Thursday, March 08, 2012

Defending Kirk Cameron...Sort Of

So the other day former 80s star Kirk Cameron was on Piers Morgan and said the following about gay marriage and homosexuality:

"Marriage is almost as old as dirt, and it was defined in the garden between Adam and Eve. One man, one woman for life till death do you part. So I would never attempt to try to redefine marriage. And I don't think anyone else should either. So do I support the idea of gay marriage? No, I don't."

"I think that it's -- it's – it's unnatural. I think that it's -- it's detrimental, and ultimately destructive to so many of the foundations of civilization."

Well, obviously I don't agree with his points-of-view regarding homosexuality and gay marriage nor do I defend those particular remarks, but I do defend Kirk Cameron's right to say whatever he believes regardless of how I feel about it.

After he made his comments, several people verbally attacked him, calling him hateful and bigoted. Roseanne Barr called him "an accomplice to murder." Others made snarky comments about his acting career (or lack thereof).

I agree that Kirk Cameron's comments are prejudiced. Those prejudices are shaped by what he's experienced and has been taught and believes. We all have them. So in that respect, I suppose he is bigoted against gay people. The fact that he believes homosexuality to be unnatural, detrimental, and destructive belies a certain ignorance that I don't agree with. However, I do get a little annoyed when those who support gay rights automatically accuse those who don't support gay rights of hating gay people. Some do, but I don't think it's a blanket statement one can use to describe anyone who thinks homosexuality is wrong.

Do I think Kirk Cameron's beliefs regarding homosexuality and gay marriage are mistaken? You betcha! Do I think he hates gay people? I think it's a stretch, honestly. Certainly I think he has some prejudicial baggage that he carries around with him. Certainly I think his beliefs are based on a certain ignorance about who gay people really are and what they really want. But hate? I just don't quite buy it.

Let me give you an example. I suspect that my brother doesn't agree that a homosexual relationship is what God intends for me. I think my sister-in-law probably feels the same. But I also feel that they don't judge me for any choices I have made to be in one, and no one could ever accuse them of not being supportive of my relationship with Jonah. Do I think they ultimately think that my relationship is contrary to what they believe according to their religious convictions? Yes. Do I think they hate me or even disapprove of me? Not at all. They have shown (as have all my family members) a great deal of love and support for me and my spouse. They have welcomed and accepted us for who we are. I feel my family members, whether they agree that homosexuality is morally righteous or not, have treated me as they have always treated me: with love and respect.

It drives me crazy sometimes when gay activists demand tolerance from those who disagree with them when they often refuse to extend that same tolerance to them. i understand the anger, the annoyance, the refusal to accept anything less than equality; but I am not a fan of the barbs and snarky and sometimes hateful rhetoric that come from either side of the issue.

I certainly don't agree with all of this article, but I do get where the guy is coming from.

I watched a program about gay issues recently, and the commentator was blasting Christians, not recognizing that his own bigotry towards Christians was just as prevalent as the bigotry towards gays he was accusing them of and furthermore, not recognizing that some gay people ARE Christians.

Certainly there are those out there who decry homosexuality in a hateful, completely bigoted way. Then there are others who are prejudiced against gay rights, but aren't bad people; just misinformed, in my opinion.

Of the interview with Cameron, Piers Morgan said, "I felt that he was honest to what he believed, and I don’t think he was expecting the furor that it created… I don’t think I was- it’s been trending worldwide on Twitter for 25 hours.”

Kirk Cameron responded to the "furor" by saying,

"I spoke as honestly as I could, but some people believe my responses were not loving toward those in the gay community. That is not true. I can assuredly say that it's my life's mission to love all people.

"I should be able to express moral views on social issues, especially those that have been the underpinning of Western civilization for 2,000 years -- without being slandered, accused of hate speech and told from those who preach 'tolerance' that I need to either bend my beliefs to their moral standards or be silent when I'm in the public square."

"I believe we need to learn how to debate these things with greater love and respect. I've been encouraged by the support of many friends (including gay friends, incidentally)."

Again, while I don't support his beliefs about homosexuality and gay marriage, I think he has a point about being able to express what he believes without being maligned for it. Certainly I think he should expect that people are going to strongly and vehemently disagree with him (as well they should), but I think people can disagree with each other without being disagreeable.

I remember when the Prop 8 stuff happened, a Mormon in a high position in the theatre community was basically forced to resign from his job for donating money to support Prop 8. Even though I didn't agree with his view on Prop 8, I always felt bad that he was pushed out of his career because of the backlash simply for standing up for what he believed in. Yeah, I think what he believed was wrong, and yeah, his actions were going to have consequences, but I never got the impression he hated gay people. He worked with them all the time and got along with them and even loved them. And it's understandable that those people may have taken his decision to donate money to support a bill that would deny them certain rights as a slap in the face. But I still felt bad that two opposing sides couldn't still figure out a way to live harmoniously even while disagreeing.

I just don't think that everybody who disagrees with homosexuality is coming from a place of hate. Ignorance, perhaps. Prejudice, perhaps. But hate? Not always.

It's so easy to throw around the H-word. But it seems like a a huge jump to go from "You disagree with me; therefore you must hate me." It just doesn't compute for me.

I recently saw an episode of the Primetime show, "What Would You Do?"

For those of unfamiliar with the show, I find it a fascinating program. Hosted by John Quinones, the show sets up everyday scenarios with actors that reflect on how people react, why they react, and when they decide to. Usually the scenarios involve social injustices or potentially controversial or hot-button issues. It mainly looks at how people react when faced with everyday dilemmas that test their character and values.

For example, a scenario might be set up where a kid confesses to his father in the earshot of other people that he is gay, and the father reacts badly. Or another scenario might be a Muslim woman being verbally attacked by by prejudiced storekeeper. Anyway, actors play out the scenario in front of unsuspecting bystanders, and then how those bystanders react (or don't react) is the basis of the show.

The one I saw the other night was filmed in Utah. Some of the scenarios included a newly engaged LDS boyfriend berates his fiance when she confesses she's not a virgin; an abusive boyfriend mistreats his girlfriend; a son confesses his homosexuality to his dad; a girl shoplifts from a store; and a white father berates his daughter when he discovers her boyfriend is black.

In the last scenario the black boyfriend was actually played by an actor I know. During the scenario, at one point the boyfriend and girlfriend leave, and bystanders had a chance to speak with the father alone. A couple of ladies agreed with the father that a black boy and white girl didn't belong together. One of the women was an old lady clearly from a generation where those kind of prejudicial beliefs were commonplace. She believed what she believed, and while I completely disagreed with those bigoted beliefs, I also sensed that she didn't have a mean or hateful bone in her body. Misinformed bones and ignorant bones, maybe; bones that come from a lifetime of prejudiced beliefs, definitely; but hateful? I didn't sense that, nor did my black actor friend, who gave the woman a hug and by doing so, rose above what could have been something he could have chosen to react to more negatively, and perhaps rightly so.

I don't care for people who use religion as a way to oppress or disenfranchise others. I don't agree with people whose religious beliefs give them such tunnel vision that they forget to be loving and merciful and nonjudgmental. Kirk Cameron has said many things (not just in this instance) that I disagree with, and I think he can come across as bit overzealous with his personal belief system, but I don't find him hateful. Just wrong.


Miguel said...

Good Thoughts, all of them.

Thanks for sharing your feelings, it is a hard balance to want something (like rights) and allow people the courtesy of having their own opinion and yet respect them for it. Great thoughts!

Thinker said...

As always, your thoughts and comments reflect that deeper understanding of people. We judge and react and think from a place and belief system (religious or otherwise) that we have seen or learned. Hopefully we take opportunities in life to think about what we believe and reevaluate that and change that if necessary. Isn't that what progress, education, and personal growth is really about? You are right that both sides of issues aren't always "right" in their arguments or filled with hate. Are there exceptions? Absolutely. But civility and exposure to other people, lives, beliefs, cultures, ideas etc. allow us to form opinions and decisions based on our own experience and not blindly accept the experiences or prejudices of others. We as individuals of any "group" can enhance or solidify a person's beliefs/opintions of us, or we have the opportunity to change a negative perception into a positive one, or at very least not confirm the stereotype. Members of the Church/religions, ethnic groups, age groups, athletes, cheerleaders, professions, etc...we all hold beliefs about these groups. You continue to challenge the stereotype, Cody, and allow others to see the differnce. This post proves that again. Thanks for your ability to see and communicate that insight.

Trev said...

Amen! "Hate" is tossed around way too casually and destructively. I think a lot of people can overcome their ignorance and prejudice much more easily than many others may suspect, but not until they no longer feel defensive about a "hatred" they are incorrectly accused of harboring.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for showing us all that we can indeed love people who disagree with us! Truly, the best way to help others understand and believe our side of the argument is not to force them to or attack them if they don't, but simply to love and try to understand them. Otherwise, they might never even consider our opinion! Besides, we miss the point if we alienate them, even if we do prove we are right in the end.

jen said...

I really appreciate your thoughts on this. I get really upset when I see people like Kirk Cameron say the things he said. I agree that he's not being hateful, and he IS being hurtful.

One of the things I have learned is that I can never know what another person's motivations or feelings are unless they tell me. If I presume to know, I am overstepping my boundaries. They can easily dismiss what I say, because I'm wrong.

In the instance of Cameron, I would say, "What he said hurts me. I feel sad, because I don't believe that homosexuality is all that he said it was, and when people hear what he has to say, they believe it. I understand that he is speaking out about the things that are important to him, but I disagree so strongly. I want to live in a world that is loving, understanding and accepting. I want gay marriage to be legalized, because I believe that to give that right to some and not everyone isn't okay."

Sidenote though: I hate what he said about gay friends... That's not a very good excuse to say what he said...

Gay LDS Actor said...

Thanks, all.

Thanks, Miguel.

Thinker, it's true that both sides of the issue aren't always right, but I do agree that civility is key in having a healthy dialogue on issues on which people disagree.

Amen, Trev!

Jonathan, I agree with you 100%.

Jen, I do agree that Kirk Cameron's words are hurtful. Even though I believe they are coming from a place of ignorance or "tunnel-vision" rather than hate, I do acknowledge that words like his are apt to hurt people, and I truly don't believe that is his intention. I think he just believes what he believes and believes that it's the best path to God. Again, I think he's wrong, and even though I disagree with him completely, I try to concentrate on his motives rather than on the words themselves. I think his motives are to bring people closer to God, and that is a good thing. Unfortunately, I think his way of getting to God is misguided, and it's true that his words can hold power and could certainly affect people in a negative way.

Like you say, we can never really know a person's motives unless we are them. I choose to believe Kirk Cameron is probably a well-intentioned individual who doesn't understand what his words might be doing to others. That's how I feel about LDS apostle Boyd K. Packer. I don't think he hates gay people; I just don't think he truly understands them and in an effort to teach what he believes, he causes them more harm than I'm sure he intends.

Thanks, all, for your thoughts and words.