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10/30/2007

Wherein we engage in a 'Lively' debate

by Jeremy Hooper

Scott Lively is a man who has made quite the name for himself amongst the virulently anti-gay. He is (or at least used to be) the head of the California branch of the American Family Association, an organization that dedicates considerable time and money to keeping gay lives out of public view. He also runs Abiding Truth Ministries and its affiliated Pro-Family Law Center, both of which dedicate the majority of their time to the anti-gay cause. Additionally, he's penned a book called The Pink Swastika, which attempts to blame homosexuality for the extremism of Nazi Germany. And lately Scott's been in the news for his role in co-foudning the Watchmen on the Walls, a radical fringe group of mostly Russian- and Ukranian- speaking immigrants that has been gaining more and more momentum in California. Here are two videos to get you better acquainted with Mr.Lively and his efforts to recruit for his anti-gay causes:

It's a dirty job, but somebody's gotta...oh wait a minute, no. Actually NOBODY has to or even should be doing it! But Scott does do the demonizing job, and he's quite 'lively" at it.

Yet despite what seems to be his unapologetically anti-gay stance, Scott seems to be sensitive to the criticism he receives from those who are sick and tired of having to fight for basic human decency. Thus he has written a piece in which he attempts to defend his own work, as well as criticize his critics. We will now examine that piece paragraph by paragraph and tell you (and him) why, exactly, we find his entire thought process to be about as realistic as a talking unicorn who farts rainbows. Scott's words are in red:

Hate has a pretty bad name in the world today. No one wants to be called a hater, especially Christians, which is probably why we get accused of it all the time by our opponents. Homosexuals are especially fond of calling people haters. They even invented the word homophobia, which means hate and fear of homosexuals, envisaged as a mental illness (a phobia is an anxiety disorder).

I hate being called a homophobe. It has such an ugly connotation. Its especially unpleasant because, as a Christian, I’m supposed to have a reputation for loving people, not hating them. So I’ve worked really hard over the years to try to get the homosexuals to stop calling me a homophobe.

Okay, so right away he's setting up a sort of straw man argument. He's making it sound as if anyone who opposes gay rights uses words like "homophobe" or "hater" to challenge their opposition. And clearly this is the line he's going to use throughout, so that he can challenge the simplistic idea that he's not a "hater" or a homophobe," rather than the more finely nuanced and detailed reactions that his work has actually elicited from the gay community over the years. It seems as if he's going to get into more of a semantics debate than the actual issues at hand; let's read on to see if that's true:

I’ve pointed out the difference between hating people and hating their behavior (loving the sinner but hating the sin). They hated that. Then I tried “walking my talk” by taking an ex-”gay” man who was dying of AIDS into my family. My wife and I and our children loved and cared for him during the last year of his life. They hated that even more.

And still with the semantics. Scott is presenting all of these situations and then trivializing the pro-gay response by making it sound as if "you're a hater!" has been the resounding reply to his work. Sure there are people who do say such things about our opposition, but there is a deeper argument that leads them to say such a thing. For example, we in the gay community are not willing to let the "love the sinner, hate the sin" thing go unchallenged. Many of us view it as a convenient way that anti-gay activists justify their biases behind the veil of religion. Many of us think that modern-day people of faith have blindly taken Biblical teachings out of context and highlighted certain passages above others, all while refusing to look at the various reasons and interpretations that lead us to such a position. And we are sick of having stones cast in our direction by those who think they were born into the moral high ground simply because they were (a) made to be heterosexual, and (b) told by their parents that they were to believe in a certain way.

As for the claim that Scott and his family took care of an AIDS patient in the last year of his life. Well, that is not the part that garnered antipathy. That is a compassionate act that would garner no scrutiny. The problem lies in that this person is identified as an "ex-gay." We don't know the specifics of the situation, but we are confident that Scott used (and still uses) this man as an example of "the dangerous gay lifestyle," and made it seem as if his situation could have been avoided had he only become an "ex-gay" sooner. And when such an idea is presented, then yes, the gay community is going to rightfully speak out. For we know that AIDS is not a values-targeting tool that God uses to eradicated the unsavories, but rather a horrible and cruel disease that happened to have hit the gay community in this country earliest and hardest. And we know that it is unsafe sex practices of all varieties that need to be reduced, not the number of gays! Using AIDS as a weapon to scare people into becoming "ex-gays" is a heartless tool employed by an opportunistic socio-politco-religo movement.

Then I began asking for guidance from homosexuals themselves: “Tell me, where is the line between homophobia and acceptable opposition to homosexuality?” I asked. “What if I just agree with the Bible that homosexuality is a sin no worse than any other sex outside of marriage?”

