Friday, June 10, 2011

I just don't understand...

Lately I have noticed the overwhelming majority of people who are in favor of things like gay marriage sling the word "hate" around. It is the answer to any opposition they get on their opinion. If another person is not in favor of legalizing gay marriage, or of homosexual acts in general, then they must be "hateful." It seems that it is easier to point fingers and cry, "HATE!" than it is to try to understand the other person's point of view.

There are other issues that are like this as well, in which the opposing viewpoint gets stonewalled with, "You're just hateful and intolerant." But it is the gay marriage issue that I have noticed it in the most strongly, especially in places like Facebook. Two or three times in recent weeks and months, I have encountered people calling Chick-fil-A a "hateful" organization because they have donated money to Christian organizations which do not favor the legalization of gay marriage. In their eyes, opposing this is akin to barring people of their civil rights, and therefore any association with such groups must mean that Chick-fil-A "hates gays." People even make ludicrous jumps such as, "Chick-fil-A gives 25% of their profits to groups who run seminars to turn gay people straight and to political candidates whose sole purpose is to keep gay marriage illegal." Totally fabricated. I am particularly noticing these CFA attacks because my husband works for their charitable organization. People boycotting CFA make it less likely that he will keep his job - but fortunately, these boycotts are not harming the restaurants at all, and they all continue to do a thriving business.

I think the reason I get so discouraged and am not able to understand is this: when I hear an opposing viewpoint, I don't just launch back with, "Haters!" I think about the words the other person has said, and I weigh them in my mind and based on my faith - a faith that is completely rooted in common sense and truth, not in feelings or fashions or societal whims. I also try to consider where the other person is coming from - why do they hold this viewpoint? Usually, it is not because they are some evil person who hates others, and usually it is not because they are completely unintelligent. These are typically smart, caring people.

A good example of this is the topic of abortion. Usually when I come across somebody who is in favor of abortion remaining legal - "pro-choice," they like to call it, which I don't because while there are many choices I am in favor of, this ain't one of them! - they are not some baby-hating pro-killing jerk! They really and truly believe that abortion must remain legal because, while not the choice they would make personally, they think it is compassionate to have this option for others. They basically see no other way, and they have convinced themselves that some babies are better off being aborted than being born into poverty or whatever other unfavorable conditions may exist. They think abortion being legal is a "necessary evil." These "pro-choice" advocates really, for the most part, think they are being compassionate. They do not "hate babies," at least I like to think that most of them do not. So, I can understand their position. I absolutely 100% disagree and believe they are misguided, but that doesn't make them mean, it doesn't make them stupid, and it doesn't make them hateful. Calling them that will never get them to listen to our reasoned pro-life arguments anyway! So I choose to say, "I understand where you are coming from, but I strongly and completely disagree," rather than, "You baby-killer! How hateful you are!"

As a side note, I see abortion as a much, much larger violation of human rights. It actually kills another human being, which is the worst thing to do. It isn't merely harming their bodily integrity (think genital mutilation here). It isn't merely denying their desire to have the law recognize their relationship. It is depriving them of their very life. If the law tomorrow suddenly stopped recognizing my marriage to my husband, then would it change things? Sure, some... but I would absolutely still consider myself to be married and behave as such, and the Church would still view our marriage as valid. Those are what are most important. But if the law suddenly stopped protecting me from being killed? That is an outright denying of my basic human rights, endowed to me by my Creator, as is said in the law of this land.

Unfortunately, I have yet to see an attempt to understand from the pro-gay marriage side. I have yet to see a conversation in which people attempt to explain why they think my side is wrong without playing the "hate" card. I understand their arguments and disagree. They don't understand my arguments and decide I must be "hateful." I am sure there are people out there who do hate gays in general regardless of their actions or positions on legal issues, and of course it is wrong to call people names or try to hurt them because you dislike them in general. But that is not the reason most people are opposed to gay marriage - at least not for other faithful Catholics - and I am sick and tired of the assumption that our reasons are rooted in hate and ignorance. Why is it that we must tolerate the gay marriage views while they refuse to tolerate the fact that some people disagree for real reasons and not just out of fear and hate?

Interestingly, I never hear mention of the fact that there are some homosexual people who dislike their homosexual urges and do think that homosexual sex acts are disordered, and therefore they disagree with the legalization of gay marriage. In the logic of some of the pro-gay marriage side, do these people "hate" themselves? No, of course not - in fact, these people refuse to define themselves based solely on their sexual tendencies. And it must take great courage and strength for them to do this!

