Poor Marco Rubio. With history rushing past him, its dust gritty in his eyes, he, the bully, resorts to playing the victim.
And so it was on Tuesday, when he tried—in this now-practiced right wing way—to claim that he and other Christians were the victims of LGBTs and their demands for, er, basic equality and civil rights.
What else can Rubio do? People like him have lost the argument.
All they can do now, after years of fostering a climate of prejudice and persecution against LGBTs, is to claim that with the prospect of equality, it is they, the bullies, who are persecuted.
They cannot argue how equality affects them negatively, so merely claim to be victims.
This is all they have, after years of using every trick in the book to keep LGBT people unequal, feared, and stigmatized.
It would be funny, this attempted sleight-of-hand, this laughable co-opting of the language and mantle of victimhood, if Rubio’s words were not so disgusting, and such canards.
On Tuesday, Rubio dared to use the phrase ‘hate speech’ when describing how, one day, those who objected to marriage equality would be seen as propagating hate speech.
Does Marco Rubio have any idea of the toxicity of the phrase he is flinging around to score some cheap political capital?
Does he have any idea of the true ‘hate speech’ LGBTs have suffered, not just on political platforms at the hands of people like Marco Rubio in their stoking of their Christian voting base—words like ‘unnatural,’ ‘pretend families,’ words of exclusion that seek to put us outside the boundaries of family, home, and love?
Because ‘hate speech’ doesn’t end on political platforms. They’re the words that LGBTs hear before they are beaten by homophobes on street corners and in schoolyards. Beaten, sometimes fatally. How dare Marco Rubio seek to invoke a phrase like ‘hate speech’ to feed his own pathetic persecution complex? Has he any idea of the true cost of ‘hate speech’ as it has been used against LGBT people?
Rubio said ‘mainstream Christian’ teachings would soon be seen as hate speech in his scary new world where those pesky homosexuals are treated just as the same as everyone else under the law.
“Because today we’ve reached the point in our society where if you do not support same-sex marriage you are labeled a homophobe and a hater,” Rubio said. Absurdly. You are only labeled a ‘homophobe’ and ‘hater’ if you come out and say something homophobic and hateful.
Mr. Rubio, despite great provocation by you and others like you, LGBTs and their supporters—many of whom are Christian, by the way—who back equality actually think you can say and think whatever you like, as long as it doesn’t incite violence and hatred. If it does, they will object, as any reasonable person might.
If you claim that LGBTs do not deserve marriage equality, and your argument has the ring of prejudice about it—and it necessarily would because you are arguing against the principles of equality—then expect to be called out for it.
But you are not being silenced. You are being disagreed with. And now you’re feeling persecuted because it’s not just LGBTs calling you out on it, but all those who believe people should be treated equally under the law.
Simply, Mr. Rubio, when will you stop scapegoating LGBTs to score votes? Why are you so dead-set on maintaining inequality and discrimination? What’s in it for you? Rubio also said, “After they are done going after individuals, the next step is to argue that the teachings of mainstream Christianity, the catechism of the Catholic Church, is hate speech and there’s a real and present danger.”
Again, this is doom-saying nonsense, and yet another attempt to paint “the gay agenda” as an uncontrollable monster, out to silence its objectors.
The truth is that for years LGBTs have had to fight to be heard themselves, to be visible, to lobby for equality under the law.
LGBT activists have never said the teachings of mainstream Christianity or the catechism of the Catholic Church are pernicious. They have argued against those teachings being warped by bigots and opportunists like Mr. Rubio to attack LGBT people, and deny them their civil rights—but not for them to cease to exist or be practiced.
In a way, Rubio’s nonsensical words are heartening. They are like the last gasp of a poisonous old world order of determined prejudice and discrimination. How furious and scared he must have been to see Catholic Ireland face down the kind of misinformation and lies he and his cronies propagate against LGBTs on Saturday, and vote instead for a future of equality.
