Good Lord, almost a week between posts. The spouse will never stand for it.
First things first: latest story in Ann Arbor News is out today. This link will only work for a limited time, though I am trying to figure out how to keep a backlog of old stories online. (I can’t just repurpose stuff according to my agreement with the paper.)
And now, to address what I encountered over the weekend. I, like all good drag queens (yes, I am a gay man trapped in a woman’s body), have a bizarre fascination with Tammy Faye Bakker. For ages, I wanted to see the documentary, “Eyes of Tammy Faye,” and after getting through most of the years Oscar contenders, it arrived from Netflix.
It is a really crappy documentary that is not helped by having two nasty-looking sock puppets introduce each scene. I don’t know if it was originally shot for TV, but it uses all the lame techniques perfected by Hard Copy (oh, Tonya Harding, where are you when I need you?): blurry pans over staged tableaus, slow mo footage, bad music cues, etc. A disappointment.
However, since I knew nothing of Tammy Faye outside of the bad make-up, it was refreshing to see how she embraced gay men on her show. A bona fide fag hag, TF did something brave and unprecedented: she challenged mainstream Christians on their nearly universal condemnation of homosexuality, crying out through her streams of mascara that Jesus loved everyone, and that we’re all supposed to do the same.
That took some serious balls, and TF did it again and again. She’s no intellectual giant, but she definitely practices her faith. She’s boiled it down to the simplest tenet, basically “love one another as I have loved you.” Honestly, I don’t think she had the brains to swindle people and she certainly doesn’t have the curiosity to question anything around her. But whatever quibbles one may have, she ain’t a hypocrite.
I find Christian homophobia particularly unsettling. Jesus never once says anything about homosexuals. Given that the gospels were written by four different people who no doubt had widely different perspectives and agendas, it’s interesting that not one of them ever recorded him saying anything about it. Where does all this hatred of gay people come from? Paul. I love Paul. If he were around today, he’d be firing off an email every 5 seconds reacting to something, and then he’d spend the rest of the day blustering through excuses, apologizing, or just shaking his head and saying, “Yup. I’m a jerk.” Look at Paul’s track record, especially in the book of Acts. He basically spends about half his time pissing people off by shooting off at the mouth. And yet he was clearly a kickass evangelist, and historical accounts record people saying he was really a wonderful guy.
That’s why I think whatever writings we’re getting, we’re not getting nearly the context that we need. I absolutely do not buy that you take the Bible literally; I have missed the legal date for selling the Eldest into slavery (see Leviticus), and I don’t think that the round earth photos from space are a hoax that contradicts Jesus talking about the four corners of the earth. We do know from the historical record that Paul came from a very cosmopolitan city, Tarsus. It had lots of religions and lots of temple prostitutes of both genders to serve them. Given how often Paul rails about sexual sin, I think it’s a fair guess to say that it bugged him a lot. You can theorize all sorts of stuff. Maybe he really wanted to have sex and felt guilty about it. Maybe a temple prostitute said something mean to him once. I dunno. I just am very sad that Christians who never pay attention to other verses written by the man, both the out-of-left-field ones (“It is good for a man not to marry”) and the extraordinarily beautiful (“Love is patient and kind…bears all, believes all, hopes all, endures all. Love never fails”) will immediately jump on his various verses endorsing gay-bashing. People, he wrote in the first century. He was a man of his time. We have progressed. Haven’t we?
Being gay is not a choice, and if you disagree, tell me when you discovered you were straight. Proportionately, I know of more stable gay relationships than of straight ones; I’ve seen genuine commitment, loyalty, and love in relationships that don’t have any legal perks much more often than I’ve seen it in God-sanctioned unions, half of which end up in divorce in this country. I’ve seen gay men lose the loves of their lives and dear friends to a horrible disease, and yet they never gave up, they didn’t condemn. They stayed.
But Christians are afraid (isn’t that where anger and judgment stem from?) and make their own choice: to alienate people who, like everyone else, need love and acceptance and the peace that some of us get from a relationship with God. Frankly, gay men and lesbians are going to get there in their own way. But man, I am disgusted that instead of helping them get there and showing them love exactly the way Christ would have, an awful lot of Christians choose to condemn them and worse.
The line that best sums up the way I feel was written, by the way, by an agnostic or atheist (not sure which), Woody Allen. In Hannah and Her Sisters, Max von Sydow’s character says, “If Jesus came to earth and saw what was going on in his name, he’d throw up!” A lot of people don’t know that von Sydow played central roles in two of Bergman’s most searing looks at God and redemption, Winter Light and The Virgin Spring. He also played Jesus in a lovely if incongruously accented performance in the Hollywood schlock opera, The Greatest Story Ever Told. But Woody Allen knew, and it gives the line that much more heft if you’re at all familiar with any of that context.
But hey. Ignoring the obvious, like that log in your eye, takes a lot of energy. And it really hurts to dig it out.