Tom Krattenmaker has a piece up on USA Today where he asks what conservative Christians should do: “On gay rights, keep fighting or adapt?”
You get the sense, observing the shifting cultural landscape, that we’ve reached a point on gay rights that is similar to that moment in a football game, or an election, or a relationship, when you know it’s over even though it’s not over.
It appears increasingly obvious that social acceptance of gay men and lesbians and insistence on their equal rights are inexorable.
It certainly looked over for Maggie Gallagher, National Organization for Marriage and her financial benefactors from the Mormon and Catholic Churches in New Hampshire and Maryland this week.
But would the conservative Christian industry ever willingly euthanize the goose laying the golden eggs?
I don’t know much about the author. His USA Today biography says:
Tom Krattenmaker, a writer specializing in religion in public life, is a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors. He is the author of the award-winning book Onward Christian Athletes.
I notice it was cross posted to the Huffington Post. That he’s even bothering to ask the question and attempts to engage the HuffPost audience is excellent evidence he’s significantly to the political left of the groups he’s discussing. Also, a little more “reality based.”
As evidence of the changing tides, Krattenmaker cites the passage of a bill that would allow “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal and Exodus International‘s decision to pull out of an anti-gay “Day of Truth” events. Also the Conservative Christians went down in a dust-up over a homophobic Apple iPhone app. The times they are a-changing.
Add it up, and you see a decision point at hand for socially conservative Christian groups such as the Family Research Council that have led resistance to gay rights. Do they fight to the last ditch, continue shouting the anti-gay rhetoric that rings false and mean to the many Americans who live and work with gay people, or who themselves are gay? Or do they soften their tone and turn their attention to other fronts?
That Krattenmaker singles out Family Research Council as a leader of such anti-gay initiatives, I find interesting. First, because I had no idea they had creditability in any quarters (half-snark). Secondly, I have no faith they are a group that might be at all inclined to give up the ghost on this fight.
But FRC is the belly of the beast. And they certainly are afforded too much creditability to comment on secular legislative matters. FRC’s Tony Perkins was an ubiquitous face on the TV machine concern trolling the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in the last year. Family Research Council’s inclusion in Southern Poverty Law Center’s anti-gay hate groups seems to have little effect on the enthusiasm of the media to book this organization (“for balance”), or move them to provide relevant context, like their financial support for the Ugandan “Kill the Gays” bill.
Krattenmaker goes on to call their battle “quixotic” and suggests that sallying forth will do more to discredit them than it will to win the day. Indeed, we’re seeing functioning reality of this when it was marriage equality opponents that did more to convince an opposed Maryland State Senator to support gay marriage than the arguments of the proponents.
It is also fair to say opponents of marriage equality in New Hampshire this week looked rather foolish discussing that marriage equality is an inevitable slippery slope to Sharia Law, and their sneering disregard for the Democratic principles of governing to the obvious will of the people.
But how can conservative Christians lay down their arms? How to exit a fight you’ve entered because you said you were following God’s unerring word? Krattenmaker suggests:
In explaining its withdrawal from the “Day of Truth,” Exodus International outlines a smart way forward for conservative Christian groups – one that does not require that they sacrifice their core beliefs. Note that Alan Chambers did not announce a change in his organization’s philosophy that people can be saved from homosexuality through faith in Christ. What he did signal, though, was a change in tone and emphasis, and in doing so he invoked a foundational Christian principle: Treat others as you wish to be treated.
That is a tenet we can all agree on. That’s why they call it the Golden Rule. As disgusted as I am with these regressive forces that dehumanize me as a gay man, I can’t honestly say I have it in me to treat them as they have treated me. I would never deny these people the right to marry whoever they wish, or fired them for being straight or a fundamentalist Christian. I hope they’ll come to see that’s all we ask in return.
He also has a warning to his audience:
Conservative Christian leaders ought to be very careful about their rhetoric going forward – careful not to continue giving the impression that being Christian is in large measure about opposing gay rights, and careful not to let the public expression of their faith become primarily associated with something that looks, sounds and feels like hate to growing segments of the population.
It’s a thoughtful piece, I suggest people with a theological investment check it out, it’s here.
When Krattenmaker poses the question: “On gay rights, keep fighting or adapt?” he addresses it as though theology and changing sociological attitudes were the only factor.
He completely fails to address the financial motives that drive fundamentalist Christians to demonize and hate gays. Is he not aware of them? Is he naive enough to be blind to it? Or would it be “impolite” to bring up the subject of money to Tony Perkins? Regardless, as an insider, he’d do well to recognize that until that community acknowledges reality they can never get at the heart of the problem. It’s rather like examining a person’s toes to find the source of a toothache.
