Saturday, February 11, 2012

"Social Experimentation"

One of the primary fears espoused by anti-gay activists is that gay marriage is dangerous because it will lead to the downfall of Western Society.  Psychologically speaking, I think this is rooted in an innate aversion to risk-taking, change, and "icky" things. 

Conservatives should no more be judged for this than gays should be judged for falling in love with people of the same sex.  As I said, it's innate.  They can't help that they feel icky about certain things.  And it's no surprise that their political response to icky emotions leads them to  to moralize whatever puts them off.  It's ultimately about disease prevention.  I know this because I live it.  The types of studies that have shown a link between  icky-ness and political ideology strike me as true because I have a high ick factor, and despite my being gay, I am at my core a very traditional person who is wary of things that have even the slightest risk of eroding the fundamental foundations of society and culture.  You heard that correctly.  Most people who know me (or rather, who don't know me all that well) are shocked to discover how conservative I tend to be...just as they are shocked to discover that I am an *extreme* introvert. 

Some of the more articulate anti-gay conservatives have begun to show their cards and verbalize their fears about "social experimentation".  "It's too risky to start socially experimenting with an institution as foundational as marriage," they say.  And I think if they were more honest about their internalized fears, they'd restate their objections as follows: "I'm very afraid that changing our traditional ideas about marriage this way may lead to some unintended consequences, and I'm terrified about what those might be...please let's not do this!"

Putting aside the absolute fact that "the institution of marriage" has had innumerable permutations over time (Mrs. Bowers does a superb job of summarizing the Biblical ones below), I think it's odd that Christian conservatives in particular are suddenly worried about "social experimentation."  In fact, I think it's downright hypocritical, because they have been dangerously socially experimenting with us gay Christian folk for a long, long time - and they've yet to formally admit it's been an utter and egregious failure (though there are signs that "ex"-gay leaders are perhaps starting to rethink things a little).

Don't get me wrong.  I'm not here to say that a fear of social experimentation is a bad thing.  Nor am I suggesting that it's silly of Christians to have promoted ex-gay ideology and "reparative therapy." I'm just confused about why Christians continue to handle "the gay issue" so poorly by decrying social experimentation on the one hand, while conveniently forgetting about the social experimentation in which they are constantly engaging.

But let's look at why the "Ex-gay Movement" is social experimentation.  You see, when your theology dictates that the Bible is true, and your interpretation of it suggests that homosexuality is a sin, and your belief is that Jesus is the healer of all sins, then it's quite natural to assume that Jesus will heal homosexuals of their homosexuality.  So it's not unreasonable that people like myself would "deny" their gay feelings for so long, and then upon finally acknowledging them, seek to be healed by Jesus.  I'm convinced that this summarizes (perhaps crudely, clumsily, or ineloquently so) why so many of my friends voluntarily submitted themselves to the pseudo-scientific, and ultimately torturous, path of ex-gaydom - and why myriad Christian adults and youth continue to do so to this day.  But you know, the Bible never talked about becoming an ex-gay.  The Bible doesn't have much to say about being gay at all, because there was really no equivalent conceptualization of it then.  So when gay civil liberties were vaulted to the forefront of the American Conscience in the 1970's, Christians were force to respond.  That response started in the late 70's with the emergence of various ways to force oneself not to be gay.  And this, my friends, was a great Christian experiment - a social experiment - because it had never been done before.  We thought we could treat this like alcoholism, or promiscuity, or lying - in short, like any other sin. So when the leaders of Exodus - who have literally put everything they have on the line for this social experiment - start to admit that once gay, pretty much always gay for "99.9% " of people, you kind of have to believe that this isn't simply capitulation of weak people, or faithless people who only want to indulge in lots of immoral sex.

You can't not be gay. It's that simple.  And what has this little experiment of ours cost us?  Countless lives of desperate youth (yours truly was almost among that number), and immeasurable amounts of depression and anxiety that many have yet to recover from, even after years away from the ex-gay machine.

The new trend among the more advanced, conservative Christian types is celibacy (or, as those involved with the gay Christian debate are calling it, being "Side B").  It's rooted in the same sort of theology undergirding ex-gay theology, but admitting a little defeat, in that changing orientation doesn't seem to be what God cares about.  The celibacy social experiment goes something like this: God says being gay is sin, so even if you can't beat it, you still can't be it (at least not relationally).

Again, I'm not knocking the fact that Christians are engaging in these sorts of social experiments. I think conservatives are correct: allowing gay marriage is indeed a social experiment.  So I boldly admit that I engaged in the ex-gay social experiment, dabbled a bit in the Side B social experiment, and have ultimately landed in an alternative experiment (Side A): gay marriage.  And I'm not shy about the fact that all three experiments for me were grounded in my deep respect for the "Living Word", and an attempt to stay faithful to God.  I happen to believe that the Side B experiment is just as erroneous, and perhaps even as destructive (albeit in a more insidious way) than the ex-gay experiment.  Eventually, Christian thinkers who have successfully abandoned ex-gay ways of thinking are really going to have to contend with that little verse in Genesis where God says "it's not good for man to be alone."  They're going to have to stop and wonder why a God would allow people a sexuality that they could not escape, but respond to it bey decreeing that they should just learn how to be alone without an appropriate help-meet.  (Yes, I'm aware that there are many single, lonely people out there - some who never have and never will find a mate - but the issue isn't about a few unhappy people who I readily admit have had a band hand dealt to them, but rather it's about an entire class of people who are relegated to loneliness by virtue of the fact that they love who they love.)

So there you have it.  Social experimentation.  I hope that conservatives will stop using their fear of it as an excuse for opposing gay marriage, because the fact of the matter is, they're already engaging in social experimentation whenever they tell gay people what they ought to do with their lives.  For us modern-day gay folks, we've been experimenting with all sorts of different things for years.  So I hope conservatives recognize that falling in love, settling down, making a commitment, and building a life with their beloved is exactly the kind of social experiment that heterosexuals began about 2,000 years ago (i.e., monogamy).  They should be utterly proud to know that they've been so convincing in their arguments about the benefits of the best social experiment of all time, that even some of us gays are willing to try it.  Gay's the ultimate conservative value! :)