Thursday, April 23, 2009

No Offense...

This incident with Miss California is all over the news and the blogosphere... At the risk of stepping into mess, I think I'm going to comment. This augments some comments I had on Facebook, so my apologies. When bubble-headed bleach blondes are vapid and inarticulate, we mock them. But when they take a substantive stand on a national issue (whatever one's view) we respond in shock and anger. Shame on us. And why would a judge ask a question with such a one-sided view of what should be the correct answer? Isn't the point to see how contestants can articulate their views under pressure? I suppose that the Miss America pageant has the right to employ as judges whomever they want, even ones that enrage the singer Fergie. But by making such a choice, aren't they politicizing the process? So why should anyone be surprised at a political answer to the question? Just because it wasn't the one they wanted shouldn't be the issue.

Different folks will take different sides of this issue, as they have the right to do. As I parse Ms. Prejean's answer however, she points to that saying "we live in a land where you can choose..." She doesn't seem to me to attack others' right to choose, only that her choice is different. What is the great threat to same-sex marriage if Miss America is against their issue? Is their political operation so fragile that her advocacy against them would throw their political fortunes into disarray? Or is just unthinkable to one side of this issue that others might have a different opinion on an issue they believe passionately about?

This is really the heart of the issue, from my point of view. I hold an opinion of same-sex marriage that is similar to Miss Prejean. Many evangelical Christians do. On this and dozens of other topics, public discussion means that I face a welter of opposition--often virulent--from folks equally convinced of their correctness. That's difficult for me, because I don't consider myself hateful. I truly want a reasonable, edifying conversation with others about important, if sometimes controversial, subjects. So I feel qualified to give some advice about discussing with those who disagree. It's hard, and requires humility. Mr. Hilton stated, "We were/are just soooo angry, hurt, frustrated by her answer." I can relate to that feeling, as many times in the public arena I have been hurt or frustrated by positions that seem diametrically opposed to my own. I despair that we can ever come to any agreement--but I press on in discussion, but with one caveat. I have to admit, I may be wrong.

Because let's be honest. Christians have argued stridently for slavery, divine right of kings, separation of the races, torture and killing of Jews, and any number of subjects that today "Bible believing" evangelicals would not support. One could even make a case from Scripture, that God is right-handed (Col. 1:15), that believers should swap spit after church services (Rom. 16:16 unless that's not a 'holy kiss') or that every Christian should sell their possessions and give the money to the poor. (Luke 12:33) My point is, sincere believers have marshalled the Bible to support positions that in time proved more "culture-bound" than divinely inspired. It leads one to humility in expressing one's point of view. This is what I see missing in Mr. Hilton's remarks--humility, an admission that from the perspective of history, his position might turn out to be more a product of very public sentiment in favor of the homosexual lifestyle than "the truth." Time will tell.

That is not to say, however, that one's religious or spiritual values should not influence one's political or social views. Far from it--how can our religious beliefs not inform our opinions on critical subjects such as marriage or family? I have friends on all sides of this spectrum, and I think it the height of arrogance to suggest that they not consult their faith background or atheist background for that matter, in order to determine their political views. Some of my friends find their religious beliefs guiding them to support monogamous same sex unions--should they be excluded from the discussion? Yet that's what is being said in this situation..."Religious beliefs have no place in politics in the Miss CA family,” said Keith Lewis. What's the point of religion if it can't shape one's worldview?

The deeper question is: how will we shape policy for our country, which by the framers' intent, should NOT establish A religion as the ultimate arbiter of truth? The answer of course, is that we are a republic. We the people have entrusted to our elected leaders the responsibility of making laws based on input from the people, and consultation with the Constitution and other foundational documents. To apply, if Perez Hilton or Mario Armando Lavandeira, or whatever he goes by, doesn't like Miss Prejean's opinion, doesn't want it to be the law of the land, then he should lobby and raise money, and write trashy blogs, or whatever he wants, and try to carry the day by his arguments for his side. The process of truth in a republic is inherently political. It's the risk we take in not entrusting the secular truth question to religious leaders, as was the case in Europe's past. Although as a religious person, I believe that absolute truth does not change, I have to admit that secular truth does change (compare the Dred Scott decision, the Roe v. Wade decision, Brown v. Board, etc.) Bottom line--if you don't like a particular view, consult your Bibles, your Koran, your Bagvad Gita, think, and politic strenuously for your point of view. But don't tell me that I don't have the right to do the same.

