A well-published theologian struggling to draw public attention to his most recent bestseller hopes that his book will expose the one-sided conversation about homosexuality in America.
Although his newly published book A Queer Thing Happened to America: And What a Long Strange Trip It’s Been sits near the top of Amazon’s Gay and Lesbian Nonfiction bestsellers list, author Michael L. Brown’s Wednesday press conference kicking off his Washington, D.C., book tour failed to garner any members of the mainstream press.
“I was disappointed that Beliefnet, Washington Post (On Faith), no one was at the news conference,” said friend and colleague the Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney.
Mahoney, director of the Christian Defense Coalition, was quick to point to the media buzz that swirled around young evangelical Pastor Rob Bell’s latest book, Love Wins.
“Rob Bell’s got massive media coverage – secular media,” he noted. Stories about Bell’s book appeared in the religion columns of news outlets such as The Washington Post, CNN, Huffington Post, The New York Times and USA Today.
By contrast, Brown’s book received “virtually no coverage,” said Mahoney.
Several young seminary students did attend the book launch at the National Press Club. However, Brown stated, “I didn’t write this book to be read by people who agree with me. I wrote this book to have a conversation, to have a dialogue.”
The intended topic of dialogue, he said, is the homosexual civil rights movement and the change it brought to American society.
So far, it is a discussion that has been largely silent. And Mahoney and Brown, an adjunct professor at seven seminaries, have been unsuccessful at getting student groups and teachers at Georgetown University, George Washington University and the College of William and Mary to host the event.
“The student leaders don’t want to bring it in if there’s no one to debate Dr. Brown,” said Mahoney.
Brown noted that gay rights activists also don’t want to have public discussions about homosexuality.
Both Brown and Mahoney believe their struggles are symptomatic of efforts by gay rights advocates and supporters to shut down the debate on homosexuality.
“It as if those who came out of the closet fighting for what they said was equality and tolerance want to put us in the closet who take respectful difference,” Brown remarked.
The book has been praised on Amazon in nine five-star reviews for being “very, very thorough in its research,” according to one reviewer. In fact, the book has 90 pages of end notes citing material found online, in news articles and in books.
But Matt Comer, a gay activist and editor of the LGBT news site QNotes, wrote in his blog, “I expect Brown’s book … to paint a wholly inaccurate and woefully biased and prejudiced picture of LGBT people in this country.” Comer stated on the blog that he has not yet read the book.
Additionally, the book’s lone dissenter on Amazon.com wrote, “If you are a Christian, you are being lead (sic) away from God by listening to this guy.” He continued, “Love thy neighbor, put down this book.”
Brown’s book is a compilation of essays describing how homosexuals have moved from being the oppressed minority to being everywhere: in the news, on television and movies, and out on Capitol Hill. The stories in each chapter show how the market place of ideas surrounding the topic of homosexuality has been constricted to one narrowed, take-it-or-leave-it view.
There’s the story of the Stonewall riots in New York which started the gay civil rights movement. Then there is the story of the Los Angeles Unified School District which has a policy on "ensuring equity and nondiscrimination" for "transgender and gender nonconforming students." The policy defines gender identity as "one's understanding, interests, outlook, and feelings about whether one is female or male, or both, or neither, regardless of one’s biological sex."
There is also the story of San Francisco’s school policy for restroom accessibility. It states, "Students shall have access to the restroom that corresponds to their gender identity exclusively and consistently asserted at school." And, the policy for locker room accessibility states, "Transgender students shall not be forced to use the locker room corresponding to their gender assigned at birth.” In other words, if Joey's convinced he's Jane, then he can use the girls' locker room and restroom, Brown summarized.
The 700-page hardcover book also includes the story of Brown’s own six-year hurdles to get the book published.
While trying to find an agent, he wrote, “One conservative pundit noted that, ‘Book publishing is a difficult business now, and no media is willing to promote a book that opposes homosexuality. … Economic self-interest is going to make it very tough for a publisher to say yes.’”
Another conservative publisher informed Brown, “Practically speaking [publishing the book] could actually destroy the firm,” while a top literary agent explained to Brown that he could find no secular or Christian publisher willing to touch the book. “Most thought the material was too controversial … all felt that the title would need to be changed," the agent said.
In the end, the book was rejected by 20 publishers before Brown created his own company, Equal Time Books, to publish the book.
Brown maintains that his book is not what some may expect from conservative Christians.
“Those looking for a right-wing diatribe based on unreliable, second-hand sources will have to look elsewhere,” he says.
He insists there is no hatred or malice in the book. Instead, he explains, “the purpose of this book is to see how we got to this point in history, to examine some of the main lines of pro-gay thought, to consider the impact of gay activism on our society, and to ask the question: Where is the current trajectory taking us?"
In writing the book, he also chides the church for demonizing homosexuality and calls on it to repent of its sins against the gay community.
At the same time, he believes the LGBT issue is the greatest challenge to religious freedoms and family foundations in this generation, and Christians must not ignore it.
"We must take a stand for righteousness in our society. We're called to ... expose darkness and to be a moral conscience and moral preservative. If we're not shining the light, if we're not making a difference ... how's the world going to have a moral conscience and know the difference between right and wrong," said Brown during an October 2010 conference.
Brown also launched the Campaign for Religious Tolerance and Intellectual Diversity through which he hopes to spawn dialogue and debate about homosexuality and Scripture.