Friday, April 24, 2009

"No Offense"

I know I'm supposed to be working on my sermon for Sunday.

And I am. I really am.

But part of the way I work is to weave together all the bits and pieces that have connected themselves to the texts appointed for the Sunday coming in my praying and reflecting and contemplating ... and this week one of those "bits" is Miss "No Offense" California.

Bless her heart.

It used to be we talked about preaching with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other. But maybe now (with apologies to my newspaper journalist friends) we should add "with "YouTube" in the other."

So, in case you missed it, here's the transcript from the YouTube moment when Miss California was asked by Miss USA pageant judge Perez Hilton the following question:

“Vermont recently became the 4th state to legalize same-sex marriage. Do you think every state should follow suit. Why or why not?”

And Miss California gave the following answer:

“Well, I think it’s great that Americans are able to choose one or the other. We live in a land where you can choose same-sex marriage or opposite marriage. And you know what, in my country, in my family, I think that I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman. No offense to anybody out there, but that’s how I was raised and that’s how I think it should be between a man and a woman. Thank you very much.”

You're welcome, very much, Miss California. But before you go ... could I ask a couple of follow up questions? Great!

Did you miss the part where "Americans" actually don't get to "choose same-sex marriage or opposite marriage" -- that is, unless they live in Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut or Iowa? (Or maybe Maine, New Hampshire and New York ... depending on how the next couple of months play out?)

Do you understand that because we do not get to "choose marriage" same-sex couples are denied 1138 federal rights that "opposite marriage couples" are automatically granted?

And did you forget the part about how in this land -- in your country -- we've got a thing called "separation of church and state" and "freedom of religion?"

That means (stay with me now!) that the response "For me it was being biblically correct" may get you some mileage on the conservative blogs but it (no offense to anybody out there) flies in the face of those core values of American democracy.

Those core values, Miss California, are intended to protect your right to believe whatever you want to about what the Bible says about marriage. They are also intended to protect the rights of those who read the Bible differently (or not at all!) from having you or anybody else inflict your theology on our democracy.

What they do not protect us from -- any of us -- is being offended by that which is offensive. And you, Miss California, offended millions of gay and lesbian couples, their friends, families, co-workers and neighbors with your ill-considered response to Mr. Hilton's question on Saturday night.

So I'm sorry your answer got boo'd. I really am. Booing is just plain bad manners (no offense to anybody out there, but that’s how I was raised). But I'm not at all sorry -- in fact I'm encouraged -- that the judges recognized that discrmination and homophobia are not at all attractive -- on a beauty queen or on anybody else.

Maybe -- just maybe -- we're actually getting somewhere when even a beauty pageant draws the line at bigotry ... and when (no offense!) it's OK to be offended by what IS offensive. Thank you very much.

31 comments:

Texaco said...

I just love you.

As a gay man with a gigantic and activist Mormon family I am heartened by the lucid case you made, even though with me you're "preaching to the choir."

I wish my family was willing to admit into their consciousness. It would make loving them as much as I do a little less heartbreaking.

hillsideslide said...

Right on!

D. C. Toedt said...

Oh c'mon, Susan, leave the girl alone, for pragmatic reasons if nothing else: She's getting enough bad PR as it is, and you don't want the undecideds to be muttering under their breath, "That Russell Woman should pick on someone her own size" [so to speak]. Nor do you want to give the troglodyte faction any more opportunities to stir up outrage as a way of rallying their base. In short, you'd be better off to pick your fights, IMHO.

SUSAN RUSSELL said...

Thanks for the counsel, D.C.

I call 'em as I see 'em ... and (IMHO) this one needed calling.

Have a great weekend.

IT said...

Time for that classic:

"Don't like gay marriage?

Don't marry a homosexual!"

This is why Miss CA is being nailed. HEr beliefs are fine, for her. The issue is how far she gts to impose her beliefs on the rest of us, on an issue that has no effect on her.

Just Me said...

Man I promised myself I would never comment here but even with my husband sitting behind me saying "let it go, let it go"...

