Yesterday some of us got a bit academic (and some of us practiced calling people bigots) as we discussed media coverage of the efforts to change marriage from an institution built on sexual complementarity to an institution built on sexual orientation. Believing -- by science, religion or otherwise -- that all humans are made male and female and that the regeneration of humans requires the joining together of male and female is -- as we all know -- grounds for being openly derided, called names and generally marginalized. If you think the foundational unit of society is defined in terms of this reality, you're basically the Ku Klux Klan. You might protest that you have reason, logic, science, tradition, or any number of things to appeal to. But we all know you're really a bigot.
Mostly the media and other cultural elites know this. And they're not afraid to point out that believing marriage is an institution based on sexual orientation like they do -- as opposed to sexual complementarity -- makes you a good person who believes in civil rights and other things on the side of angels. Not like those bad folks whose arguments can be dismissed without even so much as looking them over (do you give bigots the time of day? No you do not! Ignore them already!). Journalists at CNN and the Washington Post and the New York Times and NPR have all agreed -- or at least pondered the approach as legitimate -- these monsters don't deserve fair treatment, inclusion in stories, or airing for their warnings.
Error has no rights, you know.
The genders are 100 percent interchangeable and we will make sure you agree! Are we getting tired of this media treatment yet?
Anyway, bucking the groupthink is a real, live journalist who should probably be sent to reeducation camp over the weekend. I don't know where he got off thinking he could do this, but he got all skeptical about the value of this approach. In a newsroom! The gall!
John Kass is a traditional Christian at the Chicago Tribune and he has some questions regarding this debate:
Is it possible to be a traditional Christian or Muslim or Orthodox Jew — and hold to one's faith on what constitutes marriage — and not be considered a bigot?
And is faith now a problem to be overcome, first marginalized by the state and then contained, so as not to get in the way of great changes to come?
No and yes. Can we go home now?
Oh wait, he has more. You should probably read the whole thing but it's a little reflection on liberty and freedom ... for all.
And while I hear the new moral arguments, about equal rights and equal protection, I've read little about the religious freedom aspects and what the Supreme Court's ruling might mean for houses of traditional worship.
All I'm asking is that in the rush to establish new rights, that tolerance for religious freedom be considered as well.
The federal government has already told religious institutions that run hospitals that they must provide contraceptives to their employees, even if it runs counter to their beliefs. So now, if the government ultimately compels us to describe same-sex unions as marriage, what's next?
For centuries now, churches have allowed the state (and by this I mean the government) to license marriage ceremonies. It follows then that what is happening in America at present was inevitable long ago.
To speak of faith in this context is to invite the charge of bigotry — if not outright, at least by comparison to angry fire-and-brimstone preachers who seem to use the Bible as a lash. Some wield the Old Testament like a cudgel, and avoid the New Testament, in which Christ asked us to refrain from judging and to love our neighbor.
No one with half a brain wants to be thought of as a bigot. But that's what I and others risk as members of a distinct and irritating minority — as traditional Christians in journalism.
It is a world of language and political symbolism, a world where ideas are often framed so that they may lead to inexorable conclusions favored by the dominant culture. In this media world, I sometimes wonder whether the word "sin" has been outlawed by the high priests of journalism for fear of offending one group or another. And I'd rather not ask.
Now that the debate has been framed, if I hold to my faith and resist applauding the changes, I'm easily cast as some drooling white cartoon bigot of the Jim Crow era, denying black Americans the right to sit at a lunch counter and have a meal with the white folks.
It's a cheap construction, yes, thoughtless, yet widely accepted in the news media and therefore effective...
And while I struggle with the fast-moving issue of the redefinition of marriage and its effect on our culture and how to reconcile the rights of others and my own religious beliefs, I ask only one thing:
Remember that word? Tolerance?
Tolerance for those whose faith and traditional beliefs put them in what is fast becoming the minority.
Now maybe the lazy construction of "good guys vs. bigots" works for you. But maybe you're a journalist with a bit less of the activist in you and a bit more of the curious in you. Kass provides a good avenue for exploration.
The civil rights construction necessarily requires that those who are not brought into line be given the treatment Piers Morgan gave Ryan Anderson. It requires reeducation and ostracism. It certainly doesn't require being open to hearing arguments that contradict deeply held emotions.
Exploring whether that framework is nothing but upside for all, exploring whether it's the right way to view this discussion might be a good use of a journalist's time, no? Or are we too busy changing our avatars?