Humans and Respect

One of the commenters on my last post helped me to see a major shortcoming in what I said previously regarding the level of discourse surrounding controversial and important issues, specifically regarding marriage equality for LGBT individuals. I want to be very clear about what I mean when it comes to respecting those who oppose marriage equality.

When we respect another human, we do not engage in ridiculing or belittling them. We do no name call. We do not tell them to go f**k themselves. We do not say they are inhuman.

But respect does not require that we allow them to continue without confronting them. I do not think we should simply agree to disagree, and move on with our own lives with our own point of view. “Well you have your opinion and I have mine, and that’s ok,” manages to avoid conflict, but that is not my goal. It may appear to be kind and respectful, but it is not: it is silence and mindlessness.

I have no intention of staying silent on the matter of marriage equality: denying civil rights on religious grounds comes from a fundamental misunderstanding of the function of the US government at best. We live in a society where calling LGBT individuals devious, evil and threatening to society (to use the most diplomatic examples) is perfectly acceptable. Many in the church believe there is hope for these individuals to have their sin forgiven and their orientation changed, but simply do not understand how such treatments are at best ineffective, and often damaging. (Partially due to the fact that Exodus does not accept that being  gay is an identity, but rather an activity, lifestyle or struggle; thus their idea of being ex-gay does not have anything to do with changed identity. They admit they can change behaviors, but 99.9 percent of their ‘students’ do not experience orientation change.)

I do not want to encourage anyone to put down arms and walk away from controversy. The issue is far too pressing to abandon.

I want to stand up for equality, respect and the sacredness of being human: I cannot simply argue that these are upheld legally through marriage equality, but my actions and speech must also reflect and uphold these ideals.

Many of you may disagree with this approach. I hope I have presented my argument well and that it merits consideration. Of course I speak from a place of privilege on the matter. If you are interested in the matter and want to hear the opinion of someone who does not have the same privilege as I do, I highly encourage you to read this post from Justin Lee, head of the Gay Christian Network.

Ultimately, we must all follow our consciences.



Which Humans are Humans?

I’m about to say something pretty unpopular (among those likely to be reading this): People who vote against marriage equality are human. We should love. They deserve respect, kindness, patience and graciousness.

I’m not saying they deserve it because of how they vote. They don’t. It is not because of any action that such things are deserved.

All humans deserve respect, kindness, patience and graciousness simply for being human. And in the case of everyone I know well, they deserve it in spite of certain things.

Here’s what I really want to say. The reason I support marriage equality is because I support humans. I think it is cruel and dehumanizing when people are disallowed to marry someone they love, when they are told their identity is faulty and evil, when they are told they are lying about their identity, when they are ridiculed and belittled and marginalized and barred from equal civil rights, when people turn a blind eye to the bullying and threats presented against.

So when I feel angry at the people instigating these cruelties, I want to belittle and dehumanize right back. Sometimes it feels good. But I don’t think it is ever right. And more than that, I don’t think it is ever helpful.

I say this because I used to be one of them.

I grew up in the church and in high school became very serious about my beliefs. I wanted to be good, I wanted to obey God and listen to my conscience and uphold the Bible. I argued in my politics classes against marriage equality. I wrote essays on how refusing marriage equality was constitutional. I laughed at jokes about ‘plumbing’ and pitied people who had been “deceived into living a sinful lifestyle”.

But I changed my mind.

It wasn’t because anyone called me a bigot. In fact, no one ever did. Yes, I had disagreements and arguments, but I wasn’t called names, never felt belittled.

When I went to university I wanted to study the Bible more. I took a degree in Theology. I learned a lot. I actually read the Bible. I listened long and hard to what my conscience had to tell me. And I changed my mind. I discovered that humanness matters; humanness is a big deal; humanness is a state of being that deserves respect, kindness, patience and graciousness. It was no longer the sanctity of marriage I felt compelled to uphold, but the sanctity of humans.

When I see things like North Carolina’s overwhelming disapproval of marriage equality, I feel anger, despair, confusion.

And then I remember myself.

Ten years ago I would have cheered. I would have thanked God. If I still believed that way, today I would have gone to twitter to take smug satisfaction from all the angry people calling me a bigot, proud of myself for believing something despite being ridiculed.

This is the person I have to see in the 61% of voters who disallowed marriage equality. It’s harder to hate them when I see my own face looking back. It’s harder to think I can change their minds with anger, with righteousness, with indignation.

And it’s harder to believe there is no hope.

The fight to uphold the sanctity of humans is not over yet.

(I know the vote has caused pain to many people, and the pain and anger need an outlet. I do not mean to say that anyone feeling anger and pain must hold in their feelings or ignore them. I hope and pray that all people distressed by the vote have someone, or even many people, whom they can turn to for comfort and hope. My comments here are regarding the general approach to public discourse.)