The word “agape” literally means “love.” More specifically, in the New Testament it referred to the fatherly love of God for mankind. The term and concept extended to the love of one’s fellow human beings. But the self-appointed spokesmen for “God” and purveyors of organized religion’s dogma discovered that encouraging hate for some people worked better than love in maintaining social and political control, and was certainly more profitable. Sadly, not much has changed today.
The Right Reverend John Shelby Spong was absolutely correct when he said “Our society gives wide berth to obvious pathology when it is covered by religious language.” And “wide pathology” certainly defines the dogmatic leaders of the politicized Christian Right, especially the unholy trinity of Louis P. Sheldon of the Traditional Values Coalition, James Dobson of Focus on the Family, and Don Wildmon of the American Family Association. Perversely, the propaganda organ of Wildmon and the AFA is “Agape Press.”
Rev. Sheldon, founder and chairman of the Traditional Values Coalition, has a malignant, pathological hate for gay Americans and even their children. Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Sheldon argued against giving aid to the surviving members of gay and lesbian partnerships, many of whom had children. Is that what an agape man would do?
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Sheldon got his nickname “Lucky Louie” from convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff:
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  how 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.
When the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act went down in flames in a House vote, an Abramoff associate e-mailed colleagues, “There was Lucky Louie out front” high five-ing with some lobbyists.
Is that how an honest agape man would act? It is, however, how Sheldon acts. Once again he’s beating his breasts decrying a lobbying and ethics reform bill, the Legislative Transparency and Accountability Act (S.1), even though he acknowledges “this legislation may deal with real lobbying reform.” Why ? Because it would help expose the machinations of groups like the Traditional Values Coalition and Focus on the Family, which has launched its own campaign to thwart lobbying reform:
Focus on the Family Action Chairman James C. Dobson, Ph.D., today called on Americans to contact their senators about a measure he said constitutes “a grave threat” to freedom of speech.
“Democrats and a few Republicans are trying very, very quickly to insulate themselves from the public – and to do it by muzzling people like us,” Dobson said on his Focus on the Family radio broadcast.
S. 1, a lobbying-reform bill, is the first to come to a vote in the new Democrat-controlled Congress. One of its many provisions would require grassroots groups to report directly to the secretary of the Senate and clerk of the House any time they spend money to communicate to their constituents on public-policy issues that are before Congress.
Despite his soft-spoken, grandfatherly demeanor James Dobson is just as self-centered and rabidly homophobic as Sheldon. Dobson lords over the Focus on the Family multimedia empire. At one point he was dubbed the Christian Right’s new “kingmaker.” The “king” he helped coronate was George W. Bush.
In his campaign against gay and lesbian Americans, Sheldon advocated exorcisms. In his 2004 book Marriage Under Fire, Dobson wrote that if gay people were allowed to marry – the ultimate expression of “agape” – the world would end: “The culture war will be over, and the world may soon become ‘as it was in the days of Noah.’” For a more thorough refutation to Dobson’s scare tactics and preposterous assertion in Marriage Under Fire, see “Out of Focus on the Family: A Response to Arguments Against Same-Sex Marriage,” Popular Culture Review, 16:1 (February 2005), 45-75.
The legal recognition of same-sex civil unions and the families they support would, without doubt, be to the social and economic advantage of both parents and their children. In a surrealistic display of deception, a January 9, 2007 Focus on the Family article by Pete Winn referred to Dobson as “America’s foremost radio advocate for children.” This “foremost advocate for children” advocates spanking. This “foremost advocate for children” does everything he can to demean, disenfranchise, and otherwise hurt the children of gay and lesbian parents. Is this an agape man?
And then there’s Rev. Don Wildmon of the American Family Association. It goes without saying that Wildmon’s idea of “American Family” excludes those headed by gay or lesbian parents. In fact, Wildmon and the AFA are in the Schadenfreude business of hurting not only gay and lesbian families, but all families who are in any way supported by employers that treat their gay and lesbian employees equally or that support civil equality. Case in point: the Ford Motor Company.
The AFA website continues to brag about how its boycott of Ford is allegedly hurting the company: “The AFA boycott of Ford Motor Company continues to impact its sales.” Ford’s crime against Wildmon World: the company treats its gay and lesbian employees equally, sponsors television programs that include homosexual characters, and advertises in gay publications.
What is truly disturbing is that Wildmon and his supposedly “pro-family” group take pleasure in trying to hurt people and their families. How many families – including Christian and “traditional” ones – could be adversely affecting by AFA boycotts and the destructive social bigotry they inspire? Does Wildmon and the AFA care?
Obviously, they don’t give a damn.
