Menstuff® has compiled information and books on Gay, Bi, and Transgender issues. This section is Robert N. Minor's weekly column featured daily on our homepage. Robert is the author of Scared Straight: Why It's So Hard to Accept Gay People and Why It's So Hard to Be Human and Gay & Healthy in a Sick Society and Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Kansas in Lawrence. He may be reached through www.fairnessproject.org or at E-Mail.
What Now? (Part One: Get Over
Because consistency isnt characteristic of this president-elect, we cant know whats in store. Whatever it is, itll fatten his pocketbook and ego - his pathological narcissism means the next four years look insecure.
Because right-wing Republicans control Congress, their radical agenda with that of their Koch-brother-class owners will likely move forward. Without robust Democratic opposition, given the history of mainstream elite Democratic attempts to make nice, we could witness a major reactionary rightward shift.
If those who object shun the 2018 election, as is their habit, these four years look like hell for Americas most vulnerable. Oh, the privileged, especially well-off white males, will do just fine.
So, its time to do everything it takes to correct a repetition of failures this reexposes to engineer a better future. However, many of the establishment institutions involved dont appear ready to make the necessary changes that will move America out of this mess.
Many are stuck listening to old advisors who told them what they wanted to hear, counseling that demographics would never allow this to happen. This series of columns wont do that.
So, heres step one: admit theres an insular nature about recommendations reiterated in organizations run by people who arent in touch with working-class Americans. Its a result of listening to isolated advisors who believe they know better just because theyre praised by the insulated.
Dont get me wrong, working class Americans have been conned for decades. But when throughout the country they dont resonate with the advice of the insulated but feel that theyre liberal elites looking down on them as stupid rubes doomed to their prejudices, theres little those elites can say or do that will counter the sense that liberals see their burden to be correcting poor, unfortunate middle Americans.
People in this country are, in fact, hurting unless theyre a part of the elites on the left and right. Michael Moore and Bernie Sanders, neither coming across as an elite insider, get it, even if the Democrat label theyve taken on causes their marginalization too.
But this sense that working-class people everywhere, but especially west of the Appalachians and east of the Sierra Nevadas, are a problem to be solved by coastal strategists without even listening to progressive activists who live and work among working people in that middle - because liberal elites know better - enforces the image that liberals are out of touch.
If anything, this election has taught us that if we dont pay attention to that middle that is mocked and spoken of in derogatory terms, its anger and ideas will rule America along with those of the similarly maligned middle south.
Dont get me wrong - many coastal activist allies know this. But its time to ask, for example, why all the national progressive organizations that dominate the agenda arent located in Middle America? Thats a Democratic Party problem shared by many progressive organizations that visit the Middle, it seems, only with advice and hands out.
Maybe in the past they needed to locate near national seats of power, but the Internet and air travel have made that unnecessary. And when new leaders do arrive on a coast from the Midwest and middle south, its interesting how quickly many are caught up in a culture of elites with expectations that are no longer in touch with back home. Theyve often actually fled it.
Do we need these organizations today to make Connecticut, Boston or New York City bluer? Or is it time to be among people who are moveable but left out?
Ive been a progressive activist working with working people in middle America for over thirty years, and, with others out here, Ive seen progressive organizations and activists preference coastal strategists. What do we know, being in the middle of nowhere? Were supposed to learn from them, not vice versa, just because theyre in blue territory.
Decades ago I led workshops for a local organization that was successfully working with religious leaders on LGBT issues here in middle America. Its vitality and progress were measured by the facts that it was self-funded and that beginning workshops on How Homophobia Hurts Us All were soon enhanced with advanced follow-up.
The local organization became merged into a major national LGBT organization that praised the local groups successful program and said that it intended to use what the local organization was doing as a national model. It made sense out here.
It was hardly more than a year before the coastal elites of the national organization, who believed they knew better than people in Middle America, announced that they werent going to follow up on those promises. They decided to focus on making coastal connections with other elites there and dissolved the local chapter.
The answer is not to start some outreach to Middle America. That approach implies that its being looked down on with pity, and thought of the way Christian missionaries treated natives.
Giving up stereotypes and ending putdowns about working people or flyover country is a beginning. The key is working as equals with the many activists throughout the working-class middle whove been advocating for every progressive cause there is - from preventing climate change, to LGBT issues, to ending racism, to workers rights, to Democratic policies.
Im not sure if established elites are ready to do this. It means that many would need to surrender some of their power and prestige. They might have to affirm that there are good ideas out here in flyover country that work better.
But if we first dont move out of the insularity of elites, working people - especially in the middle and the South - will continue to react negatively to what they perceive to be those liberals on the coasts whom, they think, couldnt care less about them except when they need to use those unfortunates.
Next in What Now? Part Two: Its Not
Either/Or Lets Talk Race
No, all our boys and men dont talk like this.
But, when anyone thinks that the justification for offensive remarks about women that amount to sexual harassment and uttered by a presidential candidate is that theyre merely the locker room banter boys indulge in regularly, its clear that they believe that its an effective excuse expressing their view of American culture. Even Pat Robertson who claims to represent Christianity dismissed the words as macho talk.
If this justification is even used for lesser banter, it abandons our boys to the untruth that this is just how they are boys will be boys. It surrenders our girls to having to cope with a macho gender role that treats them as less than human.
If this were how things just are or must be, it would mean giving in to the meme that to get their man, women will have to live down to such objectifying expectations. It would mean that our boys must forgo their humanity to get in line with treating women this way or be ridiculed by other boys as wimps and queer.
We want to say that none of this really goes on in men-only spaces. Many of us have tried to create places and communities where talk and actions that sound like sexual assault of others arent acceptable.
But men especially must not dismiss this too quickly. We need to keep our eyes and ears open to the stories so many women recount - when they feel safe to do so - about their regular experiences of sexual harassment, assault, abuse, and rape, because the common occurrences of all of this tell us that behind it all theres a mainstream still teaching boys that this is part of what it is to act manly.
And if anything lurks behind the popularity of Donald Trump, its the appeal of this American male gender role to so many a role that includes constant bravado, bullying the weak, never admitting weakness or error, getting revenge on any who offend American masculinity, white male superiority, and resentment of womens advancements. Its no surprise that the possible election of the first woman president feels like a threat to gendered American manhood and that only Trumps recent most extreme sexual assault claims finally raise a public outcry.
If you think such treatment is rare now, younger women have their personal stories to add to the accounts of their elders. When I speak with undergraduate college students, theyre not even sure things have gotten better.
Its recognized by the men and women on campuses who are fighting back with the rise of mens anti-violence projects and women standing up against campus sexual assault.
So, no matter how we want things to be, what we want to believe, or how we experience our own personal relationships, we cant be too quick to treat this as some anomaly. And if were going to change this, we still have work to do, not just deny that this still fits with a lot of mainstream male gender role conditioning.
