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.

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* 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Anonymous

    So you only take issue with the the rape? Not the violence and slavery? These, too, are very real, terrible things that happen to real people. Kind of a narrow view if you ask me.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    The reason for making the rapists a kind of werewolf in which every one of their limbs is a phallus (according to Word of God) was to make something so over-the-top that no one would think they were being serious.

  • 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? 

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

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

    It is not just instancing that can be used to address this.  World of Warcraft itself pushed the idea of phasing into the market, and it could also use that.  With proper phasing, people who have not completed the quest see the slaves, and those on the quest have the oppertunity to rescue every slave in the place.  People who would have completed the quest already see no slaves, and thus do not need to rescue anyone. 

    But WoW did not do that in this case.  Maybe they thought it was not worth the effort?  In any case, it produces situations like the one above. 

  • 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.

  • 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.

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

    I think that’d get kind of weird for RP purposes though – imagine if you’re just tagging along to help some friends when you’ve already done the quest?  It could be kind of jarring.

    I really like instancing myself though anyway; so I admit I’m a twinge biased.  (I’m also weird in that I play MMOs primarily solo though >.> so.. yeah.)

  • Consumer Unit 5012

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

  • 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

    I think that’d get kind of weird for RP purposes though – imagine if you’re just tagging along to help some friends when you’ve already done the quest? It could be kind of jarring.I really like instancing myself though anyway; so I admit I’m a twinge biased. (I’m also weird in that I play MMOs primarily solo though >.> so.. yeah.)

    True, and Icecrown Glacier was a particularly bad use of phasing, with multiple group quests that were all in different phases with each other (so unless your party members were also at the same place on the quest chain, they could not help you.) 

    If Blizzard could somehow come up with an improved phasing model, that might help things.  For example, if one person in the group has the quest, everyone in the group can see the mobs in the associated phase.

  • 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. 

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

    Fundamental difference:

    Rape is sadly commonplace.  The last statistic I heard being as many as 1 in 6 women.  Note that as I recall that was going off reporting rates – which are far from 100%.  Men (usually as children, but not always) are also victims, and are even more likely to remain silent due to the cultural stigma.

    On top of all that, rape victims are often not believed; meaning that justice is extremely difficult to come by even if they do report it.

    Given that, in any group, it’s entirely probable that at least one person in the room has been victimized, and it’s not unreasonable to assume their attacker may very well have gone free.

    Slavery is admittedly a terrible thing – however the type of “chain you up and whip you till you do your job” slavery depicted in the comic is very uncommon in the modern world.  Indentured servitude is far more common, and while undeniably horrible – it’s not quite as personally violating.

    Additionally the comic does not make light of the slavery aspect.  Adding something inherently goofy, like the word ‘dickwolves’ means, intentionally or not, they aren’t taking rape seriously.

    And yes I recognize this is a bit of a double standard – there are a lot of things people hold double standards for.  Killing an enemy in wartime is (usually) not scene as the same as murder for example, and most would consider stealing bread to live to be a lesser crime than stealing diamonds to be wealthy.

    It’s even codified into law – where petty theft is different from grand theft, where killing someone who is trying to kill you is different from killing someone in cold blood, which is different from doing so by negligence.

    As to violence itself… humans are violent.  Nature is violent.  The threat of violence actually underpins everything that keeps our society together*.  For instance – you steal something from your neighbor, the police get involved – you either go with them or you resist arrest and they do whatever they have to do to get you to come with them, up to and including tasers and batons.

    This isn’t to say violence is a good thing – but it’s absolutely pervasive.  See explanation of double standard above for the rest.

    *I want to add that this is not nearly as bad as it sounds.  It’s merely a way of saying “If you do something bad, then the state will seek reprisal on my behalf.” Which is far better than the way it was before things like governments and courts, where a murder could provoke a generations long blood feud.

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

    That could work.

    I haven’t played WoW since a year after it came out.  The end game drove me absolutely batshit (as well as the friends I played with at the time.)  We quit and kind of vowed “Nothing like that ever again.”  So mostly I play more casual stuff where the endgame is something like “Roll an alt” <.< (I'm an altaholic anyway, so that's OK.)

  • 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.

  • Anonymous

    And “The state will seek reprisal on my behalf”, with its checks, balances, requirements for a trial and presentation of evidence, is better than each county having their own unaccountable Vehm taking suspected criminals and hanging them at crossroads.

