Doing What I was Told Transformed Me into the Very Thing They Hated.

Verse by verse. Chapter by chapter. Book by book. –Calvary Chapel

I grew up in a church in rural California. What this means is every Sunday we went to church. We participated in a variety of “ministries” to support the church. I attended youth group Bible study and, later, college Bible study. I helped with worship team set up. My parents made copies of the services on audio tapes and sold shirts on behalf of the church (tape ministry and shirt ministry). For a number of years, we hosted home prayer meetings and Bible studies. We rubbed elbows with various church leaders and influencers. The church was an extension of my family to whom I was to go with every issue and question I had.

“Valley of Shadows” by M. Brewer Jr., 2022.

I grew up in the church.

It was very important to our community that we all live in a Christ-centered manner with our ears ever pressed upon the murmurs of the Holy Spirit. We asserted, if not so blatantly, that we were one of few truly Bible centered, Christ focused, and biblically sound churches left in the world. We were the Acts church! The church of the New Testament! Christ was our centerpiece, but Moses was our model.

Who we were in reality–in practice–was (and remains) far from any resemblance of a biblically centered or Christ centered church. It was our boast to proclaim that we studied the Bible “verse by verse, chapter by chapter, and book by book” (Calvary Chapel), and we did go through the Bible verse by verse, chapter by chapter, book by book, but to call it studying is only marginally true. For all our high mindedness of Scripture, we never really gave the bible an opportunity to speak. We were eisegetical in our approach. We read into scripture the things we wanted out of it. We threw out the entire literary approach to the Bible and approached it in the vein of Charles Finney–we approached the text as lawyers reading a law book. As a result, we became legalistic and insistent that our understanding of religious law be made the law of the land in order to save the world for Jesus. We walked with some of the earliest evangelicals to initiate the raging culture wars being fought today.

Our leadership, our pastor and his inner circle, asserted that we held the real and true, Holy Spirit inspired, understanding of the Bible, and as a child, I believed them. Right knowledge of the scriptures along with a prerequisite magical prayer inviting Jesus into one’s heart, assured our place in heaven and our superiority as God’s children on the earth.

Over the next few months, I am going to share my story. I am going to name names. I am going to share how divine intervention rescued me from a cult of personality and led me on a path to deconstruct the lies of my pastor and his church, spend over a decade in deep theological study that was both spiritual and scholarly, and how I came to save myself from becoming what they meant for me to be.

This project will not just be a work of essays but will incorporate various forms of art and media to convey my story. This work will be linked together using the “Valley of Shadows” category and tag.

I don’t expect this project to go smoothly, but after nearly twenty years, it is time to tell my story.

VOTE DEMOCRAT IN 2022 AND DESTROY THE GOP

Register to Vote. Vote, and Vote Blue in 2022.

You don’t have to like Democrats. You don’t even have to agree with them, but at least your rights won’t be stripped away.

The Republican Party, the GOP, is responsible for today’s Supreme Court Decision. They stole court nominees from Democrats at the end of President Obama’s term, and then reversed their position to steal more Supreme Court nominees at the end of the 45th President’s term. Their nominees LIED under oath.

The Supreme Court has toppled the separation between Church and State, trampled on State’s Rights to enact common sense gun control, have given ICE agents free reign to terrorize citizens, have empowered police to violate the rights of citizens, and have chosen to enslave people through incarceration even if evidence exonerating a prisoner comes to light in just the last few months.

The conservative judges have chosen to legislate from the bench. Enough is enough.

REPUBLICANS have proven themselves the enemy of progress and the enemy of the people. They employ white, evangelical, Christian nationalism to hold power. This November, VOTE THEM ALL OUT!

They don’t care about you. Need proof? They stood in the way of the COVID relief for those in need during the pandemic. They stopped the Child Tax Credit which has significantly brought down childhood poverty. They have stood in the way of common sense gun control. They voted against initiatives to prevent price gouging at the gas pump by corrupt oil and gas companies. They voted against initiatives to relieve the baby formula shortage. They voted against expanded care for veterans. They voted against investigating the violence caused by white supremacists. They defund public education. They stand in the way of improved infrastructure for all.

It is time to dismantle the GOP.

Hate Has No Home Here: Fresno County GOP and Other Central Valley Conservatives Choose Hate

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

First Amendment, Constitution of the United States

Fresno County GOP, along with several other far right conservative organizations within Fresno County have released a hate filled divisive press release condemning the LGBTQIA+ community for existing in the public space.

As expected, these far right groups have portrayed themselves as victims while actively seeking to silence diverse communities and people in the public space.

As long as they think themselves the prioritized voices, they will continue to strike out at our diverse communities and silence their representation in local government. Perhaps all residents of Fresno County, and those who conduct business in Fresno County, should reach out and let the Fresno County GOP know their hate has no home here!

