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Tue

27

Feb

2007

The Hypocritical Christian Right is being “Left Behind”
Tuesday, 27 February 2007 22:20
by Mel Seesholtz, Ph.D.

Rev. Lonnie W. Latham was a fire and brimstone, Bible-thumping anti-gay Baptist pastor and member of the executive committee of the Southern Baptist Convention. While clutching the Bible and praising Jesus, he exhorted homosexuals to reject their “sinful, destructive lifestyle.” Then, on January 3, 2006, Rev. Latham was arrested for soliciting oral sex from an undercover male police officer. So much for sanctimonious Bible-thumping.

Latham’s legal defense is thumping as well.

The reverend’s attorney said Thursday [February 22, 2007] the minister has a constitutional right to solicit sex from an undercover policeman.

[Latham’s] attorney, Mack Martin, filed a motion to have the misdemeanor lewdness charge thrown out, saying the Supreme Court ruled in the 2003 decision Lawrence v. Texas that it was not illegal for consenting adults to engage in private homosexual acts.

“Now, my client’s being prosecuted basically for having offered to engage in such an act, which basically makes it a crime to ask someone to do something that’s legal,” Martin said.

True enough. Latham offered no money to the undercover officer. But you do have to marvel at how the self-righteously hypocritical use a court decision they railed against – and continue to rail against – to protect themselves when exposed for the frauds they are.

“Exposed” and “Baptist” go together these days:

The victims’ advocates who dogged the Roman Catholic Church over sex abuse by its clergy have now turned their attention to the Southern Baptists, accusing America’s largest Protestant denomination of also failing to root out molesters.

The Chicago-based Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests [SNAP] has started a campaign to call attention to alleged sex abuse committed by Southern Baptist ministers and concealed by churches.
Church leaders concede there have been some incidents of abuse in Southern Baptist congregations but say their hands are tied when it comes to investigating complaints across the denomination. …

“They don’t want to see this problem,” said Christa Brown, a SNAP member from Austin, Texas, who says she was sexually abused as a child by a Southern Baptist minister. “That’s tragic, because they’re imitating the same mistakes made by Catholic bishops.”

In the past six months SNAP has received reports of about 40 cases of sexual abuse by Southern Baptist ministers – with some of the incidents dating back many years…

In support of their allegations, SNAP cited several cases. One involved a SNAP member,

Debbie Vasquez, [who] said she was raped by a Southern Baptist minister in Texas when she was 15 years old.

Now 48, Vasquez filed a lawsuit last year against the pastor, the Reverend Dale “Dickie” Amyx, and his current church, Bolivar Baptist in Sanger, Texas, about 45 miles north of Dallas. She claims the church knew, or should have known, about Amyx’s past.

Vasquez says she was raped when Amyx was a minister at the now-defunct Calvary Baptist Church in Lewisville, another town north of Dallas.

When she became pregnant with Amyx’s child at age 18, church leaders forced her to go before the congregation and ask forgiveness as an unwed mother. But the congregation was never told it was Amyx’s baby. The lawsuit claims Calvary Baptist helped Amyx get another job at a church in Arizona.

Another involved “Bellevue Baptist, a megachurch near Memphis, [that] fired a longtime minister, the Reverend Paul Williams, last month after he acknowledged sexually abusing his son 17 years ago. The church's internal investigation found that church leaders, including the current pastor, the Reverend Steve Gaines, knew about the abuse last year but did not act immediately. The investigation began in December only after the prodding of Williams's son, who asked Gaines why his father was allowed to continue as a minister even after leaders had found out about the abuse.”

Funny how the many Christian Right web sites never mention these incidents. Perhaps that’s because they’re too busy finding new ways to demean gay people and their families. And no one is better at that than James Dobson. His sorely misnamed organization, “Focus on the Family,” does everything it can to demean, denigrate, and further marginalize gay and lesbian families. That he will go to ridiculous lengths to do so was demonstrated in his 2004 book Marriage Under Fire in which he claimed that allowing gay and lesbian couples – many of whom are already rearing children – to marry would bring about the end of the world: “the world may soon become ‘as it was in the days of Noah.’” (For a complete debunking of Dobson’s arguments, see “Out of Focus on the Family: A Response to Arguments Against Same-Sex Marriage,” Popular Culture Review, 16:1 [February 2005], 45-75.)

