Ahead of the recent Supreme Court (SCOTUS) decision regarding equal marriage, Christians–like most folks–probably took it as given that the decision was going to say marriage is a right for all Americans, not just straight Americans. Here’s a survey that found that some 65% of Americans thought the decision would be in favor of equal marriage. The 25% (10% weren’t sure) who were sure SCOTUS would decide against that right were very likely the folks who melted down along with Karl Rove during the 2012 election night.
Ever since the case was announced on the docket for this summer, fundagelicals have been praying their little hearts out that SCOTUS would decide against equal marriage. They’ve starved themselves and even agitated for and threatened civil war–all to deny same-sex couples the same rights they have. I guess it’s more practical than threatening people with meteor strikes or even as hilariously extreme as threatening to set themselves on fire, but it’s still all so histrionic. And let’s just revisit what I just said: Some of these people threatened to set themselves on fire to stop people they don’t like from getting married to their true loves. (I’d say “I don’t even,” but my even left so long ago that I forget who gets tied up at this point. My even is partying down with Elvis somewhere skeezy and dank with an iffy jukebox.)
And despite their threats and their whining and their tantrums and their entreaties toward the ceiling, those fundagelical bigots still lost.
So they’re taking their ball and stomping their way home.
Or at least they’re threatening to do so, which in fundagelical minds is the exact same thing.
Our pal Ed Stetzer of the Southern Baptist Convention is still convinced, against all legal arguments to the contrary, that this decision is a redefinition of marriage rather than an affirmation of the conceptualization of marriage our country has gone with for almost a hundred years: a love commitment between two consenting adults. I don’t think he realizes just how superfluous his religion’s stamp of approval has been, traditionally, to the validity of a couple’s marriage; in fact, in Florida ministers can’t even conduct a marriage ceremony if the couple forgets to bring their validated license–issued by the state, remember–to the ceremony, and in others marriages aren’t totally official till that license is signed by whatever official officiant did the ceremony and then filed with the state. It’s almost as ridiculous to hear Christians try to claim the right to approve or disapprove of weddings as it is to hear them try to hold forth (as they are wont to do) about how couples should conduct a proper marriage.
Ed Stetzer threatens that Christians may well opt out of that governmental approval. He cites this rather petulant site, so apparently he’s not the only one talking this way. Apparently bunches of pastors are adding their names to the roster of people refusing to perform marriages at all, which is nice because it shows everyone exactly which churches are bigoted dens of iniquity. Considering how many young people (the ones who’d be getting married, namely, since fundagelicals marry younger than other folks) leave Christianity because of its all-out war on LGBTQ people, you’d think they would try to appeal to that demographic rather than do stuff that actively alienates them.
It’s a bold strategy, Cotton! Let’s see if it pays off for them!
And it’s completely hilarious to me. All this time, one thing his side’s been saying is that civil unions should be good enough for LGBTQ people and pushing that as the separate-but-equal solution to the whole gay marriage idea, but as someone who once tried to go that route for a mixed-sex relationship, I can tell you 100% that no, civil unions do not give anywhere near the benefits of a full marriage license. That’s the whole point of why civil unions weren’t acceptable–which in turn is likely why Christian bigots kept harping on the idea! There are hundreds of big and small benefits that that one little piece of paper gives a couple. You can come kind of close, a little anyway, by filing a multitude of legal documents–all of them costing filing fees and possibly lawyer fees, as well as a great deal of time. And even at the end of all of it, there’d be benefits that couples simply would not be able to access without that one little piece of paper, a paper I got fifteen minutes after walking into a courthouse in my state, filling out one short application, and saying a short set of vows in front of a very awesome judge. It took longer to get the judge into the room than it did to do any other part of the process. And just like that, Mr. Captain and I were fully married in the eyes of the state–a status that Ed Stetzer’s buddies over at “First Things” simply would not have after their hissy-fit tantrum was spent.
Here are seven ways that civil partnerships just are not equal to full marriage. It’s a UK site, but here’s a similar breakdown of United States benefits that civil unions can’t access that married couples can, including most Federal benefits. When various states have examined civil unions as compared to full-on marriage, they’ve discovered that no, actually, civil unions don’t even come half close to the benefits–or status–conferred by marriage.
In other words, there is a damned fine reason why civil unions weren’t good enough for same-sex couples, and it’s the same reason why they were not good enough for me and Mr. Captain as well as why they will not be good enough for mixed-sex bigoted couples. Christian bigots could not sell same-sex couples on the concept–so why they think they will, I cannot imagine. All I can think is that such bigoted couples might have been raised on “civil unions are totes the same” rhetoric and might not realize just how unequal these unions are until they get into the paperwork.
