That title sounds ominous, doesn’t it? But there are some things I need to say, so I might as well be as ominous as possible…
Yesterday, on my own private Facebook page I made several statements against author spam in Facebook groups. These statements were not new at all. I’ve made them over and over here on my blog, on Facebook, and elsewhere. My position on the topic was already pretty well known. The difference is that this time another author chose to “out” one of the private Facebook groups I was a member of, and that identification provoked many of the members of that group to some pretty serious anger.
If that had been all, it still would have been a little sad. While what I said was true and I stand by it, I still never like to hear that people have been hurt by my words. So I was sorry to hear that, and I hoped that good would come of it. But that was just the beginning…
Because we live in a very peculiar age, disagreement on issues now often turns into something far uglier. Ever since the political parties became so violently hostile and vitriolic in their attacks on one another, that same spirit has really infected every other area of discourse. Love is hard to come by. Disagreeing without hate is a rare commodity. “Borking” has become commonplace. Named after Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork, “borking” is the practice of going back through the life and history of a political opponent to find anything that can be used against them. In Bork’s case, the specific plan was to make Bork publicly defend or deny every political statement he’d made for over 30 years in public office. Borking goes on now regularly among every political party. It’s the way politics is done in our very hostile and angry political system.
Unhappily, because I made some people very angry yesterday, some of them chose to do a little borking on their own.
As most of you should know, I am a religious man, a Christian and openly so. This should be no shock. I live my life very openly. My beliefs have changed radically in the last fifteen years wherein I went from a mainline evangelical firebrand, to a Christian separatist, to finally a peace-loving plain person who has learned love and tolerance and who wants to live, as much as is possible within me, at peace with all men and women. My life has been lived very publicly, and my changes have been documented publicly. Who I am now is open for everyone to see. I am attacked, defamed, and slandered very publicly by “christian” activists who hate that I’ve abandoned their fight, or that I’ve spoken publicly against them. There is currently a blog, run by a street preacher and some of his henchmen that attempts this same type of “borking” from the other side – accusing me of everything from theft, to abuse, to apostasy and heresy. All because I believe that they are wrong about things. So I understand. I get it from both sides.
When I became a Sci-fi writer, it was mostly by accident. I didn’t choose the genre. I wrote a book and was kind of thrust into it. And when I began to look around, I was very surprised and somewhat saddened at how very hostile the environment was to my worldview. There was a lot of hatred and anger, some of it deserved, some of it not so much. From the SFWA trying to purify itself of conservatives, to some pretty high-tech lynching attempts of even stalwart liberals like Hugh Howey and Jonathan Ross, the landscape was frightening. The thought police were on the prowl, and I’d seen some pretty innocuous statements used to try to destroy people.
This was an interesting time in my life, because it was at a time when I’d come to understand that I needed to accept and love people and work with them despite my own strongly held spiritual views. I was being attacked by the ultra right-wing Christian zealots for becoming a man of quiet and peace, and I was seeing the same type of hostility, hatred, and anger coming from both sides.
So I befriended atheists, homosexuals, agnostics… actually people of every type and kind there is. And I helped them, and worked with them, and tried to show them that all Christians are not fire-breathing haters. Just because I am your friend, doesn’t mean I agree with everything you say or do. I still have my strongly held personal beliefs, but they don’t stop me from loving my fellow humans.
I’ve changed a lot in 15 years. A lot.
But that doesn’t mean I accede to a system that, in a very chilling way, tries to homogenize thought to such an extreme that anyone who even dares think differently is ostracized and in many cases much, much worse. I have heard some frighteningly Orwellian things since yesterday. I was told that tolerance is fine but only if the things being tolerated are not “dangerous.”
Think about that. Isn’t this what the Democrats and Republicans are using to drum up violent hatred among their ranks against people who passionately disagree? It is no longer a disagreement about abortion, or taxes or war. It is that the ideas of the other side are dangerous, and therefore hatred of the people who hold those opinions is justified.
I disagree with that. I choose to love people even when I find that their views are lawful, but dangerous.
