In the absence of a vocal anti-gay leader like the recently deceased Fred Phelps, conservative evangelical Christians and most everybody else have been wondering who was going to step up and take his place. There are many contestants at this point, but one New York City pastor is trying to pull ahead by advocating for homosexuals to be stoned and calling Starbucks gay. With attitudes like that being advertised not only on church signs but in national news, it is easy to see how evangelicals’ popularity is falling.
James David Manning, the pastor and face of Atlah World Missionary Church in Harlem, is the current front runner for leadership of evangelical Christianity’s anti-gay crusade. His billboard in front of the church contained the message recently that “Jesus would stone homos” and that stoning is still the law. It is not entirely obvious which law Manning’s sign was referring to, but so far no civil laws have been found that legalize stoning anyone.
This sign prompted a New York City lesbian, Jennifer Louise Lopez, to approach the church armed with a video camera and say that she was there for her stoning. The video, which has been passed around on Facebook, features an unidentified and rather unamused man answering the door and saying that he would not personally stone Lopez. However, if she wanted to come back later, the guy who would stone her would be in and then maybe something would be done about her situation.
The video has been used to show the hypocrisy of the people who believe what the sign says. They are not actually going to stone anybody, or at least they have designated that job to one guy who does not show up at the church very often for stoning appointments. It is just possible that they have hired the ultimate stoning guru, Jesus himself, who proclaimed in an earlier, less advanced century that anyone without sin should be the one to start a stoning. Jesus, who obviously identified himself as that person, refused to stone anyone. Unless Atlah World Missionary Church and Pastor Manning have found someone else without sin (not likely in this world they say is so riddled with abominable sins), stonings are unlikely to be in anyone’s appointment book in the near future.
At the very least, Manning tried to set a limit on how many homosexuals should actually be stoned, ostensibly to save himself some work. According to him, only homosexuals engaged in very public and political promotion of the “lifestyle” should be stoned. That would, as he says, be the appropriate reaction to such activist homosexuals. The list of prominent homosexuals would probably have to include people like George Takei, Anderson Cooper, Neil Patrick Harris, and Hugh Jackman, who though not gay, played a gay character on the stage and was so convincing that gay rumors have haunted him ever since.
It is just such homosexual men with which Manning has a real problem. He has denounced them as taking over communities that were historically and predominantly black, saying that rich, white homosexual men were stealing black men from black women with their seductive ways. Along with their lifestyle, these white homosexual perpetrators brought Starbucks coffee with them. It is a well-known stereotype that gays love their daily dose of caffeine and Starbucks loves to give it to them, so the popular, worldwide coffee chain has fallen under the scrutiny of Manning’s wrath along with the gays who take it with them everywhere. Basically, this New York City pastor is calling Starbucks gay, and probably wants to stone it along with the homosexuals referenced by his sign.
Manning completes his diatribe against gays by calling them the most intolerant people he has ever met, ranking the infamous Ku Klux Klan as more tolerant than the LGBT community. With this viewpoint and his desire to stone gays in mind, it is very likely that James David Manning would support the increasingly violent opposition to the LGBT community that is going on in Africa today.
Uganda’s “kill the gays” bill passed into law and has been inciting violence against any LGBT person or any suspected LGBT person living in that country. The national media published a list of LGBT people who were summarily threatened or killed by zealous members of the Ugandan citizenry. Violence against homosexuals has been growing not just in Uganda where it has been legalized, but in other African countries where colonial laws still outlaw homosexuality and prescribe imprisonment as a punishment. With Uganda leading the way, however, punishments for being gay or for homosexual activity, even of the most innocent kind, are becoming increasingly more violent and vituperative.
Manning’s ideal of stoning is a reality for many in Africa. Gays and lesbians in some countries are living in a perpetual state of fear and calls for humanitarian action to protect this persecuted minority have been growing. Nevertheless, the evangelical community has been supportive of Uganda’s anti-gay legislation. Scott Lively, an evangelical preacher from the United States, is now famous for that support and for being on trial for crimes against humanity.
This is the reality for many evangelicals. The New York City pastor’s view that Starbucks is gay and wanting homosexuals stoned is not an anomaly in that community. In fact, it is beginning to look more and more like the rule for evangelical pastors. It is no wonder, then, that evangelical popularity is lagging.
The Human Rights Campaign and Americans for Marriage Equality have released a study showing just this fact. While 53 percent of polled voters in America said they were supportive of gays and lesbians, only 42 percent said they were favorable towards evangelicals. When the question was reversed to ask if voters felt any animosity towards the groups, the outcome was that 18 percent did not like gays and lesbians, while 28 percent said they did not like evangelicals. That’s a ten percent difference in how many people do not like evangelicals as opposed to gays. It’s important to keep in mind that this polling took place in America, where 80 percent of the population identifies itself as religious.
The homophobia coming out of the American Protestant evangelical movement is backfiring on them, at least according to this data. There is no doubt that James David Manning and others like him are spurring this dislike on with their denunciations and calls for violence. Hate does not bring anyone together; it only tears them apart, as this data shows. At the same time, the easiest way to make people dislike you is to call their favorite coffee chain, such as Starbucks, gay in a pejorative way, not to mention saying you want to stone the homosexuals in New York City, said to be one of their favorite places in the world. Luckily for Manning, he is not trying to win any popularity contests – just the right to be called the leader of the anti-gay movement, now that Fred Phelps is dead.
Opinion By Lydia Webb