Saturday, February 3, 2018

For Religion News Service, Jacob Lupfer Reports on Georgetown Lecture by Father James Martin: Queer-Bashing Trolls Go Wild

Most of you readers are no doubt smarter learners than I am. So you will have figured this out long before I did: it's an absolute waste of time to wade into the filthy fecal waters of discussions about Christianity and LGBTQ human beings at religion-themed websites. The discussions of these matters in comboxes at religion-themed websites are not about gaining clarity or promoting understanding of how the churches have failed and keep failing LGBTQ folks.

They're about asserting the "right" of people for whom Christianity is a vehicle of ravenous hate to keep beating up on queer people even as younger Christians walk away from the churches in droves because of this behavior. And even as these folks are losing their "culture war" against queer folks . . . .

Case in point: the centrist and not conspicuously LGBTQ-friendly religion writer Jacob Lupfer (straight, white, male) posted a piece at Religion News Service this past week about a talk by Father James Martin he attended recently at Georgetown. After he describes Martin as very middle-of-the-road, not at all controversial in the positions he takes about the need for the Catholic community to build bridges to the LGBTQ community (and vice versa), Lupfer ends by stating:

I milled about at the wine reception, contemplating how I as a nominal mainline Protestant can believe whatever I want about the divisive theological questions of the day. There is always a church where I can receive Communion. My own conscience is all that stands in my way. How different it must feel for these Catholics! 
I asked one gay Catholic layman why he didn’t just convert to Episcopalianism. "This is my Church," he said. "She is my mother. I am hers and she is mine."
After a while, I walked back into the auditorium, hoping to ask the famed Jesuit my questions. 
He was still there, listening to stories. 
Maybe more priests and bishops should do likewise.

Then in the comments section following the posting, all hell has broken loose. Hate heaped on hate piled atop hate, with the words "Christ" and "love" interwoven all through the hateful assertions. These include:

1. Claims by a woman, sandinwindsor, who repeatedly claims to "love" LGBTQ folks to death — and who is absolutely obsessed with LGBTQ folks and resoundingly condemning them as singular sinners in need of being told that they are singular sinners — that "Christ does not hear sinners [sic] prayers."

2. Sandi goes on to explain that her "Christ" is, like the one depicted in the bible, a Christ of wrath and vengeance, who will slap you down hard if you are a sinner — aka, if you are LGBTQ — and will provide "blessings" like "air, food, shelter, etc." for you only if you repent of your sin. 

What is not explained is how you can repent of said sin if "Christ" does not hear the prayers of sinners. Or how any version of Christianity that turns "Christ" into a freak show of the ilk about which Sandi loves to fantasize when LGBTQ folks are being roasted as sinners — it's never about Sandi's sins, you understand — can legitimately call itself Christian.

Since, as Lupfer's account of Father Martin's presentation notes, there he was, listening to stories of lives broken by Christian churches. Just as Jesus behaved . . . . 

2. Sandi, who's not Catholic but is evangelical, by the way, also indicates that if gay Catholics only became "Christian," they might position themselves to avoid the wrath of that petulant, vengeful "Christ" who gets her all energized. This is a common theme with many of the trolls who haunt religion sites to attack queer people: there's a constant assertion that the Catholic church has unique problems with homosexuality. Because all those gay priests . . . .

And Catholics aren't Christian in the first place, are they?

(But see what one of Larry Nassar's survivors, Rachel Denhollander, told the media this week: she says that she and her husband, who has a divinity degree from a Southern Baptist seminary, and who is, like her, a "very conservative evangelical," were "shunned by" and driven out of their very conservative evangelical church when she went public with her story of abuse at Nassar's hands. As Bob Allen reports in Baptist News Media,

Denhollander said Christian leaders "are very happy to use sexual assault as a convenient whipping block when it’s outside our community.' But when it was within their own community, she said, the church's response "was to vilify the victims or to say things that were at times blatantly and demonstratively untrue about the organization and the leader of the organization."