“No, that’s homophobic,” they replied. “Suppose I talk only about the proven medical hazards of gay sex and try to discourage people from hurting themselves?” “No, you can’t do that,” they said. “How about if I say that homosexuals have the option to change if they choose?” “Ridiculous” they answered. “Maybe I could just be completely positive, say nothing about homosexuality, and focus only on promoting the natural family and traditional marriage?” “That’s really hateful,” they replied.

Bullshit! The only version of Scott Lively that has existed in the public arena in the last decade or more has been the one who CLEARLY views homosexuality as a horrendous sin and who speaks very much against it. So we have real trouble believing in of the above capitulations or reexaminations were even suggested; but we will, for the sake of argument, play along.

First up: Homosexuality being no worse than any sex outside of marriage. Well, this requires you to look at homosexuality as the action, not as part of a person's being. Most of us in the gay community view homosexuality as being part of us, just heterosexuals tend to view their orientation as being part of them. If you want to be one who deems all sex outside of the loving confines of marriage, then that is your prerogative. But (a) let us get married, and (b) then judge the person (gay or straight) on the basis of their sexual habits, not their orientations.

Second: The supposed medical hazards of gay sex are mostly bogus. Most of the "science" used to back up such ridiculous progandistic lies as "gay bowel syndrome" comes from the likes of Paul Cameron or some other extremist. Yes, AIDS is more of a threat for gay men at this point and time. Again, this is due to its initial placement or development within the gay community (for whatever reason). It is entirely preventable, and we know the tools to do so. But rather than teaching safe sex practices and encourage monogamy by supporting marriage equality, folks like Mr. Lively encourage unsafe explorations of sexuality by marginalizing and demonizing gay people. And the same treatment can also lead to the heightened emotional and mental problems that the far-right also likes to claim can be found within gay communities. It does not take a rocket scientist to see that being called a fag and told you are going to hell all your life can sometimes lead to some baggage.

Third: There is no scientifically sound, medically-backed, research based "option to change." Yes, many of us will criticize the forced acceptance of the "ex-gay" movement as a valid option because many of us like our facts based in, oh, I don't know - -FACT!

Fourth: "[P]romoting the natural family and traditional marriage" is nothing more than code-wording. Gays ARE a part of the natural family in all of the animal kingdom. Or marriages are only "non-traditional," because we have a tradition in this country and world of supporting gay bias. We wouldn't call it "hateful," necessarily, for folks to use such phrases to describe their anti-gay political plays. We will, however, call it intellectually misleading, intentionally duplicitous, and just plain WRONG!

Let's move on:

After I while, I realized that the only way I could get them to stop calling me a homophobe was to start agreeing with them about everything. But here’s my dilemma: I honestly believe the Bible which says that homosexuality is wrong and harmful and that all sex belongs within marriage. I’ve also read the professional studies and know that “gay” sex hurts people because it goes against the design of their bodies. And I’m friends with a number of former homosexuals who are now married and living heterosexual lives. Do I have to give up my religion? Ignore scientific facts? Betray my friends? Is that the only way to avoid being called a hater and a homophobe?

There’s no escape. A homophobe is anyone who, for any reason, disapproves of homosexuality in any way, shape, manner, form or degree. This leaves me with just two choices: agree that everything about homosexuality is natural, normal, healthy, moral and worthy to be celebrated OR be labeled as a mentally ill, hate-filled bigot.

Again, red herrings abound. For one, Mr. Lively is acting as if he is nothing more than a mere layman who holds certain Biblical beliefs, but those pesky gays refuse to let him live his life. But as we've already shown you, Mr. Lively is an extremely vocal activist who caters to and emboldens the fringes of the anti-gay movement. Also, he's asking readers to accept that his studies on gay sex truly are "professional," and that his "former homosexual" friends were in fact gay and are, in fact, truly "changed." We dispute both, and view those who rabidly hold onto such notions without considering the considerable evidence to the contrary as fostering a gay-hostile culture.

As for Mr. Lively's "two choices" -- they are along the same simplistic lines that have fueled his entire piece. It is not an either or situation in which one must march in the gay pride parade or else be labeled a "bigot." This world is filled with people who hold in their hearts and minds varying degrees of gay acceptance or condemnation. Mr Lively has made the choice to lead a movement that has one goal: Fostering gay bias! For that we will not call him a "homophobe." We're actually not big fans of that word either. We will say that he is f***ing with the truth of nature. We will say he is standing in the way of a peaceful society. We will say he's fostering unnecessary polarization and hostility. And we will say that he is acting in a manner contrary to what we believe to be truly Christian.

Pressing on:

Am I wrong? Is there any way to openly disapprove of homosexuality without being a homophobe? “Gay” leaders, please set me straight on this.

Because if I’m right, that means the “gay agenda” is to stop everyone from following the Bible regarding sexual matters. It is, after all, their stated goal to “stamp out homophobia.” No more religious freedom. It’s also to suppress scientific research that has reached conclusions they don’t like, especially if it helps people to change their homosexual orientation back to a heterosexual one (ask the doctors and scientists at narth.com what they’ve had to endure). If it discourages homosexuality, even by implication, it’s homophobic and can’t be used.

