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Good and evil can be nurtured.

by Nicholas Barnard on May 4th, 2012

I wrote Mormons: Standing on the Side of Love because when I watched It Gets Better with Mormon Family and Friends, I was moved almost to tears.

The day after I wrote that I was having an online chat with my friend Casey:

Casey: re: your most recent blog post. I have not yet watched the video, but you are a much better person than I. I carry a huge grudge against the Mormons, Evangelicals, and Catholics for Prop 8 and anyone who funds those organizations.
Me: well — I separate the people from the organization.
Casey: The people empower and monetarily fund the organizations, I can’t separate them.
Casey: Might as well “hate the sin but love the sinner”.
Casey: Seriously, I admire your ability to make that separation.

His thoughts stuck with me, because Casey is an awesome guy and holding a grudge doesn’t seem to be his style. I’ve spent quite a bit of time pondering why I can make that separation, and I’m discussing this here with Casey’s permission.

I don’t condone the Mormons, Evangelicals, and Catholics who supported Prop 8, quite the opposite, I despise that people poured money simply to prevent two people of the same sex from having their relationship recognized in the same way as two people of the opposite sex.

I used to think that all Christian faiths were bullshit, and destructive. Then one Sunday morning a few months after I started going to my church I was sitting listening to a group who had gone to a Central American country describe the social services that the catholic church provided. Here were people I trusted providing evidence that directly contradicted my believe that Christian faiths were bullshit. I’m not quite sure I knew it at the time, but a little bit of dynamite had gone off in my head and started to take down that opinion. For a more recent example of the good that Catholics do, take a look at Nicholas D. Kristof’s opinion piece, We Are All Nuns, I told another friend when I read it that I needed to go find a nun to hug.

Does the sex abuse perpetrated by Catholic priests, and then covered up by the organization negate the work of the Catholic Nuns? One could make an argument that it does. However, if you accept that argument then once an organization or even an individual does something that rises to a certain level, you must discount whatever good work they have done.

I learned this past summer that one of my coworkers was engaged in producing child porn during the same time I worked with him. At that time I wrote:

What Matt has done is inexcusable.

I hope one day he will ask for forgiveness and find someone who can grant it to him. However, his current unwillingness to provide the password to decrypt the files on his computer makes it unlikely that he is ready to ask for forgiveness, nor is he worthy of it.

I’m reminded of a story of the redemption of a drug addict that stole from our church when he was younger. I’ve put the story up for those who are interested.

I was stuck at that time reconciling the fact that the generally good guy I worked with was also a pedophile. One of the Unitarian Universalist Principles that UUs affirm and promote is “The inherent worth and dignity of every person.” This is not to say that I would not take a 2×4 to Matt’s head if it would have prevented him from producing child porn.

A few days after my initial blog entry and my conversation with Casey this quote showed up in my email box:

If you’re out watering your flower garden by hand, you naturally concentrate the flow of water to benefit your beautiful flowers. If there’s an area of weeds, you don’t waste water there. As best you can, you avoid watering the weeds. It’s the same with your consciousness. You can learn to selectively water the positive seeds and flowers in you by attending to them. There are enough weeds. You don’t have to encourage them. – Thomas Bien, “Water the Flowers, Not the Weeds”

It doesn’t quite have literal application to this situation, but I believe that I should highlight and celebrate the characteristics I’d like to see in others. I can either focus on the evil things that they do and encourage them, or I can focus on celebrating what good they do, and encourage that.

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