Ur Doing It Wrong

Ur Doing It Wrong May 23, 2012

Returning for a minute to Bob Hyatt’s post, he has one further request:

[…] please stop labeling the other side of the argument as “hate speech” and bigotry. It’s not. It is a working out of deep convictions and a particular understanding of sexuality as a good gift from a good Creator, to be used within certain boundaries.

I originally responded with a riff off a previous post, because I’m not convinced that these “deep convictions” are anything more than unreflective conservatism combined with some proof texting. But I really like Ari Kohen’s response to a Glenn Loury and Ann Althouse bloggingheads talk:

Religions aren’t monolithic; if people really are involved in deep spiritual reflection on the matter of homosexuality, then they will surely be able to find an interpretation of their religious texts that allows for the kind of evolution that President Obama described. This doesn’t mean I’m not serious about practicing Judaism; it means I’m serious about finding a way to reconcile my belief in the teachings of Judaism with my belief that people should be treated equally. But, obviously, one must actually have both of these beliefs.

What do we call someone who either fails to consider the alternative teaching of his or her religion or rejects that teaching because it doesn’t lead to continued condemnation of gays and lesbians, someone — in other words — who doesn’t actually have both a religious belief and a belief in equality?

With apologies to Loury and Althouse, I think I have to call it bigotry.

I really like this response, because it recognizes that religions are variegated things that allow the individual more control than most folks acknowledge. We’re fond of treating religion as something you’re born into and stuck with barring deconversion. We don’t often talk about the streams of tradition within the religion that an individual must accept or reject.

Look around you: in our culture the chances are you’re going to see someone who is a Christian but holds to different interpretations of what Christianity means. Every sect has a tradition that explains how they’ve come to understand their religion the way they do. Every permutation has an argument as to why their tradition is legitimate. And this is fractal: every community has within it different streams of tradition that emphasis and interpret the components differently.

Perhaps you’re an evangelical who places high importance on the words of the Bible. But why do you take this passage at face value, while interpreting that passage in its historical context? Why is this verse intended only for that time and place while that verse is immortal and internal? Why do you interpret this passage in light of that passage instead of the other way around?

More ink has been spilled writing biblical commentaries than writing Bibles. Many of these interpretations are reasonable and the arguments sensible. How do you decide which is the “right” interpretation? Different members of your community have honestly looked and yet come to differing conclusions.

Kohen offers one way out of this mess: certain principles are non-negotiable. With Kohen, one of these principles is that all humans are equal. If you’re thinking leads you to the conclusion that some people have rights that others do not have, then it’s time to think again.

This is an old, old method. Rabbi Hillel is supposed to have said that the golden rule is the core of the law, and that all the rest is commentary. If your interpretation of the law leads you towards treating someone in a way that you would find hateful if the situation were reversed, then your interpretation is wrong. Supposedly his followers expanded this to say that the love of one’s neighbor is the core of the law, and any interpretation that leads you away from that love is flawed.

This should be natural for Christians, since Jesus spelled out the two most important commandments in Matthew 22:36-41, one of which was to love your neighbor as yourself. If your interpretation of the Bible leads you towards treating your neighbor as if their love, vows and relationships are less real than your own, then – as we say on the interwebs – “ur doin’ it wrong.”

And, as Kohen concluded, if your only guiding principle seems to be that gays are icky and less than equal with heterosexuals, then we have to conclude that your principles are bigoted. No matter how prayerfully and deeply you hold to a bigoted principle, it does not stop being bigoted, nor do you.

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