Pod people: Has the gay movement peaked?

In a speech delivered at the Mansion House in London on 10 Nov 1942, Winston Churchill predicted the British victory at the battle of El Alamein would mark the turn of the tide of Germany's fortunes. The hitherto unstoppable Wehrmacht had been defeated, and the historical inevitability of a German victory was gone. But, he added:

Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. but it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.

I was reminded of Churchill's words while reading an article by Paul Gottfried in the current issue of the Salisbury Review. In an article entitled "Cooling Off on Gay Marriage," Gottfried argued the social left had reached its zenith with the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision on gay marriage. The urgency of the campaign to legalize gay marriage was animated by a desire to seize the moment.

Rather there is awareness that the present campaign to mainstream and even glorify gay marriage cannot be sustained forever. It may be reaching its limits in being able to convert people to a bizarre idea, no matter how much money and expensive propaganda have been thrown at it.

He argues support for gay marriage is "far shakier than the media would allow us to believe", citing tight poll numbers and the spate of electoral defeats for gay marriage in all but the most politically liberal states. The campaign for gay marriage was anti-populist, driven by elites seeking to shape the culture. Public acceptance remained mixed, even in the face of a concerted political/social campaign to bring about its acceptance.

This does not even factor in the new, edifying TV shows featuring loving gay couples and quarrelsome heterosexual ones, the movies showing similar epiphanies, glaringly biased news coverage, and the steady work of our public educational institutions in getting the kids to celebrate gayness and same sex marriage.

He concludes:

The power establishment has moved too far too fast on the issue of gay marriage; and it may not be able to keep up the pace of its efforts to erode traditional and until recently the only concept of marriage, as a heterosexual union.

This is an interesting argument, to say the least -- and one I have not heard bandied about in the popular media. Time will tell if Gottfried is right, but I believe there are stirrings in the culture that may foreshadow a Thermidorian reaction against the excesses of the social left. In this week's edition of Crossroads, Issues, Etc.. host Todd Wilkens and I discussed my recent story at GetReligion on the defenestration of James Tengatenga.

Tengatenga -- a liberal Anglican bishop from Malawi -- had been hired as dean for moral and spiritual life at Dartmouth. Shortly after his appointment was announced, gay activists began opposition research on the bishop, treating him as if he were Robert Bork and they aides to Teddy Kennedy. They unearthed a number of stories I wrote about Tengatenga in The Church of England Newspaper where he endorsed the church's traditional view on gay sex -- e.g., that it was a sin -- and also found statements he made questioning the appointment of Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire in 2003. (Robinson was the first "gay" bishop.)

They also found stories I had written about Tengatenga's role as an advocate for Malawi's gays, whom the government would scapegoat from time to time when it needed a villain to explain failed state policies. Like the Tsars and the Jews, an old fashioned pogrom against gays in Central Africa helps let off steam. However, these pieces did not carry the emotional impact of Tengatenga's support for traditional Christian moral teachings. Even when Tengatenga announced he had switched sides and now supported "marriage equality" this was not enough for his critics who charged the bishop was not a true believer in the gay cause, but an opportunistic convert. Dartmouth College's president buckled under the pressure and canned Tengatenga for being too controversial.

In my reporting on this story for the church press I spoke with one member of the search committee who believed the revolution was now consuming its own. Rather than welcome a convert to their cause, the academic left treated Tengatenga as a deviationist who must be purged for the good of Dartmouth. The old Popular Front "no enemies on the left" mantra was now more.

The idea of the left taking care of their own calls to mind the Republican friendly fire of the Spanish Civil War. In this case, the left refused even to recognize him as one of their own.  He unwittingly and in circumstances scarcely imaginable here violated their language code; their own moral pride compelled them to relegate him to the status of outcast, unfit to exercise moral leadership in our community. I don’t think my perception is entirely distorted when I notice a Leninist streak in the American liberal arts left.

When the revolution turns on its own -- be it the Terror of the French Revolution, the Stalinist purges, Mao's Cultural Revolution -- the initial ideological phase comes to an end. Whether Tengatenga's purge makes the end of the beginning or the beginning of the end, I know not -- but it does mark a shift in attitudes, and journalists will need to heed that shift.

I am not sure if Gottfried is correct -- though I find his arguments entertaining. But the Tengatenga affair -- an incident of interest to the small community of Dartmouth College and Anglican church watchers -- may be a sign that the peak has been reached and the tide will soon go out.

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