As the Ender’s Game movie adaptation release date edges nearer the heat is turning up for the writer of the book whose vocal homophobia is coming back to haunt him. While Card has never shied away from saying just what he thinks of homosexuals, the increased support for gay marriage and the timing of his movie have had the combined effect of making him rethink his image if not his position.
In a statement given to Entertainment Weekly, Card provides the rationale for why you should not boycott his latest cash cow and, if anything, feel sorry for a man who just wanted to publicly express his intolerance in peace and without fear of backlash:
Ender’s Game is set more than a century in the future and has nothing to do with political issues that did not exist when the book was written in 1984.
With the recent Supreme Court ruling, the gay marriage issue becomes moot. The Full Faith and Credit clause of the Constitution will, sooner or later, give legal force in every state to any marriage contract recognized by any other state.
Now it will be interesting to see whether the victorious proponents of gay marriage will show tolerance toward those who disagreed with them when the issue was still in dispute.
Orson Scott Card
The statement isn’t long so I think it would be apt to discuss it all. It’s amazing how its sheer concentration of condescending offensiveness allows us to get such a clear picture of the way Card’s mind works. I guess that’s why he’s a great writer, he really knows how to get to the core truths of a person, even himself.
Part one, or Denial: Ender’s Game is set more than a century in the future and has nothing to do with political issues that did not exist when the book was written in 1984.
The apology opens up with a flat out denial that Ender’s Game could even possibly touch on homosexuality or gay rights because gay rights didn’t exist in 1984.
To the uninitiated, that statement might seem… well… insane, but if we take a step back and look at through the lens of Orson Scott Card it is completely logical. That’s because Orson Scott Card still believes that homosexuality is a choice, and furthermore, that it’s a choice that people make specifically to subvert traditional “society”. Gay people want to destroy our society and they won’t stop loving each other until every corner of America is reduced to rubble. You got to hand it to Card, he does have a pretty strong view on the power of love.
Part two, or resignation: With the recent Supreme Court ruling, the gay marriage issue becomes moot. The Full Faith and Credit clause of the Constitution will, sooner or later, give legal force in every state to any marriage contract recognized by any other state.
You win, gay people and society haters. Chicken Little has thrown in the towel. While I do think, and hope, that he is right and eventually every state will recognize gay marriage (perhaps, unfortunately, in the unheroic but still effective way Pennsylvania is currently paving the way towards gay marriage), Card seems to think that because his side “lost” (as if civil rights should have sides other than “what’s right”), the battle is over and therefore he shouldn’t be persecuted for something that happened so long ago, way back to like a couple of weeks ago. Perhaps Orson Scott Card hasn’t seen this map:
Although, considering gay rights didn’t even exist until at least 1985, I guess he probably considers this a bit too fast.
Part 3, or victimhood: Now it will be interesting to see whether the victorious proponents of gay marriage will show tolerance toward those who disagreed with them when the issue was still in dispute.
If Orson Scott Card had simply published the first paragraphs I probably would have wrote him off as just another out of touch bigot who doesn’t deserve to even be given a response, so idiotic is his position, but this last part seems to be a more and more common position now that homophobia is becoming viewed as what it is: pathetic and shameful. The Onion’s AVclub satirized this ludicrous response better than I ever could, but I’ll take a swing at explaining it.
Now that more than 50% of the country views gay marriage as a civil right and ethically justified, the old position of institutionalized bigotry that had gotten used to being unchallenged and culturally encouraged is starting to make its proponents look kinda bad. Even worse, when one of its most vocal proponents has a new movie coming out which is now threatened because of the terribly offensive things the writer said about homosexuality, it’s all together unfair. I mean really gay rights supporters, isn’t boycotting a man who has given support in time, money and writing to preventing gay people from marrying because of his personal views laying it on a bit thick? Stop persecuting Orson Scott Card just because he has made it a priority to persecute others!
Ignoring the part where Card thinks that this issue has somehow been completely resolved, the premise that homophobes are in danger of being victimized is preposterous. For proof, we should look to another instance in our history that required us to rethink the way we conceptualized marriage and how people were allowed to participate in it: Let’s think about interracial marriage. Or rather, let’s think about the fact that other than overt racists and octogenarians, no one thinks about the legality of interracial marriage as a divisive issue. But it was. But now it’s not. It’s called progress, and what’s crazy about progress is that unlike the color of your skin or your sexual orientation, you can change your mind on an issue. That’s what most of America is currently doing. That’s what Obama did. That’s what Orson Scott Card doesn’t want to do. Which is fine, but don’t expect to not experience some embarrassment when you express a view that everyone else has evolved away from.
