I have a tendency to ascribe a sense of intellectual curiosity, introspection or awareness about the world around them to people who, it often turns out, simply do not possess any of these qualities. It’s so strange to me because I’m curious about nearly everything. And we live in a time when information is in such abundance that our only constraint is time. I feel like I could live for a million years and never once get bored, never once want my mind to stop expanding and evolving.
The more people I encounter, the more I realize this isn’t true for everyone. I try to understand why. Change is scary, life is hard enough as it is without trying to consider it from other perspectives. It’s easy to get exhausted by the constant stream of often conflicting information we’re all bombarded with. And sometimes you just want your comfy little cave, your niche in the world that you’ve painstakingly carved out.
This is a phenomenon I encounter frequently. There is a whole separate publishing industry that flourishes on providing Christian-approved books that aim to be whitewashed of anything that might challenge or upset a certain viewpoint of the world. I listened to a large group of ladies congratulating themselves on only reading these types of books, lest secular views somehow seep into their unconscious minds and lure them from the path of God. They were so happy to be keeping their minds clean and holy. For me, this practice seems like it would produce minds that are a different type of holey. I also feel like, if your religion can’t withstand even the barest opposing thought or questioning, it might not have the strongest foundation to begin with. But hey, I fully support their right to live in spotless ignorance. I can see the appeal if I kind of squint and hold my head sideways.
And then there are places like my mom’s church. Now, my mom attends a Mennonite church deep in Appalachia that probably hasn’t changed much in the last hundred years. In fact, it’s changed so little that it has almost become extinct. Through a combination of a crooked pastor and an aging congregation who are totally adverse to change, the church currently has something like 20 members– and maybe eight or ten of them are ever there on a given Sunday.
The deal with Mennonite churches is that they answer to a larger national council, yet each is run independently and is free to make choices on certain issues. Gay marriage, for instance. I found it sort of hilarious that this church, where the young’uns are in their 50s and 60s, and the rest..well, lets just say they could personally be meeting Jesus any day now…anyway, this church decided they needed to clear the air and vote on the gays. It was a hotly debated issue! What if a gay wanted to join the church? What if they wanted to be married? Could the wedding be held there? Whatever shall we do?
The outcome was even more funny, in a sick sad way. They decided, after some very tense discussion, that they didn’t approve of the gays, BUT Jesus told us to love everyone. So if a gay wanted to be a member, they’d allow it and pray for him or her. However, this marriage thing was going too far and would not be happening.
Now, the sick sad part is how beamingly proud they all were of themselves. They were being so open mind and loving just like the Lord hisself done commanded. Except they weren’t at all.
As I tried to explain to my mom when she told me about the vote and discussions, all they’d done is basically say “hey yeah we’ll begrudgingly let you in and accept your offerings, but we don’t think of you as an equal human being who deserves the same rights that we have. You’re like our pet monkey we can display but we will smack you down if you try to get too uppity.” Further, the fact that this church of all churches, where the chances of any gay person actually coming across it, let alone thinking “Oh hey now THIS is the place I wanna join” are so infinitesimally small as to be non-existent—that THIS church felt the need to vote on the gay issue really only shows their fear. The scariest thing in the world they can think of is some homo showing up and..I don’t know what. Singing showtunes? Bedazzling the offering bowl?
They are all nice people. My mom wouldn’t kill a spider let alone shove a gay person in an oven. For the most part, they don’t even understand how their bigotry is horrific and damaging, not just to gays but to kids who might be perceived as not meeting certain gender standards, and even to themselves because they’re closing their hearts and minds to the beautiful, messy tangled reality of this world. They’re living cloistered, much like the whitewashed book readers, in a realm that only confirms their own biases and never allows them to think critically.
And you know what? As much as I dislike it, I also support their right to live this way, to believe that gays are an abomination, to think that anyone who refuses to fit into their mold is responsible for destroying the very fabric of their godly universe. It’s cool, I don’t really care.
The part where I start to care very much is when they decide that it is their personal mission to save all these sinners and bring them to the true light of God’s glory. And weirdly enough, it’s almost always conservatives who feel they must do this- the same people who want the government to stay out of their pockets, their gun cabinets and their liquor stills somehow have no problem inviting the same government into our bedrooms and always, always into women’s vaginas.
The other day a woman posted: “If your religion requires you to hate someone, you need a new religion.”
Another lady immediately replied: “Problem is these days, if you disagree with someone or with what they are doing, or try to tell them they are doing something wrong, they equate it with hate, which it is not. It is love to let someone know they need saving.”
And the first woman chimed in with agreement, lamenting the persecution of Christians and how they just aren’t ever allowed to speak their minds.
After my head finished spinning around like the girl in the Exorcist, you know I had a lot to say about that:
Try to look at it from the opposite perspective. Assume you’re a woman married to a man, you deeply love him, you feel like you’re a good person who does good things and there’s nothing dirty or wrong about your love. There was never a point when you thought to yourself “Hey, I choose to be heterosexual!” You just are.
But say you live in a country where roughly 75% of the people identify as a religion that vilifies your relationship– often while not really following the other tenets of their own religion. They feel the need to state vocally and often that you’re going to burn in eternal hell if you don’t immediately stop being with your husband. Would that feel like love to you, no matter how gently they stated it?
Now picture the 900th time one of these people approached you with their “love”. Would you be super stoked to still listen to the message they’re just quivering to deliver? Picture when they try to pass laws or uphold antiquated ones governing what you two can do together alone in your bedroom. Imagine seeing young kids bullied into killing themselves because their peers have been taught by their loving parents that heterosexuals are gross in the eyes of God.
Would you feel my need to save you supercedes your right to just live your life in peace?
Of course, neither of them replied to that. Why would they? That’s not how things are! And why would they make themselves think uncomfortable thoughts when they’re just over there loving people and trying to help the unbelievers and infidels get to Heaven.
Me, I’ve long since decided that if all the people I’ve seen and met who claim they’ve got a golden ticket to the pearly gates are actually getting in, I will take a first class ticket to anywhere but there.