Wednesday, December 25, 2013

It's time to end the American Family Association's one-sided conversation on gay rights

As an openly gay man living in the reddest of the Red States, I can be forgiven for spending an unhealthy amount of time thinking about Bryan Fischer and the American Family Association. Headquartered not far from where I work in Tupelo, an omnipresent voice all over the radio, with a daily tsunami of Facebook posts and tweets, Bryan Fischer and the AFA, like magnolia trees and dry counties and Duck Dynasty, are inescapable facts of life in the state of Mississippi.

Bryan Fischer, host of FOCAL POINT
When I moved here three years ago, I could not fathom how it was legal for Bryan Fischer to go on public airwaves and say, on an almost daily basis, the most disparaging and woefully ignorant things about gay people. Comparing them to Nazis, suggesting they were responsible for the Holocaust, calling them a danger to public health, a threat to religious liberty, a threat to the economic well being of the United States, routinely classifying them with pedophiles, deeming homosexuality a “sexual sickness” and just as dangerous as addiction to hard drugs, talking about how we can either have religious liberty or homosexuality, but not both – day after day, the tide of myth,misinformation and just plain foolishness was hard to stomach.

But harder to stomach was the apathy of Mississippians who shrug and sigh and seem to believe there is nothing to be done even though Bryan Fischer and the AFA have earned themselves a hate group designation from the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Protected by the right to free speech and freedom of religion, wrapping their myth and misinformation in religious garb and calling American Family Radio programs like Bryan Fischer’s FOCAL POINT a “ministry,” they are a monolithic entity safely removed from the consequences of their actions.

I have watched in disbelief as most local media outlets, when they report on gay rights (rather rare, to be sure), go microphone in hand to the AFA for a comment—as if there were no other religious or spiritual leaders in north Mississippi they could talk to.  I find it incredibly offensive that anyone would care what a hate group would have to say about a complex issue like gay marriage. Even more offensive is the media’s failure to seek out other voices on such issues, as if the AFA alone had some sort of monopoly on the gay rights conversation. But then the AFA has been having a one-sided conversation on gay rights since it was founded back in 1977.

When I inquire as to why no one will speak out against the AFA, I am frequently told that one does not mess with them. It’s as if they were some sort of mafia organization, as if one might wake up one day with concrete boots while being tossed into a swamp for having the audacity to have one’s own point of view.

When I started a Facebook page (Stuff the American Family Association Says) designed to document the hate speech coming out of the AFA, I was warned to be careful.

Why, I wanted to know.

Just be careful, I was told.  

Really? Am I supposed to be afraid of an organization that calls itself Christian? Are they going to break the law, or do something unchristian to me?

How very odd.

Yet I’ve noticed how silent politicians and elected officials are with regard to the AFA. I’ve also noticed that local media outlets don’t mention the fact that the AFA was designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, as if ignoring that fact of life might make it go away. Or are they afraid of offending and losing advertisers?

My Facebook page has not exactly been a rousing success. As of this writing, only about one hundred and fifty souls have been brave enough to click “like” on my page. Some people have sent private messages stating they cannot “like” my page for fear that people on their friends’ lists will find out. Are we back in grade school? Are we not allowed to have our own opinions?

Last year, a small group of hardy souls organized a protest march in front of the AFA headquarters in downtown Tupelo. We were about two dozen, in all. We were largely ignored by the media – as if a protest against the AFA right on their own front door was somehow not news, or not newsworthy.

While the AFA believes itself protected by free speech and freedom of religion, so are the rest of us. We have just as much of a right to engage in this conversation as they do. As a gay man, in fact, I would argue that I have more of a right to speak my mind than they do. This is an issue that affects me directly. This is an issue I have struggled with for decades.

I listen to American Family Radio frequently, but I have never once heard them talk to a gay man about the issue of homosexuality. What are they afraid of?

No doubt they have enjoyed their one-sided conversation on this issue. But isn’t it time to hear the other side? Isn’t it time for gay Mississippians – and there are many of them – to speak up, to speak out, to tell their stories, to tell the truth about what it means to be gay or lesbian or transgender? Might we not be allowed to hear from other spiritual and religious leaders? Is there no room in Mississippi for alternative points of view?

Bryan Fischer hides behind his microphone and religion. I wonder how comfortable he would feel if challenged to a public debate on the issue of homosexuality. Since the man talks about homosexuality almost every single day, surely he would relish the opportunity to demolish an articulate gay rights advocate like John Shore or Dan Savage.


And that’s the point.

Fischer and the AFA are, in my opinion, cowardly bullies who hide behind religion and radio dials and Facebook posts and tweets. They are interested only in a one-sided conversation. They do not seem to realize they are talking about real people, a great many of whom live next door to them, in their own communities, people who attend their churches, who rub elbows with them at the grocery store. They seem oblivious to the harm caused by their hate speech and demonization of others.

I will continue my no doubt woefully inadequate efforts to document their hate speech and provide an alternative point of view and I will do so because it’s important for young members of the LGBT community to realize that Bryan Fischer does not speak for everyone in this state.

I am not afraid of the AFA; neither should you be. We have the right to decide our own religious beliefs. We have the right to free speech and we are entitled to our own opinions. We do not live under a fascist dictatorship where the AFA talks and the rest of us do nothing but listen.

We live in a free country.

Don’t we?

We’re Americans.

Aren’t we?

Our fathers and forefathers did not fight for our freedoms so that organizations like the American Family Association could run roughshod over the rights of fellow citizens. They fought, and many times died, to preserve our right to hold our own religious beliefs and to speak our minds on issues that matter to us.

I do not believe the AFA speaks for everyone in the state of Mississippi. They may be a powerful organization and there may be good reasons to fear their retaliation. And they may well run the table on the gay rights conversation in the magnolia state. But they are not the only ones with a point of view.

It is way past time for Mississippians to shake off the dust of apathy and indifference in the face of this massive and daily assault on the rights and dignity of fellow Mississippians.

Gay people are not child-molesting, goat-buggering, disease-ridden threats to religious life and limb. We are sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, created by the same God and entitled to the same rights and dignities as everyone else in this great country.

It’s high time we acted like it.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

What the duck?

So, what's wrong with Duck Commander Phil Robertson going Biblical with his views on homosexuality?


Not one single, solitary thing. 

His religious views are not substantially different from many Christians all over the world, including the pope in Rome. 

But it wasn't his religious views that caused the Quack Heard Across the Globe.

Here's what he actually said during the GQ interview:

“Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men,” he says. Then he paraphrases Corinthians: “Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.”

It takes just eleven words to find the problem. When the topic turns to homosexuality, he immediately throws out the word "bestiality," linking homosexual behavior and bestiality as if they were of a piece, as if the relationship between two gay men or two gay women, between two consenting adults who love and cherish each other, was no different than a redneck having sex with a donkey. 

That's the problem.

Members of the LGBT community are no strangers to this type of talk. We are routinely classified as sexual perverts, and homosexuality, we are told, is not substantially different than sexual perversions like pedophilia, bestiality and necrophilia. 

As a child growing up during the 1970s, I remember very well looking up the word "homosexuality" in the dictionary and finding it classified as a sexual perversion, "akin to pedophilia, bestiality and necrophilia, which see."

I flipped the pages to look up those other words and was horrified to learn that the crush I had on Shaun Cassidy was no different than my wanting to have sex with a little kid, or a cow, or a dead body. Pretty heady stuff for a teenager in the throes of puberty. And not only heady, but shaming. Intensely, relentlessly, mindbogglingly shaming. And embarrassing. And humiliating. And psychologically damaging. 

Does it need to be said that the love two gay men or two gay women feel for each other is substantially different than someone having sex with a corpse? Do we really need to explain how deeply misinformed, ignorant and offensive such thinking is? 

Apparently we do. 

