Friday, August 27, 2010

An Alliance for Health and Life

AIDS activists are protesting the unsafe sex practices of Larry Flynt's pornographic films. They argue that the failure to show condom use will encourage dangerous practices that allow AIDS pathogens to spread.

Concurrent with these protests are feminist concerns about the dehumanizing and objectifying consequences of pornography for female dignity and equality. Some of these same groups are courageously protesting female mutilation.

For all kinds of reasons, we are also more aware of the appalling levels of child abuse and other forms of domestic violence. Just under the surface of some of the most conservative geographies is a cauldron of pain that is unspeakable. Social workers tell me that they are overwhelmed with their case loads and the depth of the challenges.

Pornography and promiscuity, violence against women, and families in crisis are causes we can all agree need attention. Solutions involve much more than money and programs - they involve a reordering of body and soul, a renewing of personal and community responsibility and rethinking how we can work together.

AIDS activists and feminists face serious moral and social challenges as they (rightly) lift their voices against self-destructive behaviors. Their problem is that you cannot have "safe" promiscuity. The half-century battle against traditional heterosexual (and married) monogamy has not brought liberation, but two generations of hurt, lonely and infected people who believed that "dating" meant sexual intimacy and "celibacy" equalled repression.

Rather than demean these activists, I want to suggest a new Alliance for Life. I invite all people of conscience and faith to join together to eliminate - not just by laws, but by disuse, marginalization, protest and positive partnerships - the scourges of pornography, promiscuity and violence. These are causes that Christians, Jews, Muslims, AIDS workers, feminists and all people of social concern can get behind.

We are not talking about violating First Amendment rights or barging into consenting adult bedrooms. In fact, we are moving way past legislation to something even more powerful - our American ethos of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." The last fifty years have taught us a painful lesson that true happiness is not found in consumption, but in community. We have learned that self-indulgence needs to give way to service. Empirical studies abound affirming the physical and psychological blessings of fidelity in marriage and self-restraint in sexual behavior. The "me generation" has sown to the amoral wind and reaped the whirlwind of anarchy.

Our new Alliance for Life will aim to expose the lies of the purveyors of promiscuity and the perpetrators of violence. We will protest, refuse to consume such wares and call on all people to "seek the good of others more than their own." Oh yes, we will argue among ourselves concerning morality and religion, but we will find common cause against these clear evils and work for a safer, saner world.

Our new Alliance for Life will not excoriate Christians, Jews, Muslims and other religious traditions for affirming their stance of heterosexual monogamous marriage. Conversely, deeply religious folks will not try to impose a theocracy. Will will argue and debate civilly and passionately, living with deepest differences. We are allied for common goods that are clear.

Let's make celibacy and monogamy good again. Let's refuse to call female mutilation a "cultural" practice. Like the burning of widows in India, it is simply wrong. Domestic violence in all forms has no place in civil society.

Simplistic conservative and liberal solutions must give way to integrated solutions that bring everyone to the table, locally and globally. Yes, we do need to fund education and social services more - but make sure we are funding the real work on the ground and not a federal system that takes 3X dollars to provide 1X of services. We must also stress personal responsibility and the consequences of life-choices. While providing a compassionate landing for the hurting, we must also empower them with disciplines that will alter their destiny. Social enterprise from the private sector can be united with legal enforcement and service provision from non-profit sector to deliver real help.

Will you join this new Alliance? The membership fees are reasonable: unplug from all products connected with pornography. Make a friend across philosophical and religious lines. Find out what you can do locally to help the hurting. Mentor a child or young adult and help them inculcate values that will keep them safe and help them flourish. Make your voice heard against all forms of intolerance and violence.

Reality brings truth into focus and unleashes new possibilities. Let's go "back to the future" and find the bedrock upon which to build a better society.

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