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Muslims, Marriage And Bigotry”: Our Capacity To “Otherize” People Of A Different Faith, Race, Nationality Or Sexuality

In North Carolina, three young Muslims who were active in charity work were murdered, allegedly by a man who identified as atheist and expressed hostility to Islam and other faiths. Police are exploring whether it was a hate crime, and it spurred a #MuslimLivesMatter campaign on Twitter.

And, in Alabama, we see judges refusing to approve marriages of any kind because then they would also have to approve same-sex marriages. In one poll conducted last year, some 59 percent of people in Alabama opposed gay marriage. Somehow a loving God is cited to bar loving couples from committing to each other.

These are very different news stories. But I wonder if a common lesson from both may be the importance of resisting bigotry, of combating the intolerance that can infect people of any faith — or of no faith.

I don’t think Muslims should feel obliged to apologize for the Charlie Hebdo terror attacks. Nor do I think atheists need apologize for the killing of the three Muslims.

But it does seem useful for everyone to reflect on our capacity to “otherize” people of a different faith, race, nationality or sexuality — and to turn that other-ness into a threat. That’s what the Islamic State does to us. And sometimes that’s what we do, too.

O.K. I’m sure some of you are protesting: That’s a false equivalency. True, there is a huge difference between burning someone alive and not granting a couple a marriage license. But, then again, it’s not much of a slogan to say, “We’re better than ISIS!”

There has been a pugnacious defensiveness among conservative Christians to any parallels between Christian overreach and Islamic overreach, as seen in the outraged reaction to President Obama’s acknowledgment at the National Prayer Breakfast this month that the West has plenty to regret as well. But Obama was exactly right: How can we ask Islamic leaders to confront extremism in their faith if we don’t acknowledge Christian extremism, from the Crusades to Srebrenica?

More broadly, one message of the New Testament is the value of focusing on one’s own mistakes rather than those of others. “You hypocrite,” Jesus says in Matthew 7:5. “First take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

We could do with a little more of that spirit these days, at a time when everybody wants to practice ophthalmology on everyone else.

When I posted on my Facebook page about the North Carolina murders, one follower, Frank, wrote dismissively: “Muslims are slaughtering people around the globe (including their own) but let’s highlight this story — seems legit.”

I’ve previously urged Muslims to reflect on intolerance in their camp, and this is an occasion when Christians, atheists and others can do the same. Did the furor in North Carolina that led to the cancellation of the Muslim call to prayer from Duke University’s chapel tower inflame sentiments?

The Alabama legal drama, with Chief Justice Roy S. Moore of the State Supreme Court defying federal authorities, is, of course, different. But it also is redolent of faith as I-am-holier-than-thou chest-thumping, a reminder of the need for humility.

Do Judge Moore and other conservative Christians think that when God made gays and lesbians fall achingly in love with each other, He screwed up?

It seems odd to me that so many conservative Christians are obsessed with homosexuality, which Jesus never mentions, yet seem unworried about issues Jesus did emphasize like poverty and suffering. Jesus explicitly advised a wealthy man, “Go, sell your possessions and give to the poor” (Matthew 19:21), so maybe that’s the Scripture that Judge Moore should follow to demonstrate his piety.

Then there’s Jesus’s praise for those who make themselves eunuchs (Matthew 19:12); but I’d settle for a little “love thy neighbor as thyself.”

I’ve written often about committed and self-effacing Christians doing outstanding work combating injustice around the world, and it’s frustrating that they don’t get attention. The problem is that their heroism is often overshadowed by sanctimonious blowhards.

Among Americans aged 18 to 24, a 2012 survey found that half or more describe present-day Christianity as “hypocritical,” “judgmental” and “anti-gay.” And more regarded it as immoral to view pornography than to have sex with a person of the same gender. Alabama is, once again, on the wrong side of history.

Pope Francis has been a breath of fresh air to Catholics and non-Catholics alike because he seems less moralizing and more moral, less about pointing a finger and more about offering a helping hand. After the tragedy in North Carolina and the legal chaos in Alabama, maybe that’s a good instinct for all of us.

