Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Watch out or you'll get the splash!

Recently I drove to Memphis delivering my beloved Mazda 626 to my parents, because I am a good son. Since I am a wimp, I needed to stop over in Sevierville, TN to stay the night. Instead of staying in my hotel room and reading like a good student, I got on gay.com and proceeded to hunt down an “activity partner” for the night. For those of you who are unaware of Sevierville (I would hope that is all of you), it is the second gaudiest place on earth right after Pigeon Forge which is situated down the road and home to Dollywood and Dolly Pardon’s enormous tits.

The guy I met was named Andy, an Indonesian communications design student at some school I had never heard of. When he picked me up, he asked if he could use the bathroom in my hotel. I kindly obliged. Upon enter the room, he darted into the bathroom and locked the door. Under the impression that he in there for a mere no. 1, I was alarmed when his time exceeded five minutes. In the bathroom I could hear his belt buckle clanking, then I heard the toilet flush, then the shower was on, then it was off, then toilet flushed again, then the shower again, then he was running bath water, then the toilet again, and finally a clank of the belt buckle and he was done. My first impression was that due to his Indonesian upbringing, he had yet to master the use of modern plumbing. Another possibility was that he confused the toilet with the bathtub. What was obvious was that he grossly underestimated what he could get away with in this country and it not be considered weird.

After his love affair with the toilet, we went to see House of Wax. We were both excited to see Paris Hilton get killed or take it up the ass, hard. While waiting in line, he ran to the bathroom and when he returned, he informed me that he had had ‘Golden Coral’ for lunch. I concluded that he must have had GC revenge – serves him right for eating at a buffet with tourists. My suspicions were validated when I saw him pop an Imodium AD in the car, after which I was invited to make-out without tongue. I graciously declined. Incidentally, House of Wax was amazingly bad, but I loved it and realized I hated Sevierville when I was the only person in the theater laughing when Paris Hilton had a spear thrown through her head.

The next day I arrived at the household that coined the phrase: “Whatever, herpes.” According to my mother the dog (Saddy, aka PeePa) had been cleaning the house all day preparing for my visit.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Focus on the (we are) Family: the Emergence of Hofstadter’s Paranoid Style in the Same-Sex Marriage Debate

The central image is that of a vast and sinister conspiracy, a gigantic and yet subtle machinery of influence set in motion to undermine and destroy a way of life.[1]

- Richard Hofstadter

…we find ourselves in a terrible battle of a different sort, but one that also threatens the very existence of our society. This struggle is not being fought with guns and bombs, but with ideas, with creative uses of the law, and with methods of intimidation. It is a battle for the very soul of the nation.[2]

- James Dobson

It seems to me the issue of same-sex marriage is the most polarized debate in public discourse. On one side, you have the gay and lesbian community with claims of discrimination, fighting for what they believe is their basic right necessary for the pursuit of happiness. On the other side, you have the Christian Right[3] arguing for traditional “values,” maintaining the legalization of same-sex marriage will under-cut the moral fiber of the country, destroy the venerable institution of marriage, and bring about the end of the family as we know it. What factors lead the Christian Right to such conclusions? Why does the Christian Right fear the legalization of same-sex marriage? Are these fears rooted in an ideological belief based on a biblical interpretation that considers homosexuality a sin, or are they based on more complex sociological and psychological factors? This paper will shed light on these questions by examining the paranoid style surrounding the debate over mainstream acceptance of homosexuality and the legalization of same-sex marriage.

As I was considering exactly how I was going to approach this project, I considered several different angles. At first I wanted to look at Repent America[4] and their militant stance against homosexuality. For a project of this nature, the organization seemed too transparent and there was not enough source material to analyze. After looking into the marriage issue, I became aware of a highly influential organization in the opposition to homosexuality and same-sex marriage legalization: Focus on the Family[5]. Thumbing through some of their magazines, perusing their website, and reading several books authored by Focus’ founder Dr. James Dobson, convinced me that they are scared to death of gay marriage. I then read Richard Hofstadter’s The Paranoid Style in American Politics, and realized when dealing with homosexuality and same-sex marriage, Focus on the Family fits the paranoid style.

In this paper I will bring to your attention what Focus on the Family is saying about homosexuality and same-sex marriage, how they are communicating their message, and how that message fits Hofstadter’s paranoid style to a tee. The push for the right to marry from the gay community, part of what Focus on the Family calls “the homosexual agenda,” is being countered by various media outlets such as radio and television broadcasts, recordings, films, websites, books, pamphlets, newsletters, and magazines. One in particular, Focus on the Family Citizen[6] magazine, is described by Focus as providing “a biblical perspective on national and local news as well as offer techniques for grassroots activism.”[7] Even a casual perusal of this magazine will bring the reader to the conclusion that the most important public policy issue in the eyes of Focus is same-sex marriage. One quarter of the content in the ten issues of the magazine leading up to the 2004 presidential election (February-November) is devoted to same-sex issues. This volume of content clearly indicates that Focus views the same-sex issue as vitally important to their political goals. This magazine will provide me with some of the source material for the project.

Also, James Dobson has written many books, two of which I will examine in this study: The Complete Marriage and Family Home Reference Guide[8] and Marriage Under Fire: Why We Must Win This Battle. Both these books provide excellent insight into the beliefs and ideology of Focus on the Family and James Dobson and will serve as relevant source material.

