Yesterday was yet another of those frequent religious right “conferences” – really just a series of ridiculous speeches to fire up the base with rhetorical red meat to get them out to vote in November. This one was disingenuously called Liberty Sunday, following on the heels of the equally misnamed Justice Sunday earlier this year. There are several reports on what was said, all of which was predictable and much of it patently absurd. In keeping with their theme, they used a picture of Boston’s famous Old North Church, indicating their metaphor that, like Paul Revere, they were bravely riding to warn our citizens of an impending attack from “sodomites” (none of whom would be caught dead in a red coat, mind you). And as Right Wing Watch reports, the pastor of that church is none too happy about their appropriation of his church as a symbol for intolerance. Rev. Stephen Ayres writes:
I was profoundly uncomfortable to see Old North’s steeple used in promotional material for an event hosted by The Family Research Council that may inadvertently suggest we support it (“Hub anti-gay marriage event to feature gov’s wife in national broadcast,” Oct. 11). The Family Research Council prominently features an online image of two lanterns shining from Old North’s steeple.
Old North is in no way affiliated with Family Research Council and does not support its stance on many issues, including the ones to be discussed at the forum. Old North is an active, Episcopal church whose members represent a diversity of opinion as we try faithfully to discern God’s will in these matters.
The Old North Church is a symbol of freedom for all Americans. The first sermon preached at Old North in 1723 called us to be “a house of prayer for all people.” In fulfillment of that charge, Old North strives to be a “big tent” parish, open to all regardless of race, gender, orientation or political persuasion. We do not affiliate with partisan organizations.
The two lanterns that hung in the steeple on April 18, 1775, became famous on the eve of the Civil War, when in 1861, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow published “Paul Revere’s Ride.” Interestingly, Longfellow was an advocate for liberty for a disenfranchised and enslaved minority. In this spirit, Old North continues to support civil liberties for all.
Bravo, Reverend, bravo. The messages at Liberty Sunday were predictably alarmist and silly. Bishop Wellington Boone, the virulently homophobic black minister who recently called homosexuals “faggots” and “sissies” at the “Values Voters Summit”, this time accused the “sodomites” of committing “rape of the civil rights movement.” Compare that to what Coretta Scott King has said about civil rights for gays and lesbians:
“Homophobia is like racism and anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry in that it seeks to dehumanize a large group of people, to deny their humanity, their dignity and personhood…
For too long, our nation has tolerated the insidious form of discrimination against this group of Americans, who have worked as hard as any other group, paid their taxes like everyone else, and yet have been denied equal protection under the law…I believe that freedom and justice cannot be parceled out in pieces to suit political convenience. My husband, Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” On another occasion he said, “I have worked too long and hard against segregated public accommodations to end up segregating my moral concern. Justice is indivisible.” Like Martin, I don’t believe you can stand for freedom for one group of people and deny it to others.
Now those are civil rights leaders, Mr. Boone; you, by contrast, are nothing but a two-bit hustler, casually and self-righteously dehumanizing an entire group of people to satisfy a thirst for what you wrongly think is moral superiority. This is the standard new tactic of the religious right, to put the black ministers right up front in their anti-gay strategy, presumably on the notion that blacks can’t be accused of bigotry. Well I’ve got news for you, blacks can be every bit as bigoted as whites. That fact is tragic, since they of all people ought to know better, but it’s still a fact. And I will call gladly (and accurately) call Wellington Boone and Dwight McKissic bigots just as surely as I’ll call Paul Cameron and Tony Perkins bigots.
The other dominant theme among the homophobes these days is that any advance for gay rights is an attack on the right of Christians to speak out against homosexuality. That theme was all over the place on Liberty Sunday and at the Values Voters Summit. They point to arrests of ministers in England, Sweden and Canada and say, “You just wait, they want to do the same thing here. And if you don’t vote against gay marriage and anything else that might protect the rights of gay people, the next thing you know they’ll be handcuffing your minister behind the pulpit and dragging him off to prison for preaching the word of God.”
All that is nonsense, of course. We have the first amendment here, something they do not have in Canada, England or Sweden. And while I agree with them on the absolute injustice of such arrests and have written at great length of my opposition to them, there is very little chance of that happening in the US. Ironically, in the fanciful and highly unlikely scenario that legislatures in America attempted to make such laws prohibiting one from speaking out against homosexuality, it’s those “activist courts” that the right complains about so much that would strike them down with all due speed.
And if that should ever happen, they would find a great many gay rights supporters (like me, and Jon Rowe, and Jason Kuznicki, and Timothy Sandefur, and Dale Carpenter, and Jonathan Rauch, and Andrew Sullivan, and Tom Palmer, and countless others) taking just as strong a stand for their liberty as we do for the liberty of gays and lesbians. I will not compromise my principled belief in the right to free expression to censor beliefs I despise; indeed, I probably am more concerned to protect the right to express those beliefs than I am my own.
Of course, Liberty Sunday also had its fair share of looney nutballs preaching insane things. The star of the show this time was Roberto Miranda. He pulled the church lady act: who could it be wanting those naughty gays to get married, hmmmm? Could it be….Satan! Well yes, apparently:
Satan has warred mightily against this region, and has effectively neutralized it through the influence of principalities of rationalism, humanism, intellectual pride and spiritual arrogance. Massachusetts, as well as all of New England, has become a cemetery of churches, a breeding ground for heretical doctrine, and intellectual furnace energizing attitudes of godlessness, rational arrogance and secularism. It is no coincidence, of course, that something as dramatically distant from the Christian worldview as gay marriage would be originated in this region.
And yet, Mr. Miranda, your state, so full of godless, arrogant secularists, has the lowest divorce rate and one of the lowest rates of teen pregnancy in the nation, while states like Texas, so full of Godly believers, has astronomical rates of both. Fundamentalist, heal thyself. And I love it when preachers use words like “principalities”, especially when it makes no sense whatsoever in the sentence it’s used in. “Principalities” is a great fundie word. So is “fellowship”, especially when incorrectly used as a verb, as in “we were down at the church fellowshipping with the folks.” But he wasn’t done yet.
Is it exaggerated to see prophetic significance in the fact that on September 11, 2001 Boston served as the point of departure for the deadly forces that spread so much destruction and havoc in this nation and all over the world? What took place at the material level is now being carried out at the moral and spiritual level, as the virus of homosexuality and gay marriage begins to spread dramatically all over this nation and perhaps the world.
Exaggerated? No. Ridiculous, absolutely. Miranda also declared that the homosexuals are “like a rogue foreign cell inside an organism, it will continue to replicate itself.” At the risk of provoking Godwin’s wrath, that sounds suspiciously like Hitler’s constant habit of calling Jews a “cancer” on German society, eating it away from the inside, doesn’t it? Actually, according to Mitt Romney, we won’t even have to worry about that if gay marriage continues: civilization itself will be gone. He told the audience:
“Here in Massachusetts, activist judges struck a blow to the foundation of civilization – the family,” the Republican governor and likely presidential candidate said to an applauding crowd of about 1,000 people, some of whom responded “Amen.”
Well yes, of course. If gays are allowed to get married, civilization itself will crumble into dust. Seriously, how does someone say something that freaking stupid with a straight face? And how is someone so deluded or ignorant that they applaud such nonsense? They’re preaching to the choir. And the choir is full of morons.