Another issue where this stonewalling happens is whenever anyone mentions the Church's teachings in relation to condoms and AIDS and Africa. Instead of trying to understand the very real reasons why the Catholic Church won't distribute condoms, even in Africa where AIDS is widespread, people just assume the Church is "mean" and "intolerant." The Church must "want people to die." They refuse to acknowledge that maybe the Church thinks there are better ways to handle this (and more moral ways to boot). Or if they do acknowledge that, they assume the Church is "stupid" and that of course they could never think of any good alternatives to deal with the AIDS crisis in Africa. The very real answer is that if you don't have sex with multiple people, you are far less likely to get AIDS. If you hand out condoms, you are sending the message to continue to engage in risky behavior - increase it, even, since you have "protection" now, protection which is not guaranteed. There is even evidence-based research showing that condom distribution is not the answer, but since it seems like a common sense approach, any other idea is automatically discounted or seen as "mean" and trying to hurt rather to help. Many people (ahem, mainstream media) paint the Church as being archaic and "out-of-touch," when the opposite is true. People just won't take the time to dig in and explore further and jump to conclusions and make assumptions.

Can we not all just have the best assumptions of each other unless proven otherwise? Can we just assume that people can be mistaken, misled, and/or misunderstood, and that underneath that we generally do have good intentions and wish the best for others, even if we have different ways of going about it? And this does not mean that we back down on our positions - not at all. We shouldn't waver and capitulate on issues as important as the ones our world is faced with today. We should absolutely hold fast to what we believe, especially if we believe we have Truth on our sides. Those with Truth can present their side without being ugly about it, without refusing to discuss the issue and calling out, "Hate!" instead. We can discuss things with reasoned patience rather than bewildered anger at "those hateful bigots." We live in a day and age where the terms "hate" and "bigot" can be thrown at somebody as an immediate way to shut down the conversation. That is what they want - to not have to discuss it because they have decided your arguments are merely hate-based, so why discuss them? Or perhaps they have an inkling that you may have something logical or reasoned to say and don't even want the conversation to get to that point... in other words, they won't tolerate your view, so they shut you down by calling you "intolerant" lest your words actually have some sense in them.

Don't be afraid to stand for the truth, and don't be afraid to do it in love, in patience, and in knowing that you can disagree with somebody out of Truth and not just because they are "hateful."


Kris said...

Great post! I struggle with this also - the left LOVES to throw the "hate" word around, because often their viewpoint can't stand up to scrutiny, and it's easier to make it personal than to defend their position. Also, with regard to gay marriage, I think many people have the attitude that "if they are not hurting anyone...". While that may be true on the surface, people rarely go deeper and look at the long term ramifications of redefining the parameters for marriage and family.

Bridgette said...

Erin -- I'm not going to get into an argument with you on this because I believe everyone is entitled to their own opinions. I do appluad you for pointing out that hate and intolerance should not be interchangeable. There is a big difference between hate and intolerance. I do not throw around the word hate unless I have seen clear examples of true hateful behavior from someone. I do use the word intolerant however because it is the best word for it. Denying someone something or disliking something is the textbook definition of intolerance. According to my little desk dictionary tolerate is (a verb) "to put up with; bear; endure; permit" and therefore the opposite of this would be intolerance (it doesn't have a tolerance entry, just tolerant). However, just because you don't like something or don't want it does not mean you hate it and people need to learn there is a difference, but the problem with either political side is they like to use the most inflamatory term they can find. So instead of saying you are intolerant of an idea (meaning you are not open to) they like to use the word hate which is not right and part of the reason for the polarization of this country instead of working to find a middle ground.

Erin said...

Bridgette, you are so right that most politicians like to use the most inflammatory words and phrases they can find... the media does this too, focusing only on what will set off emotions and not on facts. It seems like the more access we have to information, the more people can use it to try to rile everyone up!

I would even be hesitant to use the word intolerant, because that seems to presume that it goes deeper than a legal issue (which the gay marriage issue is)... I don't want to disallow people to live their lives in a particular way (ie, I would never support a law that determines who can/cannot live together, sleep together, think/feel what they want regarding other people, etc). I would agree in saying that I am intolerant of gay unions becoming legally the same as marriage, but not intolerant of gays and their relationships in general, if that makes sense, because while I disagree morally, I am not going to try to disallow them (like in the way that blacks were actually disallowed from going into particular buildings or sections of buses, etc). I think the only reason the US gov't has any vested interest in recognizing male-female marriages is because of their potential (overall, biologically) to produce and raise future citizens... otherwise, I don't see what other interest gov't should have in recognizing any relationships.