A friend of mine sent me something in the mail recently. Attached to it was a post-it note that read simply, "These people scare me!" And given the fact that very few things seem to scare her, I was intrigued. But by the time I was done reading, I myself was rather concerned as well.
What she had sent me was a fundraising pitch for a conservative Catholic organization by the name of Fidelis, which appears at face value to be the Catholic equivalent of the culture war crusaders of the evangelical movement. And if you've ever been unfortunate enough to be on the receiving end of conservative fundraising solicitations, you know exactly what this one was like, but I'll paraphrase: the radical left led by Barack Obama is out to annihilate the influence of religion in public life and hates mom, apple pie, the American way of life, and puppies. And we need some six million dollars in the next two weeks to save the puppies. If you don't do your duty you have failed Jesus.
And if you didn't do your part to chip in for theocracy in America, what would be the consequences? Why, the Freedom of Choice Act, which apparently would force doctors to perform abortions against their will. And the horror of hate crimes legislation, which would supposedly criminalize criticism of homosexuality from the pulpit. All of which would result in dogs and cats sleeping together, mass hysteria, and the concomitant end of Western civilization.
Now, the Christianist fervor in opposition to abortion is something that is abhorrent, but is at least comprehensible at an intellectual level. After all--if you start with the premise that life begins and conception and that abortion is therefore tantamount to murder, the fierce urgency that some feel towards ending reproductive rights in this country become clear--provided that you can move past the intellectual dishonesty of the exemptions for rape or incest that somehow determine that one supposed human life is somehow less valuable than another.
The opposition to same-sex marriage, however, is just as fervent, despite seeming like a much less important problem. While the prospect of two men or women being granted the same state-based legal rights as an opposite-sex couple may seem to pale in comparison to the hypothesized annual murder of millions, it seems to get at least equal billing. Just last month, Pope Benedict XVI named both abortion and same-sex marriage among the greatest threats to civilization facing the world today. No mention of climate change, worldwide hunger, global poverty, war, nuclear weapons, or any other issue mentioned in the Book of Matthew on which the Church may have a scriptural and moral obligation to take a more public stand.
This week has seen even more hard evidence of just how visceral to these people the denial of acceptance to the LGBT community really is. On Wednesday came the embarrassing closing arguments of the defendant-intervenor in the Perry v. Schwarzenegger trial, in which the anti-equality lawyers sought to deny the unconstitutionality of a same-sex marriage ban through by claiming that the inability of a same-sex couple to reproduce biologically implied that denial of their rights was permissible.
And not content to deny rights to the LGBT community, there are major conferences, such as the Exodus International conference in Southern California next week, that are exclusively dedicated to converting gays back to the straight path and building the movement of "ex-gays" who have turned away from their allegedly sinful choice and suddenly discovered that, yes, they're actually attracted to the other half of the population after all.
This is a large amount of emotional, temporal and monetary investment for what is just one of many sins. The question, of course, is...why? One possible answer to that might lie in that little theory of the so-called Demographic Winter:
And what is the concept of "demographic winter"? A right-wing notion with culturalist, if not racist, overtones regarding the end of first-world civilization because of declining birthrates. There's even a documentary about it, put out in part by the Ruth Institute's christianist allies at the Family Research Council. Righter-wing governments in Europe, such as that of Berlusconi's Italy, have offered economic incentives to the "right type of Italians" to conceive children--and have notoriously taken them away when it was discovered that some of them were going to the wrong people--namely, immigrant families.
But what does this have to do with people who supposedly weren't going to reproduce biologically anyway? A lot, actually.
The anti-gay movement has--to its ever so slight credit--changed tactics and beliefs recently. As the LGBT community has gained more widespread acceptance and approval, especially among the young, the previously held doctrine that homosexuality is an evil, sinful choice that must be violently repressed or exorcised has had to yield to what is supposedly a kinder, gentler form of cure. This newer approach favored by Exodus International and other groups dedicated to "curing" homosexuality is perhaps best exemplified by Richard Cohen, a leader in the movement, who expressed the new philosophy somewhat succinctly in an interview with UPI.
In short, the current belief is that homosexual attractions are not unnatural in and of themselves, but are also caused by emotional childhood trauma that may have occurred as the result of a broken home, parenting failures, or other emotional injury--and that exploring and curing those emotional ailments will set a gay person straight again.
This may seem on its face like a mere mollification of the anti-gay stance of Christian conservatism--but in so doing, it represents a fundamental shift in the nature of the relationship between the gay community and the conservative concern over the supposed decline in "traditional family values" as represented by increased divorce rates and other metrics. In short where homosexuality has traditionally been viewed as a cause of family decline, it is now also a consequence. And this opens up a world of intriguing implications.
As it is, Christian conservatism is very concerned about declining birthrates among Western (i.e., Christian) women. And here we get to the crux of the matter. The legalization of gay marriage will end up resulting in the full acceptance of homosexuality as something that does not need a cure and is entitled to equal protection under the law. As a consequence, more gays and lesbians who otherwise may have been shamed into attempting to be straight will "come out" and not have children--leading to fewer births, which will result in further social problems that are now viewed as the cause of homosexuality. This increase in homosexuality will then result in an autocatalytic positive reinforcement feedback cycle resulting in the death of civilization through an overabundance of gay.
I wish I were kidding, but I'm not. Some bigots who oppose gay marriage are so lacking for confidence in the attractions of the opposite sex that they think that society will wither if anything else is permitted. And that's a sad state of affairs.