Christianity, Cognitive Dissonance, Compassion, Cultyral Conservatism, Diane Medley, Gay Rights, Homosexuality, School
Sometimes your 15 minutes of fame is a moment in the sunshine (or so I hear), and sometimes it’s fifteen minutes under the spotlight of public interrogation (or so I fear). Sometimes, I expect it’s a confusing mixture of both. Take for example the case of Diane Medley, a special needs teacher who claims those of homosexual orientation have no purpose in life. She will be grist for the left wing mill for a little while, and I suppose a hero to Christian conservatives and right wing culture warriors.
Just to be clear, we will be doing the grist-grinding thing here in this post.
…just a little.
So, what’s the story? Well apparently the standard prom for the local high school will be allowing those of homosexual orientation to attend, which is the reason Medley and others have taken to advocating a second prom in which homosexuals will not be admitted. Wabashvalley.com come attributes the following quote to Medley.
Homosexual students come to me with their problems, and I don’t agree with them, but I care about them. It’s the same thing with my special needs kids, I think God puts everyone in our lives for a reason.
Asked if this also holds for those of homosexual orientation, she responded:
No I honestly don’t. Sorry, but I don’t. I don’t understand it. A gay person isn’t going to come up and make some change unless it’s to realize that it was a choice and they’re choosing God.
Now to be fair, there is a trace of compassion somewhere in these comments, but it’s struggling for shoulder room with a whole mess of condemnation. One suspects that Diane Medley’s caring may well be cold comfort for those whose lives she has declared to be utterly without purpose.
The same could be said of assurances made by some of the others in favor of the alternative prom, and by Christians everywhere who wish to assure us that they hate the sin but not the sinner.
A distinction that often comes up short of any real difference.
And here it is easy to get dismissive, easy to write Medley and so many others off as people without redeeming value. I can’t pretend I don’t feel that way at times, but herein lies the really terrible thing. I actually don’t think she sounds like a person completely devoid of humanity. I strongly suspect that she does indeed help students on a regular basis, that she cares for them deeply, and that her caring does extend in some perverted sense to the homosexuals that may come to her for help.
I said perverted, didn’t I?
And I mean it too.
And yes, it is Medley’s approach to homosexuality that strikes me as perverted, deeply so in fact. To imagine that one could help someone whose very life one accords so little value requires an exercise in mental gymnastics that would surely break the back of a healthy conscience.
This is good will gone wrong folks, and that’s the charitable interpretation of her statements.
You can ask people to change and rethink an awful lot in life, and yes that includes religious beliefs, political commitments, work ethics, and even favorite sports teams. Hell, you can ask people to get over an aversion to cats. But you cannot reasonably expect people to change their sexual orientation, nor to live their whole lives as though it didn’t matter. I expect there is a certain range of people with bisexual orientation who could make conscious choices about what gender they do and don’t want to be with, but for the vast majority of us that decision has simply been made for us. We don’t choose which gender we find attractive; we learn it. …and that learning process can be difficult enough for those of us fortunate enough to end up on the socially acceptable side of the spectrum. So much the more difficult for those whose desires take them in a different direction! People going through that deserve all the help that they can get; they do not deserve the conditional embrace of those whose love is full of caveats and footnotes. And they certainly do not need to hear that the only choice that they can make which would possibly make any difference in their lives, the only choice that could give their existence meaning, is the one that will have them going against their their own natural inclinations.
That approach just isn’t good enough.
And God is no excuse.
Medley has attached conditions to her compassion, conditions that dehumanize those who may need her help. That she accounts for these conditions by recourse to her faith in Christ is both beside the point and ironic at the same time. Frankly, I don’t think you get to set aside the vast array of evidence on the subject of human sexuality and proceed as though important factual questions can be safely relegated to the sphere is personal faith, not when other people’s lives and mental health lies in the balance. But beyond that, there is something deeply inauthentic about that approach.
It isn’t that Medley and her allies have renounced the love and compassion, so central to the vision of Christianity. Indeed that message is all over their approach to the subject. But they have reduced it to a sort of footnote. Gone is the motivating force of this powerful message, and what is left of that message is a mere rationalization. Love does not guide their actions; it guides their narrative. Because it is unthinkable that a Christian should act without love, an explanation must be offered which includes it. And so we get one, a vision of love and compassion so filled with caveats that it is guides actions indistinguishable from those motivated by clear malice. And we are left with an absolutism of laws and rules while the very value of a human life is reduced to an artistic expression of sorts, a trick of story telling.
Again, I don’t think Medley is a beast. But in this matter, her faith is hardly a virtue. Indeed, Christianity as she articulates it in this story is an outright moral failing. It is the reason she cannot treat some students with the dignity they deserve. I’ve known Christians who took the message of love to heart, Christians for whom it was a genuine force in their lives. And perhaps on other days, in other moments it is for Medley.
But not today.
And not for those that are gay.