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Left. Right? Wrong.

Left, right. We used to just walk and talk. It’s all messed up lately.

The left is a losing label.  It can mean left behind, left out.  The left is the non-dominant side of the body in most people, the weak, inept side.  Meanwhile right is called right, correct, approved, and moral.  It’s the strong side.  I’d like to be called right, but I’m left moping for the losing side, the naïve idealists, the bleeding hearts.  In my life, I’ve seen the right as usually wrong and the left as usually losing. 

As Americans, we hop along on only one leg, be it left or right.  It’s a tribal dance. Take your pick, then stick to it, hopping on your own. 

Or try this metaphor: we’re trying to fly like an eagle, but the eagle flops around on the ground in futile, pathetic circles.  Our left wing has been mangled by our right for decades, only now, the right-wing complains the left does that to them.  We’re warring with our wholeness.

Walking, running, soaring – none of the above.   We live in bifurcated times rife with false dichotomies, and they shift under our feet. 

I’m a lifelong leftist hobbled by the supposition that I agree with the new so-called left hyper-woke agenda.  For example, I’m glad gays and lesbians are enjoying the safety and praise they were long denied, but I don’t think it’s wise to praise them only.  There’s no praise for heterosexuals, no slot for them in the parade, no apparent support for mothers and wives or fathers and husbands, no letter for them in the ever-longer list of sex options.

Me?  I’m a PH – post heterosexual.  Only now are heterosexuals considering consensual non-monogamy – too late for me.   Somehow, it’s only the right wing that is having “drug-fueled sex orgies.”  The left is busy shaming any sex between people of unequal stations as if it is always and only rape – and that word means the worst you can imagine. 

Add N to the list – for Nonsexual.  Not everyone is still interested if they ever were.  And that’s okay as a human option.  Other animals are mostly nonsexual most of the time.  They’re tied to the smells and signs that come up only monthly or yearly.  It’s the humans who are more sexual, and able to be roused at any time.  As pointed out in Christopher Ryan’s controversial Sex at Dawn – The Prehistory of Modern Sexuality, humans are more sexual than other animals, and we’re more ashamed about it.  N is as permissible as it is sensible. 

Back to gay issues.  I’m glad I was in a religious denomination that deliberately welcomed gays and lesbians.  I had no idea how many there were and how alienated they had felt.  I’m in a gay-friendly town, and that just makes it better.

It is slippery logic to equate gays and blacks as if they are the same.  You can try out being gay, but you can’t try out being some other race.  You can imagine or try out gay acts, especially in your teens, but unease over such acts and thoughts doesn’t mean you are gay.  “Not that there’s anything wrong with that,” goes the Seinfeld joke, eager to affirm but uneasy.  Accusing those who are uneasy about being secretly gay only heightens the unease, ignorance, and divide. 

It is as legitimate to declare homosexuality as optional and sanctioned as it is to say it’s a sin.  Both are religiously based stances.  Both come from those who assume a superior morality and try to impose it on others.  When I was the only minister in my district to say I would serve a congregation that had rejected a minister because he or she was gay, I was resented and excluded.  I knew that the UUA’s strong gay movement was promoting the Welcoming Congregation process, and I was wary to assume any board saying no to any gay applicant would be taken as against their sexuality and impending program.  That’s for the congregation to decide, not a pressure group in Boston eager to shame any not eager for their agenda.

I believe people and boards make their own decisions for their reasons and shouldn’t be pressured by those who would tell us what’s in or not.  I think the UUA should serve the fellowships and churches, not tell them what they should or shouldn’t be doing.  We aren’t sheep willing to be flocked. 

Back in the early 90s, I wrote an essay on my stance which was picked up by the UU World, the denomination’s magazine, only to see parts of it cast against another minister’s position – as if we were in dialogue.  We weren’t.  There was never any dialogue, only circling the wagons and group pressures placed on members, ministers, and congregations. 

