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Sun

28

Oct

2007

Old Guard, New Guard: From Here to Jesus Camp
Sunday, 28 October 2007 12:19
by Mel Seesholtz, Ph.D.

According to Luke 17:21, Jesus said:
“...behold, the kingdom of God is within you.”
Perhaps that’s why the leaders of the Christianist Right are so full of hate and a desire to harm others. They can see and do outwardly only what’s within them, and what’s in there is the exact opposite of the Christian message. Perhaps that’s also why more and more true Christians are turning their backs on these fanatics and their organizations.

The old guard of the Christianist Right is being buried by its own pomposity and twisted rhetoric. Consider the Gospel According to James Dobson:
Move over George Washington. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, wants to take your place as father of our country. But rather than being a true father – one who helps us mature into individuals – he is little more than another Pharisee, setting himself up as a religiously-based political dictator bent on getting us to support his personal view of legislated morality. …

[one] could go on quoting James Dobson and other media who watch him and Focus on the Family. But the point is painfully clear. Dobson uses his position as a radio psychologist to present his untrained biblical interpretations as our spiritual, moral, and political guidelines. With the fervor of a prophet, Dobson calls us to action as if he had a mandate from God to do so. And by doing so, Dobson has set himself up as nothing less than a twentieth-century Pharisee, misleading millions of believers in the name of Righteousness and Morality.
In his megalomaniacal lust for power, Dobson will use any means, any tactic to convince the sheeple to do as he says. In March 2007 Dobson had criticized then potential GOP presidential candidate Fred Thompson: “Everyone knows he’s [Thompson] conservative and has come out strongly for the things that the pro-family movement stands for … [but] I don’t think he’s a Christian; at least that’s my impression.” Dobson was upset Thompson didn’t wear his religion on his sleeve and didn’t attend church regularly. It seem the Focus on the Family chairman was more interested in the trappings of “religion” than anything else.

 


A September 2007 e-mail Dobson addressed to “Dear Friends” was leaked to the Associated Press. In it, the FOF chairman further trashed Thompson.
Isn’t Thompson the candidate who is opposed to a Constitutional amendment to protect marriage, believes there should be 50 different definitions of marriage in the U.S., favors McCain-Feingold, won’t talk at all about what he believes, and can’t speak his way out of a paper bag on the campaign trail?

He has no passion, no zeal, and no apparent ‘want to.’ And yet he is apparently the Great Hope that burns in the breasts of many conservative Christians? Well, not for me, my brothers. Not for me!
Aside from public displays of religion, Dobson’s litmus test was support for an amendment designed to embed religion-based discrimination into the U.S. Constitution. No surprise there:
Defending Marriage [October 9, 2007]

Dr. Dobson says, ‘It’s not just marriage that is at stake, it’s absolutely everything.’

In just a few years, traditional marriage could lose support under the law. On Wednesday's Focus on the Family radio broadcast, Dr. James C. Dobson and his guests urge pro-family Americans to do something about it.

“This has been an ongoing struggle that burns in our hearts,” Dr. Dobson says. “And now, marriage is really on the brink, and I don’t know how to emphasize that more. …”

Such hysterical deceptions are common in the rhetoric of James Dobson. He specializes in distorting, misrepresenting and twisting legitimate research – and common sense – to serve his pro-discrimination agenda. He’s been caught doing it more than a few times.

In his 2004 book Marriage Under Fire, Dobson claimed “some studies say” that homosexuals “typically” have more than one thousand sex partners. The footnote attached to that assertion referenced “A.P. Bell and M.S. Weinberg, Homosexualities: A Study of Diversity Among Men and Women (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1978), 308-9; see also Bell, Weinberg & Hammersmith, Sexual Preference (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1981).”

The title of the first text immediately suggests the ruse: “Homosexualities” and “Diversity.” Dobson made a blanket statement about all homosexuals today based on one table in a book about “homosexualities” and the “diversity” of behaviors. The book’s publication date further confirms the intentional deception.

