Friday, December 27, 2013

Quick News Commentary: Phil Robertson and "Duck Dynasty," New Ways Ministry on Top Catholic LGBTI Stories of 2013 (You Can Vote on These)

Some very brief remarks about the recent controversy regarding the deplorable homophobic statements of "Duck Dynasty" t.v. star Phil Robertson: here's a list of some commentary I've found worth reading in the past few days:

Brittney Cooper at Salon, "Evangelical Church's Ugly Truth: 'Duck Dynasty' and Christian Racists"

E.J. Dionne in Commonweal, "'Duck Dynasty,' Meet Pope Francis"

Max S. Gordon at The New Civil Rights Movement, "Phil Robertson, Suck My Duck"

John W. Martens, America, "Phil Robertson, Duck Dynasty, the Bible, and Homosexuality"

Sarah Posner for Religion Dispatches, "All Ducked Up: Reality TV, Not So Real"

Andrew Sullivan, The Dish, "Why Is It Always About Sex?"

I find the commentary in some of the preceding articles especially helpful insofar as it recognizes that there's a nexus of racist, anti-gay, and anti-women concerns among many right-wing American Christians. As several of the commentators note, Phil Robertson has a history of making deplorable remarks not only about gay folks, but also about black folks and about women.

For right-wing American Christians, it's not really all about sex, and never has been all about sex. I was raised in a conservative evangelical (Southern Baptist church) in south Arkansas not far from Phil Robertson's stomping grounds in north Louisiana--where my father's roots lie. Growing up, I never heard a single word about sexual sin or sexual matters at all in church. It wasn't until I became Catholic that I realized how large the notion of sex and sexual acts can loom in the thinking of some Christians.

It was taken for granted in the conservative evangelical circles in which I grew up that (heterosexual) men are (heterosexual) men: men are men, and will behave like men. They'll tomcat around. They'll sow their wild oats. The sexual "sins" of those men were never denounced in the evangelical culture in which I grew up. In fact, I heard more outright smut and more hair-raising accounts of sexual conquests in Sunday school, from classmates, than in any other sector of my life after I reached puberty.

This is how men are, the evangelical culture in which I was raised insisted. And when they return to the church and confess their sins, they must be welcomed with open arms, since they're now the Lord's men. But they're still men, and that's very important in the evangelical mindset: they're real men, and their tomcatting around has proven this, in fact. It has served a useful purpose. They're  the kind of men the Lord wants, because they reflect his own machismo, his muscularity as the lord and ruler of the world. 

Women were not permitted similar latitude in the evangelical circles in which I grew up. While men's role was to tomcat (and to control others), women were to be subordinate, under the control of their men. Women were to be ornamental. They were expected to live for "their" men, and to reflect their men's glory in everything that they did. Their lapse in virtue--something so unimaginable it wasn't even ever really talked about--was to be taken as a statement about the men to whom they belonged, whose weakness was demonstrated if, God forbid, any of "their" women strayed from virtue.

The women who were regarded as simply there for the taking by the men with whom I grew up in conservative evangelical circles were either déclassé women or black women--and in the case of black women, that's to say that they were both beneath all other social classes and women of color, with double jeopardy and double susceptibility to being sexually molested by white men. 

Racism, misogyny, heterosexism, and homophobia are intrinsically linked in the psyche of the right-wing Christian movement in the U.S. The big preoccupation driving the worldview of men like Phil Robertson is not sex per se: it's assuring male domination--the domination of white heterosexual men--over everyone these men regard as beneath them. If we fail to see the connections between these various facets of what preoccupies the Christian right and its leaders, we misunderstand what this movement is and always has been all about.

And on another note: your opinion counts. New Ways Ministry is asking folks to identify the five best and five worst news stories in the Catholic LGBTI world from the past year. I found both lists fascinating, and am glad that New Ways Ministry has undertaken this project.

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