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, “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 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.’”
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.

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  • Consumer Unit 5012

    One day, an embryo will implant in a gay man’s colon.  Thank God he’ll have the option to terminate the pregnancy if he so choses.



    … Okay, I’m at a loss.  I can’t decide which is more appalling, your general-purpose bigotry, or your understanding of human reproduction, which was apparently gained from the ‘adult’ archives of

  • Tom S

    Is there a specific explanation for death in childbirth? I was under the impression that it was covered under the general umbrella of “bad things happen to good people”

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    I was thinking of this bit:

     “To the woman He said: “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” (Genesis 3:16)

  • Matri

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

  • Matri

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

  • The_L

    If you want to found a religion which is cool with abortion and gay “marriage” etc., do it.  But it’s not Christianity, that’s just daft.

    So, Bea, are Episcopals not Christian? Because they’re not only cool with gay marriage (which is still a form of marriage, please stop with the scare quotes), they have female and gay clergy.

    And as for abortion and birth control–as Fred himself has pointed out (post title, I think, was “Killing in the name of”), being against either of these was strictly a “Catholic thing” until well into the mid-80’s. Mainline Protestants were either pro-choice or simply didn’t think about the issue before then.

  • Tom S

    Ah, I’ve always thought that whole story- and that part in particular- works better as a metaphor (oh, no!) for the rise of sentience. Our pain is multiplied, our fights get more vicious, we have to fight and struggle and toil for all our lives; that’s not a punishment, it’s a natural consequence of understanding what’s going on, i.e. the knowledge of Good and Evil. Animals suffer the pain of childbirth, but it’s multiplied for us because we know it’s going to happen, etc.

    The women being dominated by men part is unfortunate, but I would argue it’s descriptive and not prescriptive- the context is a list of the pains to which flesh is heir, and clearly women being ruled over by men is something that our species has to deal with a lot. As are thistles and headaches and so forth. Doesn’t make those things virtuous.

  • The_L

    According to this argument, there is absolutely no reason for infertile people, women beyond childbearing age, or committed couples with no intent to produce children to marry or remain married.

    If children were the ONLY reason for marriage, every single elderly couple ought to divorce, because they are no longer capable of begetting children.

    Most of us believe that a deep sense of commitment, coupled with romantic love between compatible personalities, is an equally good reason for marriage. Again, I would marry more than one of my boyfriends if I could. Not to make more babies (my uterus is only capable of one pregnancy at a time, after all) but because I cannot imagine going the rest of my life without having them there. In both popular culture and real life, you hear “I love you. Let’s get married!” much more often than “I feel like making babies. You’re fertile and attractive–let’s get married!”

  • The_L

    “There is two thousand years of Chistian history.  There are countless works on heresy, doctrine, interpetation, you name it.”

    Correct. But churches didn’t schism over homosexuality–the word didn’t even exist until the 19th century. Back when Christian doctrine was first codified at Nicaea, the Greek Orthodox Church split off over whether the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father AND from the Son. Luther split off over indulgences and the belief in transubstantiation. Henry VIII started the Church of England over divorce. Notice the lack of gay people in any of those descriptions.

    As for heresy–the definition of heresy changes over time. In the ninth century, believing that a person was a witch was considered heresy. In the sixteenth, it was considered God’s work to hunt down and destroy witches–which implies a belief in witches to begin with. In the twentieth, a religion formed that used the word “witch” as a morally-neutral term to describe its followers. Each of these ideas and beliefs is a product of the society of the time. What is heresy in one generation may be normal and natural the next, and vice versa. The ONLY unchanging aspects of Christian doctrine are those in the Nicene Creed, and those have only been so since the 4th century and aren’t all included in Greek/Eastern Orthodox churches.

    Your ignorance of Christian history is shocking.

  • The_L

    Beatriz, this is my last reply to you, because you are clearly either 14 years old, horribly sheltered, or deliberately acting in bad faith (i.e. “trolling”):

    1 A single woman can most definitely breed. The existence of single mothers proves this.

    2. Who made you the official arbiter on what does or does not constitute a family? I suppose next, you’ll tell me that my beloved dog is not part of my family, for reasons that are wholly your own and have nothing to do with my almost-maternal feelings toward the animal.

