Category Archives: Black & White & Other Colors

Guest Post & Warning: The Johnson Agenda Is In The House


My treasured buddy and wise F/friend John Calvi is just leaving Vermont with husband Marshall, for winter quarters in the Great (& Warm) Southwest. Before leaving, he sent out an urgent letter.

It was meant initially for LGBTQ folk, but has lots of implications for many more people who may be only weird or peculiar but not quite queer, like your humble blogger.

So I was gratified when he agreed to let me pass it on to some others, as a wake-up and a spur.

So here it is, followed by an initial followup on one of the main events he alludes to. The heading was:

It Just Got Worse, by John Calvi

I imagine many of us are feeling that there’s a noose around our necks and it’s tightening.  Is that right?  Are you feeling that?  Yes, the economy, the justice system, climate change, politics, health care bodily autonomy.  Is it any wonder there’s an air of crisis’ that stinks each day.
John Calvi, Quaker healer, author, and now elder

And for all my gay queer family, there is something increasing.  There are more people in power who want us back in the closet and our hard fought rights disappeared.  This is not rumor or panic or some nightmare.  This is now, today, unfolding, and well planned.

It will mean particular things for our family.  First off, our children are not safe. Custody, healthcare, education – you name it.  A wave is upon us.  It’s not just a feeling.
As laws call for us to be less than full citizens, those with feelings of deep hatred will have a freedom to express that hatred bringing more assaults and less justice, danger without choices.
Our work will be fought state by state until there are federal decisions closing the gap, all against popular desires.
Blogger’s note: This is John’s first book, an excellent resource for insight and encouragement for all sorts of readers in these tough times.

What to do?  Queer Friends know what this fighting looks like.  We’ve fought, non-violently, on many issues, some more personal than others.  All of our social justice work has been preparation.  Our inner lives of liberation and outward celebration are all preparation.

So, what do we know?  We know to grow support at home and at work.  We know what we are good at and to roll up our sleeves.  Burnout has been a great teacher as we worked in the rape crisis, prisons, AIDS, homelessness, etc, all the typical Quaker hangouts.  We know what hard work looks like and how deep, fast rest is best done in community.
I am old.  I’m so old I can remember a GAY BLOOD DRIVE with skinny queens fainting into the arms of dyke nurses with needles.  I’ve very little fight left in me.  I’ve seen our fight on the big stage – Marches on Washington, the AIDS Quilt unveiling, Pride Marches, surrounding the CDC, and the establishment of clinics for us and weddings galore.
John’s second book; more encouragement and insight; plus considerable humor.

I won’t be in the middle of anything anymore.  But I call on you now, my beloved community, my fragile and muscular family to feel those feelings deeply, take stock of what’s coming, and prepare.  Don’t let fear freeze you.  Don’t get quiet and hide.  Find your place in the whole mess and dig in.  We are going to save lives, some of them our own.

Please, start telling [others] what you are witnessing/feeling and how you are responding.  Please bring your worry to be shared and lifted.  Please let the honesty flow from our doubts up into the Light.
I hope you understand my meaning.  I want us to pull together in all the ways this can be expressed.
Thank you, John
[Note: More about John’s book, The Dance Between”, is here.
Rep. Mike Johnson, Speaker.

Now, as to what particularly “got worse” this past week. It’s a [very] long list, so we’ll focus on only one item here, namely the election of Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana as Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.

