Before we get started, a note about commenting: Because the subject of this post is a powerful magnet for raging insanity and screaming illiterate trollage, as are all articles dealing with religion, commenting is under tight moderation. If you see yourself in this article and you think I’m picking on your religion and you’re put off, outraged, enraged, offended, incensed, or otherwise suffering from bunched panties as a result of what I’ve written here, if you want your witty and erudite comment to post, then I strongly caution you to adhere to the example of your prophet and, you know, not act like a raving ass //Jim
As we witness hostility towards people of faith grow like never before, we must take this opportunity to speak up for religious liberty. The great news is that SB 1062 protects your right to live and work according to your faith and was passed by the Arizona legislature. This bill is now heading to Governor Jan Brewer's desk. One thing became undeniably clear as SB 1062 advanced through the legislature: opponents were not interested in an honest debate about the bill's actual provisions. Instead, they distorted and attacked the bill and its supporters at every turn. Even before the last vote was cast in the House, opponents of SB 1062 started a mass calling and email campaign into Governor Brewer's office to try to pressure her into vetoing this important bill. It is critical that the Governor hears from YOU that no one should be forced to violate their religious beliefs merely because they go to work or start a business!
- Center For Arizona Policy Website.
Sir, the truth is, I talk to God all the time, and, no offense, but He never mentioned you.
- Phillipe Gaston, Ladyhawke, 1985
What would Jesus do?
You hear that question posed on a daily basis here in America.
You see it on Tee-shirts and posters and on the internet.
They present the question with a sardonic smile, Say, whadaya suppose the ol’ Savior would do?
It’s a funny thing, that question, when you think about it.
Funny peculiar. Not funny ha ha.
Somebody asked me that yesterday, “What would Jesus do?” What would Jesus do in Arizona? Which side would he stand on? What, oh what, would Jesus do?
I mean, it sounds profound, particularly if you couch it in an admonishing tone with a single raised eyebrow, “Aaaah, same sex marriage? Gay couples? Sin! Abomination! What do you think Jesus would say? What would Jesus think of the homosexual war on religion? Tsk, tsk, yes, what would Jesus say?”
Well, okay. Sure.
Leaving aside the fact that believers always structure the question in the past tense, which is fairly odd given that the guy in question is supposed to be a living deity (and frankly, if he’s not, then who cares what he thinks? And if he is around, then why doesn’t he just come right out and say it, instead of having people guess at what he’d say?), here’s the problem: me personally? Well, I’ve got no goddamned idea what Jesus would do or what he would say.
And how would I?
No, really, how the hell would I know what Jesus would say about gay marriage?
After all, Jesus, according to his followers and the only existent written documentation, is God, right? You know, Yahweh, Jehovah, King of Kings, El Supremo, the Big Cheese, The Light and The Way, all knowing, all seeing, all powerful, the divine supernatural creator of Heaven and Earth and all the chirping birdies that fly in the sky and all the little fishies that swim in the deep blue sea. According to the user’s manual, he’s omniscient and omnipotent and his mind encompasses all of creation across the depth and the width and the breadth of the entire multiverse, from before the Big Bang to the last guttering spark at the heat death of the cosmos and everything that comes in between. Right? I mean, right? Because anything less and he’s not God, or at least not God God. Right?
So, seriously, can you imagine what a mind of that vastness must be like?
I sure as shit can’t, I wouldn’t even know where to start.
And you want me to guess what God would do about gay people wanting to be treated like human beings?
I’m not even a member of his fan club, I don’t get the weekly insider newsletter, so, given the playing field, honestly, how in the pluperfect Hell could I possibly know what God would do in any given situation?
How would I have any hope whatsoever of guessing the hypothetical actions of some unfathomable, likely mythical, divine being? How would I know what a god would do, especially one who speaks in riddles and vague long outdated anecdotes about people who lived millennia ago and whose most vocal ranting raging self-appointed representatives here among the dirty unwashed of this tiny backwater hamlet lost among the vasty cosmos are, for all intents and purposes, clinically indistinguishable from the mentally ill?
What would Jesus do?
Given his track record, it could be anything from wiping us all out in a giant flood to snuffing all the first born children to nuking a couple of cities to a plague of flies and poison toads to having us all wander around in the desert for a couple of decades to maybe just showing us his bare ass cheeks and lighting the bushes on fire. I assume he’s got other tricks up the sleeve of his robe, I mean a guy like this could drop a neutron star on your head or turn off the sun as easily as he parted the sea, so, really, how would I know? Hell, I can’t even guess what my cat is going to do from one minute to the next – and God can conjure entire universes from his own mind. To a creature like that, humans and cats are basically on the same level, hell, from the perspective of such a vast, vast consciousness me and any random bacterium would be identical twins.
