From the archives: The Gay-Hatin' Gospel

(I’m collecting and recollecting some older posts in the hopes of possibly bundling some of them into something book-like. So since I spent a chunk of yesterday revisiting the posts below, I figured I’d re-post them here in slightly repolished form.)

A 2007 poll conducted by the Barna Group revealed some remarkable developments in the public perception of American evangelical Christians:

Today, the most common perception is that present-day Christianity is “anti-homosexual.” Overall, 91 percent of young non-Christians and 80 percent of young churchgoers say this phrase describes Christianity. As the research probed this perception, non-Christians and Christians explained that beyond their recognition that Christians oppose homosexuality, they believe that Christians show excessive contempt and unloving attitudes towards gays and lesbians. One of the most frequent criticisms of young Christians was that they believe the church has made homosexuality a “bigger sin” than anything else. Moreover, they claim that the church has not helped them apply the biblical teaching on homosexuality to their friendships with gays and lesbians.

The respondents identify the key matter here: an antipathy that goes “beyond” any traditional opposition to extramarital sex, an unprecedented and inordinate “excessive contempt … toward gays and lesbians.” And this contempt is perceived as central to the meaning and substance of Christianity — the “most common perception” of the faith for Christians and non-Christians alike.

This is a change, a new thing, a recent and radical alteration. It is an astonishing and deeply weird development.

The great creeds of the church make no mention of homosexuality — let alone singling it out for particular and pre-eminent condemnation or suggesting that such condemnation plays a central role in the faith. Yet now the majority of Christians and non-Christians alike view this as the primary defining characteristic of Christian faith, practice and spirituality.

The Bible gives us the word “shibboleth,”* but the Bible is more than a book of shibboleths. And the gospel of Jesus Christ, the good news of the kingdom of God, was never supposed to be about just listing a bunch of shibboleths that distinguished Us from Them.

So how did this happen? How did gay-hatin’ come to be the “most-common perception” of Christianity?

Theory No. 1: The Safe Target

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to us all,” Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 10:13.

If you’re a preacher, and if you possess the slightest bit of self-awareness, that’s problematic. It means that preaching against any temptation or sin implicates your entire congregation and yourself as well. That can be really uncomfortable for all involved. Pick any of the seven deadlies or the 10 commandments and you risk alienating everyone in the pews and exposing yourself as less than perfect.

But lately, many American evangelical preachers seem to think they have found a loophole: Homosexuality. Here is a temptation that does not seem to be common to us all. It seems to be the perfect “sin”** — the perfect safe target. Straight preachers can rail against it without worrying about exposing themselves as hypocrites or, even worse, as fallible humans just like everyone else. And, statistically speaking, most of the congregation will be able to say “Amen” without squirming or feeling the least discomfort. It’s all win.

No other sin provides this kind of free shot. Point an accusing finger at gluttony, pride or envy and the proverbial four fingers pointing back at yourself underscore Paul’s point about temptation being “common to us all.” That’s way too Pogo for comfort — too “we have met the enemy and he is us.” But here, instead, is the allure of an “enemy” who is not us. This is a unique opportunity, and kind of a rush. It’s the chance to rail against sinners who seem completely other — people whose sin doesn’t tempt us in the least.

And since these others are clearly in the minority, we don’t even have to worry much about a serious impact on the offering plate. Contrast that with gluttony, pride and envy — the foundations on which some of the church’s biggest donors have built their fortunes.

I don’t think this safe-target dynamic fully explains the motive or the cause of American evangelicalism’s anti-gay obsession, but I do believe it accounts for part of its appeal.

That appeal is all the more appealing in the American church, where we’re deeply anxious about the fact that we don’t seem significantly different from everybody else in our culture. Since we expend our lives chasing after the exact same things as everyone else, and since we can’t say with any confidence that “They’ll know we are Christians by our love,” we have to latch onto whatever insignificant signifiers we can. We don’t drink (in public), and we don’t dance (well).

Still not convinced we’re the elect, a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people? Well then, um, we’re heterosexual.

Dazzled yet? Just look at us – we’re a community of teetotalling, non-dancing straight people. Who could resist joining us?

As that Barna survey demonstrated, the increasing popularity of railing against the supposed safe target of homosexuality has come at a cost. Evangelical Christians have become famous, or rather infamous, for being anti-gay. It is the “most-common perception” of who we are. The public face of Christianity is not the face of Christ, or even of Billy Graham or Martin Luther King Jr. or Dorothy Day. The public face of Christianity has become that of Fred Phelps and of his slightly more tactful, smiling surrogates like Pat Robertson, James Dobson and Tony Perkins.

That is the “most-common perception” of American Christianity, both inside and outside the church.

But there’s another theologically perilous cost to this safe-target preaching. The idea that there are “super-sins” worthy of particular opprobrium and the idea that there are “others” subject to temptations not “common to us all” are spiritually dangerous notions. I don’t have the time or the wisdom to unpack all the ways that these ideas have altered our preaching and teaching, but consider just one example: Fidelity is the virtue at the core of nearly all Christian sexual ethics. Yet our safe-target condemnation of homosexuals treats fidelity and infidelity as indistinguishable. That suggests to me that something has come off the rails.

The passage quoted at the beginning of this post is the central insight of G.K. Chesterton’s delightful Father Brown stories. Chesterton’s parish-priest sleuth is able to solve those mysteries not because of his keen powers of observation or because he is a Holmesian deductive genius, but rather because he is an expert on human nature, having studied the subject for decades by hearing confessions. The wisdom of Father Brown is that we’re all pretty much alike, that there is no temptation that is not “common to us all.” This was true for the Corinthians, the most screwed-up collection of misfits in the first-century church, and it is true for the Americans, the most screwed-up collection of misfits in the 21st-century church.

Chesterton, like Paul, was never so foolish as to think that he could exempt himself when he preached against sin and temptation. Seeking such an exemption by taking aim at safe targets leads to self-delusion, smugness and complacency, and it goes against everything the Bible (and experience) teaches us about human nature.

That point is worth repeating: The anti-gay preaching that has become the pre-eminent characteristic of American Christianity contradicts what the Bible says about human nature. It is unbiblical.

Anyway, so much for Theory No. 1. (As you’ve probably already guessed, I’m following the hackneyed convention here of dismissing the unsatisfactory theories first, gradually working toward what I think the actual explanation is.)

Theory No. 2: Inner Demons

This theory has the virtue of being true. Or, at least, of being true in some cases — some very notable, high-profile cases.

The idea here is that many of the loudest, angriest and most single-minded preachers of the anti-gay gospel doth protest too much. They are self-loathing closet cases, denouncing homosexuality because they are homosexuals and they hate this about themselves. From Roy Cohn to Ted Haggard and Larry Craig, there are dozens of verifiable examples of this dynamic — and many, many more suspected but unconfirmed cases. Ted Haggard, the former pastor of a Colorado mega-church and former head of the National Association of Evangelicals was forced to leave both of those positions after the public learned of his longtime relationship with a gay prostitute. Haggard’s description of that secret side of his life succinctly summarizes the inner-demons theory: “There is a part of my life that is so repulsive and dark that I’ve been warring against it all of my adult life.”

So, clearly, this is a real phenomenon. We’ve seen so many examples of this in recent years, so many self-loathing closet-cases exposed as members of the anti-gay leadership, that it reminds me of that scene in Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday, when the protagonist succeeds in infiltrating the secret society of anarchists only to look around the table and realize that every single member of its leadership is, like him, an undercover police officer.

Yet despite the startlingly large number of cases, it’s surely not quite as pervasive as Thursday’s dilemma. It can’t be true that every officer in the anti-gay army is secretly a member of the group it seeks to oppose. The religious right/social conservative movement certainly seems to include a larger-than-average number of closeted homosexuals in its leadership, but even if the movement is gayer than Disney World, we’re still only talking about a minority of its leaders and followers (a significant minority, but still less than half).

A significant number of leading social conservatives also seem to be warring against inner demons that have nothing to do with homosexuality. These folks are tormented by an impressive variety of freaky heterosexual appetites. Consider Louisiana Sen. David Vitter’s alleged diaper-play with prostitutes. Or the deeply sad case of the former aide to Jerry Falwell who was found dead due to a baroque autoerotic asphyxia mishap involving, according to an autopsy report posted on thesmokinggun.com, “two complete wet suits, including a face mask, diving gloves and slippers, rubberized underwear, and a head mask.”***

The interesting thing about these folks is that instead of lashing out at those who share their particular appetites, like Ted Haggard did, they turn their animosity toward homosexuals too. I can’t begin to explain the psychology at work in this bit of substitution, but in their case it seems something like a mix of the inner demon theory and the safe target theory is at work.

The repressed and tortured psyches of Ted Haggard and David Vitter also don’t explain why so many have been willing to follow these leaders in their “warring against” their inner demons. Their followers can’t all be self-loathing closet cases. Nor does this theory explain why others with apparently milquetoast, plain-vanilla sexual appetites — people like Pat Robertson or the late Jerry Falwell — should be even more vociferous in their condemnations of the Big Gay Menace. For them it seems less a matter of self-loathing and projection than simply your garden-variety hatin’ on the outsider.

So while I’m certain that the inner demons theory is valid in many particular cases, I think it’s more of a contributing factor than a sufficient explanation of the entire phenomenon of gay-hatin’s newfound prominence as the central perception of American Christianity.

So let’s turn next to consider the theory favored by the gay-haters themselves.

Theory No. 3: The Innocent Backlash

This theory requires our serious attention because it is so widely held — or, at least, widely claimed.

Before taking a closer look at this explanation, we need to underscore the particular claims made by the respondents to the Barna survey quoted above. American Christianity has come to be perceived, first and foremost, as “anti-homosexual.” This is not simply due to a moral/ethical teaching that precludes any sexual activity outside of monogamous, heterosexual matrimony – Barna’s respondents explicitly stated that the anti-homosexuality that characterizes American Christianity goes “beyond” that, into the realm of “excessive contempt.” The meaning of the word “excessive” here is clear: the contempt for homosexuals that characterizes American Christianity exceeds mere ethical/theological objection; it is inappropriately severe; it is disproportionate, inordinate, intemperate.

Proponents of the innocent backlash theory thus have to begin by arguing that this perception is inaccurate — that nine out of 10 young non-Christians and four out of five young churchgoers have somehow gotten the wrong idea. The contempt American Christianity displays toward homosexuals, these proponents say, is just the right amount.

Christians, this theory holds, do not regard homosexuals as particularly or especially deserving of condemnation, it’s just that homosexual activists have become so vocal in promoting their radical homosexual agenda that — purely in response — Christians have been forced to become equally vocal in reply. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction – that’s elementary physics. Christians have simply been reacting to the radical homosexual agenda, and this reaction has been equal and opposite (and therefore not at all “excessive,” despite the mistaken impression of 80 percent of young churchgoers).

This explanation for the (mis)perception that American Christianity is inappropriately anti-homosexual is thus something that any grade-school child can understand: They started it.

