[CAVEAT: The following comments were cross-posted with everything posted during the embarrassingly long time between my clicking "Post Comment" and "Submit." They are not a direct response to any individual post above--just to the thread in general.]
Personally, I feel that people who worship Christ Crucified should not
be in the business of crucifying people.
And crucifying non-conservatives is what First Things
has always been in the business of doing. It has always been a venue for snark and sneer. Always. The founder's columns were nothing but snark and sneer. It was a selling point. Among religious insiders, there is always at least some market for contempt and a holier-than-thou attitude, and First Things
deliberately appeals to that market.
That's why I published this
there. I thought readers there might think, ruefully, "Oh, yeah, that's me."
Jesus repeatedly said that it is the religious and comfortable people, not the more obvious sinners, who are most in danger of never entering the kingdom of heaven, because they deny that they have any need to change their hearts and minds and actions.
But these are, to some extent, my own people. I come from that upbringing. I feel compelled to try to help them. They may not always deserve (or even want) my empathy and goodwill, but they've got it anyway.
I will not participate in the shunning and shaming of my friends who continue to publish and associate with First Things.
Friendship and love are the only things that have a chance of changing minds and hearts. Threats of public crucifixion won't do it.
Besides which, the current bloodthirsty enthusiasm for the public crucifixions of people deemed deplorable doesn't seem very healthy for anyone.
Again, people (myself included) who preach empathy for the shunned and the shamed and the persecuted should not be saying, "Except for these
people deserve to be shunned and shamed."
Isn't that attitude identical to the attitude we're trying to combat?
Yes, I sometimes can't help but ridicule Trump, etc. And I sometimes make people feel attacked when they, ahem, employ a metaphor I dislike. I still succumb to the temptation to crucify people myself, on occasion. But doing so is always hypocritical and wrong and counterproductive.
[Edited to add: Oh, yeah, I certainly piled on in the thread about the Best American Poetry editor's having included his own work, his wife's, his friends', etc., in a way that was made worse when it unintentionally implied that even the other included poets who had had nothing to do with that were in some way tainted. Yeah, I'm not very proud of my participation in that thread.]
In general, I try to be in favor of continuing to talk to, and even respect and have fondness for, people with whom I disagree, even while I disagree with their ideas. Vehemently, at times.
Certain opinions and attitudes must be confronted, because silence implies endorsement of them. But I think it's possible to decry homophobia and transphobia for what they are, in a way that doesn't make those who are promoting those attitudes feel personally attacked, and therefore more entrenched in their positions and more inclined to characterize their discrimination as self-defense.
I might not be able to convert anyone from these attitudes. I may lack the requisite silver tongue. But I still think it's possible. And I will continue to try. And fail. And try again.
Poets, of all people, should try not to lose faith in the power of words to change minds and hearts for the better
, in a world abounding in examples of words changing minds and hearts for the worse
. We should proclaim words' potential to build and heal, not just destroy.
Words like "Mom and Dad, I'm gay, and I'm still the same person you have loved all these years" or "Hey, you know when you were saying trans people are just attention-seeking sickos whose whims shouldn't be indulged? You're talking about someone I love dearly, and let me tell you why you're wrong" can go either way. I have seen those words drive families and communities apart, but I have seen them bring families and communities together. And I honestly believe that personal testimonies from friends and family are the only
words with any potential to turn certain people from attackers to defenders of the vulnerable.
The chances of converting someone's attitude may be slim, but they vanish to zero when someone says, "It's pointless to have a conversation with you about this. Goodbye."