You’re giving God a bad name

As I was driving home this morning from a doctor’s appointment, I found myself behind a minivan with Christian stickers on it. In the old days, I wouldn’t have given a care about that, but Christianity was weaponized in the late 70s for political purposes by Jerry Falwell and others. Today that effort is out of control. Now when I see stickers like that, I’m like a pit bull who has gone into the red zone. All of my nerves are on fire. I get tunnel vision. If I had hackles, they would be at attention. I asked myself why the reaction was so visceral. The response is what you will read here, if you choose to.

It isn’t that I don’t believe in God (or at least some supreme being[s]), it’s that I don’t believe in YOU, person with the stickers. My experience of you (in singles or en masse) has been that of persecution. I have been subjected to your judgment and hatred since I was a teenager. I grew up Baptist (and boy, was that scary!), later converted to Catholicism, and have studied Judaism, Wicca, Hindu, and Buddhism. I’m a seeker. I want to see God in everything, but I don’t see God in you. And I don’t even know you. You could be a perfectly fine person, but when I see those stickers, I see someone who advocates the persecution of people who aren’t like you.

Every year, we bury more LGBTQ folks because of misguided religious beliefs which turn into torture and murder. Think Matt Shepard or Brandon Teena, or any of the other poor souls whose only crime was to exist, and sometimes to love. Is that what you think God’s love is? Is that what Jesus taught you?

1976 I was probably fourteen when my opinion of religion began to shift. That’s when I began to see the self-righteous, florid-faced pastor of that little nameless church in Fitzgerald, GA, as the philandering, lying, swindling person he was. (He was eventually caught.) But he dared point the finger at me and my friends, saying that we needed “saving”. (We were all “saved” by their definition.)

1984 Later, I tried Catholicism because the man I married was Catholic by birth. I wanted to raise our children with a faith, but not with the hell-fire-and-brimstone faith I had grown up with. I never wanted my kids to be ushered into the sanctuary during a youth group event, only to be shown a movie like “A Distant Thunder“. I had nightmares for months after being made to watch that. I guess it was supposed to scare us all “straight”, but it just scared us. Imagine watching young Christians being herded out to a guillotine for daring to be Christian! That’s how they rolled. The message we all got was that you had to be willing to have your head chopped off for Jesus! Um, no thanks. I wasn’t subjecting my kids to that kind of stuff, because guess what — I’m a good mom and a decent human being.

Little did I know that Catholicism was just as bad. Oh, some of my Protestant friends were scandalized when I told them I converted. Especially after hearing what happened when my husband and I met with the priest before our daughter’s baptism. She was only a few months old. This old, fat priest looked at my husband and asked if we had been married in the Church. He said, “No, we were married by a friend of the family who is a Justice of the Peace.” The priest, never batting an eye, said, “Well, then you could just walk away. The Church doesn’t recognize your marriage.” My mouth fell open. Really?? I was kind of happy that when our daughter was baptized, she filled her diaper with the smelliest foul shit she could manage. That remained her view on the Church up until her death. (The baptism and my conversion was long before the child molestation scandals rocked the Church, but it’s like she knew that it was a shit show already.)

1985 Not long after our daughter’s baptism, I came out to my husband in a tearful confession during our trip home from my mother’s house in Georgia. I remember that it was late and it was raining. Our baby daughter was in her car seat in the back. I said, “I’m gay. I can’t seem to make it go away.” He said, “I know.” I was trying to give him an “out” because of what the priest had said. He didn’t want out, so we stayed together. (It never occurred to me that maybe I wanted out so that I could live my life in truth.) I stayed. And I prayed.

2008 Later, I experienced more crap at the hands of a local non-denominational church. My husband and I were still together in 2008, when I started attending this church. He thought I was stupid for even considering going to church. He believed that if you were educated, you knew better. (For the record, that isn’t what I believe.) We had been together, first as friends then more, since 1978. We married in 1983 and had our daughter in 1984. The last decade had been increasingly rough, though. We sacrificed our friendship on the altar of marriage, and we stayed together because we couldn’t stop trying. We also needed to be a team for our daughter, who was very troubled, and for our son. Our daughter suffered with mental and physical illness and was never able to fully support herself.

