Join 3,438 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


A Teen’s Brave Response
April 4, 2012 9:56 PM   Subscribe

A very touching letter. From the mother of a gay teen about his response to the post on the blog Single Dad Laughing titled I’m Christian, unless you’re gay.
posted by Long Way To Go (96 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite

 
yay
posted by jabberjaw at 10:07 PM on April 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've been thinking that it's only a matter of time before this thing pops up here.

I am as sympathetic as anyone to the plight of GLBT youth, but I found the letter cloying and even scripted. It reads like the summary of a screenplay for a movie on Lifetime. This makes me suspect, maybe unfairly, that certain parts of the story have been embellished or more. It's just too pitch-perfect.

Second, WTF is up with the male model's picture that accompanies the story? It's clearly not a picture of "Jacob." Does the reader need a visual aid for what a gay 15-year-old looks like? Hint: most of them don't look like models. I know this topic is a quagmire of complicated emotions, but I strongly feel that by setting out to "save the gay kids" we're in danger of objectifying them into these glowing, golden angels. This takes our beneficent activities from the realm of reality and puts them into the realm of feel-good fantasy. The idea is not to help the pretty ones with fashionably cut hair and gleaming smiles. The idea is to help those who are struggling with low self-esteem, finding acceptance, and imagining a future for themselves, the ones who are neither pretty nor exceptional. In that way, I find that Onion story about a gay 12-year-old reams more meaningful, despite (or because of) the fact that it's a satire.
posted by Nomyte at 10:16 PM on April 4, 2012 [58 favorites]


This guy's blog is so popular that he spends $400 a month on web hosting and asks for donations? Alongside selling books and advertising? And teachers hand out his posts and assign students essays based upon them. Which spawns letters from mothers of said students which the blogger feels a need to illustrate with stock photos, undoubtedly further driving up his costs.

I don't read blogs much but man oh man, this must be a super major blog.
posted by XMLicious at 10:26 PM on April 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


I am as sympathetic to the plight of GLBT youth, but I found the letter cloying and even scripted. It reads like the summary of a screenplay for a movie on Lifetime. This makes me suspect, maybe unfairly, that certain parts of the story have been embellished or more. It's just too pitch-perfect.

I didn't get that impression from the letter at all. Perhaps the reason why Lifetime movies feel so cloying is that they follow the general outline of the surface of a situation without trying to dramatize the internal states of the people involved. This letter does just that -- it describes the most outwardly observable emotional landscapes of two people (the mother and the son) without trying to make the reader somehow experience what they went through inside. I don't think a lot of people are trained to really examine their emotions, and so they do live through their deep moments in ways just like these are expressed. That's not a criticism, just an observation. I sometimes wish I could have the kind of neatly packaged emotions which others seem to relate to me, when in reality I can't stop peeling the onion and find depth and echoes all around me, much of which I discover those around me have no touchstone for when I try to relate my narrative.

Anyway, I don't think it's too pitch-perfect. If I'm proven wrong, I'll be happy to accept that. But in today's world, in Spring of 2012, we've grown our society to the point where the emotional journey of acceptance has much greater possibility of happening than it did 5, 10, or 20 years ago. It took my parents 20 years before they began to be even mildly okay with my sexuality, and they still aren't the open and accepting family I would long for. But someone who might be my age or thereabouts, with a 15 year old son... I could easily see their journey being a lot easier than for my parents when I came out at 22 a couple of decades ago.
posted by hippybear at 10:27 PM on April 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


WTF is up with the male model's picture that accompanies the story?
Yep, here he is scheduling a session at ABC Learning and at the orthodontist. Which makes this comment all the funnier:
i can't believe this kid turned out well at all. and he's obviously gay i can tell by looking at him. he's so pretty and gorgeous.
posted by unliteral at 10:27 PM on April 4, 2012 [6 favorites]


And yeah, the stock photo... horrible choice. Why do people do that? This piece didn't need any photo to illustrate it if he didn't have a photo of the actual person to use.
posted by hippybear at 10:27 PM on April 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Jinx XMLicious!
posted by unliteral at 10:28 PM on April 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's too cloying and scripted? Of course it's scripted, it's a letter. If you were writing a letter to your mum about how you are gay and worried she won't love you, you'd probably do a few drafts.

Likewise if you were the mother of a gay son who was worried you wouldn't love him, you'd try and craft your letter so you didn't sound like a monster.
posted by misfish at 10:30 PM on April 4, 2012 [7 favorites]


It’s not about what other people do. It’s about whether or not we are loving them. Nothing else matters at all.

Speaking as a Christian, I can't put into words how much this part resonated with me. I wish I could tattoo it on the forehead of every fundamentalist gay-hating Christian that do the rest of us and the religion as a whole such a horrible disservice. Let alone our gay friends and family.
posted by allkindsoftime at 11:07 PM on April 4, 2012 [18 favorites]


I am as sympathetic as anyone to the plight of GLBT youth, but I found the letter cloying and even scripted. It reads like the summary of a screenplay for a movie on Lifetime. This makes me suspect, maybe unfairly, that certain parts of the story have been embellished or more. It's just too pitch-perfect.

Yes, my reaction was similar.
I can't quite put my finger on it, but the writing still of blogger, mother and son are sort of similar. It's not identical, rather the son writes like the blogger might have when he was younger. Also, the mother writes like she is educated and well read, not like a gay-hating chuch-going bigot.

Anyway, I guess you could say who cares if the letters are made up, it's the message that counts.
posted by sour cream at 11:27 PM on April 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Who cares? We could all do with more love and tolerance is a good message, and if it resonates with it's target audience so much the better.
posted by arcticseal at 11:33 PM on April 4, 2012


But don't we want the fiction we read to be labelled as fiction?
posted by fredludd at 11:37 PM on April 4, 2012 [13 favorites]


Single Dad Laughing previously on Metafilter. He's actually getting better with the SEO and begging for you to share his articles. But using that stock photo is really creepy.
posted by Gary at 11:39 PM on April 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Single Dad Laughing previously on Metafilter. He's actually getting better with the SEO and begging for you to share his articles. But using that stock photo is really creepy.

'Single Dad Laughing' sounds like the description of a stock photo.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 11:41 PM on April 4, 2012 [53 favorites]


It’s not about what other people do. It’s about whether or not we are loving them.

It wasn't about this or anything remotely like it until her son turned out to be gay. Had her son not turned out to be gay, she'd have been quite happy to go on propagating misery, hatred and suffering in the name of Jesus until the entire face of the earth was covered to a depth of thirty cubits. Maybe I'm just old and cranky and in a mood, but this story did not warm my heart.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 11:48 PM on April 4, 2012 [13 favorites]


Yeah, it sounds kind of fake to me too. I want ignore that to love the message, and I enjoyed this fake attack on gay parents earlier today. But being (or at least seeming) fake just seems to devalue the message. I'm certain there are many more stories that are just like this, but not fakey fake fake that would be much easier to connect with because they feel genuine, rather than contrived.

For me, it's where the assignment was about his blog post. Seems unlikely and just the type of self-important thing that someone would write trying to make their site seem more well read than it is. I know nothing of this site, so maybe it is a big deal, but I doubt it. There have been better things written on the same subject.

If I'm wrong, then I take it all back and acknowledge I'm way to cynical.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 11:55 PM on April 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


It wasn't about this or anything remotely like it until her son turned out to be gay.

Yeah, it was a bit like how politicians only ever become enthusiastic about penal reform after they get a couple of years in the jug.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:56 PM on April 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Had her son not turned out to be gay, she'd have been quite happy to go on propagating misery, hatred and suffering in the name of Jesus until the entire face of the earth was covered to a depth of thirty cubits.

Yes. Because all Jesus lovers are gay-haters.
That's another, a little more subtle message here. It's a Trojan horse, wrapped into a message of love.

And by painting all church goers as bigots, isn't he the one who has an agenda, spreading a message of hate?

