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Smug liberal bigots
April 29, 2011 9:34 AM   Subscribe

After Daily Beast columnist Andrew Sullivan lambasted The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence's Hunky Jesus Contest in San Francisco's Dolores Park with a short post flamingly titled "The Tired, Lame Bigotry Of Some Homosexuals," the Sisters responded. Sullivan reacted to the responses with an escalation, calling the Sisters "smug liberal bigots." Is the Hunky Jesus Contest "everyone's favorite blasphemous hoot" or a "profane and shockingly insensitive spectacle" that "illustrates the secular, pro-'gay' Left's hypocrisy in demanding 'respect' for homosexuals and transsexuals"? (previously)
posted by mrgrimm (148 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
I hope this doesn't sound too glib, but the Christians have a moral compunction to turn the other cheek, etc. The gays do not. If it's hypocritical for (some) gays to demand respect while mocking others, it's also hypocritical for Christians to ignore their own teachings in order to get up in arms over it.
posted by hermitosis at 9:37 AM on April 29, 2011 [15 favorites]


I would say this demonstrates Andrew's hard-on for the Man more than anything else. Sheesh, wotta tool.
posted by mwhybark at 9:38 AM on April 29, 2011 [7 favorites]


Should we be respectful to Christians? Yes, and the hypocrisy of Christians does not diminish this obligation. Should we be respectful to GLBT folk? Yes, and the hypocrisy of GLBT folk does not diminish this obligation.
posted by reverend cuttle at 9:42 AM on April 29, 2011 [29 favorites]


“As for mocking Jesus,” Thomas concluded, “I give you this verse from Galatians 6:7: “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.”
The Sisters have sowed... parody. So I guess they should reap some.

I guess that means the Catholic church needs to provide fabulous makeup for their flaming heterosexual nuns.
posted by LogicalDash at 9:43 AM on April 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


it’s your shtick and in these tough times I know you need a paycheck.

My new favorite comeback.
posted by poe at 9:45 AM on April 29, 2011 [9 favorites]


Conflating respect for religion and respect for homosexuals is of course ridiculous because one is born homosexual, while religion is an adopted belief. We ought to show a basic human respect for any condition which is naturally present at birth and part of a person's very being. Ideas adopted later in life, however, are fair game for ridicule as lambasting a person's opinions says nothing about who they are as a person, only about the ideas floating around in their head.

As for Sullivan, being an asshole (unlike having one) is a learned behavior.
posted by boubelium at 9:46 AM on April 29, 2011 [10 favorites]


Let's see what their attitude would be if a religious right group did a public performance art mocking gay marriages in the Castro - with graphic sex acts meant to ridicule gays. I'm sure they'd try to prosecute them for hate speech.

Coupla things.

First, the appropriate location for Sullivan's comparison would be Colorado Springs or Vatican City, not the Castro. The Castro is where the Hunky Jesus Contest itself took place, and is something of a gay pride Mecca, so it wouldn't make any sense for the analogous Christian mockery to take place there. If the Hunky Jesus Contest had been in Colorado Springs then maybe. But anyway...

Second, there aren't any hate speech laws in the United States, and I'm sure Sullivan knows this. So I guess he's just being a troll to try and support and unsupportable point?

Nobody is forcing Christians to attend the Hunky Jesus Contest. Or look at pictures from it. Or read about it. It's something people do on Easter for a larf. The fact that people treat even having to know that someone is taking your religion less than seriously on your holy day as an attack is the lamest shit ever.

As the actress said to the bishop, fuck 'em if they can't take a joke.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 9:47 AM on April 29, 2011 [6 favorites]


The main thing wrong with Sullivan's position is that the Sisters (and homosexuals in general) are not a majority group. Christians are. I don't see a major difference between this and telling black people not to get too uppity.

I'm a fan of Sullivan in general, I think he's just got a bee in his bonnet about this particular thing for some personal reason.
posted by breath at 9:48 AM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


From the "smug liberal bigots" link:

Let's see what their attitude would be if a religious right group did a public performance art mocking gay marriages in the Castro - with graphic sex acts meant to ridicule gays. I'm sure they'd try to prosecute them for hate speech. Let's say it took place on gay pride. Somehow I think offense would be taken and the demonstrators labeled immediately as bigots.

Part of the problem here is that the religious right does not do silly offensive public displays, they actively work to deny civil rights to gay people. If all both sides did was make fun of each other in over-the-top disrespectful ways, that would actually be a lot better than the current situation.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:49 AM on April 29, 2011 [23 favorites]


Wow. Talk about someone who really doesn't understand the Sisters at all. Or who takes his own religious beliefs a bit too seriously. Or something.

It's camp, not blasphemy. They're performance art drag nuns, not real religious people. They're charity workers who spread humor along with fundraising, not people with a religious agenda.

Good grief, Andrew. I normally try to have a tiny bit of respect for what you have to say because you often say things which make sense. But in this case, a little self-education about what this group is, and maybe a lot less self-importance, would have let you see a bit more clearly what is truly going on.
posted by hippybear at 9:49 AM on April 29, 2011 [7 favorites]


It's camp, not blasphemy.

I didn't realize those two things were mutually exclusive.
posted by The World Famous at 9:53 AM on April 29, 2011 [17 favorites]


"Again, I would fight to the death, as they say, to defend the free expression rights of these smug liberal bigots. But they remain smug, liberal bigots."

So, Mr. Sullivan will defend your rights, provided his right to call you names is also not infringed? That's an oddly unchristian view, particularly considering how much of the law has been generously overlooked in his case.

Mr. Sullivan has been extremely well treated by the authorities, including having a pot bust quashed and having his HIV-positive status overlooked on his immigration application, both of which are grounds for extradition for noncitizens.

Whether you think those laws are just or not is beside the point - he's just had broad exceptions made for him. I think it's safe to say that he's been bought and paid for by the establishment, at this point, and he'll defend it in return.

Which is all to say, let's just ignore him. He's a shill.
posted by mhoye at 9:54 AM on April 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


Calling people nasty names is, in some senses, the originally Christian thing to do. Jesus does it all the time in the New Testament.
posted by breath at 9:56 AM on April 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


I think some of these conservative religious folks could do with more good-hearted parody, rather than mean spiteful attempts to defend their claims to special rights. But I'm trying to figure out what a conservative christian gay-mocking analog to the sisters would be, and I can't think of something that doesn't end up mean instead of just pleasantly mocking.
posted by rmd1023 at 9:56 AM on April 29, 2011


They don't have to be mutually exclusive to not overlap in every instance.
posted by Slackermagee at 9:58 AM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, was just going to say that. It's obviously both and nothing wrong with that. The Sisters say so themselves in their reply.

I’m sorry that a bunch of drag nun volunteers with a cheap sound system don’t rise to your definition of high art, but blasphemy is a democratic art form that delivers its most profound punch at street level where ordinary people struggle every day.

Sullivan faux ire is tiresome.
posted by ntrifle at 9:58 AM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Never trust anyone who's job it is to have an opinion.
posted by The Whelk at 9:59 AM on April 29, 2011 [24 favorites]


They don't have to be mutually exclusive to not overlap in every instance.

I agree. I do not, however, see any reasonable argument that this is an instance where they do not.
posted by The World Famous at 10:00 AM on April 29, 2011


well yeeaahhhh
posted by clavdivs at 10:01 AM on April 29, 2011


Really, @bobelium? So if I said it's my opinion that all gays are evil, and should be punished, that wouldn't say anything about me as a person?
posted by Kokopuff at 10:01 AM on April 29, 2011


But I'm trying to figure out what a conservative christian gay-mocking analog to the sisters would be...

I'm imagining something along the lines of those despicable Calvin-kneeling-by-a-cross truck window stickers.
posted by gurple at 10:02 AM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


We ought to show a basic human respect for any condition which is naturally present at birth and part of a person's very being. Ideas adopted later in life, however, are fair game for ridicule as lambasting a person's opinions says nothing about who they are as a person, only about the ideas floating around in their head.

This is a pretty arbitrary rule. For example, under that logic, someone who chooses to be vegan for intellectual reasons can be ridiculed and lambasted for it because it has nothing to do with who they are as a person.
posted by burnmp3s at 10:02 AM on April 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Ideas adopted later in life, however, are fair game for ridicule as lambasting a person's opinions says nothing about who they are as a person, only about the ideas floating around in their head.

The distinction between my ideas and me as a person seems to be tenuous, at best. Philosophically, we could attribute this to the fact that many of us are influenced by the Cartesian conflation of cognition and existence. Origins aside, I don't know if I could not take it personally if someone ridicules my beliefs with the qualification that "it's no reflection on me as a person."

This is not to say that I endorse any and all beliefs, but provocation and ridicule are not always the most effective, nor the nicest to express disagreement. Perhaps discursively pissing on others, even those with whom we disagree, is less than ideal, ethically speaking.
posted by reverend cuttle at 10:04 AM on April 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


For example, under that logic, someone who chooses to be vegan for intellectual reasons can be ridiculed and lambasted for it because it has nothing to do with who they are as a person.

Sure, why not? Ditto people who ride 10-foot high bicycles. Doesn't mean either group is good or bad. People discussing each others choices, that's what society is. Or does. Or something.
posted by msalt at 10:05 AM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is a pretty arbitrary rule. For example, under that logic, someone who chooses to be vegan for intellectual reasons can be ridiculed and lambasted for it because it has nothing to do with who they are as a person.

Precisely. Being a vegan is not some protected class that must be spoken of in hushed reverence. It is open game to question veganism or even mock it if someone wishes, just as it is a person's right to assert the advantages of being vegan.
posted by boubelium at 10:06 AM on April 29, 2011


There's nothing like an Andy Sullivan lambasting to get me to support something I typically wouldn't give two thoughts toward.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:07 AM on April 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


rmd1023: when extremists Christians think about mocking or punishing LGBT Americans, putting on a campy show isn't at the top of their list. Until the LGBT community starts protesting their inequality with brutal violence and murder, I would advise Christians to get your fucking followers to stop harassing, beating, and murdering people before you consider anything else an outrage.
posted by notion at 10:08 AM on April 29, 2011 [15 favorites]


Conflating respect for religion and respect for homosexuals is of course ridiculous because one is born homosexual, while religion is an adopted belief.

This is a common belief, but I don't know if I buy it. I personally feel I have about as much chance of turning into a Christian as I do of becoming sexually attracted to men. It's just not something I can choose for myself. I mean, sure I could start going to church and saying the words, just like I could divorce my wife and go live with a guy, but that wouldn't make me a Christian or homosexual.
posted by ODiV at 10:09 AM on April 29, 2011 [6 favorites]


reverend cuttle -

I agree that my position is oversimplifying the idea of self and all that, but what I mean to do is to separate attacks on some unchangeable aspect (say mocking someone for being mentally handicapped) from attacks on someone's opinion. Often people want to put their beliefs into a category of protected speech, i.e. that to speak ill of religion is on par with speaking ill of homosexuals.

I agree with you though, that as a general rule we should also not be total dicks about it.
posted by boubelium at 10:10 AM on April 29, 2011


personally feel I have about as much chance of turning into a Christian as I do of becoming sexually attracted to men.

This. For many people, beliefs are not simply transparently available to be picked up or dropped, as much as we wish they were. Prejudices, environmental conditioning, and a bajillion other factors prohibit our belief-formation processes from being "open" to rational criticism. This is true of everyone, even (especially) Richard Dawkins.

Look, anti-theists have the right to mock the beliefs of Christians, but that doesn't mean that it's the ideal course of action (especially considering the smugness, narrow definitions of evidence, and uncritical faith in the reliability of the scientific method that accompanies so much anti-theism these days.)
posted by reverend cuttle at 10:14 AM on April 29, 2011 [7 favorites]


Having watched the video I do not know whether it is campy, blasphemous or derisive but it seems tasteless. I happen to think one has a right to burn the Koran, mock Christianity, ridicule Hindus or laugh at Buddhists but the more insensitive and/or extreme (normative) the mockery the more one can expect to be marginalized. I am not sure what good comes off this except some self congratulation. Also, I briefly looked at their history and purpose--while they maybe be a charity their good works are primarily self directed which in my book does not necessarily make them charitable.
posted by rmhsinc at 10:14 AM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


There is something broken in my brain, but every time I hear "Andrew Sullivan" I think "Anderson Cooper" and none of this makes any sense.
posted by desjardins at 10:19 AM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Kind of an aside, but
uncritical faith in the reliability of the scientific method

What does this mean? I'm trying to reconcile it in my head and not getting anywhere.
posted by ODiV at 10:20 AM on April 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


Sullivan is right about one thing: in this day and age, there's nothing remotely edgy, creative, or interesting about mocking conservative Christianity. They're easy targets, and this is easy blasphemy. Playing Jesus dress-up in San Francisco -- wow, that must have been terrifying. There's nothing challenging here, no risk -- it's just poking a big, dumb, slow-moving target with a stick, and congratulating yourself for your daring.
posted by Pants McCracky at 10:20 AM on April 29, 2011 [5 favorites]


oh, fer chrissake.
posted by LMGM at 10:21 AM on April 29, 2011


So would Sullivan have a problem with my Mary Magdalen Swimsuit Competition, or is this more about teh Gays? Should I cancel my plans for Pentecost?
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 10:23 AM on April 29, 2011


Being a vegan is not some protected class that must be spoken of in hushed reverence. It is open game to question veganism or even mock it if someone wishes, just as it is a person's right to assert the advantages of being vegan.

I guess I don't really buy the idea that ridiculing someone for something in-born is inherently bad, whereas ridiculing them for something they chose is not inherently bad. For example, I don't care if people ridicule me for being born male and white, and I don't expect those traits to "be spoken of in hushed reverence." I think men's rights advocates are white people who complain about reverse racism are mostly defending their own privilege in an unfair system.

Personally I think ridicule about the traits of a person drifts from okay to being a problem when it's harmful to the person in question and/or causes a group of people to be marginalized in a significant way, rather than there being some inherent difference between in-born traits and adopted traits. If being gay hypothetically was a choice, for example, I don't think gay people should have to be treated any differently.
posted by burnmp3s at 10:23 AM on April 29, 2011 [6 favorites]


While attempting to avoid most of the augmentative landmines available here, I would tentatively agree that if your primary goal is to get a group of people to treat you with decency and respect, doing something that is designed to shit on their most-cherished principles is a rotten way of going about it.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:23 AM on April 29, 2011 [11 favorites]


uncritical faith in the reliability of the scientific method

sorry, this is a derail, and philosophy of science axe-grinding. The procedures and criteria of the european enlightenment are highly contingent, and by no means positively given as the best way to analyze nature. Science, as a result, has been very good at elucidating some phenomena of human experience, and very bad at elucidating others (ethical intuitions, religious experience, love, feelings). Not that it hasn't tried. Science fanbois will turn apoplectic at this point, but there you have it.
posted by reverend cuttle at 10:27 AM on April 29, 2011


"Science fanbois"

My head just exploded.
posted by boubelium at 10:30 AM on April 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Now I'm really sad I didn't make it to the bash. I'm a church-goer, and I think Hunky Jesii would have made my Easter! I think God probably appreciates a little cheekiness. And I don't know that the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence were trying to make some Big Political Statement as much as trying to poke a little fun.

Did anyone else think about all the massively-Jesus paintings from the Renaissance while reading this?
posted by chatongriffes at 10:32 AM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Fortunately, most gay people don't give a damn about bigots treating us with decency and respect; we just want them to leave us the fuck alone.

As for what the Sisters get up to, if religion has scarred you and tormented you and severely damaged you, I can see how camping it up would be a good thing for your healing. Not my things, but different strokes, different folks. If the church wasn't the loudest, most donating voice to anti-gay causes, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence probably wouldn't give a damn about pissing them off.

And even now, on this uneven playing field, I would feel totally different about it if the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence were trying to get laws passed to take away the rights of religious people or if they were holding their contest on the steps of an unfriendly church during Sunday Mass. But it's usually only the religious bigots who try to use laws to prevent others freedom or go into gay neighborhoods during gay pride celebrations to preach. So the parallels are, well, not parallel.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:33 AM on April 29, 2011 [10 favorites]


Science fanbois

I guess that's rational young butch lesbians? They're so cute when they're apoplectic.
posted by nicwolff at 10:33 AM on April 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


Just for clarification, I think my work computer just censored me from commenting on Jesus' goodly package in Renaissance art. Sorry for any confusion!
posted by chatongriffes at 10:34 AM on April 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


The response of the Sisters posted on Joe My God points out that some of the nuns themselves are christian, which raises a (non-rhetorical) question: Aren't there sex-positive interpretations of christianity that would embrace the eroticization of their holy figures?
posted by LMGM at 10:34 AM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Personally I think ridicule about the traits of a person drifts from okay to being a problem when it's harmful to the person in question and/or causes a group of people to be marginalized in a significant way, rather than there being some inherent difference between in-born traits and adopted traits.

burnmp3s,

I totally understand your position and desire to reduce harm to those who would be ridiculed, particularly since it can cause people some level of uncomfortableness or suffering to be targeted.

