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September 21, 2004

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According to a transcript of the program, Swaggart said: "I'm trying to find the correct name for it ... this utter absolute, asinine, idiotic stupidity of men marrying men. ... I've never seen a man in my life I wanted to marry. And I'm gonna be blunt and plain; if one ever looks at me like that, I'm gonna kill him and tell God he died."

The remarks were met with applause from his congregation.

Some gays I know are talking seriously about leaving the country. As one put it, "I don't want to be the last Jew out of Germany." This was in response to the recent vote in Louisiana. I thought that was more than a bit melodramatic when he first said it (and no, he didn't mean any disrespect toward Holocaust victims...you'll just have to take my word for it). The applause Swaggart's criminally irresponsible statement received argues otherwise though perhaps.

I know it seems silly to some folks that rational people would even entertain such ideas, but lately, I just don't know.... I know Swaggart's on the fringe, but the fringe seems to be growing.

I have no immigration plans, nor would I make any until it was clear I would no longer be able protect my partner. If it were only me, I'd go out fighting.

We do keep our passports current, though. S#$% like this righfully makes you cautious.

Von, I think you're right, and I've updated my post accordingly.

Prof. Muller -- I've updated accordingly.

Swaggert hasn't been a player in the Christian community for decades. My parents have been involved in the broader evangelical community since before I was born, and even in the 1980s there was muttering about him being to self-centered. Since his scandal he has completely fallen out of any favor he had in the broad Christian community. I don't doubt he has some residual acolytes, but he it would be almost impossible to underestimate his influence in the larger Christian community.

I don't doubt he has some residual acolytes, but he it would be almost impossible to underestimate his influence in the larger Christian community.

And von has indicated how that's easily demonstrable. When the larger Christian community condemns his comment, we'll know.

but he it would be almost impossible to underestimate his influence in the larger Christian community.

I don't want to fall into the "you must condemn this thing in order to condemn any thing" game that sometimes gets played in the blogosphere (and elsewhere). But it's worth noting that Swaggert's still a fairly recognizable Christian voice and, though his influence may be minimal, it's the recognition -- coupled to a statement that is far-outside-any-aspect-of-rationality-or-morality -- that matters. It's not enough to know that Swaggert's a fool; it's important to let others know you know Swaggert's a fool -- lest we get hand-wringing threads asking "where have all the moderate Christians gone" in ten years. (I exaggerate a bit, obviously).

(Apparently, my proposal to give a speech on "why the Iraq war was a noble thing, but Bush is an incompetent boob" was lost in the mail. Next time, maybe.)

Damn, I hope so!

I have mixed feelings about Volokh's call to Christians to disown Swaggart, mainly because it seems too broad to me. Perhaps if he had called on just evangelical Christians to speak out, it would've resonated more. Should Catholics feel compelled to repudiate him? Eastern Orthodox? People like Swaggart, Robertson, Falwell, etc., have next to nothing to do with my version of Christianity (I belong to a progressive Presbyterian church), so if I don't jump up and issue a statement, it's only because I don't see Swaggart as being on my "team" in any way at all.

And Edward, if it makes you feel any better, our church is outspoken in favor of GLBT rights (including support for the ordination of gay pastors & elders, officiating at same-sex marriages, and other such stuff that would make Swaggart's head explode), and our membership has been growing steadily for the last several years. So the news isn't all bad, at least not in New England.

So the news isn't all bad, at least not in New England.

Living in New York, I agree. Things are as good,if not better, for gays here as they've ever been.

It is important to stomp nonsense like this out thoroughly when it flames up though. Otherwise, it will flame up even more the next time.

All that aside, got a link for your church, kenB?

I guess my problem is that evangelical Christian groups already went through the process of publically casting him out and getting rid of him 20 years ago. I'm a big believer in 'police your own'. He was publically denounced. His ministry was removed from his control. He was publically shamed by ministers all over the nation. All this 20 years ago. He is now left with an incredibly tiny residual of his old following. They clearly aren't going to denounce him because they stuck with him after all those years. The community did its job. He is no longer part of the community, therefore the community is no longer responsible for his outrages.

You allude to the comparison with Muslim extremists. The comparison is demonstrative. The extremists are rarely denounced publically. They are rarely removed from their positions of power. They typically exhibit a growing flock of followers rather than a declining one. Their influence is increasing, not decreasing. They don't threaten to kill their enemies, they actually do it. Furthermore, writers like Tariq Ramadan go out of their way to talk about the broad Muslim community and go out of their way to not suggest that the extremists are outside of the community.

I think it is a pretty clear distinction.

