Badpuppy Gay Today

Monday, 17 November 1997


Talking Back to the Fundamentalists
By Jack Nichols

Book Review by John Huynh

Reprinted Courtesy of MANDATE

THE GAY AGENDA: Talking Back to the Fundamentalists, by Jack Nichols, Prometheus Books Amherst, 1996, 228 pp., $24.94

"Gay agenda," the term coined for propaganda purposes by the Religious Right, in fact has less to do with the true aims of gays and lesbians than with serving the needs of those who oppose us.

In The Gay Agenda: Talking Back to the Fundamentalists, author Jack Nichols exposes the methods behind these religious extremists, their motives in promoting religious fears about the so-called "gay menace" and how their campaign of hate affects our daily lives, our struggle for equality and our future.

(Before going further, I should point out that Mr. Nichols is a co-founder of the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C., the first activist/militant group in 1961, and one of the handful of brave gays and lesbians who protested before the White House in 1965.)

Most reasonable people (whatever their sexual persuasion) would agree that what consenting adults do in their bedrooms is no one's business but their own, that everyone should be guaranteed the right to privacy and to equal treatment under the law. After all, most people need to look no further than their extended families or circle of friends to find someone gay and non-threatening.

But though growing acceptance would seem the natural progression, religious fanatics have taken it upon themselves to organize nationally and internationally and work against gay demands for equality and visibility, denouncing same sex love and using shameless lies to erect a barrier between gays and the non-gay public at large. They manipulate ignorance and religious taboos, labeling demands for such basic guarantees as the right to freedom from discrimination in employment and housing as "special rights." They play on homophobic fears, claiming that our "agenda" includes their fantasies of recruitment and child molestation conveniently ignoring the overwhelming evidence that heterosexual males pose the primary threat of sexual abuse against minors).

This selective use of information is nowhere more evident than in the Radical Right's use of Biblical references to make its case. Nichols points out that the same fundamentalist who would gladly reinstate the death penalty prescribed in the Book of Leviticus for same sex couples conveniently ignores other peculiar Biblical commands found in the same Old Testament book, such as that in Chapter 23, verse 30, which demands the death penalty for those who work on the Sabbath, or (lest that leave anyone out) that any offspring (child or adult) who curses his parents must die (Lev. 20:9).

Nichols reminds us that not everyone agrees that the separation of church and state is an ideal thing; the Catholic Church enjoys the position of state religion in many countries of the world, and Protestant preacher Jerry Falwell, referring to the theocracy that oppresses the people of Iran, offers "something ten million worlds better (than) a Moslem state, a Judeo-Christian state."

This is the same Christian minister who stated: "AIDS is God's judgment against homosexuals." (Pope John Paul II, when asked by reporters if this was so, replied "It is not easy to know the intentions of God," while on the same day the Vatican's newspaper asserted that AIDS is "a kind of sanction by Nature."

As the author points out, all this hate and fear makes an effective fund-raising ploy. Hometown preachers and televangelists promise to use contributions to put a stop to sinister gay plots, stirring fears about the imaginary growth of a latter-day Sodom and Gomorrah. While FCC prohibitions protect other minorities against hate broadcasting, no federal laws protect gay men and lesbians. This even though hate crimes against homosexuals have soared statistically in recent years while, at the same time, fundamentalist calls for the death penalty for homosexuals are regularly repeated on Christian TV networks. Nichols quotes the venomous anti-gay ranting of one such Sunday morning preacher:

They are like rats, skulking in their closets, copulating in mad frenzies, unable to control their appetites, sniffing around the doors of school classrooms for fresh prey. Young prey. They are perverts and hedonists and will make fine kindling in Hell. But before then, before God gives them what they really deserve, they must be stopped here on Earth.

In his concluding chapters, Nichols calls on reasonable conservatives and non-fanatic religious leaders to speak out against the hate-mongers in their ranks, stresses the importance of grass-roots political activism, and points out that our only hope of equal treatment is in the passage of legislation that would protect our rights.

It's wise to know your enemy, and while this book really doesn't offer anything new, it's a well-organized overview, and should make an excellent primer for anyone preparing to take on religious conservatives in their families or at their workplace. The author's sincerity can come across as over-earnest at times, but this is more an observation than a criticism; the author is well-informed and confident in his knowledge, which is the important thing here.

(Courtesy of MANDATE Magazine, August, 1997. Subscriptions $59.95 annually, and available through Mandate Publications, Ltd. 462 Broadway, 4th Floor, New York, New York, 10013)

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