Subtitled: If my eye offends you, fuck you. It’s mine.
Tomorrow, the religious wrong, while pretending religion has nothing to do with it, will attempt to beat me over the head with their imagined moral authority and their too-real power. Chest-beating Christians will circle around me in a vulturous group, waiting to take the eye they feel they are owed. Not because it’s really owed, but because they feel a sense of entitlement, especially when it comes to black sheep who aren’t members of their flock. Stay tuned for that story.
For now, I want to tell another story about God, who’s often confused with Jesus, even though the two actually had little in common except a disputed paternity claim. The pre-Jesus God was pretty fierce. He razed whole cities in anger, and didn’t even spare the children. He turned a woman into a pillar of salt for merely glancing over her shoulder. He led a man to hold a knife to his toddler’s throat as an act of faith, and then said hey, just kidding, you passed. Not a nice guy, God. Not someone you’d want to invite to your weekend barbeque or cocktail party.
God’s image needed a little softening up, so along came Jesus, a wild story, a bestselling book, and all these years later, millions of crosses and Virgin Mary’s dangle from the walls, necks, and rearview mirrors of the righteous believers. Except many of them are not all that righteous, by definition of the word, tending to take after the almighty God far more than the gentle Jesus they melded him with. Meaning the badly religious are often some of the most wrathful, unforgiving, and punishing people here on Earth. Yet they demand for themselves a level of respect that far eclipses any good they created – if they attempted to create any good at all.
At least God is said to have created life and Earth. The Religious Wrong, on the other hand, have created only monstrously huge institutions to perpetuate the idea that using God as their shield makes them infallible by default. Sinful, but perpetually forgiven, no wrong is too wrong for absolution. Absolved, they are pure, and pure they sin again, and the cycle leaves them, at least in their eyes, exonerated from moral blame or judgment outside of Heaven’s.
The same people will cry “human nature is sinful” when confessing, yet once the Hail Mary’s are given and curtain is pulled back, they are quick to return to their state of imperviousness: Jesus forgives them, even if only through ancient words and stained glass windows, and this forgiveness is far more important than the forgiveness of other people, no matter how badly they’ve hurt them.
The funny thing is – and it becomes funny if you witness it often enough – is how quick the Religious Wrong are to disown each other when the proverbial shit hits the fan. The Christian who beats his wife and kids isn’t really a Christian (even though the bible allows for a little family beating, as long as the victims are women and children). The Muslim who murders isn’t really practicing Islam (despite that whole yarn about martyrdom and 40 virgins).
The first time I consciously processed how reactionary and frightening the Religious Wrong could be, I was in 7th grade, in Mrs. Hand’s class. I casually said “Oh, God” in response to something a classmate said to me when Mrs. Hand flew out of her chair, grabbed me by the arm, and dragged me up to her desk. I had no idea what I had done to provoke the attack, although she kept insisting that I had cussed. My response of “God! No I didn’t!” threw her over the edge, and it was only then that I suspected. I was sent to the principal’s office, where I spent a fruitless half-hour with Mr. Campbell debating the issue of free speech and religion in a public school. Of course, Mr. Campbell won because he held the power. I left school the next year, when the choking, claustrophobic feeling of school became too much to bear.
I had really exited years before, as a third grader who was denied a skip in grades for “failure to conform to the rules of the classroom”. That year, I tested three to five grades above level in every subject, but couldn’t get through the torture of a school day without drifting off, or sneak-reading a book carefully hidden on my lap. Counselors were consulted, tests were taken, and everybody except my 3rd grade teacher thought I should be moved to fifth grade. Mrs. Herron’s reasoning was that such a move would be a “reward for bad behavior”. A cross-wearing Catholic, Mrs. Herron didn’t believe in spoiling a child, even with education, and her rod was to rack me into submission by way of mean-spirited boredom. And I, a child who loved books and learning, grew to hate school. I became a daydreamer and clock watcher, who learned through books on loan from the County library rather than through people.
People were scary to me then, and often still are. Irrationality frightens me, and more so when it’s ensconced in religious mysticism. The structure of an “organized” religion, complete with masses of brethren, allows religion a credibility and standing shared by no other fable or myth. I have to wonder if millions of people believed in Leprechauns, how many monuments would be built, how many laws written, and how many offenses would be taken at those who didn’t believe there was a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
Tomorrow, the religious wrong will pretend that religion has nothing to do with their eye-plucking. They will talk, instead, about offensiveness, mine, of course, because God knows they are pure, blameless, and ultimately absolved – even as they talk crudely of tits and ass, dicks and balls, white trash, Mexicans, and bodily functions. Even as they scream profanity across the aisles, bite each other’s backs, and seek to do real harm to others – they are forgiven.
But let a black sheep make one sarcastic comment . . . and all hell breaks loose.
More to the story tomorrow.