April 19, 2009

How (not) to Argue about Gay Marriage

I realize this is a hot potato, but I'm going to touch it anyway.

The gay marriage debate drives me nuts. It's not just the nasty rhetoric, hyperbole, stereotyping and name-calling spewed by both sides, which is sickening enough. It's that there's so little light to show for all of this heat. The wheels are spinning and the mud is flying, but the arguments are going nowhere. Those with strong opinions seem increasingly louder while moderate and ambivalent observers like myself have shrunk deeper into our turtlenecks, silently waiting for the subject to change. The multiplied effect of our silence is a conspicuous absence of temperate voices which only makes an already divisive topic even more polarizing. With few exceptions, hope for any type of mutual respect has all but faded while attempts at civil dialogue are quickly dismissed as cooperation with the enemy.

A perfect storm of sex, religion, fear and anger has clouded our capacity to think critically about both marriage and homosexuality. Thanks to the culture war's carnage, it's become objectionable to draw distinctions between sexual orientation and behavior, respect and agreement, tradition and homophobia, theology and public policy, civil unions and sacred unions, legal marriage and religious marriage. I don't claim to have these complexities figured out, but I've found little comfort in the narrow explanations that dominate the current discussion at the popular level (if you can even call it a discussion). As long as the battle lines are drawn this way, we can expect to see significant chunks of the population gloating over incremental victories (i.e. conservatives in California last year or liberals in Iowa and Vermont this year) while the opposing camp plots its backlash. When the backlashers succeed, roles are reversed and the cycle continues. Peachy.

So what are the rest of us to do while the extremes are slugging it out in the courtrooms of law and public opinion? Should we hide under our desks until it's safe to peek out from the rubble? Should we keep our moderate views under wraps while we wait for someone to give them a voice? Should we make friends with both sides and see who disowns us first? If I knew that sweeping the gay marriage debate under the rug would it make go away, I would do it in a heartbeat. Like I said, it drives me nuts. My preference would be to focus our intellectual and political resources on the economic crisis, global poverty, climate change, Darfur, health care access, education, energy independence, abortion reduction and a host of other areas where much more is at stake.

Ironically, the vicious cycle of backlash and nastiness will continue even longer if we continue to allow the issue to be framed by all-or-nothing activists and protesters who dig their trenches deeper each year. This much is clear to me: gays cannot be expected to reverse their orientation any more easily than conservatives can be expected to sit idly while the historic understanding of marriage is redefined. Calling for a culture war ceasefire would be noble, but also unrealistic without a forum for respectful disagreement and dialogue. As I see it, the only way out of this briar patch is through the thorns. Our best option might be to actually sit down and have a sober conversation about the touchy stuff: sex, religion, fear and anger. Slogans and sound bites won't work in a thicket this tangled. So with the pie-in-the-sky objective of civility in mind, I've come up with a few recommendations to help each side argue their case more persuasively (for a change).

For those who oppose gay marriage:

1. Go easy on the slippery slopes, please. If legalizing same-sex marriage is truly a bad idea in and of itself, you should not need to bring in polygamy, incest, pedophilia, bestiality or marriage to a tree/rock/can opener as reasons to oppose it. None of these are options where marriage is defined as the union of two consenting adults, as is the case in Canada for example. Any valid points you make in favor of traditional marriage will be undercut if you start likening gays to criminals or psychopaths.

2. Acknowledge the problem of homophobia and the mistreatment of GLBT individuals. Whatever your position is on gay marriage, we should at least agree that it's not easy being gay. Verbal harassment, taunting, bullying and even physical violence are intense realities for many gays and lesbians, resulting in disproportionately high rates of depression and suicide. As an evangelical Christian, I believe my religious tradition needs to repent for the way we have often demonized the GLBT community. I have personally witnessed and read far too many stories of those who have rejected Christianity primarily because of the derision and animosity emanating from those who purport to follow Christ. Until homophobia is clearly and consistently rejected, it will undermine the case for traditional marriage.

3. Understand the difference between orientation and behavior. To use myself as an example, my behavior is a lot easier to change than my orientation. While I am certainly responsible for my sexual conduct, I can't remember ever "choosing" to become a heterosexual. However, just because I can't flip a switch to reverse my orientation, this doesn't mean my impulses and desires are impossible to resist. There are plenty of people, both gay and straight, who struggle with their sexuality but do not act on their desires. If altering one's sexual orientation were as simple as learning a foreign language or choosing a new career path, it's doubtful that very many would choose a life where they are looked down upon and treated as second-class citizens. Conservatives only make their task more difficult when they turn the gay marriage debate into a case against an orientation.

4. Don't scapegoat gays for problems caused by straight folks. The prevalence of divorce, out of wedlock births, absent fathers and single-parent households is largely the fault of heterosexuals, not gays. If us straight folks can't keep our marriages together or conceive children responsibly, how is that the fault of gays and lesbians? At the same time, the frequency of failed marriages does not mean that marriage is a bad idea, only that we need to take it more seriously. One of the best ways to "preserve and protect" traditional marriage is to accept responsibility for family fragmentation and let your actions do the talking.

5. Be prudent with your use of Scripture. This does not mean the Bible is off limits. After all, the great speeches of Martin Luther King and Abraham Lincoln would be significantly weakened without their Scriptural allusions. However, resorting to "the Bible says so" prooftexting as a conversation-stopper can make it difficult to persuade those who don't take its words authoritatively. If you oppose gay marriage on the basis that homosexual behavior is sinful, be prepared to explain how it's different from other sexual sins mentioned in the Bible such as adultery, no-fault divorce, promiscuity and lust, none of which are against the law. Instead of regurgitating patronizing clich├ęs like "God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve," the better arguments for traditional marriage (like this one from David Blankenhorn) appeal to multiple cultures, religious traditions and civilizations throughout history that have seen the need to define marriage as an opposite-sex union.

Turning now to those who support gay marriage:

1. Please retire the "don't impose your beliefs on me" line. What's the difference between a belief and an opinion? What are laws, regulations and policies if not the expressions of "beliefs" about the ways things should be? Whether the controversy is gun control, greenhouse gas emissions, tax hikes or traffic laws, just about every political debate is driven by competing values. The arguments for and against gay marriage are no different as both sides appeal to various principles including tradition, equal protection, religion, sexual freedom, child welfare, biology, legal precedent and public opinion to name a few. Instead of trying to censor an argument without having to engage it, make your case for why it's a poor line of reasoning.

2. Acknowledge the civil purpose for marriage. More than just a public way to celebrate private love, marriage is a vital social institution that harmonizes the needs of children with the sexual desires of adults. Put another way, marriage provides the best context for the next generation of children (whose interests often clash with the sexual freedom of adults) to grow up in financially and emotionally stable homes. The most articulate proponents of gay marriage, such as Jonathan Rauch, recognize this. Instead of downplaying marriage as 'just a word', Rauch says that GLBT activists should "increase respect for the institution of marriage itself" and stress that gays will take their vows seriously if allowed the opportunity to marry. Whether you are for or against same-sex marriage, you should want the institution of marriage to thrive.