Folks like Phil Robertson, pontificating on Bible verses and taking a stand for Jesus, routinely throw out comparisons to pedophilia and bestiality. Presidential candidate Rick Santorum is famed for talking about gay marriage as something that will lead to the "man on dog" thing. Evangelicals constantly warn that gay marriage will lead to people wanting to marry their pets, or their children, or their brothers or sisters or ... fill in the blank.

Well, you say, so what? What's the big deal?

I'll tell you what the big deal is.


Surprise, surprise, gay people want to be loved, too. They want to fall in love, experience intimacy and romance, have sex, commit themselves to each other, create families, live normal lives.

By constantly suggesting that gay love is a sexual perversion like bestiality, religious types are striking right at the heart (so to speak) of a person, hitting them right in the place where they feel, where they find meaning and hope and happiness. They are striking at the core of an individual and his or her ability to love, to receive love, to interact with the community, to be a human being. By dismissing as perversion their romantic feelings, their attractions to members of the same sex, they are killing the souls of such people. 

They are suggesting that these feelings of love and affection among gay people are disgusting and unworthy, perverted, sinful, so terrible that such feelings ought to be denied. They are doing this, not because there is any scientific or medical evidence to support it, but because they believe the Bible condemns homosexuality. They are teaching young gay men and women to hate themselves, to hate their feelings, to hate the truth about themselves, to shut themselves off from the love and affection of others like them. The psychological, spiritual and sociological consequences are predictable:  Alienation, suicidal ideation, low self-esteem, self-doubt, self-loathing, loneliness, and ultimately, despair. And as a final kick in the pants, young gay men and women are expected to believe that this is what the God of love wants for them: A life of loneliness and pain and rejection and humiliation and shame. 

Monstrous ignorance, from start to finish, as so many members of the gay community have painfully learned. 

Read those words again:

“Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality ..."
It takes but six little words for Robertson to jump from "homosexual behavior" to "bestiality." As if they were so intrinsically linked, he couldn't mention one without the other. 

This type of talk is so common among evangelicals as to be uninteresting. But that doesn't make it right. That doesn't redeem it from being what it is: Hate speech

Hate speech is the use of words to demonize groups of people. Suggesting that two men who love each other is not at all different than a horny farmer raping his goat is demonization. It's a display of shocking ignorance and stupidity which has nothing to do with supposed Biblical teachings on sexuality and everything to do with bigotry and prejudice.

It's wrong.

Many, many churches carry on a conversation about homosexuality without resorting to demonization and hate speech. It is possible to talk about religious beliefs on homosexuality without needlessly offending people. But the moment you stray from your beliefs and start talking about gay people as being no better than pedophiles or people who like to have sex with goats, you are no longer having a conversation on your religious beliefs: You are engaging in highly offensive exercise in ignorance and bigotry. And you can, and should, be made to face the consequences. 

No one argues with Robertson's right to free speech and no one is suggesting that he is not entitled to his own religious beliefs. But when free speech turns into hate speech, and religious belief turns into ignorant demonization of others, there is a problem.

Hate speech leads to hate crimes. Gay people can and do get fired from their jobs. Some have had their children taken away from them. Gay and lesbian teens are kicked out of their homes and left to fend for themselves on the streets.  Hate speech makes it easier for society to discriminate against gay people, take away their rights, violate their persons and property. Hardly what Jesus had in mind when he said we should do unto others what we would have done unto ourselves. This is not loving your neighbor as you love yourself. 

That this hate speech wraps itself in Christianity does not give it the protection of freedom of religion. Your religious beliefs are protected, but your belief that homosexuality is somehow the same as necrophilia is not supported by the Bible (or any authority, including science or common sense). When you talk about homosexuality being the same as bestiality, you are not having a conversation on religious belief. You are being an ignorant bigot, and we have the right to be offended.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The hate speech of Bryan Fischer

Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association has told listeners to his radio program that President Obama is preparing the U.S. military to kill Christians. 

Speaking last Friday, he said, “The military is being conditioned to use weapons on the American Family Association. The soldiers are being conditioned in their brains to think of evangelicals, Tea Partyers, the American Family Association and the Family Research Council as domestic enemies that may have to be neutralized by lethal force. The people you got to watch out for, you may have to turn your tanks on, are American Family Association.”

Fischer warns that the military may "surround the hotel" at next year's Values Voter Summit and ... well, use your imagination.

Fischer was upset that the American Family Association was included on a list of hate groups at a recent army training session. 

So: Is the AFA a hate group? 

It has been listed as such by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which provides an excellent summary of the group's hate-filled past. The reason for its designation as a hate group was not because of the group's religious beliefs, which are similar to most religious groups on the subject of homosexuality, but because of its constant demonization of members of the LGBT community.

Fischer claims the designation is unfair. 

Is it?

Consider the following states made by Fischer:
  • Has repeatedly called for an Underground Railroad to "deliver innocent children from same-sex households."
  • Has said gay people must be criminalized and treated "like drug addicts."
  • Said "We should discriminate against unnatural and aberrant sexual behavior, whether pedophilia, bestiality, or homosexuality."
  • Said Boy Scouts would be better off "drowned in the sea" than to allow gay scouts.
  • Said "In the wake of what we've seen at Penn State, that alone out to be enough to say that, look: we are not going to put children in same-sex households—we are not going to adopt them into same-sex households. We are not going to give custody, if somebody goes into the homosexual lifestyle after siring children—bringing children into the world with an opposite-sex partner—they are not going to get custody of these children. If they have visits with those kids, they are going to be supervised visits. We cannot trust the sexual integrity and innocence and purity of those kids with those who have same-sex preferences. The risk is far, far too high.
  • Claims "The homosexual agenda represents the single greatest modern threat to freedom of religion and conscience.”
  • Says "The real haters are homosexuals. The real venom is coming from those that support the homosexual agenda, either homosexual activists, homosexuals, or those that support the homosexual agenda. They are the real haters. There is a heterophobic hatred, there is a Christophobic hatred that is just seething, there's a dark, venomous, demonic hatred that is in the homosexual community."
  • Said "The homosexual agenda represents a clear and present danger to virtually every fundamental right given to us by our Creator and enshrined for us in our Constitution."
  • Said “[Gays] are Nazis ... Do not be under any illusions about what homosexual activists will do with your freedoms and your religion if they have the opportunity. They’ll do the same thing to you that the Nazis did to their opponents in Nazi Germany.”
  • Said "So Hitler himself was an active homosexual. And some people wonder, didn't the Germans, didn't the Nazis, persecute homosexuals? And it is true they did; they persecuted effeminate homosexuals. But Hitler recruited around him homosexuals to make up his Stormtroopers, they were his enforcers, they were his thugs. And Hitler discovered that he could not get straight soldiers to be savage and brutal and vicious enough to carry out his orders, but that homosexual solders basically had no limits and the savagery and brutality they were willing to inflict on whomever Hitler sent them after. So he surrounded himself, virtually all of the Stormtroopers, the Brownshirts, were male homosexuals."
  • Said "If We Want to See Fewer Students Commit Suicide, We Want Fewer Homosexual Students"
  • Claimed homosexuality is a form of "domestic terrorism."
  • Famously said "Homosexuality gave us Adolf Hitler, and homosexuals in the military gave us the Brown Shirts, the Nazi war machine and six million dead Jews."
  • Said allowing gay adoption is a form of sexual abuse.
  • Constantly refers to gay marriage as "sodomy-based marriage."
  • Said Hillary Clinton could be "our first lesbian president."
  • Claimed "3/4ths of all lesbians are obese."
  • Said "Parents and churches should abandon Boy Scouts like they were running out of a building house."
  • Has openly admired Putin's anti-gay stance and said "It's time for us to be more like Russia."
See this article from GLAAD for more.

