A few witches burning gets a little toasty

I’ve been working for over 2 weeks now trying to come up with some sort of intelligent response to the comments written by Catherine on my last post. I don’t want to write a defense of myself, really, nor do I want to dispute her arguments, because I think they’re good ones. I think the reason I’ve had so much trouble coming up with a reasonable response is because I don’t really know how I feel. About what I wrote or about religion in general. Surprisingly enough.

Right after I wrote that last post, I had some time between clients at my practicum, and I picked up a book that was sitting on my office shelf called Gay Spirit (I’m always sort of amused by such titles), and flipped open to a random page. As it happened, I opened the book up to an essay by a gay priest called something like, “Telling a lie for Christ,” all about the relationship between the church and gays. God had been co-opted, he argued, by the haters, who acted as if they owned God and had some special privilege to how God was portrayed and worshipped in our society, and gay people had simply let this happen, thusly cutting themselves off from a rich storehouse of art, philosophy, ritual, community, and spirituality. The church has always had a rocky relationship with gay people, condemning their desires and lives to the fires of hell, while at the same time, many saints were known and obvious homosexuals (not to mention all the priests, bishops, ministers, and nuns who are gay), many of them living in times, places, and eras that didn’t frown so vehemently upon such things as western culture now does. The author also philosophized that much of this hatred of homosexuality in western culture has come about through our own utilitarianism. Everything in our culture must serve a purpose, and be useful in some tangible way, and the idea of homosexuality throws this belief into a tailspin. After all, homosexuals just have sex for the sake of having sex (gasp! no one else does that!), and not for the sole purpose of reproduction. Likewise in our society, art for the sake of art is frowned upon, because really, what could possibly be a bigger waste of time than simply creating art for the sake of enjoying it, or just to marvel at its wonder, beauty and possibility? I’m not sure why else one would bother creating art, actually, unless, of course, it is for the purpose of worshipping Jesus. Interesting theory.

Everything I would like to say about this subject would obviously never be able to fit into a single blog post. And while I think Catherine (full disclosure: she’s my cousin) has some great points, particularly that if my main concern about my own civil rights is a largely governmental one, why would I encourage and support protesting in churches? Well, I suppose my answer to that is that despite “official” separation of church and state, religion still has such a death-grip on politics in this country that until the church releases, government never will. And frankly, I don’t think I’ll ever back down from my love and support of theatrical protest, and I don’t necessarily think the example of the church protest that I wrote about was the wrong thing to do. Maybe the church and me just have some irreconcilable differences and we really should just call it a day. I resent that it is encumbent upon me to do the reconciling, and I won’t do it. Not anytime soon. I have been too hurt and felt too threatened by the church to simply extend the olive branch and smile peacefully. (Besides, theatrical protest can often change the course of events on major social issues.)

When I went to Portland Pride this year, I was shocked at the number of churches that participated in the parade. And not just fringy new-age or Unitarian churches. Methodist and Catholic churches. Marching alongside everyone else, with their rainbow banners and their frumpy middle-aged congregations, smiling and waving at the drag queens and half-naked, glitter-covered party boys. I guess that’s pretty ballsy, even in a city like Portland, and I have to respect and admire it on some level. But it doesn’t preclude me from thinking that they’re still part of the problem. Liberal and loving of the gays or not, you’re still a Catholic church that is engaged in an economic exchange with one of the most hypocritical, hateful, oppressive, and violent organizations in the world. And from that stance, I will not back down or apologize.

A wholesale rejection of god and faith is not conducive to moving forward in a so-called liberal democracy. I understand that. Religion will never go away, and I can acknowledge that religion can do a lot of good in the world and in people’s lives. But I can fully reject the hatred, fear and violence that comes along with evangelicalism and the right-wing in the United States (and elsewhere). Even though I feel deeply inside that there is something besides us out there, and some kind of spiritual world (though I would never be so arrogant as to assume that I know what it is, where it comes from or what it means), I believe that the idea of a benevolent personal god who hears prayers and has a vested interest in our outcomes as humans is ridiculous and ultimately trivializes the massive wonder and majesty of the spiritual world that I do believe exists.

This is my latest epiphany in my thinking about this stuff. It’s fun to think about. I enjoy it. I just wish that so many other people who are religious and claim to have a relationship with “god” enjoyed thinking about it as much as I do. If they did, they probably wouldn’t be filled with such fear and disingenuous certainty and fortitude that makes them so certain I am a cretin and a demon. That is not spirituality, that is politics. And until we reasonably untangle the two things in this country, I don’t know that a reasonable and open dialogue is possible.

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