Setting the world on fire for Jesus

Perhaps you’ve seen the video.

A peculiar fellow in a pink shirt stands on the lawn in front of General Mills headquarters. He holds a box of Honey Nut Cheerios and a propane torch.

The man says:

One out of every eight boxes of cereal in this country is Cheerios. This is really the treat now for the homosexuals. And this is our protest of General Mills — right there — advocating same-sex marriages. So we are gonna torch some cereal.

It goes downhill from there. The plastic liner of the cereal box erupts in flames just as a strong gust of wind kicks up and, well, the lawn catches fire.

“OK, get out of here, guys,” the man says to the giggling person shooting the video. “Quick! Quick get in the car!”

The video went viral — and not because the people sharing it were impressed with this man’s bold, principled stand in the culture wars.

The odd thing, though, is that everywhere I saw this video linked and posted initially, the man was identified as a Christian or a preacher or some kind of evangelical protester.

I assumed that everyone assuming that was correct, but it was odd because nothing the man says or does in the video identifies him as such. He doesn’t mention God or the Bible or in any way identify himself as a religious person. There’s nothing sectarian in the video at all.

So why did everyone assume that this man was an evangelical Christian?

Because he’s anti-gay.

More specifically, because he’s disproportionately concerned with being anti-gay and he’s choosing to express that concern in a goofy, obnoxious and destructive way.

And in the present age, in 2012 in America, all of that marked this man as an evangelical Christian just as surely as if he were wearing a Jesus-fish necklace and a Newsboys T-shirt.

Please let that sink in. Please contemplate what that means for the witness of evangelical Christians in America in 2012. Please consider what that means for the reputation of the church.

That’s three “pleases” there, because I am begging — I am begging my brothers and sisters, my fellow evangelicals here in America, to step back and think about how we got to this sorry state of affairs.

That video? This is who we are now in the eyes of the world. And they are not wrong to see us this way.

Oh, and as for that assumption that everyone was making the other day, that this goofball with the flaming Cheerios must be some sort of evangelical Christian?

Everyone was right.

  • Isabel C.

    Really?

    *Really*?

    Okay, here’s the thing, and it’s not really a hard concept:
    If you don’t want to talk about something, because it would derail a thread or you don’t want to have the argument or whatever, DON’T BRING IT UP IN THE FIRST PLACE. 

    Popping on to say “Oh, I don’t believe that a class of people should have the same civil rights as others, and I’m not going to tell you why, and don’t insult me for it, HA HA FLAMING CHEERIOS” is hurtful, obtuse, and intellectually dishonest. Knock it the fuck off, lady. 

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    Most *people* are nice.

    Niceness is merely a means of getting along with other people. It’s a socially adaptive thing. People do it because they have learned that doing otherwise will cause them problems.

    But being not-nice towards people over whom they have power won’t cause them problems — or at least not problems they’re aware of. That’s why niceness towards those whom one sees as equals is completely meaningless in measuring goodness. I’ve worked tons of retail, but didn’t really understand this until my last retail job in a wealthy area. 

    Most of my customers were nice enough. But the wealthier they were, the less chance there was of them being nice, or minimally civil, or not outright insulting. I’d always worked in middle and lower middle class communities before, and was not prepared for the rudeness and insults I and my co-workers were subject to.  I don’t ever want to work retail again, but if I have to, I will make sure not to do so in a wealthy community.

    I think something similar goes on with every form of bigotry, not just classism*. The bigots aren’t worried about those other people hurting them, so they can hurt those people with impunity, and not just by hate speech and violence. Taking away peoples’ basic rights hurts them on a deeper level than calling them names. Why do it? Because  they feel they’re better than those other people. They can smile and make jokes and say they want to keep everything civil, but that’s what it comes down to — a rung on the hierarchy above someone else.

    *Before people assume those wealthy jerks were Republicans: classism is a massive problem in the SJ movement as well.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    Flaming Cheerios are not the real concept at issue. Homophobia is the real issue. The more you dodge it, the dodgier you look.

