Oscar Wilde and “Gay Culture” in the Church

One of the ways Christians get duped is by not listening to non-Christians. Parents sometimes fail in the same way with their children. This is the sin of not being cynical enough. This is the sin of optimism. Now of course love hopes all things and believes all things. Faith, hope, and love truly are optimistic in Christ. But that doesn’t mean that love is stupid or naive or foolish. Love is wise. Otherwise, God might have just hoped the human race would pull out of its death spiral rather than send His beloved Son.

As my friend, Joshua Appel has pointed out in wedding homilies from time to time, 1 Corinthians 13 is about God’s love, the way God loves. His love believes all things and hopes all things, but His love also sent His only Son to be beaten to a bloody pulp for our sin. God’s love accurately diagnoses the problem of sin. If at had been any one of us, we’d have called off the Romans and Jews. Surely this is enough. Surely the world will get the point. But it wasn’t enough, it didn’t get to the heart of the matter until Jesus said, “It is finished.”

All of this by way of introduction to a theme I hope to write more on and that is the modern creation of “gay culture.” There’s a good deal about this topic that is unsavory and appalling to say the least, but Christians will not be able to understand the plays being run on them or truly love those ensnared in homosexual perversion unless they have some understanding of what the militant sodomites have been thinking and planning over the last century.

Just as one small sample, I give you Bryan Lowder’s article in Slate from May 12 2015 entitled What Was Gay? The article is an overview of the last 100+ years of the homosexual movement, specifically focused on the creation of “gay culture.” Lowder, himself a practicing homosexual, recognizes and cites other homosexuals and homosexual historians who note that one of the unique elements of the last century is the creation of this new culture. He writes: “What changed? As historians of sexuality, most influentially Michel Foucault, have argued, it’s in the mid-to-late 1800s that medical, psychiatric, and legal authorities elaborate sex between men, encounters that would have previously been viewed as discrete acts of ‘sodomy,’ into a type of person: the homosexual.” He continues:

“But how do you establish traditions for an ethnic group that has just been invented?… it’s not surprising that the then-contemporaneous sensibilities and cultural movements like aestheticism and dandyism were appropriated and refined by many homosexuals with gusto. These were considered by much of the conservative mainstream to be transgressive, awry, unnatural, and utterly modern — all adjectives equally applicable to homosexuals. Like attracts alike. And it helped that these and other qualities were embodied by early homosexual icons like Oscar Wilde… while it’s an exaggeration to attribute all of gayness to Wilde and his demimonde, it’s undeniable that certain tropes — attention to detail, an embrace of decadence, attentiveness to self-presentation, a critical pose toward the mainstream both serious and playful — crystalized under his cool gaze.”

Lowder goes on to chronicle the self-conscious cultivation of “gay culture” in the West, ultimately giving a four-point outline of the most essential aspects of this “new ethnicity.”

There is much to say about all of this, but for now it merely bears pointing out that this distinction between “discrete acts of sodomy” and “gayness” is an ongoing point of discussion and (often) controversy within the homosexual community. Some have taken the label “queer” in order to avoid the now cliche valley-girl sodomite flamer. This is related to why Nate Silver says he is “sexually gay but ethnically straight.” And the point of underlining this is that Bible-believing Christians really must understand this as part of the play being run on us. The whole “pride” movement is bound up in this idea of “gay” as an ethnicity, a culture. But secondly, if Nate Silver can opt out of gay culture, while practicing sodomy, then Christians can foolishly, naively, and sinfully “opt in to” gay culture, while studiously avoiding homosexual acts. Of course, the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof. Just as the meat sacrificed to Aphrodite was still just a hamburger for a Christian to enjoy with a clean conscience, Christians must nevertheless be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.

