Dear Friend of Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty:
Brad Pitt's mom. Fox news psychologist Dr. Keith Ablow. And University of Texas-Austin sociologist Prof. Mark Regnerus.
What do these three have in common?
In the last few weeks the experience of each has revealed publicly in a special way the world we live in now.
They each have been publicly exposed to the "wall of hatred" that descends upon you if you dare to oppose same-sex marriage.
The silencing of dissent through the stigmatizing of dissenters used to happen behind the scenes in professional networks. But it has now broken out in broad daylight.
I have to pause to remind you, and myself, before going further that in many places in this country it is very hard to be a gay person. In pointing out this new public phenomenon--the use of stigmatizing hatred as a deliberate tactic by activists to stifle public dissent---I am not attempting to equate, much less deny, the suffering of gay people over the years.
All unjust suffering demands our compassion. In particular, those of us who are Christians can never respond to hatred with hating. (That turning the other check stuff really stinks sometimes doesn't it?).
In discussing this "wall of hatred" now emerging, I am not trying to assert some kind of personal victim status. I am determined to analyze what is happening in my beloved country as we speak, as honestly and truthfully as I can, without fear or favor.
Truth is the first step.
A culture war, as I've told you before is not some generic fight over individual's values. A culture war, as Prof. James Davison Hunter taught us, is a struggle over the nature of reality itself. Is that a marriage? Is that thing in the womb a cluster of cells or a human life?
And so the main place where a culture war is fought therefore is over who has the power to name that reality.
Culture is created by elites who are granted by the rest of us that special power, whether (as in times past) by virtue of their status as consecrated clergy or saintly individuals, by the power of their intellect (through scholarship, science or professional status), or by the sheer attraction that beauty exercises over our moral imaginations.
The good, the true, and the beautiful—we look to these to credential for us where the truth about the good lies.
A culture war is thus a struggle for "legitimacy" in other words: who has the power to legitimately name the truth about the good.
In the last week, the veil has been ripped off: we've been given a very public glimpse of how the gay marriage movement seeks to shut down debate, to actively repudiate tolerance, and to create an America in which only one point of view is respected or considered legitimate to hold.
I hasten to add: the majority of gay people reject this "wall of hatred" technique and seek a genuine pluralism where everybody can live in peace and respect. That does not matter, in terms of watching the cultural movement unfold, because culture is created by elites, not by the mass of individuals.
But of course it does matters in the sense that we have to remember not to hold individual homosexual people responsible for what this movement is now doing.
What do I mean? What has been revealed?
Let's start with Brad Pitt's mom, Jane Pitt.
Mrs. Pitt lives in Missouri and she did something any American probably believes they have a right to do: she wrote a letter to the editor to the local paper, in response to a letter urging evangelicals not to vote for Mitt Romney. She urged evangelical Christians in particular, to look beyond Mitt Romney's Mormonism and vote for him on shared values, such as Gov. Romney's opposition to abortion and gay marriage:
Here is Mrs. Pitt's letter in full so you can judge for yourself:
"I have given much thought to Richard Stoecker's letter ("Vote for Mormon against beliefs," June 15). I am also a Christian and differ with the Mormon religion.
But I think any Christian should spend much time in prayer before refusing to vote for a family man with high morals, business experience, who is against abortion, and shares Christian conviction concerning homosexuality just because he is a Mormon.
Any Christian who does not vote or writes in a name is casting a vote for Romney's opponent, Barack Hussein Obama — a man who sat in Jeremiah Wright's church for years, did not hold a public ceremony to mark the National Day of Prayer, and is a liberal who supports the killing of unborn babies and same-sex marriage.
I hope all Christians give their vote prayerful consideration because voting is a sacred privilege and a serious responsibility."
A fairly innocent expression of free speech no? In fact it was a call to religious tolerance, based on shared moral principles.
But when Mrs. Pitt spoke her views in her local paper, a firestorm ensued.
And it included ugly, ugly threats against Mrs. Pitts personally, according to the Examiner:
"Gawker painted her as a "loon," but liberals on Twitter went overboard.
"Time for the Left's self-proclaimed arbiters of tolerance to teach her a lesson with their hateful, misogynist slurs and death wishes," the staff at Twitchy wrote.
"Brad Pitt's mom, die," wrote "sandy kownacka."
"Brad Pitt's mother can go f**k herself," Patrick Sandberg added.
"Brad Pitt's mom sounds like a bit of a c**t," Twitter user "digital host" wrote."
Brad Pitt's brother, Doug Pitt, defended his mother in public while doing an interview on the Today show about his new commercial campaign for an unrelated product in Australia that has gone viral.
