Friday, May 1, 2009

Dead (Gay) Horses, Part II

Amy responded to my most recent gay-marriage rant, and, well, I'd be lying if I said I didn't provoke her from time to time. I enjoy our spats, because they're fervent, if good natured, and rooted in fundamental disagreements about the way the world works, not childish bickering and one-up-manship. She's intelligent, mature, and she almost never sees eye-to-eye with me on moral issues and is therefore occasionally moved to action by my opinions. Here is her response in full, my retort is below.

(Note: Amy posted this in the comments section, so she intended it to be publicly available and I don't feel like I'm breaching any trust by moving it to the main blog thread; indeed, my response was going to be in the comments section as well, but it has grown to regular post-length, so it is now a post--my X-Men misgivings will have to wait until the weekend. Also, the link to her blog was readily available from the comments thread, and I linked from here as a courtesy to my detractors, not as an invitation to hers. She's a friend, and if I find out about anyone flaming her, I'll hire someone to kill you to death!!!)

From Amy:

The opposition to gay marriage is only "easy to debunk" if you're sharing your ideas with people who are as entrenched in postmodern American Unitarian culture as you are... in which case debunking is superfluous because you're preaching to the choir.
Arguments like, "why should I be beholden to your god" are ineffective because they are based on a premise that doesn't exist to a true believer: the possibility that there is such thing as "YOUR god" instead of THE GOD.

See the difference there? If I truly believe the statues of the Christian or Muslim or Jewish faith, then "my" God is THE Ultimate, All Powerful Creator and whether or not YOU believe that doesn't affect its truth. So while you have been granted the freedom to choose your beliefs, shamelessly ignoring God's laws on the basis of disbelief is inexcusable because he's the ultimate authority.

Make sense?

Also, the slippery slope argument kinda falls flat when you consider how many court cases come down to citing "if...then" precedents. Certain sects of Mormons are already using gay marriage to push for polygamy: "If little Sarah can have two mommies, then why can't she have two mommies AND a daddy?" Sounds reasonable, doesn't it? What exactly are you basing your assurance on that inter-species or adult-child marriages are not at issue?

The "50% of marriages end in divorce" thing...I've used that argument myself, but when it comes down to it, it's really just throwing the baby out with the bath water.

I think my comment has now exceeded the length of your post, but in closing, I'll say that I don't get the whole "civil union" thing either. It's either marriage or it isn't, and I don't get how you can support a civil union with marriage rights and not support calling it marriage. Baffles me.

The end.

You argument makes sense, but it doesn't pass its own litmus test: it is based on a premise that doesn't exist to a true nonbeliever. Your belief in the scriptures doesn't make them true any more than my disbelief makes them false. And how gracious of you to grant me the freedom to choose my beliefs, even while you would strip me of the freedom to choose my actions. God has granted me that authority: it's call free will. Likewise, your authority stops at your own life and the lives of your dependents. Disbelief in god is every reason to shamelessly ignore god's laws, and because I have free will, ultimate authority within my own life is mine.

Or, my wife's actually. But only because I do acknowledge her authority. Joking aside, look at it from my perspective: religion, to this day, is used to sanction murder, theft, disregard for the environment, etc. I believe that it promotes ignorance, fosters weakness and that its very existence makes my life more perilous and more difficult. But you will never, NEVER, hear me tell you or anyone else that a person shouldn't be allowed to worship freely, because my authority stops at my own body.

Furthermore, just because something is wrong doesn't mean it should be illegal. Prohibition of alcohol led to widespread organized crime. People who wanted to drink, they drank. And the quality of life in America steeply worsened. The rightness or wrongness of alcohol doesn't even enter into the equation. But, just for the sake of argument, let's assume that you're right, that homosexuality is against god's law and that this matters. The ongoing Christian crusade against homosexuals (which goes far beyond marriage) has resulted in a climate in which gays think of the church as the enemy, as a force of oppression. How, exactly, does that spread the teachings of Jesus? How, exactly, does that lead sinners to Christ? This is the cart-before-horse-mentality that is the fundamental flaw at the heart of any attempt to legislate morality, even with the best of intentions. Keeping sinners from sinning doesn't actually make them any less sinful, it only makes them resentful. Let's be clear. Outlawing same-sex marriage doesn't in any way keep homosexuals from having sex. Not in any way. All it does is drive them away from you, your church, and your god.

