I thought of this after I was deluged with the most depressing emails I have received in a very long time, the reaction to my appearance on The O’Reilly Factor when I said there is a strain of anti-gay bigotry running through conservative America that I find deeply troubling.
What got me going was news that the conservative organization One Million Moms issued an ultimatum to JC Penney: either fire your news spokeswoman, Ellen DeGeneres, or we will stop shopping in your stores.
What exactly is Ellen’s sin? What has she ever done to any of those million moms? No matter how you cut it, it comes down to this: She’s gay.
One Million Moms issued a statement saying: “Funny that JC Penney thinks hiring an open homosexual spokesperson will help their business when most of their customers are traditional families. More sales will be lost than gained unless they replace their spokesperson quickly. Unless JC Penney decides to be neutral in the culture war then their brand transformation will be unsuccessful.”
I told Bill that while reasonable people may disagree on a controversial issue like gay marriage, this conservative strain of bigotry that demands the dismissal of someone simply because she’s openly gay, had to stop. It is gays now that they can’t stomach, I said, but back in the 1950s and 60s it was blacks. I’m not talking about all conservatives, I said, or even most. But there undeniably is a strain of bigotry in the conservative movement. And a lot of it comes from people who call themselves Christians.
I got a truckload of mail about what I said, some of it thanking me. Some came from conservatives, some from libertarians, and some from gay people of no particular political leaning who simply were grateful that someone stood up for them – on national television no less. But the vast majority of my mail came from the other direction.
Larry, who obviously thinks being gay is no different than being a dangerous criminal wrote: “Stealing, raping, murdering, reveling, gambling, drinking, drugging, fornicating, child molesting, and perverting is all sinful behavior and it is never OK when it is flaunted in the faces of our children. There is always a price to be paid for sin and the price is death. God is not mocked.”
Ken picked up where Larry left off. “What if J.C. Penney hired, as their spokesperson, an admitted pedophile. Would you still be so open-minded? I think not. It is no difference with us regarding gays.”
Kimberly, another God-fearing Christian, noted that I said I used to be a liberal before liberals got crazy and I became a conservative – which prompted this: “You know what, go back to the liberals, I respect nothing nor will i listen to anything you have to say from this night on. It is not bigotry, it is called Christian values, and even a jew should know the bible and understand the word of God. Take your ignorance back to the side you belong on, we don’t want you. Your [sic] a liberal to the core. I repeat Christian values.”
Ron chimed in with this: “It appears Bernard is part and parcel of the Leftist move to legitimize sexual perverts.”
Michael and Patricia were looking out for me, not just in the short run but in the long run, too. They said, “Wake up Bernie, or you will begin to lose many viewers as well as your soul.”
Virtually all the people who wrote to me expressing anti-gay views said they got their marching orders from God. They are against people like Ellen, they said, not because they’re bigots, but because they’re Christians. The Bible says homosexuality is wrong, they told me. So how can they be guilty of bigotry when all they’re doing is obediently following the word of the Bible?
Many people are inspired to do good things after they read the Bible. They feed the poor, they work in hospitals, they fight disease in far off countries. Not these yahoos. Their Christianity is dark and un-enlightened.
Some of the people who wrote to me, like Gene, insisting that they’re not bigots, called her Ellen Degenerate. But why is she a degenerate? Has she had sex with another woman on the corner of Sunset and Vine in Los Angeles? In Times Square? I’m pretty sure she hasn’t. What Ellen has done to offend these good Christians is a) she was born gay, and b) she reached a point in her life where she refused to hide it any longer.
Heterosexuals can walk down the street, a guy and his girlfriend or his wife, holding hands. They can sneak a kiss in public. Not gays. They’re “flaunting” their sexuality if they show affection in public. Straight men and women can have (make believe) sex on TV sitcoms. But when Ellen’s character came out as gay on her old TV show this somehow “is pushing the lesbian agenda” as someone I know said.
Others who wrote to me said gays made a choice to be gay. According to this “thinking,” they apparently woke up one day, got out of bed, brushed their teeth, and said, “You know what? I think I’ll be gay from now on.” Anyone this stupid should not be allowed to vote, drive a car, or use sharp objects.
Most Christians, of course, are not as disturbing as these people. Most, I suspect, say, “Ellen has done nothing to hurt me, or my family, or Western Civilization for that matter. And she seems like a real nice person.” Not the One Million Moms or their million God-fearing supporters. They want JC Penny to dump Ellen. Immediately. JC Penny has responded: No way, the company said. We’re keeping Ellen.
Thank God for that.