About the Post

Author Information

J. PATRICK REDMOND was born and raised in southern Indiana and recently returned to his home state after sixteen years of living in South Florida and teaching for the Miami-Dade County Public School System. Presently he teaches English Composition at the University of Southern Indiana. Patrick holds a BA in English from Florida International University in Miami and an MFA in creative writing and literature from Stony Brook University in Southampton, New York. He is a contributing blogger for the Huffington Post, and his writing has appeared in the NOH8 Campaign blog, the Southampton Review, and in the Barnes & Noble Review’s Grin & Tonic. He is also the 2012 recipient of the Deborah Hecht Memorial Prize in Fiction. Some Go Hungry is his first novel, and when asked about it, Patrick says, “It’s about God, guns, gays, and green beans.” Additional information is available at jpatrickredmond.com.

Kinfolk and Controversy

NICK MANGANO is Director of Theatre at Stony Brook Southampton, Southampton Arts in New York. He recently posted his ‘sermon’ regarding marriage equality on his Facebook page. With permission I’ve reposted it here. Following it is the post-sermon ‘dialogue’ between my relative and Nick (I’ve purposely omitted my relative’s name in order to protect his/her privacy). My email served as moderator. 



Since Nick’s original sermon initiated their conversation, I posted it first. His revised sermon ends the email thread.


A SERMON TO MEMBERS OF THE AMERICAN RELIGIOUS RIGHT FROM A PROUD, PATRIOTIC AMERICAN

by Nick Mangano

Let’s talk about marriage equality – and gay rights in general for a moment. This is not a small social issue to be minimized in light of our larger national concerns. It is a significant matter that should concern all Americans, not just gay citizens. It speaks to the most fundamental of American values: freedom, equal rights and equal protection under the law.

Let me come to the point. Stop imposing your views on public policy. You have the right to your religious beliefs, BUT NOT WHEN THEY HURT OTHERS. Such views must not be allowed to influence law. Respect the separation of church and state.

Whether legislated or not, consider the impact your views have on children, and not just our LGBT youth: isolation, fear, bullying, and teen suicide, for starters.

Consider our gay, lesbian and bisexual members of all branches of the military who, despite the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, may once again fear for their jobs when they are fearlessly risking their lives for your freedom. Despite support from the military brass, after extensive polling of our servicemen/women, you opposed the repeal of DADT. I’m sure you will not hesitate to support its reinstatement given the first opportunity.

As for marriage, it is a civil ceremony and therefore a civil right. Religions can define the ceremony, or sacrament, as they choose. In turn, citizens can choose to be a member of that church or not. Those who wish to define marriage as being between a man and woman may do so, but you have no right to legislate it or to force an amendment to our Constitution to define it as you wish. Respect the separation of church and state. If you truly wish to ‘protect’ marriage and feel it is so threatened, then why don’t you try to legislate against divorce or more vehemently address issues of domestic violence?

Hate and exclude whomever you choose, but you shall not keep anyone from loving who they want or marrying if they choose. And you shall not have ownership of a word that carries such cultural and spiritual significance. It is woven into the fabric of our society – in our movies, novels, plays, television shows, songs, poems, and so on. To deny even the use of the word “marriage” to gay Americans is unacceptable. To be asked to choose another word is akin to saying you’re “equal but separate.” Well I say to you, we are equal and will be equal in the eyes of the law, despite your efforts. Of that you can be sure.

You can justify your views in the name of ‘religious beliefs’, but they are nothing less than bigotry. And what is Christian about that? Most people who support such discrimination on religious grounds are ignorant to actual religious teachings. First, if Jesus had strong views about homosexuality, or felt it was fundamental to or threatened the Christian way of life, he would have mentioned it. He said nothing. Nothing. And those who use the Old Testament (Leviticus, 20:13) as justification against homosexuality need to stop eating shrimp and lobster: the bible tells us it is an abomination (also Leviticus, 11:10-12). That is only the tip of the iceberg of things the bible dictates, most of which NO CIVILIZED HUMAN BEING TODAY WOULD FOLLOW ON MOARL GROUNDS, NOT TO MENTION THE PRISON SENTENCES THOSE DICATES WOULD BRING.

But you pick and choose from scripture and do not see your hypocrisy.

Is it any wonder the word “gay” is now a permissible, colloquial term used by kids to describe anything “un-cool” or “lame?” Imagine saying, “that’s black” when ridiculing someone even in jest and see how well that goes over. (Poorly I hope!) Same thing here, yet parents, and even teachers allow it – often use it themselves or laugh when they hear it.

