How do you do fair coverage of the homophobes?

The_hulk_04Back in my Rocky Mountain News days, I covered a liberal Catholic conference on the subject of homophobia. Speaker after speaker defined homophobia in religious terms, stressing that it was a sinful condition in which people acted in ways that showed they feared or hated homosexuals. Then they stressed that people who advocated the Roman Catholic Church’s doctrines on this subject (especially the “objectively disordered” concept) were guilty of homophobia.

I thought this was pretty clear. Homophobia is sin. Orthodox Catholic teaching is homophobic. So I went one step further: This means Pope John Paul II is a sinful homophobe. When I asked the leaders of the conference questions based on this logic, and then wrote a story about their answers, all heck broke loose. They insisted that they had not called the pope a sinner, even though I had them on tape saying precisely that.

What’s the point? I learned that people inside and outside the gay-rights movement are not precisely sure what the word “homophobia” means. It is one of those punching-bag words for people on both sides of this debate.

I thought of this again when reading Jeff Sharlet’s fascinating reaction to George W. Bush’s victory, over at The Revealer. Sharlet has been known to refer to this side of his personality in Hulk-like terms, but I actually think there is content to his anger that has serious implications for journalists in the mainstream media. Here is the thesis statement of his piece:

… (No) get-out-the-vote strategy can ultimately explain the vote itself, nor the plurality of voters who told exit pollsters that “moral values” were their number one concern. Moral values — visible faith, anti-abortion, and, this time, anti-homosexuality — are a real and powerful force in the American public sphere.

In 2002 and 2003, my friend Peter Manseau and I spent about a year traveling the United States, reporting a book called “Killing the Buddha: A Heretic’s Bible,” a sort of spiritual geography of the nation. When we published the book earlier this year, interviewers asked us time and again: What is the common denominator of American faith? What is it that most of us share?

We lied every time. We offered up sincere but misleading tributes to freedom of speech as the American devotion. We avoided the answer that had made itself as plain as the two-lane roads we drove on: The greatest common denominator of American belief is anti-homosexuality.

Before readers start yelling about this, they really need to read to the end of his article. Sharlet is mad, no doubt about it. But his anger is widespread and is not merely an expression of anti-evangelical paranoia. No, his point is that all kinds of religious believers — red and yellow, black and white — are united in this irrational hatred of gays, lesbians and bisexuals. He comes very close to damning all traditional religious believers — period. It’s like he’s channeling the New York Times editorial page or something.

According to Sharlet, all of those television commentators who are talking about the “values gap” in this election, all of those newspaper pieces that are noting that moral and cultural issues were at the heart of Bush’s win, all of those reports are missing the point. The point is that the majority of American religious believers hate homosexuals.

Wait, is “hate” the right word? Is “irrational” the right word? Is “sin” the right word?

This is going to be hard for the media to handle. Sharlet knows that. He is being honest about that.

… (At) one a.m. this morning, TV pundits left and right shook their heads and talked about gay marriage, and values, as possible explanations for why the overall vote failed to follow pollsters predictions. If that ís true, why exactly do so many people believe that homosexuality is an issue as important in determining one’s vote as the economy, or healthcare, or war?

Since I don’t share that view, it’s hard for me to know. But I suspect that most of those who do hold it don’t really know, either. … So I’m proposing a story for some brave journalist, or novelist, or scholar. Tell us why so many of us build our understandings of the world around opposition to homosexuality. We’ll want to know about the various theologies. We’ll need to know about psychology, biology, sociology. But what I’m really waiting for is a full account of the faith that underlies this opposition. It’s neither simple nor shallow. My travels — and this election — suggest to me that it is deep, and profound, made up of many meanings, spiritual, physiological, political, metaphorical.

After finishing his commentary, I wrote Sharlet with two questions:

Q: How are you defining “homophobia”? Normally, this means hatred of homosexuals. You seem to be defining it more broadly, as simply opposition to homosexuality itself (even among people whose personal behavior toward gays, lesbians and bisexuals might be quite tolerant). Are you saying that any public opposition to changing the basic definition of marriage and family taught — as you note — by the major world religions automatically equals vile, even sinful, hatred?

