Pastor Anderson’s war on the sodomites

Click for video

Our friend Pastor Anderson isn’t content with smashing his fist on the podium and kicking it until his toes break. Now he jumps on top of the thing and threatens to excommunicate anyone in his church who doesn’t support his all-out war on the sodomites. The sermon is a very long 1 hour and 14 minutes, so I made 5-minute clip of the jaw-dropping parts (click right image).

As usual, he’s a train wreck impossible to stop watching, and the Orlando shooting has clearly pushed him into meltdown. What’s especially dispiriting are the kids in the audience laughing fondly and enjoying his invective against the LGBT community. I can’t imagine growing up in a church like this. Anderson combines the theatrics of Saturday Night Live with the hate of fanatical fringe groups to produce something rather unique.

Rape and Gun Memes

rape shootingsI’ve seen two memes on Facebook recently that satirically “explain” the singular causes of rape and mass shootings. As much as I appreciate what these memes get at (namely: criminals should be held fully accountable for their actions), the rhetorical effect suggests that dress attire, alcohol, walking alone in high-risk areas are not aggravating factors (“causes”) of rape, which isn’t true. Likewise that unrestricted access to guns cannot be viewed as significantly enabling a killer’s success. And note the hypocrisy: liberals brandish the rape meme, conservatives the gun meme, both equally unwisely.

With regards to the rape meme: It’s irresponsible to expect rapists to behave themselves as we educate the world about rape culture. The reality is that rapists will be rapists and certain behaviors enable their success. That’s not victim-blaming; it’s common sense. The rapist should always get the full 100%-blame in a court of law, but people should also be smart enough about their own safety to apply measures of preventive maintenance as situations warrant. The same is true of any crime: If I walk alone at night in a crime-infested city area and get mugged, the mugger is fully accountable. But I was acting very stupidly.

With regards to the gun meme: It’s equally irresponsible to not regulate guns — and actually permit the sale of assault weapons — in the expectation that all citizens are decent and mentally stable. In the U.S. we’re long overdue for tighter gun control. Allow me the caveat I’ve added elsewhere: I don’t believe for a moment that better gun control will reduce the number of mass killings (full explanation here). But better gun control will at least go a long way to curtailing gun deaths resulting from domestic abuse, accidents involving children, and hard-core criminals who shouldn’t own a gun at all.

These memes do emphasize where full accountability lies, and yes, that’s important. But they are ultimately naïve.

Where are the white terrorists?

color chartTerrorists have been traditionally defined as vigilantes who use threats or violence against civilians in order to attain political, religious and/or ideological goals, by process of fear, intimidation, and/or coercion. These days you can be exempt from the label according to ethnicity, as the satirical graph on the right shows.

This wasn’t true before 9/11. Ted Kaczynski (“the Unabomber”) opposed modern technology, and mailed bombs to people between 1978 and 1995, and Timothy McVeigh was a white supremacist and New Order conspiracy theorist who blew up the Alfred P. Murrah Building in Oklahoma City in 1995. They were called terrorists by every mainstream media outlet. Today they probably wouldn’t be.

Consider Daniel Cowart (the white supremacist who plotted to kill black school students and then President Obama in 2008), James Von Brunn (the Holocaust Memorial Museum shooter in 2009), Byron Williams (the Tea Party member inspired by the propaganda of Glenn Beck, who armed himself and went “liberal-hunting” in 2010), and Jared Loughner (the conspiracy theorist believing in a governmental plot to brainwash people, who killed six people in 2011). The terrorist activities of these men speak for themselves, despite the reluctance to call them terrorists in a post-9/11 world.

We should acknowledge the reason for that reluctance. Terrorisms have different manifestations and threat levels. To lump the above men together creates the misleading impression that there is a concerted movement equivalent to the Islamic jihad. Jihad is a massive global threat first of all. In the U.S. there have been many foiled jihadist plots, and if we included those in comparing the number of Islamic terrorist attacks vs. non-Islamic, the former would dwarf the latter. And when you factor that whites comprise 77% of the U.S. population, and Muslims less than 1%, that magnifies the jihad threat exponentially.

It doesn’t take fear-mongering to recognize that Islamic terrorists are a persistently dangerous breed, but that doesn’t warrant making them the “only” terrorists. That strips the definition and fuels counter-productive political narratives. Dylann Roof is as much a terrorist as Omar Mateen.

