Not That Similar
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The enemy threatens him with criticism, not death.
Fighting gay marriage is not like fighting slavery.
As you may have heard, Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore has responded to a federal rule allowing Alabama gay marriage by ordering state judges not to approve gay marriages. No surprise there. Moore's an anti-gay creationist whose main claim to fame was erecting a Ten Commandments monument at his court in defiance of a higher court's ruling.
To National Review's Ed Whelan though, Moore is a hero in the tradition of 19th-century abolitionists. Imagine, Whelan says, that after the Supreme Court's pro-slavery Dred Scott decision, free-state officials refused to comply with the ruling. Would defying the court in that case be wrong? And if you don't think it's wrong, how can you possibly object to Moore defying the court on the basis of his moral beliefs?
Wow. That is indeed a tough one. Oh, wait, no it's not -- the two situations are actually nothing alike. Slavery was evil, a massive, horrific violation of human rights and decency. Two people wanting to get married is nothing of the sort.
Does Whelan not notice any difference? Or does he really believe that if opposing the law can be justified in some circumstances, we have to accept it in every circumstance? Because that doesn't make sense at all. I firmly believe that if our country becomes a dictatorship, we'd be justified in armed insurrection. That doesn't mean I have to support the Weather Underground or Timothy McVeigh blowing things up because they thought they were fighting tyranny.
In fairness to Whelan, he's not an outlier, so maybe he's just parroting what other people say. Lots of religious conservatives apparently see themselves as heroic soldiers for God, standing against a pink tide dedicated to snuffing out American religious freedom. The late Charles Coulson, for example, accused gay-rights activists in California of treating their opponents like Bull Connor treated civil rights marchers.
Or consider Owen Strachan, a Southern Baptist seminary professor. Following GracePointe Church's announcement it would be inclusive toward gay parishioners, Strachan compared anti-gay religious leaders such as himself to David and the Israelites: "They will not bend the knee to Goliath. They will not submit to the yoke of the Philistines."
Which sounds very courageous, except of course that Strachan isn't faced with war or going into single combat with a giant warrior. He's writing blog posts. The enemy threatens him with criticism, not death. Even after gay marriage becomes the law of the land, he'll still be able to fight his war and strike a heroic stance.
Then there's megachurch pastor Rick Warren. When the federal mandate that employer-provided health insurance cover birth control kicked in, Warren came out against it. In fact, he declared he'd sooner to go jail than comply with it in violation of his beliefs. Courageous, if you overlook that religious institutions can opt out, so nobody's likely to try jailing him.
During the Bush years, a lot of right-wing bloggers and pundits adopted similar poses over the war on terror. The threat of al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein was worse than Hitler, the greatest fight the free world had ever taken on! Writing blog posts and columns was just as heroic and important as serving in the military! Just living in New York was the same as being on the front lines in Iraq (according to pundit Hugh Hewitt)!
Let's face it, most of us aren't living lives of stirring adventure. Many of us daydream about doing so. Some conservatives just take this a little further and delude themselves they really are living the dream. Standing up heroically against foes they imagine are as terrible as Nazis, slavers, Philistines, white supremacists.
But dreaming it doesn't make it so.
And it will never make them right.
Fraser Sherman, : Having graduated college with a degree in biology, no interest in grad school, and no interest in a science career, Fraser Sherman decided he’d try writing. It turned out he liked it. And he was even reasonably good at it. Over the next couple of decades, he sold articles to Newsweek, The Writer, Dragon Magazine (yes he played D&D. Want to make something out of it?), Air & Space and more specialized markets such as Painting and Wallcovering and Gulf Coast Condo Owner. Because he wanted... (more...)