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Fri

27

Jun

2008

Chicken Little has Nothing on the Christianist Right
Friday, 27 June 2008 12:46
by Mel Seesholtz, Ph.D.
Chicken Little has Nothing on the Christianist Right - They Howl and Claim the Sky Is Falling, but Fewer and Fewer Are Listening
They howled and claimed the sky was falling when the Supreme Court of Massachusetts ruled in favor of civil equality:
Unless the people of the State of Massachusetts rise up with one voice in opposition to this lawless and socially destructive behavior [same-sex marriage], it will destroy society as we know it.
— Steve Crampton, Chief Counsel, Center for Law and Policy
American Family Association, December 2003
James Dobson, lord and master of Focus on the Family, self-appointed spokesman for “God” – and that “God’s” chief profiteer – proclaimed in his 2004 book Marriage Under Fire: Marriage Under Fire: Why We Must Win This Battle that if gay people are allowed to marry, “the culture war will be over, and the world may soon become ‘as it was in the days of Noah’ (Matthew 24:37).”

That’s right folks: the end of the world if two consenting adults are allowed to marry.

What’s truly amazing is that so many sheeple still believe in and send money to this Chicken Little. (For a repudiation of Dobson’s other bizarre and intentionally misleading claims see “Out of Focus on the Family: A Response to Arguments Against Same-Sex Marriage,” Popular Culture Review, 16:1, February 2005, 45-75.)

Massachusetts has not been washed away in a gigantic flood sent by a wrathful, mean-spirited “god.” Heterosexual marriage in as vibrant as ever in the Bay State. And tens of thousands of couples are now married and they – and their families – are enjoying the same social, legal and economic recognition other Massachusetts families receive.

After the California Supreme Court refused to stay its order for civil equality, another Chicken Little Christianist, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, wailed and, as usual, twisted, distorted and misrepresented in order to scare the sheeple and justify discrimination:
The ruling coming just two weeks before Father’s Day, effectively abolishes the meaning of motherhood and fatherhood. … The social science data is overwhelming and clear - children do best when raised by a mom and dad. Two mothers will never equal a father and two fathers will never equal a mother. [italics added]
 
“Just two weeks before Father’s Day.” Mr. Perkins obviously chose to ignore the tens of thousands of gay fathers doing a fine job raising their children. And it is those children who will directly benefit from their fathers being able to legally marry in California. But those real families are of no concern for Mr. Perkins or the “Family Research Council.”

“Effectively abolishes the meaning of motherhood and fatherhood.” What is this man talking about? Such a preposterous non sequitur statement goes well beyond hysterical ranting. Unless Mr. Perkins is talking about clones, all children have a mother and a father. Whether those gamete-contributing “parents” are present in the child’s life is another matter. When they’re not, Mr. Perkins and his ilk would prefer to see those children remain without committed parents rather than having them accepted into loving homes with same-sex parents. Case in point: a February 2007 Business Week article highlighted one of the families “pro-family” Christianists groups took pleasure in hurting:
Dennis Patrick, a professor at Eastern Michigan University, worries that Michigan’s ruling will strip his partner’s health insurance.

The couple have adopted four foster children, one with a developmental disability, and Tom Patrick works part-time so he can care for them.

“If he has to go back to work full-time, that hurts our family. Or we have to pay for health benefits out of pocket, which hurts our family,” Dennis Patrick said. “To me that either demonstrates a lack of understanding of how this can affect our family or other families, or it’s just mean and cruel.”
It is just plain mean and cruel. But that, in essence, is the Christianist agenda: hurt people, hurt families, and feel good about it.

Mr. Perkins asserted that “the social science data is overwhelming and clear – children do best when raised by a mom and dad.” But contemporary, peer-reviewed social science research shows that children reared in same-sex household develop no differently than children reared in opposite-sex households, despite the claims of Christianist leaders who have frequently been caught misrepresenting legitimate research. And then there’s the fact that the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psychiatric Association have all issued statements asserting that a parent’s sexual orientation is irrelevant to his or her ability to raise a child.

