“Open Homosexuality,” Prostitution and Tony Perkins’ Moral Slippery Slope

Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, appeared on Janet Mefferd‘s Christian radio show recently and offered what shocked many, though it probably shouldn’t have.

Tony Perkins

The surprise came when Perkins drew a correlation between the repeal of the Military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law and the recent Secret Service scandal involving agents hiring prostitutes in Colombia. Following is an excerpt of what he said during the interview:

Just for a moment step back and look at the implications of this, over the weekend we saw the news of the President’s Secret Service detail in Colombia and the issue of them hiring prostitutes and now the White House is outraged about that. It was actually legal; it was legal there to do that, so why should we be upset? Well, the fact is we intuitively know it’s wrong, there’s a moral law against that.

The same is true for what the President has done to the military enforcing open homosexuality in our military. You can change the law but you can’t change the moral law that’s behind it.

So what you have is you have a total breakdown and you can’t pick and choose. Morality is not a smörgåsbord; you can’t pick what you want. I think you’re absolutely right, this is a fundamental issue going forward because if we say ‘let them do what we want,’ what’s next? You cannot maintain moral order if you are willing to allow a few things to slide.

Yes, it’s polarizing, rigid, judgmental rhetoric. But we really shouldn’t be surprised. In fact, given the opportunity (and a complete absence of personal standards) I could have scripted Perkins’ diatribe. After all, it employs two tried-and-true talking points in the conservative fundamentalist platform:

  • Morality is an all-or-nothing absolute that must be defended, not discussed, and;
  • If all else fails, blame the gays.

The convenience of this position is that one can hurl verbal stones from behind the veil of moral righteousness toward any perceived transgression that steps out of line with a preordained set of moral rules. The risk, as we’ve seen in many cases before, is that when (not if) those figureheads for moral superiority falter, they fall victim to their own offensive on the rest of the culture.

What is baffling to me isn’t that Perkins blames gay people for the Secret Service hiring Colombian prostitutes (I mean, come on, A plus B equals C, right?). Rather, it’s the widespread self-deception required to make such a system work.

First, there’s the self-deception about one’s own superior moral capacity. Not only have we seen too many of the figureheads from this movement fall hard; it

Janet Mefferd

seems that when they do, it’s often in shockingly deviant ways. Is this because only inherent moral deviants are attracted to such fundamentalism in an effort to forestall the inevitable? Maybe, but I doubt it. Instead, I think it’s the unrealistic persona one is expected to maintain to be accepted in such a group that causes one’s psyche to seek out ways to subvert those rules, knowing deep down inside that it’s a radical set of strictures to begin with.

It’s like what I’ve said before about the child molestation scandals within the Catholic Church. It’s not that born child molesters are attracted to the priesthood per see, but when you take a person built to act on their sexual impulses, give them enormous unchecked power and combine it with an unnatural set of sexual codes to follow, you’re asking for trouble.

Second, there’s the age-old conundrum of which Biblical moral laws are absolute and which ones can or should be considered within the context in which they were written? We’ve all heard the jokes about whether opponents of homosexuality ensure that their clothes don’t contain mixed fibers, or that they don’t touch pigskin on the sabbath (sorry Tebow; you’re screwed). There are hundreds of archaic laws that were important at one time, but that folks have deemed inapplicable  to our present day culture.

But when it comes to matters of sex, well, it’s just better for everyone if we erect (pardon the pun) a big stone wall and assume that what was considered right and wrong five thousand years ago is forever and always relevant today.

Never mind that the authors of those texts looked at women more as property than as human beings.

Never mind there are strict rules about men marrying their brothers’ wives if their brother dies, thus condoning polygamy.

Never mind that the authors also believed that the male semen contained the entirety of the human embryo/seed within it, and that women were only a receptacle in which the man’s seed would incubate.

Never mind that homosexual acts regularly were used in religious rituals and as a form of military conquest, and that they never even speak of same-sex attraction anywhere in scripture.

