My hometown newspaper, the Abilene Reporter News, recently carried my new, all-time favorite political cartoon by Branch. It depicts Governor Rick Perry holding a newspaper with the headline, "Perry prayer event to be sponsored by prominent anti-gay group. Perry responds to the headline by saying, "Show me where in the Constitution it says anything about the separation of church and hate."
That says it all, doesn't it?
A few weeks ago, I promised readers a series on how we care for one another in America. This is the second installment. In the last article I expressed my concerns about the systematic dismantling of services for aging Americans by the radical right, many of whom profess that our churches and local communities can take over the responsibility for us when we no longer can care for ourselves.
I now have to ask: Which churches? The ones like the Church of God in Hemphill, Texas, which just put up a marquee saying, "Homosexuality is an abomination to Jesus and to our Country"?
Or, perhaps a church like the International House of Prayer in Kansas, led by Lou Engle. Engle's group is the organizer and lead sponsor of Governor Rick Perry's "The Response," scheduled in Houston on Aug. 6.
Pastor Engle's ministry, TheCall, openly supported the "Kill the Gays" bill in Uganda.
In February, I went with Soulforce and Human Rights Campaign volunteers to Engle's church and presented a petition of 70,000+ signatures asking him to cease and desist from inciting violence against gay people in Uganda.
We asked him to go back to Uganda and retract his support of David Bahati, the MP of Uganda, who proposed the bill that would (1) sanction extra judicial killings of gay people or (2) people who gave safe haven to gay people, and (3) allow vigilantes and police to kill people who just look like gay people.
Engle blew us off and sent his lieutenants Luis and Jill Cataldo to deal with us. We went to a church service with them. They received our petition. They promised that the church leadership would review it. Engle promised to meet with us face to face at a later time. We have followed up often with his office as has a reporter from The Associated Press. No response.
Understandable since Engle believes that the world would be a better place if lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their families and allies were dead. I am still waiting for his phone call so we can have a respectful conversation, pastor to pastor, about what Jesus really says about homosexuality.
I have to say that as a pastor and a lesbian who will soon have to refer to herself as eligible for Social Security, my confidence is pretty low regarding the Lou Engle-like churches' abilities and willingness to take on the task of providing care for my partner and me and my two gay children when we are in our most vulnerable years of life.
It sounds more like Engle and dominionist followers around the world plan to extinguish me before I am eligible for benefits.
Solves the fact that they find me unworthy of respect and life and saves money that would be frivolously spent -- always a core principle at the center of the ultra-radical right agenda.
Another of Governor Rick Perry's The Response endorsers is on record for blaming homosexuals for the Holocaust and for Hurricane Katrina. Engle is on record for suggesting that America needs to raise up a generation of people willing to be Christian martyrs so the scourges of homosexuality and abortion can be ended once and for all.
This rhetoric is all too familiar in our history. It's a Perry-Engle sanctioned ethnic cleansing campaign against those who are most obviously not like them. At minimum, it is a form of intentional inciting of people who will throw caution to the wind in attacking people who are non-gender role conforming and who choose to terminate pregnancies. Both are at high risk right here in America.
The Perry-Engle Partnership was not, I fear, made in heaven, but in a back room where the radical right is planning its win of the Presidency of the United States. They've lined up a row of ultra conservative dominionists (Palin, Bachmann and Perry), who have no discomfort calling other Americans names that incite violence against them and who apparently have no hesitation in suggesting that it is OK to exterminate those with whom you disagree about the interpretation of the Bible. They are smart, savvy, politically super-charged and capable of winning.
But in the final analysis, it doesn't matter if any of them really win. All they have to do is distract middle America and those who lean toward true democracy (the one that Gandhi reminds us is tolerant by its very nature). If they can stir the waters enough, they can ensure that fair-minded, true citizens of democracy will be worn down and worn out by the time people go to the voting box. And then, they can win. Or the person they were helping will win.
One way that we can care for one another in America is to just say no to the use of political office and power to systematically discriminate against any group of citizens in the United States, many of whom would have been considered abominations under the law of the land in Jesus' era: single women, people with life-threatening illnesses, unwed pregnant teenagers (like Mary, the Mother of Jesus), eunuchs and Samaritans.
Christ came to clarify what an abomination really is: the absence of love and the intent to harm. His life makes this very clear.
For those who insist that we are and must be a Christian Nation, may I suggest that the current "Kill the Gays" strategy of Engle and his cohorts (sadly, even the Governor of the Great State of Texas) is not only flawed, it is anything but Christ-like.