Saturday, March 25, 2006

I believe in tolerance

I've pondered this over the last few years and still feel confused. Why can't members of the church be more tolerant and open-minded on the topic? Why can't gay people respect that religious people are frequently motivated by love? Why do so many people insist on the modus operandi of hate and fear, all the while accusing their antagonists of the intolerance they themselves are guilty of?

I've previously mentioned gay rights and women's rights. I'll continue that thought by affirming my support for equality regardless of gender, sexual preference, etc. Whether or not marriage is defined in a way to accommodate gays or whether it is a civil right, I'll not discuss. But someone taking a position for or against these views is acceptable, even if I think they are flat wrong. It does no good to excuse my own intolerance because the opposing faction is hopelessly wrong, because it only leaves me feeling abused and persecuted when they are intolerant to me in kind. I've written about this hypocrisy several times now, but I still see it reflected everywhere and it beckons me to work through the issue more.

Instead of feeling victimized and outraged when I perceive someone to be violating my personal rights with their social views, I should attempt to understand their motivations and work through and advocate for the issues as agreeably as possible. On widely controversial issues, asserting that there are no good arguments opposed to my views serves to outline only my own limited capacity to understand the arguments or my prideful unwillingness to acknowledge their validity. Validity, of course, refers only to internal consistency, not actual truthfulness. And that being said, I believe there are points of view along the entire spectrum of religious and gay thought that are valid and acceptable, and there are views all the way along the spectrum that are logically faulty and/or bigoted and inappropriate.

I'm all for free thought. I try not to begrudge the people who hold these disparate views. But what do you DO when you disagree with someone? Do you engage them in a confrontational debate? Do you step outside to resolve your differences like men? Do you lobby for public policy that supports your own view to the exclusion of others' views who also have a stake? Do you take it upon yourself to deliver the wrath of God (or passively think someone 'had it coming' when misfortune hits them)?

I suppose that's the real trouble with moral thought. It no longer has the appeal of being a detached academic exercise for those intimately involved. People or practices are labeled as "evil" rather than just plain "wrong" and then people feel better about themselves stepping into a role to "fight evil" rather than seeing it as disrespecting a person with different values. And public policy values affect everyone--there are always winners and losers. And that makes people fight dirty.

And I'm not choosing favorites with this post. I condemn hypocrites on both sides. While gays don't usually call religious people "evil", there's no substantive difference in their response to what they perceive as, shall we say, moral bankruptcy.

I've seen this in med school way too often. And my med school claims to have a curriculum that specifically helps doctors be more tolerant--more culturally sensitive. And yet, I've been discriminated against as a gay Mormon by both the Christian club and the gay club. Neither one could support their own explicit mission statements in my case because they didn't like WHO I was. And when I led a small group discussion about abortion, I attempted to show that there are legitimate arguments for both sides of the debate and there should be empathy for the other view rather than polarizing stodginess. Boy, did that backfire. I was with friends and barely escaped alive!!!

I've seen the same thing in censorship discussions. When libraries manage their collections, they attempt to represent a wide range of views and topics. Many people don't like the books that are chosen because they disagree with them, but librarians insist on tolerance. But I've seen librarians go beyond declining censorship and pass harsh judgment on people who favor a particular conservative view. Hypocrisy!

I was reading a popular non-fiction book about sex last night that I find fun to read and quite informative. But when the discussion of religion came up, intolerance stepped up to the plate. In the author's zeal to scold the religious crowd for interfering with other people's sexuality he went a little too far and hypocritically denied the religious any regard for the way they view their own sexuality. Hypocrisy!

Chide to mormons regarding gays:
A person who experiences love differently than you is still a loving person. Although everyone would be better off following God's teachings, you can't expect them to know that. If they don't believe in those teachings, forcing compliance is nothing short of Satan's plan for compulsory obedience. If you refuse to allow people to pursue their own happiness and own spirituality, you are denying your own articles of faith and are a hypocrite.

Chide to gays regarding mormons:
Religious people have been unfairly labeled, categorically criticized, and discriminated against. Sound familiar? The mormon view seems arbitrary to you, but mormons attempt to do what they believe is best for everyone--individuals, families, and society. They believe sexual restrictions are for sound reasons, although perhaps unknown. By all means disagree, but can't you have some respect for the undeniable good in them and their intentions?

Chide to you:
Just pull your fingers away from that keyboard for a minute and think about what you're going to write in your comments. If it's to convince me that there's no tenable position other than your own, then you should probably go back to the beginning and read this post again.

14 comments:

Another Other said...

Good post, -L-, and one that I think every person everywhere could benefit from. It's very hard to avoid hypocrisy, and sometimes moreso when one feels like a marginilized member of society. This definitley got me thinking about myself and my own perceptions...

Chris said...

I feel exactly the same way!! I have seen censorship and discrimination from liberals and conservatives, religious people and gays. I cannot believe the hate and intolerance that exists especially coming from religious conservatives who claim to follow Christ and liberal elitists who claim to be open-minded and accepting of all.

As a people, we need to be much more respectful, tolerant, and accepting of each other.

Gay LDS Actor said...

Excellent post!
I know exactly what you mean. There are hypocrites in all venues of life, just as there are very good, well-intentioned people. I always try to look at other people's side of things. I may not always agree with them, but it helps the communication work so much better if we try to listen and understand someone's point-of-view rather than judging it. I don't always succeed at not being hypocritical myself, but I think I'm pretty open-minded and tolerant of other people's views on things, whether I agree with them or not.

Dave Walter said...

Level-headed discourse, such as that which takes place in this small group of blogs, is certainly optimal, but it's an increasingly rare phenomenon. Who's to blame? Hollywood for it's unabashedly leftist tilt? The conservative talk-show attack dogs for their unceasing slander of the left?

Regarding homosexuality in particular, the most visible on the right are outspoken bigots; the most visible on the left are angry activists seized by a victim mentality. They play well together -- in a news story, at least.

Where you and I would depart, I suspect, is in comparing intolerance of gays with intolerance of religious expressions. The extent of societal repression, acts of violence, and everyday utterances motivated by hatred or antipathy is far greater against gays than it is against the religious.

Intolerance as a rule is objectionable. But intolerance of gays is more pernicious than is intolerance of conservative religious beliefs.

Dave Walter said...

Speaking of intolerance, guess who's the most distrusted minority in America? Atheists. Click here for the survey results

-L- said...

Where you and I would depart, I suspect, is in comparing intolerance of gays with intolerance of religious expressions. The extent of societal repression, acts of violence, and everyday utterances motivated by hatred or antipathy is far greater against gays than it is against the religious.

Please refer to the last paragraph of the post. ;-)

Has the mass extermination of gays ever been legal and even promoted by the U.S. government? It has for mormons, as you're probably aware. Polygamy was illegal just as gay sex is. If I had a dollar for every time I heard polygamy categorically condemned (by gays)as incomparable to gay sex, I would be a rich man.

And the oppression of mormons is still very very real. As I alluded, I have been actively discriminated against as a mormon in the last few years. And it has frequently been by the supposedly enlightened inhabitants of the ivory tower.

The oppression has been great in both groups, and you are right that I differ with you because I believe that there are interesting comparisons. Ironic ones.

Chris (hurricane) said...

L:

I agree with you about the irony. Considering that Mormons went to jail and then underground for decades because of their non-traditional families, I think it is deeply ironic that the LDS Church is now on the forefront of fighting the legalization of nontraditional marriage.

The mainstreaming of LDS Mormonism continues.

-L- said...

Tsk, tsk, tsk. All true, hurc, but it would have been so much more impressive coming from, say, LDSwithSSA in the context of this post. I had higher expectations for you. ;-)

Dave Walter said...

If I had a dollar for every time I heard polygamy categorically condemned (by gays)as incomparable to gay sex, I would be a rich man.

They're comparable and not. Homosexuality is a sexual orientation; polygamy is a lifestyle choice. However, both share the status of unfairly being the targets of societal scorn.

Chris (hurricane) said...

L, are you saing I'm predictable? ;-)

-L- said...

Hurc, if so, I'm the pot and you're the kettle!

It's not about predictability, it's about getting outside your own paradigm. Your assignment here (and DW) is to think about how mormons have been discriminated against by gays. That's a position you wouldn't normally agree with, so I'll be very impressed if you can pull it off.

Dave Walter said...

If your classmates succeeded in preventing Mormons' particpation in the school in some way that singled out Mormons, I suppose that could be considered discrimination.

Other than that, I don't see discrimination -- so tell me what you've seen.

Chris (hurricane) said...

Your assignment here (and DW) is to think about how mormons have been discriminated against by gays. That's a position you wouldn't normally agree with, so I'll be very impressed if you can pull it off.

I can imagine a scenario in which the power dynamics are clearly skewed in favor of gays and gay then exclude Mormons from participation in certain activities, or deny them rights of access of speech or free expression of their religion. But these would be rare circumstances.

Discrimination necessarily involved power and as a tiny minority even in places where they live in great numbers, gays rarely have the power to discriminate.

Intolerance is a different matter. I know plenty of gays who are intolerant of Mormons specifically and religious people generally.

Chris (hurricane) said...

Sorry for the typos in the above post. Wish I could edit these comments.