Regarding Moral Values
A letter from Kentucky
Casey has some interesting thoughts:
Hi, Mikhaela.Thanks Casey! I'd just like to add that it's not that I don't think Christians are thoughtful and concerned people--I don't doubt the depth of their beliefs, concern, and thoughtfulness. But you're right that as an extremely secular person I'm really lost when it comes to speaking that language, especially when it comes to gay rights. Anyway, thanks so much for the great letters and comments, folks, and keep them coming.
I really enjoy reading your cartoons and your blog. I just wanted to comment on your post about "moral values." Towards the end of your post, you ask three questions about the rightness and goodness of conservative religious values. As a progressive living in the Midwest who was raised in a fundamentalist Christian church, I will tell you this: You don't want to hear the answers to those questions. You don't really want to ask those questions. You won't be satisfied with the answers, they won't make sense to you, and you'll only solidify the views of the people answering. Seriously. Part of the problem with arguing with fundamentalist Christians is that they are *convinced* that everyone is out to get them. They preach this every single Sunday. Every week, pastors tell their congregations that their rights to worship Jesus are on the brink of being taken away. They use homosexuality and abortion as their primary pieces of evidence that the rest of the world is coming to get them. Arguing with them about whether or not abortion or homosexuality are okay is pointless. You will never win them over. The best you can hope for is that they will just decide to pray for you.
That isn't to say that they will never vote Democrat! And no, I am definitely not one of those people who think the Dems need to move further to the right to win voters. The Democrats will never be right-wing enough. Alternatively, we should be re-framing these "moral issues" using language that isn't so divisive. When religious folks are forced to label themselves as "pro-choice" or "pro-life," they will pick "life" every time. It's part of their belief system: You give up certain choices (sins) for eternal life. Seriously, the language of the abortion debate does not work in our favor. We need to re-frame it as a public health issue, not a civil rights issue. You will never convince a conservative Christian that abortion is anything other than killing babies, but you may be able to convince one or two that the Democrats are actually more effective at preventing abortions by offering more assistance to disadvantaged families and more access to contraceptives.
Gay rights is a little trickier, in my opinion. I think what it comes down to is that fundamentalists intentionally isolate themselves from secular society, and many of them have never even actually met a gay person. . .or at least, they've never met one who's out. That makes it really easy to dehumanize homosexuals. I'm honestly not sure how to address this. Some people I've spoken with seem to genuinely hate gays and, sadly, I don't think that is going to change for a while. Others, though, seem to cling to the sickeningly patronizing "love the sinner, hate the sin" mentality. I'm not sure how to win Christians over on this issue. That's something that really concerns me on a very personal level. I'm Quaker and it really unsettles me that I can read the Bible and interpret it so differently from my Wesleyan relatives. I think if fundamentalists ever budge on this issue it will be because of a reform movement within churches, not because of external pressure.
This email turned out to be a lot longer than I intended. Sorry about that. What I want to get across is that Christians really are thoughtful and concerned people. Progressives just need to start speaking their language.
Thanks for reading.