Offensive?

I’d heard that Archbishop Cranmer was the subject of a complaint from the Advertising Standards Authority concerning an “offensive and homophobic advertisement” he had supposedly carried on his blog, but hadn’t known what the advertisement in question was (I don’t follow His Grace’s blog or Twitter feed).

I was genuinely stunned to discover just now (via this post) that this is the advertisement in question:

Now, wherever you stand on the question of same-sex marriage, and whatever you think of the Coalition for Marriage, to describe that advertisement as “offensive and homophobic” seems, well, over-sensitive, to put it mildly. And for the ASA to attempt to suppress its publication seems more than a little sinister.

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14 thoughts on “Offensive?”

  1. What a bizarre situation. I have linked to you blog from Vic the Vicar as it seems the world is going bonkers (and I couldn’t get the link to work properly on mine).

    Thanks for posting on what is an interesting, concern-making and saddening situation indeed,

    Vic

  2. genuinely stunned

    Don’t be stunned. I don’t know how it is in the UK, but here in the US, the way the debate is framed is that the only possible reason for opposition to same-sex marriage is bigotry. Therefore any expression of opposition (or even the mildest of doubts) to same-sex marriage is immediately condemned as “hate speech.”

    After a lifetime of being a libertarian, an advocate of tolerance, and a supporter of gay rights, since I do not believe that a monogamous relationship between two people of the same sex is, or can be, the same thing as marriage, I now discover that I am a bigot. It is depressing.

    1. “the way the debate is framed is that the only possible reason for opposition to same-sex marriage is bigotry.”

      More that, the only possible reason for opposition to same-sex marriage is religious. Which often shows itself as bigotry.

      “since I do not believe that a monogamous relationship between two people of the same sex is, or can be, the same thing as marriage, I now discover that I am a bigot.”

      Why don’t you believe that? Especially given the evidence that contradicts your belief?

      1. I suspect that John would rather that this thread stay on the topic of whether or not the advertisement on Cranmer’s blog was offensive and homophobic, rather than turn into a debate on the merits of same-sex marriage. Nevertheless, since you asked, and with apologies to John, I will reply.

        The practice of a man and a woman joining together to form a household, beget children, and raise those children to adulthood, has existed as long as humankind can remember — since pre-historic times. It has existed, and persisted, because it is a convenient and successful social arrangement, one that is conducive both to the comfort and happiness of individuals, and to the survival and thriving of humanity as a species. This practice long pre-dates any government or state, and it is not exclusively associated with any religion or church. It is not a social arrangement that has been consciously devised or invented by human beings or by any human institution or organization. It is, instead, something that has evolved (in the Darwinian, survival-of-the-fittest sense, not in the Obama “my views are evolving” sense) because it is a strikingly successful adaptation to our environment. In that evolutionary sense, this practice is a part of human nature, not an artifact of human culture.

        That immemorial practice, that evolutionary adaptation, is what we call marriage. Of course, while it is, as an evolutionary adaptation, part of human nature, it has also become a part of human cultures. Human cultures have surrounded marriage with various customs, taboos, and so forth, but that does not mean that it is an invention of human culture. And human societies have regulated and protected marriage by giving it the sanction of the state and passing and enforcing laws about it. But those laws and cultural customs did not create marriage, they simply responded to marriage as a fact — an aspect of human nature — that already existed. The fact that marriage exists within a cultural and legal context does not mean that marriage is a human invention or the creation of the state, any more than the existence of different cuisines in different cultures or the regulation of food production by the state means that humans’ need to eat is the result of a cultural or political decision. The need to eat is part of human nature; our customs, practices, and laws about food are a cultural and political response to that part of our nature. In the same way, marriage is part of human nature, and our customs, practices, and laws about marriage are a cultural and political response to that part of our nature.

        If that is what “marriage” means, then it is clear that homosexual relationships, whatever their merits may be, do not have the same historical, cultural, and evolutionary pedigree. The state’s recognition of and regulation of marriage is a response to a human phenomenon that already existed before there was such a thing as a state. But same-sex marriage is not a phenomenon that already existed; it is something which has never existed, which some people living in the twenty-first century would like to create by the power of the state. Marriage properly so called is a fact of human nature; same-sex marriage is an invention of human beings. To call those two things by the same name is what philosophers call a category error: they are two different kinds of things, so any attempt to compare them (much less equate them) is a logical error.

        That is why I do not believe that same-sex relationships and marriage are the same thing (or two different types of the same thing). Of course, I do not expect that I will have persuaded you. But I do think that what I have written is a rational argument. It is an argument that is based on evolutionary biology, cultural anthropology, history, and political philosophy; and on those rational and evidentiary bases it is a logical argument that draws a logical conclusion. And in particular I should like it to be acknowledged that the argument has absolutely no religion in it.

        Now, the fact that I can argue on a rational basis, exercise valid logic, and come to a logically valid conclusion does not mean that I am right. But it does mean (or it ought to mean) that I should not be accused of being a bigot.

  3. It is and it isn’t. If you believe same-sex marriage is a matter of equal rights, and especially if you are gay and want the right to get married to someone of the same sex, then of course you’re going to find it offensive in some way.

