Friday, October 08, 2004

Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus...

I recently read a re-post from one of my favorite columnists, Rex Wockner. The entire article can be viewed by clicking here, but I'll boil it down for you. Rex believes that our (whoever "our" is) enemy is not terrorists, but religion. So, as I do identify as a Christian, even if I am by and large a Christian agnostic, I think he's off base. Here is my letter to him.

Dear Rex--

I've read your columns on Planet Out, and followed you to because I've always admired your ability to cut to the chase and embrace the possibility that the modern gay or lesbian experience is far from a homogeneous one. I appreciate your calling politicians on their stuff. But I'm not sure why you feel religion is such a problem.

We all pretty much have the same reaction when we observe religious fanatics, be they Muslim, or Christian. We probably agree that too much of anything is a problem. And I'm sure we agree that it is dangerous to give up the gift of free will. However, the truly enlightened person of faith can embrace free will and can surrender to faith.

The problem is not the essence of religion, that which makes us better citizens, lovers, friends, parents, but religion once organized. It's the organization that creates problems, not the belief in a force that we can attribute the occasional unexplanaible to.

Yes, religion is the opiate of the masses, but if you have a headache, you take something for the pain. You have the choice to ride it out, and hope that it isn't a symptom of something else, and you can hope that the discomfort doesn't make other undesirable things happen; for example, migraines are often accompanied by nausea, migraine sufferers may lose time from work because of the pain, the sensitivity to light and sound. Is it better to feel the pain and risk being so debilitated to the point of dysfunction? Or is it better to take something for the pain that may help maintain function and possibly eliminate the pain altogether? What religion is supposed to do is give tools to people, tools that may help them face life's tough questions, and perhaps answer them or accept the answer.

"All available evidence suggests we are random beings in a universe with no overriding meaning." That's fine, but I think it's unfair to suggest that everyone who believes in Christ's teachings is stupid. Some of us are, but is it really so stupid to "love your neighbor as you love yourself"? I thought that if we behave in a manner that affirms, admires, respects, and considers others, which is what religion is supposed to teach us to do, that we wouldn't be in such a bad state? Religion teaches us to love an ephemeral, amoebic, invisible being. Scripture suggests that if we can love something we can't see, we should be able to love what we can see -- the people all around us. Religion teaches us that it's okay to be prosperous, but more important to share what we have; feed the hungry, give to charity, forgive unpayable debts to smaller nations. Religion teaches us that there are no ethnic distinctions, no class distinctions, no religious distinctions.

I don't need to sell Christianity to anyone. I am scared to death, even pissed off at so-called Christians who divide along political lines, purposely distorting Christ's teachings to suit them or make them feel comfortable. They've ruined a perfectly good experience. Yes, there are things in the Bible that blow chunks. Yes, there are things in the Bible that are used to subjugate women, encourage racism, and demonize lesbians and gays. There are also things in the Bible that suggest men refrain from cutting their hair or shaving, prohibits the mixing meat and milk, animal husbandry, and wearing cotton and wool. Bible thumpers have made Christians look like jackasses because they read things out of context and use them for their own crappy agendas. I know these clowns exist, and believe me, if I could purge them from Christianity I would. This divisiveness isn't new, and it won't go away anytime soon, but I remain hopeful that the pure essence of Christianity, the actual teachings of Christ that maybe cover less than a dozen pages, will eventually prevail and adherents to just those teachings will stand up and stand out.

"You don't need God or religion to make life make sense (not that they accomplish that goal anyway). You just need to face facts (here we are, we don't know why, it's pretty cool to be here) and get on with enjoying the experience. It doesn't have to mean anything. It doesn't mean anything. It just is." I agree. But religion doesn't take away from life. Nobody needs anything other than food, water, and shelter. We need companionship, but not on the same level. Religion doesn't necessarily make anything mean anything. Sometimes it helps make the experience better. Taking time to be still and acknowledge what may be a great nothingness around us is a tool for coping in a sometimes unmanageable world; an opiate in a painful world.

You don't have to agree, Rex, but take it easy on the Christians with a clue. Don't lump all of us in with the heroin addicts. The fundamentalist junkies are a far cry from those of us who need an occasional Tylenol.


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