Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Blind Leading the Young and Blind

Close on the heels of North Carolina pastor Charles Worley suggesting gay people should be locked up in an electrified fence so that they will die off, another sad video emerges.

A young boy, barely old enough to correctly enunciate words of his song, led up to a mic in front of a congregation (also in North Carolina) to proclaim "Ain't No Homos Gonna Make It to Heaven."  As if he had hit a game 7-winning home run in the World Series, the congregation applauds and hollers like crazy.  The boy beams from ear-to-ear.  The "minister" behind him chortles like a jolly ol' fat man at a buffet line.

Watch if you dare. 

Has something recently flown up the collective ass of North Carolinians that I was not aware of?

All joking aside, this saddens me deeply.  As it should sadden everyone.  Especially Christians.

I think it is important, first off, for me to note that I am a Christian.  I was raised Catholic on both sides of my family, attended Catholic elementary and a strict but progressive Catholic high school run by the Jesuits.  During my early teens, my mother and stepfather began taking me to a non-demoninational Christian church.  Believe it or not, I fell in love.

Contrary to the heady, dreary, unemotional routine that defined Catholicism, this new church- called Trinity- connected with me emotionally.  Through the teachings of the pastors and youth pastors and the example of many of the parishioners, I began to see for the first time that being a Christian worked best when one made it about a relationship with God, as opposed to obligations and routines.  I began to feel- even in the turbulent time of my adolescence- that all things eventually worked out because God was watching over me and my family and my friends... and, well, everyone really.

But then... life happened.  And I began to see the reality of this world.  I still believe in a benevolent God, but I also believe that the story of the Fall of Man- whether literal or not- is important.  It is important because it teaches us the most basic truth about mankind: while we are capable of so much good, we are also capable of so much evil.  In this same church where I experienced the euphoria of being in a community of people aiming to live good, wholesome, righteous lives, I began to see another side.

I began to notice that these same people who I admired so much at church were adulterers, bigots, alcoholics, gossips, drug users, perverts, deserters, liars, thieves, and just general wolves-in-sheeps-clothing.  Not all of them, mind you, but enough.  The day when my stepfather told me our pastor- who I adored- was leaving the church because he had been caught cheating on his wife and he needed to find his way again was the day it all hit me.  The next year, when our beloved Youth Pastor announced to the entire church he was moving away because he felt "the call" to do so left me and all my friends devastated.  If he had bothered to pull us aside before church started that Sunday, I might have understood.  Instead, we got the memo when everyone else did... and that hurt.  Any pastor who could just pull out the rug from a bunch of over-emotional, high-strung teens who held the moon for him and not offer any other explanation except he got a mystical "call" from On High to leave us behind was obviously not the person we thought he was.

As it turned out, no matter how much you trusted someone or looked up to them, they were only who you wanted them to be on Sundays at church.  And then some...

Eventually, I stopped going to church.  I still long for that community, but for me church was ruined by the people that attended it.  And that's the way I feel about Christianity.  Especially when I watch the above videos.  Whether you believe the entire Bible is just a made-up story or not, Jesus was good.  His teachings were quite possibly the truest teachings of anyone anywhere at any point in history.  But even the most compassionate and wisest lessons cannot stand up against thousands of years of bigotry that have resulted from people using his name to justify their own human weaknesses.

During this entire gay civil rights debate (let's call it what it is), many Christians have forgotten two very important lessons from the New Testament:

Matthew 7:1-2:  "Do not judge or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."

Now, you see, what these verses command (this is not a suggestion, this is a commandment) is that people learn tolerance.  It's nobody's business to tell others how to live or what to do/not do!  Let God handle that.  And you know why I think this passage exists?  I think it exists because Jesus knew that judgement leads to intolerance and intolerance leads to hate and... well, we all know what hate leads to.   So, when one sees signs saying "Fags Burn in Hell" or, for that matter, "God Hates Muslims", just know that not only does that person/group have NO way of knowing whether that is accurate or not, but they are also committing an offense against the God they proclaim to serve.

Double whammy.

1 John 4:20: "If anyone says 'I love God' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who hates his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen."

When Charles Worley or Pat Robertson or Fred Phelps and his cronies testify- or even just indicate it by their ideals- they hate people of any race, religion, creed or orientation, they are telling us a lot about themselves.  Matthew 7:15 reminds us all to "Beware the false prophet"... and how else can you define someone who makes a living off of preaching God's word when, by their actions, they tell us that they actually do not love God at all?

Now, I know just as everyone else knows that the young boy that sang the above song did not truly know what he was doing...


I can think of another religion that also teaches their children to hate.  I'm sure there are other churches that laugh when children proclaim others are going to rot in hell... but replace the word "homos" with the word "infidels"...

Funny how alike "enemies" can be sometimes?

All I wish is that we could live in a world where religion is used not as a tool to advance hate and bigotry and intolerance but rather all the other good, positive, loving and affirming qualities it was meant to.

But, then I remind myself that at the end of the day, we are all human.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Gloomy Though The Sun Shines

I have trouble on days like today.

Days when
the lord has blessed us with uninterrupted sunshine
a brain that works
a heart that beats
a family that's there for us
friends that surround us
a roof that shields us
and food that sustains us

When there's no reason
none whatsoever
to be down
and glum

and yet
my insecurities
my doubts
my worries
my concerns
my fears
 they all take the lead.

When I can't escape my own head
then I see someone in trouble
and the garbage trucks wake me too early
and the protest down the street rattles my quiet
and a driver gives me the finger while cutting me off on the highway
and I have to have a talk I don't want to have
and I miss my home and I miss my Nanna's home
and I'm sad because it didn't have to go
and I get news that is bad
then go to places I don't want to
and do things I don't want to
with people I don't need around me
because someone says I have bills to pay

And these things...
they all sting more than usual today.
I'm not sure quite why.
It's as if the night tide has changed
though the moon remains the same.
I only know that I have no adequate response today
and that confuses me more.

Then I look for comfort in places that have run out of it
and realize how dumb that move was

So on I trudge, reminding myself that if I make it through the day
I start over again tomorrow

That helps for a moment
but then it resumes being just another odd day.