By Lori Heine
How can right-of-center gays and lesbians function as the grownups in the room when responding to the Duck Dynasty controversy?
As Lori Sanders has astutely pointed out on this blog, we are fortunate to live in a country where potentially objectionable speech is disciplined in the marketplace, instead of by the government.
This has not stopped social conservatives from behaving as if they are being marched en masse into the arena to face the lions. Because they are losing the culture war, they are in full martyr mode. They want the public to believe they are being driven back into the catacombs.
The furor over this incident shows that not everyone appreciates the difference between the way controversial speech is handled in a free society and how it would be dealt with in a totalitarian state.
If the public understood this crucial difference, those opposed to gay rights would not be able to portray themselves as victims. The line between dissent and persecution has been deliberately blurred by years of manipulation by those, on both left and right, who would seize government power to censor ideas they find threatening.
It would probably not be an adequate response to remind the public that, given the chance, social conservatives could be dangerous. That, if possible, they would persecute gays and others they dislike. That would only escalate the battle, the victor seizing the spoils of oppressive government power.
To resolve the conflict, when religious beliefs are cited as justification for the fighting words, the matter must be settled not by the state or even the market, but in the church. Gay people of faith are seldom asked for an opinion in controversies like these. But they certainly have something to say about them. They should be given the opportunity to add their insight.
It is significant that social conservatives pretend no Christian opposition to their views exists. That is simply false. Their argument is no longer the definitive Christian position on gays or same-sex love. If it were even as strong as they want the public to think, they would not ignore the growing support for full gay inclusion in the church and synagogue. When they can no longer make statements citing the Bible or other religious authorities without challenge, they will cease to do so with such impunity.
The last thing social conservatives want is to be forced to depend on religious arguments. If those arguments are challenged, and they are made to defend them, public support for their views will further erode. They must appeal, largely, to ignorance. As Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis once famously opined, “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.”