Hello, Godless Perverts! The hosts of the Godless Perverts Story Hour and the Godless Perverts Social Club want to let you know about a date change for the Social Club. We’ve set a date for the next Story hour, and we want to let you know so you can mark your calendars. And we want to get your feedback on what kind of Godless Perverts events you’d like in the future! Continue reading “Godless Perverts: Date Change, New Event, and Asking for Your Input!”
He treated us with contempt.
For me, that’s what it boils down to.
I’ve already addressed some of the specific problems with much of the specific content of Ron Lindsay’s opening talk at the Women in Secularism 2 conference, and with the responses he wrote to criticisms of said talk. As have many other bloggers besides me. This isn’t about that. This is about the context. And as bad as the content was, the context is what made it far, far worse.
Here is that context. This was not just some random talk midway through some random conference. This was not just some random series of blog posts written on some random date. This was the opening talk at the Women in Secularism 2 conference.
The opening talk for a conference sets the tone.
And as far as I know, it is unprecedented for the leader of an organization hosting a conference to use the opening talk of that conference to issue a patronizing scold to its attendees and speakers and financial supporters. I’ve certainly never heard of it happening before this. Opening talks welcome attendees and speakers, get people excited about what’s coming, take care of schedule changes and other logistical matters, let people know what else the hosting organization is up to, hustle for donations. They do not lecture the attendees and speakers and financial supporters on everything that they’re doing wrong. They don’t openly decline to welcome the attendees, in the name of supporting “substance not rhetoric.” I have been to a whole lot of conferences in my time as a public speaker… and I have never, ever, ever seen an organization leader open a conference by scolding and insulting the attendees and speakers and financial supporters… in the name of fostering “conversation.”
In this context, the message of this talk was clear. The message was not simply an ill-informed, baffling, patronizing, insulting concoction of straw-feminist rhetoric taken directly from the mouths of hostile anti-feminists (as I’ve discussed in my post on the content of this talk).
The message was clear: This is not your space. You have this space by my whim. I can take it away at my whim. This is not a conference for women in the secular movement to talk with one another, and with men and non-gender-binary people, about issues that concern you. This is not your space. It is mine. And if I want to use this space to scold you, to patronize you, to read you a lecture about how you should and should not speak about feminism and sexism and privilege, I will do so.
The content of Lindsay’s talk was… well, an ill-informed, baffling, patronizing, insulting concoction of straw-feminist rhetoric taken directly from the mouths of hostile anti-feminists. It was pretty damn bad.
The context of the talk was dripping with contempt.
And the talk — with this context — set the tone for the entire rest of the conference. This was a truly magnificent conference, one of the best I’ve been to — and I’ve been to a lot. The speakers and panelists and moderators, and indeed the conference attendees, seem mostly to have cared deeply about making this conference incredible, and they overwhelmingly brought their A-game. Important ideas were raised; difficult topics were explored; calls to specific action were issued; strategies were hashed out and moved forward.
But a huge, disproportionate amount of the conversation — over meals, over drinks, during breaks, in the halls before and after talks, in the rooms after events were over — focused on Lindsay’s talk. A huge, disproportionate amount of the conversation focused on, “What the hell was that?”, and, “Did he really say that?”, and, “What on earth was he thinking?”, and “What are we going to do about that?”
If Ron Lindsay didn’t know that this would happen, then he’s an idiot. And I don’t think he’s an idiot. I think he knew exactly what would happen. I think he knew perfectly well that giving this particular talk — as the opening talk of this particular conference, with these particular speakers and attendees and financial supporters — would be dropping a rhetorical bomb. I think he knew that giving this talk would turn a huge amount of the attention — at the Women in Secularism 2 conference — to Ron Lindsay, and to his opinions about feminism and feminists in the secular movement. And I think he was totally fine with that. I don’t think that was necessarily the point… but I think he knew it would happen, and went ahead anyway.
He was perfectly happy to turn the focus of the Women in Secularism 2 conference onto himself, and his patronizing, ill-informed, straw-feminist opinions of feminists in the secular movement.
