A couple of nights ago I again watched the classic film To Kill a Mockingbird with my wife Judy. I am also re-reading the book for the first time in decades. After watching it again I am convinced that many people that call themselves “conservative Christians,” are so busy protecting their place and power in society that they despise anyone not like them. They would kill the Mockingbird to ensure that they keep their privileged position in society. The Mockingbirds are those that they have condemned to social inferiority and discrimination and eternal punishment, especially gays and the LGBT community, but others as well.
This is especially the case of the preachers, pundits and politicians that crowd the airwaves and internet with their pronouncements against Gays, immigrants, Arabs, poor blacks, political liberals, progressive Christians, and for that matter anyone who simply wants the same rights enjoyed by these Christians.
In the book there is a line spoken by Miss Maudie Atkinson, a neighbor of Atticus Finch and his children. She says to Atticus’s daughter Scout:
“Sometimes the Bible in the hand of one man is worse than a whisky bottle in the hand of another… There are just some kind of men who – who’re so busy worrying about the next world they’ve never learned to live in this one, and you can look down the street and see the results.”
As I survey the world of Christian conservatives I become surer of this every day. I’ve often wrote about my own fears in regard to dealing with such people as well as the troubling trends that I see. Last week I wrote five articles on the trends that I see in the church, trends toward greed, political power, social isolation and the active campaign of some to deny basic civil rights to people that they hate on purely religious grounds.
The language of some like Matt Staver of Liberty Counsel, Tony Perkins of the American Family Association and a host of others describe actions of governments and courts to ensure equal treatment of all people under the law as threats to Christians, affronts to them and of course to God. Their words are chilling. Matt Staver commented this week that if the Supreme Court upheld marriage equity for gays that it would be like the Dred Scott decision. Of course that is one of the most Orwellian statements I have heard in a while, for the Dred Scott decision rolled back the few rights that blacks had anywhere in the country and crushed the rights of non-slave states.
Again, as a reminder to readers, especially those new to the site, I spent a large amount of my adult Christian life in that conservative Evangelical cocoon. I worked for a prominent television evangelist for several years, a man who has become an extreme spokesman for the religious political right. I know what goes on in such ministries, I know what goes on in such churches. I know the intolerance and the cold hearted political nature of the beast. I know and have gone to church with Randall Terry, the former head Operation Rescue who once said: “Let a wave of intolerance wash over you. I want you to let a wave of hatred wash over you. Yes, hate is good…” I have walked in those shoes, I have been whipped up by those preachers. I fully understand them.
As Atticus Finch told his children:
“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”
Thus I total reject the message of such people now, not out of ignorance, but because I have walked in their shoes. At times I supported their causes, not to any extreme, but all too often my crime was simply said nothing when I knew that what they preached, taught and lived was not at all Christian, but from the pits of Hell.
As far as them being entitled to hold whatever opinion they want, even if I disagree, yes that is their right. But as Atticus said:
“People are certainly entitled to think that I’m wrong, and they are entitled to full respect for their opinions. But before I can live with other folks I’ve got to live with myself. The only thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.”
My conscience will not allow me to be silent when I see men like Staver, Perkins, Franklin Graham and so many others preach hatred towards those who are different than them.
In the movie and the book the Mockingbirds were Tom Robinson, the black man falsely accused of rape and assault and Boo Radley, a shy recluse feared by his neighbors, a man who stories were made up about; stories that turned a simple man into a monster in the eyes of people who did not know him. Today they are others who fit the Mockingbird role, people who just want to get along and live in peace, but who endure discrimination and damnation from those who call themselves Christians.
Jem Finch, the son of Atticus asks his sister a question in the book and the film:
“If there’s just one kind of folks, why can’t they get along with each other? If they’re all alike, why do they go out of their way to despise each other?”
I ask the same question on a daily basis.