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A Good Man Tries and Fails

Rob Tisinai

December 16th, 2010

Ron Sider is a prominent evangelical Christian who opposes marriage equality.  He doesn’t seem to be a hateful bigot at all.  I never sense that he was murmuring perverts, perverts, perverts as he typed his recent article, ”Bearing Better Witness.”  He’s shown me two things with that piece: First, a reminder that some people who promote discrimination are decent, well-meaning human beings.  And second, even their best-intentioned arguments can’t withstand scrutiny.

Sider begins by arguing there are secular reasons for opposing marriage equality:

Even a state such as ours, which does not use the law to promote or discourage particular religious beliefs, nevertheless has a huge stake in marriage. It is not simply a religious issue. The law is a moral teacher. Most people assume that if something is legal, it is moral—or at least not immoral. What is legal soon will become normal.

That’s both untrue and dangerous.

Really, most people would brand something like self-serving deceit as immoral.  Even a trivial selfish lie betrays someone’s trust.  But while some lies are illegal — fraud, libel, slander, perjury, and the like — most everyday lies are not.   Sorry, I got caught in traffic.  Or, I wasn’t flirting with him. Or, I don’t know who ate the last piece of pie (that one’s egregious in the extreme!).

In fact, you can create a whole catalog of immoral-but-not-illegal acts:

  • Drinking a 6-pack every night while giving your children barely adequate care.
  • Calling in sick to work and spending the day at the track.
  • Letting your boyfriend move across the country to be with you while you’re sneaking around behind his back.

These aren’t typically illegal, but immoral?  Sure.  If Sider claims, Most people assume that if something is legal, it is moral, he’d best back that up with data, because people see lousy behavior everyday that doesn’t, strictly speaking, break official rules, much less laws.

But if Sider believes this, why does he stop at same-sex marriage?  He believes homosexuality is wrong — wouldn’t his reasoning demand that he try to outlaw homosexuality itself?  The idea that The law is a moral teacher runs counter to America’s live-and-let-live tradition, but it’s a great way to justify theocracy.

Sider might duck this by arguing we should only outlaw things that do demonstrable harm to society, and he tries to make a case that marriage equality does just that:

Children grow best into wholesome adults when they live with their biological mother and father. Marriage law is a crucial way in which the state promotes the sound nurturing of the next generation of citizens.

Legalizing gay marriage would weaken the connection between marriage and procreation—and the connection between biological parents and their biological children—which is why court cases in support of gay marriage typically downgrade the role of procreation.

Okay, four problems.

  1. Children, yes, generally do better with their biological parents than in single-parent homes or in homes with a step-parent.  However…children often do even better than that with adoptive parents, as the expert witness for Prop 8 testified. But Sider ignores this subtlety, and (perhaps unintentionally) plays into a classic anti-gay strategy:  Say something often enough and people will think it’s true.
  2. Sider offers no evidence that Legalizing gay marriage would weaken the connection between marriage and procreation.  He just says it.  The 50 states allow all sorts of non-procreative marriages. Why will same-sex marriage be so different — especially if (as our opponents love to point out) gays and lesbians are only a small portion of the population?
  3. Do court cases in support of gay marriage “downgrade” the role of procreation?  Or do they merely acknowledge procreation is not essential to marriage, and that people marry for reasons that don’t involve kids at all?
  4. Because Sider is erroneously hung up on “biological parents,” he focuses entirely on child-bearing and ignores child-rearing.  Gay and lesbian couples rear children, and those children deserve the legal protections of family law.

Mercifully, Sider abandons the procreation argument (for now). Unfortunately, he takes up religious freedom instead.  The results are disastrous.

Most legal scholars agree that if gay marriage receives the sanction of law, “gay rights” will be pitted against the rights of religious freedom—and, more often than not, will win. Gay activists will argue that government cannot “subsidize discrimination,” and the courts will generally agree. Religious institutions will find that freedom to practice and even say what they believe about sexuality and marriage will increasingly be restricted. Already, in Canada and Sweden, pastors have been taken to court and charged with hate crimes because they preached sermons condemning homosexual practice as sin.

More problems.

  1. It’s true this happened to pastor Stephen Boissoin in Canada.  I wish it had not.  I also wish Sider had noted the pastor was ultimately acquitted.  Not that his legal ordeal was trivial.  But here we see Sider leaving out key information that undercuts his case.  Now I trust him less as an objective seeker of truth.
  2. Canada and Sweden are not comparable to the US.  Neither has a First Amendment protection of speech and religion (and religious speech).  If we’re bringing in other countries, I could point to executions in Iran as what happens when a country doesn’t grant gays and lesbians full civil equality.  Fortunately, the US is not Iran.  Neither is it Sweden or Canada.
  3. Hate crime laws don’t just protect gays and lesbians.  They protect Christians, too.  A pastor denouncing homosexuality faces the same legal risk as an atheist denouncing Christianity.  And that risk is zero.  American hate crime laws don’t make anything illegal.  They merely add enhanced penalties to actions that are already considered crimes, like assault, vandalism, incitement to violence.
  4. Sider’s worst error in this paragraph is offering evidence that has nothing to do with his concern.  His alleged dangers to liberty involve hate crime law, but gay marriage and hate crime law are not the same thing.  One might as well argue that legalizing interracial marriage jeopardized the freedom of pastors to argue that Blacks are the eternally cursed descendants of Noah’s son Ham.

