Thursday, August 13, 2009

Why it's easy to be anti-gay

We've commented here before that there's a real conflict between how Chrisitian denominations of all sorts treat divorce, and how they treat homosexuality. The Biblical strictures against divorce are far more numerous, and far less ambiguous, than those against homosexual behavior. And yet, with the conspicuous exception of the Roman Catholics (although even they have an "out" through the annulment process), pretty much everyone allows divorce, allows remarriage, and allows the divorced to be priests and bishops (or pastors and elders, as the case may be). Everyone can find it in themselves to understand and forgive the marriage that didn't work out, or even more, to imagine themselves in a situation where they need that potential relief.

Matthew Yglesias nails it:
I think this explains a lot about the appeal of anti-gay crusades to social conservative leaders. Most of what “traditional values” asks of people is pretty hard. All the infidelity and divorce and premarital sex and bad parenting and whatnot take place because people actually want to do the things traditional values is telling them not to do. And the same goes for most of the rest of the Christian recipe. Acting in a charitable and forgiving manner all the time is hard. Loving your enemies is hard. Turning the other cheek is hard.

Homosexuality is totally different. For a small minority of the population, of course, the injunction “don’t have sex with other men!” (or, as the case may be, other women) is painfully difficult to live up to. But for the vast majority of people this is really, really easy to do. Campaigns against gay rights, gay people, and gay sex thus have a lot of the structural elements of other forms of crusading against sexual excess or immorality, but they’re not really asking most people to do anything other than become self-righteous about their pre-existing preferences.


Human nature being what it is, we can pretty easily imagine the anti-gay crusaders having NO problem with taking up the banner for this cause, probably in a sense of relief that they aren't asked to really address anything that might actually affect them.

It's very easy to tell someone else to suck it up and carry a cross--as long as you don't have to carry it with them.

My mom used to exhort me to consider "walking a mile in the other person's moccasins" (something I'm still not very good at; BP will tell you that I am an opinionated and fierce partisan). But really, isn't that what we all have to struggle to do before we judge anyone?

Yglesias in turn points us to a column by Ross Douthat in the NY Times:
More than most Westerners, Americans believe — deeply, madly, truly — in the sanctity of marriage. But we also have some of the most liberal divorce laws in the developed world, and one of the highest divorce rates. We sentimentalize the family, but boast one of the highest rates of unwed births. We’re more pro-life than Europeans, but we tolerate a much more permissive abortion regime than countries like Germany or France. We wring our hands over stem cell research, but our fertility clinics are among the least regulated in the world.

In other words, we’re conservative right up until the moment that it costs us.
Yeah. the easy out of convenience.

6 comments:

MarkBrunson said...

I've said all along that they were able to push this because they have no personal stake in it.

Erp said...

I should point out that the current attitude towards divorce is fairly recent and that there had been a tremendous stigma attached to a divorced woman (men got off lighter).

I agree that the US tends to wring its hands but not do much (unless it only affects the poor or powerless).

Kahu Aloha said...

I have always thought that when an anti-gay rights initiative gets started, we gay folk should get an initive on the same ballot banning divorce. That might get the complacent straights (including our parents and families) out to vote. At the very least it points out the hypocritical thincking of the religious right that wants to get holy by kneeling on our backs rather than their own knees.

Kahu Aloha

John I. said...

Excellent comments! However, I couldn't get the Yglesias link to work.

forsythia said...

I know of a very conservative Presbyterian church in Columbia, MD with many members who have remarried after divorce. However, you cannot be a minister in this church and be divorced. (At least it was that way 10 years ago.) Not only that, ten years ago, the church leaders were hell-bent on "dis-fellowshipping"--that is, kicking out-- the unrepentant adulterous spouse in a divorce. My friend's husband-to-be, to his credit, warned his ex-wife that a posse from the church planned to visit her on a certain evening to pin the scarlet letter on her. She made sure not to be home that night. Needless to say, LGTB's are not welcome in this congregation.

IT said...

Link fixed, John. I seem to have been throwing extra spaces into my URLs.