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May 09, 2005

Boycotting Microsoft, Gays, Evangelicals, Etc.

There's an episode of WKRP in Cincinnati where the head of an organization called Clean Up Radio Broadcasting comes a-calling complaining about the lyrics in some of the songs they play, and threatening an advertising boycott. After Mr. Carlson refuses to remove "Imagine" by John Lennon from the playlist, the guy leaves to go start his boycott. And Mr. Carlson says, "When it comes to losing advertising clients, these bozos don't know who they're up against."

I thought of that when I saw Rev. Ken Hutcherson on TV this weekend, complaining about Microsoft's about-face on the anti-discimination bill. Microsoft has various people who boycott its products -- open source advocates, anti-monopolists, Macintoshniks, Palladium haters, Netscape mourners, etc. -- so I don't think Bill and Steve are going to lose much sleep over one more tossed on the pile, even if it might include 100 million Evangelicals in the United States.

Meanwhile, I've been thinking about what specifically makes Evangelicals so upset about adding gays to the anti-discrimination list (I'll use the term Evangelical to generally describe anyone opposed to it for religious reasons, even though I'm sure the term is a gross misnomer in many cases).

Consider the list of what factors the law currently outlaws as a basis for discrimination: race, sex, national origin, religion, age and disability. Now consider what the Bible condemns: murder, adultery, idolatry, homosexuality. There's no intersection between those two lists (leaving aside the issue of religion, which I'll get to later). But if you add being gay to the anti-discrimination list, then you have a direct conflict. I'll assume that a reasonable Evangelical does not hate gays so much as he/she doesn't want to be reminded of their existence. Thus, the problem with not allowing discrimination against gays is that gays will now have less fear about being openly gay (since they will have a legal basis to fight discrimination). Thus they will be free to say things at work like "Last weekend my boyfriend and I did X" and this is like nails on a chalkboard to an Evangelical. I guess the effect would be similar to someone saying "I engaged in premarital sex last night" or "I told a big lie yesterday", but the difference is that the law is not protecting people who say those things.

In one sense this is at least a consistent set of beliefs. I don't think you can prove that God does or doesn't exist; that's why it's called "faith". So if someone believes in the Bible as the ultimate truth, I can't really fault them for it. And if you believe, shouldn't you believe the whole package? Isn't it more "logical" for a true believer to condemn homosexuality than to be comfortable with it?

But, Evangelicals who feel that way are just going to have to deal with it. I mean, we inhabit a world that is bathed in sin (we're ALL sinners, right?). Evangelicals aren't expected to be out proselytizing all the time; they have to earn a living in the real world, and that may involve a lot of teeth-gritting for a variety of reasons.

So, what about discrimination on the basis of religion? Don't Evangelicals feel the same way about Mormons and Muslims and Hindus and Jews, all of whom are protected from discrimination by the same law? Are they as stunned by someone describing how they prayed in a mosque as they are by someone describing their gay partner? I don't know, but it would seem they should be.

I guess that Evangelicals feel that believers in other religions are more misguided than wrong, and there is the possibility of converting and saving them. Although according to the Bible, if they don't come around they are going to burn forever just like gays, and Evangelicals must feel that homosexuality is a choice, otherwise you have the theological question of why God makes gays. And shouldn't Evangelicals have the same "Oh goody, someone to convert" feeling about gays that they do about members of other religions?

I suppose it is in their own best interest to oppose discrimination on the basis of religion, since they are religious themselves (and this is where I get lost, because if you are talking about eternal salvation, does it matter if your brief time on Earth is difficult...so why should Evangelicals care whether they are discriminated against...which seems to lead to fatalism and a sapping of motivation, which Evangelicals most definitely do NOT suffer from. So I am missing something in there).

Ahh, enough. If I want to talk about things I know nothing about, I'll go back to talking about the software industry.

Posted by AdamBa at May 9, 2005 09:33 PM

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"...murder, adultery, idolatry, homosexuality..."

Except that three of those are deadly sins, the fourth isn't. It pretty much only crops up as an issue in Leviticus; their may be other brief mentions elsewhere, but the whole "a man shall not lay with another man as with a woman" bit is all his work.

Leviticus, bless him, was a nutter. He also then makes a load of other crazy statements about making animal sacrifices, bangs on about how women who are menstruating (and by extension, anyone who sits on a seat, lies on a bed, or otherwise interacts with objects the women have used) are unclean and cannot enter a temple without the aforementioned sacrifices, how you can't have your hair "rounded at the temples" or wear "clothes made of two different cloths", and so forth.

Essentially what it boils down to is that "Evangelicals" (or whatever they want to be called) are just believing in selective parts of the Bible that happen to fit with their personal convictions, so it's no good demanding they be logically consistent.

There's also the issue that Jesus made a big deal about loving thy neighbour, and I'm pretty sure "persecuting a group of people based purely on something that they do between themselves in the privacy of their own home to no-one's detriment" wasn't one of his plans.

Not only that, there's the huge contradiction between the crotchety, vindictive, and somewhat unpleasant Old Testament God, and the more friendly and jovial New Testament God. Depending on what Evangelicals are trying to convince you of they'll happily switch between the two, even though they take rather contradictory stances.

Er, went on for a bit longer than I planned to, but this is one of my pet peeves. The seperation of church and state seems to be dying a death, especially in the US, and I can't see that it's a good thing... [ Is there any way of putting paragraph breaks in the comments -- this was originally 7 paragraphs and is now rather hard to read. ]

Posted by: Mat Hall at May 10, 2005 05:54 AM

Hmm, odd. The preview didn't show the paragraphs, but the actual comment does. Oh well...

Posted by: Mat Hall at May 10, 2005 05:55 AM

Oh, one last thing -- it's *killing* and not just murder that's a deadly sin. An important distinction, as it means that any sort of war, execution, etc., is not just a sin, it's a Sin; considering Dubya seems to be pretty much in the Evangelical camp this is somewhat at odds with his behaviour. To quote one Mr D. Vader, I find his lack of faith disturbing.

Right, that'll do me for now!

Posted by: Mat Hall at May 10, 2005 06:09 AM

Mat, thanks to the long comment.

(With the understanding that I am NOT encouraging a literal belief in the bible) I got curious, so I searced the web to see exactly what the bible said about homosexuality. Although Leviticus is the most explicit, you also have the story of Sodom in Genesis 19, some arguably anti-gay statements in 1 Timothy 1 and 1 Corithians 6 (whether they specifically condemn gays seems to be up to the translator), and Romans 1 is pretty straightforward (as it were).

As for loving your neighbor...should you love your neighbor if he/she is an axe murderer? "Love" in this sense does not necessarily mean "accept as-is". I would assume that the best way an Evangelical is supposed to show their love for a gay neighbor is to show them the error of their ways and try to lead them on the path to salvation. Accepting them as they are would be tantamount to becoming an "enabler" of their sinful ways.

Again, I'm not condoning this behavior -- just saying that if you believe the bible, then the rest follows (somewhat) logically.

I 100% agree that the separation of church and state is going away, and that adding gays to anti-discrimination bills should be a no-brainer for a (theoretically) secular society.

- adam

Posted by: Adam Barr at May 10, 2005 11:10 PM

Speaking of things that grate on the nerves of some of us Christians, that casino spam above this comment really ought to go!

What I was going to comment, on, though: Mat, I think that "killing" / "murder" distinction isn't completely clear -- in the original, of course, it's in Hebrew, so it's neither of those words. And most of the "what it means in the original Hebrew" discussions I've seen seem to indicate that it's a bit closer to "murder".

And I do have a couple of other things to be disagreeable about.

1) Whether being anti-gay follows logically from the Bible is somewhat debatable. I'm Christian, I am not anti-gay, you can extrapolate from there. Or, if you prefer, extrapolate from some of the more liberal Bishops -- one of whom has published books defending his claim that anti-gayness in Christianity is based on misinterpretation.

2) The idea of a secular government -- note that it is our government that is theoretically supposed to be secular, not our society! -- is not incompatible with state-approved discrimination against gays or anyone else. It's a fairly common belief that government should support and enforce certain social norms, and there are plenty of people who are anti-gay for reasons that have nothing to do with religion, and who would very much like to have that social norm supported by their government.

So, in short: Yeah, so the anti-gay movement is currently framed largely as a "Christian vs. secular" debate. It isn't. The anti-gay movement is using Christianity as a lever to try to force this issue, but that's not where the core of the issue comes from. The core of the issue is cultural, and that culture _is_ being actively threatened -- for what I consider good reasons, but obviously they disagree.

Posted by: Brooks Msoes at June 4, 2005 11:05 PM