The fact that we were sitting together at lunch on Saturday could be considered a triumph of enduring friendship. We’d been friends since riding the same bus to junior high in 1980-something. I remember when he first came out, his first boyfriend. He was one of my very closest friends.
Until I joined the UPC. We began to drift then. The last time we spoke was on my birthday, a year or so after I’d gotten married. I can’t remember if it was when I was pregnant with my oldest or the next year. I do remember he wanted to be friends, to get together and have lunch. He wanted to buy a baby outfit for my son. But my husband said no. It wasn’t appropriate for me to have lunch with another man even if he was gay. ESPECIALLY if he was gay.
We reconnected several months back after almost 20 years. What some would consider a triumph of friendship, others consider a scandal and a sign that I am completely “on the wrong path.” In 1994 my husband quietly said “I’d rather you didn’t” continue the friendship. Today, members of my former church have gotten into some VERY ugly and hateful arguments with him in the comments of some of my Facebook posts.
At lunch on Saturday we discussed the idea that there’s been a change over the last couple decades in the ferocity of condemnation from that wing of Christianity. “They’re more militant,” was my friends take on it.
He was referring to things like this:
Focus On The Family President Dr. James Dobson (who used to seem like such a level headed guy) saying gay marriage could lead to “another civil war.” Ditto former GOP Presidential candidate Alan Keyes, Timothy Buchannan, Matt Barber,
Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver saying it’s leading to the “ghettoization of Christianity” whereby those who believe are being stigmatized, dehumanized, and ultimately “terrible things will happen” a la Nazi Germany.
Eagle Forum founder Phyllis Schlafly said that marriage equality advocates ultimately seek “to wipe out the Christian religion.”
Franklin Graham said that a Supreme Court ruling in favor of gay marriage could pave the way for “persecution of believers.”
Scott Lively, Mike Huckabee, Author Jonathan Cahn, Alan Keyes, Ann Graham Lotz, and an independent group of lawyers filing an Amicus brief with the US Supreme Court all predict America will face the Wrath of God if SCOTUS rules in favor of marriage equality.
They’re truly in a panic, like they’ve never been before. And it’s not just the usual extremists. Normally complacent, arrogant in their sense of entitlement and “moral majority” status, even the most reserved are calling for civil disobedience if and when SCOTUS rules against them.
But SCOTUS has been ruling against them for half a century. Prayer and bible reading in schools, abortion, separation of church and state cases, removing the ten commandments and nativity scenes from public property. Why does this one in particular drive them so batty? They’ve never even threatened civil disobedience over abortion, and they consider that the actual taking of innocent human life.
A Long History Of Opposition
Christianity has always wanted to keep homosexuality relegated to back alleys and dark secrets. Up until the 1970’s, homosexuality was considered a mental disorder, and gays painted as perverted, psychotic and ultimately dangerous. Phil Donahue was one of the first to begin to change this perception, having guests on his talk show in the 1960’s and 70’s who were gay and who turned out to be normal and rather ordinary.
Then the American Psychiatric Association declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder in 1973, and the American Psychological Association Council of Representatives followed in 1975. Despite a growing mountain of scientific evidence showing same-sex attraction is merely a healthy variation of human sexual orientation , religious conservatives insisted the policy change was an example of the medical establishment’s caving in to “intimidation” by gay activists.
Television shows began having openly gay characters who weren’t dangerous perverts. In 1977, ABC launched a TV series called Soap that had an openly gay character (played by Billy Crystal). Before the show even aired it was targeted by the Christian Life Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, who set about to pressure sponsors to pull any and all advertising for the show.
The August 22, 1977 issue of Baptist Press reports on the campaign:
The only corporation still listed as a sponsor for the first episode of “Soap” is Timex, which has promised to announce a decision soon on whether it intends to remain a sponsor, the Christian Life Commission, SBC social concerns agency, reported.
