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The Synchroblog – A Conversation toward Building Bridges

This commentary is the opinion of the author and may not necessarily reflect that of other authors at Box Turtle Bulletin.

Timothy Kincaid

June 24th, 2009

Wendy Gritter of New Directions is seeking to increase communication and decrease hostility between the Christian community and the gay community. While I do not see these as necessarily exclusive communities, it is unquestionable that conservative Christians and gay people are to some extent at war with each other.

Towards the goal of healing, Wendy came up with the concept of a synchroblog, a time in which everyone would focus on their perspectives about such communication. She chose today, the Wednesday of Pride Week, for this effort. So today, a couple dozen bloggers with various Christian or gay perspectives will be participating in this joint conversation and Wendy invited me to join them.

My perspective:

I was born into a very religious, very conservative Christian family. Where other familes argued sports or politics, my family debated points of faith. And as a consequence, I am not unfamiliar with the mindset of conservative Christians, both the positives and the pitfalls. And consider myself a Christian, though many of the positions I was taught have yielded to different perspectives.

In college, I became involved in Republican partisan politics. Some of the individuals I met at that time have later become players in the battle over equality, on both sides of the issue. I know the dialect spoken by those on the right.

Based on my history, unlike some in the gay community, I do not necessarily look at conservatives and/or Christians and automatically assume that they have nefarious intentions or are motivated by hatred and superstition. Nor do I assume that because we disagree that therefore they are deluded and stubborn and blinded by strict adherence to an archaic text.

My participation:

I was first invited to join the blogosphere as a participant at Ex-Gay Watch. And for a while this was a good match. My interest in politics and religion and how both interacted with the gay community fit with the goals of that site.

But a restructuring at XGW brought their focus a little narrower and deeper. So at the invitation of Jim Burroway I began to blog here at Box Turtle Bulletin. However, as most readers know, I still have a strong interest in the current struggle within Christendom to resolve issues surrounding homosexuality and the place, if any, of gay people within the body of believers.

My perception:

In this process I’ve come to believe that much of the battle between conservative Christianity and the gay community is due to ignorance. We don’t know each other, we don’t trust each other, and we assume the worst about each other.

Recently I traded stinging denunciations with a writer at an organization included in the SPLA’s list of hate groups. I accused the writer of callousness and deceit and she returned the favor. But, oddly enough, this opened a dialogue between us, one which led to a later retraction of a particularly odious claim at the website of that organization.

I should not have been surprised. It was hardly the first time that I found that if I tried a personal approach, many anti-gay activists are receptive to at least listening to what you have to say.

I think that most of those who generate or disseminate anti-gay beliefs and accusations do so out of ignorance. Most do not wish to be telling deliberate lies and genuinely care whether their words are truthful.

And most conservative Christians do not hate gay people, or at least do not think that they do. The culture of Christianity is strongly influenced by Christ’s commandments to love; and most Christians believe that they do love, even if such love is sometimes experienced in ways that others find horrifying or hateful.

One of the biggest pitfall of conservative Christianity is an arrogant and patronizing superiority. Being a religion based on faith – and at times rock-solid certainty – conservative Christians are inclined to believe that they know God’s Will for their life. And far too often, that extends to knowing God’s Will for your life as well – a Will that can be forced upon you for your own good if you aren’t humble enough to submit to it on your own.

One of the biggest problem for the gay community is victimhood. Being a persecuted people, too often we see any disagreement as an attack on our dignity and our personhood. And if others are not inclined to treat us decently, we are quick to use whatever measure is available to force them to do so.

My proposals:

As we go forward,

  • We need to know each other. We need to open communication wherever possible and ask about intentions and beliefs and attitudes before we assume the worst about each other.
  • We need to believe each other. Should the gay community tell Christians that we aren’t trying to shut down their churches, they need to consider that our motivations may not be directed towards them at all. If Christians tell us that they don’t hate us, we should consider that hate may not be driving their actions, positions, or beliefs.
  • We need to tolerate each other. It is not acceptable for either of us to demand that the other must change. Christians cannot insist that gays cease to be gay or that public policy punish those who do not. Likewise, gays cannot insist that conservative Christians change their theology and embrace a change in sexual ethic or that they be otherwise punished by tax law.
  • We need to call off the culture war. We are not enemies. We are not mutually exclusive communities. Most gay people consider themselves Christian and most Christians know and love a gay person. This culture war benefits only those who profit from the continued conflict. Let’s stop acting in the best interest of culture war barons and in the interests of our people.
  • We need to denounce the haters and the liars. It reflects poorly on each of us when the reactionary and the extreme get to speak for us.

    Christians need to stand up and say that the Traditional Values Coalition and Peter LaBarbera and Scott Lively are instruments of hatred and have no voice in Christianity. While I wish to credit Dr. Throckmorton for having the integrity to speak against Lively and some others, far too often Christians are forgiving of the excesses of their own. It is time for Christian denominations to publicly disassociate themselves from hatemongers and to commit to expressions of love – real love, not the kind that is loaded with contempt, self-righteousness, and demonization.

    And when deceivers like Maggie Gallagher run campaigns of lies, it is the moral obligation of people of faith to denounce those lies and those who are making them. This has not happened in any significant way. Too often Christians have chosen to put the intent of an anti-gay political campaign ahead of an obligation to honesty and objective truth. If Christians really want to build a bridge to the gay community, they need to not only avoid lies themselves but refute the lies of others within their camp.

