Monday, January 27, 2014

Altruism and Angels

Above, from left to right: Rabbi Mark Wilson, Rabbi Joshua Lesser, Rev. Jerry Hill, Rev. Donna Stroud, and Jayce Tromsness (director of the upcoming ANGELS IN AMERICA at the Warehouse Theatre). As always, you can click the photos to enlarge.

It was really great to listen to ALL of their varied experiences!


A week ago today, on Martin Luther King day (January 20th), some of us from Occupy the Microphone radio show attended a Warehouse Theatre event, one of a series of community discussions/dialogues titled Altruism and Angels: A Community in Conversation. The one we attended was titled Religion: Blessing, Curse, Irrelevant? A Discussion of the Impact on the Spirit, Advocacy and Vision of the LGBT Community. (This special series of discussions is part of the larger "Year of Altruism" that will be a religious focus here in Greenville during 2014.)

It was one of those evenings that caught me off-guard... one of those things where I thought I knew everything already, but the discussion took me in surprising and unanticipated new directions. The discussion wasn't a modest one, with God-loves-everybody platitudes, but instead went right for the jugular. It wasn't just about the fundamentalists, everybody's favorite whipping-boy, but about the ongoing moral struggle now faced by the "mainstream" denominations, when they grapple with issues like gay marriage and adoption.

For that reason, I didn't know how to write about the event, since I had mixed feelings about it.

To wit: Is religion one of the main causes of pain and anguish in the lives of LGBT people? Listening to some of the stories, it sure sounded like that to me.

Is this fact due to some intrinsically-negative factor about religion/spirituality in and of itself, or a separate thing, religious dogma specifically?

Can we separate the spirituality/comfort of religion, from the dogma that provides its ultimate psychological wallop, as ultimate truth and metaphysical certainty?

Isn't the fact of unchanging dogma one of the things that comforts us when we need it? If not (and I've never found dogma by itself particularly comforting, but I realize others do), then what is it that we grasp for in times of spiritual need?

At left: Some of the discussion participants. It was a lively conversation.

These are the things we talked about. Very intense. I did not necessarily come to the conclusion that religion should be let off the hook, although I did come to the conclusion that it is probably not an unqualified good, which is something I have always believed on some level. Religion done properly, I would say, is a good thing. Done improperly, it's a bad thing.

I am now wondering if that truism (which I never fully realized I subscribed to in the first place!) is simply mythological. One of those just-so stories we tell ourselves so we can get along with all of our religious neighbors.

As I said, intense discussion. So intense, I could not fully deal with it until today, so thanks for hanging around while I try to figure things out.


I recently went on a bit of a screed over at Tumblr, ranting about the kids who won't do activism. (And like most kids, they shrug, roll their eyes, and go on about their bizness.) But seriously, I do realize this phenomenon is one big reason why people avoid activism... or start like gangbusters and then fade out over time:

People have cherished ideas they bring with them into their activism and then, BLAMMO, something happens (like this discussion) and we end up questioning what we think we know, what we tell ourselves we already believe. And stuff like this can sneak up on you and leave you too winded to deal with what is right in front of you. I probably should warn the kids about life-altering moments like this, if indeed they do ever decide to engage in some real activism.

Then again, nah. Let em all find out for themselves. ;)


Gorgeous Gregg said...

Well, you made us wait a long time between posts, but this was a good one. I believe that all wars are about money, whether in the form of armaments contracts or in the form of fiefdoms, and get the Crusades and similar military conflicts and am told that religion, not money, is the source of many wars. The problem is that money is also at the core of many religious institutions. I feel that, when confronted with a cash decision, mammon always trumps God.

So, although a person of varying levels of faith over the years, I have never blamed God for humanity's failings nor lost faith that man alone, in and of ourselves, have what we need to create an eventual almost holy people.

If we survive ourselves.

By the way, this captcha is much easier to use.

bryce said...

u know what i think, d. reduce religion by at least 85% here in the south and we'd be *lotz* better off.

heard enough of it to last a lifetime. dont think i;m the only one.

Anonymous said...

I have a friend who's recently gone through the opposite...she's stopped describing herself as an atheist because the atheist community has repeatedly appalled her.