Dem bones, dem bones, dem gay bones / Dem bones, dem bones, dem straight bones
Please turn in your hymnals to No. 319.
Fred Phelps, he of the Westboro Baptist Hate Community, is dead.
It is the most celebrated death in the world of religion since Pope John Paul II left our Little Blue Planet for that Polish Theatre in the Sky.
Everyone has had their say about Fred Phelps. And I am one of the final speakers at his Internet memorial—one in which the lineup of progressive eulogists has for the most part behaved in an exemplary fashion. See, for instance, the words of George Takei:
“Today, Mr. Phelps may have learned that God, in fact, hates no one. Vicious and hate-filled as he was, may his soul find the kind of peace through death that was so plainly elusive during his life.”
This is all I have to add:
Hate is biodegradable.
Somewhere in Middle America, the corpse of Fred Phelps rests, buffet to worms. The skin and sinew—the brain that conceived so many simple-minded slogans of enmity—are returning to even simpler forms of matter. Bacteria and blowflies are having a smorgasbord heyday.
Matter returns to the earth. Hate was just a chemical reaction all along.
And, too, is dead the god of Fred Phelps. it died with him. it lives yet in others. But soon those gods will perish too. Maggots will feast upon them.
I had an interesting thought the moment I learned of Phelps’ death. I had an image of the bones of Oscar Wilde, an Irishman who perhaps had more command of the English language than any human being since William Shakespeare (apologies to Dorothy Parker).
Here are some of Wilde’s most amazing quotations.
Oscar Wilde was almost certainly a homosexual. He was convicted for being one and served two years in prison for such.
The bones of Oscar Wilde reside in Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.
They are not gay bones. They are human bones.
And the bones of Fred Phelps are not straight bones. They too are just human bones.
Not too long ago, I stop believing in hell. Which kind of sucks, as there is some part of me that would relish imagining Fred Phelps spending at least a little part of eternity roiling in some sort of Dantean bolgia of suffering.
But I no longer concern myself with how God judges human souls in the afterlife. That’s His business. My job is just to love people in the here and now.
What I do know is this:
Dust in the wind / All we are is dust in the wind
O, I could quote the Epistle of James, but it’s so much more poetically satisfying to cite the lyrics of a band called Kansas.
Yet I do find consolatory beauty in the poetry of David the Shepherd:
“When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars [and all the cosmos Neil deGrasse Tyson gets to see in his weird, needle-like spaceship] which you have set in place, what is man that thou art mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?”
In the end, the remains of Oscar Wilde and Fred Phelps are the same. They are not gay bones, they are not straight bones. They are just bones.
Endoskeletons. Dense connective tissue.
And I lament all the energy that went into condemning one skeleton, and all the condemnation that was energized in the other.
Human beings are so much more than the sum total of the desire of their genitals. If we can’t ever get past this point, I hope and pray we devolve and give way to some other species that is worthy of beholding the majesty of the Universe.
Seriously. Perhaps octopi or right whales or wombats can make better of such an opportunity.
Behold, the Christian Right Weekly Round-Up.
5. Billy Graham’s Son Heaps Accolades on the Bloodthirsty Dictatorships of Assad and Putin, according to Decision Magazine: “Putin’s Olympic Controversy”
Back in January, Vlad ‘The Inhaler’ Putin issued a statement meant to assure the world that he wasn’t going to torture homosexuals who were en route to Russia for the Winter Olympics. (Why bother, actually, as Sochi’s decrepit hotels were already designed to throttle guests, irrespective of sexual orientation.)
Putin’s message, which equated homosexuality with pedophilia and urged his comrades to “cleanse” themselves of homosexuality, probably only would have occurred to Ivan the Terrible as a message of hope. Well, Ivan the Terrible and Franklin Graham.
The Internet exploded the past few weeks as Billy Graham’s son aligned himself with Russian despot Vladimir Putin. Yet very few news sites included the link to Franklin’s article in Decision Magazine, “the magazine of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.”
That link is provided above, and you really should read Franklin Graham’s article. It’s way worse than even major progressive news sites have framed it. Here’s a dandy quote:
“I have never heard Putin quote the Bible, but during his 2012 election campaign, he met with church leaders in Moscow and vowed to protect persecuted Christians around the world. That is one justification for his support of the Assad regime in Syria. Syria, for all its problems, at least has a constitution that guarantees equal protection of citizens.”
