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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Anti-gay Industry, Part 4: It's Use of Fear to Create Enemies


In a casual Google search for "gay threat to America" (try it yourself), this is the first item on the list, found here: http://www.deseretnews.com/article/705285940/Gays-greatest-threat-to-America-Buttars-says.html?pg=all
Sen. Chris Buttars believes gays and lesbians are "the greatest threat to America going down," comparing members of the LGBT community to radical Muslims.
"I believe they will destroy the foundation of the American society," the West Jordan Republican said in a recent interview with documentary filmmaker Reed Cowan. "In my mind, it's the beginning of the end. … Sodom and Gomorrah was localized. This is worldwide."
Buttars is a Utah state senator, and a Mormon, so it's not unusual that he would be anti-gay. What is unusual is his over-the-top rhetoric. "The greatest threat to America," and comparing LGBTs to radical Muslims would make Joseph McCarthy proud of such overreach. Combing through the article, I could not find anything to back up his comments except the notion that the destruction of the family will lead to the destruction of America. So far, there is no evidence that gay marriage will do anything of the kind, and in fact, seems only to be a strengthening force for marriage overall. 

Note, too, his use of Sodom and Gomorrah. Of all the Bible passages used to denounce gays, this is the most used and least applicable. Biblical scholars long ago removed any association with homosexuality from this story. Some of the most vigorous opponents of gays no longer consider Sodom and Gomorrah relevant. I attended a lecture by Joe Dallas, a leading proponent of Reparative Therapy (gays can change their sexual orientation). In going over the biblical passages that he said supported homosexualty as sinful, he didn't mention Sodom and Gomorrah at all. I check his handouts and not even there was any mention made. So I asked him, "Have you lost the battle on Sodom and Gomorrah?" To which he replied, "Yes." Nevertheless, some people will continue to abuse this scripture regardless of its inapplicability.

Then there's the "gay recruitment" scare tactic, designed to alarm parents and set them against their children's schools. Scott Lively's, "Seven Steps to Recruit-proof Your Child," purports to document the recruiting activities of gay activists, and it set off a spate of similar approaches to impede gay acceptance. Here's a typical version of how this works (from Wind Commentary http://www.wnd.com/1998/10/526/):
A training video called “It’s Elementary” teaches elementary school teachers how to get the “gay” message into primary grade classrooms. Books like “Daddy’s Roommate” and “Heather Has Two Mommies” are all too commonplace. The National Education Association, the nation’s largest teacher’s union, has openly adopted guidelines for promoting homosexuality in public education and many private schools already have yielded to the pressure to present homosexuality as a normal.
Imagine what goes through the minds of 12-year-old boys and girls when a gay activist tells them that 10 percent of the population is gay, and that 10 percent of their class has this “sexual orientation.” At this tender age, classrooms of teenagers and pre-teenagers, with their hormones raging, are being encouraged to follow their urges and experiment. If a child voices a question about the possibility of being gay to a teacher or other school officials, the parent most likely never will hear about it. These children often are referred to an outside “gay” counseling center run by active homosexuals.
This kind of scare works because it's built on the fallacy that gays can change their orientation. They can't, and neither can straights. Whenever someone suggests to me that sexual orientation is a choice (I can't believe we're still having these conversations...ugh!), I ask them how easy it would be for them to change. Another ugh! So if a 12 year-old is introduced to the gay orientation in a school class, there is nothing in that experience that can change his or her already set orientation. Here's a summary from the American Academy of Pediatrics:
The mechanisms for the development of a particular sexual orientation remain unclear, but the current literature and most scholars in the field state that one's sexual orientation is not a choice; that is, individuals do not choose to be homosexual or heterosexual. A variety of theories about the influences on sexual orientation have been proposed. Sexual orientation probably is not determined by any one factor but by a combination of genetic, hormonal, and environmental influences. In recent decades, biologically based theories have been favored by experts. Although there continues to be controversy and uncertainty as to the genesis of the variety of human sexual orientations, there is no scientific evidence that abnormal parenting, sexual abuse, or other adverse life events influence sexual orientation. Current knowledge suggests that sexual orientation is usually established during early childhood.

The one thing that all these hate and fear-mongers have in common is the lack of evidence to support their claims. Note the appeal in the Wind Commentary to "imagine what goes through the minds of 12-year-old boys and girls." Yes, imagine. Imagine, because that's all that's left to you after the experts have spoken. 

