When we were fighting against gay marriage, we made a huge tactical error in thinking we had to fight in the courts and media first, trusting that the churches would be safe. I fell for this delusion as well. As I pointed out in a recent conference in London (“The New Normal”), I followed many others’ leads and minimized the churches’ influence on my position, for fear of being tied in people’s minds to “old church ladies telling people what to do.” After half a decade of this, I’ve realized that “old church ladies” are the most important group to get on our side, and we have to have their confidence first. Why? Unlike everybody else, they show up and bring food. On their often unacknowledged labor rested most of the breakthrough moments I saw in the fight against leftist propaganda, not only in the United States but also in France and the United Kingdom.
It is alluring but fanciful to dream of winning over secular feminists and prestigious men in suits, but these would-be partners are notoriously slippery. I tried, for instance to open up a dialogue with innumerable liberal feminists in hopes we could build a coalition. Queer feminists Yasmin Nair, Claire Potter, Cathy Brennan, Sheena Malhotra, and others all reacted to my attempts to engage them in authentic conversation with paranoid recoil, feeling the need to repudiate or even viciously attack me in public lest their liberal allies think they were really in league with me. Other liberal feminists such as Claudia Corrigan D’Arcy and Laura Kipnis were hot & cold interlocutors, willing at times to share thoughts but then prone to close doors on key positions such as defense of life and/or the opposition to sodomy.
From time to time, there would be gay men who looked willing to engage in real discussion. I brought queer theorist Tim Dean to my campus to deliver a speech on Tom Jones in 2013. I agreed to speak on a panel hosted by playwright Tony Abbatemarco after a performance of Forever House. I even exchanged some messages with Frank Ligtvoet, a gay adoptive father, and hired a gay actor to play the lead in the premier of the play I co-wrote with Michelle Shocked, Sunlight. All these attempts ended up leaving me drained and exhausted, because in the end, such crossover discussants always wanted a veto to block discussion of the central issues they considered non-starters. I call this phenomenon “lefty creep.”
Highly esteemed conservative straight men can be nearly as frustrating. If they have sinecures or some kind of emeritus status in the movement, most likely they only want new advocates to emerge if they have personally mentored them. The effect of this is that the movement remains small, incestuous, and dull.
The beauty of church-focused social movements is that they offer a quick route to the grassroots and rely on long-established networks of trust and familiarity. Churches are a good offense against propaganda because of the physical resources alone: for instance, the multitude of multipurpose rooms, reading rooms, furniture, and props that spend much of the American workweek unused. Additionally, churches are a badly needed defensive theater, because the left has spent large amounts of money on promoting a false theology favorable to their pet causes like same-sex marriage. If churches at the local level block people with false theological grounding from taking over pastorates, this will protect the whole conservative movement as anti-propagandists fight on other fronts, such as…