How Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptists Are Christians, Explained [gawker.com]

Fred-Phelps-Signs

by Adam Weinstein / gawker.com

God is love, right? It’s sort of a cornerstone of the Christian faith: He “so loved the world” that He gave his son Jesus up to save us all. And if God is love, then a sociopath who pickets dead soldiers with a “God Hates Fags” sign can’t really be Christian, right? Well, the answer is complicated.

Fred Phelps is dead. The founder of Westboro Baptist Church, the litigious head of this hateful community, will soon be in the ground, and the media consensus is to be joyful and happy for the misery of a hate group that brought so much misery to others.

In the longstanding furor over their reprehensible tactics—a furor I, too, have indulged in over the years—few commentators have ever taken a moment to come to grips with the WBC’s theological foundations. That’s a shame, because WBC’s belief system is intellectually consistent in many ways that the “mainstream” religious right is not. And it’s based in a uniquely American theology as old as the colonies—a Christian paradigm that’s influenced our culture in myriad respects, but is seldom addressed by anyone but its most devoted adherents.

The broad theology of WBC can be summed up in one basic statement:

Everybody sucks.

Only awful, terrible, despicable, depraved people would cause a political hatemongering ruckus at a funeral or an elementary school. That’s absolutely true. The thing is, the faithful of Westboro Baptist Church would be the first to claim that they’re depraved—and so is everyone else. This is the bedrock of their belief system, laid out on their website:

These doctrines of grace were well summed up by John Calvin in his 5 points of Calvinism… Although these doctrines are almost universally hated today, they were once loved and believed, as you can see in many confessions of faith. Even though the Arminian lies that “God loves everyone” and “Jesus died for everyone” are being taught from nearly every pulpit in this generation, this hasn’t always been the case. If you are in a church that supposedly believes the Bible, and you are hearing these lies, then your church doesn’t teach what the Bible teaches.

Click here to read the entire article…

The Accidental Activist [vanityfair.com]

She appeared to be the perfect plaintiff in a case that changed America’s political landscape: Roe v. Wade, decided by the Supreme Court 40 years ago this month. But Norma McCorvey, now 65, was never what she seemed: neither as the pregnant Texas woman who won fame as abortion-rights icon “Jane Roe,” nor as the pro-life activist she would become.

by Joshua Prager / vanityfair.com

It is a spring night in rural Texas, and crickets sing as a woman in her 60s with broad shoulders and short brown hair stops a pregnant young woman on an empty sidewalk. The older woman has heard that the younger woman, her neighbor Lucy Mae, may be seeking an abortion. “You don’t have to do this,” she says, her brown eyes and long loose cheeks filling with emotion. “Children are a miracle—a gift from God!”

The women are performing a scene in Doonby, a movie about a drifter who awakens a sleepy Texas town to its spiritual possibilities. The movie, tentatively set to be released this year, is directed by Peter Mackenzie, a Catholic filmmaker from Britain. It stars John Schneider, best known for The Dukes of Hazzard, who is a born-again Christian.

The older woman is born-again, too. Her name is Norma McCorvey. She is not a professional actress. But back when Nixon was president, McCorvey landed the role of a lifetime: that of “Jane Roe,” the plaintiff in what would become one of the most divisive legal actions in American history.

Forty years ago, on January 22, 1973, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wadethat women had the right to an abortion “free of interference by the State,” as Justice Harry A. Blackmun wrote in the Court’s majority opinion. The decision greatly expanded the legal boundaries for abortion in the United States, allowing women to terminate a pregnancy at any point during the first 24 weeks—that is, through the first and second trimesters. (Roe did, however, permit states to impose regulations in the second trimester, including who could perform abortions and where. It also gave states the right to ban most abortions in the third trimester.)

McCorvey, under the pseudonym Jane Roe, had brought the precipitating lawsuit in 1970, when she was pregnant for a third time and living in Texas, where abortion was prohibited unless the life of the pregnant woman was threatened. (The Wade in Roe v. Wade was Dallas County district attorney Henry Wade, the named defendant.) Roe v. Wade was a watershed legal ruling. But it also helped to turn abortion into the great foe of American consensus. Subsequent cases have made it clear that the Supreme Court majority in favor of abortion rights has been eroding, from 7 to 2 in Roe to 5 to 4 in cases decided in more recent years (with the majority deciding against abortion rights in a number of cases). Roe is undoubtedly the most familiar legal ruling in the minds of most Americans—not for nothing did Katie Couric ask Sarah Palin in a 2008 interview to cite any Supreme Court case except that one. But few people know much about the woman who prompted the ruling in the first place.

