Over the past few years I have been floored by how often hypocrisy and double standards are espoused in our culture without being seen for what they truly are. What is even more alarming is that many are celebrating their unrecognized hypocrisy. Let me give a few examples. The Tennes family, who own a farm in Michigan, were told that they could no longer sell their produce at the farmer’s market in East Lansing. The reason for their ban was that they had turned down a request to host a same-sex marriage at their farm. The city council stated that the Tennes family had violated the city’s discrimination ordinance. Interestingly enough, the Tennes farm is 22 miles outside of the city limits. What is actually happening is that the city is discriminating against the Tennes, not allowing them to sell their produce, because they would not violate their religious beliefs on their private property (see full story here). I wish this were the lone example, but there are many more. In 2013, Barronelle Stutzman, a florist from Richland, Washington, refused to provide flowers for a same-sex marriage. Because of her refusal, the same-sex couple sued Barronelle stating that she broke the state’s anti-discrimination laws (see story here). There are many other examples of photographers, bakers and even churches that are being bullied/sued for not complying to the beliefs of the LGBT community.
As if the hypocrisy couldn’t get worse, there are examples of businesses and individuals who are being celebrated for withholding their products from people who they disagree with. One example is the National Basketball Association. The 2017 All-Star game was moved from Charlotte to New Orleans because the NBA disagreed with the passing of the North Carolina State bill HB2. This bill states that people are to use public restrooms and locker rooms that correspond to their biological gender, not their self-defined gender identity. Because the NBA disagreed with the position of the State of North Carolina, they decided to withhold their product, the All-Star Game (read more about this here). How is this any different from what the Tennes or Barronelle Stuzman did? Why is the NBA applauded for doing this, but the Tennes and Barronelle are sued? Another example of this hypocrisy comes from legendary rocker Bruce Springsteen. In a statement posted on his website, Springsteen explains that he had cancelled his concert scheduled for Greensboro, North Carolina on April 10th, 2016. The reason given for his cancellation was because he disagreed with the HB2 law. Springsteen, stated that “Some things are more important than a rock show and this fight against prejudice and bigotry — which is happening as I write — is one of them. It is the strongest means I have for raising my voice in opposition to those who continue to push us backwards instead of forwards.” (read Springsteen's full statement here). So, Springsteen is withholding his wares, a concert, from people that he disagrees with on this issue. I cannot see how this is any different from what many photographers, bakers, florists and farmers have done. Yet, they get ridiculed over standing up for what they believe while the NBA and Bruce Springsteen are applauded for standing up for what they believe in. I don’t understand how this hypocrisy goes unseen. For the record, I think that it is the right of any business owner to withhold their products and services from whomever they wish to. The government should not force anyone to go against their own morals, beliefs and conscience. I think that the NBA and Bruce Springsteen should have the right to withhold their services from the State of North Carolina. I disagree with why they are withholding their services, but I believe in the freedom to choose to do what you want with your business. I don’t understand why this same freedom is not being extended to people who disagree with the LGBT movement. It’s almost as if you can have freedom if you agree with certain values, but once you disagree with the popular values, you lose your freedom. This hypocrisy seems obvious, yet it goes unnoticed. Why? I think one of the reasons is how beliefs and opinions are characterized through positive and negative language.
No matter what positive spin you put on your viewpoint, or negative spin you put on others, the fact remains that both sides believe their views are right and the others are wrong. Both sides are doing the same thing: believing that their views are true. What I cannot understand is why one side is allowed to cast their views in an altruistic light, while vilifying the views of those they disagree with. The most obvious example comes from the LGBT community. When people disagree with their views on human sexuality, they characterize the opposing views as bigoted, homophobic, closed minded, on the wrong side of history and archaic. Not only do they cast opposing views in a negative light, but they posture their views in a positive manner. Their views on human sexuality are defined as open minded, tolerant, on the right side of history, loving and something to take pride in. This type of behavior is not a new experience for me, and I am sure you are familiar with it too. We all experienced this very thing at a place in our not so distant past: The School Playground.
Remember how harsh other children could be? Middle School was the worst because at this age bullying was not merely physical, but also mental and emotional. Middle School students are experts at cruelty and pettiness. What typically happens in playground bullying, and more currently cyber bullying, is that words are used to berate a person’s character, however the words typically have nothing to do with character. More often, the insults revolve around physical traits, socio-economic status, and false accusations of promiscuity. None of which are actual arguments, but these insults work in two ways. First, they make the person being bullied look like a fool to others who are present. Secondly, they humiliate the person being bullied into a position of submission. No one wants to be called fat, poor, or easy, especially when their peers are present. So, when called these names, the embarrassed middle school student backs down, keeps quiet, and is put into a place of submission, which makes the bully look cool, funny, and in control. Kids act this way, which is unfortunate, but they are immature. Unaware that personal attacks do not make valid arguments, they go through their days on the playground bullying people into submission. Sadly, this same thing is happening in our culture, with people who should be well beyond the immaturity of playground tactics.
The playground tactic of name calling is nothing new. Ad hominem attacks have been seen as an informal fallacy in argumentation for centuries. Ad hominem means “to the man”, which is pointing out how people attack the person instead of attacking the argument. Basically, this is the name calling tactic. Name calling is always an illegitimate way to argue, however it can, as mentioned before, be effective by embarrassing people into a humiliated state of submission. This is where we find ourselves today. One opinion is seen as hip, progressive and loving, and anyone who does not agree with the popular bully is embarrassed by them through name calling. So, how do we respond to these bully tactics?
Our response cannot be to bully in return. Jesus said “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” –Matthew 7:12
In other words, you cannot bully a bully. We need to take a different approach, and I believe that the best approach is through asking questions. When someone spouts of current, cultural clichés, at you (such as bigot, closed minded, archaic, intolerant) simply ask a question. Ask, “How is it that I am closed minded?”. They will respond that you have already made up your mind on whatever matter they are proposing and that you disagree with their view. At this point, ask a follow up question like, “How is it that I am closed minded when I disagree with you, but when you disagree with me you are open minded? Doesn’t it seem like both of us are doing the exact same thing?” The same goes for the other clichés that get hurled against the less popular cultural opinions. Ask questions by applying the claim against itself. The goal is to get the person to agree to stop name calling (ad hominem attacks) and start discussing the reasons/evidences that each of you have for holding to your beliefs/opinions. People should be persuaded through good reasoning, not through personal attacks.
Earlier I said that people should be beyond the immaturity of playground tactics. This doesn’t just go for the bully. It also goes for the person being bullied. We cannot respond to bully tactics by allowing them to embarrass us into submission. We do not need to retaliate through ad hominemattacks, but we should stand up for what we believe and not allow others to silence us through name calling. Stand firm and be kind.