Encountering the self-proclaimed popes of evangelicalism

Encountering the self-proclaimed popes of evangelicalism November 4, 2011

Peter LaBarbera is founder of the anti-gay group Americans For Truth About Homosexuality — “dedicated to exposing the homosexual activist agenda.” Earlier this week, LaBarbera published an open letter to Dr. Warren Throckmorton, calling on the psychology professor to repent and apologize for refusing to pretend that “ex-gay ministries” actually succeed in praying away the gay.

LaBarbera also nastily suggested that Throckmorton’s refusal to lie about the effects of such “ministries” casts suspicion on his claim to be a Christian:

You should either publicly apologize for undermining Scriptural (and observable) Truth — or renounce your claims to be faithful to historic Christian sexual teachings.

Peter LaBarbera should publicly apologize for being Peter LaBarbera. And if I were in Throckmorton’s shoes, I’d have informed the sniveling LaBarbera that I was referring him to Johnny Cash for the appropriate response his open letter deserves.

But Dr. Throckmorton is far more patient than I am and his elegantly gentle response — “A new test of orthodoxy” — takes pains to explain why it would be dishonest, inaccurate and unjust for him or anyone else to agree to what LaBarbera is suggesting. Here is Throckmorton:

As I understand this argument, I am wrong to claim to be an evangelical because I believe that categorical change in sexual attractions, especially for men, is rare. …

Here we have a test of orthodoxy – something that must be believed in order to be considered a Christian. In my tradition, faith in the redeeming mission of Christ is the test of faith. However, in the new orthodoxy of some in the Christian right, one must believe certain things about gays in order to be consider a Christian.

Yep. And not only do these self-appointed popes of the One True Church of Homophobia say that must one believe “certain things about gays” in order to be considered a Christian, but they say that one must believe “certain things about gays” that are not true.

This is what pisses me off about constantly being told I’m “not really an evangelical.” The basis for this judgment is my unwillingness to bear false witness against my neighbors.

The increasing prevalence of this nonsense pushes people like me in one of two directions. One path would be to surrender, granting them the papal power they have arrogated to themselves to define who is and who is not “really” a member of our faith community and accepting that I no longer belong in or to that community, thereafter opting to refer to myself by some other designation, such as “post-evangelical” or some such.

That’s one option.

The second option, and the one I prefer, is to argue that I do not recognize their authority to make such a determination and that I do not accept as legitimate the claim that one must bear malicious false witness against one’s neighbors in order to be a member in good standing of the evangelical Christian community to which I have always belonged.

Unfortunately, though, I’m not always able to muster the patience to say this quite so clearly or in so many words.

This tends to compound the dispute. The self-proclaimed arbiters of orthodoxy go from saying, “He claims to be an evangelical Christian, but he deviates from the official positions on gays and abortion,” to saying, “He claims to be an evangelical Christian, but he deviates from the official positions on gays and abortion and he just told me to go f*** myself.”

But in my defense, they really, really, really had it coming.

 


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  • Thank you.  That is exactly what I meant by the square quotes.

  • Peter LaBarbera should publicly apologize for being Peter LaBarbera.

    Anyone here ever seen the first episode of Slayers Revolution?

  • Emcee, cubed

    the more significant part of their propaganda’s focus on sex and porn is to take attention away from same-sex love.

    So, so this. If I may vent for a bit…

    Recently, I came across a photo that someone had posted on Facebook of two men in military uniforms asleep on a train, and one had his head on the other’s shoulder. The caption was something like, “What is shocking about the picture?” Most people responded with comments like, “That dress on the woman on the right is awful! What was she thinking?” or “An officer and an enlisted man? It’s unnatural!” or “The train is actually on time. That almost never happens.” A few people said things like, “What a cute couple!” or variations on the theme. An even fewer amount of people said things like, “Wow, they are hot!” (they were) or variations on that theme.

    One guy said that he was surprised how willing people were to “sexualize” a photo we had no context for. Maybe they were brothers. Or just good friends. Or shifted while they were sleeping and didn’t know they were even touching, etc.

    Did people assume the two military guys were a same-sex couple? Yes. Had it been a male and a female, we likely would have assumed it was an opposite-sex couple. And if that had been the case, I guarantee, no one would have been accused of “sexualizing” the picture.

    This is a major pet peeve of mine. A gay relationship or being a gay couple, or simply being gay has a lot more to it than sex.* Or let’s make that more accurate. A relationship, or being a couple or simply being has a lot more to it than sex. The idea that somehow because someone is gay, that immediately means sex, is pervasive – from things like this, to the idea that having books like “Heather has Two Mommies” automatically means that teachers are introducing gay sex into grade schools. It is insulting and demeaning to everyone.

    *My apologies for using “gay” as a blanket term. I’m in a bit of a hurry to finish, and couldn’t just threw up the sentence without considering. It does tend to be more pervasive toward gay men, but it happens to all QUILTBAG people as well…

  • MaryKaye

    Sexualization of relationships that didn’t need to be sexual is pervasive in our society.  Romantic comedies often play with the idea that people can’t be trusted with opposite-sex friendships because they will inevitably lead to sex, an idea which I find neither true nor funny.  And same-sex friendships, especially among men, are frequently attacked as being homosexual even if they are not sexual at all.  This stifles an important and valuable form of love, and impoverishes everyone’s lives.