Those interested in letting them know how you feel:

Fresno County GOP Headquarters
770 E Shaw Ave, #220

Fresno, CA 93710
559-225-2566
info@fresnogop.org

Fresno County LGBTQIA+ Community and Allies. These people are not your friends.

Hate Has No Home Here: An Open Letter to the City of Kingsburg, CA City Council

On May 31st, we were given a demonstration as to why declaring June as Pride month is a necessary message that no matter how deep your pockets, how loud you get, or how old you are, you do not get to determine who does or does not belong in our beloved city of Kingsburg.

Immediately following a twenty minute public speech by the Constitutionalists for California that simultaneously substantiated the facts I brought to the council and misrepresented them, an associate among them declared the LGBTQIA+ community an “abomination.”

The far right organization acknowledged the increased violent victimization experienced by the LGBTQIA+ community, but then attributed that violence to “aliens, for all we know,” as if violent victimization only counts from sources they deem valid. The twelve murdered transgender Americans in 2022 were also substantiated, but 12 dead transgender Americans is deemed by them to be low enough to be acceptable—much in the same way that 19 children and two teachers in an elementary school is deemed acceptable. Pro-life, am I right? Their factually deficient organization asserted life saving care isn’t life saving if it is merely preventing the suicide of American youths struggling to fit in a world where they are told time and again they are “abominations.”

Twenty minutes they stood here an opined on the audacity of one resident standing up and saying ‘here’s a problem and here’s a symbolic gesture that would make a world of difference to a marginalized segment of our community.’ They all but said, ‘because we showed up last year and were loud and intimidating, we win. Case closed.’ If that was the case, the segregation era they enjoyed as children would be present in America today.

White supremacy is more than wearing a white hood, burning a cross, and saying the n-word. It is gathering with a hate group (with whom they would partner with again that same holiday season) and an angry mob to enforce their narrow and bigoted views on the whole of our community. Literal, fascism. Not hyperbole. Fascism.

At some point change is inevitable, and while I wish I had twenty minutes to breakdown the fallacies of their arguments or school them in the 1946 introduction of the word “homosexual” to the Bible and its 1971 retraction by the same translating body, I don’t have the time, and this isn’t the place.

Neither is this about a flag. T-Mobile took care of that already. This is about sending a clear message that we don’t view our residents as abominations regardless of gender, orientation, identity, race, religion, or creed. It is simply, not acceptable.

And as long as we fly the Swedish flag outside City Hall, uplifting one cultural influence into the spotlight over others, the argument that we don’t shine a spotlight on some and not others is a lie at best—a malicious oppressive lie at worst.

And as for any that suggests we ought ‘accept the answer no’ in calling to the attention of the public the humanity of the dehumanized, “woe to you, O Pharisees and scribes.”

Finally, what took them four people and twenty minutes, I have now done in less than five. Do not let those who would associate openly with a Southern Poverty Law designated hate group be our voice. Please, for the good and confidence of our whole community, consider declaring June Pride month in the City of Kingsburg.

As a Reminder, the KKK in its prime participated in community programs.
See: “When the KKK Was Mainstream

Dog Whistles, Right Wing Extremism, and White Nationalism in the Spotlight During PRIDE Month 2022

This weekend 31 members from “at least 11 states, including Washington, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Colorado, South Dakota, Illinois, Wyoming, Virginia, and Arkansas…” and only “…one from Idaho” (Bellisle) associated with the white supremacist organization Patriot Front were arrested and charged with “criminal conspiracy to riot” (Pietsch). The “little army” (White), bedazzled in matching military stylized outfits depicting stars and stripes, Patriot Front insignias, and shirts with typical fascist slogans such as “Reclaim America,” loaded up into a U-Haul truck outside of a hotel with plans to riot at a PRIDE event in the city of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

Police officers guard a group of men, who police say are among 31 arrested for conspiracy to riot and are affiliated with the white nationalist group Patriot Front, after they were found in the rear of a U Haul van in the vicinity of a North Idaho Pride Alliance LGBTQ+ event in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, U.S. June 11, 2022 in this still image obtained from a social media video. North Country Off Grid/Youtube/via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES.

Security had been augmented when authorities were made aware of increased threats against the event and its participants, but it was a tip from an eyewitness who saw the gravy seals loading into a U-Haul outside a nearby hotel that ultimately foiled the plan for mass violence.

Right-Wing Extremist violence is steadily rising across America (O’Harrow, Ba Tran, Hawkins). The right-wing extremist groups, Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, in partnership with the disgraced former president Donald Trump, for example, led the attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021 (January 6 Committee) after the national embarrassment failed to get re-elected.

