Third Trip on the Kind Avenue: Privileged Distress and Counter-Revolutions

I might be presumptuous here, but I think The Kind Avenue indirectly responded to my rejoinder.  He posted a commentary by Doug Muder of the Weekly Sift that addresses some of the points I have made throughout this exchange.  They are worth taking some time to confront.

As I understand Muder’s post, he contends the Christian compatriots and I who hold that marriage is intrinsically heterosexual and in doing so, are not innately homophobic.  That’s nice of him to recognize, but we’ll see how little of a concession this is to him.  There are plenty of subtle indicators of veiled insults and gun-to-the-head rhetoric like I summarize in the following: We might not be hateful, yet we are still privileged supremacists, and in this matter, our distress is caused by the sudden loss of this privilege we had grown accustomed to.  We stubbornly cling to our prior status, unable to adapt to how society has changed.  We are relics from a far-gone age who cry out (the counter-revolution) against what happening to us while failing to see our distress, although real and understandable, is nothing compared to the discrimination gays are subject to.  In reference to a conservative blog commenter Muder writes, “He isn’t aware of hating anybody.  He just wants to preserve the world he grew up in, and can’t be bothered to picture how others suffer in that world.”

I take issue here with bringing up the whole issue of the privileged.  I don’t deny that Protestant Christianity has thrived and been the dominant religion of the United States.  Rather, I don’t see how it’s pertinent to this debate.  I find it snide and inappropriate.  It unfairly portrays Christians as selfish, unsympathetic elites and seems like another rhetorical move to demonize proponents of traditional marriage.  It’s nothing more than a cleverly disguised ad hominem that has no bearing on the truth of the matter.  Just because someone enjoys dwelling within the majority doesn’t mean he or she ought to endure legitimate grievances dealt to him or her by the minority.

Please, allow me to elaborate.  I’m not downplaying that gays suffer unjust discrimination for being gay.  They certainly ought be allowed to retain jobs and obviously not be killed in countries.  It’s tragic and horrid that if both claims are common-place realities.  What I do challenge is the notion that Christians suffering the censorship of their views on the issue of gay marriage is not as awful as discrimination against gays.

It’s difficult to discern between the two which case is worse.  Both are examples of oppression against a group of people.  Is Muder and The Kind Avenue really contending that First Amendment rights can take a backseat to instances like whether or not gays are allowed to work without the fear of unjust termination?  Although I’m not a utilitarian, I will echo Spock in Wrath of Khan: Do the needs of the few outweigh the needs of the many?  Why is it warranted within the gay rights movement to grant rights to their constituents while ignoring the rights of another demographic?  Because the former has suffered more than the latter?  No, this isn’t strong enough justification.

Muder uses this last summer’s hullabaloo regarding Chic-fil-a’s Dan Cathy as his example.  He paraphrases and quotes Wayne Self of Owldolatrous:

Cathy is suffering because people are saying bad things about him and refusing to buy his sandwiches. Meanwhile, 29 states (including Self’s home state of Louisiana) let employers fire gays for being gay. There are 75 countries Self and his partner can’t safely visit, because homosexuality is illegal and (in some of them) punishable by death.

The Cathy family has given $5 million to organizations that work to maintain this state of oppression. Self comments:

This isn’t about mutual tolerance because there’s nothing mutual about it. If we agree to disagree on this issue, you walk away a full member of this society and I don’t. There is no “live and let live” on this issue because Dan Cathy is spending millions to very specifically NOT let me live. I’m not trying to do that to him.

I feel obligated to digress a little and defend Dan Cathy here because these criticisms of Cathy are uncharitable.  Frankly, I’m sick of them too.  As I’ve argued here, people aren’t merely “saying bad things about him and refusing to buy his sandwiches.”  He was being persecuted for his beliefs.  He said nothing inherently bigoted, and he was decried and defamed as prejudiced.

Secondly, I’m skeptical about the fact “that 29 states let employers fire gays for being gay” is as malicious as some want us to believe.  Simply, the LGBT community has recently gained political clout.  Up until now, they most likely were not in the national conscious when these employment laws were passed and implemented.  I have a suspicion this qualm is not about deliberate anti-gay legislature but legislature that was silent about this issue because it had never come up before.  Admittedly, I don’t know when these laws were passed, and I’m more than willing to be shown wrong here.

Similarly, I find the claim regarding the kill-on-sight and other anti-gay laws in 75 countries irrelevant.  As terrible as that is, it doesn’t apply to the life gays live here in the United States.  May I point out that in some countries, Christians are slaughtered for only being Christian?

Lastly, the oft used accusation that Cathy is funding discrimination against gays is misplaced and inaccurate.  True, his family has donated to organizations with some dubious methods of upholding the biblical definition of marriage.  Perhaps Cathy ought not donate to some these groups and be more careful in his charitable actions.  Chastisement for this is permissible.  However, claiming Cathy is bigoted for doing so is going too far.  Some of the Christian organizations he has made contributions do many more things than fight the gay rights movement.  It’s suspect to immediately assume his money was given with the intent to spite gays.  That, he donated with the particular proviso to halt the march for gay equality.  Sorry, this is too big of a leap to make.  How exactly is “Dan Cathy spending millions to very specifically NOT let me live,” Mr. Self?  I don’t see this obviously to be the case.  Instead, I perceive it as an exaggeration and implausible assertion lacking justification.  Again, please show me evidence.