Q: If your new definition of “homophobia” catches on as the norm in mainstream media (if it has not already), what is the implication of this for the American model of the press, in terms of accurate and fair press coverage of the traditional and progressive sides of this debate? Is getting an accurate, fair report on this sexual revolution issue going to become an event as rare as, let’s say, a fair and accurate Focus on the Family documentary about the life and times of Elton John?

Sharlet has already replied, saying he believes he is using the dictionary definition of the term. What I am saying is that this is going to have to be addressed by the Associated Press Stylebook. This is a journalism issue. We agree on that part.

Now, before GetReligion readers start raging at each other on the theological issues involved in this issue (once again), let me be clear about one thing. Forget Sharlet’s anger for a minute. What are the journalistic implications of this debate? How can mainstream reporters cover both sides of this conflict with integrity?

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • Mark Byron

    I’d guess that some neutral, non-judgmental term needs to be be concocted. However, I’m at a loss how to describe folks that are morally opposed to homosexual activity and opposed to government encouraging the same in a short, pithy phrase.

    In abortion, we have abortion-rights supporters and anti-abortion folks, to get around the self-chosen pro-choice and pro-life monikers.

    Let’s try “supporters of expanded rights for gays/homosexuals” and “opponents of expanded rights for gays/homosexuals.” However, that assumes that we’re expanding rights rather than acknowledging rights that they might already have, given a charitable reading of the Constitution; that might be slanted a tad toward the right side of the debate.

  • greg

    I always find these killer posts just as I’m on my way out the door. Since I’m ex-gay and I don’t agree with much of anything that’s been written on either side, I’ll respond to all this later today on my own site.

  • Jeff Sharlet

    Last night I went to see “Ray,” and there was a vending machine in the lobby with little toy superheroes. So I put my quarters in, hoping to get a mini-Hulk totem. No luck: I got a Wolverine, which I gave to my Revealer colleague, Kathryn Joyce.

    So “Hulk not speak now” — I do. It’s time for precision. I appreciate Terry’s comments above, but I want things ACCURATE, just as Terry does.

    Terry writes: “He comes very close to damning all traditional religious believers — period. It’s like he’s channeling the New York Times editorial page, or something.”

    Those are two plain wrong statements. I certainly do not damn all traditional religious believers. In fact, one of my main points is that there is nothing traditional about the centrality of homophobia in so much religious discourse right now. That’s something the NYT editorial page, of which there are few fiercer critics than me, will never get.

    Know what I believe in? I believe in believers. Homophobia is a yoke on us all now. And it’s not going to be broken without the integrity, honesty, hope, and faith of believers — traditional religious ones, especially.

    I’ve argued with Terry for a long time about the adequacy of the “red/blue” paradigm, and I’ll still fight it as a bad sociology. But Terry’s right (and I was wrong) about “culture war.” It’s upon us, and there’s no opting out. I’m not talking about my many friends who’re Republicans (or, for that matter, my many friends who’re Dems; I’m neither). I’m talking about those who’ve embraced the “us vs. them” theology with such force that it’s no longer an option to say “other” and hope to be left alone. So what choice is there for people like me, people in love with religion, when the other side claims they own it? Well, I prove ‘em wrong. Not through “liberal religion,” but through “conservative religion,” too.

    Let’s have some old-time American religion. Jonathan Edwards; Samuel Hopkins; Thomas Jefferson; Charles Grandisson Finney; Harriet Tubman; Abraham Lincoln — those are the theological antecedents of “my” side, and I don’t need to agree with every idea to stand in THAT tradition.

    Hulk not smash; Hulk organize.

  • T. R. Valentine

    A small correction in the fourth paragraph. It now reads:

    ‘… but I actually think their [sic, should be "there"] is content to his anger …’

  • Wooderson

    Good article by Jeff. But since accuracy is the order of the day, there was a strange disconnect near the end:

    “Most of these people are surprisingly abstract in their thinking. There may be a certain disingenuousness to the popular anti-homosexuality mantra, `hate the sin, love the sinner,` but nearly everyone we met really did distinguish their hatred of homosexuality from their dealings with homosexuals.

