Tuesday, August 7, 2012

And now for a little perspective...

Now that the boycott/kiss-in of the Chick-Fil-A controversy has had some time to calm and we have a new tragedy with the shooting in Wisconsin by a member of a white supremacist hate group I thought it might be helpful to re-visit this incident to discover if there is anything we can learn, and more importantly, anything we can do different to help defuse the intensity of the emotions around gay rights/homophobia and free speech/conservative Christian businessmen. There are lessons here for each opposing viewpoint from this conflict. The first is one of understanding: Not all Conservative Evangelicals hate gay people. The turnout for the support day was, and we have to remember this is from their perspective, simply a chance to eat some rather tasty chicken while supporting a fellow Christian with whom they shared an important value. It was a chance to stand up for the freedom to voice their own opinion. Now, I have read several pieces written by gay men and women who have voiced their own emotional response to this support day, but we also have to remember that much of our world is built around our own worldview. We can not ignore the pleas from gay people who feel threatened by this day. However, not everyone who went to eat chicken did so with the thought in their heart, "I hate gay people, and by eating here today I get the chance to show them how much I hate them." It is important for the gay community to recognize this reality, as not everyone who believes homosexuality is a sin promotes or condones hate. From the perspective of this group, this was really about freedom of speech. Never mind about the information that surfaced about groups that Chick-Fil-A supports. Never mind about comments from the Family Research Council or other groups. This event, to many of this community, was simply about the rights of one man to step up and say what he felt was right. The focus was on a very narrow, regimented, disciplined topic and any discussion outside of this was simply a distraction to the heart of the point: Free speech. Any conversation beyond the scope of free speech would be dismissed as it moved beyond the topic of this group into different realms that are not as cut and dried, right and wrong. Focus of the Family, one of the groups targeted by gay rights proponents is not an anti-gay hate group in the eyes of the religious right. They are proponents for healthy, happy marriages and work towards that end. To label this group as such creates enmity and a desire to defend this organization. The fact that some of this group's activities are not in the best interests of the gay community are not acknowledged as the focus is so narrow. Which is exactly where the defenders of gay rights immediately moved. In the resulting uproar information came to light about some of the groups that Chick-Fil-A supports. Some of the people involved with these groups have lobbied, spoken, and acted to convince the gay population that they are not even tolerated- they are hated and a target for discrimination. When Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council advocates outlawing homosexual behavior this community can legitimately feel threatened. From this behavior, the gay community simply connected the dots back from such statements to a supporting organization and therefore all of the people who patronize such businesses. This is not some fabrication of the gay community to scream "Discrimination" this is a very real connection between people eating chicken and groups that seek to discriminate against them. Until these conservatives admit, "Yes, we see how in some ways some people are actively supporting hate of the gay community and this is wrong." that gay community will be suspicious. Its a form of guilt by association: one conservative Christian might not hate gay people, but in their association with people that do they are both influenced and affected by the hate/discrimination of the ones that do. It also does not address the latent forms of negativity that too many conservative Christians wish to ignore. "I think homosexuality is wrong, but I know and am friends with several gay people." To the person making this statement this expresses their love for the gay community. To others, it reveals a deeper level of ignorance about how insidious hate can be. The shooting in Wisconsin reveals how this association works. The Sikh community understands that there is a large difference between a white supremacist and most white Christians. The Christian community understands that white supremacists do not speak for the majority of Christians in this country. Even with this realization both groups are now living with increased tension- one from grief and fear from more violence, one over guilt and fear of more violence. It appears that the two sides in this Chick-Fil-A debate are having parallel conversations that do not intersect. Each side was frustrated by the others lack of dialogue without realizing the points of intersection that are and remain possible. Where was the ownership of extremist viewpoints on both sides of this matter? Where was the search for common cause and ground? Both sides showed little or no sympathy for the legitimate emotional stakes of each party in this conflict. This does not invalidate the position of either side of this debate. Both sides and many of the degrees of these sides have important points to make and consider. Until we as Americans can truly listen to one another we will continue to talk to one another on different telephone lines wondering why the other party is not responding. Incidentally, I think it important to say that in discussions with my own family we have decided to discontinue any patronage of Chick-Fil-A, and have begun to do what we can to investigate the activities of other businesses as well. But at the same time, we recognize that not everyone who has decided to continue their trips do so with malice and intent to harm in their hearts of actions. My plea is a simple one: Do you understand what happens to the investment you make by visiting such a store and are you will to stand up with these groups in their extreme viewpoints?

No comments:

Post a Comment