I pulled into Nazareth,
Feelin' 'bout half-past dead,
Just need to find a place,
Where I can lay my head.
"Mister, can you tell me
Where a man might find a bed?"
He just grinned and shook my hand,
"No," was all he said...
- The Band
It is brutally hard to be a Christian in America these days.
Yeah, I said it. It's true.
I'm a Christian. I was born and baptized, and then given First Confession and First Communion wearing my little white suit with the little gold buckles on my little white shoes. I learned the Bible at my grandmother's knee - her way of teaching me to read - and went out into the world thinking do-unto-others-as-you-would-have-them-do-unto-you and that-which-you-do-to-the-least-of-my-brothers-you-do-unto-me was the proper way of things.
In Bible study, I remember being impressed by a specific command from Jesus from Matthew 6:5-6. Not a request, not a suggestion, not a hint, but a flat-out command: "Whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray while standing in synagogues and on street corners so that people can see them. Truly I say to you, they have their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you."
And my Father, who sees in secret, will reward me. Well, thanks a lot, Dad, for rewarding me with this hideous, necrotic 21st century version of Christianity...you know, the version that has little if anything to do with what You tried to tell us in those four friendly books at the beginning of the New Testament. Do Unto Others has been replaced with Do Others In The Throat, and as far as prayer in secret so as not to be a hypocrite, well...have You seen CNN and Fox lately? They're praying all over the place, all the time, around the clock...but for war, death, punishment, and the castigation and flagellation of anyone who dares to, as You said in John 13:34, "Love one another, as I have loved you."
Yup, I'm talking about the "hommasexchulls" among us, the ones deprived of The Light Of American Jesus because of their sinful, sodomic ways. I can quote Exodus and Leviticus at you until your eyes bleed, two books that are wildly popular with this country's curious breed of Jesus-shouter...except Jesus came along to make sure four new books got written, right? The ones with all the loving lessons I learned at my grandmother's knee, right?
Those were the stories I was raised with. Maybe I missed a chapter.
Long-time Truthout readers know that I am a survivor of bullying. Well, it turns out that some of the stars of modern American Christianity have gathered their forces to blunt any state or local push to stop bullying in schools. Some of these festering, pestiferous frauds have even gone so far as to craft a prayer to God, so that He will intercede on their behalf to thwart laws that would keep LGBTQI kids from being harried to such an extreme degree that they commit suicide rather than face another day in the warm bath of American Christianity. Those kids kill themselves all the time nowadays, thanks to the endless and barbaric harassment they endure from Christians...just as Jesus intended?
May God help us to not to "bully" anyone, but to graciously yet urgently speak the truth in love to young people who are hurting themselves with the "LGBT" lifestyle. May believers across America not be "bullied" by our government's efforts to promote harmful and sinful sexual practices among our youth and instead determine to stand courageously against these misguided efforts which can only lead to God's judgment!
My favorite part of that is the way they put "bully" in quotation marks, as if crucifying Matthew Shepard on a fence in Wyoming was only kinda-sorta "bullying," instead of flat-out assault and murder. According to those who crafted that abomination of a prayer, Shepard's killers were just American Christians attempting to save a soul...oh, and the exclamation point after "God's judgment" at the end of that so-called prayer is just a nudge in the...um...proper direction. Direction? I should have said Way.
It is brutally hard to be a Christian in America these days. Some of us Christians take that bit about doing unto the least of us deeply, deeply seriously. Some of us Christians think that it is wrong, sinful, and in fact a brazen form of Apartheid to deny certain Americans the rights enjoyed by other Americans based upon who they love. Mostly, some of us think Christianity in America has gone barking-mad insane.
I am a Christian. I make no apologies for it. I'm not sure if I believe that Jesus turned that water into wine, or if He raised up Lazarus, or even if He rose from the dead. That all sounds like a lot of magic nonsense from two thousand years ago when you think about it, which is why they call it The Mystery of Faith.
But I believe that I am my brother's keeper, that I should worship without bragging about it, that the poor will God-damned-right inherit the Earth, and that what you do to the least of my brothers and sisters, you do unto me. I believe that the first four books of the New Testament are a wonderful blueprint for being a decent person on this planet, and that's what I live by, as best I can.
I am an American Christian, and it is a burden to bear.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to drink some new wine, hang out with a familiar whore, and listen to the dead.