The woman was asked what she "thinks".

Those same rights that allow you to have this blog and say whatever you want to say whenever you want to say it, regardless if it offends anyone or not... those are her rights, too. Just as Perez Hilton has the right to post his attack on the world-wide web; she has the right to answer a question with honesty.

In this country, we have the right to think. In this country, we have the right to have opinions and express them. Being "offended" is not a crime; I really hope that doesn't change for my sake as well as yours.

Personally, as a cretin (as you say) I could really care less if gay marriages are legalized. I have a serious problem with those who seek out to silence freedom of speech, restrict freedom of religion and punish opinions, thoughts and beliefs that differ from theirs.

It is tragic that there is so much contempt in these days and times; it is more tragic when we, as Christians, encourage it.

Paul (A.) said...

Maybe Miss Arizona was answering Perez Hilton's question about legalizing same-sex marriage: "I think this is an issue of integrity regardless of which end of the political spectrum that I stand on. I've been raised in a family to know right from wrong, and politics, whether or not you fall in the middle, the left or the right, it's an issue of integrity, whatever your opinion is and I say that with the utmost conviction."

(Aside from the fact that she was actually asked whether health care was a human right.)

David said...

You tell 'em sistah!

What a fine and skillful response.You do LGBT folks and the Anglican Communion pround Susan- yes, you read me correctly, the Anglican Communion.

Sorry D.C we disagree on this one.

As Ms. CA used a public forum, and her public role to perpetuate misinformation and a distortion of the American separation of church and state, Susan as a conscientious priest and member of our Church was calling her on this.

If stuff like this isn't challenged, nothing changes.

Likewise, as Ms. CA had a constitutional right to express her limited understanding of the issue, Susan acted on that very same right, and she did it with an articulate intelligence which does us all proud.

Thank-you again Susan

David@Montreal

John said...

While I agree that Miss CA made some serious errors, as an extemp response hers was fairly well constructed -- and that was the point of the question in this context. It was not a litmus test. So the response of Perez Hilton was grossly inappropriate -- as well as not being at all well-reasoned or well-constructed. To fault a participant in a beauty contest for holding a popular (alas) position seems unfair. "Keep your enemies close but your friends closer"

KJ said...

I was going to say something rude in regards to IT's "nailed" comment, but I have thought better of it.

We can create "martyrs" in these situations, "banners" around which our opponents gather, usually for the purposes of fund raising and fear mongering.

I'm not being smart here, wondering how can we react, or not, that ensures that the irrelevancy of the "thought" and the one opining become the salient factor and not contribute to the creation of a folk "hero."

Now off to your sermon! It's not going to write itself.

Jim said...

American law and praxis have always recognized that a public person gives up certain protections in exchange for what we now call 'celebrity.' About the time you slip into the bikini and 3 inch heals to walk down the runway, you are clearly a public person.

I do not mean the lady has surrendered her right to her thoughts and beliefs. She has however undertaken to express them in a time and place that makes them a legitimate target for debate and rebuttal. And in the context of the contest, answering questions is clearly an at risk proposition -- otherwise there would be no reason to ask them.

I think Rev. Susan nailed the response, but even if I didn't it is clear that she and I and anyone who disagrees with the young lady as well as anyone who agrees is completely within reasonable boundaries when we debate them.



FWIW
jimB

SUSAN RUSSELL said...

Just Me ... Thanks for taking time to comment.

Miss California ABSOLUTELY has the right to "think" whatever she wants. The question Mr. Hilton asked, however, wasn't what her theological perspective was on marriage -- it was about whether American citizens should have equal access to its civil protections in all 50 states.

And no -- being offended is not a crime -- and isn't going to be, despite the efforts to "spin" the pending Hate Crimes legislation on Capitol Hill as making it so -- but there was a time in this country when the question Mr. Hilton posed could have been about interracial marriage ... and the answer Miss Calfornia might have given could have sounded much the same ... for there were plenty of people rasied in earlier generations to believe God ordained marriage between members of the same race. We didn't get where we are on a nation working through our racism without righteous indignation against race based bigotry. We're not going to overcome homophobia without occasionally getting offended about that, too.

