Tag Archives: anti-gay christians

Hurricane Matthew and the “Judgment of God” 


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Tonight a short update about our situation and some comments about what some supposedly “Christian” people and pundits are saying about Hurricane Matthew which when all is said and done may be one of the most destructive weather events of past century. 

First, our situation. We have a new car and the vehicle that was totaled yesterday was towed off today. We had our Mustang looked at and thankfully it was not totaled and we should have it back sometime next week. Likewise I was able to do some more work to seal up our living room and hopefully keep any groundwater out in future storms. I have more work to do on this but I think we are now in a better place than we were a few weeks ago. 

Now as for Hurricane Matthew. This is really an ugly storm. As he goes up the east coast of Florida he will be a category four or maybe even a category five storm. Matthew will hit areas of Florida that have not been hit in decades. The damage potential and the potential loss of life from Matthew is something that we have not seen in a long time. I am praying for my friends and relatives in Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas. This is not good. Thankfully President Obama has already declared a disaster which will speed federal assistance to the areas, and all of the governors are doing the right thing, bit even so there will be people who either cannot get out or in some cases decide to stay for the thrill of it all. 

But even worse are the supposedly “Christian” pundits and preachers who are calling Matthew “God’s judgement.” Of course for them the reason that this storm is God’s judgment is because of the Gays, President Obama, and Hillary Clinton. Of course if Matthew is God’s judgment, which I sincerely doubt, then why the hell isn’t God targeting areas with majorities of gays and liberal Democrats? The fact is that Matthew is targeting counties in the southeast that are majority Republican and if you look at religious democratics heavily conservative and evangelical Christian. So if you are a Christian rooting for Matthew to be an instrument of God’s judgment on the Gays and the Democrats than you better make sure that God can hit his target and not your friends, allies, and dare I say your Christian brothers and sisters who are in the path of this storm. But then the sociopathic fundamentalist ideologues who promote this tripe in the name of the Christian faith have no honor, no empathy, and I would dare say are apostles of evil. 

Of course let’s talk about the college dropout but expert in everything, Rush Limbaugh. Rush said today that hurricanes are something made up by liberals and in the process went into full attack mode against real scientists. But then Rush reflects the anti-intellectual and unscientific base of his listeners, many of whom are in the path of Matthew. I’m sorry, but in no other first world country would such bullshit be rewarded with multi-million dollar contracts. My European friends are aghast at the anti-intellectual and anti-scientific attitudes of so many Americans. 

But at the end of the day we have to face reality. Millions of people are evacuating in the face of a massive storm that has the potential to kill many people and destroy billions of dollars worth of property; the property of decent, hard working people, to include homes and businesses. 

I don’t know about you, but honestly I have major problems saying that God is creating Matthew just to punish Gays and people who support Hillary is abhorrent. Such thinking shows an ignorance of the Bible and the Christian faith in which disasters, natural or human, were directed against God’s disobedient people, especially self-indulgent clergy living high on the hog that ignore the plight of the poor, not against unbelievers or pagans. On only has to read Jeremiah’s Temple Sermon to get an idea what I am talking about. But then, fidelity to the actual teachings of scripture is less important to such people than cherry picking verses to support their hatred of other people. 

Anyway. It has been a long day. I’m tired and I wish all of you well, especially anyone in the target zone of Hurricane Matthew. Please be safe. 

Peace,

Padre Steve+ 

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Filed under christian life, natural disasters, News and current events, weather

Gays Get Unalienable Rights Too

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Anti-gay Christian protestors outside the Supreme Court

Friends of Padre Steve’s World

In the next day or two, Kim Davis, the Recalcitrant County Clerk of Rowan County will go back to work after Federal Appelate Court Judge Jim Bunning released her from jail after holding her in contempt of court. He released her because other clerks were issuing the marriage licences that she had refused to Gay couples. If she does not interfere with clerks who have pledged to continuing to issue the licences this will probably blow over, but if she interferes with or punishes her employees the stage is set for her quick return to jail, something that her biggest supporters including Mike Huckabee seem to want to happen. 

But lost in all of the ranting of Conservative Christians regarding their right to discriminate in the name of Jesus amen against the legal rights of Gays, Lesbians and others of the LGBTQ community is what is happening to the gays.

From the supporters of Mrs. Davis you almost always hear the claim that Gays are trying to get special rights and persecute Christians. If that claim were true, which it is not it would be troubling. Likewise the claim that Christians and others who oppose Marriage Equality are now the victims of systematic government persecution and oppression is equally fraudulent. 

Their claims to being persecuted are an affront to all Christians who have really suffered and died for their faith in Christ. Likewise the claims of Mrs. Davis’s lawyers and the politicians, pundits, and preachers who support her, that she is “like a Jew in Nazi Germany” utterly demeans the lives of the Jews persecuted by the Nazis in the 1930s and the six-million Jews slaughtered by them during the 1940s. 

The claims of these so-called Christians are repugnant and embarrassing. Any Christian with a modicum of honesty, integrity, and ethics should publically repudiate then. Sadly, most, caught up in the emotions generated by the rabid anti-gay politicians, pundits and preachers, don’t know enough history, fact, or Christian theology to do anything else but to follow these charlatans as they lead the church to the abyss, just as the leaders of German churches did during the Nazi era. 

The fact is, that for the first time in our history Gays and others of the LGBTQ community have almost equal rights to all other Americans citizens, the rights so eloquently written in the Declaration of Independence by Thomas Jefferson that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. – That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men….”