Let's look at a rather bizarre example to illustrate this: the so called Texas Polygamy Cult, founded by jailed polygamist leader Warren Jeffs, who took over in 2002 as prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which broke off from the Mormon church in the 1930s over the issue of polygamy. Authorities took into legal custody more than 400 children and 133 women deemed to have been harmed or in imminent danger of harm. There was no groundswell of outrage from the American public, Christian or otherwise, that these people had been unfairly treated. We all thought, "Man that's weird." Because polygamy is a marriage position held by very few folks in America. But fast forward to a different country, with a different background, and one finds a vastly different story. Jacob Zuma, a polygamist, is poised to be the next president of South Africa. And when his latest wife was asked to comment on who would be the "first lady" all she could reply was "Jesus is Lord." Apparently, in her Zulu Christian background, polygamy is supported by the Bible, where one finds patriarchs such as Abraham and Jacob, and Biblical heavyweights such as David and Solomon having multiple wives. Again, secular truth is political.
No offense to anyone, (lol) but holding views based on your religious and social upbringing is the only kind of views anyone holds. We are all a product of our background. All we can hope for in the public arena is that we each come humbly to the table, argue passionately, respect all sides, and come out with what we can to guide our country into the future. If my view is out of political vogue, that doesn't mean I will stop trying to convince others. If my view is popular, then I have even more reason to check my heart and ensure that arrogance is not blinding me to errors in my own ways. Props to Miss California for not only being beautiful, but for thoughtfully sharing her own opinion on a tough subject for us all.


Matthew said...

The problem is all about how the conversation is shaped. The conversation is shaping up so that same-sex marriages are "the next tier of the civil rights movement," so therefore, it's an issue of oppression. Period. We are not allowed to question the homosexual lifestyle. If someone is homosexual because of a history of sexual brokenness (i.e., molestation, abuse, etc.), then we are not allowed to take that into account as causing a person's slide into homosexuality (See: Oprah and Ted Haggard's wife). Homosexuality is just "who the person is" with no outside causes. We aren't allowed to use principals of natural law to point to the fact that sexuality in nature is used to reproduce offspring, that this is accomplished through a male and a female, and that anything apart from this is an abnormality obstructing the original purpose of sexuality. Now, there may very well be people who are born as homosexuals; however, in this area, we are not allowed to suggest that all of nature is affected by some kind of historical and/or theological Fall of humankind. These are the arguments of many evangelicals, and we can't bring them to the table because we aren't allowed to speak against "the next tier of civil rights."

Matthew said...

As a follow-up to my first comment about the relationship between homosexuality and sexual abuse, the fact that we aren't allowed to bring this up in public and secular discourse is particularly damning seeing as if we were allowed to bring it up, some people might have authentic healing and restoration.

Anonymous said...

Very well written. I am going to forward this. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts.

Bridget said...

I question the homosexual lifestyle all the time. And why can't we bring up the issue of a possible connection between abuse & homosexuality? There has been alot written on the subject. We have that freedom & I think we should express our own point of view even if it isn't popular. We may have to withstand critism (hopefully not violence) from the haters, but I believe it's worth it because our freedom came with a price. So we must never shy away from expressing our point of view even if it means rejection, hatred,or God forbid violence.

TylerGirly said...

I agree that the societal trend toward essentializing homosexuality, thereby making it an issue of identity politics, complicates any sort of discussion about the origins of the behavior. When it comes to the problem of civil rights, I can understand why there would be much debate even within Christian circles. As a Bible-believer who is reluctant to call herself evangelical or align with mainstream American Christianity/Conservatism, I would have appreciated a more diplomatic answer from Miss California. This is a states' rights issue; it's more than a question of personal religious beliefs, no matter how "absolute" those beliefs may be.