It does bear repeating: I’m not denying gays are unfairly subjected to discrimination, although I think “homophobes,” “bigots” and “straight-supremacists” are coming out of the woodwork at a speed Joseph McCarthy would approve of these days.  Rather, I’m arguing there is no justification for the gay rights movement to strike out against those who they might or might not correctly perceive as their oppressors.  Simply, two wrongs don’t make a right.  Is it good for the unpopular boy to push the well-liked bully, who has tormented him for years, off the playground slide because the pain from the fall is not comparable to the suffering he has endured?  Does the fact the bully also has enjoyed a cushy and popular social life at his expense make the action any more justified?

It’s fascinating to me that the gay rights movement has framed its cause as a matter of social justice, borrowing language that hearkens to the civil rights movement of the 1960s.  Yet, so many of its agents fail to emulate the lesson that inscribed people like Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi into the history books.  Combating fire with more fire is ineffective and ends up burning the house down.

Moving along, here’s Self’s second line of attack Muder sallies against the “privileged:”

I don’t think you hate me. I certainly don’t think you’re afraid of me. Neither is Bristol Palin. She probably even has LGBT people she calls friends. She just disagrees with them about whether they should be invited to the party (the party, in this case, being marriage).

But here’s the problem: the basis of that disagreement is her belief that her relationships are intrinsically better than ours. 

There’s a word for this type of statement: supremacist…

…Supremacy is the habit of believing or acting as if your life, your love, your culture, your self has more intrinsic worth than those of people who differ from you.

Ah, so the postmodern Medusa rears her ugly head at last.  There are multiple claims to be made here.  Firstly, I reject positing relationships within this definition.  No argument has been given to liken something that can be freely chosen and acted upon to things ontologically grounded and inherent to personhood.

Following from this, I must say, “So what?”  What’s the issue if I hold to the idea that a heterosexual marriage is better than the logically incoherent notion of gay marriage?  I also believe a relationship that the man doesn’t beat his wife is intrinsically better than one that does.  I even have the gall to believe that a relationship where both the man and woman are faithful to each other is innately better than one that is they don’t show such fidelity.  Hence, you can’t infer supremacy and bigotry akin to the Nazis or American South prior to 1970 from someone who subscribes to the idea that some things, not people, are fundamentally better than other things.

It should also be becoming evident that this postmodern world is pretty hard to dwell in as we all would be “supremacists” of some sort.  I pose this question loosely, but aren’t each of our lives generally a product of the choices we make?  I chose to include meat in my diet and not be a smoker, and don’t those decisions generally imply I think eating meat and not smoking is a better life than that of a vegan or a smoker?  Hence, I’m a supremacist against vegans and smokers and vice versa.  The absurdity should be unavoidable to miss here.  Furthermore, proponents of the gay rights movement who proclaim me “bigot” and ridicule me for not thinking gay marriage is just different are equally guilty.  The very act presupposes their worldview is intrinsically better than mine and not that it is just different and ought be accepted.  I don’t see how this not the pot calling the kettle black.  This postmodern carousel is about as fun as sawing off the branch you’re sitting on.

Lastly, Self’s quote precludes the possibility of any rational basis to oppose gay marriage.  In other words, there are only the downtrodden, marginalized gays and the big, bad, bigoted Christians who don’t want to invite the gays “to the party.”  This is simply false and a caricature of many of those who believe marriage is exclusively between a man and a woman.  For some reason, the gay rights movement fails to engage arguments like ones that contend procreation is, in principle, intrinsic to marriage, and given the fact it is impossible for a same-sex couple to conceive a child, marriage becomes irrelevant as the only reason it has arisen at all was to regulate the responsibilities and obligations involved in procreation.  It’s ironic: By demanding marriage to be redefined, the gay rights movement has removed the necessity for the institution in the first place.  In addition, why is it in the state’s best interest to recognize a union that fundamentally is unable to bring forth the next generation, thereby siphoning valuable resources from heterosexual unions that can?  In regards to adoption, don’t children have the right to be raised by their biological parents?  Why has the desire to be a parent become more important than the needs of the child?  Interestingly, I have yet to see a gay rights apologist address these questions and instead acts like these challenges against his or her position are nonexistent.  To concede that the issue isn’t one-sided is to acknowledge their opponent’s legitimacy.  Although that would be intellectually honest, it would also forfeit momentum and territory.

At least, the Muder sees the situation is a little more complicated than others would admit:

Confronting this distress is tricky, because neither acceptance nor rejection is quite right. The distress is usually very real, so rejecting it outright just marks you as closed-minded and unsympathetic. It never works to ask others for empathy without offering it back to them.

However, what he writes afterward is hardly what I would call gracious.

At the same time, my straight-white-male sunburn can’t be allowed to compete on equal terms with your heart attack. To me, it may seem fair to flip a coin for the first available ambulance, but it really isn’t. Don’t try to tell me my burn doesn’t hurt, but don’t consent to the coin-flip.

The Owldolatrous approach — acknowledging the distress while continuing to point out the difference in scale — is as good as I’ve seen. Ultimately, the privileged need to be won over. Their sense of justice needs to be engaged rather than beaten down. The ones who still want to be good people need to be offered hope that such an outcome is possible in this new world.

No thank you, Muder.  I won’t kowtow to your hollow position in order for me to be redeemed by you and your comrades’ equally empty graces.

Also, sunburns cause cancer,

Modus Pownens


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