The mainstream media and some in the pro-gay marriage camp regularly set up the “Christian bigot” as the typical opponent of gay marriage. The story goes that those for traditional marriage vote that way only because they are close minded and blind to the realities of the world. Am I right? Isn’t this commonly the picture of gay-marriage opponents presented on TV, in movies, and in the news?
This is the definition of a bigot according to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary:
Bigot: a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially: one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance.
This definition implies blindly ascribing to a belief or prejudice, and allowing that to flow into hateful behavior. I admit, there are those who call themselves “Christian” who are “obstinately or intolerantly” oppose homosexuals and who treat them with “hatred and intolerance.” The ones that do get a lot of attention from the media. However, the Christians I know agree that Jesus calls us to treat one another with respect regardless of our conflicting political, religious or personal views. Most of us do that imperfectly, but we recognize that hating those with whom we disagree transgresses Christ’s commands.
An understanding of the word “tolerance” is going to be important to this discussion. I went to public school in the 80s and early 90s when “diversity” and “tolerance” were the greatest virtue that one could ascribe to. At that time, tolerance was defined as coexisting peacefully with those with whom you do not agree. Tolerance is an important virtue in any society, but certainly in one as diverse as ours. And diversity is marvelous too. The Bible talks about how in Christ there is neither “Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28) This means that within the body of Christ, there should be no distinction based on race, social status, or gender. If the church is not filled with a diversity of races, ages, socio-economic status, and both men and women- it’s not the church.
However, there seems to have been a shift in how the word “tolerance” is used in the last few years. Now it seems to mean you have to agree with everyone that their opinion is right, instead of the fact that they have a ‘right’ to their opinion. Now we are to be tolerant of everything save intolerance. And this is now being used powerfully in the fight to attack all manner of standards. “In twenty-first-century America, the technique of taking offense has been used very selectively to bind the hands and the tongues of all who are terrified at the thought of being found intolerant or politically incorrect.” (http://www.profam.org/pub/rs/rs_1804.htm) There are people on my Facebook page who have declared that “if you don’t agree with my position on gay marriage, we can’t be friends.” They’re not after tolerance, they’re after endorsement.
Although there is a caricature of the gay man draped in leather and chains at the gay pride parade, most gay people don’t fit that stereotype. (But if that was the only image presented by the media, how well do you think the gay-marriage narrative would play out within culture?) Likewise, many who oppose gay marriage don’t fit the caricature of the isolated, holier-than-thou reactionary. Many of us have college degrees, live in diverse communities, have gay family members, friends, or neighbors that we love, spend time with, and with whom we wrestle though these issues. But I doubt you’ll ever see that portrait depicted on Glee.
After President Obama’s endorsement of gay marriage, I heard a piece on NPR where they interviewed a couple who said that they used to be against gay marriage but then they met their lesbian neighbors and now they’ve had “an awakening.” The implication of course is that those against gay marriage just don’t have any exposure to gay people. After the vote in North Carolina to make gay marriage illegal, supporters of the bill had only one comment (that the media shared with the audience) and that was that gay marriage was “sinful.” I read an article about how prime time sitcoms have played a role in “bringing gays into the average US household.” The article talked about how exposure to Will and Grace may not “change a bigot into a saint” but that it may help the bigots to recognize that gays are people too.
So the mainstream media has labeled me a bigot because– regardless of my reasons or experience or background or heart– I oppose gay marriage. Maybe you agree– that simply being against gay marriage makes you a bigot. And if that is your definition, then I guess I am. So this is your chance to ask me, a real life “bigot,” all your questions.
But if you see through this Blog that I am neither obstinate nor intolerant and that I do not hate my gay neighbor, but you want to continue to call all traditional marriage supporters “bigots” anyway… does that make you one?