Data more than a quarter century old must be put into proper historical and cultural contexts, especially when dealing with a subject that has seen profound changes in the intervening decades. Bell and Weinberg gathered their data in the mid 1970s, during the height of the so-called “bathhouse culture” when, as Andrew Sullivan has noted, a homosexual subculture had “all but submerged itself in a sexualized frenzy.” That “sexualized frenzy” ended rather abruptly when a mysterious retrovirus appeared and, in a matter of years, wiped out thousands while “religious leaders” like Jerry Falwell urged political leaders like Ronald Reagan to do nothing about the epidemic, claiming it was “God’s punishment” for homosexuals.

But even during the days of the bathhouse culture, Bell and Weinberg’s statistics required demographic and geographical qualification: 300 to 1000 different partners is a lot of people, especially considering that gays make up only 2-4 percent of the population and not every one of them lives in a very large city where those numbers would be even remotely possible. Therefore, those who did have a large number of different partners were a small minority of a small minority.

The pages in Bell’s and Weinberg’s book (308-9) cited by Dobson contain tables. The one he alleged was “typical” of all homosexuals today appeared on page 308, in Appendix C:




Aside from the fact that in order to be properly understood within the parameters of the study, this table needs to be cross-referenced with the other 119 charts, tables, and graphs in the appendices of the book, Dr. Dobson seemed interested only in gay men. The “White Homosexual Female” (WHF) and “Black Homosexual Female” (BHF) results contradict his assertion and, according to contemporary statistics, two-thirds of the same-sex couples who applied for marriage licenses in Massachusetts on May 17, 2004 – the first day gay and lesbian couples could legally be issued marriage licenses in this country – were women. This is not surprising since 43 percent of lesbians are “coupled” at any one time. Other pertinent stats from May 17 in Massachusetts include:

— 50 percent of the same-sex couples who applied for marriage licenses had been together for at least a decade;

— The most predominant age group was 40 to 49 years-old (the median age was 43);

— 40 percent of those female couples said they had children in their households.

The second reference listed in Dobson’s citation – Bell, Weinberg & Hammersmith, Sexual Preference (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1981) – is most perplexing since a theme in the book is “Sexual orientation, whether it be heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual, does not appear to be something that one chooses. Recent studies suggest that sexual orientation has a genetic or biological component, and is probably determined before or shortly after birth.” This, of course, is all the more reason to destigmatize homosexuality and legalize same-sex marriage.

Dobson’s misrepresenting and twisting of scientific research to suit his own purposes are legendary in academic circles. His December 12, 2006 Time magazine article, “Two Mommies Is One Too Many,” is a case in point, as Insider Higher Education noted.

When academics feel that their work has been distorted in the press, they frequently have to settle for griping to colleagues or writing a letter to the editor. But for Carol Gilligan, a prominent psychologist and author of In a Different Voice, a mere letter did not suffice. When she was alerted that James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, referenced her work in a Time magazine column, she denounced his interpretation of her research – posting her views Monday in a video on YouTube.

“I was stunned to hear that James Dobson quoted me in Time magazine,” Gilligan says in the video. “I had no idea. I was mortified.” She says that there is nothing in her research that would lead anyone to agree with Dobson’s claim that same-gender families are unhealthy for children.

Media Matters also covered Dobson’s deception and posted some of the letter Dr. Gilligan sent to the FOF chairman:

I am writing to ask that you cease and desist from quoting my research in the future. I was mortified to learn that you had distorted my work this week in a guest column you wrote in Time Magazine. Not only did you take my research out of context, you did so without my knowledge to support discriminatory goals that I do not agree with. What you wrote was not truthful and I ask that you refrain from ever quoting me again and that you apologize for twisting my work.

Finally, there is nothing in my research that would lead you to draw the stated conclusions you did in the Time article. My work in no way suggests same-gender families are harmful to children or can't raise these children to be as healthy and well adjusted as those brought up in traditional households.