That was made clear by Rev. Wildmon in his mid-June 2006 statement:
The American Family Association says that its boycott of Ford Motor Company over the automaker’s support for LGBT issues is having an impact.
“The boycott of Ford Motor Company is working! Sales of automobiles made by Ford dropped 2% in May,” AFA chair Donald E. Wildmon said in an email to supporters.
What kind of man, what kind of “Christian” would take pleasure – note Wildmon’s excited exclamation point – in hurting people and their families? Is this an agape man? Or does Wildmon and his action debase the word and concept?
The American Family Association has state affiliates. One of them is the American Family Association of Pennsylvania, headed by Diane Gramley. Like Wildmon and the other member of the unholy trinity, Gramley is hell bent on propagating hate and mistrust. Her latest target: children.
The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network and the Gay-Straight Alliance clubs they sponsor have been a favorite target of Sheldon, Dobson and Wildmon. Why? Because, as the Agape Press noted, GLSEN “stated goals include working to end discrimination and harassment against homosexuals.” That would seem a noble agape goal, but not for Sheldon, Dobson, Wildmon, and Gramley. Their goal is to encourage and increase discrimination against and harassment of homosexuals, and to fill their donation coffer along the way.
Gramley’s latest debasing of agape was prompted by GLSEN’s inviting “the Ambridge Area School District’s Senior High School principal Alan Fritz to attend diversity workshops.”
“Diversity” is a dirty word for Gramley and the radical Christian Right. They prefer a different “D” word: “Discrimination.” They demand everyone be and live as they dictate. Those who won’t or can’t do as they’re told must be excluded. If one of the Christian Right’s favorite pseudo-scientists, discredited psychologist Paul Cameron, had his way they’d be exterminated:
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.
While Cameron is on the fringe of the fringe, his venom percolates through the ranks. Consider Christian radio talk show host Kevin McCullough.
While damning gay people who are struggling for the civil right to enter into a civil marriage, McCullough trumpeted “So don’t believe the angry spokespeople. Radical homosexual activists hate marriage because fundamentally they hate God, and the guilt of both drives them to extremes.”
The only “extremes” are the lengths to which the bigots and hate-mongers of the agapeless Christian Right will go to damn their fellow human beings.
Whether for power and profit – or out of psychotic delusion – “leaders” such as Sheldon, Dobson, Wildmon, Gramley, and McCullough claim to know what “God” wants. In that, they are simply the latest in a long line of the most evil of humans who used mistrust and hatred of their fellow human beings to advance their own demented ideology and goals:
"I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator…”– Adolph Hitler in Mein Kampf
Then as now, the self-righteous use selective reading of the Bible to support their positions. Beyond cherry-picking the Bible, to believe that it – or any text – could contain the Mind of Divinity or that humans are capable of understanding that Mind is the ultimate expression of hubris. As Rev. Spong asked, “Can a human being escape the limits of our humanity to describe God? What makes us think God can fit into a human consciousness?”
Reading the entire canon of the most prolific philosopher who ever lived would still not give the reader a complete picture of the philosopher’s philosophy. Yet the sanctimonious leaders of the Christian Right think they – and they alone – have total insight into “God’s” mind and will based on a single book that excluded more “sacred texts” than it included, edited those it did include to meet social, political and dogmatic needs, and was translated innumerable times often by people who had little or no understanding the cultural context of previous translations or the ancient languages they were translating.
In that process, “agape” was perverted for social and political gain. It can, however, be resurrected if the “us vs. them” mentality and the disciples of hate are relegated to their proper place in the dustbin of history.
January 15, 2007: Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in the United States. Bayard Rustin was a key contributor to King’s dream:
When Rustin joined with King in 1956 to help with the Montgomery bus boycott, King had guns in his house. Rustin helped convince King and other leaders of the movement to adopt Gandhian tactics of nonviolent resistance.
But in addition to being a tireless worker and activist, Rustin was also gay. He was also “relatively open” for the times, whatever that means. That led to tension with some of the other civil rights leaders, such as the Rev. Adam Clayton Powell Sr.
Powell’s homophobia caused Rustin to go underground, writes Horace L. Griffin in a new book called “Their Own Receive Them Not: African-American Lesbians and Gays in Black Churches.” It was painfully ironic, Griffin writes, that oftentimes the ministers themselves would be chasing skirts when no one was looking while condemning homosexuals from the pulpit. …
Congressman John Lewis of Georgia was one of the original speakers at the march on Washington that Rustin organized. Lewis was a student at a Baptist seminary in Nashville when he got started in the civil rights movement. For him as well as others, broadening the perspective on civil rights to include gay rights took a shift in traditional ways of thinking.
But, Lewis has said, “I have fought too hard and too long against discrimination based on race and color not to stand up against discrimination based on sexual orientation.”
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