Because theology isn’t the only reason these groups fight the gays. And in fact, it’s probably the least of the reasons. There’s big business in it. A large part of their business model is built on ginning up fear, hatred and outrage about the gay agenda, and then of course, asking the hateful and ignorant for funds to help stop it. They are in the fortunate position to be able to manufacture a market for the very product they are selling.
Southern Poverty Law Center extensively documents anti-gay rhetoric coming from 18 anti-gay hate groups. The 18 groups, without exception, rely on Christian scripture as the basis of their authority. Much of SPLC’s research evidence of their hatred is clipped from echo-chamber of fundraising letters. Like this one from the American Family Association:
AFA’s direct-mail appeals are particularly shrill. “For the sake of our children and society, we must OPPOSE the spread of homosexual activity! Just as we must oppose murder, stealing, and adultery!” says one such recent fundraising letter. “Since homosexuals cannot reproduce, the only way for them to ‘breed’ is to RECRUIT! And who are their targets for recruitment? Children!”
Who will they demonize if not the gays? In this way, Krattenmaker failed to acknowledge that the problem is not only that their rhetoric sounds hateful, it often actually is hateful. And designed precisely with the goal of creating hate.
And how will they get attention if not by going on the TV machine fight LGBT legislative and judicial movement? Perkins and his ilk get more media airtime fighting gay rights than any other topic, by far. It may be painful for these groups to relinquish the outsized attention they get by fighting gays. I suspect Perkins’ phone rarely rings from CNN, MSNBC or Fox News except when they need to find someone to “balance” out opinions on gay rights stories.
They are now in greater demand than ever, as producer’s rolodexes get thinner. Fewer people are willing to speak out publicly against the LGBT community’s demands for equal treatment under the law. More than a dozen State Senators proudly took to the New York Senate floor to stump for marriage equality last June and encourage their colleagues to vote for it. Senator and Reverend Ruben Diaz was the lonely voice of public opposition (Granted, he had too much company that sought to avoid spotlighting their opposition by voting for inequality under the cover of public silence.)
But no one provides the “good TV” soundbites these Christian Conservatives provide. The average LGBT blockader saying, “I’m committed to equality, and am thinking of the bill, but I’m not sure the time is right, we’ll see,” doesn’t exactly make for most riveting TV segment.
And in this way, Maggie Gallagher wins, even when she loses. Sure, Maryland may pass marriage equality anyway, despite her appearance before the Senate to argue against it. And we may scuttle the effort to repeal equality in New Hampshire. But she now has something to report back to her fans and followers. She went and fought the good fight. She got an audience with the decision makers, even in a state she doesn’t reside! She’s a real player! She could really stop gay marriage next time, if you just open up your wallet and give more. Please give more.
From this perspective, it seems unlikely they’ll be willing to give up the money-making potential that the continued oppression of gay people gives them. Until societal attitudes sufficiently change to make them no longer fiscally viable. But, I’d say Maggie and Tony are safe in this lifetime.
After all, nearly 40 years after Roe v. Wade settled the abortion question, abortion rights remains a significant cash-cow for many people.
Originally published on Pam’s House Blend. Republished with permission.
Scott Wooledge (Clarknt67) also writes for the Daily Kos. Follow Scott on twitter.
So the point of the USA Today article is to tell these groups to stop fighting against gays because it’s making Christianity look bad? Seems like a lot of fluff if you ask me. A piece providing a principled stand on some of these nuanced and contextualized lessons from the Bible would have been more compelling and relevant.
That did seem to be the thesis – although there did seem to be some discussion of the Biblical controversy.
Yeah, it would have been nice if they had pointed out that there is a strong Christian case in FAVOR of legalizing same-sex marriage and furthering equality in other ways.
“After all, nearly 40 years after Roe v. Wade settled the abortion question, abortion rights remains a significant cash-cow for many people.”
I don’t think this is an appropriate comparison. Abortion can be challenged from lots of sides, many of them having to do with medical conditions/medical uncertainty about when life begins, viability, etc. as well as things like parental consent, etc. There is room for that parsing out/leverage by opponents. Similar conditions do not appear for same sex marriage. A better comparison would the civil rights movement and the battle for interracial marriage. (Of course there are also important differences between civil rights and the marriage equality movement.) We are however in a better place as far as national opinion polls with less opposition than those who were advocating for lifting the interracial marriage ban. In fact, it is my understanding that some marriage equality advocates are actually in favor of cooling the heels of a supreme court challenge until we have even more support from both the public and more states on board.
So, I guess I’m just dubious that this will remain the obvious cash cow for the right. It will certainly continue to fuel their supporters, but it may be driven out of sight and into more innuendo by more mainstream right wingers like the right has been doing for years with their racist bullshit.
