Thursday, August 30, 2007

Who cares in what ways about Larry Craig?

One of the more thoughtful commentators on gay issues is Dale Carpenter, a lawprof at Minnesota. I think it is fair to say that Carpenter, who is gay, writes from a "liberal perspective" on these issues, i.e., he supports same-sex marriage, etc. He blogs at the Volokh Conspiracy.

On the Larry Craig matter, he does a good job of making what seems to be the irrefutable point that the charges brought against Craig are extremely problematic. How can placing your foot and hand under a restroom stall divider be disorderly conduct? Even if it is clear that this is a way of asking for sex, how can doing so in such a veiled way be criminal? If Craig were a supporter of expanded legal recognition for same-sex relationships or if he were openly gay, the fact that these charges were even brought would be seen, with some justification, as a civil rights issue.

But in this case, as Carpenter and others point out, Craig's problem is not whether he broke the law but whether he is, in fact, gay. If he is, then he is presumably subject to charges of hypocrisy. His sexual orientation is thought to be relevant because it is presumed to reflect on the sincerity of the positions he takes on same-sex matters. Thus the Idaho Statesman has apparently regarded Craig's sexual orientation as newsworthy while we know that other media outlets are perfectly willing to allow a politician's sexual orientation to remain an open secret - at least if there is not a perceived conflict between that orientation and the individual's voting record.

Carpenter draws a parallel between the Craig matter and the fact that there are a fair number of gay staffers who work for the GOP. He comments upon the fact that a number of GOP illuminati - even socially conservative ones - don't seem to hate gay people. He suggest that their positions on these issues stem from a need to mollify a religiously conservative base as, the argument goes, Craig's must also. Carpenter doesn't want to call this hypocrisy (although I suspect many people would), but a schizophrenic private acceptance and public rejection that, he argues, is extremely hard - even life-destroying - for gay Republicans.

I think he is right in the sense that it may make little sense for people who do not believe that their homosexuality is wrong or something to be resisted to act as if they are something they are not. But Carpenter seems to imply that reconciliation of this "schizophrenia" must involve a change in GOP policies (the party's "public philosophy" must be more closely aligned with its "private one.")

Is that right?


For example, I don't believe that homosexuality is intrinsically immoral or that "practicing" (for lack of a better word) gays and lesbians are sinners. But I oppose same-sex marriage and I believe that, while society ought to be tolerant, it is perfectly free to behave as if heterosexuality is normative.

Of course, I am not a religious conservative (I'm Episcopalian, for the Ultimate One's sake)and I have no base to mollify (with the possible exception of the Reddess who is a demanding constituency.)I suppose its also possible that GOP pols who take the more traditional view of the Abrahamic faiths about these matters are actually practicing the age old admonition to hate the sin but love the sinner. I even can imagine that pols who are gay nevertheless believe that this orientation is also a temptation that ought to be resisted in much the same way as one who is oriented toward alcoholism should try to refrain from drinking. That he or she might not always succeed in resisting that temptation does not change his or her view on the nature of the conduct. Whether that qualifies as "self-hating" or wrestling with the Devil is another matter.

As a matter of pure politics, the dynamic that Carpenter describes is probably real. My point is that the debate over same-sex matters does not necessarily turn on animus or even on the question of the ultimate morality of homosexuality. The choice is not between fundamentalist condemnation or a society that is gender-blind in matters of sexuality. One can hire gays, not dislike gays and even have gay friends without adopting a supposedly complementary set of policy preferences on same-sex marriage and related matters.

Notwithstanding Professor Carpenter's disavowal of the charge, all of this leads me to a point about hypocrisy. We don't like it and we shouldn't. But isn't there a tendency to believe that showing someone to be a hypocrite undercuts that person's defense of whatever standard he or she has failed to live up to? A politician's stance on gay issues must he wrong or at least insincere if he trolls for sex in a men's room. A Senator's feminism must be insincere if he uses female staffers as playthings.

But that doesn't follow. Doesn't hypocrisy tell us as much about human weakness as it does about the standards that we too often fail to meet?

21 comments:

Seven Star Hand said...

Hello Rick,

Karma can be a bitch when the time to pay the piper for such staggering hypocrisy rolls around. It just boggles the mind that holier-than-thou Christian leaders are so often involved in sick behavior. Just look at the history and current events of the Vatican and Papacy. See the pattern here?

