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Over the River and Into Default

Turkey

To Grandmother’s house we go!

Actually, I wish we could go to Grandma’s, because she had common sense, unlike anyone in the House GOP caucus.

My grandparents, born 1892 and 1897, taught me a lot about coping with life’s problems. Principle #1: you’ve got to eat. Crises can happen, and when they disrupt your routines, go back to your routine. Get some food down, you’ll think better.

Principle #2: choose the obvious solution, even if you don’t like it. Not liking it is how you know it’s the right thing to do.

Which brings me to John Boehner. Apparently he didn’t have a grandmother, because he consistently chooses everything but the right thing to do.

So he flails – in public – while we all wonder if he’s going to take down the entire world economy. Which is to say, the standard of living of everyone on earth.

From México to Russia and Greece, the world looks on in shocked disbelief. The New York Times reports other countries are “Viewing U.S. in Fear and Dismay.”

We should take that gavel and knock some sense into John Boehner. (usnews.com)

We should take that gavel and knock some sense into him. (usnews.com)

But thanks to my dad, I’ve seen this act before. It gets old; this is a rerun. The cheap little drama wasn’t entertaining the first time.

So House Republicans are out of control. And Boehner’s the worst of them.

My father got out of control a lot; my grandparents were very experienced at handling a crisis. The first thing was to get him under control. Feed him, then talk some sense into him. Make him do the right, obvious thing.

Because everything he was doing was avoiding the right, obvious thing.

Boehner should, as we all know, reopen the government and raise the debt limit. Put an end to this public spectacle.

(Sidebar: the public spectacle doesn’t bother people who are out of control. What would be mortifying to you or me just seems par for the course to them.)

Flailing

If it means he no longer gets to be Speaker of the House, well, that’s too bad. Unfortunate. Not necessarily his fault entirely. But then again, he’s the one flailing in public.

He’d feel better to just go ahead and do what needs to be done. Afterwards we can talk if he feels like it.

This was my grandparents’ basic solution. I don’t know how they “made” my dad do the right thing most of the time, but they did.

Every time he got in trouble, he ran home. Usually he wanted his parents to bail him out. They did that at first, but over the years they got a little smarter about making him be responsible for himself. He still robbed them blind, though.

I guess John Boehner doesn’t have a home to go to; no Grandma. I’d feel sorry for him, except he’s pathetic.

One excuse after another; “the Tea Party made me do it.” No, they didn’t, John; nobody can make you do anything. Now straighten up and fly right.

He could have been a hero to the American people. Instead he’s sacrificing the whole country so he can keep his title – for another day or week or month.

It’s obvious the Crazy Caucus will cut him loose the minute he no longer suits their purposes.

Yoo-hoo! Yoho, you're a bozo.

Yoo-hoo! Yoho, you’re a bozo.

They’re out to bring down the U.S. government.

It’s no longer about Barack Obama anymore, much less Obamacare. They’ve given up on that entirely. They want to destroy the government, while insisting “this is the greatest country on earth.”

Not without a government, it isn’t.

This is a civil war without shots being fired yet.

Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that, although I wouldn’t put it past them. We’ve seen the Tea Party’s violent tendencies before.

Tea Party rally, August 14, 2010. (therightperspective.com)

Tea Party rally, August 14, 2010. (therightperspective.com)

We saw it in all the furious arguing over “gun rights” last winter. Polls said 90% of Americans support background checks so criminals and crazy people can’t buy guns, but Boehner and the Republicans blocked it – while insisting they were “doing the will of the American people.”

We’ve seen the war on women, including a skirmish yesterday on including a “conscience clause” in the Continuing Resolution to reopen the government, so fundamentalist employers don’t have to pay for birth control under Obamacare.

Birth control! Really?

Birth control is health care. A lot of women take it to regularize their menstrual cycles. Preventing pregnancy is only one reason doctors prescribe the Pill. Every woman’s body is different, and they don’t need politicians telling them what they can and can’t do to take care of themselves.

Abortion is also health care. My other grandmother died the same day she gave birth to my mother. Didn’t Boehner watch “Downton Abbey” last season, when Lady Sybil died? Complications of pregnancy kill women worldwide – and the United States has a shamefully high maternal death rate.

We’ve seen the absolute willingness of fundamentalists to go to war over Gay and Lesbian rights.

Now that they’ve lost in this country, they’re exporting their war on Gays to Africa and Russia.

(The New Civil Rights Movement)

(The New Civil Rights Movement)

Strict Tea Party Libertarians don’t care so much about private sexual issues, but many of the Tea Party politicians are also fundamentalists. Issues get mixed in the spaghetti salads of their minds.

Then there’s the argument about “socialism.” They think Joseph Stalin has come back to life and is occupying the White House.

Ron Paul, of the racist newsletters, gave the keynote speech at the 50th anniversary convention of the John Birch Society. His son Rand Paul had to let go a racist staffer earlier this year.

This is a bloodless civil war. Many issues come together – racism, homophobia, economic decline, failure in Bush’s Wars, immigration, put-upon men crying that women have taken over the world – and now we have a faction trying to take down the U.S. government.

Boehner is James Buchanan, who was President just before Lincoln; a Southern sympathizer and appeaser trying to run out the clock on his term before the great war came.

Lincoln got elected and it came.

America's worst president. Lived for years with his male friend. (Wikipedia)

America’s worst president, Buchanan was a “bachelor” who lived for 14 years with Vice-President Rufus King. Andrew Jackson called them “Miss Nancy and Aunt Fancy.” (Matthew Brady/Library of Congress via Wikipedia)

These are very bad times. I wish Boehner’s Grandma would slap him upside the head, but no such luck.

I know what my Grandma would do with him. She was an Eisenhower Republican. She lived through the Depression. She believed in paying her bills. She bought U.S. Bonds. She saw my Granddad ship off to World War I and my father fight in World War II. She knew the difference between patriotism and selfishness.

John Boehner and these Republicans are no patriots. He’s willing to screw the whole country so he can keep riding around in his limo.

For what? Another day, another week, another month?

This won’t last. The question is what comes next. It’s going to take all the President’s skill to avoid a bloodletting. Does he have it in him? No one knows.

He’s been strong in this current crisis, and his party is united behind him. But he wasn’t strong the last time, which helped get us into this mess.

He needs to understand this is a fight for the U.S. government. It isn’t about him, even though he’s Black and all that. It’s about government itself, with anarchists the enemy. My advice: don’t heat this cold war into a hot one, but understand we’re in the fight of our lives.

The enemy’s within, and they must be crushed.++

steam_roller

Do we need a Christian Left political action committee?

One of the elders, watching over his fields.

One of the elders, watching over his fields.

There’s a story in today’s New York Times, interviewing historians about 20th century mainline Protestantism, which the reporter (wrongly) equates with the Christian Left.

See it here: A Religious Legacy, With its Leftward Tilt, Is Reconsidered.

