Monday, November 17, 2008

A Lecture with Social Conservatives

Sunday night I had the honor of being invited into a professor's home and hearing a guest lecturer present a talk on The Sexual Revolution. I do not come from the same Catholic background as most of the people in attendance so I am very grateful that this professor saw in me the ability to respect his and his students' perspective. I was very excited to attend and simply listen and observe.

The lecture was thought provoking. If you are Catholic, it is hard to defend your beliefs these days when people dismiss you the instant they know of your religious leanings. You don't even get a chance to speak. This group of students feel unheard and misunderstood. I learned that they see vegetarians/vegans not being forced to defend themselves, ignored by their peers or perceived by society as "meat-eater haters." I learned that they feel like they are in the minority lately, or at least on the East Coast.

Our speaker discussed our society's "will to disbelieve." She compared scholars promoting the Sexual Revolution to Communist scholars during the Cold War. I am still wrapping my brain around this analogy.
As in the case of communism, she argued, intellectuals faced with the overwhelming evidence that libertine sexual ethics has been disastrous have engaged in Panglossian rationalization. (From this article)
I will be musing on how good liberal folk can articulate counterpoints to her arguments. My husband, who was vegan for over five years and raised Catholic, had a few right off the top of his head. I would love to hear from some of you how you see bridges being built between good people of all religious backgrounds.

I did not feel particularly frustrated by the actual lecture but by the Q&A afterwards. Topics like The Laramie Project and the election came up. This is when I began to wiggle and worry about being "found out." These topics that were not as specific to the lecture as I would have liked and I felt a bit bad for the speaker who I think must've known the audience may have varying opinions about these topics.

I felt that the students were really looking for guidance. "What do 'we' believe about these things?" seemed to be the tone. Students wrestling with an individual reaction but trying to fit in with this nice group of conservatives.

I wanted to remind them of the thousands of devout Christians who did NOT vote for McCain. I wanted to share with them the handful of sexually liberated women that I knew voted Republican. Did they know how fearful many Americans were that JFK would turn America over to the Pope? Like the Jon Stewart clip, what are they so afraid of?

I wanted to ask what they really thought of having a play set in a church, whether or not it was about a gay man. Do they have any gay friends? Would they like to meet some gay people in a way that was safe for them?

It was not my night to do outreach but I left hoping to build some bridges. It is the in liberal-minded scholar's best interest to be respectful and give all voices the opportunity to be heard, not just those with whom the scholar agrees. Why? From Commentary Magazine:
In her lucid introductory essay, Mary Eberstadt persuasively identifies the common element. Nearly all of her contributors have been shaped in a decisive way by their negative experiences as students in elite American universities, and by their encounters with the fashionable academic ideas that have come to infect political and professional practice. From Dinesh D’Souza’s wild and entertaining tales of his days at the Dartmouth Review, to Heather Mac Donald’s exasperated account of the nihilism of literary studies at Yale in the 1980’s, to Peter Berkowitz’s repeated encounters with the “knee-jerk contempt” accorded those who try to defend the liberal tradition against its illiberal practitioners, these writers have been formed by the high-handed intellectual monoculture that is American higher education, especially of the elite variety. As Eberstadt puts it, “The Left/liberal monopoly on campus has . . . inadvertently created some of the very political refugees whose work now fuels the world of conservative think tanks, journals, and ideas.”
No matter how you feel about the Sexual Revolution, Catholicism or Social Conservatives, I think there does need to be a lot more listening going on and a lot less "us-them"--by both sides.

No comments: