I’ve watched quite a few movies in my time. One of my favorites is A Man for All Seasons, based on the play of the same name, about the last few years of the life of Sir Thomas More.
For those who of you who may not know the story, More was executed for treason against King Henry VIII, because he refused to sign the Oath of Fealty, which proclaimed that the signatories recognized Henry as Head of the Church in England. For years More had been Henry’s close friend, the second most powerful man in England on top of that, not to mention a respected legal scholar, writer and philosopher.
He lost his life, because he refused to change his beliefs, to go with the flow, even in the face of the drastic social, political and religious changes of the time. Right up until the end, he stuck by his convictions, even when his family and friends pleaded with him to not get on the king’s bad side.
Now why did I bring this up? Well…okay, I know that I’m going to get flak for what I’m going to say, and several people, such as blogger/writers Matt Walsh, Andrew Sullivan and NRO columnist Kevin D. Williamson, have articulated these arguments better than I will, but I’ve decided to throw my hat into the proverbial arena.
For those of you who don’t know, Brendan Eich, the CEO (or, I should say ex-CEO), of the Mozilla Corp., a company well-known for its web apps including the web browser Firefox, stepped down from his position in the company after it was made public a few weeks ago that he had given $1000 in support of Proposition 8, controversial bill that would make gay marriage illegal in the state of California. The public outcry was to say the least quite severe, so the company did what it could to save face.
Now, this story troubles me; as far as we know, Mr. Eich did not use homophobic language in public addresses, did not use any gay slurs, and did not go around carrying signs around gay pride parades that say “God Hates Fags”, like those bigoted idiots in the Westboro Baptist Church.
He just happened to give some money towards a bill that would promote and preserve his own values. And for this he was forced to resign? Heck, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is a far more embarrassing and controversial public figure than Mr. Eich. Or at least, it appears so to me.
Now, of course gay marriage is a very, very hot button, issue; I wouldn’t dream of tackling such a large, complex, emotional topic of discussion so soon in my burgeoning career.
What bothers me about this whole mess is that a man is being punished because he happened to be moving against the wind, so to speak. He is being punished for following his conscience, like Sir Thomas all those years ago. Please do not misunderstand me; I am *not* calling Mr. Eich a martyr of any kind. I am merely pointing out parallels of unjust persecution.
Have we really devolved so much as a society, that whenever we encounter someone on the “opposing team” in the street, at a rally, an assembly etc., that we always must end up screaming at our opponents, calling them names like “haters, homophobes, traditionalistic idiots, assholes who are against love”? Of course, I don’t mean to paint everyone involved in this debate with a broad brush; with such a complex ethical issue as this, there are a variety of approaches that both sides employ. Of course, both sides want to win, so they argue, back and forth, neither side seeming to concede an inch, remaining entrenched in their respective camps.
Some resort to bumper sticker style arguments like “Love is for everyone!” “Marriage means one man, one woman” etc. While the politicians, philosophers and more learned men and women use far more complex arguments, and at least attempt to be civil and rational and not let their hearts rule their heads.
However, as I said before, my article isn’t about gay rights or gay marriage per se. My article is about tolerance and intolerance.
Tolerance is the one virtue it seems that everyone wants to have these days; we all want to respect everyone’s choices. And we come across the same bumper sticker arguments to support our reasoning succinctly: “What’s true for you is not true for me” “whatever floats your boat”, “That’s like, your opinion man” “Let’s agree to disagree”. Now, me, I don’t like tolerance; or at least, I don’t like extreme tolerance. Being intolerant has nothing to do with hate, or taking away someone’s free will. For instance, say my brother started going to McDonald’s four times a week. Now, would I not be obligated, as a responsible older brother, to stop him from doing so, lest he risked his health in the long run? Too often, we see our choices as just about personal taste, no matter the context. I may not like the fact that he listens mostly to shallow pop music, but I can’t stop him. I don’t like the fact that he doesn’t read as much as me, but I can’t drag him to the library. My brother has a mind of his own, but I see nothing wrong is saying to him, that there are lines I do not wish for him to cross.
