Monday, January 05, 2009

on phobia

A recent conversation and its aftermath have had me pondering on things and trying to figure out why I was disturbed.

First, a dear friend expressed her honest belief that the Bible condemns homosexuality as a sin. The reaction in that particular social setting was for a horrified hush to fall upon the gathering as they waited for my friend to stammer out her understanding of what the Bible says. Most everybody else didn't express their opinion while I looked at my friend and said we have discussed this before and we don't agree... Meanwhile, I had the sense that everybody else was just in an agony to change the subject.

Then, second, I was later informed that some people felt it a shame that in our "politically correct" society, it is no longer okay for a person to be "homophobic" or to express "homophobic" ideas.

That didn't sit well with me either and I have been trying to figure out why. Well, I thunk and thunk and thunk, and I must say, I'm still unhappy about it all.

To be perfectly clear, I grew up in a fundamentalist Protestant household, so I know intimately how the Bible is used in the Christian world to justify a particular worldview. I have personal experience of what Blaise Paschal describes as the way "men [sic] never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction." And it is also unfortunate that in my opinion, having read a lot of recent stuff published by the church I grew up in, not much has changed and I fear there is a lot of truth in the words of Alfred North Whitehead when he says that "The religion which stays in place is the last refuge of human savagery." But that is a sad and disgusting story for another day -- or perhaps never.

However, I digress.

First, as vague and idealistic as I must sound, I do believe there is Something larger than ourselves. That is not based in anything measurable or verifiable. It's just my instinct.

Second, I question the Bible or the Quran or any other Holy Writings as the sum and total of Truth for our time. I can be very comfortable with any of them as being Inspired writings as valid as many writers today who are inspired and inspiring spiritual guides. However, knowing the history of how these writings were collected, edited and cobbled together, one must admit a lot of human frailty has contaminated the Word of God. Also, to me it is sacriligious to limit God to human words which slide all over the place, changing meaning radically from one generation to the next and meaning something altogether different depending on the perceptions of the hearer/reader. God is greater than that, surely!

So, with that in mind, I think it's wrong to club people over the head with hateful beliefs that cruelly place people outside the inner circle of acceptance over a label that may or may not have even existed in the times the Bible, the Quran and other Holy Writings were penned, a label that may have been mis-translated, and a label that only recently has come to mean what it does in our time. (I challenge the fundamentalist Christian or Muslim or whatever to carefully read the history and the social context of those ancient times and the discussions on how the translations have been made and/or how the language has changed over the ages.) And I think it says ugly things to see religion dragging its heels behind --far behind-- the progress of science and culture in becoming more humane and kind.

The other side of that coin is those people who are afraid to speak their minds for fear of not being politically correct.

I think it basically boiled down to what I believe ails most of us in trying to live our lives. We usually act from a set of beliefs we hold without thinking too much about where or how we got those beliefs, or even if they are actually true. In the words of Ernest Holmes, “Practically the whole human race is hypnotized because it thinks what somebody else told it to think.”

Parents can take some comfort during those painful rebellious years of adolescence in the fact that most children continue to believe exactly in those very values they seem to be rebelling against, and when the dust settles, those rebels have in fact become very like the parents they fought against.

James Sire describes this set of beliefs as "...a set of presuppositions (assumptions which may be true, partially true or entirely false) which we hold (consciously or subconsciously, consistently or inconsistently) about the basic make-up of our world."

We usually adopt this world view quite when quite young, learning it from our parents and the society we live within. This world view remains largely unquestioned throughout our lives, our adolescent rebellions often having more to do with power struggles and the struggles for autonomy from parental control, than an actual rejection of the values we were taught.

However, it is this unconscious assumption of our "right" world view that makes us uncomfortable when confronted with new understandings in the realms of science, technology, culture or religion. When we do not understand how our worldview shapes our understanding of the world around us, we find it difficult to adapt to our changing world. We may also find it difficult to understand how others around us can have differing beliefs. Thinking ourselves to be "rightly" aligned with the only world view possible, we can start to believe ourselves unique and above those with a differing world view, often to the point that we demonize them.

As an example, it is appalling to read the history of the colonisers and their attitudes toward the "natives" and the "heathens", whom they considered unwashed, stupid, immoral and uncultured. However, that attitude is still quite prevalent, I assure you, in the more "developed" West when they think of the people in the Third World. Only, like most prejudices, it is usually whispered sotto voce from white European to another, people quite aware that is "politically incorrect" to believe so in this day and age.

How often have I heard people say, "I don't have anything against them, but..." This usually implies some belief or attitude that is disapproving at the very least, and the "but" is always followed by a remark that describes some attribute of "them" that the speaker is offering as proof that "they" are not quite up to par in some way.

Here are the 10 "buts" that I usually hear in reference to homosexuals:

1. What they do is unnatural and disgusting.
2. They are destroying the moral fibre of society.
3. They are destroying family values and the basic building blocks of a good society.
4. They shouldn't be allowed around children or to have children or to influence children...
5. Most of them are doing it just because it's the thing to do in Hollywood; or they are trying to recruit people to the lifestyle; or people choose the lifestyle because it's a fashion statement....
6. They are a sign that the culture is a decadent, immoral one, just like Rome before its fall...
7. They are responsible for AIDS
8. None of them have stable faithful relationships
9. Do they have to shove their sexual orientation in our faces all the time?
10. They want special rights.

Each one of the statements above is utter nonsense. I'll save answering each one for another time in more detail, but again I challenge people to examine each one of those statements honestly. What facts do you have to back those statements up? Do you actually know a homosexual person who is guilty of the things you say they do?

In the meantime, it might be helpful to understand the term homophobia and what it means. According to the Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance site, homophobia is a term that is rather loosely bandied about, and can refer to either feelings and ideas of intolerance or actions that express that intolerance.

I want to ask how one can have hateful beliefs and attitudes and not eventually act on them? I have great difficulty believing that anybody can have hateful/fearful feelings without displaying hateful/fearful behavior towards the people about whom they have such beliefs and beliefs.

Here I want to repeat an old story.

An old man told his grandson, "A terrible fight is going on inside me -- a fight
between two wolves. One is evil, and represents hate, anger, arrogance,
intolerance, and superiority . The other is good, and represents joy, peace,
love, tolerance, understanding, humility, kindness, empathy, generosity, and
compassion. This same fight is going on inside you, inside every other person
too."

The grandson then asked: "Which wolf will win?"

The old
man replied simply: "The one you feed."

~~~Anon.


Here's hoping some little thing I've said will mean there is more kindness, understanding, caring and compassion in the world!

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3 Comments:

OpenID Kiggavik said...

Very well stated.

3:52 PM  
Blogger Paula said...

So well written. It saddens me to think that so many people won't see this. You need to be published!

10:39 PM  
Blogger Kati said...

Thanks, Paula! So many things make me sad right now, your words of encouragement couldn't have come at a better time!

12:42 AM  

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