Notice that Larry Craig was nabbed on June, 11th? Notice the pattern of pivotal events repeatedly occurring on number 11 days during recent years? How many unlikely coincidences are necessary before more people discern a strong pattern in the noise?

Here is Wisdom !!

Anonymous said...

Somewhere in this stunningly difficult-to-read post (the punctuation errors, the misspellings, the dislocated sentences), I'm sure there's a point. I just wonder what it is.

Tonya said...

I think it is fair to say that Carpenter, who is gay, writes from a "liberal perspective" on these issues, i.e., he supports same-sex marriage, etc.

Does that mean that David Brooks also writes from a "liberal perspective" on gay equality issues?

Anonymous said...

In response to seven star hand.

Christians never claim to be "holier-than-thou", they claim to be sinners just like the rest of mankind. Like Rick says, we all fall short of the standards we seek to up hold.

Dad29 said...

Doesn't hypocrisy tell us as much about human weakness as it does about the standards that we too often fail to meet?

Yes. It's still vice's homage to virtue.

Moreover, the attacks are a misdirection play with the intent of "proving" that there is no truth.

But in fact, there IS truth, and the relevant one is that we are all less-than-perfect.

Anonymous said...

No, anonymous 1 -- Christians DO claim to be holier-than-thou when they push for their beliefs to be not just religious practices but laws that do not allow others to live their beliefs . . . or "sins," in such Christians' views.

Anonymous said...

The ignorance of some people regarding Christians and the founding principals of this country is manifest in what some people write. If they knew anything about Christians and the Bible they would know where the freedom came from to make there stupid statements. They would also learn that being a pagan hedonist doesn't make them a saint.

The declaration of independance is one of the most important and most Christian principaled document this world has ever seen. Yet, we have these ignorant people attacking Christians every chance they get. Perhaps they should move to a Muslim or Communist country instead.

Attacking Christians for what Craig did is just absurd.

Anonymous said...

In response to the responder of anonymous 1:

It is true that Christians seek to pass laws that would enforce the rights and wrongs they find in the Bible, but that is not because they think they are "holier-than-thou", but because that is what the law should reflect: right and wrong. Christians understand that they are just as prone to the sinful temptations that lead them to breaking those laws or committing a wrong as anyone else.

I agree with the other anonymous, if it were not for Christian principles this country wouldn't have so many of the great laws it does.

JesusIsJustAlrightWithMe said...

"The declaration of independance is one of the most important and most Christian principaled document this world has ever seen. Yet, we have these ignorant people attacking Christians every chance they get. Perhaps they should move to a Muslim or Communist country instead."

Are you dry-humping me? Jefferson was a deist. He rejected the divinity of Jesus (although he dug Jesus as a moral teacher). Regardless, the Declaration of Independence isn't really a legal document anyway. You should look to the Constitution if you really want to understand the principles this country was founded on. The bunch of deists and Unitarians that wrote it never mentioned god (except for the customary "year of our lord...") and the only mention of religion is a prohibition of religious tests for public office. The smart guys that created this country were smart enough to realize religion is bunk.

Esquire said...

Jefferson's much-touted, but little evidenced supposed deist views do not answer the question of whether this nation was founded on expressly Christian principles. The fact is, it was.

From the official founding documents (including the Declaration and the Constitution) to the fact that a two-hour Christian prayer and worship service immediately followed the swearing in of our first president and was an OFFICIAL event. There are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of other examples of this.

I know the ACLU hates that fact, but fact it is. Its misuse of the supposed "separation of church and state" (which is found ONLY in the Danbury Baptist letter and refers only to the fact that, despite the official church presence in the state at issue (was it CT?), the Danburys' religious freedom would not be trampeled on.

Esquire said...

Oops - trailed off there . . . what I was saying is, the ACLU's misuse of this phrase has led to a lot of confusion among your average citizen and even your average Christian on the issue.

Bottom line, this country was founded as a Christian country and we'd all have been better off, including religious minorities, had it remained thus. This is true not only because of Biblical morality, but because Christianity is one of two major world religions (the other being Judaism) whose founder (um, that would be Jesus) does NOT advocate killing or even forcing people of other faiths to believe (that some misguided supposed followers did so onceuponatime is irrelevant - it is not an official teaching of Biblical Christianity).

Anonymous said...

JesusIsJustAlrightWithMe said...
Are you dry-humping me? Jefferson was a deist.

