The Desperation of Rightness

Some of the people out there don’t understand what it is like to grow up in an evangelical home.  I can’t say my story speaks for everyone, but I think it speaks to a common mentality found in certain areas.

The mentality is this:

We are always right.  Your parents are always right.  You may know something that we don’t, but we are right about it by being your parents and therefore being older and wiser than you.

This is why reason doesn’t win.

You can argue all day long about the overwhelming evidence of something.  It doesn’t matter.  And it won’t matter what that thing might be.

For instance:  My father has argued with me about the meaning of the word “tenure”.  I work in higher education.  I have attended 3 different colleges and universities.  I know what tenure is. I know someone who was fired who had tenure.  However, he argued with me that it meant that people could not be fired.  I told him that it did not.  The argument devolved quickly into a nasty “IT DOES, TOO!!” from him.

I was 38 years old at the time.

I gave up.  He will never see my wealth of experience and knowledge or my professional level as being ever equal to something he heard some guy say on a Fox News show or during a sermon from the right kind of preacher.

I could literally write a book on something, and someone from that world would gladly tell me I was wrong about something that I had studied for years.

This is something beyond gaslighting.

This is a systematic devaluing of the knowledge of the younger generation, regardless of what their scope of knowledge is.  Some of it is mansplaining, but I also got it from the female members of my father’s family.

This is belief based in “rightness.”   And they believe in being right about everything.  The pattern of your wallpaper or what color car you should buy, even.   And that is what makes it hard to pin down as what it is.  It isn’t that everyone must fit a certain pattern, it is that everyone must fit the pattern that has been determined by someone else with more perceived “rightness.”

It is about the belief that all other white people are also Protestant and Evangelical, and that they are also Republican and listen to Country music and want and are expected to have exactly the same lives as their parents.

It is the notion that you will marry someone most likely from your hometown even if you don’t even live there anymore.

It is the idea that you want to live in a certain area even though you have never even voiced a desire to do so.  It is the assumption that you want what they think you should want without asking you.

It is constantly saying, to younger people who know something, that some mysterious “they” have you “convinced” of something – that the Muslims you work with every day aren’t planning your doom when they ask you where the scotch tape is, that tenured professors are fire-able.

I can only imagine some dark cabal out there determining that one must sneak around and “convince” us “dumb” people who actually work in a certain field what terms in that field mean, and that these meanings are somehow different from their actual secret meaning, which is somehow known to these other people out there.  Or that entire groups of people would decide “Let’s be nice about the office supplies and conduct ourselves graciously.  That’ll be how we get ‘em!”  The ongoing fallacy is that there is some secret code between individuals, who may have never met before now, and are deciding to do this complete social con game, full-on convincing other people into believing something. The fallacy that YOU disagreeing with them on a point about global warming or Charles Darwin means that that weird blob of random strangers has done their secret handshake behind the screen and has “convinced” you.

And this “having you convinced” will be proclaimed as truth–even though the person making this proclamation about you hasn’t managed to convince you of anything since 1983.  Because you just aren’t easily convinced.

But that screws with everything in their perception of you.  They want, nay, they NEED for you to fit the mold of a dumb kid, easily convinced of things by fancy people.

If I was a brain surgeon, I’m sure that would come up too.  And I would hear how wrong I was about something dealing with the brain.  How someone had me “convinced” about the benefits of some treatment or another.  If I sold cars, I would be told that some mysterious “They” had me “convinced” that one model was better than another.  I have heard my father argue with historians on TV.  I have heard him argue with scientists about the behaviors of tigers during wildlife shows.

Right.

Right Right Right.

That is what evangelicalism has to have.  Because that’s how evangelical preachers talk to their flock.  Admonitions rather than research and theological debate.  Evangelical preachers don’t care who disagrees with them or the level of knowledge of that person.

“I KNOOOOOOOWWWWW that the Lord created Adam and Eve in six days, the scientists and the atheists are trying to convince yoouuuuu that you came from a monkey… “

There is always the desperation of rightness. There is always a verbally confrontational tone, which we see now in national politics.  The preachers I grew up hearing were all too happy to tell you that they didn’t care if they were told they were wrong, were called bigots for their views on gays, or anything else.  They didn’t care.  Because the name-calling people were going to hell anyway.

