Monday, September 24, 2012

Sex Changes And True Happiness

Someone called Aurora commented on my post about a Christian woman's story where she supported her husband's decision to get a sex change.
This post makes me very sad. I wouldn't say that if you hadn't posted a link to it on Melissa's blog, not only because I wouldn't have read it, but because this is your space and it would feel sort of rude to come over here and argue with your most core and sacred beliefs without at least reading a lot more of what you have written. But you did post the link, and that suggests you're open to a conversation with people who don't come anywhere close to agreeing with you, so: this post makes me very sad.
You are absolutely welcome to comment. I love to get reaction from anyone and everyone. That is why comments are open on all my posts. I actually like comments from those who disagree more, if they are serious and polite. So yes, I am glad you commented.
It is just so sad to think of people choosing to see the world as you do, of choosing to treat one's potential for happiness and wholeness and love as a burden. Of course one must live with what cannot be changed and make as good a life as possible with that suffering. 
You need to back up a bit. I would never suggest someone not pursue "happiness and wholeness and love." The question is how do we do that. We need to know what wholeness looks like. We need to know what love looks like. If we get that wrong and pursue a false image of happiness and wholeness and love then we have problems.

I even find the phrase "people choosing to see the world" strange. I don't decide how I want to see the world. I try and discern what is true. We can't manufacture truth. We can only respond to it. We can embrace it or we can fight it. We can't change it.

Of course that suffering can, at times, have good effects. That does not mean that any bad or hard thing must be bourn when it is possible to change it without harming anyone. Melissa and Haley have harmed no one (yes, their families of origin have felt pain around it, but that is primarily because of their choices about what to believe, not because of anything inherent to what their children have done). 
You are making a lot of assumptions here. One is that harm consists of short term pain. That if the total pain and pleasure of all involved goes in the right direction then good must have been done. That is only true if there are no higher goods than pleasure and no real evils other than pain. I just don't agree with that.

I would even suggest that the families of origin might not have suffered harm precisely because they did feel pain.When some people suffer pain and others don't in response to some sort of stimulus then somebody's reaction is off. There is either a false positive or a false negative. You seem to imply that because being pain-free is good that the one who does not feel pain is right. That does not follow. You need to figure out the truth of the matter first. That is harder because even your own conscience is not infallible.
They have worked carefully and thoughtfully to come to beliefs and lives that do not do them unnecessary harm. The beliefs they grew up with did them harm. Your beliefs, if they shared them, would do them harm by denying them the opportunity to seek happiness. I know you believe that harm is necessary. I'm reluctant to argue with you about that, because I know you believe there are factors involved which simply don't exist in my mind. 
Catholicism would not deny them the opportunity to seek happiness. It would say that you don't seek happiness by fighting God. That our sexual desires can lead us astray sometimes. We are rational and we can choose the higher good. Ultimately the higher good will lead us to true happiness. You seem to say those higher goods simply don't exist. Does that mean that sex becomes the be all and end all? This story seems to say that. That when your hormones tell you something will make you happy then all rational analysis must stop. You must reorder your entire life around your sexuality because it alone can lead you to true happiness.

That seems to be the way they did things. When they analyzed the teachings of various religions they seemed to use their sexuality as the plumb line against which all truth claims should be measured. It was more of a subconscious thing. They didn't state their dogma about the supremacy of sex and then ask themselves if they really believe it. They just kind of fell into this way of thinking. By rejecting God as #1 something else just slipped into the #1 spot in their hearts.
I don't think either of us is likely to convince the other and I accept that. However, the main point I got from your post is that you think Melissa and Haley are good and thoughtful people who have made mistakes and that, though you hope they'll change, those mistakes, and thus the very basis of their current lives and identities are sad and tragic.
There is a sadness about where they ended up. I was not totally happy about where they came from either. They were buying into some poor teaching. That was sad too. I read a lot of conversion stories about people becoming Catholic or becoming Christian and their lives become much more joyful and fulfilling. They encourage me in my faith. The question comes, "What do you do with the stories of people who convert the other way?" Well, they encourage me in my faith too but in a different way. This story shows me that pursuing sexual happiness first and spiritual happiness second leads to neither.
I just want to say that that sadness doesn't go only one way. A lot of us who are agnostics and atheists see sentiments like yours and are ourselves very sad for the people who believe them and make their choices based on these beliefs. Not necessarily for you individually, that would feel presumptuous to me, but for people like Melissa and Haley would have been had they chosen your beliefs.
It is sad to see someone give up something major in pursuit of a higher truth and end up in a bigger lie. It is also sad to see someone refuse to give up something and not even try for the higher good. If a man gains the whole world and loses his soul it is a sad story indeed. But atheism and agnosticism do not avoid this problem. They avoid one error but make the other much more likely. It is like saying that romantic relationships can be very sad and therefore I won't get involved in one. But missing out on a good romantic relationships is also sad. Atheists and agnostics are like a woman who is sure every man is going to be abusive and all their talk of love is a lie. You can't prove her wrong. But you know someone who will truly love her if she gives Him half a chance.
I would also like to point out that Melissa's last post was mostly about one particular "issue[] with depression:" that for her at least, it seems to be a burden she cannot completely banish, whether through prayer or through medicine, but that by finally accepting that there are tools to deal with it besides prayer, hope, will-power, and self-reproach, she as been able to make depression a much more manageable and less all-encompassing aspect of her life. For that, I applaud her. 
I agree with you here. Telling someone who suffers from depression that she should not use medication and should not seek professional help is really bad theology. So I was glad to see her rid herself of that belief.

This is the reason I became Catholic. It is because truth is important. Just accepting the version of Christianity you were raised in is dangerous. You need to discard all the forgeries and embrace the true Christian faith. We need to use our reason and not just accept things on faith alone. Reason purifies faith. Faith purifies reason.
You say "the road they are on is not easy," and that's true; most people's roads are not easy. But just as Melissa has taken action to make depression a smaller burden for her, Haley has taken action to make her relationship to gender and to her body less of a burden for her, and I also applaud her for that.
Again you fail to draw the obvious distinction. When our bodies don't function the way they should we can fix them. That is legitimate medicine. But who can say that a man's body should be a woman's body? That is something we don't decide. It is decided for us. But is the process that determines that higher than the human mind or lower than the human mind? If it is lower then we can question everything. Why respect human life if it is a product of a lesser intelligence? What would be so wrong with ethnic cleansing? If the process that gave us an ethnic group is suspect and human decision making is more trustworthy then why not simply kill off an ethnic group that seems inferior or undesirable?

Everything is connected to how we view the human person. If we act like who we are is just a collection of organs and chemicals that can be manipulated in whatever way we want for whatever reason we want then we end up losing the basis for respecting the human person as sacred. If the creator is mistake-prone then we really lose track of who we are.

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