Accept Except

by - Thursday, June 09, 2011

from www.patheos.com

I've been thinking a lot lately about my own tolerance and acceptance of other people; I was talking this afternoon to my cousin Shelly, who I adore even though our values on certain things could not be more opposite. She was telling me about how antagonized/ostracized she feels in her academic institution because she is a (very) conservative Christian. She said she is afraid to share her views, especially on gay marriage and sexual identity, because people will look down on her. I feel for her, because I love her, but I think if someone came into one of my classes and came out saying things like that, I would tear them up.

A few weeks ago, I got in a very similar (though a little more heated) conversation with my (very very) conservative Uncle David (who I am also quite fond of). He was complaining about when liberal groups lobby against, or tell others not to spend their money at, business establishments which support conservative groups (I think he was talking especially about Chick Fil A (sp??) but Target seems like an especially appropriate example a day after their business meeting). To me, their indigence about being "discriminated" against carries a lot of hypocrisy with it (though I am not saying either of them actually feels this way- truly, they are both very nice people); who says "how dare you try to silence me while I try to silence others?" It carries that assumption that conservative Christians are the only victims, because when they try to negate or suppress others, it is only because they are just horrible and therefore deserve it. But I think these sorts of ideas are actually embraced by like the people at Westboro Baptist and no one else. Yet so many more Christians get bridled with this rhetoric that seems more hateful than thoughtful, despite the fact that they are not.

At the same time, I am not entirely sure they don't have some sort of point (because if it was just silly nonsense, it wouldn't bother me like it does). Liberalism has a certain cache of acceptance; to be liberal seems to me, to work against a singular narrative, allowing more voices in and embracing heterogeneity (but not heteronormativity). I think about Lady Gaga here especially (as I think she has sort of bought into her own hype as social saint or something); her song this way "Born this way" is all about self-love and acceptance, but does Gaga really want homophobes or racists saying "Yeah, I was born this way! I love me because I hate others." The underlying rhetoric there may be faulty, but it seems to me like maybe everyone could use a little change? At the same time, I cannot even count the number of times I have heard Christians, conservatives, etc be put down in seminar and conversation. I am just as guilty of this as anyone, but it makes me wonder why liberals frame themselves in this way when it is just not the case? Isn't this just another case of "Holier than thou?"

Another great example of this would be Glee, which has gotten more and more self-important and patronizing (not to mention not nearly as good) as continues. Almost every episode has some sort of "love yourself" message, whether you be the token gay, black person, or fat girl. Golly, how nice. The logic of the show is to empower the outcast, but the body it is outcasted from becomes more and more problematic. The sort of mainstream body only becomes more abstracted as the show on, because of course the people who were cool and evil (Karofsky and Santana) have been rationalized as being literally closeted outcasts on the inside. Other than these two, any resistance these apparent "losers" have is from some sort of student body we cannot see.

Obviously, I don't want to set Glee up as corresponding to how the world works in any way (did people see that finale? The boy refuses to ever watch that show  again) but I think this highlights the problems inherent in both sides rhetoric. The first problem in all of this is the way things are boiled down to caricatures, so both sides feel antagonized because they aren't really listening to each other at all. And even if I can have no control over how these people feel, listening would perhaps help? I don't know, in a way this still seems like a hippy dippy cop out.   I think of myself as an accepting person, but there are people I absolutely cannot tolerate. What I cannot deal with above all else are people who are A willfully ignorant and B intentionally cruel, ugly, or unkind to others. If I had to be totally honest, that is how I read any sort of anti- gay behavior, but I imagine there is something to be learned from actually listening, because there is a spectra of politics there.Maybe the truth is that I will never be totally accepting, but I don't want to pass myself off like I am.

At the same time, as a Christian, I truly believe that God called us to love each other, so even if I can't accept the Westboro Baptist crazies, I totally accept, love, and respect the majority of my family members who are much more conservative than I am. I am (very) liberal, but I can guarantee you that they aren't just deserving of liberal acceptance, but they have lots of beautiful things to offer as well. I am just going to keep trying to expand my own terms of acceptance with as much humility as possible (because that really seems key) and at the very least listen. But probably not to the Westboro Baptists or Glee.

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