The Motives of Walter Fritz

orgyAs everyone and their mother knew by yesterday’s end, the owner of the Jesus-Wife fragment has been unmasked by the brilliant detective work of Ariel Sabar (The Atlantic, July/August, 2016). The owner’s name is Walter Fritz, who is also more than likely the forger:

“By every indication, Fritz had the skills and knowledge to forge the Jesus’s-wife papyrus. He was the missing link between all the players in the provenance story. He’d proved adept at deciphering enigmatic Egyptian text. He had a salesman’s silver tongue, which kept Laukamp and possibly others in his thrall. Perhaps most important, he’d studied Coptic but had never been very good at it — which could explain the ‘combination of bumbling and sophistication’ that King had deemed ‘extremely unlikely’ in a forger.”

But if Fritz did do it, what was his motive?

“Money drives many forgers, and by 2010 Fritz’s assets certainly appear to have taken a beating. The owner of the papyrus agreed to loan it to Harvard for 10 years, but that’s hardly exculpatory: An Ivy League imprimatur could produce a kind of halo effect, giving a forger cover to sell other fakes with less scrutiny.

But there was another possibility. If Fritz had seen his Egyptology dreams thwarted, maybe he nursed a grudge against the elite scholars who had failed to appreciate his intellectual gifts—who had told him he was mediocre at Coptic and short on original ideas. Not a few forgers over the decades have been driven by a desire to show up the experts.” [Edit: Like Morton Smith.]

Or it could even be that Fritz and his wife had seen in The Da Vinci Code a way to sanctify their libertine sex life. They launched a porn site right after the novel was published, and enjoyed gangbangs, premised on the fantasies of husbands who were helpless against their wives’ lust for other men.

“Beginning in 2003, Fritz had launched a series of pornographic sites that showcased his wife having sex with other men — often more than one at a time. One home page billed her as ‘America’s #1 Slut Wife.’ The couple advertised the dates and locations of ‘gangbangs’ and asked interested men to e‑mail ‘Walt’ a photo and phone number, so he could clear them to attend. There was no charge, but the men had to agree to Walt’s filming.

‘I just wanted to thank you for a wonderful time during the gangbang on Friday,’ someone named Doug was quoted as saying on the fan-mail page of one of the sites. ‘Don’t get me wrong Walt you are a great guy, but your wife…Wow!!!’

All of the sites seem to have been taken down in late 2014 and early 2015. But archived pages and free images and videos were easy to find online. In an interview on a German-language Web site, Fritz’s wife, under her porn name, described herself as the daughter of a U.S. military officer who had been stationed in Berlin when she was a teenager. She and Fritz met in Florida in the 1990s, and he encouraged her to act out their shared fantasies of her having sex with other men.

Fritz appears in a few videos, but he is more often behind the camera. He included a bio on one site, under his occasional porn name, Wolf: ‘I am a 45 year old executive, living in S. Florida. Stats: 6’2”, 185 lbs., brown hair, slim, no belly, clean cut, and well endowed.’ Then he went on to list his academic credentials, as if for a LinkedIn profile: ‘I am college-educated with a technical MA-degree form [sic] a major university, and an associate degree in arts. I speak three languages fluently and read two old languages.’

This juxtaposition of lewd and learned appears in still sharper relief on one of his wife’s sites, where passages from Goethe, Proust, and Edna St. Vincent Millay are interspersed with philosophical musings on Jesus’s teachings, the slippery nature of reality, and ‘the Perfection of Sluthood.’

After trawling regions of the Web I hadn’t even known existed, I discovered that Fritz’s wife, under her porn name, enjoyed a measure of fame. Before Yahoo shut it down in 2004, she boasted online, her ‘Femalebarebackgangbangextreme’ discussion group had nearly 50,000 members. The couple’s work belonged to a fetish genre built around fantasies of cuckolded husbands powerless to stop their wives’ lust for other men. The genre is called ‘hotwife.’

When I mentioned these findings to my own wife, she told me to read The Da Vinci Code. Studied closely, she said, the book could be a Rosetta stone for Fritz’s motives.

Dan Brown’s best seller is fiction, of course, but it draws on the work of feminist religious scholars like King. Its premise is that conservative forces in the Roman Catholic Church silenced early Christians who saw sex as holy and women as the equals — or even the saviors — of men. Threatened by these vestiges of pagan goddess worship, Church fathers defamed Mary Magdalene and enshrined the all-male priesthood to keep women out.

