Matt replied, “She went from school to pick up Sean and do basketball drills, so I won’t be able to get hold of her till later.”
Both cars were full of chatter on the way to Jackson and David’s house. Kim had reached Eric and he was there when they arrived. David got them all settled in the living room with drinks, and then walked back in with two glasses of wine in his hands. Jackson smiled widely as he accepted one, David then raised his. “Cheers! So, who wants to go first. What did we see and what did we learn this afternoon?”
There was a buzz of passing comments and then Jerrod said, “Seems to me that we saw bureaucracy at work, kind of like Alice expected would prevent us even having the meeting.”
Jackson nodded and looked around. “We also saw a pretty good case of ‘cover your ass,’ don’t you think?” Nate grinned at his comment, and then went on and added, “I mean both of those guys were dodging the fact that they hadn’t talked to patients or the dog people, and then the VP guy almost lost it.”
“Why do they have to be so defensive?” Kim looked around quizzically, and Jackson replied, “They work for a large institution and even though they do great work and deliver world-class care, they have invested a lot of time and effort and money in the project, even if they missed something big. So, they’re naturally going to be defensive to start with.” He looked around. “Roger? Matt?”
Roger smiled and said, “I agree with what’s been said, but would just add kudos to you for handling them so well. I can’t imagine they’re feeling too good right now. They got handled by some outside guy who was speaking for a bunch of kids.” He chuckled.
Matt added, “It was just like Warren called it about their project. They just started talking about their models, and you could hear them starting to tee up the excuses. You took some of the air out of their sails on the funding, but trust me, they’ll say next that it’ll cost way more than a fundraiser can raise. I saw some of this on construction projects last summer. Next, I’m betting they move toward ‘it’s too late to change the plans.’ You know, like we’ve already started construction, like that. Plus, they sure got sensitive about us outsiders raising the money, didn’t they? What do you think, Jackson? You were our point man.”
Jackson took another sip of his wine and then said, “You guys just summed up the main points. They have yet to admit they overlooked something important. They got defensive about that and about the funding. They were completely caught off guard with the petitions. That’s when we got their attention.”
“Well, that and when you didn’t really threaten them about going to the press,” Jerrod said with a chuckle.
“Wow! Didn’t threaten them with a threat,” Eric said. “How does that work? It sounds like I missed a major event.”
“You would have loved it when Jackson told them about the fundraiser,” Matt added. “They got all pissy, and then he let them know that the press would be invited, and they’d probably want to be part of it instead of not. Of course, what was implied was that if they blow us off, we could go to the press with the bad news about no pavilion! That was classic.”
The discussion continued for a few more minutes and then Jackson looked at David, who said, “Okay, we should wrap this up. It sounds to me as if it was kind of a master class in planning a strategy and then executing it.” He turned to his partner and added, “What do you expect to hear next Friday?”
Jackson grinned. “That the cost will be far beyond the money a bunch of kids can raise. That’ll be objection number one. Then, if we get past that one, it’ll be the one about too late to change the project plans, just like Matt said, so we have to define a counter to that objection when it comes up. We have some leverage with the petitions and the fundraiser, but they’ll have a counter, that’s for sure.”
“Well, I’m glad I’m not one of the hospital admin people having to deal with all of you,” David said. He lifted his glass and said, ‘My hat’s off to you,” before he drained it. Then he looked at the assembled youth in the room and said, ‘You guys, and that includes Jessica, are my heroes! What’s next?”
“We’ve got to start getting the donations for the auction. That’ll be a real time suck,” Jerrod said, “but it’s what we’ll be doing after school for the next two weeks.”
“Let us know how we can help,” David said. “And you all should be getting home or a whole range of parents are going to start calling here asking if their children have been kidnapped!”
Jerrod was staying at Roger’s house for the weekend, and he called to let his parents know they were on their way. His parents were thrilled with the story of how the meeting had gone and particularly impressed on how far they’d gotten.
Jerrod and Roger looked at each other, and then Roger said, “It wouldn’t have happened without Jackson. I mean we had all the right ideas and did all the petition work and stuff, but if he hadn’t made the meeting happen, we would have been dead in the water. Then when it happened, he knew what to do and how to handle those two admin guys.”
