Permission granted, officially

Permission granted, officially July 9, 2012

Thinking a bit more about “Maybe God is a better person than you think,” I was struck by the sadness of that situation.

It must be an awful thing to believe that God will not allow you to be as loving, merciful and generous as you wish you could be. It must be an awful thing to want to be more loving, but then to think that God forbids it and, thus, that your desire to love is somehow wrong.

I think there are more than a few American Christians who just wish that someone would give them permission to heed their conscience rather than heeding the unloving, unkind, unmerciful things they have been taught about LGBT people.

And that reminded me of a famous post by Teresa Nielsen Hayden on the subject of comment moderation. That post ended with her writing:

… if you’re waiting for someone to give you permission to suppress and thereafter ignore malfeasants, you have it right now. If you want, I’ll make up a certificate.

And then, of course, she did. Because if people are waiting for someone to give them permission to do the right thing, then the right thing to do is to grant them that permission. Even if you can claim no more authority for doing so than just being Some Guy on the Internet.

So, OK, then. If you’re waiting for someone to give you permission to love LGBT people and to welcome them without qualification as equal members of the church, you have it right now. I’ve even made up a certificate.

certificate.pdf (download)


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  • I love it!


  • cameronhorsburgh

    This is so getting printed and hung on my office wall.

    I’m reminded of the G’n’R song ‘November Rain’. Specifically, the line ‘And if you want to love me, then darling don’t refrain.’
    I can’t remember what I was going through, but I heard that one night as a teen and I realised that I wasn’t sure if I was allowed to love God. I was serving God and doing a lot for God, but I felt that actually loving God was a bit presumptuous. Well, Axl Rose gave me permission. That was enough.

    Now that I think about it, I found it far easier to love other people afterwards. Hmm.

  • joxn

    Sadly, Fred, I think they want that certificate carved in stone, signed by YHVH, and brought down off a mountain by Moses.

  • friendly reader

    And then he’ll throw ’em at them for worshiping a

  • friendly reader
  • Tonio

    who just wish that someone would give them permission to heed their conscience rather than heeding the unloving, unkind, unmerciful things they have been taught about LGBT people.

    That might be true for some of that group. But I suspect most are either rationalizing their own straight privilege, or simply afraid of getting in trouble. The latter would simply be self-protection. Some do sound as if they’re genuinely afraid that they’ll be collateral damage if the US gets the same punishment as Sodom and Gomorrah.

  • Well then let’s get a stone cutter, a YHVH forger, and someone named Moses whose willing to carry a hunk of stone down from a mountain.

  • Tonio

     That’s one part of the DeMille epic that made no sense to me. The idea to worship a golden calf seems to come out of nowhere. Edward G. Robinson basically says, “Moses and his god have abandoned us, so let’s make our own god and get plastered.” Calling this a straw-man version of non-Abrahamic religions is almost an insult to that type of argument.

  • Oh!

    Well, gee, why didn’t you just say so in the first place, then?
    I’ll get right on that.


    More seriously: thanks for this one, Fred, it brought a much-needed smile to my face.

  • Indeed! :D I’ll see about signal-boosting it as well :D

  • CarolineDye MemorialChapel

    All right, yes, it was funny and heart-warming, but — Fred, you’re right, there are Christians who need permission to follow their consciences and do the right thing. 

    Seventeen years ago, I left a church after 23 years, because I finally realized they were punishing me for taking the Golden Rule too seriously.  It took me maybe 10 years to figure it out, but once I did that, I was gone within three weeks. It’s real, folks.  

    Fred and his certificate weren’t around back then, but the Unitarian Universalists are good company when you’re recovering from a religious breakdown :)

  • This seems like a decent place to mention
    No scripture, no evangelizing. Just a nice message to share with others. Reading the back-story, it seems like the kind of thing folks around here would approve of. 

  • schismtracer

    I think there are more than a few American Christians who just wish that someone would give them permission to heed their conscience rather than heeding the unloving, unkind, unmerciful things they have been taught about LGBT people.