In 1977 James Dobson, a Ph.D. in child development, created the organization Focus on the Family citing his “increasing concern for the American family.”[9] According to the Focus website, “Judicial tyranny, the homosexual agenda, pornography and gambling are among the front burner issues that threaten the foundation of the family.”[10] From its humble beginning as a twenty-five-minute radio program, Focus on the Family has since grown to a highly influential international organization that produces seven radio programs, distributes ten magazines to more than 2.3 million people a month, and creates hundreds of other books, films and videos. Also, Focus boasts seventy-four different ministries that engage in various ends ranging from marriage counseling to political activism.

As a whole, Focus on the Family is concerned with preserving the nuclear family, as they believe it is the best environment for men to realize their full potential, women to gain confidence to live responsibly, and children to grow into productive adults.[11] Focus sees homosexuality as one of the largest threats against the family today. In order to combat this perceived threat (and others), Focus created the Government and Public Policy Ministry, and more recently, Focus on the Family Action[12]. Through these ministries, their intention is to effect change in public policy that will remove the threat to the “traditional family.”

According to the November 2004 Focus on the Family Action Update[13], which recapped Focus’ involvement in the 2004 presidential election, the key issues were “strengthening” the Senate, the passage of the Federal Marriage Amendment, and the passage of state sponsored ballot initiatives to “define” marriage as between one man and one woman. The newsletter outlines the tactics used to advance their political goals. Six rallies were held and five million letters, emails and postcards were distributed in support of “pro-family” senatorial candidates. Eight million legislative voter guides were distributed in nineteen states, signature gathering campaigns for ballot initiatives to ban same-sex marriage were conducted, and 300,000 last-minute letters were distributed to the constituents of the eleven states with ballot initiatives. Additionally, listeners of Dobson’s radio program were “repeatedly” reminded to vote on November 2nd, “and to vote specifically in favor of the marriage amendments on the ballots.”[14] Prior to the vote on the Federal Marriage Amendment, full-page ads were taken out in home state newspapers of fifteen senators reading: “Why Don’t Senators Daschle and Johnson Believe Every Child Needs a Mother and a Father?”[15] Senator Daschle became the first Senate party leader to lose his seat since 1952, due no doubt in no small part to Focus’ involvement. All these measures were implemented to counter what they saw as a threat to the “institution of marriage.” Why would an organization take such measures to prevent people from marrying? Richard Hofstadter has an explanation in his essay The Paranoid Style in American Politics.

In his essay, Hofstadter describes the paranoid style as the perception of a vast conspiracy that is in motion to undermine society. He examines several movements in American history that demonstrated the paranoid style: the Bavarian Illuminati, the anti-Masonic movement, anti-Catholic movement, and McCarthyism. Then, in the last section, he describes a person, group, or movement that has espoused the paranoid style in general terms. I will refer to those collectively and individually as the “paranoid.”

The paranoid is someone who sees a vast conspiracy set into motion by demonic forces and views it in apocalyptic terms, which cannot be dealt with by normal means, but rather requires a “crusade.” For the paranoid, time is running out, much like the millenarians. Manichean in nature, he believes conflict cannot be mitigated, viewing it as being between absolute good and absolute evil – the enemy must be totally eliminated. His need for an unqualified victory against the enemy inevitably leads to a heightened sense of frustration.

The paranoid’s view of his enemy is “clearly delineated [as]…a perfect model of malice, a kind of amoral superman: sinister, ubiquitous, powerful, cruel, sensual, luxury-loving.”[16] The enemy is viewed as the catalyst for crises, bank failures, and depressions. Most interesting is that the enemy is believed to possess a special technique for seduction and has “some especially effective source of power.”[17] He either controls the press or controls the public through filtered news or some other form of media that would lend itself to brainwashing. Often viewed as a projection of the self, the paranoid sees the enemy as everything that is unacceptable and that can be wholly condemned. “The sexual freedom often attributed to him [the enemy], his lack of moral inhibition, his possession of especially effective techniques for fulfilling his desires, gives exponents of the paranoid style an opportunity to project and freely express unacceptable aspects of their own minds.”[18] The converted enemy, however, is a special object of obsession for the paranoid. He views a convert as someone who “has been in the secret world of the enemy.”[19] The highest level of credulity and significance is attached to the person, as he/she represents the verification of the paranoid’s suspicions and signifies victory.

Lastly, the paranoid, in order to counter the enemy, produces scholarship of a professional standard. This particular brand of paranoid pedantry follows a particular procedure. Starting with a defensible assumption, the paranoid carefully accumulates facts, and leads those facts toward overwhelming “proof” of conspiracy. But at some critical point in events, the paranoid makes a characteristic leap in imagination failing to provide a clear causal relationship between evidence and their claim.

Focus on the Family has espoused the paranoid style when it comes to homosexuals and same-sex marriage. But before I apply this framework to Dr. James Dobson and Focus on the Family, I want to look at some of the scholarship on gay marriage, the Christian Right, and the intersection of the gay rights movement with the conservative Christian movement.

The debate over same-sex marriage is not a new one. The public debate, at least in the courts, began with the 1967 Supreme Court ruling on Loving v. Virginia. In this case, the Supreme Court struck down antimiscegenation laws ruling they violated equal protection. Chief Justice Earl Warren writes in the unanimous opinion, “The freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men…”[20] This case set the foundation for the right to marry debate, drawing an analogy between the struggle for civil rights by the African-American community and the fight for the right to marry by same-sex couples. More importantly, this case marks the beginning of what Nancy Cott, a professor of history at Harvard University and author of Public Vows: A History of Marriage and the Nation,[21] calls the “disestablishment” of marriage.[22] Borrowing the term from religious history (disestablished churches refer to those once endorsed by the state and supported by a church tax), she explains a particular model of marriage long supported is in the process of being disestablished.

