Jonathan Capehart’s Confrontation Against Bigotry: Better Than Nothing, But Not Enough

confrontationWashington Post writer Jonathan Capehart shared a personal experience in a column today. Attending an aunt’s funeral in  church in the North Carolina community of her birth, he sat fuming as a guest minister used the occasion to condemn all gays as sinners, and urging them to use faith to give up their sinful ways.

Capehart, who is openly gay, decided that he was obligated not to accept this insult without a response. Here is what he did:

“After the visiting preacher was thanked for his rousing sermon by the congregation and the home pastor, the two made their way to us in the  front pew. During his oration, I vowed I would not shake his hand. But I did, given the immediate circumstances. So I used that as opportunity to make my displeasure known. As he shook my hand and leaned down for a sympathetic hug, I told the preacher, “Your sermon was offensive!” He leaned back, looked at me and replied, “What?” I repeated, “Your sermon was offensive to me. I need you to know that. That’s all I have to say.”

That seemed to satisfy Capehart. “As he moved his way down the pew, the anger I felt was replaced by relief and pride. Never before had I faced down religion-based bigotry. And it felt great.”

I feel terrible for Capehart having to endure such an indignity, and I’m glad what he did  made him feel better. But in no way did he “face down religious bigotry,” and I agree that facing down religious bigotry was called for. What did he do, really? He told the reverend that he was offended. He didn’t even say why he was offended.

This is  illuminating. Liberals are so sure that anyone announcing offense about anything is such a powerful statement of being wronged that they believe the world should warp itself in grotesque ways to avoid offensiveness, no matter how specious the alleged offense or unreasonable the offended. Thanks to this attitude, families are afraid to talk about politics at Thanksgiving dinner, college students dare not express politically incorrect thoughts, and rodeo clowns are banned for making fun of national leaders. Stating that “I’m offended!” has become a ticket to power as self-ratified grievance—since only you can assert what offends you, it’s the perfect complaint.

Except that it isn’t. Rational people, and even bigots can be rational, realize that a world view that maintains that everyone should be protected from being shocked, annoyed, outraged, embarrassed, scandalized, insulted or otherwise displeased by what someone else says is not only a fantasy, but also harmful. It doesn’t point us to a kinder, more compassionate society, but to a more fearful, less open, less joyful and oppressive one. We have as much of an obligation to oppose the advocates of perpetual avoidance of offense as we do to confront cruel fools like the minister who abused Capehart.

I remember on one occasion I used a Raymond Chandler parody to lay out a legal ethics hypothetical, telling the story in the voice of a Phillip Marlowe-like hard-boiled 30’s detective, as I played a lonely jazz saxophone CD in the background. At some point I used the term “dame,” and engaged a typically over-the top description of my client: “She was blonde, she was deadly, she was a typical dame with a problem, but with better legs, looking for some poor slob she could bat her big blue eyes at and make him take a slug for her, or file a protective order.” The routine was a great success, but one angry young female attendee marched up to me after the session and announced, as if it settled the issue, that she was offended by the “sexist” language, and that the scenario was inappropriate. I believe my response was, approximately, that I was sorry she didn’t appreciate the format, but there was nothing legitimately offensive about a detective novel/ film noir parody, that the problem wasn’t mine but hers, and that she needed to be more tolerant, get a sense of humor, and read more. I opined that people like her were among the reasons ethics courses are so deadly.

Again, I am glad that what Capehart said made him feel better, for he deserved to feel better, and if that was the best he was able to muster at the time, I’m not criticizing him for stopping at what he did. However, if he wants to face down bigots and people who abuse their power, position and authority, he needs to be prepared to tell true offenders like that minister not just that he was offended, but precisely why and why the man’s conduct was wrong, saying something like this:

“You are an ignorant bigot, and you encourage  hate and divisiveness. Your words and the mindless prejudice they rationalize cause violence against young people who happened to be born gay, as I was.  Your words and words like yours cause them to live in fear and self-loathing, or to take their own life. You have a position of authority and respect that you could use to enlighten, and instead you use it to bolster harmful stereotypes, myths and lies. The sinner is you, Reverend, and I am not only offended by what you said, but disgusted by it. And I just may choose to be at your next sermon, or your next, and at that sermon, I won’t wait until after it is over to register my protest. I, or someone like me will do it right there, amidst the congregation, and expose you for the despicable anti-gay bigot you are. Think about that, the next time you are tempted to call me, or anyone else, a sinner for simply being who and what they are.”

Doing this isn’t easy. I have done something similar only a couple times in my life, over other issues, and I had the great advantage of the example of my father, who I saw more than once scare the crap out of  people who richly deserved to have the crap scared out of them. It’s not for everyone, but it is what has to be done—confronting bigotry, hate, fear-mongering, abuse and persecution clearly, directly and stridently, with the promise that words will be followed with consequences. Saying that you are offended is not enough, for the complaint has been devalued by overuse.

