A couple weeks ago on Real Time with Bill Maher, Maher asked his panel about the Olympic Games in Sochi. He wasn't thinking about Americans winning gold medals. Rather, he was wondering about the Russian government's ongoing treatment of homosexuals. Maher went on to discuss how the U.S. has actually made progress over the past few years towards greater acceptance of the LGBT community.
Improvement in the States, Maher continued, could be compared to the robust and reprehensible attitudes of many other countries, like Russia, where the official policy is "God hates fags."
"There are 80 countries with anti-gay laws punishable by death in about 10 Muslim countries. India, not a Muslim country ... just passed a harsh anti-gay law." Maher summed it up: "This is something the world has a long way to go to get over."
Watching, I thought it was all so interesting -- and good -- this outrage towards Russia and other countries concerning their crusty and antediluvian views about sexual orientation.
Then I realized Maher could've added one more country to the list where the "getting over it" has some way to go:
Not surprisingly, the negative attitudes towards homosexuality are emanating from a Christian institution: Trinity Western University. Their "values" have once again come under scrutiny with their recent desire to have their own shiny law school.
Planning to enroll?
If you are a liar, thief, cheater, watch porn, enjoy harassing and use potty-talk, toke, drink alcohol, and bust up other people's sh*t (Disclaimer: not quite TWUs wording), you'll have to sign a "Covenant"; an agreement to restrain yourself.
"Voluntarily abstain," to be more precise.
Even before getting to the really juicy part in the covenant about being too fabulous, the tortured language of this document exhilarates the imagination. How, I wonder, is something "voluntary" if you can't enroll unless you first agree to a set of obligatory conditions?
Put it this way: "You must assent; and the consent is voluntary." George Orwell would've grimaced.
The most interesting part of TWU's covenant, however, is the voluntary, obligatory commitment to abstain from "sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman." [Emphasis mine]
In other words, no gay fornical kabootling.
I'd love to hear the details!
We could start with TWU's historical evidence for believing that marriage is "sacred." Or, historically wise, how normative marriage has been between a man and woman.
Spoiler Alert: Throughout recorded history, marriage was an economic and political move. And marriage throughout time has involved many different genders and numbers. In her outstanding study, Patricia Churchland writes in Braintrust: What neuroscience tells us about morality, "83 per cent of societies allow polygynous patterns of marriage ... monogamy emerged in Eurasia as agriculture became widespread, with land and herds as an important source of wealth that could be passed to heirs." [58-9], Or, try on for size Boswell's Same Sex Unions in Premodern Europe.
More titillating, but just as important, what are the procedural details of violating sacred sex? What exactly constitutes "sexual intimacy"? Has the TWU administration worked out all the verboten actions (and positions)? Did the administration come up with them in a brain-storming confab? Were knowing members of the LGBT community consulted in order to ascertain the details of how those actions are performed? Are there drawings? (Stick-men?) How is "it" reported? What's the necessary evidence required? Will confession be involved? How will the offenders be examined and disciplined?
The devil is truly in the details.
Further, will any suspicions and proceedings against suspected and openly homosexual students only encourage, from the sacred group, "gossip, slander, vulgar/obscene language, and prejudice" - other cited vices in the covenant? Would those on the look-out violate the covenant's virtues such as "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, compassion, humility, forgiveness, peacemaking, mercy and justice"?
Religious discourse, just like political language, loves this sort of talk. And the absence of details.
It is certainly no consolation this policy emanates from a wanna-be law school that longs for credibility from the society at large. A school whose students will then go into the real world trained in the nature of unenforceable laws, concepts of justice and rights, the Constitution, and the basis (and writing) of contracts.
Oh, I know. I can hear it now:
"How can you compare such brutish views about homosexuality, like those from Russia, with that of a Christian institution like TWU?" "We don't hate homosexuals! In Christ we love them!" "I know some gays students there and they feel welcome!" "In Canada it's open-season on Christians -- people today can say whatever they like about us, but we can't talk about our values!"
And don't forget the real gem: "What about our religious rights?!"
To paraphrase: "We know we started the fight, but it sure hurts our feelings when you criticize us about how we treat others so shabbily!"
It's quite remarkable that, at this juncture, most consciences would be sending high-voltage neural signals to the brain about the Golden Rule memorized as a child. Although it's also quoted in sermons all over the world every Sunday, it might be too obvious here to be noticed by the God-fearing.
In any case, I'm tired of it.
I'm tired of hearing the faithful, and defenders of this policy at TWU, complain they are so hard done by, all the while listing in a "covenant" some of the grubbiest of human vices, like bullying, thievery, and cheating -- and then in the same breath -- slandering decent, loving and good members of humanity.
I'm also tired of their talk when I know the basis for their views on homosexuality:
While homophobic institutions in Canada might not talk in the language of "God hates fags," is it any consolation those institutions consider members of the LGBT community deviant? A tangible result stemming from the effects of a sinful humanity, supposedly originating from two historical individuals, Adam and Eve? That fictional, ancient cities (i.e. Sodom and Gomorrah) were destroyed by their very angry deity because of the prevalence of homosexuals?
I don't see how this talk should be easier to live with. An interpretation of a few select, somewhat cryptic texts. Taken from views (deemed holy), written over two-thousand years ago. The nod given to believing that their God thinks "abomination" and "homosexuality" are related; that homosexuals have no hope for an afterlife of heavenly bliss. Then institutionalizing the "value" that homosexuality is somehow deviant to a norm.
Could it be worse? Of course. It's religion, right?
These conservative institutions still believe in that book's description of eternal damnation (viz., Hell) for the unconverted and the willfully "sinful" homosexual. (Sure, you don't hear much about this outside their doors. But it's still doctrine.)
And then they complain when members of the LGBT community take umbrage.
Doesn't it matter, for example, that when Russia's secret police (or other rogue governments) are treating homosexuals sadistically, those watching back in Canada have a pronounced, shared "value," that homosexuals are indeed deviant?
And I mean it's that simple.
It matters little if your attitudes about homosexuality don't have you talking the language of capital punishment or God hating fags.
What matters is deriving morality from religion, and therefore thinking that homosexuality is sinful, abnormal, and anything less, morally and qualitatively speaking, from being heterosexual.
Churchland mentions how Aristotle -- apparently one of the Old New Atheists -- would've seen the problem:
"For one thing, it makes a virtue of intolerance -- those who disagree regarding a matter of morals must be dead wrong. For another, it spawns moral arrogance at exactly those points in social life when we need humility and reflection. That I have a special relationship with God, whereby I know that what others do is wrong, but what I do is right and has God's blessing, is a very dangerous assumption." 
Lastly, if you think there is some moral quality associated with gender, it's a red-flag indicating an ignorance and dismissive view of the science. Coupled to the interpretation of an arcane religious text, the subsequent moral judgment will be contrived, arbitrary, and deeply flawed.
Ramped up and institutionalized, it'll then be couched in the language of morality; but it'll hardly be moral.
To the very contrary, it's shameful thinking. Especially in Canada. And abundantly so for a law school bristling to be taken seriously.
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