Monday, December 21, 2009

Manhattan Declaration: A Conflict Of Interest

A couple weeks ago was quite a Manhattan Declaration extravaganza here in Fannie's Room! It has been on my mind a bit because of something that happened to me in my real life.

You see, my girlfriend has a relative who recently got married. She and I attended this wedding, both of us spending quite a bit of time, money, and energy in helping this man have a beautiful wedding with his new wife. I was happy to do it because, hey, it's family (in a non-legal way of course) and it is nice to see others celebrate love and happiness. Much to my surprise, however, a couple of weeks after this man's wedding, he sent a message encouraging his friends and loved ones to sign on to the Manhattan Declaration- a statement by conservative Christians that opposes, among other things, same-sex marriage.

He knows that his very close relative is a lesbian and that she is, furthermore, in a relationship with me, unable to legally marry.

He sent this message out multiple times.

I put time and resources into supporting and celebrating the wedding of a man who so clearly fails to support my right to engage in a privilege that he took for granted on his own wedding day. I'm not going to go into how this makes me feel, because we all know that feeeeeeeeelings aren't important. What is objectively true is that this man not only doesn't support my equal rights, he actively encourages others to not support my equal rights.

He is also a member of a conservative Christian clergy that does not ordain women.

You can see how this would get one to thinking about people who use their power and privileges, not to confront injustice, but to perpetuate it in the world. See, after I read the Manhattan Declaration, I noticed a putrid smell oozing from it. Through my computer screen! When I took a deeper whiff, I realized it was that old familiar, musty aroma of authoritative heterosexual male privilege and entitlement.

You will notice that the Manhattan Declaration is a document written and signed by (mostly) heterosexual male conservative Christians proclaiming truths that supposedly emanate from a male God that looks remarkably and conveniently much like themselves, about issues that uniquely affect women and LGBT people. While expecting women and LGBT people to make certain sacrifices for the good of society, it asks nothing of heterosexual men other than that they affirm that women and same-sex couples ought to make said sacrifices.

Whilst Tiger Woods and countless other male superstars very publicly destroy what marriage means every single day, I found myself wondering why the heterosexual (mostly) male Christian signees did not produce a document that other male heterosexual Christians could sign on to that would actually require them to make sacrifices. Isn't time heterosexuals got serious about protecting marriage by creating consequences for their own misbehavior, as opposed to putting the blame for the failure of an institution they have always owned on everyone else?

See, as much as the authors of the document self-aggrandize about their own incredible awesomeness and bravery for insisting that the rights of women and same-sex couples ought to be restricted, it is not at all clear how it is particularly brave or awesome for heterosexual men to use their power and influence to restrict the rights of minorities whom are already largely considered to be Others in society.

In short, as Hugo Schwyzer notes, the declaration is cheap:

"It requires no particular personal sacrifice or reflection on the part of those who claim these are the top issues. Men who will never get pregnant; heterosexuals who have the privilege to marry those whom they love — they surrender nothing precious to them by fighting tooth and nail against reproductive and glbtq rights."

It's like if a bunch of gorillas got together and wrote a declaration about how dogs shouldn't be able to eat bacon because eating bacon is wrong. It requires no sacrifice on the part of the gorilla, as gorillas are vegetarians (termites aside, of course). One is left wondering, what are the gorillas tangibly doing to better society other than opposing rights for dogs?

Furthermore, even though the declaration opposes rights that uniquely affect women and gay people, it is very clear that the input of actual women and gay people was not deemed to be of importance in creating the document. The document, we are to understand, is just "god's" truth about these weighty matters. That, we are to believe, is just a given. Lucky for many of the signees, God The Dudeman has special jurisdiction when it comes to these issues that uniquely affect the rights of women and same-sex couples.

This circularity and self-serving nature of Christianity (and Islam and Judaism) is readily apparent to an outsider. It is less, if at all, so for one who accepts certain Biblical truths to be the Real Truths About Things. And so, for the sake of comparison, let's imagine that we live in an alternate dimension:

Let's imagine, instead, that we have found some ancient texts that speak of the Heavenly Mother, who the ancients called.... Starbuck. Starbuck, when she walked the Earth, was a tall woman. Kind of sporty too, if you know what I mean. She went around teaching certain truths. Like how female beings were created in her image and were, therefore, destined to be in charge of things. For one, women were to form pair bonds with other women. Two, most professions and the priesthood were to be restricted to women, owing to their cool demeanors relative to men, as it was taught that men were unable to control their testosterone-fueled rages.

In the Starbuck Texts, it was furthermore clearly stated that the role of men, who were created from a rather insubstantial part of woman (her pinky toe), was to be limited to two occupations. Men could (a) live in male communes serving as sperm depositors for female pair bonds, or (b) they could live alone in villages serving as garbagemen (because they're so strong). Furthermore, because men were wont to waste the miracle of life within themselves, the Starbuck Texts taught that all men had to wear special devices on their torsos to prevent them from masturbating. Starbuck was all about the sanctity of life like that.

Nowadays, whilst some in society currently teach that men should not have to wear such devices and some powerful, fashionable ideologies argue that pair-bonding should also be allowed between a man and a woman, followers of Starbuck have written a document reaffirming the One Real Truth about these matters. Like Starbuck, most of these religious leaders explaining this Truth are female and most are sporty, if you know what I mean. They explain that all of society must follow these rules or else Very Bad Things Will Happen. Certain truths, you see, are non-negotiable, especially the above-stated truths that uniquely affect male human beings. Followers of Starbuck, you see, love restricting the rights of Others, as opposed to the rights of women.

Because these are religious truths, followers of Starbuck have vowed to break any law that makes them acknowledge that men don't have to wear devices on their torsos or that pair-bonding can mean something other than two women in a lifelong commitment. Having to live in such a society would be a violation of the Religious Freedom of the followers of Starbuck. These two issues, you understand, are the Most Important Issues In The World and, as such, are outside of the state's jurisdiction. We must refuse to render to Caesar what is Starbuck's.

Can you imagine? How absurd this all sounds! To an outsider, it does not at all look brave or awesome for one group of people to restrict the rights of another group of people and to then declare that restriction to constitute morality or truth.

In fact, it looks rather entitled. How aggrandizing, hubristic, and insane it appears for a group of people to create a god in their own image and then try to convince the rest of the world that this lookalike god is the One True God Who Says The Things That Are Really True.

The phrase, "Who died and made you god?" comes to mind.

So that's why, instead of informing the world as to what does and does not constitute truth for issues that uniquely affect women, lesbians, and gays, what these mostly-male mostly-heterosexual Christians really need to be doing is pointing their long, hairy, authoritative fingers right back at themselves and pondering how their gender exclusivity might be contributing to the numerous social ills that their precious document mentions.

Until then, this document shall be named for what it is:

A conflict of interest.

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