Rubio and others like him know their grip on fear and prejudice is loosening. And so now, he plays the victim: it’s the last pathetic piece of pantomime left to him.
Quite simply, even Rubio’s followers and supporters know LGBT people—and they do not like to see these family members and loved ones persecuted so viciously for whom they choose to go to bed with. And so, with the grit of history in his eye, Rubio continues howling in the wind—his words more and more lost in the tempest of history passing him by.
By: Tim Teeman, The Daily Beast, May 26, 2015
“There Isn’t Going To Be An Evangelical President”: Huckabee Doesn’t Seem To Understand The Place Of Evangelicals In Today’s GOP
There was no doubt that when Mike Huckabee announced his candidacy for president, God would come up. After all, Huckabee is an ordained Baptist minister who made a strong showing in his 2008 race in large part because of the support of evangelical voters. Huckabee made crystal clear that he’s running to get the support of those evangelical voters again.
Huckabee talked about how much he prayed in school as a child in Hope, Arkansas, where he “learned that this exceptional country could only be explained by the Providence of God.” He asserted that “the Supreme Court is not the Supreme Being, and they can’t overturn the laws of nature or of nature’s God,” a clear reference to same-sex marriage.
But for someone who wants to be the candidate of evangelicals, Huckabee doesn’t seem to understand the place of evangelicals in today’s GOP.
Huckabee’s most fundamental miscalculation has two parts: first, that there can be one candidate who garners the support of most religious right voters, and second, that even if he pulled that off, it would be enough to make him the party’s nominee (for the purposes of this discussion I’m going to talk about evangelicals and the religious right interchangeably, but they’re obviously not exactly the same thing).
If you’re an evangelical Republican voter looking for a presidential candidate who shares your values, you’re faced with an embarrassment of riches in this election. In addition to Huckabee, you’ve got Scott Walker (the son of a Baptist minister), Rick Santorum (whose commitment to “traditional values” will stack up against anyone’s), Rick Perry (whose best-remembered ad from four years ago began, “I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a Christian,” tapping into the religious right’s narrative of oppression), Bobby Jindal (who holds prayer rallies), and other candidates like Ted Cruz and Ben Carson who wear their piety on their sleeves. With all that to choose from, it will simply be impossible for any one of them to become the candidate of the religious right.
Huckabee might say, well, I was pretty much the candidate of the religious right in 2008, and I won Iowa! Indeed he did — and then he lost the nomination, as did Rick Santorum four years later following the same script. Evangelicals are particularly important in that first caucus state, but far less so in the rest of the country, which is why their chosen Iowa candidate almost never wins. They made up 57 percent of GOP Iowa caucus voters in 2012 — but only 43 percent of Romney’s voters in the general election, and only 26 percent of general election voters overall.
Furthermore, there are plenty of evangelicals who aren’t so attracted to the old-school style of a man who wrote columns as a teenager warning against the evils of dancing. Here’s how religion reporter Sarah Posner describes the feelings of many evangelicals, particularly younger ones:
These evangelicals are listening for a candidate who can signal he is “one of us” without pandering. Both evangelical and Catholic candidates who have earned the culture warrior label for their strident pronouncements—Ted Cruz, Rick Santorum, or Mike Huckabee — are seen as embarrassing embodiments of stereotypes these conservative Christians would like to shed.
When the entertainment at Huckabee’s announcement event is Tony Orlando singing “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree” — a song that topped the charts 42 years ago — he isn’t exactly reaching out to a new generation.
Does this mean that the evangelical vote no longer matters in the Republican primaries? Not at all. It still matters a great deal, but the fact that evangelicals won’t vote as a bloc means they matter in a different way. If any of the candidates can get at least some of their votes, then every candidate has an interest in speaking to them (or pandering to them, depending on how you want to think about it). So their concerns and their issues will be on all the candidates’ minds and on their lips.