However, I have to disagree because the marginalizing of people based on their ideas is, to me, often desirable. Say, a small group of people believe you should give away all your possessions and quit your job because the world ends on Friday (as told to their leader by a talking breakfast pastry). Such a group deserves to be mocked and marginalized. Not all beliefs are good and some are very harmful, so humorous ridicule is a perfectly valid tool in doing so.
posted by boubelium at 10:37 AM on April 29, 2011


"Sullivan is right about one thing: in this day and age, there's nothing remotely edgy, creative, or interesting about mocking conservative Christianity. They're easy targets, and this is easy blasphemy. Playing Jesus dress-up in San Francisco -- wow, that must have been terrifying. There's nothing challenging here, no risk -- it's just poking a big, dumb, slow-moving target with a stick, and congratulating yourself for your daring."

Exactly. No need to call them bigots and blasphemers. It's just boring.
posted by fugitivefromchaingang at 10:37 AM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Christ, what an asshole!
posted by ericb at 10:38 AM on April 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


The procedures and criteria of the european enlightenment are highly contingent, and by no means positively given as the best way to analyze nature.

Not to continue the derail too much, but what are these other ways? (sincerely)
posted by benzenedream at 10:38 AM on April 29, 2011


Aren't there sex-positive interpretations of christianity that would embrace the eroticization of their holy figures?

Song of Solomon (in the Bible) is one long poem eroticizing God's relationship with Israel. Many medieval Christian mystics did the same.

...and on a related note Hindu bhakti traditions frequently encourage devotees to emote intimately towards their Supreme Lord, often sexually.
posted by reverend cuttle at 10:38 AM on April 29, 2011


Must be a slow day in blogworld. Doesn't Sully have some socialized healthcare to sully?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:40 AM on April 29, 2011


Aren't there sex-positive interpretations of christianity that would embrace the eroticization of their holy figures?

I believe (although I can't find reference to it right now) that there's a pretty strong throughline in Christian art of the Christ child's cupping his mother's chin in what was regarded as a strongly sexual gesture, as Renaissance (etc.) thinkers believed it was pretty damned important to highlight Christ's humanity and therefore inherent sexuality.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:40 AM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Andrew Sullivan is never as provocative as he thinks he is. As the Whelk suggests above, his whole career is based on cynically choosing stances that are supposedly counter-intuitive and fascinating by being nonsense.
posted by Victorvacendak at 10:40 AM on April 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


There's also a historical point to this that has gotten lost in the why-can't-we-be-more-docile politics of Sullivan: The Sisters come from the same era as ACT-UP and share a lot of the same goals, tactics, and attitudes, i.e., efforts to raise visibility, a confrontational stance vis-a-vis the state and conservative opponents, a commitment to local community involvement and fund-raising, interference in the symbolic reproduction of the sexual status quo, etc. So, it's not like the Sisters even want the same things for queers that Sullivan wants.
posted by LMGM at 10:42 AM on April 29, 2011 [6 favorites]


I would feel totally different about it if the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence were trying to get laws passed to take away the rights of religious people

I don't know if the Sisters specifically are, but I would say that gay and gay friendly groups are trying to take away what religious people see as rights, definitely. What are viewed as "rights" are always changing (hopefully progressively, but not always). Just as one example, while most people think it's a right to raise your children how you choose, I know I would personally prefer that parents not be able to send their children to camps or programs that purport to cure homosexuality.
posted by ODiV at 10:42 AM on April 29, 2011


ridicule about the traits of a person drifts from okay to being a problem when it's harmful to the person in question and/or causes a group of people to be marginalized – burnmp3s

Better not ridicule those racists or neo-Nazis then, wouldn't want to harm or marginalize them.

No, the choices people make have to be subject to judgement and condemnation if there's to be any moral conversation at all. And, attributes and conditions forced on people must be excepted from condemnation if those judgements are to have any moral authority at all.
posted by nicwolff at 10:44 AM on April 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Not to continue the derail too much, but what are these other ways? (sincerely)

Well, for instance, the scientific method restricts evidence to data collected from the 5 senses. This is for good reason, as they are, in most cases, publicly verifiable. But the 5 senses are not our only forms of perception. We also experience ethical hunches, reason, memory, religious experience, emotions, and intuition. Though methodologically a challenge to coordinate into conclusive findings, these also authentically provide data about the world around us.

For the sake of the thread, please MeMail if anyone wants to go down this road from here on out.
posted by reverend cuttle at 10:44 AM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Science Fanboi here! Next week we're staging a show that features top lady scientists enacting hot Rosalind-Franklin-on-Lise-Meitner action.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:46 AM on April 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sullivan is right about one thing: in this day and age, there's nothing remotely edgy, creative, or interesting about mocking conservative Christianity.

the sisters didn't start in this day and age, and when they did, mocking conservative christianity was a noble cause--not to mention that they did more for dying gay men in the years to follow than christian compassion would bother to muster. the organization today is a san francisco tradition that is primarily charity-oriented.

there are a lot of different perspectives on the reasons for the sisters' parody of religion. to me it is quite enough to recognize that they're just alike in that it's all theater. the silly show put on by christian groups, from catholics to baptists, is itself a mockery of christian values. i never viewed the sisters as mocking christianity (not that i would give a damn), but mocking the tacky spectacle religion has made of it.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 10:50 AM on April 29, 2011 [15 favorites]


I know I would personally prefer that parents not be able to send their children to camps or programs that purport to cure homosexuality.

I'm trying to think of any parallel or similar institution that exists where children are sent to programs to get something changed about them that may (or possibly could) someday fall under some kind of antidiscriminatory statute. As it is, is there any reason why these things couldn't be theoretically outlawed?
posted by shakespeherian at 10:52 AM on April 29, 2011


But they remain smug, liberal bigots."

If he thinks the Sisters are "liberal" he's been living in his own little world for far too long. Individual Sisters may consider themselves liberal, but as an organization, they are radicals and always have been.

I missed this year's Hunky Jesus (and the mefi meetup there), but I did see two fellows headed to the Bring Your Own Big Wheel event (which is near my house) who had clearly just hopped off the bus from the park. They appeared to be dressed as Hunky Zombie Jesuses.
posted by rtha at 11:01 AM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


they did more for dying gay men in the years to follow than christian compassion would bother to muster

QFT. Their work in the 80s, when Regan couldn't even be bothered to say the word AIDS, gives them a right to be very critical and, frankly, angry—even today.

which is not to discredit whatever work was done by progressive churches at the time
posted by LMGM at 11:02 AM on April 29, 2011 [11 favorites]


The idea that anti-Christian thought is "bigotry" is nothing more than the idea that anti-Christian thought is "blasphemy", all dressed up for the new millennium. It's all about finding a new, socially-acceptable way to say "those people shouldn't be able to say/do that in public", now that society has decided that the old way doesn't fly.
posted by vorfeed at 11:03 AM on April 29, 2011 [11 favorites]


the scientific method restricts evidence to data collected from the 5 senses

So what are you on about?

Are the Sisters still a tax-exempt org?
posted by mrgrimm at 11:07 AM on April 29, 2011


mrgrimm, yes.
posted by rtha at 11:15 AM on April 29, 2011


Just as one example, while most people think it's a right to raise your children how you choose, I know I would personally prefer that parents not be able to send their children to camps or programs that purport to cure homosexuality.

Are there gay or gay-friendly groups working to prevent parents from doing this?
posted by layceepee at 11:15 AM on April 29, 2011


The Sisters have sowed... parody. So I guess they should reap some.

Parody parity?
posted by kirkaracha at 11:20 AM on April 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Better not ridicule those racists or neo-Nazis then, wouldn't want to harm or marginalize them.

No, the choices people make have to be subject to judgement and condemnation if there's to be any moral conversation at all. And, attributes and conditions forced on people must be excepted from condemnation if those judgements are to have any moral authority at all.


