Religious Family Values

“If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” –Luke 14:26

Whenever the expression “Family Values” is used, it is publically presumed to mean being pro-nuclear family as a primary meaning and code for anti-gay as a secondary meaning. Although some intellectually dishonest folks like to claim that it means pro-family full stop, that declaration of being pro anyone necessarily means, if not actively anti-everyone, at least pro-whoever above all others.

It’s a difference of putting one group ahead of everyone else or putting one group ahead and pushing certain others farther back. A magnitude of some significance, but not much meaning.

But given the above Jesus Bible quote, I have to wonder when religious right conservatives say “family values” what are they actually meaning in their own minds?

To be a follower of Jesus, you have to not only abandon your birth family, but hate them as well. That’s pretty clear cut.

So being for family values is actually at odds with being a follower of Jesus, unless that family value is hate.

It’s not surprising that childhood religious trauma is a common experience for people with severe mental health issues later in life.

Spare the rod and spoil the child is a cautionary warning to beat the child to prevent spoilage, not an instruction to indulge the child and not beat them.

This understanding is far more horrifying than the presumed just against gay people that “family values” signifies to social progressive and liberals.

But, if meaningful dialog is to occur between the parties, then we need to understand each other – and to do that, we have to understand what the other side understands.

Otherwise, we are using the same phrases to mean entirely different things.

One way to avoid errors and risk misunderstanding, is to be curious.

When you say you support “family values”, what do you understand that to mean?

Do you understand that to mean that married couples with kids are more valuable than other members of society?

Or do you mean that everyone’s equal under the law, but that families more equal?

Because really, it comes down to the inconsistency of the anti-gay marriage position and the inability to define marriage in a way that excludes gay people but doesn’t also exclude straight people who are currently able to marry. Such as heterosexual athiests or infertile/childless by choice people.

But, I think when they say “Family Values” they actually mean anti-everyone, just like the Bible quote says.

I think that to follow Jesus is to put yourself above your family and worse, the ideas of the religion above people.

This is why religious so cling to rituals and beliefs, no matter what the human cost is. Why parents will subject their children to beatings, exorcisms and banishment if they don’t uphold the ideals.

To be a Christian is to put your faith before family, even while putting your family – the obedient ones anyway – before everyone else.

A recent article in BBC news magazine that made me think “there’s a reality show that I would watch”, tells of two families who discovered their babies had been switched 12 years earlier:

“It is difficult,” concedes Naimat. “One family is Christian, the other is Muslim. We have different traditions. What I fear most is that the daughter I’ve raised will start going drinking in bars, that she will stop praying and working. I’m worried she will lose her religion.”

I find it appalling that the concern wasn’t that she would keep in touch, that she be happy in meeting her birth family, but that she maintain the religion she was raised in. With no comment about whether he would allow his daughter, raised Christian, to keep her religion in his Muslim household.

Religion is about the group, be it family or tribe or sub-group – not about individuals.

The idea of family honour and what behaviors violate that honour – such as not covering your head, wearing revealing clothing, or talking to members of the opposite gender – basically any high school day in a secular western nation – could result in death for daughters who disobey or death/gang rape for sisters when sons disobey.

It may seem like I’ve veered off Christianity into another religion tangent, but Christianity and Islam are from the same source religion – Judaism – collectively, they are the Abrahamic religions, and as originally practiced, women and children/teens did not enjoy the liberty and freedoms, the independence, that we have today in secular democracies.

Which is why religion is about controlling behaviour and demanding obedience to rules or else suffer now and in the afterlife.

Religions do not value families, they consume families. Religion asserts the man as the head of the household and provides a cultural context for the man to rule absolutely over the family. Even to the point of murder to restore religiously determined honor.

This is at odds with the secular notion of equality for all people, regardless of gender.

Interconnected Meaning

Meaning is not only in the quantity and quality of our interconnection to each other, but in our appreciation and active participation in those connections. After all, something that we take for granted, as our due or entitlement, has its meaning and value diminished, if not utterly lost.