Small towns in the red states are ruled by this type of thought pattern.  It doesn’t matter, even, if that person has never been to church in their life.  The thought pattern is “I am right.  It doesn’t matter what you show me, I am right.  It doesn’t matter how many sources you list, I am right.  It doesn’t matter how many experts you have, I am right.  It doesn’t matter if you tell me you saw it yourself, I am right.”  The big kicker is that my father wasn’t always very religious, but he was always “right” about everything.  His turn toward religion more seriously has been a product of a lot of life upsets.  My not-actively-church-going relatives are also “right.”  That is why they voted for Trump and other individuals who pop up in news feeds with stories that make most of America shake its head.  He reminds them of themselves in his constant insistence of his own rightness.

“I’m Right.  I’m Right even if I’m Wrong.”  That is the core attitude that is held by current politicians and constituents in the red states that the Democrats and many moderates fail to understand.  But I know it.  I’ve lived with from birth.   Christians who are from mainline belief systems don’t understand that this certainty of rightness is exactly why Evangelicalism is so very appealing.  There is no consideration of multiple meanings or historical changes to word definitions.  There is only Rightness.

This mentality requires blinders.  You have to ignore that your cardiologists’ last name is Hussain, that the person cutting your hair is a gay man. You have to seek to actively “not get it.”  To be so inside your own head that it never dawns on you.  To actively assume your bubble is the one that everyone else is living in, too.  Or to live so externally as to be perpetually worried about what other people are going to say about you or think about you or feel about you, so much so that it supersedes the realities of your life happening all around you.  Either way, the result is a triumph of non-awareness that is impressive.

I don’t argue with my father about anything anymore.   I avoid it as much as possible and seek to avoid saying anything that betrays my real thoughts on any subject where differences lie.  Arguing is pointless.  The only thing that does work is letting him find out the hard way.

It is hard.  But there is nothing that works nearly so well as failure.  Arguing is a desired outcome.  They want you to argue.  They think it is a fun exercise to argue. They don’t want to learn anything.  They don’t want to absorb information from you.  They just want an excuse to be snide from the beginning of the argument.  The only way to win…

Is to let them think they have. To be more mature.  To avoid the problem.  Then, go do what you want anyway.  And you let them lie in the bed they made for themselves.

I can tell you the story of a teacher from my hometown.  She had a husband that was politically passionate.  Put up signs.  She would help and do and volunteer and give money, but when she went to vote, she voted for the other person, every time.  It must have been a hell of an act.

I think of that lady from time to time.  I wonder who she voted for in the last election.

 

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Your Feelings About Abortion Aren’t About a Baby

There is one abortion clinic left in all of Kentucky.  One.  This story appeared on my news feed on Friday and I felt my gut wrench.

One. In a whole state.

The idea that all abortions should cease is a minority opinion in this country, and yet, that minority opinion keeps getting louder and louder.  And the protesters get meaner and ruder and worse all the time.  Angrier and Angrier.  More full of vitriol all the time.

They hate women.

Wait.  Let me rephrase that:  They hate women that have been found as being able to be sexed by men.  It doesn’t matter if the circumstances were rape or incest.  It doesn’t matter if the woman is a confused teenager or a 37-year-old married woman.  What matters is that the woman is guilty because she has female parts and a man experienced sexual excitement in her vicinity– mattering not if that was brought on by violence and rage or affection or some deranged perversion.  That is what they are angry about.  Having a pregnancy (not a child, but a full 9-month pregnancy) is the punishment they believe women should have for the crime of having attracted, even if that attraction was completely unwanted or even unwarranted.

They hate that women are holding their head up and walking into a clinic, verifying to the world that they have, indeed, been found fuckable at some point by someone.

This comes down to the sin of being female.  The sin of being able to attract. Hatred of women as attractors.

This comes down to assuming “nice boys” from “nice families” only do bad things if a bad woman gives them a reason, confuses her intention, or fails to be chaste in every possible aspect of her being.  This comes down to the too-low shirt or the cheerleader skirt or the strapless dress when no one says anything about the shirtless pool boy.

This is punishment for having female plumbing.

