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.
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.)
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.
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.
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!
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 theyâ€™d have hung â€˜em, bless God, from a white oak tree, wouldnâ€™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 sheâ€™s been listening to Worley preach the Gospel since the 1970s. She wasnâ€™t surprised by the 71-year-old pastorâ€™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 Godâ€™s word.”
Providence Road Baptist Church member Stacey Pritchard agreed.
“Sometimes youâ€™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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This afternoon, President Obama said in an interview with ABC’s Robin Roberts that he supports the right of lesbians, gays, and bisexual people to marry the person they love. Here are the three short clips ABC has shared, followed by the reason I think this matters. (Hint: It’s a game changer, and not for the reason you think.)
I’ll let others talk about why this is a monumental step from an LGBT point of view. Joe Jervis and Pam Spalding had particularly insightful reactions over at the Village Voice. Over at America Blog, Joe Sudbay and John Aravosis outlined the history that led us to today’s statement. And David Badash has official reactions of many Gay, Inc. leaders. And of course, anti-gay industry leaders are uniformly apoplectic. Jeremy Hooper has those statements.
As for me, I’d like to recognize what Obama said to religious Americans, because it was something different than most people think, and that difference could help craft the discussion going forward.
Religious Americans, particularly Christian Americans, are the ones holding back LGBT rights in this country. Just yesterday, Pam’s House Blend ran this picture of a church marquee at a church that doubles as a polling place in Wilmington, North Carolina. It was a pointed declaration to Christians going to vote on an anti-gay marriage amendment that if they wanted to be “good Christians,” they had no choice but to vote for the amendment.
Planned or not, this is the context of the president’s statement, so it’s important to note exactly what he said to Christians who have been told for generations that as Christians, they can’t be in favor of civil rights for LGBT people. Watch the second video again and notice what he’s not saying.
He isn’t saying “I’m a Christian, but I think LGBT people should have rights.” He’s not even saying, “I’m a Christian, and I think LGBT people should have rights.”
No, President Obama is saying, “I’m a Christian, and that’s why I think LGBT people should have rights.”
Linger on that for a minute. The difference between those three statements is not inconsequential. In fact, it’s hard to overemphasize the importance of that nuance.
As offensive as “God is in the mix” was during that debate about civil marriage rights in 2008, the way he said it gave religious people permission to question their cradle-born beliefs about gay people. And as frustrating as “I’m evolving” has been for those of us who could really use (and deserve) equal rights right now, it has given Christians who might not know any out LGBT people permission to find room within their faith for new understanding.
And now, President Obama has called on Christian Americans to take the next step. He hasn’t told them to throw away their faith; that’s a fool’s errand. Rather, he has pointed out to them that LGBT inclusion very easily blends into the core of their faith as it already is. Just as importantly, he has given a voice to Christians who have already made that journey but have been intimidated into silence.
Will he convince the religious right? Of course not. I daresay that wasn’t even his goal. But 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.
Like I said, this could be a game changer, far beyond just a conversation about legal rights. Well done, Mr. President. I’m impressed. (Now don’t make us push so hard for the next one. Deal?)
The New York Times reported this morning that renowned children’s author and out gay man has died at the age of 83 from complications of a recent stroke. Sendak came out publically just four years ago, though he had been in a 50-year relationship until his partner’s death in 2007.
I have nothing now but praise for my life. I’m not unhappy. I cry a lot because I miss people. They die and I can’t stop them. They leave me and I love them more. … There are so many beautiful things in the world which I will have to leave when I die, but I’m ready, I’m ready, I’m ready.
Well, it’s over. So much happened at the United Methodist Church’s 2012 General Conference since my first post about it. The bottom line is that for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, we’re exactly where we were two weeks ago. All we really have to show for this mess is a few fresh scars.
My heart doesn’t know what to make of it. I’ve been asked more than once why I don’t just leave. Will Green of Chicago said it best in this tweet from Friday morning.
This is where I stand, even if I have to do it from outside the Church walls for a while longer. I don’t know if that’s healthy; I suspect that it’s not. But it’s where I am.
Rachel Maddow got a surprise last Sunday when she appeared on Meet The Press. During a debate about the pay gap between men and women in America, she found out that Republicans just don’t believe that the pay gap exists. They think it’s explained by men working more hours, women having more part-time jobs, and other factors. She spent a good portion of her show Monday night talking about her surprise and showing with real data that the disparity isn’t explained by those factors, and made the point that perhaps the disagreement on the facts has been a problem in the discussion of policy. After all, if Republicans think it isn’t a problem, they aren’t going to work to fix the problem. It’s a good point, one that can be brought into other areas. To wit:
For the last seven days, and through this Friday, the United Methodist Church (UMC) has been holding its big quadrennial General Conference in Tampa, Florida to talk about new legislation in the Church, decide what problems we need to focus on, and what basic tenets need to be updated, introduced, or deleted from the Book Of Discipline (BOD), the Church’s Constitution. (More information on the structure of the UMC and function of General Conference here.)
