Jesurgislac’s Journal

August 25, 2010

On the comparison of torture with equal marriage

Republicans Must Not Support Gay Marriage

Based on an actual post by a conservative blogger who was against torture in 2004, but who by 2009 was comparing the evils of allowing gay marriages to be federally recognized to the evils of allowing people to be tortured.

satire begins, for the sake of those without an irony-detector

I generally support the 9/11 Commission Bill [I suppose I could have picked out another piece of legislation, but it suited my sense of irony to pretend that we live in an alternate universe, where Republicans had decided to support gay marriage as a weapon in their War On Terror - which makes as much sense as supporting torture]. However, Sections 3032 and 3033 are very disturbing. They make it very easy for the US to accept gay marriages performed in other countries in order to allow such people to get married in that country.

I strongly believe in the principle of policing your own. I am a Republican and a regular advocate for the Republican Party. You should consider this post a kind of ‘toughlove’. As such I have some harsh words for the sponsors of this bill. This portion of the bill is morally, ethically, and politically wrong. It may be that you did not know all of what you were sponsoring (the bill is 300+ pages). But you should know now, and you should take action to change it.

There are so many things wrong with the idea of allowing gay marriage that I hardly know where to start.

First, it is wrong to treat people that way.

Second, these rules involve gay people. It is bad enough that we sometimes allow the wrong people to get married. Can we live with ourselves as a nation if we have condemned innocent men to get married to each other? If the French experience with PACS is any guide, the regularization of gay marriage causes an explosion of men getting married. They moved from the low hundreds to the thousands in just one year. That would likely involve at least a hundred innocent men getting married.

Third, it is a well understood conservative principle that people tend to push past the bounds of the legally permissible. Even though we have banned the use of gay marriage in our country, the line between gay marriage and non-marriage is still skirted from time to time. Overzealous gay people sometimes go a bit further than we allow. If we move the line to allow for gay marriages performed elsewhere, where will those who go a bit further go? They will go to using a person’s children against them. They will send a man and his wife to these other countries so both can be forced into same-sex marriages. I can’t predict exactly how it will work. But I know for a fact, and you do too if you think about it, that gay people push the line and push it hard. If we move the line so far as to allow gay people to go to other countries to get married, the actuality will go even further. You should also note that such exporting of gay marriage will never be under the classic ‘ticking bomb’ scenario which is sometimes used to justify gay marriage. If we have time to send them to another country, the information isn’t so crucial as a ‘ticking bomb’.

Fourth, gay marriage is rarely more effective than other marriages. Why open ourselves up to such horrors without even a payoff?

Fifth, for those not convinced by the above, it is politically stupid. This plays into all the left-wing fears about conservative blindness to the problems of the gay system. It makes all the whining about a ‘gay state’ look a bit less crazy. It provides a perfect example of willingness to abandon our country’s principles in the war on terrorism. Voters want tough, but they do not want crazy. We are at a crucial stage in a vital campaign. Throwing it all away by playing into every swing voter’s concerns about Republicans possibly going too far is just plain stupid. So if your heart is hardened to the moral implications, at least pay attention to the political implications.

My message to Republican leaders is this, either listen to the moral implications, or at least learn Dan Rather’s lesson. The blogosphere is beginning to focus its attention on this issue. Look at the number of trackbacks to katherine’s post. It isn’t just going away. Put it to rest now. Admit that you hadn’t fully thought through the implications of this small section of the bill and move on. It would be the height of foolishness to risk the American public’s backing for the War on Terror on a practice which is both highly immoral and typically unhelpful. We are going to have to steel the public’s nerves for a lot of things to come in the future. It would be a shame to waste time and energy defending the unhelpful and indefensible instead of dealing with other issues which are highly useful to the war and merely tough to defend.

August 13, 2010

Five ways to talk to the religious right about marriage

This post was inspired by Five Ways To Talk To The Left About Same-Sex Marriage, by Eric Pavlat, and the discussion thread that followed.

The “religious right” in this instance may be Catholic or Evangelical or Baptist… as I noted to Pavlat in his post, “the left” in his definition would include Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. The post which led me to Pavlat’s had already used the title Five Ways To Talk to the Other Side About Same-sex Marriage, or I might have used that.

1. Bear in mind that pretty much everything these people know about homosexuality or transgender identity is wrong.

If you want to know the kind of stuff they’ve been told is The Truth About Homosexuality, the Friendly Atheist blog recently paid for two people to attend an AFTAH event and hear the kind of stuff being said and write an outline of it post-event: but for example: Pride events are portrayed as public orgies in which people have “dangerous sex” right on the street. (This is the kind of thing that would only make sense to people who have not only never attended a Pride rally or march as participant, but also have never had one held in their home town.) And being gay or lesbian is “caused” by having been molested by an older gay or lesbian person: for a more detailed account of how this kind of unspeakably cruel lie is promoted to the homophobic parents of LGBT children, see Love Won Out.