“What made him successful doing that?”
Roger looked at his dad and replied, “On the drive back from the hospital we were quizzing him, and he said that while he’s in marketing, he’s actively involved with his companies sales force, and before that when he worked at the ad agency, he didn’t just work on campaigns, he had to sell clients on them to get the business.”
“He told us,” Jerrod continued, “that most of it comes down to what’s called solution selling, which means understanding your customers needs even if they don’t. Then you formulate the solution to their problem, position it as a solution and go from there.”
“Even when the customer is in denial? I find that hard to understand,” Roger’s dad said.
“Yeah. A lot of times customers are living in the middle of their problem and trying to deal with it. They don’t know how they got there or how to solve it. In this case what’s going on hasn’t turned into a major problem yet, but it will. So, Jackson said we took a hard line and were even confrontational, but the strategy is to get them to understand that they’re very soon going to have a major problem and that we’ve got the solution, so they might as well get on board now.” He looked over at Roger. “Right, selle?”
“Absolutely right. If those guys don’t figure it out, they need some major therapy… or a new job.”
“Well, don’t lose sight of the fact,” his dad replied, “that they work for a big institution, and change can be hard and it’s usually pretty slow.”
“Good point, but we’re on it and we’re not giving up.”
Roger’s mom asked what they were doing for the weekend?
“Well, the weather forecast is kind of wet, so we’ll go pick up the dogs for a walk in the park tomorrow. Kaiser is still restricted to walking on a leash. He’s getting used to his shoulder brace too.” He looked over at his boyfriend. “What do you want to do after that?”
Jerrod grinned. “Maybe we should ask your mom if she has any chores we can help with.”
Roger’s mom responded immediately. “No, no. You two have plenty to do. Also, I know it won’t sound attractive, but you’re working at the hospital Sunday afternoon. Are you caught up on your homework? You’ve been spending a lot of time on the petitions and planning. Maybe you should be doing homework tomorrow.” She smiled innocently.
Jerrod smiled at her and said softly, “Now that’s an idea ’cause we’re getting close to the end of the quarter. You’re not trying to use solution selling on us, are you?”
“Well, now that you say it, I guess I was, although I didn’t know that’s what it was called. Isn’t that what mother’s are supposed to do?”
They all laughed at the truth of that comment and then the boys helped clear the table and then wash the dishes. They’d decided to just stay home with Roger’s parents and were cuddled on the couch waiting for the parents to join them with Roger said, “Are you missing the dogs too?”
“Yeah. I mean it’s great David and Jackson love them so much and walk them when we’re here, but it’s not the same is it? Don’t get me wrong, I know two dogs is too much to ask your parents to put up with.” He pulled Roger close and kissed the side of his head. “It’s too bad Jessica couldn’t be at the meeting this afternoon, but it’s pretty impressive she’s still working with Sean on his basketball skills.”
“Oh yeah, every week. Matt’s with her when he can. Sean’s mom says his shooting is getting better and better.” He laughed and then added, “she said he’s about worn out the backboard and net on their garage and she’s going to have to get a better quality one for him. He’s so serious about working on his skills.”
Roger’s parents came in and his dad reached for two DVDs he had next to the television. “I got two, so you boys will have to pick. This one is called One Hour Photo and stars Robin Williams, but it seems strange because he’s a comedian and it’s described as a mystery. And this one is The Pianist which is about a young Polish pianist trying to survive the Nazis in Warsaw.”
“Wow! They both sound great. Maybe we should watch them both.”
Roger’s mom laughed. “Maybe you two can watch them both. I’m pretty sure we’ll be going to bed not long after the first one is over.”
They slept in a little and were over to pick up the dogs for a long walk by ten o’clock, and then had lunch with David and Jackson.
“What’s on the schedule?” Jackson eyed them suspiciously.
“You won’t believe it. We’re going back to Roger’s to do homework.”
“Yep, no shit! Of course, since we will have our homework done,” Roger added, “we’re thinking about going to the club tonight for some dancing. Want to come?”
