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I have had the privilege to read the series of Diaries by Florida4Obama about her nephew's tragic situation, and was moved almost to tears by The Nephew's own diary on the subject.

I posted most of this text as a comment on The Nephew's diary...and then decided that I wanted to share these feelings as a separate diary. So here it is!

Matt, thank you for your blunt honesty about your faith, your politics, your sexuality, and your familiy. A few of your comments provoked a bit of guilt in me - as they should: I certainly have been guilty of posting some pretty unkind things about your family, and your church, and your school in your aunt's diaries. It was hard not to, frankly: what was done to you just can't come across as loving - or even just - to an outsider.

But as an outsider, I apologize for any unkindness I excpressed: here I am, preaching tolerance and forgiveness and inclusiveness, yet I lashed out in the face of what your aunt told us. Still, it's hard to stand aside and watch a fellow human being being savaged by those who should - and probably do - love him.

I just want to use this diary to focus on the "faith and religion" aspect of your dilemma. I don't know your church or school; I do know a bit about the Southern Baptist denomination, although not much. You should know, though, that the denomination has a broad spectrum of believers and churches, and that there are some Southern Baptist congregations that - to the horror of the "powers that be" - are tolerant, even accepting, of "horrible" sins such as the "sin" of being born with a homosexual orientation.

I'm not bashing your religion, because I grew up in a Christian church myself and still, in some ways, consider myself a Christian. But PLEASE look at some of the hate that has been dished out by your specific church and school, and analyze that hate in the context of Jesus' love.

I'm such an ancient fossil compared to you, but when I was your age (almost 40 years ago) I had already been through at least 12 years of Sunday School and was still active in Youth Group at my church. It was a Methodist church.

The message I took from my church and Sunday school experience?

Don't lie, don't cheat, don't steal, and treat other people righteously.

There was nothing in all that religious instruction about condemning gay people. Nothing. It wasn't even mentioned.

There was nothing about supporting Republican candidates.

There was nothing about promoting war. In fact, we knew Jesus as "The Prince of Peace". The war that was going on when I was your age was Vietnam (gosh, funny how our nation has a war for every generation, isn't it?) and I think I could say that the overall feeling in my church was that the war needed to end, the killing needed to stop, and our soldiers needed to come home.

There was nothing about criminalizing abortion, or amending the constitution to exclude women from equal protection.

There was no need and no concerted effort to force Christian "values" on everybody around us: no demands for "ten commandments" in the courtroom or a manger with the Baby Jesus on the lawn of the Town Hall. Instead, our church had its Christian symbols and artworks, other churches had theirs, and the government had colored lights and an evergreen tree during the Christmas season.

There was no demand that our schools scrap decades of scientific research and advancement and instead teach the book of Genesis as if it were a science textbook. We learned science in school, and we learned the Bible in church and Sunday school.

What I'm getting at here is that the church you grew up in was different: confrontational, judgemental, not loving - except on its terms. Jesus, on the other hand, preached unconditional love.

Remember, when your church's interpretation of your Christian faith relies on the hate and anger of the Old Testament, that Jesus actively condemned the "priests and pharisees". He acknowledged the Ten Commandments, but he said, clearly:

This is my one commandment: that you love one another.

I find it hard to see the "love" in expelling a wonderful, successful, caring young man from his school for no reason. I find it hard to see the integrity in "rewarding" another young man for practicing deception, lying to another student for months, and deliberately inflicting hurt. The expression "hate the sin, love the sinner" comes across to me as a cop-out.

An important thing to remember, I think, is that - as a Christian - your faith is not your church. It is the love and salvation of Jesus Christ. Period. Many churches will deny that simple fact, because if you come to realize that you don't need them in order to find salvation in Christ...well, there goes all their power.

And, looking at the way the church heirachy has attempted to impose its will on not only church members but the nation at large, not to mention what it did to you personally: wouldn't you say that there's at least a chance that it is POWER, not salvation, that motivates these people?