 

By: Nicholas Kristof, Op-Ed Contributor, The New York Times, February 13, 2015

February 14, 2015 Posted by | Bigotry, Christianity, Homophobia, Islamophobia | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Folksy Panderin’ In Bubba-Ville”: Huckabee 2016; Bend Over And Take It Like A Prisoner!

Great American leaders have long contributed profound thoughts of tremendous consequence to the public discourse.

Roosevelt: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Kennedy: “Mankind must put an end to war — or war will put an end to mankind.”

Reagan: “Trust, but verify.”

And now, similarly, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee: “Bend over and take it like a prisoner!”

Earlier this week, Huckabee ended his Fox News talk show so he could spend time mulling another bid for the Republican nomination. If the contents of Huckabee’s latest book – due out January 20th – are any indication, the overarching message of that campaign will be that the government is, um, having its way with the American public in a method that Huckabee, a Christian conservative, finds rather repulsive.

“Bend Over and Take it Like a Prisoner!” is the title of the 10th chapter of Huckabee’s 12th book, God, Guns, Grits, and Gravy – which, as a whole, is an achievement in the genre of poorly written pandering.

The chapter, ostensibly about the TSA and IRS, is a soaring crescendo of latent homosexuality homoeroticism cloaked in almost libertarian – but not libertine! – conservatism.

It opens with Huckabee’s dramatic recollection of going through security at the airport. “Where else would I be ordered to stand still, put up my hands, and have my personal belongings taken and searched without a warrant or probable cause?” He asks. “After years of this indignity, much of the flying public thinks little of it, and they usually don’t complain. They just dutifully stand there, bend over, and take it like a prisoner.”

Clickbait title notwithstanding, Bend Over and Take It Like a Prisoner! is not devoid of substance. Although Huckabee’s condescending tone – like that of an elementary school history teacher – makes it difficult to take seriously.

He takes aim at the Department of Homeland Security and the USA Patriot Act: “…did anyone anticipate that not many terrorists would really get punished as a result of this act, but that American citizens would?”

He then quotes Benjamin Franklin: “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

“What would Ben say today?” Huckabee wonders. “Would he cheerfully go through a full-body scanner that electronically strip-searched him and then allow a federal agent to put his blue-gloved hands inside his pants and over his thighs, crotch, and upper body for the sake of domestic travel on a privately owned commercial carrier? I’ll bet you a Benjamin that he most certainly would not. (Come to think of it, though, kite flying Ben would definitely be in awe of this and every other use of…electricity! Also airplane flight, but I digress.)”

Huckabee then basically reprints – in full –  a few Politico Magazine articles by former TSA agent Jason Edward Harrington, because he has space to fill (later in the book, he writes out the lyrics to Simple Life by Lynyrd Skynyrd,).

He then provides some insight into his psyche – complete with Animal House reference.

While excoriating the IRS, Huckabee brings his readers along on a flashback to his youth.

“They remind me of a sadistic coach at my high school who used to enjoy ‘giving licks’ to teen boys for any infraction of his rules. Just so you know, ‘giving licks’ was the term used to describe the coach hitting the butt of a student with a short-handled boat paddle, riddled with holes to minimize wind resistance and enhance striking power…The coach had a rule that if you got a ‘lick’ you were required to say, ‘Thanks, coach, may I have another one?’ And most often he would say, ‘Sure,’ and pop you again. One might get three or four before the coach finally said, ‘No, I think you’ve had enough,’ and stop his twisted abuse of a helpless adolescent. Whenever I think of the IRS, I see that coach standing with his paddle, expecting em to say, ‘Thanks, IRS, may I have another one?’”

In closing, Huckabee condemns the current US government for being a “ham-fisted, hypercontrolling ‘Sugar Daddy,’ ” that has conditioned Americans “to just bend over and take it like a prisoner.” But, Huckabee writes, “In Bubba-ville, the days of bending are just about over. People are ready to start standing up for freedom and refusing to take it anymore.”

Now, the book does include a disclaimer on the back cover.

It is “not a recipe book for Southern cuisine, nor a collection of religious devotionals, nor a manual on how to properly load a semiautomatic shotgun.” Instead, “It’s a book about what’s commonly referred to as ‘flyover country.”

