Monday, August 18, 2008

"Doom for Marriage and the Family"

You never know what strange things you'll find when you snoop.

My girlfriend is away for several weeks, so I'm staying at her place, looking after the house and animals. While perusing her mail, I noticed a solicitation from Dr. Donald E. Wildmon of the American Family Association.

A lesbian receiving mail from the AFA is like a Jew receiving mail from the American Nazi Party.

Boy, I thought, did she get on the wrong list. Perhaps an angry ex wanted to do something more creative than key her car.

Then I noticed the letter was addressed to her mother. That explained it. When it comes to conservative Christian fervor, her mom makes Pat Robertson look like he's faking.

The words printed on the front of the envelope guaranteed I'd take my snooping a step further. I had to open the envelope. I hope the U.S. Postal Service doesn’t hear about this.

Here are the words that hooked me: "If you are alive in 60 days, you will witness one of the most momentous days in America's moral history."

Were I the intended recipient, I'd be concerned. If I'm alive in 60 days? Does the AFA know something I don't? I thought it was just indigestion.

I can think of only two possible explanations for the AFA choosing to question whether the recipient would be alive in 60 days. Perhaps the group's membership is elderly and the AFA decided to be frank and rude. Or maybe the AFA folks, on principle, always allow for the possibility that the Rapture could alter the best-laid plans.

But of course it was the second part of the statement that had me ripping open the envelope. What did Donald Wildmon and his American Family Association consider one of the biggest days in America's moral history?

I wish I'd guessed wrong, but the fellow is as predictable as Popeye with a can of spinach. It's Election Day that Wildmon has in his sights, because that's when Californians can undo their Supreme Court's decision allowing same-sex marriage.

In his letter to the faithful—and nosy others—he lamented how the court "overruled both the 'will of the people' and the design of Almighty God." He bemoaned how out-of-state gay couples marrying in California will unleash legal challenges all over the country.

In the most highlighted statement, he aimed to scare the dickens out of his supporters: "On November 4—about three months from now—if we do not stop the drive to legalize marriage between homosexuals, that battle will be lost."

As California goes, so goes the nation. That big sucking sound is the U.S. of A. going down the morality toilet.

What can citizens do to prevent the imminent demise of the Ty-D-Bol Man? "For the sake of your children and the future of our nation," Wildmon knows precisely how Americans can help.

Californians will be voting on Proposition 8, a constitutional amendment forbidding gay marriage, and the AFA is producing a documentary called "Prop 8 and the Case Against Homosexual Marriage." The organization wants to distribute the film to its California members and churches working to pass the ballot initiative.

"I'm counting on you to underwrite production and distribution costs of this documentary," Wildmon wrote. That sounded a mite pushy to me, but when you consider that "it is crucial to our nation's survival" that Prop 8 pass, how can I quibble?

On the payment slip accompanying the letter the AFA supporter commits both to help pass Prop 8 and to pray for the nation. Apparently doing just one isn't an option.

As it happens, I feel like doing two things: promise my girlfriend no more snooping, and add the letter to the recycling. America will benefit from both.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Jim and I

The case of Jim Adkisson, the fellow who murdered churchgoers in Tennessee, brought up such a hodge-podge of thoughts and emotions for me that I couldn't figure out how to write this column. I sat here for an hour puzzling how to begin. I think I heard my keyboard snore.

I got a grip and realized I should start at the start. Tallyho.

On a recent Sunday, Adkisson, 58, walked into the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville and opened fire with a shotgun. He killed two people, and wounded six others.

Children had just begun performing their version of "Annie" when the shooter appeared. I have to think both kids and adults will be facing post-traumatic stress the size of Daddy Warbucks' wallet.

In a search warrant affidavit after the mayhem, an investigator stated Adkisson told him that he "targeted the church because of its liberal teachings and his belief that all liberals should be killed because they were ruining the country."

That's an attitude I don't think even Joe McCarthy could get behind.

Adkisson left a four-page letter in his car. In the letter, according to the Knoxville police chief, Adkisson declared his hatred of liberals and gays.

Yup, it's us again. Homosexuals. The group people love to hate. Really, I think just by existing we perform a kind of warped public service.

I'm gay, and liberal, and a Unitarian, so Jim Adkisson wouldn't like me one little bit. I'm not too fond of him either. I have a hankering for the day when straight white men with big guns will stop taking out their problems—real or imagined—on the rest of us.

Adkisson had a real problem, namely he couldn't get work. How he blamed liberals for that is more perplexing than a statement by Yogi Berra.

It's clear that Adkisson didn't think committing mass murder would boost his job prospects. He expected to die that day, commit suicide by cop. With 76 rounds in tow, he wanted to take a lot of Unitarians with him.

The Unitarian Universalist faith is notably gay-friendly, which is only one of the many reasons I joined up. The church in Knoxville has a "gays welcome" sign, and provides space for PFLAG meetings and gatherings of gay teens.

In other words, it's a hotbed of lurid liberal acceptance.

On its Web site, the Knoxville church describes its "rich history of taking stands for social justice." Since the '50s the congregation has worked for desegregation, fair wages, women's rights, environmental protection and a bunch of other issues sure to have made Adkisson's trigger finger itchy.

His first victim was usher Greg McKendry, 60, whom a congregant described as a big guy, "a refrigerator with a head." McKendry was one heroic kitchen appliance, as witnesses said he put himself between the shotgun and the congregation.

It happens that on the day of the shooting, I was volunteering as a greeter at my Unitarian church in Seattle. That means I was the first person people saw when they walked into the building, a fact that gave my girlfriend the jitters after we heard later that day what had happened in Tennessee.

For the record, I'm not a fridge with a head. More like a dishwasher with feet.

A friend of mine who has been a member of my church for about a year frequently says that many more people would join the Unitarian Universalist religion if only they knew about it. One of the perverse parts of this terrible event is that Adkisson has helped spread the word about this liberal faith that emphasizes social justice.

I hope that pisses him off.