So who's the real bigot here, Mr. Single Dad, huh? Huh?
posted by sour cream at 12:04 AM on April 5, 2012


cf. Christianity in Crisis by Andrew Sullivan
All of which is to say something so obvious it is almost taboo: Christianity itself is in crisis. It seems no accident to me that so many Christians now embrace materialist self-help rather than ascetic self-denial—or that most Catholics, even regular churchgoers, have tuned out the hierarchy in embarrassment or disgust. Given this crisis, it is no surprise that the fastest-growing segment of belief among the young is atheism, which has leapt in popularity in the new millennium. Nor is it a shock that so many have turned away from organized Christianity and toward “spirituality,” co-opting or adapting the practices of meditation or yoga, or wandering as lapsed Catholics in an inquisitive spiritual desert. The thirst for God is still there. How could it not be, when the profoundest human questions—Why does the universe exist rather than nothing? How did humanity come to be on this remote blue speck of a planet? What happens to us after death?—remain as pressing and mysterious as they’ve always been?

That’s why polls show a huge majority of Americans still believing in a Higher Power. But the need for new questioning—of Christian institutions as well as ideas and priorities—is as real as the crisis is deep.
(I wish Sullivan had tags on his posts at The Dish because there have been several good follow-ups to his Newsweek essay there but there's no easy way to link to them all at once.)
posted by ob1quixote at 12:06 AM on April 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


I am as sympathetic as anyone to the plight of GLBT youth, but I found the letter cloying and even scripted. It reads like the summary of a screenplay for a movie on Lifetime. This makes me suspect, maybe unfairly, that certain parts of the story have been embellished or more. It's just too pitch-perfect.

Wow, I am relieved that I'm not the only one. I did not believe a word of that purported letter by the mom and son. It totally reads like it was concocted by someone. And the "setup" of the situation seemed so unlikely too... that a teacher would make that assignment based on his blog post. I thought that even before I read the original blog post he was referring to, that he said the teacher assigned. Then I looked for it and yeah -- I think there is no fucking way. It was a 3 page long post about a pretty simple idea, the first 1.5 pages of which are all about explaining how he felt about making the post, his process of making the post, his discussions with other people while he was trying to write the post, etc.

All in paragraph-sentences.

Like this.

For three pages.

While you are patiently.

Waiting.

To find out what the post is actually about.

If a teacher were going to assign a blog post to their class to read and respond to, I just don't buy that it would be that one. Anyway after I read this and my "wow this seems really fake" reactions were kicking in, I decided to see if it was up here and what people thought about it. And I am glad that I did.
posted by cairdeas at 12:22 AM on April 5, 2012 [23 favorites]


Wow. I'm the most critical, cynical person I know but this thread has really humbled me. I'm gonna go Google pandas or something till my mood lifts.
posted by londonmark at 12:31 AM on April 5, 2012 [9 favorites]


Who cares? We could all do with more love and tolerance is a good message, and if it resonates with it's target audience so much the better.

For whatever it's worth, here's my take on why it matters. Leaving aside whether or not this particular parental/Christian reaction was a real one.

When someone declares themselves to be part of a particular group, then when other people are forming impressions and beliefs about that group, they include their impressions and beliefs about that person.

So when someone is lying about being part of a particular group, they are giving other people false impressions and beliefs about that group.

When someone makes statements about the way they think or react, while lying about being part of that group, they are giving other people false impressions about the way members of that group think or react.

When people are really trying to understand groups they're not part of, this sort of behavior actively damages that understanding. If people are trying to use their understanding of other groups to come to any sort of reconciliation, the potential for that reconciliation will be diminished because their understanding of the group is flawed.

If you are trying to get a message across to fundamentalist Christians, the most important thing is to hear from real fundamentalist Christians and understand them. Not, hear from ambitious bloggers as they give you their inspirational take on fundamentalist Christians and how they think, what they are like, what they can identify with, etc.
posted by cairdeas at 12:37 AM on April 5, 2012 [11 favorites]


the mother writes like she is educated and well read, not like a gay-hating chuch-going bigot

If only the world was that simple.
posted by robcorr at 12:41 AM on April 5, 2012 [18 favorites]


The mother's letter seemed a bit phony to me too. It may be an invention on the part of the blog author or it may be an anonymous letter that he published thinking it real. Or it may be a real letter that just feels a bit off. I hope it's the latter, because if this comes out as phony, it might undermine the message, and the message is a good one. I'd hate to see a Mike Daisey here.

That being said, the kid's letter felt oddly genuine. So maybe what has happened is that this was written by a woman who has spent years reading the cloying, overbaked narratives of email forwards, and just thinks that's how things are supposed to sound.

I hope this is the case.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:42 AM on April 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


The cynical part of me is skeptical that there is a teacher out there who would pick this blog post as their personal hill to die on.
posted by Pyry at 12:50 AM on April 5, 2012 [21 favorites]


Bunny Ultramod: "So maybe what has happened is that this was written by a woman who has spent years reading the cloying, overbaked narratives of email forwards, and just thinks that's how things are supposed to sound."

Most of the forwards I get from my parents are in this tone so I should have picked up on it. Clearly my skepticism alarm is malfunctioning, off to get it fixed.
posted by arcticseal at 1:00 AM on April 5, 2012


I have to Nth that something is fishy about the mother's reaction letter post. The speed in which she turned from rage filled mother ranting about the evils of homosexuality to loving mother, closer than ever to her vulnerable son just didn't strike me as realistic. In my experience, changes of fundamental attitudes and beliefs like that (especially those based on religious ideals & concepts of evil/sin/etc.) take years to occur, if ever.

No, I think this is a cleverly conceived plan by the blog owner to go viral. Not that I disagree with the message behind it.
posted by Kevtaro at 1:10 AM on April 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


This blog post is so obviously fake, and there are nearly 3,000 comments on it, posted in the last three days. It's so weird to realize there is this other internet where bad, dishonest writing is popular, and where the readers are tone deaf to manufactured drama. If I taught a class, I'd assign my students to write an essay about that.
posted by Scram at 1:18 AM on April 5, 2012 [28 favorites]


robcorr: "the mother writes like she is educated and well read, not like a gay-hating chuch-going bigot

If only the world was that simple
"

There is literally nothing more frustrating than a bigot who isn't obviously stupid.
posted by DoctorFedora at 1:33 AM on April 5, 2012 [18 favorites]


This seems very, very fake to me too. And I think it does matter. Even putting aside the issue of aggressive self-promotion to the point of dishonesty (teachers assign his blog posts! fundamentalist mothers and their gay sons bond over his blog posts! said fundamentalist mothers rethink their whole philosophy based on his blog posts, and then their small towns start to change!), it seems really not okay to sell this to all the closeted gay 15-year-olds out there as something that actually happened.

That's not to say we should be scaremongering or anything. Obviously there are gay teenagers in fundamentalist families who get a much better reaction than they were expecting when they come out, and whose families really do change their views (even if that doesn't often happen overnight), and gay teens whose families totally flip out at the news but who still made the right decision in coming out. But telling these kids "if you come out, your fundamentalist fire-and-brimstone parents will immediately change their views, and you will change your whole small town, and then you will truly know happiness - that's just unfair.

Also, other responses to his 'I'm Christian, Unless You're Gay' article sound pretty fishy too. From a police officer:
you’re article couldn’t have come at a better time for me cause I have been struggling to get into the christmas mood this year. well suddenly I feel real good about things cause I’m going to do a few things different and maybe for the first time this christmas I’ll actually be a christian. my buddies that I go out with are mostly christian and most of them are cops too, and I’m goin to forward this webpage to them and tell them that they better read it and its time we all stopped trashing on others when we’re together. to be honest I usually would be scared to do that but something you wrote really rocked me and now it would be scary NOT to do that.
And a Marine:
So anyways I’ve told my sister before that I have a hard time with the way some of the marines treat each other and she sends me your post about being Christian unless your gay and of course I had to read it because it’s been something I’ve been thinking of a lot. Well I couldn’t cry cause then I’d get the shit kicked out of me but I sure wanted to and I decided right then that I wasn’t going to put up with this shit anymore and that I would be the one to stop this kind of stuff.

