(RNS) I came home from work to an apartment filled with babies.
They were lying side-by-side in a crib, not noticing each other, not yet rolling over, still, at 12 weeks and nine weeks, focused on the eat-poop-sleep cycle.
Their California-based and New York-based mothers sat on a sofa sharing baby news. My wife was preparing dinner. Our sons were gathering.
Who knew that a one-bedroom apartment could contain so much life? Or be so transformed by it? The latest real estate bubble misses the point, namely, that life can live anywhere, but even a $57 million four-story condo with panoramic views of Manhattan is empty with no one to share it.
Life is about family, not look-at-me property. Life is about good friends, not lavish entertaining. Life is about living, not parading wealth or playing with grown-up toys.
In the not-yet-settled years of early adulthood, it seems promising to develop a taste for fine wine and craft bourbon. But then come partnering and children, and life seems more than appetite.
It’s a passage we all go through. The point is to avoid getting frozen at, say, age 27, thinking that life will always be about being thin and winsome, buying the next big-ticket item, working hard and partying hard.
Our job as a culture is to stop idolizing big-spending youth and to affirm life in all its fullness.
Whom shall we send to speak this truth? No one. Young adults have no desire to hear older generations saying they will outgrow being 20-something.
We need to let each other figure things out. That sounds simple enough, but it’s a critical missing ingredient in these surveillance-obsessed, rule-seeking, intrusion-minded times.
Instead of live and let live, entire states are saying, “Do it our way, or suffer severe consequences.” Your way is so offensive to some of us that we feel our own rights being trampled. Your existence as a free being makes us feel less free. So kiss your freedom goodbye.
That’s the logic behind anti-gay legislation spreading from one right-wing state to another. They call it “religious freedom,” but that’s nonsense. One’s freedom to believe and to proclaim belief isn’t threatened by another’s way of being.
The surge of intolerance is more fundamental than that. It says, “You have no right to exist.” It’s the ancient prelude to pogrom, lynching and ethnic cleansing — wipe you off the face of the earth. Hide behind religion to justify it, but the point is annihilation.
Because so much of this all-or-nothing hatred is in the air, the momentarily ascendant technology class in Silicon Valley thinks critics are out to annihilate them. “Why have we become public enemy number one?” whined one leading tech blog.
Rather than examine their own behavior, they go to the mattresses. This is what surging intolerance does. It makes public debate difficult and self-examination unnecessary. As Congress shows in its total collapse into invective, compromise leaves the table.
Just as civil rights 50 years ago wasn’t just about African-Americans but about all Americans, so anti-gay legislation poisons a nation’s wells.
We all lose when one self-righteous group claims the right to oppress.
(Tom Ehrich is a writer, church consultant and Episcopal priest based in New York. He is the author of “Just Wondering, Jesus” and founder of the Church Wellness Project. His website is www.morningwalkmedia.com. Follow Tom on Twitter @tomehrich.)
YS/MG END EHRICH