I am saddened by the recent string of church burnings in the South. Sadly, it makes me reflect that we need to prepare ourselves for the fact that this is most likely going to get worse before it gets better. And I don’t just mean the burning of black churches. I mean, we’re at a crossroads here in America, and the country’s never been so divided. This is where the older status quo and traditional ways and values clash violently with the more diverse, young, and progressive segment of the population, in a battle for power and domination. One group feels its losing the rights and privileges it’s always known, and that society is becoming more wicked and dissolute as unwelcome outsiders and sinners destroy the fabric of America. The progressive side represents the future of society, and must battle for every inch of ground earned. They say they are just protesting and initiating legislative change to earn the rights the others have enjoyed since this country was founded, and really since the beginning of time. The left insist they are here to capture what is theirs already, and earn the exact same rights as those in power. Time will reveal whether the social progressives were committed enough to social justice to extend that same courtesy to those they unseat from power, or share the bench with. Will they be the bigger party, and treat their foes with the respect they often didn’t always receive themselves? Or will the slave turn around, and be the new master?
We live in two Americas, perhaps like two cojoined siamese twins, who have never lived apart, and don’t know if they can, despite always wishing for it. They are nearly mirror images of each other, and in opposite in nearly every way. When one feeds, the other can’t. When one wants to walk, the other is dragged and injured. When one wants to sleep, the other’s awake. And yet, they share many of the same organs, and effectively couldn’t live without the other. Yet, since they were born, one has been the dominant and aggressive one, while the other has stored up years of resentment, and plans the day he can unseat the other, and take control of his own destiny. If these two souls were separated, they would die. They literally need each other, even though they can hardly agree on anything. Even though they loathe and detest the other. America is just as clumsily tangled up with itself, as red states go blue, and blue states go red, and they all ostensibly become purple. We each have our triumpant strengths, and each have our fatal flaws. Each is good as something the other isn’t. I’m not going to take the time here to praise and assess the virtues and liabilities of the Conservatives and Liberals. It’s probably audacious enough to some of you, that I — a moderate liberal — would even suggest there were strengths in the other party, or anything worthy of praise. But we all know that’s not true. It’s like when you had to play that game where you stood across from another person, and you were forced to look at them, and your teacher told you to find at least one good thing to praise about the other person. And the kid was a bully, so the idea you could find anything was preposterous. But you had to keep looking, and eventually you came across something, and were genuinely suprised. Maybe they had the same kicks as you did. Whatever it was, the exercise was valuable, because it forced you to actually LOOK at the other person. To see them for who they actually were, and not as the grotesque monster you imagined them to be.
If the Left and the Right were to play such a game, we’d have to not only look, but listen. It’s the highest form of respect and the greatest compliment you can give another person…your time and your attention. Just listen. The point is, we are inextricably linked to each other…we have the same government, go to the same schools, sometimes even attend the same houses of worship, we work together, we are neighbors, we are friends, we are family. We have to find better ways to see each other….listen to each other,,,,and find ways we can work together. It’s not going to be easy, because we each have immovable values and dealbreakers that we won’t surrender, and won’t compromise on. But if we stay that committed to not compromising, and selfishly hoarding our demands, we will never meet in the middle. Let’s start by finding that one thing in common, and go from there. But before you even get in the room, you must bring your ears, your eyes, your good faith, your commitment to peace, willingness to compromise, and above all else, RESPECT. And sometimes it just starts with a willingness to look at that other person, and force yourself to see something good that you can relate to. And then when you speak, you might find you have other things in common. This is how negotiation works. It’s not easy. Israel and Palestine have been trying to do this for decades. The problem is, they not only don’t like each other, they despise each other, and most would probably tell you they’d love to watch the other die, and some would even offer to do it themselves. This is personal. This is so intractable and feels very hopeless, because each side refuses to look at the humanity in the other. They refuse to see anyone sitting in front of them but the suicide bomber that killed their sister. Or the IDF soldier that kicked their neighbor’s door down, and dragged out his family in a most dishonorable and inhumane way. One thinks the other treats them like animals, and that’s why they are forced to take such savage measures in order to be heard. The other sees their enemy as animals, and that’s why they do whatever it takes to defend their homes. You can’t negotiate with an animal, so why bother? If you can’t — or refuse to — see the humanity of your foe, the peace talks will have ended before they even began.
Could this ever be America? YES!
