Hostility toward LGBT people has less to do with such issues as same-sex marriage and full and equal rights than it does with a Reactionary mind-set shared by those who have a tenacious adherence to the status quo, as long it they perceive that it profits them. These people are either members of, or allies of, the Power Elite.
The Power Elite is comprised of the people who have a vested interest in the status quo that they control and from which they mightily profit. Moreover, its members, in order to maintain that control, use assorted dupes and those who want to share in that power, even vicariously, in order to support it and its interests, and such dupes and allies include most of the institutional Church and its members, and all others who buy into the self-serving ideology that this Elite purveys through the media which it controls, and through the credibility that it enjoys in society.
The Power Elite possesses a reactionary mind-set as that mind-set serves its own best economic, political, and material interests. However, what is especially ironic and pathetic is that it uses those who lack critical thinking skills to serve its self-interests, making them think that it is their own interests that are being served. Moreover, most of the institutional Church, by the very fact that it is comprised of bureaucracies, attract and promote into leadership positions those who possess this reactionary-mind set!
So, we have professing Christians all too often enmeshing what they consider to be “Christianity” with the militarism, capitalism, Americanism, and jingoism that serve the Power Elite well, and they fuse what is frequently called “evangelical Christianity” with the very interests of the Power Elite, in direct contradiction to the teachings of Jesus!
And this surreal phenomenon is considered and touted by them to be the hallmark of “traditional,” “conservative,” “evangelical Christianity!”
And the Power Elite also has as a useful tactic the pitting of one minority group against another, having them cannibalize each other, thereby deflecting attention from its self-serving machinations, and having what is called “conservative Christianity” as providing the supposed biblical and moral justifications for the oppression of the minority group du jour.
In addition, we have the irrational and surreal phenomenon where we have people aligning themselves with the Power Elite by directly working against their own interests, so that we see the spectacle of some African American clergy willing to align themselves with the KKK to oppose same-sex marriage, as seen by Rev. Gregory Daniels who is quoted as having said, “If the KKK opposes gay marriage, I would ride with them.”
The reactionary mind-set of the Power Elite has even infiltrated many other African American clergy and their gullible followers who should certainly know better, so that they perversely use the very same rhetoric, justifications for, and advocacy of, discrimination against LGBT people and their acquisition of full and equal civil rights that were once used against African Americans by the allies and members of the Power Elite, and they are now willfully blind to the fact that it was those “activist judges,” “liberals,” and courageous people, Black and White, which and whom they now roundly condemn, that made possible the end of slavery and segregation.
We also have the spectacle of Gay people who are against same-sex marriage, or who align themselves with those who actively discriminate against them, such as Gay people who attend and support homophobic churches and their clergy, and/or who otherwise support and align themselves with their avowed political enemies.
The Power Elite is well able to manipulate the all too frequent shame and self-loathing among Gay people, the shame and self-loathing that they and their reactionary “religious” allies have all too successfully created, fomented, and perpetuated, just as it did among the African Americans during the times of Slavery, and later on, Segregation, of which Malcolm X so brilliantly spoke, most notably in his speech describing the difference between the “House Negro” and the “Field Negro.”
The “House Negro” was the one who loved his Master, and couldn’t do enough for him. If the Master was sick, he’d say, “What’s the matter, Master, we sick?” It was this House Negro who found it remarkable when the “Field Negro” expressed resentment against Slavery and the Master.
It was the “Field Negro” who rebelled and, as Malcolm said, “Felt the sting of the lash.” Unfortunately, among Gay people, there is the equivalent of the House Negro who is quite content with being treated as an oppressed, second-class citizen, bereft of full and equal civil and sacramental rights that “the Master” enjoys. So, we not only have the spectacle of some Gay people not favoring the right for loving same-sex couples who want to make a lifetime commitment to each other from marrying, but we also have some Gay people who seemingly willfully stick their finger in the eye of potential allies by deliberately dressing in bizarre ways for public consumption, thus reinforcing many negative stereotypes that many Straight people in their naivety have of Gay people.
The same mind-set that has hostility toward LGBT people and their acquisition of full and equal civil and sacramental rights is the mind-set that used what the “religious” reactionary White Supremacists saw in the Bible, and who then selectively used certain verses (usually without understanding the original Greek or the likely context about which those verses were written) in justifying and expressing their savagery against African Americans, both during the institutionalization of Slavery in the U.S., and in the relatively recent past during the era of Segregation and Jim Crow laws.
The same hatred shown toward African Americans in the justification of White Supremacy is the exact same hatred shown toward LGBT people and the justification of heterosexism! Some of the manifestations of that hatred are, of course, different, but the hatred and the justifications for that hatred are exactly the same!
No better most recent examples can be shown to highlight the machinations of the Power Elite by “religious” reactionaries than are contained in these two articles: See: “Evangelicals say McCain’s the one, Meeting consensus: Obama has sold out to ‘gay’ marriage, abortion” (World Net Daily, July 8, 2008) and “Church of England refuses to comment on Vatican secret talks,” Jonathan Wynne-Jones, Religious Affairs Correspondent, June 7, 2008.
In the first article, it shows how “evangelical Christians” (I put the term “evangelical” in quotation marks because that term has, unfortunately, been perverted.) are starting to organize and mobilize to support McCain for President. Clearly, they didn’t like him in the beginning of the campaign but, when the rubber hits the road, they are going to support him, and they are now providing to themselves as well as to others their justifications in so doing.
Part of the article, reads as follows: “‘Our shared conservative evangelical values and our concern about judicial activism compelled us to unite around the presidential candidate who most closely aligns with us,’ [Matthew] Staver [President of Liberty Council] said. ‘That candidate is obviously Sen. John McCain. United we will move forward to advance our values in the short- and long-term. We are committed to a trans-generational, multiethnic and multiracial conservative movement.’
“The report said some of the Christian leaders were irked by the fact ‘Obama has reached out to evangelical leaders more than McCain.’ But it confirmed others expressed support for McCain, ‘because an Obama presidency would mean passage of highly liberal policies that would probably allow “same-sex marriage,” severely hurt religious freedom and ensure the appointment of only judges who would keep abortion on demand as the law of the land.’
“‘Rick Scarborough, founder and president of Vision America, predicted that laws would be passed that would essentially criminalize basic Christian beliefs,’ Strang’s report said.”
By portraying Christianity as being under attack, they are using the same rationale and tactics as was used by White Supremacists in creating an “enemy” so that they could portray themselves as victims of a grave threat that only by electing someone who had a mind-set like theirs, regardless of religious or spiritual commitment, could help remedy. Such a portrayal not only garners increased revenue for religious reactionaries, the handmaidens of the Power Elite, but helps enable them to ensure the status quo that they perceive will keep them in control and help keep the minority group(s) they despise under their thumb, so as to maintain their influence and control of most of the institutional Church, maintain what they tout as the moral high ground, and maintain their definition of “Christianity” in the public’s mind.
Flagrant disregard of life and limb lost in an unjust and immoral war doesn’t seem to bother these public advocates for the rights of the unborn! The irony of their seeming to care for pre-born babies doesn’t seem to carry over to their caring for the countless thousands who have already been killed and maimed in the Iraq war, and the many yet likely to be killed and maimed if John McCain becomes President.
What is important to them is to maintain their mind-set of exclusion of “the other,” their constructed enemy, be that “other” African Americans, women, LGBT people, or whatever enemy they seek to construct so as to maintain both their hegemony in society, and to help assure that the existing social structure continues to favor them and their ideology, an ideology that has relatively little to do with their “Christian” profession, and certainly nothing to do with Christianity itself!
The contradiction of their professed “Christianity” with their politics has been seen throughout history, so it should come as no surprise that in the article entitled, “Church of England refuses to comment on Vatican secret talks,” by Jonathan Wynne-Jones, that appeared in the July 11, 2008 edition of “The Telegraph,” we read:
“Senior Church of England bishops have held secret talks with Vatican officials to discuss the crisis in the Anglican communion over gays and women bishops.
“They met senior advisers of the Pope in an attempt to build closer ties with the Roman Catholic Church, The Sunday Telegraph has learnt.
“Dr. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, was not told of the talks and the disclosure will be a fresh blow to his efforts to prevent a major split in the Church of England.
