McCain takes aim at fellow conservative Andrew Sullivan, who has never been the favorite of the religious right for obvious reasons. He's never been fond of them either, and it's difficult to blame him. In an Atlantic column by Ta-Nahisi Coates, Sullivan is quoted at length. I normally do not agree with Mr. Sullivan on a wide range of topics, but one area in which we are in agreement is this one:
"The reduction of these shared lives and loves to abstract sexual acts is itself a form of bigotry. It is an attempt to reduce the full and complex human being to one aspect of his or her humanness. It is, in my view, anti-Christian to speak of gays the way this Pope does. The Christian calling is not to guard ferociously the ramparts of the 1950s out of fear but to listen to the experiences of gay people - what the Second Vatican Council calls the sensus fidelium - and try to integrate their humanity into the structures from which they have been so cruelly excluded, with such horrible human consequences, for so long."
Sullivan goes on to aptly compare homophobia on the religious right to the anti-Semitism that once sank its oily claws into nearly the entire European polity at one time or another. His comparison is very apt. Both the culture war, today, and the Jewish Codes of the Middle Ages deprive a specified group of their full share in civil society because they do not conform to a subjective definition of morality mandated by another group.
Democratic societies are based upon a cornerstone belief in certain fundamental human rights in which all people share because they are human. Those fundamental human rights must be recognized and respected by society, and the society as a whole must defend its members from bigots who wish to eject the 'other' from civil society. In a free society, we have the right to believe as we choose but we do not have the right to legislate that all should believe as we do.
McCain clearly does not agree. Furthermore, he appears to deny the relevance or perhaps even the reality of bigotry in this area:
"Getting a bit more specific, there is a reason why the accusation of "homophobia" does not intimidate me: I refuse to accept that "homophobia" accounts for most of the problems experienced by gays. Define "homophobia" however you wish, if you are gay, ask yourself this question: What percentage of the daily problems and hassles in your life are the result of this supposedly pervasive phenomenon?"
Some problems and hassles in the life of gay Americans are very clearly traced to homophobia. Homophobes, under the guise of religion, have crusaded to block every attempt by gay Americans to become fully equal and accepted members of civil society. They have opposed protection from discrimination in the workplace. They have opposed the repeal of sodomy laws. They have used religious arguments to interfere in the family in a manner entirely unreconcilable with any real 'family values.' They oppose granting equal marriage rights to loving couples. They even sponsor programs to brainwash gay Americans into becoming 'normal', 'normal' of course meaning just like them... bigots who cannot distinguish between nurturing faith and bloodthirsty cult.
All of these issues are real and quantifiable, they are not figments of the imagination of gay Americans and all of us who support the American ideal of personal liberty and equal justice under the law should fight for the full inclusion of our gay fellow Americans in our civil society. Those who wish to exclude them are fighting against the very concept of America.
McCain, however, appears to believe that 'homophobia' is a paranoid delusion.
"This is what is so absurd about Sully likening "homophobia" to anti-Semitism. It is he who has succumbed to the paranoid tendency, suspecting that "homophobes," like the Jews of anti-Semitic imagination, are conspiring to deprive him of happiness. Here he is, a successful and famous journalist, with lucrative book contracts and nearly carte blanche to publish in prestigious publications, yet he sits around fretting and fuming over the pathological suspicion that other people don't like him because he's gay."
Considering that McCain has made it pretty clear that he doesn't like gays because they are gay, both in the quoted post and others, it's very difficult to call any such suspicion a gay American might have 'pathological.' Railing against Sullivan for attempting to 'diagnose' the psychopathology of the religious right and then attempting diagnose Sullivan's psychopathology in equal measure suggests a narcissism unworthy of a proud 'public intellectual.'
The glaring problem with McCain's thesis is this:
If the religious right is just a figment of our imaginations, how are we possibly waging a culture war to persecute them?