Thursday, April 30, 2015

Differing Views

[I wrote this as a possible Sunday column, responding to a couple of recent columns by Neal Hooks, but then had an alternative column I wanted to run that Sunday, and see a long line of hot local issues for the next few Sunday columns, so it's a blog post:]

Mr. Hooks illustrates the problems one faces when one's commitment to a particular ideology or religion requires one to approach every new issue or thought by asking "How can I turn this into evidence to support my existing view" rather than "What is this and what can I learn from it?"

My own approach is more of the latter.  Every new thought or thing I try to see for itself, examine whether it's beautiful or true or dangerous or can teach me something.  (Or all four)  I have no bothersome need to make it fit the tenets of Communism, Christianity, Islam, or Capitalism.  Sure, its source may give it a slight advantage or disadvantage in convincing me of its truth, but that's not conclusive, not "Marx said that so it's wrong [or right]" or even "Romney said that, so it's wrong."  (In fact, Romney was said to have one of the top 1% among NCAA basketball bracket predictions this spring.)

Mr. Hooks is a Capitalist and pro-business, so he must prove to us that Jesus was a Capitalist, when the best evidence suggests no such thing.

Similarly, Mr. Hooks is a Christian who believes that being gay is unnatural and that acting on one's gayness is a sinful choice of lifestyle.

Therefore he must justify the notorious law passed recently in Indiana, allowing businesses to refuse services to folks whose nature or conduct transgresses against the business owner's religion.

He tries to do that with a false distinction: he says that a pizza business should of course serve you, even if you happen to be gay, but that the bakery next door can refuse to sell you a wedding cake if you happen to be gay and getting married.

He writes, _________

But in fact the bakery is discriminating against you precisely because of  your gayness, not your conduct.  Your conduct is procuring a valid marriage license and marrying your lover.  It's the same basic conduct my wife and I engaged in, as did Mr. and Mrs. Bush, Mr. and Mrs. Hooks, and more than a few others.

That conduct cannot be the true objection.  That conduct is socially-encouraged.  The difficulty is who is engaging in that conduct.  Black marrying a white? Sinful and illegal until the mid-1960's, in many states.  Man marrying a man?  Illegal until this decade, in many states, and sinful in the eyes of Mr. Hooks and others.

Mr. Hooks ought to be honest with himself on this.  That might enable him either to understand some things he doesn't yet understand -- or to come up with more convincing and less specious arguments for his point-of-view, if there are any.

Further, Mr. Hooks's religion is not the difficulty.  The difficulty is Mr. Hooks's taste, for lack of a better word, or his openness to new ideas.  His society abhors, or has traditionally abhorred, love between woman-and-woman or between man-and-man.  Therefore he interprets Christ as ardently anti-gay, although the limited evidence suggests otherwise.

As with Capitalism, because Mr. Hooks favors it he must find that Jesus would be an ardent capitalist.   Again, the evidence tends to suggest otherwise; and many others, including the Catholic liberation theologists and others, love Jesus and read him completely differently, as favoring the poor.

Jesus was a poor man who cared deeply about the poor.  He said something like  "Inasmuch as you have done this to the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me" and that the rich man's chance of reaching Heaven would be like the odds on getting a camel through the eye of a needle.  He was clearly very concerned that people not ignore poverty.  Mr. Hooks slips in another false distinction: he suggests that although Jesus would not appreciate a man who abused the poor or acted in ways to harm them or keep them in poverty, Jesus would have no objection to men doing so as a nation or a city.  I disagree.  As I read him, Jesus saw through forms to the true essence of men's (and women's) conduct.  That doing something bad -- exploiting the poor, torturing people you disagreed with, kicking dogs -- would be sinful if done by a human but permissible if done by a municipality is some sort of lawyer's argument, but not something a caring and passionate teacher like Jesus would have articulated.

Mr. Hooks also suggests that although Jesus wished to help the poor, he'd have been an ardent supporter of businessmen's freedom of choice to hurt the poor if that proved profitable.  I'm not so sure. 

At any rate, I'm sure Neal and I will have an opportunity to bore everyone to death on radio some time, each passionately articulating a point of view without much chance to persuade each other of much.

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