I think she’s wrong that Methodists, Episcopalians, Disciples, Presbyterians and UCC/Congregationalists always or even mostly have a leftward tilt, and that the Christian Left doesn’t also include, say, the Baptist Jimmy Carter and most U.S. Catholic nuns. But disputing the article is not my point; the piece is fine as far as it goes. The questions it raises for people of faith are more important than what she chose to include or leave out.

Namely, where are we today as progressive Christians? What more should we be doing to assert our Christian values into the public dialogue?

This morning, dailyoffice.org ran this photo and caption:

Bring the DREAMers Home: demonstrators for U.S. immigration reform Monday on Fountain Square, Cincinnati, Ohio included Manuel Perez and the Rev. Paula M. Jackson, rector of Church of Our Saviour/La Iglesia de Nuestro Salvador, Mt. Auburn. (Alejandra Pimentel)

Bring the DREAMers Home: demonstrators for U.S. immigration reform Monday on Fountain Square, Cincinnati, Ohio included Manuel Perez and the Rev. Paula M. Jackson, rector of Church of Our Saviour/La Iglesia de Nuestro Salvador, Mt. Auburn. (Alejandra Pimentel)

The demonstration, and the photo of it I was able to obtain, are well-timed; the House of Representatives is taking up immigration reform today. Most people don’t really expect it to pass without another avalanche of draconian punishments for “illegal aliens,” but we’ll see.

What bothers me about the debate around this issue is that a Christian interpretation of it is completely lacking. The so-called “illegals” are “strangers and sojourners” in Old Testament parlance, and “neighbors” in Jesus-speak – as in “Love thy neighbor.”

They are also scapegoats, just as Christ was, for the real problems of the nation – financial collapse, unemployment, and the replacement of democracy with oligarchy.

William Holman Hunt: The Scapegoat, turned out and left to die.

William Holman Hunt: The Scapegoat, turned out and left to die.

Scapegoats are not allowed, Christians; you know that. There can be no question that the racism and prejudice against Latinos must stop at once.

And while there are plenty of U.S. Christians saying these very things, we get consistently drowned out by shock jocks and their imitators in Congress.

I suppose if we were equally shocking we’d get on the teevee too. But there has to be another way.

What about a political action committee that’s specifically organized by and for the Christian Left?

There are many vehicles for the Secular Left and they all do good work. But so much of the vitriolic right-wing opposition claims Christ that I think we should take him back again and set him free from his fundamentalist captors.

The basic reason fundamentalist Christianity exists is to promote racism, sexism, homophobia and war. The Southern Baptist Convention is the proof of this in its very existence; it was founded to defend slavery.

As I look around the Episcopal Church, I see several manifestations of firm belief in Christ and in God’s liberating mission to save humanity. For heaven’s sake he parted the Red Sea a long time ago, to free the Jews from slavery.

That act is still God’s template. So is the Crucifixion, which set us free from sin.

By Luiz Coelho, Jr., an ordained deacon in the Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil. A Gay guy, too.

By Luiz Coelho, Jr., an ordained deacon in the Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil. A Gay guy, too.

At 62 I don’t feel like I’m the person to organize the Christian Left PAC (nor that that’s necessarily the best name for it; we’re talking mainstream Christianity here). It’s something younger activists ought to do.

But they’re not, so I keep thinking about it.

What do you think? Do you not find, faithful ones, that nearly every public policy question on the American agenda is spoken of in the Bible?

Republicans in the House want to end Food Stamps, while Christ told Peter, “Feed my sheep.”

We cannot let this impasse go on, because people suffer horribly from our inaction.

I do know this: we have to take on Christian fundamentalism full in the face. That’s something we’ve never been willing to do before, which I think is probably mainstream Christianity’s biggest mistake in the last 100 years.

But from 9/11 to the shooting of Malala, the Pakistani schoolgirl who advocates for universal education, we’ve seen what fundamentalist violence is like. We’ve seen it when so-called Christians bomb abortion clinics, assassinate doctors, bomb Gay bars in Atlanta, send Orthodox priests to beat up Gay people in Russia; we see it in Israel, in Hasidic communities in New York. We’re even seeing it lately among Buddhists in Myanmar!

Slavery. Scapegoats. Patriarchy. Homophobia. Attacking the poor. Trayvon Martin. The Military-Industrial-Religious Complex, in case you’ve forgotten George W. Bush and the “Left Behind” series. None of the enemies of Christ are going away anytime soon, there’s too much money and power in sin.

We’ve lacked nerve; we’ve been unwilling to endure persecution. So we kind of nibble around the edges of theology and politics, not wanting to mix them up too much, even though half of what Jesus said was directly “political” as we understand it today.

“Feed my sheep,” don’t cut Food Stamps.

Strap your sword upon your thigh, O mighty warrior, *
in your pride and in your majesty.
Ride out and conquer in the cause of truth *
and for the sake of justice.

— Psalm 45

I know we’re lovers, not fighters – but we’re fighters too.++

First same-sex wedding on a U.S. military base.

First same-sex wedding on a U.S. military base.

They’re not crazy, they’re fascists.

I’ve been frustrated for some time at the naiveté of current political analysis by American liberals and centrists, who can’t make hide nor hair out of the antics of the right. Their most common explanation is, “Those folks are crazy.”

And you can see why; they say some loony stuff. “Birtherism” is perhaps the best-known example; even President Obama’s birth certificate is no kind of proof to these people – because they’re not looking for proof or interested in facts.

I could put up a whole rogue’s gallery of public figures who are part of this faux movement, and fill this space with some of their wild quotes – but I won’t do it. You know already, you see them every day online and on the boob tube. So instead I’ll post a photo you might not expect.

When Chuck Grassley, longtime Republican Senator from Iowa, started trotting out the so-called "death panels" as a way to kill the Affordable Care Act, I knew the end was near.

When Chuck Grassley, longtime Republican Senator from Iowa, started trotting out the so-called “death panels” as a way to kill the Affordable Care Act, I knew the end was near. He didn’t believe a word he said – and he didn’t care that he was uttering a bald-faced lie. Mild-mannered Chuck Grassley from good old Iowa!

This is not your grandparents’ Republican party. Those people were patriotic, they did what they thought was right for the country. Today’s Republicans say and do anything they can think of to increase their power at the country’s expense.

The crazier the statement the more they like it. They’ve left shame behind; their only interest now is propaganda. It makes money; it gives them power.

It makes President Obama look reasonable and intelligent to most Americans, but weak and vulnerable to his enemies. That’s how they want him to look. They don’t care why he looks that way, as long as they can make people think they smell his blood.

Mike Huckabee, the genial fundamentalist, claimed yesterday that Benghazi will force Obama to resign.

Watergate was a systematic attack on the Constitution. Benghazi was a terrorist attack on a consulate.

Watergate was a systematic attack on the Constitution. Benghazi was a terrorist attack on a consulate.

To me, the only commentator who comes close to articulating what’s really going on here is Rachel Maddow. She doesn’t describe it as a fascist takeover of the GOP, but that’s what it is.

