Running, riding and swimming gaily through the world

Fluorescent ChrisAt the conclusion of my happy little three-mile run in the new Newton shoes, I spied my friend and neighbor Ray walking into his father’s house with his longtime companion Joseph. We’ve known each other 20 years now, Ray and I. We’ve shared many life events during our association. His father has been through everything from strokes to West Nile disease, and is still living past the age of 90 years old.

Ray is a serious, faithful, Catholic man who has taken care of his parents all these years. He does their yard work and gardening. For years, he took his mother for walks until she grew too old to go very far. Now he drives her to church.

When his companion Joseph joined the extended family, Sunday barbecues became animated affairs, for Joseph is a man with a rich and playful sense of humor. He’s tall and boisterous, made from joy and focus.

The two of them make an interesting couple. This weekend they’re heading to the Madison, Wisconsin area to drive around visiting small towns and enjoy the food and fall weather, they hope.

Support

Ray was close with my late wife Linda. They stood together between our yards many times discussing their respective gardens. Ray would often tour her work with admiring eyes, asking questions about how she got certain plants to prosper.

When Linda took ill with cancer, Ray always checked in on us all the time. He told me that if there was ever a need for someone to sit with her at the home when I was away at work, he was available. He hugged her, and he hugged me when we needed it. And that was often.

Ray and I often talked theology. That was one of our connections. He shared books with me, and we’d discuss them. Ray’s faith is straightforward and true. He values the love of Christ above all else. He shows it in everything he does.

When my son came out as gay in college, I beckoned Ray over to let him know Evan had discovered his true self. It was a serious time for all of us in our family. My wife was back in cancer treatment and struggling some with the effects of chemotherapy. Evan’s acknowledgement of his orientation had come as a surprise to her. When Ray arrived at my door, he looked worried, thinking something bad had happened in her treatment. I thanked him for swinging by to talk and told him, “My son came out to us last night.”

Ray smiled, and let his shoulders sag in relief. “Oh,” he somewhat joked. “I thought it was something serious.”

Wisdom

That’s how wise and aware a man my friend Ray really is. He understood the social concerns with our son’s coming out, yet he knew that would all be fine.

The interesting thing about a same-sex orientation is that once you know someone is gay, it brings about a series of assessments in other aspects of life. Does being gay affect one’s role as a human being? Does it define your ability to do any of the things you want to do in life?

It surely did not limit Ray in any way that I could see. His compassion and care for his parents was exemplary. He often sacrificed his own time for them. He was a great neighbor in every respect, and his companion likewise.

Boundaries

Such is the case with millions of gay people in this world. There are no limits on what they can do except those imposed by people uncomfortable with the idea that their love for another person is somehow exceptional. Well, it is exceptional in a very remarkable way to be gay. In religious terms, love outside the boundaries of social limitations is exactly what Jesus Christ calls us to do. Ray recognizes that.

Yet there is still a segment of society that cannot accept that being gay is about experiencing love. As a result, there have been political legislators determined to prevent gay couples from having the right to social protections such as power of attorney, the right to share in health insurance benefits and all sorts of other normal, everyday aspects of life.

All because some people cannot accept the power of love to attract two people of the same sex together.

Love versus fear

There is nothing I want more for my son than to find a person who really loves him. It’s the exact same goal I have for my daughter. When my son came out, my wife asked my daughter what she thought about it. “I think we both like really good-looking guys,” she quipped.

This hatred of gays that still exists in the world is largely a twisted product of a religion that cannot control its own theology. Yes, there is prejudice against gays outside the realm of religion. But that’s only an element of proof that homosexuality has been a part of human culture ever since it began, and that there are always some people who cannot deal with differences in human diversity. That same fear and misunderstanding also drives racism, another false doctrine of difference versus some preconceived norm.

All the human race is the same species, and supposed differences in race and sexual orientation are simply expressions of human diversity at work. Being part of a species does not mean all individuals act, think or behave the same way.