Which is why we often do not appreciate people or situations or things until we no longer have them and are left with regret instead of meaning.

The closest connection that we have to other people is family – both the one we are born to, the one we are raised in and the one we chose to surround ourselves with.

The secondary connections are to people we are associated owing to situation and circumstances, the neighbours, the classmates, the colleagues at work or volunteer groups, the members of the larger community to the tertiary on-line community.

So the quantity and quality of the interconnections we made through life are very dependent on our experience in the family we are raised in. When our development is supported and safeguarded as opposed to neglected or abused, we can form healthy and secure connections with others.

While  our ability to form connections can be impaired by mistreatment at any age, I believe that our ability to be resilient in the face of adversity is very much determined by our formative years and the quality of the connection or harshness of the disconnects within the family we are reared in – and especially the quality of said rearing.

Much has been made recently of the idea of being a tiger mom, which is essentially an Asian version for academics as being a Stage Mom is to the arts.

Neither allows a child to develop talent or aptitude at their own pace or even as their own interest – but rather both are an authoritarian disciplinarian who seeks to impose achievement on the offspring.

Children naturally look to parent(s) to explain the world, to safeguard them, to teach them how to interact and learn and generally be in the world, but being a parent is an art more than a skill, and it comes down to having been parented in a health manner or developing healthy parenting skills – to know your limits and breed within it, certainly, but also to understand that as a parent, you are the child’s connection to the larger world, but you are not the be all and end all, the sum total of the world.

You and your child are both still learning and exploring – you can share what you have learned, but know that you don’t know everything – except as compared to your child – at least until they are able to interact directly with the larger world and begin to seek out novel experience and expression on their own – as a separate being from yourself.

Balancing your need to protect your child against your child’s need to have a separate identity from you. Being authoritative enough to be a resources, a safety net and allow age appropriate self expression and exploration occur and increase as the child ages.

Parents and children, finding a balance between connection and independence, need not be in conflict at the terrible twos or the teenage years.

Much of that balance is not attempting to control the other or impose or overly assert one’s will or need or inability to accept the changes that come with age – of the offspring or the parent. That is the nature of conflict, but the willingness to work out or around or across differences despite them is the path to harmonious co-existence – be it between parents and children, or nation to nation.

If we can each get our own way some of the time, we tend towards being content to allow others to have it their way some of the time. In this way, we all get at least some needs and interests met – and we develop an understanding of each other, and with enough communication, become as committed to each other interests and success as we are our own.

Thus as a healthy family structure supports the exploratory and belonging needs, so too to people at work develop into teams working for common goals, rather than competitors seeking to win at any cost, which is usually at someone else’s expense. “Me and you” becomes “me at the expense of you.”

So, in a society where the 2 parent family with one parent staying at home is no longer the norm, and both parents working or there being only one working parent – whether children are being effectively reared in a manner that will result in resilient and semi-self-reliant but able to form healthy interconnections to other people, becomes quite a social issue and concern.

But of greater concern is how we conduct the social discussion – after all, what message are the children of gay or single parent(s) supposed to take when the opposite gender 2 parent with one staying at home is touted as the norm or ideal?

I don’t think it is helpful to idealize one type of family structure and demonize all others or create an artificial hierarchy of family structures in descending “best”-ness. The reality and facts on the ground is that a child raised in a caring and supportive manner will learn to thrive regardless of if the parent(s) is single or heterosexual while a child raised by a parent(s) who are authoritarian, unsupportive, abusive or neglectful, given if those parents are opposite gender biological parents.

Everyone needs to think of the children and change the public discussion to making sure children are supported by whatever family they have, instead of tearing their families down and labeling them bad according to the make up of the family rather than the quality of the care provided.

