Monday, October 01, 2012


It appears that one of my classmates from high school turned out to be a conservative nut.  No surprise there, really, given that we both come from a Texas suburb, but facebook has got everybody all talking to each other these days, and so we're hearing much more nuttery than we ordinarily would have. 

It was in the context of the post I made here at Real Art last week, which I immediately re-formatted to post on facebook, the one meditating on the meaning of Joel Osteen declaring that he didn't choose to be straight.  I've already turned one of the comment exchanges into another post here.  Indeed, the fb comment thread ended up with a whopping 110 comments, lots of good debate, and pretty darned civilized and constructive, for the most part.

Which brings me back to my nutty high school chum.  His comment, I think, was not constructive.  But it was such a good and rousing discussion that I was confronted with something of a dilemma.  Under different circumstances, I might have simply lambasted him, or ignored him, or even deleted his comment if it was foul enough.  But I've got this talk-to-conservatives project running on facebook, and the big gay Christian debate was succeeding really well.  What to do?

Check it out:

Mike I have a couple of quick points on this you might be interested in, first off gay or straight I refuse to let others dictate to me what I should think about this topic, and to be perfectly honest, I believe what I want to believe. What others choose to believe is their business and as long as they don't try to shove it down my throat (or grab my package) I don't have a problem with them. Problem is, everyone is trying their hardest to crucify the Christian right for their views on the topic, and by being so militant about their beliefs and how I should agree with them they become the antithesis of the exact point of view they are espousing... tolerance for all. So I'm just gonna sit back here on the sideline, take another shot of tequilla (Tres Generationes Plata to be exact) and watch the show. Don't tell me what to believe or what to think. Ron you come off as at least a semi well educated person, and isn't the whole purpose of education to teach people how to think for themselves??? or is this just another concept that has been lost to our society these days? in the end, I'll sum it up for you: 1. EVERYONE is entitled to their own opinion, regardless of how silly it may seem to you (see flying spaghetti monster: if you don't get it, then use google). 2. Trying to force me to accept your point of view as anything more than a valid perspective is fruitless. My point of view is just as valid as yours and in my eyes even more so. 3. in conclusion it doesn't matter what Joel Osteen believes and it doesn't matter what the LGBT organizations believe, yet from an outsiders perspective they are equally as bad for society in their practices, only the methods differ.

Ronald Mike, with all due respect, I don't really understand your comment. I mean, I understand parts of it, but other parts truly baffle me. For instance, are you characterizing my essay above as an attempt "to crucify the Christian right"? If so, you should hear what I have to say when I take the gloves off; for me, I feel like I was being extraordinarily respectful. Perhaps you were talking about somebody else, but I'm not sure who.

Also, I'm not entirely sure, but were you calling for people to tolerate the intolerant? It seems like championing the notion of tolerance, by its very nature, necessarily includes condemnation of intolerance. But then, that wasn't really the thrust of my essay above, so, again, I'm confused.

Also, I may be misreading your words, but it sounds like you're telling me that free thought means people shouldn't discuss their opinions. Personally, I don't see how there can be such a thing as free thought without discussion. That is, in order to truly understand what one believes, it is absolutely necessary to understand what others believe, and discussion, along with reading, is the only way to do that. Further, it appears to me, and, again, I might just be misunderstanding, that you're confusing persuasion with force. Persuasion is when you try to convince someone to do or believe something. Force is when you make someone do or believe something. And the entire democratic system that we as Americans embrace, is, in a very real sense, founded on the notion of persuasion, rather than force.

Finally, I am very much of the opinion that words and beliefs matter. I am very much of the opinion that there is such a thing as morality, as right and wrong, in the universe we inhabit. The trick, of course, is understanding the difference between right and wrong, and that's often not easy to do: only through discussion and shared thought can we arrive at the truth. But, of course, I do agree that everyone is entitled to their opinions. On the other hand, people can be, and often are, mistaken in their assumptions that inform those opinions. In short, some opinions are, indeed, more valid than others.
Be rational. Be respectful. And don't get caught up in the nut's bullshit. That means rejecting his narrative and offering your own in its place; I mean, acknowledge his narrative, but make it dead on arrival.  I think this is an effective approach, at least, in terms of persuading people who are observing the exchange--nuts, after all, can't be persuaded of anything.  On the other hand, his lack of response after my comment may mean that I got to him.  Or it just might mean that I pissed him off.  Hard to tell.  He hasn't come out to play again.