Thursday, January 19, 2006

The left and the wrath of God

As we all know by now, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin has apologized for his Martin Luther King Day remarks in which he said that Hurricane Katrina was God's punishment to America for "being in Iraq under false pretenses" (among other things), and that the Almighty also wanted New Orleans to be "a majority-African American city" after rebuilding.

In the brouhaha over Mayor Nagin's foray into Pat Robertson-land, there has been hardly any discussion of the larger issue: the fact that religiously charged rhetoric, even the rhetoric of religoius zealotry, can be found on the left as well as the right, among Democrats as well as Republicans -- particularly Democrats speaking to the African-American community, in which politics and faith have traditionally had a close relationship. Think of Jesse Jackson, back in 1992, likening Dan Quayle to King Herod and Mary to a single mother on welfare. Or take a look, for instance, at this October 2004 Washington Post story about John Kerry's campaign stop at a black church in Miami:

Congregants waved fans emblazoned "People of Faith for Kerry-Edwards." Kerry smiled after former U.S. representative Carrie Meek (D-Fla.) said he is "fighting against liars and demons."

Kerry, who has compared Bush to those in the Bible story who ignored the wounded man before the Good Samaritan helped him, joked about the risk of being upstaged by Jackson and Sharpton. He said he didn't mind because "God's speaking here today, and we're going to listen."

The minister, the Rev. Gaston E. Smith, endorsed Kerry, saying, "To bring our country out of despair, despondency and disgust, God has a John Kerry."


When a conservative minister says this kind of thing about George W. Bush, it's widely taken as a sign that America is sinking into a Dark Age of religious fanaticism. Somehow,
the rhetoric of the "religious left" -- aside from an over-the-top rant like Nagin's -- is not met with the same condemnation.


54 comments:

Ampersand said...

Has the religious left been mounting a large-scale campaign to have their beliefs taught as science in school classrooms? Have they gotten the president to endorse a constitutional amendment banning heterosexuals from marrying ? Is anyone on the religious left suggesting that pro-lifers should be forced by the state to have abortions?

By focusing on what politicans say, without any context, you're ignoring the substance of the issue. It's not what they say; it's the legislation that they pass, and how that legislation would reduce freedom.

Except by the dubious conception of freedom that says "if Joe and Bob are free to get married, then I am no longer free to prevent them from getting married," there's no serious case that the religious left has been trying to limit freedom to at all the same degree that the religious right has been.

Anonymous said...

While the religious left is frequently guilty of using the same overcharged rhetoric as the religious right, ampersand is correct in pointing out that the religious left is politically irrelevant.

This is because left/liberal churches are themselves weak, and getting weaker by the day. Witness the Episcopalians, who have been drifting steadily to the left for decades even while their churches have been shrinking and aging, and who now appear to be on the verge of a major split. This pattern is being followed by most of the churches in mainline protestantism: churches shrinking, leaders agitating for lefty politics, divisions being created between the remaining members who oppose the new leftward tilt.

This is in drastic contrast to Evangelical and fundamentalist churches, who have growing congregations (particularly among the demographic that does not have grey hair), a great deal of support for their message from congregants, a commitment to public engagement (both through politics and through proselityzing), and plenty of funds being donated by those large congregation.

The rhetoric is the same. The impact isn't.

Joan said...

The rhetoric is the same. The impact isn't.

So what you're saying, in essence, is that it doesn't matter what use leftists make of extreme religious rhetoric, because it doesn't have an impact on policy? But isn't that because the electorate has taken power away from the left? Don't you think if the left were winning elections that their rhetoric would be just as likely to be influencing public policy -- or are you admitting that the Democrats who indulge in this kind of over-the-top stuff are just spouting off nonsense they hope will appeal to some part of their constituency, that they "don't really mean it"? Rewarding this kind of manipulative behavior with "So what?" and a shoulder shrug only when it comes from the left can't be called anything but a double standard.

Both ampersand and anonymous fail to recognize that support for heterosexual marriage only is not a "conservative" issue. It has widespread support across all demographics, as attested to by the state referendums, particularly in the Black religious community, outside of that community's leaders. You'll notice that when Democrat politicians address Black religious congregrations, they're not too forthcoming about their support for legislation allowing homosexual marriage. But few Democrats who speak about religion or to religious groups are doing anything but "talking the talk." There are a few principaled religious Democrats, Joe Lieberman among them, but for the most part, Democrats just pander to their religious constituents because they desperately need the votes. That pandering explains a good part of why left/liberal churches are failing, as anonymous noted.

Anonymous said...

joan asks: "So what you're saying, in essence, is that it doesn't matter what use leftists make of extreme religious rhetoric, because it doesn't have an impact on policy?"

Yes, that is exactly what I am saying. Religious rhetoric from the left and from the right is equally OK from a free-speech perspective (or equally offensive from an "inclusiveness above all else" perspective).

But they are not equal in impact. Religious rhetoric from the left is irrelevant because lefty churches are irrelevant, for the reasons I listed above. Religious rhetoric from the right, in contrast, may actually be politically impactful because righty churches have a lot of energy to apply to politics.

Joan said...

Oh, give me a break. You've just admitted that it's OK for the Left to say anything it wants because it's the party that's out of power. Sorry, but words have meaning, and politicians especially should be aware of that. And if our public figures, on the Left or the Right, are going to spout nonsense of any sort, they should be called to be accountable for what they've said. And if they're so impolitic that they repeatedly make embarrassing comments, well they should be embarrassed right out of their offices come the next election.

As has been demonstrated in the Alito hearings recently: if you want the power to do stuff, you have to win elections. The Left's insincere and often duplicitous use of religious rhetoric is probably a contributing factor to their recent string of losses.

Ampersand said...

Joan wrote: So what you're saying, in essence, is that it doesn't matter what use leftists make of extreme religious rhetoric, because it doesn't have an impact on policy?

No, I'm saying that movements should be judged not only by what they say, but also by what policies they advocate.

Arguably, the left is as bad as the right when it comes to rhetoric alone - although I think that argument is more than a little stretched. (In no possible conception is Ray Nagin as prominent a Democrat as Pat Robertson is a Conservative).

But it's inarguable that the religious right has been attacking freedom in this country, in a way that the religious left has not. And I find the idea that movements should be judged solely on what they say, rather than on the policies they advocate, incomprehensible.

