It seems that emboldened Christian extremists in the South, read MAGA States are making headway in their efforts to force major retailers to remove LGBTQ+ merchandise from their stores. Their efforts are criminal. They have wrecked displays, damaged merchandise, and threatened employees at Target stores throughout the South. In response, Target has removed merchandise from some stores or relocated it to less visible places in their stores. See this article: https://apple.news/AK07RIGLTR3u1RTJNdp6wIA
The attacks are being driven by intentionally misleading reporting from Fox News, other Right Wing propaganda outlets, as well as Republican political leaders and Right Wing Christian Nationalist “Pastors”, and organizations like the American Family Institute.
My thoughts. First, I don’t think that Target or any other retailers should bow down to hate filled violent anti-LGBTQ+ persecutors. I think that they should call Law Enforcement and have those that damage property, and threaten or harm employees or other customers arrested, and press charges. Not to do so is to embolden them to commit more acts of violence and vandalism, in other words to precipitate an anti-LGBTQ+ version of the Nazi Kristallnacht. It is no different, it may be smaller in scope, and not yet back by the police power of the State, but in every State where these attacks are happening multiple laws are being passed to limit the civil rights of LGBTQ+ citizens.
Second, if the shoe was on the other foot, and people opposed to Christianity went into a Target and vandalized specifically Christian religious merchandise in seasonal Easter or Christmas sections, or went to the “Inspirational” books section and destroyed Bibles or books on the Christian life, what would happen?
We know the answer. Fox, the other Right Wing propaganda outlets, the MAGA Republican Party, it’s leaders, Evangelical Christian leaders, would be up in arms screaming about anti-Christian discrimination and violence. Their reaction would be swift and severe. Special laws would be enacted to protect retailers selling Christian items, with harsh penalties prescribed against offenders.
But the crux is the matter is most people, even those offended by Christian beliefs or the display of Christian merchandise simply ignore it and commit no larceny, vandalism, destruction or violence against employees. Of course there are occasional exceptions, but never organized national campaigns of a political party, or media designed to target and or harm Christians.
The question now is, where do we as individuals, or interest groups draw the line? When do we take our swords, draw a line in the sand and say No More!?
Are we going to wait until the people making these attacks use the government, police, and armed political paramilitaries to make them worse, or are we going to take the personal risk to stand against them?
Will we be like the sorrowful and repentant Pastor Martin Niemoller, who initially supported Hitler and when he realized his error, resisted and was put in Concentration Camps to survive the war. After the war Niemoller wrote:
First they came for the Communists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Communist
Then they came for the Socialists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Socialist
Then they came for the trade unionists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a trade unionist
Then they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew
Then they came for me
And there was no one left
To speak out for me.
Or, will we be like Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who became a part of the anti-Hitler resistance, who wrote: “The church has an unconditional obligation to the victims of any ordering society, even if they do not belong to the Christian community.” and also“We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself.”
Bonhoeffer also wrote: “If I sit next to a madman as he drives a car into a group of innocent bystanders, I can’t, as a Christian, simply wait for the catastrophe, then comfort the wounded and bury the dead. I must try to wrestle the steering wheel out of the hands of the driver.”
I don’t know about you, but I served with too many outstanding LBBTQ+ Soldiers, Marines, and Sailors who served with honor and distinction, despite having to hide the essence of who they were in order to serve our country in war and peace, some of who were forced out of the military, not because they were doing anything wrong, not because they were neglecting their duties or refusing to go into harms way, but simply because commanders determined to eradicate gays from the service. Likewise, there were my friends in churches who loved Jesus as much as anyone, but could not reveal the essence of their humanity in the church. So many did their best but were found out and driven out of churches and ministry simply because they were gay.
Now that the attacks against LGBTQ+ people are escalating, it is not enough to commiserate with friends without doing anything to resist those who use their power, legal, or otherwise, to persecute or harm them.
Sophie Scholl, a 22 year old student at the University of Munich, and a leader of the White Rose resistance, who was executed by the Nazis wrote these very pertinent words, words that apply to us today:
“The real damage is done by those millions who want to ‘survive.’ The honest men who just want to be left in peace. Those who don’t want their little lives disturbed by anything bigger than themselves. Those with no sides and no causes. Those who won’t take measure of their own strength, for fear of antagonizing their own weakness. Those who don’t like to make waves—or enemies. Those for whom freedom, honour, truth, and principles are only literature. Those who live small, mate small, die small. It’s the reductionist approach to life: if you keep it small, you’ll keep it under control. If you don’t make any noise, the bogeyman won’t find you. But it’s all an illusion, because they die too, those people who roll up their spirits into tiny little balls so as to be safe. Safe?! From what? Life is always on the edge of death; narrow streets lead to the same place as wide avenues, and a little candle burns itself out just like a flaming torch does. I choose my own way to burn.”
Sophie was just 22 when she was murdered for being caught while distributing anti-Nazi leaflets. I’m 63. I served this country in peace and war for almost 40 years. I still hold sacred the oath to that I swore so long ago, to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. I view the fanatics doing these things against fellow citizens as enemies of the Constitution, despite their claims to be patriots.
I abhor violence, but if I ever catch someone attacking people like this when I am present, I will stop them at all costs, like Sophie Scholl, I will choose my own way to burn. My former shipmates and people who served with me in Iraq know that I always went into dangerous situations, and did so unarmed, and sometimes without any protective gear. Some of my LGBTQ+ military friends know that I willingly endangered my career to defend them from false accusations in Court-Martial proceedings, by telling the truth about why they were being prosecuted during real witch-hunts after they could no longer be prosecuted for simply being Gay. I will be damned if I remain silent now during these anti-LGBTQ+ Pograms.
Please do not forget that groups that use threats, violence, vandalism, and propaganda to oppress others start with the easiest targets. Once they are destroyed, silenced, or driven out of society, others will be next. Martin Niemoller realized this far too late, and was forever tormented by his initial acquaintance to Nazi policies.
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Excellent post, Padre, and I share your anger and concerns. In fact, I started a post along these lines last night, but was too tired to make much progress, so con su permiso, I will re-blog yours today on my WordPress account. What is happening to the LGBTQ community is abominable and cannot continue! Oh ... and thanks for including me on the group FB message ... I appreciate it!