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Tag: religion

My existentialist grandma, my other grandma, and me

I grew up in southern California with a full quartet of grandparents, something Paul envies. My mom’s parents, Bernice and Judson Phillips, lived in Brea, near a park with a jungle gym shaped like a rocket ship. Grandpa Judd and I shared a birthday, and we celebrated together nearly every year. My dad’s parents, Laura and Fred McGalliard, lived in Santa Ana, near the Santa Ana River trail, and we sometimes rode our bikes to visit them. Dad’s parents were devout followers of two religions: evangelical Protestantism, and Disney. If Mom’s parents had religious beliefs, it was never obvious. My…

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Arguing with evangelicals: waaaah! They’re calling me names!


I happened to recently read this piece on CNN’s website, “When Christians become a ‘hated minority’” (even though the piece itself is from a month ago). It tries too hard to be even-handed, I think, and ends up feeling unreasonably flattering to the “your intolerance of my bigotry is the REAL bigotry!” standpoint that conservative evangelicals love to adopt. Anyway, I’m going to visit my conservative evangelical relatives in a couple of weeks, so I felt the need to get this out of my system.

We’ve heard of the “down-low” gay person who keeps his or her sexual identity secret for fear of public scorn. But Sprigg and other evangelicals say changing attitudes toward homosexuality have created a new victim: closeted Christians who believe the Bible condemns homosexuality but will not say so publicly for fear of being labeled a hateful bigot.

Break out the fainting couches. Being called a bigot is obviously far worse than being denied housing, jobs, marriage to the person you love, the opportunity to adopt, or custody of your own children. Hurtful names are absolutely the worst!

Hey, you know who also gets called hurtful names? Gay people. In fact, they get called hurtful names by people like you. Isn’t that what this whole thing is about? Used to be, you could call gay people hurtful names and get away with it. Now you call them hurtful names and get called a bigot. Lawdy, what is the world coming to!
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Sinners in the hands of an indifferent void

Sometimes you have to wonder why the idea of hell caught on the way it did. Sure, it’s an interesting metaphor in art and fiction (Bosch… Milton… Dante… Gaiman…), but why do people believe in it with the sincerity and fervor with which they apparently do? It’s a pretty weird prospect when you think about it. Imagine trying to explain it to a Martian: Evangelist: Believe in what I tell you or you’ll go to hell, a place of eternal torment! Martian: Really? And how does that happen? Evangelist: God sends you there after you die! Martian: God. A supernatural…

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The lament of the Southern Baptist

R. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, reacts to the rapid progress on gay rights: From the Boy Scouts to the British Parliament: Left behind? Conservative Christians and the gay revolution The piece seemed interesting to me for its sad, resigned tone — the tone of a man who feels lost. It reminded me of something that struck me on election night, as I left my yoga class and got caught up in the joy explosion on Capitol Hill. Same sex marriage was winning, pot legalization was winning, Obama had already won re-election — it was…

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13. Superstition (is/ain’t) the way (do do do do do)

If you met me when I was in college, I might have described myself as a Christian. (Or not. I was all over the place about that.) There were a few things I meant by this. One of them was, "Don’t try to convert me, I’m already as converted as I’m gonna get. Please go away now." One of them was, "Yes, I know you say that your stupid bigoted views about gay people come from the Bible, but I’ve read the Bible too, and I think Jesus would support gay civil rights. Because Jesus was a decent, compassionate, fair-minded…

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12. The death of certainty

So, there I was, fifteen or so years old, and I had decided that the religion I had been raised with was clearly nonsense. It’s a fairly common teenage experience, I suspect. You see things from the other side, you know the adults have been lying to you about what they knew, you get mad about the way adults always seem to be lying about something, and then you slink off and read a lot of Bertrand Russell. (In those days. Nowadays you might reach for Dawkins or Hitchens as well.) But for me it didn’t end there, because I’m…

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11. Turn me on, dead man

At the age of thirteen, I also discovered rock and roll. (Busy year, I know.) I met a girl who was as obsessed with The Lord of the Rings as I was (we watched the Bakshi film over and over. That’s right. The Bakshi film.) She was also really into The Beatles. We met because I liked the music she was playing at this end of the year picnic thing. This was the tail end of the disco years, and mainstream popular music had been pretty horrible for a while. Because of this I had concluded that I just didn’t…

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10. Big-ticket items: homosexuality

Another thing that happened when I was thirteen or fourteen, was that I became briefly worried that I might be gay. This was because I didn’t like any boys. I thought they were all stupid and irritating. I knew there was this thing that was supposed to happen during puberty, with regard to boys, but whatever it was, exactly, it was totally not happening. (What happened eventually was, I met a boy who wasn’t, strictly speaking, less irritating than other boys, but for some reason, when he wasn’t around, I really missed him. And that’s love.) So I worried that…

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9. Big-ticket items: abortion

I was thirteen or fourteen when I learned about abortion at religious summer camp. The camp was connected to Lake Sawyer and followed the same general Chickian doctrine, but in a lot of ways it was like every other summer camp. There were crafts and altar calls and junk food and kids making out in the woods and young-earth creationism and an anti-abortion propaganda film. Adults may not realize this, but teenagers usually know when they are being propaganda-ized, and resist it mightily. In fact, you can get teenagers to do some pretty stupid things just by working too hard…

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8. One last try

Here’s what happened to me during the year I was twelve: I started junior high. The other kids hated me. I hit puberty. We moved to a completely different part of the country. My family stayed with some friends of my parents for a couple of months. I went to another junior high with exceptionally low academic standards. The other kids hated me. I was subjected to another family’s "house rules" and suddenly, instead of being allowed to stay up until 9 or 10 and then read until I fell asleep, I was expected to be lying in bed, lights…

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7. The serpent enters the garden

When I was twelve, we left Orange County, California and moved to King County, Washington. Where we lived was like this: go to Kent, and then start driving east. Go up the hill. Keep driving. Pass Lake Meridian. Keep driving. Pass a bunch of housing developments. Keep driving. Keep driving. Keep driving. Wonder if you’ve gone too far. Keep driving. Keep driving. Keep driving.

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6. The Gospel According to Jack Chick

When you’re raised in the church, one of the things you pick up on is this idea that you are eventually going to be expected to “witness” to people. Some churches are bigger on this than others. I was done with the church by the time I was old enough for it to really be an issue, but as a kid, it worried me. I was worried that, when I was old enough, somebody was going to expect me to do it. And I was pretty sure that I wasn’t going to. And I was worried that would make me…

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5. Fanwanking for Jesus

Between the ages of 10 and 12, I was mentally committed to the church, to being a Christian, but there were still things that troubled me. I was worried about how you could know it was all true. How could I know God really existed? How could I know Jesus was more than just a character in a story I liked? The obvious answer — you can’t — never seemed like a possibility in church culture. The assumption was that we were all there because we just knew. There’s a hymn we would sing, "Blessed Assurance." It was all about…

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