What’s more: As far as I know, it is unprecedented for the leader of an organization hosting a conference to write a hostile, mean-spirited, personally vituperous diatribe against one of the conference’s speakers… while that conference is still going on. I’ve certainly never heard of it happening before this. It would have been bad enough for Lindsay to write what he did about Rebecca Watson, and about her very measured response to his talk, under any other circumstances. For him to do this while the conference was still going on — for him to bail on the fundraising dinner and post this piece while that fundraiser was happening — showed an appalling level of contempt: not just for Rebecca Watson, but for everyone at that conference who respects her and came to hear her speak.
And all of this unfolded while one of the primary anti-feminist harassers was sitting there in the audience. All of this unfolded while a person who has been invading and disrupting the Twitter feeds of conferences he thinks are too feminist, a person who has defended the misogynistic online harassment and the use of hate speech against feminist women in the atheist movement, a person who has written for, and done a recent interview with, a misogynist, rape apologist website that’s being monitored by the Southern Poverty Law Center (the organization that monitors hate groups), a person who has said, “I fail to see how refusing to believe in God leads to the ‘logical conclusion’ of abandoning the belief that women exist to serve men,” a person who dealt with a dispute by posting someone’s home address on the Internet, was sitting in the room. The fact that Justin Vacula was attending this conference had many people on edge: nobody knew if he was planning in-person confrontations, or continued online harassment, or what. Many of the people Vacula has personally targeted with harassment were in that room with him. For Lindsay to give that particular opening talk in that loaded environment — and for him to then make a point of going up to Vacula and personally welcoming him to the conference — showed a level of contempt for the speakers and attendees of that conference that is shocking… and that is entirely unacceptable.
I will make this very clear: I don’t think Ron Lindsay consciously intended to treat the attendees and speakers at Women in Secularism 2 with contempt. I just think he didn’t particularly care. And that, in itself, is a serious form of contempt. He treated the very people the conference was being held for as trivial, far less important than him getting to use our platform to spout his opinions. He treated the women at that conference — and the men and non-gender-binary people — as if the patronizing insult he had to know we would take from his talk, and the derailment of one of the few events we have that’s specifically devoted to our concerns, was obviously of less concern than his own personal opinions about our work. He took the space that was set aside for us, and he used it against us. And he did this with no apparent concern for how this might affect us.
He treated us with contempt.
If Ron Lindsay had chosen to simply post this talk on his blog, totally separate from the Women in Secularism 2 conference, I don’t think there would be this level of fury, disappointment, and sheer “What the hell was that?” shock. I think a lot of people would have been angry and upset: but I don’t think the conversation about it would have been eating the Internet.
But that wasn’t the context in which this happened.
And the context in which this did happen was reprehensible.
He treated us with contempt.
And it is absolutely unacceptable.
Ron Lindsay owes every person at that conference, and every feminist in the secularist movement, an apology. And it needs to be a real apology. It cannot be a bullshit, half-assed, “I’m sorry you were upset by my entirely reasonable actions,” “I’m going to spend one sentence apologizing with ten paragraphs on defenses and excuses and counter-accusations” not-pology. It needs to be a real apology. It needs to demonstrate an understanding of what exactly was wrong with his actions, and a promise to not act like this in the future. If he doesn’t, I think it will be very hard for feminists in the secular movement to trust and support CFI again.
The other piece in this two-part series:
A Blatant Misrepresentation — And An Insulting One: The Content of Ron Lindsay’s WiS2 Talk
If you have something to say about Ron Lindsay’s talk at the Women in Secularism 2 conference, and/or about his follow-up posts responding to the controversy… say it to the CFI Board of Directors.
Don’t just say it on Twitter, or on Facebook, or on blog comments, or even on your own blog. Say it to the people who can do something about it. If you’ve already said something on some other forum, please copy and paste it, edit as appropriate, and send it to the CFI Board of Directors.
The CFI Board of Directors can be emailed via the Corporate Secretary, Tom Flynn, at [email protected] They can also be reached by snail mail, at:
Center for Inquiry Board of Directors
PO Box 741
Amherst, NY 14226-0741
Here’s a tip: to Ron Lindsay, and to everyone else.
If the people you’re supposedly trying to be in alliance with are howling with rage, and the people you’re supposedly in passionate opposition to are praising you to the skies… you’re doing it wrong.
That doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. We all screw up. But it means… well, it means that you screwed up. At the very least, it means you should maybe listen to your supposed allies who are howling with rage. You should maybe consider the possibility that, even if this was not your intention, you did something that was seriously troubling, and you need to stop and think about it.
