Why I hope Conservative Christians Will Fight Gay Marriage Tooth and Nail

With marriage equality battles in front of the voters in four states, the faithful are out in flocks to defend traditional matrimony.  I don’t know exactly what traditional means in this context. It certainly doesn’t mean biblical, or it would include captive virgins and sex slaves and fathering children for your deceased brothers. It certainly doesn’t mean Mitt Romney’s version of traditional, since his great grandfather had five wives and his great-great grandfather had twelve.

But whatever.  I hope they fight tooth and nail and keep fighting until they are so old that their teeth and nails fall out. The battles are expensive, but they are worth every penny. Why? Because of all the nasty things that religion is doing in our country, beating up on gays is one of the most visibly nasty, especially to the young people who will be shaping our future. Teenagers, even many Christian teenagers, look at it, and it makes no sense. It just looks ugly. So bad, in fact, that Christian homophobia may have the power to take down the whole ugly edifice of tribal text worship that has had Western culture in its grip for the last 500 years, also known as bibliolatry. Fundamentalists fear that homosexuality is going to do in their enterprise. I hope and pray to the universe that homophobia does.

To some extent, religion is big business, and when it comes to gay marriage Big Christianity has hired some of the best political ad consultants around. They are sophisticated; they have won at the ballot box 32 times in a row. But every time they win and force us to have this conversation one more time, they advance one of my causes, which is to expose the toxic consequences of biblical thinking.

At best the anti-gay ads are arrogant and othering; at worst, they are plain old mean. They insinuate between pop songs that nice gay people who have the legal protection of civil unions shouldn’t want the stuff that feels special to the rest of us. They remind anxious queer-ish, questioning teens that a whole bunch of people think they really ought to fit the gender binary. They suggest that the pigtailed kindergartener in your daughter’s class should keep her two beloved mommies a little secret. They imply that your neighbor, friend or brother is a moral question mark who shouldn’t be around your kids or maybe even his own.

Sermons and pastoral pronouncements can be even worse.  Mega-church minister Ken Hutcherson, who has railed against effeminate men, once joked to his congregation that if a man opened a door for him he would “rip off his arm and beat him with the wet end.” More recently he warned that if marriage equality becomes the law of the land, “you can marry a horse.”  Seattle’s Catholic Archbishop Peter Sartain pronounced that marriage “would be harmed beyond repair” if equality passed. Hutcherson was trying to elicit disgust (and laughter) among believers, but men of the cloth like Hutcheron and Sartain are actually stirring disgust among a lot of other people—and not against gays. When it comes to sexual matters, whether the topic be pedophilia, contraception, celibacy, masturbation, or orientation, fewer and fewer people think of the authoritarian Church as father- knows-best.

There are lots of important reasons to loathe and to fight against Iron Age thinking, as transmitted through over-valued ancient texts, and encrusted institutions and social communities built on both. Thanks in large part to the Church, women around the world are dying, literally, for lack of contraceptive access when what they really want is to “bring every good thing to one child before I have another.” Here at home, poor women are stuck with 1960’s Pill technology that they can buy on the cheap at Walmart while the Righteous oppose the kind of coverage that would give them genuinely modern options. The sacred web of life on our planet is being strained to the point of collapse while religions that are stuck in the past preach “be fruitful and multiply” and other forms of competitive breeding. Creationist contortionists have committed themselves to taking down the edifice of evolutionary biology—putting the next generation of scientific education and engineering, medicine and biotechnology at risk—rather than question their inerrant Bible. Their assault on science has undermined our ability to tackle the greatest moral challenge of our time, climate change, and extreme weather is hitting vulnerable communities in America and elsewhere. Meanwhile, as the Middle East dances at the edge of catastrophic conflict, close to half of Americans shrug their shoulders because of something an unknown author on the apocalyptic equivalent of crack wrote about the Roman Empire.