Because these children who are told that their families are inferior, will one day grow up and form families of their own – and the idea that the family that they were raised in and cared for as being lesser than, will undermine their ability to bond and connect with other people – and the debate will result in decreasing the family connections that people form, because they simply will not be able to live up to an ideal and not ever cope with the facts of reality.

Families are family when their interconnection is healthy, not because they are related or conform to a particular hierarchical structure and proper mix of gender – and being validated and reflected in society ensures people are connected to the larger society and can then be productive and healthy members of society.

We do not need to destabilize people because of narrow minded and change resistant thinking.

We need to remember that Mr. Rodger’s never sold his house because of a new neighbour, everyone was welcome in his neighbourhood.

when is racism not racism?

Aside

I’m in an interesting argument over at John Barron’s Truth in Religion & Politics on a recent “pro-family” document signed by various republican politicians that suggests that black people were better off as slaves than as free people, because at least as slaves, they were in family groups.

So when are racist appearing statements not racist in intent and outcome?

My response is walks like a duck, talks like a duck so it is on the balance of probably, in fact a duck.

I have taken to evaluting issues and events on a meta-level – rather than look at the specific claims, to look to who is supporting the claims.

When the supporters are homogenous rather than diverse, chances are, no matter what the claim – discrimination and fear of those who are outsiders is what is driving the issue, claim or social movement.

When the support crosses socio-economic, ethnic and sexuality boundaries of groups, then the movement, issue or claim is simply more likely to have merit and honourable intentions – give the varied support.

By anything with homogenous support should trigger a deeper consideration and analysis – because if only one group is behind a thing, then it’s because it’s in their and only their interest – and often is the group attempting to force their preferences on everyone else.

 

Game Changers

I have been involved in an authentic discussion on an internet forum – I know sounds impossible, but it’s true. The entire discussion is here. It starts off as a normal theist/atheist debate – well, as a grown up one for the most part – but then Ben and I enter into a very intense discussion where we are using the same language to describe ever slightly different things.

During this discussion, I was for the first time ever, able to article a though about the origins of the universe as perpetual existence, in which creation and armageddon – creation and destruction are balanced.

The short version is that everything is energy, and a lower magnitude order of energy is matter – black holes pull everything in and compress the energy and white hole explode that compressed energy out and is the conduit for creation.

All the dark energy and dark matter is that which exists in potential or unrealized realities in our universe – every universe is telling every possible story that there is be to told, and it’s our collective and individual choices that direct the story from potentially being told to what is actually told.

In this way, the future is bright and everything could potentially happen – but our nature (aka genetics) give us our potential and our nurture (experience of other people) gives us our limitations within that potential.

Every now and then, a person can break through the limitations and potential and exceed it – these are the people who are the social game changers – they push the rest us off onto a slightly different trajectory than we would have, had that person not changed the game.

I digress for a moment and say that the first time I wrote a letter to the editor of my local daily paper was back in the 1980′s. A letter was published that said, in effect, we shouldn’t make a fuss over Elvis Presley, because he was just a human and a singer and he didn’t impact history.

The letter that I wrote responded with: Elvis was a human in the same way that Hitler or JFK were just humans. Elvis changed the culture and thus did change history and who else did the letter writer think could change human history – snails?

Nearly thirty years later and now with the blog – the biggest unedited letter to the editor opportunity since it lacks an editor, I expand on that simple outraged thought:

Game changers can be a representative force for good or evil, but either way, they represent a collective choice to change direction. When we talk about game changers, it is usually in terms of that they changed the course of history – as if history was on a set course, instead of plodding forward from the last game changer until someone does something and we all get behind the new direction.

Game changers can be in any arena but their impact is far sweeping and often, unable to be directly connected back, so profound are the changes they bring. Because what a game changer does, is act as a focal point for a collecgive existential crisis. They represent an extreme of a value that as a society, we’re all over the map is – game changers polarize the population, until the value crisis is resolved.

Hitler was a crisis of orderliness – all the mechanisms of society ran like clockwork under Hitler – he standardized railway lines, he increased employment and restored a proud identity – and the world could have gotten behind his family values even for he demanded the arts reflect purity in mind and representation – he was trained in architectural paintings – and his paintings where technically well made – they just didn’t have any purity of heart or imagine in them – and this is where they fell flat.

This is also where Hitler fell flat, for his goals were not to restore a sense of order, but rather to marshal forces for a purification – a genocide of everyone deemed lesser than.

The world could not get behind this, for, everyone is lesser than someone else – Hitler was nothing short of total annihilation of human kind – the diversity of humans is our strength – adaptability – if Hitler had succeeded, he would have had to turn on his own Austrians as falling short of the ideal – tall blond and blue eyes.

It also didn’t seem to register on the nazis, that the countries with the highest concentrations of tall, blond and blue eyed people – Holland, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Sweden – wanted nothing to do with his ideas. And, if they could have had any understanding of genetics – these northern Aryans were descended from the original Aryans, who started in India. The paler features being merely acclimated traits to the colder and less sunny climate in the north.

Of course, my favorite game changer is Elvis Presley – and I put him in comparison to Hitler because Hitler was intentionally trying to remake the world in a specific manner – whereas, Elvis was a game changer in a wholly organic and unintentional way.

Elvis Presley grew up in the poorest circumstances possible for a white person – the American South. His father is often referred to as a sharecropper, but that is a gross exaggeration, since Vernon was in fact a layabout who drifted from job to job without a thought to the legality of the job and he ended up for a short time in one of the harshest prisons of the south for altering a cheque – a small fraud of less than ten dollars.

Elvis was probably more scarred by the authorities removing his father than the poverty he grew up with, because the poverty was an experience that everyone he knew was having, so it was normal. This prison stint is likely why Elvis had something of a fetish for the symbols of authority – badges, uniforms and guns – because authority meant power.

Elvis wanted to sing and entertain people and he wanted to make enough money to support his parents, whom he referred to as his babies.

Elvis the game changer response to Hitler.

Hitler represented purity and order. Purity in behaviour, in body and mind, and purity of person – when purity ideas combine in religion and politics, ethnic cleansing is sure to follow.

Elvis represented everything impure about people – but impure in the fun and untamed sense – in him, the impurities were express through music, a joyful celebration of all that is earthy and basic drives for sex, food, colour, excess, vulgar but  an uplifting vulgar, a joyful vulgar. Elvis was the embodiment of racial equality, the unadulterated public sex, for Elvis didn’t just wiggle, Elvis fucked us all – the performance style of the fifties was exaggerated sexual movements and the represses teens threw off the social chastity belts and screamed and writhed and fucked back.

No performer would ever stand still to sing again until Sade in the 1980s, who made stillness her rebellion against the over choreographed performances that came after Elvis, reaching their penultimate in Madonna and Micheal Jackson.

Sadly, by which time, the audiences were once again used to carefully controlled performances and techno music, rather than the joyous and raw and authentic emotional release of the short explosion that the rockabilly, before it became the more mainstream and tame rock n roll.

John Lennon once said that Elvis died when he went into the army, but I think Lennon was being kind – Elvis the game changer died when his contract was sold to RCA and Elvis was no longer in partnership with Sam Phillips, who got the best of Elvis, Scotty and Bill – and Elvis, allowed himself to be led by Col. Parker, who took careful steps to separate Elvis from Scotty and Bill and turned Elvis away from the pure sexual art path and into a groomed commercial product.

We would not see Sun Elvis again, until 1968, when leather clad and running with sweat, Elvis again connected to his sexual power and made love to us all and then ended, white and powder dry, pouring out his soul, with If I Can Dream.

Please let that dream come true, indeed.

Hitler is the template for all that we should avoid in a political leader – one who dictates the party message, closes the field to differing opinions and especially prevents the development of future party leaders, seeks to control the role of women in society, controls eduction, focuses on families only and characters non-conformity as deviant – and in particular sexual deviance from the norm, scapegoats sub-cultures as being the cause of society problems and inequity, when it is the demand to conformity and purity that invents and is the basis for the inequity that sub-cultures and ethnic minorities are subjected to discrimination upon.

