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01/14/2009

Praying vs. preying: The difference between encouraging respect and fostering its antonym

by Jeremy Hooper

We were mad about the Rick Warren thing. Still are, in fact. We're not sure how, exactly, we'll react when we see his prominent inaugural platform. But despite our frustrations with the man, and our staunch condemnation of the egregious comments he made, we've never once tried to deny Rick Warren of his faith. We respect that he has his own faith views and accept that he is a member of his church community, even if we strongly disagree with the condemnations he has lobbed against our lives and loves.

But how does the religious right react when a pro-gay man of faith receives a presidential invite? Well, they say faith-denying bullcrappy like this:

It’s a shame that President-elect Obama apparently has so little regard for his Christian constituents that he would give such a high place of honor to a self-styled man of God whose only claim to fame is that he abandoned his wife and children to enter, ‘loudly and proudly,’ a  Good As You Images Picture-28-9 1 1-1sexually deviant lifestyle expressly condemned by the very Bible he’s ironically called ‘holy and sacred.’
...
A fancy white robe and tall priestly hat does not a man of God make,” ... “[Bishop Gene Robinson] may or may not be a believer as he claims; only he and God know that for sure. But what we do know is this: based upon his frequent association with homosexual anti-Christian hate groups like the Human Rights Campaign and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and in light of his ongoing counter-Christian sexual crusade, Gene Robinson is little more than a radical homosexual activist in a clergyman’s clothing. In fact, his heretical rebellion against God’s express natural order, coupled with his selfish refusal to surrender his pulpit, has almost single handedly devastated the U.S. Episcopal Church.
-Matt Barber, hyperbole-prone anti-gay bully
*SOURCE: Obama Belittles Bible, Gives Unrepentant ‘Gay Bishop’ Prayer Platform: Barber [AFTAH]

And that, my friends, is yet another major difference between the pro-equality and anti-gay sides. On our side, we want to encourage people of faith to reconsider the gay condemnations that they have accepted as gospel. We encourage them to ask questions, because we think any God who gave us the great capacity for analytical thought would want us to question the unknown. We want them to get to know us and listen to what we are saying rather than condemning us from afar and putting words in our mouths. We ask that they cull their knowledge of LGBT people from humanity's actual landscape. Or at the very least, we want them to see their personal faith views for what they are -- their personal faith views -- and stop trying to foist their theological beliefs onto civil society. But we ask all this with the knowledge that here in free America, they have the right to hold on to whatever religious beliefs they choose.

On their side? Well, plain and simple: Far too many of the "pro-family" folk want a world where their beliefs are accepted as the one, true reality. They don't merely challenge gay-accepting theology -- they aggressively deny their opposition any willingness to keep an open mind, condemn the gay-friendly person of faith as being heretical, and present that person as being disconnected from God. There is no opportunity for dialogue -- the gay-accepting person is just wrong. Case closed, throw away the key.

We who speak out against the Rick Warren fiasco are encouraged by well-intentioned people to keep an open mind and to reach out to those who disagree with us. However, what those well-intentioned people don't seem to understand is the nature of the other side's conversation. We outspoken gays are not often afforded respect -- we are called "anti-Christian" for standing up for our lives. And our religious allies are certainly not afforded respect -- they are chastised as blasphemers with no redeemable theological value. So while it's really easy to give literary lip service to the ideas of "reaching out" and "bringing everyone to the table," it's a different story when you analyze the actual "culture war" landscape. The other side's reaches far too frequently feel like punches.

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Your thoughts

Never thought I'd say this but, Bam-Bam was right about one thing, "A fancy white robe and tall priestly hat does not a man of God make." I think that's one of the best descripters of the bigoted, so called, "clergy" I've ever heard.

Posted by: RainbowPhoenix | Jan 14, 2009 9:40:09 AM

It's interesting how many conflicts throughout the world parallel our interaction with the anti-gays. In a documentary I saw last night on the Arab-Israeli conflict, a point they repeatedly made was that it is impossible to have peace as long as (a) one side's sole reason for existence is to wipe the other side off the face of the earth and they will fight to their last breath to see that happen and (b) one side does not believe the other side has any intrinsic worth. We will never have peace with the anti-gays, since their sole reason for existence is to wipe us off the face of the earth and they will fight to their last breath to see that happen. In their minds, we have no intrinsic worth as LGBT folk. NOTHING we say has any value to them and will not be considered. We see this time and time again when they refuse to have rational, logical conversations WITH us...instead, they talk TO us. This just reinforces why we need to focus our energy on the ones who aren't quite so radical in their views as Bam-bam and the Peter.

Posted by: Ken | Jan 14, 2009 10:51:30 AM

I'm a Unitarian Universalist and the topic of resolving conflict through communication has come up several times in my fellowship. Several times I've asked "How do you even begin a dialog with people who disagree with your existence?" and no one ever ever had an answer.
All I want to ask is what can we do. We've tried waiting, we've been mostly waiting since Stonewall. I've come out, I wear pride rings in Wyoming. It's to the point where I don't get assaulted for doing so, which is nice, but the fact of it is I'm waiting for my teaching reviews (I'm a grad student at the University of Wyoming in Laramie) and it truly wouldn't surprise me if several of them included the word F*g.