The evangelical vote is still important, but there won’t be an evangelical champion — Mike Huckabee, or anyone else. Yes, an evangelical such as Scott Walker might be elected president. But he wouldn’t be the evangelicals’ chosen candidate. No one will.
By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, May 6, 2015
“Bigotry, The Bible And The Lessons Of Indiana”: The View Of Gays, Lesbians And Bisexuals As Sinners Is A Decision, Not A Choice
The drama in Indiana last week and the larger debate over so-called religious freedom laws in other states portray homosexuality and devout Christianity as forces in fierce collision.
They’re not — at least not in several prominent denominations, which have come to a new understanding of what the Bible does and doesn’t decree, of what people can and cannot divine in regard to God’s will.
And homosexuality and Christianity don’t have to be in conflict in any church anywhere.
That many Christians regard them as incompatible is understandable, an example not so much of hatred’s pull as of tradition’s sway. Beliefs ossified over centuries aren’t easily shaken.
But in the end, the continued view of gays, lesbians and bisexuals as sinners is a decision. It’s a choice. It prioritizes scattered passages of ancient texts over all that has been learned since — as if time had stood still, as if the advances of science and knowledge meant nothing.
It disregards the degree to which all writings reflect the biases and blind spots of their authors, cultures and eras.
It ignores the extent to which interpretation is subjective, debatable.
And it elevates unthinking obeisance above intelligent observance, above the evidence in front of you, because to look honestly at gay, lesbian and bisexual people is to see that we’re the same magnificent riddles as everyone else: no more or less flawed, no more or less dignified.
Most parents of gay children realize this. So do most children of gay parents. It’s a truth less ambiguous than any Scripture, less complicated than any creed.
So our debate about religious freedom should include a conversation about freeing religions and religious people from prejudices that they needn’t cling to and can indeed jettison, much as they’ve jettisoned other aspects of their faith’s history, rightly bowing to the enlightenments of modernity.
“Human understanding of what is sinful has changed over time,” said David Gushee, an evangelical Christian who teaches Christian ethics at Mercer University. He openly challenges his faith’s censure of same-sex relationships, to which he no longer subscribes.
For a very long time, he noted, “Many Christians thought slavery wasn’t sinful, until we finally concluded that it was. People thought contraception was sinful when it began to be developed, and now very few Protestants and not that many Catholics would say that.” They hold an evolved sense of right and wrong, even though, he added, “You could find scriptural support for the idea that all sex should be procreative.”
Christians have also moved far beyond Scripture when it comes to gender roles.
“In the United States, we have abandoned the idea that women are second-class, inferior and subordinate to men, but the Bible clearly teaches that,” said Jimmy Creech, a former United Methodist pastor who was removed from ministry in the church after he performed a same-sex marriage ceremony in 1999. “We have said: That’s a part of the culture and history of the Bible. That is not appropriate for us today.”
And we could say the same about the idea that men and women in loving same-sex relationships are doing something wrong. In fact the United Church of Christ, the Episcopal Church and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) have said that. So have most American Catholics, in defiance of their church’s teaching.
And it’s a vital message because of something that Indiana demonstrated anew: Religion is going to be the final holdout and most stubborn refuge for homophobia. It will give license to discrimination. It will cause gay and lesbian teenagers in fundamentalist households to agonize needlessly: Am I broken? Am I damned?
“Conservative Christian religion is the last bulwark against full acceptance of L.G.B.T. people,” Gushee said.
Polls back him up. A majority of Americans support marriage equality, including a majority of Catholics and most Jews. But a 2014 survey by the Public Religion Research Institute showed that while 62 percent of white mainline Protestants favor same-sex marriages, only 38 percent of black Protestants, 35 percent of Hispanic Protestants and 28 percent of white evangelical Protestants do.
