Thursday, May 18, 2017

Is There Any Horrid Behavior This Hate Group Leader Won't Excuse?

Tony Perkins writes in support of San Luis Obispo High School teacher Michael Stack. I'll get back to Perkins but first we must fully understand Mr. Stack's behavior. By now most of you have heard about Stack who resigned from his teaching after sending an anti-gay letter to his school's student newspaper. However, that's not the full story. A few things that seem to have gotten lost in the news cycle:
  1. Stack was a probationary teacher.
  2. In February Stack was informed that he would not be retained for the following school year. Stack offers no credible explanation.
  3. Therefore, Stack's (rambling) resignation, late in the school year, was meaningless. Its intent was presumably to create a vehicle for self victimization (he sent a copy to Fox's village idiot, Todd Starnes).
Stack is wed to the belief  that, because his offensive letter to the editor was based on Christianity, he deserves a pass for his bigotry. Stack's letter is titled Letter to the Editor Regarding May 2017 Feature. It is directed as an attack on an issue of the newspaper that includes a photo of two lesbians kissing:

First we are exposed to Stack's willful ignorance and his need to pass it along to young minds:
Without divine intervention it would be mathematically impossible to write a book filled with hundreds of predictions over thousands of years with 100% accuracy regarding their fulfillment, yet the Bible has done exactly that, with just a few prophecies yet to be fulfilled. Therefore, I have faith that the entire Bible is without error.
Claiming that their book is 100% accurate in predicting the future is utter nonsense. Many of the prophesies in the Bible were written after the fact. They are claims of having foretold events made after the event occurred. Most others are vague and have a predetermined degree of certainty. I could prophecise that the sun will disappear from the heavens and then the faithful will fear God. I have just predicted the inevitable, an eclipse somewhere at some time. Some of Stack's certainty is assigned to events that have not yet happened but the fervent belief that they will occur at some time in the future. For example, the second coming. In other words all of the misses are assigned to what will occur at some time.

The purpose of prophecy is not to predict the future but to change the present. Therefore, if they are all accurate then they failed their purpose since they are dependent upon the status quo. As for the Bible being inerrant, there are thousands of errors in the Bible. I would remind Mr. Stack that the sun does not revolve around Earth for example.

What most of us want for children is for them to develop into intellectually curious critical thinkers. The assertion that ancient chronicles are authoritative, inerrant and above debate are antithetical to those goals. Most Christians, by the way, are not literalists. Mr. Stack is and it is an extreme or fanatical point of view. Moreover, throughout his letter to the editor Stack makes the assumption that everyone is Christian — or should be. I find it offensive given that Stack is writing from a position of relative authority in a public school. After proclaiming “his Good News about Christ,” Stack reminds the students that God can be angered and that the consequences are severe:
But God shows His anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth by their wickedness. They know the truth about God because He has made it obvious to them. For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see His invisible qualities – His eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.
Eventually we get to the evilness of being gay. Of course it is not sexual orientation. Oh, no. Homosexuality is behavior that is the result of bad choices. There is an abundance of shame:
God abandoned them to do whatever shameful things their hearts desired. As a result, they did vile and shameful things with each other’s bodies. They traded the truth about God for a lie. So they worshiped and served the things God created instead of the creator Himself, who is worthy of eternal praise! Amen. That is why God abandoned them to their shameful desires. Even the women turned against the natural way to have sex and instead indulged in sex with each other. And the men, instead of having normal sexual relations with women, burned with lust for each other. Men did shameful things with other men, and as a result of this sin, they suffered within themselves the penalty they deserved.
Translation: Being gay angers God and you will be punished. The unwritten penalty, we all know, is death. Stack did not have to write it. It was implied.

Stack is obtuse. He sees no problem passing this along. He sees it as an obligatory act. He fails to appreciate the effect this has on gay kids. He fails to appreciate that he is giving some straight kids a justification for bullying those same gay kids. It reads like encouragement because when God is pissed off, everyone suffers.

Let us return to the resignation letter. Stack writes:
Last week the San Luis Obispo High School newspaper cover featured a same-sex couple apparently kissing. Numerous students expressed their shock and disgust with it, asking such question as: "Can they do this?", "Why are they doing making statements such as "That's disgusting!" and "That's just wrong!" One student even threw the paper to the ground and stomped on it in disgust. In each and every instance I suggested they write a letter to the editor and express their concerns.
This might be a pastor's story: “The kids made me do it.” Let's assume that this is accurate. Good teachers teach my asking questions. For example:
  • What is it that you find upsetting?
  • Why does that upset you?
  • How does this photo or story affect you personally? 
There are others but this should spark a conversation. What does, say, the American Academy of Pediatrics say about homosexuality? This teacher could have and should have turned this into a teaching moment.
I guess my question is "Why is San Luis Obispo High School promoting ANY sexual orientation to our minor children? That shows a complete disregard for parental rights.
Apparently confirming the existence of gay children is promotion. The implication of this are that being exposed to homosexuality causes children to become gay. Once you take away the various forms of “gays pose a threat to children,” they have a seriously depleted toolbox for bigotry.
To my knowledge, none of those students wrote to Expressions, and why would they? In order to subject themselves to hysterical, rehearsed hate speech for the entirety of their high school years? I can't blame them.
Mr. Stack really does believe in his own prophetic accuracy. Neither Stack nor I know what the consequences of such a letter would be nor do we know if students chose not to write what Stack wrote for other reasons. The reaction might be dependent upon how such a letter was written. What we have is the intersection of “this is what I believe” with “this is what you should believe.” Leave out the judgmental aspect of Stack's letter and it might be received better. In contrast, Stack's letter is arrogant.

