Thursday, October 28, 2010

Arkansas School Board Vice-President Responds to Gay Teen Suicide: Celebrating Death

And, as a brief postscript to what I wrote earlier today about the sickening climate of hate in our nation, much of it to be laid at the feet of people of faith (at the feet of people of faith who torture the fundamental tenets of world religions to justify hate, and other people of faith who remain silent in the face of such abuse of religion):

I'm sure that most readers of this blog already know about the case of Clint McCance, vice-president of a school board in northeast Arkansas, who wrote on his Facebook page recently that he enjoys seeing "fags" dying and that he will wear purple for gay youth who commit suicide only when they all kill themselves.  McCance also crowed that if any of his own children were gay, he'd "absolutely run them off."  But that will never happen, he writes, because he has taught them "solid christian beliefs."

Elsewhere online, Mr. McCance expresses his devotion to "god, family, and fishing," and poses with a fishing buddy in a semi-obscene diptych that raises interesting questions about the psychological matrix from which his outspoken (and exceptionally mean-spirited) homophobia arises.

Major news outlets, including CNN with Anderson Cooper, have done incisive reports on the McCance story, and the local statewide free newspaper Arkansas Times has been admirably vigilant for days now in reporting on the story and a protest held today at the school of which Mr. McCance is a school board vice-president.

A point that deserves strong attention in this story: Clint McCance encourages the suicide of gay people as a man of faith.  He claims the sanction and even encouragement of his religious community, as he tells gay youth to commit suicide.  His "right" to express these hateful opinions in writing in a public forum while serving on a school board is being stoutly defended by many citizens of my state, who would not dream of defending this "right" if Mr. McCance had used ugly rhetoric equivalent to "fags" as he encouraged African-American or Jewish children to kill themselves.

Faith--people of faith and their claims to represent their faith traditions and the bible adequately--are right at the heart of the hate speech that rolls forth from mouths across the U.S., as gay youth commit suicide.  And as leaders of churches like my Catholic church remain utterly silent about this behavior.

I take heart in the fact that at least one courageous pastor in my state has, however, spoken out against the distortion of biblical values and of Christian faith represented by Mr. McCance and his defenders.  This is Rev. Wendell Griffen, a Baptist pastor in Little Rock whom I'm honored to call a friend. 

Rev. Griffen writes today on his Cultural Competency blog:

McCance, Tea Party nationalists, and neo-fundamentalist Christians aren't merely wrong-headed about human diversity. They're wrong-headed and wrong-hearted about the religion of Jesus. The Gospels present Jesus as someone who embraced people, especially people who were otherwise shunned because they were lepers, women, children, religious, political, and social outcasts, and sick. The Christ of the Gospels did not inspire the "Christianity" proclaimed and lived by McCance, Tea Party nationalists like Sarah Palin, and other neo-fundamentalist Christians who condemn people because of their sexual orientation, religion, language, and ethnicity.

This is the kind of clear, prophetic voice that one expects from religious leaders today, as our culture deals with the effects of savage homophobia in the lives of young people struggling with issues of sexual orientation.

One does not expect the silent complicity of the leaders of my Catholic church--even as they celebrate the charitable work in which the Catholic church in the U.S. has historically engaged.  For increasing numbers of people, the silent complicity in hate now taking lives of young people completely undercuts the rhetoric about the charitable intent and good works of the Catholic church.

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