Lyn Gala

One writer's journal through one version of reality

Religion in Odd Places

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M/M erotica and a blind, white, albino rapper. What do they have in common? Well, for one thing, I’m fond of both. For another, both take religion into spaces where God sometimes gets exiled.

The rapper is Brother Ali who creates stories out of lyrics, like the story of the leper child turned out by a white family and taken in by the slaves—and raised to better by those folks. He becomes the preacher who warns his birth family that “All that gettin, so little givin; Led a lot of y’all to forget what’s missin; Built you a big pretty prison to sit in; Strut around here, convinced that that’s livin.”

I like that Brother Ali reclaims God for his lyrics.  However, in one of my favorite songs, “Tight Rope,” he admits that religion can turn dark.

Daddy was a preacher, momma was a Sunday school teacher

Big brother, football squad leader

Now far be it for you to disappoint or displease them

Your just being what you feel you see in

That mirror every time you peer in

Swallow the tears inside that empty feeling

Her boy terrified to let the world in

He has girlfriends but doesn’t want a girlfriend

He retreats inside himself

Where he lives life itself in secret

Daddy says people go to hell for being

What he is and he certainly believes them

Cause there ain’t no flame that can blaze enough

To trump being hated for the way you love

And cry yourself to sleep and hate waking up

Its a cold world y’all shame on us

I love that he has this honest relationship with religion. He sings of loving God, but he has this minister of God slowly destroying his own son for being gay. “Shame on us” indeed for having a society that allows our young people to hate themselves for being honest about our their natures.

As I’m working on my most recent story, I think I’m trying to find that same honest and brutally sharp edge.

In the Desert World universe, Livre has the soft and supportive side of religion. Shan believes in God utterly, and I love that faith. I love that God and the church gave Div a safe place to hide. In my own life, the church fails to provide that entirely too often.

However, the more I created that world, the more I realized that it existed only because these people were working together toward a common goal. When people don’t have a common enemy or goal, they turn on each other, and that’s when the sides try co-opting God. So, when Shan and Temar met the rest of the universe, the religion was dark and frightening. Paulists… nominal Christians who followed the words of Paul instead of those of Christ… had taken over the church.

To me, that’s scary.

Paul persecuted the early Christians and denied Christ. Heck, he murdered Christians. “I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison” (Acts 22:4). But then he claims he saw the light of God and heard Jesus’ voice and suddenly he was a changed man.

This changed man goes on to offer the following bits of wisdom:

  • Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man (I Corinthians 11:9).
  • Anyone who speaks in a tongue edifies themselves, but the one who prophesies edifies the church. I would like every one of you to speak in tongues (I Corinthians 14:4-5).
  • Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says (I Corinthians 14:34).
  • Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself… Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body (I Corinthians 6:15/18).

I guess that last one means that it’s better to murder than to have sex with a prostitute. Those were Paul’s two examples… sex between men and sex with a prostitute. Those are worse than all other sins which don’t affect the body.  I guess that would be… what?  Murder?  Yeah, I find murder so much less objectionable than paying for sex.  *insert eyeroll here*

The Ten Commandments aren’t ranked in order with some sins worse. This obsession with sex that’s in the modern Christian church doesn’t come from Christ or God… it comes from Paul. And Paul is a little scary (or a lot scary). He seems to think he’s more powerful than angels because he said:

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! (Galatians 1:6-8).

Yep, that totally sounds like someone who follows the humble teachings of Christ. Dude. He never even met Christ unless you believe his story of the voices in his head being those of God. When he worked for Judaism, he was a power-hungry little ass who sent people to their deaths for disagreeing with him, and as a preacher he doesn’t seem all that different. He uses his new “power” as a minister of Jesus to travel through Syria and Cilicia demanding respect. “And they praised God because of me” (I Galatians 24).

Wow, I’m long-winded today.

I guess I’m saying that Paul has driven people from the church and those who cling to Paul have given the rest of the world a strange idea of what it means to be Christian or religious in general.

Brother Ali is Muslim. He’s reclaiming the middle ground for his religion.

I want writers to start to reclaim that middle ground for Christianity.

I want m/m stories that have characters of faith, characters who can believe in God without the self-flagellation that turns religion into something self-destructive.  I want men who talk to God and trust that someone is listening. I even want characters I religious disagree with who can be religious without being nutcases.

In my new story, Stunt and Alex are deep in the Bible belt with people who believe in Leviticus and Corinthians; however, these people also believe in Christ’s words from Matthew 7. Judge not. That’s right, if we look at Christ’s teachings, all this judging is going to condemn the accusers faster than the sinners.

So, Elijah the old moonshiner who believes in snake handling and tongues and a lot of other stuff I’m tempted to call a little crazy, also supports gay marriage. Because he believes in the Bible, and as he explains to the protagonists:

“I figure you’ll go to hell seeing as how the Bible calls that one of those abominations. But until you get yourself dead, it ain’t none of my business. Actually, it ain’t my business even after you’re dead seeing as how I don’t intend to be down in hell with all the fornicators and such.” It was perfect hill logic, but Alex looked a little like a man who’d just seen the sky and earth switch sides. “But if you make a commitment in front of God, that means something around here. That’s not to be undertaken lightly. So don’t go promising to love and honor unless you mean it.”

I like Elijah. I disagree with his religion, but I like him because he is reclaiming the middle. He can hold his beliefs without casting stones at the rest of the world.

I guess I’m going to end with a part of the Bible I like a lot more than anything Paul wrote.

Matthew 7

1 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.

2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?

4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?

5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

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Author: lyngala

Lyn Gala started writing in the back of her science notebook in third grade and hasn't stopped since. Westerns starring men with shady pasts gave way to science fiction with questionable protagonists which eventually gave in to any story with a morally ambiguous character. Even the purest heroes have pain and loss and darkness in their hearts, and that's where she likes to find her stories. Her characters seek to better themselves and find the happy ending (or happier anyway), but it's writing the struggle that inspires her muse. When she isn't writing, Lyn Gala teaches history part time in New Mexico and constantly prays for that one big breakout novel that will let her leave the classroom behind forever. She loves teaching, but she loves writing more.

8 thoughts on “Religion in Odd Places

  1. Sounds like you have the same feelings about Paul that I have about St. Augustine. I would try to defend Paul but that would be a very long discussion better done in person as it would require significant back and forth. I will say, I think there are many instances where he’s not saying what people think he’s saying, mainly because these are letters and we only have one side of the conversation.

    Right, leaving that to the side. I really like what you say about finding the middle ground. Especially these days people seem to be polarizing so much that they can hardly speak civilly to each other, let alone find room to compromise. The discipline of the law should always be tempered by mercy, compassion and love.

    I have a friend who has been more or less utterly destroyed by his parents refusal to accept his sexual orientation. It’s tragic and it’s in direct contradiction to Christ’s teachings.

    I would consider myself a strong Christian, but I beleive absolutely in equal marriage. I believe in the sacredness of love in all it’s expressions. And I believe God is honored when people treat each other with decency and respect.

  2. St. Augustine is another interesting point in history. *eyeroll*

    It does seem like the extremes have always dominated the church, which is sad because it’s not necessary. There is a middle ground, and I absolutely believe you can be a good Christian and believe in equal rights for everyone.

  3. I’ve been reading the book Misquoting Jesus, and I no longer trust any of what I read in the New Testament to be true to what the original writers intended to say. It hasn’t shaken my faith because I belong to a church that does not take the bible literally (and we strongly support full gay-rights, particularly wake-sex marriage). And I identify as Christian-Pagan-Buddhist so my theology has a broader support than just one book.

  4. I will agree that Paul is a conundrum. And yet, your comparison of sex and murder is so off the mark. Paul’s point in that particular section was twofold: First, the proper of place for sex is within marriage, and only within marriage. By definition, sex with a prostitute is outside marriage. But the more important point, most people tend to miss completely. What he’s really saying here is that, if your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, any sin is defiling that temple. Of course, saying that illicit sex is worse than murder is a major piece of hyperbole, and that’s not what he means at all. What he means is that any other sin you commit injures other people. If you lie, you’re usually doing it at someone else’s expense. If you steal, you’re hurting someone else by depriving him of his rightful belongings. And so on down the list. But sins of a sexual nature are not only sins against another person by engaging them in sin, but they’re also sins against one’s OWN body. He’s not saying that one is worse than the other, but that sin in general is defiling.

    Judge not, lest ye be judged. Absolutely. But let’s not forget that Jesus Himself was not always the sweet, gentle Person so many people make Him out to be. There was when He called the Pharisees things like hypocrites and “brood of vipers.” And there was the time He overturned the tables of the moneychangers and went after them with a rope-whip. Yes, of course we must remember that as God, He alone had the right to judge in that manner; what we must always remember is that, for us humans, the hatred of an evil deed must never extend to the person who committed that deed. That’s the meaning of “hate the sin, but love the sinner.”

    A sinner who repents of his sins is always welcome by Christ. It’s the one who persists in his sinfulness who is rejected…and sinfulness itself is not always black and white. If a human court recognizes mitigating circumstances, of course the Divine Judge does so to an even greater degree. It’s easy to point to a deed and say, “That’s sinful and deserving of Hell;” it’s much harder to get inside a person’s head to find why he did it. Only God can do that, and that is why we mustn’t judge.

    I will close with the same thought I opened with: Paul is a conundrum. It’s got to be the most misinterpreted book in the Bible, and that misinterpretation is why so many use it to justify hatred and bigotry.

    And that’s my two cents.

  5. The only defense I can make of Paul is that a lot of the worst writings supposedly from him might not be his at all. Scholars think, based on writing style, that some other people using his name to claim authority might have written some of the most hateful books of the NT. That would certainly explain some contradictions in his letters.

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