” by resolving those differences that “get in the way of doing what is right for all the people. There is no reason to fear that [Obama's] commitment to equality for gay and lesbian people is going to waver.”

Linda noted Obama’s “own strong belief in the importance of equality and the importance of doing away with discrimination.” Look at the fact that on Election Night Obama “gave a firm shout-out to gays and lesbians that was heard all around the world,” Linda said, as well as his strong record on LGBT issues, including his opposition to Prop 8 (the California amendment that stripped marriage rights from lesbian and gay couples).

Linda noted that civil rights icon Rev. Dr. Joseph E. Lowery has received “short shrift” as the person doing the Benediction. He’s an “outspoken champion of LGBT issues – one of the really, really strong voices” and he’s “at the other end of the program.”

Yes, thank God.

But Linda, I said, the Inauguration isn’t a town hall meeting where different policy discussions can be hashed out. This is a hugely important moment when you say, “this is what we stand for” — and with no openly gay person on the podium — or in his Cabinet – Warren’s pick is a devastating kick in the solar plexis.

Was Obama aware that in an interview with Beliefnet Rick Warren compared same sex marriage to incest and pedophilia? “I don’t know if he was aware of any specific thing,” Linda said. But he is aware of his disagreements and Obama is a “strong, strong champion” of LGBT rights who favors repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and will sign federal hate crime legislation.

Look at the Big Picture.

But it’s hard to look at the Big Picture when you’re doubled over with pain.

I brought up Melissa Etheridge’s question to Hillary Clinton during the
Logo/Human Rights Campaign debate last year – when Melissa basically asked Hillary how can we trust you when we had such high hopes with Bill Clinton and he threw us under the bus?

Linda said she’s been listening to a lot of pain.

I can imagine. I don’t think the Obama folks were quite prepared for the reaction. And I KNOW LGBT folks were not prepared for the sucker-punch — especially after having our legitimate, fundamental right to marry stripped from us by a simple majority of California voters.

But maybe the outrage has done some good. Maybe Obama will finally “see” us — not as a motley crew with a common issue — but as real flesh and blood human beings who get hurt and angry with good reason — we are the last minority against whom it is acceptable to discriminate.

I was in the room in 1991 — before there were medications to “manage” HIV/AIDS – when candidate Bill Clinton went off script and said to a theater full of angry and pained gays and people with AIDS, “I have a vision and you’re a part of it.” Even without close advisors David Mixner or Bob Hattoy whispering in his ear – Clinton wanted and sought and got the LGBT/PWA vote — because things were soooo bad under Reagan/Bush. We were traumatized — experiencing life and death daily like water gushing through clenched fists.

Clinton included us in the Inauguration — gay families on the family float — panels from the AIDS Quilt — a LGBT viewing corner along the parade route — meetings between LGBT and AIDS activists with transition team members — including Hattoy — who spoke at the Democratic National Convention, and Tim Westmoreland.

And then, as everyone knows — in the face of Sam Nunn and threats to defeat every piece of legislation if he executed his promise to lift the ban on gays serving openly in the military — Clinton threw us under the bus and created the “compromise” policy “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” with the Defense of Marriage Act following not far behind. But everyone knew beforehand that Clinton was more conservative than LGBTs and people with AIDS wanted.

But at least Clinton saw us. He seemed to understand our lot as American exiles living in America and he “felt our pain.”

So I was as moved by Maya Angelou’s Inauguration poem for Clinton, “On the Pulse of Morning,” as I was when I heard JFK’s Inauguration speech as a child. The possibility of hope filled the air — a marrow-bone belief that one day we will see each other and celebrate our differences with civility.

I think of Maya Angelou everyday as I walk my dogs and nod to my neighbors, “good morning.” For a moment, it all rushes back — that positive possibility of a better world, starting one to one.

That’s what Obama promised. Yes, together we can change America. That’s why the brilliant gay author and legal scholar Tobias Wolff flew across the country on his own dime defending Obama and asking for a second chance after antigay Gospel singer Donnie McClurkin headlined Obama’s “Gospel Tour.” Wolff promised that henceforth no antigay people would speak for Obama.

So when it was revealed that Obama picked Rick Warren to deliver the Inaugural Invocation — I felt sucker-punched. My mind drifted to the opening paragraph of the famous book by Ralph Ellison — “Invisible Man.”

“I am an invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allan Poe; nor am I one of your Hollywood-movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids =- and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me.”

At the end of the book, Ellison writes: “Perhaps, on the lower frequencies, I speak for you.”

I finally got it.

It’s not that Obama thinks of this as a “Sister Souljah” moment as I first thought. The fact is — Obama doesn’t think of us at all. The gays who might be near him are staffers who happen to be gay and for whom being gay is apparently not an issue. He doesn’t see them as gay — and therefore he doesn’t see us at all.

We are not a substantive part of his vision.

What to do? Well, for one — expect nothing from this new president for whom we are a nuisance, given how huge are his priorities. Let the national organizations push to their hearts content. But the real work on securing our equality with other American citizens will be done on the ground — locally, statewide and through grassroots networking and coalition building. Through the Victory Fund and electing our own. Through the political clubs and electing delegates to rise up through the ranks to start running the parties. There are as many options as there are creative imaginations among us. Let us be the visionaries. At least we see each other.

Now that’s a cause for hope.

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