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"Let’s stop telling Adam and Steve jokes."
April 23, 2014 4:23 PM   Subscribe

"We’ve run off at the mouth, said things we shouldn’t have said. We’ve run around like a peacock all over the platform. We have said things because we were playing to the home team, and they all liked our act. On this issue, nobody likes our act, except the redneck factor." That was Pastor Greg Belser speaking at the Southern Baptist Convention's first ever conference on human sexuality currently being held in Nashville. As promising as those remarks are, however, Slate notes that the SBC still has a long way to go.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI (23 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

Fundies are either going to be dragged into the modern era on this and other issues, or they're simply going to go extinct. Judging from this, it'll be the latter.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 4:42 PM on April 23 [4 favorites]

I'm happy that the leadership is finally telling pastors to stop lying - I guess it really was too much to ask that they just follow the rules in their own book.
posted by rtha at 4:46 PM on April 23 [9 favorites]

They are so clearly on the losing side of this issue that even they can see it. I'm happy for it, but it's got to be confusing and unsettling to see the national mood shift so fast on an issue that just a few years ago seemed like a clear winner for them.
posted by Dip Flash at 4:48 PM on April 23 [4 favorites]

Neat. Religious intolerance seems to me to be the primary source of homophobic indoctrination in our society. A long way to go, yes, but if we can get all our moral leaders to at least stop actively preaching hatred, we'll be a lot closer to a generational dying-out of homophobia as a major form of bigotry.
posted by Scientist at 4:59 PM on April 23 [3 favorites]

Translation: "Holy shit, our financial base is aging and dying and the younger ones don't want anything to do with us, no matter how many Christian rock bands we bring in!"

As a former member of an SBC church, all I can say is, may you continue to shrivel until the day you embrace equality for everyone; gay, straight, male and female, all races, all nationalities. And by "embrace" I sure as hell don't mean "pay lip service to while leaving straight white dudes in charge."
posted by emjaybee at 5:07 PM on April 23 [16 favorites]

SBC limits the role of women to this day. Don't hold your breath on them cutting any slack.
posted by maggieb at 5:13 PM on April 23 [3 favorites]

A long way to go, yes, but if we can get all our moral leaders to at least stop actively preaching hatred, we'll be a lot closer to a generational dying-out of homophobia as a major form of bigotry.
I actually think it might be the other way around. Young people, including Christian young people, won't put up with homophobia anymore, and it's scaring the daylights out of deeply homophobic denominations. It's finally dawned on them that if they force their children to choose between their religion and being decent towards their friends, they might choose decency.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:14 PM on April 23 [15 favorites]

Belser says pastors should make friends with more gay people, whether their sexuality “agrees with our Bible or not.”
Would this be the same Bible that's a-okay with rape, incest, slavery, and is REAL big on genocide? I ask only for moral clarity.
posted by George_Spiggott at 5:22 PM on April 23 [13 favorites]

I betcha there's a gay married couple out there named Adam and Steve. They must either be really sick of this, or have made up their own stable of jokes or both.
posted by jonmc at 5:28 PM on April 23 [22 favorites]

Hmmm... SBC?... oh yeah, now I remember - they're the ones that Jimmy Carter publicly called out for acting like assholes. Nicest guy in the south calls you a jerk, you know you got an image problem.
posted by Mary Ellen Carter at 5:37 PM on April 23 [11 favorites]

Someone (David Sedaris? David Rakoff?) said "Of course it's not Adam and Steve. It's Adam and Steven.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 6:30 PM on April 23 [13 favorites]

Honestly, if the SBC was my annoying uncle, I'd be happy with "stop telling gay jokes" and "stop spewing stupidity as fact" as a first step. A long way to go, sure, but it has to start somewhere.
posted by mudpuppie at 6:39 PM on April 23 [3 favorites]

Actually, the fact that people call "Adam and Steve" a joke is a sign of progress. If you've ever seen a morning TV talk show with gay and lesbian guests before, say, the late 1990s or so, "Adam and Steve" wasn't a joke; it was a debating point.
posted by jonp72 at 6:52 PM on April 23 [8 favorites]

(It was Rakoff, told during his story about climbing a mountain, as I recall. Referenced in a interview with the author)
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 7:00 PM on April 23

Yeah, now that this has been cleared up, I can't wait to get to heaven, so I can tell the good news to all those rednecks who slipped in under the wire. In the meantime I guess I'll continue to bask in the warmth of the affable condescension from all those brothers and sisters who remain in the offing.