    And while I believe that the gay community has done a better job of rejecting the liars and haters, we too have a ways to go. While mean spirited bloggers such as Perez Hilton do receive public condemnation from parts of the community, they still have far too many who are willing to listen to their self-centered viciousness.

    And one of the things that our community needs to do – one of the hardest, actually – is to stop mocking Christians. It doesn’t matter if the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence have contributed to charities or if we understand how and why they came to be; they are offensive to Christians in the same way that prancing lisping mockery is offensive to us. And while there is a place for those within a faith to protest the teachings of their mother church, it is wrong for gays outside of a faith to desecrate a church or interrupt a service. These are things which needlessly hurt and offend others and which make it difficult for them to accept us as anything other than a threat.

  • We need to commit to civility. Even if we cannot agree on theology, perspective, principle, or policy, we can agree to debate and discuss with civility. This has been, I believe, a real challenge for most of us. But it is a challenge to which we can rise.

Let’s hope that this attempt at communication, this synchroblog, will shed light and open doors and lead to a reconciliation between communities. And I thank Wendy for the hard work in bringing it about.

Please go to the New Directions site to link to others who are participating in this event.

Comments

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Chris
June 24th, 2009 | LINK

Step 1) Admit you have a problem.

Untill you convince the Fundamentalist Christians (or the Radical Gays for that matter) that their thinking is, in any way, flawed, they will never participate.

I also disagree with the “agree to disagree” stance that you are advocating.

In order for Real Change to happen, people have to actually Change. In order for Change to happen, someone has to admit that they are wrong, and Change.

If everyone simply “agrees to disagree” then you have simply reached stalemate, which is where we are already at.

It is no longer acceptible to stand by and allow people to continue to spew the same lies and the same hate and say “well we’re just going to have to agree to disagree on this issue.”

That’s not change. That’s more of the same.

wendy
June 24th, 2009 | LINK

Thank you Timothy for a thoughtful post that will give some readers in the synchroblog (who don’t traverse these waters with quite as much frequency as you and I) much to chew on.

I am grateful for the honesty and transparency I am seeing in a lot of the posts that straight Christians are contributing. There is a pretty consistent theme of owning up to their journey of needing to deconstruct their assumptions connected to this topic of engagement. That …. and a lot of personal stories are being shared – of friendships and relationships that opened new ways of thinking.

CPT_Doom
June 24th, 2009 | LINK

Actually Chris, the “agree to disagree” stance is important to note, because it is truly what we want. After all, I don’t care if the Roman Catholic Church returns to its roots and recognizes the full humanity of LGBT people, any more than it really matters to me if they allow marriage after legal divorce. The important thing for me is for my former church to treat me as they would an adulterer like John McCain or Rudy Guiliani – the church my not want me as a member, but they damn well better not stop me from seeing my partner/husband after an accident.

So I like this idea, for the most part, although I won’t give you the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, Timothy. They are a camp group and not intended to represent all Sisters or Nuns. They are closer to SNL cast members satarizing Jim and Tammy Faye Baaker.

BearToast Joe
June 24th, 2009 | LINK

Bravo. Well said.
As to “agreeing to disagree”, I think that is a good stance and QUITE different from hate-mongering and lies. The more we think “they” must change, the more like “them” we are.

There is room in the world for more than “one right answer.” The change that would be most helpful is not that “they” should agree with us, but at least accept us as human beings and stop the hate, the abuse, and the lies.

And we must do the same.

As has been said, “The opposite of faith is certainty.”

AJD
June 24th, 2009 | LINK

While I understand that you have good intentions with this post, you have remember that this “war,” as you call it, is a war of aggression waged by the religious right against gay people, plain and simple. It’s a war that they have brought to us and escalated as the result of a backlash against our efforts to achieve equality. While Harvey Milk was fighting for our rights (and others’ rights, too), Anita Bryant and John Briggs were going around spreading venomous lies about us. We were the ones who had to fight off things like Colorado’s Amendment 2 and Oregon’s Measure 9 while experiencing dramatic increases in the most vicious rhetoric and hate crimes while the religious right encouraged them. While we have asked that our relationships be accorded legal equality with straight people’s, the religious right has responded by amending constitutions in 30 states to ban gay marriage, and it hopes to amend the federal constitution to permanently ban it.

And I don’t agree that conservative Christians who support things like Prop. 8 and call us “immoral” don’t hate us, even when they genuinely think they love us. I’ll admit I don’t have your first-hand experience or intimate understanding, but I don’t give people a free pass or hold them to a different standard just because they base their attitudes on religious belief or what their parents taught them. I may be an atheist who puts no stock in religious belief, but I don’t think any less of people or doubt their intelligence or character because they believe in the supernatural. Likewise, it’s one thing to find homosexual acts personally distasteful, but you cross the line when you decide that engaging in those acts reflects badly on a person’s moral character or that their relationship with a member of the same sex should be treated as socially or legally inferior to a straight relationship.

jim
June 24th, 2009 | LINK

Dear Ms. Gritter,

I’m a happy gay male in a serious relationship. I’m also a member of a christian church. The people at my church are simply wonderful.

I agree with almost everything you have said. I thank you for putting forth the effort.

There is a lot of distrust on this issue. Opening doors is the place to start.

Thank you again.

