Sunday, July 3, 2011

The stakes of our disagreement

by Nick Miller Kauffman

Every time I hear a formal discussion on the "homosexuality and same-sex covenantal relationships" stuff I find myself getting angry.  I hear lots of code words, a lot of "unity of spirit" talk that falls flat on my ears, and what I perceive as a reticence to name what's really being discussed.  And this anger is bothersome to me, because I like to be detached and rational.  I like to pretend I can use reason to arrive at the "right" answer, and when emotions get in the way I wonder if I'm properly understanding what's going on in my mind.

The problem I have with the special response process as handled by the Church is that the Church suffers the same bias I have, which is a desire to treat things with a high degree of rationality--or rather, a twenty-first century, touchy-feely rationality that breeds such comments as "we encourage people to engage LGBT people in conversation," and talk of our "disagreement."

If we are encouraged to talk to LGBT people, it implies that they are a "they," that they aren't part of the conversation.  That we are a bunch of straight people debating what to do with these other people, and though we don't agree, we can at least be high-minded and talk to them.  Much as the vice president of a college might think herself a better person for stooping to talk to the blue-collar workers whose supervisors she supervises.*  This is not a conversational relationship between brothers and sisters, probably because we don't want to admit that while we debate whether to condone LGBT people doing the same things as straight people, some of those people are present at the table.  Awkward!

I think this is starting to get at the second example, which is the language of "disagreement."  That word seems to connotate something academic, like whether one identifies more with utilitarianism or deontology, or perhaps a matter of taste, like whether one enjoys strawberries in the summer.  It's easy to forget just what kind of disagreement we're talking about: namely, whether one party of this disagreement is to be treated as fully human.  While recognizing that analogies can only take us so far, imagine for a second a conversation (many of which assuredly happened) between an opponent of civil rights and a person of color, in which the opponent of civil rights--a person opposed to sharing a drinking fountain, sending his children to the same school, or having to intermingle at the front of the bus--ruminates about the importance of maintaining unity despite a disagreement.

If you find yourself on the conservative side of this question, I'm sure you feel that the comparison is unfair.  But that unfairness is probably born of the same repulsion that I feel at the scenario I've described, so know this: LGBTA people feel that same repulsion, that same injustice, that same exclusion, every time you talk about our disagreement.  When you have a civil disagreement or a polite conversation with someone whose very nature you believe to be sin, whose call to ministry you flatly reject, and whose covenantal relationship you think should never be affirmed, you are sweeping a lot under the rug.  Believe you me, the "trust" we keep being urged to have cannot exist in such a dynamic.

Sometimes, in a fight that concerns justice, you don't get to keep the peace.

I'm not trying to argue for acceptance (at this precise moment).  This post isn't to try to convince people who disagree with me to change their minds.  I just want you, and the Church, to understand the stakes of our disagreement.

*If this strikes you as a weird and confusing example, just skip over it.  There are other things that make me angry.

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