Jackson looked at David and then back and said, “Naw. Thanks for the invite but the average age there is way below ours. We’d just look out of place. We’re going down to the Aladdin Theatre to hear Frank Yanowitz’s band play.”
“Very cool,” Jerrod said. “Will you say hi to him for me? I saw him in the cafeteria at the hospital a couple of weeks ago and he gave me some good tips on great jazz covers.”
Jackson nodded and then added, “I thought teen night at the club was on Friday?”
“It is,” Jerrod replied, “but it turns out that it’s been so successful on Friday and that a lot of kids were asking about Saturdays, too, that so this weekend they’re trying a hybrid where the teenagers are downstairs in a room they usually use for private parties, and that physically separates them from the adults. No alcohol or adults downstairs.”
Jackson said, “That sounds good on the surface, but don’t take anything for granted. Be careful and pay attention to who’s around you.”
Jerrod and Roger nodded their agreement and went to get ready. They’d called Eric and Kim about going to the club, and picked them up and headed into town. After an hour or so of dancing and having a good time, they were standing around one of the upright tables having a drink when Eric nodded his head toward a couple that had just come down the stairs and into the room.
Jerrod, Roger and Kim all looked over at them and then Kim said, “What’s up? They’re younger than us. Like don’t look like they’re much over sixteen.”
“That’s the point, Kim,” Eric said. “They look timid, like almost scared. They look kind of like you did after you got outed when dad and I found you at Pioneer Square. Remember? You looked like you didn’t know what was going to happen next.”
“Well, then,”Roger said, “Seems to me because it’s not teen night, that it’s our job to welcome them and make them feel comfortable. Wouldn’t it have been great if some older guys had done that for us when we were their age? Back in a flash!” With that he walked over to the two younger boys.
Eric and Kim were somewhat surprised, but Jerrod just smiled and said, “That’s my selle. He cares more about other people almost than he does himself.”
“I’m guessing that includes you,” Eric asked?
“It definitely includes me. I don’t know where I’d be without him.”
They watched Roger approach the two boys who initially looked concerned and then surprised and then relaxed into an expression of happiness. Roger was talking to them in an animated way that they seemed to appreciate, and when he rolled his head over his left shoulder to nod at the table they stood around, Jerrod saw the light from the stage illuminate his blonde hair. A drop or two of sweat flicked off his hair and shone in the light as it went airborne. Then Roger said something else, turned back towards their table and the two new boys followed closely behind him.
Roger arrived first with a big smile on his face. He turned and waited for them to walk up and put their drinks down and then said, “Guys, this is Stewart and Logan. They live in the Hollywood district not far from Kim.” He looked at his new friends and then said, “This is Eric and Kim.” They both nodded and said hi, and then Roger continued, “And this is my boyfriend, Jerrod.”
Jerrod gave them a fist bump, and then said, “Roger’s pretty good at picking friends and helping people out. He picked me up.”
There was a moment of silence, and then Jerrod giggled, Eric and Kim sputtered, and then Stewart and Logan laughed too. The ice had been broken.
“Well, it wasn’t a pick up like that! I mean he picked me up when I was down and then helped me out. We all went to high school in Sellwood. How about you guys?”
It turned out they lived in a different school district, but only the next one over, so it felt like there was some connection. “They’re both sixteen and juniors,” Roger added.
“Very cool. You’ve got to meet our friend, Nate. He’s in the same grade and goes to the high school we all went to. His boyfriend lives in Pendleton, so he’d be here alone and it’s tough for him when we go out to the club.”
Logan smiled and said, “That sounds hard. Stewart and I have only been together for a few months. I can’t imagine him living in some other city.”
“Are you both out at school,” Eric asked, “or just in places like this?”
“We’re not out at school,” Stewart said, “but our parents know. We just decided to go slow. Coming to this club is like the first big public thing.”
“Well, good choice,” Kim said, “but did you know there’s a couple of teen nights per month on Fridays?”
