All that remains is a fragment of song

The Revealer brings us news of a study on the religious right’s bold new campaign to stand up for bullies and bullying. Among the groups bravely fighting for the right of the strong to torment the weak are the Family Research Council, Focus on the Family and the American Family Association.

Basically, any group with “Family” in the name is demanding the right to steal your lunch money.

The objective of most of these organizations isn’t to just influence hearts and minds to follow their idea of moral living but to do so via legal and legislative means, using existing local and national networks for fundraising, media reach, and legislative influence. And so, attempts to teach kids that heckling their neighbors for being different has rhetorically become an attack on tolerance.

It reminds me of that song we used to sing in Sunday school, “Dare to Be a Nebuchadnezzar.”

Jim Evans has more on the AFA campaign at Ethics Daily: “As Self-Appointed Media Watchdog, AFA Goes on Attack.” Ethics Daily is a mostly Southern Baptist site, and Evans is the pastor of First Baptist Church in Auburn, Ala. That’s why it’s really encouraging to see him shaming the AFA for its recent efforts against the Day of Silence:

The idea behind the Day of Silence was to call attention to the pain inflicted on LGBT individuals by bullying, mean-spirited jokes and harassment.

The AFA encouraged parents to take their children out of schools that were supporting this observance. Apparently, in the skewed AFA view of the Christian gospel, making fun of people is a way of showing the love of Jesus.

Regardless of where Christian individuals stand on the issue of homosexuality, there can be no defense for condoning attacks on people – verbally or otherwise.

The suggestion by AFA that parents withdraw their children from efforts to restrain verbal and other assaults is a tacit blessing of promoting verbal and other assaults. And from my perspective that is totally unchristian and they should be ashamed.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered individuals remain first and foremost human beings. And the God who became human and dwelt among us has made it abundantly clear that there is profound love for the human species – all of us.

That’ll preach.

* * * * * * * * *

I picture this as a slightly more affordable alternative to the Charlie Sheen tour: “Love Worth Fighting For Events With Kirk Cameron and Warren Barfield Sell Out Across Country.”

It’s a bit odd that a marriage and relationship advice seminar would choose the verb “fighting” for it’s title. They mean the good kind of fighting, I guess, the kind that encourages “men and women to find the victories on the other side of the battles they face in their relationships.”

Not just fighting, then, but fighting to win because relationships are battles. That’s our Buck.

* * * * * * * * *

Hugh Hollowell gets the usual questions from the evangelical inquisition. “Occasionally I get emails demanding to know my stance on a particular piece of ‘historic orthodoxy,’” he writes.

Hollowell, you see, runs a ministry for homeless people. So for the self-appointed evangelical inquisitors, that suggests he’s some kind of Spong-lovin’ librul. His most recent catechist demanded to know whether or not he denies the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Hollowell responds by quoting Peter Rollins:

I deny the resurrection of Christ. … I deny the resurrection of Christ every time I do not serve at the feet of the oppressed, each day that I turn my back on the poor; I deny the resurrection of Christ when I close my ears to the cries of the downtrodden and lend my support to an unjust and corrupt system. …

As Hollowell notes, such an answer probably won’t satisfy his inquisitors. But here’s the thing: No answer will ever satisfy those inquisitors. Their whole sense of identity comes from trying to control others by catechizing them about proper and correct dogma. They imagine that this gives them power.

Such people can never and will never be satisfied. Trying to satisfy people who can never be satisfied is a waste of time.

* * * * * * * * *

Grist reports on yet another energy-related catastrophe. A year after the Gulf oil spill, in the midst of Japan’s nuclear crisis, and in the wake of countless coal mine explosions and collapses, this happens:

Oh the humanity.

As Grist notes:

The most recent reports indicate that so far the only casualties are a wide swath of grass and possibly a family of voles. So far no evacuation zone has been declared. There are no threats to sea life, and the fallout from the disaster was not detectable thousands of miles away. Cleanup efforts are in progress, and will not include covering the area in a giant concrete dome. No workers have been asked to give their lives in order to save their countrymen from the menace of this fallen wind turbine.

* * * * * * * * *

Amanda Marcotte has pointed out that on any given day you can type the words “youth pastor” into Google News and … well, the results won’t be pretty.

It’s true. And it’s sad. And it clearly suggests, as she says, that American Christianity’s obsession with mostly imaginary external monsters is in part an attempt to escape dealing with our own internal problems.

But then I don’t want to read too much into that because I am, among other things, a stepdad.

And the same exercise produces similarly dismaying results if, on any given day, you type the words “step father” into Google News.

* * * * * * * * *

The title here comes from Paul Simon’s new song, “The Afterlife.” It’s kind of brilliant.

