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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Do Unto Others: A guide to striking back at the Religious Right

Do Unto Others
A guide to striking back at the Religious Right

By Elroy

Yelling at little old ladies never felt so right.

It's the Golden Rule: "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you." It is the ultimate norm of high morality in our culture. Sure there are other morals by which we live, but this one phrase embodies our most cherished value: that we should treat people as we would like to be treated.

We are taught it from childhood. We learn it from our parents. We learn it at school. But more than any other place, we learn it in our churches because it comes straight from the Bible. Found in Matthew, chapter 7 verse 12, it is in essence a summation of the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes from Christ's teaching. If you don't want to be ripped off, don't rip off others. If you don't want your spouse to cheat on you, don't cheat on your spouse. If you don't want to be judged, don't judge.

Now it's true we don't always abide by the Golden Rule. We often hurt others in ways we, ourselves, would not like perpetrated against us. Some of life's hardest lessons are actually reminders that we have treated another in a way we would hate to be treated ourselves.

But there are some among us who never seem to break the Golden Rule. Rather than struggling just to live up to a moral code, these people are on the other side, the high moral ground as it were, and they spend their time helping to enforce it. These people are our culture's guardians, our vanguard whose presence keeps reminding us that we should live by a higher standard, particularly the one embodied in our most Golden of rules. As stated above, they are our churches.

But even among these valued institutions, there are some that take their role more seriously than the rest. They are on the forefront of the battle to keep our nation, its institutions, and its citizens abiding by the morals encompassed in the Golden Rule. They are vocal, political, and committed. They are known collectively as the Religious Right, a name given them by the Press, and more commonly function under such names as The Christian Coalition, Operation Rescue, The Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, The Southern Baptist Convention, and scores of others. They include many denominations and a host of unaffiliated churches that call themselves "nondenominational," "community," or often simply "Bible" churches. Though they function as separate entities, they are loosely united in their role as cultural overseers, bound by the common goal of defending traditional moral values in our society.

Can we not assume, then, that this group - the Religious Right, who have set themselves up as the defenders of the Golden Rule - that they, themselves, must clearly be following it? And if that is true, can we not also assume, therefore, that the things they are doing to others are the very things they wish others would do to them?

We must assume it is true. For if they are not following the Golden Rule themselves, then how can they expect others to believe they are defenders of it? And if they are indeed doing things to others that they would not want done to them, then how can any of us believe them when they speak of other values we should embrace?

Either they are liars, and we should simply ignore them; or our assumption is true, and we should be doing to them as they are doing to us. Based on the belief that the Religious Right indeed see themselves as defenders of the Golden Rule, it is not inappropriate, therefore, to make the following suggestions on what we should be doing to them.

1. Picket Their Churches

The Religious Right have taken the position that verbal and sometimes physical confrontation is an acceptable method of enforcing morals. They picket abortion clinics, often getting physically in the way of women entering and leaving (even where new laws apply to prevent it), and almost always emotionally battering the woman exercising her constitutional right to control her body and her reproductive system. It isn't bad enough that these woman have already gone through long hours of torturous debate and have finally chosen an abortion - probably as a last resort - these picketers must lob their emotional atomic bombs on already tortured women, giving little thought to the devastation caused when a horde of angry protesters focus their attention on one person at a most vulnerable time in a most private issue.

And this does not even take into account those in the Religious Right who believe God wants them to inflict bodily harm on these women, as well as on the workers inside the clinics. Claiming a little-discussed but widely-held belief called "Justifiable Homicide" (this is the belief used by many Christians to support the death penalty for convicted murderers), these extremists of the extreme blow up clinics and shoot women and doctors in their attempts to defend their morals - and they do it in the name of a moral God.

Based on their actions, it is clear that the Religious Right would like us to do the same to them.

While blowing up churches and killing preachers is surely a violation of other morals we hold dear (as well as being downright illegal), it should be perfectly acceptable for us to picket and confront members of Religious Right churches and parachurch organizations as they enter and leave their buildings.

Go to their churches on Sunday Morning. You can find out when services begin by reading the Saturday newspaper. Take big signs with horrible pictures of people who have committed suicide because of the torment caused them by the Religious Right, and wave your signs in their faces. Yell at them. Pick out the nice family with kids in their Sunday best, and get in front of them. Confront these people with the damage their kids will suffer by being raised in such an intolerant institution. Wave your gruesome signs in front of little old ladies, and tell them how their donations are being used to cause such carnage to young women at abortion clinics, and to women who wish to get equal pay for equal work, and to young Gays seeking answers.

And if the Religious Right truly means what they say, then they will thank you for following their example.

