Thursday, May 29, 2014

Billionaire Jesus, Pt 2: Bling, Bling, Bling And More Bling!

Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered (Proverbs, 21/13)
Was there a "prosperity gospel" in the first century? Of course not. So what would happen if today's priests/ministers/bishops of "bling" met with the first Christians? Would they meet the same fate as Ananias and Sapphira, who withheld property from the communal group led by the apostles and were struck down?

I don't think "Bishop" Eddie Long wants to see God (or the Devil) just yet.

In these days of Billionaire Jesus, the BLING counts. And while lavish homes and lifestyles have been frowned upon by pope Francis, the Christian Right of America clings to the advantages of capitalism with a fevered grip: extravagant estates, cars and expensive jewelry are "gifts" from God never to be questioned. Greed has been replaced by "belief" (as in "Word of Faith") and the outward show of "belief" is prized above all else.

Where Jesus Christ's poor is in all this "belief", however, is another matter.

James 2:1-4 (ESV)

My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, "You sit here in a good place," while you say to the poor man, "You stand over there," or, "Sit down at my feet," have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
The struggle to paint Jesus - as a capitalist totally against shared wealth can get pretty thin - ergo WND's argument:
“Someone in the crowd said to Him [Jesus Christ], ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.’ But He said to him, ‘Man, who appointed Me a judge or arbitrator over you?’”In just one verse, we see that God rejects the left-wing “Jesus Christ supported socialism” heresy. When Jesus was asked to support redistribution of wealth – to tell one brother to share the family inheritance with the other – Jesus refused.
Did Jesus actually refuse to support "distribution of wealth"? Refusing to be a judge is not refusing to support, but WingNutDaily advocates would have you think otherwise. For every "capitalist" verse, there are a dozen verses supporting the poor and championing compassion.

Blessed Be The Bling

As religion may be considered the opiate of the masses, bling might be considered the opiate of the needy and greedy. Consider this: the trappings of wealth signify release from need, the big sigh after winning the lottery, realizing that the one thing you worried about all your life - money - was no long a worry. Every diamond ring, every luxury car, signifies that the owner is not in need. And the easiest way to achieve that sublime status of non need is through greed.

But bling is a blessing! "He must have done SOMETHING right" is the oft-elicited response when confronted with a person showered with bling. Goodness!/Greatness!/Righteousness! in life must be rewarded! Surely there must be SOME good in greed! (see John Stossel's lame take on it here).

Put God to work for you and maximize your potential in our DIVINELY ORDAINED capitalist system. -Norman Vincent Peale

The End May Be Nigh

The Housing exemption case

(RNS) A federal judge has ruled that an Internal Revenue Service exemption that allows clergy to shield a portion of their salary from federal income taxes is unconstitutional.

Billionaire Jesus is in trouble: as with bishop's congregations, communities are starting to take a dim view of opulence and it's not all Francis' doing. The "greed is good" gospel is wearing thin as the gap between rich and poor widens in America. The above ruling cites the "unfair advantage" some preachers have in housing (not having to pay for a large portion of it). Even "compassionate" ministers like Steven Furtick have to answer for their excesses (see below). Many ministers (and some priests) are a part of America's ONE PERCENT and the public is getting more wary of them with each perk.

Proverbs 14:31 (ESV)Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

"Who Am I To Judge?": Catholic Schools Buck Francis, Enact Morals Clauses, Elicit Homophobia

OAKLAND, Calif. — The Roman Catholic Dioceses in Oakland and Cincinnati have come under fire for new morality clauses that require teachers to conform to church teachings in their private lives.
Some parents, teachers and students worry teachers could be fired for being gay or engaging in behavior the church frowns on, such as having sex outside marriage, or for supporting gay family members.

