Have you ever had one of those moments where you didn’t know whether to laugh hysterically or just throw shit around the room? Yeah, I had one of those this morning. The trigger: Conrad Black interviewed Rob Ford on Vision TV. That’s right: Conrad Black, who renounced his Canadian citizenship before being convicted of felony fraud, has been given a new TV show on a Christian-oriented “family-values” network… and this week’s show was a soft-soap “interview” with an alcoholic homophobe who’s admitted to smoking crack cocaine. Highlights from this circle-jerk included Ford complaining about the money police spent surveilling his suspicious (if not outright illegal) activities and implying that Toronto Star reporter Daniel Dale is a pedophile for doing his job.
The combination of Conrad Black and Rob Ford was actually morbidly fascinating for me. Putting that much smug, self-serving mendacity into one room might actually have triggered some kind of neocon douchebag singularity. And putting it on Vision TV was just icing on the cake. I was literally speechless.
I don’t touch on religion much on this blog, partly because I’m relatively non-religious myself (although I do identify as a neopagan in the general tradition of Reclaiming), partly because The Wife™ is outright areligious (growing up in a country with an official religion will do that to you) and partly because I have a lot of friends who do profess a religion and whom I don’t wish to offend.
But it’s shit like this that makes me throw up my hands about the religious right. And by the “religious right” I pretty much mean the Christian Right, which used to be a term exclusive to the United States but is now — unfortunately — increasingly applicable to Canada. To wit: Vision TV, an allegedly multicultural station, runs a show where an ultra-right-wing felon interviews an ultra-right-wing drug addict and it’s somehow billed as quality television and objective journalism… and not the self-aggrandizing rich-white-male “I’m the victim here” wank-off it actually was.
My tolerance for the Christian Right’s posturing has hit an all time low recently. Maybe it’s the Christmas season that’s getting to me; Not so much Christmas itself, which I enjoy as the religion-neutral childhood-memory-laden cultural phenomenon that it has become in the West, but the constant stream of “Keep Christ in Christmas” bullshit that comes with this time of year.
You want to celebrate your religious holiday called Christmas? Excellent. You have every right to do that, and I wish you well. You want to tell me that I can’t celebrate my secular holiday called Christmas? Bite me. Christians don’t own the concept of a midwinter festival — especially since Christ wasn’t born on December 25th. Something I consider particularly asinine is claiming there’s a “War on Christmas” when specifically Christian terminology is replaced by more generic “holiday” phrases in popular culture: “Keep Christ in Christmas” is basically a heavy-handed attempt to say that if you aren’t Christian (and in more extreme cases a specific flavour of Christian) then you don’t deserve a midwinter celebration.
I’ve never reacted well to being told what I can and can’t have based on somebody else’s prejudices.
I grew up in a pretty devout Catholic household. I went to Catholic schools, attended Mass every week and participated in my parish and community. We weren’t “Creasters”, as my family called them (a portmanteau for “Christmas-and-Easter Christians”: people who only attended church twice a year.) When I was a child I took pride in my place in our parish, as an altar-boy and later, as a lay reader during the Mass; I felt genuinely spiritual attending church, and the annual Christmas eve midnight mass performed by candlelight was (and is) one of the most beautiful memories from my childhood.
But then I grew up. I, being confronted with various hypocrisies within the Catholic church and the Christian community (particularly around sexuality and the way the Church itself functions as a business) I found that I could no longer call myself a Catholic — or even a Christian — in good conscience. So I struck out to find my own way. And it took some twists and turns, but I’ve managed to find a spirituality that works for me.
As a quick aside, of the five children in my family only one of us still identifies as Catholic… and I’m pretty sure neither of my parents attend Catholic services anymore either. Part of that is disillusion with the Church after our parish was closed as part of a “financial restructuring”; part of it was disillusion with the community’s reaction to my parent’s divorce; and part of it was a rejection of the Church’s teachings on homo- and bisexuality, which was thrown into pretty sharp focus for my siblings when I came out of the closet in my early twenties. My family could be used as a representative example of why the Catholic Church is struggling in 21st century Canada, is what I’m saying.
I’ve used the word “hypocrisy” a lot in this post, and there’s a reason for that. My objection to Christianity is largely rooted in the hypocrisy I see — both openly committed and tacitly accepted — within the Christian community.
That does not, I hasten to add, mean that I believe that all Christians are hypocrites. During my activist days, as one specific example, I worked closely with several local Quakers and they really did exemplify everything that Christianity should be. I respected them a great deal, and if ever I did return to the Christian fold it would almost certainly be as part of the Universalist Fellowship of the Society of Friends (not to get anyone’s hopes up: it’s still a highly unlikely scenario.)
But by and large I generally only ever see a very limited spectrum of Christianity: the quiet, relatively non-practicing middle-of-the-road Christians who were raised that way and don’t really think about it; and the in-your-face, bash-the-gays bible-thumping fundamentalists… and, of course, the scoundrels who wrap themselves up in the banner of Christian respectability in order to further their own agendas (which brings us neatly back to Rob Ford and Conrad Black appearing on Vision TV.) The go-with-the-flow, my parents-were-Catholic-so-I-am-too kind of Christian don’t bother me all that much, but the frothing fundamentalists and the politicians allied to them for political gain emphatically do.
I believe that being intolerant towards people because of their religion (or lack thereof) is unacceptable, and a long time ago I read somewhere that I ought to do unto others as I would have them do unto me, so I try to be tolerant of the Christian Right, I really do. But I get frustrated with them sometimes, particularly when they seem to be wilfully blind to the way that unquestioning faith opens them to the kind of manipulation I associate with neocon politicians. And last night’s interview on a religious TV channel, a felon interviewing an addict (neither of whom has ever taken responsibility for their wrongdoing) just pushed every button I’ve got… especially since I knew, just knew, that the Christian Right in this country would be hanging on every word. I’ve always hated hypocrisy, and that was just a perfect storm, right there.
I don’t claim to be perfect. I don’t claim to be better than others. I don’t claim to deserve a special chance or to have special consideration given me. But I do demand an equal voice, and equal rights, and I’m willing to pay for those things by practicing what I preach. I try my best to live up to my ideals and yes, at times I’ve failed at that. But at least I’m not a hypocrite, and thank the Goddess I’ve never been a hypocrite on the kind of scale that got put on TV last night.