Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Queen of Michigan and Thought Crime

Yesterday at work, I was privileged to be able to sit with someone in their grief.

 I say "privileged" because I believe being trusted with my patients' sorrows is a privilege; but also because many others have sat with me during such painful times and this felt like honoring them, too. My patient's grief is especially crushing because the death of her loved one was a suicide. People have a harder time supporting survivorsi of suicide well; we don't know what to say when a friend's loved one dies, but we REALLY are stumped by suicide.

Luckily or not, her friends and family thought they had exactly the right things to say,but like Job's friends in the biblical Book of Job, it would have helped more if they all had just shut up.

Along with the usual, "at least he's at peace now", "you need to forgive him" she was getting the Mother of All Stupid Things to Say After a Suicide: "Well, The Bible says he can't go to heaven."

This is stupid on a number of levels. First, it says nothing like that anywhere IN the Bible. Secondly, it's a pretty crappy way to show the love of Christ to someone. But most of all, even if it were true, which I don't think it is, at least for someone with a serious mental illness, how could someone be that hurtful unless they are a sociopath or as stupid as a slug? Really?

Anyway, that's not what I wanted to talk to you about. I wanted to talk to you about "hate crimes."

After I had listened as long as she let me to the patient mentioned above, I left the ER to go back in our little office. Still fuming at what people were telling this woman who was raw and devastated, I told my colleagues about it. I also shared that I had told her that is not in the bible, or at least wasnt the previous five times I've read through it.
Another social worker said, kind of in a finger wagging way to me: "Even if it were, no god I would believe in would do that.". The unspoken message was "and you shouldn't believe in such a god either.".

Explaining omniscience would not have the desired teaching effect, so I said nothing more.

But the poorly delivered statement my patient's friends said and my colleague's possible judgmental statement got me to thinking about the whole darned debate about religious conscience and the delima of Catholics pressured to provide birth control in direct conflict with their beliefs.

Because the message I got (possibly mistakenly, i don't know) from my colleagues statement was that my morality was suspect if I believed in a god that spoke inerrantly through scripture (which I do), or if I believed God condemned certain people.

I do believe God condemns people, or will when he judges us. Not people stricken with an illness that suppresses their logical falculties who make the agonizing, desperate decision to kill themselves, when they would prefer to live if only the pain would stop. And not that it needs to be important to you, but the theology I adhere to is that none of us are equipped with a good enough radiation suit to withstand being in God's presence, and the only way to get one is to make friends with the guy handing the good ones out.

And yes, in making that statement I reject other views of God. I reject Islam, because it does not teach Jesus and God are one; I reject Hinduism, Buddhism and atheism. And even though I have awesome respect for them, my older siblings in God, in accepting this grace, this freely given, unearned gift, I reject most of the laws and teachings of the Jews.

There seems to be a growing tendency to believe that someone's beliefs can cause harm to people. That if I believe divorce is not good in Gods eyes, I myself am condemning a divorced pair to hell. But I have no such power.

Now, luckily, I believe the old adage that you should never say something unless it is true, kind and necessary.
I try as much as I can to stick to that so I don't go up to people and tell them all the bad things I think they're doing. I have absolutely no goals in my relationships that would make it necessary to say these true, seemingly unkind, definitely unnecessary things. Just not my style of witnessing.

And I still think my patient's "friend" was a stupid idiot for telling her someone she loved is in hell, at least if her goal was to witness to my patient.(if they were purposely saying something hurtful, it is baffling that they'd be saying someone else's lbehavior is a ticket to Satans perpetual summer resort.)

But say that she or he really believed it. Maybe I have missed a verse somewhere or confused someone's preaching with what is actually in the Bible. I can critique her communication skills, but to force her to not say such a thing would be wrong. And silly. Because those statements don't need to harm anyone: my patient can avoid her, and my boundaries are strong enough for me to easily understand another adage, this from 12 Step people "What you think of me is none of my business.

This is becoming a wordy essay, so I'll try to wrap it up better. There are logical fallacies in both of the following statements:

1) If you believe that living a gay lifestyle is sinful, you are condemning gay people or harming them in some other way

2) If a doctor/nurse/pharmacist opts out of prescribing or selling a product, the provision of which they believe is sinful, they are preventing others from getting that product.

