Sunday, December 7, 2008

The strongest material in the world.

When I was in high school, we had a neighbor who was an architect. One day my brother and I were speaking with him and he asked us: Do you know the strongest material in the world? My brother and I began to shoot out answers: “Titanium, high tensile steel, diamonds,” etc. Each answer was met with an unequivocal “no.” Finally, we gave up and asked: “Ok, what is the strongest material in the world?” The architect smiled and said: “paper.” “Paper!?!?” We exclaimed, “how is paper the strongest material in the world?!?!?” He answered us: “because it holds ANYTHING you write on it.”

I remembered my neighbor, the architect, when I read an advertisement published in the Friday December 5th edition of the New York Times (www.nomobveto.org). It was an ad signed, and presumably paid for, by its thirteen signatories and their respective organizations. The ad essentially asks the LGBT community to “shut-up and behave” and “stop their demonstrations” and simply accept that they have been stripped of a fundamental civil right.

Before commenting on their cardinal points, it is important to realize that a full page advertisement in the New York Times is very expensive paper indeed. For these people to go to such trouble and expense to urge us to stop demonstrating, it reveals to us that the demonstrations have been effective. Obviously, we should continue to speak out, peacefully demonstrate and use our economic power to boycott businesses and organizations that have financed yes on prop 8.

I was listening to the BBC just yesterday and a journalist spoke of 1968 as a year that changed the world. She was, of course, referring to the public civil rights demonstrations and the concurrent demonstrations against the Vietnam war. Had Rosa Parks simply relinquished her seat on the bus to avoid confrontation or had black people in Birmingham not boycotted the bus companies over discriminatory and unjust policies, blacks would most probably still be required to relinquish their seats on buses today and the President Elect of the United States of America would not be a black man.

The thirteen signatories of this shameful advertisement are indirectly saying to us, and to our families and friends who support us, “your demonstrations and economic boycotts are having a real effect and threaten to undermine our bigoted legislation and we don’t like that.” We not only need to keep up the pressure, but we need to redouble our efforts to make it even more effective.

We have all experienced an election where the candidate we voted for lost or where an initiative, or a referendum issue we supported was defeated. What makes Proposition 8 different, is that this is about the elimination of our fundamental right, not just to marry, but to exist. If those who support Prop 8 were to remove the word “homosexual” from all of their documents and replace it with the word “heterosexual,” consider the impact it would have on their lives. Perhaps, the light of understanding would illuminate in their minds and hearts. Maybe then, they could understand why we simply don’t “calm down and accept this vote.”

Please note, that I said peaceful demonstrations and economic boycotts. Neither I, nor any public LGBT organization, advocate or condone violence or terrorist actions. Free speech and economic pressure are both ethical means of enacting just change and have numerous national and international historical precedents.

I find their advertisement contradictory. The authors state that, “The proper response to free speech you disagree with is your own free speech in reply, not attempting to coerce your opponents into silence.” They then close by saying, “Beginning today, we commit ourselves to exposing and publicly shaming anyone who resorts to the rhetoric of anti-religious bigotry--against any faith, on any side of any cause, for any reason.” It seems that the authors are quite self-serving in this regard. On one hand, they condemn the use of coercion by their opponents, and on the other hand, they advocate for “publicly shaming” any of their opponents who disagree with their positions. Public shaming constitutes a form of “coercion” which paradoxically they support when it is in their self-interest.

They call the free speech of their opponents the “rhetoric of anti-religious bigotry.” This presumes that they, and they alone, posses a monopoly on truth. It presumes that all faiths are monolithic and static and that all people of faith buy into these authors’ limited understandings. Their demand for unquestioning adherence to their own proclamations, which have caused untold suffering, divisions of families, and suicides, rivals the hubris and monstrosity of mid 20th century totalitarian dictators.

One need only raise the question of permissibility of divorce and remarriage, artificial birth control, euthanasia, et cetera to begin to see the cracks appear in this confederation of religious zealots on the fringe. It is no small wonder that they are so insecure. They realize that they have a very tentative hold at best on their congregants, who have just elected Barack Obama and the Democratic party. This resounding victory for social inclusion and progress does not bode well for their reactionary and self-entitled positions of power.

14 comments:

DCKate said...

Would you be so kind as to name these organizations? I want to make sure I do not patronize any of them.

Thank you!

Anonymous said...

