Posts migrated over from the old platform

George Takei was wrong about Clarence Thomas

For the record, George Takei’s comments about Clarence Thomas were racist, and, like most people on the left who have been complaining about Thomas’ “dignity” discussion in his Obergefell dissent, missed the point Thomas was making.  Clarence Thomas is a black man who grew up speaking the Gullah dialect in the Jim Crow south. He talks about watching his grandfather struggling to memorize long portions of the King James Bible so he could pass the literacy tests to vote. When Thomas writes about how dignity isn’t something that the government can give or take away, he’s speaking as someone who knows as well as anybody that if black folk in America were relying on the government as the source of dignity they’d be still waiting.  Now, where I disagree with Thomas is that I think that humans have inherent dignity, but that the government either does or doesn’t treat people in a way that respects that dignity that we all have. Thomas isn’t wrong though, just incomplete. I’m no great fan of Clarence Thomas’ jurisprudence. His version of originalism, with its stacks of old dictionaries, refusal to consider anything constitutional if it wouldn’t have been thought of at the time the document was drafted, and steadfast insistence that if you don’t like it you should amend the constitution, is too unwieldy for the modern era. There was no way Thomas was going to vote for marriage equality no matter his personal views about LGBT people. The man is nothing if not consistent in his application of his principles of constitutional interpretation, and this is an issue where he was always going to say that the right approach was to amend the constitution. I think he’s wrong, but that’s a matter for intellectual debate, not name calling.   To call him a clown[…]

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A few thoughts on Pride

I’ve been thinking about pride parades and what they represent, and how I responded as a kid seeing clips of pride parades on TV, or when religious right figures railed against the imagined debauchery of it all. As a good child raised to be a foot soldier of the religious right, I was supposed to look at those pictures and video and see it as people parading their sins through the street as in Sodom. But at the same time, because I was raised to be a foot soldier for the religious right, I may not have understood the political or philosophical arguments, but I did understand activism. And so I instinctively understood the message of defiance–and back in the ‘80s and ’90s it was definitely a message of defiance, that you may hate us but we won’t be ashamed. It may have taken years after that for me to challenge what I’d been taught about the sinfulness of it all, and still longer to figure out that I myself was queer, but that image of defiance was still there with me as a counterpoint to what I was being taught. A counterpoint that I could understand and relate to, when arguments that the interpretation of scripture I was learning was wrong wouldn’t have stuck because I was too young and too dogmatic to see another side’s logical arguments. The logic looked to me as excuses but the defiance of marching in the streets, that found its way past my defenses precisely because I spoke the language of activism so well. When I look at pride parades, I don’t see them as just an event for the community together, I see them as a message for the kids who aren’t there as well. That people may beat us down and[…]

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Amazing Grace

How do you encapsulate a day like today? This day, when by some coincidence of fate or of providence, two moments in the long struggles to ensure that the ideals of freedom and equality upon which this nation was founded were available to all, just happened to converge. It does not seem right, somehow, to talk about today’s marriage equality ruling without talking about Charleston and President Obama’s eulogy of the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, with all of the deep sadness mingled with a glint of promise that just maybe equality will advance once more. For the last seven years, through accident of history, the struggles of racial equality and LGBT equality have found themselves intertwined, the highs and lows in contrast with one another. In 2008 the country did what so many never dreamed possible and elected a black president, but that same night the joy was tempered by the passage of Prop 8 in California. Two years ago, we celebrated as the Supreme Court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act, but at the same time mourned the gutting of the Voting Rights Act. Each time a step forward in equality for some, a step backwards for others. Joy and sadness, justice and injustice, mingled together. I can only try and imagine the whiplash that African American members of the LGBT community had to have felt. A nation lurching towards equality, but never quite able to get on the right track for everyone at once. Here we are again. I haven’t written about Charleston because I’ve been unable to find the words to express the depth of the pain and tragedy, how people who have suffered such loss due to pure unbridled hatred can show such immeasurable grace to someone so evil. How can you write about the fragile, budding[…]

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This Week in Imaginary Persecution: Chris Pratt and Women’s World Cup edition