Also, right at the start: in eleven countries round the world same-sex couples can already marry: in about twenty more same-sex couples can register a civil union with rights equivalent to marriage: and in none of them has the freedom to marry led to any of the awful consequences which the anti-marriage activists evoke.

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March 2, 2010

Catholic Charities reminds employees that promoting homophobia more important than caring for the sick

CEO of Catholic Charities to staff: “I am writing to you to inform you of an important change to our group health care benefit plan that will take effect on March 2, 2010 due to a change in the law of the District of Columbia. It is important to note that the existing health coverage of current employees will not be affected by the change. New employees and current employees requesting revisions in benefit coverage will be affected by this change.” – Letter from Catholic Charities president and CEO to staff

Because same-sex couples will be able to get married, and because Catholic Charities are not allowed to offer health care coverage to spouses in mixed-sex marriages only, they have the choice of denying health care to all spouses who become eligible to join the plan after 2nd March – which will bar all couples in same-sex marriages, as they won’t be able to get married until after that date – or continue to offer health-care coverage to all spouses, even if that means some lurking closety gay spouse of an employee of Catholic Charities finds himself the recipient of health care that the Catholic Church believes he does not deserve.

Which are the two great precepts of Charity and the seven Corporal Works of Mercy?
1. ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God hate gay people with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind, and with thy whole strength’.
2. ‘Thou shalt love promote homophobia to thy neighbour as to thyself’.

1. To feed the hungry except for queers;
2. To give drink to the thirsty except for queers;
3. To clothe the naked except for queers;
4. To harbour the harbourless except for queers;
5. To care for the sick promote homophobia;
6. To visit the imprisoned except for queers;
7. To bury the dead except for queers.

This isn’t even their first-response reaction to finding out they’d have to act like they thought gay people deserved health care as much as straights do: on 17th February the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington formally announced that they believe promoting homophobia is more important than caring for children, too.

You have to wonder: how long can the Catholic Church go on promoting the idea that for Catholics homophobia is a core value which comes before everything else? Mormons got away with promoting the idea that racism is a core value for their faith for well over a century: does this mean Catholicism will be able to push homophobia as a required doctrine into the 2080s?

I hope not, but there is a positive side here: prior beliefs claimed by Catholics that corporeal works of mercy mattered led to Catholic charities becoming heavily involved in social services, with their own pro-lifer tweaks and biases helping to promote pro-life beliefs among the helpless. If the Catholic Church is now taking the position that promotion of homophobia comes before everything else, and therefore it must refuse to provide social services where it is not allowed to promote homophobia, maybe this will mean a gradual drawing away of the power of the Catholic Church to affect society negatively?

It’s ugly, though. There isn’t really an upside. The power of a strong Church determined that its followers shall promote bigotry as a core value of their faith is just… ugly.

December 11, 2009

This is what Republicans think of families

A lot of Republican politicians trade heavily on being “family values” politicians. By which they mean, they support a ban on same-sex couples marrying and a ban on the children of same-sex couples having two legal parents.

What they don’t mean by “family values” is any support for actual families, living together and supporting each other, caring for their children.

If you’ve ever talked to an anti-marriage activist, you generally find that while they’re willing to admit that same-sex couples exist, they are utterly unwilling to acknowledge that they have children: they are too busy carrying a big sign that says in large friendly lying letters that they want to PROTECT children, to think for a moment about the children their bans on marriage and adoption and their promotion of homophobia in schools are attacking. For them, those children are invisible, inaudible, unwanted problems who should never have been born. (About six months ago I had a depressing series of discussions with Renaissance Guy, one of the breed of right-wing “Christians” who hold it to be an essential tenet of their faith to promote legal discrimination against same-sex couples and their children: RG is far from the only such religionist to believe that homophobia is more central to Christianity than caring for children, he just runs a more open blog than most of his co-religionists.)

I’ve been convinced for years that homophobic, racist, and misogynistic bigotry are all growths from the same root, but I’ve been becoming more and more convinced recently that class discrimination is tied in with this too: see the post I wrote a year ago about the attitude that only wealthy families can have fine children (Persephone embraces Hades).

In the Seattle Times this week (Via, via) there’s a fresh example of children officially determined not to exist because of Republican policies.

On the face of it, a “family values” politician ought to have thought well of a woman like Rachel Porcaro: a single mom, granted, no husband around to help support her two kids, which must be one strike against her, but: She’d moved to live with her parents: she was working and taking care of her kids. A family: grandparents, mom, and kids.

