Tag Archives: culture war

My New Favorite Movie: Doubt

Every once in awhile, a film comes along that is perfect. Doubt, by John Patrick Shanley, is such a film. Originally a play that won the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 2005, it must have been written in 2004, probably after Bush was “re-elected”, and the fear and despair that reasonable people felt about suffering through another four years of his administration was at its height.

While the film tells the story of a power struggle between a priest and a nun at a Catholic school in 1964, the real struggle is ideological. It is about hope vs. fear, compassion vs. hatred, good vs. evil. The Harry Potter books offer the same theme, but in Doubt there is enough ambiguity to keep you on your toes and really make you think. Throw in some racism and homophobia and you have a film that speaks to our times even though it takes place 45 years ago.

This film is about the current culture war. Meryl Streep’s portrayal of an embittered, cynical, old nun who only sees the worst in people reminds me of Maggie Gallagher at the National Institute of Marriage. They are the ones who recently put out that awful, fear-mongering ad about Teh Gays. But already YouTube is filled with videos countering that hateful message. To see a good selection, check out this post at The Gaytheist Agenda.

Philip Seymour Hoffman, who was great in Capote not so long ago, was excellent as the priest. As a child, I attended a Catholic church circa 1970 that had similar ideas to those that Hoffman’s character espouses. He reminded me so much of the priest that I knew that it was uncanny.

One other theme that really makes this film great is the idea of change vs. entrenchment. The priest wants to bring the school into the modern age. The nun is incapable of changing. She sees evil everywhere. Love and compassion are alien concepts too her. So the question remains: Are we moving toward a new era of acceptance or are we doomed to be ruled by our fear? And isn’t religion and its antiquated notions of heaven and hell part of the problem?

I gave up on Catholicism thirty years ago, but I would urge Catholics everywhere to watch this movie and really think about what it means. I suppose it is asking too much for the Pope to step into the modern age, but I can hope, can’t I?

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The Culture War or What is Hate – Part III

After the passage of Propostion 8, I spent quite a bit of time reading Mormon blogs. This was difficult to do because I hate Mormons. Then again, I hate Southern Baptists and pretty much all Evangelical Christian types who think that homosexuals are an abomination of god. But I wanted to understand them. What makes these assholes tick?

One blog that was particularly useful in my quest for knowledge is called “Dream a little dream…” by a Mormon inspirational speaker lady. She is so far to the right, so hateful toward people like me, that reading her blog makes me feel like I am about to puke. She did, however,point me to an article in an LDS magazine written by a Los Angeles Police Detective Paul Bishop who, until recently, considered himself quite tolerant of the LGBT community. He talks about how difficult it was to join in the “Yes on 8” rallies, yet join in he did. And then he was shocked by the anger he witnessed after it passed. Of course, he didn’t call it “anger”. He called it “hatred”.

Here’s my favorite part of his article:

How do we respond to hatred disguised by the adversary as tolerance? Our stake president has talked to the temple presidency who has assured him the temple will be open for business as usual. There are eight weddings scheduled on the grounds. Will we be able to get to the temple without being molested or our vehicles vandalized? We must place our faith in the Lord and proceed.

Oh my gosh! The Mormons are worried about being molested or having their vehicles vandalised. But let’s take a look at the LGBT side of the equation. I will rewrite this paragraph from the point-of-view of a lesbian:

How do we respond to hatred disguised by the adversary as tolerance? Although I don’t attend church, I have recently begun going to my local Pride center so I can feel some sense of a community. But today I have to go to work and then the grocery store. Will I be gang-raped or shot in the back of the head? I must place my faith in humanity’s better instincts and proceed.

It quickly becomes obvious here that if I want to understand how Mormons and others of their ilk think, all I have to do is examine my own personal views and then turn them around 180 degrees. The only thing I have going for me is that I recognize my hatred for what it is, but they don’t.

Detective Bishop goes on to paraphrase and quote from Luke to justify his position of tolerance. So I decided to do something I haven’t done in decades: read the bible. Specifically, Luke 23: 1-34. To my surprise, I found this passage quite beautiful and moving from a literary standpoint which is the only way I can read the bible. After all, once you accept Jesus as metaphor, a representation of ‘everyman’, then there is nothing wrong with what he says. And so I can apply Jesus’ words to the Mormons: ‘Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do’.

This all seems quite logical and yet, there is one very obvious flaw in my reasoning. If you haven’t caught it, I will come right out and say it because this is not the time for subtlety: I have created in my mind one huge group of people and labeled them. Whether I call them Mormons, Southern Baptists, Evangelical Pricks, really makes no difference. They are a faceless mob that is against everything I believe in. No wonder I hate them so much. For who isn’t afraid of a faceless mob, and what is hatred if not fear?

Rick Warren condemns homosexual behavior. Therefore, anyone “immature” enough to engage in it is part of that faceless mob called Homosexuals. It doesn’t matter how much he might like Melissa Etheridge as an individual. He still, somehow, is not quite able to see beyond the fact that she is doomed to burn in hell because the bible tells him so. In other words, Melissa Etheridge is not fully human.

Sometimes I think it must be easy to view the world in such stark black-and-white terms, to know without a doubt what is good and what is evil, to believe in such a simplistic concept as Heaven and Hell. But I can’t. From an early age at Catholic Sunday school, the idea that bad people would burn for eternity struck me as grossly unfair. Condemning someone to eternal damnation was not my idea of a loving god. And someone who believes in such a thing is, in my mind, very immature.

So maybe it is time for subtlety. If we think of Jesus as a symbol for ‘everyman’, then we are all children of god. And we all have to love one another without judging them. It is easy to judge mobs, but infinitely more difficult to pass judgment on an individual. To paraphrase the bible, who among us can say what is right or wrong? Who among us is perfect? If God (whatever that is) is the only perfect being and the only one capable of judging, then I have nothing to fear.

So to the faceless people who insist on judging me I have one word: Stop! Let me live my life in the way I see fit. By judging me, by insisting that their is a stink in my soul, you foster a climate of hatred that makes it acceptable for groups of violent, young men to go around raping and killing people like me.

Yes, Candace Salima. I am talking to you. I know you would never shoot some “faggot” in the back of the head, but you still have blood on your hands. I’m finding it very difficult to see beyond the stink in your soul, to see you as an individual, but I will keep trying, for my own sake.

The fact is, Obama is right. We have to reach out to the other side. We have to talk to them and try to understand them. We have to find a way to get them to understand us. We have to learn to coexist. And while many of us on both sides of the culture war may never be able to bridge the gap that divides us, I have some faith in this nation’s youth.

In the meantime, I’ve decided to throw my lot in with the local Democratic party to make my voice heard. I’ve flirted with political activism in the past but never been truly involved. Now is the time. I will be fighting for civil unions for all, and I won’t stop until I achieve my goal or I am dead.

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