Saturday, October 15, 2005


Having grown up like I did in conservative Christian circles, I had virtually no exposure to the gay subculture until fairly recently - and would have run away from it in any case. Now that I'm taking the opportunity to get to know some openly gay individuals, I know that it's not all base degeneracy as I was led to believe.

Like any subculture it has its good and bad points, its strengths and its blind spots, and instead of praying that God would rescue everyone from its evil and thereby eradicate it, I can appreciate the good in it and begin considering what God might be wanting to do to work through it.

Most interesting of all, however, is that, having sat in on a number of conversations about gay culture and entertainment, it's striking how many parallels exist to the evangelical Christian subculture. And now it's probably time for me to pack my bags and enter the witness relocation program before offended readers from both sides of the aisle join up and come after me with tar and feathers, but think about it for a moment.

Each group came together, not just through common experience but as a defensive measure to create a haven in the midst of a broader culture that was perceived to be largely hostile to its members. Both groups have in turn created their own self-contained cultures, producing everything from books, movies and music down to T-shirts, jewelry and message-bearing candy. Both have their own clubs, community centers, magazines, news programs and even schools, and both have their own set of catch phrases and buzzwords that members of the 'in' crowd toss around in casual conversation. Both are quick to welcome new members with open arms, and quick to ostracize those considered traitors to the cause.

In both groups, there are some who uncritically embrace any entertainment produced within their subculture and others who look down on any such product as substandard. Quality control often takes a back seat to "the message." I've observed this firsthand as a long-time consumer of the Christian music industry, which has produced a few outstanding artists along with a whole lot of mediocre fluff that deservedly gets ignored by the mainstream.

All of the above could most likely be said about the many ethnic subcultures that exist in this country, for largely the same reasons. And subcultures are not inherently bad; they do provide a place where people can find others who understand where they're coming from. In short, they serve as incubators. For the new believer who just accepted Christ, or the individual who just came out of the closet, the subculture can be a lifeline that gets them through that difficult period of adjustment.

But we can't stay in the incubator forever if we ever want to grow. Hiding away within our safe subculture leads to insularity and a distorted view of the larger world outside, and helps to perpetuate an "us versus them" mentality.

And people seem to be realizing that. I've been reading recently about the growing movement among gays toward integrating into "straight" neighborhoods and away from forming separate enclaves. And younger, more postmodern Christians are far less interested in hiding within their churches and more interested in building community with their non-Christian friends and neighbors. From where I sit, that can only be a good thing.

1 comment:

CrackerLilo said...

I'm not even close to tarring and feathering you. My head was moving like a bobblehead doll's in agreement. (Wow, my neck hurts! ;-) My wife and I have quite a few straight friends and don't always fit into gay/lesbian culture. We've come to think it's a good thing to embrace other parts of our personalities as well (the sports and music we love, her sewing and chess-playing, my belly-dancing and libertarian politics.) You just need to chlorinate your pool of friends sometimes, you know? And I think a lot of conservative Christians *and* a lot of gays simply refuse to due to pain and prejudice.