If were paying attention, an attitude that treats women in a way that puts them down is part of the systemic conditioning of men as a group in our culture. Thats not to say every individual male treats women this way: systemic conditioning is about what happens to a group as learned through what mainstream institutions of our culture teach.
Men learn that the masculine gender role is there in the culture with its models of manhood displayed around them, but each male, often feeling alone, makes continual choices about negotiating the conditioning they know is there. Conditioning isnt determinism and all men are not, thankfully, sexual abusers even if they just remain silent around those who embody it more.
Its, however, too bad that our junior high and high school boys have to go through this when theyre told that it has something to do with the male sex drive. There are even researchers who try to justify this conditioned male sexual role in terms of prehistoric man and their need to spread their seed, all of which is just a backward prediction that lacks one thing, observable evidence.
Ive described what I call the Nine Layers of Getting Laid that constitute male sexual conditioning for junior and senior high children in Scared Straight, and when Ive spoken about them to teenagers, they tell me how its so true but no one talks about it. They tell me how boys and girls who dont go along with this are treated as if theres something wrong with them and even put down as gay or lesbian.
Maybe, just maybe, the fact that Hillary Clinton finds herself having to deal with mens sexual distress from both her husband and her opponent, will inspire us to examine male gender role conditioning around sex and our assumptions about what boys will be. Im skeptical.
But there are two pieces of good news. First, our boys and men are not naturally this way. They are fully loving, caring, human beings who do not have to be given up to anger management classes, drugs, or prison.
Second, what were talking about is not in male genes or in any other way a necessity of some sort of evolutionary theory. Its learned behavior.
That learning is very deep. Its a role installed by fear of what will happen to a man if he challenges it all in the same way that gay men have learned what can happen to them because they dont fit in with the straight male gender sexual role that still does not fully include their romantic and sexual attraction to other men.
The media, military and athletic industry still promote what must be changed in spite of all their official statements. It will require serious examination of our cultural institutions, ending any denial, and recognizing how womens liberation is crucial to this.
But, lets start by never falling back on that lame
excuse: boys will be boys.
What must a woman endure to become president of the United States?
The office of president has been defined for generations in terms of white, male gender roles. That definition requires someone to live their gender as if theyre members of Americas repository of manhood expectations, the military.
Commander in Chief, a title applicable only to the presidents role over the military, not the citizenry in general, is now used far beyond the duties of president as leader of the armed forces. Though hes our president, not our commander, we succumb to its use in acceptance of the expectation that he be a male warrior, for we define ourselves as a warrior state with teamwork defined as a group of men ready to beat, defeat, or kill other men.
What this national model does to our young boys is itself inhuman. When my fifth grade son began his first season of football, he hadnt yet been fully conditioned in masculinity.
He came up to me before his first game and said: Dad. The coach is going to say, kill the other team, but he doesnt really mean it. This was a new language for a young boy, but over the years hed learn that thats how real men think.
So, what happens in a womans life as she makes her way up through this system to ultimately run for this bastion of manhood? The answer is in many ways captured by that old quip comparing Ginger Rogers to her male cinema dance partner: She did every step Fred Astaire did, but had to do it backwards and in high heels.
Its one thing to talk about how our culture takes our whole and complete, caring, loving, nurturing, and fully human little boys and with its dominant male gender role and its accompanying homophobia forces them into a male straight jacket. But to have been born a woman who is never supposed to live this conditioned male role and instead must fit all the feminine stereotypes creates an more heart-wrenching battle for our little girls.
Because of laws such as Title IX of the US Education Amendments of 1972, later generations of women have had more opportunities, achieved more in the public sphere, and been able to fight for equal treatment in education than they could in the years a woman who is today 68 years old came through. But the fight is far from over while the backlash against womens attainments still falls back on tired female gender role expectations.
What did a young girl have to experience from the time a fully human baby was born and people needed to know if the baby should have pink or blue blankets? Even the most enlightened parents right after World War II, and many today, treated girls in terms of whats expected of females who eventually should grow up with, no matter what else they accomplish in the meantime, the goal of getting a man to love and protect them.
We know how a womans place is installed early through the way boys taunt other boys. As if girls are the worst things in the world, we can still hear: You walk like a girl. You talk like a girl. You run like a girl. You throw a ball like a girl. You carry your books like a girl. You like girls things. You look like a girl. You dress like a girl.
None of this would work if it werent an effective childhood criticism against a boy doing only what girls are supposed to do. And the corollary of girls being taught to feel like something less still convinces them that pleasing a man is womens key to wholeness.
A career-oriented woman isnt complimented in this mainstream as someone who is a natural born leader and go-getter the way a man is. She is seen as out for her own good and might even be subject to lesbian-slurs Dont you like boys? that work when a culture looks down on lesbians.
And from childhood on, she experiences numerous personal reminders that a girl who rejects the limits of the female gender role endures. For example, when college senior Hillary Clinton was one of the few women in a large Harvard classroom taking her law school admissions test, some men started yelling: You dont need to be here. Theres plenty else you can do. Even: If you take my spot, Ill get drafted, and Ill go to Vietnam, and I'll die.
A woman must steel herself to play above the ubiquitous insults that criticize her for challenging the role and at times bettering males in the process. When a woman is in the public sphere, as she is, its easy to make a long list of those we know.
Who is surprised when Secretary Clinton concludes: I know that I can be perceived as aloof or cold or unemotional. But I had to learn as a young woman to control my emotions. And thats a hard path to walk. Because you need to protect yourself, you need to keep steady, but at the same time you dont want to seem walled off. And sometimes I think I come across more in the walled off arena. And if I create that perception, then I take responsibility. I dont view myself as cold or unemotional. And neither do my friends. And neither does my family. But if that sometimes is the perception I create, then I cant blame people for thinking that.
Were approaching what could be a historically monumental moment in American politics that catches the US up with those other nations whove already had female chief executives, but we must recognize how difficult it is to do all the dance steps a man does but backwards and in high heels.
And as if to rub it in, as she fights for the presidency
itself, her opponent is no normal candidate like a Romney or
McCain. Hes one who crudely and brashly symbolizes and
espouses everything that women have to endure as they
negotiate Americas dance.
Whos actually setting the agenda for this election cycle so that even those who oppose them spend most of their time responding to their agenda and actions? Its the authoritative personalities, the religiously addicted, and the politicians who court them.
Approximately 20-23% of Americans fit the definition of being authoritarians according to researchers whove studied these personalities since World War II. Authoritarians value obedience to authority as the most effective way to deal with their fears, cant live with ambiguity, need clear structure and certainty, perceive threats all around them, and believe that domination of others is a way to control reality.
In addition, the overwhelming conclusion of 70 years of research is that authoritarians are consistently followers of right-wing, but not left-wing, ideology. Those who score highest on its authoritarian scale are by and large right-wing conservatives because authoritarian personalities are those who submit to established authorities - the psychologically affirming proper, legitimate leaders and institutions of what they consider the true establishment.