Don’t worry, Orson Scott Card, I still think Ender’s Game is a pretty great book but your personal views leave a bad taste in my mouth. Maybe those views (which, you just proved you still believe in, having learned absolutely nothing while the world moved on) will affect ticket sales, maybe they won’t, but that’s not intolerance, that’s you getting left out in the cold because you were too busy having a temper tantrum and forgot to grow up.
A few days ago, after attending the funeral for James Gandolfini, Alec Baldwin got home to find that a reporter working for the the UK’s Daily Mail had written a (really dumb) attack piece criticizing Alec’s new wife for allegedly updating her twitter during the funeral. Alec Baldwin is not a man who calmly or rationally handles any thing so he disproportionally reacted in a fashion that Alec Baldwin may well go down in history as making an artform out of.
Ending there would have been bad but of course he continued:
Buzzfeed has a roundup of the tweets in which Baldwin labels Stark a “toxic little queen” and a “lying little bitch.” And that’s hardly the worst — see tweet #5, the one about where Baldwin would like to stick his foot.
So like a child getting spawn killed in a game of Call of Duty (editor: is this how we get the youth page views?), Alec Baldwin resorted to the worst and most pathetic insults he could think of, and just like the child, he gay bashes. Because when you’re angry at someone and you want to hurt them, they can’t get any worse than being gay, right? It’s getting old, I’m getting sick of it, and we need to be more vigilant in our condemnation of this kind of behavior (especially when its our friends, the ones who value our opinions and want our respect). But I’m sure Alec Baldwin will get tarred and feathered because at this point we’ve been doing it so long and so frequently that we don’t really know how to stop.
Even while the world collectively scrambles to get another hit of pure, uncut outrage – this time targeted at Alec Baldwin – we must admit that Alec Baldwin isn’t really a homophobe. Not in the traditional sense, not in any sense. Unlike Paula Deen whose revelry in “Southern Culture” makes it unsurprising to find that she has a backwards view on what is appropriate and what is racially insensitive, Alec Baldwin is one of the “good guys”. As he correctly points out in his (non)apology letter, he does have a lot of ties to the gay community. As GLAAD correctly points out in their response to his (non)apology, he has been a huge supporter of gay activism and has donated both time, money, and recognition to gay rights issues.
Let’s face it, Alec Baldwin doesn’t hate gay people, not even a little. Which is why it may seem odd that he can so publicly and hurtfully attack a person using shamefully ignorant slurs. But a closer examination makes it a lot more understandable (if not justifiable).
Just like when Paula Deen tried to explain her use of the n-word as being in response to an aggressive act by a black man, making her “not too happy with him”, Alec’s use of gay slurs arose out of a place of anger. In Alec’s case, judging by his tweets, he was beyond the point of rational thought and was seething with a blind anger only felt by Rocky Balboa after Ivan Drago kills Apollo Creed or Alec Baldwin when his wife got attacked by a gossip magazine writer. In that state, the prefrontal cortex that is in charge of impulse control and “better judgment” is suppressed and your reptilian lower brain has the upper hand. It’s in this state, I would argue, that the deeply normalized beliefs are allowed to come out unfiltered. And the n-word and gay slurs that come out of even kind and caring people seems to suggest that what we normalize is kinda nasty.
We’ve got work to do as a culture, and that means from the ground up, to reduce the subliminal levels of hate towards the gay community. It’s easy to laugh off an angry bigot crying about marriage being ruined because same sex couples get to share it too, but what about the implicit stuff? What about gay jokes in movies and on TV that aren’t meant to be taken seriously but still lightly suggest that there is something different about gay people? What about “no homo”? And what about the stereotypes that Jason Collins is helping to dispel but still pervades sports that gay people can’t play at the same level as straight players? These are examples, and by no means a complete list, of areas in which we are still struggling with the inclusion of LGBT people into our larger in group. And when Alec Baldwin got mad enough, he went there. That’s not a good sign.
