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30

May

2010

Frauds and Fiascos: How the Christian Right is Defeating Itself in the “Culture War” It Started
Sunday, 30 May 2010 21:04

by Mel Seesholtz Ph.D.

America’s Christian Right and their ultra-conservative political brethren teamed up to concoct what they called the “culture war”: the mantra to describe the fight against civil and social equality for gay and lesbian Americans, the Genesis-based creationist crusade against science and knowledge, and the cherry-picked “biblical” battle against what’s deemed encroaching socialism. To be sure, there were other campaign issues, but these were three of the main fronts in the “war.”

The campaign against civil and social equality for gays enjoyed considerable success during the early part of the George W. Bush administration. But since then, the Christian Right and its political allies have suffered major, ultra-embarrassing defeats. Courts continue to rule that religion-based discrimination against gays is unconstitutional, and more than a few holier-than-thou anti-gay crusaders have been exposed as… gay. Click here for a list of the Top Ten.

The last one on that list is the most recent: Baptist minister and long-time advocate of “ex-gay therapies,” Dr. George Alan Rekers, who recently got caught with a male prostitute. If you’re unfamiliar with the details of the case, I suggest Frank Rich’s succinct summary in his New York Times OpEd of May 14, 2010 titled “A Heaven-Sent Rent Boy”:

Rekers is in a class by himself even in the era of Larry Craig and Ted Haggard. A Baptist minister and clinical psychologist with a bent for “curing” homosexuality, the married, 61-year-old Rekers was caught by Miami New Times last month in the company of a 20-year-old male escort at Miami International Airport. The couple was returning from a 10-day trip to London and Madrid. New Times, which published its exposé in early May, got an explanation from Rekers: “I had surgery, and I can’t lift luggage. That’s why I hired him.”

Alas, a photo showed Rekers, rather than his companion, handling the baggage cart. The paper also reported that Rekers had recruited the young man from Rentboy.com, a Web site whose graphic sexual content requires visitors to vouch for their age. Rentboy.com – really, who could make this stuff up?

It must be noted that Dr. Rekers hired Jo-vanni Roman (aka “Geo”/“Lucien”) from the RentBoy.com website, so he must have seen the escort’s sexually explicit posting. It must also be noted that none of the Christian Right websites that support “ex-gay therapy” – such as Focus on the Family and the American Family Association – have run any serious articles about Dr. Rekers’ RentBoy scandal. The Family Research Council was cofounded by Rekers and James Dobson. Yet as Mr. Rich noted in his NYT OpEd:

When the Miami scandal broke, the council’s current president, Tony Perkins, quickly tried to distance himself, claiming that he had to review “historical records” to verify who Rekers was and that his organization had “no contact” with him or “knowledge of his activities” for over a decade.

Mr. Perkins didn’t know who George Alan Rekers was? That’s almost as good as Rekers claiming he hired the RentBoy escort to help him with his luggage. As Mr. Rich pointed out,
 

That historical record is hardly as obscure as Perkins maintained. Rachel Maddow of MSNBC found that only weeks before Rekers’s excellent European adventure, his name appeared on the masthead of an official-looking letter sent to some 14,000 school superintendents nationwide informing them that homosexuality is a choice that can be stamped out by therapy. The letter was from the “American College of Pediatricians” – a misnomer for what is actually a political organization peddling homophobic junk-science. Rekers was also on the board of another notorious peddler of gay “cures” – the National Association for Research and Therapy on Homosexuality, or Narth – until he resigned last week. Such groups have done nothing to stop homosexuality but plenty to help promote punitive “treatment” and suicidal depression among untold numbers of gay youths.

On another front in the “culture war” there’s Bible-based “creation science”: the ultimate oxymoron. Putting those two words together is offensive to anyone who does legitimate scientific research. Nevertheless, there are those who continue to maintain that Genesis is literal history and “scientific” fact:

Dr. John Morris, president of the Institute for Creation Research, performed the study and has just released a new book titled The Fossil Record: Unearthing Nature's History of Life.



“We began to look at the fossils with biblical glasses on, from a biblical perspective, and of course the Bible talks about the creation of all kinds, after their kind,” he explains. “In Genesis chapter one, each basic category of plant or animal was created separately. They did not descend from some other type of animal, as evolution requires; they were created as that. Dogs have always been dogs. Dogs did not come from a bear. ...”