    How do I know? Because many, if not most, thought that Peter and I were a gay couple, by virtue of the facts that we’re writers and had come from New York City. We’re neither a couple, nor gay, but there never seemed to be a polite way to say that, so we didn’t, and still some of the great homosexual-haters of America welcomed us into their homes and their churches and their temples.”

    How did these people become “homosexual-haters” all of a sudden? Their behaviour clearly suggests otherwise.

    And why is their ability to handle abstractions “surprising”? What condescension! I would suggest that if one were really to look at the coverage of the gap between blue state and red it is the assumption made by blue state commentators that the great unwashed can’t handle abstraction. So it’s about “homosexual-hating.” That’s much easier to understand, I guess.

    Otherwise a very helpful article. And I don’t know if this was supposed to be funny – and forgive me if it wasn’t – but I found the part about “we’re two men from New York so we must be gay” to be hilarious. An entertainment and media analyst might have great fun analyzing why that assumption is made out in red states.

  • Kathy Shaidle

    Uh, Jeff S.: how can you expect (nay, implore) journalists to take up this issue and explore it when you aren’t even brave enough to answer their questions truthfully?

    You “lied every time”. Way to speak truth to power or whatever. I can’t imagine writing a book and then basically “lying” about my findings on the book tour. Can’t. Imagine. It.

    How are we supposed to take The Revealer seriously if we are now free to assume that you are saying/writing other stuff you don’t really believe in, and are just churning out socially acceptable and/or provocative soundbites? Not too credible, Jeff.

    You say you are “in love with religion”. That almost makes you sound like more of an anthropologist than a believer. A hobbyist. Well, religion is not everybody’s hobby, it is a matter of (after)life or death for some of us. This is something about the KillingTheBuddha crowd that’s bugged me ever since you ran this:

    All “too clever by half” stuff. Very amusing and brilliant and thoughtful and profound. It’s all fun and games until the WTC gets blown up too…

    And “homophobia” is one of those expressions like “secular humanist” that is only considered an insult to the person weilding it. The “God Hates Fags” folks (all 4 of them) are consistently and roundly condemned and mocked by 99.99% of American Christians.

    But you seem to be dismissing the measured, reasonable arguments of non-loonies, i.e, Men do not have a “right” to get married any more than they have a “right” to have babies (see Life of Brian…)

    Clearly many people believe that and many do not. Is tossing around empty calorie PC, sophomoric words like “homophobia” any more helpful, intelligent or charitable than being Fred Phelps?

  • Rach

    “I believe in believers. Homophobia is a yoke on us all now. And it’s not going to be broken without the integrity, honesty, hope, and faith of believers — traditional religious ones, especially.”

    Jeff, Could you come back and talk more about your definition of homophobia. Is it based on beliefs, emotions, actions? Were you saying in your article that anti-homosexuality is homophobia or does it need to be accompanied by strong negative emotion (which anti-homosexuality remarks often contain) and/or mean-spirited actions? So, would you think the yoke of homophobia will be broken with a change in beliefs or a change in actions?

    Side note: I debated whether to use “mean-spirited” or “violent” actions. I hold the anti-homosexual view you may be describing, but in Minneapolis 2003 I felt like I had been physically hit (violence) when I stumbled on the mean-spirited protesters accross the street. (I won’t give them any credence by naming them or their slogans.)

    Mark, Your example was the first one that popped into my head. The abortion debate seems to have settled into labels that both sides are willing to accept and most everyone understands when reading in an article.

  • AH, J.D., M.A.

    This is a great challenge. I’ll be interested to hear from greg later. Hope he returns.

    The rhetorical (a la Goffman) frame, IMO, is everything.

    –Conventional orthodoxy says Jesus’ non-mention of homosexuality reflects assuming the Jewish law. Opponents argue from silence.

    –Where is the burden of proof, and what is meaningful evidence, in demanding changes in the status quo? Again, either answer requires massive assumption about the nature and level-of-impact of the “gospel.”

