Conservatives are convinced that they know exactly what our society should be like. It must be centered around the family, they say, and they insist that the configuration of a family has a set definition given to us by God. A family consists of a sanctioned marriage between one man and one woman, with their children, and exists for the purpose of procreation.
Probably there is no one who objects to the existence of this sort of family, but a great deal of difficulty arises when we assume that no other group can be considered a family if they don’t conform to this strict definition. Many other kinds of families have been around since long before the beginning of written history. Many cultures today would laugh at this narrow definition, and particularly at our talk of “starting a family”. No one can “start a family”; do you think you just popped out of the air? Around the world, including the United States, there are many other kinds of family, groups of people who live together, with or without sex or children. Are my siblings no longer part of my family when I marry and move away? My cousins and other relations? Am I not part of a family if everyone has died but my grandchildren? If I live for many years with a woman whom I have not married, are we not a family, even if there is no sex and no children?
But what conservatives are really talking about is homosexuality, not family. They don’t like the very idea of homosexuality, and are probably upset by the sexual images they associate with it. But there are many other values of long-term relationships of any kind, sexual or not, and homosexuals value them as much as the rest of us. Conservatives are certainly free to feel how they feel, and we may even feel the same, but what makes them think their own sexual practices are any more palatable? Palatable to whom? What they consider acceptable may not be considered so even by other conservatives.
In order to oppose any acceptance of same-sex couples, conservatives enlist the Bible to support their views and prove that God says homosexuals can’t be a family. They have no problem finding what they want: the Bible condemns homosexuality in no uncertain terms. But what parts of the Bible must we accept? The Bible also says that if your child talks back, you must kill him. In recent news, a woman did exactly that: she killed both of her teenagers because they were “mouthy”. One wonders whether she will cite the Bible for her legal defense, and how that will go with the court. Have you killed any of your children lately? Of course not, yet the Bible says in half a dozen places that you must, as Sam Harris points out, and that is only one of a long list of morally abhorrent rules we find in the Bible.
Liberals recognize that certain injustices that existed and still exist in American society affect whole classes of people. Millions. There were plenty of apologists for our long history of mistreatment of American Indians. Some people thought Irish immigrants were barely human, and treated them as if they weren’t. Others thought that Jim Crow laws, the Asian Exclusion Act, the WWII Japanese concentration camps, and so on, were quite acceptable. That didn’t make any of them right. Now we are told that homosexuals must continue to be unequally and unjustly treated before the law because God says so. In time, nearly everyone will come to see that this is as unacceptable as all the other injustices.
There are many other things the Bible tells us that are simply unacceptable in a modern moral world. The Bible is not where we should be looking for the blueprint of a just society in the 21st century.