America’s problem: Men who pee sitting down

Your WTF for the day, which you can thank one of my siblings for digging up. You just can’t make this shit up:

You heard it here first, folks. Men who pee sitting down: the greatest threat facing the U.S. in the 21st century. Glad we settled that.

And as far as fringe asshattery goes, this clip is like the gift that keeps on giving. Gratuitous account of European perversity. Claiming “males” are different from “men.” Silly numerological theories about the significance of chapter and verse divisions that were added as conveniences to biblical texts loooong after they were first written. KJV-only wackiness: because a translation of the Bible produced in 16th century England must be the only reliable one!


Jay Bakker: Finding Jesus, in Drag

I read a wonderful post this week by Jay Bakker – the son of Jim Bakker and Tammy Faye Messner – on how going to a drag show helped him recognize you can find faith anywhere, and that there are no boundaries on grace or on God’s love. Some excerpts:

During a trip to California a few years back, my then-wife Amanda and I were invited out to a drag show by RuPaul, the famous drag queen (recording artist, supermodel, VH1 talk-show host, etc.) who did the voice-over for the 2000 documentary about my mom, The Eyes of Tammy Faye.

…Frankly, I was really nervous about how the Christian magazines and festival organizers and even some of my Christian friends would react if they knew I’d been to a drag show…In the end, I decided to overcome my fears and go. (When the queen of drag queens invites you to a drag show, you really don’t have a choice.) Thank God I did….

During intermission, I stepped outside to have a cigarette. While I was standing there, one of the drag queens — a seven-foot tall black man in heels who was wearing a massive replica of the Eiffel Tower on his head — approached to say that he was a preacher’s kid too and that he had grown up in the church. He went on to explain how much he loved my mom and how worried he was about her cancer.

“Please tell your mom that I’m praying for her and that I love her,” he said, Eiffel Tower bobbing as he spoke….

Near the end of the show, a drag queen got up onstage and began spotlighting the famous people in the crowd: “Dita Von Teese is here!” (cheers). “And RuPaul is here!” (cheers). And all of a sudden he said, “Did anyone here ever watch the Praise the Lord ministry?”…And suddenly, this huge spotlight hit me.

As I blinked into the blinding light, the emcee asked teasingly, “Are you straight?”

“Yeah,” I said, blushing and pointing a thumb at my wife, Amanda.

“Lucky girl,” the emcee said.

And then the emcee got real serious. Standing there in high heels and a sparkly dress, he said: “You know, this is where Jesus would be if He were alive today. Jesus hung out with the tax collectors and the prostitutes and the sinners … ” He then launched into a three-minute speech about how Jesus loved everybody without judgment.

Then he looked back up at me and asked, “Jay, are you still doing your church?”

“Yeah,” I answered.

“Oh, that’s so wonderful. Best of luck to you on that.” And everybody clapped.

So there I was, stunned, not knowing what to make of this. One minute a drag queen was making cracks about whether I’m gay, and the next minute he was saying these really amazing things about Jesus and grace.

(via Jay Bakker: Finding Jesus, in Drag.)

More after the jump… Read the rest of this entry »

Good people do terrible things (further thoughts re: Fred Phelps)

As I was writing the previous post, I kept wondering if I was being overly harsh in comparing mainstream conservative Christians to Fred Phelps – who is, after all, universally disliked, unbelievably odious, and, in my opinion, downright evil.  The man is by all accounts a controlling, angry, and extremely abusive husband and father, who has brainwashed his family into thinking he is practically God, and who believes some very strange and dangerous things (the documentary Fall From Grace gives a pretty chilling picture of Phelps and the WBC – also on Netflix streaming.  If you’re beginning to think that everything I watch is on Netflix instant watch, you’re not too far off).

Obviously not all conservative Christians are like Phelps in these respects – and I’d venture to say most are not.  Most have good intentions – like most people in general.  Many conservative Christians I know are loving parents and spouses, good neighbors, great friends.  So I’ve been pondering whether the comparison was hyperbolic, or unkind, and pondering how it would come across to the people in my life – friends, family, all of whom I love, many of whom are lovely people whom I trust and respect – who are conservative Christians.

