When the CEO of Amazon puts down a cool $2 million to support gay marriage, his advocacy is championed. When the founder of Chick-Fil-A does the same in support of traditional marriage, his advocacy is seen as hateful. Is this debate less about intellectual integrity than it is about picking convenient sides?
When Amazon.com’s CEO Jeff Bezos decides to put down over $2 million to defend Washington state’s gay marriage law, most within the national media see the move as a decision to put one’s money where one’s mouth is to support his beliefs.
When it’s Chick-Fil-A’s Dan Cathy doing the same in support of traditional marriage, it’s a move that is decried as being “against our values” across the nation, even in places that don’t have gay marriage laws in place.
One is considered an expression of free speech in defense of what he believes. The other? More like a position of hatred based on his affiliation with a church born out of the Greatest Love of All.
It makes one wonder: is this debate over Chick-Fil-A and religious beliefs a matter of double standards and media filler as much as it over the legitimate advocacy efforts some have engaged in over the issue of gay marriage?
In America, as long as religious beliefs are not stifling the freedoms and equal status of others, it is protected under the First Amendment. Yet, in a nation whose founders were overwhelming Christian, it is, in a very interesting way, seen as more discriminatory to spend money to uphold traditional Christian beliefs concerning marriage than it is for those to spend money to oppose those centuries-long tenets.
Regardless of my religious belief in the concept of traditional marriage (and the secular need for legal protections – via civil unions – for committed same-sex couples), I concur that the advocates pushing for gay marriage throughout America have the legitimate right to promote their beliefs. They must have protection under the law to promote their positions lawfully. There must be a place within the law where committed American couples should have protection of their private property and “pursuit of happiness” secured as promised in the founding documents of this nation – even if the sacrament (i.e., the institution) of marriage remains traditionally recognized in America.
Yet, it seems as though the argument against Christians’ defense of traditional marriage is increasingly a combination of concerns based from first-hand experiences from same-sex couples, leverage of civil rights examples via past Jim Crow racism, and the modern-day philosophical filler that corrupts political debate today.
The arguments for trumping advocacy for a religious belief (as is the case with Cathy’s comments and on-going support of traditional marriage) with a position such as gay marriage come across with the same, self-serving filling from liberals that Christian conservatives are accused. This holds true for both sides when the silence concerning “oppression through religious expression” in other realms of this nation is observed.
For example, the general silence from both sides of partisanship (including progressives) including the de facto subservience that many traditional Muslim women live in America through contrasts with the current rhetoric stating that Christian beliefs hinder equality. This clear standard of inequality is often overlooked as a “religious expression” of immigrants and converts alike. As well, in the sub-cultures of America where it is customary for women to show their inferiority to men within the family structure by sitting separately from men and often walking behind men, religious beliefs and practices may prove to be as supportive of inequality as Christians are accused of. Yet, this is merely seen as an expression of religious freedom as afforded by the Bill of Rights.
If these actions are not egregious enough to cause outrage, why is the expression of a belief – and First Amendment support of this belief – so much worse, especially when secular protections are still available for legal relief?
Of course, this is not to defend discrimination, inequality, or hateful acts of any kind. Hiding behind religious beliefs to injure others – physically or materially – is simply wrong. Using religion to steal from or strike another is intolerable and, thus, should be abhorred by Christian conservatives and progressives simultaneously. However, when the issue of supporting religious beliefs – whether it is monogamy (also a tenet of traditional Christian marriage) or traditional gender balance within marriage – comes up in America, it becomes intellectually sloppy over time to define the legitimacy of one’s advocacy based on the opponent’s views alone. People in our nation should be able to disagree on various positions through debate without engaging in an exercise that ignores the hypocrisy of condoning some religious beliefs and practices while condemning others – all done for the sake of winning a specific argument.
This is not a dynamic that is only done on the progressive left by any means. For example, there are plenty of Christians that champion religious freedom via the Constitution but hollowly and rigorously oppose peaceful Islam in their communities without cause. Yet, there seems to be little understanding for Mr. Cathy – a man whose organization closes on Sunday in a clear reflection of his Bible Belt, Southern Christian roots – to be able to fund his life-long beliefs with the same passion and conviction that advocates for gay marriage (a relatively-new social concept within societal dynamics) do, including Mr. Bezos. There should be a level of civil respect and understanding for Cathy’s right (and perhaps his position), even by those that completely disagree with him.
The inability to grant Mr. Cathy his right to express his religious beliefs – as long as he is not discriminating against those through his hiring practices or providing of services – seems to be a short-coming, especially during an effort of asking for tolerance, understanding, and legal support for a new social construct. Even if we do not respect the positions within this issue, we have to make sure that the right to debate the perspectives is respected.
Anything less only fills our discourse with fluff that does not enrich the nation in the long run, even if it fills the airwaves with rhetoric that is pleasing when we first take it in.
LENNY MCALLISTER is a senior contributor to Politic 365 featured on outlets including CNN Newsroom, CNN’s “Early Start”, Current TV “The Young Turks”, and XM Radio. His new book, “Spoken Thoughts of an Amalgamated Advocate in Today’s America” is now available electronically on Kindle and in paperback on Amazon.com . Catch Lenny’s “The McAllister Minute” on The American Urban Radio Network this week and other latest via the new LennyMcAllister.com website.