Learn your history before making ignorant statements like this. Jefferson declared himself to be a disciple of Christ and there is also the Jefferson Bible. In addition, 52 of the 54 signers of the declaration were Christians.

The Constitution is the agreement of the different denominations of the colonies as to which biblical principals they could agree upon for this nation. Freedom of worship, freedom of expressions, right to defend yourself, fair trials are all Christian principals.

JesusIsJustAlrightWithMe said...

You are joking, right esquire? Are you suggesting that because the phrase "separation of church and state" doesn't appear in the constitution, that the purpose of the religion clauses wasn't to separate church and state? I hate to tell you this, but the terms "checks and balances" and separation of powers" don't appear in the constitution either. They're just shorthand for what the document obviously says. The founders, virtually all of them, used these shorthand phrases while debating and drafting the constitution. Besides T-Jeff's letter to the Danbury Baptists, "SofC&S" appears multiple times, in various forms, in the writings of James Madison as well. And it was originally coined by Roger Williams, founder of the Rhode Island colony. (Williams was a devout Christian that expressly supported the separation of church and state).

I've read just about everything there is to read about the constitutional convention and I would say that our major founder can be broken down like so:

Non-Christian Deists: Thomas Paine and Ethan Allen

Unitarians or "theistic rationalists" (as some say): Ben Franklin, George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe

Orthodox Christians: Patrick Henry, Samuel Adams, John Jay, Elias Boudinot and John Witherspoon

But regardless of their faiths, most these guys clearly meant to separate church from state. They certainly didn't embrace Christian teachings. It's in the documents; it's all over their correspondence.

Want some direct evidence? Here you go:

"As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion..."

That's from the Treaty of Tripoli, negotiated under George Washington and signed by John Adams.

JesusIsJustAlrightWithMe said...

Anon,
I suggest you learn your history. The Jefferson Bible cut the goddy stuff out. Jefferson thought JC was a good moral teacher but he expressly rejected the notion that he was divine, born from a virgin, part of a trinity etc. Not only did he reject that Jesus was divine, he rejected the idea that Jesus claimed to be divine.

Anonymous said...

JIJAWM, your assessment of Jefersons beliefs are accurate, but incomplete in good politically correct taste. He often speculated that his 'God belief' may well be the Christian God too as well as other God figures, but that it was for each person to find his way to their ultimate beliefs. He did believe in God, he just disagreed that others could/should show a mass path that was right for everyone to follow. That is a far cry from the 'pagan' label attached to him by many liberals (I do not include you in that because as I remember you have always called him a Deist).

Just out of curiosity pro 'holier than thou' anon, what unjust laws are Christians currently pushing that would outlaw something that is primarily considered a 'christian sin'? I just don't remember the last 'outlaw homosexuality bill' that didn't get passed. I remember a bill that tried to force Religions to accept same-sex marriages(a Religious institution)
that did not get passed. I don't remember any bills or laws against new religious sects that accept homosexuality, indeed there are many. Is this just the next step for political correctness? No men's only clubs (women only clubs are fine), no religions allowed to hold sodomy as sin?

jp said...

Rick;

I don’t think hypocrisy and human weakness are analogous because hypocrisy involves premeditation and human weakness usually lacks thought.

Anonymous said...

jijawm - I beg your pardon ---

On April 21, 1803, Thomas Jefferson wrote to Dr. Benjamin Rush, who was also a signer of the Declaration of Independance:

"My views...are the result of a life of inquiry and reflection, and very different from the anti-christian system imputed to me by those who know nothing of my opinions.
To the corruptions of Christianity I am, indeed, opposed; but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus Himself.
I AM A CHRISTIAN in the only sense in which He wished any one to be; sincerely attached to His doctrines in preference to all other..."

jiawm -- do you think you know better than Jefferson himself when he confessed that he was a Christian, not a deist?
Or are you part of the same anti-christian system that was mischaracterizing Jefferson in his day that knew nothing of his views?

Jefferson made his Bible with strictly the teachings of Christ so that it would be a smaller book to always keep with him and easy to reference. It was also printed by our Congress so that all its members could refer to it when making laws.

Not all of us are so easily led away by deceptive teachings of our nation and its founding.

Anonymous said...

jijawm-

Madison wrote that Christianity is democracy and that democracy is Christianity.

Gee...nothing in our founding there.