This pig's looks won't improve with the application of a little lipstick. It's still bone-ugly and hateful at its core.
posted by mule98J at 8:02 PM on April 23 [3 favorites]

No matter WHAT we should still be able to tell jokes.
posted by ReeMonster at 10:58 PM on April 23

"One panelist suggested that the “culture war” is over on gay marriage and Baptists should become a “prophetic minority.”"

"They are so clearly on the losing side of this issue that even they can see it. I'm happy for it, but it's got to be confusing and unsettling to see the national mood shift so fast on an issue that just a few years ago seemed like a clear winner for them."
The culture wars will likely end with the Southern Baptist Convention, but it won't be over gay marriage. The Southern Baptist convention has a problem with child sexual abuse that is every bit as deep, institutionally enabled, and widespread as the problem in the global Catholic church that became apparent in the 90s, if not more. Hell, the way the denomination is structured they couldn't even create a database for credibly accused pastors to just keep track of them even if they wanted to, and that assumes they want to, much less prevent local churches from hiring them or even inform churches before they do. It will likely be a story like this one, or this one, or this one, that gets picked up just right on a slow news day and starts the cascade, but the erupting media circus will then expand to the other smaller evangelical tradition denominations with even worse problems. From there it will spread to those of the pseudo-denominational mega-churches with multiple campuses that never got their shit together and have things to hide, and from there to the smaller churches. There is more than enough horror to go around that, the moment it gets started, every local news station will have something awful to cover in addition to the huge systemic stories being covered nationally. Everyone will be guided down the charismatic rabbit hole past the 'child abuse is the work of Satan so there is nothing we can do about it' bastards, to the 'rumors of child abuse are the lies of Satan and I will hear none of it' bastards, to the 'lets pray together for the forgiveness of the rapist and do nothing else' bastards, all the way down to the 'young marriage is the will of God' bastards.

The moment a charismatic head pastor at a Mega-church, one of the big ones that can't be dismissed, gets caught in the media with an honest to God child rather than a young-ish methed up male prostitute, or a luggage carrying gentleman, or their hands in the till as is still the limit of what is acceptable to discuss, it will start the pitched battle that will end the culture wars, one way or another. When everyone sort of collectively realized how much of a thing child abuse by respected community leaders was in the early 90s, mainline protestant denominations rapidly responded at the forefront of what pretty quickly evolved as institutional best standards for prevention in line with the forefront of secular organizations. They are demonstrably incredibly effective, here are the Episcopalian's model policies as an example, and Catholic dioceses were dragged towards them slowly and imperfectly in the early 2000s, but the SBC and most non-denominational churches never came close.

When it happens, Fox News will have to turn into the pro-child-rape channel for the benefit of its viewers, and it will hopefully be seen to fall all over itself doing so. Then even if the problem magically gets fixed immediately, which it won't be, there will still be two entire generations of abused children to come forward over the course of the next generation. When the cascade starts it will not go away, and it will change everything, one way or another.
posted by Blasdelb at 12:15 AM on April 24 [5 favorites]

“Let’s stop telling Adam and Steve jokes.”
The account of creation in the opening chapters of Genesis is often cited as the lynch pin holding together arguments against the acceptability of same sex unions, but really its one of the weakest arguments.