Fine, I should have said "unfairly harms or marginalizes them." My point was not that people who choose to have bad traits should have those traits protected or celebrated. My point is that, in my opinion, inborn traits and traits someone has purposely adopted are both equally part of who that person is, and it makes no sense to treat those traits radically differently. If someone thinks killing a bunch of people on the street is okay because they are a neo-Nazi, I will condemn them. If they think killing a bunch of people on the street is okay because they were born a sociopath and have never cared about any other human being, I will also condemn them. Either way it matters who the person is, not how they got that way.
posted by burnmp3s at 11:25 AM on April 29, 2011


I agree with Randy Andy, Jesus should be for all Christians, so a Honkie Jesus is just racist!
posted by orthogonality at 11:27 AM on April 29, 2011


To say that homosexuals are a "minority" group is inadequate. Even in San Francisco, the queer community is a group which is systematically persecuted, legally excluded from basic civil rights and institutions and even beaten to bloody pulps on a regular basis. The rhetorical idea of that "gay pride" parody held by Christians is a scary one because no doubt there would be people carrying hateful signs and ready to crack some queer skulls.

It's the spirit of humor and hilarity exhibited by the Sisters that counts as a point of comparison, it strikes me as being closer in spirit to a Monty Python sketch than to a ideological anti Jesus rally. I have yet to see a hilarious and genuinely peaceful satires of gay culture- only obviously hateful ones that attract scary gay bashers. Has anyone making the "What if the tables were turned?" point got an example ?
posted by Lisitasan at 11:32 AM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Sisters come from the same era as ACT-UP and share a lot of the same goals, tactics, and attitudes, i.e., efforts to raise visibility, a confrontational stance vis-a-vis the state and conservative opponents, a commitment to local community involvement and fund-raising, interference in the symbolic reproduction of the sexual status quo, etc.

An era which is being revisited in the restaging of Larry Kramer's 1985 play: The Normal Heart. It opened on Broadway this week to rave reviews.

I suggest reading Ben Brantley's New York Times review: Raw Anguish of the Plague Years.

The Sisters were borne out of this period of intense fear, anger, bigotry, confusion and silence from political and religious leaders who ignored the raging epidemic which at first felled countless gay men across the country and continues to this day to kill men, women and children; gay and straight worldwide.
posted by ericb at 11:33 AM on April 29, 2011 [5 favorites]



rmd1023: when extremists Christians think about mocking or punishing LGBT Americans, putting on a campy show isn't at the top of their list. Until the LGBT community starts protesting their inequality with brutal violence and murder, I would advise Christians to get your fucking followers to stop harassing, beating, and murdering people before you consider anything else an outrage.

Whoops. I mean, this.
posted by Lisitasan at 11:34 AM on April 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


I hope more mefites can make it to the meetup in Dolores Park next year! Easter bonnets for all!
posted by gingerbeer at 11:35 AM on April 29, 2011


flamingly titled

Ugh.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:36 AM on April 29, 2011


"The response of the Sisters posted on Joe My God points out that some of the nuns themselves are christian, which raises a (non-rhetorical) question: Aren't there sex-positive interpretations of christianity that would embrace the eroticization of their holy figures?"

I'm not sure that this is a logically valid defense, aren't there similar sex negative homosexuals?
posted by Blasdelb at 11:40 AM on April 29, 2011


...it strikes me as being closer in spirit to a Monty Python sketch than to a ideological anti Jesus rally.

Bingo. Exactly. On par with The Life of Brian.
posted by ericb at 11:46 AM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm just surprised that he has the time to be angry about this instead of spending all his time telling us we're terrible, deluded liberal idiots unless we support the just and rational invasion of Iraq.

Oh, wait, he already did that.

You sort of have to take the guy with a grain of salt.

In the interests of full disclosure and self promotion, I own a nun's habit, in which I disco dance for the purposes of spiritual uplift (a brief glimpse can be found here), and a whole lot of who I am today can be traced to an encounter in 1978 with a proto-Sister, who ran me down flat on a San Francisco sidewalk. A man dressed as a giant cookie picked me up, and a host of psychedelic angels descended into my brain, where they've been busy ever since.

Before my monastic sex change in 2010, I was known as Brother Kinetic, the official spiritual guide for the annual Kinetic Sculpture Race in Baltimore hosted by the American Visionary Art Museum (I'm being very bad with all this me-adjacent linking, alas), and I performed robot weddings, "blessings of the feet" (a play on the traditional blessing of the fleet), and more or less delivered a pep talk to kick off the race (Yeah, again with the endless self-promotion, but it's a proof of concept sort of thing. Please note, if you do watch, that I had a flaming miserable case of the flu that year and could hardly talk or bust any moves at all.).

Over the years, I had people tell me I should take it up a notch, and be more satirical and more of a parody, but I have always approached this as a way of taking a drive to be reverent and meditative and thoughtful and play with it in a fun, joyous, and occasionally corny way. There's no point in mere mockery of faith without nuance or subtlety, even of those faiths I don't share, and if there's any particular religious notion I hope that people take away from watching me bust a move in my black & whites, it's this: being a Christian does not mean what you think it means. Being a Christian, being a Jew, being Bahá'í, being Sikh, being Buddhist--all of these things can be about joy, and about being playful in one's understanding of the world.

Unfortunately, outrage junkies just get it wrong, and prove all the wrong points.

It's very high school to feel like a radical genius of satire for just delving into the most blasphemous thought and deed imaginable, but the ideal response isn't to reinforce it with the kind of pinched "tut-tut" high horse holier-than-thouness that is so integral to Sullivan and his compatriots in the heights of moral superiority. Sometimes you just gotta smile and say "you kids are crazy," and other times you need to really investigate whether the atrocities you think are happening are happening. Sometimes, even if you don't like what's being said or done, the response ought to be "why are they so angry about my faith? What in my spiritual system is making it such a potent target?"

Questions make you strong. Questions, in fact, help you to share your faith better, if that's what you're called to do.

It should provoke a dialogue, if it's well-done and sincere, or apathy, if it's just a mean-spirited and uninspired lark, but Sullivan's parochial hissy fit about "bigotry" just conveys the dour joylessness of a certain kind of faith. I'm not a person of faith, myself, but in my wanderings and studies of religion and my interactions with people who hold a belief in something beyond the empirical, I've found a lot of delight and wonder, often expressed in play and irony, but you'd never know it when the rulers come out to rap the knuckles of naughty children.

I'd be curious to hear what Sullivan thought of Diamanda Galas's Plague Mass, a work absolutely swimming in rage and despair in the heart of the period in our great American history where everyone we knew was dying and the great evangelical defenders of Christianity were sitting in their pulpits and speaking only the ugliest things imaginable. Funny, how you didn't hear his brave voice then, right? I should give him a break, though. It's not like he was at the helm of The New Republic or anything.
posted by sonascope at 11:48 AM on April 29, 2011 [22 favorites]


I'm not sure that this is a logically valid defense, aren't there similar sex negative homosexuals?

I didn't ask the question as a coy form of defense. I was genuinely curious about how christian members of the Sisters manage the contradiction between their religion and religious parody (which, admittedly, is not a contradiction in some religions), and I was genuinely curious about whether that constituted a recognized line of theology (i.e., if there was institutionality to it beyond an individual, idiosyncratic interpretation).

Granted the answers to the question could probably be used as part of a larger critique of the complaint (which is not the same thing as a defense, I think), where establishing the possibility of a non-contradictory relation between christianity and sexualized satire of christianity would be the first step in a larger argument…
posted by LMGM at 11:52 AM on April 29, 2011


"The organization of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence occurred at the same time Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) began appearing in the Castro District and New York City. Some of the earliest attempts to bring attention to the new disease were staged by the Sisters, both in and out of costume. In 1982, Sister Florence Nightmare, RN (early AIDS activist and registered nurse Bobbi Campbell) and Sister Roz Erection (also a nurse) joined with a team of Sisters and medical professionals to create 'Play Fair!', the first safer sex pamphlet to use plain language, practical advice and humor, and considered by one of the founders to be 'one of the Order's greatest achievement in community education and support'. In 1999, for the Sisters' 20th anniversary the pamphlet was revised. The Sisters worldwide continue to raise awareness of sexual health; many Orders regularly pass out condoms and participate in events to educate people on sexual health issues.

Campbell appeared on the cover of Newsweek declaring himself to be the 'AIDS poster boy' in 1983. He was active in AIDS education and prevention and split his appearances as himself and Sister Florence Nightmare until his death in 1984. He and three other Castro residents started the AIDS Candlelight Memorial. Losing several members to AIDS in the early 1980s, the Sisters' presence at the 1986 Castro Street Fair was accomplished with less than a dozen members who sponsored a fund-raising and safer sex education booth that featured pie throwing with the slogan 'Cream yer Sister, not your lover!'