3. Recognize how culture war backlash can hurt your cause. Unlike other GLBT activists who want to the judicial system to override public opinion if necessary, Rauch says, "same sex marriage will work best when people accept and understand it, whereas a sudden national enactment, where it suddenly to happen, might spark a culture war on the order of the abortion battle." The Religious Right's influence may be on the decline, but their ability to rally around the gay marriage issue cannot be underestimated. Evangelicals, Catholics and other religious conservatives can organize very quickly when they feel the courts have circumvented the will of the majority. Persuading hearts and minds in the court of public opinion is no small challenge, but it is more likely to produce lasting gains.

4. Address the issue of religious freedom. While some Christian pastors fear they could be forced to perform same-sex marriages against their will, most gays and lesbians are not too keen on getting hitched in a conservative church. Even so, the legalization of gay marriage brings up some valid concerns related to religious freedom that must be addressed. In Massachusetts for example, Catholic Charities of Boston quit providing adoption services in 2006 because state anti-discrimination laws forced them to allow married same-sex couples to adopt, which goes against church doctrine. In situations like these, guarantees of religious exemptions could greatly help to ease tensions and fears. The push for GLBT rights would encounter less opposition if churches and faith-based groups could be confident that they won't be forced to support or facilitate gay marriage.

5. Don't let your anger get the best of your argument. According to a recent CBS poll, only about one third of Americans currently support gay marriage. Labeling the other two-thirds as "bigots" will not help to win them over to your side. As hard as it may be, resist the urge to return one evil with another. Calling all conservatives "bigots" only perpetuates the vicious cycle of backlash while damaging your credibility in the process. As Ghandi famously said, "You must be the change you wish to see in the world." If you want to live in a more tolerant world, begin by tolerating those with whom you profoundly disagree. Don't expect your arguments to be heard if you will not listen to the other side.

41 comments:

Georgie said...

hey there
came across your blog through christianity today. I've only read a couple of your posts, but I really like your level-headed and thoughtful approach to such topics as this (and your calvinism post lower down)
keep up the good work
cheers

wordsandtheword said...

Great blog. I'm gay. And I think your advice to both sides on this issue is well worth taking to heart. It's a wonderful thing to find people who seek the truth as you do. And you are so right: "Slogans and sound bites won't work in a thicket this tangled". I guess I would add another dimension to the question: call it the "existential" dimension. That is, in the debate over homosexuality, one side, the gay side, is talking about who we ARE. It's not about what we do; it's about who we are. Whereas for "the other side" it is not quite so "existential". It might be about their religious self-identity, or their religious freedom, but it's not quite the same thing as us gay people trying to get the right to "be-who-we-ARE". And so, there's a kind of "non-negotiable" level to this as well. That might be worth pointing out to "the other side"...if you can find a way to word it better than I have. I live in California, and I hear people saying "why can't gays accept the will of the people" (i.e. the majority who voted to take away the right of gay people to marry)? That's where the "non-negotiable" level comes into play, for this is not something that can be decided by democratic vote, or by scripture, or by reason. Theologically, I think of it as the "I AM" in me that simply is non-negotiable: I am who I am. And I will be who I will be. Period. No court, no law, no church, no scripture can really challenge that non-negotiable level. But, in the meantime, I agree we need to talk, and reason, and communicate, and meet each other heart-to-heart as much as possible.....
One more thing about "religious freedom". It might be worth pointing out to "the other side" that it is not only their religious freedom that is threatened by this issue; for if "they" get "their" way, then what about the religious freedom of gays and gay-affirming congregations? If gay marriage is illegal, what about the religious freedom of those churches that recognize it and perform gay marriages?
I really don't know what the ultimate truth about all of this is, but if we are going to find it, I suspect it will be very much along the lines you advocate.
Thank you once again for raising a voice of reason and humanity.

Theresa Seeber said...

I have not read many things as balanced and positive as this. Thank you so much for all you have put into it! I find there are treasures abounding in this post for people on both sides of this proverbial fence, and I personally think you rock for putting so much care into this. Thank you again.

wordsandtheword, I am on a bit of a journey right now myself to find out more about the fact that homosexuality is about more than sex. So many think it is only about sex. That must change before some people can even begin to see the other side from which they stand.

Existential Punk said...

The Common Loon,

Thanks for even attempting this. i applaud you and find a lot of what you say a wonderful start. Thanks for taking the time to tackle this and for your insightful thoughts.

Just a few things as someone on the LGBTQ side hat i have issues with:

1. When we say don't impose your beliefs on us, that is in the context of separation of church and state, which i did not see you bring up. Religious beliefs should not be made into laws or used to prevent granting equality from a minority. Also, marriage opponents say 'Traditional Marriage' all of the time. Nothing is traditional about marriage asw e have it today. In the Bible, women were property, and G-D sanctioned polygamy and concubines.

2. We in the LGBTQ community who are marriage proponents do value and cherish marriage and take it very seriously. We are accused of living in sin but then we can't get married when we want to be committed! So your pointy to acknowledge is already being done.

3. If people were concerned about backlash from culture wars, then we would not have seen people fighting for civil rights and rights for women. i am sorry, but when it comes to a minority not being treated equally, our Republic, and NOT a democracy (There is a HUGE difference) makes way for there not to be majority mob rule in order to look after the minorities being treated unfairly.
http://www.lexrex.com/enlightened/AmericanIdeal/aspects/demrep.html

4. Granting marriage equality to the LGBTQ community does not affect free speech. Therefore, pastors can still preach against homosexuality and choose not to marry us. That is a HUGE MYTH! If the organization is receiving tax-exempt status, like i imagine the Catholic Adoption Agency in MASS you refer to, then yes, they have to follow the law. If they are private, then i see there being no problem for them to refuse. There are plenty of private adoption agencies that refuse adoption to LGBTQ folks.

5. Yes and no. You gotta understand we are an oppressed group who experiences much hate and bigotry. We often react out of hurt, frustration and anger. BUT nothing like the treatment we receive, and often from people who identify as Christians. There is a way of going about calling a spade a spade without hateful rhetoric back at them. To not call them out is to enable them in their hate.

Let's continue the conversation and again, THANK YOU!

Warmest Regards,

Existential Punk

The Common Loon said...

Existential Punk,

Thanks for reading my thoughts and taking time to share your responses. Maybe this will help to clarify some points of contention.

1. As a religious person who cringes at the conflagration of “God and country,” I agree with you about church-state separation. My point was that censoring religious arguments works both ways. Saying that “religious beliefs should not be made into laws” is a problematic blanket statement because of the growing number of churches that believe in gay marriage on religious grounds. Since both sides have religious beliefs about how marriage should be defined, censoring religious ideas, beliefs, values etc. gets us nowhere. I’ll grant that many of the street-level religious (supposedly “Christian”) arguments against gay marriage are just plain incoherent, but the problem is that they’re incoherent, not that they’re religious per se.

2. The fact that you value and cherish the civil institution of marriage is encouraging because many of my friends and classmates who support gay marriage would like the government stop issuing marriage licenses altogether. Personally, I think this would throw the marriage baby out with the homophobic bathwater. Just because the word “marriage” (a perfectly good and practical concept) has been hijacked for political purposes does not mean that government recognition for lifelong partners is a bad idea. It’s much more than a private contract or “just a piece of paper.” I think we agree on this one.

3. If you’re not bothered by culture war backlash in the form of voter referendums like Prop 8, feel free to ignore my suggestions for how to minimize it where possible. Since you mentioned the civil rights movement, it’s important to distinguish the approaches of Dr. King and Malcolm X. It’s easy for me to say this because I’m not black or gay, but there’s a world of a difference between overcoming evil with good and overcoming evil by any means necessary. The GLBT rights movement seems to be facing a similar crossroads.

4. In the case of Catholic Charities in Boston, they could not simply “refuse adoptions to GLBTQ folks” as you said because doing so would mean their state-issued adoption license would have been revoked, regardless of whether or not they were tax-exempt or received govt funding. If the state requires a license to provide services, you have to “follow the law” as you said. So while I agree with you that the fear of pastors being forced to perform gay weddings is largely a myth, the reality of faith-based organizations shutting down is not.

5. If you’re saying that your anger is justified because of how you’ve been treated, I’m not going to tell you how you should or shouldn’t feel. As I said in the original post, I believe my religious tradition needs to repent for the way we have often demonized the GLBT community. My point was that I find sober and reasoned arguments more convincing than the angry and vengeful ones.

One final note: You are certainly under no obligation to follow my 5 recommendations in making your case. After all, most of the arguments I’ve heard in favor of gay marriage do not. My point was that certain lines of reasoning are more convincing to undecided ears than others. As a moderate, the arguments I find most persuasive are those rare ones that follow the 5 points I described, but my opinion is just one among many.

I’d be curious to hear what you think of Jonathan Rauch’s arguments like this one:

http://www.jonathanrauch.com/jrauch_articles/gay-marriage-7-good-for-america/

Is he too tame and moderate for you? Thanks again for your perspective.

Blessings,

Loon

Panthera said...

Dear Loon,
You are hardly common, such reason and light is very scarce in the Christian world.

I am a Christian and married to another man (not in the US, we live in Europe).
Family circumstances have forced us to now begin planning a more or less permanent move to the US.

After 24 years of happiness, the last four in legal marriage, I can not even begin to tell you how enormously frustrating and frightening it is to leave a country where our marriage is recognized - both in our church and by the State - and go to live in the deep American South where we shall have neither church community nor any state support, just the opposite - from both.

Obviously, the current discussion of granting gays human status in the US is of great interest to me.

Your suggestions are good. I have printed them out and posted them next to my desk, that I might review them when commenting on other blogs.

Unfortunately, there are a few aspects of the situation which, I think, make it enormously hard to "turn down the volume" here.

First, as some others have pointed out here, being gay is an essential aspect of myself, on the same genetic level as my eye color, skin color or being male. Conservative Christians can choose whether to hate me or not, I can not change my sexual orientation (nor would I if I could).
Such flippant remarks as "there is no comparison to race here because being gay is a choice" are just plain mean-hearted and in complete discord with all established scientific and medical findings - throughout the world, except the Islamo-Fascist countries. No surprises there - the only two groups in the modern world who advocate torture and oppresion of gays are conservative Christians and the Islamic extremists. Hmm, same for the death penalty, oppression of women...scary.

It is impossible to have a discussion on any level with someone who demands we abandon the truth.

Next, we have those cheery people who flat out state: Gay and Christian are mutually incompatible. You, therefore are not a Christian.

No basis for discussion there, either (just profound relief that my salvation is through God's grace, given me by Jesus who died for my sins and not dependent on these peoples' wishes).

Then we have the people who scream in my face: You are not married or (worse) I would dissolve your marriage if I could.

My reaction to those people is white-hot rage.

The knowledge that they actually want to tear my husband away from me makes me want to defend our marriage with all resources available.

I don't have any answers, when I point out in discussions how very nicely Europe and Canada have done with gay marriage and the fact that Christians (like us!) are not being fed to the lions, the American conservative Christians refuse to even consider the evidence before their eyes.

You did well to mention the difference between the physical violence we gays and transgendered suffer at the hands of Christians in the US. On a very intellectual, removed level, I can understand that people who demand God be held the prisoner of their Biblical interpretations are threatened by my marriage. But when we are being physically attacked and our rights as human beings to legal married status are rejected by people whom this does not even tangentially effect, it is hard to find any common ground.

At this point, I think the matter will have to come to some sort of decision and that fairly soon. By lumping us in the same category with every pervert and criminal in the US, conservative Christians have raised up a resistance and a recognition in us of just how far they really are willing to go to hurt and harm us.

David said...

So... this is your blog, so make your argument about gay marriage. What is the verdict?

David said...

Gay couples who have been together for 10, 20, 30, 40 years don't have the luxury for a long, drawn-out fence-sitting exercise in discussing gay marriage. Our lives are NOW and all we are asking for is the same privileges that exist for other adults in our society. Preferably before we die.

David said...

Also, if someone insists on calling me a "faggot", exactly what kind of credibility do you think I have to lose by calling them a bigot?

The Common Loon said...

David,

Thanks for stopping by. Would you rather I "sit on the fence" until I hear a coherent line of reasoning that sits well with my conscience or take the path of least resistance and oppose gay marriage since it is the "safest" position for an evangelical Christian like myself to hold?

Or are you mostly annoyed by the fact that I see this as a very gray and complex issue, which makes it hard for you to label me as one the good guys or bad guys?

If I were in your shoes, I'd be seizing the opportunity to make my case to someone eager to hear a persuasive argument from either side.

David said...

If you were gay, and had been with the same person for 22 years, the opportunity to have your marriage recognized while gaining the same rights as others is not at all "gray and complex" territory. "Gray and complex" is for people who are confused about themselves.

David said...

If you know gay people and you respect them authentically for who they are, then there is no need for a "persuasive argument" or a symposium to convince others of their humanity and the value of their experience of love.

I trust that there are enough people on the side of reason in our society -- and sitting on our Supreme Courts -- to be persuaded. I think the momentum is definitely on our side. Whether or not you are able to figure it out for yourself is irrelevant to me. I hope it works out for you.

The Common Loon said...

David,

I've made a sincere effort to thoughtfully dialogue, listen, learn and pray about this issue at length, so I find it unfair for you to dismissively label me as "confused about myself" just because I don't agree with you 100%.

Here are a few questions for you:

1) If this issue is completely black and white, how would you categorize those who support civil unions but not gay marriage? Are they the good guys or bad guys?

2) If you had to choose between a) gay marriage being enacted and then overturned every other year for the next 20 years or b) gay marriage irrevocably enacted 10 years from now, which would you choose?

3) Since President Obama endorses civil unions, but does not explicitly support gay marriage, would you say that he is just as bad as Bush when it comes to gay rights?

4) As for the majority of Americans who do not support gay marriage (but are more open to civil unions), do you think any attempt should be made to change public opinion and enact gay marriage legislatively, or is it better to wait around for the Supreme Court do its thing and save you the trouble of actually having to "persuade" anyone?

Panthera said...

I confess, it is very difficult to be patient with people who object to recognizing marriage for gays.

From our perspective, it is similar to stamping one's foot and saying "but the sun does circle the earth!"

That said, I am perfectly willing to first accept civil unions, as long as they truly grant all the federal rights which DOMA took away from us.

Is this fair? No. Is this a case of us accepting "separate but equal" status? Yes.

Being a practical man, however - and having already twice now experienced that the enormously expensive contracts my husband and I have had made were ignored in emergencies (those which the conservative Christians keep saying are enough to protect us) I am open to a lesser injustice if it will at least relieve the greatest problems we face.

Ultimately, I think the situation will come down to the following situation. Many Christians will, over time, discover that, just as with the heliocentric world view, just as with Negroes being 100% human and not 60%, just as with women having the right to own property and vote, just as with interracial marriage, here, too, there is room in God's house for SSM.

Other Christians will continue to reject us, just as right to this day they don't want interracial couples in their church and get very upset when women have any authority.

A big part of the problem here is, I think, with the conflation of church recognized marriage and State recognized marriage. Here in Europe, it has been normal for a very long time that the two are completely separate. Many married couples have nothing to do with the church, possessing "only" a State marriage license. Other married couples (like us) have both a State license and were married in a church (many Christians do recognize gay marriage).

This separation is unknown to most Christians in the US. For them, marriage is always Christian and they have no concept that the same word has two separate meanings.

Remember, please, in the eyes of the Catholic church, two non-Catholics may be "married" - but only in the eyes of the State. Nobody gets upset about that, but it is precisely the same distinction.

Loon-who-is-not-Common, I do respect that you are trying to find a solution. It is hard for us, after many years of oppression and with science and medicine clearly behind us, to find the patience to understand the basis for your withholding marriage from us. This doesn't change the fact that, as you said - we can now use our political strength and force it down your throat, only to have our marriages overturned the next time conservative Christians are in power, or we can all strive to find a solution which won't threaten you long enough for, forgive me, the older evangelicals to all go to their reward.

I don't want to wait 10 years for a solution to a problem we are facing in a few months. Here, I am legally married, my Christian church recognizes our marriage and our local minister performed the ceremony in the Church. In the US, we are at the mercy of people who really hate us. If gaining protection means bowing to your will, then, well, at least you are willing to talk to us.

It is hard to temper one's speech. I am sorry for my impatience...the only thing I can say in my defense is that I do understand you are fighting with the same inherent conflicts, just on the other side.

David said...

How do you partially agree? Can you explain your point of view so we can actually have a discussion?
You started this by saying you were essentially a blank slate waiting for someone to come along and convincingly lay it all out for you, pro- or con-. So what has persuaded you to agree or disagree at this point?

I am not presuming to make Christian/religious arguments for or against gay marriage. For me, the topic is civil marriage in the U.S.A.

In answer to your questions:

1) For a time, my spouse and I were among those who supported civil unions, and registered ourselves as such in CA -- except it was called "domestic partnership". It was *something* we could have that protected, in a pragmatic way, certain aspects of our relationship. However, "civil unions" are separate, and I don't think equal, either. "Domestic partnership" doesn't describe my relationship, and it's not portable. It feels like second-class citizenship. It seems to exist to placate those who want to keep the word "marriage" to themselves. In some states, it has been banned. I don't believe it is something a straight couple would choose for themselves if they were committed for life and could also choose marriage.

2) I don't believe gay marriage should be a matter for popular vote. We choose marriage now (actually, we chose it last summer), because we don't regard our relationship as a social issue; it's our lives. Realistically speaking, there will be two steps forward, one step back for a time, but in time, full marriage equality is on the horizon in America.

3) Obama is a politician. Although I admire him and trust him more than I did Bush, on some (most?) issues he will go where the wind blows. I suspect that his "one man, one woman" declaration to Rick Warren was a calculated political move, and probably not his personal belief. Unlike Bush, Obama understands the essence of "gay rights".

4) Re: "persuading" people: Again, I don't believe marriage equality should ever be up for popular vote. Racial minorities have full civil rights in America, but even now, decades later, there still exists overt racism. Leaving questions of basic civil rights up to a "yes" or "no"option on a voting form perverts the very foundation of our constitution. Some will never understand gay people. Why should my pursuit of life, liberty and happiness be dependent on whether or not my neighbor gets it? Even though I believe the tide is turning and the next generation will largely, as a general majority, accept gay people as full human beings without the kind of bias we have lived with until recently, I still see the matter as one for our courts to decide once and for all.

David said...

RE: 2. Acknowledge the civil purpose for marriage.
--

Honestly, I don't know any gay people seeking marriage who disrespect or dismiss the "traditional" purposes of marriage. I know there are some activists who aren't keen on marriage for themselves, and who might scold gay people who seek civil marriage as too "assimilationist" or something akin to that, but I don't believe they represent the majority of gay people.

Lots of gay couples these days are fostering/adopting and raising children themselves, and are providing a loving home for those kids, many of whom were the product of heterosexual marriages. That said, raising children has never been a requirement for a marriage license. Granting access to marriage for gays and lesbians isn't going to change the way heterosexual married couples raise children any more than childless heterosexual married couples do. Gay people are a minority and that's not going to change.

Panthera said...

I don't know if this blog permits comments from one poster to another, so beg pardon if this isn't permitted.

David,
Speaking as a man who is legally married to another man (and we were already together for 20 wonderful years before we were able to marry) and as a European, I completely understand you. From my perspective as a Christian who is gay and married, the American conservative Christians are acting like frightened, spoiled children.

That said, the problem I think, is that the conservative/fundamentalist/evangelical Christians (pick one or more of the above) were so used to dictating the laws for the rest of us under the Republicans for so long that they really are terrified of losing their power and authority.

You are absolutely right - we are not asking for extra rights, we are asking that our natural rights as human beings be respected.

Sadly, I don't think those Christians fighting us understand the difference. They had too much power for too long to really be aware of the dangers of their having abandoned "separation of church and state".

We see this in the way so many of them now try to defend torture under Bush #43. This makes it even harder for us to take their "moral high-ground" seriously, but that doesn't bother them one bit.