“They” (gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered persons) started this disagreement and we American Christians are merely reacting, responding, replying — that is the essence of this theory. This explanation is almost universally cited among anti-homosexual leaders of the religious right, but it is also widely cited by go-slow “liberals” who urge homosexuals seeking equal rights to marry or to serve openly in the military not to push too hard for these goals. Push too hard, they say, insist too strenuously that you be treated equally, and you invite just the sort of backlash that Barna records here.

This sounds a great deal like a warning to homosexuals to “remember your place” — a warning that echoes similar counsels of caution against an earlier struggle for equal rights. The best response to such warnings is that of Martin Luther King Jr. in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”:

Frankly, I have never yet engaged in a direct action movement that was “well timed,” according to the timetable of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the [word] “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with a piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see with the distinguished jurist of yesterday that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”

But the more pertinent argument in King’s letter is his correction of the confusion of cause and effect at the heart of every innocent backlash theory:

You deplore the demonstrations that are presently taking place in Birmingham. But I am sorry that your statement did not express a similar concern for the conditions that brought the demonstrations into being. I am sure that each of you would want to go beyond the superficial social analyst who looks merely at effects, and does not grapple with underlying causes.

“They started it,” is a claim of fact. The legitimacy and validity of the innocent backlash theory rests on whether that claim is true or false.

And that claim is false.

“Radical homosexual activists” pushing their “radical agenda” are no more the cause of the current disagreement than the Southern Christian Leadership Conference was the cause of the conflict in Birmingham.

The innocent backlash theory says that “excessive contempt” for homosexuals is a consequence — a predictable, reasonable, defensible consequence — of homosexuals refusing to remember their place. Or, in other words, refusing to accept their place as less than equal. The backlash is thus, inescapably, a defense of inequality. Even if these “radical homosexual activists” lived up to the rudest and most aggressively impolitic caricature drawn by their critics this would still be the case.

Proponents of innocent backlash theory recognize this, and they realize that a defense of inequality is indefensible. Thus they have gone to great lengths to try to reframe the matter not as one of equal rights, but as one of “special rights.” It’s hard to figure out exactly what, if anything, this is supposed to mean. This is semantic sleight of hand, just like the larger attempt here to downgrade “reactionary” to merely “reactive.” Apparently second-class citizens who demand to be treated equally are asking for something “special.”

The effort to relabel equal rights as “special rights” strikes me as an unironic affirmation of Anatole France’s ironic description of “The majestic equality of the law, which forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges or to beg in the streets.”

Ultimately, the innocent backlash theory is incapable of answering our question because it refuses to do so. That question, again, is how did it come to be the case that an “excessive contempt” for homosexuals is the “most common perception” of American Christianity? The innocent backlash theory rejects this question, insisting that this contempt is not excessive, and that this common perception is simply mistaken. The fact that this perception is shared by 80 percent of young churchgoers — people whose understanding of American Christianity comes from direct experience and from what they have been explicitly taught to believe in American churches — apparently only means that four out of five young churchgoers are too stupid to understand what they have been shown and taught.

I find that implausible. The question is legitimate. The refusal to answer it is not.

Rereading the above, I’m not sure I’ve been as charitable as I’d like to have been in evaluating this theory. I have a hard time being charitable toward those who would argue that any degree of contempt can be less than “excessive,” or that blaming the victim is acceptable so long as you do it in God’s name.

Theory No. 4: The Exegetical Panic Defense

In American popular culture, the most accurate and affectionate portrayal of an evangelical Christian is Ned Flanders, Homer’s good-natured neighbor on The Simpsons. Ned is overly earnest and myopically naive, but overall he is, like the majority of our evangelical Christian neighbors and relatives, a Very Nice Person. Barna’s survey results above thus present us with an odd conundrum: What is it about homosexuals in particular that turns these otherwise Very Nice People into viciously negative people distinguished above all by “excessive contempt”?

Part of the answer, I think, has little to do with homosexuals or homosexuality per se. It has to do, rather, with epistemology — with the need for certainty and the panicked hostility that surfaces when that certainty is threatened.

“We see through a glass, darkly,” St. Paul said, warning against the temptation to chase the will-o’-the-wisp of certainty. But American evangelicalism is largely based on the idea that certainty is not only possible, but necessary. Mandatory, even. This certainty can be achieved thanks to the one-legged stool of the Evangelical Unilateral.

That’s a made-up term, but it describes something real. It’s a play on the “Wesleyan Quadrilateral” — an approach to theological thinking that relies on the four foundations of scripture, tradition/community, reason and experience.

The evangelical approach to theological thinking is exactly like this Wesleyan method, except it doesn’t include tradition or community. Or reason. Or experience. All of those things are viewed, instead, as potentially corrosive threats to the pure certainty offered by scripture alone — by the unambiguous and self-evident, prima facie “literal” meaning of scripture.

Such an approach requires not only that the text itself be pure,**** accessible, infallible, inerrant and impervious to misinterpretation but also that the reader of the text be pure, insightful, infallible, inerrant and incapable of misinterpretation. It requires that the reader be some kind of Platonic ideal, a blank slate uninfluenced by culture, language, intellect or life experience.

That is, of course, impossible. The point here, however, is not to evaluate or criticize this evangelical epistemology, or to point out all the ways in which it does not and cannot work, but rather to acknowledge descriptively that this is how American evangelical Christians attempt to view the world.

When faced with apparent contradictions amongst scripture, tradition, reason and experience, a Christian applying something like the Wesleyan Quadrilateral will attempt to reconcile them. A Christian applying the Evangelical Unilateral will, instead, determine that they don’t need to be reconciled and that any apparent contradictions between scripture and reason, or between scripture and tradition (i.e., how others have interpreted that same text), or even between scripture and their own life experience must be settled by embracing the apparent meaning of the former and rejecting the apparent meaning of the latter.

A rather vivid example of this is provided by one of my favorite eccentric cranks, Marshall Hall, self-published author and proprietor of the website FixedEarth.com. Hall believes the Bible tells us that the earth is “fixed” — that it does not rotate or revolve, but sits unmoving at the center of the universe. Reason and experience explicitly contradict this belief, and tradition suggests that Hall is misinterpreting the passages he cites as proof of his fixed-earth theory, but he doesn’t care about reason, experience or tradition. Sola scriptura is his motto. The Bible says it, he believes it, that settles it.*****

Young-earth creationism is another infamous example of this Unilateralist epistemology at work. The starting point for adherents of this belief is that the Bible teaches that the world is only 6,000 or so years old. If science claims otherwise, then science must be rejected.

That’s actually relatively easy to manage if you’re not yourself a scientist. Those of us who are non-scientists rely on the conclusions of expert others, supported by the assurances of their peers. This is all very authoritative and seemingly trustworthy, and rejecting it is no small feat, but it is still somewhat abstract, somewhat removed from our own direct experience. Rejecting science due to its apparent contradiction with scripture is still far easier than rejecting one’s own experience. That hits much closer to home and involves grappling with a far more difficult level of cognitive dissonance.

And that — the dissonance that comes from questioning one’s own conscience and experience — is what underlies what I’m calling here the Exegetical Panic Defense. This is what happens when an evangelical who has been taught to believe in the Big Gay Evil finally gets to know a flesh-and-blood homosexual human being and starts to think that, actually, this person doesn’t really seem like they are evil or a threat or righteously miserable due to their sordid “alternative lifestyle.”

For some other Christian, someone relying on something like the Wesleyan Quadrilateral, this can be an instructive experience. Those kinds of Christians are allowed, and even required, to learn from their experience, from their reason and conscience. For such people, this new friend (or old friend coming out with new information) will serve as a tonic against the idea that Christians ought to be characterized by an excessive contempt for homosexuals

But for an evangelical relying on the Unilateral, weighing your own experience against the purportedly crystal clear teachings of scripture is verboten. Something’s gotta give and that something, in this case, is their own experience, conscience and instincts. That’s when the panic-inducing cognitive dissonance kicks in and fight-or-flight takes over. And then anything can happen.

The stakes here are higher than you may appreciate — their faith, and thus also their sense of identity, is on the line. The Unilateral requires a faith that is so inflexible it becomes brittle — it can never bend, only break. In addition to the disturbing sense that the certainty they’d been promised is slipping through their fingers, these evangelicals are also forced to cope with the deeply unsettling thought that their own mercy may exceed that of God.

That kind of crisis can result in someone chucking their faith entirely. Or they may try to reassert that certainty even more forcefully. That effort — fearful, desperate, defensive, hostile, a bit too white-knuckled and wide-eyed, and vindictively proclaiming the rightness of withholding mercy from the undeserving — manifests itself as something that looks very much like “excessive contempt.” These Christians may not like the idea of lashing out against their new friend, but it’s less terrifying than the slippery, bewildering landscape of a world in which they can no longer say, “God said it, I believe it, that settles it.”

This dynamic doesn’t account for the larger causes of the phenomenon described by the Barna survey above. It doesn’t explain how it came to be that an excessive contempt for homosexuals is the “most common perception” of American Christianity, for Christians and non-Christians alike. But while it doesn’t explain where this perception and this emphatically anti-homosexual teaching comes from, I think it does help to explain why it resonates and persists among evangelical Christians in particular. So I don’t see this theory as a broader explanation, but as yet another contributing factor.

We looked earlier at the case of other Christians who seem to begin with a visceral antipathy toward homosexuals and then seek a theological justification for it. This is almost the opposite of that — Christians who seem, against their own inclinations and their own better judgment — to adopt this antipathy on the basis of theological teaching they don’t seem wholly comfortable with.

I’m really not sure which is worse, but this latter case seems almost poignantly tragic for all involved.

Theory No. 5: It’s the politics, stupid

In trying to explain this weird new pre-eminence of the Doctrine of Hatin’ Gays it doesn’t matter that most Christians believe homosexuality is a sin or that most Christians believe  that the Bible says it’s wrong. That could explain it being a perception, but not the “most common perception.” Mere theological opposition cannot explain “excessive contempt.”

The Bible, after all, says a lot of things are wrong: gossip, swearing oaths, retaliation, lending at interest or even lending with the expectation of repayment. None of those is the “most common perception” of American Christianity. None of those is perceived, really, as having much of anything to do with American Christianity. If you meet an American who does not believe in retaliation, you’re more likely to think she’s a Buddhist than that she’s a Christian. If you meet an American who opposes lending at interest, you’ll probably assume he’s a Muslim. And if you meet an American who lends without expectation of repayment and never engages in gossip, then … well, actually, this being America, you won’t ever meet such a person.

The above examples aren’t entirely fair. All of those things are expressly and unambiguously prohibited and condemned in the Bible, but they’re not really considered sins by American Christians.****** So, OK, lets look at some other examples that everyone still regards as full-fledged sins.

How about lying and stealing? These are prohibited by the ninth and eighth commandments (or the eighth and seventh, for my Catholic and Lutheran friends). American Christians believe these are sins. American Christians are morally, ethically and theologically opposed to them. Yet neither “anti-lying” nor “anti-stealing” turns up as a common description of these Christians, let alone as the most common perception. And in neither case would this opposition be characterized as “excessive contempt” for liars or thieves.