A huge amount of the problem with Ron Lindsay’s opening talk at the Women in Secularism 2 conference had to do with the context: the very fact that this was the opening talk for this particular conference. In many ways, that is a far more serious problem than any one specific piece of its content, and in fact I have written a separate piece — and in my opinion, a more important piece — on that deeply troubling context.
But I can’t talk about the context of the talk without discussing the content. (Others have done this as well, and their pieces are well worth reading.) The context wouldn’t be troubling without the insulting and ill-informed content. So here goes. Continue reading “A Blatant Misrepresentation — And An Insulting One: The Content of Ron Lindsay's WiS2 Talk”
This is going to seem ridiculously obvious. It is ridiculously obvious. I feel more than a little silly that it’s taken me over fifty years to get it. But it’s making a big difference in my life and my work, and I want to share it with the rest of the class.
As I’ve been writing about for the last few weeks, I’ve begun learning a secular meditation practice: an evidence-based, non-supernatural practice, supported by research and taught in a medical setting, called Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction. Much of the practice, and the theory behind the practice, has to do with… well, mindfulness: being in the moment, and fully experiencing the moment, rather than constantly getting lost in worries and fantasies and memories and plans and regrets and worst-case scenarios and action-items and to-do lists. It has to do with actually experiencing — for instance — my breakfast, actually smelling the food and tasting the food and feeling the sensation of it, rather than distractedly eating while thinking about a hundred things other than the food in my mouth. When I’m doing the practice, I notice when worries and fantasies and memories and plans and regrets and worst-case scenarios and action-items and to-do lists rise up in my mind; I observe them without judgement (or try to)… and then I gently return my attention to whatever it is I’m focusing on. Whether that’s my breakfast, or the fall of my foot on the pavement, or whatever body part I’m focusing on during my body scan at that moment.
As someone whose life is a little much at times, someone with a whole lot on her plate and some very long to-do lists indeed, someone whose worries and plans and action items can feel overwhelming, this can be something of a challenge. But one of the take-aways from this practice has been a change in my work habits that’s been weirdly profound, one which has been making work both more pleasurable and more productive.
One thing at a time.
If I’m feeling overwhelmed by the forty unanswered emails in my email inbox, my new policy is to not focus on the existence of all forty at once, which is guaranteed to freak me out and paralyze me. My new policy: Open the first email. Read it. Answer it if it needs answering. Move on to the next email.
Similarly, if I’m writing an essay or a blog post, I write that essay or blog post. I don’t check my email every ten minutes; I don’t check Facebook and Twitter every ten minutes. I write. I write until I’m finished, or until I come to a reasonable stopping place, or until it’s lunchtime, or until some specific piece of scheduling demands that I stop, or until Ingrid comes home, or until I run dry and need to take a break.
I know. Like duh, right? How can you read forty emails at once? How else can you read your emails, other than one at a time? But this is coming as something of a major revelation for me. Of course I can’t read more than one email at a time. But I can read one email at a time, while stressing out about the other thirty-nine… or else I can read one email, and give it my full attention, and then move on to the next one with my full attention there as well.
See, here’s the thing. Continue reading “Secular Meditation, and Doing One Thing at a Time”
Hi, all! I have some speaking gigs coming up, in San Francisco, San Diego, Amherst, NY, and Las Vegas — including my stand-up comedy debut at Ha Ha Heathens on Wednesday, May 29, and an award I’m getting at the American Humanist Association conference on June 1! If you’re going to be in any of these areas, I hope you’ll come by and say Hi!
CITY: San Francisco, CA at Ha Ha Heathens
DATE: Wednesday, May 29
TIME: 8:00 pm
LOCATION: Punch Line San Francisco, 444 Battery St.
EVENT/ HOSTS: Ha Ha Heathens comedy show, presented by Keith Lowell Jensen
TOPIC: Funny atheism, I hope. This is my stand-up comedy debut.
EVENT DECSCRIPTION: Ha Ha Heathens has thrilled skeptic crowds from Los Angeles to Kamloops, BC. Keith Lowell Jensen puts together his favorite non-theist comics for a night of hilarious blasphemy.