Trovore
June 24th, 2009 | LINK

Trust…but verify…

penguinsaur
June 24th, 2009 | LINK

We need to tolerate each other. It is not acceptable for either of us to demand that the other must change. Christians cannot insist that gays cease to be gay or that public policy punish those who do not. Likewise, gays cannot insist that conservative Christians change their theology and embrace a change in sexual ethic or that they be otherwise punished by tax law.

This would be alot easier to believe if the things gays want to change were actually happening. Gays wanting to punish any church that opposes them is a myth, a myth spread by people who in well documented reality insist that gays cease to be gay and that public policy punish those who do not. Gay christians do what the last 10,000 people kicked out of a church did, find a new one or start their own.

FriendOfJonathan
June 24th, 2009 | LINK

I rarely regret reading the entries here, even when the premise is one I disagree with, but this time –

I followed the link, and found post after post of self-righteous people asserting ‘homosexuality is sin’ and patting themselves on the back for not overtly, physically hurting GLBTQ people, seeking ways to lure GLBTQ people into dialogue so they can convince us that our lives are worthy of death and damnation.

After following more than ten links to participating blogs – I need a long hot shower.

Like Bridges Across, I think the premise involved is completely skewed to soothe the consciences of those who teach homosexuality is sin, excusing them from evaluating the destructiveness of their theology, and bound to fail. I think it is also a fundamentally immoral and flawed premise. Would you participate in an effort to reconcile people who uphold pro-racist theology with people of color?

The two sides (anti-gay theology and sexual orientation neutral theology) are not morally equivalent. Anti-gay theology is intrinsically destructive, inflicting documented, measurable and extensive harm on millions of individuals every generation. Sexual orientation neutral theology, the belief that homosexuality and bisexuality, like heterosexuality are not intrinsically sin, is not harmful, inflicts no harm, inspires no hate crimes.

Missing from the material I read from those who believe ‘homosexuality is sin’ was genuine recognition and concern for the very real damage their theology inflicts. On the rare occasion that the damage was even acknowledged, the brutal consequences of “homosexuality was sin” was divorced from the theology itself through rhetorical games.

Any conversation that ignores the fundamental difference between the two sides – the fact that ‘homosexuality is sin’ is intrinsically destructive, simply sets GLBTQ people, particular GLBTQ people of faith, for more abuse.

Real conversation requires those who teach ‘homosexuality is sin’ to acknowledge, unconditionally, that the consequences of their theology is personally, spiritually, physicially and socially destructive to others, and their culpability for that harm.

Without that element of reality, such efforts as the Synchroblog are just a case of ‘how nice, how nice’.

Lillian Patterson
June 24th, 2009 | LINK

“In this process I’ve come to believe that much of the battle between conservative Christianity and the gay community is due to ignorance. We don’t know each other, we don’t trust each other, and we assume the worst about each other.”

I agree. I can’t get anywhere by constantly assuming the worst about other people.

When the GSA at my University was participating in the “Day of Silence” this year, we stood on soapboxes but instead of speaking, we held up signs with statistics and quotes on them. A group of students with gold crosses around their necks walked toward us, and I heard one of them say, “Wow, we need to pray for them.” Instantly, I teared up and got into a defensive stance. I’ve been hurt a lot by churches over the years. But when the group got closer, the guy called out, “Hey, you guys are doing a lot of good work. thank you. We’ll be praying for you.”

I felt like a tool. I remember a quote from the movie “Keeping the Faith,” where one character says “You have a lovely faith, a beautiful faith, but you need to start having a little bit of faith in other people.” I can’t go through life assuming the worst about people. We had a lot of hateful things lobbed at us on that day, but one of the most loving things anyone said to us came from that group of Christians walking together, and I need to remember that. It’s not always a big war of “us” against “them,” and while it’s easy to see it that way, I need to start trying to give other people the respect I want them to give me.

Jayhuck
June 24th, 2009 | LINK

Tim,

Thank you for that post. I have been a part of the problem too many times. I love and embrace the idea of promoting civility and respect for the other person.

The trouble I have is that, when all the talking is done, when we’ve been as civil as we can be for as long as we can be, what do we do with those who continue to deny us equal rights?

Don’t misunderstand me, I think civil dialogue can go a long way to changing hearts and minds, but there comes a time when you HAVE to fight.

I have no idea when that time is, and for the time being I hope to be an active participant in bridge building, but I’m wondering if you or anyone else has an answer to those questions?

One of first things I saw on Wendy’s site that was a slap in the face to me was the phrase: “Conversations on befriending our gay neighbor”. I’m sure Wendy’s intentions were good when she created that phrase, but as a gay Christian, it upsets me to continue to see people talking as if the gay and Christian camps are two mutually exclusive things.

Jayhuck
June 24th, 2009 | LINK

Thankfully, after reading several contributions to the new blog, I discovered that many people do recognize that Gay Christians exist – although many also seem to separate gays and christians into different camps.

Steve Hayes
June 24th, 2009 | LINK

Many of the people participating in the synchroblog speak of a “culture war”, but all seem to assume that everyobne knows what it means. If it’s just a passing reference, that’s OK, but it seems to be quite central to this discussion, so it surely needs to be analysed a bit more deeply. Just what is this “culture war”? Who is fighting whom and over what?

Is there a “gay culture”? Is being gay primarily a cultural thing, and if so, do we need to distinguish between gay (cultural) and homosexual (sexual)?

