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Location: Kansas City, Missouri, United States

Doing my part to irritate Republicans, fundamentalists, bigots and other lower life forms.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Mixing the message in a Cuisinart

Some people send out mixed messages. You know the type ... "I love you, but I just can't be with you" or "I like what you're wearing, but let me pick out someone different for you" or my personal favorite "I'm so happy to be around you, but I need my space."

Then there's a whole different group of people that fold, spindle and mutilate the message, then put it through a Cuisinart set on puree before sending it out.

In that latter category is the Arlington, Va., Assembly of God Church which began running television advertisements aimed "to extend a welcome to people who might have felt demonized by Christianity," according to an article in The Washington Blade.

According to the church's pastor, Lynn Carter:

"This is a new ad that we're doing just to let folks know that we love 'em and that we care about them," Carter said. "We have various commercials that are on. Some deal with gay issues, some do not."

The commercials spotlight at least two "ex-gays." One commercial features a man, the other features a woman, and each says they were sexually abused as a child and later lived a "gay lifestyle." Both commercials end with the person claiming they are now heterosexual and Christian.

Carter said Arlington Assembly of God was not trying to suggest sexual abuse causes homosexuality.

Ummmm .. OK. So if the ads are not trying to suggest that homo-seck-shuls are created and set on their "lifestyle choice" by being abused, why feature two such pathetic creatures in the ad?

According to Carter, she's heard from some gays who were offended by the ads and some who were touched by them. "We want to convey a message of acceptance or love." The commercials were intended to counteract anti-gay messages from churches, Carter claimed in the article. "I think many gays and lesbians feel that they weren't accepted," Carter said. "God hates liars, too, but God lets liars come to church. If someone's looking for an out [from homosexuality] that's fine, and if they're not that's fine, we just want to let them know that we care."

I'm fine with a message of inclusion and I certainly wish more churches would be inclusive toward gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender persons. But far from being an inclusive, welcoming message, there's an undercurrent that all that love supposed presented in the commercials is kind of ... well, "conditional."

By featuring a couple of "ex-gays" in their ads, here's the real message the church is sending out: "God loves everyone ... but he really, really likes it if you are straight. Or at least not living that sinful homo-seck-shul lifestyle."

That's supposed to make us feel welcome?

If churches want to talk about abuse and groups that have been "demonized" by the church, they need to talk more than a millenia of Christianity's spiritual abuse toward a whole lot of different groups, all of whom have been demonized at one time or another by those who claimed to speak for God.

Gays? "Abominations worthy of death! Remember the story of Sodom (but the Genesis version, not the one in Ezekial and other books that claim it was pride, inhospitality to strangers and failing to care for the poor). We all know you horny homos wanted to hump those angels who visited Lot."

Kids? "Spare the rod and spoil the child. Beat that kid 'cause the Bible gives us carte blanche. Doesn't it say you should stone a disobedient child? Then anything short of killing the little brat is almost ... well, 'liberal!'"

Women? "Hey, it's all your fault, ladies! If you hadn't have picked that damned apple and offered it to Adam, we'd still be running around naked in Eden. You women are a necessary evil, so shut up and keep your heads covered in church. And don't ever think you could actually be in the clergy!"

Blacks? "You people are descended from Noah's son, Ham ... the one who got cursed to live in servitude. So, see, slavery really was OK. And remember that the Bible tells slaves to obey their masters, so quit being so 'uppity.'"

Jews? "It's bad enough you didn't recognize the saviour when he showed up, but then you went and killed him!"

I've actually heard all these arguments made at some point in my life. And I have yet to hear the churches apologize for them. Oh sure, they sweep them under the carpet ... but to apologize for this kind of spiritual abuse? Never.

Until churches can honestly confront their own histories and prejudices, allegedly "welcoming" messages like the ones from the Arlington Assembly of God will ring hollow.