But: Rachel Porcaro earned only $18,992 a year. In Seattle, that put her and her two sons below the poverty line. And, she got the “earned income tax credit” which is tax relief for the working poor. Republicans – those “family values” politicians – call that “welfare by the back door”. When the Republicans were in control of Congress, a head-of-family in receipt of earned income tax credit was more than twice as likely to get audited than the rest of the 140 million American taxpayers. Apparently the Republicans would prefer it if a woman like Rachel Porcaro was on welfare, rather than being a working single mom earning barely enough to get by on: tax audits are bitterly discouraging. Granted poor people may commit tax fraud as well as wealthy people, but auditing poor people more than wealthy people is a thoroughly backwards way of going about it – unless you care more for protecting the wealthy and penalizing the poor than you do about actually recovering money from tax cheats.

Not the end of the story, though. Rachel Porcaro’s children were declared non-children by the IRS. She was earning so little they decided she couldn’t claim them as tax dependents: and they disallowed any other claim because there weren’t enough receipts to prove she – or their grandparents – were keeping them in food and clothing.

Republicans claim they’re pro-family. Rightwing Christians claim they’ll vote Republican because they believe in protecting families and children. But these imaginary ideals somehow evaporate into poison gas when they’re faced with the real families, the actual children, directly and visibly harmed by right-wing policies and Republican politicians.

July 9, 2009

We “love” you: we just don’t want you in the pool with us!

It’s been in the news recently: a private sports club in Philadelphia which accepted a fee of $1900 for the children of Creative Steps summer camp to swim in their pool one day a week for the summer – but after the first day the kids showed up, returned the fee and told Creative Steps they shouldn’t come back.

Why? Well, the sports club president John Duesler says: “There was concern that a lot of kids would change the complexion … and the atmosphere of the club.” The kids of Creative Steps were black. The Valley Swim Club was, covertly until this week, whites only. (They’re so disturbed by news of their very public racism, that their website www.thevalleyclub.com has now been replaced with a message denying everything.)

There’s a happy ending to this story: not only did the kids of Creative Steps get offered an alternative swimming venue by Girard College, a local ice-cream store, Gumdrops and Sprinkles, gave them a day of free candy and ice-cream making. So the kids may have learned that rich white people can be mean as knives, not wanting to share what they have in case it’s “polluted”, but they’ve also got the message that most people are not like that.

What does this kind of petty prejudice – we aren’t sharing our facilities with you – remind me of? Why, the changing the definition of marriage argument: the don’t let same-sex couples get married elsewhere and think they can be recognised as married at home argument; the don’t let corporations think they can buy advertising in gay magazines argument; the don’t let schools teach children to love and respect each other argument; the teach homophobia and promote self-hatred argument. It’s all much the same, but on a much wider scale: these bigots are splashing and screaming that they want the queers out of their pool.

Marriage in their view is not about pledging to love, to honour, and to cherish the one your love till death to you part; it’s not a civil right necessary to the orderly pursuit of happiness, as the Supreme Court decreed 42 years ago; marriage is a privilege, a strictly limited pool, and allowing lesbians and gays in the pool will “change the complexion of the club”.

Slacktivist wrote in May last year:

Imagine, for example, that California’s legislature had passed a law stating that the Irish were forbidden from getting driver’s licenses. Such a discriminatory law would have been quickly voided by the courts. Anti-Irish bigots would have decried that ruling as “judicial activism,” but that’s an epithet, not an argument. The state’s constitution simply will not tolerate new law that attempts to exclude particular classes of people from the same rights and protections available to everyone else. Voters might well respond to the court’s decision by passing a ballot measure redefining a “driver” as a “non-Irish person,” and thus excluding by semantics those whom the constitution did not previously allow them to exclude by statute, but I can’t imagine the courts finding this transparent ploy convincing. This hypothetical anti-Irish proposition wouldn’t be any more constitutional or legitimate than the shamefully non-hypothetical anti-gay Proposition 8 is.
…..
Supporters of Proposition 8 were forced to resort to Lying for Jesus — pastors will be jailed! your church will be forced to conduct gay weddings! your organist may become even more flamboyant! — because they weren’t able to articulate any honest basis for opposing this right as an equal right. The ‘vixen and I got our marriage license on the same day that George Takei and Brad Altman got theirs. The wedding of George and Brad neither picked my pocket nor broke my leg, so what possible cause would I have had to object to it? What reason would I have to deny George and Brad the same happiness that my wife and I were permitted to enjoy? Such exclusion makes no sense unless we appeal to some imagined grave consequences such as those dreamed up by the Liars for Christ.