So these moral, ethical and theological considerations and concerns about what the Bible teaches are beside the point. They are neither necessary nor sufficient to explain why excessive contempt for homosexuals should be the dominant attribute of American Christianity.

It has to be something else.

I think it is. I think it has very little to do with religion and everything to do with politics.

The perception that Barna documents is, I think, primarily a perception of evangelical Christians. The Barna Group is an organization based in the evangelical subculture, and while they provide generally reliable data, they are also prone, at times, to the evangelical tendency to use “Christian” and “evangelical Christian” interchangeably. Evangelical Christians also tend to be the most outspokenly sectarian, so this interchangeable terminology is often lazily reflected in the media as well. Barna’s survey respondents clearly weren’t thinking of the Christians who attend Metropolitan Community Churches or the United Churches of Christ. And I think the survey would have produced quite different results if respondents had been asked specifically about the black church, or Presbyterians or even Roman Catholics.

So let’s consider evangelical American Christians in particular. Evangelicals tend to be earnest, generous and accustomed to listening to people in authority. They also tend to be sheltered, ingenuous and suspicious of intellectualism. All of that makes them particularly susceptible to hucksters and demagogues. The history of hucksterism in American evangelicalism is long and storied and sad, but I’m more concerned here with the demagoguery. American evangelicalism in the late-20th and early-21st centuries has been shaped by demagogues.

The most visible and influential leaders in American evangelicalism are not theologians or clergymen like Billy Graham, John Stott or J.I. Packer, but rather parachurch activists and media barons like Pat Robertson, the late Jerry Falwell and James Dobson — the self-proclaimed spokesmen and self-appointed magisterium of the religious right. Such leaders are not mainly about the spiritual growth and well-being of their followers, nor are they about spreading the gospel. They are about amassing and consolidating power.

The religious right portrays itself as a religious movement seeking to reshape politics, but in fact it is a political movement seeking to reshape religion. Its agenda — at which it has been distressingly successful — has always been to turn a church into a voting bloc.

The demagogues of the religious right pursue power — political and economic power — by preying on fears and prejudices. Their power depends upon the perception of barbarians at the gate, on the perception that some menacing Other is on the verge of destroying all that their followers hold dear. This Other, the demagogue’s scapegoat who must die for our salvation, can’t be something that presents a genuine danger, because that would expose the demagogue’s impotence to protect his followers from real threats.

Homosexuals make an ideal scapegoat for the demagogues manipulating and fleecing their evangelical flock. The safe-target dynamic ensures that your scapegoat isn’t someone your sheep are likely to know or empathize with, and the innocent-backlash claim provides a fig leaf that allows the demagogues to claim that the nastiness they’re promoting is justifiable.

The only real difficulty with demonizing homosexuals is that they’re not actually demons. Homosexuals don’t actually present any kind of threat at all to American evangelicals. The demagogues overcome this obstacle by doing what demagogues are best at: lying.

Homosexuals, they claim, are a threat to Marriage (as an institution in the abstract), a threat to The Family (as an institution in the abstract) and a threat to the Word of God (ditto). Reality doesn’t support such claims, so they embellish reality. They claim that same-sex marriage would destroy the institution of marriage because, um, mumblemumblemumble pound pulpit, it just would! Same-sex marriage, they claim, would mean your church would be forced to perform gay weddings.******* They claim that hate-crimes legislation protecting homosexuals from violent intimidation would mean that pastors could be arrested for quoting from Leviticus. They claim ENDA — the bill that would prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation — would mean your church could be legally forced to hire a gay pastor.

Such legal protections would mean no such thing, and the demagogues know they would mean no such thing. The demagogues’ lies are deliberate, intentional and lovingly crafted to nurture fear and the unthinking allegiance that fear can create.

It is no accident that excessive contempt for homosexuals has become the most common perception of American evangelicalism. That contempt has been deliberately nurtured, fed and guided by demagogues seeking to manufacture fear that can be channeled into political power.

By laying so much blame on these demagogues, it might seem like I’m trying to excuse or exonerate the rank-and-file evangelicals who follow them, but I don’t think this really provides them with room to boast. I am suggesting that, left to their own devices, those evangelicals probably wouldn’t be quite as contemptuous and bigoted as they’ve allowed themselves to become due to their unquestioning allegiance to ill-chosen leaders. This contempt and bigotry, the argument suggests, isn’t something they would have pursued quite so single-mindedly on their own. It is merely something they willingly embraced at the behest of leaders who preyed on their fear and naivete.******** They were just following orders.

That’s not much of a defense and it’s certainly not grounds for congratulations.

The suggestion that evangelicals have fallen prey to demagogues presents a difficult problem. It means they’ve been duped, and no one likes to admit they’ve been duped — particularly when, as is so often the case, the con works by exploiting something less than admirable in the victims’ character. This is why crime statistics on scams and con games aren’t wholly reliable. Many victims are reluctant — out of shame and embarrassment — to report these crimes. Admitting that you handed over your money due to greed or foolishness is not easy to do.

Admitting that you’ve been manipulated by duplicitous demagogues exploiting your own fears, insecurities and prejudices isn’t easy to do, either, so I’m afraid my message here for American evangelicals is something of a bitter pill that I don’t know how to sugarcoat. The current situation, represented by the findings of that Barna Group survey, is not something anyone can be proud of. Forced to confront this reality, evangelicals will have to provide an apology of one kind or another.

That word “apology” has two meanings. It can mean an admission of fault, an acceptance of responsibility accompanied by a plea for pardon and an attempt to make restitution. Or it can mean almost the opposite — a formal, defiant defense. The demagogues offer the latter sort of apology for the gay-hatin’ gospel Barna identifies. Whether or not the rank and file of evangelicals will continue to follow them remains to be seen, but the other kind of apology is their only other option.

Hating gay people with “excessive contempt” has become the defining characteristic of American Christianity. American Christians must either repent and ask forgiveness, or double-down and embrace their new identity as contemptuous antichrists.

– – – – – – – – – – – –

* The condensed version of the story, from Judges 12:

“Art thou an Ephraimite?”
“Um, uh … No?
“Prove it. Say ‘shibboleth.’”
“Sibboleth.”
Aha! Die Ephraimite!”
“Oh sit.”

** I want to make a distinction here between two things, both of which I disagree with. The first is the contention that homosexuality is, by definition, a sin. The second is the belief, implicit and explicit, that homosexuality is the worst and most odious of sins. This post is primarily concerned with the latter belief and in order to challenge that here, I have accepted for the sake of argument the language, if not the logic, of the former belief. The larger point is that the belief taught by most Christians — that any sex outside of holy matrimony, narrowly defined, is a sin — does not, and ought not, entail the idea that homosexuality is thus some kind of super-sin or that homosexuals should be singled out for condemnation from which other humans are exempt by the supposed virtue of their heterosexuality.

*** The easy joke here would be to say of this poor minister, as they always do of mountain-climbing- or skiing-accident casualties, that at least he died doing something he loved. But the truth is that he died doing something he seems to have hated, yet couldn’t stop himself from doing. (The second wet suit, after all, suggests that the first one wasn’t really doing it for him.) Unable to come to terms with his own inner freak, he declared war on everybody else’s. Misery loves company, they say, though the sad truth is that misery is pretty miserable no matter how much of it you manage to inflict or project onto others.

**** “Pure” here meaning not only reliable and untainted, but also unitary and wholly without internal conflict, tension, contradiction or paradox. This approach requires that revelation must never contradict or seem to contradict itself. Any such contradictions, real or apparent, would have to be resolved arbitrarily, since this approach provides for — and allows for — no principle or mechanism that would enable us to reconcile or decide between competing revelatory trump cards.

***** It bears repeating here that Marshall Hall’s claim of the pre-eminence of scripture is bogus. He claims, as all Unilateralists do, that he is treating the Bible with great respect as the final arbiter of all things. But he is doing no such thing. What he is really doing is making his interpretation of the Bible the final arbiter of all things. Therefore what he is ultimately arguing is that he, Marshall Hall, is the final arbiter of all things. His assertion, in other words, is not really that the Bible is inerrant and infallible, but that he is. The ability to make such a claim about oneself without bursting out laughing requires about six different kinds of denial plus a heavy dose of duplicity.

****** These sins were not downgraded due to any conscious theological decision, nor due to any explicit attempt to justify American Christians’ disregarding the clear meaning of the text. They are not considered sins primarily because of cultural reasons that are rarely, if ever, explored by those within American culture.

******* You know, just like when President Clinton sent the National Guard into St. Patrick’s Cathedral to force Archbishop O’Connor to bless the wedding of two divorced Roman Catholics. (To clarify, no, that never happened. And it never could happen. Religious groups are free to perform weddings only for members in good standing of their respective communities, and they are free to define for themselves such membership in good standing however they see fit. The legal recognition of same-sex marriage would not change that.)

******** H.L. Mencken’s ungenerous definition of a demagogue: “One who will preach doctrines he knows to be untrue to men he knows to be idiots.” In his defense, the old fart was, I think, hoping that by ridiculing suckers for being suckers he might provoke them to stop being suckers.

Stay in touch with the Slacktivist on Facebook:

Regrets, I've had a few ...
'[White] evangelicals and race -- a new chapter'?
Talking to Republican friends at the Trumpian crossroads
Shaving the intolerant barber (a continuing series)
  • Tom S

    Beyond the infinitude of excellent reasons to support gay marriage in terms of removing some of the absurd discrimination that exists against gay people at the moment (and it’s worth making the point that this isn’t some magnanimous gift that we, the mighty straights, may or may not feel like giving the gays, but a right that is being arbitrarily taken away from them)- I support gay marriage because I want to ram it down the homophobes’ throats, make them formally accept gay couples as they have to accept straight ones, and cower in fear at how far society has moved away from their bigotry. Why in Christ’s name should people who are being oppressed make any concession, a single word or a single penny, to help a bunch of ignorant bigots maintain their state of bigotry?

  • Anonymous

    For anyone who thinks that legalizing same-sex marriage will lead to polygamy, I would like to point out that the Biblical Patriarchs managed to get to polygamy very well without ever using same-sex marriage as a stepping stone to get there.  Historically, polygynous societies have more frequently been homophobic than gay-friendly.  And I find it extremely ironic that so-called biblical literalists are the most likely to use this ridiculous argument.

    (FWIW, I do think that polyamory should be legal, but that is beside the point.)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

    I’ve done my best to avoid responding to the bigot/troll (I’m still up in the air about whether Beatrix is one or both), but my will has broken, and I will say this:

    I am a Christian, specifically a Quaker. Like most Friends, I support social justice, including marriage equality, because of my religious beliefs. Social justice and equality is kind of a thing with Quakers.

    So according to you, I should stop calling myself a Christian, because my beliefs don’t coincide with what you have defined as “Christianity.” You’re hardly the first to make such a claim – in fact, Fred talks about such people quite a bit on this very blog. His answer almost always start with “it’s more complicated than that.”

    Incidentally, I’m a heterosexual man who wants to eventually get married to a woman, and I do not intend to procreate. I want the word “marriage” to apply to that relationship for all the same reasons that many same-sex couples who also do not have and will not have children want it. So why should I get to be married but they don’t?

