Tuesday, August 21, 2007

More Minutemen

-- by Sara

PastorDan at Street Prophets posted recently on this "Minuteman" group in Ohio that's taken to making protests during services at liberal Christian churches. From the Columbus Dispatch's report:
A conservative Christian values group has been interrupting services at two central Ohio churches to protest their support for homosexuality.

Minutemen United vowed to attend services every Sunday.

The group started its crusade when First Baptist Church in Granville hosted "Love Makes a Family," a traveling exhibit by the Family Diversity Project showing photos of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender families.

The night the exhibit opened in July, members of Minutemen United stood outside and protested the exhibit and the church's open attitude toward homosexuality, said the Rev. Kathy Hurt, senior pastor at the Granville church.

Since then, the group has been visiting the church every Sunday, she said. On one of the first Sundays, six people came to the church's 11 a.m. service and addressed the congregation during a time designated for prayer requests and comments.

Hurt said a man, who introduced himself as a minister from the New Beginnings Church in Warsaw, Ohio, started to give a sermon about how the church was acting against God's word by accepting homosexuals.

Members of Minutemen United also visited King Avenue United Methodist Church in Columbus that same morning, said the Rev. John Keeny.

"They rebuked me as a pastor for preaching that God's love is for everyone," Keeny said.
Dan wanted to know if this group had any attachment to the Minutemen border patrol groups we've so often discussed here. Looking over their website, there doesn't appear to be any connection. This group, "Minutemen United," was organized in Ohio in 2002, and claims to comprise a group of culture warriors concerned about issues like Playboy ("entry-level pornography") in grocery stores and shutting down businesses where gays gather.

It's clear from reading their site that their agenda is driven by over-the-top hysterical homophobia; but I didn't find a word about border patrols. Like the border groups, they've appropriated the military imagery of the original Massachusetts patriots; however, their "Who We Are" page concludes with the obligatory statement that they are strictly non-violent and do not advocate the use of force in promoting their agenda; and the site is also free of the coded racist hate language that's a stock in trade of the border groups. (On the other hand, there's an absolutely bizarre page listing female teachers nationwide who've sexually abused their students -- though I didn't find a corresponding page on male teachers, of course. Did I mention that the founder of this group is a defrocked football coach?) So, Dan: no, this doesn't look like the same guys at all.

But their bullying attitude is definitely of a piece with a larger trend in right-wing behavior that's begun to emerge in recent months. I've written recently about the increasingly pushy way the religious authoritarians have been muscling others aside, revealing by their actions a new and dangerously expanded sense of entitlement. If the God's Bible trumps man's Constitution, they believe, then those who believe in the Bible have more rights than those who believe in the Constitution. And they're starting to act on that belief, elbowing their way to the front of the national microphone wherever it's offered, regardless of whether or not they have a legal right to it. Showing up at other people's churches -- invading their private property and sacred worship time -- with the intention of disrupting their services is right in line with this larger pattern of intimidation. (Can you imagine a left-wing political group doing something like this to a conservative church? Boundaries, people. They're called boundaries.) It's more evidence of the kind of escalating bully behavior I've been noting.

Though there's no connection between the groups, they partake of this same anti-democratic spirit that regards any difference as an existential challenge; and demonizes those who don't conform to their narrow ideas. Authoritarians are authoritarians wherever you find them; and it's a loss to the American civic religion that the good name of the Minutemen -- the original patriots who first put themselves on the line in defense of our individual rights so long ago -- has been co-opted by more than one group seeking to re-impose exactly the kind of reign of tyranny those first Minutemen fought to liberate us from.

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