Saturday, January 09, 2010

A Churchillian Fortitude

 







 
Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.
Sir Winston Churchill, Speech in November 1942
William Rivers Pitt is having trouble finding a sense of measurable accomplishment after ten years of hard work in the front lines. I empathize and concur, to a degree. He starts out thus:

t r u t h o u t | Go:
"I've been writing about unbelievably bad news for more than a decade now, so when the New Year came around this time, I made up my mind to try and come up with something to write about that was optimistic, positive, more upbeat, or something."
But in the end he finally comes to this conclusion:

The Left has done some truly amazing things in the last ten years, things that took great effort, concentration, passion and will. The need for those qualities did not evaporate with the election of the "good guys." Indeed, those qualities are needed more than ever before.
In passing, he noted:

The Left has a reputation, partially deserved, for being a motley collection of scatterbrained, cause-of-the-week, ego junkies who never really get anything done. But I saw what the Left was able to do when confronted with the criminal ambitions of the Bush administration, and it didn't stop after the war got going. Groups sprung up in every corner of the country and kept the heat on until they made a difference. Whatever one may think about the Democratic Party today, there is no doubt the fortunes of that party were turned in 2006 and 2008 because of the tireless efforts of millions of people to push popular opinion and understanding away from the yawning precipice of national neoconservatism.


 Mr. Pitt, no movement of any sort has ever succeeded by internalizing the labels their enemies give them. I would say, further, that the spontanious, individually directed, cause-oriented and - yes - ego-driven activists, all loosely networked in spontainous communities, each understanding that such alliances are defined by the task at hand, and NOT definitive of some overarching "cause" they must ascribe to in order to be "permitted" the "privilidge" of joining a march, stuffing envelopes or writing a blog is precisely what has carried this day.

Sir, if you are a pessimist, I'm the greater one. And the fight has been longer and bloodier and more discouraging than you care to define. Personally, I mark the beginning of it with the election of Ronald Regan. And from that point, all that has happened has been pretty much what I expected, save not quite so immediately catastrophically as I had expected.

And this has been due to some very damn skillful guerrilla action, which would have certainly have been defeated had the counter-moves been expected.

Let us speak for a moment of the entire concept of asymmetrical warfare. The goal is not to "win" - it is to delay, to disrupt, to disaffect - to give the enemy time and space and conditions under which they will generate their own failure. It really is about "hearts and minds," folks. And the greatest part of the battle is getting the enemy to show their true selves, their genuine feelings and ultimate motivations.

It's been alleged that Ronald Regan was secretly a member of the John Birch Society. It's one of those easy allegations that is probably not in the least true - but it's also quite beside the point, because he certainly acted in ways and in collaboration with people who shared the core understandings and furthered the goals of the John Birch Society.

And we must also observe that there has been a concerted effort - from the eighties on - to place "stealth zealots" into public office, where they will vote and act in accordance to Dominionst Evangelical principles, without the slightest regard to the the goals they claim to be working toward. And we all know what this led to; the sort of preference for idiological purity over professional competence that gave us the Iraq war as it was and the aftermath of Katrina as it still is.

So, we have been fighting a guerrilla war against covert warriors - a covert mirror of the overt proxy wars fought in places such as Nicaragua and Columbia - where the real goal was not the liberation or freedom of the people, but who would control them in the name of what ideology. And gradually, one of the emergent prizes of the battle, a great and largely unrecognized victory, is that the "right" to control other people is not just something to be contensted, but is an idea that absolutely must be contested in it's own right. For when it's a fight between the left hand and the right hand, everyone in the middle gets screwed.

It's not just because the Right is wrong about having such a right - it's utterly wrong in asserting that it's even possible, and that the difference in outcome between what it's stated and sincerely held principles suggest and the outcomes that happen every time they are applied to a protesting population attests without exception - people do as they will, and at the very best, can be persuaded at great expense and pain to visibly conform in public, while quite likely doing something else in private that ultamately leads to far greater ills than those supposedly "cured" by whatever simplistic moralistic wild hair was induldged upon us.

