Apologist or Bitch: You Be the Judge

When you lean as far left as I do, you encounter a lot of people who practice different religions or none at all. I like this, personally. I was raised in a little cracker town where the Most Different People around were the two Lutheran families, so when I was allowed into the larger world — I called this “graduating high school” — I was kind of relieved to actually meet some of the people whose beliefs I’d only read about until then. Any resulting cultural exchange was always fun. Seriously, I remember thinking — my Catholic friends had to share a veggie pizza once a week? My Hindu friends avoided McDonald’s fries? (I still think these guys were robbed. Those fries were a food group when I was growing up.) It was a cross between leaving Hooterville for the real world and stepping out of the black-and-white house into the color of Oz.

Since then, though, I’ve noticed one thing that bugs me more and more. I really get annoyed by the implication that all Christians are alike, stamped out of the same cookie cutter and following the same bizarre religious practices. I’ve met people who genuinely think we all handle snakes, speak in tongues, don’t drink, don’t swear (although I recognize the argument that I might really go to hell for this one), scream outside abortion clinics, and, last but most personally irritating, vote Republican.

Ahem. Please stand aside while I get this soapbox out.

I can’t say this directly to the folks on a couple of newly discovered and appreciated websites, or apparently 99% of all screenwriters anywhere on the planet, or even a few clueless dopes in my own political party who don’t realize we’re all under the same big blue tent, so I’m going to pass it along here and hope that someone who needs to hear this speech will follow one of my regular friends to this post.

All Christians are about as alike as all… well… all anything, and it’s like having a rock in my shoe to think that the guys who wrote, for example, my old favorite “The West Wing” would be astonished to learn about the vast difference in views, experience, and practice between, say, members of the Church of God and Episcopalians. (For anyone curious, I’m a Methodist. I was sort of raised Baptist but it quite obviously didn’t take.) By the time I was in high school and reading everything I could get hold of, I knew there were great disparities in other religions as well: the spectrum between Reform and Hasidic Jews, the disparity between all those religions — Sikhs, Hindus, Muslims, Shinto, and probably at least two or three more I’ll be embarrassed to have excluded –vaguely referred to in class as “Eastern,” or even the difference between two of my Catholic buddies, the one who attended Confession and Mass every week and the one who went to church maybe twice a year but still restricted herself to the veggie pizza on Friday nights. And then there were and are my atheist friends, including the one I’ve been with for nearly 11 years. He has slightly more conservative views on abortion than my Methodist self does, but also believes visitors to the Bob Jones University Art Museum should show the minor respect of dressing nicely when they’re there. I like this range, by the way. I’m not much into stereotypes.

I’m not asking for respect, because any Christian who doesn’t think we get it in spades is delusional. I’m just hoping maybe there’ll be one unsuspecting person who will slap his forehead and say (out loud, natch), “Golly gee willikers! What was I thinking? I’d better get hold of that screenplay I just sent Aaron Sorkin before he thinks I can’t tell a Presbyterian from a Primitive Baptist!” (Uh, dude, you’re probably in the clear.)

I watched “Fear Itself” last night on NBC and at one point the screenplay called for a family to be in church two weeks in a row and sing “Amazing Grace” both times. I didn’t think you had to be a foot-washer to know this is a big dumb error. Why do you think hymnals are so freakin’ big?, I asked the TV in frustration. If the only church songs you know are “Amazing Grace” and “Silent Night,” that’s fine, but before you sell this crap to someone don’t you think you should rustle up a friend and maybe ASK? It may have put me off the show.

What’s interesting to me is there are writers who make this mistake too, although considerably fewer of them and making even more considerably less money. Screenwriters as a rule strike me as egomaniacs, with the possible exceptions of Diablo Cody and Larry McMurtry, so maybe they don’t like to admit they aren’t in touch with everyone’s universal experience by asking somebody else for his or her recommendation. It’s also possible that they don’t know they don’t know, in which case they’re exactly like I would have been if I’d never left Hooterville, or read a book.

For the record, Imaginary Screenwriter who Stumbled Onto This Post, in my family alone there are Baptists, Methodists, and non-church-affiliates. Some of us drink and swear (some of us swear more than most people should), go to Jimmy Buffett and U2 and Tool concerts, watch extremely violent movies, vote Democratic (which is almost a secondary religion), have sex before we’re married, don’t like or want kids, hang out with gay friends, and don’t want the Ten Commandments propped up in every courtroom, classroom, and roadside rest stop like a Burma-Shave sign. Then there are others who equate drinking and smoking and premarital sex with crimes, went to private religious schools, don’t listen to any music racier than Josh Groban, place Bibles in every room of their home (including the bathroom, which is just freakin’ weird beyond words to me), are horrified by gay couples in California getting married, and think Bill Clinton is the Antichrist. (They might have moved on to thinking it’s Obama by now. I don’t know and hope I never find out.) So, Mr. Imaginary Curious Screenwriter, riddle me this: if one family, in one remote Hootervillian corner of one appallingly conservative southern state, can have a stretch like this between members of the same family, why can’t you figure out that maybe we all didn’t fit inside the same cookie cutter?

I hate the constant bitching of the right-wing whackjobs about the “Hollywood elite.” I think that’s a crock. You never hear them bemoaning the “sports elite,” do you? No, most of those guys vote the way the right wing wants them to, so they get a pass. And I’m not going to take a swing at Hollywood either. It’s lazy and misses the point.

The point is, I guess, to look around once in a while and see some new differences. It’s a big country, guys, and moreover, it’s oddly shaped. You’d better be prepared to bring a really big set of different cookie cutters to fit inside it. And that’s not even getting out to the rest of the world.

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12 Responses to “Apologist or Bitch: You Be the Judge”

  1. So, you’re telling me that you’re not married and you have sex?

  2. tigereye Says:

    Uh… You know, my mom recently discovered this page, so I’d better not answer that one.

  3. Word. I mean, logos!

  4. I’m still reeling in shock from finding out she’s not actually a tiger.

  5. pandemonic Says:

    Well placed rant. I hate it when people try to stereotype me. For example, I’ve been a HIPPIE and also VOTED REPUBLICAN. I’m an AGNOSTIC yet sent my children to CATHOLIC SCHOOL. I have far more colors than just black or white.

    Oh, and I lived in Hooterville too, back before you were born. 🙂

  6. Daners Isadora a.k.a. Busty St. Clair Says:

    I applaud you, my dear lady! Well said!

  7. tigereye Says:

    Pan! You lived in Hooterville? You’re lucky you weren’t burned as a witch. Come to think of it, my whole family was lucky that didn’t happen when the others found out we voted Democratic and didn’t go to church. 🙂

  8. bigcocky Says:

    Lydia – no, she’s an actual tiger all right. Wait until football season.

  9. Nicely put. I have very little tolerance for the cookie-cutter mentality myself. Cookies, on the other hand… I’m all for cookies. 🙂

  10. I try not to think about the fact that you are a Christian.

  11. tigereye Says:

    Andrea, I’m one of the fun ones. Usually. 🙂

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