We’re not likely to turn into Israel anytime soon, and start blowing ourselves up in the streets of Pittsburgh, or launching bomb attacks into Atlanta. But we have some very deeply held beliefs, particularly when it comes to religion, and the separation of church and state. The Conservatives believe America is, and always has been, a Christian nation. They belief, as we’ve gone on, that America has become damaged by multiculturalism and by granting everyone the vote and other rights, They conclude that we have lost our moral way, and by thumbing our noses at the Bible, we are resolutely walking the straight path to hell and damnation. Or even inviting the Rapture, and End of Days. According to them, public schools should be teaching morality and scripture in the classroom. They fundamentally belief our Founding Fathers were devoted Christians, and that the Constitution proves it. This of course raises questions and arguments about teaching Evolution, sex education, dinosaurs, global warming, removing God from the Pledge of Allegiance and off our coins, school vaccinations, and much more. This religious war takes us out to the streets and governent buildings, and challenges plaques and monuments depicting the Ten Commandments in front of a public courthouse, and the flying of the Confederate flag over state houses, and whitewashing the legacy of whether the Confederate flag is a symbol of hate, or a symbol of pride and Southern heritage. In all honesty, religion is the number one divisive thing separating Americans today, because it informs all their other views about race, immigration, global warming, marriage equality, guns and other civil liberties, war and defending your home, death penalty, prison reform, LGBT rights, sexuality, obscenity, and modesty, divorce, gay adoption, regulating big business, forgiveness and redemption, and many more.
Just in case you had doubts about my objectivity, I am a self proclaimed moderate liberal, who firmly supports all social causes within the party. I would consider myself more of a fiscal conservative, and believe in more accountability, and thins like reasonable and fair welfare reform. I also am a very outspoken critic of fundraising, and believe in campaign finance reform. Despite the fact that I identify as a Liberal, I have many close friends and family who are religious, conservative, or both. I advocated peaceful and respectful dialogue, and am fully committed to teaching Conservatives and the faithful with dignity, compassion, and all the ways we wish to be treated. EVEN if in the past, they didn’t treat us with respect and empathy. To demonstrate how close I am to the Right, I will reveal that my mother and step-father are born-again Pentecostal Evangelicals. He went to Bible School, and became a pastor. They go to a very conservative church, and although I wouldn’t consider it hateful or violent per se, it doesn’t share my values, and it’s no place I’d choose to hang out. They still discuss things in the news, and undoubtedly speak out against them. I’m sure this week has been a sad one for them, but also filled them with indignant rage and renewed their committment to taking marriage back! I don’t go there, because I know myself, and I’d probably embarrass myself and my parents, and I don’t want to do that. That is there place, and I respect that. At my parents’ house, they pretty much have Fox News on just about 24 hours a day. When not Fox, they watch Christian programing with Evangelical pastors doing their thing. They watch good old Hannity, O’Reilly, Greta Van Sustern, and all the rest of those…people. I can’t stand it! And as you’d expect, they typically vote Republican, including Bush twice, and certainly John McCain. So for many liberals, my gruesome confession probably disqualifies me from the party! No wonder I’m advocating peace with the Right…I am one! Yeah, no. Once upon a time when I was much younger, and as hard as it is to believe, much more irrational and immature, I used to get into long and protracted fights with my mother, and we used to go round and round, and I would storm out, or she would, and nothing was ever accomplished. Because she was so committed to her faith and beliefs, and I was so wedded to mine, there was not going to be any way we could agree on anything in common. With the passage of time, I have grown more accepting of other people’s beliefs. That doesn’t mean I have to necessarily like them. It just means that now, I look at my mom, and just as I did with that kid, I look for all the good qualities she possesses. And I’m rewarded, because as many issues I disagree with her adamantly about, there are another ten or twenty we can agree on. For instance, despite being a Conservative, she cares very deeply about the environment, and is very concerned about global warming. I’m not sure how she’s able to still vote Republican then…but,,,,we don’t talk about it. And that’s the key. We don’t yell and scream and storm out anymore, because we realized there was so much more to keep us together, and other stuff to talk about. It’s a lot easier to preach tolerance when you’re talking about the Right having tolerance for us, and for LGBT Americans. But it’s got to go both ways. You have to find a way to tolerate them — even their most hateful views — because that’s what Jesus did….Ghandi did,,, MLK did…..all the great spiritual and cultural leaders. We must aspire to think, speak, and act like them.
I think withholding marriage equality is not only wrong, but it’s unChristian, and yes, bigoted. That’s the very definition of the word. The diffference is, unlike many of my liberal brethren, I am not here to demonize the Right, or shame them, humiliate them, or attack them personally. We have our flaws, and if any party deserves to be called hypocritcal, the Liberals might be it. Many claim to be on the side of Justice, social equality, and tolerance, but then turn right around, and insult, scorn and patronize the intelligence of Conservatives. How are we any better?
I still get real hateful when I hear or read hate speech. I wrote on a conservative friend of mine’s post, after he went off about marriage equality. And I stood up for the left, and held my own. The guy who wrote on the wall directly after me wrote:
‘You sick pervert. How can that be right? Putting your penis in another man’s digestive track. and having sex with a guy stomach, and ass….That’s not Gods work. Its not supposed to go in there. Where do we draw the line? What’s next dogs? Cats? Just animals, or are you gonna have sex with a 12 year old? Or younger? A baby?”
How do you hear or read that, and hope to find any humanity in such a savage and ignorant animal? I quickly dashed off an angry response, matching his anger and hate, and eviscerating his patently absurd logic and insulting his small mind and skinflint heart. It wasn’t hard to pick apart his fallacious vitriol and irrational fears and beliefs. I think I brought up Jesus, and pointed out that he wasn’t acting very Christian. I ended it with HATER! And as I went to post it, I stopped, as my eyes crossed over the word ‘Hater’ and I second guessed the efficacy of the message, but more importantly, I realized that no letter written in haste and anger was ever better than one written thirty minutes later. I was acting from a place of hatred, even as I insulted him for the hate he directed at me. I didn’t end up sending the note. Some times you have to pick your battles, and save it for the ones that matter. The good fight. Honestly, I don’t know if I would have been able to look at him, hear those words, and find that thing we inevitably shared in common. He was so offensive and defiled not only my values, but the unwritten rules of engagement that govern debate and the use of well supported, rational and defendable arguments. His views were repugnant to me, and it was hard to restrain myself from posting. But that was not an argument I could have won, and he knew he was provoking me, and was just asking for a fight. “Be the bigger person.” I have to say to myself. If he had been in the same room with him, I might have wanted to punch. I would consider myself a pacifist these days, but when it comes to injustice and intolerance — especially when worded so cruelly and tauntingly — I sometimes feel my animal nature swell up inside of me. I want to say I hate bigots, but the irony in that should give us all pause. I don’t know that I hate anyone on this planet. That’s a very strong word. I believe in mercy, remorse, forgiveness, and redemption. Those four qualities come together to loosely form my mantra. They are the words that I try and live by. Not because I’m a saint, but because I’m a sinner. I have a done a lot of shameful things, and committed a lot of regreattable mistakes, and made too many enemies to count. And I have lost a lot friends along the way. But I have also gained back several too. And that’s because I appealed to their humanity and expressed my genuine remorse, then they decided to take a chance and let go of the bitter hatred they had for me, opening the door for them to learn to forgive me, and with that forgiveness, my debt was repaid, and I was relieved of guilt and could work on finding better ways to be their friend, and avoiding the kind of behavior that led to the breakup in the first place. This is the cycle of love we should all be initiating, and although it may use vaguely Christian terms, you could practically plug in any religion or non. Secular humanism? Sure! It’s based on the foundation of love and respect, and then built upon with the other terms. I firmly believe this is the only truly effective way to deal with our enemies, and get past the intense and toxic hate we each have in our hearts for barbaric and unrepentent bigots.
But how do you deal with the bigot amongst us? The person you work with? Your dad? Your very own spouse? Firstly, no bigot is ever going to acknowlege they’re a bigot. They’ll even begin sentences with, “Now, I’m no bigot, but these blacks….” and variations thereof. I have found that it’s best not to call them a bigot at all, even if the word is totally appropriate. If you start that way with a stranger, they’ll either punch you, yell at you, or leave the room. None of those possibilites involve sitting at a table and talking. If it’s a friend, you REALLY shouldn’t call them a bigot, bacause you love them, and even if their actions aren’t very loving, let yours be. Deeper into the conversation, you may venture to say, “I just think it’s bigoted for you to….” People seem to be more agreeable to hear it used that way, rather than as a title. When I implied it was going to get a lot worse before it gets better, I was also implying that we won’t see this end in our lifetime. That may sound fatalistic, but it’s really the most realistic assessment. There’s at least a generation or two that has to die off, and through attrition, be replaced by more tolerant and egalitarian people. But to think where we started, and how far we’ve come, just since I was born, it’s incredible. Especially considering the AIDS crisis was raging then, and the slurs and bigotry was tragic, and there were few to stand up and defend the gay community. Few wanted that stigma. Straight America was blaming AIDS on the gays, and had no idea the virus did not discriminate, and would shortly be attacking them. Being gay during the tough and contentious Reagan years was a real liability, and made even harder after the ’70s had been good to the gay community, as American values loosened and the culture became more accepting. Reagan’s administration reversed all that good will, and gays were forced back into the shadows. To think how hostile that decade was to the community, and to consider here we are. 35 years later, and gay marriage is the law of the land. It’s remarkable. Yet the work is not done, and that conversation with your friends and family, must be ongoing, and if they’re as smart and kind as you believe them to be, perhaps they’ll come around. But this is baby steps. Nobody changes over night. That’s why winning the hearts of the youth, as we have, is good, because they’re already more tolerant that we are, and they will teach their children, who will be more tolerant then them. And so on. Hpwever angry we may get at the other side, we must remember: no one is born a bigot. No one is born hating. People have to learn that. And logic would suggest that if they can learn it, they can unlearn it.