Dobson’s organization also has it own “ex-gay” program, so it wasn’t surprising that Focus on the Family’s CitizenLink newsletter criticized the American Psychological Association for its plans to investigate and review the practices of “ex-gay” therapies. With a graphic proclaiming “Politics over Science,” the CitizenLink article quoted a leading “ex-gay” proponent, Warren Throckmorton of Grove City College:

The reasons they recommended it was for political reasons, not for scientific reasons … What we’re talking about is the right of clients who are unhappy with their feeling (of same-sex attraction) … Those people have the right to seek therapy to help them live the way they want to live – the way they value.

Clients do have the right to choose a “therapy.” They are free to undergo exorcisms or avail themselves of evangelical faith-healers if they wish. But what’s at issue here is whether “ex-gay” therapies are legitimate, scientifically-based psychological treatments or a hocus-pocus fraud that does more harm than good, as the American Psychological Association has already stated: “groups who try to change the sexual orientation of people through so-called conversion therapy are misguided and run the risk of causing a great deal of psychological harm to those they say they are trying to help.”

The APA is not alone. According to the American Medical Association, “there is no published scientific evidence supporting the efficacy of reparative therapy as a treatment to change one’s sexual orientation.” The AMA “does not recommend aversion therapy for gay men and lesbians.”

The American Psychiatric Association concurs: “gay men and lesbians who have accepted their sexual orientation positively are better adjusted than those who have not done so.”

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “therapy directed at specifically changing sexual orientation is contraindicated, since it can provoke guilt and anxiety while having little or no potential for achieving changes in orientation.”

In 1999 “ex-gay” therapies were publicly decried as unethical by both the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association. The National Association of School Psychologists and the American Counseling Association concurred.

An investigation by the APA is long overdue. Hopefully, the APA’s action will encourage the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and other legitimate scientific, medical groups to launch their own investigations of “ex-gay” therapies.

Dr. Throckmorton, who runs his own “ex-gay” program, claimed the APA’s motives were political, not scientific: the mantra of “ex-gay” proponents. But where are the scientific, peer-reviewed studies supporting “ex-gay” therapies? The articles that exist are largely, if not exclusively, anecdotal and offer no scientific basis for the therapies. Most if not all were authored by those who run for-profit “ex-gay” programs and/or are associated with NARTH, the National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality.

The overwhelming majority of “ex-gay” programs are faith-based. Even those heavily cloaked in S.S.A.D. pseudo-science utilize or exploit religious beliefs in one way or another. Like “ex-gay” therapies, the whole “faith-based” domestic agenda of the Bush administration is finally being challenged. Again, Dobson’s CitizenLink sounded the alarm:

The Freedom From Religion Foundation will argue at a U.S. Supreme Court hearing next week [February 26-March 2, 2007] that President Bush’s Faith-Based and Community Initiative violates the “separation of church and state.” But Jordan Lorence, senior counsel for Alliance Defense Fund, told Family News in Focus he sees an ulterior motive in the lawsuit.

“What they are trying to do is stop all government acknowledgement of religion or funding of religion,” Lorence said. [link added]

Stopping “acknowledgement of religion” is a preposterous statement and proposition. It’s akin to Dobson suggested that the world would end if gay and lesbian couples and their families are recognized socially, legally and economically.

But stopping government “funding of religion” is absolutely essential. America should not strive to be the hate-based, “us vs. them” theocratic state Dobson and the rest of the leaders of the Christian Right want it to be:

I want you to just let a wave of intolerance wash over you. I want you to let a wave of hatred wash over you. Yes, hate is good… Our goal is a Christian nation. We have a Biblical duty, we are called by God, to conquer this country. We don’t want equal time. We don’t want pluralism.

Religion is predicated upon the destructive “us vs. them” mentality. History is replete with bloody reasons why religion and civil government should be kept separate. America’s Founding Fathers were astute students of history and had learned the lesson taught by Europe’s 17th century religious-civil wars: social stability and civil equality require a secular government and a wall between it and religion. In a very real sense, the American republic was conceived as a prophylactic against the marriage of Church and State.

