(christian) love hurts

On average, women live longer than men. The average breaks like that because men are far, far more likely to die violently and at an early age. There are other factors as well, but no one assumes that being a man is an inherently unhealthy lifestyle.

On average, white Americans live longer than black Americans. The reasons for this are complex and much-debated, but poverty, lack of access to health care, and greater levels of violence in black communities certainly play a role. All of these things are remedial, and no one assumes that being black is an inherently unhealthy lifestyle.

On average, the citizens of Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Costa Rica, Denmark, England, Wales, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Israel, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Ireland, Norway, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland all live longer than citizens of the United States. We are assured that this has nothing to do with our vaunted health care “system”, which is, as far as anyone knows, the most costly in the known universe, and among the lease effective. Whatever the reasons, I don’t hear a chorus of right-wing evangelicals harping about how being an American is an inherently unhealthy lifestyle that shortens our lives.

Nevertheless, a number of well-known wingnut “evangelicals” are yapping about a “study” that “demonstrates” that homosexuality takes 20 years off of the average American male’s lifespan. To whit, here we have the Rev. Bill Banuchi, Executive Director of the New York Christian Coalition:

“We put warning labels on cigarette packs because we know that smoking takes one to two years off the average life span, yet we ‘celebrate’ a lifestyle that we know spreads every kind of sexually transmitted disease and takes at least 20 years off the average life span according to the 2005 issue of the revered scientific journal Psychological Reports,”

Lables… like these, perhaps?

Of course, the study was conducted by these people:

If you looked at that picture and concluded that FRI’s focus is primarily on heterosexual family life, you would be extremely mistaken. FRI is all about The Gay, although in their minds, they are primarily family focused. Here’s how: If I ask you, “What is the greatest threat to the nuclear family today?”, what would you say? Divorce? Rampant marital infidelity? Economic pressure driving both parents to work? Domestic violence? Lack of health care?

Poor, silly you.

The major threat facing the nuclear family today is (surprise!!) homosexuality. And if that sounds a little…well…gay to you, you better get right on over to FRI and read about what a bunch of diseased, child-molesting, drunken rapists The Gays really are.

As you’ve probably discerned by this point, FRI is a tad out of the mainstream. In fact, FRI founder Paul Cameron has made a career out of the psychotherapeutic “treatment” of homosexuality. In 1983, he was expelled from the membership of the American Psychological Association for violation of its code of ethics. The American Sociological Association and various state psychological associations have formally dissociated themselves from Cameron’s work and methodology. The HHS Regulation and Licensure website lists his license as a psychologist as “inactive” since 1995.

Psychological Reports is also somewhat less than legit. I mean, as near as I can tell, they sort of try to be a real journal, but they publish a bazillion articles a year, and have very low rejection rates. It also engages in the rare and hilariously disreputable practice of charging authors a per-page fee to publish. One would not be unreasonable to suspect that PR is less a peer-reviewed journal, and more a pay-for-play outlet for getting fringe ideas into print under a respectable sounding title.

And let us not neglect the study itself, because it’s a real howler.

Cameron and company rounded up gay community newletters and bar rags, and started looking at obituaries. For my heterosexual readers, let me explain that these publications don’t usually have obit sections per se, though some of the larger ones might. Publications like the ones Cameron is using here aren’t gay equivalents of newspapers; their readership is not general, as they are produced by and for people who are associated with the bar scene and with political activism. This may seem trivial, but it actually makes all the difference in the world.

There are two reasons why this makes a huge difference:

First, this is a textbook example of the methodological error called convenience sampling. Here’s what makes Cameron’s sample a convenience sample: All obituaries in gay publications may be for gay people, but not all gay people’s obituaries appear in gay publications. Since the factors that differentiate those gay obits that appear in gay publications from those that appear in your local Daily Planet or whatever are not known, the sample can’t be considered random. There may be strong selection factors at work.

And I’m pretty sure there are, which leads me to my second point. What I know from reading gay publications for the past 10 years is this: people whose obituaries appear therein pretty much always died of AIDS, with the exception of the occasional hate-crime victim. This requires only a moment’s thought to understand. Elderly gay and lesbian people are likely to have left the bar scene long, long ago. They are no longer connected to the social networks that serve as the readership for the publications Cameron is surveying. When they die, their obits appear in the local newspaper like any other old person’s; despite the persistent wingnut fantasy to the contrary, “the Gay Community” isn’t this monolithic separatist entity keeping us all on the dance floor until we drop dead. Even those of us who are “out” and active in the gay community find that our relationship to that community evolves over time. 75 year old gay men aren’t generally found in the bar, and their obits rarely appear in the bar rags.

So if the oldsters are off having regular (gay) oldster lives, who would be placing obits in the bar rags to be seen by their relatively young constituencies? Surprise! It’s people who die relatively young! In the gay male community, that is highly likely to be an AIDS-related death.

This discussion pertains to Cameron’s 1994 study, but it would appear from the Rev. Banuchi’s comments above that the good doctor is at it again. I saw a reference to this “new” study in a column by Robert Knight of the Concerned Women For America’s Institute for Culture and Family (another group that focuses on homosexuality to the near-total exclusion of “culture” or “family”), but that column seems to have gone missing. It referred to a study surveying obituaries from the Advocate. I can assure you that those obits would provide just as screwy a dataset as his previous sources, if not more so.

But of course, that matters little. The Kulturkamphers now have a new meme, and can site a legit-sounding article. Never you mind that Cameron and the “evangelical” right-wing only really find common ground when it comes to gays. This article (scroll down to “Life Force vs. Death Force) by Cameron, from the FRI’s website, illustrates just how far Cameron is from the more orthodox Christian theology of Dobson, et al. In fact, Dr. Cameron sounds remarkably Nazi-ish in his evocation of a Life-Force emerging from the wholesome, uncorrupted life of the red-state Volk.

At this point, it would only be trite to point out the hypocrisy of the right’s “compassionate conservatism” and “culture of life” rhetoric. By now, it’s quite clear that they have no problem with hypocrisy, that these are not people for whom cognitive dissonance will ever be a problem. Why engage madness like this on its own level? We should reject the entire cultural gestalt from which it emerges.

Because there is an interlocking set of ideas being floated over in Wingnutistan. You have Gov. Perry of Texas suggesting that gay people might be more comfortable elsewhere. You have Christian Coalition leadership suggesting that gay people are a public health hazard and should be labled (labled!) as such. You have groups like this setting up camps to force-convert gay kids in scenarios like this. (Be sure and give those links a good read. The contrast between the pretty, airy “Love in Action” site and the terror being visited upon that poor boy are illustrative.) You have guys who run these camps saying stuff like:

I would rather you commit suicide than have you leave Love In Action wanting to return to the gay lifestyle. In a physical death you could still have a spiritual resurrection; whereas, returning to homosexuality you are yielding yourself to a spiritual death from which there is no recovery.

In a physical death you could still have a spiritual resurrection. That pretty much says it all, don’t you think? What sort of society will people with such obvious unconcern for suffering and humiliation in this life, here and now, build for us? Do we want them to be any part of this conversation at all? Maybe I’m just upset right now, by my instinct is to say no, we do not.

So what’s the plan? Which Democratic leaders are going to stand up for the freedom and dignity of all Americans? Will I have to wait until they’re sewing my pink triangle on for the party to become concerned?

We should stop fucking around with charges of hypocrisy, expecting these folks to be consistent in the application of their own beliefs, when their beliefs are crazy. Who cares if people apply crazy ideas in a consistent manner? That just makes them consistently crazy! Let’s just call these people out, say that they’re wrong, and stop them from ruining America. While there’s still time.

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One Response to “(christian) love hurts”

  1. Perspective of Pete Says:

    I wonder why the hell there isn’t a critical mass that’s denounced these idiots. It’s time to stomp out the roaches that have crawled out of the woodwork since the election and focus on our ambition for advancement. I’m so over the angry villager mentality. Instead of firmly holding torches and pitchforks, they’re going after centuries-old boogeymen (and women–they’re equal opportunity like that) clutching Bibles and repeating catch-phrases. These people need to get out of everyone else’s lives and concentrate on their own.

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