  • Tricksterson

    I’m going purely on gut instinct here but I’m willing to bet that somewhere in Dueteronomy (which, like Leviticus has a whole passel fo laws but rarely gets mentioned in comparison to Leviticus I’m guessing because there are no passages that can be read as “Gays are horrible”) or Leviticus that there is a rule against unnecessary destruction of foodstuffs.

  • Tricksterson

    Only Tim would have done it with styke.  There wouldn’t be a building left.

  • OriginalExtraCrispy

    You can’t say something cruel and then expect the people to whom your cruelty is directed to just let it go because you don’t want to be uncomfortable. 

    You’ve decided it’s perfectly acceptable to publicly declare your opposition to giving one group of legal, consenting adults the same rights and privileges the rest of the population of legal, consenting adults share. If you’re willing to declare that publicly, you owe it to them to look them in the eye, virtually speaking, and defend that position.

  • Tricksterson

    Well, Santana gay and Brittany is bisexual, and Kurt was a Cheerio for a short period.

  • MaryKaye

    Lliira wrote:  That’s why niceness towards those whom one sees as equals is completely
    meaningless in measuring goodness. I’ve worked tons of retail, but
    didn’t really understand this until my last retail job in a wealthy
    area. 

    My mother was a life-long academic, and her main criterion for “should we elect this person Chair or Dean?” was always “How do they treat the office staff?”  Many academics are nice to their superiors and peers, because it’s useful.  But the good ones are also nice to the office staff and janitors.

    My mother also taught me that if you *are* nice to the office staff, your life will mysteriously become easier.  This is true, but not all of my colleagues seem to know it.  In reality there is no one so lowly that they may not someday be able to help you, but this conflicts with the urge to show your superiority in your nastiness.

    When my household had a break-in a few days before Christmas and the thief took all our presents, the person who, I think, was most comfort to my son was the homeless newspaper vendor at our grocery store.  She was indignant on his behalf in all the right ways, and though we had to turn down her offer to organize a toy drive for him, it really cheered him up that someone would do it.

  • Worthless Beast

    I think the point of Fred’s post and the discussion is that even if it is a parody, we’ve gotten to a point at which whenever someone does something crazy like this, people just *assume* “Of course he/she/they’re a Christian” and is lamenting that. It’s not the fault of a vast conspiracy of parody-makers that this is how society views Christians, either…

    An example of how parody and real life can look alike: Last night, I discovered that the Weekly World News has a website that’s still up (WWN was a parody tabloid newspaper I used to like picking up at stores every now and again for laughs – if you ever saw a black and white rag proclaiming that Hilary Clinton adopted an alien-baby, that’s the one)… They used to have an opinion-column by “Ed Anger”  who was a right-wing nut who was like a constipated Stephen Colbert on steroids. The column had the character saying the most over the topi racist and sexist things… the WWN website had him “supporting Chick-fil-A” and the really freakishly over the top homophobic slurs (mixed with racism) along with a proclaimation by the charater that he was going to eat every chicken in the world… It was parody, sure, really over the top junk for the sake of humor…. but I grew depressed when I realized the parody wasn’t much different from  “real” stuff said by actual people in the news who actually exist.  

  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea

    Um.

    You brought it up, and several people asked a perfectly civil follow-up question.  (Damned civil, I’d say, based on your opinion that people should be denied equal rights.)

    If you want to wuss out of addressing the issue that you raised, fine.  At least it makes it easy for me to decide that nothing you have to say need be taken the slightest bit seriously.

  • JonathanPelikan

    [CONTENT NOTE: Hyper-Colbert-esque satire of a position I have no doubt that scumfucking conservative traitors will be gleefully really defending about a year or two from now.]

    Well if you burn the food you ensure it’s being spent in a way far more important than simply maintaining the life of one or a smaller number of mortal humans. It’s being spent to glorify God! And as for giving it away instead? Well, since money is a primary determining force in morality, poor people are less deserving than other economic groups de facto, so your risk of giving food to somebody who doesn’t deserve it skyrockets! Far safer to burn it all.

    [Okay, it's over now.]

    I’ve only listened to a few of the funniest or wackiest stories in audiobook format myself, but then I’m an atheist so I suppose that’s ok. Well, and thanks to Fred and other Christian Christians, I do know a few more stories and popular verses, etc. A smattering of knowledge at best. 