“With biblical glasses on”? The Bible was cobbled together from eclectic texts written between 1,500 BCE and 150 CE by men who thought the earth was flat, that sea monsters were real, and that epilepsy was caused by demonic possession. They had no knowledge of DNA and thought the fetus was contained within the male sperm. They believed women were inherently inferior to men and had no idea North and South America, Australia, or Antarctica existed. “Biblical glasses,” when it comes to science, biology, geology, geography, and natural history, have lenses of lead.

But Dr. Morris is correct about one thing: “Dogs did not come from a bear.” Science tells us otherwise:

The earliest ancestors of dogs originally evolved about 200 million years ago from reptiles. Prehistoric remains of dogs are few and far between but the dental pattern of modern day dogs is similar to that found in fossilized creodonts - primitive fish-eating mammals which lived about 50 million years ago, but this genetic line failed to survive and there are no direct descendants today. At the same time another group of animals the miacids also had dog-like cutting teeth - they were small forest-dwelling creatures (not unlike polecats) and these evolved into the carnivores of today - including some dogs.

By about 1 million years ago (the Pleistocene period - half a million years ago) there were a variety of larger dogs and the family Canidae (wolves, coyotes, jackals and foxes) was formed. It is generally agreed that the common ancestor to domesticated dogs was a form of wolf found on the plains of India.

The oldest authenticated skeletons (note these are true skeletons - not fossils) of dogs have been found in Denmark and are estimated to be 8000 BC. Skeletons of dogs have been found in Jarmo (Iraq) dating from 6750 BC, and in the ruins of Jericho from 6500 BC. The first evidence of dogs in Egypt date from 3500 BC.

Existing “Wild dogs” - the African hunting dog, South American bush dog and Indian dhole are not close relatives of the domesticated dog - only sharing a common ancestry some 20 million years ago in the Oligocene period. Foxes and wolves on the other hand have a common ancestor 7.5 million years ago in the Miocene period. [italics added]

As can be seen, science also tells us unequivocally that the Earth is more than 6,000 years old, wasn’t created in “six days,” and that its multiple life forms – including human beings – didn’t just suddenly appear in “Eden,” as Genesis and Young Earth Creationists claim.

It difficult to understand why someone would insist that Genesis is literal history when all scientific, historical and empirical evidence clearly says otherwise. Perhaps it’s just an expression of how selectively weak their faith really is. When asked by Bill Maher in the quasi-documentary Religulous why he insisted the earth is 6,000 years old and that dinosaurs coexisted with humans, Ken Ham, the founder of Answers in Genesis and the man responsible for the $27,000,000, 70,000 square-foot Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky, responded, “If you’re saying this part [of the Bible] over here that says God made land animals and man on the same day is not true, then, ultimately, why should I believe this bit over here?”

So apparently Mr. Ham and those who share his beliefs also believe it’s legitimate to sell one’s daughter into slavery and stone to death those who work or do business on the Sabbath, which is very odd since the Creation Museum is open for business from noon to 6 pm on Sundays. So much for the “faith” and  “logic” in Mr. Ham’s statement.

On the third front there’s “unbiblical socialism”: that’s what Rev. Mark Creech called universal healthcare:

Perspectives: Universal health care – Unbiblical socialism

[By] Rev. Mark Creech - Guest Columnist OneNewsNow.com, March 21, 2007

The prospect of government-funded universal health care is another example of America’s departure from its strong Judeo-Christian roots and its love affair with socialism. Economic systems that perpetuate or construct dependence or reward sloth strike at the very heart of what it means to be human. …

Rev. Creech is the executive director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina, Inc. He believes universal healthcare would “perpetuate or construct dependence or reward sloth … while those who are indolent prosper.”

Aside from the fact that Rev. Creech is comfortable with – and encourages – the needless suffering of men, women and children in the name of his perverted version of Christianity, and aside from the fact that Jesus spoke of helping the needy and the poor, not stomping on them when they’re down, Creech’s remarks are blatantly insulting to millions of hard-working Americans.

Many of those Americans are called the “working poor.” They often work two jobs while simultaneously raising a family, but since their employers keep them on “part-time” status, they don’t qualify for healthcare benefits. How dare Creech call these parents slothful and indolent?

There’s another group of incredibly hard-working citizens that Creech deems slothful, indolent and unworthy of basic healthcare coverage. They’re America’s future leaders: today’s college students.

This is one of many, many similar messages I – and professors nationwide – receive from students every semester: “I’ve been very sick this semester and I can’t go to the doctor because I don’t have health insurance. It's too expensive. … I have two jobs and I’ve been pushing myself to the limit just to make it by financially. …”

Does Rev. Creech believe this student and the thousands like her are slothful? Indolent? And just for the record, this student’s cumulative grade point average is near 3.5 on a 4.0 scale.

