Brynn Craffey

“God wouldn’t create somethin’ less than perfect, now, would He?

Filed By Brynn Craffey | February 10, 2008 9:32 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Politics
Tags: American politics, Religious Right

The words above, uttered in a Southern Californian drawl by the large woman cutting my hair as we chit-chatted about baldness—of all things!—caught my attention and hit me harder than anything has so far.

I’m no longer in the EU!

In Dublin, Ireland, where I spent much of the last four years, almost no one offering a public service like a haircut would dare throw out such a loaded bomb, then follow it—as she did—with a pregnant pause during which she pointedly held my gaze in the large wall-mirror. Way back in the early 1970’s, I’d spent an unforgettable (though thankfully brief) stint with the “Jews for Jesus,” so I recognized the drill. Respond, “No…indeed He wouldn’t! Our Lord acts with infinite wisdom” or some such drivel, and off we’d be on a self-congratulatory Jesus love-fest.

Responding, as I did instead, with an uncomfortable silence and white-knuckle grip on the arms of the barber chair beneath my plastic poncho, I was readily identified as one of the damned.

So be it.

What is it that makes these obviously-insecure, so-called Christians think that God-talk to perfect strangers—or more to the point, paying customers—is acceptable? It’d be one thing if the Religious Right hadn’t turned the populist brand of American Christianity into a spiteful, misogynist, self-centered and homophobic sort of mass cult. But they have. In retrospect, I wish I’d have parried her query with something like, “I don’t believe in the literal truth of the fairy-tale myths of an ancient people who wandered the Middle Eastern desert thousands of years ago.” But that strategy seemed risky while she held in her hands the fate of my haircut.

So…here I am back in the USA after 3-1/2 years in Ireland. And wow, is it a shock in certain ways, specifically, the obvious advances made by the Religious Right. Jesus bumper stickers on every fourth or fifth car. A Republican presidential candidate who talks openly of rewriting the Constitution to be more Christian--and news commentators don't blink an eye. Even a so-called “liberal” presidential candidate who feels compelled to pander to high-profile homophobic preachers. “God bless America,” has become a standard sign-off for presidential speeches, as well as “God bless you” an everyday farewell for many ordinary Americans.

This has happened gradually enough that even those Americans who express alarm over the trend may be somewhat oblivious to its extent. Nothing like three years in a formerly-religious-now-conscientiously-secular nation to give me perspective.

And with that perspective, I find America’s sanctimonious religiosity extremely disturbing, especially in light of the stuttering economy, the widening gulf between rich and poor, and the country’s widespread and obstinate ignorance about history and the rest of the world. Add to that, a widespread indifference about the Iraq war, which has murdered up to 1.033 million Iraqis, killed at least 4,913 Americans (including contractors), displaced an additional 4 million, and driven America’s national debt to 3.658 trillion dollars (and counting).

Yet turn on the news, and you’d think the worst events facing the nation weren’t the war, a sub-prime meltdown that’s wrecking havoc on the domestic and global economies, and an absolutely staggering level of personal credit card debt among average Americans, but rather Heath Ledger’s untimely death and Britney Spear’s drug problems and custody battles.

The country seems in the grip of mass cognitive dissonance. On the one hand, you have vast numbers of people who live lavishly due to an American financial and military hegemony that ensures control over a hugely disproportionate amount of the world’s finite resources. On the other, Americans ignorant of the world’s true feelings assert “America is number one!” yet want to deport migrants who dare try to escape the poverty caused by America’s global policies by sneaking across the border to pick lettuce, dig ditches, or clean toilets.

An appallingly large number of Americans eschew Darwin’s scientific theory of evolution, yet use a perversion of it to justify their coldhearted domination over those weaker, poorer or more vulnerable than themselves. Many of the same express devotion to a Jew who (may have) preached a gospel of voluntary poverty, humility, and non-violence in the face of social injustice in a far-flung province of the Roman Empire some 2,000 years ago, then these Americans turn around and vociferously support a murderous and completely unjustified empire-building American war that has devastated an entire nation.

The hypocrisy and/or oblivion of America’s Religious Right has driven me to the point where the mere mention of God makes me want to leave the room and have nothing further to do with the person speaking. So, until the actions of these religiously obsessed individuals become more gentle, generous, kinder and forgiving—in short, more “Christ-like”—I’d like to ask them to keep their insecure, death-fearing beliefs to themselves.

[Cross-posted at Dispatches from the Homeland.]

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Welcome to the Cooperate managed and owned
Fascist States of America.
In the words of George Bush (junior)

"It's just a god damned peace of paper"

Take care,

I just generally tell them to not bother, that I am not a christian but a pagan. As such, I resent the fact that they are trying to force their values upon me. The Goddess and God I worship do not need a hell and threats to keep those who believe in them in line. No one is damned for eternity just for being who they are, gay or trans. There is no hate or vilification of others from the pulpits of churches.

Hypocrisy runs deep in the religious right, it seems to live and breath it. Parents who throw their children away for being gay or trans, preachers who espouse hate and intolerence. If Jesus did come back today, he would have a heart attack at what is being said and done in his name.

America is a christian nation in name only now a days.

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | February 11, 2008 1:23 AM

If Jesus did come back today, he would
have a
heart attack at what is being said and done in his name.

Couldn't agree with you more.

What worries me is the way in which this style of religious assumption is beginning to infiltrate the queer movement. At Creating Change this last week, the NGLTF Faith Initiatives and the National Religious Leadership Roundtable were visible in force, including the selection of Bishop Robinson as one of the keynote speakers. While I respect the work progressive people of faith are doing to change religious attitudes from within, there were times at Creating Change when I felt marginalized and forced to defend my atheist identity.

I find, "well,none of us is perfect", accompanied by a guilt-inducing stare, the perfect response to the sort of drivel offered by Brynn's hairdresser. :-)

Brynn, a lovely and well articulated opinion. However, it must be observed that the poor and disenfranchised whom you so passionately embrace are often the staunchest supporters of religious fervor, and much of the ignorance with which it is associated. For instance, the hair cutter is hardly an example of a corporate conglomerate extracting profit from a war driven economy. And your opinion is a wee bit overly critical of the US. Examples of injustice, greed, and poor choice can be found in every nation in every century. The present US administration does not possess a monopoly. As far as leaving the room when ignorance and intolerance are expressed, be prepared for numerous exits. Perhaps it would serve all better to engage in well intentioned debate. Love thy neighbors, but not their ignorance.

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | February 11, 2008 10:34 AM

I felt marginalized and forced to defend my atheist identity.

You've hit the nail on the head, Jere! Faith used to be a more private issue, and those who did not believe were respected or at least ignored. Now, believers think nothing of making us uncomfortable with their insecure fantasies or pointed judgments, while atheists and agnostics walk on eggshells, worried we're going to offend the delicate sensibilities of believers in the existence of an eternal entity with a petulant personality who keeps track of how many times we wank off and who we're fantasizing about when we do.

I thought carefully before I decided to publish this post, worried that maybe I shouldn't touch on such a potentially volatile topic.

And jerindc, while I may have criticized the US in the past regarding “Examples of injustice, greed, and poor choice,” in this post I was focusing specifically on America’s in-your-face religious hypocrisy. Which I do believe is far beyond anything you’ll currently find in the older EU states, although perhaps not in the states which have more recently joined the union.

This reminds me of the type of "bumper sticker theology" that's often hurled at transpeople: "God don't make no mistakes!" The implication being, if God gave you a penis, then it's a sin to get rid of it.

The funny thing is that this "law" only seems to apply to transpeople. Were you born with a cleft palate? We'll fix that. A heart defect? We'll fix that too.

Although I no longer identify as a Christian, I can't help but think of the biblical story of the man born blind (John 9). Two thousand years ago people were concerned with why the man was born this way: was it because of his parents' sin, or his own? "Neither" replies Jesus. "It is so that the works of God might be made visible through him."

People suffer; all of us suffer. We can go around blaming God, sin, karma, society, or whatever. OR, we could rejoice when the miracle of healing takes place - whether by the hand of God, the hand of a surgeon, or the simple love and kindness that each of us can extend.

Those with narrow minds are obsessed with the so-called "sin" that fills the world. But those with open hearts see the miracles that surround them.

I have never felt that my being trans was a mistake. It's an opportunity - for myself as well as those around me - to grow, to heal, to evolve, to love.

Yup - God don't make no mistakes.

The public religiosity in this country generally makes me sick. I totally agree, Brynn. The idea that someone I am paying to provide me a service would strike up a conversation about religion while holding a sharp object near my head is absurd! How can you argue with someone who not only has you haircut, but your safety in their hands. Oops, I'm sorry, God must've wanted me to nick your ear off with my scissors...

Perhaps you should have replied: "God is telling me that if you don't stop talking about your religious beliefs with customers, your tips are going to suffer starting with this haircut."

Brynn, I respectfully submit that you can find substantial amounts of religious hypocrisy world wide. Organized religion is a breeding ground for hypocrisy because it creates artifial boundaries for right and wrong, good and evil.

Brynn Welcome home and nope good old boys dont just live in the south there all over.Even in Cali.Differnt accents but still being good old boys or girls. Funny as I said ealier a lot of these non southen ones wave the Battle Flag harder than they do down here in the south.
As for the Religious folks my Thor's hammer and Pentagram usaly does the trick in them backing off.

I don't really see the problem with the hairdresser mentioning that she's religious... I mean, did she give you a bad haircut in the end because you didn't respond correctly? Do we know that she's a conservative Christian and not liberal? Or apolitical? Christians span the spectrum, and our site's Rev. Irene is proof that not all Christians are conservative.

But more to the point, I can't see how this mentality doesn't end up with something like what Jerame was saying, that someone you pay money to has to either conform to your unknown (to her) religious or political beliefs to make conversation during a long day at a (probably) boring and menial job or just stay quiet. I think this goes back to Victorian standards for servants, you know, they were supposed to be as noticeable as the furniture, robots without any humanity or personality because sometimes personality and humanity annoy others.

Or, a more recent example would be something like the WalMart cheer. You don't sell your labor, you're selling your soul.

I think this idea that when we go to work for someone we leave our personality at the door in order to become working robots is particularly distressing and something I find pretty entertaining to be more free from here in France. You can actually go to a bakery and talk about the baker's kids! You can be told at the cell phone store (true story) that there's nothing that can be done to help you, even if it's just that that worker is feeling tired!

In the end, I'd rather be able to talk about people's stupid religious beliefs instead of keeping them private, or, more accurately, beyond any attack at all because they're matters of faith (which then turns into, I can use my religion to legislate, but you can't criticize me for it because that's mean, au Huckabee or Romney).

Maybe this is because, while I'm not religious, public displays of religiosity, like many other cultural displays, don't make me sick.

I think the problem Brynn sees in America now a days, is that the leader of this country, and those around him, say one thing, and do another. They talk about their strong christian faith, then act differently. Their "compassionate conservatism" is just a hollow phrase, as meaningless as their promises.

America is in the middle of a civil war on the social level. The world and culture is changing too fast and in too many ways that people do not or can not comprehend or adjust to.

When faced with things they do not understand, or are not comfortable with, they look to their leaders for guidance. Those leaders, for good or bad are the preachers and ministers of their faith. It is easier for the followers to take the word of these leaders, rather than take the effort to figure things out for themselves.

You know what they say, you can lead an evangelical to knowledge, but you can't make them think.

The LGBT community is a ready made boogie man for them. They can blame most of the social ills of modern society on this one group, and have their followers willingly believe them, since we are not something they understand. The concepts of who and what we are seem forgein to most people, and it is easy for them to attach the stigma of "sinner" to people they do not understand.

It is not right or fair, but it is how it is. Only through education and confrontation of the hate and fear can we make the gains that need to be made for this society to finally accept us. It might take the time for the older generation to finally die off, before we make any real progress.

Who knows, I just CMA and keep my eyes out for the rocks and bottles, hoping that today is not the day that some transphobic redneck decides to put paid to this little queer.

Chris Sanders | February 11, 2008 2:17 PM

I can appreciate the anger and frustration with the power of the Relgious Right in this country, but this post and the comments seem to have strayed into an attack on religion and religious expression per se. The post fails to see the differences in types of religious expression and loses sight of the people who hold religious views as a result.

I have never understood the use of the verb "impose" with repect to conversations in which religion comes up. That leaves us with no way to distinguish conversations from life-and-death situations of forced conversion. Religious discourse being part of public and even interpersonal discourse is historically and cross-culturally the norm and it's amazing that it should cause surprise.

It also reminds me of phrases used against the GLBT community. Your private sexuality is fine, but don't "impose" it on me or "shove it down my throat." What the Hell did that ever mean except live a lie? I rather like Alex' comments about not leaving all the particilar parts of ourselves behind when we enter a work or other public situation--religion is one of those particularities.

Some of the posts cross the line into ageism and regional prejudice. Looking forward to the passing of a generation--sounds pretty violent to me. And what difference does the accent of the person committing the hate crime make? There happen to be a lot of GLBT folks who share the same folkways and cultural patterns with rednecks and other subcultures.

You may believe that religious worldviews are fantasy, but going out into the public nervous that someone might mention religion makes it sound as if your own worldview has not helped you deal with difference in the world much better than a fundamentalist.

If we are to contend with the Religious Right, we will have to find the creative spaces in the discourse and see how they can move and turn the conversation in ways that enhance, honor, and protect the diversity of our lives rather than diminish or destroy them.

Thanking you from Nashville for a provocative discussion,

I do not advocate killing off the older generation that seems least likely to change their views on LGBT issues, I am just pointing out that it may take the passing of that generation in order for any real progress to be made.

I do not mind talking about religion and faith, as long as they do not try and burn me at the stake, since their bible does say to not suffer a witch to live. I think what people object to is the attempt at the universalization of the beliefs of the christians. When someone tries to prostelytise at me about their faith, that is when I get my back up. My faith is a revealed faith, we do not go out and "recruit" new believers. If the Goddess wishes to, She will reveal herself to a person. I do not evangilize and I do not want to be evangilized to.( Is that even a word?)

As for regionalism, well I live in the beltbuckle of the bible belt, Texas. To me, redneck is more a state of mind. There are rednecks all over this country of ours, in fact, one just killed a poor transwoman in the Bronx just recently. An ex-con who said he "panicked" when he found out she was trans, so he stabbed her to death in her own apartment.

Now that Screams redneck to me. It isn't about where you're at, it is about attitude. There are some good rednecks, but there are also a lot of bad rednecks. Guess you just have to decide which one he is.

Ye Olde Fart | February 11, 2008 4:34 PM

Just to answer your original question: Yes.
It is not a perfect universe.
What potentially can happen, usually does, given enough time.

My experience is that the more religious, i.e., superstitious a person is the more bigoted they are and the more likely they are to want to impose their views on others. The includes adherents of the three major abrahamic cults - judaism, christianity and islam – they all promote theocracy.

Hard core religion is an adopted lifestyle that, if taken seriously is often deeply harmful and always reactionary. I'm not speaking here of the mildly religious people to pray “to whom it may concern “or go to mass or temple once or twice a year. They’re mildly eccentric and harmless at worst. But the ayatollahs who torture boys and then hang them or toss them off buildings are far from harmless. That’s precisely what’s going to happen to two young Iranian gays, Hamzeh Chavi, 18 years old and Loghman Hamzehpour, 19 years old in a day or two. They’ve been tortured and now they’ll be killed for loving one another. (Visit gayswithoutborders dot wordpress dot com for the details.)

In the EU and the US the leaders of the catholic cult and many protestant evangelicals have the same hateful agenda as the ayatollahs but are prevented from implementing it. For them it’s not a question of intent but rather one of ability.

My opinion is that all religious gay bashing is hate speech and any group that does it should lose their tax exempt status. If gay bashing views are repeated outside of cult premises I think they should be treated as a misdemeanor, or if they lead to harassment or violence as a major felony.

If I run across an individual religious person whose antigay attitude offends me I usually repeat the words of a friend of mine who says “Dude, you suck, but not very well.” And yes, he’s from the San Fernando Valley.

I certainly understand the unease someone would feel with this casual religious assault, for that is exactly what it is. I say this as a lifelong pagan who felt it was dangerous most of my life to simply mention my religious beliefs and when I was out about it in the mid 70's was personally targeted by the first wave of fundies in Ohio..

These days being a pagan theologian, born intersexed/transsexed and an older woman if I feel I'm being discriminated against it's hard to point to which element set someone off. When I ran my own business years ago I had salespeople come into my own place of business and push the Jesus bit.....and could not help but notice that those businesses that pushed a christian agenda usually overcharged and gave piss poor service.

Polite people do not discuss religion or politics in mixed company......always a good rule of thumb.

LOL, that is good Bill, I will have to remember that.

I have been thinking that perhaps if someone says " God wouldn't make something less then perfect" I might just answer,

"Well, he did make you"

Can be taken so many ways, depending on how you say it.

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | February 11, 2008 6:46 PM

I don't really see the problem with the hairdresser mentioning that she's religious...

Alex, in my experience, the only type of Christian who introduces the topic of God into small-talk about baldness with a perfect stranger—and during a paid haircut!—is the conservative type. Liberal types tend to be more respectful and private about their beliefs, and bring them up only after they get a signal that the other person is interested.

People suffer; all of us suffer. We can go around blaming God, sin, karma, society, or whatever. OR, we could rejoice when the miracle of healing takes place - whether by the hand of God, the hand of a surgeon, or the simple love and kindness that each of us can extend.

Very well said, Angel!!

You know what they say, you can lead an evangelical to knowledge, but you can't make them think.


Your private sexuality is fine, but don't "impose" it on me or "shove it down my throat."

Chris, it’s a red herring when the bigots bring up that tired old accusation. There’s a big difference between someone injecting the loaded topic of religion into a casual conversation with a perfect stranger, and an LGBT person exercising the rights that all straight people have to talk about their partner, hold hands or kiss in public, display a photo of their loved one on their desk at work, or marry. All those gestures are embraced by straight society—except when it comes to LGBT couples. There’s a double standard.

That double standard exists vis-à-vis religion, too. Despite the hypocrisy, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, and ignorant anti-science crusading of the Religious Right—among other things!—Religion still receives a huge “get out of jail free” card. Most people bend over backwards to avoid offending in any way believers who hold the most absurd of beliefs and use those beliefs to justify the most immoral of acts. And still the RR wails about being discriminated against.

Religion is a loaded topic. Those of you defending my haircutter, how do you think she would have liked it had I interjected into a conversation about baldness—with no mention of religion on her part—something along the lines of, “You know, a lot of religious nuts out there think God created the world in six days. Can you believe that!! If he could do that, why can’t he ensure that something like baldness doesn’t exist!?”

Respectfully, I didn't say that before or after her introduction of the topic.

My opinion is that all religious gay bashing is hate speech and any group that does it should lose their tax exempt status. If gay bashing views are repeated outside of cult premises I think they should be treated as a misdemeanor, or if they lead to harassment or violence as a major felony.

I agree. And I think the EU, at this point, is ahead of the US in this regard.

Chris Sanders | February 11, 2008 9:41 PM

I agree that there is a double standard with respect to the privilege that religious discourse currently enjoys vs. discourse about our relationships. But closing off speech about either simply extends the problem.

Conversation will always be risky, even in mundane situations like haircuts. And some fora seem better suited to discussions of religion, sexuality and gender than others. But as those three topics are contested areas in our common life, how can we predict when they might emerge in a casual discussion? And how can we shift the power of the Religious Right without those conversations?

Think of the missed opportunities we have every day. Think of the example of a teenager in our public schools who happens to be a fundamentalist. In that student's English class, we make him or her do backflips to learn how to read and interpret a poem by Robert Frost (or Adrienne Rich if he or she has a teacher who isn't afraid). After school, that student goes to a youth Bible study where the youth minister teaches the student that he or she can simply open up the Bible and find immediate answers to life's struggles and even political issues. There's no mention that the Bible was written thousands of years ago in foreign languages with variant manuscripts and thousands of years of differing readings.

Why does our educational system allow students to graduate with the misconception that a 20th century poem is harder to interpret than the Bible--a document that, for good or for ill, is profoundly shaping our social and political life today?

If we save discussion of religion, sexuality, or gender for those spaces where we know ahead of time that everyone in that space agrees, we find ourselves the victims of the conversations of others over and over again.

I've just read more than 20 comments, and most, if not all, are in agreement with the writer of the original writer.

I am not, and I'll explain my differences this way. The problem begins when someone tries to create God in their own image. They hate gays*, so God hates gays, etc. Then they think they are doing God's work if they beat up a gay, or kill a gay. It is the perversion of religion in order to be able to exert control that is the problem. If we talk about this religion or that religion being just superstition or bs, I think we're throwing the baby out with the bath water. Religion works both ways because when it's perverted, it seeks to punish gays, but when religion is practiced honestly, it seeks justice and equality for gays.

We don't like it when some right wing extremist speaks in terms of right and wrong as being either black or white and no infinite shades of gray. I don't think that we can also talk in terms of black and white, and say all religion is bad, and non-believing is good.

I believe that when we speak of religion, we speak of something made by humans for humans, but when we speak of spirituality, we mean our relationship with God.

A wise person once said that while he might disagree with your belief, he would give up his life so you could believe as you do.
I agree that freedom of religion is also freedom from religion. I have no right to impose my beliefs on you, and vice versa. I staunchly believe in the separation of church and state. No church would stand for interference by the government as to how to run its church. If churches want a say so in the government, then they should have to pay taxes.

*gays as used here refers to all persons in the LGBT community.