Sider tries to offer more evidence:

Faith-based organizations eventually may lose their tax-exempt status. Even the threat of such a disastrous development will move many Christian organizations to silence or change. In 1983, the Supreme Court ruled that Bob Jones University [BJU] could lawfully be denied its tax exemption because of its policy on interracial dating. I vigorously agree with that decision because racism is wrong. But more and more people accept the misguided argument that opposition to homosexual practice and gay marriage is just like racism.

Again, this has nothing to do with same-sex marriage — it’s about non-discrimination laws. Sider still isn’t presenting relevant evidence.

Blogger Mark Thompson has a great piece about the alleged conflict between marriage equality and religious freedom:

First, the conflict here is definitively not between gay marriage and religious liberty.  It is instead between laws regarding private discrimination and freedom of association, or perhaps between licensing laws and freedom of religion.  As they affect the private sphere and specifically religious organizations, gay rights, and specifically same-sex marriage, represent at most an expansion of existing conflicts rather than any new type of conflict.  Even here, the conflict arises not from whether or not same-sex marriage is permitted, but instead from whether or not statutory laws recognize sexual orientation as an impermissible basis for private discrimination (whether in an employment context, public accommodations context, or otherwise), which is independent of whether same-sex marriage is permitted.

The whole thing is worth a read.  I want to focus on something else, though.  Did you think me dramatic earlier when I wrote of theocracy?  It’s creeping in here, too. Sider’s religion tells him that Bob Jones University’s practice is wrong while opposing homosexuality is right.  But Sider doesn’t think BJU should be allowed the religious freedom he demands for himself.  Why?  Because he thinks BJU’s precepts are wrong.

This is not an argument for religious freedom. This is an argument that the government should enforce Sider’s religion through the force of law.

Does Sider’s religion say something is wrong?

– Then the government should penalize religions that disagree.

Does Sider’s religion say something is right?

– Then the government must give it free reign.

Don’t call this a double standard.  Double standards are cute and fluffy creatures compared to this.  This — this is theocracy with Sider’s religion in charge.

I’m sure Sider opposes theocracy.  He’s fallen into this trap because he finds racism abhorrent.  He struggling to find grounds for outlawing racial discrimination while still allowing discrimination against gays.  He simply goes horribly astray without even knowing it.

Frankly I think you could make a principled, religious-liberty argument that both racist and homophobic religious groups should be allowed to keep their tax-exempt status.  Or that neither should.  What I don’t see?  How you can argue that one policy is okay while the other is not.

Next Sider admonishes evangelicals for their treatment of gays.  It’s heartfelt and refreshing, and explains how they’ve squandered their own moral authority:

Tragically, because of our own mistakes and sin, we evangelicals have almost no credibility on this topic. We have tolerated genuine hatred of gays; we should have taken the lead in condemning gay bashing but were largely silent; we have neglected to act in gentle love with people among us struggling with their sexual identity; and we have used the gay community as a foil to raise funds for political campaigns. We have made it easy for the media to suggest that the fanatics who carry signs announcing “God hates fags” actually speak for large numbers of evangelicals.

Worst of all, we have failed to deal honestly with the major threat to marriage and the family: heterosexual adultery and divorce. Evangelicals divorce at the same rate as the rest of the population. Many evangelical leaders have failed to speak against cheap divorce because they and their people were getting divorced just like everyone else. And yet we have had the gall to use the tiny (5 percent or less) gay community as a whipping boy that we labeled as the great threat to marriage.

Then Sider gets creepy.  He writes of Ed Dobson, the evangelical former vice-president of Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University, who ministered to AIDS patients when it was a controversial thing to do, and Sider wishes more evangelicals had followed his example:

Then, maybe, when non-Christians heard the word “evangelical,” they would think, “Oh, they are the people who love homosexuals and care for them when they are dying of AIDS.”

If there’s a more condescending, self-serving, passive-aggressive expression of Christian love for gays, I haven’t heard it.  Though I have to agree it would have better positioned evangelicals in their political campaigns against us.

Sider now segues into what marriage is for.  He repeats his earlier mistake:

If the central concern of the state in marriage law is to secure a good relationship between a child and its biological parents, then by definition marriage can only involve a man and a woman.

Other things being equal, it is better for children to grow up with their biological parents. Marriage to the mother is by far the best way to ensure responsible fatherhood. When not married to the mother, few men are effective fathers. As far as the state is concerned, the first concern of marriage law must be to protect the interests of children and thereby create an ongoing, stable, wholesome social order.

First, let’s note again that his claims about biological parents have no support — at least not when you’re comparing biological parents to adoptive parents.  Just recently, the Family Research Council (never eager to do gays a favor) published a literature review on the effects of adoption:

Adoption is life-alteringly beneficial for children. Such is the general conclusion from a review of the literature.

Adoption in the first 12 months of the child’s life produces the best outcomes, but all children will benefit, regardless of their age at placement. Adopted children outperform their non-adopted peers and non-adopted siblings.

Sider’s core facts are simply wrong.

Next he writes:

It has been argued that, if the state’s central interest in marriage is the raising of wholesome citizens, it should not grant a marriage license to sterile couples, those who choose not to have children, or older people who no longer can conceive children. Because the advocates of traditional marriage will not say this, the argument goes, their claims are invalid.