  • Beatrix

    I’m a bigot, probaby not a troll.

    Yes, gay “marriage” is not Christian.  Christian theology is perfectly straightforward on this point. 

    As for your intentions towards the ladies – look good for you.  Birth control is not Catholic, but then neither are you.  I must say Catholicism is the only branch of Christianity I’ve ever een able to take completely seriously, but… heck, who doesn’t like the Quakers?

    But if a marriage is not between one man and one woman is not the model then what should be, and how will it work?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

    Yes, gay “marriage” is not Christian.  Christian theology is perfectly straightforward on this point.

    Then I guess the Religious Society of Friends must have a very poor understanding of Christian theology. It’s probably because we commit the heresy of periodically revising Faith and Practice.

    As for your intentions towards the ladies – look good for you.  Birth
    control is not Catholic, but then neither are you.  I must say
    Catholicism is the only branch of Christianity I’ve ever een able to
    take completely seriously, but… heck, who doesn’t like the Quakers?

    Lots of people, actually. We have a history of supporting marginalized groups in their attempts to destroy traditions that are the bedrock of society – things like slavery, the disenfranchisement of minorities, segregation, marriage inequality…

    But if a marriage is not between one man and one woman is not the model then what should be, and how will it work?

    Two or more people committed to forming a family unit as part of their community.

  • Anonymous

    Beatrix: And when we finish destroying the one-man-one-woman model of marriage,
    it’s not a zillion gays who’ll be desperate to tye the knot; not,
    polygamy is what will come rushing in.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

    I bet you a million billion trillion squillion jillion dollars that never, ever happens.

    Never mind the fact that you’ve already been provided with links to news articles showing that gay people are indeed rushing to get married right at this moment in those states that allow it.  And never mind that you haven’t provided any evidence that anyone anywhere is using gay marriage as a wedge to legalize polygamy.

    Even with all that aside, I just can’t get over the sheer randomness of this baseless assertion of yours.  Seriously, this isn’t even a slippery slope argument, this is some sort of Sonic 2-slope argument, with no attempt at a logical transition between steps (Sonic 2 zones: 1: beach, Zone 2: factory, Zone 3: ancient ruins, Zone 4: casino, Zone 5: mountains, etc).  Why would anyone in a million years see the right for men to marry men and women to marry women as a forerunner to one man marrying many woman or vice-versa?  What’s the connection here?  Hell, isn’t straight marriage a more logical first step towards the evils of polygamy?  I mean, “one man, one woman” leads to “one man, many women” in a far more straightforward way than “one woman, one woman” or “one man, one man”.  Better outlaw straight marriage before it’s too late, and the world collapses into a swirling chaos of polygamic horror.  In fact, the real first step towards polygamy is marriage itself.  Better outlaw all forms of marriage just to be on the safe side!

  • Beatrix

    Maybe you’re just not very good at working things out in your head.

    Anyway, I’d take your bet, but you don’t have that kind of folding cash.  But there will be a case regarding the lagality of polygamy before the Supreme Court within 5 years.

  • Beatrix

    And gay “marriage” wil be cited as the main precedent.

  • Anonymous

    That would require overturning the precedent set in Reynolds v. United States.  I’m not saying it can’t happen, but it makes it that more unlikely.

  • Anonymous

    Beatrix: Maybe you’re just not very good at working things out in your head.

    Or maybe you’re just tossing our random nonsense in lieu of arguments.

    He didn’t say one word about human sacrifice, either.

    I think the practice is at least a little hard to reconcile with the Golden Rule.

    Theology doesn’t end with J.C.

    No, but Christianity kinda does.

  • Anonymous

    Beatrix: Yes, gay “marriage” is not Christian.  Christian theology is perfectly straightforward on this point.

    No, Christian theology is not perfectly straightforward on this point.  Jesus in particular didn’t say one word on the subject, and he’s sort of the authority on Christian theology.  So no, not straightforward.  You made the same bald, unsupported claim at the beginning of the argument, pretty much word-for-word too.  Are you just some bigot wind-up doll that’s cycled back to the start of your stock phrases?

  • Beatrix

    He didn’t say one word about human sacrifice, either.  Theology doesn’t end with J.C.

  • Green Eggs and Ham

    Correct, but he did think that marriage was inferior to celibacy.

  • Anonymous

    It’s always reassuring to me when I see the opponents of marriage equality defend their position, because I have never once seen them do it without spouting more lies than a creationist. Seriously, I have never once seen one of them manage to go more than three comments without saying something that 5 seconds of research on Google could show is false.

    This thread is the first time I’ve ever seen someone try to claim that anti-miscegenation laws only ever existed in America though. That was just plain stupid.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    This thread is the first time I’ve ever seen someone try to claim that anti-miscegenation laws only ever existed in America though

    Don’t you know everything of significance only ever existed in North America?

  • Matri

    I am seriously considering using the Cracked.com method of arguing these people.

  • Matri

    I am seriously considering using the Cracked.com method of arguing these people.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_NYIMSCWWLA5XTAYXL3FXNCJZ7I Kiba

    You know same-sex marriage has been legal in Canada since, what, 2005? Earlier, I think, by province. I have yet to hear about any outcry for polygamous marriages there. Same-sex marriage has been legal in Massachusetts since 2004 and they haven’t slipped down the polygamous marriage slope yet either. Ditto for the Netherlands (legal since 2001) and Belgium (legal since 2003).

  • Donalbain

    Considering that Beatrix is pretending to be an agnostic, she is going on about what the Catholic Church thinks rather a lot.

  • Tom S

    To be fair, she doesn’t actually seem to _know_ anything about the Catholics, so if she is one she didn’t spend a lot of time in CCD

  • Anonymous

    That actually sounds about right.  Consider the number of Easter-Christmas attendees at any church, then consider that those families generally don’t invest in supplementary religious instruction, and you’ve got a lot of people in every denomination who haven’t the foggiest what their own denomination is all about.

    By the by, I’ve finally given in and joined Disqus!  Hi all!

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Considering that Beatrix is pretending to be an agnostic, she is going on about what the Catholic Church thinks rather a lot.

    [umbrage] Are you saying that agnostics are not ALLOWED to have an opinion??!! [/umbrage]

  • Donalbain

    Getting a Left Behind book is not possible. There is far too much quoted text involved, and there is no way in Hell that the authors will give permission.

  • Anonymous

    I believe the rule is that if the quoted material is less than ten percent of the material as a whole, it’s fair use and the authors’ permission need not be asked. The question then is, are the parts of LB and TF that Fred has quoted less than ten percent of LB and TF? And I’m fairly certain they are.

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ JJohnson

    Another option would be to drop the quotes directly, and instead footnote the lines listed.

    Ex:  Tribulation Force, pg 56, lines 13-19.

    Granted it would require someone to have a copy, but that’s what used book stores are for.  Or maybe your local library, depending.

  • http://guy-who-reads.blogspot.com/ Mike Timonin

    Considering that Beatrix is pretending to be an agnostic, she is going on about what the Catholic Church thinks rather a lot.
    It’s ok – she also claims to be British-Canadian. Monoblade claims to have attended a UU congregation AND to have lived in an anarchist commune. They both have significant others in Canada and/or Michigan, Beatrix has the original KITT in her garage; Monoblade has the Batmobile, and they both know [insert famous singer] and totally get to go backstage, like, whenever. We are blessed to have such luminaries in our midst, truly.

  • Mackrimin

    Aren’t you ignoring the most obvious explanation here?

    Ezekiel 16:49-50: “Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen.”

    Now, which modern-day group does this describe all too well? And what would such a group, if they were not willing to change – and who ever is? – yet were desperate to convince themselves they’re not in God’s shit-list, would do? Why, they would pretend that the whole Sodom thing was about something else altogether. What’s this? Sodomites tried to gang-rape two _men_? That’s it, Sodom’s sin was actually homosexuality! The above passage clearly means that, when taken literally! I can’t hear you, conscience, I’m too busy railing against those darn Sodomites!

    Perhaps I’m getting too cynical with age, but this seems an all too likely explanation to me.

  • Anonymous

    And since we’re on the topic of rape jokes, I’ll share my view.  Most men aren’t rapists.  However, actual rapists think that most men are rapists but just better at getting away with it.  Rape jokes normalize their behavior and make them feel like they are justified in raping.  That’s why they are worse in some ways than jokes about murder or other crimes.  So next time you make light of rape, just remember that you might be reinforcing a rapist’s misconception that rape is normal behavior.

  • Nightsky

    Their power depends upon the perception of barbarians at the gate, on
    the perception that some menacing Other is on the verge of destroying
    all that their followers hold dear.

    Oh, MY yes. You can see another shining example of this principle in action when you look at the NRA. My dad–who has an advanced degree in the hard sciences and is one of the smartest and kindest people I know–has a serious blind spot when it comes to them. I’ll come home for a visit and see the NRA mailings, and they’re all about how the liberals in power ARE COMING TO TAKE YOUR GUNS AWAY RIGHT NOW OMG OMG OMG. Never mind that the left has essentially conceded the gun wars; in NRA-land, an evil amalgam of Obama and Pelosi is already on its way to your house to take your guns and replace all your steak with tofu.

    If it’s not that, it’s the popular “this particular variety of ammo becomes illegal next year! Better stock up now!” pitch. That this particular argument has an obvious benefit to the sellers of ammo seems not to have occurred to NRA members, who fall for it every time.

  • Tonio

    Why do you suppose your dad has that blind spot? Among the people I know, almost all who believe the NRA fearmongering are “grumps,” wrapped up in resentment and entitlement, genuinely incurious, and fealful of social change in general. Although they espouse racist opinions, those are merely part of an overall pernicious worldview. But your father doesn’t sound like that.

  • Nightsky

    Do you know, I have no idea.  While he’s not particularly progressive, he’s not all that conservative, either… it may be inertia, frankly. He’s been a lifetime member since the early Sixties; possibly they were less obnoxious then.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    If it’s not that, it’s the popular “this particular variety of ammo becomes illegal next year! Better stock up now!” pitch.

    A friend whose opinion I respect a lot is pretty certain the NRA has ceased to be more than vestigially a handgun-OWNER’s advocacy group, and is pretty much a gun-MANUFACTURERs’ marketing arm at this point.  I can believe it.

  • Tonio

    Ceased? I’ve suspected for 20 years that the NRA is basically the manufacturers’ political action committee using owners as fig leaves. I’ve seen the group take position after position on gun control that effectively undercut the owners while protecting profits. And I’ve seen literature from the group that implies that the UN’s stance on gun control will lead to one-world government, although it wasn’t stated explicitly.

  • Anonymous

    There is a not-insignificant portion of the NRA’s membership who are recognizing this.  Alternatives include the Gun Owners of America, and the American Hunters and Shooters Association.

