Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Including the majority

I messed up.

From the comments section of my previous post:

It isn't right and as a Christian, please know that there are many of us out here that are fighting against these stereotypes in much the same way as you are.

I'll never forget the time one of the nicest people I know, a good friend and, at the time, aspiring clergyman (he and his spouse are currently in seminary), took me aside and reassured me, on no uncertain terms, that his deeply held faith by no means implied a hatred for me because of my sexual orientation. At first I didn't know what to make of such a confession. It seemed odd; I mean, the rest of my friends didn't feel the need to make this clear, and it seemed to put a tad too much emphasis on my difference in my sexual orientation.

That was before I'd considered things from his point of view. As someone who both subscribes to staunchly progressive politics and morality and holds a deep faith, I can't imagine that he's happy with the invisibility of people like him. Contemporary political discourse, loving its dichotomies, must make conservative politics a prerequisite for faith.

This is entirely absurd. Institutionally and individually, Christians are not uniformly opposed to sexual freedom. The ACLU down here in New Mexico uses a local church as a staging ground for our student lobby day, which focuses almost exclusively on advocating for domestic partnership legislation. Moreover, 76% of America is Christian. Average out support for gay rights at somewhere around half the population, with substantial majorities in favor of anti discrimination legislation and a sizable minority in favor of marriage, and, even assuming every single non-Christian is on our side, half the support of gay rights comes from Christians.

You'd never know that from contemporary portrayals of American Christianity. I know well how frustrating feeling invisible can be, and if my friends wish to make their experiences known, more power to them.

The unfortunate truth is that progressive activists can be just as guilty as mainstream outlets of perpetuating this myth. Often subconsciously, we treat anyone identifying as Christian as opposed to our cause, and bring religious identification into the discussion where it does not belong. We consider it a relevant difference, an important point to make when excoriating opposing viewpoints, and therefore treat as "other" many people who are just as passionately devoted to sexual freedom as we are. That's what I did when I referred to First Things as a "conservative Christian magazine."

The bottom line is this: my friends and family should not have to justify their faith. Their religion should not make them "other" in sex-positive spaces, just as my sexuality should not make me "other" in mainstream contexts.

So, I messed up. I put my Christian readers on the defensive, and marginalized their contributions to the movement. For that I apologize.

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