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I am no fan of Ross Douthat, but this column in today's New York Times is well worth the read.  

I will not quote much.  He begins  

IT now seems certain that before too many years elapse, the Supreme Court will be forced to acknowledge the logic of its own jurisprudence on same-sex marriage and redefine marriage to include gay couples in all 50 states.

Once this happens, the national debate essentially will be finished, but the country will remain divided, with a substantial minority of Americans, most of them religious, still committed to the older view of marriage.

Here I would only quibble with his notion of a substantial minority, whose percentage he does not define, because what I see among my students, including those from conservative religious values, is an increasing acceptance of equality in marriage, employment and other rights for their gay friends and acquaintances (and in some cases relatives).

I will ignore his attacks on the media, but instead skip to his final two and a half paragraphs.  Having noted that there are serious divisions among Christians on the issues of various gay rights, he opines  

The conjugal, male-female view of marriage is too theologically rooted to disappear, but its remaining adherents can be marginalized, set against one other, and encouraged to conform.

I am being descriptive here, rather than self-pitying. Christians had plenty of opportunities — thousands of years’ worth — to treat gay people with real charity, and far too often chose intolerance. (And still do, in many instances and places.) So being marginalized, being sued, losing tax-exempt status — this will be uncomfortable, but we should keep perspective and remember our sins, and nobody should call it persecution.

But it’s still important for the winning side to recognize its power. We are not really having an argument about same-sex marriage anymore, and on the evidence of Arizona, we’re not having a negotiation. Instead, all that’s left is the timing of the final victory — and for the defeated to find out what settlement the victors will impose.

Let me if I might offer a few observations beneath the fold.

We cannot legislate away bigoted or distorted thinking or belief.  If nothing else, the election of our first President of color has demonstrated that, as will the apparent forthcoming election of our first female President.

And, yes, I see clear parallels between the bigotry of racism and the bigotries of homophobia and sexism.  Merely on the question of marriage and conception, we have seen incredibly stupid and bigoted statements about women being vessels for men's sperm, previous statements about "legitimate rape," arguments that a rapist should have a right to prevent his victim from aborting a conception flowing from that violence.  The arguments against marriage equality are reminiscent of those against marriage across "racial divides.  And yet, it was a unanimous Supreme Court in 1967 that rejected the latter set of arguments in Loving v Virginia, and shortly before she died a few years ago Mildred Loving came out in support of marriage equality, noting that was being done to gay couples was what had been done to her and her husband Robert - support that she offered after seriously praying about it.

I do disagree with Douthat's phrasing on several levels.  He is describing this in terms of a war - because it seems inconceivable to SOME religious conservatives that anything other than their particular theological view could prevail except as the result of the application of war-like force.  They refuse to accept that the loving nature that SHOULD be the basis of Christian belief and practice, rather than the punitive and prescriptive approach they attempt to impose, would inevitably lead to the kinds of broader acceptance we are now seeing.  

He is write about SOME "Christians" when he writes Christians had plenty of opportunities — thousands of years’ worth — to treat gay people with real charity, and far too often chose intolerance. (And still do, in many instances and places.) .   Just as SOME "Christians" still espouse both racist and sexist viewpoints that are impossible to square with the statements attributed to Jesus in the Christian scriptures.  

He is correct that what is happening to those who cling to such distorted interpretations is NOT persecution.  

As a principle, one's religious beliefs do not allow you to discriminate against others except within your own religious practice, and the commercial activities in which you engage have never been considered protected as free exercise of religion that is protected under the First Amendment.  

I give Douthat credit for recognizing the reality, but then, the noxious Antonin Scalia foresaw this at least as far back as the Laawrence decision, and his dissents on such matters make clear that the inevitable logic of the opinions by Kennedy make full recognition of marriage equality something that will happen.  Given the rapid changes in American attitudes, the only question is when the broader constitutional ruling will be issued.