I’ve asked some of these questions in my contribution to the synchroblog at Human sexuality — bridging the gap — Khanya — am I the only one concerned about these things?

Christopher Waldrop
June 25th, 2009 | LINK

While I agree generally with the premise that we all need to be civil, that we all need to be willing to work together and not assume the worst about each other, part of this sounds like GLBT people being asked to make concessions that conservative Christians are not being asked to make and are not willing to make.

Reading the “We need to denounce the haters and the liars” section, I was struck by how many examples there are of conservative Christians who spread hate and lies and how few examples there are from the other side. Does Perez Hilton have anything even remotely close to the large and devoted following that the Traditional Values Coalition has? I agree that GLBT people should denounce Hilton or others if they make dishonest statements, but, to take the Miss California debacle for example, the problem with Hilton’s statements seemed to be the intensity of his rhetoric. While insulting the intelligence of the former Miss California may have been inappropriate, even those who criticized Hilton conceded that he was fundamentally right about her lack of understanding of both the question he asked and the larger issue.

Are there groups within the GLBT community that are similar to the conservative Christian groups that spread lies, that encourage hatred? If so, where are they? What are they saying?

I’m sorry if I’m missing something here, but it seems like the only side that’s calling for civility and honesty is the side that’s already being civil and honest. I’m not suggesting members of the GLBT community should change this strategy, but I do think the touchy-feely “let’s all be nice to each other” attitude doesn’t do anything towards creating a dialogue. All it does is let conservative Christians off the hook of having to make any concessions or change anything on their side.

Rowan Bristol
June 25th, 2009 | LINK

Could someone direct me to the gay organization that actively supports some whacko eastern european gay group and brings them to the states for the purpose of beating and murdering christians?

Because until the gay community is responsible for something equivalent to the Watchmen, there’s no parity here.

Alan
June 25th, 2009 | LINK

Tim-

I think the problem with any conversation is this:

“And most conservative Christians do not hate gay people, or at least do not think that they do.”

The fact that they “do not think they do”, in spite of the fact that their beliefs and rhetoric are damaging, is a major stumbling block. Indeed, one of the most serious problems with prejudice is that it is often not seen as such, but simply a commonsense beliefe.

If you’re not even aware of the harm of your comments, how can you productively engage in dialogue?

ravenbiker
June 25th, 2009 | LINK

Sorry. I don’t buy this concept of “agree to disagree” and “why can’t we simply get along”. Jesus Christ said nothing negative about gay people. In fact, the gospels reflect nothing about gay people. After all, he hung out with society’s low lifes. Christianity must not tolerate us but accept us simply as we are; as Christ accepted everyone. I find this entry to this blog nearly insulting because it seems to ask, “why don’t gays kneel before Christianity and beg tolerance”. Forget it. Christians shoved their “lifestyle” down my throat and I like nothing more to return the favor.

AJD
June 25th, 2009 | LINK

Alan makes an excellent point. One of the biggest barriers to progress is that the people who are bigoted and prejudiced refuse to believe they are.

The fact that anti-gay attitudes and beliefs even fall within the realm of respectable opinion when racist or sexist attitudes do not is the problem. It doesn’t help when even gay people insist that we “respect” those who “disagree.”

Mona Lott
June 25th, 2009 | LINK

Wait just a darn minute!

Who started this war?….and why?

I am sorry, and I do not mean to offend, it’s just my opinion, but…
how can I take seriously anyone who believes in ghosts, virgin births, and a literal hell? HOW????????????????

Oviously, their ability to reason has been compromised. Their capacity for reason remains questionable.
I’ll will shut up when “they” shut up! Freedom of speech does not give ANYONE the right of slander.

Jarred
June 25th, 2009 | LINK

I”m reminded of my sister and I when we were younger.

Her: He started it!

Me: No! She did!

Her: He did!

Me: She did!

Dad: I don’t care who started it, I’m ending it.

It doesn’t matter who started an argument. It usually still takes two parties to continue it. We as gay people need to recognize how we’ve contributed to its continuation and make the appropriate changes.

To do otherwise is simply playing the blame game, which accomplishes nothing but generating more arguments.

grantdale
June 25th, 2009 | LINK

We understand Wendy’s et al intentions (really, we do; and they are good ones), but we also don’t need any rude christians to build a bridge to us. Frankly. AKA: anyone from Exodus.

(I thought I got away from them… and now they are following me??? Over a narrow bridge… oh, please, hand me a blunderbuss and some rock salt.)

Also, I have no desire to get to where they are. So it would be kind of one way, no? A bridge to them — for lards sakes, don’t be ridiculous. A quick way to RudeSelfHateLand… pffft, don’t want to go; at all.

This concept of a “bridge” is offensive on more levels than is worth mentioning. Who the hell shoved us out on an island in the first place? And somehow I’m meant to feel responsible for their behaviour???

Wendy shouldn’t be talking about building bridges — she should be talking about using ladders to help her jump over walls… walls that her people built, walls they built to throw us inside. I have no walls — they do.

But, if they cannot manage that, what I really want is for them to mind their own damn business. And their damn business doesn’t include my personal life. I didn’t start this, I didn’t ask for this… so why an I being asked to contribute to a bridge? I am not on an island, you know.

The anti-gay are losing. In the long, slow, slog of educated, democratic societies ruled by law… they are slowly losing. Inch by inch. Inch by each grinding inch.

If they want to build a bridge, they can go ahead and build one to the city of Understanding.

