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I’ve just come from another “beer bust” for Katrina hurricane victims. Given the magnitude of the charity the U.S. has shown for them, this might become a usual pastime for more than several months. The difference with these beer busts is that they are sponsored by gay bars.
What this brings to mind is the point that true compassion knows no “orientation” boundaries, while the doctrines of many churches lead us to believe that food and shelter for the suffering are given a decidedly “Christian” slant. Some fundamentalists, such as Repent America’s Michael Marcavage and Fred Phelps (Westboro Baptist Church), are, in fact, enjoying their role as God’s Ambulance Chasers: Marcavage offers “prayers” but no help, while Phelps’ website has a headline “Thank God For Katrina!”
Other Christian pleas are more indirect in their conditional compassion: Falwell Ministries requests people to “send a special gift to support our volunteer-driven, faith-based response to the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina” and touts the work of Southern Baptist Conference, the infamous fundamentalist denomination that reviles homosexuals, feminists and (still) Jews. Pat Robertson’s Operation Blessing works in conjunction with FEMA while cloaked with an air of righteousness. It’s a sort of poor man’s Salvation Army and reminiscent of the lyric from Guys and Dolls: “Halleluiah, place a nickel on the drum, save another drunken bum! Place a nickel on the drum and he’ll be saved!”
Even Barbara Bush had an air of sanctimoniousness about Katrina’s devastation with her “underprivileged anyway” words of patrician moral wisdom. At another time and place, I believe the quote was actually “Let them eat cake!”
I guess it all comes down to the irony of ironies: legions of queers are much quicker to respond than FEMA or faith-based charities and far less toxic to the conscience.
DAN VOJIR can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org