JesusIsJustAlrightWithMe said...

Anon One and Anon Two. Wow. Just wow. Where did you get those quotations? World Nut Daily? David Barton?

I don't need to claim I know Jefferson better than Jefferson knew himself. The quotes you attribute to him are FALSE. I'll start with yours Anon One (6:29).

"My views...are the result of a life of inquiry and reflection, and very different from the anti-christian system imputed to me by those who know nothing of my opinions.

To the corruptions of Christianity I am, indeed opposed; but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself. I am a Christian, in the only sense in which he wished any one to be; sincerely attached to his doctrines, in preference to all others..."

This line, as you noted, is from a letter he wrote to Benjamin Rush on April 21, 1803, to which he attached a syllabus comparing the views of Jesus to the views of earlier Greek and Roman philosophers. Here is a link to the entire letter:
http://www.positiveatheism.org/hist/jeff1122.htm

But you left out something very important. There is no period at the end of that sentence in Jefferson's original letter and what you left off is something very important. Here is the full text of the sentence with the portion you left out in italics:

"To the corruptions of Christianity I am indeed opposed, but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself. I am a Christian, in the only sense in which he wished anyone to be: sincerely attached to his doctrines in preference to all others, ascribing to himself every human excellence, and believing he never claimed any other."

Did you get that last bit? You picked a quote in which Jefferson explicitly rejected Jesus's divinity! Indeed, he expressly rejected the idea that Jesus even claimed to be divine! Jefferson believed that Paul attributed divinity to Jesus. Jesus himself was just a teacher. A brilliant one, but not a magic one.

Anon two (7:06)
Madison never said that. Or anything even similar to that. Like, I can't even guess where you pulled this one out of. (well, I have one guess) It runs so counter to everything we know about Madison. I've certainly never heard anything like this attributed to him. If he said it, when and where did he say it? Where did you get this quote? (If it's from Barton or World Nut Daily I will laugh my balls off).

Anyway, I'm way to wasted right now to be teaching history lessons, so I'm out.

Jim Bouman said...

An astonishing amount of what passes for political discussion these days --from congressional debate to political campaigns-- is shot through with ringing anthems of America-as-christian-nation.

The summer 1787—the actual drafting of the Constitution--was truly a long, hot summer in Philadelphia, four months of tortuous work. There was compromise, obstruction, boycott of the Convention, compromise, more fighting followed by more compromise and, ultimately, the Original Sin of our Constitutional Democracy, the door left wide open to that utterly un-christian, abjectly immoral institution of slavery.

What is striking--and germane to dialogue in a 21st Century blog--is how totally the framers left religion, God, Christian morality, their own religious beliefs out of the discussion. They clearly had no time for it. It was irrelevant. One need only review the genesis the Three Fifths Compromise to know that these were pragmatic men, focused only on the things of this world, perhaps ignoring the compartmentalized issue of religious belief, particularly as it impinged on the unholy parts of the bargain they were agreeing to.

They were single-minded in their pursuit of a scheme for a constitutional republic that would—for one thing-- rid them of monarchy--that stinking notion that there exists a Divine Right of Kings. That, and the manipulative and thuggish theocracy flowing from it--the monarch supported by nobility and legitimated by the ecclesiastical princes.

The essence of it all: If the founders/framers had not compromised, there would have been no republic, no constitution, no reason to be arguing 220 years later over whether the this odd bunch of deists, methodists, unitarians, quakers, atheists and Don't-Give-a-Damn's believed in God, much less thought that belief in god, much less christian morality, was the foundation of the American experiment.

Predictably, the Original Sin has never been expiated; it still marks every one of us. It still threatens this flawed-but-enduring, presently-limping Constitutional Democracy. It will likely be the end of it. (In case anyone's been thinking America is, of its very nature, millennial).

And arguments about how one or the other of us knows for sure that the founders were devout and god-fearing and fundamentally, intending for all of us 220 years later to be christian is just so much chaff in the wind.

Jay Bullock said...

The Constitution is the agreement of the different denominations of the colonies as to which biblical principals they could agree upon for this nation.

This may be the most ignorant comment in the thread--excepting the faux Jefferson quotes, maybe.

In order to believe the above, you have to ignore 1000 years of European common law, principles of democracy and federalism spanning the centuries between Greece and the Iriquois, and the writings of the founding fathers themselves.

But, you know, all in the name of jebus, I guess.