Archive for March, 2014

Dying Fred Phelps’ anti-gay cult is vile and wrong, but I don’t hate him

by David McElroy

Fred Phelps

Fred Phelps is dying. That news has touched off rejoicing among many people who are angry and hurt about what Phelps has done with the anti-gay cult he founded in Kansas.

Phelps was the founder and former pastor of the group which calls itself the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas. But his story is complicated. The Mississippi-born Phelps was an award-winning civil rights lawyer early in his career. How do we reconcile that with the subsequent career of the man who’s best known for preaching that “God hates fags“?

On Facebook, I saw many angry comments after the news came out Sunday that he’s dying.

“I hope it’s an awful and traumatic death,” one woman wrote in what was typical of the attitudes I noticed.

I disagree with Phelps and the group he founded. They’re wrong theologically and in every other way. They’re full of hate and anger. The things they say and do are vile and mean. And they’re terribly arrogant.

But I don’t hate Phelps or the others who are still part of the cult. Despite the terrible things they’ve done — and the hurt they’ve inflicted on many people, including some I care about — I’m not going to bring myself to their level and hate them in return.

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Silly controversy over Cadillac ad reminds us we want different things

by David McElroy

Cadillac commerical-stuff

There’s a new Cadillac ad that has some conservatives and progressives sniping at each other. That’s right. Cadillac is back in the national discussion — sort of — just by virtue of making a television commercial that some people hate and some people love.

Watch the one-minute spot for yourself below and see what you think. The character in the commercial — who drives a fancy new Cadillac electric car — talks about how Americans work harder than the rest of the developed world because it helps us get all the “stuff” we have. He obviously thinks this is a great thing. He struts through his expensive house and ends up in his Cadillac at the end, touting the value of working hard the entire way.

Oddly, this has become a political debate, which seems odd to me. The progressives of ABC’s Good Morning America didn’t seem to care for it. You can see their brief discussion of it in the other video below (in a clip provided by a conservative organization called the Media Research Center). The organization’s NewsBusters site takes aim at the progressives’ distaste for the ad, and I’ve seen outraged people on both sides talk about it on Facebook.

Conservatives see the ad as promoting American values of hard work in exchange for material goods, and progressives see it as promoting American exceptionalism and working too hard. They’re probably both right, but which sides you see depends on which values happen to matter most to you.

I see it as a simple personal choice.

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Lesson from U2: Rejection doesn’t necessarily mean it’s time to give up

by David McElroy

U2 rejection letter

Giving up when you’re rejected is easy. I’ve done it before. You probably have, too. The four members of U2 didn’t give up when they rejected, though. They’re wealthy, famous and successful today. But they wouldn’t be if they had given up in 1979 when a major record label rejected them.

U2 formed in Dublin, Ireland, in 1976 as a band called Feedback. After a couple of name changes, they ended up as a four-man band called U2 by 1978. They were able to release some music just for the Irish market, but nobody seemed interested in taking them seriously.

One of the best-known music labels of the era was RSO Records. We found out this week that U2 submitted a tape to RSO — and on May 10, 1979, the label gave the band a polite brush-off.

“Thank you for submitting your tape of ‘U2’ to RSO, we have listened with careful consideration, but feel it is not suitable for us at present,” said the letter that was addressed to Paul Hewson, who you might know better as Bono. “We wish you luck with your future career.”

I can imagine Bono finding the envelope from RSO in the mail. I can imagine him opening the envelope and pulling the letter out. I can imagine his disappointment at being rejected.

So what do you do when you’re rejected? Do you talk yourself into being “realistic” and accepting that it’s time to move on? Or do you have a kind of hope and faith that’s willing to ignore the empirical evidence of rejection?

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Think ‘Tea Party’ will change D.C.? Do you remember the ‘New Right’

by David McElroy

The New Right-We're Ready to LeadYou might remember a few of the names associated with the “New Right,” even if you don’t know much about them. Jerry Falwell. Ralph Reed. Richard Viguerie. Phyllis Schlafly. Pat Robertson.

These were names who were a big deal in the late ’70s and early ’80s as a new political movement rose up to challenge the Establishment in Washington and in the Republican Party across the country. They were socially conservative Christians and they were determined to change politics forever.