I might easily cite Prohibition, a folly of the Left. Or arguably, the folly of The Great Society and the lunar landscapes and Stalinist Modern Projects left in it's wake. Oh, but their intentions were so noble!

Then there's the whole issue of Reproductive Choice, or the unanticipated fallout of "Abstinence Only" education, which has not affected teen pregnancy but has substantially contributed to the rise in sexually transmitted disease. 

But these bad outcomes are dismissed as being unimportant, the results of sins, an acceptable cost of upholding some nebulous and indefinable "principle."Apparently the Left in North America has learned it's lesson, that you can't force people to behave in ways they won't, even if it is for their own good - which it probably isn't.

The strength - or at least the great blessing - of the modern "Left" is that there IS no single defining ideology, and therefore the only thing that may unite "the left" is an agreement about particular circumstances, particular facts and particular problems that demand at the very least the cessation of old policies and perhaps some new, more pragmatic ones. The issue of Marajuana and the outcome of the whole Drug War is one conspicuous example illustrating some very strange bedfellows, from old and very Liberal hippies to Randian Libertarians to law enforcement professionals.

One thing is for sure, when you see old Communists putting aside their sectarian issues and marching together with Anarchists (their natural enemies) in concert with Liberal Christians, Union Activists, militant athiests, feminists, pro-choicers and environmental activists - people with extraordinarily divergent views and priorities - you can be reasonably certain that what they each see as being a problem from their various perspectives is INDEED a problem, and anyone who lumps them all together as "libtards" is not just ignorant of the issue, but is in fact likely some personification of the issue - or profiting from it.

Needless to say, the only way any large group of opposition to issues of the day can coelece and persist in the face of reality is by focusing on one particular commonality, while accepting as a given that some will be on the other side of the line on other issues, and that diversity is to be celebrated, rather than demonized.

And it's empowered by the Internet, which I think can be stated as being, arguably, on the front line of disorganized dissent and unlikely alliances since it's very inception and spread through Government and those bastions of Godless Liberalism - Universities.

A person who understands this has no difficulty with the ACLU or the Annenburg Foundation's Factcheck.org - but on the neoconservative/Dominionist Right - all must agree about everything, or they are apostates, while none within the tent may be criticised at all (save when they are cast into the Outer Darkeness.)

Now, one thing Mr. Pitt may or may not have noticed, but the opposition to a centrist consensus about certain "litmus test" issues held dear by the Right has become increasingly unhinged, it's arguments increasingly paranoid, it's reliance on conspiracy theory and outright lies becoming it's primary mode, it's online and print proponents becoming less and less capable of coherent argument. This is also a victory. You see, it is, as I said above, a war for the hearts and minds of people - in the United States, of course, but indeed within the Americas and the world as a whole.

And in the United States, we are now beginning to see the contents of the hearts and the quality of the minds shrieking that we must all comply with their paranoid and infintile dribblings.




There's yet much to be done - but one by one by one, we must take back the organizations and structures that they have polluted, the school boards, the charities, the political organizations, the precincts - and I don't just mean "along partisan lines." They need to be taken away from the crazy people, by sane people of all political and religious persuasions.

From what I see out there, from the near absence of intelligable voices from the Right - when it used to be the core of political intellect, councelling against emotionalism and populism as the greatest enemies of democratic representative republics - there are a whole lot of utterly disgusted Conservatives trying to pretend it will all go away.

Well, it won't. Not without your help, ladies and gentlemen. And if you fear being called a Liberal or a "RINO" for your stances - remember, you are being called that by people capable of calling Obama a Communist and a Nazi in the same paragraph. What they really mean is "poopy-head," and all it shows is that they are simply not capable of behaving as functional, responsible adults in public places.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

That's mighty white of you, Dale!

H/t to Skippy for this one:

The Washington Independent brings us this moment of revelatory hilarity, in which it is revealed that "All it takes to start a new meeting is resentment and a pot of tea."

Dale Robertson, a Tea Party activist who operates TeaParty.org, is getting stung for an old photo — taken at the Feb. 27, 2009 Tea Party in Houston — in which he holds a sign reading “Congress = Slaveowner, Taxpayer = Niggar.”

