Building Bridges of Understanding

Today’s second question(s) comes from Yvette.  She wrote: “Pastor Craig– just thinking about your blog today– been quiet–Well on my mind lately? Do you want the news version? Or the life version–NEWS– how we as humans man brings keep repeating history — with really no improvement–How some think that because we share a bathroom this now permits predictors or perverts to prevail; when there was prevention before?? Umm no–PERSONAL? If one of my children who is slightly on the “spectrum” will find true love– which I know someday he wants– I guess I want that for all of my children– just one has me more worried more.

Thanks for the wonderful and heartfelt questions.  While on the surface your questions (news-related and personal) seem radically different, I believe there is a thread of commonality between the two.  Let me start, though, with your first question.

The first question raised grows out of the controversy raised in places like the city of Houston and the state of North Carolina over the use of bathrooms by transgendered persons.

Why do we keep repeating history by picking certain groups and out targeting them for mistreatment?

We do this because it seems many human beings are terrified by those who are different than them.  This fear grows out of a lot of things ranging from personal insecurity to misinformation.

So how do we break the cycle?

There are many things we can do.  I like to focus my time and energy on two.

The first thing I like to do when dealing with issues of diversity is find a balance between FIRST establishing commonalities between groups and THEN identifying differences.

Sometimes in our efforts to celebrate diversity, we lose sight of the commonalities that bring us together as a species and end up focusing only on the differences.  When only differences are discussed, this creates dis-ease, which turns into distrust, which turns into fear.

By identifying areas of commonality – and then holding those commonalities alongside our differences – we are more likely to keep fear in check.

Once bridges between communities have been established, we can move on to my second area of emphasis: education.

Lots of well-intentioned folks get sucked in by campaigns of fear and miseducation because they lack good information.  Many folks in our society, for instance, have no understanding of the difference between sexual orientation and gender identity.  They treat the two as if they were interchangeable.

It takes a good educator to help people understand that sexual orientation involves the gender to which one is attracted while gender identity has to do with the gender one perceives oneself to be.

I believe until we tend to those two things (balance our commonalities with our differences and establish effective educational efforts so we know what issues we are really discussing) we are bound to continue the painful cycles of discrimination and hatred.

That takes me to your second, more personal question: how someone on the (autism) “spectrum” can find love.

This takes me back to the matter of discussing our commonalities and differences.

There was a time in the country when polite people did not discuss their differences.  That was particularly true when it came to disabilities.  I think back to how the Kennedy family dealt with their daughter Rose Marie (Rosemary) Kennedy in the 20th Century.  At the time, Rosemary’s disabilities were hidden from the public.  By making Rosemary into “the other”, it made it much easier for the family to institutionalize her and leave her cut off from the outside world.

Today, THANKFULLY, that approach is no longer taken.  Our loved ones who have different levels of ability than others are integrated into the world in ways that were never previously imagined even a generation ago.  As a result, individuals are able to get to know one another and the stigmas are being lessened.

Once again, I believe that if we (both individually and collectively) can just take the time to get to know each other and better understand one another (including both our commonalities and differences) bridges of love and respect can – AND WILL – be built, and your loved one can have the rich life he so richly deserves.

So what about you?  What do you think?

About Pastor Craig

I'm a 54-year-old who lives in Los Angeles, CA with his black Labrador Retriever named Max. I'm an ordained clergy person in the United Church of Christ. My passions include spirituality, politics, and sports (Go Houston teams, go!). I use my blog to start conversations rather than merely spout my perspectives and opinions. I hope you'll post a question, comment, or observation for me to respond - so we can get the conversation started!
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