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  • hapax

    This is the absolutely perfect lead in to this astonishing and beautiful Sermon for Passion Week. I think many people here would find it deeply moving, whether or not they observe the liturgical season or accept any form of Christianity.

    Warning: Triggers for self-harm and sexual violence.

  • Anonymous

    Oh that Simon tune is lovely. And oddly enough ties back into the discussion how most explicitly “Christian” art is stone awful. It’s the difference between geuinely caring about something, and knowing you can ship out tripe but as long as it has “Jesus” stamped on it it’s going to sell. Simon felt the need to carefully craft a good song. If there’s such a thing as divinity that’s a much better tribute to it than groaning that your god is an Awesome God.

    And it’s hilariously sad and telling too that Cameron like his character would treat every relationship as a power play. Yeesh, he must be a barrel of laughs at a dinner party.

  • Marc Mielke

    “step father” gives back links to the (awful) series of horror movies and a dictionary definition of the term. “youth pastor” gives back a tragic story of one youth pastor and his small child dying in a fire, and a bit lower, a youth pastor accused of unlawful sex with a minor.

    It was a 17-year old, so really, bit of a non-story there. It was consensual, so he’s getting a lot of grief just for not waiting less than a year.

    Must be a slow news day.

  • Mouse

    Re:Religious Right Standing Up for Bullies:

    It’s crap like this that almost makes me like Fred Phelps: at least he’s being honest. You know exactly what a turd-faced turd he is and where he stands. These Religious Right groups on the other hand clothe themselves in bits stolen from holy writ and seem a saint when they play the devil. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if they cheered at the suicides of gay teens.

  • Dylan

    I assume “Love Worth Fighting For” references one of Barfield’s songs whose chorus is “Love is not a fight, but it’s something worth fighting for.” (I occasionally listen to the local Christian station and I’ve heard the song a few times.) So assuming that relationships are a fight (i.e., against each other) and require winning is likely taking it completely out of context. (Even so, portraying marriage as a constant “us vs. them” fight seems like it could cause some unnecessary drama because there’s only so far the analogy can stretch.)

    That said, the song makes me a little uncomfortable. It discourages divorce as giving up. It could be an easy way out for some, but in many cases it’s necessary and to say otherwise is dangerous. It’s not really a topic you can address universally in a song and still do it justice.

  • Jim Wisniewski

    I can’t say I’m a big fan of the sneering smugness of the Grist article. Or its dispensing with facts in order to suit their argument — nobody’s died at Fukushima either.

  • Kiba

    Quote: It’s the difference between geuinely caring about something, and knowing you can ship out tripe but as long as it has “Jesus” stamped on it it’s going to sell.

    That’s how I made it through my American Lit class at a Catholic University. All I had to do was make sure every essay revolved around Christ imagery and I was guaranteed at least an A-. Turn in anything else and it was given back with a low grade and for a re-write.

  • Anonymous

    You joke about the falling wind turbine’s safety, but surely by now you’ve seen the tables, the charts, the graphics, of deaths per watt, which show that wind power is actually more deadly than nuclear.

    And that both are far less deadly than coal and oil.

  • Lori

    I won’t argue about the tone of the Grist article*, but I think it’s less disingenuous to say that nobody’s died at Fukushima yet. There are employees who are virtually certain to die early as a result of their radiation exposure at the plant. Some of them will likely die fairly soon. The fact that they didn’t drop dead on the spot doesn’t change the fact that they’ll die as a result of Fukushima.

    *I like wind power, but even I’ll acknowledge that it has some problems. For example, it’s bad for bats and I consider that a negative. I assume the problem can be solved, but at this point it hasn’t been and that’s an issue.

  • JJohnson

    >.> relationships ARE battles.

    Pat Benatar says so!

    I wonder where one gets an M1A1 Abrams of Love (+1 of course. It’s only 2000 extra GP.)

    Yes I did manage to go from relationships to Pat Benatar to battle tanks to D&D. >.> FEAR THE NERDITRY! <.<

  • Martha

    First of all, let me say that I love reading your columns, and they are a highlight for me every time you post, and I enjoy reading them and I get reading suggestions from them etc.

    Let me say all that. And then say this.

    As someone who has friends and acquaintances in Japan, I will maybe tolerate you using their tragedy as a footstool for a political goal. I mean, I too agree that renewable energy is a great idea.

    But your use of snarky sarcastic humor whenever you bring up these issues hurts. Like, absolute pain. Because this is NOT FUNNY. And when you treat it lightly like this, it makes me both angry and miserable. Make your point, fine, but don’t try to be humorous when you do it. Please. Please stop.