One additional observation - I would argue that the President having moved from accepting only civil unions to full acceptance of marriage equality has accelerated this process.  I would also argue that the willingness of more people to be out of the closet has enabled increasing numbers of Americans to see the issue through eyes that realize it affects their friends and their families.  That probably has had a greater impact.

Perhaps if some of those who have remained closeted because of their own religious affiliations would be willing to be honest with themselves, the change for those religious bodies and for those around them might be less traumatic.

In the mean time, for once Douthat has written a column worth reading beyond the desire to attempt to understand the distorted thinking of many conservative "intellectuals."


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Comment Preferences

  •  is it actually possible? (8+ / 0-)

    That I have posted a diary that will receive no comments, tips, or recs from others?

    I know Mark featured this column in the Abbreviated Pundit Roundup

    I know people here are not fans of Douthat

    I do think it is a column worth reading

    I hope my additional thoughts are of use to at least a few people.

    But let me say what I often say

    Do with this what you will.  If it is not of interest, then so be it.


    "Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it, because what the world needs is more people who have come alive." - Howard Thurman

    by teacherken on Sun Mar 02, 2014 at 04:47:46 AM PST

  •  The Left and Intellectuals Cannot Wrap Their Minds (9+ / 0-)

    around the fact that converting others and ruling society is part of their religion.

    "Evangelical" is the opposite of practicing one's faith privately in one's own life.

    If they can't impose their behavior on you, their religion is being infringed upon.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sun Mar 02, 2014 at 05:12:21 AM PST

    •  Disagree (5+ / 0-)

      Some of us understand right wing Evangelicalism Christianity desire to take secular power and use it in the to oppress everyone not like them.  Not unlike the Taliban or the 969 movement.  

      The left as a whole has trouble understanding religious motivation.  I do not either and don't care to.  What I do know is that they are religiously motivated to establish a theocracy and inflict the attendant miseries on the public.  I am happy to do my little part to drag them into the current century and to the degree permitted by law forcibly modernize them.  

      I'm a 4 Freedoms Democrat.

      by DavidMS on Sun Mar 02, 2014 at 06:20:32 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  The key point (8+ / 0-)
    As a principle, one's religious beliefs do not allow you to discriminate against others except within your own religious practice, and the commercial activities in which you engage have never been considered protected as free exercise of religion that is protected under the First Amendment.  
    Free Exercise has limits. Thank you for stating it in the proper context for this current situation.
  •  I wonder how one could treat another (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Heart of the Rockies, ER Doc

    with "real charity" while simultaneously denying them the ability to marry the person they truly love.

    I'll go out on a (fairly stout) limb here and predict that no church in America is ever going to lose their tax exemption for refusing to perform gay marriages.

    So being marginalized, being sued, losing tax-exempt status — this will be uncomfortable, but we should keep perspective and remember our sins, and nobody should call it persecution.
    How brave, how noble of Douthat! He's not going to claim persecution over something that actually will never happen.
  •  I read a lot of diaries, but rarely comment. (4+ / 0-)

    I'm not good at humorous comments and usually anything I would add to a conversation has already been said better by someone else.

    Tipped & recced so you know someone IS reading :)

    “To the world you may be just one person, but to one person you may be the world.”-Brandi Snyder (in memory of my Nick)

    by YellowDogInGA on Sun Mar 02, 2014 at 06:07:30 AM PST

  •  One Thing I Still Don't Quite Get (6+ / 0-)

       Why is it so important for these right-wing evangelical types to deny gay people their basic humanity? They may claim it's a biblical thing, but there are busloads of passages in the Bible that they are happy to ignore, and I've never seen any kind of evangelical animus (at this level) towards, say, the divorced.

       The Bible sounds like an excuse to me. It's something else. Allowing gay people full citizenship and marriage equality just doesn't strike me as something worth wringing their hands and mourning over -- what, exactly, is it costing THEM?

        Just can't quite wrap my head around it. Gay people exist. They always have. They always will. Most non-gay people happen to be able to live their lives just fine in the face of this reality. It's time for the evangelicals to grow up.