The disestablishment ends where the debate over same-sex marriage begins. Lawmakers influenced by a Judeo-Christian ideal of marriage provide much of the opposition to same-sex marriage. Cott writes, “In the 1996 debate [over the Defense of Marriage Act] as in the past, observance of Christian-model monogamy was made to stand for customary boundaries in society, morality, and civilization.”[23] Those who opposed the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996, which defined marriage as between one man and one woman and extended the right to states not to recognize same-sex unions from other states, argued marriage was a basic right necessary for the pursuit of happiness and Congress had no right interfering with private relationships. The idea of marriage as a private affair affected by public policy is the main thesis of Cott’s work. She shows how judges and legislators use public policy to define marriage and provide incentives for specific forms of marriage. In the end, marriage is viewed as a public institution shaped by policy choices and political rhetoric.[24]

While Nancy Cott’s important contribution is to the marriage literature at large, Andrew Sullivan’s contribution is to the literature of same-sex marriage. Sullivan’s works are indicative of the popular scholarship that exists on same-sex marriage: it is partisan in nature. In his famous essay Here Comes the Groom: A (Conservative) Case for Gay Marriage,[25] Sullivan presents his “conservative case” for the legalization of same-sex marriage. He argues without the legalization of same-sex marriage, instances where courts are forced to “define” the nature of same-sex relationships, because of the absence of marriage as an option, threaten to devalue marriage. Furthermore, the rise of domestic partnerships as an alternative “chips away at the prestige of traditional relationship.” He feels that same-sex marriage will stabilize the lives of homosexuals, foster a greater sense of responsibility in their lives, and bring them closer to their family, given their participation in a shared institution.[26] In his book Virtually Normal,[27] Sullivan argues the public recognition of same-sex love is a basic human right.

A work key to my understanding of the ideological battle over mainstream acceptance of homosexuality and same-sex marriage is Thomas Linneman’s Weathering Change: Gays and Lesbians, Christian Conservatives, and Everyday Hostilities.[28] A sociological study of the intersection of the homosexual community and Christian conservatives in Seattle and Spokane, Washington, Linneman’s insightful work sheds light on why Christian conservatives view the progress of the gay rights movement as a threat. He discovers the Christian Right is more concerned with gays and lesbians than the reverse, indicating an imbalance in the concern gays and lesbians have for the Christian Right compared to the concern the Christian Right has over gays and lesbians. He suggests that conservative Christians’ belief that the media and the government treat the gay and lesbian social movement more favorably than their own Christian social movement is a catalyst for the animosity directed toward the gay community by the Christian Right. This jealousy is exacerbated by the evangelical interpretation of the Bible by the Christian Right. It is their view that they must hate the sin but not the sinner, and as a result, resolution of this conflict has no possibility so long as this interpretive framework is in place. I find this work helpful as it helps me understand the nature of the conflict in real terms.

Didi Herman’s The Antigay Agenda: Orthodox Vision and the Christian Right[29] adds to the discussion of works dealing with the battle between the homosexual community and the Christian Right. In this book she examines the roots of antigay activism, explores the history of gays and lesbians in conservative Christian discourse, looks at how the Christian Right portrays gay and lesbian sexuality, examines the secularization of Christian politics, and analyzes how the Christian Right shapes antigay politics through journalism, politics, and rhetoric. She makes note of Focus on the Family’s use of Citizen to advance the antigay agenda. Evidence supporting Linneman’s claim the Christian Right believes that the media and government are biased toward the gay rights movement can be found in a 1993 issue of Citizen devoted entirely to the subject.[30]

Surprisingly, there is a large amount of literature on antigay rhetoric and how the Christian Right uses media to accomplish their political goals. The rhetoric surrounding same-sex marriage from the antigay side is obviously at odds with the progay side. The concept that each side of the debate is significantly influenced by the other is a theory put forth by authors of Progay/Antigay: The Rhetorical War Over Sexuality.[31] What is compelling about their arguments is the idea that the progay movement has adopted an essentialist, nonsexual identity, whereas the antigay movement has shifted toward a secular self-representation. Central to their thesis is both sides vilify the other as a result of “mutual incomprehension.” The progay side views the antigay camp as bigoted hatemongers, whereas the antigay side views the homosexual community as liberal activists seeking special treatment.

In understanding the strategies the Christian Right employ to accomplish their political goals, America’s Right Turn: How Conservatives Used New and Alternative Media to Take Power[32] by Richard Viguerie and David Franke is particularly helpful. The authors outline instructions for creating mass movements by first motivating people with a powerful issue and second gathering “a dedicated vanguard” of eager intellectuals. The beginnings of the modern conservative movement can be traced back to the Goldwater campaign in 1964. Though an abysmal failure, the campaign garnered support to the tune of 27 million voters – this is attributed to the used of alternative methods or what Viguerie calls “guerrilla warfare.” After the creation of the Viguerie Company by tapping the contributors to the Goldwater campaign, Viguerie along with other like-minded companies, through grassroots direct mail campaigns, lifted the movement to the point where they were able to have Ronald Reagan elected to office. Direct mailing has since led to more modern approaches such as cable television and the internet. This book aids in a greater understanding of how the Christian Right uses the media.

My description of the paranoid style earlier, laid out the characteristics of the “paranoid.” In the sections to follow, I will outline Focus on the Family’s paranoid style within Hofstadter’s framework. As it is important to establish the vast conspiracy in terms of the “homosexual agenda,” I will begin the discussion with the event that inspired the title of this paper, although it is not overtly connected to the debate over same-sex marriage. It is difficult to divorce the debate against the “homosexual agenda” from the debate against same-sex marriage, as the two are intertwined.

On January 19, 2005, James Dobson spoke at a black-tie dinner celebrating the election results hosted by Tony Perkins and the Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, and Gary Bauer’s American Values for members of Congress and political allies. There he asked, “Does anybody here know SpongeBob?” and then segued into his belief that a video produced by the We Are Family Foundation (WAFF)[33] depicting SpongeBob along with many other children’s television characters dancing and singing along to Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family” promoted the homosexual agenda. According to the New York Times[34], the video was to be mailed to thousands of elementary schools to promote a tolerance pledge that includes tolerance for sexual orientation.

Nile Rodgers, who wrote “We Are Family” and produced the video, thinks Dobson’s concern for the video may stem from a misunderstanding involving an unrelated organization called We Are Family that works with gay youth. If this misunderstanding were the case then Dobson’s comments could be dismissed as a mistake, but Paul Batura, Dobson’s assistant, released the statement: “We see the video as an insidious means by which the organization is manipulating and potentially brainwashing kids. It is a classic bait and switch.”[35] Then, Dobson wrote in his February newsletter aptly titled ‘Setting the Record Straight,’

"The video itself is innocent enough and does not mention anything overtly sexual. Rather, it features the children’s cartoon characters singing and dancing along to the popular disco hit "We Are Family."…But while the video is harmless on its own, I believe the agenda behind it is sinister. My brief comments at the FRC gathering were intended to express concern not about SpongeBob or Big Bird or any of their other cartoon friends, but about the way in which those childhood symbols are apparently being hijacked to promote an agenda that involves teaching homosexual propaganda to children."[36]

Dobson further explained that the WAFF is allied with many progay organizations and is engaged in distributing pro-homosexual materials to schools. He warns the reader to not bother verifying the information as it has been removed from WAFF website. In short, Dobson is implicating the WAFF with furthering the homosexual agenda and then covering it up.

Though Dr. Dobson’s evidence is somewhat compelling, the aim of WAFF is to promote tolerance not acceptance. The mission statement on the WAFF website states they are only interested in “educat[ing] individuals of all ages about diversity, understanding, respect and multiculturalism.” The homosexual agenda is to gain acceptance, not just tolerance.

True, the song “We Are Family” has long been a gay mantra. The popularity of the song among the gay community, aside from its upbeat tempo, has origins in the fact that many of their biological families have disowned them and in turn many members of the gay community qualify their gay counterparts as their family. What this points to is the deeper fear within the Christian Right that the gay community is actively engaged in recruiting members (children). This fear is viewed as preposterous by the gay community and is evident in the toaster oven myth: a myth asserting the existence of a “gay mafia” that is actively engaged in recruiting people into the “homosexual lifestyle.” According to the myth, for every ten people a homosexual recruits to the “lifestyle,” he/she receives a toaster oven.

An important figure to the paranoid is the converted enemy. In this case the homosexual is the enemy and the ex-gay is of integral importance. Focus on the Family has taken the stance that homosexuality is a learned behavior brought on by a number of psychological influences, but centers around the childhood relationship with the homosexual’s father. Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, president of NARTH: National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality[37] and close ally with Dobson and Focus, has authored numerous books and produced a great deal of psychological pedantry which I will discuss later. His theories on homosexual rehabilitation have been a significant influence on Focus’ “ex-gay ministries.”

Through therapy, printed materials, and conferences, Focus is actively engaged in converting homosexuals into heterosexuals. One such vehicle is their Love Won Out conference.[38] Described on the website:

"Focus on the Family is promoting the truth that homosexuality is preventable and treatable — a message routinely silenced today. We want people to know that individuals don't have to be gay. That's why we've developed a one-day conference for those looking for answers on this often-divisive issue. Whether you are an educator, parent, concerned citizen or even a gay activist, Love Won Out will inform, inspire and offer you hope."[39]

Speakers at the conference include Mike Haley and Melissa Fryrear, both of whom I will discuss in more detail, and an onslaught of Ph.D.’s including Joseph Nicolosi.

Mike Haley, director of the Homosexuality and Gender department for Focus’ Public Policy division and chairman of the board of Exodus International[40], is a key figure in Focus’ ex-gay ministry. In an article written in Citizen magazine entitled “Now that’s a Family,”[41] Haley is described as a man who lived as a homosexual for twelve years and now, after rehabilitation, is a married man and father of three. As a child, Haley was taunted by his father, referred to as his third daughter because he refused to play sports. Due to the rejection of his father he befriended another older man for validation, and the relationship quickly became sexual. Haley turned to his guidance counselor wanting to be freed of unwanted homosexual feelings, but he was told there was nothing he could do about it. At that point he began a “12-year homosexual binge involving hundreds of partners and – at its lowest point – even male prostitution.” Plagued by a fear his partner would leave him for someone younger and more attractive, he began using steroids and became bulimic. He entered into rehabilitative therapy and became straight.

Currently Haley works as an activist dispelling the “myth” that homosexuals cannot be released from their lifestyle. The Citizen article claims gay activists do not want Haley to promote his message, claiming that everything they stand for hangs in the balance with him. Focus believes that because this apparent emotionally disturbed individual made a life change that it proves homosexuality can be beaten and therefore no special rights should be extended to the gay community.

Another key individual is Melissa Fryrear, a gender issues analyst for Focus. She is another ex-gay who lived as a lesbian for ten years. Emotional alienation from her adoptive parents and “bad experiences” with men are what she thinks are to blame for her foray into homosexuality. She claims homosexuals want the right to marry for purposes of validation. She thinks this validation is sought after because homosexuals believe they were born gay, but Fryrear saw through the “deception” and is now straight. She echoes Dobson in her belief that homosexuals are out to destroy the institution of marriage because of their “disdain for heterosexuality.”[42] She further explains how the lack of positive heterosexual models, in most cases incestuous abuse, lead to homosexuality. Ultimately, she claims the entire gay rights movement is based on a pursuit of emotional and psychological validation.

Focus on the Family has taken two people who embody everything they see as wrong with homosexuality. On one hand they have Mike Haley, an emotionally disturbed, bulimic, steroid using, male prostitute and on the other Melissa Fryrear, an adopted, sexually abused child. Both these individuals had troubled childhoods not typical among anyone straight or gay. In both cases, the worst possible situation has been converted into the best possible. Their pre-conversion state acts as verification of the Focus’ suspicions, as these individuals possess insider information: proof that homosexuality is born out of psychological turmoil and damaging to the individuals who adopt the lifestyle. The post-conversion state indicates victory to Focus: homosexuality is treatable and preventable.

Another resource employed by Focus on the Family to promote their antigay position is their pedantry. Any discussion of Focus cannot be done without mentioning their vast media output. As I mentioned earlier, Focus produces numerous radio programs, videos, books, and magazines. I have discussed some of these in detail: Citizen and several of Dobson’s books. What is compelling is the amount of homosexually themed materials they produce. On the Focus on the Family website, the area designated for the sale and distribution of these materials is called “Resources.”[43] Under this section there are twelve major headings, one of which is “Homosexuality.” There are forty different resources available on homosexuality.

Many of the books available trough Focus are psychological pseudo-scholarship. A book written by the aforementioned Dr. Joseph Nicolosi and his wife Linda, A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality[44], traces the alleged “causes” of homosexuality. The book discusses cases of ex-gays like Mike Haley and examines their childhood. Other resources produced by Nicolosi are brochures entitled The Truth Comes Out and The Heart of the Matter. Both parade as scientific fact “exposing” the causes of homosexuality. There are four other sister brochures available as well: Teaching Captivity; How Should We Respond?; Straight Answers; and When A Loved One Says, 'I'm Gay'. All these brochures are designed to equip the reader with the “truth” on homosexuality as well as ways to cope with gay loved ones.

Another book, written by Mike Haley, 101 Frequently Asked Questions About Homosexuality[45], draws on his special status as a converted enemy. Touted as required reading, the book “answers” such questions as, “What is homosexuality?” and “Our son has just told us he is gay, so what do we do now?” He is regarded as an expert in the reviews of this book due to being a “practicing homosexual.”

Dr. Dobson, in his book the Complete Marriage and Family Home Reference Guide, a book on family, devotes an entire chapter to homosexuality. The book is organized in a question/answer format. When asked if homosexuality is innate, he responded, “so what?” He continually advocates the slippery slope argument, and thinks that one could argue that a pedophile may have innate sexual feelings for children and would need to be accepted if homosexuality was. He is forgetting to compare apples to apples. Where homosexuality is between two consenting adults, pedophilia is rape! He also compares homosexuality to alcoholism – he thinks just because someone is genetically predisposed, does not make it right.

In another question, he is responding to a letter written by a gay Christian asking why Focus is not more accepting of homosexuals. Dobson claims the only interpretation of the Bible is antigay. He writes that he is “in sharp disagreement with the more radical elements of the [gay rights] movement. The effort to redefine the family, qualify for adoption, promote the homosexual lifestyle in the schools, etc., are objectives with which I disagree.”[46] I assure you, the gay community is only promoting acceptance, not “utter destruction.” Dobson feels the gay community cannot claim they are being discriminated against because “[t]he average homosexual earns $55,000 per year, compared with $32,000 for heterosexuals.”[47] This is a figure he got from a July 18, 1991 Wall Street Journal article entitled Overcoming a Deep-Rooted Reluctance, More Firms Advertise to the Gay Community[48] – bear in mind Complete Marriage was originally published in 1997 and then republished in 2000. He also feels due to the gay community’s political clout they were able to secure funding for AIDS research over coronary disease and stroke research. What Dr. Dobson fails to recognize is that the causes of both heart attacks and strokes are well known and easily prevented with nutrition and exercise in most cases. AIDS, on the other hand, is an evasive, deadly disease that is not primarily homosexual. This “jealousy” fits into Linneman’s social movement conflict thesis nicely.

Perhaps the most important piece of pedantry on the topic of same-sex marriage is Dobson’s Marriage Under Fire. The cover of the book is evidence of the belief that homosexuals are out to destroy marriage. It depicts a man’s and woman’s wedding band in the crosshairs of a riffle. The war imagery is typical with Dobson, and is consistent with Linneman’s findings in Weathering Change. The two social movements are competing for their opposing views. These two examples show the perception of a conspiracy by Dobson and Focus on the Family and indicate a level of fear that same-sex marriage will open a floodgate of undesired side effects.