They both shook their head and Kim added, “It’s a little mellower on teen nights, and so less worry about someone trying to hit on us. Trust us, you want to be out at school if possible so you’re living your lives on your own terms. A good place to start is the LGB club. Then word gets around and you’ll be surprised how much it’s no issue at all after that. It’ll almost feel like you didn’t have to make a big deal about coming out at all.”
Stewart grinned at him. “We’ve been talking about that, like why do gay kids even have to make a big deal about it and come out. Why can’t we just live our lives and be who we are and love who we love?”
“You can,” Roger answered, “It’s just that you’ve got to be prepared to deal with society and it’s biases. But we’re making progress. Aren’t you glad you live in Oregon, where it’s pretty much accepted, instead of in, say, Idaho or Mississippi?’
“Oh man! What a nightmare that would be.” Logan paused and looked at his four new friends. “You don’t know how cool this is. That you guys reached out to us instead of just doing your own thing. We were so nervous about how it was going to go. You know, like would we be let in? Then, would we be accepted? Would we get into trouble somehow?”
“This is a safe place,” Jerrod said. “I live with my two uncles, and they checked it out when we wanted to start coming. We haven’t had any problems. Just a lot of fun and great dancing.”
Stewart had raised his eyebrows. “Two uncles?”
Jerrod grinned. “Yeah, lucky me! They’re gay and have been together for over twenty-five years. But all of our parents and friends know and accept us for who we are and who we love. You’ll see, and it’ll be cool.” He looked over at Roger and said, “Speaking of cool, I’ve cooled down. Want to dance some more?”
Roger’s eyes gleamed and he nodded, then looked at Stewart and Logan and said, “Come on you guys, time to break the ice.”
Sunday was just their normal afternoon at the hospital, but that morning Roger called Nate and filled him in about meeting Logan and Stewart. Nate was happy to meet them and help where he could, and Roger said he’d call Stewart and check what their thinking was. Nate replied, “Cool. If they want, we can meet this afternoon at Super Sonic and talk. Let me know.” They were up for it and Roger called back, Nate said he’d call them and work out the details. He called later that night and said they were cool guys, they all got along fine, and he told them to get serious about joining the LGB club.
On the drive back from the hospital, Jerrod and Roger talked about the week ahead and the time-consuming work of soliciting contributions for the auction. Following Alice’s advice, the group had worked up a list of twenty ideal items, hoping to get ten for the actual auction. They all spent their time after classes during the week calling on prospective donors.
On Tuesday, Matt dropped Roger at David and Jackson’s house because he wanted to talk to David about how to approach the LGB club members about raising kids without religion.
Roger hung out with the dogs till Jerrod got home, and shortly thereafter David pulled his BMW into the driveway. When he’d changed and joined them, he said to Roger, “I’ve been thinking about the best approach, and I think it’s to keep it kind of simple and maybe catch them off guard.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, I don’t know these people in your LGB club, but I do know that a lot of Christians, like most religious people, are hypocrites. These guys are young and may not know better, or may just be plain old hypocrites. In fact, most of us are, to one degree or the other, but that’s not the point. Either way, they’re still laying this rap on you about having to be Christian in order to have the right values and morals to raise kids right?”
Roger nodded in agreement.
“So, maybe you start with something like, ‘I’ve been doing some reading and I’d take it a lot more seriously if all you Christians were better at living out your religion.”
Roger’s eyes widened. David went on. “Remember Gandhi’s comment about the Christian faith?”
“You mean when he said he liked Christ but not Christians.”
“Exactly! He was born a Hindu but incorporated aspects of different faiths into his own, including Christianity. However, his scathing assessment was that far too often, Christians don’t represent Christ. They are nothing like Christ. They don’t do Christ justice. They actually repel people from Christ. For instance, telling others they have to be Christians in order to raise kids, right!”
Jerrod looked at his boyfriend and said, “Think you can be a hard ass like that, selle? You’re normally such a nice guy… like with Logan and Stewart at the club the other night.”
“Well, I guess, if you think that’s what it’ll take.”
“I don’t know what it’ll take,” David said, “but challenging them right back, maybe catching them off guard won’t be a bad thing.”
