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The Homosexual as Pariah: Thinking about Homosexual Existence in the Context of Evangelical Christianity in the 1960’s

Taylor Cade West, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Spain

Abstract

 In the 1960’s some American homosexuals began to speak; they worked to establish a dialogue between themselves and a society from which they were excluded. Evangelical Christians first followed the societal pattern of silence in regards to homosexuality. Later, as the clamor and presence of homosexuals increased, many evangelicals reacted pointedly. The historical coming out of homosexuals and evangelicals’ response, as it is documented in the pages of Christianity Today, serves as a supreme example of the pariah condition that many homosexuals and queer people were experiencing in the 1960s and continue perforce to experience today. It is the purpose of this paper to think about, in the context of evangelical Christianity’s reaction to homosexuality, the homosexual as pariah; to explore the character of a marginal existence.

 It is perplexing to live in a society of which one is not a part (as is the case of queer peoples in so many parts of the world). Where silence reigns, where speaking is a forbidden act, one very often will stumble through the world beclouded by a haze. There is no guide for the perplexed, very seldom does a hand reach through the mist and escort a person to a ground upon which one may speak, one may be. Seldom, if ever, does a whisper break the darkness of one’s insecurity and say, “Go elsewhere. Here you have no place.”

The act of the “Homosexual as Pariah” has not come to a close. Still, well into the twenty-first century, a queer person may be born into a family in the presence of which she may never be herself. A homosexual may live in a society from which he is excluded and at times violently oppressed. And as many gains are being made as far as political and social freedoms in some parts of the world, some states are attempting to restore laws that prevent homosexual activity, the meaning of which is a grotesque violation of the private realm of human beings; and other states have enacted legislation which equates public expression of homosexuality as a kind of “horror-propaganda” against a regime already sunk in a morass of civil rights violations.

Universally speaking, the homosexual—along with all queer peoples—is subject to an imperiled existence and it is in this context of simultaneously expanding and contracting freedom that we must contemplate what it means to be a homosexual or queer person in society. The purpose of this paper does not go beyond an attempt to understand.

In our endeavor to understand, it seems appropriate to fall back on the historical example of evangelical Christianity’s reaction to homosexuals as they began to speak out in 1960s America; through this moment in gay history, we may begin to see the quality of homosexual existence in society. In so doing, we will find that the worldview of those who are members of society is diametrically opposed to the reality of those who find themselves at society’s margins. It will also become clear that the price of assimilation into decent society is nothing less than existence itself. And lastly, we shall attempt to discover a possible alternative that is open to the pariah…Access Full Text of the Article


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