More recently, the American Family Association’s resident anti-gay bombast and biblical literalist, Bryan Fischer, came to the conclusion that

Jesus was a capitalist

Date: 5/17/2010

Despite the best efforts of liberal evangelicals like Jim Wallis to turn Jesus into a flaming socialist, his own words tell a different story. In fact, the stories that Jesus told could have only come from a capitalist's capitalist. …

In the parable of the talents, Jesus refers to a man who called his servants together and “entrusted to them his property.” Hold it right there! It was his own property! He owned the means of production – it did not belong to the community at large! The capital used in economic exchange was in private hands! And what he does with his wealth is clearly nobody’s business but his own. … [link added]

In a truly dazzling display of cherry-picking and retrofitting the tribal, feudalistic societies of the Bible with modern socio-political and economic theories, Mr. Fischer perverted the idea of “to each according to his ability” to imply that in contemporary patriarchal capitalistic societies everyone has the same ability and that the playing field is absolutely level. In so doing he echoed Rev. Creech’s notion that assisting the poor and disadvantaged would “perpetuate or construct dependence or reward sloth … while those who are indolent prosper.” You have to wonder about the morals of those who advocate letting some people suffer needlessly.

Mr. Fischer’s agenda-driven cherry-picking of the Bible (he concludes his diatribe with, “Bottom line: Jesus … had capitalism in his DNA”) is blatantly obvious when one considers Matthew 19:20-23, the story of “The Rich Young Ruler” who was, presumably, one of Fischer’s “capitalistic landowners”:

The young man said to Him, “All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.” (KJV)

On at least three fronts, America’s Christian Right is losing its “culture war”: the mantra to describe the fight against civil and social equality for gay and lesbian Americans, the Genesis-based creationist crusade against science and knowledge, and the cherry-picked “biblical” battle against what’s deemed encroaching socialism. Those fronts and some of the reasons the Christian Right is defeating itself were covered in Part 1. Now, to elaborate further…

The anti-gay hypocrisy of the movement’s leaders is constantly being exposed and, as Frank Rich pointed out in relation George Alan Rekers in his May 14, 2010 New York Times OpEd titled “A Heaven-Sent Rent Boy”:

The crusade he [Rekers] represents is, thankfully, on its last legs. American attitudes about homosexuality continue to change very fast. In the past month, as square a cultural venue as Archie comic books has announced the addition of a gay character, the country singer Chely Wright has come out as a lesbian, and Laura Bush has told Larry King that she endorses the “same” rights for all committed couples and believes same-sex marriage “will come.” All of this news has been greeted by most Americans with shrugs, as it should be.

Moreover, several former proponents of “ex-gay” programs have come forward to debunk the “therapies.”

Exodus Cofounder Disses "Ex-Gay" Programs

By Kenneth Harvey

Posted on Advocate.com May 13, 2010

Michael Bussee, one of the founders of the “ex-gay” group Exodus International, discussed his experiences with the group in an interview with the Box Turtle Bulletin blog. 



Bussee left Exodus in 1979 and has since been a vocal critic of the group and similar “ex-gay” programs.

“Never once has an ex-gay program I attended ever done any sort of follow-up,” Bussee said. “I can't buy a soy latte these days without having to fill out a survey about my coffee experience. Yet folks can spend tens of thousands of dollars on reparative therapy and nothing – no aftercare, no reflections…”

Bussee said that many years after leaving Exodus, he met others who abandoned the program.

“I’m happy to report that most of them had actually gotten much better,” Bussee said. “They had left too and gone through a period of struggle and then finally accepted themselves as gay or lesbian and were doing fine.”

Video and a transcript of the interview can be found here.

And this article from Salon.com: 

Failed Ex-Gays Speak Out. Rekers and Smid can learn something 

Sometimes it’s a good thing to be a failure, particularly when one tries to destroy their personality and sexuality (or assist others in destroying theirs.) The vast majority of people who have attempted to “de-gay” themselves through reparative therapy, straight camps and ex-gay ministries ultimately come out gay. Sadly many of these come out psychologically disheveled and need therapy to recover from the therapy. … 

The Rekers scandal is also proving problematic legally, in relation to his previous (paid) court testimony, the Florida attorney general who authorized paying him and who is now running for governor of that state:

Scandal Stirs Legal Questions in Anti-Gay Cases

By John Schwartz

May 18, 2010

For years, George A. Rekers has held himself out as an expert witness in court on homosexuality, arguing in cases concerning same-sex marriage and gay adoption that gay men and lesbians lead parlous lives and raise troubled children.

