America’s Largest Protestant Church, Still Basically a Hate Group

Southern_Baptist_Convention_logoOh, those wacky Southern Baptists. What does a church founded on a strong, morally principled, pro-slavery stance even do for an encore?

(It’s cool, though — they passed a resolution apologizing for the whole slavery and white supremacy thing back in 1995, meaning that Southern Baptist theology has only been segregationist and pro-slavery for 150 years of the Convention’s 170-year history. That’s like…almost 12% not-awful!)

Anyway, they were at it again last week, holding the big assembly from which the Southern Baptist Convention takes its name, and what do you know? They’ve found a whole new batch of inferiors to hate, and they’re going to defend their right to do so! Possibly violently! But no one’s saying so explicitly, wink-wink-nudge-nudge. Here’s Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd on the possibility of nationally legalized same-sex marriage:

“I want to say to every pastor today of the United States who believes the word of God, this is a Bonhoeffer moment for every pastor if the United States. While some evangelicals — while some evangelicals may be bowing down to the inception of the inclusiveness of same-sex marriage, or marriage in their churches, we will not back down, nor will we be silent.”

Wait, wait, a who-and-a-what moment now? Who’s this Bonhoeffer guy? Oh, just a German Lutheran pastor and conspirator in various anti-Nazi resistance efforts, including plots to assassinate Hitler.

So the SBC is now engaged in “spiritual warfare” (Floyd’s words, not mine)…and every pastor is facing a “Bonhoeffer moment,” so…they should start plotting to assassinate someone? Presumably a crazed dictator? We don’t actually have one of those handy right now in America, but I bet the SBC can think of some leader who deserves to die. (Hint: the black guy. He’s talking about the black guy. Remember those 150 years of segregationist theology we were talking about up top?)

That's the face of a hero, all right.

Image of Ronnie Floyd, preaching to the flock. Yeah. He seems nice.

I think we can all agree that it’s time for America’s peaceful Protestants to step forward and confront the violent extremists leading their faith’s largest denomination, if they want anyone to believe that Protestant Christianity is not a religion of violence, don’t you? Ha! Just kidding! That is only for Muslims. Carry on, America’s largest Protestant body, no one is even going to blink at your thinly-veiled calls for domestic insurgency.

Which is kinda funny, ’cause they already helped back one rebellion. You’d think we’d fucking learn.

Pope Neatly Exposes His Morally Selective Followers As Giant Fucking Hypocrites

Pope-Francis-wikipediaYour average American Catholic has always been pretty selective about which of the Church’s dearly-held tenants actually apply: most use contraception, many are adulterers of more or less open stripes, and plenty of open mouths in the Communion line have been divorced without an annulment.

Despite those daily hypocrisies, Catholic leaders and Catholic teachings are still regularly used as a political cudgel, and treated by most in the media and their audiences as if those teachings had some sort of moral weight. Catholic bishops in America have not been shy in opposing the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that insurers cover contraceptives, or in speaking out against the legal recognition of “intrinsically disordered” homosexual relationships.

It would be nice to think that Pope Francis just put all that shit to rest, since while I’m sure the moral right will be delighted that his latest encyclical calls for the continued “valuing of one’s own body in its femininity or masculinity” (translation: all y’all trans people can go fuck yourselves, except not, because that’s a sin too), the same document also calls on individuals to change their “harmful habits of consumption,” explicitly terms the “rupture” between individual relationships with the environment a sin, chides multinational energy companies for “operat[ing] in less developed countries in ways they could never do at home,” and just to put the UN cherry on the environmentalist sundae adds that “there is an urgent need of a true world political authority” to address issues of climate change and consumption.

This is not small stuff. It comes straight from the top — a papal decree on how Good Catholics should live their lives, making it clear that those lives should not accept or encourage any kind of consumption that further degrades the environment or the planet.

So will we see the same jerks that were screaming for laws to keep the Church from indirectly subsidizing naughty slut pills lining up to buy Priuses tomorrow? Of course not! America’s most famously frothy Catholic, Rick Santorum, oozed out ahead of the pack to respond the moment details on the latest encyclical started leaking, saying “the church has gotten it wrong a few times on science, and I think that we probably are better off leaving science to the scientists and focusing on what we’re really good at, which is … theology and morality.”