Dobson was also busted for “cherry-picking” and misrepresenting the research of psychologist Dr. Kyle Pruett. In his Time article the FOF chairman cited Pruett's 2001 book Fatherneed: Why Father Care Is as Essential as Mother Care for Your Child to argue against same-sex child-rearing. Dr. Pruett was as incensed as Dr. Gilligan:

I was startled and disappointed to see my work referenced in the current Time.

You cherry-picked a phrase to shore up highly (in my view) discriminatory purposes. This practice is condemned in real science, common though it may be in pseudo-science circles. There is nothing in my longitudinal research or any of my writings to support such conclusions. On page 134 of the book you site in your piece, I wrote, “What we do know is that there is no reason for concern about the development or psychological competence of children living with gay fathers. It is love that binds relationships, not sex.”

Magazine piece in which you [Dobson] opined that social science, such as mine, supports your convictions opposing lesbian and gay parenthood. I write now to insist that you not quote from my research in your media campaigns, personal or corporate, without previously securing my permission.

The other leaders of the Christianist Right twist research and distort reality as much as Dobson for the same purposes: encourage hate and discrimination and, of course, add to their organizations’ coffers and their own political clout. For example, there’s the rabidly homophobic Louis P. Sheldon, or “Lucky Louie” as he was known to his one of his organization’s supporters:

You know the Rev. Lou Sheldon as the anti-gay leader of the California-based Traditional Values Coalition, but star lobbyist Jack Abramoff – now the sultan of pleading guilty – knew Sheldon as “Lucky Louie.”

The Washington Post reported in October [2005] Sheldon helped gambling interests who did business with Abramoff – and Sheldon. In 2000, eLottery, an Abramoff client – sent a $25,000 check to the Traditional Values Coalition, as per Abramoff’s instruction. Then, the anti-gambling Sheldon lobbied enthusiastically against a bill to curb online gambling. At Casa Sheldon, grease is a traditional value.

Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, “Rev.” Sheldon argued against giving aid to the surviving members of gay and lesbian partnerships and their children. Is that what a Christian would advocate after such a tragedy?

And who could forget the Christianist leader who enjoys putting people out of work because their employers support equality in the workplace and/or advertise in gay-related publications? The goal of Don Wildmon and his grotesquely misnamed “American Family Association” is to demean and disenfranchise gay and lesbian Americans and their families in any way possible. That those efforts may hurt other people is of no matter to Wildmon. Collateral damage is acceptable in AFA’s Schadenfreude business.

Currently “Rev.” Wildmon and his AFA are trying to destroy Ford Motor Company because it support equality in the workplace and advertise in gay-related publications. How many families – including Christian and “traditional” ones – could be adversely affected by AFA boycotts and the destructive social bigotry they inspire?

Does Wildmon and the AFA care? Obviously, they don’t give a damn. Theirs is a business that thrives on and profits from hate. As Dana Curtis Kincaid noted in her article “The AFA Wants to Take Your American Jobs Away,”

Old Don doesn't care about you folks. He runs a multi-million dollar empire designed to bring him money and power by teaching hatred and intolerance. He wants to put people out of work because he is convinced that his puritanical views are the only views to have.

Funding the Wildmon family:

According to AFA’s 2005 IRS 990 (its tax return), founder Donald E. Wildmon received about $110,000 with benefits, plus over $30,000 in expense account and other allowances – including a housing allowance of over $31,000. AFA president Tim Wildmon [Don’s son] got about $100,000…
On September 29, 2007 Dobson and other leaders of the Christianist Right met behind closed doors in Salt Lake City to plot their political strategy for the upcoming presidential primaries and beyond. Only problem was they couldn’t agree. No GOP candidate was sufficiently fanatical or obedient. On October 4, 2007 Dobson’s statement appeared in The New York Times:
After two hours of deliberation, we voted on a resolution that can be summarized as follows: If neither of the two major political parties nominates an individual who pledges himself or herself to the sanctity of human life, we will join others in voting for a minor-party candidate. Those agreeing with the proposition were invited to stand. The result was almost unanimous. …

Speaking personally, and not for the organization I represent or the other leaders gathered in Salt Lake City, I firmly believe that the selection of a president should begin with a recommitment to traditional moral values and beliefs. Those include the sanctity of human life, the institution of marriage, and other inviolable pro-family principles. Only after that determination is made can the acceptability of a nominee be assessed.
Dobson and the other leaders of the Christianist Right continually demonstrate that their “traditional moral values and beliefs” advocate discrimination against gay Americans, their families and their children. Do those sound like “Christian” values to you?

