Hat tip to John Aravosis at Americablog for catching this one.
So a week after delivering a sermon calling for gay people to be put into concentration camps, pig ignorant bigot Charles Worley got a standing ovation from his congregation. The local paper describes it thus:
Church members and about 100 visitors from in and outside the area gave Worley a standing ovation when he approached the pulpit. A few members stood up from the pews and spoke out in favor of Worley as officers watched and intervened when one particularly longwinded member spoke.You shall know they are Christians by their love.
The atmosphere was a vocal and jubilant one. The sanctuary was mostly full, with the vast majority of the crowd singing and crying out in joy. Many threw their hands up in praising the Lord and in support of the pastor.
Worley's defense of his sermon, the defense offered by his congregants, is an old one - "I'm just preaching the bible," and "he's just preaching what's in the bible."
In response to Worley, the Rev. Chuck Currie had a simple, short statement:
The pulpit is holy space and those that use it to promote violence commit theological malpractice as ugly and wrong as those who throughout history have used their pulpits to target Jews and other minority groups.But Worley's congregation - and Worley himself I suspect - are not engaging in a theological discussion; they aren't interested in engaging pastors like Chuck Currie in a discussion or in a nuanced approach to biblical exegesis. Like many religious fundamentalists, they would probably deny Currie is a real Christian because he's a United Church of Christ pastor. They would see his support for glbt rights and marriage equality as proof that he isn't a real Christian because a real Christian would oppose those things. They would see him as someone who made a fatal compromise with the modern world and who sacrificed his Christian faith in the name of going along with the times. Like real fundamentalists, they live by the motto that you should be in the world not of the world and they refuse to believe that the world might get something right and they might get the same thing wrong.
Are these hateful messages mainstream? In some communities, yes. And not just in the South. We have heard the same ugly language preached here in Oregon during campaigns past by the now defunct Oregon Citizens Alliance, the right-wing Christian group that promoted a series of anti-gay ballot measures.
All Christians - regardless of whether or not we support gay marriage (I strongly do) - must condemn hate speech from pastors and denominations where this occurs are obligated to hold their clergy accountable - taking away their status as ordained clergy. Because let's be clear: these hateful men are not preaching the word of God.
God created gays and lesbians, like all humanity, in God's image and was well pleased.
At it's most basic, that standing ovation wasn't about agreeing with Worley's call for concentration camps for gays, it was about us versus them. He is one of "us" and he's been attacked by "them" and we have to support him because he's been attacked.
The religious right has dedicated enormous energy to convincing itself that it is an embattled and besieged minority. Having drawn national criticism (and thousands of protestors), Worley symbolizes everything his congregants believe about themselves. He is embattled and besieged, his words drew criticism of a culture they neither understand nor want to belong to. The standing ovation was their way of saying "You are our guy and this is our team."
Worley and other fundamentalist have fused their version of Christianity to their version of patriotism. From the local paper:
In order to honor Memorial Day, the service began with many patriotic hymns such as “America the Beautiful” and the national anthem. A massive American flag was raised behind the pulpit, and some members of the congregation came dressed in their military uniforms.This fusion of religious and national identities is usually a generous source of ugliness and hated, exclusivism and intolerance. Andrew Sullivan calls it Christianism. It's the source of much of the right's most vicious rhetoric - the idea that being American means you must be a fundamentalist Christian, devout, straight, probably white, and probably rural. It is an ideology that disdains the well-educated and well-read, the urban, the pluralistic and multi-cultural, the nonbelievers and the skeptics. It is an ideology that demands an enemy - internal as well as external. Its believers are fighting for laws to ban Shariah law in the US, are demanding proof Barack Obama was born in the US, are sure that Democrats are socialists.
Behind this public Christianism lies private anger. There's an old saying that a fundamentalists is an evangelical who is angry about something. The religious right is angry and has been for a long time. Their anger is deep and profound; winning elections won't assuage it. No, votes against marriage equality only inflame the right's anger. How, they wonder, can they outlaw marriage equality in state after state and yet public opinion continues to shift toward acceptance of marriage equality? How can they sacrifice hours of work and dollars they can ill afford to give to causes and yet see so little change in the laws and public opinions on them?
Science is against them. Reality has a well known liberal bias. And so the religious right finds itself fighting on any and all fronts they can to maintain a shred of believe in the old ways. Charles Worley's church proclaims itself "the Home of Old Time Religion." His defenders claim he is just preaching the truth and trying to save "those people" (by which they mean those horrific sinning faggots). Their schools can't teach creationism, and many of them are home to gay-straight alliances. They can't turn on the TV without seeing gay people or unmarried couples having sex. They can't open a newspaper without reading about things of which the do not approve.
In the myth, it was so much easier back then. Gay people didn't exist (and if they did, they had the decency to be ashamed and stay in the closet and hide) and unmarried people didn't have sex (and if they did, they had the decency to be ashamed) and everyone knew their places (and if they didn't, we taught them and they listened). It was easier back then you see - with straight white men in charge, and women in the home and gays in the closet and black people in the back of bus. Nobody had to think for themselves. In this modern world, people don't know their places and they presume to get above themselves. And they don't hold their bibles like totems against the world, clinging to religion to give them some sense of order and structure in the world.
So when Charles Worley breached the bounds of acceptable human behavior and called for concentration camps, it was a primal scream of fury. And it was a scream on their behalf and so when he walked into his sanctuary and ascended to the pulpit, he got a standing ovation. Back in the day, nobody minded if you called for the faggots to be rounded up and killed and nobody complained. But this modern world? People complain about such things and nobody knows what they're supposed to do or say or think. What used to be (although it never really was) has been lost and nobody but the fundamentalists seems to really appreciate what that loss means. If the gays would just go away, it would be so much better because it would by like the old days. And for daring to say so publicly, Charles Worley is their hero and you gives heroes a standing ovation.
Crossposted at OneUtah.