Elvis is the template to oppose these puritanical political-religious leaders – and he arose unforeseen from the ashes of the US South to challenge the social status set in motion by Senator McCarthy – a man not very distinguishable from Hitler at all in any meaningful sense, except that he did not achieve the degree of absolute power that Hitler had, McCarthy was limited to influence through threat and scare tactics.

Elvis equalized the the dominate white with the subculture of black, he was religiously zealous and worshiped authority and his 1950′s concerts should be viewed as southern revival gatherings. But Elvis never recognized himself as having any authority or power and thus it tempered his impact – for if Elvis had retained control of his artistic career, we well may have been pushed too fast, too far, beyond what we were collectively able to manage – so, Elvis, had to be not only tamed, but sacrificed.

Elvis himself, spent his life in a state of bewilderment, why him, of all people, was he Elvis Presley? To grow up so poor and then on the cusp of adulthood, become the most famous and controversial performer and the lighting rod for debate about public morals.

No one could have been prepared for the kind of existential crisis that would cause for a boy who was the first of either family side to complete high school, who aspired to the middle class American dream, to be entertaining people in a way that was no different to him than the churches he was raised in – Elvis brought what was his sense of normal onto the rest of us. Egalitarian and earthy, of the flesh and pure in spirit.

Elvis was the joy of living to the fullest, despite all hardships and setbacks, because you can’t know how long you will have life or how long a good stretch of life will last.

This is why Elvis was receptive to the message that he was a flash in the pan and he should get while the getting was good. Elvis, like everyone else, didn’t expect to last.

So, he listened to what Parker and the studios told him, they had the experience and were the experts – and he listened until he couldn’t anymore – then he would take control. When he did, no one could stand before him.

Sadly, this is in the purest sense, the SUN recordings and the 1968 tv special. Everything else was Elvis tamed and controlled, but still, Elvis working within constraints and Elvis phoning it in, was more often than not, better than most other people’s most authentic efforts.

And nothing that pure and gold could last. Elvis left the building of his own accord.

How is this justice?

In 1993, Robert Latimer, a Saskatchewan farmer ended the life of his severely disabled daughter by carbon monoxide poisoning from vehicle exhaust. He then turned himself over to police and started a firestorm public discussion about euthanasia and disability. He was sentenced for second degree murder and isn’t eligible for full parole until December 2010. He is currently in a halfway home with some unescorted day parole, which he uses to travel back to Saskatchewan to be with his family.

On Feb. 27, 1999, Anton “Tony” Lorenz  kicked his girlfriend, Sandra Quigley in the teeth, battered her head with a telephone and finished her off with a pillow. Sandra was 32 and had previously been hospitalized twice following beatings and one of those times, the beating was so severe that she miscarried.

Lornez is now on partial parole and living in the community where the murder took place and where Sandra’s friends and family live.

Latimer has never denied his actions and many Canadians, myself included, agree with and are sympathetic to the mercy reasons behind his difficult choice. His daughter was in constant pain, with no relief and no hope for any meaningful life. He ended her life gently.

Lornez brutally beat Sandra on several occasions and doesn’t take responsibility for his actions. Shockingly, the parole board still granted him parole while he has avoided questions and doesn’t take responsibility.

Parole is supposed to be for people who have admitted what they did and regret it. Not for people who push the responsibility to the victim and refuse to discuss the events.

This is especially disheartening when you consider people like David Milgaard who was not eligible for parole because he wouldn’t admit to murder and remained in jail for 21 years until DNA finally cleared him of the crime and the actual killer was identified.

Has it really become more socially acceptable for a man to brutally murder a woman than for a parent to end the life of a severely disabled and in chronic pain child?

Latimer does not pose any danger to the public while Lornez does.

