Apr 10 2015

Mathew 7 – 1

I have been thinking about writing this down for about a week. I first thought of it while reading articles and post about a bunch of people of a religious bent feeling all persecuted and discriminated against, primarily because they are not allowed to discriminate against others. I can understand how someone would choose to run a business without really considering what “public” means, and not really thinking through how that differs from just dealing with your own friends and those who are like you. However, I have a real hard time with people being Christians but not caring to treat others in a “Christ-like” way. I say “Christ-like” as opposed to Christian as there is currently a doctrinaire Christianity in the US that has less to do with Christ’s teaching or behavior and more to do with old testament text. I have no truck with that, except I don’t think they should advertise (and considering the money behind these churches, it is advertisement) as Christian. It should be the “First Church of Bible Worship” or something. I do recall, that Christ had words to say about those who judged. NO, he did not promise the sinner would not be judged. But he did fight to protect the sinners from judgement in this life and was pretty adamant about the fact that there was one judge and he did not live here.

The part of this whole debate that irks me most is not the points of view on either side about what should or should not be legal. I have an opinion, and I accept that others have a different one. Opinions are, indeed, like assholes. Yes we all have one. No, they are not alway a good thing to show in public. But I thought about it for a long time, and I realized what really irked me was the whining about how everyone feels “discriminated” against. And how Christians are being “persecuted” in the USA.

I thought about the Christians in the middle east being beheaded, and then about the people running a business in this country. Somehow, I can’t see the poor business owners in America as being “persecuted” or even “Discriminated” against for their belief. And I know this coming segue will not make sense to a lot of people, but this reminded me of an incident in a lunchroom in the employee section of the airport in Oklahoma city, with me, my brother, and two other guys from the janitorial staff, in the early fall of 1971.

You see, I am always struck by how so much of the news I see out of Oklahoma these days offends me. It doesn’t shock me, I saw a lot of discrimination and bigotry disguised as religion and decency back when I lived there. But it offends me because it’s always people in power acting out against those who have never had power and doing it because they are “being attacked”. But I still have family down there, and while some of the church stuff seems over the top to me, I don’t hold that as wrong, just not something for me. There was a day when I was really involved in that so I can’t knock it. And while the hypocrisy of many in churches drove me out, I don’t blame people in looking there for friendship, support, and community good.

But in Oklahoma, what I saw more of than religious prejudices was racial prejudices. Some of it blatant, some subtle. Some of it I did not even understand until I left there. But one thing I would like to say is I can literally think of no one in my family ever looking down on someone of another race or on someone of different or lesser circumstances. It was thinking of this family history, in the midst of a whole culture that was the antithesis of that, that I remembered the lunch break with my brother back in 1971.

Terry was sitting at the far end of the table I was at, opposite me, with his head down on his arms. This was pretty common for him then, he would get really tired when his blood sugar was low from his diabetes. I was munching away on some far from great vending food machine lunch. We both worked for a company that contracted to do the janitorial work at the airport. I was a window washer, Terry a regular janitor. There were two other guys in the room, at the opposite end of the room, who were across from each other and having a nice little cry over their current state of affairs. Terry’s hair was a bit long. Mine was short again after I cut it at the start of that summer when I was custom combining my way North from Oklahoma to Montana. The other two guys with had shoulder length hair. (What can I say. Hippie had just become in vogue in the midwest.) One of the guys was complaining to the other that some store clerk in the airport had given him a dirty look and followed him around as he shopped. The other was commiserating and telling him that “Yes. People are always treating me horribly, too. It’s like being black.” And the other responded that, “It’s like Abby Hoffman said, ‘America’s got itself a new nigger.’”

That was the point when my brother did something he was good at (and something that I could never do) he sat up and inserted himself right in the middle of this pity party. “You two are a couple of fucking idiots!”

“What?!?” they both protested at the same time. “What are you talking about?”

“You think being treated bad because you have long hair is like being black?” Terry responded.

To which one of them replied, “Yes. We get followed around. Stared at. I even had some guys threaten me, who were going to beat me up.”

“You’re and IDIOT.” Terry replied.

One of the two stood up, fist at his side, red in the face. He was obviously ready to defend his point with more than words. I was more of a wallflower (read coward) type and was checking for exits at this point. Terry Bruce, on the other hand just sit there and did not get up or move. At this point the two guys had moved close and were standing over him.

Terry looked up at the one closest to hime and calmly said, “On your way home tonight you can stop at the barber shop and have your hair cut, and ALL your suffering will disappear. You think a black man has that option?” At which point he stood up, turned his back on them and walked toward the door. As he left the room he stated again under his breath, “You guys are fucking idiots.”

I thought of this during the week reading about all these people whining about how they were “under attack”, “being persecuted”, and so on. I thought of this and how there are people who because of there race or sexuality are being ACTUALLY persecuted. And of people who are ACTUALLY being persecuted and even DYING for their Christianity. And I have to confess a prideful moment remembering my family, who even after being raised in a culture drenched in bigotry never treated anyone as lesser of as an outsider. And so I thought in his honor, to speak up a bit, and inject myself into a conversation (which I would never do without his inspiration).

To those people running public businesses who want to refuse service to people based on their “Christian” objection to what they do in their bedroom I ask this one question. “Who would Jesus turn away?” I thought about it a lot, and I can’t think of the person Jesus turned away. Even if he knew they would face judgment, he never judged. So all I ask is this. Stop calling it Christian.

Thanks for listening. I was going to do a short version of this for my brother’s daughters and post it for “throwback Thursday” on Facebook, but then I saw it was “Sibling Day” and decided I needed to do more. I want to say above all, I do not dare to judge those people who have taken the position on religious business rights. But I ask them to remember, “Judge not, lest ye be judged.” Mathew 7-1

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