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Karen Ocamb: 'Gay Marriage' challenges Christianity's credibility

Journalist Karen Ocamb lobs a huge log onto the bonfire with this guest post from LGBT POV

‘Gay Marriage’ challenges Christianity’s credibility

By Karen Ocamb There’s an old saying:

“The Devil screams the loudest just before leaving the room.”

After last night’s devastating loss of marriage equality in Maine 52.84% – 47.16% – an almost exact mirror of the loss of constitutionally protected same sex marriage rights with Prop 8 in California – it’s time to call out the “Devil” cleverly disguised as the antigay forces of the Religious Right.

This loss isn’t just about politics – it’s about the very soul of the Christian religion.  For who but the silver-tongued Devil could convince quietly religious people to believe in – and act on – lies and cheap-trick illusions that twist love into a political perversion?

And that’s what happened in Maine – just as it happened in California – where Religious Right professionals manipulated voters into taking away the secular civil rights of a group of people based on the fear of something that MIGHT happen – something made up, a lie based on bigotry and myth.

When did it become OK to lie, to pervert the truth to serve God? Surely, if there is a Devil, a Satan, he is chuckling to himself at this greatest handiwork – using political strategy to make hate a virtue and love something to be scorned and punished.

Indeed, the normalization of lying, political manipulation and antigay hatred is the latest blow to the legitimacy of religious institutions and Christianity itself.

How can one believe in religious truth-telling if antigay ministers are caught in sex scandals, or evangelical Christians like The Family protect their antigay politicians from scandals over adultery or the Catholic Church that famously covered up its own child sex abuse scandals – has the Portland Diocese choose to close its own local parishes while pouring thousands of dollars into the antigay marriage ballot initiative in Maine based on the lie that gay sex would be taught to school children?

That was theme pushed by antigay Marc Mutty, the antigay Stand for Marriage Maine executive chairman on loan from the Catholic diocese who was told National Public Radio Sept. 3:

“It isn’t about anything other than the definition of marriage, what it’s going to mean to us and how it’s going to be defined in society….Many certainly feel uncomfortable about [the belief that legalizing same-sex marriage will lead to a new curriculum in the schools] and about the fact that children as young as 7 or 8 years old are being taught about gay sex in some detail.”

But that was a lie.

I reported extensively on the Religious Right’s antigay crusade in “Swiftboating same sex marriage in Maine.” I noted that the antigay effort in Maine was being lead by the same political strategists who won Prop 8 in California and provided links to Yes on 8 political consultants Frank Schubert and Jeff Flint expressly saying that they would never win passage of Prop 8 by “affirming” traditional marriage. Instead they created out of their own political calculations the lie of the “consequences” of same sex marriage effecting young school children.

Here’s a segment of that report:

The Yes on 8 team flew the Wirthlins from Massachusetts to California for a bus tour of the state, positing them as “real people” who exemplified the “consequence” of same sex marriage being taught in schools. “We bet the farm on this argument over whether gay marriage would be taught in public schools,” Flint said.

But the reality of this “real” couple is that they, too, were Religious Right professionals. When The Bay Area Reporter picked up the story about the LDS [Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints] internal memo from 1997,  reporter Dan Aiello noted the role played in California’s antigay initiative Prop 22 by Mormon strategist and Republican pollster Richard “Dick” Wirthlin, a relative of the Massachusetts couple Joseph Robb and Robin Wirthlin used by Yes on 8. Schubert told BAR that it was “preposterous” to connect Dick Wirthlin to Yes on 8.

But BAR uncovered significant information indicating that the Wirthlins actively sought conflict with the school:

“Parents in the Lexington School District in Massachusetts disputed many of the Wirthlins claims to the B.A.R., pointing out that when the Wirthlins moved into the district they were already involved with two groups seeking to ban same-sex marriage. One of those groups, MassResistance, run by Brian Camenker, has been called an “anti-gay hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center.”

