Tom Gilson

Pushback Against “Critical Conversations” Book? No, Just Stereotyping

At first I was going to say here that my book Critical Conversations had received its first pushback today, in an article Debra Pasquella wrote a titled “Christians Who Primarily Focus on Homosexuality Based on Fear.”” It wasn’t. She hadn’t read the book. She was stereotyping me instead.

She did hear me do an interview (more on that below). But if she had read the book, she might not have said so blithely,

Intolerance and hate are first taught at home. They pick up on what their parents detest and use it as ammunition once they get into a tickle with someone in the schoolyard. Teaching your children that homosexuality is wrong is very destructive and I even want to say, cruel. I wonder if some of these parents even think about the consequences of bullying, like self-harm and suicide statistics.

She would have known that I dealt with all that in some detail. Maybe she would have disagreed with me, but she could at least have engaged with what I said rather than what she assumes I feel, believe, or do. (“Assumed,” you say? Yes. See below.)

If she’d read the book she wouldn’t have acted as if she were informing me for the first time, “New Testament: Speaks about the promiscuity of all homosexuals as well as heterosexuals.” I knew that.  But what’s really interesting is that if she’d read the book she would have known that I teach precisely the opposite of what she accuses in her sentence following that one: “They have taken the meaning of reckless sex and threw it upon all gay people.” I haven’t done that. I’ve done the opposite. I spend considerable time in the book detailing how heterosexual immorality led straight to today’s opinions about same-sex physical intimacy and marriage.

If she’d read the book she wouldn’t have associated me with Christians who “will cherry pick [the Sodom and Gomorrah account] and twist the story around to condemn those who are homosexual.” I don’t use that account at all; I don’t think it’s clearly about homosexuality.

If she’d read the book she wouldn’t have said, “They never seem to focus on the 100 plus verses on slavery.” I devote a section to that.

NewImageIf she’d read the book she wouldn’t have put this hateful image —with which I thoroughly disagree! — right next to her description of why she thinks I wrote it.

If she’d read the book she would have known that my disagreement with the term “homophobia” isn’t based on a feeling. (She wrote, “Christians feel that most liberals … use the word ‘homophobia’ in an incorrect way.”) My disagreement is based on the fact that there is a proper definition for “phobia,” and that the disagreement many of us have toward homosexuality doesn’t fit that definition.

Ms. Pasquella did not read my book, but she did listen to an interview. She says,

Mr. Gilson used a term that I sort of chuckled at while being interviewed the other night. He said that gays and lesbians base their relationships on “excessive lust”. He primarily focused on the sexual aspects of gay and lesbian relationships.

I don’t know which interview she heard, but I haven’t had one yet in which I primarily focused on sexual aspects. There was one (I forget which) in which I made a reference to “excessive lust.” But at the time I was describing a view held by pro-LGBT writer Matthew Vines, with whom I disagree on many things, including his view that the New Testament’s condemnation of homosexuality only applied to cases of excessive lust or unequal relationships. In other words I was speaking about someone else’s view, not my own, and I was disagreeing.

So what’s going on here, really? There’s more than a hint of an explanation where she says,

Mr. Gilson wrote a whole book based upon his fear of his children being gay, and your children being gay and perhaps his own fear that he’s gay himself. I can make all types of assumptions based on their “homophobia” (which by the way, many Christians hate that term).

She doesn’t know me, but she’s labeling me and drawing assumptions out of her opinion of the group she has so labeled. That’s classic stereotyping. So is most of the above.

I wonder whether Ms. Pasquella actually believes in stereotyping.

Speaking of stereotyping, she goes on to say,

Antigay Christian conservatives mostly focus on tearing apart the LGBT community due to fear alone. In my opinion, this has a great deal to do with their own sexual repression. Most homophobic Christians are homosexuals. They’ve done hundreds of studies regarding this all proving it to be true.

“Hundreds” is a very large number; and the best such studies I found said something different. They didn’t say that most “homophobic Christians” are repressing same-sex desires. They said that repressing same-sex desires could lead to more pronounced anti-gay behaviors. There is a significant difference. Yes, repressed sexual conflicts can lead to certain behaviors, but it’s an error of logic and science to conclude that all persons having a certain opinion have it for the same reason. That article also says,

Across all the studies, participants with supportive and accepting parents were more in touch with their implicit sexual orientation, while participants from authoritarian homes revealed the most discrepancy between explicit and implicit attraction.

The whole point of my book is for parents to have thoughtful, respectful conversations with their teens about sexuality, which is the opposite of taking an authoritarian stance.

I don’t know if she was still speaking specifically about me, or about the stereotyped group I represent in her mind, when she wrote, “When you encourage homophobia…. You’re displaying your own fear of homosexuality, your own fear of being gay yourself.” Notwithstanding that I don’t agree that I encourage homophobia, there’s also the fact that I’m not afraid of being gay myself. I’m comfortable in my own skin. I’m fine with who I am. I’m not afraid. But she’s stereotyping.

She closes the article,

My point is: so many knowledgeable Christians are wasting their teaching platforms to instill their own fear upon society. Fear is not of God. The only thing to conquer your fear is through love. Why aren’t we showing more of that?

Why didn’t she read the book?

