Orlando and What Needs to Change

Sorry about the lack of updates. Two weeks ago, I was sexually assaulted on a date and it has taken me some time to get back into the swing of things. I’m doing much better and working on counselling.

Orlando was horrible, and worse, there are people who think more people should die. There is so much I want to say about what happened, so much that I really don’t know where to start. It would be easy to blame it on Islam, far too easy. Easy answers are usually wrong. While a radical form of Islam likely played a role, there was much that went into why he felt the need to kill gay people. Radical Christianity comes to my mind, as does loose gun laws. Modern American culture, of which he was a product, bears a fair bit of blame. American culture is not kind to those who are different and often sees violence against those who are different as being the fault of the victims of that violence. And I’ll bet this only scratches the surface of the influences that led to this disaster.

Even if we were willing and able to fully investigate the reasons why this person decided to kill so many people, I doubt we have the courage to make changes. I doubt that any of the changes would be all that drastic, tweaks here and there and maybe a few things more substantial than that. Our culture lacks the will to make change. We’d rather watch everything get worse than rise up to meet the challenge of making things better. Except in those communities actively being persecuted. I think that it is because these groups have no choice, their very survival depends on them being able to make change happen.

The minority groups fighting for survival in country are hampered by two big problems. The first is that none of them want to work with other groups. We have to do it alone. I’ll bet this is a part of this culture’s toxic individualism. If we can’t do it by ourselves, we are weak and not deserving. As someone who is fighting mental illness, I know this feeling all too well. Just as I need to ask for help and not be told, even by myself, that I’m not deserving, our communities need to do the same. The second big problem is that we like to divide people into two neat groups, our friends and our enemies. We will not take any time to try to understand our enemies, nor will we ever attempt to reach out to them. Instead, we demonize them and heap scorn upon them.

I think this problem, the one where we are unwilling to reach across a chasm and build bridges, is going to sink LGBT rights until we get over ourselves and start to extend respect to those who are different from us. We need to get over our hate and start acting like the people we want others to be. If we cannot respect them, they are not going to bother to respect us. Does this mean we let them walk all over us?  Only if you perceive respect that way. Respect means we hold people accountable for their actions. And that is what we need to do.

Back to Orlando. If the shooter had respect for life, if he had respect for the LGBT community, do you think he could have killed so many?  Why did he not respect us?  Because our culture doesn’t respect us. Because we cringe every time we hear about an LGBT character on television; we know they will simply play to stereotypes and jokes that stopped being funny. Nothing will change until we work together and with love and respect to change this awful culture.

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The Third Principle

Hi, for this week, I thought I’d take a look at UU’s Third Principle, Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations. I think that this is a really good one. Regardless of who we are and who they are, we really should accept others. Actually, I think we should go far beyond acceptance, past tolerance, straight into welcoming others. Even people we disagree with. Especially people we disagree with. Like all of these principles, they are hard. If they weren’t, they’d be no good. I’m going to liken it to what Jesus said in Matthew 5:43-47:

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?

It’s easy to love those who love us and easy to hate those who hate us. This really doesn’t help anyone. If you want your enemies to stop being enemies, you have to be willing to show them love. Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. said something very similar:

The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. So it goes. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.

This is what the first half of the Third Principle is getting at. And it builds on the previous two. That’s how it gets here. It does not stand alone.

Now for the second part, encouraging the spiritual growth of others. This sounds really easy, right?  On the surface, it is. Encouraging someone to study deeper, take a class, or come to a sermon takes very little effort. If this was all that was required though, it wouldn’t be worth mentioning. The hard part is holding each other accountable. Making sure you take the time to study or attend church can be hard. Living according to your ideals and faith is very hard. Both are harder when you have no one holding you accountable. It’s easy to blow off that day of study or going to church this week or even not speaking up when you aren’t being held accountable for beliefs. It is also so much easier to warp your faith when there is no one to say that maybe that’s not the way you should use your faith.

I think this second part is why UUism doesn’t seem to have any depth. UUs don’t want the confrontation that comes with holding each other accountable. At least, that is my experience. Accountability isn’t easy. It is so much easier to mumble empty platitudes than do real spiritual work, especially with others.