After they’ve been to the city of Understanding they’ll realise they don’t need a bridge to The Gays(c).

No bridge is required. We are already right next door. ‘They’ can flipping well open their own front doors and walk out onto the street and instead deal with the reality of life.

But, of course, that would be too much to ask of them.

AJD
June 25th, 2009 | LINK

Jarred, it’s not as simple as a whodunit dispute between two children. The religious right has been relentlessly assaulting us for decades, but we’ve done virtually nothing to them. A few nasty remarks here and there are a joke compared to barring us from marrying, keeping us out of anti-discrimination and hate crime laws and seeking to mandate state-sponsored persecution of us.

Sweeping judgments about Christians in general aren’t logical, but gay people can’t be blamed for harboring animosities toward the religious right, and the religious right is in no moral position to accuse us of “continuing” anything.

We don’t need to build bridges and “understand” the religious right. They need to learn how destructive, harmful and downright evil their behavior toward us has been.

Jarred
June 25th, 2009 | LINK

…but gay people can’t be blamed for harboring animosities toward the religious right…

Why not? Is someone forcing us to harbor such animosities? Are we not in control of their own choices? Are we the helpless prisoners of our own emotions?

And in the end, how do such animosities affect those against whom we harbor them? Or do they really only affect us? And are the effects on us good or bad? My experience suggests the latter is almost always the case.

Christopher Waldrop
June 25th, 2009 | LINK

Is someone forcing us to harbor such animosities? Are we not in control of their own choices? Are we the helpless prisoners of our own emotions?

Jarred, this goes well beyond emotions and simply harboring animosities. I don’t want to tell conservative Christians what to believe or how to live their lives, but when I ask that they show me the same respect I get labeled “prejudiced”. I’m opposed to prayer in school because it pushes religion in a public place. I’m opposed to the teaching of Creationism, even in the form of “intelligent design”, for the same reason. Because of that I get labeled “bigoted”. I don’t think churches should be forced to perform same-sex marriages if they don’t want to but I believe same-sex couples should be allowed to marry and enjoy all the benefits of marriage. Because of that I get labeled “intolerant”.

We’re talking about people who advocate violence, who push for discriminatory laws. Pardon me for harboring animosities against people who do that. Would I like to discuss the matter civilly with people who disagree? Yes, and I’m sure there are plenty of people here who feel the same way. The problem, as I said before, is that many GLBT people and their allies are willing to discuss the issues civilly and even willing to drop their animosities. We can ask religious conservatives do the same, but they’ve made it clear that they’re not willing to. It’s their way or the highway.

Timothy Kincaid
June 25th, 2009 | LINK

I understand that many do not want to end the battle. Peace sounds too much like capitulation and anything short of utter destruction of the enemy sounds like losing.

Those emotions run deep in both camps.

And as long as we stay at war, we can stay victims. And they can stay holy warriors. And everyone can feel vindicated and “better” than the nasty evil person in the other camp.

But I want the war to end. It is damaging us and damaging them and wasting resources and hurting lives.

The only way we can stop battle with conservative Christianity is to be willing to talk.

TJMcFisty
June 25th, 2009 | LINK

There is that whole “Turn the other cheek” bit that the “other side” is always taught, but we seem to be the only ones that practice it. Yeah, I know…rinse. Repeat.

That said, I was educated in the fundie school system, and I view those years through the same optics as Timothy does. It’s not the people that are the problem, it’s the leaders and their heinous training that are the problem. We know the leaders don’t listen to us so go for the people.

At the very least, I’m glad some people from both sides are trying. Maybe it’ll have an impact…maybe it won’t. At least, it’s tried. As obnoxious as it sounds right now, I’m thinking the dialogue’ll eventually go our way.

More followers’ minds changed, the better. Let them take down their own leaders and change the training. So we tell our stories again. Could be worse.

AJD
June 25th, 2009 | LINK

Jarred wrote: “Why not? Is someone forcing us to harbor such animosities? Are we not in control of their own choices? Are we the helpless prisoners of our own emotions?”

That’s a red-herring argument. Of course nobody is “forcing” us, but animosity is a natural emotional response to being attacked. To expect someone not to feel that way in this kind of situation, to paraphrase Malcolm X, is like expecting a sheep not to harbor animosity toward a wolf or expecting a rape victim to “love” her rapist.

Timothy,

It’s not about not wanting the war to be over. Believe me, I’d be overjoyed if it ended tomorrow.

THEY’RE the ones who don’t want it to be over because it won’t be over for them until we’re all cowering in the closet again or at least constitutionally confined to second-class citizenship.

I refuse to see this all just a big misunderstanding. And blaming the leaders of the religious right, I’m sorry, smacks of “I was only following orders.” By and large, these people are adults, and it’s their fault for letting demagogues do their thinking for them.

The bottom line is, I just want to be left alone and for these people to mind their business. But as I’ve found in debates, that’s often too difficult a concept for people convinced they’re doing God’s work.

CLS
June 25th, 2009 | LINK

It should be defined as to what is meant in “calling off the culture war.” I think it is possible but both sides have to give up their desire to use state power against the others.

When the Religious Right calls for censorship that is using state power to deprive others of their first amendment rights. When the Secular Left uses anti-discrimination laws against religious individuals they are using state power to deny freedom of association.

