Monday, January 17, 2011

At Work in the Fields of the Lord

Life is never simple. That's a good thing because in reality all of us thrive on conflict and adversity. It is the conflict and adversity with which we struggle in our daily lives that hones our talents and sharpens our skills to a fine and glossy point thus sharpening our ability to meet and overcome whatever it is that challenges us on any given day. The more often we confront and overcome adversity and conflict, the more adept we are at doing it. Success breeds skill and skill brings greater success.

Iron sharpens iron; steel sharpens steel, and overcoming adversity constantly enhances our ability to meet and overcome adversity. Those who are somehow shielded from conflict and adversity do not long endure. Such unfortunates become soft and vulnerable in body as well as in mind and spirit. In the end, the world simply chews them up and spits them out onto the rubbish piles at the unseemly edges of life. It is a fate that parents who strive to be their children's friends and to protect them from all adversity fail to understand and because they fail to understand they raise narcicisstic children who are unequipped to meet the challenges of life on their own.

Yet even with the chaos and the challenge that affect all our lives, there is a natural order about the world and no matter how chaotic the world may sometimes seem,  in the midst of the tumult, order somehow remains. We see it in the aftermath of the "Tuscons" and the "Nine Elevens" of our lives. Those events which showcase human beings at the worst they can be provide a grand stage upon which everyday heroes, without the benefit of planning or self interests, show the world what human beings can be at their best.

I was raised in a Christian family and taught that the order about us is actually the hand of God at work in human affairs. I was taught  God is the creator and the moderator of all things. God created man and gave  him free willl. It is this free will that makes God a moderator rather than a dictator. God has chosen to give each of us talents and aptitudes which we can fasion into skills, compentencies, morals and intellectual ideals; but while he has given us these gifts, He only hints at how He desires we should use them. Some of us use them well for the benefit of ourselves and those around us. Some of us use them badly and in the doing,  bring pain, sorrow and suffering to ourselves and those around us. Some of us use them not at all and never know the joy that comes from triumph or the resolve and sense of purpose that can come from failure. Such unfortunates don't reallly live lives. They just exist as exiles, fugitives from life by their own choice to make no choices. It is the free will of man that lets him soar to heights and accomplishments beyond what he could even have imagined. It is the free will of man that allows him to sit on his ass with his hand out for whatever someone is willing to give him while he never even tries to earn or build anything for himself. It is the free will of man that provides him the opportunity to gain his 15 minutes of fame in the world quickly and easily if he is willing to do it without caring what he is doing to the lives and hopes and dreams of innocent people who  pay the price for his pathetic glory.

Because of my religious upbringing and life long indoctrination concerning the religious underpinnings of human existence, I have often wondered, just what are the philosophical underpinnings of those people who are not believers; those who see this life as all there is in an otherwise eternal and infinite void? If God is not the creator and moderator of all, what is?

Recently, I had the pleasure of talking to a friend who is an educated and thoughtful atheist. It was a wonderful discussion of life and philosophy. It really didn't, however, come as too much of a surprise to me that there were more things on which we philosophically agreed than there were things about which we philosophically disagreed.

I entered the discussion with him resolved to be intellecutally honest and straight forward in both my questions to him and in my answers to his questions. Because he knows me and already knows something about the way I think, he knew it was not my purpose to malign him in any way or trap him in some philosophical snare, and I think he felt much as I did that he could be frank and intellectually straight forward in discussing what can be very personal and closely held views.

I confessed to him that, while I am a Christian, the church began to fail me about the time I was ten years old. It failed me in two ways. First, it insisted I accept what was clearly myth and parable in the Bible as literal truth and fact. Even at ten years of age, I simply cold not do that.

Second, the church failed me by insisting that one could not be good, one could not be noble of spirit, mind and body outside a belief in God (and Christ) and indeed without God's constant intervention into one's life. Although I was being raised in a very small Texas town, my life had its cosmopolitan infuences. My family had entertained many people in our home including once, a young woman from Japan. This young woman was not a Christian. She was not even from a Christian country, yet it was obvious to me that she was kind, caring and gentle. She loved, she felt joy and she knew pain just as my family and friends and I did. I sat and listened intently to her tell about life in a far away land, a land that only recently had been a deadly enemy of America. As a ten year old boy, I could not have known that the time would come when I would be a frequent visitor to Japan and become very familiar with its customs, mores and traditions. I had no idea at that age that my familiarity with Japan as an adult it would further convince me that the idea one cannot be a moral person outside of a belief in Christ is nothing but cultural and religioius prejudice. As a ten year old, I only knew intuitively, that the idea Christians have an exclusive grasp on morality did not ring true to me. If morality does spring from God, then God visits his influence and his blessings equally on the faithful and also on the non-believer. It's interesting, as a side note, that the Bible itself says that He does exactly that.

