January 06, 2009

Black and White, Good and Evil

From Elena, an interesting link from Melissa Etheridge, who concludes regarding those against same sex marriage: "They don't hate us, they just fear change." Which, I suppose, is an improvement!

But what I don't get is how those who for religious reasons can't support same-sex marriage are written off as "fearing change" when many simply fear God and want to obey His words? (Of course that's overly generous because on the issue of divorce, for example, we generally don't fear God and want to obey His words...)

It was interesting to read partially because I recognize in Etheridge my own tendency to ascribe the worst motives to political opponents. Etheridge simply has a different ultimate authority than I do. I don't feel any animosity towards her. Although I can't read him, I do feel sympathy towards Andrew Sullivan too since I've likewise melded (present tense also I'm sure) beliefs around lifestyle rather than the other way around.

The assignation of motives reminds me of something I read recently in a Peggy Noonan column:
For me, the quote of the year was from a Democratic political strategist, a black woman, off air on election night. She walked up to an anchorwoman who is white, and said, “I’m trying to figure out what so moves me and I realize it’s this: You meant it.” The anchor shook her head. “You all said you would vote for a black man,” said the strategist. “You all said you’d judge him on his merits, race wouldn’t stop you. I didn’t know until tonight that you meant it.”
This feels so foreign to me in part because most whites want to vote for a black, simply to be able to cheer over the progress made over our sordid past regarding race. And yet this woman, had Obama lost, would've attributed the result to racism -- just as many gay activists label anyone against same-sex marriage as bigots or fearmongers. One senses that Obama's win doesn't eliminate the root cause of our problems because the root cause wasn't addressed: that of the feeling of persecution by those who aren't being persecuted*. This feeling is epidemic and certainly I'm similarly afflicted. But you want to shake the woman and say, "We love you! We really love you! But this isn't like the Academy Awards, but rather choosing the leader of the free world and if we don't vote for Obama it's about policy and ideology and experience...!" But the personal is the political these days. If you vote against gay marriage or against Obama you're a homophobe or a racist. Sigh.

* - On the other hand, can you really blame someone who grew up during Jim Crow for not trusting that prejudice has been lessened? Or can you blame gay activists for wanting to change the definition of marriage given that many were semi-tortured as children for being different?

I was reading something recently by a commenter on foreign policy who mentioned - this was written before the George Bush era - how Americans view things through a Manichean lens - there are good guys and evil ones and we need to assign them labels.

Is there something in that that suggests America's inability to compromise? The Europeans have stricter abortion laws without outlawing abortion outright, while we bless it and honor it with ridiculous protections outside the Constitution (i.e. Roe v. Wade) as if in a lame attempt to reassure ourselves that it's a positive good.

I admire that we take stands: abortion is either evil, or not. The Gulf War treaty either meant something or did not. Slavery is either evil or not. Christianity is either true or not. Gay marriage is either right or wrong. But at the same time I wonder how it is that modern-day Europe, a far more secular society, has stricter rules on abortion. I think, for good or ill and I'm not sure which, it's because we are "all or none" people.

Mark Noll writes in his book The Civil War as a Theological Crisis of how Roman Jesuits saw the American Civil War as a dramatic example of the inherent problems of Protestantism. Both the North and the South tried to defend their position from the Bible. Both pointed the other as evil, and they lacked a third party, a Magisterium, which ended up resulting in the bloodiest war in American history.

A cardinal archbishop, Karl Reisach, wrote that
"such a state of total biblicism - since the Bible was their only code of law - was able neither to moderate nor to constrict the absolute liberty and independence of the individuals who were reading and explaining the same Bible; and thus the same foundational principle of the Reformation naturally and necessarily caused the collapse of such a theocratic system and caused new sects and religious societies to be born."
Lacking a Magisterium, there was no tie-breaker with respect to the positions of the North and South concerning slavery. "Subjective Christianity" results in extremism said another author, who added that Protestantism's "vaunted trust in Scripture had failed to define a unifying public morality."

If a unifying public morality was not possible when America was made up almost entirely of Christians, that goal seems even less likely now as we enter this more secular age.


Richard said...

[Recursion alert] Does an ultimate unity integrate or obliterate? "All or nothing" brings to mind the "if everyone did that..." argument. Apply this to homosexuality and voila! you have the end of humanity. But we aren’t that invariable. Or are we?

TS said...

Does an ultimate unity integrate or obliterate?

Tis beyond human comprehension, of course, but the Trinity is the ultimate unity w/out obliterating.