What I think Loon is trying to do here is to find a discourse which will lead to a solution we can all live with. I don't see anything in her writings - or even those of extremists like Rod Dreher - to indicate they truly believe we can be oppressed for very much longer. What I do see as a genuine, serious attempt to resolve the issue without scorched earth and eternal back and forth battles as we are still seeing in California.

Through lies and false witness, the conservative Christians succeeded in overturning our right their to marriage. It is entirely possible that the court will now also cancel existing SSM.
This will be followed by outrage on our part (justified) and we will undoubtedly win the next round.
This will be followed by more anger and lies from the Christian right and terrified, ignorant people will then...

Well, we have to put an end to this.

I hate compromise, it is wrong, wrong, wrong to give people who are arguing against the facts power over my natural rights.

But if they demand the word "marriage" for themselves, let's give it to them. Eventually, this generation of hateful, fearful people will die off and we will be able to set aside the linguistic nonsense. For the moment, it is a question of securing the ability to fulfill our obligations to each other in marriage.

It bothers me. It bothers me a lot. The endless culture wars over abortion have shown us, tho', that we have very powerful enemies and they rely on a large base of not-overly-bright voters. If some of the honorable Christian conservatives are willing to talk to us, let's do so.
Oh, and, David. Please. Not all Christians are monsters. My husband and I are not. Loon, is not. It is a pity that the hateful, spiteful Christians have taken my religion hostage. But that is not all of us.

David said...

Panthera, thanks for your comments. It's interesting to hear the perspective of someone not currently living in the U.S. A lot of gays living in Europe express near-disbelief when they read of the hostility directed at American gays by religion. I agree with you on everything except compromising on "marriage". As far as I am concerned, that is the centerpiece of this struggle for equal protection, and if we lose that, we lose equality. Losing "marriage" means that those who oppose us get reinforced and rewarded for their belief that we aren't worthy and that our relationships don't matter. I'd rather have nothing than make that compromise. It's a matter of integrity for me, and it matters as well to our families and friends. We have made gains over the last 20 years in America and in other countries because we made ourselves known -- we came out. We live our lives with integrity and without apology. We must be who we are, and who we are as a couple is MARRIED. It's not worth compromising.

Yes, I know there are Christians (besides those are gay or lesbian) who are welcoming and fully accepting/understanding. Twenty five years ago, I was at the point of my ordination to the Catholic priesthood, and I stepped away because I came to understand who I was as a gay person and that I didn't have to live celibately (and neither did I want to). These days, I don't regard myself as Christian, but neither am I atheist. I've landed at "agnostic".

Panthera said...

David,
I guess I should clarify my position.
When I say civil union, I mean in the European sense of the word, that is 100% civil rights, including all federal rights (green card for spouse, etc.)

Since "marriage" to me is a religious word and I know there are churches in the US which do grant us human status, I have no problem with the term civil "union" to clear up the legal atrocities committed against us and the transgendered.

I should have been clearer.

You are quite right, by the way - for us here in Western Europe, this is incomprehensible.
Whatever happened to separation of church and state?
Why do the views of the hateful Christians get top override the views of loving Christians in the public sector?

Didn't the hateful Christians do enough damage withe their support for torture?

David said...

RE: Maggie Gallagher: "best argument for traditional marriage"???
__

Loon, I'm not sure why you would choose to hold up Ms. Gallagher as an example of moderation and respect. Her argument doesn't allow for any legal recognition of gay/lesbian relationships whatsoever. She is also opposed to same-sex couples raising children as well.

Her argument is summed up as "sex between men and women makes babies". She regards heterosexual desire as appropriate, but regards homosexual attraction as selfish. She ignores all the evidence which shows that children raised in same-sex homes fare just as well as those raised with heterosexual couples.

She brews fear, a common tactic of conservative opponents. She's claims that heterosexual family structures will somehow be completely negated because a "few" selfish gay-headed families exist:

"The problem with endorsing gay marriage is ... that it would require society at large to gut marriage of its central presumptions about family in order to accommodate a few adults' desires."

Later, she claims that the numbers of same-sex households is miniscule and hardly worth bothering about -- so how is it that this tiny percentage of gay households will "gut" heterosexual family structure forever?! Where is the balance and the reason here?

She rationalizes that, unlike homosexual couples without children, heterosexual couples without children are harmless and actually help "protect" children:

"Even when a man marries an older woman and they do not adopt, his marriage helps protect children. How? His marriage means, if he keeps his vows, that he will not produce out-of-wedlock children."

As opposed to homosexual couples?! This is complete nonsense!

The most outrageous and offensive point she tries to make is that gays and lesbians aren't being discriminated against at all -- because...

"...many gays and lesbians do choose to marry members of the opposite sex, and some of these unions succeed."

According to her, I'm already treated equally because I, a gay man, can simply choose to marry a woman. In saying this, she attempts to erase the very existence of gay and lesbian people, and in the process deny the entire professional bodies of medicine, psychology, and social work. If anyone suggested to heterosexual people that they could just go out and marry a person of the same sex, we'd be looked at as if we were crazy.

So, again, I have to ask... this is supposed to be a civil, persuasive argument opposing gay marriage?
If you find her ideas attractive, then you have no place giving advice to others about how to be civil and respectful.

The Iowa Supreme Court eloquently rejected most of the arguments that Ms. Gallagher and other religious opponents to gay marriage make. Reason will prevail. That is why I am confident that the courts will continue to defend gay people from ideologues like Maggie Gallagher.

The Common Loon said...

Panthera,

Thanks for your commendable efforts to respect your opponents and treat them with grace. I haven’t agreed with all of your comments posted here, but I respect your sincerity and value your perspective. I suspect that we could have a very pleasant and meaningful conversation if we ever met in person- which illustrates one of my main points in the original post: we don’t have to agree on everything in order to value each other as fellow human beings.

Thanks also for defending the fact that not all Christians are monsters. When it comes to the role of faith in public policy, Western Europe is a very different place than America (even on the left coast). Secularism is not going to fly here anytime soon, which personally doesn’t bother me because I think most of the great social movements have had strong spiritual foundations (abolition of slavery, women’s suffrage, Catholic worker movement, racial equality and others). What we need is not no religion, but better religion that seeks justice, loves mercy and walks humbly with God.

I am greatly encouraged that you are at least somewhat open to civil unions and you recognize that culture war backlash can delay progress for your cause. My favorite line of what you’ve said so far was, “If some of the honorable Christian conservatives are willing to talk to us, let’s do so.”

Amen to that.

The Common Loon said...

David,

You seem to be seeking something I’m not willing to provide: a culture war sparring partner. With all the bloggers out there who would gladly engage you in a good old-fashioned right vs. left slugfest, why did you pick a moderate like me?