I just think some other low hanging fruit will come along to fire them up more effectively.
I do see your point, but too, our equality can be challenged from a variety of ways. We won marriage equality in the CA Supreme Court and then they went and rewrote the Constitution.
DADT may well still be repealed, but there’s nothing in the bill that passed that prevents a future, regressive President from issuing an executive order banning gays.
So, the battle, like abortion will be fought and fought and fought, as long as there are ground troops people like Maggie can appeal to.
Unlike abortion rights, which has tracked fairly steady in the oppose/support polling, we’re continuing to get more an more popular.
Ah, I see where you were coming from. I was focusing on marriage and once banning same sex marriage is ruled unconstitutional at the federal level all those state level anti-equality laws become voided and while it is easier for the right wing to place varying restrictions on abortion state by state, I’m not sure that they have those sorts of options for marriage.
Also, I agree with you that we continue to gain supporters, which will just make the right’s continued attack harder, not easier and therefore less likely to work as such a fundraiser like abortion. (In part because I think both sides of the abortion debate can agree that abortions are something we’d like to see less of and not something anyone is really “FOR”.)
It seems though that your argument is: 1. this will be a lengthy fight like abortion. 2. we are continuing to gain support. 3. abortion rights are contested, while gay rights are becoming less contested.
So if your comparison to abortion is based on the salience of abortion based on its contested nature then you have already defeated your own argument with respect to gay rights since more and more people are either pro or indifferent.
I have already stated why I believe there are other important qualitative differences between abortion and the gay rights movement.
In addition to those reasons, I think another reason we see abortion as so contested is because the legal grounds upon which Roe v Wade was decided were a little shaky. My brother is unwaveringly pro-choice, but when they were covering Roe v Wade in law school, he essentially said it was full of messy legal reasoning.
So to be honest, I just don’t think you can suggest it will be as lengthy a battle or as heated a debate as abortion, post Roe v Wade.
Make no mistake these two movements are funded by the same people and have the same underlying cultural orientation to the world, but they anti-gay rights folk just don’t have the same legal or popular support to extend this battle as long as the abortion battle will continue. I might even venture to say that Lawrence v. Texas was our Roe v. Wade, and you do not see hardly any politicians publicly attempting to outlaw homosexuality outright anymore, but they will gladly bang their fists about abortion.
I guess my point is you could choose any rights based movement (or hell any social movement) to compare gay rights to since it appears as if your principle point of comparison is contention. I realize it’s sexy to end with something about Roe v Wade, but I’m just not so sure that is the best comparison. Perhaps something with broad popular support and less responsiveness from elite law makers… maybe universal health care?
Also, I didn’t say it before, but just to be clear I enjoyed your article and appreciate the work you put into constructing it.
“It seems though that your argument is: 1. this will be a lengthy fight like abortion. 2. we are continuing to gain support. 3. abortion rights are contested, while gay rights are becoming less contested.”
In the longest, broadest view, yes.
The comparison wasn’t really a big part of my point, nor by any means, a perfect comparison, or intended as an in depth comparison contrast. I agree with much of what you say.
I was just trying to demonstrate that, 40 years after Roe V. Wade supposedly handed down the definitive answer that women had a right to an abortion some folks are still trying tirelessly to take that away, and dream of a reversal.
And even if and when we have definitive victories on LGBT rights (like a SCOTUS affirmation of our right to marry) there will still be people fighting to chip away at them for a long time. A SCOTUS declaration like that would probably re-ignite the drive from Red States to push for a Constitutional Amendment, regardless of how futile as task it would be (and it would be, no way they get to 38 states ratifying before the eldest, most oppposed, generation dies off).
We are fortunate to be living representations of why that’s wrong. As you say, it’s hard to argue that anyone wants more abortions. We can all mostly, find consensus that less is a worthy goal (although some disagree on that too). We just sharply disagree on how to accomplish that.
I agree with you about the resistance, but I guess I’m just slightly more optimistic about the magnitude and longevity of the anti-equality legal challenges.
In any event, thanks again for guesting here at Autostraddle and thanks for taking the time to respond.
I think it’s also different, too, in that anti-abortion people have been successful in chipping away at Roe, by being allowed every restriction up to banning it entirely.
Whereas, it’s clearer and clearer now that the anti-gay forces are swimming against the current, and that while they might win little battles they are losing the war. The culture is shifting in our favor. So their efforts are, in the long term, fruitless and just going to make them look worse.
That being said, I think abortion is an issue where, while you can have reasonable arguments against it on the surface, they really aren’t many when you dig deeper. I understand why people feel uncomfortable with abortion, for example. But when it comes to whether it should be legal or not, what it boils down to is that banning abortion does nothing to decrease the numbers of abortions, just to make them less safe. Only preventing the root cause, unplanned pregnancy, actually decreases abortion rates. So yes, there are a great variety of reasonable challenges to the moral issues surrounding abortion. Not so much the issue of whether it should be legal or not.