    3. I have absolutely nothing wrong with polygamy, so long as it is allowed to go both ways–allowing a man to have multiple wives without also allowing a woman to have multiple husbands (or any other gender combination you can name) is a gender-based power play. But–and I want to make this perfectly clear–THE LEGALITY OR ILLEGALITY OF POLYGAMY HAS NOTHING WHATSOEVER TO DO WITH THE LEGALITY OR ILLEGALITY OF SAME-SEX MARRIAGE. Again, this is a pretty good sign that you are trolling.

  • The_L

    No, the humor in That Penny Arcade Strip comes from the hero ignoring all aspects of the slave’s plight and saying, “Look, the quest only said to save FIVE slaves, and that’s all I care about.” The point of the strip–as is obvious to anyone who has played MMO’s (or similar single-player RPGs such as Fable)–is that the “hero” character looks like a complete misanthrope from a real-life perspective, yet we have no problem with “you only have to rescue X of the suffering people and extras don’t count” in an RPG.

    Removing the rape from the slave’s speech bubble and replacing it with any other form of brutal torture does not change the strip. Replacing it with “we have to engage in PILLOW FIGHTS” or similar just makes the slave sound like a whiner. Thus, the strip must be portraying rape as a Very Bad Thing, a form of torture.

    Penny Arcade was not in any way trying to make rape look like a Good Thing–if they felt it were even something to be condoned, the strip would backfire horribly. The artists started out in the right–IMO, it is their handling of the resultant s**tstorm that was insensitive and unjustified.

  • The_L

    @Tonio: every adult male in the family would be considered the “father,” and our wills would be drawn up to reflect this.

  • 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?

  • Anonymous

    Actually, I disagree that Gabe and Tycho’s response was unjustified.  Insensitive?  Maybe.  But no comedian worth their salt kowtows to the Tyranny of the Most Easily Offended, especially when the outrage misses the point entirely.  And since the outrage is unjustified, they are well within their rights in pointing that out (even if it is through a fake apology).

  • The_L

    Darn, I accidentally hit “like” instead of “reply.”

    Mono:  Because you have made an assertion (“SSM hurts society”), you must now, by the rules of debate, back up that assertion with evidence.  To make things easier on you, I will inform you that Denmark and Sweden have had legal SSM since the mid-1980’s.  That’s plenty of time for any unpleasant effects of gay marriage to manifest.  And I do believe that divorce rates PLUMMETED in both countries after SSM was legalized.

    Also, according to the CDC, HIV infection rates are unusually high in the rural American South–a place in which homosexuality, suspected or actual, singles you out for social stigmatization, if not actual violence.  Again, if homosexuality in and of itself were the cause of higher HIV infection rates, we would expect higher infection rates in urban areas, where being LGBT bears less of a stigma.  In addition, while HIV infection rates are slightly higher for male-male sexual intercourse than for male-female sexual intercourse (by fewer than ten percentage points), the rate of HIV infection in lesbians is so low that the CDC does not even bother to list lesbian sex as a possible transmission vector.

    By the way, you know what causes high rates of STD transmission?  Widespread promiscuity, coupled with a lack of decent sex education.  Guess what?  If gay people are getting married, that will encourage monogamy among the gay community, thus reducing gay promiscuity.  Once this happens, one should expect infection rates for a variety of STDs to be more or less uniform among sexual orientations, depending on the specific means by which that STD is transferred (again, lesbians don’t generally get HIV because of the mechanism by which that particular disease is transferred).

    Also, who on EARTH is talking about children getting gay-married?  I certainly didn’t say that.  If you mean, “children shouldn’t have gay parents because they have these problems”: Gay couples with domestic abuse/drug use problems would be just as unable to adopt as straight couples with those problems.  Gay couples without these problems (and surely even you can agree that such couples do exist) should likewise have exactly the same right to adopt as do equally-qualified straight couples.  This is what we in the United States call “equality.”  Fascinating concept, isn’t it?

  • Matri

    yet we have no problem with “you only have to rescue X of the suffering people and extras don’t count” in an RPG.

