I’ve been blogging a few years now and it’s been a long time since I read something that made me as angry as what I read last night.
Jeremy Hooper of Good As You points us to a piece by Anthony Esolen, Professor of English at Providence College. He’s writing in a Witherspoon publication — the same folks who financed the Regnerus study.
Esolen thinks well of himself — he is a great and good-hearted tolerant man, and it’s bugging the crap out of him that we homosexuals are not giving him his due. In his words:
Tolerance of wrong-doing is freely given; it is an act of graciousness, and not the paying of a debt. Therefore it rests with the offender, at the very least, to refrain from aggravating the burden of tolerance.
Esolen wants me to know that any public acknowledgement of my relationship with Will is an aggravation of Esolen’s burden. And this is Esolen being gracious.
It’s easy to summarize the man’s essay, because it says so little. It’s hard to do it using his own words, because he uses so many. But let me try. After several paragraphs invoking Thomas Aquinas and exploring Latin, Old English, and German word roots, he gives an example:
The local convenience store sells Playboy magazine. They are legally permitted to sell it. But it is a wrong; it degrades the beauty of the human body and turns sexuality from its proper sphere in marriage to the private quest for gratification. If they tacitly request tolerance, they tacitly incur a debt of reciprocity. They will keep the offensive magazine out of sight.
Yes: He’s willing to tolerate the existence of something as long as it’s kept out of sight. This sets up his view homosexuality — he lets us happen, and we acknowledge our debt by hiding ourselves away.
He starts like this:
I want my son to be comfortable being a boy. I want him to grow up to be attracted to women, and to be attractive to them in turn…I want him to walk and talk and work and play and fight and laugh like the man I see developing within him. I want him to love the beauty and grace and wisdom of girls and women… I hope he will marry a good woman and raise happy children…
And so on. But homosexuals endanger his son. We are a — well, look at the word he gives us:
Therefore it is natural that I should want no one to lay a snare in the boy’s path.
Esolen pauses to praise his own wondrous tolerance:
All right, then. I understand there are men who have not attained the healthy masculine nature I hope my son will attain. I don’t make fun of them. I don’t wish them ill. I count some among my friends. I extend to them my tolerance of a state that is at least a significant falling-short of a natural good.
Yes, he’s great of soul. But…
But it requires pretty serious reciprocity. For one, the rights of my son should be respected. No snares in his path, thank you. He should not have to suffer, by suggestion or invitation or public example or enticement or moral sophistry, any complication along his way to becoming a healthy man, able to love a woman in a healthy way. Mr. Madison and Mr. Unger live in the same apartment: they are roommates. The history teacher, Mr. Delvecchio, is 40 and unmarried. Well, some people are confirmed bachelors. And indeed they may be. The freedom-clearing presumption of normality ought to obtain.
I don’t even know what that last sentence means, or how freedom could possibly figure into a scenario where we must limit our lives to accommodate his personal views and feel indebted that he’s permitting us to do so. Esolen will tolerate two men living together, as long as they call themselves no more than roommates. Esolen will tolerate the existence of a man who never marries a woman as long as the man is silent on the reason why.
Esolen will let homosexuals be as long as homosexuals are silent.
He devotes four paragraphs to this demand for silence. A celibate homosexual who confesses his status but never acts upon it? Too much! Too great an aggravation of Esolen’s burden!
Every person alive is beset by temptations. We may utter them to our confessors, or, less often, to our best friends on condition of secrecy, or to our spouses, when it would not cause needless pain. Beyond that, we assist the tolerance of our neighbors by keeping our serpents to ourselves.
And for Esolen, admitting one’s homosexuality is morally equivalent to advocating the slaughter of a busload of people. No, really:
The man who parades his temptation may be seeking approval. “Look at me! I am tempted to do things with another man that God and nature never intended. But I’m not going to do them. Aren’t I to be congratulated?” No, not a bit. If a man said, “Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to open fire upon a bus full of professionals. Oh, I’ll never do it, but just imagine the blood,” we’d rightly consider reporting him to the police. And then it is a small step from approving the brave fellow who makes his temptation conspicuous and conspicuously averts the sin, to suggesting that perhaps the sin isn’t really so bad after all, if such a conspicuously virtuous fellow is tempted by it.
That too is an offense against tolerance.
Sorry. I had to quote that in full or you’d never believe it.
It occurs to me that I haven’t critiqued his words, merely reported them. They’re self-critiquing, self-damning. Am I to take seriously Esolen’s notion that my life is a gift that he graciously allows me to have despite the burden it places on him? But let me adopt his logic and see where it leads:
Esolen and his views hurt people, especially gay teens. I was a gay teen myself, and feel for those good people struggling to value themselves in the face of continued condemnation. I want no one to lay snares in their path. They should not have to suffer, by suggestion or invitation or public example or enticement or moral sophistry, any complication along their way to becoming healthy men and women, able to love in a healthy way.
I am willing to tolerate Esolen and his views, but he should remember this is an act of graciousness, and not the paying of a debt. It rests with him, at the very least, to refrain from aggravating my burden of tolerance. He must keep his serpents to himself. He must keep silent.
Can you imagine Esolen’s reaction, his cries of Persecution! and Oppression! What an ass this would make me. What a pompous, arrogant, entitled, privileged, freedom-destroying, intolerant ass.