“Okay, I’ll buy that. So, what next?”
“Well, they were quoting you the Bible, so quote it right back. You could give them these two sayings from Christ. In John 13: 34 and 35 he says, ‘A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’ And, then in Luke 6:35 he says, ‘But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.’ Then you ask them how what they’re saying is consistent with Christ’s teachings.”
“That could get testy, don’t you think?”
“It sure could, but they challenged you and your LGB friends. You have to know where you’re going. I’m suggesting you let them reply, and then you move to the reality in Christ’s words.”
“Which is that you can’t be a Christian and hate LGBTQ people. You can’t be a Christian and hate people of a different skin color. You can’t be a Christian and hate people for being different than you. You can’t be a Christian and hate people. That’s not Christianity, and that’s what they’re doing by saying non-Christians can’t raise kids with good values and morals... even though they’ll say it’s not hate, it’s love because they care about your soul not going to hell!”
Roger swallowed. “That’s laying it on pretty heavy, isn’t it?”
David grinned at him. “They were laying it on you pretty heavy, weren’t they?”
Roger nodded, and David continued. “I wrote all this up for you so you can get comfortable with it. Trust me, there’s nothing more effective than quoting Bible verses back at them, especially when you’re an atheist!” He laughed, and both boys joined him, and Jerrod added, “Go, Roger! You can do this.”
“I also added something else to the notes for you, also from Gandhi, in case it goes there. Another quote he’s famous for are his so-called Seven Deadly Sins.”
“Yeah?” A gleam came into Roger’s eyes. “And what are they?”
“They are a study in illustrating the self-centered and hypocritical life. Wealth without work. Pleasure without conscience. Knowledge without character. Commerce without morality. Science without humanity. Worship without sacrifice. And, finally, politics without principle. Even if you don’t need to use them at LGB club, they’re good ones to know.”
“For sure. I like the sound of them a lot.
The next day, Matt again dropped Roger off after class to fill David in on how it had gone. Jerrod had a biology lab and was going to be late, so Roger hung out with the dogs till he heard the BMW pull into the driveway. David had a big grin on his face when he turned to watch Roger and the dogs come in from the back yard.
“And, so how did it go?”
Roger grinned back at him. “They were blown away. As in, they didn’t know what to say. All they knew about Gandhi was that he was some pagan from India, and the quotes about hypocrisy really hit them. Then when they tried to mount a response, it was all double talk. So, then I did what you suggested and shared those two Jesus quotes, and you could see they hadn’t been prepared for that from an atheist!”
“Did they have a response?”
“Yeah, but totally lame. Like the ‘love one another’ passage was about loving other Christians. So, then I asked them what Jesus meant in the other one where he talked about loving your enemies?”
“Good on you. Was that the end of it?”
“For now. I handed them Gandhi’s Seven Deadly Sins just to get in another dig. I’m sure they’ll come after me on that one next week.”
“Cool. It sounds like fun to me. I’ve got a little reading to suggest between now and then on humanism, and I’ll pull out the stuff on tribalism I told you about. Most Christians are clueless that they grow up in a tribe with all the tribe’s value. They think it’s all free will, as if they are making their own totally informed decisions.” David paused. “Why don’t you call your parents and see if you can stay for dinner. I’d love to hear you fill Jerrod in on how it went and hear the blow-by-blow report. I’m sure Jackson would too.”
Both boys joined David and Jackson preparing dinner, and Roger related how the LGB club dialogue had gone. Jerrod stepped over and hugged Roger from behind, pulling him tight and kissing his ear. “Good on you, selle. Mr. Nice Guy stepped up and I’m proud of you.”
“Yeah,” Jackson added, “Usually the religious types start it and everyone else is too cowed or too worried about hurting their sensibilities to challenge them back.”
Over dinner David asked Roger if he was up for a little tutorial on humanism?
“You mean while I’m on a roll from laying it on the religious dudes?”
“Well, now that you put it that way, yes.” He turned to Jerrod, “Would you find this boring?”
“No. You know I’m not religious anymore, and maybe it’ll help me understand what I believe and what I wished I’d been taught instead.”