    It’s because of the nature of MMOs. In order to cater to a potentially limitless number of new players, there will be an endless supply of these victims. Attempting to rescue “all” of them is a Sisyphean task that is all but impossible.

    Newer games are better about this, though, by requiring a minimum but granting bigger & better rewards for rescuing more though there will be a cap.

    It’s an unfortunate implication, but attempting to rescue an infinite number of digital slaves infinitely created on a system capable of an infinite number of digital slaves…

  • 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.

  • The_L

    Why doesn’t He do it, then, if He places such a high value on childbirth?  Could it be that the Gods choose to work through other means, such as adoption, AI, and surrogacy, rather than breaking the laws of biology and physics in order to regrow an entire complex system of organs?  Hmmm.

  • 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

  • The_L

    Clearly mpreg is part of some god’s plan.  Or something.  Or Beatrix has realized that she’s lost the argument, doesn’t want to admit it, and is simply tossing out whatever nonsense pops into her head.

  • 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!

  • Mike Taylor

    I would definitely pay money to have the complete Left Behind analysis on my Kindle.

  • 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.

  • Anonymous

    There’s no need to marry your sister. She’s already your family. Your girlfriend isn’t your family until you marry her.

  • Right, but that was irrelevant to the topic I was actually responding to, which was Beatrix’s complete and utter lack of understanding why someone would want to be both Gay and Christian or how that could ever possibly be reconciled.  It wasn’t a question of legality.

  • Tonio

    apparently gained from the ‘adult’ archives of

    Well, there is Arnold Schwartzenegger movie Junior, except that the protagonist wasn’t even gay. But the idea sounds too much like a sexist story from one of EC’s 1950s science fiction magazines – a woman is elected president and gradually the nation’s gender roles reverse, ultimately leading to men instead of women bearing children. (That company had a strange contradiction in stances on social issues – Mad often criticized racism but praised sexism and homophobia.)

  • These are the answers I use*; obviously such can be very complex, but I think on a practical level there are some things that do make sense and in being there prevent far, far more injustice than they can cause.

    Sanity in this context is, as I understand it “Capable of giving informed consent”.

    That is, someone who is rationally capable of making decisions on their own behalf, who understands what they are doing, the consequences etc…  The idea being that if there is any doubt as to whether the person is in fact capable of giving consent – one should stop right there.  This is almost like sanity in the legal sense not the colloquial sense.

    To answer the second part of Safe – the idea is all possible safety measures are taken so that the likelihood of serious or permanent injury are minimized.  It’s little different imo to any other to say – risky sports, like skydiving.

    As to where to draw the line – there’s two ways to answer that question:

    The philosophical answer, which depends a lot on personal beliefs in freedom and autonomy.

    And the practical answer, which is something more akin to this:

    It depends.  If the activity is *designed* to cause serious and/or permanent injury, then it’s probably should not go through.  While it’s certainly fine to question how far one should be able to go with their own body, as a practical matter it is probably for the best not to allow things to progress to that level due to the rather sizable risk that someone doing such is not in fact entirely capable of understanding what they are doing.  They may be totally capable of understanding it, but the lines become blurred rather badly and one has to make a call one way or the other.

    If the activity is merely capable of causing injury, but is not definitely going to do so, then the question is:  How safe can it be made?  I look at this much like extreme sports.  One generally takes the precautions necessary to enjoy oneself while simultaneously not coming out much worse for wear.  Accidents happen of course, but the safety effort must be made and be genuine.

    Consent is of course just that, consent to be involved in an activity with the ability to give that consent:  Being over the age of majority,  sane as per the definition above, aware of the risks involved; and also both aware of and capable of quitting at any point.  Likewise no coercion of any kind may be used.

    I realize this is not truly capable of hitting every single possible case; but we’re imperfect, we can’t read minds, and I firmly believe on some level we are all responsible for each other’s wellbeing.  Since we can’t read minds, we have to do the best we can with what we have.

    Na rknzcyr V’q tvir vf bar gung ernyyl unccrarq abg gung ybat ntb.  N zna tnir pbafrag gb or xvyyrq naq rngra ol nabgure zna.  Ng guvf cbvag V guvax bar vf noyr gb fgneg dhrfgvbavat gur qrpvfvba znxvat pncnpvgl bs gur vaqvivqhny va dhrfgvba.