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Burned bodies of gay men after the Up Stairs Lounge in New Orleans was attacked in 1973, 32 men died. The suspect, a gay man who had been thrown out escaped police custody. Witness testimony was dismissed by investigators. Media buried the story while talk radio hosts mocked the victims. No one cared, even most churches which refused funerals for victims because they were gay

And which were finally enshrined in the Constitution by the 14th Amendment, an amendment which from the time it was ratified has been hated by the opponents of liberty for people that they despise, be it based on race, color, religion, nationality, gender or sexual preference. That amendment is precious and there are some co-called conservatives who actually want to get rid of it. I think that it should be memorized by everyone who believes in freedom:

“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

So, Gays are getting rights that they never had before and their critics whine about being oppressed and persecuted for trying to use their religion to deny those legal rights. But how is the right to deny legal rights to others a sign of oppression? I guess it is if you believe that your religious rights trump all other rights because God trump’s all, except maybe Trump.

Mini-StonewallGay Rights protest in 1965

But really, I want you to try to imagine what real oppression is like, that is the official, government sanctioned oppression that Gays went through, until very recent times. I guess if you never served alongside honorable people who put their lives on the line for their country, but who could be tried as criminals simple because someone outed them as being Gay it wouldn’t occur to you why this is so important. But government sanctioned oppression and even violence was a fact of life for gays until very recent times, and this is the kind of country that Kim Davis and the preachers, politicians and pundits who support her would like to return.

Imagine if your activities were monitored, catalogued and reported by local, state and Federal police agencies.

Imagine that police detectives and informants were allowed to spy on your activities.

Imagine that police, acting in the “name of the law” under the merest pretense or spurious accusation could invade your home, business or institution and use physical violence to subdue you, even if you had done nothing wrong.

Imagine if a business rival or a spurned lover desired to ruin you, your business, or your career and professional reputation with only an accusation.

Imagine if the price of your freedom was to name names and condemn others.

Imagine if even suspicion of your activities was considered as grounds for termination of your employment, or prevent you from receiving a promotion.

Imagine if those same suspicions could brand you as a felon with the results of being forbidden to vote, the loss of property and employment rights. 

Imagine that if you went to a bar that if you looked in any direction but straight ahead that you could be charged with accosting others.

Imagine that anyone, anywhere who had knowledge of your behaviors could use that knowledge to have you kicked out of the military, law enforcement or government employment, usually with a felony conviction. 

Imagine that your behavior, even discrete behavior in your own residence could get you locked in a psychiatric hospital and quite possibly the use of drugs and surgery to to include, lobotomy, castration or chemical sterilization “correct your illness” without your consent. 

Imagine if you were a faithful member of your church, were conservative in your theology and politics and supported all the causes of that body, but one aspect of your behavior could lead to your excommunication and banishment from that community. 

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Police attack Gays in San Francisco during the White Night riot on May 21st 1979. 

I guess if it was your behavior or your beliefs that led to such treatment you would cry foul, you would protest, that you would claim that you were the victim of discrimination; and my friend I say that you would be correct. That would be persecution. Sadly the Kim Davis and those claiming to be victims of “massive anti-Christian” persecution are only being prohibited from crushing the freedom and liberty of people who they consider sinners, not from practicing their faith in any way.

That my friends was the America and Great Britain that Gays lived in the 1950’s, 1960’s and 1970’s, portions of which remained enshrined in law until very recently and which a number of high powered and influential politicians, pundits and preachers of the Christian Right would like to go again.

Sadly there are young Gays and Lesbians who take the rights that those who went before them for granted. Thankfully, they have grown up in a more tolerant society, but few know what happened to people just like them in the not too distant past. It should not be forgotten. 

So, when you think about those special “legal rights” being given to a “vocal minority who want to destroy America” ask which America? The one where we all enjoy the right to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness or the one that denies those rights to certain types of people who have done nothing wrong other than being who they are. Of course those who seek to abridge these basic human rights and freedoms, almost all do so in the name of their God and religion which they use to buttress and validate their prejudice and hatred.

Think about it.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under civil war, History, laws and legislation, LGBT issues, News and current events, Political Commentary

Demonizing the Boy Scouts: Church Intolerance Run Rampant 

boy scouts

Friends of Padre Steve’s World

I received a heartbreaking e-mail from one of my regular readers about a situation where her uncle’s Boy Scout Troop’s sponsoring church decided to end its association with the troop and kick it out. They did this in reaction to the decision of the Boy Scouts of America to allow openly gay leaders to serve. The national BSA organization had previously lifted the ban on openly gay boys from being Scouts in 2013.

No other churches in the area will sponsor the troop and since the membership of the troop is low income children they cannot afford to rent a location to meet. The woman was justifiably upset, her uncle is not gay, nor are any of the boys in the troop. But that doesn’t seem to matter to the churches where she lives. All invoke their right to “religious liberty” and the kids be damned.

I was surprised but I wasn’t, and because I don’t like to shoot from the hip I decided to see how widespread this was, and I was amazed to see in a simple Google search news stories from around the country of churches kicking scouts out beginning as early as 2013 when the Scouts first lifted the ban on homosexual boys being members. There are so many instances of that that I had to stop reading them. But the one that struck me the as possibly the most malicious was that of Pastor Earnest Easley and his Roswell Road Baptist Church in Marietta Georgia. They kicked out Boy Scout Troop 204 which had met there for 68 years in 2013 and Pastor Easley made this comment: “As a church, we are not going to embrace organizations that openly have a part of who they are that which stands against God’s word.” As far as I know there were no gay Scouts or leaders in that troop.

After the latest decision to allow Gay Scoutmasters, Bishop David Kagan of North Dakota issued this edict, “Effective immediately, the Catholic Church of the Diocese of Bismarck and each and every one of its parishes, schools and other institutions is formally disaffiliated with and from the Boy Scouts of America.”

Other churches and denominations are doing or considering doing the same thing and that my friends is their religious right, and they can keep that right even as I say a pox on them all for being so vindictive and cruel to the Scouts of their churches. If these churches and their leaders want to continue driving people away from Jesus, I cannot stop them. If they want to play the part of modern day Pharisees, they can. That is their constitutional right. It is a right, whether I agree with it or not, that I swear to protect. It is their right as faith communities to choose the organizations and people that they will associate. I don’t have to agree but they are fully within their legal rights, and it does not mean that they are right.