    And I think there are far more Christians who would be “unloving, unkind, [and] unmerciful” towards LGBT people regardless and simply latched onto a convenient divine mandate to justify themselves.

  • JonathanPelikan

    Yeah. As with the ‘scare em straight’ types, I think Fred’s giving far too much unearned credit to these people. These are the people Fredrick Douglass wrote about, who beat their slaves and then went to church, and the most vicious beatings always, always came from the most pious men.

  • Depends on which “these people” you’re talking about. From what I can gather, Fred’s “these people” are the ones who really do wish that they could follow their conscience rather than following their theology. And, although they might not be the majority, they do exist – I should know; I was one of them.

  • SisterCoyote

     If I had a time machine, one of the things I’d do (not, perhaps, the first, but probably among the first ten or so) would be to print this, and take a copy back ten years to my just-emerging-from-fundie-bubble-land self, along with your previous posts on Love. It would’ve saved a lot of angst, anger, hurt, and self-loathing along the way.

    (It probably will get printed and tacked up somewhere, when I can hook this machine up to a printer. Because sometimes the best way to drive back the dark is to laugh in its face.)

  • Mark Z.

    I think Fred’s giving far too much unearned credit to these people.

    What a shame that would be, to give someone unearned credit instead of treating them with 100% of the scorn and resentment they deserve.

  • PJ Evans

     Exodus 32: Moses was up on top of the mountain a long time, and the people waiting for him at the bottom got tired and wanted something to do.

  • JonathanPelikan

    Fair enough. I was thinking in a more general sense about fundies, etc, and how a whole ton of them love to claim that they’re so sorry about the afflictions they’re stomping their victims with. For the ones who really do mean it, and really do find a better way, I’m really happy for them.

  • JonathanPelikan

    Are you trying to make me feel guilty for scorning and hating people who’ve been steadfastly working to remove human rights from my fellow Americans and human beings for longer than I’ve been alive? I’m sure not every fundie is like that, in fact, but if you’re giving even tacit or unwilling support to conservatism and fundamentalism, then you’re The Problem. If they want to stop being The Problem, then I’m down with helping them to it any way possible, but da da da Intent and magic and etc.

    Also, I’m not a Christian, so I’m not commanded to love my enemies or to give any benefit of the doubt to anybody except those who seem like they deserve, you know, such a benefit.

  • E_Hyde

    The church I grew up with was the type that said “love the sinner, hate the sin.” I realize now how hurtful and wrong that statement is, but at the same time, the fact that my childhood religious authorities gave me permission to love people who were Doing Something Wrong made it a lot easier, as I matured, for me to be friends with “sinners” and eventually, through these friendships (very good friends, who were very patient with me and in some cases I’m sure more kind than I deserved) realized that there was no sin there to hate. 

  • Mark Z.

    Are you trying to make me feel guilty

    Not at all. I am trying to draw attention–the attention of others, mostly–to your evident interest in what other people deserve, and, precisely, in complaining when they get something they don’t deserve. It is not entirely unlike listening to right-wingers whine about “illegals” getting amnesty or the poor having access to health care.

    And you ARE commanded to love your enemies. You can ignore that command, and it’s not my job or anyone else’s to try to enforce it on you, but it’s still there.

  • Kirala

    I got my permission years ago from George MacDonald, by way of C.S. Lewis:

    “Neither let thy cowardly conscience receive any word as light because another call it light, while it looks thee dark. Say either the thing is not what it seems, or God never said or did it. But of all evils, to misinterpret what God does, and then say the thing, as interpreted, must be right because God does it, is of the devil. Do not try to believe anything that affects thee as darkness.”

    In other words: screw “good theology” if it seems to be calling to evil. A good God will never command evil, and an evil God isn’t worth being commanded by. Don’t waste time warping your conscience into calling evil good and vice versa.

  • JonathanPelikan

    When you can’t make a valid point, make an aloof centrist BothSides point about how the liberal’s argument looks on its face like a right winger’s and go no deeper. 

