Let the conversation begin

Pastor Jay Ahlemann of “The Church of the Valley” has treated us to another expensive, full page ad, this one with even more words in even tinier print. Clearly stung by the outraged response to his last ad, Ahlemann starts out by briefly acknowledging his “failure to properly document” his gross misrepresentations…and then fails to provide the promised “additional information.” The bulk of this new ad is devoted to a long, defiant commentary on the pastor’s motivations, theology, local politics, and some sort of longstanding personal feud.

We have learned, directly from Pastor Ahlemann, that he paid for these ads himself. If that is the case, I can only conclude that Ahlemann has been made a willing tool of groups like the American Family Association, because he can be counted on to repeat whatever outrageous lies they suggest to him. Whatever the personal reasons that are driving him, he is making himself available as a conduit to both national AGI propaganda mills and to local candidates who campaign by using the GLBT community as a wedge issue.

For example, in this ad Ahlemann repeats the lie told by Senate candidate Patricia Phillips, a lie that she has been directly confronted with but has not yet retracted. The language is lifted almost word for word from the Phillips campaign mailer:

“This candidate [Phillips’ primary opponent John Andrews] was praised by Equality Virginia [sic] for his efforts on the Loudoun County School Board on behalf of the homosexual agenda. Equality Virginia is a non-partisan lobbying, education, and support network for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and straight allied communities. Thankfully, Patricia Phillips beat out this pastor’s recommended candidate.”

“This pastor” refers to Ahlemann’s apparent nemesis Arlie Whitlow of The Community Church, location of the recent Republican convention. Ahlemann reportedly had nasty confrontations with both Whitlow and the family of incumbent Sheriff Steve Simpson, who lost the Republican nomination to Ahlemann’s son. What we are seeing is a picture of an individual so far outside the mainstream, and so alienating, that he can’t even get along with another far right anti-gay pastor.

This will interest IRS geeks:

“This is not about politics…this is about Biblical morality…abortion, homosexual practice, gay marriage…these are MORAL AND BIBLE ISSUES and not political issues as the liberal media would seek us to believe!”

Ahlemann may have a different understanding of politics if he believes that his actions – urging readers to call their Senators about specific legislation, presenting church “awards” to candidates for public office, and distributing Republican delegate forms at a church service – are about Biblical morality and not politics.

And this statement is sure to raise some eyebrows: “The gospel of Jesus Christ has ALWAYS been offensive.” This may well be true, but offensive to whom? Not to people who are targeted and dehumanized by religious authorities, but to those people who claim that authority for themselves, and who make idols of arcane phrases and old cultural traditions that have been shown to contradict reality. In another time, Pastor Ahlemann might have been placing the equivalent of these full page ads, “standing alone” in demanding that Galileo be put to death for heresy – but as it turns out, the Christian faith somehow survived Galileo being right. The same will be true with regard to the reality of sexual orientation and gender identity.

We are very open to having a conversation about Pharisees (who were all about “a movement for Righteousness,” after all), “naming what real sins are,” and why it would be that, in some churches, continuing to bear false witness is not one of them.

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