05 May 2010

"But Jesus hung out with prostitutes, too!"

Have you heard of the latest fallen (or as of this writing, “falling”) “Christian” activist, Dr. George Rekers? I had never heard of this man, but he is one of the two or three most influential Republican Christian homophobes out there. This man has spent the better part of three decades writing books about how evil gay people are, how you can pray away the gay, how you can direct your children sexually so that they grow up straight… and guess what we've just learned about Dr. Rekers?

Oh, come on, it’s too easy.

I’m not going to say he’s gay because that’s a social construct and one to which I suspect he doesn't ascribe, but he is certainly homosexually inclined. As reported in the Miami New Times (and caught by FB friend Michael Mowle – thanks Michael!), Dr. Rekers has just returned from a ten day European vacation with a rent boy. Literally – he found his young male companion on www.rentboy.com. And I'll let the Miami New Times handle what all one has to actively agree "by checking here" to get to escorts profiles on rentboy.com. And his Escort was on page TWO, so Dr. Rekers had to troll through (and I'm not being mean spirited, I mean this as in definition 2a, here) a LOT of ads to find the young "Lucien".

It's hysterical, or would be, if it weren't for the very real damage this awful man has inflicted on others.

He has written books, including “Growing up Straight: What Families Should Know About Sexuality;” think any poor gay kid wondering about sexual identity had a parent read that and use it to make his or her life a living hell? My money is on “yes.” And what about his public advocacy, and his involvement in the civil sphere? Dr. Rekers – and he has a PhD from UCLA – has worked to insinuate his peculiar brand of Bible-influenced, perverted “science” and “social science,” into public life. And more than that – as if ruining gay kids’ lives and eroding civil rights for gay folks wasn’t enough – he testified as an “expert” in both Florida, where he was paid $87,000 in taxpayer money as a witness for the state to keep a gay man from adopting two kids he had fostered for six years, and Arkansas, a state which he tried to bill $80,000 in taxpayer money and settled for $60,000 of taxpayer money, against the civil rights of gay people to adopt children, in an attempt to deny some children, likely straight children, a loving home in which to grow up.

And he did ALL of this while pursuing sex with guys.

What kind of mental knots did he have to tie himself into to believe in what he was doing? He hired a rentboy, literally, for a ten day vacation in Europe, while an officer of of NARTH, the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality. He cofounded, with James Dobson, the Family Research Council and works to cloak his vicious and insatiable homophobia through “science”, and yet he is at least bisexual.

How miserable must this poor bastard have been/ still be? I wonder if he believes his claim that he needed "help with his luggage due to a medical condition" and so he went to rentboy.com to find a luggage handler (c'mon... the jokes write themselves). I hope no charges are brought against his luggage handler (who has confirmed they met through the site) and through his actions Dr. Reker's doesn't ruin another young man's life.

As for Dr. Rekers - yup, an ordained Baptist minister - I hope his professional career is irreparably wounded, and he can stop directing his self loathing outward. Believe what you want to believe - even believe that the best way to find someone to help you with your luggage on a ten day solo European vacation is to go to page two of personals on rentboy.com, even if said luggage handler - WASN'T HANDLING THE LUGGAGE - but don't take whatever the hell you choose to believe, about yourselves or others, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, and inject it venomously into the public sphere.

From starcasm.com (another website which picked up the story) a writer muses, when reading Dr. Reker’s defense of why he hired someone from rentboy.com to handle his luggage on a ten day (otherwise) solo trip to Europe:
About halfway through that and I would have thought “I bet this guy is gay,” if I wouldn’t have already heard about the whole Rentboy thing. I can’t believe guys like this believe what they believe.
Right? It all comes back to that, doesn’t it? What do we believe and why do we believe it?

In the latest New Yorker (the one with the black and white cover showing spring cleaning’s results at the curb, including a husband), James Surowiecki ascribes at least part of the financial meltdown to what Dr. Leon Festinger called “cognitive dissonance.” Festinger, a social psychologist, applied this label to the phenomenon of holding onto beliefs even when there is incontrovertible evidence to the contrary. We find cause and effect where there is none, we ignore cause and effect when it’s not convenient, we rewrite history, disavow earlier statements and explain things away. President Obama wasn’t born in the US, despite a newspaper birth announcement and a birth certificate showing that he was born in Hawai`i, for one example.

This happens in every arena of human life, and Festinger gave a social science framework to something I've long thought: people believe whatever the hell they want to believe.

I understand the impulse. For millenia, our ancestors lived in environments that tried to kill them. Wild animals and the spirits that animated them needed to be placated lest they kill any more members of the tribe, or change their migratory patterns so they couldn’t be hunted; the atmosphere needed to be reified and then worshipped so clouds would drop rain at the right times and in the right amounts; the volcano must be named and cared for so that she didn’t get angry and cover everything in lava. We wanted there to be some reason - or motivation, or nameable cause - for the things in our environment that just happened, and by creating spurious connections and then codifying them, we hoped to get control over our environment.

I’m a sports fan, so of course I get it. I have a (mostly) rational, atheist friend who acts as though his behavior can affect the outcomes of games. If his team is winning and he’s hot and opens a window, they better not start playing poorly – if they do, the window gets closed - he's affected the game. Never mind that he lives in Hawai`i and the game is being played at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, his actions somehow displeased the sports gods, or threw off sports karma, or, and this is a quote, “negatively affected the sports juju.” Until two years ago I was right there with him, and some weeks it takes a lot of self talk to wash my lucky Manning jersey during Colts season. On a rational level I understand that I don't affect the game. Of course I don't. How could I? But I want to believe that I do so I believe that I do.

In sports fans, it’s a nutty but ultimately kind of an endearing trait. In people in public policy roles, in leadership, in banking and finance, in the military, it’s insidious.

More on this story to come, inevitably. In the mean time, I'm going, in the spirit of taking out the plank in my own eye before I talk about foreign bodies in others' (ahem), to wash my "lucky jersey" every week, no matter Peyton's passing rating.

Keep it rational...

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