Thursday, May 12, 2005

Freedom of AND FROM Religion....Did the founding fathers forget something?

I was mean and ugly today. That is not something that I am proud to say, but I was. I was downright hateful to a little old lady, but I will say, she brought it on herself. I don’t like to be mean. I hate confrontation and I feel badly for hours afterwards. Even though I had set my boundaries, this woman was intent to tread all over them and I had to speak my mind. I hope I can forgive myself in time. I don't really care if she forgives me or not. She has no regard for my needs and that is apparent.

During the Christian High Holy days between Christmas and Easter, when organized religions typically have their "Rush" period, I had visitors at my door one day when I was trying to nap. The ringing of the doorbell roused my dogs which usually takes a good five to ten minutes to quell even if no one is ultimately there by the time I go to greet them. I put on clothes and went to the door to discover a couple of elderly women who were "toting and quoting". They started out with a reference to "the End Days", something that I see fundamentalists from all religions going after with the zeal of a child opening a box of candy. The fact that their quest for annihilation may bring on nuclear holocaust and the deaths of millions of otherwise peace-loving people is not an issue to them. They see stars in their crown for provoking anyone who isn’t of their faith, and if they blow us all up in the process, well, then, tough. They will have their Armageddon and their King will have returned. So what if their bits are settling onto the farmlands and waters of the world and contaminating the soil for everyone who isn’t in the blast zone?

Since they had started out on that particular topic, I was not willing to engage them any further. I told them then that I see their ramblings about the End Days as a type of self-fulfilling prophecy and that I want no part of it. In fact, I said, I am a gay man, and the churches in this country are going all out right now to deny me my civil rights. (See the most recent news about East Waynesville Baptist Church and the ties between the fundamentalist pulpit and the election of George W. Bush.) I then went on to say, as politely as I could, that I am not a Christian per se, that I am, instead very spiritual, and that I take my religious teachings from a number of avatars, including Christ, Buddha, Mohammed, Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and every day people of various faiths whose acts speak more than their words. I then asked them please not to bother returning to my house with a message of doom and gloom.

In response, as they turned to leave, they tossed out a list of scripture verses at me to read. I read them later and found the verses sufficiently confusing and open to interpretation that they could have been construed as an indictment of the churches that are supporting the persecution of gay people or an indictment against anyone whom those churches see as sinners. I tend to believe that her reference to those particular scriptures was a passive-aggressive way of telling me that she expected me to go to Hell.

Well, today, I had just been out of bed for a few minutes, when I received an upsetting phone message from a friend about an international AIDS fundraiser I am developing. I had just finished the conversation to sort out that issue, when I looked out my window to see four elderly ladies, all dressed in gaily colored red dresses and hats. One was even carrying a large black umbrella, opened above her to protect her head from the North Carolina sun. When I saw them branching off into pairs and hitting the pavement toward individual houses, I thought for sure that they would not come to mine. I went into the kitchen to pour my second cup of coffee and then returned to my computer to check my email.

Soon the dogs saw the ladies coming and began to bark. I began getting angry. They were coming to my door. Thinking that surely these ladies belonged to a different group than the ones I had encountered before, I put my emotions on check and opened the door, to see the face of a woman that I recognized from the previous visit. She started her spiel and I said to her, "YOU have been here before."

She said, "Yes, I remember you and I…."

I interrupted her, "I told you then that I was not interested. I am busy, and you have upset my dogs. It takes time for me to settle them back down and I lose my concentration. On top of that, there is a rule against soliciting in this subdivision and you are violating it."

"Is there a sign?" she asked, as if that was the point. What an arrogant thing to ask! I would have said, "I am sorry," and been on my way.

I said, "There should be one. Either way, I told you last time you were here that I wasn’t interested. You should not have come back here knowing how I feel about your message."

She said, "OH, well, we will leave then. I hope you feel better."

That set me off in a way that nothing else had. The fact that I have a different set of beliefs from these people is insufficient reason for them to leave me alone. I have to be "feeling bad" to explain not wanting to hear their propaganda. Suppose for a minute that I were Jewish or Muslim or Buddhist and perfectly at peace within myself. Their answer would still have been to try to engage me in conversion to their beliefs. The particularly arrogant part of their diatribe is that they think that only they have the answers to how the world works.

