Sunday, April 05, 2015


In Ross Douthat's latest column, he's "interviewed" by a fictional secular journalist. From this pseudo-interview we learn that Douthat thinks it's fine not to want to bake a cake for a gay wedding, because it's not the same as refusing service to gay people across the board:
Seriously? Shouldn’t businesses have to serve all comers?

I think they should be able to decline service for various reasons, religious scruples included. A liberal printer shouldn’t be forced to print tracts for a right-wing cause. A Jewish deli shouldn’t be required to cater events for the Nation of Islam.

But those are issues of belief, not identity. Denying service to gays is like denying service to blacks under Jim Crow.

None of the businesses facing sanctions are saying they wouldn’t serve gay people as a class; they just don’t want to work at nuptials. This isn’t a structural system of oppression, a society-wide conspiracy like Jim Crow; we’re talking about a handful of shops across the country. It seems possible, and reasonable, to live and let live.
We then learn about Douthat's own belief system -- and here's where I find myself puzzled:
I think discrimination is discrimination. What about you? Would you bake the cake?

Honestly, since so many of my friends aren’t religious or conservative, I’ve always taken for granted that being part of their lives meant accompanying them through life choices that belong to a different worldview than my own. (And I’m very grateful that they’ve accompanied and tolerated me.) My family has its share of divorces and second marriages; my friends’ romantic paths are varied; my closest friend from high school just exchanged vows with his longtime boyfriend. I’m going to a party celebrating them next month. If they asked me, I’d bring a cake.

So why can’t other believers do the same?

First, these issues are difficult and personal, and I don’t presume that my approach is always right. Second, details matter. My closest gay friends are fairly secular. But I would be uncomfortable attending same-sex vows in the style of a Catholic mass -- or being hired to photograph such a ceremony.
So Douthat is going to a celebration of his best high school friend's same-sex wedding, for which he'd happily bake a cake, but if his best friend had a wedding "in the style of a Catholic mass," he wouldn't want to show up, or even be the photographer?

The obvious first point to be made about this is that Douthat is a terrible friend -- he's going to attend this party, but he wouldn't attend a wedding. I'd actually regard it as more understandable if he rejected his friend's marriage under either circumstance -- at least then he'd be acting on a principle, that homosexuality is always immoral and should never be endorsed or encouraged. I'd absolutely disagree with him, but his notion of what's sexually tolerable and intolerable would at least be consistent.

But this suggests that what upsets him is not so much homosexuality as the sullying of his precious church -- or, more precisely, the sullying of any church that practices the sort of moral scolding of which he approves. He'd reject a church wedding even if the denomination is one that's now embraced same-sex marriage, because Christian churches simply shouldn't do that -- they should punish or banish sexual transgressors. He wants churches to have the power to wag fingers and bully, and we wants them not to give up that power.

I suppose Douthat isn't very different from (as he notes) other selectively gay-averse business owners, or the family that owns Memories Pizza:
The O'Connor family told ABC 57 news that if a gay couple or a couple belonging to another religion came in to the restaurant to eat, they would never deny them service.

The O'Connors say they just don't agree with gay marriages and wouldn't cater them if asked to.
The O'Connors aren't caterers or flower arrangers arguing that their work is personal and handcrafted and thus invested with meaning for them in a way that a sandwich at a Southern lunch counter in the civil rights era wasn't for its preparers and servers. A pizza is a pizza. The people who own Memories will make you one if you're gay and walk in the door, but they won't make exactly the same pizza for your wedding, because weddings are the turf of moral authorities -- God and religious leaders -- and you're sullying it.

I don't get this. If you believe in your God and your moral code, if you think there's one consistent moral law that applies everywhere, why is it OK to be gay before a civil clerk but not a minister? Why is it OK to be gay in a booth at a pizzeria but not at a wedding? Are you sticking up for your morality, or just defending what you think of as God's territory? And if it's the latter, what means more to you -- leading a moral life as you define it, or being part of God's gang?


aimai said...

I'm not at all sympathetic to Douthat and most of the article is total bullshit but there is a reason that a normal person might hestitate to attend certain kinds of ceremonies--specifically the imitation of a Catholic Mass.

I am pro-equal marriage and pro-wedding ceremonies but unless the person is a member of a particular religion they should not assume the practices of that religion. Its disrespectful and parodic. I feel the same about lots of cos-play that is unthinking and disrespectful. Frat boys dressing up as homeless people? Wasps dressing up as Jews 'n Nazis for a party (yes, it has been done).

So, naturally you can hardly tell because the essay is such a mealymouthed incoherent mush but if he is saying that he has gay, non catholic, friends who are planning on holding an imitation Catholic Marriage then I think he is right not to attend. If they are Catholic and they are choosing the forms of marriage and religion they feel most suited to them then I, qua Catholic (if I were) , would probably attend but someone like Douthat wouldn't because of his absurd belief in an unchanging, dogmatic, catholic orthodoxy (even as he challenges the current Pope for not being Catholic enough).

But in any event in this essay you can see the dilemma the far right is facing. If you let even the tiniest hint of humanity creep into your decision making pretty soon you are attending gay weddings and even bringing the cake. This is why they are so opposed to even fragments of kindness and fellow feeling. Its terribly dangerous.

mlbxxxxxx said...

