by David McLeod
Illogic at the School Board
The local Evangelicals and Pentecostals hadn't given up on the LGBT Alliance, but it did take them some time to get their act together. It seemed that there were as many sects as there were members, and getting them to get together in a united front was harder than I would have imagined. Finally, they petitioned to be allowed to address the school board. Mrs. Goodman told me, and said I should be there to respond.
"You won't let our children pray in the classroom, but you allow those preverts to hold hands and kiss and engage in other disgusting practices in the hallways. Who knows what goes on in the locker rooms?" The speaker was the pastor at the First Evangelical Church. His flock called him 'Reverend Samson.'
Samson continued. "Our children can't wear a cross in school, yet these preverts have stolen the rainbow, the symbol of God's promise to Noah and to all of mankind, and flagrantly display it as a sign of their preversity.
"Our children have had to leave the public schools–which we still fund through our taxes, I might add–in order to escape being seduced by the homosexual agenda.
"We do not take issue with these students as individuals. As with any Child of God, we love them; but we hate their sin. We do, however, take issue with the adults who are leading these children further into sin by forming this organization, and nurturing its agenda."
The board secretary pressed a buzzer signaling that Samson's time was up. He glowered at her, but sat.
The Chair of the School Board nodded to the boy who sat in the front row. Paul stood and walked to the lectern.
"Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for allowing me to speak at this forum.
"My first premise may seem strange, but please bear with me. I will define a 'lie' as any attempt to hide or distort the truth. By that definition, any error of logic, but especially one used to conceal the truth or distract from the truth, is a lie.
"For example, calling me and my friends 'fags' and 'perverts' is an example of an ad hominem attack. It is an attempt to draw attention from my argument, and toward me. It is an attempt to smear me and my friends. It is, ipso facto, a lie."
He turned to the preacher who had spoken earlier. "Ad hominim attacks pervaded all you said. 'Love the sinner; hate the sin.' Do you not see how hypocritical that is? By saying someone is a sinner, you've already branded him or her as lesser than you. And who are you to say what is my sin? Sin is defined only in the context of a specific religious belief. If I don't share your religious belief, then I do not share your sins. Sin isn't defined by constitutional law–at least, not in this country–nor is it based on some theory of natural law like gravity or evolution. Sin was invented by human beings, some of whom claim it was told to them by a supernatural being. You may not share my belief in the theory of evolution; I do not share your belief that homosexuality is a sin. The important difference is this: my belief in the theory of evolution is supported by a body of scientific evidence, and is valid only until it is disproved. Your belief that homosexuality is a sin is based only on your faith that the words in the Bible are true."
"That's moral relativism and that's just plain wrong!" A voice from the Evangelical crowd shouted. The chairman banged his gavel.
Paul continued. "It may sound akin to moral relativism taught by the Greek sophists, but it is not the same thing. At its root is the hypothesis that a person can be good without god–a statement that can be shown to be true and which is more valid than the Judeo-Christian-Islamist hypothesis that a person cannot be good without god."
The same voice shouted, "One of those sophists you call 'em–Socrates–came to a bad end, boy. You'd better watch–"
The man's words were drowned out by the sound of the chairman's gavel. "You sir, are out of order. Another outburst and I will ask you to leave–"
The man, who had been seated two down from Samson stood. "You won't have to ax me to leave; I ain't stayin' in this Godless place any longer." He brushed past the people seated between himself and the aisle, and stomped out of the room.
I was thinking of Protagoras, not Socrates, Paul thought. He cleared his throat, drawing attention back to himself. "Socrates was not a sophist. He was, however, executed for little more than teaching people to think. Returning to the topic at hand, however:
"Your claims that we engage in public displays of affection are false. We do not make out in the hallways any more than do the non-gay students. Holding hands, kissing, and physical contact beyond a handshake or a pat on the back…above the waist…these are a violation of school policy. This policy applies equally, to all students. Further, you offered no proof, no examples.
"Your innuendo–and innuendo is another way of lying–your innuendo that improper behavior takes place in the locker rooms was also offered without proof, and without examples.
"Your claim that your children are not allowed to pray in the classroom is a lie. There is no prohibition against prayer. There is, however, a prohibition against audible prayer, and against group prayers in the classroom. Before you removed your children from the school, they were allowed to pray around the flagpole in the morning, and in the three religious clubs that were recognized by the school.
"Your claim that your children could not wear a cross is a lie. No one was ever prevented from wearing a cross. It is true that one student who displayed a cross and refused to remove it was suspended. It is also true that this cross was displayed on a T-shirt that bore a vulgar anti-gay slogan, written in rather large letters. The words on the T-shirt–not the cross–are what got that student suspended.
"Oh, yes. The rainbow. A natural phenomenon created by light refracted through droplets of water. Whether it was created by a supernatural creator or is simply an accident of the natural laws that govern the universe may be a matter for debate. In either case, however, it exists, it is ubiquitous, and it is owned by no person or group. Our right to wear it is not open to debate."
Paul turned to the chairman. "Thank you again for allowing me to speak."
Without being recognized, Samson called, "We demand that the board reassess and re-evaluate its policy toward this organization of preverts."
