Is Protesting Useless?

Andrew Marin, a Christian who tries to bridge the gap between the church and the LGBT community, notes that a group of protestors in Illinois stood outside a Catholic church on Sunday to oppose the “anti-LGBT bigotry of the Catholic hierarchy.” They wanted equal rights in Illinois (the recently passed civil unions bill simply wasn’t enough) and they didn’t want taxpayer dollars going to churches that practice anti-gay discrimination.

A Christian group also showed up — to protest the protestors.

So what is Andrew upset about?

Not the bigotry of the Catholic church or the agenda against equal rights spouted by the Christian group.

He’s mad that anyone was protesting at all (emphasis mine):

You should have seen the ridiculous scene at that church: People coming in and out of mass met on the church’s steps by hateful LGBT people with signs and megaphones and then looking two feet in the other direction and a group of hateful conservative Christians with signs and megaphones protesting the protest. And not one person in either of those groups had any personal connection to that Catholic church. Amazing. Here’s a quick letter to the protestors:

Dear Protestors Who Believe You Are Doing The Right Thing,

You are not doing the right thing.

Jesus said that wisdom will be proved right by her actions. If Jesus’ words are true, then you all must have not a drop of wisdom in you. Try investing even a quarter of the amount of time and energy you currently use to promote dissent into seeking dialogue and relationships of ‘loving your enemy’ and watch how productive you can actually be. I guarantee it will be a zillion times for productive and you won’t even have to go to all of the trouble to do so much coloring of signs.

And to those LGBT people there protesting — you think your signs and megaphones make one ounce of difference to that Catholic church, The Catholic Church or any of the people in it? You don’t. You just look like hateful idiots who are solidifying the Church in thinking they’re doing the right thing.

There was a time when I would’ve agreed with Andrew — that dialogue was preferred to public dissent. But it’s very clear that no church wants to have that conversation.

To say the GLBT group was “hateful” because they want equal rights? That’s ridiculous. They got attention for their cause — our cause — by protesting near the heart of where the hate stems from. They didn’t stop anyone from going to church. And if people are made to feel uncomfortable because they belong to a religion that preaches against love between two consenting adults, that’s just too bad for them. Did they change the Catholic Church’s stance on homosexuality? Of course not — Andrew’s right; that’s not going to change — but this wasn’t just about the Church. It’s about forcing religious people to defend their irrational bigotry.

The Church members already believe homosexuals are headed to Hell. I promise you a pleasant dialogue isn’t about to change that.

(To his credit, Andrew also blasts the Christian anti-gay protestors, but since he personally refuses to openly support the equal-marriage agenda, this “even-handedness” doesn’t do much for me.)

A dialogue is fantastic when you’re discussing an issue where compromise can be had. Or if you want to learn about the other side.

I don’t see Cardinal Francis George making any attempt to learn about gay people. He already thinks he knows everything he needs to about them — they’re going to hell and they shouldn’t be allowed to get married.

I don’t know what GLBT activists can gain from meeting with the church officials, either. A polite explanation as to why they shouldn’t be allowed to marry? Fuck that.

So, to the protestors, I say, “Right on.”

Keep fighting the good fight.

Protests only look bad when they’re in support of something awful. You want to protest against civil rights? You want to protest in support of more concealed weapons? Go right ahead, but don’t be surprised when your movement backfires.

Andrew later reaffirms his stance that “protests are worthless”:

Can someone give me a tangible example of something productive for both communities that happened recently because of a protest? I literally can’t name one thing. And if you can name one, I’d love to hear it and will listen with open ears.

Egypt. Enough said. (Oh wait… one side didn’t benefit from that protest? Ah well. I’m not sad about that. The right side won out, at least in the short term.)

  • Dan

    But, I support concealed weapons. =\

  • maddogdelta

    Can someone give me a tangible example of something productive for both communities that happened recently because of a protest? I literally can’t name one thing. And if you can name one, I’d love to hear it and will listen with open ears.

    Civil rights movement. South Africa. Tunisia. Women’s movement. Women’s suffrage. American involvement in Viet-Nam.

    Sorry, he only asked for one…

  • Claudia

    Can someone give me a tangible example of something productive for both communities that happened recently because of a protest? I literally can’t name one thing. And if you can name one, I’d love to hear it and will listen with open ears.

    Egypt
    Don’t ask, don’t tell
    The Civil Rights Act
    The Orange Revolution
    The independence of India

    It’s a trick to demand examples that happened solely because of street protests (though Egypt shows that this too can happen). Usually, street protests are but one side of a multipronged approach.

    Now, I am open to the argument that protesting needs to be targeted. Was this merely some random church? A cathedral I could see, since beyond a church it’s a political headquarters as well. You walk a fine line with protests. On the one hand you want to have impact, and directly telling the faithful that there adherence to the church means they are complicit in an organization that vehemently opposes rights for gays while at the same time considering the sin of prescribing an abortion to save the mothers life much more grave than the sin of raping little boys. On the other hand you should take protests to the people in charge, Bishops and Cardinals. There are local churches that quietly try to be more open, and I wouldn’t want one of those harrassed just because they had a cross on the roof, especially considering the target rich environment of homophobic institutions from which to choose.

  • http://www.youtube.com/aajoeyjo Joe Zamecki

    The protests got him talking. That’s social progress. When we are silent about our feelings, it’s easy to get burned by scam artists. Just him considering this protest, each side, and his reaction to it is progress. If he feels this strongly about it, there have got to be a lot of other people who were there, and others who were not, who learned something. Not only about each side in the protest, but they also learned a little about themselves.

    No matter which side he’s on, this is valuable experience and learning for him. The protest did the same for others. Plus it was probably fun. That’s another good reason to take part in a public demonstration. It’s fun!

  • Weemaryanne

    Minor point: I think that both sides of the Egypt conflict did benefit as a result of the protests. The people are no longer living under a dictator, and the dictator no longer has to be a dictator.

    Being in a position of absolute power is bad for the tyrant, arguably as bad as for those tyrannized. Have you noticed what’s happened to the state of Israel since they’ve been an occupying power? – not pretty.