But each of these issues, for one reason or another, is harder than gay bashing to hang around the neck of Conservative Christians like the great rotting, stinking albatross it is. The linkage is less direct or more convoluted, or simply less visible. Some of these problems—like maternal mortality or the ever growing number of hungry children or the ever shrinking number of even hungrier animals—are complicated. Religious fundamentalism is mixed with a host of other causal factors, and the solutions are even more tangled. Some problems, like shoddy creationist textbooks and shiny creationist museums, are isolated in specific communities and so seem not to touch us, even though in the end they do.

Gay rights, though, is everywhere, because gay people are everywhere. They surprise us as Honey Boo Boo’s Uncle Poodle or Dick Cheney’s daughter, Mary, who, by the way, got married this fall. They show up as my best friend, Meilin, at Wheaton College (the Illinois one of Billy Graham fame) or as my little brother, David, or as the beloved but wildly effeminate son of a Mormon client who would rather stop loving her religion than stop loving her child. They show up as your neighbor or niece or even your grandmother, if you are only listening.  Sexual orientation has no regard for politics, social class, or religion.

Here is the other thing that makes gay rights a stake-through-the-heart fundamentalism slayer: People are who they are and they love who they love. Sexual orientation is non-negotiable. It appears to be even more inflexible than fundamentalism, perhaps one of the few things that is. When someone comes out, you can’t talk them out of it. You can’t baptize them out of it, exorcise them out of it, pray them out of it, rock them out of it, threaten them out of it, bribe them out of it or fuck them out of it. Religious conservatives and their mental health lackeys have tried all of the above.

So, the conflict between religion and reality is clear, it’s all around us, it’s non-negotiable, and it has a simple solution: either the men in red velvet and their Protestant offspring shut up about our brothers and sisters and children and friends being abominations—or we stop listening. Simple. Solution. So far they haven’t shut up. I happen to think that has been a gift, in a twisted sort of way. That is because, in a world where Bible believers indulge in queer-baiting, gay-hating or even the thinly veiled bullying they call “defending marriage,” being or loving someone queer has more power to boot people out of biblical fundamentalism than anything else I’ve seen.

I get kind of scared about what will happen when we finally win this fight, which, given the trend lines, is just a matter of a decade or two. What if gay folks actually do get on with the Gay Agenda: getting married and raising kids and joining the military? Then the Conservative Christians can turn their full fury on the rest of us.  People like me who were born with vaginas and want to manage our fertility, or kids who wanted the biotech jobs of the future that might involve, say, germ line modifications (aka evolution), or polar bear mamas who really really need science-driven humans to slow global warming may be s-o-l. Smart, determined gay leaders have spent the last thirty years figuring out how to fight against the rear guard of the Iron Age, and they’ve gotten damn good at it.

Let’s face it, they also tend to represent some of the coolest people in the progressive movement. If they go home, who will be left? Nerd girls? Scientists? Polar bears? How are we going to keep young people voting for secular, pluralistic, pragmatists, if Lady Gaga and the It Gets Better guys are home cooking dinner for kids in diapers between gigs? To frame it even more concretely: How will we ever again find a smackdown of biblical literalism that is as awesome as the Dr. Laura letter?

My daughters, who passionately love their gay uncles and aunts and queer friends, volunteered for the marriage equality campaign in Washington State. One night, curious, they pulled up some ads from the California fight and listened with mounting incredulity to the horrible things that were going to happen if California gays started tying the knot. One threat was this: “Those who oppose same sex marriage on religious grounds will be increasingly labeled as intolerant.” Both girls burst out laughing.

I hope those Defense of Marriage guys keep fighting until their fangs and claws have worn down to harmless nubs and all of us can simply go home and curl up with someone we love.   ———

Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington.  She is the author of Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light and Deas and Other Imaginings, and the founder of www.WisdomCommons.org.  Subscribe to her articles at Awaypoint.Wordpress.com.

