The Passion of St. Kelly

BY YISHAI BLANK

Karl Marx said that history repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce. But actually there are events that repeat themselves endlessly, and when they do, it’s not funny anymore. Indeed, since the debate regarding “Exodus” (the ex-gay ministries organization) and coming out of homosexuality has been going in the United States for quite a while now, gays have lots of responses to those who promote it, and Kelly Hartline (“The Right Side: Coming Out of Homosexuality”) cannot but expect those reactions to present themselves. In fact, what’s so sad about the whole episode is that we will now have to rehearse this old debate, pretending that this stale bread is fresh. Hartline forced all of us to play some role, and there is no escape, since even if we stay silent we are complicit, and that is pretty bad, you know. Actually Ms. Hartline’s little piece is almost harmless in itself. It is quaint and esoteric on one hand, yet well-known and banal on the other. It is pseudo-scientific and factually questionable yet compassionate, humble and not too offensive. So why does Hartline do this to us? Why is she forcing us to play this un-amusing game? In other words: What is the passion of St. Kelly?

A savvy creature in the politics of the Christian Right, I am sure, Hartline knows the ready-made responses that “the lesbian/gay community” would have to her genre of compassionate Christianity: that it is homophobia disguised in goodwill; that it is ignorant of the powerful forces in society that push towards heterosexuality; that it is full of half truths and inaccuracies; that it ignores the scientific findings of the American Psychiatric Association; that she should be allowed to say whatever she wants because of the First Amendment; that we should not respond because that is what she really wants; that we must respond because she would have liked us to be silent; that the RECORD shouldn’t have published her; that it is important that the RECORD published it, and so on. Does Ms. Hartline have a penchant for the regurgitation of this unattractive dish? Though the word “perverse” was not mentioned in her article, this very word kept creeping into my mind as I was reading it, since it seemed to characterize the piece best. And indeed, what perverse desire has led Hartline to write what she did?

Could it be that Hartline wants to be a martyr? Is it possible that she wants to be attacked, yelled at, humiliated and publicly ravaged — metaphorically, of course — by gays and lesbians? Would it be too far-fetched to say that she probably desires them to bash her, call her names, call her to order? Queers must appear in her fantasies as those who torment her for being the messenger of God. They are her Pontius Pilate, her Roman gladiators, extracting blood from her, punishing her for her righteousness, making her look bashed yet glorious, bleeding yet beautiful. What is most surprising is that there are enough queers that are happy to play this role that St. Kelly has given them. They seem almost eager to be thoroughly insulted and then to go and insult back. Indeed, the relationship can be described as mentally sadomasochistic, being based on a pain inflicted by the Exodus crowd on gays and lesbians, who, in their turn, beat and abuse the former, who take almost unhidden pleasure in their resulting martyrdom. In many ways, I am also participating in this sadomasochistic game. However, I am not sure that St. Kelly desired my particular move.

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