2009 I was still attending the church, where they had been very nice to me, when our daughter died of an accidental overdose. At first, the church was helpful. They helped organize the funeral and made sure we had a sanctuary for the service. I could say a lot more about my daughter and her death, but that’s for another post. I’ll just say that on New Year’s Eve 2008, she had come to my door asking for help. She had had a problem with alcohol for several years because she was self-medicating with it. I contacted one of the women in my Celebrate Recovery group who I knew was in the program. She came and got my daughter and took her to her first sober New Year’s Eve party. The morning after that, my daughter went to her first meeting. She got her 90-day chip shortly before she died and had it in her wallet. I was so grateful for that, and grateful for the woman who took her to the party and the meeting.

In fact, I felt so comfortable with these women that a few weeks after my daughter’s death, I shared with them that I had had a secret that I’d kept bottled up for decades and that this profound loss had shown me that I needed to live my life truthfully. When I told them my secret, it was as if all the air had been sucked out of the room. They were nice at first, but then came the phone calls and the “I’ll pray for you” and the sidelong glances. Finally, they became aggressive, shouting at me on the phone and telling me I was just confused. I knew they were wrong. I left them and left my marriage.

If anyone had been able to pray away the gay, it would have been me. I was a good little girl who was in church twice on Sundays and on Wednesday nights. I took gifts of food and song to the local nursing homes. I was in the choir, and I was obedient. I prayed…and prayed. I didn’t want to be this “abomination” (their word, not mine). I thought about suicide while I was going through the rough teen years. I had been punched out by my father for saying that Anita Bryant should mind her own business. None of it “cured” me. That’s really like asking to be cured of having skin.

But I could avoid churches and religious people when I needed to, back then. Oh sure, there was Billy Graham and the Religious Right (wrong) who were becoming more political. There were laws and diagnosis codes that were eventually overturned for being inhumane and plain wrong. But still, the churches of America hung onto this obsession with homosexuals. Cherry-picked from Leviticus, their arguments were (and are) full of histrionics and anger. If I were to shout at them for eating shrimp and tell them to “Go forth and sin no more!” how far do you think I’d get?

2019 Fast forward to the end of 2019. As my son said at dinner tonight, “‘Hate’ is getting organized.”

You will find that churches have become the state. Since the late 70s, politicians have been in bed with religious leaders and vice versa. They come across as wanting to do good and to save the country from people like me. They want to legislate my life based on their interpretation of a religious text that was originally in Greek and has been translated and mistranslated for two millennia. That book has been used to justify genocide (many times over), to hate and to murder, to lie, and to cheat. None of those deeds is called out in the Bible as a good thing. In fact, minivan sticker person, if you only look to the Ten Commandments you hold so dear, you’ll find some startling things.

  1. You shall have no other gods before me. (Does that mean there ARE other gods? Is this referring also to the things we worship today — money, fame, YouTube, jobs? Crucifix stickers?)
  2. You shall make no idols. (Does that silver ichthys count? How about the cross? Isn’t that idol-like?)
  3. You shall not take the Lord’s name in vain. (So I guess the bumper sticker saying that God is your copilot would be sinful?)
  4. Keep the Sabbath day holy. (Yeah, I saw the Steelers sticker, too. No swearing at the football game!)
  5. Honor your father and your mother. (Even if they abuse you?)
  6. You shall not murder. (e.g., gay people, trans people, brown people, Democrats, etc. That means no dangerous “conversion therapy” or tossing innocent, helpless gay kids into the street, too!)
  7. You shall not commit adultery. (Oh, don’t even get me started…to be fair, I don’t know if you do that, sticker person.)
  8. You shall not steal. (Elections or anything else.)
  9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. (Consider yourself always under oath…)
  10. You shall not covet. (No more HGTV for you!)

I have nothing against God or the Bible or the ten commandments. I certainly don’t have anything against Jesus’ teachings. He was everything we should strive to be — kind, compassionate, loving, and so much more. But what I tire of is people who thump the Bible at me (and my friends and family) while committing their own sins, breaking the commandments in the process.

What I tire of is hearing on the news that another alt-right (Christian) has mowed down and killed people at a peaceful protest with his car. I tire of hearing about Jewish people being attacked and killed in their synagogues and businesses. I tire of hearing about another gay-bashing pastor who has been outed as a child molester. And I’m really tired of looking at my old schoolmate, Joel Osteen, and his mansion and his prosperity gospel. (Notice that HE is the one getting richer. Not you.) There are a lot of hungry and homeless (and clearly forgotten) people in Houston, Jo. Just sayin’ that $10 mil would have gone a long way toward helping them — like Jesus called you to do.

What I tire of is people thinking they can fix me or anyone else. You. Are. Not. God. And we don’t need to be fixed. We are all God’s children. None of us is better than the rest. Going to church and putting religious stickers on your car is meaningless if you have hate in your heart.

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