And here again we see that basing policy on imaginary fears and imaginary grave consequences leads to different, but very real, grave consequences. When we choose to make laws based on imaginary fears, we see our own rights reduced to mere privileges. This is what always happens when we place fear on the throne.

This fear – that if the black kids are allowed to swim in the same pool with the white kids, the “atmosphere” will change: that where two men or two women are able to marry, this “changes the definition of marriage”, dovetails in my mind with a parable Fred retold earlier this year: the workers in the vineyard. These people are not content to enjoy their own orderly pursuit of happiness – you feel (I do) they are terrified that other people are somehow getting away with something. Rather than taking joy in their own marriage (if they can) and at least ignoring the people getting married in a way they don’t approve of, they grumble “These couples who were wed recently worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.”

“Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?”

Yes. Yes, they are.

July 7, 2009

Bigots or sociopaths?

Two people meet, fall in love, decide to get married, decide to have children together: what could be more humanly understandable?

Christians who oppose same-sex marriage or same-sex parents or who promote anti-gay discrimination in other ways, usually come across as inhuman, because they really appear not to understand what’s so very human.

“Lesbians and gays have equal rights – they can just get married to a person of the opposite sex, just like straight people do”

What this says, unpacked, is that your Christian advocate against same-sex marriage really believes that marriage isn’t anything to do with making a lifelong committment to the one person in the world whom you have chosen to love, honour, cherish and live with to the end of both your days – marriage is just a legal emotionless contract where anyone will do so long as they’re the right gender. This isn’t just unChristian – it’s inhuman. It’s sociopathic. The notion that people are interchangable – just pieces in a game where what matters is not the individual but the gender – is something completely off from normal humanity.

The usual argument brought forward to support opposition to same-sex marriage is that a same-sex couple “can’t have children”, which actually makes it even worse: marriage has now become a means merely of producing babies which are biologically the offspring of husband and wife, and any couple who aren’t biologically capable of producing babies together ought not to be allowed to get married. In this scenario, marriage has nothing to do with parenting children together, nothing to do with children growing up sheltered and protected by a loving and committed relationship – it’s purely and solely about biological fertility.

A same-sex couple can of course have children: either by AID or by surrogacy, or by adoption or fostering, or step-children from a previous marriage. These are ways in which mixed-sex couples have children too. But legally, while there are countries in which a spouse can divorce their wife or husband for being infertile, in practice it is only these anti-gay Christians who advocate that a couple ought to separate and find other partners if they can’t have children together and still wan them.

Arguments against same-sex marriage have, to my knowledge, included strong statements that a married couple ought not to expect love or passion – that marriage isn’t anything to do with the joy that two people may take in each other. This is an argument against the idea that a same-sex couple are justified in wanting to commit their lives to each other because they love each other. When it’s argued simply and directly as that it’s fairly plain bigotry – if a lesbian or gay person wants to be married and can’t fall in love with a person of the opposite sex, well, they should just marry without love. But when – as these advocates often try to do – it’s argued as if it were a general principle, that marriage isn’t about love, passion, or joy, it’s a legal protection for engendering children – this sounds horribly as if these people have themselves no other experience of marriage. They don’t argue for love in marriage because they don’t themselves feel love for their partner, nor can they imagine that other people do.

Are these people bigots, or sociopaths? Does it matter? Are they ill from the inability to love or even to imagine love, or are they just sick haters who cannot bear the idea of two men or two women who do love each other taking marriage vows to love, to honour, and to cherish each other lifelong?

The problem expands horrifyingly when these people talk about children – not merely when they try to come up with pseudo-scientific ideas about how two men or two women can’t parent children “properly” (no study or research backs this idea, it comes directly from the Institute of It Stands To Reason, which is based at the University of What Everyone Knows) – but when they try to argue that same-sex couples ought not to have children together.

Same-sex couples can be prevented from adopting or fostering children together by passing legislation. (What this means for children in need of adoptive parents is simply that a gay man or a lesbian will adopt a child as if they were a single parent, and the child won’t be allowed the security of a legal relationship with their other dad or other mom.) Nothing but a strongly fascist state can prevent a lesbian from using a sperm donation to conceive, if she wants to: the only legislative options there are to prevent the child conceived from having the security of two legal parents.

All the legislation against same-sex parents being able to adopt or foster as a couple, or having their joint parenthood of a child conceived by donor acknowledged, is primarily damaging to the children of the couple. Though I’ve often asked the question, no anti-gay Christian has ever explained how they justify attacking the children of same-sex couples merely so that they can proclaim their loathing of same-sex relationships. That is, they have responded with something like “I want to protect children”, and then the argument usually circles round to some justification about how the children of same-sex couples shouldn’t exist anyway and their parents are selfish for wanting to have them, and these paired arguments – these children shouldn’t exist, and their parents are bad people, appears to justify the case for attacking the children in the minds of these anti-gay Christians.

