Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The perpetrator as victim (中文 link at bottom)

A new era of White Terror and Martial Law has descended upon Taiwan, which is preventing Christian organizations from saying what they want. Think again

Now that the follies of the predominantly Christian right-led efforts to block same-sex unions in Taiwan have been exposed, and as proponents to Article 972 of the Civil Code push back against such fundamentalism, extremist preachers and their followers are doing the predictable thing — they claim they are the victims.

After months of efforts to block the amendment, supported by speeches at the Legislative Yuan, commercials, sermons, and rallies, the constellation of religious groups that argued that same-sex marriage (a “foreign export”) would undermine the moral fabric of society, destroy families, spread AIDS, confuse children, encourage orgies, condone bestiality, facilitate incest and what not, the same organizations are now whining that their religious freedoms and freedom of expression are under attack. In fact, in the past week, some leading figures in the “anti” camp have decried the emergence of a new “White Terror” and Martial Law targeted specifically at them.

I need not even go into explaining how insulting such claims are to the thousands of Taiwanese who were killed, disappeared, and jailed during the KMT’s White Terror and Martial Law era, real crimes for which there is ample documentation. What I do intend to address is the tendency among fundamentalist religious groups to play victim whenever religious moderates and secular members of society tell them they’ve gone too far.

If claims that Christians in Taiwan are facing Martial Law were true, the state apparatus would terrorize and imprison them for their religious beliefs. It would shut down their churches, prevent the distribution of religious propaganda, and preachers would be forced underground. That is clearly not what is happening in Taiwan. Quite the contrary: a religious minority in a largely Buddhist/Taoist society has succeeded in taking the lead on matters of personal sexual freedoms and the legalization of same-sex unions. Such has been their freedom that the Churches that are spearheading efforts to kill the 972 amendment have been able to strike alliances with the most radical of Evangelical Christian cults in the U.S., such as the International House of Prayer, which eagerly awaits the apocalypse. (For more on IHOP's deranged ideology, watch this video.)

IHOP, which now has a presence in Taoyuan, is just one example; the Bread of Life Christian Church in Taipei (a magachurch with more than 4,000 followers), which recently attracted a lot of attention after sermons by Kuo Mei-jiang (郭美江), formerly of the Agape Christian Church in East Bay, California, were made public on the Internet, is another one. I am only beginning to piece together the ties between Bread of Life and the ultra-rightist Christian sects in the U.S. that have served as a breeding ground for such advocates in Taiwan. Pastor Hsu Hsin-min (徐心敏), a member of the faculty at the Agape Taoyuan Leadership Institute, to which Kuo is attached, is linked to IHOP in Kansas City. Pastor Lee Tian-hui (李天惠), another faculty at the institute, received training at the Wagner Institute, as did Hsu. (Peter Wagner of the Wagner Institute wholeheartedly recommends IHOP. Among other things, Wagner offers courses in spiritual warfare, strategy and protocol for dominion, and divine healing.) And as I reported earlier, a foundation run by HTC Chairperson Cher Wang (王雪紅), a regular at the Bread of Life Church, sponsored a visit to Taiwan by a IHOP leader in October this year, and is believed to have sponsored training sessions for Taiwanese at IHOP in the U.S. (Interestingly, both IHOP and the Agape Institute are located in Jhongli.)

One thing that Bread of Life, Agape, and IHOP all have in common is their abhorrence of homosexuality, which they regard as a sin, and the unscientific — in fact libelous — rhetoric they have used to make their case against same-sex marriage.

Those organizations crossed a line when they left the confines of their churches and sought to impose their religious views on Taiwan’s 23 million people, including the approximately 2.3 million citizens who are homosexual. Taiwanese and this author have nothing against what Christians do in their churches during Sunday mass; they can speak in tongues and ululate, they can believe that diamondsfall from the sky, or perform exorcisms all they want, and people will let them do that, however disturbing this all is (if you ask me, such displays of mass hysteria worry me a whole lot more than gay men and women who one day a year parade down the streets of Taipei wearing little more than a thong). But when those people turn to “magic” and “clouds” and imaginary swords to “heal” homosexuals, and especially when they use hate language and repression to tell other people how they should lead their lives and who they should love, and when those groups pressure the government to adopt legislation that mirrors their extremist religious values, then they’ve gone too far and should expect a backlash.

And they should not be surprised when society responds unkindly to claims that are entirely based on fantasy and hatred. As Michelle Goldberg writes in Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism, “Evidence doesn’t mean the same for the Christian nationalists as it does for others. After all, they’ve already rejected materialistic naturalism — they’ve already rejected science — as the basis for knowledge. The kind of results they’re after can’t be quantified.”   

Nevertheless, when moderates and the secular make countervailing claims, extremist Christians claim their freedom of expression, their religious views, are under assault.  Those who used hate language and who spread fear among the public are the victims; those whose rights to form a family are being denied, or whose existence is tarnished by slander, are the perpetrators.

Perhaps Richard Dawkins put it best in his book The God Delusion when he wrote that “in criticism of religion even clarity ceases to be a virtue and sounds like aggressive hostility.” Somehow when criticizing claims made in the name of religion, however wild and disconnected from reality, people should be polite and self-censor.

There is one perpetrator in this conflict, and it is the constellation of fundamentalist Christian churches and their followers in government who subscribe to the entirely unscientific poppycock that allowing same-sex marriage would destroy society. They are the ones who would deny others certain rights that they, the perpetrators, already enjoy. Nobody is trying to take anything from them. (Photo by the author)

NEW! A Chinese version of this article is available here.

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