    Recently saw somebody very angry that a person was ‘lying about faith’ when they asserted that there are Bible verses in support of slavery. Looked up a half-dozen relevant verses in a very convenient web version of the Bible and bounced the links over. No, I don’t think it helped a single bit.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    Also, not to feed a troll that everyone’s already been smacking around, but I really hate the meme of “fairy tale” in regards to religion. The word’s not just an unfairly dismissive term (though the only reason we think of fairy tales as childish is because Disney sapped the blood and terror form them), it’s also an ill-defined one.

    It’s also ignorantly dismissive of fairy tales. Fairy tales kept me going for many years of my life. Magic, wonder, imagination, horror, different characters, different places, history — fairy tales are incredibly important. They’re about who we are, where we were, and where we’re going. They represent our dreams and our nightmares. Anyone who is dismissive of fairy tales has my utmost pity. 

  • Kiba

    When I was working I was usually employed as a receptionist and I can tell you that if a caller was being an asshole they usually got stuck on hold for a while and if they were really bad then the phone system “accidentally” dropped them while I was transferring their call**. Like the time some asshole called up and randomly asked me (I’m male) if I was called a receptionhim, yuk, yuk. Yeah, his call was accidentally dropped. 

    **It was in my favor that I was always stuck using some buggy old phone system that had a history of doing that anyway.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    Male gynecologists do not have female nurses in the room during exams merely to avoid lawsuits or accusations of “affairs”. There have been tons of cases of male gynecologists assaulting their patients. The female nurses are there for the protection of the patients, not the protection of the gynecologists. And it’s not enough — see the male gynecologist who removed the clitorises of his unconscious patients for one example of this.

  • OriginalExtraCrispy

    Oh, god, I just got cold chills reading that last sentence. I almost did that thing guys do when someone talks about kneeing them in the groin of squeezing my legs together and cringing. 

    All my gynecologists, male and female, have had a female nurse witness. I realize it does protect the patient, but since the nurse works for the doctor/hospital rather than being an objective third party, I always assumed it was more to protect the doctor from accusations.

  • Worthless Beast

    Mine, too –

    ESPECIALLY when they do so under a username or user-image of something from fantasy. I didn’t know what a “Sindragosa” was until people pointed it out (I don’t play WoW), but I’ve seen the same kind of ranting around over the Internet by people named “Balrog” or with some magical cartoon character as an avatar.  Sure, they may think they’re awesome because they don’t *believe* the fairy tales they happen to like or they think their fantasy stuff is more “baddass” than “fairy tales” but… eh…

    If one is going to call people evil for “holding to fairy tales” – don’t do it with the username of a magical undead dragon. It makes me hard to take one seriously.

  • AnonymousSam

    I don’t think there is, actually. Which is good, because in Exodus, unnecessary destruction of foodstuffs is a rule.

  • Tricksterson

    Huh, I would think in an essentially subsistance society there would be.  I know that in the Quran there’s a rule against fouling water sources even in war time which makes sense for a desert culture.

  • http://www.crochetgeek.net/ Jake

    My mother also taught me that if you *are* nice to the office staff, your life will mysteriously become easier.

    Too true. Academic departments don’t have org charts, but to the outsider’s untrained eye, the staff (who don’t have terminal degrees, don’t sit in on departmental meetings, and are alarmingly underpaid) seem like they’re way down there in terms of importance to the department, somewhere between the graduate students and the particularly nice furniture (what order those two are supposed to be in is left as an exercise to the reader). However, woe betide the faculty member (or even worse, grad student) who doesn’t treat the administrative staff with respect. Oh, sure, there won’t actually be any disciplinary action, but their life can become worse in a million little ways. None of which would be possible if it weren’t for the fact that the office staff really do take care of an awful lot of stuff which it’s easy to take for granted, and they’re a lot more cheerful about making things run seamlessly if you appreciate the fact that that’s what they’re doing.

  • BaseDeltaZero

    Oh, god, I just got cold chills reading that last sentence. I almost did that thing guys do when someone talks about kneeing them in the groin of squeezing my legs together and cringing. 