It comes in a form we’re not used to, especially in the United States, where we’ve never had a sizable fascist movement before. And these people don’t look like the fascists of old.

I’m not calling them Nazis; they’re not. They’re much closer to Mussolini than Hitler, especially in the desire of some right-wing factions to align the state with big corporations. Think the Koch brothers, trying to take over the Los Angeles Times. They’re part of the corporatist wing which failed to elect their puppet Mitt Romney.

There’s also a populist wing called the Tea Party, which is itself a catch-all term for numerous factions; the Grover Norquist wing, the NRA wing, the anti-abortion/birth-control anti-Gay wing, and others. Appealing to all of them (but often losing control of its own narrative) is the “right-wing political-entertainment complex” of Fox News and radio talk shows – which are more about making money than ideology. Rush Limbaugh’s a rich man, but Rupert Murdoch is a lot richer. All they care about is ratings – and they know that to get ratings, they have to throw red meat to their audiences, more and more every day. In that light, Huckabee is late to the party, and fairly pathetic.

They know what they’re doing; it’s all deliberate. It’s why they just make stuff up anymore; two days ago Limbaugh blamed Obama for the kidnapped women in Cleveland.

Stop calling them crazy. Stop being surprised by them. Recognize that every one of these developments is the result of calculation and market research. They’re attacking your democracy, and they won’t quit until they win or are destroyed.

(Their factionalism does give me a little hope. Tea Partiers are not natural allies of billionaires, which is why Big Business moved quickly to co-opt them with FreedomWorks.)

Like every other country, America’s always had racists, reactionaries and rich guys. What’s new is that this time they’ve also got Republicans. That didn’t happen by accident; Republican politicians have nowhere else to go. They are out of popular ideas, now that Reagan’s dead; the public doesn’t like what Republicans stand for, or we’d have privatized Social Security under G.W. Bush. They can’t win national elections, or even states they used to win, so now they’re doing everything they can think of to restrict voting.

My grandparents were staunch Republicans, but they would never have voted for these people. It’s anti-American to eliminate voting rights. That’s like trampling the flag and desecrating the graves of our War Dead; something shocking, unheard-of, un-called-for.

But in 2013 we need not to be shocked anymore by these antics. We need to expect them, and then we need to defeat them, while we still can.

Otherwise the plutocrats will move in, before Democrats figure out what hit them. (Poor Harry Reid; have you ever seen such an ineffectual majority leader?)

When Rep. Todd Akin made his wild claim that after rape, “the female body has ways to try and shut that whole thing down,” do you think he didn’t know what he was saying? Do you think he was just misinformed?

Or do you think he made a reasonable political calculation, that the passion of an organized minority (people who hate abortion) can outvote a disorganized majority?

That’s what they did last month in the U.S. Senate, when they voted down background checks to keep guns out of the hands of murderers and psychopaths. An organized minority, especially if it’s got money, can defeat a disorganized majority every time.

That’s how government works! That’s why lobbyists write legislation you have to live under.

In 2008, 52% of young voters went out and voted. Two years later, only 25% of them turned out, and the GOP won back the House of Representatives. Two years after a financial meltdown caused by Republicans, Americans voted them back in!

In 2012, young voters came back to the polls and Obama was re-elected. Romney’s predicted landslide didn’t happen, and for the first time more Black Americans voted than Whites by percentage.

But here’s the really telling statistic for what’s happening now.

Source: Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind poll

Source: Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind poll

Forty-four percent of Republicans think “an armed revolution might be necessary.”

That is, civil war.

Do you hear the drums beating? Maybe you should, although I can’t really blame you if you’re in denial. That’s where Democrats and pundits are right now, along with most Americans.

“Fascists? Didn’t we beat them in World War II?” Yes, but that was a long time ago – and those fascists were foreigners. These are home-grown.

“Oh, stop being an alarmist!” (I agree it’s bad for ratings among liberals, but I’m not getting paid to write this blog. Meanwhile, you explain why 44% of Republicans think “an armed revolution might be necessary.”)

This war, if God forbid it comes, will take place before a backdrop of huge unemployment and economic dislocation, caused by speculators and plutocrats on Wall Street, and political gridlock on Capitol Hill, which Americans voted for. Economic hardship is often a precursor for war.

How many states now have Republican super-majorities in the Statehouse? Those are the bright orange ones in this map, while the bright blue ones are controlled by Democrats. Only three states are split.

USA Today newspaper

USA Today newspaper; click to enlarge.

In the U.S. Senate, all states have equal voting power. Two Republican no-names in Idaho can cancel out Feinstein and Boxer in California – and they consistently do.

When the chairman of the House Science Committee denounced science as “straight from the pit of hell,” who was he talking to, but the organized (and armed) minority?

He wasn’t crazy. He was calculating.

Let me mention now in passing the role of fundamentalist religion in all this. My mainline Episcopalians never pass out voters’ guides the Sunday before an election. But Baptists and megachurches do every time; organized minority vs. disorganized majority.

My final point concerns the rise of violent anti-Gay fascism in France. You might think the French would know better, having suffered under the Nazi occupation in World War II – and mostly the French do know better, that’s why they voted Socialist and passed same-sex marriage – but an armed minority can cause a lot of damage to an unarmed majority.

Police had to use tear gas to subdue anti-Gay rioters last month. (London Telegraph)

Police had to use tear gas to subdue anti-Gay rioters in Paris last month. Were they really that anti-Gay, or were they using opposition to same-sex marriage, ginned up by the Catholic Church, to win power? (London Telegraph)

I don’t have a crystal ball, but I don’t like what I see; not from the President, not from Democrats in Congress, not on MSNBC (especially Chris Matthews, whom I admire as a person) – and not online, where my Facebook friends continually yap that “them folks is crazy.”

No. Them folks is dangerous and we’d better be prepared. Let’s start by realizing what’s really going on. The birthers know better, all of them do; but many people have a deep-seated hatred of this African-American President, at the same time we’ve got mass unemployment, terrorist attacks, same-sex marriage, undocumented immigrants and (since 1962, but who’s counting) no organized prayer in public schools. Chuck Grassley had better ride that wave or he might drown. So he’s all for Chuck Grassley and America be damned.++

VIDEO: “The Thaw” – militarized, fist-thumping children in (dare I mention) Idaho

Jason Collins & the Triumph of Gay Men

The Washington wizard. (Jim Young/Reuters)

The Washington wizard. (Jim Young/Reuters)

Jason Collins is no Charles Barkley or Kobe Bryant. He is a journeyman center in the NBA, not a superstar – but he was a first-round draft pick coming out of Stanford, and has lasted 13 years as a banger in the world’s toughest basketball league. Now he has come out, and commentators are scrambling to tell us what this means. But you can save yourself the trouble and just ask me.

Whenever you’re in doubt on any subject, you can just ask me.

It doesn’t mean “he has changed the NBA forever.” He has, but so what? It doesn’t just mean he has “changed sports.” It sure doesn’t mean the Supreme Court will throw out DOMA and endorse same-sex marriage, or Congress will now pass ENDA out of sheer unadulterated admiration for the man. Would that it did.

