God Hates Fags
The Rhetorics of Religious Violence
Publication Year: 2006
2007 Choice Outstanding Academic Title
At the funeral of Matthew Shepard—the young Wyoming man brutally murdered for being gay—the Reverend Fred Phelps led his parishioners in protest, displaying signs with slogans like “Matt Shepard rots in Hell,” “Fags Die God Laughs,” and “God Hates Fags.” In counter-protest, activists launched an “angel action,” dressing in angel costumes, with seven-foot high wings, and creating a visible barrier so one would not have to see the hateful signs.
Though long thought of as one of the most virulently anti-gay genres of contemporary American politics and culture, in God Hates Fags, Michael Cobb maintains that religious discourses have curiously figured as the most potent and pervasive forms of queer expression and activism throughout the twentieth century. Cobb focuses on how queers have assumed religious rhetoric strategically to respond to the violence done against them, alternating close readings of writings by James Baldwin, Tennessee Williams, Jean Toomer, Dorothy Allison, and Stephen Crane with critical legal and political analyses of Supreme Court Cases and anti-gay legislation. He also pays deep attention to the political strategies, public declarations, websites, interviews, and other media made by key religious right organizations that have mounted the most successful regulations and condemnations of homosexuality.
Published by: NYU Press
Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
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In 1992, my hometown of Colorado Springs, which had always been conservative, had suddenly become hateful. This book is my belated attempt to come to grips with that animosity. It could have been written only after a tour of brilliant places and people, who’ve taught me the value of creative, critical thinking. In Maine, Chicago, Ithaca, Haverford, and Toronto, many...
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Early in 2001, a group of parishioners from Kansas’s Westboro Baptist Church, led by Reverend Fred Phelps, descended upon Fort Collins, Colorado. They were protesting Colorado State University’s official response to the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity and the Alpha Chi Omega sorority’s 1998 homecoming float. This float had gained notoriety primarily for the not-sosubtle...
1. The Language of National Security: A Queer Theory of Religious Language
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The conservative, Christian speech against queers patrols American citizens. It achieves its force, in part, because religious language is thought to be a secure form of language. Its semantic security reveals something unique about religious rhetoric, at least in the United States: there’s something about Western religious language—mostly white Anglo Protestant...
2. James Baldwin and His Queer, Religious Words
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James Baldwin understood that the sovereign power of religious words could still be a powerful form of minority complaint. I focus on the example of Baldwin because his writing is iconic for both race and queer politics.1 We should consider how, as a writer, he was immersed in the complicated relations between queerness, blackness, and religious rhetoric, but...
3. Like a Prayer
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James Baldwin was not the first writer of queer and African American experience to use the rhetorical race feelings made possible by religious hate speech. So in this chapter, I want to give Baldwin a history. I start with Jean Toomer and his Cane, published in 1923. Throughout the last section of Toomer’s book—and with much of...
4. Rights as Wrongs
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Baldwin, Toomer, Crane, and Williams are perhaps a strange collection of writers to be considering some of the predecessors and practitioners of strategic political manipulations of the religious hate speech I describe in this book. But by taking us through a tour of these writers, I wanted to emphasize the necessity of thinking about the figurative in contemporary...
ConclusionOur Aberrant Future
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Although critics and activists discovered that they could use the hateful Christian rhetoric to make queers “like race,” the religious right has been quick to notice as much.2 They’ve figured out that their “special rights” campaigns backfire—that accusations of hate and homophobia have enabled queers to make a claim that they are a targeted minority, much like a...
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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Page Count: 208
Publication Year: 2006