More choice quotes from Fischer, taken from my Stuff the American Family Association Says page on Facebook:

So ... is the American Family Association a hate group? When activists such as myself push back against this constant tide of myth and misinformation, are we persecuting the AFA and infringing on their right to religious liberty and freedom of belief? 

Or does the Southern Poverty Law Center have it right?

Fischer is welcome to his religious beliefs. But where, pray tell, are they? Comparing gay people to Nazis is not a religious belief. Slandering them as dangerous to society, as diseased, unhealthy, as the same as drug addicts and pedophiles ... where is the scriptural authority to back up such statements? What do such statements have to do with religion or religious belief? 

To find out what Fischer is up to, let's recast the same statements, but direct them against Jewish people instead of gay people:
  • "The Jewish agenda represents a clear and present danger to virtually every fundamental right given to us by our Creator and enshrined for us in our Constitution."
  • Said “[Jews] are Nazis ... Do not be under any illusions about what Jewish activists will do with your freedoms and your religion if they have the opportunity. They’ll do the same thing to you that the Nazis did to their opponents in Nazi Germany.”
  • Has repeatedly called for an Underground Railroad to "deliver innocent children from Jewish households."
  • Has said Jewish people must be criminalized and treated "like drug addicts."
  • Said "We should discriminate against unnatural and aberrant sexual behavior, whether pedophilia, bestiality, or Judaism."
  • Said Boy Scouts would be better off "drowned in the sea" than to allow Jewish scouts.
It's not about religion.

It's about hate. 

It's about demonizing an entire group of people over a biological fact of life that cannot be changed. 

There is nothing specifically Christian about any of Fischer's statements. There is, in fact, nothing specifically religious about them. Unless he told you he was a Christian, you would have no way of knowing. 

The American Family Association calls its a Christian ministry. It also calls American Family Radio, its radio programming that goes out on public airwaves all over the South, a "ministry" of the American Family Association. 

A ministry ... in what sense? 

Since when did telling outright lies about a certain group in society become a "ministry" protected by freedom of religion? Since when did "ministry" become something that involves persecution and hatred of people one doesn't like?

If the AFA is allowed to carry out this "ministry" against gay people, will other groups of "sinners" be targeted? Will we see ministries against drunks and murderers, against fathers who incest their daughters, against business people who exploit the poor and refuse to help the widow and the orphan? Will there be a ministry against masturbators? Will boys who masturbate be publicly shamed and excluded from the Boy Scouts? Will fornicators find themselves described as a clear and present danger to American society and the Constitution itself?


I live in Tupelo, Mississippi. which is also the headquarters of the American Family Association, and  I have yet to meet a single person in Mississippi who supports the AFA. Most of the people I have talked to over the last two years that I've lived here view the AFA as an embarrassment. They do not leap to defend it. They do not talk about the the many good works done by the AFA, the needy people helped, the hungry stomachs fed, the spiritual needs met. They sigh and shrug their shoulders the same way they do when the subject is slavery, or civil rights, or any of the other bits and pieces of Mississippi's unfortunate past. I have not met a single person who is proud of the AFA. 

If it engenders any feelings at all, they are feelings of fear. When I attended a sparsely-populated protest against the AFA several months ago, carried out in front of the AFA headquarters itself, I learned that many people would not come because they were afraid of retaliation, of losing their jobs or their standing in the community. 

When I started my Facebook page (Stuff the American Family Association Says) highlighting the outrageous and just plain wrong statements made by Fischer and others about the gay community, I was warned by several people to be careful. That I might be sued. That they might retaliate. That I might lose my job. 

My response to that was, and still is, that silence in the face of evil is not an option. The only reason the AFA gets away with their constant demonization of gay people is the fear and silence they engender among good people who know better but are afraid to speak up and speak out. And since when does a supposedly Christian group need to rely on fear and intimidation to get its message out? 


Anyone who has ever been in an abusive relationship will recognize the signs: 
  • Abusers are selfish and self-involved, thinking only of themselves, their status, their standing, what they want. They do not care who gets hurt because of their actions.
  • Abusers almost always view themselves as the victims while demonizing the people they hurt as somehow or other deserving of what they got. 
  • Abusers never take responsibility for their actions. When we protested the AFA, the general manager came out to speak to us. When confronted about Bryan Fischer, he was quick to note the AFA is "not responsible" for the content of its own programming, that Fischer's view "don't necessarily reflect" those of the AFA itself. They even run such disclaimers on-air.
  • Abusers are always right. They will not tolerate the idea that they might be wrong. They go to great lengths to rationalize and justify their behavior, willfully and willingly blind to its consequences in the lives of others.  
  • Abusers create a climate of fear and intimidation to keep victims quiet. 
  • Telling the truth is a crime among abusers. Anyone who tells the truth about them will be punished, and often very severely. 
Have a look at these signs of an abusive relationship over at HelpGuide.Org.

Do I, as a gay man:
  • feel afraid of the AFA?
  • avoid certain topics out of fear?
  • feel that I can't do anything right?
  • feel that I deserve to be mistreated?
  • feel emotionally numb or helpless?
  • wonder if I'm crazy?
Yes. To all of them. That's the way the AFA makes me feel.

Does the AFA:
  • humiliate or yell at me?
  • criticize me or put me down?
  • treat me badly so that I'm embarrassed for my family and friends to see it?
  • ignore my opinions and accomplishments?
  • see me as a sex object rather than as a person?
Yes. Yes to all of it. Yes, exactly.

Do I feel threatened by the AFA?


Does the AFA threaten to take my children away?


Does the AFA want to control me and what I do?



What, exactly, is going on here? 

If the American Family Association is a Christian ministry, why do I feel abused? Why does its programming leave me feeling dirty and embarrassed? Where is the "good news" in the AFA gospel? Why must I constantly defend myself against a torrent of untrue accusations and slander?

If the AFA is a Christian ministry, to whom is it ministering? What is its message? What is it trying to say?

If the AFA is a Christian ministry, how does its behavior compare to its founder, Jesus Christ? Is its behavior Christ-like? 

What, exactly, is the AFA?

Who, exactly, is Bryan Fischer? 

The answers are increasingly obvious.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

BOY CRUCIFIED: Truth much stranger than the fiction

Like much of my work, the action in BOY CRUCIFIED: A Thomas Noel Mystery takes place in an unusual setting. In this case, the background is the Traditional Catholic movement in the United States. I grew up in this movement and I can assure you the truth is stranger than any fiction I might write about it.

Traditional Catholics are right wing, conservative types who reject the changes introduced into the Catholic Church at Vatican Council II during the 1960s, such as having the Mass said in English, or entertaining the idea that people of other faiths might actually hope for salvation (Religious Liberty).

My group, the Fatima Crusade, was one of the most extreme. We believed all the popes from John XIII onward were heretics, thus not popes at all, which meant that the Chair of Peter was empty and we were living in the End Times. When Reagan choose the elder Bush as his vice-president, we were told Bush was quite possibly the Antichrist. We believed we were the only "valid Catholics" -- all the rest were going straight to hell for embracing heresy.

Those were some of the nicer features.

Among my group, during the 1970s and 1980s, there was a strong undercurrent of Antisemitism. We were lectured endlessly on the Jewish World Conspiracy. We read pamphlets like "The Six Million Swindle," which purported that the Holocaust was a complete fiction. We were told Adolf Hitler was actually a great leader who tried to save the world from Jews. We sang the Nazi anthem, Deustchland Deustchland Uber Alles, at private gatherings, and our leader is said to have had a painting of Hitler hanging over his bed. High school underwent paramilitary training in the style of the Brown Shirts.

Read what the Southern Poverty Law Center says.

During my time with this group, I experienced various forms of abuse, sexual, physical and otherwise. We had bizarre punishments, shaved heads and whatnot.