Related:
Fifteen Bible Verses Reveal Why God’s Own Party is at War With Women
What the Bible Says About Rape and Rape Babies
Proud Mom of Two Teenage Sluts
Righteous Abortion:  How Conservative Christianity Promotes What It Claims to Hate
Captive Virgins, Polygamy, Sex Slaves: What Marriage Would Look Like if We Actually Followed the Bible

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About Valerie Tarico

Seattle psychologist and writer. Author - Trusting Doubt and Deas and Other Imaginings. Founder - www.WisdomCommons.org.
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32 Responses to Why I hope Conservative Christians Will Fight Gay Marriage Tooth and Nail

  1. i j swamy says:

    Christian marriage is a “legal contract” .Marriage can be christened as “erotic relation” “carnal friendship” or united pious life”. Divorce , separation ,split or some other name fits in as opposite .Just edit English dictionary and we become free . Elections are political .None says “change contract laws “

  2. Munroe Scott says:

    Thanks to your link at “about the Roman Empire” I just read your marvellously informative interview of July 8, 2009, concerning the Book of Revelations. Increasingly timely.

  3. Mark Mywerd says:

    When it comes to God there are no living experts.

  4. thebentangle says:

    Wow! This is simply one of the best pieces on this subject that I have read in a long time. I hope it gets around (I’ll link to it from The Bent Angle.) I think you are absolutely right about the damage conservative Christians are doing to themselves and their churches through these relentless attacks on GLBTs. We’re seeing it happen right before our eyes. You probably saw the full-page ad placed in the Seattle Times yesterday (Oct. 28) by Catholics for Marriage Equality (WA): over a thousand signatures from Catholics who have “stopped listening,” as you say. The shriller the Church becomes over this issue, the more defections they will have. Young people, in particular, are turned off by what they are hearing in most churches about this issue, especially when their schools and employers are encouraging respect for diversity. What they’re hearing in churches are messages that can only make their lives more difficult in the real world of education and employment.

  5. Peter says:

    Up here in Ontario our provincial government passed legislation to combat bullying in schools, especially for those kids who are gay. The idea was to form discussion groups in class where the kids could talk things out and hopefully resolve the issues. And, of course, the Catholics and fundamentalist Christian schools rejected the whole idea and launched law suits to combat this progressive legislation. But, it is the law and they must comply, for now. It’s not a complete panacea but it is a step in the right direction. And, as you said in your post it’s the young people, young Christians, who will reject this crazy homophobic, anti-abortion and birth control nonsense and start forming their own opinions. It will take time but it will happen.

    • i j swamy says:

      This discussion can continue till eternity as long as we think Christianity is the only faith . Atheism is also a faith

      • Why is it the the religious don’t understand that atheism is the complete lack of faith, & is the logical conclusion based on research & experience.

      • Paul Douglas says:

        You are completely wrong IJ. Religion is the assumption of a set of beliefs about dieties based on no verifiable, replicable evidence. Atheism is the opposite. Atheism concludes there are unlikely to be any deities because there is no verifiable, replicable evidence of their existence.

        “If atheism is a religion, then baldness is a hair color” — Unknown

  6. “Those who oppose same sex marriage on religious grounds will be increasingly labeled as intolerant.”

    Kinda like those who opposed mixed-race marriage on religious grounds are labeled as intolerant.

    What continues to baffle me is how the “this is an attack on marriage” argument gets any traction. I’ve been listening for years, and I’ve heard nothing. (Maybe they’re thinking of divorce?)

  7. Perry Bulwer says:

    A common refrain I hear from fundamentalists about homosexuality is that they “love the sinner but hate the sin”. Without cognitive dissonance I don’t think anyone could be a Christian.

  8. windotoucher says:

    Terrific and thoughtful bombast!!! Thank you.

    As you know, we are fighting the fight in Minnesota against an amendment to the state constitution banning gay marriage. Hoping to be the first state in the U.S. to fail to pass such an initiative.

