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05/28/2014

Sure, I told the world you're broken and undeserving of rights—but I smiled when I did. So we're good, yes?

by Jeremy Hooper

6A00D8341C503453Ef01901Ee3E181970B Speaking to the rabidly anti-gay American Family Association's pointedly hostile "news" site, One News Now, first compares homosexuality directly to addiction and adultery. Then he bemoans the following state of affairs:

"... It's been my experience as one whose been on the forefront of these culture wars that it doesn't matter how much you smile, how much you show compassion, that if you label homosexuality as a sin you're going to be labeled as 'intolerant' and a 'hate monger.'"

Proudly anti-gay and highly political Texas pastor Robert Jeffress

"It doesn't matter how much you smile." That is such an anti-gay evangelical thing to say. I hear it all the time from this crowd. They're always carrying on about how sweet this controversial politico really is or what a good husband and father this anti-gay activist is. They love to talk about these kind of traits, as if being polite or cosmetically congenial makes the advocacy any better.

I, for one, never deny that many anti-gay activists do, in fact, carry themselves with a pleasant disposition. I've broken bread with many people who try to break my equality, plus I grew up in the buckliest part of the Bible Belt's buckle—I know about the smiling anti-gay activist. But Pastor Jeffress is right: It really doesn't matter. When it comes to denigrating people for who and working to deny the rights and protections of certain kinds of families simply because you do not understand them, it really isn't any better to do it through smiling teeth than it it to do it through a noisy scream. In fact, it's sometimes more enraging, since these anti-gay activists tend to use the artifice as a way to mask the ugliness of the action. At least with the person whose tone and demeanor matches the heat of their goals, you know where you stand and you can have an honest debate. With the crowd that offers you a cookie and lemonade while you wait for the van that they've ordered to cart you off to "ex-gay" therapy, you get a muddied debate filled with people who do hostile things but who refuse to take responsibility for any of it.

However, Jeffress if wrong that people who feel this way have to dish out "intolerant" or "hate monger" labels. I never use either (or similar) words. Instead, I focus on the deeds that these folks—all of them, from smiling to yelling—use to buoy the truly inhumane subjugation of a minority population. When you focus on the actions rather than the person's character or motivations, it's much easier to see behind the polished veneer and hone in on the pervasive superiority and/or discrimination that keeps our could-be-more-peaceful kingdom in a state of perpetual "culture war."

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