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

    Precisely.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

     So mostly I play more casual stuff where the endgame is something like “Roll an alt” <.< (I'm an altaholic anyway, so that's OK.)

    Have you tried City of Heroes yet?   It’s great for altoholics, aside from being a massive time-sink.

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

    COH was my main MMO for a looooooooooong time.  I still love it; but it’s to the point where I can’t stand to play it because I’ve spent so much time in-game that the very combat system bores me.  I just know it too well basically.

    I also did 3 architect missions,

    Above Mars Part 1 – The Wellington*
    A Super Team is Born**
    A Warrior’s Friend***

    <.<;  But yeah, now I play STO and CO;  and am waiting for TOR (like everyone else lol) and Neverwinter.

    *I got military sci fi in your superhero game! <.< … I'm dead serious, it's straight up military science fiction; I did it to show what you could do with the architect system and a little imagination.  It's not perfect (and if it's still up at all, it's probably broken due to patches since I've been away for ages); but it was fairly popular at one point.  Never did do the sequel I planned… so much for Part 1.

    **Power Rangers parody.  It's not super-funny or anything, but it might make folks at least a little nostalgic.  Whole thing is centered around helping some rather incompetent new heroes out with their first big case.

    ***Has nothing to do with the Warriors enemy group.  It's actually based around Battle Maiden, Valkyrie, and War Earth as I envisioned it.  It was written pre-Going Rogue though, so it's possible/probable it's out of continuity now.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jeff-Lipton/100001171828568 Jeff Lipton

    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

    What of an individual who has been granted manumission (I think that’s the right word) from their parents?  I’m not sure of their legal status: if they can make contracts, for example.  If they can, would “age of majority” apply to them?  Anyone who would be attracted to them would **probably** be a pedophile, I think.   It’s a tricky issue.

    re ROT-13:  Obgu vaqvivqhnyf, V jbhyq fnl!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jeff-Lipton/100001171828568 Jeff Lipton

    I notice that when I called Beatrix on her “brief” period of US history (only 3/4th of it!), she moved on to other topics and didn’t mention it again.  Fun times.

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

    Warning – potentially squicky subject matter herein.

    Well I think it’s worth remembering a few different things here:

    Someone who has been emancipated I believe can work and enter legal contracts; however if I recall right it also has to be granted by the courts, so someone over a certain age would be likely to get it (15? 16? Guessing?) but someone under that age might get referred to Child Services instead.  This is a guess mind you, I don’t know absolutely for sure but I seem to recall that being how it works.

    Someone in that position is… in a tricky spot.

    I think it’s one of those areas that would be legal, but would probably be heavily frowned on and heavily scrutinized.  Obviously there’s also the legal Age of Consent to consider, which is often under the age of majority.*

    I personally use age of majority rather than consent because at least by that point, much of your brain’s decision making faculties are hooked up and you are generally able to be genuinely responsible for your actions – not merely legally responsible.  (Sadly the two are not always the same thing.)

    The second thing is that there’s a difference between pedophilia, ephebophilia, and just plain normal human attraction.

    The former two are attractions to specific age groups (the former being pre-pubescent, the latter adolescent), while normal human attraction doesn’t really look at age at all, just generally attractive things about people.  (The former two are disorders as I understand them.)

    This is one of those areas people do not like to talk about at all.  Culturally we (rightly) consider it inappropriate for someone under
    the age of 18 to have relations with someone over that age.**  The reason
    for this is of course that the older person has far, far more power over
    the younger person, and coercion is a huge factor at that point. 
    There’s also the fact that not all the brain’s decision making faculties
    are in place yet, which brings up yet other problems.

    I bring this up because it’s entirely possible to be attracted to
    someone under 18 on a purely physical level and yet not actually be a
    ‘pedo’ in the colloquial sense. The key thing of course being that a
    normal person is unwilling to act on that attraction because they know
    full well it’s wrong, and why it’s wrong.

    That said, the purely instinctual part of the brain recognizes  adolescents as old enough to be potential mates.  Obviously this isn’t something anyone should act on; but it’s one of those things left over from times when living to 30 was pretty impressive.  It’s not much different I think than the instinct to punch someone when they make you angry – it’s pretty easy to put out of your head because it would be wrong.  It doesn’t mean it’s not there, but reason rules it easily enough for most people.

