April 15, 2006

Republicans Making Anti-Gay Pitch to African-Americans

As reported by The Advocate, the Republican party is reaching out to African-American voters by honing in on their presumed homophobia. This story was the result of a report issued by the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force.

According to the Advocate, the GOP is relentlessly reaching out to African-Americans through their churches. President Bush's faith-based initiatives (which I spoke out against in my "Faith Based" Federal Funding post on February 24) have focused on African-American churches. Additionally, right-wing evangelical ministers exploit racial and socioeconomic ills by blaming them on GLBT people.

“You want to know what the single biggest problem facing inner-city black neighborhoods is? Homosexuality,” stated the Reverend Louis P. Sheldon of the Traditional Values Coalition, a far-right religious organization.

I suppose it's the gays and lesbians that are dealing drugs and killing people-good to know. It is beyond my comprehension how anyone could fall for such bigoted and idiotic rhetoric, but some people do.

The NGLTF report includes this quote; "I'd be excited to see the GOP finally making a serious push for black voters — if the party was offering fresh ideas on police profiling, housing discrimination, unemployment and other issues of importance to black folks. But the focus (isn't) on any of that. Rather, it's on the gosh-darned 'homosexual agenda.' "— African-American author Leonard Pitts Jr.

That actually makes sense, doesn't it? Even if you feel that there is a "homosexual agenda" and that all GLBT people are an abomination (a view I clearly do not share), surely you can realize the grossly disproportionate amount of energy and resources being used against GLBT issues.

At a time when the United States is spending billions of dollars fighting a war on foreign soil; while this nation is still extremely vulnerable to terrorism; when there are millions of people faced with poverty, homelessness, unemployment, hunger; when there are millions of people who do not have access to medical treatment they desperately need; when there are millions of people living within our borders illegally; WHY ARE POLITICIANS AND EVANGELISTS PUSHING THOSE ISSUES ASIDE AND ATTACKING THE GAYS?

Because GLBT people are easy targets.

Because the politicans and evangelists don't have answers for those difficult issues, but they do have a plan to discriminate against GLBTs.

Because there are enough people that either hate gays or at least want to restrict their rights for those issues to resonate and bring these "leaders" political strength and financial wealth.

Maybe it's not all the homosexuals' fault, though. Maybe our current leaders need to discern God's will and act upon it. Failing that, the people of this nation need to demand new leadership.

April 14, 2006

Living In the Bonus Round--A Note From the Past

I ran across the blog "Living In the Bonus Round" earlier this week and was moved by the post "A Note From the Past." It the story of his reunion with the leader of a Christian band and the writer, a former bandmate who had come out as gay and contracted AIDS.

The writer, Steve Schalchlin, began one of the first known blogs in 1996. Titled "The Bonus Round," Schalchlin chronicled his battle with AIDS, figuring it would be a diary of his last days. Fortunately, he's still blogging ten years later.

Schalchlin and his partner Jim Brochu co-wrote the musical "The Last Session" and the musical comedy "The Big Voice: God or Merman?". They won awards from GLAAD and the LA Drama Critics for The Last Session and again from the LA Drama Critics for "The Big Voice."

Despite this success, he met judgemental rejection when he got together with his former bandmate. I post this story not because it is unique; in fact, just the opposite. I'm sure most if not all GLBT people have a similar story to tell. I felt this one, especially in the context of Christianity, was well told and would resonate with readers of this site.

As Schalcilin writes, the person he calls "T" treated him "as if I were a specimen" instead of a person. It is especially troubling seeing this told of a professing Christian, since I don't recall Jesus treating even a leper in that manner.

Fortunately, not all Christians are like that, but sadly far too many do behave that way. You know, the Golden Rule isn't just a nice saying, it's biblical:

John 13:34 (NIV) Jesus says "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

Did you notice that there are NO qualifiers in that command. If we are truly seeking Christ's will for our lives, that's how we treat other people; so simple yet so difficult for many "godly" people.

April 12, 2006

NAACP Leader Speaks Out for GLBTs

The Rev. Nelson B. Rivers III, the COO of the NAACP, spoke out over the weekend opposing a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in South Carolina.

Rev. Rivers, speaking at a political event in Columbia, South Carolina, said "This is not about sexual orientation or about a lifestyle, this is about fairness and equality.....Equality is what we must stand on. We cannot be afraid and surrender the higher ground for moral principal."

While not exactly an unconditional statement of support for the state's GLBT population, it is still an important step, especially in a state with one of the largest proportions of African-American residents in the United States.

With this statment, Rev. Rivers stopped well short of saying "gay is okay," but he may also have demonstrated a route than African-American fundamentalists can take to support same-sex marriage and other GLBT issues of equal treatment under the law. It appears Rivers took his church's views on homosexuality out of the equation and viewed the same-sex marriage issue strictly on its civil rights merits. Based on that, he developed a clear vision of the injustice of the constitutional amendment.