After the ResistNet listerv promoted “Liberty Concerts” to be held by TeaParty.org, a source passed on this photo of Robertson, after the jump.

Update: Josh Parker of the Houston Tea Party Society tells me that Robertson was booted out of the event for this sign.
So, if I'm parsing this correctly; rather than accepting that the movement is not helped by the growing perception that the Teabagging movement is composed largely gullible white trash blessed with a command of social graces as sophisticated as their english skills, Dale Robertson thinks the appropriate response is to start up his OWN teabagging org to properly represent "real umurikins just laik him."

Well, I'm sure the John Birch Society, the Council of Concerned Citizens and the Hammerskins view this as a positive development. 

Tell ya what, bunkie, I know where you ouggta be handing out your fliers. You'll feel right welcome here!

Monday, January 04, 2010

I'm Canadian; I Have No Time For This Bullshit

Ole Ole Olson, writing at News Junkie Post concludes (with graphs!) that what folks like me have been saying all along is true; that the bullshit to the right of us is so deep that you need a diving suit and a support vessel to find any useful nugget of truth. And to the left - well, it's still a challenge, but you don't need life-support.

Now, I'm probably too stubborn for my own good, still shouting out from time to time that I am, indeed a Conservative. An anti-authoritarian, to be sure. A minarchist to a degree. Occasionally I add that I'm a "Progressive Conservative," just to add a Canadian tinge of irony to my quixotic insistence on upholding the values of Burke, moderated by a good span of practice that has given us many ideas that seem well worth preserving. On occasion, this has been in the face of our dearest instincts and assumptions about economics and human nature.

But to a genuine Conservative, facts are facts and the truth is the truth. When something works, it works, and if it works despite your philosophy, it's your philosophy that must adapt.

Pro vs. Con. Are Both to Blame?
These blatant examples of conservative truthiness and propaganda will of course be dismissed by my critics on the right as nothing more than a biased partisan analysis in and of itself. They will try to claim that both sides do it, that it is only politics. Unfortunately, much of the public will again believe this, despite what the truth is. So let’s examine that premise. Does equal fault lie in the pro vs con debate?
When comparing the progressive and conservative sides of the political spectrum, we find that there is not a parallel. This is not just politics. Although there are certainly too many instances of distortions coming from the left, it appears to be the exception to the rule instead of the rule itself. According to an analysis of the date provided by Politifact, the non-partisan fact checking organization devoted to evaluate the truth behind the claims of politicians and important spokesman for the parties and political ideologies, there is a clear differentiation here.
Politifact Truthometer pro vs con
As you can see, 40% of the claims made by conservative spokesman are lies, nearly double the rate of progressives. Only 30% of their claims are mostly true, compared to 50% progressives. Of course, these numbers may be tilted slightly by the disproportional numbers of compulsive liars in the conservative movement like Michelle Bachmann, Glenn Beck, and John Boehner, but a clear pattern is still present.
Predictably, whenever any person or organization speaks out against right wing truthiness, they are usually subject to a character assassination campaign or at least verbally attacked. Despite their non-partisan nature, Politifact has not been immune from this assault. Besides Politifact, there have been attacks on Factcheck.org (even though they are owned by the conservative Annenberg Foundation), fivethirtyeight, NPR, Snopes, and even the CBO (nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office). Conservatives even started their own Wikipedia competitor to counter this imaginary liberal bias called Conservapedia, which contains such gems as:
“An apparent Muslim, Obama could use the Koran when he is sworn into office.”
“Liberals support the legalisation of marijuana and other drugs, which are major causes of psychiatric illnesses”
“studies have long indicated that homosexuals have a substantially greater risk of suffering from psychiatric problems”
“…pairs of each dinosaur kind were taken onto Noah’s Ark during the Great Flood and were preserved from drowning”
“All the prevailing, atheistic theories of the origin of the Moon were completely disproved by the lunar landings and studies of the lunar rocks afterwards.”
This seems to be a pattern among conservative websites in general, as well as with media outlets such as talk radio and Fox News, the latter having organization such as Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR) and Media Matters (MMFA) focused exclusively on debunking the truthiness.
The reasons for the contrast between progressives and conservatives are still unclear. There have been a couple interesting psychological reports released in the last couple years, one which demonstrates that conservatives are more prone to bow to strong authority figures. Another indicates that:
a specific region of the brain’s cortex is more sensitive in people who consider themselves liberals than in self-declared conservatives. The brain region in question helps people shift gears when their usual response would be inappropriate, supporting the notion that liberals are more flexible in their thinking.”
Of course, as the case with non-partisan or bipartisan organizations who speak out negatively about them, conservatives are sure to dismiss or attack the results of these findings. This might explain why only 6% of all the scientists in the US are Republican (usually the party of conservatives in America). From the crowd estimates at Becks 912 rally to health care reform, from science to the birther movement, conservatives tend to believe that a ‘truth’ is known intuitively. It is something “from the gut” without regard to evidence, logic, intellectual examination, or facts.
Now, let's read that last paragraph again. We have left the realm of politics. There is no "left or right" here. There is no possible way to intelligently discuss the merits of a free market solution to Health Care Reform, as opposed to, say, a Social-Welfare or a Mixed-Economic approach with people who lie and gibber. Indeed, we cannot even seem to have a sensible discussion as to what a good outcome would look like, when the most influential Conservatives seem incapable of comparing their delusional assumptions to actual, real, publicly available numbers.

