Before Hitler was Anything – He was a Racist

 

I read an article in the Baptist New Global online magazine.  It was a dressing down by Miguel De La Torre dated Nov, 13 2017. In his scathing remarks, he addresses what has transpired in America concerning the support of the Evangelical Movement and their support for Donald Trump. You can read his article here. 

The article itself was bombastic – but I think De La Torre brought up a few good points. However, being a preacher’s kid a long time ago in the fundamentalist tradition – I am not as surprised to hear about the move of Evangelicals to Trump. I think they were waiting for someone like him to come along.

America’s churches are in a crisis. Some say, including the late, great, Phyliss Tickle, that we are actually at the beginning of what theologians and historians are starting to refer to as The Great Emergence. You can read about it in the books she published later on in life. You can also seek her out on youtube where she talked, at length, about the phenomenon.

Yet, as someone who is now on the outside of fundamentalism, I can’t help but think with their minds. I remember well the indoctrination, the wrath, and the judgment, but most of all I remember the hypocrisy, and the anger, and the bigotry.  Or, the stories about how a preacher took off the with the church’s money, ran off to Vegas with a woman he was having an affair with. Or, the daughter of the preacher getting caught having sex in the nursery with her boyfriend. Or, the woman who was pulled up on stage one night and called a whore because someone drove past her house and saw a man’s car in the driveway.

For those outside these movements, what goes on inside these churches seems almost patently absurd. I mean, it’s like Payton Place, if you know, Payton place had jean floor-length skirts and a cloud of Aquanet hovering above them. It was a political atmosphere to be sure and despite all the railing from the pulpit about morality and judgment, these organizations seemed to suffer terribly from their own lack of both.

It took me years to get away from that worldview. Because that’s what fundamental evangelicalism is.  Christianity is the faith, sure. But fundamental evangelicalism is the lens through which you view everything around you.  If naivete can shade someone’s worldview rose-colored, surely these people wear yellow-colored jaundiced ones.

The world didn’t change my worldview. Not really. I began to backtrack away from fundamentalism when looking into the legacy of the church. It’s not all pretty. Heck, the reformation was a terrible bloody event on both sides. Yet, I do believe there were great moments of triumph and terrible moments of failure.

De La Torre is right in his view of these people who’ve allowed the church to become so ill on its own ager and hatred – it can no longer see clearly. And while history doesn’t repeat itself, as Mark Twain pointed out, it often does rhyme. With people like Trump  and company having won such a big swath of this kind of believer – it’s worth noting that we’ve seen something like this before.

 

In the 1930’s, famed Lutheran Theologian and minister Detriech Bonhoeffer came to study in America. Upon traveling to the deep south during the height of Jim Crow law, Bonhoeffer was stunned at what he saw.

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Now, mind you Hitler is just beginning his ascension to power in Germany and although Jew’s had been treated badly the world over for centuries -the worst was yet to come for them.
Also, mind you, that the last Lynching on record in the United States was 1955 with Emmet Till, a 14-year-old boy, who was accused of winking at a white woman.
In grief and despair, Detrich Bonhoeffer declared that, “…Christianity in America is dead.”
That was until he was invited by a minister to attend another gathering at Abyssinian Baptist Church, a black church, in Harlem, New York.
It was the first time he’d ever hear gospel music. There, he recanted his statement and said, “…these people suffer and they are joyful. God is in Harlem.”
He would take that gospel music back with him to Germany and share it with his friends and fellow believers in what he called, “The Confessing Church.”
Now, Bonhoeffer was a pacifist, and he loved his country desperately, however – before the Allies could rescue him toward the end of the war he would be taken out and assassinated for his plot to kill Adolf Hitler.
My father was an evangelist for a time and I would, of course, ride the small circuit up in Michigan with him to various churches where he would go to preach.
Someone would give an altar call, someone would begin to sing Just as I am, or All to Jesus, or Amazing Grace. And here, these lily white folks would come streaming down the aisles hands raised to heaven to be saved or to ‘get right with God.’ Not knowing for a second – that the song they were singing, “Amazing Grace” was entrenched in Slavery.
The author, John Newton, was a slave ship captain, who would lose his eyesight, become a monk in the Church of England, and in turn would become one of the world’s first abolitionists. As a matter of fact, he along with Wilberforce would end the practice of Slavery in Great Britain years before the United States would.
There are so many people surprised that 85 percent of white evangelicals would side with Donald Trump despite the many flagrant and cavalier ways he stands for almost everything Christianity stands against. Yet, I don’t understand why you’re so shocked. This has gone on for years. This has been their M.O. for as long as I knew them. It’s been their M.O dating back decades since before Brown Vs. Board of Education.
I left the faith tradition over 15 years ago and while I was still there, I left it mentally long before that due in large part to it’s inherent racism. See, I grew up in a predominately African American City, went to a predominately black middle school and high school, and while the preachers preached AGAINST interracial marriage – due to inequality of the races – I wondered at who was actually unequal.
The Principle was Dr. Betty Hines. Exceptionally well dressed, professional, she ruled over that school with an iron fist. There was Dr. Granderson, a Chemistry teacher who could always be spotted walking up and down the hall with his lab coat and pushing a cart. He was also always smartly dressed and professional. They all drove nice cars and were this constant stable presence in my life while at home – my personal life was in shreds.
In the 1930’s, according to Charles Marsh’s ‘Strange Glory’ the biography of Bonhoeffer I highly suggest people read – the author makes it very clear that when Hitler began his ascent to power, the Lutheran Church in that era immediately abdicated to him. They wanted the power that Hilter promised them and he did grant it to them for a time. They even flew the swastika in their churches. Until he found no more use for them and unceremoniously cast them aside.
But by then it was too late.
Understand this: Before Hitler was anything, he was a racist and so is this 85 percent of evangelicals. All you have to do is look at case law after the 1954 Supreme Court Decision of Brown V. Board of Education. Bob Jones Sr. v The United States.
Before Donald Trump is anything – he’s a racist all you need to do is look back at his trying to get men put in prison for a crime they didn’t commit, his having to be sued by the Nixon Administration for not allowing blacks to rent apartment space in his buildings, his statement against Hispanics, Muslims, and the list goes on.
They can call themselves Christians all day long and twice on Sunday. They’re not. They never were. They’re anti-Christians since they do the exact opposite of what was told to them by Christ. That being, take care of the poor, the sick, the weakest among you, and pray in private.
I am a Christain. I don’t believe Christianity is dead in America. I think preachers like John Palvolitz, Bishop Barber, and Nadia Bolz Weber (this Emergent or Emerging Church leaders) are Christianity in America – and they’re struggling. And they’re not the only ones. They’re out there.

Is Christianity dead in Evangelicalism? In 85 percent of them, I’d say yes. Yet, again, I think they’ve been dead for a very long time.

 

 

 

Sinners who hate other sinners

Jesus
So, I’ve been thinking about this guy quite a bit lately.
 
A friend of mine posted this earlier and for any gay man who was raised in religion – we have a fickle relationship with Christ.
 
The other day I made a comment on a Facebook page of a Popular priest, a Jesuit, who is working really hard to reach out to the Queer community as a whole. He seems very kind.
 
However, after I placed the comment about my husband and I, it didn’t take very long for someone to come along and start throwing scripture at me. Leviticus and Romans – mostly. He brought up the Apostle Paul yada yada .
 
When I was a kid, as church would begin someone would lead the congregation in hymns and someone else would sing a special – and that part of the service always had my attention.
I mean, the love of God that they sang about was so overwhelming in songs such as The Love of God.
The second verse goes something like this:
 
Could we with Ink, the Ocean fill
and were the skies of parchment made
were every stalk on earth a quill; and every man a scribe by trade
to write the love of God above, would drain the ocean dry
nor could that scroll contain the whole though stretched from sky to sky
 
or take a verse from It is Well by Horatio Spafford
 
My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!—
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
 
Or how Great Thou Art
 
Oh, Lord my God. When I in awesome wonder.
Consider all the worlds thy hands have made
I see the sun, I hear the rolling thunder
thy power throughout the universe displayed
 
 
And then the microphone was put down and in the ten steps from the piano to the pulpit God changed. He went through a metamorphosis.
In the ten steps between the piano and the pulpit God changed from this awesomely powerful, all encompassing loving, being to a twisted, angry, petty, creature akin to a brat hovered over an ant hill with a magnifying glass.
 
In those ten steps I went from open to the experience of God, not just the message, but my body would react. My heart would beat. I would get gooseflesh and tears in my eyes tooooooo…….. nothing.
 
Not anger. Not boredom. Not fear.
 
Just. Nothing.
 
It is an amazing feat to be a child/ teenager and sit still and stare forward at a man prowling the altar like a lion, shouting, pointing, sweating, and not move a muscle and yet, be as far away as a person could be. This would go on for a couple of hours every Sunday morning, Sunday Evening, and Wednesday night and God help us, if there was a tent revival because then that shit just went on all week.
 
7 days, often times, seven different preachers, each one of them come to deliver us from the pit of our transgressions.
 
And always the same, the music was there. I would be enraptured with it. Moved by it. Experiencing God, I believe.
 
Then. Whamo!
 
The door would slam shut and I’m mentally redecorating my bedroom.
 
There was something off about the message. Mostly, I think, it was because we made Christ into some kind of schizophrenic.
 
My husband has been watching this lecture series on The Great Courses with this professor who is as dry as an accountant’s field manual. Honestly, he’d turn it on, meaning to watch it, and before long I’d hear him snoring in the living room. But I am listening to this guy as I am working and he’s going on and on about the gospels. Not just Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John but all the gospels that didn’t make the final cut. The Gospel of St. Thomas, The Gospel of Mary, and on and on it goes.
 
