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Archive for October, 2007

There’s been a bit of a storm in the blogosphere over Obama’s gospel concert in South Carolina, which was aimed at courting black evangelical voters.  Obama invited Donnie McClurkin, an “ex-gay” singer, to the event.  After a bit of an uproar from gay bloggers, Obama hastily booked a white openly gay minister to deliver a short prayer.  Rather than following the gay minister’s example of discretion, McClurkin decided to preach on how he was cured from homosexuality. NYT reports:

The whole controversy might have been forgotten in the swell of gospel sound except Mr. McClurkin turned the final half hour of the three-hour concert into a revival meeting about the lightning rod he has become for the Obama campaign.

He approached the subject gingerly at first. Then, just when the concert had seemed to reach its pitch and about to end, Mr. McClurkin returned to it with a full-blown plea: “Don’t call me a bigot or anti-gay when I have suffered the same feelings,” he cried.

“God delivered me from homosexuality he added. He then told the audience to believe the Bible over the blogs: “God is the only way.” The crowd sang and clapped along in full support.

I can see how this can be more than mildly offensive to gay people, but at the same time I think the whole controversy is way overblown. I’d say the gay community has a lot more to worry about than some obscure gospel singer preforming for a losing candidate.

But more to McClurkin’s message (disclaimer: not trying to legitimize his views, just explain them).  He subscribes to the Christian view of homosexuality–where it is considered an action, not an identity.  “Ex-gay” ministries were out in full force at the Values Voter Summit.  I was able to talk to a few people and pick up materials (Max Blumenthal has a good video report here).

The brochures are sprinkled with pseudo-scientific theories and skewed statistics relating to homosexuality, along with resources for “overcoming” homosexuality. What’s notable is that although these organizations have an explicitly religious foundation, there is no mention of God or the Bible in their brochures.  Of course this is a seemingly dishonest attempt to give the appearance of legitimacy (which is to say, not based on a single ancient text) to their cause.

The individuals I spoke to at the Summit were all very kind (of course I was covering as an evangelical concerned about pro-homosexual groups on my campus).  One must understand where many of the individuals active in ex-gay ministries are coming from.  Most once lived an openly gay life themselves (usually after being estranged from or ostracized by their religious family for being gay).  If you listen to their stories, they will say that they were deeply unhappy when they were openly gay. Their stories are wrought with drug abuse, sex abuse, and strings of empty relationships.  It’s no wonder that someone finding themselves distraught under these circumstances would try to find a “cure”.

Most of these individuals have undergone an emotionally painful “sexual reorientation” process. The “conversion” techniques include behavior modification, aversion (sometimes electro-shock) therapy,  Freudian psychoanalysis,  and prayer.  The American Psychological Association maintains that such programs are ineffective and even harmful writing, “potential risks of ‘reparative therapy’ are great, including depression, anxiety, and self-destructive behavior, since therapist alignment with societal prejudices against homosexuality may reinforce self-hatred already experienced by a patient.”

And in spite of all of this, there are individuals out there like McClurkin and those I spoke to at the summit who stand by their decision to repress and deny their sexual orientation.  I think we should cut them a break and go after the root of the problem, that is, the pervasive anti-gay norms and and prejudices in society.

Yes, that is no small feat, but it is necessary for true equality.  It consists of gays living their lives without shame, in spite of all the forces (external and internal) saying they should do  otherwise.  It requires that gays interact with and reach out to their straight friends, family, and colleagues (rather than hiding away in gay ghettos).

The push for equality must come from gay individuals who don’t differentiate themselves as some irreconcilable ‘other’ in society (as many on the Religious Right and Queer Left would have it).  Only then, when gays show that they are just like any other straight friend or family member, will the straight world begin to recognize their equality.  This is already happening, and I think there is an unstoppable momentum on the side of (eventual) full gay equality.

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Andrew Sullivan thinks Giuliani is out of his mind for recent statements made regarding Clinton and Obama. Sullivan wonders, “If he is starting with this kind of unhinged claim, where will he end up?” Probably a legit concern. Or Guiliani could just be reverting to the general Republican campaign tactic of criticizing their (not yet) Democratic opponents.

Then again, Giuliani’s foreign policy adviser, Norman Podhoretz, has been advocating military action as the only US policy option in Iran, citing the dangers of ‘Islamofacism’, and comparing Ahmadinejad to Hitler. Fareed Zakaria interjects a bit of realism into the discussion pointing out Podhoretz’ alarmism . He calls for Cold War style deterrence against Iran’s nuclear program. Excerpt:

Here is the reality. Iran has an economy the size of Finland’s and an annual defense budget of around $4.8 billion. It has not invaded a country since the late 18th century. The United States has a GDP that is 68 times larger and defense expenditures that are 110 times greater. Israel and every Arab country (except Syria and Iraq) are quietly or actively allied against Iran. And yet we are to believe that Tehran is about to overturn the international system and replace it with an Islamo-fascist order? What planet are we on?…

In a speech last week, Rudy Giuliani said that while the Soviet Union and China could be deterred during the cold war, Iran can’t be. The Soviet and Chinese regimes had a “residual rationality,” he explained. Hmm. Stalin and Mao—who casually ordered the deaths of millions of their own people, fomented insurgencies and revolutions, and starved whole regions that opposed them—were rational folk. But not Ahmadinejad, who has done what that compares? One of the bizarre twists of the current Iran hysteria is that conservatives have become surprisingly charitable about two of history’s greatest mass murderers.