If both are willing to be more libertarian toward the other it is possible. But I don’t see that sentiment widespread on either side. Each assumes that if they think something is immoral (gay relationships, bigotry) that it should be illegal. And both are willing to force the others to comply. That is the whole foundation of the culture war.

But I don’t see either wanting to reduce state power at all.

Christopher Waldrop
June 25th, 2009 | LINK

Excuse me CLS, but you’re making some pretty sweeping statements about the “Secular Left” wanting to deprive religious people of their first amendment rights, but your statements don’t fit the facts. How exactly are anti-discrimination laws being used against religious people? As I said previously, I don’t think churches should be forced to perform same-sex marriages if they don’t want to. I don’t think they should be forced to accept GLBT people into their congregations if they don’t want to. Is that depriving them of their first amendment rights?

Please don’t use the fact that religious conservatives advocate violence and discrimination to push your own libertarian agenda. It’s unrelated to the real issue, which is that GLBT people have been and are still being asked to give up their civil rights, and even, from some individuals, their lives, to appease religious conservatives.

Jarred
June 25th, 2009 | LINK

Christopher:

We can ask religious conservatives do the same, but they’ve made it clear that they’re not willing to. It’s their way or the highway.

This is generalizing to the point of falsehood. Yes, it is true that some — possibly even many — religious conservatives have made that clear. Others have made it clear by their actions that they are willing. (Are you aware that more than one “Side B” participant in yesterday’s synchroblog even supports same-sex marriage and has been vocal about it?) Many of them have even echoed the call for civility amongst their fellow conservative — often at the price of being accused of compromising and being too “weak on sin.”

AJD:
…but animosity is a natural emotional response to being attacked. To expect someone not to feel that way in this kind of situation, to paraphrase Malcolm X, is like expecting a sheep not to harbor animosity toward a wolf or expecting a rape victim to “love” her rapist.

I’m not expecting people to not feel animosity. However, I think it’s perfectly valid to expect them to work through and past that animosity rather than harboring it, feeding into it, and using it as an excuse to behave poorly — even if the “other side” is behaving even worse.

You are right in that we feel the way we do. However, how we choose to respond to and handle those feelings is entirely at our discretion. And sometimes I find those choices — even when they’re my own choices — worthy of critical examination.

AJD
June 25th, 2009 | LINK

Jarred, you’re missing my point, which is that we’re not aggressors here. We’re not the ones passing constitutional amendments to deprive Christians of rights or fighting to keep discrimination against Christians legal or prevent them from receiving protection from hate crimes. The religious right people are the ones doing that to us.

The problem with this post and your responses is that they make it look as though we’re somehow just as guilty as the religious right.

What, exactly, have we done that compares to the way they’ve treated us?

L. Junius Brutus
June 25th, 2009 | LINK

“The only way we can stop battle with conservative Christianity is to be willing to talk.”

No, there is no way. First off, the battle is rather one-sided. We’re not attacking them. They are attacking us. We really have no leverage, unfortunately. “Stop attacking us and we…” – and there it ends. Only complete defeat for them can end the battle. We should realize that and focus our efforts on defeating them, not on trying to make a pipe-dream ‘peace’.

Jarred
June 25th, 2009 | LINK

I have watched a group of gay people sit around bashing Christians without once thinking about the fact that not all Christians are the same.

I’ve watched a perfectly pleasant conversation go downhill simply because another gay person decided to accost another person they were talking with simply because the other person indicated they were Christian.

Even on this comment thread, I’ve seen people stereotype and generalize all Christians and conservative Christians. I saw one comment even question all Christians’ ability to reason and mock religious belief in general.

Maybe you don’t think these things are as bad the things some conservative Christians have done. Personally, I think the same animosity, distrust, and hatred underlies both group’s actions. Therefore, I’m not inclined to just shrug my shoulders and say, “Hey, at least we’re not as bad as them.”

You are free to feel and think differently, however.

L. Junius Brutus
June 25th, 2009 | LINK

CLS,

“When the Secular Left uses anti-discrimination laws against religious individuals they are using state power to deny freedom of association.”

Anti-discrimination laws aren’t used against individuals. They are used against businesses – that have no constitutional rights. Otherwise, you could say that laws against discrimination against blacks, women and religious minorities somehow deny freedom of association. Problem is, businesses have no such right.

L. Junius Brutus
June 25th, 2009 | LINK

“Personally, I think the same animosity, distrust, and hatred underlies both group’s actions. ”

So what? Do you think that African-Americans in and before the 1960s didn’t hold animosity, distrust and hatred against racists and KKK-members? It’s not the same and you know it. One side is the aggressor and the other side tries to defend its livelihood.

AJD
June 25th, 2009 | LINK

Jarred,

I’m not talking about animosity toward Christians in general. I’m talking about animosity toward the religious right.

Alan
June 25th, 2009 | LINK

Tim-

I don’t disagree that keeping up the conflict makes people feel vindicated, and that it’d be better if it stopped. But there are two problems with your argument:

1. I think you need to note that, while some gays bash organized religion, there has been no concerted effort by gays to deny rights to conservative Christians. Conservative Christians, however, have frequently tried to use the ballot box to deny rights to gays. Both sides are NOT equally at fault here.

2. Even if we fail to talk to conservative Chritians, our side will win anyway. The world’s changing, and it’s becoming increasingly supportive of gays. Isn’t it said, every time you hear an ambulance it’s either a gay rights supporter being born or a gay rights opponent dying? Our side will win even without negociations.