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Anti-gay Industry, Part 3: Their Use of the Bible

Here are a few things to bear in mind when the discussion of homosexuality and the Bible arises. First, there is no word in either Greek or Hebrew for homosexual and the like. More importantly, there is no concept of sexual orientation, either. In the Greco-Roman world, there was only appropriate and inappropriate sex. Dio Chrysostom (a contemporary of the apostle Paul) famously said that the same passion that drove a man to a female prostitute would drive the same man to a male prostitute. 

Since there is no word for homosexuality, no Bible translation should have "homosexual" or its synonyms in it. Some, using the Dynamic Equivalent translation process, think they have found a modern equivalent in homosexual or "sodomy." Yet, what we know of homosexuality today is far removed from that of the ancient past. There is no apples-to-apples correspondence. Quite to the contrary, the differences in sexual behaviors are striking and most are not replicated in our day. Given what Chrysostom said, which is typical of his day, even heterosexuality cannot be thought of as a concept then, or considered anything like what we know of it today. As regards the term "sodomy," it was not coined until 1000 years after the New Testament was written. Any Bible translation that uses it is anachronistic. 

So, when people say, "My Bible says that homosexuality, sodomy, etc., is a sin," they are not quoting the Bible, they are quoting a mistranslation purporting to be Scripture but isn't. 

As for "my Bible says," here's how I begin the discussion of interpreting the Bible in my book, Marriage Equality:
The ultimate recourse for those who want to keep homosexuality on the sins list is, “My Bible says....” The sentence generally ends with “...homosexuals are an abomination,” or, “...gays are going to hell,” or “…God hates gays.” This is intended to be the final word on the matter; the Bible has spoken, the issue is clear, we can move on to other things. How so? Because the Bible has spoken.
The Bible, of course says no such thing. I will prove it to you. Go get your Bible. Now, take it in your hands and bring it up to your eyes. Say to it very clearly, “Bible, tell me, what do you have to say about homosexuality?” If you don't hear anything, repeat your question; maybe louder this time. If there is still no answer, shake it; it may be taking a nap. Still hearing nothing? Well, that's all right, because if you do hear the Bible answering, you may be on your way to a psychiatric hospital. 
The Bible “says” nothing. It is an inert object, words on paper. It can’t utter a sound. Of course, you knew that all along, yet you may still want to repeat that the Bible says something. What is really going on is that people say the Bible says something; people speak on behalf of  the Bible. The Bible is deaf and mute.
Unfortunately, people too often make what “the Bible says” what they want it to say. You see, there is no such thing as an uninterpreted reading of anything, from the daily newspaper to the Bible. All of us read (or “hear what it says”) though a filter or a lens. No one can read without one. Your filter/lens is everything that you have learned through your culture, ethnicity, gender, nationality, education...you get the point...that shapes how you perceive meaning. Every word you read or hear is processed through this filtering system. 
Everyone reads or hears the same word or words differently. Depending on how far apart our systems are, we can basically understand each other or totally misunderstand. In explaining this to an adult Sunday School class, one member said, “I can think of something we both read that needs no filtering, that is straightforward and immediately understood.” “Okay,” I said. “Let's have it.” He responded, “God is love.” I replied with, “What do you mean by 'God' and what do you mean by 'love'”? He got my point.
I could fill this post with any number of quotes from religious leaders, politicians and pundits of all kinds who repeat how the Bible condemns gays. This is unnecessary because you, my reader, have first-hand experience in hearing/reading such and in voluminous quantity. Finding an informed commentator who actually has studied the issue and isn't merely passing on unreflected upon, second-hand opinion is rare. Such is the success of the Anti-gay Industry. It has convinced people that the Bible condemns homosexuality when it doesn't even know what that is!

The success of convincing the public that homosexuality is evil spills over into the nonreligious as well. A question was posed in Yahoo Answers, "Are there any anti-gay nonreligious out there?" Here's the answer voted "best" by the readers:
Yes there are, I have no religious affiliations and I think being homosexual is an abomination to mankind, the anus is not a pleasure organ, if everyone was homosexual then the world would end, there would be no reproduction. Homosexuals will end us all, but they are good for spreading diseases, but if being homosexual is acceptable so should having sexual intercourse with animals, it's about the same thing, think about that.
Note the use of "abomination." Where do you suppose that came from ? And all the reasons given for being anti-gay are right out of the Industry's playbook, and they are all twisted from biblical sources.  One has to wonder about the critical thinking skills of the voters who made this response the best. It just shows how much work is left to do. 

Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Anti-gay Industry, Part 2: Sources of Deception

The Anti-gay Industry is just that, an industry. It is an admixture of various parachurch ministries, churches, academics, and psychological practitioners that are organized around one mission: to stop the advancement of gay rights in America. It has enormous power in the Fundamentalist and Evangelical Christian world, and its spokespeople are the most evident in the mainstream media. They are "the voice and face" of what purports to be Christianity in America. (Remember how Jerry Falwell seemed to be on every channel at once?) They occupy high offices in Congress, fill various federal and state legislatures and agencies, and are found on school boards in every district. And, yes, they are mostly Republicans, a condition that worries not only the more moderate Republicans, but Democrats who understand the need for a two-party political system that actually works for the good of the whole.

Their ant-gay bias is a combination of many factors, chief among them being a literal understanding of the Bible. It's important to state at the outset that EVEN A LITERAL INTERPRETATION OF THE BIBLE does not support the notion that homosexuality is a sin or that God despises LGBTs. (For a complete analysis of all the Bible passages that are used to support anti-gay bias, see the chapter "But My Bible Says..." in my book, Marriage Equality. Clicking on the icon book cover on the left of this page will take you to Amazon.) That said, many people are led to believe the worst, and they do. Most of them are genuinely sincere and their motivations are pure; they simply are convinced that homosexuals are a menace to America by the Anti-gay Industry, which exploits their biblical naivety, and feeds them propaganda on a daily basis through their radio and TV shows, websites, emails and fundraising letters.

Another factor that supports the Industry in its subtrafuge is the exploitation of human's natural fear of "the other." Differences can be exploited to pit people against people as we have seen in race-baiting politics, the "Huns" of World War I, the "atheistic communists" of the Cold War, and LGBTs of today. If you are continually subjected to messages from your pastor, legislators, and people you trust that the greatest menace to your family and your children is gay rights, you naturally will be inclined to believe it without access to evidence to the contrary. How easily some people were convinced of this is in how many actually believe that same-sex marriage is a threat to heterosexual marriage. No credible evidence of any kind has been submitted to substantiate this. It's simply taken as a given. Good grief!

Pseudoscience and pseudopsychology supply the intellectual backdrop for the Industry. The technical name for the theory that gays can change their orientation is Reparative Therapy. It is repudiated by every substantial psychological and medical professional group across the board in America. In order for there to be such a therapy, it first must be established that there is a strong need for such.  Here is where the onslaught of propaganda enters the picture that creates the impression that gays are abnormal, deviant, psychologically disturbed, pedophiles, disease ridden, short lived, promiscuous and (you fill in the blank). 

Then there are the "studies" that purport to show a very dark side to life in the gay community. Whenever they are peer reviewedwhich is seldom, because they know they can't withstand that kind of scrutinythey are universally shown to be fallacious, if not wholly made up. 

Over the next several postings we will examine these and other sources that the Industry draws upon to shape their arguments and mislead their constituents. We will look at the journals, associations,  ministries,  institutions, and leaders that subvert the truth and make life miserable for millions of LGBTs who otherwise would be free to live their lives as unencumbered as the rest of us.   

In the meantime, I leave you with this apology that John Paulke, a longtime advocate against gay rights, recently gave to the gay community at large. He was once the chairman of Exodus International and the organizer of Focus on the Family's, Love One Out program.
For the better part of ten years, I was an advocate and spokesman for what's known as the "ex-gay movement," where we declared that sexual orientation could be changed through a close-knit relationship with God, intensive therapy and strong determination. At the time, I truly believed that it would happen. And while many things in my life did change as a Christian, my sexual orientation did not….Please allow me to be clear: I do not believe that reparative therapy changes sexual orientation; in fact, it does great harm to many people.
 Finally, I know there are still accounts of my "ex-gay" testimony out there being publicized by various groups, including two books that I wrote about my journey. I don't get any royalties from these publications, and haven't since I left the ministry nearly ten years ago. I discourage anyone from purchasing and selling these books or promoting my "ex-gay" story because they do not reflect who I am now or what I believe today.
The full text of the apology can be found here: http://www.advocate.com/politics/religion/2013/04/24/john-paulk-formally-renounces-apologizes-harmful-ex-gay-movement

One final thought. Although for many months Mr. Paulk has repudiated his books, repeatedly requested they be ignored, and called on his former allies to stop using his now rejected testimony, the Anti-gay Industry continues to use them. Such is the nature of the forces we are up against.

