Prayer Warriors: Oblivious hypocrites

The Evangelical Right is so oblivious, so un-self-aware, that it’s painful at times.

Before Gaffney even spoke, Kubal attacked Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN), two Muslim women who were elected to Congress in November. Kubal charged that by choosing to use a Quran rather than a Bible for their ceremonial swearing in, the two representatives were “putting their allegiance to the Quran over the Constitution.”

The punchline, of course, is that these are the exact same morons who howl with indignation when people refuse to swear on the Bible — preferring the Constitution, say. And every Holy Man in Christendom — every last one — is adamant that Jesus (meaning, Pastor Bubba’s church) must come first and your family and country are entitled to no more than the leftovers.

This is why skeptics like me want nothing to do with either bullshit cult.

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Conversion therapy upheld by Federal court

A Federal judge has issued a preliminary ruling that Tampa, Florida’s ban on conversion therapy aimed at eliminating same-sex attractions is unconstitutional.

The anti-LGBTQ hate group Liberty Counsel brought the complaint on behalf of two therapists and a Christian ministry that provide counseling to help “reduce or eliminate same-sex sexual attractions, behaviors or identity.” They argued that because all they provide is talk therapy, their sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) constitute “speech” protected under the First Amendment that cannot be restricted by law. U.S. Magistrate judge Amanda Arnold Sansone agreed, recommending a preliminary injunction.

The reasoning isn’t difficult to understand: You have the right in America to believe whatever you like, and the right to speak those beliefs aloud.

Ironically, I pointed toward the exact matter of same-sex conversion therapy just the day before the ruling came down.

Suppose you overheard an adult telling his or her child, “You’re no damn good, and you’ll never be any damn good.” You’d be outraged, and rightly so; you might even call a social worker and report abuse. Why, then, should that same parent be applauded for taking the same child to church — nominally, at least, a wholesome thing to do — where a proxy tells the child the exact same thing: You’re no damn good, you’ll never be any damn good, and the only way to avoid the eternity of punishment you deserve is to join our club? Why is the first circumstance likely to be considered abusive, but the second good parenting?

Decades of research have shown that sexuality arises out of a complex of operating-system switches that are set before birth; gays really are born gay. Accordingly, numerous states have outlawed so-called “conversion therapy” for minors; if adults wish to submit to conversion therapy, they are welcome to do so.

Just as free speech is bounded by by understanding that you can’t shout “Fire!” in a crowded theater, neither is religious freedom absolute. You can’t sacrifice your firstborn child to an Invisible Friend, for example, even if you sincerely believe that doing so will guarantee a successful garlic crop. Likewise, conversion therapy is increasingly forbidden because it is affirmatively harmful; sexuality is hardcoded before birth, and no amount of encouragement or shaming can change that.

You might as well demand that a child born without an arm grow a new one by wishing real hard for a new arm. Ain’t going to happen.

My guess is that First Amendment arguments against same-sex conversion bans will win some cases, and lose others, eventually winding-up in the Supreme Court. No matter how that court decides, same-sex conversion therapy is on its way out. Every relevant professional society has condemned it, and only fringe schools — sectarian, usually — teach it. The science on sexual orientation is well-settled — and reality always has the last word.

I would like to see the degradation at the heart of Christian thought — Original Sin — given the heave-ho it deserves. Any parent who told their child he or she is no damn good would face a child abuse complaint — and so should the pastors who abuse children’s minds in church.

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Recalling Al Jolson

With all the witless huff-and-puff about Ralph Northam’s appearance in blackface in a dance contest, and perhaps in an undated photograph, it’w worth taking a few minutes to understand the story of blackface.

Back in the days of minstrel shows, when it was unthinkable to allow a black person to be a member of the troupe, and in the early days of burlesque, black characters were portrayed by white people wearing black grease on their face. Usually, but not always, the portrayal of black characters was demeaning; they were stupid, superstitious, shiftless, on and on. There is an important distinction to keep in mind here: It is not the wearing of blackface per se that was racist; it was the associated theatrical portrayal of black people.

This matters. The American entertainer Al Jolson, at one time the most highly paid entertainer in the country, spent much of his career in blackface. And yet, according to Wikipedia:

His performing style was brash and extroverted, and he popularized many songs that benefited from his “shamelessly sentimental, melodramatic approach.” In the 1920s, Jolson was America’s most famous and highest-paid entertainer.

[ … ]

Jolson has been called “the king of blackface” performers, a theatrical convention since the mid-19th century. With his dynamic style of singing jazz and blues, he became widely successful by extracting African-American music and popularizing it for white American audiences who were otherwise not receptive to the originators. Despite his promotion and perpetuation of black stereotypes, his work was sometimes well-regarded by black publications and he has sometimes been credited for fighting against black discrimination on Broadway as early as 1911. In an essay written in the 21st century, Ted Gioia of the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia remarked, “If blackface has its shameful poster boy, it is Al Jolson”, showcasing Jolson’s complex legacy in American society.

Again, it’s important to make distinctions. Blackface per se is not racist; it’s merely a tool for portraying a character. It’s the portrayal of those characters that was often, but not always, racist. That’s too much to pack into a Tweet, or a Facebook post directed at people who just want to look at pictures of cats or last night’s dinner, but it must be borne in mind if we’re ever going to have thoughtful public conversations in this country.

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Theology-related deepity of the day

Look out, Oprah.

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Should Northam resign?

As every sentient adult in the universe must know by now, a yearbook photograph has surfaced in which a man in blackface and a man in Klan robes stand next to each other — and one of the men (which one has not been clarified) is now Virginia governor Ralph Northam.

I feel about this rhubarb the same as I felt when Brett Kavanaugh’s misconducts as a high school kid were headlining the news:

There is a good reason that teenagers are not allowed to purchase alcohol, vote, or enter contracts, and that reason is that teenagers are immature and stupid. That observation raises, in turn, the question of how long teenage misbehavior should follow somebody around. People will disagree about that, and disagree in good faith — but it’s a question that is germane to the Kavanaugh nomination and we ought to be thinking about it more seriously than we seem to be.

As I’ve said elsewhere, there are sound reasons to reject kavanaugh, and they are reasons grounded in a well-established record; those reasons should prevail. And this distracting sideshow, which is probably not susceptible of objective resolution, ought to end.


I have to admit to mixed feelings about the Kavanaugh confirmation mess; I don’t know whether I believe the allegations and, if true, I don’t know if he ought to pay all his life for bad behavior as a teenager — especially when there’s no shortage of women who say he has never been anything but a gentleman.

What I want to know is this: How has he behaved since entering the adult, workaday world?

Longtime blog-buddy Michael Hamar seems to know Northam well.

I have known Northam since 2007 when he ran for the Virginia Senate. We first met at a fundraiser at the home a mutual friend. In that successful campaign, Northam defeated Nick Rerras who I had known since my days on the City Committee for the Republican Party of the City of Virginia Beach. In that election, Northam’s opponent, Rerras was a religious extremist and, in my view, like most “Christian conservatives” in Virginia, basically a racist. Northam’s lack of prejudice and religious extremism is what helped him secure victory.

[ … ]

We were able to see Ralph interact with the campaign volunteers, many of whom were black. Ralph was gracious, kind and displayed zero prejudice. Indeed, I have never seen him treat anyone as less than his equal or take himself too seriously. When not in campaign mode, we have spent time with the Northams, spent the night in their home and talked and laughed over drinks and dinner and seen them as their true selves. Never, ever, did we see even a hint of racial prejudice.

That’s good enough for me. Northam should stay put.

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