Alex Blaze

Fundamentalists threaten violence to shut down art they say insults their religion

Filed By Alex Blaze | March 29, 2010 1:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: academic freedom, Corpus Cristi, death threats, freedom of speech, play, rihgt, university

I've corpus christi0.gifbeen following this story of a Texas college's production of Corpus Christi, a play where Jesus is portrayed as gay, even though I haven't posted about it here on Bilerico, mainly because I didn't think that the school wouldn't go through with it. But apparently the threats just got to be too much:

Though the university administration said it would not bar the production, citing academic freedom, drama professor Mark Holtorf canceled all four productions late Friday. He cited "safety and security concerns for the students, as well as the need to maintain an orderly academic environment."

"We received so many threatening calls and e-mails today across campus, the numbers were just staggering," Holtorf said Friday night. "One administrator received in excess of 800 e-mails.

"Our department received calls of a threatening nature," he said. "I could not guarantee the security of my students. The administration was truly behind the academic exercise, but I could not justify the risk."

Officials announced Wednesday that the Corpus Christi performance would be moved from 4 p.m. to 8 a.m. Saturday and staged before a restricted private audience. Campus police planned additional security.

I haven't seen the messages they received since there, so I'm not judging the drama prof for shutting down the play. But if these folks think that these terrorists - and if they're using threats of violence to get other people to stop exercising their freedoms, then that's what they are - going to be appeased, then they've got another thing coming.

These are people who are sending threatening messages over a play they haven't even seen, for crying out loud. The Catholic League (aka a dude in his basement with his cats who has no power in the actual Catholic Church) told them that the play was evil, so they must destroy it.

After all that we heard last year about gays being violent and shutting down poor, oppressed Christians who are just trying to exercise their free speech in the Prop 8 battle, it's obvious, once again, which side is actually willing to use violence to prove their point. Too bad we'll probably be the ones chided by mainstream media because we decided where we wanted to eat dinner ourselves.

I feel like I should be handing out copies of Inherit the Wind on the street corner. At some point there's the realization that it's a play, and if they don't want to see it they don't have to, but others should still be allowed to produce art that's meaningful to them. That's part of living in a free society, and while it means that sometimes art will be produced that we don't like, we deal with it and move on.

Corpus Christi, written by Terrence McNally, is set in the playwright's Texas hometown in the 1950s and 1960s. It features a character named Joshua who heals the sick, feeds the hungry and provides spiritual guidance before being crucified. Joshua also marries apostles James and Bartholomew.

By producing the play, Otte said, he hoped to convey the turmoil that gay Christians sometimes experience. Otte, who is gay, left the Mormon church because of its stance condemning homosexuality.

I'm not a gay Christian by any stretch of the imagination but I can see the value in that.

But it's not even that important if I can see the value in a work of art. In fact, the very idea that most people won't see any value in this play is probably a good reason it needs to be protected: big productions don't really need much help to do what they're already doing. Small, independent, and academic operations, though, which often provide art that others just can't understand, is often funded mostly through the good will of people willing to participate and therefore doesn't have the resources to deal with angry mobs.

This isn't a way to win friends, but they're not really interested in that. And they don't want to be acquiesced to, either. Authoritarians want conversion to their beliefs, but they don't believe in using persuasion. Instead, they use violence and threats to teach people to stop thinking for themselves and start listening to Bill Donohue.

Even though I haven't seen the play, I'm going to guess that there's a theme in it related to this whole situation. But I'm guessing that theme would be lost on this audience. Of course, I have to guess, since it's not like they're ever going to watch it.


ABC covered the controversy before the play was canceled. Don't you love the woman who says she has "homosexual friends" right before she says she has a problem with Jesus being called gay homosexual?


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But if these folks think that these terrorists - and if they're using threats of violence to get other people to stop exercising their freedoms, then that's what they are

Hear, hear! I'm glad to see these authoritarian theocrats denounced for what they really are. It's so funny that when Prop. 8 or some other anti-gay bill wins, these people proclaim that the people have spoken, but once somebody does or says something that offends their values and beliefs, they do everything they can to stop it, even threatening (or using) violence.

