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Not sold
on The Secret

Not sold
on The Secret


There's no denying that The Secret has become a cultural phenomenon. But is its simplistic message harmful to LGBT people?

In the opening segments of the smash hit The Secret, the filmmakers demonstrate how the negative thoughts of gays attract homophobic attacks. A gay man experiences harassment and assaults at work and on his way home. He wants to be a stand-up comedian, but he's met only with ridicule. It's suggested that his problems will go away once he rids himself of negativity by focusing on good thoughts. Next thing you know, the man is seen smiling at work, flirting with someone on his way home, and knocking them dead at a comedy club.

I found it painful to watch the gay-bashing scenario followed by the proposed simplistic solution. Homophobia is a dangerous and very real problem. LGBT people are attacked and killed in this country. They are executed in Iraq and Iran, with tacit and sometimes even explicit government approval. Attackers cause hate crimes, not victims.

The premise of The Secret is that bad thoughts attract bad things, while good thoughts lead to wealth (specific individuals cited are among the world's richest 5%, a group that controls 80% of the world's wealth), rewarding careers, and fabulous relationships (no same-sex couples are depicted). Poverty and disease would vanish, according to this premise, if the poor and sick would just harbor good thoughts.

The materialistic and narcissistic messages of The Secret belittle whatever superficial spiritual teachings it hopes to offer. The movie makes no mention of loving one's neighbor or enacting justice. It makes no overtures toward feeding the hungry, clothing the needy, sheltering the homeless, or caring for the sick. The power of positive thinking will apparently take care of that. For example, a woman testifies that she cured herself of breast cancer not with radiation or chemotherapy but with good thoughts and funny movies. The implication is clear: If she did it, so can you. This miasmic view of disease blames patients for their illnesses. It's an old argument that's still used to blame gay men for AIDS. I have been living well with HIV for 22 years by the grace of God, positive thinking, and the medical miracle of highly active antiretroviral treatment.

The Secret does impart a few worthwhile spiritual practices. But its simplistic advice perpetuates antigay thinking--and invites criticism of the poor and the sick besides.

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