Excellent. I’m eager to see what he’s got on this:

In fact, we do not say this because our argument actually does not imply it. The state cannot know which married men and women will be sterile.  By granting couples who do not want children…

Whoa, let’s go back to his point about sterility.  That’s it?  The government can’t know who is sterile?  What if the government could know?  Would he favor denying them marriage?  If so — wow.  If not, then he hasn’t explained away the contradiction in his policy.

Furthermore, sometimes the government does know which couples are sterile.  Five states allow first cousins (or first cousins once removed) to marry only if the couple is beyond a given age or can prove they can’t bear children.

Let that sink in.  In some states, certain couples can marry only if they’re sterile.

Yep, America has a history of permitting some couples to marry while forbidding them to procreate.  So much for the idea that procreation is the “essential public purpose” of marriage.

Sider continues:

By granting couples who do not want children the status of marriage, the state recognizes that they have the kind of union that characteristically produces children, even if they choose (at first) not to have any.

I’m not sure what this means.  Couples who don’t want kids are the kind of couples that “characteristically” produce children?  I suppose he’s arguing that they could, if they change their mind or have an accident.  But he still doesn’t explain why he allows them to marry before then.  So the contradiction in his policy is still there.

By granting that status to older people no longer capable of conceiving a child, the state encourages the view that sex should be limited to married persons because that strengthens the likelihood that children will be raised by their biological parents.

This is where the logic train grinds to a halt.

Does granting seniors marital rights encourage the view that sex should be limited to married persons?  I don’t see the connection.  I think he’s saying that such a policy signals the elderly to wait until marriage before having sex (which I doubt).  And that this in turn signals the young to wait, too (which I deeply doubt).

I suppose I can imagine an elderly widow saying to her suitor, “If we couldn’t marry I would have sex with you tonight, but since we can marry I shall wait until the wedding night,”  though it would be a rare woman who would say both halves of that sentence.

But Sider’s going farther than that and asking us to  imagine a woman of child-bearing age saying, “My grandmother believes that if she couldn’t marry her beau she would have sex with him tonight, but since they can marry she shall wait until their wedding night, and therefore I also will wait until my wedding night.”

Sider might think I’m setting up a straw man with this interpretation, but it’s the most sense I can make of it.

Get this, though:  even you accept his tenuous notion that granting couples who can’t procreate marriage rights will signal that sex should be limited to married couples — that’s not a reason for excluding same-sex couples.  In fact, phrased that way, it’s a reason for including them.

Then he deals with an issue I’ve always found particularly galling:

It also has been argued that arguments along these lines belittle adoption. My wife and I have a wonderful adopted daughter. In many situations (including abuse, neglect, and financial deprivation), adoption is much better for a child than remaining with one or both biological parents—but that does not change the fact that, other things being equal, it is better for a child to grow up with both biological parents. Even the best adoptive homes recognize that the absence of biological parents brings painful struggles.

Again, he’s simply wrong.  You needn’t resort to abuse, neglect, and financial deprivation to defend adoption.  There’s no evidence — and he doesn’t even try to present any — that “other things being equal, it is better for a child to grow up with both biological parents.”  Remember, studies that proclaim the superiority of two biological parents generally compare them to single parents and step-parents, not to adoptive parents.

Some also argue that it is better for a child to be adopted by gay partners than to grow up in an orphanage or poor foster home. But even if it were, that does not warrant changing the historic definition of marriage.

End of paragraph.  End of paragraph?  Come on, Sider, don’t just state your conclusion.  Give us some reason to believe it.

Perhaps he’s trying in the next paragraph:

The evidence, as we have seen, is clear: The legal redefinition of marriage would have far-reaching negative consequences. Abandoning what every civilization for millennia has understood marriage to be would harm children and undermine religious freedom.

No, Sider has not shown us clear evidence.  He keeps repeating (and repeating and repeating) his claim about biological parents, but he gives us no evidence.  As for religious freedom, his examples are unrelated to marriage equality.

He starts winding up the article after this:  Evangelicals must stop elevating homosexuality above other sins.  Evangelicals must get their own heterosexual behavior in order if they wish to speak with authority on marriage.  Divorces should be harder to get.  Gay people should be treated fairly.  Same-sex couples should have civil unions with rights appropriate to their lesser status as partners who cannot both be the biological parents of the children they are raising.

Remember, I hoped to gain two lessons from Sider’s column.  I’ve seen what it’s like for a committed evangelical to defend marriage discrimination while staying true to his deeper convictions.  I’ve seen how it twists a good man up in contradictions, factual blindness, and unintended implications.  There has to be a suffering in that.  Would it be condescending, self-serving, and passive aggressive to say, “We love our opponents and care for them while they drown in their contradictions?”

Yeah.

Perhaps, though, we can respect them as they, like the rest of us, struggle for truth even as they struggle to evade it.  I think that’s a universal human condition.

