Collect for the Fourth Sunday after Easter

O Almighty God, who alone makest the minds of the faithful to be of one will: grant unto thy people, that they may love the thing which thou commandest, and desire that which thou dost promise; that so, among the manifold changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed, where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Raw Tact, Part V: Shrieking the Truth in Love

There are a number of phrases that one sees over and over in the Christian-LGBT dialogue: attempts at conveying Christian beliefs in a charitable, winsome manner, without sacrificing those beliefs to politeness. And they are terrible. I mean, cliches aren't, as a rule, a very effective means of communication; but these ones have the added defect of being Christianese, which makes them both opaque to those outside the churches and a borderline addiction for those within. I'd like to go over a few of them and why they so, so do not work.

"I'm telling you this because I love you."

In principle, every statement of Christian truth is (or rather, ought to be) based on love. If Christianity is true, then, all else being equal, one of the most loving things a person can do is try to persuade others of its truth; for knowing that truth means knowing how reality works, and we've all got to live here in reality whether we know the truth about it or not. Living without such truth might not mean getting hurt -- but then again it might.

One problem with this phrase is that it's the sort of thing that a parent says to a child. Obviously, some discussions of queer issues and their delicate, uncomfortable relationship to traditional Christianity do take place between parents and children. But in those that don't, for the traditional believer to take a parental role in the conversation is insulting. It implies that the gay party being addressed lacks the power, or even the right, to discern right and wrong independently.* This is not only presumptuous and intrusive; it also confirms the stereotype of the self-righteous, preachy Christian. And that is part of the problem: people aren't always fair in their dislike of Christians, to put it mildly, but a lot of the reasons that dislike exists have to do with the fact that Christians can be annoying jerks. It's one of the occupational hazards of being a human.

Another flaw is that, sad to say, an awful lot of us have experienced Christian "love" is some pretty damaging ways, enough so to make the whole concept (and its attendant lingo) repellent. Someone once remarked that "The Jews are a nervous people. Nineteen centuries of Christian love have taken a toll." LGBT people have often suffered from the same problem: many of us have been bullied, neglected, yelled at, even physically injured, by Christian friends, teachers, parents. Nor is it uncommon for such cruelty to have been couched in or justified by Christian language and theology; I know a man who was regularly beaten by his father, a pastor, and who now barely speaks to or about his son or allow his wife and other children to do so, because of his son's sexuality. Professions of love have to be earned with actions before they can be credible to someone who has suffered like that.

"We all struggle with chastity."

I see this one a lot in Catholic circles especially, possibly because of the admittedly austere demands that Catholic moral theology makes of human sexuality. And, yes, with the possible exception of asexuals, we do all struggle with chastity. But the plain fact of the case is that for those of us whose particular cross is queerness, that struggle is unique. It doesn't follow that we get special treatment, or anything of that sort; but the distinctness should be recognized as well as the commonality, and this phrase (and similar ones) suggest contempt for a difficulty that often cuts deeper than the normal struggles of heterosexuality. Gay traditional Christians have very little prospect of getting married, and the support structures for celibacy (outside the priestly and monastic callings) are imperfect among Catholics and, in my experience, practically nonexistent among most Protestants. In addition, most of us feel very much that we have no choice in the matter, and the sense of injustice that that can give rise to is often more of a burden than the trials of chastity as such.

As for those gay people who are progressive Christians, or not Christians at all, they don't grant the premise that being gay just as such is something to struggle with in the first place, and phrases like this implicitly relegate their relationships to the status of moral failings. By all means discuss morality with people you disagree with, when it's tactful and tasteful to do so; but be aware of what you're saying, and be aware that nobody is going to be persuaded by an argument that begins with premises they don't accept.

"Are you sure you're not just confused?"

Um, really?

"Christians have a right to their beliefs, too."

This is quite true -- and I shall be the first to admit that the LGBT community has not always been careful to respect this fact, either en masse or as individuals. Even as a gay man, there have been many times when I've been made exceedingly uncomfortable by other gay people, including friends of mine, even just for being a Catholic, let alone for professing the Church's teaching; in fact, even considering the anti-gay remarks I've been exposed to, such as being referred to as a faggot and a sodomite, I think I've taken more flak for my faith than for my orientation. Kind of hypocritical.

