uno itinere non potest perveniri ad tam grande secretum -- Q. Aurelius Symmachus, 384 C.E.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Prejudicial Template

Jim Daly, the president of Focus on the Family, has done proponents of same-sex marriage an invaluable service. In one, sweeping column published by Fox News (where else?), he has offered up all the absurd, prejudicial, fear-mongering, and internally illogical arguments spouted by the One-Man-One-Woman Crowd, all in a singular, neat package. All of us who plan to work toward marriage equality should read this nonsense to familiarize ourselves with these time-worn arguments.

Perhaps most interesting is Daly's concession at the front-end of this masterpiece that social progress has in fact been made at times when "many of these watershed movements have delivered precisely and powerfully as promised," and offers women's suffrage and civil rights as examples. Then, without even a hint of historical contradiction, he offers prohibition and no-fault divorce as counter-examples.

Most of Daly's silly arguments we have addressed before. He of course grounds his opposition to same-sex marriage in the "sacred text of the Bible," because said marriage "violates and contradicts" its edicts. Setting aside the fact that civil law should not be based on a given sacred text, much less one person's interpretation of a sacred text, it should be noted that no Biblical scholar outside of conservative theological seminaries would suggest that the Bible has a monolithic, unified message regarding sex. Indeed, Jennifer Knust's Unprotected Texts, published earlier this year, nicely illustrates this. And anyone who has studied early Christianity knows that marriage was hardly held as sacred in the early church -- instead it was condemned as a secondary status to celibacy. They were reading many of the same texts, including Paul's discourse on marriage in 1 Corinthians 7 -- hardly a resounding celebration of the institution of marriage ("But, because of sexual immoralities, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband. ... Are you bound to a wife? Don't seek to be freed. Are you free from a wife? Don't seek a wife.") -- and Jesus' suggestion that "If anyone comes to me, and doesn't hate his own father, mother, wife, children, brothers, and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he can't be my disciple" (Luke 14:26). The Bible is the last place to look for unambiguous proscriptions about marriage, considering the number of concubines, polygamous unions, and adulterous affairs that dot its pages.

But Daly knows he can't just make overgeneralized declarations about an ancient text interpreted widely by Christians across the world, so he instead regurgitates the same pseudo-intellectual points opponents routinely make -- points that undermine themselves without any external evidence, such as the routine mistaking of correlation for causation.

So while discounting the marital freedom that no-fault divorce has offered both men and women -- presumably Daly would like the government involved in that decision as well -- he suggests that it is responsible for a litany of uncited statistics on child abuse, prison populations and poverty (no joke). Right, I'm sure no-fault divorce is singularly responsible for all these social ills, which of course did not exist prior to the 1960s. Daly doesn't stop there, he also targets abortion (of course), cohabitation (naturally), and even welfare policy (wow!) to support his Decline of the Family narrative, all with enough sweeping assertions of causation to fail any university course on social history. What is painfully ironic (and painfully lost on Daly, apparently) is how he throws prohibition into the mix as a failed social experiment alongside women's rights as a successful one, all the while perpetuating this post-60s, post-lapsarian narrative of family decline. Daly is either oblivious, intellectual dishonest, or both, or he would mention how interconnected Prohibition was with women's suffrage, how many women joined the temperance movement because drinking was considered a "husband problem," insofar as drunken spouses out at the town saloons would often bring home STDs they contracted from prostitutes at saloons. So on the one hand, Daly (who would probably have been a prohibitionist a century ago) considers prohibiting alcohol a failed social experiment despite the corollary effects it clearly had (and still has) on American families and children, but no-fault divorce and same-sex marriage he singles out as radical social engineering tearing at the fabric of society. If you're wondering through what lens one has to look to fail to see such a contradiction, it's quite simple: base prejudice. People like Daly have a problem with gays and lesbians, and they will manufacture any amount of decontextualized Scripture, false corollaries, phony statistics and irrational arguments to appear to delocate their personal prejudice externally.

But wait! Daly's not done. Not without some hyperventilating about how people are going to be forced to accept something if it becomes law (again not realizing the internal irony after lamenting about abortion a few paragraphs earlier) and some repetition of the age-old canard that proponents of same-sex marriage want to "redefine this multi-millennial institution," as though marriage has remained the same for millennia. He needs only open his Bible to see evidence to the contrary (next time your spouse fails to produce an heir, try telling him/her that you are going to use a concubine, and see what happens). Need we say this again? Marriage has changed, over and over and over again. Daly internally concedes this when he laments how much the institution has changed since the advent of no-fault divorce in the 1960s. And where are the marriage amendments against no-fault divorce (something Jesus actually did address)? Don't hold your breath -- divorcees are already on the other end of history's stigmatization (witness St. Ronald Reagan), but not so gays and lesbians. No, they still have yet to run the gauntlet of the Dalys of this world.

Perhaps the crowning moment in sophsitic contradiction comes at the end of Daly's treatise, where he suggests that ignoring the religiously based arguments against same-sex marriage and legalizing it would be tantamount to religious discrimination, because it would codify an equality and freedom that some people don't agree with. I suppose if enough of us decide we don't like the theology of Focus on the Family (after all, their religious affiliation is just a "preference" and a "lifestyle choice"), we could pass amendments precluding them from free and open access to the rights and benefits the rest of us enjoy. All we would need is a narrative supported tenuously by cherry-picked facts that demonstrate that they are the source of all the social ills of the world.

And he's just shown us how easy that is to do.

No comments:

Post a Comment