Defending Tony Perkins’ WaPost Editorial Without Agreeing

There is a Washington Post editorial that has stirred up a really heated frenzy, but for really dopey reasons, I suspect. A gent named Tony Perkins wrote an article about the subject of bullying, and several people on my Facebook feed seem to take issue with the article, claiming that Tony Perkins is declaring the gay-rights movement is responsible for kids being bullied about their homosexuality. The editorial (found here) does not say that, at all. This post is to defend what Tony Perkins is actually saying, without supporting his arguments by agreement.

The opposition to Tony Perkin’s misunderstood editorial is not limited to my Facebook newsfeed — several dozen comments below the article itself hypocritically and mistakenly bash Tony for his position (hypocritically by bashing that Tony should not be bashing, and mistakenly for failing to actually understand his position).

One woman, whose son committed suicide after pressures of gay-bashing purportedly drove him to it, now being a board member of the specific interest group Perkins proposed as one of the many combined faults leading to pressures felt by gays that can accelerate the decision to commit suicide, speaks out about her incorrect impression of what Tony Perkins is talking about.

The consumer advocacy group Media Matters also published an article confusing the message Perkins is getting across. A key phrase in the MM article states, “Unfortunately for Perkins, the article he links to says no such thing.” It says no such thing, because MM appears to have no idea what Perkins is even talking about.

I am pro gay-rights (equality under the law), and was bullied in school to the point that I was very stressed out and even had my own Columbine-like plan (which was several years prior to Columbine, and, during the time of the Columbine incident was on the side of the shooters) and and believed at the time my plan was several shotguns short of being a reality. That said, I have been affected by bullying in a very real way.

A major aspect to note about Perkins’ article, that perhaps isn’t made particularly clear, is that Perkins repeatedly refers, specifically, to “homosexual conduct” in the literal sense — acts of physical sex between two people who possess the same sexual physiology. This does not include the identity of homosexuals, such as possessing feelings or temptations toward doing so, but, specifically, the conduct itself of acting upon those desires. He makes it clear that he is referring specifically to the physical act of same-sex deeds by referring directly to the Levitical law and even stating transparently it’s the physical deed that he’s referring to.

I think we can both agree that, under the law, having the desire to speed down the highway, or being tempted to steal something from a store is not a punishable crime (or a crime, at all), but acting upon that desire is where guilt lies.

Tony Perkins is not railing against people who possess homosexual desires. If you, at all, thought Tony Perkins was bashing gays or the homosexual support community, you have improperly understood what Perkin’s is talking about.

The next to last paragraph seals the fact that Perkins is not bashing gays, firmly — that it is completely wrong for Christians to bully or persecute gays for their identity or their temptations, because each Christian himself has his own temptations and struggles also. The inclusion of this paragraph is pivotal in maintaining that he is not railing against gays, and confirms his clear intent that he is not bashing gays. I’m not sure how exactly that could have been more clear.

I read the full article multiple times and do not see any evidence of Perkins railing against gay people in general. He is not blaming the gay rights movement for suicides, either. I’m really having trouble finding which parts are repulsive, specifically. I offer you instead, my paragraph-by-paragraph analysis:

The Title
I think this is a big trouble spot. Headlines for articles are not generally written by the author, and I’m not certain that’s widely known. Headlines are generally written by a copy editor (copy, being an industry term for the text of an article, not for a duplication) and can be off-based substantially. A copy editor often reads the article looking for specific stylistic or grammatical errors, and makes a rough headline about the subject. In this case, I think a misunderstood connection between “Christian” and “harms of homosexuality” started off the article in an improper connotation. The title could easily be misinterpreted to suggest, “Christians’ political image of being compassionate needs to take into account the truth that that homosexuality is harmful,” when instead it reads (in context with the article), “As Christians, we need to properly understand how much homosexuals are just like ourselves, in the truth that our own temptations drive us to disobey, also.” The problematic phrase, “truth about harms of homosexuality,” could ambiguously suggest that homosexuality is harmful OR that the harms of homosexuality need to be put into perspective in that they are currently wrongly persecuted. I fear that most people who are so red-in-the-face against this article went along with the former interpretation, and from there, unflinchingly framed the rest of the article on that single idea.

Paragraph One
This initial paragraph justifies (and notes the fairness behind) the reasoning this article should be printed — because gay community groups are blaming Christian councils as a cause for the minds of bullies to reason that bullying is an acceptable practice. The point is made that blame is laid upon Christian groups for enabling the minds of bullies to feel justified that bullying is acceptable since homosexual deeds are against scriptural code.

The media has been reporting about students who are gay who committed suicides, yes, and I think it is without doubt that many, if not all, gay activist groups charge that Christian family organizations denounce same-sex physical intimacy.