“Soap, ” tabbed by ABC as an adult comedy series, deals with such sex-related themes as homosexuality, adultery and transvestitism. It has ignited a fiery protest from a host of religious and community leaders across the nation.
Foy Valentine and Harry N. Hollis Jr. of the Christian Life Commission, denounced the show as “prime-time pollution” and a “30-minute dirty joke” after previewing the first two segments, and SBC President Jimmy Allen, who has also seen the introductory episodes. said the show is “obvtously designed by those who would pander to lower sexual appetites for profit. ” A “No Soap” coalition of 10 national religious and civic groups has also been formed in an attempt to pressure ABC into cancelling the show.
The show ran from 1977 to 1981 and was named one of the 100 best television shows of all time by Time magazine in 2007.
The February 1992 edition of the Journal of the American Family Association featured an article — headline TV’s New Minority: Homosexuals Gain Special Rights on Prime-Time — bemoaning the progress up to that point:
There have been many regular or recurring homosexual characters in the past few years, brought onto such series as the Showtime cable network’s BROTHERS (1984–88), CBS’s DOCTOR, DOCTOR ( 1989–91), and ABC’s HOOPERMAN (1987–89) and ROSEANNE, to make a pro-gay social or political statement. Frequently, a series regular at first intolerant of homosexuality is “enlightened” by episode’s end.
Oh, the horror!
Then, there was Ellen. While I vaguely remember my parents watching Soap in the 70’s (they wouldn’t let me watch) I myself remember watching Ellen’s show. How, I’m not sure as it was on after I was already in the UPC and supposed to not be watching TV. Until I looked it up just now I thought it was on several years earlier than 1994 – 1998. I distinctly remember when both she and her character came out, thinking ok, cool. And I distinctly remember thinking the show would have done better had it not become about nothing else BUT the fact that the main character was gay.
I was a regular listener to the Focus on the Family radio program – literally every night since we didn’t have a TV in our house, but I didn’t remember the American Family Association organized a campaign to get advertisers to stop backing the show , because “we don’t feel homosexuality/lesbianism should be promoted on television as a normal, alternative life-style. It is not natural and it is not healthy.”
They still hate Ellen. In 2012 they blasted JC Penney for daring to hire her as a spokesperson. “Funny that JC Penney thinks hiring an open homosexual spokesperson will help their business when most of their customers are traditional families,” said AFA subsidiary “One Million Moms” on their website. “DeGeneres is not a true representation of the type of families that shop at their store. The majority of JC Penney shoppers will be offended and choose to no longer shop there.”
Except that they didn’t. The Moms quickly backed down when support for Ellen surpassed their own numbers, claiming that “more important things call for our attention.”
So it seems that while the Christian Right has been fighting this battle for a VERY long time, they’ve been losing it for roughly half a century.
“Because God Says So” Isn’t Working
Fast forward to now. Arguments before SCOTUS didn’t appear to go well for the right wingers, with Chief Justice John Roberts bringing up the idea that bans on same-sex marriage could be a sex discrimination issue rather than a homosexual discrimination one. Arguments from the right, however, basically seem to boil down to one thing:
God says it’s wrong.
And here, I think is the crux of the issue. Why this is the hill they want to die on. They’ve been content to fight Roe vs. Wade incrementally, to just basically bellyache about prayer and bible reading in schools. But they’re really going apeshit here for one reason. In those other cases there were other arguments. It’s debatable whether or not an unborn baby is a living human being. But the ONLY reason you can deny homosexual marriage is because the bible says so.
And nobody is having it.
For the first time, they are being told NO. Not only that, but they’re being told they can’t use this “because we say so” excuse as a reason to discriminate in the marketplace. They are being confronted with the fact that they don’t own the culture like they did back in the 1950’s and they can’t stand it. It’s just like a spoiled, over privileged bully of a child going to a school where nobody cares who his parents are and he has to actually share his toys. What we’re seeing is their version of that temper tantrum.
Unfortunately, I think this tantrum is going to get a whole lot worse before it’s over.