Monday, November 23, 2009

Moralistic Extremes: The Rock, the Hard Place, and What Lies In Between

Sometimes I wonder which is more exasperating - responding to the moralistic ravings of the Religious Right, or trying to engage in conversation with extremists in the "sexual freedom" camp.

I've often labeled the former as legalists for their penchant of creating rules to regulate people's sexuality. It's easy to do that, to post a ready-made list and convince people that everything will be all right if they just do what they're told and don't question why. Until reality happens.

Well, there's also an opposite extreme. The theological term is antinomianism - the belief that moral rules do not apply to you, so long as you have reached some sufficient level of salvation or enlightenment. And I've grown weary of those who seem to respond to the sexual legalists with the very caricature which those legalists use to describe all of us.

How ironic that my brand of radicalism is now caught in the middle between these two extremes - one which seeks to constrain people to a spiritual death, and the others which could toss too many to the wolves.

Freedom to me does not mean amoralism. It means making choices. With freedom comes responsibility, and responsibility requires knowledge and discernment.

So I'm all for comprehensive sex education ... as long as its accurate and helps young people to think critically and set limits for themselves.

I'm all for abortion ... in consort with other measures to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies.

I'm all for decriminalizing and destigmatizing prostitution ... as a starting point for empowering sex workers to create better lives for themselves and their families.

I'm all for openly discussing polyamory and BDSM with monogamous and vanilla folks ... so that they can see how seriously we take responsibility, and so we can all learn to share one another's gifts with joy and meaning.

Mother Theresa is famous for saying that she would never join an anti-war rally, but would join a rally for peace. In a sense I find both extremes of legalism and antinomianism to be reactive and negative - and moralistic, in that each reduces morality and ethics to a highly simplistic formula. For the legalists, that formula is purity. For the antinomians, it is defiance. And both seem tinged with a sense of self-righteousness towards those with whom they disagree - including, and especially, those of us caught in the crossfire.

Above all else, both of these extremes seem devoid of communication. Each side comes across more as a lecture than a discourse. When we act on our sexuality, we are involving another, and that essential reality means we need to connect and communicate in the fullest sense - to listen as well as talk, to be open to learning and sharing, and to do so with beauty and joy.

No comments:

Post a Comment