  • Anonymous

    Good grief, yes.  After Obama was elected, you couldn’t go to any store in Nevada and expect to find any 7.62mm, 5.56mm,* or even 9mm ammunition.  Every right-wing authoritarian follower was absolutely convinced that Obama was going to ram through some sort of Executive Order banning the cool guns.**

    * – Oxford comma: I still haz it!
    ** – When I lived in Nevada, I OWNED some ‘cool guns,’ and my beef with the entire thing was not only the lack of ammunition, but the fact that the manufacturers and retailers were price-gouging: Prices for 7.62mm went up about 150% at the worst of it.  And yet the fools with ‘Blackwater Fan’ sweatshirts and ‘INFIDEL’*** t-shirts weren’t complaining about that.  Witlings.
    *** – Now I kinda want a ‘HERETIC’ tee.  Except some gamers might think I was a fan of the mid-90’s DOOM clone.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Good grief, yes. After Obama was elected, you couldn’t go to any store in Nevada and expect to find any 7.62mm, 5.56mm, or even 9mm ammunition. Every right-wing authoritarian follower was absolutely convinced that Obama was going to ram through some sort of Executive Order banning the cool guns.

    I suspect that the ammunition manufacturers are thrilled every time a Democrat president assumes office, because they get to play the “gun control, ohnoes!” card to boost demand and make a killing on sales. 

    When did Obama ever even mention gun control when he was campaigning anyway? 

  • Tonio

    When did Obama ever even mention gun control when he was campaigning anyway?

    The only time I recall was that “clinging to guns or religion” quote. For anyone who listened to the entire clip or read the whole transcript, it was obvious that Obama was saying that some people cling to those things out of fear. But no, it had to be straw-manned into an uppity black man holding “ordinary” white people in elitist contempt.

  • Anonymous

    Let’s not delude ourselves, we ALL know who he was talking about.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    What was he talking about?  Let’s hear it.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    That was the only thing I could think of too.  I know people were offended by it (the implication that their interest in guns or religion was due to desperation and fear,) so it was a bit of an admitted gaffe on his part.  But to say that he will impliment gun control based on that required a leap of logic I can only begin to trace. 

    For that matter, I remembered some McCain supporters yelling that people would loose their feedoms to Obama, and I have no idea on what basis they were making that claim.  Hell, I have no idea on what basis some people still make that claim.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    For that matter, I remembered some McCain supporters yelling that people would loose their feedoms to Obama, and I have no idea on what basis they were making that claim.  Hell, I have no idea on what basis some people still make that claim.

    Oh, you didn’t know?  Obama, with the help of the EVIL TERRORIST-LIVING LIBRUL TRAITORS!!@!1!!two! is going to destroy the Constitution, outlaw Christianity, steal everyone’s guns, nationalize ALL businesses, and turn America into a hideous CommuNazi Athiest Sharia gulag where gay marriage and abortion will be MANDATORY fnord.

  • Tonio

    Yeah, his wording was clumsy and could have used more thought. But I still say that the people who were offended wanted to be so. These are generally the same people who alternate between calling Obama a “Muslim” and a “socialist” as euphemisms for his ethnicity.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Oh, I agree.  The very people he was refering to are those in the “IndigNation” as Fred has put it.  They get off on being offended by things. 

    I also want to point out for the sake of newcomers to the blog, that such indignation addicts are not necessarily limited by political lines. 

  • Tonio

    Yes, good point that indignation addiction knows no ideology. Many of my posts in these threads deal with the specific types of indignation driven by white resentment or male resentment. But any type of cause has its subset of activists who seem to enjoy being offended, and I suspect it’s a personality type. Erica the wiccan in the second Blair Witch movie was a fictional example taken to an extreme.

  • Amaryllis

    Tangential and brief, because I’m in a hurry to get the new LB post, which is probably more fun.

    Birth control isn’t Catholic
    Try googling “Catholics for Free Choice.” Study after study confirms that American Catholic women use birth control at the same rates as American women in general. The Pope may disapprove, but this is one of those areas where many Catholics, after serious moral reflection, disagree and still feel able to call themselves Catholic.

    As for defining who’s entitled to call themselves Christian, the ever-wise hapax posted this over on Slacktiverse a few weeks ago:

    One thing
    that studying the history of Christianity has taught me is that trying
    to come up with a good objective litmus test for “who is a Christian”?
    is like trying to catch sunshine in a bottle; every time you think
    you’ve isolated it, you end up peering into an empty  beaker while
    ignoring the radiance all around you.

    Marriage is a real, actual civil right. That’s why people fought to have interracial marriage legalized.

    IIRC, that is specifically the reasoning behind the ruling in Loving v. Virginia.
    Anybody remeber when we were discussing the Letter from Jourdon Anderson to his former master? When he mentions his wife, Mandy, he throws in a sly little parenthetical: “the folks here call her Mrs. Anderson.” That is, not only do they give a black woman the dignity of a title, they give a black couple the dignity of a recognized marriage– a right to which they were not entitled under slavery.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

    One of the things I like about WoW is that it offers a lot of different options depending on what you want out of the game. You can focus on solo quests (the game now makes a lot of use of “phasing” where your actions effect the world you see and interact with, although I would like Blizzard to take it further). You can PVP to your heart’s content or ignore it completely (the latter obviously requires that you NOT choose a PVP server).

    As new endgame content is introduced, the earlier endgame content is deliberately made more accessible to less hardcore players. For example, the newest expansion’s endgame raid content (dungeons for 10-25 players) is available in normal modes (very tough, you need to have spent effort gearing your characters to pull off) and Heroic modes (basically existing for those who have replayed the normal raids to the point they consider them easy).

    With the release of the latest patch, 4.2, a new endgame raid was introduced for the people who had been running the existing raids – and the normal version of the existing raids were lowered in difficulty. The players who had invested hours into those raids weren’t losing anything – they had access to new, tougher content and the Heroic raids were just as challenging – but the now “outdated” normal raids had been made accessible to the less hardcore players who had not previously been able to play them. (My guild, for example.)

    Current WoW is very, very different from vanilla, and I like it quite a bit.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

    I haven’t tried any of the superhero games for the simple reason that I want to create superhero comics, and I want to retain ownership of anything I develop.

    I’m a huge Warhammer fan, and got into Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning from the launch date, but dropped it after a few months. There wasn’t much to do in solo play, and while they had lots of good mechanics to enable group play, they required a player base that wasn’t spread out over too many servers. I understand that the game has far fewer servers now, but that’s less because they tried to ensure well-populated servers than because they bled players.

    My friends and I are looking forward to Star Wars: The Old Republic, and it will be a new experience to play alongside real-life friends. I’m also excited but uncertain about Warhammer 40,000: Dark Millennium. It pretty much depends on if Eldar are playable or not.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    I’m also excited but uncertain about Warhammer 40,000: Dark Millennium. It pretty much depends on if Eldar are playable or not.

    I am still struggling to figure out how they will balance those races

    Or how they will deal with the mono-gendered issue

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ JJohnson

    I suspect they’ll do what WAR did, and go with generally accepted fluff.  The simple reason being that female gamers aren’t as numerous as male gamers (yet), and male gamers who will stick up for female gamers are considered to either be A) gay* B)white knighting** – and thus aren’t taken seriously.  So while it will probably cost them some subscriptions, doing the more egalitarian thing would probably cost them more, and cause an even bigger, more epicer shitstorm.  (One that I feel needs to happen, but which is probably 15 years + away at best.)

    As to balancing the races – I actually see that as fairly simple… IF they do it the way I think the ought to*** –

    Basically the idea is this:  Instead of creating a single character, you create your avatar (the sergeant or unit equivelant), and then as you level you are given extra points to spend on squad members and upgrades.  The solution being that by the level cap, a Marine has a combat squad of 5 very powerful characters, but a Guard character has like, 20; and everyone else falls somewhere between.  (I imagine if they actually did it that way, it’d be cut down quite a bit… like, 1 Marine, 5 Guard, that kind of thing.)

    I doubt they’ll do it that way though *sigh* /dreams on.

    … man I have spent a lot of time on Slacktivist today >.> you peoples are interesting darnit!

    *Which shouldn’t matter, but you know how some geeks are.  Okay a lot of geeks.

    **Ie: Trying to be chivalrous to get female attention.  Sadly this happens relatively often so telling when someone is standing up just because and when they’re doing it to get attention can be difficult. Blergh.

    ***Because I know *everything*.  (sarcastic as  hell ><)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

    Yeah, the way WAR handled gender was weird.

    Making the Witch Elf class “Witch Elf/Assassin” should have been a big deal, a Dark Elf Assassin would play exactly the same as the Witch Elf class they designed – all they would need is a different set of gear graphics, which different genders need anyway. They’d still be lightly armored elves popping out of stealth to stab you a lot before slitting your throat.

    Chosen and Marauders made no sense as male-only, the fluff does establish they exist. Supposedly the devs just couldn’t imagine a woman as a hulking scary servant of Chaos.

    The male Dark Elf Sorcerers and female Warrior Priests of Sigmar were fine by me (and I LOVE that your female Warrior Priest can have a shaven head a nasty facial scars), as both had some fluff explaining them.

    I support limiting Dwarf Slayers to males, though. WH Dwarf society seems to have very strict gender roles, and the Slayers have always been a part of the dwarven cult of masculinity.

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ JJohnson

    Well the thing is, for dwarves, having any female characters was kind of ‘odd’* – so at that point it’s like “Why stop here?”  It just didn’t make sense to me.

    And yeah, female priests of Sigmar were badass (‘x’) That class was sooooo ridiculously powerful too.  My main was a Swordmaster though… so many people seemed to think it was a weak class, and for that they paid dearly, muwahahaha!  (And then they buffed us…)

    *sigh*  Only ended up quitting due to running out of stuff to do.  Keep thinking about going back but I worry I’ll get back and then the game will close up shop on me like Tabula Rasa did. ( _ _) and then I would cry.  Well not really but it would be very disappointing.

    *I preferred it of course, but strictly by the fluff it’s a bit unusual.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    I support limiting Dwarf Slayers to males, though. WH Dwarf society seems to have very strict gender roles, and the Slayers have always been a part of the dwarven cult of masculinity.

    Wait, did they actually add playable Dwarf Slayers to the game?  Because I remember chatting with one of WAR’s developers at a conference sometime well before release.  He was telling me that they were not planning to make Slayers playable because some of the behavior expected out of players would conflict with the lore.  Having a Slayer hanging around town going “LFG 4 PvP” for an hour would not jive well with the expectation that a Slayer is a death-seeking berserker who goes out and slays rather than hangs around town. 

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    On the bright side, Dwarf (foo) Slayers would be PERFECT for NPC allies.  In most games, the AI already has the “rush in like an idiot and get killed instantly” thing down pat.  

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ JJohnson

    They did, about the same time as the Choppa, both were post-release additions.  They’re both Medium DPS – middle of the road armor, AoE heavy DPS, at least as I recall them.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

    They did indeed add playable Slayers. The player behavior/character behavior thing I don;t really see as an issue, because they already have non-Elves wandering around Ulthuan, Dark Elves and Orcs cheerfully fighting alongside each other, etc.

  • Rikalous

    Or how they will deal with the mono-gendered issue.

    Maybe by emphasizing how badass Sisters of Battle are, and promoting them as distaff counterparts to Space Marines?