When I criticize conservative Christians and their beliefs, I’m not claiming that they are all or mostly evil people, nor do I believe that.  That goes for any major demographic, really.  But I hesitated to add a bunch of disclaimers about how Christians can be nice people to my previous post, because I didn’t want to water down the power of my point.

On further thought, I think this is actually quite an important point to address.  In way it’s the central point: good people can, despite good intentions and sincere beliefs, despite doing much good in most other aspects of their lives, believe and say things that have horrible, awful implications.  They can do terrible things that have devastating effects on others without intending to.  Hardly anyone is mostly or all bad, much less consciously or deliberately evil; most people, I believe, are just trying to do their best to live decent lives.  Most people don’t set out to do evil.  Yet hardly any of us manages to avoid doing or enabling evil in one way or another.

Fred Phelps hates gay people.  He makes no secret of that. While there are mainstream conservative Christians in this country who share his overt, conscious hatred of gay people, not all do.  Probably most don’t.  Many truly believe they are being loving by telling LGB people their orientations or lifestyles are wrong, by opposing marriage equality, etc..  But people don’t have to be conscious of hatred (or fear, contempt, self-loathing, and any number of other emotions that can fuel homophobia) for their beliefs about and actions towards LGB people to be hateful.

When I say conservative Christian beliefs on homosexuality are no different from Fred Phelps’, I’m not talking about the conscious intention behind those teachings.  I’m talking about their implications.  Their practical, real-world effects.

This is how oppression works.  Systemic oppression cannot be sustained without the complicity of otherwise good people – through beliefs, actions, and inaction.  And it cannot be sustained without the myths about human nature and behavior we buy into as a culture.  We pretend that only bad people do evil things, and that it’s really easy to spot such people – as if there were some obvious marker distinguishing evil people from good.  We desperately want to believe these things, because the reality that we’re all capable of doing and enabling evil is frightening, and requires that we scrutinize ourselves more closely than we’d like.

We all want to believe we’re good people who do good things, myself included; that’s understandable.  But the idea that “those people” over there are the real bad people, and we’re all good, is an incredibly dangerous one.  It’s what allows systemic injustice and inequity to survive and flourish.

This is what Christians who are puzzled and offended by accusations of homophobia and comparisons to people like Fred Phelps need to understand.  Sure, it’s a good thing that you don’t picket funerals or scream at people about how they’ll suffer an eternity of torment in hell.  But in the grand scheme of things, your beliefs about LGB people aren’t made any less harmful or hateful by the fact that they don’t act on them the way Westboro Baptist does.  Your beliefs still fuel homophobic speech and behavior, and enable and support wide-scale denial of rights to LGB people.  This is why claims that you “love the sinner and hate the sin” ring hollow.  The implications and effects of your beliefs are not loving.

And really, this is what anyone called out for enabling oppression of any kind needs to understand.  Being called out is not a comment on who you are.  It’s not a comment on your intentions.  It’s a comment on what you said, and what you did.  We’re all capable of doing and saying things that support and even promote oppression without intending to do so, and without being evil.  It’s unjust and enabling of oppression to demand that people evaluate us based on what we intend and not on the actual, tangible effects of what we do.

Dan Savage is right: the religious right exploits LGBT suicides

[Disclaimer: I’m aware that Dan Savage has written a lot of problematic stuff about trans people, and other groups – this isn’t an endorsement of any of that but rather a riff off this one column.] Dan Savage writes a fantastic, brutally honest reply to an anti-gay Christian who took offense at the idea that conservative Christian parents encourage anti-gay bullying and that the religious right uses gay suicides to perpetuate its agenda. He responds, in part:

The religious right points to the suicide rate among gay teenagers—which the religious right works so hard to drive up (see above)—as evidence that the gay lifestyle is destructive. It’s like intentionally running someone down with your car and then claiming that it isn’t safe to walk the streets.

