Sunday, November 14, 2010

Driving While Blind

It is ironic in the extreme that there are people out there who are very vocal about their feelings or so-called "moral convictions" on what you or I do in our private lives, who we love, how we choose to express ourselves, about what makes us happy or how we differ from them in any way, shape or form - regardless of whether or not we cause any harm to anyone else or not.

The irony of course lies in the detail that the same folks can't stand the heat when others apply the same heat to them in the same kitchen.

I'm a firm believer in the principle that what you believe is your own business. That is because by implication it also means that what I believe is none of your business. Conversely, what we do out of our beliefs that affects other people - such as either good works or acts of bigotry or terror - are everybody's business.

So where people plan to blow up buildings, or themselves in order to kill and maim other people, because they believe it will "somehow" make a better world - then as far as I'm concerned, that is where these beliefs become my business. If people want to force private businesses to sell their beliefs by threatening them with boycott and closure, then I want to know about it. If people want to force TV and the media to report from a particular bias or to enforce a particular religious view on society, I want to know about it. When people want to force their personal beliefs on government and through government, onto society then we should all be alarmed. What I mean by this, is entrenching the religious beliefs of one group into law so that all people have to abide by them in their daily and private lives. (In case you haven't noticed, all the above has been happening here in SA lately.) Where people are put on the rack for who they happen to have a relationship with, or what gender their partner is (or was), or put on trial for what they believe where it doesn't harm anyone, then what business is it of mine (or yours) to sit in judgment of them? Are you that person? Am I? Have we lived that person's life, walked in their shoes? Have we rolled with the same punches they had to? Are they going to be the ones to hold them at night when they lie there, alone and unhappy, telling them "Thanks to me your life is shit - but it's ok, at least now you can go to heaven"? I didn't think so.

Some of you folks might have noticed I've been a little quiet lately. I have to say it would be nice to admit I've been feeling a little lazy lately - and after all, who should blame me if that were the case? After all, it's nearly year-end again - and for the last 2 years I have posted an article virtually per weekday. It was bound to catch me sooner or later, you could say. Recently I have been facing what is euphemistically called "writer's block", which in my case has mainly been about the realization that after three years, on the topic of GLBTIQ human rights in South Africa and in general - I have already said it all. For the past few months I have been dogged by the feeling that I have been repeating myself. In fact, all someone need do to get the whole picture, is to check all 325 articles on my Blogspot blog.

Now I'm not asking for a pat on the back by telling you this, but while I have been writing these articles, I have also kept the pot on the boil by having a regular day job, playing a role in SA GLAAD, being Director of ECGLA in my home town - a task which required serious commitment because of all the real life meetings and events that crop up, as they do. I also have an elderly mother to care for, who has poor health. Add to that the last year's tenure as a Ward Chairperson - which was a highly fruitless and frustrating experience. It is difficult enough to get a horse to drink when it's at the water - but nigh on impossible when the horse tries its best to throw you when you're still trying to lead it to the damned river.

In the past few years I've been through some pretty rough relationship dynamics too, and I admit I've grown to prefer being single, because quite honestly - that's when nobody can hurt me or use me or abuse me. Getting involved with someone opens me up to a world of hurt. There, I said it. Frank and to the point. Getting involved with someone brings all sorts of dynamic factors into the picture, which could have interesting results and cast different lights and shades on the subject. And anyone who plans on approaching me on the topic of a relationship had better be ready for it.

Color me embarrassed, for one - where people discreetly inform me that my partner is in the parking lot, motherlessly drunk and throwing up. Color me untrusting when different people confide in me on numerous occasions, that my partner has been inviting them to threesomes and foursomes - and I know it's true. Color me betrayed if my partner abuses me either physically or emotionally. And you can color me stupid if I were to stay with such a person or in such a situation. While this all may be juicy gossip for some - or passe' and boring to others, I really don't feel that any of this is anybody's business but my own.

However, I realize that when I enter a political arena, my private life becomes public property, and will have to adapt and act accordingly. I accept that I no longer have private thoughts or a private Facebook page. As it is, I can no longer have an opinion or a "personal rant" on my Facebook status without sparking a net-wide fight four pages long. So I keep it to myself. Let me just conclude this paragraph by saying that if all those straight folks who make bigots out of themselves by hating us for being "different" to them knew how "normal" or like their own relationships ours were - they would immediately lose interest in us and count their own blessings - or get lives of their own down at their local Walmart.

