Traditional Marriage includes…
1691: Whites only
1724: Blacks with permission of slave owner
1769: The wife is property
1900: The wife can own property
1965: Contraception legal
1967: Interracial couples
1975: Wife can have credit in her name
Husband owns all property
Legal marital rape
20??: Same-sex marriage
Makes one wonder what makes the anti marriage equality crowd think they have “traditional marriage” figured out this time around…
As I was writing the previous post, I kept wondering if I was being overly harsh in comparing mainstream conservative Christians to Fred Phelps – who is, after all, universally disliked, unbelievably odious, and, in my opinion, downright evil. The man is by all accounts a controlling, angry, and extremely abusive husband and father, who has brainwashed his family into thinking he is practically God, and who believes some very strange and dangerous things (the documentary Fall From Grace gives a pretty chilling picture of Phelps and the WBC – also on Netflix streaming. If you’re beginning to think that everything I watch is on Netflix instant watch, you’re not too far off).
Obviously not all conservative Christians are like Phelps in these respects – and I’d venture to say most are not. Most have good intentions – like most people in general. Many conservative Christians I know are loving parents and spouses, good neighbors, great friends. So I’ve been pondering whether the comparison was hyperbolic, or unkind, and pondering how it would come across to the people in my life – friends, family, all of whom I love, many of whom are lovely people whom I trust and respect – who are conservative Christians.
When I criticize conservative Christians and their beliefs, I’m not claiming that they are all or mostly evil people, nor do I believe that. That goes for any major demographic, really. But I hesitated to add a bunch of disclaimers about how Christians can be nice people to my previous post, because I didn’t want to water down the power of my point.
On further thought, I think this is actually quite an important point to address. In way it’s the central point: good people can, despite good intentions and sincere beliefs, despite doing much good in most other aspects of their lives, believe and say things that have horrible, awful implications. They can do terrible things that have devastating effects on others without intending to. Hardly anyone is mostly or all bad, much less consciously or deliberately evil; most people, I believe, are just trying to do their best to live decent lives. Most people don’t set out to do evil. Yet hardly any of us manages to avoid doing or enabling evil in one way or another.
Fred Phelps hates gay people. He makes no secret of that. While there are mainstream conservative Christians in this country who share his overt, conscious hatred of gay people, not all do. Probably most don’t. Many truly believe they are being loving by telling LGB people their orientations or lifestyles are wrong, by opposing marriage equality, etc.. But people don’t have to be conscious of hatred (or fear, contempt, self-loathing, and any number of other emotions that can fuel homophobia) for their beliefs about and actions towards LGB people to be hateful.
When I say conservative Christian beliefs on homosexuality are no different from Fred Phelps’, I’m not talking about the conscious intention behind those teachings. I’m talking about their implications. Their practical, real-world effects.
This is how oppression works. Systemic oppression cannot be sustained without the complicity of otherwise good people – through beliefs, actions, and inaction. And it cannot be sustained without the myths about human nature and behavior we buy into as a culture. We pretend that only bad people do evil things, and that it’s really easy to spot such people – as if there were some obvious marker distinguishing evil people from good. We desperately want to believe these things, because the reality that we’re all capable of doing and enabling evil is frightening, and requires that we scrutinize ourselves more closely than we’d like.
We all want to believe we’re good people who do good things, myself included; that’s understandable. But the idea that “those people” over there are the real bad people, and we’re all good, is an incredibly dangerous one. It’s what allows systemic injustice and inequity to survive and flourish.
This is what Christians who are puzzled and offended by accusations of homophobia and comparisons to people like Fred Phelps need to understand. Sure, it’s a good thing that you don’t picket funerals or scream at people about how they’ll suffer an eternity of torment in hell. But in the grand scheme of things, your beliefs about LGB people aren’t made any less harmful or hateful by the fact that they don’t act on them the way Westboro Baptist does. Your beliefs still fuel homophobic speech and behavior, and enable and support wide-scale denial of rights to LGB people. This is why claims that you “love the sinner and hate the sin” ring hollow. The implications and effects of your beliefs are not loving.
And really, this is what anyone called out for enabling oppression of any kind needs to understand. Being called out is not a comment on who you are. It’s not a comment on your intentions. It’s a comment on what you said, and what you did. We’re all capable of doing and saying things that support and even promote oppression without intending to do so, and without being evil. It’s unjust and enabling of oppression to demand that people evaluate us based on what we intend and not on the actual, tangible effects of what we do.
Some of this week’s religion and gender news:
Four women have become the first nuns to be ordained in the Western Hemisphere in the Buddhist Theravada tradition, which until recently had excluded women from full participation in monastic orders.
Beyond Adam and Eve: Becky Garrison discusses how transgender people are so often been left out of discussions of gay and lesbian civil rights, and what some Christians are doing to address the failure of the church to take transgender issues seriously.