The group was sued for "alienation of affection" from time to time by estranged family members (usually the spouse of one of our members; wives were encouraged to ditch husbands who refused to follow the party line).

BOY CRUCIFIED is about a boy found murdered in a bizarre fashion, the clues leading eventually to a fictitious traditional Catholic group in Missouri that bears many of the common characteristics of traditional Catholic groups, not just the one I belonged to. And while my book is nothing but fiction, Traditional Catholicism is not.

The group I belonged to still exists, and despite a lot of scandal, they are going strong. They claim to have cleaned house and gone mainstream under new leadership, ridding themselves of their worst excesses. Perhaps they have; for the sake of their followers, I hope so.

The original founder (Bishop Francis Schuckardt, pictured left), who described himself as the "only valid Catholic bishop left on the face of the earth," was ousted in the 1980s and has since died. Read this article on his legacy.

He consecrated two bishops before he died and they continue to run a small splinter group in the Seattle area. They were recently involved in allegations of sexual abuse.

Let me point out again (and very clearly) that the Traditional Catholic group ("St. Konrad's") described in my book is complete fiction. If it seems to resemble the Fatima Crusade, that's because it also resembles most Traditional Catholic groups, especially the more radical, right wing groups. There is no "St. Konrad's" in Missouri, or anywhere else.

But then again, there are a great many "St. Konrad's," both in the United States and abroad, groups that reject the authority pope and have voluntarily excluded themselves from the Roman Catholic Church, groups who attend Latin Masses and talk about the Jewish World Conspiracy and other nutty conspiracy theories and engage in Holocaust-denying (like Bishop Williamson, perhaps one of the more famous examples).

There are even Traditional Catholic popes: Check these out. David Bawden in Kansas, AKA Pope Michael, is one of my favorites.

Readers who complain about "all that Catholic stuff" in BOY CRUCIFIED are missing the point: All that "Catholic stuff" is the story, and it's a lot more bizarre than any murder-mystery I could dream up. 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

What's wrong with me?

I'm standing on the corner of 42nd Street
and the sun is on the rise
while the vampires go to sleep
and what this day will bring I really couldn't say
maybe Mother Mary will throw a bone my way
and I'm thinking of my mother
and the words that she said
to my back in the doorway when I left

She said:

What's wrong with you?
how could you be my child?
what did I do?
you're so wicked and so wild
it's very queer, much too queer for me
and how I wish to God you would leave ...

There's a $20 in my pocket
that I made down on my knees
cause that's how you do it
when you're living on the street
and I huddle in the doorway
when the rains starts to pour
and I wonder what it is
that I'm living for
and I'm thinking of my father
and the words that he said
to my back in the doorway as I left

He said:

What's wrong with you?
how could you be my child?
you're not daddy's pride and joy
just some faggot of a boy
it's very queer, much too queer for me
and how I wish to God that you would leave ...

So I did
in the middle of the night
packed my bag
and took to flight
looking back
I saw a light
in the kitchen window
and I thought ...

What's wrong with me?
what did I do?
all I ever wanted was to tell you the truth
it's all my fault
should have kept it to myself
and how I wish to God
that I was somebody else ...

What's wrong with me?

- Words & Music: Nick Wilgus (2012)

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Protesting the American Family Association

Carla Hale (Photo Credit: Brooke LaValley, Columbus Dispatch)
Joining the ranks of the recently unemployed is Carla Hale. She was fired from Bishop Watterson High School in Columbus, Ohio after 19 years for the crime of listing her lesbian partner as one of the survivors in an obituary for her mother.

The American Family Radio's Bryan Fischer is proud of the school district for taking this action. He believes it's time to "reclaim the D-word" - discrimination. 

“They were absolutely right to do it…. It is right to discriminate against people who engage in aberrant sexual behavior, we should discriminate against people like that.”

He compared this form of discrimination to the way we discriminate against shoplifters, as though listing your life partner in an obituary for your mother was criminal.

Fischer has a long history of bigotry against the gay community, which is why a small group of us recently protested the American Family Association. On April 19, 2013, we gathered outside the AFA headquarters in downtown Tupelo, Mississippi. 
AFA Protest on April 19, 2013.

One of our members informed the general manager that we were there to protest Bryan Fischer's inflammatory and often inaccurate remarks about gay people. Specially mentioned was the discredited research that Fischer uses to give weight to his claims.

One part of that discredited research is the so-called "ex-gay" movement, led by Evangelicals who believe homosexuality can be cured. One of those leaders was John Paulk, the former chairman of Exodus International, who has just released a statement apologizing for his misguided efforts to "cure" gay people.

Paulk says:

"For the better of ten years, I was an advocate and spokesman for what’s known as the 'ex-gay movement' where we declared that sexual orientation could be changed through a close-knit relationship with God, intensive therapy and strong determination. At the time, I truly believed that it would happen. And while many things in my life did change as a Christian, my sexual orientation did not. Today, I do not consider myself 'ex-gay,' and I no longer support or promote the movement. Please allow me to be clear: I do not believe that reparative therapy changes sexual orientation; in fact, it does great harm to many people."

The whole point of our protest was exactly this: Anti-gay bigotry "does great harm to many people."

I asked the general manager why, if he was so concerned about the family and the moral fabric of society, they didn't target fornicators and adulterers, and murders and thieves on their radio programs. I received little more than an embarrassed smile.

If gay people are fair game because of what the AFA considers sinful sexual behavior, why not target fornicators, couples living in sin, adulterers? Fornication and adultery are clearly sinful, according to the scriptures that the AFA claims to follow.

If Bryan Fischer is allowed to rejoice that an older lesbian woman was fired from her job for listing her partner in the obituary for her mother, why not "out" known adulterous teachers and have them fired? What sort of moral example are they setting for school children?

Why is it okay to target one group of "sinners" and not others? Why the hypocrisy?

Consider the following:

