25 June 2009
Here is a story about a controversy caused by the uploading to YouTube of a video showing a church congregation attempting to purge a "homosexual spirit" from a teenager. As a religious phenomenon, it's ridiculous and worthy of mockery, as is a pastor's illiterate disclaimer that the scene shown was not an "exorcism" but a "casting out of spirits." But in certain circles the video demonstrates thoughtcrime, or worse. The thoughtcrime is that a person who once considers himself homosexual might renounce that orientation. The crime is worse when the renunciation is characterized as a "cure" for homosexuality. That language is certainly insulting, but whether the "cure" is worse than the implicit "disease" depends on individuals. The church claims that the young man came to them seeking help, hoping to be purged on cross-dressing tendencies. If that's the case, then what happened inside the church is no one else's business, though we may as well laugh now that the video's been publicized. Gay-rights groups have reacted as if the teen were a victim, somehow coerced into undergoing the ordeal. They claim that this isn't an isolated incident, and I don't doubt either that they're right or that some people have been put through "cures" against their will. Homosexuals also have a right to be just plain offended by the video or by any equation of homosexual desire with demonic possession. But if they want such spectacles to be suppressed somehow, I don't see a legal basis for doing so so long as someone chooses to endure the process. It's fair to question whether the teen's participation was as voluntary as is claimed, but is it also fair to reproach someone who may well dislike the urges he feels and would rather be rid of them? Wouldn't any condemnation of the youth for some sort of false consciousness be the same as condemning celibacy? Or has that young man a duty to enlarge the ranks of the out and proud? If some say he does, how different are they from the churches they condemn? YouTube invites us to make superficial judgments about superficial images, and it's all too easy to laugh with a degree of justified derision at what we see here. But we should reserve more meaningful judgments until we get a chance to look beneath the surface.