Monday, April 13, 2009

All My Anti-Gays

Who says men don't like drama?

An entertaining tiff has been going on between Peter LaBarbera (of Americans for Truth [sic] About Homosexuality) and popular men's rights blogger Glenn Sacks.

I sometimes read Sacks and, occasionally, I even agree with him. Personally, I think he's much more reasonable than his often rabidly-anti-feminist commenters, but I digress. In his article, Sacks took issue with Christian Newswire promoting "Peter LaBarbera's Anti-Gay Bigotry." Of Christian Newswire, a media source that has run many of LaBarbera's past statements, he writes "It reflects very poor judgment on their part to peddle LaBarbera's trash."

Now, it has long been my opinion that those who quote LaBarbera as though he is in any way a credible, loving, compassionate Christian sort of automatically discredit themselves as being ignorant, bigoted, or imbued with a wonky sense of what it means to be a Christian. LaBarbera isn't really taken seriously by anyone who advocates for marriage equality or LGBT rights. His antics are more often documented for their entertainment value than anything. I mean, is it really all that honest to attend events like San Francisco's Folsom Street Fair, an annual SM/leather subculture street fair, and pretend that it's indicative of the Gay Agenda or of the entire LGBT community? Of course not. Most people know that, but apparently LaBarbera's logical competence is.... special. Quite simply, his bigotry often speaks for itself. As the Box Turtle Bulletin, who has named an "award" after him writes, "LaBarbera has spent a lifetime coming up with some of the most bizarre, of-the-wall and off-the-rails anti-gay screeds anywhere."

Yet, while LGBT bloggers sometimes critique his judgmental and outrageous statements, he rarely comments on such critiques. But when Glenn Sacks dared to criticize Peter LaBarbera, it was different. The criticism was coming, not from a pervert, but from an outsider, a fellow Family Man who is really into Fatherhood. Sacks' criticism threatened Peter's status as a Christian who opposes homosexuality but who likes to think of himself as something other than an anti-gay bigot. So, LaBarbera responded to Glenn Sacks in a letter cc'd to "dozens of Christian groups." In the letter, LaBarbera accused Sacks of, among other things, "anti-Christian 'bigotry,'" intolerance, homosexuality(!), and Political Correctness Gone Too Far. In his desperate non-arguments, I think Peter was throwing a bunch of poopy diapers at the wall hoping that something would stick.

The saga continued when, to Sacks' surprise (but not to mine), "Major Christian Leaders" wrote in to back Peter LaBarbera. But, lest anyone think that there's a huge united "Christian" front standing hand-in-hand with The Peter, in reality, the backers are really the same ol' usual suspects who would perhaps more accurately be called Major Anti-Gay Leaders. The following people rushed to Peter's side: Janet LaRue (of Concerned Women for America, where Peter used to work), Janet Folger Porter (the always-entertaining writer of paranoid homofantastic fascist futures), Matt Barber (formerly of Concerned Women for America, now with Liberty Counsel), Robert Knight ( writer), Maggie Gallagher (of National Organization for Marriage and the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy), Alan Chambers (of ex-gay organization Exodus International), and others.

One "standing with Peter" associate deserves special mention for his participation in a recent anti-gay hate conference in Uganda: Scott Lively, whose previous claims to fame include writing a Holocaust revision book blaming the rise of Nazi Germany on Powerful Gay Men and founding the international anti-gay organization Watchmen on the Walls (just one of his two identified anti-gay hate groups.) At the Uganda conference, Lively talked a parliamentarian into proposing a law forcing people convicted of homosexuality into conversion therapy, accused the gay movement of wanting to turn the whole world gay, and endorsed the criminalization of gay people. An Exodus International board member also spoke at and attended this conference.

Essentially, the list of Peter Supporters reads like a Who's Who of the professional "marriage defense" and anti-gay set that many LGBT bloggers correct, critique, and cover every single day. Sacks asks "Is Peter LaBarbera really representative of modern Christian thought?" Maybe, maybe not. If anything, I think of these loud and proud supporters of Peter LaBarbera as being, first and foremost, opposed to LGBT rights. I think of them as people who many Christian leaders (the ones who aren't paid to be "marriage defenders" anyway) would try to distance themselves from. So while it's true that many Americans agree with some of Peter and company's sometimes-extreme views, that's not necessarily representative of what it means to really be a Christian.

If we could strip away the divisive, polarizing, intolerant dogma that many Christians cling to, I think it would be far better to be left with real compassion, love, and tolerance of our fellow human beings. For, when I think of those who embody the concept of the living Christ, it is not these names that come to my mind no matter how much they yank each other's Christian Family Man chain. The members of this insular group of LaBarbera supporters rely on each other to keep themselves relevant and respected. Perhaps most importantly of all, they need each other to convince themselves that they are Real Christians Who Aren't At All Bigots (they just care about real families a whole bunch).

Good for Glenn Sacks, an outsider, for questioning why Christians would support the harmful, bigoted, and anti-gay speech of Peter LaBarbera. It's people like Glenn Sacks who will help make these "marriage defenders" irrelevant by reminding Americans that "however one feels about gay marriage, it has nothing to do with the decline of the American family." While it's relatively easy for a heterosexual majority to pass pointless laws and amendments "defending marriage" that, in reality, do not address the so-called "decline of the American family," it's much harder to criticize the behavior of the majority. In his confessional response to Sacks, historian Clayton Cramer acknowledged that advocacy against same-sex marriage has come at the expense of advocacy against divorce, but "Unfortunately, Christian pastors who speak strongly against divorce are unlikely to have a congregation for long, since this has become the norm."

Because it's easy to vilify a minority group that many already view as icky, "marriage defenders" and anti-gays have made themselves irrelevant to real marriage defense. That's why, to me, LaBarbera and his supporting cast will always be "marriage defenders." They're stuck fighting a "fly," as Sacks says, while largely ignoring the a "rampaging elephant in the room."

No comments: