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Technomancer and troubleshooter by trade. Programmer by choice. Creator of Deviant Paradigm, somewhat by accident.
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Thursday, January 12, 2006
The Big Gay Post
Considering both my recent conversations and the sudden wealth of other blog topics I've read on this recently, it is fated that I now endeavor on my big gay post. I say that in jest, though it should also be truth. This will be an enormously long post, and it concerns homosexuality. As it happens, most of my friends are liberal, excluding Luke, who is certainly farther Right than I, and Jonathan, who I think is more centrist. I've noted that they, and liberals in general, do not really understand conservatives -- to forestall negative comments before I actually get to things to disagree with, we conservatives don't understand liberal thought either. So, to help with this, I'm going to explain my own perspectives on homosexuality and gay marriage, detail how my intensely rational mind has distilled the most of the base conservative opposition to gay marriage (this is remarkably misunderstood, by both liberals and conservatives), offer some suggestions (what can I say, I'm a bit of a demagogue), and possibly even get into the meanings of Wrong and Evil and how the two are very different from each other.
First, to lay things down, I am, as one ass I ran into in the elevator landing felt necessary to state, "queer bait." To digress for a moment, I wish the President would authorize me to bash in people's knees with a bat, but only if they really deserved it. Kind of an NSA wiretap thing, only with physical pain. I'll keep out of that mess right now, I'm too cynical to believe that we have much of anything regarding privacy, especially concerning the electronic world. (The FBI and the NSA might read your email, but if you're a GMail user, Google does. And yet, who do we care about? But to get back to what I'm actually trying to talk about...) It's a sad fact of life that my style is not appreciated by many heterosexuals of my gender. Fortunately, I have never gotten a bad comment on it from women, or, to be more general and prove the ass' point, anyone who is attracted to men. I am actually eagerly anticipating someone calling me a homophobe. I can't wait. Because I'll just bring Sapph over and then laugh in their face. But what are my views? Well, as a conservative Christian (Lutheran, LCMS, if you really want to know the score) I disagree with homosexuality on a moral basis. In fact, President Bush and I agree completely on homosexuality. Now, you can spam me hate comments on this if you'd like, but I'd appreciate it if you'd actually research what his view on it is first. I won't bother putting up a link, you can just google this, it's veracity will quickly become evident. When asked about homosexuality, Bush has said, "Hey, we're all sinners." For some reason, people seem to focus on the 'sinners' bit and take offense. Actually this is some of the most tolerant language you could hope for from someone who believes that what you do is morally objectionable. It's not that he called gays "sinners," it's that he called everyone sinners. It's a truly Christian perspective. We all have sinned, are sinning. I know I do a lot of morally objectionable things during every day. I'm a sinner for sure. What it means is that we're no different. What you do is wrong, what I do is wrong. Neither is more wrong. Homosexuality is not one of those sins that God will not forgive, regardless of what some Catholic priests evidently believe, this Lutheran has never read that sort of language in the Bible. Ever. (Paul gets close in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 but then mentions forgiveness in verse 11.) And since we're all sinners, we're all in the same boat. According to the Bible, we're all sinful by nature. By nature -- that means from beginning to end. You don't get to be any more sinful by default than I am, even if you're gay. This is regardless to how you feel. Some of our crosses are far heavier to bear, and gays have it about the toughest. All of that said, I'll get hate comment spam from other Christians too -- I might be a bad Christian for it, but I have prayed that my gay friends find someone to be with. I hate to see my friends unhappy. I don't happen to think God holds their homosexuality against them any more than any of the terrible things that I do and am. Through my conversations, mostly with Sapph, I've come to the understanding that homosexuality isn't necessarily a choice. It might be something that some people kind of decide to do, but for others, it's simply the way they're wired. I won't go as far as saying there's such thing as a "gay gene" (in fact, I can make a pretty good biological argument against such a thing), however it is obvious that some people simply are homosexuals. While, due to my theology, I view homosexuality as wrong I do not believe that homosexuals are, by their nature, evil. In fact, I think that is a patently ridiculous notion. And considering that my theology also considers many of the things I do and am as wrong, I am certainly in no position to condemn them. Hell, I'd probably be lumped in the same group had the situation come up (homosexuality generally gets put with other forms of sexual immorality, including fornication, which I, given my track record with temptation, would almost assuredly be unable to resist had I ever had a willing girlfriend). You could always think of it this way -- if Jesus were to show up in the US right now, He'd be hanging out with the gays, the prostitues, the porn stars, the alcoholics, the swindlers, and the con artists. Folks like Pat Robertson would get those vaguely snide remarks from Him that He used to describe the Pharisees. If the Bible wasn't so specific concerning how marriage is intended, I wouldn't have much of a leg to stand on. But though I don't necessarily support gay marriage from a moral standpoint, I might have been able to be talked into it from a legal standpoint. Of course, I've long felt that the gay marriage issue was ruined for gays by their own leadership.