Originally posted to blue in NC on Sat Mar 13, 2010 at 05:43 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I have been utterly fasinated (18+ / 0-)

    by the story of Matt and his wonderful aunt and uncle. I'm gay and I've sure seen lots of variations on this sad family situation. Unfortunately many of them turn out to be much worse than this one looks like it is going to turn out to be.

    The response of the Daily Kos community is also very interesting. We spend much time here debating the political implications of the culture wars. This story dramatically illustrates that behind those political abstractions there are real people. Real people have lives, values and hopes that don't always fall neatly into black and white piles.

    Matt and his parents have my very best wishes. However, from my own experiences, I know that it is essential for Matt to follow the course of being honest with himself. The rest of it will have to get sorted out along the way.

  •  Amen... (8+ / 0-)

    wouldn't you say that there's at least a chance that it is POWER, not salvation, that motivates these people?

  •  excellent (9+ / 0-)

    I woke up this morning thinking about Matt.  His story has struck a chord with many of us.  

    He made it clear in the diary that he understands he was born gay--no "homosexual agenda" recruited him.  This is a very healthy first step, especially for someone raised in an environment like his.

    When you're eighteen, you begin to see a world outside the one provided to you by your parents.  You are exposed to new people and new ideas.   To have the entire foundation of your existence kicked out from under you at that time is supremely difficult, and I can understand his desire to hold on to his Southern Baptist faith now--it's the only thing familiar in this new life.

    But, and there's always a but, I hope as time passes, he can see that we are liberal because it hurts us greatly to see what has happened to him, and many people like him.  Many of us have moved away from the religions of our youth because cherry-picking one passage from the Bible, and ignoring those surrounding it, seems like a pretty weak basis for condemning people.

    There is no snooze button on a cat who wants breakfast.

    by puzzled on Sat Mar 13, 2010 at 06:22:48 AM PST

    •  I am often so conflicted over the faith (8+ / 0-)

      of others who are close to me.

      Some of my dearest friends here in North Carolina are truly of the "Religious Right". They are not even Southern Baptists: they are part of the really fundie nondenominational movement.

      They are rabid Republicans. Gun-rights promoters to the point of being "gun nuts". Cheerleaders - not just supporters, but cheerleaders for our nations current two immoral and wrong wars.

      They believe that the United States is a "Christian Nation" and believe that government should promote the Christian faith. They believe that science is a hoax and that the book of Genesis should be taught as the only factual account of the creation of life. Literal account.

      They support the hateful agendas of the Republican party, and "Christian" organizations such as Focus on the Family. They believe that homosexuals have "teh gay agenda" and must be cast out.

      Yet these people are, one on one, some of the nicest people I know in so many ways. They give me food. They help me with projects at my house. They support me in other endeavors. They are mild-mannered and, in almost every way, very kind.

      But I have no doubt that they would react as Matt's parents did if they were placed in a similar position.

      I just don't get it.

      •  I grew up in the SBC (9+ / 0-)

        in the small town deep south during the 1950s. The churches were not as overtly politicized as they are today, but the whole environment was sealed off from the rest of the world. We went to segregated schools and everybody there was either WASP or African American. Since then the real world has slowly invaded the south and these people are desperate to hold onto their cocoon.

        •  Grew up in med. sized town in Ia. in late '50's, (7+ / 0-)

          early 60's.  My church-going mom made sure I got to Methodist Sunday school and church for 12 straight years, plus MYF every Sun. night, plus jr. choir and choir and the potlucks.  (My dad was more of an Easter/Xmas kind of guy).  But everyone I knew went to some church every Sun.  It's just what we did, it was expected, as much as attending school during the week.  But there was very much a "live and let live" type thinking.  There was no mine is better than yours, my God is the one true God etc.  No evangelical rabid right-wing churches.  It was so much more about instilling values and decency and teaching us "to love one another".
           Then---I took a course called "Religion in Human Culture" my freshman yr. in college and that began my awareness of a whole new, bigger world out there----and to all the negative aspects of organized religion----all the harm---and eventually to my drifting away completely.
           But I even got married in that hometown by a Methodist minister and a Catholic priest---pleasing both sides---which was unheard of in its day, and probably moreso now---but they were friends and good and tolerant religious people.

      •  They're unfailingly sweet and kind.. as long as (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        blue in NC, 1BQ, conlakappa

        you fit within their parameters of 'us'. If you don't, then all bets are off. ::sigh:: I try to look at the fact that they practice agape at least towards some as a step in the right direction, but I often fail.

        Information is abundant, wisdom is scarce. The Druid

        by FarWestGirl on Sat Mar 13, 2010 at 11:33:59 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  blue in NC... (11+ / 0-)

    This is one of many elements of Matt's whole experience that stuck in my craw, too. Even this is too big to sort out at once. But with this and all other elements of Matt's experience, there is one common denominator: the problem of intolerance.

    Matt, if you're out there reading, my greatest wish is that you will arrive at a place where you are no longer tolerant of intolerance. You've had no choice for the longest time, but now the door has opened before you to be solid in who you are, and help to enlighten and change the course of organized religion, and even politics, one person at a time.


  •  As a Christian, I too have become increasingly (11+ / 0-)

    alarmed with the rise of the fundamentalist, Southern Baptist version of Christianity.  At this point, I barely recognize it as the same faith I follow.  

    Particularly, this point you made has been confusing me for quite awhile:

    Remember, when your church's interpretation of your Christian faith relies on the hate and anger of the Old Testament, that Jesus actively condemned the "priests and pharisees". He acknowledged the Ten Commandments, but he said, clearly: This is my one commandment: that you love one another.

    I don't understand the seemingly angry and rigid emphasis on bits and pieces of the Old Testament.  

    We have the Gospels which present the direct teachings of our Savior.  How can the parables of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10: 25-37) or John 8:7 about not judging others, and what about this?!?

    Matthew 25: 35-40

    Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me. Then the righteous will answer him, saying, Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you? 40 And the King will answer them, Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.

    Which I certainly take to be a centerpiece of Christ's direction for all those who would follow Him, ... How can Christ's main message and the New Testament be put aside in favor of purity tests involving homosexuality, abortion, and evolution that are supposedly based on the Old Testament? (And I write supposedly because the case is not strong AT ALL on those points even if you do focus on the Old Testament.)

    As a Christian, I find that very alarming. It smacks of the sin of pride and rigid adherence to the supposed law advocated by the Pharisees who Jesus did not agree with.  In fact, I'd almost argue that some supposedly Christian churches and churchy people are bordering on committing the same sins that condemned Sodom!

    Ezekiel 16:48-49 tell us: "This is the sin of Sodom; she and her suburbs had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not help or encourage the poor and needy. They were arrogant and this was abominable in God's eyes."

    Interesting that, huh?  (And, see above Matthew 25.)

    IMO one of the best discussions of homosexuality and the Bible is by Mel White.  White is a minister who has studied source texts in both Greek and Hebrew and the link provides a pretty well done overview regarding Biblical treatment of homosexuality.

    Organize at the local level, nurture solidarity, persevere through set backs, and remember to celebrate the incremental wins. Yes. We. Can.

    by bkamr on Sat Mar 13, 2010 at 07:02:29 AM PST

    •  Great observations! (3+ / 0-)

      And the parallels between Sodom and the Republican ("Christian") Party Platform are eerie.

    •  A lot of this was political machination. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      blue in NC, bkamr

      The Republican Party has been quite deliberate in co-opting Christian fundamentalists.  Abortion was the beginning and they deliberately changed the frame from "anti-abortion" to "pro-life".  Everyone is presumably for life!  That was a moment Lakoff took note of.

      Evolution vs Creationism is the biggest non-issue to ever divide the nation.  What freakin' difference does it make?  But the consequences are dire, because in a world where the greatest economic resource has moved from natural resources to products of the human brain - we choose to dumb down in science???  

      The only constant is change - Heraclitus

      by Gustogirl on Sat Mar 13, 2010 at 08:03:19 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I have to wonder what the anti-gay (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      blue in NC, bkamr, FarWestGirl

      Christians have to say about that Ezekiel passage. Is it ever mentioned when they discuss the evils of Sodom? I somehow doubt it. After all, it sounds like an apt description of today's Rethugs!

