Slowly Boiled Friendship?

There is a man named David Hart who runs what I once called “a smelly little blog” called Slowly Boiled Frog that lays waste to Christians who take public and aggressive stands against the gay agenda. He has come after me more than twenty times in recent years.

This is how David introduced me to his audience on April 15, 2013: “Austin Ruse is president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM). His wife, Cathleen Cleaver, works for the hate group, Family Research Council. Ruse is a Knight in the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, a Knight in the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher and is a founding member of the Diplomatic Society of St. Gabriel. You get the picture.”

In January 2015, David introduced me this way: “Austin Ruse is head of the anti-gay hate group C-Fam—Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute which more accurately describes the operation than its secularized pseudonym, ‘Center for Family & Human Rights.’”

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A year later, he wrote, “Austin Ruse is a fervent Defender of the Faith. He also promotes some rather strange notions about gay people and he runs an anti-gay hate group, C-Fam.”

You do get the picture. David has not been my biggest fan.

David has a view of us—that we follow a monarchical regime located in the Vatican and that no matter what science and social science say, particularly about homosexuality, we follow that benighted monarchical regime. This is why David has this near-constant tendency to mention that I am a Catholic, a Knight of Malta, a “Defender of the Faith,” and so on, even though I rarely if ever cite Church documents or the Bible. He says this is not relevant since they inform my beliefs, even if I do not cite them, and that these beliefs override truth.

I’m not the only one he charges with Catholicism. In August 2016, I published a piece here called “Reasoned Analysis vs. Blah, Blah, Sneer and Blah” which is a defense of the paper by Drs. Paul McHugh and Lawrence Mayer who examined certain scientific claims about sexual orientation and gender identity. I pointed out that hardly anyone actually engaged with their paper but that those who did mostly went after them for tangential things such as McHugh’s religious faith. It was in this piece that I described David’s “smelly little blog as being at the bottom of the LGBT food chain.”

David wrote: “In point of fact, the paper in question is a defense of the Catholic faith as practiced by the radical fringe. The majority of Catholics support gay rights in proportions that exceed the general public. In point of fact, the Catholic Church is the world’s leading purveyor of anti-LGBT propaganda.” No fair reading of the paper can conclude this. David and many McHugh/Mayer critics refused to go beyond such ad hominem attacks.

David goes on to make the standard error that “Dr. McHugh believes that gay people are objectively disordered.” David, the Church teaches that the inclination is disordered, not the person. And anyway, there was not a jot or tittle in the McHugh/Mayer paper that was “Catholic.” This is a blind spot for David, namely that only Catholics and other Christians can disbelieve studies that confirm his world view.

David also has a blind spot for peer review. Anything not peer reviewed is not only suspect, it is rejected out of hand. He refers to the respected journal New Atlantis, which is not peer reviewed, as a blog. He rejects the notion that peer review itself is now suspect. He might want to check out a website called Retraction Watch and the scandals attendant to peer review, given that he asks, “What Nobel Prize was rejected for peer review?” Here are eight of them.

Another blind spot for David is his denial that anything can be wrong with Gay World.

In a February 2017 blog post called “Austin Ruse blows the gay pederasty/recruitment dog whistle,” David goes after my defense of Milo Yiannopoulos after Milo jumped off a career-ending cliff when he spoke kindly about a pederastic relationship he had as a 14-year-old. I pointed out the longtime interest gay men have in teen boys. His response was that this was actually a heterosexual problem. He said, “Ruse fails to make the distinction between homosexual sex and homosexuality as a sexual orientation. That confusion is the foundation of religiously driven homophobia.” He said the priest sex scandal had nothing to do with homosexuality even though 87 percent of the cases involved adult men preying on teen boys.

Going back and rereading David’s posts about me, I note that his tone is more sorrowful aggrievement than anger or bitterness. “Once more I must correct this poor fellow,” he seems to say. I must admit this is not how I read his posts when they first went up as there are some pretty sharp elbows in them. But, I read them more strongly at first. In fact, I entered lustily into the comment boxes and even got into a bit of trouble because of it.

However, I did notice some time ago that he started saying nice things about me. Last December he wrote this: “There are things I like about Austin Ruse. Believe it or not, he is a very caring and decent man who is well read, respectful of others and worldly. Ruse seems willing to judge LGBT people as individuals who happen to be LGBT. However, he has an existential fear over a perceived nefarious agenda—to the boundless extremes of dread.”

Something was happening.

I can explain it this way. A few years ago, I was in the comment boxes on a pretty nasty blog called Joe.My.God, engaging with a guy about who-knows-what, and we were going at it hammer and tongs when all of a sudden something happened. I don’t know if it was him or me but one of us showed a glimmer of humanity. Something about music. Totally off topic. With that, we began a lengthy and quite friendly discussion about his preference for classical and mine for jazz. He made recommendation to me. I made a recommendation to him. It was quite remarkable.

This is called “breaking the fourth wall,” you know, when an actor gives up on the fiction and addresses the audience directly. At some moment, we broke the fourth wall and viewed each other as more than a set of offensive opinions. It is hard to fight after that.

Somewhere along the line either David or I broke the fourth wall, too. I checked in on him when his town got hit by a hurricane. I sent him a card last Christmas. I sent him copies of my books. He has sent me research on the things we disagree on. We exchange friendly emails. And he has stopped going after me on Slowly Boiled Frog. I have even sent him some of my more “offensive” columns and said, “Hey, what about this?”

David Hart is a very interesting man, a former CEO, a victim of gun violence (a .45 at close range), and deeply and widely read. We disagree profoundly on what both of us see as one of the vitally important issues of our day. But, somewhere along the line, we broke that fourth wall. He is now more than a set of wrong-headed and even harmful opinions as, I suspect, am I. He is a human being. He is my friend.

(Photo credit: James Lee / Wikimedia)


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