It doesn’t even mean he’ll play next year – although as a career ploy for a free agent who’s 34, this was brilliant. If no team picks him up, people will say, “See, the players wouldn’t accept a Gay teammate.” No, it will mean he’s 34, doesn’t score and doesn’t rebound.

His job is to come off the bench “with six hard fouls to give,” just as he describes it. If he gets another contract, he’ll play the same way next year as he did this year and the previous dozen. 

I bet he does get a contract, actually. The NBA owners know they’re in the popularity business, and Jason Collins has just become a star. He got more publicity for coming out than he ever did for playing – in a league where the average player lasts five years. Joe Wertheim, an editor at Sports Illustrated, was on MSNBC’s “Hardball” last night predicting Collins will be the most popular player wherever he goes, not just for having the courage to come out and be the first, but for his intelligence and character as well as his play. 

So what does his coming out really mean? (Drum roll for my big reveal.)

He just proved Gay men are men.

Jason isn't Nathan. Jason isn't The Nance.

Jason isn’t Nathan. Jason isn’t The Nance. The Nance is a man too, but he’s not Jason.

I mean no disrespect whatever to the great Nathan Lane, or to nances in general. Some Gay men are naturally effeminate, that’s how God made ’em and how God loves ’em. Me too.

But the stereotype of Gay guys is that we’re all sissies, and Jason Collins has just destroyed that stereotype, once and for all.

That’s what his coming-out means. Straight men can no longer protect themselves by oppressing us, as if they’re better than we are. They’re not; Jason Collins has 13 years and a ring, while Joe Sixpack ain’t got nothin’.

The entire edifice of socially-constructed, brutally-enforced Masculinity has now come crashing down. That’s what Jason has given the world.

His first beneficiaries will be Straight men, who have been horribly oppressed, in their own minds, bodies, jobs and social roles, by the whole stereotype that tells them they’ve got to out-butch each other 24/7 for their whole entire lives or they’re worthless.

As Leonardo Ricardo would say, “No more pretend!” (I bet he’s said it incessantly since Jason’s news broke – considering Leonardo’s been saying it incessantly these last many years, and rightly so.)

No more pretend. Think about that. No more bullshitting your way through life, trying to be what you’re not.

No more having to live that lie. What a relief to billions of Straight guys! Now they can be their whole selves; incorrigibly Straight, weepy or emotionally constipated, whatever they turn out to be.

This makes me think of my brothers, Dick especially. Rather by accident he’s taught me a lot about what Straight guys go through. They’re trapped, most of them; prisoners in a concentration camp, run by a tyrant existing only in their minds.

Dick once said he thinks men are more emotional than women. They accuse women of being “emotional” all the time, but men feel their emotions more strongly than women do, and have a very hard time handling them.

Dick is an honest man, with enough insight and intelligence to call ’em as he sees ’em. He’s also the first person I came out to in my family.

As soon as he said men are more emotional, I knew he was right; I brought up our brother Steve, the best athlete of the three of us. Steve could never handle his feelings, and is dead now because of it (alcoholism). Dick had the best athletic mind of the three of us, Steve got the best athletic body, and I’m the one who played sports the longest. I was never any good but I enjoyed it.

After we talked I started checking with the women I knew, and they all agreed, men are the emotional ones.

John Wayne was all an act. He had scriptwriters and choreographers and lighting designers that regular guys don’t have.

So yesterday, Jason came out. TA-DA! “I’m a 34 year old center in the NBA. I’m Black. And I’m Gay.”

Perfect. What a smart fellow – and not for the reasons Frank Bruni thought in his column this morning in The Times. (I don’t care for Bruni. He’s an assimilationist. He thinks Gayness is like your appendix, not your appendage.)

The most important thing to any man is his appendage. It’s not the most important thing about him, just to him. Whatever gets him hard is right, it’s true, it’s reality. How relieved Jason must feel today.

For centuries now women have been wanting to smash the patriarchy. But he just did!

Maybe it took a man to do that. Maybe women will become Jason’s ultimate beneficiaries. Wouldn’t that be an achievement! Jason the World-Beater.

BlackSuperman

Meanwhile let’s give him enough space that he can be a human being, not a superhero. He’s just a guy who plays hoops, that’s all. But he’s smart enough to know the huge symbolic importance of what he’s done, coming out in a glamour sport that’s all about masculinity, competition and therefore sex.

There are a few players and commentators who are saying stupid things (including one guy on ESPN, to the network’s shame), but The Reaction From Players is not the important thing going on today, or ever. It’s worth noting that Jason’s managed to take showers with Straight guys for 13 years and nobody noticed him, because he didn’t notice them either.

Another guy on MSNBC last night – part of a panel on “All In with Chris Hayes” – was Hudson Taylor, a very cute guy who used to wrestle in college, and now fronts an organization for “allies” of Gay people in sports. He didn’t say whether he’s Gay or Straight; apparently he didn’t feel the need, which is occasionally refreshing. Anyway he started wrestling when he was six and loved it, so he kept on, despite the homophobic atmosphere in locker rooms that “denigrates, isolates and emasculates” Gay guys. He didn’t like it; now he’s doing something about it.

Dan Savage pointed out, as Jason also did in his article, that it’s been just a few months since the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. If it’s butchness the world is looking for, try all those Gay Marines. They came out, their fellow troops supported them, The End. Savage reminded us that anti-Gay bigots predicted half a million soldiers would resign; instead there were only two, “both chaplains, who could be spared.”

Watch it yourself here. I especially recommend Hayes’ quote from the boxer Orlando Cruz, who’s also Gay, then stay tuned for the second segment.

Thank God for this current generation, finally getting the human race’s act together about male and female. (This is not “silly,” as William C. Rhoden claimed; it’s momentous. Is racism silly? Not when a cross is burning in your yard.) What a gift to posterity, a watershed moment in human history. Jason Collins crystallizes that, but so do those LGBT soldiers. He just happens to work in the glamour industry, and man, what a difference that makes.

We can finally begin to think of the day when overcompensating men don’t feel like they have to rape a woman to “be somebody.” Maybe next time, a 4-year-old girl in India will be spared, instead of being raped to death.

Maybe we can begin to think of the end of religious fundamentalism – which exists solely to enforce male dominance and gender norms. Whether the fanatics are Christians, Jews, Muslims or Hindus, they’ll kill you if that’s what it takes for a frightened, submissive “man” to feel like a man.

My brother Dick has never not been a man, and neither have I. I’m sissier than some guys and butcher than others – as are we all!

The end of fundamentalism, if and when it ever comes, will allow genuine religion and spirituality to flourish.

Of course it will take decades and centuries for humanity to get to enlightenment (and there will always be flat-earthers), but today the news is Jason’s. Gay men are real men, it’s natural to admire our prowess and uniqueness whether we’re a Collins, a Cruz or a Lane, and sports are mostly about the body you’re born with, just like sex is.

