We interrupt our trip through the Pentecostal subcultures for this post about today’s Supreme Court rulings, the entertaining curating through hairstyles will be back next time.
People get ready–for the End (of the Culture Wars) are/is at hand. People do not act on faith alone, as if it had been dropped into their consciousness like some alien pod-like virus that inhabits them and takes them over until their natures disappear (Invasion of the Body Snatchers–the original, though the remake was not bad). Perhaps because for evangelicals and Pentecostals, there is so much at stake in maintaining the more dogmatic, (and often least attractive), aspects of the faith, than admitting that human behavior, instincts, interests, cultural tastes, and desires are also what motivates people of faith. In the case of LGBT issues, and in particular the historic Supreme Court rulings today–it seems that for some of our more dogmatic gatekeepers in the evangelical/Pentecostal world–what has shaken their world probably more than the rapid acceptance that gays and lesbians are people with certain inalienble rights, is well, let’s face it, young folks just don’t buy the BIG SCARE. That what the Supreme Court just did unleashes the seven plagues, (watch out for the falling frogs). The prophets of yet one more doomed apocalyptic epoch are revving up for one more shot at the End. Let there be no doubt though that many people listen to them, and follow their words as prophetic divine utterances–that is what makes the Supreme Court’s rulings on Prop 8 and DOMA so worrisome for those folks–me, I’m not worried.
When I think about the aftermath of the rulings over Prop. 8 and DOMA today, my concern will not be over the inevitable disappointment that will befall conservatives,but over how to deal with the incredible amount of hatred, invective, graceless and merciless behavior that will be used on both sides to load the metaphorical cannons for decades of ongoing cultural warfare–and how eventually, people will stop fighting. Why? because we will have grown weary of fighting. we will finally grow tired of the hyperbolic conspiratorial screeds from people who claim a particular (non) or religious agenda and have the temerity to suggest that the rest of us have no choice but to follow. For some of us on the religious side, we are pacifists in the culture war, conscientious objectors who refuse to fight for what amounts to a religious nationalism that has captured much of American evangelical/Pentecostal life. I ain’t gonna study war no more–because of Isaac.
Isaac gave me my first Red-Letter bible. We worked our way through grad school by stacking books and spending countless days reading through library materials that we should have been putting away. One day a person brought in a few boxes full of books to donate to the library. Isaac proceeded to sift through them and he handed me a leather-bound bible with disgust on his face. “Here, you may want this, I don’t need it.” I took it, knowing that Isaac was a secular Jew and was not the least bit interested in any discussions of faith. “You can use it, or you can give it to one of your friends who wants to kill me.” I recall telling him that he was talking crazy, I had no desire to kill him–you see Isaac was also gay.
Isaac had undergone aversion shock therapy at the hands of an unscrupulous “doctor” at the behest of his humiliated father, who could not bear the idea that his son was a “fag” and would stain the family name. As I came to find out, that name, was nearly wiped out in the Holocaust, where as Isaac told me, all of his mother’s relatives from Poland were killed, and his father’s side had only survived by hiding out long enough in the forests of Eastern Europe.
“Your people, your Falwell’s your Robertson’s, they want to kill me, they want to put people like me away.” Then he told me about the shock therapy, the endless counseling, the masochistic quackery that his father subjected him too–until he left home for good to go to college. Isaac smiled nervously and said he was sorry for the outburst, we were friends, “I know you won’t do that, you seem okay.” We made plans for lunch later that week and never brought that incident up again.
Sometimes such stark self-revelation is supposed to shock you into reality–a point of clarity where you see where all the rhetoric and the untamed tongues lead to the scars on a young man’s body so that he never forgets that he is hated, he is a mistake, surviving outside of creation’s graces. Isaac taught me that day that when you teach children they are useless mistakes, you teach your children to go to war. If left to their own shattered worlds, some of these kids grow up believing that anyone who claims to have faith is capable of evil in that name. I made a decision that day to make sure I would have no part of whatever hatred consumed Isaac’s father. Isaac remains convinced that everyone, especially those with a “religious” agenda, were steps away from hooking him up to the current again.
Cultivating these strings of acquaintances, friendships, and relationships that comprise our interactions, are how we demonstrate that we are followers of the Way–they have to be graceful and merciful. For some reason, in this coarse era, there is little of that, and alot of pride in our certainties. If we buy into that rhetorical sinkhole, we will find that we don’t care who we hurt, we refuse to listen, and we make it easier for Isaac to suffer silently. We do not live in the abstractions of dichotomous thinking–we do not subject people to cruel and unjust taunts, we do not subject people with whom we disagree and even dislike to the merciless rants and agendas of politicians, priests or pastors. Or do we?
Isaac, I not only seem okay, I am okay and so are you. We are all going to be all right. We should take a look at Pope Francis’ astounding footwashing of women, Roma, and Muslim youth in an Italian juvenile hall–and how that one act of service and humility needs to be emulated. To wash the feet of the historically despised outcasts–the scapegoats–“the banished children of Eve,” that took some guts, some grace, and as our faith communities come to terms with the reality of a new world they don’t recognize and have grown to fear, maybe on of us will be inspired by Pope Francis–and serve those who are disliked, taunted and driven from their families and friends–especially those in our faith communities, maybe like Exodus International, we will admit that it didn’t work. Ministry that hurts people is not ministry–it’s politics wrapped in righteousness. I know it sounds trite, but the Good News is that it got better today.