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ JJohnson

    This is what I’m kind of imagining will actually happen.  My primary gripe with that being that Sisters* are a lot less flavorable than Marines.  Marines, like Guard, accept a tooooon of possible cultural influences.  In player armies I’ve seen Imperial Chinese marines, Incan marines, Zulu marines… you get the idea.

    You  never get away with that for Sisters.  You can create your own Order** of course, but you’ve only got so much room to maneuver within the Ecclesiarchal culture.  End result is, you’re going to end up with (visually) primarily color swaps and a few emblem additions on top of the Fleur.  … and usually that’s about it.

    I mean fiction-wise you can do some neat stuff; but it’s a far less customizable group on the whole.

    Still I suppose in an MMO it’s at least more tolerable than on the tabletop.  And all is forgiven if they give me an Eviscerator.

    *As awesome as they are – Like I said, the Ordo Hereticus and SOBs are tied for my favorite army with  Marines.

    **I had the Order of the Lioness – Silver, White and Gold colors.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Still I suppose in an MMO it’s at least more tolerable than on the tabletop. And all is forgiven if they give me an Eviscerator.

    The thing about the context of an MMO though is that you cannot really get away with all the Special Snowflake kind of thing you can on a tabletop.  Limitations on in-game resources, balance and presentation issues (player characters that do not look like they “belong” clash with the aestetic and affect others’ experiences,) and limited developer interest, personel, and time, all contribute to narrow down the focus of what a player can do.  I would be unsurprised if all the playable marines in the game were part of the same chapter.  It certainly makes quest-giving a lot more reasonable than if there were a bunch of novice marines from different chapters running around the same chapel barracks. 

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ JJohnson

    True.  I think they’ve only shown Black Templars so far, haven’t they?  (It’s been awhile since I watched the videos so maybe I’m wrong there.)

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    True. I think they’ve only shown Black Templars so far, haven’t they? (It’s been awhile since I watched the videos so maybe I’m wrong there.)

    Been a while for me too, but when I think about it, the Black Templars might work really well from a gameplay standpoint.  They are not as limited as Codex chapters in terms of the size of their standing forces, so it would not be so unusual if their player base seemed unusually large.  Further, their novices are not seperated into seperate scout companies like other chapters, but are mentored directly by line battle-brothers and fight alongside them, so a low-level player can jump right into the action rather than just sneak about, observe, and leave the fighting to more veteran marines.  As well, Black Templar squads are formed ad-hoc as need arises, with squad mates forming together out of friendships and past experience fighting together, rather than being fixed organizations with central leaders, so it fits well in a looking-for-group context. 

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ JJohnson

    Indeed indeed.  And frankly the Black Templars are just ten kinds of awesome anyway.  They also probably have some of the best <a href="url=http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/BlingOfWar]Bling of War in the setting.  Given 40k that’s saying something.

    Additionally – I love melee.  That’s one of the (many) reasons 40k is so attractive to me in comparison to more hard sci-fi settings, because there are melee units and, despite the firearm heavy battlefield… they actually get to do things.  Potentially a LOT of things.*

    Really hoping that will be a viable playstyle for at least a couple classes per side.

    *Fun army I started to build:  Blood Angels (successor chapter specifically) list with nothing but assault marines and 2 Land Speeder Tornadoes, if I remember correctly.  Led by a jetpack Chaplain to lead the Death Company.  I have zero idea if it would have actually worked on the tabletop – model count was pretty darn low overall; but I admit I just love the images it put in my head.  “Death From Above” indeed.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Fun army I started to build: Blood Angels (successor chapter specifically) list with nothing but assault marines and 2 Land Speeder Tornadoes, if I remember correctly. Led by a jetpack Chaplain to lead the Death Company. I have zero idea if it would have actually worked on the tabletop – model count was pretty darn low overall; but I admit I just love the images it put in my head. “Death From Above” indeed.

    That would have worked.  To quote Gav Thorpe when he wrote (an older edition of) the Blood Angels codex, “The Blood Angels have one strategy and one strategy only, and they are very, very good at it, and that’s ‘Charge!'”

    That is also pretty consistant with their fluff.  The fact that any one of them can be taken over by the black rage at any time while in battle tends to slant them toward using very aggressive tactics.  That way, if one of them does go berserk, they do not have to alter their plans.  If, say, they were holding a tight battle line and one of them was overcome by bloodlust and charged into the enemy, the line would fall appart.  They tend to rely heavily on momentum and never giving the enemy time to regroup or get entrenched.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

    The all-assault Blood Angels army can work quite well. This is primarily because their assault squads are Troops choices that ARE scoring units. One of the dangers in building a BA army is taking too few scoring units, which is a severe disadvantage 2/3s of the time in standard scenarios.

    Layperson’s translation: Warhammer 40,000 has common victory conditions that a poorly-designed army may find itself unable to fulfill now matter how much butt it kicks. The Blood Angels options are such that one can accidentally build such an army more easily than with other factions.

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ JJohnson

    Yeah, I forget exactly how many I had, but I want to say it was something like 2 full 10-marine squads, and a 5-marine combat squad, a 5-marine vet squad, the death company, and the land speeders.  The 2 big squads were of course broken down into combat squads.  (It’s been awhile so I may be way off)

    I also kinda went a little overboard with the power weapons as I recall >.<;

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    That is actually something of a disadvantage to my Tau force.  I only have a pair of scoring units, and a lot of non-scoring units to do the heavy fighting.  It can work, but the challenge is ensuring that at the end of them game, I have two objectives under my control and the enemy has one or none.  For this my force is pretty well equipped, as my non-scoring units are fairly powerful and highly mobile, which means I can concentrate a lot of force to wipe the enemy out, but I can also spread that force to deny the enemy objectives.  Even a non-scoring unit can still keep the enemy from taking an objective if it can hold it.  My scoring units, on the other hand, can use their transport skimmers to rush to nab objectives when it becomes clear what objectives the enemy will be unable to take.  Thanks to their ability to regroup when below half-strength, they can keep holding it even if the enemy inflicts severe casualties.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

    I had a lot of trouble managing scoring units with the Eldar until I tried using large squads of jetbikes. The ability to turbo-boost 24″ in the last turn to nab an objective (and if your opponent has the final turn, a 3+ invulnerable save due to turbo-boosting) is incredibly useful.

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ JJohnson

    I remember on Warseer a lot of people alternately praising or condemning that tactic lol

    I think the Eldar army I had planned* was basically lots and lots of Striking Scorpions and Rangers.  Stealth was one of the halmarks of the army as I remember.  (I could be remembering wrong, but that’s what the old melon is telling me it was.)

    Also a few guardians.  Well and one Wraithlord.  I saw a “sniper” conversion for a Brightlance wraithlord, and I knew I wanted one.  It was the perfect capstone to an army with a lot of rangers.  Even though it’s about as stealthy as a brightly painted dinosaur statue doing the cha-cha in rush our traffic. >.>  But it’s very pretty looking so it’s OK.

    Now I forget what all I had… *hrm… do I want to dig for that list…*

    *For the record, I wrote up a *ton* of fluff back in the day.  I didn’t get many models painted or games played in comparison to the shear amount of fluff and list-making I did.

    My craftworld probably had the most detailed backstory of anything I wrote; so I won’t go into the long of it here.  The short version was it was on of the last to leave before the Fall, so it got caught on the very, very leading edge of the warp storms heralding Slaanesh’s birth.  They were also shot through with people who were just as sadistically twisted as those who’d become the Dark Eldar… but were smart enough to see the writing on the all and get out while the getting was good.

    Long story short:  Civil war on a badly damaged craftworld, a period of mourning, and then the craftworld ‘forgets’.  Willingly trying to forget the past and simply continuing on as they are.  Which in the 40k universe works about as well as you’d expect.

    I’d have to dig up the actual fluff to explain it all though.  I’ve forgotten why I had so many Guardians now.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

    Guardians, unfortunately, continue to be completely worthless. Which is a terrible pity because the models look cool and I have a ton of them.

    I’m much more partial to Howling Banshees than Striking Scorpions, in part because of the preponderance of power-armored armies out there.

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ JJohnson

    Yeah, but Banshees can’t infiltrate >_>; which was one of the big things as I remember.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    I remember when second edition Guardians were awesome.  They had so many different options, and their shuriken catapults were one of the single best basic weapons out there.  Third edition hit them with a serious nerf bat, and their range got halved.  Fourth edition reintroduced decently ranged shuriken catapults, but only Dire Avengers get those. 

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Ah yes, the famous Alaitoc ranger army of John Shaffer.  I remember seeing pictures of its debute years ago.  It eventually got featured in the 5th Edition core rulebook as an example of a highly customized army.  The half-crouched Wraithlord with the brightlance held in its hands is actually pretty justified, if the soul that animates it is that of a ranger.  It is simply immitating the stance and fighting style it felt most comfortable with in life.  That is something I always loved about Wraithlords, there are so many oppertunities to communicate life and personality through its pose alone.  Of course, back in my day, we had to saw apart puter joints and join everything with a pin vice and steel wire.  Heck, I still do that for my plastic models, but it used to be a lot harder back then.

    Actually, posing is one of the things I really love to do, and is one of the few ways to really customize a “clean” army (things like Orks and Chaos get a bit of a pass on sloppy-looking conversions, since it is still easy to keep those looking thematically linked to their fiction.)  Check out this crisis suit I put together, for example.  I wanted to communicate grace and agility, despite the bulky suit, so I made it landing from a jump.  Though it also looks kind of like it is dancing ballet or about to snap-kick something in the face, but that is still graceful so mission accomplished none-the-less.  :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

    Of course, back in my day, we had to saw apart puter joints and join
    everything with a pin vice and steel wire.  Heck, I still do that for my
    plastic models, but it used to be a lot harder back then.

    I have an old metal Wraithlord that I’m still rather proud of, even though I never got him painted. Through much sawing and pinning, I had him stepping on a Dark Eldar warrior, who was hopelessly firing his splinter pistol up at the Wraithlord.

    Check out this crisis suit I put together, for example.

    Very nice! I love plastic kits so much for the posing options they give you. My Tau-playing friend really, really wants to see plastic Broadsides, so that he’ll have a posing option other than “please don’t fall over.”

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    I have an old metal Wraithlord that I’m still rather proud of, even though I never got him painted. Through much sawing and pinning, I had him stepping on a Dark Eldar warrior, who was hopelessly firing his splinter pistol up at the Wraithlord.

    Sweet.  I got started with Eldar in second edition, so there were no Dark Eldar for my wraitlord to stomp when I built it. 

    Very nice! I love plastic kits so much for the posing options they give you. My Tau-playing friend really, really wants to see plastic Broadsides, so that he’ll have a posing option other than “please don’t fall over.”

    Actually, that particular crisis suit does not have as wide a range of posing as I have given it.  The elbows do not pose, and neither do the knees.  For mine, I had to actually break apart the elbows and one knee, then reattach them in a different pose, using steel wire in the joints for strength.  After that, I build the exterior surface back out with modeling epoxy and carve it back into shape.  You have to be really careful when breaking the joints to avoid excessive damage, and carving all the fine details back into it is difficult, but the results are well worth it.  Oh, and I had to add another wire going into the foot and all the way up the leg to the knee to get it to stand on tip-toe like that.  The wire actually extends down into the base and wraps around the underside to give it proper balance.