In this book Dobson outlines the threats to marriage as he sees them and provides possible solutions to win the battle. He claims the homosexual agenda is not to gain the right to marry, but to destroy marriage altogether. “For nearly sixty years,” he writes, “the homosexual activist movement and related entities have been working to implement a master plan that has had as its centerpiece the utter destruction of the family.”[49] He then explains the “goals include universal acceptance of the gay lifestyle, the discrediting of Scriptures that condemn homosexuality, muzzling of the clergy and Christian media, granting of special privileges and rights in the law, overturning laws prohibiting pedophilia, indoctrination of children and future generations through public education, and securing all the legal benefits of marriage for any two or more people who claim to have homosexual tendencies.”[50]

The characteristic leap occurs in his discussion of why he thinks that the legalization of same-sex marriage will be the end of the family and society as we know it. “Only in the last few years have two countries, the Netherlands and Belgium, actually legalized what is called ‘gay marriage’ and given equal status with traditional male-female unions. The impact of that vast sociological experiment is no longer speculative.”[51] He makes a jump to explaining that the institution of marriage is “rapidly dying” in Norway, Denmark, and Sweden. He provides no empirical evidence except that in some parts of Norway, 80 percent of firstborn children are conceived outside of marriage. I would suspect that that is true of the United States. He provides some even weaker evidence by indicating that most young couples are cohabitating or choosing to remain single. I find it hard to believe that a person is going to decide not to marry because of the existence of same-sex marriage. This is most likely the result of scapegoating the decline in the state of marriage that has been occurring onto the gay community.

Dobson provides eleven reasons why same-sex marriage should not be legalized.

1. The legalization of homosexual marriage will quickly destroy the traditional family.

2. Children will suffer most.

3. Public Schools in every state will embrace homosexuality.

4. Adoption laws will be instantly obsolete.

5. Foster-care programs will be impacted dramatically.

6. The health care system will stagger and perhaps collapse.

7. Social Security will be severely stressed.

8. Religious freedom will almost certainly be jeopardized.

9. Other nations are watching our march toward homosexual marriage and will follow our lead.

10. The Gospel of Jesus Christ will be severely curtailed.

11. The culture war will be over, and the world may soon become “as it was in the days of Noah” (Matthew 24:37).[52]



These speak for themselves, but I want to expand on a couple of them.

His first concern is that same-sex marriage will destroy the traditional family. He cites the Scandinavian-counties example again and then agues three points. First, that legalization is a form of state sanctioned validation. This, he fears, will reduce marriage to a legal arrangement on par with a cell phone contract. Second, he evokes the pervasive slippery slope argument that same-sex unions will open the door to polygamy, bestiality, and group marriage (polyamory). Again he fails to realize that the government should not be regulating what occurs between/among consenting adults – an animal is not a consenting adult. Third, he feels that it is the ultimate goal of the gay community to destroy traditional marriage. “The homosexual agenda is not marriage for gays,” he writes, “It is marriage for no one.”[53]

The other point I want to discuss is the alleged collapse of the healthcare system. He feels the legalization of same-sex marriage would flood the healthcare system with new dependents. “Every HIV-positive patient needs only to find a partner,” he writes, “to receive the same coverage as offered to an employee.”[54] He concludes with saying the entire healthcare system could implode.

I want to address his use of stereotype. True, in the 80s many gay men contracted HIV due to a lack of education and the Reagan administration denial of the problem. Since then, the AIDS epidemic has grown to include all walks of life – it can no longer be considered exclusively homosexual, nor can homosexuals be generalized as AIDS victims. Furthermore, if all homosexuals were to do what he wanted them to do – repent, become straight, and get married – it would have the same effect that he is claiming will happen. Dr. Dobson is trying to draw conclusions on phenomena he knows nothing about. Homosexuals have insurance now, and legalization of marriage would at most bring about a shift, not a collapse.

Based on the evidence I have provided, Focus on the Family has adopted the paranoid style. Their perception of a gay conspiracy to undermine the “traditional family” and Christianity, their emphasis on “worst-case-scenario” homosexuals and the ex-gay, and their use of media and pedantry all point overwhelmingly to Hofstadter’s paranoid framework.

The fact that Dr. James Dobson, Focus on the Family, and the Christian Right as a whole has espoused the paranoid style concerns me. What it means is that they view this problem as black and white. There can be no compromise in this framework. Progress can only be made if both sides discuss the issues and establish common ground. The machinery is in place for a massive political battle. I believe the last election was only the tip of the iceberg. The gay community has espoused the paranoid style as well, but that is a topic for another paper.

Education to promote tolerance and understanding of both sides of this debate will be the only way to move forward. I fear this situation will get much worse before it gets better. People need to understand that this country was founded on the ideas of personal freedom. Both sides need to understand that the other is entitled to those freedoms.



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[1] Hofstadter, Richard. The Paranoid Style in American Politics and Other Essays. New York: Alfred A Knopf, 1965 [1952]. pp. 29.

[2] Dobson, James. Marriage Under Fire. Sisters, OR: Multnomah, 2004. pp. 31.

