"My point is, homosexuality is an idea. You have never heard a doctor say, ‘Mr and Mrs John Doe, you have a bouncing baby homosexual.' It's an idea. - Ronnie Floyd, "The Gay Agenda."
To say that Dr. Ronnie W. Floyd is a man with a powerful voice would be something of an understatement. The mega-church pastor not only preaches to two churches - First Baptist Church of Springdale, and The Church at Pinnacle Hills in Rogers - but also been featured on a syndicated television program (Winners), and is the author of several books.
I first became aware of Floyd's book, The Gay Agenda: It's Dividing the Family, the Church, and a Nation through the letters column in the Northwest Arkansas Times. From there it was only a short trip to a local Christian bookstore to buy a copy of his sincere "warning" about the "Gay Agenda."
The Gay Agenda is not just any agenda. For Ronnie Floyd and his flock, the Gay Agenda - you know it's serious because of the capital letters - is set to destroy American culture as we know it.
The Gay Agenda opens on a bizarre note - Ronnie Floyd is watching an episode of The West Wing that he says "astounded" him. In the episode in question, the President of the United States, played by Martin Sheen, confronts a radio talk show host obviously patterned after "Dr. Laura." As Floyd recounts the incident, he writes, "My eyes widened as his anger rose."
After confirming that the Bible (Leviticus 18:22) does, indeed, refer to homosexuality as an "abomination," the Sheen character then recounts a few other warnings from the Bible, such as working on the Sabbath, or touching the skin of a dead pig (specifically, footballs).
Floyd leaps from describing the scene on his TV screen to discussing his take on the Gay Agenda, charging that "proponents" of homosexuality have declared war on American culture. He also writes that, "It seems that everything you see these days, everything you read, and everything you hear, is about the gay lifestyle."
Well, maybe if you are specifically looking for it. Other than that, the casual reader of The Gay Agenda may have some difficulty with his views.
Of course, The Gay Agenda isn't written for the casual reader. It is addressed to those who feel as Ronnie Floyd does, those who look at the world around them, and see trials and tribulations.
It is difficult, writing in the early stages of the 21st Century, to understand the paranoia and fear-mongering that Floyd stirs in his cauldron. Liberals have made great strides? The institution of marriage is in danger?
Floyd is already known to many through his television programs, and the fact that a complaint was filed against him with the IRS, charging that his infamous July 4, 2004 sermon in which he exhorted his flock to "Vote God," violated the law.
In 2006, he claimed that a vision from God meant that he should seek the leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention. Sad to say, a majority of other Southern Baptists were not privy to Floyd's vision, and he was soundly defeated.
The Gay Agenda is essentially bathtub reading (159 pages), adopting what some might call "down to earth" writing. Others might shake their heads at the simplicity of both Floyd's arguments, and his writing style.
Issuing what he terms a "warning" to those who support traditional marriage, Floyd writes at length about how the Gay Agenda (as he spells it) is dividing the country, from the family hearth to the halls of power.
And all the while, he says that the gay community " . . . continues to sing the song of inclusiveness."
Well, yes, it is dividing families, but an outside observer might answer that is because so many families are unable to deal with the fact that a family member is gay.
Nowhere is mention made of just how difficult a decision it is to come out, and reveal oneself to a family that may only react with anger.
The problem with writing something is so obviously meant for True Believers is that a lot of the arguments contained in such a book may not pass any sort of Logic Test. This doesn't just apply to those on the Right; liberals are just as often capable of writing things that make absolutely no sense.
When you write something meant for the choir, you fall into a sort of intellectual shorthand - you don't have to expand on some arguments, because you are all on the same page, as it were. Books like this really aren't meant for those on the other side of the fence.
One glaring example of this sort of intellectual fuzziness is reflected in Floyd's writing, in declarations such as "Those who embrace the gay lifestyle feel the dread that comes from living without a moral anchor."
The kindest thing that can be said about such a statement is that it is silly. But it goes far beyond that in its sheer offensiveness. Does Ronnie Floyd actually mean that gay men and women have no moral compass?
One is tempted to wonder at this point - how many gay people does Dr. Floyd even know, other from those anguished souls who have been led to believe that the life they lead is the result of "choice"? How many gay men and women has he actually sat down and broken bread with, just to have an actual conversation?
No moral anchor?
And yet Ronnie Floyd doesn't exist in a vacuum; he is just one the many voices out there that people pay heed to. And while he may not recognize it, books like this are helping to further divide the country.