And as I’ve written before, these evangelical Protestants wield considerable power in the Republican primaries, thus speaking in a loud voice on the political stage. It’s no accident that none of the most prominent Republicans believed to be contending for the presidency favor same-sex marriage and that none of them joined the broad chorus of outrage over Indiana’s discriminatory religious freedom law. They had the Iowa caucuses and the South Carolina primary to worry about.
Could this change? There’s a rapidly growing body of impressive, persuasive literature that looks at the very traditions and texts that inform many Christians’ denunciation of same-sex relationships and demonstrates how easily those points of reference can be understood in a different way.
Gushee’s take on the topic, “Changing Our Mind,” was published late last year. It joined Jeff Chu’s “Does Jesus Really Love Me?” published in 2013, and “Bible, Gender, Sexuality: Reframing the Church’s Debate on Same-Sex Relationships,” by James Brownson, which was published in 2013.
Then there’s the 2014 book “God and the Gay Christian,” by Matthew Vines, who has garnered significant attention and drawn large audiences for his eloquent take on what the New Testament — which is what evangelicals draw on and point to — really communicates.
Evaluating its sparse invocations of homosexuality, he notes that there wasn’t any awareness back then that same-sex attraction could be a fundamental part of a person’s identity, or that same-sex intimacy could be an expression of love within the context of a nurturing relationship.
“It was understood as a kind of excess, like drunkenness, that a person might engage in if they lost all control, not as a unique identity,” Vines told me, adding that Paul’s rejection of same-sex relations in Romans I was “akin to his rejection of drunkenness or his rejection of gluttony.”
And Vines said that the New Testament, like the Old Testament, outlines bad and good behaviors that almost everyone deems archaic and irrelevant today. Why deem the descriptions of homosexual behavior any differently?
Creech and Mitchell Gold, a prominent furniture maker and gay philanthropist, founded an advocacy group, Faith in America, which aims to mitigate the damage done to L.G.B.T. people by what it calls “religion-based bigotry.”
Gold told me that church leaders must be made “to take homosexuality off the sin list.”
His commandment is worthy — and warranted. All of us, no matter our religious traditions, should know better than to tell gay people that they’re an offense. And that’s precisely what the florists and bakers who want to turn them away are saying to them.
By: Frank Bruni, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, April 3, 2015
Given that Ted Cruz formally announced his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination in the most overtly religious way possible, pollsters, pundits, and the public will quickly begin to speculate about the role of faith in the 2016 GOP nominating contest.
Unfortunately for Cruz, there is little reason to believe that the Republican Party is going to nominate someone who looks and talks like a televangelist. Yet evangelical elites’ stature within the GOP coalition assures that the party will cater to some—though not all—of their priorities.
Cruz announced his candidacy to a packed convocation at Liberty University. Founded by Jerry Falwell, the famed fundamentalist pastor and political operative who died in 2007, the Lynchburg, Virginia, campus is a bastion of cultural conservatism. The optics of Cruz’s speech, which reporters likened to a sermon, were clearly designed to highlight his evangelical bona fides.
Americans, and especially Republican primary voters, will now take a closer look at Cruz.
Well-known in political circles for his Tea Party-fueled campaign for Senate in 2012, Ted Cruz defied the Beltway expectation that freshmen senators should learn the ropes, quietly deferring to and learning from party elders. Instead, Cruz quickly jumped headlong and uninvited into high-profile political fights, taking it upon himself to help sabotage the Senate’s relationship with the Obama administration and with the House of Representatives.
Never missing an opportunity to grandstand, Cruz has shown that he has the ambition and sense of self-importance to think himself the best person for the job, but only his most ardent supporters could possibly think he seems “presidential.”
Cruz’s path to the GOP nomination (if there is one) centers around one goal: becoming the conservative movement’s alternative to the party establishment’s candidate of choice. Unfortunately for Cruz, it will not work.
