Sunday, October 21, 2012

Missouri Pastor Speaks About Gay Rights (with a Twist): Applications to Catholic Conversation

This is one of the reasons I harp endlessly on the insularity and even downright obtuseness of many members of the Catholic commentariat class.  While claiming to speak on behalf of American Catholics as they mediate between Catholicism and American culture, many of our official spokespersons are, I keep maintaining, out of touch both with the rich diversity of the real Catholic experience in the U.S., and with much that goes on in the American heartland in general.

And so, as I've noted in the past, I'm baffled when folks in the American Catholic commentariat class suggest that the resistance to gay rights in wide sectors of the U.S. isn't analogous to the resistance to rights for people of color in the past.  And that, while the resistance to gay rights is fueled by theological considerations and scriptural warrants, there wasn't similar resistance in the past to the rights of African Americans on the grounds of theological tradition and what the bible says.

As Dr. Snider says in the video at the head of this posting, every single statement he makes in his anti-gay rights speech is lifted right out of speeches made to oppose integration in the 1950s and 1960s.  Every single biblical-religious warrant he offers to oppose the full inclusion of gay people in American society today comes right from the playbook of those opposing integration on religious-biblical grounds in the 1950s and 1960s.

Catholic liberals love to pretend that there's something special, something unique, about the struggle for gay rights in American culture, and that in remaining aloof from that struggle (read: in siding with right-wing opponents of gay rights), they're not really behaving like white liberals who refused to engage in the struggle for civil rights in the 1950s and 1960s (read: like white liberals who sided with right-wing opponents of black civil rights).  Since, you know, the two struggles aren't alike, and the resistance to gay rights has real theological-biblical force to it . . . . 

This is fatuous, self-serving thinking, and it flies in the face of abundant evidence that, as South Carolina native Aziz Ansari recently told Jimmy Kimmel, the very same groups that previously opposed civil rights for African Americans and women are now opposing civil rights for gay and lesbian Americans.  The powerful movement to resist the full inclusion of LGBT people in American culture is not discontinuous from the powerful movements of the past (which continue in the present) to resist the full inclusion of African Americans and women in American culture.  These resistance movements are continuous with each other; they all spring from the same cultural roots and employ the same predictable "biblical" arguments.

As Joan Walsh reminds readers in her powerful remembrance of George McGovern at Salon today, Catholic voters in many parts of the U.S. were hardly immune to the dog whistles of race and religion when Nixon began to peel Southern voters from the Democratic party by using those very same dog whistles in the South.  Catholic liberals who imagine that they can resist gay rights (and implicitly side with religious-right bigots whose base lies in the evangelical South as they do so), while they remain somehow removed from and superior to heartland bigotry, are fooling themselves.

As Andrew Sullivan says re: Dr. Snider's speech to the Springfield city council, 

Just take any number of speeches from the era of the racial miscegenation bans, just cite the leaders of the fundamentalist right from the 1960s, and switch the terms and see the exact same arguments that were made against African-Americans and their right to marry whosoever they choose as they are used today, by the same misguided voices.

Snider's video provides a mirror into which Catholic "liberals" who disdain or question the struggle for gay civil rights sorely need to look.  So that they can begin to see with whom they've really hopped into bed, as they imagine that they can resist gay rights without associating themselves with outright bigots who previously resisted civil rights for African Americans and women . . . . Folks to whom Catholic liberals like to feel vastly superior . . . .

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