GLAAD was right to accept his apology, even though they are already experiencing intense backlash for their perceived capitulation to a “celebrity”. But with these cases, we have to take the whole scope of the person into consideration before we declare them unredeemable. In Alec’s case, as I’ve already said, I think it’s safe to say he’s done more good in the gay community than bad. Even though this recent outburst was wrong, it should be embarrassing for Alec Baldwin, but not damaging for the gay community. The people who are overtly homophobic (like, for example, owner of Chick-fil-a, Dan Cathy) aren’t really huge fans of Alec Baldwin anyway, and the people who are fans (or at least like him on 30 rock) are probably not going to go around beating up gays.
Anderson Cooper tried to highlight the hypocrisy of the relative pass Alec Baldwin is getting compared when he tweeted:
Why does #AlecBaldwin get a pass when he uses gay slurs? If a conservative talked of beating up a “queen” they would be vilified.
— Anderson Cooper (@andersoncooper) June 28, 2013
Yes, I’m sure they would be vilified, but let’s remember that unlike Alec Baldwin, many conservatives are actively pursuing to withhold rights from homosexuals. If they gay bash, it comes from a place of truly hating the idea of gay people. Alec Baldwin is just an angry blowhard with zero impulse control, but one who still thinks gays should be allowed to marry.
Instead, if I were Alec Baldwin and in anger I said something as vile as he has, I would feel like absolute shit. And that’s good. That means you don’t want to think that way. That means you’re truly sorry for what you said. And that means we should forgive him, if not forget his transgressions.
If you know me or read this blog you’ve probably sensed this already, but I’m kind of passionate about gay rights. I’ve always had the philosophy best espoused by the great and talented wizard of Twitter, Rob Delaney:
I love gay people. Or as I sometimes call them, “people.”
— rob delaney (@robdelaney) February 23, 2012
Today, the Supreme Court took one more step towards that truism and struck down the antiquated and morally bankrupt “Defense of Marriage Act” (or DOMA to those who like their moral bankruptcy in a short vowelly form). Justice Kennedy wrote of the ruling:
“The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion. “By seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others, the federal statute is in violation of the Fifth Amendment.”
Well said. Also obvious. Also late. But well said.
What does this mean for the gay couples that are married or want to marry?
The federal Defense of Marriage Act defines “marriage,” for purposes of over a thousand federal laws and programs, as a union between a man and a woman only. Today the Court ruled, by a vote of five to four, in an opinion by Justice Kennedy, that the law is unconstitutional. The Court explained that the states have long had the responsibility of regulating and defining marriage, and some states have opted to allow same-sex couples to marry to give them the protection and dignity associated with marriage. By denying recognition to same-sex couples who are legally married, federal law discriminates against them to express disapproval of state-sanctioned same-sex marriage. This decision means that same-sex couples who are legally married must now be treated the same under federal law as married opposite-sex couples. (Source: SCOTUSblog)
But while cheers could be heard from the halls of the Supreme Court to the halls of twitter, not everybody was happy.
All four justices who opposed it (all conservatives *yawn*) wrote dissenting remarks but by far the unhappiest of the robed ones was Justice Antonin Scalia. In a head scratching dissent, he managed to contradict a ruling he made just yesterday, denigrate his own position, and otherwise flail around searching for a reason to be upset by this ruling. From Business Insider, which wrote a great article summarizing it.
Antonin Scalia dissented from the decision on the grounds that the court did not have standing to take the case.
The Court is eager—hungry—to tell everyone its view of the legal question at the heart of this case… Yet the plaintiff and the Government agree entirely on what should happen in this lawsuit. They agree that the court below got it right; and they agreed in the court below that the court below that one got it right as well. What, then, are wedoing here?
He also speculated that the majority justices are trying to hide their plan to issue a more sweeping ruling in the near future:
My guess is that the majority, while reluctant to suggest that defining the meaning of “marriage” in federal statutes is unsupported by any of the Federal Government’s enumerated powers, nonetheless needs some rhetorical basis to support its pretense that today’s prohibition of laws excluding same-sex marriage is confined to the Federal Government (leaving the second, state-law shoe to be dropped later, maybe next Term). But I am only guessing.
He criticized the majority for not fairly representing the views of Defense of Marriage Act supporters:
I imagine that this is because it is harder to maintain the illusion of the Act’s supporters as unhinged members of a wild-eyed lynch mob when one first describes their views as they see them.
