jasonbwatson

August 2, 2012

“A Culture of Hate”?

Unless you live in a remote location with no access to television or Internet (which you obviously do not, since you are reading this!) you surely knew that yesterday was proclaimed “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day” by former Arkansas governor, GOP presidential candidate and current FOX News contributor Mike Huckabee. Huckabee launched the idea after the media circus surrounding Chick-fil-A COO Dan Cathy’s comments confirming that he and his (privately held) company support the biblical definition of marriage, and thereby do not support homosexual marriage. I addressed this issue already in a previous post [see “Tolerance (Again)”] so I am not going to spend a lot of time talking about Chick-fil-A directly. Rather, I have to address another example of intolerance and, in fact, ignorance, announced to the world today on The Huffington Post.

Noah Michelson, editor of HuffPost Gay Voices, posted a column today entitled “Chick-fil-A: This Is Not a First Amendment Issue.” Now, I want to begin by saying that, given his position, it will not come as a surprise to you that Mr. Michelson and I disagree on the topic of gay marriage. However, I am not even going to address that, specifically. Instead, I need to address several specific comments Michelson makes in his post.

Note first of all that he states early on, “I fully support [Dan] Cathy’s right to say whatever he wants (and, in fact, so does the ACLU).” On this, we–Mr. Michelson, the ACLU, and I–agree. I support Mr. Cathy’s right to say that he supports the biblical definition of marriage, and I support Mr. Michelson’s right to say that he does not. As I have stated in this space before, the right to state our opinions, whether or not they are popular, whether or not many others will agree, and, indeed, whether or not they are even correct, is a large part of what makes America great. And the freedom of speech is protected by the First Amendment.

Why then, does Michelson argue that this is not a First Amendment issue? He feels so strongly that it is not that he began his column saying that if he heard one more person state that the Chick-fil-A brouhaha was a First Amendment issue, “I’m going to jump out of one of the Huffington Post’s fifth-floor windows and swan dive into oncoming traffic.”

So how does Michelson go about suggesting that Cathy’s statement, Chick-fil-A’s position, and Huckabee’s day of support is not a First Amendment issue? By suggesting that all of the above is actually hate speech. Immediately after stating that he supports Cathy’s right to say whatever he wants, Michelson writes, “But just because someone can say something doesn’t mean they should — or that we should celebrate him or her for doing so, especially when what they’re saying is, at its core, promoting a culture of hate against a group of people.”

Wow! Promoting a culture of hate? By openly and unashamedly stating that he supports the biblical definition of marriage–meaning that marriage is between one man and one woman–Dan Cathy is promoting a culture of hate? Against whom? Apparently, according to Michelson, against any gay, lesbian, bi or transgendered individual. Apparently it is promoting hate to say that marriage should only be between a man and a woman, but it is not promoting hate to say that marriage–as it has been defined for the entirety of human history–should be redefined so that men can marry men, women can marry women, or any one of however many other combinations there may be within the LGBT community.

Unfortunately, though, Mr. Michelson does not stop there. He continues, and in doing so he plunges headlong into the uninformed and in-no-way-accurate suggestion that homosexuality is the equivalent of race, or that the denial of the right for homosexuals to marry is the equivalent of supporting female slavery. Find that hard to believe? Read his column for yourself. Furthermore, Michelson claims that Cathy’s and Chick-fil-A’s financial support of organizations that support traditional marriage is the equivalent of donating “millions of dollars to white supremacist organizations.”

Again, I have argued here before that sexual preference is in no way equivalent to race. Our race is genetic; we cannot change it. And while I do not agree that sexual preference is in one’s DNA, even if I were to grant, for sake of argument, that it is, sexual activity is still a choice; the color of one’s skin is not.

Michelson isn’t finished yet, though. He continues by stating that those of us (and I say “us” because I am in the category of people to whom he is referring) who support the biblical definition of marriage, ” still thinks [sic] that it’s OK to treat us like we are, at best, just not quite as worthy to have all the rights afforded straight or cis-gendered people or, at worst, just plain evil.” Now, I don’t even know what “cis-gendered” means, and neither does dictionary.com, so maybe it is a typo in Michelson’s post, or perhaps it is some sort of slang I have never seen, but it is safe to state that it somehow refers to those in the LGBT community. And the truth is, Mr. Michelson, I think you are every bit as “worthy” of the right to marry as I am, or as anyone else is–just so long as you do it within the legally defined limits of marriage. And as for evil, that’s just not true. I cannot speak for everyone, of course, but I certainly do not consider homosexuals, or those who support the redefinition of marriage, to be evil. I consider them to be misguided, yes, and even wrong. But they are no more evil than I am. After all, Scripture makes it quite clear that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, and that little word “all” includes me, too. It may be cliche, but I hate the sin, not the sinner.

Oh, and speaking of Scripture, that is the next target in Michelson’s piece: “Many of these statements are bolstered by religious arguments using the Bible as ammunition, but, as it’s been pointed out time and again, the Bible demands we do or don’t do a lot of things that we no longer do or don’t do (like that we should own slaves and we shouldn’t eat popcorn shrimp), and Jesus himself never uttered a single word about being queer (and if he wanted us all to be “traditionally married” so badly, you’d think the guy himself would have gotten married).”

Okay, one step at a time here. The Bible, specifically in the Old Testament, does contain a lot of instructions that the Israelites were commanded to follow that we no longer need to, both because we are no longer under the Law, and because of improvements in preparing food that make laws against eating popcorn shrimp no longer necessary. Next, Jesus never explicitly referenced homosexuality, but He did say, in Matthew 19:4, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ “and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh?'” That’s a pretty clear embrace of God’s design for marriage. Furthermore, the Bible is explicitly clear in several places that homosexuality is a sin (Lev. 18:22, Rom. 1:26-27 among others) and Jesus never refuted that; everything He ever said was consistent with every other portion of Scripture.

Michelson continues by saying, “When you buy food from Chick-fil-A, you’re basically saying, “Here, take this money and see to it that queer people can not only not get married, but that they also can’t adopt, can be fired simply for their sexuality and/or gender identity and continue to live in a society where they are regularly terrorized, mutilated, murdered and driven to suicide.” Sorry, but that’s ridiculous. First of all, it’s not as if every penny that Chick-fil-A makes goes to groups that support traditional marriage and/or oppose gay marriage. Second, supporting traditional marriage is not the equivalent of supporting terror, mutilation, or murder. I suspect Mr. Michelson would be hard pressed to find a single group that Chick-fil-A supports that explicitly or even discreetly supports or in any way does anything but oppose violence, harassment or intimidation of homosexuals.

So, sorry to say Mr. Michelson, but you’re wrong–there’s just no other way to say it. Supporting traditional marriage and advocating violence toward homosexuals are not the same thing. Opposing gay marriage and hating gay people is not the same thing. Eating at Chick-fil-A or contributing financially to groups that support traditional marriage and supporting or rejoicing over violence toward homosexuals such as you suggest at the end of your article is not the same thing.

So just how is, exactly, that those who hold a position different from yours are promoting a culture of hate? That’s a bold and dangerous accusation to make, and I’d like an apology.

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