That's Entertainment

The morals clause (aka "morality clause") rears its pious head from time to time in the news, but it's been with us for a long time, especially in faith-based establishments. Some people wouldn't be employed if not signing the (sometimes) cryptic contract that melds private life with profession.
It wasn't until the 1920's that the morals clause hit its stride --- because of a Hollywood scandal.  
Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle was an early Hollywood star of immense magnitude (pun intended) who garnered an almost obscene salary for his antics after the First World War. Was was the first real Hollywood "Star" and lived a lavish lifestyle that included parties and women. At the height of his fame (indeed, after signing Hollywood's first million-dollar contract), he gave what was to be his last party in San Francisco's St. Francis Hotel. It resulted in 3 days of debauchery, the death of a young starlet, Virginia Rapp, three successive murder trials (the first two resulted in hung juries) and the end of Arbuckle's career. It also resulted in the self-censorship of the Hollywood movie studios - and the morals clause in the contract of every actor tethered to a studio. 

Arbuckle's scandal was followed by Babe Ruth's drinking and womanizing, so in 1923, morals clauses for sports athletes went into effect. *

Today's "MORALITY"

The problem with morality clauses today is not that morality has been outdated, but that it has been dispersed through walks of life and "lifestyles": what seemed totally immoral in Fatty Arbuckle's day is more an accepted part of the human condition. But there are factions in the U.S. (namely, the Christian Right) who frown upon the human condition. They look upon it as a curse, somewhat like Original Sin.

The "Sinners" Take It To Francis

WASHINGTON — The Human Rights Campaign [HRC] on Tuesday delivered a letter to the Vatican on behalf of nine teachers who have lost their jobs at Catholics schools for either being LGBT, or supporting an LGBT family member. 
The letter, delivered to the Nuncio, or diplomatic representative of the Holy See, requests a meeting with Pope Francis “so that you may hear our personal stories firsthand and see the impact the Church’s actions have had on us all.”
The move comes as Catholic dioceses in Cincinnati and Oakland have implemented new teaching contracts which contain morality clauses that require teachers to conform to church teachings in their private lives or face dismissal.
And Cleveland Makes Three

So far, only three Catholic archdiocese have been cited for having morality clauses affecting teachers (Cleveland has enacted one as well), but the focus on the vulnerability of gay teachers will undoubtedly uncover similar clauses in other schools around the country, especially faith-based schools linked to Fundamentalist churches. Linda Harvey of Mission America will obviously crow with delight.**

What Next?
‘Our families are hurting [the HRC letter reads] We feel scorned by our church, which we have dedicated our lives to … We know God has not abandoned us. Our friends, loved ones, and many others in our community have not abandoned us. But we feel the hierarchy of our Church is denying us the pastoral care and love they are called to do.
What Francis will do is a matter of conjecture: the who-am-I-to-judge pope may handle the morals clause problem with a kick back to the dioceses themselves since he adjures bishops to deal directly with their communities, or he may tell them that more important matters are at hand.

Another dilemma for Francis.

*Ruth's drinking had always been a problem, but with the 1921-24 contract, Colonel Jake Ruppert (owner of the Yankees) hoped to curtail Ruth's sex life. Ruth responded: "I'll promise to go easier on drinking and to get to bed earlier, but not for you, fifty thousand dollars, or two-hundred and fifty thousand dollars will I give up women. They're too much fun."
** Noted as the country's "most homophobic woman", Harvey has often counseled parents not to allow their children to be taught by gay teachers or attended to by gay doctors.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

How To Get Better Ratings (And A Spot On FOX): Go Hypocritical, Homophobic and Victimized

“When parents do not have a choice about whether or not they want their children to see this, it is wrong… I don’t call it a moment of celebration… It’s being pushed in faces. I don’t want to see that. I don’t want to see cake in your face, kissing each other,”

My Texas Today:

This down home girl not only strives to be the best but also to bring the best out in others around her. She doesn’t let any grass grow under her feet. A graduate of SMU, a full-time wife and mother of three believes that life is short and doing what you’re called to do, is doing what you love.
MyTexasToday was created out of sheer desire to promote the great state and pursue her dreams of sharing on-air.

Never trust rich people dabbling at a "career". Especially rich children of scamvangelists.

Amy Kushnir created a small (but rating-lucrative) firestorm when she walked off a Dallas- Forth Worth morning show after discussing Michael Sam's ESPN kiss. She decried the in-your-faceness of it all and said that children, families should not be "forced" to see it. Social media reacted negatively, so Amy got a spot on FOX, naturally, to expound on her family values.

