I am fully aware that this blog is not a high-traffic site. Frankly, I'm o.k. with that. I'm certainly not doing it for the money, and I'm not really in it for the reputation boost either. Way back in this blog, somewhere in the year-and-a-month I've been spilling here, I admitted that as much as anything the exercise in writing less like an academic and more like, well, a non-academic was important enough to me to pursue the project no matter how much or how little attention it got. That still holds true.
I suppose if I were looking for more traffic one thing I'd need to do is to jump on the "big stories" a little more assiduously when they arise. For the most part I've not done this, as the five of you who read regularly might notice. There are quite a few reasons for this, and recent events have prompted me to chew these reasons over in my mind and reflect.
Just one state south of here, the recent vote on Amendment One in North Carolina, voting to outlaw gay marriage (which was already against the law in that state) by means of constitutional amendment as opposed to mere legal statute, touched off plenty of commentary from both directions. (The way I just described the event probably tells you enough to guess how I felt about it.) As virtually everyone who would ever read so obscure a blog as this probably already knows, the amendment passed by a wide margin despite being so widely reviled that even one of its original proponents ultimately decided to vote against it. Much more commentary issued forth after the vote, many North Carolinians of my acquaintance found reason to be regretful of their citizenship, and so forth. When President Obama weighed in the day or so after with his support of legalized marriage for homosexuals, the issue of course caught fresh wind, with more news commentaries and denunciations piling on one after another.
For some, apparently, denunciation of gays or of the President wasn't enough. One of the "viral" videos of the past week or so, one in which the old connotation of "viral" with sickness and corruption seems particularly apt, is of a pastor of a North Carolina church who expresses, in a sermon I gather, his particular revulsion to homosexuals in rather vicious terms. He also offered his personal solution to the "problem" of gays and lesbians in America; round them up in barbed-wire electric fences until they die off due to lack of reproduction. (The sheer muddle-mindedness of this thinking is a subject for another time, since plenty of gay people are born to straight people...oy, just trying to describe the wrongness of this train of thought is mind-bending.)
You don't have to be a history major to pick up some extremely disturbing historical reference points. This is Final Solution territory. To be fair, this alleged pastor didn't go so far as to propose gas chambers, and he even allowed that the lesbians in their pen and the queers in their pen should be fed, so I suppose there must be some smoldering ember of mercy in that alleged heart somewhere. I suppose this alleged pastor would prefer that I refer to, say, the "resettlement" camps in which Japanese-Americans were detained during WWII in the United States. But I don't think that applies so well; his stated intention for his electric-fence facility is that the lesbians and queers 'die off,' right? So no, I have no intention of softening my language; this human being (at least human in form, I cannot vouch for the state of his human soul at this point) wants to put other people in concentration camps because he hates them for their sexual orientation.
I have not blogged about this, for a couple of reasons. One is simply that others have done so much more effectively than I could possibly hope to do. One such example is linked here, just in case you want more detail than I'm providing. Another reason is that, frankly, I'm uncomfortable enough with the whole blogging business even after a year-plus at it that I frankly don't want to give this alleged pastor any more attention than he is already getting (and no doubt lapping up like a starving cat in front of a bowl of milk). You have no doubt noticed that I've not even called this alleged pastor by his name, and certainly haven't included any link to the offending video. I frankly can't stand to be part of the publicity express for this horror. I'm giving him too much press as it is, and that's with only five people expected to read this entry.
The final reason I don't blog something like this is more personal.
When this business first started bubbling up and the content of this so-called sermon became clear, I couldn't get my mind off of I John 4:20: Those who say, "I love God," and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. (NRSV) 4:8 is also good: Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. There's also verse eighteen, There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. The latter is the most charitable, I suppose, speaking of fear rather than hatred, and allowing that love is not perfected in the one who fears, rather than using strong words like "hate" and "liar" that get people all nervous and agitated, no matter how much more accurate they may be. I want to ask this alleged pastor, "How do you answer? How do you claim to love God and yet spew so much hatred for those who are just as much created as God as you are (which makes them your brothers and sisters, unless you're going to commit the heresy of claiming that some other being besides God has the power to create life)? How do you dare preach fear instead of love?" I John may not be a big book, but that doesn't mean it should be ignored. And this alleged pastor, and I have to say "alleged" because his actions here simply do not merit the title "pastor," seems to have cut it out of his New Testament.
With all these thoughts burbling about in my head, here's where the personal risk comes: I want to hate this guy. I want to see this thing drowned in his own bile, condemned straight to Hell without benefit of dying (and as a member of a mainline denomination I'm not even supposed to believe in Hell, right?), consigned to the fieriest Lake of Fire imaginable, far beyond the power of Hollywood's best special-effects teams, beyond the fevered imaginations of medieval monks or Puritan evangelists.
And you see? That leaves me just as much under the condemnation of I John as this alleged pastor.
I don't necessarily buy everything that John Calvin sells, but on one point we are in firm agreement; a human being just isn't going to be inherently "good" in this world. "Being good" simply isn't going to happen without some ministration of God. I probably allow for a broader definition of that idea of God's help than Calvin would; direct divine intervention, the example of Christ, the moving of the Holy Spirit, the teaching of scripture, the influence of another person ministered to in such manner ... God may aid us in "being good" in ways we might never recognize but we just ain't getting there without that help. Perhaps my more optimistic friends in the world will tut-tut at me for being so hopelessly out of date. I simply say, "Look around. Read your newspaper. Turn on your television, if you dare. Explain to me how this is the work of the inherently good. Get that weak sauce outta my face." And you better believe even those who claim the title "Christian" are subject to this inherent non-goodness the moment they put anything between themselves and the inherent love-ness of God.
And frankly, I'm a fragile enough disciple that I can't afford to let this alleged pastor get between me and the inherent love-ness of God. The author of the above-linked opinion column manages to describe himself as "disgusted with and praying for" the person in question; I can match the disgust easily enough, but I'm going to need a lot of God's help to get to the "praying for" part, after no more than spilling out this meandering post. I don't have the detachment to go there at this point. What he said and evidently feels is wrong, wrong, wrong; I'm still struggling with being able to say this in love.
So, you aren't likely to see a lot of "trendy" topics here; maybe a few, but not many, and not extensively. And this blog will continue to get minimal traffic, until this hosting site decides I'm an embarrassment and boots me. And I will not lose sleep over this fact.
The pulpit is going to be a challenge, to be sure. One has to be able to name those things in the world, be they people or systems or actions, that oppress and demean and separate from God. One can't collapse into hate in doing so. Help me, Lord.
Lord, help me.