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Warren Blumenfeld
Warren Blumenfeld




To Evangelicals: “Can We Forgive You?”

Jun15

by: on June 15th, 2015 | 6 Comments »

A hand reaching towards a gray sky.

Credit: CreativeCommons / roujo.

I noticed with interest and, quite frankly, surprise an article headline on the front page of The New York Times dated Tuesday, June 8, 2015, which stated: “Evangelicals Open Door to Debate on Gay Rights.” Laurie Goodstein, the author, covers an apparent emerging trend, which she summarizes in paragraph 5:

“As acceptance of same-sex marriage has swept the country and as the Supreme Court prepares to release a landmark decision on the issue, a wide variety of evangelical churches, colleges and ministries are having the kinds of frank discussions about homosexuality that many of them say they had never had before.”

The article goes on to state that evangelical institutions are attempting to navigate a middle terrain between staying “true” to their previously stated positions on issues around homosexuality while simultaneously attempting not to alienate especially younger congregants who increasingly support lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights. This latter point cuts right (no pun intended) to the core of the questions of “Why this?” and “Why now?”. We can look for the answer in the work of Dr. Derrick Bell and his pioneering work in critical race theory.

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One Year Sick & Then Not: On the Social Construction of Homosexuality as “Disease”

Jun12

by: on June 12th, 2015 | Comments Off

City hall lite up in rainbow.

Credit: CreativeCommons / Tom Hilton

June is LGBTIQ Pride Month. I share with you a piece of our history in which I had the honor of participating- WJB.

We had been jointly planning our tactics over the past month. I and my compatriots of the Gay Liberation Front and Gay May Day collective, friends from the Mattachine Society, and members of the newly formed Gay Activists Alliance were to gather on this bright morning during the first week of May in 1971, and carpool up Connecticut Avenue in northwest Washington, DC to the Shoreham Hotel. Also uniting with us were people from out-of-town who joined us as part of “Gay May Day” as we attempted to shut down the federal government for what we considered as an illegal and immoral invasion into Vietnam.

We parked about a block away since we didn’t want hotel security and attendees at the annual American Psychiatric Association conference to notice a rather large group of activists sporting T-shirts and placards announcing “Gay Is Good,” “Psychiatry Is the Enemy,” and “Gay Revolution.” Half the men decked themselves in stunning drag wearing elegant wigs and shimmering lamé dresses, glittering fairy dust wafting their painted faces.

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The Political Theology of Climate Denial

Jun9

by: on June 9th, 2015 | Comments Off

A picture of two signs: "Grow Food Not Emissions" and "Grow a Better Future: Act on Climate Change".

Credit: CreativeCommons / Oxfam International.

Not knowing is bad. Not wishing to know is worse.” Nigerian Proverb

We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them. Albert Einstein

As a university professor of pre-service and in-service teachers and administrators, I often discuss with students the qualities that make a great educator. For me, one of the major qualities a great educator must possess is an inexhaustible passion for learning, while never resting on their past knowledge and understandings of the universe. In addition, great educators hold a high capacity for critical thinking. I notify students in our course syllabus and on the very first day of classes that they are expected to think critically, reflectively, and creatively on the concepts, topics, and issues presented, and in class discussions, readings, videos, and on written assignments.

I require students to justify and backup their thoughts and “opinions.” Personal opinions or theological viewpoints without verifiable justification are just that – opinions and theological viewpoints. I expect students to think “outside the box” of their past experiences and learning. In this regard, I introduce Dr. Stephen Brookfield’s three-part process involved in critical thinking.

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Patriarchy, Religion, & Policing the Body

Jun8

by: on June 8th, 2015 | Comments Off

Black and white cartoon saying "you don't need a vagina to be a woman".

Credit: CreativeCommons / trouble_x

“…Then that little man in black there, he says women can’t have as much rights as men, ’cause Christ wasn’t a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.”