Authoritarians are intolerant of criticism of their authorities and show general aggressiveness, even harm, toward others when they believe its sanctioned by these authorities. They also have very compartmentalized minds that can keep them from reflecting on their activities.
They can, therefore, shed their guilt very efficiently, usually through claiming Gods forgiveness. And, thus, its not surprising that about this same percentage of Americans use religion as an addiction in the process theyre religion addicts.
Notice, then, that when authoritative personalities and religion addiction are correlated, its easy to understand why right-wing Christians in this presidential election would support a serial divorcer, who knows how to use right-wing religion but clearly couldnt care less about their Christianity or about the fate of right-wing religion itself beyond using them.
Whether their great presidential hopeful lies, is inconsistent, thoroughly illogical, or even fails, whether he just seems to be using them, doesnt matter. All that can be justified in their minds because he promises the best chance of dealing the fix they need.
And theres always a media pundit they can cling to who will explain all this in the manner they need to hear.
Religion addicts have as their goal the high of righteousness. In the midst of personal lives and a culture that seem to be failing them, they need to feel that they are God-approved, no matter what.
Its not about any of the other things we consider are or should be crucial to right-wingers fidelity to correct beliefs down to minutia, truth-telling, evidence of having been born again, showing the works of faith in charity and justice. Its about dealing a drug that will, they hope, counter their insecurities and feelings of damnable sinfulness, thereby countering what right-wing religion affirms about everyone, which amounts to the lowest of low self-esteem.
They want to feel good about themselves and their religious commitments. In all, its actually about a lack of faith in all that they claim and often work hard to convince themselves and others that they believe.
Are they sincere? Unquestionably. They are thoroughly psychologically attached to what they believe no matter how inconsistent or hypocritical it might all seem to others.
These people claim to have strong consciences, especially when they compare themselves to others, but empirical studies show theyre not as good or principled as they believe they are. In fact, they have little self-understanding and dont realize how much more prejudiced and hostile they are than others.
And like the addict in the family who controls family dynamics while hurting all those around them, they dont identify with the hurts they leave behind in their search for the fix. Instead, they have all sorts of ways to justify why others are suffering from the addicts addiction.
None of this makes a pretty picture. Wed like to believe better.
Enablers, often nice, bleeding-heart liberals, want to soften the reality of it. They make excuses and believe, like the victims of abusive spouses, that somehow they themselves can correct, change, or take responsibility for the addicts addiction.
Responses that enable addicts might work to change the non-addicted, the non-authoritative personalities, but in this 20% that dominates the fight against progressive reform, ending discrimination, and economic justice, what changes things is more like an intervention. The media wont do it, but we must.
A recent lengthy article in Salon, The Rise of Irreligion Is the GOPs Real Demographic Crisis, (August 20, 2016) places the polls of a rapidly rising group of religious nones and the spiritual but not religious in the current political landscape where the Republican Party continues to court religion addicts who seek their righteous high through political user activities addicts hope will lead to vindication.
The surveys the author cites show that the influence of addictive religion is shrinking. People seem to be finding other addictions instead.
This, of course, has real meaning for the Republican Party, the author points out. Its decades long ploy to take advantage of the insecurities and neediness of religion addicts for a more intense high of righteousness through salvation by political victories that would bring government approval is failing at the presidential level.
Their last hopes for political justification linger in the down-ballot races. And given the fact that they turn out in higher voting percentages than liberals, they can still feel righteous through them.
Its also no surprise, then, that the political and religious right-wing are fighting to remake any institutions that are most likely to challenge dogmatism and addictive faith.
Theyre together in turning the last bastions of interventions, our universities, into propaganda machines, scaring professors into curtailing critical thinking, and turning public schools into money-making class-based enterprises under the guise of a reform that will never counteract the underfunding these same politicians have promoted.
Authoritative personalities are easy to manipulate. Those who intervene with a resounding, persistent, and decisive No against all that would exploit these personalities and addictive religion are their biggest threat.
Some people change through education and discussion, but
the religiously addicted require unflinching pushback to
prevent them from both self-abuse and their even further
harming of everyone else.
The Republican Party is in trouble and LGBT people will continue to be targeted as symbolic sufferers for it. <a href="http://bobofkansascity.newsvine.com/_news/2016/02/16/35121034-why-god-guns-and-gays-is-still-working" target="_blank">As argued here in March</a>, (Why God, Guns and Gays Is Still Working), no matter how the country is going in a more accepting direction, the right-wing is going to use discrimination as long as it works to rile up the funders and voters that make up their base.
It doesnt conform to the Republican gay groups, the Log Cabin Republicans, ongoing fantasies about the Party and its presidential nominee treating LGBT people as equal human beings. Instead it provides the Log Cabiners with what they value more - the comfort of continuing their economically privileged status.
So these gay loyalists must watch as their beloved Party continually rejects them in front of the world. Tellingly, in June it approved what even the Log Cabiners call <a href="http://www.thenewcivilrightsmovement.com/davidbadash/log_cabin_republicans_shocked_gop_passes_most_anti_lgbt_platform_in_history" target="_blank">the most anti-LGBT platform in the Partys 162-year history</a>.
In an email from Log Cabin President Gregory T. Angelo, he explained - as if shocked that Republicans would do this: Opposition to marriage equality, nonsense about bathrooms, an endorsement of the debunked psychological practice of pray the gay away - its all in there.
Angelo frames his surprise in terms of his dreamy keep-hope-alive belief that Trump will reject the platforms anti-LGBT positions and thereby threaten the support from Trumps radical right-wing base. Meanwhile, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michelangelo-signorile/donald-trump-surrounding-himself-fervent-homophobes_b_9848368.html" target="_blank">the evidence</a> is that Trump will publicly throw anyone under the bus for his ego, including LGBT people. He has surrounded himself with LGBT-haters and <a href="http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/donald-trump-trust-me-overturn-shocking-gay-marriage-decision" target="_blank">told the Christian Broadcasting Network in February</a>: Trust Me to overturn the shocking and massive gay marriage decision.
Angelo is willing to accept such public abuse from his candidate and party, even to deny that anyone means it. He does so even in his criticism of the Republicans official rejection of people Angelo claims to represent
This isnt my GOP, and I know its not yours either. Heck, its not even Donald Trumps! When given a chance to follow the lead of our presumptive presidential nominee and reach out to the LGBT community in the wake of the awful terrorist massacre in Orlando on the gay nightclub Pulse, the Platform Committee said NO.
Denial and fantasies aside, the Republicans <a href="http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/07/12/donald-trump-s-platform-committee-gay-sex-deadlier-than-smoking.html" target="_blank">have staked out their political positions in 2016</a>. They now stand not only for passing a constitutional amendment - the First Amendment Defense Act - to guarantee religious freedom to discriminate against LGBT people, but affirmed that children raised in straight (traditional) families are physically and emotionally healthier than those raised by single or same-sex parents, supported anti-LGBT brainwashing (conversion therapy), opposed the new guidelines allowing transgender students to use the bathroom of their identity, approved the teaching of the Bible as history in schools, called for banning same-sex marriage, and defined marriage as only the union of one man and one woman.