The chairman cleared his throat. "Frankly, Mr. Samson, an ad hominem attack by an adult on a school boy, even one as smart and mature as Paul, is not just a lie; it is not just illogical; it is cowardly. If your faith cannot stand on its own merits without lies, then it is, ipso facto flawed. Perhaps it is you who needs to reassess and re-evaluate."
He looked at the other members of the board, and asked. "Does anyone wish to add to our agenda a re-evaluation of our position with regard to the Student Section of the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, and Transgendered Alliance?" He paused. "No? Then, in the immortal words of Robert's Rules, 'A motion to adjourn is always in order.' "
The motion passed unanimously. That night, Reverend Samson went to the bus station with a handful of quarters. He entered a phone booth, and made a long-distance call.
"Paul? Something you said at the school board meeting got me wondering. You said sin depended on religion, and if you didn't have religion you didn't have sin."
"Is there a question, there, Sam, or are you just stating the obvious?"
"Uh, do you really not have religion?"
Paul looked at Sam. Why does he want to know? Will I offend him if I tell the truth? Will he start preaching to me? I don't know anything about his beliefs. Paul decided in an instant. "No, I don't."
"Um, do you want to talk about it?"
"I've never told anyone but Larry and Dad…" Paul's voice drifted off, and he looked at Sam with eyebrows raised. Sam might understand, after all, he thought.
"Mom died when I was twelve. Cancer. It had metastasized before they caught it, and there was never any hope for a cure. She was in a lot of pain, but she didn't take her pain meds…she wanted to be awake, alert, when Dad or I came in. She wanted to be able to see us, talk to us…
"I watched her get weaker and thinner. The cancer didn't kill her. I know that, now. She starved to death."
"Paul, I'm so sorry…I didn't know…" Sam stretched out his hand, apparently thought better of it, and pulled it back.
Paul saw Sam's hand extend and then withdraw. He reached across the table and touched the back of Sam's hand, briefly. "It's okay, Sam. I'd rather tell you…Anyway, I went to the preacher and asked him, if God were so powerful, how come he couldn't stop Mom's cancer; and if Got were so good, how'd he let her get it in the first place.
"He told me to read the Book of Job. Damn it, Sam, he told a twelve-year-old to go read one of the most obscure and ugly books in the Old Testament!
"Well, I did. I read it in our King James Version, and then I read it in the modern Bible the Evangelicals are using, and saw how they'd changed the story. And I read two commentaries. And I decided it was…I was going to say crap, but that's not really right. I decided it raised more questions than it answered. First, if God is so powerful, why did he have to prove anything to Satan? If God is good, why'd he let Satan do those awful things to an innocent man? And not just Job, but his family, too. I mean, God let Satan kill innocent people, children, servants, just to win a bet?
"I asked the preacher those questions, and all I got from him was crap. Yeah, crap, like 'God works in mysterious ways,' and 'the story of Job was told to teach us a lesson.'
"Well, then I asked if that meant it was just a story and didn't happen, and of course he said it was real…just like everything else in the Bible.
"God asked Job, 'Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth?… Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion?' I memorized those words 'cause I wondered why god would use Greek names for a constellation and an asterism. But what he was telling Job was not to question god…he's telling Job that he, god knows what he's doing and not to question him.
"No, there's something very wrong with that story."
"The preacher asked me what was the lesson in Job…and I answered him with the same sort of platitude he'd given me: 'God giveth and God taketh away.' And then I asked him what was the lesson in my mother's death, and told him the answer: 'life sucks and then you die.'
"That's when I decided that it was all bogus, and that you only get one chance at life…and I started using all my mind. That's why when Darrell outed Larry and me I didn't kill him. It wasn't his fault. He's not awakened. He's still operating on instinct and 10% of his mind."
"I don't understand. Are you saying that because you're gay you're somehow smarter or better?"
"No! Try to keep up. And read some Colin Wilson…not the horror or metaphysical stuff…but about peak experiences. If you don't like philosophy, read The Space Vampires. Most people use about 10% of their minds. That's it. Less than 10% of what they could be using if they'd try…if they'd not plop down in front of the TV."
"Your friend, Patrick. He's a devout Christian–an altar boy, in fact. Do you think Patrick's made a mistake?" Sam seemed genuinely puzzled.
"Patrick? He was raised Catholic…memorization, repetition, litany, and ritual. When the North Koreans did it to US soldiers in the 1950s, we called it brainwashing."
"You going to tell him?"
"No way! Remember? We have one chance for happiness. If there were such a thing as sin, it would be hurting somebody's chance for happiness. If someday Patrick wants to be a priest, and I thought it would make him happy, I'd smile and sing Te Deum at his ordination."
"How does Larry feel?"
"Larry? I told you…he and Dad were the only ones I'd talked to before today. And, Larry's smart. He figured out the god thing when he was ten. No…you'll have to ask him."
Sam and Paul sat, silently, for a moment. Then, Sam said, "Paul, you're asking questions that people have been asking since…well, about 2,500 years ago…more, maybe.
"The Judeo-Christian-Islamist version of life is that god knows all the answers, and doles out the ones he wants us to know. The Hellenic version is that a human being, through his own intellect, can find answers and meanings. I prefer the Hellenic version." Sam cocked one eyebrow and looked at Paul.
Paul smiled. "Thanks, Sam."