All posts by Matt Algren

President Obama Should Channel FDR: “They Are Unanimous In Their Hate For Me – And I Welcome Their Hatred!”

On October 31, 1936, four days before his reelection, President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave a speech at Madison Square Garden in New York, commonly known as his “We have only just begun to fight” speech. I decided to re-read the entire piece last night, and I was stunned at how current it was. President Obama could give this speech almost verbatim, and most people wouldn’t realize he’d lifted it from 76 years in the past.

For nearly four years you have had an Administration which instead of twirling its thumbs has rolled up its sleeves. We will keep our sleeves rolled up.

We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace–business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.

They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.

Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me–and I welcome their hatred.

I should like to have it said of my first Administration that in it the forces of selfishness and of lust for power met their match. I should like to have it said of my second Administration that in it these forces met their master.

haters gonna hate
Image from Barack My Timeline. Get the full-size version here.

It’s strikingly familiar, not just for the short piece of audio shared above, but for references to current issues, including employees that they could lose their jobs if they don’t vote for the Republican, the degradation of poor people in this country (now charmingly referred to as the 47 percent), the dangerous shirking of government’s responsibility to the people, and more.

I was fortunate enough to find the address on YouTube, presented in four parts, which is embedded below. Find the time and listen to the whole thing. Here’s a link to the text, courtesy of the FDR library, if you want to read along.

President Obama can’t give this speech. I wish he could, but it’s just not possible in these days of instant media and FOX twisting the news. Nevertheless, this is largely his message, and it’s why President Obama has my vote. I hope he has yours, too.

(And just in case that’s not enough, remember that Governor Romney has gone to multiple anti-gay hate group meetings to convince the anti-gay hate group leaders that he’s just like them. Never forget whose side he’s on.)

Edith Bunker To Anti-Gay Voters: “I can’t believe you’d do anything that mean.”

Time for a history lesson and a strategy session all in one, everyone. This week marks 35 years since Norman Lear brought a lesbian to his legendary TV series All In The Family in an episode that most of you have probably never even heard of. The episode is still remarkably, depressingly relevant, and I think we can learn something about how to frame the argument for marriage equality and civil rights in general from the writers of this award-winning piece of television history.

First airing on October 9, 1977, episode Cousin Liz guest-starred future Superman’s Mom K Callan as Veronica, the long-time partner of Edith Bunker’s recently-deceased cousin. You can probably guess how Archie reacts to the news, but (spoiler alert) Edith stands up to him, at one point delivering his famous catch phrase “Case closed!”

The writers made a special point of mentioning that Liz and Veronica are schoolteachers, drawing on the then- (and unfortunately still-) contentious issue of lesbian and gay teachers being fired because, you know, they’re all child molesters out to “recruit” kids to be gay.

But the episode also remains relevant as four states prepare to vote on marriage equality next month. In the episode, Edith has all the legal rights as Cousin Liz’s next of kin, leaving Veronica to decide whether or not to fight in court for the modest inheritance that should be hers, a battle she would have undoubtedly lost, and a battle many lesbian and gay partners and spouses are still losing today.

Here’s the entire episode (sans theme song). If you’re impatient, the meat of the episode starts at 7:45. Two choice quotes below the video.

Veronica explains her and Liz’s relationship, leading to this bit at 14:46. Jean Stapleton’s delivery makes me cry every damn time:

Edith: Oh, Veronica, I wish you hadn’t told me about this.

Veronica: So do I.

Edith: Oh, no! I didn’t mean that! I mean, it’s so sad. It must have been terrible, lovin’ somebody and not bein’ able to talk about it. I– You can have the tea set; I mean, it belongs to you. You’re really her next of kin.

Remember, this was just a few years after Stonewall. Recognizing that lesbian and gay relationships were equal to straight ones was nothing short of revolutionary. Edith was decades ahead of her time.

Later, Archie threatens to take Veronica to court for Liz’s heirloom silver tea set, exposing her as a lesbian and threatening her job as a schoolteacher. Edith intervenes brilliantly, and in my view, the last sentence of her argument should be a major talking point in Maryland, Maine, Minnesota, and Washington ahead of marriage equality votes on November 6. (19:20)

Archie: Well who the hell wants people like that teaching our kids?! I’m sure God don’t! God’s sittin’ in judgment!