The Lexington parents told the B.A.R. that the couple moved into the district and enrolled their son into the school already aware of a complaint filed by David Parker against the school’s anti-bias curriculum. Additionally, Lexington School District superintendent Paul Ash told the B.A.R. that he made “several attempts to appease the Wirthlins and accommodate their religious convictions” but he concluded that the couple was intent on a public fight. Just weeks after they moved into the district, the Wirthlins joined Parker in filing a lawsuit.”

Schubert and Flynt used professional religious zealots with an agenda to create conflict where none existed to push a lie they created for a political win. And since their lie was wrapped in religion, they duped unsuspecting voters who would never believe Christians would lie – because that would be the work of the Devil.

The antigay Religious Right professionals in Maine were constantly exposed for their lies and manipulative practices -including by Maine Attorney General Janet Mills who said the gay marriage law would have no effect on the curricula in the public schools.

The aforementioned Brian Camenker was given a post-Maine shout out by Matt Barber, Director of Cultural Affairs with both Liberty Counsel and Liberty Alliance Action. (Hat tip Pam’s House Blend). MassResistence is on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s 2008 Hate list.

Barber wants to push beyond appeasers like Schubert and Flynt:

“This isn’t about ‘marriage.’ It’s about hurting and broken people desperately seeking affirmation of an objectively deviant lifestyle. One that, even in their heart of hearts, they know to be a dead end.

As for the militant ‘No on 1? homosexual activists? I’m reminded of spoiled children dressing up and playing house, refusing to come in when mom calls for dinner.

Here’s the bad news. The margin of victory could have been greater. Many behind the ‘Yes on 1? campaign, rather than simply telling the truth, chose the Neville Chamberlain approach. They merely circled the wagons around the word ‘marriage,’ even suggesting that ‘domestic partnerships’ (’gay marriages’ by another name) are acceptable.

This makes no sense. If that’s a viable compromise, then why not simply allow ‘gay’ duos the word ‘marriage’? It’s an incongruity that demands an explanation. This is an historic battle for the minds and souls of our children – for our very culture. The mealy-mouthed approach must end.

This is not just about ‘marriage.’ It has everything to do with forced affirmation of homosexuality – under penalty of law.

Indeed everyone who fought hard to defend marriage in Maine is to be congratulated, but if it weren’t for a brave group of truth tellers – Paul Madore, Peter LaBarbera and Brian Camenker – who came to Maine in the final hour to hold a press conference and address the pink elephant in the room – homosexual deviancy and the radical ‘gay’ agenda – counterfeit marriage might have prevailed.”

Pam Spaulding at Pam’s House Blend has reported extensively on Peter LaBarbera – who thinks nothing of twisting the death of a gay 26 year old to illustrate his perverted views.

Joe Sudbay of Americablog has Paul Madore of the Maine Grassroots Coalition saying “he’s working “in union” with Yes on 1 campaign and the Diocese and that the Diocese was aware of the news conference with LaBabera and Camenker.

More after the jump.

The Yes on 1 vote targeted older, conservative religious voters who apparently shrugged at being courted by known bigots. Nate Silver – defending his polling that said No on 1 would win – suggests that this is the “Bradley Effect” at work. The “Bradley Effect” – is named after LA Mayor Tom Bradley, an African American who polls showed was ahead in his 1982 gubernatorial race – only to lose, many thought because of racial prejudice.  If the Bradley Effect is indeed happening here, it would suggest that Maine voters were consciously aware that their vote against gays was based on prejudice. And since “bigotry is incompatible with Maine values“ – the only way voters could live with their conscience is if their vote was a “moral choice” OKed by their religion.

One example to bolster that premise is that the “people’s vote” revoked a marriage equality law passed through the state Legislature (ostensibly the “people’s” representatives) and signed by the governor – that survived all attempts to stop it along the way. Additionally, those same voters passed a medical marijuana referendum by 58.60% to 41.40%. Somehow what was once considered the most evil of hippie indulgences was mainstreamed into a non-religious medical necessity for people with serious illnesses.

Think of this on-going political tirade by the Religious Right as a modern day Crusades – and advocates for gay and womans’ rights are the infidels.

