Double Standards

I recently found an audio tape that was a staple of my adolescence. The tape was an early Nine Inch Nails. I was a bit schocked. There were portions that were quite obscene. As a whole, it was quite comparable to many of today’s rap C.D.’s, in terms of smut.
Something in me resisted this comparison… But this resistance, it’s a rationalization which borders on racism. It occurs to me that there are a number of activities that we give a pass to the person in the majority (straight, white, male, adult) that we would criticize someone in the minority for engaging in exactly the same thing. Similarly, there are many activities which we engaged in as kids but we find ourselves much more annoyed by the modern versions of these things… even when the principal comes down to the same.
Let’s begin with a variety of music examples:
Consider a bunch of suburban kids listening to some “edgy” music associated most often with white listeners: industrial, heavy metal, punk, etc. There is no shortage of unhealthy sexuality, mysogomy, drug use, condoning of violence, etc in these genre. Yet it seems like it’s much easier to criticize rap C.D.’s which glorify these activities.
I’m not sure if rap has more of these things or not. But quantity isn’t really my point. My point is how do we react when some kid pulls up to us blaring DMX ( a rapper) out his car stero. Compare this with gut reactions to say the Sex Pistols (punk) coming out of the car next to us.
Or consider an adult example:
Imagine a middle class sales rep. This person is filling out paperwork for reimbursement of his expenses. Or he is filling out paperwork stating his sales to recieve a commission. How do we feel when the sales rep pads his numbers to increase his pay check? He is effectively stealing from the company, right?
Compare this reaction to someone walking into the store– perhaps a minority. They grab goods sold by the company and walk out without paying for them.
I’m not saying that stealing is o.k. I am saying that morally there is no difference between the two examples. Both people should be criticized. But do we treat both theives the same?
Or consider a single mom at a park who is talking with her friends instead of supervising her kids. (This one drives me nuts!) We might — and should– feel annoyed with her for neglecting her children.
But what about the dad who impregnated the mom and took off? He is ditching his responsibilities in a much more significant way. Where is our righteous indignation for him?

This last example is going to stir up something, I suspect.
Imagine a pair of teen agers. Kissing passionately in public. We’d most likely be a little annoyed, especially if we had young kids around. But we’d exhale, and go on with our lives.
Now… what if the teen agers were of the same sex?

I understand all the beliefs that homosexuality is wrong. But that’s clearly not the issue with public displays of affection. We didn’t like heterosexual displays either. If it was all about the fact that heterosexuality is wrong, then we’d have no problems with the “straight” kids.
I further understand that there might be two issues with the gay kids: issue #1 is that they are displaying any kind of sexuality. Issue #2 is that they are displaying the wrong kind of sexuality.
But it seems to me that this just shifts the burden back on to us to demonstrate and explain to society at large why homosexuality is wrong (Assuming we believe it is wrong). Given that we failed doing so, we live in a world where homosexuality is considered o.k. We might not like this fact. We might not want to live in this world. But we do.

Last example: Many kids I knew growing up had a stash of Playboy magazines. I don’t know where they all came from. But it was almost a right of passage.
I’m not saying that it’s right. I’m not saying that we should have had them. But we did.
Today’s kids don’t need a physical place to stash smut. They have the internet.
Is there any difference between a 12 year old boy hiding pornography in his bedroom in 1980 and a 12 year old boy engaging in internet pornography in 2008?

I am not condoning obscene lyrics, stealing, inapropriate displays of sexuality, or pornography in any form. There can be real differences between these. As a society, we need to deal with a thief who steals 1 million dollars differently than we deal with a theif who steals 100 hundred dollars.
Spiritually and morally, though, sin is sin. Furthermore, external shoplifting and internal embezzlement are treated differently; It’s tempting to give punk music a pass while critiquing gangsta rap. These are areas that differentiating makes no sense whatsoever.
It’s telling, I think, the way we make these determinations. I consider myself a pretty enlightened guy, and I know that I have to actively combat my tendency to make some of these judgements. I don’t think I’m alone.


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The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

One thought on “Double Standards”

  1. NIN was actually probably worse than most rap when I think about it. It was less smut (well, sometimes it was smut) but it was more of that “god is dead” nietzsche industrial music that had less to do with sex and more to do with just evil stuff. I remember wearing those CD’s out though. It’s ashamed how the teen mind works – so ready to rebel.


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