There's a tangible quality of gloating in Michael Powell's Washington Post story about the public dispute between Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry and his 24-year-old son, Jamiel, who has outed himself in Out magazine. Powell's 3,200-word article is a thorough description of the battle to date, reviewing such dreary father-said-son-said disputes as whether Out approached Jamiel or he approached the magazine, and how much Out paid for his article ($5,000 says the father, about $2,500 says the Post).
Whatever the amount, Terry protests that his son has prostituted the family name, but the family name had suffered already after the elder Terry's divorce and remarriage to a younger woman.
Powell picks up telling ironic details, such as how Jamiel and one of his sisters, Ebony, a convert to Islam, both say that what they learned from their adoptive father helped them become what they are.
We were taught that if you saw pain in the world, you should speak out. I knew that because of my name I could get published and help young men and women who are gay and struggling because of their religious upbringing.
I was raised in a family where it's immoral to see a problem and remain silent.
We learned that, nine times out of 10, if someone is being persecuted for their religion, there's probably some truth to the religion. And the Christian community is supposed to stand for forgiveness and charity, but my experience hasn't been entirely positive.
What comes through in the Post's article, and in Beliefnet's comprehensive package of interviews with Jamiel Terry, Randall Terry and psychologist Leonard Felder, is that father and son still love one another.
The Post's story is weakened, however, by Powell's tone of "it couldn't happen to a nicer extremist."
In a summary of Terry's conversion from a dope-smoking would-be rock star, Powell includes this hyperbole: "He had his epiphany in a diner and that was that. Randall Terry never had much trouble divining God's will after that -- the transmissions were crystal clear."
Other phrases are, in turn, crystal clear about Powell's perception of Terry:
• God, he writes, "delivered unto Terry a vision of a battle plan to fight abortion."
• Terry, in turn, "slowly hatched a plan." (Doesn't hatched suggest a more sinister word, like plot?)
• "In 1988, Terry and his legions started standing in front of local abortion clinics, screaming and pleading with pregnant women to turn away." Such vivid detail, this, but readers are left to wonder: Were the screams those of terror, or rage? Were they blood-curdling? Did these legions ever express themselves at more subdued volumes?
Terry has, of course, annoyed plenty of people in his protests at abortion facilities and his opposition to gay marriage. His pre-emptive strike on WorldNetDaily and The Washington Times makes him a less than sympathetic figure.
This public fight between father and son has led to unseemly, if predictable, rubbernecking. But more unseemly still is seeing a reporter for a major daily turning the conflict into poetic comeuppance for a countercultural gadfly.