    In journalistic terms, I’d like to see a practice that limits itself to the most surface level possible. “X, who supports SSM.” or “Y, who expresses opposition to SSM, but opposes the FMA.” or “Z, who reports that she used to be an active lesbian and now goes to church and endorses a life of ‘loving celibacy’,” etc. That is, a little distance, then report on the words of people and the observable facts, not make air-draining patterns like “faith,” “homophobia,” etc. Anything else is gonna “tilt.”

    In my own Austin American Statesman, there are political opinions embedded in lede, word-choice, sentence-structure, that could have been edited out. Maybe even “conventional orthodoxy” above would need to be re-thought! The editing needs to be tightened up until it’ so clean it squeaks, and by another set of eyes than the reporter. Time and money and attention, of course, at issue here.

    And I’d love to be part of a consortium examining this. That’s the only reason I list degrees after my initials…

  • Kathy Shaidle

    PS Jeff, we’ve discussed this before, and (while I’m now tempted not to :-) ) I’ll take you at your word that you are a patriot.

    So you may find this definition of homophobia helpful:

    THAT sums it all up for me. Sorry.

  • Jeff Sharlet

    Lots of good points above, but two I want to respond to quickly:

    Wooderson writes: “How did these people become ‘homosexual-haters’ all of a sudden? Their behaviour clearly suggests otherwise.”

    I probably didn’t go into enough detail. A perfect example would be a preacher in East Texas, a fine, thoughtful man who really welcomed us into his life for a few days, even as he warned “Any fag tries to get near my pulpit, I’ll shoot him.” That’s hate, and it’s just one example of the disconnect between emotion in practice, since he thought we were gay, we got near his pulpit, and he didn’t shoot us. But that doesn’t make it any less hateful.

    Wooderson also asks:

    “And why is their ability to handle abstractions ‘surprising?’”

    That’s NOT condescending. Fact is most of us are busy making a living and don’t have a lot of time to ponder theology. There’s nothing insulting in saying that, and I say it based on five years of talking to mostly ordinary, and, for that matter, mostly “red” people.

    Kathy Shaidle… oy. Kathy, you know it’s you who’s being too clever by half, which is why I love Relapsed Catholic.

  • Kathy Shaidle

    Jeff Jeff Jeff. Was that your final answer? Are you sure you don’t want to use a lifeline or anything..?

    The Prof weighs in:

  • T Holloway

    The question is:

    What are the journalistic implications of this debate? How can mainstream reporters cover both sides of this conflict with integrity?

    As a non-journalist, the question seems a bit narrow and guild-oriented, valid though it may be. It also doesn’t seem like there will be much success in keeping a discussion well-focused on it.

    Making a good-faith effort to stay color within the lines, though, I would say that as a _consumer_ of “news”, I would like to see more awareness the lines — if you think there are any — between private belief and public policy. Saying, for example, that a gay person should not be allowed to be an Episcopal bishop seems much different than saying the same person should not be allowed to exercise purely civic rights.

    How to define “homophobia”? I haven’t thought deeply about this, but let me suggest:

    “A desire to repress homosexual activity which has no immediate impact on the repressor’s rights or well-being.”

    Note that that is intended as a starting point, not a finished product.

    As to how MSM journalists can cover this “with integrity” … I’m not clear on how this issue imposes standards of journalistic integrity that are different from those involved with other difficult and divisive issues. But then, I’m not a journalist.


    T Holloway

  • william james

    Funny how two different people can read the SAME article, and yet, derive a different affluence from it?

    Brandt I do believe you just stoked the fire, my how objectivity seems so different to all.

  • Jeff Sharlet

    Kathy — What was the question: Am I patriot, or is “homophobia” a useful term?

    1. Well, my Canadian friend, as it happens I’m an American, unlike your fine self, and so damn patriotic that I’m full Bill of Rights man, including #2. My rifle is ready should the Great White North deem it necessary to march south and impose its morality on me.

    (Yes, though technically true, that sounds insane. Kathy, are you sure we’re not engaged in a collaborative Dadaist project?)

    2. I’m surprised that a talented poet like Kathy (no sarcasm; I recommend Lobotomy Magnificat. “A motorcade of clouds. / Then the quality of mercy backfires.” Terrific.) is being so careless with her language. “Homophobia” is the correct term for one who fears, and therefore opposes, unregulated homosexuality. I suspect you’re referring to the colloquial connotation, by which it refers to explicit bigots. By that definition, Fred Phelps is a homophobe, but Bush is not. But that’s a careless use of language that obscures the common cause.

    Moreover, Phelps is hardly alone. Most don’t share his violent views, but they’re willing to share language — “fag” is probably the most popular male slur in America. That’s just my impression; I haven’t researched the matter, and I’m willing to entertain the possibility of granting motherf–ker premier status. Now, a–hole is interesting, but my impression is that it’s used by women more than men. I’d like to think S–thead had more of a following, but I’m afraid it’s too metaphorical. No, I think “fag” is it.

    In terms of homophobia, some have mastered the use of homosexual as a very subtle slur itself. Think of “the homosexual agenda.” Now think of “The Jewish question.” One didn’t need to say “kike” to make it clear what the feeling behind it was.

    Sorry, Terry; I’ll understand if you delete this post. And Kathy, if you’ll respond with an essay or a poem on the nuances of slurs, I’ll gladly publish it on Killing the Buddha.


  • C. Wingate

    Jeff Sharlet turns into Hulk; I summon up Mangoe the Municipal, Demon Prince of the Net.

    I loathe and dispise the word “homophobia”. Nothing so defeats the possibility of genuine discourse like the insinuation that the opposition is mentally ill. It’s such a smarmy, late-1900s-whiny-liberal tactic. Any amount of circumlocution is worth it to avoid the word. Heck, I’d even prefer “anti-homosexual bigot”, which at least has the American virtue of being forthright.

    Anyone can see a visceral component to the opposition to homosexuality. This reaction cannot honestly be *defined* to be fear; it must be *shown* to be fear.

  • Jeff Sharlet

    It’s like the old Saturday morning cartoon, in which a kid says “Make me a banana split,” and the magician turns him into a banana split.

    Ok, you asked: You’re an anti-homosexual bigot. But that’s no reason not to consult a dictionary. There’s nothing in the definition of homophobia that suggests mental illness.

    Look, I don’t care what the term is, though I will not abide those who claim that the anti-homosexual bigot position can be called “pro-family.” Doing so doesn’t even qualify as homophobic. It’s merely poor English.

  • Joe Perez

    What an entertaining dialogue! Jeff Sharlet deserves kudos for an excellent piece “Gay Marriage, GOP Secret Weapon.” This is exactly the sort of balanced, nuanced treatment of the complex issues involving homophobia, “values,” and so forth that deserves wide influence. Personally, I didn’t see it as the angry diatribe that Mattingly saw. Not even sure where Mattingly thinks the anger is supposed to be found. The answer to Mattingly’s question about journalistic standards, then, is that

    So where’s it leave us? In one corner, Mattingly, the conservative religionist who apparently believes that “homophobia” should be reserved only for blatant bigots like Rev. Fred Phelps, while exonerating his fellow conservative religionists and their theologies of any anti-gay bias or sentiment. To these folks, it’s the religionist’s good intentions that count, and homophobia like homosexuals are “that which is other.”

    In the other corner, Sharlet, a journalist “in love with religion” who takes the fact of homophobia for granted, and unlike Mattingly seems cognizant of the diverse ways it manifests among religious believers of many traditions and backgrounds. Most religion is plainly homophobic by this accounting.

    Sharlet’s clearly the one of the two with a grip on homophobia. Fortunately, as a gay man, I find myself infected with none of his “love affair” with religion. To my way of thinking, Ken Wilber’s map of consciousness guides the way through the maze. “Homophobia” looks different at various stages of consciousness described in integral theory. Mattingly’s mythic-level view of homophobia and Sharlet’s pluralistic/rational-level view of homophobia are simply two lenses on a single phenomenon: homophobia. And homophobia is an entity which looks different depending on one’s stage of consciousness. I advocate an integral perspective: a perspective that embraces many different views of homophobia as entirely appropriate at various levels of consciousness. Mattingly and Sharlet are both right, up to a point. Only a concept of homophobia as an evolving entity can do justice to both; that’s when we realize that it’s not religion that’s homophobic, only religion at certain stages of consciousness (such as Mattingly’s mythic-level awareness). Journalistic standards must be appropriate for the level of consciousness of the journalism standards body; since that’s higher than mythic-level, I think the standards of the Religious Tolerance organization are an effective basis for use.

