October 5, 2006

Foleygate: Shifting Blame, Missing the Point

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 8:19 pm

In a frenzy of finger-pointing, everyone is blaming the Foley scandal on their favorite enemy. First there’s Hastert, Gingrich and Limbaugh, who blame it all on the “liberal” media and Democrats. Then there’s Matt Drudge, who is blaming it on the pages themselves. As despicable as I find these attempts to shift blame, they pale in comparison to the effort by some to blame it all on…wait for it…diversity and tolerance!

From an editorial in the Wall Street Journal:

But in today’s politically correct culture, it’s easy to understand how senior Republicans might well have decided they had no grounds to doubt Mr. Foley merely because he was gay and a little too friendly in emails. Some of those liberals now shouting the loudest for Mr. Hastert’s head are the same voices who tell us that the larger society must be tolerant of private lifestyle choices, and certainly must never leap to conclusions about gay men and young boys.

Tony Perkins from the Family Research Council:

This is the end result of a society that rejects sexual restraints in the name of diversity. When a 16-year-old boy is not safe from sexual solicitation from an elected representative of the people, we should question the moral direction of our nation. If our children aren’t safe in the halls of Congress, where are they safe? Maybe it’s time to question: when is tolerance just an excuse for permissiveness?

And lastly, from something called the Arlington Group:

We are very concerned that the early warnings of Mr. Foley’s odd behavior toward young male pages may have been overlooked or treated with deference, fearing a backlash from the radical gay rights movement because of Mr. Foley’s sexual orientation.

These comments are wrong in so many ways, I don’t know where to start. Fortunately, Andrew Sullivan explains it in an article at The New Republic:

There is something deeply sick about a Republican elite that is comfortable around gay people, dependent on gay people, staffed by gay people–and yet also rests on brutal exploitation of homophobia to win elections at the base. These public homophobes, just like the ones in the Vatican, may even tolerate gay misbehavior more readily than adjusted gay people do. If you treat gay sex in any form as a shameful secret to keep concealed, the line between adult, consensual contact and the sexual exploitation of the young may not seem so stark. That’s how someone like Speaker Dennis Hastert could have chosen not to know: He was already choosing not to know Foley was gay. In this way, Hastert is a milquetoast, secular version of Cardinal Bernard Law.

I think he’s exactly right. Forced to accept the presence of gays as “normalized”, Congressional Republicans may have lost the ability to make moral distinctions. Why not then accept a sexual predator as “normalized” as well?

But the problem isn’t too much tolerance, it’s not enough tolerance. It’s clear that the Republicans haven’t really accepted the gays in their midst, they’ve just learned that they can’t express their bigotry in public. They haven’t internalized an empathetic view of gays, just learned to make nice. If they had been able to truly accept gays as moral human beings, the bright line between moral and immoral behavior would have been clear to them.

So here it is. Same-sex attraction: moral. Adults hitting on 16 year-olds, male or female, and regardless of the legal age of consent (it’s 16 in D.C.): immoral. Engaging in gay sex as part of a life-long committed relationship: moral. Pursuing sexual relationships, homosexual or heterosexual, face-to-face or online, for your own gratification while knowing full well that the relationship is harmful to the other party: immoral.

I think this is why the Right finds it so easy to lump gay marriage and “man-boy love” advocates together. They judge the morality on the act itself instead of it’s impact on those involved. Pedophilia, like any abusive relationship, always has a victim. A child, even a post-pubescent teen, is not able to give their fully-informed consent to any sexual relationship with an adult. There can be no mutuality. Rick Santorum famously compared homosexuality to polygamy, pedophilia, bestiality, and incest. Rick – it’s not too hard. These other acts have a victim, while homosexuality does not, at least, not any more often than heterosexuality.

