Tuesday, March 6, 2012

What, in God's Name?

I spend a lot of time thinking about God, and whether or not I believe in a Deity, while at the same time, looking at the religions of the world and wondering why, if God is real, He hasn’t put an end to their existence up until now. It seems that more and more, the religions of the world are less intent on doing what they purport to be “God’s work”, and have shifted their focus on being judgmental, bullying and threatening to those who don’t kowtow to their particular brand of an Almighty force. Somewhere along the way, the ‘leaders’ of the major religions have come to believe that not only do they speak for their God, but they have the self-imposed ability and right to speak as God; this makes me very uncomfortable, to say the least.

 The problem that arises from such a grandiose illusion is that a highly-flawed man interpreting the will of a perfect being will always eventually bastardize the supposed perfection with all the foibles, character flaws and prejudices that all humans possess. In short, when you decide to eat from the tree of knowledge, you better make sure that you have the complete meal and not just the appetizer. In simpler language, humans are just not capable of representing God without actually being Him.    

You should know in advance of reading this that I am not a big fan of the organized religions’ version of God. He’s just way too confusing and fickle for my simple mind. How, I ask myself, can a deity be sold as all-loving, and yet at the same time heartlessly cast a flawed soul into the horror of hell for disobedience? Now I know you are probably saying to yourself, “Well hell doesn’t really exist”, and I agree with you. But there are plenty of people who believe that it does. And they are more than willing to berate, cajole, and even physically harm those who disagree with their philosophy in an effort to “save” them from such a fate. No, I can’t get behind a God that would do that to anyone. And if hell does exist, at least I know where I stand with Satan versus a God that could turn on me at any moment. Can you imagine an eternity walking on those eggshells?  

As a woman of transgendered experience, I can’t help but question the validity of organized religion, because it seems we transgendered folk are always caught between the sense of truly being blessed by God on the one hand, and being condemned on the other by the very people who claim to follow His path of righteousness. Several cases of humans thinking as God which have been in the news lately come to mind; let’s start with a recent comment by Rick Santorum.

This Republican candidate, who claims to be a devoutly religious person, who wants to be the leader of the free world, said in a 2003 interview with the Associate Press that “gay marriage is no different than man on child, man on dog (italics mine), or whatever the case may be”. And on January 7th of this year, he made the suggestion that it was so important for a child to have both a mother and a father, that even in cases where the father was in prison (italics mine), it was still a more preferable arrangement than having two same-sex parents. He didn’t even broach the possibility of God forbid, a transgendered parent raising a child in a loving home.  

In Tennessee, where a bill was recently introduced in the legislature to refuse transgendered folk the ability to use the restroom of their choice in a public venue, there are other folks in positions of power who are using the human-as-God self-anointment to make the lives of  gay and transgendered high schoolers even more difficult than they normally are. Dorothy J. Bond, the Principal of Haywood High School in Brownsville, Tennessee, has been in the news of late for telling gay students that they are “not on God’s path”, and in the case of one lesbian student, that she was “going to hell”  because of her sexual orientation. She has told gay kids that they are “ruining their lives” and has threatened them with 60-day suspensions, assignments to alternative schools, and/or outright expulsion to any students who dared show affection to members of the same sex. Once again, the possibility of transgendered students existing in Haywood High was not even mentioned. God forbid! Yes Dorothy, Jesus would be proud of your hatred of things you don’t understand, wouldn’t He? And I’m sure you were patted on the back by the rest of your congregation when you told them how courageous you were in doing the Lord’s work.

Of course, hatred and strong-arming like this isn’t limited to the Land of the Free. It is world-wide. Take the case of Evie, the Indonesian transgendered woman who, as a man, babysat Barack Obama as a child. For all of her life, she has felt what all transgendered people do; that something inside of her was not right and that although her body told her one thing, her heart and her soul told her another.

In her 66 years on this planet, Evie has endured taunts and beatings because of who she is. She has had soldiers shave her long hair to the scalp and had cigarettes put out on her hands and arms. She has seen her friend killed and her body dumped in a sewage canal for the ‘crime’ of being different; and for defying the man-as-God edicts of the Muslim clerics there who dictate how a person should live.

Ichwan Syam, a prominent Muslim ‘cleric’ says that transgendered people “must learn to accept their nature. If they are not willing to cure themselves medically and religiously (italics mine), they have to accept their fate to be ridiculed and harassed”. This doesn’t sound too much different than the anti-gay rantings of Michelle Bachmann and her husband, or Fred Phelps and his maniac mob, does it? But, I’m sure that they know what’s best for us because they speak both for and as God, apparently. In their minds, it is better to murder in the name of God than to love one another.

The problem with organized religion is that it tends to put the formation and execution of its tenets into the hands of a few people, usually men. One only need to look to the brutal, corrupt past of the Catholic Church to see that in doing so, the imperfections of men will inevitably seep their way into the workings of any organized body. I seriously doubt that if Jesus were around today, his first words upon looking at what religion has done to his message would be “good job guys!”

But these people have taken the message of love, which is the purported basis of all religions and turned it into an Orwellian nightmare. Love is replaced by intolerance, hatred and bullying, but it is still under the guise of love. A gang mentality, which cannot abide walking outside the lines, now, rules the roost of organized religion. And it is getting worse with each passing year, as generation upon generation is inculcated with the same beliefs as their predecessors. And at the risk of sounding alarmist and extreme, this is how things like The Crusades and 'ethnic cleansings' begin.

Please don’t get me wrong. I believe in a higher power. I believe that there is something out there that is bigger than all of us. I don’t know what it is, but I do know that that the quickest and surest way to connect with it is through love; not stoning, beheading, torturing or threatening, but love and only love. It is the only true thing and it was the backbone of Jesus’ teaching.

We are all sons and daughters of God; all of us. If God is perfect and all loving, then there is no room in the heart of God for hatred and intolerance. A perfect God cannot by nature, make mistakes. Therefore, I and my brothers and sisters are not mistakes and are loved by God just as surely as the hate-mongers are. I have a right to exist. Evie has that same right. So too, do the students in Tennessee.

The time has come to stand up to these bullies both here and in places where people cannot before it is too late. Take the word of God, which is to love, and spread it everywhere. When you do, you take away the power of those who would harm and hurt your friends and your family simply because they are different Because history has shown us over and over that if you don’t stand up to them now, they will eventually come for you too; as God as my witness.





1 comment:

  1. Great Read! And ditto to all you say here. Ironically, it was a German Lutheran Pastor Martin Niemolier who said something just as potent in a poem about the Nazi uprising...I may be paraphrashing but you'll get the gist...

    First they came for the communists,
    and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.

    Then they came for the trade unionists,
    and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.

    Then they came for the Jews,
    and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.

    Then they came for me
    and there was no one left to speak out for me.