Members of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence who have died are referred by the Sisters as 'Nuns of the Above'. Specific losses due to AIDS are immortalized in the folk art NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt. Created in the early 1990s the quilt has made history several times. It was featured at the 1996 NAMES quilt display in Washington D.C. in front of the U.S. House of Representatives and was among the first quilts viewed by then Vice President Al Gore and his wife Tipper Gore and later featured in the Names Projects' calendar worldwide. The Nuns of The Above quilt itself has been flown around the United States and is in high demand for local displays. While in town for the AIDS Memorial Quilt display the Sisters led an exorcism of homophobia, classism and racism on the steps of the United States House of Representatives, and assisted with the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT-UP) death march and protest, to the gates of the White House where ashes of people who had died from AIDS were illegally spread on the lawn."*
posted by ericb at 12:01 PM on April 29, 2011 [5 favorites]


I have yet to see a hilarious and genuinely peaceful satires of gay culture- only obviously hateful ones that attract scary gay bashers. Has anyone making the "What if the tables were turned?" point got an example ?

Specifically from people who identify as Christians, or just generally? I can think of two general parodies -- Holleran's Dancer from the Dance and Larry Kramer's F-----s. Since the whole "sex-positive" and "sex-negative" thing has come up, as well as the topic of AIDS, it seems worth noting that these are also critiques of what could, arguably, be described as a "sex-positive" culture (or a kind of "sex-positive" culture) that might be said to have contributed to the deaths of thousands of people.

I was genuinely curious about how christian members of the Sisters manage the contradiction between their religion and religious parody

If we can agree that people styling themselves as Christians do lots of anti-Christian things all the time, why should it be so surprising or noteworthy that some of the Sisters style themselves as Christians. I am NOT saying that I think the Sisters are anti-Christian or that they do anti-Christian things, only that the fact that some of them are Christians doesn't really seem like a good way to argue against Sullivan's point.
posted by fugitivefromchaingang at 12:02 PM on April 29, 2011


It's funny how the people who have always been in power suddenly don't like it when their needs aren't being catered to anymore. This cry of bigotry from a white Christian male rings hollow.

There are scores of injustices perpetrated against LGBT people every day by people who call themselves Christians, but rather than focus on that hatred, that actual bigotry, Sullivan ignores it in favor of furthering his narrow-minded agenda. He co-opts the language of the oppressed as though he has any right to it and I find that particularly galling. He has never known and will never know what it's like to face the systematic religious intolerance practiced and preached by his brand of Christianity.

When you're faced with that kind of hatred, perpetrated in the name of Jesus Christ, sometimes the only thing you can do is take that animosity and laugh at it. Poking fun at Jesus, when his name has been used to oppress you for years, is about taking back your own power, about healing and joy and fun instead of cruelty in Jesus' name. It could even be about learning to forgive Jesus for the harm caused by so many of his followers. That's what Sullivan doesn't understand; when you brandish your god as a weapon, your weapon may also be used against you.
posted by i feel possessed at 12:06 PM on April 29, 2011 [6 favorites]


The "sex-positive culture" I'm talking about in reference to Holleran's and Kramer's books is the 1970s "communal-sewer sex culture" (Dan Savage's words, not mine) that they satirize, NOT gay culture generally. That was really unclear on my part, and I apologize.
posted by fugitivefromchaingang at 12:06 PM on April 29, 2011


I am NOT saying that I think the Sisters are anti-Christian or that they do anti-Christian things, only that the fact that some of them are Christians doesn't really seem like a good way to argue against Sullivan's point.

I don't think LMGM was arguing against Sullivan's point (which is stupid and doesn't rate much attention) so much as asking a relatively interesting question about the intersection between sexuality and faith within the Sisters.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 12:08 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Larry Kramer's F-----s

The name of the book is Faggots. We're adults here. We don't need to have the published titles of famous books censored for us.
posted by hippybear at 12:08 PM on April 29, 2011 [9 favorites]


flamingly titled

Ugh.


Completely unintentional. And apologies.

posted by mrgrimm at 12:11 PM on April 29, 2011


the fact that some of them are Christians doesn't really seem like a good way to argue against Sullivan's point.

Again, I wasn't aiming at arguing against Sullivan/defending the sisters when I asked the question—I think the arguments sonascope, erib, and I (and others) have made about their radical-activist history is more compelling. I'm curious about how people manage a possible contradiction between religious and/or political commitments. It's interesting to me, at least, without being necessarily a defense or a condemnation.

Also, I'm not sure that I can agree that, "people styling themselves as Christians do lots of anti-Christian things all the time," at least in the way that you've worded it. Are people frequently incoherent about their professed beliefs/ethics and practices? Yes. Is this more complex than just cynical hypocrisy? Sure. I'm not sure what the concept of "self-styled Christian" does for the debate, either, but that's a potential derail…
posted by LMGM at 12:13 PM on April 29, 2011


Funny, how you didn't hear his brave voice then, right? I should give him a break, though. It's not like he was at the helm of The New Republic or anything.

For the record, Sullivan didn't write about or mention HIV/AIDS once during his time as a writer at New Republic. He wrote some about it when he became editor in the 1990s, but he could have written about it in the 1980s, when people were dying in droves and when his polemics could have made some impact, and he didn't.

For the record, Sullivan gave lavish praise in the early 1990s to Diseased Pariah News, a zine that made the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence look like Victorian prudes. Quote: "DPR is a breath of morbidly brilliant air. The magazine exudes a sense that HIV is a virus, not a government conspiracy; that its cure is a complex scientific problem, which inevitably takes time; and that the main task of people with HIV, in the meantime, is not simply to mope or protest or complain or scream, but to live." (October 1994)

Sounds like in the past 20 years Andrew's forgotten how to live.
posted by blucevalo at 12:14 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


on belated preview: what Doublewhiskeycokenoice said.
posted by LMGM at 12:14 PM on April 29, 2011


As a relative latecomer to the "gay scene", if it weren't for Andrew Sullivan's screed and the MeFi backlash, I wouldn't even about the Sisters. So I guess he's still good for something.
posted by darkstar at 12:24 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


"even know about"
posted by darkstar at 12:24 PM on April 29, 2011


Playing Jesus dress-up in San Francisco -- wow, that must have been terrifying. There's nothing challenging here, no risk -- it's just poking a big, dumb, slow-moving target with a stick, and congratulating yourself for your daring.

I really think it's just supposed to be fun - I haven't spoken to anyone who claims it to be anything else.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 12:26 PM on April 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'm trying to think of any parallel or similar institution that exists where children are sent to programs to get something changed about them that may (or possibly could) someday fall under some kind of antidiscriminatory statute. As it is, is there any reason why these things couldn't be theoretically outlawed?

Trying to determine what's fine now that will be contentious later is very difficult, but off the top of my head both fat camp and military school come to mind as possible examples.

Are there gay or gay-friendly groups working to prevent parents from doing this?

That's a good question. I sincerely hope so, but apart from speaking out against it I'm not sure if there are any working on changing things legally.
posted by ODiV at 12:27 PM on April 29, 2011


We missed the Hunky Jesus contest, as we were there (for the 3rd year in a row!) for the 11am Easter Egg hunt. And I can tell you, the Sisters put on a mean Easter Egg hunt.

It's probably going to be a family tradition -- it's fun, but it's also more than that. The Sisters are an incredibly important part of San Franciscan culture & history. They focus on the Queer community (and in particular the sick, the dying, the abused, the harassed ..) but that has somehow led to them being ... I don't know. It's hard to describe. Basically, if you have an event and a Sister shows up, you feel blessed.

I look forward to explaining them and their history to my children as they grow up. For now it's more at the "yes, they're really good at face painting, aren't they?" level, but later ... well, at some point you have to explain to your children about horrible things like AIDS. It will be good to be able to also talk about wonderful people like the Sisters when I have to do so.
posted by feckless at 12:29 PM on April 29, 2011 [11 favorites]


Basically, if you have an event and a Sister shows up, you feel blessed.

New Years Eve 1999. I'm in SF for what used to be an annual pilgrimage there for NYE to spend with a couple of wonderful friends I knew in the city. We're at the Hole In The Wall, the LSD is just starting to kick in, and we're talking about going to Universe to dance in the new year.

