Thursday, August 19, 2010

Syreeta McFadden on Ross Douthat's Approach to Mosque Controversy: Sinister Subtext Appealing to "Seeming" Reason

A must-read piece today: Syreeta McFadden at Religion Dispatches on Ross Douthat's recent ground-zero mosque columnJoan Walsh masterfully dissected Douthat's bigotry at Salon earlier in the week, and Eduardo Peñalver has sparked lively discussion of Douthat's column with a posting at Commonweal.

My point here is not to discuss Douthat's column.  I'll leave it to interested readers who have not yet read it to link to and read it for themselves.  And I do recommend Walsh's commentary and the Commonweal thread about the essay for further analysis of the piece.

My point here is to underscore McFadden's approach to Douthat's work, which is, in my view, right on target: as she notes, under the guise of presenting an argument that is "seemingly reasoned and innocuous," Douthat develops a sinister subtext that plays on the basest xenophobic instincts of nativist-minded citizens, and his "veiled reasoning on assimilation in American history" provides "an opiate for an ugly trend dominating our national conversation."

And that's precisely the point I wanted to make yesterday, as I noted that when Catholic neocons including Ross Douthat, Maggie Gallagher, and Robert P. George address the lives of their gay brothers and sisters, they commonly wrap raw, hateful prejudice in rhetoric masquerading as sweet reason and light.  But the irrational--and maleficent--basis of their agenda is never far from the surface of their "reason."

The neocon reading of natural law informed by the theology of the body masquerades as rationality.  It seeks to enter the public square of our pluralistic, secular democracy not as what it is--religious bias--but as patent reason accessible to any human being of good will who examines issues of gender and sexual orientation dispassionately in the light of science and philosophy.

But it comes, inevitably, to the same hateful conclusion to which the cardinal archbishop of Guadalajara Sandoval Iniguez came earlier this week, when he asked the public, "Would you want to be adopted by a pair of faggots or lesbians?"  The "reason" to which Catholic neocon natural law thinkers appeal is no less biogted, no less hateful in its intent to demean and exclude those who are gay and lesbian, than is the "reason" to which Sandoval appeals in his eminently unreasonable and ugly statement.

And this is why the recent prop 8 decision refused to be swayed by such "reason."  Because it does not reach the threshhold test of rationality in a democratic society.  Because it intends to continue discrimination on religious grounds that cannot withstand the scrutiny of reason in the public square--because they are merely religious grounds with no ultimate recourse to the rational, religious warrants for continuing discrimination antithetical to our Constitution and democratic principles.

Make no mistake about it: when you hear Douthat, Gallagher, and George ask us to reason together about gay people and gay lives, you're hearing, as well, the voice of Cardinal Sandoval asking whether you really want to let faggots adopt children.  The shoddy agenda of "the" Catholic approach to gay and lesbian human beings is to stigmatize, demean, exclude, and dehumanize--in the name of God.