The Butcher made me watch the first half of Morgan Spurlock’s 30 Days last night. He wanted me to watch the whole thing, but I found it unbearable. It’s not that the show is unbearable; it seems very good.
It’s just that I cannot bear to watch it.
Last night some kid from rural Michigan went off to the Castro District in San Francisco in order to see what life was like in a predominately gay situation. I don’t know if he came to have his head out of his ass or not, because I went to bed.
But I’ve been thinking a lot about the Pastor he went to see. On the one hand, I thought she was tremendous: open, caring, and understanding, even in the face of how repulsing he was with his ingrained hatred of her and his refusal to see that as a problem.
But I’m left with some questions. A couple are Monday morning quarterback-type questions, like why didn’t she ask him if he ate shellfish? Or had given all his money to the poor? In other words, why didn’t she ask him what it said about him that, of all the verses in the Bible to pick and choose to follow, he was picking the ones that gave him an excuse to hate people he was already uncomfortable with? And then, why did his hatred give him the right to take such glee in it?
See, America, this is where you and I part ways, where I stand apart from you, staring at you like I don’t even know who you are. Hate people. Hate them because they’re black or female or gay or Muslim or because they live in the city and you live in the country or visa versa. Hate the Irish because you think they’re drunks. Hate the Mexicans because you think they’re stealing America jobs. Hate away, America, I don’t give a shit.
But what is it in you that goes that extra step? That lets you cross the line from just hating and avoiding people to actively seeking to injure or kill them? People you don’t know, who have never harmed you, what makes you seek them out to hurt them? And why do you delight in it?
Part of it, I think, has to do with the strand of American Protestantism that frames life as a constant war between Good and Evil. Loosely speaking, in Catholicism, the blame is placed squarely on the individual. We are each sinners who must continually make amends for our sinful nature with God. But there’s nothing you can do to escape your sinfulness. You just have to keep fucking up and trying to make it right.
But just as broadly speaking, Protestantism, as it’s generally understood, doesn’t place the sinful nature of humanity on the individual. You are just a pawn in a war against God waged by Satan. You must, then, remain ever vigilant against the powers of Satan and you must actively battle against them, even if these powers come wrapped in things that seem good on the surface.
This, right here, is so fucked up that it’s hard to see at first what the problem is. So let me articulate it another way. I’m not talking about specific Protestant sects. I’m talking about a kind of cultural Protestantism. So, even if you aren’t Protestant, even if you aren’t a Protestant that regularly even thinks about this kind of stuff, this is influencing you.
And the biggest influence this strain of Protestantism has on our culture is this: it tells you that you cannot trust your self. Things you experience as good or loving or pleasant or whole-making or deeply meaningful are not. It links pleasure–all kinds, not just sexual–with evil.
Just think on this, how destructive this is, to be told repeatedly and to have it reinforced culturally that the fact that you enjoy something means that it is evil.
We want to experience pleasurable things. We want to read Harry Potter books and dance with boys who smell all dark and woodsy and look at pictures of naked women and, once we’ve done those things once, we want to do them again.
It’s the easiest thing in the world to understand. If you do something and it feels good and it makes you feel good and it doesn’t hurt you, you will hope to do it again.
But this mindset, that all pleasurable things are temptations from the Devil, means you can’t trust your most basic instincts. Everything you experience as good, you must interpret as bad.
And that fucked-up-ed-ness coupled with the belief that you must be constantly vigilant against and ready to battle forces that might tell you otherwise, I think leads to these situations where people who see other people good and healthy and happy, who otherwise would have no stake in what made those other people good and healthy and happy, feel as if not only is it appropriate for them to act against it, but that they must.
This brings me to my second set of questions for the Pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church. There are so many ways to be holy and to experience sacredness. Why do you stick with Christianity? What is it that you find there that keeps you, even in the face of such outright evil? Why would you continue to be the step-child of that religion?
I don’t mean those questions to be antagonistic. I just truly wonder. I couldn’t do it, just as a woman. I couldn’t continue to be a part of a religion that hated me. More power to you if you can, but I just wonder if it’s worth the effort.