audrey's the name of a "friend" of a friend on facebook. when my friend shared my blog about my wish for jesus's immediate-if-not-sooner return, audrey took quite an exception to it. what follows are her comments, and my responses. i let her have the last word on the comment thread because i felt her comments deserved a fuller answer than facebook's comment space allows. and in case audrey doesn't read my blog - why would she? - im sending this to her personally as a facebook message because despite audrey's undoubted inability to allow for such a possibility - and to my own shame - i used to think just like she does.
this is her first response to my recent blog about the second coming.
AUDREY: funny, the last Christian I saw was in the Sudan, burning in a pile of wood & leaves while a muslim was beating his on the back with a stick. Maybe he's just one of those horrible delusional freaks she spoke of. Tolerance works both ways.
wow, i wondered, where does SHE live? then i wondered where i'd mentioned "delusional freaks." so i checked my blog and i couldn't find any reference to freaks of any kind, delusional or otherwise. my curiosity piqued, i read her next comment with even more puzzlement:
AUDREY: course I wasn't actually IN the Sudan, thank GOD.
well, of course not, audrey, i thought. so you'd have no idea whether that "christian" was a catholic priest who'd been caught molesting that "muslim's" child. (not that that's how i think priests who molest children should be treated - im just saying i can imagine circumstances under which anyone less civilized than i am might feel such behavior is justified. which is probably a big part of the problem with my communication to my friend's "friend" audrey. i CAN imagine things.)
now, Gentle Reader, you have to understand that i hold the person who shared my blog in the highest regard. she is one of my dearest friends, a person who mixes integrity with compassion. anyone who is a friend of rose's, in my usual estimation, must have some redeeming feature to them, even if - as it sometimes happen - that feature is not always immediately apparent to me.
so i thought i'd give audrey the benefit of the doubt and replied:
ANNIE: of course tolerance works both ways. and where did i speak of delusional freaks?
to which she said:
AUDREY: I didn't quote you, but your tone is sarcastic and largely derisional. As if we're all loons who actually think in the way you portray. I find it condescending, self righteous and typical of poking at an easy target, the only PC one left to poke at. So I'll just ignore these posts from now on.
her tone to me just drips with the milk of loving-kindness, doesn't it? audrey is smart enough to understand that something is going on for her, but perhaps not smart enough to understand what. although she obviously shares fundamentalist beliefs with the "delusional freaks" and "loons" she doesn't understand that she has to do more to differentiate herself from them than just calling them names. nor does she pause to consider that while my tone might be called satirical, almost in the vein of Swift's "Modest Proposal," her tone back to me might be considered almost combative. since im not a christian, i don't feel the need to turn the other cheek. instead, i decided to speak my piece, and leave her alone:
ANNIE: if you dont like being tarred by the same brush with the delusional freaks (remember, that was audrey's characterization, not mine. nor does she apparently see anything in the least derisional about referring to anyone as a "delusional freak."), perhaps you and your kind will speak up more loudly. i hear a most deafening silence coming from any reasonable voices from the religious right. if you all have something helpful to say in the debate, i hope you start saying it. ignore my words if you will but please dont be silent about the delusional freaks on your side of the aisle.
AHA! so much for being ignored. the coffee must've kicked in, because her response to that was this (cue the Battle Hymn of the Republic):
AUDREY: the way you paint it, we're all delusional freaks, you make no distinction. If it's ok to believe in nature's spirituality, it should be ok to believe in angels, white robes and Heaven. Since you don't know me or what I stand for, I'll clue... you in. I stand for the right to live according to the Natural Law. I believe in each person's ability to be the best they can be. I believe in God, the constitution, the bible, the family and the rule of law. I believe in loving your neighbor, not looking down your nose at them, charity, good stewardship of what we have. I believe that putting people in slots and sides is small, and the government has no business telling me how to live. If you listened to phlem feck instead of jumping on a bandwagon, you'd maybe be a little more accepting of other people's views. I see nothing constructive here. Sorry, Friend.
okay, the Battle Hymn reference was mean. but it adds something if you imagine it in the background while you read that, doesnt it? however, i digress. if you're wondering why i'm doing this, Gentle Reader, it's because, as i said in the beginning, that while audrey may not believe this, i used to think very much like audrey.... frighteningly so. but what my life and experience has shown me is how wrong those views are, how limited and small-minded and mean - and how deeply i misunderstood all those things that audrey, goddess bless her, purports to hold so dear.
i thought about not responding at all, but since audrey seemed to be so insistent that i understand where SHE was coming from (never mind anyone else) i felt she deserved a response - especially since audrey is sure i can't possibly imagine where she's coming from. what audrey doesn't know about me is that not only do i understand her point of view more intimately than she can imagine, i used to share it. in the dark days of my mispent youth, i used to be - as my friend described audrey - very very conservative and very very catholic.
dear audrey - i think you were the person who used the words "delusional" and "freaks." if by "we" you mean everyone who shares a belief in the second coming of jesus, you may wish to take a closer look at what exactly differentiates you from the ones you clearly find distasteful instead of just calling them names. if you can do that, you may have a reasonable voice to add to the public discourse, but based on the facebook status you posted (you're bringing the marshmallows to the koran-burning? oh, for shame!) i doubt it. however, since you took the time to share with me where you come from, i thought it only fair i should share with you where i come from. i think it might surprise you.
and of course there's nothing wrong with believing in angels, etc... i talk to angels all the time, but my robe's going to be tie-dyed. sorry - that WAS a joke. i really dont expect to be sharing any aspect of my heaven with you, mostly because im fairly sure if i showed up in yours you'd insist it couldn't possibly BE heaven if they let riffraff like me in.