Mike Airhart
June 25th, 2009 | LINK

Compare:

Gay activists have been calling for tolerance and equality — not superiority or special rights — for the entire history of the movement.

Did any of the ex-gay contributors to the Synchroblog emphatically condemn antigay prejudice, ostracism, discrimination, and violence? Did any of them call for full social equality or respect for religious viewpoints that they deem to be liberal or non-Christian? Did any of them declare that most ex-gays fundamentally misunderstand gay people and that they must stop, listen, and learn?

Hello? E-c-h-o.

Until they do — and until they hold their allies accountable for acts of bigotry (deliberate ignorance) and dishonest antagonism — they are not behaving in a manner that can be considered minimally civil or respectful. Soft vocal tones and elliptical language do not excuse bigoted action.

There is no gap to be bridged between gays and Christians — the gap exists between bigots who refuse to listen to voices other than their own, and those who strive to hear and understand others. And such a gap cannot be bridged until the deliberately ignorant side fundamentally redefines itself.

The ignorance of most ex-gay activists is not innocent, it is a deliberate choice not to listen and learn. Such bigotry is not respectable. It does not advance the cause of civility or social cohesion to say that bigotry and tolerance are equally valid and worthy of respect.

Mike Airhart
June 25th, 2009 | LINK

My comment above is not intended as a criticism of Wendy Gritter or her intentions, both of which I respect.

I am criticizing the lessons that most ex-gays refused to hear and learn — and continue to refuse to hear and learn — from the now-mostly-moribund Bridges Across project.

The Synchroblog folks risk repeating the mistakes of B.A. I hope they find a means to reconsider details of their approach.

Put simply, respect must be powerfully defined and strictly enforced. Participants in a process must be required to listen and acknowledge — not parrot strawman arguments, self-flattery, and putdowns. Antigay culture warriors such as Randy Thomas must be criticized and disciplined — not invited to sabotage others’ efforts toward genuine understanding and mutual respect.

cd
June 25th, 2009 | LINK

I think people are missing the subtext of the offer.

There are moderate Christians out there that are aware of how much they have hurt gay people, indirectly. But they are also hurt by some things gay people have said to them.

What is being sought is a certain amount of forgiveness, mostly on the Christian side, but these are proud yet insecure people who think of themselves as basically good. The imbalance of wrongs committed may be great, but Tim is suggesting that the right place to start is to agree to act as if offenses committed were equal. Perhaps that is a fiction, but it is a necessary premise. Where we end up on that can only emerge slowly in the conversation- and it requires maintaining the conversation.

A thing to keep in mind is that on Culture War issues there is a small but continuous shifting over time to the ‘liberal’ position in national polling. It seems to be a matter of generations being different, views and attitudes common among the old not being accepted by the young. It is kindness to give forgiveness to those who sincerely ask for it.

Mike Airhart
June 25th, 2009 | LINK

Thanks, cd, for the thoughtful response.

I wish to re-emphasize that I respect and support Wendy’s intentions. As you note, some proud and insecure people have difficulty with humility — some of these folks threaten the effort before it has hardly begun.

At B.A. starting 12 years ago, we tried out the fictitious premise that the offenses are equal. The ex-gays (Randy Thomas and many others that followed) took that premise as proof that they were right, which is all they really wanted, and they walked away without listening or learning a thing.

Certainly forgiveness should be given to those who seek it. But few ex-gays in the effort thus far are seeking forgiveness, while the gay-affirming folks have already bent over backwards to offer it to those who don’t want it.

Christopher Waldrop
June 26th, 2009 | LINK

Jarred said,
Maybe you don’t think these things are as bad the things some conservative Christians have done. Personally, I think the same animosity, distrust, and hatred underlies both group’s actions. Therefore, I’m not inclined to just shrug my shoulders and say, “Hey, at least we’re not as bad as them.”

As hard as it can be sometimes I try to remember that there are people on both sides who want the animosity and mistrust to end. I appreciate you reminding me of this. (I know this wasn’t directed solely at me, but I can only take responsibility for my own thoughts and actions.)

But please bear in mind that, at least in my own statements, and in those of many others, there hasn’t been a sweeping condemnation of Christians. It’s religious conservatives–people who believe their own very narrow religious views should be universally held that I have a problem with. This problem is not limited to Christianity, nor is it even necessarily limited to religion, even though religion is the primary justification for most peoples’ prejudices. I realize there are some religious people who aren’t prejudiced and who speak up for both moderation and tolerance, but they seem to be, sadly, in the minority. I could be wrong about that. Maybe they’re the majority and their voices just aren’t being heard.

On the GLBT side, though, it seems to be the voices of tolerance that are heard most clearly. Honestly, can you think of a gay equivalent of Pat Robertson or even Rick Warren?

I’m not saying this should change. In fact I think it’s great that among GLBT people it’s the ones who speak up for tolerance who are most visible and most vocal.

It would be easier to discuss the issues in a civil, open way if the same were true among Christians and other people of faith. That’s all I’m asking for.

penguinsaur
June 26th, 2009 | LINK

to sum up the discussion in these comments:

A. We should both accept that we’ve done wrong and work together.

B.They take our rights away, compare us to child molesters, lie about and demonize us and do everything possible to keep us from being happy. What have we done against them?

A. well someone said christians are dumb.

B. Did they say christians are pedophiles? Did they say Christians are incapable of love? Did they spend milllions of dollars making sure Christians cant marry, raise children or get a job?

