Thursday, December 24, 2009

Trying to Prove the Truth of My Existence

On my way up to visit family for Christmas, I was looking for a passage in Practice in Christianity by Søren Kierkegaard. (I didn't find what I was looking for; when I do I'm sure I'll blog about it.) I came across a passage about recognizing truth (or ignoring it) when it is before us:

Pilate asks Christ the question: What is truth? ... That it can occur to Pilate at that moment to question Christ in this way demonstrates precisely that he has no eye at all for truth. ... [F]or in questioning Christ in this way ... he makes the self-disclosure that Christ's life has not explained to him what truth is--but how then could Christ with words enlighten Pilate about this when that which is truth, Christ's life, has not opened Pilate's eyes to what truth is! ... The question is just as foolish ... as if someone were to ask a man with whom he was standing and talking, "May I put this question to you, do you exist?" ... And what should that man really reply? "If someone by standing and talking with me cannot be certain that I exist, then my assurances cannot be of any use, since, after all, my assurances are certainly something much inferior to my existence" (XII 187 - 188).

As I read this, a parallel struck me. It is a similar phenomenon with those who sit and argue against many things, refusing evidence and testimony against their beliefs. In particular I thought of those who deny the evidence and testimony of those who are homosexual. (I was thinking of this as I will be spending this Christmas in the company of a family member who holds to such views and opinions.) Often such people make the argument that homosexuality is a matter of psychological dysfunctions, childhood trauma, maladjustment to sexual maturation, etc. Such arguments are usually used to discredit the claims and testimony of those who are homosexual. As I remember one person putting it, "I am not considered a credible witness to my own experience."

I have looked at and experienced these kinds of judgments from communities often involved in making these kinds of arguments. From my own experience, and discussions with such people, they want to make homosexuality not exist (at least within their sphere of perceptible reality). As the infamous Utah Senator Chris Buttars said, "I don't mind gays, but I don't want them stuffing it in my throat all the time and especially in my kid's face." As I would translate it, "I say, 'I don't mind gays,' so as not to seem like a total bigot, but I don't want them to exist, let alone know of their existence." The Uganda bill to criminalize homosexuality as a capital offense goes even further. It is not just a fight to push away what they consider un-reality from their perception; it is an attempt to actively stamp it out through force. Even this fight is fueled by the argument that homosexuality is a choice, a dysfunction, a disease to be treated.

Rachel Maddow did a series of segments on her MSNBC show, The Rachel Maddow Show, about the influence of US change therapy advocates shaping the Uganda bill. As is shown, those who try to argue change therapy and the illness model of (and why I make a point of including it here) turn to--what I consider to be--charlatans, yes men, liars, and people otherwise unfit to be considered any kind of authority on the subject. As Rachel points out, these people are using "made up, fake, authoritative stuff that ... is being taken as science."

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To bring this to more of my personal life, this is why I have not been able to have any kind of meaningful contact or correspondence with the mentioned member of my family: to be so thoroughly dismissed, to have my life and existence thrown out as un-reality leaves me at a loss as to how I may be able to say anything more. In a profoundly frustrated and hurting way, I admit I most likely cannot say anything at all. I do not know how to express the pain when someone who has been so close to you in life suddenly says, "Do you exist?" Perhaps a better way to put it is they seem to say, "I know you do not exist."

In the end, and why I think the passage from Kierkegaard struck me when I read it, all we can do is exist. For such people who refuse to listen and acknowledge us as reality we cannot say anything. And perhaps this is why some of such people come around when they no longer know of homosexuality in the abstract but begin to know homosexuals in person. Like Christ (with no intention to be blasphemous with the comparison) we cannot respond with words and rhetoric. It is our lives as we live that shows them what reality is or is not.

And this brings me to the last point I will make in this entry. The fact that it is our lives, not our rhetoric, that shows reality is why I take issue with parts of gay culture (to use a broad term). We fight to show ourselves as meaningful, productive people, yet so many do not show it in how they live their lives. This is also part of why I believe in the importance of same-sex marriage rights: the gay community needs the opportunity to be held to rights and responsibilities to show themselves a worthwhile group. This is not to say it cannot be done without marriage rights. However, marriage is the institution where the issues of living in respect of love and sex--the issues of sexuality--are most directly given opportunity to be shown and proven.

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