It’s difficult to not be astounded, even dumb-founded, at the things conservatives say when they’re talking about everyone who is not conservative. Thursday morning, the D-News published an editorial by Richard Hancock, a BYU professor, that was completely irrational but which gave a good example of the conservative mindset:
The June 26 decision by a slim majority of our sovereign court effectively to abolish marriage as we know it — I mean real, natural marriage ordered by the capacity of a man and a woman to produce a new human being in need of help becoming a complete and competent person
Nowhere in the Court’s Obergfell decision did it abolish marriage as we know it. Hancock’s rhetorical flourish might be forgiven if the rest of his article weren’t little more than an unhinged cri de coeur. Hancock, whose articles are regularly published by the D-News), launches argue that :
The court’s decision makes plain the chasm that has opened up between those Americans who, like Kennedy, are inspired by an idea of human dignity emancipated from natural and traditional moral restraints, and the rest of us, who still find it much more reasonable to subordinate the boundless demands of “dignity” to the laws of nature and nature’s God.
Hancock imagines that if he believes in one set of values, proponents of marriage equality must believe in just the opposite. The fact that a college professor has absolutely no concept of what other people believe, and apparently no desire to find out, is alarming, but it’s also typical of conservative thought these days. Conservatives assume, as for example, that since they oppose abortion, liberals must be pro-abortion. In this case, Hancock demonstrates a typical conservative conceit- he projects the opposite of his belief onto those who favor marriage equality without actually inquiring what those who favor marriage equality actually believe.
The conservative religious perspective on sexuality can be summed up as “It’s only the fear of consequences that keeps people from misbehaving.” So, Hancock imagines that people who don’t share is morality must believe:
. . . dignity requires that human will and desires be freed as far as possible from all personal and social consequences. The restraints on conduct distilled in the old order of marriage and sexual morality are an offense against this dignity. Any obstacles or limitations that human nature seems to pose to the full expression of this new dignity can be safely relegated to the dustbin of history. Any consequences of the liberation of sexual expression from legal and familial bonds (disease, children without responsible parents, unions without the natural capacity to produce children) can be mopped up by the rational state and by the technological innovations it subsidizes.
Hancock summarizes his moral worldview thus:
We in the other camp are still impressed by the authority of the order God created. We believe flouting this order must produce vast consequences, both personal and social, that no technology and no secular state will be able to manage. Though some, even a majority, may despise the restraints embodied by the old order of real marriage, we will not be able to invent substitutes for the work done by traditional laws and institutions.
The false dichotomy he sets up would be simply amusing if it weren’t so prevalent. The faithful too often assume that because they believe their morals come from God, atheists must by definition be immoral. Hancock here buys into that mental framework. Like many persons, he believes gay people are, by definition, immoral and if they are immoral about sex, they must be immoral about everything.
At a fundamental level, Prof. Hancock’s op-ed exemplifies a line of thinking we see from conservatives all too often. He has no idea what other people believe, and he projects is own mirror self onto them. It can often seem conservatives argue against their shadow selves in public and this op-ed is a prime example. It’s one reason our public debate has become so toxic.