This is some St. Clement’s Philadelphia backwash, inspired by a recent commenter to the blog here.
The commenter arrived here either through David Virtue’s recent news article about Canon Gordon Reid at St. Clement’s, and my comments there in support of Father Reid’s honesty, or through an online link at Father Reid’s own WordPress blog, which, as mine does, generates automatic links at the bottom of different posts—most of which link to something else I’ve written in mine, but can occasionally link somewhere else in the WordPress world.
Now, let me point out to you, that David Virtue’s “Virtue Online” website about Global Orthodox Anglicanism is coming from the political right of Canon Reid and myself. But I am to the right of Canon Reid and the left of David Virtue. I am more of political centrist. People who stake positions and write about them think that being a centrist is somehow the easy way out. Trust me, it is not. What usually happens is that you end up taking abuse from two sides these days, rather than finding partial acceptance and cooperation from both.
By the way, Gordon Reid writes a wonderful blog, and I wish I had his ability to tell a story and to vary the topics the way he does. He mostly writes about religion, but he also does social commentary and weaves in stories about his personal life. It’s quite a talent to be able to do this, and I wish I had it in the quantity that he does.
From his running commentary, it would be hard for me to conclude that Canon Reid would side with the folks who comment at Virtue Online. And naturally, Virtue Online is not the kind of forum that is going to take to the Canon’s theorizing and concluding. I happen to side with the Virtue Online people’s position when it comes to their wanting to separate church property and doing their own thing with religious and philosophical beliefs. If they can do so legally, one way or another, it’s probably best for the whole church. Social liberalism is “in control”, as it were, of the Episcopal Church; and now people are finding out, St. Clement’s to some extent. (It . . . . er, ehem, has been for a couple decades.) Why all the unnecessary litigation and fighting, trying to get each side to change strong held views? In other cases, trying to get people to change who they are.
Canon Reid himself may be a gay guy, maybe not. It doesn’t matter. I myself am single, you know, very single. So people might think, hey, Hoofin, uh . . . you know? It’s hard to prove a negative, and nobody wants to be stuck proving one.
[More in a bit.]
Let me finish this one up, as I lost some time today (Monday) on another matter.
The feature that really stuck out (salient feature) of Matthew’s comment, was that he seemed to be on Version 1.0, or Level One, whatever, of the whole gay aspect of the sexual revolution of the 1960’s. It is the simple, plain vanilla, “do you accept gay people as people?” And this goes too, to civil rights. Right? “Do you respect people’s civil rights?”
But I came to adulthood in the 1980’s. And in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, which is a pretty liberal place in the radius of about two miles around Center City. I went to Penn, across the Schuykill in West Philadelphia, which was quite a liberal enclave itself. As a result, I have been on Level Two, or Version 2.0, for quite some time. The organized gay community is still struggling nationwide for these basic civil right issues: employment protection (which isn’t in the 1964 Civil Rights Act as amended, yet); the right to have committed relationships being granted equal status to marriage in the various states; heightened awareness by law enforcement of the dangers of being singled out for violent crime. I think Matthew Shepard‘s attack and death is the major popularized incident, (like Emmet Till was in the black civil rights movement), but I think there was also Kitty Genovese in the 1960’s. She was murdered while her neighbors just looked out their window in a
Brooklyn Queens neighborhood. No one called the police. It is was not reported in 1964, but there was a gay lifestyle element to it, in that Kitty was rumored to be lesbian.
So these are very basic issues of civil rights that some states in America have lagged far behind on, for far too long. The gay community has a right to be rightly upset at the intransigence of the federal government–mostly the Republican Party officials of it–but also the various states that are not lifting a finger to assure that the civil rights of all their citizens are respected. In order for civil rights to work, they must be honored for everyone. Not just the people the other citizens approve of or like. That’s some sort of screwy tribalism, not the Rule of Law.
So that’s Level One, as I call it. OK. Now let’s talk about Level Two. What happens when individual gays, closet bi’s, or whoever, decide that they have a right to go violating and doing bad things to others, or even to people they think should be part of their group but just aren’t living life according to the program? Like I said last November, this is the dark heart of Political Correctness.
It has nothing to do, as Matthew suggested, with whether you saw a rainbow flag or not in a group. That’s so silly. Level Two is about whether gay people, LGBT people, are equally according respect and dignity to people who aren’t engaged in their self-styled political movements; or even who don’t appreciate unwanted sexual attention.
Trust me, around Penn in the ’80’s, the answer was a big “no”. In fact, what I have tended to see around the organized politics in my generation (1980’s onward) has been that certain “my way or the highway” element of gay people sexual liberation.