    You might want to point your friend to Forge World’s line of XV-88-2 Broadside suits.  All resin, and they swap the position of the primary and secondary weapons to lower the center of weight.  Plus they are custom models, rather than just crisis suits with extra bits, so they have things like capacitor banks instead of a jetpack (making them more resemble their fluff than the Citadel version.)  But of course, this being Forge World, they are a little pricy.  That said, it is still cheaper than most stuff Forge World offers, and the Citadel ones are not necessarily much less expensive.

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ JJohnson

    Hehehe, definitely sounds like a good plan.  Devilfish ftw >.>

    I never really got to play (well, one game); but my plan, such as it was, was basically to try to get to the most favorable terrain on the board with my assault marines, using my superior speed and manueverability, meanwhile the Land Speeders would be either A) holding back behind the marines, with the intent being to sweep around should there be something I can’t dislodge or can’t withstand a charge from…

    or B)  Sweep around the flank and go for the rear of enemy vehicles where appropriate.  My  landspeeders were the closest I had to dedicated AT.  Yes, Landspeeders. >..< and I got pwnt since I built him a very standard "lots of basic infantry" Necron army.

    We'll be back can kiss my ceramite plated rump.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    To be honest, my force actually has its Devilfish as my primary anti-armor platform.  While that is hardly overwhelming, it is not as absurd as it sounds.  Each Devilfish mounts a pair of seeker missiles* (S8, ignores LOS, unlimited range, hits on a marked target on a 2+) and each fire warrior squad is accompanied by a pair of marker drones.  That means that I get four high strength anti-armor shots per game, so I need to make them count.  Alternatively, if I expect to go up against an armor-heavy force, I can swap some of my crisis suits’ kits for anti-armor tactics.  It will be risky, likely costly, but if I can use the terrain to get in position, those vehicles are screwed.  Jetpacking, 4+ invlunerable saving, all melta squads FTW! 

    Funny thing about 40K is that often lots of basic infantry is one of the more effective strategies, in virtually any army.  People tend to go for the biggest and most impressive units in any army, sinking lots of points into them (if for no other reason because it means they have to buy and paint fewer models, and we know how expensive and time consuming that can be) which leaves a lot of armies understrength in terms of numbers.  The ironic part is that basic infantry is almost always the best value for points, even if it the least impressive on paper.  Boring But Practical.

    * Incidentally, I am proud of the modding I did with my seeker missiles. Each missile fits into a custom formed grove in the sides of each Devilfish, and is held against the hull by magnets embedded in vehicle and in the missiles themselves. When a missile is launched, I can just remove it from the vehicle to keep track of how many I have remaining, and it all is WYSIWYG compliant (including other pieces of equipment which are also removable and changable via magnets.)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

    Jetpacking, 4+ invlunerable saving, all melta squads FTW!

    All-melta squads (in my case, Fire Dragons) seem to be even better for their psychological effect than their actual anti-armor ability. My opponents will use their tanks extremely conservatively, and spend a great deal of time worrying about whether the tanks are in range of my transport move+melta range. All of which goes to make my mobility advantage even greater.

    The ironic part is that basic infantry is almost always the best value for points, even if it the least impressive on paper.  Boring But Practical.

    Yup. I’m continually amazed by Ork players who will dump massive amounts of points into Nobz that have been kitted out to abuse the wound allocation rules, when for the same points as ten such Nobz they could have bought 60 Boyz.

    Eldar are in the unfortunate position of having one basic infantry squad that is completely worthless (Guardians), which I was distressed to learn through many games after painting over thirty of them. But Guardian Jetbike Squads, Rangers, and Dire Avengers make up for that.

    * Incidentally, I am proud of the modding I did with my seeker missiles.
    Each missile fits into a custom formed grove in the sides of each
    Devilfish, and is held against the hull by magnets embedded in vehicle
    and in the missiles themselves. When a missile is launched, I can just
    remove it from the vehicle to keep track of how many I have remaining,
    and it all is WYSIWYG compliant (including other pieces of equipment
    which are also removable and changable via magnets.

    Magnets are pretty much the Best Thing Ever for miniature wargames. I’ve started using them on most of my vehicle weapons for easy weapon swaps to give me more army-building options. For Warhammer Fantasy, magnetized movement trays speed up gameplay immensely.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    All-melta squads (in my case, Fire Dragons) seem to be even better for their psychological effect than their actual anti-armor ability. My opponents will use their tanks extremely conservatively, and spend a great deal of time worrying about whether the tanks are in range of my transport move+melta range. All of which goes to make my mobility advantage even greater.

    Yeah, I expect them to fulfill more of an armor-surpression role, rather than an offensive role.  Bad idea for Tau to close with the enemy, especially if they move it forward slowly and flank it with infantry.  I expect enemies to try to charge it with assault troops, counting on my squad’s limited firing range to minimize casualties.  On the other hand, I have three crisis suits total, so I can back up the anti-armor squad with some anti-infantry equipped suits.  I find plasma guns and missile pods ruin a space marine squad’s day. 

    Yup. I’m continually amazed by Ork players who will dump massive amounts of points into Nobz that have been kitted out to abuse the wound allocation rules, when for the same points as ten such Nobz they could have bought 60 Boyz.

    Oh god, the infamous Nob Biker multi-wound abuse strategy?  Cheapest thing ever, but  falls apart in the face of anything which can dish out multiple hits with enough strength to cause instant death.  No matter how well kitted out those Nobz are, the instant-death threshold still applies versus their base toughness, not the modified value.  The Leman Russ Punisher (a variation only added in the most recent Imperial Guard codex) is great for this.  Its primary weapon is like a giant assault cannon which is itself made up of other assault cannons, or it at least fires as many rounds.  It manages to out-dakka the Orks, and that is really saying something. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

    Dire Avengers have almost completely displaced them in function since
    then. A big part of the reason why I stopped playing Eldar when third
    edition came around was because of the nerf, I could not restructure my
    existing army to be nearly as useful as it used to be, and would have
    had to buy entirely new sets of models just to have a decent force. A
    cynical mind might be inclined to think that Games Workshop made those
    changes just to push new models…

    One might, except that 3rd edition also saw the release of the beautiful plastic Guardian kit. They were actually really great under 3rd if one used the Ulthwe lists from the Craftworld Eldar or Eye of Terror supplements.

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ JJohnson

    This is what I’m kind of imagining will actually happen.  My primary gripe with that being that Sisters* are a lot less flavorable than Marines.  Marines, like Guard, accept a tooooon of possible cultural influences.  In player armies I’ve seen Imperial Chinese marines, Incan marines, Zulu marines… you get the idea.

    You  never get away with that for Sisters.  You can create your own Order** of course, but you’ve only got so much room to maneuver within the Ecclesiarchal culture.  End result is, you’re going to end up with (visually) primarily color swaps and a few emblem additions on top of the Fleur.  … and usually that’s about it.

    I mean fiction-wise you can do some neat stuff; but it’s a far less customizable group on the whole.

    Still I suppose in an MMO it’s at least more tolerable than on the tabletop.  And all is forgiven if they give me an Eviscerator.

    *As awesome as they are – Like I said, the Ordo Hereticus and SOBs are tied for my favorite army with  Marines.

    **I had the Order of the Lioness – Silver, White and Gold colors.

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ JJohnson

    Ownership wise – it’s complicated, but since I want to create comics as well* I actually had a little bit of a panic attack regarding the issue on the forums at one point, and was pretty much told that it was fine.  The key things as I recall were:

    The ownership thing applies to the character (as in the data itself), not the IP  you’re using (your own) – This is to prevent gold selling.  It also helps give them an out if you say… created our superhero comic after creating the character in CO… then sued CO for being able to create your character in CO.

    Basically it’s to prevent asshattery.

    It’s not that theoretically it couldn’t be a problem, but the much more likely occurance is that on seeing a comic character who matches on on the server, they’d simply generic** the one on the server.

    Totally understand not wanting to risk it though.

    *Manga however, rather than super hero comics.

    **Leftover term from COH.  Basically if you cloned a copyrighted character, you’d lose your costumes (you’d go back to the default), and you’d be renamed GenericHero32362 or whatever.

  • Anonymous

    Are you japanese?

    If not, you do not make manga. You make comics with a manga-inspired style.

    And yes, I do like anime and manga. I am not hiding that fact any longer.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    Why were you pretending to hide it in the first place, Metronome?

  • Anonymous

    Don’t care.

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ JJohnson

    I completely understand why you want to make that distinction.  I mean, I’m a sub-only fan myself* – so believe me, I understand this.  I’m not going to try to change your mind on the subject even – but I do want to explain my logic here so you can at least see where I’m coming from.

    I think there’s a difference between:

    Japanese Manga/Anime, Western Manga/Anime, and Manga/Anime-inspired Western comics.  The difference being chiefly this:

    Blade Bunny I would classify as Western manga – it’s written and drawn by westerners; but visually and stylistically it’s pretty tough to tell it apart from a page-flipped translated manga.  The chief difference being there’s less issue with the occasional awkward translation.**

    Teen Titans on the other hand I would classify in the latter category.  Visually it’s still most definitely a western cartoon, it just has a lot of anime influence in it.  There’s no way you could put it up next to a traditionally drawn anime, like Evangelion, and be remotely confused.

    Now obviously right now my artistic skills are not nearly up to snuff*** – but my goal is to get to the point where I can produce something like Blade Bunny in terms of graphical quality.  That may change as I learn as an artist, but right now that’s my goal.

    That said – I certainly won’t argue your preference in terminology; I know it’s pretty common in the fandom, I just see the dividing line as a twinge different than where it was made.

    *shrug*

    *Nothing against western VAs, most do a fantastic job with what they’re given; but it’s difficult to be both accurate to the spirit of the original script *and* avoid really awkward pauses due to the animation timing.  Which… bothers me.

    **Or like Claymore… which is like 90% awkward translation ><

    ***I keep working at it, and I'm getting better; but I'm quite aware I have a long way to go.  New Wacom tablet has been helping a lot though.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    FYI, “manga” is just Japanese for “Comics”.  So all comics are manga.  

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ JJohnson

    Well to be fair to Monoblade on this… in Japan that’s how it’s used, but we often use the loanwords differently in the US.  So here manga tends to have a specific connotation; just like how Anime in Japan means “animation” at large, while Anime here in the US generally means specifically Japanese style animation.  (And tends to lead to some assumptions about setting and storytelling as well as visuals.)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=659001961 Brad Ellison

    And yes, I do like anime and manga. I am not hiding that fact any longer.

    My days of not taking you seriously are certainly coming to a middle.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Basically the idea is this: Instead of creating a single character, you create your avatar (the sergeant or unit equivelant), and then as you level you are given extra points to spend on squad members and upgrades. The solution being that by the level cap, a Marine has a combat squad of 5 very powerful characters, but a Guard character has like, 20; and everyone else falls somewhere between. (I imagine if they actually did it that way, it’d be cut down quite a bit… like, 1 Marine, 5 Guard, that kind of thing.)

