The old rule in publishing is that you never pick a fight with anybody who buys ink by the barrel, but who does that anymore? We need to update that expression, but how? Never pick a fight with somebody who buys bandwidth by the gigabit? Never pick a fight with somebody whose Google Analytics stats are highers than yours? Whatever the appropriate expression, Bradlee Dean of You Can Run But You Cannot Hide Intl. has decided to pick a fight with his media gadfly, Andy Birkey of Minnesota Independent.
If you’ve been following the story, the menacingly named You Can Run But You Cannot Hide Intl. is a Christian rock band that regularly tours schools with their jejune version of rock ‘n’ roll music and their Culture War Christianity (samples of both can be found on their website). Birkey has regularly been following them and reporting on their exploits, for which he recently won a Page One Award.
Birkey recently reported that Dean had said the following on AM 1280 the Patriot: “Muslims are calling for the executions of homosexuals in America … This just shows you they themselves are upholding the laws that are even in the Bible of the Judeo-Christian God, but they seem to be more moral than even the American Christians do, because these people are livid about enforcing their laws. They know homosexuality is an abomination.”
Not so, claims Dean. On his website, he claims, “There is a journalist in the Twin Cities — Mr. Andy Birkey of the Minnesota Independent — who habitually falsifies our message — a message that has a long and consistent history.” Of course, Birkey wasn’t paraphasing Dean, but transcribing what he had said, but Dean’s case is that Birkey did them an injustice by “falsifying it by removing it from its total history and context.”
And that context? It was apparently a poorly phrased attempt to contrast the Christian position to the Muslim tradition (Dean does not note, as we will here, that executing homosexuals is by no means universally lauded in the Muslim world). “We are against anyone, anywhere, at any time, who executes homosexuals for being homosexual. We would hide them in our homes before we would allow that to happen,” Dean says. “But we would preach at them while they were there.”
Well, praise the Lord for small favors. Likewise, Pastor Dennis Campbell of the Granite City Baptist Church wasn’t being a racist when he took out an ad in the St. Cloud Times (reprinted in City Pages) that read, “How do Moslems seek to take control of a nation? Moslems seek to influence a nation by immigration, reproduction, education, the government, illegal drugs and by supporting the gay agenda.” It’s not clear why Campbell decided to go with that specific spelling, when Muslim is by far the preferred spelling nowadays (we will be kind and assume he is merely using the spelling that was common in his youth, and not choosing the spelling because, for many Muslims, it is a perjorative).
While it’s puzzling that some American Christians simultaneously seem to think that Muslims are reprehensibly intolerant of homosexuals and at the same time support them in a diabolical scheme to undermine America, none of this is an expression of intolerance, if you ask them. No, as Paul Schmelzer of the Minnesota Independent reports, Campbell’s self-proclaimed goal was merely to encourage Muslims to become Christian. As Schemlzer points out, this is not the first ad Campbell has published lambasting Muslims; he cites an earlier one in which “Campbell lamented that secular textbook publishers ‘are pressured to portray feminists, homosexuals, and Muslims in a positive light.’ ” Note the spelling of Muslim there.
As you probably already know, there is a movement afoot to legalize gay marriage in Minnesota and, as the Associated Press reports, there is some specific opposition to it: The Minnesota Family Council, which is preparing to argue that the Minnesota Constitution “does not leave room for legal same-sex marriage.”
And who is this group? According to their webpage, they are a group that formed to meet the need for “aggressive lobbying on behalf of Judeo-Christian family principles.” We’d just like to take a moment to point out that this description is something of a misnomer: Judeo-Christian suggests they are representing values shared by Jews and Christians, but the largest movement in American Judaism, the Reform Movement, has officially called for legalized same-sex marriages since 1996, while the second-largest movement in American Jewry, the Conservative movement, has called for civil rights for gay and lesbians, which does not preclude same-sex civil unions. (More here.) Of course, there is no consensus on the subject in American Christianity either, but, then, claiming you represent Judeo-Christian values sounds much more authoritative than claiming you represent a specific and intolerant interpretation of Scripture.
As it is, the fight for gay marriage in Minnesota faces “tough odds,” as Elizabeth Dunbar of Minnesota Public Radio points out. The issue is that the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled against same-sex marriage in 1971, and this ruling would have to be overturned by the Minnesota Supreme Court, which, as Dunbar reminds us, is populated with appointments by Tim Pawlenty. Additionally, there is concern that the issue of gay marriage is still divisive enough that Republicans could use it as a wedge issue, and this is an election year in which the governor’s seat and every seat in the Legislature is up for grabs. Maybe it is worth contrasting the experience of gays and lesbians in the Muslim world and here, in America, which, conservative Christians like to insist, is a Christian nation. In some Muslim countries, they are stoned or beaten. Here, they are merely used as a boogieman in anti-Muslim ads, preached at as being sinners, and their demands for equal rights can efficiently be used by the American right wing as a mechanism for driving a wedge between voters and shoehorning them into office. But if things get really bad, at least they can hide in Bradlee Dean’s basement.
In sports, the Minnesota Vikings’ Jared Allen has cut his mullet; MinnPost offers up a video that is both a loving tribute and a heartbroken eulogy.