My parents recently visited my apartment for the first time. They were nice and silent, but I watched my father, a Christian minister, eyeing my Buddhist shrine. A week later, my mother said to me directly, “Buddha is dead.” Finally, my father responded to my discussion of wanting to be cremated after death. “I will contest it,” he said.
Perhaps this story is universal. How does a gay boy tell his parents he is gay, if he already knows their disapproval. At some point, we live our lives hopefully in the open without being closet homosexuals or Buddhists.
Here is the issue. If my son stated to me he is an atheist or wanted to convert to Judaism (or is a gay Jew), welcome him with open arms. I would study atheism or Judaism with him. I would meet his lover and go to the gay clubs with him if he wished me to do so. I don’t have any hesitation about allowing my son to find his path in life, yet my parents seem to cling to an absolute truth that, I believe, they fear other perspectives.
Absolute truth can be extremely relative.
My parents do love me unconditionally beyond belief systems. Some parents, though, do not have this connection to their children.
Every generation must fathom these same conditions. I grew up on Sesame Street and became a liberal. My parents missed the Hippie Generation while my father served and Vietnam. I once asked my father why Mom and he were not hippies. He said, “We were too busy raising a family.”
Beyond beliefs, I have seen the goodness in my parents, and I wish to reiterate this point. Yes, they have human faults as I do, buthough their religious perspectives are firm, I watched my father drive his old blue van into a black neighborhood and pick up black children for baseball practice. The children’s parents worked full-time jobs or did not have reliable vehicles. My father made certain these boys participated in YMCA sports in Conway, Arkansas.
My father helped young black men and women out of poverty by hiring them for work. He paid them a decent wage and helped one save money for a reliable vehicle. My dad is a good Christian, even though he is uncomfortable with my religious practices.
My mother has served a community college for 25 years. She helped so many people achieve their dreams. Beyond work, she made sure people with physical disabilities received a ride to church and checked on them whenever possible. If a daughter was abused in a home, she was there to help the daughter feel as though she had an extra mother. There is so much love pouring from people like my parents, even though they still view homosexuality as a “sin.”
I use my parents as an example today, because I love them more than anybody else in the world, and then I think about all the politicians who attack the poor and oppressed. Somewhere in their thick skin is also love, and though their perspectives may be different from my own and I view their perspective as racist, sexist, or homophobic, they are human beings filled with benevolence.
I believe that! Jesus condemned many people (usually the rich), but he traveled to poor places and probably made statements, such as the following: “It is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick.” Buddha accomplished the same tasks during his conversations with people firmly believing in the caste (or class) system in the area known now as India. He challenged perspectives with questions and changed many people’s minds.
No matter our viewpoints, we have a human quality filled with rich benevolence. Some Christians focus on sin, while many Buddhists focus on negative karma. We need to move beyond these terms and follow my childhood television show, Sesame Street, in seeing the potential of all human beings and animals. Oscar the Grouch never liked to leave his trash can, but he always learned something along the way by Big Bird’s and other puppets interaction with him. Let us interact beyond our limited absolute relativism!