‘Like my pain meant nothing’ — the alarming harshness of tactless anti-gay preaching

‘Like my pain meant nothing’ — the alarming harshness of tactless anti-gay preaching June 25, 2012

CNN’s Richard Allen Greene reports that “Harsh anti-gay preaching alarms gay rights supporters and Christian conservatives alike.”

Christian conservatives, apparently, don’t want their anti-gay preaching to come across as “harsh.” Coming across as harsh can make their anti-gay lobbying more difficult:

Many conservative Christians would agree with pastors such as Worley and Knapp that homosexual behavior is fundamentally wrong, [Ed] Stetzer said.

But that doesn’t mean they support them or their sermons, he added.

Charles Worley was the North Carolina pastor who called for concentration camps for LGBT people in which he hoped they would just die out. Curtis Knapp is the Kansas clergyman who says Worley doesn’t go far enough. Knapp said he wants the government to kill homosexuals.

Most anti-gay Christians don’t support Worley and Knapp because such outlandishly violent preaching makes it more difficult to persuade 50.1 percent of the country to agree to make the anti-gay tenets of their conservative Christianity the established religious law in America.

I discussed this same desire for a less-harsh-seeming anti-gay agenda in a recent post titled, “You can’t deny people their rights and be nice about it.”

That post was largely a response to Halee Gray Scott’s Christianity Today item, “I Am Not Charles Worley: The Plea of a Christian Who Opposes Gay Marriage.”

“I am not Charles Worley,” Scott wrote:

… and I’m tired of others, especially fellow Christians, assuming that because I’m opposed to gay marriage that I’m hateful like him. It’s time to extend a hermeneutic of grace to each other — especially to fellow Christians who still do not favor gay marriage and believe that homosexuality is not God’s intent for human sexuality.

That prompted me to write the 1,400-word essay linked above.

Here (via) is a shorter, more concise response to Scott, courtesy of Cordelia Chase:

(For those who can’t view that, Cordy says: “People who think their problems are so huge craze me. Like this time I sort of ran over this girl on her bike. It was the most traumatizing event of my life and she’s trying to make it about her leg! Like my pain meant nothing.”)


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  •  I don’t know if it’s better, but my own answer is “I’m glad you agree that tolerance of difference is a virtue. As it happens, I do tolerate it. I don’t approve of it, any more than you approve of how I live my life. I won’t allow you to make it mandatory, any more than I would want my own style of life to be mandatory. I reject any theology or moral philosophy that has such intolerance as a necessary component, just as you reject my theology and moral philosophy.”

    Not that it matters much.

  • So it sounds to me like you believe that we should sometimes have beliefs about how people live their lives… for example, if I live my life in such a way as to hurt others, we should believe that’s bad, and if I live my life in such a way as to help others, we should believe that’s good.

    It also sounds to me like you believe that we should sometimes not have such beliefs. For example, if I live my life in such a way as to neither harm nor help others, we should not have a belief one way or the other.

    Is that a fair restatement?

  • hapax


    If I held a belief that Sarah should not drink, that would be a belief about how she would live her life.  I would be acting inappropriately in having that belief because whether she drinks is none of my business.

    Tonio, I am not trying to be aggressive here, I’m trying to suss out your understanding of what “affects others” on the simple grounds of our shared humanity.

    W has a couple glasses of wine on Saturday nights — not my business.

    W drives under the influence  — my business. 

    Okay, I’m with you so far.

    W has a bottle of wine every night.

    W has a bottle of wine every night, and gives bad service at work the next day because zie feels hungover.

    W is an alcoholic.

    W is an alcoholic, and becomes unemployed and homeless as a result.

    W develops cirrhosis of the liver.

    W develops cirrhosis of the liver, and cannot pay for health care.

    Are any of these “my business”?  Is it only “my business” to address the effects of W’s drinking, and not the drinking itself?