I tried watching him full on, and im glad I had the filter of whatever I was doing because my eyes crossed and all I heard was, “Bueler, Bueler, Bueler…”
I digress…
Anyway,  what’s interesting about all of it – and I do mean all of it – is Christ was almost Greek-like in the stories. Like it was Mythology. He was petty, mean, vindictive. There were crazy mythological stories about magic beasts etc etc etc and it dawned on me. These weren’t included because they all made Christ and God by proxy sound …just….human. Petty. Stupid. And it was then I realized that these preachers had done the same thing.
 
There was no ascension happening. No moving toward heaven. No moving the church toward God. No rapture.
 
Christ was actually attacked from behind at a gas station, a bandanna soaked in Desflurane was placed over his mouth and he was thrown in the trunk of the grocery getter.
 
It’s like they couldn’t believe God actually loved them.
 
 They would sing about it.
But when it came to having the faith – that was different.
They didn’t really believe him.
That they were loved.
That they were so loved.
The idea that the grace that ‘saved’ them in their circumstances, would be needed to save someone else they deemed inferior and therefore made Grace as a concept, offensive.
That’s why they hang out in the Old Testament so much. They want a God to punish them.
And they want a God to punish those who they see as inferior to them and therefore become the worst kind of sinner.
A sinner who hates other sinners.
I don’t pretend to know the wisdom of God, but I do know the wisdom of man and I think these men – in not being able to deal with God as he is – had to bring him down from heaven and make him dumber than we are.
I remember when I first started dating my husband. When I realized he loved me. I hated him for it.
I was so twisted inside out with what had gone on in my life and what I’d put myself through – I resented this guy who told me that he loved me. I believed him 100 percent.
But I hated him for it. I knew me. I knew me. I was the least deserving, in my mind.
I sabotaged our relationship. I wanted him to hate me back.
When I asked him later on why he hadn’t given up on me. He looked me dead in the eyes and said, “You did nothing to earn my love. You can’t lose it.”
It makes me wonder, now, whenever I see a “Real Men Love Jesus” bumper sticker.
Do you love him for loving you? Or do you hate him for loving you because you know you?
Knowing you are not deserving of it.
Thank God, for all our sakes, we did nothing to earn it.

Message in a bottle (I don’t know how many at this point…15, I think?)

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When love touches our lives for the first time, depending on the circumstances can be light as a feather, as concentrated as a pin prick, or as devastating to us as being t-boned by a semi truck.

Love can be on one hand the break in the clouds after a terrible storm when the clouds part and the sun’s golden rays break through in shafts of heavenly light, and it can be the storm itself.

Love can hurt. Nazareth was right. Love can be brutal.

And like Nadi Bolz-Webber in her book Pastrix makes clear, it hurts in the places in our lives where we didn’t love, or where we should have been loved.

This blog thing hasn’t been some fluffy ‘its been a journey of self-discovery crap’ thing although I was and am and continue to be on a journey of self-discovery, this blog has been a way for me to work through the problems in my head and put them out on paper. And most of the stories I’ve told, the small bits of my life that I’ve talked about, have focused on fundamentalism and my father.  But that isn’t the entire truth.

Last night after watching Tim Burton’s Sweeny Todd for the first (and last thank you very much) time, I walked away feeling terrible about the show, terrible about the theme, and terrible about having sat there and watched all of that tragedy unfurl in the midst of song. To me there was something foul and maybe even obscene about singing like that and then slitting someone’s throat. And then the pies.

But while I was in the shower ruminating over what I’d just watched – a lightning bolt struck me square in the chest. An aha, moment! I was t-boned by a semi of truth and not love.

((spoiler alert))

Sweeny Todd had help getting to the insane and musically talented serial killer that he became. And all in part because of a lie. His wife was not dead and his daughter wasn’t far away and even though terrible things had befallen all three, the worst was the betrayal of the woman who loved him. She lied to him. And because of that lie, he became the dreadful demon of Fleet Street.

And the little kid she rescued from the ‘Italian Barber’ and ultimately from Sweeney Todd himself, loved her. He figured out what Todd was, and wanted to protect her. And she was going to betray even him to his death.

I’ve been hyper focused on my father and the Fundamental Baptist Church and all of its excesses. But what I failed to do was love myself enough to allow myself to be him by that semi-truck a long time ago.

See, like that little kid, I loved my crazy mother. I wanted in my mind and in my heart , to redeem her. Sort of like she’s the wilting flower in the story and in need of rescue. That I sang to her, “Not while I’m around.”

But I wasn’t around, am not around, and she doesn’t need saving.

I did.

Because the truth of it is that yes, my dad beat me. The church reinforced the necessity of those beatings. But through it all, my mother liked to watch. And she often encouraged it to either happen or be the cause of it being made worse.

Suddenly a string of memory launched in my head, scenes I know too well, and behind the raised voices and raised hands was an encouragement for the voices to rise higher as well as the hands.I was overcome.  I had to call for my husband to help me out of the shower.

