I mentioned this book by Mel White when I received the advance publicity. Now that I've read it, I recommend everyone read it, whether you're Christian or not, gay or straight or whatever.
Anyone who thinks the religious right is a mostly benign but eccentric manifestation of conservative religion need look no further to be disabused of that idea.
I refuse to call it the 'Christian right' any longer, for it is neither Christian nor right in its refusal to follow the commands of Jesus. In its immense wealth, devoted armies of supporters, and totally malignant agenda for US and world domination, this movement is definitely eccentric but anything but innocuous.
White traces the development of this movement and its growth in influence through the particular prism of its apalling and utterly inexcusable treatment of LGBT people. Drawing on sociological research into the roots of fascism, he explores the uncanny and extensive parallels between historical fascist movements and the spirit of fascism masquerading as 'Judeo-Christian' morality.
A few months ago I linked to a similar analysis on hatecrime.org, which identified parallels between Nazi anti-Jewish speech and religious right anti-gay speech. If you haven't looked at this before, I urge you to. From their own mouths, the leaders of the religious right have declared homosexuals to be their number one enemy and have declared holy war on 'homosexuals' and the 'homosexual agenda'. If you take a look at the historical comparisons, the so-called 'homosexual agenda' is lifted almost directly (even if not consciously) from ther playbook of the Nazis.
White doesn't really ask this question outright, but it's hard not to: What is the difference today between moderate-to-extreme Islamic mullahs who preach death to Jews and Westerners in their mosques and whose words incite others to hateful violence, and 'Christian' fundamentalist clergy who preach death to gays and lesbians from their pulpits and whose words also incite others to acts of violence?
There is none.
Again, if you don't believe Falwell, Robertson, Dobson, Keyes and others are literally preaching death to gays and are actively working for our elimination from the face of the earth, read this book. It is full of direct quotes from the sources. The 'homosexual' in America is being caricatured and maligned in exactly the same way as the Jews in Europe were seventy years ago.
Religious fundamentalists are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to fight gay civil rights around the globe. I even read today of the Australian-based Exclusive Brethren, a small group that hitherto eschewed political involvement for a spirit of radical separatism from the modern world, nop lavishly funding political war chests on the basis of this one single issue.
We may wake up one day to find we have won the war against the terrorists out there but have allowed ourselves to be enslaved by a different terror in our midst. Violent speech inevitably leads to violent acts, and violent acts to a state of violence. We have already seen this with abortion clinic bombings and the increase in hate-fueled murders of innocent GLBT folk.
If the American Taliban have their way, LGBT people won't merely be pushed back into the closet but will be permanently made second or third class citizens, or worse.
White concludes, however, on an inspirational note. In founding Soulforce, his own journey has been transformed through developing an understanding of the teachings of Jesus, Gandhi and Martin Luther King concerning non-violent resistance to evil. Hatred and violence cannot be overcome by more hatred and violence, even violence of speech.
Non-violent resistance, or soul force, says White, is the only path to overcoming this spiritual and physical violence. Jesus taught us this truth, but Gandhi and MLK showed us how to live it.
Personally, I find it hard not to repay violence against me with at least thoughts of violence (if not real acts). But this leaves us at 'an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth' and the world is no better for it. By hating those who hate us, we feed the cycle of violence (or negative kharma if you like).
I think Mel White and Jesus are onto something here. It won't be easy putting it into action, to repay violence with non-violent resistance, to stand up to oppressors without using the tools of oppression. But perhaps it is the only way.