Which is why I argued that every gay teen suicide is a victory for the religious right. Because, you see, your side does use those suicides to “perpetuate [your] agenda.” . . . [They] will point to this recent spate of gay teen suicides . . . they’ll gleefully use these tragedies to justify what they like to call the “Christian, pro-family agenda.” (ht Joe My God)

The whole response is very worth reading in full.  And Savage is absolutely right.  The religious right does exploit tragedies and difficult circumstances among LGBT people for its anti-gay agenda, and many on the religious right think that LGBT people deserve to suffer.  This is probably most clear how the religious right has historically talked about HIV/AIDS.  My partner and I were both explicitly taught growing up that AIDS was God’s punishment on homosexuals for their perverse and ungodly lifestyle. My partner was even told that the sudden emergence of AIDS and the fact that no one knew where it came from was a modern day miracle, and evidence that biblical accounts of God’s miracles were true.  These days most conservative Christian leaders seem to have decided that unabashedly and publicly stating that AIDS is divine retribution for homosexuality is bad for PR.  But they still believe it.  After all, it’s right there in the Bible: “Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion. (Romans 1:27).

There’s no compassion, love, or grace in this teaching – not for HIV+ people or those suffering from AIDS, not for LGBT people.  People on the religious right don’t deny the horror of HIV and AIDS, but for most it’s no more than a tool to prove that God hates homosexuality, that God is on their side.  It’s not a call to action or a call to care for people who are suffering (you know, kinda like Jesus taught?).  It’s evidence that when LGBT people suffer, they brought it on themselves.  They deserve it.

And that’s the same attitude that underlies the prevailing attitude on the religious right towards the issues of suicide, bullying and abuse, and other issues that disproportionately affect LGBT people.  The religious right also exploits and crows over these problems as “evidence” that being openly gay or trans is a “destructive lifestyle.”  As a kid and teenager, I also heard countless times that higher rates of suicide and mental illness were proof that homosexuality was a perversion (just homosexuality – the existence of trans people was never even mentioned).  They were proof of the divine judgment that Romans 1 promised.  There was, of course, no entertaining the shocking notion that institutional and societal homophobia and transphobia might have anything to do with the prevalence of these problems among LGBT people.  No. They were just evidence that LGBT people should never be accepted for who they are, that they were justly punished by God and should also be punished by society for not conforming to heterosexist and cissexist norms.

And this is why there’s no number of suicides that will convince groups like Focus on the Family that programs specifically addressing homophobic and transphobic bullying are legitimate and necessary.  They don’t want suicide, or drug use, or mental illness rates to decrease among LGBT people – not when they use these as anti-gay and anti-trans propaganda.  They might mouth platitudes about tragedy and condolences when yet another life is lost because of homophobia or transphobia, but in reality, they don’t care that these bigotries kill people.  They don’t care that these bigotries train their straight, cis children to believe that visceral hatred and verbal, emotional, physical, and even sexual violence are perfectly acceptable responses to gay and trans people.  They don’t care that these bigotries, as Dan Savage puts it, drive real, living gay and trans children and adults to suicidal despair.

They think trans, gay, and bi people deserve to be alone, deserve to suffer, and deserve to die.  That’s the truth.

If any one thinks I’m being unfair or hyperbolic about this, just google “homosexuality destructive lifestyle” and see what pops up.  See if you can detect any genuine sadness, care, or concern in the lengthy descriptions of the issues that affect LGBT people.  See if there’s any attempt at all to suggest concrete ways to prevent suicides or to address mental and physical health issues affecting LGBT people.  You won’t find any, because there aren’t any.  “Don’t be gay or trans” is neither helpful or realistic advice, and is precisely the attitude that creates and perpetuates the self-loathing and despair that fuel these problems.  It’s hateful “advice” and not at all loving (as, incredibly, I was taught this attitude towards LGBT people was).   It’s “advice” telling gay and trans people they should annihilate themselves.  It’s no wonder that so many gay and trans people do.