Then he got really angry:
To be sure (as the majority points out), the legislation is called the Defense of Marriage Act. But to defend traditional marriage is not to condemn, demean, or humiliate those who would prefer other arrangements, any more than to defend the Constitution of the United States is to condemn, demean, or humiliate other constitutions. To hurl such accusations so casually demeans this institution. In the majority’s judgment, any resistance to its holding is beyond the pale of reasoned disagreement. To question its high-handed invalidation of a presumptively valid statute is to act (the majority is sure) with the purpose to “disparage,” “injure,” “degrade,” “demean,” and “humiliate” our fellow human beings, our fellow citizens, who are homosexual. All that, simply for supporting an Act that did no more than codify an aspect of marriage that had been unquestioned in our society for most of its existence—indeed, had been unquestioned in virtually all societies for virtually all of human history. It is one thing for a society to elect change; it is another for a court of law to impose change by adjudging those who oppose it hostes humani generis, enemies of the human race.
He ended with a bit of concern-trolling, saying today’s decision on DOMA was bad for both supporters and opponents of same-sex marriage:
Some will rejoice in today’s decision, and some will despair at it; that is the nature of a controversy that matters so much to so many. But the Court has cheated both sides, robbing the winners of an honest victory, and the losers of the peace that comes from a fair defeat. We owed both of them better.
But if he were just honest with himself, his anger would make a lot more sense. It’s not that gay marriage is unconstitutional, or the court was wrong to strike down DOMA for this legal reason or that, Justice Scalia is just anti-gay. He just doesn’t like gay people, the gay “lifestyle”, or the idea of gay people marrying. He mistakes his emotional revulsion to gay marriage as rooted in an intangible legal violation (and if he could only find it, he would show them all!), but if he reflected on it, I think he would have to admit – if only to himself – that it is actually his personal homophobia getting in the way. He wouldn’t be the first to mistake intolerance with righteous indignation.
Nobody wants to view themselves as a “hater”, or a bigot, or a homophobe. Intolerance goes down so much easier when there are justifications for it. That’s why the Bible’s (scant) judgments on homosexuality are so convenient. And why the idea that there is a “gay agenda” influencing our culture is so alluring. Both allow Justice Scalia and people like Justice Scalia to feel comfortable holding an uncomfortable moral position.
Let’s not worry too much about Justice Scalia and his rationalizations for opposing this ruling, after all, they probably weren’t meant for us as much as they were meant to quiet his own inner doubts. As gay couples marry and raise children and not destroy the fabric of our society, the fragile positions that homophobia stands on will continue to crack. The voice inside Scalia’s heart will grow louder, and his positions will seem more sad, until – hopefully – one day, he’ll catch a glimpse of himself in a mirror or store window and the voice will be too loud to ignore and he’ll have to listen as it says again and again: you are wrong.
Another week, another “Obama interrupted by a heckler” story. Only this time it was Michelle who received the honors. At a fundraiser in Washington, Michelle Obama was repeatedly interrupted by Ellen Sturtz, a gay rights activist demanding Michelle make President Obama sign an anti-discrimination executive order. Michelle Obama unceremoniously, but effectively shut her down by saying “Listen to me or you can take the mic, but I’m leaving. You all decide. You have a choice.” The other people in the crowd chose the First Lady.
While I sympathize with her cause, someone should tell this woman, and, “Get Equal”, the group that put her there, that their tactic is a waste of time and energy (and money).
Heckling has probably been around forever. The inability for people to distinguish appropriate and inappropriate times to speak up are universal to the human condition and there will always be a person who can’t help him or herself. The use of “plants”, people put into a situation where they are specifically meant to cause a ruckus for the advancement of some agenda, is newer but still not unheard of. Presumably it is meant to bring attention to a pet cause or injustice by hijacking the spotlight from a person who already has attention. Ellen Sturtz knew this would be talked about on twitter and in blogs, that’s why she did it. Unfortunately, no one bothered to tell her that her cause isn’t the type to be aided by heckling. Gay Rights has about as much attention as any cause in the country right now. Heckling doesn’t work passed that.
