Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Is gay marriage wrong?

A couple years ago I took a test "What philosopher are you?" I don't remember the name of the philosopher I was, but someone who did better in philosophy than I might be able to tell you because I remember what his main hypothesis was: All disagreement between people is due to miscommunication because of an inability to use the right words with a common understanding.

This really rings true with me. Even if you ignore the obvious variable meanings between words like 'bad,' 'good,' 'happy,' and 'sad,' each of them containing a plethora of sub meanings, very simple words such as 'apple' carry the weight of history. A symbol of traditional america, sexuality, purity, or any number of things, when and where you use apple can be a tricky issue for such a simple fruit.

And this is why I take so much issue with one question I've been hearing a lot lately:

'Is gay marriage wrong?'

What a terrible question. Anyone who knows my personal views knows that I can be a pretty liberal guy, but this question in particular is subconsciously used and perpetuated because it sets the entire tone of the conversation to favor one side and discredit another. It is, in its essence, a terrible question. Here's why:

1. The meaning of 'gay'

People on both sides of the issue have been bemoaning the use and application of the term gay since it came into popular use. Originally meaning happy, it then became associated with men who sleep with other men, thereafter a common pejorative term which is of course rude. Sometime after that it became less but still somewhat associated with men in particular, and then under a civil rights movement that acknowledged the inhumane ways gay men were treated, the pejorative use of the word became unpopular as the other central definition began to spread out and encompass many things surrounding 'gay' culture and people attracted to their same gender. This is common etymology for many words, they mean more and more as they become more commonly used. Most recently this term could be used to describe: men who have sex with men; men who are attracted to men; men who have sex with/are attracted exclusively to men; bright floral shirts. And here there's a huge problem because being attracted to something and acting on that attraction are very different things, but when you call them the same then you influence people to believe they are. So, gay, loaded word.

2. The meaning of 'marriage'

A somewhat simpler term, marriage has two main possible meanings. In one sense it is a civil union performed by a government indicating that two consenting adults are living together and enjoy certain rights as they relate to taxation, hospital visitation, acting in one another's name, etc. In the other sense it is a sacred religious covenant by which two people are joined by a person holding divine authority to do so, usually for the purpose of opening the door to sex and children. However, even these two meanings have myriad possible submeanings based on what government or religion is performing the marriage, and in many countries which combination of the two. Mormon marriage and catholic marriage and muslim marriage are all different. American marriage and Chinese marriage and French marriage and Canadian marriage are all different. Also to complicate things people often confound the two meanings into one single mass regardless of whether or not they are religious.

3. The meaning of 'wrong'

Woof, the big one. Synonyms for wrong: Bad, Untrue, Mistaken, Goofed, Miscalculated, Misconstrued, Mishandled, At fault, Defective, Imprecise, Not working, Perverse, Spurious, Unsatisfactory. All of those words mean significantly different things but they could all be suggested by the word wrong. Of course, many words have many definitions and we usually rely on the most common ones. The two most common understandings of the word wrong are Bad and Untrue, but these are two extremely different things. I think the misuse of the word wrong in our society is responsible for many children's tears who are taught that shooting someone in the face is 'wrong' and playing a G instead of an F while playing chopsticks is 'wrong.' Obviously, aggravated violence and the incorrect piano key are not the same thing, and I don't think it helps much to say one of these is 'less wrong' and another is 'more wrong.'

4. The false dichotomy

I understand that it is simpler to classify the world into two camps but that's not how any reality works. (Sorry, American political system) When it comes to yes or no questions, I feel like the only place for them is when you need to know 'Is 21 a prime number?' or 'Have you been to Georgia?' or 'Do you know who the Queen of Macedonia is? Do they have a queen?' These things can be answered yes or no, but questions on religious governmental contracts and how they should be implemented in modern society is not a yes or no question.

So, put all those together, and I don't know what you're asking me when you say 'Is gay marriage wrong' but I hope you see how I could feel like you're setting me up for failure by presenting a complex question with hundreds of implied meanings into a false dichotomy with one demonized side. To clarify, here's what you *could* mean when you say 'Is gay marriage wrong?' and my answers to each.

Q: Should a government be allowed to condone civil marriage between people of the same gender?
A: Yes, a government should be allowed to do anything with the people's support.

Q: Are sexual relations between people of the same gender disallowed under the teachings of Christianity?
A: Yes, along with plenty of other things, including sex with anyone beside your spouse.

Q: Should the requirements of religious marriages in my religion be imposed on civil marriages performed by the government?
A: No, separation of church and state exists for a reason. Let the people decide.

Q: Are gay people bad?
A: No, unless I'm going to call every human being who's not keeping all the commandments as I know them to be bad, which would make everybody including myself bad.

Q: Should gay couples have the governmental rights afforded to married couples?
A: Yes, I can't see why two consenting adults shouldn't be able to enter a governmental marriage regardless of sexual orientation.

Q: Should religions accept gay marriages?
A: Religions should teach what religions teach and those teachings should be independent of the opinions of the people. The whole difference their is that government is from man and religion 'should' be from something higher. If you find that you can no longer agree with your religion, please see my post 'Disagreeing with Religion'

In summary, this is a bad question. I have spent a lot of energy in my life seeking inspiration and knowledge to develop my beliefs, which state that a loving Father gave us a set of instructions and promised that if we followed them we would be happier than if we didn't.

These instructions include having sex only with my wife, and many other things big and small, like not drinking or smoking, donating to the poor, being honest, and serving others.

Everybody is free to follow or not follow them, disagree with any of them they like, and long history shows that government should not be restricted by them but follow the voice of the people, so I take no issue with the SCOTUS ruling and my church was advocating for many rights for gay couples 'before it was cool,' even if as a religion they cannot condone marriage outside of the directions of God as they understand them.

But don't try to make me feel 'bad' about the directions I was given and my choice to follow them by asking questions that imply the exact same thing that has hurt so many LGBT people for so long -- that another person's decision to live or believe a certain way should determine how I live or believe. No religion or person should be held to this mandate.