Support for the food stamp program reached a nadir in the mid-1990s when critics, likening the benefit to cash welfare, won significant restrictions and sought even more. But after use plunged for several years, President Bill Clinton began promoting the program, in part as a way to help the working poor. President George W. Bush expanded that effort, a strategy Mr. Obama has embraced.

The revival was crowned last year with an upbeat change of name. What most people still call food stamps is technically the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.
By the time the recession began, in December 2007, “the whole message around this program had changed,” said Stacy Dean of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a Washington group that has supported food stamp expansions. “The general pitch was, ‘This program is here to help you.’ ”

Now nearly 12 percent of Americans receive aid — 28 percent of blacks, 15 percent of Latinos and 8 percent of whites. Benefits average about $130 a month for each person in the household, but vary with shelter and child care costs.

In the promotion of the program, critics see a sleight of hand.

“Some people like to camouflage this by calling it a nutrition program, but it’s really not different from cash welfare,” said Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation, whose views have a following among conservatives on Capitol Hill. “Food stamps is quasi money.”

Arguing that aid discourages work and marriage, Mr. Rector said food stamps should contain work requirements as strict as those placed on cash assistance. “The food stamp program is a fossil that repeats all the errors of the war on poverty,” he said.

Now, to call the restrictions on US welfare "mean spirited" would be a conservative understatement indeed. But aside from that, any time you have 12 percent of your population in need of extra food, it's not due to a sudden epidemic of laziness. It's because there's insufficient work. That is rather obviously true from other indicators.

And yet, Mr. Rector is one of many delusional sorts that are of the opinion that if you or your children become hungry enough, somehow a Job will Appear from On High - despite, of course, the obdurate opposition of folks who fund the Heritage Foundation to actually doing anything that might actually create those jobs.

The idea that if a person is Virtuous, a Job will Appear, and if they are Not Virtuous, they deserve nothing at all (and they are proven Not Virtuous by the fact that they are jobless and starving) is a peculiar and vicious artifact of the Calvinist poison that has infected our body politic. Recall, it IS an article of faith. It has no foundation in fact at all.

Oh, and of course, let us not forget that in the hindbrains of these xenophobic approximations of humanity, the term "poor" and "black" is interchangeable. Indeed, the very idea that a black man could be successful, deserving of any outcome other than a life of miserable toil and obscurity is an affront to them.

When exceptions happen - well, see for yourself:

Via the BBC: The US Secret Service says it is investigating after an effigy of Barack Obama was found hanging in the home town of former President Jimmy Carter.

 TV footage showed the doll hanging by a noose in front of a red, white and blue sign that reads "Plains, Georgia. Home of Jimmy Carter, our 39th President".