In other words, as long as we can blame the abuse crisis on the Catholic church with its ostensibly louche attitude towards those queers — all those gay priests! — we're perfectly willing to hear stories about abuse in the churches. But bring those stories home to us white evangelicals, with our ravenous need to attack LGBTQ folks, and we don't intend to listen. Not for a moment. That's not what we're about. We have folks to attack in "Christ's" name, after all.)

3. And then there's one "Roy Hobs," a troll hiding behind a baseball player's name, who's a regular in these discussions and whose primary war cry as he wades into these discussions is, "We don't want you filthy queers in our Christian churches." Just leave, already. We're about "Christ" and worshiping "Christ," not about making folks like you welcome.

So when another poster says, "I've never understood why any gay person would want to belong to a church or religion that doesn't consider them full and equal participants," "Roy" cheers: "A voice of Reason! Well observed....well stated." Like Sandi, Roy is evangelical and not Catholic. 

4. Then there's a troll hiding behind a football player's name, one "Bob Arnzen," who likes to claim that in "that denomination" (that is, the Catholic church — to which he himself does not belong, but on whose behalf he loves to speak when the discussion topic is how evil the gays are), it has been taught forever that LGBTQ folks are human filth and cannot be blessed. And this cannot and will not change because what "that denomination" teaches from all eternity is set in stone.

Never mind that "that denomination" did, in fact, change its moral mind about slavery and usury.

And that no one in "that denomination" other than very ill-informed people has ever claimed that moral teachings like the definition of homosexual people as intrinsically disordered are infallible, and not susceptible to change . . . . 

I've found in encounters with "Bob," that, challenged with incontrovertible facts like the fact that the Catholic church did reverse its teachings about slavery and usury, he simply lies. Facts are not facts in his universe. Facts are what he determines they are, and when they're inconvenient, they're to be discarded and some "alternative facts" are to be substituted in their plac.e

"Bob's" not in these discussion spaces to engage in meaningful, fact-based discussion of important issues, you see. He's there to troll: he's there to spread lies quite deliberately, and to culvitate hate. And to call all of this "Christian" . . . .  He's there to command LGBTQ people to "stay within the lines" — as in, commanding them to live lonely lives of lifelong celibacy, while he himself, as a straight married man, long since chose not to "stay within the lines." "The lines" are there just for queer folks, you understand.

"Bob" is there, as are these other trolls — and I really think sites like RNS should consider the possibility that some of these folks are hired trolls — to attack queer human beings and to claim that "Christ" stands behind him feeding him ammunition as he mounts his attacks. He's there to belittle and smear queer folks, to tell ugly lies about them and represent those lies as what "Christ" wants to say to the world. He's there to try to make queer folks feel like caged animals that should expect to be kicked and bashed any time it gratifies the "Bob Arnzens" of the world to kick and bash somebody they see as littler than themselves so they'll feel better about themselves — so that they'll feel like bigger men.

There are fewer social spaces in which this behavior is legitimated any longer — though recent polls indicating it may be bouncing back in American culture due to the election of the moral monstrosity in 2016 are very concerning.

One of the few spaces left for these people to vent their open hatred of a minority group and to dress that hatred up with glozening, duplicitous references to "Christ" and "love" are discussion spaces at religious blog or news sites.

And that makes the conclusion Lupfer tags onto his report of Father Martin's recent lecture at Georgetown all the more poignant, doesn't it? There were all these folks — LGBTQ and people who care about LGBTQ family members and friends — crowding around Father Martin asking him to hear their stories of pain. Of pain inflicted on them by the churches and by people representing the churches . . . .

P.S. To be clear, I myself have deduced that "Roy Hobs" and "Bob Arnzen" are using manufactured names as they post comments through the Disqus system. I do not have absolute proof of this. I also strongly suspect that one of the two is likely a paid troll.

The line drawing of a caveman is by Isherb, and was uploaded by Isherb to Wikimedia Commons for free sharing online.

No comments: