News

Church bulletin: It’s okay to be a Grinch

There’s just a few more weeks left in 2022. The end of the year and holidays always puts me in a reflective mood. Today happens to be the day before my seventh wedding anniversary. This op-ed about my wedding night is what really kicked off all my yelling online about purity culture, Christian nationalism and sex education.

I was reluctant to write the op-ed, but at the encouragement of my colleagues, I did it. To this day, it’s the scariest piece of journalism I’ve ever written. I’m not sure anything else will scare me more. Much to my surprise, folks responded with so much love and empathy. I truly didn’t know so many people were wrestling with purity culture like I was. It proved I was indeed not alone in my fear and confusion. And dear reader, you’re not alone either <3

Cheers to my husband, Ty, for growing and evolving with me. I love you.

Enough about me. Let’s get to the news. This week we’re talking more about the drag of drag and a Georgia lawmaker who wants the state to pay for unwanted pregnancies with fresh reporting from Reckon reproductive justice reporter Becca Andrews. We’re also talking about megachurch pastor Matt Chandler’s return to the pulpit and more news about the Supreme Court’s opinions on “religious freedom.”

If you’ve got any hot takes on the holiday blues or any stories you’d like to get the Reckon take on, send me an email at abeahm@reckonmedia.com. Let’s get into it:

Drag queen panic: How a homophobia-fueled disinformation campaign nearly canceled one city’s Pride celebration

Outside the Carl Perkins Civic Center on a warm October day in Jackson, Tenn., clusters of armed police officers stood watch around the building. Before them, bright rainbow flags shimmied in the breeze.

For the small West Tennessee city, this scene was unusual. The civic center is a sprawling beige-and-brown building, accentuated with floor-to-ceiling windows and orbed light fixtures. It sits in a curve of the 45 Bypass, downtown, and bears the name of the rockabilly superstar around whom a local mythos has developed. It’s the site of concerts, theater productions, ballets, charity functions—all fairly innocuous events. On this night, it was hosting a drag show for the city’s third annual Pride celebration. The organizers, however, never intended for Pride to be held in a private space. Doing so went against their ultimate vision for Pride as a celebration open to anyone and everyone. It forced them to hide, when openness was the point.

Over the last several years, it has felt as if Jackson has been turning a bit of a corner—perhaps along with even more conservative parts of the United States broadly. To be sure, it is still not easy to be anything other than cisgender and heterosexual in the region (and, let’s face it, in America). But more and more young people have felt able to come out in their communities, and overall, LGBTQ+ acceptance has been on the rise nationally.

Of course, progress almost always begets retaliation.

The backlash has not been limited to Jackson. Far from it. A recent report from GLAAD researchers analyzed news reports from all across the country and found that in 2022, there have been at least 124 incidents—protests, threats, acts of violence—that specifically targeted drag events. Of the 50 states, only South Dakota, Rhode Island, West Virginia and Washington, D.C., reported no such incidents, though, as GLAAD says, “it is possible that incidents did occur in those areas but they did not receive media coverage.”

Read more on reckon.news.

‘Pro-life’ hypocrisy: This lawmaker wants Georgia to pay for unwanted pregnancies

Dar’shun Kendrick, a Black lawmaker in the Georgia statehouse, is calling out her state out on what she calls its “pro-life” hypocrisy.

Kendrick recently filed a bill dubbed the Georgia Pro-Birth Accountability Act, essentially making the state financially responsible for all pregnancies in which abortion care was desired, but unattainable because of Georgia’s six-week ban. Pregnant people would be compensated by the state for the full spectrum of medical care during and after pregnancy.

The state would also be on the hook for burial expenses, should a pregnant person die in childbirth, as well as any disability that results from the pregnancy. As for expenses postpartum, the state would be expected to pay for the child’s expenses through the age of 18, including funds to be set aside for college.

Is this bill mostly symbolic? Yes. Is it worthy, searing social commentary? Also yes.

