Conservative Christian Pushback:

how our truths are kept private and a radical minority holds public space, a recent Missouri case study

A Neosho Mo. junior high teacher resigned last week after refusing to remove a Pride flag from his classroom, and refusing to sign a document regarding what he would and wouldn’t teach in the classroom.

Parents had complained about the flag, though per the news stories that have circulated it is unclear how many parents, if it was more than just the parents of one student, or if it was a parent of a student in the class at all, though we have to assume it was.

District officials have been quoted as comparing the pride flag to the confederate flag. They cited a policy about “politically campaigning.”

Scenes like this are happening all over the country, to workers in states like Missouri that have no Statewide LGBTQ+ workplace discrimination policies, and in public spaces of information and culture like schools, libraries, and museums. This event in fact comes on the heels of a decision by the State of Missouri to remove an exhibition on LGBTQ+ history in Kansas City (view the digital exhibit here) from the State Capitol building, misinterpreting and bending a law that governs oversight of exhibitions in the Capitol.

There is a Conservative drive to stamp down this representation of Queer culture and history, extending from the highest order to the lowest. It is exacting and inconsolable, comparable to the quixotic uprisings against CRT, or the confusing insistence to essentially deny the Native American genocide. It is a mission to remove any public displays of acceptance, acknowledgement, or admission that falters the vision of Conservative America. It is a fight for Christian God and prayer in school, and against Gay Pride. The “silent majority” as the movement coined itself, is by far a minority, that again and again proves itself truly a heavy handed attempt to maintain as much power with as few adherents as possible. As we enter a period of redistricting, this philosophy is being codified into systems of governance as we speak, allowing the rules that dictate the masses to be written by small groups of marginal extremists who will only face elections that stack everything against their opposition. It is a loud minority that dominates the conversation, and must do so forcefully to maintain power. These public incidents are manufactured attempts to manipulate our perceptions, encourage preference falsification and encourage common underestimation of the popularity of opinions and beliefs. To keep anything like gay people for instance, from appearing normal, even though most people actually feel like being gay is normal.

Timur Karun goes into great detail on the topic of preference falsification in his book “Private Truths, Public Lies,” examining how preference falsification works or worked in places like pre-revolutions Iran, where no one could have sensed that everyone was ready to engage in mass protest. A more recent study by Karun surveyed Saudi men and found the majority supported things like women’s rights to work, but they mostly and vastly underestimated how popular this was with other men. Even if we believe something, if it looks unpopular in public, we believe most others don’t believe it. It is easy and natural for people to feel like they are in the minority, when they are in fact in the majority, if there is public pressure to maintain a status quo. We know abortions rights are popular, redistributing wealth is popular, anti-racist policies are popular, but if the true popularity can be kept out of the public eye, we as a nation will never assume our rightful majorities. Public pressure is exerted through among other things, “ideological state apparatuses” as Althusser would say, institutions managed by the state and ostensibly controlled by the public in a democracy. In this case, in all our cases here now, open to manipulation by forces hostile to democracy and civil rights, hostile to aspects of reality in some cases, hostile to humility and progress, and recognition of true merit and popular will.

Pride is in fact about the right to be seen, so it’s public erasure is natural. The flag would not exist if it wasn’t so forbidden to be nonhetero. Christian conversion camps still exist. There is still outrage anytime a major film or tv show features LGBTQ+ characters, and queer books of all shapes and sizes are challenged and banned in school and public libraries across the country all the time. The Conservative Christian ideology is all or nothing and relies on a constant, vigilant and aggressive effort to wear down its opponents. If it loses an inch it loses everything, and if it picks a fight over every little thing, it can deflate, discourage, and burn out those it's fighting against.

We have to remember: we are not alone, we are in fact the majority, we are reasonable, we don’t want to live in a Conservative Christian theocracy and we don’t have to. We have to remember: the rabid watchdog mentality of these people comes from a space of desperation, a fear of the fragility of their egos and worldview, and a confused frustration with legitimate world problems which that vapid worldview can’t solve. These people are not some monolith or ascendent organization, they are just people, people who shouldn’t be trusted with governance, and whom we cannot let soak up so much public attention and energy. We need to get on the offensive. To paraphrase a poet, we need to put our “queer shoulders to the wheel.”