Stop Hitting Me in the Head With Your Bible!

god-speaks-english I have nothing against religion, in fact I encourage you to practice the religion of your choice, but please, stop hitting me over the head with your bible! My religion in none of your business, and quite frankly yours is of no interest to me. Someone seems to have sold the Tea Party on the idea that God:

  1. Is American
  2. Speaks English, exclusively
  3. Is White
  4. Is Christian
  5. Has a particular political agenda
  6. Hates certain groups of people

Let’s take these points one by one, and try to unravel them.

God is American (and of course so was Jesus). This is ludicrous on about a trillion levels, but let’s start with the fact that America as we know it today (inhabited mainly by non-indigenous people) has only existed for a few hundred years, and even evolution deniers concede the earth is 6,000 years old. Which leaves two options, God is actually a Native American (in which case we are in some deep shit) or God is an immigrant, hmmm…

God speaks only English. I think what this really means is that God is just for American Christians, not the rest of the God-less world population that includes Buddhists, Mulims, Jews, Hindus and of course atheists.  Just a little reminder that Jesus and the Disciples spoke Aramaic. Frankly I don’t believe God speaks at all. At one time people who claimed they heard God speaking to them were institutionalized, or medicated. Personally I don’t believe that God communicates directly with any of us. I mean there are seven billion of us!

God Is White. Do you recall this past Christmas when Fox “News” exploded when someone said that Santa might not be white? There are still plenty of people who think Jesus had blond hair and blue eyes (highly unlikely) and that his dad, God, is some old dude with white hair and flowing robes looking down at America and genially telling us which groups to hate. I am no biblical scholar, but I attended many years of religious school, and not once did anyone mention hate as part of the message from the bible (which incidentally people, not God wrote).

God is Christian. Well, if God were American (and we already covered this nonsense) there is a good chance God would be Christian, as 73% of Americans are Christian (but there are an awful lot of denominations under that umbrella), but the world is only 33% Christian, and since religion essentially is built on revering God, it doesn’t seem like God would participate in any religion, unless God is a serious narcissist, which is not out of the question.  As religions go, Christianity is the newest kid on the block. And if we’re going with the 6,000 year story (and it is a story) then what all was God doing for the 4,000 years before Christianity began? God has a political agenda. If you’re going to go all biblical, it seems like the only agenda God has is for us is to follow the ten commandments, and not one of those mentions voting Republican, and in fact if you look at the  Republican agenda, most of it goes against the ten commandments. When you can explain to me why Fundamentalist Christians aren’t murderers based on their actions like bombing abortion clinics, murdering doctors who perform abortions, and encouraging the proliferation of automatic weapons, and the ammunition that goes with them, I might buy your theory that all Muslims are terrorists.

God hates certain groups. God, as I understand things God only hates certain behavior. Not people, not things, not countries, not plants, or animals… you get the picture. Hate is a human emotion, and to take your hatred of anyone or anything is about as un-godlike, and, in fact un-Christian as it gets! Jesus spent his lifetime teaching love and compassion. Regardless of whether Jesus is your messiah or not, his teachings are about inclusion, not exclusion, about love, not hate, and about making and sharing peace, which is impossible if you’re busy spreading hate even if you think you’re doing it in the name of God! So please, practice whatever religion appeals to you, but leave it at home, or at church! Keep it out of our laws, our states, our public schools, and for God’s sake, stop hitting me, and everyone else over the heads with your bible!

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Apologies

This past week Brian Schweitzer managed to offend what could be a record number of people in one interview. He said that southern men were effeminate, that he thought Eric Cantor seemed gay-ish (not that there’s anything wrong with that…) and compared Senator Dianne Feinstein to a hooker. Then he promptly apologized. Hmmm. It’s true you can’t un-say something, and I have said plenty of things that I needed to apologize for, as have most humans, but when you express your opinion, and that opinion is offensive, an apology just doesn’t cut it. You’ve already told us what you think, now you’re just apologizing for getting caught expressing your beliefs. The apology is a lie.

An apology works when you’ve hurt someone’s feelings by being too candid, by using the wrong tone of voice, letting someone down, breaking a promise, perhaps when you’ve betrayed a confidence (all things I’ve been guilty of). If you are sincere, and explain yourself, most people will accept your apology, and move on. If someone uses a racial or ethnic slur, or insults an entire group of people, an apology does nothing. You’ve notified us how you feel, and now you’re sorry someone heard you, you’re not sorry for what you feel, only for where or when you expressed it, and that’s not a real apology!

As a parent I often talk to my daughter about apologies. She is one of the kindest and most considerate people I know, and this isn’t just my parental opinion, her teachers have been telling me the same thing for the past ten years. Even this deeply sensitive and caring girl does careless and inconsiderate things. We all do. When I bring them to her attention it can be difficult sometimes for her to understand why I want an apology, and what she is apologizing for, but that is the key to a real apology. I’m sorry I did X and made you feel bad.  I’m sorry I left a mess for you to clean up, I’m sorry I forgot to turn the lights out. These are apologies. I’m sorry I expressed my racist, sexist, or homophobic thoughts out loud… you can apologize all day long for that, but I’m done with you, as you have now revealed your character to me, and for you there is no apology that will repair my opinion of you.

Enter our current climate of polarized opinions, dysfunctional government and a culture of entitlement.  Add to that a lot of noisy people who claim they are Christians with special access to God, and God’s agenda, while smacking people over the head with their bibles. ‘Oh, I said gays should and will burn in hell?  I’m sorry, what I meant to say is that I don’t support marriage equality’. Thanks for clearing that up…   We are all moving too fast to worry about the impact we’re having on others, and if and when someone notices, we slap together a meaningless apology and move on, and chances are so does everyone else, except maybe the injured party, but maybe even them, because we’re not really listening anyway.

We live in a land of lies. In fact the media even encourages it. We demand apologies when what we should be looking for is a change of heart. We let people off easy, with a fake apology, rather than asking them to face the people they have offended, and giving them an opportunity to see they are real people. It is easy to be glib and dismissive, and even perniciously hateful to someone who isn’t real to you, but to sit down with them, with one or two people from the group you claim is evil, forces you to examine both them (as individuals) and yourself, as you are literally brought face to face with your hate-fueled feelings.

It is easy to hate a group, it is just as easy to blithely and insincerely apologize to them. We need to stop accepting both these scenarios. We need to start asking some different questions, and making some different demands. Don’t ask Mitt Romney to apologize to 47% of America, instead ask him to sit down with just five of them, and keep his mouth shut, and really listen to them tell him who they are.  Homophobia is on the decline because as more and more gay people are out and part of the community the community embraces the individuals, and that feeling of acceptance spreads wider and wider. It is easy to toss off an apology to a faceless group of people, but much harder to deliver a genuine, from the heart apology to just one.