A Rebuttal to “Soapbox #2”
by John “This time I’m correct” Everett
February 26th, 2014
There is a very strong tendency for humans to submit to an “us vs. them” mentality. It is believed that this mentality long kept us safe from foreign invaders and pathogens. In the absence of antibiotics it would be all too easy for a member from a different tribe or clan to infect a whole village. Thus the tendency to separate ourselves has continued through all of history, even going so far as to create rivalries between different ideologies. What makes it nonsensical is that we often form rifts between two ideologies that are nearly the same. The “us vs. them” mentality causes us to exaggerate differences and exaggerate negatives. Consider this: If you drive to work one morning and a car cuts you off on the freeway, that event will likely stick out in your mind. The problem with this is forgetting about the 5,000 other cars that didn’t cut you off, and forgetting about the 5,000 drivers who perhaps are neither very safe nor particularly dangerous drivers–they have to be either good or bad, darn it! We can’t accept middle ground, and that could be why the movie “Waterworld” is infamous. It was disappointing but it wasn’t a terrible movie, and that frustrates us. We instinctively get a kick out of conflict, perhaps because it makes us feel like good guys, and we want to feel as though we’re fighting a just and fair crusade against the forces of darkness. Light and dark; no middle. So what we end up doing is separating someone whose beliefs may be quite similar to ours, refusing to believe that there could be a third option, hyperbolizing the “light” and “dark,” and focusing on their difference. We then end up locked in a struggle between 99 and 100. Those two numbers are different by a whole 1%! How could you not pick a side!? Which brings me to the Republican and Democratic parties.
In our two party system, the two reigning parties are seen as polar opposites, being referred to as the “left” and “right.” Any compromise between the two is considered the “middle ground.” You can’t get much more different than that! Of course, this assumes that there is no other option. When you look at the essence of (modern-day) Republican and Democratic views, you’ll see that they are the same–the only difference lies in how the parties want to manage their rule. Last year Republicans wanted to raise food stamp spending by 57% while Democrats wanted to raise it by 65%. That might seem like a huge disparity but when you compare the end results, $725 Billion instead of $764 Billion, you’ll see that the difference is only $39 Billion, or 5.2%. Keep that in mind for this next part. When you get married you sign a marriage license and the state “allows” you to be married. When you file your taxes there are different rules for single persons and married couples. The government regulates marriage, here meaning “prescribes the legal limits within which it is allowed.” There is a fine line separating a ban from regulation, because regulatory limits define how marriage is viewed by the state (i.e. if you don’t sign a marriage license, the state considers you unmarried). Here the separation between the “left” and “right” views seems quite large. But when you think about what they have in common you’ll see mostly agreement. Refer to the handy chart below for clarification.
The “middle ground” wants the decision to be left up to state governments. But don’t forget that it’s possible to have a fourth option! The fourth option is this: no government ought to regulate marriage because it is a religious institution and ought to be reserved to the people themselves. Unfortunately we have been conditioned to think inside the box. When someone asks you “Do you support gay marriage,” what they are really asking is “How do you want the government to control religious institutions?” That question assumes that government ought to control religion, and the only difference is an opinion as to how the government ought to control our lives. This is merely an illusion of choice. In the end, no matter whether you choose the Republican or Democratic belief, nothing will change for the government; they will still be in control of your religion. In my opinion this false dichotomy exists only for the purpose of keeping us divided and seeing each other as the enemy. “To divide and conquer” is the oldest trick in the book. In feudal Europe and Japan the people would fight each other over land in a never-ending game of tug-of-war. When they saw each other as the enemy, the ruler didn’t need to fear an uprising. Such conflicts would only distract the people so that the government could continue to rule over them. This is the same situation we face today. If we do not realize that the only conflict is between liberty and tyranny, the people and the ruling class, then we won’t upset the established order that has been decided for us.