  • Tonio

     Excellent question. I had something like that in the back of my mind when I wrote my post. While self-destructive behavior can indeed have consequences for others, in and of itself outside the concept of morality. I was using “none of my business” to refer to the refusal to morally condemn behavior that doesn’t harm others.

    It’s worth mentioning that the “ex-gay” movements borrow heavily from the language of substance abuse recovery but in self-serving ways.


    You guys are kind of jerks, you know? Sarah didn’t state any sort of personal belief, yet you attack her personally as if she were some kind of hate-spewing homophobic monster. Her comments, readily viewable and easily read by anyone who wanted to reply to them, have nothing of the sort of intention and anger that has been ascribed to her. Instead they are pointing out how certain commenters in this thread are demonizing an entire set of people who may or may not hold views contrary to those of the commenters for what are obviously politically-motivated reasons. Those same commenters then immediately demonized her for daring to tell them that they’re tarring a pretty wide swath with the brush of evil, hate-filled monstrosity, most of whome have nothing to do with the argument at all.

    I agree with most here that GLBTwhatever people should be allowed to marry who they want (within certain reasonable intelligent species-based limits) and that a secular govornment cannot and should not bow to the dogma of any religion, for pretty much any reason at all. I know that the anti-gay sentiment of certain biblical passages are incompatible with a loving deity and should be expunged, and peace and liberty for all equally, etc, etc. So far as I know, Sarah agrees with each and every point here. She might not, but since she mentions nothing of it in the two comments on this thread, how the hell am I supposed to know? Unless she’s made a reputation of being a gay-hating intolerant bigot apologist, how the hell are YOU supposed to know?

    Address the comments as written, not what you want them to say so you can have an excuse vent your spleen.

  •  We’re not, in Sarah’s words, classifying every anti gay bigot as “head bashing skin heads.” We just classifying them as anti gay bigots. Which Sarah objected to.

    If you can point out where we do classify everyone we disagree with as “head bashing skin heads,” please do so.

    I’ll even hold my breath for you.

  • phantomreader42

    Well, if your sincere beliefs lead you to fight to deny the rights of others, then your sincere beliefs are a worthless load of bullshit, and so are you. 

  • Kiba

    by saying ‘how about they are telling the truth,’ i mean how about they are being sincere in expressing the distinctions of their beliefs? 

    You know what? I don’t give a damn about their beliefs, sincere or otherwise. They are free to believe whatever damn thing they want. You know what I care about? When they try to enshrine their religious beliefs into law and force others to adhere to them. And let us not forget that these are the same people that would, and do, raise a hue and cry over anyone else trying to do the same thing (the Sharia Law spectre they love to scare themselves with ring any bells?). 

    The fact is my being gay doesn’t affect you at all. If I were to get legally married in the near future my marriage wouldn’t affect you at all. 

    Here’s a novel idea! Why don’t you live your life according to whatever tenets you believe in and leave everyone else alone? Or, in other words, keep your religion to yourself. 

  • Tonio

    The stance that gays should not be able to legally marry is most definitely hatred, no matter what the basis for the stance. It’s not up to me or you or anyone else to decide who should and shouldn’t be able to marry.

  • Emcee, cubed

    Please stop calling my life and my 23-year relationship a “politically-motivated reason”. The “wide brush” you claim she is complaining about doesn’t touch anyone it isn’t supposed to. Anyone who is against my civil rights is actively trying to harm me. Just because they are doing it with their vote and not with their fists doesn’t change that.

    Also, we really need to bring in a tin man and a lion to go with the strawman she built. No one ever said anything even remotely resembling “everyone who believes homosexual sex goes against God’s plan is a violent gay-bashing skinhead”. What was said was that people who use that belief to justify denying an entire group of people their civil rights are bad people. They may be less bad than violent gay-bashing skinheads, but not by much, and only by degree, not by kind.