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7 thoughts on “Pushback Against “Critical Conversations” Book? No, Just Stereotyping

  1. I thought LGBT activists and sympathizers were opposed to stereotyping. But isn’t making a judgement about the thoughts and intentions of somebody you do not know stereotyping? I am not saying she’s being hypocritical (well, I guess I am saying that,) but please don’t criticize a book you have never read and don’t have a clue what it is even about. We have a word for something like that. It is called prejudice.

  2. At the risk of being somewhat unpopular on this site, I rather liked her article (thank you for linking it here, I will go back and read some more of her writings as I thought it was interesting and insightful). But I think there is more to the article than you seem to be getting at here. Personal experience has a great effect on our judgement and our thought process (even our epistemology if you want to think of it that way).

    I can imagine she is responding to the rather horrific treatment that the LBGT community receives at the hands of the very people who are supposed to be showing God’s love. And in that she focused on you and something you said in the interview. Her experience (possibly, as I have not yet met her) leads her to the position that conservative Christians are hateful people. I have experienced much the same thing in my dealings with local Christians. My wife and I have heard from the pulpit on Sunday mornings how Christians should have nothing to do with anyone LBGT and how good Christians kids need to stay away form anyone like that. The hate and venom from Christians is sad but not surprising and perhaps this is her experience as well (I admit I am reading into her article more than she wrote, but I think I may be onto something here).

    Now, I do not know about your book specifically as I have not read it. But maybe the reason why she makes the assumptions she does is simply she has dealt with enough conservatives to make judgments about what is in the book itself (right or wrong, our personal experiences do shape the way we think). If one has to listen to enough hate from those who are supposed to love, it is hard not to make snap judgments about the context of someone’s book or character. Perhaps you should challenge some of the hate that Christians speak instead of getting irritable in this post?

    David Gushee wrote an interesting book – Changing Our Mind: My Journey as a Christian Ethicist Toward Full LGBT Acceptance (Mercer University Press). It talks about the pain and struggle of gays and lesbians in the church and the awful attitudes from Christians in the church. Might be worth a read, if for no other reason than to get a differing perspective on what kids go through.

    I talk to LBGT kids often and try to help them realize that no matter what some pastor might tell them, God does not hate them. It is rather sad that this should even need to be said.

    As I said, I did not read your book so I hope her characterization of it is wrong.

    God Bless.

  3. I’ll state that in the gay community there’s a terrible fear of heterosexuality. This is hetero phobia and it is displayed in the above remarks about Tom G. The complete and utter fear nay hatred of anyone who questions the gay lifestyle leads to prejudice ,bullying,rage,apoplexy and eventually persecution of Christians. They will mark us out and may eventually kill us. If they could put us in mental institutions they would do it and perhaps behind the scenes they are already plotting to do the most heinous acts upon the Christian community I don’t say this lightly . I say it because gay marriage isn’t enough. It was never about gay marriage. Its about turning the world to a homosexualisation of everything so that they can be right in their own eyes. How else do you explain the ludicrous idea that we all are just repressing homosexual desires!?They will not stop at gay marriage .

  4. Thanks for your comments, Jeff. Yes, there was probably anger behind her words. I don’t think that excuses the gross stereotyping she committed, though. Stereotyping embeds anger into a community. I’m not the hater she thinks I am; I disagree profoundly with instructions of the sort your pastor gave to avoid LGBT people; and if she read the book she might discover she doesn’t have to be that angry with everyone she disagrees with.

    I’d recommend you read it, too, Jeff. If you don’t like what you read, you can say so in a comment at Amazon or here. Take a close look at Part 2 on “Navigating the Rocky Relationships.”

    But anger is a powerful force. That’s one reason I’m grateful for the gospel of Jesus Christ. It’s heavy on humility, openness, and forgiveness. It reconciles people. I’ve seen it in action, for example when I’ve traveled to heavily Communist countries and met fellow believers there. This isn’t mushy it-doesn’t-matter-anyway forgiveness. It’s forgiveness that takes the hurt seriously, yet also takes seriously the truth that there is a God in heaven to whom we all equally give account. We forgive because we have been forgiven much more.

  5. Also–you said you found it insightful, Jeff. I think you’re saying that the insight it gave you was in the form of a view into LGBT anger. I think I agree with you: that’s worth being aware of.

    Other than that, though, as a general rule anger doesn’t lead toward wisdom, and it certainly didn’t in this case.

    LGBT anger has many roots. It’s partly due to mistreatment of the sort you’ve described, and which I abhor, and which is the opposite of what I advise in my book. It’s also partly due to intentional LGBT strategies — well documented in their own words, by the way — to portray Christians as haters. They’ve been telling that message to the world, which means they’ve been telling it to themselves as well.

    I’m not exonerating Christian hate where it happens. I’m saying that it’s far from the whole story. I know hundreds of Christians and I’ve been to dozens of churches and conferences and meetings, and I have never heard the kind of message you heard from your pastor. Not in person, that is. I hear it all the time from the media.

    And here’s the sad thing about that. LGBT people’s experience of being hated has been magnified, not lessened, by their own activists’ messages about hate. I have to question the value of a strategy that says, “Let’s make our people’s lives better by magnifying the hate they experience every day.”

  6. John, your comment seems maybe a little overstated to me. I would say that this, too, represents a minority.

    But it does represent some people’s views, and they tend to be influential people, according to sociological studies done by George Yancey. The result you see coming is certainly possible.

    I just wanted to put that in perspective, just as I wanted to put Jeff’s comment in perspective.

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