It is generally true, as the indignant members of Greensburg, Indiana’s Apostolic Truth Tabernacle Church say, that what they include in their church’s services is nobody’s business, and the fact that the congregation loudly applauded the horrific spectacle of a 3-year-old boy singing the hate anthem, “Ain’t no homos gonna make it to heaven!”would have never bothered a soul if it hadn’t been videorecorded and placed on YouTube. At this point, however, that no longer matters. The cat is out of the bag, the horse has left the barn and the beans are spilled, and now millions of Americans know that this church teaches hate, indoctrinates young and vulnerable children with its poison, and sows the seeds of prejudice and the active deprivation of American citizens of their rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Since millions of people know this now, a critical number of them will go out of their way to make life in this country a living hell for members of that church and the church itself by demonstrating at every turn that we don’t want churches like that in America, or people like that in America. They aren’t good for society, they cause positive harm without any compensating benefits, and they need to change their ways or suffer the consequences. And to that I say: Good. Go to it.
The church members have, they say, been the targets of death threats, and that isn’t good, or right, and it has to stop. But the church’s self-righteous protests that their right of religious practice and belief is being infringed upon are garbage, and should be treated accordingly. Our government can’t outlaw a congregation cheering a 3-year old who denigrates gays, but our society can reject it, and the culture can spit it out like bad milk. Not only can it, but it should, for this is how cultures enforce ethical standards. A church and its members who foster conduct like children singing “Ain’t no homos gonna make it to heaven!” during services are violating cultural norms, and need to be told so in every civil, legal and unpleasant way possible until the conduct stops, just as Wanetta Gibson, the Girl Who Cried Rape (and wanted to keep the money she got by doing so) deserves to be shown how much vicious, life-wrecking sociopaths are appreciated in this country. Religious freedom has never been absolute. We have let churches know that female circumcision, polygamy, animal sacrifice, racial discrimination, child brides and other practices of extreme religions will not be allowed to continue, because they are alien and destructive to core American values. So are kiddie renderings of “Ain’t no homos gonna make it to heaven!”
The flaccid extolling of tolerance as a universal good by many in the public square is ignorant and almost always hypocritical. Tolerance advocates almost never are serious about tolerance, but only tolerance of conduct and beliefs that don’t bug them as much as they bug the people who are intolerant. We don’t have to be tolerant of people who refuse to bathe, or who shout obscenities in public, or who are cruel; there is no virtue in being tolerant of life-styles that are irresponsible, subject children to harm and burden others. Tolerance of people being different from us is part of what America is, but no culture can remain healthy if it gives a green light to harmful behavior.
I have always attempted to be as fair as possible to those who sincerely believe that the Bible is the infallible word of God, even though that belief has caused untold misery through the ages, even though it is logically and practically unsupportable, and even though one of my heroes, Clarence Darrow, eviscerated the concept decisively a hundred years ago. I know people often are stuck with what they were raised to believe for life, and thus I have been resolute about not attributing malice to literal readers of the Bible when they oppose gay marriage, for example. They are not bad people; indeed, many of them are quite wonderful people, but they are scarred by a bad religious belief, and need to be helped and persuaded, but not hated. This episode, however, is beginning to persuade me that I have been too tolerant.
The designation of gays as perverts, sinners and societal pariahs is archaic and without rational justification. As such, it is time, indeed past time, for the practice, in church or out of it, to be treated like the other culturally unacceptable religious practices and beliefs I mentioned earlier. Indoctrinating a child into such ideas in 21st Century America qualifies as child abuse, no less than KKK parents teaching their children that the white race is superior, or Joe Kennedy Sr. teaching his sons that women are sex toys to be used and disrespected. Gays are not a blight on the United States, but a blessing. Without them we would be poorer, dumber, less inspired, less entertained, sadder and uglier. Without them my own life would be infinitely bleaker, since my many gay friends and colleagues through the years have played key roles in almost every aspect of my life, and it is absurd and wrong that even now, I can’t thank them by name in a blog post.
I am not religious, but I am also not gay. I have people I respect and care about in both camps, and I have tried very hard to be open-minded and fair on their crucial point of disagreement. Cheering a child who is being taught to hate gays is a deal-breaker, however. It exposes what Rich Santorum, perhaps our most prominent gay-basher, refers to as hating the sin but not the sinner as the seductive deceit that it is. “Homo” is a slur, and cheering the initiation of a toddler into a mind-set that often leads to violence and bullying is only slightly less despicable than cheering a rape. Places of worship like the Apostolic Truth Tabernacle Church give God a bad name; they make the country less safe, fair and loving, and they should not and must not be tolerated. The culture needs to do its work, which is to make it as clear as a mountain lake that hate and bigotry aren’t excused by religious doctrine, not when they warp young minds and place good citizens at risk.
So let’s be thoroughly intolerant of “Ain’t no homos gonna make it to heaven!,”the Apostolic Truth Tabernacle Church, and any church like it. It is our civic duty, and the right thing to do.
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