The Morality Police Strike Again (and again and again)

The GOP made hay during our last elections in no small part due to the big noise White Christians have been making about what their pure, innocent kids have access to in school libraries. If a book contains references to any sexuality, and especially to LBGT issues, they consider it “pornographic” and fit only for the kind of book burnings we associate with the Third Reich. A time and place in which they would have fit well. If a book contains references to the fact that people of color have gotten a raw deal since before we became a nation, that’s pornographic as well.

A bit down the road from us in Spotsylvania, the natives are particularly restless to the point that they did a word search and, oh Lord preserve us, found that the words “lesbian” and “gay” appeared more often than “Jesus” in the library’s stacks. Whether “gay” referred to a sexual preference of happiness was not specified. I suppose these parents would be very happy if no reference to anything sexual were permitted in schools and if Jesus were mentioned (in only their interpretation of what he stood for) ad libitum.

Notwithstanding the fact that many teens find themselves pregnant (and, if these parents had their way, without access to abortion) because there is not enough frank discussion of sex in the schools — and probably in these peoples’ uptight homes—I have a newsflash for these folks. Sex is a fact of life. Your kids are as obsessed with it as any kids are. Depriving them of the ability to learn about issues related to it is the worst way to insure moral behavior. And, exactly what constitutes moral behavior anyway? I love how, of all the religious groups in America, fundamentalist Christians, like their Taliban mirror images in Afghanistan, feel they have the right to dictate and impose their version of it on all of us.

I still vividly recall a stay at a bed and breakfast during the height of the Iraq war. The host felt the need to offer a prayer before breakfast in which he asked God to guide President Bush (which the good Lord had clearly failed to do or we never would have been in the middle of the worst military blunder in our history whose consequences reverberate to this day) and finished up with the words that never fail to spoil my appetite. “In the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ, amen.” I bit my tongue and sat respectfully aching to say to the guy, “Hey buddy, I’m your guest here paying you big bucks and you should realize from my name your Lord is not ‘our’ Lord. Out of respect for me, and realizing you are running a public business, I’d prefer you to button your mouth and let me eat in peace.” Whenever I am exposed to that kind of chutzpah, which is almost solely the practice of these holy rollers, my dental bills go up due to the grinding of teeth.

The people who attack school libraries, ironically, often have little understanding of their own holy texts. As a senior in college I took a course on the New Testament from a protestant minister who presented it from a scholarly, historically based and non-literal perspective. If you have not studied those documents from such a perspective, you will be in for a lot of surprises. Much of it is not at all historically correct. It was mostly conceived as allegory and propaganda to sway the great pagan unwashed into embracing the early Christian cult, which, in the case of fundamentalists, never evolved out of cult-hood.

A year of so later some Jehovah’s Witnesses swooped down upon my lodgings to give me the “good news.” Rather than sending them packing, I invited them in and made them sit for two hours as I patiently taught them what their scriptures actually are about. Strange. They never took me up on my invitation to return.

As far as morality is concerned, I’d like to tell these parents, and people like the proprietor of the B and B that three thousand years before Jesus was turned into a legend and the myth of eternal life through him was reified into Christian dogma, my ancestors invented monotheism and the basis of modern morality, the Ten Commandments, none of which forbids teaching our kids about sex, or encourages us to interfere with healthy exploration their own sexuality. For thousands of years, while their ancestors were wild tribes who had a much more rational religion, one that worshipped the Earth, than the one they got sold by the early Jesus freaks, mine had a highly refined civilization and a much a more sophisticated approach to all things moral and religious. Who the heck are they to preach to me?

[Disclosure: As a secular, non-practicing Jew I consider Hasidic Judaism just as absurd as fundamentalist Christianity. And, as is always the case, disparaging statements about “Christians” are specifically confined to fundamentalists, not those in the mainstream.]

I’m reminded of one of my favorite jokes: A priest is going on vacation and is desperate to find a fill-in for confession. He finally resorts to a rabbi who protests he has no clue how to conduct it. So the priest has him sit in on a couple of sessions to get trained. Shortly a young woman comes in saying “Father I haver sinned ” and confesses to a liaison outside of marriage.

“Say three Hail Marys and three Our Fathers and put three dollars in the box for the children of the poor,” instructs the priest, “and you will be forgiven. Go and sin no more” Soon a second woman comes in, says “Father I have sinned” and confesses to two such incidents. ”

Say five Hail Marys and five Our Fathers and put five dollars in the box and you will be forgiven. Go and sin no more.”

“Got it,” says the rabbi, “go have a fun time.” The priest goes on his trip and the first person to come to confession is, of course, a young woman who says, “Father I have sinned” and confesses she was with a guy.

“So?” says the rabbi,” go sin again. We got a special this week. Two for five dollars.”

In the turn around is fair play department, my heart was warmed many years ago when out of the mouth of a babe, namely my then three year old grandson, the truth was revealed. He and his parents were invited to an Easter brunch attended by several evangelical families. My daughter was raised by her mixed marriage parents as everything and nothing and never set foot in a house of worship unless it were for a wedding or some such. She happened to find her calling in early childhood education and got into the Jewish Community Center system where she was required to learn and to expose her students to some Jewish traditions and prayers. My grandson attended the school and, at the time, thought himself to be Jewish. Prior to the brunch the usual “in the name of…” routine was done. Just as everyone was about to chow down, Beck calls out, “Wait a minute. I have a prayer too” and he proceeds to chant the Jewish prayer for the breaking of bread. In Hebrew.

What I would have given to have been a fly on the wall at that gathering.

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