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Monday, October 15, 2007
(2:08 PM) | Stephen:
Roots Of Hypocrisy

A county GOP chairman in Wisconsin has resigned his position after being indicted on two counts of child enticement, one count of exposing himself to a child and two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. He is free on a $20,000 bond and has pleaded not guilty.

It just goes on and on, doesn't it? There is a real problem with GOP politicians and conservative pastors engaging in immoral, criminal and sick behavior. Just head over to this handy post from Melissa and click on one or two of the links. You'll be shocked at what you see. And yes, I do happen to believe that it's more of a problem on the Right than it is on the Left, for reasons I will now explain.

To attempt to explain this I'm going to use my own experiences, because I see the same dynamic at work with these stories of adultery, drug abuse, pedophilia, etc. and my own history - though let it be clear that I have never even used narcotics, let alone abused them, I have never been unfaithful to my wife, and I have never considered an inappropriate relationship with a minor in any way whatsoever.

But what I did do was pursue a career as a pastor. Pretty terrible stuff, right? The problem was not with the career choice, but with my motivations, which came not from a real sense of a "call," - though I was sincere in my beliefs, but from my self-loathing and despair because of depression. I hated myself and could not believe that I would ever amount to anything worthwhile. I felt completely cut off from God even as I tried ever harder to establish a connection with him. And even though I knew that pastors weren't perfect, I still had a vision of them as being close to God, as being recipients of divine grace if for nothing else then because of their responsibilities. I thought that becoming a pastor would turn me into a good Christian, would put me back in touch with God and would change my attitudes about myself.

If I had been a gay teenager that still believed homosexuality was wrong and sinful, I might have become a pastor because I thought that doing so would drive my sexual desires from me. I might have gotten married and become a crusader against LGBT acceptance, believing that if I would only work a little harder at it I would rid the world and therefore myself of those "sinful urges."

Or I might have become a politician, one of those who make careers out of convincing the electorate of how horrible our nation is becoming and how I would stem the tide. Perhaps I would have been one of those for whom laws against the LGBT community could never be harsh enough, punishing them as a proxy for what I felt I deserved.

There is a hysteria about homosexuality in this nation, and I see it as profoundly dangerous to our society and profoundly damaging to individuals' psychological health. Some people who grow up in hysterically anti-homosexual surroundings and who find themselves attracted to members of the same sex manage to leave it behind. They're able to understand that they must accept who they are, because denial of one's own core identity will always lead to self-destructive behavior.

But I believe that many people are not able to do that. They want to hold on to the identity painted for them by their families and churches no matter the personal cost. It is their dogged determination to exorcise their false demons that will lead some of them to become the conservative movement's loudest and most hysterical voices. And that, I believe, is part of the dynamic behind this seemingly unprecedented amount of religious and political conservatives getting caught in the exact behaviors* they so loudly condemn. The other part of the dynamic is that the 24-hour news cycle and the ability for the Internet to act as a megaphone makes it significantly harder for people and communities to sweep this kind of thing under the rug. The media have learned that stories like this will sell, and so they search them out.

The answer the problem, of course, is for people to just be who they are, to accept their own identities and those of their families and friends without condemnation. But that, I'm afraid, is a long time coming.

*About those caught in pedophilia, while I agree that there is no connection whatsoever between homosexuality and pedophilia, I do wonder if some of the cases that are prosecuted as pedophilia are the result of deeply closeted and emotionally unhealthy people learning that teenagers can be easier to manipulate and seduce than adults and so find themselves in trouble with an underaged kid without having ever wanted to abuse a child per se. That is to say, perhaps there are pedophiles and then there are people who abuse a child; the punishment needs to be exactly the same, but the underlying motivation might be different and might require different treatment. Or I might be full of crap.

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