<a href="http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/the-most-backwards-wtf-planks-in-the-gop-platform-w429468" target="_blank">Theres more</a>, and all of this is easily dismissed as if its the ravings of lunatics or people out of touch with where the nation is heading. And that would be partially correct.
But its also Republican operatives belief that this will still work in the political arena. It does not, after all, have to work with the majority, only the majority of the socially conservatives wholl turn out and vote on the basis of these matters.
And it does not ultimately even have to get the Republicans the presidency. In reality, Republicans seem to have given up on ever getting the White House back. Many realize the demographic changes that make a party of older white people less popular on a national level.
All the establishment Republicans national political moves now have as their intention is what they believe will secure for them the most effective means of maintaining real power. How, theyre plotting, can they maintain the economic strata that benefits them?
On the federal level, that means holding on to at least one of the houses of Congress. While Democratic bases turn out in droves for presidential elections, Republicans are counting on these same groups staying home for the next four years.
If they can convince the Democratic bases that elections and political parties dont matter, if they can raise cynicism and hopelessness in liberals, if they can keep liberals divided without working in solidarity, focused only on single issues rather than on the broad spectrum of political connections, Republicans believe they can maintain the seats of power they need.
So, if they can use one house to prevent progressive change, they need to accomplish little federally themselves, given what they have in place already. And since they believe that what they want to do takes place in statehouses around the country, <a href="http://www.ibtimes.com/political-capital/money-politics-how-koch-brothers-other-billionaires-are-influencing-2017-senate" target="_blank">they can focus on down ballot races</a>.
So, though Donald Trumps con on America seems to have set Republicans back, Republican attention is focused on these other races. <a href="http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/07/rnc-2017-gop-republican-party-leaders-future-donald-trump-214065?utm_source=fark&utm_medium=website&utm_content=link" target="_blank">The immediate goal of the Republican establishment</a> is to keep Trumps reality show from destroying the rest of the Party.
The Republicans most powerful elected official, House Speaker Paul Ryan seems to be setting his sights beyond Trump, cleaning up any messes Trumps candidacy makes, and promoting the post-Trump successes. Ryans tepid support for Trump is really looking beyond the loss to keeping the traditional Republican bases in the Party.
In the meantime, LGBT people must continue to hear the rhetoric, and economically right-wing gays must try to figure out how to relate to it. Everyone must decide whether loyalty to a political party is more important than other concerns.
Since the Republicans have over and over told LGBT people that they dont want them or their public support because the religious right-wing is more important, to continue in denial in the fantasy that it will be different any minute is to tell us that they love their money over their identity.
And since the Republicans have publicly told the Log
Cabiners over and over to leave them alone, one wonders if
the Log Cabiners continual dogging of the Party can
constitute a case for the Party to get a restraining order
to prevent stalking.
Americas most deadly mass shooting at an Orlando LGBT nightclub on another American day that will live in infamy almost half way through Gay Pride month was a national tragedy at so many levels. And the responsibility for it falls at the feet of every right-wing religious and political leader who has publicly spoken out in their nationally orchestrated campaign to demonize, dehumanize, and threaten LGBT people with punishment in this life and the next.
Words matter, and words spoken publicly echo and reecho in the hearts and minds of those who will act on them. In this case they may have produced the kind of self-hate LGBT people internalize so they come to despise who they are and those who remind them of it.
And of all people, right-wing preachers and televangelists who spend their time minutely parsing every word in their Bibles because what they say it means is so important in confirming their prejudices, know what the impact of their words is. Theyre responsible for their speech and for those who act upon them.
Im not just talking about those who literally call for the return of executions of LGBT people. Thats just the most obviously extreme rhetoric of a last prejudice our society allows to be spoken out loud without consequences.
Im talking about every one of those religion-pushers who has used LGBT people to further their agendas, their power, their leadership, and their attention-getting needs.
Im talking about every pusher of addictive religion who has closed their minds and hearts to alternative understandings of their scriptures and traditions, in order to cover up their personal issues around sexuality and their sexual addictions.
Im talking about every religion leader who finds that LGBT people are great scapegoats to hold the attention and pocketbooks of congregants, TV viewers, radio listeners, and the gaggle of gullible enablers who host them in the mainstream media.
Im talking about every right-wing politician, and even others who consider themselves more liberal, who must not speak out against anti-LGBT violence because of their absolute terror of losing their funding, power and positions, who refuse to be leaders in equality because that will come at a personal cost.
Im talking about those who counsel that now is not the time to enact LGBT protections, or any gun control, while more people die.
Im talking about other religious leaders who wont lead their institutions to take a public stand for the affirmation of LGBT people with all kinds of fear-based excuses like: We dont want to be known as a gay Church. We accept everyone, but do we need to mention it? We dont want to divide the Church (because church unity is more important than the lives of LGBT people). We need to study this subject more because there are many in our congregation who have other views (and still cant stand LGBT people).
Im talking about religious and political leaders who wont take a public stand against the violence LGBT people still experience regularly in our culture often while the perpetrators are shouting things theyve heard from American pulpits. Theyre the ones wholl usually deny in some back-handed non-public way that they condone the violence, but are too afraid to preach, march in a parade, or attend a rally to openly say so.
Im talking about every right-wing pundit, blogger, and politician who wants to turn what was intentionally an attack on an LGBT club into something to bludgeon Muslims over, to prematurely bury the LGBT human victims of the attack under their need to scare us all about Islam instead of the homophobic bigotry they condone daily.
Im talking about all those right-wing leaders who suddenly are acting as if they care about LGBT victims because its all about pushing the politics of Islamophobia, in spite of the fact that for generations right-wing Christians have been brutalizing LGBT people without a peep from these same religio-political leaders.
Im talking about those all over the internet who are looking for every loophole, every subtle nuance, every syllable, and every questionable moral argument to applaud what happened.
All of you are personally responsible even though many people will claim outrage refuse to say so. My liberal friends might shy away from me on this because they dont want to believe that the above is true or because their hope is still that those Im holding responsible are going to change if like abused spouses were just nicer to them, more understanding, and more forgiving.
Forgiveness is something, however, to be given only to those who believe they need it and ask for it. Forgiveness of those who dont want it is hubris.
And if Im wrong, then there are things that those whom Im holding responsible can do to prove it. These are actions, not just pretty words, that will show the rest of us that you dont condone violence against LGBT people. Otherwise youre just a self-justifier.
(1) Make sure that your local, state, and federal laws include LGBT people in hate crime protections. Hate crimes are not just individual crimes; theyre directed at someone because that someone is a member of a whole group the perpetrator wants to terrorize.
(2) Take a public stand against violence toward LGBT people as human beings and citizens in this country. Even if you cant stand LGBT people, let everyone you know know that you are against the brutalization and dehumanization of them.
(3) Face your own issues about sex and sexual orientation. Get therapy. Attend a support group. Ask yourself why this is the issue you want to be known for, and not poverty, homelessness, or hunger.
(4) Stop condemning as heretical other ways of understanding your religious texts and traditions than the anti-LGBT ones you cling to for some personal reason. These alternatives proposed by also very sincere believers are all out there in the public discussion and have been for over half a century.
(5) Face your and your religious organizations fears about public support for ending crimes against LGBT people and of what other people will think of you. Fear is spiritually debilitating, and facing those fears is a matter of your own spiritual growth not just an action that will benefit others.
(6) And repent for all youve said or done
thats regularly cited to kill LGBT people, OR seek for
other self-justifications to keep doing so.
Do Politicians Really Value What You
It evoked another round of the questions that people pose during political posturing. But the key to understanding it is that it involved two very different politicians who both must maintain their image of power within the same Party.
There are political season questions that are regularly asked about both major parties, with the expectation of rational answers. How could someone support that guy? Why would someone support one candidate or another?
In another conversation, the questions might be: why isnt someone condemning discriminatory laws? Dont they understand that those laws wont hold up in court?
Or: do you think someone is going to govern the way they campaign? Can I trust someones promises?
People will ask similar questions throughout any election cycle, especially one with both apparent main-party presidential candidates having the lowest approval ratings in generations. And the real answers to the questions tell us what candidates actually value.
As many politicians become acclimated to holding office, their overriding goal becomes maintaining their positions and power. So uppermost in the minds of those down-ticket in presidential elections is weighing the chances of whether their or another presidential candidate might win and how best to maintain access and clout when she/he does or doesnt.
Will my decision mean I keep my legislative committee assignments or be punished? Will I be appointed to chair a prestigious committee? Will I get party financial support for my reelection?
What should be a means (holding office) to achieving goals for constituents and country, becomes the end: getting elected, reelected and maintaining power. So what politicians often do and say is based upon the value placed upon obtaining and maintaining their positions.
When election becomes ones value, then all they might otherwise value is subordinated to it. And there are many ways to do that.
They sideline, postpone, play down, or talk as if they dont absolutely value the causes they would otherwise support. Theyre now persuaded that this is the way to get and maintain office and convinced that once securely in office theyll champion what they believe that they highly value.
They tell a group that this isnt the time to push their cause because they - the right candidate the group should support - cant get elected if they advocate for certain causes. Every oppressed group knows marginalization through being told that they have to wait - with the excuse that thats how youve got to play politics.
They deflect a groups needs and demands by instructing them to reflect upon, and be thankful for, how far theyve come. They mustnt over-expect and should instead show gratefulness to all whove helped them come this far.
They patronize a group by saying they dont understand the real world of politics as well as the politician does. They thereby redefine the problem as the groups own lack of political savvy and intelligence, not their difficulties.
And speaking of political realities: a real danger is that anyone attaining public office might never feel, or be, secure enough to safely take up these postponed issues.
When does one feel secure enough to value something greater than getting reelected and keeping power? When does someone actually prioritize for the values they profess and we wish they would?
When do they take the chance of losing office because of the greater principles they claim to value? Have we all just given in to a form of hopeless politics instead of change?
Granted: politics is the art of compromise. But should one compromise before theyve advocated for their ideal proposal and never begin negotiations there?
Granted: change often happens in increments, rather than all at once. Thus, each proposal should be understood as assuming a next step.
But the test of honest incrementalism is whether its actually advocating a step forward to a valued goal or just an excuse to never move further. Is it an excuse to never follow up? Does it reveal that the professed ultimate values arent worth fighting for?
Its the responsibility of democratic citizenship to hold ones representatives to the real end of it all, not just to get them elected. Citizens make it clear to their representatives what they want the end to be and then expect their representatives to work out how that is going to happen given political realities.
So, the answers to the questions we have regarding why politicians do what they do are often political ones reflecting what posturing politicians think they require to gain and maintain position. Thats the logic behind them.
You can hear, for example, these political calculations in Republican House Speaker Paul Ryans words after meeting with Donald Trump. Not surprisingly, Ryan is protecting his political career.
Not only did he posture himself for future political runs by distancing from the losing presidential candidate whom he shared the ballot with, saying: I didnt agree with Mitt Romney on everything. But he also positioned himself as the powerbroker who must approve of Trump.
While the media fawned, Ryan talked about his discussions with Trump as probes of what they can agree upon and as a process he commands by drawing endorsement out. In addition he defined Trumps supporters as a new group of conservatives being brought into his fold.
Throughout, politician Ryan spoke of determining whether
Trump does or will agree with conservative (that is
Ryans) principles. And in so doing hes
masterfully doing what politicians do: valuing most the
maintenance of personal power and position.
There are now over 100 anti-LGBT bills under consideration around the country, according to a recent Huffington Post compilation. They represent a national radical right-wing industry creating laws that give conservative politicians symbolic causes to convince their bases that theyre still leading the fight against the evil of LGBT equality.
Many of these bills are unnecessary, even repeating whats already in the law. Mississippis recent notorious contribution adds nothing to its already existing law.
But their purpose isnt legal or rational; its political. Constantly championing new God, Guns, and Gays measures is the way to maintain elected office by demonstrating to politicians right-wing and Evangelical bases that theyre Davids fighting heroically against the big bad Supreme Court Goliath.
While younger generations find little interest in this fight, older right-wingers are most likely to vote and engage in political activities. And portraying right-wing Christians as victims of secularist culture still works to rally church-going masses, scaring them to vote even against their economic self-interests.
Not only Obergefell v. Hodges (2015) that guaranteed marriage equality, but Romer v. Evans (1996) that threw out Colorados anti gay bill, and Lawrence v. Texas (2003) that decriminalized homosexual sexual acts, made it clear that the Supreme Court would not allow LGBT people as a category to be singled out for discrimination. So, the religious right-wing legal think-tanks devised laws that would chip away at LGBT rights without designating any specific group for discrimination.
As observed for months now, right-wing leaders are modeling their new approach on their anti-Roe v. Wade strategy. Strategist Frank Shubert recommended to the Values Voters Summit in January, that to seek incremental wins the right-wing should develop a gay version of partial birth abortion.
These new-style laws, they hoped, would wind their way to a Supreme Court that would uphold them based upon the new positive intentions they claimed to be defending while not singling out LGBT people as a class even though the clearest collateral damage would be LGBT discrimination. And the Supreme Court looked as if it could uphold these laws - until the death of Justice Scalia in February.
Broadly, then, watch for three dominant legislative strategies to replace the outright admission of discrimination against a class of people. The first is state government nullification of local protections for LGBT people by requiring local jurisdictions to conform to state statutes that lack LGBT inclusion in their nondiscrimination protections.