So, got it. When the Pope says that slut pills are naughty, that’s a moral imperative. When he says that your gas-guzzling, meat-eating lifestyle is not taking good stewardship of God’s creation, that’s getting it wrong on science, and we’d be silly Catholics to listen! (For the record, the Church is not writing the science on this one. It’s agreeing with the existing and overwhelming consensus of basically everyone who does science and isn’t paid by an oil company.)

Jeb Bush — who, lest we forget, is So Very Catholic he wrote a brand new law just to keep a braindead woman hooked up to machines against her family’s wishes, because that’s what the Pope wantedsaid on Wednesday “I don’t go to Mass for economic policy or for things in politics. I’ve got enough people helping me along the way with that.”

Fuck these guys. Fuck ’em all in their Pope-says-no-no buttholes. They are giant fucking hypocrites — like, it must be admitted, most Catholics, but then again, most Catholics are less directly involved in writing their bullshit, hypocritical morals into law.

Pope Francis is no moral hero, and I wish the left would stop treating him as such (let’s not forget, again, the parts of this most recent encyclical reminding us that good Catholics believe men and women should not be treated the same, and that contraceptives and abortion are bad in general and specifically should not be part of any aid to impoverished societies). But he has at least done the American public a favor in giving the most obnoxiously Bible-thumping Catholic politicians out there an obvious challenge: put your money where your mouth is and take radical action on environmental protection, now, because it is your papally-given moral imperative you self-righteous little fucks, or shut up about the slut pills and sodomy. You don’t get to pick and choose.

Except, of course, they do and they will, because that’s what we actually mean when we talk about “religious freedom” in this country. We’re talking about preserving the systemic oppression of the poor, of women, of minorities, and of any sexuality that deviates from patriarchal marriage, and we can expect to hear plenty more of it, and not very much at all about weaning ourselves off oil, no matter what Pope Francis says.

Every “Transracial Isn’t Real” Argument Has Already Been Made…About “Transgender”

caitlyn-jenner-vanity-fair-coverTwo stories broke this month, one after the other, that did not dovetail nearly as neatly as some in the media clearly wanted them to:

  • Rachel Dolezal, the head of the the Spokane, Washington NAACP, was revealed to be white after publicly presenting herself for at least a decade as black.

Comparisons between the two start to flounder when they get beyond the 140 characters of a tweet — Caitlyn Jenner transitioned about as publicly and openly as you possibly can, and obviously acknowledges the many years during which she lived and presented as male, whereas Rachel Dolezal built an entirely fabricated backstory that gets weirder and weirder as media attention focuses on it, and allegedly identified herself in writing at least once as African-American. You have to be either extremely lazy or deliberately misleading to draw much of a parallel between the two specific cases.

That said, I think a lot of progressive commenters, in their zeal for racial justice, are veering dangerously close to throwing the baby out with the bathwater here. Once you get past the specific personalities from these recent news stories and into the broader concept of transitional identities, it gets very hard to dismiss the concept of a “transracial” individual without also dismissing the concept of a “transgender” individual.

rachel-dolezal-side-by-side

I mean, where do we really want to base the argument that a white person who feels black; who lives as black, still isn’t?

Is it the lived experience from birth? That the person in transition has not had the deeply internalized struggle from Day One? That’s absolutely the case — but it’s the case for transgender individuals, too, and particularly transwomen in terms of privilege and power. Caitlyn Jenner, just to name one example, does not really “know what it is to be female,” in the lived and internalized way that someone who identified as female from birth does. But most women’s groups have accepted that the identity is more important than the lifelong experience, and the ones that haven’t fallen in line tend to get blacklisted, boycotted, and excluded into non-existence (see: the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, etc.). So clearly that’s not the defining factor in identity on the progressive left.

Is it that psychiatrists and doctors recognize gender fluidity, but not racial fluidity? You could make that argument, but it would only be true for about the last decade or so. As far as the rest of medical history was concerned, transgender people were just crazy. It was viewed as either a disorder in its own right or a symptom of a larger illness and/or insanity. If your argument against the concept of a “transracial” identity is that the AMA or the APA(s) haven’t written it up as A Real Thing (TM), you’re right on board with where anti-transgender writers were up until within my recent lifetime — presumably not where the progressive left wants to be.

rachel-dolezal-facebook-natural-look

Is it that you can fully transition a male body to female (or vice versa), but not black to white (or vice versa)? Doubtful — most trans-inclusive groups and movements have firmly settled themselves in the camp of neither asking nor caring what’s under the skirt/trousers/whatever. The concept of “pre-op vs. post-op” is considered archaic, and you can be transgender without presenting any sort of conventionally gendered identity at all these days. And if someone can be a transwoman with a full beard and a cock-bulge in her trousers — which I think most progressives would agree is just fine — you’ve got very shaky ground to argue that hair treatments and skin dye do not a “black” body make.

