Religion: You’re doing it wrong

Over the past several years, I have went through quite a cycle in my life with regard to religion. Even while attending church off and on, I have never been able to successfully drown out the nagging questions I have always had about anything to do with faith and its practices. But it has only been over the past couple of years that I have developed such a distaste for religion that overcoming those questions has transitioned from unlikely to nearly impossible.

It has gotten to the point where I view religion as my enemy. The loudest opponents to equality and rights for the LGBT community in America typically consider themselves to be conservative Christians (the liberal Christian is a rare bird, indeed). Most days, after a glance at the news, I spend much of my time feeling helpless and angry.

I get angry when I hear that American Christians and their Republican counterparts are funding and fanning the flames of homophobia in Uganda – where things have gotten so bad that the average Ugandan believes lesbians should be raped and gay men should be killed.

I get angry when I hear that Josh Duggar has molested multiple girls much younger than himself (including his sisters), yet his mother made robocalls last year to tell everyone to vote down a non-discrimination act for transgendered people, wherein she said men would dress as women to get into women’s restrooms to molest little girls.

I get angry when someone I have never met comes on this blog and posts a comment saying I will be “anally raped by the Devil himself in hell,” and then threatens to kill me.

I get angry when the Vatican says Ireland’s recent vote for marriage equality was a “defeat for humanity.” One would think they would direct their outrage at child-touching priests instead of consenting adults who simply want to get married.

I get angry when Christians habitually discriminate against anyone that doesn’t fit their narrow, bigoted view, and then scream about religious oppression when they get called out on it.

So, when I stop to get gas and the store is playing contemporary Christian music over the loudspeakers, I roll my eyes. When I see parking lots full of church attendees, I feel nothing but contempt. When I hear someone ask for prayer over the most mundane thing possible, I cringe. I don’t hear or see genuine faith in action; I see weak minds and pettiness. I don’t see unconditional love or people helping the poor; I see people who are most likely spending their time and money to work against the very things I want out of life. I see enemies of equality and freedom, and enemies of myself.

There are good Christians and there are bad ones, but even the good Christians I know are usually perfectly content to be ignorant of anything outside their bubble-shaped world. For example, I recently had someone ask me why certain gay men like to dress as women, but as I tried to explain drag queens, they became overwhelmed and said they didn’t want to hear about it. If you don’t want to know, then don’t ask.

The more time goes by, the more I find myself agreeing with the old quote, “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

Casting stones

Each day, when I browse the news and look at social media, I see countless stories concerning religion that make me sick at heart. Whether it is someone committing mass murder in the name of Islam, a “Christian” refusing to bake a cake for a gay couple, or a politician trying to appeal to his conservative base by making disparaging remarks about same-sex marriage, it all makes me completely disgusted with religion.

The only problems I have ever had from being openly gay are because of people who have been blinded by their religion. I have had people tell me I am going to hell. People who have given me books about how God can make me straight. Family members who refuse to be around my partner at family functions. Anonymous people who have harassed me and called me names online. People I know who have done the same.

The common denominator between all of these activities has been religion. Specifically Christianity. How someone can follow Christ and know anything about him, yet allow bigotry and hatred to overcome their thoughts and actions is unconscionable.

I am glad I am gay, mainly because I have had to question things that some take for granted. It has made life more difficult, but I feel like I can see things more clearly than so many who use their faith as shields while they throw stones at anyone they deem abnormal and unworthy of love.

Christian agnostic

I am writing for the Christian agnostic, by which I mean a person who is immensely attracted by Christ and who seeks to show his spirit, to meet the challenges, hardships, and sorrows of life in the light of that spirit, but who, though he is sure of many Christian truths, feels that he cannot honestly and conscientiously ‘sign on the dotted line’ that he believes certain theological ideas about what some branches of the Church dogmatize.

Leslie D. Weatherhead, ‘The Christian Agnostic’

HBO’s ‘The Leftovers’ and childhood trauma

HBO’s new series, The Leftovers, looks very intriguing. And a little scary. After roughly 2% of the world’s population disappears in a rapture-like event, the show follows what happens to those who remain behind. This reminds me a bit too much of the movies I was forced to watch as a child while attending a Southern Baptist school.

I grew up without television, so when our teachers decided to show us a movie it was usually a treat. Not only did we get to feast our hungry eyes upon delicious cartoons like Bambi, we got to skip the monotony of classroom activities. Unfortunately, the movie selection wasn’t always so innocuous.

While still in elementary school, we were shown A Thief In The Night and A Distant Thunder – films that detailed the Rapture and the horrifying events that followed. These movies not only showed people being forced to receive the Mark of the Beast, but what would happen to those who refused. The first movie in the series had a particularly haunting song that is stuck in my head to this very day.

