American Jesus

This is pretty harsh and grim, I know. It needs to be said. American Christianity has been bastardized and mis-interpreted. Jesus has been thrown out of the church and a false god has been put in his place. This new (and ancient) god is a white supremacist and a misogynist, a liar and a fraud who begs for power and influence, treads upon the heads of the poor and the marginalized, scoffs at the ill and the incarcerated, turns away the foreigner, laughs at your pain.

American Jesus:
People were bringing the children to Jesus so he could bless them, but Jesus said, “Make the children suffer who want to come to me!”

And he told the disciples to separate the children and their parents, like the sheep from the goats, and lock them up far away from each other.

And the disciples said, “Lord, shouldn’t we keep track of which ones belong together?”

And he said unto them: “They should have known what would happen. They have it coming to them.”

And he went up onto a mountainside, and he sat down and began to teach them, saying,
“You know all the stuff I told you before, about being peacemakers, and being kind, and loving your neighbor as yourself? Yeah, that. I didn’t really mean all that. As long as you call yourself ‘pro-life,’ the other stuff doesn’t matter. Also, don’t bake cakes for gay people, mm-kay?”
And someone from the crowd asked him, “Lord, what is the greatest commandment?”
And he answered them saying, “You have heard it said that you should love God with all your heart and all your mind and all your strength, and your neighbor as yourself, but I say unto you that the greatest commandment is this: Follow the leader! Follow the money! Follow the power!”
Outside the Temple gates, they came upon a blind man, who called out, “Son of God, have mercy on me!”
And he stooped and gathered dirt from the ground, and spit in it, and threw it at the blind man, saying, “Loser! Blindness and sickness are for losers!”

Applying Compassion

In 2005, my first pregnancy ended in a traumatic miscarriage. I recognize that all miscarriages are traumatic; this one, however, did not take care of itself. After the initial days of a slow bleed, I experienced a day of what I learned later (during the labor for my first live birth) was essentially hard labor. At thirteen weeks, my body went into full contraction mode to expel this pregnancy. I began to recover. I grieved. I went back to work, only to experience massive bleeding which began while I was teaching a class. I rushed to the ER at Women’s and Babies Hospital, where I was given surgical help to complete the miscarriage.

This was one of the most difficult times of my life. In the hospital, I received immediate and compassionate care from everyone involved. There was no questioning, no second-guessing. Of course my records confirmed that I had had a sonogram the previous week that showed a nonviable fetus. Still, I experience horror when I think of the stories I have read of women in my same situation who were forced to wait and bleed for hours or days because a rigorously anti-abortion hospital would not give surgical assistance without establishing the lack of a heartbeat. In some cases, women have developed infections or lost grave amounts of blood or even died for lack of essential medical care during miscarriage.

Will these merciless anti-abortion laws increase the risks for miscarrying women? I have absolutely no doubt that they will. On top of that, women who are experiencing the tragedy of pregnancy loss, of the self-doubt and shame we carry about how our bodies have let us down, will be placed in the position of being interrogated about whether they did anything to cause their miscarriages, with the risk of being charged as felons if they are not believed.

If some of us are particularly twitchy and quick to rage and grieving these days, it might have something to do with this, with having to re-open the trauma of our pregnancy losses–for whatever their reason or cause–finding ourselves imagining what the world will be like for women of the future who may have to endure what we experienced, only without compassionate care or empathetic understanding.

It’s time to trust women to understand what is happening to our bodies.

Cognitive Dissonance

In a way, this whole bit of surreal weirdness that is the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation kerfuffle is the obvious ending to the story of the evangelical Christians’ love affair with politicians who can lip-sync their anti-abortion theme-songs.

Having become ever more entrenched in the language of anti-abortion and anti-choice, evangelicals began their dance long ago with any politician who could repeat their growing rhetoric back to them verbatim. While the community itself may have begun with a tenderhearted desire to protect life as they saw it, the politicians (and many church leaders) with whom they were dancing were wolves in sheep’s clothing.

The church and the world have both operated on the basis of patriarchal assumptions for so long that the time has come when they’ve both had to show their hand. If you’re really against abortion–if that is REALLY and truly the reason that you are anti-choice, then the absolutely only logical choice you have is to make sure that young people are educated about their bodies and about consent, and that predators are held accountable, prosecuted, and given jail time. You must defend the women from the predators, not the predators from the women.

But time and time again, the politicians and the church keep excusing the predators and blaming the women whom their “pro-life” ethic would logically demand they protect and care for. You simply cannot dogmatically call yourself pro-life if you can’t support a traumatized victim of rape, and call her rapist (or attempted rapist) to account. The Kavanaugh nomination has thrown the story into detailed relief: You cannot claim that you are pro-life and support those who commit sexual assault.

And these people–politicians and celebrity church leaders–are not simply denying the credibility of Dr. Blasey Ford’s claims. They’re normalizing sexual assault. It’s one thing not to believe the accusation, however credible, but to go on to say that even if it did happen, it was only “horseplay” or “seven minutes of heaven” or “boys being boys” shows not only ignorance but a depth of cruelty that cannot be reconciled with a sound pro-life ethic, or anything that resembles the way of Jesus.

The only way to interpret the tone-deafness of the evangelical and “christian” political leaders who speak like this is to say that their “pro-life” stance really and truly has nothing to do with a true life ethic and everything to do with keeping women in their places, subject to the whims and power of men. It has always been, at the level of the male leadership, about maintaining the patriarchal status quo–and the teenaged Brett Kavanaugh, thirty years after attempting to rape a girl at a party, has forced them to show their hand. Franklin Graham and his ilk have proven in recent days that it was never really about a pro-life ethic. It has only and always ever been, for them, about controlling women’s sexuality and women’s bodies and women’s agency.

Gratitude List:
1. These young people who are not waiting until they finish high school to become Worldchangers. They’re doing it now, and they’re showing us how.
2. Reminders to get in touch with the primal grief, the primal rage, to converse with these emotions, to learn from them.
3. Cool days.
4. Synaesthesia. I do not have it in any noticeably discernible way, but I have a student who regular tells us what color the words and letters are, and I love to be a listener to that extra-sensory story.
5. Weekend!

May we walk in Beauty!