    All my gynecologists, male and female, have had a female nurse witness. I realize it does protect the patient, but since the nurse works for the doctor/hospital rather than being an objective third party, I always assumed it was more to protect the doctor from accusations.

    I cringed a bit at that.  As for the witnesses… they likely serve both purposes.  Not only helping to prevent abuse, but to prevent even the appearance of malfeasance.  With Billy Graham, it’s probably more towards the second, which, considering the scandals that arose, is a way showing that steps are being taken.(he probably isn’t terribly concerned with preventing misconduct (or maybe he is, in which case, well… I guess taking steps to keep control is a good thing…), but rather with avoiding any appearance of misconduct).

    Huh, I would think in an essentially subsistance society there would be.  I know that in the Quran there’s a rule against fouling water sources even in war time which makes sense for a desert culture.

    That, or it’d be considered so obvious it was unneccessary to note.

    Like the time some asshole called up and randomly asked me (I’m male) if I was called a receptionhim, yuk, yuk.

    What?  That doesn’t even make sense… ‘ist’ isn’t a female term…

  • AnonymousSam

    Yeah, no explanation for that. Then again, they failed to make laws against a lot of things you’d think were pretty self-explanatory, too.

    Still, am thinking of Exodus 29:31-34.

     

    31 “Take the ram for the ordination and cook the meat in a sacred place. 32 At the entrance to the tent of meeting, Aaron and his sons are to eat the meat of the ram and the bread that is in the basket. 33 They are to eat these offerings by which atonement was made for their ordination and consecration. But no one else may eat them, because they are sacred. 34 And if any of the meat of the ordination ram or any bread is left over till morning, burn it up. It must not be eaten, because it is sacred.

    So the answer, clearly, is to get a priest to bless every box of Cheerios…

  • Tricksterson

    “So the answer, clearly, is to get a priest to bless every box of Cheerios”

    Nowadays that would probably be a rabbi and they’d probably have to be Reformed of Conservative.

  • Raoul

     They want to do god’s work.
    They believe god sends people to eternal hellfire.
    So why not send the things of earth to destruction by earthfire?

  • Kiba

    What?  That doesn’t even make sense… ‘ist’ isn’t a female term…

    It didn’t make sense to me either but I just chocked it up to him being a sexist asshole. I’ve met more people than I care to remember who considered reception work to be women’s work. 

  • friendly reader

     Well, if you’re a KJV-only church (and oh so many of these groups are), then you have Deut. 23:17: “There shall be no whore of the daughters of Israel, nor a sodomite of the sons of Israel.”

    Many other translations look at the word translated there as “sodomite”, qadesh, note that it means “holy one,” and that both parts of the sentence (in a pair after all) should be more accurately rendered as “temple prostitute.”

    For the former you get two unrelated commands to not have female prostitutes but also no anal sex. For the latter you get a cohesive command meaning “our religion won’t include temple prostitution.” I’ll leave it up to the reader to say which makes more sense.

    The persistent reliance on the KJV as the one divinely inspired English translation of the Bible is a major hurdle in even getting debates on these issues started.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    At what point do evangelicals of good conscience tire of the abusive relationship between their church and the people they feel called to help and serve and love? At what point do they leave? At what point will they say, let the church burn, and once it is forever destroyed, we will grow new life from its ashes?

    Not an evangelical but–maybe the day there is no longer ten righteous people within the church. Which is not today.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Irony is my favourite elementy.

  • Fortuna Veritas

    Ayep. Thanks to whackjobs like that I’m an atheist because I can’t stand any Evangelicals for not having drowned them in the Baptismal Font when they had the chance.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    And now this guy is dead.  

    Wow, talk about fifteen minutes of fame.  

  • Consumer Unit 5012

     Jinxmchue from Conservapedia, is that you?  How’re the bans going?

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    Since the original video got taken down, here’s one meanie’s take on it:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AcWm4qQaPpE

  • http://www.facebook.com/desertraider91 Chad Phriday

    I think it’s a safe assumption the the person is Christian. Being anti-gay is a religious thing, particularly the Abrahamic religions. The most vocal and ignorant one of these religions in America just happens to be Christian evangelicals. Rein in your crazies and we will stop viewing you so negatively. It’s really not funny anymore. These guys have gone full retard.


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