As Richard Rothstein accurately pointed out:
Of course, we’re not really talking about Christianity here; we’re talking about American provincialism, bigotry, ignorance and big business led by megalomaniacal greedy villains who have hijacked Christianity and turned it into something rather dark, foul and profit-driven. James Dobson, for example, reported a 2006 tax-exempt income of $138 million. Pat Robertson enjoyed a 2006 tax-exempt income of $459 million.

And, if TIME magazine is right, people are finally starting to notice, Non-Christian and Christian alike. Hallelujah… [link added]
Indeed people are noticing, especially young people, as reported in an October 12, 2007 article titled “Christian image is turning youths off” from the Religion News Service:
Young people have graded Christianity, and so far, the report card doesn’t look good. Majorities of young people in America describe modern-day Christianity as judgmental, hypocritical and anti-gay. What’s more, many Christians don’t even want to call themselves “Christian” because of the baggage that accompanies the label.
So let’s hope James Dobson and the rest of his sanctimonious buddies keep their word and abandon the GOP and run their own candidate. Someone who acts according to Christianist beliefs: a dominionist who, like them, self-identifies as “pro-family”… someone like Alan Keyes who threw his own daughter out of the house because she was gay. Now that’s a genuine 2007 “pro-family” Christianist.

And by all means, let’s have more fanatical ranting such as that directed at the city and citizens of San Francisco by Rev. Rusty Lee Thomas of Elijah Ministries on October 15, 2007:
The state has also failed in its duty to punish the sins and crimes of abortion and homosexuality that your city and others like it parade like Sodom. Though man may fail in their duties and responsibilities, God cannot deny Himself. Therefore know for a surety that if you continue in these abominations, according to God's Word, you do so at your own peril.

The tragedy of New York and the disaster of New Orleans are merely first fruits of the many woes that will devastate San Francisco and send shockwaves throughout California, America, and the world. God stands poised with his flaming sword ready to strike your city. He is prepared to exchange Sodom and Gomorrah with San Francisco to serve as a warning to all cities and nations of men “do not follow in their pernicious ways.” Your city will be turned into a scarecrow and used by God as His enemy to warn future generations, lest you repent and turn from your wicked ways of child sacrifice, which is the shedding of innocent blood and homosexuality. You must stuff these abominations back in the closet of illegality and punish these criminal acts as God prescribes or your entire house (city) will collapse upon your wicked heads. With all diligence, take heed to this warning, repent or perish, Christ or chaos.
Using the reverend’s “reasoning,” God must be pretty pissed off at the Bible Belt to have sent such a severe drought.

The leaders of today’s Christianist Right won’t be around forever, or even much longer. Dobson, Sheldon and Wildmon are all in their “golden years.” So a new batch of fanatics has to be created. Pastor Becky Fischer ran a training camp for the next generation of Christianist theofascist. If you have not seen Jesus Camp, you might want to… as soon as possible. Josh Timonen provided a brief synopsis in “Surviving ‘Jesus Camp’”:
One of the first points of business is to condemn every child’s favorite "warlock". Pastor Becky explains that “had he been in the Old Testament, Harry Potter would have been put to death!” …

With arms in the air, they are “instructed” on how to let the spirit take over their bodies and speak in tongues. The children imitate. Many of them cry. Some fall to the ground and shake on the floor in what looks like an epileptic seizure. More cry. I wanted to cry with them, or more accurately for them. …