A. Well no… But you see… um…

Ben in Oakland
June 26th, 2009 | LINK

I wish I had time to write something now. I’ve been wanting to write something fairly involved on coming out, both personally and socially as gay people– what I call standing up for ourselves, by ourselves, and most importantly, AS ourselves. The failure of that miserable prop. 8 campaign is the perfect example of our failure to do so. The outcry over the DOMA marriage brief and the sudden impact on DNC fund-raising is a very good example of doing it.

But just a brief thought or two.

This thing is very much like the coming out process, but on a much larger scale. We are seeking to become known– as Timothy would say, working on their ignorance– to people who don’t know us and don’t know anything ABOUT US. Some are just bigots, some are just haters, some have their own issues to work out (telephone call for TH, AC, RT, and LC. you know who you are.) We are NEVER going to reach the bulk of these people, because they are irretrievably poisoned by hate, or fear, or stupidity, or authoritarian religious belief.

And some– I think a great many– are just too ignorant and not conscious enough to question their assumptions and beliefs in the light of all their values. Coming out to them– what Timothy and Wendy are calling for when they talk about engagement– is what we as gay people must do with ALL people, all the time.

The enemy is not the religious right, social conservatives, or even religio-bigots like Freddie Phelps-Krueger and his ilk. The enemy is the closet, and always has been. Where the perceived enemy continues to make their mistake is to keep talking about it, because that provides the exposure that will eventually destroy the closet.

People talking! what a concept! And anathema to the closet mentality.

I absolutely agree that the perceived enemy has declared war on us, and has told a number of very vicious lies with the full intent to harm us as much as possible, often while hiding behind The Children (TM), religion, the family, or God. But they are not the problem.

Because this really about the closet, WE ARE THE PROBLEM. As I wrote in another context: “The closet is about living a lie. It IS a lie, it is based on lies, and it engenders lies. It distorts, perverts, and debases everything it touches, as the sorry life of Ted Haggard will attest. And like all lies, the bigger it is, the longer it is told, the more damage it ultimately causes…There is only one answer to a lie, and that is the truth. By hiding us, hiding our families, we are complicit in this lie. Jesus said “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” So when do we start telling the truth?”

It’s about US, not about THEM. Let me repeat: it is about us standing up for ourselves, by ourselves, and AS ourselves. I actually think most people are pretty decent, and will act decently if given the opportunity to do so. That is what Timothy and Wendy are suggesting– nothing more. giving them the opportunity to be decent

If we don’t forgive and give them an opportunity to change, they won’t. That is what coming out is always about– giving people, or at least our perceptions of them, an opportunity to change.

At the same time, though I’m a great believer in forgiveness, I think it is often a bad idea to forget. They have inflicted a great deal of harm on us, literally for centuries, for the crime of either being different, or scaring the hell out of them– take your pick. We would be foolish to forget it– if for no other reason, to be able to point out in the future the lessons of the bad behavior in the past. (Revenge is a dish best served cold). But we would be equally foolish to keep the pain of that hurt from helping either party move beyond it and creating a better world.

AJD
June 26th, 2009 | LINK

Ben in Oakland wrote: “The enemy is not the religious right, social conservatives, or even religio-bigots like Freddie Phelps-Krueger and his ilk. The enemy is the closet, and always has been. Where the perceived enemy continues to make their mistake is to keep talking about it, because that provides the exposure that will eventually destroy the closet.

I’m not sure I understand your logic here. I mean, racial minorities haven’t been able to hide in any closet, but visibility didn’t (and doesn’t) cancel out racism.

Ben in Oakland
June 26th, 2009 | LINK

Yes, but blacks and Jews were also socially segregated. Gay people are not.

Also, as experience and statistics both show, people who know gay people are less likely to vote against them. Prop. 8 succeeded becuase our side refused to show anything about us that their side could relate to.

Mike Airhart
June 26th, 2009 | LINK

I agree that Timothy and Wendy are encouraging are suggesting that people stand up and speak for themselves. That’s OK.

What’s not OK, in my opinion, is a lack of discipline and enforcement against those who abuse the process and use it to hurl the same old prejudice and smug spiritual self-satisfaction.

Ben in Oakland
June 26th, 2009 | LINK

Mike; that’s why I meant about forgiving, but not forgetting.

Emily K
June 26th, 2009 | LINK

I think penguinsaur got it right with their last post.

Ken in Riverside
June 26th, 2009 | LINK

Let them reap what they have sown.

AJD
June 26th, 2009 | LINK

Ben,

That’s true, but they achieved equality by fighting off the people who oppressed them, not declaring their enmity with abstract concepts.

Ben in Oakland
June 26th, 2009 | LINK

aJD– as we must do as well. I would never say that we should stop fighting, but we should recognize when we must fight and when we must reach out– or as I would prefer…come out.

We will always face the bigots the haters, the fearful. We can’t do anything about that. but as i say, it is a waste of effort to try to reach them. Lewt’s ofcus on the decent people, instead.

Wendy
July 29th, 2009 | LINK

Extremely thoughtful and articulate dialog on this topic! I would like to offer you the bridge builder award.
There are two rules for this award: The first rule is to write 3 ways you build bridges between yourself and others. The second is to nominate 3 of your favorite blogs/writers for this award.
Here is the code for the award: if it doesn’t come through, email me and I will happily send it to you!

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