Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Mr. Obama Wrestles with His Faith The President on Gay Lives and Gay Issues

My observations:

▪ I think it's clear that they feel victimized in fairly powerful ways . . . .

This is a misreading of the gay experience and of what underlies the current wave of repulsion against the new administration on the part of many gay citizens. Gay Americans do not feel victimized. We are victimized.

When your head is bashed in by police who tell you that the faggot is getting what he deserved, simply because you happen to be gay and in a gay bar, you're not feeling victimized. You are being victimized.

When you're a soldier harassed and eventually murdered because you're gay but have to hide that fact due to discriminatory policies, and when you appeal to the military authorities for help, but no one assists you, you don't feel victimized. You are victimized.

When your partner is dying in the hospital and you and your children are told you can't see the partner because you're in a homophobic state with homophobic laws, you don't feel victimized. You are victimized.

When you're fired solely because you are gay, you don't feel victimized. You are victimized.

When your right to marry your partner is recognized by a state's supreme court and then the citizens of that state vote to remove that human and civil right from you with the malicious and active assistance of churches, you're victimized in reality, not just in your "feelings."

When we reduce the real victimization of a demeaned group of human beings to feelings and perceptions, we let ourselves off the hook, morally speaking. Talking about how others feel victimized--rather than about how they are vicitimized--permits us to tsk-tsk and wring our hands about the hurt feelings of those poor others. This rhetoric also allows us to ignore the ways in which we can actually do something to assist those who are experiencing actual pain and actual oppression.

When a leader of a nation committed to democratic ideals engages in such rhetoric, he or she disguises the significant way in which, qua leader, he or she can do something powerful and effective to lift the oppression of a group of fellow human beings and fellow citizens experiencing unjust oppression.

And as a Christian, I'm constantly wrestling with my faith and my solicitude and regard and concern for gays and lesbians.

In commenting on this statement, Dan Gilgoy thinks that the president wanted to set his faith and what the churches say about gay people over against his solicitude and regard for gay persons. If this is a correct interpretation, then Mr. Obama is implying that the churches require believers to oppose gay people and gay rights, while empathy tugs believers in the opposite direction, towards solidarity with gays and lesbians in their oppression.

This statement distorts the stance of many churches, including the president's own United Church of Christ, regarding homosexuality. There is hardly uniform condemnation of gay people throughout all churches and other communities of faith.

Many churches and faith communities have taken prophetic stances against homophobia. Prophetic groups within other churches and other faith communities whose stance is generally anti-gay resist their communities' homophobia and call for an end to discrimination.

It is also very unclear why the issue of homosexuality represents a unique exception in the thinking of President Obama. Regarding the many other issues with which he is now grappling--for example, the healthcare issue--there is a variety of viewpoints within various faith communities today, and the president does not appear to think he is compelled to respond to or incorporate all those church-specific viewpoints about these issues as he makes policy decisions.

It's only with regard to the issue of homosexuality that Mr. Obama appears to be struggling with the teachings of his and other churches. It's only in this area that he seems to have religious qualms that dictate what he thinks and does as a political leader.

Why, I wonder? What's unique, morally speaking, about the "problem" of treating gay human beings as human beings, deserving of the same rights and compassion other human beings enjoy? And if the president's mind, heart, and soul are conflicted regarding the morality of gay lives, then why his statements about his fierce advocacy for gay rights and the moral imperative to achieve equality for gay citizens?

What has changed since Mr. Obama's election to introduce such religious wrestling where his faith convictions previously led him to recognize the legitimate demands of gay citizens for an end to oppression? And why, in this area alone, should Americans who recognize that equality is a moral imperative because democratic societies are founded on that imperative bow to the will of some church folks regarding gay lives and gay issues?