71 thoughts on “Jonathan Capehart’s Confrontation Against Bigotry: Better Than Nothing, But Not Enough

  1. I must disagree in part. Calling a bigot a bigot usually isn’t helpful. If they really are bigoted, it will be obvious.

    When commenting here or elsewhere, examine what you’re trying to achieve. Communication, certainly, but you should ask yourself what is your motive for doing this? To help others? To vent? To achieve some concrete goal, such as legal reform? And who are you trying to reach?

    Rarely will you make the slightest bit of difference to those you are answering directly, when they express themselves in irrational and violent terms. Sometimes you can, for commenting lowers personal inhibitions, nearly everyone says things in comments they would never dream of saying face to face.(*) But don’t count on it.

    So you play to the gallery. Answering foaming-at-the-mouth hatred with invective may make you feel better personally, but it’s counter-productive. Even labelling obvious foaming-at-the-mouth hatred as foaming-at-the-mouth hatred loses you credibility points, so do so sparingly. If it’s so obvious, no need to emphasise it. Try to be the “voice of sweet reason” in comparison, just to highlight the difference. That should make no difference, the most appalling guff can be spouted in carefully measured tones, and the most obvious truth told in shrill, fanatic ranting screams, but we’re all human, and the latter is less credible.

    To be really effective, give facts and figures, but then emphasise what those mean in practice with very personal, very human anecdote.

    This all sounds terribly cold-blooded, and it is. But… you’re human. Being called subhuman filth, scum, a danger to children, diseased, perverted and so on is bound to affect you emotionally, especially when constantly bombarded with it. Those emotions can cloud judgement, so you have to put them aside.

    Only after you’ve posted can you sit down and have a good cry, or go outside and rage at the machine. I won’t give my opinion here about various commenters here and elsewhere, or indeed the venomous pastor in the post. I’d rather try to examine why they think this way, how they got there, so I can attack the problem at its source. Even spare a few moments to pity them. They wouldn’t hate so much unless they had a highly developed moral code – albeit a malignant and misshapen one. And that of course should cause one to examine one’s own moral code, are you so sure of the Right that you’re committing atrocities without realising it? It’s an easy trap to fall into.

    (*) Which is why I rarely drink alcohol. I tense up, micro-examining my own behaviour as soon as I feel the first signs of relaxed inhibitions.

    • I think many bigots have no idea they are bigots, and that calling them what they are (which is not uncivil, by the way)sometimes acts as a slap in the face or like being ducked in cold water. I was a guest on a left of Left online forum, and one of the founding members went off on George Bush, saying that his alleged character was typical of Baptists. I wrote an extensive “You are a bigot and bigotry is bigotry” response that humiliated her in front of the entire forum which had, by the way, passively accepted and tacitly approved of her statement (like, for example, Barack Obama sitting in Rev. Wright’s congregation and listening to his hateful rhetoric.) Yup, it was me that got kicked off the forum, but the moderator told me privately that I was right, and that other members told him that she needed the dressing down, but they weren’t about to do it.

      This isn’t “tit for tat.” There has to be strong negative reinforcement for some conduct, and shaming the individual involved is one legitimate way to deliver it. Another is simply blowing him out of the water. I applaud decorum, but being polite to demagogues plays into their hands and allows others to be drawn into their web and values. When Joseph Welch dressed down Joe McCarthy in an open forum, on television, it was insulting, humiliating, disrespectful to a US Senator (and, we now know, a set up, planned in advance), effective as hell, and also exactly what had to be done. Direct confrontations are unpleasant, and direct confrontations in public are disruptive. Sometimes they are necessary. I think what Capehart went through was one of those times. As I said, not everyone is up for it. However, it seemed pathetic to me for the author to pat himself on the back for “standing up” to bigotry when he did nothing of the sort.

      • If your comment threads are any indication, calling a bigot on their bigotry will lead to an inappropriate counter claim of bigotry.

  2. There is also another issue; one of civility and courtesy. As a guest, be it in a church or on a blog, it is at least bad manners not to behave with some decorum.

    “Keep comments civil. Ethics Alarms will permit limited vulgarity and profanity for style and emphasis, but gratuitous uses of either will be edited out of comments, or I will reject the whole comment. I will show little tolerance for rude and abusive comments and commenters. While a verdict of “you are an idiot,” may occasionally be justified, I will delete comments that include gross personal attacks.”

    Consider your own hypothetical retort:
    You are an ignorant bigot, and you encourage hate and divisiveness….

    Sentiments I completely agree with, and the language is no more rude than richly deserved.

    But would such comments pass muster in your comments section, without you very carefully scrutinising them, and feeling uncomfortable that you have to do this?

    Similarly, those comments, coming from a guest at a church, to an invited speaker are discourteous. The disagreements, pointing out the consequences, the mendacity etc, that’s fine. But personal attack is at least questionable, and could reasonably be seen as unacceptable. Play the ball, not the man. Critique the views, not the person.

