The issue of gay equality had divided the nation politically and socially. And when you look at the church, the Christian community is divided on this issue. Some denominations and faith communities are firmly opposed to gay marriage, and the homosexual lifestyle based on their reading of the Biblical text. Other congregations describe themselves as welcome and affirming. There is not a lot of middle ground with each side accusing the other of failing to be faithful to the words of Jesus.
I first heard of Mel White when I read Philip Yancey’s What’s So Amazing About Grace? Mel White was Yancey’s writer/minister friend who had ghost written for much of the Religious Right before he came out as a practicing homosexual ( White describes his own coming out story in his own book, Stranger At the Gate). In Holy Terror, White takes aim at Christian fundamentalism and their anti-gay agenda. He discusses his relationship with his former friends in the religious right (Francis Schaeffer, W.A. Crisswell, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson) and others who have rallied against gay marriage and gay equality (Jim Dobson and D. James Kennedy). and the ‘secret meeting’ (Glen Eyrie)where conservative Christians laid out a strategy to defeat homosexuality in a cultural war. He also lays out the ‘heresies of fundamentalism,’ namely the idolatry of the bible nation and family and the tendency of conservative Christians to use authoritarian and fascist means to achieve their goals. Lastly White discusses a strategy for progressives to advance their values in the public sphere.
This book was first published in 2006 (Magnus Books edition was released this year). There is little that changed in this edition (other than a preface which examines the Tea Party and its relationship to what was the Religious Right). Occasionally the book feels dated (i.e. Dobson is still at the helm of Focus on the Family and D. James Kennedy and Jerry Falwell are talked about as though they are still alive).
This is a book which would likely not convince anyone to shed their convictions on the matter of homosexuality. Progressives will hear confirmation about their suspicions of how conservatives manipulate the media for their own twisted, hateful agenda. White’s exposé on the Religious Right accuses them of using junk science, trumped-up experts and intentionally manipulating the facts around homosexual practice. Conservatives will be bothered by the way in which White paints fundamentalists as judgmental and hell-bent on destroying homosexuals. This is not a non-biased account but impassioned argument.
I fancy myself a moderate but I am much more conservative than Mel White. My own reading of the Bible is that homosexuality is a sin. I am also a member (and pursuing ministry) in a denomination which is welcoming but not affirming of the homosexual lifestyle. On the other hand, homophobia and ways in which some on the right have hurt people and have perpetuated hate, is abhorrent. White’s writing is emotional and at times, not really fair to the people he describes. But someone who has experienced all that he has is understandably angry.
As I said this is a controversial issue without a lot of middle ground, but I think that for those (like me) who are more conservative on the issue, reading a book like this may be good. Some of White’s criticisms of the Right seem right on track (i.e. the way homosexuality has been politicized, unethical tactics, the idolatry of family/nation). Certainly I think he overstates his case and isn’t always fair to the men he critiques, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a grain of truth to it. I think this is a complicated issue and we need to learn to listen. Where White is at his best, he urges us to diffuse the cycle of mutual labeling and dismissal.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.