In this way, heckling is like terrorism. It typically doesn’t work, it’s counterproductive to the intended goals of the person employing it, but it is incredibly common. As with terrorism, heckling is a sure way to sever any chance of ever coming to a compromise. It takes the debate away from the “issue” and into the realm of personal violations, vendettas and pride. Terrorism emboldens the victims and makes them dig in their heels because any concession is now viewed as a “win” for the other side, a side that has just violently “wronged” you. Instead of listening to the terrorists’ demands, the victims end up invading Afghanistan. Heckling elicits a similar response. Instead of listening to your concerns, the victim ignores them on principle.
The mock outrage that Ellen Sturtz expressed after the event was really the puzzler. She not only made herself look extremely rude, but if she were taken at face value (she shouldn’t be), she’s also idiotic. What did she expect Obama to do? Tracy Clayton at theroot.com put it best:
Sturtz…stated that she was “taken aback” by Obama’s response, because apparently the idea that she would do anything besides hand Sturtz the microphone and get her husband on the phone is surprising.
But like terrorism, heckling is (relatively) cheap. It doesn’t take much to get a lot of attention. If attention is all you want, whether for recruitment purposes, or simple megalomania, then it is an attractive choice. But to say with a straight face that you did this for gay rights is disingenuous. For one thing, you are heckling Michelle Obama, not her husband. She, presumably, has some sway when it comes to his opinions but probably very little in actual policy outcomes. Second, you are screaming at a President who has done more for gay rights than any other President in history and likely even the rest combined. Let’s face it, even the folk hero, Bill Clinton, presided over a presidential term that saw “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” AND “Defense of Marriage Act” passed. And George W. Bush was worse. You could be frustrated at Obama’s slowness in fully getting behind the gay rights movement (I certainly am), but this isn’t exactly the Iraqi citizen defiantly throwing a shoe at George W. Bush, Obama is a misplaced target.
So on the whole, this act of rudeness accomplished nothing. Fortunately for Ellen Sturtz, her goal of equal rights will most likely succeed anyway (and a new poll shows most people think that it is inevitable), but she will have done nothing to help it come about. If she really wanted to help she would find ways to work with an administration that has shown a willingness to work towards equality rather than grandstanding and alienating the people she needs to help her achieve her goal.
For goodness sake, sit down, shut up, and do something.
Facebook seemed to rejoice yesterday as news spread that the Boy Scouts of America would be allowing gay kids to join and stay in their little club. In a week that was filled with heartrending tragedy and absolute horror, I don’t mind a little happiness in what is clearly a step in the right direction. But I wouldn’t be known around town as “you mean that weird looking buzz kill guy?” if I weren’t about to say what I’m about to say.
But first, let me catch you up to speed. The Boy Scouts have been operating under a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy towards gay scouts and a “don’t even think about it” policy towards gay scout leaders for years. Obviously, there have still been gay scouts (and gay scout leaders) over the years but I guess the Boy Scouts think gayness is like Voldemort and gains power if you say the word out loud. It was a backward, harmful, vile policy that placed a large burden onto our nation’s youngest and most vulnerable people due to very adult homophobia. It’s a shameful policy that can be measured in the concrete terms of how many suicides and instances of bullying it caused. It also fosters an atmosphere of general “wrongness” associated with homosexuality that the Gay Rights Movement has been working tirelessly to stamp out. Finally, sensing the winds of change after it had already blown past them, the Boy Scouts mobilized and… well first they voted to keep banning gays, BUT THEN yesterday they finally announced that change had come to the Scouts.
Unfortunately, this is not much of a victory. The Boy Scouts have instituted a policy that says you can be gay as a Scout but still not as a leader (because, this is still 1950 and homosexuals are all, presumably, sexual deviants and pedophiles). The idea that once you turn 18 your homosexuality is wrong makes things even more confusing and it points to the Boy Scouts move being less about (FINALLY) catching up with the 21st century and more about that dreaded “tolerance” that I wrote about before. This is truly exciting, I get to quote myself:
Gay rights can never fully be successful until the ground we build its foundation on is not the sands of tolerance but the bedrock of understanding.
It’s hard to think that they truly respect and value the membership of ALL of their Scouts if there is still a policy in place that doesn’t allow some of them to become leaders themselves. After all of this, they still think there is something wrong with gay people. This will change, of course. We are living in a society that has passed the Rubicon and cannot go anywhere but forward, but it can still be frustrating that some people continue to drag their feet, unintentionally doing more damage along the way as they flail about in insolence.
