Sin, Sodomy, And The Smiling Face Of God

“…the principal purpose and the necessary effect of this law are to demean those persons who are in a lawful same-sex marriage. This requires the Court to hold, as it now does, that DOMA is unconstitutional as a deprivation of the liberty of the person protected by the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution.”

—Justice Kennedy, striking down the Defense of Marriage Act

“I do not believe any of us is entitled to rearrange God’s divine order for the universe and its inhabitants.”

Franklin Graham, son of Billy

frank Page, president and chief executive officer of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, found Jesus when he was all of nine years old.

When you think about it, it is a very strange notion that a third-grader would, of his own volition, go looking for Jesus. I mean, if it weren’t for adult interference, kids that age would be more interested in video games or picking their noses. But Frank Page had some help in finding Jesus. Here are the heroes, or culprits, depending on your point of view, behind his story:

frank page

Those rather harmless looking folks in the photo above, Raymond and Elsie Hampton, first brought Frank Page into contact with zealots who, through years of indoctrination, finally convinced a nine-year-old kid that he was a flawed human being beyond any earthly hope of redemption—in other words a “sinner”—and put Page on a leadership path within the Southern Baptist Convention, which after the Catholics, is the largest group of organized Christians in the country.

Here’s how the Baptist Press described Page’s conversion:

…as he listened to the pastor, he became more aware of his need for Christ.

“In one of those somewhat classic situations, during the invitation I went forward and I asked the pastor if he would help me come to know Christ,” Page said. “He prayed with me, and I prayed a prayer of confession and repentance and of begging God to come into my heart.

“Right there in front of the congregation there at Southside Baptist Church on that Sunday night I gave my life to Christ. I was baptized shortly thereafter, and then later my brother, my sisters, my mom and dad were as well.”

It often works that way. Some caring, or meddling, soul invites a kid to church and before you know it the whole family becomes zealots. Or, more often, parents drag their kids to church and make them zealots that way. Either method, bottom-up or top-down, is effective for spreading fundamentalism, and fear.

And if it ended there, if it ended with a bunch of people crowding churches on Sunday to hear about Jesus and to learn Iron Age theology, that would be one thing. Theoretically, not much social harm, and indeed some social good, might come from such gatherings, from such dedication to a higher purpose.

But in practice the Frank Pages do much damage to the notion of a civilized society because they are not just worried about the sweet by and by, not just concerned with the everlasting home of individual sinners. And the reason they are not is contained in that conversion story of the nine-year-old Page:

I prayed a prayer of confession and repentance and of begging God to come into my heart.

Confess, repent, and beg. It is a pattern that fundamentalists and evangelicals learn early on in church and one which they follow in the world at large, especially when it comes to certain social issues like abortion and homosexual rights. These folks feel compelled to work out their repentance and to satisfy an angry God by forcing the rest of us to bend our knees to their theology, to their view of what Franklin Graham called “God’s divine order for the universe and its inhabitants.

That is what makes what these people do on Sunday, and beyond, so potentially damaging to the social fabric of our modern, secular Republic. They don’t want to just huddle together on Sunday and share stories, or fantasies, about Jesus. They don’t just want to meet and discuss how many angels can dance on Bill O’Reilly’s pin head.

They want to mold society into one that, by law, is bound to follow the ancient teachings of the Jesus they adore, at least the Jesus preached from the pulpits in the churches they populate, the Jesus who would outlaw abortion (though he never spoke a word about it) or outlaw gay marriage (though he didn’t say a word about homosexuality).

It’s no coincidence that just about a month after Barack Hussein Obama was reelected, Frank Page addressed his fellow churchmen with this:

I am asking all Southern Baptists to join me in a year of emphasis on prayer like none we’ve ever seen before.

Interestingly, Page admits that “for some time” God had burdened his heart “about prayer and spiritual awakening,” as far back as 2006. But for some strange reason, just after the 2012 election, Page felt it necessary to urge the Southern Baptists to join him,

in a year-long emphasis for calling to our Lord for His mercy, for His guidance and for His forgiveness.

