Y’all Qaeda: Make Me a Witness

“Make me a witness. Take me out; out of darkness; out of doubt…will we burn in heaven? Like we do down here? Will the change come while we’re waiting? Everyone is waiting.” — Sarah McLachlan “Witness”.

Before I go on with this blog any further, I wanted to take a moment as I sit out among my flowers and among the roses, with Sammy my dog snoozing in the shade, the statue of Mary in the garden, the sculpted angels that surround her, to make it clear that I am in no way attacking Christianity as a faith practice for billions of people world wide.

I am no atheist — although I understand them and, given what has been handed to me in my life there are certain aspects of the faith, especially fundamentalism, that I am a complete non-believer of. Frank Schaffer in his book, Why I am an Atheist that Believes in God, does a magnificent job in detailing this state of being better than I can. I can’t recommend his work more.

I am not an agnostic — although I went through an agnostic phase in my early years of deconstruction. Mostly, this was academic. As a lover of history and political science, I knew that our founding fathers were Deists. It was the Age of Enlightenment that our bedrock principles were laid out in the Declaration of Independence by Jefferson, The Constitution, and the debates and written works, such as The Federalist Papers, by Hamilton, Madison, and Jay were also made available to the world.

That didn’t last. Or, rather, I just didn’t have the discipline to sit in such a grey area, intellectually. ((I also tried Buddhism too, and that didn’t work for me either. I’m too impatient for Nirvana.))

It was the gospel music in my life during my IFB years that I hyper focused on. ((Heh. A gay man involved and loving gospel music?! Say it ain’t so! It’s Baptist Broadway! LOL. ))

It wasn’t just the performance aspect alone, however. It was the lyrics that held me and still do.

Could we with Ink the ocean fill;

and were the skies of parchment made;

if every stalk on earth a quill;

and every man a scribe by trade;

to write the love of God above;

would drain the ocean dry;

nor could that scroll contain the whole;

though stretched from sky to sky

It was that God, I heard in my youth. It was that God that beckoned to me. It was the poetry, the lyrics, the music, the musings, the witness, the grace, the passion, of people who saw a merciful, bountiful, forgiving, loving, and powerful deity. It was the artistry, the human expression of the divine that made me latch on to those songs.

What I couldn’t understand, however, was in the moments between the final note of the song, and the time it took to walk the ten feet between the piano and the pulpit, the sudden and jarring and almost schizophrenic change in God’s demeanor.

Grace abounding was suddenly replaced with wrath.

Reverend Nadia Bolz-Weber in her work: Pastrix: The Cranky Beautiful Faith of Sinner Saint described that ‘other’ God, perfectly:

“The image of God I was raised with was this: God is an angry bastard with a killer surveillance system who had to send his little boy (and he only had one) to suffer and die because I was bad. But the good news was that if I believed this story and then tried really hard to be good, when I died I would go to heaven, where I would live in a golden gated community with God and all the other people who believed and did the same things as I did…..this type of thinking portrays God as just as mean and selfish as we are, which feels like it has a lot more to do with our own greed and spite than it has to do with God.”

I didn’t understand that transition and something inside of me knew something wasn’t right. I didn’t possess the language to articulate it, but I instinctively knew there was a problem. As a matter of fact, at that early age was when I learned how to stare at someone (the pastor) for an hour or so, and completely tune out every single word they said. ((Because when you’ve heard one racist, misogynistic, homophobic, anti-social, rant. You’ve heard ’em all)).

Yet, I could not tune out the effects of it. God was someone to be feared and that emotional upheaval of a people who were angry that the world wasn’t bowing down to their brand of Christianity, focused all that angst, and fear of God’s judgement, on the weakest of their members.

Us.

Children. Or on their women.

Mostly, I think, because they were too chicken shit to take it elsewhere. And, because we were so insular, so closed off, so isolated from the world, they knew that — or they were somewhat sure of — the fact that no one would take it outside of their organization for fear of “destroying the man of God.”

I am no theologian. I am a writer of romance novels, horror novels, poetry, and music. I am an artist, as pompous as that may sound, I’ve come to embrace that title and all the hippie, lovely, funky, fun, and societally side-eyed, weight it carries.

But it is through that medium(s) that I began to understand, or was pulled toward, the creator as an artist himself. I mean, think about it, whether you’re a staunch Creationist or an Evolutionist (or a combination of both as I am) — the created world (or the world as it happened to form by chance if you’re of that mindset) is breathtaking.