But let's be honest: whatever injustices have happened, and whatever injustices are possible or even likely in the future, the track record of Christians in their treatment of homosexuals is a whole lot worse than the track record of homosexuals in their treatment of Christians (even if the only reason for that is that there hasn't been a gay movement for the last dozen or so centuries). Considering the ghastly way Christians are treated in China, or Egypt, or Indonesia, or Pakistan, or North Korea, or a smorgasboard of other nations worldwide, and contrasting it with the social prominence and power (however much they have declined and are declining) that the faith has always had in this country -- well, it puts me in mind of an album title: Some People Have Real Problems.

It doesn't at all follow from this that bigotry against Christian beliefs is acceptable. It isn't, and it should stop. Christians are no more categorically irrational than gays are categorically irrational. But talking as though Christians are primarily on the defensive, especially when the conversation gets Godwinized, is bad PR, bad taste, and bad spirituality.

Any non-sarcastic use of the phrase 'Adam and Steve.'

The number of people who are persuaded by such language of any part of Christian theology can be counted on one hand. With zero fingers. It was barely funny the first eighty times one heard it, and even then, it was a slightly dull, Christianese summary of a belief someone already held, not an argument for that belief.

"Homosexuality is no different from any other sin."

This one is a little different, in that it tends to come from a more genuinely charitable, and even a more sensitive, place than the others I've listed. The trouble with it is twofold. Part of that trouble is that those who use it have a somewhat disconcerting tendency to start comparing being gay to adultery or murder. In addition to finding that slightly over-the-top, I find it remarkable that being gay isn't being compared to, say, gossiping, or losing your temper, or overeating -- or any of a dozen socially acceptable sins that Christians are tacitly allowed to commit. Homosexuality is still (perhaps unintentionally) being placed in a separate class of sins, and with the "big" ones rather than the ordinary, unobtrusive ones that we all half-secretly want to excuse.

The other problem is that homosexuality is kind of a vague word. In this or that context (usually academic), such as theology or psychology, it can mean something specific. But there isn't a definite popular meaning of the term -- is it homosexuality for a girl to come out as a lesbian and explain to her parents that she's going to remain celibate for religious reasons? After all, she isn't doing anything, but her orientation is what it is. Or is it homosexuality for a straight guy to fool around with a straight friend when they're drunk? After all, their orientation is what it is, yet they're doing something. And so forth. What is being declared sinful here is so generic, that this phrase can indicate anything from a highly charitable traditionalist viewpoint to a barely-concealed rampaging homophobia.

Hey, speaking of which ...

"Accusations of homophobia are just a campaign to silence the Church."

Here again, I've seen this chiefly from Catholics, and it isn't altogether surprising: most Protestant traditions have a few evangelical versions of themselves and also one or more liberal versions, so that there is usually a gay-friendly version of any given Protestant heritage. But the Catholic Church has a very specific, very public, and very long-standing doctrine of sexuality, and also happens to be the largest single tradition in the country. It's therefore natural that accusations of homophobia should be launched more against Rome than against any other body of believers.

Many of those accusations are, in my opinion, wholly unjust. I think the term homophobia should be reserved for cases that exhibit marks of a properly psychological phobia; i.e., an irrational fear and hatred. The intellectual statement that homosexual behavior is wrong doesn't qualify; a person might disagree with it, but the statement is precisely a rational and philosophical one, even if it isn't true. That being said, the bad facts are, a lot of Christians (Catholic and otherwise) are irrationally afraid of and hateful of homosexuals. Westboro Baptist Church is everybody's go-to example, but subtler examples of unfair attitudes, words, and decisions abound, and saying that they don't displays either a gross ignorance of the actual lives of LGBT people, or a shocking callousness about them. Admittedly we're probably better off in this country than anywhere else, except parts of Europe; but the silence of many Christians -- including, miserably, the Catholic hierarchy here -- on the sufferings of gays and lesbians internationally, is doing serious damage to the credibility of the Christian claim to love homosexuals.

This shouldn't happen.

Of course the answer is not to swing the pendulum in the other direction, and make Romophobia socially acceptable (not that it hasn't been before). The point is, an unjust prejudice is an unjust prejudice, and, yes, Christians can be and have been guilty of it. That should be admitted -- not only for the sake of PR, but for the sake of decency.

"Love the sinner, hate the sin."

The classic.

One problem is simply that it is a Christianese cliche. Now, you could object to Christianese (and this example thereof in particular) on the grounds that it is trite, kitschy, ubiquitous enough to be insufferable, often theologically sketchy, dulls people's minds with pat answers to profound and difficult questions, and fails to communicate to those who don't already know the lingo. But ... well, no, I guess that's everything.