This is because culture is social gravity. Culture is the accumulation of social significance and meaning and carries with it a teleology. Sinful cultures accumulate sin and are taking you to Hell. Godly cultures accumulate godliness and are intended by God to be an enormous blessing in taking you to Heaven. Thus, sinful appropriation of gay culture (even minus the “discrete acts of sodomy”) is dangerous for your own soul as well as the souls of those around you. What are you encouraging your own soul to be? Where are you tempting your soul to go? And what are you cultivating in the souls of those around you? The name of this sin is “softness” or “effeminacy.” As Paul writes in 1 Cor. 6:9: the effeminate will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Let me give just one example from Lowder’s article of what effeminacy looks like. He begins his outline of “gay culture” with the first essential element he calls “cruising” and explains:

“It’s a stereotype that gay men are detail-oriented. We attend to texture, we get the importance of garnish, we advise on etiquette — that sort of thing. But stereotypes are often founded in reality, and in this case, the reputation is well earned. If I had to reduce gayness to its most fundamental aspect, its most unadorned truth, it would be this: Gayness begins in the practice of paying attention, deeply and with great skill… In his work, queer critic Wayne Koestenbaum has elaborated cruising, which he defines as ‘readerly readiness… a willingness to pick up codes,’ into a sort of ethical position in which paying tribute to nuance is a holy act. I would add that camp, which I’ve defined in the past as something like a joyously overzealous pleasure taken in noticing the ‘wrong’ detail, is really just cruising applied to the culture at large.”

Paying tribute to nuance as a holy act. Now, it’s of course important that Christians not merely react. There’s a kind of thuggish obliviousness that understandably caricatures some pseudo forms of masculinity. On the other hand, the reason why God made men to be warriors (and not women) is because war requires that men not think about many nuances. In war, men must be able to give and take orders and remain focused on the goal despite the many obstacles, barriers, and difficulties. All of those details are what tempt men to be fearful in battle. And this is why the Bible says that when men become fearful in battle they become like women (e.g. Is. 19:16, Jer. 50:37, 51:30, Nah. 3:13). It is a distinctively feminine glory to care for the details, to pay tribute to nuance. Yes, of course, in the same way that the occasional Jael will need to put the kibosh on some Caananite thug, this is no excuse for men to be devoid of all manners. But the point stands. It is effeminate for men to give excessive care to details, especially the details of appearances, and most especially their own appearances.

This happens in studied appropriations of rock culture, grunge culture, culinary culture, fashion culture, hipster culture, hip hop culture, cross fit culture, you name it. Where men spend their energy paying tribute to nuance as a holy act, they are sinning against their own masculinity, the God who made them male, and tragically leaving the walls of Christendom completely unmanned. No wonder the hordes of barbarians stream into our midst. We are letting them. We are too busy choreographing next Sunday’s guitar solo. We are planning to prance down the aisle in our liturgical drag. We are nuancing the Hell out of some Greek word with overzealous pleasure in order that we may safely avoid coming into any real conflict with sin, Satan, or the flesh.

But that is not love. Love sees where the enemy has dug in and goes to work with the truth and grace of the gospel there. There are many Christians who (rightly) recoil at the Pride parades and rainbows everywhere, but they can’t see their own complicity with sodomite culture in their own churches, in their own homes, in their own hearts. We will not be able to rid ourselves of this curse until we repent of our effeminacy, our softness, our gayness. We need men willing to go to war, which means we need men who are unafraid. We need men who are willing to cultivate a sanctified obliviousness to details. We need men like Jesus who fix their eyes on the joy set before them and refuse to pay attention to the many distractions.