Did you hear about how Chris Pratt is totes persecuted for being a Christian and liberals are literally blackballing him for talking about his faith? We know it’s true because Facebook told us so and random clickbait from rightwing websites never lies. I mean, he’s so persecuted that his blockbuster summer popcorn franchise only made half a billion dollars opening weekend. And in the unfairness of it all, he just signed on to costar with Jennifer Lawrence in a big budget sci-fi space opera, because what choice of films does he have, being blackballed by Hollywood and everything? Without this dreadful persecution, he’d be the biggest, most beloved action-star-of-the-moment on both Earth and Mars, but because everyone hates Christians he’s going to have to settle for being loved by just earthlings. The tragedy of it all. Plus, I thought we were supposed to hate Jurassic Park because EVILution! Also taking a bold stand for their faith in the face of risking persecution from the homogheys are the professing Christians on the USWNT at the World Cup. Or at least that’s what WORLD Magazine would like us to infer: At least four professing Christians join hands on the current team, including Amy Rodriguez and Heather O’Reilly, as the U.S. team tries to get back to the World Cup Final July 5, where the United States women lost to Japan in 2011. In World Cup defeat or gold medal glory, “when I walk away my identity is still the same,” Holiday told Fellowship of Christian Athletes. “I’m still a follower of Jesus Christ.” In contrast, team leaders Megan Rapinoe and Abby Wambach and coach Jill Ellis all identify as lesbians. A national team, of necessity, creates a functional pluralism with mutual respect and practical sacrificial love as teammates work toward a common[…]

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A Recipe for Disaster

Sophie Anna Platt wrote the following piece in response to Jim Bob Duggar’s quote from Wednesday’s interview on The Kelly File. Sophie is a homeschool alumna who grew up in a conservative Christian homeschooling family with many of the same teachings as the Duggars. She’s given me permission to republish her thoughts here. (Also by Sophie: Which one of you have we wronged?) Nooo… Really? And not once did it occur to you that maybe the way you and these other people were raising your children had ANYTHING at all to do with it? Oh, wait, you were too busy becoming the poster family for that cult (so you could get rich off your gazillion kids instead of having to think about being responsible parents who have to plan on feeding the children they pop out) to be bothered to use your brain to think about becoming responsible parents. It is a recipe for disaster, and it goes something like this: 5 cups of teaching everyone that women belong to men They are born their father’s property, and are given as a gift to whomever their father sees as worthy. Should they at any time become free humans, they must immediately seek to become the property of whatever man is available or risk living in sin and going to hell. Usually their brothers are the first choice presented as an authority figure – particularly the oldest son of the family. 3 cups of girl’s bodies don’t belong to themselves It pairs well with the previous ingredient, but it adds some thoughts. Most notably are the ideas that a woman has to have sex with her husband anytime he wants to. Even as a daughter she must not leave the house without her father’s permission (even if she is an adult).[…]

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3 Things about Caitlyn Jenner that need to stop showing up in my Facebook newsfeed

These themes keep showing up in my Facebook newsfeed, and I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who is getting more than a little tired of it.  1) Any variation of over-spiritualized “love the sinner” rhetoric.  Apart from the fact that you’ve declared someone who is a professing Christian is a hell-bound sinner, something that is not your place to decide, your patronization is only marginally less offensive than if you were throwing slurs Jenner’s way. You’ve essentially declared someone a lesser being worthy of your pity as if they’re a sick animal, rather than an equal created in God’s image just like you are.  Furthermore, you’ve demonstrated that you don’t understand either hermeneutics or the history and culture of the ancient near east. Born eunuchs. Educate yourself on what Jesus was talking about.  Also, congratulations, you’ve managed to prove yourself significantly less informed on gender identity than the government of Iran, hardly the measuring stick on human rights. 2) Any variation of “Person X is the real hero.“  Heroics is not a zero sum game. More than one person can be a hero and there are any number of areas where someone can be heroic. So Caitlyn Jenner isn’t particularly inspiring to you, who cares? Last I checked there isn’t a single arbiter of who is or isn’t a hero and if there was, I’m pretty sure you aren’t it. 3) Any comparison to Josh Duggar or the Duggar tragedy.  Josh Duggar is a child molester. Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar committed felonies by covering up Josh’s crimes. Caitlyn Jenner is an Olympic athlete whose body didn’t match her gender identity. See the difference? If you group them together as "people I feel sympathy for,” or “people I want to extend grace towards,” you’re implying that Caitlyn Jenner[…]

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The Duggar interview and the need for homeschool oversight

Sibling sexual abuse is not some normal thing that happens in families. Not letting your children play hide and seek lest your teenage son molest his sisters again isn’t normal. A teenage boy repeatedly molesting his young sisters, including one still in the preschool years, isn’t just a thing that most families deal with. Unless you’re Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar and their friends, that is. Every single one of the Duggar kids, Josh included, deserved better than what they got from their parents and their church and homeschool community. If a teenager starts acting out sexually towards their younger siblings, something is wrong. When the sexual assaults continue after the offending sibling is caught and disciplined, something is seriously wrong. Josh needed help and he never got it. The girls needed to be protected and instead they had to grow up in a home with their abuser, never getting counseling from a licensed therapist. All because the Duggars and their community thought it was no big deal. While Jim Bob and Michelle may think that by describing it as something that happened in a lot of friends’ families, they’ve successfully downplayed the gravity of the situation, what they’re really doing is describing an epidemic of sexual abuse in their church and homeschool circles. Rather than following the law and reporting the sexual assaults to the relevant authorities, all of these parents seem to have simply reassured each other that it’s normal and carried on their merry way as if it were only slightly more serious than a sibling squabble. As this story has unfolded, I’ve become increasingly horrified by the number of people within the Christian and homeschool communities who have expressed similar sentiments to the ones Jim Bob and Michelle expressed in their Fox interview. This should be[…]

