Saturday, November 19, 2011

Penn State Paterno-Sandusky Story: Continuing Attempts to Invert Moral Values and Engage in Gay-Bashing

At the start of this week, I wrote that a meme beginning to emerge among the political and religious right tries to tell the Paterno-Sandusky story in a way that turns that story on its head by inverting the moral message of the story.  To be specific, I noted that right-wing commentators are already seeking to make the Paterno-Sandusky story about the dangers gay folks supposedly pose to society at large, though both Paterno and Sandusky are Catholic married men who have long lived in heterosexual marriages.

Evidence that I was correct in this analysis: as Media Matters is now reporting, influential right-wing talking head (and Catholic) Pat Buchanan is seeking to tie the Penn State story to the dangers of gay marriage.  Media Matters links to a discussion Buchanan had with Rick Wiles of Truenews Radio this past week.

People who have want us to believe that gay human beings are in league with the devil (and who desperately want their gay-bashing rhetoric to have political legs for the 2012 elections) will stop at nothing to smear, lie about, and attack their fellow human beings who happen to be gay.  They'll invent bogus scripture passages that, as they imagine (and as they desperately want the voting public to believe), condemn "homosexuality"--a word that was not even coined until the late 19th century, almost two millennia after the Christian scriptures were written, and many centuries after the Jewish biblical texts were composed.

These gay-bashing right-wing religious and political talking heads want to retroject into scriptures written centuries and centuries ago a term that these texts could not have used, since it was not part of the vocabulary of those writing them, and a psychological concept of which the scripture writers were totally unaware, when they were writing many centuries before anyone began to understood that some human beings happen to be born with an innate predisposition towards erotic attraction to members of their own gender.

They'll stop at nothing, as they try to invert the clear moral values involved in the battle for the human rights of a vulnerable minority as this point of history.  They'll continue linking gay people to the devil, just as some Christians have for centuries linked the Jewish people to the devil, making them extraordinarily susceptible to prejudice, discrimination, and outright violence.  Or as some Christians once did to women whom they accused of practicing "witchcraft," resulting in violent acts done in the name of God against those women.

Whenever there's a significant cultural breakthrough for human rights on the horizon of global history--as has been the case with women's and now gay rights, as well as the rights of people of color, in the past millennium and the present one--there will always be haters coming out from under rocks, to try to impede the movement towards recognition of the rights of previously subjugated minorities.  Some people simply need to hate.  They need to build their own self esteem by feeling better than and despising others.  And they do not want to see a minority they've sought to control by hatred getting out of the confined, stigmatized social box they've designated for it to live in.  

Some find political utility in fostering hate.  They know that emotions linked to disgust and disdain are powerful ones, and for that reason, these emotions have strong political utility.  When you can elicit those emotions by targeting an underdog group whose rights are curtailed, you can gain powerful political traction by controlling people through hate.

Worst of all, some people throughout the history of all faith communities have found that it's not only acceptable, but de rigueur within some parts of faith communities to foment hate in the name of God.  These often prove to be the most dangerous haters of all within any society, since they want us to imagine that the hate they stir is stirred in the name of a God whom all the religious traditions of the world, when their core message is correctly understood, view as the energizing source of love and not hate in the world.

The question I will continue to pose on this blog: why are some Catholics colluding with haters of the religious and political right, as the human community now seeks to come to terms with the humanity of gay persons and to respect the human rights of this minority group?  As Terry Weldon points out in a posting at his blog site yesterday updating readers about the controversy in which he's involved as the Catholic Voices group convenes a meeting to discuss gay marriage, while it tells openly gay Catholics they're not welcome to attend, in one British Catholic newspaper this week, the Catholic Herald, you can see crystallized the range of Catholic responses to gay people that are now emerging in the historic battle for human rights in which the human community is involved.

On the one hand, it's easy to find a number of powerfully placed Catholics in various walks of life who want to fan the flames of hatred against their gay brothers and sisters.  But on the other hand, there's growing pushback among "ordinary" Catholics against the misuse of their religious tradition to foster prejudice, discrimination, and hatred against those who are gay.

And what does this growing solidarity of "ordinary" Catholics with their gay brothers and sisters in the historic struggle for human rights portend for the leaders of the Catholic church, who want to identify their religious tradition with resistance to this struggle?  It means, first of all, that the authentic Catholic moral tradition of respect for human rights (and of loving presence within a world struggling to become more humane) will increasingly reside among "ordinary" Catholics and not the leaders of the Catholic church.

And it means, as well, that Catholic leaders will be increasingly exposed as political operators primarily concerned to maintain strong ties to wealthy economic elites for whom opposition to gay rights has utilitarian value, as these elites try to do everything in their power to keep the moral conversations of various societies from focusing on questions of human rights and economic and social justice.  This means, in effect, that to the extent that they consider it more important to stand with wealthy elites than with despised minorities in the historic struggles for rights that are building a more humane world for all of us at this point in history, the leaders of the Catholic church will continue to forfeit moral credibility.

The haters are losing this historic battle against the human rights of a despised minority, because they still haven't learned that the arc of the moral universe bends always in the direction of justice.  As news sources are now reporting, support for the gay boy who was recently beaten by a thug in a Chillicothe, Ohio, schoolroom has been extraordinary.  Yesterday, a petition with 80,000 signatures was delivered to the Chillicothe school district office, asking the district to address bullying proactively.  This petition comes on the heels of an incident in Gloucester Co., New Jersey, in which a special-needs student, Julio Artuz, who had been telling his parents that he was being bullied by his teacher, used his cell phone to videotape the bullying--proving to his parents and anyone else who wants to listen that his reports are accurate.

Times are changing.  And they will keep changing throughout the course of human history, unless the tendency of the arc of the moral universe stops bending in the direction of justice.  And those who want to represent what is at the core of the religious traditions of the world, authentically understood, will always seek to position themselves on the side to which that moral trajectory points, if they don't want history to leave them behind.

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