Gay Activism and the Christian Persecution Complex: The Kirk Cameron/ Anita Bryant Delusion

At about the same time the hysterical jeremiads began circulating about the supposed discrimination against Christians by the gay-coddling American legal system, another earth-shattering story also exploded into the news: the outrage toward actor Kirk Cameron for standing by his “Biblical principles” on same-sex relationships. It goes without saying (but we’ll say it anyway) that the punditocracy brandished this backlash as a prime specimen of “liberal” intolerance, “liberal” hypocrisy, “liberal” bias in the media, and above all an anti-Christian vendetta of holocaust proportions.

Now you might figure that all show biz celebrities squander their free time in such frivolous pursuits as combating AIDS, world hunger, child abuse and neglect, homelessness, rape of the environment or rape of other human beings. But rest assured, some of them are perfectly willing to devote some precious time and energy to things that really matter, such as keeping those accursed Sodomites in their place.

If you’re old enough to remember the late Seventies  (in which case you have my sympathies, you disco duck), you may recall that “Christian” pop singer Anita Bryant waged a more-sexually-pure-than-thou rampage to overturn anti-discriminatory legislation in Florida, establish further discriminatory measures in that state and elsewhere, and in general denounce the “deviant lifestyle”  of queerness like a Good Christian.  After successfully leading a campaign in Florida to repeal a law affording protection to gays, she crowed:

Tonight the laws of God, and the cultural values of man have been vindicated. The people of Dade County, the Normal majority, have said ‘Enough, enough, enough.’

She didn’t specify whose god, which divine laws or which man, but it’s clear enough that in her worldview, gays, by existing in her direction, were blatantly assaulting her and other “normal” folks. (Bear in mind, this was not about gay marriage or any other particular right or benefit; it was just a law to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.) In fact, she and her cohorts portrayed homosexuality as an evil cult that tried to recruit children into its Satanic rituals. (Actually, gay pedophiles are rather likely to be members of the priesthood. And anyone remember what religion they represent?)

Her triumph was short-lived, because laws recognizing gays as human were reestablished in Florida and elsewhere and in fact her activities galvanized a network of gay activists nationwide to fight harder than ever for equality. During one appearance on a TV station in Des Moines, one such activist smacked her in the face with a strawberry rhubarb pie. Whereupon she quipped, “At least it’s a fruit pie.” Nyuk nyuk nyuk.  Afterward, I heard it said that her getting her just desserts constituted the kind of persecution that Christians typically have to face in our society, and the fellow who did the serving proved that them librulz are hateful and intolerant. Seriously.

Kirk Cameron hasn’t gone on nearly such a holy tear as Bryant,  at least not yet. In fact, all the hubbub was really about a single comment, a tempest in a fruit punch bowl, if you will. Speaking to CNN’s Piers Morgan, he declared that he considered homosexuality not only “sinful” but “unnatural” and “ultimately destructive to so many of the foundations of civilization.” What foundations? Destructive how? He didn’t elaborate. He didn’t need to. He has a direct line to Yahweh Himself.

It’s become trendy among fundamentalist gay-bashers to weasel out of the guilt of being hatemongers by insisting that they “hate the sin and not the sinner”, and that’s essentially how he tried to validate his position. Sorry, won’t work. To label anyone a “sinner” is arrogant, presumptuous and judgmental (Aren’t Christians supposed to believe that only God can determine who’s a sinner?); to do so on the basis of factors beyond their control is, in addition to the above, bigoted if not downright hateful.

But chances are there wouldn’t have been such an outcry over this one ill-advised utterance had not Mr. Cameron done an encore during another TV appearance. A couple of weeks later, NBC’s Ann Curry pressed him to explain himself a little further, pointing out that many people (she didn’t say including herself) might consider his words “hate speech”.  It was a golden opportunity for him to redeem himself, to justify his beliefs or else apologize for his thoughtless words. Instead, he did more or less what simpleminded ideologues so often do when challenged: he did a Sarah — i.e., he shifted the blame to those doing the questioning:

I love all people. I hate no one. And, you know, when you take a subject and you reduce it to something like a four-second sound bite, and a check mark on a ballot, I think that that’s inappropriate and insensitive.

Pretty speech. But somehow I suspect that if I said Mr. Cameron was an unnatural critter who was destructive to civilization, he wouldn’t deem it particularly loving. Furthermore, he still tap-danced around the question he was asked, as well as the larger question of just what he’d intended to say in the first place. Why exactly does he consider gays such a threat to his particular civilization? And what exactly did he mean by “unnatural”?