Which brings us to the conservative response.
As usual, you could count on Rick Perry and other conservatives to handle the news in a truly awful way. In an excellent piece from the Guardian, the conservative response to the news that the Boy Scouts would be allowing gays to go on camping trips and learn to tie various knots was treated like an apocalyptic event.
Rick Perry stands out:
Saddened the BSA bends to the whims of political correctness. governor.state.tx.us/news/press-rel…
— Rick Perry (@GovernorPerry) May 23, 2013
Yep, it was all about political correctness (that pesky catchall term for anything that Rick Perry doesn’t like or makes him feel icky). Allowing children to feel included despite the fact that they are gay is politically correct, but it’s also morally, ethically and socially correct. Rick Perry, a white, Christian, gun owning, red meat eating, male, probably doesn’t understand (and empathy isn’t his strong suit) what it’s like to feel like an outsider. He’s about as insider as you can get so I bet he feels like this is a whole lotta somethin’ over nothin’ (he probably said it like this too because he’s “folksy”), but I beg him to consider what it’s like to be told that the things you feel, the ones that as a kid are awkward and embarrassing enough as it is, are gross and wrong and sinful. Rick, imagine for example being told that because you are a Christian or observing your faith that you shouldn’t be allowed to join something, be somewhere, or be a part of something. That would feel pretty bad, huh? How would you react? Oh, we don’t have to imagine because you freak out about religious persecution all the time. Well, even though you aren’t gay and couldn’t imagine being gay, it’s time for you to stand up for other persecuted groups as well, and that starts with you realizing that letting gays be and lead the Boy Scouts has nothing to do with “political correctness” and everything to do with human decency.
You have modeled yourself as a Boy Scout leader, now lead.
Well that didn’t take long. A mere day after the terrible news that Moore, Oklahoma was hit with a devastating tornado that left dozens dead and hundreds injured and a path of destruction that is absolutely breathtaking in its scope, the attention seeking hate group Westboro Baptist Church led by attention seeking hate group leader Fred Phelps tweeted out an explanation to the question on many people’s minds: “Why did this happen?”
According to them it’s about basketball.
— Fred Phelps, Jr. (@WBCFredJr) May 21, 2013
Yep. the death and destruction was brought upon a random suburb of Oklahoma City because a basketball player who plays for the Oklahoma City Thunder told another team’s basketball player that he was proud of him for coming out of the closet. It’s so great that God gave us the Westboro Baptist Church because His punishments would be EXTREMELY hard to decipher if they weren’t here to connect the dots.
I’m going to assume that the members of the Westboro Baptist Church mean what they say, because the alternative is even worse. The idea that a group would spout this hateful vitriol and NOT mean what they say is entirely more offensive. So, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt (how very Christian of me), and take them at their word. Here is what the world looks like when you are member of this congregation:
The Biblical God is heavily active within the modern world. He has a chosen people, Christians – well, some Christians – and he hates pretty much everyone else. He hates a lot of things: scientists, homosexuals, politicians, Americans (generally), Americans (in specific groups), the troops, minorities, the Chinese. The list goes on and on. He hates a lot of people okay? Almost anything you can imagine doing (and I’m not that imaginative) he hates as well. When a person, especially if they are well known, does something or is someone that God hates, he lashes out. But not right away. And not the person doing or being the thing He hates. Maybe a couple of cities over. Or a city in an entirely different state. So by Jason Collins coming out of the closet, it was only a matter of time before God got payback for his transgression: Which was telling people he was gay. Remember, he’s been gay for his entire life. So it was the telling people he was gay part that really must have irked God. And then, he was probably going to let it slide (don’t say God isn’t merciful), but then God was browsing twitter and saw something that he COULDN’T let slide: Kevin Durant sent a tweet expressing support for Jason Collins. It was then that, according to the WBC worldview, God decided that in a month he would level two elementary schools…11 miles away.
According to the Westboro Baptist Church, God does this a lot. He has an incredible amount of beefs – many probably overlapping within the same person or community – and His only way of expressing himself is through knocking things over. Maybe the Teletubbies had it right. It’s sounding more and more like God is a giant sky baby.
