The Miami New Times recently broke the story about George Allen Rekers’ 10-day Europe vacation with a male escort, identified only as 20-year-old Lucian. The story has been picked up by the national media and turned this aging puffer into the butt of popular ridicule by Steve Colbert and Jay Leno. One can only shout: Come out George, come out of your closet!
Rekers is an upstanding, 61-year-old white Christian homophobic and has all the credentials of a great deceiver. He is a Baptist minister, was a member of the founding board of the reactionary Family Research Council and is on the board of National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH).
According to various reports, he has been a research fellow at Harvard University, taught at the University of South Carolina, is editor of “Handbook of Child and Adolescent Sexual Problems” and author of “Growing Up Straight: What Families Should Know About Homosexuality,” books that seek to ensure that children grow up straight, and has repeatedly testified against gay adoptions. He prides himself for his moderate stand on homosexuality, insisting on “the rights of individuals with unwanted homosexual attraction to receive effective psychological care.”
Rekers initially claimed that he retained Lucian’s services because he “can’t lift luggage” and needed an assistant and companion for his European vacation. He insisted that he never had sex with his youthful escort and, after discovering that Lucian was a male prostitute, preached redemption to the wayward lad: “I spent a great deal of time sharing scientific information on the desirability of abandoning homosexual intercourse, and I shared the Gospel of Jesus Christ with him in great detail.”
The godly minister never denies that he located Lucian through the gay website, Rentboy.com. On his posting, Lucien is shirtless, identifies himself “HIV and Disease FREE” and solicits interested parties with the come on that he will “do anything you say as long as you ask.” Lucian proudly acknowledged his “smooth, sweet, tight ass” and “perfectly built 8 inch cock.” In all likelihood, Rekers will insist that he discovered Rentboy surfing the web in pursuit of his scholarly research.
Young Lucian has a different story to tell. He acknowledges that he was paid to provide daily nude body rubs. He admits that Rekers named his favorite body rub the “long stroke,” an artful caress “across his penis, thigh … and his anus over the butt cheeks.” Lucian reports, “Rekers liked to be rubbed down there.” Surely, no better way to experience the religious pleasure of orgasm.
Faced with the mounting publicity and ridicule and by Lucian’s further revelations, Rekers only digs himself deeper in the hole of incredulity by repeated denials and obfuscations. For explanation, he offers the following as a guiding principle: “My hero is Jesus Christ who loves even the culturally despised people, including sexual sinners and prostitutes. Like Jesus Christ, I deliberately spend time with sinners with the loving goal to try to help them.” One can only wonder whether this same Jesus loves the pathetic closeted homophobic hypocrite?
* * *
As a comic once famously joked, de-nial is more than a river in Egypt. Over the last half-dozen years, the repeated outings of white, Christian men, often Republican elected officials or prominent religious leaders and all assertively homophobic, for their homosexual indiscretions have moved from scandal to entertainment sport to pathetic joke. The latest casualty of this syndrome, George Rekers, only makes clear that sexual scandal is about more then sex and scandal and hypocrisy, but also about denial, shame and pathology.
The transformation of white Christian homophobic hypocrisy from scandal to entertainment sport to bad joke began in 2004. Paul Crouch, a televangelist and former president of Trinity Broadcasting Network (TVN), was outed in an adulterous affair with a former TBN employee — unfortunately, the employee happened to be a male, Enoch Lonnie Ford. As revealed in a Los Angeles Times exposé, the evangelist had the affair at a TBN-owned cabin at Lake Arrowhead, CA. Making matters worse, Crouch siphoned off $425,000 of TBN funds to bribe his lover to keep their affair a secret.