  • Samiimas

    And to those LGBT people there protesting — you think your signs and megaphones make one ounce of difference to that Catholic church, The Catholic Church or any of the people in it? You don’t. You just look like hateful idiots who are solidifying the Church in thinking they’re doing the right thing.

    YES. This isn’t my opinion, this is a simple statistical fact. The number of Christian churches that claim homosexuality is sinful is dropping, nobody disputes this. This number isn’t dropping because, as the whitewashers claim, these churches have had some kind of revelation and realized that True Christianty had always supported homosexuality. These churches are changing their tunes because they lose more and more young members every time someone points out that they hate gay people, which is exactly what this protest did.

    Just look at how the Mormon Church has publicly backed away from opposing gay rights since Prop 8. *I’m sure privately they still throw money at the cause* It wasn’t because LBGT people had a polite conversation with the church, it’s because they were tired of being the target of angry protests denouncing them as bigots.

  • Villa

    I think the vast majority of protesting is useless.

    People already know there’s disagreement about major issues. And politicians have a rough idea of the size of each faction. So a protest gives them no new information or motivation.

    The effective protests are the ones that cause some problem for the group being protested.

    In this case, protesting churches seems like a good strategy. Some people are willing to cross a picket line to go into a church. A bunch more will decide to just stay home.

    So long as the LGBT picketers are there, the churches will suffer a loss to attendance and donations. That’s what will motivate them to change.

  • Franco

    It’s not something we like to hear, but it’s true: In an argument, the side that shouts loudest usually wins. That’s just the way human brains work.
    And that’s the way a good protest works; raise the decibel level to penetrate the layers of self-centered laziness that is the default position.

  • Roxane

    Actually, the way this country is going, I can think of a lot MORE protests I’d like to see. Preferably in Washington. With Twitter.

  • Erp

    Some people should read “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”. Now whether a particular protest is a good choice can be debated but to say no protest? The Catholic hierarchy on the whole has been a major force against many progressive movements (individual Catholics are another matter though sometimes one of their bigger obstacles is their own church).

    In this case the protest was at Holy Name Cathedral, official seat of Cardinal Francis George who has been a major voice opposing gay rights including recognizing civil same-sex marriages. The protest was also on the eve of Valentine’s Day (the closest Sunday) to emphasize this was about relationships.

  • Jonas

    And not one person in either of those groups had any personal connection to that Catholic church.

    Black people did not have a personal connection to the restaurants where they couldn’t be served, before the civil rights movement. — So what?

    Can someone give me a tangible example of something productive for both communities that happened recently because of a protest?

    With the legalization of Gay Marriage in Massachusetts,
    1. Gay people enjoyed greater legal rights, and responsibilities (or at least had the option to)

    2. The marriage industry had a new market to cater to — The Gay/Lesbian customers.

    – An economic boon for marriage planners, and cake bakers, and dress makers, and tuxedo sellers.

  • http://selfra.blogspot.com dantresomi

    YES! @Claudia
    everything she said, I am down with…

  • Matthew

    So I started reading your blog a while back because I wanted to better understand your position, and the position of atheists, generally, and eventually to join the dialogue. Then today’s post, and this:

    “There was a time when I would’ve agreed with Andrew — that dialogue was preferred to public dissent. But it’s very clear that no church wants to have that conversation.”

    And I’m done reading your blog now. The loss of hope for dialogue, aside from being an ironic & discouraging stance for someone with such strong connections to speech & debate teams, strikes me as the first step down a slippery slope, and I don’t think I need to waste any more of my time watching that particular train wreck. Strikes me as disingenuous, too, that you criticize the entire Christian community for not desiring dialogue in the same post that you expressly reject the utility of dialogue yourself. Just saying.

    (Also, I didn’t realize you had checked with, and been rebuffed by, every single church on the planet about the possibility for dialogue; color me impressed. Oh, wait. That was just hyperbole? Huh, wonder where I’ve seen that before. Maybe you could give me another example, because “I literally can’t name one”.)

    Anyway, have fun making generalizations and constructing straw men to aid in stirring up your fellow atheists’ anti-Christian zealotry. It’s been interesting, but I think I’ve got a handle on your Christians as hateful bigots schtick, now, so I’m done spending time on your blog. The negativity here has become less informative for me than just plain depressing (and I’ll admit I see some humor in the fact that that is kind of an ironic point for me to make on this specific post, because this post & its comments are less overtly negative than most).

    Oh, and I get the irony that I’m criticizing your lack of interest in dialogue while giving up on the possibility of dialogue with you myself. The difference, though, for what it’s worth, is that posts like today’s give me permission to give up on such dialogue, because you are explicitly disinterested in it.

    In the end, I do respect your earnestness and strength of conviction, but like I said, I don’t need to read any more.

  • Steve

    Hemant is absolutely right. A dialogue can only work when there is a compromise to be made. But there is no chance of a compromise here for two reasons:

    1.) There can be no compromise for civil rights. The only goal can be completely equality. So there is nothing to discuss. The best Christians can hope for is to delay the inevitable

    2.) Christianity as a whole doesn’t want civil rights for gay people. They are content to throw out some crumbs and then pat themselves on the back for how progressive they are. That’s just not good enough anymore.

    Yes, there are some sects and individual churches that are welcoming, but in the grand scheme of things they don’t matter. The sects that have the numbers and the political power are hardliners that can’t be reasoned with.

  • Darwin’s Dagger

    I don’t think Hemant was advocating the end of open dialogue, merely the utility of using protest as a means to be heard when such dialogue appears to be unproductive. Personally I don’t think the policy positions of archaic medieval institutions are worth the effort of either dialogue or protest. If Christians want to be a bunch of assholes let em. My concern is that civil society as a whole does not advocate or practice any form of discrimination.

  • http://followmsleading.blogspot.com MsLeading

    @Matthew: This is not about a single Christian church, or every individual church as an autonomous entity. This is about Christianity as an institution being used as an excuse to legally oppress people. The fight for civil equality for gays is ongoing, and while some individual churches, pastors, Christians, etc. have espoused a pro-equality view, our elected officials and the most wealthy and powerful Christian organizations (like the Roman Catholic church) insist on clinging to Old Testament bigotry. This is fact, not hyperbole. It is neither a straw man nor generalization. (Your accusation that Hemant is “stirring up your fellow atheist’ anti-Christian zealotry” is, however, both: he has never said that dialogue in general is useless, just that dialogue with these people about this issue has been largely useless, and therefore that other methods are warranted.) The people with the power are overwhelmingly anti-gay, and are overwhelmingly unresponsive to the serious dialogue that has been attempted FOR DECADES by the scientific and social justice communities.

    And who the fuck cares if it benefits “both sides”? One side has unequalled power and influence and uses it to oppress the other side. I don’t give a flying fuck if the Catholic church benefits from these protests; I care that gays and lesbians get the benefit of full legal equality. We really don’t need to be concerned with the welfare of tyrants.

  • Scott

    Best part about this post (other than hearing about a group of admirable protesters) is when Hemant got real.

    “A polite explanation as to why they shouldn’t be allowed to marry? Fuck that.”

    For real…fuck that.
    I love it.

  • Liz

    Andrew said, “And not one person in either of those groups had any personal connection to that Catholic church.”

    And how does he know this? Did he speak to every person protesting. If I were at this protest I think my Catholic family and past would count as a personal connection to the church. Not ONE of the protesters had a connection? I highly doubt it.

    If fact…the first sentence of the article Hemant linked says, “On the eve of Valentine’s Day, Helen Moshak pinned rainbow ribbons to her white knit cap and returned to the Roman Catholic Church she left five years ago…” That sounds like a personal connection to me.

  • http://www.penmachine.com Derek K. Miller

    Here’s what I wrote on Andrew’s site:

    In democratic countries (and elsewhere), protests are the leading edge of any civil rights push: for women’s suffrage, for racial equality, for gay rights, for disabled access, and now, as society changes, for the rights of other groups such as transgendered people.

    I think that, without loud and obnoxious groups making themselves visible — and regardless of whether they’re interested in talking directly to the institution they’re protesting — it’s too easy for the rest of us who are unaffected by discrimination to pretend that those groups aren’t there, or aren’t important. How many mainstream people would even know anything about transgender issues without protests that bring initial attention to them?

    Yes, as progress happens we move on from protests to discussion, and eventually to the behind-the-scenes grunt work of crafting fairer legislation. But too often those later stages would never happen at all without the established order being discomfited by protest.

    He wants examples: Was it not protest that fomented the collapse of totalitarian regimes across Europe and Latin America in the 1990s? That prevented a Russia on the brink of a Communist coup to avoid it in 1991? That is the reason Chile and Argentina and Brazil are freer places than they were two or three decades ago? That we are suddenly aware and paying attention to the status of ordinary citizens in the Arab Middle East this year?

    He ask for “a tangible example of something productive for both communities that happened recently because of a protest.” Why need it be productive for both communities? If gay-marriage rights are to become real, then the Catholic Church (and the counter-protesters in this example) will lose. As I believe it should. The U.S. civil rights marches of the 1960s didn’t work out so well for the KKK. General Pinochet had to flee when his subjects turned against him. It is becoming less and less acceptable for bigots to denigrate homosexuals, bisexuals, transsexuals, and others in the public sphere. In part that is because members of those communities choose not to be silent, or to work exclusively behind the scenes.

    There’s a reason that representative states enshrine freedom of assembly and protest into their constitutions, and that repressive regimes clamp down on assembly and protest at the first opportunity: because the technique works. In this case, the LGBT protesters hope that it will work for them and shame the Catholic Church, or at least shame society more generally into listening less to the Church’s position on this matter. The counter-protesters hope the Church will stay strong and retain its influence over policy.

    We’ll see who wins.

  • Richard P.

    Jesus said that wisdom will be proved right by her actions.

    Where the hell did jesus ever say that?
    I think this is where he went wrong.

  • Robert W.

    I realize that it is part of the gameplan to call all Christians who don’t agree with you bigots and to shout it as loud as you can to silence them and maybe that is the point of the protests at churches. But then don’t come and say you are open minded and allow everyone to have their beliefs. The truth is you don’t. The only beliefs that the Gay community allows people to have is those that they agree with.

    If you really wanted to just change the law, go protest the legislature that makes the laws. Go to the courts and try to get it changed there. But to go to a place of worship and protest there all you are saying is that we don’t have the right to believe the way we do.

  • mike

    The most effective part of any protest is the counter protest. If you can show a regular person that people disagree with them and their authorities, that is great. If you can goad a bunch of yokels to show up and demonstrate exactly how bigoted their allies are, that is AWESOME!

    I would love to goad the WBC onto capital hill opposite those who are protesting for women’s rights at this moment. Get the republicans to comment on the WBC, classic.

  • Vas

    And to those LGBT people there protesting — you think your signs and megaphones make one ounce of difference to that Catholic church, The Catholic Church or any of the people in it?

    Well I think it can make an ounce of difference. I think there is a good chance that some young Catholics my stop and think about what it is about the church that angers these people so much. Someone who goes to church with their family because the are told they must, teenagers dragged along against their conscience, these are the people reached through protests like these. A few or perhaps many of the young people will turn away from the church as soon as they are independent adults and no longer required by parental authority to attend. It happens all the time, and protests like the one you paint as a bunch of hateful malcontents help inform those decisions . So yeah I think it makes a difference to some of the people in the church. As membership drops and the money coming in to church coffers starts to become less and less this will get the churches attention and policy will change to align more closely with popular opinion least they become pariahs. Will the Catholic church fold up tents overnight and ride off into the sunset? no. Can we force change in the church form outside? Sí, se puede.

  • Vas

    I see the troll has his net out again.
    Yawn.

  • Brian

    Someone wiser than I has pointed out that nobody’s ever been given a right–he has to take it.

  • Lana

    I agree with some of the commentators above — protests make the most difference when they significantly impact the group being protested against. For instance, as hateful and horrific as they are, the Westboro Baptist Church has gained nothing through their protests — except for counter protests, many of whom go the extra step of fundraising for charities the Westboro Church is opposed to, thereby subverting any “gains” Westboro might claim.

