What Would Jesus Do?

How can anyone claim to be a Christian and still hold racist, homophobic, sexist or otherwise discriminatory beliefs?

I am a deeply spiritual woman who does not follow any organized religion but I was raised Catholic and have come and gone into their churches since birth. The God I pray to is a loving God. The God I pray to in my actions and words is the source of life, the force of good in the entire universe. I think of God as the creator and the source of all things in the continuance of life in this world and beyond.

A dear, wise friend tells me that there is a blessing in everything. Even the things that we think are holding us back, or even harming us in some way—there is a blessing, a lesson, a trial that will purify us and lead us to deeper understanding.

It is a sad state of affairs that many people who claim to be religious hold racist, homophobic, sexist and otherwise derogatory views and beliefs in the name of God—no matter what religion they subscribe to. I know the various texts may hold some language that supports these beliefs but there is also language that supports slavery, punishment by death, etc. Ideas have been hijacked to serve an agenda, a one-sided view used to control and to dominate others.

There is a pick-and-choose going on with quotes from the bible. I will not delve into the specific texts that are quoted in defense of anti-homosexual attitudes or racist and sexist ones but they are there. I don’t believe they are in the words of Jesus. When asked what the most important lesson was that Jesus would impart to his followers, he said: “Love thy neighbor as thy self.”  That should end the discrimination.

I live in the Deep South. I am surrounded by people who do not believe as I do that two people who love each other are endowed with the right to marry each other. I am surrounded by people who are not afraid to voice their beliefs that a black man should not be president, and who express their utter hatred for our current president veiled in political shim-sham language, and sometimes not.

I am confident enough in myself and in the correctness of my beliefs that I do not tolerate hate. I am fervent enough in my belief in an all-loving, good God that I do not and will not allow this hate and prejudice to stand in my personal relationships and my public persona’s expressions and attitudes.

So, think for a moment, of the truths in your own beliefs. What will survive and what will wither away? Were you instilled with a prejudice against others different from you in your upbringing? Has there been a discovery of real, living truths that have challenged your prejudices? Are you a lazy human, living in cruise-control and not accepting the challenge by our society to accept diversity and acknowledge the human rights we are endowed with by a loving and all-encompassing God?

I’m in.

“You can choose to turn back the clock 50 years for women and immigrants and gays, or in this election, you can stand up for that basic principle enshrined in our founding documents that all of us are created equal, all of us endowed with certain inalienable rights by our Creator; that it doesn’t matter whether you’re black or white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, young or old, rich or poor, gay or straight, abled or disabled — we all have a place in America,” President Barack Obama

Political Animal

I was challenged to consider whether my poetry is political because of the theme of “change” in the 100 Thousand Poets for Change movement, which claims political and social change as its issue and mission.  I have very definite ideas of my own politics, but I do not often write directly about them.

I dug through old folders last night and found a few poems that seemed to speak to this notion.  I read a collaborative experimental poem, written by myself and Dana Guthrie Martin, titled “this dream runs ahead of me.” I also read “What Came After,” (Sunrise from Blue Thunder, 2011) a poem that was written in response to the Japanese earthquake and tsunami; the ensuing meltdown and continuing disaster at the Fukishima nuclear power plant. Lastly, I read “Poem to the Madonna,” (Unlikely Stories, 2012) which is a lament and critical view of an icon of religion and perhaps my most overt political statement.

As an artist, I am asserting my self and my art into the world for the purpose of engaging and affecting other humans.  Art drives and shapes my living. With each stroke of the pen or tap on the keyboard I claim my right to create freely with artistic purpose. Many have died, or have been shamed and shunned, for far less.  

I think of myself as a feminist. This is a fairly new awareness. I have always considered myself a strong female, capable and determined, but I am now inclined to claim the label because we are under threat.

Much of the angst that comes through in my poetic voice is resonance of the truth that women continue to be oppressed. When I write erotica, for example, I want to express myself as a sexual being, an entity that claims complex, nuanced sexual impulses and wants.  I do not take this for granted. I express sexuality via a poetic statement to engage and enlighten not only the reader but myself.  I give myself permission to write what I need to write—if I waited for the world to allow me to do it I would be paralyzed. I break through those misgivings and sense of “decorum” to find the gritty or glorious truth. The intent is art, not puerile entertainment.  

If the idea is to trigger social change, then we must look at the individual, we must look to ourselves. At the very heart of humanity’s dilemma is that we are the instigators of our own ills as well as the glories—with the exceptions of our own coming into the world and the fact that we will die.  The change we seek will happen when humanity finds its own humanity—but will hate ever cease? That is the question and our enduring jeopardy.

Nothing I am saying here is new, and perhaps not said in a new way. What is and will always be groundbreaking is each solitary individual’s first act, claiming their right to be a whole, creative being: a voice in seven billion singing out.