But so are we.

Look at all the shades of color we come in. The languages. The culture. The songs. The music. The FOOD. ((The whole anti-immigrant warning of, “There’ll be taco trucks on every corner!” to me, wasn’t a threat. Bring it on!))

If we are made in the image of God, than we are as he is: creators. Storytellers. Professing his majesty, our majesty, with tales of tragedy and triumph throughout the world because we can’t help ourselves. It’s who we are.

No, I don’t approach the Throne of God with a sense of fear. (I don’t think I was willing to ‘approach it’ at all then because of the fear, thank you very much) I approach it with a sense of wonder, now.

So when I hear, or when I think upon some of the things I’ve heard fundamentalists say concerning the wretchedness of mankind, I’m offended not simply because of the damage it does to the listener — but because they’re also talking shit about God via his creation.

((They’re either really brave, or really stupid. Either way that takes brass balls. ))

Why would you, then, clothe the naked, feed the hungry, heal the sick, and take care of the weakest among you? They think men, God’s perfect creation, are all disgusting.

Their misery, our misery, misery period — is something we deserve and not something that should be alleviated by love and care and mercy.

Why did we take the most merciful God, the most beautiful, radical, passionate, loving, healing, bronze skinned, woolen haired, homeless, penniless, friend to Lazarus and Mary Magdalene, healer of the leper, the blind, the deaf, raiser of the dead, life changing, Jesus and turn him into a sociopathic, narcissistic, racist, asshole?

Fear.

Fear is a money maker. It’s an empire builder. It’s a power collector. It’s a divider. It’s an accuser. It’s an assaulter. It enables the worst behavior mankind can come up with. Fear also brings with it, Judgement and it was our judgement, that killed Christ.

There’s no money to be made in Jesus’ words and fear, that primal, primitive, evolutionary instinct is powerful and loud.

And people who are afraid of the inherent fears of the unknown (Life, death, weather, societal changes, life after death) need certainty. And that certainty, or the mirage of certainty, can only come by way of a fearless leader. They’ll worship that man who brings them calmness, peace, even if it’s a false peace and a false calm, even at the expense of their family, they community, and their nation.

Yet, fundamentalists don’t suffer from an overabundance of faith, otherwise they wouldn’t do what they do — the suffer from a lack of it. They’ve been made afraid of the God that adores them, as they are. That God that loves them and loves us all in our condition as human beings that none of us can escape no matter how hard we try. No matter how much we revile it.

The same humanity, I might add, that Christ also experienced.

But the kicker is, it’s our shared humanity, that brings us together. As an artist, I’ve come to understand that. It’s what Nadia Bolz-Weber describes as our “…jagged edges…that give us texture. It gives us something to hold on to.”

It’s a little before Two P.M on this beautiful March day. The skies are a robin’s egg blue, with white puffy clouds floating lazily by. At my bird feeder, a male and female cardinals are hopping about foraging on the seed that’s dropped to the ground. Sammy, my dog, has awoken from his nap to shift places on the deck. The bees are about their business, attending to the flowers in the bed, and a breeze wraps itself lovingly around me from moment to moment.

My God is here and he’s here with me. I am a witness to it and for it and for him.

The seeds of faith were planted by my parents — and for that I will always be grateful despite the abuse, despite the nonsense of the church(es) we were involved in. The Absurdity of it all. But since I’ve left fundamentalism aside, my faith hasn’t waned. In fact, because of my husband’s influence as a Catholic, and my own curiosity at “God” and all that he is, my faith has grown.

No, I am a Christian. Or, rather, I’m practicing to be a Christian.

I’m okay with that.

((Authors note: I want to take a moment to thank some of the author’s of Christian works that I’ve read. Some were mentioned in the article, others not. I do, however, highly recommend their work for people looking for cracking good books to read about Christianity. Thank you, Nadia Bolz-Weber. Frank Schaeffer. Rob Bell. Rachel Held Evans (R.I.P) and Phyliss Tickle (R.I.P). Your works have inspired, healed, and — in some kind of way — handed my faith back to me. I will always be in your debt.))

Originally published at http://deconstructingthedread.wordpress.com on March 25, 2021.

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Queer AF Author. Poet. Songwriter. Screenwriter. Human Being.

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Frederick E Feeley Jr

Frederick E Feeley Jr

Queer AF Author. Poet. Songwriter. Screenwriter. Human Being.