I also told my friend that one of the books that greatly influenced my personal philosophy was, The Christian Agnostic by Leslie Weatherhead. A liberal British theologian, Weatherhead reminds us that anyone's relationship with God can only be based on faith simply because no one can prove God exists. Therefore, those of us who have faith in God have it in spite of our agnosticism. The book makes such a compelling case for Christian angnosticism that I have come to see those who will not acknowledge their own doubts and who take rigid demanding stances on matters that can really only be based on faith, as intellectually dishonest and more zealot than Christian. One has to look no further than Kansas and the so called Baptist church, run by the Fred Phelps family, that mocks everything that is key to the Gospel of Christ with their brand of Christianity which is really nothing more that pure evil and hatred which they spew out at the memorial services for dead American soldiers and other public venues.

Once we acknowledge the primacy of faith over fact regarding our religious beliefs, the gulf between honest, atheism and thoughtful agnosticism becomes more of a puddle than a gulf. With the self acknowledgement that everything I have come to believe about God is based souly on faith, a new respect for those who have an atheistic view of the world is born because in reality, their atheism is a product of their own faith that there is no God. They simply do not have the facts to back up their belief any more than I have the facts to back up mine.

By this point, you may be asking, "What does all this have to do with the sexuality of bisexual married men?" It has a great deal to do with it because the biggest hurddle married bisexual men must overcome is guilt, guilt over what their bixsexulity means in relationship to their wives and guilt over what it means to their relationship with God.

Yet, while America is overwhelmingly a religious and spiritual country and therefore most married bisexual men are religious or spiritual men, it is not just these men who struggle with guilt. Married bisexual men who are atheists also struggle with guilt. Where does their guilt come from?

Contrary to what my childhood Sunday School teachers tried to teach me, morality and ethics are not mediated through faith alone. They are indigenous, at least, to the culture in which one is raised and indigenous to the human race as a whole. For instance, one does not have to be religious or American to see the good in many of "The Ten Commandments." Many of these rules for living are recognized and honored in cultures around the world and have been througout the ages.

It has been said, if God did not exist, man would have invented him, and perhaps we did. But whether He exists or whether we invented Him, there is no doubt there is something within the makeup of human beings that longs for love, peace and a sense of purpose that is greater than ourselves. People of faith believe this longing is the result of God's call to us which lets us know, at a basic level, that He is there. People of all eras and all cultures have responded to this call from somewhere we can not quite identify. People who do not believe in God recognize this longing, but they feel it is simply another evolutionary hallmark of man that exists  because man benefits and has benefited throughout the ages from such nobel inclinations, even if he rarely perfects them. Deep within every man is a spark of good and a desire to be good. There is a desire within each of us, no matter what we believe or don't believe to be part of something bigger than ourselves. Those who no longer feel that pull are simply the ones in which it has been destroyed by circumstance.

As  men of faith, we believe God made us as we are for a purpose and that our sense of self worth is enhanced when we find that purpose and act upon it. As men who are not motivated by faith in God, we never-the-less believe there is purpose for our lives and that each of us is in a very real way dependent upon others for much that gives a sense of purpose, a sense of fulfillment and a sense of well being to our lives.

If life is eternal, then contrary to what most people have ever pondered, it stretches from here and now back through all the ages into the recesses of time and into a time before time. It also stretches from the here and now forward though all the ages to come and into a time after time itself. I have no concept of time or existence before my birth, but I know that either such existence was ultimately productive or else it never existed at all. The same holds true for those who are not men of faith. Likewise, I have no real concept of what exists beyond this life. It will either be an ultimately productive thing or it will simply be nothingness. In the case of the former, I shall be happy. In the case of the latter, I shall not care.

Either way, as a man of faith or a man with no spiritual faith, this life is all we are assured of. Therefore, it behooves us to live in such a way that we find something bigger than ourselves and make the most of it. It is best for us if we leave some good mark on this world becaue we are, whether Christian, agnostic or atheist, living with no proof of any other life to come.

As a man of faith, I believe God made me as I am for a purpose. The closer I am to living out that purpose, the happier and more satisfied I am and the more I contribute to the happiness and sense of well being of others, the more I leave a mark on the world. Men who do not know faith also live with a sense of purpose if they are to find peace and fulfillment. Men who have had no faith whatsoever have left huge marks for good on this world as have men of faith. In a very real sense, we are all at work in the fields of the Lord, even those of us who do not believe. If we don't believe we see ourselves as working for the good of mankind and the good of our children and grandchildren for generations to come.