The major thrust of North Carolinas notorious HB2, which was passed quickly in a special session, does this very thing. It doesnt literally single out LGBT people as a class by name but does not include them in a statewide nondiscrimination ordinance while banning local governments from passing any protections that go beyond the states.
Other states, such as Missouri, have passed local preemption laws that favor business interests goals. And, in North Carolina, for good measure, HB2 also preempts local employment ordinances that supersede state law governing wages and other employee benefits, and protections. And Oklahoma has had a similar approach in its SB 1289.
North Carolinas bill also includes a second national push, which is being dubbed bathroom bills. These play on particularly American fears because Americans (unlike Europeans) have a history of being terrified about wholl be sharing bathrooms with them.
Those who remember the fight for the Equal Rights Amendment designed to guarantee equal rights for women that was introduced in Congress in 1923 and finally passed in 1972, remember that the argument against its ratification in the states included the fear that both men and women would have to share the same public bathrooms. Those who also remember the arguments against gay men and lesbians openly serving in the military remember that the fear included so-called brave men and women having to share bathrooms and showers with someone who might look at them.
Freud would have had a field day with all of this. But now the right-wing is using bathroom anxiety to gin up the fear of the transgender person.
Knowing that fear of gay men and lesbians isnt as effective anymore, transgender people are the prescribed strategic targets. They are to be portrayed as potential molesters of and heres the trope the right-wing always uses to add further fear our innocent children.
Whereas transgender people are more likely to be the victims of violence, in true oppressor-dynamics fashion the popular lie always turns victims into perpetrators and vice versa. In fact, as one article contradicts it: More GOP Lawmakers Arrested for Sexual Misconduct in Bathrooms than Trans People.
The third national right-wing think-tank tactic is to claim that their bills are intended to protect religious liberty. Though theyll continue to attempt passage of such laws at the federal level, the strongest push is planned in the states. Model bills have been distributed, with legislators invited to contact their national think tanks for sponsorship advice.
Some of these add nothing to current law. This would include the pastor protection acts now in fourteen statehouses.
But the acts with the greatest potential are those that allow business people who have sincerely held religious beliefs to discriminate against LGBT people. Because theyre meant to impress the base by making it look as if politicians are fighting back against the Supreme Courts extension of marriage equality, these laws often center upon providing business for LGBT marriages.
Of course, religious liberty has a long history of use to justify racism. And, of course, legal scholars have pointed out the problems with these laws, often called religious freedom restoration acts.
Their plan, however, is that these laws will appeal broadly to conservatives and libertarians. Politicians, they believe, will have difficulty coming out against religious freedom, and young people will agree that businesses should have the right to choose to refuse service.
So, this is where present battles are. The effective
antidote is the response of businesses (who also support the
election of these right-wingers) coupled with progressive
religious folk standing up forcefully against fear-based,
anti-LGBT use of religion.
Why Presidential Penises Are So
Whether it was about one candidate or another being accused of peeing in his pants, eating boogers, over-sweating, or having to run to the bathroom for one reason or another, it was actually the fully-on-display latest in the circus that GOP bosses are racking their brains to ring-master. Those Party leaders who created each of the caricatures on the Republican platform and encouraged their rabid fans, now seemed flailing about to know what to do with the performers except either just to embrace them as if any of the candidates were presidential material or to enlist a previous presidential loser to attack the biggest ego they most feared would win the nomination.
Whats truly extraordinary about it all is that the lower the discourse sunk, the more that the diehard melded with their candidates. And those other Republican politicians whove given up trying to break up this schoolyard fighting, began scrambling to make sure that when the sawdust settles theyll on the side of the one they think will end up with the most power so that they could maintain their own power, positions, funders, and status.
With the only female Republican contender out, the boys settled for criticizing each others manhood. The taunts were focused around all the conventional expectations of conditioned patriarchal manhood with whos the scaredy-cat, who cant take the taunting, whos going to be unable to fight like a man, whos unable to control themselves, or, behind it all, who is the most like a girl.
But that wasnt clear enough - it then it sunk to discussion of the ultimate symbol of manhood, who does or does not have a big penis. There it was: conditioned masculinitys symbol of power, virility and the ability to control women was out on the table.
No one who has studied gender was surprised that all the debates centered around ones manhood. Even the women on both sides of the aisle, after all, were analyzed with whether or not they had the biggest balls in the race.
The only surprise here was that there it was: in the open discussion in a presidential race. And those who stereotype gay men as only caring about penises found presidential candidates who self-identify as heterosexual revealing their hidden obsession with the male organ.
It was as if a dam broke. The Internet was flooded with stories about penis sizes, micro-penises, and what insinuations such as have you seen how small his hands are really mean according to science.
It was a discussion waiting below the surface ready to burst out, And thanks to the descent of the Republican contenders into bathroom references, there it was.
What those who study gender also knew was that this was not actually about the realities of a physical genital organ. It was instead another sign of otherwise familiar phallic worship.
They knew that the phallus stands for more than anatomical data. Its the word for the male organ as a symbol of power power over other people, other nations, nature, and the whole planet. Historical references have shown it so.
It has stood for patriarchy and its subjugation of women, who at times were even accused of penis-envy. It has inspired colonialism with its victim peoples called effeminate races.
It has justified the rape of both women and men without a second-thought being given to what this meant about ones sexual orientation. Instead it actually represented the reality of a mans or an armys power to express their dominance over the other.
And in a culture like the one weve developed, it symbolizes the ultimate manly man: the warrior. In American warrior-culture, therefore, our boys must be conditioned to become warriors; and our girls, in turn, to become warrior support personnel.
Gentle, thoughtful, even intelligent non-kneejerk solutions are criticized through the lens of this manly, manly warrior. He is supposed to act decisively, quickly, and immediately to protect the manhood of the nation and its people, who should be seen as his wards.
Hence, the criticism of our current president who doesnt bomb enough (no matter how many drones hes launched), is that he isnt considered a real manly leader because he consults with other nations, believes in talking to other leaders, even our enemies, and spends time considering options and consequences. By American warrior standards all of that sounds quite womanly.
Europe, or sometimes just certain nations that dont kowtow to American manhood, is seen as effeminate. Europe has all those nanny-states after all like women they nurture their people rather than just punish them.
Sometimes, Europe even acts like disobedient children who dont obey Uncle Sams orders just because they should know that we are their father to be obeyed, were the daddy. Because of Europes impotence, we must keep U.S. military bases there so that American macho can protect them.
When Berkeley linguist, George Lakoff talks about the conservative way of seeing the nation as a family controlled by a strict father who knows right from wrong and has the ultimate authority to make sure his children and his spouse do what he says, which is taken to be what is right, hes talking about the family patriarch. Applied to the national presidential debate, that model expects one patriarch to duke it out with the other to prove who the best that is the most manly - man is.