what i don't completely understand is the anger my post provoked, because clearly you ARE angry - justifiably so, to my way of thinking. you just don't understand what to be angry about in order to really change things. but it's okay - im presuming you are younger than i am and there is still plenty of time for you to wake up to the fact that the very Systems you hold so dear (the bible, the cross, the flag) are the very things eating your soul and sapping your blood.
i won't bore you with all the details of my spiritual-socio-political journey (if you know anything about liberation theology you might find some similarities to the way i think now) but i will tell you i was born into a family where you didnt come home for dinner if you voted anything but republican on election day. my mother supported barry goldwater and my great grandfather believed the unions were the ruination of the america. we were also extremely catholic and my great grandfather's company literally laid the foundations of every church, rectory, convent and catholic school built in the town in which i was born.
he was also an illegal immigrant so by the "rules of law" you doubtless support with all your might, i shouldn't be here. but the money he made and the taxes he paid and the sons he gave to the war should count for something, don't you think? not to mention all the law-abiding citizens his progeny's produced... too many, now, for even me to remember. but i digress.
the only other detail i will share in my long journey from you to me was that i am - and always have been - a writer. and the thing about being a writer is that you understand the value and the limitations of words. all of those things you mention you "stand for," that you "believe in," with the exception of "natural law" - whatever the freak that is - are created out of words. the bible is written in words, the laws are written in words. everything you say you believe in are created out of words.
and being a writer - whose only tools are words - i have learned first hand their limitations. anything created of words must in some sense be limited, flawed, because words are only the flimsy creations of our limited minds. they're a semblance, a representation, an attempt to capture some essence of something we can only experience, never contain.
the rule of law you speak of? sure, im all for it... as long as i agree with all the laws. but whose laws and whose rules and why must my mind or soul be fettered and shackled by fifth century nomads, first century political freedom fighters and eighteenth century farmers? im sorry, audrey, but i think i've evolved beyond that, and so have a lot of people i know. if you haven't, as far as im concerned, unfortunately it's not just your problem, the way i see it. i have four children and one grandson and another grandchild on the way. my stake in the future is huge, at this point, even greater, i dare say, than yours. after all, you think the world could end any day. please understand i am not calling you delusional. im simply acknowledging how your beliefs must shape your world views, and, as a result, your politics. but my question to you, and everyone on your side of the fence still remains - if you're not part of the lunatic fringe, how are you different?
to your other points of "... loving your neighbor, not looking down your nose at them" - there is a deep vein of class discontent to your anger, isn't there, audrey? it really sucks to perceive that you could easily become one of the have-nots - hell, you might already BE one of the have-nots. sucks rocks, doesn't it? now you know how much of the rest of the world feels. and yes, audrey, we ARE our brothers' keepers.
"...charity" - it's one thing to believe in it, audrey; but do you practice it even when you're vexed? the marshmallow comment in your facebook status would seem to suggest otherwise.
"...good stewardship of what we have" - which would include the invasion of other countries to protect our access to natural resources?
"....putting people in slots and sides is small" - so is calling them names like "delusional freaks" and "loons."
"...and the government has no business telling me how to live." - a government that would insist a woman bear the offspring of an act of rape or incest is sure telling that woman how to live, though, isn't it? i haven't heard the government offering to tell me how to live. what i have heard are a lot of republicans trying to scare me into believing that it might. but what if we had a really nice government based not on a rule of law, but on a rule of kindness, of love, of do unto others as you would have them do unto you? i might be willing to live the way that kind of government might tell me to live. wouldn't you?
"....If you listened to phlem feck instead of jumping on a bandwagon, you'd maybe be a little more accepting of other people's views." - my dear audrey, i HAVE listened to PHLEGM FLECK - get it right - and all i HEAR is a lot of fear. the trouble is that all the things you cling to - that he's clinging to are made of words, words created out of the minds of men. maybe some of those men were inspired, maybe some of them were true prophets and maybe some of them were - to quote you, audrey - delusional freaks. but whatever they were, all that you reference are only things ultimately created out of words - words that change, that become outdated, that pass into the mists of time.
of course you're afraid, poor audrey and everyone else who thinks like you... and that includes my mother, by the way. your views are like houses of cards built on foundations of sand. in the final analysis, the only thing you can really count on is love. love, as a very wise woman once said to me the first time i met her, IS the answer.
and here, at last, audrey, is where we might find some common ground, because what i believe (not that you asked, but i didn't either, and you felt free to share with me) is that the only things jesus said that really should matter to anyone - if he really said them but someone did and thats all that counts - is "love your neighbor as yourself," and "do unto others as you would have them do unto you." and that's it.
that's all you need. i believe that were the human race to ever embrace and vote in accordance with those two reasonably simple principles, the government generated by such a collective mind and heart and soul would be too enlightened to ever impose anything that might generate fear on its collective body, or any other. what i came to understand is that people who espouse beliefs like yours have twisted the central message of jesus into something monstrously self-serving - and not for the majority of those who believe them, either. jesus's teachings are now being used to support out-moded and out-dated ways of thinking and seeing the world that encourage tribalism and isolationism. what's sad is how misguided and misplaced your anger truly is. Phlegm Fleck, Lush Limpball and Caribou Barbie ARE the false prophets, sweet pea. nothing they preach is in accordance with love for anyone but one's self and the almighty us dollar. if i were jesus, i'd come back just because i'd be so pissed at how the message has been corrupted and perverted.
but i have hope. i also believe in reincarnation so i have no doubt i'll be back. to paraphrase my mother when she asked why i don't believe in mammograms - with all the shit that's going on, you think anyone is letting any of us off the hook very soon? thank you for the opportunity to articulate my views, audrey. i hope you appreciated the opportunity i afforded you to articulate yours. pax....annie
and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.