Sunday, March 30, 2008


In the process of spring cleaning yesterday, I found a small book that I once used for various pieces of advice in my life. This particular book was replaced with another one while I was growing up, but my family still gave me a copy of the original. The book was title - "Your Youth - Getting the Best out of it". Curious about what I was reading as a child (my memories of childhood are still mostly gone, even though I have recovered some), I picked it up and turned to a couple chapters.

One theme of the book spoke of 'consequences'. Actions have consequences - a constant theme in my childhood. But reading the book, it dawned on me that so many consequences we face for our actions are not directly associated with the action itself. And what's more, many negative consequences are only defined as negative from a narrow point of view.

Single mothers are forced to bear an "unhappy struggle to rear an illegitimate child". Why do we as a society say that such a struggle MUST be "unhappy". I have no doubt of the difficulty involved - but is the struggle itself "unhappy"? Maybe there are some out there that find rewards, indeed happiness, in being a single parent. Even more surprising to me are remarks venturing outside well-defined results:

"So called sexual freedom changes what should be pleasurable and clean into something cheap and detestable. So, which do you want - an occasional brief moment of illicit sexual excitement with all the risks and problems in involves, or the satisfaction of having a clean conscience before God"

The same book goes on to tell how dating/dancing/music/appearance lead to sex, and so all those things should be done to prevent that from happening. The basic line of reasoning is: certain music leads to sex, which is inherently bad outside of marriage, therefore that music is bad. But, the final consequence of a dirty and unclean feeling didn't come from sex, it came from teachings about sex. To me, this amounts to playground reasoning:

"I don't see anything wrong with having sex"
"But, you'll get all sorts of nasty diseases."
"But I practice safer sex by limiting partners and using protection"
"You can still get diseases"
"I can still get diseases if I have sex after I'm married, and using safer sex practices, the risk of infection is small enough to not remove the other benefits - both health and emotionally"
"You will feel dirty after"
"Actually, I feel rather good"
"But, you should feel dirty, cause my Father in heaven, who is the biggest most knowning person ever wrote in his book that sex is bad if you aren't married, Neener neener"

Consequences from sex are one obvious theme. But this goes into so many other places.

Refusing to be Christian has consequences. Is it the refusal that causes the problems or reaction from that refusal? A person that decided to smoke pot faces consequences - less from the drug itself and more from the reaction of society to using a non-approved chemical for pleasure. The same goes for any number of other illicit chemical substances. A Governor recently went down for paying a prostitute. Pundits spouted moral outrage at his actions. My outrage is more for the hypocrisy of this man than his hiring of a sex worker.

The monster of consequence is constantly flashed at children, and yet we as a society are ignoring real consequences. 4,000 people dead in Iraq - that is REAL. Those people are not coming back - they have faced the ultimate consequence. We can sprout off some playground reasoning for why having sex or doing drugs has 'consequences' from some random piece of paper a group of men with funny hats denoted as Holy, OR we can look at the real, concrete consequences of our actions.

And in the end - that's the point. The religious right is so concerned with creating consequences for people they don't agree with that they have forgotten the soldiers of our countries being used as a ploy for oil and religion. And that, friends, pisses me off.


Dan said...

Great post. Consequences are always most important for the weak, but not for the powerful. If you show up to work late, you lose your job, if you're a line worker. If you sink a company, they give you $41 million severance, and a million a year.

If you're a rich kid and you get caught with pot, you hire a lawyer and it gets pled down to something else. If you're a poor kid, you get a drug conviction, and you no longer qualify for student loans.

I also admire your insight about whether consequences are always so bad. I'll have to ask my single mother friends if they wish they hadn't had sex. I wonder.

As a digression, that point reminds me of a family dinner where my religious sister started haranguing my then-high-school niece (her daughter) about her pregnant friend, pointing out that "for five minutes of pleasure, she's ruined her entire life."

My irreverent brother chimed in, "5 minutes? Oh, come on, Sue, maybe that's how it goes for you, but most people go longer than that. She'd have gotten at least a half hour if she tried it with me . . ." Comedy gold.

Spyder said...

Amen to you! I hate the way our government uses religion when it's convenient & beneficial. Anti abortion but it's ok to abort brown babies by bomb.