Way to go, Stanford Man, you’ve led us all to the promised land. Enjoy your triumph; the rest of us are.++

Thanks, pioneers.

Thanks, pioneers.

America Is Rushing to the Altar

A West Point cadet and his boyfriend, 2013: here's what freedom looks like.

A West Point cadet and his boyfriend, 2013: here’s what freedom looks like.

All over the teevee, Straight commentators are marveling at how fast Americans’ views on Gay marriage are changing. Why, they’ve never seen anything like it! And they can’t explain it.

Not to worry; I am here.

Jerry Falwell did us a big favor. Then he died.

U.S. politics changed dramatically in 1980; Ronald Reagan kicked Jimmy Carter out of the White House and ushered in a new conservatism marked by hyper-capitalism and greed, military aggression (with invasions of Grenada in 1983 and Panama in 1989, and illegal funding of the Contra War in El Salvador throughout the decade), racism, sexism (the Equal Rights Amendment died in 1982) and homophobia. The pendulum swung far to the right.

Now it has swung to the left with the re-election of President Obama, and LGBTs are among the beneficiaries.

Falwell, a Baptist TV preacher, had huge political ambitions, and his support for Reagan was key in forming a new electoral coalition. Whenever one of these big shifts happens, the composition of the political parties realigns. Today’s TV talking heads, with their sound-bite brains, remember all this as involving “Reagan Democrats,” who were White ethnics and union workers in Macomb County, Michigan, right outside Black Detroit. But Falwell’s Fundamentalists were arguably the more important voting bloc; they were nationwide and united behind Reagan, in an effort to reverse abortion rights. President Carter won the union vote in 1980 despite the Reagan Democrats. He lost conservative Christians, despite being one himself.

Rep. Martha Griffiths, D-Michigan, steered the Equal Rights Amendment through Congress. It failed to be ratified by the states, thanks to a backlash led by Phyllis Schlafly, an Illinois lawyer portraying herself as a happy housewife. (Warren D. Leffler)

Rep. Martha Griffiths, D-Michigan, steered the Equal Rights Amendment through Congress in 1972. It failed to be ratified by the states, thanks to a backlash led by Phyllis Schlafly, an Illinois lawyer portraying herself as a happy housewife. (Warren K. Leffler)

It’s proven impossible over the years to roll back abortion rights, and Reagan had a sense of how hard it would be. Every January Falwell and his allies would converge in a big demonstration at the Supreme Court trying to overturn Roe v. Wade; they helped elect Reagan and kept expecting him to show up, but he never did. Year after year he gave them a speech played over the loudspeakers, but he never once appeared in person; he didn’t want to be in a picture with them.

To juice up his movement, Falwell expanded his issues to cover “family values” and demonize Gay people. Abortion was always his number one target, and Gay people seemed like easy pickings. His strategy was successful for awhile, but it was fatally flawed.

He ran a persecution campaign, but those only work for awhile. (He should have known that, being a Christian.) Nothing generates more sympathy than TV pictures of people being abused.

Civil rights marchers being beaten by Alabama State Troopers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, Selma, 1965. This scene led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act later that year.

Civil rights marchers being beaten by Alabama State Troopers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, Selma, 1965. This scene led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act later that year.

Falwell had a problem; he couldn’t scapegoat all the women of America because there are too many of them. The goal of the anti-abortion movement has always been to put women back in their place. It’s not about unborn babies or the right to life, it’s about how grown women act here and now. It’s about men’s power and who gets to decide things. If Falwell had waged war on all women, not only would they object, so would a certain percentage of men; so he turned his venom on Gay people instead, thinking (and not unreasonably) that queers had no defenders anywhere.

It worked for awhile; but he and his clones, especially Pat Robertson, gradually became better known for hating Gay people than opposing abortion. They helped this image along by making outlandish claims and repeating obvious lies.

A hurricane did not destroy Disney World, and Gay Day went on as usual.

Where once Gay people were unmentionable, all of a sudden we were being talked about constantly.

We came out. And we kept coming out, coming and coming.

We started to reveal ourselves in the 1960s in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington and of course in New York. What started as a trickle in time turned into a flood.

Daddy didn’t like that his boy was a queer, but Mama still loved her son; so did Grandma, aunts, uncles and cousins. As for that Lezzie daughter, well, anybody could see that Martha Griffiths had a point – and Betty Friedan, the whole lot of them. A woman ought to be able to be a doctor if she wants to be, or even a lumberjack. If that’s what she wants, well, it won’t pay to try to stop her. She never was the type to wear pearls anyway.

Three strands this time, plus a cross necklace. Schlafly promised to turn back the clock to the days of "Father Knows Best."

Three strands this time, plus a cross necklace. Schlafly promised to turn back the clock to the days of “Father Knows Best.”

Here’s a fact that’s still unbelievable to me: I was the first openly-Gay person in Cincinnati (Palm Sunday, 1978), along with an MCC pastor who soon left town. The Rev. Howard Gaass and I lent our full real names to a bunch of articles in The Cincinnati Enquirer. The reporters did a fine job with it, sensitive and accurate. They interviewed all the Lesbians and Gay men they could find. But none of the women were quoted by name, and only two of the men.

I don’t know what was running through Howard’s mind, and I’ve never criticized his leaving town; I hope he just got a new opportunity and jumped on it. But I knew you can’t run a social movement while hiding your name and face behind a curtain. You have to take responsibility; you have to show some leadership. On Gay issues that was especially important, because the stereotype was that we were all wimps and sissies, ready to run if somebody looked at us cross-eyed.

You have to be willing to sacrifice, in public, for your beliefs, even if it means you’ll get killed. John Lewis, in that Selma photo above, nearly did get killed. But now he’s a Congressman from Georgia.

(While I’m just blogging!)

The famous Gay debate at the American Psychiatric Association in 1972: Barbara Gittings, Frank Kameny and a Gay psychiatrist (John E. Fryer) in a Halloween mask.

The famous Gay debate at the American Psychiatric Association in 1972: activists Barbara Gittings, Frank Kameny and a Gay psychiatrist (John E. Fryer) in a Halloween mask.

I have never spent much time thinking about why it took most LGBTs so long to come out. I think I’d probably resent them, actually; so I’ve always banished that particular thought. What was obvious to me, that coming out is an absolute necessity, was not so obvious to most. I do not hold to the standard blather about coming out that “it’s an intensely personal decision that everybody has to make for themselves,” so that we end up with Ricky Martin finally telling the truth in 2010, once he had to explain how he and his male partner ended up with two kids. I don’t begrudge the man, even if he was livin’ the crazy life all those years.

I’d rather have allies than not. (And I suppose Frank Kameny could ask what took me so long – except that in 1960 when he took the U.S. Government to the Supreme Court over anti-Gay discrimination, I was only 9.)

Please tell the Talking Heads that this incredible shift on Gay marriage has come about because we started telling our families and friends the truth.

And because Jerry Falwell was a Public Idiot.