The country is slowly crawling towards progress, and as a result, conservative values–which lean toward anti-diversity, exploitative practices and policies, white nationalist philosophies, etc.–are falling by the wayside.

Extreme conservatism is dying, and its death throes are being expressed through lies and violence. As the lies lose the power to hold the masses in check, violence increases. A cursory glance at the Civil Rights Movement in history provides a clear example of this–which plays a role in why conservatives and the GOP are actively putting forth anti-Critical Race Theory propaganda.

Divisive rhetoric from community leaders such as Fresno City Councilman Garry Bredefeld continues to serve the Right-Wing Extremist agenda by reenforcing us vs. them narratives in order to pit the community against itself. The ol’ divide and conquer strategy.

In response to local clergy offering opening prayers at the Pride Flag Raising Ceremony in Fresno, Ca, Bredefeld tweeted:

DISGRACEFUL ATTACK ON TRADITIONAL CHRISTIANITY THROUGH “PRAYER” AT GAY PRIDE FLAG RAISING AT CITY HALL.

I’ll continue to speak out against these attacks on Christianity & never accept this kind of perversion of God and what God truly stands for as revealed in the Bible. Never.

City of Fresno Councilman Garry Bredefeld via Twitter

Not only is this outburst entirely inappropriate for a sitting city councilmember in California’s fifth largest city, but it is entirely false and illustrates the far-right conservative tendency to lie, cheat, and steal when they don’t get their way. No one was attacking Christianity.

Prayer, for the record, is not the sole practice or intellectual property of right-wing conservative Christian nationalism. Prayer has been participated in by a variety of cultures, religions, and people throughout history. Written sources record prayer as far back as 5000 years ago.

Bigoted outburst from Fresno City Councilmember Garry Bedefeld

Not only is Bredefeld incredibly mistaken, but his message attempts to divide the community into us (straight Christian nationalists with a priority for old world western European ideals) vs. them (everyone else) camps. The “us” camp often self-identifies as flag waving patriots–a dog whistle and moniker for white nationalists. While some might object to the fact that “patriot” has become a moniker for oppression, bigotry, and fascism, I simply point to the hyper nationalism common in hate groups and right-wing extremist organizations such as the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, Patriot Front, Ku Klux Klan, Save California, Act for America, Mass Resistance, Occidental Dissent, and many more.

Now, more than ever, events and programs promoting diversity, inclusivity, and positive community building are crucial! Events such as PRIDE help to breakdown negative stereotypes, ignorance, fear, and reveal the humanity inside all of us. (Why do you think many of our parents, grandparents, and great grandparents wanted to keep society segregated?)

Power is shifting away from those who have excluded members of our communities across the country. Their system is failing, and as their death rattles grow, so will their lies and acts of violence.

Only we, American citizens, can put an end to the madness gripping this nation. Only by voting out illiterate knuckle draggers like Bedefeld from local, state, and federal government, and replacing them with leaders who can build up and unite our country, can we ensure changes for the good of the entire community. By coming together and refusing to allow bigotry a place at the table, we can reduce the strength and violence of the far right.

Happy Pride Month, everyone.

DISMANTLE THE GOP

Oklahoma stands poised to ban all forms of abortion—including ‘morning after pills.’ This is yet another example of the militant extremist measures perpetuated by the dying Republican Party in an attempt to steal power and enforce their white evangelical nationalism on the people of the United States. Worse, it echoes with the historic rise of the fascist Nazi party in pre-WWII Germany under the charismatic Adolf Hitler.

It is time to dismantle the GOP at every level. True conservatives (not this far-right, authoritarian, fascism-loving “Dark MAGA” posing as conservatism) need to form a new party. Trump has killed the GOP by empowering and emboldening bigots and racists to rise up and impose a theocracy as defined by their morals, values, and personal interests. The theocracy they push is identical to white nationalism wherein western anglo values are not just prioritized, but asserted as superior.

EVERY CONSERVATIVES ACCUSATION has turned out to be a projected confession. EVERYTHING from voter fraud to sexual perversion to pedophilia to social & religious indoctrination to racism and now this—an enforcement of religious-motivated law, aka the thing they accused Muslims of trying to establish in the U.S.

VOTE OUT EVERY Republican at the local, state, and federal level. They must be dismantled for the sake of democracy. Whatever it takes. No matter the hoops, get out and vote. The stakes have never been higher—even the 2020 election pales in comparison to what’s at stake for the country if Republicans regain power in the House and Senate.

