Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Former AFA Attorney & Columnist Speaks Out Against Its Anti-Gay Bigotry

Pam Spaulding scores an exclusive interview with Joe Murray, a former staff attorney and columnist for the American Family Association in which he speaks critically of the organization's anti-gay bigotry. Murray caught the eye of Spaulding when she discovered an opinion piece he wrote critical of the AFA's embracement of General Peter Pace's remarks that "homosexuality" was immoral. "AFA, like other "Christian" groups, chose to run to Pace's aid and such an act suggests borderline bigoted behavior from an organization claiming the mantle of Christianity," Calhoun wrote. "This is disturbing," he added. Having read a number of his own past, anti-gay columns, Spaulding was intrigued and decided to contact Calhoun directly, and he graciously agreed to an interview.

Calhoun said he was originally attracted to the AFA because of its pro-life position. To him, the gay issues were always secondary. Murray describes how the organization's views towards gays "tore at his conscience." "How could AFA, an earthly organization, declare the divine intention of the God and condemn the souls of homosexuals?", he asked. "How was it that men could make the declaration of who was getting into Heaven and who was getting the one-way ticket to Hades?" He then shared this thoughtful analysis, challenging the very Biblical principles upon which the AFA based its views for condemning homosexuality:

I thought who are these people to say who is getting into Heaven and who is not? I thought of the story of Joan of Arc, who, when she was being burnt at the stake, was ask the question of whether she would go to Heaven.

Her response? "If I am not, may it please God to put me in it; if I am, may it please God to keep me there." In other words, it is God, not man, who decides who gets to pass through the gates of Heaven. So, how could groups like AFA even hint that gays were doomed to hell? This smacked of the politics of man, not the divine mercy of God.

Then there was the fact that the gay issue had become over simplified-a sure sign that some facts were missing. Where was the Biblical authority for the condemnation that all homosexuals were to bury in the fires of Hell? In order to answer that question, I decided to take an in depth study of the Bible to determine if what these conservative theologians were preaching was sound.

As I studied the Bible, I found that the word "sodomite" that was used in Corinthians and Romans referred not to all homosexuals, but largely to the promiscuous behavior of the Roman/Greek bathhouses and the use of boy prostitutes.

Take for instance, 1 Cor. 6:9-10, a verse commonly referred to support the argument that all forms of homosexuality are immoral. As I understand it, the Greek word translated as "boy prostitutes" may refer to catamites, i.e. the boys or young men kept for purposes of prostitution and the term translated for "sodomites" refers to all homosexual males who engaged in such practices with such boys. In other words, the condemnation of homosexuality in that passage, thus, refers only to homosexual males who engage the services of boy prostitutes-it is a very narrow definition.

To argue that this verse condemns all homosexuality ignores the true meaning of the words used. Rather than embrace the true meaning of the words and explore the possibility that some homosexual conduct may be permissible, such as that between two consenting adults, fundamentalists have opted to hijack this verse and fill in the gaps with the wisdom of the world.

In other words, the definition was not as broad as many fundamentalists would argue, thus it left a huge opening as to whether gays in a committed relationship would be damned to hell. How could preachers preach such vehement messages towards gays when it was clear that the Bible was unclear at best, and silent at worse, on the issue? Why recklessly condemn a group of individuals? Why fixate on them when your congregation is knee deep in divorce (Jesus had some pretty clear words on that issue)? And as for gluttony, how could preachers lecture gays on restraint when churches host pot luck dinner after pot luck dinner and not be deemed hypocritical?

It was this hypocrisy that caused me to open my eyes. Those on the Christian right, for whatever reasons, have become fixated on homosexuality. They are obsessed by it and perverse form of vengeance appears to be fueling their inquisition. I may be wrong, but I think actions are speaking much louder than words here.

The whole gay issue is no longer about the quest for the Truth; it is about fear and loathing. It is about shame and sorrow. It is anything but Christian. And if a person's sexual disposition is determined by birth, how can it be that these folks were created merely to be cast into Hell? The fundamentalist explanation makes no sense, but the view that only some homosexual behavior (see the verbiage used in Corinthians, etc.), and not all gays, is immoral does make sense.

Thus was my evolution. I may not be right, but I think the Christian community must explore these issues openly and honestly if they are truly to remain Christian. We have an obligation to explore these issues and be open to the fact that the modern view on homosexuality may be wrong.
The interview covers a lot more, but there is one matter which really caught my eye. In Indiana, the Indiana Catholic Conference has teamed up with the AFA to fight for the passage of SJR-7. Some Catholics might be interested to know that, according to a top executive of the AFA, Catholics aren't Christians. That revelation came in the interview when Spaulding asked Calhoun about his thoughts on who the organization would back for president in 2008. Calhoun suggested former Gov. Mitt Romney would have a serious problem getting support from the group because of the "religion issue" (i.e., he's a Mormon). Calhoun tells Spaulding:

As for Mitt, he has the religion issue. I remember during a weekly mandatory devotional at AFA, one top AFA executive made the statement that Catholics were not Christians (being a Catholic? this was news to me). So if Catholics are not Christians, I can only imagine what Mormons are considered.

Calhoun doesn't think the AFA likes any of the top-tier Republican candidates, particularly Sen. John McCain or former New York Mayor Rudy Guiliani. In the final analysis, however, the AFA will back whoever the GOP nominates. "As a former staffer for the [Pat] Buchanan campaign, I can testify to how groups like AFA, when backed into a corner, will go with the political choice over the principled candidate," he said. "Hence, to answer your question, while not initially supportive of any of the first tier candidates, I believe that once the nomination is made, AFA, and other Christian groups, will follow the party line," Calhoun ended.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for this excellent post.

It just goes to show you, that sometimes, hate is stronger than reason.

Edward Fox said...

It is important to remember that after the politics, the charge that led to Joan of Arc's being burned at the stake, the legal reason for the sentence, as opposed to the political reason behind it, was that she refused to wear a dress.