    And theoretically, yes, she could be saying that their are some people with that belief that don’t vote against same-sex marriage or other protections for QUILTBAG people. But if that was the case, I would have expected her to qualify that pretty clearly, as you yourself did. So I think it’s a pretty reasonable assumption that that isn’t the case. It is much more likely that she just doesn’t want to be called a bigot while voting to deny people their civil rights.

  •  FWIW, I know a number of people who take the stance that gays (including me and my husband) ought not be able to legally marry, but who I don’t believe hate us.

    I also know a number of people who used to take that stance, and no longer do, and I don’t believe the transition involved a reduction in how much they hate me, or my husband, or gay people in general, or really much of anything.

    Of course, I could be wrong on both counts… I’m hardly infallible when it comes to recognizing hate, or the absence of hate.

    Then again, before I substitute your judgment on the matter for my own, I’d like to at least know your reasons for believing they are (or were) acting from hate.

  • Ursula L

    What moral right to you have to tell her what she can and can’t believe? How do you justify setting yourself up as the arbiter of which beliefs are justified and which are not? This is not like opinion or informed opinion because there are too many factors involved that can’t be proved one way or the other. That’s a perfectly good reason for not using these kinds of beliefs as a basis for civil law, but it doesn’t mean that you get to decide what other people’s beliefs have to be or not be. 

    The moral right to condemn the belief comes from the real-life fact that genuine belief of an idea will be expressed in real-life action.

    One could, theoretically, believe that being homosexual is wrong, a sin deserving eternal damnation, and a condition that is lived with acts of “love” that are actually sinful acts that ought to be legally criminal, but never, ever do anything to harm another person.

    But that requires not only that you do not act on your belief, but you never, ever even mention your belief.  You have to move through the world, believing something to be wrong, evil, sinful, but never, ever give even a hint that this is what you believe.

    You have to be so far into the closet about your belief that homosexuality is wrong that you reach Narnia, more deeply closeted about the belief than anyone who has ever experienced same-sex sexual attraction has ever had to be in order to avoid being harmed by homophobia. 

    Because any expression of homophobia, racism or misogyny, or any other discriminatory belief, does real harm to the people whom you are prejudiced against.  The moment you voice the belief, you run the risk of convincing another person to share and act on the belief, and you attack, insult and harm the people whom you believe are doing wrong.  

    A person who believes homosexuality is wrong but that they should do nothing to harm homosexual people will be, from an external perspective, exactly the same as the most radical and assertive QUILTBAG activist who loudly proclaims that there is nothing wrong wing the being gay, lesbian or anything else.  

    Otherwise, it is completely accurate and morally good to clearly label the prejudice, and to tell the prejudiced person that their behavior is wrong and that they have no right to the belief because any action coming from that belief hurts other people.  

    If any person other than yourself knows that you believe that homosexuality is wrong and therefore you believe that same-sex marriage should be illegal, then you are hurting real people in the world, If you cast a vote or donate money based on your belief then you are doing real harm in the world.  

    If you care about the issue enough to act on the belief then your beliefs on the issue deserve to be condemned.  

    The concept that “you can believe this, but you can’t do anything to harm another person based on the belief” requires the belief to be held so lightly that you effectively don’t believe it at all.  

  • GDwarf


    but there are genuine *biological* reasons why that’s generally not
    accepted.  Namely inbreeding and birth defects. *Edit* Oh yeah and the
    whole family thing. I’m dense tonight.

    Eh, not really. Inbreeding is only a problem over many generations, not one.

    What it probably is is “squick” codified. Multiple studies have shown that, usually, one’s brain designates one’s siblings as off-limits sexually very strongly, but only if you’ve some sort of interaction with that sibling while growing up. If you were separated at birth and then 20 years later find out you’re related the part of you that rates personal attractiveness won’t care.

    So we have an innate tendency to be opposed to sibling marriage, and it’s not hard to see that ending up codified in law, like so many other things we have a gut opposition to, baseless or not.