In spite of how much gender and gender roles have been
highlighted by researchers and educators, in spite of how
much both womens and mens movements have worked
to change our views, when it comes down to todays
politics, its still about who can wield the biggest
sword, who can convince us that he is well-endowed with
Why God, Guns, and
Gays Is Still Working
We might argue that its against the arc of history, that most in younger generations dont care, or that a Supreme Court decision has settled things, but were probably not the people being targeted by the not-yet-worn-out God, guns, and gays politics. Politicians who rely on this are speaking to those faithful, consistent voters who are guaranteed to turn out still today to keep right-wingers in office so they can solidify their agenda in place now - making hay while the sun shines.
Theyre looking to the voters wholl turn out in droves for the Republican primaries. Theyre the voters wholl vote in off-year elections while so many centrist and liberal voters stay home thinking elections arent important or the candidates are all the same.
Tell that to the Koch brothers and other corporatists who spend millions to influence every election. We know that the goal of their negative political advertising isnt to change minds but to discourage actual voting by convincing people to stay home believing theyre all corrupt.
That thinking has proven successful in turning state legislatures red, packing statehouses with Republicans so that theyve been able to gerrymander districts to their long-term benefit, and passing laws and amendments that it will take a long time and a lot of political will to undo.
While others wait for demographics to change, this proven strategy has set the tone for American politics at all levels. We even see it in that fact that liberals are still responding to the right-wing when it trots out God, guns, and gays.
The strategy is so entrenched that even Democrats who, Id hope, might believe otherwise, worry excessively about how to appeal to those who vote these interests more than worrying about energizing their own base. Its so central to politics that Democratic candidates often play Republican-lite.
They usually, then, lose. And if they do win, they still act Republican-lite to get re-elected.
In a state like Kansas, for example, where many complain about what their Opus Dei governor, Sam Brownback, and his Republican tea party legislature have done to ruin the states financial structure, if Brownback could run for a third term, this old strategy would be a winning one for him. And Brownback knows it, even if many of the more liberal Kansas optimists think hed lose.
You can just hear people who face economic suffering blame it all on President Obama, liberals, or the liberal media while they cast their votes for a right-wing governor. And theyll be saying: But hes a good Christian man, wants to protect marriage, is against abortions, and wont let the feds take our guns.
The corporatist Republican leaders have learned how to use these masses with this message. Most corporatists could care less about God, guns, and gays or even womens reproductive rights except for how their internal corporate stance on these issues attracts customers and gets were-good-to-the-gays ratings.
The big boys in their Party who distract the gullible masses with these issues would actually be willing to give up these causes as long as they can maintain control over the economic structures of the country. As long as they can buy legislators, Congress, the courts and the presidency, the progress we do or dont make in the fight over these social issues can be a good distraction from the power corporatists wield, income inequality, and their abilities to amass vast fortunes of sizes unheard of in all of human history.
They play both sides of this fence, courting the LGBT community as long as it doesnt question their control of the economy. Theyll even be good citizens according to the measures of supporting protections and marriage for LGBT people while they destroy the American working class, the environment, and the public educational system.
In fact, theyll advertise in LGBT magazines and the newsletters of LGBT organizations. The largest ad-buys have often been for money-making pharmaceuticals of companies that turn around and promote the anti-gay candidates, but today you can also find the biggest polluters, tax-dodgers, and bail-out-receivers buying full page ads.
The response of national outrage that included corporate objectors such as Eli Lilly and Angies List to Indianas anti-LGBT Religious Freedom Restoration Act last year hasnt prevented the return of a new, even worse set of bills this year, including one called a Super-RFRA by one Indiana activist. And thats because the radical right-wing candidates who are anti-LGBT remain in place thanks to the corporate support.
Target Corporation in Minnesota was caught back in 2010 supporting anti-LGBT candidates while getting good ratings for corporate nondiscrimination policies and even producing a line of t-shirts to benefit an LGBT group.
The key is that corporatists will support LGBT organizations as long as they are one-issue organizations. If those organizations become known for realizing the intersection of all oppressions like the National LGBT Task Force, theyre less likely to receive such large donations.
Hence, even these big boys support the God, guns, and gays meme indirectly. Theyll support candidates who are actually anti-LGBT and who use this strategy because those candidates will guarantee the hegemony of corporate leaders. At the same time theyll have pro-LGBT corporate statements and be considered good corporations by one-issue LGBT groups.
Some day God, guns, and gays will be ineffective. But for now, conservatives at all levels still find it useful.
Just as they havent given up maneuvering since Roe
v. Wade gave women the right to choose in 1973, theyre
not ready to give up their anti-LGBT politics. They know
that it will continue to work as long as there are people
gullible enough to be used by the leaders of one party, and
there are pro-LGBT citizens who think that participating in
electoral processes at all levels is unimportant.
In January, the worldwide Anglican Communion announced that it would suspend its U.S. branch, the Episcopal Church, from key voting positions in the Communion for three years. Meeting in Canterbury, England, its leaders representing the Communions 44 national churches around the world, considered this a punishment for the affirmative response the Episcopal Church has taken toward LGBT clergy and marriage equality.
The traditional doctrine of the church in view of the teaching of Scripture, upholds marriage as between a man and a woman in faithful, lifelong union, the leaders of the Anglican Communion said in a statement during the meeting. The majority of those gathered reaffirm this teaching.
Their action stipulates that the Episcopal Church can no longer represent the Anglican Communion on ecumenical and interfaith bodies, be appointed or elected to an internal standing committee, or take part in decision making on any issues pertaining to doctrine or polity while participating in the internal bodies of the Anglican Communion. This was a compromise sanction in light of stronger motions by right-wing leaders who sought for the full withdrawal of the U.S. Church.
This is the latest move by the reactionary right-wing in the on-going debate between them and progressive leaders that is splitting not only the worldwide Anglican Communion but also the American branch itself.
A breakaway American right-wing group of Episcopal churches calling itself the Anglican Church of North America has been aligning with African Anglicans to call for a crackdown on progressives. Its leader was present in the discussions with other conservatives at the January meeting to encourage worse sanctions.
On the other side, American Episcopal Church leader, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, an African American, told the gathering: I stand before you as your brother. I stand before you as a descendant of African slaves, stolen from their native land, enslaved in a bitter bondage, and then even after emancipation, segregated and excluded in church and society. And this conjures that up again, and brings pain.
The pain for many will be real. But God is greater than anything. I love Jesus and I love the church. I am a Christian in the Anglican way. And like you, as we have said in this meeting, I am committed to walking together with you as fellow primates in the Anglican family.
All of this continues to beg the larger, on-going question that religious people must work through in their own lives: Which is more important, a stand for human rights or the unity of some church body?
This continues to be a life or death question for LGBT people who get counseled by well-meaning allies to put up with it, realize that the time isnt right, or have patience and understanding of believers. But, how long should they hold on and support these institutions through their membership and financial donations?
As an outsider to the denominations, from the Mormons to the Methodists and beyond, its not my question to answer, though it is always my question to ask people to think about consciously. Answering for religious people isnt as easy for them as it looks to outsiders. It calls church members to search their own souls, their relationships, and their familiar life-styles.
