Friday, April 17, 2009

Pragmatism

(Via Christian News Wire)

This video makes me really sad. I understand where this Bible-tearing man is coming from. He is under the impression that Christianity is uniformly opposed to homosexuality, and is an aggressor towards him. Therefore, he returns that aggression. The problem, of course, is that what he's done hasn't accomplished anything for the cause of gay marriage. On the contrary, it has only made the wing-nuts more firm in their stance that homosexuality is inherently anti-Christian.

The best way for anyone to prove to those against it that gay marriage is not diametrically opposed to Christianity, is to not attack Christianity in their arguments. In short, it is absolutely imperative that, regardless of one's personal beliefs or religion, all of us make a decided effort to be the bigger person.

It is also absolutely imperative that those of us who are religious, and are also socially liberal, make our presence known. This man attacked the Bible because he believes the Bible, and Christianity attack him. And who can blame him? The wing-nuts are a noisy bunch, and those of us who also profess faith in Jesus Christ but apply his teachings differently don't seem to raise too much of a fuss. Granted, this has changed somewhat recently. We've heard from Bishop Gene Robinson (God bless him) a lot lately, as well as seen some liberal policies put into place by Barack Obama, who is also a Christian. But there is more to do.

Between the extremes of secular liberalism and the religious right are those of us who are believers not only in Christ, but in social justice. We, the religious humanists, have a unique opportunity in the "culture war" being fought across America. We alone have the ability to sway people's hearts and minds, because we alone share significant commonalities with both sides of the argument. Sure, there will always be fundies who question our faith, just as there will always be atheists who discount the fact that we agree with them politically only because we believe in something they see as stupid. But there are people in both camps who will benefit from our vocal presence, and with their help we can all work to build a better country for all of us.

This video is tragically pointless. In the end, nothing has been accomplished. Everyone is still angry. Nobody's mind has changed. Would it have been different if we or people like us had been there? WTF would Jesus do?

12 comments:

Reverend Killjoy said...

I'm with you, J. Let's make the most of our opportunity, uphill though our path will be.

Hannah said...

I agree completely, Jocelyn. I started to write a letter to a member of my state's House of Reps why domestic partnerships and marriages between gay people would eventually erode all marriages and families as he was quoted in the paper yesterday. I stopped because I decided I needed to take a lot of time to write it so it didn't come off angry, or like I was baiting him. Because, like you said, that is not the way to win hearts and minds.

Anonymous said...

Progress IS diametrically opposed to religion.

Religion is our tool for keeping things the same; for keeping society cohesive and seemingly unchanging in people's minds.

I do not wish to attack your own beliefs and spiritual/religious feelings. But you, like all religious people, pick and choose what works and what doesn't.
You have to.

Religious writings are universally self-contradictory and hold the germs for any philosophy you wish to adhere to.

So despite you personally holding very enlightened/humanistic opinions, others can (and will) read the same texts and draw from them dark/oppressive guidelines for their lives and for others.
Such is the magic of religion. It's malleable that way while seeming authorative.


What this man is doing is of utmost importance.
He is attacking the very sacredness of these texts.
You may still hold your beliefs in some of these texts (picking and choosing the good bits) but they should by no means be regarded as sacred and unassailable in the public mind.

Who knows, perhaps your blog holds the germ of transforming religion for the 21st century - blending it with modern ideas so people can relate to it while keeping their deep-seated religious beliefs.
But for that to happen the taboo on blasphemy must die.

Blasphemy and questioning of religious authority must become the norm for ideas such as yours to get a hold in modern society.

In a very strange way I believe this man is inadvertently helping people such as yourself.

- Bubbly Bob

Anonymous said...

It's just a book!
People have a right of course to believe in the book and treat is as sacred. Equally other people have the right to not believe in it and not view it as sacred.
I am not even required to recognize the concept of sacred. I will not grant religion that power. To do so is to give ground to the false belief that religion holds some special place that puts it above other ideas.
That said for just tatical reasons I disagree with what that man was doing to their book. (even though I understand his anger) For he same reason that I disagree with burning a red white and blue piece of cloth. Those are not good ways to influnce people. Both are protected forms of free expression, but in the long run they do not help advance any ideas.

Jocelyn said...

I would never argue that this guy didn't have the right to do what he did. Nor would I ever argue that any religion needs to hold a special place in politics or the public eye. I never, ever want to live under a government that regards anything but human life as sacred, which is why it has bothered me every time the United States government has done that. I do think it is important, however, to show respect for the beliefs of others.

Despite my love and respect for the Bible, I don't believe this man was acting in a manner that was any worse than the protesters in this video. What I argued, and will continue to argue, is that his behavior accomplished nothing. While he has every right not to treat these people's beliefs with respect, as they are not respecting him for who he is, I think it was unwise of him to do what he did. In any argument one wants to win, it is absolutely imperative to be the bigger person. Particularly if you are right.

And Bob, I think perhaps you are right about blasphemy in an idealist sort of way. But people, I think, are always going to be a bit touchy about their religious beliefs. Blasphemy shouldn't be illegal or anything, but I think it would be really rude to purposefully do it to a believer's face.

Religion has power, whether or not anyone wants to give it any. People's beliefs just are inherently powerful. It is always important to work toward the secularization of politics, but to deny the power religion does have over people is to underestimate a dangerous enemy and a valuable friend.

And, for the record, of course I pick and choose. Everyone does. But you'll notice I stick to the overwhelming themes (love thy neighbor, don't judge, etc.), whereas the fundies pick the three verses that condemn homosexuality (one of them is actually about men raping boys) and build them up to be the most important things in there when the Bible actually says a lot more about dietary restrictions that I'm sure they don't follow. Also, I would never claim to follow the bible word-for-word. That would be impossible, uncomfortable, boring, painful, and really sexually frustrating. Oh, and stupid.

Alexah said...

Being gay and on the forefront of the traditional marriage debate myself, I have to admit, rather shamefully, that watching this video did make my heart soar with triumph. I have had moments where I have acted similarly (usually in the form of a physical altercation), because I'm not perfect: but I do try to be the bigger dyke and keep a cool head.

If every gay person were to take the assault on our rights with a quiet dignity and avoided acting out in anger, perhaps their arguments would be less inflamed. But to me it raises a big issue: if they can hatefully express their distaste for our lives, why can we not hatefully express our distaste for their bullshit? It's okay for them to attack our values, but it's not okay for us to attack theirs? No.

You can push and push and push, and eventually we push back. That's just the way it is.

Jocelyn said...

Yeah but what they're doing isn't OK. If you behave and they don't, the moderates will see you as the ones on the moral high ground, and that's where the fight is ultimately won.

Alexah said...

I agree completely, though I can't say I've ever met a moderate on the issue myself. When it comes to 'the gays', in my experience, you're either yay or nay.

At least that's how it can seem sometimes, unfortunately.

But I'm not saying what he did was okay, quite the contrary: I'm just saying I can understand why he did it.

Anonymous said...

This man's behavior did actually do something very important: it empowered him. He likely felt much better. And I commend him for taking that step for his own sake. His action also calls attention to gay civil rights issues, your inclusion of the video on this Web site to wit. So, yes, in fact, his actions did achieve something.

Jocelyn said...

Anonymous, the unfortunate consequence of this act is that the attention he's drawn to gay civil rights issues is negative. I believe it is critically important for proponents of gay rights, including marriage, to present these rights as things that are not diametrically opposed to Christianity. Tearing up a Bible doesn't do that.

I can't say whether or not what this man did empowered him. If it did, that's one good consequence to come from this. What I can say, however, is that the majority of America is Christian. I do not believe, however, that the majority of America is intolerant. If we present gay marriage as simply another way of making a family, people will come around (in fact, we have, and that's why people are). If we make gay marriage look like an attack on Christianity, however, people will believe that it is.

So, again, his actions are understandable, but not pragmatic in the least. Let's not give more fodder to the fundies.

Anonymous said...

Jocelyn,

I just remember posting here a while back but I never came back to pick up on the conversation.
Sorry.

Anyway, my point was that what this man is doing is essential to what you're doing.

Without him being "rude" to people, your own place in the intra-religious discussion would not be heard (ie. the discussion within religious groups about the future of that group. not the discussion with other groups).


Also, saying this man is rude (and somehow equating that to what the fundies do) is fallacious.
The fundies aren't rude. They are effectively and unabashedly stifling his freedoms and his rights.
They're not rude - they're downright sinister.
There's a major difference here and I'm quite saddened that you would equate them like this.
Your saying that their actions are similar is EXACTLY the kind of sentiment that fosters these fundies' actions and rhetoric. You're inadvertently helping them.

It's not this guy's job to pander to their misheld beliefs. That's YOUR job.
His job is to be rude and do his bestest to tear down this monolithic system that's got its foot on his throat.

You're the one who wants to save this system and make it humane and progressive.
He just wants to tear it down - which, as I've said, is what needs to happen so people like you can come back in and try to pick up the pieces that still work.

-Bubbly Bob

Jocelyn said...

I do not want to change Christianity to make it humane. On the contrary, I think much of it already is. The Episcopals and the UCC, for example, are both enlightened institutions which have been able to translate Biblical morality into something that's relevant to modern American life. They accept and embrace gay people, they accept and embrace science, and they have much more realistic ideas about sex and birth control than the other branches of Christianity. Not to mention the ever-relevant concept of universalism, which means we don't evangelize.

These people - the religious left - are on your side, and the side of the man in this video. But when he tears up a Bible, he alienates his allies when what he intended to do was hurt his enemies. Now, I'm sure the religious left is thick-skinned enough to handle this kind of thing, and we understand where this guy is coming from, but it does seem a bit unfair that we're often caught in the middle on these kinds of fights. The right thinks we're a bunch of heathens, falsely professing faith in God, and the non-religious with whom we share political ideology lump us in with the likes of Fred Phelps.

The irony, of course, being that the religious left makes a decided effort not to alienate others because of their religion (or lack thereof), unlike the right, yet those on the far left seem content to alienate us.

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