A second problem: take a look at that sentence. Not counting 'the,' one syllable in it is repeated, and that syllable is the word 'sin.' The focus is entirely upon sin. That's largely why it rubs people the wrong way; whether it's intended or not, the subtext is that the person you're saying it to is a sinner -- and you, maybe not so much. Groups such as Courage frequently object to words like 'gay' because they reduce people to a shallow identity -- doesn't this do exactly the same thing? Summing up a whole person and their experience of sexuality under the name 'sinner'?

Someone might object that it isn't a claim to sinlessness, and that in point of fact everybody is a sinner; and technically, that's true, but the force of the saying isn't supplied just by the technicalities. Consider:

And behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, and stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner. (From Luke 7.36ff.)

Did the Pharisee acknowledge, in principle, that he also was a sinner? In all likelihood, yes; we may be sure he knew the Psalms like the back of his hand, in which it says that the righteous man falls seven times a day. Was he wrong in identifying this woman as a sinner? Surely not -- everybody is a sinner, and, since 'sinner' was likely a euphemism for a prostitute, well, they stay in business because people know who they are, so that her sins were probably public knowledge. The Pharisee wasn't wrong in what he thought -- it lay all in how and why he was thinking it. I think that exactly the same problem lurks behind many uses of the phrase 'Love the sinner, hate the sin.' It has been made more generous-sounding than the Pharisee. But pride comes in patronizing and condescending forms as well as brutal and contemptuous ones.

Another problem still can be discovered through a thought experiment. Let's say you're a Catholic: how would you feel if a gay person said sweetly to you, "I love you, but I hate your Catholicism"?

Christians, especially Catholics in my experience, make a great deal out of gayness not being a metaphysical category -- gay men aren't a different kind of being from straight men, they just have a difference of disposition; the difference between them is an adjective, not a noun, if you will. That is perfectly true. But religion is a good parallel example,** because Christians are not a different kind of being from atheists and Moslems and Buddhists -- yet for someone to speak that way is manifestly insulting and hostile, even if the person means well in saying it, for the simple reason that a person's religion is a very precious thing, into which their conscience and sense of self is woven.

Am I saying that the same is true of sexuality? Um, yes. Absolutely. Nothing can be closer to the heart than how we relate to other people, and that is inextricably linked to sexuality -- as Blessed John Paul II taught in Theology of the Body -- for everyone from celibates to prostitutes. Whether we approve of our sexual dispositions, or of any or all of the acts that do or can flow from our sexuality, isn't relevant; they are a persistent and far-reaching influence in our whole experience of relating to people, and when you get right down to it, there isn't much in life that doesn't consist in relating to people, directly or indirectly. It is not only inevitable but appropriate that our sexuality should, therefore, be one of the major factors in our sense of self. A phrase like 'Love the sinner, hate the sin' seems quite calmly and contentedly to direct hatred to an aspect of the person that cannot be easily separated from the person as a whole.

That's all I have energy for right now. Vade in pace.

*I recognize the authority of the Catholic Church to set forth right and wrong in such a way as to rightly bind men's consciences. However, the individual person does not have the right to bind other men's consciences; and the relationship between conscience and authority is an extremely complicated one, to which I can't do justice in a footnote.

**Please note: I have said that it is a good parallel example, not a perfect one. I'm aware of the spiritual character conferred by the sacraments, most particularly Baptism and Confirmation.


  1. Do you use the Douai translation of the Bible? Because that is exceedingly awesome. Also, I've been reading this blog for about a month now and I think it's great and appreciate what you do here.
    --W. Steven

    1. It depends what I want it for. For devotional purposes and/or to sound awesome, I use the King James, partly for aesthetic and partly for my sentimental attachment to the English literary tradition (I am Anglican Use). For study, I mostly use either the ESV or the RSV; I consider the former to be possibly the best English translation of the Scriptures, but it doesn't have a Catholic edition. I don't actually have recourse to the Douai-Rheims much -- it's used in my copy of the Little Office of the Virgin, but that's about it.

  2. Great title!

    It's difficult, even for those of us who are gay but have lived for decades as celibate, accepting the Church's teachings unreservedly, to even suspect how some of these stock phrases come across to those who do not see the Church's teachings as authoritative in any way.

  3. Thoughtful post as usual!

    RE: "Homosexuality is no different from any other sin."

