No burden, no regret in ‘fair, respectful, equal’

No burden, no regret in ‘fair, respectful, equal’ March 12, 2013

We’ve recently discussed the horror that awaits the poor teenager who posted a hateful “rap” to YouTube.

And we heard David Blankenhorn describe the enormous spiritual relief he experienced when he laid down the burden of opposing equal civil rights for others, comparing that to the enormous joy and relief Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire experienced when she made that same decision.

Now watch this video from today’s testimony on marriage equality before the Minnesota state Senate Judiciary Committee (via Joe Jervis).

Lynne Osterman is a Republican, a Presbyterian pastor’s kid, and a conservative former state representative. Here she describes her greatest regret from her one term in the legislature.

I didn’t come to St. Paul to single out same-sex couples and their families, but in my only term as a member … I cast a politically expedient vote in favor of DOMA and I have regretted that ever since.

What I find most striking about this testimony from Osterman — and Blankenhorn, Gregoire, and so many others — is that I have not seen any counterpart in the opposite direction.

I have never seen anyone who described their former support for marriage equality as an oppressive weight or burden that they were later joyously relieved to be rid of. I have never seen anyone weep with remorse and regret for the votes they cast or the words they once spoke in support of equal rights. I don’t recall seeing anyone moving in that direction at all.

Instead, what I have heard from those who remain opponents of equality are their descriptions of the discomfort and reluctance they feel from taking a position they often say they wish they didn’t “have to” take — their half-apologizing assurances that they wish they could say otherwise, but that as much as it grieves them they are bound by an authority that supersedes their personal preference, their conscience, their sense of what would be more loving.

The burden, regret, reluctance and remorse all seem to be on one side of the ledger. The joy, relief and spiritual renewal all seem to be on the other side.

I think that tells us something. I think maybe that tells us everything.

Those who have ears to hear, let them hear.


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  • Le Sigh…

    bends toward justice. 

    never a bad time for a little “we shall overcome”:

    “This will be a great America, and we will be the participants in making it so”

  • As a Minnesotan, this gives me hope.

  • Darkrose

    That’s much better than another video from the hearings. (Not entirely work safe)

  • Rissa

    For some reason when I first read “bends toward justice” I got chills. Then when I came back to read again, it happened again.

    I think that is a beautiful image and a noble goal. To bend toward justice.

  • David Blakenhorn talks about his sense of relief when he stopped opposing marriage equality.

  • Le Sigh…

    Hey, can’t edit my above post, but here’s a link to that speech that doesn’t have a lot of extremely partisan, and probably fairly offensive, imagery (didn’t watch the video when I first posted it, just listened to make sure it was the speech and not the song).  Apologies for any confusion (this one just has some good MLK/Civil rights era pics):  

    We Shall Overcome:

  • Jim Roberts


  • Darkrose

    1. Married people have lots of sex. (seriously?)

    2. Gay men have teh buttsecks.

    3. Buttsecks causes AIDS because of reasons. Also, sperm.

    4. ?????

    5. Therefore, marriage equality = more AIDS

  • Kirala

    Sex only contributes noticeably to the spread of an STD when the partners are not exclusive. When most people marry, they’re signing up for exclusive sexual partnership. So either the person in the video already has a “nontraditional” view of marriage by expecting an open marriage, or he has a very low view of marriage by expecting people to cheat on their spouses. There’s no space for a high and traditional view of the institution spreading disease profligately. This guy needs to have his wife ask him some serious questions about the nature of marriage…


    Okay, I typed that before watching the video and then watched to see if it would still fit. Now I’m wondering where this guy got his basic concept of biology. It sounds like his understanding of AIDS is based on middle-school urban legends from 1980 or so. Sperm causes AIDS? Wait, sperm causes AIDS unless stopped by vaginal secretions? What the?! (Also: The “gay community” started spreading this naturally sperm-generated AIDS all over, but only starting in the late 1970s, because … of reasons?)

    But I still want this guy to explain how marriage is supposed to encourage the spread of… anything. Because if I were in love with someone and forbidden to marry only by law, I doubt it would stop me from forming a partnership, declaring my own marriage and having lots of sex. And I suspect that most couples today feel more or less the same way. Marriage equality is about rights for partnerships, not the forming of partnerships in and of itself. Which comes back to my original paragraph.

  • Darkrose

    Well, everyone knows there were no gay people before 1970.

  • quinnthebrain

    No, Darkrose.  The gay people magically appeared in 1969.  You can trust me.  I’m a historian.

