If I ask an audience to write down their thoughts on the word “plane” and they have no other information beyond the sound of what I said, I might get different responses.
- A pilot might talk about their favorite airplane.
- A carpenter might refer to the tool used to shave wood.
- A nature lover could describe a specific kind of terrain. (i.e., where Spain’s rain mainly falls)
- A mathematician could relate it to geometry.
- A designer might think in terms of lack of adornment.
- A metaphysical person could see it in terms of a spiritual level to be attained.
They hear the word, and assume they know what I said...and what I meant. Their response is based on their understanding of the word’s meaning and filtered through their personal experience. In fact, if the pilot and the nature lover got into a discussion and were passionate about the “rightness” and exclusivity of their understanding, it could get heated since they’re approaching from two completely different points of view.
It’s confirmation of the old adage (original author unknown): “I know you think you understand what you thought I said but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.”
That’s often the problem in conversations: there’s talking, but not communication. There may be hearing, but not necessarily listening, much less understanding.
Sometimes when I hear right-wing/Fundamentalist preachers describe homosexuality, and discuss (denigrate) homosexuals, I ask myself:
Who (or what) the hell are they talking about?
Certainly not me!
They think they know what homosexuality means…and what a homosexual is…but when I listen, it’s like they are using a different word.
They talk about a repulsive “gay lifestyle” that’s nothing like my ordinary, mundane life.
They rant about some vast “gay agenda” which is not part of my daily TO DO list.
They call me an “abomination” while I think of myself as average, at best.
They warn of the wrath of God while I experience the love of God.
They speculate about multitudes of sexual partners in a year, and I look over at the guy I’ve been with for 15+ years.
They call my relationship an attack on moral values, while I’m concerned about the value of my 401K.
They accuse me of trying to re-define traditional marriage, when all I really want is for my committed, loving relationship to be included in an expanded definition of marriage.
They argue that my marriage would violate their religious freedom, while I’m talking about legal and civil rights, and have no interests in what they believe.
They use the word “choice,” but I honestly can’t recall making such a crucial decision.
They are appalled (and descriptive) at my unspeakable sexual behavior, and I wonder why they talk about it more than I do.
They equate me with child molesters, when the very thought of such actions disgust me.
They challenge me to be “healed” even though I’m not sick. (They are not addressing my cancer!)
They promise I can be fixed, but deny scientific evidence to the contrary. (And dismiss all the years I tried.)
They profess to love me, but quickly add that they hate my sin.
They insist I’m out to destroy Western Civilization, when I’d be satisfied if I could stick with my diet.
They can find a few verses that might deal with my sexual activities, but I can show hundreds that call us to love.
They claim I cannot know God, but the faith in my heart contradicts.
They are convinced I’m going to hell, and all I can say is “Oh, hell no!”
So here’s my advice. If you’re going to talk about “those homosexuals,” then get to know some actual homosexuals. Every gay person is not the same! Just like any group, there are some wonderful gay people, and there are some who…aren’t.
Don’t rely on hearsay, speculation, conjecture, outdated information, half-truths, lies and prejudice. Don’t make wild accusations and assertions based on long-disproven research, or (God forbid) Tim LaHaye’s antiquated book. Don’t parrot the assessments of those who use fear of homosexuals as a means of fundraising, or those who tell horrific stories of their former gay life. Don’t think just because you’ve seen provocative images of a Gay Pride Parade that you know what a gay person looks like. (The same way you wouldn’t assume that all straight people look like those at Mardi Gras!)
Before you denigrate some vague “lifestyle,” learn about our real life. Before you assume we are godless abominations, go with us to church. Before you proclaim that we are out to destroy the family, get to know our family. Come to our home, and share a meal. Talk to us. Ask questions. Then listen as we answer.
Let’s have the same conversation!