Dark Christianity
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May 2008
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dogemperor [userpic]
Craigslist nugget

LJ-SEC: (ORIGINALLY POSTED BY [info]thedemonprist)

From this link:

"The homosexual agenda."

"Aberrant sexual behavior."

"Assault upon American society."

If you're gay or lesbian, chances are you've heard this kind of fiery rhetoric before. In fact, you've probably heard it a lot. These days, there's no tuning it out.

Right wing Republicans nationwide condemn gay marriage as an attack on the family. Conservative Christians claim cartoons are tools of the "homosexual agenda." Fred Phelps crisscrosses the nation -- and the nightly news -- with his traveling band of "God Hates Fags" protesters. And that's just in the past month.

But the quotes above are not from any of the right's usual suspects. They're from Eric Rudolph, the handsome, soft-spoken 38-year-old sentenced in federal court two weeks ago for exploding four nail-riddled bombs, including one at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta that killed two people and injured 120 more. Rudolph's other targets were two women's health clinics and a gay bar outside Atlanta.

Just before his sentencing, Rudolph offered an explanation for his crimes in a rambling, 11-page manifesto that reads like a cross between a conservative Christian ideology manual and the rantings of a madman. He rails against the federal government, abortion, John Lennon and, of course, the right's favorite punching bag: queers. His language is extreme, even apocalyptic. But his tirade against gays is disturbingly familiar, echoing the sound bites of evangelical Christian organizations that make their way onto Fox News and CNN, and into state and federal policy.

Here's Rudolph on gay marriage:

"To place the homosexual relationship along side of the model [of heterosexuality] and pronounce it to be just as legitimate a lifestyle choice is a direct assault upon the longterm health and integrity of civilization and a vital threat to the very foundation of society -- and this foundation is a family hearth."

His conflation of homosexuality with mental illness is also a staple of Christian right politics:

"Like other humans suffering from various disabilities homosexual[s] should not attempt to infect the rest of society with their particular illness."

Rudolph's reliance on the religious right's rhetoric raises disturbing questions about its architects.

Given the right's widely promoted view -- that the diseased and dangerous homosexual threatens the family, the country and civilization itself -- how surprised can the its leaders be when someone bombs a gay meeting place?

To get answers to this troubling question, I decided to go directly to the source. Since they had been silent on the topic, I asked evangelical Christians themselves how their rhetoric and Rudolph's violence are connected. After all, they preach taking moral responsibility for the consequences of one's words and actions. It was time to turn the tables on them, especially since the mainstream press is generally unwilling to do so.

From my San Francisco office, I called three of the nation's most influential Christian political organizations -- Focus on the Family, the Traditional Values Coalition, and the American Family Association -- to get answers.

As expected, I was initially rebuffed. A representative of Focus called back and politely declined to comment. The TVC did not return my call. (Aren't good manners a traditional value?) To my surprise and to his credit, a spokesperson from AFA, Ed Vitagliano, called back and we spoke for 30 minutes. Vitagliano was polite, engaging and demonstrated what seemed to be a sincere effort to address my concerns.

The Mississippi-based AFA is one of the most vocal anti-gay groups in the country. Through daily radio programs on 1,200 stations, a monthly print "journal" with 180,000 readers and its ultra-conservative newswire service, Agape Press, AFA promotes its view that homosexuality is an ominous threat to Christianity, family and country. ("America declares war on God," AFA warned when gays won marriage rights in Massachusetts.)

As news editor for the journal and a frequent contributor to Agape Press, Vitagliano has written extensively about homosexuality in his nine years at AFA. He has also been a pastor for 22 years.

"Violence is never justified as a solution to moral problems for Christians," he told me. "We categorically reject Eric Rudolph's reasoning and his theology."

Does he see a connection between anti-gay rhetoric and violence?

"I don't," Vitagliano said. "I think the connection is overly simplistic."

To be fair, the difference between Rudolph's rhetoric and that of anti-gay evangelicals is that Rudolph advocates violence to stop the "assault" of gay rights while the Christian right works within the bounds of constitutional democracy. "Every effort should be made, including force if necessary, to halt this effort," Rudolph wrote.

Vitagliano argues that language on both sides of the cultural divide about homosexuality can be dangerous. He cites the Human Rights Campaign, the ACLU and People for the American Way as groups that promote negative views of Christians. According to those groups, "we're the threat to freedom, we're the threat to liberty," he said.

Is that a fair analogy? After all, the AFA actually dehumanizes gay people, portraying them as evil or likening them to animals. But I've never heard an advocate for gay equality call for "curing" conservative Christians or questioning their moral worth as human beings, their right to adopt children, marry their partners or worship in their churches. In fact, gay rights supporters tend to support the inclusion of religion in civil rights laws. [emphasis mine]

"I will freely admit that sometimes Christians go beyond Christian language," Vitagliano conceded. "There a lot of Christians who, in the heat of the moment, say things that are unchristian. And that's unfortunate."

I read Vitagliano a list of quotes from the Web sites of the AFA, Focus and the TVC, including:

* "God doesn't recognize these so called 'gay' marriages. They are an abomination to Him and a putrid stench in His nostrils."

* "The homosexual agenda is a beast, it wants our kids."

* The gay movement "is the greatest threat to your children."

* A comparison between gay marriage and "a marriage between a man and his donkey."

"If a person comes to our Web site with a preconceived hatred for homosexuals and a preconceived antagonism and thoughts that they are less than human, I suppose they could find solace and encouragement for that at our Web site," Vitagliano said.

"I can certainly understand where you might be concerned," he said.

I'm more than concerned. I'm alarmed.

Patrick Letellier is a writer and frequent contributor to Gay.com