When this argument gets expanded out – as recently, when an anti-gay Christian argued that people are just selfish if they have children just because they want children, any parent who chooses to have children because having children will bring them happiness – this sounds even more appalling for these people’s children.

You’d have to be a bit starry-eyed to believe that children are invariably a source of happiness. And I know from bitter personal experience, that the lesbian or gay child of a homophobic parent is in for a world of pain from their parent, as their parent is in for a world of self-created pain. But the pain is because of love. I know from my own personal experience: I hurt my homophobic parent enormously by being a lesbian. What I came to understand after many years was that the pain was not inflicted by me: I was not in any real sense the cause of it, nor was my coming out the cause of it. The pain suffered by my homophobic parent was caused by the awful conflict between the sure knowledge that a homosexual is an evil and depraved person whom no good person ought to associate with, and the equally sure knowledge that this lesbian daughter is a beloved source of joy. What can it be like for a homophobic parent who cannot stop loving their child, and yet cannot let go of their knowledge that being homosexual is something deeply wrong? My parent’s solution was (a) to blame anyone but me for “corrupting” me, (b) to hope I’ll grow out of it (c) to be coldly and rejectingly polite to any partners (the latter, I believe, isn’t a conscious strategy, just an unhelpful kneejerk reaction). This isn’t much of a solution, but such as it is… it’s based on love, on joy. Because if I wasn’t loved so much, I would have been absolutely cut off long ago. And I never was.

But that is human too: to love and to take joy in your children – even when they’re a source of so much pain. This may be “selfish” – in the sense that it’s all about your feelings as parent – but you can’t love someone else without being a self who loves. You can’t take joy in your children – in anyone – unless you are a self who feels joy. A sociopath may not be able to see what’s good in feeling that joy, in feeling that love – a bigot may not be able to understand how a lesbian or gay person can feel that love for their children, or – in a worse-case scenario – a bigoted parent may not be able to love their lesbian or gay child any more.

Are these people sociopaths, to so dismiss the humanity of parents who just simply want children, parents who are made happy by their children? Or bigots, who think anything attack is justified so long as it makes clear to lesbians and gays and their children that Christians believe them to be inferior and unworthy?

Does it matter? I do have a homophobic parent, but one neither bigot nor sociopath. Capable of comprehending, thanks to me – I don’t know if thanks are ever spoken, but by damn I deserve them! – thanks to me coming out, 25 years ago, capable now of recognising the humanity of lesbian and gay people who would once have got a knee-jerk rejection. There’s been a world of pain in that, but the pain was caused by the love which Renaissance Guy has repeatedly dismissed as “selfish”. Because he is sociopathic and cannot feel it and cannot understand it? Or because he is a bigot who cannot conceive that lesbians and gays are human beings like himself?

January 3, 2009

On smelly feet

Fred Clark’s last post of the year at Slacktivist was Clean Shoes; Renaissance Guy’s first post of the year was To Judge or not to Judge.

Both in very different ways were writing about the same thing: how should Christians act towards unclean people, abominations… sinners?

RG:

I think the same thing is true concerning same-sex relations. The Bible teaches that such relations are sinful, and if questioned or confronted, I will say so. At the same time, I can completely love a person who commits such a sin. I can show him or her kindness, treat him or her as better than myself, and refrain from judging him or her. I’m willing to admit that in the eyes of God I might be far more sinful than any homosexual person in the world.

Fred:

Peter said. “But God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean.”

Not a word there about calamari or bacon. That’s not what the vision was about. It was about people. God has shown us that we should not call any person impure or unclean — that we should not treat any person as impure or unclean.

So here’s an invitation or a challenge for the New Year: Sign up for the scavenger hunt. Take the Big List of the unclean and the untouchable and turn it upside down and inside out. Seek out those people instead of avoiding them. Touch them and let them touch you.

I react towards those two posts very differently. They’re both saying – though Fred much more subtly than RG – that gay is on the Big List of abominations. (Sex between men certainly is, twice, in Leviticus: in the list of 613 things an observant Jew must not do, a Jewish man may not have sex with another man, no more and no less than he may shave his beard or get tattooed or eat bacon or own a slave for more than 7 years without offering him his freedom: he cannot make a wave-offering in the Temple if he has made himself ritually unclean in this way. It’s not allowed.)

Both of them, also, explicitly say that this is about Christianity being inclusive, not exclusive.
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November 13, 2008

God needs Proposition 8 like God needs a starship

I’ve heard from a lot of people over the past week or so that Proposition 8 was just and right because it’s against the will of God for two men or two women to marry, and it’s appalling not to follow the will of God, so the Constitution of California had to be amended to prevent same-sex marriages.