    On the other hand, we have many examples where consistent and regular protesting did affect change in public policy and attitude, and a measurable change at that. I mean, just the other day wasn’t there a post on this blog (may have been another on my feed, not going to check right now) about retired Baptist preachers signing a letter to the church urging gay acceptance? How would that happen without the growing presence and acceptance of gays — in large part effected by their presence and noise. And of course, protests drove the civil rights movement, women’s voting rights, and the workers rights movement. Where would we be without the right to protest?

  • L.Long

    Protesting to religions (churches) is a waste of time as far as beliefs are concerned, as they have their beliefs and you cannot change them.
    Protest to the gov’mint as that is where the ‘list of permissions’ are kept. Religion does not give rights, they issue dogma to be followed.
    If we can keep the gov’mint secular as much as possible in this religiously controlled country, then the general rights granted to all can be maintained. So you can’t vote a priest out of office but you can vote a politician out.
    But so long as people keep giving up their rights as they vote in more republicans, we will find the Bill of Rights will be watered down to a ‘list of permissions’ for a select few.

  • Revyloution

    I don’t think any serious social change has ever been born without protests. I would challenge someone to give an example of social change that occurred WITHOUT protests.

    Ive said this before, and it deserves repeating until it sinks in. Dialog, pamphleting, protests, riots, revolution. In that order, that’s what happens in societies where social change is desired but the large organizations/governments don’t listen. It’s simple stepwise movement. Protests happen because someone ISNT listening to the dialog, or reading the books/pamphlets of the opposition.

    @Dan – I think we should be allowed to arm ourselves as long as we live in a violent society. The right to self defense should never be impinged. We do need to think about how to keep weapons (all weapons, not just guns) out of the hands of crazy people. It’s a tough balance, but we need to keep working to find it.

    @Mathew – Later dude. You’ve completely missed the point, both of this article and why we’re ‘angry atheists’ in the first place. Retreat back to your church and try to ignore us. You might find it difficult to avoid us for long, as we might just be standing out front protesting.

  • Matthew

    @MsLeading: Huh. So I used hyperbole and a straw man and who knows what other logical fallacies in my unnecessarily emotionally charged explanation of why I’m tired of reading this blog. It’s almost like I was mostly focused on venting my frustration. Weird.

    And it’s not as though Christianity is the only institution that has managed to use its power to discriminate; frankly, that describes basically every government ever, and a whole lot of other institutions besides (both religious and secular), so the main thing I am left with from your statement about Christians abusing their influence (in ways I would argue go against the core tenets of Christianity, mind you) is the fact that human beings are seriously bad at running things without screwing other people over. Didn’t know that was news.

    I would argue that the fact that Christianity has a more well-documented history of power abuse (and therefore a larger target on its back, as demonstrated very clearly on this blog) is only evidence of its prominence in our civilization (and it’s proportional capacity for doing both good AND bad), not its structural inclination toward discrimination; seems like it’s more a sample-size issue than anything, but what do I know?

    I would argue that, except that I’m not actually here to to get into an argument to try to win. I just popped in to give one outsider’s take on this place and throw in my two cents as to why I’m depressed and frustrated and saddened by the general timbre of the posts & discussion here, and why I’m checking out.

    So there you go. Take that for whatever you will, and so long.

  • NoahG

    is this an atheist discussion website or a gay rights website? It seems like every other post is about a gay issue, which has little bearing on atheism vs. theism…

  • http://s2solutions.us/wordpress Seth Strong

    @Hemant,
    Your tone of posts has darkened somewhat. I don’t want to suggest it’s a right or wrong thing. I’d be curious to see what your next book would sound like.

    I’m not being sarcastic or anything. You’ve got the focus on finding a nice way to be an atheist and you’re nuancing how nice nice actually is. I think it’s fascinating to watch.

  • Robert W.

    Vas,

    Thanks for proving my point.

  • http://www.youratheistneighbor.blogspot.com keystothekid

    As if no one has thought to just try talking to the church. PFSHT! What a load! This guy is a total thought noob.

  • Samiimas

    But to go to a place of worship and protest there all you are saying is that we don’t have the right to believe the way we do.

    I see Robert’s back with his usual “Calling people bigots takes away their rights! I refuse to ever explain HOW my rights are being limited in any way, but they are!”

    Matthew’s tonetrolling is new though. How the bloody hell is Hemant wrong? We’ve tried having a ‘diaologue’ with the churches about gay rights, it was called Proposition 8. What would be the point of having this ‘dialogue’ again when the Catholic Church has already firmly stated it’s position on the issue? Why bother talking nice with the bigots when protesting is far more effective?

  • Demonhype

    “Hateful” GLBT people. Wow. I puked in my mouth a little when I read that.

    What kind of twisted mindset makes a person regard the oppressed (GLBT) seeking their rights as being equivalent to the oppressor (the Catholic Church, the Christian religion) utilizing it’s ill-gotten money and power to strip that group of all it’s rights?

    How the hell can the GLBT movement have some kind of dialogue with people who are not only actively fighting any further equal rights for GLBT people, but are actively trying to roll back the equal protections they do have? How can you have a dialogue with a group of people who wants a return to the days when GLBT people were imprisoned/tortured/castrated/executed by the Holy Merger of Secular and Divine Law?

    Guess what? It’s not that the Gay Movement won’t tolerate anyone who doesn’t agree with them. It’s that the Gay Movement won’t tolerate a powerful and heavily-funded organization that is throwing all that money and power at stripping away their human rights, that believe their group should be criminalized. And as nice as it is to be tolerant of opinions you disagree with, it’s kind of hard to be tolerant of someone who sees you as a hellbound monster with no human rights whatsoever, and sees it as a horrible injustice that they have to treat you with even common courtesy rather than spitting on you or killing you.

    What are GLBT people supposed to do to dialogue? “Yes, well, I guess I am kind of an abomination and I do kind of deserve to be executed. Maybe instead of executing me you can just maim my face a little or cut off my hands. And you don’t think I should have equal rights or protections under the law? Well, what if I just have the right to live, and then you can strip all the rest of my rights from me? How about that?”