Percentages

But perhaps that’s because too many people, as many as 44% of Americans, do not even accept the notion that human beings are a species at all. Their worldview excludes the theory of evolution on a simplistic notion that a literally interpreted Book of Genesis determines that all types of living creatures were created instantly, and that human beings were “specially created” in monogamous, heterosexual form. For many people, that definition also goes to another level, with a transfixion on the white race as the only true expression of God’s creation.

So you see, all this determination about what is normal stems from an abnormal fixation on a brand of truth that is really based on ignorance. To defend this horrific approach to scriptural fealty, generations of so-called Christians have persecuted all those who defy the literally accepted notion of bible stories. For centuries, the Catholic church punished scientists for daring to question an earth-centered universe. That was all the product of this self-centered notion of humans as specially created beings at the center of God’s focus. And it’s wrong.

Dissolving myths

One by one those myths have been dissolving under scientific and theological scrutiny. As biblical scholars have peeled away the layers and the language that serve to protect these fears over loss of control of the theological narrative, we’ve discovered that stories like Sodom and Gomorrah are not about the ostensible sins of sexual orientation at all. They are instead about abuse of others for any reason, and about engaging in excesses. The leveraging of that misappropriation of a biblical narrative is the real sin in this world.

Fortunately, America is waking up to these facts and moving toward equality for all rather than allowing some anachronistic definition of Christianity (or Islam, or whatever) to dominate its civil rights dialogue. The passage of legalized gay marriage acts as a catalyst to greater acceptance, but in truth it is just the beginning. Churches now need to engage their congregations in discussions of what it means to embrace theology that does not just tolerate gays, but welcomes all people into the family of God.

Personal experience

Perhaps you have experienced events in your life where you explored your own orientation. Those who claim that being gay is a “choice” like to mine this process for the contention that being gay is a “lifestyle” and not a hard-wired genetic reality. Well, let’s accept the fact that not everyone is hard-wired in any respect. That does not mean that people can necessarily be converted from straight to gay. It simply means that human diversity is by definition far more subtle than forcing choices on ourselves.

How ironic it is that the so-called “choice” so many people fear is not so much a choice as it is remarkable indication of the spectrum of human emotion and diversity. The same holds true for all human qualities from intellect to interests and professions. If we were all wired the same, we’d all be Stanley in Accounting, who watches Third Rock from the Sun on Thursdays and prefers his hamburgers medium well.

But despite the apparent desires of certain political parties and religious zealots to insist that we’re somehow “all the same,” which makes us “normal,” we’re not all Stanley from Accounting. Thus we need to discuss repression and the vicious effects it can have upon the human soul. Because quite often it turns out Stanley in Accounting, for all his supposed normality, longs to break out of that role he’s created, or others have created for him.

In fact, we find that all sorts of people living in denial and repressing their true orientation sooner or later get “outed,” but not in a positive way. Often a closeted gay man or woman or transgender person is scandalously exposed with their formerly “dark secret” impacting their lives on many fronts.

But let’s be clear here: we all recognize that genuinely dark secrets such as pedophilia are not socially acceptable because they exploit the innocent lives of children. Homosexuality is not parallel to pedophilia in any respect, for the relationship between two consensual adults is very different than taking advantage of a child for sexual gratification.

Sodom redux

We can turn back to the Sodom and Gomorrah story in the Bible for affirmation of that fact. We learn from this story that the intent to take advantage of another person is a dividing line in theology. The act of forcing sexual acts on another person is not about sex at all, but power. That’s what the people in Sodom wanted, to commit violence as an expression of their nasty proclivity for power. Incredulously, Lot offers his own virginal daughters up as ransom to protect the two “angels” taking refuge in his home.

The mob is never sated, but their motivations stemmed from the tradition that their laws perversely allowed the abuse of strangers who arrived after nightfall. This reflects the fact that the people of Sodom were themselves likely an oppressed and abused people. The social structure of ancient societies was much like a dysfunctional family, with slaps being handed down from father to son to sibling. Abuse was rampant.

Cycles of violence and hatred and fear and abuse are handed down in society. When someone is oppressed, as they are in a prison cell, they look for ways to release that anger, tension and feeling of violence on someone else. It is a method for maintaining a feeling of personal power in this world. All wars and many of our laws supporting violent weaponry are a product of these violent cycles having to do with fear of abuse and/or repression.

