Saturday, December 20, 2008

Rick Warren - the reason behind the anger

The kerfuffle over the inclusion of evangelical minister Rick Warren at Obama's inauguration has inspired a fair bit of writing around the blogosphere. I might as well add my two cents.

I think that the reaction to Warren's inclusion is excessive, but the strength of the reaction has a reason behind it. This reason is more than just "hysterical faggots are over-reacting to nothing", which is in some cases disturbingly close to an accurate assessment of the sentiment expressed by people telling us to quieten down.

Having spent some time reading and listening to those who oppose gay rights, there's a certain style to their rhetoric. In many, many cases, the words and language convey kindness and a desire to help, but the sentiment behind them is deeply painful to the gay target. An example is in the motivations anti-gay people ascribe to themselves: where they say they're only so opposed to homosexuals being homosexuals because they love us and want to "rescue" us from the "evils" we face by being "in the homosexual lifestyle". I wonder if it has ever even occurred to them that they just told those of us who don't want to be "rescued" that they think we're in love with our "evil". Why else would we actively resist any attempts to "rescue" us, in their opinion?

I don't know if this duel-messaging is intentional, but it comes off as passive-aggressive: publicly conveying insulting messages, but then acting deeply hurt and shocked when called out on it, insisting that they never said anything insulting at all. Anyone who's been on the receiving end of such a tactic will know how deeply infuriating it is, made all the worse when others insist that it's the target who's in the wrong for losing their temper over "nothing".

Glenn Greenwald has suggested that the existence of the controversy here "is a proxy for numerous pre-existing conflicts and agendas that have nothing to do with Rick Warren". I do think that the anger has something to do with Rick Warren, or rather with evangelical anti-gay sentiment in general. It's frustrating that an evangelical can casually say in response to a question about gay marriage that "a committed boyfriend-girlfriend relationship is not a marriage. Two lovers living together is a not a marriage. Incest is not marriage. A domestic partnership or even a civil union is still not marriage", and then we get berated for suggesting that he just equated gay marriage with incest, and get lectured that Pastor Warren "shows no indication of hate or bigotry". The frustration at that false statement from someone who claims to be on our side needs an outlet.

It's unfortunate that the outlet has become Rick Warren's presence at Obama's inauguration, because it's a symbolic gesture really matters very little, if at all. But telling gay people to "quieten down", while making ZERO effort to understand the source of their anger, no matter how misdirected it might currently be, won't make them quieten down. It'll probably make us more frustrated, and noisier, especially if you give indications that you don't see what's going on. The "loving" and "compassionate" language of evangelicals is deeply hurtful to us, and we fear that people don't see the hurt it's causing.

Please don't give us reason to believe that our fear is justified.

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