Hillary Clinton Plays Pretend

Hillary Clinton gave a speech about equal rights for gays and lesbians in Geneva last week and most of it was quite laudable. But there was one section in it that is clearly false and contrary to reality. She said:

The third, and perhaps most challenging, issue arises when people cite religious or cultural values as a reason to violate or not to protect the human rights of LGBT citizens. This is not unlike the justification offered for violent practices towards women like honor killings, widow burning, or female genital mutilation. Some people still defend those practices as part of a cultural tradition. But violence toward women isn’t cultural; it’s criminal. Likewise with slavery, what was once justified as sanctioned by God is now properly reviled as an unconscionable violation of human rights.

In each of these cases, we came to learn that no practice or tradition trumps the human rights that belong to all of us. And this holds true for inflicting violence on LGBT people, criminalizing their status or behavior, expelling them from their families and communities, or tacitly or explicitly accepting their killing.

Of course, it bears noting that rarely are cultural and religious traditions and teachings actually in conflict with the protection of human rights. Indeed, our religion and our culture are sources of compassion and inspiration toward our fellow human beings.

Okay Hillary, how about joining the rest of us in the real world? Religious traditions have always been in conflict with the protection of human rights. Yes, there are many religious people who are passionate defenders of human rights, including for gay, lesbian and transgendered people; but only the most delusional would deny that the primary source of hatred and bigotry toward those people is religion. And that is not true only of gay rights, it was true in every previous civil rights struggle as well.

In the battles to end slavery and to give equality to women and black people, there were of course many religious people on the right side, but it remains true that those people were almost always fighting against their own religious traditions. The dominant view of Christendom was on the side of slavery, not just in this country but around the world, for centuries. The dominant view of Christendom was against “miscegenation” and against equal rights for women, not just here but all over the world. All of those injustices were justified on the basis of the Bible for the past three millenia or more. Pretending otherwise is absurd.

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  • Michael Heath

    Same question we ask conservatives; is she deluded or lying? I don’t perceive other viable alternatives for someone as smart and well-educated as SECSTATE Clinton.

  • mattmeeks

    Perhaps she’s neither deluded nor lying. She may be just hedging the truth to keep the religious folks from dismissing her message. It’s a sad truth that telling the truth about their religions to many believers makes them shut down and stops them from hearing your message. Sometimes you have to pretend a bit in order to get the main points of the message across. I wish it weren’t true, but it seems to work in many cases.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    But violence toward women isn’t cultural; it’s criminal. Likewise with slavery, what was once justified as sanctioned by God is now properly reviled as an unconscionable violation of human rights.

    Is there some rule of logic I’m missing which says they can’t be both?

  • wpjoe

    She’s a xian. Therefore she is delusional. She probably sees her religion as being on the side of compassion and progress. She is likely incapable of seeing xianity as the source of the bigotry.

  • Aquaria

    Same question we ask conservatives; is she deluded or lying?

    Both, since she’s a master of lying to herself. She is still married to Bill, after all.

    Speaking of him, it looks like something he would write, with all the tapdancing.

  • Sastra

    I suspect that most religious people would argue that their religion protects human rights: they simply interpret the context better because only their religion understands the true facts behind every situation.

    It’s so easy to do, after all. If “human rights” is a good thing then it’s the easiest thing in the world to figure out why, say, executing gay people or forbidding women to drive is in the grand supernatural scheme of things a protection of human rights. It is human rights, properly understood. The pious and humble have a right to live free from the oppression of wickedness.

    There’s doing wrong while knowing you are doing wrong — and then there’s doing wrong with the blithe, comfortable, smug conviction that, on the contrary, you are one of the few who are actually doing right. Religion is a master at rationalizing and justifying that last one because it hands the believers a lot of illuminating facts that outsiders don’t and won’t and can’t ever know lest they choose to adopt your faith as their own identity.

    If you take the religious at their word (“Oh yeah, our religion is all about protecting human rights”) then it’s laughably simple to think that evidence to the contrary must be due to a few mavericks who don’t understand their own religion. A lifetime spent in a culture of faith leads to a strong tendency to want to take the religious at their word.

  • Doubting Thomas

    Religion isn’t the cause of bigotry and hatred, it’s the excuse too often used. By it’s irrational nature, it lends itself to emotional stupidity of any kind.

  • Sastra

    Doubting Thomas #7 wrote:

    Religion isn’t the cause of bigotry and hatred, it’s the excuse too often used.

    I don’t know — it seems to me that religion alone creates the category of “the damned.” Now, you can shove groups you don’t like for other reasons into that hated group, sure. But sometimes people are damned only for not being in the religion. That looks like a case where religion IS the direct cause of bigotry and hatred.

    Unless someone being one of the damned doesn’t really matter much and is supposed to tell you very little about them.

  • walton

    I don’t see how this is a reason to criticize Clinton. Of course her comments were overly simplistic; and of course Ed’s right that organized religion has often, throughout history, been a reactionary force supporting bigotry and opposing equality. (Although, as he acknowledges, there have also often been religious people in social justice movements.) And I’m sure Clinton knows it’s simplistic; she’s not stupid, nor is she ignorant of history.

