Sunday, December 21, 2008

Scathingly Brilliant

I'll admit. As a tweener, I loved the movie "Trouble With Angels" because I loved Hayley Mills who was always coming up with an idea that she thought was "scathingly brilliant."

President-elect Obama may have come up with such an idea in asking Rick Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration. Warren is not the least inoffensive evangelical a liberal could want, but he's close. Still, although he apparently favors domestic partnerships, he is not down with same sex marriage and, notwithstanding the fact that this is, more or less, the position of the President-Elect, it is quickly becoming unacceptable in the Democratic Party. Obama (who I rather doubt is committed to it) will almost certainly be the last Democrat leader who espouses, even if only for a while, such a view.

Critics have tried to twist Warren's comments into a hostility toward homosexual couples. In a recent interview, after essentially endorsing domestic partner benefits for same sex couples, he said that he opposed redefining marriage and noted some other relationships that he would argue shoulf not be included within the definition of marriage, including relationships between brothers and sisters and older men and younger women.

Here is where the villification comes in. Gays and lesbians say that he is likening our relationships to incest and pedophillia.

Well, no.

We can't expect more from Rick Warren that he can deliver. He's a guy whose talent lies in taking concepts that are simple and true and translating them for his age and for the masses. That's no mean feat and he has done it well. Warren has probably done more for most families than almost any of our self proclaimed "compassionate" political leaders.

But that doesn't mean that he can manage to be converant with the complexities of the larger issues that engulf his age (even as he gets them right) or that his responses to an interviewer exhausts his views on the subject.

I've used the brother/sister analogy on same sex marriage and it has nothing to do with incest. No one really argues that the basis for extending marriage to gays and lesbians has anything to do with sex. No one says that a gay couple should have the legal protections and obligations of marriage because, like heterosexual couples, they engage in genital intimacy. To the contrary, they emphasize, as they should, the loving and mutual dependency of relationships which they may also form.

But that begs the question. Why extend marriage to same sex relationships involving genital intimacy, but not to a variety of equally loving and dependent relationships (like that between a brother and sister or bachelor son and mother living together) which do not? This is what Warren was trying to get at and, given a chance to explain, may have made more clear.

The example of an older man and younger woman was poorly chosen, although I can see how he got there. Relationships of that type used to commonly result in marriage. We learned - or changes in society came to show us - that this was not a good idea.

My larger point is that Warren is not ignorant or some type of bigot. He is trying to address these issues publicly because his ability to reach out to the faithful on less controverial issues has made him a prominent figure. Given his success at the latter task and resulting prominence, he is an obvious choice to lead prayer at a major national event.

Obama is right in recognizing that, but then there's the scathingly brilliant part.

He knows that his left flank will be upset with him, but not enough to cause him damage. He knows that the larger population will see their attack on Warren as nasty and unfair. His resistance will be seen as reasonable. Not a huge thing but, still, scathingly brilliant.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

Rick, glad to see you're coming around to thinking Obama is brilliant -- as opposed to "redistributivist," socialist, whatever it was you were saying before the election. It's high time that you give your fellow former Gannett House habitue his due.

Welcome to the Barack fan club! There's hope for you yet.

Nick said...

I guess I don't understand the argument of using the fact that we don't allow marriage to brothers and sisters as an argument against gay marriage at all. After all, that argument could be used to say that we should not have marriage to anyone, even heterosexuals.

If having genital intimacy is not a deciding factor in the reason for marriage, then exactly what do heterosexuals have above homosexuals?

And I'm really getting sick of the argument that its ok to not have homosexual marriage when you can have equal benefits to homosexuals. Its a red herring as long as the Defense of Marriage Act exists, which legally denies federal benefits to spouses of homosexual couples (even if their state allows it). That means no Social Security when a gay partner dies to the spouse, or other federal benefits. There is no special contract you can sign to get around that.

illusory tenant said...

The example of an older man and younger woman was poorly chosen ...

Let's be clear here. What he said was, "older guy marrying a child." A child. He wasn't talking about Anna Nicole Smith.

Anonymous said...

Does this become Obama position or is it part of his strategy to confuse the right? Warren stands for much more!

John Foust said...

No one really argues that the basis for denying marriage to gays and lesbians has anything to do with sex. No one says that a gay couple shouldn't have the legal protections and obligations of marriage because, like heterosexual couples, they engage in genital intimacy. No one says gays shouldn't be able to marry because they mostly don't procreate exactly the same way as hetero couples.

Oh, wait, lots of people do argue those things, including Rick Warren. (From here: "The Designer of sex has clearly and repeatedly said that he created sex exclusively for husbands and wives in marriage." ... "But neither is it the government's role to classify just any 'loving' relationship as a marriage. A committed boyfriend-girlfriend relationship is not a marriage. Two lovers living together is a not a marriage. Incest is not marriage. A domestic partnership or even a civil union is still not marriage.")

Warren wants his interpretation of the Bible to guide government, period. (Transcript, with clarifications, for those of you who like original sources.)