    That was my idea too.  Make the character (functionally) more about a “squad” than an individual.  This also allows a great deal of customization in the kit you can bring with you.  For the most part, squadmates provide extra firepower, and you can replenish casualties when back in town (or restore them by bringing medicae equipment along at the cost of some slots.)  But you could also replace some of their basic firepower with different types of weaponry and equipment to combat different kinds of threats, with higher level squads authorized to carry more special equipment onto the battlefield, etc. 

    I can see a lot of good instance-type scenarios taking place, with several squads working together to accomplish a big mission.  That would also leave some room for specialization.  Say, some squads have the heavy weapons for anti-armor work, or cutting down lots of enemy infantry.  Other squads are equipped with ligher gear to flank around the battlefield and hit objectives.  Still others have basic weaponry and strong armor to keep the enemy’s attention, and some have close-combat gear to rush in and tie up heavily armed enemies in melee. 

    To say nothing of the PvP battlefields, which I can see playing out like a 40K table-top game, with each player controlling a different squad. 

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ JJohnson

    This is pretty much *exactly* what I want.  Good gravy, lets hope eh?

    I mean, I think I would do raids if you set them up like a battlefield and had everyone in control of a squad or vehicle.  … dammit; now I’m going to get all excited and be let down (;_;) Oh well, it’s fun to dream.  (And I can at least fake it in STO to a point.)

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    I mean, I think I would do raids if you set them up like a battlefield and had everyone in control of a squad or vehicle.  … dammit; now I’m going to get all excited and be let down (;_;) Oh well, it’s fun to dream.  (And I can at least fake it in STO to a point.)

    An MMORTS?

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ JJohnson

    Not precisely.  I don’t want command of an entire army, or even a largish portion of one* – I just want control of a single squad.  Think of it kind of like every WWII movie ever – all around you have have the army… but the focus is entirely on this relatively handful of people and what they do.  >.> Now make it interactive and make every other group in the army other players.

    (^_^)  Explosions, yay!

    *There is an MMORTS coming in End of Nations.  I’m very interested now that they’ve mentioned they will actually have some infantry (originally it was all vehicles, which is meh to me.  I’m a grunt darnit.  Unless I’m a pilot. >.>)

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Well, in the meantime, if you are interested in an action title, the upcoming (aptly named) “Space Marine” might give some satisfaction.  It is looking pretty good so far, and developer Relic has a lot of experience that shows they know the setting well (being the group behind Dawn of War.)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

    Going the “squad leader” route could be interesting, but I’d prefer to see it as an ability unique to specific classes instead of a basic part of the game. Make “Imperial Guard Sergeant” effectively a “minion-using class” with abilities related to equipping and commanding your squad, while the superhuman killing machines like Space Marines and Eldar Aspect Warriors operate on their own.

  • Rikalous

    Going the “squad leader” route could be interesting, but I’d prefer to
    see it as an ability unique to specific classes instead of a basic part
    of the game. Make “Imperial Guard Sergeant” effectively a “minion-using
    class” with abilities related to equipping and commanding your squad,
    while the superhuman killing machines like Space Marines and Eldar
    Aspect Warriors operate on their own.

    Seconded. One of the Guard’s distinctive points is that it’s a bunch of guys equipped with flashlights and t-shirts overwhelming more powerful foes through sheer force of numbers. If every character is a squad, some of that distinctiveness gets lost. If Orkz, or Emperor protect us, Tyranids are playable, they might also have minion-using classes , but not the other factions.

  • http://www.facebook.com/j.alex.harman John Alexander Harman

    This was true for the Corinthians, the most screwed-up collection of misfits in the first-century church, and it is true for the Americans, the most screwed-up collection of misfits in the 21st-century church.

    Don’t know if you’re still reading the comments on this one, Fred, but I think you’ve just titled your book: “The Epistles of Fred to the Americans.”  Looking forward to buying copies for myself and various friends and relatives.

  • Dan Audy

    An interesting thought I had today that gave me some hope:

    Today we are fighting for recognition for same-sex marriages being as legitimate as hetero marriages because we already won the war on whether homosexuality was a disease or that homosexuals were subhuman.  While there will always be virulently aggressive homophobes, they will soon be religated to the same places as the KKK.  Even now the leaders of groups that are opposed to same-sex marriage are publicly careful to avoid denying homosexuals personhood lest they get backlash from the public and many of their own followers – a behaviour that was commonplace even 20 years ago.  Certainly, I expect that nasty homophobes are going to be with us for a long time just as bigots are but I find it reassuring that within my lifetime I’ve seen heteronormative exclusionists forced to soften their rhetoric because, even within their own community, their lies have been revealed as more and more people come to know real homosexuals rather than stereotyped stories.

  • http://guy-who-reads.blogspot.com/ Mike Timonin

    Dan, that’s a very reassuring way of looking at the situation, thanks!

  • Aussie

    You might also mention the role of the media in defining the primary focus of American Christianity, even within the church. Everyone who’s part of a minority group feels stereotyped in some way because of whoever in that group happens to be making the news. As a result it’s so easy to reinforce the idea that Christians = homophobic that it’s almost cliche now. Look at the amount of exposure Westboro Baptist gets – not one of America’s biggest churches or by any definition a mouthpiece for evangelicals but they’re always good for a quote. As long as the media employs such simplistic narratives they control the national conversation and shape the Evangelical stereotype – same as they do for Muslims, immigrants, single parents, lawyers, and yes, homosexuals.

    Another reason may be that groups tend to be defined by their most obvious point of difference, even if this is only peripheral to who they are, eg Muslim women with head covering. An opinion on gay marriage isn’t the centre of American Christianity but since most people agree with their opinions on gossip, poverty, love etc you’d have to agree it’s their most obvious point of distinction.

    Also there’s a cognitive dissonance that happens when you try to think on different scales. Ask about their last trip to a GP or their high school experience and most people will have something positive to say, but ask them what they think of the medical or education system as a whole and they’ll tell you the whole thing’s a disaster. Maybe the same thing happens with the Christians and the church as a whole – it’s definitely a lot easier to write patronizingly about hateful, ignorant or gullible people in megachurches than get to know a few personally…

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

    One of the realizations that helped me get over the seemingly-overpowered 5th Edition Blood Angels army list is that they are actually harder to play than other Space Marine armies. An army based entirely around powerful units like the Death Company, Veteran Assault Squads, 300-point characters, Deep-Striking Land Raiders, and 6 Fast Predators will actually lose a lot in anything but an Annihilation mission. And an army whose chance of winning is dependent on the scenario being played is a terribly-built army.

  • Anonymous

    I’m not gonna track down Beatrix’s comment where she said something about gay folks not rushing to the altar, but http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/15/nyregion/judges-signing-up-for-sunday-duty-at-gay-weddings.html?_r=3 –New York judges are sure as hell expecting a rush to the altar.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_NYIMSCWWLA5XTAYXL3FXNCJZ7I Kiba

    This might be off topic, but did anyone read the article the Harvard Crimson did on a secret court the school held in 1920 to root out suspected gay students?

    http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2002/11/21/the-secret-court-of-1920-at/

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

    I’ve suggested the Forge World kits to my friend, but he dislikes their more rounded design.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

    I’ve suggested the Forge World kits to my friend, but he dislikes their more rounded design.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    In that case, he is just going to have to stick to converting his existing models.  I do still recommend shifting the railguns to the hands and putting the missiles/plasma guns on the shoulders.  The lower center of mass will do a lot to help.  Might also be a good idea to take some small pieces of lead, cut them into little strips with a hacksaw, and attach them to the bottom of the base via green stuff.  That should lower the center of mass even further.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    In that case, he is just going to have to stick to converting his existing models.  I do still recommend shifting the railguns to the hands and putting the missiles/plasma guns on the shoulders.  The lower center of mass will do a lot to help.  Might also be a good idea to take some small pieces of lead, cut them into little strips with a hacksaw, and attach them to the bottom of the base via green stuff.  That should lower the center of mass even further.

  • Evilkate

    I’ve read you for quite a while, but never commented – mainly due to the busy busy life thing. My girlfriend – now fiancee – introduced me to the old site and I followed you from there to here.

    ————

    That brief introduction done with, I think the thoughts presented in your post resolve in a positive direction but … miss another possibility, one settled beneath your concluding explanation.

    Privilege.

    Yes, they seek power … and some of them likely, as happens, for the sake of power itself. But not all, not even a majority to my mind.

    Power usually, contrary to the myths surrounding it, has something behind it, something beyond its attainment. Some impetus. There is a goal, a reason power is sought, especially power that expresses itself in the form of a broad social movement. One of the strongest motives is the perception (real to the viewer) of something lost.

    I do not believe it to be simple coincidence, that the geographic heart of rightward evangelism rose in the ‘American South’ and is still strong there, even though it has spread to much of the Midwest and, to a lesser degree, other corners of America.

    The Civil War, that most ironically named war. Yes, it might seem a stretch but bear with me – that war left deep psychological wounds in many of those on the ‘losing side’ (quotes because I’m not actually sure that anyone wins such a war). A feeling of loss that has been, over time, handed down across generations. Many of those handed this inheritance, even lost the notion of ‘what the loss’ was about in the beginning – just holding on to the knowing, deep down, that they have lost something important, and are continually threatened with further loss.

    The reality of this doesn’t matter: to those feeling it, all that matters is the fact that their privilege is constantly under assault. Of course, they don’t express it in these terms. Few whose privilege is threatened do. However, they ‘know it’ – in the deep, base-of-your-bones sense of knowing.

    While it has changed over the years, that fundamentalist expression of evangelism originated mostly among white men. It has managed to spread somewhat beyond that demographic since, due to the loss of the original ‘impetus’ over the decades and years.

    Then along came the 60’s – and civil rights and hippies and queers and counter-culture in all it’s forms. And, again, that sense of loss rose sharply, that privilege under assault again. Except, this time, it was chaotic and confusing and … overwhelming. How curious that the religious right as a political expression strengthen in the decades following.

    It is important here to note how much of Christiantity fought with the civil rights movement. But not all. Here was a pivotal moment – the point of divergence made large.

    MLK did not live to see everything he fought for realised. Even now, there is a way to go. The movement however, had large victories – and this was yet another assault on the privilege of those against it all, another loss, another stab deep to the bone. One more loss of the intangible assets of privilege.

    Everything from that era became suspect. All civil rights that were fought for – those of the ‘coloured’ and the ‘queer’ and anything else that moved.

    So, we come to te 70’s and 80’s and two distinct struggles for power. One, by those whose privilege had been assaulted and, the other, by those whose lack of privilege had not yet been addressed, the queers, fighting for the same rights that those ‘uppity coloured folk’ had already won.

    That these movements gathered in the same space, entangled them from the start. The very evolution of each was affected by the other.

    Which dovetails with your conclusions well I think. Please forgive me for any presumption there :)

    Kate

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    In any case, when I see the Penny Arcade guys again at this coming PAX
    Prime, I plan on proposing to them that they start a rape-relief charity
    alongside their existing Child’s Play charity.

    – FearlessSon

    Say, did you ever get a chance to propose this to the PA folks Gabe and Tycho?


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X