Suddenly 4 of the Sisters come bustling into the bar. They walk through the crowd fairly quickly (obviously they're out covering a lot of ground that night), but they stop before me and my friends and do a small blessing ritual on the three of us.

In under ten minutes they've left the bar again on their way to another watering hole. But the bartender saw us get blessed, and sends over a round of shots for the three of us.

Most of the night after that is kind of a blur. But that's a moment in my life I will never, ever forget.
posted by hippybear at 12:36 PM on April 29, 2011 [11 favorites]


Science, as a result, has been very good at elucidating some phenomena of human experience, and very bad at elucidating others (ethical intuitions, religious experience, love, feelings)

Nobody is very good at elucidating "love" or "ethical intuitions," because these concepts are poorly defined. You can talk about them anyway, and you might say something interesting about them, but any attempt to study them in depth will get bogged down in the definition: Is friendship a kind of love? How do you tell when you go from one to the other? Do you have to want to live with the object of your love, or are long-distance relationships possible?

Science requires hypotheses, and that means winnowing down the definition of the phenomenon you're studying until you have something you can test for. In psychology, this usually leads to the creation of new labels, like "bonding" and "limerence," which cover the same territory as "love" and "feelings," but have less emotional baggage and better definitions.

If you look around for those terms instead, you'll find quite a lot of research in developmental psychology and related fields that does indeed elucidate the way those things work. Which is not to say it's a complete description, or even necessarily an accurate one--merely the most accurate we've got.
posted by LogicalDash at 12:39 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hippybear -- hah! In 1999 I lived in the alley behind Hole in the Wall. Er, in an apartment in that alley. Anyway.

Sadly, that night I was across town at a party at the Real World House before it burned down. Long story, dreary party ...
posted by feckless at 12:42 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have only been to the Hole in the Wall once, some years ago, when Betty (of Betty and Pansy, of the Severe Queer Reviews) was in town to do an update for a new edition. I believe it was from Betty that I learned the story of the chex mix on the bar, and why you should never eat it.
posted by rtha at 12:46 PM on April 29, 2011


I own a nun's habit, in which I disco dance for the purposes of spiritual uplift (a brief glimpse can be found here), and a whole lot of who I am today can be traced to an encounter in 1978 with a proto-Sister, who ran me down flat on a San Francisco sidewalk. A man dressed as a giant cookie picked me up, and a host of psychedelic angels descended into my brain, where they've been busy ever since.


I'm so happy to have read this today. Thank you, sonascope.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 1:22 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


No, the choices people make have to be subject to judgement and condemnation if there's to be any moral conversation at all. And, attributes and conditions forced on people must be excepted from condemnation if those judgements are to have any moral authority at all.

I'm not necessarily disagreeing with what I think you're trying to express there, but there are really a lot of very different ways that people can interpret or act on that particular sentiment. Very, very different ways.
posted by The World Famous at 1:31 PM on April 29, 2011


Thinly related, regarding my (conservative Evangelical) alma mater: Evangelical Alumni Group Stands in Support of LGBTQ Students.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:32 PM on April 29, 2011


Y'know, if this were the Roman Empire in the first century AD, he'd have a point. So the relevant context is only off by around two millennia and 8000 miles.
posted by Zed at 1:39 PM on April 29, 2011


The Sisters are an incredibly important part of San Franciscan culture & history. They focus on the Queer community (and in particular the sick, the dying, the abused, the harassed ..) but that has somehow led to them being ... I don't know. It's hard to describe. Basically, if you have an event and a Sister shows up, you feel blessed.

Yeah, that's the other thing. Sullivan shows an incredible disregard and contempt for history in his meanspirited crusade against the Sisters. If nothing else, it shows that he couldn't give two shits about San Francisco.

The way he writes about them it's as if he were one more outraged neophyte tourist who just drove off the Bay Bridge and discovered -- horrors! -- that SF was less vanilla and Victorian than he thought. Hell, even Armistead Maupin mentions the Sisters.
posted by blucevalo at 1:54 PM on April 29, 2011


As a queer theologian who writes about embodiment and theological practice, i find the Sister's work as a carnivalesque burleseque, and profoundly, holy part of the christian tradition. Also, fucking jesus is totes part of Xian tradition, from Carvaggio painting Thomas with his whole hand in the vaginal wound of christ, to Catherine of Sienna and Theresa D'Avila hymsn to the orgasm of christ, to F Holland Day's photographs, to the liturgical power of mapplethorpe and beyond.

I want my christ to be b(aw/o)dy.
posted by PinkMoose at 2:10 PM on April 29, 2011 [6 favorites]


Oh, the tired old "Let's pretend no one will notice that religion/belief is a personal choice and homosexuality/race/sex isn't" canard, eh? Sullivan isn't getting any smarter, I see.

Don't tell me I have to respect whatever mad shit some nitwit chooses to believe, Sullivan. It will never fly.
posted by Decani at 2:12 PM on April 29, 2011


Oh for fuck's sake, Sullivan. What did you think the 'H' in Jesus H. Christ stood for anyway?
posted by homunculus at 2:22 PM on April 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Science, as a result, has been very good at elucidating some phenomena of human experience, and very bad at elucidating others (ethical intuitions, religious experience, love, feelings)

Ethical intuitions. Religious experience. Love (PDF). Feelings (nothing more than ... feelings ...)

posted by mrgrimm at 2:30 PM on April 29, 2011


What does the H stand for?

(sorry, homunculus, you didn't make the list, but your uncle hominibus did...)

To be honest, I always thought it was "Harold."
posted by mrgrimm at 2:39 PM on April 29, 2011


Science, as a result, has been very good at elucidating some phenomena of human experience, and very bad at elucidating others (ethical intuitions, religious experience, love, feelings)

Pretending as if this is an innate problem with science (as opposed a problem with the cultural baggage, largely religious, which placed these things outside the realm of science to begin with) is a highly convenient catch-22... especially since science has made great strides in this area during the last twenty years or so. Affective neuroscience is a particularly fascinating field, and is practically in its infancy...
posted by vorfeed at 2:43 PM on April 29, 2011


mrgrimm: To be honest, I always thought it was "Harold."

What I've heard is it was Hsunovgot, an obscure Akkadian word, and it's been misinterpreted in ways that have caused serious errors in the historical record.
posted by vanar sena at 2:56 PM on April 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


He still hasn't worked out that conflict in himself.

I remember right before the Iraq War, I wrote him a long, detailed E-mail message about how militarily stupid the invasion was and how it would only empower Iran and destroy any goodwill we had in the Arab world etc.

He responded quickly, saying I had a lot of good points, but I forgot about the WMD.

Anyway, I've been told he gets the best of the best weed, so he's got that going for him.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:01 PM on April 29, 2011


I'm still trying to figure out why the "homosexual community," whatever that means, continues to revere clown-ish figures like drag queens and the Sisters.

It would be as if the height of African American cultural activism were dressing up and acting like Amos and Andy. It would be as if GWAR were considered serious political and artistic comment among whites.

Yes, I get the idea of co-opting, subverting and reinterpreting symbols. But really. Why are clowns -- yes, clowns, because there's no other word for it -- the centerpiece of every gay pride parade?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:12 PM on April 29, 2011


Why, it's almost as if gays have their own culture!!!
posted by vorfeed at 3:16 PM on April 29, 2011 [10 favorites]


Yes, I get the idea of co-opting, subverting and reinterpreting symbols. But really. Why are clowns -- yes, clowns, because there's no other word for it -- the centerpiece of every gay pride parade?

I would disagree with your "clown" appraisal, but you're plain wrong anyway. Unless you consider these women clowns. (Actually, perhaps you do ...)
posted by mrgrimm at 3:17 PM on April 29, 2011


I can't speak for them- I'm not gay and I'm not a Sister. But from where I sit, it doesn't look like conforming to mainstream expectations has ever done the gay community any favors.
posted by small_ruminant at 3:19 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Who the hell is Andrew Sullivan to lambast anybody?

no preview
posted by carping demon at 3:19 PM on April 29, 2011


And being out, loud, and proud gives courage to everyone else who's stuck hiding.
posted by small_ruminant at 3:21 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Why are clowns -- yes, clowns, because there's no other word for it -- the centerpiece of every gay pride parade?

You'd be better served by doing a bit, nay -- a LOT, of self-education about the history of homosexuality in America and how and why it has historically found expression in various ways and what the gay rights struggle has faced and had to overcome in the past 50-60 years... before you ask these kinds of questions.

