Thursday, October 18, 2012

Review: "Religion Gone Bad" by Mel White

Mel White hits hard points in his follow-up to his autobiography Stranger At The Gate, in which he detailed how an evangelical Christian man came to terms with his sexuality.

I say "follow-up" as this book addresses many points I thought Stranger was lacking. In this book, Mel makes it clear that he has no interest in debating the Biblical clobber verses against gays as many have, which others have further countered, leading into endless debates. This is a statement I felt Stranger lacked. Still, it may be read independently of the former book.

Mel addresses the attacks on homosexuals by Fundamentalists. He profiles many leading Fundamentalists, such as Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, D. James Kennedy and Dr. James Dobson, all of whom Mel was very friendly with before coming out publicly with his sexuality.

Using minutes of a top-secret meeting by Fundamentalist leaders at Glen Eyrie about how to combat "the homosexual agenda," Mel points out disturbing connections between their plans and those of Fascism and the Nazis. That may sound far-fetched, but Mel uses careful research and familiarity to make the connections. He doesn't accuse Fundamentalists of becoming Fascists or Nazis, but rather writes as if in warning that this is the path that they are heading down.

Special attention is addressed to the influence of the Religious Right on American politics. Mel maintains that that to maintain the integrity of both America and Christianity (and any other religion), laws, policies, and Constitutional amendments should not be made with religious intent. He fully believes that this is the reason for the perceived "separation of church and state" of the First Amendment, and even points out a quote from Thomas Jefferson affirming this.

Mel maintains that it is important for American Christians to respect both the Bible and the Constitution. He maintains that the idea that the Bible is the "inerrant" Word of God can prove faulty. He even points out that such a view turns the Bible into an idol, in which a Christian goes by the words only and ignores an actual spiritual relationship with God.

The final part exhorts all Christians, regardless of their backgrounds, to re-examine what it means to do what Jesus would do and show true Biblical love. He uses inspiration from Martin Luther King and Gandhi to suggest how gay Christians may react to discrimination.

While I greatly enjoyed the book and Mel's points, too often when countering what he says is a "lie" of the Religious Right, he doesn't mention any evidence to prove the contrary. Not that I questioned that they were lies (some were quite ridiculous), but others will not be convinced so easily.

Overall though, despite your religious beliefs, or lack thereof, this is a book worth a read.

The title "Religion Gone Bad" refers to the hardcover edition, which I read. It has been revised slightly and recently reissued as "Holy Terror: Lies the Christian Right Tells Us To Deny Gay Equality" in paperback.

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