Yesterday I made the decision I should have made a long time ago. I blocked their phone numbers.

I have to love myself enough, now, to say goodbye. And it hurts. And I’m scared. I am now an intentional orphan.

Today I woke up not like I’d been hit by a train but feeling the feather’s touch of love, this time. Knowing that I have it in my life and in myself. It’s a strange feeling. I feel lighter somehow.

I’ll write more when I can

 

Message in a Bottle (Part 14)

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Fear can either motivate you or it can debilitate you.

I remember when I was a kid the fear that was constant in our  house. Fear of my parent’s mood. Fear of my father being awakened early from a nap and coming downstairs to find a house not clean. Fear of my mother’s mood should she find dirty clothes in a drawer on a Saturday night before church. Fear of having our entire bedrooms tossed, being beaten and made to clean it all up before we went to bed that night.

But the fear wasn’t just internal. It was external as well. Detroit in the 1990’s was like a war zone. We lived close to three rival gangs, Cash Flow, Latin Counts, and World Wide Gangsters (Folks), all through growing up there had been minor gang organizations like Young Guns or even Camel Boys Inc. but they were killed off or chased away.

No, when I was a kid, these were the heavy hitters. You had to watch what colors you wore to school because you walked. Who you talked to. What street you caught yourself on. I remember one time being outside playing when a fight broke out between two rival gangs and watching them exchange gunfire with an Uzi. I was standing right there. I saw how a bullet hit the curb where one of the members had been standing just seconds before and seeing a chunk of it turned to dust.

I had a person I went to church with, die in a firebombing that was meant for his neighbor. The authorities scraped him off the basement floor because the house collapsed in on him when he was trying to escape.

In the summertime, gunshots ran out as frequently as children played outside. Houses burned all the time. Til this day I can smell smoke and it’ll wake me up out of a dead sleep to go and check to see if my house is on fire.

This combination of internal and external stress created in me a very unhealthy and often times panic-stricken individual. Add in the wrath of God from fundamentalism and the fact that I was hiding my sexuality in a deep dark place inside of me, I was in hell. Hell isn’t a place, it’s a state of being.

And my body took the brunt of it. At sixteen I was in a size thirty-six pants. I would eat and eat constantly. In school, I was tormented by other people, mostly male students, for being gay.I was shy, effeminate, and overweight. It made me an easy target. i always denied being gay since middle school, not only because that meant social suicide in Southwestern High School anyway, but because of what I was taught about homosexuality in church meant that I would go to hell. And I  put my sexuality in the box of, “I can’t be this  because I’m saved,” and went on, the best I could, with life.

Fear and violence seemed to come at me from all directions. You never knew what was going to happen from one moment to the next. I would refuse to defecate until I absolutely had to. I would hold my bowel movements and had done since I was little. A sign that, I discovered recently, I was in some way trying to control something. Something.

This was not a life of someone who lived in the United States of America. This was the life of someone growing up in a blown out old Soviet Bloc Country or some shitty little town somewhere in the middle east. (And speaking of the middle east, Dearborn was right next to us and for all the rumors about how bad Muslims are – Dearborn which houses the largest population of Muslim Americans in this country – looked like paradise in comparison to Detroit).

And I was there for twenty years.

I guess I’m sort of a veteran, of what I am not exactly sure. I don’t even know if it has name. But it does have a place in me. And because of that, one doesn’t simply move on. There is no get over it. It’s defined me. It’s walked with me through most of my life. If you believe the new data coming out ACES (Adverse Childhood Experience Study) it may have even shortened it.

(That’s why I quit smoking, watch what I eat, do yoga, and write books and poetry. The Health Department website and Center for Disease Control all  said that this was a good idea. )

And I was always afraid to talk about this. Like I would be letting open some Pandora’s box that I couldn’t contain. That what I would summon would hurt people because I told the truth. That somehow my parents would get hurt and I was protecting them. Or the people I went to church with, would somehow find these words and mock me. Or that people would pity me, or hate me, or be angry with me, or not believe me. I was afraid of opening my mouth to speak.

I hate what they did. I hate what happened to me. I  hate that I’ve carried the weight of it all my life. And I hate them. The church, parents, people who watched and did nothing to help. Detroit, you ugly, ugly bitch.

But fear is a terrible thing. And as I am writing this to sort of put this all down, place a value judgment on it, to say once and for all that this was bad. That there was zero good in this. And acknowledge that I was a passive recipient of this place and all of the evil that walked in it (to include the church). I am working through my fear. I’ve been in a perpetual state of fear all my life to some degree or other. This is an exorcism of sorts.

I wanted to end this in anger.

And then I get down on my knees and I thank God for it. For all of it. For the privilege of it. And instead of hating it. I am made to love it. Hatred binds. Fear controls. I tried running from it all my life. I tried so hard to get away. Afraid to turn and face it. Afraid to let it wash over me and sit in the middle of it. But not anymore.

