01 March 2007

Satan In The Pulpit (Part Five)

The Reverend Mel White, founder of the Gay-affirming Soulforce Ministries and a former Right Wing evangelist, is also quoted in the book. White puts into words the fears of many LGBT people:

"They've won the Congress and the Presidency, and they're about to win the courts because of their Congress and their President. They've won State houses across the country and precincts everywhere by the political process. So . . . they have a system to throw democracy out the window. They want to end homosexuality in America . . . one step at a time. First the Federal Marriage Amendment, and then comes no adoption, no service in the military, the reinstatement of the sodomy laws, and driving us back into our closets, or worse."

Chris Hedges has nothing to say that would contradict Mel White's dire predictions. He confirms that Dominionists regard Gay people as little more than red meat for feeding to their reactionary constituencies. He documents how Right Wing preachers transform us into monsters in the eyes of their followers. Chief among the offenders is Focus On The Family's James Dobson, who habitually characterizes homosexual Americans as anarchists, disease peddlers, sex addicts and depraved pedophiles bent on "recruiting" children. Lord only knows how many Gay bashings and murders Dobson has encouraged with his lies! Just in case his readers fail to consider that probability, Hedges proceeds to drive home the point in no uncertain terms:

The attack against Gays (sic) and Lesbians seeks to paint homosexual behavior as a form of barbarity, one step above bestiality. Gays (sic) and Lesbians, like other "enemies of Christ", are not fully human; they are "unnatural" . . . should another catastrophic attack (on the United States) occur, what will prevent these preachers from calling for the punishment, detention and quarantining of Gays and Lesbians . . . to safeguard the nation? What will staunch the hate crimes and physical attacks against those deemed immoral by fearful and angry Christians, those condemned by these preachers as responsible for the nation's abandonment by God?

No doubt about it: Chris Hedges is determined to shake America out of its complacent stupor! He means to wake us up before it's too late! His writing is strongest when he writes not as a journalist, but as a believer in Jesus Christ. His disgust is palpable when he cuts loose and pours out condemnation on the religious Right Wing's calculated perversion of Gospel Truth:

. . . the heart of the Christian religion, all that is good and compassionate within it, has been tossed aside, ruthlessly gouged out and thrown into a heap . . . only the shell, the form, remains, its empty carcass wrapped around these wolves like a cloak . . . these false prophets . . . the Pat Robertsons, the Jerry Falwells and the James Dobsons . . . clutching the cross and the Bible, offer, like Mephistopheles, to lead us back to a mythical paradise and an impossible, unachievable happiness and security, at once seductive and empowering. They ask us to hand over moral choice and responsibility to them. They will tell us they know what is right and wrong in the eyes of God. They tell us how to act, how to live, and in this process they elevate themselves above us. They remove the anxiety of moral choice, the fundamental anxiety of human existence. This is part of their attraction. They give us the rules by which we live. But once we . . . accept their authority, we become enslaved and they become our idols. And idols, as the Bible never ceases to tell us, destroy us!

His words of rebuke aren't directed at Dominionists alone! He saves a portion of his anger for those he sees as enablers of their political agenda:

They can count on the passive support of huge numbers of Christians, even if many of (them) may not fully share Dominionism's fierce Utopian vision, fanaticism or ruthlessness. The appeal of the movement lies in the high ideals its radicals preach, the promise of a moral, Christian nation (and) the promise of a renewal . . . if this mass movement succeeds, it will do so not simply because of its ruthlessness and mendacity (or) its callous manipulation of the people it lures into its arms, many of whom live on the margins of American society. It will succeed because of the moral failure of those, including Christians, who understand the intent of the radicals yet fail to confront them, those who treat this mass movement as if it were another legitimate player in an open society. The leading American institutions tasked with defending tolerance and liberty . . . from the mainstream churches to the great research universities to the Democratic Party and the media . . . have failed the country.

My friend, Reverend Jerry Maneker, has often told me the same thing. I can't doubt what he and Chris Hedges have said, because I've seen the evidence with my own eyes. We've all seen it! Dominionists have infiltrated our nation's governing bodies, and their presence is perverting the administration of justice. Nobody's doing much to stop it, certainly not when the rights of LGBT Americans are involved! Fascists calling themselves Christians persecute us with impunity, using newly-won legislative and judicial power to restrict our access to jobs, to health care, to safety, to family. Far too many of us, crippled by shame and fear, suffer this legal bashing in silence; but those of us who do raise our voices in protest find it's like trying to shout over a thousand bullhorns.

Forget all the scurrilous talk about a "Gay mafia" that supposedly controls Hollywood; any media access Gay people can lay claim to is utterly dwarfed by the vast religious broadcasting empire. And I do mean vast. There are at least two dozen Fundamentalist-owned and operated cable TV networks in existence, two of them programmed exclusively for Spanish-speaking Christians. As for radio networks, they number in the thousands! Last time I checked, there were more US radio stations with “Christian music and talk” formats than any other. A legion of religious broadcasters are spouting anti-Gay hate speech on the air daily, and absent a new Fairness Doctrine for broadcasters, there's nothing we can do to counter it!

This hate speech has clearly influenced voters; out of 50 states, only Wyoming, New Mexico, Wisconsin and parts of New England don't have some kind of ban against legalizing Lesbian and Gay relationships on their books. I agree with Mel White; we should expect adoption bans to come next!

If that weren’t bad enough, mainstream news programs have become showcases for Bible bigots. It’s true! If the topic has anything to do with religion or morality, news producers are sure to call in a reactionary preacher like Donald Wildmon or Lou Sheldon to offer commentary. Where are the moderate and Progressive preachers? You rarely see or hear from them anymore, and when you do, they're often inarticulate. I think this has contributed to Americans confusing Fundamentalism with real Christianity; they’re hardly ever exposed to a diversity of Christian thought, so they have little reason to question the legitimacy of the Right Wing doctrine they hear. To be sure, there's a desperate need in this country for media outlets that aren't compromised by Dominionist religious bias! The need for strong, compelling voices of righteous opposition is just as pressing.

The revelations I found in the pages of American Fascists confirmed something I've known for some time: The greatest evil in the world today isn't Al-Qaeda. It's not Hamas. It's not the Taliban. It's not even the Bush administration. It's our old familiar nemesis, Satan in the pulpit! He's the one who corrupts faith and uses it to light a flame under terrorist movements. Satan, whipping up Scriptural bigotry for diabolical purposes. Satan, teaching a stealth gospel of totalitarianism. Satan, blurring the lines between churches, governments and chambers of commerce!

We can't stop Satan from passing himself off as a messenger from God (he's been doing it since before the Christ arrived on Earth), but we can expose him as an imposter! We can rip the minister's vestments off of him and reveal the naked corruption he hides underneath! We can discredit his false doctrine of conquest, intolerance and greed by comparing it to Jesus Christ's true Gospel of humility, forgiveness and love. We can do these things, and we must do them, often, and in public! We’ve got to take Gospel Truth to the masses; we can’t just share it among ourselves. The survival of the Christian faith, as well as our democratic way of life . . . not to mention our Lesbian and Gay lives . . . may depend on it! Chris Hedges has provided an example that we should follow.

When they came for the Jews/
I said nothing because I was not a Jew/
When they came for the Communists/
I said nothing because I was not a Communist/
When they came for the Gypsies/
I said nothing because I was not a Gypsy/
When they came for the liberals/
I said nothing because I was not a liberal/
When they came for me/
There was no one left to speak up for me.

Excerpt from the poem "First They Came" 
by Reverend Martin Niemöller,
Lutheran minister and anti-Nazi activist, circa 1946