  1. Mike Bull August 8

    So much great stuff here. It is no wonder that rough men feel out of place in church.
    “Where men spend their energy paying tribute to nuance as a holy act, they are sinning against their own masculinity, the God who made them male, and tragically leaving the walls of Christendom completely unmanned. No wonder the hordes of barbarians stream into our midst. We are letting them. We are too busy choreographing next Sunday’s guitar solo. We are planning to prance down the aisle in our liturgical drag. We are nuancing the Hell out of some Greek word with overzealous pleasure in order that we may safely avoid coming into any real conflict with sin, Satan, or the flesh.”
    But what about those who are “doomed by disposition” to pay attention to details? Is the brilliance of Michelangelo and Caravaggio necessarily linked to homoeroticism? The artistry – lyrical, architectural and musical – of Israelites was the attention to detail of the Spirit. Yet the Levites also carried swords. Perhaps the means of reclaiming the arts – including nuance – is a fresh understanding of the ministry of David, who was as ready to pick up the sword as he was the lyre. Like Jacob, he was as much at home “inside the tent” as he was outside of it. He was not oblivious to details, so perhaps it is possible to avoid the dichotomy, and avoid handing the sanctuary over to brutes like Esau and Saul. More singing of Psalms is a start.

  2. Caleb Warner August 9

    Hi Toby,

    I like the discussion about this, but I think you get off track. It’s a power play/invention of the past century to say that being detail-oriented is fundamentally gay, or queer. That is the very lie that we want to deny, because it’s the very thing that has been invented.
    If you want to fight the cultures opposed to yourself and avoid getting sucked into strange vortices, it is better to provide the counter examples that prove another way is possible. I.E. Be innocent as doves and don’t imagine for a second that an ‘attention to detail’ says anything, one way or another, about someone’s sexuality or gender. It doesn’t! That’s a lame thing to do.
    What is not lame is to know the tropes typically associated with a generated culture. And to happily throw them into the trash can.
    As an aside: men should pay attention to their appearances way more than they do. I’m not sure how that’s disputable.
    You say “It is effeminate for men to give excessive care to details, especially the details of appearances, and most especially their own appearances.” Earlier you say that effeminacy is a sin according to 1 Corinthians 6:9? (tongue-in-cheek: just paying attention to the details). So, are you saying that it is a sin for men to give care to their own appearances?
    I know I did a sly move there, but so did you. I omitted the word ‘excessive’, which of course we would both agree is wrong. Of course it is wrong to give ‘excessive’ care. But that is not what you seem to be saying in this blog post. You are not saying it is wrong to give ‘excessive’ care, because that’s undisputed. You are saying it is wrong to give care to details (at least, this seems to be the gist towards the end (gist is an odd word)).
    How many men–leaders in the church all across the country–are happy to wear what looked bad twenty years ago? Whether you’re into fashion culture or not, everyone wears clothes and there are better and worse ways to wear them. It is not the purview of the ‘Christian to dress better’: it is the ought (i.e. there is a scale of better and worse that allows for the teleology (if you’ll pardon my french) towards the better) of being a human. You have clothes? Wear them better than you do when you’re being lazy. Clothes are the architecture of the body and who ever said that a shoddy building is the product of a mature architect?
    Apply the same thing liberally to cooking. College male students can and should pay attention, scrupulous attention, to how and what they eat. Throw some mint and cumin in that soup! Taste just costs time and care. I believe that NSA had a disputatio about this very thing a few months ago. We should be the people who actually care about details.
    Especially considering the fact that we are not in a war and no one I know is carrying a sword. This is a ‘culture war’, if you will, and so the only real weapons of war at the disposal of what is an essentially ‘effeminate’ population of late capitalist pigs like ourselves is to wage war with what we got. And what we got is food and clothes and books and stuff. And computers, too, to write blog posts that deserve attention to detail!!!!!(exclamation point)!

    Of course, I don’t believe that this war that we are in is cultural. The only real way we wage war against the powers and principalities is to proclaim the Gospel, not proclaim one culture over another. We preach the cross and we adorn ourselves with good works, not with an ill-fitting costume to show how badly we don’t care about details and fashion and that we affirm traditional gender roles contra-invented one hundred years ago by homosexuals who wanted to create a culture out of sodomy.

    Basically, I don’t think we need to be as reactionary as what you’re suggesting.