"Is there any way to openly disapprove of homosexuality without being a homophobe?" Well, we find that question tricky because, again, we don't view it in such broad terms, and we don't use the word "homophobe." If you deny that gay people are part of the spectrum of normalcy, that their existences deserve full equality, and that the social problems that plague their community deserve eradication, then we do unapologetically feel that you are holding views contrary to the betterment of society. But that doesn't mean you are in possession of a mental illness that deprives you of the ability to accept gay people. It's instead that you have some sort of block that prevents you from seeing the world in the way that we think it truly is. But again, Scott Lively is not one who is merely disapproving homosexuality in his own life. He is recruiting armies of individuals to join his crusade.

The "gay agenda" us not to stop folks from following the Bible. It's to encourage people to (a) look at their Bibles with open minds that should be required by any God who gave you the capacity of rational examination, and (b) also cull data from the world around them. Nobody wants to deny religious freedom. In fact, gays and liberals tend to be on the forefront of defending such freedom. We just don't want to see religious freedoms trumping other freedoms. And we don't want to see personal faith views being used to legislate a non-theocratic nation.

As for scientific research -- it's quite humorous that Mr. Lively would suggest that gays want to "suppress scientific research that has reached conclusions they don’t like." Their entire "ex-gay" movement is based upon a small stable of "scientists" and "researchers" that hold views contrary to that of the established medical community. They have literally created their own scientific preachers who will tell the choir exactly what they want to hear, and have set up the false notion that the mainstream scientists and researchers who dispute them are all working with an "agenda." When they actually get some credible science on their side, we will ABSOLUTELY take a look at it. But we have loads of science and professional opinion on our side, which they just write off as being tools of a liberal and pro-gay arsenal. It's maddening.

Alright, let's wrap this motha' up:

There’s a queer reasoning behind all of this. Homosexuals call me names like bigot and homophobe, condemn my religion, mock my rational conclusions about social issues, impugn my motives, display intense hostility toward my actions, and curse my very existence, all under the justification that I’m a “hater.” But if I’m a “hater” for civilly opposing what they do, why aren’t they haters for uncivilly opposing what I do? Such a double standard, in the context of a public debate on “civil rights,” is not just hypocritical, it is surreal.

I admit I have some hate. I hate watching people kill themselves with preventable diseases like AIDS. I hate seeing children being steered toward unhealthy lifestyles. I hate having my pro-family views distorted by dishonest journalists, politicians and academics. And I hate seeing my God being treated like a homophobe for what He teaches in His Bible.

So if you’re not going to stop calling me a “hater” for wanting homosexuals to be saved and healed, or for opposing their political agenda, let’s at least see a little more of that famous “American sense of fair play” in the public debate on this issue. Hatred of “haters” is hateful too.

Here's the key thing about all of this: Mr. Lively does not have to do what he does. But gay people do not, despite what Mr. Lively wants you to believe, have a choice in being who they are. So what we have here is a man who has made the career decision to f**k with gay existences for a living. One side is merely trying to live their lives; the other is unnecessarily attacking those lives. So the very idea that we should look at this as a situation with equal sides is complete and utter bullsh*t. Even if Mr. Lively does employ civility in his campaigns, he is still waging hurtful, discriminatory, unnecessary campaigns against actual human lives. Some bullies kindly ask you to hand over your lunch money, and others kick you ass and forcibly take it. Both are still wrong.

The "American sense of fair play" demands that we treat all tax-paying citizens of this nation with an equal and fair hand. It means we listen to all concerns and listen to all of the issues and problems, and deal with them appropriately. So when we look at America, we now see a world where a rich and multi-faceted community of humans still faces a bounty of inequality, lots of discrimination, and loads of demonization. And we see a world where a vocal group of people are trying to use their faith beliefs to keep the aforementioned bits of bias alive and (un)well, as they paint the gays as a monolithic crew of sinners who are choosing their "lifestyles." While we agree that we should all abstain from "hating" anyone, it is absurd to suggest that the gay side and the anti-gay side are on equal footing in terms of the merits of their wrath. Without the latter, the former would be as free to be as boring, safe, married, and equal as anyone else. But thanks to the ignoble work of people like Scott Lively, that is unlikely to happen in any of our lifetimes.

Scott Lively: Is Hating ‘Haters’ Hateful? Can You Oppose Homosexuality without Being a ‘Homophobe’? [Defend The Family]

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Your thoughts

Scott Lively for Obama!

Posted by: Jujupiter | Oct 30, 2007 11:30:24 AM

OMG!

Scott must be on overdrive because I had the same type of loooong email discussion with him last Friday.

