The Times We Inhabit

The discussion around the Dumbledore case is profoundly revealing. I posted the following to one participant in the NY Times  discussion. America’s heart is laid bear in these comments. So here’s my response to one of them: 

I read all the comments up to 155 and then I thought: Without doubt this is the most interesting post. So I had to respond.

Alevard, you said:
“Isn’t the one thing that our faith and leaders preach is the acceptance and loving of others? Isn’t God’s love universal? Or does God select whom to love?”

To which I would say yes, great point! In fact, not only is God’s love universal, according to the Christian Bible, “God is love.” Clearly, this is the foundation of a sound discussion.

Then you say:

“Clearly a few of you don’t support homosexuality, and you know what!? that is your right! But, just because in your eyes its wrong doesn’t make it wrong! Love is what it is. An unexplainable force that blankets us all.”

This paragraph amazes me. First, you generously remind us that we all have rights. In fact, people opposed to homosexuality have the right not to support homosexuality.

Then you remind us that nobody has the power to determine what is wrong. Even if I think something is wrong, I might be wrong. This is an essential point that we all need to remember. None of us has the power to base what is wrong on our personal tastes.

Then you hit a home run: “love is what it is.”

No matter what anybody has to say about it, it still exists as what it is. Give it another name, it is still love. Give other things the same name, love is still love.

And what is love? You even tell us that: “an unexplainable force that blankets us all.”

Well, I guess you didn’t tell us. An unexplainable force? I’m stymied.

Is it something that acts on us or is it something we do?

That’s actually a critical question, a little like asking whether we are victims of love or lovers.

It reminds me of Paul McCartney’s interview when he was asked how he felt about all the accusations that the Beatles were corrupting youth. He said something like, “We were singing about love. That can’t be bad, can it?”

Well, Paul, yes it can. Mislead us on love and we’re in serious trouble. If love is what I have for a hot babe at the bar (a somewhat unexplainable force) or if it is the same thing that will enable me to keep my vows to my wife “when I’m 64,” I’d call that a pretty practical real world difference.

The Christian conception of love is not that of a very strong feeling over which I have no control, that I cannot rely on because it will go away or redirect itself when something better comes along, and that makes me emotionally dependent on addictive behaviors.

The Christian conception of love is that at some point I choose to love even when the immediate attraction fades, that I resolve to continue loving “for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health” (i.e. no matter what), and that I will restrict the sexual expression of that love to the person with whom I am covenentally bound “till death do us part.”

Unexplainable? Yes. But we can still distinguish it from what it is not. It’s not about me. It’s about willing and acting for the well-being of the other.

Then you say:

“One more thing, for you parents that hide behind the shroud of “family values” there is nothing in this revelation of Dumbledore that should cause you to fret.”

Interesting phrasing. Why are we “hiding behind a shroud?” What are we hiding from? Your last sentence is only true if you are right, but you haven’t established that yet. Maybe you will below.

“If you take responsibility for being parents and guide your children to understand what is right or wrong (not that homosexuality is wrong) then your kids will grow up to be good people and active contributors to society despite sexual taste!”

But that begs the question. You have determined to tell us what is not wrong, while not allowing us to say what is wrong. That makes it hard for us to know what to teach our children.

One has to ask, and I don’t mean any rudeness, “who empowered you to tell us that homosexuality isn’t wrong?”

If it is wrong, and multitudes of sound ethical thinkers have found reasons to suggest that it is, then it does affect the person’s character. It doesn’t make them pure evil any more than my character weaknesses make me pure evil (I hope).

But, if it is wrong, than practicing homosexuals are doing something wrong when they practice. That would imply some sort of character weakenss.

You continue:
“Isn’t that the bigger picture, raising the new generation to be socially accepting, tolerant and respecting of ALL people.”

Now you are playing unfair. Not only are you insisting that we can ‘t say what is wrong but you can, now you are establishing a whole new moral code by borrowing one element of “traditional values” and making it the new law. Now people shouldn’t be loving, they should be “socially accepting, tolerant and respecting of ALL people.”

I don’t know if you mean anything when you say that, but I think you probably intend to. So I’m trying to figure it out. Do you mean that we should accept, tolerate, and respect everything that everybody does? Or just that we should a, t, and r all people.

The latter is easy when you think of them as the image of God. I’m not sure why a person should feel that way about a blob of protoplasm headed toward the grave.

But I cannot believe you expect us or yourself to accept, tolerate, and respect all behavior. Some behavior is wrong. You said so above. Some is harmful to my loved ones. I won’t tolerate that.

So now we’re full circle. What behavior are we to tolerate? You want us to tolerate what many have regarded as deviant sexual behavior. Why? Because we don’t have the right to say it is wrong.

But by your reasoning, nobody ever has the right to say any behavior is wrong. There is no right and wrong, really, only group’s opinions.