I could go on, but you get the idea.

Will such fundamentalism ever disappear? Not likely. But there is the possibility that as we become increasingly diversified and interconnected in our cultures and life experiences that we may increasingly avail ourselves to alternative viewpoints. The risk, however, is that we will use our custom-built social and informational universes to simply reinforce what we already believe, which leads to more staunch fundamentalism on all sides.

It is easy enough to sit back and cluck our tongues contemptuously at the likes of Perkins and Mefferd, and to enjoy a bit of schadenfreude when one of them falls from grace. But they are merely mouthpieces for a much more abstract, yet insidious epidemic. Seeing such figures as complicit victims in a larger broken system affords us at least a bit of the compassion we’re called to afford all of our fellow human beings, despite our differences. It’s hard, and it feels unnatural to do, especially when we don’t feel we’re given the same respect from the “other side.”

But the only alternative seems to be digging our heels in, pounding our chests self-righteously, which ends up sounding an awful lot like the very thing we’re prone to judge.

Splinters and planks. We’re all blinded by something.

About Christian Piatt

Christian Piatt is the creator and editor of BANNED QUESTIONS ABOUT THE BIBLE and BANNED QUESTIONS ABOUT JESUS. He co-created and co-edits the “WTF: Where’s the Faith?” young adult series with Chalice Press, and he has a memoir on faith, family and parenting being published in early 2012 called PREGMANCY: A Dad, a Little Dude and a Due Date.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mkrabill Michelle Morr Krabill

    Wow! Powerful article Christian. Splinters and Planks indeed.

  • John

    Christian,  You are an extremely articulate, compassionate, and dare I say holy man to look at this homophobic situation and comment on it in a way that would throw light on the clouded thinking going on here.  keep up the good work.  Peace,  John Moreno
     

  • ericknac

    Christian,  an excellent article. Agreed the whole conversation was self-righteous blathering. Splinters and planks, we are all blinded by something is a quote I will use.

    But in the middle of your argument I think you  lapsed into a bit of overstatement and oversimplification yourself.

    When you mentioned “Never mind that the authors also believed that the male semen contained the entirety of the human embryo…” I was wondering the source of that. And how that would square with “her seed” in Genesis 3:15.

    Also, I wondered about your reference to “Never mind that homosexual acts regularly were used in religious rituals
    and as a form of military conquest, and that they never even speak of
    same-sex attraction anywhere in scripture.” Again, I think you are ignoring the Romans 1:26-27 passage that that definitely speaks of same sex attraction. As well as 1 Corinthians 6:9.

    I am NOT all about proof texting, BUT at the same time think that overstatement by either side is neither helpful nor enlightening…

    I have my own planks I do not deny, and yet, think overstatement or over simplification will never open up the door to discussion.

    Grace to you. 

  • Ashley

    It does not sit well with me that a person who would call himself “enlightened” can write something so hateful, absolutely dripping with venom– while in the process of discussing a group of people whom the author asserts is hateful! I cannot help but read this and be sick to my stomach from the hypocrisy. You want “fundamentalists” to have a ‘change of heart’, as it were, and be compassionate? Why, I believe a dose of compassion is in order all around.

  • Aaron Minix

    I cannot read the Bible and argue in good conscience that homosexual sex is not a sin. I wish I could. I really do. But my commonsense interpretation, without knowing the original languages or having a degree in theology, lead me to the conclusion that it is sin. For the record, I also believe that what Jesus said about divorce is true; namely, that if one gets divorced and then marries another, that is adultery. Again, it comes from my layman’s reading. It would be easier to fit Christianity in with contemporary culture, but Christ doesn’t work that way. I’m sure there are other Christians like me who feel the same about homosexual acts, but don’t condemn homosexuals. But if there is a homosexual who doesn’t want to abstain from gay sex in the church, what is there to do? It’s not a trick or rhetorical question; What should we do? 


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