    There’s also the question of what the ad represents. As I said to you on Twitter this afternoon, the movement to preserve “traditional marriage” is, arguably, dominated by homophobes (and you seemed to agree), especially in the US. So the power of that particular image doesn’t come from what it literally says, but from the subtext, or what it symbolizes — the prejudice that whole movement represents for a lot of people.

    As you know from the link I posted this afternoon, I didn’t have to look far to find C4M blindly promoting this kind of prejudice by hailing North Carolina’s vicious Amendment One as a victory for “the meaning of marriage,” when it was nothing of the sort.

    It’s a bit like the ex-gay bus ads a few weeks ago — when I read the slogan, it hit me in the gut, and it wasn’t because the words “Not gay,” or “post-gay” or even “ex-gay” are literally offensive in themselves. It was because I knew the place they were coming from (namely two ugly, UGLY homophobic organizations), and I knew that ad was designed to be not an affirmation of Christians to live as they see fit but an attack on gay men and women.

    So I don’t think we can be entirely naive about the ad. But, as you also know from our earlier discussion(!), I also find it incredulous that people are seeking to censor it. (I don’t know enough to know if the ASA itself is acting outside its bounds; depends whether it’s obliged to follow up so many complaints with an investigation like this.)

    1. Just to illustrate that point about the “debate” being dominated by homophobes, you know well I hardly live under a rock when it comes to these issues. And yet until a few weeks ago, I hardly encountered arguments against SSM that *weren’t* coming primarily from religious beliefs and/or a basic belief that gay relationships are simply unnatural, immoral or inferior.

  4. “But I do think that what I have written is a rational argument.”

    I think you have a rationale. But having a rationale does not equal being rational. It amounts to ‘we’ve always done things this way, and change is bad’. Or at least that’s how it reads to me.

    I do not think you are a bigot, by the way. I just think you’re wrong, and on the losing side of history.

    The reason you may have been called a bigot is because a relatively vocal portion of people who share your opinion are, in fact, bigots.

    1. I think if you read it carefully, it is more than a rationale. You think that I am against same-sex marriage on other grounds, but have come up with this argument to justify what I already believed. Not so.

      My argument is a lot deeper than “we’ve always done it this way”; it’s an exploration of why it’s always been done that way, an exploration in terms of the intrinsic nature of things.

      I’d also like to point out that I wasn’t really arguing against same-sex marriage as such; I was addressing the more limited point of whether same-sex relationships and marriage are fundamentally different things, or whether they are two different varieties of the same thing. If I am right that they are fundamentally different, then it makes the case for same-sex marriage more difficult to make, but it does not make it impossible.

      The political fact of the matter is that legal same-sex marriage is on its way (where I live (Massachusetts) it’s already here) and it is not going to go away. If I am right about the nature of marriage, then same-sex marriage is an experiment in trying to change human nature, and it will ultimately fail. I think it is an unwise experiment but I am not going to bother panicking over it. I’m 58 years old, and I expect to be dead before the results of the experiment are known. I don’t plan to waste the rest of my life being upset that homosexuals are calling themselves “married.”

      on the losing side of history

      What does that even mean? “History” is not a judge who picks winners and losers; history is just “whatever happens”, but just because something happens does not mean that it is right. I guess all it means is you think the pro-SSM side is going to win this debate. In the short term (say, 50 years) I am pretty sure you are right. In the longer term (say a century or two), I think same-sex marriage will be extinct and people will look back on these early-twenty-first-century debates as something rather quaint.

      To put it another way, I may be on the losing side of history, but you are on the losing side of evolution.

      1. So, how is a same sex marriage not a real marriage? Whatever you may think about what you wrote, you haven’t proved that point with any of it, particularly because any cursory examination of human history would reveal just how fallacious many of your claims about marriage are. BTW, just for clarification since you don’t seem to get what being on the wrong side of history means; people in the future will wonder how there ever could have been people who
        believed such tripe. For instance, a line like “you are on the losing side of evolution” will be a perfect explanation of the archaic and nonsensical views of the past on issues that are no longer issues, like the racist platitudes of those who stood in the way of abolishing slavery, desegregation, and civil rights equality.

        As for the ad, how is it not homophobic? It is literally about the fear of gay people having the same rights as straight people, so how does it not fit the definition of homophobia?

      2. BTW, just for clarification since you don’t seem to get what being on the wrong side of history means; people in the future will wonder how there ever could have been people who believed such tripe.

        That is what I was afraid it meant: that people who live later in history are automatically right and people who lived earlier in history are automatically wrong.

        So what if “people in the future” think what I am saying is tripe? Just because they live in the future does not make them wise.

        you haven’t proved that point with any of it

        No, it’s only that I have not persuaded you of it, mostly, I think, because you do not understand what it is that I set out to prove.

        In any case, since same-sex marriage is a social arrangement which has never existed in the history (or the pre-history) of the human race, the burden of proof is on you to demonstrate why it is in some sense “the same thing” as heterosexual marriage, not on me to demonstrate why it is not the same thing.

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