    Especially if the person is ambulatory offal, a chancred boil on the surface of a disease-ridden, verminous and rabid hagfish, an ignorant bigot whose malicious hatred oozes from every purulent part of their foetid soul, polluting the Earth with every foul utterance they excrete. And that’s being charitable to them.

    For what good is expressing the obvious? It adds nothing to the world’s happiness, nor does it balance the scales of justice. Like boiling them in oil, it only gives momentary pleasure, and gets one talked about.

    • Only warm blooded animals can be rabid, not hagfish. May I suggest “verminous and rabid Aye-Aye?” I hate to see your impressively literary rant marred by an off reference 😀

    • Leaving all your other comments aside, no one is a “guest” in any church; they pas the offering plates don’t they? They ask for pledges, don’t they? This wasn’t some little party, it was church forum. Church is big business, and you know it. This “guest” comment is simply moronic.
      PS Civility goes both ways, and if the pastor wasn’t able to be civil, why attack the man who privately told him he wasn’t? More later on your other points…

    • NICE writing Zoebrain! I don’t hate you…I just hate your ability to slap down those words with seemingly little effort. My vice? Envy.

      Jack can go to hell too. With all due respect. 🙂

  3. I believe that Jonathan Capehart was merely being respectful of the rest of his family by choosing not to turn a celebration of another person’s life that had ended and an occasion of family mourning into an event that was about himself, even though that’s exactly what the “pastor” did. As brutally offensive as the “pastor” was regarding “sinners,” IMNSHO he was also VERY offensive in his hijacking of the sermon away from the comforting of family members who were mourning. That was inexcusable and also offensive.

    • Of course he was, Patrice, and that’s fine, but he can’t decide that not making waves is preferable to confronting a bully in a meaningful way and then say that he confronted a bully in a meaningful way. If you take the position that he can’t actually tell the guy off under the circumstances, then I respect that. I’ve made that choice too. But in no way is that “standing up to bigotry.”

      Bigots, bullies and demagogues depend on etiquette and the fact that everyone else is more polite than they are.

          • To be fair to you both, there were three points, and they were not as clearly separated as the might have been: 1) There is a duty to confront people like the minister 2) A disturbing number of people thing “I’M offended” is an automatic argument-winner and also the statement of a grave wrong, whatever the cause and 3) Capehart pronounced his job well done while defining it as standing up to bigotry, when by his own account, he never even specified to the preacher what it was in the sermon that offended him. Hell, the minister might have thought he was offended that the church would ever accept a filthy,sinning, perverted (I’m sure SMP can give me the right terms here) homo into the flock.

            But I just re-read the post. I still think it’s pretty clear over all.

            • It’s clear. Thus, my “duh.” I was responding to the overall situation instead of the specific intent of the post. Sorry.

            • 1) There is a duty to confront people like the minister
              There is a time and place, this was not it.

              2) A disturbing number of people thing “I’M offended” is an automatic argument-winner and also the statement of a grave wrong, whatever the cause
              I agree

              3) Capehart pronounced his job well done while defining it as standing up to bigotry, when by his own account, he never even specified to the preacher what it was in the sermon that offended him.
              Well if he was going to be unethical he might as well went all the way.

  4. Zoe and Patrice, your comments are excellent and I appreciate them more than you may ever know. Jack, I am not agreeable with all that you say, and you should know me well enough by now to expect that. I hope to have more time later (like later today), to comment more.

  5. Just received for approval this comment to this post:

    “Do you want to improve and develop your Saxophone skills? Now it’s vesy easy because here you will find high quality video sax lessons on demand. Just try the sax school.”

    Now that’s what I call missing the point…

  6. ”Capehart, who is openly gay, decided that he was obligated not to accept this insult without a response.”
    Nonsense he was obligated to sit there and keep his mouth shut and not make it about himself.
    ”Her minister and fellow church members drove up for the solemn occasion. While her pastor delivered kind words about her work and dependability at the church bookstore, his guest eulogy gave way to a harsh sermon about who can and cannot get into the kingdom of Heaven. Now, I can’t speak for the whores, drunkards, adulterers and thieves who might have been present, but this openly gay man was enraged.
    Now I don’t have the transcript of the sermon but based on Jonathan Capehart’s own account he cherry picked the “sin” he was guilty of out the message of sin and redemption and decided to make it about himself. This was his Aunt’s minister and I am assuming that she was a follower and believer of the faith that this minister preached. What he did was unethical, this is an event about the life of his Aunt and a sermon about sin and what their faith says is required to pass beyond the Pearly Gates is apt.

    • I can make a case that being silent is the appropriate response in this context, but it should be pretty obvious that the pastor’s sermon was unethical.