Ultimately I suppose it goes back to the Euthyphro Dilemma. If we judge morality by what the Bible says (or what we interpret it to say), then morality loses any meaning for our lives other than trying to follow the rules. On the other hand, if we judge morality based upon our understanding of God’s perfect love for us, and respond with our own love for God and each other, then morality has a much richer meaning. Our actions are based on what is best for others, and by this measure, it’s not hard to differentiate between a loving gay relationship and child abuse.

So the lesson to be learned from the Foley debacle is simple: adults should protect children and teens from real threats, not manufacture false ones to rail about while ignoring the wolf among us.


  1. While I agree that shifting the blame around is the wrong thing to do, let’s refocus for just a moment. The blame for Foley’s actions still sits squarely on Foley. (I don’t think anyone really disagrees with that point.) Secondary blame – who knew, when, what was done or not done, etc. – will only come through an investigation, and true justice will only occur in front of the great, white throne.

    I disagree with Mr. Sullivan that the Republicans are comfortable around gays, much less dependent on them. They may not be tolerating gays through clenched teeth and white knuckles, but I doubt very seriously that they are comfortable.

    But what I disagree with the most is this perpetuation of the “homosexuality as an identity” myth. God has love for all people, despite their sin. But God also commands against sin. You talk about how the Right judges the act of gay sex without any regard for the impact on those involved, but that’s completely appropriate, since God has already weighed those things and made a pronouncement against the act, same as all other forms of fornication.

    You are correct that we have to consider more than just some legalistic checklist when we are practicing our faith, but you can’t claim that your exercise of conscience trumps the instructions that God provides in His word. Our understanding of who God is comes from what God chooses to reveal to us, and the bulk of that comes from the Bible.

    Comment by Eric — October 6, 2006 @ 6:37 am

  2. I agree with Eric. The Bible is from God, so if we judge our morality by it, it doesn’t lose meaning. It has the meaning of following God’s commands. The Bible’s commands are rooted in God’s love for us and our following them is rooted in our love for Him.

    How can anyone think they have a better understanding of God then someone to whom He spoke audibly? Two such men have condemned homosexual sex. As for the “life-long committed relationship” part, see On The Narrow.

    How can a Christian teach people to put their own concept of the manifestation of God’s love above the Bible? How can you teach people in the church to love anything that the Bible condemns? And, just so that you don’t hang the homophobe/bigot card on me, I have known and worked with gay men and women, and I’ve cared for and befriended them as I would anyone else. We are called to love all people and hate all sin. How did being intolerant of what the Bible calls sin become the only sin in progressive churches?

    Comment by Elmo — October 7, 2006 @ 6:46 am

  3. I disagree with both of you. Love is a gift from God, it is part of the human condition, and humans experience it in different ways. Much as I admire the ancient Hebrews, and appreciate their inspiration, I don’t think their interpretations of proper social behavior are 100% appropriate for our modern world.

    As for this:
    How can a Christian teach people to put their own concept of the manifestation of God’s love above the Bible?
    Well, maybe they’re just following Jesus, who said nothing about teh gay:

    Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.

    Comment by Kuz — October 10, 2006 @ 11:22 am

  4. Archbishop Carey of the CofE said it well – “the Church cannot bless what God does not.”
    The Scriptural witness is plain that sexual relations are only properly expressed between a man and a woman.” Jesus himself, quoting Genesis, said that God “created them male and female” and that for this reason, a man leaves his parents and “becomes one flesh” with his wife. Paul plainly wrote about the immoral nature of same-sex relations.
    The Church has universally understood this prohibition against same-sex relations to be
    unambiguous until about 30 years ago. In fact, the Global South churches (which are the growing churches in the world) simply cannot understand how we can suddenly “reiterpret”, or worse, ignore the straightforward Biblical message regarding sexual love.

    As much as we may feel compassion for gay and lesbian human beings, we do them a disservice by unilaterally proclaiming their sexual relationships to be “moral” when the great weight of Scripture and tradition states otherwise.

    Comment by Buckeye Bob — October 12, 2006 @ 4:28 am

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