Villains: American Family Association’s “culture wars”
In his inaugural address, delivered on January 20, 2009, Barack Obama stated, “On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.” This was a direct repudiation of the Bush era, a time in which misinformation was used to engender fear. And it is this fear that the Christian Right seized upon. The American Family Association is one of those opportunists, and one of its primary targets is what it calls “the homosexual agenda”.
That pesky “agenda” gets everywhere, apparently. The AFA recently proposed that its members boycott Pepsi because it donated $500,000 to PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) in October. “It would appear to us that PepsiCo would not involve itself in a political and culture war, especially supporting an organization seeking to redefine marriage and family,” complained the AFA. A political and culture war? An organization? You bet!
What exactly is “the homosexual agenda”? The website of the AFA publishes a document entitled ‘Homosexuality in America: Exposing the Myths’. Replace the word ‘Exposing’ with ‘Defining’ and the title would be more accurate.
As one would expect from such a document, it rails against “the homosexual lifestyle”. That makes it easier. To call something a “lifestyle” reduces it to advertising terms. It must be a deliberate choice then. Phew! That settles that. Anyway, according to Richard G. Howe – can you feel the weight of authority provided by that all important G.? – homosexuality “is being forced upon us through legislation, taught to our children in school and promoted in the powerful arts/entertainment complex.” Forced? They are the victims, don’t you see?
There are, according to this document, a lot of scary things these highly organized homos and their dread “agenda” advocate. They want “access to all programs of the Boy Scouts of America”! Sex-change operations under a universal health care! This must be resisted at all costs as, according to G., under the law of the bible and the principle of creationism, homosexuality is a direct result of the fall of the human race. “This means that it is not a natural occurrence, but rather a moral one.” This is what those of us with an education in Philosophy call a false corollary.
The document goes on in rather the same vein and would be exceptionally funny if it were not used to whip-up fear rather than promote understanding. Facts do not bother creationists, clearly, but they do matter to most of us.
What exactly is the AFA about? The AFA was founded by United Methodist Minister Donald E. Wildmon – how could you resist the authority conferred by that all important E.? – after an evening of watching television in 1977. “On one channel was adultery, on another cursing, on another a man beating another over the head with a hammer,” Wildmon explained. That settles that. Anyway, moving on, the AFA, which from 1977 to 1988 was called National Federation for Decency, worries over traditional moral values and it has identified “homosexuals” and their “agenda” as one of the primary threats to this.
Don’t worry, though. They don’t hate you. They are not a hate group. The website says so! “The same Holy Bible that calls us to reject sin, calls us to love our neighbor. It is that love that motivates us to expose the misrepresentation of the radical homosexual agenda and stop its spread though our culture.” In other words, get yourself down to an ex-gay meeting right now and burn that Judy Garland memorabilia toot sweet!
The AFA has called for boycotts of Ikea and McDonald’s, and was behind the banning of a Heinz ad in the UK that showed two men kissing. National boundaries concern it not. Its aggressive opposition has made significant headway. The organization is also opposed to the gay-straight alliance in schools, and to DreamWorks’ Shark Tale on the grounds that it encouraged children to accept gay rights. No, really.
What should be done now in this new era of hope rather than fear? When the fuss over Obama’s choice of Rick Warren erupted in December 2008 there were a host of reactions from those who feared Obama was caving in to the religious Right. Someone who took an opposite view was Melissa Etheridge. She met and talked with Warren. Her message was that there are “good people out there, Christian and otherwise that are beginning to listen. They don’t hate us, they fear change. Maybe in our anger, as we consider marches and boycotts, perhaps we can consider stretching out our hands.”
It would be impossible to reach out to organizations such as the AFA. (A class action for incitement to violence should be explored nonetheless.) It is those they seek to misinform who can be reached. That will make sure the AFA remains on the lunatic fringe, which is where it belongs.
Links and Further Reading
See the Pepsi advertisement that has the AFA in a tizzy and read about how PepsiCo are refusing to bend to the pressure of the AFA.
Get support from or give your support to the organization Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.
Are you a student or do you work in the US education system and want to know how to set up a GSA? The Gay-Straight Alliance is a youth leadership organization that connects school-based Gay-Straight Alliances to each other and community resources.
The Ex-Gay Watch website, set up in 2002, promotes social dialogue and debate regarding ex-gay issues.
Beyond Ex-Gay is an online community/resource for those who have gone through ex-gay experiences.
Melissa Etheridge is a multi-award winning American singer-songwriter. She is a proactive gay rights campaigner. Read her incisive article regarding her meeting with Rick Warren.