Thursday, May 05, 2011

All Acts of Love and Pleasure

In comments to my earlier posting of this YouTube below, Markarios makes some good points and I thought that I'd post my responses.

First, with Markarios, I agree with the speaker's first point: enshrining religious beliefs in a state constitution is not a good idea. However, watery Pisces and lover of legal prose that I am, I'm not sure exactly where the line gets drawn. I'd vote, were I in the legislature, for constitutional amendments that enshrine, for example, the rights of plants and animals to not be driven to extinction by human profit. I'd enshrine the rights of women to control their own bodies. I'd enshrine the rights of all people to engage in adult, consensual sex of their choice without government intervention. (Maybe "enshrine" is a bad word in this context; say "establish" instead.) And, to be honest, my commitment to those ideals springs from my religion. So while I don't agree that: "Because the Bible (the way some now interpret it) says homosexuality is bad!" is a valid reason to change the state constitution, and while I agree that: "Because the Charge of the Goddess says that all acts of love and pleasure are rituals of the Goddess!" is not a valid reason to change the state constitution, I'm aware that religion sometimes influences the votes of the humans in the legislature. But, yes, like Markarios, I agree that the speaker's first point is the most valid.

Although the speaker is much more eloquent concerning his second point, which I'm about to discuss.

In the law (and I've no idea if this gentleman is a lawyer, or not, but, to my ear, he sounds like a good one), it's permissible, indeed often necessary, to "argue in the alternative." In other words, you can say to the court, "Look, my client did not pull the trigger. I've shown that with evidence A, B, and C. However, even if you find that he did pull the trigger, there are three reasons why he's still not guilty of this crime. First, . . . " And that's what I think the speaker is doing when he moves to: "the other thing . . ." and "what does it mean to the moral force of your arguments arguments if sexual orientation is god-given?" (You know how effective his argument is because his opponent jumps up and makes a jerk of himself saying, "Keep your applause to yourself." How does one even do that?) In other words, the speaker is saying, "First, we shouldn't enshrine religious beliefs in our Constitution. But, even if you believe that it's ok to do that -- to change the Constitution based upon your religious beliefs -- here's another reason why we shouldn't adopt this measure. We shouldn't adopt it because god keeps creating gay people, and how many gay people does god have to create before we accept that god wants them around?" In other words, the moral force of those "religious arguments" you've proposed is nil. So don't change the constitution based upon false religious beliefs, even if you think it's ok to change it based upon religious beliefs.

And to my lawyer's ear, that's ok. And to my lawyer's ear, it's ok to pull out your rhetorical guns against the argument you believe is most attractive to the person you're attempting to convince. And to my lawyer's ear, it's where this speaker's argument becomes so eloquent that it moves from mere prose to persuasive rhetoric, which can, in fact, stir people's souls and change their hearts. And, sometimes, their votes.

As to Markarios' other point, I had to smile, as I had dinner with a dear friend last night (her husband's homemade gumbo -- the nectar of the Gods!) and was making this very same point. I agree that sexual orientation, for the vast majority of the population, is innate. In the speaker's words, translated into mine, it's a "gift of the Goddess." I know that I didn't wake up one morning and decide to be "straight." I've heard from too many of the gay people I love how they spent nights on their knees praying "not to be gay" in a culture and religion that taught that there was little less acceptable than being gay. But I've also known people who engaged in whatever sex was available or approved at the time, whether that meant male homosexual sex in an all-boys' school or lesbian sex when (and this is how old I am) that was favored by feminists, and then went on to have lots of other kinds of sex.

Yet, importantly, I agree that, in my world at least, it should be irrelevant whether sexual orientation is innate (as it often is) or a "lifestyle" choice (as it can be). I don't believe that the government has any reason to tell any person what kind of adult, consensual sex is "Ok" or "sanctioned." And that's true regardless of the reason why that person chooses to engage in any kind of sex. But I also "get" that anti-discrimination laws are often based upon the fact that a person can't choose to be, for example, dark-skinned, or female, or differently-abled and, so, that makes it illogical and wrong to discriminate against them, as if the discrimination could cause them to change their "behavior."

And that brings me back to my religion. Because it's my religion that makes the sex act doctrinally important (well, the Christians seem to consider it important, as well, but for reasons that have nothing to do with what Jesus said and did and everything to do with patriarchy, control, fear, etc.) and freedom to practice all "rituals of the Goddess" free from government interference (especially because that government interference is often based upon (someone else's) religious beliefs) a really important point for me.