I've seen it as a problem of semantics, timing, and image. It is very hard to make people change or do things differently than the way they always have done unless there is a clear reason to. If I recall correctly, we didn't have a Catholic President until JFK. We have yet to have a black or female President. People as a group, including the American public, don't like to change. Change must be one of two things to be successful. Gradual or ignited. Civil rights worked because they could ignite popular opinion. And even then, how long did it take for the civil rights movement to actually ignite? I'd guess somewhere in the vicinity of a hundred years. Homosexuals have been a viable minority group for only about thirty years, before that they were considered "perverts" and "predators." Now we are at the point where they are accepted to some degree or another and in a generation or two will be as accepted as the wildly xenophobic human animal is capable. Not bad for thirty years of work. But not long enough to gain full acceptance yet. So you would need to have a spark to ignite the mass behind you. This is where the recent American push for tolerance and acceptance backfired. There's a lot of sentiment to tolerate homosexuality, preventing most of the wild or horrific events that could galvanize the nation as they did for the civil rights movement. So you have to act gradually to enact change. I can't really blame homosexuals for wanting marriage immediately, however. I'd have played the game a little slower, but barring that, the second mistake was semantics. When you're facing a large group that opposes change, their best bet would have been to never ever ever, even when discussing it amongst themselves, used the word "marriage." It's too loaded. They would have been much better proposing something that was legally equivalent to marriage, but gone to lengths to state that it is not marriage. There'd still be a fight, but it wouldn't be nearly as vicious, and I think it would be winnable. Then twenty years down the road, when it's settled law and accepted, merge it into marriage, because, after all, they're functionally identical. The other problem is one of image. Most of the most vocal homosexual activists can't make themselves obviously gay enough. They have to be different and show the world their difference. Let me tell you, there is a wide gap between some of the garbage they pull and simply living your life publicly without shame. It also apparently never occured to them that simple thing that any public speaking coach or psycologist will tell you -- if you want to persuade someone of something, it is in your interest to make yourself as close to them as possible, even to the point of mirroring their mannerisms. It puts them at ease and much more receptive to your words. Making yourself as different as is possible tends to turn people away and takes the focus away from your words.
Now that I'm covered, what about those other conservatives? Why all the abject fear regarding gay marriage in what is called the religious Right? You may have seen the email making the rounds (and posted at PVP (scroll down the page just a bit)) which is supposed to examine the views of conservatives on it. I'm going to cherry pick from it to make my points, both because it covers most of the points people are concerned about (at least the strawman ones) and also because it's more poorly reasoned than the points it's trying to refute (I think "reasoning by false analogy" takes the cake for the logical fallacy used most often in the email, but the logic in the email is really terrible throughout -- I know it's trying to be funny, but with a serious topic like this, when so many people will take it seriously, there needs to be some responsibility at least to have logical arguments in it). Oh, and to get this out of the way, I have yet to meet a conservative who doesn't think Pat Robertson is full of garbage. Honestly, if someone where to hit him in the head with a hammer in front of a batch of conservatives, our only comment would likely be "can you use a bigger hammer?" The man is an idiot. Scrappleface might be satire, but it sure seems accurate sometimes. If you're wondering why he gets on the news so much even though he's a massive moron spouting crap faster than a kitchen disposal with the motor reversed, I figure it's because the media has their own agenda, but that's something for a different post.
*sigh* Vacuous reasoning. This is only half the story -- using only a few data samples and claiming it's representative is a nice logical fallacy. I can call it reasoning by false analogy too. Americans have also rejected horrible things like bestiality as unnatural and wrong (yes, I'm choosing an extreme example, just like the email writer, no, I don't know any gays who think bestiality is okay -- we all agree that it's unnatural and wrong). Sure, my example is out there, and no I don't consider homosexuality to be morally equivalent to bestiality. Moral equivalence is the hobgoblin of Leftist minds (and passing judgement is probably the hobgoblin of Rightist minds *grin*). I'm just saying, there are things that Americans do reject as unnatural. My life has been decidedly improved by unnatural things like eyeglasses (obviously), polyester, and air conditioning. Proving that my life has been improved by homosexuality is much more difficult to do. This is not to say that it is impossible, just that it is much more difficult. Of course, this is actually a "gay-bashing" point, having only a little to do with gay marriage itself. As I've stated above, I'm not unsupportive of gays and their right to exist as free people. I may think it's unnatural, from a biological perspective at least, but the humans do a lot of unnatural things -- some of which we approve of and some of we do not.
Reasoning by false analogy. Just as homosexuality isn't entirely a lifestyle that people choose, it's not entirely a physical property either. Your views and opinions, and even your own feelings regarding other people are affected greatly by the company you keep. It's not just heterosexuals who think it's possible to "turn people gay." Homosexuality isn't just something you're born into. I admitted above that it is not only a learned behavior, and in some, if not most, cases, homosexuals are that way naturally. Here I'm going to state that just because many, if not most, are born to it, does not mean that all homosexuals have always been homosexual. For some, they acquired it. Since this is possible, it's understandable that some, especially parents, will be afraid for their children, not because they hate gays or hate the idea of their children being gay but because they tend to associate homosexuality with some very unhappy situations -- it's a damn hard road as far as I've ever heard -- and they want to spare their children the pain.
The reason the email can make this point is because the issue is often expressed by conservatives as a logical fallacy: a slippery slope. The real issue is actually a rhetorical question that seems to always be forgotten to be added at the end. While I would cynically caution that one never knows what the animal rights activists can acheive, that's rather beside the point. Conservatives have often suggested that legalizing gay marriage will inevitably lead to the legalization of bigamy and even bestiality. This argument is generally given as a slippery slope. Yes, it's silly. Anyone who actually thinks using their brain can tell you that. I won't insult anyone's intelligence by suggesting such a thing like this is true. The real point of the argument is always left off. It's not that gay marriage will lead to such things, it's that once we've redrawn the rules, what do we have to prevent other exceptions? How do we draw the line? How do we say, "well, we compromised our ideals to let Stan and Frank get married, but no, this time we're standing firm, Robert, Lorriane, Samantha, and Barry can't all get married to each other, and John and Fido can't get married either" without sounding vacuous? It's an internal question, a rhetorical wondering of how to draw lines without drawing them too broadly, that is virtually always misrepresented as a ridiculous statement of causation.
While I'll admit, there's a lot more Biblical support for outlawing divorce than there is for preventing gay marriage, argument is comparing apples and oranges. Just because changes have been made, that doesn't mean that more must be. The other thing I'd suggest is that this falls into "timing" again. Exactly how long did it take for divorce to be accepted as common place or for interracial marriage to be accepted or women to have equal rights? In some places, interracial marriage still isn't tolerated particularly well. And we're talking about groups that have been accepted in society to a large degree for over hundreds of years (well over a hundred anyway). Gays have been accepted as gays and not something worse for only about thirty. Let's be serious. Change happens slowly.
I'm against those sorts of ridiculous celebrity excursions too. We worry about the sanctity of marriage because the Bible regards homosexuality as a sin. We do the same thing for bigamy, fornication, adultery... We think all of these things damage the sanctity of marriage. We think marriage is a lifetime thing. In that regard, the gays I know who want to be able to marry are more understanding of the original intent of marriage than Spears. I'd support them getting married over her. This is an error by the "two wrongs make a right" logical fallacy, by the way. Just because Spears did something that we disagree with concerning marriage doesn't mean that others should be able to do what they want with it too. In fact, it's just an argument to make it much more difficult for anyone to get married and divorced (or get the marriage annulled), not that we should be more open with the institution. Please don't try to use this example to support gay marriage; it will blow up in your face.
I actually used to use the argument this refutes as a quick and dirty way to pull the religion out of the issue. Of course, I also admitted that it was logically inconsistent and challenged those who were listening to me to find the problems with it, a task which they were easily up to. This is obviously a very poor objection to gay marriage. As an aside, the email writer doesn't know what they're talking about regarding children. The US is at population sustainability birth rate. And I'm sorry, I lost the link for that one. Maybe our intrepid wordsmith should go talk to the Russians, who have terrible (like death spiral sort of terrible) problem with a birth rate that is a long way from supporting their country.
