Friday, November 03, 2006

The Cost of Homophobia

Much of the reaction I have heard from colleagues about Ted Haggard, the evangelical leader who was caught in a sex scandal has been laughter. It does seem both ironic and comical that a man who spent so much of his time preaching hate against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender folks would be, himself, caught up in a gay sex scandal.

Yet, my reaction has been one of sheer saddness. The more I hear hour after hour on the news, the more I listen to the shock and denial of his parishioners, the more I learn of his half-confessions, the sadder I become.

How sad it is that we live in a culture and Church universal that evokes so much shame and fear around sexuality, that people are cowered into living a lie. Haggard not only hid his sexuality but turned his own internalized homophobia on the queer community, working out his own issues with such vitriolic rhetoric towards those who embodied that which he most hated about himself.

What has been most heart-breaking has been the interviews with parishioners ,who despite his own acknowledgement of wrongdoing, cannot believe Haggard could do this. They believe him. They depend on him. They have built a card house of faith on the lessons he gave them and now all of that is about to come tumbling down.

I fear that this type of public outing will do no one any good. I imagine Haggard will repent of his "sexual sin," tell his faithful followers he backslid, attend a "homo-no-mo" program, and encourage parents to send their youth to these reparative therapy camps as soon as possible. Members of his congregation will grow more fearful of the specter of "homosexuality" and its threat to tempt even the most faithful among them.

No one wins under the tyranny of homophobia.


Kirk VanGilder said...

Absolutely that no one wins in this sort of situation. Like the Foley situation, I was deeply saddened to see someone's sexuality become so distorted that they would resort to such behaviors as they did.

At the same time, they're not necessarily "innocent" victims either as they did ultimately make a choice to do what they did. In Haggard's case, becoming a terrible hypocrite and betraying the trust of those who are close to him. For Foley, a much more damaging route of becoming a sexual predator...which may be explainable but not excusable for any sexual orientation.

In the midst of this, I saw the blurbs about Neil Patrick Harris saying, "Yes I'm gay...and happily living my life as a gay man." Such a contrast to the high drama and "scandal" of Haggard and Foley's coming out. Even in contrast to McGreevy's which involved a heterosexual wife and family and was couched in allegations of favoritism to his gay partner.

It'd be nice if all acts of 'coming out' could be a non-issue as Harris's was!

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