Regarding gay marriage, a rhetorical opposition to gay marriage is found among politicians of both parties. But when you look at who it is doing the hard work of pushing anti-gay constitutional amendments (both federal and state), it's mostly conservatives.

And I agree, by the way, that Democratic politicians have acted like dogs on the same-sex marriage issue. They come begging for money from the lesbian and gay community and pretend to be supportive, but once the check has cleared they suck up to the middle by being against same-sex marriage (John Kerry is the perfect example of this). This is one of the many things I hate about Democrats.

Still, as bad as the Democrats are, I don't think anyone can honestly look at who sponsors the vast majority of anti-gay legislation in the US, and who opposes pro-gay legislation, and not come to the conclusion that the Republicans are significantly more anti-gay.

John Howard said...

Has the religious left been mounting a large-scale campaign to have their beliefs taught as science in school classrooms?

The UU sponsor gay straight clubs and people who espouse UU beliefs work VERY hard getting their ideas into classrooms. And did you see the gay actor guy on Larry King the other night, being very heated and adamant that he knows absolutely that God wants him to do what he is doing?

Ampersand said...

The UU sponsor gay straight clubs and people who espouse UU beliefs work VERY hard getting their ideas into classrooms.

UU means the Uniterians, right?

I'd like to know more about what this means - for instance, are they trying to get the UU view that gay marriage is acceptable taught in science classrooms? If you could provide a link to a respectable source discussing how UU tries to get UU ideas into public school classrooms, I'd appreciate it.

William R. Barker said...

The Left uses a simlar argument to shrug off minority racism. The theory (of some, not all, hopefully not even most) goes somewhat like this: Blacks (and other minorities) CAN'T practice racism because they're a minority and not in a position of power.

Keep up the good fight, Joan, but how can one ever "win" the argument when opposed by such "logic?"

BTW...

GOD was talking to me just the other day. He said, "Bill... those frigg'n lefties are driving me nuts... I feel that "flood'n" urge coming upon me again."

So I replied: "Big Guy... cool out. They know not what they do."

(*GRIN*)

BILL

Revenant said...

Referring to the "religious left" is too simple. Black churches, for example, tend to be solidly Democratic, and certianly left-wing on a huge array of political issues, but they are almost all anti-gay, and anti-evolution and anti-abortion sentiment is widespread as well. They're not part of the religious right, really, but they don't fit alongside the middle-class liberal churches either.

thecobrasnose said...

ampersand asks:

Has the religious left been mounting a large-scale campaign to have their beliefs taught as science in school classrooms?

Do you mean aside from environmentalism and the ruination of the nation's economy upon the altar of the Kyoto treaty?

Lori Heine said...

How relevant are the very labels "Religious Right" or "Religious Left" anymore? The Black churches are no longer the only ones hard to peg under such conventional labels.

The mainstream media oversimplifies almost every issue. It's a good sign that many blogs are steering clear of the easy assumptions and stereotypes so commonly found in the MSM.

protein wisdom said...

Interesting, Cathy.

Responded here: http://www.proteinwisdom.com/index.php/weblog/entry/19709/

Anonymous said...

"Has the religious left been mounting a large-scale campaign to have their beliefs taught as science in school classrooms? "

If you count global warming - and you really, really should - they've already succeeded.

Joan said...

But it's inarguable that the religious right has been attacking freedom in this country, in a way that the religious left has not.

Since it's inarguable, I guess there's no point in making a response. But I'm in the mood for futile gestures, so here goes: what you consider "attacking freedoms," many others consider "protecting society's weakest members" and "preserving the fundamental unit of our culture."

I can't point to any specifically "religious" ideas from the Left that have infringed on freedoms, but I can point to one segment of society where free speech is severely endangered: university campuses (campii?), where political correctness and "speech codes" ensure that anyone who is offended has the right to make everyone else shut up. That's a real loss of freedom, and it's happening now, and has been happening for some time. It's not some scary-potential-could-be scenario, it's true. And it's because of the attitudes and philosophies and constant state of agitation of those on the Left.

One more point: Pat Robertson may be "prominent" but Ray Nagin was elected. They're both idiots, but Robertson doesn't have a constituency to whom he is responsible. No one pays taxes to Robertson.

Rainsborough said...

Of course religious rhetoric, rhetoric based on the belief that God's at (and on?) our side, constantly pruning and tending, acting for the best, crops up on both right and left. Both right and left are heavily populated (the left largely by African Americans) with folks who hold such beliefs and take them seriously. Their beliefs are based on both a sound reading of scripture and a version of theology probably essential to a vibrant version of religion.
For sure, given the character of their religion, these folks are going to believe that God acts in our lives in many manifest ways. For sure, in private they're going to articulate to each other these shared understandings of God's action. It would take a high degree of self-control, even of self-abnegation and insincerity, for the believer who's also a public figure not to also express these deeply held beliefs and understandings of God at work in the world in their public discourse.
The Constitution says there's to be no religious test for office. The Constitution's purposes, laid out in its preamble, are entirely secular. The government, at least the federal government, is forbidden to establish (favor?) any particular religion or religion in general. But
this constitution has permitted and encouraged religion to thrive here as in no other wealthy country. Why expect that a highly religious people, left or right, will eschew religious rhetoric? Or expect that those who perceive God at work in another direction, or who hold, as did Lincoln, that God's will is not nearly so easily perceived as these believers think, won't mock their pretensions?

Ampersand said...

If you count global warming - and you really, really should - they've already succeeded.

I don't think creationism (or "intelligent design") is comparable to global warming. Creationism has no support in legitimate scientific peer-reviewed journals; global warming, in contrast, is overwhelmingly supported by the scientific literature.

Does that mean that global warming is correct? No, it doesn't; it's in theory possible that the majority of the scientific community is mistaken. Nonetheless, global warming, like evolution, is the current mainstream scientific position, and so should be taught.

Ampersand said...

Since it's inarguable, I guess there's no point in making a response. But I'm in the mood for futile gestures, so here goes:

:-P Sorry about that, my rhetoric ran away with me.

...what you consider "attacking freedoms," many others consider "protecting society's weakest members" and "preserving the fundamental unit of our culture."

Logically, "attacking freedoms" and "preserving the fundamental unit of culture" (etc) are not mutually exclusive. So although many folks who oppose same-sex marriage see it in the terms you describe, that doesn't counter my point that they are for less freedom.

Look, if you think Joe and Bob shouldn't be free to marry, that's fine (although I passionately disagree). You have every right to think that, and to advocate for that policy. But the fact remains, in scenario X Joe and Bob are free to choose to marry; in scenario Y Joe and Bob lack that freedom. Therefore, those who advocate scenario Y - even if they beleive they are doing so for excellent reasons - are advocating less freedom.

Sometimes less freedom is the correct thing to advocate for. I approve of speed limits in residential neighborhoods, for instance, although that certainly has a freedom-reducing effect on drivers. But I think we should be honest about what it is we advocate. I'm in favor of the minimum wage, for example; but it would be dishonest of me to deny that my policy is taking some freedom away from employers and workers.

In the case of the three examples I mentioned - gay marriage, abortion, and teaching creationism in science classes - what's disturbing to me is that all of these are examples of people trying to use legislation to force other people to behave in accordance with their religious beliefs.

Joan said...

Apology accepted -- and thank you, that was a nice surprise.

Of the three examples you cite: abortion, gay marriage, and the teaching of creationism as science (recently condemned by the Vatican, you'll note), only the last is an example of forcing religious beliefs on others.

There are valid, scientific reasons for opposing abortion and gay marriage. Recent studies show that abortion has long-term negative physical and psychological consequences for the mother, and studies of countries which allow civil unions and/or gay marriage have shown a sharp increase in the number of children living in single-parent homes.

Many people fail to appreciate the impact on society that will come when something that was once rare, like single motherhood, becomes commonplace. Social engineering, whether it's a shift to the left or the right, makes me nervous; unintended consequences of such changes are the rule, not the exception. It's true that opponents of abortion and gay marriage hold views that align with those of the major religions, but that doesn't mean that everyone who holds those views does so for solely religious reasons.

Lori Heine said...

I'd like to know more about the variables in the "studies" Joan cites that supposedly show more children raised in single-parent homes in countries where same-sex unions are protected. Are these the children of homos or of heteros?

In "studies" such as these, we are seldom told. I suspect that on the part of those who do the "studying," that omission is deliberate.

Revenant said...

But the fact remains, in scenario X Joe and Bob are free to choose to marry; in scenario Y Joe and Bob lack that freedom. Therefore, those who advocate scenario Y - even if they beleive they are doing so for excellent reasons - are advocating less freedom.

Pardon me, but Joe and Bob ARE free to marry. There are plenty of married gay people in America. They just don't get special government benefits like most hetero married couples do. Freedom isn't the issue; the debate is over which subsets of our society the government will grant special protections to.

Of course, a substantial subset of the religious community feels homosexuality shouldn't be legal at all, and in that sense they are certainly anti-freedom.

As for abortion, well, "pro-choice" is only synonymous with "pro-freedom" if you believe that fetuses have no human rights at all. If you believe that they do have some rights, then it is arguable that it is the "pro-life" position which favors freedom.

It doesn't require religious belief to believe that fetuses have some rights, just as it doesn't require religious belief to believe that adult humans have some rights. It isn't as though there's some age at which, suddenly, *BING* a Rights Gland becomes active and can be tested for in a lab. You can analyze a human brain cell under a microscope and you won't find one single hint of a right to life, to liberty, or to the pursuit of happiness. But there are rational reasons for believing in those rights, and those reasons can easily extend to cover unborn children as well.

William R. Barker said...

Is marriage a "social good?" Are legally identifiable nuclear (and extended) families a "societal good?" If the answer is yes, should these unions be encouraged/subsidized by government?

Marriage as a legal and cultural institution within the Western context (and indeed throughout most of the world throughout most of history) has been between a man and a woman - in some cultures between a man and several woman - but to my knowledge not officially sanctioned as between a man and a man or a woman and a woman.

Now we've "evolved" in our social thinking. Many believe it's only "fair" and equatable to give homosexual couples the same right to marry as hetrosexuals enjoy. Others believe traditional marriage laws are already fair in the sense that as long as a gay man is free to marry a straight or gay woman or a gay woman is free to marry a straight or gay man then they're not being denied the right to marry per se, they're only being denied the right to marry a member of the same gender - a limitation many would compare to laws forbidding marriage if one or both parties are below a certain age or are blood kin.

Frankly... I can understand the latter argument and let's be honest... that's the argument the vast majority of Americans support.

Americans by and large don't approve of gay marriage and feel it would confer "extra" rights on homosexuals. They don't consider the refusal to turn aside from milennium of cultural and legal norms to be "discrimination," but rather common sense and acceptance of what has historically been looked at as "the norm."

All this said... does this mean the majority is right? I don't think so.

I'm a straight conservative Republican male and if two guys (or two gals) want to take on the same legal rights and responsibilities as my wife and I have taken on... more power to them.

To go back to the top of my post, if marriage and family serve a positive societal function - which by the way I believe they do - then civil society should "bless" homosexual unions.

Now... again going back to one of my original questions... if we "allow" homosexual marriage strictly on the basis of equality and fairness and discount or simply ignore the question of whether marriage is a "social good" regardless of sexual orientation... do we subsidize homosexual marriage (rights and privilages) in the exact same way we do hetrosexual marriages?

There are a LOT of questions to examine and come to a societal consensus on.

And by the way... why shouldn't multiple partner marriages be allowed? At what point does individual liberty and freedom of action in the pursuit of love and happiness conflict with societal good and if multiple partner marriages do... how so?

Anyway... points to ponder - or not. (*SMILE*) If nothing else, I hope I've allayed Lori's fear that someone with my views who views Scalia as one of the good guys might view homosexuals as "subhuman."

Ampersand said...

Joan wrote:

There are valid, scientific reasons for opposing abortion and gay marriage. Recent studies show that abortion has long-term negative physical and psychological consequences for the mother, and studies of countries which allow civil unions and/or gay marriage have shown a sharp increase in the number of children living in single-parent homes.

The study you link to shows that depression is associated with having an abortion; but correlation is not causation. The most relevant and important comparison - depression in women with unwanted pregnancies who give birth, compared to those with unwanted pregnancies who abort - is not made in the study you cite, as the study authors themselves admit.

It should also be noted that other studies of abortion and depression have found no relationship. No reasonable scientists - and certainly not the researchers whose study you cite - would claim that this question has been settled.

As for your other point, it's simply not true that civil unions and same-sex marriage have increased the rate of single-parent homes. See this chart of unwed parenting rates, for instance - the country names in blue squares are the ones with some form of gay marriage. As you can clearly see, it's not true that those countries have experienced increased rates of unwed births. And the increased acceptance of civil unions, domestic partnerships, and gay marriage in the US has happened during a time when unwed parenthood has declined.

So either the association you suggest doesn't exist at all, or it exists but is so weak that it's easily buried in other social factors, in which case I don't see much cause for concern.

But as interesting as the empirical debates are, they're really not the point. Suppose that it could be shown, beyond any doubt, that abortion causes no harm, mental or physical, to women. How many pro-lifers would switch their position to pro-choice, do you suppose? Similarly, suppose that the Netherlands data you refer to was shown to be a sham (which it pretty much has been). How many opponents of same-sex marriage would thereupon switch their position?

It's not a coincidence that the group of Americans most likely to favor same-sex marriage are the atheists - nor that atheists are strongly pro-choice. In the end, the core issues of these debates - "when is a fetus a person?" and "what makes a marriage a marriage?" - are religious or moral questions; the social science, while interesting, is only a sideline.

Although I'm sure there are a handful of individual exceptions, the vast majority of people opposed to abortion, and to same-sex marriage, are motivated primarily by their religious beliefs. Although they may seek to legitimize those beliefs by looking for supportive social science, in the end their position is not determined by social science.

Of course, you could say the same thing about pro-choicers and advocates for marriage equality.

But for purposes of this discussion - which is about if the religious left is as opposed to freedom as the religious right is - the essential difference is, no pro-choicer in the world wants to force a pro-lifer to have an abortion. And no marriage equality advocate will force anyone else to enter into a same-sex marriage, if they don't want to.

So with all due respect, I think that my position - which is that the religious right has a pattern of favoring policies which would force all Americans to fit their lives into right-wing religious beliefs - is well supported by the examples of abortion, gay marriage, and (as you concede, to your credit) creationism in the schools.

Ampersand said...

I wrote, "it's simply not true that civil unions and same-sex marriage have increased the rate of single-parent homes. See this chart of unwed parenting rates, for instance - the country names in blue squares are the ones with some form of gay marriage. As you can clearly see, it's not true that those countries have experienced increased rates of unwed births."

That last sentence is an error. I should have written, it's not true that countries with some form of gay marriage have experienced faster rates of unwed births, compared to those countries without gay marriage."

Sorry!

Ampersand said...

Revenant wrote: Pardon me, but Joe and Bob ARE free to marry. There are plenty of married gay people in America. They just don't get special government benefits like most hetero married couples do.

I don't think this changes what I've been saying at all. Whether or not to have one's marriage legitimized by the government is an important choice that Mary and Bob get to make, but Joe and Frank have made for them. That lack of a choice others consider normal is a real way Joe and Frank have less freedom under the policy preferences of the religious right.

Of course, a substantial subset of the religious community feels homosexuality shouldn't be legal at all, and in that sense they are certainly anti-freedom.

Good point. I should have included that in my initial post.

As for abortion, well, "pro-choice" is only synonymous with "pro-freedom" if you believe that fetuses have no human rights at all. If you believe that they do have some rights, then it is arguable that it is the "pro-life" position which favors freedom.

Of course. But the point is, this issue is one that there isn't even a hint of a national consensus on. Whether or not a fetus is a person with human rights is usually a religious belief in our country (and sometimes a philosophical belief); it's certainly not a question which can be settled empirically in either direction.

I agree that, given the context of seeing no important moral difference between a two-month-fetus and a two-year-old baby, the pro-life position makes some sense.

But that doesn't change the fact that pro-lifers who are trying to force pro-choicers to abide by their religious beliefs about the fetus, and not the other way around.

Joan said...

Ampersand: thank you for linking to those graphs. I think, however, that your interpretation of the data they present is incorrect.

You did post a correction to your statement about the EU countries graph, but even that is cherry-picking. In the aggregrate, yes, the "Scandinavian" countries aren't doing worse, but that's because Denmark's rate is negative. The Netherlands, which has the most liberal policy, has a rate of unwed births that is only surpassed by former Eastern block (and therefore, not directly comparable) countries like Estonia and Latvia.

Another point: this graph is of the change in the ratio of unwed to married birthrates over the years reported, and it is very difficult to interpret this data without knowing what the actual data is that is underlying it. Do you know what the absolute ratio of unwed to married birthrates is for these countries, and for the US? That data is just as relevant, if not moreso, to this discussion.

You said: the increased acceptance of civil unions, domestic partnerships, and gay marriage in the US has happened during a time when unwed parenthood has declined, when in fact what that graph is showing is that the rate of increase in unwed births has declined. Until the "rate of increase" is negative, unwed births are still climbing.

William R. Barker said...

Ampersand wrote...

But the point is, this issue [abortion] is one that there isn't even a hint of a national consensus on.

===============================

Yes... and no. Most Americans favor legal abortion in the first trimester under pretty much all circumstances (laying aside the parental notification issue for minor's abortions), while most Americans also support limiting third trimester abortions to cases where the life (and/or health depending upon how "health" is defined) of the mother would be endangered by bringing the child to term.

The SECOND TRIMESTER is where there's no national consensus.

=================================

Ampersand continued...

Whether or not a fetus is a person with human rights is usually a religious belief in our country (and sometimes a philosophical belief)...

=================================

Hmm. I don't know about the former, though I definitely agree with the latter.

I don't know a lot of "born agains" but I do know a lot of Catholics, mainline Protestants, reform and conservative Jews, Greek Orthodox... while most "religious" folks I know (people who attend organized religious services regularly) go through the motions and cross their "t's" and dot their "i's" when it comes to religous process (the Sacraments for Christians, Torah for Jews, etc.) where their own moral/ethical compass conflicts with the strict teachings of their religion... individual conscience seems to usually win out.

================================

Ampersand concluded...

But that doesn't change the fact that pro-lifers who are trying to force pro-choicers to abide by their religious beliefs about the fetus, and not the other way around.

=================================

Perhaps that's because when we compare sincere pro-lifers with sincere legal abortion supporters - and ESPECIALLY to EXTREME legal abortion supporters (people who would permit so-called partial birth abortions based solely on the mother deciding at the last moment she doesn't want to be a mother and would rather kill the child rather than give the child up for abortion)- we see more logical "problems" with the latter position.

For example... pro-life with the only exception being the probable loss of life of the mother absent pregnancy termination is a pretty logical position based on the belief that the fetus/child is a person from point of conception.

The problem with the other side is that often their definition of "life" depends solely upon the will of the mother.

If a woman is 3 months pregnant and she's thrilled to death she calls the being in her womb her baby. If on the other hand she decides she wants an abortion she's not killing her "baby," she's aborting a fetus.

If a woman is 6 months pregnant and she's the victim of a crime and loses the baby the criminal responsible may be charged with a crime in connection with the baby's death (I'm not an expert on the law and I don't know how it works from state to state, but I'm sure we've all heard of such senarios) while if the same woman had aborted the same child there's no crime.

These sorts of logical disconnects bother people. "When" is a fetus a baby? When is a fetus a "buman being?" This is the heart of the debate.

Ultimately... Congress is going to have to define "life" in such a fashion as to remove subjectivity from this debate - at least for legal purposes.

Kristjan Wager said...

"You did post a correction to your statement about the EU countries graph, but even that is cherry-picking. In the aggregrate, yes, the "Scandinavian" countries aren't doing worse, but that's because Denmark's rate is negative. The Netherlands, which has the most liberal policy, has a rate of unwed births that is only surpassed by former Eastern block (and therefore, not directly comparable) countries like Estonia and Latvia."

But it's relevant that Denmark is the country in which civil unions (which is in effect the same as SSM) have been legal for the longest period of time. So a negative rate in Denmark would seem to prove Ampersand right.

Also, being from one of the countries mentioned, I feel that I should point out, that you are making the mistake of using US norms when looking at different countries.

Marriage has a much different value in the countries mentioned - it is not a big thing to be born by unwed parents, and it haven't been for decades. I am 30, and I have no clue about if my friends' parents were married back when they were born. It's simply not an issue.

Revenant said...

But for purposes of this discussion - which is about if the religious left is as opposed to freedom as the religious right is - the essential difference is, no pro-choicer in the world wants to force a pro-lifer to have an abortion.

Consider this argument:

"No pro-slavery person wants to force anti-slavery people to keep slaves, but anti-slavery people want to forbid pro-slavery people from keeping slaves. Therefore, pro-slavery people are more pro-freedom than anti-slavery people are."

"But wait", you say, "slavery *itself* is anti-freedom". Good point! But pause to consider for a minute that a good case can be made that killing a human fetus is anti-freedom too -- certainly dead things are less free than living ones. Your argument that "pro-choice" is "pro-freedom" hinges on the unproven assumption that abortions aren't inherently anti-freedom.

Whether or not to have one's marriage legitimized by the government is an important choice that Mary and Bob get to make, but Joe and Frank have made for them.


That is not true. Mary and Bob get to ASK to be legitimized (as do Joe and Frank). The *government* is the entity that gets to decide whether or not to say yes. It isn't as if all hetero marriages get an automatic thumbs-up.

Joan said...

Kristjan makes my point for me:
[A] negative rate in Denmark would seem to prove Ampersand right but: Marriage has a much different value in the countries mentioned - it is not a big thing to be born by unwed parents, and it haven't been for decades.

Exactly.

Sociologicly, the so-called "Scandanavian" countries (since when is the Netherlands in Scandanavia?) are very different from the US. They have pretty much 100% homogenous populations, and cradle-to-grave socialism. Neither of these conditions will ever exist in the US, in spite of some people's best efforts -- for which I'm very grateful. (To be clear: I'm glad we'll never be a homogenous, socialist society -- I'm grateful that efforts to transform us into one have not succeeded.)

Kristjan Wager said...

"They have pretty much 100% homogenous populations, and cradle-to-grave socialism."

The populations of Scandinavia is less homogenous than you apparently believe, especially when you look at Scandinavia as a whole. Even more so, if you use the non-Scandinavian definition of Scandinavia, which includes Finland, Iceland and Greeland.
The Netherlands, which aren't part of Scandinavia of course, is extremely unhomogenous.

Also, a welfare-state is not the same as socialism. The Danish government is one of the most right-winged in Europe, and consider a welfare state quite acceptable.
It's just different priorities.
The Danish government considers it a better investment to ensure a healthy and educated population, than to let people pay for themselves, often not getting propert health care and education in the process.

mythago said...

Referring to the "religious left" is too simple.

It's the flip side of bowing to the misnomer of the "religious right". It's sickening how a group of extremely conservative Christians have rhetorically positioned themselves as "religious," as though they had a monopoly on faith.

There are valid, scientific reasons for opposing abortion and gay marriage.

No, joan, there really aren't. Choose whatever side you wish on these issues, but let's not pretend that 'science' backs up one or the other.

Revenant said...

It's the flip side of bowing to the misnomer of the "religious right". It's sickening how a group of extremely conservative Christians have rhetorically positioned themselves as "religious," as though they had a monopoly on faith.

You do realize that "the religious right" is a term *other* people coined to describe them, right? They seldom call themselves that. They usually just call themselves "Christians".

Lori Heine said...

Joan fails to make any sort of case for cause-and-effect between same-sex marriage and the number of children in single-parent homes. There is only the usual, murky, "guilt-by-association" sort of innuendo so commonly seen among reactionaries who hide behind the conservative label.

I have the utmost respect for genuine conseratives (like Bill). I am not saying that all conservatives are reactionaries -- what I am saying, rather, is that there are many who hide behind the "conservative" label who tarnish the term with their irrationality. Joan, if you think gays ought to remain second-class citizens, then have the gumption to just come out and say so.

When someone chooses to say such a thing, I genuinely prefer they do it not in cyberspace -- hiding behind the comfort of a first name -- but to my face. I sign on by my full name for a reason. Anybody who takes issue with me will have very little trouble tracking me down.

I graduated from a Southern Baptist university, where in-depth study of both Old Testament and New were mandatory. I taught adult catechism in the Catholic Church for nearly a decade. I now teach adult education courses in the Lutheran Church. If you take issue with my knowledge of Scripture, Joan, then at least understand that I am no ignoramus.

As someone who ministers -- very out-front and publicly -- to gay and lesbian people, I am the target of frequent hate mail and death threats. I wonder how much, Joan, you have ever been willing to suffer or risk for your convictions.

Just wondering...

Joan said...

Lori: you say I fail to make my case, when in reality I didn't attempt to make a case for myself.
I did effectively refute the data that ampersand presented to make his (her?) case -- I notice specifically that you did not rebut my points regarding those graphs.

It's all well and good for you to give us your CV as you've done, but still -- on the internet, nobody knows you're a dog. You can say whatever you want, but the fact remains that few people (and I am not among them) find themselves sufficiently motivated to investigate the credentials of fellow-commenters. I'll judge you based on your contributions, here, thanks.

And what a contribution! Joan, if you think gays ought to remain second-class citizens, then have the gumption to just come out and say so, and If you take issue with my knowledge of Scripture, Joan, then at least understand that I am no ignoramus --and of course, the capper: I wonder how much, Joan, you have ever been willing to suffer or risk for your convictions.

Here's my question to you: why are you shifting the debate from the issues at hand to the personal? Is that the best you've got?

If you would like to know more about me, my suffering, and yes, my complete identity, all you have to do is follow the link to my blog. It's all there. (Hint: look for the link "Me" in the "My Websites" section in the right sidebar)

Our society is staggering under the weight of changes wrought by the social engineering that took place in the late 1960s and early '70s. It is that recent history that makes me want to approach seemingly simple, small changes to underlying sociological structures (like the definition of marriage) very, very carefully. If that makes me a "reactionary" in your eyes, so be it.

Lori Heine said...

I will, once again, attempt to set the record (in a manner of speaking) straight.

Joan says:

"If you would like to know more about me, my suffering, and yes, my complete identity, all you have to do is follow the link to my blog. It's all there. (Hint: look for the link "Me" in the "My Websites" section in the right sidebar)"

My implication, Joan, was not that nobody else besides gay people ever suffer. I do not wish to denigrate or make light of anyone else's suffering. But I would like to clarify one thing.

Though we are scapegoated for every ill and evil in the world, gay people are not responsible for your particular illness. I am sorry you have suffered. But I resent the implication that I either fail to understand it or somehow caused it.

Those who wish to render me a second-class citizen for the rest of my life, and whose ignorant rhetoric inflames those who commit acts of savagery against gays, ARE helping to cause our suffering. They are helping to cause the suicides of the gay youngsters in this country who are taking their own lives in alarming numbers, as well as the damage being done to the Constitution by those who let irrational hatred undermine its protection for all citizens.

Joan, you conclude as follows:

"Our society is staggering under the weight of changes wrought by the social engineering that took place in the late 1960s and early '70s. It is that recent history that makes me want to approach seemingly simple, small changes to underlying sociological structures (like the definition of marriage) very, very carefully. If that makes me a "reactionary" in your eyes, so be it."

As I was born in 1962, had yet to turn eight when the Seventies began and didn't graduate from high school until 1980, I had very little to do with the "social engineering" of the Sixties and Seventies. I don't recall anybody ever asking me what I thought on the matter, though plenty are willing to line up and blame me now.

In the first two election in which I was old enough to vote, I chose Ronald Reagan. Sorry to pour cold water on your attempt to stereotype me as a typical Left-Wing, moonbat queer. True, you can't tell much from a comment posted on a blog, but I can quite assure you that I'm not the "dog" you claim I might be.

I also resent being lumped together with women who destroy their own unborn children. Like most lesbians, I have never had an abortion and would never even consider one. The overwhelming majority of women who have abortions are heterosexual. We lesbians almost always have kids because we want them -- and often we must fight like hell to keep them. One organization very much in the news right now (despite the Right's dogged attempts to ignore them) is the Pro-Life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians -- another important fact to include in your cozy little view of the world.

I quite agree that societal change should be made slowly, carefully and with great deliberation. But there is a difference between approaching societal changes slowly and carefully and not wanting to do so at all. Gay and lesbian citizens know all too well what people like Joan believe (good Lord, there's no way we could get away from it because it's everywhere we go). We have the right to point out to people like her that the world is a bigger and more interesting place than she might want to realize.

Heterosexuals are the vast majority. They have a moral obligation to make sure they know the facts (ALL of them, not just those most convenient to them) before they make decisions on other people's lives.

Tyranny of the majority is a perversion of democracy. The Founders of this country warned repeatedly against it. If we don't remember to heed their warnings, we will all end up paying the price.

Revenant said...

Tyranny of the majority is a perversion of democracy. The Founders of this country warned repeatedly against it.

With all due respect, the founders would have scoffed at the notion that a lack of legal recognition for gay marriages was "tyranny", whether of the majority or otherwise. The idea that there is a fundamental human right to have one's private social arrangements recognized by the government is quite new.

thecobrasnose said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
thecobrasnose said...

Lori, Lori, Lori! You seem to be spoiling for a fight, and extrapolating a heck of a lot of malice from joan's (and other's) comments that I honestly don't think is there. When were gays or lesbians accused of causing thyroid cancer?

I did look you up and we share a home base. And while I'm not gay and don't have first hand knowledge of the problems of being gay, we aren't exactly living in Saudi Arabia (temperature notwithstanding). I do have gay friends and have frequented their haunts, and the only trouble I have ever personally witnessed around them is getting my hair severely pulled EVERY SINGLE TIME I dance at Ain't Nobody's Biz.

joan didn't spout anything like the bile you accused her of--nobody on this thread did. "...whose ignorant rhetoric inflames those who commit acts of savagery against gays...", "Sorry to pour cold water on your attempt to stereotype me as a typical Left-Wing, moonbat queer...", "Though we are scapegoated for every ill and evil in the world...", good grief! After that, I'd be a bit terrified to attend your church. Even more so than to face the hair pullers at 'Biz.

Joan said...

Thanks, thecobrasnose.

Lori: I'm a year younger than you, and nobody asked me about the Sexual Revolution, either. That doesn't change the fact that the easy availability of birth control and abortion have damaged our society in ways that were never intended or imagined. Each generation is forced to deal with the consequences of the decisions made by the generations that came before it, and why you think you should be granted some special dispensation from facing reality is incomprehensible to me.

I would say I resent the insults you've heaped upon me, but that would be a lie. I'm embarrassed for you. It's painful to watch someone go off the rails the way you've done here. We were having a thoughtful discussion before you targeted me and got all offended at stuff you pretended I'd said or implied, when I had done nothing of the sort.

OK, there is one exception: I apologize most sincerely if you thought I was insulting you by my use of the quote, "On the internet, nobody knows you're a dog." That was a reference to a very famous New Yorker cartoon, and was not intended to insult you personally or anyone in general. I used the quote to make my point in what I intended to be a light-hearted manner. Frankly, I'm still scratching my head over how you could make such a literal interpretation given the context of the quote, but if you'd never heard it before, I can see how it could hit you the wrong way.

Be that as it may, your attacks on me started before I made that comment. So again, I ask: is this the best you've got? Because as sincere and heartfelt as your feelings are, they don't do you a damned bit of good when this is how you use them. You're all over the map, and you're not making any sense. The good questions you asked before -- about the study parameters, for example -- have now been forgotten, and the impression you've left here is of a totally irrational person.

Let's take an example, shall we? Though we are scapegoated for every ill and evil in the world, gay people are not responsible for your particular illness.

First off, I think any serious student of history and current events would agree that the number one scapegoat for every ill and evil in the world would be the Jews.

Second, I made only the most oblique of references to my illness. Your leap from that oblique reference to the absurd assumption that homosexuality is somehow to blame for my cancer is one that truly defies all rational understanding. Writing that, it occurred to me that you wished to imply that you read my blog and found evidence there to support this assumption. If you did, I'd like you to point it out to me, because I can't conceive of a single line I've ever written that would ever give anyone the idea that I blame my having cancer on anyone, or anything.

I'm detecting a Cindy Sheehan-like "absolute moral authority" quality in your replies: you seem to feel you can say all this because you've suffered, and suffered greatly. My point in making the reference to my blog was that we've all suffered in some ways, and that suffering in itself doesn't impart any great wisdom. (My blog-friend Louise has some great words on this subject.)

We all have to deal with situations that are beyond our control at various points in our lives. You should be glad that the issue that is causing you so much turmoil is one which you have a legitimate course through which to seek redress: you can elect legislators that support your positions, and work through the political process to get the laws changed. Maybe that will work, maybe it won't -- but at least you have a shot at changing the thing that is hurting you the most.

I don't have that choice, really. I'll have this cancer for the rest of my life, and I have no way of knowing when or if I'll need surgery or radiation again. It's out of my hands; the best I can do is monitor what's happening to my own body so as to catch any recurrences in the early stages. I'm stuck with it, but that doesn't mean I'm letting it consume my life or my identity. The world is a very big place indeed.

Lori Heine said...

Well, I'll try it again. First of all, I do not believe it "irrational" to assert that there is a difference between suffering consciously and wilfully inflicted on other people and that which nobody consciously or wilfully did anything to cause. I do not (yet) have cancer, so Joan somehow "trumps" me. She has tried to make statistics say something that I still do not believe they say. All the condescending "tut-tutting" in the world won't change that.

Joan has yet to make a case that same-sex marriage IS THE CAUSE of an increase in single-parent households. As more liberal societies have a greater tendency to socially experiment (something we all know Joan dislikes), of course these will be the first societies to allow same-sex marriage. Societies that allow just about everything are going to have fallout from having done so. Even a hell of a lot of gay people would agree with that.

We could, of course, do it a different way. We could stop being hysterical about homosexuality and begin looking at this issue apart from abortion, the pill and every other conceivable bogeybear that might get tossed in with it. But that would be rational, and heavens, we mustn't do that. If people are embarrassing themselves here, I'm certainly not the only one who's doing so.

There is a tendency these days for those who identify with a particular faction (either Left or Right) to lump everything they don't like about "the other side" all together in one huge, smelly, scary, sticky mess. In an essay a few months ago, I likened this mess to "The Blob." Gays, whether we all like it or agree with it or not, have been adopted as the pets of the Left -- which means that every sin the Left has ever committed gets stuck to us in the minds of people like Joan (I was trying to illustrate exactly this when I outed my age -- not get into a contest over who was born latest).

I will reiterate, because apparently I have to. Not all gays are liberal. Although I do not count myself as one of them, over a million voted for Bush EACH TIME he was elected. What a shame that we can't be pried loose from the Blob, and that a greater attempt cannot be made to deal with us as human beings instead of as the faceless "special interest group" in which both Left and Right are all too willing to leave us.

Now I'm being told I have "heaped insults" upon Joan. Oh, cruel world! Joan, quit being a drama queen. If I insulted you, I am heartily sorry. Commenting on blog posts ain't beanbag, and plenty of people (including yourself) have no compunction whatsoever about insulting me.

I understand the "dog" comment. I have been reading The New Yorker, and anthologies of old New Yorker items, for decades. I was making a pun which fell flat. Again, please excuse.

As for the Cobranose's cute and coy remarks about hair-pulling at the Biz, I, too have been to the Biz, though I never got my hair pulled. Most of the time, I'm too busy making a living to hop the bars. TCN, your life must be a barrel of fun.

So your hair is pulled EVERY SINGLE TIME (capitals yours) you dance at the Biz? I have "a lot of gay friends," too. Not only do most of them think the Biz is a silly, shallow, fleshpot, but they prefer an evening at somebody's house watching an old movie (or studying the Bible) to dancing at any bar at all. Like Revenant, you seem more comfortable having us all in the bar than in a church. That says far more about you, and your limited conception of gays, than it does about us.

As for Saudi Arabia, that is a very tired, overworked and stupid argument. Now we have sunk to the level of considering America great just because it's better than Saudi Arabia? Is this what the terrorists have done to us? Sure, the snake's back is higher than its belly, but we used to set our standards even higher than that. I guess now the terrorists are in the business of setting our standards for us -- in which case, I guess they really already have won.

Revenant, my dear, as I myself do not believe that private arrangements should be recognized by the government, you are distorting my words. All I want the government to do is to leave me the hell alone. I do, however, believe that private contracts between consenting adults should be honored and respected, and I do not believe that the Joans of this world should be able to commandeer the government to interfere with them. It is no more up to Joan to determine my private living arrangements, or how I choose to protect my own property or provide for the care of my own health should I become incapacitated, than it is to some dork in a government office with a rubber stamp.

Rather than deal with the substance of what I have said, you are perfectly welcome to seize upon something you find colorful and distort it all out of proportion. Again, my reference to Joan's illness (which SHE brought up, not I, and evidently in SOME attempt to link or compare it to the sufferings of gays) had a purpose that has been distorted. I will repeat this one more time, and in one more way:

Some forms of suffering can be prevented or curtailed because PEOPLE MAKE DIFFERENT CHOICES AS TO HOW THEY WILL DEAL WITH OTHERS. The unjust treatment of unpopular minorities under the law is one of those forms. If I could but make a choice -- however difficult -- and consciously change the fact that people suffer from cancer, there is no question that I would do it. However, unlike discrimination or persecution against others under the law, I lack the ability to do anything more constructive about cancer than those things I (like most of us) already do.

I stand by what I originally stated on this thread. All attempts to distort it aside, there was never a damned thing wrong with it.

Lori Heine said...

I just want to add a P.S. First of all, to whomever wishes to point out that not everybody in Saudi Arabia is a terrorist, I am aware of this. But as the terrorists approve of their way of doing things over there far more than they do ours, I'll settle for this as a clarification.

And Cobranose, I have a very constructive suggestion for you. Since you have so many gay friends, why don't you look in Echo Magazine and find out some of the ways you might support efforts to counsel gay youth, get them off of the streets and off drugs, or whatever else might help our younger generation grow up to do something even as societally-contributive as dance and pull hair at the Biz?

I'm sure you gay friends would appreciate it.

Cathy Young said...

Lori, you're making an awful lot of assumptions about various people and what they believe and really think.

You've had some very interesting things to say on this blog, and I appreciate your contributions, but some of your posts are (IMO) unreasonably hostile, full of assumptions that are not supported by evidence, and rather condescending (such as your last post to cobra). I think you are needlessly antagonizing a lot of the commenters here, and the likely result is that your ideas will be taken less seriously. I say this in as friendly a spirit as can be.

thecobrasnose said...

Lori, you kill me. My crack about our fair city not being Saudi Arabia wasn't meant to say that as long as we have a small edge civil rights wise over one of the most psychotic and repressive nations on earth we're all right, but that we're not remotely similar. In ignoring that simple, blindingly obvious fact, you have made your entire presentation even more laughable than before.

If you don't require a government dork to sanctify your marriage, great! I think you'd find very little interest in your living arrangements on this board or elsewhere, especially as you are so prefer quiet evenings at home to more boisterous activities. The difficulty, as we benighted, gay-bashers (sarcasm here--wouldn't want you to miss it) see it is the big ol' packet of governmental benefits that come with marriage sanctioned by the state and what unforeseen social problems, or just changes may result. Would the social benefit make the effort worthwhile? I tend to think yes, especially in matters of estate or healthcare. But nutso screeds like yours do not convince.

As for Biz, maybe I just have uniquely pullable hair. Fortunately, it is not the only destination that welcomes me and my friends (who are good enough to take me as I am) of whatever persuasion. Now, I’ve got to get back to the bon bons and non-stop fun that comprise the cobra’s existence (sarcasm again).

Lori Heine said...

One more addendum. Joan implies I think I am wiser simply because I have suffered. That is, to put it bluntly, a crock, and a total corruption of what I said. But upon further reflection, I wish to respond to such a charge.

It should, at the very least, make one MORE COMPASSIONATE toward the sufferings of others if one has suffered oneself. Otherwise, what possible benefit might one derive from it (and surely, positive living seeks to derive something good, even from suffering).

You can always choose whether to let your sufferings make you more understanding of the pain other people might face -- or, then again, not. I have chosen to make that choice. You can only answer for yourself whether you have or not. And as to whether it has made you "wiser," you'd be better off proving that you are than trying to prove that I'm not. It would take a far longer conversation than any we could have here to "prove" such a thing one way, the other or both.

One further note on the notion, frequently floated by commenters here, that emotion renders one either unstable or unworthy of having one's position considered. (I'm emotional because I'm gay, I'm a woman, and for what other condescendingly stereotypical reason?) Emotion and intellect are inextricably interconnected in the normal human psyche. What differs between one person and other is merely how honest each of us chooses to be about our emotions.

Using others' emotions as an excuse to "discredit" their points of view is a cheap and cowardly trick. We all have emotions about the subject upon which we comment. If not, we would not be moved to bother.

I choose to be honest about the fact that I have emotions, as well as opinions. If you don't wish to acknowledge your own emotions, what that most likely means is that your afraid of them.

Fear is also an emotion. Those who acknowledge their feelings are, at the very least, more courageous than those who will not.

Joan said...

Those who acknowledge their feelings are, at the very least, more courageous than those who will not.

Courageous, or self-indulgent?

Lori Heine said...

"Courageous" if they're yours, I suppose, and self-indulgent if they're "mine."

I used to find gay liberals incomprehensible. Why are they so hostile to everything Right Wing? Then I tried, confidently and in good faith, to explain my life and my perspective to straight people on the Right. What an education that is turning out to be!

Sure, some do listen, and quite a few are even reasonable and fair. Others will never listen no matter what. Emotion is used against us, but reason doesn't seem to work, either.

A large part of what I do on a regular basis involves trying to convince troubled, and often very young, gay people that religious and/or conservative straight people are not the enemy and that it doesn't hurt to listen to at least some of what they say. Too bad it is so often so much more difficult than I try to make it sound. Sometimes it's truly impossible.

I am through with this thread. The mindsets are simply too "set." I must simply ask that everyone remember that REAL PEOPLE are impacted by the decisions you make, and by the ideas you express. Ideas have legs. Some of them also have fists.

Revenant said...

"Courageous" if they're yours, I suppose, and self-indulgent if they're "mine."

Self-indulgent either way, really. Your emotions simply aren't relevant; neither are mine, joan's, or anybody else's. It doesn't matter if you feel strong emotions about something. It doesn't add weight to your argument -- indeed, strong emotions generally get in the way of rational understanding, and never assist in it.

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