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“They must be vilified”

The astounding success of a gay rights strategy


A gay pride rainbow flag and a U.S. flag fly in front of Asbury United Methodist Church in Prairie Village, Kan. Associated Press/Photo by Charlie Riedel

“They must be vilified”

Why have award shows, professional sports, politics, commercials, education, children’s entertainment, and even churches witnessed such a steep rise in messaging that promotes LGBTQ lifestyles in recent years? Even the National Hockey League recently declared on its Twitter feed that “Trans women are women. Trans men are men.” Contrast this with Mr. Rogers singing, “Boys are boys from the beginning. If you were born a boy you stay a boy. Girls are girls right from the start. Only girls can grow up to be mommies. Only boys can grow up to be the daddies.” By the new sexual orthodoxy of our day, Mr. Roger’s basic biology lesson for children would be summarily cancelled as bigotry, phobia, and hate by the very cultural elites who now defend drag queen story hours in children’s education. This radical shift is hardly accidental.

Last month—November 2022—marked the 35th anniversary of one of the most culture-reshaping articles in modern history. In 1987 a neuropsychiatrist named Marshall Kirk and a public relations consultant named Hunter Madsen (under the nom de plume “Erastes Pill”) teamed up to write “The Overhauling of Straight America.” This article would later balloon into the 400-page tome After the Ball: How America Will Conquer Its Fear and Hatred of Gays in the 90s. Kirk and Madsen laid out a six-phase strategy that goes a long way toward understanding the mainstream messaging about sexuality of our own day.

First, “talk about gays and gayness as loudly and as often as possible.” Why? Because “almost any behavior begins to look normal if you are exposed to enough of it. … The way to benumb raw sensitivities about homosexuality is to have a lot of people talk a great deal about the subject in a neutral or supportive way.”

Second, “portray gays as victims, not as aggressive challengers.” Third, “Give protectors a just cause.” Kirk and Madsen clarify, “Our campaign should not demand direct support for homosexual practices, [but] should instead take anti-discrimination as its theme.” Fourth, “Make gays look good,” that is, “the campaign should paint gays as superior pillars of society.” Fifth, “make the victimizers look bad.” This is a crucial step to their strategy. They explain:

At a later stage of the media campaign for gay rights…it will be time to get tough with remaining opponents. To be blunt, they must be vilified. … we intend to make the anti-gays look so nasty that average Americans will want to dissociate themselves from such types. … The public should be shown images of ranting homophobes whose secondary traits and beliefs disgust middle America. … [Show them as] bigoted southern ministers drooling with hysterical hatred.

How many script-writers for major films and television shows seem to have torn this page straight from the Kirk and Madsen playbook?

The sixth and final step of their strategy is simple: “solicit funds. The buck stops here.” Indeed, LGBTQ activists enjoy sizeable corporate funding courtesy of such companies as Wells Fargo, Levi Strauss & Co., GE, Walmart, and Verizon. It would seem that Kirk and Madsen’s six-stage strategy to “overhaul straight America” has triumphed.

We cannot erase male and female differences without losing something exceedingly beautiful.

Consider this recent development: Two regional bodies of the United Methodist Church in Texas granted requests of 439 congregations to disaffiliate with the denomination, largely over its views on same-sex marriage and homosexuality. About 45 percent of congregations in the UMC are exiting the denomination around the Lone Star State. Such fault lines have been exposed in major denominations, Christian schools, and throughout the parachurch world over the last five years and with increasing intensity.

Many Christians are deeply concerned to see their Christian institutions capitulating to trendy cultural mores, rather than standing boldly, no matter the social cost, to the biblical teaching. Right from the beginning God creates distinctions, heaven-from-earth, waters above-from-waters below, dry land-from-sea, and so on. He declares his distinction-marked creation “good” at the end of each creation day. The day he creates the male-female distinction, he declares it “very good.”

By the logic of Kirk and Madsen, bigotry, hate, and phobia are the only possible motives for opposing LGBTQ beliefs and demands. Such vilification is not only a bullying tactic to stigmatize and silence detractors; it also happens to be false. We cannot erase male and female differences without losing something exceedingly beautiful. Marriage cannot become a wife- or husband-optional covenant without losing something precious. Sexual distinctions are a gift from God to be celebrated, not obliterated.

Saying so is an act of love. Telling the truth and teaching children the truth about human sexuality, like Mr. Rogers did, is an act of love, and courageous love, in a culture so quick to cancel. Simply parroting the dogmas of sexual ideologues like Herbert Marcuse, Paul Goodman, John Money, Michel Foucault, and Judith Butler—the architects of the gender ideology now promoted by the NHL—is hardly courageous, and, in the end, destructive to people we are called to love.

So as Christian institutions around the world are now wrestling with questions of human sexuality, let us ask ourselves with brutal honesty—are our doctrines and practices being shaped more by the Scriptures or by Kirk and Madsen? It’s not just a question of cultural interest. It is a question of life or death.


Thaddeus Williams

Thaddeus Williams is the author of the best-selling book Confronting Injustice Without Compromising Truth: 12 Questions Christians Should Ask About Social Justice (Zondervan/HarperCollins, 2020). He serves as associate professor of systematic theology for the Talbot School of Theology at Biola University and resides in Orange County, Calif., with his wife and four kids.


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