“If we want to say we are a pro-life state, then we need to put our money where our mouth is, that means childcare, that means the mother’s expenses. That means helping raise the child from birth to age 18 and not just caring about the nine months that they’re in the womb,” Kendrick told Capitol Beat News Service. “We’ll see where the priorities lie, because if we do have a surplus, if we continue to have one, there’s no reason that we can’t fund this.”

Read more on reckon.news.

Disgraced megachurch pastor Matt Chandler welcomed back with standing ovation

Embattled megachurch pastor Matt Chandler was enthusiastically welcomed back to the pulpit with a standing ovation Sunday morning after a three-month hiatus. Chandler stopped preaching at the church in August after he admitted to having an “inappropriate relationship” with a woman over social media.

IntoAccount, the advocacy organization who provides services to #ChurchToo sexual assault survivors said it was “a master class for all churches everywhere on how not to handle a situation like this,” on Twitter Monday morning.

“The Village Church did almost everything wrong here. No transparency re: the infractions Chandler committed? No transparency re: the church’s investigation? Ill-defined & nebulous “restoration” process? Right down to a standing ovation for accused pastor,” the tweet thread continued.

Chandler, 48, has been the head pastor of the Village Church for about 20 years. The church now attracts about 4,500 weekly attendees to its campus in Flower Mound, Texas. The church is part of the disgraced Southern Baptist Convention, which is under investigation by the Department of Justice over its mishandling of sexual abuse cases in their churches.

Chandler tearfully told his congregation in August he had an “inappropriate relationship” with a woman online who was not his wife. This confession was also met with an ovation from his congregation. Neither the church nor Chandler explained what happened in the “relationship,” but Chandler said the relationship was “romantic or sexual” but “unguarded and unwise,” and included “coarse and foolish joking that’s unbefitting of someone in my position.”

Read more on reckon.news.

Supreme Court expected to side with another Christian business owner in gay wedding website case

Yet another Christian business owner wants the right to legally discriminate against LGBTQ people who want to get married. The case, 303 Creative v. Elenis, asks if Colorado’s anti-discrimination law violates the First Amendment by compelling an artist to speak or stay silent on an issue.

The owner of the business, web designer Lorie Smith, said requiring her to create websites for same-sex weddings would violate her right to freedom of speech. Colorado law prevents businesses from discriminating against LGBTQ people.

At the oral argument, Justice Sonia Sotomayor asserted that a ruling for Smith would be the first time the Supreme Court had ruled that “commercial businesses could refuse to serve a customer based on race, sex, religion, or sexual orientation.” Chief Justice John Roberts countered, saying the Supreme Court has never approved efforts to compel speech that is contrary to the speaker’s belief. All six conservative colleagues signaled that they were likely to rule in favor of Smith, SCOTUSblog reported.

The decision is expected sometime next year.

It’s okay to be a Grinch

The holiday season is a time of reflection and gathering...sometimes with people you don’t care to see. If you find yourself saying “bah, humbug!” don’t beat yourself up. (If you’re a regular Bulletin reader, I’m sure you’re well-acquainted with shaming yourself for your feelings).

Take a look at this Psychology Today article about hating the holidays. (There’s no need to be ashamed of your holiday hate, trust me). The After Purity Project’s Sara Moslener wrote a newsletter this week reflecting on seasonal depression.

If you’re feeling the holiday blues, I’d love to hear how you’re dealing with that. Do you have any alternate holiday traditions you enjoy? Do you prefer to go goblin mode all holiday season? (No shame in that either).

Take care of yourself and guard your peace this holiday season.

Anna Beahm

Anna Beahm | abeahm@reckonmedia.com

I report on the intersection of religion and sexuality in America. Follow me on Twitter @_AnnaBeahm

The Reckon Report.
Sign up to receive the Reckon Report newsletter in your inbox every Tuesday.