Monday, July 14, 2014

Ranting On...Grady Smith

Grady Smith
Do you ever find yourself randomly wandering around the internet and you find something that you hadn't come across before and desperately want to talk about it, but it has gone past its moment in the sun?  I felt that way a while back when I discovered Octavia Spencer, Yvette Nicole Brown, and Retta fighting over Joe Manganiello (seriously, check this out if you're behind like me), but I feel that a few weeks after the fact isn't so bad, particularly if the issue seems very much alive.

I have followed Grady Smith's career for years now, which seems odd because he's not what you'd consider a particularly famous person (he is verified on Twitter, which makes me wonder how someone whose chief fame is a minor YouTube channel and being a box office journalist can get verified, but that's not really the point).  He had a nice Millennial charm to his writing for Entertainment Weekly and had a wonkishness that recalled EW in its heyday, when you felt like you were looking inside the crystal ball of Hollywood.  Occasionally I disagreed with his coverage (he went a bit too much into the blockbuster aspect of the box office and not enough into the smaller films that had great per-theater averages), but by-and-large I was disappointed when he left the website and I continued to follow him on Twitter and Instagram, even though he seemed to take odd breaks from the websites that didn't jive with most aspiring writers (who usually cannot get enough of their platforms...I mean, look how often I've been posting here lately!).

At the end of June, though, Smith put out both a blog post and a video regarding his religion and sexual orientation.  The point of this blog isn't to focus on this, but Smith came out as a gay man in this particular video.  This is hardly shocking-YouTube is filled with hundreds of coming out videos (it's one of Troye Sivan's most popular), but the way that Smith came out seemed provocative and got me thinking about his message.

Smith came out specifically as a gay Christian and discussed his struggle with being both gay and having deeply held religious beliefs, which again is hardly a surprise.  Many churches have moved to a stronger, more accepting place with gay rights, and the struggle between what one was taught as a youth from parents and the church and one's sexual orientation is a struggle that many gay people have struggled with (myself included).  However, Smith's video gained attention for a couple of reasons.

Primarily, he advocated that while he claims to be accepting of gay people, he also would never act on his gay feelings.  This is the aspect of the article that led to gay websites such as Queerty and Towleroad to cover Smith's announcement.  After all, sex sells, and though he's not famous, Smith is charming, articulate, and a very attractive man.  A handsome, mildly well-known gay man advocating not having sex because it's god's will?  That's something that sells clicks.

I'm not going to sit here and argue what the Bible says about homosexuality.  Religious scholars have been debating the meaning of Leviticus 18:22 and 1 Corinthians 6:9, and people have frequently pointed out the hypocrisy that comes with following certain texts of the Bible (like those regarding gay people) and not others (like those involving shellfish and slavery).  This doesn't need to turn into a flame war and these are arguments that have been debated ad nauseum and with no side really yielding.

But Smith's actions are worth debating, because he made them public.  It's every person's right as an American to live their life (provided they don't break the law) the way they choose.  If Smith simply decided to not have sex for the rest of his life, more power to him.  But he has now made a video on one of the most popular websites on the internet advocating these views, as well as a blog, website, and Twitter feed that advocate these positions.  That makes his views fair game, particularly since struggling young people who are in the closet may come across these beliefs.

Smith wouldn't bother me so much if the rest of the video wasn't laced with silly contradictions to his initial argument about not acting on his gay orientation.  He condemns Christians for a persecution complex, and then also talks about how there is this stigma surrounding gay people and the church.  Yet by saying that homosexuality in act is wrong, he's essentially agreeing with that stigma.  Being gay is, indeed, about more than just sex, but it is part of it and Smith doesn't seem to understand that in his writing.  He wants a stronger dialogue about gay people and faith, but he comes at it from such a rigid and closed viewpoint.  Saying that you want people's views on homosexuality to shift but then also stating that acting on gay feelings is a sin is a hypocrisy and proof that you aren't willing to let your views shift in this dialogue.  His stance feeds into the animosity that the church and the gay community occasionally feel toward one another, and doesn't help to bridge it as is his stated intent.

I would spend a few more paragraphs parseling apart this video, particularly the part where Smith says that he still hopes to someday be married to a woman (reparative gay therapy is never uttered in the video, but it feels like the giant elephant that is lurking below the surface), but I think this should about do it without becoming repetitive.  The reality is that Mr. Smith has absolutely every right to believe and to do what he wants.  If he would like to live a celibate life, fine.  If he would like to marry a woman and she's willing to marry a gay guy, more power to them.  But once he brings it out, advocating for such a lifestyle in a public forum, it becomes fair game to criticize his beliefs, and I just cannot stand by ignoring someone preaching something I so vehemently disagree with without using my public corner of the internet to discuss it.  Smith hasn't posted on his blog or YouTube channel since, so perhaps he has rethought his decision to continue a series about this belief system (he initially stated he'd make weekly videos but that was almost a month ago), but I still wanted to discuss it before it becomes nothing more than a keyword search that people may stumble across.  Despite what he may think, he is not loving the sinner and hating the sin, but instead condemning both.