I don’t say any of this to say that Rachel Dolezal, specifically, is a fine human being living her life in a harmless way (by all current appearances she is not), or even that I would feel comfortable with any white person putting on black makeup and claiming that identity. But I do say it as a caution to people who want to dismiss the whole concept while staying reliably allied with transgender individuals, because I don’t think there are many ways to express discomfort with transracial presentations like Ms. Dolezal’s that haven’t already been used to attack the concept of a transgender identity.

If you want to accept that individual identity should be allowed to supersede what I guess a reactionary conservative might call “biological reality” — and I, personally, do — you have to also accept that you’re moving into a more fluid society where you don’t get to draw lines in the sand saying that this social construct can be crossed, but that one is absolute and it’s impossible to “transition” across it.

Or you can, but you have to accept being a bit of a hypocrite. And that’s fine! I do that on a lot of philosophical issues, in the end, and I think it’s the preferable alternative to being completely inflexible and absolutist on all points of principle. Just, you know — try to know when you’re doing it.

And to not hurt other people, even ones who seem really weird to you.

If You Need To Take Out the “Father/Son,” Maybe Patriarchal Religion Isn’t For You

Iholy-trinity-stained-glassf you’re of a religious nature here in the U.S. of A., but you also like to think of yourself as a decent human being independent of and outside the confines of your religion, odds are you attend some flavor or other of liberal Protestant church.

You’ll be familiar, then, with accommodating phrases accompanying the doxologies in the bulletins along the lines of “using ‘Father’ and ‘Son’ — please feel free to substitute ‘Creator’ and ‘Christ’ or other phrases as you feel appropriate.”

I looked for a delicate way to say this, but after many revisions, I’m just going to cut straight to the chase: if you feel the need to pretend that the overtly and deliberately male-gendered pantheon of Christianity somehow isn’t, Christianity may not be the religion for you.

I appreciate the urge to reform, but it doesn’t matter how reformed you want your Bible to be. If you’re relying on the Bible for your theology, you’re not going to get around the idea that God is male, his Son is male, and men in general are great and awesome and divinely inspired, which is why women should shut up and do what they say. That’s pretty much baked in from start to finish. And y’know, that does it for some people! That is how they like to think about the world. But if it’s not how you like to think about the world, and you’re seeing those little “Creator/Christ” substitutions, you might be in the wrong building.

A linguistic figleaf on some hymns doesn’t change dogma. It also doesn’t make “the Church” any more welcoming to women, as long as we’re talking about the big-C concept of Christ’s church universal here. You can join a congregation that sings “Creator” and “Christ” instead of “Father” and “Son” if you want to, but it doesn’t change that fact that, if you’re female, you’re not supposed to be singing in church at all. Or, you know, speaking.

That’s for the menfolk to do. And that’s because God said so, and God is the Father who sent down Christ his Son to save all men. And if you don’t believe all of that shit, gender roles included, I don’t think you should take comfort in fiddling with a few words in the songbook. It’s just a way to feel not-horrible about a religion that is, frankly, horrible in a lot of ways.

Better to put the bulletin down and walk out than to slap a veneer of phony inclusiveness on a religion aggressively built on practices and principles of exclusion. If you’re not down with the inherent superiority of men, you’re just not that down with the tenants and traditions of Christianity.

And you know what? It’s all good. There are plenty of other things to do on Sunday morning.

Peaceful Non-Violence Is Great! Maybe Cops Should Try It.

baltimore-burning-police-carProtests in Baltimore turned violent last night, with store windows smashed, cars burned, and the National Guard called out. A curfew will be imposed tonight, and for however many nights the governor decides to keep the city occupied with troops going forward.

The spark for this flare-up, let’s remember (I won’t say “cause,” because a single event never causes widespread civil violence; the underlying conditions must already be desperate before ordinary people start picking fights with armed police and soldiers) was the unexplained death of a young black man, Freddie Gray, in Baltimore Police custody.

Freddie Gray was chased, tackled, beaten, and restrained because he ran away from the police. That was all it took: he ran, therefore he was worth chasing. And tackling. And beating. And as a result, he died in police custody, his spine mostly severed — by what, or whom, or how, we don’t know, other than that it occurred after the police attacked him. The department has not been in any particular rush to explain itself.

