Bibles, nuts and gays

by Jim Longworth

Last week produced a study in disturbing symmetry (note to religious zealots, “symmetry” is not the place where you bury people). First, in our state, there was the viral video of a sermon delivered by pastor Charles Worley of Providence Road Baptist Church in Maiden. During his Mother’s Day rant, Worley told his flock that the solution to our gay problem is to round up all of the homosexuals and imprison them inside an electrified fence until they die out.

Then, shortly after Pastor Weirdo made national news, so did a New Jersey Judge, who handed down a ruling on the Tyler Clementi case. Back in 2010, Clementi was a student at Rutgers University when, unbeknownst to him, his straight roommate, Dharun Ravi, videotaped Tyler having sex with another boy. Ravi then posted the video which outed Clementi, who then committed suicide. The judge sentenced Ravi to 30 days in jail, essentially concluding that the video itself did not directly cause Clementi to kill himself. The media and the LGBT community was not so lenient. They equated Ravi’s actions with bullying which, as we know, has been blamed for a rash of gay suicides over the past several years.

And so, there you have it. A bigoted preacher advocated the systematic killing of gays, while a judge implied that homophobic bullying doesn’t cause gays to kill themselves. The lesson from last week is pretty clear: Bullies, whether secular or religious, can do or say whatever they want without fear of reprisal and without culpability for any collateral damage they may cause. Of the two kinds of bullies, however, the student variety are not nearly so dangerous as are offenders of the religious ilk.

The truth is that homophobic holy men have been around forever, and Worley is just the latest one who has been exposed for his vile ignorance. During the recent debate over Amendment One, for example, another white North Carolina preacher said that he was opposed to gay marriage because it’s what Martin Luther King advocated. In fact, the idiot preacher took MLK totally out of context. King said we should be judged on the content of our character, which is a far cry from judging gays as sinners. Then there was Sean Harris, the Fayetteville preacher who told his congregation that parents should “hit their children who seem gay.” Harris later said he was half joking, but still reaffirmed his position that “effeminate behavior is ungodly.” But my favorite homophobe pastor is Steven Anderson, who leads a Baptist Church in Tempe, Az. Anderson says he eats nuts to help him memorize passages in the Bible, and he says the Good Book teaches us that homosexuality is a sin, and that God should punish homosexuals with the death penalty.

The lesson from last week is pretty clear: Bullies, whether secular or religious, can do or say whatever they want without fear of reprisal and without culpability for any collateral damage they may cause.

So why do I believe that these religious zealots are more to blame for gay suicides than school bullies? Because in most cases, students who pick on or out gay kids only exacerbate the underpinnings of guilt and pain which have been forced upon them by those who should love them most — their family and their church. Such is the case with a Piedmont youth who was recently outed.

The boy’s mother kicked him out of the house upon learning that her son was gay. He then turned to his grandmother for comfort. No dice.

Grandma told him he need not come around her house again because she would be “embarrassed if her neighbors found out what he really was.” And in a parting shot that sends shivers down my spine, Granny from Hell told the boy to kill himself because it would be “better to be dead than to live that kind of life.”

Here’s my point about bullies: The ignorant grandmother didn’t learn her bigotry from the schoolyard, or from a college kid with a video camera, or from the internet. She formed her prejudices from listening to the Worleys and the Andersons of the world. These Bible bullies are expert at stirring up mindless sheep into a vile frenzy of hate, and there’s nothing any of us can do about it. Their speech, no matter how offensive and destructive, is protected. So rail all you want about school bullies or Facebook messages that out gay kids. If we really want to get to the heart of what drives inner conflict among gay youth, we must find a way to legislate against religious speech which teaches and condones prejudice, and which preaches that suicide and electrified fences are the way into Heaven.

I don’t know if eating nuts helps you learn the Bible, but I do know that a lot of people turn into nuts after misusing it. God help them, and the young people they torture.

Jim Longworth is the host of “Triad Today,” airing on Saturdays at 7:30 a.m. on ABC45 (cable channel 7) and Sundays at 11am on WMYV (cable channel 15)