    On top of that, can you show me any real evil these “hateful” and “intolerant” GLBT people have done to those poor saints who oppose homosexual rights? I mean, religion has violently oppressed GLBT people for centuries, if not thousands of years. But the GLBT people are just as evil and intolerant because…they stood outside a church holding signs and called the believers “bigots”? I’m not seeing the equivalence here. “Sure, Matthew Shepard was murdered horribly for being gay, but I was called a bigot for being anti-gay-rights! I have it JUST as BAD! WAHHH!!!!!!”

    I guess that also means that Martin Luther King Jr. was just a hateful person, as well as Susan B. Anthony. What monsters!

    *puke*

  • Miko

    You’ve just contradicted yourself: carrying concealed weapons is a civil right, so you can’t logically oppose both protests against civil rights and protests in favor of concealed weapons.

  • http://defendingreason.wordpress.com/ Ben

    @MsLeading: Huh. So I used hyperbole and a straw man and who knows what other logical fallacies in my unnecessarily emotionally charged explanation of why I’m tired of reading this blog. It’s almost like I was mostly focused on venting my frustration. Weird.

    But you don’t like others to do the same. Oh, that’s right, straw men and fallacies are only allowed to be used by Christians. Everybody else has to be perfectly logical and unemotional.

    You admit that you’ve read this blog for a while, so it’s seems strange that you’re surprised Hemmant is emotional and frustrated at the complete lack of progress on this issue. The U.S. is going backwards, thanks mostly to Christian fundies and their followers (ordinary people who go to ordinary churches) who consistently vote against equal rights.

    We had protests, and we saw changes. Then we had dialogue in lieu of protests and look where’s that’s gotten us. Not nowhere; it’s allowed things to go backwards. The time for politely sitting back while the Christian resurgence screws us over, is over.

    And it’s not as though Christianity is the only institution that has managed to use its power to discriminate; … blah blah blah

    In other words: being a dick is to be human, stop trying to change us!

    Just because there are others, some of them even worse, doesn’t mean you get a free pass. If you’re being a dick, then you deserve to be called out on it, no matter if you’re actively introducing anti-gay bills into the legislature, or if you’re sitting quietly in church and then going out on voting day to support that bill.

    Quietly being a dick is just as bad as loudly being so.

    I would argue that … blah blah blah.

    And you did, but you had the last word, so there :P

    Wow, nice way to not have a dialogue.

  • Sean Santos

    I think the idea behind the protest is pretty simple. A lot of people don’t think of gay rights very much when contemplating the Catholic church. Now, more of them will. Since the status quo is our enemy, getting people thinking about these issues is a necessary step.

    I know he wanted a recent example, but I’d like to point out that the Stonewall riots, even though they were everything a protest should not be (not even really an organized protest, as it started off with a police raid), were still what kicked off the open gay rights movement.

    Because they convinced a lot of people on the spot? No. Because they made a big huge deal out of the treatment of gay people, and prompted more interest in social responsibility, more thought about the issues, and reminded people that there were other gay people out there fighting for their rights.

    Every time a protest like this happens, it reinforces the meme that one of the weaknesses of the Catholic church is its intolerance of gay people (and among some Catholics, I’m sure it reinforces memes about militant gays). Every time there’s a counterprotest, it reinforces the meme that conservative Christianity is intolerant of gays (which can be both good for fracturing the church, and bad for helping the opposition to feel more self-righteous). These are not insignificant contributions.

    Is this divisive? Yes. Can that divisiveness be harmful? Yes. But there’s a cost-benefit analysis here. Do you want people to start adopting radically different opinions about gay people, or do you want them to be by and large unified in being content and complacent about an oppressive status quo? It would be nice if everyone could smoothly transition to being in favor of marriage equality as a whole, with no divisive controversy, but it’s not going to happen, not while you have influential organizations entrenched in backwards traditions, preaching about how gays are part of the moral decline of society.

  • Aj

    Marching, petitions, and small protests don’t do much, not big issues anyway, the people being protested against are used to being in a minority on an issue, they don’t care what others think. Direct action and strikes in a popular movement can go a long way. Yet you’re going to have to prepare for a violent (and non-violent) backlash from the authorities.

  • Sean Santos

    I realize that it is part of the gameplan to call all Christians who don’t agree with you bigots and to shout it as loud as you can to silence them and maybe that is the point of the protests at churches.

    You must think we’re really stupid if that’s our “gameplan”. Protests don’t silence people, they force them to talk back (which is what actually happened in this case). The idea that you can silence someone by protesting them is absolute bullshit.

    You know what’s better than calling someone a bigot? Letting just watching the anti-gay movement dig holes for itself.

  • http://eternalbookshelf.wordpress.com Sharmin

    Marin seems to be a good example of false equivalence, equating protest in favor of equal rights with protests against equal rights. He seems to be an example of what I refer to as “fake reformers”, people who don’t actually want to stop discrimination, but just want churches to look better so people won’t leave.

    I definitely think that protesting has had a big effect on our society and the world. So many of the groups that have gotten equal rights had to protest for a long time. Of course, it’s wasn’t the only thing, but it was an important part.

    Also, I find it rather weird when people (e.g. Matthew) accuse Hemant of not wanting a dialogue, when he’s gone to events to talk to religious people. That’s more than I can say for the Roman Catholic Church, which completely ignores the concerns of anyone outside the hierarchy (even its own members) and doesn’t care about how its actions affect people.

    @MsLeading:

    And who the fuck cares if it benefits “both sides”? One side has unequalled power and influence and uses it to oppress the other side. I don’t give a flying fuck if the Catholic church benefits from these protests; I care that gays and lesbians get the benefit of full legal equality. We really don’t need to be concerned with the welfare of tyrants.

    Thank you for writing this, and I agree wholeheartedly.

    @Richard W.:

    I realize that it is part of the gameplan to call all Christians who don’t agree with you bigots and to shout it as loud as you can to silence them and maybe that is the point of the protests at churches. But then don’t come and say you are open minded and allow everyone to have their beliefs. The truth is you don’t. The only beliefs that the Gay community allows people to have is those that they agree with.

    If you really wanted to just change the law, go protest the legislature that makes the laws. Go to the courts and try to get it changed there. But to go to a place of worship and protest there all you are saying is that we don’t have the right to believe the way we do.