Well sure enough another marine starts picking on this same guy and I can see that it’s going to get ugly again if I don’t do something and so I go and push him away and he looks at me like I’m crazy and I just say, knock it off man. It kind of ends for a minute and then this guy starts getting pissed and starts going after this other guy again and so I walk over and I push him off again and this time I grab his necklace that I knew he was wearing that had a cross on it and I pull it out from his shirt and I push it against his chest and I say why the hell do you even wear this man?

Well he got really pissed and took a swing at me but the other marines pulled him off and one of them said he’s right man it’s not cool and this guy went for a walk to cool off. Then he comes back in and tells me that he’s sorry and that I’m right we shouldn’t be doing that to eachother and then he goes to the guy that he’s always making fun of and tells him he’s sorry and that he won’t have any more problems from him and I haven’t seen any more problems going on but its like ever since then everybody is being way nicer to eachother and this guy that hasn’t had any friends is suddenly becoming part of our platoon.
I feel very, very strongly about homophobia in Christianity. I can believe Single Dad Laughing does too. But presenting yourself as the one true virally-marketed SEO-friendly pioneer for truth, via making up stories about all the people who think you're great, seems like a bad way to fight that fight.
posted by Catseye at 1:54 AM on April 5, 2012 [16 favorites]


Yep, the set-up is where it all fell apart for me. A teacher working in a community that the "gay teen" makes out to be very anti-gay & very conservative, reads a blog post and decides to risk her job by making the children of this conservative community write about what the article means to them? No way.

I agree that the message is the point. But if it could have been delivered in a less obviously bullshitty way, I'd have been a lot happier.
posted by Effigy2000 at 2:51 AM on April 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


A well-meaning friend/acquaintance had posted this earlier on Wednesday, and I said basically "Wow this sounds so fake" for much of the reasons mentioned (the stilted, uniform voice, the pat resolution, the improbable premise). This acquaintance did not enjoy my skepticism in the least, so I'm glad I see here that I'm not the only person who's suspicions were going haywire..
posted by hincandenza at 2:59 AM on April 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, I am not hugely surprised to learn that there was some scepticism about Single Dad Laughing's readership and revenue model even before this post.
posted by Catseye at 2:59 AM on April 5, 2012 [7 favorites]


Eh, I had so many issues with both articles. I wanted to love it, and I found it touching, but the whole thing just went off the cliff for me in so many ways.

Okay, gay guy here. Born in St. Louis where, in parts of town up to the mid-80s, bathrooms still had the colored and white signs hanging. Grew up in Dallas, and moved into the gayborhood the week after two shotgun murders took the lives of two gay men in the gay district because that was just how it was done back then. In the 90s. I lived in places like his friend Jacob's. And now I live in the Castro.

Also, I'm the son of a Doctor of the Church, a professor of the Old Testament. I grew up a member of an orthodox (not capital-O Orthodox, but rather, orthodox as the antonym to heterodox) community who were all fairly strongly aligned with Augustine, Luther and Calvin. We believe in the doctrine of original sin, we believe in the precepts of the Joint Homily on Justification, we agree upon the statements of faith in the Apostles' Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed, and, although most of the people I grew up with are Protestant, we're mostly the kind of Protestants who believe that one day the protest will end and the Church will be reunited in glory. I myself am Anglican, and one of the weird breed of late 19th century evangelical Anglicans, at that.

So I am, oddly, on both sides of his argument at once. And that's where I find he's just nowhere.

This topic has come up often enough in the course of my daily life that I needed to rigorously consider, debate, and land on a view that I could support and believe in. Here are my key issues as they relate to these two articles. Perhaps this is my confession:

1.

He used "Christlike." That makes me crazy! So in Christianity, Jesus is God. He's not God-lite or God-in-a-skinsuit. He is God. So people can't be Christlike. You aren't going to walk on water today. You aren't going to restore sight to the blind with mud and spit. You won't be raising the dead. You aren't going to be the context for the existence of everything. And (since "Christ" is a title, not a name), you aren't going to be the Messiah whose human sacrifice cleanses the sins of mankind and conquers death and who rises three days later. None of us are going to be God or anything like God today. Not even close. I promise.

In Christianity, we're not supposed to identify with the deity. We're supposed to identify with the apostles. When we're asked if we know Him, we're the ones who deny Him three times, not the ones who stay in Gethsemane to await being handed over for torture. We're the ones who allow the Truth to get nailed to the Cross, not the ones who sacrifice ourselves for the salvation of our enemies. We're the sinners - the ones who put distance between us and God - not the redeemers. We're the ones whose love is always conditional and whose kindness and compassion are always limited.

To identify with the deity as that which is to be aspired to and emulated is insane, and it's worthy of pity, not reconciliation or even debate. Nobody is doing better at being "Christlike" than anyone else. Everyone, as far as I can tell, is being human, and humans aren't Christlike. It neither a fine nor a complex distinction. Tell your friends. Interrupt anyone who goes down that path - even if you, yourself are not Christian - and correct them, for they are insane and need your help.

2.

It has been my experience that the people who he's thinking of in his essay are generally referred to in the American vernacular as "Evangelical." That makes me cringe.

An evangelist spreads the Good News - it's this thing that's defined in Christendom. It's concrete. It isn't event- or circumstance-driven. The Good News is that God sent His son Jesus to live and die among us, and in doing so He conquered death and forgives our sins. There are pieces of it that there are valid arguments about: Do you have to believe, and if so, what form does that have to take, exactly? Does this happen inside or outside of time? Was Pelagius totally off the mark or what - I mean, what do our actions really amount to? Does this all eventually come out in the end for everyone? Do we even have a hand in it, or are we predestined?

But one thing that we can uniformly agree on in Christendom is: Jesus came for everyone. Not just the ones who were expecting Him. Not just the straight people. Not just the Israelites. Not just the wealthy or only the poor. To reduce the heart of Christianity to a paid membership to a whites-only country club makes it, no matter how you slice it, not Good News to somebody. And if it's not Good News when you say it, you're not an evangelist. Stop calling yourself that.

Furthermore, I have a difficult time listening to anyone whose core soteriological argument is, "Do what I say consistent with how I have interpreted the Will of God in order to be saved, or else burn in Hellfire." That's just not terribly nuanced, and, ignoring even the obvious like that the Bible is extraordinarily nuanced, I have only to look at the world outside my door to know that God loves nuance. The details seem to be everything in this life, and arguing that with someone, in my mind, is arguing with someone who is clearly unconscious to everything around them.

3.

He makes an argument about Fundamentalism at one point (he doesn't call it Fundamentalism - he refers to someone who believes they have the Truth as a set of strict absolutes). I always find these arguments frustrating, and I rarely see anyone really pick a good fight with Fundamentalism (or Literalism or Paleo-Christianity or any of a host of other word-for-word-for-the-words-I-liked nitpicky pseudo-Christian cults). Most folks, like he did, try for the feels-right argument, because they don't want to call BS on the Fundamentalists, or maybe they just don't know enough to call BS on them.

Here's my argument against Fundamentalism: those who require an absolute, rigid belief-of-mind in a-thing-as-that-thing - the text of the Word versus the actual will of the Spirit or the act of the ritual versus the purpose and symbol of the experience - are people with little to no faith. I described it to a friend as millions of people who are in a pantomime of Christianity rather than actually availing themselves of the experience of the Spirit. They want to have faith as though faith is some sort of combination lock, and if they know the combination as a firm fact, and they turn six to the left and twenty to the right and seventeen to the left, they'll have it. Or, worse, they think that turning the lock is, itself, faith.

And if you reduce faith to a syndrome of human acts, then it's no longer a who-you-are. It's not a state of being. You are not one of the faithful. You don't have an actual, in-real-life experience of the Divine moving through your life. You're just a performance artist, contorting yourself into a set of unmaintainable body postures to impress the other performance artists. The only state of being you are is "busy." Busy conforming to what you think the next contortion is. Busy identifying who hasn't conformed. Busy suffering and calling it good. Busy spreading suffering and decrying what you've decided is evil. And bereft of any meaning other than that which you invent for yourself.

A core premise of Christianity (like any Messianic religion) is that God is making this all mean something - that there is imminent reason and purpose in living, and this is all going somewhere. But if you're just a machine doing a choreographed set of rote movements, what could that possibly mean that it hasn't already meant before or will mean in the future? And what of faith could a machine ever require to operate? Look at the mother's response: Her machine broke, and what she thought everything meant doesn't mean that anymore. What is life about if her machine is broken? Then after her anguish, she heads out to break everyone else's machines. There's a new normal, and she now knows what it is: homo is the new black, so get with the program. "I was right before, and I can be right again!" How nightmarish.

Fundamentalism is, in my mind, one of a number of things which are the opposite of faith.

4.

Most of the "Christians" who are spouting these views are members of heterodox, Anabaptist and usually semi-Pelagian congregations. Many call themselves non-denominational, or they're tangentially some formerly Protestant congregation like a Methodist offshoot. They might even call themselves Methodist still, or something like that (N.B.: I pick on the Methodists because they're the largest American Protestant denomination, and they tolerate this a lot). And on all sides of the Church Universal, we do agree on one thing: Anabaptists aren't Christian and Pelagianism is a heresy.

They may be perfectly nice people, and they might be very earnest about what they think, but they're not Christians. Because Anabaptists believe that there are mental positions they can take and parallel ritualistic actions they can do that will sway the will of God. That God's not absolute king of the universe. That as individuals, we get to vote on salvation and its application. And the semi-Pelagians think we vote in all our actions and the outcomes of same.

All of which makes God less than God. God isn't writing history in the that world view. History is writing God. And you can't hold that view and be a Christian. You can be a bunch of other perfectly valid things, but not a Christian. Of the two greatest commandments, one alternative but reasonable way to restate the first is, "God is God, and you are not." Loving and obeying God are pretty much natural offshoots of God being God and you being not-God. That's why there's a whole other commandment about loving yourself and others. Because the first one doesn't capture you at all.

Last.

I wouldn't normally have written this (and I feel funny about doing it at all, because it's a very vulnerable thing to do), but I've actually already had some form of this conversation three times in the last three days. I don't know if it's Easter in the air or what. Maybe because I'm fasting for Lent and not eating is a conversation starter over a meal. But it's been on my mind a lot, and people have been asking. Maybe I needed to write this out. Hard to say.

One thing that was pointed out to me a couple days ago was that I never back up any of this with references to Scripture. I don't, although I could. Because I believe I've had an actual Christian-form experience of God - a conversion experience of the type that William James would recognize. And I don't need additional bibliographic support in order to have or share my experience. I could give it, but I won't. If all you have is a bibliographic justification for what passes as your faith, I'm going to claim that it's not much of a faith, and that, furthermore, it's robbing you of actually having the experience. And that's sad, and good documentation won't help you.

So what I would leave people with is this: I believe that sin (the myriad ways we separate ourselves from God, and by extension, each other) causes suffering which I experience and spread to others. And I have experienced an insight outside myself that tells me there might be another way, a way of hope and possibility, and my original access to that was through a set of ancient traditions of thought and action. And that original access has a name: Christianity. And while parts of what that is have been debated for two millennia, the parts that we agree on as a community really are hopeful and really are for everyone, even the people who don't believe or even agree. It's Good News for everybody. Especially you.

I am gay, and I am, for sure, a sinner. And sometimes those are related, and sometimes they're not. I'm also an American, and I am, for sure, a sinner. And sometimes those are related, and sometimes they're not. I'm a lot of things, and sometimes (often) sin is in play - it's just me and my selfish desires and whatever it is that I am right then. That's my humanity at work, and, whatever you believe, surely we can agree that our humanity is a complex, extraordinary gift.

And I believe that I need God in the course of dealing with my humanity. I also happen to want to need God which is separate from my belief. I believe you need God too. However, it isn't my place to make you want to need Him in any particular way or through any particular means or inside of any particular context. The Good News isn't all that good if what you lose to experience it is your freedom. Also, if God needed me to defend and promote Him, He really wouldn't be God.

So I'd ask you to ask people you meet who take up the hateful positions that the original essayist was writing about whether they think that Jesus came for everyone, and that the Good News of his Gospels continues to be revealed as a source of hope and freedom and love for everyone, no matter who they are. And ask whether they have an actual experience of salvation actually acting in their lives right this second rather than a rote, book-learned, pantomimed construct of what faith ought to be.

If their answer is no, I ask you to give yourself permission to say to yourself, "This person might not be a Christian. The news they bring doesn't sound very good." Do what you will with that, but know that many of us, gay and straight, don't claim them as members of the faithful. That we don't accept their supposed membership in the faith as a justification for their hate. And that them not claiming us shouldn't be a surprise. They're probably not us.

Happy Easter to everyone, whether you believe or not.
posted by kochbeck at 3:24 AM on April 5, 2012 [70 favorites]


He elicits donations by asking readers to buy his son a Happy Meal?! That's low. Definitely not awesome-possum, for what it's worth.
posted by flippant at 3:38 AM on April 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


For fuck's sake - someone posts something about tolerance and gay acceptance and there are twenty comments either complaining that it's "fake" or complaining about the blogger?

Jesus, do you people not actually want homophobes to reform so you can continue having a scapegoat? Or do you get off on having someone to hate or something?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:03 AM on April 5, 2012 [9 favorites]


I very much would like real homophobes to reform. I am less interested in fictional homophobes reforming in a purported true story for the purpose of promoting someone's blog, particularly in a way that creates unrealistic and unfair expectations of real gay teenagers.
posted by Catseye at 4:11 AM on April 5, 2012 [46 favorites]


Who cares? We could all do with more love and tolerance is a good message, and if it resonates with it's target audience so much the better.

Why did it matter, then, that the blog A Gay Girl in Damascus turned out to be written by a 30-something white male American graduate student, and not a 20 something Syrian lesbian?
posted by Diablevert at 4:15 AM on April 5, 2012 [8 favorites]


Jesus, do you people not actually want homophobes to reform so you can continue having a scapegoat? Or do you get off on having someone to hate or something?

Bit of a false dichotomy there, innit?
posted by smoke at 4:16 AM on April 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


This was making the rounds on my Facebook, and yeah, it just didn't ring true for me. How many hateful, gay-bashing, dogmatic Christians do you know who have not only turned it around, but have gone on to apologize, out themselves as former assholes in public, and go on to campaign for gay rights in their insular conservative communities?

(Actually if you really do know of some, link me to their blog because I would be genuinely interested in reading it, but I don't think this is it.)
posted by showbiz_liz at 5:40 AM on April 5, 2012


I just wanted to also say that I'm glad I'm not the only one who this struck as very, very fake.

I'm not against more goodness in the world, but I don't think it should be overlooked that this could very well be fabricated.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 5:44 AM on April 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's very weird to me that people would defend making something up and presenting it as genuine, just because it's in furtherance of a good cause. This fabrication of feel-good parables (or outrage stories) is one of the most infuriating traits of the Right. Let's not follow their example.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 5:50 AM on April 5, 2012 [8 favorites]


Kochbeck, I'm not a Christian but I appreciate that you have put thought into your religion, and don't blindly follow because other people have made you afraid not to. And I generally agree with your assessment that there are Christians, and then there are "Christians" -- much as one can follow the letter of the law sometimes in harmony with the spirit of the law and sometimes to its detriment.

"Christlike" is a thing I have seen other people say, and from my perspective it sure does look like an admirable thing to be. A brave teacher of love, humility, and charity. I don't believe you have to be more than human to have those sorts of qualities and inspire them in others, and to me that is a vitally important piece of good news.

