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The Easiness of Being Against Homosexuality

Matthew Yglesias has some rather trenchant remarks occasioned by Ross Douthat’s column on Funny People. Agreeing with Douthat that the reason American audiences haven’t enjoyed Apatow’s new film is that it portrays the conservative choice (in the case of the movie not ruining a marriage) as difficult, and indeed as something which doesn’t make it all work out. Americans want to be conservative–except when it is hard.

He makes a good point about this phenomenon in regard to homosexuality:

I think this explains a lot about the appeal of anti-gay crusades to social conservative leaders. Most of what “traditional values” asks of people is pretty hard. All the infidelity and divorce and premarital sex and bad parenting and whatnot take place because people actually want to do the things traditional values is telling them not to do. And the same goes for most of the rest of the Christian recipe. Acting in a charitable and forgiving manner all the time is hard. Loving your enemies is hard. Turning the other cheek is hard. Homosexuality is totally different. For a small minority of the population, of course, the injunction “don’t have sex with other men!” (or, as the case may be, other women) is painfully difficult to live up to. But for the vast majority of people this is really, really easy to do. Campaigns against gay rights, gay people, and gay sex thus have a lot of the structural elements of other forms of crusading against sexual excess or immorality, but they’re not really asking most people to do anything other than become self-righteous about their pre-existing preferences.

7 Comments

  1. David wrote:

    I think you are exactly right here. It is interesting how many Christians have a knee-jerk reaction to homosexuality and yet tolerate divorce remarkably easy considering what Christ said about it.
    CS Lewis said once that the reason why he never commented (or condemned) sins such as gambling is because he wasn’t tempted to do them. More people should take his advice. It is too easy to focus on the sins of others at the expense of looking at our own. It goes back to Jesus saying we should deal with the plank in our own eye before fixing the speck of dust in our brothers.
    On a similar note, on Easter Sunday this year I went to a charismatic church in Bath where the pastor encouraged the congregation not to become too intellectual in their faith. I agree that it can be a danger, but not one that the charismatic church in general is even remotely prone to.

    Friday, August 14, 2009 at 4:42 am | Permalink
  2. Adam Kotsko wrote:

    I think the remark about homosexuality is right, but that Douthat’s analysis is wrong. There are a lot of reasons it might not be as successful as Apatow’s other films — for instance, the complete lack of any self-discipline in editing. It’s not just that the plot with his lost love ends with him making “the hard choice” (and does Adam Sandler even really make the choice? seems like the wife winds up making the choice for him and her choice is presented as pretty easy and even self-evident once the husband is minimally apologetic — seems like Knocked Up did a much better job of showing marriage as really hard), it’s that it drags on and on forever and feels like a make-work project for his wife. There are like ten points in the movie where it feels like a good place to end, and Apatow just pressed on. It’s just plain self-indulgent, and neither of the other two were like that — they both had much tighter writing, with much less repetitive humor.

    Friday, August 14, 2009 at 7:02 am | Permalink
  3. Brad E. wrote:

    I’ll second you on that, Adam — it’s difficult to understand the “best so far” label for a movie so clearly made up of one great idea and one retread idea. The first two thirds of Funny People set it up potentially as (what one reviewer called) the Almost Famous of stand-up comedy. Then Sandler decides to go after the girl who got away, she decides for him that she can’t break up her family, and it sort of ends, then ends again, then doesn’t end at all … roll credits.

    Excellent point by Matthew about conservative judgmentalism, but there’s no secret reason why the film hasn’t been popular. It’s just not that good.

    Friday, August 14, 2009 at 7:43 am | Permalink
  4. Davin wrote:

    It is easy to condemn someone who struggles in any area of sin that you do not struggle in, whether it be homosexuality, drinking, gambling, gossip, porn, gluttony, etc. Unfortunately, as humans we spend much of our lives in knee-jerk reactions one way or the other … condemning/ignoring sin. What is truly difficult is making sure that we take a somewhat middle ground. Meaning we should not condemn, but we should also not allow sin to go unaddressed. As believers we should strive to be a helping force in bringing others out of sin, all the while realizing that there are others who will need to help us move away from our sins. Jesus doesn’t tell us not to take the speck out of our brother’s eye, rather to make sure that we are not missing something entirely larger in our own life.

    Friday, August 14, 2009 at 9:02 am | Permalink
  5. Halden wrote:

    I agree, these are some valid critiques of the film.

    Friday, August 14, 2009 at 9:04 am | Permalink
  6. Theophilus wrote:

    This principle is far broader than homosexuality, though. It’s harder to remain pacifist in a violent, anarchic situation than it is in North America, and especially suburban North America. The suburban North American can be a pacifist at little to no cost, while pacifists in war zones must constantly face that that they experience elevated risk of falling victim to bandits or unscrupulous soldiers and losing property, loved ones, or their own lives because of their refusal to bear arms.

    And of course, this argument could be applied to anything the church demands that its members forgo. Some will have an easier time of it than others. The only really noteworthy thing on this issue is the proportions of the people involved who find the injunction easy and those who find it difficult.

    Friday, August 14, 2009 at 7:59 pm | Permalink
  7. Mark Zamen wrote:

    Yes, this essay makes a valid point: Being anti-gay is an opportunity to demonstrate adherence to Christian values without having to put forth a lot of effort. Of course the matter is not quite so simple, for many psychosocial factors enter into the equation. While it appears that, ever so gradually, we as a society are moving towards a more tolerant view of homosexuals, the sad fact remains that a large segment of the population still regards gay men and women as second-class citizens – or worse. That is the salient point of my recently released biographical novel, Broken Saint. It is based on my forty-year friendship with a gay man, and chronicles his internal and external struggles as he battles for acceptance (of himself and by others). More information on the book is available at http://www.eloquentbooks.com/BrokenSaint.html.

    Mark Zamen, author

    Monday, August 17, 2009 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

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