Houston pastor Joel Osteen and feel-good homophobia

Lakewood Church leader part of new breed who couch anti-gay teachings in forgiveness, love

Osteen.Joel

Joel Osteen

When the Michele Bachmanns or Glenn Becks of the world do their public rants about rampant homosexual perversion and the decay of American values, I’m happy to let them talk.

As painful as it is to keep the free flow of ideas going, it is important to let people fly their colors. This way you know where they stand and you get to fly your own big neon flag in response. When activists called to have the Mormon church’s tax-exempt status yanked for its role in California’s Prop 8, I took the church’s side — not because I approved of their bully tactics, but because I didn’t want to see other churches lose their right to fight for us one day.

So you’d think I’d be OK with Houston megachurch pastor Joel Osteen’s recent remarks recently to Oprah Winfrey: “I believe that homosexuality is shown as a sin in the scripture. I do.” I’m so not OK with this I almost foam at the mouth whenever I think about that nuclear white Osteen smile.

True, Osteen was just sick about having to say that we’re sinners, and almost apologized for it. He went out of his way to opine that Christians make too big a deal about homosexuality and that it’s about as sinful as being prideful or fibbing. I’m glad that my marriage only offends God somewhat.

I’ve heard that Osteen has a big gay following, and I know one of those fans well. Once I emailed him to report that Osteen called homosexuality “not God’s best” on Larry King. My friend wrote back, “Well, nobody’s perfect. You take what’s good and leave the rest.” He continues to be inspired.

Dees.Abby

Abby Dees | Thinking Out Loud

This all sounds reasonable, and you could argue that my friend was reminding me of my own professed philosophy about free speech and religion. And yet I shrieked out loud when I read his email.

The reason Fox News gets a pass but Osteen has incurred my wrath is because his message is so insidious. It’s feel-good homophobia, so couched in God-loves-you talk that Osteen avoids all responsibility for the fact that real people take his words to heart. Not everyone can “leave the rest” as my friend does.

Whenever Osteen answers the question about homosexuality he hems and haws, but always comes to the apparently painful conclusion that the Bible is unambiguous about it.

He’s quick to add that he does love gay people, welcomes them in his church, doesn’t judge, that there are worse things to be, etc. The message that it’s still a sin to be gay gets quickly obscured by smiley faces and glitter glue for hope.

Curiously, Osteen is rarely willing to take a stand on any other issues. He’s gotten criticized by the religious right for staying out of politics and being unwilling to talk about sin as much as he talks about positivity. It’s all about being “the best you can be” — God’s plan for you. When Mike Wallace asked Osteen if he thought Mormons were true Christians, he humbly responded, “I haven’t really studied them or thought about them…I just try to let God be the judge of that. I mean, I don’t know” and “I’m not one to judge the little details of it.”

Hmm. Why so vague about the folks who have an entirely different set of scriptures, but so damned clear on the disappointing truth about homosexuality? Perhaps some serious re-examination is in order.

Another pastor whose language and selective choice of issues is spookily similar to Osteen’s is the purpose-driven Rick Warren. Also a proclaimed political abstainer, he encouraged his flock to vote against same-sex marriage and has disturbing ties to the recent wave of anti-gay policies in Africa. Warren still insists that he loves gay people and works closely with “a number of gay organizations,” though no one ever asks which ones. These men are entitled to their opinions, but it’s time to call out the hypocrisy of this new breed of influential pastors who want us all to bathe in the light of God’s forgiving love. Except that LGBT people must still deny how God made them if they want “God’s best” for themselves.

California-based writer Abby Dees is the author of  ‘Queer  Questions Straight Talk.’ She can be contacted through her website QueerQuestionsStraightTalk.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 20, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

Anti-gay Rep. Sally Kern: ‘What I think doesn’t matter. What the Bible says is what counts’

Anti-gay Oklahoma State Rep. Sally Kern and Democratic opponent Brittany Novotny, a transgender woman, appeared on KFOR’s Flash Point over the weekend (video above). Novotny says on her website she wanted to have a town hall forum where she and Kern could address issues of concern to House District 84 residents, but Kern wouldn’t agree to the format. So instead they went on Flash Point. The clip is worth watching in its entirety, but here’s a snippet:

HOST: Do you have a problem with Brittany’s lifestyle, somebody who’s transitioned from a man to a woman through surgical and medicinal means?

KERN: “Well that’s a great question and I have to answer it like this with another question. As Christians are we supposed to believe and obey the Bible?  The Bible says in Psalm 139, it says God created us, he formed us in our mother’s womb, and we’re fearfully and wonderfully made. And so what I think doesn’t matter. It’s what the Bible says is what counts, and that’s what I try to live my life by. But you know the Bible also says God loves every one one of us, has a purpose and a plan for every one of us, forgives each one of us if we come to him and humbly ask his forgiveness. I can’t judge anyone’s heart and have never tried to do that, although I’ve been accused of that. But you know, it’s not the norm, I’ll just say that.”