The crumbling Christian Right and their political star chamber were the subject of a New York Times article titled “Christian Right Labors to Find ’08 Candidate”:

A group of influential Christian conservatives and their allies emerged from a private meeting at a Florida resort this month dissatisfied with the Republican presidential field and uncertain where to turn.

The event was a meeting of the Council for National Policy, a secretive club whose few hundred members include Dr. James C. Dobson of Focus on the Family, the Rev. Jerry Falwell of Liberty University and Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform. Although little known outside the conservative movement, the council has become a pivotal stop for Republican presidential primary hopefuls, including George W. Bush on the eve of his 1999 primary campaign.

But in a stark shift from the group’s influence under President Bush, the group risks relegation to the margins.

According to The Times, “the Council for National Policy was founded 25 years ago by the Rev. Tim LaHaye as a forum for conservative Christians to strategize about turning the country to the right. Its secrecy was intended to insulate the group from what its members considered the liberal bias of the news media. In recent years the group has brought together a cross-section of the right from Edwin J. Feulner to Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association” [links added].

That’s Tim LaHaye, coauthor of the “left behind” series. A new video game – Left Behind: Eternal Forces – was on the shelves just in time for Christmas 2006. The Entertainment Software Rating Board rated the game “T,” appropriate for teens 13 and older. As for content, ESRB tagged it as “violence.” The game’s description explained why:

Wage a war of apocalyptic proportions in Left Behind: Eternal Forces, a real time strategy game based upon the best selling book series created by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. Conduct physical and spiritual warfare, recover ancient scriptures and command your forces through intense battles. …

Wal-Mart was one of the retailers carrying Left Behind: Eternal Forces. During the 2006 holiday shopping season the company was under fire, but not for selling a game that taught young teens to hate and kill. Nope. The Christian Right – particularly Don Wildmon and his American Family Association – was attacking Wal-Mart because the company offered books such as Gay Marriage, Real Life: Ten Stories of Love and Family on its website.

The radical Christian Right screams loudly whenever a video game includes violence. Yet they seem to have absolutely no problem with a game that teaches teens to kill in the name of “God,” as long as it’s their politicized, bloodthirsty version of “God.” They share that “thinking” with the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.

As for the Council for National Policy, New York University media critic Mark Crispin Miller described it as a “highly secretive... theocratic organization … what they want is basically religious rule.” Despite its clandestine nature, some information about the CNP is available from Barbara Aho and ABC News, as well as from an “unofficial information page” and a membership list from NNDB, “an intelligence aggregator that tracks the activities of people we have determined to be noteworthy.”

Game over, boys. Your messianic president, George W. Bush, has been a total failure and an embarrassment to the world. Your and his policies were resounding rejected by the American people in the last election. The future – not your past – is ahead. As for gays’ and lesbians’ civil rights, the proverbial handwriting is one the proverbial wall.

A recent Gallup Poll reported in USA Today documented the trend. Under the heading “Percentage who consider homosexuality acceptable” two results were listed, first by year and then by age group. In 1982, the percentage of those who considered homosexuality acceptable was 34 percent. The percentage had grown to 54 percent by 2006, with the largest increase occurring between 1997 (forty-two percent) to 2002 (fifty-one percent). Is it coincidental that this jump coincided with the Christian Right’s cranking up its anti-gay rhetoric?

The age group results further demonstrated the move away from faith-based bigotry and intolerance. In the 30-39 year-old group, 57 percent considered homosexuality acceptable. But in the 18-29 year-old group, 62 percent considered homosexuality acceptable. The youth are indeed the future.

Similar evidence that younger Americans are rejecting bigotry based on religious fundamentalism came from Matt Friedeman in his article for Wildmon’s propaganda organ, Agape Press: “A Youth Exodus From Church – What Are We Doing Wrong? Youth are leaving – do we need to change something?”

AgapePress has reported that Dr. Frank Page, the new president of the Southern Baptist Convention, is disturbed that many students are leaving the church once they graduate. Indeed, the Convention’s Council on Family Life reports that some 88 percent of children from evangelical homes are leaving the church shortly after they graduate from high school.

Do power-hungry fundamentalists and evangelicals need to change something? You bet they do. Beginning with fundamentals.

May the crumbling of the hypocritical Christian Right and its decaying political power continue unabated, and may they be joyfully left behind as America moves toward greater separation of church and state, and the affirmation of civil equality for all citizens. Amen.
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