How, then, to answer this segment of our opposition that doesn’t hate us, that doesn’t speak in terms of perversion, abomination, and predation? Remember these five things:

  1. Don’t fall for the notion that legality equates to approval.  There are too many counter-examples for that.
  2. When someone claims children do best with both biological parents, tell them that research says otherwise.  If they offer studies, make sure the studies compare biological parents to adoptive parents rather than to single and step-parents.
  3. Insist that their evidence match their conclusion.  They can only argue gay marriage endangers religious freedom if their examples are actually about gay marriage.
  4. Be ready to point out that procreation is not an essential part of marriage — that America has a legal history of allowing some couples to marry only if they can’t procreate.

The fifth item isn’t a debating point.  It’s this:  Remember that you’re gay, and you have a life, and you have the right to be open about it.  The best Christians bring people to their faith by their living example.  We can do the same in our fight for equality.

Comments

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bls
December 16th, 2010 | LINK

To be consistent, he should also be working to make adultery illegal once again.

Of course, he’s not, and neither is anybody else. Interesting, that….

Tone
December 16th, 2010 | LINK

You lost me at “…some people who promote discrimination are decent, well-meaning human beings.” I absolutely cannot fathom that statement. It sounds like it comes from a place of tremendous oppression.

No one who promotes discrimination against me and tries to prevent me from having full equality in society is in any way being decent or well-meaning.

Rob Tisinai
December 16th, 2010 | LINK

Tone, when I read your comment I have to think of my mom (born in to a conservative Catholic household in 1920). She’s no longer with us, but she would — at some point in her — have opposed marriage equality. I like to think she’d have changed her mind if the issue had arisen while she lived. Certainly she changed her views on homosexuality in the years after I came out to her. But it’s a struggle to let go of what you’ve believed all your life.

It’s a struggle for ALL of us, though the issues involved may vary from person to person.

Recognizing that doesn’t mean you’re coming “from a place of tremendous oppression.” It just means you recognize that education and change are hard.

Richard Rush
December 16th, 2010 | LINK

It seems to me that Sider may be clever enough to appear thoughtful and reasonable, and to add the appearance of balance by throwing in some criticism of his own evangelical people. Or maybe he really does believe he is thoughtful, reasonable, and balanced. But If I try to focus on the results that Sider appears to seek, I don’t see how they would differ much from the results sought by NOM, or by any number of other anti-gay outfits. After you peel away Seder’s window dressing, isn’t he just another theocratic religion-based bigot?

David in Houston
December 16th, 2010 | LINK

“By granting that status to older people no longer capable of conceiving a child, the state encourages the view that sex should be limited to married persons because that strengthens the likelihood that children will be raised by their biological parents.”

This statement is 100% illogical, and is nothing but incoherent gibberish. First of all, how is anyone even going to know that the senior citizen couple is married? Will younger couples walk up to them and ask to see their wedding rings? …and if the younger couple finds out that the senior couple isn’t married, will the result be to also forgo marriage and to abstain from sex? The idea that the state has ANY interest in the sex lives of its citizens is laughable. If it truly did, sterility tests would be a requirement. So, yes, it IS possible for the state to find out who is and is not capable of procreating.

After rereading his statement for the tenth time, I’m still at a loss to figure out how a married senior citizen couple can have ANY effect on a random younger couple planning to get married and eventually procreating. Why does the younger couple even need an example of an older married couple? Do they not know what it means to be married? If there isn’t an older married couple available will this have a devastating impact on the younger couple’s children? Like I said, it’s all incoherent nonsense, made by a very desperate man.

Désirée
December 17th, 2010 | LINK

The thing here that really jumped out at me was this:

“Furthermore, sometimes the government does know which couples are sterile. Five states allow first cousins (or first cousins once removed) to marry only if the couple is beyond a given age or can prove they can’t bear children.

Let that sink in. In some states, certain couples can marry only if they’re sterile.

Yep, America has a history of permitting some couples to marry while forbidding them to procreate. So much for the idea that procreation is the “essential public purpose” of marriage.”

Why hasn’t this argument been used more by our side against NOMbies and other types who try to make this all about procreation? The next time a NOMbie lawyer tries to argue in court that marriage is about making babies, one of our lawyers just needs to whip this out and *poof* their argument is gone.

This single fact puts to rest forever their notion about the “primary purpose of marriage” since the law has already declared otherwise.

Nathaniel
December 17th, 2010 | LINK

“Canada and Sweden are not comparable to the US. Neither has a First Amendment protection of speech and religion (and religious speech). If we’re bringing in other countries, I could point to executions in Iran as what happens when a country doesn’t grant gays and lesbians full civil equality. Fortunately, the US is not Iran. Neither is it Sweden or Canada.”

—This statement is slightly false, from a Swedish point of view. The pastor in question was freed from all charges thanks to freedom of speech-laws in Sweden that protect his religious views.
He called our kind a “cancer on society” and was indeed charged with hate crimes, but as I stated, he was acquitted due to religious freedom of speech.
He was ridiculed though and remains an ignorant stain on my homeland.

Hunter
December 17th, 2010 | LINK

The really sad part of this — or scary, depending on your point of view — is that Sider probably thinks he has put together a carefully reasoned argument.

Christopher
December 17th, 2010 | LINK

Hunter, Sider may think that now, but what I think will be the real test is if he’s willing to consider opposing viewpoints (such as Rob’s analysis).

I’ve had the experience of considering an issue seriously and critically and coming to a conclusion that I thought was well-reasoned, only to have someone point out big gaping holes in my logic. When it happened I’d reconsider my position (although, to be honest, there was usually some metaphorical kicking and screaming).