My mistake in claiming that the government ought to regulate marriage for the sake of protecting religious rights was hinged upon a fundamental misunderstanding of the government’s proper role in society. The first amendment, when stating that “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of a religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” specifically prohibits the government from ruling over religious matters. The government’s role is not to protect so-called “religious rights” from private offenders, but rather to prevent the government itself from violating religious rights. “The constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government- lest it come to dominate our lives and interests.” -Patrick Henry
When the government made gay marriage illegal, it broke the law by prohibiting the free exercise of religion. Marriage is a matter of the church to decide, not the state. Suppose the state were to make eating pork illegal, because Jews, muslims, and hindus believe that such consumption is wrong. It would be absurd to suggest that the government would have any right to regulate what we put in our bodies just because many people consider it wrong. The government’s only proper role is to restrain us from causing physical harm to others, and otherwise leaving us free to manage our own affairs. It is not proper for the government to limit an activity simply because it is wrong. Being gay is wrong? Well so is lying, so should you be in jail right now? We would have near-universal imprisonment for our sins. Is there anyone who has never been proud, coveted another person’s possessions, or erupted in anger without due cause? These are all sins, yet it would be foolish for the government to try to enforce such laws. The law of man is not the Law of God, nor should it be. Jesus never said that the Roman government should crack down on offenses against God. He didn’t ever try to have anyone arrested (my goodness, when His own disciple cut off a man’s ear He didn’t shriek in anger). Why do Christians who profess to love God not do his work? Why must we depend on the state to do the church’s work (or what we imagine to be the church’s work)? Banning gay marriage isn’t going to stop homosexuality from existing; all it can do is appease our twisted conscience. The problem is not that the state is “letting” someone have freedom– in fact, I’m pretty sure the desire to be free is why we seceded from Britain back in 1776. The problem is within the hearts of men and no law will ever change the heart of man. Society’s problem is not the state’s problem.
Perhaps the so-called “decay of morality” comes largely from the belief that charity ought to come from the state. Rather than witnessing to others we ought to just have the state ban everything that we don’t like. Rather than donating money ourselves we ought to just have the state steal from people so it can write welfare checks–and fifty years after the War on Poverty started, the poor are still poor! Imagine that! Forcing morality on others doesn’t give anyone any incentive to improve! When you look at the facts there is no valid reason to ban gay marriage, or drugs, or paying employees below $7.25 per hour, or anything else that doesn’t cause physical harm to another. Charity begins at home. Perhaps you ought to have your own house in order before you try to tidy someone else’s. True, being gay is a sin. So what? Forcing your fellow man to live his life the way you want instead of the way he wants is also a sin. I believe the word for that is “slavery.” So cry me a river, build a bridge, and get over it.
There is, of course, one more very important point to consider when it comes to legal sanction/prohibition. When the government is in charge of marriage instead of private parties, the government gets to dictate how we are required to behave in regards to marriage. If the state had no involvement in marriage, believers would be perfectly free under the law to refuse recognition of any marriage they deemed sinful or invalid. But when the state is involved, anti-discriminatory laws will force believers to either act against their religious beliefs or receive punishment. Last year a baker in Oregon (in)famously refused to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple and faced an investigation. The baker, Klein, said of the matter, “I believe that marriage is a religious institution ordained by God. A man should leave his mother and father and cling to his wife … that to me is the beginning of marriage.” When asked if he would be willing to lose his business license, he said, “If I have to be to, I guess, be penalized for my beliefs, then I guess, well, that’ll be what it is.” No man should ever have to choose between his beliefs and the law. I say this not only from a moral standpoint but also a logical one.
Let’s assume that homosexuality is instead perfectly fine and this baker is in the wrong; let’s assume also that the state has no involvement in the matter. What do you suppose could happen? This baker would lose business from all potential gay patrons, who might organize a boycott. If the community is passionate enough about the issue you would see many, many straight customers deny him business and he would lose a lot of money for his stance–all without legislation. When the government makes anti-discriminatory laws they are forcing “prejudiced” businessmen to hide their beliefs. This happened today in Arizona, as a matter of fact. Now instead of customers being aware of the businessman’s beliefs and choosing to avoid patronizing it, they are now being forced, in a manner of speaking, to give their money to that businessman because they are unaware of his beliefs. Whom do anti-discriminatory laws protect besides discriminators, and what falls under the category of discrimination, anyway?
Oh, and by the way, the word “bigotry” means “the refusal to respect beliefs that differ from one’s own.” When you call someone a bigot for not having the same beliefs as you, it’s actually the case that you are the bigot, not them. Please use words correctly.