Friday, November 26, 2010

An Apology (Sort of) To the Family Research Council

Dear Tony Perkins:

I recently read your announcement demanding an apology from the Southern Policy Law Center for including your organization, the Family Research Council, in its latest list of "hate groups."

Granted, I'm not affiliated with them, so I cannot speak for them. But since I do support them, and since you would very likely include me as someone on "the Left" -- and, perhaps worse, the Religious Left -- then I might as well respond.

I'm sorry the SPLC saw fit to label your organization as a hate group. I'm sorry that they saw so much vitriol in your official publications, and so much effort made towards demonizing an entire group of Americans, that they were afraid for those Americans.

I'm sorry that they were alarmed about your opposition to efforts at ending bullying in public schools, solely because those programs merely mentioned that some people feel attraction and romantic love towards people of the same gender, or identify with a gender which doesn't fit with their biological sex.

I'm sorry that they are worried about the FRC advocating "criminal sanctions against homosexual behavior" being enshrined into law and enforced by police and prosecutors across the country. Forget the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, or the very idea that government shouldn't be intruding into people's private lives. Such basic rights shouldn't apply to those people, right?

I'm sorry that your view of morality is so narrow. You claim to root your positions in the "Judeo-Christian worldview." All well and good, but didn't the prophets call for justice and mercy? And didn't Jesus command that we should love our neighbor, and even our enemies? Didn't he also warn against casting judgment on others, and called on his disciples to serve the poor?

I'm sorry that you are so obsessed with other people's sexuality that you feel the need to raise and spend millions of dollars towards scapegoating them, when those millions could have been used towards, let's see, feeding the hungry.

I'm sorry that you feel the need to appeal to fear and and ignorance, instead of encouraging Christians and gays to come and reason together (Isaiah 1:18). I'm sorry that you feel so threatened by the pluralism of our society -- the very same pluralism which has allowed the religious liberty you enjoy -- that you believe you need to target outsiders for blame and shame, rather than make an effort to understand them.

I'm sorry the Family Research Council has been labeled a hate group. Perhaps now you could do something about it?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Catholics, Condoms and Confusion

So Pope Benedict XVI has said - finally - that he could see some cases where condom use to prevent the spread of HIV as being morally permissible. A small step, but in the minds of many folks (including many Catholics) definitely a step in the right direction.

Here's where the confusion comes in: The Vatican is insisting that this does not represent a change in Catholic teaching on condom use.

Uno momento. For decades now, popes have been saying "no" to condoms. Even if you're married and preventing the spread of HIV. Absolute rule, no exceptions. Then the current pope says he can see where, in certain cases, it's a good thing. That's not a change?

Well, according to the Associated Press report...

The Holy See's chief spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, stressed that Benedict was not "morally justifying" the unbridled exercise of sexuality and the church's main advice in the fight against AIDS remains the same: promoting sexual abstinence and fidelity among married couples.

The logic, apparently, is that since the Vatican is still stressing abstinence and monogamy, then its fundamental teaching hasn't changed. Except for one thing: An even more fundamental aspect of the church's moral philosophy has changed.

Originally, the leadership of the Catholic church adhered to absolutism - there is only one morally correct answer, and no deviation is allowed. And that's been the Vatican's problem in terms of being able to adapt to new facts and realities: absolutism allows no exceptions. As soon as you allow an exception, for whatever reason, you're no longer absolutist.

As soon as the Pope said that condoms can be used in certain circumstances, even very narrow ones, then he crossed the line from absolutism to contextualism. So, in a sense, this is representing a shift in Catholic teaching. Maybe Benedict and the other Cardinals are just too stubborn to admit it.

Well, it should be obvious to anyone who reads this blog that I consider it a welcome change. If the Catholic church is indeed going to stand for life, then they need to take the realities of life into account. And if this small step helps them to do that, we should applaud and support it.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Kink Going Mainstream? Are We Forgetting Something?

Lately, I've seen other kinksters posting on Fetlife and other places "examples" of kink going "mainstream" - basically the use of BDSM and fetish imagery in otherwise vanilla media. A few have even argued that this is a "good thing" and that we shouldn't be so worried about reaching out to and educating vanilla folks.

I respectfully disagree.

First of all: Just because someone in mainstream media appropriates the imagery of a particular group of people, that doesn't necessarily mean that they fully comprehend what that means. One clip I saw, for example, were two soap opera characters in a steamy encounter, with the woman dressed like a dominatrix, handcuffing the guy and spouting aggressive dialogue about getting whatever she wants. No negotiation or assurance of safety ("Oh no, where'd I put the key?"). Just another stereotypical portrayal meant to titillate the average viewer.

And the biggest thing lost on folks - both the scriptwriters and actors, and the BDSM folks who might applaud it? That couple could get into trouble just for being kinky.

In many jurisdictions, consensual bondage and sadomasochism could get you arrested for assault and battery, domestic violence, false imprisonment and any other charges a cop can think of. Ridiculous as it may sound, laws can be and continue to be interpreted to make consensual yet unconventional eroticism a punishable offense.

Not to mention kinksters who have been fired from their jobs, evicted from their homes, expelled from otherwise liberal faith communities, even verbally and physically abused when outed as kinky.

I think it more accurate to say there is more awareness of kink than to say it's "going mainstream" in any real sense of the word. The GLBT community is much further along than we are, largely because of the efforts of educators and activists. Whether we want to become genuinely mainstream, or merely left alone, we can't rely on flawed and fleeting media images to do that for us. There's more to raising authentic awareness than that, and it requires the hard work of educating our vanilla neighbors.