The Christian Carnival for this week, which I'm still working through, has one post that I thought needed extended comment, so I'm not including it in my weekly Christian Carnival roundup. Little Emily in the big world takes on the critics of James Dobson over the We Are Family video that SpongeBob was a small part of. She claims to offer information about the We Are Family website that supports Dobson's claims that apparently some have been saying are false. I don't dispute any of the factual information Dobson is saying, and I never really did. My original criticisms of Dobson's statements are almost untouched by the information presented in this post.
1. She points out that the We Are Family website (that isn't mentioned in the video but is mentioned in the teacher materials provided with it) has allies that actively promote causes along the lines of what many social conservatives call the gay agenda (i.e. promoting some set of ideas about the goodness or normalcy of homosexuality, e.g. that being gay is normal, that being gay is morally ok, that being in a gay relationship is on the same moral level as being in a heterosexual one or as not being in a relationship, that gay sex is morally ok, that gay marriage is a good thing or that it should count as real marriage, etc.).
This doesn't touch my criticism of Dobson about the site's allies, because a site can promote tolerance without necessarily promoting everything others who ally with that goal will promote. On the site itself, I saw tolerance issues and pretty much nothing else. When I saw the claim that Google caches had other stuff, I expected it to fall out in the post's defense of Dobson's claims, but it turned out to be just smoke. The site promotes tolerance. Others who ally with the site in promoting tolerance happen to promote stronger claims. That says nothing about whether the site itself promotes those stronger claims.
2. Dobson was worried about some questions that came along with the video for teachers to use. He said those questions somehow promote this vaguely defined gay agenda. I just don't see it. All the questions, rightly interpreted, seem to me to be something an evangelical Christian opposed to homosexuality should want discussed with the goal of understanding complex social dynamics and helping kids to love their neighbor. Maybe teachers would abuse this by asserting some agenda, but I see no problem with that list of questions in principle. Nothing in the questions assumes normalcy, and nothing in the questions assumes any moral standpoint, never mind one that homosexual orientation or actions is morally ok. All it does is help kids to see ways that they might expect someone to be straight when it might not be the case, or it asks kids to consider what it might feel like for someone who is gay to have to try to express that in an environment that will likely treat them negatively for it. Only people who think we should force people to be heterosexual (i.e. compulsory heterosexuality) should have a problem with this.
3. Dobson was upset that an online pledge to be tolerant, whose language seems perfectly innocent to me, would pressure kids to sign something they wouldn't agree with. The evidence in this post now shows that originally the post had a "submit" button, and they removed it. I'm not entirely sure how a button saying "submit" amounts to pressuring kids to sign a pledge they wouldn't agree with. If they don't agree with it, why would they sign it? I'm not sure what there is to disagree with anyway, at least for evangelical Christians who should wholeheartedly sign such a pledge.
I stand by my criticisms of Dobson on this. He went way overboard, and most of what he said caused Christians to be viewed negatively, thus hurting the gospel. Some of what people are saying about his claims was false, and most of what he said about the facts was true, but none of his moral condemnation of this had any real philosophical support. I was expecting something more than this to support his contentions that the We Are Family organization themselves was pushing a view of homosexuality as normal or a view that there's nothing morally wrong about anything related to homosexuality. I just don't see why he should be so up in arms about this. The video contains nothing of this agenda but merely promotes what Christians call love of neighbor. The website has hard-to-find links to other organizations that support the We Are Family organization but no indication that the support goes the other way). Some critics of We Are Family seem to expect people to misuse this, and that may be so, but it will happen one way or the other if they're committed to pushing a "gay as normal" or "gay as morally ok" agenda. I just don't see any moral justification for outrage about this, since it's almost entirely an attempt to help kids overcome true homophobia, which is the inability to treat people who are gay as if they are real people worthy of what Christians call love of neighbor.