    This is also partly why some people don’t understand why teenagers tend to get up to things their parents would rather them not do – the decision making stuff isn’t hooked up, but the reproductive stuff is.  And this is of course why good sex education is so friggin important >..<)

    *A lot of people assume 18 = everywhere.  This is not true, though it is in California and some other states.  According to Wikipedia, 16 is the most common at 31 states.  Note there is a federal law specifically criminalizing illegal sexual activity with a minor, and the age as defined there is of course 18.   However this only applies to something that's already illegal.

    I know that sounds incredibly weird, but it makes sense if you consider that it allows them to get the violator on federal charges as well as state charges.  At least that's how I'm interpreting it – a lot of this I just looked up on Wikipedia so I don't want to say this is definitive or anything.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    I haven’t played WoW since a year after it came out. The end game drove me absolutely batshit (as well as the friends I played with at the time.) We quit and kind of vowed “Nothing like that ever again.” So mostly I play more casual stuff where the endgame is something like “Roll an alt” <.< (I'm an altaholic anyway, so that's OK.)

    The endgame is a little better now than it was when the game came out.  It is much more approachable, with the removal of “keying” for an instance (or at most only needing one raid member to be keyed,) and many instances and token currencies added to allow someone a smoother progression to get geared up for the big stuff.  The raids themselves have been switched to a fairly standardized size, allowing them to be completed either by a size ten or size twenty group, with mob difficulty and amount of loot dropped scaled appropriately.  This, in many ways, makes a lot of raids admittedly easier, but most of the raid bosses also have optional hard modes which raids can opt to try, increasing the difficulty of the encounter, but also increasing the value of the loot dropped. 

    Of course, a lot of the old game raiders complain about these changes “ruining” the game, since now almost everyone gets a chance to raid, instead of just a small minority of the player base.  Much like white resentment, they believe that the equalizing of access to this content somehow reduces their own self-importance. 

    Come to think of it, an in-depth sociological study of this kind of thing in game and its parallels in the real would would be facinating.  They already did something similar with the “Corrupted Blood incident“. 

  • https://profiles.google.com/ravanan101 Ravanan

    The former two are attractions to specific age groups (the former being
    pre-pubescent, the latter adolescent), while normal human attraction
    doesn’t really look at age at all, just generally attractive things
    about people.

    What you’re saying is a little vague, but it’s sounds like what you’re
    saying is that they are specifically the fetishization of
    pre-adolescence and adolescence, respectively, as opposed to sexual
    attraction to, as you say of normal sexual attraction, certain
    characteristics. Pedophilia and ephebophilia medically include both
    those who fetishize those states, and those who are sexually attracted
    to characteristics more normally associated with individuals in those
    groups.

    Such attraction is much more widespread than we normally acknowledge (look up neoteny).

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

    Well for me, the problem was raids existing.  I hate raiding.  I like standard size instances, but the way the game was set up, you had to re-re-re-re-re-re-re-re-re-re run the same instance for a random shot at maybe getting the right loot.

    And then if you actually managed to get everything, it was off to another dungeon to do the same; until you either get bored or run out of dungeons. We ran out of dungeons, realized we’d have to raid, and none of us wanted to give up the 5-person group dynamic we’d had since FFXI. (And yes I’m aware of the irony of complaining of boredom after coming to WoW from FFXI… believe me, it was an improvement for awhile!)

    For me… I play games often as much for story as anything, and for my character’s place in that story.  That’s another reason I play Cryptic games mainly – they allow insane levels of customization, so I can be who I want to be a lot more closely than in more traditional MMOs.  >.> Like I said, I’m weird. <.<

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

    Well mostly, my understanding is a bit limited >.> so it’s not so much a question of being vague but rather having a very vague understanding of it myself to be honest.  I kind of lumped fetishization and attraction to features into one thing, didn’t realize they could be considered as separate things at all (@_@) I’m learning, whee!

  • Anonymous

    All those hardcore old-game raiders complain, but they are not the ones controlling the purse-strings.  Blizzard did a study of its playerbase.  Only a tiny minority actually took part in those huge Molten Core/Onyxia raids.  Of the huge majority, only some showed an interest in participating in those raids.  Most people just wanted to play, get together with some friends, maybe do a many-player instance now and then.  The huge hundred-person guilds were the exception, not the rule.  Hardcore raiders were the minority, and not cost-effective to cater to as Blizzard once had, considering the huge maps, unique bosses, and the orange loot that all had to be developed from scratch.  (To say nothing of how the drama surrounding such guilds invariably turned off more than a few potential gamers.)  Blizz saw the writing in the ledger and decided to focus more on smaller raids/instances oriented towards more casual players, and a few ten/twenty-person instances for some group activities.