Over the course of your 9+ comments posted here, it’s become increasingly clear that you have little, if any, tolerance for my sincere attempts to cultivate a constructive discussion. I have tried to listen to what you’re saying, but to be honest, I’m beginning to grow weary of your vindictive tone. You may not respect me, but I still consider you a fellow human being created in the image of God.

Even though our conversation doesn’t seem to be heading anywhere, I’m still interested to learn what I’ve done or said to merit your scorn. Is it the fact that I’m more concerned with the way this battle is fought than who ends up on the “winning” side? Is it because I want to move beyond the culture wars instead of fighting them to the death?

Thankfully, I recognize that your hard-line views do not represent all proponents of same-sex marriage. Out of respect for wordsandtheword, Existential Punk, Panthera and the more gracious members of the GLBT community I’ve encountered in the blogosphere, I will consider your perspective as one among many.

Regarding the Maggie Gallagher link, you’ve conveniently forgotten the original context of my point, which was directed to the opponents of gay marriage, not proponents. I provided the link as an example that appeals to “multiple cultures, religious traditions and civilizations throughout history that have seen the need to define marriage as an opposite-sex union.”

So to answer your question, yes, I actually do find her arguments more civil and persuasive than most of what I’ve seen from the conservative side. Obviously, those on the left can’t tell the difference between her and Pat Robertson, but I would challenge you to find me an argument against gay marriage that you think is a better “example of moderation and respect.” I’d love to see what you could come up with.

One of the most telling statements you made regarding civil unions was, “I'd rather have nothing than make that compromise.”

Speak for yourself because I’m not sure all GLBT individuals would agree.

Panthera said...

My moderate tones are not because I am a moderate, rather because I am so strongly an advocate for justice towards gays and transgendered that I am willing to treat with any other Christian who will listen.

I also have the luxury of living in a country where my marriage is legal and recognized.

David lives (and sadly, soon us) in a country where we are physically attacked, beaten, raped, murdered and people actually tear us away from our loved ones who are at the door of death in glee and pleasure, citing their Christianity as the basis.

It makes for a very difficult discourse. But we must try.

Especially now, when we will soon be in the same position of power as the conservative Christians abused for eight long years. I do not wish to be such as they, forcing my will upon others...even tho' I know God is on my side.

David said...

I came here solely because you advertised your blog in another forum. I am not an activist; I am one gay person who has much more at risk in this issue than you do as a heterosexual person, yet you cannot even acknowledge that much. Nothing that I've written here is crass or disrespectful, though it is pointed. You don't like what I wrote because you disagree with my position. I asked you to state your position, but you didn't even try. Your claimed neutrality on this issue is disingenuous.

Like the Iowa Supreme Court, I don't believe there is a single valid reason to exclude gays and lesbians from the opportunity for civil marriage, and I've spent decades listening to them all. You haven't even offered any more arguments either way.

For me, having access to civil marriage is an issue of justice. You claim that you're "shaken by injustice", but you don't appear to understand that issues of justice are often polarizing. Perhaps you should just stick to sports.

Panthera said...

David,
I share your anger and your fury. Here, I am a married man. There, my marriage is not only not recognized, it is denied.
Here, the laws serve to protect the rights of all citizens. There, the laws serve to deny homosexuals the most basic of human rights.

Here is Western Europe. There, the US.

That said - and I should add, when I was studying in the US, I led my campus gay and lesbian alliance (this was back before we knew much about transgendered and before the bi-sexuals demanded the best of all worlds). I marched, I was on TV, I was and am out and proud.

Still, we have a situation here with Loon which I beg you to consider.

We know that most conservative American Christians support torture. We know that they are nearly all for holding Americans incommunicado for years, torturing them and denying them the most basic of Constitutionally guaranteed rights.

For a conservative Christian like Loon to be willing to take a step away from that milieu and show charity is such an unusual thing to encounter in a conservative American Christian, I must respond with charity in my heart.

No, it does not mean I am abandoning my position, my partnership, my marriage. It means I have found that rarest of the rare among Americans who are conservative Christians: Someone who has faith in God, not someone who has locked God away in a strong box lest He escape.

The worst possible aspect of the horrible culture wars is that they have left us bitter and furious. We are in true danger of becoming as the conservative American Christians have become. I don't want to be like them.

I think there is a profound difference between talking to Loon and letting my fury loose on the "Christian" over at beliefnet a few weeks back who said he would gladly dissolve my marriage for my own good.

Again, is it an abomination and perversion of justice that the conservative Christians manipulate and deceive and bear false witness to maintain their oppression of us? Yes.

Is it inevitable that we, now that we are gaining the upper hand (their support for torture will be their undoing, I think) should not extend the hand of friendship towards those Christians who are conservative but not hateful? No, it is not.

I don't see any need to "convert" Loon. Before the torture confirmation arose, we were gaining about 10% support among the voting population per annum for civil marriage. If we can find a few conservative Christians who don't hate us, attack us and make us scapegoats for 9/11 and Katrina, well, I for one am willing to try.

The Common Loon said...

David,

There’s no question in my mind that this issue affects you (and Panthera, wordsandtheword, Existential Punk, Jon Rauch, etc.) personally more than it affects me. I fully acknowledge that this is more than just a “symposium” for you. As I mentioned in the original post, it’s undeniable that the GLBT community has been subjected to much discrimination, scapegoating and brutality at the hands of my fellow Christians. Your everyday life is much harder than mine. You have probably already faced more injustice in your lifetime than I ever will.

In my view, the question of whether gays have been wronged or oppressed is a no-brainer, but the question of how best to turn the tide is harder to answer. There’s a diverse array of possible strategies and even you and Panthera don’t completely agree on which route is best, i.e. civil unions. While you I may disagree on whether an all-or-nothing ideological purism is the best way to bring about change, I respect the fact that you stand by your convictions as a matter of integrity.

The reason I’m a moderate on gay marriage is not because I think the sky will fall if or when gay marriage is legalized. I’m not going to march in any anti-gay parades or forward the gloom and doom emails from James Dobson. Similar to Obama’s position, I have no objection to civil unions, but I’m more hesitant when it comes to redefining marriage. You don’t have to agree with me, but I hope you would at least tolerate my right to form my own opinions just as I’ve tolerated yours.

I have already said my faith tradition needs to repent of our hatred. I have already said that gays deserve to be treated with dignity. I have acknowledged that I respect you as a fellow human being, but you won’t even say the same about me. Instead, you continue to make snarky jabs at me, saying that I’m “confused about myself” and I have “no place” to share my opinions since I see this as a complex issue.

The reason I’m a moderate (at least for now) is because I don’t like the nastiness I’ve seen from either side in this ugly debate. The conservative side is largely based on homophobia and fear mongering while the liberal side often comes across as spiteful and intolerant. I have no doubt that you disagree with this assessment, but that’s my view.

