Thursday, July 07, 2005

Christians, Gays, & Gay Christians

The Butcher made me watch the first half of Morgan Spurlock's 30 Days last night. He wanted me to watch the whole thing, but I found it unbearable. It's not that the show is unbearable; it seems very good. It's just that I cannot bear to watch it. Last night some kid from rural Michigan went off to the Castro District in San Francisco in order to see what life was like in a predominately gay situation. I don't know if he came to have his head out of his ass or not, because I went to bed. But I've been thinking a lot about the Pastor he went to see. On the one hand, I thought she was tremendous: open, caring, and understanding, even in the face of how repulsing he was with his ingrained hatred of her and his refusal to see that as a problem. But I'm left with some questions. A couple are Monday morning quarterback-type questions, like why didn't she ask him if he ate shellfish? Or had given all his money to the poor? In other words, why didn't she ask him what it said about him that, of all the verses in the Bible to pick and choose to follow, he was picking the ones that gave him an excuse to hate people he was already uncomfortable with? And then, why did his hatred give him the right to take such glee in it? See, America, this is where you and I part ways, where I stand apart from you, staring at you like I don't even know who you are. Hate people. Hate them because they're black or female or gay or Muslim or because they live in the city and you live in the country or visa versa. Hate the Irish because you think they're drunks. Hate the Mexicans because you think they're stealing America jobs. Hate away, America, I don't give a shit. But what is it in you that goes that extra step? That lets you cross the line from just hating and avoiding people to actively seeking to injure or kill them? People you don't know, who have never harmed you, what makes you seek them out to hurt them? And why do you delight in it? Part of it, I think, has to do with the strand of American Protestantism that frames life as a constant war between Good and Evil. Loosely speaking, in Catholicism, the blame is placed squarely on the individual. We are each sinners who must continually make amends for our sinful nature with God. But there's nothing you can do to escape your sinfulness. You just have to keep fucking up and trying to make it right. But just as broadly speaking, Protestantism, as it's generally understood, doesn't place the sinful nature of humanity on the individual. You are just a pawn in a war against God waged by Satan. You must, then, remain ever vigilant against the powers of Satan and you must actively battle against them, even if these powers come wrapped in things that seem good on the surface. This, right here, is so fucked up that it's hard to see at first what the problem is. So let me articulate it another way. I'm not talking about specific Protestant sects. I'm talking about a kind of cultural Protestantism. So, even if you aren't Protestant, even if you aren't a Protestant that regularly even thinks about this kind of stuff, this is influencing you. And the biggest influence this strain of Protestantism has on our culture is this: it tells you that you cannot trust your self. Things you experience as good or loving or pleasant or whole-making or deeply meaningful are not. It links pleasure--all kinds, not just sexual--with evil. Just think on this, how destructive this is, to be told repeatedly and to have it reinforced culturally that the fact that you enjoy something means that it is evil. We want to experience pleasurable things. We want to read Harry Potter books and dance with boys who smell all dark and woodsy and look at pictures of naked women and, once we've done those things once, we want to do them again. It's the easiest thing in the world to understand. If you do something and it feels good and it makes you feel good and it doesn't hurt you, you will hope to do it again. But this mindset, that all pleasurable things are temptations from the Devil, means you can't trust your most basic instincts. Everything you experience as good, you must interpret as bad. And that fucked-up-ed-ness coupled with the belief that you must be constantly vigilant against and ready to battle forces that might tell you otherwise, I think leads to these situations where people who see other people good and healthy and happy, who otherwise would have no stake in what made those other people good and healthy and happy, feel as if not only is it appropriate for them to act against it, but that they must. This brings me to my second set of questions for the Pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church. There are so many ways to be holy and to experience sacredness. Why do you stick with Christianity? What is it that you find there that keeps you, even in the face of such outright evil? Why would you continue to be the step-child of that religion? I don't mean those questions to be antagonistic. I just truly wonder. I couldn't do it, just as a woman. I couldn't continue to be a part of a religion that hated me. More power to you if you can, but I just wonder if it's worth the effort.