His selection vaulted Johnson from back bench obscurity to the front rank of the federal political scene. But he’s been in the House for six years, and has had a long public record prior to that, which many, yours truly, are scrambling to get familiar with. It’s a mind-boggling chore.
His political and moral outlooks are very far to the right, Christian Nationalist in all visible respects. That includes frenetic activity in promoting the overthrow the clean legitimate results of the 2020 presidential election, voting against aid to Ukraine, pursuing federal bans on abortion, calling for drastic cutbacks in social safety net programs to be the top GOP legislative priority, and  lots more.
Others are digging into much of that. Here we’ll concentrate on his record and stated goals regarding LGBTQ issues, not least because their ramifications ripple out to much larger segments of the population, but also because the specifics illuminate why our friend John Calvi is so disturbed.
But before that, though, a tip of the hat to cartoonist David Horsey for producing an image that vividly and tartly sums up volumes of research.
Johnson is described as having a very mild-mannered, inoffensive demeanor; but his opening words to the House as Speaker were not exactly modest. Indeed, he opened by delivering a message from God:
Those of us who watched or listened thought there was a roll call vote in the House. But Johnson knew better: the heavens had opened.

God raised him up: “I don’t believe there are any coincidences in a matter like this,” Johnson said. “I believe that scripture, the Bible, is very clear that God is the one that raises up those in authority. He raised up each of you. All of us. And I believe that God has allowed and ordained each and every one of us to be here at this specific moment. This is my belief. . . .”

He didn’t say much about the Divine instructions as to actual legislation. But his record on certain issues is very — one might say even say — extremely — evident; e.g., opposition to LGBTQ rights, especially same sex marriage.
His views on this were (and are) downright apocalyptic, and of long-standing.  Before running for office, Johnson spent eight years working fulltime for what is now called the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which is the big kahuna of anti-LGBT and antiabortion legal juggernauts. And he was no slacker, producing a blizzard of lawsuits and agitprop. Such as this February 2004 Op-ed in which he blasted moves in various states toward legalizing same-sex marriage:
That year Republicans were pushing back with numerous amendments aimed at inscribing hetero-monogamy into the scripture of state constitutions. Johnson was especially incensed by countermeasures taken by a certain local official:

San Francisco’s mayor [now Governor, Gavin Newsom] has engaged in outright anarchy by ignoring California’s existing prohibitions and issuing counterfeit marriage licenses to homosexuals. The Alliance Defense Fund has challenged him in court, and the gauntlet has been thrown [down] for a cataclysmic battle that will soon decide whether the sacred institutions of marriage and the traditional family are ultimately preserved or discarded by our increasingly secularized society. This is the big one, folks.

“Outright anarchy”? A “cataclysmic battle”? The “big one”? “Folks”?

Newsom’s marriage license stunt was clever, but it fizzled quick; hardly the big one at all. “Anarchy” was barely glimpsed. But Mike and his “folks” were not mollified:

Pro-family advocates are often asked these days, “Why should you care? Why is same-sex marriage a threat?”

The answer is simple: because we tamper with God’s created order at our peril. If activist judges can reject thousands of years of history and legitimize homosexual marriage, then transsexual and group “marriages” of every sort must logically follow. If you were shocked by the moral lapses at the Super Bowl you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. [Ed. note: this appears to be an allusion to singer Janet Jackson notorious “wardrobe malfunction” at the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show; if readers don’t remember that, they can look it up; it also left the sky unfallen.] Experts project that homosexual marriage is the dark harbinger of chaos and sexual anarchy that could doom even the strongest republic. [Ed. note: But which experts? Projecting how? Sorry; no data accompanied this forecast.]

Six months hence, in September 2004, facing the dire threat of the John Kerry presidential campaign, Johnson dug deep into the color palette for new shades of purple for his prose:

“The state and its citizens have a compelling interest in preserving the integrity of the marital union  . . . Loss of this status will de-emphasize the importance of traditional marriage to society, weaken it, and place our entire democratic system in jeopardy by eroding its foundation. . . . Homosexual relationships are inherently unnatural and, the studies clearly show, are ultimately harmful and costly for everyone.

Society cannot give its stamp of approval to such a dangerous lifestyle. If we change marriage for this tiny, modern minority, we will have to do it for every deviant group. . . .There will be no legal basis to deny a bisexual the right to marry a partner of each sex, or a person to marry his pet.