Here in Japan, which I think overall is much more tolerant of this category of difference, the militant aspect of it becomes the stuff of comedy. For example, there was Razor Ramon, Hard Gay, who made quite a comedy act in the 2000’s portraying a pushy gay guy, stereotypically clad in leather. (The leather was obviously not necessary; and I think it was to parody the Village People or something, in case you couldn’t get the main point of the humor, which was obvious: we each live our own lives.)
It’s not like the American community back home can’t produce the comedy either. Except it’s going on in real life–especially in the Republican Party.
There was an anit-gay “homosexuality conversion expert” for hire, George Rekers, who was a regular customer of a website, “Rentboy dot com” for male escorts and whatever-other-kind of services. (These are OK, I just think government needs to regulate it if it’s going to prostitution.)
There was the Idaho Senator, Larry Craig, who was arrested in Minnesota looking for gay tricks in a public mens’ bathroom. It was in this scandal that the public–myself included–learned that foot-tapping in a bathroom stall could be interpreted as a signal that someone was looking for a B.J., or more.
From the wiki:
At 1216 hours, Craig tapped his right foot. I recognized this as a signal used by persons wishing to engage in lewd conduct. Craig tapped his toes several times and moves his foot closer to my foot. … The presence of others did not seem to deter Craig as he moved his right foot so that it touched the side of my left foot which was within my stall area. Craig then proceeded to swipe his left hand under the stall divider several times, with the palm of his hand facing upward.
Then, the Republicans have Ken Mehlman, President Bush’s 2004 Republican Party chairman who decided within the last year that he was gay. Even after running a party whose platform in 2004 was meant to exploit anti-gay sentiment via the gay marriage wedge issue.
So here’s just three instances in America where someone is out there, generally doing the wrong thing on the civil rights issue, and then later it turns out, oh surprise!, they are gay, too. You really gotta wonder about that, even. What are these guys thinking?
But, you know, the bad behavior in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s was out there in the social left, too. For example, before “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” softened the word, there was the “Queer Nation” radical group, which was known as the Queer Action Group in Philadelphia–I think the name was a take on Weimar Republic style fascist groups of 1920’s Germany. Pushiness and threats of violence in contemporary American politics seem so coincidentally to tie back to Germany and its failures in the 20th century.
So let me repeat: I am all for civil rights. But I’m not for anything or any behavior that a gay person does. Level Two is entirely different.
Here’s this hypothetical. It’s a thing like this: you get a job that you need to hold onto and you meet a coworker. You get along with the coworker–who has a girlfriend who is incidentally important to the story by the way–and you do some social things.
Two months or so go by, and then you learn that the coworker is having trouble with his girlfriend, that the romance doesn’t quite have the spark anymore. A bit later, he tells you that he’d gotten the girlfriend pregnant, but he didn’t want her to have the baby. So he said, if you have the baby, I’ll reject it—you’d better get an abortion. So she does. But then, after that, he can’t figure out why his relationship with her has gone so cold.
A week or two after that, he decides to tell you that he likes to watch all-male gang rape movies with another friend, who he had previously mentioned. Hmmm. You sit there and you try to figure out how to finish your hamburger and then distance yourself from this person.
Ah, but too late! He’s already gone to your parish church. Unbeknown to you, it’s got that very sort of queer element, mentioned above, there! So the next thing you know, he’s just this devoted, regular attender–you can’t visit or use the place without running into him. And he just wants to “be friends”. But you already know what his “friends” talk is about, and you already heard how he treated the girl. So no, right?
Ah! But he’s got this campaign going. He’s already talked to Rector about your “unfriendly behavior” and now it’s an issue. The Rector, (who many people later find out might have been a market target for Rentboy dot com himself) , says that this is such a problem, how this eleven-week coworker is being cast aside!
(Don’t think I couldn’t put a link to this person’s internet presence right —>here, too, if I wanted . . ..)
This is Level Two. This is the kind of stuff that happens in the world where you already accept the civil rights of people. Along comes yet other people who decide that you are going to submit to their own agenda. I call this “social militarism” as opposed to issue militancy, because some people might feel that militancy—strong advocacy—is acceptable. But we are talking about people who are acting as though whatever strange notion of civil society they’ve put into their head has the same moral strength as when armies or counties go at it in a war. Inevitably, the dispute becomes like personal war.
So when St. Clement’s pops up on the internet, I am talking about it in a Level Two way. I am sure there were gay people going to it–I knew it then. So what? I am sophisticated enough to know it’s there and it’s no big thing. But what about the bad actor? What happens when the bad actor shows up in a situation?
We all know who this is, what this is: the person who is really over the line.
It’s disappointing that a lot of people who are interested in these issues of fairness and civil rights are eerily silent when it comes to the Level Two.