With varying degrees of success, GOP presidential aspirants titillate conservative evangelicals with the idea that someone who shares their values could become president. A generation ago, Pat Robertson and Patrick Buchanan gave voice to grassroots longing for rhetoric about faith and values in Republican politics. In 2008, Mike Huckabee won eight states and more than 4 million primary votes before withdrawing in March. A motley crew of characters split evangelicals’ allegiances in 2012. Rick Santorum, a Roman Catholic, received vital evangelical support in winning primaries in six conservative states.
Evangelicals often prefer GOP primary candidates who end up losing the nomination to whoever the party establishment prefers. The nominee ends up being someone the party feels is a safer bet for the general election but whose religious commitment evangelicals greet with private, and sometimes public, skepticism.
Pundits overstate the notion that evangelicals “hold their noses” to vote for candidates like John McCain or Mitt Romney. But it is clear that evangelical leaders harbored doubts about recent GOP nominees’ personal faith and commitments to evangelicals’ core issues.
McCain somewhat overcame his failure to win over evangelicals by adding Sarah Palin to the 2008 ticket. Romney’s Mormon faith was an issue because a majority of evangelicals do not consider Mormons to be Christians.
But McCain’s and Romney’s success ironically points to the reasons for Cruz’s pending failure. Political science research points to the outsized and unseen power of party insiders in presidential nominations. Less scientific but no less true is the oft-made observation that the GOP in particular defers not only to the establishment, but also to whichever candidate has “paid his dues” and seems to be “next in line.”
Cruz has repeatedly defied and alienated the Republican establishment, and no candidate has ever won the nomination without significant support from party insiders.
After the Liberty University speech, a Cruz staffer employed a March Madness metaphor, claiming that the senator is the top seed in the Tea Party bracket and in the evangelical bracket.
Unfortunately for Cruz, whichever candidate wins the establishment bracket will almost certainly win the nomination.
Activating a key GOP constituency like anti-government libertarians or conservative evangelicals is only a viable strategy if it is combined with significant establishment appeal. For this reason, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, and even Rand Paul are better positioned than Ted Cruz.
In previous Republican nominating contests, Cruz’s outspoken evangelical faith could have been a political advantage. But white evangelicals are now so used to working with Catholics on sex-related issues that a candidate’s evangelical identity hardly matters.
This cycle’s GOP nominating contest features a large number of Catholic candidates. Given evangelicals’ primary support for Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum at various points in the 2012 race, Catholic GOP politicians who share evangelicals’ opposition to abortion and concerns about religious liberty should feel secure in their ability to attract and retain evangelicals’ support.
Fears that Ted Cruz would be trounced in November 2016 like “a Republican George McGovern” are vastly overstated. But Ted Cruz’s fervent evangelical faith, however sincere, does nothing to advance his credibility as a contender for the nomination.
By: Jacob Lupfer, The Daily Beast, March 24, 2015
That was an incredibly moving scene in Paris yesterday, the largest civilian mobilization in French history, which is quite a history. We must hope that the humanist (an important word to which we’ll return) solidarity on display there can be sustained. To see so many people from so many religions and non-religions and so many different countries all saying the same thing is an all-too-rare sight in this petulant world.
But a little part of me wondered from time to time if we all really are saying the same thing. Let us suppose that Charlie Hebdo had published a cover showing Jesus and Mary Magdalene and a couple of the disciples besides absorbed in a sexually adventuresome tangle, and a couple of deranged militant Christians had gone in there and mowed the staff down. Or let’s imagine it was Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob similarly depicted, or Moses, and a couple of Jewish religious fundamentalists had committed the slaughter. How would, and should, our reactions be the same, and how would and should they be different?
This is where certain lines and distinctions can be drawn. Everyone left to right would criticize mass murder. We’re all against that. The Christian and Jewish identity organizations would all denounce them. Abe Foxman would put out a reassuring statement. Bill Donohue of the Catholic League…well, actually, based on his dubious response to this tragedy, it would be a little harder to predict how much sleep Donohue might lose over the murder of Christian blasphemers.
