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Austin Cline

Christians Who Won't Go See Brokeback Mountain

By March 1, 2006

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Quite a few Christians are avoiding the movie Brokeback Mountain. Why? Well, apparently many of them fear that they will find the depiction of homosexuality as "normal" to be too tempting on a personal level: if they are exposed to homosexuality on the big screen like that, they may end up engaging in homosexual behavior themselves.

Tim Wilkins explains:

I will avoid the movie like a slug avoids an overturned saltshaker -- and for the life of me, I cannot understand why any evangelical would see it -- though there appear to be many. But what is more disturbing to me is that many men and women I know with unwanted homosexual attractions are seeing the movie.

A reporter from The Christian Post asked my thoughts about the movie and I obliged. My comments as a former homosexual were made from the reviews I had read -- comments which generated numerous emails to me from individuals arguing that I could not make an intelligent comment on a movie I had not seen.

They suggested that my viewing the movie would be beneficial in responding to the reporter’s questions. I told them and the reporter that my going to see Brokeback Mountain would be similar to asking a former alcoholic to go to a liquor store to buy his neighbor a toddy for the body.

Opponents of ex-gay ministries will immediately shout “Aha! So you are still tempted with same-sex attractions!” I do not deny it! Martin Luther said it this way, “if your head is made of butter, stay away from the fire.”

One thing that is important about this is how well it demonstrates the idiosyncratic way conservative evangelical Christians use the label “homosexual.” By most standard and reasonable definitions of the term, Tim Wilkins is a gay man (or at least bisexual). He experiences sincere and deeply-felt sexual attractions to other men. He experiences a desire to be involved with sexual and intimate relationships with other men — and the desire is so strong that going to see a movie about such a relationship poses a serious risk to him. Tim Wilkins is not an ex-gay, he’s gay.

Tim Wilkins thinks of himself as an ex-gay because, among conservative evangelical Christians, “gay” is a term limited solely to homosexual behavior. A man or woman who is attracted to the same sex — no matter who strong or consistent the attraction is — isn’t really “gay” so long as they don’t act on it. The idea of being homosexual and celibate is incoherent to them — which should mean that being heterosexual and celibate should also be incoherent, but no one can claim that these evangelicals are afflicted with the problem of consistency in their ideas.

This is also why conservative evangelical Christians fight so hard against the “normalization” of homosexuality in modern society. If being gay is treated as so normal that it’s as unworthy of comment as being tall, then it will be difficult for gays who imagine that they are really ex-gay to continue avoiding same-sex behavior. Such behavior is treated like a vice, not unlike alcoholism or gambling, and so keeping homosexuality hidden is as imperative as not advertising alcohol or gambling too widely.

 

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