The race between Novotny and Kern was also featured in The New York Times over the weekend, in an article about transgender candidates across the country:

Not that gender issues have not been raised in some campaigns. In the Oklahoma House race, Ms. Novotny — who had a sex change operation in 2007 — shrugged off a recent e-mail from Charlie Meadows, the chairman of a conservative political action committee, which referred to her as an “it.”

“That’s just the typical politics I would expect out of that side,” she said. “And frankly it’s what voters are tired of.”

Read the full New York Times article by going here.

—  John Wright

Paladino Asks For ‘Forgiveness’ After Anti-Gay Rant

Paladinofinger

Carl Paladino’s campaign finally got around to issuing an apology for the New York gubernatorial hopeful’s gay “brainwashing” comment on Sunday.

“I am neither perfect, nor a career politician. I have made mistakes in this campaign,” said the Republican in an email sent this afternoon, one day after taking to the television to continue pleading his anti-gay case. “I ask you for forgiveness on my poorly chosen words and the publication by others not involved with our campaign of unredacted script that did not reflect my oral statement or match my personal feelings.”

Paladino’s last remark concerns a part of the speech, written by an Orthodox rabbi for Paladino, that declared, “[There is] nothing to be proud of in being a dysfunctional homosexual.” Paladino’s decision to skip that bit garnered him praise from none other than Ann Coulter.


Towleroad News #gay

—  John Wright

Eddie Long, black gay men, and a call to action

Linus “Buster” Spiller

LINUS “BUSTER” SPILLER
busterspiller@gmail.com

With the recent allegations of sexual coercion and abuse by Bishop Eddie Long, pastor of the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church of Atlanta, toward four young men in his congregation, I have found myself dealing with a plethora of emotions, including a deep-seeded dislike of the Black church, along with my own history of childhood sexual abuse.

I know my Christian faith calls for forgiveness but this one is too close to home, in ways I won’t even discuss in this column.

The one thing that BOILS my blood is the responses of people in the Black church, who act like this thing doesn’t happen, that if we concentrate hard enough or attempt to pray it out of our consciousness, it will somehow go away. And it does go away.

The problem is, for the victims, it doesn’t go away. You go to your grave with the scars. You may learn to cope, adapt, and move on but everything you do as an adult is shaped by that abuse. It affects how you interact with males (or females, if your abuse came from them). It affects how you interact in intimate relationships with friends and family. Its affects how you function within a committed relationship or marriage. It affects how you interact with others on your job. The abuse shapes everything.

My own abuse, which happened over two years with one adult, and then happened AGAIN as a teenager the same age as these boys were by ANOTHER adult, makes me angry because as the man that I am today, I understand the emotional fallout.

Many people are not aware of this but I am also a three-time suicide survivor, the first attempt coming because I was successful as a child at suppressing the abuse memories and erasing them. But as a developing young college student, those memories returned and I couldn’t handle them, with a 1st suicide attempt as a result.

Then another suicide attempt occurred 5 years later when my growing same-sex attraction started to hover over me with a vengeance. And it happened once more, three years later. With three stints in therapy, I was finally able to make peace with it and with my parents for not protecting me. They didn’t know about the abuse but I still blamed them, common with child abuse victims.

I had the unfortunate pleasure of running into my first abuser completely by accident when visiting Detroit when I was 33 years old. I had always said if I ever ran into him, I would kill him. But guess what happened? I reverted back mentally to that young boy who was abused and all I could say to him was “you’re not as tall as I thought you were” (we were the same height by that time). He said “I’ve always been this tall” and I replied back “but when you’re a little boy looking up, you seemed like a giant.”

I also had the misfortune of being in the same predicament as the four young men as a teenager with a significantly older community advisor/chaperone like Mr. Long, who I attended oratorical contests with out of the city and state. He was also a predator who used to park outside of my house when we weren’t at these events. And I told no one out of fear.

Hopefully this situation sparks a dialogue in the Black community about sex in general, healthy sexuality, and how to discuss and address touchy issues like rape, domestic violence, sexual assault and child sexual assault. The Black community seems to function within the paradigm that sex is this “great power” we have no control over. We do. And we have to be responsible for use of that sexuality. God gave it to us as a gift and we have to stop treating it as “voodoo” that we’re completely powerless over.

