George Rekers and Some Roots of Homophobia
By: Rev. Dr. Jerry S. Maneker
One of the cofounders of the antigay Family Research Council, George Rekers may well, himself, be a gay man:
"Antigay activist George Rekers is indeed gay, according to the male escort he hired for a 10-day trip across Europe. The escort spoke to the Miami New Times at length Wednesday night, detailing his sexual exploits with Rekers, who had previously claimed the young man accompanied him to Europe to help haul his luggage."
[From: The Advocate, 5/6/2010]
When it comes to the hypocrisy of strident homophobes, there is nothing new under the sun! However, I want to briefly comment on some of the roots of such hypocrisy, and link them to the homophobic rhetoric of most of the institutional Church.
We never really know what's going on in anyone else's mind or in their love lives! What the dynamics of Rekers' relationship are with his wife and/or what drives compelled him to hire a male prostitute (a career about which I have no objection), can't be inferred from what little we know about this story.
What we do know is that there must be such a high degree of self-loathing in a person like Rekers to the extent that he feels the need to suppress insistent or compulsive sexual drives and engage in the defense mechanism of Reaction Formation (For example, someone who feels homosexual desire might repress that desire by turning it into hatred for all Gay people.) in order to deny to others, and perhaps even to himself, that he is a gay man.
Moreover, he might well not be a gay man, but engage in gay sex!
Being Gay does not merely encompass one's sexual activity, but also has within its rubric an emotional and romantic interest and/or attachment to certain people of the same sex. Hence, Rekers might well like occasionally having sex with men but truly, and perhaps correctly, believe that he is not a gay man.
So, if this scenario is correct, he might well love his wife but also love the excitement that having "forbidden" or "risky" sex with a man entails. Hence, his saying he is not Gay (much as did Ted Haggard some years ago) may well be the truth, if we understand being Gay as encompassing both the emotional as well as sexual interests and/or attachments one has to certain people of their own sex.
As I wrote several years ago in a post entitled, "Rev. Ted Haggard: A Case Study of Repression, Suppression, and Cognitive Dissonance," about strident homophobe Rev. Ted Haggard's possible repression, suppression, and cognitive dissonance regarding his assertion that he is Straight, despite his being outed as frequenting a male prostitute:
"The fact is I am guilty of sexual immorality. And I take responsibility for the entire problem. I am a deceiver and a liar. There's a part of my life that is so repulsive and dark that I have been warring against it for all of my adult life,' Haggard said. This was part of a statement he gave to his church and to the media.
"I believe when he talks of 'guilt,'he's probably not referring to his unfaithfulness to his wife as much as to the fact that he believes gay sex is wrong. When he speaks of 'sexual immorality,' he, again, deeply believes it to be wrong, as, apparently does the governing board of the church he just stepped down from pastoring. When he talks about 'the entire problem,' again, I don't believe that he's referring as much to his duplicity to his wife and in his seeking to explain his actions to the media, as he is referring to the fact that he is either gay or bisexual and he feels that to be such is a sin. When he says, 'I am a deceiver and a liar,' he, undoubtedly, is referring to his deceiving his wife and family and the media by not acknowledging his sexual relationship(s).
"Now, here's the main part that should be clearly understood in order to help understand the mind-set of virtually all people like Haggard, that has made him a repressed, self-loathing closet case and hypocrite: 'There's a part of my life that is so repulsive and dark that I have been warring against it for all of my entire adult life.' He sees same-sex affection, same-sex relationships, and, particularly, same-sex behavior as 'repulsive and dark.' By such a mind-set, that has been reinforced for decades by those with whom he has chosen to associate, listen to, and from whom he undoubtedly received this mind-set in the first place, he has lived with profound guilt about his sexual preference. Therefore, he has been 'warring against it' for all of his adult life!
"That 'warring' has manifested itself in not only torturing him (and, perhaps, his wife and family) mentally, emotionally and, perhaps, even physically, but has manifested itself in the hypocrisy endemic to 'Reaction Formation,' whereby he assiduously condemned what he, himself, is, and what he has done. As I've so often written, whenever we hear anyone, clergy or not, vehemently and even venomously condemn the behavior of others, the first thing we should think about is that, perhaps, that condemnation is the result of his or her seeking to deflect 'suspicion' about his/her own behaviors by seeking to lie to others, and perhaps lie to oneself, that one couldn't possibly be what he or she is so vigorously against.
