AT TIMES I feel really worried about the growing theocracy movement and what that means, particularly for the groups they have targetted for demonization. I wrote this diary in November and am cross-posting it to remind myself and any others that there are signs of hope too in the darkness.
God bless gay-bashing Rev. Fred Phelps. Why? Because his hatred and bigotry against gays has united a very conservative church and community in Oklahoma to rally around a 17-year-old gay man, Michael Shackelford.
The story here at the Washington Post should give us all hope that American progressive values of tolerance and “Love thy neighbor,” shared by Christians and atheists alike, are alive and well even in the red-state heartland.
The Washington Post did a story on the young man growing up gay in a red state in a community that openly despised him.
After Phelps read about the young man, Phelps brought his oxymoronic “God hates fags” campaign to the young man’s community. (Oxymoronic because if you believe God made everything and God doesn’t make mistake then God’s not going to hate anything he made.)
What happened next shows that real life is much more than blue or red and black or white.
“There is darkness and there is light and we are in the middle of the light,” Eubanks said, to more thunderous applause. “Say it: God loves us all. All of us!”
After the service, several people came up to hug Janice. One woman held her in an embrace that lasted two minutes, whispering to Janice the whole time.
A burly man with a crew cut gave Michael a thumbs-up. “Man, you be who you are,” Shannon Watie said, holding his Bible. “We got your back.”
Watie later said that he respected Michael for having the courage to come out. “I have the sin of pride, the sin of lying sometimes,” said the 37-year-old father of two. “The reason why Jesus was on the cross was because we all do.”
Watie voted for Oklahoma’s ban on same-sex marriage. Civil unions? He might have considered those. Homosexuality? “That’s between the person and God,” Watie said.
I’m a happily married heterosexual who has had a vasectomy. One could say I don’t have a stake in either the fight for gay rights or reproductive rights.
But I do. Because I’m an American and a Democrat. And Americans are supposed to look out for each other like the people in this community did for one of their own.
I saw this story as hopeful. Sure things look dark right now with George Bush’s election (stolen or otherwise), the defeat of all the gay marriage amendments, and the control of Congress in the hands of the worst group of politicians since the pre-Civil War era.
This community rallied around a gay man when outsiders challenged him. It may have helped him that the outsiders came from Kansas and they’re from Oklahoma, but they embraced him as one of their own.
The America of the individual cowboy or lone gunfighter embraced by George Bush and his capitalist cronies is a myth. The strength of America is in being united, not divided. It wasn’t an individual* that held the line at Bunker Hill, stormed Normandy beach or died at the Alamo. Martin Luther King didn’t march alone. John Glenn may have orbited the earth alone, but rose on the efforts of many. And Neil Armstrong may have took the first step on the Moon, but our hearts were there with him.
Let’s remember Michael and Sand Springs, Oklahoma when we talk about the differences between red states and blue states. So even if the Phelps family is a hopeless cause, God bless them for reminding the people in Sand Springs and elsewhere that the rest of us do share many of the same values.