On Sunday, the New York Times featured a chilling article on how fundamentalist Christians stalked, harassed and ultimately murdered Wichita abortion provider George Tiller, who they taunted with the nickname, "Tiller the Baby Killer."
The lone gunman, who used the e-mail name "ServantofMessiah", shot Tiller while he ushered at Reformation Lutheran Church, where he and his wife were active members. Prior to Tiller's assassination, the "loving" faithful had put bullets in his arms and bombed his clinic.
Unfortunately, with Tiller's controversial clinic finally out of business, the lesson for the loony may be that lethal force is more effective than lobbying. In the Times article, Mark Geitzen, chairman of the Kansas Coalition for Life, expressed this sentiment when he said during a phone conversation, "God has his own way... but you can't say our prayers weren't answered."
Tiller's death vividly illustrates the danger posed by the violent language and imagery used by fanatics, who believe they are personally entrusted to enforce God's will. What concerns me is that the aggressive tactics used against abortion providers are slowly seeping into the anti-gay movement.
As the wider culture becomes more accepting, homophobes are growing increasingly frustrated, which has led to bolder and more confrontational actions. Are anti-gay leaders egging on unstable followers to attack gay people or provoking gays to defend themselves so they can manufacture martyrdom and justify retaliation?
At the Dore Alley Fair in San Francisco last weekend, a number of muscular Christians wearing Jesus shirts reportedly tried to march through the event thumping Bibles and waving signs.
In Charlotte, Dr. Michael Brown, (pictured left) the founder of the Coalition of Conscience, organized several hundred followers in red shirts to descend like uninvited locusts on Charlotte Pride last week under the banner, "God Has a Better Way."
Aside from the pompous name of their demonstration, the protesters confronted gay people and browbeat them with cherry picked Bible verses. Brown's ostensible reason for marshaling the troops was to introduce Pride attendees to his angry version of God.
But, of course, the notion that gay people in conservative North Carolina needed Brown to educate them about religious fundamentalism was farcical. Indeed, many of the people at Pride had only found personal acceptance after long journeys to reconcile their spirituality and sexuality.
No, Brown was really there to besiege Charlotte's gay residents with his hostile hordes. His group's in-your-face presence was designed to disrupt peaceful assembly and make Pride attendees feel guilty and uncomfortable so that they might skip future gay events.
Fortunately, the pious proselytizers were on their best behavior after the militant writings and actions of Brown came under intense scrutiny by local Q-Notes editor Matt Comer. In his research, Comer found that Brown started his FIRE School of Ministry to "raise up a holy army of uncompromising spirit-filled radicals who will shake an entire generation with the gospel of Jesus by life or death."
In a vacuum, such religious language may be viewed as a relatively benign rhetorical flourish. However, when followers are portrayed as holy warriors in a life and death struggle against a minority group that is falsely accused of working to undermine freedom of religion, the seeds of potential disaster are intentionally being sown.
In advertising his rally, Brown proclaimed that the "hour is urgent" and that Christians must "turn back the tide of homosexual activism." In a written statement following his intolerance invasion of Pride, Brown wrote, "Enough is enough to the destructive goals of gay activism... We say it stops in Charlotte."
Most alarming are these charlatans' deliberate perpetuation of paranoia by trumpeting alleged religious persecution that exists only in their warped minds. For example, in his statement Brown accused gay people of "trying to put Christians in the closet." And, he capped it off by saying that gay people are "tampering with the foundations of human society."
Brown tries to cover his tracks by sprinkling his apocalyptic rhetoric with calls for non-violence. Good orators, however, understand the principle of "layering" messages. If in one sentence you speak of violence and in the next of non-violence, the listener will almost always embrace the words that support his or her belief system.
Dr. Brown isn't naive and surely understands that the LGBT masses will not retreat into the closet unless events conspire to make coming out a blood sport. Short of extreme bullying and brutality he'll never accomplish his lost cause of "stopping" progress on gay rights in Charlotte.
Brown, of course, doesn't actually have to make an overt pitch for mayhem. Simply by inciting his flock he is setting the stage for future tragedy. It is time for Brown and his comrades to abort their increasingly hostile and combative tactics before it leads to more wanton death in the name of abundant life.
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