But by and large, that’s the easy part. Now come the harder parts. Would we be chanting Je Suis Charlie in ideological unison the way we are now? I think we most certainly would not be. Would conservative Catholics, even those not out there on Donohue’s unique wavelength, link arms with liberals and secularists to defend the right of a blasphemer of Jesus? Would Benjamin Netanyahu, in my Jewish hypothetical, have made a special pilgrimage to Paris to express his solidarity with the dead who had so defamed his faith? I think never in a million years (and by the way, remember that Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas did do precisely this by attending Sunday’s March).
I think it’s pretty obvious they would not be nearly so enthusiastic about the sanctity of Charlie Hebdo’s rights to make satire in these cases. I, for my own part, would be, as would (I think) most of my friends. Then there’s a contingent to my left (yes, conservative readers, there is a contingent to my left, and they’d be delighted to fill you in on my numerous apostasies and on mainstream liberalism’s pusillanimity more generally) that would respond to the inevitable “they got what was coming to them” nudge-and-wink rhetoric from conservatives by opposing all that even more vociferously.
Each of these three tendencies is distinct, and each is protesting in this case against, or in behalf of, somewhat different things. All oppose murder and support free speech in vague terms, but after that they diverge. The theological-conservative tendency says Je Suis Charlie chiefly out of its revulsion at Islam and fear about its power—fear that it can strike us anywhere anytime. For them, a slaughter by an extremist Christian or Jew would not be qualitatively even the same kind of crime, because this crime to them is absolutely emblematic of a religion whose inherent qualities provoke this fanaticism, and which terrifies them.
On the…I’m grasping for an adjective here; multicultural is too tread-worn. So let’s just say on the left, there is condemnation of the killings, of course, and defense of Hebdo’s rights. But the greater preoccupation on the left is to preempt and counter the theo-conservatives and to search high and low for evidence of racism on the part of others—including Charlie Hebdo itself, for some of the cartoons that we know about, the one about the Nigerian girls most notably, but even some of the anti-Islam ones. Fear of power comes into play on the left also, but in a very different way than on the right. People on the left, who will tend to see Muslims as victims of Western power objectives and think Christians and Jews have plenty enough power to fend for themselves, will be more likely to see Muslims in general (though not mass murderers) as victims.
Both of these positions are relativist in almost exactly the same way. They’re mirror images of each other of course, but for both, how to respond to this atrocity is chiefly about which set of actors threatens their world view—Muslims (for the right) or the mostly Christian and somewhat Jewish capitalist power structure (for the left).
But the response should be about humanist values and nothing else. This isn’t about power relationships or who’s offended and who’s not. It’s certainly not about racism, either Charlie Hebdo’s or the right’s, and it isn’t even about free speech per se. It’s about the specific right to commit blasphemy, especially through satire, an activity that, as Jeffrey Goldberg noted a few days ago, is “directly responsible for modernity.” Obviously it’s not the only precondition of modernity, but it’s up there.
The Christian and Judaic systems do have more modernity than Islam has right now, there’s no doubt about that. This is the smidgen of a point the right has, although 1) I hate to cede that point to “the right,” because it is a fundamentally liberal point that liberals should be willing to make, i.e. that the Muslim world needs more liberalism, and 2) the right embeds it in so much paranoid and bilious upholstery that it gets buried and alienates many who might otherwise agree. But I do wonder what would happen to an American publication that published a blasphemous drawing of Jesus and friends of the sort I described above.
The editors probably wouldn’t end up dead. But note that I feel comfortable only saying “probably,” not “definitely.” Without question they’d get death threats, hundreds or thousands of them, and they’d need police protection, and they’d lose advertisers and sponsors and maybe be forced out of business and not be able to find decent new jobs. None of those things is painful death, so that’s a difference and an important one. But it’s not as clean a distinction as merely defending the right to commit religious offense, period. That’s what modernity is, and we could use a little more of it ourselves.
By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, January 12, 2015