Thursday, August 7, 2008

Restating a point in a more diplomatic manner.

It's clear that my post on Sally Kern and "Judeo-Christian values" struck a nerve with several people in the blogosphere.

Sometimes my emotions overpower my intellect, and I end up offending people. In an attempt to rectify that offense, let me modify slightly what I said and restate it in a more diplomatic and tactful manner.

Whatever its original meaning, the phrase "Judeo-Christian values" is currently used as code by certain Christians who wish to push an agenda of homophobia and religious exclusionism. Note that I said it is used by certain Christians. In no way am I implying that all Christians share this view. Note also that I am prepared to accept that the phrase "Judeo-Christian values" can have certain valid connotations in the proper context. Jews and Christians do share values: we believe in helping the poor, in loving your neighbor, in the awe and mystery of the Divine.

Sally Kern, however, does not represent any of the values that Jews and Christians may have in common. She represents an extremist agenda that seeks to impose a very narrow, very exclusionary religious dogma on the larger community. For those of us who don't fit into it, Kern's worldview is extremely offensive.

Kern is adamant that because her narrow view of scripture excludes the gay community, that we are somehow a threat. As such, she is determined to undermine our struggle to gain equal rights under the law. She says that we're worse than terrorists. She accuses us of having a nefarious agenda to impose our "lifestyle" on the wider community.

We are not trying to impose a "lifestyle" on anyone. I can't make you gay. You can't make you gay. You're either gay or you're not gay. That's all there is to it. It's like being left-handed. The only thing we ask is that we be granted the same civil rights that the heterosexual community takes for granted.

We want to be able to visit our partners in the hospital. We want inheritance rights. We want to be able to file our taxes jointly. We want to own houses together. We want a piece of paper from the state that says we're equal partners under the law. We want the stuff that straight couples take for granted.

We're not trying to force churches to perform gay weddings. We don't have the right to do that. Churches are private institutions, and as such they have the right to perform or not to perform whatever ceremonies they wish. We can't change that, and we have no interest in trying.

Again, all we're looking for are civil rights under the law. This has nothing to do with morality, sexuality, or religion. It just has to do with civil law.

So, to summarize: we're not trying to impose anything on anyone. All we want is equal rights.

Sally Kern, on the other hand, is trying to impose her narrow viewpoint on us. Her position is that because a lot of people in Oklahoma are against marriage equality, that somehow that makes it ok to discriminate against the gay community. That everyone has to believe exactly as she does, and anyone who doesn't is a grave threat to her own personal sense of morality. She's taking her own personal religious beliefs and imposing them on everyone in Oklahoma. She does all of this in the name of "religious freedom." In Sally Kern's mind, religion is free only if it conforms to her view of it.

Real religious freedom means freedom for all religions and all viewpoints. More importantly, it means that our civil law is not and cannot be based purely on religious doctrine. In practical terms, while Sally Kern has the right to say what she wants, she doesn't have the right to legislate based purely on her interpretation of the Bible. In addition, true religious freedom requires that I have the right to criticize Rep. Kern, and that I have the right to fight for civil marriage equality. However, I also can't use religion as the sole basis for my argument in favor of marriage equality. And I don't. My argument in favor of marriage equality is a purely civil argument, based on American civil values of freedom and equal rights.

I will also restate my previous point. All of this bickering about marriage equality is a distraction from the real problems facing our country and our world. Those of you who spend a lot of time thinking about how much you oppose marriage equality really need to rethink your priorities.

Which is more important: stopping me from getting married, or working to make sure every American has health insurance, so that we can stop being the only industrialized nation in the world that doesn't cover its people?

Which is more important: denying me and my partner equal rights so that if one of us has a heart attack, the other can't visit him in the hospital, or stopping the genocide in Darfur, so that millions of Sudanese people can stop living in a state of terror?

Which matters more: denying me and my partner the right to file our taxes jointly, or working to fix our nation's roads, bridges, and levees, so that the next time there's a hurricane Katrina, we don't have a human catastrophe?

It seems to me that someone who is focused on morality and ethics above all should have no problem answering any of those questions.

I'll leave it there for now. I welcome your comments.