And you want me to read his mind?
That would be like asking the aforementioned bacterium to guess what I’d say – and the germ would have a higher probability of success.
What would Jesus do? Jesus?
It amuses me that there are people out there who actually think they know.
This God of theirs builds universes, universes. Black holes and globular clusters, whole galaxies, trillions upon trillions upon trillions of stars he fashions from nothing, he builds whole worlds with a wave of his mighty hand, conjures life from lifeless dirt … and yet – and yet – he actually gives a good Goddamn that two gay guys want to get married?
That’s God’s big beef? That’s what he’s got to complain about. Gay people?
War. Pestilence. Famine. Murder, Rape. Graven Images. Inequality. No, no, Jesus is good with those, it’s gay people God can’t stand.
Never mind that homosexuality is only mentioned in the Bible seven times, seven, making it pretty darn far down on the Damnation-O-Meter compared to, oh, say, hypocrisy which is condemned over and over and over and over and over again and again. And there are hundreds of references to economic justice and the immorality of those bent to the accumulation of wealth. And thousands, literally thousands, of words devoted to the feeding of the hungry, the clothing of the poor, and the healing of the sick.
No, no, it’s homosexuality, that’s the problem.
Never mind that Jesus himself never said a single word about it, for or against, and seriously, don’t you think he would? I mean, don’t you think he really would have given specific orders and admonishments on this subject? Don’t you think he would have laid down the law in clear and unambiguous terms, if it’s so, so very important to God and all, I mean.
You shouldn’t have to guess what Jesus would have said, he should have said it.
And just never mind that gayness didn’t even make the final cut when it came to God’s Old Testament Top Ten – let’s see, there’s the holy day thing, and don’t murder people bit, don’t steal, don’t covet asses, don’t lip off to your folks, no graven images, no other deities … but, nope, not one single word about gay people, nothing. Well, that’s just odd. I mean, how come it’s not in the Ten Commandments of all places? Given that, right there, is where God laid down his so-called moral law and all and given that he hates gay people so much? Seems like a pretty big oversight, doesn’t it? Seriously, don’t swear made the list, but gayness didn’t? No graven images, no idols, but not don’t be gay?
Look, it’s not my religion, but come on. Really?
It amuses me (and by “amuses me” I mean “boggles my mind”) that there are those who actually go around thumping their fleshy chests and proclaiming with ponderous gravid certainty that their God would say this or that, that he approves of this and disapproves of that, that he loves these people and hates those people (What? God doesn’t hate gay people, you say? He loves ‘em, but he’s going to torture them in pits of fire for all eternity. But he loves them. Riiiight. There’s a word for guys like this. I’m just saying).
These people pretend insight into the supposedly unfathomably vast mind of an incomprehensible being that they claim spans not just universes but all of time and space, and then they have the unmitigated gall to act offended when somebody demands proof of such outrageous and preposterous claims.
Worse, they inevitably, every single time without fail, attempt to use this supposed insight to justify their own personal agenda of hate and fear.
In Arizona, a fanatical group of religious extremists calling themselves the Center for Arizona Policy wrote a bill called The Religious Freedom Restoration Act, officially called SB 1062, and Friday that bill passed the Arizona state senate and is now on its way to Governor Jan Brewer’s desk.
The basic gist of the law would allow Arizona businesses to legally discriminate against anybody, but in particular Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, and Transgendered (LGBT) people.
This isn’t an exaggeration or hysterical hyperbole as its supporters claim.
In fact, if the law didn’t specifically provide protection for businesses that want to discriminate based specifically on sexual orientation and religion, there wouldn’t be any reason for it in the first place.
Legalizing discrimination is the entire purpose of SB 1062, it has no other provisions.
The law clearly and unambiguously allows businesses to turn away gay and lesbian customers based solely on sexual orientation (or suspected orientation), it specifically protects employers who deny equal pay to women based solely on their gender if they believe women are inferior on religious grounds, it allows employers to fire employees based solely on their sexual orientation or lifestyle or religion or lack of religion, and it allows individuals and businesses to renege on existing contractual obligations again based solely on sexual orientation or lifestyle or religious beliefs – just so long as they “sincerely” invoke God when they’re doing it.
This law essentially turns every private business in Arizona into holy ground and imposes Christian Dominionism on every person inside the state lines.
This law was written and promoted specifically in support of one religion, Evangelical Christian extremism, and no other.
It’s appalling ironic that the fanatics behind this new version of segregation are the very same people who fear imposition of Islamic law upon themselves, and yet they see nothing whatsoever hypocritical about forcing their own religious agenda on everybody else. As I said, their own holy book mentions homosexuality a mere handful of times, but specifically condemns their own hypocrisy and small minded bigotry over and over and over again.
Religious extremists would have you believe that SB 1062 is about protecting their rights, that they are somehow being denied their 1st Amendment Rights if they have to treat LGBT people as, well, you know, people. And that’s exactly what they are doing, Arizona legislators specifically wrote into the law a provision that clearly and unambiguously proclaims a “person” to be a “ANY INDIVIDUAL, ASSOCIATION, PARTNERSHIP, CORPORATION, CHURCH, RELIGIOUS ASSEMBLY OR INSTITUTION OR OTHER BUSINESS ORGANIZATION.”
In Arizona a church is a person.
An informal religious assembly is a person.
An association is a person.
A partnership is a person.
A corporation is a person.
A business is a person.
Unless they’re gay. Unless they don’t subscribe to the right religion. Then they are less than human.
The bill specifically targets LGBT people, but it’s written in such a manner that it allows any form of state supported bigotry so long as that discrimination is done in the name of religion, specifically a particular form of Christianity. Specifically Evangelical Christianity.
Think I’m wrong?
You just watch how fast the Christian sponsors and supporters of this bill start screaming in outrage when a Muslim refuses their business based on their religion.
If Governor Brewer signs this bigotry into law, you watch just how fast evangelicals backpedal when businesses start refusing them service, when employers start firing them or paying them less based solely on that little cross hanging around their necks, when the privately held cable or phone company turns off service to their church, when they can’t get seated in a restaurant or find a business that will cater their wedding.
This bill is being promoted by one religion, solely in support of one religion, solely for the benefit of one religion. Period.
Given half a chance, these same people would turn Arizona and the rest of America into Putin’s Russia, or worse, Iran. Q.E.D.
And just what would Jesus say about that?
If the same Bible that these people use as justification for their bigotry and hatred is to be believed, then Jesus never said anything about homosexuality, not one holy word. But according to that same document, here’s what he did specifically say:
For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions. -Matthew 6:14-15.
In the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. –Matthew 7:2-5
Then Peter came and said to Him, Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times? Jesus said to him, I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. -Matthew 18:21-22
Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions. –Mark 11:25-26
But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned. –Luke 6:25-37
But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink, for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. – Romans 12:20-21
Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails; -I Corinthians 13:4-8
Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature. – I Corinthians 14:20
Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. –Ephesians 4:1-3
Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. -Ephesians 4:32
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. –Philippians 2:3-4
So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. –Colossians 3:12-13
For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment. -James 2:13
To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing. -I Peter 3:8-9
There’s more. Much, much more of the same.
So, why is it, do you suppose, that these people are so fixated on the unspoken, unknown, unguessable words of their God, but steadfastly refuse to acknowledge or obey the very very specific written instructions of their prophet? Why must they guess at what Jesus would say, when they ignore the words he did say according to their own beliefs?
The simple hypocritical truth of the matter is this: These people demand the right to segregate themselves from those who don’t adhere to their version of the Christian faith, they seek to shun and shame those they see as sinners, and they demand this right in the name of a religion that vocally and specifically commands them to do exactly the opposite.
They’re not trying to live up to the expectations of their God, they’re only using him as an excuse to hate others.
These hypocrites are simply mad that the current laws and the Constitution of the United States force them to live up to the admonishments of their own professed beliefs.
And the truly ironic thing is that this law is not only contrary to everything the United States stands for, according to Christian doctrine it’s contrary to everything Jesus stood for as well.
And just what would Jesus do about that?
I suspect he’d forgive them … but then again, he has that luxury, since he obviously doesn’t live in Arizona.
Edit: AZ Governor Brewer vetoed SB 1062. Follow-up commentary is here.
About the title of this piece, it’s a tip of the hat to singer-songwriter, pianist, and outspoken civil rights activist Nina Simone and an homage to her Mississippi Goddam, written and performed at Carnegie Hall in 1964 following the murder of Medgar Evers and the bombing of a black church in Birmingham that killed four young girls. Mississippi Goddam was one of the great anthems of the American Civil Rights movement. It was banned in nearly every Southern State and universally denounced by pious bigots and devoutly religious haters across the land.
50 years later, the hateful bigots are still among us, still wrapped in the hoods and robes of their small and fearful religion, working to turn back the clock with a return to Jim Crow and Segregation. The target of their hate may be different this time around, but it’s no less vile and loathsome. They, like those who came before them, are firmly on the wrong side of history and one day, just like their forbearers, that history will show them for what they truly are.
This week, marks what would have been Simone’s 80th birthday and her words ring as true today as they did back then.