In recent days, we've dealt with headier topics here (though no less incorrect) than one usually gets when responding to religious claims of one sort or another. But it's been a long time since we've let our hair down, so to speak, and just smacked around some village idiots. So, in the spirit of mean-spirited fun, let us observe the recent inanities from Brannon Howse.
Howse is the big cheese over at the beyond-right-wing house of delusion known as the Christian Worldview Network. I get their e-newsletters, and trust me, a more delirious exercise in concatenated crazy you will not find outside Arkham Asylum. It's Christianity stripped down to its ugliest, basest form: ignorance, fear, and paranoia ooze from its every pixel.
Recently, Howse wrapped up a nationwide church tour performing what he called "Code Blue Rallies," in which he and a group of guest speakers basically got up behind a pulpit to display their tenuous grasp of reality in living color for all to see. The usual wackalunacy was trotted out: young-earth creationism, liberal bashing, you name it. If it's on the McDonald's menu of fundagelical stupidity, Howse served it up and super-sized it at his rallies.
One of these, at Birchman Baptist Church in Fort Worth (Howse skipped that liberal cesspit Austin), was attended by newspaper columnist Bud Kennedy, who wrote a mildly snarky and generally bemused piece on the surreal experience for the Star-Telegram.
Howse's response to this was to go into full-on Christian persecution mode, whining on the radio show Crosstalk about how Kennedy's little column was an especially egregious example of the "liberal media and their attempt to characterize and marginalize Christians." Howse is mindful of the fact the Christian Worldview Network audience is made up of the sort of knuckleheads who move their lips when they read, and to whom the very word "liberal" is like Tard Kryptonite. So all he has to do is throw the L-word out, and he knows his audience's reactionary prejudices will do the rest. Later, naturally, he decries the way the "liberal media" unfairly tries to portray Christians as fringe kooks by "taking their words out of context" and using buzzwords to play on anti-Christian prejudices. Gee, hypocrisy from a fundie? What will they think of next?
The comedy begins even before you play the radio show. In the CWN's e-newsletter plugging this episode, Howse claims that Kennedy "slipped into" the rally you know, like a commie spy or something. What he doesn't mention is the fact these rallies were open to the public free of charge. Now, who needs to "slip into" a free, public, widely advertised event? I suspect Kennedy just, you know, walked through the frackin' front door of the church like every other rube who went to that stupid thing. But Howse needs to give the impression Kennedy is a shady guy in general, so as to shore up his listeners' fear of teh libruls. It may seem a trivially funny little detail, but when you consider how Howse spends his show taking almost every word of Kennedy's column apart looking for distortions to be indignant over, it really underscores what a two-faced little prat Howse is, y'know?
Now keep something in mind: Kennedy's article takes all of a minute and a half to read. Howse, in response, whines and snivels for a full 20 minutes on his radio show about how horribly Kennedy trashed him, and then he takes calls. (By the way, if you ever entertained the idea that fundamentalists can't possibly be as stupid as they seem, you need to listen to a Christian radio show. Nowhere else will you hear scientific illiteracy and anti-intellectualism paraded as proudly, except perhaps at a "Code Blue Rally".)
Kennedy certainly wasn't kind, but the piece was hardly the vitriolic trashing Howse wants us to think it is. (Really, Brannon, if you want "mean-spirited", hang out here for a week. We'll put some piss in your peaches and cream, and no mistake!) Mostly, it was just making fun. Furthermore, Kennedy does not, anywhere in the article, "go after" Birchman or its pastor, Bob Pearle, for sponsoring the event, as Howse claims. Indeed, Kennedy quotes Pearle as being rather surprised at the contents of Howse's presentation, and trying to distance himself from some of its dumber content. Howse puts Pearle on the show as a phone-in guest so that Pearle can backpedal from some of his statements to Kennedy as quoted in the article.
What follows is a hilarious back-and-forth in which Howse and Pearle essentially give each other emergency hugs to reassure themselves both of their victimhood and the fact that these evil liberal newspapers that keep "blindsiding" them and "bashing Christians" are doomed. They gloat a bit about how the Star-Telegram is facing cutbacks and losing sales. It's a claim not confirmed, of course, but assuming it's entirely true, I'd suspect the reason for the paper's recent hard times is less due to their supposed Christian-bashing (just how many editorials in the last year, I wonder, were explicitly designed to mock religion?) than to the same economic crises plaguing, oh, the entire globe. A legacy bequeathed us, by the way, by a conservative Christian president and his policies.
Moreover, what's funny about Howse's whinefest is the way Howse implies that anyone criticizing him is criticizing all Christians and all Christianity. He, Howse, is Christianity, he seems to want us to think. Howse turns anal-retention into an art form as he deconstructs Kennedy's trifling little column sentence-by-sentence, pouncing on even the tiniest point as an example of Kennedy's sinister Christian-hating ways. Of the passage where Kennedy notes, "Howse has also openly criticized California Pastor Rick Warren," Howse huffs and puffs in practiced indignation. Did I say a word about Rick Warren that whole evening? he pointedly demands. Maybe not, Brannon, but Kennedy didn't specify that, only that you have attacked Warren before. (Not something I'd disagree with, but your brand of freeze-dried heat-and-serve moronity is no better.) I know, I get your e-newsletters, and I've seen the anti-Warren headlines.
But mainly, all one can say in response to Howse's show is, "Dude, get over yourself." In Howse's mind, even the slightest criticism equates to intimidation and a desire to silence. If even the tiniest and most insignificant little column like this can get your knickers in a twist, and become the kind of thing you need to blow up into some kind of pretend national scandal, claiming that it's an attempt to "silence and intimidate" Christians everywhere when all it does is poke fun at your stupid rally, then frankly, you have serious self-importance issues to deal with. Again, the strains of Todd Rundgren's "God Said" come back to me: "Just get over, get over, get over, get over yourself..."
Howse, who won't be satisfied until blood is spilled, apparently (and that's exactly the kind of metaphor his little mind would take 100% literally), gave his listeners both Kennedy's email and his editors'. I'll give them to you too, so you can drop them a line. Kennedy, to tell him thanks for the laughs, and to keep it up. And the editors', so you can tell him how good you think Kennedy is.
Publisher Gary Wortel: firstname.lastname@example.org
Executive editor Jim Witt: email@example.com
Editorial director Paul Harral: firstname.lastname@example.org