Common conservative opinion on social issues is remarkably inconsistent.
You may have heard in the news recently that Ohio Senator Rob Portman made a public statement in favor of legalizing gay marriage. in the past, Senator Portman has voted to amend the Constitution to ban same-sex marriage, and to prohibit adoptions by gay couples in Washington, D.C., not surprising since that is the general Republican stance. What is surprising, though, is that last Friday, Portman publicly came out (no pun intended) in favor of gay marriage. His 'change of heart' sprung from his own son, Will Portman (21-year-old Yale student) coming out as homosexual in 2011. It clearly took some time, but now that Rob's own son is affected by laws governing the civil rights of LGBT Americans, Rob Portman sees things differently.
Naturally, Portman was praised by many on the Left, who see this not only as a turning point, the first of many changes of viewpoint among members of the Right. However, Portman was also sharply criticized by members of both parties. I'm very interested in one Right-wing critique in particular, and what it reveals about the conservative mentality. That critique was by Andrea Lafferty, president of the Traditional Values Coalition, and it's a perfect example that what liberals consider to be rigidity or stubbornness is actually complete consistency of belief. But, as we will see, that doesn't mean it's right.
Lafferty's response to Portman can be read in its entirely here, but below is just a snippet:
"These past few days have been very painful ones for me.
Earlier this week one of my children came to me and told me something which was shocking.
He is a drunk driver and has been driving drunk regularly since college.
I have taken several days to reflect on this and I have decided to reverse my earlier opposition to drunk driving.
My child is a drunk driver and I love him. It is a part of his identity, who he is...
...Therefore, today I am reversing my opposition to drunk driving. My child has caused me to revisit a decision which, up until now, had been based simply on morality.
My child is a drunk driver. That has personalized the issue for me and taken me above the whole discussion of the morality of it. It is now personal with me..."
Liberals couldn't believe the lack of empathy from an individual within a tradition supposedly exhibiting compassion as modeled by Jesus Christ (not that the Bible records Jesus Christ ever coming into contact with a homosexual. I really wish he had so that conservatives wouldn't have to guess incorrectly about how he would have reacted). Other conservative commentators have used the example of beastiality in the place of drunk driving to prove the same point: If something is wrong, it is wrong when even your son does it. You son doing it doesn't make it right. If something is truly immoral, lots of people believing it doesn't make it right, either. This view is actually admirable, and liberals would do well to make an effort to understand it better. In fact, the satire by Lafferty was way too easy (Portman had it coming eventually) and the metaphor very effectively demonstrated her point.
The problem is that Lafferty's belief is wrong. I have no doubt that the current conservative opinion about homosexuality will one day be completely reconciled biblically among Christians, and not by saying that the Bible is wrong (that would be impossible), but that Christians' interpretation of scripture was wrong, the age-old excuse for changing beliefs while pretending you haven't at all. This has happened countless times in the past: the easiest and most recent examples are women's and blacks' rights. Let's try to remember that slavery was brought up way more in the Bible than homosexuality is, but we've managed to reconcile that one. Frankly, I only wish more conservative public figures would "stand for their beliefs" like Lafferty. This would further expose conservatives for how extreme they really are.
If you, reader, change your opinion about homosexuality (as I have done, by the way), don't do it because your brother/sister/friend/mother came out of the closet. Do it because every gay person in the world is somebody's brother/sister/friend/mother. This is not a crazy liberal concept or fad that will pass. This is the future. This is social progress. Christian "traditional values" have been wrong about countless social issues in the past, and they are wrong about this one.
Let me use another example. During the absolute chaos that surrounded the political election at the end of last year, Mitt Romney took the stance of what I consider to be the current, official Right-wing stance on abortion, which is that abortion is okay in cases of rape, but in every other case should not be allowed. Conservatives who believe that abortion is never okay are scrutinized, even by a majority of the Right and considered "extreme", right up there with conservatives who don't believe in contraception. However, I don't believe that Mitt Romney actually believes that abortion is okay in cases of rape. It is absolutely inconsistent with the conservative viewpoint, and here's why:
The reason why Conservative Christians think abortion should be illegal is not just because it's wrong; it's deeper than that: why is it wrong? It's wrong because everything happens for a reason. It was the will of God for that child to be conceived, and it is God's choice and God's choice alone which babies get to be born, and which don't. I think up to this point, nearly every conservative Christian would agree with this. It logically follows, then, that if babies are conceived because it is God's will, then babies conceived because of even horrible events such as rape were meant to be born, and we shouldn't mess with God's plan. Think about it: if we are allowed to interfere with God in cases of rape, what other cases are we allowed to interfere with? What if a woman in a marital relationship uses birth control correctly, but it failed and she became pregnant? In this circumstance, like in the case of rape, the woman was doing nothing wrong by Christian standards (no premarital sex, no irresponsibility with contraception), and still got pregnant. Surely God didn't mean that one, either, did he? You see, we're either allowed to interfere with "God's plan", or we're not. Which is it?
That said, I do not believe everything happens for a reason. And I certainly don't believe that women who become pregnant as a result of rape are in "God's plan." I thought everyone already knew that science allows us to stop making up mystical stories about how anatomical events happen, but just in case: women get pregnant because they (whether by choice or by force) have unprotected sex while they are ovulating, so an eggs that has been released into the fallopian tube is available to be fertilized by the sperm. This is how women get pregnant. Not because God makes them pregnant like he supposedly did with the Virgin Mary. Rape doesn't happen for a reason. It happens for no reason, because there are sick people in the world that would do such a thing. Sometimes it's a better option for women to terminate that pregnancy. Of course, her reasons are no business of yours or mine, but the business only of the pregnant woman.
If you happen to believe that women do get pregnant because it is God's will, then you, too, should (and probably do, no matter what you tell people) believe that even raped women should not be allowed to have an abortion. The fact that Mitt Romney and others believe, or pretend to believe otherwise only 1) leads the public to believe that conservative Christians are less ruthless and extreme than they actually are, and 2) blinds conservative Christians from the absurdity of their own fundamental Biblical belief that governs this social issue.
Conservatives, and especially the ones who have the power to vote bills into laws that affect our rights, you need to take a close look at what you believe, because it's not compassion that you are preaching. Your "traditional values" affect real people, and your beliefs exposed in the proper light are evil and bigoted. Hindsight is 20/20. When the birth control pill was first invented, it was opposed by mainstream Christianity (as it still is in strict Catholicism and some sects of Christianity) as it allowed women to "play God" and choose when they wanted to have kids, instead of letting God choose. (It also allowed women to have pre-marital sex with none of the consequences "God intended", which Christians couldn't stand.) Today, most Christians concede that the Pill is a great and effective way to plan a family and limit unwanted pregnancies. Thousands of American Christians died believing that slavery of African peoples was the will of God (after all, the Bible says slavery is okay!), and that their belief would one day be vindicated. But was it? We now know that those people were using the Bible to support their bigotry. Please don't make the same mistake.