Back when I was
a slave for worked for Sleepy Giant Entertainment, there was this guy named Ben. He left for another QA job at the now-bankrupt and nonexistent THQ shortly after I started working at SGE back in the fall of 2011. I knew very little about him, and what I did know came from a friend and coworker who had attended USC with him. He was a conservative and believed Fox News to be god’s gift to broadcast journalism (hah!), and that was pretty much all I knew.
After we were laid off my friend David De La Rocha started texting me about the crazy shit Ben was saying on Facebook. Turned out the guy was also an evangelical, and had some pretty strong opinions. I’d gotten a glimpse of these opinions via another SGE employee’s FB wall; he was also religious, but you know, not crazy.
I was very vocal about my disdain for the American political process during the November 2012 elections. I voted for the Green Party candidate Jill Stein, but couldn’t help but feel relieved when Obama was reelected. I made a post on FB saying I wished I was friends with Ben so that I could see the whiny complaints he was no doubt spouting now that Crusty Old White Guy Candidate #5,801 had been defeated. David jokingly responded that Ben and I should be Facebook friends, and a few hours later a friend request popped up in my inbox.
I debated whether to accept it for several days then decided, fuck it, why not? It’s only Facebook. What followed was several months of intense debate and heated argument and two instances where I defriended Ben. We are no longer FB friends, but I do regularly check his wall because I can’t help myself and we recently communicated via messages to discuss a Huffington Post article, and subsequently gay marriage.
We argued about Darwinian evolution, Islamophobia and other things, but what really struck a chord was gay marriage. I am very liberal but gay marriage has always been the issue I am most passionate about. Ironically, I haven’t had too many gay friends (though I do have sam gay in-laws) but it’s hard not to come into contact with gay people on a regular basis when you live in New York and L.A. It’s still something I feel very strongly about because I believe in equal rights, but I think part of the reason I obsess over it so much is because I find the opposition so damn frustrating. If you’re not a religious lunatic and think rationally, it’s hard to find any reason to oppose marriage equality, and thus the national “discussion” and “argument” we keep having seems like such bullshit to me as there’s no argument to be had. This is a simple issue that isn’t open to debate. I’m all about the grey area, but this is as black and white as they come.
Arguing with Ben opened my eyes a bit but also reaffirmed pretty much all my preconceived notions of what evangelicals are like that years of watching The Daily Show helped to generate. The eye opening bit was the fact that these people actually exist and that they live pretty close to me. In New York, I almost never encountered anyone religious, and when I did they were usually crazies with placards handing out fliers in Union Square (the angry black Muslims that hang there come to mind). Los Angeles is much more politically and socially diverse than I imagined, and there are some pretty hardcore Bible-thumping conservatives around here.
As you would expect, Ben turned out to be a shining paragon for the evangelical. Resolute in his beliefs, vehemently opposed to anything that attacks them, but bizarrely logical in his reasoning. The cognitive dissonance on display in our discussions was astounding; to watch someone create a rational argument for something irrational is a truly mind-bending experience. His argument style was juvenile, along the lines of The Matrix’s Morpheus or any character from LOST, answering every question with another question. The faithful are wont to do that as a means to avoid difficult questions the Bible simply doesn’t have the answers for. For example, if you asked him why he thinks gay marriage should be illegal, rather than answering it he’ll hit you back with “well, what would you think if bestiality or pedophilia was legal?”
Evangelicals believe that without god there is no morality, that morality cannot exist in a vacuum. If you don’t believe in god your beliefs are just opinions; in this case it’s my opinion that homosexuality is okay while pedophilia and bestiality are not. Without an old book to affirm them, my beliefs can be instantly questioned and parallels can be drawn between them and things that are immoral on a very basic level. But if the old book says homosexuality, pedophilia, bestiality and a ton of other crazy shit are wrong or right, then they’ve been affirmed.
Smart evangelicals like Ben will pretend like they’re not bigoted and that they’re accepting of other belief systems but it’s all bullshit, and that brings me back to gay marriage. The media acts like the marriage equality debate is just that- a debate, but they only say that because they’re politically correct and a significant portion of their viewer base may be just like Ben and take offense if they tell the truth, which is that marriage equality is morally right and anything else is intolerance. It’s time we stop pussy-footing and pretending like the other side of this manufactured argument has even a shred of credence.