Seeking God’s mercy and guidance and forgiveness, part of the pattern of fundamentalist thought both here and around the world, is how many American conservative Christians no doubt spent this Sunday, at least that part of the day spent listening to people like Dan Biser, a Southern Baptist pastor, who had urged fellow believers to make a point of begging God for forgiveness today:

For many followers of Christ, this Sunday, June 30, is their first gathering following the momentous historical announcement by the Supreme Court. The churches I serve have set aside this Sunday as A Day of Mourning and Prayer. I am calling our people to assemble with a solemn awareness of the state of our nation and the impact of these rulings upon us.

In the Old Testament, national and spiritual leaders often confessed the sins of the nation in their cries to the Lord. Sometimes they were in political positions to effect immediate change, such as Nehemiah’s prayer in his leadership role in post-exilic Jerusalem. But others cried out to God from an adversarial national setting, such as Elijah under Ahab’s wicked rule over the northern kingdom of Israel.

As we pray, let us acknowledge that every act of sin legalized and embraced by our culture is a provocation of the Lord God and His holiness and righteousness as declared in His Holy Word.

Let us acknowledge that, though the Lord God is kind, patient and longsuffering, He has never (and will not) grant His continued blessings on any nation or people that chooses sin over our precious Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

In other words, if Christians aren’t busy confessing, repenting, and begging this Sunday, the loving Almighty Savior is gonna get real mad over the fact that the homosexual folks He created can now enjoy all the blessings of liberty, and tax breaks, that the federal government can give them. Yes, that’s enough to piss off the King of the Universe, who, if He is to be pissed off at anyone, should be pissed off at Himself, since, presumably, He is the one Who created folks with a fondness for same-sex matrimony.

Most right-wing Christians believe—at least the ones I am familiar with—that there is a conspiracy behind extending equal protection under the law to what conservative Bible-believers call sodomites.  An article on CBN.com, quoting the authors of The Homosexual Agenda, claims that some gay-friendly people are,

using tactics on ‘straight’ America that are remarkably similar to the brainwashing methods of Mao Tse-Tung’s Communist Chinese — mixed with Madison Avenue’s most persuasive selling techniques.

Yes, it is ironic that conservative Christians, who recruit and indoctrinate kids, who feed them full of scary stories of hell and everlasting punishment, who then bid them to come forth to the altar and “wash” their sins away, yes, it is ironic that those folks would dare to say that attempts to gain equal rights under the law for homosexuals smell of Mao’s “brainwashing methods.”

Besides the irony, there is the politics of the matter. The recent Supreme Court decision to stop discriminating against a class of Americans who the Bible finds detestable and worthy of death poses a problem for the Republican Party. As David Brody, the chief political correspondent (!) for Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network (Robertson, predictably, compares DOMA decision to Sodom and Gomorrah), put it,

Republican politicians are going to be faced with a political dilemma. The Brody File calls it a, “Judeo-Christian Backbone Moment.” Will they run away from the issue of traditional marriage or embrace it? Polls suggest more Americans (especially younger voters) are accepting of gay marriage so does that mean these “pro-family” politicians will modify their views? Does it mean they will change their views (Hello Rob Portman)? Or will they simply stop defending traditional marriage and run away from it like the plague? After all, unless they live in a super secure congressional district or a very conservative state, they may believe that one of the options above may keep them afloat politically. The American people are about to find out who the pretenders are. Will these GOP Congressman choose political survival or Judeo-Christian Statesmanship?

At least one GOP Congressman, from my old home state of Kansas, is taking up the fight—uh, crusade—to rid the country of equal protection under the law for sodomites. Tim Huelskamp, who represents the nearly-unpopulated parts of Kansas—more than half of the state geographically—has introduced yet another Federal Marriage Amendment as a way to alter the Constitution so that it will conform to what he believes is God’s Law.

As RightWingWatch reported, the congressman appeared on a right-wing radio show hosted by Steve Deace and,

Huelskamp accused the justices of trying to “rewrite the Constitution” and of attacking Jesus Christ himself. “The idea that Jesus Christ himself was degrading and demeaning is what they’ve come down to,” he said.

The congressman agreed with Deace’s charge that the left “has every intention of turning government against the church.” He added that progressive are bent on “ramming their views down the throats of Americans.”

Again, how ironic that a man who, according to his own bio, had “the essentials” of his Catholic faith “instilled” in him “at an early age,” would claim that those who seek equal protection under the law are “ramming their views down the throats of Americans.”