    Well quite a bit before that point I’d assume, but you get the point.

  • Sadly not uncommon among otherwise progressive men.

  • 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]

  • Anonymous

     But why are you against polygyny when it’s so prominent in the Bible?  You’re the one claiming that others shouldn’t call themselves Christians because you claim they are ignoring the Bible, but you’re doing the exact same thing without even attempting to explain why it’s ok for you to do something but not for others to do.  You’re a perfect hypocrite.  There’s no biblical basis for disallowing polygyny and yet you’re still against it.

  • 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.

  • Some newer games also use instancing heavily, so you ONLY see the slaves you are rescuing.  For example, in Star Trek Online, there’s a mission called “Mine Enemy*” – as a tactical officer you have to rescue 3 bullied citizens from their tormentors.

    You will only ever see these bullied citizens in that mission, and can thus rescue them all whenever you play that mission, you never have to worry about a bajillion others being around and being incapable of doing anything about them.

    That said some people hate instancing, so the status quo on that probably will never change completely.

    *This is a pun.  The mission takes place in part inside a magnesite mine.  The devs love their puns.

  • Explain “dickwolves” then.  Because that’s also part of the joke and quite frankly using rape in comedic material is just trashy.

  • 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.

  • Tonio

    You’re the one claiming that others shouldn’t call themselves Christians because you claim they are ignoring the Bible

    There’s a minority of atheists who make such arguments, and they appear to assume that Christian doctrine is based on Biblical literalism. That shows a lack of knowledge about the variations in doctrine, and I don’t claim to know all those variations myself. Still, even though I don’t support the argument, I can understand the assumption behind it. The Bible is incredibly widely printed, with the Gideons and others giving it away for free, and by comparison information about the various denomination’s teachings is harder to come by – one generally has to seek it out. (My first exposure to anything resembling Catholic teachings was the George Carlin album Class Clown.) It’s not much different from having a lengthy written shopping list versus trying to keep the list in one’s head – one might be likely to give precedence to the written list rather than rely on memory alone. I mean not for the believers who belong to the churches, but the outsiders.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • It’s worth noting that in the specific quest the Penny Arcade comic references, you literally can’t rescue more than five slaves. Once you’ve freed five, you can no longer interact with their shackles to free them. It was a perfect example of an MMORPG not simply encourage callous behavior, but enforcing it.

  • Tonio

    It’s important to emphasize that the reasoning overturned in Loving was explicitly theocratic. That was the claim that the Christian god intended for the races to be separate, since he put them on separate continents. While the Court was right to reject this as a basis for keeping interracial marriage illegal, there’s a broader assumption involved – that what is, is how things are supposed to be. Or that change or difference is inherently bad or wrong. Or this could all be a rationalization for enforcing white privilege. Or it could be both a bedrock assumption and a rationalization.

  • Anonymous

    Sorry, that post was meant to specifically reply to Beatrix’s comment in response to mine (Discus is not user-friendly).  She is claiming that gay marriage isn’t biblical, while also claiming that polygyny is not biblical, even though it clearly is.  I’m not saying that Christians have to believe X,Y, and Z.  I’m only trying to point out her hypocrisy for doing so when she is clearly arguing for her own preference without biblical support.

  • 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.

  • Tonio

    I’m not saying that Christians have to believe X,Y, and Z.  I’m only
    trying to point out her hypocrisy for doing so when she is clearly
    arguing for her own preference without biblical support.

    I understood and I agree with your assessment of the hypocrisy. It amounts to telling people that they’re wrong about their own religion. My post was intended in support of yours, to say that I’ve encountered the hypocrisy before.

  • Anonymous

    Oh, ok. As an atheist I just didn’t want to come off as being the exactly what I was criticizing.

  • 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.

  • That confused me, too, the first time through, but I got it on the second pass: there is no quotation from Chesterton’s writing.  Instead, Fred was saying that the quotation from the first epistle of Paul to the Corinthians is a clear and simple expression of the overarching theme of of Chesterton’s Father Brown mysteries.

  • 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.

  • 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.