“A lot of you say you’re Christians, but how many of you are leading two separate lives?” Pastor Becky lays it on thick over the PA. She leads the children on through ideas of what they might be sinfully doing at school with their friends, and how they should be ashamed of themselves for it. … She asks the children to gather around her and reach out their hands if they wish to be cleansed of these newly uncovered sins. Their cleansing source: A 20 oz. bottle of Nestlé-brand water poured over their grouped hands. …

[A] “Pro-Life” man passed around a boxed set of plastic fetuses at different stages of development … He then placed red gaffe tape with the word “LIFE” written on it over each child’s mouth…

The sermons are rife with politics, and Pastor Becky leads the children in chilling chants such as “One nation under God!” and “Righteous Judges!” She preaches of war and the mission for their “key generation.” She asks if they would lay down their lives for Jesus…

As Pastor Becky later explains to the interviewer, “I want to see young people who are as committed to the cause of Jesus Christ as the young people are to the cause of Islam. I want to see them as radically laying down their lives for the gospel as they are over in Pakistan and Israel and Palestine and all those different places... Excuse me, but we have the truth!”
Pastor Becky’s very sick but slick boot camp – “Kids on Fire” – was designed to brainwash kids as young as six-years-old. The “training” included covering kids’ faces with green and black commando-style paint in order to enlist them into “God’s army.” Induction also required a pledge to sacrifice their lives “for Jesus” if necessary:
As Pastor Becky [explained] to the interviewer, “I want to see young people who are as committed to the cause of Jesus Christ as the young people are to the cause of Islam. I want to see them as radically laying down their lives for the gospel as they are over in Pakistan and Israel and Palestine and all those different places... Excuse me, but we have the truth!”
That’s the same “truth” Dobson fabricates in his writings, and the same “truth” that was underscored near the end of Jesus Camp when some of the graduates of pastor Becky’s camp attended a service led by Rev. Ted Haggard at New Life Church in Colorado Springs. At one point Haggard looks straight into the camera, points his finger, and says, “I think I know what you did last night [crowd laughs] if you send me a thousand dollars, I won’t tell your wife.”

You remember Haggard. He was the founder and leader of the New Life megachurch, the former head of the National Association of Evangelicals and a vociferous crusader against homosexuals and their relationships. He fell from grace in disgrace when his relationship with a male prostitute and use of crystal meth (a favorite snort of some gay men out for a night of unbridled SEX) were exposed. As Haggard finally admitted in a November 5, 2006 letter to his former congregation, “I am a deceiver and a liar.”

Less than a year after Jesus Camp debuted in theatres, Haggard was in the news again when he asked “Christians” to send him money:
Pastor In Gay Sex Scandal Pleads For Cash

(Colorado Springs, Colorado) The Rev. Ted Haggard, who left the megachurch he founded after admitting to “sexual immorality,” has asked supporters for financial assistance while he and his wife pursue their studies.

The former New Life Church pastor plans to seek a master’s degree in counseling at the University of Phoenix while his wife studies psychology, he said in an e-mail sent this week to KRDO-TV in Colorado Springs. …

“It looks as though it will take two years for us to have adequate earning power again, so we are looking for people who will help us monthly for two years,” the e-mail said. “During that time we will continue as full-time students, and then, when I graduate, we won’t need outside support any longer.” …

Haggard received a salary of $115,000 for the 10 months he worked in 2006 and an $85,000 anniversary bonus before the scandal broke, The Gazette reported. Haggard’s severance package included a year’s salary of $138,000, and he collects royalties on his book titles, the newspaper reported.

El Paso County records show Haggard’s home, which has been up for sale, has a market value of $715,051.
Haggard’s personal “ministry” is out of business, as is Pastor Becky’s “Kids on Fire” camp, but Dobson, Wildmon and the other leaders of Christianist organization continue to bilk the sheeple and offer a mindless, disingenuous approach to life. That seems to be the message of Christianist evangelism: don’t think, don’t ponder the complexities of life, just listen, just do and vote as we tell you to and you’ll be fine in this world and the next.

Could there any more succinct expression of theofascism?
 
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