18 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is not the religion that hates gays, its the practitioners. I am no great biblical scholar, or anything, but I don't remember JC saying anything about killing gays or keeping the races separate or keeping women barefoot and preganant or saying women can't wear pants or any of the other things certain sects of fundamentalists espouse. The religion is silent on all of these things. Most of this crap is derived from the old testament, and wasn't the coming of the Christ the refutation of the old way, coming to god through grace as opposed to through the law?

The central message of JC is pretty compelling, as is his example, sacrifice, charity, loving others over yourself that message is not voiced or practiced as it should be. I don't see what is wrong with any group following this message and trying to live up to this example. We probably would all be better off if more people did.

Also, I did watch the whole program and she did try to get the meathead to recognize inconsistencies with other passages in the bible and the way this guy thinks/acts and at the end he did have an epiphany of sorts. Really what the show reinforced more than anything was that a lot of the hatred is really ignorance, the guy, after having met and lived with a gay guy developed new respect for them and no longer believed they would be dammed by god for living as they do. (of course, his conversion seemed a little ham-handed, but there is only so much they can do in an hour long show).

LE

7/07/2005 09:29:00 AM  
Anonymous Sarcastro said...

Christianity would be great if it weren't for all the damn Christians.

7/07/2005 11:21:00 AM  
Anonymous The Yellow Brand Hammer Co. said...

Aunt B, did you listen to that Julia Sweeney audio yet? Anonymous, you should check it out too. She presents some very compelling biblical examples of Jesus being a dick.

It's here: http://207.70.82.73/pages/descriptions/05/290.html

7/07/2005 11:48:00 AM  
Blogger Twyla said...

What an interesting thought - that the fear of pleasure being evil is connected to hate. I'd never thought of it just that way. Striking.

After I was kidnapped and raped, I couldn't imagine ever having sex with a man again. It was quite awhile before I did. I could probably have been perfectly happy as a lesbian. Healing comes from being loved and feeling safe with someone. But there was a special sort of healing that occured when my husband and I hooked up. To be loved and feel safe with a gentle man was a hurdle, but once cleared it brought healing to another level. Perhaps this is one reason why this Pastor chooses to stay in the Christian world. She can help to facilitate a deep level of healing to those who have been maimed by that same group and touch a very tender place. And she can help to show those who are still entrapped in the intolerance of the institution another way to love. Just a thought.

7/07/2005 11:55:00 AM  
Blogger Aunt B said...

Twyla, as always, you reaffirm my belief that gift-giving comes from a position of strength, not weakness, as you continually open yourself in ways I don't think most people are strong enough to. And so, as you know, I think you're right that there is something strong about sticking with something even if it means opening yourself up, potentially, to hurt.

LE, even when we disagree, I'm very glad to have you around. But I'm especially glad when you post thoughtful provoking things.

YBHC, the only problem with arguing that Jesus was a dick is that it just doesn't matter. He was fully human, humans can be major assholes, so we must presume that Jesus had his moments of assholyness. I don't see how that really counts against him.

7/07/2005 12:16:00 PM  
Blogger Cindy St. Onge said...

The organization of religion--not the teachings or philosophies themselves(necessarily) as they were originally inspired-- is an extention of male sadism. Pure and simple.
That's why it's easy for the xenophobic men who torture and kill to do so. Like the honor raping in Pakistan and honor killings in other parts of the world. Men will rape and kill anyway, and as they're the policy makers, how convenient to have god in their corner? It justifies an urge that may or may not have been acted upon anyway.

7/07/2005 12:54:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan said...

Another fine post. New to the site, I am quickly gaining an appreciation of your ability to both touch on the deeper things that most of us think about and to maintain a sense of humor that makes it an added pleasure to visit. You'll likely notice that I tend to steer clear of most topics political and/or religious--just don't have the energy. Glad you're out there though.

As for Cindy's comments--sigh.

7/07/2005 03:09:00 PM  
Blogger Aunt B said...

Ryan, I try to run--using that word broadly--this place using a very loose concept of frith, meaning that all opinions are welcome, as long as they don't descend into specific personal attacks and as long as everyone understands that it's all up for sometimes rambunctious discussion, and as long as everyone is working towards the maintenence of a healthy and respectful 'community,' again using that term broadly.