All that aside, got a link for your church, kenB?

http://www.fpcnh.org/whoweare.html


It's interesting to see the extent to which people outside the religious community tend to lump together all Christians. I recall seeing Stephen Carter on some Crossfire-like show a few years ago, where some other guest was attacking Christians' intolerance, and Carter was trying to explain that the religious right was a relatively small minority in the larger American Christian community, and the other guy (who had clearly never set foot in a church in his life) just would not accept what he was saying and insisted that Falwell spoke for Christians everywhere. It was very distressing (but then those sorts of shows usually are).

Sebastian
Last night on Fox News Greta V was working the same theme you are and the Middle East expert who was very Fox-like (if you know what I mean) said that condemnation in Iraq and the Middle East is daily in both the major papers and television broadcasts. Greta challenged him a bit and was thwarted by his answer that the US mainstream press doesn't cover the condemnation.
She ended by saying she was happy for at least that good news coming out of Iraq.

Come now. Let's not pretend evangelical Christians have washed their hands of Swaggart. Or his odious beliefs. Swaggart merely became inconvenient for these groups after being caught with a woman not his wife at a no-tell motel on Airline Drive in Nawlins. Had this not occured, Swaggart would be a poster boy for them today.

Let us not forget folks like Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell hold very similar views.

Sebastien Holsclaw wrote:

I guess my problem is that evangelical Christian groups already went through the process of publically casting him out and getting rid of him 20 years ago. I'm a big believer in 'police your own'. He was publically denounced. His ministry was removed from his control. He was publically shamed by ministers all over the nation. All this 20 years ago. He is now left with an incredibly tiny residual of his old following. They clearly aren't going to denounce him because they stuck with him after all those years. The community did its job. He is no longer part of the community, therefore the community is no longer responsible for his outrages.

Well put, I might also add (and Volokh seems to miss this point as well) that there are many times in which silence is a more effective response than validating someone who has already been denounced and kicked out of the club. Sort of like in TNG when a Klingon was stripped of his honor and the other Klingons would refuse to acknowledge that he was even still alive.

JadeGold wrote:

Let us not forget folks like Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell hold very similar views.

Really now, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson said they’d kill someone for looking at them the wrong way? Cite please.

I've always scorned Swaggart, and so does practically everyone else in my church. That you haven't heard us doing so is sort of irrelevant.

Ditto for Falwell and Robertson. Do I have to list all of the quacks, to do a creditable job?

Sort of like in TNG when a Klingon was stripped of his honor and the other Klingons would refuse to acknowledge that he was even still alive.

Ha!

Post 9/11
Falwell: "I really believe that the pagans and the abortionists and the feminists and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way, all of them who try to secularize America...I point the thing in their face and say you helped this happen."
Robertson: "I totally concur..."

Robertson: "Many of those people involved in Adolph Hitler were Satanists. Many of them were homosexuals. The two things seem to go together." - 700 Club, 1-21-93

Thorley: Falwell blamed the 9/11 attacks on gays and atheists (among others). Robertson seemed to agree with him.

Previously, Robertson had warned Orlando would be visited by "terrorist bombs," "earthquakes," "tornadoes" and "possibly a meteor" if DisneyWorld held a GayDays celebration. Robertson has a pretty long history of associating gays with bad things and events.

I'd be happy to provide quotes if you'd like, Thorley. I could also toss in Robertson's The New World Order which recycles century-old anti-semitic conspiracy theories.

"Bloggers are allowed to post on that which they want to post, and if Reynolds wants to save all of his virtual ink for RatherGate, so be it."

Certainly Reynolds has the right to post whatever he wants, and your comment is a good argument against those with hair hypocrisy-triggers who demand equal coverage of everything or else they'll stop reading (though oddly, they never do).

But I think it goes too far to say you can't draw inferences about someone's priorities from their posting decisions, and since Muller's comments are specifically about priorities, it seems perfectly reasonable to say that he's disappointed with Reynolds' lack of zeal in pursuing Malkin's inaccuracies. Yes, he's on the right side, but we well know there's a huge difference between being on the right side and pursuing the right side aggressively (as Reynolds has no doubt done with Rather).

People are too quick to cast off criticism about posting priorities, as they confuse the freedom to post what they like with the constraints of character and principle.

I think we are drifting rather far afield here. I don't support any of those men, but notice how the charges have changed. Swaggart made a very very very inflammatory statement. I said that he had already been pushed out of the community that you wanted an apology from. Now the discussion is about much less inflammatory statements from other people.

"Previously, Robertson had warned Orlando would be visited by "terrorist bombs," "earthquakes," "tornadoes" and "possibly a meteor" if DisneyWorld held a GayDays celebration. Robertson has a pretty long history of associating gays with bad things and events."

Yes it is bad, yes it is stupid, yes most Christians would disagree. And no, it isn't at all the same as talking about killing someone. If you want to turn this into an anti-Christian rant, go ahead. But I'm only responding the question of whether or not Swaggart has been publically and privately put out of the evangelical community. The answer is a clear yes.

