Sunday, March 28, 2010

Roundabout Hate

When the gospel garage-rock we had so tolerantly been appreciating came to an abrupt end, Lon Solomon's face appeared like the Wizard of Oz on shining silver screens. A shiver ran down my spine and kept running as his dark mouth opened wide around words like "trustworthiness" and "veracity". My discomfort came on so strong because, well,  Lon is an atavistic crossbreed of game-show host and far-right cult leader, fluffing his feathers in high perch as the Senior Pastor of the McLean Bible Church. His position gives him the opportunity to preach to ten-thousand people every week, offering sermons that cover the burning bush, gay marriage, and everything he misrepresents in between.

Solomon's position of authority within the religious institutions we have explored is not atypical. What shocked me was his blatant and entirely unchecked discrimination that he supported with a paltry investigation of the Bible. He started by crucifying Jon Meacham for his Newsweek story, "The Religious Case for Gay Marriage" -- a piece ( that put a thorn in many a fundamentalist's side. My trouble with this, aside from it being incredibly outdated (the article was written in '08) was that there was no way for anything productive to come from Solomon's synthesis of Meacham's work. It's like Solomon agreed to a tennis match with Meacham, wielding a racquet without strings. Needless to say, it was painful to watch, painful to hear, and even more painful to see the entire audience nodding along with it.

On the fateful Sunday he appeared before us in stage makeup, the only issue firing Solomon up was gay marriage. But he didn't approach this subject head-on after decrying it in his introduction. He continued prolixly, telling tales about Jesus meeting the Sadduces, Creationism, the historic validity of religious miracles, and Carl Sagan. To drive us all to further distraction, orbiting around Solomon's disembodied head were additional screens illuminating a powerpoint presentation. In the slides, Solomon's paraphrastic and grossly biased quotes took on a great grammatical purpose. In one breath he said, "We don't need a bunch of gobbledegook theologians telling us what to think," emphasizing not only the righteousness of accepting the Bible at face value but also the necessity of it. Then in another breath, he drew our attention to the powerpoint in which he translated "God's words" for his congregation, and left his translations in quotes. It looked like this:

God: "I AM God, so it's true. I am God, I exist. My words will never pass away, so ride them like a surfboard into eternity."

Now, this isn't from the Bible. It isn't from anywhere except Lon Solomon's head. He said this was the way Jesus saw the Bible, and if we want to be like Jesus, we have to be like Lonny Solomon, and if we want to be like Lonny, we have to not question anything Lonny says the Bible says. Lonny is just reading the Bible like Jesus read the Bible. So Lonny, the Bible, God, Jesus, and real life all become the same thing. To call into question one of these things is to call into question all of them, and then do you know what happens to you? You're condemned to an eternity in Hell. So go ahead, be gay.

Yes, that was Lon Solomon's hour-long sermon. He concluded by breathing fire and snorting the words, "God said it, I believe it, that's good enough for me. This is Jesus' attitude. This is my attitude. If you have any sense you'll do the same thing." Solomon admitted he was not up to debating the issue, because it's "beyond" him to doubt anything God has so explicitly and unmistakably said. It's just not worth the risk.

Far, far away on the other side of the fence, Jon Meacham wrote, "to argue that something is so because it is in the Bible is more than intellectually bankrupt—it is unserious, and unworthy of the great Judeo-Christian tradition," and from this premise continued to construct an argument in favor of same-sex marriage. Meacham supported his claims using the same Scripture that homophobes hopped up on conveniently suited ideas of God's Will have been using for the opposite purpose. This is possible because, by definition, a quote is words out of context. The same way rock music can be prescribed or condemned by God using different clips of Bible material, similar strategies are employed regarding pressing sociopolitical issues.

Solomon would have everyone believe one road leads to heaven, and it's his road alone that will get them there. This is terrifying for a multitude of reasons. Where do human rights factor into Eternity? Religiosity can be a powerfully deceptive mask for discrimination. Intellectually stunted groupthink that perpetuates marginalization and intolerance has led to no holy place, ever, in human history. Let's love each other on Earth, starting now. Peace be with us all, Amen.

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