It’s been a breathtaking week on the culture front in relation to homosexuality.
*Many of the president’s men are coming “out” in favor of gay marriage, from Vice President Biden stating on a Sunday talk show that he was “comfortable” with gay marriage to Arne Duncan, the Secretary of Education, saying in even clearer language that he, too, was a supporter of gay marriage. But by and large the most surprising endorsement came yesterday from president Obama himself. It seemed he sought to distance himself from such positions in this an election year, stating only that he was “evolving” on the matter. On ABC News yesterday he became the first U.S. president to endorse same-sex marriage. "I think same sex couples should be able to get married," Obama told ABC's Good Morning America, and said that it "should be legal." It seems he is no longer "evolving."
*The latest Gallup poll found that 50 percent of Americans “believe same-sex marriages should be recognized by law as valid, with the same rights as traditional marriages – down slightly from 53 percent last year, but marking only the second time in Gallup’s history of tracking this question that at least half of Americans have supported legal same-sex marriage. Forty-eight percent say such marriages should not be legal.” Since Gallup began asking the question in the mid-1990s support for same-sex marriage has risen 27 percent while opposition has fallen from 68 percent.
*On Tuesday, May 8, North Carolina overwhelmingly approved a 27-word amendment to their state constitution that read: “Constitutional amendment to provide that marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State.” Same-sex marriage was already illegal in North Carolina, but amendment supporters believed the measure was needed to ensure the ban stays in place. North Carolina was the last southern state to adopt such an amendment, and the 30th overall (every time such an amendment has been offered, it has passed). Eight states, plus the District of Columbia, have passed laws allowing same-sex marriage.
*A first-of-its-kind bill is being proposed in California that would ban teens and children from receiving therapy to escape unwanted same-sex attractions, and discourage it for adults. Opponents are calling it a blatant denial of freedom and parental/family rights. Nonetheless, it has already made its way through the state Senate Judiciary Committee. The bill would ban anyone under age 18 from receiving sexual-orientation change efforts on the assertion, made by gay-marriage supporters, that sexual orientation is generally inborn and immutable. It would require adults to sign a release form before treatment begins, stating that the therapy will be ineffective and probably damaging. Brad Dacus, president of Pacific Justice Institute (PJI), a legal-defense group that objects to the bill’s impact on “free speech and family rights,” called the proposal “one of the most outrageous, speech-chilling bills we have ever seen in California – and that’s saying a lot.” Matthew McReynolds, a lawyer with PJI, noted that the bill appears to give the state the “power to take kids away from parents who do not affirm the kids’ sexual confusion.”
(This particular bill is one of the most egregious and frightening I’ve ever seen. It essentially prevents a parent from leading their child away from unwanted same-sex attractions, and attempts to prevent adults from receiving help to leave the homosexual lifestyle. In effect, it is not simply attempting to gain acceptance for homosexuality, but make its opposition illegal.)
*But perhaps the most culturally telling story landed on the front page of the New York Times on Wednesday. Why? It explained the way our perspectives on homosexuality have been formed by the media elite.
It began by detailing the many gay characters on TV; the transgender Unique on “Glee,” Arizona and Callie on “Grey’s Anatomy,” Cameron and Mitchell on “Modern Family,” as well as the five gay characters on “Smash,” and the gay males on “Happy Endings.” Coming soon is a sitcom on NBC that features a gay couple and their surrogate. The title? “The New Normal.”
The article then revealed how activists and academics know “that depictions of gay characters on television play a big role in making viewers more comfortable with their gay, lesbian and transgender neighbors.” Or as Edward Schiappa, professor of communication studies at the University of Minnesota notes, “TV and movie representation matters.”
Then the article came “out” and said, “producers and writers in Hollywood – a predominately liberal town – say that the viewer support of gay, lesbian and transgender characters is just a happy byproduct of their storytelling.”
To call it a byproduct is an understatement. As Vice President Biden opined on a recent Sunday talk show, “'Will & Grace' probably did more to educate the American public than almost anything anybody’s ever done so far.”
I would agree, though perhaps a more accurate word than “educate” would be “indoctrinate.”
It has been said that “the hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world.” Perhaps we should change that a bit to something more current: “The hand that writes the script is the hand that rules the world.”
Or at least rules its values.
James Emery White
“Obama: Same sex marriage should be legal,” David Jackson, USA Today, May 9, 2012. Read online.
“Obama Sits for Interview as Same-Sex Marriage Issue Lingers,” Michael Barbaro and Brian Stelter, The New York Times, May 9, 2012. Read online.
“Americans Remain Split on Same-Sex Marriage, Gallup Poll Signals,” Mark Memmott, National Public Radio, May 8, 2012. Read online.
“Amendment One: N.C. voters approve measure to block same-sex marriage,” Michael Gordon, The Charlotte Observer, Wednesday, May 9, 2012. Read online.
“Ban urged on therapy to convert gays,” Cheryl Wetzstein, The Washington Times, Thursday, May 3, 2012. Read online.
“Gay on TV: It’s All in the Family,” Brian Stelter, The New York Times, Wednesday, May 9, 2012, p. A1 and A3. Read online.
In 2011, Dr. White wrote a six-part blog on homosexuality and gay marriage. Click here to begin reading Part 1.
James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, N.C., and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. His newly released book is A Traveler's Guide to the Kingdom: Journeying through the Christian Life (InterVarsity Press). To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, log on to www.churchandculture.org, where you can post your comments on this blog, view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on Twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.
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About Dr. James Emery White
James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, North Carolina; President of Serious Times, a ministry which explores the intersection of faith and culture (www.serioustimes.org); and ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture on the Charlotte campus of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Dr. White holds the B.S., M.Div. and Ph.D. degrees, along with additional work at Vanderbilt University and Oxford University. He is the author of over a dozen books.
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