The AFA was listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) for its "propagation of known falsehoods and demonizing propaganda."
  • The SPLC says: "For years, until 2010, the AFA had a section on its website that supposedly exposed 'The Homosexual Agenda.' There, a reader could find articles and other AFA publications that claimed LGBT people were trying to force the acceptance of homosexuality on children through sex education programs in schools; condemned companies like Disney for supporting LGBT rights and programming; and, also until 2010, featured a particularly noxious booklet the AFA had published in 1994. That booklet, Homosexuality in America: Exposing the Myths, included the bogus research of thoroughly discredited psychologist Paul Cameron as a source. One of the publication’s authors, Richard Howe, used Cameron’s 'research' to claim that LGBT people don’t live as long as heterosexuals, that they’re more promiscuous and that the 'disgusting details of the homosexual lifestyle explain why so many diseases are present in the homosexual community.' Another claim was that '[p]rominent homosexual leaders and publications have voiced support for pedophilia, incest, sadomasochism, and even bestiality.'"
Previous statements by Bryan Fischer and the AFA:
  • “Homosexuality gave us Adolph Hitler, and homosexuals in the military gave us the Brown Shirts, the Nazi war machine and six million dead Jews.” — Bryan Fischer, AFA director of issue analysis for government and public policy, 2010
  • "Now the Bush Administration is opening its arms to homosexual activists who have been working diligently to overthrow the traditional views of Western Civilization regarding human sexuality, marriage and family… AFA would never support the policies of a political party which embraced the homosexual movement. Period."— Don Wildmon, AFA Press Release, April 16, 2001
  • "Over the years, AFA has consistently addressed the homosexual movement's obsession with infiltrating the public school system. Its eye-opening video 'It's Not Gay', which presents a heartbreaking look at the physical and emotional consequences of the homosexual lifestyle, has been the most popular video ever produced by AFA." ("Homosexuals push for control of schools," May 2001)
  • "Nothing disappointed the [American Family Association] more than Disney's enthusiastic embrace of [the homosexual] movement that rejects everything that is sacred to Christians about human sexuality, marriage and family." ("Why the Disney Boycott Shouldn't Go Away," April 2001)
  • "Under homosexual activists' political agenda, our children would face a future in which traditional marriage and families have been legally devalued, while state government— despite the severe threat it poses to personal and public health— not only legally endorses but uses our tax dollars to subsidize deadly homosexual behavior."— Gary Glenn, Director of AFA Michigan (Press Release, February 17, 2001)
Wikipedia says:
  • "In May 2010, Bryan Fischer, the AFA's director of Issue Analysis for Government and Public Policy, wrote a blog post on the AFA website detailing purported allegations that Adolf Hitler was a homosexual, and concluded by claiming that the Holocaust (which actually included gay victims of Nazi persecution) was caused by homosexuals in the Nazi German military: "Nazi Germany became the horror that it was because it rejected both Christianity and its clear teaching about human sexuality. These are mistakes no sane culture should ever make again."
  • "In August, 2012, AFA Director of Issue Analysis Bryan Fischer compared the children of gay parents to slaves, tweeting that "we need an Underground Railroad to deliver innocent children from same-sex households".
  • "The Southern Poverty Law Center, through its Teaching Tolerance program, had encouraged schools across the U.S. to hold a "Mix It Up" day in order to encourage children in schools to break up the cliques that tend to dominate children's school lives and to prevent bullying. The program, started 11 years ago, has been held in more than 2,500 schools. But in the autumn of 2012, the AFA falsely branded the project "a nationwide push to promote the homosexual lifestyle in public schools," even though the program makes no mention of homosexuality, and urged parents to keep their children home from school on October 30, 2012, and to call their children's schools to protest the event. "I was surprised that they completely lied about what Mix It Up Day is," Maureen Costello, the director of the center's Teaching Tolerance project, which organizes the program, told The New York Times. "It was a cycnical, fear-mongering tactic." Severson, Kim (2012-10-14). "Seeing a Homosexual Agenda, Christian Group Protests an Anti-Bullying Program". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2013-02-10.
  • "Former AFA California leader Scott Lively is a co-author of The Pink Swastika, which claims that many leaders in the Nazi regime, including Adolf Hitler himself, were homosexual, which drew criticism from historians. He has since co-founded Watchmen on the Walls.
  • "Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), in a 2005 report, stated that the AFA, along with other groups, engaged in hate speech to "help drive the religious right's anti-gay crusade." Mark Potok of the SPLC determined that the turning point was 2003's Lawrence v. Texas, in which the Supreme Court struck down Texas's anti-sodomy laws. After that, the Christian right spent millions on advertisements, and on pastor briefings organized by activists such as born-again Christian David Lane. Lane helped AFA put constitutional opposite-sex marriage amendments on the ballots of 13 states.
  • "In November 2010, the SPLC changed their listing of AFA from a group that used hate speech to the more serious one of being designated a hate group. Potok said that the AFA's "propagation of known falsehoods and demonizing propaganda" was the basis for the change." 
I've listened to Bryan Fischer on the radio myself. One day he stated that there was absolutely no scientific evidence whatsoever to suggest that homosexuality was anything but a choice. He was quite clear: There is absolutely no scientific, genetic, medical or biological evidence to suggest that homosexuality is anything but a choice. Therefore, because it's a "choice" and not a matter of genes and biology, it is perfectly okay to discriminate against homosexuals just as we would discriminate against drug addicts or murderers who make the choice to take drugs or murder other people.

This is astonishing ignorance. Contrary to Fischer's claims, there are mountains of evidence to suggest that homosexuality is NOT a choice. There are millions of gay people Fischer might have spoke to who would tell him quite convincingly that no one makes a choice to be gay. And there are numerous studies and copious amounts of research in all sorts of fields suggesting that homosexuality is a natural condition that occurs quite consistently in a small percentage of any population, anywhere in the world, at all times throughout human history.

How can someone go on the radio and make such blatantly false statements? Has Fischer never heard of "Thou shalt not bear false witness"?

The general manager of the AFA was quick to point they take no responsibility for Fischer's statements. He reminded us that they run a disclaimer at the end of his radio program stating that the AFA is not responsible for the content of Fischer's program.

While they may not take responsibility for his statements, they seem to have no trouble using his homophobia and falsehoods to prop up ratings and earn money.

Doesn't seem very Christian to some of us.


There were only about a dozen of us at the AFA protest, which included LGBT activists, family members, and heterosexual supporters of LGBT rights.

The only media attention we received was this report by the Daily Journal, which noted:

Activist Amelie Hahn of Tupelo chose AFA as the site for the demonstration on the claim that the organization is one of the biggest bullies toward the gay community.
“AFA is a religious organization and that’s fine, but they shouldn’t be able to discriminate,” she said.

She accused AFA of using debunked studies and falsified reports to back up its claims against homosexuals. Among them are claims that same-sex parenting is a detriment to children and the Nazi war machine of Adolph Hitler was made up of gay officers.

“More than anything I hope we can impact the listeners of AFA’s programs and encourage them to check the facts, not just take in what they hear,” she said. “Because these people say they are Christian, listeners can’t believe they would lie.”

Like other protesters that day, I expressed the idea that the AFA has every right to its spiritual beliefs concerning homosexuality. I told them as much that day. This is not, and has never been, in dispute. If they believe the Bible speaks against homosexuality, they are completely free to hold that belief. No one is suggesting they abandon their beliefs. What we are suggesting is they get the facts straight and stop knowingly and willingly misleading their listeners with myth and misinformation.

We are suggesting they stop using discredited research and needlessly inflammatory statements, such as comparing homosexuality to shoplifting, or suggesting that the children of gay couples should be kidnapped and spirited away to "save" them. It was for these sorts of statements that the AFA was classified as a hate group. It is these sort of statements we will continue to protest until the AFA gets the message.

And we will protest the AFA again. Next time, I hope many more people show up to tell the AFA that their bigotry and falsehoods are disgraceful and will not go unchallenged. 

Monday, April 8, 2013

Long live Boo Boo the Magnificent

Boo Boo and Baby Puppy.
Boo Boo is the household cat, a fine white specimen with orange spots like the one on his nose. He arrived at our door quite young and was soon joined by Squirt, a feisty brown-haired puppy who was also quite young.

These events occurred over Christmastime. My niece got them as pets for her two-year-old daughter, who loved on them a great deal, you can be sure.

They were housed on the back porch in a single dwelling furnished with ample blankets and soft toys to chew on. Kitten and puppy spent many cold nights huddling together in their house as winter gave way grudgingly to spring.

They are protected from the other family dogs by a fence. They are small enough to sneak under the fence and explore, but the other dogs are too big to do so.

It was a joy to watch them play together as they both grew in size. They seemed quite evenly matched. When Squirt became too aggressive and feisty  his pal Boo Boo jumped up on a chair or the play slide to escape, leaving Squirt quite frustrated by his short legs. Boo Boo had tricks up his sleeve that did not require brute strength.

While Squirt soon discovered the hole under the fence and made peace with the other dogs, Boo Boo wisely remained inside the fence. One of the other dogs, Scotty, would be happy to eat him alive, and Boo Boo knows it.

Recently Squirt went on an unfortunate escapade to a neighbor's house. He apparently got into some poison set out for mice and rats. He came home throwing up something awful, and died very soon afterward, leaving his friend Boo Boo alone in the backyard.

On the day Squirt was buried, the gate to the backyard fence was left open and Scotty rambled through it, making a beeline for Boo Boo, who promptly ran up a tree and remained there until we could persuade Scotty to move along.


These events reminded me quite powerfully that bigotry is a learned behavior. Boo Boo and Squirt were as different as two friends could hope to be. Yet, raised together as they were, they saw each other as friends and they enjoyed their friendship. They ate together, played together, slept together, seemingly unaware that one was a dog and the other was a cat. According to the "natural order of things," they should have been enemies. They should have hated each other. But they did not see themselves in that light.

