Thursday, August 25, 2016

Tiny and Afraid

During an online discussion of John Pavlovitz's Dear Offended Christian, From a Very Tired Christian, one commenter claimed to have never run into a hateful Christian, and hinted strongly that they were simply the fabrications of atheists. Well, for the record, I've never run into a hateful Christian, either. But I have run into any number of fearful ones.

"God hates soft men. God hates effeminate men. If I was in a drugstore and some guy opened the door for me, I'd rip his arm off and beat him with the wet end."
Ken Hutcherson, pastor of Antioch Bible Church in Kirkland.
Anthony Robinson. "Articles Of Faith: Ridiculing gay men is hateful way to preach." Seattle Post-Intelligencer. 22 February, 2008
For many people, including Mr. Robinson, who is also a minister, that quote was proof of Pastor Hutcherson's hatefulness. And I can understand that. "The Hutch" was very much against marriage equality, taking credit for Microsoft backing away from its support of Initiative 957, an early attempt to put marriage equality on the ballot.

But for me, Pastor Hutcherson's words reveal fearfulness. The fearfulness of a man, who despite having been a professional football player (perhaps one of the most "manly" professions in the nation) is afraid enough that his god might see him as unworthy that he threatens violence over an act that most of us were lead to believe is common courtesy. And I've met other people whose religiosity was openly tinged by fear. When I worked for the YMCA in Chicago, our administrative assistant would conspicuously move away from you if you swore or did something else she considered immoral. She believed in a deity who would literally strike you down with a Bolt From the Blue - and had little concern for collateral damage.

Growing up Black, with some VERY Baptist relatives, it didn't take long to realize that they believed in a god who expected things from them, and was potentially very liberal with punishments when crossed. By the time I was in high school (and taking theology classes), I'd come to realize that a belief in collective (or at least somewhat indiscriminate) punishments was wider spread than I'd first thought.

A concern that the actions of another will cause you injury commonly leads to anger. And while some Christians may feel that they have an obligation to hate what they understand their god hates (perhaps Westboro Baptist Church falls into the category) many people are simply angry and upset that other people are so brazenly willing to upset the apple cart. Especially those who believe in an active, interventionist deity who directly controls what does and does not happen in the world. Even as a Roman Catholic, we were taught that God "allowed" certain bad things to happen because of the sinfulness of mankind. If God allowed disease and suffering to ravage mankind for not living up to expectations, is it really that much of a stretch to think that terrorist attacks might also fall into that category?

Fear and anger erode compassion. That's part, it seems, of human nature. It's difficult to be immune from it. And it often leads us to label people in ways that allow us to hold them culpable for what we see as their crimes against us. It's an urge worth resisting.

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