John Hosty: "Rev. Dr. Jerry S. Maneker is a Ph.D, and Professor Emeritus of Sociology at California State University, Chico, having been a professor there since 1970. Rev. Dr. Maneker has been married since 1962, has two grown daughters, and earned his Ph.D. at New York University in 1971. He is an ordained priest in the Congregational Catholic Church, a division of the Independent Catholic Churches International (ICCI). Some of his accomplishments include his blog entitled, "A Christian Voice For Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, And Transgender Rights," located at http://www.christianlgbtrights.org; his website entitled, "Radical Christianity," located at www.radicalchristianity.net; his long-standing weekly column in the Sacramento Valley Mirror that is entitled, "Christianity and Society"; many articles dealing with LGBT rights and progressive Christianity for the webzines, "Whosoever," "Christiangays.com"; "Speak From The Heart." He also comments on many blogs giving his views concerning LGBT rights and issues and other facets of progressive Christianity.
Q: Dr. Maneker, let's start from the origin of fear and move forward
so that we can all have an equal understanding of what is happening to
our society. What is fear?
A: "Fear" is an emotion that is provoked by any stimulus that creates a feeling of apprehension. It's usually provoked by someone or something we either don't understand; someone or something we feel we can't control; someone or something we feel we must obliterate if we are to be at peace, and return to a state we consider "normal."
Q: How does the individual react to fear, and how does that reaction
A: There are many possible reactions to "fear." Fear can be dealt with by showing humor, seeking to remove the stimulus that is thought by the person to be creating that fear, even to the extent of trying to destroy that stimulus, be it a person, ideology, people, or group that is thought to be provoking that fear. Society can, thereby, be changed by having there be contention between and among people and groups, due to each of the participants in the "struggle" to overcome fear seeking to overcome or even destroy each other. Hence, taken to its limits, the attempt to conquer fear can cause a war of all against all.
Unfortunately, certain people and institutions viewed as "credible," such as religious leaders and religious institutions, frequently seek to create and "justify" people's fears due to such factors as erroneous biblical interpretations, the attempt to gain materially and politically from generating and reinforcing people's fears, and externalizing the anger borne of their own frustrations in seeking to deny to themselves and others what they so vociferously condemn in others. This latter tactic is the defense mechanism that is called "Reaction Formation."
For example, people who obsess over condemning same-sex love and relationships, and vociferously condemn them, might well be Gay themselves, but erroneously believe that by vociferously condemning LGBT people and same-sex behavior and relationships they are convincing others, and perhaps themselves, that they, themselves, couldn't possibly be Gay if they are so condemning of LGBT people and same-sex behavior and relationships. They are wrong, of course, as such single-minded obsession and condemnation frequently tells us far more about the condemners than it does about anything else.
Q: What is "Mob Mentality?"
A: Basically,"Mob mentality" occurs when individual moral codes are trumped by those of a group or institution. The individual is swept up in a paradigm, or way of seeing, that is not necessarily of his or her making, but of the person and/or institution that is given such credibility that one's independent thought and judgment become subordinated to that person (who is frequently charismatic) or institution. Therefore, otherwise decent people can be swept up into doing what they would view as "unthinkable" if they were to act alone or act on their own moral values.
Q: What is "Xenophobia?"
A: "Xenophobia" is basically, "fear of the foreign." Anything that is "foreign," that which we don't understand, that which we're told is to be feared and/or rejected and/or fought against, stimulates the motivation and adrenaline necessary to fight off "the attacker," "the threat," to ourselves or our "way of life," as defined by either ourselves and/or by other people and institutions to which we give sufficient credibility and deference, so that we "willlingly" join in the fight against this perceived "attack" on ourselves and on our "way of life." What most of the organized "Church" has done in demonizing LGBT people, and marshalling its constituents to vote against civil and sacramental rights and legal protections for LGBT people, violating Jesus' commandments to us to love others and not judge others and have unity, is an example of a devastating effect of Xenophobia on minority groups and on the larger society that views itself as "civilized, and even "Christian."
Q: During the Salem Witch trials there were some who saw an
opportunity to gain from others' losses. What type of parallels would
you draw with today's society and the struggle over gay marriage?
A: I believe that the "struggle over gay marriage" is largely based not on seeking to maintain "traditional family values," "maintain morality," "protect Western civilization as we know it," "maintain the sanctity of marriage," or any of the other specious, irrational, reasons given by many clergy and politicians for condemning same-sex marriage. Rather, it's largely about keeping the money flowing in to church coffers, hustling votes by some cynical politicians, and cementing in-group solidarity within churches and within the larger society.
For example, the eminent sociologist, Emile Durkheim, said that we create out-groups in order to enhance in-group cohesion or solidarity. We have a vested interest in creating out-groups, "the other," "the stranger," "the threat," because we, thereby, not only feel better about ourselves, saying that we're not like "those" people, but we become closer to each other because we are told, and come to believe, that we have a "common enemy" against which we have to fight. Unfortunately, "Ingroup-Outgroup dynamics," as it's calleld, seems to be a virtual law of social life. That's why we had the "Communist menace," and then, when that out-group was no longer in the picture, people hunted around to find another group against which to discriminate, and who better than one that is viewed as a "safe" target to persecute": LGBT people, who only represent anywhere from two to ten percent of the population?
Q: What can be done about all this, now that we have arrived where we
are today, with our country divided over issues like gay marriage,
immigration, and religious tyranny?
A: All decent people, particularly Christians, must confront the perversion of the only Gospel to be found in Christianity: the Gospel of grace (God's unmerited favor to us), faith (trusting God over and above seen circumstances), love, peace, reconciliation, and inclusiveness. There is no other Gospel in Christianity! We must fight against the false gospel of legalism, perfectionism, and exclusion that is promulgated by the modern day Pharisees in our midst who are attempting to hijack the terms "conservative" and "evangelical," just as they are trying to hijack the term "Christianity" itself.
As I've written before, I'm an evangelical, dammit! And I won't allow purveyors of a false gospel, about whom the Apostle Paul felt so strongly that he wrote, "God damn them" (Galatians 1:8-9), to pervert the beauty of the Gospel of liberation into their twisted notions of God, the Bible, themselves, and other people, thereby seeking to put yokes of bondage on people, the very yokes of bondage from which Jesus came to set us free. These legalists and biblical literalists have thrown God's grace back in His face, and are seeking to lead gullible, vulnerable, biblically iliterate people away from the only Gospel to be found in Christianity. And for that grievous sin, as well as for the sin of wittingly or unwittingly helping to create and "legitimate" the shame, self-loathing, suicides, bashings and murders of LGBT people, they are to be assiduously confronted and told in no uncertain terms that they are not speaking for God, the Bible, or for the Gospel!
If we don't confront them, we are culpable in their sins! ("Illegal immigrants," or another vulnerable minority group is now waiting in the wings for the haters' full venom to be expressed when they don't perceive there to be as much mileage to be gained by condemning and oppressing LGBT people as they thought.) It is important to remember, as I've written before, every single drop of blood shed by LGBT people, either through suicide, bashing, and/or murder is on the hands of homophobic clergy and their followers, and this message must be hammered home as loudly and as often, in as many venues as possible, for Christianity to have the credibility that it deserves.
It's important to remember, there are many decent people who are not Christians! However, every single Christian is a decent person! And if he or she is not a decent person, he or she is not a Christian! And it's high time that that fact was recognized and proclaimed as loudly and as vociferously as possibe, both for the well-being of God's LGBT children, for the well-being of other vulnerable people and minority groups, and for the well-being of Christianity itself!