The reason why I haven’t jumped on either bandwagon is because I want to change the status quo to move this debate forward beyond the fear and anger that currently dominate the discussion. The culture war battle lines as they are currently drawn are hurting everyone involved, gays and straights alike. Many of the gains made by either side are short-lived and vulnerable to the next round of backlash.

You mentioned in an earlier post that you are neither a Christian nor an atheist, but an agnostic. If you can be a theological moderate, will you at least tolerate my right to be an “agnostic” on political issues like gay marriage until I hear a line of reasoning that sits well with my conscience?

David said...

Panthera, I don’t see any need to “convert” Loon or anyone else, for that matter. I really appreciate that there are many Christians who have chosen to advocate for full marriage equality. I know many of them, starting with my own family of origin.
That pleases me very much, but in the end, I believe that our struggle for marriage equality will be settled in our courts, as have so many other similar marriage-related issues of discrimination: African-Americans, the disabled (for whom it is still illegal to marry in most states), and Native Americans.

There is healing in hearing Christians acknowledge Christianity's role in demonizing gay people over the past two millennia, and I deeply appreciate that. I would like to think that Loon and I share similar goals with respect to justice for gay and lesbian people in our society, but based on what I've heard so far, I don’t believe we do.

Those who oppose full marriage equality always seem to speak in more or less paternalistic tones -- talking as though *they* have something they might or might not grant to *us*, throwing us crumbs like “domestic partnership” or “civil unions”, which do not provide equality (the European model is very different from the situation in the U.S. with civil unions and domestic partnerships). We're scolded and warned that if we don't behave like good homosexuals and pay them their due respect, we won't gain anything from them. Well, as the Iowa Supreme Court reminded us, basic rights in our country are inalienable.

Our opponents' basis for denying us full equality is rooted in bias against us. The battle cry of “we can’t redefine marriage” is, in my opinion, a fear-generating approach to arguing the issue, the purpose of which is to rally people together in face of a mostly unarticulated and imaginary threat. Gay marriage has existed long enough in and in enough places for people to see that there is nothing to be afraid of. The effect of accepting such bogus arguments is that we are relegated to not-quite-fully-human, second-class status that denies us equal protection under the law. Besides, civil marriage in our country has been redefined and refined every time discriminatory aspects of marriage laws have been reversed. It’s not at all clear what those who utilize this argument of not redefining marriage are afraid of. When I hear people going on about “redefining marriage”, it makes me feel that what they are really trying to define is homosexual persons’ very humanity, to continue to set us apart from them, in a way that makes them more comfortable, because it calls into question long-held beliefs and biases which give them power over us. It's not unlike in a former age when black people were defined as only 60% human.

I am happy to discuss my views on marriage equality with anyone who wants to listen, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to assertively challenge what I hear in opposition to it. However, staging debates in internet forums is not how we will win equality. That will happen in our courts.

If Loon or someone else is willing, I would be very interested in understanding the argument of "not redefining marriage". I want to hear what it is that people think will happen if that occurs (and it has already occurred in many places), and what the basis for their concern or belief is.

David said...

Loon, pardon me for responding in this format, but I wanted to directly respond to specific points you made (your comments in quotes):

"In my view, the question of whether gays have been wronged or oppressed is a no-brainer, but the question of how best to turn the tide is harder to answer."

Rather, the tide will turn with or without your input, but don't you think the primary input on how to best turn the tide should be from those persons who have been wronged and oppressed? If you believe gays have been wronged and oppressed, ideas regarding what 'restitution' is appropriate to provide should probably not come from the wrongdoers and oppressors, and neither it should it smack of even more wrongdoing and oppression.

--

"While you I may disagree on whether an all-or-nothing ideological purism is the best way to bring about change,"

You're overintellectualizing. My position isn't "ideological purism"; it's my very life. It's not just a theory for me -- I'm already legally and spiritually married. So what are you going to do about me?

--

"The conservative side is largely based on homophobia and fear mongering while the liberal side often comes across as spiteful and intolerant."

Why shouldn't people be intolerant of that which harms them?

__


"I’m more hesitant when it comes to redefining marriage."

Why? I'd really like to hear more about that.

--

"I have acknowledged that I respect you as a fellow human being, but you won’t even say the same about me."

Of course I respect you as a human being. I know you say you respect me, but because of your position regarding "redefining marriage", I can't help but be confused about the meaning of your respect. I regard that position as based in fear and rooted in unsupported bias.

--

" Instead, you continue to make snarky jabs at me, saying that I’m “confused about myself” and I have “no place” to share my opinions since I see this as a complex issue."

Well, I think some of your comments are snarky as well. I criticized your opinions and your judgment regarding Maggie Gallagher. Does that mean I've disrespected you as a human being? I don't think so.

--

"The culture war battle lines as they are currently drawn are hurting everyone involved, gays and straights alike."

Seriously, exactly how are straights being hurt? Because they are losing their right to discriminate against people like me? This is the kind of comment that causes me to question your position.

--

"Many of the gains made by either side are short-lived and vulnerable to the next round of backlash."

I'm not sure how you can characterize those who want to discriminate against gays as a "gain"...

--

"If you can be a theological moderate,"

Honestly, I don't know what that is.

--

"will you at least tolerate my right to be an “agnostic” on political issues like gay marriage until I hear a line of reasoning that sits well with my conscience?"

You can take as long as you like, but your ambivalence about this issue is as troubling to me as the radical disagreement of more vocal opponents, and it's confusing as well, given your understanding of how your faith tradition has beaten gay people down. I already know lots of Christians for whom this isn't a tortuous issue for their conscience. That leads me to question what is really going on inside that conscience of yours.

Theresa Seeber said...

A lot has happened here since I last came. I see a couple of my friends have arrived on the scene as well. I want to restate (paste) something the Loon just said a post up:

"The reason I’m a moderate (at least for now) is because I don’t like the nastiness I’ve seen from either side in this ugly debate. The conservative side is largely based on homophobia and fear mongering while the liberal side often comes across as spiteful and intolerant. I have no doubt that you disagree with this assessment, but that’s my view.

The reason why I haven’t jumped on either bandwagon is because I want to change the status quo to move this debate forward beyond the fear and anger that currently dominate the discussion. The culture war battle lines as they are currently drawn are hurting everyone involved, gays and straights alike. Many of the gains made by either side are short-lived and vulnerable to the next round of backlash."

For me this is a perfect summation of Loon's motivation in posting this, and I would ask you David to please, please take a moment to consider those words more deeply. I crave peace in this conversation and believe it can be obtained. I think Loon has some good ideas on how that might take place for people on both sides of the fence and I honor him for it. It will take a long time for society to become acclimated to the public lives of gays, primarily civil rights, and this is a good start. I too feel, often, that I want the process rushed, but I will take what I can get when I can get it. One more thing: I am so very, very sorry for the pain you have experienced that brings you to the place you are in. And no, I don't mean the place of being gay, or whatever other heinous thing has been said to you by sometimes-well-meaning Christians. I mean the place of pain over the SSM issue. I hear you. Loon hears you. At least a couple other commenters here hear you (hopefully all). I want you to read a post I just wrote for my blog yesterday at http://eyesofhope.wordpress.com/2009/04/28/if-you-are-gay-know-this-jesus-loves-you/#comments I would even ask you not to look at the comments that follow, because they are the same sort of thing that has been going around and around that get so frustrating. But linger on my post for a moment. I would be so honored if you would, and feel a tugging at my heart to share it with you.
Peace.