Bruce Wilson at the website Talk to Action has been writing about this extensively and suggests there is even more conniving going on than we image. For instance, there’s a new “Rainbow” Right with the seduction of people of color into the ranks of the heretofore primarily white Southern conservative base of religious hate. This is the Sarah Palin and Carrie Prejean/Mile McPhereson crowd, pushed by their political arm – the National Organization of Marriage.

Bruce told me:

Along with Samuel Rodriguez, Miles McPherson is one of the rising stars of the new evangelicalism, 2.0 if you will, which wraps traditional conservative evangelical positions – including antiabortion and anti-gay politics – in a swaddling cloth of impressively well crafted PR. McPherson doesn’t seem to figure into the schematics that liberal journalists have constructed, mental maps of the religious right in which race baiting crowds to be found at “Tea Parties” are believed to be somehow representative of, or even supplanting, the Christian right. I very much doubt Miles McPherson or Sammy Rodriguez would be willing to get within a mile of a Tea Party event – for obvious and quite understandable reasons. The two evangelists represent constituencies that swung hard for Barack Obama in ‘08 but also, in California, helped vote in Proposition Eight.”

Bruce noted that McPherson played a key role in the manufacture of the Christian right’s new Anita Bryant, Carrie Prejean, who he’s described as an “Esther”. Watching McPherson conduct an interview with Prejean, he said:

“I foumd myself thinking that it was a spectacle to send old-guard white racists running for their nooses and shotguns – a black man anointing a white beauty queen. Imagine. Well, that’s the new Christian right, the Rainbow Right, that we’ve discussed – which claims to love gays while attacking the “gay lifestyle” via cooked statistics and suggests same sex attraction stems from demon possession – but which is racially and ethnically inclusive unless one happens to be Jewish. And, it’s a tendency that is also aggressively promoting female leaders such as Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann, and Carrie Prejean – “Esthers” all.”

But Bruce notes, this is not a funny, quirky little Christian experience with a sexy new spokesperson, the new “Rainbow” Right is deadly serious. In another post he said:

General wisdom from the left now holds that the right will work to whip up populist discontent. But, neither Democratic Party nor progressive political activists on the left seem fully aware of the nature of an emerging threat, that Republicans will increasingly gain support among ethnic groups which have traditionally voted for the Democratic Party…..

[The media] missed the specific nature of the anti-gay marriage effort.

Signed onto The Call’s advisory board was much of the top leadership of the New Apostolic Reformation and Third Wave Christianity in America, as well as the to
p leadership of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference which claims to represent roughly ten million Hispanic American evangelicals and five million charismatic Catholics. Samuel Rodriguez has suggested that abortion will be, in future elections, a much more salient issue for his voting block.”

But, Wilson points out, there are cracks in the antigay coalition. He writes:

The New Apostolic Reformation leadership is virulently anti-Catholic to the point of claiming that a global demon spirit blocks Catholic prayers, it is structurally anti-Jewish and spreads anti-Semitic conspiracy theory, and it considers the Mormon faith to be “cultic.”

The antigay marriage coalition which successfully helped to pass gay marriage bans in Florida, Arizona, and California was launched, in July 2008, during a several hour conference call in which organizers outlined a multilevel campaign that utilized existing church infrastructure, viral marketing, Internet marketing, New Apostolic prayer networks, traditional Christian conservative media, and a range of methods, and communications channels, both traditional and unorthodox.

The November 1st, 2008 anti-gay marriage Qualcomm Stadium rally in San Diego was the public capstone of the antigay effort in California for the national coalition pulled together by New Apostolic prophet Lou Engle, California charismatic Methodist pastor Jim Garlow and leaders of the currently obscure but enormous, global and rapidly growing New Apostolic Reformation movement which so far has almost completely escaped media scrutiny despite having fielded a vice presidential candidate reported to be in a prayer network under the religious authority of the man who in 2001 founded the NAR: C. Peter Wagner.

Towards the end of The Call’s stadium event, a speaker called for acts of Christian martyrdom to reverse what Engle, Garlow and other event speakers had depicted as an immanent moral apocalypse in America that would call down the wrath of God.

