Dr. Greg Cason
When Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson ruffled gay feathers across the nation by placing homosexuality in the same category as bestiality and saying that “a vagina—as a man—would be more desirable than a man’s anus,” I felt the hair on the back of my neck stand up.
He continues by squawking, “neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won’t inherit the Kingdom of God.” (And here I thought being left out of my parents’ will was bad.)
But them was fightin’ words to the folks at GLAAD, who have spent years saving us from the anti-gay trespasses of bullies who get a camera and microphone pointed at them.
Wilson Cruz—the cool, out gay actor who is now an even cooler spokes-savior at GLAAD—fired back immediately, saying, “Phil and his family claim to be Christian, but Phil’s lies about an entire community fly in the face of what true Christians believe.”
Now I am not going to argue with Mr. Cruz because (1) I believe he is probably correct, and (2) I really want to believe what he is saying even if he isn’t correct. But some statistics suggest that he is.
A 2013 Pew Research Center survey finds that 60 percent of those in the U.S. believe “Homosexuality should be accepted,” while only 30 percent disagree. And a healthy 44 percent percent of those who attend religious services once a week or more believe the same thing. So far I am putting my money on Mr. Cruz.
But, not surprisingly, a Christian research group called LifeWay found something a little different. Of those Americans surveyed in November 2012 by LifeWay, 44 percent believe “homosexuality is a sin.” And of those who attended religious services once a week, LifeWay found that 61 percent believed homosexuality is a sin. Chalk one up for Mr. Robertson.
So it seems to me that Mr. Robertson and Mr. Cruz are in a battle of ideologies where from each person’s perspective, he is correct. I have no doubts that Mr. Robertson’s friends and family would agree with Mr. Robertson, and Mr. Cruz’s friends and family would echo Mr. Cruz’s sentiments. And in the social sciences, those friends and family members are part of a person’s reference group.
A reference group is just what it sounds like—a group of people that you use to reference yourself and evaluate your behavior and the behavior of others. For Mr. Cruz, his reference group appears to be the hip and happening Christians, while for Mr. Robertson, his reference group appears to be Christians that happen to shoot from the hip.
By listening to and basing your behavior on your preferred reference group, you will gain status and kudos from those in that same group. So we tend to do it—without even questioning these beliefs or behaviors.
So Phil Robertson and Wilson Cruz appear to be locked in verbal fisticuffs about homosexuality and Christianity. And according to each person’s reference group, they are correct. But that still leaves us with the question of who is the winner.
This reminded me of the skirmish between my two favorite superheroes in the 1995 animated Christmas short entitled The Spirit of Christmas (but more popularly called “Jesus vs. Santa”) that served as the precursor to the series South Park. (And no, it is not because Phil Robertson looks like a dirty St. Nick and Wilson Cruz has angelic eyes.)
Confused about which one to help in the fight—Jesus or Santa—the kids stop and ask, “What would Brian Boitano do?”
In glides Brian Boitano. Brian Boitano is a figure skater who (among many other accomplishments) won a gold medal in the 1988 Winter Olympics and just so happened to have come out publicly as gay the very day after Phil Robertson opined about a man’s anus.
In the 1995 Christmas video, Brian Boitano says, “This is the one time of year on which we all try to get along no matter what we believe in. This is the season to be good to each other.” It inspires a resolution between the two.
During the 2013 Christmas dust-up between Phil Robertson and Wilson Cruz, Mr. Boitano skates in the next day to inspire another possible resolution by saying, “I am many things: a son, a brother, an uncle, a friend, an athlete, a cook, an author, and being gay is just one part of who I am.”
So maybe that is the answer. Being gay is only one part of ourselves (albeit a pretty damn big part).
No matter what your belief system, condemning someone based on one aspect of them is flat-out wrong because you end up negating all of the other aspects of them that you (and your reference group) may find redeeming.
By the way, this applies to us, too, when we condemn people because they are conservative Christians, live in the swamps of Louisiana and take their fashion cues from ZZ Top.
The real winner here? A&E. All of this controversy means that ratings for the highest-rated cable reality show in history are about to get a little higher. Now that’s a perfectly executed Triple Lutz.
Dr. Greg Cason
is a licensed
psychologist based in
West Hollywood, specializing in
cognitive therapy with individuals and couples. He can be contacted by going to DrGreg.com.