Witnesses said the effigy had President Obama's name on it.
Plains Mayor LE Godwin III said the fire department had been called to take it down.
In Washington, US Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan confirmed that the agency was investigating the case.

Footage on local television station, WALB, showed a large black doll hanging over the sign, which is located above a shop on the main street in the rural town.


Residents who saw it thought the effigy must have put in place during the night, WALB reports.
One Plains resident said the Secret Service had already interviewed local people.

"We wish it hadn't happened. It's not the kind of publicity the town of Plains likes," Jan Williams, who runs a hotel, was quoted as saying by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

She described Plains, which has a population of fewer than 700 people, as a "nice, quiet town".

...clearly, some remarkable exceptions to "nice" exist.

But, back to the dangerously "liberal" presumption that feeding hungry people is an inherent good.

It takes a remarkable lack of common sense and compassion to think that the average person would abandon all hope and ambition in exchange for a hundred thirty bucks worth of groceries. Aside from being delusional, it is vile. And facing attitudes such as that, it's really no wonder at all to me that a significant fraction of the American people prefer the risk of jail to the prospect of starvation. But then, all black/poor people are criminals, aren't they? Might as well just get ahead of the curve!

Would I grow pot, smuggle meth, steal cars or participate in a gang, if the alternative to starving alone in an alleyway in a cardboard box? If course. So would you. And hell, we are speaking of the foundations of civilization. People "ganged together" to ensure their mutual survival. If you exclude people from belonging to the "Ahumurikin" gang - because "poor people" don't deserve to belong - they won't just starve politely. They will band together to mess you up, take your stuff and, ultimately, do unto y'all what the Vandals and Visigoths did to Rome. And you will deserve it.

If you want to keep people from taking "illegitimate" jobs, you have a damn obvious responsibility to make sure that legitimate ones are plentiful.  Domestically. Indonesia and China can take care of their OWN damn poor people.

I do hope (and rather expect) that some fraction of the karma these people have earned by mindlessly forestalling sane public policy and any humane approach to poverty, health care, the economy and a thriving, job-creating middle class will come directly home to roost in a way where the casual relationship is personally, directly and unavoidably instructive.

Let's start with the obvious sociopaths.



When such people are underfoot,  it makes developing a sane or sensible public policy position about anything impossible. So the first step is to stop wasting any time upon them. They are some combination of evil and stupid, and it's up to them to figure out how to behave in public among civilized people. We certainly need not treat their spew as if it made sense.

Take John Shelby Spong on that point. In his manifesto, he was quite blunt about where he sees his duties, and they don't include any necessity to entertain the missaprention of vicious, mean-spirited fools.
The battle in both our culture and our church to rid our souls of this dying prejudice is finished. A new consciousness has arisen. A decision has quite clearly been made. Inequality for gay and lesbian people is no longer a debatable issue in either church or state. Therefore, I will from this moment on refuse to dignify the continued public expression of ignorant prejudice by engaging it. I do not tolerate racism or sexism any longer. From this moment on, I will no longer tolerate our culture’s various forms of homophobia. I do not care who it is who articulates these attitudes or who tries to make them sound holy with religious jargon.

I have been part of this debate for years, but things do get settled and this issue is now settled for me. I do not debate any longer with members of the “Flat Earth Society” either. I do not debate with people who think we should treat epilepsy by casting demons out of the epileptic person; I do not waste time engaging those medical opinions that suggest that bleeding the patient might release the infection. I do not converse with people who think that Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans as punishment for the sin of being the birthplace of Ellen DeGeneres or that the terrorists hit the United Sates on 9/11 because we tolerated homosexual people, abortions, feminism or the American Civil Liberties Union. I am tired of being embarrassed by so much of my church’s participation in causes that are quite unworthy of the Christ I serve or the God whose mystery and wonder I appreciate more each day. Indeed I feel the Christian Church should not only apologize, but do public penance for the way we have treated people of color, women, adherents of other religions and those we designated heretics, as well as gay and lesbian people.