I asked my atheist friend if he found that statement to be offensive. I thought perhaps he might because in making it I am in fact imposing on him something which he, in fact, does not believe. His answer was that he didn't find it offensive at all. It was a nice thought, even if he didn't believe it. What I privately believe about my God has no effect on him. And at the same time, he and I ultimately believe in the same thing. I choose to call it working in the fields of the Lord, he calls it working for the good of mankind. Either way, the action we take in pursuit of the ideal is noble.

How, does all this relate to those of us who are married bisexual men and our actions which play out becasue of our bisexuality and its existence within our marriages? Admittedly, the transition from lofty ideals to the sweaty reality of male/male sex is difficult to say the least. There are all sorts of ideas and ideals about how we as married bisexual or married homosexual men should handle our situation. Some right wing evangelical churches think we should simply be shot through head. In their prayers, those of us who do not meet a bad end in this life will meet it in the next where we will live eternally in Hell. Other Christian groups take a more benevalent line. They can agree that God Himself created us as bisexual or homosexual men, but they believe we can only act on this gift of God in a good way by not acting upon it at all. We must bear the burden stoically. Finally, an increasing number of Christian groups simply assign this and other difficult questions of life to God and leave it to Him to deal with it. They simply treat each man as a brother and try to support him as such.

Of all the hundreds and hundreds of married bisexual and homosexual men I have talked to over the last 15 years, I don't think I have ever talked to a single one who did not try, sometimes for decades, to bear the burden of his bisexuality or homosexuality without acting on it. A few, very few, have so far been able to do that, but they do not describe themselves as being happy and having a sense of fulfillment because of this restraint.

On the other hand, I have talked to a number of men who agonized over the burden, carried it for years trying not to act on it and finally did act on it out of shear exhaustion and desperation and in the acting on it found peace and fulfillment for the first time in spite of moral and ethical questions they still cannot answer satisfactorily even to themselves.

And finally, I have met the rarest of married bisexual men who recognized their sexuality early in life, exercised it in all its purmutations, combinations and possibilities to the hilt recognizing from the beginning that it was an irresistible part of who  they are and never feeling the need to feel quilt for what they saw as something which was as much a part of themselves as their eye color.

I, of course, fall into the second group. How I envy those few in the third group. How I wish I had not wasted 30 years feeling disgusted  with myself and guilty for what is mine by birthright. But at the same time, I see those 30 years as valuable  and without those 30 years, I would not be me, I would not be part of the many friendships I have made along the way and this blog, indeed the very life I now lead, would not exist.

Still, the unending question of whether or not we are being fair to our wives in acting on the desires that come with who and what we are remain. Ultimately, I think, like so much else in life, this question will eventually be answered by increased openess regarding our sexuality, increased education regarding human sexuality and decreased prejudice and discimination concerning bisexual and homosexual individuals. As those who are bisexual or homosexual are more and more seen simply as people and not "those" people, they will be more and more likely to come to know who and what they are at a younger age. Homosexual men will have no need to marry for cover or will not be as likely to marry in a state of denial about who and what they are. Bisexual men will more and more have the option of being up front about their sexuality with the one they intend to marry. This is not as far fetched as some might believe. Already, I personally know of wives who are choosing to stay in their marriages rather than end them when they find out their husbands are bisexual or homosexual. No marriage is perfect. All marriages must overcome adversity and challenge. As in an other part of life, the overcoming of adversity and the successful handling of challenge can make the marriage stronger, not weaker.

True enough, most women today,cannot and will not understand the reality of a husband who is bisexual. However, there is little doubt in my mind, based on personal experience and the experience of many men I have talked to, that when women do understand it in the way their husbands understand it, they begin to see it is not the threat to them that they might otherwise have thought. Most every bisexual married man loves his wife and family and has no desire whatsoever to harm his marriage or his relationship with his wife and family. He simply has a need to have an intimate relationship with another man which he cannot shake.

In many areas of our lives, we benefit at the expense of others and with the knowing or unknowing sacrifice of others. When I purchase a stock from my broker and see that stock rise in value by 20% in 12 months, I have only been able do that because someone else sold that stock to me and failed to reap the reward that would have been his had he held onto it.

When, I buy a lottery ticket and win, I win money contributed by thousands, no millions, of people who lost.

