Tag Archives: tolerance

Je suis Comfy

In the aftermath of the attacks on Charlie Hebdo’s offices, social media filled up with images and hashtags proclaiming solidarity with the victims and the importance of free speech. Yes, perhaps the act of drawing a caricature of the Prophet of Islam might be offensive to many, but that offense did not justify brazen violence and murder in retribution.

The countries of the West always love to proclaim the value of freedom, especially freedom of speech. Yet the conversation changes more and more toward: “Freedom of speech is an essential foundation to civilized society, but…”

That “but” is the problem. 

 

From the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha. The artist must not have gotten the memo about drawings of the Prophet… pretty sure that’s white out.
 
Garland, Texas is fresh on my mind even if most of America has moved on to the new royal baby or whether or not Tom Brady and the Patriots were punished enough for Deflategate.

It’s on my mind because of news reports that cast the failed attackers as the victims and the event organizer as the true villain. It’s on my mind because of opinion pieces that question whether this sort of free speech is really an American value. It’s on my mind because the reaction–not to the violence but to the expression that supposedly instigated it–flies in the face of my experience of what it means to live in a pluralistic and tolerant society.

Tolerance and pluralism do not excuse blaming and shaming the targets of attempted murder.

But victim-blaming works for news stories, like the headline: “Pam Geller won’t apologize for event that ended in 2 dead.” As though their decision to attack and attempt murder was completely taken out of their hands the moment the event was announced. Maybe she should apologize for failing to die in a hail of gunfire along with several cartoonists and the Dutch politician that also attended?

And it works for op-eds that argue “that’s not the kind of American values we want to encourage.” Yes, free speech and all, we’re told… but not THAT sort of free speech, because it offends sensibilities. (Forget that plenty of other free speech offends plenty of other people’s sensibilities, but it’s still protected because that’s how this works.)

We even have world leaders like the President and the Pope giving this argument some weight. 

When the President says “The future must not belong to those who slander the Prophet of Islam” then it makes one wonder. Who does the future belong to? What level of critique or even satire is acceptable? What other religious figures are equally off-limits?

Yet the name of the Christian savior is most commonly heard as a form of profanity. “Jesus Christ, did you see what that other driver did?” The figures of Christianity are regularly made into caricatures believers rightly call blasphemous. No one’s name-dropping Buddha or Mohammed as a swear word.

I see multiple episodes of South Park with a soft-spoken Jesus Christ running a public access show to announce his return. A quick Google search gave me pages of image results from the show as well as links to the wiki describing Jesus as a regular guest apperance.

But the show’s creators made one episode with one segment several years ago depicting Mohammed and giving him a taste of the same biting wit they regularly employ against everyone and everything else. And that show has been removed from Comedy Central’s archives and blocked from (easy) access online because… why? 

Surely it’s not out of respect or concern that “these aren’t the sort of American values we should encourage.” Otherwise, all those Jesus episodes should likewise vanish. So… what’s the difference between the two circumstances?

When the Pope responds with (and I paraphrase) “if you make disparaging remarks about my mother, you’re gonna get punched in the face,” he admits that sometimes violence is an acceptable response to words we don’t like. Then it’s hard to deny that there must be some cases where this logic justifies taking action. Maybe it’s in response to words we don’t like. Or drawings, or belief systems, or lifestyles, or being female.

This line of thinking matches well with a different (arguably) religious figure: ISIS propagandist Junaid Hussein. His statement in response to the attempted attack in Garland was, “If there is no check on the freedom of your speech, then let your hearts be open to the freedom of our actions.”

It echoes Muhammed Atta’s false promise to the passengers on the hijacked plane: Just stay quiet, and you will be okay.

I’m not okay with that. We’re finally growing past excusing violence based on the victim’s behavior and characteristics in many segments of American society. And by growing past, I mean more of us are more vocal about calling out and condemning that sort of misplaced shame. 

