It seems that some people just know how to make a lasting impression. I suppose you could say they might have been reading a dog-eared copy of "How to make friends and influence people", or might have, if it was available in their local religious book store, with suitable recommendations. In fact, some people will read or believe any old thing, as long as it is sold from such places, preferably with strong recommendations from folks like James Dobson or Erroll Naidoo, and assurances that it won't "corrupt" their minds, faith or threaten their families by actually causing them to think.
Last night I went to church. For those of you who know I am an agnostic, you might well be correct in wondering what I would be doing there. In fact I'm pretty sure I'm wondering what I was doing there. Well, wonder no more.
I took my mom there last night, because of her health and her age and I went in with her because she didn't want to go in alone, which is pretty understandable. I'm pretty sure she thinks she's doing some good by twisting my rubber arm to sit next to her for that hour and a half, although I have to wonder if I will be able to endure yet another session like that any time soon.
Now let me tell you about this church I went to with Mom last night. It's a church I attended for years and years, since I was 8 until recently, when I decided I was an agnostic and didn't really feel like going anymore just to put a pretty face on and flutter my pretty eyelashes at the cute guys or girls I saw there. In fact, this church is possibly the only church I feel comfortable going to, because quite honestly it is the only church I know in my city that doesn't preach judgment and persecution of any particular minority group - especially any I happen to be part of. I could be wrong, but to my knowledge there aren't any others here. In fact some churches in my city openly reject people for being gay or for being trans - and one even goes so far as to fund groups in Uganda that advocate state-sponsored genocide of the Pink Community. Shame on them. What would Jesus do? Or should I ask, who would Jesus kill?
So nevertheless, I went to church with mom last night. I did it for her, you see. What was it about last night that got to me? Was it the fact that I'm agnostic? Nope. Was it the message of the pastor that annoyed me? Nope - he was pretty good, better than the last time as a matter of interest. He's improved a heck of a lot. In fact, he was talking about Christ as one who shared love and was an example of love and tolerance and inclusiveness. he even got a few nods of approval - and one or two chuckles out of me. What then?
Perhaps it was the dude sitting in front of me, who spoke up during the comment session afterwards. He made a speech about Christianity being about the rules in the old testament, about the "fact" that the "sexually immoral" and those who break the law deserve to be judged and punished and burnt in "the lake of fire", about the "Great Commission" and the Christian "right to rule the world". He couldn't answer the challenge about WHO should cast such judgment over others, but launched into a tirade about how much such people deserve to die "for their sins".
Yeah, right on, man - that just made me feel all warm and tingly all over.
At least I wasn't the only one to recognize this guy as a right-wing fanatic and a trouble-maker. He was cut short because the service was already genuinely 15 minutes over time, and he was grandstanding.
I wonder if this chappie, who I have never seen before, sat on his ass looking like he was in the back of the bus all the way through the service - even during the praise and worship session - had the faintest clue what he was talking about, parrot-fashion - or even who was sitting behind him?
You might think remembering and regurgitating scripture parrot-fashion is a good thing - until someone points out the fact that a parrot is a bird-brain.
I strongly resisted the urge to walk up to him at coffee afterwards, to say to him "I'm a bisexual transsexual woman, an agnostic, and I have friends of all faiths and persuasions - what are you going to do about it?" I decided against it, because I was not going to make trouble for an affirming Church that welcomes anyone wanting to hear their message of Christ's love and inclusiveness. I was not going to spoil my evening still further by butting heads with a closed-minded right-wing religious fundamentalist. No, I left that for the Minister, who took the guy under his wing for a nice warm chat, smiling, after which one possible future of Christianity stood around in isolation for a while, on the outside, looking in - before slinking off into the night.
I'm sorry, but the Levitican ideal of a punishing hateful God and a bandana-wearing, AK-47 wielding Christ doesn't sit well with me. I don't see people who advocate murder and violence and oppression as Christ-followers. I don't see people who set themselves up in positions to pass fatal judgment over others while calling themselves Christians and "saved" as honest - or Christians. I am fairly certain that the Christ he was talking about isn't the Christ I grew up knowing, as I'm fairly certain the other folks who were there are too. In fact I'm happy to say they were just as uncomfortable as I. And why shouldn't they be? People who think that way - if you could apply the abstract concept of "thought" to brain-washed responses at all - make anyone who can think for themselves a little twitchy. They're a loaded weapon, just waiting to go off.
Thank God for fair-minded Christ-followers, thank God for loving Christians who aren't walking rule-books who aren't all about conquering the world in the name of some fictitious revolutionary figure who would have them spill the blood of anyone who disagrees with them. Thank God there are still people out there who identify with Christ's message of love, peace and tolerance and can tell it apart from the growing message of hatred, intolerance, world-domination and persecution increasingly being labelled "Christianity", and who can tell the difference.
Thank God I'm an agnostic.