Sunday, September 11, 2005

A Little Sunday Morning Meditation

I vividly remember back in December when I attended the first meeting of a group that was "concerned" about the new sex-ed curriculum. They had posted some announcements on the listserve at the high-school my daughter attends, and I decided to go see what the big deal was.

It was mind-boggling. You can live your whole life and never know these kinds of things exist.

One after the other, people stood up to talk about the "sodomites" and "deviants," and how we needed to struggle against the "gay agenda." It was, I don't know, it was like when the Blues Brothers played in that bar behind the chickenwire, and you laughed at it, because you couldn't imagine that there really are places that put chickenwire up in front of the bandstand. And then you walk into a place one day, and there it is, and people throwing stuff at the band.

I remember especially one eloquent older guy who went on about sin. His point was that you have to fight homosexuality because everyone has all types of sin in their hearts. He listed off all the terrible people in his heart, including a murderer, and of course a homosexual, and I listened and thought -- dude, you and me got different hearts. I think of life as a process of self-discovery, of unfolding, discovering the beauty in your heart and learning to bring it out into the world. It has never occurred to me, and I still refuse to consider the possibility, that the heart of man is a dark, dangerous place, and that our true nature must be constantly suppressed.

I am reminded of that moment this morning as I go through my RSS feeds and find one that links to an article at, the American Family Association's web site. This article is about Hurricane Katrina and how it brought out the dark side of humanity.

Superficially, I agree, this storm did bring out the dark side. The greed, the hatred, the fear. I imagine those sheriffs standing on the bridge with machine guns, blocking the only exit out of New Orleans so that "those people" couldn't come into their suburban county. I imagine the government officials who sent back the generators because there was no federal inspector to certify the site, or who gave the order to keep the Red Cross from bringing food and water into the city, so people would leave. I imagine the President joking around and playing the guitar, and giving political speeches, while people stood on their rooftops waiting for help.

But of course the AFA doesn't mean that. They mean the victims. They mean the looting and disorder among those who couldn't -- woops, they don't say that, they say didn't -- evacuate. There's the usual stuff, blaming the looting on people who are "getting back at society" et cetera, not that anybody was hungry or anything. And then the author gets to the real message:
The souls of those who have embraced crime in New Orleans are of the same basic essence as the souls of Josef Stalin, Adolph Hitler, Jeffrey Dahmer ... and you and me. That's right; we are no different from the worst criminal when it comes to the capacity of our hearts to do evil.

The heart of man is desperately wicked, Scripture informs us. And the same verse explains simply and without fanfare why we are so quick to excuse our own behavior and think so well of ourselves -- our hearts are deceitful above all things. Desperately wicked, and deceitful above all things. Perhaps this is why we so readily accepted the oft-heard plea to increase funding for education in order to alleviate poverty, which in turn would make our citizenry a better, more moral people. We lie to ourselves, and we like it.

Perhaps that is also why we have so easily accepted the so-called separation of church and state, explicit instruction on sex education, evolution, and moral relativism, all of which are echoed on the latest sit-coms and reality TV shows. We tell ourselves it is the law, or that it is only entertainment, or that we are too busy to spend hours pouring over every textbook our children bring home. How much harm can it do, anyway?

These developments have no doubt contributed much to the blossoming of full-blown anarchy on the streets of New Orleans. But they did not directly cause the problem. The problem is a lack of inner control, control over our souls. And we must all share the guilt. The Dark Side of Man

People on both sides of the culture wars look across with no ability to understand the other side. Could it be that we differ in this most fundamental assumption about human nature? I haven't really asked my colleagues, say, at, if they think that humans must constantly struggle to suppress sin, so maybe it's just me. Maybe I'm naive or insensitive, but while I am no angel, I do not feel that my innermost soul is innately evil and must be locked down. Just the opposite, I feel that life is a quest to discover our deepest being, which is godlike and spiritual; the temporal world exists to provide opportunities for realizing our goodness. The evil inside me is not my true nature, but exists when I am unable to discover and express my true nature. At least, that is the way I've always looked at it, obviously not everyone does.

The constant state of fearfulness that was promoted in the last Presidential election campaign seems to reflect the vision of the human heart boiling with malice. Danger is everywhere, including in our very nature, and so we need not only to ask for God's forgiveness every moment, but be on guard for the intrusion of this deep malice from within and without. Anything unknown, unfamiliar, whether it's a suspiciously limp wrist or a backpack on a Metro car, must be treated as if it were a very grave danger.

The suppression of human nature requires the cooperation of others -- how in the world can a guy suppress his inner homosexual when there are men out there smiling and laughing and kissing each other? It simply must be stopped. The inner-sin-fighter must set the world up as a stage, with props that serve his script.

There is no reason to believe that people will just "naturally" respect one another and live in harmony, no, greed and power will pop up if you let them, you still have to be careful. But a society should, it seems to me, provide opportunities for beauty and happiness, not fear them.

Here in our little county, we have some people who fear that if we teach children about sex they will lose control of their passions, and explode in a hail of promiscuous, anarchic, undifferentiated evil. I have seen them speak, I have read their essays, and I think they really do believe this.

I hope I'm never like that. I say, show human beings -- whether they are students, voters, whatever -- some respect by telling them the truth, by informing them thoroughly and accurately, and they will be able to choose to do the right thing.


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