May 05, 2009

Using the "B" Word More Sparingly


I've used that word plenty on this blog as have many other LGBT activists.

Is it accurate, and is it helpful?

First, not always, and second, seldom.

Here's an excerpt from a thoughtful essay on by John Corvino:

Marriage-equality opponents are increasingly complaining that we’re calling them bigots. This leads to a kind of double-counting of our arguments: For any argument X that we offer, opponents complain both that we’re saying X and that we’re saying that anyone who disagrees with X is a bigot.

Then, instead of responding to X—that is, debating the issue on the merits—they focus on the alleged bigotry charge and grumble about being called names.

I don’t deny that some of us do call them names (sometimes deserved, sometimes not). Yet even those who call them “bigots”—such as Frank Rich in his New York Times op-ed “The Bigots’ Last Hurrah”—often engage the substance as well. Increasingly, our opponents ignore the substance in favor of touting their alleged persecution.

Personally, I think the term “bigot” should be used sparingly. Many of those who oppose marriage equality are otherwise decent people who can and sometimes do respond to reasoned dialogue.

To call such persons bigots is not merely inaccurate; it’s a conversation-stopper. It says, “your views are beyond the pale, and I won’t dignify them with discussion.”

I've wondered more than once if some of the folks who I work with and with whom I share good discussions about the Lord read some of my pieces where I use the "B" word how they would feel. I know, as I'm sure most of us do, many good-hearted people who love God that truly believe that the Bible teaches homosexuality is a sin. How would they feel if they saw me indirectly label them bigots for that belief? Angry and hurt, I suspect, and less open to hearing what I have to say about much of anything I suspect.

There is a moveable middle of opinion about GLBT rights that is starting to move in the right direction. I believe the best way to keep that momentum is to engage in constructive discussion, which is hard to do when either side slaps a label on the other.

I'll pledge to be more sensitive toward that, and I encourage you to do the same.

Click here to read the rest of John Corvino's essay.

No comments:

Post a Comment