There was a bit of an uproar on Tuesday, May 1, 2012 over several items. The biggest of them, at least rhetorically, was the addition of what should be a wholly uncontroversial phrase to the BOD. Here’s the newly amended preamble, with the addition in bold:
â€œWe affirm our unity in Jesus Christ while acknowledging differences in applying our faith in different cultural contexts as we live out the Gospel. We stand united in declaring our faith that God’s love is available to all, that nothing can separate us from the love of God.”
After some contentious debate, the legislation passed, but not by much. In the end, only 53 percent of delegates agreed to add this very basic, very obvious, very scriptural, very Wesleyan affirmation of God’s love. Think of that. Nearly half of United Methodist delegates refused to affirm God’s unconditional love for everybody.
For the first time in a while, anti-gay and conservative United Methodists had to discard their usual “Gays Go Away” rhetoric and expose their true meaning: “People Who Don’t Believe Exactly What We Believe Go Away.” During the debate and the vote, the General Conference Twitter feed was filled with good people who were stunned by conservative United Methodists’ admission, stunned that in 2012 something so foundational to Methodism was even up for debate. More than one person said something to the effect of “This isn’t the UMC I know.”
Here’s the thing. This vote didn’t surprise me. At all. I figured it would pass, but it was fairly predictable to me that it was close. To be honest, I was as stunned by straight allies’ reactions to this admittedly horrifying vote as they were by the horrifying vote. This vote is the Church I’ve always known, the Church as it’s always presented itself to me.
In 1972, at the first General Conference after the 1968 merger of the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church, anti-gay language was added to Â¶ 161G, saying “The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and consider this practice incompatible with Christian teaching.” *
Ever since, for longer than I’ve been alive, progressive United Methodists have been trying to remove the anti-gay language and ever since, for longer than I’ve been alive, conservative United Methodists have been beating them back. Every now and then something gets through that almost affirms the existence and value of gay United Methodists, but it’s always accompanied by some other statement that pastors are free to discriminate against gay people, or a reaffirmation that gay people are “incompatible” with the UMC.
But the vote Tuesday morning was different. The added language was so basic that those opposing it laid bare the unvarnished rejection that anti-gay United Methodists have been lobbing at gays for 40 years. The argument against was something along the lines of “you can be separated from God by things that you do,” by which they usually mean to say “you can be separated from God by the genitals of a person you have sex with or want to have sex with or even are just attracted to.” But because the wording was so broad, it became clear that their position was unscriptural from a Methodist point of view. “You can be separated from God by things that you do” means that much of what people do all the time separates them from God’s love, and that’s just not what United Methodists believe. At least we don’t unless you’re gay, in which case we’ve believed that since 1972.
Bishop Melvin Talbert said at the 2008 General Conference that when African Americans were separated into their own segregated conference from 1939 to 1968, at least they were still connected. At least the relationships and the dialogue could continue. But the UMC has chosen for 40 years to shut the church’s door on lesbians, gays, and bisexuals **, something that hasn’t been done to any other group. That’s a special kind of attack, one that you can’t know very easily from the outside.
I’m not saying that my straight ally friends and compatriots have done something wrong. On the contrary, there are wonderful allies working very hard to make a place for gays and lesbians in the UMC. I have a feeling that before this vote, many straight allies in the UMC had honestly never had the vitriol leveled against them as it is leveled against gay people in the UMC every day. They hadn’t been on the receiving end of this kind of attack, and they were shocked to learn, just as Maddow was on Sunday, that the reality of this argument we’re having is different than they thought.
And I wept with them after the vote on Tuesday morning. No, I didn’t weep; I sobbed. I sobbed because for the first time, people working on my behalf received what gays and lesbians have been receiving from the Church for 40 years, and it hurt them. Pain, disbelief, and despair permeated the messages coming from Tampa, and the punch in the gut that I read in their messages was all too familiar. I don’t want them to feel this; it hurts to know that they do.
It sucked. It was a bad morning, one that I wouldn’t wish on anyone, and it sucked.
But my hope is that this horrible experience gave straight allies a Rachel Maddow Revelation, that it helped those fighting alongside us to understand a little better the reality LGBT Methodists live in, and that that better understanding will help them fight the battle in ways that none of us have considered before.
* The timing of this addition was not an accident. In September of that same year, the American Psychological Association removed homosexuality from their list of mental disorders. Conservatives in the UMC apparently got wind of this and wanted to affirm their disdain for gays, a statement that was previously unnecessary because we were officially considered mentally ill.
** The UMC is accidentally more accepting of transgender women and men than the rest of the LGBT community. Gender identity wasn’t a part of the original “incompatibility” clause, and being trans isn’t an official barrier to marriage rites or ordination, for example.