So when is it OK for a bishop to call President Barack Obama a 'sodomite'?

This was certainly the strangest URL anyone sent me this week.

When I saw that an Episcopal bishop had called the president a sodomite I assumed that the problem in this story was that we were dealing with an "Episcopal" bishop -- a leader in some kind of fringe, buy-yourself-a-mitre church -- rather than a real, live leader in the liberal Episcopal Church establishment. As it turned out, the WLRN website was actually writing about a mainstream, and thus culturally liberal, Episcopalian.

So what the heck?

Eventually, this story or essay gets to the point, underneath the headline: "What Bishop Frade May Have Meant When He Called President Obama A Sodomite." But first, the story had to explain that this bishop was actually a good guy.

Miami's downtrodden, disenfranchised and undocumented probably have no greater friend than Bishop Leopold Frade, spiritual leader of Southeast Florida's 33,000 Episcopalians.
The Cuba-born clergyman -- once the Bishop of Honduras -- authorized the South Florida diocese's first same-sex wedding in 2012. Five years before that, he demanded that the Bush Administration give protected status to 101 Haitians refugees who had washed ashore in South Florida after a three-week ordeal at sea. Even earlier, he was convicted of trading with the enemy for helping Cuban refugees make it to Florida after the Mariel boatlift (the conviction later was overturned).

Thus, there was no surprise that Frade was actually, on immigration, voicing a policy that was politically to the left (I guess, if left vs. right applies in this case) of President Obama.

So the stance was no surprise. The words? That's another matter. 

"It is horrible," Frade, in his purple robes, shouted from the steps of  Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, "to see the people being deported, being separated from their children, being separated from the people that they love because we have insisted on not doing what we need to do as a country."
But here’s where it did get strange. In his anger over the country's dysfunctional immigration system, the bishop called the president a nasty name: sodomite.
"He has been the president that has deported more people than even Bush did!" Frade said. "And I am asking President Obama to stop being a sodomite!"
And he repeated it in Spanish for the Hispanic media: "Es la hora de decirle al Presidente Obama que deje de ser un sodomita!"

Now, if you were dealing with a quote that loaded, when and where would you deal with that material in your news report?

Right. As soon as freaking possible.

That's not what happened in this case. The WLRN team waited until the very end of the piece to explain that there is a liberal take on the biblical story of Sodom and that this liberal bishop was not belting out a insult. Well maybe this was an insult, but, you know, this liberal Anglican was not yelling THAT insult.

So what was going on?

At the very first level of analysis, no one has accused the president of being gay. And even if Obama were gay, Frade's background suggests he would have no problem with it.

Uh, tell me more.

Ezekiel 16, cited by the bishop, reads like a condemnation of female sexuality as might be heard from, say, a member of ISIS. But it becomes apparent that the slutty, ungrateful woman getting all the grief is actually a metaphor for Jerusalem, which the Lord is berating for enjoying unearned wealth and beauty while giving no help or comfort to the poor and needy. Then, there's a comparison to Jerusalem's "sisters," Samaria and that champion sin city of all time, Sodom.
So, then: being this kind of sodomite, as Bishop Frade perhaps inadequately explained to the immigration rally, is wallowing in undeserved luxury while ignoring one's duty to the needy. In his view, perhaps a perfect indictment of the U.S. and its Congress and its approach to immigration.
"This was the sin of your sister Sodom," Frade bellowed as the immigrant activists darted worried glances at each other. "She and her towns, they felt very proud of all the abundance that they had, all the food they have, enjoying all their comfort. But they never help the poor and needy. They became proud and they did things that I detest."

So this was a good use of the word "sodomite," you see.

I don't know about you, but I would have found a way to put that plot twist a bit higher in the report.

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