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Christian artist Steve Taylor called out Bill Gothard…30 years ago

The music hasn’t worn well with time (so very ‘80s), and this isn’t one of Taylor’s better songs, but it’s all there. The chain of command, the seminar notebooks, the umbrella of authority, all of it. So next time people try to play dumb about how Bill Gothard was just some fringe figure that nobody in mainstream evangelical Christianity had ever really heard of, here we have one of the most important figures in Christian music calling the whole thing out. In 1985.  No wonder Steve Taylor was one of my favorite artists when I was a teenager. He’s one of the only people in American evangelicalism who have consistently called out the problems within American evangelical Christianity. We need more of that. I’ve posted the lyrics after the jump. I Manipulate Does your soul crave center stage?Have you heard about the latest rage?Read your Bible by lightning flashGet ordained at the thunder crash Build a kingdom with a cattle prodTell the masses it’s a message from GodWhere the innocent congregateI manipulate Take your notebooks, turn with meTo the chapter on authorityDo you top the chain of commandRule your family with an iron hand I dispense little pills of powerFrom my hideaway ivory towerFrom the cover of heaven’s gateI manipulate Now it’s time to fill in the spaceWhere we talk about a woman’s placeDo you want to build a happy home?Have you sacrificed a mind of your own? ‘Cause a good wife learns to cowerUnderneath the umbrella of powerFrom the cover of heaven’s gateI manipulate Yes, I know that parableThat’s the story of the prodigalIf you question what I’m teaching youYou rebel against the Father too If he loved him why’d he let him go?Well, I guess I don’t really knowBut I see it’s getting late

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I Don’t Forgive Josh Duggar

Posts keep showing up in my Facebook newsfeed saying that as Christians we should forgive Josh Duggar. No. We should not forgive Josh Duggar because we cannot forgive him. Josh Duggar did nothing to any of us. It’s not our place to decide whether to forgive or not because you can’t forgive someone if you’re not the person they wronged. As my friend Darcy points out, forgiveness in the Judeo-Christian tradition was originally centered around the concept of debt being owed to someone. Forgiveness means no longer pursuing the debt that you are rightfully owed. That you’re not going to demand retribution for the wrongs against you. I don’t forgive Josh Duggar because Josh didn’t wrong me, there is no debt he owes me that I can forgive. Only the person who was wronged can offer forgiveness, and it’s not our business to tell a victim that they should forgive. Our job is to support victims and to seek justice. Further, let me remind you that contrary to what we’re being told, we don’t know whether his victims have forgiven him or dealt with the sexual assaults. In the ATI subculture, forgiveness is forced. You have no other option than to forgive because otherwise you’ve created strongholds in your life, you’ve allowed the root of bitterness to take hold, and now you’ve opened yourself up to Satan’s works. Talking about forgiveness in the context of Bill Gothard and ATI is virtually meaningless. Even if Josh Duggar is truly repentant and this isn’t just damage control to make it all go away, forgiveness by God does not erase earthly punishments and the consequences of one’s actions. Jesus forgave the thief on the cross, but the thief still died that day. Jailhouse conversions don’t mean murderers can walk free. A repentant thief[…]

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Josh Duggar says he’s sorry. So what?

Josh Duggar is doing damage control. He can’t stop the truth that he’s a serial child molester from getting out, the police reports made sure of that. What he can do is change the focus. Josh doesn’t want you talking about his victims, he doesn’t want you focusing on the five prepubescent children he molested. No, he wants you to talk about how sorry he is. Don’t let him change the focus. Josh Duggar’s apology is not the story. Josh can apologize until he’s blue in the face, but that’s never going to undo the trauma that he put his victims through. Josh, and Jim Bob and Michelle alongside him, have shifted the burden onto the victims, painting Josh as a child who made mistakes, apologized and should be forgiven. They’ve tried to shift the narrative so that it’s just a short hop to viewing Josh as the victim. This isn’t penitence, it’s not repentance, it’s what child molesters do. Rewrite the narrative so that in the end the audience feels sorry for them and forgets about their victims. We’re supposed to give Josh points for confessing and resigning so quickly, while feeling sorry for him that he’s now unemployed with three children and a fourth on the way. Except that Josh didn’t confess quickly, he hid this for over a dozen years, hid it while he became a television star, hid it while he became a rising star in the religious right, hid it while the organization he headed repeatedly attacked LGBT people as child molesters. Josh Duggar would have never become the household name he is if he and his parents hadn’t hidden the secret that he is a serial child molester. Of course he’s going to release a statement apologizing once the police report is all over[…]

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