Star Trek V is probably my least favourite Trek movie ever, but there’s an exchange of dialogue in it that illustrates this argument for Proposition 8 perfectly.

Towards the end of STV, Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and Sybok (Spock’s half-brother, if you had forgotten) are standing in awe before God. Awesome, all-powerful, supreme being: Sybok believes, McCoy’s been converted, Spock is trembling on the edge – and Kirk steps forward and asks a very important question:

Kirk: What does God need with a starship?
McCoy: Jim, what are you doing?
Kirk: I’m asking a question.
God: Who is this creature?
Kirk: Who am I? Don’t you know? Aren’t you God?
Sybok: He has his doubts.
God: You doubt me?
Kirk: I seek proof.
McCoy: Jim! You don’t ask the Almighty for his ID!
God: Then here is the proof you seek. [Hits Kirk with lightning]
Kirk: Why is God angry?
Sybok: Why? Why have you done this to my friend?
God: He doubts me.
Spock: You have not answered his question. What does God need with a starship?
God: [hits Spock with lightning; then addresses McCoy] Do you doubt me?
McCoy: I doubt any God who inflicts pain for his own pleasure.

These people claim they believe in God. Yet the God they believe in is a God that they believe needs secular legislation to enforce His will on His people. Their God needs Proposition 8.

They don’t doubt their God needs a starship – and they won’t doubt a God that inflicts pain for his own pleasure.

November 8, 2008

The awful self-pity of the self-righteous bigot: reprise

About a week before the election, Orson Scott Card posted a lengthy whine about how it was so unfair that his gay friends wanted him to treat them as equals and as friends, and people were being so mean to him just because he was campaigning – as a Mormon in North Carolina – to take away civil rights for a group of people in California. Why couldn’t these people be kind to him? Tolerate his intolerance? (The awful self-pity of the self-righteous bigot.)

I thought this was just Card being a whiner – his other posts against equal marriage and religious freedom have included self-pitying references to how outrageous it is that people actually call him a homophobe for his open support of anti-gay discrimination and legal persecution of LGBT people.

But now it appears that the leadership of the LDS Church has taken to whining about how people reacted to their bigoted campaign against equal marriage in California:

It is disturbing that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is being singled out for speaking up as part of its democratic right in a free election.

What, everyone should just have ignored that infamous letter from First Presidency urging the membership of the Church in California to campaign for Proposition 8? Funny, I hear that bishops who tried to be low-key in their response to that letter were being criticised by church leadership for not making their political campaign strong enough. If you don’t want to be singled out for speaking up, the solution is simple: don’t speak up.

More hypocrisy:

Members of the Church in California and millions of others from every faith, ethnicity and political affiliation who voted for Proposition 8 exercised the most sacrosanct and individual rights in the United States — that of free expression and voting.

Yes. But just voting for Proposition 8 wasn’t what that letter from the First Presidency was all about. Most of the funding to support the “Yes on 8″ campaign came from outside California. It’s reported that the majority of it came from LDS members, who had been urged by their church leadership to support Proposition 8. In June, the First Presidency wrote:

We ask that you do all you can to support the proposed constitutional amendment by donating of your means and time to assure that marriage in California is legally defined as being between a man and a woman. Our best efforts are required to preserve the sacred institution of marriage.

That is a clear call to campaign against religious freedom in California, and against the freedom to marry. Not just to vote against it. Churches which campaign politically lose their tax-exempt status: this was a political campaign conducted by the LDS church. Trying to reduce down to LDS members just voting is a lie.

And again:

While those who disagree with our position on Proposition 8 have the right to make their feelings known, it is wrong to target the Church and its sacred places of worship for being part of the democratic process.

In the New Statesman article (also linked to above), a bishop called Robert Bennion would deliberately take members of his congregation off church property in order to discuss what they might do to support Proposition 8.

“So far I’ve worked very hard to keep this whole thing at arm’s length,” Bennion said. “I see this as purely a political endeavor, which is why I don’t allow any campaigning during church time or on church property. In my mind, it’s possible to be in favor of Proposition 8 without being anti-homosexual.”
While Bennion’s Switzerland impression may seem like on good idea on paper, in reality he’s taken the one position that would make him a target for both sides. His superiors within the church, for example, have repeatedly requested that he get more involved in the issue, but their phone calls are easily ignored and Bennion himself can’t help but smile when the click of a button sends their emails from his inbox to the trash can.