The latter is no trivial pursuit; “natural” (and hence unnatural) is one of those words that mean whatever people want them to. At one extreme, nothing is unnatural, because we human beings are a part of nature, and therefore one might argue that everything we create or produce is also a part of nature — even including nuclear reactors and sneakers with lights. But when people invoke these two words for ideological purposes, they’re most often focused on the other extreme: that “natural” includes only those things that might have been around in the day of the Neanderthals — or in the Garden of Eden, if you will.

By this line of reasoning, the “unnatural” would include clothing, penicillin, razors, bicycles, spectacles, toilet tissue, the computers with which Christians disseminate their beliefs, and the Bible from which they profess to obtain them. But it would not include homosexuality. It’s common among animals of many kinds, not just humans, and most of these species have never even been exposed to the supposedly corrupting influences of pop culture or those legendary gay recruiters.

Homosexuality has always been around, and is an integral component of the foundations of civilization; yet Mr. Cameron believes that its continued existence, by some process or other, threatens the survival of civilization.  He expressed, in other words, a strong opinion on a matter about which he is, in fact, quite ignorant. There’s a word for that: bigotry, the evil stepmother of hatred.

To condemn gayness in the name of the deity that  invented it is misguided at best, and potentially far worse.  Even when camouflaged by angelic robes, the rhetoric of the Cameron-Bryant Follies is a fuse attached to the powder keg of hate crime.  Words like “unnatural” “destructive”, “abnormal” and “deviant” suggest “perverted”, “malicious”, “evil” and “dangerous”.  And it’s not at all hard to conclude that repeatedly characterizing any segment of the population in such terms — particularly when coupled with the type of blatantly slanderous allegations advanced by Bryant and certain “Christian” “Family” organizations — breeds a festering animosity toward such a segment that could escalate into physical violence, perhaps of the type directed against Matthew Shepard.

(Food for thought: Since the official spin is that “liberals” are more hateful and intolerant than “conservatives”, and that criticizing a “Christian” is more hateful and intolerant that just about any type of attack against a gay, what would happen if “liberals” committed a Matthew Shepard type of torture-murder? Would that be considered as hateful and intolerant as, say, pieing Anita? A very interesting “lady or tiger” type of conundrum.)

Just as Bryant’s pie in the face was a badge of her putative persecution for her “principles”,  Cameron — whose career hadn’t been exactly  Disneyland lately — has used the notoriety from his TV appearances to make further TV appearances to say the same things and protest about being misunderstood again. He has become a poster boy for the National Organization for Marriage, one of those cherubic sounding groups that strive to “protect” marriage by prohibiting the wrong people from getting married.  NOM, by the way, is also mulling the enlistment of other “glamorous, non-cognitive elites” — i.e., attractive but stupid celebrities — to champion its cause. You think I’m joshing?

He’s also launched a speaking tour to share his expertise with the rest of the world, and has even taken advantage of his newly acquired limelight to defend Congressman Todd Akin, who’s come under fire for displaying a level of scientific knowledge comparable to Cameron’s own.  Yet for all his embracing of opportunities for exposure, he’s rejected a friendly invitation from a group of gay teens to conduct a constructive dialogue about his views on homosexuality.

In short, Ann Curry’s line of inquiry was entirely relevant; she was doing the job for which she gets paid. But that, of course, was not how it was spun. The media, taking its cue as usual from the most extreme of rightwingnutball diatribes, began to suggest that she was “attacking” him for his “Christianity” (always including, of course, the obligatory projection that “If he’d been Muslim instead”, yada yada yada). The most monumentally silly of these diatribes, the absolute Mount Rushmore of silliness was surely the one at Breitbart.com. (The man is gone, but his brilliant legacy lives on.) Accompanied by an audio clip of her questions on the topic with his responses edited out — giving the impression that she’d hammered away at him without giving him an opportunity to answer — the blog entry included these scintillating observations:

Make no mistake about it, this is all about going after the Christian Church. Same-sex marriage, GLAAD’s fascist rampages, and all of this Orwellian political correctness is part of long-term goal — and that’s to make Christian beliefs a form of bigotry and to force a left-wing agenda on the church all under a Trojan horse labelled “discrimination.”…

We all know what the next step is, and that’s the outlawing of these opinions under the principle that the speaking of such things will cause harm to others.

This, of course, would mean the end to the church — which is the whole idea.

No, stop laughing. These folks are serious. I think. Never mind that the great majority of “liberals” are Christians, and the great majority of gays are Christian, and that by no means do all Christians condemn gays as “sinners”. Facts? We don’t need no stinkin’ facts. We got an ideology.

Make no mistake (to coin a phrase), this has far less to do with any imagined persecution of Christians and far more to do with promoting the notion that them librulz are even more evil than them fairies. The good folks at Brietbart and elsewhere know that Bible thumping is a very reliable technique for getting people to fall in line with an extremist ideology.

