Bachmann: Gay community has “bullied” Americans and “intimidated politicians”: http://t.co/t5I3AZFno2
— Talking Points Memo (@TPM) March 10, 2014
A reader writes:
I wholeheartedly second your critical views on the spurious claims of oppression and religious persecution coming from Christian opponents of same-sex marriage, like Dreher, who don’t happen to share the evolving views of the majority of the society. He wrote:
I had a conversation with a man who is probably the most accomplished and credentialed legal scholar I’ve ever met, someone who is part of this country’s law elite. The fact that I can’t identify him here, or get into specifics of what he told me, indicates something important about the climate within law circles around this issue. On this issue, he lives in the closet, so to speak, within his professional circles, and explained to me why it has become too dangerous to take a traditionalist stand in law circles, unless one is prepared to sabotage one’s career.
To be persecuted or oppressed, there has to be some one or something doing the persecution or oppressing. But he cites no action taken by any other party – such as the guy’s employer, his colleagues, the state, or anyone else – that in any way constitutes real persecution or oppression. All he cites is this particular individuals’ own personal feeling of discomfort and unease with the growing unpopularity of his personal views on the subject. I’m sorry, but that’s just life in a free, democratic, pluralistic society where public opinion, politics and the law are constantly evolving, along with the rough and tumble of discourse in the public square.
Another adds, “One has to look no further than the email from your reader about his tragic health issues after being fired for being gay to know why this whining from Rod Dreher is total crap.”
What I found striking was the ferocious emotional fervor behind Rod’s complaint – even directed toward me, who’s about as pro-religious freedom and anti-victimology as you’ll get in the gay world. The best way I can think of explaining it is Rod’s and others’ pain at being deemed by their peers as some version of Bull Connor, when their perspective is much more nuanced and complicated than that. Sure, some opponents of same-sex marriage are lazy bigots. But some are traditional Christians who simply find the whole concept impossible to square with their existing convictions about marriage and sex. Some are just leery of excessive change. Some worry about unintended consequences. Some are just embarrassed by the whole thing and want it to go away. If the gay community ignores this, and rhetorically bludgeons all our opponents into the simple rubric of “bigots” or “haters”, we truly are engaging in a reverse prejudice of our own.
At the same time, of course, so many of those in favor of marriage equality, especially among the young, simply cannot fathom how someone can rationally be against it. It’s civil marriage, after all. Traditional Christians have long since gotten used to civil divorce. And so the new gay-inclusive majority is placing enormous psychological pressure on Rod and others. The next generation is demanding a reason for the resistance to civil equality for gays – and they cannot get one that makes any sense to them. Absent that, what are they going to believe? Of course they’re going to assume prejudice unless someone comes up with a very good reason for his or her position, especially when they use words like “bully” – a calculated attempt to push back against anti-bullying campaigns in high schools.
That’s why I recommended that Christianists go aggressively into the culture to make the positive case for exclusively procreative heterosexual marriage, and try to explain why preventing gay couples from having basic legal protections would be so terrible. My hunch is that Rod knows this would fail. The Pope hasn’t even been able to convince Catholics of Humanae Vitae. What hope for the heathens? And so the bigot label would stick. And Rod certainly doesn’t subjectively feel like a bigot, and objectively is not with respect to gay friends and acquaintances, as I can attest. So he’s lashing out.
Apart from the complaints of “I’m being persecuted!” (which are a little hard to swallow given that Christianists are successfully pushing and passing legislation that would exempt them from anti-discrimination laws), the complaint here seems to be that those on the side of marriage equality are not willing to listen to their intelligent, principled arguments against same-sex marriage. The truth is that people on side of equal rights are still waiting for such an argument.
Let’s look at Prop 8 in California. The ballot measure won originally because the right repeated the same lies about LGBT people and the LGBT rights movement over and over: child abuse! teaching about homosexual sex in the classroom! won’t somebody think of the children! When asked to provide arguments supporting their position in court, they couldn’t, to the point where their attorney admitted as much. Aside from “the Bible says so!”, the Christianists have nothing.
The case of the accomplished legal scholar in the excerpt from Dreher’s post seems to be more a case of professional censure because of a piss-poor argument. This legal scholar feels he is unable to stand up in a group of his peers and … what, exactly? Revisit the arguments that the Christianist right have been making in court? Announce that he believes same-sex marriage is wrong because the Bible says so? If that’s his position, then I think it’s perfectly appropriate that his peers would criticize his position and (probably) wonder about the fitness of an attorney who clings to such a position in spite of the merits of the arguments for and against. If, for example, I hired an attorney to represent me, and he did all his research, considered all the arguments for and against, then showed up in court and made the kind of arguments that the proponents did in the Prop 8 case, I think that I (as a client) would have very good reason to question his competence (and quite possibly grounds for a malpractice suit).
Reading your reaction to Dreher’s rant, a thought came to my mind that I have pondered often. I agree that many (most?) Christians who disapprove of same-sex marriage are probably not motivated by bigotry, at least not the kind of furious bigotry exhibited by, e.g. white supremacists towards racial minorities. But it astonishes me that Dreher can’t understand why people would be appalled at anti-equality attitudes. He may think it’s just people adhering to their religious faith, but to people like me (pro-equality), those attitudes exhibit a lack of self reflection and empathy that I find disturbing in otherwise intelligent people.
Look, the biblical commands against homosexuality are a few lines in a book that otherwise talks mostly about the proper way to sacrifice beasts, and yet the Christianists are constantly harping on the topic as if the primary focus of Christian belief is some weird and futile goal to eradicate homosexuality. So no, if a colleague tells me that she’s opposed to same-sex marriage on the basis of her religious beliefs, I’m not going to assume that she’s a bigot, but I am going to think her to be hidebound, unreflecting, and a blind adherent to an ideology that she hasn’t bothered to really try to understand. It’s not enough that there are a few lines in the Old Testament to support systemic social injustice against millions of people.