Sider may not have considered the issue as critically as he should have before, possibly because of eagerness to share what he thought was a bulletproof argument. I wonder if, as others have, he’ll casually dismiss counter-arguments as not worth his time, or if he’ll actually reconsider his argument.

Donny D.
December 17th, 2010 | LINK

I have to agree with you, Hunter. Sider is just repeating all the anti-gay movement’s current anti-gay marriage arguments.

I also have to agree with Richard Rush, that Sider may believe himself to be good person, but what he’s written here suggests otherwise.

For instance, the false claim that this or that pro-equality law, be it same sex marriage, hate crimes laws that protect gay people or anti-bullying policies that protect us, will mean government restrictions on the right to anti-gay free speech. Sider can use the passive voice all he wants, but what’s meant is that the evil homos want to pass these laws to silence you, to take away your rights.

Also, I should note that “Most legal scholars agree that if gay marriage receives the sanction of law, ‘gay rights’ will be pitted against the rights of religious freedom — and, more often than not, will win” appears to be a flat lie. Somehow I can’t see blatant lying in support of the proposition that gay rights = suppression of religion as “well-intentioned” or “good”.

And check out the quotation marks on “gay rights”. Because, to Sider, there is no such thing. Nice.

There’s something contemptible about someone who minimizes his failings when he claims to be soul searching. Sider says about evangelical failings in regard to gay people, “We have tolerated genuine hatred of gays; we should have taken the lead in condemning gay bashing but were largely silent; we have neglected to act in gentle love with people among us struggling with their sexual identity”. No, dear, it’s not failure to act, you’re covering up for yourself here. You evangelicals have EXPRESSED genuine hatred of gay people, you have ACTED hatefully to the gay people among you — and I wouldn’t be surprised if your younger males all too frequently have ENGAGED IN gay bashing. This is an un”refreshing” but I’m sure truly “heartfelt” denial of the full range of his coreligionists’ actions.

And here’s one more howler: “Abandoning what every civilization for millennia has understood marriage to be would harm children and undermine religious freedom.” So when does he prove that EVERY civilization EVERYwhere (for the usual five millenia?) has seen marriage as only one man and one woman? He doesn’t, like every other anti-gay ideologue who pushes this claim.

Donny D.
December 17th, 2010 | LINK

Just a clarification of my previous post: the apparent lie I was referring to was the claim that most legal scholars agreed with the anti-gay movement’s dubious notions on the future consequences of gay marriage legalization.

Stephen
December 17th, 2010 | LINK

Couple of things:

Marriage is about property. It has nothing to do directly with the rearing of children. It has to do with marking out clear lines of inheritance. Look at the ceremony: the bride (traditionally a virgin and in many cultures that is still the assumption and if she is found not to be physically intact she can be handed back) is led to the altar by her father who owns her. Her father hands her to her new owner, her husband. The contract used to be made between the groom and the bride’s father but has become softened over time with the phrase “Love, honor and obey” softened to better suit our sensibilities.

In its early days the church would not carry out weddings which were thought to be pagan. The Plymouth colony followed this example. The pilgrims would not conduct weddings.

Evangelicals have higher rates of divorce than the rest of the population. Massachusetts has the lowest. The state with the longest tradition of marriage equality. Wherever marriage equality is the law there have been none of the dire consequences envisaged by evangelicals.

No one is talking about religious constructs of marriage, like polygamy. We are talking about civil marriage. Which gets to the nub of the problem: marriage is a civil ceremony not religious. It has been been co-opted by the church. One marries under license from the state not the other way round.

Stephen
December 17th, 2010 | LINK

Donny D.

I would agree with you. For me the tell comes as he writes:

‘… we have used the gay community as a foil to raise funds for political campaigns.’

I can’t think of any other group that has made its living off the backs of a disadvantaged minority in this way. That employs full-time activists and pays them handsomely to devote themselves to the sole purpose of stripping us of our civil rights.

Penguinsaur
December 17th, 2010 | LINK

Tragically, because of our own mistakes and sin, we evangelicals have almost no credibility on this topic. We have tolerated genuine hatred of gays; we should have taken the lead in condemning gay bashing but were largely silent; we have neglected to act in gentle love with people among us struggling with their sexual identity; and we have used the gay community as a foil to raise funds for political campaigns. We have made it easy for the media to suggest that the fanatics who carry signs announcing “God hates fags” actually speak for large numbers of evangelicals.

Translation: Damnit guys stop being so honest! You know this campaign to take away gay people’s rights will only work if we stick to the script!

Martin
December 17th, 2010 | LINK

He’s shown me two things with that piece: First, a reminder that some people who promote discrimination are decent, well-meaning human beings.

I can’t agree with this. Sider may be well-meaning, in the sense that he wants people to be “good” (for to certain values of “good”). However, I do not believe that one can be a decent human being while supporting discrimination. The two states simply can’t coexist.

Ben in Oakland
December 17th, 2010 | LINK

“Tragically, because of our own mistakes and sin, we evangelicals have almost no credibility on this topic.”

And yet, this piece of gibberish is here in fornt of us, proving his point.

Ben in Oakland
December 17th, 2010 | LINK

This was published in the Chronicle on Monday. The last paragraph is hwat is most important.

