Who's Oppressing Whom? Homosexuality, Christianity, and Social Work

Article excerpt

Hodge's (2005) article, "Epistemological Frameworks, Homosexuality, and Religion: How People of Faith Understand the Intersection between Homosexuality and Religion," asserts a mutually exclusive irreconcilable worldview that will always separate Evangelical Christians and the gay and lesbian community. Despite Hodge's stated motives to increase tolerance of diversity, his deceptive arguments could potentially aggravate the hostility that already exists between some Christians and members of sexual minority groups. Hodge makes his assertions using certain frameworks and concepts to set the terms of the discourse in a preferred and skewed manner. Through a seemingly reasoned discourse, Hodge attempts a specious argument that people of faith are oppressed within the social work profession, the greater community, and most particularly by the gay and lesbian community. It is distressing that many of the problems with Hodge's writings continue despite having been addressed by others. These problems include incorrect definitions (Bennett, 2003), misquoting or misinterpreting sources (Canda, 2003; van Wormer, 2003), methodological issues, and use of outmoded frameworks (Liecthy, 2003). We will not attempt to deal with every fallacy, tautology, and misrepresentation in the article. Rather, we focus our critique of Hodge's work on four areas: (1) its erroneous definition of oppression; (2) unsubstantiated and monolithic generalizations about the beliefs of Christians; (3) its unfounded claims of oppression of Christian people; and on the bases of (4) freedom of speech, academic discourse, and social work ethics.

Hodge's article brings to mind another instance of recasting history and social conflict; that of the "revisionist historians" more accurately called Holocaust deniers. Shermer and Grobman (2000) accurately renamed these individuals deniers of historical facts, not revisers. More importantly these authors, although noting the understandable outrage experienced by many Holocaust survivors and legitimate historians, insist that the critical issue is one of free speech. They respond with a careful analysis and deconstruction of what appears to be objective and scholarly. Their willingness to give deniers an authentic hearing is in the service of being able to deconstruct the false claims of individuals advancing a political agenda under the guise of scholarship. In like manner, we present our response to selected aspects of Hodge's article.

HOW ARE OPPRESSION AND DISCRIMINATION DEFINED?

Hodge's glib use of the terms oppression and discrimination without clearly defining them is misleading. He assumes a shared definitional understanding when in fact his use of the words is not in keeping with the definitions articulated in diversity, multiculturalism, and anti-oppression work (Adams et al., 2000). Furthermore, he references key figures in anti-oppression work in obfuscating ways. Careful review of the literature cited by Hodge demonstrates his misinterpretation and selective use of definitional frameworks and "evidence" to support his premise of discrimination against religiously committed individuals. Most important, he confounds individual acts of mean-spiritedness with structural forms of oppression.

The use of civil rights and diversity language by dominant groups to reassert their privilege and power is not new. Take, for example, the issue of whether affirmative action harms white men. Pincus's (2003) study suggests that although there are individual episodes of white men being discriminated against, there is no evidence that white men are systematically discriminated against and thus harmed as a group by affirmative action policies and practices. However, some continue to assert affirmative action harms white men as a group.

This is a highly emotionally charged idea that many continue to believe, despite lack of evidence. Hodge alleges discrimination against certain religious groups in a similarly unsubstantiated and inflammatory manner. …