      • The pastor’s behavior was not unethical. I agree that beliefs such as those espoused by the pastor are ignorant, bigoted, hurtful, etc. A sermon, however, is an opportunity for a preacher to preach the beliefs of his/her faith. If this pastor was speaking in keeping with the beliefs of his faith, then he was acting ethically within his role in his church.
        Pastors’ obligations are to their faith. As we have seen through numerous other instances discussed in this forum, different professions are guided by ethics that may seem at odds with those ethics generally applied in everyday life (e.g., attorneys representing less than savory characters, journalists reporting on disasters rather than providing aid to their subjects, priests not disclosing to police information obtained in the confessional, etc.). While you or I might consider a particular religious belief ignorant, hurtful, bigoted, offensive, etc., the faithful have their right to hold such beliefs and to express them freely within their church. Indeed, it seems to me the preacher is obliged to do so and, thus, was not acting unethically.
        Certainly, I hope that further education of the faithful would bring them to rethink any and all beliefs they hold that are based on ignorance, fear, etc. Further, preachers, as leaders, have a primary obligation to explore this possibility. For those who fear God and believe He has set down certain rules for their behavior, however, this is a complicated process and name-calling will do little to help it.

        • A sermon, however, is an opportunity for a preacher to preach the beliefs of his/her faith. If this pastor was speaking in keeping with the beliefs of his faith, then he was acting ethically within his role in his church.

          It’s unethical to prop up an institution that holds such beliefs. “He was just doing his job” is a lousy rationalization.

          While you or I might consider a particular religious belief ignorant, hurtful, bigoted, offensive, etc., the faithful have their right to hold such beliefs and to express them freely within their church.

          Having the legal right to do something doesn’t make it ethical.

          Further, preachers, as leaders, have a primary obligation to explore this possibility. For those who fear God and believe He has set down certain rules for their behavior, however, this is a complicated process and name-calling will do little to help it.

          Translation: Don’t hurt the poor darlings feelings! Coddle the privileged!

          • “It’s unethical to prop up an institution that holds such beliefs.”
            I have lost count of the number of religions that hold ignorant, bigoted, or hurtful beliefs, but I simply cannot go so far as to consider all the preacher and followers of said religions unethical.
            “Having the legal right to do something doesn’t make it ethical.”
            Agreed.
            “Translation: Don’t hurt the poor darlings feelings! Coddle the privileged!”
            Poor translation. My comment has nothing to do with whether the preacher’s feelings would hurt; it’s about what will be effective in getting him/his church (or any similar preacher/church) to rethink an ignorant and hurtful teaching and when that should take place (see comments of Zoe Ellen Brain and Steve, above).

            • I have lost count of the number of religions that hold ignorant, bigoted, or hurtful beliefs, but I simply cannot go so far as to consider all the preacher and followers of sa[i]d religions unethical.

              Most people are unethical in some circumstances. Why not point out these unethical beliefs? It seems like your letting your ethical instincts get waylaid by popularity.

              Poor translation. My comment has nothing to do with whether the preacher’s feelings would hurt;

              Really? You called accurately labeling something “name-calling”. I stand by my comment.

              it’s about what will be effective in getting him/his church (or any similar preacher/church) to rethink an ignorant and hurtful teaching and when that should take place (see comments of Zoe Ellen Brain and Steve, above).

              You didn’t talk about time and place, before. I agree with this statement (thought accurately describing what’s occurring is a component of that), but I don’t see it in your previous comment.

              • Sorry. Had to drop this thread yesterday.
                (1) While I agree that one should correct unethical behavior when possible, my primary point was that this pastor’s behavior was not unethical (as Jack, you, and others claimed) when viewed within the system in which he works. I provided analogies to support that conclusion. You glossed over them with the “just doing my job” reference. I think there’s more to it in this situation.
                (2) As for wanting to flow with what is popular, one might argue that it has become popular to vilify the religious and anti-gay. While I would very much like to join that band wagon in this particular case, I think an argument can be made in support of the pastor and felt it should be made when his conduct was being labeled “obviously unethical.”
                (3) You’re correct that I did not discuss in detail the time and place aspect of my analysis in my original post; I thought others had done so already and my primary disagreement was not with the columnist’s conduct but that of the pastor, thus, time and place were, in my mind, also tangential to my response to your “translation.” In any event, assuming one is in a position to correct unethical conduct, then, certainly, he/she is obligated to do so in an ethical manner that actually has some likelihood of being effective. Yes, name-calling can lead to hurt feelings, and that should be avoided if possible simply as a matter of kindness, but I am more inclined to avoid it in this situation because hurt feelings are likely to close people off to the rest of what I have to say. As you note, accurately describing what’s occurring is part of the behavior-correcting process, but doing so does not require an attack on the person. Calling the pastor an “ignorant bigot” (as proposed by Jack) is a personal attack, i.e., name-calling. That is quite different from accurately describing and event (e.g., “The ideas you expressed are hurtful and based on false premises, and, in any event, are so polarizing as to be inappropriate to this particular event. I urge you to rethink your approach and would be happy to discuss it further.”). Upon reviewing everything, I gather Jack believes the personal attack is a necessary wake up call for someone who has continued to ignore the vast amount of information that should have caused a change in behavior earlier. I’m just not willing to go there.

