Sounds like a children’s serial novel, doesn’t it? Scott Lively and the Bonus Plan. Scott Lively and the Search for Relevance. Scott Lively and the Hunt for Gullible Rubes. Scott Lively and His Sudden Boost in Status. Scott Lively and the Unexpected Endgame.
Ever since I first heard of this guy, he sounded distinctly like that sort of Christian who will say or do absolutely anything to get attention and status. If you haven’t heard of him, he’s a fundagelical pastor from, most recently, Massachusetts who really, really, really despises and fears gay men. He showed up out of nowhere in the early 1990s with a book about how Nazis were actually totally gay (except NO THEY WERE NOT–except in his weirdest sexual fantasies, as if anybody needed to say so) and that’s how they could be such bastards to everybody–because apparently being gay made someone more prone to Nazi-like behavior, rather than being a right-wing super-fundie toxic Christian. As you might guess, even in the 90s he had a tough time selling this sort of bizarre hatemongering, especially in Oregon where he was located at the time, so he went off in search of an audience that’d give him what he sought. He ended up in Uganda, a country with a very complex relationship with the United States culturally-speaking, and found an eager audience there for his swill. If you heard about that whole “Kill the Gays” bill, that’s more or less Scott Lively’s foul handiwork, though he distanced himself from it almost immediately once worldwide outcry–even from Christians–erupted from pretty much everywhere all at once.
Uganda wasn’t the only country fooled by his rhetoric, though; some hate-filled, frothing-mad Christians in the United States and some Eastern European zealots in places like Latvia really like him as well. And even though the adoration was coming from some of the most awful people imaginable, it was still adoration and he took it. I’m guessing he wasn’t finding it in many places.
He’s now apparently very sad and miffed that people characterize him as “gay-hating” and “anti-gay” when he doesn’t think he is at all–he just wants everyone to know that the Nazis were actually gay and that’s purely why they did what they did and that gay people–which means men, as far as he’s concerned–are terrible, horrible people who probably commit pedophilia and who even knows what else, and he thinks that being gay is worse than mass murder. He also very recently came out with some bit of blithering dumbfuckery about how allowing LGBTQ people to access marriage rights would cause the end of the world. No, really. It’d be downright embarrassing to see him crash and burn if it weren’t, well, him doing the crashing and burning. He is why the word schadenfreude got invented; the only real pity here is that Ugandans didn’t see him coming a country-mile away like Americans did, but as Christians like to say (and like he himself says, I can assert without any doubts whatsoever), a prophet never gets any respect in his home country.
On that note: I don’t know about you, but if someone didn’t hate a person who was a Nazi pedophile mass murderer and was going to without question cause the end of the world, then I’d wonder what was wrong with that person. The amount of mincing doublespeak required to hold the “love the sinner but hate the sin” position and talk out of both sides of one’s mouth like he does reaches its apotheosis in this pandering, preening hypocrisy. Thankfully, we need not wonder how Mr. Lively manages to “love” people who are Nazi pedophile mass murderers hellbent on ending the world; we know he most certainly does not have the faintest idea what love even is, much less is showing it toward anybody.
Right-wing toxic Christians themselves are all but giddily celebrating the pushback against Scott Lively; to them, it’s all part and parcel of the end of the world, all part of that weird Left Behind vision of Armageddon dancing in their heads like the sugarplums in children’s dreams on Christmas Eve in that old poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas”. Or like the stars flying around Sylvester’s head after he gets knocked out. Take your pick.
Now we can add to his list of pseudo-titles this one: Scott Lively and His Amazing Trial for Crimes Against Humanity.
A couple of years ago, a group in the United States brought a lawsuit against him for, well, inciting genocide. From the SPLC’s writeup of him:
Lively’s work in Uganda led to a lawsuit against him under the Alien Tort Claims Act, filed March 14, 2012, by Sexual Minorities Uganda, an LGBT rights group in that country, and the Center for Constitutional Rights in the U.S. The lawsuit claims that Lively conspired with political and religious leaders in Uganda beginning in 2002 to incite anti-LGBT hysteria with warnings about the dangers of LGBT people to children and homosexuality to Ugandan culture. The Liberty Counsel, based in Virginia, announced that it would defend Lively in the case, and moved to have it dismissed. However, U.S. District Judge Michael Ponser rejected the Liberty Counsel’s motion on August 15, 2013, allowing the case to proceed.
He of course appealed again, and a few months ago, a federal court denied his appeal, which means the lawsuit is totally happening. Incidentally, just before that lawsuit got filed, some of his fellow hatemongers apparently demonstrated outside the Southern Poverty Law Center’s offices where Peter “Porno Pete” LaBarbera, one of the biggest names in Christian bigotry, asked “God” to “destroy” the SPLC. I reckon that request is yet another prayer they’ll need to use the “yes/no/maybe/wait” rationalization on.
And meanwhile, decent Christians watch this circus unfold. They see their Christian friends, the people who “hug their necks” and sing alongside them in church, people they grew up with and thought were loving and decent people like themselves, they see these “loving” peers wail and moan and shriek and whine and scream about LGBTQ people. They see what the effects of all that “love” are on their LGBTQ friends and family members. Maybe they themselves are LGBTQ and suddenly realize one day just what their “loving” peers would do to them if they found out. Either way, they see the forwards supporting these bigots. They hear how their leaders describe people they know are decent and loving and kind people. They reel under the constant onslaught of hatred and discrimination.
What can they do, though? They pray and they ask their god how he can possibly allow this determined, systemic attempt to disenfranchise and ostracize, punish and penalize people for not loving the right people in the right way. Maybe they speak up in defense of their brothers and sisters in Christ–and get fruit hurled at them by violent, bigoted Christian peers for not being hateful and bigoted enough. It has got to be simply sickening to see just how much their peers simply hate a whole group of people who never did any harm to them. The relabeling act of calling that hatred “love” stops fooling them, if it ever did, and they have to make some decisions about just where they’re going to spend their time.
Folks, it’s not just non-believers like you and me who see this shit happening and decide that it doesn’t even matter if Christianity’s truth claims are factual or not–this is nothing anybody truly decent would ever, ever, ever want to ally with. No, it’s not just non-believers. It’s believers, too–people who are actually deeply and unreservedly Christian who are seeing this stuff and deciding the same thing we are.
That people like Scott Lively can run all over the world and find such a huge audience for what amounts to hate and terror tactics is a sign of the end all right, but not the end bigots imagine and use for masturbation fodder.
It is a sign of the end of Christianity. The body is flopping on the ground grabbing frantically at anything that might give it another few precious breaths of air, but that body is dying.
It astonishes me routinely that so many Christian leaders are wringing their hands over why their young people are fleeing the church in droves. It’s not like those selfsame young people aren’t flat-out telling them exactly why they’re leaving; it’s that those reasons don’t mesh up well against the common wisdom about “apostates.” Pastors have to figure out why those leaving went wrong and what sins they committed that made them rebel against what these Christians are very certain is “God.” When their young people tell them that they find Christian bigotry to be repulsive and hateful, these Christian leaders have to find some other reason why it’s happening. And they have to find, as well, a way to package their bigotry and position it in a way that doesn’t sound quite so repulsive and hateful–and don’t realize that there isn’t some magical way to position and package bigotry to make it sound like THE BONUS PLAN™.
You’ve probably heard me use that term before. Now I want to share why I use it. When I talk about THE BONUS PLAN™, I’m borrowing the phrase from an awful Andrew Dice Clay routine in which he describes a conversation he claims to have had with a sexual partner. He informs this mythical woman, who’s come over to his place for what she thought was going to be a sweet evening of cuddling, that he wants to have sex. When she objects, saying she just wanted to be held, he informs her that sex is actually “THE BONUS PLAN, BABY!” It’s not a flaw in the plan. She’s going to get the cuddling and the sex. Everybody wins! Sex is a wonderful and unique addition to the plan that he asserts is a distinct and marvelous benefit to her, and she ought to be thrilled that it was added to the normal festivities. When I heard this joke, I immediately thought about how Christianity does the same thing.
Scott Lively is one of those Christians who thinks that bigotry is THE BONUS PLAN™. It’s not the entire reason he’s into Christianity, but it’s certainly the icing on the hate-cake. The cake itself is attention and grandeur, adoration and people who dote on his every word. That’s why, with a lawsuit pending about how he helped bring about genocide and hatred across half the world, Scott Lively can spew many words about how gay people are going to bring about the end of the world and cause Armageddon and the rise of the Antichrist. You’d think he’d be quietly laying low and trying to be as (falsely) nice as he possibly could so nobody could ever make the mistake of thinking he would ever wish harm upon anybody. But you’d be wrong.