There’s no time to change your mind; the Son has come and you’ve been left behind. I wish we’d all been ready.
Children died, the days grew cold. A piece of bread would buy a bag of gold. I wish we’d all been ready.

Because the Holiness church had taught me nothing about the Rapture but everything about what would happen in the End Times, I knew I would be one of those who was left behind to either take the Mark or be put to death. I wept hysterically throughout both films, so much so that my teacher mistook my tears for a desire to be born again. She led me in prayer a couple of times, but soon realized she was getting nowhere and told me to talk it over with my parents when I got home.

Needless to say, it was a traumatizing experience. Almost as bad as the time my aunt and uncle (also Baptists) showed my family a video of people dying in car accidents and going to hell. Good times.

So, it is with trepidation that I am actually looking forward to watching The Leftovers. Hopefully I have watched enough horror movies and reality television over the past 20 years to desensitize myself.

Everything we learned from the ‘Duck Dynasty’ fiasco in one sentence

Noah Michelson, the editor for Huffington Post’s Gay Voices, summed up the brouhaha over Phil Robertson and A&E in one (extremely long) sentence.

You can say whatever you want, including that gay people are sinful and full of “murder, envy, strife, hatred” and are in the same league as those who enjoy being penetrated by barnyard animals and that black people were “happy” and were not “singing the blues” when Jim Crow laws ruled America, and as long as you later tack on “I love all of humanity” and I would “never incite or encourage hate” and throw around the word “tolerance,” and as long as there’s enough money and publicity swirling and more ready to be made, you will face absolutely no consequences and if anything you’ll be celebrated as a hero and lauded as an icon of freedom — some will even go so far as to call you the “Rosa Parks” of our generation — while the people you were talking about will still be vilified and will have to fight even harder against society’s belief that they are — even in the 21st century, even in a country that is not supposed to be ruled by religion or heartless, hateful zealots — at their very core all of those vile and (let it be said once and for all) patently untrue things that you said about them.

Ain’t that the truth!

Hypocrisy abounds over ‘Duck Dynasty’ star’s comments on gays

Earlier this year when Paula Deen admitted to using the “N” word thirty years ago, the public reacted in anger. Social media erupted with negative comments about her weight, her intelligence, and even the part of the country she is from. Virtually every single chain stopped carrying her merchandise. She lost her show on The Food Network. People were determined that she pay a huge price for her apparent racism.

Yesterday, after reading the remarks made to GQ magazine by Phil Robertson of “Duck Dynasty” fame, I wondered what price he would have to pay for comparing homosexuality to bestiality.

“Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men. Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.

It seems like, to me, a vagina—as a man—would be more desirable than a man’s anus. That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.”

I was pleasantly surprised to learn this morning that he had been suspended by A&E, but I quickly realized he wouldn’t pay for his homophobic remarks in nearly the same way Deen had to pay for admitting her use of a racist word. People seemed to be downright celebratory.

Apparently, this man is viewed as a god to rednecks, right-wingers, Christians, and even members of the Tea Party. Sarah Palin released a statement supporting him and decrying the loss of freedom of speech. The governor of Louisiana even proclaimed his pride in the “Duck Dynasty” family. Since Robertson’s comment was steeped in biblical references, one has to wonder what has happened to the separation of church and state in this country.

As far as freedom of speech goes, most of the American public doesn’t seem to comprehend what that even means. Robertson exercised his freedom of speech when he made his comments to the reporter. Nothing prevented him from making those remarks, even if they were asinine. There is also nothing to prevent others from responding to those statements with disbelief or even jubilation.

My main grievance with this whole thing is how people who label themselves “Christian” are the first to get in line behind something hateful. Sure, some of them truly believe homosexuality is a sin and worthy of hell, but why would they celebrate a statement that talks about how much better a vagina is than an anus? It’s absurd. He could have worded his beliefs in a clear manner without stooping to descriptive references of anal intercourse.

Also, where in the Bible are Christians commanded to single out one sin over another? Nowhere that I can recall, but for some reason modern-day Christians like to pick on members of the gay community. How many of the other sins in the Bible are they ignoring in their pursuits – like fornication or adultery? How many couples do you know – Christian or not – who didn’t have sex before they were married?

We all grew up hearing “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” but I can’t help but wonder how many people are going to be mentally and even physically wounded by Robertson’s words. A quick look through social networks reveals a seething anger against members of the LGBT community, and one can only speculate whether those folks will put their words into action. I also wonder how many young people will commit suicide rather than reveal their true selves to parents who are sitting around the dinner table this week spewing hatred toward other human beings simply because of who they love.

On the plus side of things, we are at least talking about this. It is no longer okay for someone to slander the gay and lesbian community without getting at least some level of retribution. It may not be anywhere close to the price Paula Deen had to pay, but I don’t suppose we can expect people to care as much about homophobia as they do about racism.

Not yet.

Consider the person

A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: ‘Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person.

Pope Francis I