So (repeating) being offended is NOT a crime -- and neither is naming the experience of being offended by having your at having heterosexual privilege trump human rights.

As for silencing freedom of speech, if you're a frequenter of this blog you'll have heard me say that I'll defend to my last breath the right of those who disagree with me on this -- or any other issue! -- to hold that opinion and to express it! From Rick Warren to Miss California -- that's what "liberty and justice for all" means.

But I'll also resist to my last email, blog post, letter to the editor and speaking platform bigotry and discrimination in any form -- and that includes denying equal access to equal protection for same sex couples seeking civil marriage in this country.

Finally, just to clarify, my ill-advised use of the word "cretin" in another context had nothing to do with people of good faith who come to different conclusions than I do about any particular issue -- political or theological.

It was directed specifically at what I'm coming to think of as the "Orthodite Operatives" who continue to foment schism and division behind the curtain while talking about covenant and reconciliation.

As noted in an earlier post, it was a bad choice of words because it infers ignorance -- and these folks are far from ignorant.

So thanks again for taking time to post. (And if its any consolation, my parnter tells me to let all KINDS of things "go" just about every day ... and I usually don't either! :)

IT said...

I have a serious problem with those who seek out to silence freedom of speech, restrict freedom of religion and punish opinions, thoughts and beliefs that differ from theirs.
I'm not trying to silence anyone, and nor is Susan. Certainly NO ONE's freedom of religion is under attack by the pro-SSM movement as has been made abundantly clear--that is a lie. Religious freedom of anyone does NOT rely on denying rights and privileges to anyone else. Any religion can preach whatever it likes, they simply cannot enforce their opinions onthe rest of the public. No church will be force to married homosexuals or endorse their marriage. (Think Catholics and divorce).

Like Susan, I support free speech. But public speech in the public square has consequences, and the speaker, whatever their politics, bears some responsibility for those.

In the case of Ms CA, one of the "tests" of hte pageant is grace under pressure. She answered defiantly and gracelessly a loaded question. Should she have been called the names she was? No, I don't think so, I think Hilton's response was even more graceless and I do not excuse him AT ALL. But she should have used a bland and deadly courtesy to recognize the potential for hurt and anger. Especially in that audience and to that questioner.

It is tragic that there is so much contempt in these days and times; it is more tragic when we, as Christians, encourage it.
Yes, I would like someone to tell that to the ProProp8 folks, especially the Catholics and Mormons, who relentlessly lied and attacked my marriage. Or to the priest who told the RC congregation my wife was in on our wedding day that gay folks are evil moral deviants trying to recruit and harm children. Sure. Some respsect for me as a married human would be nice.
::crickets::

Lorian said...

Beautiful, Susan. Thank you for this.

(And I love the updates to your blog -- looks lovely.)

IT said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
IT said...

One more note on why words matter, from the NY Times:

On April 6, just before dinner, Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover, a Massachusetts boy who had endured relentless homophobic taunts at school, wrapped an extension cord around his tiny neck and hanged himself. He was only 11 years old. His mother had to cut him down.

On April 16, just after school, Jaheem Herrera, a Georgia boy who had also endured relentless homophobic taunts at school, wrapped a fabric belt around his tiny neck and hanged himself as well. He too was only 11 years old. His 10-year-old sister found him.
The article goes on to show the link between bullying, often on the basis of perceived GLBT status, and suicide. Kids learn the power of words from their parents. When we speak, children are listening.

John said...

I pretty much agree down the line here. My point is that a vapid answer to a stupid question at a beauty pageant is not news, What was news was a judge pitching a hissy-fit (however, spontaneous and sincere?) about the answer. Absent that move, her remark would have gone as unremarked as the equally vapid answers to the questions put to the other contestants. Hilton's action (combined with the claim that it cost her the title -- big whoop) gave her appearances on the morning shows to spread the damage and gave the Others much needed ammunition (they have been try to make bricks without mud lately) for their War-on-Xnt meme. That having happened, the claim need answering, but the world would be better without any notice having been taken at all.

lac said...

Why is she getting such a bashing?? She, as the rest of us in the US, have free speech. She is entitled to her beliefs just as we are! The judge should not have asked the question if he was not prepared for an answer he may not like! She did not pick the question, she answered the question that was asked of her. We, in America, are a wonderful group of culturally diverse people, who have many different beliefs, are we are all entitled to them! This is bigotry?? No. From what I have seen, she is being treated with hate and bigotry because she does not believe as some? Stop already. Not everyone is going to believe as you or I. Live with it and grow up!

SUSAN RUSSELL said...

lac ... one of the definitions of "bigot" (according to Merriam-Webster) is:

"one who regards or treats the members of a group with intolerance"

The point being made here -- and elsewhere -- is that being entitled to your own opinion on same-sex marriage is one thing ... restricting access to equal protection of civil marriage is another. That's the question Mr. Hilton was asking.

And whether she likes it or not, Miss California's "no offense" answer WAS offensive to those who continue to be both regarded and treated with intolerance. (See also definition of bigotry above.)

Remember ... from the original post here ... that the core American values of freedom of speech and freedom of religion "are intended to protect your right to believe whatever you want to about what the Bible says about marriage. They are also intended to protect the rights of those who read the Bible differently (or not at all!) from having you or anybody else inflict your theology on our democracy."

What you're seeing IS the LGBT movement "growing up" ... and what we're growing into is a movement that will NOT just "live with" discrimination and second class citizenship.

And now, back to my "other" sermon.

IT said...

The first part of Miss CA's answer was just fine, actually. She said that people should have a choice. No problem. She should have stopped there, before she said "In my country--I mean, in my family, marriage is between a man and a woman". See, it's the "in my country" that raised the firestorm. Because she implied it should be that way for everyone, which disagreed with her previous statement.

Of course, calling straight marriage "opposite marriage" was kinda weird, makes one wonder if she was actually being REALLY subtle about it...

Naaaaah....
BUt I agree it is a tempest in a tea pot and hasn't helped anyone.

CaseyGoodDog said...

I didn't have any issues with her expressing her personal opinion regarding what she thought of marriage.

What I did find concerning is her lack of knowledge of what's real - based on her believing there is a right to choose 1 marriage or another. Being ill-informed is far more concerning, as that is what leads to bigotry.

I can understand people of faith because it's very much like being gay -- not something we may ever understand, nor do we have to know everything about - we just know that it is.

Two Auntees said...

Thanks for speaking so clearly and eloquently on behalf of the LGBT community and in opposition to discrimination.

Sidney said...

I'm not the first to note that Miss California's position on gay marriage is the same as Obama's and Biden's. So, are they guilty of bigotry too?

Only mindless partisanship prevents us from expounding this.

SUSAN RUSSELL said...

Obama and Biden are on the wrong side of history on this one, too.

There ... are you happy now?

They are also both on record supporting civil unions and opposing a FMA and/or any efforts to write marriage discrimination into state constitutions.

We can work with that ... ARE working with that ... and are going to KEEP working with it so our grandchildren can look back and be as amazed that we at one time had to fight for these rights as we were that our grandmothers had to fight for the right to vote.

LGMarshall said...

How did tabloid sleeze Perez Hilton (who stole his psuedonym from Paris Hilton - because he use to stalk her) become a beauty pageant judge?

I was really surprised more by his appearance than by Miss California's somewhat jumbled comment about same-genital marriage.

When (Perez) was on Larry King show
I couldn't believe Larry King was elevating foul-mouthed Perez to such a righteous position. Larry King's current wife is a Mormon. (wife #7?). I assume she has Mormon beliefs on Marriage?

The whole episode just showcased how upside down every one's thinking was. Larry King groveling to Perez Hilton, now that's weird.

Hindsight is 20/20, seconds after Miss California gave her answer, i was thinking...She should have said "I whole-heartedly agree with President Obama on that issue, Marriage is between a Man and a Woman." This would have surely tempered the reaction?

But, I know God had other plans for
Terry P., even though more than 50% of Americans agree with her, she has been made a target of abuse & riducule for her Religious beliefs for a reason. I'm glad she knows her Savior, and I'm glad we have such a role model for young people to see that it is POSSIBLE to be unapproving of same-genital marriage, but still loving and respectful of those of other beliefs. (I was really pleased when I found out she attends the same Christian college that my son plans to attend -- it's good to know they teach the same gospel as Jesus'.)

SUSAN RUSSELL said...

LG -- My, my, my!

Everytime I think I can't be surprised by how obsessed those who oppose marriage equality are with other people's sex lives, well -- someone like LG steps up and say "But wait ... there's more!" ... and gives us a new low with "Same Genital Marriage."

Wow.

Imagine talking about "Hetero Genital Marriage" ... as if the complexity of a primary human relationship as profound as marriage could be reduced to a single sexual act. How sad.

Anyway, thanks for sharing.

RonF said...

First off:

Have any of you taken a look at Mr. Hilton's blog? I've just paged through 4 screens full. It is full of his comments on various celebrities. I stopped at the 4th page when I was presented with his remarks on a wedding that shows a picture of a bride and groom kissing at their wedding. Mr. Hilton drew a penis spurting fluid on their mouths. It's not the only penis he drew on a picture of someone, either.

Why was someone like this chosen to judge a beauty contest (O.K., scholarship competition)? Is this the kind of person you really want representing your cause? And his comments afterwards on his blog were quite fitting to the tone of how he decorates pictures. He is disgusting.

I must say that this appears to look like a setup. Miss California (and why any of you would have called her graceless I have no idea, you may not like her opinion but I cannot see how you can say she handled the situation gracelessly) attends San Diego Christian College, and it's not too hard to figure out what someone going to such a college is going to think of homosexual marrying each other. I am having a hard time thinking of any reason to have him on there other than to attempt to advance a particular societal and political viewpoint at the expense of the candidates.

I also found it amusing that he said that someone in her position should be politically correct (his words, not mine). The last time I checked questions of politics are answered at elections in this country, and I don't need to remind you all how the state she represents has voted on this matter. She WAS politically correct.

I note that this is represented as imposing one's religious beliefs on others. Are you proposing that people not base their vote on their religious beliefs? How often have I seen denizens of this blog state that they support one position or another (such as healthcare entitlements) on their religious beliefs?

The government's protections of your God-given rights (for that is the philosophy that our country was founded on) were all established by votes, either directly by the electorate or by the representatives they elected. There is no such thing as a right that is not subject to vote. And as long as that is true, your rights and privileges are dependent on the consciences of the electorate. God help us all if people do not look to their God when deciding these matters.

Texaco said...

On being on the right side of history:

"Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn't matter with me now, because I've been to the mountaintop." -MLK

SUSAN RUSSELL said...

Ron ... No, actually I am not a Perez Hilton fan. I find him vulgar and generally unpleasant.

As for where God fits into making political decisions, I expect that individual voters will consult their conscience and invite "their" God into that process. What I do not believe is that anyone has the right to presume that their theology trumps our democracy.

The best answer to those opposed to same sex marriage reamins: then don't marry someone of the same sex!

And round and round it goes.

quine said...

So we can assume that, in your view, not only are Obama and Biden "on the wrong side of history," but are guilty of "bigotry" since they oppose same-sex marriage? And we can expect an emotional post decrying the fact that we have bigots in the office of president and vice president?

SUSAN RUSSELL said...

Yes, I believe Obama and Biden are on the wrong side of history on this one ... but they are on the RIGHT side of opposing constitutional marriage discrimination initiatives and we can work with that.

ONE more time: my issue isn't with someone who believes differently than I do on this question ... my issue is with using what should be a platform to represent ALL Calfornians to discriminate against SOME Californians based on theology rather than rule of law.