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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This Dumbledore thing

Like many, I’ve been following the reaction to Rowling’s “outing” of Albus Dumbledore with bemusement and some wonder. It seems to be a social event of some signficance and one worth thinking about from many angles. I expect I’ll be doing that for the next little while, because I can’t possibly contain the various tracks in a single blog post. A lot of questions arise from this event: the role of the author, ethics, education, parenting responsibilites, values, etc.

Maybe the best place to begin would be to make as clear as possible my understanding of what actually happened. Here’s how Publishers Weekly described it:

 In answering a query about whether Professor Dumbledore had ever fallen in love, she said, “I always saw Dumbledore as gay,” causing screams and a standing ovation. Noting the reaction, she added, “If I had known it would make you so happy, I’d have announced it years ago.”

The setting was New York’s Carnegie Hall at the end of a week long book tour in the United States.

So is it a big deal? Even those who deny that it is seem to think it is. “Calm down!” is the excited imperio of frequent commentors on blogs where the issue is being discussed. Here’s a posting from The Lede, in the UK I believe:

Imperio! Everyone- Just calm down.

Rowling was asked a question; she answered. Writers develop full lives for their characters…not everything makes it onto the printed page. Don’t want to know that Arthur and Molly Weasley are into rubber? Don’t ask.

As far as “uncomfortable conversations” are concerned, if this small revelation causes a bustle in your hedgerow, buckle up for the future. Flip the situation. Parents can use Dumbledore as a perfect example of discretion and good behavior in the Romantic Arts.

— Posted by Loam

A bit preachy for someone who wants us to neutralize. Then Loam goes on to show precisely why some people think this is such a big deal.

Whether it provokes an emotional explosion in everybody’s chest, there seems to be no question but that people recognize that something significant took place. At least in terms of peoples hopes and fears.

Andrew Sullivan was ecstatic. It was a glory day for gays. Dumbledore is gay! Dumbledore is gay!

On the other hand, people who hold to what are sometimes derisively called traditional values are suffering angst.

Why? There seems to be a sense that a cultural barrier was breached, that a taboo was broken. Christians have argued for, what, ten years? about whether Potter is wholesome fare. We were wondering primarily about Rowling’s use of witchcraft, which I have felt was naive on Rowling’s part, maybe foolish, but, I thought, not sinister. Many Christians defended Rowling from the attacks of their naive brethren, arguing that she had been presenting the Christian worldview in her writings.

On the surface, at least, that argument would seem to be in tatters. Only in the Anglican communion (I don’t know how the Church of Scotland, of which Rowling was a member last I heard, relates to the Anglican communion) can one call oneself a traditional Christian and still support and defend homosexuality. Christianity has always made sexual purity and fidelity a central pillar of their ethical system. To engage in sex outside of the marriage covenant has always been forbidden by Christian teachings. So, it should be pointed out, has withholding sex inside the marriage covenant.

So the multitudes who hold to the Christian ethical tradition, especially the many, many Christians who defended Rowling, may well feel betrayed. The muultitudes of tolerators regard these Christians as hopelessly naive.

On the other hand, a growing number of global citizens believe that an individual should be able to do whatever he wants sexuality, usually as long as the partner consents. Christians regard this notion as hopelessly naive and the means to a cultural meltdown. They don’t want their children left unprotected in a world that lives that way, feeling that they will be placed in horrible positions.

 In a preceding blog, I wrote about grammar and the war between nature and convention. Grammar is an intellectual area where this war occurs. The conflict over homosexuality is the crucial moral area. If sexuality is defined only by conventions, then nobody has the right to deny the rights of homosexuals. On the other hand, if sexuality is defined by nature, then nature itself may well deny them these rights.

Rowling has come down determinedly and decisively on the side of what she calls tolerance.

This is a very big deal.