All it shows is that the religious is exactly what I've always thought it is: a ruthless gang of theo-fascist thugs who want nothing less than to force everyone to submit to their authority.

It's interesting that questions of censorship and political correctness have arisen in several contexts here today on Bilerico. I will return to the issue that Bilerico lost a very insightful contributor when it axed Ron Gold over an opinion, because of similar cries of blasphemy from elements of the Bilerico readership.It was also going to be interesting to have a regular contributor whose intimate knowledge of the gay/lesbian movement was more that several years at best.
I thought that the Nazis marching through Skokie, Illinois ( a town then full of Holocaust survivors) years ago was abominable. However, it was a victory for Free Speech that the Courts allowed the march to occur. However, it was important to allow all views to be heard, and the American way is that by letting all opinions be heard, no matter how offensively expressed, that ultimately the truth will emerge and prevail. There really is no other way that works. The public saw how ridiculous and shallow the Nazis were, and made their own judgments without city councils and courts acting as a Big Nanny.
I never got to hear all the bad stuff that Bilerico was afraid that Gold would say in his next column, when he was dumped during the Weekend of Long Knives. It would have been very interesting to see if he was arguing the same arguments which he used years earlier to overcome the American Psychiatric Association, when he led the movement to get homosexuality off the list of mental diseases. If so, his own words could have been used against him. However, that argument was never had (on Bilerico) because the politically correct editors made decisions which I am sure also considered their financial interests in not loosing too much readership over the matter.
I just think that censorship is a bad deal, and Alex, I can tell that you have not listened carefully to all the links and posts that attack gay men, especially the loose charges of racism, without examples or individuals named, but call outs on an entire group. These are the examples that Bilerico is known to be so "PC" because no matter how outlandish a statement in a trans or radical queer column or its links, it stays, as do the posters. Ron Gold got a raw deal under these standards, and the ulitimate looser is truth and a real discussion. Such a discussion may have helped the comments from those who swarmed against Ron Gold to move from bumper sticker slogans and cliches, to actual discussions. If the topic is in fact so "hot", the editors should realize that human nature requires some time for people to reflect upon the opposing opinions which they have jsut read, maybe learned, before thay will be persuaded otherwise. Instead, there is a Bilerico Catechism which must have been handed out when the site was initially established, which justifies the suppression of ideas and the modes of expression which some people wish to use.
While we all get so righteous about the play being canceled in Texas because of the christianists, let's remember that people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.

I just think that censorship is a bad deal, and Alex, I can tell that you have not listened carefully to all the links and posts that attack gay men, especially the loose charges of racism, without examples or individuals named, but call outs on an entire group.

Censorship is a bad deal, which is why you need to follow links, follow people on the internet, check up on everything they do while they're not on bilerico, all to make sure they're not offending white gay men at any point in their lives.

Sorry, there are 15000 posts on this site and I'm not about to check all the links in each and to make sure they're clean enough for certain readers' sensibilities. If you really do believe that Nazis should be able to make their case in Skokie (as do I), then please stop asking for people who disagree with gay marriage to be kicked off this site.

As for Ron Gold... you don't know the half of what was going on there. And I'm not about to rehash that one. Sorry! But, still, he can always go to blogger.com and get his own site if he wants to.

First, thanks for printing my last comment above.
Next, you are 100% correct in that neither I nor all of your Bilerico audience know "the half of what was going on there" because after much fanfare about adding a gay icon on your list of contributors, he was summarily dismissed before he really had been established here. I can only imagine how dangerous his thoughts are.

Don Sherfick Don Sherfick | March 30, 2010 7:15 AM

"As for Ron Gold... you don't know the half of what was going on there."

Alex, I heard the real reason you removed all traces of him was because he insisted that he be able to publish a diatribe against PETA and display several of their ads he felt were over the top. You said he couldn't because the subject was totally irrelavant to an LGBT site.

For my two cents. I'm glad you stood on principle.

Ok Xerxes,

Leonidas isn't around, so I'll stand in if ya don't mind.

First off, there were no cries of Blasphemy uttered surrounding Ron Gold. For one, there's no religious fervor associated with what happened around him.

What was associated with what happened around him was the content of his post.