                • But Loraine, maintaining the homosexuality is a choice flies in the face of all research and knowledge—it is by definition and ignorant contention. And excluding any group of people from respectability based on immutable facts of their existence is by definition prejudice, and hence bigotry.

                  Therefore “ignorant bigot” is an accurate description, and not merely invective used to hurt or denigrate, as in “name calling.” Liars are liars, murderers are murderers, incompetents are incompetent, illiterates are illiterates…and pastors who say that gays have chose a path in opposition to God are ignorant bigots…and they should not be allowed to labor under the misconception that they are not.

                • Lorraine, your point (1) seems to be that I ignored your supporting examples for why the pastor can do bad if it’s his job. I didn’t do that. I said that if this is part of the job, the job should be thrown out. Pastor isn’t a necessary job like Lawyer. The benefits do not outway the harm this pastor is doing.

                  Your point (2) randomly attacks my motives (trying to link my position with being fashionable), but doesn’t show how your previous comment was not an appeal to popularity. To make it easier, your comment was: “I have lost count of the number of religions that hold ignorant, bigoted, or hurtful beliefs, but I simply cannot go so far as to consider all the preacher and followers of sa[i]d religions unethical.”

                  I don’t see anything far about saying bigoted beliefs are unethical. I don’t see why the number of people that believe them matters at all.

                  Your point (3) misses the point completely. You think accurate language is “name-calling”. Calling the pastor a “stupid-head” would be name calling. Calling him an “ignorant bigot” is a charitably accurate statement. (Charitably, because he might actually be an informed bigot, which is worse).

        • A funeral service in which it is fully predictable that the congregation would have visitors who are unfamiliar with the church and its beliefs…like Capehart…dictates that a preacher choose his topic so as to make strangers feel welcome. He had many ways he could have done his job without insulting those who were there not to hear him, not even to embrace that church or faith, but to pay last respects to a loved one.

          Choosing such a moment to give a sermon that anyone should know might be viewed as a direct attack (and not merely “offensive”) on a guest is, apart from any other consideration, unethical by definition.

          Right?

          • Not right, his duty was not to visitors, his duty was to Capehart’s Aunt and his flock, which I assume she was an active part of considering the dedication to the church bookstore bit.
            How does one make it to heaven? I assume leading up to the whole being dead thing most churches want you to live a pious life, to follow their teachings and interpretation of the bible. A sermon on the subject at the funeral of what I am assuming is a pious woman seems a fairly logical subject. Jonathan said in the article that the sermon was about sin and reaching the kingdom of heaven, that he was not going to talk about any of the other sins that Corinthians chapter 6 verses 9 and 10 detailed, that the minister was using for the sermon. This was the standard don’t commit any of these sins if you want to go to heaven and if you do repent sermon.
            Capehart wanted to be offended, he wanted to make it about him, and he is unethical.

            As one of the other commenter’s on EA mentioned a few times, my apologies for not recalling who, this attitude is a feature of the gay rights movement, not a bug.

            • Not right, his duty was not to visitors, his duty was to Capehart’s Aunt and his flock, which I assume she was an active part of considering the dedication to the church bookstore bit.

              It’s not an either or. His duty was to everyone present. If he can’t be ethical to both his flock and guests, then he shouldn’t have his position (or it shouldn’t exist).

              This was the standard don’t commit any of these sins if you want to go to heaven and if you do repent sermon.

              Standard doesn’t imply right or ethical.

              Capehart wanted to be offended, he wanted to make it about him, and he is unethical.

              This is just plain blaming the victim who’s willing to speak out. It’s like slut shaming the sexually abused woman.

              As one of the other commenter’s on EA mentioned a few times, my apologies for not recalling who, this attitude is a feature of the gay rights movement, not a bug.

              Calling out bad behavior toward a group is a feature of that group’s movement? How horrible.

        • “…further education of the faithful…”
          What does this mean? I admit that I am very limited in my experience but isn’t the Christian religion based on the Bible? Does education mean reading the bible over and over in an attempt to find something you may have missed the first time? Does it mean reading the bible over and over again to try to understand what god REALLY expects from the faithful? Does it mean reading the bible in an attempt to figure what god expected from the faithful “back in the days” as opposed to what god expects now…such as whether women should cut their hair short? Would a truly faithful Christian accept any evidence which would contradict the bible?

          • I don’t think Lorraine meant it, but, to me, “education of the faithful” would cause them to no longer be “the faithful”.