It may be that the issue of homosexual marriage weakens the bond between conservative Christians and the Republican Party, which would not only be good for the party but good for the country. Or it may be that the GOP doubles down on attempts to put the sodomites back in their rightful place, a move that would further alienate the party from young people and others who no longer view homosexuals as sinners worthy of death and additional tax liability.

Whatever happens with the politics, we do know that there are many, many Christians out there who think God is busy figuring out ways to execute judgment on the nation for embracing equality before the law. And apparently he is starting with, of all places, Colorado Springs. Who could have guessed that?

“God,” as William Cowper told us, “moves in a mysterious way.” And if, after all the confessing and repenting and begging that is undoubtedly going on this Sunday in reactionary churches around America, if God doesn’t kill us all, then I, for one, will see that as a sign that Cowper was right:

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

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9 Comments

  1. Duane,

    Well, Marx said, “Religion is the opiate of the people.” Christopher Hitchens said “Religion poisons everything.” Hmmmm. Opiates and poison. Clearly, the tea-vangelists are putting something in their Kool-Aid that’s making them go batty.

    I sympathize with Mike Huckabee when he said “Jesus wept” after hearing of SCOTUS’s pro-gay decisions. Problem is, Jesus wasn’t weeping over gay marriage, he was weeping over the gross misrepresentations of his teachings, the intolerance, the hypocrisies, the self-righteous judgement of others, the child-like declarations, and the apparent lack of any sense of morality.

    Of course, there is also the complete lack of recognition by these idiots that this nation has a secular government; it is not a theocracy. And it damn sure doesn’t belong exclusively to the Christians.

    Maybe it’s just me getting a little older. Maybe it’s that there are more ways to get information than ever before. Maybe it’s just the natural evolution of a society that increasingly wants to limit freedoms and liberties of the third estate to the benefit of the first and second estates. Whatever it is, it’s getting downright ugly.

    Herb

    Like

    • King Beauregard

       /  June 30, 2013

      While I won’t dispute the harm done in the name of religion, as soon as you invoke Hitchens, one thing comes to mind above all else: the guy supported the invasion of Iraq because it fit his agenda of whomping fundamentalist Islam. Never mind that there were no fundamentalist Muslims in Iraq (prior to the invasion anyway), and never mind that it meant the deaths of hundreds of thousands; it fit his ideological preferences, and if some people had to die, most of them were only Muslims anyway.

      The moral to the story: you don’t need to be a fundamentalist to be every bit as bad as the worst of them.

      Like

  2. ansonburlingame

     /  July 1, 2013

    My God (or god), where to start,

    Maybe with “King’s” comment that there were no fundamentalist Muslims in Iraq before we invaded. Are you kidding me???? But that is only a small point for sure.

    Let’s point out Duane’s repeated assertion of “Iron Age Theology”. To me that is far too sweeping a term about religion in general and the Christian religion specifically. Some moral priniciples, which ones exactly I have no idea, were true in the Iron Age and today as well. Try the Golden Rule as just an example. Prettty good rule to follow or try to follow in any age I would assert. In fact I will also assert that the Sermon on the Mount is a very good guide to follow, in general, not matter which age one might live. Hell I can cherry pick the Al Quran and find some very good “ways to live” for all humans as well. In other words I can find, if I look hard enough, some common ground in all faiths and I can find huge divide as well, based on my own personal sense of morality which hopefully does no harm to anyone else.

    I detest “evangelicals” that try to force their religious interpretations on me just as I detest any Muslim trying to do the same thing. I am “equal” in such disdain against both such Muslims and Christians that try to use force to make me comply with particular religious interpretations. But let me be clear as well, I do not like at all “progressives” that try to sway my views on GOVERNING (or worshipping privately) with “moral arguments” by and large as well.

    I respect private altruism for sure. But to try to convince me that governing out of someone’s sense of collective altruism and I will reject such views on poltics (governing) in many cases. If I chose to “give a bum a buck” that is one thing, a private decision with certainly no harm (or good) to society in general, one way or the other. But if government wants to use MY money to “give all bums a buck” well I reject that notion, in general as well. Great HARM can come to society in general with only makers of “Ripple” receiving any substantial benefit from such altruism collectively.

    Government “giving” must have society as a whole the beneficiary not just “slices” of society. And for progressive rejection of such a notion, I can point to many unintended consequences, bad consequences to society as a whole, for such collective attempts at altruism.