    Well...yes, yes it's very different. Every other sin I can think of causes harm to self or others (unless you believe masturbation is sinful). Covenant gay relationships, on the other hand, create objective good for self and others - stable couples committed to mutual care-taking, providing for the emotional and physical needs of one another, increasing financial security, and reducing burdens on society. This phrase utterly dismisses that important difference.

    I appreciate that those who use this phrase are trying to moderate the "super sin" status that has been assigned to homosexuality; however, calling a committed gay relationship sinful (i.e., immoral) is not likely land well with a gay audience.

    There's an even more charitable cousin of this phrase: "We're all sinners, me no less than you." To that I usually respond "Amen! I have many sins to atone for, being gay is not one of them."

    All my best to you Gabriel!

  4. This reminds me of a great quote from a blog I like recently:

    "I have no doubt that most Catholics don’t hate gay people and honestly feel that they love them. For them, though, since love is simply 'willing the good of another', and since the ultimate good to them is holiness, orthodoxy, and the Faithful Conservative Catholic [TM] way, the way in which they express love is often categorized as rude, unnecessary, bigoted, or even 'hate speech' by the rest of the population. Joe Catholic can’t fathom that maybe treating gay people with respect as human beings who happen to be a bit different from him in some way, who are big boys and girls and make their own decisions, even if those decisions are different from the ones he might make, and by GOD, simply not saying something about 'it' as if these Godless homos never heard someone disapprove of them or what they do or think in the slightest and he’s the only ones who can save their immortal soul, won’t preclude his commitment to orthodoxy."

    That's the real question for all these people saying these things: why do you think it's your place to say anything at all?

    I mean, even ignoring for a minute the confused conflation of orientation with behavior, even if they were justified in assuming "active" (private, consensual, safe) behavior...where do they get off being outraged about other people's private lives?

    Maybe a really close friend or family member or spiritual director or whatever could sincerely share "concerns" (once, and only once!) But even then it really only makes sense if you share a common faith first (otherwise it's putting the cart before the horse)...and yet especially in that case it's rather presumptuous of them to think they're saying anything new that the person hasn't heard before, and hasn't sincerely considered and wrestled over (as if the problem is simply that this person hasn't heard the right arguments yet, hasn't read "Theology of the Body" or whatever...)

    Oddly enough, I can actually say that "at least" the Westboro Baptist folk don't think they're going to convince anyone; apparently their philosophy is not that they hope to convert anyone, but rather that their job is to make God's decree of reprobation manifest by declaring it and, sometimes, by "exposing" the "sinfulness" (in the form of angry reactions) of those they protest.

    Conservative Christians of a less vitriolic variety, however, are actually in some ways worse, inasmuch as they apparently believe that it's their job to debate people into salvation, that it's somehow their loving duty and divine calling to try to make people see the light by beating them into submission verbally (though we might ask: what apparition told you that YOU were destined to have that role in this other person's life, and what makes you think they can succeed in spite of the anecdotal evidence mainly being against that sort of apologetics debating winning many converts rather than antagonizing people??)

    There is an incredibly faulty leap between "I love you so, given what I believe about the good life, I have to wish in my heart that you would live differently" to "I have a duty to externalize my disapproval and browbeat you about the topic even though it probably won't change anything and may just drive you further away." It's not even what people say, really, it's that they think it's their place to say anything at all.

  5. Plus, in many cases there is a sort of disingenuous quality to that whole approach anyway. I saw it described in an article once: first the "debate" type, the self appointed Inquisitor, will approach you "compassionately," to share with you the "good news" (under that assumption, described above, that your problem is simply that you haven't heard the right arguments yet.) Then, when their apologetics STILL fail to convince the person, they become much less compassionate all of a sudden, suddenly the person is simply being willfully obstinate because "They've heard the logical truth laid out in all its splendor, and still cling to shaky counter-arguments and refuse to believe. Now it's obviously a deliberate choice in favor of their perverse pleasures!" And then they feel more justified hating you because now they've "proven" you a person of bad-will rather than just misinformed or ignorant. And a person of bad-will in this sense apparently deserves to lose all respect or tolerance by that very fact, and is an imminent threat to the stability of all society. So a funny transformation happens. The person simply living their life not hurting anyone else or affecting the Inquisitor in any active first painted as "misguided" but then as a downright sociopath who threatens the whole concept of an ordered society or civil dialogue by the "self-evident" fact of "ignoring clear reason" in favor of their hedonism.

