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6 November 2006

Haggard, etc.

Responding to a thread over at Radio Open Source this morning, on the whole Ted Haggard event. The post started with an excerpt from Jeff Sharlet’s article on conservative Christian reactions to sexuality.

The oversexed female as public enemy has been replaced by the oversexed male; and in the worst case scenario, he is gay…”The gay man” is the new seductress sent by Satan to tempt the men of Christendom. He takes what he wants and loves whom he will and his life, in the imagination of Christian men’s groups, is an endless succession of orgasms, interrupted only by jocular episodes of male bonhomie. The gay man promises a guilt-free existence, the garden before Eve. He is thought to exist in the purest state of “manhood,” which is boyhood, before there were girls…

[Christian conservatives] love the gay man because he is a siren, and his song is alluring; and because they believe that the siren is nonetheless stranded at sea, singing in desperation from a slippery perch on a jagged outcrop of stone. The gay man, they imagine, is calling to them; and they believe they are calling back — as if all of human sexuality was a grand and tragic game of Marco Polo.

Jeff Sharlet, Sex as a Weapon, Nerve, 2005

And I noted the following:

Back to Ted Haggard. I have to say that I feel both pity and a sense of relief at the news. (Although when he immediately resigned his positions even while denying the allegations, I figured that he’d change his story eventually.) I feel pity for him because the closet is a frightening, god-awful place; if there is a hell, it will be like the closet, where you feel isolated, alone, cut off from God and other people by your unbearable secret. And I feel pity because I hate to see another human and another Christian in so much obvious pain.

And yet I feel relief and perhaps even some vindication, because a man who’s persecuted many people — as a means of wiping out his own perceived immorality — cannot do that anymore.

One thing that’s funny about the conservative Christian man, as Jeff Sharlet begins to touch on in the excerpt above, is how he keeps trying to sail closer and closer to that siren song. Groups like the Promisekeepers, the church “men’s group”, male-only prayer breakfast groups, and such all encourage character that many often consider “gay.” Men are supposed to open up, discuss their feelings, to bond deeply and emotionally with other men in the group, to encourage “intimacy” (of a non-sexual sort, of course) among the members, and to create that sort of bonhomie we’ve been talking about. Funnily enough, the men involved recognize the “gayness” of what they’re engaging in, and so they concurrently go deeper while still (sometimes) mocking the lack of manliness they are part of. And for gay men involved in these sorts of churches and parachurch activites, this must be like putting a sumptuous feast in front of someone who’s known nothing but rice and water for his whole life.

Conservative Christians, I think, believe that they are rescuing the sirens from their lonely outcrops, where gay men are stranded and cut off from their own humanity. But the reality seems to be that these Christians are rescuing themselves, coming closer to siren gays so that they may complete their own humanity. In some sense, it is these Christians who are stuck on the lonely outcrops of rock in the middle of an ocean, finding some redemption in that which they often resist.

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