It gets creepier. God also hates entire countries (he has a huge problem with China for reasons that only Fred Phelps seems to fully understand) so he will occasionally send earthquakes or landslides or Django Unchained over to their lands in order to punish them for, actually I don’t know on this one, being Chinese? Living in China? Seeing Jamie Foxx’s junk? His punishments are beginning to look less like “teachable moments” to enlighten the sinners of the folly of their ways, and more like violence for its own sake. God is The Joker, a chaotic force hellbent on nothing more than causing fear and pain.
And sadly, God is apparently a bumbling idiot. Neither able to anticipate upcoming sins or reverse the tides of change that seem to be rising all around Him, he rages on. In an increasingly directionless fury, he lashes out like a confused and stubborn shell of a once All Powerful being. The Westboro Baptist Church have intentionally and unintentionally been left behind (not the Kirk Cameron kind) in a world that has increasingly embraced diversity, science and compassion. This is no country for bigoted men, not any more. Fred Phelps is a living, breathing representation of hating what you don’t understand. He doesn’t understand the world and he hates it and his God hates it. It has often been noted that the image of God tends to reflect that of the people who worship it. No truer could this be than with the Westboro Baptist Church. A clan of closed minded, bigoted Americans worshiping a closed minded, bigoted, hateful God, what are the odds? So if we were to imagine what God looks like to this family of imbeciles it would have to be a reflection on the family themselves. Not a sun baby, nor a Joker, I imagine their God looks a little like this:
How sad it must be to live in a world you hate, surrounded by people you hate, doing things you don’t like. How uncomfortable and cruel it must be to live with a family that teaches you that people deserve to die because they think differently than you. Theirs is a small God. A God concerned with hall monitoring and strict rules. A black and white world divorced from moral wrangling and self doubt. It’s a world of cowboy hats and wood paneling, and not at all about truth seeking and compassion building. Fred Phelps will one day die, and when he does he will have left this Earth having never once experienced the joy of uncertainty or of changing his mind or the thrill of reaching out. He will close his eyes, release his last breath, and hope that he will soon join a God who doesn’t mind exterminating dozens to avenge a tweet by a basketball player. How bizarre.
Recently, a friend sent me an article about the larger religious context of the Jason Collins “Coming out” story. In it, the writer addresses the odd (but, sadly, predictable) response that many conservative Christians helped propagate in the wake of the historic announcement by Collins: The media has forsaken Christians in an effort to be supportive to homosexuals. More simply it looks like this:
As flawed as that argument is (Tim Tebow’s Christianity didn’t hold him back, his lackluster ability did), it follows a popular narrative that as groups who conservative Christians oppose gain more acceptance in the larger cultural landscape, it proportionately chips away at the acceptance of conservative Christians themselves. It’s not accurate but it must be tempting because of how prevalent it is. As an example, Men’s Rights groups love accusing women of doing the same thing, as was brilliantly illustrated (and refuted) by this animation that went viral recently.
Going back to the article I mentioned earlier, the author argues that while Tebow’s faith has been endlessly talked about and has been heralded as the face of Christian youth in this country, Collins’ faith has been largely ignored; at first, because he was never anything more than a hardworking but average basketball player, and next, because the media’s current sound bite driven culture doesn’t allow for more than one stereotype to be explored in any one person. Extending that further, the author makes the claim that African American athletes more generally have been ignored when we talk about religion in sports. It’s a claim I don’t entirely agree with. Many African American sports figures have talked about their abilities being God given, or that they are blessed, but I can’t deny that it takes a much more unassuming form than that of a Tim Tebow or a Kurt Warner: They make commercials for Focus on the Family, Robert Griffin III makes commercials for Subway.
All of this is context for what happened immediately after Collins’ article was published on Sports Illustrated’s website. Someone on ESPN thought it would be a good idea to put a known homophobic (and he is homophobic, I don’t care how many gay friends or former teammates he has, you can be homophobic and have gay friends) contributor named Chris Broussard onto their segment covering one of the biggest announcements in sports in recent memory. Broussard didn’t take long to completely derail the topic and turn it into a condemnation of homosexuality more universally, stating flatly that homosexuality is a sin (I know, yawn, right?) but then he said something that needs to be explored: Unprompted, Chris Broussard shared that he did not consider Jason Collins a Christian. That is important.