And why use the euphemism of "elements of the Bilerico readership" when, for the most significant part, the complaints came from Trans folk?

It was indeed interesting to have that contributor who's involvement was more than several years. But it was not a good interesting because that same contributor was expressing ideas and concepts that were not merely logically flawed and "put to pasture" so to speak decades ago and contrary to general science (to use your religious metaphor, his statements were akin to using creationism), but in a manner that was flatly horrifically offensive and *stripped trans people of their identities*.

He was, in fact, going to do the same thing in his second article with gay folks, and on reflection in the time sense then many of us have felt that it would have been a little wiser to start off with that one first.

The same people are noting that had he done so, the result would have been the same as the second post was just as offensive to Gay men and Lesbians as the one that was posted was to Trans people.

And he specifically stated that he *meant it that way*.

You may not have followed the continuation of the discussion with him afterwards. I did. He did indeed mean -- and not in a good way -- that Trans people are mutilated men.

Simple question: Do you share that viewpoint?

It is indeed important for all views to be heard. However, once again returning to your earlier religious metaphor, what he did was somewhat like a Cathloc Priest waling into an Episcopalina Church and presenting a sermon that tells all the members there they are going to hell because they aren't Catholic.

As an act of free speech, the Catholic Priest is completely free to do so.

But there is more involved in such than merely the act of free speech.

When it came to Ron Gold's Posts, the people he was talking to saw how ridiculous and shallow his stuff was, and they made it known.

And what he suffered was censure, Xerxes. He has not been censored. Were he censored, he would not have a means or a way to get his views out there -- and he still does.

I think it intersting given the description of the Editors of Bilerico as Poltically Correct after my own post regarding it. When you say that, you are saying they are courteous and decent.

That's not an insult, and using courteous and decent as a pejorative is rather strange.

I will say that your framing his censure using the Nazi comparative -- describing the actions of an oppressed group standing up for itself to a single man as "the weekned of long knives" in reference to the murder of 85 people in a single night with a long term death toll in the hundreds and the arrests of thousands -- is extremely inappropriate as well as asinine, overstated, misleading, and inaccurate.

I can say that to the best of my knowledge -- and I should note that I am not an editor of Bilerico -- there were no financial considerations involved. Not that information will change your suspicion or allay the fears that lie beneath it, but at least it's been noted.

Ron Gold did not get a raw deal, Xerxes. He got was was coming to him, as a direct result of his statements.

The topic was not "hot", Xerxes. It was old, dead, and buried. 20 years ago. And he was resurrecting it, and it was a deadly, dangerous, harmful one the effects of which Trans people are still suffering, for it was essentially a variation of the same arguments that caused the government to cease paying for medical procedures for trans people and inflicting on them an economic hardship that survives to this day.

The is no Bilerico Catechism, either. Or at least, not one ever handed out to me, and I'm probably one of the people you personally blame for his being "tossed". You'd think that if I was one of those people, that I'd at least have a copy of it, wouldn't you?

Btw, I also haven't recieved my copy of the homosedual Agenda, another mythical thing.

As for something which justifies the "suppression of ideas and modes of expression which some people wish to use" well, yes, there is indeed suh a thing.

It's typically called common courtesy, but there's even one that is essential, and one that *everyone* who posts a comment here is bound to when they post a comment.

IT's called a Terms Of Service Agreement.

And He violated it. With his own comments to his own posts.

And that's actually something that is considered when one is being discussed as a contributor. Even myself. While I have been dinged elsewhere, at the time I had not been dinged here.

And I'm truly a challenging sort, Xerxes. The kind that has challenged the Editors herself in much the same way you have. THe kind who said "hold up a bit" when the Ron GOld article came out and took a hell of a lot of flack for it in the Trans community myself.

If I recall correctly, you are also one of the people who has accused me of opposing gay marriage. Without evidence to support it, for one, and in spite of a very strong series of statements very much in favor of it.

I don't live in a glass house, Xerxes.

But you might want to take your own advice.

"we gotta go over to afghanistan and stop those taliban a-rabs from telling people what they can watch...oh, wait...um, yeah, well, i gotta go..."