And because of AIDS.

Oscar nominee, Best Documentary. Didn't win. Gay films never do.

Oscar nominee, Best Documentary. Didn’t win. Gay films never do.

I don’t have much to say about AIDS today, except that I’m glad to be a founder of AIDS Volunteers of Cincinnati, the world’s second-oldest support and advocacy group.

It grew because of Lesbians more than Gay men. The real heroes of AIDS, and there are many, are women who didn’t have it. That pattern was repeated in city after city – Gay women, Straight women, compassionate and courageous women.

What finally broke down the sexism of Gay men was that we needed those women.

The political connection between AIDS and Gay marriage is that what once was unmentionable became a topic on everyone’s lips. Ronald Reagan tried his best never to mention the word, until his friend Rock Hudson came down with it.

I was working at Gay Men’s Health Crisis while Hudson was jetting off to Paris, desperately trying to save his life. I didn’t blame him; my clients were doing the same thing. Still, there was a pathos to that whole episode. Hudson denied being Gay and having AIDS as long as he could, and then it stopped mattering.

I lost only one close friend to AIDS, an Episcopalian from Ohio named Craig Jason Byers. To his name I add composer Calvin Hampton, whose Mass music I used to sing at seminary in 1974, the same year I first marched in the Stonewall anniversary demonstration. “Pride Parades” used to be demonstrations, kids. (And yes, I was scared that first time.)

I credit my religion, my faith, my Christ, for propelling my activism. I credit my mentors Ervin Faulkenberry, Howard Galley and Brooke Bushong, Episcopal Church evangelists who couldn’t have been less like Jerry Falwell.

I credit the prophet Amos, to tell the truth; “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”

God made me do it – and still does.

A flood of Gay victims made our existence inescapable.

People with AIDS; Frank Kameny. Matthew Shepard; “God Hates Fags.” Too many to count, and still going on today; Edie Windsor, fighting DOMA to the Supreme Court; Uganda’s David Kato, murdered for being Gay.

Sweet Matt, an Episcopalian headed for a career in the State Department; he wanted to serve his country.

Sweet Matt, an Episcopalian headed for a career in the State Department; he wanted to serve his country.

All that victimization finally piled up – just as a new generation arrived, determined, as new generations always are, to prove that their parents were completely wrong about something very important.

For my generation it was the War in Vietnam, civil rights, women’s rights. For this generation, we’re It.

I still hate their tattoos and always will, but thank you, America’s Youth. You are once again leading the world.

2008 election results among LGBTs. (Political Science & Politics Journal)

2008 election results among swing-state LGBTs. With Democrats, women and young voters, we elected this President. His re-election marks another generational realignment in the governing coalition, much as Reagan changed the 1980s. (Political Science & Politics Journal)

Marriage is easier to deal with than discrimination.

When America changes, even radically, the change is only partial. Yes, we fought a civil war to end slavery. But we waited another hundred years to start to enact racial equality.

Same-sex marriage will soon be the law of the land, whether or not we win the cases to be argued this month in the Supreme Court. Maybe we’ll lose; we lost Bowers v. Hardwick in 1986, then won Lawrence v. Texas just 15 years later. Yay, Gay people can have adult sex in private without getting thrown in jail!

(Justice Scalia, hateful bigot that he is, was right in Lawrence, that if Gay sex was made legal, Gay marriage wouldn’t be far behind.)

“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has been repealed, but the Employment Non-Discrimination Act continues to languish. Apparently it’s okay with Congress if you’re queer and willing to die for your country, but not okay to be Gay at Chick Fil-A.

Tracey Hepner and her wife, Brig. Gen. Tammy S. Smith.

Tracey Hepner and her wife, Brig. Gen. Tammy S. Smith.

Marriage is something everyone can identify with (even as heterosexuals increasingly reject it), while having a job where you’re treated the same as everyone else is still too much to ask. This is just what John Lewis, Dr. King and millions of African-Americans went through in 1965; “you’re citizens but you’re not allowed to vote.”

Picketing the White House in 1965; not a leatherman or bikey dyke in sight.

“Homosexuals Are Citizens, Too”: picketing the White House in 1965, not a leatherman or bikey dyke in sight.

Of all the Gay issues to provoke a deep response in Americans, why is marriage the great galvanizer? I think it comes down to two things.

First, Falwell and his ilk were and are such clowns that anyone could see through them and laugh, long before Jon Stewart perfected political satire on “The Daily Show.” Ol’ Jerry was kind of a big fat guy, and he set himself up for ridicule the day he went after Tinky-Winky.

Falwell was a firm believer in using simple, powerful symbols to get his message across; his Moral Majority rallies featured lots of flags and patriotic music sung by well-scrubbed, clean-cut White kids; it was like getting beaten over the head with a Pat Boone record. But Falwell made a mistake when he went after this little cartoon kid.

Falwell was a firm believer in using simple, powerful symbols to get his message across. His Moral Majority rallies featured lots of flags and patriotic music sung by well-scrubbed, clean-cut White kids; those rallies were like getting beaten over the head with a Pat Boone record. But Falwell made a mistake when he went after this innocent cartoon kid.

Something else happened as part of this that I don’t think anyone’s really noticed.

• Goaded by their girlfriends, young Straight men stopped feeling threatened by Gay men.

I suspect this is the most powerful change of all; the dueling stereotypes (“All Gay men are sissies”/”All Gay men are dangerous rapists”) lost their power.

This is the personal, psychic equivalent of today’s political statement that Gay marriage has no effect on Straight marriages.

So live-and-let-live will soon become the law. Not even Fundamentalists can shout down “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” That’s scripture in the United States, a self-evident truth.

It is a sad fact, though built into our democracy, that the law always lags social change. The battles over evolution and climate change are winding down, too. Obama’s re-election sealed their fate. I don’t know what will become of the Republican Party, but it’s increasingly obvious that ya just can’t turn back the clock. The 195os are done.

This is the best generation of young Straight men the world’s ever seen. My admiration for them knows no bounds. (Well, it knows one bound; I don’t desire them. But you know what I mean.) These guys are great!

When Scalia lost the football players, all hope went with them.

This Is What a Feminist Looks Like: when Scalia lost the football players, all hope went with them.

Finally, there’s this; it goes back to that quiet conversation between Gayboy and Grandma, Lezziegrrl and Grandpa. On the back porch, or over a cup of tea, or right after a big screamfest in the living room, or down at the fishin’ hole, where you have to whisper because the fish have ears:

It isn’t just sex, it’s love.

Well, it's both sex and love, actually. But love remains, decades after sex fades. And there aren't many grandparents in America who would deprive their kid of that.

Well, it’s both sex and love, actually. But love remains, decades after sex fades. And there are fewer and fewer grandparents who would deprive their kid of that.

So we win – and will live to fight again another day.++

Gay Valentines, 1980: Comedy or Revolution?

