I’ve Never Been As Angry At Christianity As I Am Right Now
It’s not you, Jesus.
I was raised in a Protestant household where churchgoing was just an inescapable part of every Sunday. My lasting impression of the Presbyterian church we attended from the time I can remember hinges mainly on two things: One, it was the place in town where churchgoing Protestants went to see and be seen. The second impression was made in a confirmation class I attended as a teen in which I had the nerve to ask, “How do we know our way is the right way and that all these other doctrines are false? How do we know that cults are cults and that our way isn’t a cult?” It was an achingly sincere question on my part, and one for which I suspect the leaders of the group were simply unprepared. I don’t remember the answer, but what I do remember is that I left the room crying. It certainly hurt my feelings, but that’s not what made me angry at Christianity.
Later, I converted to Catholicism. After so many years of having seen churches tear themselves apart over their ministers or pastors, I wanted a church that was based solely on the Word, and in my opinion, I’d found that in the Catholic church. Ironically, ignorant critics of the Catholic faith call it down as being non-Bible based, when if you attend Mass every day for three years, you will hear every word in the Bible. Old and New Testaments.
I told my parents when I was about 10 that when I grew up I’d either become Catholic or Jewish, and as an adult, I followed through. My church, here where I live, has been unfailingly kind to me, and it is a dream. But I am currently fighting to say grace over a number of my personal beliefs and the Church, most of these issues centering around women’s rights. Though it has been a while since I’ve been to Mass, it’s not anything to do with Catholicism that’s the reason why I’m angry at Christianity.
In fact, when I moved South, to the town that’s home to Bob Jones University, I was shocked to discover that it was a bastion of bizarre beliefs about Catholicism. For example, in 2000, Bob Jones III, the predecessor of the current president, referred to both Catholicism and Mormonism as “cults which call themselves Christian.” I know this brings up an interesting tie-in to my earlier question to the confirmation class teacher, but it brings up an even more interesting question about where this guy gets his history. And this, my friends, is where I started to get angry.
Just so you know, this discrimination is still going on. Recently, a local charity that won’t permit Catholics to volunteer or mentor also refused a local Catholic woman the ability to foster a child, allegedly because “she’s not the right kind of Christian.” This organization does a lot of great work. There are many places for Catholics to volunteer. None of this, in and of itself, is the issue. It’s the small-mindedness of all of this. I was never as angry at Christianity as I was until I moved to the Deep South.
Basically, I went from the frying pan of being a scared little kid who felt deeply ashamed for speaking out in confirmation class to the fire of living right in the belly of the beast of evangelical isolationism — with a few years in between there on the bubble. I certainly didn’t plan to spend the rest of my adult life living here, but that’s the way it has worked out. And maybe that’s for the best, because the combination of this environment, the insanity of this mad season, my age, and having finally done — I think — the last stupid, bad thing I’ll ever do and coming clean about it to all and sundry…all of this has enabled me to find my voice so I can tell you, once and for all, that the judginess of this strain of Christianity, the hypocrisy, it just plain pisses me off.
I’m all for everyone doing their own thing. So I am genuinely, truly happy for the people who practice the Bob Jones version of Christianity that they have found a spiritual practice that resonates with them. What I take issue with is when this spreads over into my life. Evangelical Christianity has its fingers all over the Constitution and all over Congress, like so much kudzu, and it definitely has itself wrapped all around POTUS. In the former instance, I truly believe the Framers would be and likely are rolling around in their graves; in the latter, the hypocrisy evident in embracing a demonstrable liar, cheat, con man, and one who keeps up the charade every day, unrepentently — I could go on — is just beyond me.
But regardless of who’s in office, religion was never intended to be so intrinsically wrapped up in our democracy. Separation of church and state is a cornerstone of the American experiment. Much as it did in the Old Country, a marriage of the two harms the minorities in a society: Those not of the predominant religion, as well as ethnic and racial minorities, and women and children. This is why this separation was written into the articles of our country’s founding in the first place, and yet, thanks to a sleepy electorate of people who won’t get off their asses when the republic is on the line, or thanks to the electoral college, or thanks to the fact that this country isn’t ready for someone with ovaries to be president, or thanks to her emails — whatever your rationale — we’re going through four years where the kudzu gets to more or less silently grow in the background while we cage children and build walls and institute fake tax cuts and impose trade tariffs and generally raise as much ruckus as is possible and those of us out here in ‘Merica hope that we get through this without WWIII or all of our children dying from gun violence in the interim.
Attention smug Christians who say damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead: I hate to tempt your racist, xenophobic, anti-Islamic tendencies, but just for a little thought experiment, let me inform you that a 2018 Pew Research Center study showed that by 2040, Islam could be the second-largest religion in the US. In fact, Islam is the world’s fastest-growing religion, mostly due to the fact that Muslims worldwide have more children than people of other religions. Now, I fully know and embrace my Muslim brothers and sisters as such, and also as members of one of the three major Abrahamic religions. I’m saying that if you’re content to have the majority religion all wrapped up with your government, what happens when the majority religion doesn’t happen to be yours? That, my friends, was the Framers’ point.
Yes, I want POTUS to resign. I don’t want him to be impeached, because then the Right will have a head of steam going into 2020 based on righteous indignation that may be unstoppable. And either way, who do we end up with as the leader of the free world? Mr. Anti-LGBTQ. Mr. I Won’t Have A Business Meeting With A Woman By Myself. And that makes me INCREDIBLY ANGRY.
I don’t know that what I do want is achievable: An American government that has nothing to do with Jesus, but one He would be proud of, and one I can be, too — and so can all the rest of us, of every faith tradition, or none at all.