You might as well be asking why Native Americans put on kachina costumes and dance to drumbeats.
posted by hippybear at 3:26 PM on April 29, 2011 [6 favorites]


Thanks for publicizing the event, Andy. I haven't ever been, but I will make it a point to be in Dolores Park next year on that day.
posted by telstar at 3:27 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I would disagree with your "clown" appraisal, but you're plain wrong anyway.

Yes, because there's absolutely nothing clownish in any of these photos. No costumes at all. These are deadly serious people in their best Monday morning work attire. If you didn't know it was a pride parade, you'd think they were on their way to Presbyterian bake sale in Muncie, Indiana. Got it.

Yeesh. The front page of the site includes three hunks clowning around in faux, co-opted military attire. It's baked into the navigation.

Please, if you want to disagree, fine. But you're not allowed to piss on my shoes and tell me it's raining.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:28 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


You might as well be asking why Native Americans put on kachina costumes and dance to drumbeats.

Wow. Such a false equivalence, I wouldn't know where to begin.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:30 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm still trying to figure out why the "homosexual community," whatever that means, continues to revere clown-ish figures like drag queens and the Sisters.

I'm not clear on why it's a bad or even unusual thing. Who is it that the mainstream reveres? Who would you suggest they revere?

Again, I'm not the gay community in any way, but I guess you could say I revere what the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence stand for. I even revere the way they do it, since it generally lacks the earnest sanctimony of the mainstream equivalents.
posted by small_ruminant at 3:35 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't even know where to begin with your bigoted and nasty comment, actually, CPB. I mean, I know you take generally edgy stances here on MetaFilter, but usually it seems to be coming from a stance which has some basis in knowledge. In this instance, you just come across and being cruel and ugly for the sake of doing it. Honestly, I thought it was a comment written by Faze until I saw your name at the end of it.

Take some time and educate yourself as I suggested. When you've done that, which won't be later on today I promise you, and you still want to discuss why drag queens play a central role in the fight for gay equality, then I'll sit down and discuss it with you like you're an adult. Your comment places your maturity on this topic someplace around ignorant middle school student, and so it's difficult to even know where to begin.

And there's not that much difference between ritualistic drag and kachina dancing, actually. Not on a Jungian level.
posted by hippybear at 3:54 PM on April 29, 2011 [5 favorites]


Yes, because there's absolutely nothing clownish in any of these photos. No costumes at all. These are deadly serious people in their best Monday morning work attire. If you didn't know it was a pride parade, you'd think they were on their way to Presbyterian bake sale in Muncie, Indiana. Got it.

What the fuck are you talking about. I just deleted a very snarky paragraph in which I put a whole lot of words in your mouth, but I decided it would be better to ask you directly: whats the fuck are you talking about?

Are costumes not allowed? Is drag bad because you think it's bad, regardless of the queer community's own history and relationship with drag? Are only clowns allowed to wear costumes - or are people in costumes always and only clowns? (I gotta tell you, I think some actual clowns would take issue with this.)

You clearly object to people who dress in ways that you consider inappropriate at pride parades. Why is this, and what do you think we should wear? Perhaps we'll get our rights faster if we dress like this! Because everyone knows that the only reason we don't have full rights yet is because of those nasty queens and those icky fellows in assless chaps.
posted by rtha at 3:58 PM on April 29, 2011 [16 favorites]


Everyone knows serious people don't wear costumes to work.
posted by Zed at 4:16 PM on April 29, 2011


I suspect the reason the "clowns," the showmen, the dancing boys and almost girls, the titty-swingin' morris dancers, all resplendent in leather, boas, lamé, and hardhats, rule the parades comes down to a basic fact of history—they own the revolution because they fought it. They stood up when the respectable men, the "real" men, hung back, quaking behind their respectable facades and their manufactured identities. They stormed the barricades when the lipstick lesbians whistled like nothing untoward was even imaginable to their lilywhite minds. They beat down the closet doors so that the great normal masses of queer folk could emerge, blinking, in the sunlight.

The sissies, the bulldozers, the radicals, and the freaks started the war, all so pinched, uptight, puritanical fags can collectively sneer at their televisions in their comfortable little suburban homesteads, complaining, "ugh, every year Pride gets worse and worse! Why do I have to be represented by that?"

Of course, they're just so above Pride, so they just can't be bothered to fuss with the traffic and the crowds. Besides, they're being role models, with their little settled unrecognized marriages and their tidy little households and their 2.5 dogs named after porn stars. The trouble is, the lack of representation among the just-like-everyone-else set isn't because of the clowns and the troublemakers—it's because of the gutless legion who are more than happy to accept the fruits of a struggle fought by fruits, but heaven forfend they admit to being anything remotely like them at all, or deign to walk in a parade.

I suspect, if there's a single reason that drag queens have stayed with us and grown as a cultural force, it's that somewhere, deep down, even among the most jaded of those of us invested in the love that wouldn't speak its name, there's a buried memory that when the cops kicked in the door, sneering at the queers huddled there like jittery, frightened gazelles in the lion's den as they let everyone know that they were going to arrest the whole lot of 'em, it was man in a dress that turned back, with his lip curled in defiance, and said "the fuck you will."
posted by sonascope at 4:28 PM on April 29, 2011 [50 favorites]


Why are clowns -- yes, clowns, because there's no other word for it -- the centerpiece of every gay pride parade?

Duh.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:29 PM on April 29, 2011


(Which is to say: Because it's a freaking parade, ffs.)
posted by Sys Rq at 4:30 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


and now I'm in love with sonascope.
posted by small_ruminant at 4:54 PM on April 29, 2011


Yes, because there's absolutely nothing clownish in any of these photos. No costumes at all. These are deadly serious people in their best Monday morning work attire. If you didn't know it was a pride parade, you'd think they were on their way to Presbyterian bake sale in Muncie, Indiana. Got it.

What have you got against clowns? And fun? And why is deadly serious (interesting modifier that) better than having fun?

posted by arse_hat at 5:05 PM on April 29, 2011


What's the opposite of closet? Camp.

Drag queens and kings and transwomen and transmen and sissies and butches have been at the public forefront of every queer movement in history. They were part of founding the Mattachine Society and Daughters of Bilitis, but those were generally private pursuits, by queers, for queers. It has been the brothers and sisters who outrage the Gender Police who have carried our standards and led the charge every time, significantly including the Stonewall Riot, fight against AIDS and for public funding and education, creation of Pride events internationally. Dressing in drag is, in an important way, often like dressing in warpaint. "Here I am, fucking with your bullshit gender rules and telling you I expect to be treated as an equal! I am bringing it."

Plus, who doesn't enjoy stepping out of role now and again? A lot of people I know consider Pride a holiday that's an approximate cross between Halloween and Mardi Gras, with a touch of Memorial Day.
posted by notashroom at 5:11 PM on April 29, 2011 [5 favorites]


Is there a place I can sign up to be sonascope's nephew or something?
posted by The Whelk at 5:18 PM on April 29, 2011 [5 favorites]


Cool Papa Bell--have you read any on the concept of the Holy Fool, or on clowning as sacred? Drag has a long history as a political response to the forced gendering, and heterosexualising of queer people and queer spaces--it's a fuck you, i'm not going to get married, or a fuck you, you think i am a sissy--this is a sissy. Drag in this sense has existed since the 19th century.

As for the sisters--take the gender norming of the church, add an ironic reappriasal of the ecclestical as drag, and attach it to a radical tradition of the holy fool--and you have this nessc. beautiful, unique, act of resistence.

have you seen this weegee photo? weegee got it wrong--he is not deceving anyone--look at the giant smile, the curtsy, the embodied self of that person, and see it as a political act, even being arrested, the boy knows fully and completely how to be a lady.

it's clowning of course, but its political and its beautiful and its a little sexy, and its drag...religion is often a really private, really quiet thing, but the catholic and anglican liturgical traditions also have a history of this kind of clowning, of "the world turned upside down", and part of that world upside down tradition, is a reversal of power, of gender, of sexuality, of desire, and often that world turned upside down--and the feast of fool rituals were often drunken and often embodied and always, always carnivelsque, and so fucking political. (you can see it both in the times before lent, and in the day after easter, depending on where you are)

so, these lovely, holy sisters--their performance is loud and raccous, and some of them will be angry at me calling it xian, but its part of two traditions, a queer one and a christian one.

also, wow some of those jesusii were hot.
posted by PinkMoose at 5:29 PM on April 29, 2011 [5 favorites]


My god, there is some fabulous queer science being dropped in this thread and I just wanted to thank the Mefites who are doing it. I gave up on Sullivan and Catholicism long ago (he's absurdly conflicted about it and it shows, the poor idiot) but it's a pleasure to dip into a thread and see hippybear, sonascope, PinkMoose, ericb et al calmly presenting the many, varied opposing facets. It almost makes me want to forget about work in the morning and head out to underwear night at my local trashy dance club. Purely for sacred clowning purposes, of course.
posted by mediareport at 5:52 PM on April 29, 2011 [8 favorites]


> But really. Why are clowns -- yes, clowns, because there's no other word for it -- the centerpiece of every gay pride parade?