I prefer Zakaria’s approach. And while I generally prefer Rudy as a candidate over most others, I find his foreign policy thinking a bit disconcerting.

More: Audio and transcript from last night’s debate on News Hour.

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Saw a ‘news’ report tonight on NBC Nightly News on how Warren Buffett thinks he and other billionaires don’t pay enough taxes (though it was reported in the Times Online in June):

Warren Buffett, the third-richest man in the world, has criticised the US tax system for allowing him to pay a lower rate than his secretary and his cleaner…

Mr Buffett said that he was taxed at 17.7 per cent on the $46 million he made last year, without trying to avoid paying higher taxes, while his secretary, who earned $60,000, was taxed at 30 per cent.

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A good piece in NYT today. Money quote:

Backing a loser, they know, would even further diminish their waning Washington status in a post-Rove, post-Bush G.O.P. The more they shed their illusion of power, the more they imperil their ability to rake in big bucks from their apocalyptic direct-mail campaigns. They must choose mammon over God if they are to maintain the many values rackets that make up their various business empires

Whichever candidate or party lands in the White House, this much is certain: Inauguration Day 2009 is at the very least Armageddon for the reigning ayatollahs of the American right.

 More in the NY Times Magazine, and a rebuttal from David Kuo.

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The City of Dallas has just launched an anti-saggy pants campaign, which targets the “hip-hop style of wearing your pants low enough that your boxers are showin.” From NPR:

The campaign has a signature song, “Pull Your Pants Up,” by Dooney Da’ Priest, that links so-called saggin’ with being gay…

Andrew Jones commented on a line about living “on the down low” — common slang for a man who has secret sexual encounters with other men.”It’s cute when homophobia is part of a citywide campaign,” Jones wrote. “Shaming the youth by calling them gay, love that from the government.”

An accompanying billboard says it’s rude to be “walking around showin’ your behind to other dudes.” The song’s refrain is “Be a real man — pull your pants up.”

Yes, cute is exactly the term I’d use to describe a tax-payer funded media campaign that stigmatizes homosexuality. What’s with politicians being so cute lately?

I am relatively young, but I think I’ve cultivated a sense of cynicism when it comes to politicians and gay rights. When we’re not being openly marginalized by Republicans and the religious right, the democrats take our support for granted and wish we would just go away and stop causing political difficulties for them. Then there’s this Dallas campaign. This is just one example of the subtle, but pervasive, marginalization that gays face at the hands of their governments and fellow citizens across the country.

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Salon has an insightful article on Obama’s booking of an “ex-gay” gospel singer at one of his events, and homophobia in black churches generally:

On Thursday, as the tour began, Obama supporters from the African-American religious community and LGBT campaign leaders collaborated on a letter to the public that attempted to clarify their candidate‘s decision to keep McClurkin onboard, stating, “We believe that the only way for these two sides to find common ground is to do so together.”

Obama’s gay advocates obviously support him regardless of this fumble. But his gay critics are right to ask why he thinks getting homosexuals to sit at the same table with antigay and allegedly “ex-gay” Christians represents some kind of balance. Had McClurkin been a Holocaust denier, my money says Obama would be “embracing a change” in his tour’s entertainment lineup, lickety-split.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Obama is playing to both sides — that seems to be what he’s best at. He means well, but you know what they say about the highways in hell. However, adding Sidden to the mix without giving McClurkin the shaft was enough of an afterthought to incense the gay community without fixing the problem. Did Obama overestimate the depth of the black community’s homophobia and unintentionally solidify the stereotype about him — that he’s the white man’s black candidate? Well, if Sharpton refuses to pander to the homophobic faction of the black church, why should anybody else?

To the last question: Sharpton never had a shot at the presidency.

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On Pornography

From pornography one learns that forcible violation of women is the essence of sex. Whatever is that and does that is sex. Everything else is secondary. –Catherine MacKinnon, Sexuality, Pornography and Method: “Pleasure under Patriarchy

Some statistics on internet porn (wonderfully ironic) from GOOD Magazine:

Some things to think about. A particularly difficult topic for me, as one with bits of both libertarian and feminist tenancies.

On this issue I side with both the religious right and feministis. I see pornography as a destructive and degrading force in society. At the same time, I still consider myself something of a conservative (in Oakeshottian terms) and a libertarian.

To explain, while I consider porn to be terribly violent, degrading, and disgusting, I worry that in banning it (as MacKinnon suggests) we would only be treating a symptom of the problem (that is, the pervasive degradation of women in our society), and what’s worse, perhaps unleashing greater inconceivable evil by driving pornography underground. The libertarian strains in me say that the government should not ban anything on moral grounds that does not hurt other individuals.

Given all of this, I think the “solution” to the problem of pornography is more people standing up objecting to it. The issue of the pornography provides an excellent opportunity for religious conservatives and (leftist) feminists to unite on a common issue–come to think of it (after I put it down in writing), the possibility of fundies and radical feminists coming together to create a public policy solution to a problem is quite terrifying (too much idealistic illusion). Perhaps I am a conservative afterall.

bonus points: Andrew Sullivan comments on Gaytanamo (warning: link is graphic), the “most controversial porn movie of 2007… [where a] German tourist is kidnapped off the street and accused of being a terrorist, then subjected to abuse and torture. The whole porn world is already talking about it!”

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