Controversy Where None Is Wanted Or Warranted
This is a review of what I have inadvertently discovered are “controversies” surrounding my work. In every case, such controversy is not based on reasoned arguments. Instead, these issues develop from the typical Web reader’s a) lack of comprehension, b) short attention span, c) inability to think critically, and d) not having read the work upon which he or she is all in a knot over.
This goes toward item d) in my introduction. Commenters often have not read what they are commenting upon. Or they target a specific idea out-of-context. I have had many people cite a fact or a key point in a comment that I not only already addressed in the article itself, but their comments are stupefying paraphrases from my own article. On occasion, I have had to pull a quote from my piece, copy and paste it into a reply, and overstate the obvious: “I already said that!”
Before anyone gets his or her panties in a bunch over something I’ve written he or she had better have read and digested every word. That person better have also understood what the article’s main topic is as well. A comment on an article about the fact there is no such thing as ghosts might read (and I’m paraphrasing here), “Sure, there’s ghosts. Me and my mom saw one just yesterday. You should talk to Jesus about your lack of belief in ghosts. Jesus is Lord. You’re going to burn in Hell. Oh, and how do I make a good sammich?”
Many commenters barely skim the article upon which they vent their puny fart-in-a-hurricane fury. I can respect anyone who can make a reasoned argument, supported by research from credible sources and observable, recordable, repeatable realities. I have no tolerance for someone who writes as a comment “This is junk”, then doesn’t have the stones to tell me why the central theme of the piece (not some minor, insignificant detail) is incorrect or misrepresented.
It has yet to happen. But I know Mr. & Ms. Oblivious will be out there, lurking, awaiting a chance to pounce: “The way you told me how to make a sammich is wrong, and you’re gonna burn in Hell!”
In the first place, I never write about religion itself. My writings, when they do touch on religious matters, are focused on some historical figure whose backdrop is within the context of the prevailing religion of the time and place.
I care nothing for religion. More people on the face of this planet have been killed in the name of one god or another than all the wars, natural disasters, and pestilence deaths combined. Arguing about which “god” is better is absurd. It is akin to fighting and killing each other over who has the cooler imaginary friend. [By the way, I think Melissa Lutz at the age of 5 in The Amityville Horror in 1975 wins that “Best Imaginary Friend” contest. Her demonic, red-eyed pig-pal, Jodie, was the best fabrication ever, even better than The Exorcist’s Captain Howdy!]
Unfortunately for me, some of history’s most compelling and interesting people lived within a religious context. Mary (the Magdalene) in the 1st century CE; the Byzantine Empress Theodora (6th century CE); A’isha (7th century); Jeanne d’Arc (15th century); Queen Christina of Sweden (17th century); and Bernadette Soubirous (St. Bernadette, 19th century) all had religion as an influence in their lives (whether positive or negative is irrelevant). These women fascinate me, and I have made a sincere effort to bring them to life, not just so they can be remembered, but so their accomplishments can be reviewed and appreciated by a new audience. I care nothing for the religion that shaped them (or, as in the case of Jeanne d’Arc, put them to an undeserved and tortuous death).
Religion is a human construct, and I recognize that fact. Of all organized religions, I have a special love for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, more familiarly known as Mormons, and I have written about many major events in their history. The human story (from the creation of The Book of Mormon from thin air by 19th century farm boy Joseph Smith) to their travails of persecution and their exodus westward from New York makes for not only enjoyable research and writing, but also makes great reading. They are my favorite Christian group.
However, as with all things, even a crack-head can find a way to argue with a fact-based story of a historical event. In a piece that featured the genesis of The Book of Mormon (as a contextual element) a “yea-sayer” of immense pretensions with apparently a lot of time on his or her hands claimed I did not know what I was talking about regarding The Book of Mormon. This person then went on to “prove” me wrong (at length) by quoting from The Book of Mormon! The absurdity was not lost on me – it would be as if someone wrote a review of my novel claiming it was not true, and I used quotes from the novel itself to “prove” it was!
Religious and historical backdrops inform much of an article’s slant. In a recent story about A’isha, a young woman married to the founder of Islam, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), I discovered much about the context for Islam I did not know. Unlike the average Christian, I understand that not only did Muhammad believe there was one god, but that god was al-Lah, and guess what? He’s the same god as the Judeo-Christian Yahweh! So, what’re we fighting about again? [I also liked Muhammad as a person based upon objective non-Muslim readings of his liberal beliefs about women and how people should treat each other. It was only later that the oppression of women was institutionalized, not during his lifetime. I’d like
Politics is not government, so the two should not be confused. One can have a good government or a bad one. However, there is no right or wrong in politics – it’s all wrong. [And George W. Bush was an idiot, and the worst president this country ever had (howzat to stir the pot?)]
The Sacred Feminine is a meta-category where many of my works reside and overlap. This is not about “femaleness”, the biology of being a woman, but it is about the feminine energy that complements the masculine that almost all Western society has forgotten or suppressed. The granddaddy of all mystical poseurs, Aleister Crowley, spent a lifetime investigating and worshipping the Occult concept of the Sacred Feminine, and he was right to
Embodiments of that forgotten feminine energy abound, waiting to be recovered and re-discovered. The pre-Exodus god of the enslaved Jews in Egypt, Yahweh, had a wife named Asherah (since written out of the sacred texts). Adam’s first wife, Lilith (suppressed and excised from the Bible) is another fine example of what our ancestors knew to be true – the feminine energy in the world is a necessity for a healthily balanced life force. Hence, Mary of Magdala, in my mind, is just as important as Jesus. Without acceptance of the Sacred Feminine applied to spirituality there is nothing left but grunting, bromantic a-holes hanging around in their tighty-whities, fist-bumping, and engaging in homo-erotic “play” wrestling matches between swigs of beer.