The Human Rights Campaign’s Summer Institute hosted graduate students working on queer studies in religion this summer.
At a recent meeting of “Bible believing Christians” against the screening of an LGBT documentary at the Coudersport public library, local Robert Wagner promoted violence against transgender people (trigger warning). The film, Out in the Silence, documents the isolation of and discrimination against gay, lesbian, and bisexual people in small town PA.
Rev. Jane Spahr has been found guilty of misconduct by the Presbyterian Church (USA) for violating church rules that “Presbyterian ministers may bless same-sex unions as long as they do ‘not state, imply, or represent that a same-sex ceremony is a marriage.'” So basically, she’s guilty of thinking same sex couples are equal to straight couples. How dare she!
Allah is not He or She: Great post by Amina Wadud arguing that God transcends gender.
Since we as human beings have been affected by patriarchy, then we reflect that onto God/Allah. The divine cannot have gender . . . . Patriarchy is a kind of istikbar, with one gender, male, considered better then the other, female. Plus when one has the power to assert this sense of different values because of different genders, it turns into zulm, or oppression.
Some of this week’s religion and gender news, short and sweet this time!
Sign a petition asking CA Gov. Schwarzenegger to end the shackling of pregnant inmates. (CA residents only)
Presbyterian (PCUSA) clergy and elders can sign the Minneapolis Declaration of Conscience, a petition supporting marriage equality in the church.
An ad campaign urging the Catholic Church to ordain women will run during the Pope’s visit to London next month. (ht TheSliverParty).
The National Organization for Marriage’s Rhode Island Director compares gay parents to dead parents. Very Classy. Also super Christ-like.
Like the debate over gender roles, the debate over gay marriage has parallels to the 19th-century debat e in the States over slavery. (ht KidCharlemgn/Outside of Eden).
Ecclesia de Lange, a South African Methodist Minister, has been suspended for performing a same sex marriage.
This series of articles by Juliet Jacques on her gender reassignment journey is very worth reading.
GLAAD has their weekly LGBT religion news roundup here.
Some of this week’s religion, gender, and sexuality news, starting with some international news:
Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani, an Iranian woman sentenced to be executed for allegedly committing adultery, has “confessed” to being an accomplice in her late husband’s death. The likely coerced confession has led Human Rights Watch to sound the alarm that Iran may be planning to execute her shortly. An interview with Ashtiani’s former lawyer, now seeking asylum in Norway, is here. A petition to free Ashtiani can be found here. (Via Elizabeth Esther.)
Mexico’s Supreme Court has upheld Mexico City laws allowing gay marriages and adoptions by gay and lesbian couples. Gay marriages and adoptions are legal only in Mexico City, but must be recognized throughout the country. Mexico mayor Marcelo Ebrard has filed a lawsuit claiming defamation against Guadalajara Cardinal Juan Sandoval refused to retract accusations that Mexican Supreme court took bribes to make these rulings. Sandoval is also under fire for using the Spanish equivalent of “fa**ot” in decrying the Court’s decision to uphold the adoption law. Meanwhile, an archdiocesan spokesman claims the mayor has caused harm to Mexico City than the drug cartels and has compared him to Francisco Franco and Augusto Pinochet in being a “fascist . . . [with] an undeniable desire to persecute the church.” Unsurprisingly, he is also being sued for defamation by the mayor. Good heavens. Stay classy, Mexican Catholic officials!
Closer to home, 10 year old Will Phillips is putting marriage equality opponents on notice. This kid must scare the pants off the NOM crowd.
Laura at The Redheaded Skeptic has a great four-post series on how Focus on the Family ruins families, starting with a post on Dobson’s book The Strong Willed Child.
Vyckie at No Longer Quivering on how women get lured into and stuck in the patriarchy trap: Husbands love your wives: the peanut butter in the patriarchy trap.
Excellent post by Rita Nakashima Brock on marriage in the Bible that carefully picks apart marriage equality opponents’ claims that the Bible unanimously supports their definition of “traditional marriage”:
The Bible presents multiple views of marriage, and most actual marriages it depicts are terrible by modern standards. “Traditional marriages” in ancient biblical times were arranged as transfers of the ownership of daughters. The tenth commandment lists wives among properties like houses and slaves: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor” (Exodus 20:17, also found in Deuteronomy 5:21). Marriages occurred via deception, kidnapping, adulterous seductions, theft, rape, and murder, and were often in multiples so that the pater familias could amass land, flocks, and progeny and cement political alliances. Abraham, David, and Solomon had marriages that would be illegal today. The book of Hosea likens the mercy of God to a husband who has the right to beat or kill his adulterous wife, but spares her — for this, she was supposed to be grateful. When women seek marriages, such as Naomi arranged for Ruth, it was to avoid an even worse fate such as destitution.
GLAAD also has a great weekly LGBT religion news roundup.