Edith: Well, sure he is, but he’s God; you ain’t!

Edith: Archie, listen, you wouldn’t want to be the cause of somebody losin’ their job! Archie, she’s all alone in the world now and she’s got nobody to take care of her like I have. And she can’t help how she feels. And she didn’t hurt you, so why should you wanna hurt her? Archie, I can’t believe you’d do anything that mean.

Writers Bob Schiller, Bob Weiskopf, Harve Brosten, and Barry Harman received an Emmy Award for Cousin Liz. Not only that, according to Harman, the episode was re-aired in 1978 on the night before California voters famously defeated the Briggs Initiative in a landslide that stunned both sides of the issue.

I doubt any network will rerun Cousin Liz this November, but hey, we have YouTube now. LGBTs, you know what to do. Straight allies, you can help too. Do all of us queer people a solid and send this video to friends and family in the “movable middle” of Maryland, Maine, Minnesota, and Washington before the vote next month. Ask them to watch it before they cast their ballots. Ask them to think about what their vote will do to their lesbian, gay, and bisexual neighbors. On our behalf, ask them if they’re really still meaner than Archie Bunker.

Julia Sugarbaker Has Some Words For Paris Hilton

I don’t have much to say about Paris “famous for being famous” Hilton, but audio posted this morning by horrible website Radar Online needs responding to. Click through if you really want to hear the 50-second audio clip and don’t mind being assaulted by an avalanche of ads.

“Gay guys are the horniest people in the world. They’re disgusting. Dude, most of them probably have AIDS. I would be so scared if I were a gay guy. You’ll like, die of AIDS.

Our good friend Julia Sugarbaker contacted me this afternoon and requested a moment to respond. (Yes, I’ve used this clip before, but also yes, it’s relevant way too often.)

Tell on, sister.
Tell on, sister.

Imogene, get serious! Who do you think you’re talking to?! I’ve known you for 27 years, and all I can say is, if God was giving out sexually transmitted diseases to people as a punishment for sinning, then you would be at the free clinic all the time!

[full episode here]

40th Anniversary Of First Ordained Out Gay Minister In The United Church Of Christ

Rev. Bill Johnson today, photo courtesy Elliott Owens
Rev. Bill Johnson today,
photo courtesy Elliott Owens
Forty years ago, every major religious denomination (and the vast majority of the minor ones) offered only condemnation to out gay men and lesbians. Recognizing one of us as a leader in the religious community was almost literally unimaginable. All that changed on June 25, 1972, when the United Church of Christ (UCC) ordained William Reagan Johnson of San Carlos, California. Having come out publicly two years earlier, Johnson’s ordination shocked many in the UCC and across the religious spectrum.

The following short film A Position Of Faith was produced in 1973, after Rev. Johnson’s ordination. It’s a fantastic historical record of the familiar objections to his worth as a minister and as a human being, and of the uncertainty of the vote. Also, flute music and “rap sessions.”

Also in 1973, Rev. W. Evan Golder, now Editor Emeritus of United Church News, wrote a resource paper for the UCC about Johnson’s ordination. You can read the first 16 pages of that report here, with thanks to the LGBT Religious Archives Network. In it he wrote this sentence, which should be repeated verbatim in every single conversation about religious LGBT people:

Perhaps now persons may be judged by the whole context of their lives rather than prejudged by one stereotyped impression.

The “whole context” of Rev. Johnson’s life unmistakably reaffirms the 1972 decision. Among other achievements, Johnson founded the UCC Coalition for LGBT Concerns, helped establish the AIDS National Interfaith Network, and worked with lesbian rights trailblazer Phyllis Lyon to organize the first meeting of what would become the San Francisco chapter of PFLAG.

Happy anniversary, UCC! Here’s hoping it won’t be another 40 years before my own Methodist Church and the rest of Christendom follows your lead!