  • WingedBeast

    I think we should all also be clear that nobody wants anybody to be denied the right to say that same-sex marriage is immoral.  Nobody wants to deny anybody the right for that declaration to be based upon their personal faith.

    The “rights” that we want to deny people are as follows.

    1.  To enforce their belief through force of law.
    2.  To be free of anybody suggesting their desire to have their religious based bigotries enforced in law makes them similar to other people who want their religious based bigotries enforced in blatantly more violent and oppressive law.

    We’re not calling anybody skinheads.  We’re just saying that if you want laws enforced to oppress homosexuals, you’re on the side of the skinheads.  And, you don’t have the right to be free of us saying that.

  • Tonio

    I didn’t say they were acting from hatred. I’m saying that the position itself is a form of hatred. To paraphrase Emcee, opposition to a group’s civil rights means harm for that group.

  •  you are going along with the tired argument that anyone who thinks
    homosexual marriage is not acceptable within Christianity, is
    ‘homophobic,’ ‘a skinhead,’ ‘gay-hating.’ 

    I would not dream of associating “being a skinhead” with “gay-hating”.

    But yes, I do find that people who think same-sex couples ought not to be allowed to get married “in Christianity” are homophobic. They have absorbed, often unwittingly, the idea that their God does not like gay people. They see no reason why anyone should find this offensive, and they get very annoyed with gay people who do find this offensive and hurtful.

    I am not ascribing this motive based on any “utilitarian political agenda”: I am doing so because I find that after any conversation with a Christian who wants me to know that their God doesn’t like me and their religious duty is to make sure I remain legally unequal, I have to remind myself of the power of love.

  •  “Tonio, I am not trying to be aggressive here, I’m trying to suss out
    your understanding of what “affects others” on the simple grounds of our
    shared humanity.”

    I think what bothers me about this analogy is that it uses the classic homophobic religious analogy of “but homosexuality HURTS YOU, that’s why I want to discriminate against you, because being gay is BAD FOR YOU.”

    It is perfectly humanly acceptable to be supportively worried about someone who is doing something which is bad for them and may lead to them harming others. Drinking too much, smoking tobacco,getting addicted to heroin, living in the closet, going on the down-low, entering marriage with the intent of using your wife as a beard without telling her, pretending to have been “cured” of being gay, telling others that being gay is an illness of which one can be “cured” like being an alcoholic. All of these things are actually harmful.

    Having a glass of wine or beer, or even getting lightly drunk once in a while with friends: being lesbian or gay, having sexual relationships that are safe, sane, and consensual, or being joyfully promiscuous and  having safe sex with hundreds of other men – these things are not harmful.

    When Christians compare “being concerned about your being gay” to “being concerned about your being an alcoholic” it reads not as concern, but as an insulting presumption that being gay is physically bad for you. I am sure this was not your intention, so I mention it for your information. It’s not a good idea to even look like you’re comparing being gay to being an alcoholic.

  • Tonio

     Excellent point. Hapax was justified in bringing up the analogy because it’s a very common one that deserves scrutiny. Beyond its offensiveness, the expressions of concern aren’t sincere. At best, such homophobes seem less interested in helping gays and more interested in scolding them.

    More and more I suspect that the average male homophobe fear the loss of his gender-based privilege and interprets homosexuality as undermining the idea of gender hierarchy. (That’s different from the “professional” homophobe who, given the number of ones who have turned out to be gay, might subconsciously believe that denouncing homosexuality publicly might cure himself of his unwanted desires.)

  • I don’t know where I saw it first, but I read once that the law can regulate acts, but not thoughts.

    So acts which harm others should be punished, but the thoughts behind them can’t be punished in and of themselves.

    In THAT vein, same-sex marriage clearly harms no-one, while the act of drinking to over a threshold and then operating a vehicle opens up the potential of harm.

  • hapax


    When Christians compare “being concerned about your being gay” to “being
    concerned about your being an alcoholic” it reads not as concern, but
    as an insulting presumption that being gay is physically bad for you. I am sure this was not your intention, so I mention it for your information.