In that context, “peaceful non-violence” and similar such phrases are one hell of a moral high ground to ask protestors to take. We are talking about a community that is under constant siege by an armed, state-sponsored paramilitary force, and has been for some time. The decision of Baltimore police officers in the case of Freddie Gray to default straight to armed pursuit and brutal violence, before any suggestion of a crime or threat to police officers could possibly have been perceived, was not an unusual outlier.

baltimore-beaten-mugshots-banner

Comfortably insulated by wealth, education, and some small degree of media outreach and knowledge of how to make mass communications work for me, to say nothing of my lily-white skin, it’s very easy for me to personally choose non-violence. So I do. And I genuinely think it’s the right choice, and ultimately would be for anyone and everyone.

But you will not hear me clicking my tongue and asking why those Baltimore rioters can’t be more like dear old Dr. King (bless his sanctified, whitewashed history) and just stay non-violent. Their world is not non-violent. Their oppressors are not non-violent. They are on the losing side of a war. We’re really going to be surprised when their resistance turns asymmetrical, and even Pyrrhic?

You can’t call on people to respect a community that you yourself do not respect. The city of Baltimore and the state of Maryland have made it plainly clear that they do not care what life is like in the projects and slums of West Baltimore. If you can’t understand how people can think that smashing windows and burning cars in their own neighborhoods could possibly make things better, it’s because you don’t understand that it couldn’t possibly make things worse.

I’m all for non-violent responses to violence. But it sure would be nice to see the police give it a try before they and their sponsors in the government start insisting that the people on the other end of the batons turn the other cheek.

Progressives: Maybe Be a Little Less Gleeful About Deliberate Economic Harm

rainbow-indiana-outlineI’m as upset as the next person by Indiana’s right-to-discriminate bill (and no, it’s not the same as similarly- or identically-named “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” bills), but I think that anyone who claims to be on the side of tolerance needs to take a long, hard ponder before joining in any cries to #BoycottIndiana.

Pulling dollars out of Indiana, or at least threatening to, has been the de rigueur gesture of Corporate Social Responsibility this last week (see: Salesforce, Angie’s List, etc.), and that right there should tell you everything you need to know. If the cudgel being wielded in the name of righteousness is corporate dollars, how righteous do you honestly think the cause is?

States are not privately-held companies. Assuming a state could be effectively boycotted (an uphill battle to say the least), the harm would fall on everyone in the state, purely because they happened to live there. Guilt by association. Nor would it fall equally — a campaign that wreaked serious economic harm on Indiana would punish its neediest citizens most, both through the shrinking tax base (leading, inevitably, to cuts in social services) and through reduced employment opportunities.

When you cheer the decision of a corporation to pull jobs out of a state because that state passed legislation the corporation did not approve of, you are cheering simultaneously for the use of economic violence as a persuasive tool, and for the empowerment of corporate money as democratic leverage.

I’m hardly immune to the knee-jerk satisfaction of “well, good, serves you right for being a bunch of backwards bigots.” But the “you” that’s being served is an entire state full of diverse individuals, not the legislature or the governor. They’ll be just fine, I assure you, even if Indiana drops to 50th in the USA on every economic measure imaginable. Out of a job, maybe, but do you really think they’re going to be competing for their next posting with the general workforce, whose opportunities their mismanagement diminished?

They’ll be headed to a private consulting firm or law office somewhere, snugly cushioned by more piles of money used to prop up social ideology. You know — the same piles Salesforce and Angie’s List and all the others are currently beating Indiana up with, while the tolerance-loving left cheers an economic assault on the democratic process like it’s a good thing.

So maybe take a deep breath and a step back, think long and hard about how much you love the threat of economic punishment when it’s wielded against, say, labor unions, or foreign nations, and ask yourself whether you’re really that happy that a handful of our benevolent corporate overlords have deigned to lend their weight to your opinions — or about how much more their weight seems to matter than yours.

Because make no mistake here: what we’re seeing are rich, privately-held corporations threatening to punish a local economy unless the local leaders change local laws to fall more in line with the corporate owners’ values. And that’s something that should alarm anyone who believes in freedom and tolerance, or at least anyone who still sees American democracy as a mechanism for safeguarding those ideals.

“Clean Reader” Censorship App Sources Its Texts from Page Foundry – So Complain to Page Foundry, Not an App Store

UPDATE: As of 11:25 AM, 26 March 2015, Page Foundry has announced that they will no longer be providing the Clean Reader app with the Inktera bookstore catalog. Thank you to any and all readers who took the time to contact them and expression your opposition to the unauthorized alteration of authors’ works. Original post follows.

