A Living Illustration of the Problem With Trying To Love The Gay Person But Hate Her Gayness

The AP reports:

Barbara Von Aspern loves her daughter, “thinks the world” of the person her daughter intends to marry and believes the pair should have the same legal rights as anyone else. It pains her, but Von Aspern is going to skip their wedding. Her daughter, Von Aspern explains, is marrying another woman.

“We love them to death, and we love them without being judgmental,” the 62-year-old Chandler, Ariz., retiree said. “But the actual marriage I cannot agree with.”

Or, as Digital Cuttlefish puts it in the closing verse of “No Disrespect Intended…”:

I mean no disrespect, of course,
I love her to the core—
It’s just that, when it comes to this,
I love religion more.

So it has actually happened–someone has said to her own daughter, “I totally love you and your partner but will not attend your wedding”. This is exactly the sort of practical contradiction I warned about in my piece about why loving the sinner but hating the sin is not an option when dealing with gay people and which I tried to point out to my politically progressive evangelical Christian friend who wanted to simultaneously support gay rights but deny the moral legitimacy of their unions religiously:

They want to obliterate homosexuality from existence and are in denial that in practice that means harming homosexuals. The logic of the Bible which leads to killing them is the same logic at work and they cannot make that square with the inclusive circle of modern, non-violent democratic society [...] You cannot have it both ways, you cannot love the sinner while locking him in a closet.

I once had a long talk with a relatively liberal, well-educated evangelical, who was a passionate supporter of Obama even, who didn’t want to alienate gays but still thought homosexuality was immoral for biblical reasons. She tried to make the case that she could be accepting on a social level and I asked her, “How can you? if you have a gay couple for friends, can you have them over if you insist that their relationship is immoral?  Can you acknowledge and respect their love as legitimate when you think God condemns it?   Can you attend their wedding and wish them well without qualifications? This is a practical contradiction you cannot live out.”

Her response: I was making her uncomfortable. So, I dropped it. Hopefully, she’ll drop it too when she (inevitably) has to make a choice between acting in accord with her beliefs about the immorality of her gay friends’ loving relationships and making them uncomfortable.

Your Thoughts?

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • Connie

    Excellent post. I have to ask, though, why would you drop the subject if it was making her uncomfortable? I’d like to think that I would have pressed the issue along these lines, “Good. You should be uncomfortable. You should be uncomfortable with religious beliefs that tell you that certain law-abiding, tax paying American citizens are immoral simply because they are gay. That should make you very uncomfortable. It should challenge your beliefs, and test your faith to its very core. Sit and stew with your discomfort. Go deep inside yourself. Hopefully you will realize that the disgust you feel at the immorality you believe is embodied by gay people only represents your own moral failings. I wish you many hours of anguish and discomfort while you figure this out.”

    • Stilts

      Sometimes maintaining a friendship is worth more than picking an argument, even an argument you’d probably win.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Camels With Hammers

      That’s a really good question, Connie. I think that there are a few things. One is that she was a friend and it was not worth it to burn the friendship. Secondly, my point was made, I had won the argument. She has a conscience, it is up for her to go off on her own and let it gnaw at her. People don’t usually just concede right in front of you. You have to let them change their mind in private usually. It’s easier for them that way and being a kind person means being humane enough to let people come to terms in a way that is not embarrassing to them but something they do on their own. Thirdly, if I did press her too hard, then she could swing around emotionally and get defensive, respond like I’m the bully, feel herself victimized by my aggressiveness and not dwell on her own attitudes but instead think about how awful I am for being a pushy jerk. By being gracious and sensitive to her feelings, I don’t give her the chance to hate me at precisely the moment she is getting more defensive and looking for an excuse to not be reflective.

      I interviewed Richard Wade, the excellent advice columnist of Friendly Atheist and he made remarks that spelled out at length what I just said briefly in the paragraph above:

      Richard Wade: [T]here are a couple of things I often say. One is, “If you want someone to see something more clearly, don’t start by poking him in the eye.” The other one is, “Speak with your ears, not with your mouth.” By reading online I’m able to “listen in” on many, many dialogues. Some atheists get into these dialogues with theists just to vent their feelings. They’re focused on expression only. Other atheists actually want to persuade others of something instead of just venting. They’re focused on communication. But sometimes they make the mistake of not communicating with a strong sense of empathy.

      They need to accurately imagine what it is like for the other person to hear what they’re saying to them. That’ s what I mean by speaking with your ears. They can say wonderfully logical, rational things, but if it begins with a deliberate or an inadvertent insult, or if there is an undertone of snide contempt, then it doesn’t matter. The message will be deflected, not received. Even if it is compelling by its technical points, it will not be persuasive in its effect. Now I fully understand that many religious people can be hair-trigger ready to take “offence,” and some are already offended just by our very existence. But if you get one who is actually talking to you, then use that opportunity skillfully with a delicate touch. Don’t blow your chance to change someone’ s viewpoint by indulging in a dumb wisecrack or using an insensitive tone.

