Letters for the week of March 10-16, 2004

A sound spanking for our "Lunatics" cover treatment; Fingertight isn't about "cute"; and more on gays and the Bible.

“The Lunatics Have Taken Over the Asylum,” Feature, 2/18

Nice story, dreadful headline
I am writing to complain about the recent headline that accompanied Susan Goldsmith’s story on John George Psychiatric Pavilion. The story was fair, balanced, and thoughtful, as it should have been, when considering such a serious and troubling subject as the problems afflicting our public psychiatric facilities. The headline, however, was not in keeping with her approach. It seemed to try to sensationalize the story and perhaps draw in readers looking for a sordid thrill. It discouraged readers with a legitimate interest in this topic, of which there are many. I felt it was insulting and unnecessary. Not only that, but the patients at John George are not lunatics; they are sick. It is quite crass to depict the series of unfortunate incidents there, including patient assaults, as the patients “taking over” — indeed, they do not benefit from this behavior.

I am glad that the Express tackles such important topics, and I appreciate the high standards of its reporters. Please do not sell your readers short with crass sell-the-paper headlines.
Rachael Kagan, director of communications, California Association of Public Hospitals, Oakland

Why demonize the mentally ill?
I agree with the points made in your article, but I found the cover art disturbing and offensive. The article was about hospital administrators ignoring safety concerns in psych units. But why was the cover a picture of a severely mentally ill woman with her face morphing into a skull? She was as much a victim as the murdered doctor in this case. Her future is as good as over. You would never have run a picture of a black man with his face morphing into a skull — you’d be accused of racism. But why is it okay to demonize a woman who has a severe mental illness over which she has no control? The cover was ill-conceived and you owe the mentally ill community of the Bay Area an apology.

Melissa Kirk, Berkeley

You should apologize
I have been a member of the mental health community for quite some time and have yet to be surprised by the lack of understanding from the general public as it relates to our severely mentally ill adults. I was shocked by the title line in Susan Goldsmith’s article about the county hospital. I believe you should consider an open apology to the large number of people who have family members who have been served by the county hospital. The clients served, and their families, truly deserve more respect and dignity than was afforded them in the selection of the title for the story. It really detracted from any sense of the story being a professional representation.

James Jordan, Clovis

Proud relative of a “lunatic”
I found your article an interesting account of the events that are going on at the asylum. In fact, it shed a bit of light on the whole matter. I must say, though, that I am appalled at the poor taste in headlines. I have a family member that is, according to your article, one of the “lunatics” and I am sure that you can appreciate my concern — perhaps just like calling a group of black people “niggers” or Jewish people “burned.” It’s just wrong. I thank you for being much more responsible for maintaining journalistic integrity (uh, what’s that?) in your expression of your free speech and as a representative of the community of journalists (or people who contribute to that community).

Rory Chandler, Oakland

Steeped in stereotypes
I was dismayed by the title on the cover of the Express dated February 18th. The words “lunatic” and “asylum” are steeped in stereotypes and stigma. This title is insensitive to those with chronic mental illness, their needs, and the limited services they receive from places like John George, after years of budget cuts. What were you thinking? Titles like these only deepen incorrect perceptions of those dealing with mental illness.

Why did you not consult the local Mental Health Association or National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) to understand how current budget cuts have placed people with chronic mental illness at risk in accessing mental health services? The title was misleading, mean-spirited, and inaccurate. It is Alameda County’s responsibility to have a safe working environment for its employees and the people they serve. I am disappointed in your lack of professional and journalistic integrity, in regards to this title.
Michael Weigand, Berkeley

Our cover treatment was indeed inappropriate. We sincerely regret our lapse of judgment.

Visual Art

Bring back art reviews
Whatever happened to the artist spotlights? There are so many East Bay talented artists from the earthy stylings of Mim Weisburd (MimArt.com) to the wild and scary Jim Henson-on-crack art of Nicolas Caesar (Chiller-Thriller.com). I’ve just noticed that there isn’t really a section for art anymore, it’s lumped in with culture. Is this a sign that there just isn’t a market anymore, or has the saturation of graphic artists made painters, sculptors, and mixed-media artists obsolete? Will we only find new talent in history books?

Brian Karas, Oakland

Actually, visual art coverage has not departed from the pages of the Express, but our former art writer has. Writers who are interested in filling this void should send a cover letter and three relevant writing samples to here or by postal mail to Stephen Buel, East Bay Express, 1335 Stanford Ave., Suite 100, Emeryville, CA 94608.