“Be pregnant for 9 months.  Grow a baby.  You should not have been attractive to anyone ever.  I don’t care if that was your intent or not.  You shouldn’t have been something other people could see as fuckable. Even you, Sister Hilda from the Convent who was raped while wearing a floor-length habit.  This is your punishment for being fuckable.”

Snicker if you wish, but I guarantee you– if it is living and breathing, something out there is wanting to have sex with it, no matter what it’s wearing.

The hard truth is:

If anyone honestly gave a damn about the kids, there wouldn’t be a single child sleeping on the street.  We would have enough homeless shelters and care centers for all of them. Why aren’t these religious organizations starting more homeless shelters?

If anyone honestly gave a damn about the kids, there would be no bickering over free healthy lunch in schools, and the cafeterias would not be outsourced to a private entity, but properly maintained and monitored.  Why aren’t these individuals protesting their local or state school board’s practices?

If anyone gave an honest damn about the kids, there would be comprehensive sex education across the board in the US that contained the tools to not only discuss sex but also to discuss boundaries and appropriate behavior.   Because American parents are way too scared to discuss sex in any rational manner whatsoever, and some of them may not know a lot about real sex education either because they didn’t have in in their school.

If anyone gave a damn about the kids, we wouldn’t be letting them get their ONLY sex education on how the body actually works from cheesy and wholly unrealistic internet porn.

If anyone gave a damn about the kids, there wouldn’t be a single child who is waiting to be adopted and these same people would be spending some of this protest energy on launching protest campaigns to reduce the cost of adoptions and the time for adoption transitions.

The first thing that anyone says is, “They should give them up for adoption.” Quickly followed by, “But it’s so expeeensiiivee.  And it takes soo longggg.” No one is protesting those laws.  Why not?  Where is the outcry?  Where is the demand to change that legislation?  Where is the ever-vocal minority on that?  It doesn’t exist because they really don’t care about it.  If they did, they would be doing something about it.

No.  We get people harassing women at the only abortion provider left in an entire state.

I’ve seen our sexual culture change.  In my high school years (think about the early 1990s), sex was just a thing you maybe did or didn’t do, and many sexually active kids did have, purchase, and have access to condoms.  Many boys in my high school carried condoms in their wallet, “Just in Case”.  While some might snicker at the assumption that these teen boys would ever get lucky, the fact is, kids were having sex all the time.  Those condoms got used.  The pregnancies that happened were often because the condom broke, not because there wasn’t one.  Sexual responsibility was a part of emerging adulthood, regardless if that responsibility led to abstinence or responsible sexual behavior.

Now, it seems we are in a world where teens are almost given the culture of having sex accidentally and unprepared as being the normal situation.   There has been an emergence of an American subculture that wants the drama, the negative outcome, salivating over the punishment.   They keep setting up the perfect storm:  Lack of sex education, so that people, especially kids, can only make stupid decisions, which can be devoured later with their eyes to give some sense of smug self-satisfaction.  Giving only one path for escape, knowing most won’t follow.  All to visually feast and scream through bullhorns at those who bear the burden of failure combined with bad luck so that they can be made examples of.

Because that is what they want.  Not more babies in the world.  Satisfaction from seeing a punished, “fallen” woman.  A woman punished because her body is breasts and hips and thighs and that female-ness committed the crime of being and therefore attracting, a male.

Circling the Bowl

Why do people argue the unresolvable?

Why?

Why can’t people admit that they are on different ground rather the same and just be okay with it?

I’m talking specifically about the arguments I observe (as opposed to participate in) over religion.   People push one set of values presented in a religion over another and the comment thread or discussion goes on and on and no resolution is ever reached, just endless cycles of blah-de-blah-blah about what someone should believe but it also says this other thing that another person thinks is “more equal” in the religious viewpoint.  You aren’t a REAL  (insert religion here) unless you believe THIS.  Then someone else chimes in and

People push one set of values presented in a religion over another and the comment thread or discussion goes on and on and no resolution is ever reached, just endless cycles of blah-de-blah-blah about what someone should believe but it also says this other thing that another person thinks is “more equal” in the religious viewpoint.

Maybe you aren’t the same religion after all.   Why is that hard to accept about one another rather than arguing a theological debate? Why do you feel an obligation to justify yourselves to one another?