Brown’s chief point of departure from scholars like King is his made-for-Hollywood plot, which turns on a Catholic conspiracy to destroy evidence of Jesus’s marriage to—and child with—Mary Magdalene. A clandestine society whose past members include Leonardo da Vinci and Sir Isaac Newton has resolved to keep alive the secret of Jesus’s marriage, along with an ancient practice that celebrated the sanctity of sexual intercourse. In a pivotal scene, members of the society take part in a ritualistic orgy.

I wondered whether Fritz and his wife had seen in the book a way to sanctify their adventurous sex life, to cloak it in the garb of faith. The couple launched their first porn site in April 2003, a month after The Da Vinci Code was published. Perhaps they had spun a fantasy of Fritz — whose birthday happens to be Christmas — as a kind of Jesus figure, and his wife as a latter-day Mary Magdalene.”

Whatever his motives — there may have been many — Walter Fritz will fall somewhere on my list of Top 20 Literary Hoaxes when I get around to updating it.

Two helpful responses to Orlando

There have been the expected bend-over-backwards apologias in the wake of the Orlando shooting, and so it’s important to hold up two courageous exceptions:

1. Heina Dadabhoy (right), “Erasing LGBTQ Muslims & Islamic Homophobia”, a lesbian [EDIT: bisexual; see comments] who knows from experience how entrenched homophobia is in Islamic thought:

“Non-Muslims prone to apologism for Muslims, please check yourselves, as I am tired of having to check you. I am tired of hearing all about how much nicer Muslims are to you than they ever were to me. I am tired of biting my tongue as you engage in cutesy ‘experiments’ where you don oppression drag for shits and giggles and positive results where people like us cannot so merrily do the same. I am tired of having to keep you at arm’s length because I don’t know who you’d side with were I to be murdered for living loudly and proudly about my un-Islamic choices.

“As for the Muslims and ex-Muslims doing the same, especially those claiming to have progressive values, the jig is up. Islamic homophobia is real. This is the time when you’re going to either have to acknowledge that Islamic teachings and Muslim communities are rife with rampant anti-LGBTQ sentiment, or for you to decide that your wish for Islam to be seen positively matters more than the struggle of your GSM siblings. I hope you choose the less-selfish route.”

2. Ayaan Hirsi Ali (right), “Islam’s Jihad Against Homosexuals”, the well-known human rights activist who refutes myths that either lax gun laws (according to liberals) or lax immigration laws (according to Trump devotees) are responsible for the Orlando shooting:

“The Orlando massacre is a hideous reminder to Americans that homophobia is an integral part of Islamic extremism. That isn’t to say that some people of other faiths and ideologies aren’t hostile to members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, or LGBT, community. Nor is to say that Islamic extremists don’t target other minorities, in addition to engaging in wholly indiscriminate violence. But it is important to establish why a man like Omar Mateen could be motivated to murder 49 people in a gay nightclub, interrupting the slaughter, as law-enforcement officials reported, to dial 911, proclaim his support for Islamic State and then pray to Allah.

“Following the horrific attack in Orlando, people as usual have been rushing to judgment. President Obama blames lax gun laws. Donald Trump blames immigration. Neither is right. There has been comparable carnage in countries with strict gun laws. The perpetrator in this case was born in the United States. This is not primarily about guns or immigration. It is about a deeply dangerous ideology that is infiltrating American society in the guise of religion. Homophobia comes in many forms. But none is more dangerous in our time than the Islamic version.”

Thank you, Ms. Dadabhoy and Ms. Ali, for speaking rightly where silver-spooned scholars and pundits fail us.

What gets lost in all the cries for more gun control are the ideological beliefs which so clearly drove Omar Mateen. He was reported by his fellow employees for being an Islamist, and interviewed twice by the FBI. He was on a terror watch list and then dropped off the list because there are too many people like him to keep track of all of them, which of course is what groups like ISIS count on. He invoked the Boston Marathon bombers and obviously meant to emulate them in carrying out a jihad attack. With or without legal access to guns, he would have in all probability killed a lot of people. He was ideologically driven to kills gays, as much as the Muslims who kill cartoonists of Muhammad. Orlando a hate crime? Sure. But hate crimes and holy wars aren’t mutually exclusive.