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Anti-Gay Industry: Fear-Baiters for Profit and Power, Part 1

 "A political order can be stable only if it is united by an external threat.  If no external threat exists, then one has to be manufactured." - Leo Strauss, 20th century political philosopher

One of the oldest frauds in the world is to manufacture an enemy and then exploit the fear engendered for all the money/votes/power possible. The classic American example is the notorious Sen. Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin, whose Red-baiting and hysterical claims of a communist under every government bed during the Cold War era of the 1950s, gave us the sobriquet, "McCarthyism," the modern equivalent of "crying wolf."

A present day McCarthy wannabe is former Rep. Allen West, R-Fla. At a town hall meeting, West said he thinks as many as 81 House Democrats "are members of the Communist Party." He was referring to the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Fortunately, no one took him seriously, at least no one with critical thinking skills.

I remember as a child listening to the radio broadcasts of Rev. Billy James Hargis and the Christian Crusade. Hargis was crusading against the Red menace that was about to take over America, and its sly maneuver to corrupt our youth through teaching sex education in schools. It turns out that Hargis was doing his own corrupting with the boys of his church, college and camp, and was forced to resign from all his ministries and organizations. (Hargis denied the charges, but left nonetheless.) Since then there have been a spate of people who decry this and that who have been found involved intimately in the things they (publically) abhor. Ted Haggard, and Sens. Larry Craig and David Vitter come to mind.

This is not to say that all who indulge in enemy-baiting are insincere hypocrites. Not at all. There are many who find threats to their prefered view of things that are not only sincere, but consistent in their words and work. I am concerned here with 1) the reality that "enemies" make for good politics as well as personal gain, and 2) there are those who regularly exploit fear of enemies and even create enemies out of whole cloth. Today, with communism largely confined to Cuba, exploiters needed to find a new "enemy."

I am reminded of an incident Mel White relates when he was ghost writing Rev. Jerry Falwell's "autobiography." They were together in San Francisco where Falwell spoke to a large audience in a downtown hotel. After the speech, they had to muscle their way into their limo because a local gay protest had managed to block their way and, once in the car, impeded their progress. Amid the shouting, jostling of the car, and general hoopla, Falwell turned to Mel and said, "If I didn't have these gays, I'd have to invent them."

Yes, some "enemies" to exploit are readily at hand. And the Anti-gay Industry is alive and well today doing just that. I will be posting a series on the more destructive of these neo-McCarthyites over the next few days. We will begin by examining the pool of accumulated data that purports to be scientific studies that all the major players draw from, yet turn out to be as bogus and helpful as the latest fad diet. Stay tuned!




Thursday, July 25, 2013

Will 2013 Go Down as the Annus Mirabilis of the Gay Rights Struggle?

Rev. Steve Kindle
Ex. Dir. Clergy United
www.clergyunited.org
Just as Martin Luther King Jr. either prophesied or intuited, the arc of history, at least here in the USA, continues to bend toward justice.  Just a year ago, few had in mind the rapid fire changes that resulted in now 13 states offering same-sex marriage, and what looks like an irresistible march toward fifty state compliance.  I admit that I am giddy over the prospects.

Then there's the almost impossible-to-call reversal of the stance held by Exodus International, the first and largest ex-gay movement in the world, that gays could change their sexual orientation by either good counseling provided by the reparative therapy crowd, or getting right with God. The bodies that are littering the paths of all who held out such hope are staggeringly high.  Not only has EI repudiated their mission, they have called it quits! We would be celebrating this amazing turn of events were it not for so much carnage wrought getting there.

You may (I hope) have noticed my absence on this blog this past month.  Well, I've learned that when you self-publish a book, it takes as much energy after the publication to get it noticed as it did to write it. That includes writing about it as much as writing it!  So, silly me, I actually have another book on the way.  Some people can put out volumes (check out my friend, Bob Cornwall's blog and book output, for example:http://www.bobcornwall.com/).  But I'm a "bleeder," as they say in the guild.  I suffer over every word and much prefer seeing what I have written than writing it.