Norma McCorvey, now 65, has presented a version of her life in two autobiographies, I Am Roe(with Andy Meisler, 1994) and Won by Love (with Gary Thomas, 1997). In McCorvey’s telling, the story is a morality tale with a simple arc: An unwanted pregnancy. A lawsuit. Pro-choice. Born-again. Pro-life. Peace. The truth is sadder and less tidy. And with the help of a cache of documents retrieved two years ago from the clutter of a Texas home she had abandoned, as well as interviews with people once close to her, the story can be more accurately told.

Click to read the rest of the article…

Gay teens less likely to be happy, nationwide survey finds [latimes.com]

Even as barriers to equality fall, gay and lesbian teens report they still struggle with harassment and identity issues more than their straight peers do.

By Rebecca Trounson, Los Angeles Times

It’s not easy growing up gay in America, despite the nation’s increasing acceptance of same-sex marriage and other issues of gay equality.

Gay and lesbian teenagers across the United States are less likely to be happy, more likely to report harassment and more inclined to experiment with drugs and alcohol than the nation’s straight teens, according to a new nationwide survey of more than 10,000 gay and lesbian young people.

The survey, which will be released Thursday by the Human Rights Campaign, aWashington, D.C.-based civil rights group, is described as one of the largest ever to focus on the nation’s gay youth. It was conducted online and involved 10,030 participants aged 13 to 17 who identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. It also included interviews with about 500 13- to 17-year-olds who composed the poll’s “straight” population.

The study paints an often stark picture of the challenges of growing up gay in this country, even as same-sex marriage gains support among many Americans and other legal and cultural barriers to gay equality begin to fall.

The survey showed, for example, that half of all gay and lesbian teens reported being verbally harassed or called names at school, compared with a quarter of non-LGBT kids. About twice as many gay and lesbian respondents as straight teens also said they had been shoved, kicked or otherwise assaulted at their schools, with 17% of LGBT teens and 10% of straight youths reporting such assaults.

Fewer than half of gay teenagers said they believe their community is accepting of people like them, and 63% said they would need to move to another town or part of the country to find acceptance. Just 4 in 10 gay teens reported being happy, compared with nearly 7 in 10 of their straight peers.

And more than twice as many gay (52%) as non-gay (22%) respondents said they had experimented with drugs or alcohol.

Child welfare advocates who reviewed the study before publication praised it for shedding light on a population that is difficult to reach and in need of help from government agencies and others.

Linda Spears, vice president of policy for the Child Welfare League of America, said the study bears out “our worst fears about LBGT kids. These kids are often so vulnerable in the way their lives are being led because of the lack of support they have. They need what all young people need, parents and others who are there for them and nurture their development.”

Chad Griffin, the new president of the Human Rights Campaign and an advocate for same-sex marriage, said the survey “is yet another reminder that we still have a lot to do in this country so that young people can grow up healthy.”

Griffin, who helped organize the legal fight against Proposition 8, California’s ban on gay marriage, said he hopes the report will inform policymakers and serve as a reminder to parents, schools and elected officials about the challenges facing a vulnerable population.

“These are young people,” he said. “They worry about which hall they can walk down at school, which table they have to avoid in the lunchroom, what happens at church on Sunday and whether they need to hide their identity from their family.”

But the survey also showed that many gay teens find safe havens among their peers, on the Internet and in their schools. Nearly 3 in 4 gay teenagers said they were more honest about themselves online than elsewhere and 67% said their schools were “generally accepting” of gay people.

In interviews this week at L.A.’s Gay and Lesbian Center, several young people spoke about the survey’s findings and their own experiences coming to terms with their LGBT identity.

Jonathan McClain, a 22-year-old from Altadena, said he identified strongly with part of the study showing that many young gays and lesbians feel forced to change their identities almost hour by hour, depending on where they are and who’s around. Many LGBT kids are more likely to be “out” at school than they are with their families.

“Sometimes you’re out of the closet, sometimes you have to put yourself back in and watch what you say and how you act,” said McClain, who volunteers at the center.

McClain, who came out after he graduated from high school, said he had never directly experienced harassment.

That was not the case with others interviewed, including Edwin Chuc, from Los Angeles, who said he had been beaten up in middle school and ended up with broken ribs. Chuc said he had lived on the streets for several years and abused drugs and alcohol before turning his life around.

