Sometimes, “Good Faith” Doesn’t Mean Much

(Note: This was originally published at Kiri 4.0.)

Poster for LSSU Day of Silence (used under CC license from Flickr user Gitgat).

So I’m really frustrated right now, and I need to let this out:

Like many queer folks, I’ve noticed a lot of evangelicals trying to rebrand their anti-queer programs as “attempts at respectful dialogue” (thus not-so-subtly implying, of course, that those of us who don’t see our lives and identities as up for debate must not want respectful dialogue). I confess that I am deeply mistrustful of these overtures. Admittedly, I am not exactly quick to assume good faith in situations like this; in fact, on my previous blog, I once wrote:

It doesn’t matter to them that we’ve heard it all before, or that we’ve debunked it all before; they simply have to have their ideas front and center at all times, and can’t stand when they aren’t. And so, they use the idea of “free and open discussion” — because who could possibly object to that, right? — as a way of continuing to spew their horseshit in spaces where it’s not welcome.

(Originally I wrote that about sexist men, but, well, there’s a lot of overlap there…)

And I absolutely do see this happening. I absolutely see that there are people who claim to want “dialogue” with us queer folks when what they really want is to shut us up and/or shut us down. Take, for example, the evangelical counter-protest against the Day of Silence, formerly called “Day of Truth” and now renamed “Day of Dialogue” even though both the message and the method of this protest have changed very little.

Still, I’m willing to believe that even the purveyors of that nonsense are acting in “good faith”, insofar as they are doing what they believe to be right. After all, what’s a little disingenuousness here and there if it leads people to The Truth, right? Heck, I can even believe that some of them aren’t being disingenuous at all, that they honestly think there’s somehow a parity of opinions that makes respectful dialogue possible, and/or that they’re just truly not aware of how they’re hurting folks with their words and actions.

So, evangelicals often argue, if they’re acting in good faith, shouldn’t we acknowledge that? Shouldn’t we avoid incendiary terms like “bigotry” and “hate”? Shouldn’t we just respect their opinions?

Well, when their opinions are that I’m not really a woman, I shouldn’t have the right to change my body, and I shouldn’t have a right to demand that I be addressed as Alyssa… then no. Hell no. I’m not going to respect opinions like that, “good faith” or not. Maybe they don’t feel any hatred, and maybe they don’t mean to be bigots, but the effects of their anti-trans* activism on my life are nevertheless the same.

A lot of us “social justice bloggers” will debate whether and to what degree intent matters in particular scenarios, but pretty much everyone can agree that, if you hurt someone, then you are responsible for having hurt them regardless of whether you meant to or not. Evangelicals, apparently, seem willing to suspend this when attacking us queer folks: to them, their intent is all that matters — the Lord looks at the heart, after all! – and so we should never be angry or unkind to them regardless of how they hurt us, because, well, they didn’t mean to.

My dad always used to tell me, “You may not have meant to, but you still did it!” That’s a thought that evangelicals (like… well, my dad) would do well to consider if they’re really serious about having respectful dialogue about queer issues any time soon.


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  2. You said this very well. I have had that same crazy-making conversation with people, before. It makes me want to scream. I don’t know if they are being deliberately thick, or if they honestly don’t see the disconnect.

  3. An immigrant friend of mine recently requested that his anti gay views be treated respectfully.
    I wondered how he would feel if people asked him to respect their racist views.
    Bigotry is like racism and sexism. Opinions that are bigoted, racist or sexist do not deserve respect and should be treated with disgust.
    Note: I’m not saying the people themselves should be treated badly. But their opinions do not deserve respect!

  4. As a Christian, I want to apologize for this. I used to think I had all the answers (and was “acting in good faith”), but recently my view has changed and now I see that I need to listen to other people whose perspectives and experiences are different from mine- with the intent of actually understanding and loving them, rather than trying to change them into my opinion of what’s best for their life.

    • Thanks. Would that my own parents and sister would do the same. :/

    • This is a good start, but rather an apologizing to queer people, it’s much better that you are vocal and stand up to other Christians who don’t listen. It’s not enough to say that you’re sorry. We need allies who will fight, not just take themselves off the battlefield. I hope you can be one of them.

  5. From personal experience dealing with others expressing problematic views, and also my own growth in terms of becoming more educated about my privilege and ceasing my own problematic behaviors: I feel that someone doesn’t actually have “good faith” unless they’re willing to constructively approach these issues when confronted and show respect and a willingness to understand and learn how their actions may be bad. If that doesn’t happen, there is no ‘good faith’ to begin with.

    TRULY having good faith, in my opinion, might (in the best of cases, at the very least) be a pathway to rehabilitation of problematic mindsets and behaviors. I’ve seen quite a few people who are normally respectful to others say something offensive that they honestly believed to be benign, be criticized, and then consequently correct their behavior and apologize immediately. To me, that is actual good faith, and anything else is probably not. It’s not a pass for bad behavior, but possibly an indication that the person may be willing to correct that bad behavior when approached.

    Now, do I see any of that ‘good faith’ actually even occurring with the actions of conservative “family” organizations? Nope, not now, not ever. There is a definite agenda and the facade of a respectful conversation, and of course, trying to place the burden of proving that queer folks deserve equal rights (as if any ‘proof’ of such would be enough anyway) on those very same queer folk is certainly a pretty solid indication of that.

  6. I should add that I’m wary of those who insist upon their own good faith/intentions relentlessly. I’d prefer such people would simply demonstrate it with their actions instead (that is to say, actually exhibiting respect and a willingness to improve and not simply saying things to make themselves look better, or to appear to be on a higher moral ground).

    That’s also not to mention the potential for silencing (“Stop criticizing me, I didn’t mean any harm,” etc). That in consideration, I don’t think we should be expected to take those who insist on their own ‘good faith’ at their word until they can back it up by actually showing some respect.

    • …yeah, everything you said.

    • (I guess, too, that it’s a consequence of a morality that’s based on strict rules instead of thoughtful principles. Hence, they see nothing wrong with telling all manner of slanderous lies about queer folks, but get mortally offended if you drop an f-bomb, because the latter is “unwholesome talk” while the former is, somehow, not.)

  7. Slackermagee says:

    They are a hostile people arguing in a way that is both ‘good’, in that they aren’t calling for your blood directly, and in faith, as they haven’t really compromised a mite in what they want. They don’t like you, what you represent, or what you stand for.

    Stop talking to them and talk to the undecided. Talk to the unconverted. It might not seem like it but there are still plenty of people who just don’t have an opinion. You can, with eloquence, bring them to the side of equality.

    • It’d be easier to just “stop talking to them” if they weren’t family, fellow students, etc. Sadly, I can’t get away from it.

  8. This was very validating for me to read today. I struggle to be civil to anti-GLBT Christian commenters on my blog who want to keep describing themselves and (their version of) God as “loving” regardless of the impact of their actions. Hello, that’s not love, that’s abusive brainwashing. Well, I could rant for a lot longer, but…yeah, everything you said, ditto.

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