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‘Oddly fundamentalist’

Pride Month and the shrinking public space for dissent

Taylor Swift performing at the Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, Calif., on June 1 Associated Press/Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision

‘Oddly fundamentalist’

Amid Pride Month’s rainbow-saturated frenzy, Taylor Swift released a pro-LGBT anthem this week whose title and message seems misdirected at Christians: “You Need to Calm Down.”

Swift’s song and Pride Month’s massive-scale push for LGBT orthodoxy are hardly calming. For those who espouse Biblical beliefs about marriage and sexuality, there is no room left in the entertainment industry or public sphere for even quiet adherence.

“Sunshine on the street at the parade / You would rather be in the dark age. … You’re being too loud. … You need to just stop,” Swift sings while strutting through a glitzy trailer park amid LGBT celebrities, same-sex weddings, and a small band of toothless yokels with misspelled signs condemning homosexuality. Swift name-checks the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, and her video links to a petition entreating the U.S. Senate to pass the Equality Act, which could severely limit religious freedom by designating sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes.

LGBT virtue-signaling has permeated pop culture this month, designated as Pride Month in commemoration of the June 1969 confrontation between police and LGBT patrons at the Stonewall Inn in New York City. Even Target, Bank of America, and Pantene have advertised with rainbows, transgender models, and same-sex kisses.

Meanwhile, people with Biblical viewpoints on sexuality are being blacklisted. Novelist Nicholas Sparks, famous for The Notebook and more than a dozen heartstring-tugging stories, found this out after the Daily Beast published emails last week that he wrote in 2013 saying a former headmaster at the private Christian school Sparks established in North Carolina was promoting “an agenda that strives to make homosexuality open and accepted.”

Facing possible career-ending backlash, the author apologized on Monday, noting he is an “unequivocal supporter” of same-sex marriage, gay adoption, and equal employment. “As a writer, I should have understood the power and enduring nature of my words,” Sparks said.

Hollywood once preached tolerance and open-mindedness, said Brett McCracken, senior editor for arts and culture at The Gospel Coalition. Now, it has become “oddly fundamentalist” on LGBT acceptance, he told me. “There is this constant witch hunt, a search for evidence of guilt even by association.”

In February, lesbian actress Ellen Page called out actor Chris Pratt, a professing Christian, for attending a church that is “infamously anti-LGBTQ.” She tweeted, “Being anti LGBTQ is wrong, there aren’t two sides.” Pratt defended his congregation, Zoe Church in Los Angeles, saying the members “open their doors to everyone.” (The church’s stance on sexuality is unclear.) Pratt told his 26 million Instagram followers that “no church defines me or my life” and he believes “everyone is entitled to love who they want free from the judgment of their fellow man.”

So far, popular house-flipping duo and former HGTV Fixer Upper stars Chip and Joanna Gaines have avoided blacklisting despite a 2016 BuzzFeed story that revealed the couple attends a congregation whose pastor affirms Biblical beliefs about marriage and sexuality. In a blog post more than two years ago, Chip Gaines indirectly addressed the criticism, calling for “a world that knows how to lovingly disagree.”

McCracken told me this kind of world is not achieved by boycotting every business that affirms sexuality that contradicts Biblical teaching. He still patronizes a local doughnut shop that displays a rainbow flag and is selling a rainbow-colored doughnut this month: “I may disagree, but that doesn’t stop me from acknowledging they make an amazing doughnut. We should avoid politicizing everything.”

Still, McCracken advises Christians, especially parents, to avoid consuming pop songs, television shows, and movies infused with LGBT propaganda. Even children’s content is increasingly laden: In honor of Pride Month, the Discovery Family cartoon series My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic introduced a same-sex couple (of horses) on the show for the first time. In May, the PBS animated children’s series Arthur depicted the same-sex wedding of Arthur’s teacher, Mr. Ratburn.

“Soon, there’s not going to be a middle ground,” McCracken said. “I hope there are people within the industry … with courage to stand on their convictions when the pressure comes.”

Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., on June 19, 2015

Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., on June 19, 2015 Associated Press/Photo by Stephen B. Morton (file)

A story of love

The story of how an African American Christian community responded in love to a white supremacist killer earned rave reviews and numerous celebrity endorsements this week. Emanuel documents the June 2015 mass shooting and its aftermath at an African Methodist Episcopal church of the same name in Charleston, S.C. Two days after the shooting, family members of the nine people who died in the massacre addressed shooter Dylann Roof in court and offered him forgiveness.

Produced by NBA superstar Stephen Curry and actress Viola Davis, Emanuel appeared in theaters for just two nights this week: Tuesday, the four-year anniversary of the shooting, and Thursday, the day Americans celebrated Juneteenth, the anniversary of the end of slavery in the United States.

Reviewers are awed at the film’s focus on forgiveness in an age of social conflict.

“Perhaps more than anything … it allows us to reflect on our own thoughts and struggles with forgiveness,” reviewer David Whiting wrote in the Orange County Register.

Tamryn Spruill of USA Today’s Warriors Wire also noted the film offered more than a passive viewing experience. “The documentary can be a seed of reconciliation if viewers choose to receive it as such for Emanuel isn’t just a recounting of past events,” she wrote. “It also is a call to action for the present and future.”

Celebrities inspired by the documentary bought out theaters across the country and opened them for free screenings. The entertainment news site Deadline published a list of two dozen locations from New York to Los Angeles, with Houston, Detroit, and more in between, where entertainers such as Justin Timberlake, Mahershala Ali, and Halle Berry bought up tickets for Emanuel.

The film is expected to become available via streaming or on DVD in the future, and the Emanuel Facebook page told fans on Thursday to keep an eye on the film’s website and social media pages for upcoming announcements. —Lynde Langdon

Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., on June 19, 2015

Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., on June 19, 2015 Associated Press/Photo by Stephen B. Morton (file)

Change the channel

Get ready for a summer TV event on CBS that promises to be really just the worst. On Love Island, based on a popular British reality series, a dozen or so strangers live in a villa on Fiji and hook up constantly for a month. Entertainment Weekly described the show this way: “These newly formed couples compete together in bawdy games and challenges and sleep in the same bed. Their overall goal is to remain part of a committed couple as tempting new singles are gradually added to the villa, islanders are given opportunities to break up and change partners, and fans vote out couples who aren’t considered worthy.”

This dumpster fire will air five nights a week from July 9 to Aug. 7, so channel surfers beware. If the show proves as popular in the United States as it was in the U.K., it sadly will dominate the airwaves and social media for the rest of the summer. —L.L.


Selena Gomez is the latest celebrity to don a $380 necklace with a “1973” charm commemorating the year the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision led to abortion becoming legal in the United States. Sophie Ratner Jewelry makes the necklace and gives 30 percent of the proceeds it earns to the pro-abortion group Physicians for Reproductive Health. Live Action has catalogued some of the atrocities of abortionists affiliated with the organization. —L.L.

Mary Jackson

Mary is a book reviewer and senior writer for WORLD. She is a World Journalism Institute and Greenville University graduate who previously worked for the Lansing (Mich.) State Journal. Mary resides with her family in the San Francisco Bay area.



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