So to let go. I must love it. I must forgive it, forgive them, and forgive myself. I must have the courage to do so. I must have the courage to not only love the skankiness of all of that but the skankiness and mess that I became as a result. And then, maybe then, I can know peace. I can know heaven. And know God. And then, maybe then, I’ll let go. I think this is the beginning of that process.

I owe it to my husband. But more importantly, I owe it to myself.

I’ll write more when I can.

 

 

Message in a Bottle (Part 13)

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I have a dog. He’s a beautiful five-year-old German Shepherd named Kaiser. He’s such a stud. Everyone stops when he walks by and looks at him when I take him out on his walks. He’s not the usual black and brown Rin Tin Tin – he’s a little more black.

But he has these deep brown soulful eyes that just stare at me.

In the morning when my husband gets up for work and I walk him to the door and kiss him goodbye, I’ll lay back down for an hour or so. When I do, I pat the side of the bed where my husband lay and Kaiser leaps up and immediately settles down for me to pet him.

He wants to be wherever I am. If I am working on the computer writing a blog, a story, or poem, he’s right here. If I am in the living room watching a movie with John, he’s in my lap.

I could pet this dog for hours and he’d let me.

I always thought pet people were ridiculous. Thousands of dollars to treat cancer in their animal. Find the perfect food. The perfect Vet. Have them groomed and walked… I would always say, “Those people are crazy.”

Until I got a dog of my own. And now, No. They’re not so crazy after all. Why?

Because a dog loves you NO MATTER WHAT.

I remember coming out as gay in my twenties. I remember the static I took from some of my family. People I had been cool with suddenly weren’t cool with me, especially some of the people I’d gone to church with. Even my brother was quick to tell my mother once when she was angry with him, “How can I embarrass the family, you have a gay son.”

Now, mind you this was after I had joined the army after 9/11, deployed to Kuwait in support of O.I.F (Operation Iraq Freedom) and was there for a year, honorably discharged, got a associates degree and was working on a bachelor’s.  But that didn’t matter. I could have caught Osama Bin Laden, Hussein, killed Uday and Qusay myself and made it home in time to save the stock market from crashing in ’08, so, yeah none of the aforementioned stuff really mattered to them.

I was gay.

I remember when we were in church when I was a kid. I wasn’t a fan of preaching, I really took to music. And my mother, her friend, and I would sing gospel songs in church. I figured if I had to be here, I might as well do something I enjoy doing and it was good fun.

After I’d come out my mother was practicing a song one day , I heard her, came downstairs to help out and we had a good time. Felt like old times.  And then she looked at me and said, “Too bad you’re gay. You could come to church and sing this with me tonight.”

It felt like she had kicked my soul in the crotch. I was very very hurt. I soon left Michigan, and my family, behind me.

One day, years later, I was feeling pretty down on myself. I can’t exactly remember why. But I was feeling like maybe them whatadipshit evangelicals were right. Maybe I was damned. Maybe I had made a choice, and somewhere along the line had condemned my soul to eternal hell and torment. Because, you know, Fundamentalism wasn’t bad enough.

But then I looked over at my dog who was lying on the bed next to me and I came out to him. I said, “Kaiser. I’m gay.”

And in disgust, he got up and barked at me. When I tried to approach he bared his teeth and snarled. It got so bad I  had to give him away. He wanted nothing to do with me.

You know I’m kidding. You know what he did? After my husband and I told we were gay and that he had two daddies,  he yawned. Put his head down on my lap and looked up at me with those soulful brown eyes.

kaiser

 

I knew three things at once, I had just experienced Agape love (Godly love) for the first time, I would never again feel bad about being gay, and I wasn’t as good a person as those mentioned before me. I was better and always had been.

Some shit’s just beneath you.

I want to be the man my dog thinks I am.

I’ll write more when I can.

Message in a Bottle (Part 12)

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You can’t control and make people afraid with a loving God. A loving God takes away the entire platform of Independent Fundamental Baptist movement and a lot of other denominations of Christianity.

Think about it this way, when we see art like a painting or hear a symphony or watch an incredible movie – we think to ourselves – wow, the guy/gal that did this was talented. We see not only the art but in observing the art, we catch a glimpse of the artist as well.

So, the irony here is that these people ‘fear’ God so much they’re not only willing to talk shit about The Creation but The Creator as well.

I mean think about that.

Yesterday while I was leaving the grocery store, I put my cart away in the coral and looked down and at my feet was a discarded Chic Tract. I picked it up and idly went through it. And of course, like all those Tracts, the fear of punishment rang through the pages. Fear of a God, Fear of The Devil, Fear of Hell.

chick-tract

So, in short, people are ‘getting saved’ at gunpoint. It’s fear that brings them to God. And the producers of this track, since they brought you to God, know exactly how it is you have to live to please God and the cycle begins. And theirs is the truthiest truth that ever did truth and everyone else is doomed to hell.