The Common Loon said...

Thanks Theresa.

I just went over to your blog and read your post. I couldn't agree more.

You've said it better than I could (and with far less words).

The Common Loon said...

David,

You said an encouraging and valuable thing in your last comment that I would like to confirm just to make sure:

"Of course I respect you as a human being."

If you really meant that, thank you. I needed to hear that from you.

David said...

Theresa, although I don't share your specific religious beliefs, I deeply appreciate your message of love, and your assurances to gay people. I came to the same conclusion twenty-five years ago, when I was still a Christian, and that belief helped me to chart a course for the rest of my life. i believe that love is the sole reason we are here, and it is our ultimate destiny. Without it, we can't survive.

However, knowing I am loved is not enough, and no matter how much I repeat it and internalize it, it won't succeed in liberating gay people from the discrimination which haunts us. "Jesus Loves Me" won't bring gay people civil marriage equality. St. Augustine's maxim "Love Is Action" came to mind after I read the entry on your webpage. If you believe what you wrote, you will work for marriage equality, because that is love and justice in action. That is the kind of love that carries over into our day to day lives and will change lives.

You quoted some of Loon's comments which are among the most troubling for me. If you love gay people, and you believe Jesus loves us, too, you cannot sit by silently and allow the forces of fear, discrimination and ignorance continue its hold. You have to jump into the fray and give it what you can. It can be done in a dignified manner. I don't belief withholding marriage from gay and lesbian couples is a "loving" option, however.

How can you ask gay people to "tolerate" those who are intent on destroying our lives? Could someone please answer that question for me? If we gay people don't stand up for ourselves, who will? I'm not waiting for others to do it for me. "Love" comes down to making very specific decisions about what is best for people. And If you don't understand what is best for gay people, I would suggest seeking them out and asking them what they want from their lives. Of course, not all gay people are alike, but I would bet most gay people, if they let their guard down, would say they long for a lifetime spent with someone they love deeply. That is a common human longing. Many gay and lesbian couples have lived out decades of love with our spouses -- all without the social and legal supports that others take for granted. Thus, I find it impossible to believe that "straights" are being harmed in the "culture wars". That is simply not honest.

David said...

Loon, yes of course I meant it. C'mon, you're not that difficult to respect! :-)

When I was young, I was attracted to the ministry, and twenty years ago, after I left the seminary, I became a social worker. It fit with what I wanted for my life. Our profession is based on respect for others, understanding others, working so that others can achieve their greatest human potential and fulfillment. That is the basis from which I try to advocate for myself and for others. (Not that I always live up to it!).

The Common Loon said...

David,

Thanks again for expressing your respect. It truly means a lot to me.

You and I have more in common than I first realized. I am currently finishing up my first year of a 3-year MSW program and I was once interested in full-time ministry as well. I fully concur with what you said about respect and understanding being foundational for social work practice.

Speaking from your experience, do you have any advice for a student like me who is just starting out in the profession? I’m sure you have gained a lot of wisdom over the years.

David said...

Sometimes being a social worker feels like the easiest job in the world (especially if you have been gifted with sensitivity and compassion), and other times, it feels near impossible. Time and time again, my work has taught me that it's not so much about what I know (although that is important, and comes with experience in a particular area of practice) but how well I understand myself, my own biases, and my own reactions in trying to help others. I try not to be an "expert"... but to listen closely to my clients. My practice area has mostly been in public schools, but I spent several years as a hospice social worker, too.

Ann said...

Aaah, I just tried to post something and it didn't work... I'll try again.
I'm wondering what a moderate view on this issue look like? I will say upfront that I believe that not allowing SSM is an injustice. On one hand, shouldn't we as Christians be outraged when we see injustice in the world? Doesn't it make sense that there is heated debate amongst the different camps in this debate?

However, I do realize that sometimes you need to be a pragmatist if you want to effect change. In light of that, it seems like fear and anger on this subject has caused both camps to entrench further into their beliefs and close off any chance of really listening to the other side of the issue. I guess in order to make progress, I think we need to try to get both sides to come to the table and talk with each other. When a conservative Christian actually gets to know a gay person, it is much harder to hate that person. It is so much easier to hate that which we don't know (remember the Cold War?). I truly believe that this spewing of hatred will end if we actually engaged face to face with each other.

The Common Loon said...

Ann,

Thanks for stopping by. Regarding your question of what a moderate view would look like or how both sides can "come to the table and talk with each other," here are two examples of how such an approach might work:

www.nytimes.com/2009/02/22/opinion/22rauch.html

blog.beliefnet.com/stevenwaldman/2009/03/a-modest-proposal-religious-co.html

I'm personally open to either idea, but I'd also be interested to hear what the objections would be from either side.

Keven said...

I found both suggestions interesting back when I read them, was, however, dismayed by the extremely negative reactions coming from the conservative Christians.
Who in the last two days have now twice informed me over at beliefnet.com in threads that I can't be a Christian because I am gay...and that heaven is reserved for heterosexuals.

I hate to say it, but the more contact I have to conservative Christians, the more uncertain I become whether there is even a chance of us ever reaching any understanding with a large number of them.

A large part of the problem is, of course, that our natural rights are not open to dispensation. In a secular country, they will, sooner or later be affirmed.

The only possible reason to work with our fellow Christians who hate us and attack us and despise us so on this issue is because Jesus asks it of us. Not because there is a snowball's chance in you-know-where of getting them to budge an inch.

These are the people who actually blamed us for 9/11 and Kathrina...and the same people who countenance torture.

We have to try, but the problem is one which will have to be resolved by our oppressors coming to terms with the reasons for their oppression, not through our backing down on our human rights.

beowulf2k8 said...

How about a compromise. We'll legalize gay marriage if you let us make a law that imposes the death penalty on gay public displays of affection. Sounds fair to me. Have your weddings in the closet where they belong.

:)

beowulf2k8 said...

I'm half joking...but only half. Its the public displays of perversion that bother me more than the marriage. If they want legal status for tax purposes fine, but I don't want to see 'em doing ANYTHING.

The Common Loon said...

beowulf2k8,

I appreciate your forthrightness, but I'm afraid you've only reinforced my suspicion that most of the opposition to gay marriage stems from some variation on the "ick" factor.

Saying "we can't legalize XYZ because it gives me the heebie jeebies" is hardly a valid basis for crafting public policy.