In which I apologize to non-Christians everywhere

Over at Not a Potted Plant, Burt Likko (not his real name) has a series designed for atheists trying to have reasonable conversations with people of faith. While I fall into the latter category, the series has been well worth reading because it's a good blueprint for how to have a productive, respectful conversation with anyone who doesn't agree with one about any contentious subject.

One thing he wrote make me wistful:
Skeptics, when a religious missionary comes to your door, how does that person act? Quite likely the missionaries are conservatively dressed, well-groomed, and smiling. They have a friendly demeanor and are polite. That's not by accident. Maybe they're all really jerks in their private lives, but they are aware that they are representing their religious community and they want to make a good impression. That's the same attitude I want you to have when you represent me and our fellow skeptics.

I really, really wish my (nominal) co-religionists actually comported themselves this way as a rule. It would make me want to bash my head against a wall with much less frequency. Sadly, as a happy recovering fundamentalist, the following (from Think Progress by way of the Dish) reminds me of way too many people I knew growing up:
An evangelical Christian hate group called “Repent Amarillo” is reportedly terrorizing the town of Amarillo, Texas. Repent fashions itself as a sort of militia and targets a wide range of community members they deem offensive to their theology: gays, liberal Christians, Muslims, environmentalists, breast cancer events that do not highlight abortion, Halloween, “spring break events,” and pornography shops. On its website, Repent has posted a “Warfare Map” of its enemies in town.


According to a new exposé by the Texas Observer, Repent set out earlier this year to destroy a discreet club of swingers they discovered in town. On New Years eve, the harassment began, with Repent members, almost exclusively young men, showing up in military fatigues and bullhorns, blaring Christian music at the swingers’ club building. The swingers, made up of “regulars” of middle aged, working class couples, were then stalked at every following visit to the club. Repent not only took video of each member, but obtained the swingers’ license plates and dug through their trash, informing neighbors and coworkers of what was once private.

A few things spring to mind. First of all, I should make it clear that the vast majority of folks I went to church camp with every year are not the kind of folk who would harass a bunch of innocent people. While I now deplore their theology and their desire to inflict their morality on the rest of us, I will not tar them with the same brush as these Repent Amarillo lunatics. They were and probably still are for the most part good, kind and generous people whose beliefs I have come to abhor. However, I also think that the vast majority would object to the Repent Amarillo methods while applauding their intent.

Being a Gay Homosexual myself, it goes without saying that these idiots would loudly, proudly denounce me as not being a "real" Christian. Indeed, even if I were as straight as the day is long, my particular flavor of inclusive, universalist belief and liberal Episcopalianism would also have made me persona non grata around their haunts. However, insofar as these criminal morons are associated with the same religion that I claim, I hereby offer my sincerest apology to the entire rest of the world.

On that note, I will give you Dan Savage's response to all this. [Note: I usually prefer not to include profanity 'round here. That said, profanity is Savage's MO and we're all adults here. Frankly, the behavior of the Repent Amarillo thugs is profane, and so it's hard to begrudge Savage his venom.]
Hello? Moderate and liberal Christians? In Texas and elsewhere? Now might be a good time to speak the fuck up. Maybe you could spit out a few press releases, organize a massive, anti-Phelps-style counter-protest, and come to the defense of the people and churches and artists and businesses being menaced by your co-religionists. This calls for something above and beyond mewling in comments threads on liberal blogs about how "we're not all like that." Don't tell us, tell them.

Damn skippy.

The Better Half and I are the kind of nettlesome liberal religious folk who like to show up places and make a ruckus from time to time. (Living close to the state capital here at the Bleakonomy Northern Office makes this particularly convenient.) While marriage equality is an issue near and dear to us, we'll make said ruckus about unrelated issues as well. But here we are, stuck up in Maine.

So, fellow liberal Christian types down in Amarillo, this is on you. These people are making you (and all the rest of us) look bad. Really bad. And the burden falls most heavily on us to clean up our own house. There is no place in America for this kind of behavior, and there is no excuse for looking the other way.

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