"Moms and dads and kids agree to disagree all over the world, so why would our family be any different?" Doug Pitt told Matt Lauer. "There can be healthy discussion when people disagree with you, and I think there should be. The bad thing is when it turns into venom and negativity and we don't have that in our family. It's open discussion, we can learn from each other … maybe you learn something."
The Pitt family, despite differing views, is reportedly quite close and warm in their personal relationships. Brad Pitt, who favors gay marriage, said about his Mom just a few months ago ""She's very, very loving — very open, genuine, and it's hilarious because she always gets painted in the tabloids as a she-devil. There's not an ounce of malice in her. She wants everyone to be happy," the actor said of his mother in January.
To me that makes perfect sense. My family is like that too. We do not share important moral views on all subjects but we love one another anyway. To me, that's what America should be like.
That's what tolerance means: it means respecting the right of others to hold views with which you disagree, even views you may find deeply morally wrong.
But Mrs. Pitt is now apparently retreating into silence. She is giving no interviews to the press. She will likely not speak up against gay marriage again.
If it were just Mrs. Pitt, experiencing the special disabilities of being a celebrity mom, maybe it would not matter so much (except to her and those who care about her!)
But its not just celebrity Moms who are getting this wall of hatred treatment.
Let's take case number two that happened to cross the public radar screen in the last few weeks.
Dr. Keith Ablow, in addition to his work for Fox News, is a graduate of Johns Hopkins medical school, an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Tufts Medical School and is Board Certified by the American Board of Psychiatry & Neurology in adult, adolescent and forensic psychiatry.
He recently reported for Fox News on the New Family Structures Survey, an analysis of which by Prof. Mark Rengerus was published in a respected peer-reviewed journal, Social Science Journal.
(You can see the video of Dr. Keith Ablow here: http://www.nomblog.com/25297/)
Dr. Keith Ablow accurately reported that this new study found that children who reported that one of their parents had engaged in a same-sex romantic relationship while they were children experienced a variety of problems, compared to children who lived with intact married mothers and fathers their whole childhood, including a dramatically elevated risk of sexual abuse (which Prof. Regnerus was quick to point out is not necessarily abuse by the parent and may even reflect abuse by biological fathers; unfortunately the study design does not allow us to determine who committed that sexual abuse).
That's not news. What is news is what Dr. Keith Ablow went on to also report. That he is very hesitant to report on this study because any time he mentions something critical of homosexuality, he gets inundated by threats. (To his credit he did it anyway, because child welfare ought to trump that kind of thing).
Ablow said that the disturbing results indicate "we've got to look more at it," adding: "And it's such a controversial thing, I've got to tell you, that I hesitate to write the blog [on the topic], because every time I do you know I get threats."
The Fox News reporter interviewing him tried to reframe Dr. Ablow's disturbing comments to say, "Well, we'll get letters," the Fox host.
"No, I get threats, I get threats!" responded Ablow. "People are going to come to my office, they're going to burn down my house, it's incredible."
"In this politically-correct insane environment, citing data doesn't seem to be compelling enough, because there's a lot of hatred," he added.
(Hat tip to Lifesite News for bringing this to my attention).
This is a stunning look behind the veil of silence beginning to close around gay marriage. A distinguished psychiatrist is afraid to mention a study published in a peer-reviewed journal on television—because he will get threats.
How many other people is this happening to who never mention it on air but just quietly avoid "controversy"?
Or who don't have access to airwaves at all to publicize these threats?
The third set of public threats concerns Prof. Mark Regnerus.
Prof. Mark Regnerus, you will recall is the sociologist at the University of Texas-Austin who conducted one of the largest gay parenting studies and one of the few based on nationally represented study. A lot of controversy focused on the way he defined "gay parent" which he acknowledged had limitations. He asked a nationally representative sample of young adults if either their mom or dad had had a "same-sex romantic relationship" while they were children.
He found adult children who said "yes" fared more badly, on average, in a variety of measure of well-being, especially compared to children raised by intact married couples.
His study was intensely attacked in the media almost immediately. E.J. Graff for example said "Slate's editors should be ashamed" for publishing Regnerus' "dangerous propaganda."
Originally I was planning to put together an essay showing you how differently Regenrus's study (which has its limitations like most social science) was treated in the media compared to studies which found having a lesbian parent made "no difference" to a child's well-being. All social science has limitations, but the limitations of pro-gay parenting studies are virtually never mentioned. Instead they are treated as scientifically definitive even when they lack pretty basic characteristics: like a random sample.
But instead last week I learned from media reports the University of Texas is putting together a board of inquiry to investigate allegations of Prof. Mark Regnerus's "scientific misconduct."
In a June 21 letter to UT-Austin President Bill Powers, a man who blogs under the name Scott Rose complained that Prof. Regnerus's study was, "designed so as to be guaranteed to make gay people look bad, through means plainly fraudulent and defamatory." He also complained that it was funded by a conservative organization (e.g. "antigay") and called for the school to release all of Regnerus's research material, sources, and communications related to the study.