  • Gotchaye

    David Barton?

  • Le Sigh…

    Barton would never have said trust men.  He would have quoted to Thomas Jefferson, in a letter Barton keeps in his private vault, where the founding father said “gay…people…in 1[969]…will appear…and undermine the nation…which is founded on [evangelical Christianity]”

  • Kirala

     I can’t see a statement like that, even knowing it to be made ironically, without needing to reference Oscar Wilde. Because really.

  • The response from marriage-equality opponents would probably be something like “it’s hard to stand up for what’s right, the sense of relief these people felt came because they took the easy way out, sin feels good, etc.” Which I guess can be true in some circumstances (not this one), to some extent, but not to the extent where if they’re doing something really offensive and feel terrible about it, well that means it MUST BE RIGHT. The idea of being offensive for the sake of being offensive really bothers me (because “the gospel is inherently offensive” or something like that- umm… right… I’m a Christian because the gospel is ATTRACTIVE to me, but whatever…).

    And for the record, I also felt a lot better when I changed my position on gay rights and now I no longer have to navigate the impossibilities of “hate the sin, love the sinner.”

  • Hilary

    Something my father said to me that he had heard on MPR in the fall, before the MN vote on the marriage amendment – that statistically, about 3-5% of the population each year changes from anti- to pro- marriage equallity, but the amount of people changing in the other direction is so negligable as to be basically not measureable.  This is part of why social change seems so fast and sudden to people who weren’t paying attention. 

  • MaryKaye

    I had a very lengthy debate with a fundamentalist once–educational on both sides, I guess, but one sticking point was that I see a clear subjective difference between “feels good” and “feels right.”  I think I generally, if I stop and think about it, know the difference when my own actions are involved.  He had no faith that a person could ever tell the difference.  This meant, in the last analysis, that he got to dismiss any moral intuitions of a non-Christian as “feels good”–even if they led to the same conclusion as his moral rules, oddly enough.  Our argument on this topic led to me making a donation to Oxfam, a charity I was glad that he introduced me to.  But he still didn’t feel I had any basis to distinguish how I feel about giving to Oxfam from how I feel about, say, eating the non-organic non-fair-trade banana because  it tastes good and fills my stomach even though ethically speaking I feel I shouldn’t.

  • Seems to me that the reason why it feels burdensome and energy-consuming to constantly be anti- the basics of social progress is that it takes a lot of work to overcome a guilty conscience.

  • SergeantHeretic

    MaryKaye, the distinction is caused by the assumed pose on their parts that the “Real True Christians” have an Exlusive monopoly on being moral and wise and ethical people. Therefore when others demonstrate clear moral ethical behavior and do so more often and with greater clarity than RTC’s it must be because they hust want to “Feel good”.

    Because, after all, we do not know right from wrong, anything we do we do just because it FEELS GOOD.

    Their pose falls apart i nthe face of chuch sex abuse of cildren so that is just blamed on gay people and or hushed up.

  • I wonder what he would think of me. I don’t do things because they feel good — I don’t think I even have the “feel good” response, unless one counts an intellectual satisfaction for accomplishing something beneficial/useful/whatever. If I stop and think through habit and training and cultural norms, what I do feels very arbitrary and sometimes even rather pointless.

    But it’s the right thing to do.

  • On a related note, pay no attention to the blog now linked to my Disqus ID.

  • I am totally not clicking on the blog not noticed on your Disqus ID. *winkwink*


  • SOON :P

  • Not that I’m paying attention to it or anything, but this blog that I may or may not have looked at – will there be an RSS feed link so that I can totally ignore it coming up on my friends list rather than having to go all the way to WordPress to ignore it there?

    Not that I care, or anything…

  • christopher_y

    On the basis of not having read the introductory post on that blog, I suspect I shall enjoy and benefit by continuing not to read it in future.

  • misanthropy_jones

    i have expressed this before in different ways, but i don’t want to worship a god who is less fair, loving and compassionate than i am.
    what’s the point of a god that doesn’t challenge you to be a better person?

  • RSS feeds are still kind of a mystery to me, but I totally didn’t find this link and it probably won’t help either one of us and you totally shouldn’ t say a word if it’s what you were looking for. Er, for which you weren’t looking.

  • Tricksterson

    The assumption ios that homosexuals, at least male ones, are incapable of fidelity beause men are incapable of fidelity unless restrained by women.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Why then forbid marriage to lesbians?