Fortunately for them, there are plenty of Christians who are willing to swallow it hook, line and crucifix.

Gay Activism and the Christian Persecution Complex: Playing Chikin

Unless you’ve spent the last couple of weeks orbiting Jupiter and have had problems with satellite transmission, you’ve surely heard all about the Chick-Fil-A flap. And you’ve no doubt been bombarded with the official spin that it’s another case of librul intolerance and librul hypocrisy, and above all raging anti-religion, or at least anti-Christianity. Never mind that most American “liberals” and most American gays are themselves Christians. The facts don’t make nearly as marketable a story, nor nearly as passionate fundraising fodder, as the hypocrisy/ intolerance/ Christian persecution narrative.

To hear the outraged Jeremiahs tell it, one would get the impression that it’s progressives and gays who have been busily passing laws to prevent fundamentalist fanatics from marrying each other (please, no jokes about how it might be a good idea at least to prohibit them from breeding). Although marriage equality isn’t really the half of it, as this, the most perceptive of commentaries on the subject, so deftly lays out. But come to think of it, it isn’t just Christians, or even just fundamentalist fanatics, who are manipulating public opinion. It’s the pundits, the ones who get paid for it — though they have plenty of followers willing to parrot whatever they churn out. My hat is really off to them this time; they’ve really outdone themselves. I kneel in awe at their self-righteous feet.

They love to say that “it’s not about gays, it’s about religion”. They’re almost half right. It’s really not about religion either, for the most part. It’s about politics.  This is part of a very focused campaign by right-wing extremists to attack “liberals” (although some of them have wised up to the fact that the public has wised up to the fact that “liberal” is a nebulous, heavily abused word, and have started saying “progressives” instead) by portraying them as guilty of the very intolerance and persecution they decry.

They apparently figure if they can pick out enough incidents in which people who may or may not be classifiable as liberal/ progressive may or may not be guilty of what may or may not be intolerance, these all will stack up to some sort of blanket generalization. It’s a tall order, but they are ardently devoting every waking minute to it.

Don’t believe it? Just look at the media articles and blog posts about the incident, and see how many of them connect it to liberals/ progressives and use the word intolerance.  It’s as if they believe that all  progressives think alike on everything. They seem oblivious to the fact that many progressives, while they may disapprove of Chick-Fil-A’s stance, think the reactions of the Muppets, of Mayor Menino of Boston, and of Mayor Emmanuel of Chicago, went too far. Even Mayor Menino acknowledged that he’d been wrong to suggest that he could prevent the franchise from setting up shop in Beantown (it would be beyond his authority to do so). Such things tend to get ignored because they don’t  fit the narrative.

Who’s on The First?

One prong of the attack is the First Amendment angle. Chick-Fil-A president Dan Cathy, the spin goes, is being crucified for exercising his freedom of speech, and he was just making a personal declaration that had nothing to do with his business practices. Beep, beep! Double bullshit alert! If Cathy indeed had done nothing more than make bigoted and boneheaded pronouncements, chances are there would have been no problem. It’s not just a matter of his right to sanctimoniously condemn someone else’s “lifestyle”. The problem is that he also puts his money where his mouth is. Lots and lots and lots of money.

During the past few years, Chick-Fil-A has donated millions to organizations (often with beatific names featuring the words “Christian” and/or “family”) that blatantly promote disinformation about and discrimination against gays. One of them is Exodus International, which long claimed to be able to “cure” homosexuality. Two of its (male) founders renounced the organization and became lovers. Other former leaders of the group have apologized for its activities, and admitted that Exodus “cured” no one (no shit, Sherlock), and even did great harm to much of its clientele. With an intensive campaign to scurrilously portray homosexuals as deviants with sinister purposes — even as predators upon children — Exodus International actually may have contributed to  violent attacks, even the killing of gays. But Dan Cathy still has no problem supporting it in the name of “Biblical principles” — which evidently include lying to his loyal customers.

Well hey, he’s got a point. Condemnation of gays really is in accordance with Biblical principle. So is anything else you can dream up — you can dig up something in the Bible to support absolutely anything you choose to believe. But it’s hardly a Christian principle, since there is no record of Jesus ever saying anything on the topic of homosexuality. (And the big irony here is that while all the Biblical imprecations against gays come from the Old Testament, Christians are far more likely to be homophobic than Jews.) It says right there in the Book of Leviticus:

And if a man lie with mankind, as with womankind, both of them have committed abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

Wait a minute.  Put to death???  Has Cathy ever stoned a gay person? If not, then he isn’t really and truly following Biblical principle, and so perhaps he should go stone himself. He may have to wait in line; he also has a stoning due because his restaurants serve pork in violation of God’s instructions. And another because they stay open on Saturday (the Sabbath). They also, by the way, traffic in extreme animal cruelty, but it might be harder to ferret out a Biblical principle against that, given how many ritual sacrifices the scriptures demand.