“That’s a good way to put it, Jerrod. Roger has an advantage over all three of us who were raised with different levels of Christianity. His parents may not have studied humanism and explicitly taught it to him, but they ascribe to it and know enough that they lived it.” He turned to Roger, “So, I doubt if you will find any of this little discussion to be new and certainly not radical. Rather, I think you’ll more than likely say, ‘That’s what I’ve believed all the time.’ Does that sound reasonable?”
Roger nodded and grinned. “Sounds cool, and like I just need to brush up on it rather than study and learn some whole concept of philosophy.”
“Very likely so,” David said. “Then let’s begin with this summary, that Humanism is a philosophical understanding that emphasizes the potential of individuals and society, and the agency of all human beings. It considers human beings, rather than a metaphysical being, as the starting point for serious ethical and philosophical inquiry.” He paused and looked at Roger. “Anything new or radical in that?”
Roger grinned and shook his head. “Nothing. Should I be taking notes?”
“No need,” David said back to him. “I typed up some notes for you and a little bit of basic reading if you want to do it. I doubt you’ll need the reading to deal with the religious dudes in the LGB club, but you may want to pursue it for your own education. It’s mainly Emmanuel Kant and Bertrand Russell, although there are few more. So, anyway, basically the term humanism refers to a focus on human well-being and promotes human freedom, autonomy, and progress. I want us all to think about that, and maybe contrast it with what most religions promote.”
It was quiet for a moment and David watched various expressions flicker over Roger and Jerrod’s faces. Jackson asked, “Can I take a crack at it? I mean I know this is mainly a talk between you and Roger, but still.”
Roger said, “Go for it. I wasn’t raised religious, so I’m still thinking about it.”
Jackson grinned and said, “I took a couple of philosophy classes and did the whole Sunday School thing in church till this guy,” he nodded at David, “came along and bailed me out of a nightmare home situation. What I’ll say right off is that most religion doesn’t promote human well-being. If it did there’d be a lot less suffering in the world and the churches wouldn’t have so much money. On top of that, it doesn’t promote human freedom even though it likes to claim it does. You know, free will and all of that. The reality is the exact opposite. It was the first month David and I were together that I learned what a depraved sinner was, and that I was one. Tell me where the human freedom is in that. The starting point is that everyone is a sinner and going to hell unless they believe the right thing, and for gays it’s even worse because being gay is a mortal sin and that means we’re totally depraved. It’s part of our being.”
He paused and looked around for effect. “Some freedom, huh?”
“Total imprisonment and mind control,” Jerrod said. “I remember David walking me through all of that my first summer here when I was struggling to accept myself. So that means there’s no autonomy, or very little, because I remember from my philosophy class that human autonomy is a right to self-determination and that includes non-interference and a prohibition of being subordinated to others.”
“Well, there you go,” Jackson replied. “There’s always subordination to others when the organization is hierarchal, patriarchal, misogynistic, or all three!” He looked at Roger and added, “Sorry to dominate your conversation.
“No, it’s all good. I didn’t have those experiences, so this helps since I’m going to be dealing with religious people. I agree and guess I can add that if all of that’s true, then there’s no real commitment to progress. Because it’s all about control, and you can’t let people and society progress unless you empower them, right?” He looked at David for confirmation.
“That’s absolutely right. Humanism views humanity as responsible for promoting individual development, it stands for the equal and inherent dignity of all human beings. That makes it similar to the concept of stewardship… another one that Christians talk about a lot but do barely anything about. Like Jackson said about suffering and starving humanity, or our damage to the environment and the planet. It also emphasizes a concern for humans in relation to the world, and we’ve all seen that religion doesn’t want improved global relations because not only do their believers then develop tolerance and a broader worldview, but also that religions have to give up control over their people. Thoughts about that?”
Roger chuckled, “Just like the Gandhi quote about liking Christ but not Christians, right?”
