Alan K. Henderson's Weblog


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Saturday, April 23, 2005

Understanding Conservatives

Andrew Sullivan has some instructive posts on how to misinterpret social conservatives' views on sexuality. Let's start with this:

I'm not surprised that so many on the social right liked Andrea Dworkin. Like Dworkin, their essential impulse when they see human beings living freely is to try and control or stop them - for their own good. Like Dworkin, they are horrified by male sexuality, and see men as such as a problem to be tamed. Like Dowkin [sic], they believe in the power of the state to censor and coerce sexual feedom. Like Dworkin, they view the enormous new freedom that women and gay people have acquired since the 1960s as a terrible development for human culture. Cathy Young has a great blog item exploring these connections here. Dworkin, of course, was somewhat too frank in her hatred of sexual freedom to achieve any real political power. But the theocons ... well, they're helping frame big government conservatism as we speak.

That old prejudice just won't die. "The right thinks sex is dirty." No. The cultural right thinks that premarital sex is psychologically and socially injurious. The cultural right thinks that homosexuality is a disorder.

Then there's this:

David Brooks, in another smart column, points out that from the beginning of the 1990s, we have seen a sharp decline in all sorts of anti-social behavior: crime, abortion rates, teen pregnancy, and so on. At the same time, the last fifteen years have been marked by the high watermark of gay visibility and activism. If the assumptions of many social conservatives are true - that there is a direct relationship between culture and society, and that gay visibility is a sign of moral decline - then none of this should have happened.

Aside from failing to document sources for his statistics, the problem here is that Brooks isn't looking at all of the evidence of cultural decline. Is nonmarital sex overall in decline? Extramarital sex? Are sexual relationships becoming more or less stable, and otherwise more or less healthy?

And do conservatives tie the rise of homosexuality with crime in general, or certain crimes? There is certainly an increase in illegally citing foreign law to make constitutional rulings, but I wouldn't tie that to gay visibility. [Update: Actually, one of those rulings was Lawrence. Maybe there is a connection...]

A triple-header! (Scroll down to "The Issue Is Oxygen")

What many of us are asking for is simply the ability for lay Catholics and indeed priests and theologians to be able to debate respectfully such pressing issues as mandatory celibacy for the priesthood, a less rigid biological understanding of the rights and dignity of women, and a real dialogue with gay Catholics about how we can practically live lives that reflect our human dignity and our profound human need for intimacy and sexual expression.

Gee, I wonder if the new Pope would have any reason to be cynical about gay activists' willingness to engage in rational dialogue?

One protest that was announced was an upcoming zap of Josef Cardinal Ratzinger, the German prelate who was head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith. He had written a paper for the Vatican in which he said that homosexuality was "intrinsically disordered" and a "moral evil."
[. . . ]
Ratzinger took the podium and began to speak. As soon as he finished his first sentence, a group of about eight people to the left of the crowd leaped to their feet and began chanting "Stop the Inquisition!" They chanted feverishly and loudly, their voices echoing throughout the building. The entire room was fixated on them. Activists suddenly appeared in the back of the church and began giving out fliers explaining the action. Two men on the other side of the room jumped up and, pointing at Ratzinger, began to scream, "Antichrist!" another man jumped up, in one of the first few rows near the prelate, and yelled, "Nazi!" All over the church, angry people began to shout down the protestors who were near them; chaotic yelling matches broke out.

It was electrifying. Chills ran up and down my spine as I watched the protestors and then looked back at Ratzinger. Soon, anger swelled up inside me: This man was the embodiment of all that had oppressed me, all the horrors I had suffered as a child. It was because of his bigotry that my family, my church -- everyone around me -- had alienated me, and it was because of his bigotry that I was called "faggot" in school. Because of his bigotry I was treated like garbage. He was responsible for the hell I'd endured. He and his kind were the people who forced me to live in shame, in the closet. I became livid...

Suddenly, I jumped up on one of the marble platforms and, looking down, I addressed the entire congregation in the loudest voice I could. My voice rang out as if it were amplified. I pointed at Ratzinger and shouted: "He is no man of God!" The shocked faces of the assembled Catholics turned to the back of the room to look at me as I continued: "He is no man of God -- he is the Devil!"

Such stories are as common as Hollywood breakups.

In this post I discuss three albatrosses hanging around the neck of gay activism: the refusal of many activist organizations to ostracize NAMBLA, the close association with the political correctness movement, and lobbying efforts to mandate what children will be taught about "tolerance" and sexuality. Add a fourth: the rabid incivility of many activists, and the failure of activist organizations to roundly condemn it. Who suffers? The two groups that are capable of constructive dialogue:

There are gay people who support parents' right to choose their children's educational options, who respect the rights of private creed-based organizations to exclude gays or atheists or whomever from membership, and who accept that people don't have to like each other's ideas, actions, or psychological orientation in order to like each other. Likewise, there are social conservatives who feel the same about getting along with others, who believe that a few or many of the benefits associated with marriage could be extended to other relationships (not just gay ones) without insulting the institution of marriage, and who believe that, at least to some degree, the government has too much of its hand in (nominally) defending cultural values - that some of that "defense" should be assumed wholly by the private sector. These people need to find each other somehow.

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