On Saturday May 14, 2005, about 100 people arrived outside Calvary Temple, an independent pentecostal church in downtown Winnipeg, to protest against a conference being held held in the church – about 400 people were expected – led by representatives of Focus on the Family. The newspaper story wasn’t clear on it, but it was a “Love Won Out” seminar. The conference animator was quoted as saying that Focus on the Family does not believe in trying to convert gays, accepts gays, but opposes gay marriage and wants to help gay people who want to walk away from the gay lifestyle. Which is not quite a denial of promoting the useless de-gay “therapies” that gay people have identified as harmful and repressive. The protesters wanted to expose what they see as the homophobic agenda of the socially conservative Christian churches, but they said they were defending freedom.

The protest was visible but peaceful, and the conference was private and peaceful. The protesters were against “homophobia” and in favour of same-sex marriage. The picture with the story showed a few of the protesters and heir hand-lettered signs, attacking Christianity (and Islam) for being repressive of sexual freedom in general and the sexual freedom of homosexuals. Staging protests outside churches and challenging right wing Christians to accept the rights of gays and lesbians is probably not useful way of changing right wing Christians. The protest was intended to shock – as the French saying has it, to épater le bourgeios. The act of shocking conventional values implies that the shocker is not only alienated from those values, but has superior values which must be taught by confrontation. The protesters were signalling that they have superior values.

There is an anti-religious sense to the idea of sexual liberation. The advocates of sexual liberation accuse Christians, Muslims, Sikhs and other practitioners of traditional religion of being intolerant and repressive. What is true is that some people disagree with other people’s moral, social, political and religious values. The rhetoric of modern liberalism is that liberal values are more enlightened, progressive, highly evolved. The modern radical is comfortably smug in accusing other people with different values of being comfortable, smug and conventional, which motivates the radical to challenge those values. The intellectual and emotional core of this kind of protest is the Romantic belief that religious beliefs repress people from finding their true sexually liberated selves while they are under the influence of a church. This protest was an act of aggression against Christians, to silence their dissenting views when they disagree with an ideology of secular liberation.

A United Church of Canada Minister (evidently a liberal member of a liberal protestant denomination) who was among the protesters – was quoted as saying “People have a right to their values and their viewpoints but when those values and viewpoints hurt other people, they need to be challenged.” She calls on a principle of social behaviour – no one can talk about other people’s social behaviour if the discussion hurts their feelings. That reasoning inverts the logic of pluralism. She is not claiming tolerance or freedom from discrimination for homosexuals. She is claiming the right to confront Christians in their churches and to challenge their morality. The more specific argument is that the gay rights community says that disagreeing with it about its ideas about gender and sexual orientation is “homophobia”, which is as bad as positive discrimination against their rights.

The protesters implied that homophobia is a psychological problem. The gay rights community is mobilized around the idea of fighting homophobia, and its members are easily motivated to get out and protest or march on that issue. It gives their community direction and cohesion. It gives them a chance to reinforce their beliefs collectively and to talk to the public about their beliefs through the media. The gay rights community has good reasons to view itself as embattled and threatened, to work to entrench its legal rights and to try to secure a less fragile standing in society than uneasy or contemptuous tolerance. Calling Christians repressed or accusing them of trying to harm gays and lesbians is conducive to respecful engagement.


One response to “Orthodoxy”

  1. garth danielson Avatar
    garth danielson

    Is there a strong anti gay movement in Canada?
    I don’t hear much about a Canadian movement down here, what I hear is that Canadians are socialist, being killed by their health care, and chain marrying gays and lesbians by the bus load. Did Canadians protest the same sex marriages much there? Here there is a continious and vicious fight against same sex marriage, in many states the elected state officials have been passing amendments to the state’s constitution banning same sex marriage. Some early legislation in Kansas was struck down by the supreme count the other day, saying bans on same sex marriage are unconstitiutional.
    There is still a lot of homophobic violence here, mental and physical, I don’t see people getting used to gays and lesbians for a long time. Humans are slow to change when they are a horde. Look how quick we solved that race thing. Here same sex marriages will lead to people marrying groups of people, or marrying animals, or marrying a carrot. This according to some local state government types, I can’t remember who said what anymore, but it was amazing, some of the house and senate debate. The further down the govenment food chain the dumber you get the dumber they seem to get. Mayors and city council people say the darnest things, and they say them out loud and on tv.
    I have felt for some time that sexual orientation is a brain thing, a cellular level thing, a hard wiring thing, not a cutural thing. I don’t have anything to back that up with that I can reference but there is so much going on in the brain that controls what we are and what we like. It’s all chemical, baby.
    I don’t see any difference in a man not liking sex with men than a man not liking to eat green beans. It’s all wired in there. For me, I don’t like green beans, they just don’t taste good, there is no way you can dress them up and make palatable, not butter, nothing. It’s the same with men, no like, not even with butter. Anyway, I think it is all the mass of chemicals that make us up and that gives us our tastes. Yummmy. It’s a genetic crap shoot, what you are going to be, roll them dice. Box cars, you don’t like green beans.
    Now this is different from learning to like something from repeated exposure. I can not be made to like green beans by repeated exposure. I did get to like Patti Smith’s Radio Ethopia from repeated listenings in james hall’s apartment. I think that these are two different things. You can change some of the ways the brain works with conditioning or chemicals, I certainly know about that, but there are somethings that just can not be changed. Messing arond with people’s brains is something to be careful with, I wouldn’t want to be subjected to a Harrison Bergeron future of behavioral and physical modification to make everyone the same, which could grow out of misguided good intentions. Me cynical. “Hey, we’re just trying to help!”
    Some guy, an old (late 60’s) conservative republican who paints the walls where I work, was talking to me one day and he said something pretty negative about Canadians being socialists, and I immediately said I was a Canadian. Haha, fun for me. I told him I left Canada when I was younger because it was too conservative for me. I didn’t tell him how socialist I was, he’s a capitalist, and I know he doesn’t like gays either.
    Most of the information that he get comes from conservative radio, where they go out of their way to put down Canadians, to keep people thinking socialized medicine will kill you, and put down Canadians because you didn’t get rush off to play in George’s war. Ironically the country that says they can do anything sure can’t seem to do many things.
    Is there much potesting going on there? It doesn’t get into the papers much either, although I have not read any papers other than the New York Times regularily in a while. I see CNN a bit everyday and read MSNBC.com several times a day, but I’d rather read the Entertainment section somedays. I listen to Public Radio and that has the most Canadian news, and that’s not much. Is there a good Canadian paper to read online?
    I am reading the sixth Mma Ramotswe book in the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith. Have you read these? I just love ’em. Set in Botswana, Precious Ramotswe opens a detective agency doing mostly domestic work, and there are often more interesting things going on in the domestic circle she has.
    Even more than the story I like the person she is. The books spend a lot of time on people’s relationships and her observations about the decay of life and how more and more people act bad and selfish and strive for riches through greed and dishonesty. She’s a wonderful character and Smith is an amazing writer, his technique is asounding to me. It’s so transparent, I’m so into the story, there is no book. You can’t get better than that.