2. Disrupt Their Meetings

The Religious Right have shown support for the idea that public outbursts at gatherings of the "morally-challenged" is a justifiable method of spreading the word. They have disrupted rallies that support equal rights for Gays. They have gotten into shouting matches at meetings of Liberal politicians. They have heckled leaders of Planned Parenthood when they give speeches.

Based on their actions, do we not have a mandate to do the same to them?

In your Sunday best, go into their sanctuaries and wait for the service to begin. Plant yourselves in different places interspersed between the regular members. Then, in five or ten minute intervals, take turns standing up and yelling at the preacher and the congregation. Heckle them about their support of oppressive legislation. Shout out against their opposition to equal rights for women. Disrupt their services with arguments against their stance on homosexuality.

By spreading out and waiting between outbursts, you can avoid the possibility of all of you being escorted out of the building after the first disruption. The church leaders won't be able to pick you out of the crowd until you are already standing and shouting. With enough people, you can effectively disrupt the entire hour-long meeting, making it impossible for the church's members to ignore your protest.

And if you do it well, the Religious Right will be truly impressed with your ability to do to them what they have been doing to us.

3. Picket Their Schools

The Religious Right have been active in our education system for decades, but now they are hanging out en masse at public schools in order to picket the curriculum or hand out anti-abortion pamphlets. They are preying on our children in a covert attempt to infuse certain values that the parents somehow failed to instill or to rally students against values being taught in their schools. They meet kids as they get off the bus, pushing flyers with pictures of aborted fetuses into their faces. They march back and forth in front of the curb, where students are trying to enter the school, chanting against sex education and condoms. They rally at school board meetings, trying to force a curriculum that is more in line with their moral ideals.

Based on this example, we need to be doing the same thing to them at their Christian schools.

Meet their students at their buses, or at the curb as parents drop them off, and give them flyers on safe sex, or better yet, hand out free condoms. March back and forth in front of the curb, so kids walking to school have to pass between you, and chant against their anti-gay or anti-abortion rights teachings. Be loud and forceful. Go to their board meetings (if you can, since a lot of them are private) and proclaim your desire that they promote a more diverse curriculum.

Do this, and the Religious Right will surely take your imitation of them as the highest form of flattery.

4. Boycott Their Companies

The Religious Right have now taken to boycotting companies that promote a lifestyle that exists in opposition to their moral code. The Southern Baptists have entered into a year-long boycott of Walt Disney, its parks, its movies, and its products, because of the company's television show, "Ellen," whose central character has come out as openly Gay. Focus on the Family has put out a fact sheet naming companies that offer benefits to same-sex couples just as they do married couples, such as AT&T, and are asking members to boycott them. Some of those companies also host Gay-oriented events, so they are particularly targeted. Other Religious Right organizations are now calling for their members to abide by these ongoing boycotts. Their goal is to apply pressure in order to defend morality by making it a financial hardship for those who don't comply.

In light of this demonstration of power brokering, we should follow suit by boycotting businesses owned by members of the Religious Right.

Get a copy of the "Christian Yellow Pages." Most large cities have one, and they can usually be found in the local Christian book store. In smaller towns you need only talk to the locals to discover which businesses are owned by members of the Religious Right. Find them, and print up a list of the best targets. Hand it out on street corners. Send it to the local media (unless the paper is owned by such a person, in which case they will do the unethical thing - they won't cover the story). Picket in front of the targeted businesses if you must. The important thing is to let it be known that you are boycotting these businesses because they are owned by people who promote an agenda that discriminates against a person's right to choose whom they love. Use your purchase power to make it a financial hardship to those who wish to control your love life.

By using your power in such a way, you'll surely impress the Religious Right with your ability to learn from their methods.

5. Put Up Candidates In Small, Local Elections

The Religious Right have tried for years to get their agenda recognized by major political players. In 1988, they went so far as to run for president, in the person of Pat Robertson, president of the Christian Broadcasting Network. They have tried to seed the ranks of the Republican party with their members and have threatened to pull their support from candidates who don't bend to their moral demands. But they have failed to gain a large enough foothold to change things on a big scale.

What they have done, however, that has had a major impact in the local arena is to target small but important local elections and work to put their people in those positions. They have placed their supporters on school boards. They have placed their supporters on health boards. They have placed their supporters on city councils. They have done it by picking fights that won't draw much attention to their ultimate goal and that generally have a low voter turn out. All they need do is convince their members, in the protected confines of their churches, to turn out in large enough numbers that their sheer presence will assure a victory.

The end effect has been the gradual filling of key city and county administrative positions by people with enough power to affect educational curriculum (targeted to keep Gay-friendly materials out of schools), health services (where funding for pregnancy prevention programs can be cut), and local laws (where measures that would protect Gays from discrimination can be voted down).

In light of this brilliant, if subversive, strategy, we can learn a lesson on how we should be doing the same in order to protect our civil liberties.

