One of the most off-putting traits of certain sects of evangelicalism is emotive exhibitionism. This is evidenced by endless streams of tears, self-flagellation, a peculiarly extroverted form of introspection, and an insufferable need to out-suffer thy neighbor.
Case in point is Azariah Southworth’s endless and tiresome trip on the guilt train after his July 23 outing of evangelical blowhard Jonathan Merritt on his blog. This is what he wrote in an op-ed in Salon:
“Ever since I outed an up-and-coming evangelical leader, one sentence has been running through my mind: I might have destroyed his life….what bothers me, what overwhelms me with guilt, is the concern for what I’ve done to a person I care about.”
Azariah, enough with the pathos and accept the path you have chosen. Yes, you did destroy Merritt’s life — because maybe it deserved to be demolished. This hypocrite was masquerading as the voice of reason on gay issues — playing the particularly sinister role of sensitive Christian gay basher — while hooking up with dudes. Jason Farago, in The Guardian, correctly summed up Merritt’s weaselly message: “Just because gay people face eternal damnation doesn’t mean we all can’t get along!”
We can’t get along because the side Merritt represents spends millions of dollars to persecute LGBT people and ensure we don’t have equal rights. Merritt profits from this dirty money machine and seeks fame on the backs of LGBT youth who are struggling to stay alive during often traumatic high school years.
Outing is a necessary function and should not even be looked at as a gay issue. When it comes to hypocritical public figures — gay or straight — exposing their wrongdoing is a matter of uncovering and unmasking fraud and bringing the swindlers to justice. Merritt was a huckster who was hoodwinking his evangelical supporters, while cynically harming his LGBT brothers and sisters by posing as something he was not.
We have a moral duty to expose such artifice and tear down such facades. The amoral perpetrators of hoaxes and fraud are simply reaping what they have sown. Azariah must realize that every time a bright light is shined on a scoundrel’s scam, the perpetrators life is destroyed. For example, prison is full of hucksters whose lives were shattered — and society is better off for it. The alternative is these hucksters living wonderful lives by deceiving and manipulating others.
All Azariah did was point out that Merritt was a cheat. We are better off today as a society that people understand that Merritt is not a straight evangelical man discussing gay issues, but a deeply conflicted, even neurotic, individual who has yet to deal with his homosexuality. People have a right know where an author and dispenser of advice is coming from. What Azariah did was a public service and we should all be grateful.
Look, had Merritt become an accountant or a real estate agent no one would have outed him. However, he embarked upon a career where he built himself up by tearing down LGBT families. Azariah should dump the silly little evangelical guilt dance, wipe away the Tammy tears and move on with his life free of guilt.
As I watch Azariah pour his heart out and second-guess himself, one thought comes to mind: Where is the self-reflection and heartache from Merritt, who should feel guilty and ashamed of attacking his own people while conveniently using them to pleasure himself while his fundie friends are asleep?
What Azariah did was not easy — but it was heroic. So, Azariah, take your hero cape and use it to wipe away your Tammy tears and begin to feel good about yourself again. You exposed a liar and a fraud, just like they do on the TV shows 60 Minutes and To Catch a Predator. We shouldn’t feel any worse for Merritt than we do for the hucksters who have their lives destroyed after the TV cameras catch them swindling old ladies with shady real estate deals or setting up financial pyramid schemes. As a society we are under no obligation to shelter frauds and phonies who exploit people for personal gain.
As for Merritt, we should be forgiving and welcome him into the LGBT community with open arms when he finally comes to terms with is sexuality. I get where he is coming from and feel for him, but that does not mean I should allow him to harm my family until he is strong enough to deal with his personal issues. His pseudo-rational anti-gay routine is one sorry act that couldn’t be ended soon enough.