    Ultimately, an MMO is a theme park, and the massive activities that require a great deal of developer time that only a fraction of a percent of the playerbase will actively pursue, are not cost effective.

  • Anonymous

    Hee… I also was an FFXI refugee to WoW!  It was like night and day, but unfortunately the people I came into WoW with wanted to go to a PvP server, and I think that soured me off of PvP for, well, ever.

    Regarding customization… I still contend that Cryptic/Paragon could release COH’s character creator as a separate offline product and they would make a mint off of that.

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

    Absolutely.  CO even moreso; albeit the art style turns some people off.  The costume creator is ridonkulous, particularly the slider controls   You can make a stick figure.  Seriously.

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

    Absolutely.  CO even moreso; albeit the art style turns some people off.  The costume creator is ridonkulous, particularly the slider controls   You can make a stick figure.  Seriously.

  • 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/Jeff-Lipton/100001171828568 Jeff Lipton

    Makes total sense.  I like the idea of a separate “age of majority” and “age of consent” — as long as both are set as realistically as possible.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Well for me, the problem was raids existing. I hate raiding. I like standard size instances, but the way the game was set up, you had to re-re-re-re-re-re-re-re-re-re run the same instance for a random shot at maybe getting the right loot.

    This also is not as bad as it once was.  Remember that token currency I mentioned?  Every boss you defeat in a dungeon gets you tokens.  You can then trade in a certain amount of these tokens for your choice of loot when you get back to town.  Raids themselves have higher level tokens which can be traded in for higher quality loot.  So even if you do not get the specific loot pieces you were after, you still get something to ensure you can make some progression.  This has lead to a lot of people volunteering for raids (that they are not already scheduled to participate in on a guild level) to join PUGs.  Even if they have all the gear they want from the raid, the fact that they get tokens from it keeps them coming back. 

    There are even a few raids now which change hands of which faction can use them depending on some major world PvP events which take place every few hours.  These raids are intentionally short and allow the raid to be selective about which parts it does.  Since no one knows ahead of time when the raid will be available for their faction, the groups are almost always PUG heavy.  It is a great way to nab some quick gear and tokens between more “serious” raids. 

    For me… I play games often as much for story as anything, and for my character’s place in that story. That’s another reason I play Cryptic games mainly – they allow insane levels of customization, so I can be who I want to be a lot more closely than in more traditional MMOs. >.> Like I said, I’m weird. <.<

    As do I.  In fact, I played WoW to begin with only because I was a fan of the Warcraft RTS series before that (and when I tell people that I played games Warcraft II and Warcraft III, they act surprised with “I didn’t know they made a sequel to WoW”.)  But anyway, that is actually a big part of my motivation to want to be part of raids.  Not so much just to raid, but because you get to participate in big events that push the story forward.  For example, Karazhan in Burning Crusade was a raid that I loved, because it ties heavily to the story of Medivh going back to the original game.  Or the raid on Icecrown Citadel, because it ties back to the end of Warcraft III.

    Father!  Is it… over?

  • 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://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Ultimately, an MMO is a theme park, and the massive activities that require a great deal of developer time that only a fraction of a percent of the playerbase will actively pursue, are not cost effective.

    Oh, believe me, I am aware of the difficulties and considerations from the development and financing side of things.  I am a member of the IGDA, after all.  :)

  • 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

    Replying to myself because there is something that I wanted to add: 

    Why so many people seem to assume that the default desire of anyone interested in a relationship involving more than two partners is that it will be one man with multiple women?  If anything, I tend to think that there is more advantage for a given woman if the inverse is true, and she is the one with multiple partners.  Or perhaps a relationship with more than one set of partners.  There are lots of advantages with, say, shared household maintenance and child-care responsibilities.  A two partner nuclear family might be simplier*, but also has fewer options for load balancing. 

    * I hesitate to use terms like “difficult” and “easy” in this context because multiple partners does bring complications that are not present with smaller relationship structures.  It is a matter of different people with different levels of tolerances and expectation, so it cannot be said that any one relationship structure is demonstratably “better” than another.

