Last week, the Southern Poverty Law Center published several articles devoted to identifying groups who perpetuate stereotypes and falsehoods about gays. In one of the articles, the SPLC articulated a list of ten myths about gays which they claimed the groups identified as hate groups willfully promote. Elsewhere, the SPLC updated the list of what they term anti-gay hate groups, adding several groups, some of which are well known social conservative organizations.
The reaction was slow but has started to emerge from the groups identified by the SPLC. One such reaction comes from Matt Barber, Liberty University adminstrator and board member at AFTAH, who wrote an op-ed for the Washington Times, titled "SPLC: The wolf who cried ‘hate.‘
The SPLC criteria for inclusion as a hate group were at one time somewhat vague. Now, with the ten-myth criteria, it becomes easier to identify the types of public statements which the SPLC views as promoting bias toward gays. One myth I have written about is the Scott Lively inspired claim that gays animated the Nazi party. In fact, the SPLC referred to a couple of posts on this blog by my friend and colleague, JonDavid Wyneken, history professor at GCC (part 1 & part 2). Referring to claims made in Lively's book, The Pink Swastika, SPLC's Evelyn Schlatter and Robert Steinback wrote (in italics):
The Pink Swastika has been roundly discredited by legitimate historians and other scholars. Christine Mueller, professor of history at Reed College, did a line-by-line refutation of an earlier (1994) Abrams article on the topic and of the broader claim that the Nazi Party was "entirely controlled" by gay men. Historian Jon David Wynecken at Grove City College also refuted the book, pointing out that Lively and Abrams did no primary research of their own, instead using out-of-context citations of some legitimate sources while ignoring information from those same sources that ran counter to their thesis.
Homosexuality gave us Adolph Hitler, and homosexuals in the military gave us the Brown Shirts, the Nazi war machine and six million dead Jews.
These are false claims which have been addressed multiple times by experts and primary sources. These are the kinds of claims which led the SPLC to place the AFA on their list.
And so it is stunning to see one of Matt Barber's arguments in defense of the groups recently named to the hate group list. In fact, the Nazi card argument is the big finish to the Washington Times column I referred to above. He says (quote in italics):
So, center-right America: If you happen to believe in the sanctity of natural marriage and that, as a culture, we're best served by honoring the Judeo-Christian sexual ethic of our forefathers, you're now an official "hater."
Of course, the tired goal of this silly meme is to associate in the public mind's eye mainstream conservative social values with racism, white supremacy and neo-Nazism. The ironic result, however, is that, as typically occurs with such ad hominem and hyperbolic attacks, the attacker ends up marginalizing himself and galvanizing his intended target (I'm rubber, you're glue and all that).
Hence, beyond a self-aggrandizing liberal echo chamber, the SPLC - and by extension the greater "progressive" movement - has become largely, as it stews in its own radicalism, just another punch line.
It's often said that the first to call the other a Nazi has lost the argument.
Congratulations, conservative America: They're calling you a Nazi. Carry on.
Exactly. By Barber's reasoning, then, the AFA and Scott Lively have lost the argument since the Nazi card has been played repeatedly by members of the SPLC's hate list.
There is another ironic twist in Barber's op-ed. He says this:
The ironic result, however, is that, as typically occurs with such ad hominem and hyperbolic attacks, the attacker ends up marginalizing himself and galvanizing his intended target (I'm rubber, you're glue and all that).
The groups which now populate the SPLC list specialize in ad hominem and hyperbolic attacks. Claims that gays die 20+ years early, are child abusers, inherently diseased, and responsible for the Holocaust are the kinds of ad hominem and hyperbolic attacks which lead thoughful people, liberal and conservative, to question the credibility of those making the claims.
The way I see it, the fact that so many Christian organizations are on the hate list is one scandalous but natural consequence of the culture war. The Nazi card is just one instance of Christian groups stretching facts to stigmatize gays as a means of fighting a political war.
In my opinion, Christian groups should care about nuance and bearing honest witness. They should avoid misleading stereotypes and strive for accuracy in fact claims. When they are fast and loose with facts, they hurt the church and the good work that others are doing. Being designated a hate group is a serious matter and one which should cause reflection about the relevance of the charges rather than defensiveness.
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About Dr. Warren Throckmorton
Warren Throckmorton, PhD is Associate Professor of Psychology and Fellow for Psychology and Public Policy at Grove City College (PA). He co-founded the Golden Rule Pledge which advocates bullying prevention in evangelical churches. His academic articles have been published by journals of the American Psychological Association and he is past president of the American Mental Health Counselors Association. He is the author with fellow Grove City College professor, Michael Coulter, of the book, Getting Jefferson Right: Fact Checking Claims About Our Third President. Over 200 newspapers have published his columns. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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