We’re not there yet. But fewer people buy lines like, “Look at her short skirt–she wanted it” as an excuse. We won’t let a husband claim, “she made me hit her because she burned dinner again.” We don’t accept “I thought he might come onto me and it creeped me out” as a justification for bullying homosexual kids. We question the narratives we’re given when use of police force seems unjustly applied. 

And yet, when statements or drawings are deemed offensive by the strictest interpretations of one religion, we fold like paper and shrug. “Yeah, I mean, why would someone do that?  They knew it would set those guys off. It’s pretty rude. In fact, it’s downright un-American. I mean, violence is wrong, and everything. But if they wouldn’t do stupid things like that, then it wouldn’t be a problem.”

Does that sound like someone roaring “I am Charlie” in defiance against unjust aggression and attempts to instill fear? No. Is that a valiant defender of free speech standing up in solidarity with those who have died for expressing their views? No. 

“Just don’t do what we don’t like, and we won’t hurt you” — terms of surrender, not peace, whether the threat comes from Muslims or Christian fundamentalists, liberals or conservatives, whites or blacks, heterosexual or homosexual. 

We can post a je suis comfy hashtag, and call it American values if that makes it more palatable.

But that doesn’t sound like freedom. 

H Words

On Thursday, I sat in the presence of an apparent hate-monger. Worse, I listened to her advice on illustrating, collaborating with writers, and marketing.

I might never have known, without the intervention of the Huffington Post on my google search. The day has been saved, if “saved” is not a word too charged with religious meaning.

The local Christian writers’ group I joined two years ago, the Omaha WordSowers meet on the 2nd Thursday of each month. They have a guest speaker who provides information or personal experience about some aspect of the writer’s journey from creative idea to published work.

Yesterday’s guest speakers were Lori Schulz and Hannah Segura, who talked about the process of publishing Papa’s Plan for Buddy Bee, which Lori wrote and Hannah illustrated.

Papa's Plan for Buddy Bee
A 100% Hate-Free Children’s Book

Lori gave her blog site link, but Hannah only mentioned an online following where she posts some of her art. I searched in hopes of finding her blog or site, since I hope to stay connected with the friends and fellow writers I’ve made here.

Hannah is one of many home-schooled young people I’ve met that challenge old stereotypes of that method of education. She is (like they are) full of vigor and joy, polite, socially at ease, well-spoken, and most of all just plain nice to everyone.

So the first few sites I found surprised me, because Hannah was equated with hate. Some time ago, she illustrated another book written by a different Christian author, on the subject of God’s design for families. A Bible-believing author wrote a kids’ book about marriage being one man and one woman for life, and a Bible-believing illustrator drew pictures to match the story. This came as no surprise to me. It should come as no surprise to anyone else.

That word choice, hate, really bothers me.

Maybe it’s because I am a linguist by profession and a writer by passion, so words and their definitions matter.

Maybe it’s because I know Hannah as an acquaintance, and as trite as it may sound, she doesn’t appear to have a hate-filled cell in her body.

Maybe it’s because I’ve heard the same term used to accuse me of feeling a way I’ve never felt about someone else.

And maybe it’s because I’m sick of rhetorical guerilla tactics, using evocative words to provoke a reaction and “win” a cultural battle without any reasonable discussion.

People throw hate and homophobe (among other terms) around at anyone who bucks current public opinion, regardless of motivation, regardless of personality. It’s equivalent to creating a minefield around the discussion table. Anyone who tries to say something gets blown up before they can speak their mind. Nobody wants to be affiliated with hate. No one wants to be associated with a homophobe.

The target changes from discussing a cultural, political, or religious position to attacking an individual person.

Worse yet, if one’s intended purpose is to convince the opposition to reconsider their view, attacking them as individuals shuts them down.

“You’re full of hate.” If I don’t feel hatred toward anyone, this makes me defensive, eager to absolve myself of crimes I don’t think I’ve committed. It doesn’t help me hear opposing views.

“You’re a homophobe.” If I am not afraid of homosexuals, if I’m not one of those who says, “Eww they’re icky” and acts all disgusted, then once again I will feel the need to object instead of open up to a different point of view.

“You’re too close-minded,” I’ve heard people say when confronting so-called “hate.” Yes, I think, because you’re closing them down by attacking instead of opening them up by connecting.

That sword definitely cuts both sides of this cultural debate. I hope we all want to be above that sort of thing, whichever side we’re on.

Nobody gains anything from a discussion that never happens.

I’m a fan of understanding, of seeing from the perspective of the other. I have said and done many things out of ignorance, and my responses over the years on the subject of homosexuality are no exception. Thankfully, I’ve had the benefit of friends and even rational opponents who take the time to open my eyes to their point of view while demonstrating willingness to listen to mine.

So what helps that take place?

First, avoid assumptions.

Some hate and fear is obvious, but not all. Jumping to conclusions about what motivates an individual gets us nowhere but angry at each other. If I can’t know that someone hates another person, then ‘hate’ isn’t the right word. If I don’t know that someone actually fears another, then ‘homophobe’ is a poor choice. Build bridges, not walls.

Second, use accurate terms.

Maybe “ignorant” or “unfamiliar” is more appropriate. It’s hard to walk in the shoes of another, and we all pretty much suck at it. So instead of declaring “I know what your kind is like,” how about “Can I tell you what it’s like from my point of view?” Speak to flesh-and-blood people, not emotionless positions.

Let’s trade some hate for harmony.

A Chorus of Consensus

Every once in a while in my social media feeds, something pops up that falls far outside the nice, safe walls I’ve built to keep out all of those people.

You know the sort.

The ones that post all those obviously mistaken political views.

The Facebook evangelists filling your feed with combative sermons, whether they be Christian or atheist.

Unfriending or blocking are easy solutions. And cowardly ones.

Yesterday, I saw a group on social media posting about a “dress up in drag” event on a Pacific military base. The poster and the comments all spoke of how disgusting this event was, and how WW2 vets who fought to secure that particular land must be furious that such a thing is taking place.

I thought back to the lifestyles of my military counterparts when I was stationed there. About some of what is accepted as “the way it is” outside the gate on Friday or Saturday nights. And I thought, “Why are we so focused on this one topic when–if we’re honest–there are a slew of reasons to be concerned?”

Of course, I know, it’s because some sins are ewwy and super gross. And others, well, boys will be boys.

So I posted this comment:

20140304-144825.jpg

Within minutes, after a snarky comment about sex scandals going on in the Air Force, the group blocked my ability to respond and kicked me from the page.

I didn’t even disagree with them; I just called their exclusive focus into question. And that was apparently too much.

This got me thinking. If we’re going to discuss religion or politics, why silence a dissenting voice? What purpose does it serve to insulate and isolate ourselves into safe little bubbles of like thought?
Why not engage those who disagree? If a particular case or point of view is so good, then make it, and let it be compelling on its own.

When all I hear are voices of agreement, I lose sight of the bigger picture. I become blinded to problems and flaws that are easily glossed over in the chorus of consensus. Vision and creativity are stifled; there’s no need to think outside the box because everything is just fine inside it.

That’s why it’s so crucial to be willing to listen to another point of view, even if–especially if–the message isn’t what I want to hear.

This shortsightedness can happen in business, in the workplace, or in any social group. But most often, I’ve seen it take place among the religious and the political. We can be so invested in the truth and the rightness of our cause that we sometimes become willing to overlook the flaws in our logic, the missing facts in oversensationalized stories, and the nuances of navigating a stormy sea of religious and political debates.

It’s human nature to find refuge and security by surrounding ourselves with those who see things the same way. That’s the basis for societies.
But we have to be open enough to consider the views of an outsider, or to allow a second thought about whether we’re entirely correct in our viewpoint.

