“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive”
I grew up in a fanatical world of Christianity that set me on course to be part of a movement, a culture war, to take the country back for Christ. This meant voting Republican, being anti-LGBTQ, pro-life, pro-war, pro-gun, pro-prayer in schools, anti-evolution, anti-feminist, and anti-science. I want to express that there are so many innocent players in this movement, as they are indoctrinated with this ideology. The innocent believe they are doing the right thing for Jesus, their savior, and feel such responsibility for this country to come back to Christ because to them, the threat of eternal hellfire is very real and not up for any debate whatsoever. What better and unsuspecting people are there to manipulate than those that were primed since children to live under the threat of eternal torture?
The “powers that be” know exactly what they’re doing to get this group on the side of furthering oppression. As we can see it is working here in America. I feel sorry for them. I used to be one, but somehow I was sensitive enough to see inconsistencies with what I learned about Jesus. There seemed to be two very different, very opposite versions…
It was my junior year of high school in my advanced biology class, and we were discussing the AIDS crisis. My teacher asked the class what some solutions could be, to reduce the effects of this epidemic. He was most likely hoping we would say things like; increase scientific research, STD education, or free, accessible condoms. Little did he know he had an arrogant Christian soldier in his class… me. I raised my hand, he called on me, and I said something along the lines of, “We should just put all of the gays on an island, and then they will die off, and there won’t be anymore AIDS.”
This horror actually came out of my mouth.
Also, that same year I wrote an essay in English class about how awful and sinful gays and lesbians were. I read this essay years later and I was saddened beyond words that I had ever written something so wrong and hateful. I shudder to think of my teacher’s reaction when he read my paper. This was the same hippie, liberal teacher who first taught me to think for myself and put important books in our hands like “1984” by George Orwell. I hope he said a prayer for me when he read my essay. I am pretty sure my biology teacher did after my island comment, as he was a great man, a very loving man.
I wasn’t born with hate or bigotry in my heart. I was the bright, adorable, little girl in our tiny, modest, country Baptist church that my grandfather was the pastor of. I was a social butterfly and loved everyone in that building. My mother would laugh when I would often invite the entire congregation over for dessert after Sunday night service, even though we only had two pieces left of the delicious apple crisp or coffee cake that she made. Slowly over the years, however, my inherent love and compassion was chipped away, inadvertently and subtly.
I was taught that there were two sides. Ours and theirs. The “true believers” and the “world”. The world included anyone not subscribing to our sect of Christianity (KJV only, literal truth, no questions allowed). This secular world included Methodists, Catholics, democrats, LGBTQ, Lutherans, Progressive Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, feminists, pretty much everyone else. Everyone was wrong but us, and other churches adhering to our rigid interpretation. I learned that America was a Christian nation, and the secular world was an enemy to America because they wanted to remove Jesus from our country. The secular world was an enemy of Jesus. The only thing to do was convert others, and if we couldn’t, then dismiss them. Be of the world but not in the world.
Constantly, I questioned all of this. I never understood it, and thought it was really silly that there were so many churches in my town but only certain ones were okay. Others weren’t going to heaven? Others were deceiving their flock, and they were headed to hell? Still though, this anti-LGBTQ doctrine had taken hold.
It isn’t surprising to me that this culture war is being fought with such fervency. It isn’t surprising to me that fundamental Christians and evangelical Christians are doubling down in their support of Trump. No matter how destructive his policies are to other human beings, and no matter how immoral his character is, he is still on the side of the religious right working to take back the country for Christ. They truly think they’re doing the right thing.
But it’s their version of Christ.
We need to be concerned at the rise of Christian Fascism. Already we are seeing policies such as the trans military ban, that are one step away from “putting the gays on an island.” The LGBTQ community is being tossed into the limelight as the ultimate sacrifice for this culture war that must be won for Christ, along with black Americans, immigrants, refugees, the poor, women, and the sick. Even the children are being sacrificed for this culture war, as the GOP chose not to renew the low-income health insurance program (CHIP) and is set to expire at the end of this month, leaving 9 million children at risk of losing their insurance.
Those of us that are speaking out, whistle-blowing this damaging movement that we used to be part of, are making them extremely uncomfortable. We are causing distress and discomfort. The only choice they have is to put us on prayer chains, gossip (praying together) and hope that soon we will see the light of their lord and return apologetically like the prodigal son.
This prodigal daughter is not returning. In doing so, I would have to forfeit my first and foremost belief, to love my neighbors as myself, and treat others like I would want to be treated. This is the Gospel I also learned about in this community and from my grandfather. This is the Jesus I also learned about in this community and from my grandfather. I cannot abandon it, nor am I ashamed to speak it. I am thankful I was brought out of that world, only to return to that little girl that loves everyone. But my fate is that I will forever be damned to hell in the light of their lord, yet forever trying to help people that are hurting.
I will suffer for it though.
I will suffer being on prayer chains, and gossip circles.
I will suffer knowing how badly I have hurt the collective by refusing to conform.
I will suffer because it isn’t about me. It isn’t about them, or maybe it is. Who knows how many of the people inside of that building are living with secrecy and unnecessary shame.
It will always be about fighting for, standing up for, and kneeling with, the least of these.