raise up a child to grieve

On Facebook today, one of my acquaintances—a former friend from my churched days of yore—posted a status about her son, who is a very young teenager. She commented how she was proud of him becoming his own man, not bending to popular opinion.

She wrote that he was “pretty upset” by schoolyard conversations, and he asked her why Democrats “wanted to keep trying to legalize things that are forbidden in the Bible.” She was proud of him for being deeply upset, a “man after God’s heart,” and commented how he was mostly conflicted because these Democrats whom he had met on Capitol Hill were so nice, so caring—how his own family’s friends were Democrats who endorsed these abominable things, and how he was deeply grieved that they were so sincere about their political positions. He’s very sad.

And he’s “made a correlation” between those kids at school who swear, misbehave, and hold agnostic/atheistic beliefs and support for Obama.

She’s terribly proud of him for being so terribly upset.

And I’m terribly ashamed for her.

I’m ashamed because she has, like so many, abandoned the teachings of Jesus for those of (perhaps well-meaning) deceived demagogues.

To be explicit, the Bible says nothing about abortion, gay marriage, cussing, or voting. Verses conservative Christians use as proof texts are invariably about God’s love for persons—a poetic image about how God’s love is so large it reaches into the womb, a statement of horror about male temple prostitution, a command to avoid misrepresenting the nature of God, a call to pray for one’s leaders. To claim that the Bible is anti-abortion is to read into Scripture something of the Twentieth Century that was never there in the First. To justify homophobia with statements about prostitution is simply a non sequitur.

Indeed, to complain about the vulgar language of kids by reference to the command not to use the Lord’s Name in vain is to wholly ignore ancient Hebrew culture that informed and constructed the command in the first place. Hebrews—even modern Jews—don’t use the name of God. Ever. They don’t even write “God” but “G-d” to remind themselves of the utter transcendence, ineffability of the Creator and Sustainer.  But this has nothing to do with swearing. As I wrote years ago,

The third Commandment […] says we should not take the Lord’s name in vain. Now fundamentalists interpret this as not swearing or taking flippant oaths. But another strain of teaching holds that taking God’s name as a “Christian” and speaking as if for God falls under this. I buy that. In fact, my new favorite translation reads Exodus 20:7 thus: “Do not utter the Name of YHWH to misuse it, for YHWH will not acquit anyone who utters God’s Name to misuse it!” This might narrow the focus to simply saying the tetragrammaton, but more likely it speaks of representing the nature of God falsely. The tradition of the prophets shows us over and over and over again that selfish gain in God’s name is not after God’s heart; in fact, those who do so are repeatedly excoriated.

Misrepresenting God is what this is all about. When fundies utter “Thus saith the Lord…” and follow it up with what they call a ‘prophecy’ against those whom God created in his image, those whom God loves, those whom God calls his children. When evangelicals use their own writings as if uttered by God himself, writings that dehumanize, demonize, and demoralize those who don’t fit their own culturally-defined standards of acceptability. When Christians teach their children that people whose lives don’t fit their own worldview are sinners, unforgiven, or worse—damned. People who teach their children to ache over the damnation they’ve taught them these Others will assuredly endure. People who create pain in their children instead of fostering the love God created in them.

Taking the Lord’s name in vain is, quite simply, putting God’s name on any pet dogma that contradicts the nature of God’s love. Hating those whom God loves. Judging those whom God loves. Putting yourself above those whom God loves. Teaching others to judge those whom God loves.

This—this—is vulgarity. Misusing God’s name in this way is the worst use of language. This is what constitutes truly filthy language, not crudities that jar our cultured sensibilities. Those offend our gentler natures, but misusing God’s name should offend and grieve our essence as image-bearers who stand united with all of God’s majestic creation, who lift up those who stumble, who feed those who hunger, who visit those who suffer, and who clothe those who shiver.

My acquaintance has taught her young son to shudder and weep at crudity while wholly missing vulgarity, because vulgarity has become the dominant way in our “Christian” culture. We misrepresent God’s love daily. War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. We have always been at war with Eastasia.

This young boy is horrified, and as his mother wrote on her wall, he couldn’t at all understand why people of the same gender would want to be intimate with each other. Not to be glib, but he couldn’t understand because he’s straight. Or maybe because he’s not yet sexually matured so can’t imagine intimacy with anyone, yet. I spent decades trying with all my might to desire what I didn’t want: to be intimate with somebody of the opposite gender. I couldn’t understand it. Sure, I could conceptualize it—after all that ‘reparative therapy’ I had all the right arguments in my brain. But the very thought still horrified me. Does the “uckiness” reaction justify vilification?

Restated: is finding something ‘ucky’ sufficient reason to conclude that thing immoral? Well, trust me, I find heterosexual intimacy incredibly ‘ucky.’ But I don’t think it’s immoral. I also find childbirth horrifying. Along with parenting teenagers. And I think dog kisses are almost as ucky as heterosexual relations. So? Personal preferences. One might have other arguments against homosexual relationships, but the ‘ucky’ reaction is wholly inadequate. And it turns out (as has been demonstrated ad nauseum elsewhere) that all the other arguments eventually stand or fall on the uckiness reaction.

Why didn’t she teach her son that God has made the world a wonderfully diverse place, where love is the glue that binds us? Why didn’t she teach her son that God is love, and that even though he cannot imagine himself loving somebody of his own gender in that way that it was still love? That love is to be celebrated, not grieved? That God is honored whenever we love another? Why didn’t she teach her son that what we should grieve is when these gay people are physically beaten, humiliated, dehumanized, and robbed of their status as image-bearers?

Why didn’t she remember that the America her husband fought for was the land of opportunity—not just economic opportunity for the greedy, but human opportunity for the oppressed, as Lincoln reminded us when he wrote that “Whenever there is a conflict between human rights and property rights, human rights must prevail.”

She didn’t because she, with the best of intentions, is nonetheless taking the Lord’s name in vain. And she’s done it for so long, by listening to her own immediate leaders who speak so loudly that she cannot hear anything of the still, small voice without their quick, judgmental interpretation circumscribing it.

Thus, any who vote for one whom they believe helps the poor, feeds the hungry, clothes the naked, and cares for the sick must therefore be anti-God. Forget the parable of the sheep and the goats.

And she believes that he is becoming “his own man” by not embracing the mindset she does not herself hold. Because he holds tight to what his mother has taught him, what his church has decreed, he has become an independent thinker. Because he grieves at compassion, mourns marriage equality, and weeps over the “duplicity” of those kindhearted people he knows and loves, those who don’t condemn the Other, he has become “his own.” He thinks exactly what he’s been programmed to think.

Ignorance is Strength: thus saith the Lord.

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