Monday, January 16, 2012

Santorum and Drug Dealers

A CNN columnist, LZ Granderson, writes on why he does not hate Rick Santorum.
When I was a youth pastor at a small, evangelical church in Kalamazoo, Michigan, I used to accompany my pastor and other members of our congregation into some of the city's neighborhoods where gang activity and gun violence were most prevalent.
We would stand on the corner next to the drug dealers and talk to them about why it was important to turn their lives around.
We start with an attempt to build credibility. Liberal Christians have to do this because you can't tell from their thinking they are Christian. So they have to tell you.
Some would listen.
Others would walk away.
All gave us respect, even if they didn't agree with what we had to say. And I believe they did so because we respected them. We didn't call them names or discount how they felt. We met them where they were -- literally and figuratively.
Not clear what this means. You want to meet people where they are at. Do you have another choice? But you don't want to affirm everything about where they are at. Look for positives but don't pretend negatives are really positives. Which does he mean here?
In a lot of ways, hearing Rick Santorum talk about social issues, particularly gay rights, reminds me of those days. Like those drug dealers, I'm sure he can't see how he destroys his community. Like those drug dealers, Santorum is probably doing what he thinks he needs to do. And like those drug dealers, what Santorum is pushing is addictive, poisonous and a trigger to violence we see all around us. 
Just no moral difference between opposing same-sex marriage and dealing drugs. No qualifiers. No explanations. Isn't it just obvious. Drugs destroy communities. Marriage between a man and a woman? Does he have any statistics to show how drug use and traditional marriage are equivalent in their community destroying property? Somehow I doubt it. We just have to take his word for it.
His anti-gay rhetoric justifies, for some people, the bullying in school, the senseless beatings of people perceived to be gay and the under-reported murders of transgender people. The truth is that the disrespectful tone in which Santorum talks about GLBT people, in the name of religion, gives permission for our lives to be equally disrespected. Disregarded.
 Can we get a quote from Santorum that justified violence against gays? I guess we will have to take his word for that to. But I have one more question? What happens if someone reads Mr Granderson's stuff and goes out and beats up a member of the Christian right? All it takes is "some people" reading what you write and becoming violent. Granderson can't control that. Neither can Santorum. So why bring it up?
Sometimes, the impulse is to return the fire, matching name-calling with name-calling. I, too, have found myself so ticked off by Santorum's words that I've called him everything but a child of God. That's when I come to my senses and try to remember the one thing he seems to forget. We're all God's children. We're all brothers and sisters.
You just accused him of destroying communities and of inciting violence. Unfairly. So how is that different from name-calling? If you are going to throw mud that is your right but at least admit you are throwing mud. Treating someone as a child of God involves more than just saying you love Santorum like a brother. It involves doing it. That would start with actually interacting with his ideas and not simply making baseless inflammatory accusations.
And like brothers and sisters, we won't always agree. Sometimes we will fight. But we can't get so caught up in our disagreements that we forget that what bonds us is far more important than what divides us. Being respectful doesn't mean you have to give up your religion.
Still, as much as it pains me to admit, Rick Santorum is my brother. I don't support the way he sows seeds of discord for political gain, but I can't allow him to drag me down so far that I hate him. Just as I didn't hate the drug dealers and gang bangers who were poisoning the Kalamazoo neighborhoods.
 Not sure he has a clue what being respectful means. If he can't see that comparing Senator Santorum to gang bangers and drug dealers might be disrespectful then there is not much hope. He seems to feel respect is about patting yourself on the back for being respectful and that is it.
Instead we all must go to the figurative street corner and find a way to respectfully engage. After all, Santorum's views are not just his. More than 30,000 Iowans last week said they wanted to see him in the White House. This week thousands in New Hampshire might say the same. Calling social conservatives names might help blow off steam, but it's not going to change their hearts. And you cannot change a person's mind without first changing his or her heart.
Some will listen.
Some will walk away.
But neither group is going anywhere without at least getting to the place of respect.

It think he is confused between respecting an idea and respecting a person. People always deserve respect. Ideas might or might not. Some ideas are just evil. If someone holds them deeply you interact with them for the sake of the person. No for the sake of the idea. He is nowhere close to respecting Santorum as a person. If he did he would be quoting him and explaining why he disagrees.
Now I'm sure some are surprised to learn that I was heavily involved in the evangelical church. Others are shocked to read I lived in a small town called Kalamazoo. But we are all more than we appear to be.
Santorum is more than his homophobic rhetoric.
I am more than a gay guy who opposes it.
And if we were to sit across from each other with a cup of coffee, I'm sure we would find the labels we assign to constituent groups and such wouldn't do any of us justice.
Sound touchy feely?
It is.
But that doesn't mean it isn't true.
It does not mean it is true either. Who cares if you both cheer for the same baseball team or both like to fish? What we need to know is what is true about marriage. Let's talk about that. This is just sentimentalism. Never mind about the moral fiber of society. We are nice guys. So we want a gay marriage here, some pornography there, and an abortions every few seconds. Let's just be friends and forget about that.
Rick Santorum's significance has nothing to do with the election -- it's that he gives voice and seeming legitimacy to a lot of people who think it's OK to fire someone for being gay. Getting upset by such a notion is natural. Slapping them with a name like bigot is understandable. But then what? Santorum's campaign presents us with the uncomfortable but necessary task of dealing with that question.
Sure the issue is bigger than the election but to say it has nothing to do with the election is a little strange. It has nothing to do with bigotry. It may be natural for him to call everyone he disagrees with a bigot. Good thing he is above name-calling. But he is right. There is a question to deal with. It is uncomfortable. We need to ask whether society is giving marriage an environment where it can flourish? The numbers seem to indicate No. It matters because children matter. That is what will be uncomfortable. Looking past out short term pleasure long enough to think about the nation's children.
Santorum said he would love his son just the same if his son were to tell him he was gay. Whether that's true is debatable, but what isn't debatable is the importance for fair minded people to push for a country where, if Santorum's son were gay, he wouldn't feel society hates him for it.
You wonder if people like him actually buy this. That they can't imagine a society where marriage is between a man and a woman and yet society would not hate someone who declares himself or herself to be gay. Is it really that hard to imagine? Probably the advocates are the worst people to ask about this. My guess is most people want to keep their sex lives private. Guys like Granderson have chosen not just to make it public but seek a public image built around their sexual preference. Their profession is being a public gay person. So if one says society should not celebrate gayness then they are likely to take it personally. It costs them money. It costs them celebrity status. So they might feel loved or hated by society based on whether people feel the need to trot out a token homosexual every once in a while and say nice things about them.

Part of this has to do with the notion or moral relativism. That society can somehow control the rightness or wrongness of an act such as gay sex. That if gays win the political battle then the tortured consciences will go away. They won't. Moral relativism is false. Gay sex will remain immoral regardless of how widely it gets accepted in contemporary society. But I think many have that hope. Salvation through politics.

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