But these actions are so petty, stupid, and short sighted that it makes my head swim. The fact is that that vast majority of Scouts are not gay, the same with their leaders, and the National BSA has made clear that those churches still can chose who they want to lead their local troops. The BSA policy change said “This change would also respect the right of religious chartered organizations to continue to choose adult leaders whose beliefs are consistent with their own.” Of course this is not good enough for these churches.

So in the name of fairness, I ask these churches and church leaders if they will dissociate themselves from church members who work from the military, other government organizations and businesses with policies which are non-discriminatory to the LBGTQ employees and their families. I think that churches that play this game should be consistent. If they have members, especially those with fat paychecks who tithe and more to them, who work for Gay affirming organizations or businesses, shouldn’t the churches demand that their members leave those organizations? Or are they more concerned making political statements in the name of their religion which cost them no money? I haven’t heard of any churches kicking high ranking military officers out because the Department of Defense lifted the ban on Gays. But why not?

I hate to sound cynical, but it seems that these churches are much more interested in punishing people who cannot hurt them financially than they are being consistent with the “Biblical values” that the so loudly proclaim. Also can you imagine the outcry if they kicked out the troops along with the Scouting Troops? I would love to see all of those churches pull the “I support the troops” bumper stickers and yellow ribbons off any car that pulled into their lot, because there are gay troops and God knows we cannot support them. I have heard church leaders announcing that God was going to punish this nation because we allow Gay people in the military so why do we want to take any chances? If we’re going to kick out the Scout troops on the chance that one might be gay, why don’t we kick out the troops too? Are not those who continue to work for or serve in the military like me, after the decision to allow Gays to serve aiding and abetting sin? If God is going to judge the nation because we allow Gays to serve in the military, shouldn’t we kick the troops out along with the scout troops?

The fact is they won’t do this. There will be no mass excommunication of military or government workers, or people who work for big corporations which happen to be Gay friendly. The fact is that churches want the money and status that having well to do people attend and at the same time appear to be righteous by punishing those that people or groups that offer them nothing, like the kids the Scout Troop that my reader told me about. But this is consistent with the Christianity of the United States. It goes totally against everything about how Jesus taught us to treat people, especially the least, the lost and the lonely; but then who gives a rip about what Jesus actually said and did in his earthly ministry?

A couple of years back, the Barna Group, an highly-respected polling organization headed by George Barna, an deeply committed Evangelical Christian which tries to help churches did a scientific survey of the attitudes of 18-29 year-olds on what phrases best described Christians. The top answers were “Anti-homosexual, judgmental, hypocritical and too involved in politics.” This view was held by 91% of non-Christians and a staggering 80% of young churchgoers. Another Barna survey mentioned Hypocritical, anti-homosexual, insincere, sheltered and too political.

Another survey done by Barna in 2011 asked why young people were fleeing churches. Those answers were even more damning: nearly 25% of young people said “Christians demonize everything outside of the church” while 20% said that “God seems missing from my experience of church” while 22% said that “church is like a country club, only for insiders” and 36% said that they were unable “to ask my most pressing life questions in church.”  That survey was of young people of Christian backgrounds, not the unchurched.

These are damning numbers and the fact is that the churches in the United States are teetering on becoming totally irrelevant to the lives of most people and that will be their death. The decision by churches to ban the Boy Scouts will further demonstrate to young people that they are not welcome. In a few short years the cavernous edifices built on the tithes of well-meaning people well be as empty as the churches of Europe except few will have the cultural, architectural or artistic interest or significance to even make secular people want to preserve them.

So, if anyone knows of a national organization that I can point my reader to who might be able to help her uncle’s Scout Troop find a sponsor, please message me and I will send it to her. She did not ask me to do this, but I think that it is only the right thing to do. If you message me I will send her the information.

Thank you and have a good night,

Peace and blessings,

Padre Steve+

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Why I Fight for Gay Rights

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Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I think that the question “why?” is important, and it is important for my readers to know just why I would be spending so much time to defending the rights of Gays and the LGBTQ community. Those who have been reading for this site the past few days know that I have been very passionately speaking out on the behalf of Gays and Lesbians.

“Why?” is an important question my friends, one that far too many people fail to ask of those who set or influence policy. I would love to see the media ask any supposedly Conservative politician “why” they are against gay rights. I mean seriously ask why, and then ask hard follow-up questions.

I am sure that there are some Christians that marvel that another Christian, and a Navy Chaplain with a strong conservative pedigree to boot would defend the rights of Gays, Lesbians and others that they disapprove. However, at this point in my life I can do no other.

I am a historian who also happens to be a priest and senior Navy Chaplain. I know too much, and if I do not speak up I would be culpable of the same crimes that German Christians, clergy and military officers did when they said nothing when the Jews, Gays and others were persecuted, imprisoned and murdered by the Nazi regime.

In the early 1900s the Jews of Germany were making progress, gaining entrance into government, the military and the political process. Germany in those days was a haven for Jews, especially Eastern European Jews who had to live with open persecution and pogroms sanctioned by Czarist Russia and other eastern European states. German Jews in that era were preeminent scientists, physicians and had entered the government and military. The Germany Armaments Minister Walther Rathenau who helped keep the German military in the war through his immense talents was Jewish, as was the commanding officer who recommended the young Corporal Adolf Hitler for the award of the Iron Cross First Class in 1918. However, when Germany was defeated in the First World War, Jews took much of the blame, and conservative German Christians were at the forefront well before anyone knew the name of Adolf Hitler.

Of course, they were a minority, and many were Socialists and in the search for villains after the defeat and the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II, the Jews were high on the hit list, especially for conservative Christians of both the Protestant and Catholic faiths who saw their dreams die at the end of the war.

Much is the same for the LGBT community in the United States. Conservative Christians blame Gays for all the social ills and maladies that German Christians did the Jews, Socialists and yes, German homosexuals did in the 1920s. If you actually bother to read the writing of the German right wing and conservatives of that era you will find language that is startlingly similar to the language used by conservative American Christians use today against Gays, liberal Jews, progressives and yes Moslems as well. It is an amazing study if you have the integrity and interest to bother to read it instead of listening to the pundits, politicians and especially the political preachers of the American right. However, if you don’t it matters not, because after all “God hates the gays” so why shouldn’t you?

But then wasn’t that what the German Christians who allied themselves to Hitler did concerning the Jews? After all the Jews were “Christ killers.” Hitler, Goering, Goebbels and all the leading Nazis said so. But today if there is a natural disaster in the United States who is to blame? The Gays of course, and almost every conservative political preacher in America agrees. Pat Robertson, Franklin Graham, Robert Jeffress, James Robison, John Hagee and even soon to be repeat presidential candidate Mike Huckabee all agree that it is all the Gays fault. Just like Hitler, Goering, Goebbels and others said of the Jews in Germany. Get rid of the Gays and voila, problem solved.

Since most of these preachers, pundits and politicians believe that Gays are destined for Hell and are the enemies of God, it is only a matter of time before they not only endorse legal restrictions and persecution, but endorse genocide. If fact some have, Scott Lively and others have actually went to Africa and campaigned for “Kill the Gays” bills in Uganda. They actually promote legislation in other countries that would make it legal not just to ensure that Gays have second or third rate citizenship, but to imprison and execute them. Given the chance they would do so here.

You see, every mass movement of religious and nationalist hate needs a scapegoat. For the German right it was the Jews, for the modern American right it is the Gays. As Eric Hoffer wrote: “Hatred is the most accessible and comprehensive of all the unifying agents. Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a god, but never without a belief in a devil.” To the German Right in the 1920s and 1930s the Jews were the Devil, to many conservative American Christians the Gays are the Devil.

You see it is just a short jump from thoughts, to words to actions. Those who embrace the hatred of Gays, just as those who embraced the hatred of the Jews are just a little ways from thoughts, to words to actions. Believe me, with a Congress that now has a sizable number of people who honestly believe that the Gays are the enemy, not just of them but of God that actions may well follow. One only has to look at the anti-gay measures in Russia, some parts of Eastern Europe, the Middle East and in particular Africa, where aided by anti-Gay American Christians nations like Uganda are criminalizing homosexuality and even speaking up for gays as a heterosexual.

That being said I think that the tide of history is going the other direction, but that does not mean that such people are not dangerous should they ever be in a place to enforce their religious and ideological beliefs on others.

Mahatma Gandhi wrote:

“Your beliefs become your thoughts, Your thoughts become your words, Your words become your actions, Your actions become your habits, Your habits become your values, Your values become your destiny.”

That is why as a white, male, Christian, Navy Chaplain and priest I must speak out against such hatred and support the rights of the LGBT community. I have to speak out, as do other Christians. As Martin Niemoller, a naval hero of the First World War and conservative German pastor who initially supported Hitler noted:

In Germany they first came for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me – and by that time no one was left to speak up.

Sadly, today, most conservative American Christians don’t understand this profound political philosophy. Likewise, they, like Martin Niemoller and others throughout history, will find that some of the people that they support will turn on them once they no longer need their votes or political support.

That my friends is a fact and why anyone should beware of any religious leader or politician who turns any minority group into a Devil should be feared, because they do mean business, and their ruthlessness is only concealed by the veneer of religion and law.

That my friends is why I write, why I speak, and why I fight.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under civil rights, ethics, faith, History, laws and legislation, LGBT issues

My Journey to Support Gay Rights

Friends of Padre Steve’s World

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In light of what I have been writing about the Obergfell v. Hodges and comparing that case to the historic examples of the 1856 Dred Scott decision and the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson ruling I think it is important for my readers to know I got to the place where I have become an advocate for the rights of my friends in the LGBTQ community.

Frankly my journey has been a long strange trip. Most of my life I would have considered myself a conservative Christian and a career military officer, most of that as Pa chaplain. Generally people with similar backgrounds to me do not end up as advocates for Gays and Lesbians. But throughout my life and career I have had problems with the way other Christians and fellow military members treated Gays and Lesbians. Even in the days that I considered homosexual behavior to be sinful, I had a hard time condemning, ridiculing or supporting those who sought to harm homosexuals in any way, including fellow clergy, members of my former church or fellow officers or chaplains.

Now I know that there will vehemently disagree on what I believe and stand for, believe me I have been called everything but a white man by some people, including some that I used to count as friends. Likewise I have been threatened by others. But as I see it I have to stand up for what I believe and defend those whose civil rights are constantly under attack by people who not only condemn them in this world, but to everlasting damnation as well.

But this my friends is my long strange trip. It is what I believe with all my heart, and why I pray that the Supreme Court will legalize Gay marriage throughout this land. though I am not Gay, this matters to me. I have too many Gay and Lesbian friends who have endured hellish persecution for people who call themselves Christians and claim to be defending Christian values when they forget that the most important part of the Christian life is to love, love even your enemies, both real and imagined. But I digress…here is my journey…

I have been in the military coming up on 34 years between the Army and the Navy. That is a long time. When I enlisted and through the first two thirds of my career I can safely say that I fell rather strongly on the conservative-Christian side of the social issues debates. Over the years, especially the last seven since I returned a changed many from my time in Iraq, I have evolved significantly on most of these issues where although I while consider myself to be rather moderate I now fall decidedly on the liberal side of most social issues.

A lot of this has to do with the attitudes that I saw in churches that I was associated. Many people in my former denominations endorsed policies of the Christian Dominionist or Reconstruction movements, that basically upended First and Fourteenth Amendment protections and if enacted would basically turn the country into a theocracy. I have written about those things time and time again so I won’t elaborate on them now.