            • Another thing I am not understanding regarding Lorraine’s response. The faithful should rethink beliefs based on ignorance and fear? What? Do the faithful not adhere to their beliefs in FEAR of going to hell if they do not? The faithful don’t take Jesus seriously when he speaks of all this wailing and gnashing of teeth?

              • (1) In my experience, some “faithful” have little knowledge of the basis for their various beliefs. Scholarly research on holy books, historical research on political issues that affected church leader’s decision-making, and other information may affect one’s views on the validity of particular teachings and, thus, alter the beliefs that stem from those teachings. While such education may, as suggested by tgt, cause a crisis or loss of faith, it could also simply change opinions about a particular part of one’s faith.
                (2) The fear to which I refer is not fear of a god or a hell, but a reasonable (or unreasonable) fear here on earth that led to a particular belief (e.g., fear that particular food would cause illness, fear of people who are different in some way, etc.).

                • (1) Sounds like you’re suggesting little bits of knowledge, instead of actual knowledge.
                  (2) Uh… this sounds like an argument for deciding that somethings were written by men and can be ignored, while others are divine providence. This isn’t re-“thinking”, this is re-“faithing.”

  7. This is fresh for me because just recently I kept my mouth shut about some obnoxious behavior at a funeral, BECAUSE it was at a funeral.
    If you freak out on someone at a funeral, it takes the attention away from what the day is supposed to be about – the person who died.

    That doesn’t mean I have forgotten what needs to be done or will be moderating my response in any way. 😉

    • When does someone already dishonoring the funeral of a family member warrant a disruption. What if the minster pissed on the coffin—would you intervene then? Started a racist rant? Took off his pants? Started groping an alter boy?

      • When does someone already dishonoring the funeral of a family member warrant a disruption.
        Was she not of this pastors flock? I am reading this as your saying the Pastor started it? Am I misreading?

        What if the minster pissed on the coffin—would you intervene then? Started a racist rant? Took off his pants? Started groping an alter boy?
        Yeah because all that is the same as a sermon on the afterlife and how to attain it.

        Figuratively it sounds more like what Jonathan Capehart did at the funeral. He was the one who pissed all over his Aunt’s church and her beliefs.

        I am a unrepentant sinner in the eyes of most religions, when I go visit family I go to their church with them, when the sermon highlights a sin that I am guilty of I don’t feel offended, I evaluate it and if I feel that if by my own internal compass I am ok then I disregard it. Jonathan Capehart choose to go into this church and find something to be offended by, it could just as easily been sex out of wedlock, or pick your poison, he wanted to make it about himself. Proof of that is that he wrote an article about it, trumpeting his actions. The more I think about it the more I am convinced that Jonathan, not the church, is lacking in civility.

        • Figuratively it sounds more like what Jonathan Capehart did at the funeral. He was the one who pissed all over his Aunt’s church and her beliefs.

          Capehart made a low voiced, non disruptive comment. Not the same.

          I am a unrepentant sinner in the eyes of most religions, when I go visit family I go to their church with them, when the sermon highlights a sin that I am guilty of I don’t feel offended, I evaluate it and if I feel that if by my own internal compass I am ok then I disregard it. Jonathan Capehart choose to go into this church and find something to be offended by, it could just as easily been sex out of wedlock, or pick your poison, he wanted to make it about himself. Proof of that is that he wrote an article about it, trumpeting his actions. The more I think about it the more I am convinced that Jonathan, not the church, is lacking in civility.

          Seriously? The comments of the pastor are obviously unethical and uncivil. While I agree that interrupting the service would likely not be appropriate, I don’t see why you give the church and pastor such a pass. It might be rude to tell someone they are unethical in their own house, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay for the host to be unethical, nor does it mean it’s wrong for the guest to have a problem with the unethical host.

  8. . If you take the position that he can’t actually tell the guy off under the circumstances, then I respect that. I’ve made that choice too. But in no way is that “standing up to bigotry.”
    ***************
    What he should have done, considering the circumstances, was pull the minister aside in the empty church (or similar) and quietly and calmly explain that he was offended and why.
    That is if he felt he needed to say anything.
    It’s like that old example of posting meatloaf recipes on a vegan cooking board.

    I agree that what he did was in NO way standing up to bigotry.

    • Otherwise known as a “slime eel”. It resembles certain politicians, often feeding off carcasses, but able to bite a hole in helpless prey, entering the hole and consuming it from within.

      It exudes a viscous slime that expands is seawater, choking the gills of anything trying to eat it, then ties itself in a knot which travels down the length of the creature ridding itself of the slime it’s responsible for. Again, much like certain teflon-coated politicians.

      One of the less cuddly denizens of the deep.

  9. I do not know if Mr. Capehart was standing against bigotry. I had not heard the sermon, and Capehart did not post the text of the sermon. Indeed, from the way Capehart described the sermon itself, the preacher was telling the congregation that God can make them better, and did not seem to imply that those engaged in habitual homosexual conduct were beyond God’s help.