    But it’s obvious why she’s saying it: to get moderate and progressive religious people on her side in order to achieve the goal of ending anti-gay violence, and to delegitimize the fundamentalists who use religion as an excuse for hating LGBT people. Like it or not, the majority of people in the world are religious, and religious arguments carry a lot of political weight in a lot of places. It’s thus strategically wise to encourage the view that LGBT equality is compatible with religious values. I don’t see why that would be controversial.

    The priority should be achieving equal rights and protection from violence for LGBT people around the world. It is still the case that in vast swathes of the world, coming out openly as gay or lesbian will result in one getting beaten up by a mob, raped, or killed, merely for the “crime” of existing and expressing one’s sexuality. In many of the countries in question, almost everyone is religious, and that isn’t going to change any time soon. I think it’s necessary and a good idea, therefore, to promote the idea that LGBT rights are compatible with religion, and that people’s religious traditions and scriptures can be interpreted in such a way as to promote compassion, love and acceptance for all people regardless of sexuality or gender identity. If Hillary Clinton has to mouth a few platitudes in order to achieve that, I think that’s a small price to pay.

  • Nothing in Christianity is in conflict with allowing LGBT people human rights or protecting them from hatred and violence. After all The Bible says that you should all love one another.

    I mean sure, it also says they’re abominations and you have to execute them, and even the new “lovey dovey, perfect, makes the rest of the bible all better” testament says they’re all evil and will go to hell.

    But I mean come on…what does The Bible have to do with Christianity anyway…

  • walton

    and even the new “lovey dovey, perfect, makes the rest of the bible all better” testament says they’re all evil and will go to hell.

    Eh… not directly, it doesn’t. There are very few references of any kind to homosexuality in the NT; none are attributed to Jesus, and those few that appear in the Pauline epistles are probably the result of cultural misunderstandings and translaiton errors. The word in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, arsenokoitēs, which the KJV translates as “abusers of themselves with mankind”, is sometimes viewed as a reference to male prostitution rather than sex between men in general; in my understanding, though I’m not a Greek scholar and could be in error on this point, the usual word for sexual relations between men in Koine Greek was androkoitēs. (I’m sure someone will correct me if I’m wrong.) It’s also important to note that Greek and Roman cultural attitudes to sexuality and sexual orientation were very different from our own, and there’s not necessarily any direct equivalent in the language of the time to our modern understanding of what it means to be gay.

    The only support that could be offered for your claim is the statement attributed to Jesus that “one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all is fulfilled.” However, I’m not aware of any mainstream theologian or Christian movement who would hold that this makes the entirety of the Mosaic law binding on Christians; after all, other parts of the NT expressly release Christians from the obligation to be circumcised and to follow the Mosaic dietary laws, for instance. The conventional position is that those ritual purity laws, of which the prohibition on homosexuality in Leviticus forms a part, are part of the “old covenant”, and are not binding on Christians, who live under the “new covenant” made by Christ with his people.

    In any case, none of it matters. What the Bible says, as I just illustrated, is open to endless interpretation and debate, and there is little or no consensus over what anything means. What matters is what people think it says, and what it motivates them to do. Every religious person inevitably picks and chooses in what they believe, to some extent; and I, for one, would rather encourage them to choose love instead of hate. If it will be strategically effective to tell religious people “God wants you to treat LGBT people with love, compassion and acceptance”, and to deploy religious arguments in support of this claim, I’m perfectly happy to do that. It’s certainly a big mistake to cede religious language to the fundamentalists, or to allow the campaign for LGBT equality to be conflated in the public mind with atheism or anti-religion.

  • walton

    (If you want to argue that the NT is reactionary – as indeed some of it is – a better passage to point to is the deeply nasty sexism in 1 Timothy, traditionally attributed to Paul, although the letter is probably pseudepigraphical. Progressive theologians do have ways to explain this away, but none of them are very convincing, if one believes – as I do not, obviously, being an atheist – that the biblical canon is in any sense infallible or divinely-inspired. There’s a lot more support for sexism in the NT than there is for homophobia.)

  • The one I saw was from the NIV (which I guess is an evil satan edition anyway) which was just “Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”

    Hadn’t heard that ‘abusers of themselves with mankind’ wording before, since I don’t bother trying to trudge through the KJV.

    But like you said, it doesnt matter, because the Bible says everything in every way to the point it says nothing.

    Plus they’ll say the Bible is translated perfectly, except where its not, then you have to go to a different language or version to get the real version, but really its all gods word and no it doesnt strike me as stupid that god cant communicate for shit because he works in mysterious ways or some crap.

  • dingojack

    “But violence toward women isn’t cultural; it’s criminal.”

    Except, where violence toward women is not defined as being against the law. The laws define what is criminal.

    ‘violence toward women isn’t cultural; it’s immoral/unconscionable/inhumane/despicable/contemptable &etc.’

    Fixed it for ya Hill.