    This is how a sort of self-justifying homophobia works among these sorts of debaters. They first will admit that, in itself, a gay life is a victimless pecadillo that harms at most the soul of the participants but which isn't really a public threat, they're merely "misguided" or "mislead by the culture's lies" etc. However, they then bait people into an argument. 1 in 10,000 times, if that, the person might be convinced. All the other times, the argument doesn't (because there are always counter-arguments, and no such thing as an airtight proof, otherwise the philosophical venture would have reached its conclusion centuries ago), but the Inquisitor, so sure of his apologetics, takes not being convinced as bad faith, interprets it as deliberate willful obstinacy in favor of "their sick pleasure," and thus is able to construct the person as a sociopath and thus of public concern because "While the acts themselves may be private and not hurt anyone else, the way they have clearly warped your moral reasoning and made you so willing to ignore right-thinking makes you a social threat!" (ie, a distinction something like, "I'm not judging the sin, I'm judging the heresy!") and so homophobia is self-justified through the very act of apologetics.

    1. Hiya Sinner (this salutation seems inappropriate somehow...)

      I love a lot of your thoughts. I would offer one push back and one addition.

      I don't think it's fair to characterize most traditionalist Christians as butting in where they don't belong. Some do, for sure; but I think most people in real-life relationships probably love well despite their disagreement and don't focus on this one aspect of humanity. I've seen these phrases mostly invoked in the course of the public conversation. We are, as a society, having the conversation. It's not reasonable to expect traditionalists to sit in a corner and keep their understandings to themselves.

      I do, however, totally agree that the "compassionate" evangelizer moves from a posture of "sharing the truth in love" to "assuming bad faith" just as you described. In other words, he says "the truth is objective, and if you reject what I'm telling you, you are rejecting God Himself." I can't tell you how many times I've been accused of being a Godless hedonist. This trend has developed even further.

      As the cultural rejects traditional teaching in greater numbers, traditionalists are understandably getting weary of being painted with a broad brush of "hateful bigot". So now, when I express disagreement about the sinfulness of homosexuality, the evangelist automatically assumes I think he's a bigot operating in bad faith. This, I suppose, is to be expected in a public conversation that has very little tolerance for nuance and usually assumes the worst in the other.

      I SO totally sympathize with traditionalists. I know what it's like to be marginalized and unfairly judged. I'm doing whatever I can within my tribe to speak out against this kind of treatment of the moral-minority.

      Christianity has caused so much hurt and harm to people who are gay. There's an understandably strong anti-Christian (especially anti-Catholic) sentiment within the older gay community (less so in the next generation). I'm often viewed as a traitor whenever I identify as Christian. But I think conservative Christians get a bad rap. Especially with Catholicism, my lived experience with practicing Catholics is worlds away from the actions of the church leadership. I'm really hoping that the gay community can reach out in love to traditionalists and be inclusive. Unfortunately, many think turnabout will quell their thirst for justice - I doubt it.

      Sorry for the rambling remarks.
      Best to you

    2. "I don't think it's fair to characterize most traditionalist Christians as butting in where they don't belong."

      Well, I never said "most." I said there was a type.

      "Some do, for sure; but I think most people in real-life relationships probably love well despite their disagreement and don't focus on this one aspect of humanity. I've seen these phrases mostly invoked in the course of the public conversation."

      It's true that I think many people, in their private lives, just stay quiet about their moral judgments (as they should).

      However, they often then put on this public persona (as one of the self-appointed Inquisitors) and come and lash out at people online even though it's like...who made them Pope? Who appointed them "pastoral whip" over these strangers?

      So the distinction between the public conversation and the private is an artificial one, I think. These online conversations are not simply abstract hypothetical discussion of "the issues" apart from anything personal. Trust me: they get personal, very quickly, ad hominems fly, etc. Sure, they might not attack their neighbor or coworker in "real life," but anonymously trying to "dialogue" online in this fashion is STILL an imposition.

      "We are, as a society, having the conversation. It's not reasonable to expect traditionalists to sit in a corner and keep their understandings to themselves."

      Well, if it were all abstract and impersonal, I'd be fine with it. On both sides. Simply say, "This is our vision of the good life and why we believe it" and dialogue from there. But while "taking it personally" might make SOME sense (though not entirely) for the people who actually live in relationships that are being makes no sense to me why the traditionalists seem to take it all so personally, as if the fact that other people are living a vision of the good life that is not somehow a personal threat or something to be offensively Crusaded against.

