It doesn’t take too much research to determine that much of what passes for religion coverage in the media focuses on the tendency of religious conservatives to hurl hate and vitriol at just about any target that comes within range. Given the media’s seeming inability to focus on more than one thing at a time (apparently multi-tasking hasn’t come to the media yet, or perhaps it is afflicted with an institution-wide form of ADHD), nothing much gets followed through on beyond an oversimplified blurb regarding whatever rant is most current.
Of course, religion coverage isn’t alone in this media affliction. Remember the earthquake and tsunami in Japan and the ensuing nuclear crisis? Do you suppose that has really ended, just because the media lacks the staying power to continue covering the unfolding consequences of humanity’s arrogance and lust for power (quite literally) in that country?
As my friend and colleague Bishop Sharon Hart has pointed out to me, with the media now attending to the Vatican’s futile attempt to silence nuns in America they seem to have lost the ability to cover news of the ongoing pedophilia scandal and cover up – including Cardinal Dolan’s policy of paying pedophile’s a $20,000 bonus while he served as Archbishop of Milwaukee. How convenient for the Catholic Church…
My question is, can we envision and create a new reality?
Just coming off another wonderful Pridefest weekend here in Milwaukee, I am reminded that truth and love can never be overcome by the forces of evil – even when that evil is disguised in the garb, if not the truth, of religion. I can honestly say that the last thing I would be willing to surrender in my ministry is my presence at Pride. People often thank me for being there, and I tell them there is no other place for me to be on Pride weekend. In a very real way, I owe my life to the LGBT community, for when I was in the worst place of my life they loved me back to wholeness. To those who shout vitriol about the gay community and their alleged hell-bound status I say that I would rather spend eternity in hell with my LGBT friends that one day in heaven with the kind of ass hat who would be so hate-filled as to hope to see anyone in hell – and make no mistake about it, the people who stand outside Pridefest with hate signs are salivating over seeing the LGBT community in hell.
My question remains, can we envision a new reality? Can we refuse to take the bait when small-minded bigots speak out, no matter the subject? Mind you, I am not advocating we don’t speak out when it’s called for – but when the issue is decided, why engage?
The truth is that there is no greater insult to bad ideas than indifference. If I put an idea out there and people disagree with me, no matter how vehemently, I still know that they are concerned about whatever issue I am raising. If, however, I make a statement so absurd that it doesn’t even merit a response – and I don’t get one – then I come to realize that my acting out isn’t working. An absurd statement made by someone with no power to carry out whatever consequence they are proposing – like someone who states that the entire LGBT community is doomed to a non-existent eternal damnation – is just so much hot air that gains merit only to the extent that we give it merit by responding to it!
What I am suggesting is not indifference to the issue, but rather engaging some of the same tactics used to extinguish tantrum behavior in toddlers. When toddlers throw a tantrum the best thing to do is to ignore it and walk away. The behavior eventually extinguishes. Since people who feel compelled to cast others into hell generally have the mentality of toddlers, ignoring them works very well, too.
Of course, we can continue to engage in endless debate and discussion with people who aren’t interested in discussion or debate, but to what end? The tide of public opinion on LGBT issues has turned. The majority of Americans not only are opposed to discrimination but are also in favor of marriage equality. I absolutely believe we need to continue to make public statements and take public actions to increase awareness and work for the reality of non-discrimination and equality. What I am suggesting is that engaging these spiritual toddlers in their nonsense is nothing more than a distraction that drains energy from the important work that still needs to be done.
Let’s envision and create a new reality in which religious and spiritual public discourse that is helpful and constructive – even, and perhaps especially, when disagreement is involved – is supported and encouraged, even as hate-filled nonsense receives no hearing.