“In highly confidential discussions, a group of conservative bishops expressed their dismay at the liberal direction of the Church of England and their fear for its future.
“They met members of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the most powerful of the Vatican’s departments, the successor to the medieval Inquisition, which enforces doctrine and was headed by Pope Benedict XVI before his election.
“The names of the bishops are known to The Sunday Telegraph, but they have asked for anonymity because the talks are of such a sensitive and potentially explosive nature.
“The disclosure comes on the eve of a critical vote as members of the General Synod the Church’s parliament prepare to decide whether to allow women to be bishops without giving concessions to staunch opponents.
“Up to 600 clergy gave warning in a letter to Dr Williams that they may leave the Church unless they receive a legal right to havens within the Church free of women bishops.
“In separate developments, three diocesan bishops wrote to the archbishop supporting the threat and two other bishops have said they are preparing to leave the Church. The letter from the Bishops of Chichester, Blackburn and Europe – seen by The Sunday Telegraph – argues that traditionalist clergy will not be able to “maintain an honoured place” in the Church without sufficient legislation.”
So the hostility “traditional” clergy in the Church of England have toward LGBT rights, such as the ordination of Gay people and same-sex marriage, is seamlessly related to their hostility toward women becoming Bishops, thereby reinforcing the basic misogyny behind much of the homophobia that exists.
The issues aren’t women and Gays, per se but, rather, the desire for control within the social structure(s) in which those with the reactionary mind-set find themselves!
We all want some degree of control over our lives, and we want our ideas to be taken seriously by others. However, there is a reactionary mind-set that requires those who possess it to have control over other people, and who thereby seek to impose their self-serving and naked self-interests on the rest of society and/or their denomination, even at the expense and contradiction of their profession of being “Christians” who trust in God, or any other laudable ideology that they profess.
So, just as “evangelicals” largely getting behind McCain for President, self-styled “conservative” Bishops and clergy in the Anglican Communion are seeking possible alignment with the Roman Catholic Church, a Church from which their forebears largely dissociated. It is not unlikely that the self-styled “traditionalists” or “conservatives” will now seek some way of affiliating with an organization quite well-known for its comfort with, and institutionalization of, the reactionary mind-set.
Rather than call themselves “Reactionaries” or worse, they call themselves “evangelicals” or even “Christians,” all the while not seeing the basic contradiction between their love of power and their professed love of God!
They can condone, or turn a blind eye to, the torture and killing of others, all the while portraying themselves as “the victims” of those [whom they derisively call “liberals”] who seek to stop that torturing and killing; they seek to take the high ground in public discourse, all the while seeking to deprive others of the full and equal civil and sacramental rights that they, themselves, enjoy; they state that they are “traditional Christians,” all the while seeking power within their Church and/or society, and not trusting God and the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of that Church and in that society; in the name of “Christianity” they perversely bow down to Caesar and aid him in maintaining a status quo from which he mightily benefits!
We must finally come to realize that the enemy we are fighting, the enemy that oppresses us does so, not especially because we are women, Black, Italian, Jewish, Mexican, poor, immigrants, or Gay but, rather, that “oppression” is what that enemy, the possessor of that reactionary mind-set, routinely does, and has historically done, to gain and maintain power within society and/or the institutional Church!
Once we understand this phenomenon and how we all have a personal stake in the acquisition of equal rights for members of each and every non-predatory minority group, it will be at that point that all of us who are members of minority groups (and that’s most of us in the U.S.) will see our commonality with each other and begin to work together in the fight against our common enemy: the Power Elite (and its allies), comprised of those who possess the Reactionary mind-set and who ferociously seek to maintain their control over others at any cost in order to keep their privileged positions!
Professor Emeritus of Sociology at California State University, Chico, Rev. Dr. Jerry S. Maneker served as an ordained priest in the Congregational Catholic Church, a division of the Independent Catholic Churches International (ICCI). For many years he published a weekly column in the Sacramento Valley Mirror titled “Christianity and Society” where he dealt with a variety of social issues from a biblical and sociological perspective. He also published a blog called A Christian Voice for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Rights and the website Radical Christianity.