    "Le ciel est bleu, l'enfer est rouge."

    by Buzzer on Sun Mar 02, 2014 at 06:40:23 AM PST

  •  With legislation pending in a few states (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Remediator, FindingMyVoice

    similar to the "right to discriminate" Arizona legislation which was on the front pages just last week, we are seeing the last gasps of the minority you speak of and their desire to assert their morality on the rest of the country.

    KOS: "Mocking partisans focusing on elections? Even less reason to be on Daily Kos."

    by fcvaguy on Sun Mar 02, 2014 at 06:41:25 AM PST

    •  Don't Get So Overconfident (6+ / 0-)

        The religious right has been buried dozens of times over the last few decades, and they ALWAYS come back, usually in an even more malignant configuration.

        The best way to stop this endless cycle is for the religious left to assert itself, and show the nation that most Christians aren't petty Pharisee bigots. But progressive Christians remain all but invisible in our media culture...

      "Le ciel est bleu, l'enfer est rouge."

      by Buzzer on Sun Mar 02, 2014 at 06:46:13 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  ken, isn't it just a mess from the git-go? (5+ / 0-)

    Like most people, my "view of marriage" includes mutual love and obligation, but I have no desire to enforce that legally, never mind any clue how I could.

    My view of marriage isn't limited to opposite-sex couples, but even if it were, it wouldn't be threatened by marriage equality. How could it be?

    Douthat's notion that people are being pressured to "surrender" their "commit[ment]" to their view of marriage is worth reading, but not for its philosophical merit. Marriage equality isn't about whether people can remain "committed to [a] view," it's about whether they can impose their definitions.

    As for whether people can be legally required to exercise ordinary human decency, I'm not sure where to draw those lines, but I'm aghast that self-proclaimed Christians have been agitating for the "religious freedom" not to. It defies parody: "Jesus, Jesus, if we let Them get married, next thing y'know They'll buy cakes from us!" Jesus: "OK, kids, I give up. You're on your own from here."

    "Democracy is a political system for people who are not sure they are right." —E. E. Schattschneider

    by HudsonValleyMark on Sun Mar 02, 2014 at 06:48:34 AM PST

  •  NYTs wouldn't even put a comments section on it (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    old possum, annan, northerntier

    Can't figure out how they determine what articles/opinions etc. warrant a comments section.

    Would be more interesting to comment there rather than here.

    •  Exactly (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I was looking forward to seeing comments on the article, and wrote to the public editor asking why not?

      Thank you, teacherken.

      "When writing a novel that's pretty much entirely what life turns into: 'House burned down. Car stolen. Cat exploded. Did 1500 easy words, so all in all it was a pretty good day.'" -Neil Gaiman

      by BethyNYC on Sun Mar 02, 2014 at 08:03:48 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Old school religion is a diminishing power (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cedwyn, BethyNYC

    as more young people turn away from the traditional  church. Old school Christianity is losing traction as it fails to capture new generations. This bad news for the theocrats is good news for me.

    By some key measures, Americans ages 18 to 29 are considerably less religious than older Americans. Fewer young adults belong to any particular faith than older people do today. They also are less likely to be affiliated than their parents’ and grandparents’ generations were when they were young. Fully one-in-four members of the Millennial generation – so called because they were born after 1980 and began to come of age around the year 2000 – are unaffiliated with any particular faith. Indeed, Millennials are significantly more unaffiliated than members of Generation X were at a comparable point in their life cycle (20% in the late 1990s) and twice as unaffiliated as Baby Boomers were as young adults (13% in the late 1970s). Young adults also attend religious services less often than older Americans today. And compared with their elders today, fewer young people say that religion is very important in their lives.
    In their social and political views, young adults are clearly more accepting than older Americans of homosexuality, more inclined to see evolution as the best explanation of human life and less prone to see Hollywood as threatening their moral values. At the same time, Millennials are no less convinced than their elders that there are absolute standards of right and wrong. And they are slightly more supportive than their elders of government efforts to protect morality, as well as somewhat more comfortable with involvement in politics by churches and other houses of worship.