Honour to Bennion for trying to keep a “sacred place of worship” separate from the political campaigning demanded by his church leadership, but it’s clear Bennion was an exception, not the rule, and an exception that came under attack from church leadership. If you base a political campaign in a church, you have no moral grounds for asking political protesters to stay away from your church.

The whine from the LDS finishes with the following piece of stunning hypocrisy:

Once again, we call on those involved in the debate over same-sex marriage to act in a spirit of mutual respect and civility towards each other. No one on either side of the question should be vilified, harassed or subject to erroneous information.

This from the church that funded a campaign consisting wholly and entirely of disrespect, incivility, vilification, harrassment, and lies.

Why be such whiners? I suspect it’s a symptom of privilege. (Sadly, I think another example of this is the white/racist reaction blaming the success of Proposition 8 on the “black vote” – see this journal entry for a breakdown of the issues, a numbers breakdown, and of course Pam’s House Blend.) You complain about not being treated with respect when you are absolutely accustomed to being immune from criticism from that source. One Mormon man was complaining in an earlier thread that after he’d posted a long comment calling me an infected, inferior, abusive creature not deserving of equal rights, I wasn’t being as polite to him as he evidently felt he deserved…


Update: from the demo in Salt Lake City which the LDS church took exception to: “Let us all call for greater love, better understanding, dignity and respect toward all — regardless of race, regardless of faith or lack of faith, and regardless of sexual orientation.” In that article from the Mormon Times, by the way, the author Jared Page blandly lies that “the church did not contribute directly to the campaign”.

June 23, 2008

“With this ring I thee bind, with my body I thee worship”

These are the words that Peter Cowell and David Lord used to wed each other at the Church of St Bartholomew in London, on Saturday 31st May 2008:

I N take thee M as my partner, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part, and thereto I pledge thee my troth.

With this ring, I thee bind, with my body I thee worship, and with all my worldly goods I thee endow: In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

The Reverend Martin Dudley married them, and says he did nothing wrong and would do it again. This is by far from being the first time that two Anglican priests have wed in church, but two things make this different.

Before 5th December 2005, there was no legal recognition of same-sex relationships in the UK. Civil partnership is legally different from marriage (primarily, it has a different name: but there are some small legal differences, too). But the differences are not big enough to make the legal recognition comfortable to the Church – indeed, it’s hard to see what differences would be. In common parlance, civil partnership is regarded as gay marriage.

The other difference: past ceremonies were carried out in secret. The Church of England has never objected to having gay bishops and gay priests so long as they lie about their sexual orientation to the laity: but honest priests who make no secret of their sexual orientation are distrusted, and honest bishops are very nearly anathema. Secrecy, shame, and concealment make being gay or bisexual all right: honesty, openness, and unashamed love are what the Anglican Communion cannot bear.

Giles Fraser spoke in the BBC Thought for the Day on 18th June:

So what, then, is the Church of England’s theology of marriage?

Back in the 16th and 17th centuries, as the Book of Common Prayer was being put together, marriage was said to be for three purposes:

First, it was ordained for the procreation of children. Secondly, it was ordained for a remedy against sin, and to avoid fornication. Thirdly, it was ordained for the mutual society, help and comfort that the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity.

As Fraser notes, the Church of England does not bar mixed-sex couples from marrying who cannot have children, and makes no intensive inquiry into whether couples wed in church intend to “procreate”.

Why, then, does the Church of England object to same-sex couples marrying? (The argument “marriage is about procreation” can only be taken seriously when consistently applied: when it is used to ban mixed-sex couples who cannot have children together.)

The Bishop of London takes the Rev Dudley’s action very seriously: he has issued a public rebuke where he says:

The real issue is whether you wilfully defied the discipline of the Church and broke your oath of canonical obedience to your Bishop.

In short: Richard Chartres, Bishop of London, says the problem is not that God is homophobic; is not that Chartres himself is homophobic (Chartes claims that “homophobia is not tolerated” in his dioscese): the problem is “the discipline of the Church”.

The problem is that 300 homophobic bishops are declaring that if the Anglican Communion continues to tolerate openly gay bishops and priests, instead of requiring a gay person who is ordained to be dishonest and live in the closet, they can no longer be part of the Anglican Communion: they will walk away from it.

As Haaretz reports:

Some 300 bishops – a third of the Anglican bishops in the world – arrived in Jerusalem this week to attend the Global Anglican Future Conference, organized by the traditionalist wing of the church, which is opposed to ordaining homosexual bishops. GAFCON is being staged as a rival to next month’s Lambeth Conference in London, the Anglican Communion’s main event held every 10 years.

GAFCON has drawn some 1,000 participants: bishops, clergymen, and activists from Anglican congregations in 28 countries, led by Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria.

