Saturday, February 10, 2007

When at Fault--Always Blame Others. So Sayeth the Lord

Today I came across a tragic story out of Pittsburgh that I feel compelled to address.

It seems that last November Rev. Brent Dugan, pastor of Community Presbyterian Church of Ben Avon committed suicide in a motel room because of an upcoming investigative report from KDKA-TV, a local television station. The report was supposed to expose "illicit, possibly illegal, activity by a local minister, activities which at the very least violated the rules of his denomination." The behavior to be exposed, was the pastor's having been involved in a homosexual relationship for the preceding four years.

This story strikes at several issues that I have somewhat strong opinions about, but didn't show up on my radar until I found a story at Fox News this morning about the aftermath of the pastor's suicide. According to the story (that Fox mislabeled--more on this later), a coalition of religious leaders in Pittsburgh has lodged a complaint with the FCC saying that KDKA's news department had "'sentenced' Dugan before the presbytery had a chance to investigate and deal with his behavior."

All of reports and opinions I have seen about this chain of events, zero in on the KDKA's reporter's actions, which, admittedly were out of line, but by no means something new or odd.

By and large, the American news media had become a source of entertainment. Gone are the Murrow's and Cronkite's of decades past. Information-based news has been largely replaced by inaccuracy, sensationalism, and entertainment news designed to improve ratings and draw advertisers. Fox News, where I found the article, is the most notorious proof of this, but other news agencies are guilty too.

Fox labeled the story as "News Report on Porn Led to Priest's Suicide, Group Alleges in FCC Complaint." The report had nothing to do with "porn." The story was about Rev. Dugan's being secretly homosexual, and no where in the AP report that Fox used does it say so. Clearly the headline was designed to grab the attention of Fox News' largest demographic--right-wing conservatives, and had nothing to do with journalistic accuracy.

The top two headlines this morning on CNN's website were about the death of Anna Nicole Smith and the paternity fight over her baby. Clearly, for the folks at CNN, the death, and sex-life of a Playboy centerfold/Trim Spa spokesperson, take precedence over stories lower on the "Top Stories" list such as those about unethical and illegal behavior by the vice-presidential staff, the situation of the war in Iraq, and the tragic death of six children in a house fire in Kentucky.

It's no wonder more registered American voters vote for American Idol contestants than presidents. As Jefferson warned, ignorance is the biggest enemy of Democracy.

Investigative reporting can be a good thing. Investigative reporters exposed the Watergate scandal, the actions that led to the ongoing Libby trial mentioned above, the Abu Ghraib abuses, and many other useful informative stories, but the story at issue here is not one of them. Instead it falls more in the category of Anna Nicole Smith's love-child.

I am not saying that exposing a religious leader's hypocrisy is a bad thing, but that is not what appears to have happened here. Unlike sleazeballs like Ted Haggard, or Jimmy Swaggart, Rev. Dugan was not simply "caught:" he was, it appears, set-up. It seems that his lover arranged a meeting with him, and set it up so that the news cameras were there.

But, even being "set-up" is not the problem, because unlike douche bags like Haggard, Swaggart, or even my buddy Don Spitz, Rev. Dugan was not (that I can find) actively spreading hate, intolerance, and general stupidity, in fact, his denomination, Presbyterian, is one of the more compassionate Christian denominations in this country having taken the lead in compassion toward, acceptance of, and even ordination of homosexuals, and women.

My problem with this series of events revolves not around the hypocrisy of the victim of the story, or even the story itself, but rather what it says about Rev. Dugan's community, and American society.

The issue here is not hypocrisy, like with Haggard, and Swaggart, but rather society's response to this man's sex-life. The basis for the story wasn't an anti-gay homophobe turning out to be gay, it was a community leader's being gay period. In a church where being gay is not demonized, a pastor had to hide his being gay. Why?

Obviously Rev. Dugan felt that his life would be ruined when his "faithful" congregation, fellow religious leaders, and the rest of the community found out that he was gay. He knew that the very people who are publicly mourning him now, would have driven his ass out of town, and publicly condemned him as evil. Herein we see the true hypocrisy.

Religious leaders in Pittsburgh, and members of Rev. Dugan's congregation have publicly blamed the news report for Dugan's suicide. But, as wrong as the report was, it wasn't the prospect of being on television that drove Rev. Dugan to suicide: it was the bigotry of the people casting blame. He knew what would happen to him, so he, like so many gays who face this, saw no way out and ended his own life.

The people so actively engaged in placing blame for this know in their hearts where the blame truly lies, and need only do one thing to see who is really to blame.

All they need to do is look in the mirror.

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Michelle said...

Maybe it was Satan, I hear he gets up to a lot of mischief.

R Nicolas said...

No, Satan and I were on a fishing trip in Bermuda at the time, so he has an Alibi this time. But, the self-righteous homophobes were all at home and have no alibi.

Michelle said...

oh it was evolution then, that guy is always around isn't he?

R Nicolas said...

well I guess St. Evo could have been involved, but only in the sense that he hasn't allowed the evolution of some peoples brains beyond that of a cucumber snail.

Dan Marvin said...

I will prove there is a God. If you see a building you know there was a builder and if you see a painting then you know there is a painter and if you see all of creation then you know in your heart that there is a Creator.

R Nicolas said...

once again dan--faulty logic.

I can see the builder building, and the painter painting, but if the building or painting are there before I see them constructed I can still trust established and proven methods of building and painting to establish the way they came to be.

Such is the same with creation. Genetics, biology, physics, geology, chemistry, astro-physics, literary-criticism, world history, and many many other established and provable fields of study point to the lack of a need for a supernatural explanation for anything, much less creation--therefore no creator needed.

There is more proof for the existence of Santa Claus than there is for a creator god.

Your turn.