Fighting Homophobia - part 7
I admit, after the self-revelations at the end of that last entry, I was reluctant to continue. Surely there are more important things against which to take up arms! Still, I've committed myself to finishing this series, whether or not anyone is reading them. (I have to admit, I have a secret fantasy that someone personally acquainted with Dr. Chernin will read these and tell him about them, and that this will result in a lively and enjoyable exchange of ideas between him and me. I also secretly fantasize that my reasoning will change his mind about everything. And then, when I'm done with that fantasy, I go on to the one where I'm Superman, saving the world.)
So. Last time, I actually found a point in Dr. Jeffrey Chernin's "Q Health" column, "Pride '06: Fighting Homophobia In Your Midst" (Prairie Flame, June 2006) on which he and I agreed. For one brief moment all was harmony between us. But with his next point, dissonance returns.
Dr. Chernin turns from "homophobes" in neutral public places to those who "crash gay events". (Based on the context, I'm assuming this includes entering neighborhoods that have a concentration of gay and lesbian residents.) He recommends avoiding direct confrontation in these circumstances because "their martyr complex causes them to see confrontation as a badge of honor, only adding to their sense of righteousness". Nice of him to decide that every conservative or Christian that decides to speak to someone with whom they disagree has a well-developed "martyr complex", and that, by implication, they welcome and perhaps even seek out confrontation (one characteristic of martyrs) just to bolster their own egos ("adding to their sense of righteousness") and/or their standing in their own community ("a badge of honor"). Someone with a degree in psychology should know better than to label an entire community. Could he be sliding into a double standard here?
Be that as it may, this point is a minor irritation. What really irks me is his next suggestion: "...(W)onder out loud why they were so eager to minister in the gay part of town. Could they be gay, you'd wonder? (A definite possibililty)."
What bothers me is not the act of commenting - free speech is, after all, still protected - but the assumptions behind the comments. The suggestion that Christians who choose to witness to gays about the sinfulness of homosexuality - and his use of the phrase "minister in the gay part of town" strongly implies Christians doing street ministry - are, in fact, trying to bury their own homosexuality is an old one and one that is, frankly, just as offensive to a Christian - if not more so - as the suggestion that gay men are really closet pedophiles is to homosexuals. And it is just as logically flawed.
The thing is, I understand where this conclusion comes from: someone sees something within themselves which they don't like or which they've been taught is wrong, and it so disturbs them that they launch a crusade against that very thing in others. And this does, indeed, happen - probably more often than we care to admit. One need only look at the reformed three-pack-a-day smoker who is rabid about stamping out smoking, both individually and culturally, to see that very principle in action. And I'm sure one may point to any number of former gays who are now out witnessing to the gay community, as well as many who have confronted homosexual urges within themselves and rejected them. (My very first blog in this series firmly puts me in this camp.) But to conclude that all Christians who choose to minister to the homosexual community have hidden homosexual urges or homosexual pasts, or that all those who do are using this ministry in a desperate attempt to deny and quash those feelings in themselves is not only a logical fallacy, but, I believe, a psychological one as well.
Think about it for a moment. Does the environmental activist protest against the logging industry because he secretly wants to chop down all the forests? Does the PETA member defend animal rights because she secretly longs to wear a mink coat while chomping on a thick, juicy steak? Or, from a negative point of view, does the cop want to bust sexual predators because he secretly wants to rape children? Does the skinhead attack blacks because he secretly wants to be black? I will be one of the first to point out the dangers of first- and second-hand smoke, yet I have never smoked and never wanted to.
Besides, by Dr. Chernin's own logic - which, it must be admitted, is not actually his, but is simply a parroting of popular thought - one may turn that very argument 180 degrees and wonder if the reason so many gays and lesbians are so adamant about shouting down the conservatives and Christians is because they're trying to deny their own moral consciences and because they really believe, deep down, that they're wrong in being homosexual. (And if there is a God, and if He is as revealed in the Judeo-Christian scriptures, then that really is a distinct possibility!) I kind of doubt that Dr. Chernin really wanted to go there. To quote him from earlier in his column, you "can't have it both ways".
The comment he recommends is clearly one intended to be made while passing, and probably not directly to the intended target, but rather to a friend. As such, it's not intended to be any part of a serious dialogue, but, rather, a mean, petty jab. This is equally true of Dr. Chernin's next recommendation, although this one, at least, engages the target directly: he suggests telling the perceived "homophobe" that, because of their presence, a monetary donation to a gay cause in the name of the Christian or conservative organization will be made. Again, this comment is useless in reaching any understanding between people and would more likely impede than encourage true communication. Besides, what if the Christian/conservative turns that comment around and offers to make a matching donation to his/her own organization in the name of the gay/lesbian person? What a waste of conversation!
The only reason to make either of those comments is to cut down the other person and to make oneself feel superior. It's a petty tactic, a suggestion unworthy of a professional psychologist. If something offends you to the point where you cannot be civil and respectful - and I say this to the Christians as well as the homosexuals - the best course of action is to simply walk past and not acknowledge it. If you feel you must say something, be polite. "I'm sorry I can't stop and talk about this with you right now, but I'm not sure you realize how offensive your approach is." (Although, really, if you're not prepared or interested in discussing the issue, why say anything at all?) But why resort to cheap shots and sarcasm? Isn't the world full of enough of that kind of irritation?