Brilliant love

By contrast, let us examine the brilliance and care of consensual love between two caring adults. All care and love begins with respect. Respect leads to trust. Trust leads to love. Sex that emanates from all such relationships is good. It doesn’t matter what the acts between two adults are at that point. Love is the driving force of all true intimacy.

It is difficult for some people to accept that something such as anal or oral sex between two men is anyway acceptable to God. Those tricky Bible passages about man-on-man sex or woman-on-woman sex being an “abomination” keep cropping up. But again, all such contentions are a matter of context and nuance. In the societies toward whom those accusations were directed, the primal directive was patriarchal in nature. Marriage was a monetary transaction as much as it was an expression of love. So the argument that homosexuality was an abomination was more about the money than it was about consensual acts between two adults.

Taking a hit

The fascinating thing about all such contentions is that Old Testament law took a big whack to the balls in about 70 C.E. That’s when Rome rolled in and leveled the temple in Jerusalem. This forced the hand of both Judaism and Christianity and its fealty to an order of priests whose privilege of God’s authority was handed them by tradition and patriarchal lineage.

It has taken a long time for the faiths of the world to come to grips with the fact that nothing in this world is fixed in place. Not the religious practices and beliefs people claim as bedrock, nor the very God we worship, who it turns out is widely open to interpretation and change.

Sustaining faith

I have loved the faith that sustains me in life. All throughout my running journals from the earliest ages, I have sought answers from God. Some of this was to help me accept who I am, and who I was to become.

There were moments in my teens when my hair was long and I chose to wear tight running shorts that people shouted at me from street corners. “Is that boy or a girl?”

And another catcall that hurt me in a way that I did not well understand. “Keep running, faggot.”

So it was with some irony that when completing my run the other day, my gay friend Ray made a comment that I took as both a rib and a compliment. I was wearing a bright coral shirt, a fluorescent yellow cap and shorts, and bright orange Newton shoes. “That’s a lot of color on one guy,” he teased. “You look gay.”

I laughed and trotted off chuckling to myself. That wasn’t an invitation by Ray to have sex with him or his companion Joseph. It was a compliment of sorts that he understands that I know who I am, and also that the world is a colorful place.

All you need is love

Over time I’ve had ample opportunity to discern my orientation in this world. But the fact that I am not sexually attracted to men is not some signal of superiority in my mind. In fact, I’ll often comment to my girlfriend that a particular man is handsome. I can certainly appreciate why and how men find each other attractive and want to have relationships with one another. Same goes for women. I hope that transgender people can find love too.

None of that destroys my faith in the world. In fact it magnifies it. It’s all about the love, people. As John Lennon once wrote, and it’s still true. “All you need is love.”

Those of us who run, ride and swim should know better than anyone that our bodies are instruments of expression. As cyclists, we don’t need to hate runners in order to feel normal, but I suppose that happens. As runners, we don’t need to look down on swimmers, but that probably happens too. It’s one of the tarsnakes of existence that some people lie in wait for all those they fear. They want to trip them up and cause them pain if for no other reason than it makes them feel alive and powerful. But they’re nothiing more than tarsnakes, a rubbery rut in the road of progress.

There is still a long road to travel before some people can conceive the idea that love is more important that power and hate. In the meantime, those of us that have evolved our worldview in loving ways will just have to stand by our gay friends and relatives when others seek to attack or deny them the rights of everyday existence.

Runoverthetarsnakes2

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About Christopher Cudworth

Christopher Cudworth is a content producer, writer and blogger with more than 25 years’ experience in B2B and B2C marketing, journalism, public relations and social media. Connect with Christopher on Twitter: @gofast and blogs at werunandride.com, therightkindofpride.com and at 3CCreativemarketing.com. Online portfolio: http://www.behance.net/christophercudworth
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6 Responses to Running, riding and swimming gaily through the world

  1. wanderwolf says:

    I find it interesting that you call Ray’s partner a “companion,” but otherwise I was impressed by how to handle the topic. Bringing in the common tropes against homosexual love and explaining how they are irrelevant, ignorant, or just plain wrong was helpful too.
    It reads like you were/are working out a few of your own issues in regards to gay identity/relationship while writing, and that made this more powerful. Thanks for posting.

  2. Jesse says:

    Thank you Chris. I can list way too many examples of instances that exhibit the hateful elements of ignorance I have experienced in my life due to my sexuality, however, that would be pointless. It is the support I receive from my friends, family, and others that gives me hope that things are changing and that I am a part of this world and deserve to be here. And, along with running marathons, seeds my ability to heal and continue to love others and myself.

    • Thank you for writing. Over the years my gay friends have been instructive on what its like to experience discrimination and worse. Earlier in life my own fears and lack of understanding guided some of my opinions and responses to gay people. Yet in college as a Resident Assistant it became my responsibility to guard the rights of all our dorm residents. That brought about some difficult challenges because tolerance and understanding were far behind where they are today in terms of individual rights. That taught me the importance of discussing social justice openly and directly. Beyond that in the work world it became evident my gay associates were entirely as capable and valuable partners. Finally, it became evident through scriptural studies conducted in writing my book The Genesis Fix: A Repair Manual for Faith in the Modern Age that too many passages in the Bible have been used manipulatively to justify exploitation and carry out discrimination. So I’ve set about the best I can to debunk that brand of thinking. I believe in equal rights, plain and simple. That’s very biblical despite what so many people like to think because is conveys them some sort of perceived superiority. That’s a real sickness of the mind, not homosexuality, which is a natural product of human diversity.

  3. Well, Wanderwolf, appreciate the insights in response to this post. I’m not really working out any sexual identity issues myself so much as expressing concerns that so many people refuse to let others do so naturally.

  4. wanderwolf says:

    Yup, I got that- and people need to be called out on not letting others be themselves. I guess I was confusing in how I phrased my response. I was thinking more about whether your son’s coming out to you may have promopted you to think more about this, and how your relationship with your neighbor Ray may have affected how you write about it.
    But I guess I was also responding to what you wrote under your subheading “Sustaining faith” when you mentioned an instance in which you were called “faggot” and how it hurt you in a way you did not understand. I understand you weren’t hurt because you were seen as gay, but that the identity was used in a derogatory way with the intention of upsetting/hurting you, and that being gay should not be a curse or used as a curse-word and that that hurt you…
    – Dorothea

  5. Well, back then it was all about masculinity, and gays were perceived as effeminate. The words “faggot” and “queer” were used to suggest you were somehow less than a man. In college I became friends through my girlfriend with a gay man working with her in the play Godspell. We hung out together and his creativity and personality were engaging. He was smart and bitingly funny too. Yet my college teammates would make fun of the guy in the cafeteria when I was sitting with them, and it put the entire picture into perspective for me. They did not know him, and were passing judgement based on some notion they had in what being gay was about. I had a sense as early as his 5th grade year that my son might be gay. But it was not a sense of panic, but recognition of his biological makeup. I knew how he was raised. I knew how he thought. I watched him explore and experiment with roles in personality. I watched him date young women. Then I watched as he went off to college and drove him into the city the night that he told me, “Dad, I feel like I have an anvil on my chest.” So I knew all along that something deep within him was needing to come out. So his emergence as a gay man did not surprise me or disappoint me. Quite the contrary. I was happy he had come to terms with his identity. What I see from people who insist that being gay is a lifestyle choice is pure idiocy and ignorance. Often their fears and misunderstanding drive them, along with a religious imposition on their psyche that turns them hateful and rude. I have the same strong feelings about the way some men treat women. And racial issues as well. Not sure why I feel so strongly, but I have taken action in many circumstances to help women fight back against sexual harassment, for example. More than once I’ve helped women find legal representation when their lives are turned into hell by some piggish guy making comments about their bodies every day. It’s wrong, and that’s why I write things like this. Society has a creepy dichotomy going on. Much of it is driven by anachronistic religion, and I’m editing a book I published in 2007 to release again in 2016 that addresses the false theologies that are so commonplace and so damaging to this world.

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