    Protesting is not the same as silencing someone. (Do you think that Christians who hand out Bibles or fliers encouraging people to convert to Christianity are taking away other people’s rights? If not, then LGBT protesters are not taking away Christains’ rights by telling people that Christians are wrong.)

    Conservative Christians say whatever they want about gays and aren’t censored or silenced. They have every right to say whatever they want, and we have the right to call them bigots. If they get to say homophobic things, then LGBT people can and should protest outside their churches. Unjust laws are not a coincidence; the reason the laws are unfair is because politicians cater to conservative Christian bigots. The people who support the bigoted laws should be the ones who are protested. We don’t have to tolerate intolerance. Would you tell Christians not to protest against a group that tried to stop Christians from getting married, adopting kids, teaching in schools, etc.?

    @Demonhype: I agree. It’s sickening the way that the situation gets turned around so that that the people who are the bigots accuse their victims of being bigots.

  • Robert W.

    Samiimas Sean,

    I see Robert’s back with his usual “Calling people bigots takes away their rights! I refuse to ever explain HOW my rights are being limited in any way, but they are!”

    You must think we’re really stupid if that’s our “gameplan”. Protests don’t silence people, they force them to talk back (which is what actually happened in this case). The idea that you can silence someone by protesting them is absolute bullshit.

    The whole idea in protesting and calling those that disagree with you a bigot is to shut them up and prevent them from having a dialogue where both sides beliefs are recognized. It is designed to silence the other side. To stop all rational discourse and to label the other side. If you don’t know that then you are lying to yourself.

    For a group that is trying to get everyone else to accept their lifestyle as an equally moral choice it is hypocritical to call those that won’t bigots and to protest them. Tolerance apparently only goes the direction they want it. Its not tolerance- its agree with me or you are a bigot and I will protest you until you are silent or until you agree with me.

  • http://~ AxeGrrl

    Robert, atheists and other GLBT supporters don’t care what you believe, we only care about the actions you and yours take (based on your beliefs) to try to prevent gay people from being given the same civil rights/privileges that everyone else gets ~ we only care about the actions you take to generally try to negatively affect the lives of gay people…..based on nothing more than religious belief.

    That’s it, that’s all.

    And how does calling out bigotry/unfair treatment ‘silence’ anyone?

  • http://defendingreason.wordpress.com/ Ben

    The whole idea in protesting and calling those that disagree with you a bigot is to shut them up and prevent them from having a dialogue where both sides beliefs are recognized. It is designed to silence the other side. To stop all rational discourse and to label the other side. If you don’t know that then you are lying to yourself.

    *cough* bullshit *cough*

    Calling people out on the prejudice is not silencing them. They’re still free to hold their prejudices, their bigotry, and they are free to espouse it, but they are not free from criticism. If calling out bigotry for what it is was silencing you, then aren’t religious wankers calling gays “sinners” and “abominations” equally silencing?

    Face it, mate, dialogue in this sense doesn’t just mean “talking to each other”. Our actions also form a part of that dialogue. You can try to placate us with words all you want, tell us how much you love us, but every time you get up to vote against gay marriage you’re not walking your talk.

    If Christians want dialogue, they’ll stop calling us sinners and abominations, stop telling us we’re going to hell, stop preventing the secular state from allowing us to marry. But actions speak louder than words, and so long as you vote to keep us down you’ve shown that you’re not worth talking to.

    But in the end, you’re not interested in dialogue. You’re interested in an unchallenged monologue.

  • Samiimas

    So for the record: Robert W. cannot name a single way his civil rights are being limited.

    For example like how my civil rights are being limited by not being allowed to marry.

  • http://eternalbookshelf.wordpress.com Sharmin

    @Richard W.:

    The whole idea in protesting and calling those that disagree with you a bigot is to shut them up and prevent them from having a dialogue where both sides beliefs are recognized.

    I want bigotry against LGBT people to be recognized as wrong and disgusting. This isn’t about a difference of opinion or some person belief; this is about the difference between equal rights and discrimination.

    I’ll ask you again: If the situation was reversed, and Christians were not allowed to get married, adopt kids, etc. would you or would you not think that they should protest?

    @Samiimas: Excellent point.

  • ACN

    Hey Sharmin,

    I don’t mean to derail, but the person you’re talking with is “Robert W” not “Richard W”. It looks like you both understood that, but I just wanted to make it clear that “Robert W” and “Richard Wade” aren’t the same person.

    Although if they were that would be effin’ fantastic double agent work :)

  • http://eternalbookshelf.wordpress.com Sharmin

    @ACN: Thank you, and I apologize to Richard Wade for the mixup! I know who Richard Wade is, but I guess I read or typed it wrong for some reason. Yes, that would be excellent double agent work.

    (I feel so totally humiliated right now…)

  • Robert W.

    AxeGirl,

    And how does calling out bigotry/unfair treatment ‘silence’ anyone?

    By labeling someone who believes different then you a bigot you are telling them that their beliefs instantly have no merit. It is lowering the discourse to name calling and nothing more. It would be like me calling those that don’t agree with my view on homosexuality religious bigots. The end result on both sides is to say their opinions have no merit because they are bigots so they are silenced by becoming irrelevant.

    Ben,

    If Christians want dialogue, they’ll stop calling us sinners and abominations, stop telling us we’re going to hell, stop preventing the secular state from allowing us to marry. But actions speak louder than words, and so long as you vote to keep us down you’ve shown that you’re not worth talking to.

    Christians have the right to vote their conscience like you do. I can vote to maintain marriage as being between a man and a woman and still show you Christian love and grace. I don’t have to agree with you to love you.

    Samiimas,

    If you go to protest my place of worship you are interfering with my freedom of religion. If you call my scriptures hate speech and criminalize it then you are taking away my freedom of religion. If you think that won’t happen, then look to Sweden where pastors have been arrested for sermons quoting scriptures against homosexuality on the basis of hate speech.

    http://chalcedon.edu/research/articles/swedish-pastor-faces-jail-for-preaching-against-homosexuality/

  • Robert W.

    Sharmin,

    I’ll ask you again: If the situation was reversed, and Christians were not allowed to get married, adopt kids, etc. would you or would you not think that they should protest?

    Sure, protest the legislatures and the use the courts just as I suggested.