    I have friends of both genders.  I don’t sleep with them–that’s not what the relationships are about.  It would be a huge loss to my life if I didn’t have them.  I fiercely resent any imputation that relationships like those can’t, don’t, or shouldn’t exist. 

    I think some people are homophobes because they have been told they can’t be friends with anyone to whom they might be attracted.  As a bisexual woman I call bullshit.

  • Tonio

    The idea that somehow because someone is gay, that immediately means
    sex, is pervasive – from things like this, to the idea that having books
    like “Heather has Two Mommies” automatically means that teachers are
    introducing gay sex into grade schools. It is insulting and demeaning to
    everyone.

    Good point. Those opponents seem to assume that simply telling children that homosexuality exists amounts to exposing them to a sexual topic. Like the person I encountered who has gay friends in relationships but has a no-PDA rule when they visit his home, for the alleged protection of their children. I’m not sure whether such people fear that this will tempt the children to turn gay or whether it would confuse their sense of gender roles, or both.

  • Lori

    This is such a tricky thing. On the one hand this is true:

     
    Had it been a male and a female, we likely would have assumed it was an opposite-sex couple. And if that had been the case, I guarantee, no one would have been accused of “sexualizing” the picture. 

     

    If the soldiers had been a man and a woman and people assumed they were a couple no one would have accused them of sexualizing the picture. Assuming that the picture was of a couple would have been no more or less accurate, but the response to the assumption would have been totally different. 

    In this case the accusations of sexualizing the photo strike me as being rooted in (perhaps unconscious) homophobia. 

    At the same time, this is also true:  

     
    Sexualization of relationships that didn’t need to be sexual is pervasive in our society.  Romantic comedies often play with the idea that people can’t be trusted with opposite-sex friendships because they will inevitably lead to sex, an idea which I find neither true nor funny.  And same-sex friendships, especially among men, are frequently attacked as being homosexual even if they are not sexual at all.  This stifles an important and valuable form of love, and impoverishes everyone’s lives.

     

    This is one reason that some slash fic and discussions of ho yah make me very uncomfortable. I share the desire to have more diversity and for QUILTBAG folks to be better represented in media and I know that sometimes you have to make your own fun. However, there are times it feels like people are just buying into the idea that there can never be any warmth or affection between men that isn’t sexual. I find that really disturbing and unfair. I think that’s one of the most oppressive aspects of performing masculinity and I don’t want to be part of putting that on straight men any more than I want to deny the exist of people who aren’t straight. It’s very frustrating and it makes me sad.

     
    An even fewer amount of people said things like, “Wow, they are hot!” (they were) or variations on that theme. 

     

    And you didn’t share? Bogarting the hotness is not very nice. 

  • Rikalous

    Good point. Those opponents seem to assume that simply telling children
    that homosexuality exists amounts to exposing them to a sexual topic.
    Like the person I encountered who has gay friends in relationships but
    has a no-PDA rule when they visit his home, for the alleged protection
    of their children. I’m not sure whether such people fear that this will
    tempt the children to turn gay or whether it would confuse their sense
    of gender roles, or both.

    Sometime last year, I was involved in an internet argument about whether it would be OK to have a Disney movie with a same-sex couple. One person asked if we wanted terrorist plots or Mickey-on-Minnie sex, too. Sadly, he wasn’t even the worst one to weigh in.

  • Sexualization of relationships that didn’t need to be sexual is pervasive in our society.

    e.g. fanfic.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Ha. I read this

    You should either publicly apologize for undermining Scriptural (and observable) Truth — or renounce your claims to be faithful to historic Christian sexual teachings.

    and thought, fuck off, that guy.Was tickled pink to see that Fred’s response was similar :) (just cos he seems like a less foulmouthed guy than I)

  • Anonymous

    One path would be to surrender, granting them the papal power they have arrogated to themselves to define who is and who is not “really” a member of our faith community and accepting that I no longer belong in or to that community, thereafter opting to refer to myself by some other designation, such as “post-evangelical” or some such.

    In all honesty, this is the path I’ve chosen, but for reasons that go deeper than this particular issue.  When I went to grad school (at Biola, no less), I took stock of what my beliefs really are and came to the conclusion that I really don’t belong in the evangelical community.  (And since the Trinity, or at least the traditional understanding of it, was one of the things that fell by the wayside, I don’t fell I really belong in any community.)

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    @aa9f21d30ac2f0d1c98ef25f845b90e9:disqus   I hope whoever is on the receiving end of your sermons knows that they’re onto a good thing :)

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Sexualization of relationships that didn’t need to be sexual is pervasive in our society.  Romantic comedies often play with the idea that people can’t be trusted with opposite-sex friendships because they will inevitably lead to sex, an idea which I find neither true nor funny.

    Yup, this. Many of the people I love most in the world I have never had the slightest attraction to. Bugs me no end when people act in ways that seem to devalue those relationships.