“Chuck Colson’s puff piece on the anti-gay Manhattan Declaration is a thin tissue of distraction, using alleged victimhood to claim legitimacy.

First and foremost, the Manhattan Declaration is not a “Christian app.” It is an expression of the intentions and agenda of the Christian Right and one of its political arms, the anti-and-ex-gay industry, towards gay people, and not representative of all Christianity.

Colson states that the Declaration is part of a debate over values. No, it is just the latest salvo by those groups in their culture war against the full inclusion of gay people in our society, a war they have been waging the last 30, 60, or 1700 years, depending on when you start to count.

Finally, Colson may believe that this is about love and Christian principle, not hate, bigotry, and the oft-stated, if wholly imaginary, social superiority of hetero over homo, with its consequent social privilege. However, from the point of view of this gay man, in terms of its stated intentions, questionable methods, and deleterious effects on the lives of myself and millions of people like me, I find this kind of “love” completely indistinguishable from hate.

Erin
December 17th, 2010 | LINK

I made the mistake of clicking on the link to the original article and reading the comments. All the people commended him for such a well-written piece. It’s very very obvious to me, some of the points we often make in defense of ourselves and our rights just go right over their heads, because they are too far gone. We will never convince them we should be treated equally as a class of people because they are conditioned rather well to believe our lives are made up of a series of bad behaviors, which when accepted, start to show up in more and more people. This is the poison that is religion. Morality is not based on a logical understanding of consequences of our actions and treating others as we would want to be treated. Everything is sin and righteousness, concepts that are man-made from ancient, misogynistic societies written in a nice rule book. Follow the rule book, so you won’t go to Hell. Science and psychology are ignored. Child molesters are seen as people who were tempted by the devil, and they gave in and sinned. People refuse to believe we’re innately gay, because it blows a huge hole in their theology. Then those who stop ignoring common sense, like most people wouldn’t choose to be gay, and that’s when they selectively allow the field of psychology to come into play, and insist we’re disordered, even though it doesn’t fit any of the criteria to be a disorder. Without this flawed rule book, people would have to view morality as not doing things that harm others, pulling your fair share of your weight when you’re working with others, being honest because stealing and lying harms others. By looking at morality this way, they could realize Joan and Susan down the street aren’t hurting themselves or anyone else by living together in their nice little house, snuggling close together at night, cooking dinner for each other, adopting a kid and giving him a nice home together, and therefore are as moral as everyone else.

David in Houston
December 17th, 2010 | LINK

Now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure I’ve seen this same exact statement made by Maggie Gallagher from NOM: “By granting that status to older people no longer capable of conceiving a child, the state encourages the view that sex should be limited to married persons because that strengthens the likelihood that children will be raised by their biological parents.”

I have no doubt that most of what Ron Sider is saying is nothing more than anti-gay boilerplate that is being shared and regurgitated by all of these hate groups. It didn’t make any sense when Maggie said it, and it still doesn’t make any sense now.

CPT_Doom
December 17th, 2010 | LINK

—This statement is slightly false, from a Swedish point of view. The pastor in question was freed from all charges thanks to freedom of speech-laws in Sweden that protect his religious views.

Actually, Nathanial, a minor correction – IIRC, the Swedish pastor was freed only after the European Union courts stepped in, because the EU Charter has much stronger free speech rights than the individual Constitutions of many member states, like Sweden. Either way, the man was free.

As for the argument that the government cannot know which couples are sterile, that might the case for medically sterile couples, but not for all, as the first cousin example points out. An even better example are “married” couples where one partner is in jail when the marriage takes place. Unless there are specific conjugal visits (and those are often a privilege for only the best behaving prisoners), the couple is not medically, but legally sterile – prevented by the government from reproducing while simultaneously being in a valid marriage (thanks to a Supreme Court decision in the 80s based on the basic civil right that is marriage).

Craig L. Adams
December 17th, 2010 | LINK

Rob,

Thanks for taking the time to write this. It is a thoughtful respectful and effective rebuttal to the Sider article — which I hadn’t seen before I read your response. As an evangelical Christian myself I have some natural sympathies with Sider’s view & there are some claims that he makes that are more credible to me than they are to you. Nonetheless, I feel you have exposed several legitimate weaknesses and inconsistencies in his view of things. For example, when Christians bring their views about personal Christian morality into the political realm — to have such things enforced by law — they deserve being charged with advocating theocracy! And, claims that evangelical Christians are (or will be) a persecuted minority blinds them from the realization that gays and lesbians and transgendered persons are a FAR MORE persecuted minority! (And I personally find it absolutely incredible to think of Christians as a persecuted minority in the USA. Though this myth is prevalent in evangelical circles.)

Timothy Kincaid
December 17th, 2010 | LINK

Rob,

Very well written. But I do disagree with one point:

Does granting seniors marital rights encourage the view that sex should be limited to married persons? I don’t see the connection. I think he’s saying that such a policy signals the elderly to wait until marriage before having sex (which I doubt). And that this in turn signals the young to wait, too (which I deeply doubt).

I suppose I can imagine an elderly widow saying to her suitor, “If we couldn’t marry I would have sex with you tonight, but since we can marry I shall wait until the wedding night,” though it would be a rare woman who would say both halves of that sentence.