    If cats could blog, they wouldn't

    by crystal eyes on Sun Mar 02, 2014 at 07:11:00 AM PST

  •  surrender should be dragged out over as many (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    old possum, PrahaPartizan

    elections as possible. How many cycles did the GOP use state amendments barring same-sex marriage to turn out their base? Would Bush have won Ohio in 2004 without it? I hope Democrats use the issue to absolutely crush Republicans.

  •  To paraphrase what has been said before (5+ / 0-)

    Fundamentalist Christians are truly afraid that the people they have persecuted will someday have the power to treat them the same way. That's what really scares them.

    Of course, it's a silly, irrational fear. Social progressives, gays, atheists, etc. aren't looking for retribution or seeking to persecute anybody. Just equality.

  •  It's not surrender, it's the nature of rights (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Heart of the Rockies, ER Doc

    We have groups of Americans, many times claiming religious rights, who would eliminate the rights that we enjoy, the rights that are granted either directly in the Constitution or derived and acknowledged by the courts. Those who feel that way need to remember that they also enjoy rights granted to them. Rights are not subject to majority votes nor are they subject to moral objections by any group. That's the nature of rights and the only way to make them robust.

  •  Virtually Zero (5+ / 0-)

    LGBT people oppose same-sex marriage.

    The opposition comes entirely from people like Douthat that don't have anything at stake, which of course frees them up to be as abusive and irresponsible as they want to be.

    LGBT people have always formed families -- whether that is a family of two, like mine, or whether that is a family with children. All LGBT people have parents and familial responsibilities and many or most take part in a broader family life that includes siblings and nieces and nephews.

    Douthat and his fellow travelers insist that the rights of adults be highly coupled with their marital status. Your marital status doesn't just confer prestige or recognition on you as "good, upstanding people" -- it actually confers an enormous body of benefits that are set in law.

    LGBT people already have families. We want equality in the benefits that are given by the government to other types of families.

    The "victory" he describes is meaningless to us and no "terms of surrender" will be extracted.

    It's simply not something that will excite the slightest interest in the LGBT community.

    "I'll believe that corporations are people when I see Rick Perry execute one."

    by bink on Sun Mar 02, 2014 at 07:57:21 AM PST

  •  The narrowing of religious liberty (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Calamity Jean

    to within the four corners of our own hearts and property is good for the country.  Appeals to personal conviction thwart the imposition of the generally applicable, secular values necessary to secure future prosperity and its equitable distribution.  The alternative amounts to small islands of hoarders profiting at the public's mercy while withholding the fruits of their labors from anyone they consider alien.  

    Still, why would we predict the inevitable collapse of opposition to LGBT equality?  Americans bitterly debated abortion rights for four decades despite settled law.  Are we any closer "final victory?"  After all this time, do we think of abortion as some routine exercise in wellness rather than some momentous, heartrending experience?  Are we done slut shaming women on their way to the clinic?  Hardly.  Sex cultivates considerably more lizard thinking than race, and few here would argue that we're on the cusp of post-racialism.

    I could be wrong.  Could be that disappointing survey of Millennial attitudes towards, say, abortion simply represent a fluctuation on curve towards generational acceptance of progressive, secular values.  But as they say, I'll believe it when I see it.

  •  Heterosexual civil war! (4+ / 0-)
    The conjugal, male-female view of marriage is too theologically rooted to disappear, but its remaining adherents can be marginalized, set against one other, and encouraged to conform.
    So, marriage equality is going to set the remaining adherents of heterosexual marriage "against one another"?

    I wasn't aware that any other marriage, let alone a same-sex marriage, had any effect on my marriage whatsoever.

    Now, thanks to Douthat, I know that I'll crack under the "pressure to conform," throw it all out the proverbial window and start attacking other folks with heterosexual marraiges in that all-too-well-known, desperate lashing-out of the marginalized.

    Oh, wait - there are millions of heterosexual marriages.

    More than 95% of marriages are heterosexual.

    If gay folks are less than 10% of the general population, then heterosexual marriages will continue to dominate (in demographic terms) for the foreseeable future.