Scott Rose offered no evidence of misconduct.
And it's basically unprecedented for a professor to be formally investigated on a charge of scientific misconduct because a blogger didn't like his findings.
It's even more shocking given Scott Rose's public record.
Who is Scott Rose? He's a blogger with a long history of venomous comments (Yes many of them directed at me of course---I attract a lot of those, it's no big deal, I don't take it personally because I think comments like that reflect on the person who makes them, not the person at whom they are directed.)
But here for example, if you want to get the flavor of who Scott Rose is and how he thinks, is one of the public comments he made on a website.
He made these comments in response to a gay man who wrote that, as a former student of Prof. Robert George, he both liked and respected him, even though he disagreed:
"I actually had Professor George as an undergrad about six years ago. He was the best professor I ever had and his class was eye opening. I find it disgusting that my fellow community members would want to destroy such a brilliant man. Sure, his activities with NOM are reprehensible, but his business outside of school does not affect his ability to teach. As a young closeted student, I never felt threatened or uncomfortable in his class. I even went to several office hours and was enlightened by his ideas. It makes me sad to think that so many future students might not get the chance to take his class. Princeton is a very liberal school, but Prof. George is still considered by both the faculty and students to be one of the top instructors."
Here is how Scott Rose responded, (with the profanities bleeped—they are directed at the tolerant gay man I remind you):
"You stupid a**hole. You f**kwad. You jerk. Even as Professor George is working to ruin gay human beings' lives all over the country, you find "disgusting" that gay adults want to try to protect gay Americans from the psychological violence that George wants to wage against them, and the accompanying physical violence of anti-gay bullying in the schools and on the streets. What a repugnant a**hole you are. You say his work with NOM doesn't impact his teaching, and again I am telling you that you are a stupid, stupid, stupid a**hole. One of George's co-authors on his paper "What is Marriage?," . . one of the most vicious gay-bashing documents ever penned . .. was a Princeton Ph.D. candidate. DO YOU UNDERSTAND THAT, YOU FATUOUS MORON? Not only does George's NOM activity impact his teaching — he is at Princeton University cultivating another generation of academic anti-gay monsters who will carry on with his attempts to perpetuate sexual orientation apartheid and to torture gay Americans. Yes, to say that all gay sex should be illegal and that gays should not be permitted to marry each other is a plan, with malice aforethought, to torture gay people. You have no respect for yourself if you defend this monster and that's why I am telling you that you are a stupid a**hole. Have more respect for yourself than to defend an influential academic who would have you thrown in jail for having gay sex."
That's Scott Rose.
What is the purpose of his baseless charge? I suspect it is twofold: first to get the university to let him conduct a fishing expedition through Prof. Regnerus's personal correspondence to find anything that can be used to a.) tar this scholar and/or b.) harass others close to him, for being close to him.
Second, Rose hopes the hassle will discourage any other professor from investigating how children fare raised by gay parents, unless they can pretty much guarantee the results will be favorable to the Scott Rose's of the world.
Marriage is important. Religious liberty is important. The structures of scientific inquiry are also important.
In a society that has lost faith in other modes of reasoning, science has become a trump card in public and moral debates.
Therefore, if you want to establish a new public morality, it becomes important to control the scientific processes to suppress dissent, to make dissent costly and therefore rare.
A culture war is a struggle over who has the power to name reality.
Celebrities, professionals and scholars are all now subjected to this dynamic: to oppose gay marriage is to be subjected to an outpouring of hatred and threats.
The goal is to silence.
Here's the good news the only way they can succeed in creating this new public morality that stigmatizes the Biblical view of reality and sexual morality and marriage—is if we let it happen.
Stigmatizing half the American people is too expensive to contemplate. It cannot be done unless we can be persuaded to accept our own second-class citizenship, to silence and censor ourselves.
Social science can be manipulated but not forever. Eventually the weight of the data will overwhelm the ideological firewalls being constructed. Eventually scholars will recognize that what is being threatened by this kind of harassing technique is the integrity of the scientific discipline itself—and more will stand up.
Professionals like Dr. Keith Ablow will recognize the fear but also the obligation: to speak the truth because vulnerable children are depending on us.
Postmodern activist believe that the truth can be constructed around what they desire.
You and I know that truth is real, real as love, something to be ardently sought for and discovered not invented.
That's the real reason for optimism. Whether or not you believe in God (as I do), if you believe in truth, and seeking it freely without fear or favor, you will rebel against the cage now being constructed for us.
This has been a long letter, and I have not yet gotten to the "forgotten study" by Prof. Loren Marks.
But let me again thank you for taking this journey with me.
Together, truth and love will prevail over lies and hate.