Stack is intellectually offensive when he claims that negative reactions to what many feel is hate speech would be “hysterical” (is my diatribe hysterical?) and rehearsed. Students who disagree with Stack are incapable of expressing themselves peacefully and with originality. Apparently those are denied to all by conservative Christians. Furthermore, to characterize a reaction to hate as “hate speech” and do to so in predictive mode is simply unacceptable for a teacher. In fact, it is unacceptable for a grownup.

One more paragraph to quote and then I want to get to Mr. Perkins:
I exercised my First Amendment rights and submitted my opinion to a public forum. In it I quoted, verbatim, Romans 1: 16-32. Now people are exercising THEIR First Amendment rights by responding to that letter. This is how America is designed to function.
Not exactly and he should know that this has nothing to do with the First Amendment. Simply stated, teachers and students do not have equal rights in an educational environment. Teachers are authority figures. Even in post-secondary education the roles are not in balance but particularly in a secondary school a teacher's word carries much more weight and affects students in a way that cannot be matched by other students. As a teacher Stack should understand the imbalance. Perhaps his next job will be in some mediocre Baptist school that dimwitted parents send their kids to in order that they might become equally witless.

Enough. Stack goes on to complain about Liberal Media Bias©. He is unworthy of further attention. So let's turn to the wisdom of Tony Perkins, leader of the anti-LGBT hate group, Family Research Council. Perkins' polemic is titled: “The Wages of Biblical Illiteracy.” I will change my quote style to differentiate Perkins from Stack. I'll not bother to quote Perkins entire piece. Perkins relishes Stack as a victim of The Homosexual Agenda©.
He (Stack) concluded his letter saying, "I write you these things in order to lift up those who have stumbled, or may stumble, and put you back on the right path. I pray you each have a great summer, a wonderful life, and a perfect eternity." After the letter was published, a media firestorm ensued. News headlines falsely claimed he believes "gays deserve to die" – all pointing to verse 32 as evidence. Verses 26-27 do declare the sinfulness of homosexual acts; but it is only after verses 29-31 add a long list of other sins -- including "greed," "envy," and "gossip" -- that verse 32 says that "those who practice such things are worthy of death" (NASB).
As I have already pointed out, there was ample hateful rhetoric without asserting that gays are worthy of death (which is from a different passage; one in Leviticus as well as the selected verses). I wish that Perkins would remember the comparability of greed, envy and gossip. He doesn't seem to raise money off of any of those things. Nor does he invite disapproval of people who are greedy, envious or gossipy. A quick Google search ( gossip) yields no results.
You may recall, last summer, news headlines leveled the same accusation at a member of Congress who referenced the first chapter of Romans. At the time, Mollie Hemingway, a senior editor at the Federalist, called out the media for distorting Scripture: "Maybe notice that the listing of sins indicts literally every single human on the planet. So if you're thinking that Christianity calls for the execution of gays, you have to think, on the basis of the same passage, it calls for the execution of everyone. And if you're thinking that, and you know anything at all about Christianity, maybe ponder whether everything you've written is embarrassingly wrong."
Hard as it is for me to admit it I agree with Ms. Hemingway and so does Perkins. Isn't that the very point that we have been stressing for years? Consider the debate over marriage equality. The so-called defense of marriage never seemed to care much about divorce which is criticized more harshly by scripture than gay sex. Totally missing from years of homophobic harangues from Perkins is persepctive.

What has happened is that some of these folks, including Perkins, have Bibles that came with certain (possibly) anti-gay passages highlighted in yellow. People like Perkins are on a crusade in accordance with those passages to the exclusion of many more serious offenses. So much so that they have been perfectly willing to lie about gay people and, more recently, transgender people — including gay and trans children. In the process they become designated as hate groups, a label that they loathe but, at the same time, wear as a badge of honor. These groups then adapt.

They tailor their activities and communications based on a careful calculation of what will inspire the most donations which is based on an analysis of what will create the most ire. What will make the constituency feel that they have been victimized. The solution to their problem is to give the group some money because the group will defend them. Irresponsible provocation is an economic winner.
Mollie was exactly right then and the same is true now. Romans 6:23 says "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans can in no way be interpreted as a call for literal execution by human authorities. It is a reference to spiritual "death," or the denial of eternal life with God …
I will spare you the rest of the sermon. None of that has anything to do with Mr. Stack's offensive ignorance. Perkins cannot excuse Stack's bad judgment no matter how hard he tries. It began with Christian indoctrination in a public high school. It continued with the shaming and damning of gay kids. It concluded with his Pyrrhic resignation which was solely for show since he had been effectively terminated three months prior.

Expect to see Stack at the next Values Voter Summit. There is nothing those folks like more than a victim even when they are merely victims of their own negligence.

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