    If that's true, they can't really be "marginalized"...

    Never mind.

    The word "parent" is supposed to be a VERB, people...

    by wesmorgan1 on Sun Mar 02, 2014 at 08:42:10 AM PST

  •  I have said before that the main problem is (0+ / 0-)

    definitions. "Marriage" can mean either "a legal contract between two people to form a joint household" or "a sacred joining of a man and a woman before God".

    That is why "civil unions" are much more popular than "gay marriage"- except for a few dead enders no one objects to just about anyone forming a joint household. Probably a majority would agree that there is no reason why even a brother and a sister (or two brothers or two sisters) shouldn't be able to form a joint household. Sex and gender shouldn't have anything to do with it.

    What seems to me to be happening is that the rational religious right (yeah, oxymoron yada yada) is beginning to accept the idea that there can be two definitions, and that the legal definition does't trump the religious one. In other words, just because you get a marriage license doesn't mean that my church has to perform a ceremony.

    The Catholic Church has had this policy for a long time. My wife is Catholic and wanted to be married in the church. We had to go through counseling and I had to agree to allow any children to be raised as Catholic if they wanted to be (0/2 so far). I think that this was perfectly reasonable- their goal was to try to ensure that the marriage would last.

    So as long as the Little Church of the Righteous Brethren gets to keep its purity, I think they will come around. It even gives them one more way to feel superior to the rest of us.

    •  Except of course there are religious (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Andrew F Cockburn

      denominations even now that celebrate the sacred joining of two people (without regard to their genders) in marriage before God. What Douthat and other religous conservatives like him are arguing for is not only that the civil state recognize a religious definition of marriage, but their religious definition of marriage.

      That's sort of like orthodox Jewish people demanding that public schools not serve pork in the cafeteria.

      •  Of course there are more tolerant denominations. (0+ / 0-)

        What I am arguing is that civil marriage is a completely different thing from religious marriage. Thus each denomination can have a different version of religious marriage, but that matters not to the rest of the world. At the same time everyone has access to the same civil contract.

        Judging by the polls, the general population is coming to accept this distinction. What professional bloviators like Douthat say doesn't concern me. He is busy building his little sand castle while the wave is already cresting above him.

  •  As evidence of the importance of visibility (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    elmo, Dave in Northridge

    I read an article in the Toledo Blade this morning about one couple's efforts to gain immigration status for one of them:

    blockquote>Before granting Mr. Gutierrez conditional residency for two years, “The immigration officer told us, ‘You guys should be treated like any other couple; I can see you love each other,’ ” Mr. Hines said.

  •  Bullshit, Bullshit, Bullshit! (3+ / 0-)
    redefine marriage
    Assumes facts not in evidence or existence; profoundly afactual. A partial list of some of the forms of marriage in but one of a vast number of cultures over but one perod of time in one geographic area.

    Re: War. J.C.s dicta merely supplemented the ravings of a sociopathic hate-mongering war god.

    That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

    by enhydra lutris on Sun Mar 02, 2014 at 09:49:55 AM PST

  •  Strange Conclusion (0+ / 0-)
    "...Instead, all that’s left is the timing of the final victory — and for the defeated to find out what settlement the victors will impose..."
    Framing the result of the dispute in martial terms reveals more about the conservative mindset than the actual facts on the ground.  Everything is framed in zero-sum game functions.  The timing of the final outcome might still be open to debate, but the terms of settlement have long been known.  What does Douthat believe might be "imposed?"  Advocates for same-sex marriage have asked that those forming such unions be treated exactly the same as any other couple.  What is so difficult to understand about that?  Perhaps this is just yet another right-wing dog whistle to imply that "reparations" might be demanded and that therefore opponents should fight to the bitter end in their typical "scorched earth" approach.

    "Love the Truth, defend the Truth, speak the Truth, and hear the Truth" - Jan Hus, d.1415 CE

    by PrahaPartizan on Sun Mar 02, 2014 at 07:33:38 PM PST

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