    Proclaiming one culture over another is a distraction and you and I, who are on the same team, want to avoid those. So in order to avoid distractions, I find that worrying about the secondary items of livelihood, what we should eat, what we should wear, is a waste of time as a strategy to change the world. The only way to change the world and to change the culture is to declare Christ crucified. Going out and declaring attention to detail as a sort of negative common grace seems like a super weird strategy.
    What is not a weird strategy in beautifying this world is attention to detail and nuance. Become masters of the fine art of sushi (the docu ‘Jiro Dreams of Sushi is grand’: a rad old Japanese dude who makes the world’s best sushi. I’d be hard-pressed to call that boss effeminate).

    Maybe I am just picking up on all the wrong ideas in your blog post here and if we talked in person, we’d be on the same page. But this blog post, as a standalone piece, is super distracting. I want to be in the position of affirming your blog as a commended ministry, but I don’t know how to commend a blog post like this. Maybe we are just on different wavelengths, but for my money and how I am living faithfully in my day to day life, this blog post doesn’t reach me and I feel like it should have! I’m interested in what happens when the Gospel of Christ comes into contact with gay culture. I’ve written a lot about it myself.
    So what am I missing?
    How have you not bought into the same invented gay culture? You say at the beginning that gay culture was invented and all these other associations were glommed onto it, but then you go and claim that these things have permanence inherent to being a man.

    Men and women should not be afraid to appropriate (in their mind, it shouldn’t even be considered appropriation; it should just be the outworking of their personalities) what has traditionally been the realm of the other sex.
    Some men knit.
    As an aside: The ballet dancing video at Keller’s church that made its rounds around Doug’s blog and fb a few weeks ago fails because basically it was just stupid. The last thing I’d want in my church is men in tights performing ballet. Why? Because it looks bad.

    I am writing this on my desk right now, my desk I love and love to rearrange. I have a typewriter on my desk and a vase of flowers and the books are all in a neat row. Above my desk, I have two posters and a lamp that provides some good diffuse light. Out in my living room, I have finally cracked the code to what furniture should go where–a process of arrangement. Beauty is defined as the arrangement of the parts within the whole.
    I don’t find being into home decor a threat to preaching Christ and living victoriously. I also don’t find your blog post threatening to my interest in home decor, FYI, or my desire to know what I’m putting on my body in the morning. I wear deodorant. The classic Old Spice scent. These days, it is a good idea to brush your teeth.
    Also, some men are receptionists, whilst other men cook for a living. Some men are into textiles, etc.

    Perpetuating the lie that implications of an individual’s personality, like attention to detail, is queer ultimately gives birth to a Christian culture of fear–fear that maybe they ought not to have that flower arrangement on their table, because the guys that come over will say, “Dude are you gay?” I can’t see how the line you are suggesting gives birth to a culture other than one of false masculinity.
    If you want to go to war with men not being men, you have to know what that looks like. And that looks like men not taking their sin seriously. It doesn’t look like men dropping the attention to detail an appreciation of beauty and God’s subtlety requires. I don’t think you’d disagree with that, per se, if I unpacked what I meant.

    I agree that if a man is a ‘real man’, he won’t give a gosh darn (minced oath alert) about who calls him what, or who accuses him of anything under the sun.
    But I want the discussion to remain fruitful and that doesn’t happen by speaking in a soundproof room. So here I am, commenting. I tried above to offer an alternate approach in understanding the Christian’s relationship to cultures and that we ought not to be reactionary.

    We ought instead to construct a fruitful human life, a thriving life, as much as we are able, culturally. And this has nothing to do with whether we are Christian or not. Being a Christian does not mean you dress better, or dress differently, or build your own permanent-culture distinct from the others. We ought and can do what, in the world’s eyes, is appropriation or a play successfully run (Christian men paying attention to detail and their appearance). But what it really is is (double is) is expressing the divine inside us.
    Expressing the angelic in us is hardly effeminate.

    So I don’t think this is what you wanted me to come away with. We can talk, then, but honestly I’m more interested in hearing where you’re at and what you’re trying to do and in helping you with your project than in worrying about whether or not I fall under some gun!

    I love you,
    Caleb

    • Thanks, Caleb. I love you too.