"What could actually prevent a person from marrying, say, an animal" An inanimate object?" - Ronnie W. Floyd, The Gay Agenda
Those who see acceptance of gay men and women as one of the great evils in society will find plenty to confirm their suspicions in this book. Floyd tells a horror story of gay marriage, gay unions, gay adoption and the striking down of statutes that criminalize sexual relations between those of the same sex.
There is also high praise for President George W. Bush, who "courageously" spoke of the sanctity of marriage in July, 2003, and supported a amendment to the U.S. Constitution limiting marriage to a man and a woman.
That Bush may have been cynically appealing to the GOP base doesn't occur to Ronnie Floyd.
And, of course, there is everyone's favorite whipping boy, the media. Besides his discomfiture with The West Wing, there is also Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, and Will and Grace.
Also mentioned is the Showtime series, Queer as Folk. I suppose the reader should be grateful that Floyd is unaware that one of the creators of Queer as Folk is also one of the the producers of the revitalized science fiction classic, Doctor Who - one can only imagine what hidden meanings he might find there.
In September, 2003, the pastor preached a sermon on gay marriage, which was picked up by the Baptist Press, and included on their website. His language in the sermon is harsher than that in his book.
"It appears now that everywhere you look, everything you read and everything you hear is about the gay lifestyle. Satan has taken his tool of homosexuality, a gross and evil sin, and done a con job on the American culture, making it seem like all is okay when you are gay. I hope you are aware that what was once subtle has now turned into the rage of a lion as brazen and threatening as anything in our culture." - Ronnie Floyd, Sermon, July, 2003
Time and again he refers to what he describes at the "culture "war." Those who are gay are at "war" with traditional Americans values.
Sounding eerily like Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Congressman who was widely ridiculed for his belief that lesbians were laying in wait for young girls in High School bathrooms, Floyd preached that, "One of the hot things happening in our high schools and colleges today is bisexuality, mainly occurring with girls. This means that girls enjoy being with boys sexually and also enjoy being with girls sexually. They are bi-sexual, meaning they cross over the sexes. I have been informed this is happening very much in our local schools as well."
The Gay Agenda also speaks highly of Steven Bennett, one of the most famous "ex-gays" in America. One of Bennett's best known remarks is that, " . . . God doesn't recognize these so called ‘gay' marriages. They are an abomination to Him and a putrid stench in His nostrils."
Steven Bennett - ear, nose and throat specialist to God.
After a while, Ronnie Floyd's Eternal Innocent pose wears a little thin, as well as his stoking the fires of fear and, yes, intolerance. Interestingly, in the 2003 sermon, Floyd proclaimed that he had never seen any of the aforementioned gay-themed shows, and had no intention of ever doing so.
It's easy to demonize - and that is what Floyd is doing - others if you make no attempt whatsoever to listen to what they have to say. It is sadly apparent that the only message he is interested in hearing from gays is that they are filled with shame, and would like to become an "ex-gay." He warns against watching such programs, claiming that such shows attempt to "baptize" others into their lifestyle.
As cheesy as Will and Grace is, Floyd might benefit from watching a couple of episodes.
Parts of The Gay Agenda Resemble nothing so much as a clarion call to return to the days of intolerance. No cliche is left unturned as Ronnie Floyd rails against the perils of the Gay Agenda.
At one point the book actually becomes farcical, especially when he discusses the reasons that so many conservatives are silent on the issue. He writes that many "pro-gay men" work for the ACLU, star in TV series, or are professional lobbyists in Washington, D.C. Such men are all too often "married" to the gay cause. And have lots of time to write and speak out on the issue.
A "pro-family dad works in a factory, as an accountant, or as a high school football coach." At this point one must wonder again, how many gay people that Dr. Floyd actually talks to.
Naturally, the Episcopal church, ordaining gays into the priesthood, and even as bishops, comes in for criticism. This book was published before Barack Obama was elected president. I just didn’t have heart to seek out any vitriol that Ronnie might have in his quiver about what that election might mean for America.
Along the way the point is made that God did not make gay people the way they are. The old "choice" argument rears its ugly head again. That point can not be made too often, or too loudly, I suppose. It gets people off the hook from actually thinking about the issue, or from actually talking with gay people - let alone have any as friends.
In the final analysis, The Gay Agenda is just adding more fuel to the fire of ignorance. At the same time that Floyd is preaching that Christians should open their hearts to gay people, the case is being made that they shouldn't be opening their minds.
Ronnie Floyd might have done better to examine that possibility in his book.