Now here's something I need to get off my chest about this Proposition 8 (the anti-gay marriage ammendment) controversy here in California. Now I am definitely in the "No on 8" camp, having been married (to the afore-mentioned Tony) at San Francisco City Hall on Valentine's Day, 2004.
But if you ask me the "No on 8" campaign and the subsequent campaign to overturn Prop 8 (either through the courts or a future ballot initiative) have gone off in a fundamentally wrong direction. And that is the direction of characterizing opponents to gay marriage as people who are full of hatred towards gay people.
Now I'm sure there are plenty of people who voted yes on Prop 8 who genuinely hate gay people and would like to see us all locked up in concentration camps (or worse), but I truly believe that hatred is not the what motivates the bulk of the anti-gay-marriage electorate, particularly when you're talking about your standard Evangelical/Catholic/Mormon "family values" voter.
What motivates that voter? I believe it's fear.
Fear of the unknown. Fear of change. Fear of strange-people-who-aren't-like-me. Fear of choices that my children and grandchildren will have that I don't want them to have. And above all fear of the mysterious powers of darkness, fear of Satan.
There is a tendency in the Judeo-Christian tradition to regard all of human history as an epic struggle between God's chosen people (the Jews or the Christians or the Americans) and Satan. And whenever the chosen people disobey God (thereby temporarily giving Satan the upper hand), all kinds of bad things happen. You get banished from the Garden of Eden. God sends you a flood. God incinerates your city. The Babylonians enslave your entire nation. Terrorists attack your country.
Now I think what this means is the more seriously (or literally) you take that tradition of the great war with Satan, the more likely you are to put the gay marriage battle in the context of that struggle. And if you think of our nation as a Christian civilization, and therefore a nation with a special divinely ordained destiny, well, then you're that much more likely to view American current events as part of that epic struggle.
Now. Let's say that is your worldview. Epic struggle. Chosen people. God's going to make bad things happen if Satan wins. Put that worldview in your head for a minute. Is hatred part of that worldview? What happens if some gay person comes up to you and says "Hey! Stop hating me! That's not right!"
Are those words going to mean anything to you? Do you regard yourself as somebody who's full of hatred towards people who don't keep God's commandments?
But what if that same person says "What are you afraid of? Where is your fear coming from? Why does my life frighten you?" That, I think, is where the conversation needs to start.
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