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A Sample of a Debate on Facebook

Every now and then, I get caught up in a dialogue on Facebook regarding various political, religious, or philosophic issues. After a while, I always find myself wondering if all of the time and effort is worthwhile. It is unlikely, after all, that any of us involved are going to change our views. It’s basically an arguing contest, not a quest to gain knowledge from others. Also, more importantly, I am spending precious time and mental energy producing stuff that will disappear into the Facebook void instead of focusing on writing for my own blog. Still, these types of dialogues may have some value. At least all of us involved are getting some practice exploring, clarifying, and expressing our beliefs.

So to give an example of what I mean and to have something to show for my Facebook efforts, I have included, word for word, one of these recent dialogues. (Names of my “opponents” have been removed, however.) I will let you decide for yourselves if this was a worthwhile way to spend my time. This discussion started shortly after Proposition Eight - California’s ban on same sex marriage - was overturned by a federal judge. Some would argue that this decision by one man was in defiance of the will of the voters who passed it two years ago.

(Someone had just asked why it is that Christians focus so much on the “sin” of homosexual behavior. After all, Jesus never directly mentions it in the gospels.)

Person #1 (P1): Voters do want their votes counted so a judge shouldn't be doing this. And Jesus didn't dwell on it, true, but He did include it in Matt 15:19 as one evil, under sexual immorality. I don't think most Christians dwell on this subject, but shouldn't be passive either.

Me: In 1967, the Supreme Court struck down state bans on interracial marriage. If this issue, along with several other civil rights issues, was left to the voters of individual southern states, I can predict how some of them would have voted. Sometimes, courts must protect minorities from the "tyranny of the majority." If anyone cares, here is my take on gay marriage: "Gay Marriage: Why It's Fine With Me."

Person #2 (P2): In that case, I want to legalize POLYGAMY!! Just please dont tell my wife.

Me: Maybe polygamy should be legalized. Old Testament patriarchs like Abraham and Jacob had multiple wives. Plus, it's more honest than cheating on your spouse. If people want to impose their moral code through the law, adultery should be the practice that is outlawed. (And maybe we can go back to the good old days of Old Testament law when the guilty parties were stoned to death.)

P2: If you want to remove morality from the law, then what about drug use, sex with minors, prostitution, etc? Should we legalize all that too, or remove any laws banning it?

P1: If it's case of civil rights that it should be challenged in the constitution - whether state or federal, not by one single judge. The judicial system was set up to protect constitutional rights of all voters. Everyone didn't favor the healthcare reforms and the impact it will have - can we find a judge to repeal that?

Me: P1, I don't know what you mean by "challenged in the constitution." They are following the standard process of challenging the law. It's done through the judicial system. The same process will be followed for both gay marriage and challenges to the health care bill. Judges may ultimately repeal parts of the health care bill, and they may ultimately uphold the same sex marriage ban. The gay marriage decision will be appealed until it reaches the Supreme Court. Then nine judges (instead of one) will decide. (Judicial review has been firmly established for 200 years, so I don't see it going anywhere.) Keep in mind that there may be cases where you are in the minority but you feel that basic legal principles are on your side. I don't think that anyone believes that majority rule should always win out. There are countless cases throughout American history where the majority of people in a state or region supported laws and policies considered either ludicrous or blatantly unjust today. And P2, I'm not advocating for "removing morality from the law." Obviously, laws are often based on a moral foundation. If a behavior has a measurable, negative impact on others, it should be illegal. That's the principle that our legal system is founded upon. Gay marriage, like polygamy or interracial marriage previously, has no measurable negative impact on others. Therefore it should be allowed whether it offends certain people's morals or not. Sometimes a distinction must be made between personal moral codes and enforceable legal codes. If you refuse to recognize this obvious distinction, then this "discussion" is clearly a waste of time. (And I guess we will be on our way toward the 10 Commandments becoming a legal code.)

I've noticed in these Facebook "conversations" that no one ever directly addresses the questions that I raise. Political and religious topics - and this one gets into both - are usually pointless. At least this gives me a little writing practice.

P2: Paul (Me) - I always enjoy your comments because unlike other some of the other folks we debate, you always have good points and back it up with good reason.
Let me first address your points, so that your efforts dont just end up being writing ...practice haha!

"If a behavior has a measurable, negative impact on others, it should be illegal. That's the principle that our legal system is founded upon."
How do you define negative impact on others? For some people, finding out that your son is married to the same sex can be as equally or more painful than finding out that your son is hooked on illegal drugs or that he sleeps with prostitutes.

"Gay marriage, like polygamy or interracial marriage previously, has no measurable negative impact on others. Therefore it should be allowed whether it offends certain people's morals or not."
So should it be legal to set up a strip bar next door to your house because it does not hurt anyone, and only offends you?

In the end, I think everyone has a preference and everyone wants what's best for them and fits with their value system. And what goes and does not go depends on what the courts let pass or strike down. I do agree that the process of the judicial system was set up to ensure that laws do not conflict with our constitutional rights. The only problem is that many times, the judicial decisions are driven also by the political, religious, and personal views of the judges. This occurs on both sides of the political spectrum and is the reason why presidents usually pick judges who typically have made judicial decisions that align with the president's political view. Also, I'm sure there are political scientists on both sides of the spectrum who can argue the constitutionality of many laws.. If not, there would be no appeal.. So I believe the constitutionality of laws ultimately depend on which judges are in place at the time the law goes through the process.

Now for your final point :)
"Sometimes a distinction must be made between personal moral codes and enforceable legal codes. If you refuse to recognize this obvious distinction, then this "discussion" is clearly a waste of time."
I think all legal codes stem from some type of personal moral code. I think the reason why some fight for a ban on Gay Marriage vs premarital sex is the fact that Gay Marriage may be more easily enforced now than the other.
Let me know if I've missed any of your points and I'll try to address them too so you know your writing has not gone to waste :)))

P2: One last question: Should incest be banned? Like father/daughter marriages? Or how about incestial polygamy, where the entire family marries each other? According to your definition, it hurts no one when all parties are consenting and who cares if it offends anybody.. LOL!!

P1: Paul (Me) - What i meant is that it hasn't been determined yet if this is a civil rights issue. Not everyone agrees if it's comparable to anti-discrimination yet and the constituion has to be amended once that is determined. Up till this point..., marriage was always assumed to be man/woman, now we're talking about a new definition and different social rules that we haven't faced before.
Paul and P2 - You are both gave great points of view. P2, you could be a lawyer -ha ha. You can never take bias completely out of any social issue - that's just impossible. We live with the outcomes regardless of our personal beliefs.

Person 3 (P3): Can I marry my hermit crab Hermie?

Me: First, I have one important question. Is it cool if I use some of this dialogue for a future blog post? (I won't use your names.) I just don't want to waste all of this writing on Facebook alone. This question also goes for any other participators who might still be reading this stuff.

Thanks P2 for your detailed response. (It's refreshing.) There is no doubt that judges often have political agendas. It's unfortunate that courts have become so politicized, but it is, as you said, probably unavoidable. I'm not sure if the writers of the Constitution had "judicial review" in mind when they set up the judicial branch. It has evolved over time, and you could make a good case that it has made that branch of government too powerful. People only seem to get upset about it, however, when judges don't rule in their favor. I still hold to my statement about the distinction between personal moral codes and legal codes. Since we are not in a theocracy, the Bible cannot be used as a legal book. So all we can do to be fair to people with different beliefs is determine as best we can if a behavior infringes on other people's rights. In a country that claims to love freedom, we should have the freedom to engage in behaviors so long as they do not harm others. Anything else is an attempt to impose your personal beliefs on others. You compared allowing gay marriage to legalizing drug use, prostitution, and incest. Now I could go on for a while about drugs and prostitution. Our society is highly arbitrary in defining those terms. Alcohol and nicotine are legal, and all kinds of people have sex for economic reasons without breaking the law. I think that prostitution and drug use are banned due to some of the negative byproducts associated with them: disease, addiction, human trafficking, abuse, stealing to fund the habit, etc. I tend to think that laws involving drugs and prostitution should be liberalized a bit, but with some legal restrictions to limit some of these "side effects." Incest, however, is a different story. There are measurable negative effects, particularly potential birth defects in any children produced. I'm sure that many psychologists can also demonstrate the harm done when parents have sex with their kids. (I notice that no one has tried to deal with my interracial marriage argument, however.) And P3, I don't think that you can get Hermie to say "I do" or sign the certificate.

P3: use any dialogue you like for future blog posts. If Hermie cannot say "I do" or sign the certificate so that indirectly and unfairly disallow my right to marry Hermie simply because Hermie is physically unable to do the above actions? Isn't that discrimination based on "physical handicaps?"

Me: P2, I missed a couple of your arguments. Some people might be offended if their Christian daughter marries someone from another religion. Maybe we should ban that as well due to the harm it has done. Strip bars are legal. There are just regulations determining where they can be. (There are land use regulations for everything.) So no, I should not be allowed to stick one next door. (Or maybe you just want to ban strip clubs altogether.)

Me: P3, no. A marriage is a legal contract, and as far as I know, animals cannot enter into any legal contracts. So maybe we should ban all contracts due to discrimination (along with strip clubs, marriages that offend any parents, and every form of "sin" that we can imagine.)

Me: I have enough dialogue now. . . .

1 comment:

  1. I wish I could have more of these types of debates. I just dare not do it under my real name nowadays. Unfortunately, my friends who disagree with me strongest have no interest whatsoever talking to me unless they know whose reputation they need to soil after the discussion.


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