This lack of respect and dialog was magnified when a minister wrote against the hyper-woke tactics of the UUA and the UUMA (minister’s association) only to be shamed, shunned, and disfellowshipped for it.  He and others were disfellowshipped for their version of speaking truth to power.  They and 60 others, including me, signed on to a “We Quit the UUMA” letter.  Life-long dedicated ministers were cast aside as if nothing had happened.  It’s a scandal you won’t read about in the UU World. 

I write all this because of a tip I learned in that old chapter meeting: “Beware of the Pinch.”  If a pinch happens, tend to it lest it grow into a larger catastrophe. 

That’s what’s happening with the left, the right resenting the relentless pushing of gay acceptance in our media.  Any difference or disagreement is sluffed off as a “war” against gays. 

Take gay marriage.  We’re told it’s the “same thing” as regular marriage.  While I agree that any two people who love each other and want to form a life-long bond should have what they desire and deserve as a right, I don’t think gay marriage is the same as traditional marriage.  This isn’t against gays; it’s remembering the reasons for traditional marriage.  Expecting all those who see the wisdom in the social and legal reasons for traditional marriage to forget and ignore those reasons is to ignore a pinch that results in more trouble.

No father of a gay son is going to say, “You’ve gotten my son pregnant, and you’ll have to marry him.”  But that predicament happens to heterosexuals, a life-long predicament.

Traditional marriage adapts to the biological reality that when a woman has a baby, we know for sure who the mother is – but not the father.  Genetic studies of random populations show that many children are fathered by men other than their husbands.  While men could be like Saint Joseph, fathering a child that isn’t his, they might instead resent the child as a daily reminder he’s raising the offspring of a child of the man who cuckolded him.  This could lead to resenting the wife and eventual divorce.  That could lead to new husbands being stepdads for boys and girls not of their blood, decreasing the incest taboo.

We don’t assume the “partible paternity” that Ryan claimed women in traditional societies believed – that many men’s sperm makes for a rounded child.  We know only one man makes for the genetic code that a child inherits. 

(Who that exact man is is a right I would assure to any child, even if formerly secret.  The right isn’t held by the parents to protect their interests, liabilities, and stories; it is owned by the child made up of exact genetic lines complete with types of persons, kinds of potential diseases, and other information.  But this is a side argument not intended for this essay.)

Traditional marriage tries to assure husbands they are the fathers too.  It grants the family name to the father.  It expects the woman to be faithfully monogamous more so than the man.  Her infidelity brings the results home for decades; his would be remote from the original family.  This varied monogamy isn’t balanced and fair, but it’s common for a reason.   When men were the breadwinners, the state would step in to ensure care for the children and the wife (and when appropriate, the husband). 

We can say marriage is between any two people who want to marry, delivering the definition over to that stance, but what do you then call what we had formerly known as marriage?  And what do you do with the realities of the far more common heterosexual marriage?  Are the reasons for traditional marriage suddenly irrelevant?  Are those who still value them to be mocked as stuck in an irrelevant position? 

Yet that’s what my denomination has done.  It took a stance in favor of gay marriage as the “same thing” as regular marriage without calling it gay marriage, claiming it was “Standing on the Side of Love.”  Later, wheelchair-bound adherents objected, so the slogan was changed to “Being on the Side of Love.”  Both were emotionalized virtue signaling as if only those in favor of gay marriage favored Love while those in favor of traditional marriage were Unloving.  This insults all those who believed in, honored, and lived up to traditional marriage. 

But saying all this is not to war on homosexual couples.  It isn’t against gays, it’s for marriage as an enduring contract of a biological union not based purely on love.  Love is usually involved and leads to life-long company and duty.  Gays have that too.  I’m glad they have achieved community sanction, legal protection for assets, the right to visit the hospital, etc.  But this sticky, tricky contentious issue continues to alienate many, dividing many political situations.  Conservatives and fascists exploit this alienation. 

The old labels for same-sex coupling, Domestic Partnership, and Civil Union, are unpoetic.  I can see why gays would resent some second-class form of marriage, but is it beyond argument that such unions are not the “same thing” as traditional marriage?  “Gay Marriage,” complete with suitable legal safeguards and obligations, would seem more accurately descriptive, though I grant others might resent the label.  That’s important, but so is the traditional definition of marriage.

This little pinch on the left about being gay and marrying as such isn’t as glaring as the big pinch in reaction to the fad of people going non-binary and trans.  The trans label doesn’t distinguish between transvestite and transexual, between clothing and surgical alteration.  The latter is called “gender-affirming care” when it might also be called “gender-denying mutilation.”  It’s a fad I don’t cheer on. 

Everyone has the right to their own body, but it’s not always right to join the fad.  There have always been those who don’t feel aligned with their physical gender.  There have always been a few hermaphrodites.  But lately, the fad of going trans has led to social pressures and praise putting mere temporary states of mind as more important and supposedly enduring than physical gender identity.  Trans people are seen as heroic trendsetters.  Those who are uneasy about this are slammed and shunned as anti-trans.  They can’t say it’s weird even if it is.

Poor Dave Chapelle is still hounded for his joke, despite ample clarification. 

What we think of as our identity is made up of our genetic base, our family, our friends, and our typical thoughts thus far.  The default mode network of our brains tells us stuff all day long.  Rarely do we realize these ruminations are made of external input and habit.  As with gays mentioned above, trans people are regularly praised and protected as if brave, needing protection from those who have objections and heed caution. 

I noticed a feminine-looking guy in the sauna at the Y.  I was glad he felt comfortable in that mostly nude masculine setting despite his feminine arms and soft body.  Later I saw the scars under his breasts to reduce them and the sprouting whiskers under his chin.  He had been she and was changing over.  I’m still glad he (or she, changing) could brave the male sauna, and I hold nothing against her-becoming-him. 

But I must wonder if he will still be glad about such a drastic denial of her lovely original identity.  Some people get tattoos; some of them later endure the removal of them.  How well will trans people be in the long run?  Would it be better if all teens uneasy with their bodies were to switch to the other side?  Are we not to ask such questions for fear of offending those surrounded by fad-influenced peers and professional enablers?  Should we pay no heed to those uneasy with the trend, mocking them as intolerant? 

Should we ignore those who feel agitated, who have pent-up questions, and who tire of NPR pushing relentless gay, trans, black, and women’s issues seemingly 24/7?  Is the “left” only these issues as many now seem to grow weary of?  If we say anything critical or explore facets of such causes, are we then the enemy? If they aired a series on how creative, noble, and ethical white heterosexual men have been, would that be an affront or a relief?

That’s the pinch going on now in the supposedly liberal Unitarian Universalist Association.  The first Hispanic president of the UUA (Peter Morales, 2009 – 2017) was hounded out by shrill accusations he had hired a white man rather than a Hispanic woman.  He had increased “minority” hires there, but it wasn’t enough. 

I served five churches and fellowships in the UUA for 50 years.  I watched this presumptive pushiness from afar, having avoided most General Assemblies and denominational machinations.  I had pulled away from the minister’s association in the 90s due to their group pressure ploys and lack of true collegial friendliness.  Too often, it seemed to me, power maneuvers in the congregations and denomination replaced comity and a wider religion.  Particular causes are what we are expected to pursue. I agree with the causes, but not to ignore all other causes and religious approaches.  I wasn’t the sort of minister to lay my advanced ethical position on others, expecting them to fess up and join in – or else. 

A valued congregant sought to revive the injured minister in me.  We traveled together to the 2019 UU General Assembly in Spokane, Washington, the very one where that town’s minister, Todd Ekoff, was barred from the assembly for having distributed his Gadfly Papers, a small book critical of the woke pressures in the denomination.  It was a tense assembly – bad vibes galore.  His case was notified to all the ministers in the denomination, 485 of whom ganged on to condemn his book despite most not having read it.  He was later disfellowshipped for not cooperating with their onerous process. 

