Christine Flowers, 4/10/2015 [Archive]

Avoiding Seeing Things as They Really Are

By Christine Flowers

Last weekend, I managed to successfully brainwash my 6-year-old nephew into believing that Ultra Man, that low-tech super-hero of 1970s television, is the greatest champion of all time. It only took a marathon session of 39 episodes to convince him the giant amalgam of energy, steel and human emotion was "Good" and that all the cheesy, Claymation-type monsters coming after him were "Evil."

In Ultra Man's world, that dichotomy is simple. There are no misunderstood giant Iguanas, no emotionally tortured lobster/ape hybrids, no animated rock formations with laser powers possessed of hearts of gold. There is only white, and black. Hot, and cold.Right, and wrong. It's a wonderful vacation from the exhaustion of dealing with moral ambiguity.

We Americans are too sophisticated to believe things like absolute good and absolute evil exist anymore. In fact, we think it's a sign of intelligence to create a moral ambiguity with anything and everything, to the point that killing a child in the ninth month of a pregnancy has been rationalized away as a "necessary choice."

But this column isn't about abortion. It isn't about the death penalty, which I hope with every fiber of my being is imposed on the Boston Marathon bomber. It isn't about women who create clever and complicated lies about being raped and find opportunistic journalists who will then help them destroy a fraternity. It isn't about victims of past persecution (as they see it) who become vicious attack dogs against people who don't accept their view of marriage.

This column is about all of that, and more.It's about how we've lost the ability to see things for what they really are, because seeing them that way will not advance our particular view of how the world should be.And that bothers us, because we've become so used to creating a template for an "evolved" society that anything which frustrates that goal has to be avoided like the plague.

So instead of saying that there should be no abortions after the seventh month, when the fetus is physically indistinguishable from a "baby," we make sure to leave uterine wiggle room because women should always have a choice.

And instead of supporting capital punishment for a man who set explosive devices on a public street and caused the death and mutilation of innocent people,we talk in hushed tones about God being the only one who has a right to take a life.

And speaking of rape, instead of being willing to prosecute a woman for lying about this most heinous of crimes and making her serve the same sentence her falsely-accused attacker would have served had the story not unraveled, we lower our heads and make excuses for those poor girls who need our sympathy.

And then we have those cases where a business owner has the audacity to suggest that his religious beliefs would prevent him from catering a same sex wedding, only to watch members of the LGBT community rise up to shame, boycott and threaten that flour-covered mid-westerner until his governor yells "'Uncle' Sam, you win!"

The right to exercise our religious beliefs is the single greatest attribute of citizenship.We can get a room full of constitutional scholars who will talk about Lemon tests and government actors and what constitutes a "substantial burden" on religion, but the bottom line is that I don't have to recognize your gay nuptials if it violates my beliefs, and you don't have to attend my church.Not complicated.

But this isn't Ultra Man's world.We must complicate the simple, obfuscate the clear.We vilify the recalcitrant baker, pull him up from his knees, take him away from his altar and shove him into the kitchen. And if he complains, we laugh and say "get a better religion."

Nice form of tolerance.As Archbishop of Philadelphia Charles Chaput observed, "Tolerance is a word without meaning if it doesn't work both ways.People with same-sex attraction want to be free from bullying and do religious believers, including those millions of believers that can't, in good conscience, affirm same sex sexual relationships.The bitterness and ignorance in the debates over state RFRA laws are lopsided, and in general, the ugliness is not coming from persons trying to protect their religious liberties."

That is clarity, and it shows just who were the real bullies last week.

Even a 6-year-old with a taste for giant Iguanas could figure it out.


©2015 Christine Flowers. Flowers is an attorney and a columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News, and can be reached at

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