In our tolerant but slightly repressed society it used to be the kind of behaviour that one looked the other way at, so long as one did it behind closed doors. It was im-polite to bring up in social circles; one just didn’t speak about those things in public.
But not-so-slowly a change has occurred. A former fringe group of radicals has loudly demanded a place in the mainstream. And they’re getting it through organizing, lobbying and media manipulation. So much so that it’s hardly an exaggeration to say that we are now in a culture of throat-ramming, where this otherwise private practice is dominating every public arena.
I’m speaking, of course, about the outing of religious practice, particularly fundamentalist and evangelical Christianity. What did you think I was referring to? Cocksucking and muff-diving? Well, you’d certainly be excused if you thought so – the parallels are multiple. It’s debatable whether or not the actual numbers of capital-c Christians is greater, but they are coming out of the closet in droves, making their omnipresence felt at all levels of society. It’s everywhere. They’re here, they’re saved, get used to it.
What’s most alarming is the realization that the political thrust of contemporary Christianity has, ironically, stolen many of its tactics from the very people they claim to hate most – us. They’ve used the paradigm of the oppressed to build a community of out and proud Christians who are clearly tired of standing politely in the pews. The in-your-face identity chest-thumping (or in this case Bible-thumping) of contemporary Christianity is reminiscent of the now sadly defunct Queer Nation, where chastity groups have replaced kiss-ins as a sexual protest and What Would Jesus Do (WWJD) bracelets are the colour-coded hankies of the new millennium, only without the elements of variety and choice.
Despite positioning themselves as the moral majority, they’ve also somehow managed to adopt the voice of the oppressed. The sight of über-Catholic Mel Gibson laughing all the way to the bank with the highest grossing film of last year, while some of his supporters simultaneously kvetched about how unfairly he was treated by all the nasty Jews and fags who run Hollywood was a coalition performance worthy of an Oscar in and of itself.
Today’s Christianity is no longer confined to double-knit slacks wearers. Remember the fundamentalist “cool kids” in high school? Yeah, me neither. But World Youth Day 2002 in Toronto was a spectacle of orgiastic ecclesiastical ecstasy which put today’s tepid Pride Day to shame. A Christian rally used to consist of a smattering of tacky old farts, frowning and waving placards and plastic babies. But here, fresh scrubbed youths out of an Abercrombie And Fitch ad worshipfully fell to their knees before the hot topless actor playing Jesus. There were even MTV-inspired video screens to witness the whipping. Christ, it made a Buddies In Bad Times’ SM-inspired float of yesteryear look positively tame in comparison. Even the most hardened of us atheists were gobsmacked by the theatrical splendour and camp of it all.
But when queers and other minority groups began lobbying for social change, even at their most aggressive, the goal was always for acceptance and equality. Herein lies the major difference: Christian fundamentalists aren’t just asking for a seat at the discussion, they’re demanding the head of the table. With God on their side they’re armed with a moral imperative for a change which does not recognize diversity or relativism. They believe that they are right in all senses of the word and they aren’t looking for acceptance. They want absolutism. Subtlety and democratic discussion are off the agenda.
“You’re either with us, or you’re against us,” says US President George W Bush, a man, who in the good old days would have been the crazy, proselytizing Bible-waver on the corner. Conveniently ignoring the fact that the US was founded on the basis of the separation of church and state, he has moved the street corner to the Oval Office, using the presidency as his own personal pulpit. But while GW might certainly be a queer American’s worst nightmare, he’s only an extreme version of a cookie-cutter position. It’s an accepted truism that a president must publicly practice a (Christian) religion. Lest you think that this influence stops at the border, in our own country, the Christian coalition has managed to hijack the same-sex marriage debate and make the right to enshrine legislative bigotry just as, if not more, important than the issue of equality.
But hey, I’m a tolerant, accepting person. You want to be a Christian fundamentalist? Go for it. Go to church four times a day, listen to Christian rock ‘n’ roll, live in a Christian village and check your WWJD bracelet every time you need to decide what you’re going to wear in the morning.
But keep it to yourself, eh?