That’s the hard line. Accept that there are gay people and that they deserve the same rights you do or you’re a bigot. There’s no middle ground. Ben would flip that on me and say that I am intolerant of his beliefs and therefore am also a bigot. While I think his beliefs are batshit crazy and a completely idiotic system on which to base your daily life, I tolerate them the same way he should tolerate the fact that some dudes like to take it up the butt. Oh, I’m sorry, did that gross you out? Tough shit, you have to deal with it the same way I have to deal with the fact that there are morons who think the Earth is 6000 years old and that an old Jew is going to come back to life and take a select few up to a seemingly boring cloud-laden afterlife. If I were a bigot I would be pushing to have churches closed down and religious texts burned but I’m not because I believe in free speech above all.
Ben recently posted an article that he used as the basis to criticize people just like me. He says that the fact that people such as myself are throwing the word “bigot” around and getting emotional is detracting from what should be a civil discussion about a serious issue (he’s a lover of civil discussions). But the reason I’m fucking emotional is that as I’ve already said many times already, THERE IS NO DISCUSSION. Sure there are certain specifics I think are tricky, such as whether religious institutions opposed to gay marriage should be forced to marry same sex couples. Again, this seems like a pretty simple question if you look at it from a removed, secular point of view. If you’re like me and you don’t believe we’re part of some mythical “Christian nation,” then church and state should be completely separated. If marriage licenses are something that are issued by the state and not the church, then yes, if pastors and rabbis want to continue to have the ability to marry people, tough shit, they have to marry gay people. If married couples as a whole aren’t recognized by the state and given benefits and the whole concept is really just ceremony, then fine, the church can marry whoever they damn well please because it’s a freedom of speech issue.
But you see, you can’t make the counter argument that something is infringing on your religious freedom when your religious freedom infringes on another person’s rights. It’s the most commonly used counter-argument the faithful will use, and the most idiotic. It’s a goddamn paradox but I suppose if your brain is hardwired by cognitive dissonance, then you’d never notice. “YOU CAN’T MARRY BECAUSE IF YOU MARRY IT WILL OFFEND MY RELIGION.” That. Makes. No. Sense. That makes no sense. NO. SENSE.
Other arguments that piss the shit out of me: “THINK OF THE CHILDREN!!!!!”
Dude, fuck your children. What is this argument? That children raised by anyone other than one man and one woman are going to automatically grow up to be serial killers? Who the fuck cares who raises kids as long as they raise them well? Are you trying to imply that every normal, well-balanced kid who’s ever existed was raised by one man and one woman? Because that’s retarded. Family is amorphous, malleable, undefinable. No one’s fucking “undefining” or “redefining” anything because there’s nothing to define. Family is whatever you make it. Hell, Jack Nicholson was raised by his grandmother who told him she was his mother and his actual mother was his sister. And he turned out great (kinda)!! Oh, and you know, there’s also all those studies that say that kids raised by same sex couples are, you know, totally fine. On a sidenote, if Ben were here he would then pull up a study that says the exact opposite… a study performed by a biased church organization.
The government has no right to tell people how to live their lives, within reason. There are instinctually immoral things we all understand to be wrong like murder and stealing. The government should exist to protect us but not to protect us from ourselves (though I’ll admit it gets a bit more complex when you talk about things like gun control). This applies as much to marriage equality as it does illegal drugs and prostitution. All of these things should be legal because they are eternal; as much as they may offend your quaint Christian sensibilities, people will always snort cocaine, fuck hookers and fall in love with members of the same sex no matter how hard you try to stop them. When certain groups stop trying to force their very specific moral systems on all of us, we’ll all get along better. CONSENSUS, people. Consensus.
The discussion ben and I had concerning gay marriage was one of our more civil, rational discussions, but that’s sort of what made it the most frustrating of them all. Behind the veil of ideology, I could tell Ben was a normal person like me and he struggled to form a cogent argument for why gay marriage should be illegal. Over and over I pressed him on it, and over and over he answered my question with another question. Finally, desperately, I managed to get him to fess up. “But gay marriage doesn’t inherently infringe on anyone’s rights, yes?” I asked. Then it came:
“Yes, it does not infringe on other’s rights.” My heart swelled. A tear almost came to my eye. I’d done it. I’d actually achieved the impossible, I had gotten through to him. I had cut through all the bullshit and discovered that our core, Ben and I weren’t so dissimilar. “One evangelical at a time,” I said to myself. “One evangelical at a time.”