As the mid-term elections approached in 2006, the outings of two prominent white Christians, Rep. Mark Foley and Rev. Ted Haggard, contributed to the Democratic insurgency. Haggard, a devoutly married father of five children, was caught with his proverbial pants down in a commercial encounter with a gay hooker, Mike Jones. After finally admitting to the devil’s seduction, this Christian worthy retreated from the public scene. Many in Florida’s 16th District and the Washington, DC, gay community knew Foley was gay; the only ones who seemed to have chosen not to know were the Republican leadership and the Christian right. When reports of his particular sexual predilection, obsession with youthful lads or ephebophilia, were revealed through a series of sexually-suggestive emails sent to a Congressional page, he quickly resigned and fled to a rehab center.
The shift in male homophobic sexual scandal from entertainment sport to bad joke took place amidst the 2008 election. It involved Larry Craig (R-ID) and the secret world of sexual solicitation that goes on in men’s public restrooms, often called “tearooms.” Craig was busted in the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport men’s room for soliciting an undercover officer who had previously made numerous arrests for illicit sex in the restroom. In 2008, the Christian right was in retreat, the culture wars temporarily halted and sex scandals involving Eliot Spitzer and John Edwards took the moralistic sting out of the arrest of an aging puffer.
Scandals as bad jokes are evident in the revelations about recently resigned Rep. Eric Massa (D-NY). In the face of numerous allegations that he groped male staffers and behaved improperly with interns, Massa, like Foley before him, fled from the political spotlight. Nevertheless, in a follow interview he insisted that he engaged only in homo-social, as distinguished from homo-sexual, conduct. “Not only did I grope him, I tickled him until he couldn’t breathe. And they all jumped on top of me,” he admitted. With chagrin, he bemoaned, “You can take anything out of context.”
Over the last few years the Florida gay press has repeatedly circulated the rumor that Gov. Charlie Crist was a closeted homosexual. While he recently married, one can expect the right to stealthily promote this rumor as the 2010 Florida senate campaign intensifies.
* * *
We are now a decade into the 21st century and the Christian right, like a vampire rising from the dead, is once again seeking to impose its religious tyranny on all Americans. It is one of the major tendencies congealed into the Tea Party movement. It adheres to premodern values like patriarchal anti-choice and divine eschatology.
It is a movement that ranges from huckster Sarah Palin to con man George Romney as well as nativists and racists, anti-tax advocates and conspiracist kooks, libertarians and militiamen and many, many more. It is an incoherent popular voice of unhappiness that is being carefully crafted into a voice of desperation; it is a frantic plea that can be easily manipulated into a neo-fascist impulse by corporate interested and the Republican party.
Many American, especially of the aging white “middle class,” are facing a profound existential crisis. America seems to have failed them. Their world is in crisis, being eclipsed by a new, globalized world order that has left them with neither the financial or emotional security that they were promised. For a half-century or more, they gave their lives, measured in tireless work, ceaseless consumption and ritualistic voting, to a system that is failing them. A global super-rich has taken over and they know, on some deep emotional level, that they were conned into selling their souls for a fiction, the commodity spectacle.
The outing of a white Christian homophobic hypocrite like George Rekers is no longer a sexual scandal or even an entertainment diversion. Rather, it is a pathetic personal failing, a public joke. One can no longer simply chuckle at such an exposure, at seeing such an outing as yet another example of the moral hypocrisy at the heart of the Christian right. Rather, one is left feeling sad for the sad man (and occasional woman) exposed to public ridicule because of the deep passions that he could no control and that, ultimately, overtook he.
Rekers indiscretion will quickly pass and he will be forgotten, a minor reminder of yet another closet queen acting out his private sexual fantasy, oblivious to social consequences. Surely, others within the Christian right, Republican party and the Tea Party movement will be outed as closeted gays, heterosexual adulterers, pedophiles or worse. These revelations will signal the inherent contradiction at these movements’ heart, at America’s heart. Without overcoming the profound inability to accept one’s sexuality as oneself, Americans, including George Rekers, will remain prisoners of a moralistic tyranny that still defines much of American values.
DAVID ROSEN is the author of “Sex Scandals America: Politics & the Ritual of Public Shaming” (Key, 2009); he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.