Thursday, December 11, 2014
The first I saw were the hate-filled remarks from a self-appointed “pastor” in New Zealand, which I referred to a couple days ago. By the time I’d posted that, I’d already seen the video at left below, so I knew the two “pastors” were using the exact same rhetoric in promoting hatred of gay people.
Then, today, I saw yet another “pastor” using the same vile rhetoric to preach hatred, with the same declaration that gay people should be killed and the same vicious lie that we’re all “child molesters” (video at right, above). By this point I became convinced that there’s something more going on here than it would first appear.
The vile rhetoric of these so-called “pastors” is so similar because it’s based on Theonomy, a form of Christian Reconstructionism that calls for theocratic government that would impose what they think are laws of Moses onto everyone. Even among radical rightwing “Christians” it’s a pretty extremist and crackpot political ideology.
But these “pastors” are also merely an extreme version of what the professional anti-gay industry says all the time; the fact that these guys put things in much more extreme language doesn’t mean the professionals are any less bigoted. In fact, the professionals say the same things in different ways.
The “pastors” help the professional activists in the anti-gay industry in two ways. First, it makes the professionals seem so much more reasonable by comparison: “Hey, we’re not like THEM!” This helps the professionals get exposure for their agenda and helps them be treated as legitimate voices that must be heard in politics and the news media.
That leads to the second thing the “pastors” are doing to help the professional anti-gay industry: They’re not just making the professional activists seem moderate by comparison, they’re making their every bit as bigoted, but far less violent, agenda seem calm and kind of rational.
While the “pastors” call on governments to execute gay people, the professionals are “only” calling for government to criminalise homosexuality (though one prominent professional anti-gay activist did say that all gay people should be deported). They also want to ban the discussion of homosexuality in public (like in Russia). Oh, and make sure that our civil and human rights aren’t protected in any way by law. See? That’s so much kinder than calling for government to kill us!
The “pastors” talk about their god “hating” gay people, but the professionals say their god just hates our “behaviour”, and if we just stopped being so darn gay, everything would be fine. I’m trying to work how I can shop for groceries in a less gay way, or pay bills less gay, but stopping myself from driving the car gay, that’s hard! Both talk about us “recruiting” children, but the professionals usually put the exact same bullshit in the context of “legitimising homosexual behaviour” to young people (and their solution is banning talking about homosexuality in public).
So, the extreme rightwing “pastors” are just the uglier face of the same anti-gay bigotry promoted by the professional anti-gay industry. Their purpose—apart from getting donations, of course—is to make our powerful professional adversaries seem so much nicer than they really are.
I saw the exact same thing work well when I was an activist. We had ACT-UP and Queer Nation out in the streets being obnoxious and confrontational, which meant that we quieter suit-and-tie activists were invited to meet politicians precisely because we were quieter and seemed so calm and rational by comparison. And yet, at those meetings we made the exact same demands the radicals in the street were making, we just used different, less radical language. We won a lot of battles that way, and the reality is we never would have won as much if we didn’t have the more extreme voices pushing the boundaries and making us seem so much more rational—and acceptable—by comparison.
All of this happened without any discussion between us. In fact, radicals were known to denounce suit-and-tie activists, and vice versa. From my personal experience, that mutual contempt was pretty genuine. So, it’s possible for radicals to be useful to the “professional activists” without any coordination or collusion or even cordial relations. In fact, it usually works best without all that.
The danger in this, however, is that extremism can make the ever-more-extreme thinkable. It’s a very short hop from saying that government, not Christians, should kill gay people to saying simply that gay people should be killed, and Christians have a duty to do it. Ramping it up to that level changes everything because if it was questionable before, it’s certain that some radical far-right “Christians” would heed that call.
So, it’s important to denounce radicals like those “pastors”, and it’s appropriate to call them hate-filled bigots. However, it’s equally important to point out how they’re just a more extreme version of the bigots in the professional anti-gay industry. The rhetoric of the “pastors” may be vile and disgusting, but their agenda and goals are actually exactly the same as the professional anti-gay industry. We ignore that fact at our extreme peril as a civilised society.
The two faces of the same hatred is no coincidence at all.