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.

9 thoughts on “Humans and Respect

  1. Thank you for speaking out. Keep it up. I cannot always be courteous, myself.

  2. I agree — it does go more than an agree-to-disagree attitude. However, speaking up for what you believe in is not necessarily the best option either. Anyone can speak up. What we need is understanding. Communicating not only to help others understand, but to help ourselves understand others.

    Mark Blasini

  3. And much of this is why I so, so appreciate Justin Lee, even though my own beliefs about the nature and meaning of sex and marriage (which are neither purely religious nor entirely divorceable from my faith, and which work out, in a political sense, to a certain libertarian-influenced stance neither side is taking) are not quite his and I don’t expect them to become so, education notwithstanding.

    And yes, “torn” (from his post) is the right word to describe how I feel about the whole thing. Ripped in half. This is the meanest, most vicious and unreasonable set of battles I’ve ever personally seen waged by otherwise decent people, and there’s immense fault on both sides. I’m not down with the name-calling from either lot, and while I doubt it’ll ever come to general agreement–it’s a complex issue, and most of the arguments are staged on an over-simplistic, “talking past” level–it would be nice to at least speak of it with mutual respect for each other’s human conscience, love, and dignity.

    Thanks for voicing that.

  4. Interesting. But what about non-religious arguments against SSM? I’m personally undecided on ths issue but any concerns about it are not religious in nature.

    • I would be interested to hear those arguments since in my experience so few people have non-religious objections. It would be good for me to hear them.

      I think it is important for people to have a safe environment to express their thoughts and to grapple with them without being pelted with insults and ridicule. This holds true whether your objections are religious or not, or whether you support legal SSM or not.

      • Hi there,

        Marriage is the most basic social unit of civilization. The de-coupling of marriage from its traditional moorings is a serious undertaking, one that shouldn’t be taken lightly.

        The basis of traditional, heterosexual marriages rests on the twin pillars of procreation and child rearing. This is because the two are so closely entwined in the natural order of things. The vast majority of couples who have children raise them. Obviously one can exist without the other in certain circumstances; but these rare occasions don’t invalidate the general situation which includes both.

        Procreation extends the existence of the human race. It is an absolute requirement for the continuation of any society, and the importance of the continuation of our society is, I think, a matter of concern for all of us. Procreation is itself based on the related concepts of the natural teleology of the body and the biological complementarity of the sexes. Teleology refers to the adaptation of means to an end. To put it more simply, design. Design is inherent in the procreative process. Biological complementarity refers to the way that males and females match each other anatomically. Procreatively speaking men and women were “made for each other”. This design and complementarity extends beyond just the anatomical, however. It also extends to the microscopic level of the gametes. Two sperm cannot naturally make a baby, neither can two ova. Only the union of an ovum and a spermatozoon can produce a human being. At this point it doesn’t really matter whether one believes this design was put in place by a higher power or whether the design is the result of evolution through natural selection. It should be obvious to all that only a man and a woman can naturally produce a child. So on this point, the right to marry for opposite sex couples flows naturally from biological reality.

        Some might argue that sperm donation or some of the newer reproductive technologies, could allow gay couples to produce a child. First of all, these would require third party intervention, which simply reaffirms the inability of and the absence of any inherent property of gay partners to naturally produce a child. Second, some of these techniques are controversial themselves. It would seem better not to employ one controversial practice in support of another controversial (for some/many) practice.

        Child rearing, the second pillar, has been shown in a number of sociological studies to be best done in the setting of a traditional marriage. In order to have healthy children, a family in which there is a male parent and a female parent offers the ideal arrangement for raising kids. Now, obviously this doesn’t always work out. Some troubled kids come from two heterosexual parent families. One could offer reasons for this. The parents don’t show enough love and attention to the kids, or are constantly criticizing the kids for every little thing, or are abusing them, or whatever. (It could also be noted that kids brought up in same-sex parent families who are also shown little love, are constantly criticized, or abused are also likely to have troubles.) Some argue (correctly) that gays can be just as good parents as heterosexuals. But as a general rule, families with a father and a mother are the best arrangement for raising children. Raising emotionally and physically healthy children is important because children, as the song goes, are our future. These children will grow up and, hopefully, become responsible, contributing members of society. They will in turn marry and have children and, all going well, the cycle will continue. If children don’t become responsible members of society, society itself may find itself in danger. So, procreation results in the continuation of society. Rearing healthy children results in the continuation of a healthy society.

        Now, some recent studies show that kids raised by same sex couples do just as well as those raised by opposite sex couples. Fair enough. But is this fact alone enough to confer the benefits of marriage rights? Also, SSM advocates will point out that gay couples can adopt and thus fulfill the second pillar. But my argument (as noted above) is that the requirements for marriage include both pillars. In addition, the fact that gays can adopt children in some jurisdictions doesn’t seem like a good reason to change the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples. All that seems to be required in those cases is for those same sex couples to be given those privileges and benefits needed to protect their children and their rights as their parents, something akin to those possessed by non-biological parent guardians (e.g. grandparents or relatives raising orphaned kids).

        So, the question to ask is: which social arrangement/relationship should the government confer the right to marry to? It seems to me that governments have an overwhelmingly greater stake in, and thus a greater interest in, the perpetuation and development of healthy traditional marriages since it is those relationships that the vast bulk of future (hopefully healthy and emotionally well-adjusted) citizens come from. Does this exclusivity disparage or disadvantage gay couples? I don’t think it does. Gay couples currently have, and will continue to have, the freedom to live in safe, loving, and committed relationships. Where certain deficiencies exist (such as hospital visitation, insurance policy coverage, etc.), can those not be addressed at the level of difficulty (e.g. the insurance company changes its rules so that the partner gets benefits), instead of redefining marriage?

        Well, I hope this comment wasn’t too long. Feel free to poke holes in my case. I’ll say though that I’m open to arguments for legalizing SSM. The ones I’ve seen haven’t convinced me, but perhaps I haven’t seen the best ones (yet).

      • Wow, ksed, what a great and thorough response. There is a lot here to unpack, and I really appreciate your sharing. I’m working on a response for you, and I think a lot of what I have to say I would really like to share as separate posts. Would you like me to post a response in the comments here, email you an individual response, or read it broken up into a couple blog posts. Whatever would be best for you.


  5. Sure, blog posts would be fine. After all why wouldn’t I want to see my arguments possibly dismantled in public for all to see? It will be good for my ego (in a non-good sort of way)

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