It was not only the policies, it was the attitude towards the LGBT community that really bothered me. For some reason it seemed that to many of my friends and colleagues that homosexuality was the only unforgivable sin, and not only that that homosexuals were somehow less than human and not entitled to the same rights as any other American citizen. Not only that they were blamed for every economic, social, foreign policy or natural disaster. Hurricane, blame the gays. Stock market crash, blame the gays, the 9-11 attacks, God’s judgment on the United States because of the gays. You name it, blame the gays, and that my friends still happens every day.

But my journey to accepting and fighting for Gays and Lesbians began a lot earlier.

When I first enlisted in the Army in 1981 it was not uncommon for gay slurs to be hurled at soldiers as a matter of course, especially at young men who did not appear manly enough or women who wouldn’t put out sexually when it was demanded of the. They were queers, fags, dykes and worse. There is a scene in the movie Full Metal Jacket where R. Lee Ermey, a man who actually was a Marine Corps Drill Instructor berates one of his recruits:

Gunnery Sergeant Hartman: Where the hell are you from anyway, private?

Private Cowboy: Sir, Texas, sir.

Gunnery Sergeant Hartman: Holy dog shit! Texas? Only steers and queers come from Texas, Private Cowboy, and you don’t look much like a steer to me, so that kinda narrows it down. Do you suck dicks?

Private Cowboy: Sir, no, sir!

Gunnery Sergeant Hartman: Are you a peter puffer?

Private Cowboy: Sir, no, sir!

Gunnery Sergeant Hartman: I bet you’re the kind of guy who would fuck a person in the ass and not even have the goddamn common courtesy to give him a reach-around. I’ll be watching you!

The sad thing is that such behavior was still common even in the 1990s and though not nearly so pervasive still happened on occasion in after the 9-11 attacks. But those taunts really bothered me and when I was commissioned as a Medical Service Corps Officer in 1983 I met gays in my officer training, they were closeted but they were targets. When I served as a company commander in 1985-1986 I had a number of gays and lesbians in my unit. As I mentioned before they were among my best and most trustworthy soldiers, always going the extra mile.

Meanwhile the unit had the highest drug positive rate in Europe when I took command and had so many real disciplinary and criminal cases on the docket I was told by the Group Commander to “clean that company up.” But when I got down to It I realized that I was so overwhelmed with the real criminals that I didn’t want to harass or prosecute my best soldiers, including those gays and lesbians. That was a watershed. While other commanders sought out gays in order to prosecute them and throw them out of the military I was protecting and promoting them, not because they were gay, but because they were excellent soldiers.

When I went to my next assignment as a personnel officer at the Academy of Health Sciences discharges of trainees for being gay was common. I know because I had to sign off on every discharge packet before it was sent for approval. Since we had five to seven thousand students at any time, both officers and enlisted I did not know the details of most of the stories nor meet the individuals concerned.

However, in 1987 I was given the responsibility of helping soldiers diagnosed as HIV positive with their career options. I also helped officers from the Army Medical Department draft the Army’s policies for those infected with the AIDS virus. At the time many of the Christians that I went to church with believed the myths and lies being promoted by leading Evangelicals about AIDS and displayed a tremendous amount of distain and even hatred towards gays and others infected or dying of that disease. I was dumbfounded that people who preached the love of God had neither compassion nor empathy for those suffering.

I left active duty to attend seminary at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. There I knew a few closeted homosexuals and lesbians who had deep faith in Jesus, were outstanding students and potentially outstanding pastors or chaplains but who had to remain closeted. After I graduated when I was going through my Clinical Pastoral Education Residency one of the men I graduate with did a one unit internship. During that time he made the agonizing decision to come out as Gay. For him there was much to lose, but his example was inspiring and I still stay in touch with him. I also met a chaplain from the Metropolitan Community Church who had been raised in a Black Pentecostal church. He was an amazing and compassionate minister.

In the hospital setting I worked with a lot of homosexuals, of which many were Christians who suffered in their churches as their pastors and friends railed against homosexuals. When I served as the installation chaplain of an Army base I hired an organist who was gay. He worked for the National Guard as a civilian and was a Log Cabin Republican. He grew up in a very conservative church and though he had deep faith was not welcome in most civilian churches. At the time I was a fairly new  in a very conservative denomination and my bishops held that giving communion to Gays was forbidden, in fact they called it a sin. However, when he presented himself for communion, knowing his faith I took the advice of a conservative Missouri Synod Lutheran chaplain, don’t ask, just trust the grace of God in the Sacrament. That became my model of ministry from then on. I never mentioned it to my bishop. Thankfully he never asked or I would have had to be honest. This encounter brought more homosexuals to the chapel, and the chapel community which was composed mainly of military retirees and National Guard personnel welcomed them.

In civilian churches of my old denominations I knew Gays and Lesbians who struggled and tried to do everything they could to change, but no-matter how hard they tried, how hard they prayed, how many times well meaning friends attempted to cast out their demons in rituals similar to exorcisms they struggled and suffered. Most eventually drifted away because they knew that they would not be accepted.  I have had friends in church whose children came out as gay or lesbian. Some loved and accepted them, others turned them away. Judy and I have always done what we can to support them as we would the children of any friend.

That understanding of God’s grace as well as what I believed were the fundamental Constitutional and human rights of Gays and Lesbians brought me to where I am today.

I know that a lot of conservative Christians have and will condemn me for these beliefs and actions, but for me honesty, integrity, empathy and love have to take precedence over hate, blame and prejudice, even when that prejudice is clothed in the words or faith and righteousness. I just figure that once we begin to use religion to condemn others and bolster our own political power that we are no better than people like Al Qaeda, ISIL or the Taliban. We are no better than the Inquisitors or others who destroyed cities and massacred people, even other Christians because they didn’t believe the right way.