For that matter, is same-sex marriage even against god's law? Here's an extreme example: a man named Salim is visiting from Iran on a student visa which is about to expire. He publicly converts to Christianity, which offends his family who place a fatwa on him. If he returns to Iran, he will be killed. The state department doesn't believe him, so they won't grant him asylum, so the only way he can stay in the country is to marry. He's almost out of time and can't find (or afford) an impromptu wife. So a man in the church offers to marry Salim, even though both are straight and they have no intention of ever having sex with each other. You may have noticed that I've switched terminology from "gay marriage" to "same-sex marriage". The reason is that gays are currently allowed to marry, they're just not allowed to marry someone of the same gender. Many, many gay men and women marry and essentially fake a heterosexual marriage because they feel pressured to do so by society. Is it that much of a stretch to think that heterosexuals might, out of necessity, fake a homosexual relationship? If they don't engage in intercourse, have they broken god's law?

Of course that doesn't matter because we disregard god's law all the time. We wear clothing made of more than one fiber, we eat pork (well, I don't, but I'm told people do), we work on the Sundays (punishable by death according to Leviticus). And for an ultimate authority, god sure is wrong an awful lot. The bible condones slavery, which we have outlawed. Jesus condoned self-mutilation as an alternative to sin, which we rightfully frown upon. King David, a man after god's own heart, was a polygamist, having in the neighborhood of 700 wives.

And speaking of... saying that gay marriage leads to polygamy is convenient for the Mormons, but that doesn't make it true. Slippery-slope arguments are equivocations, false choices, straw-man fallacies (the most famous in recent history being the iconic "you're either with us or you're with the terrorists").

As a logical construct it works like this: We assume that if a is true, then b must also be true. Then we assume that b is true--what does that tell us about a? Well, it might be true, or it might not. If b were false, we would know that a was also false, but b being true tells us nothing. Again, look at it from the other side. You couldn't outlaw birth control without also outlawing abortion (a implies b). So let's say you want to outlaw abortion, but someone responds saying that if you outlaw abortion, then that will surely lead to outlawing birth control (b implies a). It's an easy argument to make, but it isn't true.

The truth, as evidenced in so many "if...then" court cases, is that sometimes b leads to a and sometimes it doesn't. And that's really the point; controversial issues are controversial because there is no established, clearly delineated social boundary between what is acceptable and what isn't. The law exists to establish those boundaries, and if the issue is controversial, then you can be certain that the boundary is going to shift. But moving it two feet to the left is not the same thing as moving it eight feet to the left.

In other words, no, I don't believe adult-child marriage or inter-species marriage is at issue, because no one has actually brought them up. When someone attempts to legalize them, then they'll be at issue. Until then, they aren't. And when someone does, I will oppose that as fervently as I support gay marriage, because a child or animal cannot give informed sexual consent, therefore sexual contact within such a marriage would, by definition, constitute rape. That's where I draw the line: marriage implies sex and sex is appropriate if and only if it exists between parties who are capable of informed consent. Gay sex is largely consensual. So I'm told.

Prison movies notwithstanding.



Bill Haworth said...

Not to flame Amy in particular, but all of the right-wing Fundamentalist Christians in general, I thought I'd share some of my thoughts on the issue at hand. First though, a funny story concerning anti-gay sentiments and the person spouting them. Years ago, I went on a trip to Florida to help those fine people with some problems following some hurricanes (Ivan and Jeanne). One of my NCOs, who liked to brag about all the women he picked up in bars and exactly what method he used to keep his wife from getting pregnant, started a rant one day about homosexuals. His argument was that if we let them marry it would destroy marriages. "What would we be teaching our children?" he cried, "how can we keep marriages pure with this kind of behavior going on?"

"You cheat on your wife and you don't want kids, so how can you even utter those arguments with a straight face?" I replied. Apparently, introspection was not on the agenda when he was getting force-fed his mores and values.

Anyway, I've come to realize that "gay" is the new "nigger", in a variety of non-literal senses and relations, and it all stems from the facts that most people who claim to be Christians don't really want to follow his teachings (love, peace, caring) but that of his father in the Old Testament (war, hatred, smite the unbelievers), as it is far easier to despise someone than it is to reach out to them and understand. Remember, children of Christ (Christians) should follow the New Testament's teachings, not the Old Testament's. Otherwise, you're more of a Jew or a Muslim than you are a Christian.

And don't get me started on the Catholics.

Amy said...