And so I find your claim that it is "insane" quite disturbing actually; akin to telling someone they should "know their place" and not strive to be better than the world thinks they are.
posted by Foosnark at 5:50 AM on April 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


I do believe it's fake, BUT:

Had her son not turned out to be gay, she'd have been quite happy to go on propagating misery, hatred and suffering in the name of Jesus

So what do you want, really? A black and white world where people are either innately wrong or right from the very beginning, whose minds are incapable of change? You weren't born knowing better, someone taught it to you. Probably around the same time that other people were being taught that it was okay to hate. Dismissing their progress because they would have been just fine continuing onward the way they were raised is a pretty shitty and unforgiving attitude, and it makes it sound like you'd rather the world go on in its current adversarial state than sort out your own baggage.
posted by hermitosis at 5:52 AM on April 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


> For fuck's sake - someone posts something about tolerance and gay acceptance and there are twenty comments either complaining that it's "fake" or complaining about the blogger? Jesus, do you people not actually want homophobes to reform so you can continue having a scapegoat? Or do you get off on having someone to hate or something?

In the long run, if it's a fake it could do a lot more damage than good. Suppose there really are a subgroup of homophobic people who really could be reformed just by reading a touching story like this one. And let's imagine that many of them do start to change their ways on the basis of this story.

Now imagine it turns out to be fake. Where does this leave our group of partial converts? Feeling betrayed, deceived, and (if they'd told their hardliner mates about their change of heart) faced with a loss of social status because they've been played for a sucker. So what happens next? They harden their hearts, and become hardliners themselves.

Lying to people in order to make them better human beings is rarely a successful strategy.
posted by mixing at 6:05 AM on April 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


I think it's possible that folks here think this is fake because of two things: 1) The writing style of the blog post and letters, and 2) The weird stock photos.

Here on Mefi, there are a lot of people who think and care a lot about writing style; we (correct me if I'm wrong) tend to be on the nerdier side of the spectrum, and value things like Well-Formed Sentences, Good Arguments, Snazzy Design, and Good Taste. The writing on this blog, its design, and its apparently online-savvy make it look pretty suspicious to folks like me anyway.

But I also know that the internet belongs to everybody now, and that includes many many folks who are not so obsessed with proper punctuation and good web design. It's no surprise that Mefi seldom links to places like these. I think the fraud-suspicion that's been ricocheting around in the thread is mainly a bewilderment at how other online communities actually function.
posted by phenylphenol at 6:07 AM on April 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


oof. "apparent lack of online savvy."
posted by phenylphenol at 6:11 AM on April 5, 2012


People think its fake for very well-explained and justified reasons, and none of these are the photo or style of writing. See above
posted by iotic at 6:31 AM on April 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


I hope that blog post actually went down the way it was written. Because it will be the first time in recorded history that a fundamentalist actually came to their senses and abandoned their nonsensical hatred of gays.

One down. Billions to go.
posted by prepmonkey at 6:32 AM on April 5, 2012


Lying to people in order to make them better human beings is rarely a successful strategy.

Nah, it's a fine story for the rank and file Christians. By all means, lie to those motherfuckers. It is their preferred method of learning, anyway.

Or what do you suppose the truth rate is for the average sermon relating some story about some person the priest supposedly met?

I think the fraud-suspicion that's been ricocheting around in the thread is mainly a bewilderment at how other online communities actually function.

Ha ha, yes we are so bewildered by the lumpen web!

No, it's not the sloppy style decisions that's setting off the bullshit detectors, it's actually the far too neat and tidy content. For example, mom goes from fag-hating bile-spewer to wise unconditionally accepting supermom in like 2 hours, with this guy's blog post standing in for the words of Jesus as the catalyst of this remarkable transformation.
posted by fleacircus at 6:34 AM on April 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


He used "Christlike." That makes me crazy! ... Everyone, as far as I can tell, is being human, and humans aren't Christlike.

Maybe in your flavor of English they aren't.
But there are enough people who ascribe a different meaning to "Christlike". Many people use it to mean "being kind and generous, help the needy, turn the other cheek, don't be a jerk, don't masturbate in public, etc."
Your usage is no more correct than the other usage, regardless of your religious beliefs.

And besides, didn't God create man in his image?
posted by sour cream at 6:35 AM on April 5, 2012 [8 favorites]


aw
posted by jabberjaw at 6:48 AM on April 5, 2012


lie to those motherfuckers

But when you lie* to people who are already pre-disposed to think gay right supporters are liars, you're just giving them ammunition for their twisted beliefs.

*I really don't know if the post is fake or not. I'm weary of Danoah in general, but *shrug*.
posted by drezdn at 6:49 AM on April 5, 2012


Because it will be the first time in recorded history that a fundamentalist actually came to their senses and abandoned their nonsensical hatred of gays.

That's terrifically unfair. And also untrue. Especially considering that LOTS of gays themselves began as fundamentalist Christians.

(Hi! I'm one of them.)

And most of us only abandoned our religion as a last resort, because up until then it was the only thing in our world which promised any sort of redemption whatsoever.

There are so many other people (not gay) who are similarly radicalized by exposure to gay people, in real life or in stories like this one (real or otherwise). Imagining them all stupid and senseless and uncaring is a huge mistake. By ripping them out of your worldview, you have no idea what you're throwing away alongside them.
posted by hermitosis at 6:51 AM on April 5, 2012 [11 favorites]


For me, the issue of whether or not it's fake matters because I started reading it thinking it was real. I didn't get too far into the mom's letter before little alarms started pinging in my head which got louder and louder as I continued reading. Eventually I stopped reading the mom's letter altogether because it was so obviously fake, and skipped on to the son's letter. Same thing happened. I never finished it either. The fakey-ness was too distracting. So yeah, the overall message of tolerance is admirable, but don't tell me a lie while encouraging me to do good.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 6:53 AM on April 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


So what do you want, really? A black and white world where people are either innately wrong or right from the very beginning, whose minds are incapable of change? You weren't born knowing better, someone taught it to you.

So we all only know what we're taught? Okay then: my understanding was that people who espouse Christianity are supposed to have been taught to believe in the Golden Rule, and to judge not lest they be judged, and under which circumstances to cast the first stone, and to love their neighbors as themselves, and a bunch of other stuff like that. So what I want, to answer your question, is for people--especially people who aspire to be the moral arbiters for everybody else--to occasionally ask themselves if their actions are consistent with their beliefs. Just check every once in a while to see if there are any major, glaring discrepancies. I would like people to notice when they're deliberately hurting someone else, and stop, even when the person they're hurting ISN'T their own child.

(Incidentally, I'm not sure I accept the premise that we only know better than this if we're taught better. I want to say that empathy is a natural, visceral response, and you have to teach people a whole bunch of wrong stuff to get them to circumvent it. But that's a whole other conversation.)
posted by Sing Or Swim at 7:09 AM on April 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Bible actually has a lot to say about the kinds of religious folk the original post is about, they certainly don't have the words of Jesus on their side.
Matthew 23
1 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: 2 “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3 So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. 4 They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.

5 “Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; 6 they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; 7 they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others.

8 “But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. 11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

13 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. [14]

15 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.

16 “Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gold of the temple is bound by that oath.’ 17 You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? 18 You also say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gift on the altar is bound by that oath.’ 19 You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 Therefore, anyone who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. 21 And anyone who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it. 22 And anyone who swears by heaven swears by God’s throne and by the one who sits on it.

23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

25 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.
Now "Woe to you", or ouai in the greek dialect that Matthew was written in, does not mean a pleasant warning of future misfortune. Really, according to the gospel, Jesus is saying FUCK YOU to these preachers in no uncertain terms. He is saying that these men who dig through the law (The stuff in the Pentateuch or first five books of the old testament) looking for details they can use to accuse others of being unholy or make themselves seem more holy are actors. Matthew uses a word Greek word for actor, ὑπόκρισις (hypokrisis), which up until this point had a neutral meaning without a negative connotation*, to describe the actions of priests like this, who ignore the heart of the Pentateuch. Doing things like taking houses from widows, while they make sure to be careful to tithe a tenth of their house plants. The way he uses the word hypokrisis, it definitely now has a negative connotation. Jesus calls people like this in clear red letters painted tombs, a dead rotting corpse whitewashed and dressed up.