Only I pressed him on the phony claim of "physical dangers of homosexuality."

He admitted that heterosexuals engage of some of the same sexual behaviors he accused gays of, but still tried to claim that said sexual behaviors were examples of "gay behavior."

The funniest thing is that he kept on and on even after saying he wanted to stop emailing me. I think he was trying to convince himself more than me that his comments were accurate.

Posted by: a. mcewen | Oct 30, 2007 11:49:56 AM

I actual wrote a letter to him about his piece - I wrote it in a way to get him to see why some GLBT people are hostile to Christians like him:

What if I said I hated Christianity but I don't hate Christians?

What if your family & friends told you for most of your life that they hated your choice of religion but the still loved you?

What if there were laws in the country you live in that kept you from expressing your beliefs?

What if there were places in the world where you could be jailed or worse killed because of your choice of religion?

What if Matt Barber, Donald Wildmon or James Dobson renounced their faith and became atheist and started to preach against the evils of religion?

Are these questions way off base?

Let's take a look – 3 of the top best selling books in this country are about Atheism & the evils of religion.

There's a popular Blasphemy Challenge on youtube.com.

In the Middle East Anti-Christian laws are currently be
proposed or already law.

By your account ENDA & Hate Crime Laws would silence you.

The point of my letter isn't to change your opinion of
homosexuality unlike some of my fellow homosexual brethren I know that homosexuality is incompatible with Christianity.

I do hope that you now have some understanding as to why many Homosexuals have a negative view of Christianity.

On a personal note – I don't hate Christians nor do I hate Christianity, what I do hate is being treated differently just because I'm different.

Posted by: Alonzo | Oct 30, 2007 1:01:28 PM

Mr. Lively's beliefs should be challenged. There have been questions I have asked several proclaimed conservative Christians. I have either gotten no answer or excuses to the reasons why they believe the way they do. Why do they accept homosexuality as a sin but accept and affirm a few other beliefs that run contrary to Scripture itself.

Part of a post I commented on United for the Separation of Church and State:

Prosperity Gospel - Wealth is never affirmed as a good but rather a hinderance for entering Heaven.

The Bible is THE final authority for Christian practice - that belief goes against the "Truth" that Christ is THE final authority in all things and IS the Word of God. Remember the Bible itself is locked in time. God is not. God is still revealing himself to man through the Holy Spirit. To say the Bible is the final authority in all things is to admit to bibliolatry - worship of the Bible. Christ is THE Churches ONE foundation to which Christians need to first and foremost believe. Profess Christ first.


Divorce - While they like to claim they are "protecting" traditional marriage from gays they have accepted and practiced divorce at the same time. While some of the more ultra-conservative churches may not remarry divorced individuals many within the Evangelical churches do. There are some conservative Christians that have conceded to me that this was true when I have asked them about divorce.

Jesus spoke out against divorce/remarriage (except in cases of one partner committing adultery) and said nothing about homosexuality. However, they claim that Paul spoke out against homosexuality (still debatable) in several Scripture passages. Their reasoning is: If it was good enough for Paul its good enough for us to rally against anything gay because he spoke out against it. Which begs the question: Why has Jesus own words against divorce/remarriage been tossed aside as irrelevant but Paul, just a mere sinful man to which he states constantly, is considered more authoritive to other issues which conservative Christians hold so dear to? How can Jesus whom is the foundation of the Church and the Savior of the World play second to Paul when it comes to instruction? I see too many inconsistences in regards to conservative Christianity to which I am only just touching the surface.

My post is not an attack but an honest loss of words on how anyone can be in such a belief system that condemns one thing but finds reasons to affirm other beliefs that run contrary to Scripture to which they claim is THE final authority in all things regarding Christian practice.

~End

The problem with conservative Christianity is that the Bible is and foremost their authority in all things. This locks out God still revealing himself to man. Nevermind what science my prove. Nevermind what professing gay and former ex-gay Christians have shared with us in their testimonies. They are afraid to embrace anything that their interpretation of the Bible tells them is wrong. Yet, those things such as wealth and divorce/remarriage are clearly defined in Scripture as contrary to God but have been affirmed by conservative Evangelical/Fundamentalits Christians and practiced as "truths" within their own belief system.

Posted by: Ken R | Oct 30, 2007 3:23:41 PM

So I got a reply from Mr. Lively and it's the most condescending reply I've ever read:

We're all "different," my friend. Nuns and Cannibals are different, too. The question is what makes you different and whether that thing is good or bad, benign or harmful.

And more importantly, the issue isn't what we think about our identity or how we got that way, it's whether we try to change for the better.

Posted by: Alonzo | Oct 30, 2007 4:42:05 PM

Let's face it, Scott Lively is a dangerous lunatic.

Posted by: James M. Martin | Nov 23, 2007 9:04:30 AM

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