If Ed Stetzer thinks that bigoted couples are going to look at these facts and still opt for civil unions instead of fully-recognized legal marriage, he’s got a few other thinks coming his way. Christian fundagelicals have shown, time and time and time again, that they simply are not willing to go through any real hardships or inconvenience for the sake of their pretendy funtime games. (For example, that pastor who threatened to set himself on fire is now walking back that threat; oh, gosh, he certainly never meant to say he’d actually for realsies set himself on fire…) No, they’re going to make a lot of squawking noise protesting how terrible it is that their club has allowed into its ranks people they think are ickie, they’re going to make a lot of dramatic threats, but they’re not going to forego the many benefits they’d lose by foregoing that license or doing anything too drastic.
The rest of Ed Stetzer’s advice, incidentally, is to drill down even harder on bigotry but do it differently. He seriously thinks people care what his increasingly-out-of-touch gang of bigots think about other people’s relationships–as long as he finds just the perfect way to package that bigotry and communicate it. He advises his people not to act like frothing, blithering bigots, but doesn’t ever tell them to drop their bigotry, which I’m sure will fool everyone. Oh wait.
We talked last time, as well, about some other advice offered to fundagelicals regarding how to deal with the decision, which amounted to pulling back to reconsider their laxity on other sins, drilling down harder on the culture war, and finding some way to deal with all the LGBTQ people and allies who will start beating paths to their church doors now that fundagelicals are (apparently, in his opinion) no longer a threat to same-sex couples’ marriages.
The President of the Southern Baptist Convention, Ronnie Floyd, offers some slightly more practical tips:
* Pastors should quit panicking over the idea of being forced to conduct same-sex marriages if they don’t want to perform them because literally nobody sensible is saying that will happen.
* Parents should not shun or abandon their gay kids.
* Bigots should be prepared to make sacrifices for their golden calf, namely with regard to jobs that bigots won’t be able to take if they intend to make bigotry part of their job performance or hiring criteria.
I actually like that set of suggestion because it makes fundagelical bigots brutally aware that first, they should not sacrifice their own children for or panic about imaginary boogeymen, but that second, they should be aware of real-world situations where their bigotry will lose them significant opportunities. Nobody’s telling bigots what to think or how to feel, after all; we just want them to understand that the expression of bigotry has repercussions and consequences, and we want them to know that we’re not going to indulge their childish superstitions anymore. If they feel the burning need to express their bigotry or behave in bigoted ways around decent folks, they’re going to miss out on a lot of real-world benefits. They need to be okay with that. If they’re not, they need to at least learn to pretend to be better and more decent people than they actually are.
Here’s what I wish Christian bigots would do in a perfect universe.
1. They would stop trying to meddle in other people’s lives.
Their hands have definitively been swatted away from other people’s rights–again. In a perfect universe they would take this opportunity to revisit exactly why they think they have the right to decide other people’s rights. One sees this rhetoric constantly in fundagelicals who are totally convinced–thanks to their completely irresponsible, shamelessly pandering leaders, seen abundantly in this story–that “the people” have the right to decide rights at the ballot box. But these bigots are wrong. Voters do not get to override the law of our land. If 200 million Americans vote to force schoolchildren to recite Pastafarian prayers every morning, all that means is that 200 million American voters don’t understand the Establishment Clause. That’s why we have the court system; it is there to set aright the bullshit that voters sometimes try to bunt past our laws. It’s called “checks and balances,” not “checks and plaids.”
We’re losing patience with this very un-endearing habit fundagelicals have of thinking they can and should dictate other people’s lives, something they’ve gotten more attached to and serious about over the years. More and more often, the courts are telling religious zealots to sit down, shut up, and quit their goddamned whining. Unless they can demonstrate some clear material harm being done in an objective, peer-reviewed, and coherent manner without resorting to magical explanations, they need to keep their grubby paws off other people’s rights. “People shouldn’t be allowed to do X because it really bugs me to know they’re doing X and I’m pretty sure that X makes baby Jesus cry” is not a reason to let them decide what rights other people get. It’d be super if they could be thinking ahead to when their religion is a clear minority in this country.
Besides, more and more often the rest of us are pointing out how genuinely hypocritical it is for fundagelicals to be judging and denouncing other people when Jesus is supposed to have directly told them not to do that, and for them to be as intent as they are on trying to control other people when Jesus is similarly supposed to have directly told them not to worry about what other people do but rather focus on their own problems. Like they do with the similar commandment he is supposed to have given them to pray in private rather than grandstanding in public, fundagelical bigots may indeed find some bizarro-world way to either ignore or distort those commands into something that says the dead opposite, but they’re not fooling anybody but themselves.
2. It is nothing but childish petulance for Christian bigots to deny themselves something they need or want just because someone they think is ickie gets it too now, so they wouldn’t do that in a perfect universe.
Considering how poorly most of the country views them and their antics regarding LGBTQ rights, you’d kind of think fundagelicals would be a little more careful about exacerbating that impression by making stupid threats about what they’ll deny themselves if they don’t get their way. If they’re really that intent on maintaining bigotry as an in-group marker, then they need to do it more carefully, so they don’t look like toddlers holding their breath till they turn blue. If they deny themselves the rights and benefits conferred by full marriage, they’re really only hurting themselves and making their religion look–if possible at this point–worse.
After years of condemning practices like cohabitation without official marriage and impugning civil unions as an unacceptable alternative for proper Christian couples, suddenly they’re turning around and saying that they’re going to forego official marriage and go for the civil unions they tried to force on same-sex couples? What self-serving, obviously sullen blather that is! I guess they weren’t so much in favor of so-called “traditional marriage” as they were in favor of forcing people to do stuff.
And they’d better damned well hope that their adherents don’t come to a similar conclusion.
3. This is a longshot of a suggestion, I know, but they would re-examine this whole “bigotry for Jesus” thing they’ve got going on, too.
I know that fundagelical churches who have signed on to this whole bigotry-for-Jesus idea are very attached to it. But this issue is going to lose them millions of members and cost them their dominance in the cultural arena. In fact it already is doing both: as noted, tons of young people cite anti-gay rhetoric as the main reason they’ve left Christianity, and super-fundie members of Congress who might once have commanded respect are getting laughed at and mocked in short, sweet takedowns because of their bigotry.
Bigotry–even cloaked in the “Opposite Day” redefinition of love that fundagelicals favor, which I’ve discussed here and here–is losing them people and respect. Expressing bigotry, even in ways they are totally convinced is “loving,” is simply falling out of favor even with Christians.
For years, fundagelical leaders have known that their culture war is lost (though a few blustery holdouts remain skirmishing on the fringes of a truly bloody battlefield). What they do not seem to realize, however, is that it is now backfiring actively in their faces like a defective gun. Until they make that connection, they’re going to drill down all the harder on the only real strategy they have right now that differentiates them from what they view as the competition: other more liberal churches and the big bad scary secular world.
And look, I don’t want to tell Christians how to Christian any more than it’s my right to tell atheists how to atheist. I offer these suggestions because these (largely failed) self-appointed ambassadors of the God of Love and Prince of Peace are doing things that do not bear the objectively-viewable fruits of love, namely faith, hope, or love. What they are doing condemns, destroys, and rends everything it touches. It causes violence; it divides families; it makes their religion into a laughingstock; it sows doubt in the hearts of even their most fervent adherents. By every conceivable measure there is, the war on LGBTQ rights is an utter failure.
I know that fundagelical Christian groups will alienate their bigoted members when (not if, at this point, if they even hope to halfway salvage anything from this failed war of theirs) they make that move away from institutionalized bigotry, sure, but they might be able to stanch the hemorrhage of people leaving their ranks–and maybe even eventually attract more loving people to their banner.
Ultimately, though, if wishes were horses, your Captain would ride. I know how realistic this dream-sequence is in the short term. They’ve got a lot of weeping and gnashing of teeth to do before they’re ready to make some serious changes to their game plan.
I think in time fundagelicals will do the right thing (probably calling it an amazing revelation from JAY-ZUS, PRAZE DA LARD, with maybe even a SHAMBALLAH-ROSHA-LARANDA at the end to make it officially divinely-sanctioned), once all the other options have failed them. Or they will continue to ride the bigotry train all the way to the bottom of their relevance, continue to lose people left and right, and finally hit that tipping point where they just can’t scrape up enough money to support their endeavors and keep their churches’ lights on. I suspect they are already tip-toeing into the charred earth of that frightening new land, though they don’t realize it yet.
But whatever they do, they need to figure their asses out soon, because we’re already way ahead of them and not willing anymore to wait while they swivel on their thumbs.
Also, I am so damned proud of my country right now.