People like me, who believe that morality is objective, view morals the same way we view health. Doing bad, or making wrong choices, harms the mind and soul as much as bad dietary habits harm the body. For us, morals are not mere opinion but can be supported by reason and agreed upon by everyone, everywhere, everywhen. So when I see the people acting grossly intolerant, in reaction to other people’s intolerance, it baffles and angers me. It’s not just about being hypocritical; it’s about one side demonizing and silencing the other side. This is not how battles for hearts and minds should be carried out; it should be done with mutual respect, open-mindedness, and above all, love.
Being Catholic, I must live my life in accordance to the teachings of the Church, which does not automatically make me a “homophobe”; homophobia means “prejudice, aversion or hatred of homosexual people and behavior”. I do not hate any members of the LGTB community; I don’t run around screaming every time I see a rainbow. I don’t put my fingers in my ears every time “In the Navy” or “Macho Man” comes on the radio. My beliefs do not require me to scorn, hate or harm anybody whose beliefs or behaviors differ from mine. In fact, that is the last thing I should be doing. Let me take you guys and gals to Sunday school for a minute, and tell you about what Catholicism has to say about respect:
“Respect for the human person proceeds by way of respect for the principle that “everyone should look upon his neighbor (without any exception) as ‘another self,’ above all bearing in mind his life and the means necessary for living it with dignity.” No legislation could by itself do away with the fears, prejudices, and attitudes of pride and selfishness which obstruct the establishment of truly fraternal societies. Such behavior will cease only through the charity that finds in every man a “neighbor,” a brother.”
That is from paragraph 1931 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Look it up yourselves if you doubt me. So I must respect everyone. Even if the way someone lives their lives offends my values, I must respect them, no exceptions. Where is the respect for Mr. Eich? Why the condemnations? Is he wrong? It can be argued whether he is or not.
Is what he did so wrong, so lacking in common sense, so evil, that he should be forced to resign?
No. A thousand times no! A man should not be punished for exercising his free will and voting for legislation that will support his POV, no matter the issue. And I know that many people advocating for gay rights like to draw similarities between the gay rights movement and the Civil Rights Movement. I fail to see the connection. Just because gay rights activists claim that they are a continuation of the Civil Rights Movement, does not make it so.
The Civil Rights Movement was about getting people to realize that every person, regardless of ethnicity, was equal under the law, that everyone has equal value. The gay rights issue is about determining whether all types of sexual orientation and practices are equally moral. The people who are advocating gay rights have no business comparing themselves to ethnic minorities who were punished because of something they had no control over. Yes, gay people have been persecuted and marginalized. But these are two distinct movements.
Now let me make a few things clearer about where I stand; I am against gay bashing, I am against ostracizing gay people, shunning them, bullying them to the point where they feel they have nowhere to turn, and (successfully or not) attempt to take away their own lives. Such tragedies occur far too often; I think we can all agree that the bullying of LGTB people is something we must stop at all costs.
Also, keep in mind that the Church does not see homosexual orientation in and itself as sinful. If it did, I would not be Catholic. I wonder how many people, even Catholics, know that little fact. I sure didn’t, until I got curious, and looked it up. Hint hint.
I do not know whether Mr. Eich shares my views; but, I think it is right to say that no one should assume that he supports gay bashing or hate crimes if he is against gay marriage. A certain stance on a particular issue does not imply endorsement of these other things, as I have attempted to show.
Now, of course, you can disagree with me, you can dismiss my values and arguments as mere “indoctrination”, rather than a product of intense reasoning and introspection. That is your right; I can’t take that away from you. All that I ask is that you understand my position and Mr. Eich’s, and don’t have knee-jerk reactions to my arguments or his, condemning us blindly. I do not see people on the opposite side of the street as the “Other”; as something to feared, shunned or despised; no one should be this way. No one should take away anyone’s right to determine his or her own values, nor should anyone deny anyone else’s right to defend them in public or in private. Otherwise what kind of democracy do we really have? Not the kind I was taught about in school, that’s for sure.
I do not fear the men and women of the LGTB community; I only fear the most extreme activists, full of fire, vitriol, and simplistic thinking, who would tear me down because I do not value what they value and do not think the way they think.
So to my LGTB brothers and sisters, know that I will always love and respect you, even if I think you’ve made some poor choices.