Fundamentalist Christians using the Orlando massacre to sell their own brand of bigotry

14 Jun 2016 02:01 am
Posted by: Donna

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If there’s anyone who should definitely just be keeping their yaps shut right now, it would be conservative Christians but, no.

Quoth Center for Arizona Policy President Cathi Herrod in the Phoenix Business Journal:

“The terrorist attack on fellow Americans Sunday morning was an unspeakable tragedy and we pray for the families who are mourning such great loss. We all grieve with them.

This is not a time to discuss policy. There is a time to debate the best public policy for all Arizonans, but this is not it. Let us bring comfort to and show compassion for the victims by not politicizing it and allow time to grieve.”

I’m almost going to regret asking this but, who the hell appointed her the arbiter of when things should be politicized? Herrod wants everyone to be silent in the immediate aftermath of a mass murder driven by hatred of gay people (and possibly by the murderer’s own self-hatred and shame stemming from being raised in a conservative culture) but when have you ever known her and her crowd not to politicize the shit out of things immediately and without regard to factual accuracy? (Ahem, Planned Parenthood “sting” videos?)

On Herrod’s Twitter page she approvingly retweeted two things. The first was a statement by her counterpart in Florida, John Stemberger of the Florida Family Policy Council:

“The people shot by the Islamic jihadist were sons and daughters, mothers and fathers. They were citizens and workers. They were precious souls. Most importantly they were people who were made in the image and likeness of God himself. They were image bearers of the Creator and worthy of dignity, value, and respect.

This is an unspeakable tragedy and we should take extended time to mourn, to pray for the families of those murdered and injured, and to consider the depth of evil in the hearts of men that this senseless act represents. Finally, we should also pray for and support law enforcement as they investigate and bring to justice all persons involved.”

Note the “Islamic jihadist” framing right off the bat, followed by what appears to be Stemberger laying on thickly how human and not-at-all beneath him he feels the victims to be. Very convincing. Concluded with, of course, the demand that everyone STFU and pray quietly.

The second thing Herrod tweeted favorably was this maudlin essay in Time by Russell Moore, President of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention:

Let’s call our congregations to pray together. Let’s realize that, in this case, our gay and lesbian neighbors are likely quite scared. Who wouldn’t be? Demonstrate the sacrificial love of Jesus to them. We don’t have to agree on the meaning of marriage and sexuality to love one another and to see the murderous sin of terrorism. Let’s also pray for our leaders who have challenging decisions to make in the midst of crisis. Let’s mobilize our congregations and others to give blood for the victims. Let’s call for governing authorities to do their primary duty of keeping its people safe from evildoers.

Here we have yet more framing of the mass murder in Orlando as the terrorist act of a Muslim “other”, and not at all connected to the violent animus toward LGBT persons regularly promoted by American conservatives in the name of Jesus. Further, the “don’t have to agree on the meaning of marriage and sexuality” suggests that we’re just having a bracing debate over the holiday dinner table, eliding how vigorously Christian fundamentalists here have worked to deny people their basic human rights, via legislation, due to their gender identification or sexual orientation. This downplaying of what they are actually up to is fairly standard MO of fundamentalist activists in communicating to the general public and they are really leaning on that hard with what happened in Orlando.

It may seem at first glance that damage control is the reason for this preemptive rhetoric and I’m sure that’s part of it, but this Life Site News (which I read daily so you don’t have to) piece seems to flesh out a wider strategy. Life Site is aimed at true believers and is about as close as you’ll get online to being privy to their private conversations. And it is clear that not only do they have no intention of doing any critical self-reflection over what happened in Orlando, but they also see it as an opportunity to exploit.

…A parishioner told me that a mass shooting had taken place at an Orlando, Florida, nightclub earlier that morning. She was nearly in tears, asking to pray for its victims.

She didn’t tell me they were homosexuals, but it wouldn’t have changed our response. She and others were pained by dozens of vicious murders and sought the deep solace only a heartfelt appeal to the Divine could provide. Their reaction, our reaction, is the way most people, and especially most Christians, treated the mass murder.

The hearts of all Americans of goodwill broke upon learning that, in the wee hours of Sunday morning, an Islamic jihadist burst into a gay nightclub and opened fire during a three-hour-long siege that left 50 people dead and 53 injured…

I’m not exactly comforted, or convinced, by writer Ben Johnson’s insistence that most of the victims being “homosexual” didn’t diminish the magnitude of the horror in his or his fellow parishioners’ eyes.

Johnson reiterated the claim that the assailant was driven by “radical Islam” above all and scolded commentators of “the Left” for pointing out how often conservative American Christians have attacked LGBT rights. Johnson argues that he and his friends can’t be criticized for that because, wait for it, they are not Muslim. No, really:

Taliban: Christian population, zero

Their criticisms miss the mark because, by definition, no Christians choose to affiliate with the Islamic State (ISIS). The fundamentalist strain of Islam that produces jihadist violence has no comparable counterpart within Christianity…

Well, except for Christian pastors and activists who have very loudly called for the death penalty for “sodomy”, who have helped push “kill the gays” laws in Africa, and who have stridently opposed hate crime designations for attacks on LGBT people and anti-bullying measures to protect LGBT youth. You know, those people.

After some yada yada about Western civilization and how “the faithful crawled out of the catacombs after vanquishing their more barbarous predecessors”, we get this:

…We know from experience that a true friend is not one who affirms every notion that enters our minds – the one who tells us, “Sure, kid, knock yourself out” – but the one who points out that negative consequences lurk behind seemingly inviting choices. It is love, not hate, that reveals the abiding pain masked by momentary pleasure, and vice-versa. If we state, truthfully, that homosexual sexual intercourse has negative physical and emotional effects, such as making its practitioners 44-times more likely to contract HIV/AIDS, it is not with disdain or celebration, but as a loving act of concern from one sinner to another, equally precious child of God.

A Christian would consider himself successful if a homosexual he convinced to embrace celibacy outlived him…

This is the sales pitch in its essence, where you, if you are gay or transgender, have the following choice: Accept a lifetime of celibacy and/or denying your identity, or accept Sharia Law.

In the “safe space” provided by Life Site News, Ben Johnson still acts as though the former will be accomplished through persuasion alone (we’re just arguing at the dinner table!) and not the coercion through law to which he has devoted his own working life as a writer.

Luckily, there is another option here in America, which is to say to hell with all those bad options. You should be able to live and love freely as whomever you are. No one who is not a religious zealot should be under any obligation to accommodate religious zealots or be conscripts into their holy wars, period.

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