In my younger days I remember listening to a radio show with my mother. It featured a couple of self professed rednecks named Rick Burgess and Bill “Bubba” Bussey. The show went by the simple moniker Rick and Bubba. Now if that isn’t beating an Alabama stereotype into the ground I don’t know what is. This was long before the days of the Blue Collar Comedy tour and the atrocious act that is Larry the Cable Guy.
In the early days they were quite funny with their self deprecating humor and harmless skits that revealed an underlying intelligence to their work. One act was a contest where Bill “Bubba” Bussey would quote Shakespeare with his ridiculous accent and people had to guess the play or if it was a made up quote otherwise known as “homebrew”. Before the days of Google this was much more difficult to determine. In the years since they have gained syndication and a large following throughout the United States. They’ve published many books and recordings as well. It created a very lucrative livelihood for them.
There was a obvious change, however, after September 11th, 2001. The subject matter shifted to editorializing from a conservative viewpoint dripping with the themes of fundamentalist Christianity. I haven’t listened to them in years but the times I’ve caught their show I’ve noticed it’s more akin to a Fox News program than the humorous morning radio show they once were. In fact they’ve appeared on various Fox News shows. In the state of Alabama they’ve become icons and who often chime in on current events with an intention of speaking from the pulpit. Rick and Bubba have offered up their opinions on everything from the legalization of gay marriage to constantly attacking President Obama to the point of even questioning if he is a real Christian.
In the past few days we have learned that Rick’s daughter, Brandi, is bisexual. As you can imagine this has caused quite a stir in Alabama. Rick took it upon himself to comment on the issue on his radio show. His comments aren’t surprising but, as a father myself, they bother me tremendously. I cannot understand how someone’s faith would override their love for their child. I know how it happens. I just don’t understand it.
In the video Rick continually talks about how much he loves his daughter. It feels as if he is trying to convince himself as much as anyone else.
Brandi Burgess offered up her own eloquent response . She still considers herself a Christian but disagrees with her father on a number of things. Her words, unlike her father’s, are filled with love and hope. There is a maturity about her words that tell me her parents at least did a few things right. Still, she shows much more wisdom and grace than of her father who has essentially disowned her saying, “You’re nothing.”
Long ago Rick Burgess divorced his wife, Brandi’s mother. He remarried a woman named Sherri. When her step-mother commented on the radio show about the fact Brandi now lives as a bisexual woman Sherri said “I don’t care if she’s happy. I don’t care if she’s healthy. I just care about her eternal salvation.” I have spent my entire life surrounded by this way of thinking. People are willing to let their families be pulled apart by a religion that is, according to them, one of love. They cherry pick the parts of the bible they agree with and interpret it as literal.
In above video of the radio show concerning his daughter Rick Burgess mentions the bible verses from Matthew 10:34-36. The New International Translation reads “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. A man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.” These verses are often interpreted very differently but according to the radio show Rick Burgess takes it to mean that if it comes down to your family or Jesus you must always choose Jesus. There are many reasons I left the church but this is one of them. I refuse to worship a god that would pit me against my own family.On top of that Rick Burgess is the type of Christian who pushed me away as well. His own shortcomings are easily dismissed by Christians because he asked for forgiveness and, while his book says judge not lest ye be judged, he sits upon his self created moral high ground and attacks his own daughter for what he perceives to be sin. Nevermind he prides himself as a “one of the two sexiest fat men alive” while ignoring what the bible says about gluttony. He also conveniently ignores what the bible says about divorce and remarrying after a divorce. He once did a commercial advertising for the restaurant, Red Lobster. It’s amazing to me how people can ignore the verses like those that call eating shellfish an abomination and then zero in on the ones about homosexuality. Hypocrisy can be quite off putting.
I’ve told many of my Christian friends I believe this is why millennials are leaving the church in mass numbers. Millennials see their friends only wanting to be happy and suffering as a result of the treatment of their family members. Their friends are living perfectly normal lives and by any measure are good and decent people. Their parents tell them god is love but then use the bible to excuse their own bigotry. I believe millennials are some of the most informed and thoughtful people in the United States. Blind faith isn’t good enough and they require proof. They are rejecting a religion that leads to people being hurt or people hurting themselves.
In Brandi Burgess’s post she touches on this saying “So now I am writing to the young women who feel like they don’t belong in their bodies, to the boys who want to kiss boys, and those on the spectrum in between: Perhaps you have heard my father on the radio and it makes you want to go to sleep and never wake up. I love you. Your worth is untouchable. Find a good friend. Invest in therapy. Dance in the middle of the night and hold yourself accountable to the life you’ve always wanted. At the root of this hate speech is fear. This is not your fear to carry. Release it.”
I commend the courage of Brandi Burgess in standing up for what she believes to be the true version of love and for standing up for others. I cannot imagine the struggle she went through considering her childhood and the fact her father is a well known conservative Christian. Her voice is one of love and reconciliation. Her father’s is one of hate and divisiveness whether he realizes it or not.
Brandi now lives in Philadelphia in a safe community. I hate seeing like minded people forced out of my home state. I’m an activist and we have a healthy community in Alabama but people leave everyday because of how they are treated in the state. It is unfortunate but I am happy to say that I am meeting more and more nonreligious young people every year that goes by. My hope is that liberal Christians like Brandi Burgess will one day be the rule rather than the exception when it comes to religion back home. I have no problem with religion. I have a problem with it being used to harm others by men and women like Rick Burgess.
It appears as if people like that are a dying breed- studies show that more and more people are identifying as nonreligious every year- but it’s a damn shame they’ll do a lot of damage to their families and children beforehand. The good thing is people like Brandi Burgess are out there speaking their mind as well and mitigating the damage done. I am thankful for her courage in speaking out and for doing a difficult thing in taking her father on while still holding out hope for reconciliation. Her actions, while not easy, are much needed in this day and age.