PRIDE 2022: Affirming Humanity — An Open Letter to the Kingsburg City Council, CA

Introduction

“The Bible says…”

Last year, around this time, we heard this phrase during a good portion of a four-hour nightmare of public comments. Last council meeting, June Hess insisted Kingsburg was pro-God, pro-Life, and pro-America. In that same meeting, Councilman Pursell informed a group trying to take on the multi-faceted issue of homelessness, with regards to location, that Kingsburg was not a good candidate for the program because his constituents have made it clear it is not the kind of thing they want to see here. A bit ironic for an allegedly Christian prioritized community—it seems the least Christ-like thing. In fact, when I posed the question of Christ-likeness to an active community page online, I found some odd defenses for the seemingly contradictory behavior as well as those who perceived the general “Christian” nature of the town as a sort of ruse of hypocrisy.

I open by highlighting the way the Bible and Christianity have been used to oppress some things in this chamber while remaining silent on others where they ought to speak up. Inconsistency. None of us need hear what the Bible does or does not say on what I bring before the council today.

The Argument

According to an interview with Melissa Block, an NPR Special Correspondent who covers Gender Issues, there have been “more than 200 anti-LGBTQ bills introduced in nearly 40 states.” Many states are taking their cues from Texas and Florida which have all but declared war on their LGBTQIA+ citizens—their fellow Americans. More than 58,000 youth will see a loss of necessary, and life-saving, medical care as a result of these bans (Williams Institute).

The Human Rights Campaign reports there have been “at least 12 transgender people fatally shot or killed by other violent means” in 2022 so far (HRC Foundation). They emphasize “…’at least’ because too often these stories go unreported – or misreported” (HRC Foundation).

According to the Williams Institute School of Law, LGBTQIA+ individuals 16 years of age and older are “nearly 4 times more likely to experience violent victimizations, compared to non-[LGBTQ+] individuals” (Williams Institute).

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the LGBTQIA+ community is at a 3-6 times greater risk for suicide than non-LGBTQ individuals. While some may point to this to say, ‘hey! See! This is a mental health problem,’ I point them to the testimonies which demonstrate that the poor mental health statistics are a result of mistreatment, bullying, violence, and other forms of abuse used to marginalize these human beings—your fellow Americans.

Last year, in light of similar statistics and testimonies, we failed to assert that Kingsburg stands with the whole of its community. The motion to declare “Pride Month” died without a second. The traditionally marginalized community members were told: the sensitivities of a prioritized group within this same community were of far greater importance than their public existence.

In failing to approve the motion set forth by the youngest and, arguably, bravest councilmember, the council affirmed the message of the bigots who stood outside with the hate group, Proud Boys, along with those who represented the far-right “Three Percenters” ideology. Councilman Palomar went as far as to say “the city has spoken” referring to the few hundred—not thousands as some reported—making noise outside.

“The city has spoken?” White supremacy, fascism, bigotry—this is who and what speaks for our city?

Worst was the invocation of our nation’s flag. Often associated with our troops. As a retired United States Sailor who served a career in the Navy, it may come as a surprise for some of you to learn that 6.8% of our military identifies as LGBTQ. They serve openly and honorably. I served with them. They put on the uniform every day and fought for the country they love. Tell me, how are they not worthy of an act of solidarity—especially from a uniquely, military honoring, patriotic city?

The Request

We have an opportunity to assert that Kingsburg is a place that welcomes to the public spaces all its citizens as equal members. Last year we hid behind the matter of a flag because there were ‘other flags’ that should have been prioritized. It has been a year. No flag requests. It was never about the flag. There was fear of a Pride Event taking place. It happened. It was family-friendly, showcased the talents and skills of our LGBTQIA+ community, was attended by a number of outside dignitaries with zero incidents, and no one was made gay against their will. The surrounding communities saw our shame in the headlines and, as a result, passed their own Pride Month declarations without incident and without fear.

I implore this Council to consider declaring June 2022 as Pride Month. Let us send a clear message to our community that we stand with our LGBTQIA+ members and that we will not engage in, nor tolerate the same abuse and discrimination that is facing their communities across this nation.

Works Cited

Block, Melissa. “Hundreds of anti-LGBTQ bills have already been introduced this year. Here may be why.” All Things Considered, NPR.org, 2022, https://www.npr.org/2022/04/14/1092904560/hundreds-of-anti-lgbtq-bills-have-already-been-introduced-this-year-here-may-be-.

HRC Foundation. “Fatal Violence Against the Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Community in 2022.” Human Rights Campaign, HRC.org, 2022, https://www.hrc.org/resources/fatal-violence-against-the-transgender-and-gender-non-conforming-community-in-2022.

Williams Institute. “Bans put more than 58,000 transgender youth at risk of losing access to gender-affirming care.” Press Release March 2022, UCLA Williams Institute School of Law, 2022, https://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/press/ga-care-bans-press-release/.