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(Coffee) Shop Talk

Welcome to the shop where I talk about things that go well with coffee, which is almost everything.

The other day I was looking through Amazon.com for books on gay marriage. The topic has been coming up in my life a lot lately, and while I feel personally inclined to support it I want to make sure that my stance on the issue is sociologically defensible. I didn't have much trouble finding what appears to be a fairly objective defense of gay marriage, based on research done in countries that have allowed such for several years. (I'll post about my findings after I've read it.) I had a little more trouble trying to find a good anti- book, though. At first Amazon just wouldn't show any of them to me, probably because my recent search history has been among liberal-ish books, but I remembered that Dr. Dobson of Focus on the Family (http://www.family.org/) had written something on the subject. Assuming (correctly) that he would be anti-, and also assuming (less correctly) that he would give a fairly balanced view, I typed in “marriage+dobson.” Sure enough, up came Marriage Under Fire, along with some of Dobson's advice books on straight marriage. I clicked on Marriage Under Fire and scrolled down to check the reviews. They were as follows. (I don't have time to edit them down, so please feel free to skim.)

Reviewer: Vaughn Roste (Bainbridge, Georgia)

This book is not likely to change any minds. Those already opposed to same-sex marriage here will find only one-sided fuel for their opinions: those in favour (already not likely to read the book) will undoubtedly find the arguments frankly unconvincing. It's completely one-sided; some of his assertions are even patently untrue (that same-sex marriage leads “inexorably” to polygamy (p. 48) is only one example). Read Dobson's list of eleven concerns he has over same-sex marriage:

[If same-sex marriage is legalized]

1 – …it will quickly destroy the traditional family
2 – children will suffer most
3 – public schools in every state will embrace homosexuality
4 – adoption laws will be instantly obsolete
5 – foster-care programs will be impacted dramatically
6 – the health-care system will stagger and perhaps collapse
7 – Social Security will be severely stressed
8 – Religious freedoms will almost certainly be jeopardized
9 – other nations… will follow our lead
10 – the Gospel of Jesus Christ will be severely curtailed, and
11 – the culture war will be over, and the world may soon become “as it was in the Days of Noah” (Matt 24:37) (pp. 47-64)

Dobson failed to convince me on every single one of these points. His assertions are alarmist and his book merely an attempt to fear-monger Christians into political action. It was obviously produced too quickly to be well-edited (for example, is the subtitle “Why We Must Win This Battle” as on the cover or “Why We Must Win This War” as on the title page?). It's also just a compilation of what Dobson has already said, in other publications and elsewhere. Frankly, I view this as a money-grab by Focus on the Family (an accusation such evangelical Christians should be familiar with). Why would you buy this book when you can surf the net and get all of this information for free?

Reviewer: catwoman “Lutheran Feminist, Avid Reader” (rochester, mn)

I picked this book up at my local Christian bookstore to get an understanding of the kind of theology that is behind the issue of homosexuality. I trust that Dobson is a man of faith and I trust that he really does seek to provide a scriptorally based attitude about world issues.
However I found that the book was full of slippery slope logical fallacy. Is it really homosexuality that is to blame for the problems that are in the world? Why are we so concerned about pointing a finger at people that are homosexual and in our own congregations there are people that are heterosexual dealing with the sins of cohabitation, premarital sex, abuse, divorce, alcoholism within heterosexual relationships???
I must admit that while I agree with the point in which Dobson started I think that we need to be concerned about taking the log out of our own eye first! What are we as heterosexual Christians doing that is sexually impure?
Also, shouldn't we blame the problems of the world on the nature of sin instead of demonizing one of the particular kinds of sins into an “us” and “them” category?? This dangers the Christian community as well.
I actually went back to my college Christian Ethics text book as it had more substantial biblical and theological research behind not only a theology against homosexuality but also a theology that embraces homosexuality as well. And both arguments in the textbook were more logical and better researched.

Reviewer: nevadagrl435 (Utah USA)
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)
I'm writing this review as someone who is straight, and of whom is neither Republican nor Democrat. I'm one of those middle ground people who finds themselves on a fence, with family members, coworkers and friends trying to entice me to join their side. Never in my life have I been torn between both sides as much as I have over this particular issue. I was in the store the other day and saw this book there and bought it. Knowing that it was right-wing (possibly bordering on Libertarian) But I have read pieces of literature from this author, and figured that I would give him a chance to air his views. After all, I have read all of Michael Moore's books.

What you get here is a primer on the issue of homosexual marriage. In the opinion of Mr. Dobson, homosexuals want more than they are asking, they just haven't said anything yet. He also cites some rather interesting cases in Utah, where I currently live. Apparently there is a polygamist citing the same case as the homosexual community as the basis for his right to have multiple wives. While Mr. Dobson does have a strong argument, I found some of his arguments to be a tad exaggerated. He feels that if homosexual marriage is legalized then our society will find itself in moral decay. He claims that children will not have parents. He cites the current situation in Sweden and the Netherlands for this argument, bringing to light several statistics showing that most children are born out of wedlock and don't have both parents to take care of them. He also mentions that one homosexual couple is incapable of raising a child. However, all the information on this subject matter that I have seen shows that not only do children not do well with homosexual parents but they also do not do well in foster homes, being raised by other relatives or being raised by single parents. The ideal happily married couple is kind of dying out in our society, but he fails to mention this much, either.

Dobson has some nice arguments. I do not feel that gay marriage should be legal in this country. But his book, like many others by religious individuals, tends be biased a little and has the author's views and experiences in it a good deal of the time. I applaud Mr. Dobson for writing this book, but there are times when I did not quite agree with his statistics and there were times where he left out other statistics. There were other items mentioned in this book that surprised me, statistics that I could verify, such as changes to the law in Canada and California, and Dobson's own experiences with the gay community. An overall good effort, worth four stars.

That last reviewer with the four stars was the only moderate one out of twenty-two. The rest gave either one star and mentioned that they wished they could put no stars or gave five stars and put in a rant about gay marriage, often including several extraneous exclamation points and words in all caps. That disturbs me.

I grew up with Dr. Dobson. I learned about the birds and the bees with the help of Preparing for Adolescence, and my parents have read several Dobson books. They still get all their movie reviews from the Focus on the Family website. Of course, I and everyone who knows about him knows Dr. Dobson's religious leanings, but I'm just now starting to realize how far right his politics are. And anyone, especially someone with such fame and influence, who will twist or neglect research to justify his own ideas and then try to pass himself off as a voice of judicious counsel kind of gives me the heeby-jeebies. It scares me when I realize how much some people I know trust Focus to inform them about current issues. The information on the website, at least that which I've read, can come off as reasonable and valid, especially if you agree with it already, but it's so important to get information from the other side, no matter what side you stand on. Getting info with multiple slants to it is the only way I know of to figure out what the reality is under the slants. Sorry if I'm preaching. I'm really just sad to be disillusioned again.

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