These people believe that God hates queers, and that the Episcopalian Church ought to enforce celibacy and lies on gay clergy. When an openly-gay priest was appointed to a bishopric in 2003, they went mad: when civil partnerships became law in the UK, and gay priests who had been living together for years or decades began cautiously to wed, they screamed. They know God hates where they hate, and they can’t understand why the rest of the Communion can’t see it.

I’m an atheist, and before I was an atheist I was a Quaker, which is fairly far removed from the angst and ceremony of the Anglican Communion. (In the UK, Quakers decided some years before civil partnership that if a same-sex couple wanted to marry in a Meeting for Worship, they should make application to their local Monthly Meeting, just as a mixed-sex couple would, and it would be up to that Monthly Meeting to say yes or no. This is a very Quakerly solution: unlike most other Christian sects, the Religious Society of Friends doesn’t just say they believe in freedom of conscience, they work to ensure that all Friends do have freedom of conscience. There is no hierarchy, and there can be no demand for ritual obedience.)

So why do I care about the Anglican Communion? Well, in 1986, I made a friend whose friendship I still treasure, though he died nearly 16 years ago. For his sake, in his memory, I still go to the church where he was ordained a deacon, for midnight mass on Christmas Eve, and other times when it occurs to me. I even take communion, though I never did when he was alive: I used to tell him that as I had never been baptised, and had never been a communicant member of any Christian congregation (Quakers don’t do baptism and don’t do Holy Communion) I could not possibly take communion as part of a Church of England service. I wish he were still alive to argue with me about it. But he died, and so I eat the bread and drink the wine and remember my friend, who unfairly won the argument by leaving it. He had a partner: they were never married, of course, but “for the mutual society, help and comfort that the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity” they were an admirable couple.

So I care. In a sense, of course, as an atheist and a believer in religious freedom, if Peter Akinola and his homophobic cohort wish to uphold their belief that God hates where they hate, I see no reason why they shouldn’t – I would wish it otherwise, but Nigeria is one of the countries in Africa where gays are actively persecuted, and an Archbishop who believes that Christians ought to persecute and humiliate gays is simply going along with mainstream opinion in his country. It would take enormous courage and steadfast principle to oppose the violent mainstream even if Akinola believed that God is love, but there’s no indication that Akinola is anything but sincere in his belief, shared with many other Christians, that God hates and the Church should enforce God’s hatred.

In the UK, Christians arguing that they have a right to incite hatred are mainly arguing they should have the right to abuse and intimidate schoolchildren, not for a right to incite lynch mobs. It’s easy for me, living in the UK, not a schoolchild, to say “This is a matter of religious freedom” because it is not my life or my wellbeing on the line.

Nevertheless, in a detached kind of way, if you don’t look at or care about the homophobic violence (and the Archbishop of Canterbury prefers not to) the situation becomes:

One third of the Anglican Communion has decided it cannot tolerate the majority. They are threatening to leave, if the majority won’t support their homophobic beliefs and persecute lesbians and gays as the minority believes we should be persecuted.

The Anglican Communion survives on tolerance – on accepting, however reluctantly, that within the Church of England there can be a diversity of belief and opinion. If a significant minority of that Communion now finds the tolerance of the majority intolerable, they should leave.

What they shouldn’t do is blame the objects of their bigotry for their leaving. Akinola’s complaints are chiefly directed at the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams: because Williams has failed to persecute the openly-gay priests and bishops of the Anglican Communion with the rigour that Akinola believes God wants. Williams and others like him seem to blame the victims for being there – for being open and honest and in love.

====
Update: Archbishops fail to condemn violence against lesbians and gays (Ekklesia)

At the press conference [for GAFCON] Iain Baxter of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (LGCM) from the UK asked the Archbishops how they reconciled their faith with their support for jailing lesbian and gay people, which had led to cases of rape and torture.

He also asked why they had refused to speak out against such incidents which had taken place in their respective countries.

In response Archbishop Peter Akinola said that he was not aware of any such incidents anywhere in Africa. He also said he was unaware that anyone had been imprisoned for being gay or lesbian.

When given the example of a lesbian women from Uganda [Prossy Kakooza] who had applied for asylum in the UK after being jailed, raped in the police station, and marched for two miles naked through the streets of Uganda, Archbishop Akinola said: “That’s one example. The laws in your countries say that homosexual acts, actions are punishable by various rules. I don’t need to argue.”

“If the practice (homosexuality) is now found to be in our society” he continued, “it is of service to be against it. All right, and to that extent what my understanding is, is that those that are responsible for law and order will want to prevent wholesale importation of foreign practices and traditions, that are not consistent with native standards, native way of life.”

It’s quite clear: for Akinola, God is hate. More on this later.

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