Michael Cobb’s God Hates Fags: The Rhetoric of Religious Violence – – The Hate State Colorado’s Amendment 2 and California’s Proposition 8 – What Happens When One Religion Influences the Mainstream
Satire is a fairly effective rhetorical tool that can be used to exaggerate the elements of an argument in order to demonstrate how absurd they can be. Few media outlets are as successful at doing this as Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. In the recent clip “Left Behind” Samantha Bee picks apart an outspoken Christian who feels, similar to gays, that he is persecuted for being anti-gay (http://goo.gl/N7WAes) . One of the several amusing aspects of this segment is how ridiculous this individual is made to look, in part because his flawed argument attempts to suggest that the current mainstream political climate has persecuted him. No longer is he free to espouse his bigotry (except in the rare place where it’s allowed, like one of the 330,000 places of worship across the country). Basically, he believes that gay bullies need to learn to be more “tolerant of his intolerance.”
What this gentleman and people who believe what he believes miss is the distinct difference between intolerance and disapproval. You can disapprove of homosexuality all you want; it’s a free country—you’re entitled to your beliefs. The problem people who feel they are now being unfairly targeted for espousing anti-gay beliefs don’t realize is that disapproval becomes intolerance when beliefs and opinions are codified into laws, thereby forcing everyone to believe what you believe.
When one group’s beliefs push to remove basic equal rights from another group, that’s the problem.
In God Hates Fags: The Rhetoric of Religious Violence, Michael Cobb examines what happens when these type of anti-gay beliefs, motivated by religious beliefs, have influenced anti-gay laws. Recently, they contributed to Colorado’s Amendment 2.
Colorado’s Amendment 2 legally prevented members of the LGBT community from claiming minority status, which would allow them to gain protection against forms of discrimination. In chapter four of his book, Cobb asserts that proponents of this Amendment believed that members of the gay community were “morally underserving of the same protections as other traditionally discriminated groups” (117), such as racial groups. Therefore, when the gay community has used the same language often used to advance the civil rights movement (and beyond), conservatives got nervous and devised a way to prevent the gay rights movement from seeing similar success. Thus, the Amendment.
Sadly, enough believed the hate to pass it.
(Though not discussed in the book, a similar issue arose in California’s Proposition 8, which made gay marriage illegal and codified marriage as only between a man and a woman. This link also contains the sadly amusing arguments in favor of this law.
Thankfully, both of these laws were eventually overturned by the Supreme Court, but not without a fight.
Cobb asserts that because anti-gay people have historically been able to support their anti-gay views in public and through legal channels, they feel entitled to continue to do so. They also, according to Cobb, have been able to use religious rhetoric to support their stance, sway an alarming amount of people (some of whom were not inclined to back their beliefs), and get these laws passed.
But what has always puzzled me is how “devout” religious people, in good conscience, can back such beliefs. Sure, the Bible has a couple (ok, four) mentions of anti-homosexual comments. So, if you are devout, perhaps you’re just obeying what you believe to be true, the word of God. But if we’re going to rely on this ancient text for guidance on sexuality, we need to enforce its stance on all issues related to sex and sexuality, including rape and adultery.
According to Deuteronomy (in the Old Testament), if a woman is raped in the city, both she and the man are to be stoned, for if the rape is “finished” without being prevented, she must have wanted it. Otherwise, she could have yelled for help. However, if the rape takes place in the country—with less people around—she would not be punished, only the man who raped her stoned (chapter 22). Should we reinstate this law?
Thankfully, for adulterers, Jesus (in John) overturned the Old Testament-era law that stoned those caught cheating on their spouses. But Jesus said a lot of things; most specifically, “if any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone” (John 8:7). Seems like those who are getting in the way of equal rights for the LGBT are throwing a lot of stones.
Now, I think most people—even conservative Christians—would not push to have these laws implemented in modern society. Barbaric, are they not? Furthermore, how does our population feel when other cultures, influenced by a religion different than Christianity, implement these types of laws?
For example, a woman in Hama was stoned in front of her father for being accused of adultery. Sounds awful, right? Of course. Yet this punishment was dictated by that culture’s religious beliefs—or at least a portion of that culture’s beliefs, I should add. Granted, this reaction demonstrates an extreme adherence to those beliefs, but it’s what they believe. Do they have the right to their beliefs? Do they have the right to hold people accountable strictly based on those beliefs? Care to guess how many of these cases are out there, and recent ones too?
From the outside, does this country’s anti-gay stance, when supported by religious rhetoric, look any different just because people are using laws instead of stones?