Exit 61. You can’t legislate a viewpoint.

I have a lot of friends on both extremes of the political spectrum, and thus it has been no surprise to me that a lot of them have had a lot to say in the last couple weeks, given the controversies that have been brewing here in the USA.  I’m not here to share my views on the subject; given the specific subjects at hand, my views don’t line up neatly on the liberal or conservative side, and both sides would probably disagree with me.  I don’t like writing specific political views, because those kinds of arguments tend to be based on premises not accepted by those who don’t agree, and thus no minds are changed.  But I do have some interesting thoughts on the matters at hand, particularly regarding people’s responses to them.

Several years ago, the topic of abortion came up in church, and at one point, the pastor said, “You can’t legislate morality.”  His point was that if abortion were to be outlawed all of a sudden, people’s views on the topic would not change.  Those who want to end abortion should start by teaching people about God’s love, and the sanctity of life, and God’s purpose for sexual intercourse, and by practicing what they preach.  I found this interesting, because this is probably one of the most conservative pastors I’ve ever had, and yet this is an argument typically made by liberals, in the context that making abortion illegal won’t stop people from having abortions.  But he’s right.  A law, or a binding court decision, will not change the beliefs or behavior of a deeply divided populace.  In the context of recent events, the US Supreme Court’s decision that states cannot prohibit homosexual marriage does not suddenly make religious beliefs about homosexuality wrong, because those who hold those beliefs see their God as a higher authority than the US Supreme Court.  Conversely, if the United States were to amend the Constitution to define marriage as between one man and one woman, that would not stop homosexuals from being attracted to the same sex and acting on those attractions.  Banning the Confederate battle flag will not change the views of racists, and removing the stigma that comes with the Confederate battle flag is unlikely to make anyone a racist if they don’t already hold those views to some extent.  You can’t legislate a viewpoint.

So if you can’t force your views down people’s throats through the law or the courts, what can you do?  You can start by understanding the people who disagree with you; find out why they think the way they do.  Be respectful.  Spend time around people with different views from yours.  The people I know (both liberals and conservatives) who say disrespectful things about those they disagree with are most often not people who have spent a lot of time out of their cultural bubble.  You might find your own views changing in a positive way, or you might find a compromise.

I know, it isn’t easy to do this.  It’s easier to hide behind the anonymity of the Internet and call names.  As my group of friends has diversified, there have been many times I’ve longed to go back to my right wing conservative roots.  I’ve considered leaving the liberal progressive partner dance communities that I have become so involved with in the last several years, and spending more time around people who aren’t going to make fun of Christians and share profanity-laced blog posts attacking and belittling those who don’t share their radical views.  (I should add the disclaimer that not all of the links that my liberal friends share are this negative, of course.)  But the problem with this is that my views don’t fit in neatly among right wing conservatives either, at least not anymore.  Their rants have much less profanity than the rants of some liberals, but conservatives can be at times just as disrespectful toward me regarding, for example, my refusal to accept young earth creationism, or my view that conservatives are severely misguided in their belief that the Common Core State Standards Initiative is a conspiracy by the federal government to indoctrinate schoolchildren into Godless liberalism.

I had plans in San Francisco tonight before the court ruling regarding same-sex marriage.  Given San Francisco’s extreme liberal reputation, as well as recent events in the city, I considered canceling my plans, just to stay away from any situations that might get controversial.  But I didn’t, I’m still going, because I realized that backing out would be doing exactly the opposite of everything I just said (not to mention, as I said above, I don’t currently claim allegiance to either side in the debate over same-sex marriage).  Jesus spent time around people outside of the mainstream of the culture he was raised in, and he loved them for who they were, and he told his followers to do the same.  And that is my job, to be like Jesus before those who don’t know him.  It’s up to God to change their heart, or to change my heart.  Or both.

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3 comments

  1. San Francisco is one of the warmest hearted cities I’ve ever lived in. The residents are liberal about social issues, but it’s also a big financial center with an office of the Federal Reserve, and lots of financial mega-companies. They are fiscally conservative. The word I would use for the city is “permissive” rather than liberal, because there’s room for all views as long as the opinions are shared with respect. I think you’ll have a great time.

    1. I respectfully disagree; I have found that San Francisco is not welcoming to Christian social conservative views, and I’ve heard some Christians I know who have actually lived in the city say the same thing. I tend not to speak up about such things when I know I’m in a hostile environment, so maybe I just notice this hostility more often, kind of like a confirmation bias thing. I’m expecting to find it, so I notice the occasions which I do more often.

      (I don’t know you in person, do I? Just to clarify, I’ve spent my entire life within day trip distance of San Francisco; your last sentence makes it sound like you assumed that my plans for tonight involve an unfamiliar setting, which they do not.)

      1. I apologize if I misunderstood you. I don’t think we are personally acquainted. I’m Christian, but the more mainstream protestant type. I certainly had very conservative evangelical friends in San Fran. We would go to each other’s churches some times.

        I suppose it’s a matter of comparative personal history and context. I grew up in the Midwest, and no place there was as welcoming of any sort of difference as the average city out West has been typically.

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