Since the landmark SCOTUS vote for marriage equality there have been a lot of emotional exchanges on social media. Some of it has gotten ugly. I've also seen several pleas for tolerance of differing opinions, and specifically for respecting the deeply held religious beliefs of others.
While I’m all for both tolerance and freedom of expression, I found myself bristling at some of these peacemaking requests.
At its heart, it’s because I’m uncomfortable with the underlying premise that this is merely a debate about personal beliefs.
Let's look at belief for a minute.
You may believe in many things, including the power of prayer, abstinence before marriage, snake wrangling, Coke over Pepsi, and homosexuality as a sin. That’s all fine. In that case, you should feel free to pray, abstain from sex, wield snakes, guzzle Coke and marry someone of the opposite gender. In a free society, those are all choices one has. As long as our choices don’t harm another or break the law, we can pretty much knock ourselves out.
However, this does not mean we can require others to drink Coke or marry only people we personally approve of. And it especially doesn’t mean we can withhold basic human rights from another because they are different from us.
That's not belief. That's tyranny.
We all get to control what we do. We do not get to control what other people do. That’s the basic teaching in How-To-Be-A-Human 101. If you missed the class, go back and take it again.
Look. It would be one thing if publicly proclaiming that homosexuality is a sin and all gay people are going to hell was just a harmless conviction. But it’s not. Negative attitudes toward LGBT people put them at increased risk for experiences with bullying, teasing, harassment and physical assault. It erodes their confidence and makes them feel like it’s not safe to simply be themselves.
- 9 out of 10 LGBT teens have reported being bullied at school within the past year because of their sexual orientation
- LGBT students report being 5 times more likely to miss school because they feel unsafe after being bullied due to their sexual orientation
- About 28 percent feel forced to drop out of school altogether
- Each episode of LGBT victimization, such as physical or verbal harassment or abuse, increases the likelihood of self-harming behavior by 2.5 times on average
- LGB youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide
- With transgender people, the number is even higher
While espousing a belief that homosexuality is an abomination is a choice you have, it’s one that is actively contributing to an atmosphere which harms others. That’s not just theoretical, it’s statistically proven.
So yes, it’s your choice. It’s just not a very nice one (see aforementioned 101 course).
As if this wasn’t bad enough, these protestations, when met with backlash, are often followed up by cries of persecution. I’m thinking in particular of one person who posted an horrendous anti-gay rant, copped some abuse for it, and then took to her social media page to complain about what she considered to be a mean and horrible backlash.
Intolerance and persecution are bad enough. But when they are delivered in the guise of martyrdom, it really flips my pissy switch.
I think one of the reasons this bothers me so much is because of my work in the field of domestic violence. Let’s talk about the perpetrators of abuse for a moment. One of the hallmarks of the abuser is that he fancies himself a victim. If you see this man in the courtroom he will likely not only proclaim his innocence, but accuse his victim of all manner of injustice against him. It’s a nauseating blend of bullying and cowardice – psychological projection in its most distilled form. I’ve witnessed it countless times and experienced it firsthand.
I see the same thing happening with some of these religious arguments. The intolerant demand tolerance. The persecutors cry persecution.
You don't get to ask me to respect your beliefs, if you beliefs cause harm to others. And you do not get to lob a grenade into a crowd and then proclaim victimhood when people start throwing things back at you.
Better yet, just stop throwing grenades, period.
If you keep that up, you’ll never make it out of that basic How-to-Human class. And I hear there will be one hell of a party once we all pass.