I believe that it is just a small step from hateful thoughts and words to actions that end up in genocide. The “German Christians” of the Nazi era demonstrated that to a fine degree. The authors of the Bethel Confession, including Dietrich Bonhoeffer who protested the German Christian alliance with the Nazis noting:

“every attempt to establish a visible theocracy on earth by the church as a infraction in the order of secular authority. This makes the gospel into a law. The church cannot protect or sustain life on earth. This remains the office of secular authority.

That I believe with all my heart and that is why I will support and fight for the rights of the LGBT community in order to ensure that they have the same rights and privileges of any citizen. Otherwise what does the rule of law mean? What does the Constitution mean? What does that sentence in the Declaration of Independence that:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men…” 

Abraham Lincoln wrote in 1854 concerning the rights of Blacks, something that is certainly applicable as well to homosexuals: “the standard maxim of free society …constantly spreading and deepening its influence,” ultimately applicable “to peoples of all colors everywhere.” 

That my friends, especially my conservative Christian friends who do not understand why I would speak up for the LGBT community, is why I do it. So in the words of my favorite heretic Martin Luther I state today: “Here I stand, I can do no other. So help me God. Amen.”

Peace

Padre Steve+


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Filed under christian life, faith, History, LGBT issues, News and current events, Political Commentary

The Journey: Padre Steve and Gay Rights

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Friends of Padre Steve’s World

I hope that you are having a good New Year. I am having power fights with my blind nearly 14 year old Papillon-Dachshund mix Molly. It seems that she has decided that she no longer likes here special kidney diet dog food and resists eating it until she can’t stand it any longer. I even heat it in the microwave to get it to room temperature and sometimes she eats it like there is no tomorrow other times she looks at it, looks up where I am and seems to be asking “this shit again?” Tonight after refusing to eat I was getting some iced tea for my wife Judy and she was trying to get in the refrigerator. Power fights with Dachshunds are one thing. Power fights with Papillons another, but power fights with a mix… well what can I say? But I digress…

What I am writing about tonight is a subject that has become increasingly important to me, and a subject that probably makes some of my more conservative Christian friends really wonder about me.

The past couple of nights I have written about historic  discrimination against Gays and Lesbians, as well as what Gays suffered in the military under the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) policy. I do hope that you take time to read them and share them both if you haven’t already done so.

But anyway. I have been in the military coming up on 34 years between the Army and the Navy. When I enlisted and through the first two thirds of my career I can safely say that I fell rather strongly on the conservative-Christian side of the social issues debates. Over the years, especially the last seven since I returned a changed many from my time in Iraq, I have evolved significantly on most of these issues where although I while consider myself to be rather moderate I now fall decidedly on the liberal side of most social issues.

A lot of this has to do with the attitudes that I saw in churches that I was associated. Many people in my former denominations endorsed policies of the Christian Dominionist or Reconstruction movements, that basically upended First and Fourteenth Amendment protections and if enacted would basically turn the country into a theocracy. I have written about those things time and time again so I won’t elaborate on them now.

It was not only the policies, it was the attitude towards the LGBT community that really bothered me. For some reason it seemed that to many of my friends and colleagues that homosexuality was the only unforgivable sin, and not only that that homosexuals were somehow less than human and not entitled to the same rights as any other American citizen. Not only that they were blamed for every economic, social, foreign policy or natural disaster. Hurricane, blame the gays. Stock market crash, blame the gays, the 9-11 attacks, God’s judgement on the United States because of the gays. You name it, blame the gays, and that my friends still happens every day.

But my journey to accepting and fighting for Gays and Lesbians began a lot earlier.

When I first enlisted in the Army in 1981 it was not uncommon for gay slurs to be hurled at soldiers as a matter of course, especially at young men who did not appear manly enough or women who wouldn’t put out sexually when it was demanded of the. They were queers, fags, dykes and worse. There is a scene in the movie Full Metal Jacket where R. Lee Ermey, a man who actually was a Marine Corps Drill Instructor berates one of his recruits:

Gunnery Sergeant Hartman: Where the hell are you from anyway, private?
Private Cowboy: Sir, Texas, sir.
Gunnery Sergeant Hartman: Holy dog shit! Texas? Only steers and queers come from Texas, Private Cowboy, and you don’t look much like a steer to me, so that kinda narrows it down. Do you suck dicks?
Private Cowboy: Sir, no, sir!
Gunnery Sergeant Hartman: Are you a peter puffer?
Private Cowboy: Sir, no, sir!
Gunnery Sergeant Hartman: I bet you’re the kind of guy who would fuck a person in the ass and not even have the goddamn common courtesy to give him a reach-around. I’ll be watching you!

The sad thing is that such behavior was still common even in the 1990s and though not nearly so pervasive still happened on occasion in after the 9-11 attacks. But those taunts really bothered me and when I was commissioned as a Medical Service Corps Officer in 1983 I met gays in my officer training, they were closeted but they were targets. When I served as a company commander in 1985-1986 I had a number of gays and lesbians in my unit. As I mentioned before they were among my best and most trustworthy soldiers, always going the extra mile.

Meanwhile the unit had the highest drug positive rate in Europe when I took command and had so many real disciplinary and criminal cases on the docket I was told by the Group Commander to “clean that company up.” But when I got down to It I realized that I was so overwhelmed with the real criminals that I didn’t want to harass or prosecute my best soldiers, including those gays and lesbians. That was a watershed. While other commanders sought out gays in order to prosecute them and throw them out of the military I was protecting and promoting them, not because they were gay, but because they were excellent soldiers.

When I went to my next assignment as a personnel officer at the Academy of Health Sciences discharges of trainees for being gay was common. I know because I had to sign off on every discharge packet before it was sent for approval. Since we had five to seven thousand students at any time, both officers and enlisted I did not know the details of most of the stories nor meet the individuals concerned.

However, in 1987 I was given the responsibility of helping soldiers diagnosed as HIV positive with their career options. I also helped officers from the Army Medical Department draft the Army’s policies for those infected with the AIDS virus. At the time many of the Christians that I went to church with believed the myths and lies being promoted by leading Evangelicals about AIDS and displayed a tremendous amount of distain and even hatred towards gays and others infected or dying of that disease. I was dumbfounded that people who preached the love of God had neither compassion nor empathy for those suffering.