Jesus had just clarified what he felt to be the heart of the law in the previous chapter,
Matthew 22
36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

*In the 4th century BC Demosthenes ridiculed his rival Aeschines, who had been a successful actor before taking up politics, as a hypokrites because skill at impersonating characters on stage made him an untrustworthy politician. Still a distinctly different usage.
posted by Blasdelb at 7:18 AM on April 5, 2012 [12 favorites]


I hope it's true.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:33 AM on April 5, 2012


It's glurge.

These stories end up in peoples' inboxes and their Facebook pages every single day. Kids dying of cancer trying to set some record or other. Stories of faith upheld and justified, stories of political positions that are in doubt suddenly revealed to be completely, indubitably right by way of one dubious anecdote. They're parables, modern day morality plays in convenient portable sizes, and they're lies.

Whatever the effect that this one has, positive or negative, I think it's worth noting that there's a widely circulating piece of glurge that is unabashedly anti-gay-bashing. An indicator, however small, that societal support for the oppression of gay people continues to erode.
posted by MrVisible at 7:35 AM on April 5, 2012 [18 favorites]


It really saddens me to hear so many people insisting that this is a fake post, because this (aside from the Christian bigot part) was very much like my coming out story. Although my father was "tolerant" of gay people, it was clear from a young age that it was not ok for me to be gay, and I lived in great fear of coming out to him. When he was faced with a crying 14 year old, finally admitting to him what I had known since early childhood, he was suddenly faced with a very different situation. It wasn't "gay people" anymore, it was his son. Almost overnight, and at times to my great consternation, my dad became a very vocal supporter of full equality for GLBT folk, even going as far as to leave the Catholic church in protest of their stance on homosexuality. I have to say, while skepticism definitely has it's place, cynicism, especially as rampant as the comments found here, is more than a bit disheartening.
posted by PranaBoy at 7:36 AM on April 5, 2012 [11 favorites]


For fuck's sake - someone posts something about tolerance and gay acceptance and there are twenty comments either complaining that it's "fake" or complaining about the blogger?

Jesus, do you people not actually want homophobes to reform so you can continue having a scapegoat? Or do you get off on having someone to hate or something?


I can only speak for myself, for me it is not a desire to have a scapegoat or get off on something to hate. As I said in my post it's because I think making up stories like this is extremely counterproductive to the ostensible goal. And it bothers me a lot that someone would damage a goal like this, through dishonesty, for the sake of their own advancement.
posted by cairdeas at 7:47 AM on April 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


Fake or not, the "letter" certainly read a helluva lot better than SDL's original post. I do *hate* single sentences after single sentences. And, I'm an atheist.
posted by Leezie at 7:50 AM on April 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


kochbeck, your understanding of Pelagianism is a 1500+ year old straw man that I'm surprised still has folks beating on whats left of it. As a Christian who doesn't really fit into the neo-orthodoxy that well, Barth's almost legalistically detailed focus on the tiny particulars of Christ strikes me as almost Pharisaic, with Anabaptist sympathies you've reminded me of a lot of why I'm a queer Methodist.
posted by Blasdelb at 7:51 AM on April 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


[We do not call people trolls here and the "let's toss lazy barbs about religion" stuff is tired. Go to MetaTalk or the contact form if you have issues with someone's behavior and stick to respectful discussion here or keep walking.]
posted by jessamyn at 8:13 AM on April 5, 2012


There are so many other people (not gay) who are similarly radicalized by exposure to gay people, in real life or in stories like this one (real or otherwise). Imagining them all stupid and senseless and uncaring is a huge mistake. By ripping them out of your worldview, you have no idea what you're throwing away alongside them.

This is exactly right.

There are basically two kinds of people who have an interest in saying, for instance, that in order to be a good Muslim, you have to be a suicide bomber. Those who want to pick a fight with all of Islam, and are rallying the non-Muslim troops by playing on their prejudice, and those who are recruiting suicide bombers out of the Muslim community.

There are basically two kinds of people who insist that all Christians have to believe in a literal seven-day creation: Christian fundamentalists picking a fight with everybody, and atheist fundamentalists picking a fight with Christians.

When you define out of existence a large number of people with whom you might find a respectful middle ground, you are making it harder, not easier, to coexist peacefully. Please don't do that.
posted by gauche at 8:18 AM on April 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


That blog post goes on and on. He needs to learn when to be salient, where to be concise and how to use brevity.

That and it's all made up. But that's okay, his point is valid, just poorly represented.
posted by roboton666 at 8:32 AM on April 5, 2012


Nah, it's a fine story for the rank and file Christians. By all means, lie to those motherfuckers.

You don't think there are any on MetaFilter or you just don't care?
Or perhaps your definition of 'rank and file' is out of sync with the dictionary?
posted by hat_eater at 9:23 AM on April 5, 2012


Nah, it's a fine story for the rank and file Christians. By all means, lie to those motherfuckers. It is their preferred method of learning, anyway.

When people want to be lied to, they want the lies that make them feel good and the lies that they want to believe are true. Think for a second about who feels good when they read this story and who would want to believe it's true. It's not Christian fundamentalists. If some conservative blogger wrote a little tale about an atheist parent frothing at the mouth with hate of religion, reading one of the conservative blogger's blog posts, suddenly seeing the light and becoming a believer from that evening on, atheists are not the ones who would find that inspiring. Atheists would roll their eyes. Same thing here.
posted by cairdeas at 9:34 AM on April 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


and atheist fundamentalists picking a fight with Christians.

There is no such thing as an "atheist fundamentalist." It doesn't work that way.
posted by tzikeh at 10:15 AM on April 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


Why it matters if it is fake: It weakens your side of the issue. If it's discovered to be a lie, then anti-gay activists can say "See? They lied here, they lie about everything." I have a few facebook friends that are, bless they're hearts, more liberal than my incredibly liberal self. And I find it wonderful, except the stuff they post is often blatantly wrong. A made up quote by Santorum (when he has so many wonderful actual quotes to choose from), a silly but factually incorrect poster about Alcohol users vs MJ users. It does no one any good even if it makes your point, and it makes you look like all your facts are made up or that you have no critical thinking going on, which leaves you vulnerable to your opponents.

I'm certain this has happened to someone, somewhere. Maybe not the blog post as an assignment that brings the gay son and fundy mother together - but the coming out of a gay child to a radical anti-gay parent and then acceptance because the love of a child is more important. Yes, I am cynical, but not so cynical to believe this hasn't happened. However, this particular story feels fake, and if it is, it devalues the stories where this has actually happened.

(On top of that, it sounds like it's made up for less than honorable reasons - as link bait for the profit of the blogger. Fuck that.)
posted by [insert clever name here] at 10:26 AM on April 5, 2012 [8 favorites]


It's kind of interesting. What happens at the end of the "mother's letter". How she slips into a particular device. The device of using short, declarative sentences. Lending artificial gravity to her words.

And how, if you put them each on one line....

They remind you of someone else's writing.

Someone else.

From the very same blog.
posted by gurple at 10:28 AM on April 5, 2012 [14 favorites]


There is no such thing as an "atheist fundamentalist." It doesn't work that way.

On the contrary, I think it is a kind of fundamentalism to insist on a narrow definition of faith and to write at some length that people who do not match up to that definition are being disingenuous about faith as they experience it. The linked article suggests that this is a kind of fundamentalism to which atheists are not immune.
posted by gauche at 12:09 PM on April 5, 2012 [1 favorite]



It's almost certainly fake.

But as someone who has, in the course of my life, come full circle from being a gay bashing fag hating dittohead to the loving father of an out and proud teenager - this sort of treacle really glosses over the amount of introspection and work that goes into changing your thoughts and ideas about these things.

Because, I'd love to say I met some gay people and they were cool, and so I stopped thinking being gay was wrong that instant forever.

But that's not at all what happened.

What happened was that I was your typical white trash working class straight nobody who had grown up in a culture where gay people were ignored when not openly mocked and derided. I'm not proud, I won't defend it. But fish are part of the water they swim in.