Gay Cupid

Eons ago in my undergraduate days at the University of Cincinnati, I decided that Gay students needed to organize themselves; I was in social work school, and the origin of the profession lies in community organizing (howdy, Barack!). So I founded something called the UC Gay and Lesbian Alliance to fight for our rights; David Packer and David Giesler were two of the early leaders. The group continued for decades, and over the years added B’s, T’s and Q’s to its name, until it’s now subsumed in an official university-funded LGBTQ Center, which you can find here.

Well, it’s one thing to have meetings and organize yourselves, but the question soon arose, What shall we do? We decided to have a dance for Valentine’s Day.

We reserved a room in the student center, arranged for some music (disco, no doubt), made up flyers and sent out announcements; no one comes to a dance they don’t know is being held. There was no Facebook or e-mail in those days; we posted flyers in the bars and sent out press releases hoping to get four lines in the community calendar of the student newspaper.

I didn’t give this project a great deal of thought; it just seemed like a fun activity – until the TV cameras showed up.

I don’t recall having a boyfriend at the time, though I was never long without one in those days. I knew I could find someone to dance with; meanwhile let’s make sure the decorations are in place and we’ve got something to eat and drink, right? Wrong.

As the president and founder, I was the one reporters sought out for interviews. Fine, I thought, this will put us on the map and let the university know we mean business. (UC already had a non-discrimination policy.) Besides, as one of the first two people to come out publicly in the city – with full real names and everything, in the Sunday paper the year before – I was comfortable being in the media.

They all wanted to know if we were trying to “take over” Valentine’s Day.

Our dance floor was about this crowded.

Our dance floor was about this crowded.

I was, to put it mildly, nonplused. “Since when do heterosexuals own Valentine’s Day? We came here to dance.”

You’d have thought I was a Gay Panther, armed and dangerous. The reporters were all paranoid; I didn’t expect that.

Valentine’s Day is a “cherished institution,” they said. (Where have you heard that before?) Lovers look forward to it every year; the stores are full of chocolates and roses. “I know; I bought some.”

Meanwhile the TV cameras were busy taping people dancing – forty people, tops, counting the wallflowers.

My view of the TV shot was Look at all this empty space on the dance floor. We were a new organization, lucky to get the few people we had. Most of our efforts up to then were focused on gaining university recognition as an official group, so we’d qualify for the right to reserve a room.

Reporters demanded whether this was a sign of Gay student militancy at the university? “I think it’s a sign that there are actual Gay people here, and that we dance like anyone else.”

All their questions were variations on this theme; reporters couldn’t get their heads around the idea that Gayness and love are connected – I suppose they all thought that “Gay” meant nothing but sex in the bushes, not actual romance – while I couldn’t get my head around the fact that they were so clueless.

Soon enough the videographers had all the tape they needed of half a dozen people pretending to have fun to Donna Summer and the Village People, and the reporters ran out of new ways to ask the same thing, so they packed up and left. As I recall the party did not greatly improve on their leaving; the wallflower caucus remained the biggest group.

We made the news that night, though; we usually led off the second segment, after the anchors used us as a tease going into commercial, “Queers hold a Valentine’s dance at UC, stay tuned!”

The reports on the different stations all looked the same; Josh the talking head, music playing in the background, then video of half a dozen souls bravely bobbing up and down. I didn’t regard it as a great triumph, and I don’t think the president of UC broke a sweat over us either. But at least we got on the teevee.

Two nights from now, the LGBTQ Center and Colors of Pride will sponsor a Valentine’s Day Mixer on Friday, February 15 in the same student center where we held our forlorn little party 33 years ago; maybe the exact same room. I hope they get a better turnout than we did. I don’t suppose reporters will swarm.

And in a few weeks the world will learn whether the inclusive prom at Sullivan High School in Indiana will be successful, or the bigot prom at another location will rival it. Special education teacher Diana Medley, demanding a Straights-only prom, has equated LGBTs with the developmentally disabled (!) and says Gay people “have no purpose.”

Special ed teacher Diana Medley says you're retarded and have no purpose. But she doesn't even work at Sullivan High School, so she's obviously dipping into an issue that doesn't affect her.

Special ed teacher Diana Medley says you’re disabled and have no purpose. But she doesn’t even work at Sullivan High School; she’s obviously dipping into an issue that doesn’t affect her, so she can get TV time and proclaim her love for Jesus.

The pastor at the First Christian Church in Sullivan, which hosted the Straights-only prom meeting, has disavowed it, saying all he did was let some people use a room. Other Christian leaders have come out affirmatively for the inclusive prom. It looks to me like that’s the one that will succeed. If so, the bigots will tell each other that Christians are being victimized again.

Thank God for today’s students. For those at Sullivan High School, the upcoming dance is certainly revolutionary. As for my little Valentine’s Day gig, I’d have to call it comedy; no matter what I tried I couldn’t peel the wallflowers away from their wall.++

"Are Gay people trying to take over Valentine's Day?"

“Gay people are trying to take over Valentine’s Day!”

 

Fundamentalist Chickens Come Home to Roost

A lawyer lays out photos of a child who died at day care, as his father looks on. (Kelly Wilkinson/The Indianapolis Star)

Here is a sad story, worth telling because one family’s tragedy is directly traceable to America’s so-called culture wars – which have nothing to do with whether you prefer Mozart, Gaughin or Woody Allen. Two parents in Indianapolis took their little boy to day care, just like millions of other parents do every day. Except this time the little boy didn’t come home.

Juan Carlos Cardenas, age 1, wandered off during lunch, but none of the adults noticed. When they finally went looking for him, they found him face down in the baptismal pool. He drowned.

Why was there a baptismal pool at the day care center? Because it was held at a church; specifically the Praise Fellowship Assembly of God.

The newspapers never have said, to my knowledge, how far away the baptismal pool was from the main day care area; or whether the pool was covered with a lid when not in use; or whether he had to climb up to get to the pool; or whether it was sunken into the floor, so that anyone could trip and fall into it; or how long Juan Carlos was gone before the adults noticed and went looking. The Indianapolis Star, whose story this is, has always been vague about the details – except for a very salient fact: day cares aren’t licensed in Indiana if they’re run by churches.

In Indiana church day cares are “registered,” not licensed. They are exempt from all the safety and staffing requirements state government imposes on commercial day cares and secular non-profit versions. The state legislature decided, after pressure from churches, that they didn’t have to comply with the legal requirements. The church-run centers have lower costs that way; the state doesn’t interfere with their “exercise of religion.” Juan Carlos sadly exercised himself all the way to the room with the baptismal pool.

How many staff were on duty that day? The Star doesn’t say, never has. I guess that’s up to the judge to find out, because a lawsuit’s coming – against the Indiana state government.

Thank you, legislators, so much.

By “registering” church day cares instead of licensing them, the state knows that they exist and takes a role in advising churches how a day care should be run. The state can even do inspections – but it can’t force compliance, because that would interfere with “religious freedom” – to run a day care that kills a kid.

