Shut up and Listen: Repent, dear King, or go to Hell. *

Arkansas is a religious state. Okay, not the religious state like islamic countries… we’ve just got more than our fair share of pious folks walking around. And pious folks are raised believing that they are right, and everyone else is wrong.

As a youth growing up here, I was lucky enough to learn early on that chances are, I was wrong about everything. I was what they called a doubter. I doubted my religion, my goverment, my relationships, everything. I guess you could say it was a case of “paranoia, paranoia, everybody’s comin’ to get me” or something. Everything was a little hard to trust.

As a recovering Baptist, I tend to look at religion with a very speculative eye. I’m seeing a disturbing new trend: the posibility of strong religions beliefs leading some to take a political stance, and for those who take this stance to welcome socially counterproductive ideas as their own as a means to show contempt to the “godless”.

The liberal world-IE, the world where all people are considered equals, and no special priveledges are awarded to people based on class or race or gender, there is a strong move for equality. The ten commandments and prayer disappear from school and courtrooms, and it is seen as a blatant attack. So what? Sew buttons.

The Republican party, and therefore 75 of all Christians, were bought out long ago by companies that have sub-par environmental policies. So now, if you love Jesus, you support deforestation and global warming. And despite the impending death of everything on our planet, there are darker intonations. I have my own private qualms with the Republican party, so I won’t go into that. But is the liberal “academic” movement… much maligned by the religious… leading them to embrace hatred?

Today in my course on the Rhetoric and Theory of Composition, we were given a passage written by a student who had a lot to say about Black History month. The following is quoted as best I can remember.

“Black history month… makes me sick. All black people do is cry and whine about crap. They whine about racism, they are the racists. White people have done as much to get blacks their rights as black people, why isn’t there a white history month?”

(…where did the rights go to begin with, Sherlock?)

“…we should have WET. How come black people get their own station? How come rap is a black thing? I guess that means everything white people do is a white thing.”

We were asked how we would respond to getting such a paper from a student. Silence filled the room for about two minutes, until a few people offered some meager suggestions, including myself (tell him to back up his argument rather than using inflammatory comments). However, the professor, an outspoken woman who never shies away from anything, let us know what she had done: Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

The sad thing was that I know who wrote this. I recognized one of the jokes he made early on. He’s an aquaintance of mine. A fastidious conservative. God is his co-pilot.

We live in a culture where people scream at each other. “Lies and the Lying Liars who Tell Them” and “How to talk like a Liberal if you Have To” (or something like that) are both books that sold like hotcakes. Both showcase a blatant contempt for the other side, a rejection of all they stand for. Are people really lining themselves up like this in this country? If I support environmental regulations, to I necessarily HAVE to support abortion as well? If I oppose gay marriage, must I also support Social Security Privatization? In a free country, should I have to slice away what I believe to fit with the one that is least likely to screw me over?

Two of the biggest movies of the past year were “The Passion of the Christ” and “Farenheight 9/11”. Both were polarizing, both featured bloody violence. “Passion” easily outgrossed “9/11”, as should be expected. But anyone who’s seen Passion (or anyone for that matter) it can attest to the fact that it’s a more than a little strange to watch a man be murdered over two hours. To paraphrase Marv, “I just know it’s pretty wierd to beat people.”

Some Christians harbor a contempt for other religions, based on one of the early commandments, and it comes out in their sermons. “If you’re a winner or a sinner, a nudist or a Buddhist,” was the refraim in the last sermon I went to, and every time it was spoken, a low, reptilian chuckle ran through the crowd. Equating a widely held belief that stresses deep thought with walking around in the nude? How respectful. Then again, when a religion doesn’t have enough respect for its base teachings (love thy neighbor, peace) to follow them, it can’t really be expected to coexist with anything else.

We really must seperate religious ideology from politics. We’ve seen, several times in our waking lives (and even in Sin City) that people who tout their faith are rarely as faithful as they’d have people believe, and rarely have the best intentions in the forefront of their minds.

But at the same time, Liberal all-inclusiveness and white male bashing have driven people to fall to the feet of malicious liars, and follow them to the ends of the earth, with contempt and outrage burning in their hearts. Liberals, no less militaristic, have met them across a national bloodpool, and we have a country almost evenly split in two, or from a red-blue point of view, a hemorage of outrage held in check by three tattered strips clingin to the outer edges.

Opinion is formed in the early stages of life. It is my concern that Christians who accept the George W. Bush mindset as the mindset of Jesus Christ will teach their children to reject other cultures and existentialism, and instead lead them to lives of piety and quiet labor. At the same time, I fear a world full of P.C. hippie police, forcing me to celebrate Kwanzaa.

Faith and Paranioa dictate everything we do. Both sides of this country are caught in a game of one-upsmanship. We are more evenly divided than we were in the age of the Civil War. So what can be done? How can academics learn to preach their message in a way that does not outrage the faithful? How can the faithful learn not to snap at the hand that tries to feed them new ways of thinking and insight?

I don’t know the answer, but I bet it’s most… most interesting.
* Name the quote.

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