Thursday, May 14, 2009

Why does anyone believe them?

I grew up with fundamentalist Christians and I would be hard-pressed to think of a group, in the United States, that is more vicious, more hypocritical, and more deceitful. I have personally listened to fundamentalist leaders lying in public about the views they hold. I sat in political seminars where preachers taught their followers to lie to the public and hide their full agenda. And I've heard them joke in private about how they can deceive the media.

Certainly we witnessed how the Christian Right stooped to vile deception in their hateful “Yes on Prop 8” campaign. I would argue that they have been lying about their views on rights for gay couples right from the start. If gay marriage is proposed they put on their fake, saccharin smile, and with all the feigned sincerity they can muster, tell us: “It’s not that we don’t think gay couples shouldn’t have some rights. It’s just that we believe that marriage is a sacred union instituted by God between a man and woman.” Rubbish.

Consider what happened when Phoenix, Arizona, decided to create a domestic partnership registry. That registry granted only one right to gay couples and only one. It basically said that if a gay person’s partner was in hospital then he or she had visitation rights. It did nothing more. Of course, fundamentalist Christians opposed the measure. In that case a representative from the fundamentalist Alliance Defense Fund told the city they shouldn’t pass the measure. He implied that there were simply no cases where gay people are denied the right to see their partner in hospital. (This blog has reported on several such incidents.) Since such incidents are easy to find either Mr. Nimocks is uninformed or intentionally lying. Given my experience with born-again fanatics I know what I think.

When the Mormon sect was under criticism for their behind-the-scenes manipulation of Prop 8 they told the world that they weren’t against some rights for gay people and then listed a few rights they were benevolently going allow these couples to have. Legislators in Utah took the church at its word and introduced legislation to grant only the rights stimulated by the Mormon Church. The Mormon-controlled state legislature voted every one of them down. The list of rights they were willing to grant was only a PR list, and never meant to be implemented.

A poll in Utah found that most non-Mormons don’t want to deny gays rights while most Mormons do. A survey of Mormons found that even such things as the right to inherit property from a same-sex partner would be denied to gay people by about half of all Mormons. The same number of Mormons felt that gay people should not be allowed to visit a sick or dying partner in hospital.

Honestly, this has nothing to do with protecting marriage. It is inspired by one thing only: hatred.

The state of Washington recently passed legislation giving gay couples the rights of married couples but forbidding them to actually marry. Remember this is in keeping with what the Christian Right pretends they want --- to reserve “marriage” to a man and a woman only. No sooner was the legislation passed than a group of fanatical fundamentalists and Right-wingers formed to push a referendum to overturn the legislation. The legislation doesn’t allow gays to marry but it does recognize them as couples. That is still too much.

The reality is that these people oppose any granting of rights to gay people. It doesn’t matter how narrowly those rights are defined. These are precisely the same people who defended criminalizing homosexuality and police harassment. Rev. Greg Dixon, a senior official in Moral Majority, told his congregation: “When they say homosexuals should have their civil rights I ask one question: Do you give criminals rights like honest citizens? Absolutely not. Criminals do not have their civil rights.” Dixon was pushing a law to make it a felony to be gay in Indiana and he was supported by Jerry Falwell, Anita Bryant and many other fundamentalist in that failed effort. In another sermon Dixon said: “I don’t know how in the world you can get a society that won’t even put their murderers to death, I don’t know how you can ever get them to put these homosexuals to death, but God’s word would uphold that. They which commit such things are worthy of death.” At the time he said that Dixon had one of the largest congregations in the United States. In one radio debate he said: “I believe that homosexuals ought to be in jail, I certainly do.”

What fundamentalists know is that they can’t go in public and say how they really feel. My former high school principal, Rev. Robert Billings, was one of the key founders of Moral Majority. And he told one gathering: “I know what you and I feel about these queers, these fairies. We wish we could get in our cars and run them down while they march.” He also told them: “We need emotionally charged issues to stir up people and get them mad enough to get up from watching TV and do something. I believe that the homosexual issues is the issue we should use.”

Of course this is not all they would do. Take the so-called “moderate” “libertarian” theologian E. Calvin Beisner, who is a scholar with the Templeton funded Acton Institute. Beisner wrote: “In enforcing the Seventh Commandment, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ government properly prohibits rape, incest, and other sexual relations outside marriage and protects the sanctity of the family. In economic application, this means government may properly use its coercive power to prohibit and punish prostitution, the production and distribution of pornography... Laws restricting divorce also fall under this commandment.”

Rev. Richard Angwin, another unfortunate acquaintance from my past, led the antigay effort in St. Paul-Minneapolis. Angwin gave lectures around the US teaching fundamentalists how to take control politically. And one piece of advice he gave them was to avoid mentioning all the moral laws they would like to enforce when they get the chance. He recommended lying by omission and leaving out their full agenda. By the way, in Angwin’s fundamentalist world that would include banning cards, dancing and “Hollywood movies.”

My point is that these fundamentalists intentionally use deception and lies as part of their campaign. They will say whatever is necessary in order to achieve their immediate goal. When they say they “merely want to protect marriage” and have no “desire to deny legitimate rights to gay couples” they are not telling the truth. The reality is that any equality of rights that is being extended, no matter how warranted, just, or trivial, will be fought by them. The media, however, rarely asks these hard questions. So these lying believers get away with it time after time.

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