A Pakistani Christian couple in the ruins outside their home. (Reuters)
The New York Times has original reporting today about an attack Saturday on a small enclave of Christians in Pakistan. A mob of 20,000 Muslims killed 8 people in one family, who happened to live in the first house they came to. The story is both grotesque and fascinating, and though it’s written with the usual Times understatement, the headline is strikingly honest: Hate Engulfs Christians in Pakistan.
It got me thinking about two examples of this kind of violence closer to home: the recent murder of Dr. George Tiller, in church no less; and the incredible (and sometimes threatening) invective on a hate website which seeks to destroy the Episcopal Church, called Stand Firm.
In Pakistan, the mob was incited by an outlawed group of Muslim terrorists, who then got enraged by a phony rumor that some Christians at a small wedding had burned the Koran. That was all they needed to spring into action. Besides the murders, 100 homes were looted and destroyed.
But it wasn’t just the terrorist group or even the mob itself that was responsible. The Times reports:
“We were afraid because the clerics had been railing against us in the mosques,” said Riaz Masih, a Christian and retired math teacher whose house was gutted. “They said, ‘Let’s teach them a lesson.’ ”
The clerics had been railing against us in the mosques. This is just like the Fox News rabble-rouser Bill O’Reilly, who gets ratings (and gets rich) by inciting hatred (“Tiller the Baby Killer” on 29 shows), and like the hate website, whose main reason for existing is to incite anti-Gay prejudice.
I’m happy to say that the Episcopal Church, with the recent departure of four anti-Gay bishops (and their dioceses, half their parishes and millions of dollars in property), has mostly put this crowd behind us. The recent church convention consistently voted 2-1 or even 3-1 for Gay, Lesbian and Transgender inclusion. (Bisexual folks really don’t make it onto the Church radar screen because, face it, we’re into committed relationships and monogamy.) Transgender advocates (that is, church members who are Trans) were shocked and thrilled by the votes; the Lesbian and Gay crowd mostly expected to win, I think, but still, we batted 1.000. That’s never happened before.
In recent days three openly-Gay people, two women and a man, have become finalists for elevation to bishop. Two of them are friends of mine. Bonnie Perry of Chicago is a rousingly successful priest who has “bishop” written all over her; I’ve been to her parish, which is kind of a fallen-down wreck, yet she’s made it vital and alive. John Kirkley is the rector of a parish in the Mission district in San Francisco, and if you know the city, that neighborhood’s not exactly posh either. He leads a lively congregation that’s plainly on a quest for God in their midst.
So how does Stand Firm, the online bigot convention, react to their possible elevation?
• A joke bishop for a joke church.
• It is not God that Kirkey worships.
• so-called priests in an insane church
• here is a man whose only relationships with other men are purely sexual in nature.
• Of course, he’s a pervert, so I suppose I should be more surprised
And that’s just five random comments on one blog post; they do a dozen posts a day, a fairly large and well-funded operation for a blog.
This is how the mob grows to 20,000: “We were afraid because the clerics had been railing against us…”
Gene Robinson, another friend who’s Gay, had to have a security detail and wear a bulletproof vest when he was consecrated bishop of New Hampshire in 2003—a fact the hate-site loves to mock.
Demonize people long enough (which is all the hate-site does) and sooner or later, someone will take matters into their own hands.
Dr. Tiller was ushering at a Lutheran church in Wichita when an Operation Rescue contributor (allegedly) showed up with a gun and shot him to death in the vestibule.
It was so important to “stop the killing” that the gunman did some killing himself. The anti-abortion industry has a long history of this kind of violence, from Eric Rudolph to Jon Brockhoeft. Brockhoeft was the most menacing guy I ever saw; he used to haunt the Cincinnati City Council (even though he didn’t live there) to damn everyone to hell if an LGBT rights bill passed. He had this long hair and beard (so he’d look like Moses, I suppose) and you could tell by one look in his eyes he was crazed with anger.
In Pakistan, Christians occupy the lowest rung in society, according to The Times. Half the mob stormed their village not just to kill and burn, but to loot their possessions. The criminal motive is clear; and the mullahs started it.
The Anglican archbishop of Nigeria does the same thing to Gay people, demonizing in order to hold onto power. Breakaway Episcopalians in Virginia (including Bush/Cheney neocons who gave us the Iraq war) are now publicly aligned with this man Peter Akinola, who claims it’s Christian to persecute and imprison Gay people.
The archbishop of Canterbury goes along with this in a convoluted appeasement strategy—but the Episcopal Church does not. That’s why our convention voted 2-1 to welcome us in the door, even up to the altar as chief pastor, and a special committee will now start compiling same-sex marriage rites for formal examination at the next convention.
Some “religious” people are scary, and they’ll kill ya. But what do you do if you still believe in God? What if you will always believe in the Greatest Story Ever Told, the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ?
You turn into Bonnie Perry, John Kirkley and Gene Robinson; you do your best to fight hate with love, as Jesus did. It’s all we can do, but it’s enough.++