My grandfather had a wonderful, old, southern expression, “You could have knocked me over with a feather.” Richly descriptive, he used that twist of phrase to describe those moments when he was flabbergasted by the incredulous. I have to admit that, as I get to an age when I feel as though I should be able to say, “I’ve seen it all.” (and trust me, as a former school principal, I’ve seen a lot!) more and more I feel like saying, “You could have knocked me over with a feather.”
While it may turn out to be, this post is not intended to be inflammatory. I just want to simply connect some dots in a way that gives us pause to reflect—which, of course, is what my blog is all about. Maybe if we reflect we can grow. So, if you feel you can’t read this post in the spirit it is offered, you are encouraged to just skip it.
Love Is Love
This concept, love, is at the heart of my faith practice. In fact, I believe that love is at the heart of kindness, compassion, and every manifestation of people extending simple dignity and respect to others. But I grew up in a religious culture, extreme Christian fundamentalism, that wanted to more carefully fine-tune their vision of what love is. Love was not simply to be just love. Love was literally referred to as a weakness1.
Christian fundamentalists’ concept of love was carefully fine-tuned to be this: “Love the sinner. Hate the sin.” I heard this mantra repeated so often the words seemed like some ritualized protestant mass. One would easily conclude these words were some oft-repeated scriptural text in the Bible—word for word. They appear nowhere in the Bible.
A good friend of mine, Dan, recently was quoted as saying in a board meeting, “If I have to accept your religious belief system in order to view your actions as loving, then that’s not love.” I must say, I find the clarity of that statement shattering. “Love the sinner. Hate the sin.” is an excuse. Nothing more. An excuse to hate. Love becomes hate. Hate becomes an evangelistic outreach program to win souls to God.
Sheikh Farrokh Sekaleshfar spoke recently at the Husseini Islamic Center in Sanford, Florida, about 20 minutes from Orlando, Florida. In 2013 Sheikh Sekaleshfar stated:
Death is the sentence. We know there’s nothing to be embarrassed about this. Death is the sentence… We have to have that compassion for people, with homosexuals. It’s the same. Out of compassion, let’s get rid of them now.”
Here is the video (until Google takes it down as a violation of its hate speech policy):
We all know that murdering gay people is a central tenet of Islamic religious fundamentalists. We have repeatedly seen them murder gay people in the middle east. Love is not love to these extremists. As “an act of compassion,” they will murder gay people. Love is murder. Murder isn’t murder. Murder is the compassionate salvation of the soul. How indescribably kind and selfless.
As we come to understand the details of the slaughter of gay people in the Orlando gay club, Pulse, this past weekend, we see how Islamic religious fundamentalists now are targeting gay people in the United States. This act of terrorism, this atrocity against the gay community, is seen as an evangelical outreach program. They are busy saving souls. With compassion.
Fundamentalism Is Fundamentalism
If, however, you think this level of murderous extremism is confined to Islamic fundamentalism, I would be compelled to disagree with you. This same level of murderous extremism is alive and well in today’s American fundamentalist movement. Bob Jones III, president of “the bastion of fundamentalism,” as they liked to call themselves, Bob Jones University2, from his bully pulpit literally called for the murder of gay people back in 1980. I was there. I heard him with my own ears.
After being publicly shamed for years and years by a growing petition demanding his apology, he finally issued a faux-pology, which, in the opinion of many, is in no way an actual apology. You see, Bob Jones III truly believes what he said. (I have blogged about this story and their family business throughout the years. This is a link to all of the posts on my blog that contain Bob Jones.)
Bob Jones III led the charge for the American religious fundamentalists, just as British-born Sheikh Farrokh Sekaleshfar leads the charge for his Islamic religious fundamentalists. On this matter there is certainly no difference. Fundamentalist extremism is fundamentalist extremism regardless of what hat they put on their heads or who spouts the hatred, regardless of how they dress it up: pretending murder is compassion, love, God’s will, what God commands, what the Bible demands, for the salvation of souls…
And if you think this conclusion is over-reaching, I have posted from time to time on my blog about fundamentalist preachers, today’s American fundamentalists, actively and publicly calling for the murder of God’s gay children3. I would invite you to consider the words of countless American fundamentalist preachers just this past weekend: from “The wages of sin is death…” to Pastor Steven Anderson’s hateful “sermon” that was so awful Google removed it from YouTube as a violation of it’s hate speech policy. Just a small fraction of his religious insanity:
The good news is that there’s 50 less pedophiles in this world, because, you know, these homosexuals are a bunch of disgusting perverts and pedophiles. That’s who was a victim here, are a bunch of, just, disgusting homosexuals at a gay bar, okay?
The conservative position on this act of terrorism specifically targeting the queer community is to sanitize it as “an act of terrorism against all of us.” This carefully chosen expression is appearing more and more in an increasing number of conservative news outlets. To call it what it is worries the American religious fundamentalists. Such clarity exposes them for who they are: hateful bigots fueled by American religious extremists. The American religious fundamentalists want to be able to continue their hate-filled, murderous diatribe with impunity. And, above all, they don’t want their fear-stoking, fund-raising shtick to be in any way compromised.
Knock Me Over with a Feather
I could not have imagined as a child, or even as a young man, that some 4 decades after my youth, the religion of my upbringing would be so consumed, so permeated with hatred and malevolence, so completely devoid of the love of God, so consumed with a focus on all of the wrong things. As I have said numerous times, words matter. Our words reveal the state of our hearts. Words show the world who we are at our core. And the hearts of American fundamentalists, just like Islamic fundamentalists, are filled with terrorism against gay people: from advocating the murder of gay people to forcing them to undergo “conversion ‘therapy'”. Fundamentalism has become the face of evil in America.
Love is love. No “love the sinner; hate the sin” nonsense. Fundamentalists are fundamentalists. Fundamentalists want to evangelize the lost by forcing everyone to live by their tenets of hatred. Theirs is the sincerely held compassion of murder.
Knock me over with a feather, because I am flabbergasted by the incredulous.