  9. Michelle J says:

    Thanks Valerie, great article! As always, you make me think! I just want to share that my 7 year old daughter has been going around the family asking if we are “voting no”. I guess I had talked to her about it awhile ago and it’s come up a number of times since. When I said for sure!, she just said, “Good, Mama! They are just normal people too!” I have to say it was a very proud moment! We live in MN and there is a big vote coming up on an amendment to ban gay marriage to our constitution, kind of redundant since it’s already against the law. So let’s all vote no to the amendment! It’s a start anyway. Thanks so much for your good work!!

  10. mikespeir says:

    You’re getting uncharacteristically worked up. Refreshing!

    BTW, I’ll hold the door for anybody, and I dare this Hutcherson clown to try to rip my arm off! While I’m not gay, I might be willing to lie to him about that.

  11. Ferdi Businger says:

    Great article Valerie. Sadly, I’m not as optimistic you. History has shown hate campaigns to be very seductive. Witness what has happened regarding racial attitudes since Obama was elected. A majority of Americans now hold racist views, up from 48% to 52% since his election. With relative impunity, Republicans have been able to attack Obama with thinly veiled racist insults. Neither the news media or the democrats have effectively called them on it. If Obama loses this election it can squarely be blamed on these racist driven attacks. Gays are still very vulnerable to similar demagoguery.

    • alfaretta says:

      I hope that Valerie is right but fear that you are correct, Ferdi. Support statistics for marriage equality have changed dramatically quickly in part because of President Obama’s announcement of support. Would they change back just as quickly if we get Romney/Ryan in the White House and return to the anti-gay politics of the GOP?

  12. Jim K. says:

    Hi,I hope your health is good.I’m a CCU RN by profession.I am hetero but fully believe in gay rights.Any form of love between consenting adults (sexual or otherwise) should be respected.We respect our soldiers,who would kill another human for our rights? (Doesn’t even make sense).I’m also atheist; belief in an invisible sky daddy was childish to me when I WAS A CHILD.I was raised Roman Catholic,and remember when I would ask “were the dinosaurs before or after Adam and Eve”? got me smacked on the back of my thighs with a wooden stick by sister Mary Superior.
    I have radical, outrageous ideas to promote secular humanism and would like to help.Have a great day.Jim K.

  13. i j swamy says:

    Christianity gains popularity because Jesus offered blanket pardon to anyone who dips into water or whose head is watered by a pastor .If murder is pardoned why get worked up with gay/lesbian et al ?

  14. Wonderful, informative, and uplifting. Thank you.

  15. Reblogged this on sarahjanelives and commented:
    I can’t say enough positive things about this blog. LGBT rights are dear to my heart, and this post took my thoughts and phrased them far, far better than I ever could. I’ll be visiting here often, I think.

  16. Papizilla says:

    Reblogged this on The Ranting Papizilla and commented:
    Very well done.

  17. nwcodetalker says:

    It seems the right uses religion to often to attack the left and the left uses religion to attack the right. Religion has become the bastard child that gets used and abused. It’s not genuine and when the parents have a fight this issue of being genuine is the go to issue. Next up is children, real ones, the right uses them to rail against the left and the right returns the volley. “They suggest that the pigtailed kindergartener in your daughter’s class should keep her two beloved mommies a little secret.” No, I”m sorry Valerie that’s not always true, yes, sometimes, but not always. So a child has two daddies, fine how nice, I’m sure they’re nice people but they don’t have a mommy and their two daddies aren’t married because they’re two men. Say something like that and the left sparks into a phlegm filled vitriol spewed at a suspected homophobic. Except when the speaker is a homosexual then the go to rant is you need psychological help. Ah! The mysterious conservative atheist homosexual appears, like the virgin birth, a marvel and mystery. A self knowing, self confident and content homosexual human being. Unafraid to be themselves and not what others want them to be. The “Q” in LBGTQ.

  18. i j swamy says:

    There is no need to discuss marriage at this length as though God needs notes for Him . For us humans sex and marriage are issues for time pass . For psychologists, psychiatrists, and physicians it a University question .

  19. Pingback: Rite and Ritual – Christian Edition | Eudaimonaic Laughter

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