Ellen Herman

Department of History, University of Oregon


Reading and Discussion Questions
Arlene Stein, The Stranger Next Door

Chapters 1-5

1. What was Measure 9? What was the Oregon Citizens Alliance?

2. What is a “culture war,” and how does the “‘culture war’ argument” relate to Stein’s story about Timbertown?

3. Stein notes that the gay rights movement was, by the 1980s, “wedded to a model of gay ‘ethnicity.’” What does she mean? How does the model relate to debates about whether homosexuality is a choice?

4. Stein suggests that conservative Christians “shared the feminist conviction that the personal is political.” How so? How did conservative Timbertown Christians view the question of gay rights? What other issues were important to them?

5. Who is Lon Mabon? What were his goals? What were his strategies?

6. How does Stein describe Timbertown? What is its history?

7. What happened to Oregon’s lumber industry in the 1980s and early 1990s? What were some of the consequences?

8. How does Stein describe the lives of gay people in Timbertown? How are they generally expected to behave?

9. How does Stein describe Oregon, as a state, in terms of religion? What about Timbertown specifically?

10. Stein writes that residents of Timbertown who had little previous contact with Jews frequently “exoticized” her. What does she mean? How do they react to her as a Jew?

11. What is the relationship between Christianity and social activism? What issues were important to the Christian residents of Timbertown?

12. Stein notes the prominence of women in the OCA campaign and suggests that by participating, “Christian conservative women affirmed their specialness as women.” What does she mean? Where have we seen this kind of philosophy before?

13. What do you make of Stein’s discussion of shame on pages 100-104? How is shame connected to “the rise of a rhetoric of victimhood” that took place in Timbertown (and elsewhere) in the 1990s?

14. How do Timbertown’s OCA activists characterize San Francisco? How do they characterize homosexual men?

15. What is the distinction, for OCA activists, between “good gays” and “bad” ones?

16. Stein explains that “love the sinner, hate the sin” rhetoric “permits activists to simultaneously hate gays and love them.” How does this rhetoric play out among OCA activists?

Chapters 5-10

17. Stein states that Timbertown is a “macho community” where “masculinity rules.” How do ideas about masculinity relate to the debate over gay rights in Oregon?

18. One OCA activist claims that “protecting gay rights is analogous to protecting the spotted owl.” What does he mean?

19. How does the OCA differentiate between “deserving” and “undeserving” minorities?

20. What is the controversy about Head Start curriculum in Timbertown?

21. What was the Community Action Network? What were its main concerns?

22. Stein notes that people of color “kept a low profile” during the OCA campaign. Why?

23. What were the benefits of the “essentialist” understanding of homosexuality for gay rights activists? What were the drawbacks?

24. What do you make of the comparisons between the OCA and the Nazis? How does Stein evaluate these comparisons?

25. According to Stein, “during the 1992 Measure 9 campaign, the atmosphere of the school noticeably shifted.” How?

26. What was the significance of the Anne Frank exhibit?

27. What was the outcome of the Measure 9 campaign?

28. Stein argues that “most Timbertowners seemed far less concerned with the moral threat posed by homosexuality than with a host of other problems.” What were these other perceived problems? How did they connect to the Measure 9 debate?

29. In Appendix A, Stein explains how she presented herself to the residents of Timbertown and what she learned from interviewing them. What does she say that she learned from her “adventures in American Christendom”?