But Sider’s going farther than that and asking us to imagine a woman of child-bearing age saying, “My grandmother believes that if she couldn’t marry her beau she would have sex with him tonight, but since they can marry she shall wait until their wedding night, and therefore I also will wait until my wedding night.”

It is not rare, peculiar or even uncommon for persons who are part of a conservative Christian community to see marriage as a requirement for sex. In fact, I would say that for most in these communities, marriage impacts them most in that it is social and religious permission for sex. “Pre-marital sex” is a term – and a pejorative one – precisely because of this notion.

Hmmm… I think a post is brewing in my noggin.

SharonB
December 17th, 2010 | LINK

As to the destruction of religious freedom argument, Sider neglects to mention the sects that endorse marriage equality. Under the present system, where marriage equality is not legalized, exactly whose religious liberty is curtailed? Of course he could care less about the oppression of what he deems “heresy.”

Theocracy, indeed!

Donny D.
December 17th, 2010 | LINK

One more thing: I looked at Sider’s article itself after posting what I did above, and in jumping around in it, I first spotted text that clearly was compassionate and suggested a lot of decency. And I thought, “Ulp, posted too quickly again! Am I gonna have to post a revision or an apology?” But then I skipped around a little more and saw this at the beginning: “…[S]ome evangelicals have decided that Christians should let the state define marriage any way it chooses and focus their attention only on what the Church does. This would be a fundamental mistake. The debate is one in which we must be involved for the sake of our society itself.” For Ron Sider, it’s so important that he and the other anti-gays fight to deny us our rights! While rejecting the decent, sane alternative in the first sentence quoted from his article above.

And later in the article, he describes as “fascinating” this loathsome, ugly article:
http://www.nationalaffairs.com/public_interest/detail/the-liberal-case-against-gay-marriage
I find it difficult to accept the unalloyed goodness of someone who would affably cherry-pick a relatively benign quote from something as vile as this and post the link to it without any other comment. I can’t help but think there’s a moral obtuseness to this man — at best. It maybe be that his mind won’t let him comprehend the full force of the hatefulness aimed at us by people on his side of this even when it’s right in front of him.

(If any of you think I’m over-reacting to the Susan M. Shell article, I’d like to read what you think of it.)

==============
On an unrelated matter, how are some of you able to put italics into your posts? I can’t see a way to do it.
=============

And thank you, Craig L. Adams, for your post.

J. Peron
December 17th, 2010 | LINK

One must realize that Mr. Sider’s compassion often leads him to big government, state-control solutions to what he sees as problems. Sider is an advocate of heavy state regulation to promote his moral agenda. And while his moral agenda is not typically Right-wing, but Left-wing, his solutions are heavily promotive of state intervention, regulation, and coercion. It is no surprise that he wants to solve the “morality” issue of gay people by the same methods he advocates for everything else.

In addition, I would argue that someone who offered the same sort of nannyish regulation of black people, in the name of their alleged inferiority, is not dissimilar to what Sider is offering. Sider is saying that gays are morally inferior to straights and thus should not be given the same rights as straight people. He may do it with compassion in his voice and tears on his face, but that offers little comfort to the victims of his attitude.

In response to Mr. Sider and his statism I would like to quote another Christian, CS Lewis: “Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victim may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live
under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated, but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval
of their own conscience.”

On this Lewis is correct, the Ron Siders of the world are ultimately far more oppressive than the worst “robber baron” that Sider would vociferously condemn. Sider torments us for our own good, that is not only condescending and bigoted, but it would lead to unending torment as he does so “with the approval” of his own conscience. That is actually worse than those who do so because they openly hate us. At least the haters usually know they hate.

Ths Sider-types merely see themselves superior and thus born with saddles on our backs, so that they may ride us and direct us for our own good. Jefferson said: “The mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride legitimately by the grace of God.” And that includes those who ride us to direct us to a “warm barn, with oats and water.”

Shannon Spencer Fox
December 17th, 2010 | LINK

Donny D wrote:

(If any of you think I’m over-reacting to the Susan M. Shell article, I’d like to read what you think of it.)

I tried reading it, to be honest, but only got about halfway through before the author’s incredibly obtuse writing style became too much… frankly, it reminded me of one of my favorite lines by Homer Simpson: ‘You take forever to say nothing’.

That said, I also find it hard to understand how exactly it was a ‘liberal’ response to gay marriage, considering it started with the one of the same points Sidler made (‘Marriage is for the purposes of raising children’), just dressed up in a (pseudo) intellectual way. In fact, are we sure David Benkof didn’t write this under a pseudonym?

As for the boldface and all that, BTB’s comments section doesn’t list it, but you can use some simple HTML in it. :) That’s what people are using. Make sure to use the ‘Preview’ button, though, since it can be easy to mess things up…

WMDKitty
December 17th, 2010 | LINK

As an adoptee, I proudly support equal rights — it kills me that so many people are told, “no, you can’t have a kid” based on their marital status or sexual orientation. HELLO! You have people who WANT to be parents, WILLING to take on kids who may have problems, and… you’re turning them aside for stupid, petty ideological reasons. Just. Kills me.

Theo
December 17th, 2010 | LINK

I am of two minds as to whether we can ever find a way to coexist with the Religious Right. Listening to Perkins or Fischer defame dead bullied gay kids makes me think that we can never bridge the gap, nor would I want to.

