Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Erosion of privilege is not the same as oppression, kthxbai.

Hilzoy has an excellent essay up here.

Rod Dreher Continues To Puzzle Me

Anonymous Liberal notes this from Rod Dreher, writing about the Iowa decision to legalize gay marriage:

"This morning, I had breakfast with some guys, including a lawyer. We weren't aware of this decision, but we talked about this issue. The lawyer said that as soon as homosexuality receives constitutionally protected status equivalent to race, then "it will be very hard to be a public Christian." By which he meant to voice support, no matter how muted, for traditional Christian teaching on homosexuality and marriage. To do so would be to set yourself up for hostile work environment challenges, including dismissal from your job, and generally all the legal sanctions that now apply to people who openly express racist views."

Anonymous Liberal makes two important points in response. First, if Dreher thinks it's tough being a "public Christian", he should try being openly gay for a change. Second:

"I find it more than a little pathetic that Dreher and his friends feel that they can't be "public Christians" without going out of their way to advertise their disapproval of homosexuality. First, there are millions of Christians in this country who have no problem at all with gay marriage or homosexuality generally (indeed, there are many gay Christians). But more importantly, since when is expressing disapproval of homosexuality a key part of being a "public Christian"? What about going to church or singing Christmas carols or celebrating Easter or (gasp!) volunteering your time to help those less fortunate? Aren't those pretty effective ways of being publicly Christian? Is gay marriage really going to make it any harder to do any of those things? We still do live in a majority Christian country after all, and I have a feeling that will continue to be the case even after we start treating gay people like full citizens."

But there's another problem with what Dreher and his lawyer friend think. Let's suppose, for the sake of argument, that being Dreher's kind of Christian does in fact require public disapproval of homosexuality. I don't know why one would want to be that kind of Christian, as opposed to the kind who follows Christ in ministering compassionately to Pharisees and (those whom one takes to be) sinners alike, but hey: it's Dreher's life, not mine. And suppose further that allowing gay men and lesbians to enjoy full legal rights, including the right to marry, would in fact produce the (specific) results Dreher's friend fears. Here, again, is how Dreher describes the problems that loom on his horizon:

"To voice support, no matter how muted, for traditional Christian teaching on homosexuality and marriage (...) would be to set yourself up for hostile work environment challenges, including dismissal from your job, and generally all the legal sanctions that now apply to people who openly express racist views."

Notice anything about those legal sanctions? They all apply to people who openly express racist views at work. There are no legal sanctions for expressing openly racist views on the street or on a public beach. Why not? We have this odd thing called "freedom of speech", which precludes them. In a country that let Nazis march through a town full of Holocaust survivors, I find it hard to believe that Rod Dreher and his friends will not find some way to express their views in public.

Apparently, to be the kind of "public Christian" that Dreher thinks he has a right to be, it's not enough to bear Christian witness in public. It's not even enough to express disapproval of homosexuality in public. You have to express disapproval of homosexuality to your co-workers, in your workplace. And you have to do so even if they find your expressions of disapproval so unpleasant that they actually file suit.

The existence of laws against sexual harassment in the workplace does not mean that no one can be a public lecher. The fact that I think it inappropriate to introduce my political views into my classroom does not mean that I do not get to be publicly political. It just means that not all remarks are appropriate in all settings. This should not be news to anyone. It's certainly not a threat to freedom of religion, any more than it's a threat to public political expression.

Only someone whose life had been very, very privileged would assume that he had the right to tell his co-workers how sinful he thought they were, or that if this supposed right were threatened, that meant not that he should bear witness to the gospel in a more appropriate setting, but that his freedom of religion itself was in jeopardy.

Zoe Kentucky posted a great comment to this:
This is exactly what Dreher is talking about, and coming to a workplace, pulpit, public forum, or jurisdiction very near you very soon.

I suppose that is why Fred Phelps is rotting behind bars. Because in America we don't let people say ugly, anti-gay things in public without silencing, fining and punishing them.

Oh, wait, he isn't? In fact, Phelps and his family recently took huge their "God Hates Fags" signs and protested outside of the White House recently. For pete's sake, the Phelps family protests military funerals. They don't get arrested or fined even when they ARE harassing people.

So, as far as free speech rights are concerned, if Fred Phelps can walk around freely and say beyond-the-pale reprehensible anti-gay comments then I think you can still tell people that you don't like gay people or approve of gay marriage.

The fact is that things are changing-- openly anti-gay views are falling out of social favor. The truth is that you can say whatever you want, just don't expect that it will make you popular or be accepted with a agreeable smile. That is the part that these people are upset about, that their prejudicial views are no longer shared by most people.

That's what they're really talking about. "When we try to block equal protection under the law for people who believe differently from us, people talk like we're unreasonable, hateful, and un-Christ-like. OH MAN IT'S SO HARD TO BE CHRISTIAN POOR US THIS IS JUST LIKE BEING FED TO ROMAN LIONS."

Don't get me wrong. I think Christianity is a beautiful religion, and I know people for whom it's done a great deal of good. And it is notable that most Christians nowadays are actually not strongly opposed to treating same-sex couples with the same human dignity that heterosexual couples receive. Yes, yes, really. They're not like Dreher and other similar people, whose lives are so centered around public hatred and derision of other people that being asked to treat others with respect is a life-destroying catastrophe.

Most Christians aren't like this. This is an exceptional case of extraordinary fear-mongering irrational hatred. This is homophobia in its purest sense: the fear that if gays are around and treated like they're people something terrible will happen. Just what that is, and how it'll happen? Well, I guess that needs to be taken on faith.

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