Why?  Why spend time on it?

There are people who are in love with religion for its ability to bring judgment. There are people who are in love with religion because it might bring order to the universe, they tend to like having rules dictated to them, even if those rules hurt them personally.  There are people who are in love with religion because they think of it in a lovey-happy way– people who espouse the ideas of mercy and forgiveness and ideal, eternal love.

These people are different people.  They believe different things.  No matter what religion you are in, these people are going to have a different set of beliefs.  If they had been raised in a different culture, the temperature of their religious belief would largely be unchanged. They are, in a way, worshipping something inherently different within the religion, and will find a different set of outcomes rewarding to their sense of spirituality.  You can argue each other’s wrongness into the ground or next Tuesday but it won’t actually change anyone’s mind and it won’t matter to them.  They will keep justifying whatever it is to themselves anyway.
I vote everyone stops.
I am going to suggest a new tactic for comment sections and family reunions the world over.

Stop.  Just stop.  Put a stop to wasting your precious time and frazzling your mind over it and finding justifications for this beleif and that one.
Regardless of what religion you participate in, how different would your life be, if—
Instead of saying “Yes, I believe this, but my interpretation…” or “What that really means in the original language is.. “ – what if, instead you just looked someone in the eye and casually said,

“Yeah.  No.  I don’t believe that part.  I believe parts X-Y.  Can you pass the Ketchup?”

Can you imagine the reaction if you chose to opt out of the discussion instead of launching into a black hole of endless unresolved debate on your opinions of theology or the verb endings of languages you have never personally studied?   Wouldn’t that make life BETTER?  Just to stop?

Wouldn’t it be better not to discuss what a REEAAAALLLY REAL  (fill in the blank) believes?
Why can’t that be the answer?  Why shouldn’t it be?

You don’t owe anyone an explanation for your thought processes.  Not a single person.  They don’t owe you an explanation for theirs.  The problem is the endless justifying and verse-grabbing and historical veracity ad nauseum, because it is eating up precious seconds of your life without an end in sight.

You can pick and choose what you want to believe.  You can tell people to screw off if they don’t like it.  But that requires you owning what you actually believe.  You have to stop saying, “I know its wrong  buuuuuuuutttttt…. ” and just own that you don’t actually believe that bit of something.  It requires you to stop finding some vague verb tense only 3% of people majoring in dead and nearly -dead languages to determine what it “really means”.   It requires you to say, “I believe in the ten commandments, but I gotta tell you, I think the beatitudes are hogwash.  That hippie love crap is just annoying.”  Or the reverse.  Whatever is true for you. Own your current reality based on your actual life.

I’m telling you- go ahead.  It’s okay.  I don’t care if you do.  But you all need to start owning where you are and being honest with yourself. All you are doing otherwise is spending giant chunks of your life arguing over something you can’t resolve.  Who on earth would ever want to do that?  Why?

And who are you trying so hard to convince with that smidgen of information or vehement insistence?   Yourself?  If you have to fight that hard to justify something, no matter what it is, that’s usually a sign of a problem.

Is it hard to own your own mind?

Are we scared to know that instead of a few value systems there are infinite value systems, one per person, and we cannot legislate the mind?
Try it.  I dare you, religious peeps of various types—when someone gets all whatever and starts telling you what you believe,  what this book says or that, respond with, “Yeah, I don’t believe that part.”  even if you do. Take a look at their reaction.  Savor the moment you decided other people’s demands on your spirituality no longer were a thing for you.
What if, the next time someone tells you that you aren’t a “real (fill in the blank),” instead of getting angry or self-defensive– you just say, “yeah, I know” very nonchalantly and punctuate it by walking off to buy ice cream?

Endless debates on where the emphasis in religions should fall are a waste of your precious years on this earth. Time you can NEVER GET BACK. EVER.  When the time is gone, it is GONE.  GONE GONE.  Time you could have spent watching the sunset.  Remembering the names of the constellations overhead.  Feeling a summer breeze. Making snowmen.

Life is short.  Too short.  Don’t waste it debating the unresolvable just because you think you must.   Definitely, don’t do it because some clown is demanding answers out of you.  Your life isn’t about everyone’ else’s opinion.  It’s far too short to be.