Now Dr. Rekers himself is under fire, raising new legal questions about his courtroom role. …

… legal experts say the scandal may affect more than Dr. Rekers’s reputation. They say it places obligations on those who have relied on Dr. Rekers to inform the court in at least one continuing case to modify or withdraw their arguments.

“Each lawyer must tell the court if he comes to know that one of his witnesses has given ‘false’ testimony,” said Stephen Gillers, an expert in legal ethics at New York University. That could come into play if the expert is discredited, he added. …

Dr. Rekers’ involvement, for example, has been critical in a suit challenging a Florida law banning adoption by gay parents. His testimony was a major part of Attorney General Bill McCollum’s defense of the statute, for which the state paid Dr. Rekers $120,000. …

In the November 2008 decision declaring the Florida gay adoption law unconstitutional, Judge Cindy Lederman of Miami-Dade Circuit Court wrote that Dr. Rekers was “motivated by his strong ideological and theological convictions that are not consistent with the science,” and not “credible.” Mr. McCollum, a Republican who is running for governor, has appealed that decision. In papers filed well before the scandal broke, he denounced the court’s “wholesale disregard” of testimony by Dr. Rekers and another expert, calling the decision “arbitrary,” stressing Dr. Rekers’ qualifications and stating that “the trial court entirely discredited him based on his religion.”

To Professor Gillers, Mr. McCollum is now obligated both as a lawyer and as a public official to alert the appellate court. “It is not enough for the attorney general simply to refrain from relying on the testimony in his brief and argument,” he said. “He has an affirmative duty to speak up.”

Things are no better for Christian Right zealots on the other fronts of its “culture war.”

The claim that Genesis is literal history and scientific fact is falling on more and more deaf ears and has, quite frankly, become a joke. The need for some kind of universal healthcare has been recognized and progress toward that goal is being made despite those who misuse the Bible to promote needless suffering and pain.

But leaders of the Christian Right will never give up. They have too much at stake. They’ve become the CEOs of a profitable industry that claims to be doing “God’s work,” but what they’re really doing is making a mockery of the concept of “God” and perverting “religion” into a destructive socio-political agenda.

As for their GOP sycophants, hypocrisy is the hallmark of their “traditional values” political ruse:

Antigay Congressman Resigns After Affair

By Julie Bolcer

Advocate.com May 18, 2010

Congressman Mark Souder of Indiana, who displayed a staunch antigay voting record, resigned Tuesday morning after he acknowledged an extramarital affair with a female aide. …

The Republican representative’s positions against gay rights had earned him a zero rating from the Human Rights Campaign. …

The conservative congressman’s platform included the support of “traditional marriage,” which he defined as the union of one man and one woman.

“I believe that Congress must fight to uphold the traditional values that undergird the strength of our nation,” Souder said in a quote printed on his official website. “The family plays a fundamental role in our society. Studies consistently demonstrate that it is best for a child to have a mother and father, and I am committed to preserving traditional marriage, the union of one man and one woman.”

Obviously, Rep. Souder was not “committed to preserving” his own “traditional marriage,” but he was hell bent on denying others the right to equality and to a legally recognized committed relationship and family:

HRC spokesman Michael Cole said Souder’s record has been consistent since entering Congress in 1995, as he voted against equal employment protections, hate crimes laws, increases in HIV/AIDS funding, and same-sex couple recognition.

“Rep. Souder proves once again that it’s not LGBT people who are the threat to ‘family values.’”

And how did a representative of the Christian Right respond to one of their own being exposed? With pathetic excuses and diversionary tactics, of course:

Penny Nance, CEO of Concerned Women for America, … comments that the atmosphere in Washington, DC, does not encourage accountability.

“Washington is a very difficult town, and there is...this idea that if you have your family living here that you’re disconnected with your district,” says Nance. “I wholeheartedly disagree with that thought.” It is “unnatural,” she believes, for members of Congress to be separated from their families.

“I think it is important for them to live with their wives and with their children [and] to have accountability of their spouses,” she continues. “And it’s a recipe for disaster to have members of Congress living together like bachelors while their wives and families are back home in the district.” [italics added]

“Accountability”? Fact: Souder was yet another “traditional values” fraud who played the anti-gay card for his own political gain. His resulting fiasco was inevitable.

But let’s hope leaders of the Christian Right keep up their “good work.” The more frauds uncovered, the more embarrassing fiascos exposed, the more preposterous claims made, the more people will see the “culture war” for what it is: a perverting of Christianity into a malignant attack on civil equality, science and knowledge, and basic human decency.

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