So it takes a preacher to show how to take the church out of the political process and view issues on their legal and constitutional merits.

Imagine that.

April 11, 2006

Supporting a GLBT Freindly Politician

Author Wayne Besen has a column up on his site about U. S. Senator Russ Feingold, who is the first potentially viable presidential candidate to come out in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage.

Besen writes that this is somewhat of a watershed moment in GLBT politics and feels that because of his support, Feingold deserves the strong support of the GLBT community. He compares Feingold to other political "friends":

As the right wing beat the stuffing out of our beleaguered families, our "friends" whispered from the sidelines, "don't take it personally, we still love you." And, of course, they do love us, which is the problem. We are adored like the terminally uncool, but loyal, buddy who unfailingly helps move our furniture or fixes our computers, but never asks us why we haven't invited him to swanky A-List parties.

Since Feingold has invited the GLBT community to the party, Besen feels that they should make every effort to attend.

I agree with this to some extent. When I begin considering who will receive my vote in the 2008 Democratic primary election, their position on GLBT equality will obviously be an important factor, but not the only one. Besen does not make the "one issue" case for Feingold either, pointing out the Senator's strong stance on campaign finance reform and his measure to censure President Bush and hold him accountable for illegally wiretapping Americans as other strong points on his political resume.

I just want to caution the GLBT community and their allies to not fall into the trap the religious right has sucked millions of voters into. They have convinced people that it is wrong to vote for someone who wants to keep abortion legal or doesn't want prayer in schools. These are important issues, but do they really rank up there with decisions like whether or not to invade another nation?

When it comes down to it, there are issues that have more far-reaching impact that same-sex marriage. However, if your favorite candidates agree on everything else and disagree on that issue, it would be a good tie-breaker.

Feingold might very well be worthy of supporting for president. Let's just make sure we consider his and any other candidate's entire political platform and not be overly influenced by any single issue no matter how passionately we care about it.

April 10, 2006

Update on the Christian Coalition

Once a powerhouse political lobbying organization, the Christian Coalition is experiencing some very troubling times these days. This is the group co-founded by Ralph Reed, the subject of my post yesterday, and the now infamous Pat Robertson.

According to this Washington Post article via MSNBC, the "once-mighty" Christian Coalition is now $2 million in debt and dealing with lawsuits from creditors. I guess the current leadership didn't go to all of those Christain seminars about how the Godly way of financial management is not to dig a deep hole of debt.

Perhaps even more troubling is the fact that some of the local chapters, the true grass-roots strength of the Christian Coalition in previous years, are distancing themselves from the organization. The Iowa chapter has completely cut its ties and renamed itself the "Iowa Christian Alliance."

Stephen L. Scheffler, The Iowa affiliate president since 2000, told the Post "The credibility is just not there like it once was.....There's a trail of debt....our board believes any Christian organization has an obligation to pay its debts in a timely fashion."

I don't recall reading about Jesus running up a large Visa card bill during His time on earth, which, since he knew when he was going to ascend to heaven, would have made sense--enjoy the benefits then let somebody else pick up the tab. If anybody could have pulled that off, it would have been Him.

Fortunately, the examples of His ministry show the complete opposite approach as being acceptable. If the Christain Coalition is going to linger and not have the decency to just go away, couldn't they at least change the name and take Christ out of it--at least that would be more representative of the orgainzation's actions.

April 09, 2006

Dragging Down the Religious Right

Apostle Dale at my church alerted me to this fascinating article in "The Nation" magazine about Christian Coalition co-founder Ralph Reed. The article talks about the trouble he has encountered in his campaign for Lieutenant Governor of Georgia.

Reed has been linked to the still mushrooming dirty-money scandal centered around provessional lobbyist Jack Abramoff. As you can read in the article, it is merely the latest question of impropriety and legality Reed has been faced with in his public life.

It is troubling that someone who help found and then lead an orgainzation with the name "Christian Coalition" has a documented history of deception, ruthlessness, and self-promotion. All of these characteristics go against the Christianity I know.

That leads me to touch on the bigger issue, the role of the church in American politics. Going back to the very founding of the United States, politics has been known as a dirty business. When religious organizations became prominent in the political arena in the 1980's, primarily as an operative for the Republican Party, something had to give. Either the Christian involvement would rase the standards of politics, or the principles of Christianity would be compromised as these groups wallowed in the mud with everyone else. It is with sadness and anger that I have watched the latter scenario play out.

When Christian leaders focus so much of their time, energy, and their follower's money on political issues, they are usually yielding the moral high ground they are claiming in their television ads and talk-show appearances. While people like James Dobson, Jerry Falwell, and Pat Robertson are feeding on the wealth, celebrity, and influence their political activism has brought them, who is home feeding their sheep?

Jesus said in John 21:18, "Feed my sheep."

He didn't say to do so if you could work it in between political rallies or television appearances.