Can We Talk?

Can we talk? Or is that a bad idea?

I love a good debate as much as anyone I know. As I have observed in the past, however, the truth is that much of debate in North America today – epecially on the political and religious fronts – would never pass muster in a high school debate class. Personal attacks, manufactured facts and evidence, and just about every other fallacy known to humankind abound. In the United States we are in an off year election season, and in Wisconsin where I live the incumbent Governor has decided not to run for re-election. I can’t remember a more negative political advertising season, and I am disgusted with the entire process. In the religion arena, I have become equally disgusted with the sexual orientation debate, especially in light of the suicide of three young men over the past few months who were the victims of homophobic bullying – a practice that is the direct result of the political wrangling of the religious right and its homophobic rhetoric. I have had more than enough.

What is the point, I ask both you and me, of continuing to debate people who are so selective in their application of the scriptures that they distort them beyond all recognition – abandoning all of the Levitical holiness code (which they should, since it has been superceded by Jesus) but holding on to Levitical notions of human sexuality? What is the point in debating people who are more than content to benefit from the work of scientists when it comes to healthcare, or technology when it comes to cell phones and such, but are unwilling to hear what science has to say about sexual orientation? What is the point in debating a Church that on the one hand decries abortion and on the other hand prohibits birth control?

In short, what’s the benefit of debating unreasonable people? After much searching of my heart, mind, and soul, I can’t find a single benefit.

The problem with closed minded people is that their minds are made up and the facts just don’t matter. That means that they aren’t seriously going to enter into a debate or an exchange of ideas. Instead, they are going to try to convert you to their point of view at any costs, and feel free to call you names if you don’t become a “true believer.” This is the problem with the vast majority of institutional religion of every stripe – it isn’t really about seeking the truth, it’s about a select few (professional clergy) controling the feelings, thoughts, and behavior of the many. Power and control are never well served by the truth – most especially truths like all people are loved by God, that there are such things as basic human rights that not even religion can take away, and that as members of society we have a moral (not religious) obligation to take care of one another.

Rather than waste our energy in pointless debate, I believe the time has long come for those of us who don’t belong to The Flat Earth Society to speak our truth loud and clear. If moderate to progressive people have one glaring fault, it’s that we have bought into the mistaken notion that we must, at all costs, be “nice.” That means don’t disagree with anyone, don’t contradict anyone, don’t rock the boat, don’t upset the apple cart – no matter how corrupt and evil the apple cart has become. I ask you this: Do you think that a young, gay man who is breathing his last breath as his feet twitch in the throws of death, hovering a few feet off the floor, gives a damn about your apple cart? What apple cart is worth a life?

Here is what I would like every person reading this to do: Please go to http://www.ChristEnlight.ning.com and become a member. It’s free, and nobody will bother you. We are going to be having a series of discussions on that site about how to make each of our opinions heard. We don’t have to all have the same opinion, because what binds us together should be a profound respect for life – not the cheap, easy, spectacular pseudo-respect that those who claim to be pro-life most often have, but rather a respect for all of life.

We are talking about a recognition that every human being has the right to live a life of their own, free from harassment or bullying for any reason. We’re talking about the truth that as the wealthiest continent in the world, all of North America has the responsibility to ensure than no child goes to bed hungry and no human being who is sick goes without healthcare because they can’t afford it. We are talking about taking true responsibility for the mentally ill by doing what is necessary to provide adequate treatment including inpatient and residential treatment when appropriate, and not allowing private insurers to make mental health treatment a second class of illness paid for at lower rates than any other healh problem. Along with that goes serious treatment for addictions, and working toward disspelling the myth that addictions are “choices” and not illnesses.

There’s more, of course, but every world religion in their non-institutional forms would agree that this is a decent starting place. While we are at it, let’s come together in the same place to discuss and share our spiritual (not religious) journeys – not with a mind to convert or preach, but instead that we might journey together mutually enriched by our shared experience.

It’s a little bit pie in the sky, I know. If we don’t gather together, than the small minded bigots posing as people of faith will win the day. I’m not going to let that happen. I am going to present another voice. won’t you join me?

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