As a teacher, if a student in my classroom uses a pejorative term against any other group, or were to voice an opinion that supports legislative discrimination against people of color, for example, I would be remiss if I didn’t chastise him/her. But statements against gays made on religious grounds are considered by many to be above censure. Must I temper my response, lest I be the one to discriminate by telling those ‘religious’ students they are hurtful and out of line? Freedom of speech?

I have witnessed otherwise confident, talented, smart gay students shrink with shame and fall silent when their bullying peers made demoralizing comments. I don’t and will never tolerate it.

What does all of that have to do with you? I’ll tell you: you play a large role in sanctioning blatant discrimination. You teach it. You encourage it. You perpetuate it. You want to legislate it. You think you are doing what is right by following God’s law. So now tell me this, how is that different from the Taliban’s social restraints on members of their society, especially women?

(And shall we also speak about the threat to women’s rights in America? Perhaps another day.)

Proud and patriotic Americans, we must be careful when we consider the role of “God” in government. First of all, whose god are we talking about? Whose religion? A god of hate and vengeance, or a god of love, tolerance and compassion? Who is included or excluded? Who is ultimately hurt?

I say, SUPPORT RELIGION AND FAITH, BUT NOT THE RELIGIOUS RIGHT’S WAR ON CIVIL RIGHTS.

Amen.

Nick Mangano


(Response and rebuttal from my relative to Nick Mangano):

Hi Patrick!

I just read your posting of the Nick Mangano sermon. Since he addressed it to members of the American Religious Right, and I tend to align myself with that group, I assumed this sermon was for me.

I think he did a very good job of sticking to facts and common sense, although I would like the opportunity to debate him on some of the teachings from the New Testament.

My point here was to just let you know that this is the kind of message that can build bridges and appeal to sensible logical people of all beliefs. It seems like when people debate, they often get emotional and never really listen to what the other person is saying because they are just thinking about what they will say when the other person takes a breath and they can cut back in. And people start getting personal or using inflammatory words and nothing is accomplished except more hurt feelings.

Mangano does a good job and has an important message that should hit home if people really think about what he is saying.

I would be interested to hear his opinion on Paul’s teaching in the New Testament, but I think his point could have been made without bringing the Bible into it at all. What I got from his message is that marriage equality is a civil right, not a religious right, so I don’t think that what the Bible says or does not say is relevant to his argument. I think his argument stands and that it is an important message for all to hear and thoughtfully consider. Like I said at the beginning, sensible logical people will see the truth in his message.

Hopefully this made sense – I just wanted to share my thoughts.


(Response and rebuttal from Nick Mangano to my relative):                     

Thanks so much for this, Patrick. Your [relative] is obviously an intelligent and sensitive person and I genuinely appreciate his/her input and willingness to have a dialogue. He/She raises a very good point about the teachings of Paul, which seems to be very clear and direct. But there are biblical scholars who offer alternative interpretations to those teachings that I thought were too complicated to include here. And I won’t presume to be an expert. 

I also wanted to say that my point that marriage is a civil right is only one point that I am making, albeit a very important one. The thrust of my “sermon” is that if the Religious Right is going to preach against homosexuality and/or try to influence legislature with scriptural support, they can’t pick and choose at whim from those texts. They must consider everything. Their views and preaching, whether they change legislature or not, are hurtful and are threatening core American values. Freedom of speech yes, but don’t yell fire in a crowded theatre when there is no fire.

Here is a rewrite to the section on scripture, thanks to the thoughtful input of your [relative]. He/She might like to know that I did consider his/her perspective:

A SERMON ON THE AMERICAN RELIGIOUS RIGHT

by Nick Mangano

Let’s talk about marriage equality – and gay rights in general. This is not an issue to be minimized in light of other national concerns. It is a significant matter and should concern all Americans, not just gay citizens. It speaks to the most fundamental of American values: freedom, equal rights and equal protection under the law.

Let me come to the point. Stop imposing your views on public policy. You have the right to your religious beliefs, but not when they hurt others. Such views must not be allowed to influence law. Respect the separation of church and state.

Consider the impact your views have on children, and not just our LGBT youth: isolation, fear, bullying, hate crimes, and suicide, for starters.

