Saturday, September 24, 2005

"Hate," "Tolerance" and "Freedom" - How Can we Rectify These Terms in a Diverse Society?

Thanks to you, readers, for prompting me and others to think. This conversation is a healthy one and I appreciate the challenges and thoughts presented to me. I wish to continue the conversation and invite you to participate as well. Is the way I used the word “hate” in my last post justified? And why did I choose that word? Both good questions and, after another comment I received (thank you Serpthia also for the think), I sat down to examine my motives. Does the Catholic Church “hate” homosexuals? No, I do not believe they “hate” homosexuals but I do believe they fear homosexuals and this fear has been propagated in such as way as to infect the rest of society. Of course, religions aren’t the only social institutions which have feared homosexuality nor are they absolutely responsible for the tendency. This fear is very much related to any institution or society (for example fascism) which places high importance on a patriarchal system of hierarchy. And as for the Church’s effort to live by the words written in the Bible—well again I am concerned here as well, because the Bible tends to contradict itself continuously and it is obvious by examining 1 Chronicles and 2 Chronicles that an effort was made to harmonize contradictions in general. But I do not want to get into a Biblical debate –this is not the forum for such a platform and I have no need to tell people how they should see their Bible. So let me get back to the main point—the word hate. I chose the word hate because I truly believe that by disenfranchising a group in society you end up spreading hate whether it was your original plan or not—again, Martha Stewart’s new line “you just don’t fit in.” There are, simply, repercussions. Although church and state is “ideally” separated in the United States, the reality is something totally different from the ideal. And no, I am not going to start pointing my finger at right winged Christian fundamentalists who would like to hold more political sway. I am, however, going to point out that on continued bases, religious ideas and axioms have held sway in this country. For example, “no Catholics allowed” in reference to Irish immigrants arriving in the United States was a huge political, social and religious reality. The same can be said for anti-Semitism. In both accounts, and many other examples I could point to, religious ideas in conjunction with disenfranchising groups resulted in hate. This is what worries me and upsets me. I agree that religious groups have a right to practice their spiritual beliefs as they see fit insofar as they do not damage others in the process. Rising above church dogma is the important idea: treat others as you would have them treat you. With that said, I do not want to say “you must think like I do, because if you don’t, you are wrong.” Truly I am not about all that. But the Catholic Church’s actions here, in conjunction with societal fears and prejudices, work to spread hate and hate tends to destroy spiritual ideals—if I may, it is the serpent swallowing its tail. Needless to say, society as a whole is free to act in its best interests insofar as it does not damage others in the process. Of course, I am an idealist and am wishing for a utopian world (physical and spiritual) where such practices are truly practiced. Tolerance and freedom are funny (not ha-ha), vague, words and take on a variety of meanings for a variety of people. They are impossible words to rectify in a real, functioning society. And yet, they are thrown around easily by myself as well as others. I do not have the answer here, I just know that it is not as simple as saying we should be tolerant and people should be free to act. All I can promise to do is to explain myself more clearly and avoid being reactionary with words that mislead. I shall work on being specific especially when I use words such as hate, freedom, liberty, tolerance and the like. R

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