I watched "What the Bleep Do We Know" this weekend and found it to be a very interesting and enlightening film that raised a lot of questions about our experiences on this plane of existence. In the film, the message that we are all part of God and God is part of us and that we don’t need an intermediary to achieve oneness with our creator is presented. Our experience is part of the Whole and the Whole is part of us.

Michael Franti says in one of his songs: "No matter where I roam, whoa oh, every single soul is a poem, written on the back of God’s hand." I find that line particularly moving, speaking as it does to the unity of our diversity. We may be different poems, but we are all written by the same hand and on the same parchment, and in stardust, no less. This idea helps me live in the sense of the greeting "Namaste", where I recognize the place in everyone where the Universe dwells and the divinity that everyone carries within them. I do not come with a message that your beliefs are inadequate, unless your beliefs cast judgment on others for that very reason. If you honor me for my genuine soul, I will honor yours. There is no need for me to inject my issues into your search for God. He will find you himself as you travel along your path. Consequently, I feel badly. I can not honor the place in those ladies today where divinity dwells, because to get to their divinity, I have to navigate through their control issues and that triggers my own control issues. It is a negative, vicious carousel of blame and shame.

For years and years, the argument that Christians in my community have used against gay people is that we will use our acceptance as a means "to recruit" others. There is even a joke among us about how we are trying to recruit someone quickly so that we can win our recruitment quota prize toaster oven.

Who is it, exactly, that is trying to the do recruiting here? When was the last time that you had a couple of gay people show up at your door and ask if you if you know that these are queer times and that you will not be included with the good people unless you join our cause? How many times has this happened on my doorstep? Zero times.

Yet, at least ten times so far this year, I have been approached by people to talk about Christianity or I have received flyers in my mail about how I need to convert and join a particular church. Each time I receive one of these flyers, I call the church and I tell them that I wish to be removed from their mailing list. They seem genuinely astonished that I am not thankful to hear from them!

I am all for freedom of religious practice. It is a founding principle of our country. However, I just think we also should have the right to freedom FROM religion as well, if we so desire. I think our founding fathers had that intent in mind given the history of the Anglican Church and the founding of British colonies in America.



Blogger Erin said...

I have been through nearly the exact same experience more than once, and I applaud you for sticking to your guns, and not letting them further manipulate you into their self-righteous spiel.

Amazing that they keep coming back - even when there IS a sign, trust me.

"hope you fell better" is probably the most arrogant thing I can imagine them saying. The whole thing makes me angry.

Oh, and I gave up being polite to them years ago, and treat them with the same respect they give me. None.

5/12/2005 03:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Susan in NC said...

Right on! I would have been pissed and irritated if those judgmental ladies had come to my house during my daughter's nap (although my cats probably wouldn't have been as disturbed as your dogs), and I'm a preacher's wife! Their "evangelizing" probably has more to do with their selfish need to meet the goal of bringing new people to the church than it has to do with any concern for the souls they are supposedly saving. I hope they got the message this time and will steer clear of your door.

5/14/2005 10:32:00 AM  
Blogger Ogre said...

I have fun with those types who come to my door -- the last ones were Jehovah's Witnesses or something (I really wasn't paying that much attention) -- and I went on and on about how I worked on Nuclear Bombs and have helped the US Military build those bombs -- I just prattled on and on while they picked their jaws up off the floor. I haven't seen them since.

I'm sorry that these people keep attacking you, but that's part of freedom -- if something were done to shut them up, then something could be done to shut everyone up. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying you don't have every right to do damn near anything you want on your property, including keeping them off it (and their words), just that we've got to live with freedom of speech as it applies to everyone.

Religion always has been, and always will be a very personal and very divisive issue. Most religions are based on your personal faith, and if you're wrong, then much of your person and life will be destroyed -- so they want to believe they are right just as strongly as you do. If you see them coming again, just call the police.

5/15/2005 04:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a devout christian i am once again saddened in my heart by the calousness and arrogance of those claiming to be God's representatives. Where would Jesus be right now if he were here on earth? Hanging with the HIV/AIDS sufferers and healing them from this modern-day leprosy plague. I watched my close friend Bob die of AIDS and I miss him terribly. All I can say is that I believe the god of love will give all a chance in the ressurection here on earth to have a do-over. To live without imperfectiona dn disease and live the life God originally meant for us all. The meek will inherrit the earth and that means we should start getting along now and learning to accept each other's differences. God bless you and give you strength and peace my brother, Susanne

12/26/2006 03:11:00 PM  

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