Christianity: from laughter to peevishness
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My relationship with American Christianity has passed through several stages.
As a young man I didn't question it. Not that I had any concrete notions about god, religious history, polity or the universe. As it must be for many of in the US Christian faith was as a quotidian element of living as air and sky. I didn't have passionate feelings about it. Well, my maternal grandma liked it, probably gave it a few gold stars.
Caprices of friendship and faith made me one of the born again I'd found the truth and didn't know what to do with it. My fellow believers were an uninteresting often na´ve lot. Much of what they believed fell flat against the observations and discovers of smart and sane people, which clearly they weren't. I won't say that being a Baptist didn't give me pleasure: really I don't remember.
Probably the eschatology of eternal damnation made me wriggle the most; eventually I freed myself. Besides god was an unnecessary hypothesis: you tell me where an uncreated creator came from and I'll tell you how the universe appeared without one.
How did I feel when faith was dissolved by reason? Wish I could say. Certainly it was a nuisance to conceal my agnosticism from my father for fear it would finally move him to send me to Bob Jones' campus as he'd sometimes threatened. Party, a strong part of me, was happy to have dispelled confusion, the same way I've have enjoyed solving a touch equation.
Was I hurt, confused? Whatever feelings my unconversion brought out don't linger. I think facing Mr. Mortality in his black garb and blank mask had its tough moments. I don't want to cease to exist, do you? What I remember most strongly is a fear that life's pains would one day cause me to snap and return to Jesus. It was a quirkily specific instance of a young man's fear he may go insane.
An angry middlebrow history teacher offended by one of my 10th grade essays called me into her room. She compared me to H.L. Mencken whose books I shortly thereafter checked out of the Savannah Public Library. I might've discovered it for myself but he taught me that laughter was the only sane response to faith and other self-delusions.
Laughing I have been for most of the succeeding years.
Tens of millions of American fundamentalist and evangelical Christians have been hidden in the woodpile for a long time. Despite the stereotype of conservative Christian Republicans they've mostly been silent, apolitical. A portion have risen from their slumbers and joined organizations like the Moral Majority. Mostly they've avoided voting booths as it they were dens of sin.
There nap became more restless with the arrival of Ronald Regan a silly man who manipulated them as well as he did himself, painting an improbably rosey picture of America as they think it was, is, should be, something foolish like that.
My laughter would've continued unstinted if it weren't for the Republican Party's deliberate plan to invoke them in a war against same-sex marriage. Theological clowns were transformed into a militant enemy.
Aside from the horrifying prospect of gay weddings we see more and more rich Christians putting their millions where their faith is. Where once they might've endowed a museum or library they fund creationist pseudoscience.
If it weren't for their economic power I wouldn't worry about them. Americans of whatever stripe tend to drift towards toleration. More laziness than virtue. My own secular prayer is that once the 2004 election is over Bush will worry about his place in history. A favorite sport of last-term presidents. He may want his legacy to be more than a war against sin, a war he'll never win and a war against people he'll never catch. I'd rather that than he gives John Ashcroft more money for fighting cheerful sin.
That assumes that George Bush will win reelection. Yeah, I do. Maybe the war in Iraq will tip his canoe in favor of John Kerry. How the hell would I know?
So my normal giggling at the godly has been forced to shift to a humorless watch of the faithful.
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