More to the point, I would sincerely love to hear more of the "people on our side" able to discuss these issues in a manner similar to this gentleman's discussion. (Good rhetoric backed by real belief.) I'm just embarrassed by Democrats who mouth some namby-pamby version (John Kerry and Barack Obama, I'm looking at you) of "I think marriage is a union between one man and one woman but I'd support blahhabhallahh and please don't hold this against me and could we please just change the subject?" And, in case ya'll haven't noticed, that's not working too well for you. The Christianists see through you and vote for your opponent and those on your side are dispirited. Grow up. Get some ovaries. Stand for something. Stand for sex-positive attitudes. Hell, could it hurt you worse than your Republican-Lite stance?

We're leaving the Age of Pisces (and I'm a Pisces) and moving into the Age of Aquarius. Humans are going to have to figure out some way to live in communities that don't share religious beliefs, even as we focus with laser-beam intensity on how to change the world. It's going to be interesting. I hope to hang around for a bit of it.

What do you think?

More interesting discussion here.


ThinlyVeiled said...

I think I love you.

Hecate said...


Entirely mutual

thepagangardener said...

I wanted to post about how tired I was of being called names for being gay, how I was spit on and had the middle finger pushed in my face, how I had cockroaches thrown on me in PE or carrots with condoms in my clothes. I wanted to post about how Paul Broussard was murdered in 1991 at a gay bar called Heaven I used to frequent in my 20s. But more importantly, when a trance channeler let me talk to my grandmother when she died in 1999, after she verified it was really her, the first thing she said was "I'm so sorry I didn't accept your sexuality." I wasn't even sure what she meant, I never knew she had a problem with it, we just never talked about it. But she saw how much of a mistake that was after she died.

Hecate said...


You must have been very strong to live through all of that. How wonderful that your grandmother was able to reach back and say to you what she had learned.

thepagangardener said...

Thanks Hecate. I don't understand where the hate comes from. I grew up with all my peers, the same way, we are all the same. Some flowers are different. Some people are gay. I think we R all wasting too much time arguing over things that don't make any difference any way, a colossal waste of mental energy. My approach was to be non-confrontational & it always worked.

Makarios said...

Goodness gracious me! Thank you very much for your very eloquently expressed remarks. If I may take the liberty of making a few comments of my own:

Understandably, a person's religious beliefs, if sincerely held, will influence the decisions that he/she makes--and, for legislators, that would include their voting yea or nay on proposed legislation. Where we most quickly run into trouble, in a pluralistic society, is when legislatures purport, on religious grounds, to prohibit acts that are not harmful in and of themselves. An illustration might be a predominantly Jewish legislature prohibiting the manufacture, sale, or wearing of garments woven from mixed fibres. The examples that you supply (forbidding the knowing extinction of species, permitting acts between consenting adults, and so on) would not fall under this rubric.

Thank you for pointing out the fact that the Hon. Member was arguing in the alternative. I had overlooked that. Certainly from that angle, dissecting the supposedly religious premise is entirely warranted--although this type God-talk in the legislature of a U.S. state still sets my teeth on edge. I wonder what part of "no establishment" some Hon. Members don't understand.

With regard to "people on our side," I would not look to either of the legacy parties in the U.S. to try too hard in this regard. The Republicans keep moving the crazy flag ever farther to the right, and the Democrats continue to try to meet them in what passes for the middle. The politicians of both parties are well aware that very, very few voters will switch from one party to the other based on this particular issue. IOW, a person for whom this particular type of "family values" issue is important is probably not going to vote for a Democrat in any case.

IMO, there are two things that will be required to hang onto the gains that have already been made in this area, and to make any further progress:

- Feet on the street. Protests, civil disobedience if necessary, and other forms of direct action by the people are the tactics that will have the greatest likelihood of doing the job in the short-to-medium term. Relying on the Democrats to carry the can, and grousing when they (predictably) don't, is what the Maritimers call a mug's game.

- The passage of time. As I noted in my comments on your original post, the old bigots will eventually pass on to their just reward, to be replaced by a new, accepting generation, even amongst Evangelical Christians.

Thanks again for this post. Very thought-provoking, and greatly appreciated.

Marcellina said...

While the "how many gays does god have to create" argument sounds good, unfortunately many of these fundies equate homosexuality with things like pedophilia, and can use this back at you, as in: god keeps creating them, so when do we just accept them and let them do their thing?

This is why they don't really care what people are in the deepest part of our souls, as long as we don't act on it, because it's the act that is an abomination in their eyes.

left rev.; proud cheesehead said...

From the perspective of a protestant minister, I was delighted to hear a political figure say this straight out. No pun intended.

I'd dearly love to start from this perspective in dialogue with my co-religionists rather than bible slapping each other infinity because God said so nuh uhn you suck AND you're going to hell etc.

Yes. this is what passes for dialogue most of the time. Which is why I tend to hang out around here.