But then there’s something like this: the American Center for Law and Justice’s Jordan Sekulow (who is the son of the head of the group) has come out in support of DADT repeal. ACLJ is the creation of Pat Robertson who wanted to form a conservative counter-weight to the ACLU. Here is the DADT piece:

http://onfaith.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/religious-right-now/2010/12/no_dadt_no_problem.html

The ACLJ pre-dates the now-familiar Alliance Defense Fund. Unlike the ADF, the ACLJ actually has good lawyers. The father, Jay Sekulow, has argued before SCOTUS a number of times and won a very important case involving the intersection of free exercise and free speech.

This is a perhaps the first good sign that maybe things are changing. Although NOM seems to have come out in favor of repeal via a tweet some months ago, one could dismiss that as tactical posturing. ACLJ, by contrast, has no selfish reason to support repeal. On the contrary, it is nearly certain to incur the kind of wrath that Dr. Warren Throckmorton has experienced, and that Scott Brown is now experiencing. In other words, this appears to be a principled act by a long-time adversary.

Donny D.
December 18th, 2010 | LINK

Shannon Spencer Fox wrote:

“I tried reading [The Liberal Case Against Gay Marriage], to be honest, but only got about halfway through before the author’s incredibly obtuse writing style became too much…”

In general the best way to read it is to skim it until you reach something that looks meaty.

But if you want the “good” parts of this unpleasant essay that Ron Sider quoted from so happily in his article, do this:

Read from the start of the first pdf page through the first full paragraph of the second page, and two sentences into the following paragraph. This nonsense is the paradigm she builds her essay on.

Then, skip down to pdf page 6 and read the subsection titled Generation and Death. (The punchline is in the last paragraph.) This is the ugly part.

Then, continue into the next section, and read down to the end of the last full paragraph of the next page (pdf pg 9). This is the loathsome part.

From there I’d recommend reading all the way to the end, but if you’re impatient, read the first full paragraph of pdf page 11 and the paragraph after it. Then read the last couple sentences on pdf page 13 to the end of that paragraph. Here Susan M. Shell’s real feelings show through, and they aren’t pretty.

Shannon, thank you for the help on special formatting. :)

Stephen
December 18th, 2010 | LINK

I don’t find Shell’s piece hard to read or particularly dense. Though she doesn’t mention God it is essentially an argument along religious lines; marriage equals children. Her view of gay people seems bizarre even for 2004 when it was published. As do many critics of marriage equality she confuses her opinions with fundamental truths of human nature – whatever they are. To describe her viewpoint as being in any way ‘liberal’ seems very hard to justify.

Nathaniel
December 18th, 2010 | LINK

@ CPT_Doom

The Swedish Supreme Court freed the Pastor, not the European Court, though they did state that the EC would likely free him if the case went there.

Still, he is a despicable man.

Jason D
December 18th, 2010 | LINK

“By granting that status to older people no longer capable of conceiving a child, the state encourages the view that sex should be limited to married persons because that strengthens the likelihood that children will be raised by their biological parents.”

I’ve had to read that section several times before it made anything close to sense.

And I’m still not sure it does.

When I look at an elderly couple, or ANY couple for that matter, I don’t assume they’re having sex. I also don’t assume they’re not having sex. I don’t really concern myself with other people’s sex lives.

Unless one knows whether or not a couple is having sex AND their marital status, how does one have any affect on the other from an “encouraging a viewpoint” status?

Does Sider live in a world where everyone goes on and on about their sex lives constantly while flashing marriage licenses or empty ring fingers?

In layman’s terms he’s saying
“we let old people get married so that young people will think that having sex is something for married people.”

But what’s implied, in layman’s terms is this:

“because elderly people talk frequently about both their sex lives and marital status we let elderly people marry so that young people will think that having sex is something for married people.”

I’m seriously not understanding the connection between old folks getting married and young people thinking sex is for married people.
Does the ceremony in Sider’s world end with “And now, finally, you may f**k the bride!

Timothy Kincaid
December 18th, 2010 | LINK

Jason,

Does the ceremony in Sider’s world end with “And now, finally, you may f**k the bride!

Actually, you’re close. “Kiss the bride” is both literal and a euphemism. Physical intimacy – which for much of history included such lesser acts such as kissing – was prohibited between unmarried people.

Also…what some are failing to recognize is that Sider is not talking about random older people you may run across while dining out of town. He’s discussing older people within the community. Those whom the younger people know, and whom they are aware of both their living situation and their marriage status.

This is not, in my opinion, where Sider goes wrong in his assumptions. (and yes, a posting is still brewing)

Jason D
December 18th, 2010 | LINK

Tim, perhaps the elderly in my life are different, but I’m unaware of their sex lives. They may be dungeon kinkmasters or completely asexual, I’ve no earthly clue.

So how would I, or anyone else, determine that sex = married couples based on the lovely married elderly in my midst?

I’m still scratching my head on that one. Perhaps I should just let it go.

Ben in Oakland
December 19th, 2010 | LINK

Jason– if they see older gay couples, then the younger people might think it’s ok to be gay.

That pretty much sums up his basic assumptions, and oretty much explains anything he might say.

Jason D
December 19th, 2010 | LINK

Silly Ben, they won’t see older gay couples, we all die at 40 just like all their bogus research says.

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