The word "agape" literally means "love."
More specifically, in the New Testament it referred to the fatherly love of God for mankind. The term and concept extended to
the love of one�s fellow human beings. But the self-appointed spokesmen for
"God" and purveyors of organized religion�s dogma discovered that
encouraging hate for some people worked better than love in maintaining social
and political control, and was certainly more profitable. Sadly, not much has
The Right Reverend
John Shelby Spong was absolutely correct when he said "Our society
gives wide berth to obvious pathology when it is covered by religious
language." And "wide pathology" certainly defines the dogmatic
leaders of the politicized Christian Right, especially the unholy trinity of
Louis P. Sheldon of the Traditional Values Coalition, James Dobson of Focus on
the Family, and Don Wildmon of the American Family Association. Perversely, the
propaganda organ of Wildmon and the AFA is "Agape Press."
founder and chairman of the Traditional Values
Coalition, has a malignant,
pathological hate for gay Americans and even their children. Following the
9/11 terrorist attacks, Sheldon argued
against giving aid to the
surviving members of gay and lesbian partnerships, many of whom had children.
Is that what an agape man
Sheldon got his
Louie" from convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff:
know the Rev. Lou Sheldon as the anti-gay leader of the California-based Traditional
Values Coalition, but star lobbyist Jack Abramoff -- now the sultan of pleading
guilty -- knew Sheldon as "Lucky Louie."
Washington Post reported in October  how Sheldon helped gambling
interests who did business with Abramoff -- and Sheldon. In 2000, eLottery, an
Abramoff client -- sent a $25,000 check to the Traditional Values Coalition, as
per Abramoff�s instruction. Then, the anti-gambling Sheldon lobbied
enthusiastically against a bill to curb online gambling. At Casa Sheldon, grease
is a traditional value.
the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act went down in flames in a House vote, an
Abramoff associate e-mailed colleagues, "There was Lucky Louie out
front" high five-ing with some lobbyists.
Is that how an
honest agape man would act? It is, however, how Sheldon acts. Once again he�s
beating his breasts decrying a lobbying and ethics reform bill, the Legislative
Transparency and Accountability Act (S.1), even though he acknowledges
"this legislation may deal with real lobbying reform." Why ? Because
it would help expose the machinations of groups like the Traditional Values
Coalition and Focus on the Family, which has launched its own campaign to
thwart lobbying reform:
on the Family Action Chairman James C. Dobson, Ph.D., today called on Americans
to contact their senators about a measure he said constitutes "a grave
threat" to freedom of speech.
and a few Republicans are trying very, very quickly to insulate themselves from
the public -- and to do it by muzzling people like us," Dobson said on his
Focus on the Family radio broadcast.
1, a lobbying-reform bill, is the first to come to a vote in the new
Democrat-controlled Congress. One of its many provisions would require
grassroots groups to report directly to the secretary of the Senate and clerk
of the House any time they spend money to communicate to their constituents on
public-policy issues that are before Congress.
Despite his soft-spoken, grandfatherly demeanor James Dobson
is just as self-centered and
rabidly homophobic as Sheldon. Dobson lords over the Focus on the
Family multimedia empire. At one point he was dubbed the Christian Right�s
new "kingmaker." The
"king" he helped coronate was George W. Bush.
In his campaign against gay and lesbian Americans, Sheldon
In his 2004 book Marriage Under Fire,
Dobson wrote that if gay people were allowed to marry -- the ultimate
expression of "agape" -- the world would end: "The culture war
will be over, and the world may soon become �as it was in the days of
Noah.�" For a more thorough refutation to Dobson�s scare tactics and
preposterous assertion in Marriage Under
Fire, see "Out of Focus on the Family: A Response to Arguments Against
Same-Sex Marriage," Popular Culture
Review, 16:1 (February 2005), 45-75.
The legal recognition of same-sex civil unions and the families they support would, without
doubt, be to the social and economic advantage of both parents and their children. In a surrealistic
display of deception, a January 9, 2007 Focus on the Family article by
Pete Winn referred to Dobson as "America�s foremost radio advocate for
children." This "foremost advocate for children" advocates
spanking. This "foremost advocate for children" does everything he
can to demean, disenfranchise, and otherwise hurt the children of gay and
lesbian parents. Is this an agape man?
And then there�s Rev. Don
Wildmon of the American Family
Association. It goes without saying that Wildmon�s idea of "American
Family" excludes those headed by gay or lesbian parents. In fact, Wildmon
and the AFA are in the Schadenfreude
business of hurting not only gay and lesbian families, but all families who
are in any way supported by employers that treat their gay and lesbian
employees equally or that support civil equality. Case in point: the Ford Motor
The AFA website continues to brag about how its boycott of
Ford is allegedly hurting the company: "The AFA boycott of Ford Motor
Company continues to impact its sales." Ford�s crime against Wildmon
World: the company treats its gay and lesbian employees equally, sponsors
television programs that include homosexual characters, and advertises in gay
What is truly disturbing is that Wildmon and his supposedly
"pro-family" group take pleasure in trying to hurt people and their
families. How many families -- including Christian and "traditional"
ones -- could be adversely affecting by AFA boycotts and the destructive social
bigotry they inspire? Does Wildmon and the AFA care?