Joe Jervis of got suspicious of such righteous indignation and found out that Amy Kushnir is the daughter of Robert Tilton, the televangelist who was one of the first "prosperity preachers" to be investigated.

It appears that anti-gay Dallas television host Amy Kushnir, who is so terribly outraged by Michael Sam's kiss, is the daughter of legendarily disgraced scamvangelist Rev. Robert Tilton, whose multi-million dollar grifting empire first crumbled in the early 90s following an exposé by ABC News. Christian Nightmares points us to this 2011 post on the televangelists watchdog blog Snake Oil, which refers to Kushnir as "Amy Tilton Kushnir."
Interestingly enough, Jervis also points out that bios of Kushnir (like the one above) are exceedingly thin and never mention the father-daughter connection. Check out "My Texas Today" (Kushnir's home page). Her blog is almost non-existant (last post - February and quite innocuous). Her blogger bio simply says "wife. mamma.foodie.girlfriend." Her biggest achievement outside the home is a slim, spiral-bound cookbook - Red Dirt Recipes - which has a whopping 47 recipes. She hosts a radio foodie program and hosts on KTXD's The Broadcast, a "The View"-like local show. In February, Amy played host to the famous Chippendales, fanning her face constantly, apparently unaware that she looked ready to have an orgasm - not very family friendly programming. 

The fluff bios, the inexperience, the amateurish attempts at social media all seem to point to a bored, spoiled, 43 year-old woman playing at being something - anything.

Was It All About Amy ... And Ratings?

Before the show of family values righteousness, even FOX News would have said, "Who the hell is Amy Kushnir?" With flimsy bios negating her childhood, it's no wonder Amy Kushnir was kept exceptionally local. The fact that she is host of The Broadcast, however, might be due to the history of the station KTXD (formerly KTAK) which started out as the "flagship station" for PromiseLand Television Network.

KTXD was not very well known either, but obviously loved the attention it got from the walk-out:

KTXD-TV started the The Broadcast in February 2013 as an opinion-based show. We selected five hosts who represent a subset of the vast, diverse community that we serve, and we encourage them on a daily basis to share their personal opinions on a variety of topics.

On Tuesday, May 13, that topic happened to be Michael Sam’s draft day kiss and the controversy it was generating. The debate between our four hosts that day got unusually heated and ended with one host – Amy Kushnir – leaving the set. Ms. Kushnir’s action was a signal of frustration on her part, as she felt she was unable to express her own views correctly.

While KTXD-TV neither supports nor condemns opinions shared by our hosts, we stand behind both The Broadcast and Ms. Kushnir. We wholeheartedly stand behind our hosts right to voice their opinions as an integral part of our program. We have clearly ruffled feathers, and in doing so we hope we have advanced the dialogue on this important issue.

The "Important issue" could be ratings. It seems that KTXD was left out of a massive Gannet buy-out.
On May 14, 2014, the Gannett Company announced the purchase of six of London Broadcasting's Texas television stations for $215 million. London exempted KTXD and Longview sister station KCEB from the deal.
London kept KTXD, but never mentioned if Gannet wanted it or not. Hmmm... And looking at that representation of the "vast, diverse community" on The Broadcast one would never guess that Texas has any African-Americans or Hispanics.

Texas Born, Texas Proud. We Are Texas. 
That's London Broadcasting's signature slogan. We get the picture.
A Media Star Is Born!

Since Kushnir's walk out generated almost as much attention as "the kiss" itself, FOX News picked it up and gave Amy's crusade for family values a boost: on FOX, Kushnir said that she received hate mail and death threats too horrible to mention on air.* 

To recap: spoiled daughter of a disgraced televangelist gets bored, produces lame self-published cookbook, gets into minor-league media, gets righteous about a televised gay kiss and snags an interview on FOX. Got that?

Gay Family Values puts it in perspective:

*While it is possible to receive death threats these days from anyone via social media, I doubt most gay people wouldn't go that far. "SNAP!' would be about as close to a threat as they could muster. Either that, or "Go suck a Chippendale, bitch!" 

