November 1, 2007, here on slacktivist: Gay-Hatin’ Gospel (part 5): It’s the politics, stupid
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, and to The Family, and to the Word of God. 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. It would mean no such thing, and they know it would mean no such thing. The lie is deliberate, intentional, 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.