This is especially true of the church. While I’m not advocating picking theological positions by polling data, I’m saying we need to be aware of what is taking place outside the safe world of all things labelled ‘Christian.’

Hiding behind walls to keep out the opposition doesn’t make us right. It makes us childish. Kids holding our hands tightly over our ears, yelling, “I can’t hear you! La la la la la!”

If we only listen to those who agree with us, we’re on a path to ignorance and irrelevance, stagnant water in a swamp instead of living water flowing out to the world.

Doubleplus Ungood Thoughtcrime

For the sake of future celebrities, CEOs, and spokespersons, I have a risk management proposal. I suggest the following application for anyone in a public position:

1)      Do you support same-sex marriage and consider same-sex sexual activity morally acceptable?
Yes? Continue to question 2.
No? Please sign at the bottom and turn in the form.

2)      Do you intend to positively advocate, in the form of advertisements, announcements, or personal interviews, for same-sex marriage and activity as well as the LGBTQ community?
Yes? Continue to question 3.
No? Please sign at the bottom and turn in the form.

3)      Are you free of the influence of any deeply held personal beliefs?
Yes? Congratulations, your application is complete.
No? Please sign at the bottom and turn in the form.

I, the undersigned, accept disapproval for consideration for this position through no fault of the employer based on the above.
Sign: ___________________

Based on recent events, tolerance is not enough. Acceptance is not enough. Only full-fledged outspoken public support will do. Anything else means you’re a homophobic bigot.

If your pasta or fast-food company isn’t making ads for same-sex couples, expect questions. Because pasta, chicken, and every other product on the market is all about the same-sex marriage debate. If you’re a star in an ongoing reality TV show and you express an unapproved but entirely expected opinion, prepare for indefinite suspension.

Corporations are willing to make millions off you in the short term, while cringing on the inside saying, “Lord, please let them not get asked about gay marriage today so we can keep raking in the cash.”

But eventually, the disgusting hypocrisy of such corporations might cost too much, making even huge short-term gain unprofitable. Thus, the litmus test err application I have provided above.

Your tolerance is required. Our tolerance is on back-order.
Your tolerance is required. Our tolerance is on back-order.

The message is clear. There is an unwavering standard. There is no acceptable form of dissent on this issue, no expression of disagreement respectful enough, no divergence from the correct position:

You must not think ill of homosexual activity. You may not speak ill of it. Your mere acceptance only buys you time until you are caught expressing homophobia. Your tolerance is allowed but will not be returned.

Homophobia is thoughtcrime; violators will be prosecuted.

Only in the court of public opinion.

At least, for now.

See what Phil Robertson actually said. Crass, yes. Hateful, no. Homophobic? Not at all, unless we redefine the word.

Pasta Politics

So there’s trouble boiling over in the world of noodles.

The chairman of Barilla Group said there’s no plans for the company to have same-sex family pasta ads. His comments are attracting lots of negative attention, and his apology is viewed as hollow and insincere by some.

To which I ask, do we need same-sex family pasta ads? I understand debate on marriage rights, on legal benefits, on laws that discriminate. I understand frustration with how the LGBT community is treated in certain places and certain circles, and outcries against violence. I am outspoken among my Christian friends about the vitriolic and disproportional manner in which the church in general responds to homosexuality. I even argue with folks like the Southern Baptist Convention concerning their policies for chaplains in the military, delineating which service members defending our country can receive ministry and care from a chaplain and which cannot. So while I am probably considered no friend to the homosexual community due to my faith, I still fight for them in several ways.

But this one I just don’t get.

It’s pasta.

It's obviously the ravioli
Can YOU pick out the pasta of hate?

Is there gay pasta and straight pasta? Wait, don’t answer that. Yes, there is straight pasta.

But is pasta the battlefield on which issues concerning homosexuality should be fought?

Is there an activist watching TV somewhere, checking off companies that include a same-sex couple in at least one ad? Is one ad enough? Or do you need two?