People of conscience, who are opposed to the agenda of the Religious Right, must band together and put forth their own candidates for these positions. Churches have a ready-made avenue for doing this. We do not. It will be more difficult for us, then, because we must first create an environment where we can work together as well as local churches already can. But we must do it, and we must then put forth candidates who can be voted into office without disclosing their objectives. And then we can assure them victory simply by voting en masse at these low-turnout elections.

And if we get our people elected, we will surely earn the praise of the Religious Right strategists who have championed the idea through the years.

6. Mislead Their Youth.

Our final suggestion may seem less brash than the previous ones, but it is by far the most devious - and the Religious Right have been doing it for years.

It's simple, subtle, and effective. What they do is create a social or cultural event they know kids like and then force their message as a part of the event. A good example is the "free rock concert." Kids love rock music, and, being poor for the most part, they like events that are free. Knowing this, a local Religious Right church or parachurch organization will rent a local school auditorium and hire a Christian rock band (most of which simply borrow their musical styles from what's playing on the radio rather than create their own) and hand out flyers inviting young people to a free rock concert. This brings in lots of unsuspecting teens. Then, either during or at the end of the show, the band will stop and the preaching will begin. Kids who would not normally go to a church suddenly find that the church has come to them. And parents who don't want their kids to be instilled with the values of the Religious Right are nowhere around to protect them. Some groups even block the exits to keep people from leaving during the sermon.

The band or preacher then does what is called an "alter call." This is where they ask these kids, now in the spotlight and under pressure from the other Christian kids, to come forward and choose a new lifestyle, one replete with the church's morals and values. The pressure is enormous, and many kids who would otherwise reject such beliefs find themselves going forward to proclaim something they don't fully understand.

An extreme version of this happened recently in Colorado Springs, home to a large number of Religious Right organizations like Focus on the Family. A Baptist church hosted a carnival for neighborhood children. While at the carnival, and without their parents to intervene, kids were pulled aside and told they would go to hell unless they were baptized in the church. Many kids, out of fear, complied. Some later complained to their parents that they were forced to take off their clothes and put on robes and be briefly held underwater as part of the ceremony. The parents are now suing the church.

But if the Religious Right feel these kinds of subversive tactics are acceptable as a means of defending good morals in our country, then we should use the same tactics on them.

Find a local Gay or Lesbian band that is willing to go along, and set up a free concert. Bill it as a free Christian music event, and print up flyers to be passed around at all the local Religious Right churches and parachurch organizations. Put them on car windows in the Focus on the Family, 700 Club, or local church parking lots. Get the word out. And make sure you use the right jargon. Just as unsuspecting teens are attracted by a "free rock concert," kids indoctrinated into the Religious Right's mentality will be attracted to an event that appears genuinely Christian. Use the word "Christian" a lot. Also put in words like "Born Again" and "Family Values." These are flag words used by the Religious Right to test whether an event is truly to their liking. Create a name for your concert promotion entity that also serves this purpose. Use titles like, "Family Values Crusade" or "Born Again Entertainment."

At the event, place a large number of "helpers" near the back of the auditorium to "encourage" kids not to get up and leave. Then, toward the end of the concert, stop the music and start preaching about the need for kids to practice good safe sex. Use examples of both Gay and Lesbian sexual encounters, and even have a Gay band member give a testimonial of how a condom saved his life. At the end of the speech, ask those kids not currently practicing safe sex to come forward and receive free condoms. Use persuasive language. Make them feel guilty if they don't come forward. One way the Religious Right does this is to have everyone close their eyes and bow their heads, and then in a low, soft voice ask all those who have sinned to raise their hands. No one else is suppose to see them, but of course the leaders in the back of the room do. You can do the same thing by asking those who have practiced unsafe sex to raise their hands, and then encourage those who did so to come forward and receive the gift of the rubber condom.

To be sure, it sounds like a devious ploy, but we have to remember that if the Religious Right believe it is a good tactic to reach our children with their message, then they must also believe it is a good tactic for us to reach theirs. Put on a good show, and they will surely be amazed that we believe in our values as much as they believe in theirs.

Indeed, all of the aforementioned suggestions might seem quite brash for good people to perpetrate against our churches, but we must remember that in doing these things we are merely doing unto the Religious Right as they have done unto us. We must remember, that in using these strategies against us, the Religious Right is asking us, dare we say, begging us, to return the favor. For indeed, people of such high moral values most certainly would not engage in activities that they would not desire to be done unto them.

So break out the signs and look through the papers. There are churches everywhere waiting to be touched by our protests (after all, they want us to be good Protestants don't they?). It's time to show them we love them just as they have shown that they love us.

This article was written by Brian Elroy McKinley

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