Several opinions in article comments rest a significant burden on The Washington Post for printing bigotry, but truly, the Washington Post is giving the blamed group a fair chance to respond to accusations. How is it not fair to permit a group to defend itself? This introduction states that this is an opportunity to respond to accusations.

Paragraph Two
This section unquestionably states that bullying, of any kind that includes verbal harassment, physical harassment, or violence — is completely unacceptable, and perhaps worsened by the fact if done against a child. In this context, it should be overwhelmingly clear that the article itself is THEREFORE not harassing gays or the gay community, AT ALL.

This concept is reinforced by Paragraph Ten, when he uses a scriptural basis for the reasoning bashing people is a totally unjustified practice, referring to when Christ stops the stoning of a woman guilty of adultery, telling the stone-throwers to leave unless they themselves are without guilt. I’m not certain how his position on this could be any clearer — but the people so furiously opposed to this article still come away with feeling like he has indeed bashed gays, erroneously.

Paragraph Three
These words described where blame should be properly laid — not on Christian groups, not on gay community groups, but squarely upon the individuals who, themselves, bully others. This is a resoundingly Christian principle — that your upbringing, your church involvement, what your peers think, what your friends pressured you into doing, all doesn’t matter as a reason to bully — because you yourself have the choice to decide whether or not to do something that you know to be wrong, and that wrongness in particular here, is bullying.

Blame for bullying should not at all be laid upon organizations that very obviously, verbally and functionally, oppose bullying in a straight-forward, transparent way.

Perkins also defends the idea that it is very unlikely, if at all, that bullies actually do get their peace of mind in committing acts of a bullying nature, from religious meetings or Christian community groups that claim homosexual acts are against the rules, because of their specific, outright opposition to bullying.

Paragraph Four
I believe the “however” here refers to gay community groups’ accusation that Christian groups’ opposition to the homosexual deed as justification for bullies to bully. The reason for making this seemingly hypocritical accusation against a specific gay community group, is to illustrate that gay community groups ALSO commit the very act they are accusing Christian groups of, rendering therefore both accusations outside realm of legitimate discourse.

To put it lightly, to accuse Christian groups of a fault, while committing the identical fault, negates both as valid points of contention. What seems to be understood here, by readers who didn’t first understand the context of the original point, is that Perkins is actually genuinely accusing gay community organizations of bullying youth into a pressured environment so as to accelerate the decision to commit suicide.

I believe the sentence, “…groups like GLSEN … are exploiting these tragedies to push their agenda of demanding not only tolerance of homosexual individuals, but active affirmation of homosexual conduct…” suggests that “tolerance of homosexual individuals” is bad — which is not what he is saying.

What has already been overwhelmingly stated is that tolerance is called for, whereas intolerance (bullying) is completely unfair. When Jesus told the stone-throwers to put their rocks down, he was insisting they tolerate the sin of this woman because they themselves are sinners. It should be very very very very very clear that Perkins is saying tolerance is very very necessary.

The sentence says, that, although gay communities are doing this necessary thing (teaching tolerance) that Christian councils agree is needed, but that gay communities are ALSO affirming that the homosexual physical act is an acceptable to practice, with which Christian organizations disagree. The impression that this paragraph advocates intolerance of gays is absolutely incorrect.

Paragraph Five
Perkins here links to an article describing the results of multiple studies done about the relationship between mental illness and individuals with a homosexual propensity. The article itself demonstrates that the data gathered (from multiple surveys) disagree with each other on some points, such as that mental illness can be linked to those with a perceived homosexual nature, but that it also cannot be linked and is therefore inconclusive.

When Perkins claims there is “no empirical evidence” (which Media Matters misquotes as “no evidence”) that link society’s pressures against homosexuality with mental health, he is referring to the second, Netherlands survey that says the issue in inconclusive. The different between empirical evidence and otherwise, is that empirical research is something that can be directly tested, whereas non-empirical is purely speculation, reasoning, or guessing conclusions without directly, scientifically proving something. He essentially states, to the effect of, “We can’t technically say that, since it’s just a guess.”

In my opinion, this paragraph is non-essential to the overall argument that Perkins is attempting to make, and merely muddles the article.

Paragraph Six and Seven
This section reinforces how the accusation made against Christian organizations as being source material for bullying, is unfair, by providing evidence that at least one particular gay moment group also provides an environment that has potential for pressuring young people to commit to an identity.