If you want to know why it is a big deal when a public figure comes out as gay, even when it seems like, culturally, we have already made gay acceptance a foregone conclusion its because people like Chris Broussard say that they tolerate it. Tolerating homosexuality exposes the nearly universal assumption that homosexuality is objectively wrong but that an enlightened society can allow people the right to be objectively wrong as long as they aren’t hurting anybody else (hate the sin, not the sinner). Aside from being condescending, I take issue with this assumption on the grounds that homosexuality is even wrong. What, precisely, is “wrong” in the moral sense about being gay? What moral law does it violate? Don’t say God’s law because you won’t like what I have to say next.
Gay rights can never fully be successful until the ground we build its foundation on is not the sands of tolerance but the bedrock of understanding. We have to come to terms with the fact that, while progress has been made, this episode with Jason Collins exposes an underbelly of deep, deep homophobia that is ingrained in even progressive minds. A fuller understanding of sexuality and the spectrum that we all fall onto at different points (Hint: It’s not a dichotomy) will give us a more nuanced perspective when we approach topics such as what it means to be gay or what it means to be a sexual being and what that means for all of us.
Invoking God or the Bible or religion when it comes to condemnation is a dangerous game because it opens oneself to analysis of other parts of the Bible that are ignored, or dismissed, or downplayed depending on the trends of the culture we live in. Finding passages that encourage behavior that seems ludicrous today (slavery anyone?) shows that people use the Bible because they are homophobic, not homophobic because they use the Bible. For an example, while I can’t speak for Chris Broussard or his thoughts, I will bet that he would never go onto an ESPN segment about a basketball player’s extramarital affair or dating rumors and accuse them of not being a Christian. He did that to Jason Collins. He would also never go onto an ESPN segment about an athlete’s Catholicism and accuse the player of not being a Christian. But again, he said that about Jason Collins. He wasn’t even criticized for that aspect of his interview. Instead, twitter and facebook launched into a spirited debate about whether or not what he said was fair, or homophobic, or appropriate. Before you call me out, I am aware that he also accused adulterers, and fornicators, and other people with names straight out of an episode of the 700 club, of also being sinners but my point is that our culture wouldn’t “tolerate” an ESPN analyst to make sweeping statements about those groups without immediately demanding a resignation. Instead, we have unspoken rules when it comes to accusing someone of not being a Christian:
Anything about cheaters, sex between unmarried couples, and particular Christian Sects (with one exception) are OFF LIMITS unless cited in passing as an excuse to justify condemning homosexuals.
Anything about homosexuality, Mormons, and Obama are free to be discussed in the open forums of the Internet and ESPN segments.
Which brings to the point of all of this. The gay rights movement doesn’t need any more tolerance. In an article on http://www.caffeinatedthoughts.com that is kinda, sorta right for all of the dumbest reasons, a columnist argues that Chris Broussard was actually really very tolerant to the gay community and Jason Collins, saying:
[Broussard’s comments are] true tolerance. It is showing grace and acceptance for somebody as a person without sacrificing truth and betraying what he knows to be true. I’ve said before that you can only tolerate somebody when there is a disagreement, an impasse. Agreement with a person is not tolerance. It is agreement. Yet that is how many on the left will define tolerance.
Yes, it’s those darn progressives that are TRULY intolerant because they demand that we Christians not just allow gays to exist but also like it. How horrible. But that statement about a disagreement being required for tolerance is accurate and it shows when you see how the media and our society handle gay rights. Deep down, people still feel uncomfortable with homosexuality. When you are being asked to show tolerance for another group, you are saying they are different than you. In this case, the subtext is that they are the ones that are wrong but you are the ones who can “be the bigger man” about it. When viewed through that lens it suddenly doesn’t feel very enlightened to preach tolerance for homosexuality. It feels downright intolerant.
My view is that if a person identifies with a religious faith, then it’s hard to argue against them. Jason Collins says he’s a Christian, it might be a different type of Christianity than Chris Broussard, but unless I missed something, Chris Broussard isn’t an all-knowing demigod capable of singularly identifying the precise definition of what should and shouldn’t be considered a Christian. Religions are messy because beliefs are messy. They are fragmented and reconfigured, influenced by environment and culture, discussed and picked at, and to think that you have an absolute understanding of your faith is not only foolish theologically but historically. That being said, Christians, I will tolerate your opinions on all manner of things, but I draw the line at “Tim Tebow is a good quarterback”.