I left active duty to attend seminary at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. There I knew a few closeted homosexuals and lesbians who had deep faith in Jesus, were outstanding students and potentially outstanding pastors or chaplains but who had to remain closeted. After I graduated when I was going through my Clinical Pastoral Education Residency one of the men I graduate with did a one unit internship. During that time he made the agonizing decision to come out as Gay. For him there was much to lose, but his example was inspiring and I still stay in touch with him. I also met a chaplain from the Metropolitan Community Church who had been raised in a Black Pentecostal church. He was an amazing and compassionate minister.

In the hospital setting I worked with a lot of homosexuals, of which many were Christians who suffered in their churches as their pastors and friends railed against homosexuals. When I served as the installation chaplain of an Army base I hired an organist who was gay. He worked for the National Guard as a civilian and was a Log Cabin Republican. He grew up in a very conservative church and though he had deep faith was not welcome in most civilian churches. At the time I was a fairly new  in a very conservative denomination and my bishops held that giving communion to Gays was forbidden, in fact they called it a sin. However, when he presented himself for communion, knowing his faith I took the advice of a conservative Missouri Synod Lutheran chaplain, don’t ask, just trust the grace of God in the Sacrament. That became my model of ministry from then on. I never mentioned it to my bishop. Thankfully he never asked or I would have had to be honest. This encounter brought more homosexuals to the chapel, and the chapel community which was composed mainly of military retirees and National Guard personnel welcomed them.

In civilian churches of my old denominations I knew Gays and Lesbians who struggled and tried to do everything they could to change, but no-matter how hard they tried, how hard they prayed, how many times well meaning friends attempted to cast out their demons in rituals similar to exorcisms they struggled and suffered. Most eventually drifted away because they knew that they would not be accepted.  I have had friends in church whose children came out as gay or lesbian. Some loved and accepted them, others turned them away. Judy and I have always done what we can to support them as we would the children of any friend.

That understanding of God’s grace as well as what I believed were the fundamental Constitutional and human rights of Gays and Lesbians brought me to where I am today.

I know that a lot of conservative Christians have and will condemn me for these beliefs and actions, but for me honesty, integrity, empathy and love have to take precedence over hate, blame and prejudice, even when that prejudice is clothed in the words or faith and righteousness. I just figure that once we begin to use religion to condemn others and bolster our own political power that we are no better than people like Al Qaeda, ISIL or the Taliban. We are no better than the Inquisitors or others who destroyed cities and massacred people, even other Christians because they didn’t believe the right way.

I believe that it is just a small step from hateful thoughts and words to actions that end up in genocide. The “German Christians” of the Nazi era demonstrated that to a fine degree. The authors of the Bethel Confession, including Dietrich Bonhoeffer who protested the German Christian alliance with the Nazis noting:

“every attempt to establish a visible theocracy on earth by the church as a infraction in the order of secular authority. This makes the gospel into a law. The church cannot protect or sustain life on earth. This remains the office of secular authority.

That I believe with all my heart and that is why I will support and fight for the rights of the LGBT community in order to ensure that they have the same rights and privileges of any citizen. Otherwise what does the rule of law mean? What does the Constitution mean? What does that sentence in the Declaration of Independence that:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men…” 

Abraham Lincoln wrote in 1854 concerning the rights of Blacks, something that is certainly applicable as well to homosexuals: “the standard maxim of free society …constantly spreading and deepening its influence,” ultimately applicable “to peoples of all colors everywhere.” 

That my friends, especially my conservative Christian friends who do not understand why I would speak up for the LGBT community, is why I do it. So in the words of my favorite heretic Martin Luther I state today: “Here I stand, I can do no other. So help me God. Amen.”

Peace

Padre Steve+

3 Comments

Filed under christian life, faith, LGBT issues, Political Commentary

Spreading Fear in the Name of Righteousness

Mini-Stonewall

Friends of Padre Steve’s World

I said that my New Year’s resolution was going to be the passionate pursuit of truth and here the the first volley in that. It deals with the very real agenda of some leaders of the Christian Right and their leaders in the Republican Party against the LGBT community.

So I want you to imagine what it was like in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s for gays, and imagine something that is  a core part of your personality, belief system or lifestyle was criminalized. So let’s go back to those days:

Imagine if your activities were monitored, catalogued and reported by local, state and Federal police agencies.

Imagine that police detectives and informants were allowed to spy on your activities.

Imagine that police, acting in the “name of the law” under the merest pretense or spurious accusation could invade your home, business or institution and use physical violence to subdue you, even if you had done nothing wrong.

stonewall-riots

The Stonewall Riot 1969

Imagine if a business rival or a spurned lover desired to ruin you with only an accusation.

Imagine if the price of your freedom was to name names and condemn others.

Imagine if even suspicion of your activities was considered as grounds for termination of your employment, or prevent you from receiving a promotion.

Imagine if those same suspicions could brand you as a felon with the results of being forbidden to vote, the loss of property and employment rights. 

Imagine that if you went to a bar that if you looked in any direction but straight ahead that you could be charged with accosting others.

Imagine that anyone, anywhere who had knowledge of your behaviors could use that knowledge to have you kicked out of the military, law enforcement or government employment, usually with a felony conviction. 

Imagine that your behavior, even discrete behavior in your own residence could get you locked in a psychiatric hospital and quite possibly the use of drugs and surgery to “correct your illness” without your consent. 

Imagine if you were a faithful member of your church, were conservative in your theology and politics and supported all the causes of that body, but one aspect of your behavior could lead to your excommunication and banishment from that community. 

I guess if it was your behavior or your beliefs that led to such treatment you would cry foul, you would protest, that you would claim that you were the victim of discrimination; and my friend I say that you would be correct.