Their God is not a god of love, but a god of retribution and anger, vengeful wrath waiting to be tossed out upon unrepentant sinners. That’s not only religious ideology, it’s also political. There is an agenda there. People join IFB, and similar denominations,  out of total fear for their immortal soul, give their life to God, and become miserable while being promised a heaven made of gold. But there is a far more insidious thing going on in the movement as well.

I’ve heard hell fire and damnation sermons most of my young life ala Jonathan Edward’s Sinners in the hands of an Angry God. And what sounded to me like certainty back then, wasn’t certainty at all. But the constant regurgitation of fear to keep people in line. But that fear, I discovered later, not only kept people subservient to the will of one man, it also cut them off from seeing and being a part of the creation that God made. That creation -people and their music, and poetry, paintings and symphonies, other ethnicities and yes, even the hated Rock and Roll and dancing. Expressions of Humanity that profess its will to not only survive but thrive all the while experiencing everything God created along the way.

When I was a kid, my sisters and I would turn on B.E.T or MTV and watch Soul Train and listen to music and I remember being in awe of these professions of love from the Power Ballad singers. And I remember the dancing on Soul Train that looked so happy and fun and imitating them. And listening to Roberta Flack, Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, The Nelsons, and marveling at the creativity of it all. Even though we knew if we got caught there was hell to pay. And trust me, there often was.

And we were often drawn to it anyway. Not because of it being sin. But because it was true. The songs they sang were truth. And truth is a dangerous thing in world of half truthes and manipulation.

And these pastors cut people off from that. because there is one thing that man desires above all else.

Power.

And kings can’t be kings without coercive powers. And subjects won’t be subjects if The Gospel of Life sings to them louder than  the Gospel of fear, hate, and retribution. Why do you think Slavery was even rationalized? Why did Jim Crow stick around for so long? The Rise of the ‘moral’ majority? Breaking the will of a child?

Because the subjects found their way into a voting booth and they took their gospel of fear, hate, and retribution along for the ride.

We’re often taught that the Pilgrims came to America to seek religious freedom. What we’re not told is that these Pilgrims who were mostly puritan tried to subvert The King’s authority in England and got run out. They wanted to be King. They didn’t object to the power the king had, they object to HIM having that power.

So the next time someone wants to talk about ISIS or Islam or The Taliban, hand them a Chic Tract and talk to them about our own brand of whackadoodledoo’s that are just as capable of insidious things from having been cut off from their own humanity for so long and indoctrinated to hate the world and the people in it for so long, that they’d become violent as well to keep people in line.

The Bible does say man is flawed and falls short of his glory.

But let me make it very clear to you,  that just means you aren’t perfect.

It doesn’t mean that your rotten and horrible. God loves you. He loves you. And he doesn’t make mistakes. And just because you may have done something wrong in life, like everyone else, doesn’t make you bad. You are not inherently evil. Mankind is Good. He doesn’t make junk. You’re his art. He’s the artist.

((Atheists be like: I don’t believe any of that anyway. I agree with you on more points than I disagree with you on, believe me))

God is not going to send Christ to die for something he despises.

Didn’t happen.

Anything that says otherwise is nothing more than a con job. And those pastors who perpetuated this better pray that God is loving and all merciful, because ….damn.

Fear is big business. And business lately, has been real good.

 

 

 

 

Message in a Bottle (Part 11)

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Violence is rooted in the idea that we can own another human being. That a person is not an individual endowed with rights to self-determination and liberty and dominion over their body but are subject to the whims and desires of someone else. We can see examples of this all over the place from domestic violence to murder.

The moral questions of right and wrong get thrown out the window. Is what is happening to these people wrong? Absolutely. Don’t get me wrong. But just like the great kingdoms of the 15th and 16th Century that swept the globe in a race to dominate the world the things that they did to gain the upper hand was terrible, sure. Slavery, slaughter, rape, pillaging of resources, and so forth. But they could do it because they had power, terrible power – almost unlimited resources.

Today, we are getting an eyeful of violence being perpetrated against African-American people from Police. If African Americans made up forty percent of the United States population overall, this would not be happening.

It is happening today, however, to maintain the hegemony. To keep black people afraid of those who are in power. In the past 8 years, minorities have made huge strides in equality but African American’s have been made to suffer and I think it’s punishment over the Presidency of Barack Obama and the political impotency of those who tried to have him thrown out. There is a backlash happening toward all minorities at the moment because a certain demographic is afraid of losing power. And it’s killing black people every single day.

When I was five years old, I was recovering from a bout of Chicken Pox (my second go round with that) and I remember the night before some boys had come over to see my sisters and they were horseplaying and bent the side of a pool. My father, in an outrage, had all of the children in the kitchen. And he started beating us, one at a time. I remember my eldest sister screaming and crying, then on to the next sister, and I remember my father turning around and in anger screaming, “….do you want me to do this?!” and punching me in the head. I remember my head bouncing off the kitchen floor. And out of fear, I remember climbing underneath the counter in the kitchen to get away from him before he stormed out of the house.

My father did what he did not because it was right or wrong. He did what he did because he could. A five-year-old and two teenage girls are no match to the strength of a full grown man who’s angry.

As the years progressed and the abuse became more commonplace – the worst feeling about it all – besides the bruising and bleeding – was the total inability to stop him. The powerlessness in the shadow of his power. Was he wrong to do that? Of course, he was. But the church had granted him unlimited authority to ‘break the will’ of a child.

And that’s what’s happening to African Americans in this push back. People are trying to break their will and let them know where their place is. As well as Mexicans. As well as Refugees. As well as LGBT people, especially Trans people who are being murdered. As well as….Veterans who’s suicide rate is alarming.

For the religious among you, think back to Pharoh who felt threatened over the rising population of Jews in the land of Egypt. Think about Herrod who, feeling threatened at his advisor’s telling him a King had been born, sent out an order to kill the first born. This is what America is doing to itself because a certain demographic is afraid that change is coming.

Well, change is inevitable. And power is always in transition. It’s in a constant state of flux. America is turning into an abusive parent who does what he does simply because no one is big enough to stop him. And I have a terrible feeling that eventually, that kid is going to buck up and end up putting someone on their ass. And just like that father shocked to find his kid standing over him with a balled up fist, you’re going to deserve it.

America – what you’re doing – is fucked up. Hurting people because you can – is fucked up. And you know it’s fucked up. And just like that screwed up parent, your not deserving of the people in your life or the love and great things they are capable of. Including football players who stand for the national anthem.

You’re an abuser and a coward.

Fix your shit.

Stop the violence before it’s too late.

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P.S. I can’t imagine what that high must be like. To have someone on the ground trembling in fear knowing that they’re fucked if you decide they are. And the ability to take a life. Man, that must make you feel like a god. But you’re not. You’re human.

 

Message in a Bottle (Part 10)

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The world seems filled with scandal today. Anthony Weiner is back in the news for tweetin’ his pecker. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are on the outs and getting a divorce. Hillary has her emails and everything that comes out of Donald Trump’s mouth is a damn lie. Everything today seems salacious. But I don’t understand why everyone is so shocked by that. People often do dumb shit.

But I think the shock comes because we see people as perfect. We place people on pedestals. And in church, the pastor gets set on one. He’s considered without reproach. But boy, that isn’t the case sometimes is it?

Now scandal becomes so depending on people’s level of tolerance for certain things. If a woman in the church we went to cut her hair too short, people would be beside themselves. If the hem of a skirt was too high, if someone was seen leaving a movie theatre, if you listened to the radio or any number of mundane things that to the world outside would seem a total non-issue.

But then, we’ve had some doozies too. Real scandals. Real stuff.

The first I can remember is when I was very little our family attended a church in Delray, Michigan called Open Door Baptist Church. This big congregation was on Dearborn Ave in a brown brick  building with a huge green steeple. In my furthest memories, I can recall being in the nursery.

But this place had been the beginning of my life. The name Open Door Baptist would follow me most of my life. And in each and every single church that carried that name, the scandal of what it was would follow us around. Like a ghost that couldn’t lay down. I don’t know if it was it’s protestant nature that shook it like bones in a coffin and caused it to fall apart over and over as it stayed in a perpetual state of protest. Or the fundamentalism was so great so profound that it – like most – fall victim to its own inability to sustain itself in such a heightened state of perfection. And because of that inability, when the bow breaks, down goes baby cradle and all.

I do not know all the details. But I do know that at some point the pastor’s wife began to have an affair outside of the church. In response, the pastor began to have an affair with my aunt. Several people knew about the affair and wanted to use it as a means to take control of the church and raise up their own man as the pastor.

Then the pastor and his girlfriend stole the offering out of the safe, bank, who knows aaaaaaaaand ……

……ran off to Las Vegas. That’s right. Right into Sodom and Gamorah. Do not pass go. Do not collect 200 dollars.

The people who’d known all along that this was going on went to my father and accused him of being in on it, although it was them who had been on it all along. He knew nothing about it and it actually broke his heart. And like humpty dumpty the church crashed and all the kings horses and all the kings men….

And that always seemed to be the nature of things. For all its righteousness and all of its high moral grandstanding, fundamentalism eventually does something ridiculously human and incredibly dumb and it implodes or explodes. And when it was all said and done there were victims walking around looking dazed and confused asking themselves how could this happen?

It’s like one of those party poppers. You know the kinds with the strings that you pull and *poof* there is string and bits of paper all over the place? And it’s about as anticlimactic as that as well.

All through my life going to church with my parents, things like this – maybe not to this degree- would happen. And I think it happens because at the end of the day these organizations are ran people and people aren’t perfect and they do make mistakes. However, and this is big however, when you prop yourselves up as the gatekeepers of the real gospel and the saved of the saved, the mistakes you make, the fall from grace you take as a result, is a honey. Because while there is plenty of righteousness to go around. There was ZERO grace to be found. For anyone.

We would go to these churches and our parents would say that, “Oh, this church is so different. They aren’t like the other versions of The Open Door Baptist Church’ we went to prior (even though some of the members were the same as well as the doctrine) . And that was the way of it. Jesus is REALLY here. He wasn’t really there at the last one because of what they did to us or said about us or whatever.

And so the insanity and indoctrination (as well as abuse)- would continue. Until something else happened. Until the King took a tumble in his tragic kingdom and the subjects were left to wander through the desert for forty years without him. It was really sort of unmerciful all the way around. While the Pastors would advocate corporal punishment for the women and children in the church, all the while the blade of the guillotine was being sharpened for the first time he made a mistake. Or, if he was hell bent on keeping his throne, he would send out hit men to abuse the accusers into leaving the church and cover everything up. One pastor of ours actually slashed a man’s tires.

It’s good to be king.

Like I’ve said before in other blogs. White trash Shakespear. And at the end of the day – no matter where we went or how long we stayed – it was a study in pure insanity. Insanity is repetition expecting different results. But the end was always the same. It was like these organizations had a natural shelf life built into them. A self-destruct button. Because most of the families that were involved with them, self-destructed right along with the churches they associated with and protested themselves to death. They fell upon their own sword.

That was the real scandal of it all. And it’s rather poetic in a tragic way. Do I hate those people who had an affair and ran off with the money? No. I’m just sorry they felt that was the way they had to go about being happy because their doctrine held them captive to such a degree they didn’t or couldn’t even have mercy on themselves.

That’s the scandal.

And pulling away and peeling that stuff off of you has to be done layer by layer.

I’ll write more when i can

P.S. If you want a good peek inside of Fundamentalism – and understand the isolation and human nature being triumphant- without having to watch a documentary or join one, watch M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village.

 

Message in a Bottle (Part 8)

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I woke up thinking about Power this morning and was going to blog about that. But after reading the rawness of yesterday’s post, I have instead opted to talk about thankfulness.

I find myself in a unique position. On one hand, I despise having to have gone through all that I did. I hate it. I hate what the churches under those men did to my family. I hate the way my parents abdicated to them. And I hate their garbage, shallow, theology.

100 percent guarantee of heaven is snake oil and the product of what happens when Capitalism meets Religion. It’s like those late night 19.99 commercials for whatever product some loud mouth boob is hoping your recent case of insomnia, as well as the resulting delirium, will pay for it. And this ‘free gift’ while free comes with an alarmingly high-interest rate paid out by pounds of flesh.

But through it all…I have to admit that I am also grateful for it. I know that sounds weird.

I know things other people don’t. I see things through a lens other people can’t. Now, I am not alone in this, I’ve found a massive group of others like me. Which, of course, makes me grateful as well since I don’t feel like a freak anymore.

I think that was the worst part. Thinking that the hell that went on inside my house was an anomaly. Now I’ve known other child abuse survivors but their stories consisted of alcohol or drug use. Ours happened in full sobriety. It was the sobriety of all it that drove me into madness. That’s the hard part.

When I was little, I was a gentle little kid who everyone called Freddie Boy. And Freddie Boy took that title and ran with it. I used to introduce myself as Freddie Boy to strangers. My dad said people used to think that was so cute, he relayed to me on the telephone. “Before…”

Before what? Before I came out as gay or before I stopped you from beating me? I’ll never know.

But I am also grateful for the path it’s lead me on. As screwed up and as bumpy as it’s been I feel like that to hate it would mean I’d have to be ungrateful for my husband as well. And I can’t do that. I won’t do that. I am a huge believer in providence, oddly enough. And I have worked out that because I was looking for love, I sought God. Because God is ultimately love.

As awful as those memories are. I wouldn’t trade them for where I am today. And it was only love that saved me. Isn’t love the only thing in the end that saves any of us?

People don’t like that. The ‘love’ God.

They like the God of Retribution. Revenge. Anger. Wrath.

Frank Schaffer made a good point when he said, “The same people that believe in that kind of God, believe the Jewish Prisoner who was gassed at Auschwitz also went to hell because she didn’t accept Jesus Christ as her personal savior.”

That’s not a god. As Frank also points out, ‘….that’s making God dumber than we are.”

I am not without fault. God help me, that isn’t the case.

But I went my entire life thinking everything bad in my life WAS my fault because of being a sinner. And that was before I even began to deal with my homosexuality. Throw that in. I’m just screwed.

So I guess this is about power in some ways because I’ve stripped those who used to have it over me by stripping back the belief system that for fifteen years was drilled into my head. Or perhaps that is what this blog is doing. Stripping it back layer by layer till all that is left is me.

I have the power. I am thankful for figuring out where that mess ended and where I began.Getting through that mess was hard. Learning to be thankful for it in part, is harder. It took me long enough.

I’ll write more later…