Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Forcing the Issue

Apropos of the budding discussion in the comments to my last post, Andrew Sullivan has posted some conservative reactions to the Newsweek piece. One debate in the comments has focused on whether making these arguments is nevertheless worth it, politically, insofar as Bible-based arguments like Miller's might convince Christians to support same-sex marriage. I am skeptical of whether that's the case. But I do think that the comments from Ralph Reed quoted by Sullivan at the link above suggest another possible reason for making these arguments.

Apparently, Reed was angry because he felt the piece reduced religious conservative arguments against same-sex marriage to "some formulaic, scriptural literalism." Instead, there's apparently "more of a practical, sociological foundation for why we seek to affirm marriage."

To this, I say bring it on. Because I think the "practical, sociological" implications are pretty clear here. And if arguments like Miller's throw the scriptural debate into confusion and force people like Reed to make empirical arguments, they might serve an important role. At very least, I think that's one possible case that can be made for putting those arguments out there.


M. LeBlanc said...

Absolutely. For example, such arguments force assholes like Reed to say absurd things like "affirm marriage" when, in fact, they are trying to restrict marriage. And when you ask them, as Jon Stewart did to Mike Huckabee on tonight's Daily Show, why allowing more people to marry doesn't strengthen what they call this "social fabric," they are reduced to such awesome arguments as "marriage has always been between a man and a woman." Real stunner there, guys.

At the bottom, this is why banning gay marriage is a classic "conservative" issue--the only reason they have that can't be impeached (cf. the scriptural and empirical arguments) is one that makes no sense: "this is the way we've always done it."

And really, that's all they've got.

Tom D said...

Since I like being devil's advocate...

It turns out that "this is the way we've always done it" is a reasonable explanation for much of human behavior.

And, despite my previous comment on the other post, the fact that many Greek cultures didn't believe women were capable of emotional relationships is not a particularly good counter-example to the "way we've always done it" assertion.

It's pretty well observed that the oppressed normally view their oppression as immutable fact. Revolutions are rare and not often successful at solving the aimed at problems.

So "they've got" a lot on their side in my opinion.

The difficulty is getting a serious part of the population (not 50.1% but more like 2/3) to be inclined to recognize an issue that affects 1-3% of the population that, when it's made visible, can come across as decadent.

To put it a little too simply step 1 is to make sure that you avoid framing people as bad if you, say, vote yes on 8 rather than identifying them as good for voting no. A fairly simple tactic that many forget.