That my friends was the America and Great Britain that Gays lived in the 1950’s, 1960’s and 1970’s, portions of which remained enshrined in law until very recently and which a number of high powered and influential politicians, pundits and preachers of the Christian Right would like to go again. One of them, Gordon Klingenschmitt, is a criminal. He was tried and convicted by court-martial for disobedience of a lawful order not to protest outside White House in his uniform  at a political rally, while George W. Bush was President.   After the conviction Klingenschmitt was separated from the the Navy when his denomination, the Evangelical Episcopal Church defrocked him and pulled his endorsement to be a chaplain. On his Pray in Jesus Name radio program Klingenschmitt said that it is his “goal to push gays back in the closet.” Klingenschmitt has made his living since claiming all sorts of things on that program following his conviction and discharge and now is a newly elected State Senator in Colorado.

re-criminalize-sodomy

Sadly there are those among the Christian Right in a number of states, as well as Conservative Christian politicians at the State and Federal level, to include Senators, members of the House of Representatives and prominent potential Presidential Candidates who advocate bringing all of these measures back. These include Tim Pawlenty and Haley Barbour who when in the run up to the GOP 2012 primaries both told hate-ideologue Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association that they would reinstitute the discriminatory “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy. Fischer, as well as numerous others, including the head of the Heritage Foundation, former Senator Jim DeMint suggest barring Gays from teaching, the judiciary and other forums of public service. Anti-Gay Evangelist Scott Lively worked actively to help pass a “Kill the Gays” bill in Uganda, while many other prominent preachers of the Christian right praise the persecution of Gays in Russia by Vladimir Putin.

Gays have been blamed for the spread of Ebola and other diseases and about every social ill in the world, even if there is no evidence to support the claims of those making  the accusations.

bryan_fischer_6

Bryan Fischer, a failed pastor is not a failed propagandist of anti-Gay zealotry and he attracts a fair number of prominent Republican politicians to his radio program, including:

Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi, Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey, Rep. Steve King of Iowa, Rep. Jack Kingston of Georgia, Rep. Raul Labrador of Idaho, of Mississippi and Rep. Tim Huelskamp of Kansas. Among the major conservative activists who have appeared on Focal Point are Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, David Barton of WallBuilders, Phyllis Schlafly of Eagle Forum and Amy Kremer of the Tea Party Express. Fischer, whose group was a co-sponsor of the Value Voters summit back in 2010 was joined by even bigger names including Mike Huckabee, Michelle Bachmann, Mitt Romney, former Virginia Governor and convicted felon Bob McDonnell Indiana Rep. Mike Pence.

Fischer and others claim gays to be terrorists, criminals and compare them to the Nazis which is ironic since the Nazis outlawed homosexuality and sent homosexuals to the Concentration camps. But then truth is not an obstacle for this bunch. In Arizona and Kansas “Jim Crow” measures to legalize religious discrimination against homosexuals nearly became law with their proponents claiming to be protecting the rights of people to discriminate against gays solely based on religious their religious liberty.

There are prominent Evangelical preachers, media personalities and pundits who go to extremes in their description of Gays, Lesbians, and for that matter anyone in the LGBT community. Some of those include Pat Robertson and others have made incredulous statements about Gays.

While I do not think that the truly extreme measures will ever be passed or upheld once they hit the courts, the danger of this anti-Gay propaganda and continued efforts of some will continue to punish gays for nothing more than wanting to live a normal life with people they love. There is a secondary danger, that danger is that the constant drumbeat of hate will motivate some to violence against the LGBT community. Such has happened too many times, one cannot forget the brutal murder of young Matthew Shepard.

matthew-shepard

Matthew Shepard

It is something that all of us who truly value liberty must be on constant guard against. I cannot imagine a society that would want any portion of it to have to deal with the legalized hate, persecution and discrimination that gays went through long after it was made illegal to do to others.  There are some who earnestly desire a return to such persecution of Gay people and their supporters, and they wait for the chance to implement their agenda.

There is a scene at the end of the Star Trek the Next Generation episode The Drumhead. In the episode a deranged and paranoid ideologue comes aboard the Enterprise to conduct an investigation of possible sabotage. The investigation becomes a witch hunt in which she accuses Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) of treason. Her case collapses and afterward Lt. Worf, the Klingon Security Officer of the Enterprise, who initially supported her visits Captain Picard. Their dialogue is pertinent to today.

“Am I bothering you, Captain?”
“No, please Mr. Worf, come in.”
“It is over. Admiral Henry has called an end to any more hearings on this matter.”
“That’s good.”
“Admiral Satie has left the Enterprise.”
“We think we’ve come so far. Torture of heretics, burning of witches, it’s all ancient history. And then, before you can blink an eye, suddenly it threatens to start all over again.”
“I believed her. I-I HELPED her! I did not see what she was.”
“Mr. Worf, villains who twirl their mustaches are easy to spot. Those who clothe themselves in good deeds are well camouflaged.”
“I think, after yesterday, people will not be so ready to trust her.”
“Maybe. But she or someone like her will always be with us, waiting for the right climate in which to flourish–spreading fear in the name of righteousness. Vigilance, Mr. Worf. That is the price we have to continually pay.”

Vigilance against those who cloak themselves in the name of righteousness to discriminate against and persecute others. Is that not the same thing we claim to be fighting the Islamic extremists of ISIL, Al Qaeda, the Taliban and others who in the name of their understanding of righteous do to those that they control?

I personally know too many Gays and Lesbians who have endured such perfection, including witch hunts under the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy and anti-gay policies that were once enshrined in military law. These men and women were honorable, and many legitimate heroes in combat.

Thus I will fight for the rights of Gay and Lesbians and the LGBT community, the right to enjoy all the privileges that I have as a married, heterosexual, career military officer and Christian. Likewise I will not hesitate to identify those who promote such discrimination.

Until tomorrow,

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

 

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Filed under faith, LGBT issues, News and current events, Political Commentary