They’re like Voldemort.
Or perhaps I should say, “he who must not be named.’ Because really, naming them gives them power.
They are people who show up at a soldier’s funeral to spew hate rhetoric. They are people who move in when there is tremendous grief; and sometimes, like dementors, they are also drawn to celebration. They make hideous signs, and they make the news.
They are pastors who teach their youth that a little bit of harrassment might be a good ministry to the gay kids. They are politicians who say that rape is maybe sometimes ok.
They are so-called religous leaders who wait for a natural disaster to befall the country, and find a way of blaming it on large groups of people–people who are ‘other’ in some way, and have somehow incurred God’s wrath on the world.
It is the task of the faithful to seek the Holy in the midst of tragedy, and to try and draw some order out of the chaos. But for way too many people, it turns into a blame game–or rather, a really great opportunity to publicly, vocally condemn a group that has been sort of bugging them anyway. “Let’s blame the feminists for hurricane Katrina. Let’s blame the gay people for the rising gas prices (or the next hurricane). Let’s pin global warming on Muslims. Oh wait….we don’t believe in global warming. These hurricanes are caused by the gays. And the feminists. Actually, the gay feminists. So let’s blame Rachel Maddow for EVERYTHING ever.”
Disturbing social commentary, yes. But what’s more–it is bad theology. Because really, when you explain a natural disaster as God’s wrath on some group of people, you are not blaming that group of people. You are blaming God. And that God–the one that has to use force, and powers of destruction, and epic displays of chaos–that God is a big bully.
I wrote last week about that politician who said, in a very convoluted way, that rape is sometimes the will of God. What i said about that guy applies here as well (we’re not going to say his name. You know, the Dark Lord and all…): These public figures give us a public glimpse of their private faith. Their comments point to a god that is vengeful, wrathful, and needs to use extreme violence in order to reach us. That image of God tells us a great deal about how they would lead, if given the chance.
Perhaps they’ve never heard of the still, small voice that spoke to Elijah on the mountaintop. Or the God that promised not to destroy the earth with flood again. Or the Jesus who performed extraordinary signs and wonders, but never once–never, ever once–used his mighty power to hurt or destroy.
Jesus was for life. Big time. Jesus worked in everyday mediums, like food, water, and mobility, to restore people. Jesus worked in subtle and not so subtle ways to bring the lost and broken BACK into community, not to push them further away. Jesus conquered death itself, to remind us that ours is a God of life and peace–not one of chaos and destruction.
A bully is a bully is a bully…and the worst kind comes armed with a Bible. What do you do with bullies? Ignore them, if possible. Failing that, you sure don’t interview them on tv. You sure don’t keep calling them ‘church, or ‘pastor,’ or ‘religious leader.’ You don’t say their name at all. Instead, you speak the name of God–God of the still, small voice; God of the rainbow and dove; God of the empty tomb.
In case i need to spell it out–gay people don’t cause hurricanes. Feminists don’t cause hurricanes. Neither Democrats nor Republicans cause hurricanes. Not a one of us is that powerful, and if we ever think we are, we’ve forgotten who God is. And we’ve forgotten whose we are.
There are all kinds of bullies out there, armed with scripture and a certainty of their right-ness. Some of them are working to keep gay people on the periphery of community; some are working to make us fear our Muslim neighbors; some of them are working to keep women ‘in their place.’
Some of these people have an audience of 1 or 20. Some of them get quoted on CNN. And some of them are preaching to congregations in the thousands, every single Sunday. But they are out there, and they are gathering strength, and every time we name them and put their faces on tv, we are contributing to their fame, their noteriety, and yes, their power.
How do we engage the crazy without giving it authority? I don’t know… All i know is, if we truly remember whose we are, and how we are called to live, we will never find ourselves using the Bible as a weapon; we will never find ourselves in fear of the stranger; we will never, ever find ourselves invoking God’s name as the source of a tragedy; and we will rarely find ourselves on the national news.
“The Lord said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.’
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’
with thanks to my friend Lara, who first pointed out the Dementor-like qualities of a certain organization–drawn to grief, and drawn to celebration, ready to suck the life out of everything. that has stuck with me for the longest time!