A Small Sermon on Refusing Damnation

by K. Anderson, unordained

peculiar a small sermon on refusing damnation.jpg

A teacher in my (and peculiar’s) home valley – taught us to recite a dire warning: “First we abhor, then we tolerate, then we embrace.” Later, a college roommate told me: “Your problem, Karin, is that you let your classes change you. If you aren’t careful you’ll actually fall for that stuff you read.” Maybe my teachers were stealthier than hers. Maybe the poetry I read in my major was more compelling than her Business Ed textbooks.

Both of us have since become mothers. We’ve both seen the griefs and hazards that strike simply by walking through decades. It takes courage to get on with a life; anyone who proceeds with decency deserves at the very least a strong drink or foot massage. My old friend lives generously within her circumference of moral preservation and a lot of good has come from it. But if I’m riffing along that old scale—abhorrence, toleration, embrace – it occurs to me that it signposts more than the tired path to “sin.” It’s also the methodology for learning love.

How about we put it to concrete practice?

I’m not just sermonizing the “unpeculiar” people of Utah Valley who believe it’s their calling to abhor their queer fellow-citizens (think you’ll surprise me with that B.S. line about loving the sinner, hating the sin? Back off). I’m preaching to all of us. Kindred. A fugue of families, classmates, colleagues, enemies who aren’t actually anything of the kind. I’m preaching to tired, hurt, anxious, afraid-of-a-very-weird-future, overworked, underpaid-yet-overprivileged, guiltridden, half-strung (did I miss anyone?) human beings who need to turn off the menacing memes, turn around, face one another, and fall madly gratuitously in love. Touch by touch.

Roethke: Of those so close beside me, which are you? God bless the ground! I shall walk softly there…

Screw toleration. What an impoverished gesture, barely stirring.

My children and students, religious and secular, have grown up with one apocalyptic malediction after another. Here’s some news, kids: however it spirals down, here you are, alive in this moment, facing a typical lifespan (you’ll probably die before the planet does), certainly chiming along the same roster of horror and tender sunlight, April blooms, moonlit snowfields, glitter water, claret cups, the call of meadowlarks and redwings that has guided centuries of fellow travelers before you into the dark beyond. Yours and everyone else’s: the Milky Way, if you yet have courage to sleep in stark places. The first cries of the children who will in every way exceed you. The last caress of a past that loved and betrayed you. The howl of a solitary coyote.

Now, in a hard American season, our nation calls us to divide and abhor. We do not have to answer in kind. We can get on with our beautiful awful lives among one another. We can fashion ourselves a little more queerly every day, embracing what we have been so falsely enjoined to hate, savoring what slips so sweet and soon.

peculiar line

Karin Anderson “teaches” English at Utah Valley University. She’s been hanging around the Wasatch Front for quite some time now, so you’d probably recognize her. She is a Contributing Editor at https://fiddleblack.org. Her second book, a collection of novellas set in the semi-Wild West, is called Before Us Like a Land of Dreams, and will be released by Fiddleblack sometime this fall.





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