Wednesday, December 10, 2008

On hatred and tolerance. And KrAzY KrIsTiAnZ!

Leonard Pitts wrote a moving Op-ed after the election that was carried by our local paper about how many of the supporters of Proposition 8 in California were black. He opined about the election that

You will recall one of the major storylines of that day was the fact that, in helping make Barack Obama the nation's first black president, African Americans struck a blow against a history that has taught us all too well how it feels to be demeaned and denied. Unfortunately, while they were striking that blow, some black folks chose to demean and deny someone else.

Last week, you see, California voters passed an initiative denying recognition to same-sex marriages. This overturned an earlier ruling from the state Supreme Court legalizing those unions. The vote was hardly a surprise; surely there is nothing in politics easier than to rouse a majority of voters against the ''threat'' of gay people being treated like people.

I thought it was a great editorial, and was somewhat surprised to see a counter-editorial pop up the next week. Thomas Martin, who apparently holds the prized O.K. Bouwsma Chair of Philosophy at the prestigious University of Nebraska at Kearney (too much sarcasm?), got it all wrong. He says "Jesus is intolerant: he does not tolerate anything wrong that a person does....When Jesus commands us to love our neighbors as ourselves, he does not ask us to tolerate our neighbors' actions." He continues, linking the biblical parable of the prostitute and the Pharisees ("let him who is without sin, cast the first stone...) and ending with the tired old "slippery slope" argument-

"So, yesterday it was fashionable for to marry and raise children. Tomorrow it may be fashionalbe to father children like a bull in a field of heifers; the next day, for men to marry men; the next day, for fathers to marry daughters and brothers to marry sisters".
I wish I could hyperlink you to the whole editorial, it really is quite something to behold, but our local paper sadly does not make that available. In any case, I had to write a letter to the editor explaining the way thinking people feel on the issue:
The editorial from Thomas Martin (Midlands Voices, 12/1/08) in response to Leonard Pitts' opinion essay was an unfortunate example of bigotry. If Mr. Martin wishes to belong to a religion that does not recognize gay marriage, that is perfectly within his rights as an American under the first amendment to the Constitution. The first amendment also creates a separation between church and state, which means that unless there are compelling secular reasons to justify denying a group of Americans their civil rights, then we should not do so. Resorting to a two-thousand year old parable to keep a group of people from being able to have full equality under the law falls far short of the ideal of justice and equality that our government was founded upon and ought to strive for.

Mr. Martin also points out that tolerance was not a biblical requirement. It is utterly incredible that he would argue that "Jesus is intolerant"- the very parable of the prostitute and the Pharisees that Mr. Martin cites has at its core a message of inclusion and compassion for those that are scapegoated by society, not a message of intolerance and inequality as Mr. Martin has twisted it to mean.

Finally, the slippery slope argument that he raises makes no sense. Several other countries in the world afford equal rights to committed gay couples, and there has not been a single case of fathers wishing "to marry daughters and brothers to marry sisters". However, these were the same tired arguments raised to protest against allowing blacks and whites to intermarry in the last century. I thought we had moved beyond this kind of bigotry, but it appears that is sadly not the case. You may not like that gay people exist, but using religion as a tool to oppress them hardly seems Christian.
Yesterday, in my snail mail, I received a letter. I didn't recognize the return address, especially so because it was a label prominently featuring a cross. It must be a miracle that it got to me, given that there was no street address, just my name, city, state, and zip code. Anyway, without further ado, here's the letter. (click to embiggen)

So, I guess he showed me! I think he's assuming that I must be gay (I'm not), but maybe he wants all people in favor of equal rights to move out of the state as well? I think, however, that if you are not willing to abide by the Constitution's requirements, and are unable to muster the votes to change it, then you ought to be the one to move. All the KrAzY KrIsTiAnZ can move elsewhere to start their own little bigoted, hateful theocracy where they can impose their religious will on each other and leave the rest of us in peace.

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