Not a Mentsch

In the wake of the horrific mass shooting in Orlando, Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick tweeted out–you guessed it–a biblical phrase:  “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” –Galatians 6-7

In the wake of a tragedy that took 50 lives, this poor excuse for a human being decided to blame the victims for not living in accordance with his warped version of Christianity.

Yesterday, I posted about just this sort of use of “Christianity” (note quotation marks) in the service of hate. It isn’t just Christianity, of course; any religion can be pressed into that service, and all of them have been and continue to be so used.

There is something so smarmy, so distasteful, about people like Dan Patrick. Their willingness to use tragedy as an occasion for moral posturing is small and mean and utterly despicable.

This sort of offensive faux piety from deeply flawed public officials drives me nuts. And Patrick is far from alone. Texas politicians are currently among the worst, but Indiana is hardly in a position to point fingers.

Hoosiers who read this blog have probably seen the bright blue and gold yard signs proclaiming “Pence Must Go.” They are the brainchild of Kevin Warren, a local realtor, and his husband Neil Bagadiong, who established  as a political action committee in reaction to the Indiana Governor’s RFRA debacle.

RFRA was an effort to legitimize the sort of attitude displayed by Dan Patrick–to create a culture in which LGBT persons would be legally “less.”  Given the number of “Pence Must Go” signs I see, it seems a lot of Hoosiers understand where the attitudes such measures foster can lead.

The original signs have been joined by a number of others: Women’s Health Matters, Separation of Church and State, and Indiana Needs Leadership, among others. (Hoosiers can also buy anti-Pence hats, mugs and bumper stickers on the political action organization’s website.)

One of the newer yard signs that particularly appeals to me is “Pence is Not a Mensch.”

Mensch is a yiddish word that literally translates into “a real human being.” In usage, it is intended to refer to upstanding, worthy, honorable people–people who exhibit compassion and loving-kindness, who are not judgmental or–to use the biblical phrase–“stiff-necked.”

When my children were very young, I used to tell them that I didn’t care what professions they chose, what interests they pursued, what beliefs they embraced or who they chose to love….but I did want them to grow up to be mentsches.

Self-satisfied public officials who use the power of the state to marginalize and stigmatize people who are different, who ignore the Constitutional separation of church and state in order to privilege their particular belief systems, who ignore the needs of those in need–those officials are not mentsches. Not even close.

When people in leadership positions signal that bigotry is acceptable, when they contribute to an environment that diminishes and marginalizes people who do not fit within the narrow categories they deem biblically appropriate, that sends a signal to unstable and troubled individuals.

The message is: these people are unworthy, sinful, expendable. Attacks on them are “God’s work.”

It’s a gross oversimplification, but at some level, the world is divided between two groups of humans: mensches and assholes.

Pence, Patrick and their ilk are definitely not mensches.


  1. “Shooting your own comrades happens often enough in the Army it is called friendly fire casualties. ”

    Louie; is this why President George the first signed into law that all military bases and posts be “gun free territory”? Our military couldn’t be trusted not to shoot each other? What kind of training do they receive? Or did that only happen in battle?

  2. William, only someone who willfully misunderstood my posts could assert that I failed to condemn the person who perpetrated this atrocity. For decent humans, that absolutely goes without saying. Nor did I condemn “religion;” I condemned–and do condemn–the use of religion to excuse acts of hate–whether than religion is Islam, Christianity or Judaism. I disagree strongly with your implication that the “expression of an opinion” is harmless. Granted, it is not equivalent to murder, but it is not thereby innocuous; it contributes to an environment that justifies acts of violence against disfavored “sinners.”

  3. William, homophobia is what it is. Conflating it with religion doesn’t explain it or justify it in any way.

    A religious homophobe is not different than a secular homophobe or a tall or short one or a black or white one.

  4. Professor-
    I am a big fan of yours because you are a good person and have conviction.

    I never read where you denounced the acts of the terrorist who killed people. You say that is implied, I get it.

    But you spend a lot of energy denouncing someone who expresses an opinion that, based on their religion, homosexuality is wrong. Okay, it is an opinion. They didn’t kill anyone. If they had an opinion on premarital sex, abortion, swearing, etc., they didn’t kill anyone over it. Let’s denounce the big thing.

    No, voicing an opinion-religious, political, philosophical is in no way the same as killing people over your beliefs. ISIS kils people. Politicians can be voted out.

    Pete: A homophobe can be debated. A murderer cannot.

    Those with an agenda, Dr. Seuss Kennedy, will always say ‘That goes without saying,’ but they never say it.

    You dom’t condemn Islamists for being anti-anything you believe in. But they are anti-everything you believe in.

    Still a fan.


  5. William he was a murderer of homosexuals, 49 of them. How can he not be a homophobe?

    Again correlation is not causation. You’re claiming that because there are Muslim _______s, therefore Muslims are ________s.

    It’s not a logical conclusion.

  6. Pete,

    “It’s not a logical conclusion.”

    William doesn’t practice logic or democracy. However, he’s intelligent. So listen to what he says, but don’t waste your time responding to him. His main contribution to the blog is character assassination.

    So now Sheila better understands what it feels like.

  7. Wow folks!
    I’m not sure why he did it. Was he homophobic, or a homosexual himself, or was it religion?
    I don’t know.
    Don’t get the correlation causation thing, nor the logical conclusion thing.

    The expression of an opinion is constitutional, and I still say harmless. It is a thought put into words. For the good Dr. And so many to pay so much attention to an opinion of someone rather than a mass murder (I know, it goes without saying) is odd. People died tragically, but that goes without saying. What we are teally upset with is some religious nut who said something crazily stupid. That needs to be addressed, not the murder.

  8. William,

    I hear what you’re saying, and I wondered yesterday if I were all alone in thinking that a large number of posters seemed intent on “reacting” to the “reactions” of a few politicians which indirectly may serve as a safety device for distancing/separating oneself from addressing the actual horrible event.

  9. When legislators purposely work to pass laws and bills against any one group of people, they are putting their stamp of approval for the citizenry to condemn, and even attack that group. It doesn’t matter what platitudes they offer – they voted and signed the bill. A perfect example was when Mike Pence couldn’t – or I should say refused – to admit on national TV that RFRA – which he so willingly signed – would allow Hoosiers to discriminate against their LGBT neighbors. As far as I’m concerned, Mike Pence, and other legislators with the same mind-set, have blood on their hands!

  10. Just so y’all know,there’s two people sharing the “William” moniker. So,from now on I’ll post as William 1. Just so there is no confusion. And of course,don’t blame or begrudge William “Bill” for any posts that I’ve previously posted.

    Btw,I have not posted for a couple of days ; )

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