  3. Patch Blakey August 9

    Toby,

    I think your post goes either too far or falls too short. After serving in the Navy for over 22 years as an officer, as a commanding officer of a ship and as the engineer Officer on USS Enterprise, I would strongly disagree with your statement that being detail-oriented is feminine. It was always crucial at all stages of a command to plan in detail, great detail, to make certain that the right people were trained briefed, organized, on station at the right time, and properly supervised to conduct any evolution. This was particularly the case with testing new nuclear reactors.

    Further, to say that it is effeminate to pay attention to detail in one’s dress goes too far as well. You would be calling all of the U.S. Marine Corps into question with this over-the-top assertion. The Marines have guidelines on trimming their nose hairs prior to an inspection.

    On the other hand, just because a some Bible translators chose to use the word effeminate for their translation of the Greek word malakos does not mean that we can then substitute our modern understanding of the word into the definition. The list of sins listed in 1 Corinthians 6:9 are sexual sins, sins of sexual perversion. Attention to detail and neatness of dress style are not sexual perversions. They are not even “entry level” onramps to effeminate behavior. I would suggest that what Paul was describing with his use of the word malakos was pederasty, the use of young boys by men for sexual acts, not whether someone tucked a handkerchief into their suit packet because it looked dashing or natty.

    Just some thoughts.

    Blessings in Christ,

    Patch

    • Thanks, Patch. Grateful for the pushback, and I’m working on a follow up post. As I noted in this post, I’m not arguing that men should be careless, thoughtless thugs at all. And I don’t think what I wrote precludes any of your points about precision and detail in the armed forces at all. The only place I think we disagree is on the definition of the word “malakoi” for effeminacy. Defining “malakoi” narrowly as a young boy sexual toy is a very modern move by liberals who are trying to avoid the breadth of what that word actually means. The word (and related words) are used throughout the Bible to refer to weak, cowardly, sickly, soft men. Cheers!

  4. Caleb Warner August 9

    Addendum/clarification:

    I’d sooner have leaders in the church and layman to wear garbage bags as their dress code than have them find an importance or ever-emphasis on how to dress as some cultural expression of their Christianity which was easily mistaken for a necessity of their obligation to Jesus + the temptation of showing partiality to some.

    We show no partiality for clothes, but it is all too easy to give into this sin of partiality by denigrating those who clearly put creation and thought into what they wear.

  5. John Ahern August 9

    “But the point stands. It is effeminate for men to give excessive care to details, especially the details of appearances, and most especially their own appearances.” What about men who give excessive care to the details of OTHER men’s appearances? And if such men claim that their motives are pastoral protection, am I allowed to question their motives and claim that they’re being duped by gay culture?

  6. Will August 9

    Hi Toby,

    I think when Paul speaks of the sin of effeminacy (1 Cor 6:9) he is talking about dudes who act like women (and especially those who do this with sexual ends in mind). Just looking up “malakos” (translated effeminate) in the lexicon and it is clear that the word denoted the soft side of a homosexual relationship. So, when Paul is saying “effeminate or homosexual” I think he is referring to the pitcher and the catcher (if you know what I mean) in a homosexual relationship. Roman culture generally condemned the effeminate (the catcher) but did not condemn the homosexual (the pitcher).

    So, in applying this verse to today, I think it is appropriate to say it condemns all homosexual behavior. I think its meaning could safely be expanded to include cross dressing. Maybe it could condemn other lessor forms of girly behavior (sashaying around, flipping the wrist and etc). But I think to go beyond that by much is starting to abuse the text.

    When men are too obsessed with their appearance they are sinning but not through effeminacy. That sin is called vanity.