If everyone does what is right in his own eyes, chaos and sexual anarchy will result. And make no mistake, the extremists who seek to redefine marriage also want to deny you the right to object to immoral behavior. Our precious religious freedom hangs in the balance.”

Well, about the closest chaos and sexual anarchy got to Mike Johnson was after he left ADF in 2010, to become the Dean of a projected new law school at Louisiana College to be named after Paul Pressler, a judge and prominent leader of the conservative forces within the Southern Baptist convention.

But after two years of internal turmoil, the law school never got launched, and the college soon morphed into Louisiana Christian University. Further, Paul Pressler’s name fell from the project as he  became ensnared in multiple allegations and legal actions alleging that he had molested several young men in various church situations. (Then the Southern Baptist Convention itself was all but overwhelmed by a deluge of similar long-suppressed sex scandals, still unfolding.) Meantime, Johnson quietly moved on; this college stint is not mentioned in his official biography or Wikipedia page. (He’s now making good money on the side teaching at Liberty University, that monument to the late “Moral Majority” preacher Jerry Falwell Sr. (Though LU has also been smeared by the brush of chaos and sexual anarchy, including massive government fines for misconduct and deception.)

Perhaps worst of all, in 2015 same sex marriage was legalized.  Johnson was also elected to  the Louisiana legislature; the next year, in 2016, he won his seat in the House of Representatives.

Shortly after he took his Congressional seat, Johnson and his wife co-founded ONWARD CHRISTIAN COUNSELING SERVICES, which is managed by his wife Kelly. Its corporate charter includes a Statement of Faith which  makes much about Johnson as clear as could be:

Holy Scriptures. The Bible shall be the ultimate authority of the Company. Any conflicts between the Bible and any governing document shall be resolved in favor of the Bible. The Bible is the inerrant and inspired word of God, written through men inspired by the Holy Spirit, and contains God’s plan and will for Creation. The Bible is the ultimate authority concerning truth, morality, and the proper conduct of man. For the purposes of Company doctrine, practice, policy, and discipline the sole member [Kelly Johnson] shall be the interpretive authority on the Bible’s meaning and application.

Marriage and Sexuality. We believe the term “marriage” has only one meaning and that is marriage sanctioned by God which joins one man and one woman in a single, exclusive union, as delineated in Scripture. We believe that God intends sexual intimacy to only occur between a man and a woman who are married to each other. We believe that God has commanded that no intimate sexual activity be engaged in outside of a marriage between a man and a woman. We believe and the Bible teaches that any form of sexual immorality, such as adultery, fornication, homosexuality, bisexual conduct, bestiality, incest, pornography or any attempt to change one’s sex, or disagreement with one’s biological sex, is sinful and offensive to God.

More recently the couple has launched a podcast, “Truth Be Told.” A Louisiana evangelical paper quoted Mike about it thus:

“We have been working in ministry side by side and together for our whole marriage.” The couple, who are members of Cypress Baptist Church, Benton, discuss such topics as how America can be saved, why conservatism matters, what Christ followers must to do to preserve western civilization and the biblical basis for border security.

Well sure, it’s the age of multi-tasking, so why not save western civilization in one’s spare time, after running the House of Representatives, teaching the odd course at Liberty U  and securing the border? (Not to mention rescuing the rest of “Our precious religious freedom [that still] hangs in the balance.”)

For that matter, maybe he could also fit in some christian counseling with traumatized “folks” who survived the terrible gun massacre in  Maine. He had what he obviously felt was a comforting message down pat in a 2016 sermon at a church in Shreveport:

 “Do you remember [he said] in the late 60s we invented things like, no-fault divorce laws. We invented the sexual revolution. We invented radical feminism. We invented legalized abortion in 1973, where the state, the government sanctioned the killing of the unborn.

I mean, we know that we’re living in a completely amoral society. And people say, ‘How can a person go into their schoolhouse and open fire on their classmates?’ Because we’ve taught a whole generation — a couple of generations now— of Americans that there is no right and wrong, that it’s about the survival of the fittest, and you evolved from the primordial slime.”