But wait, there’s more: it turns out the state legislature decided, faced with the obvious need for more day care facilities, that it would give out vouchers to qualifying families to send their kids to day care – without requiring them to go to a licensed facility. The Cardenas family enrolled their son at the Praise Fellowship.

Thus the state is deeply implicated here, and probably liable to some extent, though a judge will eventually decide. The church itself has already settled with the family – and shut down the day care center by refusing to accept the vouchers anymore. The state didn’t order the shutdown, they left that to the church.

Indiana sent an inspector to examine the facility back in November, four months before little Juan Carlos was drowned. The inspector cited the facility for 18 violations. However, the church was exempt from complying. See how this works?

After the child’s death, the state sent another inspection team, but by then it was too late, and besides, the state couldn’t close what it never licensed to open.

All this so the Assembly of God, and every other congregation like them, could practice its religion.

No doubt they were well-meaning, but that didn’t keep the child safe. He wandered off and nobody noticed, probably because there wasn’t enough staff.

The Star has never said whether the baptismal pool was considered a violation. Pity the poor inspector whose hands were tied by the legislature. She was busy counting the number of marked exits and making sure the applesauce was refrigerated and not expired, but never got trained in what to do about a baptismal pool. Clearly baptism is a religious matter.

A rational state – New York comes to mind – would handle this differently, I suspect. There, if a church wanted to open a day care center, the state would have welcomed them with open arms – and then told them that religion notwithstanding, they had to be licensed. If they got licensed, they would be eligible for the state to send children there and pay for them.

Not in Indiana.

I hope the state pays through the nose for the parents’ loss. I wish, though it will never happen, that the settlement funds had to come out of the salaries of state legislators. They’re the ones who failed the kid by not requiring oversight.

Why did they do it? Because the churches wanted them to, and had a thousand reasons why they couldn’t comply with the regulations. These aren’t just day care centers, but “ministries,” and everyone knows you don’t mess with a ministry, no matter how wacky it is. Indeed, politicians are eager to do everything they can to help out churches – including giving them money to take in kids like Juan Carlos.

The stupidity of all this need barely be mentioned. A child is dead and politicians killed him. They didn’t mean to, the kid just wandered off.

Surely however we can see many connections between religion, politics and the nation’s problems. Are you worried about the budget deficit? Try paying for your wars next time. Whose wars? George W. Bush’s, the Lord’s Anointed. That’s what the Fundamentalists said; by invading Iraq, Bush was going to remake the Middle East, guarantee Israel’s safety and thereby usher in the Second Coming of Christ.

I’m still waiting.

We could make long lists of the failed promises and lies of Fundamentalist preachers and politicians, but instead let’s ask another question: why and how did mainline Protestants let these goons take over in the first place?

Or: how are Episcopalians responsible for the wholesale theft of the Christian religion?

Fundamentalism is a 20th century movement, and its roots go back to developments in the 19th century, a period of great scholarly ferment among theologians. New methods of Biblical “criticism” arose, and many reactionary Christian leaders became alarmed. They launched a movement to stress the “fundamentals,” no matter what discoveries scholars made about the texts.

They decided to take over Protestant Christianity – and they did it, because Episcopalians didn’t want to dirty themselves fighting back.

They decided to write papers instead, and become even more scholarly. To the triumphant Fundamentalists, it meant God slew all the Amalekites. Piece of cake, really.

Now a hundred years later we are living with the results – when we’re not dying from them, like Juan Carlos Cardenas.

Does anyone realize how many state legislatures, like Indiana’s, Fundamentalist Christians now control?

Here’s a map of the 2004 presidential election results, which I submit as a proxy to answer the question. St. George the Bush won, of course.

It’s a vast swath of the United States.

But maybe you’d rather look at it by population; we’ve got a map for that too. This map is called a cartogram.

2004 presidential results, weighted by population.

 

That looks a little better perhaps and helps reveal the closeness of the popular vote and Electoral College. But it doesn’t do Juan Carlos or his parents one bit of good in little red Indiana, or a pregnant rape victim any good in Todd Akin’s Missouri.

God help you if you’re a Muslim in Murfreesboro, Tennessee or a Gay kid in Casper, Wyoming.

The unwillingness to fight of Episcopalians and others these past hundred years has real consequences. If the questions were only theological they wouldn’t matter so much. But Fundamentalist Christians want to make themselves the Established Church in the United States, and every other country they can get.

Christian Fundamentalists act just like the Taliban in Afghanistan and the “ultra-orthodox” in Israel. They want to control everything and everybody, and they’ll happily use war to get it.

It’s that last part that freaked out the Episcopalians so much and paralyzed them. “These people are warlike!”

Well, d-uh. Memo to theologians and bishops: there’s no sense arguing when your enemy’s got a gun in his hand.

So they surrendered. They won’t admit that’s what they did, but the evidence is all around us.

Todd Akin, the Republican Senate candidate in Missouri who’s “no abortion, no exceptions,” would have told my grandmother, “We don’t care if this pregnancy will kill you. Your maybe-baby is more important than you are.”

(My grandmother did die in childbirth. If she’d had a safe, legal abortion, I wouldn’t be here – and I still think she should have had a choice.)

As I consider my own Church, and how willfully useless it’s been in fighting for an accurate, balanced, faithful and intellectually respectable Christianity, I think back to the great heroes and heroines of the faith, who were never afraid to fight back. Our calendar of saints is filled with intrepid fighters, who didn’t shed blood but gave their lives combating heresy and preaching what the Church calls “pure doctrine.” We celebrate these people every day and every year. What made us so wimpy when challenged in our own time?

We’ll never fully know, and can’t turn back the clock, but here’s the good news: Fundamentalism can still be defeated, if we’ll take up the tools at hand and fight for the full, entire faith – including its nuances, doubts and contradictions too. I give credit to the 20th century bishops and theologians, they preserved and enhanced the faith for those of us inside the walls. That’s no small achievement. But it doesn’t bring back that little boy, either.

Fundamentalists don’t like the truth, and are afraid of it, so they rely on lies. This is a position of great weakness, because the truth can beat them every time, and the keyboard is mightier than the sword. Mine isn’t, but ours are; Leonardo Ricardo has pointed out the similarity between the Arab Spring and America’s future choices if the Fundamentalist-Tea Party-Republicans succeed this fall. We are not powerless, no matter how many billionaires line up for Romney. If the Assembly of God takes over the government, Americans won’t like it one bit. (In many places, when Fundamentalists have taken over the school board in one election, they’re thrown out the next. Even Kansas finally got rid of its militant anti-abortion attorney general once they saw what he was like.)

No side will ever win a complete victory. But we have power if only we’ll use it.

My hope for the Episcopal Church is that the next time we elect a Presiding Bishop, we’ll pick one who isn’t afraid to fight for the truth. Jesus doesn’t care if two men or two women get married, but he cares very much about how we treat women – children – the poor – the elderly – the sick – the homeless – the oppressed. Since Fundamentalists are intent on marginalizing powerless people, we can count on having his power on our side.++

Valentin de Boulogne, c. 1618: Take That, Goldman Sachs!