When I was young, I was often compared unfavorably to my cousin. He dressed neatly and kept his room and possessions clean and organized. He was an Eagle Scout, an honors student, played first chair trumpet and was a nationally ranked golfer. I smoked cigarettes, cut classes, and chased fast girls; I dressed like I was trying to piss people off, listened to rude music, and was generally an obnoxious jerk. I have spent the past thirty years growing up. He’s spent them in and out of prison. Their family had some serious problems that they worked very hard to keep out of sight. Our family had problems that we worked very hard to fix. Admittedly, their problems have always been far more severe in terms of the scope of how much greater the intertwined demons of mental illness and substance abuse afflicted them, but we faced them as well and we were spared because aside from dumb luck my parents had a better attitude. Everyone faces storms of adversity and the key to navigating past them is to head on straight through, facing reality squarely; at least this is what my parents did and I have tried to incorporate their Way into my own approach to life.
Julia and I are moving in together with Little Dude into a new house; that’s its whole own story but it has me thinking about family in a way I never could have even five years ago. My love for him has transformed me into a parent and brought me to consider things I never thought I would, like worrying about how to expose him to religion. I have very complicated feelings on the matter. My parents have been going to a nice Catholic Church near their home; their faith is quiet but growing in strength as they age. I see how much it enriches their lives and it makes me happy; they are practicing a progressive Christianity that is bringing them both Grace and Enlightenment. They are growing in love rather than finding people to hate. But that doesn’t change the fact that there’s no way I’m going to tell my kid that someplace that institutionally has nurtured unspeakable child abuse for generations has any kind of moral authority over him. Which brings me to the unspeakable crimes of Josh Duggar, his parents, and the TLC executives who gave their cult a platform to spew their toxic propaganda into our collective consciousness. .
There is no gloating schadenfreude here; there is horror, disgust, and a rare sort of righteous fury that demands expression. The girls in this situation have suffered in an isolated authoritarian hell run by a demented patriarchy run amok for their entire lives which have been broadcast to a gaping world they are forbidden to even know about. They have been violated, exposed, and silenced by the people who should have been protecting them. They were born to parents who are under the sway of an evil fundamentalist theology that has wrought tremendous misery upon them and so many others who are chained to the dark altar of its founder. The details of the case have a particularly sour reek of evil, like the Arkansas state trooper who Jim Bob brought Josh to for a stern lecture before he helped cover up the crime; he was a child predator who listed ‘preschool’ and ‘puberty’ as his ‘interests’ on a Yahoo! profile. I literally had a physical wave of nausea pass through me as I typed those words. People who are determined to foist their morality upon the rest of us are always hypocrites of tremendous magnitude (think of Bill O’Reilly lecturing Black America on their terrible family values) but this is grotesque in its enormity. .
My father, grandfather, both of my brothers and myself have been and continue to be public sector union employees such as police officers, transit workers, teachers, paramedics and firemen. My little brother has brought people back from the dead who are trying to break his union. I have voted Democratic tickets my entire life and anticipate voting for Bernie Sanders in the primary and Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election. I think the government should stay out of people’s private medical decisions and that contraception should be free and legal; Julia and I aren’t married yet but we have terrific mutually satisfying sex. I think that sex education should be honest, fact based, and presented without moral judgements. Although I have been sober from alcohol for nearly fifteen years I still enjoy cannabis on appropriate occasions and believe it should be legal. I think that biological evolution as first articulated by Charles Darwin is by far the best explanation for how life came to be in it’s current form; I submit that all modern medicine and biological science is based on this as the evidence for my belief. I agree with the scientists who argue that the climate is being disrupted by human activity. I think that ISIS is a result of the misconceived Iraq war and the subsequent actions of the Bush Administration. I drive a fourteen year old car that is missing a fender. Julia is my equal in our relationship; furthermore I have many relationships with both women and men that are warm, affectionate and emotionally intimate without being sexual. I have people who depend on me every day of my life. I am grateful and happy. I will never accept the demented views of fundamentalists as my own. For all these reasons and more I accept that FOX News and people who support the Duggars view people like me as lazy parasites and hellbound sinners while believing that Josh Duggar is being persecuted for his religious beliefs.
I went to a lot of different churches when I was a kid. I was curious and questioning and was asked to leave more than one Sunday School class for not accepting what was being spooned out. I had a long discussions about God and the Bible with my grandfather that pretty much lasted from when I was four until he died when I was thirty three. When he lay dying the hospital chaplain came into the room and walked up to the bed and asked us if we minded if he sang. We said of course. He had just arrived from Nigeria the week before to take the position as a chaplain and this was his first real shift on his own and he hoped to give us comfort; his francophone accent gave his English a music when he was simply speaking and when his voice became song it resonated within me. But what was most extraordinary was that this man from the other side of the world spontaneously chose my grandfathers favorite hymn,’How Great Thou Art’, which he frequently sang in his sweet baritone.I believe in a God who loves all of us with perfect compassion. I believe that heaven and hell are right here, right now, all around us, not something that happens later in some other place, and that it is incumbent upon those of us who are dwelling in our paradises to help free as many people from their cages as possible, not dangle our feet off our clouds while pointing and laughing at the suffering of others.
It’s funny, just writing this helped clear up what I thought was complicated. Little dude will go to our fine well funded local public school that is staffed by top notch unionized professionals who will give him an excellent academic education (that I will certainly supplement). For his religious training, however, he will be homeschooled. It would be irresponsible to do anything else, really. We will take field trips to all manner of temples, shrines, and churches and observe the many ways that our brothers and sisters try to bother God. He will hear soulful gospel music, Bach chorales, sacred ragas and Tuvan throat singing. I will teach him as many of the seven billion names of God that I can. I will tell him what Lou Reed told me; no kinds of love are better than others. And I will make sure that he understands the Bible in context; he will learn what is metaphor, what is history, and there will be particular focus on what Jesus taught such as this bit from Matthew 7:15-17: 15″Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16″You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? 17″So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.”
Rethink your beliefs.
When you practice doing this
You will be happy