Life moves on. As the poet James Russell Lowell once put it more than a century ago: “New occasions teach new duties, Time makes ancient good uncouth.” I am ready now to claim the victory. I will from now on assume it and live into it. I am unwilling to argue about it or to discuss it as if there are two equally valid, competing positions any longer. The day for that mentality has simply gone forever.
He's speaking toward the fight over the exclusion of homosexuals from the body of the Church, but to me it's all of a piece.



It's the same people, with the same little minds and the same fear-ridden dispositions who demand that middle-eastern males be strip-searched, that howl that the application of the Constitution and the Rule of law will result in the inevitable fall of Civilization, who insist that the genome be purged of such inferior stock as myself, for fear of... what? They don't know. But in every single case, they use "toleration" and "compassion" as if they were words even worse than "motherfucker" or even "liberal" while claiming a religious right to impose their will on those of us who think being kind to one another IS a fundamental "Principle."

"Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you." I believe that IS how it goes?

And in point of fact, in my experience, after fifty odd years of life, I've learned that that approach to life works very well indeed, particularly when coupled to a strong acquired allergy to lies and self-delusion. "As you have sown, so shall ye reap," so I'm careful about what seed I buy, from whom, and I'm very attached to facts. I've learned that operating on a basis of wishful thinking can have embarrassing, if not starkly dangerous outcomes. So I've come to love facts - whether I particularly LIKE the facts in hand or not.

Now, let's get back to my Canadian Progressive Conservatism. I'm a typical Canadian in many respects. I am attached to the middle of the road. I do not hark back to a glorious past - because I'm conversant with history, which includes many more lice and bedbugs and far fewer unalloyed glories than the magical thinkers would suggest. I value a stately progress of Civilization. I adore such things as railroads, the Enlightenment and indoor plumbing. I particularly revere the remarkably successful collision of fate that is Canada, a chimerical construct that is neither Conservative nor Liberal, but spots of each and each most treasured where those sorts of ideas and the minds that hold them do the most good.

We have very LIBERAL welfare and medical care. We have extraordinarily CONSERVATIVE banking laws. And the reason we have both - and will continue to have both - is in great part due to the horrible examples provided by our neighbors, who have achieved the exact opposite.

That is not because we are free of such fools. We just don't allow them to speak with the expectation that their ideas are "just as good as anybody's." If they have ideas "just as good" they could prove it. Indeed, our current government is arguably Conservative, though it's starting to try my patience. 

Honest causes and honorable persons need neither lies nor bullshit - nor do they tolerate them on either side of the issue. That is part of the secret to maintaining a civil society - tolerance up to the point incivility makes civility an unsustainable prospect.


So don't listen to known and famous liars. It's a waste of time you could spend far better in almost any imaginable way.

Our society, our nation - in concert with many other civilized nations that value jusctice, human rights and compassion as being fundamental and unquestionable positive values - thrives. Canada IS her people, and her people are Canada. All of them. Even those such as I.

We are neither bankrupt nor are we enslaved. Indeed, the average Canadian enjoys a greater degree of practical freedom and an arguably better standard of living than the average American - and we certainly enjoy a far higher assurance of personal security and safety, at a far lower price in blood and treasure. That is due in part to the fact that those of us who do deal directly with issues of national security are expected to live in full contact with reality. Ordinary citizens may enjoy the luxury of wishful and uncritical thinking. People who's job it is to govern and defend our nation may not permit themselves more "preferential reality" than what is humanly unavoidable.


Perhaps due to that conservative preference for fact over fancy, we are rather more reluctant to blow people up more or less at random as one of our "principles" of foreign policy. This is - I assure you - quite unrelated to the concept of "liberal squeamishness." It's a very conservative reluctance to add a very large number of unaccountable random factors to a situation. This is the entire REASON for "due process."

Aside from that, we believe that even dangerous people with whom we disagree with on many levels nonetheless have both inherent human rights and some - albeit self-limited - inherent value to society, and that any limitation is best addressed with deliberation, and certainly with every consideration toward the feelings and concerns of those, who, due to family or other ties, may feel affection or obligation toward them.