So why are we supposed to follow your opinion? Ours is rooted in thousands of years of human traditions and in what we believe is evidently healthier for the human soul and for human society.

What is yours rooted in?

Then you give us some very wise counsel:

“step up to the plate of parenting! As long as you raise GOOD, CARING an COMPASSIONATE people that should be enough!”

Indeed. But what do the words mean?

“Please people you are always entitled to have your own opinions and views! But make it your OWN! Not something that you were taught or told or preached! Learn the good and the bad with your own wonderful mind and realize that we all live in the same world and strive for the same happiness.”

This is weird and I love you for this paragraph. Thank you for teaching us, telling us what we should do, and preaching your message to us! You have the seeds of a lot of wisdom. I’m serious.

Now think harder and make your thoughts consistent; apply the same standard to yourself that you apply to us, and you will grow to become a very loving husband and a wise father.

Don’t believe what you do just because everybody around you honors you for it. Explore your own human nature and learn its lessons. It flourishes when fed truth, goodness, and beauty. It starves when it feeds on illusions.

Affectionately,

AJ

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9 Responses

  1. By the way, one other thing I would tell my child if he or she told me he or she was gay is, “Thank you for telling me.” I can’t imagine how hard that must be.

  2. On-looker,

    Thanks for your extended reply.

    You asked quite a few questions, so let me answer one of them. If one of my children came home and told me he or she was gay, I would love him or her with all of my heart.

    Based on my experience with other people who are gay, I would examine my actions and my attitudes very carefully to see what I might have done to cause him or her to feel a need to enter what is for so many such a dangerous and painful lifestyle.

    I would ask him or her to forgive me.

    If he or she indicated that I had hurt him or her deeply, I would offer to participate in counseling for myself and for him or her, both for inner healing and for reconciliation.

    I would hope and pray (it would be much to late to teach or request) that they abstain from life-threatening sexual promiscuity (hetero or home sexual).

    I would then pray that they would find healing.

    The thing you might want to consider is that my knowledge of homosexuality isn’t just based on nasty stereotypes. I have known gay people who have yearned and yearned not to be gay. Most of my gay associates associated deep pain with their choices. I have also known at least one former gay who is now married and has children and is no longer gay.

    So I really do believe that for almost every gay man or woman there is a deep, penetrating pain that can be discussed and counseled and healed.

    I am not against gay people. I want for them what so many of them want: healing and joy. I know that for some of them that makes me a hater, but the proof is in the action and in the relationship, not the public rhetoric.

    One more point: on who gave your parents authority to teach writing and wrong to your sister, God and nature did. Nobody else possibly can. Whether they do it well or poorly, it is their duty to each of you to teach you right and wrong. When you are older you will need to determine whether you agree and they will need to honor you as decision makers.

    In the meantime, they have no choice but to teach you what they believe. Everything they do will teach you that. They can hardly teach you something they don’t believe themselves.

    Thanks for thinking with me.

  3. So pretty much what your telling me is, their (my parents) homophobia about my brother will eventually turn my sister gay? I have been “exposed” to my brothers way of living a lot longer then her, and I am not gay. In fact My girl friend can attest to that very nicely. But that is neither here nor there. My sister is right now in a phase that she is making her own friends yet is stll mom and dads little girl (so she still does everything, and believes everything they say as the absolute truth). I hope that when she gets older and interacts w more people, that she will come to see that every person is a valuable member of society. I do fear that my parents aproach to this whole thing will warp her perceptions on many aspects of life. To draw a parrallel on this point i think of members of the KKK, they are told that people of different race and color are lower class citizens and are abominations in the american culture. Now this closed mindedness isn’t it the same mentality that your hosting? I am not calling you a Klan member but, if you cant see the same characteristics here then i am afraid that most of society share the same ignorance and secretly hate everyone for their diferences.
    to answer one of your questions why do i think Acceptance is a core value of christianity and other faiths? Well again, “Do onto others as you want done onto you” This phrase is known as the golden rule and it appears in MANY if not almost all religions. Mainly the 3 that we r learning about in school; Christianity, Muslim, and jewdisum. Now i dont know what it means to you but what is means to me is this. Treat another as i would like to be treated as well. lets see i like to have friends and have fun and be happy. So ill treat others that i meet like that and hopefully that same effect will reciprocate to me. Hmm, wow it works i have friends that enjoy the same things i do and i am (in most aspects aside from my home turmoil) happy. Do you like being treated different or resented or feared or despised? No!? then why do you do it to others? again if you can’t see what i mean then perhaps your not the cool headed person that i sort of respect (and i do) because all your responses have been cool and educated, unlike many others (ie; remember the ladies at my church about harry potter).
    Now as far as my parents teaching what is right and wronge who gave them the final authority to say that my brother is wrong? who gave them or you that right to judge? If i recall from church isnt the only one allowed to cast judgement God? Well thats all for now but let me ask you this final question if one day your child comes to you and says “dad im gay” what will you do? will they instantly become a monster in front of you and despite all the good times and joys they have brought, would you abandon them right then and there? think about that and ill think about what you wrote. ~on-looker

  4. On-looker,

    I appreciate your post. I’m going to take the whole thing at face value and believe everything you posted.

    First, let me express my concern for you and your family. You are experiencing a trauma and I would encourage you not to take sides and close your mind to your parents’ anquish. Don’t be hasty to judge them.

    It’s pretty obvious that this matters an awful lot to them. It’s also pretty obvious that it matters an awful lot to your brother. I’m not in a position to judge your parents actions any more than I can judge the way your brother is handling things – or you for that matter.

    On this question of judgment, let me encourage you to read my two follow up posts.

    A few random questions to consider:

    Can you understand why your parents would be worried about how your brothers choices affect your sister?

    Clearly they are affecting you. Do you understand why that matters to your parents?

    Four questions in particular:

    1. Why do you regard “acceptance” as one of the core principles of Christianity (or any other set of beliefs or behaviors)?

    2. Why do you think I am closed minded?

    3. Why do you condemn your parents for teaching their children what is right and wrong? Do you think it is wrong for them to do so?

    4. How do you go about deciding what is right and wrong?

    I hope and pray that you and your family will find the healing that only the grace of God can bring into an experience like you are enduring.

    Thanks for reading my post and comparing it to the original article.

    Pray for your parents. They are being sorely tested in ways you may not have experienced yet.

  5. I went to the link you provided and I read article 155 by the writer alevard. I then re-read your response and I have to say that you both make strong points.
    My family is in a little turmoil at the moment because my brother told my family that he was gay.
    Now I love my brother very much! As well as my parents, in fact i “honor” them as i should. However what I am now seeing (in my home) is rather horrible. My father “never wants to see my brother ever again” and my mother the Devote Christian has turned her back on my brother and has said to him (her son mind you) “Sir please leave my home, God and myself do not welcome you and your evil here.”
    Now I know that I may be a little young but I do know this, My brother is still the same person I have always looked up to. All the good things he has ever earned and accomplished in school are still his acceivements. Also all the great advise and sound reasoning will always be things I will keep with me forever. Which is why i agree with the things that other person wrote in their comment about the military people and firefighters, just because some of them might be gay are they bad people? Is my brother going to hell because he is gay? Is my brother evil like my parents seem to think? I said before i might be young but I am still old enough to make up my own mind, I will love my brother always. without question.
    I believe in God and I know he loves me. But does he not love my brother anymore and are my parents absolutly correct? I have noticed that more and more people in my church are becoming rather intolorant about this whole gay thing. Its begining to wear me out a lot too. There is even a few of the church ladies that stop a few of us from talking about harry potter because “its satanic”. How am i supposed to become a good christian if these people can’t live up to their own examples of acceptance. And since when is imagination and story telling “satanic”? This reminds me alot about the spanish inqusition that i read in school.
    Another problem i have is w my little sister, my parents are pretty much teaching her to keep away from my brother like an evil stranger. How is that very Christian? My parents are doing the exact same things that the nazi’s guestapo did w their young. teach them that this is wrong and that your way is right.
    Now on the other side i like how you presented yourself but you are no different then the rest of the people in the aspect that your so closed minded. My parents are destroying my family for 1. My dads bias, prejudice and dislike for people of a certain group makes him ignorant in my eyes and 2. my mom’s over exageration and contradictions of her religion are insanely stupid. You will probably disreguard everything i write and it will probably not end up in your postings because you will probably think that i am a young person and i dont know what im talking about. But my friends and i agree that people are good and if your straight, gay, bi, white,black, brown blue or grey if you respect each other and help one another out then we will live in much happier times and maybe even do what God always wanted us to do and live in peace. “Do onto others as you want done unto you” isn’t that how it goes?

  6. This is a point that has been argued in the discussions. Does she even know that D is gay? If she doesn’t say so in the book, is he still? Does she have the right to dictate what is true outside what is written.

    It’s actually a complicated question that I plan on posting about at some point. Here I’ll point out that people have argued about it, which is interesting in itself.

    Authors certainly do have back stories and not only in their minds. For my stories, I have pages of notes for characters that might never even be in the story.

    Is it actually part of the back story? Unless we get to see her notes we’ll probably never know. But what if she doesn’t know anything about homosexuality? What if she is just playing on stereotypes herself? Could she be wrong about whether her character is gay?

  7. and, just to go on record, I have never been a Potter fan… 🙂

  8. Interesting side comment, but I would think that an author does and should have a back story for characters. My understanding is that many authors create far more detail in their minds than they include in their books. So when an author is asked about the back story, they might have things to say.

  9. Besides all this, I’m wondering if an author really has the right to control everything related to his or her story–when it wasn’t actually printed in the book.

    I mean, shouldn’t that be in the realm of the readers’ imaginations?

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