Clad in a blue, striped button-down, a silver watch adorning his left wrist, Huckabee beams on the cover. He stands, one assumes on a porch, which overlooks a prairie. “After you finish the book,” he writes, “you might just say, ‘Dang, those good ol’ boys ain’t so dumb after all.

 

By: Olivia Nuzzi, The Daily Beast, January 8, 2015

January 10, 2015 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Homophobia, Mike Huckabee | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Shameless Fear-Mongering”: It’s Time To Expel Michele Bachmann From Congress

In a recent interview on conservative radio show Faith & Liberty, U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minnesota) warned that the gay community ultimately wants to “abolish age-of-consent laws, which means we will do away with statutory-rape laws so that adults will be able to freely prey on little children sexually. That’s the deviance that we’re seeing embraced in our culture today.”

Of course, Bachmann offered absolutely no evidence whatsoever to support her claim, most likely because there is none. It’s an outright lie. A supposed inherent link between homosexuality and pedophilia has been disproven time and again. Consequently, the canard that gay people — gay men, specifically — wish to sexually exploit children, which was once commonly held in America, has, more recently, been reduced to fodder for far-right homophobes. Granted, Bachmann certainly falls into that demographic, but the scope of her influence far outreaches that of an average private citizen.

In the same interview Bachmann went on to state that the gay community also wishes to legalize polygamy and enact “hate-speech laws across the United States” in order to bring about the “rise of tyranny.”

This latest incident isn’t Bachmann’s first foray into the arena of blatant homophobia. She’s been peddling inflammatory myths about the gay community and representing those myths as indisputable truths throughout her stint as a congresswoman, all the while insisting that her message “is to spread goodness and joy and wholeness and healing.”

In the marketplace of shameless fear-mongering, Michele Bachmann can certainly hold her own amongst the usual cast of right-wing characters. However, a great deal of Bachmann’s rhetoric is typically irresponsible and borders on slander. For instance, in another recent interview Bachmann implied that unaccompanied minors fleeing the violence in Central America, who have come in large numbers to the Southern U.S. border, will be allowed into the country by President Obama so they can be put into foster care and used for “medical experimentation.” How much longer will Bachmann be allowed to make such wild, completely unfounded accusations with impunity?

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m all for individuals being able to freely express an opinion. And I understand that it’s important to play to your audience. But these are no mere opinions, and Bachmann is no mere individual. And this latest incident isn’t Bachmann’s first foray into the arena of blatant homophobia. What Bachmann is doing is presenting an erroneous and incendiary scenario as truth. We’ve heard it before, but what makes this instance all the more disturbing is the simple fact that Bachmann isn’t some washed-up 1950s-beauty-pageant contestant, nor is she some huckster televangelist. Bachmann is a member of the Congress of the United States. She has the power to introduce bills and resolutions, and to vote on whether or not they should be enacted into law. When Bachmann was sworn in for her fourth and current term in Congress, she stated on her website, “It is a true honor to represent the citizens of Central Minnesota in the United States Congress.” Given her opinion of the gay community, I don’t believe Bachmann is genuinely capable of fulfilling that duty, nor does she have any inclination to do so. After all, Bachmann must be aware that a segment of the population of Central Minnesota is made up of gays and lesbians. Otherwise, Bachmann & Associates, the counseling center founded by Bachmann’s husband, Marcus, wouldn’t have considered it necessary to offer conversion “therapy” to its clients. And Bachmann has campaigned tirelessly against same-sex marriage in Minnesota throughout her political career.

Bachmann has hinted that she will not seek reelection at the end of her current term in Congress. She has also vaguely hinted at another run for the U.S. presidency. I don’t think there is even the slightest chance that Bachmann could be elected to run the country. History has proven that. Regardless, I believe she should be expelled from Congress. Our system of government was created to be “of the people, by the people and for the people.” The “people” includes the LGBT community, and government officials such as Michele Bachmann are not only not for us; they are pathologically against us. Personally, I don’t believe my tax dollars should be used to pay the salary of someone who wants to convince the world that my ultimate desire is to be able to legally molest children.

 

By: Walt Hawkins, The Huffington Post Blog, August 9, 2014

August 10, 2014 Posted by | Homophobia, Michele Bachmann | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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