*Smirk* They forgot to mention Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and other "non-christian" religions not in their "all religion protection" claim. I didn't see a single person from these religion among the 13 signatures. I don't think such advertisement is effective--especially when it's crazy talk! Keep on protesting!

Sebastian said...

There have been rhetorical excesses, an one or two apparent acts of violence or threat of violence by those who are protesting the passage of Proposition 8. But these are isolated and rare.

What seems most to annoy the pro-prop 8 folks are two things. First, we queers have shown that we are not sissies, and are angry and don't care who knows it. We won't go quietly into the night. Second, we are outing them. They believed that they could do their ugly deeds hidden behind the mask of anonymity. They forgot that political contributions are public facts. They cannot stay in their protective closets, and they must now bear the burden publicly for their callous actions done in darkness.

SubtleKnife said...

I certainly find it incredibly ironic that one of the signatories is a former US ambassador to the UN Human Rights Commission.

Pinkbeard/Barbarrosa said...

Why should real believers be so upset when somebody challenges their beliefs? They can answer with reason, not threats. They can say anything they want, but if we speak we are "violent" and "anti-religious"? The real violence is to deprive other people of the right they have, specially when same sex marriage does not change their situation at all. These people are only haters and hypocrites... new pharisees.

Adrian Molina said...

“Beginning today, we commit ourselves to exposing and publicly shaming anyone who resorts to the rhetoric of anti-religious bigotry--against any faith, on any side of any cause, for any reason.”

I assume, then, that they'll be standing up to protect the Episcopal Diocese in Los Angeles that just decided to lift the moratorium on consecrating gay bishops. I assume they count under the criteria of "any faith, on any side of any cause, for any reason." Let's see them put their money where their mouth is.

Great post, Fr. Geoff!

Vatican Rep said...

I'm too tired to write a long comment tonight; so all I can say is Bravo Bravo! Excellent post

David said...

Grateful to see your continued on-line presence, equally grateful for another powerful post- Bravo Geoff!

'Had Rosa Parks simply relinquished her seat on the bus to avoid confrontation or had black people in Birmingham not boycotted the bus companies over discriminatory and unjust policies, blacks would most probably still be required to relinquish their seats on buses today and the President Elect of the United States of America would not be a black man.' Says it all.

Of course the real scandal is the service and ministry which is not being carried out in Jesus' name while these frightened fools squander this money to hate and discriminate legally.

No going back Geoff- for any of us. And you're being upheld in prayer and gratitude by more grateful brothers and sisters than you'll ever know.

David@Montreal

Anonymous said...

A full-page display ad in the New York Times costs from $40,000 to $150,000, depending on which section it runs in, what day, and other factors.

And here I am, unemployed, and struggling to donate $10 to a homeless charity, for people a lot worse off then me.

"Lord, when did we see you hungry and not feed you, homeless and not shelter you...?"

IT said...

Today, the pro-8 forces explicitly compared the anti-8 movement to Al Qaeda and the Mumbai terrorists. Pat Boone (!) called us "sexual jihadists", and the Mob-Vote advert guru Seamus Hassan said our straight supporters are "violent radical activists". (Sources here). These are coordinated talking points intended to deflect the media. Yes, we have them panicking. but cornered animals are far more dangerous.

IT

Anonymous said...

Fr Geoff thanks for another great blog report.

Today at the UN the Vatican and Muslim Countries will vote against the UN resolution to decriminolize homosexuality around the world....many countries still have the death penalty for LGBT people and also life in prison.

The Catechism of the RCC states that the dignity of Homosexuals must be maintained.....the bigots in the Vatican need to be imprisoned

Geoff keep up your good work

Bill said...

Just yesterday I came across a website that referred to homosexuality as "the love that just won't shut up."

Frankly, I wish we could shut up about it. I look forward to a day when sexuality is a non-issue. We have made a lot of progress in my lifetime, but I'm not shutting up & behaving until this country lives up to its Constitution.

MrsWaltz said...

I don't have the words to thank you or praise you adequately for your stand for equality. I will say this: I'm a straight, married, this-close-to-atheist-because-I-cannot-abide-the-hypocrisies-I-have-witnessed wife and mother in the midwest who just might go looking for a church this weekend now that I have proof it doesn't mean I need to check my brain or moral compass at the door.
Best Regards ~

SO Katie said...

Hello,

I read about you in the paper. Good for you for speaking truth to power! I'm a member of an ELCA RiC Congregation, and can't imagine what this must have been like for you.

I started a blog and have linked to you www.sokatie.com