Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Trying to be "reasonable" and failing

Erick Erickscon tries to put the right to outcast in its narrowest possible construction in order to be as reasonable as possible:
The disagreement comes on one issue only — should a Christian provide goods and services to a gay wedding. That’s it. We’re not talking about serving a meal at a restaurant. We’re not talking about baking a cake for a birthday party. We’re talking about a wedding, which millions of Christians view as a sacrament of the faith and other, mostly Protestant Christians, view as a relationship ordained by God to reflect a holy relationship.
This makes it particularly clear that we are about the right to outcast in a very specific sense and not some more general religious liberty. There is no outcry, for example, for the right to deny services to divorced persons or a re-marriage including one or more divorced persons; uberblogger Andrew Sullivan's nice test of whether it is religious liberty or anti-gay animus that is in play. (As Andrew Sullivan also points out, trying to just grant that very specific right to outcast would run into obvious constitutional problems in the US.)

Alas for Erick Erickson's trying to be reasonable, the entire issue about same-sex marriage is precisely about normalising queer folk. In particular, it is about defying the attempt to have the religious "own" marriage as their sole playpen. As when Erickson says:
Other Christians, including a significant number of Catholic and Protestant preachers, believe that a gay marriage is a sinful corruption of a relationship God himself ordained.
In many ways, this is a battle already lost. Once there is civil marriage and divorce, and marriage laws generally, being argued on secular grounds, marriage was no longer "owned" by the religious. The problem with same-sex marriage is that it makes that lack of ownership very obvious. Outcasting the queer has long been a benchmark for the standing, and power, of religious claims in the wider society, so the normalising of queer folk that same-sex marriage represents is very much a sign of that loss of power and standing. The ability to outcast is a real power, a real source of authority, and losing power and authority can be very painful. Managing that is not the same as pandering to it.

It also means that certain religious claims ring very hollow. As when Erickson writes:
I understand if you are not a believer and define yourself based on your sexual preference that you think the government should legitimize you by forcing others to treat you in a particular way. But it boggles my mind to think any Christian should want the government to force their view of Christianity on another believer.

Christians have been insisting the state enforce their notion of sexual morality on others for centuries, often with great brutality. Baking a cake hardly rates compared to that experience. But outcasting, moral exclusion, is all about whose aspirations and experiences don't count.

The entire debate is really about the right to outcast and attempts, both clumsy and subtle, to entrench that into law. In trying to be so "reasonable", Erick Erickson just makes that it is all that much clearer.

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