    3. Hi again Sinner (yup...still sounds bad),

      It may have been inappropriate for me to jump into this conversation (Gabriel, sorry if I'm out of line here).

      I've been at this Christian/homosex rodeo for a while now. I know exactly what you're saying and I hear you loud and clear.

      All I can tell you is that I try to approach each interaction assuming the best intentions in others. If I dismissed every person who pleaded with me to "come out of the homosexual lifestyle", I would have missed out on a lot of productive, mutually-transforming exchanges. I've gotten a much better understanding of the vast array of beliefs, and I hope I've helped other Christians along the path toward inclusion.

      As to: " makes no sense to me why the traditionalists seem to take it all so personally..."

      There are myriad reasons why.
      - Like you point out, the morality of homosexuality has become a proxy for societal morality; i.e., "if culture approves of the perversion of homosexuality, then all is lost."
      - I also think that cultural acceptance of homosexuality signals a loss of power and influence to conservative Christians who are not used to being in the moral minority.
      - Some Christians are scared that they are becoming pariahs for their traditional views and are fighting the tide of cultural change.
      - Some Christians see homosexuality as a salvific issue and are fighting for the eternal souls of people like me (and those I would lead to hell with my heresy).
      - Some people believe the lies that homosexuality is harmful to one's health and are genuinely concerned that this "immorality" is killing people.

      I'm sure there's a lot of other reasons too...

      Thanks for engaging.
      I wish you well, Sinner (yeah, you GOTTA change that alias).

  6. I think the first three issues are more causal than the last two. Indeed, the last two were really the source of my questions above: why do they think, exactly, that browbeating people or debating in public is actually going to stop anyone from pursuing behavior they believe is (spiritually, and perhaps medically) harmful? I hear things sometimes like "It is our duty to proclaim the truth! We won't be silenced!" But I just have to wonder exactly to whom they think they are proclaiming the truth, and what effect, practically, do they imagine their proclamation is actually having on affecting how anyone else chooses to live their lives.

    The strange sense I get from some of these folks is "I don't want my children exposed to such legitimization!" as if that increases the chance that their own child will participate. But, of course, that's not how sexual orientation works. If their child is straight, they have no reason to worry. If their child is gay...what do they expect? That a culture where homosexuality remains very taboo is somehow going to help keep them on the moral straight and narrow? Maybe it did for some, in the past out of sheer fear and shame and denial and repression. But many others continued just engaging in risky secret behavior and inner-compartmentalization. If anything, I think, a culture of openness and many options tolerated is more conducive to a good-faith choice for chastity rather than just repressing out of stigma.

    I think the "reactionary" view ("Now conservatives are the ones being persecuted!") is delusional; as Rowan Williams recently said, Christians who fear-monger about "persecution" need to grow up. Nevertheless, I can understand the concern (even if it is way overblown, in Canada and Europe certain trends re: "hate speech" legislation are something to keep an eye on)...but I'd still think that the best approach to not being considered to not act like bigots. Rather than pushing back even harder with numbskullery, I'd think the "threat" of being painted as hate-mongers would increase the incentive to be rational and level-headed and impersonal and civil in dialogue rather than to react with the very hysteria that gets them accused of bigotry in the first place.

    Your first point is interesting, but I'm not sure what they think "all is lost" means. What exactly do they imagine is going to happen to them? Even if society does go decadent and there are orgies in the streets, it's not like they're being forced to participate. Why do they have such an investment in how other people are living behind closed doors?

    I think your last point, about power and privilege and which lifestyle or moral paradigm is the most likely explanation. It's also, however, the least sympathetic, the most corrupt and selfish.

  7. That picture is fascinating me. It actually looks like the gay person (assuming that the gay person is the one with the rainbow bracelet on) is the aggressor in this situation. See what I mean? His arms are around the dudes neck in front of him.

    (I'm not trying to invalidate your point. Its very good and I agree completely. The picture here just struck me as odd. Do you have any information on the situation?)

    1. The photo is from the recent protests in Russia against the antihomosexual laws put in place by Vladimir Putin. (He really does remind me a little of Ivan the Terrible: a devoted supporter of the Church, and also a brutal thug.) I understand that all the people depicted, except the photographer on the left, are gay activists; a lot of violence has been directed at them, and I think what is happening here is that the man with the head wound is being restrained by other gay activists, to keep the situation from getting any worse. The same photo, and several links to articles and reports on the situation, can be found on this blog post: