Monday, 31 May 2010

On the politics of homosexuality

Scott Stephens discusses the recent scandal over an Australian politician who was seen at a gay sex club:
As Andrew Sullivan noted [in his essay, "The Politics of Homosexuality"], while the "liberal politics of homosexuality" has proven the most "durable", it is ultimately just as deficient as the others because it can only see the issue "through the prism of the civil rights movement". In its noble quest to extend legal protections to all minorities and to ensure non-discrimination against homosexuals, liberalism necessarily "restricts itself to law – not culture – in addressing social problems"....

In much the same way as Noel Pearson rejects the liberal politics of Indigenous victimisation, Sullivan rejected the liberal politics of homosexuality because it is incapable of doing anything but to "extend to homosexuals the same protections they have granted to other minorities".

In other words, liberalism is based on the assumption that "the full equality of homosexuals can be accomplished by designating gay people as victims". And this, he insisted, is not just morally crippling; it demeans us all.

As the David Campbell affair demonstrates, the liberal politics of homosexuality – with its fetishising of victimhood – so prevalent in Australia has yielded precisely the results that Sullivan anticipated.


tinythinker said...

How does this analysis work for those who support both the legal extension of rights to groups facing discrimination AND who work to address the cultural issues as well? Isn't the description offered of liberalism just another one dimensional caricaturization? The analysis makes liberals out to be a monolithic block while complaining that liberals treat blacks and homosexuals as monolithic groups.

There are issues raised worth considering, yet the cited analysis begs many questions: Is there some pre-supposed contradiction or mutual exclusivity anticipated here? Surely it is important, as some have suggested in other contexts, to stand with rather than to merely stand for the marginalized and oppressed, but does that mean we have to wait until the rest of the culture catches up before some groups can be protected by law? When exactly is it permissible to take such action on behalf of those facing discrimination?

Many approaches dubbed liberal can be superficial, but isn't that because they present and deal with too little too narrowly? If anything such a critique implies much more ought to be done. And many liberals would wholeheartedly agree. The quote attributed to Lila Watson and friends summarizes the dilemma well:

"If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is tied up with mine, then let us work together."

tinythinker said...

To move the gist of the critique closer to a theological perspective, here is a quote I just came across today while reading Tattoos on the Heart by Fr. Greg Boyle:

"The strategy and stance of Jesus was always consistent in that it was always out of step with the world. Jesus defied all the categories upon which the world insisted: good-evil, success-failure, pure-impure. Surely He was an equal opportunity 'pisser off-er' in this regard. The right wing would stare at Him and question where He chose to stand. They hated hated that He aligned himself with the unclean, those outside -- those folks you ought neither to touch nor be near. He hobnobbed with the leper, shared table fellowship with the sinner, and rendered Himself ritually impure in the process. They found it offense that, to boot, Jesus had no regard for their wedge issues, their constitutional amendments or their culture wars.

"The Left was equally annoyed. They wanted to see the ten-point plan, the revolution in high gear, the toppling of sinful social structures. They were impatient with His brand of solidarity. They wanted to see Him take the right stand on issues, not just standing in the right place.

"But Jesus stood with the outcast. The Left screamed: 'Don't just stand there, do something.' And the Right maintained: 'Don't stand with those folks at all.' Both sides, seeing Jesus as the wrong size for this world, came to their own reasons for wanting Him dead. Both sides were equally impressed when He unrolled the scroll and spoke of 'Good news to the poor'...'sight to the blind'...liberty to the captives.' Yet only a handful of verses later, they want to throw Jesus over a cliff."

(pp. 172-173)

Pamela said...

Surely the church has played a significant role in "cultural" discrimination of homosexuals. The overwhelming majority of churches still use a biblical basis to discriminate against homosexuals and thus can play no part in a sincere campaign for equality. What else are "liberals", both within and outside the church, to do but address this discrimination in a context of "law".

tinythinker said...

Fortunately not all churches are guilty of this (UCC, TEC, UUA, etc) and can and do play a role in a sincere campaign for equality. There are many things we can do outside of the law, especially when the truth is that laws don't tend to be taken as seriously if the culture doesn't agree with them. It is important as mentioned to stand with those who marginalized as opposed to just standing for them. Building community through friendship, family and putting ourselves literally in the same places and spaces that are occupied by those who are not accepted. I just don't see these things as mutually exclusive with pursuing social justice via legal avenues.

Pamela said...

Thanks tinythinker! I am guessing you are not living in Australia. I would say the only church in Oz that has a halfway tolerant attitude towards homosexuals (being fully part of the church e.g. in ordained ministry) would be the Uniting Church and even they are a little bit 'reluctant' leaving the decision basically to individual congregations. I agree with what you're saying though - to stand "with" them not just "for" them.

tinythinker said...

My apologies, I had no idea what the situation was down under. I'm a bit surprised. I'm so used to the US being behind on such things compared to other English-speaking countries (socialized medicine, women leaders, etc) I assumed we were in the rear on this as well.

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