Even after Squirt made the acquaintance of Scotty and the others, he returned to his home on the back porch with Boo Boo and they carried on just the same, their friendship undisturbed by whatever Squirt might have learned at the paws of his elders.

While I was busy anthropomorphising the pets, an opportunity came along to test my conclusions.

Not quite knowing what to tell her two-year-old daughter about the demise of Squirt, my niece promptly got another puppy and put him under Boo Boo's care in the backyard.

Boo Boo is an old hand now at raising puppies, and he has taken to Baby Puppy quite naturally. Baby Puppy has learned that the large white creature stalking around the back porch is friendly and will not hurt him, and so this particular circle of life will go on.

The old fellows on the other side of the fence stare through its chain links disapprovingly, of course. Perhaps they are concerned about the welfare of Baby Puppy being raised in such an unnatural state. Perhaps they are biding their time and waiting for an opportunity to teach Boo Boo a thing or two about How Things Are. Or perhaps they're just bored and have nothing better to do.

No matter.

What they don't understand is that a force larger than themselves in is in control of the situation. Human hands put up that fence that separates them. Human hands feed all of them, without fear or favor. Human hands watch out for those times when the gate is left open, ready to intervene if things get out of hand. They have their own ways of doing things, but there is a greater intelligence out there that sees far more than they do, an intelligence that watches out for the Boo Boos of the world, an intelligence that has its own opinions on How Things Are.

Long live Boo Boo the Magnificent.

You will not find a finer cat in these parts.

And may Squirt rest in peace.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

If I were a zygote

Hungry after my shift at the grocery store today, I picked up a hot fish sandwich from the deli for $1.99 then agonized over whether to purchase a cold Coke for an additional $1.79. The Coke wasn't strictly necessary; I could drink water just as easily. But there's just something about a Coke to wash down a fish sandwich.

Since it was for my supper, I splurged. 

It was a perfect symbol, I thought, for what my life has become: Painful decisions about trivial matters brought on because I work part time making minimum wage. There isn't a dollar to waste. There is no comfort zone, no savings to fall back should an emergency arise. 

Even if I had a full time job, I would not have enough income to afford my own place to stay, which means I must continue to rely on the kindness of my brother and his family, who allow me to stay in their spare bedroom. If not for them, I would be living in my car or on the street.

I am going to give up liability insurance for my car, even though it's mandatory. I've been driving for more than thirty years and have never had an accident. I will have to take my chances because I can't afford to continue to throw away money on insurance I never use.

Despite a medical condition, I no longer take needed medications because I can't afford them. I'm just asking for trouble, I know, but what to do?

I will soon have to turn my phone off because it's hard to justify spending $100 a month just to have a cell phone. The only reason I have kept my phone is because it allows me to connect to the Internet although my Internet service is very limited and not very good.

Needless to say I don't have cable TV or any of the other bells and whistles of modern American life.  

I buy the Sunday newspaper religiously and immediately turn to the classified section, which consists of two, perhaps three pages. While there's a lot of demand for truck drivers, there are few help-wanted ads for anything else. There are never ads for writer/media types like me, or anything even remotely suitable for my qualifications.

The online job boards are more promising, but most of the companies currently hiring are the big box stores like Dollar General and Lowe's, companies looking for cashiers and customer service clerks at minimum wage.  Almost all are part time, no benefits to speak of.

Complicating matters is the fact that I'm an older worker. Jobs are scarce for older workers. Another complication: I don't go to one of the big churches. I've been told several times that unless you go to one of the big churches, you won't get a decent job because you have to be connected with a church family. Whether that's true or not, I can't say, though I suspect it is. Even if I showed up religiously at the First Baptist Church in downtown Tupelo, what are they going to make of a gay man? That's another problem all by itself. They'd just as soon see me swinging from a magnolia tree.

It's a bleak picture. It's hard to see what sort of future -- if any -- waits for me. 

People have asked me why I don't simply move somewhere else. The answer: I don't have money to relocate somewhere else. At the moment I've got $52 in my bank account. How far is that going to get me? 

I try to be optimistic, but it's hard, and each day it gets harder. I find myself with feelings of increasing desperation. I sometimes think about putting an end to it. I sometimes feel overwhelmed with helplessness and despair. It's embarrassing to not have money enough to pay your bills, to make your own way in the world. It's demeaning, dehumanizing. 

I find it hard to fathom that almost half of all Americans are either at poverty level, where I am, or damn close to it. For three decades our economic policies have favored the wealthy elites, the huge corporations, Wall Street, bankers, stockbrokers, the Mitt Romney types. We were told the wealth would "trickle down." It hasn't. Instead, the middle class has been gutted and millions have been thrown into poverty. 

I'm just one of those millions, one of those hapless statistics, in the wrong place at the wrong time, just one more person for whom the American Dream was only a dream and never anything more.

Poverty is man-made, the natural result of decisions and choices that we, as a society, make. Poverty is the outcome of the economic policies put into place at the state and national levels. Poverty persists because we allow it to do so. As a society, we have decided that we have endless billions to throw away in subsidies for the oil industry, or for war, or for never ending tax relief for the wealthy, but there is no money to help the working poor. 

And so there I was, when my shift ended, agonizing over whether to purchase a Coke for a meager supper. That's what my life has been reduced to. 

I write about it knowing full well there is nothing anyone can do about it, and knowing, too, that others are in far worse shape. 

We are all caught up in America's particularly harsh form of hyper-capitalism of profits at any price, and profits over people. Always profits over people. 

What saddens me is that so many Americans don't realize there are alternatives. Far easier to dismiss me as just one more taker on food stamps than to admit there's something seriously wrong with the way we do business and the way we treat our own.

If I were a zygote, or a corporation, I'd have scads of people passionately caring about my well being. But I'm not a zygote or a corporation, so I'm on my own, as though modern life is nothing more than some half-assed replay of the Wild Wild West. 

Saturday, March 2, 2013

What Homosexuality Taught Me About the Catholic Church

I can safely be accused of a great many things, including taking things too seriously, which is exactly and precisely what I did - and for many, many years - with regard to the teachings of the Catholic Church on homosexuality.

The polite version of church teaching on homosexuality is that homosexuals are "intrinsically disordered" because a sexual relationship between two people of the same gender does not offer the possibility of procreation. While the church urges its pastors and followers to be "compassionate" with the poor, sad gays, in no way does it condone homosexual activity, even within the confines of a committed, monogamous, long-term relationship. Any homosexual act is a mortal sin. If not repented and confessed, the homosexual guilty of such act(s) will go to hell.

The impolite version is rather more extreme, and too well known to repeat here.

Catholics are to "love the sinner but hate the sin." Any gay man or woman who falls in love with another gay man or woman is only deceiving themselves because their affections are intrinsically disordered and gravely sinful.


"Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder."

Now former Pope Benedict, he said during his recent Christmas message that gay marriage is a "threat to justice."

As a Catholic teenager drowning in hormones, I was faced with a choice: Either believe what the church teaches about homosexuality, or take my chances and risk almost certain eternal hell fire.

Now pushing 50, my life to date has been a long string of phases involving one or the other of these choices.

I don't know that I'm capable of explaining the agonies of conscience and self-recrimination I've put myself through, the years of tortured self-doubt and self-loathing that always and eventually reached the tipping point, at which time I would throw all of it to the wind and sow some wild oats, often losing myself for years at a time in the "gay community."

During my teens and twenties, I was repulsed by my own sexuality, which was like some alien lifeform inside my body that I could not control, could not "pray away," could not escape. I could only laugh bitterly when well-intentioned friends opined that all I had to do was choose not to be gay and it would go away. It was, after all, a choice. I could un-choose it. If I refused to do that, well, they weren't about to feel sorry for me.

The agony I experienced led often to half-assed attempts at suicide, but also a few very serious attempts that fortunately did not succeed. I hated myself with a frightful intensity. I hated myself far more than the folks at the God Hates Fags Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas.

When this hatred became overwhelming, I went completely in the opposite direction, fully embracing the "gay lifestyle." After thoroughly dousing myself in this moral decay, I eventually wound up feeling shamed, morally compromised, sinful, in need of redemption. I would inevitably find my way back to a confessional when the whole sordid tale would be spilled in the hopes that God would forgive me. I would then try again very hard to be a good Catholic, to be faithful to the teachings of the church.


I used to believe that homosexuality was a cross that God had given me as a test to see whether I really did love Him with my whole heart and soul and mind and body. If I did, I would resist the temptation to get involved with my gay peers. I would accept the loneliness, the sacrifice of my youth and affections, my need to be held, loved, comforted, talked to. I would accept these sufferings in exchange for a crown of glory in heaven, at which time I would be amply rewarded.


"What, then, are homosexual persons to do who seek to follow the Lord? Fundamentally, they are called to enact the will of God in their life by joining whatever sufferings and difficulties they experience in virtue of their condition to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross. That Cross, for the believer, is a fruitful sacrifice since from that death come life and redemption. While any call to carry the cross or to understand a Christian's suffering in this way will predictably be met with bitter ridicule by some, it should be remembered that this is the way to eternal life for all who follow Christ."

At some point in my early thirties I came to a strange realization: The Catholic Church could very well be wrong about the matter. That's an astonishing thought for a Catholic. That's heresy. That's playing with fire. It was far more likely that I was a lusty sinner looking for a loophole. Wasn't it? But of course it was.

How could the Catholic Church be wrong about something it had taught for many centuries, going (supposedly) all the way back to St. Paul in the New Testament and his "man working with man that which is unseemly"? Isn't the pope infallible? Doesn't the Holy Spirit guide the church and preserve it from error in faith and morals?

As a Catholic, I was often told that God cannot deceive or be deceived, that the church guards the deposit of faith and cannot err in matters of faith and morals. Protestants can err, and often do. Muslims, Jews, Hindus -- they don't have the divine promise of infallibility and immutability that the Catholic Church has. Everything the church teaches is absolutely and utterly true; to question or suggest otherwise is tantamount to heresy.

But ...

I knew from my own painful experience that homosexuality is not a choice. Teenagers don't wake up one day and decide to be straight, or gay, or transgendered. It just doesn't happen that way. At no point in my life did I decide that I wanted to be attracted to members of the same sex. It just was. It just happened. While other guys were talking about Farah Fawcett, I was thinking about Freddie Mercury. I could no more fathom their interest in female breasts than they could my interest in penises. And because it was so shameful and sinful and shrouded in such disgust, I could never tell anyone what I was thinking or feeling, what was passing through my mind. I could not ask anyone for an explanation.

From a small town, I was alone. There was no Google search engine to turn to, no gay book store on the corner, no from which to discreetly order gay books, no possibility of making gay friends. It was just me and inexplicable feelings that would not go away.

Why would anyone in my position choose such a confused, painful path in life?


In my early twenties, I fell in love for the first time with a man named Bobby. It was a mad, crazy thing. When I was away from him, I felt like I couldn't breathe. When I was with him, I had to be touching him, sitting with him, talking to him -- he was like a drug. The feelings of happiness and intimacy I experienced were quite beyond anything I had ever hoped for.

How could those feelings be "sinful"? What did it mean when something was "sinful?" These questions led me to ponder for many years the question of sin. What, exactly, was sin? Of course, I knew the definition given in the catechism, taught by the church. I also knew the definitions to be found in the dictionary. But what, I wondered, was "sin?"

To hurt someone, to stab them, to steal their property, to kill them, to cheat people, a man beating his wife or kids, a man drinking up his pay and letting his family starve -- that was sin. It was sin whether or not the church said so. In fact, to my mind, it made no difference what the church said about such matters. To hurt others was sinful. Didn't matter what your religion was, what your beliefs were, what god you worshipped. If you were hurting other people, you were sinning.

Who was being hurt by the fact that I had fallen in love with a man? Me? Bobby? The neighbors next door? Society at large? Who, exactly, was being cheated, or robbed, or beaten? What possible sense could it make to say that the love I felt for a man was somehow hurting someone, when clearly it had nothing to do with anyone else except me and the man I loved?

At this juncture, I was introduced to the church's concept of "self-harm." Something is sinful when it hurts others, or ourselves, the church said.

With regard to my love nest situation with Bobby, I was hurting myself because I was sinning and therefore I would lose my immortal soul and spend an eternity in hell. I was choosing temporary, fleeting physical pleasures rather than the good of my own soul.

The same argument is made in regard to masturbation, which Catholics often call self-abuse. It's not that anyone is being physically (or in any other way) hurt by an act of masturbation; it's that we're sinning and risking our eternal salvation.

I was not mature enough to realize this was a circular, self-referencing argument that ultimately made no sense. On the other hand, I was smart enough to know that loving another man -- bringing him breakfast in bed, or cuddling up with him to watch a soap opera -- was not the same as a husband beating his wife. It was not the same as a serial killer beheading his latest victim.


Like most young Americans, I knew about our history of slavery and I had some vague notions about the Civil War, but at college, I began to study American history with much more seriousness. I stumbled across Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, a book that had a tremendous influence on me. This history of the treatment of Native Americans literally broke my heart. From there, I moved on to the Civil War and the issue of slavery, and for the first time I began to get a glimpse of what slavery actually was -- and again, my heart was broke. Not for myself, but for all those people who had gone down these terrible paths at the hands of my ancestors. It was unspeakably evil, I thought, what we had done. It disgusted me.

Study of these matters destroyed my illusions about the founding of my country, those carefully perpetuated bits of nationalistic pap that pass for high school history. I could never again view Columbus Day in the same light.

For years I could not understand why these things distressed me so much. I tried to talk about them to other people only to receive odd looks or rolled eye balls. My interest in such matters was not shared by anyone else I knew.

I identified with Native Americans, with slaves, with the oppression they experienced, the sadness of their lives, their constant struggle for dignity, but I could not understand why.

At some point I came across an odd thought: If the Bible was wrong about slavery -- and it was -- then could it not also be wrong about other things?

This thought was like a thunderbolt. It seemed to me that I had searched my whole life for this thought, this idea, this sentiment, because slavery was clearly a moral matter. And the church had gotten it wrong. The church had changed its mind. The church no longer told slaves to be "subject to their masters," to quote St. Paul. The church had decided that slavery was immoral, was a violation of a very basic human right.

There was more. Jesus himself had never said a word about slavery. How odd. Slaves were common in the old Roman Empire, under whose heel Jesus lived. Did he truly have nothing to say about it? Nothing to say about the idea that people could own other people, could breed them like cattle, could work them until they dropped dead in the fields, could take their babies away, sell of their spouses, their kids, could trample on their dreams, crush their hopes, whip them, abuse them, annihilate their dignity and self-respect?

Nothing to say?



Sketched above, briefly, is the path I followed in my understanding of homosexuality, which led me from long meditations on the nature of sin, to the study of actual sin, such as accounts of the treatment of Native Americans and slaves, but also true crime accounts of serial killers (I spent many years being fascinated by such tales).

I was also fascinated by religion, in general, and began a lifelong study of the various religious traditions. Catholicism and Christianity, of course, but also Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam. At one point, I even became a Muslim. Later, I got involved with the Hare Krishnas. These days, I'm basically a Buddhist who is still open to the question of God.

In my sometimes very intense religious wanderings, I inevitably found myself asking what each particular religion had to say about homosexuality. It was all of a piece. Homosexuality was sinful, shameful, to be avoided. It was unmanly, unseemly, selfish. Its presence signified a troubled, disturbed soul. Even the Buddha, as enlightened as he undoubtedly was, did not want homosexuals to follow him in the homeless life as monks.

Yet none of these religions could provide convincing reasons for this almost universal condemnation.

We tell men not to kill each other. No explanation needed for why we do this, or why we call it sin.

We tell married couples to stay away from adultery because our collective experiences have shown that adultery threatens not only the marriage but the children involved - the safety and stability of the family itself. Adultery has real potential to do harm.

We tell people to avoid incest. It's taboo. Any study of the matter will quickly reveal why, and our current understanding of genetics only adds more proof to the table of the harmful effects of incest.

Do not steal. Do not lie. Don't mug old ladies on the street. Yes. Of course. Did God really have to explain such things to the Israelites?

But two men who love each other? Who is being harmed?

If society is being harmed, how and in what fashion, exactly?

Surprisingly there are no answers to these questions.

How can this be?

The only possible arguments left are perceived threats to the community, or to the "sacred institution" of marriage, or the supposed injustice of two people loving each other but not producing babies. These are pretty rarefied arguments, and very tenuous. They are of a similar nature to the pope declaring that gay marriage is a "threat to justice," whatever he might mean by that.

But approaching this question from the other side sheds some illumination. Many Christians are appalled at gay marriage, which they see as something of a mockery of what they consider a holy state. Some, like Rick Santorum, suggest that if we allow gay marriage, then pretty soon people will be marrying their pets.

In other words, these people are worried about what gay marriage might mean for them, for their own marriage, for their own sense of self-esteem as married people. It's all about them. It's not a question about whether two people of the same gender can love each other and make a marriage work. It's about the reaction of others, mostly Christians: How they feel about it. How it threatens their bigotry. How it frightens them. How it calls into question the entire idea that marriage is holy sacrament instituted by God himself and can never be changed or modified.

At this point, we're arguing subtle abstractions which, in the light of history, are going to prove not very satisfactory.

They are not so different from the arguments used to justify our treatment of Native Americans, whom we dismissed as illiterate savages desperately in need of the civilizing influence of white folks.

Did we take away their land, cheat them out of their land, violate our treaties? Well, never mind, because God gave us America as the promised land. It was God's will. A handful of naked savages had to get out of the way. No matter. It was our manifest destiny to colonize America and create a glorious society for the glory of God. Or whatever.

We used the same arguments on African Americans. They needed our civilizing influence, our religion, our culture. They were backward, sinful, savage. They needed Christianizing. Besides, the Bible doesn't condemn slavery. St, Paul even told slaves to be subject to their masters, to obey the lawful authorities placed over them.

In all such arguments, the good of the people being harmed is not considered. They are helpless bits of flotsam caught up in the tidal waves of history. Too bad for them.

It's only when we begin to personalize the matter, to consider slavery from the point of view of the slave, to consider what it was like for Native Americans when the white guys landed on their shores, that we begin to see the injustice being perpetrated. At this point, we leave off from the pretty abstractions and deft rationalizations and begin to confront cold, harsh realities.

Now, it seems to me, the same is being done with homosexuality. We are beginning to tire of the abstract arguments put forward by popes and priests. We see two men loving each other, living together, eating dinner together, even raising kids together, and there does not appear to be any great harm being done to anyone at all. The only people who are suffering are the bigots.


Slavery was a moral matter, about which the church had nothing to say for many centuries. In fact, it did not really begin to condemn slavery until the 15th Century -- rather late to the party, one might say. Only at Vatican II did the church take a firm stand declare that slavery was a poison to society.

We need to consider this very carefully. I can't think of an all-encompassing evil quite like slavery, the thought that one can own another human being, can exploit them their entire life, can take their babies, can treat them like cattle. If this is not evil, then what is? Are we to understand that such a grave evil, such a serious violation of the human person, did not attract much attention from the Catholic Church until only very recently?

What are we to make of this? The church was willing to kill heretics like the Arians - but it had nothing to say about a genuine evil like slavery? It has been willing, almost from the start, to condemn gay people out of hand, for reasons which are hard to fathom - but it had nothing to say about slavery? It had no problem going after fornicators and adulterers - but somehow owning slaves was okay?

It's not hard to conclude that the church has gotten the moral issue of slavery complete wrong, that it has, in fact, done a massive face plant on the issue.

If it can be wrong on slavery, what else might be it be wrong about? Might it be wrong about homosexuality?

The next conclusion I reached was that an institution like the church, or even the U.S. of A., has an infinite number of ways to justify and rationalize its excesses and the evil it does. If the treatment of Native Americans and slaves could be so easily justified, and rationalized, and excused away, and trivialized on such a massive level, might not its similar rationalizations for its treatment of homosexuals be also called into question? Might we not be able to now pull the curtain back and reveal the wizard behind this particular sad chapter?

Another book that literally changed my life was Foxes Book of Martyrs, stories about the treatment of Protestants at the hands of Catholics. You cannot read such a book and fail to understand the horror of inter-religious squabbling and the massive murder and death it led to. And you cannot read such a book then look at the Catholic Church in quite the same way as you used to.

But this, too, has been rationalized and explained away, and is now nothing more than a footnote in history. Does the church now claim the divine right to kill heretics? But of course not. Is not the killing of heretics a moral matter? So it was once okay to set a Protestant on fire, but now it's frowned upon?

Finally, I realized in a very concrete way that loving another human being was not -- and could not be -- wrong. When I loved, I was the happiest I'd ever been. I felt complete, healed, energized, hopeful, happy, joyful.

To tell another human being that he or she must not love someone else in a way that seems natural and right to them is monstrous, and is, itself, a far greater evil than homosexuality could ever be. I know that because I experienced both love and the absence of love. I know, from experience, what it's like to be lonely, to hurt, to want to be held, to want to share my life with someone. I know what it's like to be denied that possibility, to be forced to consider the crazy-making idea that my "love" is intrinsically disordered when it very clearly is no such thing.

The idea that a church that professes to worship the "God of love" would tell some of its members not to love each other is preposterous.

To tell God's homosexual sons and daughters that they must violate one of the 10 Commandments and bear false witness against their true selves .., what sort of madness is that?

Homosexuality has taught me that the Catholic Church is sometimes wrong about moral matters. It was wrong about slavery and killing heretics and pretending that kings had a divine right to their often despotic reigns. It has, in recent years, quietly shifted gears on divorce and remarriage. It no longer claims that there is no salvation outside the Catholic Church, which it once used to do, and quite vociferously.

It may, in future years, quietly shift gears on issues like contraception and sexuality as more information becomes available and ignorance on these topics is overcome. It is not the all-knowing completely Divinely-inspired and utterly unerring entity that it claims to be. It can -- and sometimes does -- fall flat on its face.

For my entire life, the church has asked me to deny what I know to be true about myself, and to pretend that there is something wrong with me, when there isn't. It has told me my love is harmful. It ain't. It has told me I'm incapable of genuine love. That's a lot of hooey.

At the same time, it has asked me to not bear false witness, to not lie. It has told me, over and over, that honesty is the best policy.

It has also told me that I must someday stand before God and render an accounting of my life, which I am quite prepared to do.

Homosexuality has forced me to realize that the truth is worth fighting for, no matter how many forces are arrayed against you. The truth is found in one's heart. That is the only truth one can actually know for certain. If the church asks me to turn my back on that truth because that truth makes it uncomfortable, I am not doing either the church or myself any favors by complying. If I were the only one in this position, the only gay man in the world, the possibility of my being in error would be very great. But I am not the only one, not by a long shot. All throughout history there have been people like me, saying the sorts of things that I have been saying.

Instead of frightening us into silence, the church might consider listening.