Wednesday, April 16, 2014

On common ground

Well, it's confession time, maybe that's what happens when former Catholics start attending Protestant churches, they start blogging haha, or they start going to counselling sessions. I once heard someone offer an insight that modern psychology had replaced the confessional; I think he may be on to something but I think I'll stick with's cheaper lol

My confession of the day is that I got into watching "Desperate Housewives" for a while, and I kind of well, enjoyed it-for a while. I know, I know, shameful behavior. The truth is I didn't see my addiction coming, I just got sucked into the vortex of what I thought at the time was a well-written soap opera. "But it's well-written," I remember saying to my husband in the first season, and that was the beginning....

So I'm somewhere in the sixth season at this point, but I've stopped watching it, mainly because it occurred to me one day that I could watch it to find out what would happen, but it wouldn't matter because inevitably some other disaster would befall the group of four and you'd have to watch it again to find out what would happen the next time, so you couldn't win, once they had you in their clutches. But it was the thought that there may never be a point to this, that maybe the only point was to create drama for it's own keep you running in circles to the remote control, and that's what cured me. So feel free to tell me if you think the show ended up having a point or not at the end of eight seasons, because I haven't gotten there, and may never, I'm cured, remember? What I have found myself wondering sometimes in recent years though, speaking more generally, is whether or not our culture has a point, or if it's just about what sells you raisins and hair products. Is that not what pays the reality staff and the desperate networks at the end of day?

Having said that, there are times when I know the culture has at least one point, because I've seen it repeated in recent years, reflected in the characters and plot developments of shows such as "Desperate Housewives." I don't watch a lot of television, honestly, so I'm not the best judge of this, but it is surprising to me, of the few shows I have seen in recent years, how many of them seem to make a point of supporting gay rights, quite forcefully I might add, through their respective medium of art and culture. Here is where I'd like to ask a question, with my limited viewing in mind. Have you ever seen an example in popular culture, where a clash between gay rights and rights of conscience were dealt with in such a way as to be respectful of both sides? I have not, but again I ask for your imput in this way. I would be surprised if there are many examples out there where both sides are recognized because the examples I see in the media and popular culture tell me that I do not have the right to my personal beliefs.

To demonstrate what I mean by this, one of the puzzling examples of gay rights advocacy that I have noticed involved the onscreen relationship between desperate housewife Bree and her gay son Andrew. Bree is the depiction of an ultra-conservative, gun-shooting Republican, stay at home 50's style mother, really does look like a 50's magazine cover, I might add, beautiful lady, every hair in place, dusted under the doilies 50's ideal personified. Did I mention she's a great cook too, and a great shot. Speaking personally, I'm not a bad cook, but I'm no gourmet. I wouldn't know what to do with a gun. My house is cluttered on the best of days. I've always worked outside my home, and I don't think conservative means the same thing in Canada as it does in the U.S. So I'm no Bree, not by a long shot, but we do have one thing in common, a common substance, if you will. We're both religious conservatives, both devout Christians, and may I tell you that for me, watching this conservative mother v. gay son drama unfold, of all the possibilities that Desperate Housewives offered for unbelievability, Desperate Housewives became unbelievable to me when just as surely as Hollywood insists change is possible, inevitably, Bree too changed her mind on homosexuality.

Imagine that, I thought to myself, a religious conservative who seems to convert to Hollywood's values overnight. What unprecedented drama, but where were the sleepless nights, I would later wonder. Where were the confused calls to her minister or earnest searching studies through her personal reference Bible? Admittedly, there were personal issues and Bree's ongoing family issues, and that's not to be minimized, but that is not what changes the mind of a religious conservative, in case you don't know. Do you know what changes the mind of a religious conservative? Hmmn? Any ideas? Nothing! lol.

We're a stubborn bunch haha, but seriously, this is the point that secular culture does not seem to understand when criticizing religious conservatives. They seem to confuse their own secular point of view, that of equating an unguided evolutionary material process with positive social change, and assume that everyone thinks this way. Everyone else just changes alongside them and the budgies and the antelope with the physical landscape. My question to them, just as an aside, is where is your moral anchor in that unguided natural process? Where is your reference point, if everything is just-changing?

Moreover, how can you judge someone else's ethics or perceived lack of ethics on a target that is always moving? Also, if nature is so deterministic, how is it that you can demand change in the first place from an amargosaurus like me? Did you know there is such a thing as an amargosaurus? There is! I'm officially a dinosaur, in case you didn't know haha. Yet, why does it always seem to be a Christian that is criticized as opposed to, oh I don't know-someone else for a change, without ever acknowledging that it is a Judeo-Christian foundation that the secular sphere is appealing to, namely, that all people are equal in worth and dignity? Somehow, the expectation that the principle of equality is a pillar of our society that doesn't change, though no one seems to know why that is. Thankfully, at one time it was understood in western culture that human beings are created in the image of their maker, endowed with equal worth and dignity and therefore equal rights, this despite modern assertions of an unequal environment and naturalistic competition from which all is derived. In short, I don't think it's an accident that the gay rights movement is happening in the historically Judeo-Christian world first, in spite of the culture clashes that I see all around me.

Allow me to take a moment here, because I've struggled with this post, as I've struggled for several years to write on these intensely difficult and divisive issues. There's the feeling that no matter what you say, and as gentle as you try to be, you're going to be labelled for not saying exactly what you're supposed to say, exactly as you're supposed to say it. I'll never be that person, I'm sorry, but I am willing to listen to different opinions and I do try to leave room for people to disagree with me. My hope is that the average person out there is still reasonable, despite our differences, and in time our laws, grounded in equality, will work through these clashes in the public square. That is what I see in the Brees and the Andrews of our time, two rights groups, here representing religious rights and gay rights, failing to recognize the other. I just wish that the media could begin to represent this issue more fairly, without insisting on demonizing one side or the other.

So here I am, ten years after protesting gay marriage, a social and religious conservative at heart, trying to be helpful in saying that arguing about what the Bible says or doesn't say and calling me a bigot and a hatemongerer never changed my mind, it just made me very very angry. In contrast, what did change my mind about civil gay marriage was understanding the history of how human rights developed in the western world, when I began to equate what religious minorities went through historically with what the gay community is going through now. I began to ask myself, what really is the difference between my right to say "I'm a Christian" with someone else's right to say "I'm gay" without fear?

And I think that is our common ground, despite our differences, our right to see things differently. I found this week difficult. As aforementioned, I've been wrestling with this blog piece for a while. This is my umpteenth crack at it. The other night I had a discussion with someone who for the life of me, we could not agree on anything it seemed, even the things I thought I was agreeing with, if that makes any sense. I spoke to this person privately and I realized that I was reacting to what I fear is a growing institutionalization of political correctness. This person seemed to be reacting to my reaction, and as much and as strongly as we disagreed, when I spoke to her privately I realized that we both feared a return to the same thing-persecution.

Call it a hunch, but I think there is a perception in the west that Christianity is the majority view, and if something is in the majority, or just plain big, you're free to criticize McDonald's and Catholicism and big cars all get it, right? I think many of us have a respective collective memory of persecution, regardless of where we're at now. Few of us have gotten off historically, and while this discussion is ongoing in the U.S. for example, I think many strong advocates of the gay community fail to realize that Protestants well remember what it is to be persecuted for who they are too.

So while we may be the majority or not, I think this is the mistake that the gay community (speakinig generally) is making in how they approach religious conservatives who will never agree with them, and insisting that they agree with them. I think it's part of the reason they have gotten such a backlash from religious communities, when they come across as attacking the things that religious conservatives hold most dear, their families, their personal beliefs, their character, while insisting that they must agree. They have no choice. Can anyone see how that would get the backs up of religious minorities? You must agree with the Pope; you have no choice. You must agree with Caesar, you must you must you must. But we can't! That's what the gay community doesn't seem to realize, we can't agree with them.

But you choose your religion, I didn't choose to be gay. That's the charge, isn't it? Think about this. Did I choose to be born? Did I choose to have a conscience? Do I have a choice in whether I listen to my own conscience? Do I? If you answered yes to the above I'm guessing you're a secular minded person, moving targets, remember? But even the secular minded individual must know on some level that we can't just make our own rules. We can't just crash our car into someone else, or dump toxic waste, we are not the makers of our own reality, are we? Religious people know this very well, we are compelled by something that is bigger than ourselves, a fixed point....we really don't choose the things that we are compelled by.

But what do we do, you may ask? These are the people who are standing in our way! You ask for your rights alongside the rights of other people, not against the rights of other people. What if, rather than saying to religious minorities, you're a bigot and a hate-mongerer until you agree with me -you know what it is to be persecuted for who you are, you went through a holocaust, and so did we, because we were there with you. Do you think that might work better? Can we all agree on one thing -never again. Never again.

I'd like to close with another question or charge that I see regularly from the gay community, also reflected in the popular culture. If you had a gay child, what would you do? What would Bree do? I'd love my child. I don't know if we would always agree on everything, but I would always love my child. I don't know about you, but never have I known a day in my life where I woke up and found everyone agreeing with me. Wouldn't that be wonderful, but in my experience that only happens on television, Andrew and Bree agreeing on the things they most deeply disagree on. What I think would be more true to life is to see people learning to agree to disagree, and respect each other's differences, while continuing to dialogue and have a part in each other's lives. That is really where our society is at is it not? Is that not the test of our diverse modern culture in a globalizing world? Can we learn to constructively dialogue, while learning to leave a space for others who disagree with us?

So, here's hoping for a day when a conservative church or synagogue can advertise for a program offering celibacy as an option to the gay individual without fear, a counsellor can have a varying professional opinion without fear, and the gay individual can go to a church or a counsellor or civil ceremony of their choice without fear, a church can have an openly gay minister or not without fear -if they so choose and where anyone and everyone can have a parade and invite me -and I can go with my children after I'm reassured that people will be wearing clothes and we can all carry signs saying isn't it wonderful -to be able to disagree -on common ground.

Thanks for listening, take care,

M.A. Harvey


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