OTHER PERFORMERS: Michael Patten, Trevor Hill, Caitlin Gill, and Keith Lowell Jensen
EVENT URL: http://punchlinecomedyclub.com/event/1C004A898BAD576B
CITY: San Diego, CA, at the American Humanist Association conference
DATES: May 30 – June 2 (I’m up on June 1)
LOCATION: Bahia Resort Hotel, San Diego, CA
EVENT/ HOSTS: American Humanist Association 2013 conference
TOPIC: I’m not giving a regular talk — I’m being given an award, the LGBT Humanist Pride award. Neat!
OTHER SPEAKERS: Katha Pollitt, Phil Zuckerman, Rebecca Hensler, Ayanna Watson, Teresa MacBain, Amanda Knief, David Tamayo, Katherine Stewart, more
COST: $299, $25 for students, with travel scholarships available
EVENT URL: http://conference.americanhumanist.org/
CITY: Amherst, NY at CFI
DATE: Friday, June 14
TIME: 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm
LOCATION: CFI Amherst, 1310 Sweet Home Road, Amherst, NY
EVENT/ HOSTS: Center for Inquiry
TOPIC: Why Are You Atheists So Angry?
SUMMARY: The atheist movement is often accused of being driven by anger. What are so many atheists so angry about? Is this anger legitimate? And can anger be an effective force behind a movement for social change?
EVENT URL: http://www.centerforinquiry.net/amherst/events/greta_christina_why_are_you_atheists_so_angry_99_things_that_piss_off_the_g/
CITY: Las Vegas, Nevada — Secular Student Alliance Annual Leadership Conference West
DATES: June 21-23
LOCATION: University of Nevada – Las Vegas
EVENT/ HOSTS: Secular Student Alliance Annual Leadership Conference West
TOPIC: Activist Burnout — Prevention, Detection, and Treatment
SUMMARY: Do you love atheist activism? Do you want to keep on loving atheist activism, and not get burned out on it? Here are some practical tips and guiding philosophies for preventing activism burnout, recognizing its warning signs, and dealing with it when it happens.
COST: $39 – $149, $125 for a group of five students/ advisers, most meals included, travel aid available
EVENT URL: https://www.secularstudents.org/2013con/Vegas
I got an email from a reader, asking me a question. (As far as I can tell, it’s not in response to any particular piece I’ve written.) With their permission, I’m posting their email here, along with my response to it. (I’m keeping the reader’s name private, per their request.)
Do you think that it’s possible for an intelligent, reasonable, and well-informed person to be a Christian? Or do you feel that no reasonable, intelligent, and well-informed person could possibly believe in traditional Christianity.
Short answer: Yes, I think it’s possible for an intelligent, reasonable, and well-informed person to be a Christian.
But I don’t think Christianity is an intelligent, reasonable, or well-informed position.
Intelligent, reasonable, and well-informed people can be wrong. They can be profoundly wrong. They can be stubbornly wrong. They can be deeply attached to wrong ideas, with contorted and absurd rationalizations for their wrongness. They can be wrong about big, important things. In fact, I would argue that this is universally true: every intelligent, reasonable, and well-informed person is bone-headedly wrong about something. Being an intelligent, reasonable, and well-informed person doesn’t mean every opinion or idea or belief you have is intelligent, reasonable, and well-informed. You can be an intelligent, reasonable, and well-informed person, and still have dumb, unreasonable, ill-informed ideas.
And yes, I think Christianity is one of these. I think all religion is one of these.
Can an intelligent, reasonable, and well-informed person be a Christian? Obviously. Many of them are. It would be absurd to claim otherwise, entirely counter to all the available evidence.
But that doesn’t mean it is intelligent, reasonable, or well-informed to be Christian. It isn’t. There is no good reason to think Christianity is true; there are lots of good reasons to think it’s bunk. And the same is true for every religion.
So what do the rest of you think?
Also, the podcast is having a contest! They’re giving away a free copy of my book, “Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless.” Listen to the podcast for the contest rules. Enjoy!
I learned that the Doc Johnson “marital aid” company was mockingly named after Lyndon B. Johnson.
I learned that in 2005, high-end vibrators were given to celebrities in the Golden Globe Awards gift suite.
I learned that a 2009 Gallup poll showed that 92 percent of Americans think that having an extramarital affair is morally wrong.
