What is the Family Values Crowd Hiding?

John Giorno, Just Say No To Family ValuesWhy are stories like this no longer surprising? Some of us suspect that the "holier-than-thou" attitudes which often characterize the "family values" crowd are a defense against impulses one finds unacceptable in oneself. This certainly is an appealing theory. Again and again, we see what looks like evidence of what Anna Freud and others described as projection (i.e., rather than confronting desires or feelings which one finds unacceptable in oneself, one attributes them to others) or reaction formation (i.e., acting in opposition to one's desires or impulses). I'm not the child predator; those people with "teh gay" are the problem. Let me loudly proclaim my piety while I'm struggling with my desires to do the same things I'm condemning in others.

Part of the problem with these theories, from a scientific perspective, is that they are notoriously difficult to test. The more serious problem is that it is not always clear that they are falsifiable. They persist because they have become ingrained in our culture and we can find plenty of anecdotal "evidence" to support them.

One of the things I used to love about older movies that I rarely see in current ones were the Christian characters howling about "fornicators" and "whores." This sort of thing often seemed to conceal a dark side, and it was never much of a surprise when the facade crumbled to reveal all sorts of depravity. Why were they so obsessed with policing what others chose to do in the bedroom? What was going on in their own bedrooms? Why did they seem so determined to prevent others from enjoying themselves? What might this say about their own lives?

These days, it comes as little surprise that the Congressman caught in some sort of gay sex scandal in an airport restroom often seems to be a "family values" Republican with a record of anti-gay bigotry. Of course, cases like that are the ones we are most likely to remember. Blatant hypocrisy tends to stick out. If the Congressman turned out to be a liberal with a record of defending gay rights, we might not even hear about it.

I'm not sure I'll ever understand the need some evangelical fundamentalist Christians seem to meddle in the private lives of others. Why they care so much what consenting adults choose to do in the privacy of their own homes escapes me. The louder and more persistent they are in howling about it, the more I tend to suspect that they are trying to make up for some perceived deficiency or problem in their own lives. I recognize that this is not always the case; sometimes, we need to look no further than ignorance, fear, or bigotry to understand their motives. But it does often make me wonder what they might be hiding.