    Oh, dear.

    Actually, it *was* my intention, but I didn’t  make it clear WHY I was using the analogy.

    *I* don’t believe that either alcohol or any sexual identity outside the narrow cis-hetero privileged position is “bad” for people, physically, mentally, spiritually, or otherwise. 

    But lots of people, Christian or otherwise, do make such assumptions.  And yes, I have heard it in very analogous terms to alcoholism: “Experimenting with your room-mate while you’re in college, that’s fine, that’s normal, everybody does that;  but to make it the center of your life?  That’s SICK!”

    So I was trying to explore how absolute how absolute the right should be to hold beliefs I think are hurtful and WRONG.  Where is the boundary between belief and action?  Is it enough that in someone’s judgment you are “hurting” yourself?  Do you have to “hurt” someone else too?  Must the “hurt” be legal?  Financial?  Physical?

    So I had all this context swirling in the back of my head, but I didn’t bother to put any of it on the page.  And by doing that, I looked like I was supporting the very analogy I reject.

    Tl; dr:  I was careless, and it was harmful, and I’m sorry.

  •  Agreed with all of this.

    That said, I also try to remember that people who agree with all of this can still significantly disagree about how to respond to the behavior of others.

    For one thing, people can agree with all of this and still disagree about what is harmful. Some people believe smoking a few cigarettes a day harms my health, some people don’t believe that, some people believe it doesn’t harm my health. Those three people, even if they completely agree with us about everything you say in this post, are going to have different beliefs about whether it’s acceptable to be “supportively worried” about my smoking. The same goes for people who believe that my marriage harms my prospects for salvation.

    People can also agree with all of this and still disagree about what qualifies as “supportively worried.” If I believe that my friend’s drinking harms him or her, I might express that by saying “I think your drinking harms you” once and then letting the subject drop. I might express it by frowning imperceptibly whenever I see them taking a drink. I might express it by asking them not to do that whenever I see them taking a drink. I might express it by walking away whenever I see them taking a drink. I might express it by taking all the alcohol in their house and pouring it down the drain. I might express it in various other ways. Conversely, I might consider some or all of those acts unjustified.

  •  Well, I certainly agree that opposing a group’s civil rights means harm for that group.

    I don’t quite understand the relationship you are assuming between hatred and harm. To my mind, while hatred often motivates harm, harm often occurs in the absence of hatred, and hatred sometimes occurs in the absence of harm.

    But, OK. If you’re not saying that opponents of marriage equality are experiencing hate as an emotion, then I agree that my examples aren’t relevant. 

  • Beroli


    how about adding some sanity to this   conversation?  

    I know, we’re being so mean. It’s like your pain means nothing.

  • Tricksterson

    Or someone in the Jim Crow days who would be against lynching but still thought “Negroes” needed to know their place in the scheme of things and to stay there.

  • Tricksterson

    I suspect that Christians of that stripe are like people who consider anyone who drinks regularly, even if it’s only  a can or two of beer, or a glass of wine, even if that person never drinks to the degree where they get drunk, as an alchoholic.

  • Tonio

    I’m saying that opponents of marriage equality are not necessarily experiencing hate as an emotion, but that same-sex couples are still on the receiving end of hate. Someone can step on your foot accidentally or deliberately, but this wouldn’t change the pain from the impact.

  • OK. That’s inconsistent with my own understanding of how hate works, but I do understand what you’re saying. Thanks for clarifying.

  • AnonymousSam

     With or without prior use of an e-meter? (Sorry.)

  • AnonymousSam


    Otherwise, one has to wonder if sterile incestuous unions would be acceptable.

  • Robert Hagedorn

    For something different, a change, but nothing new, Google First Scandal.  It’s relevant.  And it really is all about sex.

