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Firing of Atlanta’s Anti-gay Fire Chief Puts Religious Right Hypocrisy on Display


Todd Starnes, who recently got upset because Newsweek pointed out the Bible is “so misunderstood it’s a sin” – writing in an op-ed at Fox News that facts “smear the Bible and Christians” – is now up in arms over the firing of Atlanta fire chief Kelvin Cochran, allegedly for being anti-gay, calling it “cultural cleansing.”

Isn’t that what the Religious Right’s culture war is all about? Cultural cleansing? Removing all those elements from society the Religious Right opposes?

What makes Starnes’ accusation even more hypocritical, not to say absurd, is his claim that “Christians need not apply to public sector jobs” in Atlanta. Of course, as we know, fake Christians like Starnes love the idea of being able to fire gay people for being gay – or not hire them in the first place – a form of discrimination that is still legal in many states.

If firing anti-gay people is cultural cleansing, then there is no denying that firing gay people is also cultural cleansing, which means Starnes has no right at all to be upset. And I am a little surprised in any case, since Republicans love to tell us all that none of us have any right at all to a job.

And you can be quite sure that Starne’s would not be defending the fire chief had his book condemned fake Christians for being bigots, rather than gays.

Starnes even took to Facebook to air his ill-thought out cry that defense of non-discrimination is somehow a form of discrimination:

“Equal rights for ALL Americans! The cultural cleansing of our nation must stop!”

Except for gays and lesbians and blacks and Muslims and women, and anyone else you decide is the Other? The idea that anyone on the Religious Right cares for the rights of ALL Americans is laughable, and you can almost hear Starnes snickering as he types.

Cochran was originally suspended at the end of November for self-publishing a book that describes homosexuality and lesbianism as a “sexual perversion,” comparing them to “pederasty” and “bestiality,” and distributed the book to some of the fire department’s employees, which is a violation of city policy.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed was “deeply disturbed” and said he would not tolerate discrimination in his administration.

This prompted Erick Erickson to write at Red State,

Even in Atlanta you will be made to care. Atlanta’s Fire Chief, Kelvin Cochran, has been suspended for one month for writing a book in which he maintains orthodox Christian beliefs on sex and marriage…What Mayor Reed and the gay rights community are saying is that if you work for government you cannot be open about your Christian faith. Again, you will be made to care.

Cochran returned to work on January 6 and within hours had been fired:

“I have made a decision to separate from Atlanta Fire and Rescue Chief Kelvin Cochran, effective immediately,” announced Reed. Reed cited Cochran’s “judgment and management skills” were the reasons, and that “Cochran’s personal religious beliefs are not the issue.”

We immediately began to see the persecution headlines:

Atlanta Fire Chief: I was fired because of my Christian faith – Fox News

Atlanta’s Fire Chief Suspended For Publicly Professing Christian Beliefs – Red State

Anti-Christian Persecution: Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran Fired Because of His Christian Faith – Catholic Online

Atlanta’s Fire Chief Fired for Espousing Christian Beliefs – National Catholic Register

Right Wing Watch tells us, “the Georgia Baptist Convention, Faith 2 Action and the Faith and Freedom Coalition came out strongly against Atlanta’s mayor.”

Just a few hours after the deadly attack on Charlie Hebdo in Paris, Red State’s Erick Erickson wrote a blog post accusing the LGBT community of being terrorists by announcing that “the terrorists won in Atlanta.”

Apparently, even had Cochran been fired for his anti-gay views, Erickson can’t tell the difference between murdering people and standing up for treating all people like human beings.

Unintended, I am sure, is that Erickson’s description of terrorist goals describe perfectly the Religious Right’s own goals.

One thing is clear: he is as intellectually incapable of understanding the issues – not to mention the Bible itself – as Starnes, and that is saying a lot.

What Kurt Eichenwald wrote at Newsweek about the Bible is certainly true:

With politicians, social leaders and even some clergy invoking a book they seem to have never read and whose phrases they don’t understand, America is being besieged by Biblical illiteracy.

Starnes and Erickson are living proof of this accusation. And in fact, the firing of Cochran makes Newsweek’s point perfectly:

Newsweek’s exploration here of the Bible’s history and meaning is not intended to advance a particular theology or debate the existence of God. Rather, it is designed to shine a light on a book that has been abused by people who claim to revere it but don’t read it, in the process creating misery for others. When the illiteracy of self-proclaimed Biblical literalists leads parents to banish children from their homes, when it sets neighbor against neighbor, when it engenders hate and condemnation, when it impedes science and undermines intellectual advancement, the topic has become too important for Americans to ignore, whether they are deeply devout or tepidly faithful, believers or atheists.

The entire basis of Starnes’ and Erickson’s attacks is the Bible’s condemnation of homosexuality, but as Eichenwald pointed out in his piece,

The declaration in 1 Timothy—as recounted in the Living Bible, the New American Standard Bible, the New International Version Bible and others—could not be more clear: Those who “practice homosexuality” will not inherit the Kingdom of God. But the translation there is odd, in part because the wordhomosexual didn’t even exist until more than 1,800 years after when 1 Timothy was supposed to have been written. So how did it get into the New Testament? Simple: The editors of these modern Bibles just made it up. Like so many translators and scribes before them, they had a religious conviction, something they wanted to say that wasn’t stated clearly enough in the original for their tastes. And so they manipulated sentences to reinforce their convictions.

Presto! You have the anti-gay Bible!

But Eichenwald points out that, “The original Bible verse in Koiné used ἀρσενοκοῖται for what has been translated as “homosexual.” For the Latin Bible, it was as masculorum concubitores. The King James Version translated that as “them that defile themselves with mankind.” Perhaps that means men who engage in sex with other men, perhaps not.”

I have pointed out here before that to listen to the Religious Right you would think the Bible is one long anti-gay diatribe, and that its sole purpose in being written was to condemn homosexuality. Clearly, as Newsweek has helpfully pointed out, these people have not actually read the Bible.

Atheists and humanists are “infamous” for pointing out the other long lists of sins in the Bible, and I have done so here as well just to demonstrate that Heathens DO read the Bible. Eichenwald also takes note of these missing sins, writing that,

Contrary to what so many fundamentalists believe, outside of the emphasis on the Ten Commandments, sins aren’t ranked. The New Testament doesn’t proclaim homosexuality the most heinous of all sins. No, every sin is equal in its significance to God. In 1 Timothy, Paul, or whoever wrote it, condemns the disobedient, liars and drunks. In other words, for evangelicals who want to use this book of the Bible to condemn homosexuality, most frat boys in America are committing sins on par with being gay. But you rarely hear about parents banishing their kids for getting trashed on Saturday night.

And that still leaves out entirely all Jesus’ words about loving your enemy, giving him your cloak when he steals your coat, and, most importantly, turning the other cheek, something these fake Christians absolutely refuse to do.

Rather than accept what has befallen Cochran by turning the other cheek (something Cochran himself is obligated to do if he is the devout Christian he claims) the first reaction of fake Christians is to cry persecution and in the same breath, heap invective on their so-called persecutors.

Inspiring? Hardly. Informative? Very. Christians beware. These men are not Christians. They have not read the Bible. I would suggest here they lack even a passing familiarity with the Bible beyond, perhaps, the book’s name. And not only their words, but their actions, prove it.

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