  • http://eternalbookshelf.wordpress.com Sharmin

    @Robert W:

    Calling scripture hateful is not the same as banning it. Not all beliefs have merit. If you’re Christian, you believe that other religions don’t have merit. You think they’re wrong. We think you’re wrong. You can say what you want, and we’ll say what we want. You try to convince others that you’re right, and we’ll try to convince others that we’re right.

    Again, this isn’t a personal outlook on life or an opinion; discrimination against LGBTQI people is actually harmful. There aren’t two sides to this. Would you say that the people who were against segregation should not have protested? Should the people who were in favor of segregation have had their beliefs “recognized”?

    Again: Would you or would you not support protests against people who tried to ban Christians from getting married, adopting kids, etc.?

    (Edit: But would you support protest against a group that supported the discriminatory laws? Shouldn’t the people being discriminated against point out just who is supporting the discrimination?)

    It’s disgusting that, although we look up to people who protested for equal rights in the past, when we talk about people who want equal rights now, the protesters are looked down on.

    Also, this is not Sweden. We have the first Amendemnt, which protects both your right to practice your religion and also protects freedom of speech for people who call you a bigot. Why is it you feel sympathy only for Christians and not for others who are being denied rights?

    “I can vote to maintain marriage as being between a man and a woman and still show you Christian love and grace. I don’t have to agree with you to love you.”

    Discrimination is not love. Your actions matter, and they hurt people.

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com Anna

    He seems to be an example of what I refer to as “fake reformers”, people who don’t actually want to stop discrimination, but just want churches to look better so people won’t leave.

    This appears to be a big thing in the evangelical world right now. It may just be shrewd marketing in some cases, but most of these evangelicals seem to honestly believe that the only issue with conservative Christianity is their “image problem.” All these churches (and groups like Andrew Marin’s) are trying to make conservative Christianity seem more welcoming, but they aren’t willing to change their actual beliefs in the slightest. They obscure their bigotry with fuzziness and nice words. In doing so, they completely miss the point. I’m not an atheist because church services are boring or because pastors and congregations are hypocritical. I’m an atheist because I don’t see a shred of evidence for the supernatural. And even if I was a theist, there’s no way on their deity’s green earth I would ever join a religion that is sexist, homophobic, exclusionary, and immoral.

  • Robert W.

    Sharmin,

    Calling scripture hateful is not the same as banning it.

    No, but calling it hate speech that you can be penalized for has the same effect.

    Would you say that the people who were against segregation should not have protested? Should the people who were in favor of segregation have had their beliefs “recognized”?

    I realize that the gay community wants to compare this to the civil rights movement for the African Americans but it is fundamentally different. This isn’t Loving v. Virginia. So the comparison is unwarranted.

    Also, this is not Sweden. We have the first Amendemnt, which protects both your right to practice your religion and also protects freedom of speech for people who call you a bigot. Why is it you feel sympathy only for Christians and not for others who are being denied rights?

    Sweden has constitutionally protected freedom of speech as well. It is in the 1974 Instrument of Government. Yet pastors have been jailed for sermons on the basis of hate speech.

    I feel sympathy for other people. I just firmly believe, not just for religious reasons but for secular ones that marriage should be between a man and a woman. And all the while I can and do love you with Christian love and grace. Even as I am being called a bigot for disagreeing with you.

  • http://eternalbookshelf.wordpress.com Sharmin

    @Anna:

    I agree with you that there seems to be a misunderstanding about why people are atheists. People don’t realize that there are those of us who disagree with the message itself, not just how its being communicated.

    @Robert W:

    Thanks for the information about the law, and I agree the pastor should not be jailed. That’s really the point. If he can say what he wants, then people who disagree with him should also be able to say what they want. If he can have the right to practice his religion, despite the fact that I disagree with him, then gay people should have equal rights, even if you disagree with them.

    I realize the anti-LGBT groups like to appeal to people who are racial minorities (such as myself) by telling us that discrimination is wrong when it happens to us but not when it happens to LGBT people, but I’m not falling for it.

    I think I’ve already said everything I want to say. If you’re just going to portray yourself as the victim for being called a bigot while simultaneously supporting discrimination, I really don’t know what else I can say to you. I feel like we’re just making the same points over and over again.

  • http://~ AxeGrrl

    Robert W. wrote:

    By labeling someone who believes different then you a bigot you are telling them that their beliefs instantly have no merit. It is lowering the discourse to name calling and nothing more. It would be like me calling those that don’t agree with my view on homosexuality religious bigots. The end result on both sides is to say their opinions have no merit because they are bigots so they are silenced by becoming irrelevant.

    No, that’s not silencing anyone…..

    it’s just saying ‘your argument doesn’t hold up to scrutiny’.

    Can you really not see the difference Robert?

  • http://~ AxeGrrl

    Robert W. wrote:

    I realize that the gay community wants to compare this to the civil rights movement for the African Americans but it is fundamentally different. This isn’t Loving v. Virginia. So the comparison is unwarranted

    .

    No, any difference between the two cases is superficial and not ‘fundamental’ Robert.

    In both cases, certain adults were banned from marrying the consenting adult of their choice, based on a certain characteristic that was eventually demonstrated to be irrelevant to the legalities of marriage as definied by existing marriage laws.

    On that fundamental level, the issues are the same. Just because one case involved skin colour and the other involves gender doesn’t mean that the attempts to ban both (and the arguments offered to support their banning) were significantly different…..

    In fact, in both cases, the bottom-line argument against boiled down to:

    ‘It shouldn’t be allowed because it goes against my personal moral belief’

    Your attempt to obscure that fundamental point simply doesn’t hold up.

  • http://~ AxeGrrl

    Sharmin wrote:

    If you’re just going to portray yourself as the victim for being called a bigot while simultaneously supporting discrimination, I really don’t know what else I can say to you.

    (emphasis mine)

    Exactly.

  • Robert W.

    Sharmin AxeGirl,

    I don’t view myself as a victim for being called a bigot. If I came across that way it was my fault. My point is simply that in any argument when one side resorts to calling the opposition a bigot simply because they disagree with them it destroys the discourse on purpose. It summarily dismisses the other side on purpose.

