As a kid I was raised Baptist. At seven, I bought the whole story hook, line and sinker. It sounded great. At death I was promised eternal perfectness -- a world awash with streets paved in gold, eternal life surrounded by those I loved, living in a perfect palace, no need to worry, fret -- no disease, no sickness; you know the drill, you get the idea. But even as a child I saw flaws in that paradigm. I asked mom, "If all the streets are paved with gold, won't gold be... worthless? Then again, won't we get sick of that constant gaudy glare? If money is not the barometer by which society paces us, what will be? What will be the friction that keeps us fighting, striving...living? Mom, won't we all just want to be God? Mom if God so loves -- why hell? If he's the boss why did he have to kill his beloved son? Mommy, it seems to me that he could have just forgiven us with the whole gory cross thing? If Adolf Hitler repented and accepted Jesus Christ as his own personal savior, will he be up there too? Just why does God need a building fund? Shouldn't we be spending all the money on the poor? "Get away kid, you're bothering me."
In all fairness to my congregation, they were a fine group, the backbone of American ideals. I don't recall any of the right-wing rhetoric that so readily spews from pulpits and Pat Robertson et al today. Just three years ago, my childhood church pastor from New Jersey, Rev. Wesley Evans, visited my home. I had arranged a VIP tour of Hollywood for him, his wife, and my aunt and uncle with whom they were traveling. He was a great guy. If all the churches were like my childhood church, I suspect none of today's right wing fodder would have ever infected law or the White House. I still respect that chapel and its congregants, but something tragic has happened to the American church. They have become a pawn in a game of wicked ridiculousness. Power has been sucked up from the church by a tornado of political and animalist hate that has its eye on gay America.
Earlier this month in Ramona California, sixth grader Natalie Jones was censored from giving her a presentation on politician Harvey Milk. She had seen Sean Penn's Academy Award winning performance, which inspired her to share his story with her class. Milk, was of course the first openly gay official to ever be elected to public office in America.
The day before Natalie was to give her presentation to her class (she had gotten a score of 98% on the written report), she was called into the principal's office and told she could not share his story with the class.
To quote the original article written by the ACLU:
When Bonnie Jones spoke with the superintendent about the presentation, he said Natalie couldn't give her presentation because of a district board policy on "Family Life/Sex Education." A few days later, the school sent letters to parents of students in the class, explaining that her presentation would be held during a lunch recess on May 8, and that students could only attend if they had parental permission. "The principal and superintendent grossly misinterpreted school policy. They illegally censored student speech protected by the First Amendment and the California Education Code," said David Blair-Loy, Legal Director of the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties. "Writing or talking about a gay historical figure who advocated for equal rights for LGBT Californians is in no way the same thing as talking about sex, and school officials should not pretend otherwise." The Ramona Unified School District policy on "Family Life/Sex Education" reads in part: "Parents/guardians shall be notified in writing about any instruction in which human reproductive organs and their functions, processes, or sexually transmitted diseases are described, illustrated, or discussed. In addition, before any instruction on family life, human sexuality, AIDS or sexually transmitted diseases is given, the parent/guardian shall be provided with written notice explaining that the instruction will be given..." "Schools that act as if any mention of the existence of gay people is something too controversial or 'sensitive' to discuss are doing a disservice to their students," said Elizabeth Gill, a staff attorney with the ACLU's national LGBT Project. "This school completely overstepped its bounds in trying to silence Natalie Jones by shunting her presentation off to a lunch recess time and misusing a school policy to justify requiring parental permission to see it."
I am tired of all this anti-same-sex silliness. If a superior being disagrees with anyone's lifestyle based upon sexual orientation, let him/her/it deal with the issue after death. I suspect many religious people feel that their God is watching them, and if they don't fight against homosexuals (Pat Robertson called them "self-absorbed hedonists") they too might be damned to hell.
I realized years ago that the first big mistake was allowing churches to broadcast on television. Like Wal-Mart, mega churches have taken money from local communities that used to go to neighborhood churches. They've funneled funds into a few hands that use it in vile ways. Imagine if the money funneled into Prop 8 had gone towards feeding the poor, housing the homeless, and helping the man or woman next-door who has lost his job. My partner and I gave more money to PROP 8 than anyone else (over 1.1 million). We have firmly decided no more. Through our foundation and through our individual giving I would rather give it to the animal shelters, gun buy-back programs, mass transit issues, or more hands-on LGBT issues.
America has run on unwarranted fear for far too long. Our parents and grandparents lived in a world without hand sanitizer; they washed their diapers instead of throwing them away, and only bought homes mortgages if they could afford them. Today I read that we are supposed to paint our roofs white to combat global warming. It seems to me the real answer to environmental issues is birth control, but unlike the "zero population growth" movement of the early seventies, you just can't talk about national birth control today.
I'd never want to go back to the America of yesterday. The "good old days" never really existed. But America survived pretty well on Ivory soap, an errant sneeze in the face, and the letting the two guys who lived together next door alone. God Bless America -- but my God is each one of us.