When I read the news this morning about the Duck Dynasty star who called homosexuality a sin and likened it to bestiality, I really wanted to write a blog post, but I said to myself, “Self. Do you really want to start a discussion about that? Today?”
And myself said, “Heck no.”
So I was going to bite my proverbial tongue and just do something safer. Maybe a post about bunnies. But then I kept delving into the news, and I came across this article about a book causing a stir in Europe. It’s title? Get Married and Be Submissive. That’s right, folks. It’s got such gems as
“It’s true, you’re not yet an experienced cook or a perfect housewife. What’s the problem if he tells you so? Tell him that he is right, that it’s true, that you will learn,” Miriano said. “On seeing your sweetness and your humility, your effort to change, this will also change him.”
And once I’d read about that book, my fingers just started itching, and it was too late. I had to say something, even if I wasn’t quite sure what it was going to be. But that’s why I’m glad I have this blog. I can think through things by writing these posts, then bounce those ideas off a diverse group of people and see what comes out at the end of all of it. So with the big disclaimer and plea that we try to keep things civil (as we usually do), let’s go.
So there are these things called freedom of speech and freedom of religion, and as far as I’m concerned, they mean people can say what they want to say and believe what they want to believe. Which means if people want to say or believe homosexuality is a sin, or women should be barefoot, pregnant, and permanently perched in front of a Kitchenaid, then people can say those things. People can say or believe just about anything they want in this country.
There’s also this thing called hate speech. And this is where things get tricky. Because while people are allowed to say what they want to say, they’re not allowed to say things that are going to incite people to violence against a group of other people. To try and separate this from touchy subjects, I’m going to delve into the hypothetical. Let’s imagine for a moment that I said something like “People who enjoy Two and a Half Men are idiots.” That’s my right. And if I extended it to say “I’m starting a new religion based on my belief that people who enjoy Two and a Half Men are idiots,” things are all still groovy. But if I had “and we should beat them all up” to the end of my statement of belief, then I’ve crossed the line. I can believe or say what I want, but that belief or speech shouldn’t incite others to violence against a group of people. Or at least, that’s how I understand hate speech. (Note: Bryce is not a lawyer.)
And all of this seems pretty cut and dried when we’re just talking about people who like Two and a Half Men, but when we start applying it to the real world, it gets very messy. Because what happens when you start stating your beliefs about groups that are often victims of persecution–especially when the continued bias against those groups is the cause of that persecution or violence.
What if it’s a person talking about how they believe Jews are evil, or Muslims are all terrorists? What do you do then, if they aren’t adding “and they should all be killed” at the end of those statements? They might not be actively using “hate speech,” but they’re propagating continued prejudice against a people–prejudice that often results in violence and persecution.
I don’t know this Duck Dynasty guy at all. I’ve never seen the show. Never heard one quote from him until this morning. (I guess that makes me out of touch with a sizable chunk of pop culture. Such is life.) When you look at what he said, he doesn’t appear to be actively advocating harm or injury to homosexuals. He’s saying he believes homosexuality is a sin. But he’s saying that belief in the middle of a GQ article that will be read by a very large audience (theoretically. Do people read GQ? I don’t.)
If he had said, “Adultery is a sin, and I can’t stand it,” I wouldn’t be writing this post. But then again, adulterers aren’t really persecuted against these days, are they?
The question I kept asking myself as I read his statements and the furor that’s erupting around them is “Where is the line?” Many religious groups believe homosexuality is a sin. Fact. Some people use that belief to persecute homosexuals. Fact. Then again, should people not be allowed to state their religious beliefs, just because other practicers of those same beliefs are crappy at actually practicing the whole package? People who focus on the sins and forget all about that little old “Love thy Neighbor” bit?
What Mr. Duck Dynasty actually said doesn’t appear to be anything other than colorfully stating some widely held religious beliefs about what behavior is sinful. When you read the actual article (instead of the snippets that are being widely quoted), you find out he was asked specifically what he believes are sins. From what I understand of the show, the fact that he’s a hardcore, Bible-thumping, sin hating Christian is kind of one of the center pieces of the show. So to have A&E all of a sudden be like, “Wait. He believes homosexuality is a sin?” and gasp and go all a-flutter seems sort of like putting a lion in a cage, throwing some meat in front of it, and then expressing outrage when it eats it up whole. “Lions aren’t vegetarian?”
Mr. Dynasty follows up his comments about sin and homosexuality with this:
We never, ever judge someone on who’s going to heaven, hell. That’s the Almighty’s job. We just love ’em, give ’em the good news about Jesus—whether they’re homosexuals, drunks, terrorists. We let God sort ’em out later, you see what I’m saying?
While he even then lumps homosexuals in with terrorists, it seems clear he’s not advocating hating anyone for their beliefs or actions. He’s just saying what he believes.
So in this case, I’d have to say I’m siding with the bearded duck guy. He was asked what he believed, and he said it. He followed it up by saying–in his own colorful way–that people shouldn’t be judged. I’m not sure what else he should have done in that situation. The sound and fury around it feels a lot like bear baiting to me.
It’s the same with the book about women being submissive. The author can think what she wants to think and write what she wants to write. People don’t need to believe her. People can feel free to ignore her. In both cases, the outrage expressed by other groups over what’s written or said seems to me to be more a case of “People looking for a platform” to garner attention to a message they want highlighted. And again, they’re allowed to do that.
Bah. That’s all the writing I’ve got in me at the moment. I’ll throw this out there to you hungry wolves and see where it takes us. Remember–be kind.