Latimer has never denied responsibility and maintained that he was motivated by mercy, while Lornez doesn’t accept responsibility and blames his victim.

Latimer, in addition to being incarcerated for a longer time period has the added punishment of national infamy. While Lornez has the dubious benefit of being one of many men anonymous to the public who’ve murdered wives and girlfriends and ex-wives and ex-girlfriends.

While it is true that Latimer’s daughter was a far more vulnerable victim, being a child and having severe cerebral palsy making her unable to communicate or move on her own, and had a relationship with a far greater duty of care – parent to child. To many people, Latimer was acting to spare his child a life of pain and suffering. His actions are intellectually understandable although emotionally anguishable. Latimer was not motivated by greed or anger or rage, but compassion for his daughter and his family. A decision of life or death of one’s child has to be the most difficult one a parent has to make, especially if it’s not a simple removal of hospital care.

Parents who’s child is hospitalized aren’t charged with second degree murder for removing life sustaining treatment. Which is a much closer comparable for Latimer’s situation.

Lornez’s murder of Quigley and earlier beatings of her are not at all defensible. That the couple had broken up and he convinced her to return to him suggests that he probably would have murdered her for leaving him.

Women are often more at risk of being murdered by the abusive ex-boyfriend/husband once a restraining order is issued – as it is a direct challenge to the man’s perceived authority and masculinity and this can escalate his actions from abuse/stalking to murder.

What’s interesting to me is that the groups that were so publically outraged by Latimer’s ending his daughter’s life were typically the religious groups.

Yet, these same groups never come forward to protest against the Lornez type cases.

It is very peculiar to me that the religious righteous tend to be so concerned to maintain the continued existence of anyone who can’t speak for themselves (the unborn, the Terri Schiavo‘s, etc). The Religious Righteous remain silent on the deaths of people who can communicate when they are crime victims or soldiers. But the Religious Righteous speak out in favour of death for people who can communicate when they are the murderers.

I have to wonder, why it is that the Religious Righteous attempt to speak out for “those who can’t”. Is is because if the person could, they would tell the Religious Righteous to back off? That they don’t share the Religious Righteous’ beliefs or terror of death?

It’s peculiar that the Religious Righteous upholds Family Values as ideals, yet attempt to interfere in many people’s families that they are not members of.

It is the legal and moral responsibility of parents and spouses to make decisions for spouses and children who are incapacitated. It is up to the woman to decide what is occurring within her body, and she is the first in line to speak for any offspring.

It is not up to unrelated people to step in between a parent and child or potential child; nor between two spouses. Not legally and not morally.

It is in everyone’s interests to ensure that society is as safe as it can be – so it is in our interests to intervene and condemn the beatings, rapes and murders of any member of society.

Sure, some people view abortion as murder and that would have some credibility if their concern about abortion was matched by a concern about murder generally. But it doesn’t.

Too often what abortion objections come down to is subjugating and controlling women, punishing them for sex and often racism. More often than not, there’s more concern that it’s white women having abortions and it ties into the xenophobic fear of being outbred by other ethnicities.

If you don’t believe me, think about all the anti-abortion demonstrations you’ve seen or activists you’ve heard of – primarily white and usually male.

It occurred to me some time ago to not only listen and consider the message, but also look at the group demographics promoting the view.

It seemed to me that if the group was largely homogenous on ethnicity, gender, socio-economic status, that likely, there’s something else uniting the group that underlies the issue they are making public.

That if an issue was truly just or correct, that the supporters would cross a lot of those demographics. Because it would be the issue, such as environmental protection, that drew people from all walks of life to unite in common cause.

Whereas an issue dominated by a particular demographic feels more like a symptom of a larger unifying cause.

To my mind, motivation counts, a lot.

Which takes us full circle back – Latimer’s motivation was compassion and Lorenz was control over his victim.

Funny then that the Religious Righteous is outraged at the compassion and unfazed by the attempt to control.