Ok, I had this long reply composed, and I assure you it was really brilliant, life-altering material (eyeroll) but I realized that every point I dealt with basically came back around to the same thing: the ability to separate "allowing" something with "supporting" it.

Because the real issue here is not whether you think Christians etc should SUPPORT homosexuality, but rather that they should not stand in the way of others ability to pursue it in its various forms... right?

But the problem is the inability of (some) people to separate allowing gay marriage with supporting it. In the circles I hear this discussion from, a vote to allow is the same as condoning the practice.

You can (so you say) support a person's ability to worship as they please without actually feeling as though you're supporting religion in any form.

As another example, I view pornography in, I imagine, much the same way as you view religion. IMO, society would be better off without it because of the negative effects it has on people, their relationships and their grasp on reality. Yet I support the industry's freedom to produce it and an adult's freedom to consume it. Because I can separate "allowing it" from "supporting it."

But sometimes that's not the case. For some reason, it seems Christians etc. have a much harder time making that separation with same-sex marriage. At this point, I can't put my finger on exactly why this is.

There are times when I think allowing and supporting are synonymous. Abortion is one of those issues for me. I'm betting that something like adult-child marriage would be one of those issues for you.

In most Christian circles, same-sex marriage falls into the latter category...which I can't really explain because it seems to be more of a "feeling" thing than a "logic" thing.

But the point is, if you can come up with a way to convince the Right that allowing same-sex marriage is entirely separate from supporting it, you'd probably win over some votes.

Now I'm going to shut down my computer before we get washed away by the thunderstorming monsoon that's hitting right now.

Kurt said...

@Amy - you are absolutely right, my big issue is not that you should embrace it and celebrate it, but that you shouldn't try to forbid it. I'm not asking anyone to approve of homosexuality (although, obviously, I would prefer it if everyone did), but I strongly object to anyone treating anyone else like a second-class citizen.

Amy said...

Just out of curiosity, if giving everyone equal marriage opportunity required you to publicly vote for Rush Limbaugh for US President and give a support speech for him, which would you choose?

Kurt said...

Would you renounce god to get into heaven?

Kurt said...

Serious answer:

No. Short-run productive, long-run counter-productive.

Amy said...

Would you say then that your inability to reconcile/support another person's ideology might take precedence over your desire to expand civil rights?

Kurt said...

No, I meant exactly what I said. Rush Limbaugh is anti-immigration, anti-poor, and generally pretty mistaken about what's good for America. He doesn't even agree with his stance on drug abuse (as evidenced by his own actions). It's not a case of "I disagree with him" it's that I honestly view his ideology as bad for America. I genuinely believe that it would be worse for civil rights to have him in charge than it would be good for civil rights to legalize gay marriage. And it's not like gay marriage would stay legal very long if he were president anyway.

Unless what you're suggesting is that, hypothetically, the two would be mutually exclusive (i.e., the only way to legalize gay marriage would be to stump for Rush). In that case, I dunno, I suppose I'd have to, but I wouldn't feel too good about it. Maybe I wouldn't. Maybe I'd decide that I value my word and my good name more than I value the rights of others. It's hard to know when you're not in that moment.

Honestly I'm not too worried about it because such a situation is not possible. It's like asking me if I would rather have sex with David Duchovney or Bea Arthur's corpse. It's illustrative of nothing and pretty worthless outside the schoolyard. But suppose I said, conclusively, "no". What have you proved? Nothing.

Think about it this way: if someone asked you to confirm your address so he could go to your home and torture and murder your family, you would break the 9th commandment (i.e., lie, for those of you playing at home) without regret or hesitation. And I'd be very surprised if you didn't break the 6th commandment as well. Is that situation ever going to come up? Of course not. Does that mean your love for your family outweighs your trust in god? I suppose it would.

Does that invalidate your faith or your ideals?

Amy said...

You're right, it's kind of a bogus question because at face value it's an impossible scenario. I was trying to get you to think outside the situation as you currently see it, and that's what I came up with on the spot. (I agree with your assessment of old Rush, BTW.)

But the POINT of the question was to get you to imagine a situation in which taking a step to uphold a principle you believe in would NECESSITATE renouncing the truths and values you hold as part of the core of your person. And if that happens, which side wins?

Because as I mentioned previously, a lot of Christians find it impossible to separate allowing gay marriage from supporting it. Which puts them in that spot. And what it comes down to is, staying true to their core beliefs is not negotiable, even at the expense of other people.