Ekoff was one of five ministers disfellowshipped since 2020.  Before that, from 1961 when the Unitarians and Universalists teamed up, only nine had been disfellowshipped (and for far more serious reasons). 

The UUA has less than a thousand congregations, about half of which are fellowships without ministers.  It is small but progressive, often the only liberal bastion in harsh, conservative towns.  Its members are likely to be educated and affluent.  Its mostly white members are prone to wincing under accusations they aren’t doing enough to fix racial injustice. 

That’s a noble enough cause, a long-term one, but it’s not likely to be fixed by guilt and expectations of utter agreement, no logical arguments or differences allowed.  Ekoff has since gone on to found the North American Unitarian Association, a splinter group of some 700 members and four congregations.  Too bad he dropped the Universalist (his chapter on that in his book is the weakest) and limited it to North America.  Where’s the larger vision in that? 

What pinch is the UUA ignoring, similar to the same one the larger “left” ignores as it pushes (or is at least accused of pushing) a resented woke agenda?  People agree at their rates and have their particular stances.  Would we push them out of the so-called beloved community into the likes of the Proud Boys if they don’t agree fast and fervently enough? 

On freedom of speech, religion, and environmental issues, I may be more left than my former denomination, but they might see me as woefully right.  Sorry, I’m not sorry; I still like Dave Chapelle. His truth-speaking is funny even if some wince. I’ll not worry about it or hop on one leg or the other, but like a lot of people these days, I suspect, it’s hard to know where the ground is under our hopping or walking. 

For instance, I have long admired Elon Musk as a wizard engineer for his launching of electric cars and reusable rockets.  But I grow alarmed as he launches thousands of satellites to circle the earth, claiming to promote freedom of speech when that freedom usually means promoting selfish, anti-social libertarianism.  He sums up the “left” as those promoting woke agendas, guilefully including any government-promoted social advances like the rich paying a fairer amount of taxes.  Similarly, right-wing populace leaders channel typical and ordinary unease with gays, and trans, changing women’s status, and improving racial equity into fascist economic and moral agendas. 

We thought the left was right, but the right says it’s wrong.  We know the right is wrong, but is the left right?  It gets worse.

The invasion of Ukraine by Russia is a hard, horrid reality.  But have we admitted that after losing twenty-seven million people fighting the fascist nazis of that time, we turned on them as if the new enemy?  Did we see and feel Russian paranoia at being lined with NATO armies?  Was their claim of Russian people in eastern Ukraine ever investigated?  Is military winning the only solution in an area long-drenched in changing national lines?  Is eventual war the only solution?

Similarly, we surround China with our navy and allies as if war is coming.  We claim they’re a threat to us while being a threat to them.  Is eventual war the only solution?

Similarly, we refuse to admit how the rest of the world is aghast at the long-term subjugation of Palestinians by Israel as we continue to supply the armaments of an obvious genocide.  It’s their local colonialism, an echo of the self-excusing attacks of the past told of in the Bible, even using the Bible again to justify Israeli settlements, expansion, and wholesale indiscriminate slaughter of innocents. 

All three situations prop up our military manufacturers and merchants.  War unites a country.  President Biden is propping up our economy by giving money to countries that buy our weapons.  The Ukraine predicament is debatable.  The China stance needs debating.  And the Israel support needs renouncing. 

Israel is hiding behind the skirts of accusing critics of being antisemitic.  Rather, Israel under Netanyahu is creating the antisemitism Israel generates and deserves.  That Jews there demonstrate almost entirely for their soldiers and hostages while ignoring the long, anguished history of Palestine since 1947 shows a racist people comfortable with apartheid. 