I learned that sexual and romantic relationships in nursing homes typically have a no-pressure, enjoying-the-moment quality to them, since “no one here is burdened with finding the loves of their lives.”
I learned that some queer people still feel a need to be closeted about their queerness if they want a career in politics. And I learned that, for some bisexual people, this is both easier and harder than being gay.
I learned that gay male sex at rest stops is way, way more common than I’d imagined. I learned that if you’ve ever pulled over to a rest area — summer, winter, any season — you’ve been near men having sex.
I learned to wonder about a question I hadn’t thought about before: If you have sex with a girl, and you’re a trans woman who knows you’re also a girl, but your partner doesn’t know that… is it lesbian sex? Is it lesbian for you, but not for her?
I learned that the entire concept of virginity often means something really different for trans people than it does for cis people. (Not that it’s always so straightforward for cis people…)
I learned that sports journalists get really, really weird when confronted with male athletes who are virgins.
I learned that there are some people in the leather community — not all, probably not even most, but some — who think that at SM play parties, people shouldn’t have orgasms or talk dirty. (To which I can only comment: What the actual fuck?)
I learned that when New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof wrote about prostitution ads in he back pages of newspapers, he acknowledged that many prostitutes are consensual and non-coerced, but said, “They’re not my concern.” (I’d say that I learned that Nicholas Kristof is a douchebag… but I already knew that.)
I learned that there exists a group, the Religious Institute, that examines the intersection of theology and human sexuality. Their president, Rev. Debra W. Haffner, is “completely shocked that contraception is being made to seem as if it’s a controversial issue.” Not sure if she’s being deliberately disingenuous, or if she’s really shocked. If the latter, I need to learn what rock she’s been under for the last decade. Seems like an interesting organization, though. Maybe I need to investigate.
I learned that in the late 1940s, ’50s and ’60s, Church & State magazine, the publication of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, was “studded with stories about often-successful attempts to block access to birth control.”
I learned that some people have called the birth control pill the most important invention of the twentieth century. I think that, while this is something of an overstatement, they definitely have a point.
I learned that, while the mainstream video porn industry is mostly tanking financially, porn parodies of pop culture (such as Spiderman XXX) are flourishing.
I learned that in New York City, half of all underage prostitutes are boys — and only 10 percent are involved with pimps.
I learned that Marilyn Monroe was such a big fan of Jean Harlow that she got Harlow’s hairdresser to dye her own hair blonde.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. If you want to learn more about a massively varied variety of kinds of sex, ideas about sex, perspectives on sex… Best Sex Writing 2013 is a great place to go.
Best Sex Writing 2013 is edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel and Carol Queen. To learn more about the book, go to the Best Sex Writing 2013 website, Cleis Press, Goodreads, or Rachel’s personal website. The book is available in paperback
I’d thought about writing a fuller review of The Ultimate Guide to Prostate Pleasure: Erotic Exploration for Men and Their Partners. (Available in paperback
Of course, the author can tell you a lot more about it than that. Charlie Glickman, Ph.D., co-author of The Ultimate Guide to Prostate Pleasure, has very kindly given me some time to discuss the book, and some of the ideas and information in it.
GC: If there was one thing you could say to people who are reluctant to explore prostate play, what would it be?
CG: There are some pretty common concerns that men and their partners have around trying prostate play. When we wrote the book, Aislinn and I conducted two surveys and we asked people to tell us what held them back. Almost all of the answers fell into three categories: will it hurt? will it be messy? what does this mean for my masculinity?
Those first two are technical questions, in the sense that they focus on the technical skills that make anal play enjoyable. As a sex educator and coach, I hear those same questions from people of any gender who are thinking about receiving anal play, and there are lots of ways to make it easy, fun, and hygienic. Since getting fucked is usually seen as “the woman’s role” in sex, a lot of men worry that anal penetration and prostate pleasure will somehow make them less masculine.
This is such a prevalent issue that we devoted an entire chapter of the book to unpacking it and offering alternative perspectives. But the short version is that what kinds of things feel good to you is about where your nerves are, while the gender(s) of the people you want to have sex with is about your sexual orientation. Those are two different things, in the same way that what foods you like and who you want to have dinner with are two different things.
I think it’s really unfortunate that so many men are stuck on this because there are some incredible opportunities for pleasure that they miss out on. And it’s not like prostate play means you can’t also have lots of fun with other kinds of sex. This is about adding to, not taking away.
