Religion: A Growing Pain in the Ass

As I type this, Congress and Trump (I refuse to call him "president") are destroying our healthcare system while giving us the privilege of subsidizing theirs, since the Affordable Care Act resulted in members of Congress having to buy a plan like the rest of us (with heavily subsidized premiums, of course). Now with all the money they save, guys like Mitch McConnell can visit one of his multiple homes while you end up being thrown out of yours. This display of myopic inequity creates a partition that further divides our nation into "winners and losers." Guess which group you're probably in? It's appalling that the most "powerful nation on Earth" would allow its citizens to deteriorate by eliminating affordable access to medical care, all the while outsourcing the very jobs people depend on to provide health insurance in the first place. It's a vicious cycle, one that is fueled by fear, ignorance, and plain ol' greed. 

When you put it that way...

When you put it that way...

But it just wouldn't be the Dark Ages without throwing religion into the mix. In addition to dismantling healthcare, Congress and Trump have decided that religious institutions (who pay no income tax) should be able to deliver sermons supporting particular candidates without being hassled by the IRS (isn't there a Constitutional separation between church and state)? You, on the other hand, will be tossed in prison for not paying your taxes, and good luck getting that wedding cake made, homo! Do you see how absurd this all is? I would never want to live in a country that criminalized or nationalized a particular religion; I think one's relationship to a higher power is deeply personal, which is why it's so alarming that the pendulum is swinging in the other direction-by allowing religion to influence government

I've been accused of having a "problem" with religion, or being "disrespectful," but that's taken out of context. To be clear: if a belief system allows for a more balanced, productive life and does not cause harm to you or others, then I want nothing more than for you to continue making your world a better place. However, if you desire to control and limit the lives of people you deem  "unholy," a dangerously subjective definition, then you'll receive neither my apology nor respect. You don't fucking deserve it. For centuries the Church (or mosque, synagogue, temple, etc.) has created a societal norm that challenging this "moral authority" is seen as a faux pas; shouldn't the rage be aimed at the system that allowed my friend to be molested by a Franciscan brother

Given I was raised Catholic I'll focus on Christianity, but if you think this kind of abuse doesn't occur in other religions you're deluding yourself. It's a global problem, one that blatantly lacks punishment. Think I'm being hyperbolic? Still not convinced? "Gee Liz, you sound really angry!" Goddamn right I am, and you should be, too. For the record, being labeled "angry" doesn't have the negative connotation it used to have for me, rather it's a sign that something needs to change. Sometimes that something is me, but most of the time it's everything else, haha! Since you all seem to enjoy my rants and raves seasoned with a little humor, let's take a trip down Trigger Alley to see what burns me up, which I fully acknowledge are reactions I personally choose. "Gee Liz, don't you usually preach that taking the higher road is—" Yeah, yeah, but I'm full of coffee and if I don't type out some rants my head's gonna explode...enjoy my pain!!

***

I remember going to a friend's house to discover that her room looked like it was decorated by Lou Pearlman: every inch of wall was plastered with the "safe" fresh-faces of teeny-boppers, while I preferred the sound and looks of the (slightly) edgier glam metal icons. My eyes scanned the walls, approving the likes of River Phoenix, Bon Jovi, and Matt Dillon, but a few stuck out as really lame. One pop star I instantly disliked was Jonathon Knight of the New Kids on the Block because he was quoted as "hating heavy metal music." Even the fact that he added the word "music" to the genre "heavy metal" pissed me off, like we were gonna mistakenly assume he meant chromium. Makes him sound about as fun as the Dean of Students, right?

Metal Edge  magazine was the suburban metal fan's  Tigerbeat : pretty faces but with lots of cursing.

Metal Edge magazine was the suburban metal fan's Tigerbeat: pretty faces but with lots of cursing.

Anyhoo, I sighed while my tired eyes scanned the walls and settled on Kirk Cameron, whose character Mike Seaver on Growing Pains became the '80s Dennis the Menace. It didn't take much to upset the balance of the Seaver household: drinking wine coolers and ear-piercing were emotionally parallel with heroin abuse and scarification. You may be thinking at this point, "C'mon, he was one of the most lovable suburban rebels of all time; why pick on an actor who wants a quiet life with his family?" Well for starters, he's not so quiet when he travels the country as an Evangelical activist, broadcasting his desire to limit my civil liberties due to his religious beliefs. This is kind of a moot point now, given marriage equality was inked into federal law, but some religious activists still feel it is their spiritual mission to prevent queer people from being seen as normal (not so hard to do in a country that penalizes people simply for using the word "vagina").

Anyhoo, Cameron was raised atheist, and somewhere in his teens fell for a girl whose family was religious. After her father exposed him to the Bible, Cameron was simultaneously intrigued and riddled with fear for the safety of his eternal soul; it seems he's maintained his faith ever since, but I wonder... 

"Regardless of how their spouse is treating them..." Um, in the secular world we call that "abuse."

"Regardless of how their spouse is treating them..." Um, in the secular world we call that "abuse."

...I wonder how many men would live by the Bible if that same holy book granted women authority over the husband. Men are seen as the heads of households, the decision-makers, the rational ones, the leaders. By contrast, women are inherently seen as hysterical, irrational, emotional, crazy...often not very different from how we view children. Through this lens women must defer to the man, for it is assumed that men know what's best. The amount of damage this line of thinking has done cannot be overstated, and it's this blanket misogyny that turns me off about most faiths: find me a major religion's holy book that doesn't give men authority over women, that doesn't prioritize the needs of (mostly wealthy) men to the detriment of those around them, including less fortunate men.

Go on, find it. I'll wait...

...yeah I couldn't come up with one either, but please include the link in the comments below if you did. I certainly wouldn't follow a book that completely reduced men's role in life as sperm-providers, would you? Isn't being in a marriage a PARTNERship? Why don't we find value in both the male and female perspective? I really think it would start to balance this heavily unstable world of ours.

***

As stated before I don't have a problem with personal faith and practice as long as nothing is being harmed. I'm nowhere near a theologian, but in addition to studying Nichiren Buddhism I grew up with Jews and was educated in the Catholic faith; it's fair to say I at least had exposure to different belief systems. For a time in my late teens I was friends with a few born-again Christians, the kind who view the King James Bible as the literal word of God. I watched videos that attempted to disprove dinosaurs, carbon-dating, Earth's agreed-upon scientific age, etc. I did this to give the other side of the argument a fair shot. Encouraged to read the Bible, I'd crack it open to learn that God's the jealous type who will kill your kids or suffocate you with locusts should you anger Him, yet the love He has for you is infinite. Anyone else confused? This interest only lasted a short while, since I had such a hard time getting behind the bullshit message that only those who accept Christ can be admitted into Heaven. These same friends encouraged me to "fight the demon within" in order to cure me of my queerness, because that it wasn't really who I was...and you wonder why queer teens commit self-harm at four times the rate of straight kids?

It sure seems strange that a religion coined after the all-loving prophet of Jesus Christ would encourage its follows to behave like anything but.

 

 

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