I bring this up because of the serendipitous moments that arrive just when you need one. Such a moment happened yesterday. My new book is for parents of gay children, If Your Child Is Gay: What every parent of a gay child needs to know to insure a positive outcome in an often negative world. It should be out next week. (Watch this space!)  I had written what I know is an obvious critique of the leaders of the "Anti-gay Industry." Here's a bit of it:
Not everyone in America is of the same mind on the subject of homosexuality, as I am sure you know. This is not to say that reasonable minds can disagree and we can leave it at that. You see, the opposition, for the most part, is unreasonable to the point of obstinacy. Why? They are most often driven by ideology, not the search for reliable facts or even interested at all in you or your children’s well-being. 
What I wrote is absolutely true, and those of us who are close to the ins and outs of the daily struggle with the Anti-gay Industry are well aware of this.  However, for a parent who is just being introduced to things gay, it is not apparent; it's even counter intuitive to believe that. They come off so sincere and righteous.  So, I knew I had to find a way to make this point and one was not easily at hand.  Until yesterday, that is. So here is how I was able to finish the thought:
A recent apology to the entire gay community from a long-time lobbyist for the largest anti-gay ministry in the world, Randy Thomas, underscores this. Here is part of what he admitted to on July 22, 2013, in a posting on his personal blog http://randythomas.co/2013/07/23/apology/ : 
"I participated in the hurtful echo chamber of condemnation. I gave lip service to the gay community, but really did not exemplify compassion for them. I placed the battle over policy [read: ideology] above my concern for real people. I sometimes valued the shoulder pats I was given by religious leaders more than Jesus' commandment to love and serve. That was wrong and I'm disappointed in myself. Please forgive me."
As could be predicted, the Industry was out in force jamming his blog with so much hateful commenting about his apology that Randy had to install a comment review program before posting any more comments. Such is the behaviour of those who supposedly do their work out of love for humanity.

The huge increase in gay marriage rights and the decline of Exodus International in 2013 may very well mean that this year will be looked upon as the Annus Mirabilis of the Gay Rights Movement, even as 1963 is for the Civil Rights Movement.  Martin Luther King would be proud. 

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

It's Not Over--by a Longshot

Rev. Steve Kindle, Ex. Dir
Clergy United, Inc.
www.clergyunited.org
My friend and writer for the Ex-Gay Watch, Michael Airhart, visited Judson Memorial Church in NYC on Pride Sunday. The sermon  found here from Community Minister Micah Bucey reminded the congregation that the struggle for gay dignity is far from over. Here's a salient quote from the sermon
We, as a queer community, even as we celebrate immense progress, are in danger of inactively disappearing our own people. Our Marriage Equality campaigns have embraced the institution and ignored the less easily assimilated members of our queer community. Our visibility is helping kids to come out at younger ages, but some are being kicked out of their homes, coming to New York City to find community and, in a terrible twist, being booted off of the piers by the very residents of the Village who came here decades ago to find their own safely queer space.
There's a general impression that with the right to marry, LGBTs have achieved full equality. Setting aside for the moment that full equality means 50 state participation, and employment protection, as well as myriad other goals not yet achieved, this victory is only for those who are easily assimilated into the wider culture.  There are many others not yet the focus of concern and, as Bucey points out, are becoming rarer even on the  radar screens of the gay community.  These include the young, poor, and queerer, especially the "I's and Ts."   Intersexuals, transsexuals, transvestites, transgender, and transitioning still have miles to go before they can rest in the security of public acceptance and equal rights.

Only recently have the "Is and Ts" been welcome in the movement, an ironic situation, since the historic moment of Stonewall was largely accomplished by transvestites refusing to be abused by NYC police. They have been on the outside looking in for most of the decades of the rise of the gay rights movement. Casual observers of social change aren't aware of the animosities that existed, and still do in some areas, between gays and lesbians, and LGBs and Ts.

I was attending a cocktail party hosted by a prominent gay organization where a transexual was a featured speaker.  She was mingling in the crowd when a gay man approached me with a question. "Is she (formerly a man, now a woman) straight or gay?"  "I don't know," I said. "But she definitely is queer!"  Thus the acronym is expanded to include Qs, people who don't normally fit into neat categories.  And because they don't easily fit into nicely received gender roles, they struggle for acceptance, even among those who should know better.

Another story will help illustrate my point. When I was a pastor of a church in Honolulu, our church president was a pre-op transsexual.  Formerly, Jane was a Marine who fought in Vietnam and still was a hulking, imposing figure. My wife was not as familiar with Ts as I, and her comfort level was low.  She was full of anxiety as to what to say to her, how to say it, and didn't want to embarrass Jane or herself. But she made the effort. One day she confessed to me that she no longer had any anxieties. She discovered, in the midst of a conversation about fingernail care with Jane, that the "otherness" completely disappeared and she was simply talking with another woman.  My point? Until we as a society can get as comfortable with those less like ourselves, as we have with gays in general, the Is and Ts and Qs will remain on the edges of society, even on the edges of gay society.

So, let's not rest on our victory laurels just yet. In fact, we need to double down on our support of Is, Ts, and Qs. Martin Luther King's standard is still true that "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly." LGBTIQ is not just an acronym.  It represents a people who deserve the dignity inherent in all yet still denied to some. The cause continues.