How did "we" come to learn that arranged marriages shouldn't be enforced by law? How did "we" come to learn that it wasn't great to pair an old man with a much younger woman? (And that's not illegal today, is it? A sixteen-year-old could still marry an old guy, with her parent's permission.)

Anonymous said...

Warren Jeffs, arguably the Rick Warren of the fringe Mormons, believed his interpretation of marriage should be adopted by the government, and look where that got him. From news reports, the parents of those 16 year old girls gave consent...

Anonymous said...

Rick you really have a problem with gay people get over it

AnotherTosaVoter said...

I see we're back on our favorite subject, Rick.

The question begged is a weak one because it's based on the slippery slope logical fallacy, that allowing B will naturally lead to undesirable C.

There's also the simple fact that, as mentioned, it's heteros like us in the first place who got the ball rolling. If you and I didn't have "marriage" then the homos and the polygamists certainly wouldn't have a case, would they?

You've probably moved on from this thread by now, but if you haven't, take a look at this video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H7DjSmIXyZ4&feature=related

After watching it, I'd like you to expand on the point you made a while back, but never defended, that somehow changing marriage weakens it. Neither you nor anyone else has offered an explanation as to why homosexuals being given "marriage" would act as a dependent variable on which the future of marriage will depend.

I for one, as a married hetero, can tell you absolutely that were gays given "marriage" it would make no difference whatsoever in how my wife and I view and define our marriage.

And I think that gets to a crux of the issue - people like you seem to think you get to define marriage for everyone, which is why your argument makes sense only to you.

Comment?

Anonymous said...

In my humble opinion, “practical” rationales given for opposing or resisting same-sex marriages are all smoke and mirrors. None of these “practical” rationales make much sense, yet they are vital because without them, the only reasons left to oppose same-sex marriage are sheer homophobia OR the preservation of a religiously-driven prohibition. Given the decline of homophobia and the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, those reason cannot stand for long; therefore “practical” reasons are essential to preventing same-sex marriage.

But as noted, none of these “practical” rationales provide a compelling need to deny marriage rights to same-sex couples, they are at best weak arguments to prefer “traditional” marriages, as if the two forms were mutually exclusive–they are not.

At the end of the day, only homophobia and religious doctrine really matter. There simply is no “practical” reason to forbid same-sex marriage because permitting them is unlikely to have deleterious effect on our culture. Opponents of SSM will do their utmost to construct elaborate justifications for continuing the bans, but their sole motivation for searching for these rationales is and will be homophobia OR religious doctrine (but probably not both).

sean s.

Anonymous said...

Sean S, It has been my experience that homophobia usually is beholden to the uneducated or those who are simply afraid to look at themselves. Religion doctrine is used as a cover to the above.

Anonymous said...

Dear Anonymous;

Unfortunately I'v meet too many well-educated bigots to agree with you. Homophobia is not about education as much as about personality IMHO.

sean s.

Anonymous said...

good point however when I use the term educated I mean it beyond a set of facts learned or degrees earned but in a wider sense of being exposed to many peoples and cultures and having an understanding of the same. Educated in this sense percludes narrowmindedness which is the mother of homophobia

Anonymous said...

"the state of being united to a person of the opposite sex as husband or wife in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law (2): the state of being united to a person of the same sex in a relationship like that of a traditional marriage same-sex marriage"

These are the current 1 and 2 definitions of marriage...How pathetic. My dictionary is from 1982. It does not have the second definition in it at all. You would think a 'dictionary' would be a reflection of the words of the people it represents, not a propaganda tool. Since the majority of even California still think there is no such thing as 'same sex marriage' you would think the dictionary writers would hold off putting it in their book in the simple name of accuracy. The first definition specifically precludes the second.

Just like it is not the place for religious masses to dictate how people who are attracted to members of the same sex should act, it is not the place of gays or elitist heteros to dictate to the religious masses.

How, HOW is a 'civil union' that is given equal privileges before the law different or worse than 'same sex marriage'? A relationship between members of the same sex is different than between members of the opposite sex. We call one homosexuality and one heterosexuality. Why wouldn't unions between the two have different names?

It still seems to me that if a person genuinely wanted homosexuals to have the same rights before the law, they would specifically want to call it something else.

If poking the eye of religious people again and again instead of passing laws is more important to you, however, you would then use the term same sex marriage. I daresay it puts the moron in oxymoron. The term 'civil union' had laws successfully passed because the religious moderates could vote for it (after all, we live in the home of the free and the land of the brave). It was against their religion, but it should not be against the secular law and many people see that. Few people who believe the bible is an important part of their religion can vote for the usurpation of the religious term 'marriage'. Long before Webster was born 'marriage' was in the bible specifically as a term that meant a blessed union between members of the opposite sex. That same bible specifically prohibited any type of union between members of the same sex. That did not change in the last 26 years, it is still in the bible.