I still have a copy of Richard Viguerie’s 1981 book, “The New Right: We’re Ready to Lead.” (He was a brilliant pioneer of conservative direct mail fundraising.) I was a conservative Republican at the time and I was also a theologically conservative Christian, so it seemed natural to me that the two would come together in a powerful way and change politics.

I guess you could say that I was young and idealistic enough to be a True Believer.

I was only on the periphery of this movement, but I remember others who were convinced we were going to change the country in a positive way. We were passionately organizing and we were driven from the grass roots. We were disgusted with the cynical “politics as usual” that we got from government and even from our own Republican Party. There were so many of us involved that we were sure we were going to end the ability of the Establishment to continue running things as its members always had.

So what happened?

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Unity sounds nice, but truth is we need freedom to go our own ways

by David McElroy

I disagree with you

We do a very poor job of disagreeing in this country. You’d think we would be experts at it, because we do so much of it. But we’ve developed a culture in which most people are far more eager to tell everyone else why he’s wrong than to understand why there’s a disagreement — much less what to do about it.

I’m never sure whether to be amused or frustrated at the extent to which some people are outraged when I outline a position on a controversial issue that doesn’t stick to the accepted framing of the issue. Some of the nasty email I received about my Monday article concerning the moral right to make your own choices — even if they’re the “wrong” choices — are perfect examples.

Look at comments from two different emails and tell me whether you think these folks read the same article:

“Your just a homo lover,” one person wrote. “You make me sick the way you want to hurt my rights, God not approve the fudgepacker lifestyles and I don’t either. Quit bowing down to the gay agenda and stand up for liberty and religion.”

“It’s obvious you are simply trying to find an excuse to justify bigotry because of your own homophobia and hatred of gay men,” another reader wrote. “Unless the law requires those in the LGBT community be treated with dignity and respect, none of us will live in freedom.”

Try to put aside your own feelings about the issue for a moment and look at the bigger questions. How have we gotten to the point that people such as these can be so certain that there are only two possible positions that they each assume I’m on the other side of their (obviously correct) position? How could both of them have missed my point so badly that they’re angry enough to write this sort of email to a total stranger?

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If you aren’t free to to be a bigot if you choose, you’re not really free

by David McElroy

Jack Phillips-Colorado cake maker

Jack Phillips is the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in suburban Denver, and he doesn’t want to make wedding cakes for gay couples. In my mind, that makes him a bigot and a lousy businessman. But as a free man, he has the moral right to be a bigot, even if I believe he’s wrong.

It’s easy to support individual freedom when the individual in question is sympathetic and says all the right things. The real test of whether you support freedom or not is whether you support people who want to use their freedom to do things you don’t approve of.

This issue is at the heart of a controversy that’s raging in this country today. The battle lines are generally seen as gay people and their allies on one side vs. social conservatives and some religious people who object to homosexuality on the other side. Those on one side say that business owners must be forced to do business with gay couples against their will. Those on the other side say religious freedom is at stake and that they should be able to decide not to do business with gay and lesbian couples. But framing the issue this way misses the point.

The only real issue is whether human beings have the right to make their own choices about who they want to voluntarily associate with.

If a person has the freedom to decide who he wants to associate with, he’s free to choose to associate only with left-handed green-eyed ex-convicts if he wants. He’s free to choose to associate only with beautiful people. He’s free to choose to associate only with people of his own religious group. He’s free to shun religious people entirely. He’s free to shun gay people or Asians or people who he thinks smell funny.

In other words, a free man has the moral right to make decisions that neither you nor I agree with.

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Start over here

When this site launched in 2011, it was intended as a way to find others who were sick of partisan politics and wanted to connect with like-minded people who were ready to go beyond politics and find ways of escaping. It has shifted focus in ways that reflect my own shifting thinking. I’m less interested in politics and more interested in looking at the things that make life worth living, such as love, creation, self-understanding and connecting with others. Every article I have posted since 2011 is still in my archives, but everything I write is a reflection of my current thinking. Sometimes I’m wrong — and that’s fine with me — and I don’t always end up agreeing with what I wrote five years ago. For now, you can still read what I wrote about the site’s purpose in 2011, but I should rewrite this. Read more.

Contact David

David likes email, but can’t reply to every message. I get a surprisingly large number of requests for relationship advice — seriously — but I rarely have the time to respond. (Sorry.) Besides, with my own romantic track record, maybe my advice isn’t worth taking. I’d like to find a wife one of these days, so maybe I should add an “application.”

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