It’s interesting to note that Family Research Council – as well as other Christianist groups such as Dobson’s Focus on the Family, Don Wildmon’s American Family Association and Louis P. Sheldon’s Traditional Values Coalition – have been known to cite the social science “research” of discredited “psychologist” Paul Cameron:
At the 1985 Conservative Political Action Conference, Cameron announced to the attendees, “Unless we get medically lucky, in three or four years, one of the options discussed will be the extermination of homosexuals.” According to an interview with former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, Cameron was recommending the extermination option as early as 1983.
– Mark E. Pietrzyk, News-Telegraph, March 10, 1995
On June 16, 2008 Jennifer Mesko, managing editor of Focus on the Family’s CitizenLink, posted an article that contained some very odd comments. “‘God is not having an anxiety attack over same-sex ‘marriage,’ said Peter Brandt, senior director of government and public policy at Focus on the Family Action.” Apparently Mr. Brandt’s “God” is susceptible to human maladies.
“In the past few months, God made Himself evident throughout the course of bringing more than 1.1 million signatures to qualify for the ballot,” [Ron Prentice, executive director of the California Family Council] said. “The tremendous response from churches was never before seen in California, and the participation from religious communities continues to grow.”
Not quite, Mr. Prentice. As Tim Rutten pointed out in a June 4, 2008 article in The Los Angeles Times,
Protect Marriage, the organization seeking to overturn the recent decision by the California Supreme Court, presented the secretary of state with a petition bearing 1.1 million signatures – and yet it is hardly a mass movement. California allows professional contractors that pay people to gather signatures for political measures, so anyone with enough money to spend can get an initiative on the ballot.

In this case, most of the money came from two wealthy Orange County residents who also happen to be fervent evangelical Christians. Billionaire Howard Ahmanson donated $400,000 through his Fieldstead & Co., and Edward Atsinger, owner of a chain of Christian radio stations, gave $12,500. (Each man previously contributed $100,000 to Proposition 22, the statute struck down by the Supreme Court’s May 15 ruling.) Another significant contributor – $133,000 – is Colorado-based Focus on the Family. Its founder, James Dobson, is a leader in the religious right’s anti-gay wing.
But perhaps the most overtly theofascist comments were made by Ted Baehr in his article “The Illegal Attack on the Family” that appeared on the website of Peter LaBarbera’s Americans for Truth about Homosexuality, an organization whose sole (and soulless) purpose is to demean, denigrate and foster discrimination against gay and lesbian Americans.

Baehr began with this statement:
“California is destroying the family, and the United States is on the verge of a self-inflicted spiritual holocaust.”
“Destroying the family”? How can two people committing their lives to each other and, in so doing, forming a family possibly be “destroying the family”? Baehr’s accusation is nothing less than self-serving, megalomaniacal bigotry at it most insidious and most pathetic. It is, however, quite common among the profiteers of the Christianst Right as was so well documented in a recent fund-raising letter sent by Tom Minnery, Senior Vice President for Government and Public Policy at James Dobson’s Focus on the Family Action:
On May 15, a cultural earthquake rocked our nation that threatens to permanently alter marriage and families in America.

Of course, I’m talking about the California Supreme Court ruling…

Homosexual activists across the nation will be emboldened to push their anti-family agenda

For years now, Focus on the Family Action has been working coast-to-coast on the battle to save marriage. The California decision is forcing us to further expand these and other efforts that we simply could not have budgeted for. That’s where you come in.

Will you make a special gift today to Focus Action to help us defend marriage

The California homosexual marriage “earthquake” could forever change the cultural landscape of our nation – unless pro-family citizens like you and me take a stand. … [italics added]
Note the “anti-family” non sequitur, followed closely by the equally inane “saving/defending marriage” claim. Saving marriage from whom? People who want to get married? Saving marriage from what? Divorce?

