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FAINT GLOW

losing my religion

I made a comment on Facebook yesterday about detesting Westboro Baptist Church's hateful "Christians" picketing military funerals, and I still stand behind it. They're free to say what they want, I'm free to say what I want. But one young friend of a friend interpreted it the wrong way and thought I was condemning Christians in general. That's a problem with Facebook, isn't it?--readers who don't know you personally jumping to conclusions over some post meant to impress pals with your characteristic sagacity and wit, deciding instead that you're a moron merely on the basis of whatever moronic thing you've written. Well, for the record, I do not detest Christians. I DO most certainly, however, detest "Christians".

Back in the late summer of 1992, I had quit my job, left my home and friends, and moved back to South Carolina to care for my widowed mother until my sister and I could come up with a viable Plan B. We never did. My mother spent most of her days lost in Alzheimer's, and I spent mine just lost. My mother and late father were both sincere Christians and I'd been well-churched myself as a child and still sort-of believed in Jesus as my Lord and Savior, even if I didn't attend services or take to heart all those little details concerning chastity and sobriety. But it was still in my nature to view church people as the good guys when all else failed. The U.S. Cavalry riding to rescue you, not bayonet you to pieces. I admit I wasn't praying much: my only honest prayer that dreadful summer was to be delivered from my situation and what would that mean for my mother? So God and I were sort of letting one another be, but amicably. Then I watched the Republican National Convention on television and heard firebreather Pat Buchanan declare anathema on problematic people like me--unmarried, irreligious, pro-choice, a threat to "family values", friend of gays and lesbians, possibly even an America-hater (because what else can a liberal Democrat be?)--and as he invoked God for the umpteenth time I felt the last of my faith sailing right over the horizon aboard the good ship GOP. Stolen from me and frogmarched up that gangplank like someone beloved taken captive without even a look back.

??? --When had religion become political? Where was I when the rules were being changed? When had Jesus become a Republican?

Well, it was actually okay now because I didn't believe in Jesus any more, remember, so what could it all matter? After all, in my harried life as a full-time caregiver, I was leaning instead on family, friends and red wine--and I must say, none of 'em ever let me down. Sometimes a twinge of resentment made itself known as I contemplated the catchwords "family values" while changing my mother's diapers, and I could feel very unChristianly towards the "Christians" who'd hijacked what little belief I'd once had. But--I mean, after all--who was I to blame them? They made the rules, and the rules had changed, and one of the new ones was that you couldn't vote for Bill Clinton. So I voted for Bill Clinton. Twice. I voted for an adulterer, a liar, a draft dodger, America-hater, murderer, and all the other libelous bullshit flung about so carelessly. I did it proudly and I'd do it again in a heartbeat. Simply because I thought he'd make the best President. All naysaying, in my mind, had become so corrupted with deliberate character assassination that even had the Pope and Billy Graham both come out together against him, I'd have told 'em Fuck Off.

Yep, I was one angry new atheist. You betcha.

But somehow, long after my mother's death and my return to New Orleans, my faith began to creep back. In increments. I have no idea why, or how. It's certainly been none of my doing. I'm not ready to term myself a Christian, and as long as the word is still held captive by the likes of the Westboro Baptist Church, I don't know that I ever will. I feel much more charitable toward churchgoers now and no longer view all of them as the hatemongering hypocrites I once did. I attend services a time or two with various congregations and one of my oldest friends is an Episcopal Bishop (I hear all you Fundmentalists going "Aha!"...). But all kidding aside, politically conservative friends and family members are dearer to me than ever and we get along fine as long as nobody attempts to convert each other. I doubt I'll ever again have an official religion. Yet I read all brands of theology, explore every spiritual avenue I stumble across. Forever searching.

But the old scar is still there. My befuddlement. Far from the forgiveness and invitation my childhood Christ had once preached, monolithic evangelical "Christianity" had offered me only hellfire and the door. Pat Buchanan made it perfectly clear that the likes of me weren't wanted in this new New Jerusalem. Wishy-washy mainstream denominations like my former Presbyterianism lacked all cojones to stand against the evils facing America--e.g., terrorism, communists, liberals, academia, subversives, Hillary, gay marriage, welfare queens, gay welfare queens, gay professors, gay and lesbian cultural elites, flag burners of every persuasion, artists and folks who just like to read waaaaay too much. So I'll never again be motivated to try to trust any sort of creed or entertain any kind of dogma or even befriend one on Facebook. New acquaintances who above all else present themselves as "Christians" first and foremost have only my suspicion and distaste until I can get to know them--which is ironic, because that's how my own father and mother thought of themselves. But they were the real thing. Without quote marks. They acted always from a position of love and acceptance. They threw no one out. They invited sinners in. They lived their Gospel.

Well, I don't. I can't. So sue me. --Yes, I'm still angry. Maybe that Facebook poster read more into my quip than I meant to put there.

Jesus, master of forgiveness, once said, "In my Father's house are many mansions." But hang my head as I might, I'm just NOT mansion material. I'm not sure that Jesus was the Son of God. Hell, there's a bunch of speculative literature out there claiming he was the result of an alien breeding experiment, and for all I know, he was. What I truly believe is that no single religion (including atheism) has a lock on Universal Truth and maybe none have even a glimmer of the merest little inkling. So Jesus, don't be saving no mansion Up Yonder for me, boy. (Yet if there's, like, some little garden shed in somebody's back yard where nobody'll mind much if I camp out and continue my studies...?)

Forever seeking.

Find me, God.
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