Now a confident 19-year-old who will attend USC in the fall, Chuc said his parents are much more supportive now than they were when he first came out. “I’m happy and I have people I can turn to,” he said.

Logan Woods, 18, of Manhattan Beach, said middle school was tough for him too, but high school, at the private Vistamar School in El Segundo, has been much better, with good friends and a strong gay support group among the students.

“It’s getting easier for me to live spontaneously and not feel like I have to plan everything out for fear of being hurt,” he said.

The survey was conducted online from April 16 through May 20. It was advertised through social media, as well as through LGBT youth centers across the country. The researchers said the survey method is not unusual for targeting hard-to-reach populations but may not represent a truly random sample.

http://www.latimes.com/health/la-me-gay-youth-20120607,0,6913489,print.story

Marriage and Equality

Quote of the Day: Adaptable

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” - Charles Darwin

San Francisco Police Department Issues “It Gets Better” Videos

Mayor Lee & Chief Suhr Unveil First of its Kind LGBT Youth Video. 

The San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) along with Mayor Ed Lee is proud to announce the debut of the “SFPD It Gets Better” video project as part of the nationwide campaign to end bullying of LGBT youth. The video provides a message of transformation, hope and encouragement to LGBT yo…uth that it does get better. The SFPD is the first and only Police Department in the country to produce a video for the campaign.

“It Gets Better” is a nationwide project, that offers support and encouragement to youth who are struggling with their sexual identity or bullied for being “different.” These messages of hope let young people know that they are not alone and that help is available.

The making of this video was a concerted effort by numerous members of the SFPD with the assistance of San Francisco film maker Shawn Northcutt who produced and edited the video along with San Francisco local musician Lynden Bair who developed the musical score.

“Today our Police Department joins the nationwide campaign to end bullying of LGBT youth by producing a heartfelt video that provides a message of hope and encouragement that it will get better,” said Mayor Ed Lee. “San Francisco is a city that prides itself on embracing equality for all and this video is another great example of our commitment to reinforcing our City’s values.”

Chief Greg Suhr wants youth to know that it really does get better. “This is a first of its kind video for the SFPD and for any law enforcement agency in the United States. I hope this message of encouragement will give hope to anyone who might be bullied because of who they are. The members of the SFPD will continue to work with all young people and reach out to the communities, as mentors and role models.”

“Suicide is not the answer.”
If you’re considering suicide or need help, call the Trevor Project now.
1-886-4-U-TREVOR
(866-488-7386)

www.thetrevorproject.org

Giving Visibility to Gay and Transgender Health Care [americanprogress.org]

By Kellan Baker, Jeff Krehely / Center for American Progress

As gay and transgender people know all too well, you can’t be healthy if you have to hide who you are. Unfortunately, the health care system often renders gay and transgender people invisible by erasing their experiences and obscuring the impact that societal discrimination and prejudice have on their health.

Colorado’s statewide gay and transgender equality group, One Colorado, examines this injustice in its new report, “Invisible: The State of LGBT Health in Colorado.” One Colorado’s executive director, Brad Clark, discusses the report’s findings and recommendations for health systems, providers, and members of the LGBT community.

Click to read the rest of the article…

Cynthia Nixon says she’s gay by ‘choice.’ Is it really a choice? [latimes.com]

By Karen Kaplan, Los Angeles Times/For the Booster Shots blog

Former “Sex and the City” star Cynthia Nixon says she is gay by “choice” – a statement that has riled many gay rights activitists who insist that people don’t choose their sexual orientation.

Here’s what Nixon, who recently shaved her head to play acancer patient in a Broadway production of “Wit,” told the New York Times Magazine:

“I gave a speech recently, an empowerment speech to a gay audience, and it included the line ‘I’ve been straight and I’ve been gay, and gay is better.’ And they tried to get me to change it, because they said it implies that homosexuality can be a choice. And for me, it is a choice. I understand that for many people it’s not, but for me it’s a choice, and you don’t get to define my gayness for me.”

The question of whether sexual orientation is subject to nature or nurture – or some combination of both – has been hotly debated for years. If it is not an immutable characteristic, that would imply that a gay person could be somehow transformed into a straight one. In other words, homosexuality could be “cured.” Which in turn implies that being gay is some sort of illness.

Hence, the offense taken to this point of view.