I don’t see it as fluff; I just think it’s sort of a cursory introduction to another facet of the conservative christian anti-gay clusterfuck that’s as real as any of their other motivations.
The Biblical aspect is just one tool in their shed.
I think it’s obvious that there’s also a huge interest put into trying to maintain and restore antiquated gender roles.
There’s also just the generalized obsession that these people have with sex, period.
In this article, I think really Krattenmaker brings up two other aspects that are tied tightly in with each other as well as the others.
The first is that most devout christian conservatives believe it is very important that they view themselves as morally correct. It’s very important to themselves as individuals, because it’s a huge part of what they each use to build their own identities, as well as their greater group mentality.
I mean, who doesn’t want to be one of the good guys? Who doesn’t want to be a knight of the round table?
We see through that, Krattenmaker is saying that he sees through that, and an increasing number of Americans are as well. They’re trading off one form of morality for another, when there’s really no weight giving that greater precidence. In the end, they’ll start having to face that even by their own “rules,” they’re not being any more morally correct with their choice. It’s a crack in their delusions of superiority.
The second is that Krattenmaker stabs at the very sincerity behind the movement, and that to me is indeed huge. It is indeed a massive money, power, and influence game. I think he nails it when he asserts that the leaders behind these groups are doing a really good job of creating a market for their own products. Do they actually believe in what they’re selling? Some of them sure, some others say they do, but are just putting more thought into building their own status, and then I’m sure there’s a very cynical and calculating portion that are just narcissists and sociopaths manipulating an audience to feed their own whims.They probably do hate queers but then, they usually hate a lot of other things, too. We just make a damn good boogey monster for them.
I think that the real danger to marriage is divorce and not gay marriage. I am still trying to figure out how gay marriage is going to end traditional marriage as we know it. Also, Christian colleges are now being called on the carpet by gay students and alumni for forbidding gay straight alliance organizations on campus. This has happened at Belmont University, Seattle Pacific University and Westmont College where several former alumni wrote about their experiences at that college. Oral Roberts University alumni had a group called ORU out made up of gay and lesbian former students.
“their sneering disregard for the Democratic principles of governing to the obvious will of the people.”
If we honor the “will of the people” argument, though, we are helping the anti-gay people, who are quick to cite it when things go their way. The fact of the matter is that, regardless of whether they are pro- or anti-gay rights, the “people” should not be voting on our ability to marry. The Founding Fathers knew that majorities would usually exercise their privilege to stomp on the rights of minorities, and never intended civil rights issues to be decided by the popular vote.
When Will Anti-Gay Conservative Christians Need Us More Than We Fear Them? You ask. I’ll tell you when. Its just like it has always been throughout history; liberal-minded minorities generally band together to help other minorities. Then once one minority becomes the majority, they attack the minority that helped them. If we turn back time, start throwing Christians to the lions foe entertainment and stop any progress-liberal-socialist minded group from getting involved, gay people would not be being demonized. And if this is how things went down, all religion would be gone and the world would be a better place. For those who have been helped to gain the ability to live, only hate those who are in the minority. Its just like a Jew telling the SS where Ann Frank is, or a black slave owner or a self-hating closet case Republican Christian gay making laws demonizing gays. If we didnt live in a “gimme gimme” society, we would be in a better place. Unfortunately because liberal/progressive minded folks throughout history helped others, these folks are now in charge and it is them who support the “gimme” culture. Look at how Conservative Christians/Republicans and some Democrats vote…always for corporations to trump the rights of people in the USA and around the world. I say bring back the lions! Eliminate all conservative Christians. Only the elimination of all conservative Christians will allow all Americans to be free and the world to no longer have to live in fear of the U.S.A.’s imperialist, terrorist holy war. The conservative ideology has never helped mankind in any way, it has not only never helped mankind in anyway, it has oppressed, murdered, raped and killed all those in it’s way to gain power. History shows us this. Fact shows us this. James Madison, the “Father of the U.S. Constitution”, along with many founders of this country, regardless of their religious or non-religious affiliations, knew keeping politics and religion separate not only preserves each, but helps them flourish: “The number, the industry, and the morality of the Priesthood and the devotion of the people have been manifestly increased by the total separation of the Church and the State.”
JESUS LOVES EVERYBODY! I AM THE WAY THE TRUTH AND THE LIFE AND HE THAT COMES TO ME I WILL IN NO WISE CAST OUT.COME TO ME ALL YOU WHO LABOR AND ARE HEAVY LADEN AND I WILL GIVE YOU REST.