December 3, 2008

More on tolerance

Harking back to a conversation I had with Richard Helmer last summer, I am moved by the announcement that the Roman Catholic Church has come out in opposition to a proposed UN declaration that would call for the repeal of criminal statutes and punishments aimed at homosexual persons. (H/T Episcopal Café.) While intended to address the harsh punishments inflicted upon such persons in certain parts of the world, the rationale offered by the Vatican is based on the concern that states that did not provide for same-sex marriage might somehow come under threat of punishment on that account.

This reveals one of the dynamics about which Richard and I spoke last summer. People and organizations who are intolerant tend to imagine that they will also not be tolerated. A dynamic of projection is at work. They know what they would do if they were in charge — indeed, we saw what the Roman Catholic Church did when it was in charge, in those uncouth times when the secular arm could be employed to torture and to kill. One gives thanks for the decline in that capacity.

As a result of this projection one often sees a rhetoric of fear; calls for a “safe place” or for “security” — as if they are going to be made to do something they would not choose to do, and be punished if they did not do it. The idea that churches are going to be forced to perform same-sex marriages, or punished if they do not, is ludicrous: in much of Europe the state does not even recognize church marriages as having any standing whatsoever. As we have already seen in California and now on the global stage, however, the Roman Catholic Church does not simply wish to protect its own rights not to perform same-sex marriages, but to see to it that no one else does it either — as if that were in any case the purport of the proposed declaration!

Closer to home, canonical regulations concerning the ordination of women are a case in point in our own church. As it now stands, bishops are not required to ordain anyone against their will; while at the same time the process leading to ordination must remain open in all dioceses, without regard to sex or sexual orientation. The individual bishop with a conscientious objection to the ordination of women is only required to provide a way for women to explore the possibility of being ordained; and the actual ordination can be performed by another bishop. Nor is any bishop forced to ordain a gay or lesbian person, celibate or not. It is true there may be some social pressure, but there is no legal penalty for not ordaining someone.

Nor is there any persecution — unless it is the “persecution” of being disagreed with; which is where we come back to the basic nature of intolerance: the desire that all should do as one does oneself. And it strikes me the root of intolerance may simply derive from a lack of empathy — the lack of ability to imagine that there might be people who do not in fact insist that all do as they do. This seems to be the chasm fixed between tolerance and intolerance.

Another dynamic that I’ve observed: One finds language of the most appalling sort on some of the conservative blog comments, aimed at Episcopal Church leadership, and accompanied by moans of protest should a sharp-tongued liberal reply in kind (one thinks of my friend the Mad Priest, and of course, I too have been known to make the odd sharp remark). And indeed my first posting on tolerance was a result of someone styling this blog as “vicious” — I think a rather wild exaggeration, especially compared to some of what passes for dialogue in the blogosphere.

This kind of asymmetrical behavior is essentially adolescent. The intolerant believe in the world of “No fair hitting back.” It is a mind-set of testing boundaries, full of insecurities masked with bluster, resentful of limitations but creating rigid systems of rules and hierarchies to stabilize their world. And worst of all, they project all of their fears upon “the parent” — who was portrayed as forcing their response.

Later today, at a conference in the Windy City, it is said that a safe haven for fearful Anglicans and former Anglicans will be unveiled. Only time will tell what becomes of it; but I think its foundations are built on the sand of fearful imaginings.

Tobias Haller BSG


Rev. Kurt Huber said...

And this just in from Iraq...

Journalist jailed in Iraq over homosexuality story

you can read it here:

And this is just a journalist!

It is obvious that the UN resolution is needed and the Vatican's response (to me) says how out of touch it is...

Anonymous said...

And yet in Canada and in Scandinavia, clergy have been threatened and I believe also fined for preaching that homosexual conduct is proscribed by God. How does that play into your suppostion that it is merely the fear of the intolerant that they will not be tolerated? What is asymmetrical about that?

Fr Craig said...

