I was iffy on this when I first read it. I don't like the premise that gay people are sinners, and I don't like people who accept it. I don't like arguing with those people on their terms, or giving them the impression that I find their views regarding the hellfiery fates of sodomites legitimate enough to use as a platform for debate, even as a thought experiment.
But here's the thing: I'm not supposed to like it. I'm nothing vaguely resembling the target audience of this article. I spent hours grinning the day I found out that You Can Play even existed; they do not need to waste their energy on material designed to make people like me happy. It would be pretty damn tough for them to knock me off board with the project. The people they need to reach are the ones who don't already agree with them, and with that taken into account, this Burke piece is really smart.
I wrote a post on my personal blog a while back about how to change minds. I did my undergrad thesis on dual-process decision-making, and picked up a few things about the psychology of persuasion along the way. That post was an attempt to organize my knowledge and integrate my academic understanding of the topic into my own habits. Here are the guidelines I came up with:
- Don't focus on getting your audience to agree with you right now. If they end up expressing agreement during just one conversation, either they were already on the fence or they're saying it to shut you up. Think of your goal as getting them to continue considering the topic on their own time.
- Start by getting them to want to agree with you. Think of ways things would be better for them if they were on your side.
- Present your facts in I-statements--this is why I believe this, it's my understanding that, etc. Don't make it about them. If you used to agree with them, tell them that, and try to establish commonalities. The more they can see you as a peer and not an obstacle, the more likely you are to get through to them.
- Don't shove evidence in their face and demand a response. When you ask people to consider facts that counter their beliefs, their beliefs actually grow stronger. This probably has something to do with defensiveness. So try to avoid getting confrontational. Give them things to think about, not things to react to.
- Wait. This can be hard, but really, these things need time to percolate.
Patrick Burke is mostly running YCP like he's read this list. (Aside from the occasional lost temper with trolls on Twitter. But that's understandable, given the shit people throw at him, and hopefully time and experience will help him learn when to disengage.) I'm not Christian or homophobic, so I can't say for sure that the Deadspin piece is effective, but with all this in mind, it looks solid to me. Burke establishes common ground and presents himself as a peer to his audience by outlining his history with religion and addressing the LGBT community in an aside, thereby characterizing them as other (though I'm not sure that was intentional). Then he reaches out emotionally, using the kind of language his audience associates with church and morality, and scatters some specific references to scripture to engage the reader's rational desire for evidence and back up their instinct to agree.
After a lot of thought, I've decided that I like it. But my opinion is, of course, completely irrelevant. That's the point.