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I'm conflicted about continuing this conversation, mostly because I do not want to go down a rabbit hole from which there is no escape, and I do not want to take MNB in a direction that undermines its purpose.

But, this started as a business story, and so I'm going to take the risk.

Last week we wrote here about how Target was removing some of the items it brought in to help customers celebrate Pride Month, and will move remaining displays to less visible parts of its stores, as it reacts to a backlash that caused some of its employees to feel unsafe.  Target has been doing Pride Month each June for more than a decade, but this is the first time that the LGBTQ+ themed promotion has prompted this kind of backlash - people confronting workers in stores, knocking down Pride merchandise displays and putting threatening posts on social media with video from inside stores.

I commented, in part:

I don't blame Target for making this decision.  It has to protect its employees and other customers from this crap.  But the people who are confronting employees, knocking down displays and making threats online (which is what cowards do, because they find solace in anonymity and the embrace of their fellow bigots) ought to be arrested, charged and prosecuted.

As I've said here before, I believe in a "no tolerance" policy for people (organized and not) who shoplift and commit vandalism in stores - stopping small crimes is one way to prevent larger crimes.  And stopping these kinds of hate-inspired crimes - which is what these are - also requires a no tolerance policy.

One MNB reader seemed to justify the vandalism and abuse this way:

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.  These people are merely reacting to unpleasant things being constantly crammed down their throats.

To which I responded:

Maybe.  But that doesn’t make their actions more legal or less reprehensible.

And what is "unpleasant?"  A retailer marketing to people who aren't like you?  Maybe we all ought to remember this passage from Scripture:

"Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me." - Matthew 25:40 

This set one MNB reader off:

It is hard to believe that you would take a scripture verse and apply it to being gay - or having gay merchandising - or swimsuits for people with gender dysphoria. Actually it doesn't surprise me. This BIBLICAL text has less than nothing to do with the topic

So if I approve of this merchandising for solely sexual reason - I am doing GOD / JESUS justice? 

Dude - seriously?  Take a deeper look at the text you quoted. Or maybe reread it and study the theological premise.

Once again - you are taking our faith - and using it for your secular agenda....  quote seculars to make your point. for the love of Pete - 12 billion people have lived on this planet and you choose GOD to build your argument for sexual deviance.

DUDE - SERIOUSLY - quote Harvey Milk or somebody that has relevance to your argument - GOD IS NOT YOUR MAT to walk all over and quote him.

The thing is, I am the product of a Jesuit education.  The first thing they taught me was to think for myself.  The second thing was that tolerance and understanding was critical to living an ethical life.

Now, I understand that you and I have different views of this merchandise and the people who might buy it.  I always try to consider such matters within a simple framework.  How would I feel if my child were trans?  How would I help them live a happy and fulfilled life?  How would I help them deal with bigotry and hatred?  Would I use the words "sexual deviance" in the same sentence with their name, or to describe people I love who are trans?

I hope I would be the best version of myself if I were faced with such moments.

I am not going to keep posting these emails on MNB and allowing the conversation to play out here, but I want to be clear about why.  It is not because I am shrinking from the debate.  Rather, it is because I'm not sure anyone is convincing anyone about anything.

I see no point in going round and round without any hope of resolution.  It just won't get us anywhere, and eventually it takes us further away from the original story about how Target found way to grow its business by, as CEO Brian Cornell has explained, focusing on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) in a way that adds value, drives sales and builds "greater engagement with both our teams and our guests".  It is, Cornell says, "just the right things for our business today."

I agree with the sentiment, despite the protestations of some.

I've gotten a number of emails on this subject, most of which I am not going to post.  There's been a common thread:  I am, apparently, going to hell for these expressed opinions and "blasphemy."

Maybe.  But probably not for this.

My dad, who in his life was not always the most accepting and tolerant person, evolved in a lot of ways as he got older.  And I think that one of the reasons he did was because he always returned to a favorite Bible passage, which both gave him strength and lighted his path:

"God is love.  And he who abides in love, abides in God, and God in him." - 1 John 4:16

And if some folks find my usage of a Biblical verse unsettling because it seems at odds with prejudices and ideologies that some define as faith, that's fine.  Me, I'm sticking with what I think my dad would've said in such a situation.

God is love.

And that's the bottom line.