“Killing the Messenger”: Religious Black Gay Men's Neutralization of Anti-Gay Religious Messages
Abstract:I use cognitive dissonance theory as a framework to examine coping strategies used by men endeavoring to maintain a coherent sense of themselves as gay Christians. Using interviews with black gay Christian men, I uncover a strategy used to maintain that identity in the face of stigmatizing religious rhetoric. While these men have managed to reconcile their religious and sexual identities, sermons delivered by church leaders disrupt that reconciliation, causing them to have to neutralize these anxiety-inducing attitudes. This study shows that they focus accusations of illegitimacy on the speaker rather than the doctrine by denigrating the speakers’ knowledge, morality, focus, and motivations. In this way, they neutralize the sting of churches’ negative messages by neutralizing the moral authority of the churches’ messengers. These findings offer new insight into how parishioners persist in religious communities in which their sexual behaviors or identities are condemned.
Document Type: Research Article
Affiliations: Sociology Department Vanderbilt University
Publication date: March 1, 2010