Within that identity of coming out and confessing their feelings so early, Perkins argues, gays may be, from that point, placed in a public perception in which they could feel like they’re trapped. But mind you, this accusation is flies in the face of the similar accusation made against Christian groups, that bullies might feel trapped in the position of needing to express that committing same-sex physical intimacy is wrong because of pressures from their respective religious groups — and that both of them are incorrect ideas, because the blame should be squarely placed specifically upon bullies, themselves, for bullying.

Paragraph Eight (first part)
Instead, Perkins argues, is that Christians can offer their peers who endure a propensity toward same-sex physical intimacy, the hope that they can live without having a burdensome guilt about their natural tendencies — in the face of pressures that obviously do exist.

The idea that he’s trying to get across here is not that you can be guilt-free of homosexual feelings by outrightly denying them, but by trusting in Christ’s merit (as Christians do) to REPLACE the “goodness” required by God’s law of obedience, on behalf of that guilt-feeling individual. Christ had the perfect merit to God’s law, and by way of dislodging the weight of that law in the act of dying when Christ did not deserve death, Christ enabled the loophole that therefore, those with an imperfect record of obedience, may instead use Christ’s perfect obedience IN PLACE OF THEIR OWN record of obedience — meaning that a sinner is now not condemned because of Christ’s merit, and not their own ability to stop disobeying.

I think the popular understanding, of what Christ’s importance is to Christians, is tragically misunderstood — that when you become a Christian you must therefore place yourself under all of these weird, crazy rules that say you can’t do this and that — when instead it is the Good News that your record of such disobedience is no longer tallied. Christians choose obey the law, now, out of joy and thankfulness, not out of a harsh system of control for which the punishment is Hell.

I believe people who are taking offense to this article, are under the impression that Christian compassion involves telling homosexuals that their lifestyle will send them to Hell if they don’t change their actions — when instead it is to tell people that “sin” is no longer counted against you when under Christ’s wing, and that abstinence from sin is willful and intentional as an appreciative tribute, rather than as a burdensome chore under a strangely cruel system of control that no one would rightfully consider joining.

Paragraph Eight (the rest) and Nine
This portion deals directly with why Perkins and most Christian organizations oppose, specifically, the affirmation of same-sex physical intimacy, by showing cases in which the promiscuity (or “non-monogamy” of romantic relationships between men and other men, as the linked article poses) and the physical battery and physiological trauma of engaging in sex with same-sex partners are avoidable consequences of obeying the temptation to engage in same-sex physical intimacy — from a standpoint not that assails the individual’s identity, but from the standpoint of the actual physical act and increased addiction that could be acquired from repeat acts, as shown in the studies he links (two of which are PDFs).

Perkins uses this rationale (from the three studies linked) to suggest that there exists a secular basis for non-empirically inferring that homosexual conduct is unhealthy from and can lead to undesirable consequences as proven by evidence outside the realm of the bible’s teachings.

Paragraph Ten
Perkins further reinforces the idea that Christians are not at all authorized to engage in physically or verbally abusive tactics (bullying) in response to encountering individuals if a propensity for same-sex physical intimacy, and uses scripture to describe an incident where Christ himself encountered a woman being stone for her crime of adultery — essentially telling the people stoning her to stop doing so, and to only continue if they themselves have no faults about them. Notably, Christ did not let the woman go free because she had not disobeyed, but in recognition that those who wished to serve the appropriate judgment did not possess such authority, and told her to to stop committing adultery.

Final Paragraph
As a really quick wrap-up, Perkins states that the proclamation that homosexual conduct (same-sex physical intimacy) is not reflective of a holy lifestyle pleasing to God, and that by getting that point across (without resorting to bullying, as the article’s context states) is necessary and not at all appropriately described as bullying, if done correctly.

All that said, Perkins does an adequate job of clearly stating he is anti-bullying of anyone for any reason whatsoever, which obviously includes being bullied for being gay.

The mention about the push of one gay community group, GLSEN, is specifically about pushing young people into an identity they are not yet sure about, so that they feel trapped even if they’re merely bisexual or are merely curious instead of being black-and-white gay with a capital G. I am against pushing young people into any identity that they themselves are not certain about, and would rather they discover their own identity from exploration, rather than at the advice of an aggressive group.

Pay special attention to the actual language Perkins uses — he uses words like this “may create” a sense, or that such and such “can lead” to suicide. These are not a black and white style, of “this unquestionably equals that” but instead, offers an alternative — a possibility — for the increased mental issue rates, as a suggestion for further research. Perkins is not using, “You will listen to me and obey my command,” type language, but instead speaks in the patterns of suggestion and posing ideas.

I do disagree that homosexual “conduct” is harmful to society at large, but I would agree that abuse of sensual pleasure is certainly possible, and that limit might be discovered before it becomes a problem — in the same way as “knowing your limit” on alcohol and having integrity to stop as appropriate.

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