I think that gives the place a different tone than others. I'm glad you're enjoying it.

Cindy, but don't you think that if they didn't have organized religion, they'd have some other excuse? I mean, look at evolutionary psychology. They're having a big fight about whether men can't help but be violent, with some scientists arguing for it and others arguing that it's insulting to men to insist that the behavior of the worst of them is their "natural" state.

So, if not religion, then science would be giving some assholes a narrative by which they could justify their actions.

7/07/2005 04:13:00 PM  
Blogger Taketoshi said...

some of us have enough of a sense of self-worth to not need an excuse for our assholishness.

Yours truly,

taketoshi

p.s. fear me because i'm mean

7/07/2005 05:25:00 PM  
Blogger Taketoshi said...

also, for any religious folks who post here. would it be offensive if i had used the word "assholiness" instead?

7/07/2005 05:31:00 PM  
Blogger Aunt B said...

Don't try to steal my puns or I will kick your ass.

7/07/2005 05:46:00 PM  
Blogger Cindy St. Onge said...

Aunt B, of course they would.
As long as men make policy, they will certainly justify behavior that suits their own purposes.

There is a great body of philosophy and wisdom traditions we conveniently categorize as religion. In the beginning, religion was science. And government.
And a good deal of these teachings, particularly in the old testament, deal with property. It's always been about the property.

Religion, science, government,all of these exist as instigators and justification for killing, raping, tyranny and the acquistion of choice real estate.

7/07/2005 06:33:00 PM  
Blogger Taketoshi said...

whoops it didn't even feel original when i wrote it and i figured it was probably me being dumb again. :P

7/07/2005 08:14:00 PM  
Blogger Aunt B said...

Well, it is clever, so it'd make sense that two such brilliant people as ourselves would come up with it.

7/08/2005 08:51:00 AM  
Anonymous shug said...

I was thinking about watching that show, but obviously wasn't compelled enough to set up the TIVO. As a lesbian living in a predominately straight city, I have to laugh every time a homophobic person gets placed in a gay community in the large metropolitan area. It seems like everyone is thinking if we surround this person with a bunch of gay people, they will see how the gays have to struggle for their freedoms. Why do the producers feel that having someone live in a gay community will make them understand? Don’t they realize that most gay communities are made up of gays and lesbians who couldn’t stand it any more out in the cornfields with a bunch of homophobes? We are forced either by the community we live in or by our own will to live openly into the gay communities. It would definitely be more interesting to see how much a homophobic person could learn out in the cornfields with those of us who have not yet reached the large gay communities. I just think this would be a more interesting and realistic experience.

7/08/2005 03:52:00 PM  
Blogger Taketoshi said...

wow, that's an amazing idea, shug. i like it. and i think you could probably sell some network folks on it, too, if you were so inclined.

though they'd probably end up spinning it as a "simple life" derivative

7/08/2005 04:15:00 PM  
Blogger Aunt B said...

Hurray! Shug is here!

That is all. I am out of brilliant things to say.

7/08/2005 04:39:00 PM  
Anonymous The Yellow Brand Hammer Co. said...

B,

I take your point 'bout JC, but here's what I was getting at. I just got back from Saint Louis, where I saw a HUGE green billboard in town that simply read "JESUS." Why not "LOVE" or "COMPASSION" or "ACCEPTANCE?" Why dedicate such a large sign to such a morally questionable figure? Why not pick a less ambigious term?

And the bigger point: Human beings are, after all, human. Worshipping them (whether it's Jesus, Dubya, or Britney Spears) is extremely dangerous. According to the "Good" Book, Jesus quite often failed to practice what he so emphatically preached, and it seems to me that too many Christians have followed in his footsteps.

Over the ages, the Bible has been responsible for many wonderful things. But at the same time, it has been used as an alternative to free thought and an excuse for bigotry. Since such hatred is printed right there in black and white in a book from which people base their entire faiths, millions of people have taken the low road and chosen to be ugly to humanity while using the Bible to rationalize and moralize their actions.

For every Bible verse, there is an equal and opposite Bible verse. A book like that allows people to draw very convenient conclusions.

7/11/2005 10:52:00 AM  

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