What you need to know
The current mess isn’t a gentlemen’s debate on policy, where one side’s facts are weighed against those of their opponents; it is, instead, a battle between the forces of reason and obscurantism, writes J. Michael Cole.
What a dispiriting state of affairs. As the two camps involved in the battle on whether to legalize same-sex marriage in Taiwan confront each other in yet another round of public hearings today, the opposing camp has continued to escalate its assault, not only against the LGBT community, but against reason itself.
The sad part about all this is that the anti camp, despite calling itself the “silent majority,” constitutes but a small fraction of the Taiwanese public and is primarily a Christian one in an overwhelmingly Buddhist country. Despite this, its members have succeeded in hijacking a process that isn’t only beneficial to Taiwan, but that shouldn’t even have been a controversial one, given public attitudes.
But public attitudes isn’t what the radical Christian groups that have spearheaded efforts to counter the adoption of marriage equality in Taiwan. In fact, in their campaign, those organizations have also dispensed with logic, reason and humanity itself.
Over the years I have cataloged list of claims made by the groups involved in opposing legalization, a litany of warnings to society that doesn’t stand to scrutiny and cannot be corroborated by developments in any of the countries that have adopted same-sex marriage laws, my country of birth included. The spread of AIDS, bestiality, incest, polygamy, rampant crime (including murder), chaos in society, out-of-control abortion, the destruction of traditional families, brainwashing, assault on children, Western imperialism…those are just a few of the supposed ills that would befall society should Taiwan amend the civil code to permit same-sex unions.
With conditions shifting in favor of liberalization, the opposing groups have hardened their rhetoric, coming up with even more confabulatory reasons to explain why Taiwan should not embrace modernity on the subject. In the past week, the main group opposing legalization has reproduced op-eds alleging that efforts to achieve marriage equality are the work of Satan. That particular op-ed, written under the pseudonym 烏漢達, which in Chinese is homonymous with Uganda — where homosexuals live under the constant threat of violence — also claimed that the American Psychological Association is controlled by homosexuals and that therefore its findings, that homosexuality is neither abnormal nor a threat to society, are part of a widespread conspiracy. And today, one of the opponents of same-sex marriage compared homosexuals to…cockroaches, thus completing the cycle of dehumanization and taking the rhetoric dangerously close to that used by various homicidal regimes over the centuries, the Nazis among them.
Of course not all Christian organizations in Taiwan have taken to the streets or the airwaves to spread this kind of alarmism. Unfortunately, the more moderate congregations have been largely silent, ostensibly afraid that they, too, will come into the crosshairs of churches like the Bread of Life Christian Church and other groups whose ideology hews with ultraconservative evangelical movements in the U.S., the International House of Prayer and the Wagner Institute among them.
More considerate voices within Taiwan’s Christian community have also been silenced, often online, by other members of their congregations. As a result, a stridently anti-homosexual and implacably conservative narrative has arisen, silencing less fundamentalist positions within the Christian and Catholic community in Taiwan that, while opposing marriage equality, have nevertheless shown a willingness to explore alternatives.
Thus, the movement that is currently spreading fear and hate across Taiwan through public hearings, websites, Line groups and on the streets of Taipei, has turned into a cult: totalitarian in its views, obscurantist in its behavior, and completely detached from reality, complete with the frequent ululation, bawling, exorcist rites and public displays of religious fervor. I realize it may be impolitic to refer to these groups using such a term, but that’s ultimately what they are, and they should therefore be referred to as such. Its public relations campaign has been a shining example of how such efforts should not be conducted — self-defeatingly preposterous, amateurish at best, and incapable of winning over people who might still be sitting on the fence on the issue.
That, however, doesn’t matter to the organizers, who seem more intent on reinforcing their message with their flock than convincing society with actual facts or arguments. This vertically structured, paranoid and cult-like mentality, and the inability to see the world as it is, means that outside Sunday sermons and rallies, their message has had no traction within society, which has responded with indifference, consternation, and increasingly, ridicule. In many ways, this is reminiscent of doomsday cults like Japan’s Aum Shinrikyo, whose relatively large group of scientist members was so completely disconnected from reality and logic that it was unable, despite repeated efforts and large funding, to manufacture proper instruments of death — in this case biological weapons — to accomplish its nihilist mission.
The current mess isn’t a gentlemen’s debate on policy, where one side’s facts are weighed against those of their opponents; it is, instead, a battle between the forces of reason and obscurantism. And there is no possibility of debate with obscurantists, with a group of people that sees a satanic conspiracy afoot. It’s grand time that we — politicians and society at large — stopped giving them they little oxygen they have left. It’s time this kind of extremist discourse be cast back into the hole where it belongs.
First Editor: Olivia Yang
Second Editor: Edward White