Obviously, they don�t give a damn.
That was made clear by Rev. Wildmon in his mid-June 2006
The American Family Association says
that its boycott of Ford Motor Company over the automaker�s support for LGBT
issues is having an impact.
"The boycott of Ford Motor Company
is working! Sales of automobiles made by Ford dropped 2% in May," AFA
chair Donald E. Wildmon said in an email to supporters.
What kind of man, what kind of "Christian" would
take pleasure -- note Wildmon�s excited exclamation point -- in hurting people
and their families? Is this an agape man? Or does Wildmon and his action debase
the word and concept?
The American Family Association has state affiliates. One of
them is the American Family Association of Pennsylvania, headed by Diane
Gramley. Like Wildmon and the other member of the unholy trinity, Gramley is
hell-bent on propagating hate and mistrust. Her latest target: children.
The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network and the
Gay-Straight Alliance clubs they sponsor have been a favorite target of
Sheldon, Dobson and Wildmon. Why? Because, as the Agape Press noted, GLSEN
"stated goals include working to end discrimination and harassment against
homosexuals." That would seem a noble agape goal, but not for Sheldon,
Dobson, Wildmon, and Gramley. Their goal is to encourage and increase
discrimination against and harassment of homosexuals, and to fill their
donation coffer along the way.
Gramley�s latest debasing of agape was prompted by GLSEN�s
inviting "the Ambridge Area School District�s Senior High School principal
Alan Fritz to attend diversity workshops."
"Diversity" is a dirty word for Gramley and the
radical Christian Right. They prefer a different "D" word:
"Discrimination." They demand everyone be and live as they dictate. Those who won�t or can�t
do as they�re told must be excluded. If one of the Christian Right�s favorite
pseudo-scientists, discredited psychologist Paul Cameron,
had his way they�d be exterminated:
the 1985 Conservative Political Action Conference, Cameron announced to the
attendees, "Unless we get medically lucky, in three or four years, one of
the options discussed will be the extermination of homosexuals." According
to an interview with former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, Cameron was
recommending the extermination option as early as 1983. --Mark
E. Pietrzyk, News-Telegraph, March 10, 1995.
While Cameron is on the fringe of the fringe, his venom
percolates through the ranks. Consider Christian radio talk show host Kevin
While damning gay people who are struggling for the civil
right to enter into a civil marriage, McCullough trumpeted,
"So don�t believe the angry spokespeople. Radical homosexual activists
hate marriage because fundamentally they hate God, and the guilt of both drives
them to extremes."
The only "extremes" are the lengths to which the
bigots and hate-mongers of the agapeless Christian Right will go to damn their
fellow human beings.
Whether for power and profit or out of psychotic delusion,
"leaders" such as Sheldon, Dobson, Wildmon, Gramley, and McCullough
claim to know what "God" wants. In that, they are simply the latest
in a long line of the most evil of
humans who used mistrust and hatred of their fellow human beings to advance
their own demented ideology and goals:
"I believe that I am acting in
accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator . . ." --Adolph Hitler in Mein Kampf
Then as now, the self-righteous use selective reading of the
Bible to support their positions. Beyond cherry-picking the Bible, to believe
that it -- or any text -- could contain the Mind of Divinity or that humans are
capable of understanding that Mind is the ultimate expression of hubris. As
Rev. Spong asked, "Can a human being escape the limits of our humanity to
describe God? What makes us think God can fit into a human consciousness?"
Reading the entire canon of the most prolific philosopher
who ever lived would still not give the reader a complete picture of the
philosopher�s philosophy. Yet the sanctimonious leaders of the Christian Right
think they -- and they alone -- have total
insight into "God�s" mind and will based on a single book that excluded
more "sacred texts" than it included, edited those it did include
to meet social, political and dogmatic needs, and was
translated innumerable times often by people who had little or no understanding
of the cultural context of previous translations or the ancient languages they
In that process, "agape" was perverted for social
and political gain. It can, however, be resurrected if the "us vs. them" mentality and the
disciples of hate are relegated to their proper place in the dustbin of
January 15, 2007: Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in the United
States. Bayard Rustin was a key contributor to King�s
joined with King in 1956 to help with the Montgomery bus boycott, King had guns
in his house. Rustin helped convince King and other leaders of the movement to
adopt Gandhian tactics of nonviolent resistance.
addition to being a tireless worker and activist, Rustin was also gay. He was
also "relatively open" for the times, whatever that means. That led
to tension with some of the other civil rights leaders, such as the Rev. Adam
Clayton Powell, Sr.
homophobia caused Rustin to go underground, writes Horace L. Griffin in a new
book called "Their Own Receive Them Not: African-American Lesbians and
Gays in Black Churches." It was painfully ironic, Griffin writes, that
oftentimes the ministers themselves would be chasing skirts when no one was
looking while condemning homosexuals from the pulpit . . .
John Lewis of Georgia was one of the original speakers at the march on
Washington that Rustin organized. Lewis was a student at a Baptist seminary in
Nashville when he got started in the civil rights movement. For him as well as
others, broadening the perspective on civil rights to include gay rights took a
shift in traditional ways of thinking.
has said, "I have fought too hard and too long against discrimination
based on race and color not to stand up against discrimination based on sexual
Amen . . .