  • Jim

    Kinder, gentler homophobes need to explain exactly how their attempts to violate the principle of equality before the law by denying gay people their civil right to marriage is somehow not hateful.  I don’t care if Pastor Potato and Reverend Rutabaga quote Leviticus or imagine that by some miracle unknown to mortals they are qualified to speak for God. I care when they incite civil discord and mob violence against gay people.  I care when these cult leaders command their subjects to vote against the civil rights of gay people. I care when these pseudo-holy men claim that they get to determine what civil rights other people can or cannot enjoy. So gents, explain to me how attacking the human and civil rights of gay people is not hateful.  And while you’re at it, explain how your hate is a better quality hate than that of Charles Worley and his ilk.

  • MadGastronomer

    I’m sure most people by now have heard the expression “love is a verb,” meaning that love isn’t simply an emotion, it’s something you do, actively. Something that’s in your actions. Loving someone means enacting love for, to and with them, or it is not in any practical sense love. Love is a transitive verb, something that must have an effect on the object (grammatically) of that love to truly be love.

    Hate, too, is a verb. It is not just an emotion. It’s something you do, actively, something that has an effect on its subject. And if something — such as denying someone their human or civil rights based on nothing more than whom they enact their love upon — has the same effect as hate, then in what real and practical sense is it different from hate? Those who say openly that they hate me would deny me my civil and human rights. And there are people who deny that they hate me who would also deny me my civil and human rights. If I see who loves me by their actions, by how they enact love upon me, then why should I not be able to see who hates me by their actions?

    I can’t know what’s in someone else’s heart and mind. I can only know what they actually do in the world. And if they enact hate upon me, by denying me my civil and human rights, by treating me as less than human and as less than they are, then why should I not say that they hate me, no matter what they say they feel?

  • Tonio

    That’s exactly what I was saying about hate, except you said it much more eloquently.

  • MadGastronomer

     I thought you said it pretty well, Tonio, but it looked like you could use backup.

  • MadGastronomer

    I have just been reminded that today is the 43rd anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, generally considered to be the flashpoint for the gay rights movement. The riots were started by drag queens and trans women refusing to be separate for genital checks — gropings that were often well into sexual assault territory — and who then began to resist police and their brutality. The gay men and the handful of dykes joined in. They penned the cops inside the Stonewall Inn, jammed the door closed with a broken off parking meter, and set the doors on fire. The riots lasted a couple of days, and thousands of people became involved.

    The raid that was planned for the Stonewall Inn that night was standard for the period. Patrons would be arrested if they were “in drag”, many of them were brutalized, lesbians, drag queens, trans women, and “effeminate” gay men were often raped by police. Often, no charges were even brought, and it was all a matter of abuse and harassment.

    People want to go back to the 50s, when queers were in the closet. This is what they want us to go back to. They think of it as lives of quiet desperation, when we just knew our places and stayed out of public view, but for many gay men and lesbians, this was their life. They could expect to be raided once every month or two, and go through this brutality. Their desperation was not actually all that fucking quiet. That’s how Stonewall happened.

    And this is what they want us to go back to. Even the ones who don’t want us in concentration camps, when they say they just don’t want us to flaunt our sexuality, they just want us to sit down and be quiet and not ask for our rights, they are saying they want a return to this. They want a return to fear and hiding — those who could — and brutality, to losing jobs and homes, to suicide, to being turned away from friends’ funerals by families who had disowned their children in life, only to steal their bodies from their chosen families who would mourn them.

    How is that not enacting hate?

    (By the way, Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg is a heartbreaking novel about that period, before and after Stonewall, written by someone who was there. I highly recommend it — but keep tissues handy.)

  • David Starner

     I don’t get Stonewall. I try and put myself in the shoes of the cops, and my most cold-hearted, amoral side wants to know, with the number of open assaults, rapes, robberies, etc., why it’s worth my time to go roust some guys drinking in a bar. The type of moral superiority complex that would justify ignoring crime to go mess with some people peacefully drinking in a bar is beyond me; “don’t go messing with people who aren’t causing problems” is pretty basic.