I want to talk about a couple of news items that caught my eye recently.
In entertainment news, singer Michelle Schocked decided to end her musical set with an anti-gay rant, according to those in attendance at Yoshi's in San Francisco. Ms. Schocked, an alternative/folk singer who had some success in the '80s and '90s, has previously danced on the edge of coming out. In 1990 she talked to Outlines, a Chicago gay newspaper, about having her first relationship with a woman.
By 2008 Shocked seemed to struggle with her identity. She told the Dallas Voice, "According to my Bible, which I didn't write, homosexuality is immoral. But homosexuality is no more less a sin than fornication. And I'm a fornicator with a capital F." She added, "I like the sound of being called an honorary lesbian and the comparisons to black disco divas. But right now, I'm a dug-in-the-heels fundamentalist who's not too happy about it."
In 2012 Shocked has apparently decided to take up the banner of hatred in the name of fundamentalist religion. Over the weekend she ranted at her show, reportedly telling the audience that she feared gay marriage would "destroy the world," and that they could go on Twitter and say, "Michelle Shocked hates fags." She mostly emptied out the club at that point. Shocked herself tweeted later, "Truth is leading to painful confrontation."
I wonder if she was talking about the crowd or her own internalized homophobia? I don't personally care if she's gay or straight, but can somebody tell me why every time one of these "converted" born-again Christians speaks, they have to launch into such vile and hateful language? Are they trying to convince themselves or everyone else? I'm going to tweet to Michelle: "Don't hate yourself. God loves you either way."
In more uplifting news, did you see that the Westboro community in Topeka, Kan., has a new Equality House? That's right, and it's located right across the street from the infamous Westboro Baptist Church, run by the fundamentalist homophobe Fred Phelps. Planting Peace is a diverse charity organization with projects ranging from environmental causes to opening orphanages that rescue children from the street worldwide. Planting Peace has now opened the Equality House in Phelps' own neighborhood, planting peace at the doorstep of hate.
Aaron Jackson, one of the group's founders, told The Huffington Post:
I read a story about Josef Miles, a 10-year-old kid who counter-protested the Westboro Baptist Church by holding the sign that says "God Hates No One." I didn't know anything about the church or where they were located, but that story kept popping up. And one night I wondered, Where is this church? I got on Google Earth, and I was "walking down the road," and I did a 360 view. And I saw a "For Sale" sign sitting in the front yard of a house. Right away it hit me, Oh my gosh, I could buy a house in front of the WBC! And immediately I thought: And I'm going to paint that thing the color of the pride flag.
This week volunteer painted the Equality House in rainbow colors. Yes, the sound you hear is the crowd going wild. Phelps is in the business of intimidation and bullying. In my experience the only way to stop a bully is to stand up to them. Let's see how Phelps and his hate-mongering followers handle a neighbor who isn't going to cower in their presence or, worse, ignore them in hopes that they'll go away. The sign hanging on the Westboro Baptist Church proclaims the same thing that Michelle Shocked proclaimed: "God Hates Fags."
No. God hates hate. Clearly these adults are not smarter than a fifth grader.
We shouldn't be shocked by either of these stories. There will always be people like Phelps who use religion to justify their bigotry and hate, and sadly, there will always be those like Shocked who internalize the twisted message and lash out as a bizarre defense mechanism. I feel sorry for them, because hate only breeds hate, and what you give always comes back to you. Be the change you wish to see, right? Planting peace. What a concept.