Sojourner Truth, 1851

Coming as it has within the context of Caitlyn Jenner’s talking publicly about her gender confirmation as a trans woman, Catholic Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco argued on June 3 that, “The clear biological fact is that a human being is born either male or female. Yet now we have the idea gaining acceptance that biological sex and one’s personal gender identity can be at variance with each other, with more and more gender identities being invented.” He warned of the spread of a “gender ideology” that threatens the foundation of the Church and society itself because of what the Church defines as the biological imperative of the God-given “complementarity” between men and women.


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Religious Discrimination and Bullying

Jun3

by: on June 3rd, 2015 | 2 Comments »

A tableau graphic of the AFDI's winning Draw Muhammad cartoon.

Credit: CreativeCommons / Tjebbe van Tijen.

Imagine this: You read on a Facebook page that people opposing your religion have planned a large-scale protest rally at the major Christian church in your home town on your Sabbath day of prayer. The organizers instruct their supporters to bring posters denouncing Christianity and pictures of Jesus on the cross wearing a Hitler-style mustache with captions reading: “He Deserved To Die,” and “He Was a False Messiah,” because, as stated on Facebook, “…it’s what needs to take place in order to expose the true colors of Christianity.”

At the protest rally, organizers will be selling and wearing T-shirts announcing: F— Christianity. “Everyone is encouraged to bring American Flags and any message that you would like to send to Christians,” continued the message on Facebook. Though organizers have promoted the demonstration as a First Amendment “Freedom of Speech” rally, they urge supporters to carry weapons to express their Second Amendment rights as well.

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People Polished the Stone of the Irish Emerald Isle

May27

by: on May 27th, 2015 | 4 Comments »

The gay pride parade in Dublin, Ireland.

For the first time anywhere in the world, the people of the Republic of Ireland voted overwhelmingly to codify same-sex marriage. Above, the Pride Parade in Dublin, Ireland, 2009. Credit: CreativeCommons / Charles Hutchins.

Though the Catholic Church has scratched, tarnished, and clouded the stone that is the Emerald Isle with its wheel of oppression, the people have spoken loudly and clearly, and by so doing, have dismantled some of the spokes on that wheel and have polished the stone to brilliance once again.

In what can only be seen as an historic vote, for the first time anywhere in the world, the people of the Republic of Ireland voted overwhelmingly, by a majority of 62 percent to 38 percent, to sanction marriage for same-sex couples with all the legal benefits and responsibilities already granted to different-sex couples (thereby dismantling a spoke on the wheel of Catholic oppression). An estimated 60.5 percent of the eligible 3.2 million registered voters turned out to the polls. Though the Irish government passed civil partnership legislation in 2010, which could have been rescinded by future legislative actions, this popular referendum now constitutionally codifies the legal standing of same-sex couples.

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Hyper-Masculinity, Twin Peaks, & Gendered Violence

May25

by: on May 25th, 2015 | Comments Off

The front lobby of a Twin Peaks restaurant in Orlando, Florida.

Credit: CreativeCommons / Ricky Brigante.

While is it common knowledge that dogs, in particular male dogs, urine scent mark their territories, human males often mark their territories in other forms more noxious and poisonous than urine. We witnessed the deadly effects of turf battles recently in Waco, Texas between rival motorcycle clubs (gangs) in the parking lot, outdoor patio, and inside the local Twin Peaks Restaurant.

While male dogs and human males “spray” to restrict others from their claimed territories, for dogs, the stimulus stems from innate genetically-programmed instincts. For human males, who are significantly less controlled by biologically-mandated reflexes, on the other hand, the motivational incentives come from the socially manufactured gender roles inculcated and enforced within us to maintain our physical and psychological domains. In dogs, the impetus for what I am calling “turfing,” is essentialized. In human males, it is largely socialized. Humans contain the capacity for higher levels of reason to mediate and even override any dispositional factors that might be involved.

Preeminent scholar and social theorist Judith Butler addressed what she refers to as the “performativity” of gender roles in that these roles are basically involuntary reiterations or reenactment of established norms of expression, acts that one performs as an actor performs a script that was created before the actor ever took the stage. The continued transmission of gender roles require actors to play their designated parts so that they become actualized and reproduced in the guise of reality, and in the guise of the “natural” and the “normal.”