Hate sells in Christianity, especially hate of marginalized LGBTQ people. If Scott Lively could get the power and adoration he clearly needs by preaching love, forgiveness, acceptance, and grace–you know, like Jesus mostly is supposed to have done–then he’d do that. But he probably sees what happens when his peers try that route. Rob Bell and Rachel Held Evans, John Shore and the rest of the emergent/progressive crowd routinely get called the worst names ever–by the sort of Christians who have pinned their entire religious identity to the destruction of other people’s human rights and the denigration and subjugation of entire groups. By the sort of Christians who are in the religion to hate and destroy and hate and control and hate, rather than to do a single thing Jesus is supposed to have told them to do (you know, that boring-ass shit like feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and comforting the orphaned and widowed, and that really inconvenient shit like turning the other cheek, forgiving without ceasing, loving someone who wishes you harm, doing way more than is ever asked of you, and always wanting the best for everybody no matter how mean they are to you). By people who subsidize hatemongers like Scott Lively. By Scott Lively himself.
Savage hatred sells even better.
Savage hatred dressed up in pretty words like “love” sell the best of all, especially to Christians who have already successfully redefined “Christianist persecution” as “religious liberty” and who already see all pushback as an indication that “Jesus” totally approves of everything they’re doing.
He can’t even soften the stance or walk it back at this point. If he does, then by his own definitions he is a weak-willed, lukewarm compromiser. The wolves who draw encouragement from him, howling at his every word, will leap upon him the moment he weakens in his delivery of hatred and they will rip him apart the same way he wants them to rip apart LGBTQ people. He’s hoist by his own petard; he’s hung by his own hand; he’s painted himself into a corner. And there’s no god to rescue him from his own grievous misdeeds.
So no, friends. Don’t be shocked that even as his lawsuit progresses, he still comes out in full force against those he hates so much. He must. Lawyers cost money and so do plane tickets to Russia to spread more hatred. This is a machine he started but cannot stop.
And that his shameless hatred will cost Christians, as a whole, as a body, so many adherents doesn’t even matter. Nor does it matter how much damage people like him ultimately do to their religion’s credibility. The few who remain will be even more polarized, even more hateful. So Scott Lively will always draw a paycheck, as long as these hatemongers think he’s One of Them. Even
if when he goes to prison, they’ll just think he is being martyred and double down on the great cause of “loving” LGBTQ people to death.
Now we must ask why so few Christian leaders and Christians themselves are speaking out against Scott Lively and his brand of hatemongering–what about their culture makes even the more benign among them so unwilling to strongly condemn someone who is doing this kind of damage to the “brand.” That unwillingness is, itself, another symptom of the sickness: without objective foundation for one’s beliefs, it gets a lot harder to call out total whackadoodles for believing nonsense like Scott Lively does. Worse, the entire culture is now built around an artificial conceptualization of “niceness” that makes it difficult to condemn hypocrites like him until things get totally out of hand.
The overwhelming tenor of Mr. Lively’s response to this lawsuit seems–to me at least–to be total, complete astonishment that his activities worldwide have subjected him to some kind of comeuppance. He thought he could go anywhere in the world and basically bring entire countries to genocide and persecution of Others and then come traipsing back to the United States and wallow in adoration and money, and nobody could touch him because hey, it was other countries. (Of course, the only reason these lawsuits aren’t centered around him causing America to abuse and murder LGBTQ people is that most Americans are pretty much over homophobia at this point, and I’m sure he kind of senses that at some level.) I’m glad he is being held accountable for spreading his brand of hatred and ignorance worldwide, and hope that other hatemongers consider very carefully doing similarly before they embark on similar campaigns. I hope this lawsuit helps.
And I yearn and ache for the day when we look back at people like Scott Lively and wonder how the fuck he ever found traction–when it’s simply weird and unthinkable that someone could be so bigoted and so obviously wrong and sad–when nobody sees his story without wondering what is this guy’s damage?
The last few books in his series are still to come, but they’re already on deck and being edited. All bigots like him are doing is fighting against the inevitable end of their control.
* CCR Justice, the main website for the group bringing the lawsuit against Scott Lively for inciting Uganda to genocide and violence against LGBTQ persons.
* Slate: What this lawsuit means. An overview of the laws involved here.