This is not rocket science. Of course you will have opposition from some religious people, but if your goal is to get homosexuals an equal compact in the eyes of the law, it would be wise to offend as little as possible. Are you unwise or is your real agenda the continued degradation of religion?
Tuerqas

Anonymous said...

tuergas.....the Bible has been used to support slavery and white elitism. Shall we go back to the days of the Milwaukee Police Dept raiding gay bars and lying in wait to give out jaywalking tickets to gay patrons leaving bars....or maybe we should go back to electroshock therapy for gay people back when it was a categorized a mental illness. The Bible also say no divorce.....I'll give up same sex marriage if we can truly follow the Bible and make marriage forever, no divorce, no exceptions fro all you miserable straights

Anonymous said...

Anonymous who can't recognize a Q, so your belief system includes that the bible has been used as justificatoin for some bad things throughout time, therefore you believe everyone else should take the bible as law for everything in it or believe none of it... Good for you. Believe that in good health.

Obviously, it means and has meant many things to different people. Sadly for you, it will continue to mean many different things to different people, get over yourself.

To apply that attitude, you should then want us to use only the original dictionary from the 1800s. The meanings of words do not change or if one changes, they should all change...

I understand that both the content and the interpretations of the bible(and dictionary) change over time. I believe there is a new standard Bible that has removed the New Testament criticisms of honosexuality... Yea for you.

Not too long ago it was perfectly acceptable to call a homosexual a 'fag', 'faggot', 'homo', etc. and I am sure worse names. What makes them unacceptable? Are you offended? Do you think they should not be colloquiallisms used to denote you or any other homosexual?

Why is it you can abridge my lexicon, then spit in the face of my religion and my lexicon by using 'marriage' as a definition for your partnership, though its definition specifically precludes that partnership. If we are such miserable straights and you are so much happier, why would you want to? Why wouldn't you want a better name rather than a religious one that you obviously disdain? Why not use something like, say... Oh, how about 'civil union' inferring that our miserable straight marriages are 'uncivil'? Why do you wish to label yourself as an oxymoron when you can choose something else?

Whether you like it or not, using 'same sex marriage' puts a context of holiness to your union which you definitely seem to despise. If you are not religious, I cannot imagine why you want the context as it will certainly create barriers to getting secular laws passed. If you are religious, then it is an affront to your church and religion to push a secular law that directly conflicts with its tenets. You should be working in your church, You should yourself be offended by undermining your church.
TuerQas

Anonymous said...

Tuerqas if you wish to define marriage within a religious context then do so all the way the Bible says no divorce and I would be happy if that became the law of the land.......marriage should be forever....however straight people could never live up to that standard yet they feel their marriage will be threatened by same sex mariage how pathetic

Anonymous said...

Tuerqueer
justificatoin is spelled justification.

"Not too long ago it was perfectly acceptable to call a homosexual a 'fag', 'faggot', 'homo', etc. and I am sure worse names. "

perhaps this was perfectly acceptable to christians like yourself; and perhaps perfectly acceptable racist terms from the past should be ok also using your logic

Anonymous said...

Sorry, but I have to face it, you both seem to be idiots. There is no "If I wish...". Marriage is a religious term regardless of your or my religious beliefs.

Here we are again with apples and oranges. Biblical doctrine is not the law of the land in this or any recent century for Christians, in general. Contrary to your personal beliefs, very few (none that I know) Christians believe that their marriages are threatened by homosexuals or homsexuality. Proof has been in the details. Civil Unions were overwhelmingly passed in California, yet same sex marriage was not passed. What was the difference? 'Pathetic' is insisting that a union between members of the same sex be called 'marriage'. It is already proven that religious people will accept civil unions, including every single legal right that marriage has. The offense to religious people is not a perceived threat to their marriage (that is more your lie to belittle those who believe in religion), it is trying to change the religious term of marriage to an exact opposite meaning, one that goes against their beliefs. Are your beliefs so weak that you would not care if someone tried to redefine your beliefs for you?

You seem to have thought much on this topic. Let's say the writers of Mirriam Webster came out with the 2009 Dictionary that defined homosexuality as a relationship between one man and one goat... Ridiculous, offensive... Think about it. You did not comment or answer my real (not rhetorical) questions about why Gays would want the term marriage for their partnerships, so I do not have much hope that you will see the dictionary correlation, but hey I am an optimist.

If you can answer how you would react if the Dictionary writers put in the above as a new definition for homosexuality, yet then explain how changing the definition of marriage should/could not be characterized in the same vein, I would be very interested.

Anon 2, WOW, 'Tuerqueer' that was great. You really got one on me there. Oh wait, queer is one of those derogatory terms for Gays. So you take me to task for a typo and talking about decades old terms that are insulting to Gays, while actually using one in your current post? You are precious to your mother aren't you? Do you realize that calling me queer as an intended insult means that you yourself think 'queers' are somehow substandard? Luckily for me, I really do not think of homosexuality as something lesser, so to call me queer means you are merely mistaken, not insulting. Double failure... no wonder you do not identify yourself in any way.
Tuerqas

PS If there is another typo in this comment, I really don't give a damn and everyone can read it for themselves. You can, however, point it out again if that is the most intelligent subject you can handle.