To Treat One Another As Humans

The Manhattan Declaration hit the news again this week, thanks to an iPhone/iPad application supporting it which for a short while was in Apple’s app store. Apple pulled it out in response to an uproar raised by homosexual rights activists. A Manhattan Declaration blogger responded to the controversy here.

This evening I’ve been reading gay-rights advocates’ reactions to the app, and I have a lot of questions to ask about them. I don’t need to supply the links; you can search the web for them easily enough yourself. Here are some excerpts, with quotes elided (marked off by ellipses) from several websites:

Want to join the hate fest? … Want to Express Hatred Toward Gay People? There’s an App for That ….

This accusation is deeply grievous to me. It’s also inaccurate. I am one of the 150 or so original signers of the Manhattan Declaration—I urge readers here to sign it—and I don’t hate gay people. That’s an unjust and intolerant tag that a minority opposition group has fixed upon me for rhetorical effect. It’s wrong and it’s extremely judgmental.

This minority group has re-defined the term “hate.” It used to apply to an extreme emotion of personal animosity. I don’t feel that way. I don’t have any personal antipathy towards any individuals on the other side of the debate. I do of course think they’re largely wrong in the positions they take. They’re wrong, for example, in applying the word “hate” to anyone who disagrees with their personal beliefs and practices. If that’s what hate is, then what should we call their attitudes toward people they disagree with? If disagreement really did equal hatred, ought that not to work both ways?

And what does hate actually look like? Consider this outburst:

Yep you really wonder which dumb ass bastard at Apple came up with this bright idea [to approve the Manhattan Declaration app] and how long before Mr. Jobs holds a meeting and starts chopping heads like so many turkeys for Thanksgiving dinner. Don’t forget the green bean casserole Mr. Jobs.

Is that the model of tolerance we should all be seeking to live up to? It seems that many on the gay-rights side of this debate have forgotten there are actual human beings on the other side. I’m one of those human beings. I don’t hate you, but when I see this kind of language expressed toward me, what am I to think about your views of me? If you are free of hate, I would ask you to act like it, please.

“Hate” isn’t the only word being re-defined.

Nothing like a little extremism to start the morning …. homophobic and anti-choice extremism …. Ever wished your iPhone could be used to foster homophobia and extreme anti-choice views?

Extremism? This confuses me. How could a position that’s been held by the majority of human beings down through the ages, and remains the majority opinion in America today, be “extremist”? No, this is just twisted language. It’s a maneuver to undermine rational thinking by the use of loaded verbiage. To call our position extremist is factually inaccurate, but worse, through its sloganeering effect it makes clear thinking difficult and rational discourse well-nigh impossible.

Is rational discourse a value to the LGBT crowd or not?

I wonder, too, whether accuracy is a value:

According to the Manhattan Declaration, society should refer to gay relationships as “immoral sexual partnerships,” and all people of faith should adopt a belief that “LGBT people erode marriage.” … The application also allows users to wade through a series of right-wing talking points that call for the elimination of choice for women, as well as an end to same-sex marriage. And then for kicks, the app also tells users that there’s no such thing as separation of church and state.

None of the phrases there inside quotation marks are in the Declaration. The sense of the words is there, but the use of quotation marks is at least mildly misleading. More serious is “elimination of choice for women” a pro-abortion buzz-phrase which is not in the Declaration at all. And the document in no wise suggests there is no such thing as no separation of church and state.

The Declaration develops its position over several pages of nuanced argument. A sloganeered and inaccurate answer like this one is antithetical to human discourse.


The Manhattan Declaration is a document signed by a number of anti-gay activists pledging to revive the culture wars and stop same-sex marriage….  (The Manhattan Declaration, by the by, is an attempt by conservatives who don’t think members of their party are conservative enough to amp up the cultures wars with a statement of principles.)

Who started the culture wars? At least as far as homosexuality is concerned, this has been a war of aggression mounted by a minority against established, centuries-old practices. When England sent up fighters to defend London against the Luftwaffe, were they “amping up” World War II? What if Germany’s propaganda machine had said so? Everyone with any sense would have laughed. To imply that we’re the aggressors in these culture wars is obviously wrong and even silly.

(Was it hateful for me to point that out? It’s the truth, isn’t it?)

And then this:

Say Apple … I have some objections to the material presented in this app. I thought you had strict standards about what was allowed in the iTunes store. Standards, one would hope, that include a policy against hate and bigotry. So why give the stamp of approval to an app clearly created to disseminate intolerance?

What does intolerance look like? Gay-rights sloganeering tries to make it look like it’s intolerance when we disagree with their side, but it’s not intolerance when they disagree with us, label us, misquote us, distort our position through thoughtless and inaccurate slogans, and blame us for starting a war in which they are the actual aggressors. How does that make sense?

Having said all that, let me review what I’ve said. I’m not trying to hide what I think about homosexuality in this blog post, but if you think that was the major theme of what I wrote, you’ve misread it. Here’s what I really want to get across. We’re all human beings here, and I’m calling on us to treat each other that way. I’m grieved by the conduct of discourse as practiced by homosexual rights activists. I’m grieved that they will label us hateful, extremist, and intolerant, even as they mischaracterize my position. I’m disturbed at their misuse of language and their intensively loaded sloganeering: not (in this case) because it does me any personal harm, but because it makes any hope for genuinely human and reasoned discourse in this conflict seem almost impossible.

People down through the ages have struggled to learn how to treat one another as human beings, even when they disagreed. Is that not a worthy struggle?

I recognize that some right-wingers are probably guilty of all the accusations quoted above. Not long ago I told a gay friend of mine, “I don’t know which one of us, you or me, is bothered more by groups like the Westboro ‘Church.’ I’ll bet it’s close to a tie: I think we’re both equally upset. What really disturbs me is the way they’re dragging the name of Jesus Christ through the mud with their hatred. It’s wrong, it’s dishonoring to God, it’s self-righteous, and it’s despicable.”

Which brings me back to something said in the last of the quotes I listed above: bigotry. I’m not a Westboro person. Chuck Colson isn’t either, and neither are the other leaders behind the Manhattan Declaration. When we say we don’t hate you, and you respond only with distortions and accusations, you’re not treating us as human beings. You’re stereotyping us.

What is bigotry, anyway?

This goes both ways. I know there are many gays, including the friend I mentioned, who wouldn’t want to be associated with hate language like what I’ve quoted here. I’m willing to treat gays as human beings, not as a monolithic, stereotyped block of people who all think the same way.

We all have our opinions. You can express yours, and I can express mine. I think you who are gay rights activists are generally wrong in what you are promoting. You in turn think that I’m wrong. Let’s not imply that one side—and only one—automatically deserves labels like hateful and intolerant for thinking the other is wrong. Sure, we disagree. That’s normal. it happens all the time in human relationships. Let’s do it with some mutual respect. Let’s call an end to twisting, distorting, misrepresenting, and sloganeering, so that maybe we can get together and talk to each other like fellow human beings.

Finally, yes, I know it’s hard to do that when you disagree so strongly with another person. There is one leader in history whom all religious traditions look to with veneration, one who taught and who practiced love not just for those one disagrees with, but even for one’s enemies.

I’m no one special, and I know I couldn’t come close to approaching that standard without him. With his love and power working in me, though, it becomes possible. I’d like to believe that you would want to hold yourself to the same standard of treating everyone with human respect and care. It’s not an easy standard to live up to. Jesus Christ offers the life that will free you to do that.

Also posted and open for discussion at First Things: Evangel

Note: I closed the comments when I first posted this, because I wanted to focus the discussion in one place (Evangel). I am opening discussion here now in mid-January 2011.