  • Bob Smietana

    I’ve run into some of the the homophobia that Jeff was talking about in my reporting, Last year, there was a lot of attention on Alabama, when Susan Hamill, a law professor at the University of Alabama, and the Governor Bob Riley state proposed the radical idea that God cared about fair taxation. In doing a story about this, I talked to several evangelical opponents.

    One leader, after talking about his opposition, decided to pull the gay card. “This is just between us,” he said, thinking that I was on his side. “Hamill is pro-gay.” That, in his mind, clinched it. No matter that Hamill’s premise was based on the Bible of all things–she was “pro-gay” and that was all I needed to know.

    I felt like I needed a shower. I don’t know what Hamill’s position on homosexuality is, but using the gay card as a means of demonizing her.

    Jeff made another point that seems to get ignored. Homosexuality is not high on God’s priorities. It didn’t make the top 10 list. It’s been used to mask our failings in other areas–money, sex, power, idolatry, lack of care for the poor, the sick, the elderly–the list goes on and on.

  • C. Wingate

    Please, Jeff. The etymology is clinical, yet it is used as catch-all for any opposition to homosexuality in any way. The connotation is that people only have problems with homosexuality because they have irrational fear of them. My experience with the term is that it is largely used with that prejudgement intact. Yes, it’s clunky to have to use a longer phrase, but I can’t see how the topic can be discussed rationally with one side labelled as being possessed by a sort of panic.

  • Joe Perez

    Bob: Great anecdote, thank you for it.

    I suppose one should be grateful whenever religionists choose to make comments such as yours: “Homosexuality is not high on God’s priorities. It didn’t make the top 10 list.” But forgive me if I make mock puking noises from afar. The equation of homosexuality and sin, as you did, is offensive no matter who makes it.

  • tmatt

    Greetings. I am in Nashville at a major national college press conference and on a slow, slow dial-up line, to boot.

    A few quick comments.

    (1) I read anger and disappointment in the opening images of Jeff’s piece, in which the foul drunk was connected to a statement about the major theme in American religion. I get angry all the time too. There is nothing wrong with that, especially when this anger is part of a valid larger point that is worth discussing. Jeff’s article and concerns certainly fall into that.

    (2) If cheering for fair and accurate coverage of competing groups in a major national news debate is out of line, I am out of line.

    (3) How these red-blue, culture wars issues are covered may decide the future of the classic American newspaper as an enterprise larger than an elite niche market. Look at that new red-blue country map again.

    Hey Jeff: remember that I buy red-blue as an expression of the majority stats in these counties. I know there are complexities and LOTS of exceptions.

    (4) In 2000, Joe Lieberman said we have lost a sense of the 10 Commandments being transcendent, eternal truths. Amen. Now, I am well aware that this hits heterosexuals about 97 percent more than gays, lesbians and bisexuals. We need more coverage of that, too. The right is obsessed with homosexuality. We all know that. Not all of their reasons are valid. The right contains a HOST of different positions on sexuality issues, within a framework that many would simply see as a homophobic block. Jeff is right. It is time for a lot of solid reporting on all of that.

    And we need more coverage of the debates within the gay, lesbian and bisexual theological community too. Anyone care to define “fidelity”? How about “monogamy”?

  • Ed Jordan

    If the question is “Why is homosexuality a central concern for traditional Christians NOW?” the answer is too easy. Homosexuals are pressing for approval and recognition both outside and inside the church NOW. It’s like asking, after eight home break-ins in one week in a small town, “Why is everyone talking about burglary now? It never used to be a central feature of our discourse.”

    However, the question “Why is homophobia central in so much religious discourse now?” seems tendentious or worse.