“Exactly, you’ve heard me say many times that if Christians just started living in synch with the Beatitudes, it would be a different world.” He paused and then went on. “So, given all of that, it will come as no surprise to learn that humanism is non-religious and aligned with secularism. If you don’t know it, for all religious types there’s a standard reaction to what Christians call ‘the sacred/secular dichotomy,’ which is a concept they use to categorize the sacred things from the secular things. And I’m guessing you know how the secular things are rated?” He grinned and looked at Roger and Jerrod.
“Bad, evil, satanic,” Jerrod tossed out.
Roger laughed and added, “Immoral, illicit, pagan. Did we get them all, David?”
Now it was David’s turn to laugh. “Not by a long shot. The list of adjectives and adverbs is very long, but you guys captured the gist of it with evil, immoral and satanic. You know we’ve now moved into the area of morality and ethics, right? So, just for some context, to my way of thinking morality has to do with good and bad, while ethics has to do with right and wrong. What’s the difference?”
“Well, the good and bad thing sounds like religion, while right and wrong is about doing the right thing for people,” Roger replied. Then he added “For yourself and other humans.”
“Well put, my friend, well put. To my way of thinking morality is mainly religious and ethics is mainly humanist. Here’s another difference. Because morality’s assessment of good and bad tends to flow from a moral code that means it almost always derives from a religious belief system. Like, say, the Ten Commandments. You can make a judgment call about right and wrong without going to a religious moral belief system. Take Gandhi’s Seven Deadly Sins. When I read them, I don’t see a moral imperative being pushed, rather an ethical one.”
“Yeah,” Jerrod said. “I never thought of it that way, but I guess that came from being raised religious, so it all got baked in and everything gets seen through a religious moral lens. Like, good and bad, spiritual or evil, clean or dirty.”
Jackson smiled and said, “You see where that highway is going, don’t you?”
Jerrod looked at him and said, “What do you mean?”
“Think about the linkage of the words you used and where it goes. Once you get to clean or dirty it’s not just about ritual purity like in a lot of religions, but it also includes sex, right?”
Jerrod’s eyes widened. “Oh, yeah, I see what you mean.”
“And the next stop on that highway is shame, because so much of how we react to it, sexual and otherwise, has to do with shame. I didn’t get it till David helped me understand back when I was in high school. Sex was dirty, it was immoral, it was essentially evil. And the whole set up was to wield shame and make people feel ashamed.” He looked at David.
“Nicely summed up. I had to deal with the same stuff because I had the same Protestant religious upbringing as you did, it was just on steroids because I was a minister.” He stopped and grinned.
“Fuck, what a total load of… of… I don’t know,” Roger said. “It’s just so negative.”
“Let me finish your thought for you,” Jackson said. “It’s a total load of shit. Not just because it controls people and makes them subordinate, which it does, but because along the way it simply ruins so many lives.”
That led to a few moments of silence, then David said, “We should wrap this up because we’ve got dishes to wash and then Roger has to get home. So, let me say a couple more things. First, as we’ve been discussing humanism is a democratic and ethical view of life, which asserts that human beings have the right and responsibility to give meaning and shape to their own lives. That extends to the building of a more humane society through an ethic, and notice I’m saying an ethic not a morality, based on human and other natural values. Are you with me?”
They all nodded at him. “So, let me give you all a practical example that most people that complete high school, and certainly those that go to college will understand because they have to take English Literature. We’ve been talking about the ethics of humanism, and I use that the way I think of it, as opposed to morality. Humanism rejects supernatural sources of morality, because of their inconsistencies and because it rejects supernatural phenomena in general. There’s a really good example in literature of the common belief that morality is linked to religion, and that brings us back to where this all started with the religious dudes in the LGB club. It’s illustrated by Dostoevsky's axiom in The Brothers Karamazov where he says, "If God does not exist, then everything is permitted," and it suggests that chaos will ensue if religious belief disappears. Does that sound like the dudes you’re dealing with?”
Roger grinned and nodded. “Sure does.”
“So, the humanist response to that,” David concluded, “Is that if people act only out of fear, blind adherence to a dogma, or expectation of a reward, it is a selfish motivation rather than real morality or ethics. I wrote that one down for you and I’d like to be a fly on the wall watching when you drop that one on them!”