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Social Contexts of Youth Bullying

May20

by: on May 20th, 2015 | Comments Off

Scantily-clad women serve food to men inside Twin Peaks restaurant.

It's no wonder that discrimination and abuse are still so prevalent. In a cycle that must be broken, restaurants like Twin Peaks, that feature barely-dressed attractive female servers, are a product of, and contribute to our male-centric culture. Credit: CreativeCommons / Ricky Brigante.

While studying a number of bullying prevention programs, I find that, while providing good overall theoretical and conceptual foundations and strategies for prevention and reduction of incidents, some crucial components are still missing. We must also discuss and examine the social and cultural contexts wherein bullying attitudes and behaviors often stem. We must find ways not only to understand and to actually engage in correcting these larger social and cultural contexts.

I contend that we must not view bullying and harassment as simply youth problems and behaviors, but rather, investigate the contexts in which bullying “trickles down” from the larger society and is reproduced within the schools. Young people, through the process of social learning, often acquire bullying and harassing attitudes and behaviors, and they also often learn the socially sanctioned targets for their aggressive behaviors.

The developmental and educational psychologist, Albert Bandura, proposed that young people learn primarily through observation, and that one’s culture transmits social mores and what Bandura called “complex competencies” through social modeling. As he noted, the root meaning of the word “teach” is “to show.”

Society presents many role models, from very positive and affirming to very negative, biased, aggressive, and destructive. Modeling, he asserted, is composed of more than concrete actions, which he referred to as “response mimicry,” but also involves abstract concepts, “abstract modeling,” such as following rules, taking on values and beliefs, making moral and ethical judgments.

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The Hypocrisy of “Pro-Life” and the GOP

May18

by: on May 18th, 2015 | Comments Off

“The Republican Party must continue to uphold the principle that every human being, born and unborn, young and old, healthy and disabled, has a fundamental, individual right to life.”

Republican National Committee for Life

A cartoon showing hypocratical Republican and Democratic positions.

Hypocrisy. Credit: CreativeCommons / Bearman2007.

Ever since the historic Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade, in 1973, the National Republican Party Presidential Platform has consistently taken a so-called “pro-life” position. For example, its 2012 platform proclaims: “Faithful to the ‘self-evident’ truths enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, we assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed.”

Though the Republican Party might have an interest in bringing pregnancies to term in nearly all situations – even in instances of rape and incest, and regardless of the wishes of the women involved — even a cursory investigation of the Party’s stands and actions on the major issues of the day, proposed and in many cases acted upon by current Republican legislators and executives on the national, state, and local levels, gives us a picture of a Party that is anything but “pro-life” for the living. In actuality, the GOP conducts itself as a Party that stands for life until birth; then one is left to fend for oneself.

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Cartoons of Free Speech or Hate? Redux

May12

by: on May 12th, 2015 | 4 Comments »

"Love is a human right" poster lying on the pavement outside.

Credit: CreativeCommons / Samantha Marx.

This is the second in my series of commentaries on the American Freedom Defense Initiative and its “Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest” held recently in Garland, Texas.

In my first commentary, I discussed the controversy surrounding the so-called American Freedom Defense Initiative’s (AFDI) cartoon caricature context of the Prophet Muhammad where two men opened fire on a security officer stationed outside the contest building. The officer brought down the shooters killing them both. By my bringing attention to the Islamophobia guiding AFDI’s event, a few readers of my commentary accused me of “blaming the victims.”

In actuality, I did no such thing. AFDI and its leader, Pamela Geller, have a far-reaching history of Islam bashing, and their event in Texas fit clearly into that framework. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which follows extremist hate group, defines AFDI as an extremist right-wing organization. To caricature the Prophet Muhammad, while clearly protected by the First Amendment’s “freedom of speech” clause, can also be seen as an act of hate and bullying for the goal of insulting, inciting, inflaming, demeaning, and provoking.

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