And if they don’t?
You can’t change anyone, but you can create conducive conditions for helping someone come to kinder conclusions. Generally, the more ocntact people have with another race or orientation they dislike and distrust, the harder it is for them to deny the other’s humanity and civil rights. If someone’s worth loving, they’re worth fighting for. Christians talk about being ‘saved’ which makes many liberals cringe. In reality, we’re also trying to save them. To save them from themselves, and to save us from them. As much as I respect certain religions and don’t ridicule or make fun of them, I do hold the Bible accountable for being the cause of much of the misery and war inflicted on this world. More people have killed in the name of hate that they learned from the Good Book than any other source. My finger points in the direction of this divisive and powerfully blunt weapon, but carried in the name of God. The Bible is the blueprint or the framework – their Constitution — guiding the direction of the religion, and shaping all dogma. But in all fairness, I claim to blame the Bible, but in truth, I blame the men who are presumptuous enough to feel they can interpret it as God’s authoritative Word. I respect peoples’ right to believe whatever they want to believe, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to offer opinions and constructive criticism. Just as they are not shy about offering it to me. The difference is, my opinions of their faith doesn’t change anything. As much as they like to bitch and moan, they are not losing rights. Teaching scripture in school is a violation of church and state, and violates my child’s right to a secular education without proselytizing. None of us get to bring our faith into the shared public space. Whereas, the stus quo many on the Religious Right have withheld natural and inalienable rights form many minorities, and in this, gays and lesbians. That is not Constitutional. It may be condoned in the Bible, but your Bible has no place in the law. If you want to live in a country governed by religious law, move to Saudi Arabia, or another Middle Eastern country. Gays and lesbians are American citizens, and are protected by the Constitution, and guaranteed the exact same rights as straight couples. They were simply asking for what was rightfully theirs. I don’t care how many times it’s mentioned in your Bible, you can’t legislate love, and deny people of a right everyone else has. Conservatives and people of faith are wrong on this. And I’m not even arguing whether it’s morally wrong. I don’t agree, but I’ll let you have that. It’s legally wrong in the eyes of the law. Gambling is also illegal in the Bible, adultery, killing (death penalty), prostitution, a woman seen talking to another man, a woman menstruating and not exiled while she was unclean, slavery IS legal. Where do we draw the line? Why are these other sins permitted, but gay marriage is the worse crime. Jesus was far harsher on moneylenders and those driven by Avarice, yet the Right continue to serve the pckets of big business, effectively defying Jesus’ words and ignoring his other words about caring for your neighbor and providing relief to the poor. You can’t pick and choose, and punish with the Old Testament because it suits you, while ignoring the unmistakable ring of socialism in the policiies and behavior Jesus wanted spread throughout the world. You can’t spell Christian without Christ, but apparently you can be one without following his teachings.
As Miss Maudie says in To Kill a Mockingbird: “Sometimes the Bible in the hand of one man is worse than a whiskey bottle in another…” I’m not afraid of the Bible per se, I’m afraid of the man wielding it, because I giuarantee, if that man doesn’t like me, he’ll find a passage to condemn me. Word are fluid, and they’re only as good as the person reading and interpreting them. Any passage has the capacity to be used for either good or hate. I’m here to listen and respect the faithful, but I have to also preserve my best interests, and sometimes that means saving myself from the petty tyranny of your Bible, being used to take away rights, spread hate not love, and justify bigotry. The Bible has the capacity for great good, but in the hands of a hypocritical moral crusader — most likely misreading and parsing in such a way that they extract and exalt the parts they can inflict on others and use to wield power and legislate. Meanwhile, they’ve somehow managed to conveniently leave out whole books of the New Testament and Jesus’ words of love and peace and his many sermons against avarice and the pursuit of wealth, attending to the poor, treating others as you would like to be treated, let he who is without sin cast the first stone, and all the other beautiful parables he bestowed upon the world.
Although I left the church by the time I got to high school, I did see all the wonderful things that religion can do, and the invaluable role a church plays in its community. I still have fond memories of Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, or chanting in a large and cavernous synagogue. I also went to Catholic school and three different Catholic churches. I was baptized, received first communion, and even was an altar boy. I suppose I am more tolerant of many Christian’s intolerance, because I grew up a Christian, and know that in my experience, the majority of them are good people — even if misguided and deluded at times. I wasn’t, and am not, willing to give up on a whole half of our country, just because right now they refuse to see the light of tolerance and how that is infinitely more Christian that preaching exclusion and condemnation. It’s not likely I’d ever ‘save’ the man that wrote the vulgar post above, but I can still treat him with respect and dignity. What gives me the most hope and allows me to still maintain close relationships with people of all faiths or no-faiths is that the people I love the most are faithful and I know them to be good people. We all have subversive or unpopular viewpoints and things we should be ashamed of. But you don’t throw out a whole bushel of apples because you found one rotten one in the middle. No matter how ignorant their views might be, we should still try and understand their circumstances.
We on the Left seem to excuse away the violent crime perpetrated by a disproportionately large number of blacks, and even make excuses for welfare abuses, and other questionable behavior in the inner cities. I do this. Because I think there is a direct corollary between a broken and completely underserving school system, high crime neighborhood, single parent household, no male role models, the allure of selling drugs and getting rich, lack of jobs, crumbling infrastructure, and many more things….and CRIME. Again, African Americans aren’t born criminals, because the vast majority are fine upstanding citizens. But even those that do, weren’t born that way. They learned it. From the mean streets of the ghetto. I think African Americans have been shafted in this country, and giving them the vote and other rights on paper, did not erase everything that came before or the grim future they had ahead. Having said ALL THAT, I would argue that many of this country’s worst bigots and grossly ignorant, are in poor, white, rural areas, many which have the same problems as the inner city. And neither has hope at all. I’m not excusing the actions of bigots, but trying to demonstrate that we can’t ask for tolerance, if we’re not ready to give it, and do our best to understand what made them bigots.
Apart from my close relationship with my Christian parents, I have several other religious friends — three of my best friends, in fact. And they are all artists, and very progressive people. Next to my parents, my best is very liberal and forward-thinking, while still being a devout Christian, and the son of an Orthodox Priest. Father Tim’s one of the coolest, most liberal, well-read, and cultured men I’ve ever met! And he also has deep faith. He is an intellectual, and believes in science, but also sees God in every divine thing he comes in contact with. I am still often conflicted about my beliefs. I know that I don’t belief in a wrathful God that would make mistakes, and then punish his creatures on earth for bloodsport. I know I don’t believe the Bible is meant to be read literally. I actually think it’s more powerful as an allegory, as it’s meant to teach and instruct, but not taken for fact. If it’s supposed to have really happened, it’s much harder to defend, and takes away from its moral message. We shouldn’t be thinking about where Noah’s Ark actually is, because it didn’t happen in my opinion. One man and his family construct a boat large enough to hold two of every animal on the planet? How do they even get across oceans? The ship would have to be the size of Texas! No, it’s better as an allegory. A wicked world, unrepentant, but one honest and faithful man, building something with his own two hands, to save his life, and carry him to the promised land. It’s a metaphor. The ship is Noah’s faith, and he symbolically carries the hope and future of the world with him, so he can start civilization again. To be BORN AGAIN. That is far more powerful than getting caught up on the logistical impossibilities of that ever happening Why is it sacrilegious to suggest such a thing? Isn’t it the same thing, and serve the same end? Kids are still moved and engaged by a story that is more than just boring and literal, but represents something bigger than a boat. anywhere.
It’s a remarkable book, one way or another. And a dangerous one. Librarians often try and protect books from being banned, but because they love books, they’ll be the first to admit that books can be seditious, and are often the most dangerous things a person can own. Because its got ideas. If so, the Bible has to have almost more ideas than any other book ever written. But what makes it especiallly dangerous is that those words are supposed to be the divine word of God, so now these commandments are directives, like work orders from God himself. It’s like having a mandate from God to kill homosexuals if that’s what you think it says. Or to stone your wife. Or to banish a woman for a week while she menstruates and is unclean. Not to mention the fact that many of them contradict each other. The most glaring editing problem is the fact that the Old Testament shows us an angry and wrathful God and the New Testament’s protagonist is sort of this hippie guy, who preaches peace and love, and works his way around the countryside, spreading the message of tolerance and acceptance. Personally, I’d much rather follow Jesus around, like a Dead concert, then be forced to run laps by God. I know, I know…they’re supposedly one and the same, along with the Holy Ghost. In the Old Testament, God is vengeful and angry, and smites and punishes people mercilessly. Poor Job. And they’re all these little messed up tasks and tests of faith, like,”If you love me, Abraham, you’ll sacrifice your only son Isaac to me.” And then stops the man at the last minute. Lot saw no such kindness. Those are the kind of hazing initiation rites of passage fraternities have been doing for years. But these are far worse, and would cause serious psychological damage to a young man. The tests God puts his children through would be child abuse today. These moves seem sadistic and unnecessarily cruel, and if this were any book I picked up to read, I don’t know that I’d even get to the New Testament. I’d put it down, and miss out on all the cool Jesus stuff. God really alienates the reader early on, and I’d bet money this was intentional on the writer’s part, in order to instill the fear of God in people. And this is where me and the Bible part ways. Firstly, there’s a lot of the Bible I like, and can get behind, and other parts that are ugly and sow the seeds of hate, and cast innocent people as sinners and pariahs. I can’t say I believe fully, as I identify as Agnostic. I would never say God doesn’t exist, because there is no proof he’s not real. I prefer to think vaguely of a higher power — maybe that’s just my own conscience — but I am compelled and motivated by the words of Jesus, a man who is any could be the son of God, it would be him. As for much of the rest of the Bible…no thanks. If I do believe in a God, it is not an angry, wrathful one. Why would an architect put together a model perfectly, and then such scream, and tear it apart. If God is perfection, he made no mistakes. Including gays and lesbians. And every race, creed, heritage, culture, faith, gender, orientation, etc. We are ALL God’s creatures, and must treat each other with the dignity we each deserve. Each treat the environment as the precious creation it is, rather than our dumping ground and cesspool.
And as we consider global warming and climate change, it must be made clear that over 94% of all scientists agree that these crises actually do exist, and are have catastrophic consequences, if not addressed. That’s nearly 100% of scientists, and not only a majority, but nearly a unanimous opinion shared by all. That does not happen much. And yet, the Right would choose to employ their rogue (and ethically questionable) scientists to distort the facts, and declare it’s all just a scare conspiracy by the Left. What possible gain could be had from trying to save the world? Or if we were faking, what would the end game be there? Haha, it was all a joke. We duped you! This is too serious to ignore, and everyday we stall is a day closer to potential extinction of the species.
But this is a rivalry that has gone on for many decade….centuries, in fact. Scientists are like magicians, who pull rabbits out of hats, and Conservative and the rest of us are humbled and have no idea what it is scientists do. It is one of those professions your stumble into from a job’s wanted ad. These men and women are brilliant, their work is very esoteric and elegant. Too rigorous for our untrained minds. To some extent…that mystery…a job only they can do….it effectve;y makes them some of the most powerful people in our society. They create technology, cure disease, engineer things, and essentially are the engine of commerce and innovation since at least the Industrial Revolution. But this level of tech and science is much more recent….50–60 years. And the rapid rates of development, effectively launching the digital age, is only about 20 years This is an epic showdown, between the scientists, who essentially play God everyday, and create innovation that others simply can’t explain. On the other side, are God’s faithful soldiers, charged with upholding and maintaining the status quo, because they’re working from a playbook over 4,000 years old. And despite the odds against them staying relevant and useful, and about their book being able to address the needs of a 21st Century, they simply respond with ‘faith.’ They are naturally distrustful of each other. One can’t disprove the other. Sure, scientists can talk of the God particle and make huge breakthroughs in quantum physics and make leaps in understanding the Universe better. And yet, they have no smoking gun to disprove God. And likely never will be. Scientists pretend it doesn’t matter, because the burden of proof is on the religious side, yet, they know that’s not entirely true, and the frustration is palpable. They would love to spike the ball in front of the faithful, and have that retribution for so many years of oppression. “This is for Galileo!” Society looks to scientists for answers, the faithful look to God. If many hold scientists accountable if they can’t provide a shred of evidence, the faithful simply get to say “We feel God in the room.” and we are forced to take them at their word. Or not. We can’t prove that they’re wrong. The religious are almost certainly in the win-win position. If they pray and there is a God, they are fulfilling their purpose, but it they pray and there is no God, no one’s the wiser, and they’re still praying to God. And we can’t definitively say their prayers aren’t flying up to Heaven. Scientists must live and die by the scientific method, and test and retest hypotheses. By its very virtue, being a scientist is actually a numbers game, with terrible odds. Scientists ARE wrong MOST of the time. Because that’s how laboratories work. It’s tireless thankless and repetitive work, and it takes a good deal of patience. Yet, no matter how many tests they run or experiments they conduct, most of the time, the scientists will come up empty handed. And it’s so frustrating, because they can rationally discredit God, and point to no valid and uncontested piece of evidence proving the existence of God, yet they can point to dozens, hundreds, thousands of examples that suggest God doesn’t exist. The faithful aren’t hearing it. They have faith, and faith is not a science experiment, it’s the Truth with a capital T.
My friends on the Left and in the arts who are Atheists, have taught me that they are good people, and that they don’t need the Ten Commandments or psalms of Jesus, to know the difference between right and wrong. It’s simple human decency. It’s secular humanism. It’s whatever. Jesus was a great dude, and his words are mostly right. These words have been picked up and reused and reworded by women and men such as St. Paul, Joan of Arc, St. Theresa, Mother Theresa, Ghandi, Martin Luther King, and even our very forward thinking Pope. The most important words in the Bible are the ones all kind, loving, and decent people already know to use. The problem is less in the New Testament, with all the peaceful words of Jesus, but ALL the OTHER words and themes of hate, violence, intolerance, vengeance, justice, punishment, sexism, xenophobia, domestic violence, torture, rape, menstruation, masturbation, procreation, marriage, slavery, sodomy/homosexuality, creation, vs. evolution, attitude towards animals, stewardship/global warming, and more. Rather than embrace and exalt Jesus’ kind and generous words of love, many fundamentalist Christians have latched onto the Bible’s more ugly, hateful, and intolerant messages of hate. The point is, how do you pick up a Book whose newest chapters are nearly 2,000 years old, and its oldest are another 2,000 years before that, and hope to build law and justice, and the blueprint of a Church, based on hundreds of unrelated and contradictory stories written by scores of different writers over the course of four thousand years?
To put it in perspective, here in America, we have the Constitution, which is 228 years old. To us that may sound like a lot, but compared to the Bible, that’s like a drop of rain in Noah’s flood. And yet, in those roughly two centuries, we have found it necessary to amend the document twenty-seven times! That’s actually a good number of times, for a relatively short period of time. And how many times has the Bible been revised, amended, or edited in the last four-thousand years? None. The Constitution was drafted brilliantly, and allowed for changes to be made, and for laws to be revised or thrown out. As we progressed as a society, we learned from the sins of our past and intellectually and socially evolved and have slowly become more inclusive. One of those amendments abolished slavery (still in the Bible), one granted blacks the right to vote (not even considered in the Bible), and still one protected the rights of women and gave them the vote (still oppressed by their husbands and cruelly stoned), And there are 24 more, most expanding civil rights and protecting individuals. Our Constitution was written so expertly, expanding it was not the hardship revising a messy and poorly edited book like the Bible would be. Because The Constitution was fastidiously thought out, and laid out in such a way, that it made revising it, less troublesome. And yet, the U.S. document was the work and craftsmanship of men — brilliant men, but still men. Not God. Why would he deliver a document so unwieldily? Our charter has grown, to open its arms to more people, as its definitions of what it means to be an American expand, and more rights and liberties are conferred. That’s because those of us in a civil society belief a document is only as good as the people it protects and provides for. If we hadn’t added those 27 amendments, we would have been allowing the document to enslave us, and not allow us to make provisions for those who we wanted to invest in our country. A document is living, breathing thing, and must evolve with its people, and be flexible and rigid enough to fit to the size we need it, but strong enough to weather whatever lay ahead. A document that sill advocate stoning and slavery can’t be one that can seriously govern a modern society. In my world, God invented Evolution, and man evolves physically, intellectually, spiritually, and emotionally over many centuries. We simply aren’t the same species we were over 4,000 years ago, and we must not be expected to live by the same rules. We don’t stone women it’s wrong. Those people wouldn’t have had the faintest idea that they were doing anything wrong. Just as the bigots of today can’t see yet, but their prejudices towards gays and their right to marry ARE the same as sexism and slavery, but most have come to accept that those are morally unacceptable. We evolve. They must evolve. Or die. They’re on the wrong side of history.
The Bible is a document with a central protagonist in the book named Jesus Christ, and though we don’t see him at all until the second testament, his presence is felt throughout the book. Unlike the confusing, contradictory, and sometimes hateful messages falsely interpreted by overzealous bigots, the message of Christ is not murky at all, and reads as a crystal clear sea, spread wide into the distance, and inviting you to jump. The books in which he appears are also fairly consistent, and rarely contradict themselves, and then, only in minor ways. Jesus is a character who glows from each page, and is immediately likable. He goes after avarice and greed in the marketplace, turning tables and causing a scene. Imagine that? He stood up to the rich and powerful, and advocated for the common man. When did a Republican last do that? we can all relate to, Jesus, as this identifiable peaceful hippie, who hangs our with 12 dudes, who hang on his every word, and recognize him as the Messiah. But he doesn’t abuse them or torture them, as his father had in the first half. Jesus places his love and trust with them. They become messengers, and help spread his good Word. Rather than accept the invitations of the Pharisees and other rich and corrupt religious orders, Jesus prefers to spend his time tending to fallen women, lepers, the blind, the lame, the hungry, and most of all, the poor. Christ loved the poor most of all, once saying, ‘The meek shall inherit the earth.’ He performed alleged miracles, fed large crowds, walked on water, lived an ascetic life of poverty, often depending on the kindness of strangers, and ultimately Jesus Christ — who had only ever preached love and compassion — was sentenced to death for the crime of being popular and undermining the religion he was born into. Christ died by crucifixion, and interestingly, that became the symbol of the new religion. They chose to honor him, as the Rolling Stones once said “as he had his moment of doubt and pain.’ It was a cruel way to die, but Christians chose that moment, because Christ supposedly died for their sins. After years of C.C.D. class, Catholic school, and being an altar boy, I’m still not sure I fully understand what dying for human’s sins means because if that’s salvation then, and he did all the work for us, why bother living a good life? Why not sin, if Jesus already paid the bill. I know I’m reading that wrong. But it goes to the point that dogma is extremely difficult to understand and teach, and there’s a reason why there are so many denominations of Christianity, and they often look nothing alike. YET, THEY’RE ALL STILL USING THE SAME BIBLE.
Atheists will rightly scoff at the idea of dying for a civilizations sins. Even the word sin is probably not in their vocabulary. But again, I would possibly argue here for symbolism, rather than literal interpretation, but I also know even saying that is sacriligeous. I mean none of this as offense, although I’m certain most Christians stopped reading long ago. Who am I kidding? If anyone started reading this, they likely stopped after the first paragraph. It’s important to point out that the prophetic civil rights leaders we cherish in the Left, were also deeply religious men. Ghandi, Martin Luther King, and Bobby Kennedy were ostensibly seen as saviors to their people, who were going to deliver them from the misery of their lives, and they each preached a message of love, passive resistance, peace, loving your enemy, and a fierce belief in God. We, as liberals can’t identify men like Ghandi, MLK, and RFK as our heroes and the symbolic fathers of social justice and equality, but then completely whitewash them, and divorce them from their faith. Belief in God cannot equate to lack of intellect or ignorance. We have to be better than that. If we’re asking the Right to accept homosexuals getting married (and that’s in direct violation of the Bible), we at least should do them the courtesy of not ridiculing or discrediting their faith. We have to meet somewhere in the middle.
It’s funny that the easiest part of the Bible to understand are the passages about Jesus. I don’t think that’s by accident, but by design. That’s the message in the book that is universal, and even though I am not faithful, it is the one that I can take away from the Bible. It’s hard to argue against Christ’s message of love. And that’s the most contemporary and topical message in the whole book. It’s the one that is timeless, and could be read another 4,000 years from now, and still be understood. Because Jesus is love, just as every great prophet since, and every religious person that lives by these rules, and even every Atheist, who lives a good life, and treats people as he wishes to be treated. Each of those three Civil Rights leaders were also martyred for preaching the Truth and a message of love that included everyone. They were certainly motivated by faith, but it wasn’t this hateful brand of it we often see today. It was the words of Jesus. and some of the only words in there truly worth paying attention to. No civil society can be built on hate, distrust, condemnation, bigotry, racism, sexism, transphobia, homophobia, agism, classism, religious belief, or any other difference that makes us a powerful and diverse egalitarian society. This kind of love doesn’t have to come from Jesus or religion at all, We all have the capacity for it. But it starts with respect, remember, and looking at the other person. And allowing yourself to see them, and see yourself in them. Then find something you share in common. And words will come. What will the words be that you use? Like the Bible, we each have the capacity for great deeds and to share love, or to commit evil deeds and to spread hate. If the book you read spreads anything but love, it cannot be the Word of God, or anything divine worth following. Even when hounded like a dog, and abused at the hands of brutal oppressive whites who saw him as an instigator and race baiter, Dr. Martin Luther King, chose to answer their hate with love, knowing it was the only way., saying: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” I respect your right to believe, and even if you disagree with everything I said, I will fiercely fight for your right to follow your faith. Just know that withholding rights guaranteed by the Constitution is not only bigoted, it is morally abhorrent, and illegal. You can still keep your faith, while opening up your heart. And never forget to ask yourself What Would Jesus Do? I think this world would be a lot safer if more people asked themselves that before they acted.