TLDR: If you’re upset about the “Clean Reader” app, which sells ebooks and then automatically censors words it deems offensive from the text (without the permission of authors or publishers), email the leadership of Page Foundry and ask them to stop supplying Clean Reader with its texts. Their contact information is as follows:

If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, or what to say to these fine gentlemen (and, potentially and hopefully, fine women, behind that company-wide address), read on!

clean-reader-appFirst the background, for those who need to be brought up to speed: a truly odious team of mom-and-pop developers (literally) have come up with an ebook retailing app that automatically censors out “bad words” from the ebooks it sells. Depending on user settings, you can go from censorship as mild as just scrubbing the F-bombs all the way up to (and I’m not kidding) blanking out uses of “breast.”

This was, to hear the developers tell it, their solution to their Precious Little Snowflake child being sad because a book she liked had bad words in it. Authors are, understandably, pissed (excuse me, “peeved”) — to soothe this couple’s delicate sensibilities and inability to have a fucking conversation with their child about what a word means and why a writer might choose to use it, their work is being modified without permission.

This is something we all should be offended by. Clean Reader’s censorship in particular happens to be of an especially patriarchal, misogynist, and anti-sex variety — most of the censored words have to do with sex or bodies, especially women’s bodies; the app replaces “vagina,” “pussy,” and “cunt” with “bottom,” apparently on the theory that women’s parts are especially naughty but everyone has butts so those are okay. (I also think it tells you a lot about the minds that wrote this app that their approved, non-offensive substitution for “nigger” is “Negro.”)

But even if you have some sympathies with the developer’s breed of morality (which, don’t), you should at least be able to agree that retailers have no business censoring the entire body of a written work without the author’s permission, even via a wink-wink-nudge-nudge endrun that inserts the censorship for the reader after the purchase has been transacted.

So by all means, snag the app (it’s free) from the Apple or Android store and leave a bad review — it’s soothing, moderately useful, and a good first step.

That said, Clean Reader can only exist because it sources its texts from Page Foundry’s Inktera catalog, a collection of titles that Page Foundry sells to various distributors. Contacting them and expressing your concern that their works are being censored by one of their clients is a much more effective approach than contacting the developers or leaving a bad review.

Don’t just get angry — get involved! Send an email to the leadership of Page Foundry, who can be conveniently reached at the following addresses:

Be polite, be direct, and let them know that one of their clients is engaging in activity you find morally reprehensible. It sounds stupid, but this is how change actually gets made. They are reading and responding personally, at least as of this morning, when I got a very nicely written (but naturally noncommittal) reply from their CEO. So…write a fucking letter! You are also welcome to copy-paste the one I’ve written below, which I sent earlier today.

Sample letter follows:

To the Leadership of Page Foundry:

I am a concerned customer writing regarding your association with the “Clean Reader” app for mobile devices (http://www.cleanreaderapp.com/).

The Clean Reader app sources ebooks for sale from your Inktera bookstore, then applies a filter over words that the app deems offensive after a work is downloaded.

This is direct censorship without the approval of either the author or the publisher. It alters the text in a way they did not consent to, on behalf of the retailer’s personal sensibilities.

Many authors have spoken out against this, writing far more eloquently than I could — I invite you to read Joanne Harris’s thoughtful and detailed post on the subject (http://joannechocolat.tumblr.com/post/114425387366/why-im-saying-fuck-you-to-clean-reader).

Jennifer Porter also provides an excellent rundown of the filter’s grievous flaws (http://www.romancenovelnews.com/joomla/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=1167:my-clean-reader-app-experience&Itemid=53). Beyond being censorship, and inherently offensive to writers and readers, the app is making dangerously confusing substitutions, like replacing the word “vagina” with “bottom.” This is both anatomically incorrect and suggests that a woman’s vagina is somehow more “dirty” or “wrong” than a different part of her body, and it is only one of many examples of the Clean Reader app’s damaging, misguiding, and unwanted substitutions.

I do not believe that Page Foundry should be in the business of supporting censorship. I strongly encourage you to sever ties with Clean Reader, and to deny them access to your catalog of works. Page Foundry has nothing to gain from association with a developer whose only stated purpose is to alter written works without the consent of authors or publishers.

Very Sincerely,

A Concerned Reader

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