Author's Note: Kushnir's personal story (actually Robert Tilton's story) may be a good lead-in to the next installment of Billionaire Jesus. Stay tuned y-all. 

Monday, May 5, 2014

Remembering That Gabriel Had Two Mommies: A Mother's Day Tribute In The Wake Of Tragedy

Gabriel did not die because his moms were lesbian. His death was not the byproduct of homophobia. His fate was not because of a violation of any legal custody issues. His story is bigger than any of that. - Rob Watson, LGBTQNation

Mother's Day evokes memories of dedicated love: a love so deep and pure that it transcends even physical attachment. I was born in an institution called St. Vincent's Infant Asylum and Maternity Hospital (Chicago) and put up for adoption from birth. My (adoptive) mother first saw me when I was 15 months old. I've never had a wish to know anything about my birth mother. I've never had reason to. Evelyn S. Vojir was my real mother, after all. A womb is not necessarily a mother.

Adoptive parents have always been held to a different standard: their desire to nurture a child seems somehow stronger, more definite than natural parents, especially if they will take ANY child that is given to them. But gay adoptive parents' desire to nurture has been called to question by the Christian Right, the meme "every child deserves both a mother and a father" being thrust forward at every moment of the gay adoption debate.

The Tragedy of Gabriel
The 17-year-old father of a baby boy who died just weeks after his birth mother took him back from his lesbian adoptive parents has been charged with first-degree murder.
Four-month-old Gabriel King McFarland was found unresponsive on April 22 by his mother after she left the baby in the care of his father, Drew James Weehler-Smith, at their Des Moines, Iowa home.
The boy later passed away and an autopsy revealed that Gabriel died of an abusive head trauma, which authorities say he suffered at the hands of his teen dad.
The motive for the murder is not yet known, but one obvious cause of Gabriel's death is immaturity: immaturity and instability. A 16 year-old girl's fecklessness and inability to carry out commitment has caused more grief than joy. Her inability to ascertain the father's character was also a factor.

The video below goes at length about the causes of death and the circumstances, but the last two minutes may be the most telling of all: "why was this baby ripped away" from his loving adoptive parents?

Attorneys Everywhere - Protection Nowhere

One thing has come to light since the case was first reported: Heidi and Rachel McFarland hold their own attorney responsible for not filing the paperwork terminating parental rights.
“It’s a two-step process. The first step is to file a termination of parental rights. That process is normally started by obtaining a release of custody from at least one of the two parents,” [Ryan] Genest says. [Genest is a lawyer specializing in adoptions not related to the case]
From there the birth parents have a limited amount of time to change their minds.
“Any parent that signed the release, there’s 96 hours to change their mind. For any reason. If they fail to change their mind in those 96 hours they can ask the court to revoke their release, but at that point they have to show what’s called good cause,” Genest added.
96 hours is a far cry from two months - the entire time that the McFarland's had baby Gabriel.

The McFarlands also paid for lawyers for Gabriel's birth mother and Gabriel himself. They now have no money ... and no baby Gabriel.

Motive vs Cause

The father, 17-year-old Drew Wheeler-Smith, has yet to enter a plea - let alone a motive - for the murder of Gabriel, but the motive may determine the physical cause: if he believed that mother Markeya Atkins had changed her mind again and decided to give Gabriel back to her adoptive lesbian parents, then the issue becomes one of homophobia, but as Rob Watson has said, the tragedy of Gabriel transcends many issues. 

Homophobia. Immaturity. Attorney malfeasance. They may all have played a part in Gabriel's death ... and the McFarland's misery.

“We had been scrutinized, our life style has been scrutinized, the people in our lives have been scrutinized, we had to have letters of reference for this home study, to make sure we were…adequate as parents..” said Rachel, “ And, they never had to have anything when they took him back.”

Remembering Gabriel's Moms

In Rob Watson's letter to the McFarlands, he stated what the rest of us should feel for Gabriel's two moms:
In a few weeks, it will be Mothers Day. On that day, I will buy two roses to honor you. I will look on them and think of you, as you are: Gabriel’s Moms, now and forever.