Bludgeons, Rights, and Rainbows

The most intense storms can result in the most spectacular rainbows…

big·ot·ry

ˈbiɡətrē/

noun

noun: bigotry; plural noun: bigotries

  1. intolerance toward those who hold different opinions from oneself.

“the difficulties of combating prejudice and bigotry”

To hold the position in the arena of faith that a word means a certain thing is not ‘bigotry’, it is ‘opinion’ based in adherence to a ‘faith’ You can look it up. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Now it might well be, in the modern world, to hold such a belief is archaic and out of date. But it is not bigotry.

Of course, conflict comes when two different groups vie to define or re-define a given term, but to accuse another of bigotry is, at the very least, hyperbole. In more raw terms, those who do such a thing are disingenuous liars. And if they do it from the protection of a given group against a group that has no such protection, they are sniveling cowards.

That is not name-calling based in opinion; this is a fact. It is cowardly to attack another that cannot defend itself only for the purpose of ruining lives. The accusation that they snivel is indisputable.

Bigotry occurs when one group actively seeks to persecute another based on their demographic, be that skin color, race, religion, sexual orientation or any other defining characteristic of a group.

Now that we’re clear on that, let’s take a look at the latest debate du jour.

 

Debate du Jour

Religious people have the opinion based in what their faith teaches that marriage is between a man and a woman. That is what their faith teaches.

That is not ‘bigotry’. But they have been rabidly accused of bigotry because of that belief.

The LGBT community believes that the option of marriage should be open to any rational, thinking humans that choose to commit themselves to each other, with all of the societal benefits and obligations that go with that commitment.

That is not bigotry. It is, again, opinion; and a valid opinion at that.

Because LGBT folks do not (usually) run in the same circles as religious people, specifically evangelicals, both opinions have a valid basis. Religious people have no more right to dictate the conditions of society to the LGBT community than the LGBT community has to dictate conditions to religious people and organizations.

The government, and maybe justifiably so at the time, intruded it’s warty nose into the affairs of private citizens and declared through The Federal Civil Rights Act that all people have the right to “full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation, without discrimination or segregation on the ground of race, color, religion, or national origin.”

So when a person is refused a particular service based on their group demographic, that customer has the right to hold the individual or business accountable to obey the law.

We can debate the Constitutionality of the government forcing private citizens to do anything at all some other time. That is a different argument.

The argument here is another thing all together. Let’s look at another term:

Per·se·cu·tion

ˌpərsəˈkyo͞oSH(ə)n/

noun

  1. hostility and ill-treatment, especially because of race or political or religious beliefs.

“her family fled religious persecution”

synonyms: oppression, victimization, maltreatment, ill-treatment, mistreatmentabuse,ill-usage, discriminationtyranny; More
    • persistent annoyance or harassment.

“his persecution at the hands of other students”

Persecution is an active term, not a passive one. In order to persecute another, you must act with intention and hostility.

A large faction of the LGBT community has targeted Christian businesses, not with the purpose of doing a legitimate business, but with the intention of ruining the business and the families through litigation, social pressure and hyperbolic accusations.

It is easily provable to be targeted persecution because there are plenty of other businesses that patrons can take their business to, but they insist on forcing people who hold a different opinion to their whim. Why? Punishment? For what? A belief system?

The Christian community, in turn has tried to enact protections that ensure that they have the right to do (private) business with whom they see fit, or more accurately, not perform certain acts or functions that go against the tenets of their faith. The fact is that I have heard of no time when any business threw someone out for being gay, they simply refused to perform certain acts or provide certain services that go against their religious principles.

That is not persecution of a demographic, that is a group protecting itself from persecution.

The LGBT community, in a bit of a tizzy, tried to keep such a law from being passed in order to protect their own civil right, as they saw it, to do business where they choose to do business.

That is not persecution either. It is a group striving to maintain its precious-won civil rights.

The Actual Act

Although for the life of me I don’t see why you would want to do business with a person, business or group who as antithetical to your lifestyle and values. Unless, of course, you seek to persecute them by using the law and societal pressure as a bludgeon with which to beat your opponent to death purely out of spite.

Now THAT is persecution. AND Bigotry.

And here we come to the crux of the problem.

What is the old adage? ‘Just because you can do a thing doesn’t mean you should do that thing’?

Rather than take their business elsewhere, which I might point out is also well within their rights, many in the LGBT community choose instead to stay and force people to do something that is antithetical to their deeply held beliefs.

What’s worse, they have stirred up such a hyperbolic crap-storm over it that they have managed to get unwitting accomplices from the good, kind people in their community who would otherwise do no harm to others.

I have good, ethical friends in the LGBT community who would never endorse persecution of any kind against any group, but they are caught up in this whirlwind of false accusations, hyperbole and outright lies of a relatively small faction of the group they belong to.

And as LGBT people always feel threatened as a class to begin with, they almost thoughtlessly have jumped on to the bandwagon in civil righteousness to ‘protect’ a bunch of bitter, lying, cowardly bigots who care far more for their selves and for the payoff they see at the end of some black and gray rainbow than they actually care for their fellow LGBT community members.

You can hardly blame them for that, but it’s out of control.

Can we please step back for a moment? Can we please stop doing these things to each other?

Can we stop with the hyperbole, the name calling, and the false accusations?

We need to stop, breathe, and count to ten. We are making enemies out of friends for no good reason. We are dividing families and groups that should be standing together.

Please, I’m begging you with tears in my eyes; close the mouths, put down the bludgeons, take a breather for a while and try to see what is actually happening.

It’s the bigots fomenting hate we should aim our vitriol at, the actual bigots of any stripe; Religious or Secular. Just be aware of who you are aiming at and try to put yourself in their shoes for a moment so you can understand what it is that they are doing and where they are coming from. Ask yourself critical questions and don’t be afraid to find members of your own group in the wrong; on either side.

The funny thing is, you already are in their make of shoe. One version of the style just has rainbows on it.

The Paths to Enlightenment

There is almost always more than meets the eye; or the expectation…

Walking an un-trod or rarely trodden path can be difficult. It can be frustrating and challenging and there are times when you just want to give up. When every single small thing that makes such a journey hard to do sometimes happens all at one time, it is tempting to throw up your hands and just quit.

I haven’t done that yet, though I’ve come close.

My particular journey is an odd one. I have chosen to walk where many others refuse to go. Where there are few of us who remain true our core principles because they are our core principles, not out of desire to fit in. And that can be challenging.

You see, I’m a Libertarian with a conservative bent, and most of the people that I encounter are Christians; fundamentalist Christians, who find it challenging to make and keep good friends outside of their group sometimes. Not all of them, but many.

Me, I’m not a Christian. Not because I haven’t heard the message, but because I have heard it, over and over again. Ad-nauseum. I am also pretty well-educated in the Bible, sociology, human nature and the history that surrounds the time of Jesus, including alternate theories and practices surrounding the formation of Christianity.

My chosen path that I found so challenging is this; I’ve chosen to not just exist in my own bubble, but to challenge my Christian friends to move away from the assumptions they have about people like me and everyone else they encounter, and the assumptions are many.

Unlike many non-Christians, non-practicing Christians, or lapsed Christians, I like my friends and acquaintances and I don’t hold their belief system against them. I don’t think them dimwitted for adhering to their values and what they hold sacred and true. Hey, the Universe is full of the impossible. They could be right.

The initial assumptions I get from Christians that don’t know me, or people like me, are that we are just like them; that we are a God-fearing Christians who are signed on to all or most of the fundamentalist beliefs that they espouse. These assumptions occur because I of my political outlook and groups I associate with.

Please notice that I mentioned ‘beliefs’, but I did not say principles. I hold many of the same principles dear, just not the belief system.

I guess their assumptions are easy ones to make. I don’t preach my own belief system. I bow my head out of respect when prayers are uttered, and I don’t feel the need to say anything at all about my own philosophy on life in the arena of political ideas.

The really interesting things start to happen when my friends realize, initially through a direct encounter and then y word of mouth, that I am not a Christian. That is when the really interesting and often offensive assumptions begin. I don’t take it personally, because like any other established religion, facts and presumptions regarding their doctrine are drilled into their head from the beginning, and accepted by everyone around them as basic fact. That doesn’t make the assumptions they make about me any less offensive, but if I took things personally, I’d never be able to leave my house lest the anger of just existing overwhelm me.

Basic assumptions include things like if you are not a Christian, then you must be an atheist, that you don’t believe in God, or something larger than yourself. That if you are not a Christian that you don’t ‘know’ about Jesus and his teachings, or you don’t even believe that Jesus existed. That you don’t believe in the basic principles that Christians believe, such as the Golden rule or the wisdom of the Ten Commandments. That even if you do know of, or about the teachings of the Bible and specifically of Jesus, that you certainly don’t get it.

It was kind of funny when I started to realize what the assumptions were and how they took form. It has been by far the largest challenge yet. The mindset is almost impenetrable, though I have seen success with the more inquisitive, open minded friends who are strong enough in their faith that they are willing to entertain ideas and concepts outside of their structured world.

The biggest challenge I speak of is the assumption by Christians that if you are not a Christian that you are devoid of any spirituality whatsoever; or that you are so un-evolved spiritually as to not have a spiritual nature at all. If you do not follow Jesus and the tenets laid down by men in the fourth century, then you do not have the capacity to attain spirituality unless you are on the path to accepting Jesus.

Which is kind of ironic because Christians do believe that we all have a soul, and if we don’t accept Jesus that the soul goes to purgatory or hell. So regardless of the path, there is still a spiritual journey being made… It’s an inconsistency I find it hard to reconcile, much less address, so for peace of mind I just write it off to human nature.

For me, this is highly offensive, but it is a solid paradigm among Christians that is all but impossible to change. It is offensive for me because I was raised to see a larger spiritual picture. To recognize the inner quest, the spiritual journey of the human animal and respect it. I was taught that different cultures, indeed, different individuals all have spiritual journeys that they must walk, and that those journeys are to be respected and honored.

Very often, the most spiritual people I have known have been those that walk their own or alternate paths to enlightenment, be it Buddhism, Taoism, the various belief systems of Native Americans, Confucianism, or even the path of science.

And some of the least spiritually evolved people I have ever known are those who attend a regular congregation of whatever religion they espouse. Often it seems they assume that their attendance to worship is what makes them Spiritual, and excuses the many transgressions of their professed belief system.

A more detailed example of the ‘spirituality void’ concept is found in a conversation I had recently with a very devout friend who preaches the message of love, kindness, acceptance, and generosity of spirit. I made the error of holding my own assumptions about how he would recognize spirituality in others, but when I broached the subject with him about his message to non-Christians, I got a surprise.

His inherent assumption based on his response to me was; that if a person professes to be spiritual, that they are on the path to recognizing the Christian faith as the one, true path. He kind of berated his fellow Christians in his answer to me. He said that they need to love those types of people as all others; that they cannot shove their beliefs down the throats of the budding masses of spirituality, saying “You don’t feed a baby steak right away! A baby needs to be nurtured with milk at first and work their way up to more solid foods along the way.”

Do you see the assumption inherent in this diatribe? That steak is the rich teachings of Christianity; that rich solid foods are the meat, so to speak, of spirituality; which is, to him, Christianity.

Even if he did not intend to say it that way or if that’s not what he really meant, one of the drawbacks that Christians encounter in conversation with non-Christians is that what they say and how they say it is almost always perceived as ‘talking down’ to non-Christians; very often because of these very attitudes and assumptions that they unconsciously convey in their encounters with non-Christians. And as they say, folks, ‘Perception is Reality’.

I’ve had plenty of steak. I’ve moved beyond steak to many more tastes and culinary adventures. The richness of the foods I have sampled put steak to shame in many cases. But the assumption that I was only at the ‘milk’ level of ability to consume spiritual ideas and concepts- even of a specific religion- was, and is, kind of offensive. Actually, it’s very offensive. I’m a grown man with an advanced intellect. I have taught Christians true history about their own background they never knew, or suspected even existed.

But still I remain calm and vigilant. For all of the offense it gives, most Christians I know are not intent on being offensive. They truly believe they are being kind and helpful, that they are shining a light on a path that has done wonders and miracles for them in their lives, and out of love they want the same for you. And it might very well be that the path they shine the light on could be that kind of path for many people.

The trouble is that they have is an issue recognizing and respecting when that is not the case with given individuals, and very often they have a hard time wrapping their heads around that concept.

So it is up to us, those who are not quite so wrapped up in a closed system of thinking, to bridge the gap if we want to be able to actually have a civil, useful dialogue regarding the world around us today and how to solve the many problems with which we are faced. We need to step out of the closet of alternate belief and challenge our friends and colleagues to be the inclusive group they profess to be. Challenge them to respect us, and respect the principles that founded this nation; the right to believe and worship as we see fit without outside interference or judgment.

Christians are not bad people. They are not hateful people. They are not stupid or closed-minded people. They are, for the most part, good people who can sometimes find themselves in a bit of a fog with regards to the assumptions they make and the interactions they engage in.

News Flash: As humans, we are all like that to a certain extent.

How about we cut each other a break?