I also only responded to allusions to our treatment of the Muslim community. I think they are apt responses, but I wasn't trying to take over the conversation.

JadeGold wrote:

I'd be happy to provide quotes if you'd like, Thorley.

Unless some of these quotes contain either Falwell or Robertson stating that they thought it was okay to kill someone (in this case a homosexual) merely because they didn’t like the way they looked at him, it doesn’t have anything to do with the question I asked.


Currently off topic, I guess, but von might want to consider getting together with Scott Knapp, Lincoln Chaffee, and... I forget the other guy. Daniel Drezner?

Richie Robb--and you might want to chide him about using the Electoral College to subvert the will of the people. (All the folks I've mentioned seem to be Republicans in heavily Democratic districts, so that may give them incentive to be shrill.)

I'm curious, Thorley: if a Shi'ite Muslim cleric says something bad, do you feel that the onus is only on other Shi'ite Muslim clerics to condemn him? For example, Moqtada al-Sadr in Iraq is a Shi'ite cleric: by your reasoning, this exempts Sunni Muslims worldwide from speaking out to comdemn his actions, as he is not part of the Sunni Muslim community.

Yet I've never seen anyone calling on "moderate Shi'ite Muslims" to condemn al-Sadr - instead the onus placed on is on all Muslims.

Jimmy Swaggart is still regarded as an evangelical Christian by those outside the evangelical Christian community. To those inside he may long ago have been cast out, but to those outside, he's still firmly associated with that group.

In short, if evangelical Christians do not wish Swaggart's opinions to taint them in the eyes of outsiders, they do need to say that they don't share his views - as emphatically as they consider appropriate. If Swaggart isn't regarded as part of the evangelical Christian community any more, if what he said is regarded by all evangelical Christians as outrageous (except, apparently, for his own congregation, but we may assume them to be a self-selected group), then where's the harm in saying so?

Of course, it may be that public figures like Robertson and Falwell don't want to condemn what Swaggart said.... which would be my opinion. But if they have, I'll take that back.

The distinction between Swaggart and other Christians vs. the distinction between imams and clerics who support bin Laden and other Muslims is an interesting topic.

The same way many Christians don't feel the need to condemn Swaggart is a good parallel to the way many Muslims don't feel the need to condemn either bin Laden or the radical clerics who support him.

Clearly, as far as we know anyway, Swaggart has never killed any homosexuals, and bin Laden has killed Americans, so the parallel shouldn't be offered as morally equivalent, but the lesson is there all the same.

A similar dynamic exists in refusing to be questioned each time an extremist from your religion does/says something horrendous, because you've 1) made your position clear or 2) consider anyone wanting to lump you together with the offending parties simply bigotted, and besides, the person making the comparison clearly doesn't appreciate the complexity and subtle differences that anyone in your circle understands mark a clear distinction between you and the "nutjob."

All very interesting indeed...

Is there a valid parallel here between Swaggart's remarks, and less egregious but still plenty bad remarks by Robertson and Falwell, and moderate Muslims' moral obligation to condemn bin Laden and other terrorists?

Now, the terrorists have actually murdered people. Swaggart has not, and probably does not intend to. He has a lot less power to do harm than a Bin Laden or a Sheikh Yassin or one of countless others. So perhaps there is less need for condemnation. On the other hand, because Swaggart has so much less power to do harm, it requires essentially no risk--let alone violent death as a "collaborator"--to disavow those statements. And people do still get beat up, and in a few awful cases even killed, for their sexual orientation--as well as discrimination, which is non violent but still wrong.

I don't assume that silence equals endorsement, from Christians or from Muslims. I don't know whether it's a moral obligation to speak, but it's definitely a mitzvah*.

*actually, that technically means "commandment" but is often used more in the sense of "good deed". I guess the idea is that you're commanded to do affirmative good acts as well as refrain from bad acts. Anyway, you get the idea....

(sorry. cross posted.)

Marguerite, Edward, thanks for following up my post.

"The same way many Christians don't feel the need to condemn Swaggart is a good parallel to the way many Muslims don't feel the need to condemn either bin Laden or the radical clerics who support him."

I don't think so. The radical clerics are not cast away from their large congregations--instead their congregations grow. The radical clerics are not publically humiliated by a vast number of other clerics. The radical clerics are called 'part of the umma' by moderates like Tariq Ramadan instead of being repudiated. That is embracing them as part of the group and is thus the exact opposite of what was done to Swaggart. The reason why evangelicals don't feel the need to do that to Swaggart NOW is because they did it 20 years ago.

There is a parallel however. Moderate Muslims ought to do to their radical clerics what evangelical Christians and their organizations did to Swaggart 20 years ago.

"This is one of the responsibilities of being part of an ideological movement, of urging others to join your movement, and of praising the movement as good for society: You need to police your own, or those who purport to be your own. Not an onerous responsibility, or an unreasonable imposition, it seems to me."

