This is the question asked by homosexual activist Jason Kuznicki as he discussed the “Is There a Place for Gay People in Conservatism and Conservative Politics?” forum. His discussion points to some interesting issues that might be useful to us as the issue is not one which will disappear any time in the future.
Conservatism offers virtually no usable past for gays and lesbians. Even black conservatives can say, in effect, “The past sure wasn’t golden, but when Jefferson — and plenty of others — wrote that ‘all men are created equal,’ they clearly meant us too.” Which is plausible enough, at least, for black conservatism not to be a flat contradiction in terms.
This is much harder for gay people to do, which is why we have to resort to newly thought arguments rather than tradition to justify what we’re saying. There’s a built-in liberalness to gay politics, if not necessarily to gay people. Even conservative gay politics, in this sense, is liberal. Because all we have is the future. It’s the future, or nothing.
The first thing of note is the straw man of conservatism. If he were talking specifically of the social conservative movement then he might have a poiint. But he does not. If he were speaking of fiscal conservatism then he would have no real point at all because social matters tend to be of little consequence to the pragmatism of the economically-minded. This makes the conservative into a very useful boogie-man for all fair people to oppose.
The second issue is his manner for handling practical matters.
That “nothing” was on full display this afternoon, when I got to ask Maggie Gallagher the question I’ve always wanted to ask her: What do you think that am I supposed to do with my life?
Suppose I found myself in agreement with her. Suppose I concluded that same-sex marriage was corrosive to society. Do I leave my husband? Do I send my adopted daughter back to the state? Enter ex-gay therapy, which isn’t likely to work? Tell my whole family that I’m single now, and that Scott shouldn’t be welcome at family events? Live my whole life alone, and loveless? Hide? Where is the life I’m supposed to live?
I probably wasn’t so articulate at the Cato event, but I do recall Gallagher’s very simple answer: “I don’t know.”
I don’t know that I’ve ever read a homosexual activist who does not engage in some level of pity-eliciting rhetoric. Loveless? No place to live? Unwelcome? Broken home? Therapy? Talk about a laundry list of heart-break! One would think that without homosexual marriage, adoption, promotion in education, and media reinforcement that they would be all left out on the streets. It is an all-or-nothing argument, one that insists on the whole pie of “rights” else the person is left to be less than human. (Not surprisingly the appeal to near-racism was also present as though conservatism == racism. The argument just cannot proceed without it.)
She certainly doesn’t, and that’s the whole problem with gay conservatism — there’s hardly a life to be lived within it. There’s no breathing room. Until social conservatives offer us a better answer than “I don’t know,” until they offer us a way to be gay, and conservative, and respectable in their eyes, they’re not going to find many gay conservatives.
His end game is difficult to understand. Does he think that the only conflict between conservatism and liberalism ought to be political matters (e.g., international concerns or economic policy), and that social conservatives ought to just give up their social agenda?
We live in the era of pietism, and have for the past three or so centuries. We live our lives according to certain social norms, many of which are religious in nature. It used to be that a lady, when stooping, would bend at her knees. Or a man would wear a hat. But today’s pietism has borrowed society’s moral conscience (which was Christian, at least in sentiment, in the past) and created a secular version. We do not allow our cats to be shipped overseas for foot. We do not promote smoking. We do not act in any way that is unfair. (Whatever fair means.)
And we do not force people to do anything they do not want to do. That’s just not nice. We do not force women to carry unwanted pregnancies. (As though that really ever happened.) We do not keep people from doing anything that they want, if it makes them happy and harms no one else. We might even say that a group’s accepted rules for membership can be altered ad hoc if we so desire. (The ending parenthesis of the linked post is quite troubling.)
Social policy is a tough one for the Christian. Do we treat the homosexual as a non-person and fulfill their often-written anticipation of self-loathing? Will we treat them like whining children or like responsible human beings? Or do we say to them that they are free to enter the church at any time to hear the redemptive message of Christ? When they come in the door, will they be met with scorn or will they be met with a grace that can lead to repentance? What is our message?