New House Speaker Mike Johnson, who will almost certainly turn into Jim Jordan if you get him wet or feed him after midnight, has a real problem with gay people. In fact, he thinks homosexuality is so seismically sinful, it has the unique power to end civilizations.
As Daily Kos’ Laura Clawson recently reported, Johnson once worked with the notorious gay-conversion group Exodus International on its annual Day of Truth event, a sad bastardization of the pro-LGBTQ+, anti-bullying Day of Silence. As Clawson put it, “The thinking behind the ‘Day of Truth’ appears to have been, ‘Oh, kids are going to oppose anti-LGBTQ+ bullying? Well, let’s organize a day to make clear that bullying is not going anywhere.’”
So you see where this dude is coming from. CNN did a deep dive into Johnson’s past work with Exodus International, and in the process it unearthed some of the bizarro beliefs Johnson has espoused in the past, including the notion that Rome was somehow undone by its permissive attitudes toward homosexuality.
In print, radio and on television, Johnson, a Louisiana Republican, frequently disparaged homosexuality, according to KFile’s review. He advocated for the criminalization of gay sex and went so far as to partially blame it for the fall of the Roman Empire.
“Some credit to the fall of Rome to not only the deprivation of the society and the loss of morals, but also to the rampant homosexual behavior that was condoned by the society,” Johnson told a radio host in 2008.
Of course, the notion that Rome fell because of homosexuality is all kinds of absurd. The Roman state persisted in the form of a republic or empire for more than 1,000 years, and homosexuality was widely accepted over much of that time. But it took centuries for the society to unravel.
For instance, as The Advocate writes, after his male lover Antinous died by drowning, Emperor Hadrian “was said to have suffered great grief at Antinous’s death, and he elevated his late lover to the status of a god.” But he was hardly alone.
Several other emperors have been reported to have had gay relationships, including Trajan, Nero, and Julius Caesar. [Scottish author Harry F.] Rey contends almost all of them did. “Of the roughly 70 Roman Emperors across 500 years, from Augustus to Romulus Augustulus, perhaps only one, Claudius, is someone who we could say with some certainty was straight,” he wrote.
In fact, Rome fell roughly 150 years after becoming Christian, so it would make far more sense to say Rome was undone by Christianity. And in the 300s, as Rome was fixing to go Tituses up, it actually sought to crack down on homosexuality.
Writing for the History News Network, Robert Frakes, a professor of history at California State University, Bakersfield, noted that the late Roman Empire had begun to reverse its previously permissive attitudes toward gay sex.
While the first three centuries of the empire saw no legislation as far as we can tell regarding homosexuality, aside from the continuation of the Lex Scantinia as marked by its citation by the Roman jurists, in the fourth century there would be dramatic new laws condemning male homosexuality. Most scholars interpret a convoluted law from the year 342 AD surviving in both the Theodosian Code and the Code of Justinian as a decree from the emperors Constantius II and Constans that marriage based on unnatural sex should be punished meticulously.
Why did this change occur? The answer is fairly straightforward and lies ultimately in the results of the actions of the famous Roman emperor Constantine. In 312, this father of the emperors Constantius II and Constans had reached out to Christianity as the basis for his authority. Throughout the next 25 years of his reign, Constantine supported Christianity and gave financial help to the Church and legal sanction to some of the bishops’ powers. As his sons came of age in an increasingly Christian society, they and many of their advisors would have grown up with Biblical strictures. Thus, the pronouncements of the Book of Leviticus (18. 22, 20. 13) against male homosexuality as an abomination punishable by death in God’s eyes would logically have influenced writers of imperial law.
Sadly, Johnson appears to have fallen prey to both confirmation bias and the post hoc fallacy, whose name is derived from the phrase “post hoc, ergo propter hoc,” which as we all know is Latin for “Jesus Christ, dude. Read a fucking book.”
In other words, it would make just as much sense for future historians to say Western civilization became untenable after Klondike discontinued the Choco Taco. It had nothing to do with climate change and creeping fascism.
So Johnson is not just a bigot, he’s intellectually shallow and profoundly dishonest as well. In other words, he’s a Republican. Who thinks weird things. And acts on them. Hey, what could possibly go wrong?
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