    As for this fight being the same as the racial civil rights battle I disagree. In the racial battle the African Americans were fighting for something that they already had by Federal law in the fourteenth amendment that had been taken away by some of the southern states. Here, the fight is for something that has never been given. This argument is best described here:

    All they were seeking was what should already have been theirs under the law of the land. The 14th Amendment — approved by Congress and ratified by three-fourths of the states in 1868 — had declared that blacks no less than whites were entitled to equal protection of the law. The Civil Rights Act of 1875 — passed by a Democratic House and a Republican Senate and signed into law by President Grant — had barred discrimination in public accommodations.

    But the Supreme Court had gutted those protections with shameful decisions in 1883 and 1896. The court’s betrayal of black Americans was the reason why, more than six decades later, segregation still polluted so much of the nation. To restore the 14th Amendment to its original purpose, to re-create the Civil Rights Act, to return to black citizens the equality that had been stolen from them — that was the great cause of civil rights.

    The marriage radicals, on the other hand, seek to restore nothing. They have not been deprived of the law’s equal protection, nor of the right to marry — only of the right to insist that a single-sex union is a “marriage.” They cloak their demands in the language of civil rights because it sounds so much better than the truth: They don’t want to accept or reject marriage on the same terms that it is available to everyone else. They want it on entirely new terms. They want it to be given a meaning it has never before had, and they prefer that it be done undemocratically — by judicial fiat, for example, or by mayors flouting the law. Whatever else that may be, it isn’t civil rights.

    It comes from this website:

    http://www.jewishworldreview.com/jeff/jacoby_gay_marriage.php3

  • ethanol

    Robert W. asserts that calling someone a bigot “summarily dismisses the other side on purpose.” Yes, yes it does. Because some positions are worthy of summary dismissal. We no longer engage in serious discussion, for instance, about whether to allow the “mud people” to marry our good christian woman. Note that you can still hold these positions, just don’t expect people to take you seriously when you espouse them.

    Your quoted analysis of the civil rights movement is rather strange. You cast it as a fundamentally conservative movement, trying to “restore the 14th amendment to it’s original purpose”. But what about before the 14th amendment was passed? Was the cause of racial equality not morally valid at that time, because there was no law on the books yet? What if, like racial equality before 1875, equal rights for gays and lesbians is a morally correct position which our laws have yet to recognize? And your quote characterized recent advances in GLBT rights as undemocratic judicial fiat. But of course many key parts of the civil rights (Loving v. Virginia!) only passed because of judicial action, having repeatedly failed in legislative efforts.

  • http://apostateangelica.wordpress.com Apostate Angelica

    I have experienced exactly the same reaction recently when commenting on the subject of rape, which I feel very strongly about. I circulated a post about the danger of rape jokes, and allowing sex offenders to believe that a greater proportion of the general population identifies with them than is actually the case. What truly infuriated me is the response of “but this won’t change rape statistics, etc etc”

    Of course it won’t. I’m not a moron. But if the only circumstances where people spoke up in dissent were those where they believed they could single-handedly reverse bigotry overnight, no-one would do anything. It takes baby steps, no matter what the issue.

  • http://~ AxeGrrl

    Robert W.wrote:

    As for this fight being the same as the racial civil rights battle I disagree

    Robert, you specifically said (in an earlier post):

    “This isn’t Loving v. Virginia”

    Which is specifically about marriage ~ and on that level, the issues are essentially the same, as I outlined in one of my earlier posts.

    Of course the civil rights movement was about more than just marriage, but that wasn’t the point ~ the point is that the essential ‘reasons’ for not allowing interracial marriage were precisely the same as they are against same-sex marriage: namely, a large segment of the population felt that it ‘just wasn’t right’ ~ nothing to do with constitutionality or fair treatment under the law……

    It simply went against the personal morality of a segment of the population. That wasn’t enough to keep interracial marriage illegal and eventually, it’s not going to be enough to keep same-sex marriage illegal either.

  • http://~ AxeGrrl

    Also, Robert, one of the problems with the quote you offered was its use of the phrase “marriage radicals” to describe those who support same-sex marriage…..

    why?

    because there’s nothing “radical” about suggesting that an adult should be able to marry the consenting adult of their choice.

  • http://rejistania.wordpress.com Rejistania

    I can reply with just 4 words: “Wir sind das Volk.” (For non-Germans: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monday_demonstrations_in_East_Germany )

  • http://www.loveisanorientation.com Andrew Marin

    A few thoughts:

    1. You’re a debate team coach at the high school you teach at. Practice what you preach.

    2. The emphasis on the post is not about the Catholic Church or Francis George or anyone’s stance on anything – pro gay or anti gay. The post was specifically about the medium of protesting.

    3. Egypt, yes, protests did work there. But Egypt is not a democratic western society. Like it or not, such a protest in America wouldn’t work. Obama, or any other President, wouldn’t step out of power because some people in America don’t like him. There have been many protests in America over the years, and none have worked nor influenced national policy in about 50 years.

    My question, and point stand.

    Much love.
    Andrew

  • http://www.loveisanorientation.com Andrew Marin

    And in response to Richard P’s question about where Jesus said wisdom will be proved right by her actions – it’s Matthew 11:19.

  • Samiimas

    Obama, or any other President, wouldn’t step out of power because some people in America don’t like him. There have been many protests in America over the years, and none have worked nor influenced national policy in about 50 years.

    Yeah, Obama has NEVER compromised on an issue *AKA:bent over and given the GOP everything they desire* because of protesters. Those nationwide teabagger protests by FOX news had no effect on the American political scene.

  • http://eternalbookshelf.wordpress.com Sharmin

    @ethanol:

    But what about before the 14th amendment was passed? Was the cause of racial equality not morally valid at that time, because there was no law on the books yet? What if, like racial equality before 1875, equal rights for gays and lesbians is a morally correct position which our laws have yet to recognize? And your quote characterized recent advances in GLBT rights as undemocratic judicial fiat. But of course many key parts of the civil rights (Loving v. Virginia!) only passed because of judicial action, having repeatedly failed in legislative efforts.

    [emphasis mine]

    Exactly. You just expressed what I was thinking but was wondering how to express concisely and calmly.


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