To be a contrarian, while I can see the significance of party discipline in a mass-[paid]-membership, like the UK Tory or Labour Party or the German SPD, that have considerable national and/or ideological cohesion. But I can't see it in the much broader coalitions involved in US politics, whre there are so many institutional,ideological, financial and regional centers of power.

Don't get me wrong - and there is nothing more satisfying than digging the knife into those who are theoretically on the same side but you deeply believe sabotage for your cause* and whose rhetoric you are sick of (I was in the UK Labour Party at the tail end of its explusions of the ultraleft and it was nasty but enjoyable work, comrade).

But I can't see who exactly would have their vote influenced by Malkin, Swaggart, or the Texas GOP platform being part or not part of their coalition, or why (say) Tom Daschle would have to be concerned about what Santa Cruz Democrats are up to in local government in the same way as Neil Kinnock, leader of the UK Labour party in the 1980s and early 1990s, had to worry about the supposedly-Labour but actually Trotskyist ultraleft cadres that ran Liverpool City Council.

Also, is "Vox Day" a pseudonym, or did his parents actually give him this somewhat-blasphemous name?

(*Because you go to meetings where the fuckers stand up and spout their crap, you're subjected to more of their bullshit than you would be if you were a member of the other party. In the UK Labour Party, there was a joke like this "Q. A Trot and a Tory are both standing on the edge of a cliff. Which one do you push first? A. The Tory. Business before pleasure". A colleague of mine also wore a "Ramon Mercador Fan Club" t-shirt to political meetings for extra fun.

There's also the inevitable Churchill anecdote from his days in the political wilderness. There was a particularly raucous debate in the Commons, and one young Tory backbencher sitting next to Churchill was getting particularly worked up. Churchill asked him why he was getting so agitated, and the man answered, pointing to the Labour benches "But they're the enemy". Churchill answered, "They are not the enemy, they are the Opposition", and, pointing to the Tory benches, he added "*these* are your enemy".)

I don't think so. The radical clerics are not cast away from their large congregations--instead their congregations grow.

You're drawing distinctions between one case with details you have at your fingertips and one where you're offering no such details at all. Tariq Ramadan considers a cleric who said he would kill an American if one looked at him the wrong way an acceptable part of the "Umma"? Cite please.

There is a parallel however. Moderate Muslims ought to do to their radical clerics what evangelical Christians and their organizations did to Swaggart 20 years ago.

I think your parallel is closer to perpendicular. Swaggart was cast off because a personal peccadillo, not for any extreme views. Do you think that Muslim clerics wouldn't have done much the same thing with one of theirs in that situation?

And, can you give an example of a figure on the religious right that's been broadly repudiated because of his radical opinions?

Mr. Sulu, deploy anti-italics measures!!

Dammit, Scotty, we need more html!

I don't know of a high-profile parallel of a Christian minister who preaches anything similar to clerics supporting jihad against the US.

I don't know of a high-profile parallel of a Christian minister who preaches anything similar to clerics supporting jihad against the US.

Do you know of a high-profile cleric though? There's so much talk about these clerics, you'd think they were household names. I don't know of any by name.

Thanks, Edward, for mopping up after my slanted commentary.

Sebastian, that's squirrelly -- you were the one who wanted to draw the parallel in the first place, I was just trying to help you make it a little straighter.

Anyway, I was thinking about maybe some figure on the religious right who was calling for shooting abortion providers or the Levitican death penalty for homosexuals. What has been the general response in the evangelical community to folks like that?

Of course we don't have ministers being shot down in the streets very often either.
Where's hilzoy and that definition of "moral relativism" when you need it?

" I was thinking about maybe some figure on the religious right who was calling for shooting abortion providers or the Levitican death penalty for homosexuals. What has been the general response in the evangelical community to folks like that?"

I don't know of any high profile ministers doing that either. The closest I can think of is the odious Rev. Phelps who has been roundly condemned for doing such things as protesting at Matthew Sheppard's funeral. But as I say, roundly condemned. He also has a following in the tens not thousands.

Edward--Abu Hamza al-Masri (UK), Abu Bakar Bashir (Indonesia), Mullah Krekar (Norway), Sheik Ahmed Yassin
Palestinian territories. (I'll admit, not off the top of my head. I had to look them up in the archives of my blog and at bearstrong.net/warblog.) Most of my trouble is remembering the names. I keep thinking--that guy who advocated suicide bombings, the guy with Islamist ties in Norway, etc....

Edward... don't pack your bags just yet.

We have an apology...

From Drudge

Evangelist Jimmy Swaggart apologizes after remark about 'killing' gay men

"If it's an insult, I certainly didn't think it was, but if they are offended, then I certainly offer an apology."

That absolutely, definitely does not count as an apology.

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Whatnot


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