Hillary Clinton, Gay Rights, and Cultural Relativism

12 12 2011

I’m not a cultural relativist. Sometimes customs are culturally relative, and sometimes, quite frankly, they are not. I don’t believe that sexism, racism, child abuse, animal abuse, rape, torture, murder, or homophobia are excusable depending on cultural context, because in each context these atrocities share the traits of hatred, violence, and exploitation committed against a sentient being. Let me get this caveat out of the way first: on some issues we are in no place to judge the practises of other cultures, and on other issues we most certainly are. In return, these other cultures are allowed to judge us on our faults. With that out of the way, LGBT rights are not an imperialist vision; they are a humanist one.

Given my wariness of cultural relativism, I was elated by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s amazing speech at the United Nations in Geneva. In her speech, Clinton declares that the Obama administration will defend LGBT rights as a part of its human rights and foreign policy, and that the President will command all government agencies operating overseas to defend LGBT rights through various diplomatic strategies. She makes several points about how and why the world community should end persecution of LGBT people: first, LGBT rights are human rights; second, homosexuality exists in all cultures; third, religious and cultural beliefs do not justify persecution of LGBT people; fourth, the world must confront persecution of LGBT people, not dismiss it; and fifth, we must employ practical means to obtain equality for LGBT people. All of these points are interesting and relevant, but the most provocative to me are the second and third points, which challenge the cultural relativism cited to defend persecution of LGBT people.

In her second point, Clinton challenges the assumption that homosexuality and LGBT rights are purely Western, imperialist conceptions being foisted on non-Western cultures. This is simply not true, Clinton shows, because homosexuality exists in every culture, and homophobia is a problem in every culture. It is, in other words, a human condition, and creating artificial cultural barriers to LGBT liberation would do a disservice to LGBT people:

Some seem to believe [homosexuality] is a Western phenomenon, and therefore people outside the West have grounds to reject it. Well, in reality, gay people are born into and belong to every society in the world. They are all ages, all races, all faiths; they are doctors and teachers, farmers and bankers, soldiers and athletes; and whether we know it, or whether we acknowledge it, they are our family, our friends, and our neighbours.

And just in case anybody insists there are no examples of efforts to advance LGBT rights in non-Western cultures, Clinton deftly turns the tables:

Being gay is not a Western invention; it is a human reality. And protecting the human rights of all people, gay or straight, is not something that only Western governments do. South Africa’s constitution, written in the aftermath of Apartheid, protects the equality of all citizens, including gay people. In Colombia and Argentina, the rights of gays are also legally protected. In Nepal, the supreme court has ruled that equal rights apply to LGBT citizens. The government of Mongolia has committed to pursue new legislation that will tackle anti-gay discrimination.

Clinton has obviously done her fact-checking (which is to be granted, given that she is America’s chief diplomat): heteronormative sexualities, if not exactly ubiquitous, are well-distributed among the world’s cultures, hence LGBT rights are a relevant concern to all of the world’s cultures. It is now common knowledge among well-informed people that homosexuality, bisexuality, transsexuality, and intersexuality are not the product of a particular culture; they are a product of living organisms in general, from shellfish to human beings. It seems absurd, then, to say that these sexualities are the luxurious fad of one particular society (the West) of one particular species of animal (homo sapiens), hence it seems absurd to suggest that LGBT rights are relevant only to that society or species.

In her third point, Clinton criticises the notion that cultural or religious beliefs somehow justify persecution of LGBT people, and roundly dashes it to pieces. (I exaggerate, but still, she could have, and she probably would have if representatives of countries like Uganda, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Afghanistan weren’t present.) She does this by comparing LGBT rights to the rights of other persecuted peoples. Specifically, she draws an analogy between crimes against LGBT people and crimes against women, both of which derive from patriarchal hegemony:

[The justification for persecuting LGBT people] is not unlike the justification offered for violent practices towards women like honor killings, widow burning, or female genital mutilation. Some people still defend those practices as part of a cultural tradition. But violence toward women isn’t cultural; it’s criminal. Likewise with slavery, what was once justified as sanctioned by God is now properly reviled as an unconscionable violation of human rights.

Cutting off a woman’s clitoris is universally wrong because it causes unspeakable pain, stress, and health problems for the victim, whether she is from Sweden, Somalia, or Seattle. This is because every person of every culture possesses a common human physiology; the nervous systems of all human beings are basically the same. I suspect every woman feels immense pain when she is mutilated, burnt to death, or stoned to death, despite the cultural situation. And when proponents of cultural relativism cite reasons for their stance, those reasons fall nothing short of pathetic: women shouldn’t be allowed to have sex with men other than their husbands, women shouldn’t be allowed to experience sexual pleasure, or women shouldn’t be allowed to live if their husbands die. Forgive me if I find these justifications more solipsistic than utilitarian, and hence hardly socially beneficial. They’re just the laws of self-serving tyrants who view women as mere incubators. Similarly, every gay person experiences unconscionable pain and horror at being hanged or crushed to death for being gay. Opinions, insecurities, and concerns specific to a culture do not justify violence against women or gay people, because we all share the same basic human physiology despite cultural context. I think this is what Clinton was pointing at.

I won’t mince words. Hillary Clinton is right, and the cultural relativists are wrong. Heteronormative sexuality is found everywhere in the world, and LGBT rights are no more culturally relative than women’s or racial minorities’ rights, because all are products of a common human mental and physical experience. For some reason, though, this is a sensitive topic for many anti-imperialists, who often happen to be from the West. It seems to me that a lot of this cultural relativist dogma stems from white, middle-class people who feel guilty about their colonial heritage, and they spout this disingenuous nonsense about relativism to soothe their own conscience. But think about it. Arguing that women’s or LGBT rights are culturally relative is basically discriminating against women and LGBT people who live in countries, like Iran, which don’t recognise their status, and that isn’t very feminist or pro-gay, is it? It isn’t even very pro-human, as Clinton showed, and I can’t help but respect her for sending such a bold, unapologetic message to countries which still use cultural relativism as a loophole to commit human atrocities. It was truly a satisfying vindication of LGBT rights.

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Fundies Use Kids to Save Seattle!

24 07 2011

Evangelical Christians are praying for Seattle’s lost souls—using those of children.

In a recent entry on my professional blog, I discussed how Texas governor Rick Perry is organising a 6 August prayer rally in Houston, seemingly with the intent of “taking back America for Christ”. Basically, Perry’s rally is being led by the youth ministry International House of Prayer (IHOP), which is strongly influenced by the evangelical leader and “prayer warrior” Lou Engles. Engles has influenced multiple other youth ministries (TheCall, Elijah Revolution, Root 52, and the Kids on Fire camp featured in the Jesus Camp documentary) which practice charismatic “prayer warfare”. These ministries train young, impressionable children as “prayer warriors”. All of these groups are influenced in some way by the “Seven Mountains” theology, which teaches that there are seven “mountains”, or domains, in which Christians have to take back America for Christ: family, education, government, the economy, the arts, the media, and religion. (Visit this Goddiscussion article in order to verify this information.)

Basically, the Texas governor is leading a prayer rally which is connected to all these other groups which indoctrinate children to pray for America to return to Christ. I’m not usually categorically judgemental, but when you use children in such a way, it’s just vile. Folks, this is not just about church-state separation; it is about children’s rights and right to conscience. Parents should not be allowed to do whatever they want to their children if it impairs or injures them physically or mentally. That isn’t parenting; that’s a power-trip.

One of these ministries, Elijah Revolution, teaches that the spirit of Elijah (good) will vanquish the spirit of Jezebel (bad), using a typical noble-male-versus-wicked-female trope. Elijah Revolution recorded a music album featuring the ministerial voice of Engles as a backdrop, and Root 52, led by “prophet” Cindy Jacobs, cited material from the album in its recent “Washington prayer alert” to combat abortion and other “evils” which dominate the northwestern coastal region of the United States. In it, you will see how the adult leaders seek to use children to their own ends, not to mention vilifying women as evil temptresses. The prayer alert calls on Root 52 followers to subdue Seattle and Washington state and bring them back to God and Jesus Christ—especially through the arts, for which Seattle is renowned:

In mapping both Seattle and Olympia many key ley lines have been discovered (a majority of them have been established through the arts).  Olympia is laid out much like Washington D.C. influenced by free-masonry design and structure.  We believe that a key to binding and bringing down these Baal/witchcraft/jezebel influenced strongholds will be through the Arts and Media sphere!   May God raise up anointed singers, musicians, artists, craftsmen, sculptors, dancers, etc, in the Northwest!  We are praying for the hearts of the fathers to turn to the children and the hearts of the children to turn to the Fathers to release an Elijah Revolution that confronts this jezebel spirit. And we are praying for a generation of Jehu’s who walk in sexual purity and the truth and power of God’s written Word to bring her down (Rev. 2:18-29).  As the light of the Glory of God in face of Christ increases through day and night prayer and worship combined with a kingly anointing, we will see these demonic strongholds dislodged from this region!

 We stake a Claim in the midst of the Whirlwind for the Glory of the Lamb through every sphere in society in Washington State.  May God  “Wash” Washington, “a ton”  through the blood of his Son.  Jesus we plead your blood over our sins and the sins of our state.  God end abortion and send Revival to Washington!  Amen! [sic]

This makes me an even bigger feminist. As a Seattleite, I am amused by this noisy incantation, steeped as it is in blood-soaked tones of desperation. It doesn’t surprise me that Root 52 should send out a prayer alert to Washington state. According to a 2009 Gallup poll on the importance of religion in the U.S., Washington is the fifth least religious state out of the fifty United States. Meanwhile, Seattle has the second highest percentage of openly gay people of any major city in the U.S., right after dildo-banging San Francisco. Washington state was the first jurisdiction in the United States (along with Kalamazoo, MI) in which an extension of gay rights was approved in a public referendum, with Referendum 71 in 2009. In addition, Seattle mayor Bertha Landes was the first female mayor of a major American city. Currently, the two-term state governor is Christine Gregoire, a woman, whilst Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray are both Democratic female senators for Washington state. *Pant*. I can’t stop. Must continue. Seattle Public Schools desegregated without a court order, and the Seattle metropolitan area has the highest percentage of people who identify as mixed-race of any metropolitan area in the United States.  That’s a lot of sodomistic, feministic miscegenation goin’ on there. Root 52 and other radical Christian youth ministries have an uphill battle fighting against “debasement” in the Evergreen State. I welcome the embrace of their dusty Texan bosoms with the shamelessly moss-ridden moisture of my own wanton dugs.

Well, as I have done with my seminal “Christians vs. Witches” blog series, which is in its second instalment, I think I will re-write my blog entry on Governor Perry and the child prayer warriors of his evangelical prayer network to reflect the true inner workings of my depraved, irredeemable soul, but I will focus on the Washington prayer alert of Cindy Jacobs’s Root 52 and the great red southern plague which threatens to suffocate the Soviet Republic of Seattle underneath Jacobs’s leather Christian boot. This will be the content of my upcoming blog material. You may notice how my previous series overlaps with my present one. All I ask is that you return to my blog regularly as a loyal, devoted reader to feast your eyes upon my many horrors and discover what new evil creatures I have hatched from the depths of my muggy, maleficent man-womb.