  7. Dominic August 10

    Toby my good friend, fascinating article in the sense that it takes a look at this issue from a perspective that is trying to get above the legalism of homosexual acts and get a birds eye view of the type of abhorrent overall culture that goes along with those acts. As you’ve already seen, your focus on the attention to detail has stirred up quite a bit of controversy on how attention to detail relates to “authentic” or innate masculinity. I for one think you were on the right track, however one small oversight in “detail” may have harmed the overall effectiveness of your rhetorical war on this issue. If I may offer a ‘nuanced’ reframing of your original assertion that attention to detail is inherently unmasculaine and therefore sinful when exhibited by a male, whereas it is in fact inherently female and therefore part of female glory. Experience, history, and the Bible all tell us that paying attention to detail IS in fact a very masculine trait, and in fact is the mark of a wise, discerning, and Christian man, even more so than it is the mark of a woman, much more so in fact. The difference lies in what attention is given to in regard to detail and that is at the heart of what you are probing. To borrow your illustration, attention to the wrong kind of detail is what produces faint hearts during time of war, but conversely attention to the write detail not only produces willingness but also produces victory. You are so close and on the right track. Keep going brother. You were good to touch on the idea that it is merely a pseudo and reactionary masculinity that is actually oblivious to detail in general. That is a masculinity that has surrendered one of its true innate qualities because of the fear of getting a bit dirty from the hands of the counter culture that has its grip on the other side. True masculinity would rip that quality out of the hands of ‘gays’ and claim it back for itself again the way Christendom is to do with all fine qualities. Instead a modern and anemic masculinity, led by the church, is too faint hearted to engage in tug of war so we have simply let gays and women ‘have’ attention to detail, and inherently masculine trait. What I mean when I say it is inherently masculine is that foresight, planning for the future, reminding younger generations of the past, building and creating, taking care of others, symbolic and real sacrifice, discernment and keeping ones nerve when the stakes are high, and yes warring are all inherently and overwhelmingly masculine traits. All of these require great attention if they are to be done effectively. A Christian man is to always be cultivating his attention to the RIGHT details as he aims at becoming more and more like the ultimate observer and discerner, Christ. Now where this connects to gayness and where you were getting so close to touching is that gayness, like all over perversions, is not an absence of the good thing (a man) and the replacement with an opposite bad thing (a gay man) but instead a good thing that is twisted toward bad ends. So this good and inherently masculine trait of paying appropriate attention to appropriate detail is twisted toward evil ends and that is what you were getting at. Gayness would be better characterized by paying attention to certain details for the wrong reasons and that produce the wrong ends, most notably cynical ends. This attention to detail is almost never in an effort to build or construct well, but more in an effort to create a division and a contrast in hopes of tearing down. This attention to detail aims at puffing self up so that it can criticize others around it. That’s why using Oscar Wilde as an example was so brilliant on your part. It’s the cynicism, the snobbery, the looking down ones nose at the outside, which can only be produced by obsessive attention to detail which will allow one to draw condescending contrasts between one’s self and others, be it in fashion, ediquette, garnishment or the like. With all that said, paying extreme attention to the appropriate details for the appropriate reasons IS a masculine trait, even more than it is a feminine trait and certainly more than it is a gay trait. That is details that help build, lift up, discern, communicate, and plan. Men can often be stereotyped for being oblivious to detail because men naturally discard observations and even memories that they don’t deem helpful toward those ends I just listed. Feminine attention to detail is much more oriented toward aesthetic for aesthetic sake which is appropriate in a feminine context. The gay attention to detail however is a perversion and a type of mixing both the masculine and the feminine. It’s feminine in the sense that it often and usually focuses on the aesthetic but it’s masculine in that it does aim so DO something. The perversion sneaks in through what it aims to do. Instead of build it aims to tear down, instead of communicate it aims to create confusion, instead of wisdom it aims at foolishness, instead of fashionable function it aims at overt fashion at the purposeful expense of function. Instead of bringing together it’s aim is to seek out and exaggerate differences for the purpose of criticism. I think if you followed that line of thinking (which you were pretty much right on anyway) you’d avoid throwing the detail oriented baby with the bath water, and it would make more sense to your readers.

    • Thanks, Dominic.

  8. David August 10

    Dominic nailed it. Toby, your use of the word “detail” was too broad, and that obscured your meaning, as I take it from the second post.

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