[3] The terms “conservative Christians,” “evangelical Christians,” “Christian conservatives,” and the “Christian Right” are often used interchangeably. There are distinct differences in these terms. In this paper I use two terms: “Christian Right” and “Christian conservatives.” I attempt to limit my discussion to the “Christian Right” due to the political connotation. Members of the Christian Right are Christian conservative. In the few instances I use “Christian conservatives,” I am referring to those who share the ideology of the Christian Right, but are not necessarily politically involved.

[4] Repent America is an organization created for the purpose of evangelizing homosexuals and those how receive abortions by means of militant protesting. For more information visit: http://www.repentamerica.com.

[5] For more information on Focus on the Family visit the website: http://www.family.org.

[6] Available online at: http:www.family.org/cforum/citizenmag.

[7] For more information visit: http://www.family.org/welcome/aboutfof/a0007486.cfm#government.

[8] Wheaton: Tyndale Publishers, 2000.

[9] http://www.family.org/welcome/aboutfof/A0000111.cfm.

[10] http://www.family.org/welcome/aboutfof/a0007486.cfm#government.

[11] Dobson, Marriage Under Fire, pp. 10.

[12] As a nonprofit organization, Focus on the Family is restricted from participating in partisan politics. The creation of Focus on the Family Action as a separate legal entity under IRS section 501(c)(4), allows the organization to be politically active free of restrictions. According to the website (http://www.focusaction.org), “Focus on the Family Action is a new cultural action organization that is completely separate from Focus on the Family, legally. It has been created by separating out of Focus on the Family those activities which constitute lobbying under the IRS code so that they can be expanded in scope.” Furthermore, Dr. James Dobson stepped down as of Focus president (he remains the chairman of the board) to head Focus Action.

[13] Focus on the Family Action. Focus on the Family Action Update. Colorado Springs: Focus on the Family Action Nov 2004.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Hofstadter, pp. 32.

[17] Hofstadter, pp. 32.

[18] Hofstadter, pp. 34.

[19] Hofstadter, pp. 35.

[20] Sullivan, Andrew, ed. Same-Sex Marriage Pro and Con: a Reader. New York: Vintage Books, 1997. pp. 89.

[21] Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2000.

[22] Cott, pp. 212.

[23] Cott, pp. 219.

[24] Vannoy, Dana. Rev. of Public Vows: A History of Marriage and the Nation, by Nancy F. Cott. Gender and Society Dec 2001: 942-944.

[25] The Columbia Reader on Lesbian and Gay Men in Media, Society, and Politics. New York: Columbia University Press, 1999. pp. 631-633. Originally published in the 28 August 1989 New Republic, pp. 20-22.

[26] See also: Rauch, Jonathan. Gay Marriage: why it is good for gays, good for straights, and good for America. New York: Times Books, 2004.

[27] New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1995.

[28] New York : New York University Press, 2003. See also: Gallagher, John, and Chris Bull. Perfect enemies : the battle between the religious right and the gay movement. Lanham, Md.: Madison Books, 2001 [1996].

[29] Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1997.

[30] Herman, pp. 66.

[31] Smith, Ralph, and Russel R. Windes. Progay/Antigay: The Rhetorical War Over Sexuality. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications, 2000.

[32] Chicago and Los Angeles: Bonus Books, 2004.

[33] For more information visit: http://www.wearefamilyfoundation.org.

[34] Kirkpatrick, David D. “Conservatives Pick Soft Target: A Cartoon Sponge.” The New York Times 20 Jan 2005. Available: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/01/20/politics/20sponge.html?ex=1113969600&en=344e01e9562b657 a&ei=5070&oref=login.

[35] Kirkpatrick.

[36] Dobson, James. “Setting the Record Straight.” Available: http://www.family.org/docstudy/newsletters/ a0035339.cfm.

[37] For more information visit: http://www.narth.com.

[38] For more information visit: http://www.lovewonout.com.

[39] http://www.lovewonout.com.

[40] Exodus International is another organization dedicated to homosexual rehabilitation. For more information visit: http://www.exodus-international.org.

[41] Cushman, Candi. “Now that’s a family.” Focus on the Family Citizen June 2004: 18-24.

[42] Cushman, Candi. “‘I hated being a girl.’” Focus on the Family Citizen June 2004: 25.

[43] http://www.family.org/resources/index.cfm?refcd=%20OL05XFRC&tvar=n.

[44] Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2002.

[45] Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2004.

[46] Dobson, James. Complete Marriage and Family Home Reference Guide. pp. 409.

[47] Dobson, James. Complete Marriage and Family Home Reference Guide. pp. 410.

[48] Rigdon, Joan E. “Overcoming a Deep-Rooted Reluctance, More Firms Advertise to the Gay Community.” Wall Street Journal 18 July 1991, 1B.

[49] Dobson, Marriage Under Fire, pp. 19.

[50] Dobson, Marriage Under Fire, pp. 19.

[51] Dobson, Marriage Under Fire, pp. 9.

[52] Dobson, Marriage Under Fire, pp. 45-64.

[53] Dobson, Marriage Under Fire, pp. 53.

[54] Dobson, Marriage Under Fire, pp. 58.