  • Joe Perez

    “In 2000, Joe Lieberman said we have lost a sense of the 10 Commandments being transcendent, eternal truths. Amen. Now, I am well aware that this hits heterosexuals about 97 percent more than gays, lesbians and bisexuals.”

    And while we’re restoring a sense of Transcendent Eternal Truths of the Hebrew Bible, let us not forget the admonition to the believers in the Hebrew sky god to murder sexually active homosexuals (Leviticus 18:22). While it didn’t make the Top 10 List, it’s a verse enjoying quite a revival in popularity these days among conservative religionists.

    As for “fidelity” and “monogamy,” I think that’s a great topic. I haven’t written on it recently, though Joe Kort has done a fine column that I think highly of.

  • Joe Perez

    Oops. The correct link to Joe Kort’s column on gay monogamy is here:

  • Christopher Rake

    “There’s nothing in the definition of homophobia that suggests mental illness.”

    And yet this is obviously how it’s used most of the time by supporters of gay rights when describing their opponents. That’s the source of its power and the reason it’s deployed.

  • saint

    Hmm, as an outsider looking in, I didn’t think Jeff’s piece was ‘angry’. So Jeff, while you are here, were you angry?

  • Fr Joseph Huneycutt

    “Homophobe” has, I believe, been rendered useless (whether good or bad) by the Movement.

    Just as certain words and terms were rendered passe by the Civil Rights, Feminist, and PC Movements, “homophobe” is no longer effective.

    Then again, was it ever? An *irrational* fear of homosexuality or homosexuals is just that: irrational. Someone who overcomes an irrational fear of spiders may not necessarily become an arachnologist (or fall in love with one). Nor may he wish to even be around spiders. None of these conversion reactions is necessarily *irrational*.

    I agree with Joel Belz at WORLD magazine, this battle is over. That is not to say that there is no good fight to be fought. Rather, the ditches, like the terms, have changed. For what it’s worth, I believe the stakes are the same.

  • Brian

    You can start with dropping the term ‘homophobe’ which is nothing but a propoganda bully term used to insult and portray negatively anyone opposed to the homosexual ideology.

  • Maureen

    Re: religion’s “homophobic focus” today

    Okay. Let’s suppose that, say, that prof from Ohio State who stole all that art from the great libraries of Europe, and the thieving Smithsonian curator, and the thieving Air Force Museum curator, all had claimed that they had stolen because they had to. They’d been born with a need to steal and a love of expensive stuff that filled their soul with kleptomanic joy. Suppose this sort of thing went on and on, and was picked up as a cause celebre by the “elite”.

    Suppose that people started “coming out” as thieves and shoplifters and B&E artists, and suppose that some churches chose to praise and welcome this behavior. After all, didn’t the Good Thief go to heaven? And surely Jesus wouldn’t have sent the Bad Thief to Hell. After all, property rights are so shallow and materialistic.

    Other churches, of course, would continue to tell people that stealing is wrong. For this they would be mocked as behind the times and accused of being kleptophobes. No matter how much they did to hate the sin and love the sinner.

    But the churches would have no choice but to make a big deal out of theft. What is wrong and rife and not opposed by the rest of the culture, is exactly what faithful churches need to speak out about.

  • Ignatius


    One might just as easily make an analogy between a Christian Identity church and the Roman Catholic Church. If it’s not alright for the Christian Identity church to be supremacist about race, why is it right for the RCC to be supremacist about sexual orientation, another inborn characteristic?

  • Meta-jester

    Great point, Maureen.

    I’m not sure this is precisely salient, but it’s certainly in the neighborhood. This is a paragraph from a Joe Sobran column on an email he received from a transsexual named “Diane.” As usual, Sobran is writing tongue-in-cheek:

    “I don’t pretend to speak for the entire transphobic community, but my own strong belief is that transphobia is not a matter of choice. I was born this way, and there is nothing `wrong` with it. We are all children of God, and labels don’t mean anything anyway. I very deeply respect Diane’s belief that he is a woman, which is his constitutional right as an American, but when he tries to legislate that belief on others by having the government legally certify him as a woman, I draw the line. That judgment must be left to each of us.”