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

Feedback • 10.29.10

Forget “firing” Arkansas school board member Clint McCance or simply “reprimanding” him (“Joel Burns responds to Arkansas school board member who encouraged gays to kill themselves,” Instant Tea, posted Oct. 26). He should be arrested for inciting violence.

He doesn’t understand the uproar because he actually does not believe gay people are “real” people. That is how intense his hate is.

I understand about “free speech,” but if you can’t shout fire in a crowded theater or make terrorist threats on a plane, then you shouldn’t be able to use a high school campus as a platform to tell gay kids they don’t deserve to live.

I grew up in South Arkansas, so I am very familiar with how small towns in the South can serve as a breeding ground for hate and violence against gay people. I thank God I survived. I had no one to turn to, not even my own parents, which is often the case with gay adolescents.

People in Midland who genuinely care about their young people need to march in the streets over this and take advantage of this opportunity to learn and grow and dispel the myths that cause so much hatefulness to be directed toward young gay people. Children do not “turn gay” or “choose to be gay” or “become gay.” They are just gay, and terrified to be honest about it around people who have a lynch mob mentality. And sadly, it is the adults who claim to be Christians who actually pass these violent ideologies and misinformation on to their children.

These comments would never be acceptable if they were spoken about heterosexual students, so why are they accepted when they’re directed at our young gay students? Slap some handcuffs on this person immediately and find something to charge him with — even if he just has to sit in jail overnight — and send a loud and clear message to students on the brink of suicide that Midland School District unequivocally does not tolerate this hate speech and before another amazing student decides jumping off a bridge tonight would be better than going to class tomorrow.

Randy in Dallas

—  Kevin Thomas

BREAKING: Government to request stay of injunction halting enfocement of DADT

The U.S. Department of Justice was expected to ask a federal judge on Thursday afternoon to allow the military to continue enforcing “don’t ask don’t tell” pending the government’s appeal of a September ruling declaring the policy unconstitutional.

U.S. District Court Judge Virginia Phillips issued an injunction Tuesday, Oct. 12 ordering the Department of Defense to halt enforcement of DADT worldwide. In September, Phillips ruled that DADT violates servicemembers’ constitutional rights to free speech and due process.

The DOJ plans to appeal Phillips’ ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and on Thursday government lawyers were expected to request a stay of the injunction pending the appeal, according to The Advocate. The appeal must be filed within 60 days.

If Phillips doesn’t grant their request for a stay, DOJ attorneys likely will ask for an emergency stay from the appeals court.

—  John Wright

Lt. governor candidates low key on LGBT issues

Dewhurst lists fiscal responsibility as a top issue; Chavez-Thompson says she is focusing on education

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

ON THE ISSUES | Although the candidates for Texas lieutenant governor have been relatively quiet on LGBT issues, a few key statements give an indication on where they stand. Republican incumbent David Dewhurst, left, chimed in to help cancel a student production of the gay-themed play “Corpus Christi” last spring. Linda Chavez-Thompson, the Democratic challenger, Tweeted her support for equality when a judge overturned California’s Proposition 8.

LGBT issues are not playing a big role in the race for Texas lieutenant governor between Republican incumbent David Dewhurst and Democratic challenger Linda Chavez-Thompson.

Neither candidate addresses LGBT issues on their website. But while neither campaign returned phone calls from Dallas Voice seeking comment for this story, a Tweet and a recent incident give an indication of their positions.

Dewhurst played a role in last spring’s controversy over the production of the play “Corpus Christi” at Tartleton State University in Stephenville.

“No one should have the right to use government funds or institutions to portray acts that are morally reprehensible to the vast majority of Americans,” Dewhurst said in a written statement.

In later praising the university for canceling the performance, he claimed he was “a strong defender of free speech.”

Chavez-Thompson has taken a more LGBT-friendly stance.

After the Proposition 8 decision was handed down in California, she Tweeted her reaction to the ruling: “So glad to hear Prop 8 was overturned today. It was discrimination at its worst. I will keep fighting for equality for all Texans.”

Dallas County Democratic Party Chair Darling Ewing said she believes Chavez-Thompson would be an ally to the LGBT community.