  •  As near as I’ve ever been able to understand it, the cognitive process (I can’t bring myself to call it “reasoning”) goes something like this:
    1) We can divide the world into normal people and deviants.
    2) We can divide deviants into those who try to act normal, and those who don’t.
    3) We can condemn deviants who try to act normal because they’re trying to subvert normal people into their deviance.
    4) We can condemn deviants who don’t try to act normal because, well, just look at them, they’re weird!
    5) Ergo, everyone except normal people deserve condemnation.
    6) Social acceptance (including but not limited to marriage) is inconsistent with condemnation.
    7) Ergo, social acceptance (including but not limited to marriage) is appropriate only for normal people.

  • P J Evans

     One of those thought processes where everything is right or wrong and everyone can be neatly put in a box of expectations.

    (Too bad the real world doesn’t work that way.)

  • I’m not really sure what it means to say that the real world works a certain way when it comes to moral judgments.

    There are things I value, and there are things I condemn, and some of the things that I value are condemned by others, and some of the things I condemn are valued by others. Some of those value-differences can be compromised over and some of them must be fought over. Some fights I can win and some fights I must lose. I’m willing to believe that somewhere in that tangle of agree/compromise/win/lose is also real/unreal, but I’m not at all sure how to go about drawing that distinction and I’m not sure why it matters.

    I won’t suddenly stop valuing something if I discover it’s not part of the real world, for example.

    That being said, regardless of what it means to say that the real world doesn’t support everything being right or wrong and everyone being neatly put in a box of expectations, I would not say that this is a bad thing.

  • As a young evangelical I had a struggle with the issue of whether to follow my conscience or to follow what I perceived to be church doctrine. Eventually I was able to reassure myself that conscience was the correct choice. I had to imagine that doctrine, even if it derived ultimately from the mind of God, had been filtered through human fallibility, while my own personal conscience was a direct message from God straight to me.

     So I imagined standing before God at the end of time.  and trying to explain why I did something that I already believed to be wrong, just because some human authority told me that God told him that was the right thing to do, when God himself was right there telling me something different.

    The fundamentalist viewpoint seems to be that only certain special people appointed get to have a conscience — so if my conscience and James Dobson’s disagree, obviously his is the correct pipeline to the will of God and mine is just weak or corrupt or whatever. But of course, how do we know these people are specially appointed? Because they tell us they are. Well, isn’t that convenient?

  • I had to imagine that doctrine, even if it derived ultimately from the mind of God, had been filtered through human fallibility, while my own personal conscience was a direct message from God straight to me.

    I endorse staying aware of the significant role of human fallibility in establishing the contents of doctrine.

    I also endorse staying aware of the significant role of human fallibility in establishing the contents of our personal consciences.

  • I think that there is some worth in the concept that doing the right thing is not always the pleasant thing.  Sometimes, the path of righteousness and justice is the more personally difficult and arduous one, while the path of cowardice and apathy is the easy one.  

    Where I think that some people get confused though is that this is not always true, and the relationship between difficulty and justness is not directly related.  Just because something is difficult does not make it right, nor does doing the right thing have to be difficult.  

    Wisdom is knowing the difference, compassion is acting on it.  

  • Tricksterson

    To paraphrase from WKRP In Cincinatti:  “If a voice tells you to find love and seek kknowledge it might not be God but it’s worth listening to.  If it tells you to get naked in airports on the other hand…”

    “No, the voice telling me to get naked in airports is my own.”

  • Tricksterson

    To paraphrase from WKRP In Cincinatti:  “If a voice tells you to find love and seek kknowledge it might not be God but it’s worth listening to.  If it tells you to get naked in airports on the other hand…”

    “No, the voice telling me to get naked in airports is my own.”

  • “No, the voice telling me to get naked in airports is my own.”

    Oooooh, so that is who Larry Craig was listening to when he sat with that wide stance.  

  • Parasum

    “”it’s hard to stand up for what’s right, the sense of relief these people felt came because they took the easy way out…””

    STM that the issue is, not being offensive for the sake of it, but, doing the Christian thing, no matter how difficult or inconvenient. The Gospel is “inherently offensive” – the difficulty comes when or if people translate this as “To be a true Christian, I must behave offensively” – because that kind of behaviour is never necessary. Christianity is stamped with the Cross – Jesus did warn His disciples that anyone who wanted to be His disciple, would have take up his cross and follow Him (Mark 8.34-5).

    It is not immediately clear whether gay activism is a denial of the offence of the cross – or an example of living out this offence. So Christians are found on both sides of the argument.