Evangelicals and “born-again” Christians – stalwart supports of Dobson and the Christianist Right – are pretty bad at “saving/defending” marriage and “the family.” On September 8, 2004 – during the height of the pre-election campaign to “save traditional marriage” – the Barna Group, a Christian marketing-research organization, issued a report titled “Born Again Christians Just As Likely to Divorce As Are Non-Christians.” It documented that “among married born again Christians, 35% have experienced a divorce. That figure is identical to the outcome among married adults who are not born again: 35%.” Barna also documented that “nearly one-quarter of the married ‘born agains’ (23%) get divorced two or more times.” No doubt more than a few of those multiple divorces among born-again Christians reported by the Barna Group involved adultery. And no doubt more than a few of those divorced parents had children.

Nevertheless, the “anti-family” and “save marriage” clichés persist. In a mid-June “values voters” gathering sponsored by Family research Council Action, Focus on the Family Action, American Values and the Alliance Defense Fund and specifically designed to “equip voters to defend marriage, life and religious liberty,” the rhetoric was ubiquitous: “‘Family advocates may feel disheartened in light of the attack on marriage in California,’ said Sonja Swiatkiewicz, director of Issues Response for Focus on the Family Action.”

How does allowing people to marry constitute an “attack on marriage”? If anything, the more than 2,700 wedding licenses issued in California in the first two days of legal same-sex marriage show support and respect for the institution.

And then there were the comments of Eagle Forum President Phyllis Schlafly, a featured speaker at the briefing, [who] said she is hopeful the California court decision will inspire others to fight to save marriage in their states.
“We should make sure that all the other states stand up and say, ‘We are not going to follow the leadership of California or recognize the unconstitutional things that they’re doing,’ ” she told Family News in Focus.
Aside from the “save marriage” ruse, how is a state supreme court’s upholding the state constitution’s guarantee of equality for all citizens “unconstitutional”?

But back to Baehr’s other claim that “the United States is on the verge of a self-inflicted spiritual holocaust.” Here he has a point, but his timing is off. The holocaust has been underway for some time. The victim – spirituality – has been tortured, killed and buried under the hate-based dogma of the Christianist Right, as Baehr so well illustrated:
It must be emphasized that marriage between one man and one woman is a God ordained, God defined, biblical act. …

In 1837, the Rev. Henry Morris complained that the state had usurped the authority of God in marriage. Norris railed against the passage of a law on marriage by providing a detailed look at the institution of marriage. He painstakingly exegeted the Scriptures in establishing his point that marriage is most importantly a religious institution, and therefore it should not be relegated to a strictly civil character…

The Rev. Norris adds that the Biblical position is that only God ordains marriage. So, in the light of history and God’s Word written, the judges in Massachusetts, California or any other state or federal court have nothing to say about Christian marriage and have no authority to define, ordain or desecrate it. …

The church has to reclaim marriage as its unique institution. Whatever anyone wants to do outside of the church may be their business, but it is not sanctioned by God’s Law. The state has the right to regulate what they do, because there is no liberty for license. But, the state does not have the right to tell the church that any couple outside of the faith is happily married.

We need to stand for God’s Law in the face of the power grab by those in civil authority, who know no restraints.
California and Massachusetts have not only violated God’s Law, they have also violated their own constitution…
Baehr packs so many logical flaws, irrationalities and non sequiturs into these lines that it’s difficult to know where to start.

“Violated their own constitution”? How could upholding constitutional guarantees of civil equality possible violate the constitutions involved?

And as for the civil institution called “marriage,” suffice to say it existed centuries before the “God” Baehr refers to was conjured. Actually, the Christian church didn’t get involved in marriage ceremonies until the early Middle Ages.