Or to misquote the Mythbusters. "We are professionals. But you really might want to try this at home."

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Bishop Spong Calls An End To The Matter

 
No Fishy Whining button

Via Tildology, a fine rant that shall become the pattern for a Stock Response Regarding A Number of Matters that, like the issue of Gay Rights, are not issues for decent persons of informed conscience, regardless of their political preferences.

The Manifesto of John Shelby Spong

October 15, 2009

A Manifesto! The Time Has Come!

I have made a decision. I will no longer debate the issue of homosexuality in the church with anyone. I will no longer engage the biblical ignorance that emanates from so many right-wing Christians about how the Bible condemns homosexuality, as if that point of view still has any credibility. I will no longer discuss with them or listen to them tell me how homosexuality is “an abomination to God,” about how homosexuality is a “chosen lifestyle,” or about how through prayer and “spiritual counseling” homosexual persons can be “cured.” Those arguments are no longer worthy of my time or energy. I will no longer dignify by listening to the thoughts of those who advocate “reparative therapy,” as if homosexual persons are somehow broken and need to be repaired. I will no longer talk to those who believe that the unity of the church can or should be achieved by rejecting the presence of, or at least at the expense of, gay and lesbian people. I will no longer take the time to refute the unlearned and undocumentable claims of certain world religious leaders who call homosexuality “deviant.” I will no longer listen to that pious sentimentality that certain Christian leaders continue to employ, which suggests some version of that strange and overtly dishonest phrase that “we love the sinner but hate the sin.” That statement is, I have concluded, nothing more than a self-serving lie designed to cover the fact that these people hate homosexual persons and fear homosexuality itself, but somehow know that hatred is incompatible with the Christ they claim to profess, so they adopt this face-saving and absolutely false statement. I will no longer temper my understanding of truth in order to pretend that I have even a tiny smidgen of respect for the appalling negativity that continues to emanate from religious circles where the church has for centuries conveniently perfumed its ongoing prejudices against blacks, Jews, women and homosexual persons with what it assumes is “high-sounding, pious rhetoric.” The day for that mentality has quite simply come to an end for me. I will personally neither tolerate it nor listen to it any longer. The world has moved on, leaving these elements of the Christian Church that cannot adjust to new knowledge or a new consciousness lost in a sea of their own irrelevance. They no longer talk to anyone but themselves. I will no longer seek to slow down the witness to inclusiveness by pretending that there is some middle ground between prejudice and oppression. There isn’t. Justice postponed is justice denied. That can be a resting place no longer for anyone. An old civil rights song proclaimed that the only choice awaiting those who cannot adjust to a new understanding was to “Roll on over or we’ll roll on over you!” Time waits for no one.

I will particularly ignore those members of my own Episcopal Church who seek to break away from this body to form a “new church,” claiming that this new and bigoted instrument alone now represents the Anglican Communion. Such a new ecclesiastical body is designed to allow these pathetic human beings, who are so deeply locked into a world that no longer exists, to form a community in which they can continue to hate gay people, distort gay people with their hopeless rhetoric and to be part of a religious fellowship in which they can continue to feel justified in their homophobic prejudices for the rest of their tortured lives. Church unity can never be a virtue that is preserved by allowing injustice, oppression and psychological tyranny to go unchallenged.

In my personal life, I will no longer listen to televised debates conducted by “fair-minded” channels that seek to give “both sides” of this issue “equal time.” I am aware that these stations no longer give equal time to the advocates of treating women as if they are the property of men or to the advocates of reinstating either segregation or slavery, despite the fact that when these evil institutions were coming to an end the Bible was still being quoted frequently on each of these subjects. It is time for the media to announce that there are no longer two sides to the issue of full humanity for gay and lesbian people. There is no way that justice for homosexual people can be compromised any longer.