But then I met a girl. And her mother was a lesbian, and I made a couple jokes and was an ass, and we had some fights and some discussions and some more fights and so on. and that was the way gay people starting becoming people and not an idea.

And OK, so most other gay people suck, but this girl's mother and her partner were cool, right ?

Then she and I moved in together and found this wonderful apartment. Great location, awesome layout, and when we went to look at it, this fabulous man who lived downstairs and his "roommate" were having a dinner party and they invited us in anyway. They were gay. Their friends were gay. Just flaming. But I had no idea. None at all. Completely oblivious. You know, I don't think I'd ever met a gay person. Not an out one anyway. I had seen some caricatures on TV or whatever, but never actually met any gay people and knew about it.

We agreed to take the apartment. My girlfriend and I had a discussion about the neighbors being gay. "No, really?" "yes!" "but they said they were roommates"...

Yeah, I can be kind of stupid.

And then we lived there for years. But it was hard - the one gay man would hit on me - half joking - and at first, I was appalled. Shocked. Offended. But then, my (awesome) girlfriend explained that getting hit on by people you aren't attracted to happens to her all the time, everywhere.

Being hit on by a gay man doesn't make me gay. It means someone else found me attractive. It was a compliment, of sorts, not entirely, but still. But that didn't happen overnight. It took months and months for me to get comfortable with him making jokes about fucking me. It took months for me to make jokes back.

So, it took me a bit to overcome my aversion to this inversion of the usual mating scheme. But I did.

Those were good years though. I miss those guys and their awesome parties and their Joie de vivre.

So, over the course of 3-4 years, I changed from a homophobe terrified of his own sexuality and repression to becoming a confident straight man who had a better understanding his own sexuality and desires as a result.

But it didn't happen for free. I had to work at it. Think about it. Engage with it.

And it didn't happen quickly. It took months, years. I made mistakes and learned things the hard way sometimes. I had to change my own mind and thinking by force in some instances.

And I won't lie - seeing two men kissing still kind of makes me ill. Even when my son does it. That's my problem, not theirs, certainly, but it exists and is a thing. I wrestle with it.

My son knows about it - because if he can be honest about being gay, I can be honest about my latent homophobia. I like that level of trust that we have. That we can speak candidly about our feelings - that's the important bit anyway.

This story - it's nice. But it's also fake.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 12:10 PM on April 5, 2012 [82 favorites]


He believed he could make a change.

That's where the mother's response went south on me. He believed he deserved love and he didn't know if anything would change. That it did is really great, but claiming he did it to convert a town of haters is begging the question.
posted by carsonb at 12:31 PM on April 5, 2012


Pogo, I just favorited you so hard, I think I sprained my mouse finger.

If anyone ever asks me what I respect most in people, I'm going to send them to look at that post.

I hope you know how fortunate your son is to have you for a father.

Wow.
posted by MrVisible at 12:58 PM on April 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I hope you know how fortunate your son is to have you for a father.

MrVisible, look at the line of that post:

It's a fake. It didn't happen. His son isn't gay. Maybe he doesn't even have a son.

But it's still a nice story.
posted by sour cream at 1:38 PM on April 5, 2012


That letter pissed me off more than anything-- it's like I was tricked into reading Chicken Soup for the Gay Teen. This Dad's blog is 100% processed American cheese-- I see it as Eat, Pray, Love crossed with Play It Forward. Expect a book deal followed by movie deal followed by merchandise. To be consumed by the masses. Ugh.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 1:42 PM on April 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


His son is gay, or this is a long grift.
posted by jessamyn at 1:45 PM on April 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's a fake. It didn't happen. His son isn't gay. Maybe he doesn't even have a son.

By "this story" I meant the one in the FPP.

I will assure you that my story is real. You can't just make this stuff up.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 1:46 PM on April 5, 2012 [6 favorites]



Also, thanks MrVisible. my kingdom for an edit window!
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 1:47 PM on April 5, 2012


Expect a book deal followed by movie deal followed by merchandise. To be consumed by the masses.

I wrote too soon before I finished checking out the blog-- and yes, he has 3 books out. And up to 2 million hits a month. Pretty amazing for someone who started a daddyblog in the summer of 2010.

I damn near lost my eyeballs-- they were rolling so hard in their sockets-- when I read his FAQs.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 1:55 PM on April 5, 2012


I will assure you that my story is real.

Oops, sorry about that.
When you said "it's also fake", I assumed you meant that both stories are fake and that that was kinda your point.

Anyway, like I said, great story. And good luck to you and your kid.
posted by sour cream at 2:04 PM on April 5, 2012


Oops, sorry about that.
When you said "it's also fake", I assumed you meant that both stories are fake and that that was kinda your point.


It's all good. I wish I had (and had taken) more time when crafting that comment; there are many parts that could be made more clear.

I don't know how Delmoi and Sonascope manage to craft readable and cogent comments so quickly.

Anyway, my son celebrated his 17th birthday yesterday, so thinking about the hows and whys we came to where we are has been on my mind. This FPP was sort of timely, I guess.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 2:10 PM on April 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


gauche: I think it is a kind of fundamentalism to insist on a narrow definition of faith and to write at some length that people who do not match up to that definition are being disingenuous about faith as they experience it.

I think you're confusing "fundamentalist" with "asshole." There are plenty of asshole atheists. In order to be any kind of fundamentalist, though, you have to have a fundament to go back to--a set of beliefs and doctrines that you hold to without any ornament or interpretation. Fundamentalism in religion is about cutting away any dogma and adhering to strict, literal interpretation. Atheism has no doctrines, no dogma.

The term "atheist fundamentalism" was coined by (surprise, surprise), an archbishop in order to frame the argument that atheists, well, suck. So, no, really, there's no such thing as an atheist fundamentalist.
posted by tzikeh at 4:19 PM on April 5, 2012


For fuck's sake - someone posts something about tolerance and gay acceptance and there are twenty comments either complaining that it's "fake" or complaining about the blogger?

Empress, I gave a lot more thought to this comment of yours. I said before I thought it should be called out as fake because putting forth this kind of fake stuff is counterproductive. But I realized there is a part of me that is angry about what he's done here and your comment made me stop to think about what is causing that anger.

This man's whole blog is all about making $$$. He's drenched in SEO. He makes constant money asks to his fans. He makes constant "suggestions" that his fans buy advertising on his blog and is constantly begging them to forward his posts widely. He created this sweet little post about how he was going to buy up lots of M&M's and distribute them to sick kids in hospitals. And he just needs a bit of your $$$, I mean your help! The next post: Yay, you all sent me a thousand bucks! Oh but sorry, we can't do the M&M's thing after all for these reasons I didn't know about. But I'll think of something else, promise! Shocker. That M&M's post, by the way, contained choice lines like: Do you see that new, sexy, fancy orange button on the side there? [A button for people to send money] After you’re done reading this, click it. Something “amazing” will happen. Today, I am going to tell you what that something is. In the future, you’re going to have to trust me because that’s part of the fun. Give me your money, and don't ask questions! It'll be so fun!

But the line that is really telling is this one: Any time you’re feeling blue, click that button. Any time you want to smile, click that button. Any time you’re discouraged about something, click that button. Give a buck. You’ll feel like a million bucks.

The man is manipulative. He is showing that part of his MO is playing on people's emotions, sadness, and discouragement, to get them to send him more money. Making hopeless people believe he's someone who can just magically spread Awesome-Possum everywhere, but he can only do it with their "help."

There are a million very compelling, very important, and REAL stories about homophobia and other forms of hate out there. There are a million REAL voices out there who are saying important things about homophobia, who are putting forth extremely compelling thoughts and insights, that are going to make people think twice if they don't already agree. Pogo Fuzzybutt just gave us one example of that. But so, so many of these voices never get heard by very many people.

This guy's message in the original blog post about homophobia was a wonderful one. But his presentation of that message is average-ish at best - this guy is not going to compel or convince very many people who don't already agree. But that's okay. At least it all would be out of the goodness of his heart, even if it was ineffective.