“Linda comes from an immigrant family, a poor family,” said Ewing. “On equality, she’ll be right on the issues.”

Dewhurst has been lieutenant governor since 2003 and is running for a third term. He was first elected to statewide office in 1998 as commissioner of the General Land Office of Texas.

On his website, Dewhurst prominently displays a “Petition to Repeal Obamacare” directly under his “Take Action” call for volunteers for his campaign.

Under a pull down list of issues, health care is first. While he claims that an overwhelming majority of people oppose the “2,000-plus page, $1.2 trillion, health care overhaul” and estimates the new law will add $27 billion in costs to taxpayers, he proposes no solution to the lack of health coverage by Texans.

“He isn’t in favor of health care,” Ewing said. “He’s only interested in not paying for it.”

Dewhurst’s other top issues are fiscal responsibility, border security and property rights. He believes the federal government has not stopped the flow of illegal drugs and immigrants into Texas, and he says Texas has stepped in to enhance border security. He does not, however, propose an Arizona-type immigration law for the state.

Chavez-Thompson lists jobs and education as her top issues.

“The state has dropped the ball on education,” Ewing said. “It’s all about saving a buck. They’ve made college education a luxury. The cost of a college education today is ridiculous.”

Chavez-Thompson also addresses the health care debate on her website, saying, “Today, rising health care costs has forced too many Texas families to go without insurance.”

Chavez-Thompson spent most of her career working her way up through union ranks. When she was chosen to serve as the executive vice president of the AFL-CIO, she was the first woman and the first person of color to hold that position.

President Bill Clinton appointed Chavez-Thompson to serve on his Race Advisory Board and on the President’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities. Today, she is vice chair of the Democratic National Committee.

“I think what she brings us is a workingman’s perspective,” Ewing said. “Because of her union history, she brings bargaining skills that would bring groups together.”

Local Republicans did not return calls or offered no comment for this article.

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

—  Michael Stephens

Gay activist protests evangelical preacher's fine for hate speech

Tatchell
Peter Tatchell

Peter Tatchell is, arguably, the United Kingdom’s most visible, most vocal and most recognized LGBT rights activist. He has been a gay activist since the early 1970s. He is the co-founder of the United Kingdom’s OutRage! and is known for protesting against the U.K.’s former law criminalizing homosexuality, and against the Church of England and the Catholic Church, among other issues. He was arrested in Moscow for participating in a gay Pride event that had been banned by the mayor, and he even tried — twice — to perform a citizen’s arrest on anti-gay Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe.

In other words, you wouldn’t ever expect to see Tatchell taking sides with an anti-gay evangelical Christian preacher. But that’s just what he’s doing.

Shawn Holes, a Baptist street preacher from New York, has been fine more than $1,500 for an incident earlier this month in Glasgow, Scotland, when he stood on a street corner telling passersby that, “Homosexuals are deserving of the wrath of God — and so are all other sinners — and they are going to a place called hell.”

Holes admitted in court that he breached the peace by “uttering homophobic remarks” that were “aggravated by religious prejudice.”

But Tatchell says that Holes was not inciting violence against gays, that the punishment is way out of line, and that officials should concentrate on prosecuting real hate crimes instead of wasting time and money prosecuting people like Holes.

Tatchell said: “Shawn Holes is obviously homophobic and should not be insulting people with his anti-gay tirades. He should be challenged and people should protest against his intolerance. However, in a democratic, free society it is wrong to prosecute him. Criminalisation is not appropriate. The price of freedom of speech is that we sometimes have to put up with opinions that are objectionable and offensive.”

Tatchell also said he would have gone to court to testify on Holes’ behalf if he had known about the case in time.

The prosecution of Shawn Holes for preaching his personal religious beliefs is a prime example, unfortunately, of justthe kind of thing that right-wingers here in the U.S. warned of when they were speaking out against the federal hate crimes law. Their religion teaches them that homosexuality is sinful, and as long as they do not advocate violence against LGBT people, they have the right to believe what they want and talk about their beliefs to others.

And we in the LGBT community have to remember, if we try to abridge the free speech rights of our opponents, then we are putting our own free speech rights in jeopardy.

As Evelyn Beatrice Hall — or was it Voltaire? — once said: “I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

—  admin