A lot of Grammy winners thank Jesus Christ in their acceptance speeches, but I must admit, it was a surprise coming from the first recipient of the Best Native American Music Album award. How ridiculous, I thought, that this award was being hailed as a triumph against oppression, and then the winner gave all the credit to the oppressor's God. I had to laugh. Context aside, it's hard not to laugh at name "Jesus Christ" these days. I hear it used interchangeably with expletives like "Damn!" or "Oh shit!" more often than with its literal meaning. So, when I hear someone say, "My lord and savior Jesus Christ," it sounds just like, "My lord and savior, Oh Crap." And that, frankly, is no fair to Christians. So, of course, I felt like a total jerk in the audience of the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship's, "Is Seeing Believing?... Glimpses of God." Whenever someone said, "Jesus Christ," my brain registered, "Swear Word," and I had to swallow a chuckle. How awful of me, I thought, to enter this place of serious religious devotion and not only disagree with these people (and feel threatened by their ideology) but subconsciously register the name of their god as potty language! The performance was a showcase of Christians who express devotion to God through art. My friend Liz was scheduled to dance, so I braved the snow and arrived just as the master of ceremonies was giving her welcome speech. The weather was just awful, so I didn't expect many people to show up -- but the place was packed. I had to sit in the back row. I felt like a sack of melting sludge, but when I looked around, everyone was sunny and chipper. It was actually rather frightening. Here's why: I associate "Christian" with "oppression." While the words "Jesus Christ" make me think of swearing, the word "Christian" makes me think of the Christian Coalition. The Christian Coalition makes me think of homophobia. Homophobia makes me think of violence. Violence makes me think of death. And death makes me think specifically of my death. To condense, that's "Christian = my death." Needless to say, a room full of happy Christians made me apprehensive. Then Liz took the stage, glowing in a long white skirt. She craned her neck up to the microphone, Bible in hand, and spoke of God's indiscriminate love. She read a passage where Jesus lets a prostitute wash his feet. His floowers are shocked that he would let himself be defiled by such a woman, but he doesn't care. Liz put her book away, and the music started. Mind you, I usually hate watching dancers, but I was completely transfixed. Liz, usually boisterous and frenetic, poised herself with such singular purpose. She wasn't dancing so much as she was being carried somehow, her inward concentration too intense to let me believe that she had conscious control of her movements. Only during such moments of satisfying artistic experience do I ever have real epiphanies, and rarely do I remember what they were, but I will endeavor to reconstruct. What I understood during that performance was that the word "Christian" is insufficient. There really should be different words for "good-Christian" and "Christian-who-wants-to-disenfranchise-me." It's wrong that I should be paranoid in a group of people who love Jesus. It's not their fault that I'm scared -- it's the doing of their less-Christ-like counterparts. The extreme Christian Right has soured me on Christianity, just like vapidly sexual TV shows like Queer as Folk might sour Christians on gay people. And while it's easy and true to say that it's the fault of the stereotype-feeders, it's difficult and equally true to say that it's our fault too for lacking the ability to discriminate where discrimination is due. If we can't figure out who the bad guys are, we might become the bad guys ourselves. If I expect Christians to understand that TV-gay people aren't always the same as real-gay people, then I have to understand that not all Christians are Jerry Falwell. And if I expect Christians to omit offensive phrases like "that's so gay" from their vocabulary, then I must in turn cease to exclaim "Jesus Christ" when I could just as easily say something neutral like "Shit." We should return those words we hold dear to their proper semantic resting places -- let "gay" mean "homosexual" and "Jesus Christ" mean "Jesus Christ." Amen.Comments powered by Disqus
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