Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Emotionally Honest Characters and Christian Dismissiveness

My characters are always emotionally-aware and often emotionally-honest with each other. Somewhere along the line I learned to really love scenes where some needy character tells his/her soul. Picture poor lame Phillip in Of Human Bondage telling one of Muriel's lover "not to take her fromme"or the unloved Cathy Sloper in Henry James' Washington Square "asking her father to say something nice about her." Such scenes wrench the heart because the heart of the character and thus the goal of the story depends on whether or not the character's bravery in telling his heart's need is going to be dismissed or not. And let's face it. Often it's dismissed.

Anyways, I have this thing about emotionally honest characters who know themselves and who live honest lives, characters who sometimes say the neediest things.

But I'm thinking about whence came my interest in dismissiveness? I'm thinking it's because of my various encounters with dismissive atheists, dismissive christians, dismissive people in general. Especially when folks are dismissive after they have been told something incredibly important.

There's a movement in Christianity that is all about dismissiveness. Joyce Meyer's "Get over it" preaching for instance, which she uses to tell people to tell themselves to stop being entrenched in their own grief but which many Christians (being human with generally unredeemed emotional thought life and habits) often use against others who are in pain because they are unwilling to bear each other's burden.. But even before Joyce Meyer the tendency existed, especially in the reactions of male ministers toward certain folks in the Bible.

Bible personnages can be divided into Sacred cows and Scapegoats. And in Bible studies, we are taught who to hate from our youth up.

When I look at Potiphar's wife, I see an unsexually-fulfilled woman who is married to a eunuch. Sure, the women in Pharoah's harem are safe from the king's chamberlain...but heck...so is his wife. No, I'm not excusing her false rape charges being brought against a guy she tried to seduce...but I am seeing the complications here. Complications which... most Christians will dismiss because she's a scapegoat we've been taught to demonize her as an evil woman.

When I hear a minister use the Prince Amnon rape of Tamar story to say that all lust leads to hate after the sexual act is fulfilled, then I instinctively think of Prince Shechem.He wasn't the son of David, he wasn't a descendant of Jacob. YET he loved the woman he seduced and wanted to marry her after the seduction. If I bring that up to the minister to challenge his "lust leads to hate" sermon, he gets dismissive.

Okay, so those are sexual issues. But even when the issue has nothing to do with sex, the "trained" Christian talent for dismissing the pain of others comes up. We are taught to dismiss Mrs. Job's pain. Sure, she lost all her children, sure no one has come to comfort her, sure she is the weaker vessel and her husband should be comforting her...but heck... we have to think about Job because Job is God's prophet and she's "upsetting and tempting him."

And the dismissing of the pain and goodness of "foreign" scapegoats just gets to me. Oh yes... David murdered Uriah...but well... David was a man after God's own heart so...well, God forgave him. Oh, yes, sure Delilah was being threatened but she was a temptress (Folks, she was being threatened!) and she was a foreigner. (Puhleze, we don't know if Delilah was a foreigner or not. The Bible doesn't say.) Oh, sure David killed all of Michal's adopted son just to be nasty but well, Michal laughed while he danced before the Lord (Folks, that was more of an angry quarrel between a man and his estranged wife than something that had to do with God.)

So, I can see why modern Christian men and women have gotten this habit of dismissing "the emotional facts" for the sake of some higher purpose. They will therefore attempt to bombard the emotionally honest person with "the facts." Weirdly, this leads to a world where Christians become repressed and rarely tell their hearts because they know some Biblical truth will be used against them. Plus we end up with Christians actually thinking it's rude to be honest or that it's pathetic to tell one's heart.  Christian propriety is often another way to be cruel and dismissive.

As I am working on the Constant Tower now, I see how fixated my mind was on this kind of cruelty. I always knew I hated it but more and more as I edit I see my anger at the cruel dismissiveness shown by the larger clan toward the wounded within it...for the same of some higher ideal. I so want this book out and in the world soon.







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