Really, Mr. Graham. Really?! Putin is siding with Assad in order to protect Syrian Christians?! And you have the additional gall to state that Assad’s Syria provides equal protection to its citizens?!
Then comes the real whiz-banger:
“To be clear, I am not endorsing President Putin. To survive in the KGB and rise to power in Russia, you have to be tough. [my note: I guess it’s very biblical these days to refer to war crimes as “tough.”] … Obviously, he may be wrong about many things, but he has taken a stand to protect his nation’s children from the damaging effects of any gay and lesbian agenda.”
Something every national news media organization completely missed in its critique of Franklin Graham’s off-the-wall statements.
On March 6, Decision Magazine also published an interview with Ukrainian Acting President Oleksandr Turchynov—AFTER Putin had already rolled into Crimea.
Here’s Turchynov on the Ukrainian revolution:
“‘Truth was on the side of those who stood for their rights, and (chose not to) be slaves, without rights and without voice,’ acting president Turchynov said of the near-miraculous victory of thousands of unarmed protesters over the regime of now-deposed former president Viktor Yanukovych.”
Hey, Mr. Graham, aren’t homosexuals in Russia also standing up for their rights? The right of freedom of speech? The basic human right to love and be loved?
Just how two-faced can an organization get? The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) manages to show simultaneous support for Vladimir Putin and the Ukrainian Acting President.
BGEA throws its weight behind Putin (and, of all people, Assad!), while also coming to the journalistic defense of the Ukrainian Revolution leader, who at the time of publication of his interview was trying to cast off Putin the “oppressor,” hoping “for another victory…based on a Biblical promise.”
Franklin Graham, take a cue from your dad and don’t let your left hand or your right hand say another damned word about world politics. Ever.
Every time you open your mouth, you support hate and both sides of every oppressive blade. You are an embarrassment to your father (who, by the way, introduced me to Christianity), a disgrace to the Christian religion, and a geopolitical neophyte the likes of which few Evangelical “leaders” have ever aspired.
I pray that someday your bones are laid to rest atop the lipstick-laden tomb of Oscar Wilde.
4. When in Doubt, Use Frederick Douglas to Bash Homosexuals, via Wisconsin Christian News: “Governor Walker has a Duty to Interpose and Defy the Federal Judge”
The Wisconsin Christian News is probably the best fundamentalist comparator in the United States. This is, after all, the news source that has given us open letters in support of hate speech against Muslims; confirmation of biblical prophecy that President Obama will bomb Damascus; and, no surprise, breaking news that we are living in the End Times.
So how does Franklin Graham’s love of Putin’s “gay cleansing manifesto” stand up to the latest weekly vitriol from WCN? Pretty well, actually.
Because about the only thing that Graham left out of his anti-Christian rant in Decision Magazine was a reference to Frederick Douglas bashing homosexuals.
Gotta love Wisconsin Christian News: gays are “sexual outlaws,” don’t ya know? By the way, I wonder if Matt Trewhella herein is referring to Lewis Black’s gay bandidos bit.
Trewhella then really goes off his rocker. He compares Wisconsin’s 1859 defiance of the Fugitive Slave Law to opposition of the current federal suit by the ACLU and “eight homosexuals” to block the Wisconsin Constitution’s same sex marriage ban.
Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight. Hey, Franklin Graham, are you listening? The April issue of Decision Magazine is right around the corner. You still have time to compare pro-slavery to same sex marriage. I’m sure there’s also a speech by Joseph Stalin somewhere you could reference.
3. Creationists Shoot Selves in Foot with Big Bang Smoking Gun, over at Institute for Creation Research: “‘Smoking Gun’ Evidence of Inflation?”
Unless you’ve been buried in March Madness bracketology, you know that scientists who work with the South Pole BICEP2 telescope announced this week that the first hardcore evidence of the Big Bang has finally been discovered, with the detection of “primordial gravitational waves.”
For those of us who have to concentrate hard to wade through even layperson-level versions of this story—which is probably most of us—the most important thing to note is that physicists predicted these gravitational signatures more than three decades ago. Now, following lots of effort by some rather brilliant scientists, this impressive phenomenon has been discovered.
And that’s how science works…unless you’re a Creationist. In which case you say things like, “That’s how secular science works.”
You know, the same “secular” science that designs our smartphones, cures cancer, keeps the International Space Station aloft, etc., et al.
I really encourage you to spend ten minutes reading the contra position to the Gravitational Wave Discovery by Institute for Creation Research (ICR) research associate Jake Hebert, Ph.D.
Read carefully how the only stones the ICR can toss at the Gravitational Wave Discovery are obvious statements like “even secular cosmologists are cautioning that these signals could be caused by factors other than inflation” and that the lead physicists on the project are still working to understand their discovery.
Um, that’s pretty much how I would expect any responsible scientist to react to a major discovery.
As to what actually causes Cosmic Background Radiation, this is when Creationist crickets stop chirping. They have no rebuttal other than Bible verses from Isaiah:
“The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.”
Tell you what: if I’m at the oncologist and she starts quoting selections from Old Testament Major Prophets at me, I’m going to go find me one of them “secular scientists” PDQ.
2. Former Bill Maher Guest Defends Divine Mass Murder, via Christian Post: “No, Bill Maher, God is Not a ‘Psychotic Mass Murderer’”
No surprise: Bill Maher thinks that Yahweh of the Noah Flood Account in Genesis is a “psychotic mass murderer.”
Jerry Newcombe, a multiple guest on Maher’s show, takes exception to this. He thinks the Flood Account is historically accurate and that God can do whatever He wants with His Creation. In other words, God is indeed a psychotic mass murderer, but it’s a gauche violation of Southern charm to refer to God as such.
Newcombe then engages in some of the worst imaginable biblical hermeneutics I have ever seen—including out-of-context quotations by Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln, and an innocuous reference to a scene from the throwaway film Son of God.
At any rate, both Maher and Newcombe are wrong, as both individuals refuse to engage Genesis for the myth it is.
Screw it. I’m giving up commenting on Genesis literalism for the rest of Lent. People are dying out there, and all Christians seem to care about these days is cosmology. We are more than the metaphysical sperm and egg that conceived our Universe.
Also, I highly recommend that someone send Newcombe my tutorial on biblical exegesis over at Patheos: “Jesus Wept, Einstein’s Regret & How a Frenchman Fueled the Hermeneutics War.”
So sad that the author of some 23 books doesn’t have the least bit clue how to discourse on any single subject.
1. Four of Out Five Evangelical Dentists Prefer Fox News, from Christianity Today: “3 Ways to Recognize Bad Stats”
50% of the time we like to end the week on a high note.
Would someone please bump Ed Stetzer to the front of the Evangelical author line?
If every Christian community in the U.S. were forced to read this article at every Sunday morning service, Wednesday prayer breakfast and Friday night Tupperware Party, civilization might suddenly reverse course for utopia.
I know this, because 0% of the Norwegian forest cats sleeping on my bed disagree with me.
Seriously, though. Just bathe luxuriantly in the warm common sense of this quote:
“You can guard against believing and spreading bad statistics by determining if its source is a promotional piece, if it cannot possibly be verified scientifically, and if it does not line up with reality. Then, if it is quality research, quote away.”
A pound of reason, several cups of good hermeneutics, and maybe there’s hope for Our Little Blue Planet yet.
That’s a wrap!
Please turn in your hymnals to No. 1968.
And just why do we present the Christian Right Weekly Round-Up each week?
Usually we conclude with a long boiler plate. But, really, it just comes down to one thing: the Religious Right is a Turkish bathhouse of Mammon-gorging hypocrisy. And progressives everywhere should be scared shitless that unless they vote, the First Church of the Koch Brothers will finally take over the world.
So, dammit, get in line to vote!. The November 2014 election is only this many days away.
Latest posts by Arik Bjorn (see all)
- Puerto Rican Paper Towels to Buchenwald Bread Crumbs: #RESIST, While You Still Have Time - October 6, 2017
- “So I Ran for Congress”: Sneak Preview Redux - August 22, 2017
- “So I Ran for Congress”: A Sneak Preview - August 4, 2017