Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Christ of the Ozarks: Embracing Identity Difference?

Christ of the Ozarks
Andrea Morales for The New York Times

Gerald L.K. Smith must lie smoldering in his grave.

The Christ of the Ozarks statue in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, seemingly all-embracing, appears now to stand confronted with a dilemma, acceptance of difference in sexual identity or rejection of the same.

Why's that a dilemma?

Because of tourists.


Yes, tourists. The tourists who'll show up in the Ozark town of Eureka Springs, Arkansas . . . or who won't.

If the town promotes tolerance of difference in sexual identity - lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) - in order to attract LGBT tourists, it stands to lose Christian tourists who'd otherwise arrive to watch the local Great Passion Play, Christians whose understanding of 'passion' differs profoundly from the LGBT's own view.

There's misunderstanding on both sides. An anti-LGBT ad placed in a local paper reads:
If you think tourists are going to be excited about even the possibility that their wives, daughters and girlfriends will be sharing a bathroom with a guy who decides he's 'transgender' just to have a little fun (or worse) at the ladies' expense, you don't know tourists and you don't know sex offenders.
This fear doesn't sound especially realistic to me. A sex offender wouldn't want the infamy, and genuine LGBTs would criticize anyone pretending to be transgender and pulling such a stunt "to have a little fun." But the sexual identity people also perhaps misjudge things:
At the same time, a website promoting gay tourism, Out in Eureka, has already begun incorporating . . . into its argument that the city is "the antithesis of the redneck stereotype" and a "microcosm of San Francisco." Gay travelers, it says, can feel at home along with "all manner of colorful characters, misfits, eccentrics and rugged individualists."
I doubt that Eureka Springs is equivalent to San Francisco - the latter's Gay Freedom Day Parade would never go over in the Ozarks, not even in a liberal town like Eureka! And some of those rugged individualistic men would likely punch you in the nose if you were a gay fellow trying to make a pass. But so long as the flamboyance is kept PG, there ought to be only minor problems.

I hope . . .

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