April 10th, 2009
In World Magazine, a conservative evangelical Protestant Christian publication, columnist Tony Woodlief laments that he can’t follow his instincts and be decent to his gay friends.
As the campaign for gay marriage continues its relentless march toward a place where even Rome in its deepest debauchery didn\’t tread, I\’m tempted, when I think about this issue, to capitulate. I want my gay friends to be happy, after all. And who am I to interfere with their desire to form a legally sanctioned relationship?
Oh, but don’t worry. Tony is no compromiser nor one to put individual rights or self-determination ahead of conformity to the demands of religious orthodoxy. He is, after all, one of those Protestant voices that demanded that the Catholic Church excommunicate Catholics that are not adequately socially conservative.
He quite easily got over his temptation.
Because, like most anti-gay activists, Woodlief justifies his behavior with contorted definitions and assigns to himself motivations of love where others would likely find other labels:
But I can\’t, because supporting gay marriage is false compassion. It affirms the lie that men and women in open rebellion against God can inherit the kingdom of Heaven. I wish they could. I wish everyone could be saved. But the teaching of the one holy, catholic, and apostolic Church is, and has always been, that homosexual practice is sin and that willfully unrepentant sinners imperil their very souls.
So what does love say? Assent to the farce in order that my friends will know my earthly, temporal, selfish affection? Or alienate myself from them by holding to the teaching of the Church out of a desire not to add to the lie they have been told by a world already gone so far astray that secular humanism is its default morality?
Because, of course, to allow civil recognition would “lead our gay brothers and sisters further down a path of lies”. So, like children, he needs to decide what is best for them. It’s the “loving” thing to do.
Now this essay is not so different from most anti-gay screeds. And it would not require us to step far from familiar phrases to discuss the arrogance of one ignorantly (and inaccurately) speaking for the history of Christendom, the self-righteousness of insisting that one’s own theology should dictate social mores, or even what Christ, the founder of his faith, would have to say to those who acknowledge that their policies cause pain and make people feel like outcasts yet justify them by appealing to doctrine and tradition.
But something else struck me, something that we hear repeatedly from anti-gay activists who feel shame about the consequences of their actions: “my gay friends”.
Woodlief is not alone. Over and over we hear from those who advocate for denying hospital visitation and wresting children from their parents and disallowing public service and unequally applying tax codes and banning adoption and refusing health care and a myriad other positions that cause tangible and measurable harm to gay people. And quite often they say, “my gay friends and I disagree” or “we just don’t talk about it”.
They feel it lends credibility to their positions if they can show that they are not “haters” or “bigots”. And it makes them seem like they themselves are making personal sacrifices (“I want my gay friends to be happy”) rather than harshly imposing their demands on strangers. So out come the “gay friends”, whom they love love love.
And then they define their “gay friends” in terms such as “debauched” “unrepentant sinners” “in open rebellion against God” who have been “lead down a path of lies”.
Considering the unfiltered contempt they have toward gay people, how then do they have and keep gay friends?
The answer is: they don’t.
Take a close look at how Tony Woodlief describes his relationship with “his gay friends”:
They remain friends with someone who believes what I believe about what they do because we don\’t talk about it. Perhaps that\’s their choice, or mine, or something in between, but we\’ve steered clear of it—so far.
I have friends and I know what that word means. Friends are those you rely on, those you know deeply, and those with whom you communicate.
Friends talk about dating, spouses, children, family, social life, work, concerns about those who like or dislike them, difficulties in personal relationships with others, slights real and imagined, dreams, goals, desires. Heck, friends even talk about who they think is hot.
But all of that is off the table with Tony and his “gay friends”. They “don’t talk about it”.
No. Tony Woodlief doesn’t have gay friends at all; he has acquaintances with whom he is cordial whom are gay but who have enough sense not to have any discussions of importance with him and who choose not to share with him any personal aspects of their life. He has gay associates who out of politeness do not tell him exactly what they think about his activism and efforts to harm their lives.
So to Tony Woodlief – and Sarah Palin and Rick Warren and Donny Osmond and all the others who think that having “gay friends” justifies cruel treatment – I give this challenge: Produce these “gay friends”. Have a real and genuine talk with them. And if after you make it perfectly clear that you believe that your heterosexuality entitles you to preferential treatment and gives you the right to make determinations about their lives, rights, and freedoms – because your God told you so – then we’ll see just how close of a friend they consider you to be.
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