    But it is a thought provoking exchange with Duane at least along these lines and I probably will construct a blog to more fully try to explain my “iron age thinking” along these lines.

    Anson

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    • King Beauregard

       /  July 1, 2013

      Prior to the invasion, what fundamentalists you could find in Iraq were already marginalized under a pretty secular regime, and as such they were functionally nonexistent if your goal was to go after fundamentalist Muslims. It was only after the fall of Saddam that, for example, a woman could get battery acid to the face for not covering her head. Here’s an article from 2005:

      http://www.wluml.org/node/2035

      Let me quote the final paragraph:

      Suzan Sarkon, a Baghdad resident, was even less hopeful, telling the Chicago Tribune she thinks Sharia is inevitable. “I’m sure they will form an Islamic government and our freedom will be gone,” she said. “We’ve never lived freely in Iraq, and now I think we never will.”

      Whatever you want to say about Saddam’s regime, it wasn’t an Islamic government any more than Bill Clinton’s administration was a Southern Baptist administration. Fundamentalist Islam could flourish in Iraq only after we put Saddam out of power. Hooray?

      Like

  3. ansonburlingame

     /  July 2, 2013

    My goodness (or god) King,

    Saddam was a brutal, secular, dictator of the worst sort. He used WMD to kill his own people. He had prisons filled with political prisoners. Of course a radical, fundamentalist Muslim calling for Sharia Law instead of Saddam’s “law” would be “squashed like a cock roach” to use Duane’s term.

    Once Saddam’s regime was “killed” look what reared its ugly head. Fundamentalist Muslim leaders, like the Shia leader, trying hard to kill every Sunni nearby, or equally fervent Sunnis, fundamentalist Sunnis tried to kill every Shia around. It took the “surge” to put a stop to that attempt, by both sides.

    Yes Saddam kept a lid on such matters, just like Hitler kept a lid on other matters.

    And while brutalizing his own people, Saddam tried hard to subvert any efforts by America to hold influence in the Middle East as well as paying bounties to families whose kids did all possible to kill as many Jews as possible as well.

    Removing Saddam with military power allowed “other means” for Iraq to settle its own interests, internally. It is not pretty for sure, how Iraqis are now trying to do so. But, and this is important, how Iraqis are now TRYING to resolve their own internal differences is much “prettier” than how Syria is going about such a task, in my view.

    AB

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    • King Beauregard

       /  July 2, 2013

      I honestly have no idea what argument you’re trying to refute. At no point did I say that Saddam was a swell guy who treated his country well, only that there was no threat of fundamentalist Islam in Iraq until after the invasion, which makes Hitchens an ideologically-blinded fool who ended up strengthening the foes he was most hoping to weaken (i.e., religiously fanatical Muslims).

      Historical note that is neither here nor there, but it amuses me: the Kurds were Saddam’s people exactly as much as the Kurds were Winston Churchill’s people when he recommended using poison gas on them. That usually doesn’t come up in the List Of Good Guys And Bad Guys, but there it is. Also, another historical note: when Saddam used poison gas on the Kurds, the United States ran interference for him at the UN. He was still a useful thug to us at that time. If there’s a running theme in this paragraph, it’s the fluidity of morality at the political and military level.

      Like

  4. ansonburlingame

     /  July 2, 2013

    Saddam kept a lid on Fundamental Islam, Hitler kept a lid on the Jewish Faith. But fundamental Muslims and Jews were STILL there, in Iraq and Germany, or fundamental Christians under Soviet rule as well. Pretty simple point to make, it seems to me and contrary to what you first stated the “there were no fundamental Muslims in Iraq” before we invaded!!!

    AB

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    • King Beauregard

       /  July 2, 2013

      Okay, let me revise my statement: fundamentalist Islam was not a force in Iraq because Saddam kept fundamentalist Muslims under control. That matters (or it SHOULD matter anyway) if you are Christopher Hitchens and your goal is to strike a blow against fundamentalist Islam.

      Like

  5. ansonburlingame

     /  July 3, 2013

    OK, King, no more from me herein in this string, except……

    I told Duane, after an exchange in another of his blogs that more needed to be said related to the bigger picture of politics today, over there and here in America.

    Go to http://ansonburlingame.wordpress.com/2013/07/02/more-turmoil-the-arab-spring-religion-and-democracy/. That is about as “comprehensive” as I can get along such lines, at least from my own point of view.

    Anson

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