  • 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

  • Tonio

    Good question. I’m tempted to say that’s simply some men’s fantasy involving power as well as sex. There are plenty of instances where societies have had polygyny but not polyandry. In college I actually posed the question you asked, and one female classmate joked that women wouldn’t want polyandry because one man’s bullshit was more than enough. And I’ve heard a few men insist that polygyny would turn into catfighting among the wives. I’m not sure why the latter sounds sexist to me but the former doesn’t.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Good question. I’m tempted to say that’s simply some men’s fantasy involving power as well as sex. There are plenty of instances where societies have had polygyny but not polyandry. In college I actually posed the question you asked, and one female classmate joked that women wouldn’t want polyandry because one man’s bullshit was more than enough. And I’ve heard a few men insist that polygyny would turn into catfighting among the wives. I’m not sure why the latter sounds sexist to me but the former doesn’t.

    The “power fantasy” is the part that I do not really get.  I do not understand why having power over other people (and making sure other people know you have that power) appeals to anyone as an end unto itself.  Sure, having power is nice as a means to accomplish something, but beyond that, why seek it?  And why feel the need to rub it into others’ faces? 

    I will admit, I do feel some resentmant toward people who feel the need to flaunt power, and have some desire to take them down a peg or two to remind them that they do not, in fact, have the power that they think that they do.  Heck, this goes alongside my desire to beat the crap out of people who try to “force” others to give them power. 

    As far as relationship dynamics go, I would like to think of myself as being very attentive to a partner’s needs.  My concern over having multiple partners who are exclusive to me is that I would get really burned out, trying to divide that attention in so many directions and balance so many different needs at once.  I doubt that I would have the energy to keep up with it all.  I know my own needs are fairly modest, but I cannot necessarily count on that being true of every partner. 

  • 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.

  • Tonio

    Good points about power. One theme in the second Godfather movie is that Michael Corleone essentially sacrifices his soul to hold onto his power. I think of it as destroying his family to preserve his Family.

    My concern over having multiple partners who are exclusive to me is that
    I would get really burned out, trying to divide that attention in so
    many directions and balance so many different needs at once.

    Have polygynous marriages ever been about human relationships? Everything I’ve read about them suggests that they’re about women as property. Having a large number of wives seemed to connote status, and they provided the man with not just sex but also sons to carry on his power. I would like to think that it’s possible to have egalitarian one-with-many polygamous relationships of both types, but if one wants egalitarianism in the relationship, I don’t see why it should include only one member of a gender.

  • Tonio

    Good points about power. One theme in the second Godfather movie is that Michael Corleone essentially sacrifices his soul to hold onto his power. I think of it as destroying his family to preserve his Family.

    My concern over having multiple partners who are exclusive to me is that
    I would get really burned out, trying to divide that attention in so
    many directions and balance so many different needs at once.

    Have polygynous marriages ever been about human relationships? Everything I’ve read about them suggests that they’re about women as property. Having a large number of wives seemed to connote status, and they provided the man with not just sex but also sons to carry on his power. I would like to think that it’s possible to have egalitarian one-with-many polygamous relationships of both types, but if one wants egalitarianism in the relationship, I don’t see why it should include only one member of a gender.

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

    I think there are as many reasons for it as there are people to be honest.  People are complicated, desire is complicated, love and attraction are complicated…  I think there are a lot of folks who couldn’t even tell you why they feel a given way.

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

    I think it’s because we live in a weird transition period between the total sexism of the past and a hopefully future period of equality.

    So you end up with some unusual situations where a double standard ends up making a degree of twisted sense.  Look at clothing for instance;  a woman wearing a man’s clothes is sexy – a man wearing a woman’s clothes is funny*.

    There’s still a lot of the patriarchal male privileged power structure, and with it the emphasis on masculinity being good, femininity being bad… only you get oddities like [url=http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/RealWomenNeverWearDresses]this.[/url]

    The way I’d essentially describe it is as a slow stretch in culture.  We see a slow expansion of acceptable roles for both women and men.  It is however *slow* and we’re a long way off from equality-land.

    So you end up, in your example, with a situation where when a man says it, he’s still speaking from a position of societal privilege – while the woman isn’t.

    Does that make sense? >.< It's an easy concept to have in my head, it's much more difficult for me to put it on paper.

    *Well except for a rather small minority, who do in fact find men in dresses hawt.  At least some men some of the time.