But this man wants to make money. Based on all of this man's output that I have seen, I think he made up that little story about the mom and son and go viral, NOT to spread his wonderful message to the world, but to make more money. And in doing that he is taking that attention, eyeballs, bandwidth and money away from the real stuff, the stuff that actually does have an impact on people, and redirecting it to his own ineffectual stuff. Not caring what he is fucking up.

And I think his way of doing this, by making up the mom and son story, was emotionally manipulative along the same lines as scam artists who sell snake oil to desperate vulnerable people. Who is more desperate and vulnerable than gay kids of extremely religious parents?

Yes! My blog posts make enlightenment dawn on your religious parents! They will give you the courage to come out! They will make your whole town change! No matter how awful and abusive and insane they are! Like magic! Make sure to forward my posts WIDELY! And this vitamin I have for sale will cure your terminal cancer! And it will cure your child's autism! And it will solve your money problems! And...

I just think he is redirecting attention and money and so on, from things that will actually work and help, to himself, so that he can profit off of it. And I think he has crafted it so that nobody can object because his underlying goal is so wonderful! Even as he is the one who is undermining it.
posted by cairdeas at 6:19 PM on April 5, 2012 [17 favorites]


I found it really hard to finish the initial post, because I kept just wanting to reach through my screen and slap the guy upside the head and yell, This isn't about you, stop making this about you.

Still, on it's own, ultimately harmless. Then I read the response post and, yeah: fake. Which, honestly, didn't surprise me much (though it still kind of pissed me off), and I think that's because of my response to his first post.

Because, in the end, the story this guy is trying to tell is not really about why homophobia is a problem, or how people can overcome it through basic human love and decency. It's a story about how what a great and courageous and moving writer he is.

And really, if he'd chosen another topic--reconciling with estranged family or quitting your job to pursue your dream--for this self-aggrandizement exercise, I don't think I'd much care. But this is a real fucking issue that this guy has no right to appropriate for narcissistic glurge.
posted by kagredon at 9:55 PM on April 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


I've been thinking about this today, and I've decided that even creepier than the obviously fake homophobic-mom-sees-the-light post is the exploitation of the child. I haven't read much of this blog--I can't, the writing is so bad it makes my head hurt. But I read this, and I think it's really disturbing. The description of this child's body and spirit is, frankly, erotic. It seems wrong to publish explicit information about a non-consenting minor's adoption, birth and ethnicity online. If Noah is this boy's real name, then it is even entwined in the URL of this SEO engine--there is only one, shared "N" implying there is no Dan without Noah, no Noah without Dan. No boundaries, either. Poor kid.
posted by Scram at 10:50 PM on April 5, 2012


Do you mean "Noah is beautiful. His skin is beautiful. His eyes are beautiful. His face is beautiful"? Because that's how I think about my kids, and it's not erotic at all. The guy's not my kind of writer, and we could take some words out of context that would sound creepy, but there's no need to imply that he thinks of his son in erotic ways.

I also don't see the explicit information about the kid's adoption or birth, and I don't see the problem in mentioning that "He’s a quarter Panamanian, quarter Jamaican, and half Caucasian" (if that's the bit you're thinking of) -- it's relevant to the piece, that strangers in the supermarket will ask him rude questions because he and his son don't look like they're related.

Some parents publicly share cringeworthy amounts of information about their kids, but I'm not seeing that here.
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:44 AM on April 6, 2012


The corpse in the library, that was the start of the description of Noah which I found disturbing. It goes on and gets weirder. Maybe if this were just any old daddy/mommy blog this would simply be cloying, but in the context of a commercial venture where the truth is being warped for web hits, the whole tone squicks me out. I'm not suggesting he's molesting the child, rather that he's exploiting someone's existence and identity for profit. Without the boy, is there a blog or a writing career?
posted by Scram at 9:40 AM on April 6, 2012


Ok, I agree I don't like this guy's writing style, and when I re-read the essay this morning I noticed the manipulation a lot more than I did yesterday. But there is a thought kernel there that resonated with me. That is, I thought "I'm a Christian, unless you're gay" was going to mean, "I'm a Christian unless you think that means I'm a hater, cuz I'm not, so we can just forget that whole Christian label thing if it makes you uncomfortable." I wanted to read about that, because that's what I want people to know about me.

Becoming a Christian turned me around 180 from smug, opinionated, self-satisfied, superior, and jerky to someone who's at least trying to look past people's outward appearances and remember we're all just people and we all have problems. But I'm not comfortable admitting to "Christianity" because of all the "Christian" haters. Are all the kind and good people now outside organized religion? Surely not.
posted by probably not that Karen Blair at 11:56 AM on April 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


He lost me at "I'm a Buddhist, unless you're gay."

Ok, maybe in some communities this is true - but seriously? This guy personally knows Buddhists who say that the Dharma is for everyone but queers? My head is spinning so fast, I think it just defied several laws of physics.

I'm not saying that there aren't Buddhist homophobes. I'm saying that I can't possibly imagine a homophobe in the US using his/her Buddhist practice as an a priori doctrine-based justification of homophobia.

Buddhist. Queer. Totally perplexed.
posted by sonika at 2:14 PM on April 6, 2012


I'm not saying that there aren't Buddhist homophobes. I'm saying that I can't possibly imagine a homophobe in the US using his/her Buddhist practice as an a priori doctrine-based justification of homophobia.

I think that's a pretty ethnocentric take. There are plenty of branches of Buddhism that are just as homophobic as any variety of Christianity. In the US, you probably would find them more in immigrant communities.
posted by smoke at 2:58 PM on April 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


There are plenty of branches of Buddhism that are just as homophobic as any variety of Christianity.

Yes, I do believe I tried to acknowledge that without delving into an entire sidebar on Buddhist doctrine and sexuality.
posted by sonika at 7:05 PM on April 6, 2012


I'm not any kind of expert on Buddhism, but it's pretty widely known that the Dalai Lama thinks homosexual activity is 'sexual misconduct' in a way that heterosexual activity isn't. I'm not suprised to hear it's more complex than that, but I'm also not surprised to find that an American Christian wouldn't look further than that either.
posted by harriet vane at 1:52 AM on April 7, 2012


Dalai Lama thinks homosexual activity is 'sexual misconduct' in a way that heterosexual activity isn't

This isn't true. Just off his Wikipedia page this is patently false.

"In a 1994 interview with OUT Magazine, the Dalai Lama clarified his personal opinion on the matter by saying, "If someone comes to me and asks whether homosexuality is okay or not, I will ask 'What is your companion's opinion?'. If you both agree, then I think I would say, 'If two males or two females voluntarily agree to have mutual satisfaction without further implication of harming others, then it is okay.'"[74]"

If you want to get into the whole "The Dalai Lama, as a Buddhist monk, doesn't think that ANYONE should be having sex - specifically not anal sex" digression, that's something else. But HHDL specifically states that he has no problem with homosexuality and that society should be accepting of the GLBT community.
posted by sonika at 5:30 AM on April 7, 2012


I'd heard things more like what's quoted at ReligionFacts.com: "At a press conference the day before the meeting, he said, "From a Buddhist point of view, [gay sex] is generally considered sexual misconduct." and later... "For laypeople, he commented that the purpose of sex in general is for procreation, so homosexual acts do seem a bit unnatural."

Those references are from the 90s, and my understanding is that he (like many other people) has come to a more nuanced understanding of the issue over time, and is currently supportive of LGBT rights. But he is on the record as saying stuff that's generally negative, and hardly anyone (let alone Christian bloggers) bothers to track the latest developments in religions they don't belong to.

I'm not attacking him or any other Buddhist, just trying to puzzle out the issues around the quote "I'm Buddhist, unless you're gay" from the original article. If Buddhism has some homophobic members, that doesn't make it evil, but just the same as any other religion or community group that encourages members to form their own opinions on social issues.
posted by harriet vane at 3:53 AM on April 8, 2012


« Older Before Quantum Leap, there was a another scifi tv ...  |  Ein Stop-Motion-Film, inspirie... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments