I forget sometimes what an absolute bastard John Calvin was. For how much Protestants laud him and his theological contributions, his reign of holy terror in Geneva during the sixteenth century was comparable to any of the Catholic inquisitions or the holocausts of fascist regimes. In 1531 he had thousands of religious nonconformists burned at the stake (that is, for believing differently from what he was teaching). In 1547, he had an atheist named Jacques Gruet tortured for a month and then beheaded for alleged atheism.
There’s the tragic case of Michael Servetus, a physician Calvin had burned at the stake for heresy—namely, denying Trinitarianism and infant baptism. Servetus could have been spared his fate, except that Calvin took a personal dislike to him. According to descriptions, it took half an hour for Servetus to die, and it was an excruciating death. The Calvinists built his pyre of half-green wood that took a long time to burn. They also placed a wreath of sulfur on his head. Yet even as he was burning slowly to death, he still cried out to God for deliverance.
Compare that to the remarks made this past week by our friend Pastor Charles Worley, who thinks that gay people are so revolting that they should all be locked up in a concentration camp until they all “die out.”
We’re presuming he believes that homosexuals somehow breed more homosexuals, which anyone who took biology in middle school knows is absurd. However, given his folksy grammar and inability to pronounce words properly (or formulate logic), I rather doubt that Pastor Worley made it past the third grade.
In a way, the GLBT community should be thankful for someone as patently mean-spirited, ignorant and offensive as this man because he’s the poster child of the anti-gay movement. While others like Tony Perkins, Michele Bachmann and James Dobson manage to craft their homophobic rhetoric with the silver tongued glibness of a smarmy politician, Worley wears his bigotry on his sleeve for all the world. “The Bible’s again’ [sic] it [homosexuality], God’s again’ it, I’m again’ it, and if you got any sense, you’re again’ it!” he said in his sermon. He’s proud of being a bigot, and he wants everyone to know it.
And—here’s the important part—he thinks God is pleased with his bigotry. His is the God of the Old Testament who decreed death for such crimes as murder, rape, kidnapping, cursing a parent, blasphemy, idolatry and witchcraft, but also adultery, bestiality and sodomy. A woman could be put to death for not “crying out while being raped,” but also for being found to not be a virgin on the night of her wedding. This is Worley’s God—a pagan god of wrath and judgment.
This is what Worley and the rest of the anti-gay crowd have in common with John Calvin and his merry band of inquisitors: hatred of anyone different from themselves. They have made God in their own xenophobic, ignorant, intolerant and bigoted image, quick to label sins and mete out the severest of punishments. They desire to enforce their Talmudic and draconian views on the entire world, bringing believer and non-believer alike under the iron fist and rule of almighty Jehovah. Of course, in this theocracy they would be the ones ruling in God’s stead, making a heaven on earth for themselves—or, in our case, a hell.
This is what enables parents like mine to reject their gay sons and daughters. In the case of my parents, they refuse to accept me as I am, which is just as much a rejection, choosing instead the version of the son they want to have or believe that God gave them. As much as they claim to love me, this is the same spirit that leads parents in countries where extremist religion is dominant to kill their own children rather than let them live in opposition to the religion they were born into.
And the ironic thing is that in doing so, they violate the very commands God gives them in the Bible:
- Judge not, that you be not judged. (Matthew 7:1)
- Never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19)
- Do not resist the one who is evil. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. (Matthew 5:39)
- To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? (1 Corinthians 6:7)
If they truly believed what’s in their holy book they’d expend that energy they’re currently wasting in spreading anti-gay propaganda and legislation on saving us wretched sinners, not condemning us to hell every other minute. Instead of sentencing us to death, they’d let us live our lives in the knowledge that someday we’ll stand before God and give an account for our sordid time on earth, and that they led quiet, humble lives of devotion to God. But with every sermon like this, with every heretic burned at the stake, they testify to the fact that they truly believe that the only judgment we face is here on earth, in this life and not the next. In trying to make this world into a theocracy, they prove that they’re storing up plenty of treasure here instead of the next.
There may well be a God after all. I don’t know. Lack of evidence does not necessarily equate to non-existence. However, if there is indeed a Sky Father, it is a negligent and uncaring deity who allows its followers to run rampant as they do. Frankly, it’s people like them that facilitated my rejection of God and religion. If it weren’t for their hypocrisy and uncharitable behavior I might still be a Christian today as I’d have no reason to question what I believed.
So Pastor Worley, Michele, James, and this charming little southern belle… thank you for saving me from Christianity.