Anger II

Empathy

Empathy (Photo credit: TonZ)

I can’t villainize the people who raised me to be an Adventist. I know my parents loved me the best way they knew how. Every time someone reminds David that he’s ‘unequally yoked’ they are doing so (presumably) because they are considering what they perceive as his eternal interest. They are looking out for him the best way they know how. I can’t even blame the church. Every (or nearly every) pastor and administrator in as sincere in their beliefs as I am in mine.

If I could villainize every Christian I’d ever known it might make me feel better, more justified somehow in my frustrations. But even as I am frustrated with fame-seeking fundamentalists on television, I have to recognize that many of the people who follow them–many of my friends–struggle with the acceptability of homosexuality, or interfaith coalition, or gender-identity on a genuine theological level. Like me, most Adventists have a set of uncompromisable ideals, and regardless of their willingness to love or accept people, feel honor-bound to submit to the dictates of their ultimate authority.

Despite my fundamental disagreements with (for example) people who hold women to be natural subordinates, proponents of ‘traditional marriage,’ or individuals who adhere to a binary gender theory, I cannot fault these people when their conclusions about what is best for themselves and their loved ones is drawn from love and a commitment to their spiritual integrity. It would be arrogant to believe that anyone who doesn’t believe as I do must love their friends and family less or would do any less than I would to guide them away from what they consider to be dangerous and harmful ideas. It would be irrational to assume that because I believe my ideas are better, my motives must also be superior.

And so my own ideals force me to empathise with those urging David to move on, even though it would mean losing my best friend. And I am forced to empathize with my mom when she tells me she won’t stay up worrying about my spiritual fate because, “I did my best, and the Lord didn’t give me children for fuel.” And I am forced to empathize with an infantilizing and patriarchal university structure that has two sets of rules for the mens’ and womens’ residence halls, and requires its adult students to take a vow of chastity (or, at least sign a contract agreeing to abstain). And that makes me angry.

I don’t want to empathize with people who hurt me. I don’t want to understand those who don’t understand me. I want to rage. And I want my rage to be justified. I want to be the raging, iconoclastic, blindered atheist, but I can’t.

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