[photo credit: Elliot Owen for the Bay Area Reporter]

Bishop Gene Robinson’s LGBT Pride Message For Christians

It’s been a while since I chimed in here. Nothing much to say, at least nothing fit for public consumption. But I found this video today and thought that it was a timely message as we head into the last week of LGBT Pride Month 2012. Bishop Gene Robinson gave this sermon in 2011, just before he led a group of Christians to the Pride Parade in New York City. The video is a clip from the new documentary Love Free Or Die.

Part of the way you are celebrating today, all of you, is to be giving a cup of water to people who pass by, and I want to tell you, it is a very dangerous thing to be doing, but it is a very holy thing that you do when you offer that cup of water. You are representing the community of Christians and Jews and Muslims who are 95% the source of all the oppression we LGBT people have experienced in our lives. And so when you offer a cup of water bearing the name of Christ, as it says in our gospel for today, you are the oppressor offering a cup of water to the oppressed. They get it. They get the act of compassion. My question is, do you get it? Do you get it? Do you realize the important thing that you do by giving a cup of water to those people out there who have been hurt by us, and continue to be hurt by us?

This is not about “tolerating” lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. This is not about being nice, it’s not even about being commpassionate. This cup of water is about Justice. And we are not yet at a place in this country where we believe the full and equal rights of gay and lesbian people are a matter of justice. We’re not there yet.

It’s not enough to pull the people out of a raging stream who are drowning, we have to walk back upstream and find out who’s throwing them in in the first place. It is not right what our churches and synagogues and mosques have done to us, as has been done to others before us. And it will take an act of commitment on your part to undo it.

And be willing to pay a price. We have never made progress, either in our religious institutions or in the culture unless someone has been willing to pay the price. It’s that tough, systemic work both within our religious communities and in the culture that we must be committed to changing. And those of you who are heterosexual, we need you desparately. I think God is calling you to understand this as an issue of Justice.

To a lot of people across this great nation, what’s happening out there this afternoon is a total nightmare. I’m here to tell you it is no nightmare. It is God’s dream coming true before your very eyes.

A Word From Dan Savage For Liberal And Progressive Christians

A quick word for Christian readers. I know you aren’t all like Charles Worley, or those anti-gay preachers in Montana. I’m one of you, so trust me, I know. But if you find yourself wanting to email me or leave a comment telling me that all Christians aren’t like that watch this recent video from Dan Savage and take his advice: Don’t tell me, tell them.

I have a really bad habit, when I get on cable news or radio, or sometimes in front of people of starting to pound the podium, and “Goddamn Christians this, Goddamn Christians that.” I’m not always careful to qualify “Christian,” or to put it in quotes.

Not all Christians are anti-gay bigots, my mother chief among them. I am not an anti-Christian bigot. The very last thing I did for my mother on her deathbed was run through a hospital in search of a priest. I’m not hostile to religious people or belief or faith. I was raised Catholic, I consider myself culturally Catholic. I’ve actually read the Bible, which is something that a lot of Christians, particularly Catholics, haven’t done, and I think there are great moral truths and great moral outrages in the Bible, including the slavery stuff – and the masturbation stuff, hello? So by no stretch do I want to be perceived as, nor am I, an anti-Christian bigot.

Here’s what drives me fucking up the wall about welcoming, affirming, tolerant, liberal Christians and their denominations. When I get into a lather and I’m pounding the podium about a Tony Perkins and I neglect to qualify “Christian” with “rightwing fundamentalist batshit asshole douchebag Christian,” they sneak up behind me or get on email and they whisper, “We’re not all like that.”

I know. I know you’re not all like that. Tony Perkins doesn’t. Tell him.

Tell all the rightwing batshit fundamentalist Christians who have usurped Christianity, who claim to speak for all of you – the Christian Family Association, not the evangelical Taliban Christian Family Association, the Christian Family Association. They’re the ones who have created the impression that to be Christian is to be anti-gay, that to identify yourself as Christian is to take sides in a war against lesbian, gay, bi, trans people in this country.

Don’t tell me. I know. Tell them. Be loud.