      I think this all goes to show that the Bible is used by far too many to bash "the other" especially when it comes to something like homosexuality.

      Just another socialist fuckstick homosinner!

      by Ian S on Sat Mar 13, 2010 at 08:53:13 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I hope that Matt will spend a fair amount of (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      blue in NC, bkamr

      time contemplating, at some point, the chapter he was named after. Once he gets some breathing space, that is.

      Information is abundant, wisdom is scarce. The Druid

      by FarWestGirl on Sat Mar 13, 2010 at 11:38:44 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  The Mel White link is a very affirming and (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      blue in NC, bkamr

      cogent exploration of scripture, highly recommended.

      Information is abundant, wisdom is scarce. The Druid

      by FarWestGirl on Sat Mar 13, 2010 at 12:15:36 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  i think your takeaway was spot on (5+ / 0-)

    be a good person, is what it boils down to, no?  

    an ye harm none, do as thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.

    * an = "if," not "and"

    or as shakespeare put it,

    Love all
    Trust few
    Harm none

    People are upset Obama hasn't solved all the problems yet. C'mon, he's only been in office one year...the man went to Harvard, not Hogwarts. - Wanda Sykes

    by Cedwyn on Sat Mar 13, 2010 at 07:08:00 AM PST

  •  A rousing AMEN to this diary (6+ / 0-)

    Jesus taught love and compassion.  It sickens me that he's being used to prop up hate and intolerance.  Your faith is not your church, indeed.

    I shall die, but that is all that I shall do for Death; I am not on his payroll. - Edna St. Vincent Millay

    by Tara the Antisocial Social Worker on Sat Mar 13, 2010 at 07:40:11 AM PST

  •  Bottom line: who's acting Christ-like? (6+ / 0-)

    A dear friend of mine was raised in an atmosphere similar to the one Matt has known: Southern, deeply religious, well-to-do, socially conservative, etc. My friend dealt with the same things Matt has described (praying the gay away, hoping to die, etc). My friend's coming out also did not go well (at least for the first few years).

    My friend describes his upbringing as being inside a bubble. All aspects of life focused only inside the bubble (i.e. on those who were just like his family), and extraordinary effort was expended to keep the 'evil' forces of the outside world at bay. "US" was entire focus and "THEM" was the source of conflict and problems.

    In college, he first met Jews and Catholics and liberals and gays and blacks and the many secular people for whom religion played a less all-encompassing role (i.e. the dreaded "THEM"). He says the reality of these people was so different from the way he'd been taught to think about them inside the bubble.  One thing began to nag at him: these people often seemed to think and act much more Christ-like than those in the Jesus-obsessed, hermetically-sealed bubble back home.  These supposedly wicked, sinful people actually cared about the poor, supported peaceful coexistence, seemed interested in people different from themselves, exhibited empathy, avoided blame as a first instinct and ... were generally tolerant and kind and generous.

    I sense Matt has a similar path in front of him.  He is in the process of discovering the 'real world', making sense of it all, and finding his place in it. I urge him to keep his mind open and to focus less on the frequency that people, religions, organizations, etc invoke the name of Jesus and, instead, to focus more on those that exhibit Christ-like behaviors and attitudes toward their fellow man. Matt is an intelligent and sensitive young man; the rest will take care of itself.

    I wish him nothing but the very best.

  •  A little something I learned (4+ / 0-)

    from my children's grandfather, a Lutheran pastor.  He says you need to take everything in the bible and hold it up to what Jesus says in the Gospels.  If the two don't jibe, keep what Jesus says and discard the other.

    And Jesus didn't say anything about who shouldn't love who.

    If you think you're too small to be effective, you've never been in the dark with a mosquito.

    by marykk on Sat Mar 13, 2010 at 08:11:23 AM PST

  •  Thank you for this diary Blue in NC n/t (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    blue in NC, Quilldriver, FarWestGirl

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