What? What in the hell does this have to do with anything at all? No conservative I've ever spoken to is afraid of this. We might think homosexuality is morally objectionable, and we may be concerned that homosexuals will have a difficult time raising children capable of healty relationships (see below, and I'm more than willing to admit that it's paranoid and probably delusional of us to think so in the first place), but that gay parents will raise gay children? We're worried because homosexuals have an unfortunate history of multiple partners and fractured relationships, things that we don't think are healthy for children, whether they're born into a homosexual or heterosexual version of that sort of situation. Ironically, gay marriage might help that out quite a bit.
This one just pisses me off. Gay marriage isn't supported by many (possibly most) religions, in point of fact; I think we're all fortunate that the one most prevalent in this nation doesn't support stoning homosexuals. We're supposed to love them instead. Just try having this sort of dialog in the Gaza Strip. Hamas just aren't big on the whole gay rights thing at all. Anyway, you'd be mighty surprised how many decisions have been made simply because the values of religion were important to the people making the decision. For example, you don't think the slave trade stopped by itself do you? The values of religion have shaped an awful lot in the country, but we're a long way from a theocracy. I know you're trying to be funny, but it's just coming out as needlessly offensive.
Foolish. This statement has never been made by conservatives. What we say is that children are most likely to succeed in the environment of the nuclear family with a male and a female role model at home. While the hand-waving, smoke-and-mirrors point the email tries to ascribe is obviously false and dumb as hell, the actual conservative opinion is much more difficult to refute. Children can and will do well in any home where they are loved and cared for and taught what is right (even from a very general sense -- don't judge people, don't kill them, don't steal -- the stuff just about everybody agrees is good), and they'll often do well in homes where they're not. The reason we like there to be a good role model of each sex at home is to demonstrate to the children how to have healthy relationships. We worry sometimes that this will be more difficult for homosexuals, but you know, personally, I've always seen this as one of the weaker points against gays anyway. I'm not sure how rigorous the adoption process is (would some of my adopted friends care to explain any to us?) so I'm not sure how much gay marriage affects gay adoption regardless.
I really don't know what the point of this one is. Yes, it would change the foundations of society, and yes society can adapt. The actual question is do we want to change the foundation of society not can society handle having its foundations changed. This is a very important distinction.
In the end, the real issue is that so many conservatives oppose gay marriage as they see it as legitimizing something that they believe is wrong. It is generally seen as something along the lines as legalizing racial profiling. Arguments can be made for it, but if you think it's wrong, you will oppose it no matter the arguments made. You don't want it to be considered "okay" by society. There's a difference between shrugging and saying, "to some extent it will always be present," and saying, "it's fine for it to happen as much as anybody wants." This is not a perfect analogy, but, to some extent at least, that is the heart and soul of the conservative opposition. Of course, heaven forbid we inflict our own morality on anyone, so other reasons have to be made up. Some of these reasons are better than others and some of them are just insane, but that's true of any issue (think of something like affirmative action, for example). People are bound to end up offended on both sides of the issue. This is a very hot moral topic, something that many people consider to be an excuse to throw away their brains and just spout nonsense. And I say that concerning both conservatives (often especially conservatives in the case of gay marriage) and liberals.
Best bet for homosexuals now, at least in my opinion: play "softly, softly." Emphasize that you are ordinary people, just like the rest of us, falling in love. Point out how unfair it is, from a legal standpoint, and from the standpoint of delegitimizing the feelings you have for each other. Do not scream for more rights, or try to demand them. Too loud and people will shut you out. Stay controlled. State that all you really want is equal legal status for your relationship and for people to recognize your love for each other. Do your best to be nonthreatening and blend in. I don't mean to lose your identity, just don't feel you have to go out of your way to show that you're different. All the gays I've met have been nice, ordinary folks, the sort of people you can get along with and support. Somehow, they're being led by loud, militant psychos that frighten normal people (including normal gays) and make heterosexuals very resistant to supporting anything that they put forward. And I think everybody can agree, we don't need loud, militant psychos in charge on either side of the aisle. I really do wish homosexuals the best of luck with this. They have a hard battle coming up, but virtually nothing worth having is easy, and I think they'll agree that marriage is worth having. I may not support their side, but I can respect their arguments.
You may now unleash the attack dogs. *grin*