In a minute, I’m going to drive my Ford minivan to band practice. I’m going to play a Korg piano. The whole time, I will be paralyzed with fear, because I just don’t know if Ford or Korg have ads that show non-traditional families and same-sex piano playing!

I mean, I look around the room and wonder what other bastions of advertising prejudice I might be supporting. I have a Logitech mouse and I’m typing this on an Alienware laptop. Do they have same-sex ads showing a couple using their Logitech products? Are there ads for homosexuals using Alienware computers?

Do there need to be?

Come on. This is Chik-fil-A all over again. And we know how that turned out: a tidy profit for the “purveyors of hate.”

I’ve eaten at Chik-fil-A. I’ve eaten Barilla pasta. I’ve tried other places and similar products. At no point did I find myself exposed to hatred, nor have I been motivated to look down upon the differences of others.

Sometimes a product is just a product.

Fight the battles worth fighting.

Die a Log

There’s a tactic of discussion that drives me nuts. Take any social topic, and start out with name-calling against your opposition.

“So and so is a bigot.”

“She’s a racist.”

“He’s a misogynist.”

Because clearly any difference of opinion is exactly the same thing as hatred (animosity, hostility) and intolerance (an unwillingness to endure without repugnance the existence of something).

It’s an incredibly lazy way to approach social issues. It’s judgmental, it’s making assumptions about the motivations and the thoughts of another person – something we cannot accurately and objectively determine – and treating those assumptions as fact. It’s the pot calling the kettle black.

When you call folks out on this disparity, they love to declare “I won’t be tolerant of intolerance.” It’s ok to judge the judgmental. Disregard the fact that almost all virtues are revealed when we demonstrate them toward others, and especially regardless of how the other party behaves. Compassion is no virtue if I’m only concerned about those who are concerned about me. Integrity is useless if I’m only honest with those who have been faithfully honest. If you love only those who love you, what’s special about that?

Call these folks out (or just wait a minute while they sputter in self-righteous rage) and then you’ll hear “I don’t want to debate beliefs. Everyone can feel the way they feel. I just wish people wouldn’t shove their beliefs in other people’s faces.”  (Right, like when you claimed anyone who disagrees with you is a bigot/racist/misogynist/ignoramus.)

So in other words, don’t discuss ideas. Even though these differences of opinion form the foundation of multiple debates on social and political policy in our country, let’s not “shove our beliefs in anyone’s face” or discuss our differing perspectives.

Just close off in your little bubble, surrounded by the comfort of assenting voices, hearing only the praises of those who would have you conform to their view. Never let an outside opinion challenge your ideal world, and advocate the value of standing up for nothing, since apparently there’s no topic worth discussing, no argument worth making or defending, no person worth persuading to your cause.

People today — not all, but far too many — are content to live in a cozy little isolated fortress of solitude. Let not some strange concept or disagreeable thought intrude upon this idyllic fantasy! There is no need for dialogue! It would be a shame to have to think.

Conditional Virtues

whatthePatience is a virtue.

And so are a lot of other things, it turns out.

Ancient Greece had four cardinal virtues: temperance, prudence, courage, and justice.

The Church has three: faith, hope, and love. Alternatively, some look at “the fruit of the Spirit” Paul put down in his epistles: love, joy, peace, patience, kindess, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

Buddhism has its Noble Eightfold Path, Hinduism its Dharma or moral duty, Islam has a long list derived from the Quran, and so on.

Even Ben Franklin, no particular bastion of religious devotion, had his own list of moral virtues.

The key to virtues is that, without fail, they are meant to be practiced regardless of how someone else behaves.

We treat others with love even if they are hateful. We respond with kindness when someone snaps at us. When others would be arrogant, we strive to be humble; when others prove unreliable, we demonstrate diligence and faithfulness. Self-control and temperance do not depend on how wild or disciplined someone else may be.

