Friday, January 06, 2006

Hypocrisy lovers, rejoice!

When I was a young Southern Baptist, I was told there was no greater sin than homosexuality. The fire-breathing pastors never parsed: I was going to Hell (more on that later).

But maybe I misunderstood them. If I only I had remained a closeted queer, I too could be leading thousands of people, and driving a luxury automobile, just like Tulsa pastor Lonnie Latham.

Latham, an executive committee member with the ultra-conservative Southern Baptist Convention, was booked into Oklahoma County Jail Tuesday night on a misdemeanor charge of offering to engage in an act of lewdness, police Capt. Jeffrey Becker said. Latham was released on $500 bail Wednesday afternoon.

Pastor Lonnie, who has spoken out against homosexuality, asked the officer to join him in his hotel room for oral sex. Latham was arrested and his 2005 Mercedes automobile was impounded, Becker said.

(Okay, the oral sex might grab your attention, but I'm equally bothered by the pastor's automobile. What in the hell is a preacher doing driving that kind of car? But Jesus did it ...)

Now back to the sexy stuff. Latham, of course, claims he was set up: "I was in the area pastoring to police." Interesting how he knew who he was supposed to be "witnessing" to, since the police were undercover.

The arrest took place in the parking lot of the Habana Inn, which is in an area where the public has complained about male prostitutes flagging down cars, Becker said. Thus the sting operation.

The lewdness charge carries a penalty of up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine.

Considering his denomination, it's no surprise Latham has been a vocal opponent of same-sex marriage (and what gay person wouldn't want to have their nuptials in the O.K.C.?) and pushed a Southern Baptist Convention directive urging its 42,000 churches to befriend gays and lesbians and try to convince them that they can become heterosexual "if they accept Jesus Christ as their savior and reject their 'sinful, destructive lifestyle."

Looks like Exodus indoctrination for you, Pastor Lonnie.

I can't help but relish in this news, considering my youth was mired in self-loathing, almost to a comical extent. Evangelicals believe that when the world ends, Christians will ascend into Heaven, while those left behind will have to endure locusts and disease and the evil whims of the Antichrist (Pat Robertson, perhaps?)

Pretty scary stuff, particularly when delivered by a fat, red-faced man (with matching toupee) fond of telling everyone they were headed for an eternity in a lake of fire. Since I was under the impression my fantasies about my Little League teammates in their undies was an abomination, I figured I wouldn't be included in "the Rapture."

Anyway, at age 11 or 12, I was down in Florida with my parents at a rented beach house. For whatever reason, they had disappeared into a basement in the rental (an area of the house I didn't know existed). I called for them, but got no response. Five minutes passed; no mom, no dad, big problem.

The sun was setting, and the bright orange sky never appeared more ominous.

After my search for my parents turned up nothing, I snapped. They had gone to heaven, I assumed, leaving me behind to battle the approaching giant insects. It was my first, and only, mental breakdown; I ran around the outside of the house, screaming "Mommy, Daddy!" for what seemed like an hour.

The neighbors all came out, unsure how to react to the crazed kid. Finally, my parents emerged, but I couldn't tell them I didn't think I was going to heaven with them. I made up some sort of lie about thinking they had been murdered or abducted. Seeking to comfort their little boy, my parents took me to see "Cannonball Run II," and all was soon forgotten.

At least they forgot.

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