They don't care if you're on their side -- they are enjoying themselves and they got you wound up.

They win.
posted by ardgedee at 5:53 PM on April 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sullivan has let the mask slip and gone full-blown authoritarian since he switched masters from The Atlantic to Tina Brown.
posted by bardic at 6:16 PM on April 29, 2011



It's camp, not blasphemy. They're performance art drag nuns, not real religious people. They're charity workers who spread humor along with fundraising, not people with a religious agenda.


Isn't camp - mockery - ALWAYS basphemy? Not just in a religious sense but in the sense of mocking anything that somebody holds true and sacred? These sort of protests are not my style.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 7:36 PM on April 29, 2011


Also, I briefly looked at their history and purpose--while they maybe be a charity their good works are primarily self directed which in my book does not necessarily make them charitable.

I don't understand this comment at all. Of course their good works are self-directed- they decide who they want to help because they are their own organization.

If you're trying to say self-serving, that doesn't make sense either. I worked one Thanksgiving day at Glide Memorial Church, serving hundreds of homeless people turkey dinners with all the trimmings. The Sisters that were also there organizing and feeding people served everyone else before they served themselves.

:P
posted by oneirodynia at 7:37 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't touch this thread with a John Paul II six-foot pole.
posted by staggernation at 7:53 PM on April 29, 2011


Sullivan has only recently "gone full-blown authoritarianism"? Perhaps you don't remember him cheering GWB's conversion to neoconservatism?!

It seems odd to see Sullivan, who is known for his love of bareback sex with his "killer muscle ass that loves to milk loads" and his lack of concern about HIV... and apparently, about infecting others, complaining about The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, which, unlike Sullivan, have done quite a bit to support safe sex and save people's lives.

I'm sorry, but if you like to call yourself a Catholic, at the same time that your ass loves to milk loads from anonymous internet strangers, you really ought to consider whether Catholic doctrine regarding condoms even matters much in your case. You're already spilling your seed and going to hell, right?! ...so at least show *some* degree of responsibility and wear a raincoat.

As for his complaints about how the Sisters mock Catholicism, well... keep in mind that many people who are a part of the Sisters come from a traditional Catholic upbringing that made them feel horrible for being born the way they were. I had a friend who was gay and born to a very strict Catholic family. He contracted HIV and, knowing he couldn't turn to his family for help, decided to commit suicide. To add insult to injury, his mother intentionally did not notify his lover and closest friends as to where the memorial service was. Fortunately, another person in the family did pass on the information, and we all made it just in time.

So, when Sully talks about the Sisters mocking Catholicism, well... let's just say that Catholics have been killing homosexuals for quite a long time, with full approval from the highest levels of the Catholic Church, who, to this day, has done their level best to see to it that condoms aren't available to those whose lives might depend upon it.

Last time I heard, mockery wasn't fatal.
posted by markkraft at 8:29 PM on April 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


Conflating respect for religion and respect for homosexuals is of course ridiculous because one is born homosexual, while religion is an adopted belief.

but how, and with whom, one acts on one's sexuality is an adopted belief, also - you can choose the "right one" - you can choose "all sorts of people i like" - you can choose celibacy - and i have no intention of judging anyone on what they choose

for all you know, some people are wired to believe in religions and others aren't, just as some are wired to be straight, gay or bi

so, i think there's nothing wrong with respect for people's choices and beliefs

where i have the problem - and i'm sure you do, too - is when people try to shove their choices and beliefs down everyone else's throats

and certainly, religious people seem to be much more prone to do that than gay people are

me, i think the sisters of perpetual indulgence are being silly - and that's something the world needs more of

and i have a feeling that jesus had a LOT better sense of humor than his followers
posted by pyramid termite at 9:31 PM on April 29, 2011


and, as a side note, it seems that the major function of much of the right media these days is to foster outrage - screw solutions or constructive proposals, they just want people to be pissed about something
posted by pyramid termite at 9:37 PM on April 29, 2011


Not entirely sure that The Daily Beast / Newsweek under the leadership of Tina Brown is really "right media"...
posted by hippybear at 10:31 PM on April 29, 2011


Why are clowns -- yes, clowns, because there's no other word for it -- the centerpiece of every gay pride parade?

Wow. Just wow. I never expected the "Why are x, y, and z the focus of every gay pride parade" canard to appear here. I'll be waiting for the "Why are there always gay men in chains and leather grinding against each other on gay pride parade floats?" comment to pop up from someone next.

What is the proper attire in a gay pride parade? Polo shirts and penny loafers? What do you think a parade is for but to feature clowns and freaks and all other manner of outlandish displays?

Bakhtin put it best when he called the carnival (and by extension, the parade) a "second life" that is the place for "parodies and travesties, humiliations, profanations, comic crownings and uncrownings." What the hell else is a parade supposed to be, anyway?

Wow. Such a false equivalence, I wouldn't know where to begin.

Your false equivalence of a drag queen at a pride parade with Amos & Andy -- I wouldn't know where to begin with that either.
posted by blucevalo at 11:37 PM on April 29, 2011 [6 favorites]


Let's see what their attitude would be if a religious right group did a public performance art mocking gay marriages in the Castro - with graphic sex acts meant to ridicule gays. I'm sure they'd try to prosecute them for hate speech.

i can almost guarantee that we would simply co-opt it and turn it into an annual event. glaad does its thing, and it's awesome. but we have a sense of humor about ourselves, and we're way the fuck more creative for doing this kind of thing.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 1:13 AM on April 30, 2011


...as a matter of fact, if there isn't already an annual party mocking homophobia itself, then we need to get to work on that...
posted by fallacy of the beard at 1:15 AM on April 30, 2011



I suspect the reason the "clowns," the showmen, the dancing boys and almost girls, the titty-swingin' morris dancers, all resplendent in leather, boas, lamé, and hardhats, rule the parades comes down to a basic fact of history—they own the revolution because they fought it. They stood up when the respectable men, the "real" men, hung back, quaking behind their respectable facades and their manufactured identities. They stormed the barricades when the lipstick lesbians whistled like nothing untoward was even imaginable to their lilywhite minds. They beat down the closet doors so that the great normal masses of queer folk could emerge, blinking, in the sunlight.


I think this is an important part of the history. Similarly, a lot of the black civil rights gains came from the high-risk, outrageous radicals, not just the reasonable non-violent activists. The out-there queens and queers were pushing those boundaries just living their everyday lives, and were the ones willing to step up and fight back. They are something to be proud of, not ashamed of or embarrassed by.
posted by Forktine at 5:39 AM on April 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


... when the cops kicked in the door ... it was man in a dress that turned back, with his lip curled in defiance, and said "the fuck you will."

BTW -- PBS | American Experience has been showing the documentary 'Stonewall Uprising' [trailer] this week. You can watch it online here.
posted by ericb at 10:14 AM on April 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


sonascope, that was brilliant. I don't want to pile on CPB but I wanted to share my own experience. Though I was never homophobic growing up the south, I also found Pride parades to be a little odd. I just didn't get it. Then a really good friend of mine took me to Pride in Atlanta.

When you're standing in a constellation of human beings who are there to love each other and be themselves, since they aren't allowed to be themselves at home, or at work, or with certain parts of their family, or maybe their entire family, or are being themselves for the first time in their lives, you begin to understand. It's an expression of joy to make up for the miles of shit they have walk through every single day, not counting the centuries of bigotry they managed to begin breaking down in the past few decades.

Given the spectrum of personalities that are there I thought I would feel out of place as a pretty straightlaced hetero guy, but instead I felt more love that day than at any church service. They didn't want to tell me to be anything. They were just glad I was there.

Why anyone has a problem with that, I really don't understand.
posted by notion at 1:34 PM on April 30, 2011 [5 favorites]


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