Consider our gay, lesbian and bisexual members of all branches of the military who, despite the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, may once again fear for their jobs when they are fearlessly risking their lives for your freedom. Despite support from the military brass, after extensive polling of our servicemen and women, you opposed the repeal of DADT. Will you support its reinstatement given the opportunity?

As for marriage, it is a civil ceremony and therefore a civil right. Religions can define the ceremony, or sacrament, as they choose. In turn, citizens can choose to be a member of that church or not. Those who wish to define marriage as being between a man and woman may do so, but you have no right to legislate it or to force an amendment to our Constitution to define it as you wish. If you truly want to ‘protect’ marriage, then why not campaign to legislate against divorce or more vehemently address the issue of domestic violence?

You may exclude whomever you want from your churches, but you shall not keep anyone from loving who they want or marrying who they choose. And you shall not have ownership of a word that carries such cultural and spiritual significance. It is woven into the fabric of our society – throughout our movies, novels, plays, television shows, songs, poems, and so on. To deny even the use of the word “marriage” to gay Americans when defining civil unions is akin to saying, “separate but equal.”

You justify your beliefs in the name of religion. Yet, if Jesus Christ had such strong views about homosexuality, or felt it threatened the Christian way of life, he would have mentioned it. He said nothing. The Jewish prophets were also silent on the subject. And those who use the Old Testament (Leviticus 20:13) as justification need to stop eating shrimp and lobster: the Bible tells us it is an abomination (Leviticus 11:10-12). That is only the tip of the iceberg of things the Bible dictates, most of which no civilized human being today would abide by on moral grounds, not to mention the prison sentences they would beget. How many non-virgin brides have you condemned to death by stoning (Deuteronomy 22:13-21)? How many childless widows have you forced to have sex with their deceased husbands’ brothers so that they might produce heirs (Mark 12:18-27)? Biblical scholars give us several interpretations of Apostle Paul’s teachings on the subject and also of the oft-quoted Sodom & Gomorrah story, where it is not homosexuality that is damned but rather the violation of hospitality laws, held sacred in Old Testament cultures and throughout the ancient world.

When presuming to condemn with scripture, consider the textual contradictions, multiple interpretations where there is uncertainly, and all of the dictates where there is clarity. Consider that the Bible also tells us, “Judge not that ye be not judged,” which one could argue is itself a dictate against exclusionary laws, spiritual or secular.

Yet you pick and choose from scripture and do not see your hypocrisy and harm.

Is it any wonder the word “gay” is now a permissible expression used by kids to describe anything “un-cool” or “lame?” Imagine saying, “that’s black” when ridiculing someone, even in jest, and see how well that goes over (poorly I hope!). Same thing here, yet parents, even teachers allow it – often use it themselves or laugh when they hear it.

Is it any wonder that “Gay Panic Defense” has been a legitimate legal argument presented in our courts on behalf of perpetrators of heinous hate crimes, including the brutal murders of Mathew Shepard, 21, and middle school student Lawrence King, 15? King’s killer was 14.

If a student in my classroom uses a pejorative term against any other group, or were to voice an opinion that supports discrimination against people of color, for example, I would be remiss as the teacher if I didn’t chastise that student. But statements against gays made on religious grounds are considered by many to be above censure. Must I temper my response lest I be the one to discriminate when telling those religious students they are hurtful and out of line? Freedom of speech? I have witnessed otherwise confident, smart gay students shrink with shame and fall silent when their bullying peers made demoralizing comments. I have seen a gay student who grew up in Mormon Utah attempt suicide because the impact of the worldview that excluded him was so profound he could no longer bear the pain.

What does all of that have to do with you? Let me tell you. Though you may not condone bullying or violence, you play a large role in fueling them with your condemnation, which is nothing but blatant discrimination. You preach it. You encourage it. You perpetuate it. You want to legislate it. You think you are doing what is right by following what you interpret to be God’s law. So now tell me this, how is that different from the Taliban’s social restraints on members of their society, especially gays and, of course, women?

(And shall we also speak about the threat to women’s rights in America? Perhaps another day.)

We must be careful when we consider the role of “God” in government. First of all, whose god are we talking about? Whose religion? A god of hate and vengeance, or a god of love, tolerance and compassion? Who is included or excluded? Who is ultimately hurt?

I say, SUPPORT RELIGION AND FAITH BUT NOT THE RELIGIOUS RIGHT’S WAR ON CIVIL RIGHTS.

Amen.

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Nick Mangano’s Bio

http://www.stonybrook.edu/sb/mfa/taf/index.shtml



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