They are channeling the intolerance of their god which is, by definition, not immoral because god. If they were consistent, they'd end every order they take by asking something like, "and what do you plan to do with your genitalia later?" so they could be sure that they are enabling a life of sin. But gay is especially icky and they are butthurt about gay marriage, so gay weddings become the bridge too far, the hill upon which they will die.

Being in "god's gang" for them defines being moral so your final question is meaningless to them. Also, magical thinking explains some of the Douthat-like thinking about "don't dare do it in a church!" Wouldn't want to desecrate a building used for raping young boys, not to mention distorting their minds.

Victor said...

All of this rationalization - like Douche-hat's - is all bullshit and mumbo-jumbo lacking in any consistency, trying to cover-up for bigotry and intolerance - you know, just like Jesus Christ would (NOT!!!).

But, if you look at any religion, the last thing you'll find, is any consistency.

So, like in law, believers of any religion look for loop-holes that they can use to fit their current moral (legal) beliefs and standards.

Just don't call them intolerant or bigoted!
They're not.
And they'll spend thousands of words telling you why they're not.

The only problem is, no matter how many words you say or write, they don't provide any cover for your bigotry.

Rationalization is fine when you're dealing in rational subjects.
But when it comes to faith and the belief in some God who's presence is neither tangible nor provable, and you use some religious texts to justify your intolerance and bigotry, all you're doing, is trying to blow smoke over your hatreds and fears.

Hell, I can take any paragraph of any book, and probably use it to justify whatever it is that I believe in at the moment.
And I'm not talking about works of non-fiction!

Using the Bible to provide cover for your bigotry, is - imo - like looking for, and finally seeing Jesus' image on a piece of toast - or, as one woman did, in an X-ray of one of her teeth.

The saddest thing is, I don't have any way to reach these uber-Christian people, and tell them how and why they're wrong.
They won't listen.
They believe what they want to believe - no matter what or how much contrary evidence is shown them.
"Truthiness" and faith trump science, math, philosophy, and rational thought...

Joey_Blau said...

You know that once they get it established that they can refuse to provide services for weddings.. then it will be funerals, then birthday parties and then just the gays walking in off the street.

The gayness was causing harm to theotber customers. The gay vibe was causing a disturbance.

And and and.. anything else they don't like

Roger said...

Contdouthat isn't going to bake a cake, that's women's work. He's going to have his female lady wife bake it.

Roger said...

Xontdouthat wouldn't be comfortable photographing a wedding in the style of a Catholic mass because of the underage children present.

Swellsman said...

A few years ago I came across an argument that, as soon as I read it, seemed to explain an awful lot of behavior that I otherwise found truly puzzling: For many people, "morality" is not about doing The Right Thing, but is about signalling to other people that you are on The Right Side. That is, "morality" is not an issue of internal conscience, but an issue of social allegiance. This is how people who are known (privately) to be child abusers and adulterers can nevertheless still be thought of by some as a "pillar of the community" because they attend regular Church services.

So, yeah . . . if this is what is going on, the answer to the question is that, Yes, being part of God's Gang is not only more important than any principle of morality or conscience, it the only thing that is important.

Aunt Snow said...

All this splitting of hairs (gay diners, yes, gay wedding no) is ridiculous, and should be the least important hill to die on for your religious beliefs.

Let's see if any of these businesses refuse to serve customers who advocate capital punishment, or war.

Mustang Bobby said...

It takes a tremendous ego to think that anyone else at a wedding cares about what the caterer or the photographer thinks about the celebration. If they think that their religion teaches them that it's okay to not only be bigoted but to put it on display, they need to re-examine their faith or at least their understanding of it.

trnc said...

"If you believe in your God and your moral code, if you think there's one consistent moral law that applies everywhere, why is it OK to be gay before a civil clerk but not a minister?"

I'm not sure anyone could be religious if they can't compartmentalize because you have to have one standard of evidence for your belief (ie, no evidence) and another standard of evidence for everything else.

Philo Vaihinger said...

I gather you don't understand how hurtful blasphemy, mockery, and sacrilege are to religious believers.

Gays are the last people you'd expect to be too obtuse to notice when they themselves are simultaneously engaged in all 3.

Susan of Texas said...

You may be concerned that society is pushing you into the margins where you will be forced to hide in the shadows with a few other godly folk, afraid to speak your mind for fear your words will be reported to the Gay Agenda Police, or heard by the Gay Agenda Auxiliary Neighborhood Guard.

So just think how cheap it's going to be to provide Hawaiian Punch and Safeway cookies for your next service at First Martyrs of Christ, located in a strip mall next to the Washateria. Although the competition for self-pity will be fierce you can always go for the Terrible Swift Sword of Righteousness award.

Uncle Mike said...

"I gather you don't understand how hurtful blasphemy, mockery, and sacrilege are to religious believers."

Nope, I don't. I also don't understand why one of my students goes nuts when another kid makes a comment about his mom. The comment's not true, it doesn't reflect upon your mom, it doesn't change who your mom is.

The creator of the entire universe, lord of all who walk or crawl can't survive a sarcastic comment from a middling algebra teacher like me? Your god can't survive that?

You're right, I will never understand.

Susan of Texas said...

God would be able to tolerate gays if he were not so pissed off at all the people eating shrimp and wearing a polyester blend.

Don't even get me started on all the people who refuse to stone disobedient children. It's a mockery of the sacred.