We practice these virtues because they help us be our best selves. They give us the tools to respond to life’s struggles and difficulties with grace, maintaining dignity in spite of opposition.

Now our society is dealing with the debate over same-sex marriage and whether to recognize it as a right in America. Pitting long-standing religious traditions against the ability to openly express love and fidelity – that’s not just a spark near the fireworks. That’s a nuclear meltdown in progress. The trouble is there’s also a lot of prejudice and ignorance on the religious side, and there’s a lot of defensive lashing out due to past hurt on the same-sex marriage side – understandably so. On top of all that, there seems to be enough hate on both sides to go around.

Which is especially sad since we’re all supposedly talking about expressions of love.

There will always be political disputes and debates, but there doesn’t have to be so much vitriol in our rhetoric.

That brings me to this popular virtue I keep hearing about, called Tolerance.

Tolerance has come to mean that we must not only accept differences in others but also approve of them. When we speak of tolerating a thing, we simply mean acknowledging it, accepting the fact of its existence. I have pain in my foot following surgery. I can tolerate the pain. That doesn’t mean I approve of it. Even the term “acceptance” gets used as if to say “endorsement.” I accept marijuana is used throughout the United States and is even legal in some states. I do not endorse its use.

Equality means treating everyone with respect.
Equality means treating everyone with respect.

Treating each other as equals means tolerance is not a one way street.

If tolerance is indeed a virtue to which we should aspire, then it cannot be limited to those with whom we agree. We cannot demonize the other side as if everyone is either Westboro Baptist Church or NAMBLA. We cannot jump to conclusions and rush to judgment about what motivates supporters or opponents of same-sex marriage.

No, I don’t believe the activists are out to destroy the families. Most of them are just trying to have a family of their own. And no, I don’t believe most of the opponents think anyone is less than human or not worthy of dignity and respect, contrary to popular belief. Yes, there are too many bad apples. We tolerate their right to speech, even ignorant speech. And we counter their ignorance with prudence, temperance, and respectful disagreement.

We cannot justify intolerance and hatred toward others because “they were intolerant first.”

That’s not how virtues work.

“Do to others as you would have them do to you. For if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?” 

Likewise, if we only tolerate the tolerant, then what sort of virtue is it?

We’re always going to have important discussions in America, on subjects where both sides are very passionate. We owe it to ourselves to focus our energy on the viewpoints, not the participants… on virtue, not venom.

Non-Traditional Family

“We’re fighting for the traditional family, the mainstream marriage, the moral foundation of our society. We can’t permit marriage to be redefined by anyone’s agenda, so we’ve got to fight to protect the fundamental building blocks of society.”  — any randomly selected opponent of gay marriage

This is the "For People Like Me" liferaft. Find your own.
This is the “For People Like Me” liferaft. Find your own.

Our church is going through a series called “Healthy” as we try to discover how the Bible applies to a holistic, holy and whole life. Sunday’s sermon was about conflict, and healthy ways of dealing with it in order to maintain and strengthen our relationships with those around us.

Relationships are messy, difficult, and absolutely necessary. Community is hard work, but it’s essential. And in the context of building community and developing a sense of “family” in the church, the pastor spoke about the current status of families in America.

Consider these numbers:

1 in 2 children live in a single-parent family at some point.

1 in 3 are born to unmarried parents.

1 in 4 kids live with only one parent.

1 in 8 were born to a teenage mother.

1 in 25 children have neither parent in their lives.

68% of children in America live in non-traditional families.

These stats got me thinking…

How “traditional” are so-called traditional families?

What exactly are we working to defend when we protest gay marriage? What point are Christians making when they gloat over a homosexual dying of AIDS as “the due reward for their sin”? What good is being done for society as the church-in-general fights against this one issue?

The usual justification is that we must stand for traditional marriage and traditional families. I’ll refer you back to those stats. Traditional marriage is pretty well gone in America, just like Leave It To Beaver and black-and-white TV. This isn’t what “the gays” are doing to marriage. This is what all of us traditional heterosexuals have done to it.

Men who are little more than sperm donors skip out on their responsibilities, leaving the child-bearing and child-rearing to the single mom or teenage mother. In our rabid defense of traditional marriage, are we chasing down single mothers and telling them that their exhaustion and sacrifices are the “due penalty of sin” they committed? God forbid! I don’t think even Westboro stoops that low.

Selfishness drives spouses apart, and lust disguised as love excuses divorce and remarriage. But we don’t hold up signs and chant slogans at the woman on her third husband, or the man with a new “younger model” spouse who leaves behind an ex-wife and some children. Sure, we probably judge them like good religious folk are supposed to… can’t let them get away thinking they’re ok, after all. Gotta heap on the condemnation with dirty looks and cold distance in church.

But we’re not picketing them or campaigning for laws banning remarriage. We’re not railing about the destruction of our moral fabric at the hands of every non-traditional heterosexual couple.

I guess what I’m getting at is this: maybe we’re past the point where “traditional” really matters.

I mean, it’s nice to think about, of course, in the same way that it’s great my kids like to watch Beaver and I Love Lucy. We think fondly of tradition for good reason. But tradition isn’t what we see in the world around us, and we need to stop fighting to make it so.

When the Titanic hits the iceberg and starts taking on water, when the design flaws are exposed and the ship is going down, it’s a bit late to go to the shipwright and tell him how wrong all his plans were. There’s no point drawing up new blueprints or editing the old ones to fix what went wrong. Really, after a certain point, baling water is no longer an issue either. The problem is past that point.

The ship is sinking. Stop laying blame and start handing out life-jackets.

When we practice water survival for the military aircraft I fly on, latching on to the other survivors is one of the first steps we take once we’re in the water. Then we work together to get to a life raft.

What if the Church-at-large stopped picketing the design flaws in our society and stopped pointing at those floating and flailing in the water? What if we made it our mission to latch on to people in need, to cling to them with arms of love instead of looks of judgment?

What if we admit the ship has taken too much water and just focus on handing out the life-jackets, grabbing hold of the reaching hands that want help? Maybe we can start working together to find and build places of refuge where we can minister to people’s needs. Maybe we can show love and acceptance as the very first and ideally the very best non-traditional family out there – without changing our morals, but without using them as weapons, either.

There’s no room on a life raft for a picket sign.

The Mirror

For a Monday Morning Snack, here’s a short piece about mercy and judgment.

The Mirror

I looked out the window at the world, angry at all the injustice.

Then I looked in the mirror, ashamed at all of my own.

I looked out the window at two men in love, and my religious beliefs rose in offense.

I looked in the mirror, saw how little I love, and I was humbled.

Outside I saw greed ignore need and I was enraged.

Inside, I saw my own selfishness, and I was appalled.

I looked out the window at passion paraded and praised, and I stood in judgment.

I looked in the mirror at my lust and desires, and I cried for mercy.

I looked out and saw people reject God’s word, and I thought them foolish.

Then I saw my life contradict my professed beliefs, and I was disgraced.

I looked out the window at everything wrong, and asked, “God, what are You going to do about this?”

Then I heard Him respond, “I gave you a mirror.”

Think of the Children

I’m usually a pretty calm person, especially when it comes to dealing with other people. It takes a lot for someone to really get under my skin.

I do have my moments. Technology that doesn’t do what it’s supposed to, for example, is like turning on a flamethrower in my chest. (I’m looking at you, Microsoft products, with all the ways you try to ‘help’ me by complicating the simplest tasks.)

My dog peeing everywhere, just brazen and unashamed. Yeah, that gets me ‘perturbed.’

But mostly, I keep calm and drink my coffee.

One thing that does get on my nerves is when people spew venom in the name of Christ.

I really hate it when they use children as their excuse.

I really, really hate it when they look right past their own faults to point at the faults of others.

You can’t expect mercy for your sins while proclaiming judgment on everyone else’s.

(I probably hate that because I’m often guilty of that myself.)

So… at some point or other I got signed up for a “defend marriage as one man and one woman” page on Facebook. I only recently noticed some of the stuff they post in pursuit of their cause.

I’ve gotten into it with the faceless individual(s) behind the page. Every now and then, someone says something completely asinine, and I feel compelled to share a reasonable voice with a logical counterpoint to the ignorance. It would be one thing if people were having thoughtful discussions and clarifying how their beliefs intersect with government and freedom and tolerance and all that. Most everyone I know is willing to admit we may not all agree, but we can disagree in a civil manner and hopefully all learn something from the debate.

Not everyone seems so inclined.

This little tragedy of grammar and graphics got posted on my wall today:

I’m not posting this because I agree with the image. First off, I can’t agree with incorrect word choice and terrible cut-and-paste graphics…

I don’t know why, but I happened to read the ten comments on the picture.

It was like a religious frat party, with people giving each other textual fist bumps by reminding everyone about God’s original plan for marriage and how sad it would be when the child eventually says, “I wish I had a father.” Someone ridiculed the smiling faces, conveying the tragic nature of this hypothetical union and its dangerous impact on the child’s development. Someone simply responded with, “Oh, barf!!!!!”

I’ll leave aside the fact that there are children being raised by gay couples around the world and not all of them are collapsing under the burden of self-loathing or grief. Both sides will point to various “experts” with studies that “prove” that gay couples raising children is “no harm done” OR there is irreparable damage. Whatever. Let’s just agree that there are a lot of kids out there who are going to grow up with two mommies or daddies (yes, this is a proper time to use the plural ‘daddies’).

And they’ll be just fine.

There was one voice of reason, who made the outrageous and satanic comment that “Making fun of gays is not going to help. This is a serious issue and a heated debate which deserves a thoughtful response. Insulting people is only going to burn bridges.”

One voice out of ten.

You can’t hear my sigh, but trust me, it’s a long one. (My wife can attest to this.)

The response from the page?

“We don’t believe putting adult lusts above the needs of children deserves consideration.”

Those dirty gays, sacrificing the souls of impressionable young kids on the altar of desire! /sarcasm

Full disclosure: I’m Christian, if you didn’t get that yet. I believe what the Bible says, though I understand a lot of it comes down to interpretation and theological debate. And the Bible seems to clearly identify homosexual activity as a sin.

But that’s not all it addresses.

What do I mean by that? I’ll let my response on Facebook to that picture speak for itself:

“Putting adult lusts above the needs of children is terrible, but people do it all the time. It’s just their sins are heterosexual. Or perhaps just gluttony, or alcoholism. Maybe it’s simple neglect. Maybe even it’s how some parents worship their work or ministry by devoting all their time and attention to those things while forsaking their responsibilities to their children.

“Maybe it’s the arrogance of adult Christians who forget that they’re looking down on the needs of some children out there, children who think they’re gay, who know they’re different from most everyone else, who absolutely know without any doubt that the Church is the very last place they’ll find love or acceptance (and I don’t mean acceptance of sin, but acceptance of them as a human being worthy of Christ’s sacrificial love expressed through us).

“Maybe our need to communicate how disgusting homosexuality is gets in the way of God’s desire to communicate to THEM how incredibly powerful and merciful and life-changing His love is, and maybe it gets in the way of His desire to communicate to us that in His holy sight all our sin is just as repulsive and ‘barf-worthy’ as theirs. ‘Love the sinner, hate the sin’ doesn’t mean much if we don’t do it.”
I don’t want to abuse God’s mercy or call sin ‘righteous.’ That’s not within my purview.

I haven’t torn out any passages in my Bible that claim homosexuality is a sin.

The difference is that I’m paying attention to the rest of the passages too.