  • Anonymous

    Rugosa, that reminds me of John Henry Newman (not my favourite Catholic): “You can believe what you will, but you must believe what you should”.

    [From memory, don’t promise it’s verbatim, but close enough.]

  • Anonymous

    Sexualization of relationships that didn’t need to be sexual is pervasive in our society.

    e.g. fanfic.
    Excuse me, I’m a fic writer. Gen exists. Nobody can quite agree on what gen is, but we’re mostly certain that if it contains het, slash, or femslash content of any rating from G on up, it’s not gen.

  • ako

    This is one reason that some slash fic and discussions of ho yah
    make me very uncomfortable. I share the desire to have more diversity
    and for QUILTBAG folks to be better represented in media and I know that
    sometimes you have to make your own fun. However, there are times it
    feels like people are just buying into the idea that there can never be
    any warmth or affection between men that isn’t sexual.

    There’s a lot of different slash fic out there, so it can end up having a lot of different messages and implications.  Some of them are messages I agree with ( such as “Sexualities other than hetero exist!” “Just because someone’s dated someone of the opposite sex in the past, it doesn’t mean they’re one hundred percent straight!” and “Friendship turning to love isn’t exclusively for straight people.”)  Some of them send messages I really don’t agree with (such as “Every relationship has a person in the Male Role and a person in the Female Role”, and “No one can have emotional connections without being into each other sexually.”)  I think there’s far more real-world “Men and women must be romantically involved, and women and women or men and men can only be friends!” pressure than fanfic-related “Well, obviously, two men can’t be friends!” pressure, so I tend to give more interpretive leeway to fanfic.  (Meaning that, except for fic where the characters are saying something like “He must be in love with you!  He did nice things for you!” or “No one can be that close without being attracted!”, I tend to read it as showing a possibility, whereas I’m more likely to read mainstream stuff with het pairings as the old “Men and women can’t be friends!” cliche.)

  • Emcee, cubed

    I’ve got to stop commenting when I’m in a hurry, but…

    Sexualization of relationships that didn’t need to be sexual is pervasive in our society.

    This is also very true. I think it is very much the flip side of the same coin. Taking a relationship that has a lot more than sex and making it all about sex. And taking a relationship that had nothing to do with sex and making it all about sex.

    And you didn’t share? Bogarting the hotness is not very nice.

    I can’t find the picture again. :-( Thought it was from a group on Facebook, but when I looked on their page, it wasn’t there. Must have been a different group, and can’t figure out which one.

    RE slash, etc.: I don’t really have a problem with, let’s call it sexfic (to cover het/slash/femslash/etc.), as it can often be fantasy and fun. Where I run into an issue is when sexfic writers and/or readers start insisting that it is canon. (And I certainly have run into those.)

    And another update: The job I was interviewing for a few threads back? I got it. I start training tomorrow. As I said, it is a just-above-minimum-wage, soul-sucking retail job, temporary seasonal help at a chain toy store. Ugh. But it is a job, and they are working around my theater schedule and the holiday trip I have planned back to the east coast. So, yeah!

  • Lori

     The job I was interviewing for a few threads back? I got it. 

    Yeah! Good for you. I hope it goes well. 

  • Anonymous

    The job I was interviewing for a few threads back? I got it.

    Congratulations!  And I’ve had some good times and made some good friends at my soul-sucking retail job.  Here’s hoping you do at yours, too.

  • Joshua

    renounce your claims to be faithful to historic Christian sexual teachings.

    Speaking as someone who has actually studied historic Christian sexual teachings (along with other parts of Christian history), I should bloody well hope so. What a bunch of weirdos. St Augustine was a progressive, free-love hippy compared to the rest of them.

    I think for most of these guys, “historic” means nothing more than “what I was brought up with” or at most “what I heard from people alive during my lifetime”.

  • The Lodger

    Yay Emcee!

    And for retail, the fact that they’re acknowledging other commitments in your life is pretty awesome.

  • Lori

     I think for most of these guys, “historic” means nothing more than “what I was brought up with” or at most “what I heard from people alive during my lifetime”.  

    Shorter: historic = my fantasy version of the 1950s

  • Reverend Ref

    Thank you.

  • I love you, Fred.

  • Anonymous

    Sometime last year, I was involved in an internet argument about whether it would be OK to have a Disney movie with a same-sex couple. One person asked if we wanted terrorist plots or Mickey-on-Minnie sex, too. Sadly, he wasn’t even the worst one to weigh in.

    Funny thing is, there have actually been a *lot* of disney movies featuring terrorist plots.  Not in as many words, of course, but essentially.  Mickey-on-Minnie sex… well, there are the longstanding rumors of the ‘disney porno’ that got half the animation studio fired…

  • danallison

    SPLC is a huge scam, and Morris probably has a big film collection himself.

  • EllieMurasaki

    You wanna clarify that statement?

  • Lori

    Why in the world are you digging through a year old thread to defend Porno Pete?

    The fact that you don’t like what the SPLC has to say does not make it a scam.

    It doesn’t matter if Morris has a big film collection or not. He’s not the one condemning other people for their sexuality.