Free But Not For Thee

The “free speech” meme took a truly bizarre turn when a fellow named Adam Smith decided it would be, somehow, an effective statement of protest if he made a video of himself voicing his disapproval to a low-level Chick-Fil-A chickadee and posted it online. It made a statement, all right, but not the kind he intended. When the video went viral, someone dug into his background and publicized his place of employment. Whereupon Smith, who really and truly was just speaking his own mind and not representing an organization, was fired from his job. So of course the right-wing Guardians of Free Speech rose up en masse and rallied to his defense, right. Er… right??

Well, um, not exactly. What they did was gloat and guffaw and smirk and call him a jerk and an intolerant librul who got just what he deserved. You’d be hard pressed to find any reference to the incident on the web that doesn’t brand him a “bully”. And even though he’s apologized (for what, exactly?) he’s been deluged with threats and hostile messages — presumably from Good Christians exercising their Biblical principles. Not only did he lose his job, but he and his family have had to leave their home because his address has been publicized.

Okay, time out. Here’s the video. Watch it for yourself. Watch carefully.

Now then: did you see any bullying or “harassment” or “berating” in that video? Any at all?? If so, then someone must have planted subliminal content in it that’s below my radar. All I see is the utmost courtesy by both individuals. The worst thing Smith says is “I don’t know how you live with yourself and work here.”, followed by  “You deserve better, Rachel”. Is that what people find so objectionable? No, wait. It must be “Have a great day.” Surely only an intolerant librul bully would say something that obnoxious. But the manipulators have branded him a bully, and bully he must be. So declares even the rather progressive Huffington Post. It’s downright creepy. But there’s a valuable lesson to be learned here.

Valuable Lesson: To portray someone as intolerant (or whatever) and yourself as less so, simply redefine the terms at your leisure.

It’s all part of a cute cyber-parlor game that has become quite trendy in the past few years. The object is to brand the rejection of intolerance as being more intolerant than intolerance itself. Ready to give it a try? Very well, I’ll name an event and you decide how to categorize it.

A fast food corporation declares that it will continue supporting shady campaigns to defame a segment of the population that has never done it any harm? Right, that’s religious principle. Refusing to support businesses that subsidize such campaigns? Bingo, that’s intolerance and hypocrisy and suppressing free speech. Expressing disapproval of such a business’ practices to one of its employees? Hey, you’re doing great — it is indeed bullying.  Harassing and threatening an individual who expresses such disapproval? Righteous indignation, absolutely. You’re smokin’. Of course, we also need to emphasize that the second and third actions constitute a blatant assault on Christianity.

Oh and we mustn’t forget the liberal hypocrisy angle. I mean if those libruls/ progressives really were so outraged by hate groups, why is it they don’t condemn President Obama for giving 1.5 billion to the Muslim Brotherhood? Lots of right-wing blogs say he did. But oops, turns out it’s not true. Shh!! Don’t tell anyone.

But surely we can prove that there is a vast left-wing conspiracy afoot to squelch Christianity, by  pointing out that Chicago mayor Rahm Emmanuel (who is not a Christian, but practices the same religion as the founder of Christianity) didn’t voice similar objections to Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who’s also made some unenlightened anti-gay utterances. And hey, Mayor Emmanuel welcomed him to The Windy City with open arms.

Oops, there are some problems here too. First of all, while it’s true that Farrakhan has said he thinks gay marriage should be prohibited (though his views seem to be evolving, unlike Cathy’s), he hasn’t systematically engaged in defamation of gays to the point of inspiring genocide. In fact, he’s working to prevent killings. It isn’t so much that Mayor Emmanuel has welcomed him; he’s welcomed some followers of Farrakhan — young black men who volunteered to inject themselves into the city’s most violent neighborhoods in an effort to stem violent crime.  Given that the homicide rate has soared by 40 percent, it’s understandable that any mayor would be desperate enough to accept the help of people he’d prefer to distance himself from. Hell, it’s a good bet that if Dan Cathy had agreed to put on a bowtie and stroll through Chicago’s worst neighborhoods acting as a human shield, Emmanuel would have welcomed him with open arms.

Hmmm… There seems to be a bit of a hitch in this little game of ours, but surely it’s nothing we can’t ignore to keep the narrative going. It’s just that….well, whenever you hear about a case of supposed persecution of Christians, there are almost always missing facts that totally change the picture.

I just wish I could say the same about the Christian persecution of gays.