I will no longer act as if the Papal office is to be respected if the present occupant of that office is either not willing or not able to inform and educate himself on public issues on which he dares to speak with embarrassing ineptitude. I will no longer be respectful of the leadership of the Archbishop of Canterbury, who seems to believe that rude behavior, intolerance and even killing prejudice is somehow acceptable, so long as it comes from third-world religious leaders, who more than anything else reveal in themselves the price that colonial oppression has required of the minds and hearts of so many of our world’s population. I see no way that ignorance and truth can be placed side by side, nor do I believe that evil is somehow less evil if the Bible is quoted to justify it. I will dismiss as unworthy of any more of my attention the wild, false and uninformed opinions of such would-be religious leaders as Pat Robertson, James Dobson, Jerry Falwell, Jimmy Swaggart, Albert Mohler, and Robert Duncan. My country and my church have both already spent too much time, energy and money trying to accommodate these backward points of view when they are no longer even tolerable.

I make these statements because it is time to move on. The battle is over. The victory has been won. There is no reasonable doubt as to what the final outcome of this struggle will be. Homosexual people will be accepted as equal, full human beings, who have a legitimate claim on every right that both church and society have to offer any of us. Homosexual marriages will become legal, recognized by the state and pronounced holy by the church. “Don’t ask, don’t tell” will be dismantled as the policy of our armed forces. We will and we must learn that equality of citizenship is not something that should ever be submitted to a referendum. Equality under and before the law is a solemn promise conveyed to all our citizens in the Constitution itself. Can any of us imagine having a public referendum on whether slavery should continue, whether segregation should be dismantled, whether voting privileges should be offered to women? The time has come for politicians to stop hiding behind unjust laws that they themselves helped to enact, and to abandon that convenient shield of demanding a vote on the rights of full citizenship because they do not understand the difference between a constitutional democracy, which this nation has, and a “mobocracy,” which this nation rejected when it adopted its constitution. We do not put the civil rights of a minority to the vote of a plebiscite.

I will also no longer act as if I need a majority vote of some ecclesiastical body in order to bless, ordain, recognize and celebrate the lives and gifts of gay and lesbian people in the life of the church. No one should ever again be forced to submit the privilege of citizenship in this nation or membership in the Christian Church to the will of a majority vote.

The battle in both our culture and our church to rid our souls of this dying prejudice is finished. A new consciousness has arisen. A decision has quite clearly been made. Inequality for gay and lesbian people is no longer a debatable issue in either church or state. Therefore, I will from this moment on refuse to dignify the continued public expression of ignorant prejudice by engaging it. I do not tolerate racism or sexism any longer. From this moment on, I will no longer tolerate our culture’s various forms of homophobia. I do not care who it is who articulates these attitudes or who tries to make them sound holy with religious jargon.

I have been part of this debate for years, but things do get settled and this issue is now settled for me. I do not debate any longer with members of the “Flat Earth Society” either. I do not debate with people who think we should treat epilepsy by casting demons out of the epileptic person; I do not waste time engaging those medical opinions that suggest that bleeding the patient might release the infection. I do not converse with people who think that Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans as punishment for the sin of being the birthplace of Ellen DeGeneres or that the terrorists hit the United Sates on 9/11 because we tolerated homosexual people, abortions, feminism or the American Civil Liberties Union. I am tired of being embarrassed by so much of my church’s participation in causes that are quite unworthy of the Christ I serve or the God whose mystery and wonder I appreciate more each day. Indeed I feel the Christian Church should not only apologize, but do public penance for the way we have treated people of color, women, adherents of other religions and those we designated heretics, as well as gay and lesbian people.

Life moves on. As the poet James Russell Lowell once put it more than a century ago: “New occasions teach new duties, Time makes ancient good uncouth.” I am ready now to claim the victory. I will from now on assume it and live into it. I am unwilling to argue about it or to discuss it as if there are two equally valid, competing positions any longer. The day for that mentality has simply gone forever.

This is my manifesto and my creed. I proclaim it today. I invite others to join me in this public declaration. I believe that such a public outpouring will help cleanse both the church and this nation of its own distorting past. It will restore integrity and honor to both church and state. It will signal that a new day has dawned and we are ready not just to embrace it, but also to rejoice in it and to celebrate it.

– John Shelby Spong, retired Episcopal Bishop


You can sign the manifesto here.

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