Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The lesbian and the fundamentalists

I am a lesbian, feminist, single mother whose spirituality is closer to New Age and Buddhism than Christianity. This spring I battled the constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and civil unions in Kansas. Imagine my surprise when I realized how much I have in common with fundamentalists.

We don’t subscribe to the same theology or the same politics. We might scream at each other if forced into the same room for more than five minutes. However, we do share one important thing: We both sense a hole in our culture.

This hole is the empty place left by the absence of spirit, or if you prefer, religion in American society. It’s a hole created by a web of ideas that push people away from pursuing any form of spirituality. If a person is religious, this absence keeps many people, particularly those from the political left, from speaking out about their beliefs.

The hole is widened by the idea that if you can’t measure something it doesn’t exist. It’s deepened by the belief that anyone who is religious is deluded or superstitious and that no sane, educated person would be that way. More than that, this hole is turned into a chasm by the idea that religion has nothing to add to our struggle to survive in a post-9/11, post-Katrina world.

We live in a time where a subway ride can be a death sentence and our government – the so-called good guys -- condone torture. This is a time when the people we voted into power can’t even carry out the most basic of governmental tasks, which is to help people after a natural disaster.

Meanwhile, our jobs can be, or already have been, shipped overseas. Technology and culture change so quickly that even an old socially radical, Internet junkie like me can feel out of date in a matter of minutes. (They’re doing what at my son’s school? What the heck is a podcast?) All of this goes on, of course, against the backdrop of the heartbreak, illness and death -- the normal tragedies of life.

We stand on ground that’s shaking beneath our feet, and we have no way of knowing when this quake will end. In all of this, I can’t see how we can ignore anything that can bring us some perspective, maybe some solace, and perhaps even a bit of ethical or moral analysis.

More than that, I’m sick and tired of having to justify a belief that is as real to me as the twitter of birds or the crisp smell of fresh snow in my native Michigan. Pretending not to believe is like cutting off my arm and smiling while I hide the fact that I’m bleeding. It is no less destructive to my soul than hiding the fact that I’m a lesbian.

This blog entry is a plea, or perhaps even a challenge, to all those of a secular bent who think only fools have faith: Stop forcing me to lie. Stop ridiculing those who see a nonmaterial world where all you see is material. Stop claiming that talk of morality is based on immature superstition. We who believe are not necessarily your enemy any more than everyone who is secular is always your friend.

It’s not the believing that sets us up in opposition. It’s what we do with our beliefs.

This is where I part company with many fundamentalists. I believe there are many paths up the mountain to enlightenment, or if you prefer, to God. I believe there are many paths to morality, including secular paths.

The desperate need of some strands of Christianity and Islam to force people to live the same way they do, believe what they believe and to impose their laws on the rest of us is truly terrifying.

This is dictatorship at its worst. Whether imposed by violence, as some Islamic fundamentalists try to do, or by a political takeover, as some Christian fundamentalists want to do here, this impulse to mold everyone into one image could well destroy us all.

I stand in a decidedly odd place.

I am terrified of fundamentalism and the apparent need of some of its followers to destroy the religious freedom that is the foundation of this country. At the same time, I stand with my fundamentalist brothers and sisters in acknowledging the importance of faith and spirit.

As much as we disagree, we do have common ground. Perhaps that can yet save us all.


Mike said...

Hi, nice to see you blogging...I will be back often to hear what you have to say.

Take care,
-Mike Silverman

3:19 PM
Silver said...

Mike! Thanks so much for the hello. Mike, isn’t Red Letter Day, your blog? Folks, go over and check it out at: http://www.mikesilverman.com/log.html

5:15 PM
Anonymous said...

Great to see you blogging--I too will stop by often. -- LuAnn

8:36 PM
Nancy Jane said...

I was just reading the Utne Reader in the grocery checkout line and saw an article on religion that you might find interesting. Apparently some Christian fundamentalists are coming around to your political point of view -- they're finding they have more in common with you than they used to think, too. The article was mostly about a guy named Donald Miller, who is apparently making a name for himself in Christian publishing, but whose political heart is on the left. You might want to check him out.

7:42 PM
Silver said...

Thanks! I'll check that out.

11:32 AM
Pamela K Taylor said...

Hi Dianne,

As a progressive Muslim, I find a lot of what you say resonates with me, both in this post and others. The determination that there is only one true way and we must encourage/force everyone to follow it, is a scary thought, especially in the times we live in where people of all faiths or lack there of are increasingly brought together.

I don't know if you are familiar with Tikkun and its attempts to form a Network of Spiritual Progressives (I think that is what they are calling it.). You might be interested in their work, if you haven't heard of them. I think it is so important for progressive people who are spiritual to come together to work for justice, tolerance, and harmony.

Pamela Taylor
(broad universe member)
(Wiscon regular)

9:08 AM
Silver said...

Hi Pamela!

It's great to hear from you. We do live in frightening times, but I think there's also opportunity. Perhaps, we'll finally be able to confront the issue of religious tolerance in a positive way. I have to admit that getting to know you even as an acquaintance has helped smash some of my stereotypes about Muslims.

Thanks for the mention of Tikkun, http://www.tikkun.org/. I'm just becoming aware of their work.

11:55 AM
CarynMG said...

Hi there,

This is a wonderful piece, Diane, and I love the line about there being many paths to morality. One thing that constantly occurs to me is that we need to find ways to talk to each other -- the lesbian to the Christian fundamentalist, the Jew to the Muslim -- across the divides. I've seen amazing things happen when when civil dialogue -- and real listening -- can happen.

9:04 PM
Eri said...

Hi Diane--I too live in Kansas and blog about some Kansas issues...

Thanks for your informative posts and for your open-minded view.


7:13 PM
Silver said...

Thanks so much Caryn and Eri for your comments and for reading this!

I don't always succeed, but I want to makeIn This Moment a place where civil dialogue can thrive. I worry, though, that such an approach is a sure-fire way to fall into Blog Oblivion. It seems as if speaking in a civil tone isn't the best way to get noticed in the overcroweded blogosphere. It will be interesting to see if folks come to a place where politics, hope and respect share the page.

5:47 PM


Mosquito said...

I just discovered your blog and it's wonderful. LOVE your process!

Luckily Hampton Roads includes the Edgar Cayce Foundation. Quite a few spiritual progressives have migrated to Hampton Roads because of this. If you have a community of like minded folks then there is not so much aloneness other than what comes from mixing with diverse people....but then that's what the mainstream is...There's a group for spiritual progressives at Tikkun...Buzz...Buzz...

Diane Silver said...


I REALLY appreciate your comment, particularly the note about Hampton Roads and the impact of living with a community of like minded folks. I know about Tikkun and the Network of Spiritual Progressives, and I'm beginning to find people out here in Lawrence, particularly at the local Unity Church. I will have to visit your area sometime, though. Edgar Cayce was a fascinating fellow.

Thanks much for your kind words.