Even life itself is seemingly unfair. I was born in a three-room shack that backed up to a railroad track, but luckily that shack was in the United States of America and this country gave my parents and, through them, gave me oppotunities for a better life that those people born in a mud hut in Africa or an urban ghetto in some third world country never had. That just doesn't seem fair.

Life is always "what it is" to begin with. What we do with it, is what counts. We are not quaranteed an equal start in life. Ideally we hope to have equal opportunit, but we all know it is an ideal that is never fully realized.

I once was torn apart by my bisexuality. I once would have given anything to be rid of it. Those days are past. I now see that it is my bisexuality that has been part of the enrichment of my life along with my education, my birth in the U.S., my loving and caring parents and my marriage which has endured for more than 40 years. Which is better, a loving and giving marriage that lasts for 40  years between a straight woman and a bisexual man or a marriage between a man and a woman who are both straight that is marked by fighting, physical abuse, emotional abuse and a sense of despair that finally ends in divorce? The question is admittedly between two extremes but not as extreme as one might want to believe. Very few marriages survive these days and many that survive are far from happy.

As husbands, our goal should be much like that of a physician. Physicians take an oath to "first do no harm." In a happy marriage we must take the same oath and we must live by that oath. If a bisexual man can do it and not act on his desires, that is the best way to do no harm. If he can't, if the more he tries, the more he becomes unhappy and withdrawn and resentful of his situation and finally acts on his desires and finds peace, then the best way to do no harm is to make sure nothing changes at home for the worse. The best he can do is not put his burden on the back of his wife who cannot understand it and cannot deal with it. Think how hard it is for each of us to deal with it and we've been dealing with it most of our life. How can we expect to dump it on our wife and have her deal with it out of the blue? It is a cruel and selfish thing on the face of it in most cases to ease our own conscience at the expense of destorying the life and the marriage our wives thought they had.

I have no idea why there are bisexual, homosexuals and straight people in the world. But I do know that because there are, all our lives are enriched and enhanced. We all contribute to the common good in a unique way. Bisexuals and homosexuals have through the ages contributed much to the world that is beautiful and inspiring. They see the world just a tad differently from the way straight people see it and art, literature, architecture, music, dance and cultrue as a whole benefit. In my own case I have come to realize that it was my bisexuality and the conflict it caused within me that set me to wondering about the eternal questions of how and why we are created and what are the larger meanings of life. It was guilt over my desires that pushed me to try to find in the God  I knew much too little about some ray of hope for me  for a life of purpose here and now and an eternal life of acceptance and love by God to come. I found what I was looking for in liberal Christian theology. In turn I have been able to help a few other guys get over some rough spots in their own lives. Its not much in the scheme of things, but it something bigger than myself and it counts.

We are all at work in the fields of the Lord. We all work for the benefit of mankind. In the end, we will be seen as an example of what is good and nobel in mankind or we will be seen as an example of what others should avoid. Our bisexuality does not cancel out our opportunity to leave a positive mark on the world. It may give us the opportunity to make a mark  bigger and better than we could have ever imagined.


1 comment:

  1. Jack,
    I couldn't agree with you more. This entire post is so eloquent and thoughtful. I read Weatherhead's book a couple of years ago. My therapist recommended it to me and I borrowed it from my pastor.

    Keep up the good work!


I deeply regret that I must reinstate the verification process for those who want to leave comments on my blog. This is due to the intolerable amount of spam that spammers are attempting to leave on the blog.

At the same time I am changing settings so that those of you who have a Google Blogger ID or other recognized blogger ID will not have to have your comments moderated. My hope is this will encourage more readers to take the time to comment. The fact is I want to read comments with those of you who disagree with me as well as those of you who agree with me. All I ask is that you keep your comments clean and non-threatening.

The only reason I take the time to write this blog is to spur your thoughts and comments. Please do not let the spammers cause you not to comment. I know entering the verification words and numbers is a pain in the ass, but I hope you will not let the spammers cause you not to comment.

I still very much look forward to hearing from you.

Jack Scott

Anyone can comment on what I write in this blog. Regretfully, the recent amount of spam in my email account as required that I reinstate the word verification process for comments which I personally hate.

But at the same time I have loosened the comment moderation process so that those of you who have a Google Blogger ID or other recognized blogger ID will no longer need to wait for your comment to be moderated. I'm hoping this will tempt you to take the trouble to comment.

The truth is I want respectful comments both from those who agree with me and those who do not. All I as is that you keep comments to the point, clean and non-threatenting.

I look forward to hearing from each of you.

Jack Scott