  • Rikalous

    I’m not so sure that the “fighting to win” language says anything bad about Cameron and Barfield’s seminars. It sounded to me like they were talking more about overcoming obstacles than defeating enemies. Finishing a marathon rather than winning a race.

  • Philip Teamjones Overal

    anyone who can segway in to D&D from something has my eternal love :D

  • Guest-again

    ‘nobody’s died at Fukushima either.’
    Wrong, as a crane operator did die. It is more accurate to say that no one has died of radiation, with the addition of the word ‘yet’ – the problems are still ongoing, and the gaps in understanding the current situation there are larger than the certainties – in part, because acquiring that information is simply impossible without a decent probability of causing fatalities.

    To give an example from a couple of weeks ago – the person reading the meter that listed 10 million times the expected level of radioactivity apparently ran as fast as possible the second that number blipped up on the equipment – the fact that it was only 100,000 times as high meant he could have probably strolled briskly, and maybe even have enough time to take the second reading which would have demonstrated the need to evacuate that area promptly.

    The reactors are ruined, there are openly exposed fuel rods (the melted ones in likely ruined containment systems are still just an educated guess – nothing can currently get close enough to actually know), and really, this is the current situation – ‘Tokyo Electric Power Co. announced Sunday that it will take six to nine months to complete a cold shutdown of the damaged reactors at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant, while the United States proposed a daring plan to use a remote-controlled helicopter and cranes to pluck out their spent fuel rods.’

    I don’t think anyone is requiring robots, unmanned helicopters, and daring plans to pick up some fallen rotors in a field. And the residents around the nuclear plant may know something about returning, or not returning home, in the next half year. But no radition fatalities at Fukushima – yet – because no one seems stupid enough to actually be working anywhere near the reactor buildings themselves – which may explain why nothing is really being reopaired there currently. And also explains why they are sending in the robots.

  • Anonymous

    What about all that “love the sinner, hate the sin” stuff that I’ve been hearing about homosexuality? Stuff like this makes me wonder if maybe they’re not being completely honest about that. It’s more like “hate the sin, bully the sinner”.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t think that a youth pastor having sex with a 17 year-old is as innocent as you make it seem. First of all, if he was a teacher or in a leader position over the youth, it’s sketchy regardless of ages. If a college professor has sex with a 22 year-old student, it wouldn’t automatically be wrong but there would be a high chance that one person used their power in an unethical way.

    Second, I don’t know the requirements for becoming a youth pastor, but wouldn’t it at least require seminary school? I can’t find the story so I don’t know the details, but the pastor must have been at least in his early 20s. There’s a big difference between a 19 year-old having sex with a minor, and 23 year-old doing the same thing.

    So a 20-something youth pastor having sex with a 17 year-old student might be perfectly fine and consensual, but it could just as easily be coercive.

  • Shadsie

    I like the answer about “denying the Resurrection” – best answer ever.

    I remember, six years ago when I embarked on my move from Arizona to Pennsylvania, my guy and I drove the U-Haul across lots of country. We drove across New Mexico, northern Texas and Oklahoma and there were whole hillsides covered in wind turbines – churning away thanks to the abundant wind. I just thought they were really neat-looking.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    The idea behind the Day of Silence was to call attention to the pain inflicted on LGBT individuals by bullying, mean-spirited jokes and harassment.

    It’s not just LGBT-whatevers. It’s anybody who’s different in any way. Anybody. I’m as straight as you can get, and I was the Omega Male of my high school.

    But here’s the thing: No answer will ever satisfy those inquisitors. Their whole sense of identity comes from trying to control others by catechizing them about proper and correct dogma.

    Internet Monk’s comment threads are full of trolls like this. There they’re known as the Truly Reformed (TM), parsing theology letter-by-letter and casting Anathemas and Denunciations.

    You know what these guys remind me of? Communist Party Ideologists.

  • Anonymous

    You beat me to it!

  • alan

    So about bullying: when I was in middle and high school, 15 years ago, I was bullied mercilessly every day for being gay. Routinely beaten in the parking lot, etc. Thing is, I’m not even gay! Just appearing slightly different for whatever reason was enough, apparently. So I can’t imagine how tortuous it must be to actually be gay, and in high school.

    To make it worse, I couldn’t tell school officials (any attempts to just got me in trouble), and I couldn’t tell my parents, because as RTCs, any mention of the incidents would just result in hours of lectures about the evils of sodomy.

  • Anonymous

    *wince* Sympathies, Alan.

  • alan

    Thanks, but I know so many kids had it so much worse. Back then people seemed to have the attitude that bullying was unfortunate but a fact of life. Now that it’s been politicized, and teachers feel the need to discriminate against their own students in the most childish ways… *shudder*

  • Anonymous

    Your callous response to vole-related tragedy sickens me.