“Frenzied Frontman Olympics,” Down in Front, 2/4

Not just for chicks
I’m a longtime fan of Fingertight and I just recently read your article on them. I thought you had a lot of good points but had some small issues with some of your statements.

It just seemed like you categorized them under this “cute” label too much. The fact that Scott is awed over by women shouldn’t be something taken into account when covering as talented a band as Fingertight. I can assure you 100 percent they’d be willing to give up all of their looks as long as people continue listening to their music. You also said that 80 percent of the posts on their forum pages are about how people see him at the mall. I’m the second-highest poster on there and can assure you that is totally not the case. Maybe three people talked about that and if I remember correctly it was a GUY who was awestruck by seeing Scott.
Richard Johnson, Rancho Cucamonga

“Outing the Bible,” Feature, 2/11

Who am I to question God?
Don’t hastily dismiss what I have to say as just another homophobic, because I am a homosexual. I am who I am and need not seek anyone’s approval or justify my existence.

Within Mr. Gay’s article, I’ve noticed the omission of the gospel of James, Jesus Christ’s brother. For an understandable reason. This gospel substantiates the absolute fallacy of any contrived “evidence” or modern interpretation of Jesus’ teachings and lifestyle. Aside from Jesus’ disciples, who else than Jesus’ immediate family could possibly personally know, accept, attest, and affirm the divine person and purpose of their son and brother Jesus the Messiah? In his gospel James writes to present and future believers in no uncertain terms of what is unholy and immoral: absolutes. Among which is this: Homosexuality is sin. It is a bitter truth for us to acknowledge, yet it is the truth nonetheless.

In all of Mr. Gay’s article I find that there is one sentence of confirmation of this real truth in relation to a homosexual lifestyle: “Of course, you won’t find any of this in the Gospels.” From that point on, he proceeds to add his voice to the many who, in the guise of intellectualism, try to rationalize, justify, misconstrue, and perpetuate the misguided notion that practicing homosexuals are okay with God. To me, these teachings are based on exaggerated self-righteousness, which is equally against God as is the practice of homosexuality.

Now as to erotic love: Erotic love is in Scripture. It is one of the loves described in Scripture. It is not nor was it ever meant to be the primary expression of love. Whereas I see that eroticism is the warp of the weaving within Mr. Gay’s article, Eros love in Scripture is carefully presented and defined and blessed by God for the union between a man and a woman. To which the insistent pursuit of eroticism is purely vanity and has nothing at all to do with God nor his approval.

When a man and woman who are married to each other express and share sexual union, it is akin to an act of worshipping God. Homosexual couples, who may indeed love each other, are merely worshipping their god through their sexual union. This type of worship satiates a personal earthly god; it has [no] connection at all to God in heaven.

Homosexuality is as apart from God as oil is to water. I have accepted my homosexuality. I have accepted that it is indeed against God. I have accepted my accountability of that bitter truth. That is why I no longer seek the acceptance or approval of others. God knows and loves me as I am. He has ever since I was in my mother’s womb. His son asked to be born so as to suffer and die for me, for us. Who am I, who is anyone to question or pervert Jesus for what He has done for me … for us … for Love?
Raymond Hickey, Benicia

Write your own Bibles
Yesterday I read Newsweek‘s cover essay on Mel Gibson’s film-interpretation of Jesus’ ostensible last hours, and how much of Gibson’s version actually deviates from the Bible owes somewhat to the “revelations” of a couple of bygone nuns. Tonight I read your cover essay on queerist theologians’ various attempts to salvage that Bible. I am far more partial to these individuals than I’ll ever be to that jerk Gibson or to that much-fought-over chew-toy Jesus; most striking were Gabriel Hermelin’s words, her drift from Christianity to nontheism, her plain, eloquent compassion for the sufferings of sexual/gender minorities.

I regard the three Mideastern religions to be the biggest and worst frauds ever perpetrated in human history, psychologically “demonic,” utterly beneath contempt. I’ve seen a few odd good passages among the rubbish — a few parables and snatches — but I reject the Mideastern god and its supposed mouthpieces as themselves hellish, sociopathic, the worser [sic] levels of human nature. Eastern religions may offer some food for thought, but are also prone to all-too-human cultural biases, corruption, and squabblings over spiritual gibberish. I have read enough on Aztec and other systems to see both fascinating differences and ugly parallels.