Both have underlying prepositions which are absurd; both of those faulty premises shall be exemplified below, hopefully in such a way as to help the reader understand the fallacy.

1) I can think you into hell. In other words, what I think or believe can *of itself* harm you. You may not believe in hell at all, but you're convinced that it really does condemn you for me to believe you are sinning and in danger of going to hell...which doesn't exist.

Here is a true story about my education concerning what other people thought of me.

During my 3rd or 4th year working in community mental health, I was the main counselor for a woman with schizophrenia. She was pretty and shy and personable, and I found myself wondering if she was misdiagnosed; people with schizophrenia tend to have poor social skills, and I didn't think she did. I was trying to arrange a chance for her to work in a sheltered workshop nearby to earn a little money and help build her confidence. Their was a waiting list to get into the workshop. One day I ran into the guy who directed the workshop, and he said, "Frances (not her real name) is next in the list!" So when I saw her, I told her this. Then something else happened and someone else got started before Frances did. When she completely fell apart and was hospitalized, I stopped believing she was healthier than her parents and other involved professionals thought.

I went to visit Frances, and when I arrived on her unit looked around for the sweet, unassuming woman on my caseload. Meanwhile, this wild, unkempt banshee ran toward me, damning me to all eternity for screwing up her chance to get into the sheltered workshop. By now I recognized this wild child as my client, and tried to defend myself as one who had been given bad information. But she interrupted me and yelled at the top of her lungs, jabbing her finger at me: "I'M THE QUEEN OF MICHIGAN AND I'M GOING TO THROW YOU IN JAIL FOREVER!!"

I had a perfectly reasonable and professional reaction to this: I burst into tears and left as soon as someone opened the door for me.

Embarrassed about this, but still smarting from my client's rejection of me, wanting to know how to show her I was really a good person (who, presumably, didn't deserve to be in jail forever), I told my supervisor the story, asking her help. My supervisor just said, "Well, Kelly. She's not really the queen of Michigan," and walked away.

Of course, I realized all along that she was not the Queen of Michigan. But something clicked when my boss said that, and I've had much better luck with not taking things personally ever since.

So if I found out an acquaintance thought obese people (of which I am one) were condemned to hell; and especially if that person shared his beliefs in the tone of someone who wanted to help me not be obese, I might be touched. . But if I didn't share that person's world view, I can't imagine I would accuse them of condemning me to hell or lose self esteem because someone else saw my lifestyle as sinful. They are not the Queen of Michigan, and they have no control over who goes to hell or jail.  On the other hand, if I die and you tell my mother I went to hell because I am obese, I'm coming back for you and throwing you in jail forever.

2) If one in a hundred drugstores don't stock what you want, you are being deprived of the thing that drugstore doesn't have.

To illustrate the faultiness of that premise, consider an experience I had last week. I needed ingredients for a cake I was baking, one of which was cream of coconut. Imagine my horror when I realized the store didn't sell cream of coconut! So I called my congress rep, who immediately arranged an inquest into store managers depriving women of their right to cream of coconut and by extension, to eat cake! No, actually I drove to a store a mile further and got cream of coconut. But seriously, can you say sex with birth control is more of a right than cake? Both are fun, both may have certain unpleasant consequences if engaged in to excess, and neither provides anything you will die without. In fact the only situation in which sex would be needed for survival has to be without birth control in order to work.

Thank you for allowing me to ramble on a little about this.  While I've been composing this essay, a furor has errupted regarding the CEO of Chick-Fil-A, who apparently holds a traditional view of marriage and, by extension, probably does not endorse the gay lifestyle.  Once again, a great big huge group of people think someone is going to harm them by thinking whatever it is the culprit thinks.  Now I should point out, I think there is a difference between this and someone who tries to exert undue influence over politicians and officials to see that a law about straight marriage is passed, and someone who just states they don't have the same opinion a lot of other people have.  But that being said, I think it's absurd that once again people are crying "hate crime".  Someday I hope to expand more on the faulty logic behind persecuting "hate crimes", as well as the tendency of some people to act like they are being literally thrown into a lake of fire if someone says that they believe one of their favorite hobbies is a sin.

ADDENDUM:  for some excellent apologetics on the immorality of "hate crime" legislation, see this book by Tammy Bruce:

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