Religious fanatics – theofascists – such as Rev. Morris and Ted Baehr, James Dobson and Tomy Perkins cherry-picked the Bible and cobbled together a “God” in their own image: mean-spirited, eager to hurt and discriminate, and full of dogmatic dictates. The very “God” Christopher Hitchens debunked in his book God Is Not Great. In commenting on that text, Christian theologian Rev. John Shelby Spong had this to say:
Christopher Hitchens’ book, God Is Not Great, is a description of the theistic God of the past who is dying. The theistic God certainly appears in the Bible and is guilty of many things that are genuinely immoral, like killing the firstborn male in every Egyptian household, stopping the sun in the sky to allow more time for Joshua to slaughter the Amorites and ordering genocide against the Amalekites through the prophet Samuel. Christians need to remember that it has been the theistic God who has been responsible for the development of such things as anti-Semitism, the Inquisition, and the oppression of people of color, women and homosexual persons. This deity has also been perceived as justifying war, fighting crusades and creating slavery. Let us agree with Christopher Hitchens that this God is not great.
Rev. Spong suggested a better approach:
I think of the God experience as the power of life, love and being flowing through the universe and coming to consciousness in human self-awareness … I therefore feel that by living fully, loving wastefully and being all that I can be I can make the God experience visible. I also believe that it is my Christian vocation to build a world where all people have a better chance to live, love and to be. It is when I do these two things, I believe, that I am engaging in the essence of worship.
“Christian vocation to build a world where all people have a better chance to live, love and to be.” Those are exactly the things the leaders of the Christianist Right vehemently oppose.

Not surprisingly, the 1837 law Rev. Morris railed against gave the authority to perform marriages to Justices of the Peace. And rightly so, since marriage licenses are issued by civil governments, not churches. But like his nineteenth century hero, Ted Baehr wants churches – Christian churches – to have sole jurisdiction over the civil institution of marriage. They already have jurisdiction over who they will marry and who they won’t, but to extend those dogmatic, theological decisions into civil law is beyond preposterous unless, of course, one is advocating a theofascist state, which is exactly what Dr. Baehr is doing. It’s what the Christianist Right has been trying to do for some time as Chris Hedges documented in his 2006 book American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America.

Nothing made that clearer than Baehr’s statement: “We need to stand for God’s Law in the face of the power grab by those in civil authority, who know no restraints.” Theofascist dominionism, pure and simple.

The real “Good News” is that America is waking up and recognizing the Christianist Right for what it is. Poll after poll shows that civil equality is trumping religious bigotry, especially among younger Americans:
The Pew study [released mid-June 2008] … marked a decline in opposition toward gay marriage among women, college graduates, and senior citizens. Opposition among women has dropped from 56% in 2004 to 46% in 2008. While 46% of college graduates opposed gay marriage in 2004, only 38% oppose it now. Opposition among senior citizens (ages 65 and up) has dropped 10% since 2004, from 68% to 58%.
The Christian Right’s antigay movements are failing in the East:
Conservative Group Abandons Push to Repeal Maine Gay Rights Law

An evangelical group has abandoned its campaign to overturn Maine’s law protecting gays and lesbians from discrimination, days after California began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

“We’re pulling the plug,” Michael Heath, executive director of the Christian Civic League of Maine, said Thursday. The group failed to attract the voter, volunteer, and financial support it needed to continue its campaign to put a repeal measure to a vote, he said.

The group collected only a third of the 15,000 voter signatures it had set as a goal for primary election day June 10, Heath said. Citing tags opponents had applied to initiative backers, he said potential volunteers “don’t want to be aligned with bigotry and homophobia and hatred.” [link added]
They are also failing in the West:
Opponents of Oregon gay rights law abandon repeal effort

SALEM – Social conservatives and church groups are admitting defeat in their efforts to collect signatures for initiatives to repeal two Oregon gay rights laws in this November's election.

The campaigns were aimed at derailing a domestic partnership law and another new law banning discrimination based on sexual orientation. Both were enacted by the 2007 Legislature.

Opponents say they are dropping their efforts to qualify the repeal initiatives for this fall’s ballot because neither has received a state-approved ballot title and the deadline for turning in signatures is only a few weeks away – July 3rd.
Discrimination is the past; equality is the future.

Congratulations to all the newlyweds in California…

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