We need liberal, progressive Christians to be as active, organized, and loud as Tony Perkins. And you need to get in not my face, when I argue with Tony Perkins on CNN and condemn his brand of Christianity, but get in his face. And get in CNN’s face for helping to promote the idea that all Christians are anti-gay bigots.

There was a poll out recently, a couple of years ago, that showed that the fastest growing religious group in the country is non-affiliated, no religion, no expressed preference. And the atheists, the Christopher Hitchenses of the world, held that up and went, “See? People are…” Richard Dawkins said, “Oh yay, look, our group is growing more and more people.” And then when they dug into the numbers, they found that a lot of those people who were unaffiliated were actually Christians who didn’t want to identify publicly as Christian, because that meant that they were anti-gay.

How did that happen? I didn’t do that by neglecting to qualify “Christian” on CNN. Tony Perkins did that. Donald Wildmon did that, Maggie Gallagher did that, and they did it with the silent complicity of liberal Christians and liberal denominations that allowed them to hijack Christianity.

So my advice to liberal and progressive Christians is, stop whispering in my ear and start screaming in Tony Perkins’ face.

Like Dan or not (he tends to be a polarizing figure), what he says here is absolutely true. I’ve seen far too many self-identified supportive Christians shrink from voicing their support for or condemning the mistreatment of LGBT people for fear of being mistreated and ostracized themselves. If that’s your level of support, there’s not much I can do to make you stand up for your beliefs. Just don’t whisper in our ears that you really do support us if you’re not willing to stand against other Christians who would prefer to see us discriminated against, abused, deported, or, as we’ve seen this week, murdered.

Nazis In America: NC Pastor’s Congregation Stands Behind His Gay Concentration Camps

Yes, it's provocative. It's also appropriate.
Yes, it's provocative. It's also appropriate.

Monday morning, a video from Providence Road Baptist Church in Maiden, North Carolina shocked the nation. In it, pastor Charles Worley said that he wanted lesbians and gays to be forced into concentration camps until we all die. Most people were taken aback, if not by the general principle (shared, unfortunately, by many), then by his brazen adherence to Nazi rhetoric and Nazi solutions.

A couple things have happened since then. The first is from Jeremy Hooper at Good As You, who found a sermon of Worley’s from 1978.

It saddens my heart to think that homosexuals can go around, bless God, and get the applause of a lot of people. Lesbians and all the rest of it? Bless God, forty years ago they’d have hung ‘em, bless God, from a white oak tree, wouldn’t they? Amen.

I would usually say that we really shouldn’t judge someone by what he said nearly 34 years ago, but as Jeremy points out, it’s one of the very few sermons of Worley’s from that era that Providence Road Baptist Church has made available online. They are representing to the world that this sermon matches his and their current teaching, and I am obliged to take their word on it.

Then there’s this video from local NBC affiliate WCNC’s Tuesday night newscast. Their reporter had the chance to talk to two of Worley’s followers, who stand by Worley’s message. (Both wearing gaudy jewelry and the younger wearing her hair up quite immodestly and provocatively in direct violation of 1 Timothy 2:9-10. Just sayin’.)

Geneva Sims said she’s been listening to Worley preach the Gospel since the 1970s. She wasn’t surprised by the 71-year-old pastor’s now infamous sermon. In fact, she supports him and his message.

“He had every right to say what he said about putting them in a pen and giving them food,” said Sims. “The Bible says they are worthy of death. He is preaching God’s word.”

Providence Road Baptist Church member Stacey Pritchard agreed.

“Sometimes you’ve got to be scared straight,” she explained. “He is trying to save those people from Hell.”

Newschannel 36 tried to reach Charles Worley by phone and email. Reporter Dianne Gallagher stopped by his home Tuesday to speak with him, but no one answered the door.

“He has nothing to hide,” said Pritchard. “He’s not afraid of anything he said. He’s a good man. It’s a good church and he speaks the truth. He doesn’t tiptoe around it.”

Just to make sure we’re all on the same page, Geneva Sims and Stacey Pritchard of Newton, North Carolina and Charles Worley of Maiden, North Carolina think that carrying out a Nazi plan to force a group of people into concentration camps for their eventual extermination is “tough love.”

(P.S. Of course he has a right to say it, Ms. Sims. No one said he doesn’t. That doesn’t improve the deadly quality of his rhetoric.)

I hasten to add that no one should believe for a second that this is just a North Carolina problem. People who think like Charles Worley, Geneva Sims, and Stacey Pritchard exist in every community and every state in the union.

NC Pastor Proposes Gay Concentration Camps; Obama A ‘Homosexual Lover’

Last week I used the term “f*ggot lover” to describe what three Missouri Baptist churches think about a UCC congregation that has a bisexual pastor. Maybe I should have held off for a few days, because today we have video of Providence Road Baptist Church (Maiden, North Carolina) pastor Charles L. Worley using that very term (cleaned up for the pulpit) to describe President Obama. The video of Mr. Worley’s May 13, 2012 screed comes from the group Catawba Valley Citizens Against Hate.

I figured a way out, a way to get rid of all the lesbians and queers, but I couldn’t get it past the congress. Build a great, big, large fence — 150 or 100 mile long — put all the lesbians in there, fly over and drop some food. Do the same thing with the queers and the homosexuals and have that fence electrified til they can’t get out, feed ’em, and you know what? In a few years, they’ll die out.

I tell you right now, somebody said, “Who you gonna vote for?” I ain’t gonna vote for a baby killer and a homosexual lover! [Amens from congregation] You said “Did you mean to say that?” You better believe I did! [More Amens]

(h/t Towle Road. Full video provided by the church here.)

For a very long time, LGBT folks have known what people like Mr. Worley would like to do to us. He’s not the first self-identifying Christian to come up with concentration camps for queer people — Hitler was a good 70 years ahead of him on that one — and, mark my words, he won’t be the last. But lately I’ve gotten the sense that straight allies are beginning to get an uncomfortable taste of what the Charles Worleys, Johnny Dovers, Ben Kingston, and Wyatt Ottens of the world think of them for daring to support their LGBT sisters and brothers.

As the sides on this “culture war” (that is, the acknowledgement that LGBT people exist and have civil rights) become more stark, it’s good for Christian straight allies to know where they stand with those who gleefully demonize and would love to murder LGBT people in the name of God.

And in case it wasn’t clear, if you’re a f*ggot lover, they’d do the same to you. You’re not just fighting for our lives, you’re fighting for your own as well.

Missouri Church Softball Teams Take Their Ball And Go Home Over Bisexual Pastor

“Scout,” said Atticus, “n*gger-lover is just one of those terms that don’t mean anything – like snot-nose. It’s hard to explain – ignorant, trashy people use it when they think somebody’s favoring Negroes over and above themselves. It’s slipped into usage with some people like ourselves, when they want a common, ugly term to label somebody.”

“You aren’t really a n*gger-lover, then, are you?”

“I certainly am. I do my best to love everybody… I’m hard put, sometimes – baby, it’s never an insult to be called what somebody thinks is a bad name. It just shows you how poor that person is, it doesn’t hurt you.”

Last night KSDK in St. Louis, Missouri shared a story that reminded me of this passage from To Kill A Mockingbird, only now, “n*gger lover” has been replaced with “f*ggot lover.” Oh, no one’s said it outright, at least not on camera. But three churches in St. Clair, Missouri may as well have when they refused to play softball with the St. John United Church of Christ softball team because their pastor, Reverend James Semmelroth Darnell, is bisexual.

More from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

Darnell, fresh out of seminary in Washington, came to St. John to replace its previous pastor in October, but it wasn’t until two weeks ago that the Rev. Johnny Dover, pastor of Friendship Baptist Church and the league’s commissioner, heard a rumor that Darnell was gay.

“I called their coach and asked if it was true,” Dover said.

Dover, Kingston, and the Rev. Wyatt Otten, pastor of Liberty Baptist Church, decided their teams could no longer play against a congregation that had deliberately called an openly bisexual man to be their pastor.

BTW, the book is better.
BTW, the book is better.
What’s puzzling is that the ordination of LGBT people is nothing new for the UCC. The denomination has long supported LGBT inclusion. In fact, the 40th anniversary of the UCC’s first ordination of an openly gay pastor is coming up next month. The fundamentalist churches that acted like fourth graders (no offense, fourth graders) and refused to play ball most certainly disagree with the UCC’s stance on abortion, female pastors, and a host of other issues.

So why now, after twelve years in the league, have Rev. Johnny Dover of Friendship Baptist Church, Rev. Wyatt Otten of Liberty Baptist Church, and Rev. Ben Kingston of Bethel Baptist Church suddenly taken issue with the inclusion of a UCC team in the six- (now five-) team league? Because it became impossible to ignore the fact that the UCC loves and ordains LGBT –in this case bisexual– people.

The good news is that according to Rev. Semmelroth Darnell, nearby UCC churches have stepped up to the plate (pun intended) and will be playing the St. John softball team.

So what does this have to do with the gospel of Jesus Christ? Our reading this morning from St. John says “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. ‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.’ Jesus tells us that we are obedient to him, that we abide in his love, when we love one another as he has loved us. The commandment is not to judge others or to marginalize those not like you, but to love one another as Christ has loved us.

Frankly, I think some of our brothers and sisters in St. Clair have forgotten this. It seems that they would rather take on the role of judging who is right and who is wrong. But nowhere does Jesus say “Love one another as long as you believe and act the same way.” By the exclusion of our team from this league love is certainly not being shown, but blatant bigotry and discrimination. But I am glad to say that others are responding with love and grace. St. Martin’s UCC in Dittmer has offered to play us in pick-up games on Thursdays. Friedens UCC in St. Charles, St. Lucas UCC in South County and Parkway UCC in Town & Country are each interested in a tournament. Ebenezer UCC in Augusta and St. Peter’s UCC in Owensville are looking into forming teams as well. Our sister congregations in the United Church of Christ are responding to this act of exclusion, by reaching out to us in Christ’s love. They are ready to stand by us.

But I have to say, as wonderful as that is, it doesn’t repair the damage. Not the damage to a softball team, Rev. Semmelroth Darnell, or even the members of St. John UCC. I have faith that their community will uphold and strengthen them in a difficult time like this.

No, I’m talking about the damage to the people at the three ironically named Baptist Churches behind this mess. Their pastors have shown them exactly what will happen if anyone finds out they support LGBT people. Worse, the pastors have left it to the imaginations of LGBT kids, teens, and closeted adults what horrible fate awaits them if someone finds out they’re actually LGBT themselves.

Because in these pastors’ minds, the only thing worse than being a f*ggot lover is being a f*ggot.

Sign Believe Out Loud’s Thank You Card To President Obama

People are still talking about President Obama’s affirmation of gay people’s right to marry. I honestly didn’t think it would be this much of a mainstream news story, and I couldn’t be more pleased to be wrong.

I’m also glad that some are beginning to point out what I was the first to notice last week, that President Obama’s support of the right to marry comes directly from his Christian faith, not in spite of it.

The repercussions of the sitting U.S. President making that specific statement from the Oval Office will be enormous, and not just in the realm of politics. The implications are far reaching in the religious community as well. As I said last Wednesday:

There are people in the pews whose anti-gay positions are just an unconsidered default, and he might convince them to adjust their thinking to a more Christ-like attitude. He might get pastors in Middle America not to go quietly along with what Maggie Gallagher and Tony Perkins say they have to do. He might give closeted LGBT kids, teens, and adults who are steeped in anti-gay Christian dogma a new perspective that leads them safely out of the closet.

Christian LGBT group “Believe Out Loud” has created an online thank you card for people to sign. If you’re a Christian who agrees with the president that your faith leads you to support the right to marry, please sign the card. Right now there are 620 signatures and I’d love to see that number climb into the thousands before they deliver it to the White House in a few weeks. Here’s what you’re signing:

Dear President Obama:

With joy and gratitude in our hearts, we thank you for declaring your support for same-sex marriage.

Like you, we are faithful Christians who support lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality not in spite of our Christian faith, but because of it.

Our Christian voices for equality are getting stronger everyday and we thank you for lending yours to the chorus.

Many, many thanks,

Believe Out Loud