If there was one more thing?
When I talk with men about their experiences with prostate play, whether massage, pegging, or anything else, they describe it in much the same way that a lot of women describe G-spot play. The sensation of prostate massage is often compared to “the beginning of an orgasm,” but instead of lasting just a few seconds as you reach the “point of no return” (or in sex therapy language, “ejaculatory inevitability”), it can last for as long as you want. The orgasms that come from prostate massage are felt as bigger, more expansive, coursing through your body, and with practice, you might even be able to have multiple orgasms. If you’ve ever heard someone talk about their G-spot experiences, some of this might sound similar.
I think this is important because a lot of guys have had first-hand experience on the giving side of G-spot pleasure (no pun intended), and can’t even imagine being able to have something like that for themselves. But actually, you can and we give you all the info you need to try it for yourself.
And one more?
There’s a difference between anal stimulation and prostate stimulation. Yes, the most effective way to reach the prostate is through anal penetration, though it’s not the only way, but a lot of guys prefer to focus on just the prostate with minimal anal stimulation. Others like to mix them together, and a few told us that they enjoy anal play, but that prostate stimulation didn’t do much for them.
This is important because some men resist exploring prostate pleasure as a result of experiences of not enjoying anal play. But as long as the anal penetration is painless, you can have a great time. If you decide that you like it too, then you have more fun options. Prostate play isn’t about size. You can rock someone’s world with something as slim as a finger. So don’t let your worries about anal sex keep you from trying something new.
Along those lines, a medical prostate exam isn’t meant to feel good. They don’t want it to hurt, but they also don’t want you to get turned on and think that the doctor is trying to have sex with you. I’ve had a lot of men tell me, “I got checked out at the doctor’s office and I didn’t like it, so I guess this isn’t for me.” It’s funny- I’ve never heard a woman say, “Getting a pelvic exam isn’t fun, so I guess I don’t like intercourse.” Trust me. Doing this at home is completely different.
What has the response been to the book so far?
Really amazing. I’ve received emails from men with all levels of experience, from total novices to experienced prostate players, and they’ve all said that they learned something useful. One of the advantages of surveying almost 200 people about this is that we could offer more tips and ideas to make things fun. Our goal was to make it relevant for everyone with a prostate and for their partners, and from the feedback we’ve gotten so far, we hit our target. Aislinn and I are both really proud of that.
I’m also really happy that men of all sexual orientations have told us that we spoke to their experiences and made our book relevant to them. Most sex guides are written for specific communities or with only some sexual orientations in mind. The fact that we have been getting such positive responses from men of all orientations makes me really proud.
How does this book differ from other guides to male anal pleasure, such as The Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Men
While there are some guides to male anal pleasure, they focus much more on the anal play. There’s some mention of the prostate, but that’s not the main point. We give you lots of info about anal play, but most of our attention is on the prostate. Think of it as sort of like the difference between a book on sex positions and a book on the G-spot. There’ll be some overlap, but a lot that’s different.
Our website has a lot of great info to get you started. We wrote it to make sure that you’d get enough of the basics to give it a try, even if you never pick up a copy of the book. Of course, the book (available on Amazon in paperback
Charlie Glickman Ph.D. is a sexuality educator, writer, blogger, workshop teacher, and sex & relationship coach. He is certified as a sexuality educator by the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists and was a pioneering Program Educator for Good Vibrations for sixteen years. He lives in Oakland, CA.
A little white boy, a cherub with an impish grin, earnestly clutches a microphone before a church congregation in a blurry video of the Apostolic Truth Tabernacle in Greensburg, Indiana. He begins to belt out a ditty, “I know the Bible is right, somebody’s wrong…Ain’t no homos going to make it to heaven,” in a playful schoolboy lilt. The crowd erupts, rising to its feet, fists pumping, high fives extended, roof raised. The pastor beams proudly from the pulpit, deliciously pleased by this home team display of American Idol precocity.
The video generated thousands of hits and comments online, some praising, many condemning. Christians were slammed as hypocritical and un-Christian; detractors were piously directed to Bible verses smearing homosexuality. The mantra from tolerant Christians was that God doesn’t endorse hate, especially from the mouths of babes. Biblical condemnation of homosexuality was a remnant of antiquity, inapplicable to the complexities of the modern world, a distortion of God’s unconditional love.