Now, on the subject of personal beliefs again, let me say a few things. I used to consider myself a Christian once, in fact, I was even "born-again" once upon a time. Funny enough, some folks like to insist defensively that if I can say that and say the things I do against fundamentalist and terrorist "Christianity" today, that I never was. Interesting point of view, that. Convenient too. (Isn't that like the Muslim concept that a Muslim who converts to any other faith is declared insane?) I used to be a Christian after all - I never claimed to be a fundamentalist or a terrorist, nor did I ever act like one by trying to justify my actions with a book written two thousand years ago by other people I never met. Hey, I even considered becoming a pastor or minister in my early 20's. How about that? I was so convinced this was my path that I used my "faith" to try and suppress my own nature, my gender issues and my sexuality.

I used my faith to lie to myself, the same way many religious leaders steadfastly lie to their followers every day they stand in front of them telling lies about how God hates anyone. And I was utterly bloody miserable lying to myself, least of all just to keep other people happy by perpetuating the lie about what a nice young man I was. Then I found a compromise when I was forced by my own misery and unhappiness to come out - and experienced all the prejudice, intolerance and hatred at the hands of people who called themselves Christians, and even former friends and associates. So I chose to come out and embrace myself and the truth instead of choosing death. So sue me. Granted, not all of them were as nasty - and granted, many people who call themselves by the name of Christ showed me the love and acceptance of the man who died on that Roman cross - but I have to say that it is a minority who do so.

Today caring, loving Christian churches are withering away, losing support - and laughable, fanatic gatherings of loonies calling themselves "Christians" are growing, with delusional rich folks throwing millions at them and facilitating their insanity. It's hard to believe that the selfless blood-sacrifice of the man Jesus could spawn such a movement that marches to conquer the world and grind the human race beneath its boots. Now I don't care what they believe of course. It's their business if they think gay or trans people are shit or the devil incarnate. Like the KKK, skinheads or the Black Panthers, they all have their own beliefs, and the right to them. Whatever floats their boat. But what they DO out of those beliefs is very much my business if they do harm to other people, specifically me, or those like me.

And many of these "charismatic" churches ARE doing harm to others. How? By sponsoring reactionary right wing churches and religious groups in other countries - specifically in countries where xenophobia (such as homophobia and transphobia) are rampant - and specifically of groups who like them preach hatred and intolerance of gay and trans people, and enforce these views in the political arena by spawning quasi-political parties such as the ACDP, CDA and "Christian this-or-that" groups that follow hateful exclusionary agendas. Countries such as Uganda and Rwanda and Burundi are pretty good examples. All in the name of "doing the Lord's work" and "advancing the Kingdom of God" of course. Because all us folks who don't believe what they believe - or do, but who happen to live a little differently, deserve to die so the world can be a better, more perfect place for them and their beliefs. Right.

Because the world is filled with lies in the name of religion, and they are spread with religious fervor and fundamentalist gusto - and swallowed out of willful ignorance and self-inflicted stupidity. Thinking is just too much damn trouble. God is love they say, but why does the Church act out of hatred and intolerance? If God is love, and the Church is the Body of the Church, then why are so many people driven out of it like a bacteria or virus not deserving of this love and acceptance? If Christ preached inclusiveness, humility and love, then why does the church elevate Christians above others it condemns and preachers hatred against? The truth to me is glaringly obvious. The Church as a whole is of this world, and not of Heaven as we understand it. It is trapped in politics, embroiled in ego and self-glorification and bogged down in generational lies reaching so far back it cannot unravel these without precipitating or hastening its own inevitable demise.

I have said time and again that I no longer see myself as Christian, and have called myself agnostic for some years now. And while I am still going by that label, I have to admit that certain other experiential belief systems are looking more appealing to me. And while I still feel this is nobody's business but my own, I have to say that I marvel at the chutzpah of people who drive around with bumper stickers on their cars, proclaiming "God said it, I believe it, that settles it." Don't they know it's dangerous to drive while blind?


If you would like to know more about Christina Engela and her writing, please feel free to browse her website.

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