Oklahoma State Rep. Sally Kern was stopped before she entered the capitol yesterday. Why? She had a loaded handgun in her purse. She is the one who famously exclaimed that homosexuality is as serious a threat as terrorism and Islam.
Quite disturbingly, she had received death threats after her remarks were made public. There was another incident in June in which she was found with a gun in the capitol. I have no doubt that she fears for her life.
Events like this one make me realize that "culture war" is not merely an image for some people. That death threats have become part of the debate over social issues is completely disgusting.
I find myself as sick of words like bigot, extremist, and so forth that are used to characterize the Right as I am of all the dehumanizing ways the GLBT community is characterized in the discourse of those who oppose us.
In the end, the individuals who make death threats and those who perpetrate hate crimes are responsible for their actions. Arguing about whether our political discourse causes particular acts of violence is a little like trying to determine whether violence in movies makes people do terrible things. It's a pretty foggy enterprise.
But what is clear to me is that the religious discourse on the Right and the secular discourse of progress on the Left have not yet been successful in tempering the feelings and language of violence. I don't even know if we can borrow a religious word like "redemptive" and give it a nonsectarian meaning and apply it to the ways we talk about those with whom we are locked in disagreement.
But the fact that there have been threats against an Oklahoma representative and the fact that the GLBT community continues to suffer violence means we're not trying very hard at persuasion. Right now, persuasion sounds pretty redemptive.