Posted by: Matt Williams | Jan 14, 2009 11:57:00 AM

It's intensely frustrating, Matt. It's kind of like when Bush says that history will vindicate him -- it take the conversation away from a discussion of merit or substance and puts it only on faith.

All we can really do is try our hardest to move the movable middle. Challenge the ideologues, but not really so in hopes that they are going to change their positions. Instead, do it in hopes that others who are willing to learn are also listening.

Posted by: G-A-Y | Jan 14, 2009 12:03:43 PM

Well said, Jeremy.

Posted by: Bonnie_Half-Elven | Jan 14, 2009 12:32:51 PM

The *logic* is amazing.
Just imagine if you had a church that refused to allow a black leader. A black leader is appointed, and then the racists throw a fit. And then they try to blame THE BLACKS for the division that occurs. A division that is ultimately caused by the people who can't cope with the object of their discrimination being put in a position of authority...
By this thinking, the minorities should just go to the back of the bus rather than cause any conflict in a discriminatory organization.
It's amusing how prejudice can create a problem, and then insist that the prejudice must be utilized as policy in order to prevent that problem.
A child doesn't get a cookie, and then starts a fight with the siblings. And then tries to blame the fight on the mother who wouldn't give him the cookie...
Unbelievable!

Posted by: foundit66 | Jan 14, 2009 3:13:03 PM

And that, my friends, is yet another major difference between the pro-equality and anti-gay sides.

I think you're using some very confusing/conflating language here. Equality and acceptance of gay folks aren't interchangable; there are many people who are pro-gay who are not interested in equality, wanting the abolishment of religion, or rights for gays and screw the transfolk, people of color, poor folks, and so on.

Posted by: Zeo | Jan 14, 2009 5:23:57 PM

Zeo: There are always exceptions. As a generalization, I think it's quite fair to use "pro-equality" to describe our movement. In a perfect world, this is what proponents of civil rights are seeking.

Posted by: G-A-Y | Jan 14, 2009 6:08:34 PM

The FRC's email newsletter had much the same to say, though in slightly politer terms.

http://www.frc.org/get.cfm?i=WA09A15#WA09A15
-----

Obama Levels the 'Praying' Field
The pulpit is getting even more crowded at the Inauguration festivities next week. After miffing gay and lesbian groups by picking pro-Proposition 8 Rev. Rick Warren to offer the invocation on his big day, President-elect Obama is giving homosexuals a turn in the limelight. In a surprise announcement, it appears the Obama team is trying to soothe the ruffled feathers over Warren's role by asking Bishop Gene Robinson, an open homosexual, to kick off the We Are One event on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial January 19.

"It is also an indication of the new president's commitment to being the President of all the people. "...[It] will be my great honor to be there representing... all of us in the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community" Robinson said. Robinson will deliver the invocation at Sunday's ceremony, which both Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden are scheduled to attend. According to the AP, "Robinson said he doesn't yet know what he'll say, but he knows he won't use a Bible. 'While that is a holy and sacred text to me, it is not for many Americans,' Robinson said. 'I will be careful not to be especially Christian in my prayer.'"

While the choice of Robinson may be designed to placate angry liberals, the irony of it isn't lost on religious conservatives. The ballyhoo over Pastor Warren's selection was in large part because he was "divisive" in supporting Prop 8. Yet if there was ever a pastor whose actions were divisive it was Gene Robinson who almost single handedly devastated one of America's oldest Christian denominations. Robinson's confirmation in 2003 as the first openly gay Bishop shattered the once-conservative Episcopal Church and created a painful split between the liberal leadership and faithful Anglicans that cost it hundreds of thousands of followers. Robinson says, "I believe in my heart that the church got it wrong about homosexuality." This view, which he emphasized in at least three private meetings with Obama, may be reflective of the next president's ideology, but it's far from mainstream. While liberals may not appreciate Warren's position on marriage, a majority of voters happen to agree with him. Far more states--including California--have banned counterfeit marriage than have ratified it.

Posted by: Suricou Raven | Jan 14, 2009 7:09:07 PM

So he wants to cherry pick the bible, does he? I can play that game. How about this? The modern pharisees ignore most of the old law, and, even worse, the main demands of Jesus and the prophets for fairness to the poor and the oppressed. Guess what? We're the oppressed.
Hey Matt W. I'm not exactly sure, but I think we shouldn't bother arguing with those dingbats. We could argue with gay christian haters and try to make alliance with liberal christians, and with all sensible folk. And we should point out to anyone who'll listen what hipocrits the fundys are.

Posted by: Wilberforce | Jan 14, 2009 10:28:34 PM

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