Monday, March 07, 2005

THE VAST CONSPIRACY

In an article written for Family News in Focus, a publication of Focus on the Family, Robert E. Reccord claims, “If homosexual activists succeed in redefining traditional marriage, the next step is making it a crime to speak God's truth about homosexuality.”[1] This is a common thought among those who prescribe to the idea of the gay agenda. Another example is Dr. James Dobson’s objection to cartoon characters’ apparent gay behavior in a music video. Dobson wrote in his February newsletter aptly titled ‘Setting the Record Straight,’

The video itself is innocent enough and does not mention anything overtly sexual. Rather, it features the children’s cartoon characters singing and dancing along to the popular disco hit "We Are Family."…But while the video is harmless on its own, I believe the agenda behind it is sinister. My brief comments at the FRC gathering were intended to express concern not about SpongeBob or Big Bird or any of their other cartoon friends, but about the way in which those childhood symbols are apparently being hijacked to promote an agenda that involves teaching homosexual propaganda to children.[2]

True, the song “We Are Family” has long been a gay mantra. The popularity of the song among the gay community, aside from its upbeat tempo, has origins in the fact that many of their biological families have disowned them and in turn many members of the gay community qualify their gay counterparts as their family. What this points to is the deeper fear within the Fundamentalist Christian Right that the gay community is actively engaged in recruiting members (i.e. children). This fear is viewed as preposterous by the gay community and is evident in the toaster oven myth[3].
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[1] http://www.family.org/cforum/fnif/commentary/a0031621.cfm

[2] http://www.family.org/docstudy/newsletters/a0035339.cfm

[3] The toaster oven myth is a myth asserting the existence of a gay mafia that is actively engaged in recruiting people into the “homosexual lifestyle.” According to the myth, for every ten (10) people one recruits, one receives a toaster oven.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Is life just a bad movie?

No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.

- United States Constitution Article II, §2, clause 5

Recently, my attention has been focused on one of the worst movie ever made: Demolition Man. In this film Sylvester Stallone plays a law enforcement officer who is removed from suspended-animation in a cryogenic prison (this is the scene that Austin Powers knocks-off) to fight a menace that has not threatened society in 30 years: Wesley Snipes. The year is 2032 and society has evolved into a utopia. The founder of this utopia, Dr. Raymond Cocteau, feels as though without extreme measures the scrubs, led by Denise Leary, will eventually overthrow his totalitarian government. Fearing the downfall of the calculus that is his society, Cocteau “programs” Simon Phoenix (Snipes) to assassinate Denise Leary. One thing is clear to me from the start. Is it possible for Denise Leary’s career to last thirty years. If his career did last, would it threaten the fabric of human existence?

Perhaps I am off point. When I first saw this movie, I was fourteen. I was unable to drive and a Bible-beating republican (I love brain washing, don’t you?). Even as a fourteen year-old, I knew this movie was absolutely absurd. Why, you ask, am I so critical of one of our cinematographic treasures? The absurdities in this film are overwhelming. Sex has been relegated to a gameboy-like venture. Toilet paper has replaced with a cryptic seashell system (never explained as it was to function as a moment of comic relief, there is nothing funny about seashells, Rob Schneider with whom the comic repartee is exchanged, or Sylvester Stallone). Perhaps the most absurd thing in this movie is the notion that Arnold Schwarzenegger has been president of the United States. According to the movie, his popularity was so widespread that one of the most perfect documents ever created is amended to allow the Terminator to be the president.

Every year I watch this country in aggregate become a little more ignorant. Something that I scoffed at and dismissed as complete hogwash when I was fourteen, has come one step closer to reality. Arnold Schwarzenegger is governor of California and in control of the world’s fifth largest economy. In the wake of Arnold’s political success, a group of complete morons have created a “non-partisan” organization named Operation Arnold. The main purpose of this organization is to amend the constitution thereby allowing Arnold Schwarzenegger to run for president and fulfill what is emerging as the Demolition Man prophecy or worse yet the Predator prophecy*.

So I am begging America, don’t do it. I don’t want Arnold Schwarzenegger as president anymore than I want to wipe my ass with a seashel

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Liberal Agitators

Believe it or not, there are organizations out there encouraging people to vote.

So stick with Bushie and don't vote, and don't listen to liberals, or democrats or other republicans, that make fun of me, or read the news, or watch the news except for Fox. Thank you and God bless.

http://whitehousewest.com/

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Actuarial Asshole Decrement Grossly Underestimated

As I have became painfully aware, the underlying mathematics actuaries use is not sufficient to determine how much the people you work with are assholes. Under traditional decrement theory, the decrements are essentially the world of possibilities that could occur to one person. The assumption also states that only one can occur at a time. Under this assumption, a person cannnot be a dead asshole.

May the Force Be With You

I am very concerned about our national heritage, and I am very concerned that the films that I watched when I was young and the films that I watched throughout my life are preserved, so that my children can see them.

-George Lucas

I have just spent the last 24 hours enthralled with the original Star Wars Trilogy on DVD. It is, for a lack of a better description, absolutely fabulous.

As I am sure most of the readers of this blog are extremely lacking in the cool department (i.e. geeks), the release of this DVD is fraught with controversy. Those of you who are unaware of this perfectly pointless yet extremely important to the D & D esque people issue, the problem is that according to George Lucas, the origanal (as it origanally appeared on screen) versions of Star Wars no longer exist. This is a travisty to the Star Wars purists.

What can be done? You ask. Well visit http://www.originaltrilogy.com/ where you will discover a whole new defination of pain and suffering as you slowly digested over a thousand years.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Welcome

Due to my recent change of status to unemployed, I have decided to begin what I hope will be a cyber thrill ride: Jacob Land. Your home for my sick, twisted, skewed view of the world.