So some people began fishing through things I’d written long ago. Things I’d written when I actually believed it was my job to try to change and save the world. And now they are using those things, most of them snatched completely free of any context, to try to hurt me. Because they know that the sci-fi world is shockingly intolerant of Christianity. Even the kind they would build themselves if they could.
I mean, if Hugh Howey can be publicly attacked as a hater and a misogynist, then you can imagine what they’d do with things I said a decade and a half ago! Even if now I now live in a peaceful, plain community… where we don’t vote… where we don’t tell people who we think they should marry… where we don’t try to pass laws governing the behavior of others. Even though – like the Amish – I’m now just willing to leave others alone and be left alone to my own sincerely held opinions.
Despite the fact that I’ve tried very hard in the past two years to live my life at peace… to be accepting of others regardless of my disagreements with them. Despite the fact that I have worked closely with many people of every stripe with whom I passionately disagree on very fundamental issues. Despite the fact that I have helped and fought for many of these people very openly… despite all these things… I’ve lost some friends in the last 24 hours.
I am saddened by that.
I’ve explained to my friends who are bothered by things I’ve said that I’ve learned tolerance, and that I’ve accepted them wholeheartedly despite the fact that I often find their beliefs to be contrary to my own worldview. Hugh Howey has, on many occasions, called for people who disagree with him to be “openly shamed” and worse… all because he finds their views to be dangerous based on the science or moral code he chooses to believe. I find that idea to be frightening and dangerous, but I’ve chosen to love the man anyway. Because I am his friend. And even if he chooses to stop being my friend, my obligation to love him does not change.
I’ve chosen to help authors (sometimes up to 3 to 5 hours a day) who are atheists, agnostics, homosexuals, wiccans, whatever. Even some of the authors who are now attacking me know that I applied no litmus test of their personal moral or religious beliefs before I decided to help them. I just tried to be their friend.
I’ve changed a lot in the fifteen years since most of those things that are being used against me were written, but I’m not going to submit to a system that requires homogeneous thinking as a litmus test for friendship or business ties. And I’m not going to go on an apology tour for every paragraph of everything I ever wrote, because in all honesty that is not going to be acceptable to people when they decide they only want blood.
Some friends have said, “Well, if you’ve changed, you should go out there and go through all of these things and retract them.”
The Red Scare of the 50’s, the blacklist comes to mind. “Are you now or have you ever been a member of the XXXXXX party?”
As a historian, the Russian and French revolutions come to mind.
Solzhenitsyn getting sent to the Gulag for personal and private things he said about Stalin in a letter comes to mind.
I can go on and on. The ruling opinions often change, but their use of hatred and enforced conformity do not change.
I won’t play that game, because to do so gives power to these frightening and spiritually dark impulses that are now insisting on lockstep thinking and beliefs.
We live in an exciting but frightening time. Every thought that pours from people’s heads is now out there, forever, online. Our lifelong march as humans towards peace and understanding is now out there for people to trace backwards, and in my opinion this reality calls for more understanding, not less. I hope my friends will look at my behavior in the time they’ve known me and judge me on that. That’s all I can ask.
I would hope that people like Hugh Howey and others who have faced similar situations would look at the things I’ve written, and then look at the Michael Bunker they know and say… Wow! You’ve really changed! I’m glad I met you now and not then!
But crying peace in the midst of calls for war may be a fools wish.
So I’m alright. A little sad. My life has changed demonstrably in the last decade and a half. I’m not evangelical, and I don’t try to change people I just try to love them.
That’s hard some times. But I’ll keep trying.
I did not and do not intend this statement to be in any way an attack on Hugh Howey or anyone else. Since Hugh has been my most public and open friend in my sci-fi life, I chose to use areas where we disagree to point out that tolerance takes work, and it is a constant challenge. I love Hugh, even though I find many of his public statements and opinions to be dangerous and contrary to my worldview. That was my point. My apologies to Hugh if this sounds like I was accusing him of being a stone thrower. That was not my intent. ~ MB