That should work.  Mike Johnson is here and ready to repel all the dark harbingers of chaos and sexual anarchy that could doom even the strongest republic. To show his seriousness, his latest legislative initiative was in late October, the introduction of a federal version of Florida’s famous “Don’t Say Gay Act.”

So relax and drive on, Friend John Calvi.  After all, Johnson said it himself: I don’t believe there are any coincidences in a matter like this.


Freedom Schools Are Back! (Starting In Florida)

[NOTE: Freedom schools were a key element of 1960s civil rights activism in the deep South. Their important legacy is no longer only history, but is now being revived and reinvented, starting in Florida, as resistance to resurgent racism in education. What a great idea.]

Washington Post

After Florida restricts Black history, churches step up to teach it


By Brittany Shammas
 — September 24, 2023

Lynching memorial (detail)), Montgomery Alabama, Equal Justice Initiative (EJI).

MIAMI — They filed into the pews one after the other on a sweltering Wednesday night, clutching Bibles and notepads, ready to learn at church what they no longer trusted would be taught at school.

“BLACK HISTORY MATTERS” proclaimed television screens facing the several dozen men and women settling in at Friendship Missionary Baptist Church. An institution in the predominantly Black neighborhood of Liberty City,

Continue reading Freedom Schools Are Back! (Starting In Florida)

When Hanging Wasn’t Brutal Enough for Black Prisoners: Southern Whites Brought In “Old Sparky”

From Reading Religion:

The End of Public Execution

Race, Religion, and Punishment in the American South

By: Michael Ayers Trotti

266 Pages — $32.95

  • Published By: University of North Carolina Press

Michael Ayers Trotti’s The End of Public Execution: Race, Religion, and Punishment in the American South opens with a short transcription of a newspaper article about an Atlanta hanging. The report is about the 1891 execution of Frank Danforth, a Black man who had been convicted of the murder of his wife. The report mentions preachers saying prayers and singing, Danforth swaying to religious music, his repeated testimony to his belief in his own salvation, and white women who stood on a jailhouse fence to watch his execution. Trotti observes that the report describes Danforth’s execution as private because it was done behind jailhouse walls, even though hundreds of people were in attendance.

Continue reading When Hanging Wasn’t Brutal Enough for Black Prisoners: Southern Whites Brought In “Old Sparky”

Move Over, Ron de Book Banner —Leftie Censors Are Even Worse

[NOTE: There’s unfortunately too much truth in this report to ignore. One implication is left unaddressed: it points to the increasing importance of independent publishing (typified but not limited to Amazon), OUTSIDE the increasingly hidebound and oppressive “legacy” publishing industry. PS. This report, alas, applies as well to much of Quaker publishing.]

From The

The Book Banners on the Left

A substantial read: A major report warns that progressive activism is contributing to a chilly climate in publishing.

CATHY YOUNG — AUG 28, 2023

WHETHER THERE EXISTS in American culture a left-wing illiberalism that threatens freedom of thought and expression under the cover of social justice has been a subject of heated debate in the past decade. At a time when right-wing authoritarian populism is on the rise, many people have viewed warnings about illiberal progressivism as a distraction.

Continue reading Move Over, Ron de Book Banner —Leftie Censors Are Even Worse

A Weekend Read: The Atlanta Trials & Race

You Can’t Talk About Trump’s Georgia Case Without Talking About Racism

TIME Magazine — IDEAS
Janell Ross is the senior correspondent on race and identities for TIME.
Janell Ross, TIME Magazine

As the final bars of Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA” filled the room, former President Donald Trump took the stage in Windham, N.H. The audience, many of them white New Englanders and veterans, chanting “U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A” had to settle a bit before Trump could launch into a winding, military-themed speech at the August 8 campaign rally.

Continue reading A Weekend Read: The Atlanta Trials & Race