Nixon seemed to anticipate the controversy her remarks might generate. She also told the New York Times:

“A certain section of our community is very concerned that it not be seen as a choice, because if it’s a choice, then we could opt out. I say it doesn’t matter if we flew here or we swam here, it matters that we are here and we are one group and let us stop trying to make a litmus test for who is considered gay and who is not.” Her face was red and her arms were waving. “As you can tell,” she said, “I am very annoyed about this issue. Why can’t it be a choice? Why is that any less legitimate? It seems we’re just ceding this point to bigots who are demanding it, and I don’t think that they should define the terms of the debate. I also feel like people think I was walking around in a cloud and didn’t realize I was gay, which I find really offensive. I find it offensive to me, but I also find it offensive to all the men I’ve been out with.”

As expected, this did not go over smoothly with everyone. Writing on AmericaBlog Gay, John Aravosis wrote that Nixon “needs to learn how to choose her words better, because she just fell into a right-wing trap, willingly. When the religious right says it’s a choice, they mean you quite literally choose your sexual orientation, you can change it at will, and that’s bull.”

So, what’s the scientific evidence that sexual orientation is either a biologically determined trait or an actual choice?

Spanish study published in 2009 in the journal Investigacion Clinica summarizes the evidence forgenetic influences. Based on research comparing identical twins, fraternal twins and even siblings who were adopted, scientists have determined that 27% to 76% of the chance that one is gay is determined by DNA. The genetic influence appears to be greater for men than for women, according to the study.

Other stuff is probably happening in utero that influences one’s sexual orientation. As a review articlepublished last year in the journal Endocrinology explains, exposure to atypical levels of testosteroneand other steroids in the womb is probably responsible for some people being gay. Another review article, published last year in Frontiers in Neuroendocrinology, makes the same point:

“The evidence supports a role for prenatal testosterone exposure in the development of sex-typed interests in childhood, as well as in sexual orientation in later life, at least for some individuals. It appears, however, that other factors, in addition to hormones, play an important role in determining sexual orientation. These factors have not been well-characterized, but possibilities include direct genetic effects, and effects of maternal factors during pregnancy.”

One of those prenatal influences may be the number of males who have previously inhabited the mother’s uterus. It may sound strange, but Canadian researchers have found that “having one or more older brothers boosts the likelihood of a boy growing up to be gay,” as I explained in a 2006 Los Angeles Times story. As I wrote at the time, “The so-called fraternal birth order effect is small: Each older brother increases the chances by 33%. Assuming the base rate of homosexuality among men is 2%, it would take 11 older brothers to give the next son about a 50-50 chance of being gay.” Those findings were reported in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

In addition, my colleague Shari Roan wrote about a fascinating controversy surrounding treatment for a rare condition called congenital adrenal hyperplasia. The disorder can cause girls to be born with genitals that look male, making it hard to tell the baby’s gender. One treatment is to give women hormones during subsequent pregnancies to reduce the risk for siblings. But doctors have found that this approach has an unusual side effect:

“The treatment might reduce the likelihood that a female with the condition will be homosexual,” Roan wrote. “Further, it seems to increase the chances that she will have what are considered more feminine behavioral traits.”

This is all just the tip of the iceberg. But the scientific consensus seems to be that there is indeed a biological basis for homosexuality – though it’s not necessarily 100% determined by either genes or by environmental factors.

http://www.latimes.com/health/boostershots/la-heb-cynthia-nixon-gay-by-choice-20120125,0,2504094.story

 

Best Wishes for the New Year! Goodbye 2011! Hello 2012!

Joe Clementi Still Cries Over His Son’s Facebook Page [gawker.com]

By Brian Moylan / gawker.com

Try not to tear up when reading this interview with Joe and Jane Clementi in People magazine. The parents of the New Jersey teen—who killed himself earlier this year after his roommate broadcast him and a partner having sex in their dorm room over the internet—are finally speaking out, and it’s heartbreaking.

His father says that he finds solace in a Facebook page dedicated to his son’s memory. “I’ll read a few things until I get choked up—then I’ll stop,” he says. OK, now I’mabout to cry. His mother says this time of year is especially hard for her, her husband, and her two living sons. “It’s especially hard right now because this was his favorite time of year. So we’re trying to find a new way to celebrate Christmas. I’m sad—and trying to get through it.” OK, now I am crying. Powerful stuff. Everyone go home and call your parents or hug your children or something. Then cry alone in your room. That is the dignified thing to do.

http://gawker.com/5866080/joe-clementi-still-cries-over-his-sons-facebook-page

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