With the sad and hypocritical Haggard dominating comment on US evangelicalism, look at another story from The Advocate and PlanetOut.
Mel White, evangelical pastor and former ghostwriter to Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and Billy Graham, came to civil disobedience late in life — years after his long and tortuous coming-out. His group, Soulforce, fights the religious and political oppression of gay men and lesbians through “relentless nonviolent resistance” inspired by Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King.
As he said on a recent visit to PlanetOut to promote his new book, Religion Gone Bad: The Hidden Dangers of the Christian Right (Tarcher/Penguin; $25.95), he often despairs of getting more gays on the barricades.
“I don’t think we’re noticing any more than the Jews did,” he said, “until it’s too late.”…
Religion Gone Bad makes the case that no one has to choose. White, who has a doctorate in divinity, teases out the difference between evangelism (the love of God and the wish to spread His good news) and fundamentalism (among other things, the belief in an inerrant Bible, anti-gay Leviticus 20:13 and all).
He traces the current wave of fundamentalism in U.S. churches not much farther back than the mid-1970s, when Francis Schaeffer, a Midwesterner who exiled himself to the purer slopes of Switzerland, began inciting millions of U.S. Christians with his call to overthrow “the tyranny of secular humanism.” Whole denominations, like the Southern Baptist Convention, were taken over by fundamentalists seeking a “government of the righteous.” Falwell, Robertson et al., in amassing political power, put the fundies in scoring position.
Along the way, White writes, justice and mercy got lost.
His eyes brim over as he talks about young, conflicted religious people who have taken their lives…
White acknowledges that the numbers will be on the religious right’s side for some time, even if its White House earpieces are swept from power. Probably not by coincidence, he did a recent book signing in Minneapolis the same day Focus on the Family’s James Dobson was to speak at that city’s basketball arena. White was thrilled to have sold 100 books.
“Then I heard that Dobson had given free books of his that night to the first 8,000 people at the Target Center. That’s what I’m up against.”
So what can a person do — supposing that getting arrested seems extreme and voting Democratic not enough?
“You come out,” White said. “You go back to the church you left. You come back one Sunday and leave a note in the plate that says why you left, and sign your name. You show them who you are.
“If they know who you are, if they truly see you, if they have to look you in the eye as they walk by on their way inside, they cannot see you in the same destructive way. That’s coming out.
“You don’t even have to stay for the homily.”
Much of this may still seem alien in Australia; we are not yet “compatriots” of citizens in the USA either actually or even spiritually. Despite Kevin’s use of the term in his comment on the previous entry it’s still Queen Elizabeth II on our coins and John Howard parading around our Westminster-style Parliament; but Mel White may also be more relevant than some might think. Go to the Soulforce web site.