"That's why the Gospel is, in fact, Good News! The Gospel of grace has freed all of God's children from the legalistic requirements that mere human beings seek to place on us. However, by aligning oneself with those who preach and teach the false gospel of legalism and perfectionism, a preaching and teaching that can, in many cases, garner them great material and political benefits at the expense of that minority group that they feel is a relatively 'safe' target to persecute, one condemns oneself to a life of self-loathing, guilt, and hypocrisy.
"Haggard feels shame and self-loathing because of his sexual proclivities! If he really understood the Gospel message, he wouldn't feel those emotions of which he speaks. Those emotions largely, if not wholly, exist because he actively associated himself, and took an active part, with those who seek to hurt and oppress our LGBT sisters and brothers! Hopefully, one day God will open his eyes to feel those emotions because of his betrayal and damage he has helped cause LGBT people, and see that God made him to be "whole" in Jesus, sexual proclivities and orientation and all. Until that time, he will still have an incomplete, if not downright false, understanding of the Gospel of grace, and will not have learned anything from what God is undoubtedly trying to teach him. Unfortunately, most of the organized Church shares his mind-set, and, therein, lies most of the impetus behind the shame, self-loathing, suicides, bashings, and murders of LGBT people, who are both within and outside of the Church!
"Moreover, I believe that God is now teaching all of those who profess to be Christians that it's high time they fish or cut bait! Either embrace Jesus, or continue to embrace "Caesar!" That is a choice all of God's children have to make, and the issue of Ted Haggard will, hopefully, enable many professing Christians to re-examine their prejudices and the choice that they have made and the choice now open to them: either choose the path of love or choose to nurture their own prejudices; continue to hang on to those prejudices, or follow the path of the God of inclusiveness, the Prince of Peace!"
If, like Haggard, Rekers truly doesn't see himself as "gay," he is not merely telling the truth but, if this is not his first time with a man, is undoubtedly living such a life of desperation that that desperation impelled him to co-found a homophobic group!
Please know that I am not giving the Rekers and Haggards of the world a pass on this hypocrisy and cause of suffering of untold numbers of LGBT people!
What I am saying is that sexuality is so complex and so insistent, that our quickly putting people into neat dichotomous boxes doesn't do justice to empirical reality; doesn't do justice to our complexity as human beings.
One can have a romantic attachment to a person but not want sex with that person; one can want sex with a person but not have a romantic attachment to that person. These two scenarios do not necessarily denote one's sexuality that can be neatly placed in the boxes human beings have constructed; these constructions largely caused, aided, and abetted by the black and white, one-dimensional, ignorant homophobic rhetoric emanating from most of the institutional Church.
Therefore, there are hedonists who are Gay and hedonists who are Straight, and it is often the hedonism in both groups that trump the dichotomous sexual boxes one is placed in or places him/herself in.
When so many denominations, and allied structures, within the institutional Church are given credibility in matters dealing with people's personal lives, and are given the right to be seen as arbiters of morality despite often ignorant pronouncements and even their own sexual scandals, the guilt that is felt by a Rekkers or a Haggard can't be underestimated.
As I wrote in an article entitled, "Toxic Religion and Self-Loathing," that appeared in "Whosoever," July/August 2009:
"Toxic religion has most notably spawned generations of guilt-ridden people who are made to feel that God doesn't love them because they are Gay! Although nothing could be further from the truth, the big lie perpetrated by the perverters of the false gospel of legalism and perfectionism has so infused our culture that the psyches of virtually everyone, Gay and Straight, have been affected to the degree that even seemingly reasonable people have come to accept many clergy's preconceived prejudices having to do with a distorted view of love and sexuality, and their perverted theology of genital placement that seems to be the hub of the wheel that defines their own form of what they mistakenly call 'Christianity.'"
Indeed, those homophobic messages, as well as the rhetoric regarding the "proper" comportment of men and women and their "appropriate" relationships, are so taken as being "the truth" that a person caught in the discrepancy between his self-defined sexuality and that sexuality as presented to the world on the one hand, and the publicly perceived and defined sexuality of that person on the other hand when he/she is found to be sexually acting in a way that is inconsistent with that person's "Definition of the Situation" of his/her sexuality, tremendous fear and even suicide can be the result.
Yes, toxic religion, homophobic rhetoric and actions emanating from most of the institutional Church, one-dimensional thinking regarding the complexity of human beings, and tempestuous unconscious and/or conscious forces driving cowardly people to help found organizations that are designed to deprive others of civil rights are just some of the results of ignorant people refusing to understand the complexity of human beings.
Rev. Dr. Jerry Maneker maintains A Christian Voice for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Rights blog at http://christianglbtrights.blogspot.com/
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