TH - I am endlessly amazed by the conservative mindset, by it's lack of ability to be logical when it is challenged, less yet when proven to be wrong or obviously hypocritical. The reaction is adolescent - they attack and demean those who challenge them, fallaciously assuming that the one who delivers the message must obviously be not only wrong by some how evil. This is, I conclude, grounded in simple fear, the fear of the fundamentalist. If proven wrong on any point, their entire life view is apparently destroyed and they resist this with violence - albeit language. I have yet to find away around this fear - for their denial is always bound up in an attack on me as wrong (not to say, evil, heretical, traitorous, etc). I have finally concluded that it is a waste of time, no matter how lovingly attempted.

MadPriest said...

Whilst they were bombarding my poor bishop with emails about how offended they were by a bastardised post of mine that Kennedy had put on his website, they were sending emails to me wishing me dead and other stuff they thought would upset me.

Personally, I have never once stated that anybody should leave the Anglican communion on my blog. That's Anglican tolerance.

Anonymous said...

But how does one reach them to change it? Over on the Friends blog I'm discussing this with Paul(B) a Catholic commenter who wants to be able to avoid dealing with gays at any level, as a price for letting them "marry". That's a self-exclusion into a ghetto and I find it breathtaking.

I don't know how to respond to this kind of "tolerance" which is "intolerance".


June Butler said...

When I left the Roman Catholic Church 14 years ago, I vowed that I would not become a bitter ex-Catholic, and I believe that, with a few exceptions, I have kept that vow. I'll only say that if I had not left then, several incidents and pronouncements would have led me to leave by now.

And is Pope Benedict still dithering about whether RC married couples are permitted to use condoms, if one partner is HIV positive? As people get sick and die, it's difficult for me to understand the dithering.

Of course, people are dying and being jailed and tortured even now for being gay or lesbian, as he recommends against the declaration of basic human rights for them.

I remember Cardinal Ratzinger when he was the "Grand Inquisitor" for the previous pope. His visits to the US struck fear into the hearts of bishops, theologians and academics at RC universities. The list is long of the those who were silenced or otherwise disciplined for getting out of line. Some of the best minds in the church were affected by his harsh methods. I keep the list as a reminder.

Lord, have mercy.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Dan, if you could provide some detail about the "threats" and the "fines" -- and exactly what behavior led to them, that would be helpful. I believe not all countries have the same kind of high regard for "freedom of speech" that we do in the US, and do recall a case of a cleric being charged with "hate speech" somewhere -- this may be the Swedish case to which you refer. Do you have further details? I can't really discuss the asymmetry unless I know the details. FWIW, this is, I would say, a form of intolerance -- if someone was fined for doing something then the local law does not "tolerate" what they did. That is, I think, part of my point in the earlier essay. The question is, What did they do?

Dr Marilyn McCord Adams has an interesting essay in the current ATR in which she discusses the limits of tolerance. I wish I'd read it before posting this note -- though I was present when she first delivered it early last year, so much of it sunk in. She uses as an analogy the current standing of the KKK. They are allowed to think what they like, to hold meetings and rallies, but not to burn crosses on people's lawns, and certainly not to maim or slay. So we are as a nation "tolerant" up to a point; and I would say that "hate speech crimes" are, to some extent, intolerant. But as I said below, it is a straw man to accuse the generally tolerant of intolerance -- as there are always things, as Churchill famously said, up with which we will not put.

Thank you, Fr Craig, and Maddy. I rarely visit the cesspool that is SF any more; the rare time I go to see what is in the news I end up being appalled and/or nauseated.

IT, Hang in there. Intolerance at the extreme isolates the intolerant from reality; and ultimately from God who is the ultimate reality. They crave the nonexistence of "the other" -- and it is worse than a gheto; it is Hell.

GM, I didn't mean to diss the RCC, but it is a fair observation, I think, that the desire to nail down all opposition does not lead to a healthy institution. Right now the Anglicans may be in a mess, but the RCC is an organized, deliberate, objectively disordered mess. That is, its actions are no longer serving its aims. Time for another John XXIII, no? Even Paul VI would be a godsend!

Anonymous said...

The Swedish clergyman is named Ake Green. He was sentenced to thirty days in jail for a sermon critical of homosexuality. The verdict was eventuall overturned on appeal. His "offense" was disrespect for a minority. The Canadian case involved the Alberta Human Rights Tribunal which forbade evangelical pastor Stephen Boisson from expressing his moral opposition to homosexuality. The tribunal also ordered Boisson to pay $5,000 “damages for pain and suffering” and apologize to the “human rights” activist who filed the complaint. In addition, there are threats to Propositon 8 supporters as well.

June Butler said...

Tobias, sorry for the rant. I could have made my point with fewer words by saying that Pope Benedict's opposition to the proposed UN declaration should come as no surprise, because his record of intolerance for disagreement goes back quite a few years before he was pope. Now he seems to want not just his flock to come to heel, but the entire world.

MarkBrunson said...

Yeah, I'd be interested, too. At this point, the only place where it's dangerous to speak against the generally-held (or at least legislated) view is in conservatively-religious countries . . . like those the UN would call upon to cease their hounding out of gays and lesbians.

Of course, it doesn't matter how many die, or are tortured, difigured, jailed - just so you don't have to get "threatened" or "fined."

Anonymous said...

The same Popoid person IT mentioned (PaulB) wrote this at Susan Russell's: it really clarified for me what we're dealing with:

Susan, I have to say, if your talking points are so darn great, why are RonF and I disagreeing with them?


Me disagreeing with you = You are wrong

It's BEYOND pathetic. It's the kind of illogic (combined w/ ad hominems) that ought not to fly in HIGH SCHOOL---yet we get this from someone who poses as both our civic AND our Christian "better"!

My inner city church back in Portland, Oregon, in the 1980s, regularly had interactions w/ a lot of (disruptive) homeless mentally ill people. One time, the church had a workshop for the church members, in dealing w/ them. I've never forgotten one bit of advice (though often failed to practice it): unless you feel your safety is being threatened, don't enter their delusions. Just persistently say "I don't see things that way."

We need to recognize so much of this "organized, deliberate, objectively disordered mess" (great turn o' phrase, Tobias!), RCC or otherwise, as the psychopathology it is.

Homophobes are, quite literally, mentally ill. There's a narrow edge of the "Invincibly Ignorant" among them that you can educate, but most just have delusions we ought not to enter (unless they're about to gay-bash us---which happens too often).

Pray for them, certainly. But mainly, just move on.

[That they can still vote? I have no answer for. Lord have mercy.]

Erika Baker said...

"And it strikes me the root of intolerance may simply derive from a lack of empathy — the lack of ability to imagine that there might be people who do not in fact insist that all do as they do."

I believe it goes deeper than that. It is a complete inability to imagine yourself in the situation of another person. It's a refusal or emotional inability to let them become complex and "real", and therefore equally human, and an equal mix of good and not so good.

I'm always struck by the intolerants' insistence on focusing on the mechanics of sex, and I believe that has not so much to do with sex obsession as such, but with the fact that it helps to reduce people to a group that carries out mechanical acts of something or other. It allows them to ignore the emotional realities of the people they speak of.

Whenever I have tried to challenge this in a public forum and have spoken of my own personal experience, the conversation has soon ended.

True intolerance lacks emotional imagination and empathy and will do everything to remain on that level.

G said...

From Pastor Boisson's letter:

"From kindergarten class on, our children, your grandchildren are being strategically targeted, psychologically abused and brainwashed by homosexual and pro-homosexual educators."

Human rights complaint? He's lucky he wasn't sued for libel.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Thanks, Dan. In the case of Ake Green the case was overturned, so the standard in Sweden has been set higher than merely "being critical of homosexuality." I suppose the Swedes will work on a case by case basis to decide what constitutes "Hate speech" under their law. But clearly, in Sweden, one has to go rather far to fall under that rubric, and I would say Ake went rather far. But if his speech is protected, this is no longer a problem, right?

As to the Boisson matter, the court decided that the language in his public statement went beyond mere "moral opposition to homosexuality" but were likely to expose homosexual persons to "violence" -- and, in fact, a young man perceived to be gay was savagely beaten in a youth drop-in center operated by Boisson in the weeks following the publication. Note as well that the money was not a "fine" but an award of relief to the complainants against the published statements. This was a civil action, not a criminal one. See the decision.

Again, both of these cases involve countries where freedom of speech is limited, with a category of "hate speech" determined by the local governments -- much as pornography is judged on a somewhat subjective basis. Here in the US, people are free to say just about anything the like about gay people -- v. Fred Phelps -- without much fear of reprisal; though he and his cohorts have been sued a number of times, and their right to picket funerals has been limited.

In keeping with the Lambeth 1.10 resolution, however, it seems clear that there is a broad consensus that Christians are free to continue to state their opposition to same-sexuality so long as they avoid demonizing gay and lesbian persons. It appears that the language used by Green and Boisson warranted some response, and was seen by some to have crossed the line.

I don't really see that your examples, then, should be grounds for "fear" on the part of dissident Anglicans, or cause Roman Catholics to fear for their ability to continue to maintain a position on homosexuality -- even in Canada -- so long as their language remains temperate and does not cross over to the level of hate speech, the standard for which has been set fairly high.

Doorman-Priest said...

Tobias: Have a look at

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Thanks all. Erika, you are correct, of course. I should have said the lack of empathy includes at least the failure to imagine tolerance. It goes far deeper, into a general poverty of human imagination, that at times becomes quite literal. I can't lay my hand on the quote, but I recall that a GS bishop at Lambeth (1988 or 98) or in response to it, when homosexuality was being discussed, said, "But I don't want to marry a man!" As if recognition of homosexuality would make it compulsory.

This, of course, reminds me of the old line about the RCC, where everything is forbidden until it becomes compulsory. I guess that's the problem; the fear is that if something is allowed, all will have to do it...

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Thanks, DP. I've added Sebastian to my Blog Roll.

IT said...

Some of you may have seen the very funny new video of "Prop8 the musical" (it's posted at the Friends blog). It has an all star cast (Jack Black, Neil Patrick Harris, Allison Janney) and pokes fun at both sides, with stereotypical gay folks and stereotypical religious folks.

The reaction to this in the comments of the LATimes is quite predictable, and sad. The Pro-8 side consider this hate speech, vile, and offensive--while the anti-8 side just finds it funny.

So t his is the abuse and intolerance they are complaining about? A satirical musical?

Mel Brooks once said that the way to get even with evil is with ridicule. "If you can make people laugh", he said, "you're one up on them".


Davis said...

Erika is exactly on the mark.

Anonymous said...

That you could even attempt to justify the Boisson damages claim is beyond my comprehension and serves as a reminder that regardless of what position or ideology holds power, power corrupts. Do you honestly believe that LGBT people occupy a higher moral plain and that in exercising power, they would not misue it the same as others have? Human nature being what it is, that strikes me as an absurdity. Calls for torching Mormon Temples. Assaults on street preachers whose message is "objectionable." My point is not that they are any worse - just that they are not different. The French and Russian revolutions started out as noble experiments, but once the revolutionaries achieved power, they became repressive to say the least. A number of years ago, the NYT did a survey about who would be the person in the White House most likely to initiate a nuclear war. The results were startling - it was a "liberal" woman. Why? Because of a heightened sense of justice and reaction to betrayal. Doesn't mean women shouldn't be there. Just means that our assumptions about how "tolerant" we all are or would be are just that, assumptions.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...


You misunderstand me. I made no attempt to "justify the Boisson damages" but simply report on what the court decided. I did not see the text of the offending letter, but assume it must have been very offensive for the court to award the damages they did. However, as I noted, the court was acting in accord with Canadian law, which I readily admitted is less tolerant of absolute freedom of speech than American law. So I agree with you that there is a degree of intolerance involved even on the part of liberals -- that is, my primary thesis is that tolerance does have limits. Do you disagree?

Nor have I suggested that calls for torching Mormon temples are acceptable; on the contrary, I think they are wrong. Same goes for assaults on street preachers.

My comments are addressed against specific acts of intolerance. Your response was essentially a "tu quoque" which might carry some weight if I in fact approved of torching Mormons or suing Fred Phelps. In fact, I think one needs to be very careful in limiting free speech -- even when hateful, unless a specific damage can be linked to it. (That the court so decided in the Boisson case isn't for me to judge one way or the other as I don't know the details. But the court did decide that real damage had been done, and expense incurred.)

I am quite aware of the dangers of intolerance, and know that liberals can become a shadow of their own worst fears.

In short, I think you are disagreeing with my pointing out that conservatives often cry foul the moment they are put on the spot and not tolerated to the degree they think they ought to be. It is the "no fair hitting back" model at work. I'm surprised you don't see it in action. I'm not denying that the conservatives are being "hit" -- they are, and I don't approve when the hitting becomes an act of or incitement to violence. But it seems to me that your "examples" should not fill American conservatives with "fear of persecution." The UN action with which I began this post was to protect gay and lesbian persons from prosecution and in some cases death. Do you see why I consider this asymmetrical?

Christopher said...

Here, a prominent archbishop of the RCC calls for tolerance and respect after having helped pass Prop. 8. Well that's all very nice to do after one has passed a law that puts those you disagree with "in their place". Talk about salt in the wounds.

Anonymous said...

I understand your position quite well. The problem is that the UN proposal is designed to tell nations what conduct (not thought, not epression, not advocacy) they can prohibit. Our Supreme Court was dead wrong invalidating state laws proscribing conduct between same sex or unmarried partners on "privacy" grounds. I would have no problem if the state legislatures and/or Congress determined that such conduct was no longer to be prohibited but the Courts usurped the legislative function when it acted as it did. Doing so promotes disrespect for the law and the legal process.
The thought police, in my opinon, are far more dangerous than laws addressed to conduct.
In Britain, government started telling the churches who they had to hire. In Canada, they are telling clergy what they can believe and preach. This is the camel's nose under the tent flap and threatens religious freedom.

IT said...

Yes, I've seen this from other Catholics. "I kicked you in the teeth but can't we all be friends now?" Ummmmm...


My beloved the RC is waiting for an apology. I don't think she's going to get it.


Anonymous said...

My point is not that they [LGBTs] are any worse - just that they are not different.


If that's what you believe, Dan, then why in the name of ALL that is sacred, are we having to fight so hard---against folks like you---for marriage equality?

[Not to mention employment equality, housing equality, serving in the military equality, immigration equality, health insurance/death-benefits equality, etc, etc, etc?]

LGBTs *don't* believe we're any better than straights! We just want our EQUAL rights, under the U.S. Constitution {*}: nothing more and NOTHING less.

[{*} Full-disclosure: I want full equality under the UN Charter (i.e., world-wide), and the Baptismal Covenant, too. ;-)]

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Dan, I disagree with everything you say here, including your claim that you understand my position, but don't feel further argument would be helpful. The differences of opinion are fundamental, including your introduction of the idea that the courts have nothing to do with establishing, clarifying, and in some cases limiting, the law. So we will have to agree to disagree on the whole matter.

I would ask you to think for a moment about what limits you would place on freedom of religion, if any. I'm not asking for you to respond, just to think about it. Would you, for instance, approve of a religion's right to offer human sacrifice, assuming the sacred victim was a willing participant? Do you think it is a relgion's right to discriminate on the basis of race, in terms of public accommodation, say, if a church owned a subsidized housing facility for the elderly? Think about it.

IT said...

Let me also add that I am very glad that the courts overturn the voters and the legislature. Decisions such as Brown v. Board of Education (overturning segregated schools) and Loving v Virginia (overturning anti-miscegenation laws) overturned both voters adn legistlatures.

if Dan disapproves of such "activist" judges then he supports segregation and laws against mixed race marriage.

Is THAT the right side of history?


MarkBrunson said...

Our Supreme Court was dead wrong invalidating state laws proscribing conduct between same sex or unmarried partners on "privacy" grounds. I would have no problem if the state legislatures and/or Congress determined that such conduct was no longer to be prohibited but the Courts usurped the legislative function when it acted as it did.

Entirely incorrect.

The courts are part of the whole checks and balances system that operate to keep the majority - who operate from groupthink and herd mentality as much as from real concern - from making irreparable mistakes which damage minorities.

This is built into our governmental system. The courts are not there simply to enforce laws - executive branch - but to interpret them in light of existing laws and precedent. That's. What. They've. Done.

The whole issue of states' rights has been dealt with. This was somewhat before your time, Dan, in 1860-65, so, you may be unfamiliar with it, otherwise, your just ignoring it.

Anonymous said...

Here's why I love watching EWTN. You get classics like this:

Tonight on the Q&A program "Web of Faith", the two priests (Frs. Levis & Trigilio) were discussing sins and which, if any, were unforgiveable.

The discussion turned to suicide. Fr. Trigilio said, that under the 1917 Canon Law, a person who committed suicide could not receive a Catholic funeral/burial. "But we changed that," he said "because we understand psychology better now."


So: the Great Immoveable RCC CAN change its mind . . . on psychology, the goings-on of the human brain, no less!

Which raises the obvious question: if the RC Church can have a better understanding of the human brain (inc. the pathology that is suicidal depression), why not, oh, say, an understanding of homosexual orientation, as a healthy and natural God-given gift??? With healthy and natural homosexual relationships corresponding thereto?

Does Faith (truly) Seek Understanding, or doesn't it?

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Moreover, we've seen what happens when courts become the captive of the executive or the legislature, as mere puppets of tyrrany. Ultimately a lively and active judiciary is not acting apart from the law, but as a part of the law; and it is the protector of our freedoms.

But this is way off topic at this point. My post was about how conservatives generally are tolerant only of their own point of view, intolerant of others, and whinge and whine when they themselves come under critique, or are less than fully and completely tolerated. They will call for the oppression of others (according to their own religious notions) but cry foul when even a slight regulation is enjoined against them. One might say the evidence is so clear that my observation is trivial; still, some entrenched in their own asymmetrical notions of freedom appear not to see it. And therein lies the problem -- that lack of empathy.

rick allen said...

JCF, I would only note that what you heard was a change in assumptions concerning culpability, the conditions under which one is responsible for the commission of a mortal sin. The taking of a human life, even one's own, obviously remains a terrible sin. What we have seen is a general pastoral change, and one for the best, I would agree. But what was wrong has not now been deemed right.

"conservatives generally are tolerant only of their own point of view, intolerant of others, and whinge and whine when they themselves come under critique, or are less than fully and completely tolerated."

Toby, I have stayed out of this discussion thus far, but you are certainly painting with a broad brush. Do you really think such attitudes typical of "conservatives" only?

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...


Thanks for the additional clarity on the RC position. It is a nuanced one, surely. It does remind me, though, of Shakespeare's portrayal of the Jesuit as "Equivocator!" Personally, I have never believed suicide to be, in and of itself, a sin -- it is rather entirely dependent upon the psychology and circumstances of the individual. This is where I part company, in general, with the moral theology of the RCC, which likes to categorize sins in the abstract. This is, as Bonhoeffer said (and perhaps painting with too broad a brush himself), the way of the Pharisee. I prefer to follow Jesus' moral theology, which is always based on the circumstances and persons involved, and which rejects abstract notions of morality separated from the moral actor. (Note, for example, his dealing with the Sabbath. His approach is entirely pastoral and situational.) I find the whole exercise of "X is a mortal sin, but sometimes it isn't" to be a kind of empty exercise in Spanish castles. And it ultimately leads, as we've seen in the RCC, to a kind of ends-justifying-means approach -- as you pointed out with Newman -- in which something recognized as immoral is explained away. In the long run, it becomes just as situational as I start with -- so what is the point of the exercise?

But again, we are terribly off topic.

As to your on-topic question, my answer is, Yes, generally speaking, conservatives tend, by nature, to be more protective of their point of view, and less tolerant of other points of view. That seems to me to be part of the definition of conservatism. Note, I am speaking of religious conservatism here, not political conservatism, which, in persons like the Classic Republican were virtual libertarians! And yes, there are isolated instances of intolerant religious liberals; and as I've noted, there are limits to all toleration. But as I've said above, when it comes to intolerance, I think the scales are tilted rather obviously and asymmetrically towards the "religious conservative" side.

Liberals are generally more tolerant of a diversity of opinion on matters of religious belief, for example, than are conservatives. Do you find that a strange notion? I should have thought it was obvious; compare, for example, what is permitted in the teaching of the UCC vs the SBC, or compare the ELCA with the Missouri Synod; or TEC with the Anglican Church of Nigeria. Obviously the range of opinion tolerated in those under heading A is broader than in those under category B. That doesn't mean that there aren't limits on both sides; but one side is narrower than the other. That is what I am saying. Do you disagree?

IT said...

I posted some time ago that I think that conservatives tend towards a binary, "black white" view while liberals are more comfortable with ambiguity and "shades of grey".

I think this comes from a sense of rules in the conservatives, and liberals being more comfortable with exceptions.

The exceptions make conservatives uncomfortable, and therefore more defensive.

A propos of my ongoing conversation elsewhere with Paul B, a Catholic conservative, we can see this in the response of some parents to their child coming out as gay. We all know stories of families rejecting the gay child rather than considering changes to their world view.


Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Thanks, IT. That binary thinking ties in with the dynamic of adolescent boundary crossing really being a means of establishing ones own identity. It seems to me that this mindset adds to Buber's I-It and I-Thou by the differentiated Not-It or Not-Thou. It is a mindset based on limits. Hence the language of safety, threats, and the proliferation of rules. Already the new self-styled Anglican Province is having to deal with the inner tension over the ordination of women, and will only allow (in the draft constitution) male bishops. That may not sit well with some Evangelicals, while it will with others. (Think Sydney.) Interesting to watch this living out of inner tensions. I see further fractures ahead.

toujoursdan said...

Anonymous Dan said...

The Swedish clergyman is named Ake Green. He was sentenced to thirty days in jail for a sermon critical of homosexuality. The verdict was eventuall overturned on appeal. His "offense" was disrespect for a minority. The Canadian case involved the Alberta Human Rights Tribunal which forbade evangelical pastor Stephen Boisson from expressing his moral opposition to homosexuality. The tribunal also ordered Boisson to pay $5,000 “damages for pain and suffering” and apologize to the “human rights” activist who filed the complaint. In addition, there are threats to Propositon 8 supporters as well.

In neither Sweden nor Canada are people charged with any crime for merely being "critical" of homosexuality. That is right wing spin. It order for speech to be classified as hate speech it must be directed at homosexual people (as opposed to homosexual acts).

In other words it's perfectly okay to say that homosexuality is a sin in Canada. I can point you to many sermons posted online which say that. (Here and here are a couple examples from the RC bishop of Calgary alone.) That is protected speech in Canada.

It not okay to say something to the effect of "God prescribes death for homosexuals and if you are a good Christian you'll do what God says" or "Homosexuals are a cancer on society and a threat to your children and need to be wiped out" using the public media (radio, TV, Newspapers, billboards, bumper stickers, etc.) The key here is the distinction between private conversation, which is protected, and mass distribution of a hate message into the public domain.

Again, private conversation is protected. The law functions similarly to obscenity laws in the US in that private conduct is unregulated but public conduct in front of the community is subject to sanctions.

Scott Boisson wrote a letter to the editor of a newspaper, (part of the public domain), making inflammatory statements about gay people, not about the morality of homosexuality. Personally, I think the paper made the mistake in publishing it.

Finally Canada's hate speech laws have been around since the early 1990s. They were never controversial until sexual orientation was added to the code in 2003. These laws are usually invoked to protect religious people. Roman Catholic groups are currently using the law to go after a Quebec teenager for desecrating the Eucharist on You Tube and a case involving anti-semitic statements by former Native American leader David Ahenakew is winding its way through the courts. So the same groups that complain about hate speech laws "silencing" their stances on "Biblical morality" use these same laws when they are the targets of hate.

I am not really interested in getting into a discussion of whether U.S. 1st Amendment rights are somehow better for society than hate speech laws. I have discussed this with Americans and its clear that our frames of reference are very different, but to pretend that there is some kind of conspiracy at work to oppress religious people is crazy.

Finally, a Human Rights Tribunal is not a court. They have no power to sentence anyone to anything. They are meant as a means of bringing people together to work out disagreements and arbitrations in order to avoid the court system. If one party doesn't like the ruling of a Human Rights Tribunal they can appeal to a federal court.

IT said...

Found this on the former EPiscoSours new/old blog (Pisco has converted back to atheism):

Karl Popper, The Open Society and Its Enemies:

Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them. — In this formulation, I do not imply, for instance, that we should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies; as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion, suppression would certainly be unwise. But we should claim the right to suppress them if necessary even by force; for it may easily turn out that they are not prepared to meet us on the level of rational argument, but begin by denouncing all argument; they may forbid their followers to listen to rational argument, because it is deceptive, and teach them to answer arguments by the use of their fists or pistols. We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant. We should claim that any movement preaching intolerance places itself outside the law, and we should consider incitement to intolerance and persecution as criminal, in the same way as we should consider incitement to murder, or to kidnapping, or to the revival of the slave trade, as criminal.


Anonymous said...

Rick, perhaps you'll find it more balanced to hear that scientists are finding a biological basis for conservatism & liberalism (just Google it).

Basically, if conservatives are TOO FEARFUL, it's also true that liberals AREN'T FEARFUL ENOUGH. (Stress responses, to images of dangerous things)

[JCF aside: while I can see the deficits of "not fearful enough" in less rational beings ("lower animals" so-called), I wonder if that hair-trigger stress response is something Homo sapiens might be evolving out of? Just a (obviously biased!) thought.]


But what was wrong has not now been deemed right.

So noted, Rick, in my comment above: I said suicidal depression was a pathology, not an, um, "alternative lifestyle". (!)

But the point about (new) understandings of the human brain still obtain: the suicidal now deemed "not morally culpable".

If those w/ homosexual orientations were similarly deemed "not morally culpable" for homosexual S~E~X, it would be, for Rome, a heckuva start! ;-p

rick allen said...

IT: "...conservatives tend towards a binary, "black white" view while liberals are more comfortable with ambiguity and "shades of grey". I think this comes from a sense of rules in the conservatives, and liberals being more comfortable with exceptions. The exceptions make conservatives uncomfortable, and therefore more defensive."

I am hardly an expert in Catholic moral theology, but I know enough of it to know that, historically, it has been denounced by Protestants for its "jesuitical" complexity, its dispensations, its casuastry, its differentiation of degrees of sin and considerations regarding individual culpability.

Toby: "This is where I part company, in general, with the moral theology of the RCC, which likes to categorize sins in the abstract. "

Again, this seems a strange perception to me, since moral theology is the least abstract branch of theology, answering the question, "what must I do?"

It is "pharisaical" to start with a general principle? If so, Jesus did it all the time, with constant reference to the Law of Moses as his starting point.

"Personally, I have never believed suicide to be, in and of itself, a sin -- it is rather entirely dependent upon the psychology and circumstances of the individual."

This seems a good enough example. Someone comes to you and asks, "Would it be wrong to kill myself?" I don't think the answer should be, "Depends."

Nor is it sufficient, of course, to assert the sinfulness of taking a human life. But how do you "apply" anything to individual circumstances if you have no standard to begin with?

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

"moral theology is the least abstract" -- not in the RC tradition, for the very reason I note, the tendency to create lists of explicit behaviors as "sins" and then move on.

Jesus' references to the Law were generally to depart from it or nuance it if not overturn it. This is my point: the Law on its own is not sufficient; the Spirit must be invoked for present discernment. An example: even in the law of neighbor (which Jesus takes as a general touchstone) the lawyer asks, "And who is my neighbor." And Jesus has to show him an example. That's the point.

And yes, if someone were to come and say to me, "Would it be wrong to kill myself?" I would definitely answer "Depends." Got it in one! As I've written on extensively, the Golden Rule is the starting principle. I would counsel the individual in light of the reasons for suicide: is it to escape punishment, is it out of despair or grief, is it to save another's life? The rightness or wrongness does not lie in the concept, but in the individual action, actor, and situation. There are times when to commit suicide might be acceptable, as in the case of saving another's life. We will often call that heroism!

Creating detailed lists of sins is not a fruitful approach to leading a moral life. It leads to self-righteousness or despair. (Neatly summed up in the parable/story of the rich young man, who has kept to the "list" but is still not satisfied, but who turns away when the ultimate is asked, to give up his life as he knows it...)

Anonymous said...

Catholic moral theology ... has been denounced by Protestants for its "jesuitical" complexity

Well maybe, but you're dealing w/ Anglicans (and at least one atheist) here, Rick. Not Protestants!


Someone comes to you and asks, "Would it be wrong to kill myself?" I don't think the answer should be, "Depends."

Having been asked that question, I told my mother (several times), that I didn't think it would be good if she killed herself---mainly thinking of my father (she didn't, and her ALS ran its course for just over 2 years, with her entering the Greater Life in October of last year).

In spite of that experience (or perhaps because of it!), like Fr. Tobias, I also don't believe there's a "One Size Fits All" answer to that question.