The Religious Right has been singing their annual War against Christmas carol, claiming that they are the victims of intolerance from godless liberals and secular humanists. I havent seen any evidence of such intolerance, but I have seen a lot of a different kind ofintolerance -- intolerance of gays by the Religious Right.
The anti-gay Christian Right has been targeting gays and lesbians for a long time, and gay marriage has now become as important as abortion to theirfamily values political agenda, which attacks the family relationships of gays and lesbians. What is striking about the Christian Rights attacks on gays is how intolerant they have become of any civil acceptance or sympathyfor gay and lesbian people and their family relationships.
Over the past few years, conservative Christian organizations have called for (unsuccessful) boycotts of businesses that offer any benefits to gays and lesbians or their partners. The Southern Baptists recently ended a long boycott of Disney for its policies supporting gay and lesbian employees.
The American Family Association recently threatened Ford Motor Company with a boycott for advertising in gay publications, and the Focus on the Family has withdrawn its money from Wells Fargo because of that institutions support of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.
Keep in mind that none of these businesses did anything to attack Christians. They did not promote discrimination against conservative Christians. Their offense was simply to treat gays and lesbians with respect in their workplace or to support organizations that promote the social well being of gays and lesbians.
What the Christian Right opposes is any social acceptance of gays and lesbians, or any recognition of the legitimacy of their family relationships. According to the Christian Right, only families and relationships that follow their narrow interpretation of the Bible are eligible for civil protections or social acceptance.
The critically praised and successful movie Brokeback Mountain (a ground-breaking western with a love story between two cowboys) is sure to fuel the Religious Rights attacks on the liberal elites promotion of the homosexual agenda (i.e., love and social acceptance). The movie may help to humanize gays and their struggle for love and social acceptance, if enough theatres will allow the public an opportunity to see it. Conservative religious groups may try to prevent the film from even being seen in many cities.
Hollywood doesnt seem too comfortable with same-sex relationships between men either. The movie Troy totally erased the homosexual relationship between Achilles and Patroculus. Alexander more accurately included the male love interests of Alexander, but when the movie bombed at the box office, the gay scenes were blamed. The new directors cut on video cut it out. So much for history. While Brokeback Mountain is receiving lots of critical praise, many theater owners are fretting over showing it.
Why does our society have such a difficult time accepting same-gender love and relationships? Why can this society tolerate, even reward, men who fight and kill each other, but cannot accept two men loving each other or expressing that love in the same manner that men and women are allowed to express their love for each other? What is the source of this homophobia?
Part of the intolerance toward same-gender love is religious, but part of it is about gender and power. Love between men or women threatens the traditional gender roles, and their unequal power in society, which have been the bedrock of the patriarchal Christian ideology which keeps men and women in their respected (unequal) places in the family and society.
What the Christian Right fears, and what they cannot tolerate, is equality between men and women or between gay and straight relationships in civil society. Sexism, homophobia and heterosexism haven long been the linchpins holding patriarchal societies together, and roadblocks to the liberation of women, lesbians and gay men.
Brokeback Mountain is another reminder of the personal costs of the social intolerance of gay and lesbian relationships. That is why the Religious Right does not want you to see it.
Jim Maynard is a Memphis gay activist and former congressional candidate.