Monday, December 7, 2009

Rescuing on the train tracks of faith

I had a fascinating conversation with a woman, Stephanie on Saturday night. She is an attractive, well-heeled woman with raven black hair and quite a well toned physique. She is happily married to a successful general contractor and has two college age children. She invited me to her home in Temecula. We got on the topic of politics and eventually segued to religion - always a dangerous combination for strangers at a party!
She was extolling the virtues of capitalism as the panacea for all of the world's ills and that Obama, as the architect of socialism, will bring all of our prosperity crashing down. A fervent believer in Glen Beck's emotional pleas for action and a deeply convicted born again Christian, she felt compelled to meet me with love, compassion and her faith. I felt very much like Socrates in his quest for a truly pious man. I worked hard the light of reason during the conversation and I must tell you that neither Socrates or I have yet found the truly pious man, but perhaps I met her.
What troubled me was not the view, but rather the passion that Stephanie expresses all of this. The abiding certainty of her own righteousness and belief system was the most terrifying aspect. She, a stay at home mom (truly a full time, respectable job), was CERTAIN, she knew the answers to our economic problems. At the same time, she was certain I was (as politely as she said it) going to hell and could never be married to my partner. As a straight woman, she knew that if only I turned my soul to Jesus, I could be transformed straight.
I knew she was absolutely convinced that she was trying to save my immortal soul. She was utilizing all of her faculties to help me. How could I be outraged? How could I be offended? Selfishly, it would be easy to dismiss her concern or to belittle her efforts. If I am more honest with myself and with her, it is much harder. Another friend of mine used a powerful analogy to help me understand the concern.
Imagine that you are looking out at train tracks and on them, you see a loved one tied down and unaware of the oncoming locomotive which will run them down and kill them in just moments. Do you try to help them? Of course. Do you run and despite any protestations try to save them? Surely. If necessary, do you overpower them and FORCE them from the danger. Most of us would say yes.
Thus did Stephanie see my predicament - I was simply unaware of the danger. She could see the train, the tracks and my apparent immobility. She was was out to rescue me.

My quest then was to simply get her to say the three magic words which could dispel all of my fear: "I don't know." By admitting some uncertainty, suddenly the oncoming train might be so much illusion or hysteria. Happily, I eventually did. Interestingly enough, it was on the issue of gay marriage - that something else could be "equal" to her. If she said yes, then the union would have to be blessed and mandated by God, to say no would be to admit to being a bigot and a self-identified hater of that which is different.

Of all things which frighten me, it is absolute certainty of someone's own righteousness which is the most fear inducing. Can't we agree that there is far more in each of us that is the same rather than different? Can't we move to greater harmony and unity of purpose? I willingly admit my lack of certainty in much beyond my own existence and my faith in the existence and love of a few people in my life. Absolute certainty is just one brief step away from jihad isn't it?


Alan said...

"As a straight woman, she knew that if only I turned my soul to Jesus, I could be transformed straight."

Are these her own words or that of her pastor? Does she know that such transformation is contrary to the consensus of the American Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Counseling Association, the National Association of Social Workers, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Association of School Administrators, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Association of School Psychologists, the American Academy of Physician Assistants, and the National Education Association? Those are just the health organizations that are critical of conversion therapy, separate from using religion to attempt to eliminate same-sex desires.

If her belief was purely religious, it is the same religious belief that a Mormon might have that those "cursed with dark skin" who turn to Jesus would be transformed?

BlackMarbleConsulting said...

She was convinced of her own certainty. You and I know all of those facts from a scientific and reasonable standpoint. Most educated LGBT individuals and their allies already have those facts well in hand. The deep fallacy is entirely in her mind and the structure of her beliefs. It is ridiculous that she knows what can be possible for me when I can no more understand what it is like to be a woman. I can't tell you how much I appreciate your comments - sometimes I feel as though I am speaking into the vast emptiness.

Alan said...

Do you ask what her education level was? This might help with an understanding of her belief in her own piousness.,0,7022683.story

Additionally, statistics may show how education and property wealth correlate to belief in openness to same-sex marriage:

Thanks for your always thoughtful posts that inspire me to think deeper. These types of conversations are not very different from the conversations I have regularly at Vote for Equality/EQCA door-to-door canvasses:

As much as you enjoy comments, it's just as exciting for me to read about someone else thinking about the same things.

the nafarrates said...

was she at cindy's party? wow. where did cindy find her? sounds like the women i grew up around. south orange county. rick warren robots. it's scary. but i'm so glad that she got to speak to you about things. who knows maybe she has thought about what you talked about. i grew up in a town (my parents are conservative but no where near this)where these women are EVERYWHERE. you should of heard the comments and gasps at my baby shower when memphis said that she was going to put cash in dresses and when i said that he is just going to use the same pink stroller because we can't afford a new one. it's crazy. but not all of us turn out that way. some of us go running from south oc and the mega churches as fast as we can! good post and i'm glad that you got to talk to her.

BlackMarbleConsulting said...

Melina, she was at Cindy's party. I am thankful for the encounter. I am even more thankful for friends like you. You are part of the reason that eventually Anthony and I will be able to be married and equal!