The effort in California represented the emerging face of a new type of fundamentalism in America that is multiethnic, multiracial and, because of that, can appear pseudo-progressive but which is in many ways farther right than traditional fundamentalism. The new axis of bigotry is no longer defined by racial and ethnic distinctions. It is religious supremacy.”

This, too, might be a head-scratcher if it wasn’t for the growing prominence of Sarah Palin, who Wilson has been following and providing research to such media outlets as the New York Times.

On Oct. 25, 2008, the New York Times published a story looking at then-Alaska Gov. Palin’s religious beliefs.

The Times noted the two YouTube videos showing Palin praying with Bishop Thomas Muthee from Kenya who prayed for God to favor her political campaign and protect her from “every form of witchcraft.” She is also shown nodding as her former Wasilla pastor from Wasilla declares that Alaska is “one of the refuge states in the Last Days,” part of the “End Times” prophecy preaching.

The Times reports:

Ms. Palin declined an interview, and the McCain campaign did not respond to specific questions about her faith. Thus, it is difficult to say with certainty what she believes.

What is known, however, is that Ms. Palin has had long associations with religious leaders who practice a particularly assertive and urgent brand of Pentecostalism known as “spiritual warfare.”

Its adherents believe that demonic forces can colonize specific geographic areas and individuals, and that “spiritual warriors” must “battle” them to assert God’s control, using prayer and evangelism. The movement’s fixation on demons, its aggressiveness and its leaders’ claims to exalted spiritual authority have troubled even some Pentecostal Christians.”

Russell P. Spittler, provost emeritus at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif., and an eminent scholar of Pentecostalism, told The Times:

“Most Christians would accept the view that there are forces and powers in the world that oppose Christian virtues.” But, Mr. Spittler added, “Spiritual warfare makes a religion of identifying demons by names and ZIP codes.”

Bruce Wilson told The Times:

“One of the imperatives of the movement is to achieve worldly power, including political control. Then you can more effectively drive out the demons. The ultimate goal is to purify the earth.”

In a Sept. 5, 2009 post on the Daily Beast, entitled “Inside Sarah’s Church,” Max Blumenthal wrote, describing a conversation with “Rev. Howard Bess, a local Baptist pastor who had opened the doors of his church to openly gay Christians:”

“Sarah Palin is a true believer,” Bess told me over coffee at Vagabond Blues, a café 20 miles from Wasilla in the town of Palmer. “She has a dualistic worldview that divides the world into black and white. She sees it as her mission to destroy evil, whether it is gay people, a foreign government she perceives as an enemy, or a political opponent like Obama.”

So here we are – gay people as “evil.” And Sarah Palin on the march with her Tea Party followers – out to obliterate the separation of church and state.

I’m no religious scholar – but this sure sounds like the arrogant affectations of Old Testament wanna-be favorites of that awful God – the God of wrath and vengeance and hate.

And then there’s this from a Christian website:

Some “evangelical Christians” who are caught in scandals are unredeemed charlatans and false prophets. Jesus warned, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves … Therefore by their fruits you will know them” (Matthew 7:15-20). False prophets pretend to be godly men and women and appear to be solid evangelical leaders. However, their “fruit” (scandals) eventually reveals them to be the opposite of what they claimed to be. In this, they follow the example of Satan, “And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve” (2 Corinthians 11:14-15).

And what would the Jesus of the New Testament say to all this new religious culture of political arrogance and lies and hate – the very characteristics associated with evil after his crucifixion?

If Jesus stood for love – then the caretakers of his Christianity must also stand for love – the kind of love these battles for marriage equality are all about.  Not just in their hearts and prayers but in the pulpits and on their feet in the street with us, protesting the stealing of their religion. This is their challenge – and this must become their mission. For if they participate in the conspiracy of silence – like many did as gay men laying dying of AIDS –  if they ignore the love, the soul of their calling – they will lose their very meaning.

But maybe – just maybe – all this hoopla about Sarah Palin&rsqu
o;s political power and all this bragging after the antigay wins in California and Maine – is the Devil screaming loudly, knowing that love will win in the end and usher him out the door.

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Pam Spaulding

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