Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Bible Tells Me So....

When I was younger, I was raised in a place where sometimes religion was used as a weapon. The town I grew up in, people were into their faith. Some were quiet about their practice with God. Others were downright scary. Actually, as I said it was used as a weapon. If you did not share their religious beliefs they didn't leave you alone. They more or less hunted you down like fresh game.

At the beginning of high school I was invited to this thing called Campus Life. School was never easy for me. I had friends, but wasn't terribly social. Not to mention I always was kind of a misfit. I was real arty, which in mainstream America makes you an outsider. High school was tough, and all I wanted was to fit in. So the kid in front of me in study hall invited me to this youth group. He prefaced it by saying, "A lot of people say it is a cult, but don't believe everything you hear." He drew me a map to his home. I was going.

That evening I asked my mom for a ride, telling her of the new club I joined. I figured my father would be happy I was finally fitting in. Getting me to go to the bon fire the week before had been a struggle. It's not that I lacked school spirit, I didn't see the point. You gathered around, watched some stuff burn for thirty minutes, and then it was over. Anyway, when my mom found out she said, "You are not going there. That is a cult." Seconds later she said to my brother, "Wendell, they tried to get April today." That is when my brother regaled me with stories about those involved and their blood thirsty devotion to the man known as Christ.

I saw my brother was right. These young disciples were encouraged to recruit their friends and when they got so many, they had a pizza party reward system. While many teachers were private about their faith, some encouraged this. One teacher held a Bible study in his classroom during lunch. While religion is a wonderful thing, I don't think it should be on school property. As if that was not bad enough the youth group leader trolled our cafeteria looking for fresh blood. He had snow white hair and pale skin, and spoke real slow. Actually, the dude reminded me from the guy in poltergeist. We spoke briefly once, but he didn't waste time on me. Probably because I wasn't an easy target and had a solid sense of self.

I had several friends get caught up in this cult fervor. One in particular went from outgoing and bubbly to an apostle willing to preach at the drop of a dime. This ended our friendship forever. Another could not operate without the okay from this youth group on anything. Of course some were insane. One fought with me in government class. The issue was abortion. She said, "What if God wanted her to have that baby?" My response was that we were arguing reproductive rights and not the existence of God. Then again, a better response would have been to laugh at that whacko.

It's not like a faith in a higher power helped this population to be happy. They didn't watch certain movies. Some didn't celebrate Halloween. Many were homophobic to the point where years later, I wonder what they were suppressing. A great number were racist, clearly absent for the reading where Jesus spoke about all of his children. One former friend of mine became very entrenched. She entered an abusive sexual relationship with an upperclassman. However she was determined to save me. Despite the fact she got knocked up in high school, she was okay. Apparently she knew Jesus and I didn't.

Because of the pull of this population, we didn't have sex ed. Instead we had speakers coming in telling us to abstain. As a result my high school had one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the area. I once said onstage that in high school I didn't know how to use a condom but knew how to throw a baby in a dumpster. Yes, this is what the word of God has reduced people to, idiots who don't know about their bodies.

This population belonged to several churches in the town. One was a mega church down the street from me where they did Christian counseling and conversion therapy. Another was a splinter sect where a class mate of mine had a fanatical mother attend. She gave the family's savings, and the pastor took it and ran off with a hoochie mama in the parish. Of course then there was the extreme splinter sect who decided the mega church was too secular and met in the high school cafeteria. They couldn't marry outside the circle of thirty people, thus all becoming their own grandpas.

Half way through school we got a new principal. He threw the cult leader out of the cafeteria, and told the teacher he was to discontinue the Bible study. The new principal cited the first amendment, something foreign to these zealots, about how church and state were to be separate. While it made the cult members angry, school was much more tolerable for anyone else with a different belief system. Of course sophomore year they still tried to lure my sister Skipper with a game of frisbee in the guise of Bible Study. However, it was much better than it had been in previous years.

A year after being banished, the cult leader was arrested for molesting several young men he ministered to. Surprise, surprise. Did I mention he was quite homophobic?

Over the years I have met religious people who are nothing but loving. They also understand the Bible. The tale of Sodom and Gomorrah is about kindness to your neighbors and not being greedy, not that LGBTQ people are sinful and evil. Also, they welcome people of all colors into their churches. Their God loves all people, not just those who are white. Also, God doesn't shame people for their sex conduct and knows they make mistakes. And yes anal counts even if you wear a promise ring. I have met people of all belief systems, or lack thereof. Bottom line, just try to be a good person.

I am not saying having faith is bad, it can be a wonderful thing as long as it is coupled with spirituality. My Nunni-Mom's mom-was very into the spiritual side of her Catholic faith. She visited my cousin and sent him presents when he was in jail for holding his girlfriend hostage, a time when many turned their back on him, his own family included. My brother's former high school football teammate ministers to drug addicts in the worst section of Pittsburgh. These are good things. But dogma alone can make a person nuts and devoid of all reality.

What made me think of this was last night I was walking to the train when a woman who was dead behind the eyes said, "Miss, do you know when Jesus is coming? Those who are not saved are doomed to hell." I nodded bilking it. And she proceeded to follow me. When I thought I dodged her and was safely home I saw her again in the station and she began following me again. So I bilked it faster.

 Part of me knew she was clearly mentally ill. The other part of me wanted to say, "Listen freakshow, I grew up with assholes like you. No one, not even the angels in heaven shall know the date, hour, or time. Read the Bible you fucking crack infested, non bathing, scizo, homeless fucktard. Then again, you probably can't read. And trust me, you aren't scary. You are nothing compared to some of the religious assholes I knew growing up."

I Came, I Saw, I Sang: Memoirs of a Singing Telegram Delivery Girl

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