Dear Pope Francis:
I’ve fallen from grace.
I don’t believe much religious bullshit anymore.
I used to believe the way Kim Davis does, loving the sinner and hating the sin, refusing full rights to those who don’t belong in the Kingdom of God.
Still, I loved those sinners. Enough to track them down and tell them about the Lord.
“Oh, you’re going to give me some of that Jesus crap?” a youthful homeless man with heavy beard, and bright scornful eyes, asked me on the beach where I’d taken to a little street evangelism. He smiled at me, took a swig from a beer can in brown paper bag. “Listen, kid. Give it up! It’s a crock of shit.”
I knew somehow there was nothing I could say that would convince him otherwise. I left him alone. It took me a long time to realize just what he meant.
For years, I steeped myself in church doctrine, theology, fundamentalism, prayer, good works, and even considered full-time ministry as a young man. I started out with the extreme conservative Southern Baptists, got a good solid education in the Bible, then moved to the spirit-filled charismatic and Pentecostal family where I learned to whoop and shout, “Glory! Halleluja!” and speak in tongues, then switched to the more staid and even-tempered American Baptists, who enjoy family barbecues and picnics, until finally I settled with the Episcopal Church, where my faith journey as a Christian pretty much died.
It died in the midst of a dispute with a mean-spirited bishop, the dissolution of a small church through bitter infighting and petty squabbling, and a host of other church-related ills and bloodletting that’s common throughout the faith world, not just among Christians.
I mostly don’t have anything in common with the church or religion today. I avoid them whenever possible. Yet, I know there are fine and lovely people who believe.
I got tired of talking about Jesus years ago.
I don’t mind when people practice their religion, so long as they keep it to themselves. I don’t mind when they go to church, sing hallelujah, and don’t let their religion turn them into assholes or cause them to muddy the public square with self-serving screeds about gay marriage, going to war with Iran, and barring Muslims from participating in American politics.
I do mind when religious hucksters turn politics into a circus not unlike a Scopes monkey trial, where they subvert not only civil rights and the separation of church and state, and intelligent political dialog, but access to knowledge and information, and the freedoms of certain citizens.
I’ve always understood God wants everyone to be free, and love is the driving force, the compelling narrative, of that story, which ends with redemption. I don’t buy the damnation story, or that gays can’t be married; it’s sounds too much like ISIS.
So, I guess I’m a Christian reprobate, or as a good Calvinist would say, “a sinner who is not of the elect and is predestined to damnation.”
Oh well, I’ll do the best I can to live fully every moment of the time I have left here and won’t fret about whether I can marry my gay lover, or whether I’m going to heaven or hell. But I would, nonetheless, Holy Father, appreciate your blessing because I’m a rogue who needs love too. §
Stacey Warde is publisher of The Rogue Voice. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.