Lies We Believe About Ourselves and Others
Day 2: Ellen, Existence, and the Equality of Thought
In October, an unlikely thing happened. A queen of daytime TV, who many across political spectrums and identities have come to love and respect, came under fire for the very thing that made her a revolution: kindness. Ellen DeGeneres, the TV talk show host, came under fire after being photographed chatting – and laughing – with former US President George W. Bush.
Many felt that his stances, specifically on LGBT+ issues, ran counter to the things that Ellen is supposed to support. She’s a gay woman who has experienced legal firing and public humiliation for her identity as a gay woman.
George Bush fought to keep homosexual conduct illegal as governor of Texas. He considered vetoing the Matthew Shepard Act, which included sexual orientation as a protected category in hate crime cases. He tried to make gay marriage permanently illegal. He also employed an openly gay man in his administration, the first Republican to do so.
But this wasn’t the first time someone got in trouble for being friends with someone else, and certainly not the first time one of those people was Ellen.
A year prior, in October of 2018, the Christian singer Lauren Daigle appeared on Ellen’s show. She laughed with Ellen and hugged her. Christians lost their collective mind. Lauren was supposedly a good Christian girl, and here she was with a self-proclaimed, unrepentant, habitual sinner.
Neither woman helped herself when she made her public statement regarding the controversy.
Ellen discussed the moment with plenty of jokes on her show that ultimately boiled down to being kind to everyone, regardless of their belief. Sure, people said and continue to. Different beliefs are fine but there’s a difference between wearing fur and invalidating someone’s entire identity.
Lauren admitted she wasn’t sure whether homosexuality was a sin and her Christian fan base lost their minds. She went from prophet to heathen in seconds. Unsurprising, given hundreds of people called for Eugene Patterson’s best-selling translation of the Bible to be recalled from stores nationwide over similar comments.
Freedom of belief and expression is permissible only to the point of sacrifice. When it becomes hard to love, it is no longer worth it. When you have to give some part of yourself up in order to love someone else, the love doesn’t matter anymore.
You aren’t entirety wrong to think this kind of reckless opinion-acceptance is problematic. Think about your least favorite global conflict. One ethnic group believes another ethnic group should die and starts a war to prove it. One foreign government believes it can infiltrate the power of another.
On the surface, it appears you’re right. Refusing to acknowledge someone’s existence is the cause of the global strife we see today. Refusing to acknowledge an ethnic group leads to genocide. Opinions and beliefs matter. I’m going to call people out when I see them condoning, even through silence, acts of oppression. Ellen hanging out with a homophobic legislator, Lauren associating with a dirty heathen, lead to the silent acceptance of problematic ideologies. These, in turn, promote war and violence, a fleeing from god and god’s commandments. Chaos.
But we’re missing the point in that simplistic characterization. It isn’t the initial, identity-rejecting opinion that makes the hatred run bloody. It’s the refusal to be wrong. It’s George Bush asking Ellen and Portia to separate themselves or not act couple-y in the presence of his Christian wife and himself. It’s Lauren declining a hug so as to not devalue her salvation.
The lie we believe about ourselves is that we’re always right, even when we know for a fact we are. You don’t have to look hard to see the rhetoric I’ve spread about The Courage’s defender Jaelene Hinkle. I know Hinkle is in the wrong. I know her stances obliterate the peace-seeking nature of Christ. I’m 100% correct in this opinion. And, my friends and I agree about this. We’ve had many discussions about the fact that we could not even play for the courage because they inadvertently support Hinkle’s narrative. I am the person this post is for.
I think that Hinkle’s rhetoric rejects the existence of lesbian, bisexual, and queer teammates and fans. I’m correct. It does. But my rejection of her denies her existence as a subscriber to a faith that is not my own. A faith I deem inexcusable; a lifestyle she deems inexcusable. Neither of us have a right to exist according to the belief systems of the other but yet both of us do. It’s complicated and it’s hard and it leaves us with only one of two choices: claim your own existence and reject the existence of your other, or claim the coexistence of two opposing identities and actively choose to live in the tension that inevitably accompanies it.
One creates genocides. One causes you to sacrifice everything that makes you you for the betterment of humanity. Your existence belongs to you, as does this choice. But the consequences do too.