Eavesdropping on the red-blooded zeal of the Tabernacle’s come-to-Jesus audience, it’s clear that the cherub has renewed its wilting faith. The straight backs of dark-suited men frame the furtive glances of silent little girls in frilly dresses peaking around the camera as whistles and applause ripple through the sanctuary. With the womenfolk tucked away, giving praise to Jesus is just another alpha male sporting event. The wisdom of heterosexual solidarity will not be lost on more tolerant corrupted generations. The cherub is no more than five years old. Soon, he will be new to elementary school, new to the savage dance of peer pressure and the playground rituals of gender. He is “innocent,” yet fully initiated into the culture of violence, permissiveness, and patriarchy that says “boys will be boys.” Western civilization revolves around this unbreakable sacrament. From the nameless, faceless American military drone victims of the Middle East to the expendable Jezebels of American inner cities, to be American is to always be innocent against the global backdrop of otherness. It is to accept as gospel that “they” hate us because of our freedoms while “we” are free to pillage the globe with American war machines and pipeline youth of color into prisons. Historically, conquering and “democratizing” savage foreign lands has been part of the U.S.’ foreordained Christian mission as an “exceptional” civilization. American exceptionalism was a key theme for the GOP and Religious Right in the 2012 presidential race. Former Republican congressman and presidential candidate Newt Gingrich amplified this theme in his book A Nation Like No Other: Why American Exceptionalism Matters:
The ideals expressed in the Declaration of Independence and the unique American identity that rose from an American civilization that honored them form what we call today “American Exceptionalism”…President Obama, for example, simply does not understand this concept. In the past he was outright contemptuous of American Exceptionalism, deriding Americans as “bitter” people who “cling” to guns and religion…If the ideas in the Declaration were not new or particularly radical, then why did this single document fundamentally alter world history? The answer is this: no nation had ever before embraced human equality and God-given individual rights as its fundamental organizing principle.
Caricatured by the right as a socialist revolutionary, Obama sought to burnish his Americana credentials by trotting out the rhetoric of exceptionalism. In 2009 he maintained that it’s a “core set of values that are enshrined in our Constitution, in our body of law, in our democratic practices, in our belief in free speech and equality, that, though imperfect, are exceptional.” Yet, Obama’s identification with exceptionalism was not enough for GOP ideologues like Gingrich, who insist that Judeo-Christian might and right makes the U.S. superior to other nations. Predictably, Gingrich’s summary of the U.S.’ exceptionalist path contains only passing reference to slavery. For Gingrich, slavery was only a minor deviation from this “nation like no other’s” ascent to global leadership. If the Declaration of Independence invokes “unalienable rights” of liberty and equality granted by God, then the U.S.’ unique righteousness lies in this contract. According to this view, American civilization, as the most religious superpower on the planet, means God—white, Christian, straight, and pure. And even though the U.S. is the fount of freedom and individual liberty, God cannot be expected to bend to the whims and cultural relativisms of modernity. To do so would be a betrayal of his will, as manifest in “natural” law.
The little white boy of Apostolic Truth Tabernacle is the unofficial face of Americana, the spiritual inheritor of God, mom, and apple pie. This holy trinity was sorely tested by President Obama’s landslide victory in the 2012 presidential campaign. The GOP’s anti-government message of lower taxes and shiftless welfare queens, coupled with its attacks against birth control, abortion, gay rights and undocumented immigrants, was repugnant to many voters. Yet, although a majority of the electorate rejected the party’s Christian fascist rhetoric, those that would write the political and cultural obituary of fundamentalist Americana are premature. God has always been one of the U.S.’ primary afflictions. The performance of American national identity is steeped in this cancer. The right-wing backlash against democratic citizenship is fueled by it. Unleashed from its YouTube moment, the cherub’s folksy performance deep in the heart of this small Midwestern church reverberates in hundreds of so-called gay conversion therapy sessions throughout the nation. It provides the backdrop for the monster popularity of alpha male toys that give little boys license to prey and pillage. It fuels the suicides that claim the lives of hundreds of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth every year. It drives the she-asked-for-it rape culture that says women’s bodies are dirty, shameful, sinful, and always there for the taking.