    You see, I’m as pissed as a teabagger, but whereas a teabagger is angry because of Deficits and Socialism and Freedom and Solutions, I’m angry because the teabagger and their friends have been ripping this country apart for forty-plus years and then turning around and screaming at the top of their lungs about how I’m really to blame for all the fires they started. 
    So yeah, I’ll complain that they probably don’t deserve the benefit of the doubt when it comes to their good intentions or at least how they’re real sorry about having to deny human rights to people, although in any group there’s people outside the norm, for good or for bad.

    In the sense I think about it, I can’t ignore something that I don’t believe exists, unless you believe I’m intentionally ignoring the commands of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. And Zeus.

  • Kirala


    In the sense I think about it, I can’t ignore something that I don’t
    believe exists, unless you believe I’m intentionally ignoring the
    commands of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. And Zeus.

    I would think it’s more like ignoring the commands of a two-thousand-year-old teacher with a large following – which you are certainly entitled to do, especially if you don’t believe he had any greater moral authority than any number of other people whose commands are better worth following.

    Granted, I usually ignore such moral commands to the extent that I don’t think of them as commandments I’m ignoring – but technically speaking, I have been commanded and am ignoring it. My beliefs are regarding the weight of the command, not the existence thereof.

  • friendly reader

    I always assumed that they figured Moses was probably dead. A lot of steep drops on that mountain. And since he was their big connect with YHWH, they needed something new, and an image was the standard way of connecting with a deity (still is, in many places). The calf was either meant to stand in for YHWH or be something He could ride on.

    Cecil B. DeMille’s version of the event is pretty ridiculous, due in part to his characters all being Good or Evil. A number of Moses’ screw-ups recorded in the Bible get cut, for example, and he’d depicted as an awesome guy even before discovering he was Hebrew…he’s a total Gary Stu.

  • Tonio

     While that may be true, my criticism was aimed at DeMille’s treatment of the situation.

  • The Ten Commandments is a terrible, terrible movie in so many ways. It isn’t the worst movie I have ever seen (that would be Ralph Bakshi’s The Lord of the Rings), but it’s up there.

  • Tricksterson

    I love Bakshi’s LotR.  The first two thirds are very  good and true to the book but I love te last third for a totally other reason, namely that you can literally see the production values go down hill as they ran out of money.

  • VCarlson

     I remember all the hooha about “Rotoscoping” that wound up looking to me like actors in burlap over which someone had inexpertly applied some sort of wash and/or drawing (I only saw the movie once, when it came out.  Details have, mercifully, leaked away). 

    The other memory I have of the movie had nothing to do with production or visuals, and everything to do with storytelling.  Frodo’s being pursued by the Nazgûl, racing for Rivendell, a classic exciting chase scene – except they kept having Frodo stop and look back, which was just stupid (and not what he did in the book).

  • The film is bad on so many levels that it would be a series of articles to address it, so I’ll just say this: the rotoscoping is a perfect example of how NOT to rotoscope, the acting is terrible on a level first-year drama students would look down on, the storytelling is full of holes and is incomprehensible to anyone who has not read the book….

    In one of my college classes studying apocalyptic films, after watching The Omega code several of the students said that it was the worst film they had ever seen. I was very, very envious of them for having never experienced a worse film than The Omega Code, which at least had good production values, a plot that you could follow, and Michael Ironside shooting people while disguised as an Orthodox rabbi.

  • Nequam

    It isn’t the worst movie I have ever seen (that would be Ralph Bakshi’s The Lord of the Rings), but it’s up there.

    Haven’t seen many bad movies, have you?

    (Though heaven knows that one’s lousy. I met and chatted with Peter S. Beagle, who had worked on the screenplay for that one, and he actually referred to it as his thalidomide baby.)

  •  I’ve seen a lot, but I try to look for the good in movies. Most bad movies are either just unenjoyable, some are enjoyable bad, but of those that are just so bad they are painful/enraging to watch, Bakshi’s LOTR tops those I have seen.

    What movies do you consider worse? If I haven’t seen them, I probably will. I’m kind of masochistic that way.