The first two chapters of Genesis describe how God made the heavens and the earth, plants and animals, us, and everything else and in this account God takes particular care to describe everything they make as either good or very good. This is part of how it positions itself in opposition to all of the competing creation narratives that surrounded it as it was written by making mankind the loved and intentional creation of God made to be present with Him, rather than created as slaves to divine beings or to be soldiers to fight some divine war or as playthings to be toyed with by capricious Gods. That is, except for one thing, one flaw in creation that God describes as not good but is sure to fix immediately. [Genesis 2:18] "The Lord God said, It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

Genesis explicitly declares human loneliness to be a flaw in creation, as well as intimate relationships to be the solution to that, and to say that the opposing genders is what is important about this story is a pretty superficial reading of it. Indeed, for gay people, the only suitable partner is another gay person of the same gender, and a gay partner is suitable in all of the important ways that a straight partner is. Yet the necessary consequence of the SBC's doctrine is the only thing that God declared to be not good about their creation, and even set about fixing, loneliness. The fruit of this teaching is to deprive us neighbors of the ability to give our love and companionship to someone we love deeply.1 In this way the SBCs doctrine declares to be good the only thing that God declared to be not good, and is thus fundamentally is set against the work of God.

1One thing I think that we often communicate poorly to Christian communities is how gay love and gay marriage is no different from the straight varieties in that it is as much about the right to give the thousands of things involved in marriage like health insurance and citizenship, as the right to get them. I want the right to be supported by my community in giving of myself to my partner, regardless of what shape their genitals might take.
posted by Blasdelb at 12:37 AM on April 24 [2 favorites]

As a former member of an SBC church, all I can say is, may you continue to shrivel until the day you embrace equality for everyone; gay, straight, male and female, all races, all nationalities. And by "embrace" I sure as hell don't mean "pay lip service to while leaving straight white dudes in charge."
posted by emjaybee at 8:07 PM on April 23

Speaking of which, allow me to introduce you to Rev. Fred J. Luter, Jr., senior minister of the Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans. He was re-elected in June 2013 to his second (and final) term as the President of the Southern Baptist Convention. He's the first black man to hold the position.

The SBC has been in a membership decline for at least six years, and Rev. Luter's election is seen as an attempt to reach out to non-white Christians. He's also pledged publicly to improve racial harmony inside the SBC.

Last I looked, Luter still toed the SBC party line on issues like gay marriage. He was also part of the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message Revision Committee - That committee eliminated the preamble that had been part of the 1963 statement, which basically elevated the Bible to a position above that of Jesus Himself. The committee also codified the belief that women, though gifted for service in the church, are not qualified for the office of pastor in local churches.

So...a non-white straight male's in charge at the SBC already, and there's not a lot of evidence of him coming around on gender and sexuality issues. Like maggieb, I won't be holding my breath, either.
posted by magstheaxe at 9:03 AM on April 24 [1 favorite]

Okay, so it's around 400BC and the culture that produced Herodotus, Aristotle, Socrates, Hippocrates and Archimedes is perfectly fine with teh ghey. At the same time a bunch of illiterate goatherds still transitioning away from polytheism may or may not have one reference in their confused and contradictory oral tradition to the effect that their jumped-up war god doesn't like teh ghey. So of course that's the one we treat as authoritative.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:33 PM on April 24

Well, so long as we're retrospectively keeping score, I really don't think any of us would be big fan's of Herodotus, Aristotle, Socrates, Hippocrates or Archimedes' ideas about what is sexually acceptable; that is especially in reference to the Christian ideas that critiqued and slowly replaced them.

Also, calling Jewish authors whose works, if nothing else, have had so much resonance with the human spirit as to have been carefully preserved through 2,700 years of brutal genocides, dramatic displacements, and oppression 'a bunch of illiterate goatherds' is maybe a bit more than just unfair and shades into much darker things.
posted by Blasdelb at 12:31 AM on April 25 [1 favorite]

That's a very fair answer in so far as the suggestion that if we actually took Classical Greek civilization's attitudes toward sexuality in place of the Old Testament's it would carry vile baggage of its own, and I appreciate the point. That the care with which the source materials for the Bible have been carried forward actually says anything about their quality or moral validity not so much, but I won't quibble as it its defect of drawing inferences that way is no worse than the one I was proffering.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:19 AM on April 25 [1 favorite]

Though rather than leave that "darker things" implication lying around, I'll just mention for comparison that I imply nothing evil about my own ethnic subgroup (vaguely Western European) if I say that during the same period my own ancestors appear to have been equally illiterate animists seemingly incapable of writing or building anything that lasted. Though some part of that is attributable to a diligent extirpation by their Roman conquerors.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:44 AM on April 25 [1 favorite]

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