      I think you can get your message in deeper if you deliver it politely. I don’t mean being obsequious, or fawning, or meek. But you don’t have to shame or humiliate people into a wider view. Coax them. Imagine what would you need to be convinced if you were them. You probably have a pretty good idea what their thoughts are, and their basic framework. Instead of just sneering at it, get inside it and see where the openings are. Using empathy and understanding the other’s motives are the most important things in persuasion.

      That’s where I see atheists fail when trying to persuade religious people to reconsider their ideas about atheists or about science, or about social issues. We need to be more patient. Plant seeds, and wait, and come back a little later and attend to them a bit more, and back off again. Don’t try for instant victories where your “opponent” will concede right there on the spot. That never happens, does it? Always give them a way to say “I’ll think about it” with their dignity in tact, and let them rest a while. That way they’ll be open for more seed-planting later.

      Daniel Fincke: I completely, completely agree. I have a friend whom I have debated hours at a time and sometimes suddenly a key issue is clarified and he says, “okay, I understand, let me go think about that”, and it just ends there for the time being. You gotta let someone go when they’ve had enough and they have to go think things over before returning to the discussion.

      Richard Wade: Yeah. and at that crucial, delicate moment, if you were to crow “Ha! I have beaten you!” then you’ve completely blown it. We should never go for trophies when it will rob us of a persuaded ally who now sees things our way. They might never fully realize that we were the one who persuaded them, and we won’t get that ego-boosting acknowledgment. So what?? We have a better situation. That is all that matters. Being an effective agent for positive change is so much more important than some fleeting feeling of personal triumph.

  • http://thatswhereyourewrong.wordpress.com Yakamoz

    Ah, your views are making her uncomfortable. You know what makes gay people uncomfortable (to say the least)? Her views. Funny how permanently dropping the subject is so rarely an option for the hate-the-sin crowd.

  • EdW

    I had an ex who put it this way to me — “sure, it’s a sin, but all Godly people are sinners.”

    Her argument was that homosexuality was a sin on par with, say, not-being-circumsized or eating shellfish: There were supposed health and societal reasons for those laws in the Old Testament, but as sins, they don’t pull you away from your relationship with God, so they’re not a problem in the grand scheme. Just knowing that you needed Jesus to “bridge the gap” between your sinful nature and Heaven was enough.

    I have a feeling she thought our relationship was much the same — unmarried people enjoying each other’s company is awfully sinful, after all. But I think she kinda liked that.

    The follow-up I never really got to ask was “do you think the gay couples get to be together in Heaven?”

  • Bruce Wright

    As much as I like and respect Richard Wade, and the Richard Wade 11-step approach to being nice to people you disagree with…

    I’m going to take a disagreeing point of view on this one. Here’s why.

    For the last 30 or so years, I’ve had pleasant, patient, non-rancorous, gentle, respectful, nudging discussions about gay rights with people who held different views.

    I consider those 30 years of discussions as being with people who HONESTLY never gave it the appropriate consideration. It’s like talking to someone in the year 1970 and patiently explaining to them about computers. You gotta go slow, because this may be the first time they’re hearing the information.

    At this point, here in 2011, I’m sorry, but TIME IS UP. You’ve had time to hear all of the points about gay rights. You’ve *heard* them.

    You know, sometimes people are just bigots.

    Just as it would be *unacceptable* for someone to spout racially segregationist talk today. At some point in the past on the issue of racial segregation, you could find someone whom you could sway with a gentle argument to pay attention to their better angels… But at some point all we were left with were people WITHOUT better angels.

    At *some point* we crossed that line in history, and if you spout racial garbage at me, we are not friends and will *never* be friends again.

    We either have reached or are about to reach that point with gay rights.

  • Margaret

    You cannot have it both ways, you cannot love the sinner while locking him in a closet.

    Yes. That kind of “love” (*spits*) always makes me think of an abusive parent/spouse who has just grabbed a belt and says “I’m only doing this because I love you.”

  • Michael Swanson

    I’m not sure I can agree with this. I have Christian friends that I like, but I hate their Christianity. I’m vegan, meaning that I treasure animal life, that I abhor the taking of it, yet I love my non-vegan friends dearly.

    In these cases I very much hate (strong word) the sin but love the sinner. I don’t see why a Christian can’t do the same. (Feels weird saying that. I’m only used to being diametrically opposed to Christianity!)