‘Rights for me, but not for thee’

‘Rights for me, but not for thee’ June 12, 2012

“Rights for me, but not for thee” creates all sorts of problems.

For example, if the rights are not for thee, then they aren’t actually rights, and so I can’t be confident in the rights for me either. “Rights for me, but not for thee” means that even my rights aren’t rights, merely privileges — and privileges are a whole lot more precarious than rights.

Another problem with this view is that those who embrace it also tend to imagine that its opposite must be true — that “rights for thee” would entail no rights for me. It creates a weird notion of zero-sum competition rather than legal equality.

All of which is to say that Bryan Fischer is six different kinds of confused about what rights are and what legal equality requires. His American Family Association, like the rest of the religious right, believes in RFMBNFT.

And that’s why Fischer says “If Gays Aren’t Discriminated Against, Christians Will Be.”

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The real challenge to marriage is heterosexual,” John Seel writes at ThinkChristian.

I agree with the general logic of this argument and with its rightful condemnation of speck-and-beam hypocrisy. Heck, I’ve made variations of this same argument myself.

But I’ve grown tired of conceding the idea that “the institution of marriage” is in trouble. It’s not. It’s a human institution and we humans still tend to like it. For all the hand-wringing about the health of “the institution of marriage,” the main reason so many people are talking about it is because people previously excluded from that institution are demanding to be allowed in.

Just think of the usual celebrities whose marital histories are invoked to bemoan the sorry state of the “institution” — the Lizzes and Larrys and Limbaughs. They’re all actually symbols of its vitality.

I think Rush Limbaugh is an awful person, but I can find this one thing to admire about him: After enduring the pain, misery and failure of divorce three times, he still mustered up the courage and hope that it took to give marriage another try. Limbaugh may be an obnoxious, narcissistic, misogynist, lying gasbag who’s impossible to live with, but that even such a cowardly guy is willing to try, try, try again shows that marriage remains an attractive, compelling possibility.

That’s not the sign of a failing institution.

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I’m wondering how to classify what it is, rhetorically, that BooMan is doing here:

Because it’s obvious that if I can marry another man then I can marry my dog. And if it’s okay to marry my dog, it’s obviously okay for me to have sex with it. And if I can have sex with it, obviously I am going to do that.

There’s sarcasm involved, in that BooMan, himself, does not espouse the actual view he is stating there. He is pretending to espouse this view in order to ridicule it.

But what’s interesting here is the form of that ridicule. It’s not hyperbole. This is not an exaggerated form of the view his is ridiculing. And this isn’t a reductio ad absurdum — absurdum, yes, but not reductio. No reduction is needed to make this view absurd.

What this form of argument seems to be doing is presenting the view with greater clarity and explicitness than its own proponents are willing to do. Granted, BooMan doesn’t go out of his way to present it charitably, but that’s the point. Rather than try to show it in a favorable light, he shines a harsh, glaring spotlight onto what it is that proponents of this view are actually saying. The aim isn’t a charitable presentation, but a cruelly accurate one.

Is there a name for this form of argument? Because, in this case at least, I rather like it.

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Following President Barack Obama’s statement of support, there were many, many thoughtful posts, comments and insights on same-sex marriage and Christianity that I didn’t manage to include in my collection of posts rounding those up. (See parts one, two, three and four.)

I got swamped and gave up trying to collect all the excellent comments coming from Christians all over the blogosphere. And that’s excellent. Not the my getting overwhelmed and giving up part, but the fact that there were so many such comments that I couldn’t keep up with them all.

Melissa @ Permission to Live includes many that I missed in a nice round-up of posts on “Christianity and the LGBTQ Community.” And James McGrath has a bunch more at “Christianity and Same-Gender Relationships around the Blogosphere.”

The substance of these posts is good, but just as exciting is the sheer number of them. This voice within American Christianity is getting louder, broader, deeper. It’s gaining momentum.

That’s a Good Thing.

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