Ive not heard any response to the larger question that doesnt assume the answer before the question is asked. If one believes that the unity of an institution is a transcendent value, then women, all people of color, and LGBT members, will just have to be the ones to accept it, suck up the resulting tragedies in their own lives, and make quilt-ridden choices about leaving their religious communities.
In 1847, the Baptist Convention split over the question of slavery. The new Northern Baptist Convention (now American Baptists) opposed slavery while the Southern Baptists supported it under the familiar states rights catchphrase for retaining bigotry.
Each side, of course, believed that it possessed the true understanding of the Bible. The pro-slavery pastors argued correctly that they were supporting the traditional understanding and that abolitionist interpretations were a revisionist reading of their scriptures.
There is no command to free the slaves in the New Testament, after all, while there are many cases where slaves are advised that the Christian thing to do is obey their masters even if theyre abusive to them. Reinterpretation of their texts was for Christians to fight over while the dominant interpretatioupported the status quo.
After the spilt, the Southern Baptist Convention became the largest Protestant denomination in the US. In spite of its beginning supporting slavery, it continued to have the nerve to claim it was a moral voice for the whole country by rejecting civil rights, womens leadership, and LGBT acceptance.
Finally, in 1997 - 150 years later - its annual convention apologized for its stance on slavery. In the meantime, how many people had suffered and died while waiting for change?
Both sides in that fissure had to face whether their ethical stance was worth the split. The unity of the entire nation would then be maintained in a bloody civil war.
Then, as now, the conservative side always thinks that their values are actually worth a breakup. Its usually the liberals who opt for unity rather than human rights in the belief that the will eventually change the holdouts.
But the question remains: who should suffer until change takes place? Today, for example, should an LGBT person remain in a currently abusive institution to work to change it or should they move their support to alernatives that arent abusive and go on with their lives in the limited days they have on the planet?
Are the people who are repressed by churches responsible for changing them? Should they even feel responsible? Should they be made to feel responsible by anyone else? Are they making excuses for these institutions similar to those abused spouses make for their abusers?
These are major questions. They must be asked. And those
who remain to fight should be careful not to condemn those
whose spiritual path says: leave now.
There must be something emotionally satisfying for many people in arguments about religion whether theyre for it or against it. Beyond the strategies of politicians who prey on religious prejudices, people argue passionately, existentially, and obsessively about whether religion or Christianity, Islam or another ism, does, causes, or even is one thing or another.
These arguments seem to have sharpened and become more mainstream with the 24-hour cable news cycle that exploits terrorist attacks committed by people hiding behind religion and the fear-based politics of the Republican primary election gang. Talk radio and religious bigotry have also found renewed energy.
Trying to insert rationality into this argument can be an exercise in futility for either side. Theres something deeper being defended within the arguers thats psychologically crucial to them, not just the need to win an argument.
The historical reality is that religion or any of the isms never do anything. But if we were to admit that thats true, then wed have to conclude that most religious arguments were in can only produce heat, not light.
People as individuals and in groups and institutions do things, but not religion or religions. People and institutions use religious ideas, symbols, scriptures, and traditions in ways that sanctify their goals, actions, and psychological conditions.
The abstract reification we call religion isnt responsible for either the good or the bad for which it is given credit. The same scriptures, traditions, and dogmas can be used by a Martin Luther King or a Pat Robertson, a Mahatma Gandhi or a Nathuram Godse, the Hindu who assassinated him.
How theyre used and what theyre used for is the responsibility of the user or group of users. And religion must not be allowed to let them off the hook.
Take the Bible or the Quran. People will argue futilely about what these collections of writings teach.
Since no one, I repeat no one, takes everything in either book completely literally, no matter what they claim to do, what believers choose to use is their responsibility. And their interpretive schemes to get their scriptures to agree with their views are many.
Arguing that their sacred scriptures say this or that gets nowhere. Calling someone a literalist about their scriptures ignores their interpretive tactics and enforces their belief that theyre literally correct. Both activities actually encourage religious fervor.
Of course, each believer will claim that their interpretation, their selections from the smorgasbords that are scriptures, traditions, and respected religious thinkers are the true versions of their faith. Those claims are what believers fight over among themselves.
Their internal fights are so heated and brutal, and often over what looks to outsiders as so trivial, because a true believer doesnt want to admit that there might be any other way to understand their scriptures or their religion than the version on which theyve based their soul. Believers cannot admit alternatives because doing so would undermine the comfort of their hope of settled faith with doubts that their beliefs are possibly not true.
We never know with certainty what personal psychological issues, positive or negative, cause people to use religions the way they do. But we do know that there are a variety of emotional problems, family of origin hurts, prejudices, abusive upbringings, societal dynamics, and other factors that impel belief and explain why someone identifies with some beliefs and institutions but not others.
Thats why the most common predictor of ones own faith or the faith one is more likely to spend the most time fighting against, is the religion of ones family. And since the vast majority of people in the world have never dealt with issues of their upbringing, those issues still propel both belief and unbelief.
Religion, then, can become the cover for these unhealed issues. Or still others can use religion to uncover them and promote emotional healing.
But think of the emotional high that religion can provide when its used as the basis for the actions one takes. One is no longer just acting out of personal sickness, anger, problems, insecurities, and fears when one attacks a womens clinic or massacres colleagues in a workplace.
Using religious beliefs, one can feel instead that theyre doing Gods work, that theirs are actions sanctified by the divine. In that name many horrors can take place as if they arent just the very sick murders and brutalities they are.
And the victims of such atrocities can now be defined not as fellow human beings who disagree but as evil, demonic, and satanic. How much better for believers is that?
There is, thereby, no need to confront their own issues, seek therapy, or face their doubts, depressions, inadequacies, and failures. The feeling of righteousness has taken over.
So, for the believer, blaming religion enables them not to have to face themselves and their own emotional lack. God is responsible for all that happens, not them.
And when others blame religion, it plays into that same trap. When we claim that its religions fault, we let the individuals, groups, and institutions go free. We become their enablers.
We enable whatever happens because we too argue with the believer that it wasnt actually a believers fault; it was their religion thats responsible. And we thereby encourage others to continue their heinous acts in the name of religion without them feeling their own problems are responsible.
The better solution is holding people, groups, and institutions responsible for how they use religion. Its to stop colluding with them in blaming anything other than themselves.
This means refusing to argue about religion and instead calling believers, religious leaders, and institutions to account. And it means facing our own issues about why we want to argue religion in the first place.
So, what are we ourselves getting by continuing such arguments? If we answer that were just trying to reveal or defend the truth, then were arguing exactly what religious people are. Remember, they believe theyre defending the truth, too.
© 2016 Robert N. Minor
Robert N. Minor is the author of Scared Straight: Why It's So Hard to Accept Gay People and Why It's So Hard to Be Human and Gay & Healthy in a Sick Society and Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Kansas in Lawrence. He may be reached through www.fairnessproject.org
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