I wrote a series that focuses on an icon of pop culture or a female figure in literature or history. These articles are to be taken for what they truly are – paeans to physically beautiful women or talented women or just plain amusing women.
One of these invited the ire of a wanker who just didn’t get it. This person got all distraught when I referred to the female cast of a spectacularly crappy sitcom disparagingly. True, I did that. Also true was that none of those actresses (by any standard) could have been considered more stunning in her physicality than the subject of the article (I’m assuming the whiner thought Kate Smith or Janet Reno or Ernest Borgnine were real lookers, compared to say, Sofia Vergara). The point is that beauty is subjective, perhaps more than any other quality. I would not, for example, go to someone’s article who found beauty in…ummm…Barbara Bush and lambaste the writer for choosing her as a hottie in a negative comment. It is useless and petty.
Negative comments in and of themselves are not the problem. If the beef is legitimate (and they rarely are) I will listen. I can be wrong, and I will admit it when I am. It is only when someone either never got it, or lost the focus of what the article was about, that makes me want to punch that commenter in the neck. Understanding what is written, and the spirit in which it was executed, is essential!
Facts, unlike “truth”, do not contain subjectivity. If there was no snow on the ground on January 1, 1976 (when George and Kathy Lutz claimed to have seen cloven hoof prints in the snow around their supposedly possessed Amityville home), then, goddammit, there was no snow on the ground! That’s a fact, and it is inarguable. Any arguments against such a statement are picayune and masturbatory. And yet people will attempt to subvert a fact into something that fits their world views. The snow on the ground suddenly can be claimed to really have been a drizzle, and the cloven hoof prints were in the mud. It doesn’t matter – facts are facts. They are neither created nor destroyed. They just are.
In the realm of fact-based material I hate articles that begin with “[insert number here] Things You Didn’t Know About [insert topic here]”. [A better tack might be to call such articles “Little Known Facts About…” or “Interesting Things About…”.] Such a writer doesn’t have a clue what I know or don’t know, and the presumption of my ignorance (as well as the presumed ignorance of others) really grates on me. That writer is not privy to some special or arcane knowledge that none of us could not know or uncover. Furthermore, I find that many such articles contain false information or rely upon legend – when I pointed such a thing out to a writer last year, he or she got his or her panties all in a bunch, and started an unnecessary flame war (which I won, because I let the smaller person have the last word).
I’m very confident in the length, breadth, and depth of the knowledge I possess. It is truly rare (and laudatory) if someone ever comes up with something of which I am either unaware or have no insight into. When that does happen, guess what I do? I say, “Wow, I didn’t know that. Thanks for the info!” I don’t comment negatively on their piece and argue about something of which I obviously – through admission – know nothing (like many of my negative commenters).
Regardless, I do not take my work lightly, I do not presume to know what the reader does or doesn’t know, and that is why I will take the time to tangentially inject something that helps in understanding themes. [For example, without background about the airline industry’s tolerance of homosexual men as flight attendants, no one would understand AIDS Patient Zero’s (Gaëtan Dugas) desire to become a flight attendant.] Some people appreciate this effort; just as many probably do not, and will say as much. Again, the point was lost on such people.
In the search for “truth” I write things that can motivate people (for good or bad) to sign up to the site to send accolades my way or to throw in their worthless, negative opinion. The negative comment itself doesn’t bother me – it is indeed a small person, though, who tears down without building. I will take any negative comments from writers over any frothings of some dip-wad who does not contribute. You don’t like my work? Man up! Write a rebuttal. [And there is a wonderful writer on this site who took exception to something I’d written a long time ago. This writer was sufficiently moved to write a well-reasoned and excellent rebuttal. I even added a back-link to that rebuttal piece in my original article. That person knows who he or she is and he/she has my undying respect and admiration for that act.]
Carefully weighing both sides of an issue or topic and discussing it makes for good debate. Even though the “warring” parties will perhaps never agree or compromise, new insights can be gained when a dissenter makes a reasoned counter-argument (not just the dippy, “You’re wrong, and you’re going to burn in Hell!”).
Anyone secure in his or her beliefs does not need to nor should ever feel compelled to defend those beliefs or to create converts. Controversy does not involve some zealot or racist thumping his sphincter-drum saying I am wrong. Controversy is not a fundamentalist Bible-slinger wailing how I will burn in Hell because I once wrote (accurately) that Jesus was not truly intended to be the reformer of Judaism. That role belonged to John the Baptist until his execution; had John lived, Jesus would never have gained ascendance.
And by the way, as an atheist, I can’t believe in Satan or Hell: both concepts are part of the Judeo-Christian dogma that I do not acknowledge. So, no Hell for me! But, I guess I can brace myself for the certain “controversy” (where it is not warranted) that will follow such a completely logical statement.
Because it fits my recurring joke, and I think it's awesome!
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