    Perhaps the preacher implied that gay sexual feelings were sinful (as opposed to conduct-Christian theology does not condemn sexually chaste, emotionally intimate relationships between two homosexuals of the same sex). If so, the preacher was theologically wrong or at best made a poor choice of words, and should have been called out on it. But without transcript or a text, all I have is Mr. Capehart’s impression.

    • Indeed, from the way Capehart described the sermon itself, the preacher was telling the congregation that God can make them better, and did not seem to imply that those engaged in habitual homosexual conduct were beyond God’s help.

      Your best case scenario still seems like bigotry to me.

      (as opposed to conduct-Christian theology does not condemn sexually chaste, emotionally intimate relationships between two homosexuals of the same sex)

      There is no one Christian theology on the matter. Your bias is showing.

        • It’s saying that natural characteristic is bad. I think we’ve been over this before. Here’s a parallel:

          “Indeed, from the way Capehart described the sermon itself, the preacher was telling the congregation that God can make [blacks] better, and did not seem to imply that those engaged in habitual [black] conduct were beyond God’s help.”

          The implication is that the gays (now blacks) are inherently worse than nongays (nonblacks). That’s pretty much the definition of bigotry.

            • I’m commenting that being gay is just as natural as being black. “Homosexual conduct” is just as natural as heterosexual conduct, just like interracial conduct is just as natural as non-integrated conduct.

              That you choose to label one as wrong is creating a distinction where there is no difference.

              Heck, the actual conduct people talk about as “homosexual conduct” (anal and oral sex) is a subset of “heterosexual conduct”.

              • And there are religions that frown on those forms of heterosexual conduct. If they apply the same rule of behavior to everyone (i.e., hetero- and homosexuals) are they bigots?

                • De Facto bigots, yes. Heterosexuals have other options…if your objections exclude an entire class of people, rather than just conduct, then its bigotry.

                  I’ve turned around on this issue. I wrote an earlier post defending the right of those who believe in a literal reading of the Bible to object to homosexuality without labeling it bigotry. Now I believe that it has become a distinction without a difference. Religion based bigotry is still bigotry, because its adherents refuse to consider factual evidence that debunks their beliefs.

                  • De Facto bigots, yes. Heterosexuals have other options…if your objections exclude an entire class of people, rather than just conduct, then its bigotry.

                    Homosexuals have other options besides the malum in se act of buggery.

                    • Not all homosexual couples have anal sex. Because of that fact, I assumed you were using buggery as including anal sex, oral sex, and manual manipulation.

  10. Kudos to Capehart for facing down his own fears.

    I think the ethical action for Capehart would have been to stand up and walk out of the ceremony at the point where he felt offended to anger, shaking his head all the way out. He was in the front row? So what? All the more reason to affirm that neither he nor anyone else was a captive or hostage to the pastor who offended him. Nothing rude about that at all – unless you think anyone in attendance should soil their pants in place (giving new meaning to “pew”). He could always explain later to the pastor, his family, or anyone else he might be compelled or obligated to explain to, about why he walked out. Walking out would be even stronger confirmation of his overcoming of his own fears. Disrupting the proceedings by doing anything more than walking out would have been unethical, as it would have been all about him, no matter how many others he might represent.

    Jack, your italicized rendition of what you would have said to the pastor is good through the first five sentences, but the rest disappoints me as tit-for-tat threatening, and promising of descent into “full Westboro” mode. I will try to remember your choice of words, substituting “homophobic” for “gay” and “faggo-fascist” for “Reverend.” I’m sure my opportunity will come soon enough.

    What Zoe said caused me to think of good advice: Live so as to debunk others’ false accusations; sometimes, that’s all you can do; sometimes, it’s never enough.

    Steve made good points which I will not re-hash. So did several others.

    “Bigots, bullies and demagogues depend on etiquette and the fact that everyone else is more polite than they are.” Yeah, that applies in all directions – not just “both ways.”

    Enough. I am done with pondering this incident of the offended funeral attendee (because that’s really what it was, notwithstanding how Jack presented it as “the incident of the pastor’s bigoted rant”), and with pondering Jack’s and others’ comments about it. It is only fitting at this point to quote [begin sarcasm] the greatest female who ever lived in the history of primate species [end sarcasm], 45th President of the United States Hillary: “What difference, at this point, does it make?!” (I am going to make that her campaign slogan for her.) So now, I am going back to watching the Little League World Series – at least, for as long as even that uplifting spectacle is not interrupted by the ongoing, 24/7 crockumentaries about Hillary and her ilk of DINOs.

    • “Jack, your italicized rendition of what you would have said to the pastor is good through the first five sentences, but the rest disappoints me as tit-for-tat threatening, and promising of descent into “full Westboro” mode.”

      This is garbage, E. Telling someone that if they do wrong, you will expose them for doing wrong and shame them on the spot is in no way “tit-for-tat,’ because the return conduct is fair and called for, and in no way unethical.

      “And I just may choose to be at your next sermon, or your next, and at that sermon, I won’t wait until after it is over to register my protest. I, or someone like me will do it right there, amidst the congregation, and expose you for the despicable anti-gay bigot you are. Think about that, the next time you are tempted to call me, or anyone else, a sinner for simply being who and what they are.”

      This only says: 1) Don’t think you can get away with this again. ETHICAL. 2) If you do, be aware that I might call you on it on the spot, and it won’t be pretty. That’s not Westboro, by any interpretation. Westboro harasses innocent people who are unrelated to the conduct they are protesting, without a warning. This threatens to rectify an exercise in hate at the point of the conduct.

      I’m sorry, but there’s no magic to church. Bad conduct in church is still bad conduct, and it should be opposed, flagged, and stopped if possible.

        • I’m with Eeyoure. Even if one agrees with the conclusion that the pastor is acting unethically, your proposed response is unnecessarily vindictive and unproductive. If one has an obligation to correct unethical conduct, doesn’t one have an obligation to do so in an ethical manner? Seems to me you loose the moral high ground when you get on a high horse – especially when it’s not a horse, but a fire-spewing dragon. The venom flung in your proposed response may serve your frustration, but it will do nothing to encourage either a change in belief or behavior, and I assume those things, rather than humiliating or scaring the man, are your ultimate goals.

          • No, scaring and humiliating him are part of changing his behavior. I am 100% certain that what Capehart did will have no effect at all. If the objective is to prevent a future victim from the same thing he suffered, my approach is the one most likely to achieve that result.

            I had a conductor and musical director in college who once said that he would not tolerate a member of the cast or orchestra pulling a stunt on stage on closing night, as was a near tradition at my school. “If you do,” he said, “I will humiliate you, and you will wish you were dead.” Everyone laughed, wherupon a non-student in the cast cried, “NO! He means it! I’ve seen him do it, and it’s horrible!” Whereupon he described how the conductor, during a performance, stopped the music, the song and the show mid-phrase as everyone froze on satge, pointed to a member of the chorus who was farting around, ordered him off stage with a “You are a disgrace, and will never appear on stage in a production of mine again!”, then turned to the audience and said, “I apologize for the interruption, ” and finished the show. “Of course, ” the conductor told us, “That performance was ruined. But once you drop that bomb, you never have to again.”

            I agree with the strategy, and I think it is justified under utilitarian principles.

              • How is that “Christaphobic”? It has nothing to do with religion whatsoever. If Capehart doesn’t want to stand up for himself in that setting, fine. I can accept that choice. But what he did doesn’t do it. If he wants to stand up for himself, based on an insult in that setting, before that audience, then he has to protest in that setting, before that audience.

              • Uh…what? If a speaker at a software conference I was at was unethical, would it be softwarephobic for me to call him out aggressively? Your statement is special pleading, and shows that you think your religion should be privileged.

            • I agree that what Capehart did was useless (beyond making him feel good). What you propose is just as useless and, worse, may be counterproductive. The story of the MD is so distinguishable in terms of context as to be a useless analogy in this situation. I give up. Good luck on that dragon.

  11. Thanks Lorraine, I think you and I are largely in agreement this time. Jack has gone berserk and bizarre-o here. I don’t see any other way to interpret what he is saying besides this: If he is speaking about ethics to a group and offends one person, that person is duty-bound by ethics to completely disrupt Jack’s business on the spot.

    “Confrontationists” – some of Christians’ best potential allies among nonbelievers, even if accidentally or unintentionally.

    Enough (again) – I was “done” with this once before, and now, I am COMPLETELY done. “They ain’t no earthly cure for bullies.”

    • Jack has gone berserk and bizarre-o here. I don’t see any other way to interpret what he is saying besides this: If he is speaking about ethics to a group and offends one person, that person is duty-bound by ethics to completely disrupt Jack’s business on the spot.

      Really? You don’t see other interpretations? How about: If Jack were to start spouting false and unethical comments, then he absolutely should be interrupted and confronted on the spot? It wasn’t about offense. Ugh.

      “Confrontationists” – some of Christians’ best potential allies among nonbelievers, even if accidentally or unintentionally.

      How? I think that opposing falsity is the only way to get rid of it, but maybe I’m mistaken.

  12. Jonathan is lying about this incident. The Pastor read the scripture that said certain conduct practices by people would prevent them from entering into heaven. If Jonathan wants to continue this lie at least he should be truthful and say he disagrees with what the Bible says. Don’t falsely accuse the Pastor as being a religious bigot for reading the Bible passage, then pretend you are standing up against religious bigotry because you told the Pastor you didn’t like what he read. Jonathan why don’t you submit names of your relatives so that an objective reporter can interview them on the accuracy of your statements? If there is anyone unethical in this situation it is Jonathan…. hmmmmm

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