My greatest wish is that black gay men will place themselves in the forefront of this dialogue because our lives are at stake. No longer can we sit in these churches silently, pay tithes, and have verbal whipping after verbal whipping heaped upon us as though we are not worthy of basic human decency, even if we have deep family ties within that church community. No longer can we freely give our time and talents in support of religious institutions that don’t extend respect in return. And no longer should we tolerate hypocritical biblical teachings by those like Long, who feel comfortable leading efforts such as his infamous 2006 march against gay marriage, yet allegedly violated the marriage covenant with his own wife according to Christian doctrine.

No more. Black gay man, are you willing to stand? Or will you be a willing participant in your own demise? The choice is yours.

Linus “Buster” Spiller is a community activist and former president of The Men’s Gathering-Dallas, a social/support organization for LBGTQ men.

—  John Wright

Come out, if not for yourself, for youth

Living in the closet may be good for your pocketbook. But it can be hell on your mental state, the lives of those around you and the future of the LGBT youth who are watching you for clues on how to live

Ken Mehlman
Ken Mehlman

Seems like we have been hearing a lot about people coming out lately. The most notable so far was Ken Mehlman, former chairman of the Republican Party. His announcement was not very surprising since there had been rumors floating since he stepped down from his job with the GOP. But it did cause a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth on both sides of the political aisle.

The folks on the left were outraged that he sought forgiveness, and the folks on the right were outraged … in general.

What his media event makes clear is the value and hazards of being “out.”

For Mehlman, his closet existence gave him free reign to work with homophobic bigots with impunity. He could walk the halls of power in the GOP, aiding his party and candidates in their systematic oppression of LGBT Americans and still get to go home and have sex with men.

The down side of that is now that he has come out, he has absolutely no “street cred” in the LGBT political scene and even less with the right wing.

That brings me to the whole process of coming out.

For me, it happened at least three times. First when I was 18, and having sex with a couple of high school friends. I finally got the nerve to tell my family and pretty much got a

“That’s nice,” and a pat on the head.

My mother was going through a lot at that period in her life so she just might not have understood what I was telling her.

The second time I came out was with my girlfriend. That’s right, girlfriend.

She and I had been living together for a while and I told her that I really liked having sex with men. Hey, it was 1971! She didn’t like that kind of competition. So I moved out, but in true ’70s fashion, we remained friends.

Shortly after, I came out again to my mother — and this time it took. She was a bit upset that she would not have grandchildren, but being the good Jewish mother, she promptly started trying to hook me up with her gay friends. Not a pleasant experience!

From that point on, I was never really in the closet again. The good thing about that is I rarely had to worry about keeping stories straight (pardon the pun) and didn’t need a beard. I could participate in political activism and actually work to achieve my own freedom and equality.

Moreover, contrary to common wisdom at the time, being out never hurt my career; I managed to do that independent of my sexuality.

When I see stories like Mr. Mehlman’s, I have a certain amount of sympathy. I understand how scary life outside the closet can be, yet I also know the insidious damage that being closeted can cause.

Had I stayed in my closet any longer, I might have gotten married and had children. Coming out after starting a family really hurts everyone; I know this from the experience of friends.

Staying in the closet may seem like a good career move. But aside from money, how soul crushing is it to have to hide who you are every day with your peers? It can’t be easy, and because of that I find it hard to be completely unsympathetic to Mehlman’s plight.

But I do understand why he is not being welcomed with open arms by the LGBT community.

If anything, his story should serve as an example of how not to come out of the closet. Waiting so late in your career and life makes it more difficult. What’s worse, it sets a bad example for young people who might look up to you.

What? Bad example? I sound like my mother, and occasionally that is a good thing.

Whether we know it or not, every one of us is constantly influencing the younger people around us. When we act in a manner that is patently duplicitous and self-serving, they notice.

It sends a message that it’s OK to lie and cheat in pursuit of your career or whatever other goal you have in mind.

That means there will be a whole generation of LGBT Americans who decide the closet is OK so long as you profit from it.

Whether we like it or not, all of us in the LGBT community have kids. They might not be biological family, but when they come into the community they look for role models — and we are what they see.

You don’t have to be rich or connected or politically astute or in a position of authority; they will find you. They watch how people who are already out manage their lives, and they model their own behavior on that example.

If that makes you nervous, that’s a good thing. Being conscious of how we live our lives can often make us examine our choices and our behavior. We don’t all have to be paragons of correctness and we don’t have to be in-your-face activists. We just need to be authentic in our loves and that means being who we are. It means being out.

So if you are out already, I salute you. Coming out is scary, difficult, joyous and liberating. It is a rite of passage to wholeness.

If you are struggling with the closet door, there are plenty of folks who can help you. Your actions, your example, might just save someone from the despair of living a lie.
Set an example for someone. Let them know it’s OK to be LGBT — or whoever they are. If you don’t do it for yourself, at least do it for our kids.


Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and a member of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas. His blog is at http://dungeondiary.blogspot.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 17, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas