The New Christianity of Hatred and Exclusion
My parents were both converts to Catholicism. My father had been raised Methodist and my mother Episcopalian. All three of us were baptized shortly before my first birthday, and I and my three siblings were raised Catholic.
Even though, as an adult, I had some serious questions about matters such as birth control, celibacy for priests and nuns, and a larger role for women in the church, I practiced my faith and pushed the doubts down. The breaking point for me came when I attended a monthly family event, which began with a potluck dinner. Afterward we broke up into groups, with children going for religious instruction and adults meeting separately for discussion. Sometimes we had a speaker, and sometimes not, but on this particular evening, we were discussing some catastrophic event that had occurred and how we could help.
I don’t remember how the subject came up, but discussion broke out about AIDS and its causes. This was in the late 80s when much was still unknown about the subject. I remember listening in horror when a number of these people, whom I had considered to be “good Christians”, began to air their belief that AIDS was God’s punishment, visited on those evil and immoral homosexuals. Our group included a nun of whom I was very fond, and I expected her to inject a note of sanity and actual Christianity into the discussion, but she remained mute. I left that meeting with a sick feeling. I could hardly believe what I had heard and it left me with much unpalatable food for thought.
Soon thereafter, we moved to a different city and parish. My teenage son began to show heavy resistance to attending church, but it wasn’t until a year or two later that he told me that he was gay. Now my simmering discontent with my religion and its large contingent of haters had a focus, and it was at this point that I decided, since there was apparently “no room in the inn” for my son, that it was not the place for me either. Organized religion and I came to a parting of the ways, although I still have an active and happy spiritual life.
Now, some twenty years down the road, I look at the new “Christianity” which has evolved, and I think that Christ must find very little in it with which to identify. Most offensive of all is the Westboro Baptist Church, whose website calls itself godhatesfags.com. Just glancing at the site and its vile contents made me want to take a hot shower. It is filled with breathtakingly, virulent hatred. Under the heading of “Latest Press Releases” are entries such as: “Thank God for 2 more dead troops. We are praying for 2,000 more. We will picket their funerals in their home towns in respectful and lawful proximity thereto. Here is a Roster of the Damned:” and they name two dead soldiers. I still don’t understand the connection between homosexuals and dead soldiers, but the group brags that they have staged 49,959 pickets to date.
Under the heading, “Meaning of “God Hates Fags”, it says that – “though elliptical – [it] is a profound theological statement, which the world needs to hear more than it needs oxygen, water and bread.” I’ll not sully your minds with the filth that is spewed after that. In fact, I wish I could forget that I saw it.
And then we have the politicians who talk about family values while trying to destroy social programs and to create a whole new class of the poor to whom they can feel superior. Some of them have the nerve to say that, when they were younger, their families received assistance, but they don’t want anyone else to benefit from the programs which helped them. Our country was founded on the principle of religious freedom, but now those freedoms are not to be extended to peoples of other faiths?
Even when Paul Ryan was reprimanded by the “nuns on the bus”, he continued to go after those “takers”, of whom he used to be one himself. What hypocrisy! What utter gall! And all the while he calls himself a good Christian. Perhaps he doesn’t remember that when Jesus was here he came to bring love and to include everyone in his church. In fact, if you follow the two rules he gave us – love God; love your neighbor – there would be no need for any other rules, because these two cover every person and situation.
If you only read the negative news, you’d be forced to believe that we have become a nation of people who have “hardened their hearts” to the plight of their neighbors. I choose to believe that there are many more of us who have taken the teachings of Christ to heart – they just don’t get so much press, because “good news doesn’t sell papers” or get as many hits on the internet.
If we want things to get better, we should elect a better class of politician to office. We should also try to listen to our better angels, when all around us are those who would encourage us toward hatefulness, selfishness and the exclusion of those who are “different” and therefore not to be trusted.
We should speak out when we know something is wrong, as I should have done at that long-ago meeting. I was complicit by my silence and it is one of my greatest regrets that I didn’t speak up. But I can’t be silent any more. Things have gone too far and we must begin to be the change we want to see.
Tags: AIDS, attending church, breaking point, catastrophic event, catholicism, celibacy, Christ, Christianity, contingent, converts, different city, discontent, first birthday, food for thought, haters, homosexuality, homosexuals, lord hear our prayer, Paul Ryan, priests and nuns, religious instruction, sanity, Spirituality, teenage son, Westboro Baptist Church, women in the church