(The Jews I have known and liked have all been secular or of liberal branches.  Their ethnicity wasn’t an issue I was expected to support or denounce.  Atheist Rabbi Sherwin Wine told us the real reason people are uneasy with Jews is that Jews are “ambitious.”  Ha!  I suspect none of my Jewish acquaintances would approve of the bombing of Gaza.  I know of only the UUs for Justice in the Middle East, Jewish Voices for Peace and J Street to have spoken publicly against the genocide.)

I object to my own Democratic Party promoting all three arenas for future wars.  A few in the Bernie wing are speaking out.  A hundred thousand Democrats in Michigan recently voted “uncommitted” rather than for Biden in their primary.  Otherwise, why is it that the right-wing MAGA types are the only ones hesitant to rah-rah expensive and ultimately tragic wars?

Right and left have been left uprighted.  It’s a dangerous time that could usher in another round of a vile, violent Trump.  I fear the left trips over stubborn issues while bigger ones like global warming, toxic processes, and mounting wars loom.

Byron has been using his writing and public speaking to engage, challenge and inspire audiences for over 40 years. Reverend Carrier's mission is to rescue and revive our earthly Eden, including our human worth and potential. If you enjoy his work, consider supporting him with Patreon.

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3 months ago

Brad, You covered lots of ground, with leaves of truth. Where does this all lead? How will future historians (if there are future historians) describe this era?

3 months ago

Boy brother.. you really have touched on a lot! I won’t hit on all of them, even though I could. You know how I feel about a second term with a turd/Putin presidency.. It will add to the destruction of civilization as we know.. I’m not in agreement with the arab Americans in Michigan! Although I understand their situation. But, put the blame where the blame belongs with Natanyahu.. Biden is stuck with a national policy that we’ve had in place to support Israel, politically and monetarily, not sure why for the latter… Actually, I’ve never understood any of it!… Read more »

3 months ago
Reply to  Byron Carrier

It is the Zionist lobby, masquerading as Jewish religion! If a public figure or journalist criticizes anything the Zionist state does, the Zionist lobby will shout anti-Semitic and cancel that person and destroy their career faster than the Woke mob could dream possible. It is pure bullying on an international scale. Americans must awaken to the fact that Zionism is not Judaism. The modern nation of Israel isn’t the Biblical Israel.

Byron Carrier
Byron Carrier
3 months ago
Reply to  Vernon

Unfortunately, modern Israel revives that aspect of the Biblical Israel when it invades and overwhelms, such as with the Amalekites and similar historical narratives, with some radical right-wing rabbis reviving those as the rationale for “settlers” taking over more land. It earns a bad rap for Jews despite all the humanitarian advances, wisdom, and humor in their tradition. Many of my best friends have been Jewish, though it was rarely an issue I had to take sides on. Then again, they are like perhaps most Jews in being secular. It’s a genetic and cultural inheritance before being religious. (I would… Read more »

Teja Ray
Teja Ray
3 months ago

Good writing, Bradley.

I especially thought this was excellent: “As Americans, we hop along on only one leg, be it left or right. It’s a tribal dance. Take your pick, then stick to it, hopping on your own.”

You are right that the left needs to focus on bigger issues like global warming. Well, we all — left and right — need to focus on reversing global warming! And if King Frump gets elected, it’s going to be scary, truly dangerous times indeed, much worse even then where things are now.

Yikes! We need a new version of our tribal dance here.

Byron Carrier
Byron Carrier
3 months ago
Reply to  Teja Ray

Agreed, Teja. The Tribal Dance now extends to Hungary, Argentina, and even India, and it’s being revived in Brazil. It’s that same old dangerous social tendency that racks and ruins the world as it did in WWII. King Frump would ally with and promote such crude and violent authoritarian populism. Meanwhile, global heating and other vast technological impacts wear and waste our Eden. We need mobilization on that realistic threat to all of us, not more angry divisiveness and war tensions. I took some hope in President Biden’s State of the Union address. He finally punched back – as he… Read more »

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