I tell people I know, “write your own Bibles” — i.e. explore your own individual truths, contradictions, strange dreams, childhood vestiges; gather ideas from others, from all kinds of books, from the arts; edit it into scrapbooks. If you must, go into theatrical, psychodramatic character(s), gods, goddesses, dream-figures, bygone peoples, and so on, but acknowledge these as parts of yourself. I’ve been doing this for years ever since I had dreams in my adolescence about other books of the Bible. Over time I’ve integrated pieces of others’ writings, not just gay voices like Derek Jarman, Stonewall-era writers, Gore Vidal, but poems by Robinson Jeffers, original and translated pieces by Lin Yu-tang, and grab-bag cut-up texts (some from your paper). If “God” is supposedly everywhere, then “God” can be found in all sorts of writings and art forms and ways of life, and the rest is just auto-idolatry by elimination. Every heterosexual culture on Earth has depicted its “God/s” very plainly in its own self-image, conveniently sneering at other cultures’ very same processes. I regard this as far more about human psychology and sociobiology than any “God” out there.

We sexual minorities are quite right to call the bluff of heterosexist religions’ dark sides; in evolving our own alternatives, I think it wise to integrate our own. I say this from my own long internal debates, bitterness and hatred for this world, seeing beyond it to better possibilities. We are still evolving.
Kenneth R. James, San Pablo

Obey him in everything
This is in response to your article about gays and religion. I read it twice and it just broke my heart. I have been a born-again Christian since 1982. My lifestyle before then was carnal, self-centered, and miles from God’s plan for me. I am 44 and have come to see the bigger picture about the nature of idolatry and man’s ever-present rebellion towards God and his son [Jesus].

Dan Fortruth, Danville

What book are you reading?
There is NO verse or passage in the Holy Bible that says God allows, condones, or approves homosexual, bisexual, transsexual, or any abnormal sexual activities. None! Remember, God is the author of the Bible (2 Timothy 3:16). He is always Righteous and Holy. When he makes a Command, you better listen and do it! Or else! It appears that you are Trying to twist his words and reinterpret his meaning. It appears that you do not respect God, nor fear him. Well, all I can say is, if you don’t repent soon and let the Holy Spirit change your ways, you will soon die and face judgment.

P.S. So far, I’ve found 11 verses and still searching for more. In other words, it’s 11 to 0, and you got 0.

P.S. 2. I’m not sure what god you’re worshipping, but it sure ain’t the God of the Holy Bible. You must be reading a different book.

GENESIS 2:18-24 The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a companion suitable for him.” He took one of Adam’s ribs and made a Woman. For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his Wife, and the two are united into one.

GENESIS 19:4-25 All the men from the city of Sodom called out to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.” Lot said, “No! Do not do this wicked thing.” Then the angels (who were in the house) blinded the men of Sodom and the Lord rained down fire and burning sulfur on the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and the whole land was destroyed.

LEVITICUS 18:22 “Do not practice homosexuality. It is a detestable sin.”

LEVITICUS 20:13 “The penalty for homosexual acts is death to both parties. They have committed a detestable act and are guilty of a capital offense.”

ROMANS 1:26-27 Even the Women turned against their natural ways and instead indulged in sex with each other. And the Men, instead of having normal sexual relationships with women, burned with lust for each other. Men & Women committed indecent acts with other men & women and as a result, suffered within themselves the due penalty for their perversion.

1 CORINTHIANS 6:9 Neither the sexual immoral, homosexuals, and prostitutes will inherit the Kingdom of God.

1 TIMOTHY 1:10 The Law is also for people who are disobedient and rebellious, who are ungodly and sinful, who consider nothing sacred and defile what is holy. People who are sexually immoral, perverts, homosexuals, and those who do anything else that contradicts the right teaching that comes from God.

MARK 7:21-23 Jesus said, “For from within, out of a person’s heart, come sexual immorality and lustful pleasure. These vile things come from within; they are what defile you and make you unclean and unacceptable to God.”

JUDE 7 Don’t forget the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and their neighboring towns, which were filled with sexual immorality and every kind of sexual perversion. Those cities were destroyed by fire and are a warning of the eternal fire that will punish all.

REVELATION 21:8 The sexual immoral who turn away from Me, their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur and fire. This is the second death.

1 THESSALONIANS 4:3-8 It is God’s will that you should be sanctified; that you should avoid all sexual immorality. Then each of you will control your body and live in holiness and honor — not in lustful passion as the pagans and heathens do, who do not know God. The Lord will punish those people for all such sins. He has called us to be holy, not to live impure lives.

Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject man, but God.
Nathan Fong, Berkeley

These passages appear to have come from the New Living Translation.

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