The HyperTexts

Why I Left the Religious Right

by Michael R. Burch

I grew up in an evangelical Christian family. Why did I leave the Religious Right and the conservative, Bible-based Christianity of my youth? There are a number of reasons, which can be gleaned in the poems to follow.

One of the main reasons I became an agnostic (i.e., not pretending to "know" whether there is a God or not) is that the Bible's "teachings" about the origins of life make absolutely no sense to me. Even if Adam and Eve's "disobedience" merited the punishment of suffering and death (quite obviously, it didn't), why did God sentence all the poor animals to suffer and die, when they hadn't done anything wrong and didn't acquire the "knowledge of good and evil"? And if God is good, why do Christians have to pray so fervently and at such length for him to do the right things? The title of the poem below is a pun on the idea that God acted too quickly when he rushed into creating life. It seems that if he exists, God was much better at math, physics and chemistry than he was at biology, which still seems to stump him.

Willy Nilly

for the Demiurge aka Yahweh/Jehovah

Isn’t it silly, Willy Nilly?
You made the stallion,
you made the filly,
and now they sleep
in the dark earth, stilly.
Isn’t it silly, Willy Nilly?

Isn’t it silly, Willy Nilly?
You forced them to run
all their days uphilly.
They ran till they dropped—
life’s a pickle, dilly.
Isn’t it silly, Willy Nilly?

Isn’t it silly, Willy Nilly?
They say I should worship you!
Oh, really!
They say I should pray
so you’ll not act illy.
Isn’t it silly, Willy Nilly?

Another reason for my leaving the Religious Right is its strident insistence that heterosexual Christians can be forgiven of all their sexual and other peccadilloes, but for some strange reason homosexuals can't. Really now, does that seem fair? It seems more likely to me that conservative Christians focus so narrowly on homosexuality because it's one of the few "sins" enumerated in the Bible that they don't struggle with personally. But in any case, I think I'd be much happier in the company of homosexuals, harlots and heretics than I would be in the company of the "God loves me and everyone else can go to hell" crowd. Why would anyone believe in the horrify Jesus of Revelation, who, according to John of Patmos, will return to murder billions of human beings and trillions of animals, making him worse than Hitler or any serial killer in human history? Why not believe in someone nice, like Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny?

What Would Santa Claus Say

What would Santa Claus say,
I wonder,
about Jesus returning
to kill and plunder?

For He’ll likely return
on Christmas day
to blow the bad
little boys away!

When He flashes like lightning
across the skies
and many a homosexual
dies,

when the harlots and heretics
are ripped asunder,
what will the Easter Bunny think,
I wonder?

Although I seldom thought about homosexuality until returning to the Southern Baptist Church briefly at the age of 46, its disturbing intolerance soon opened my eyes and made me start thinking. Did I really want to believe in an intolerant, homophobic God?

I’ve got Jesus’s face on a wallet insert

I’ve got Jesus’s face on a wallet insert
and "Hell is for Queers" on the back of my shirt.
     And I uphold the Law,
     for Grace has a Flaw:
the Church must have someone to drag through the dirt.

I’ve got ten thousand reasons why Hell must exist,
and you’re at the top of my fast-swelling list!
     You’re nothing like me,
     so God must agree
and slam down the Hammer with His Loving Fist!

For what are the chances that God has a plan
to save everyone: even Boy George and Wham!?
     Eternal fell torture
     in Hell’s pressure scorcher
will separate homo from Man.

I’m glad I’m redeemed, ecstatic you’re not.
Did Christ die for sinners? Perish the thought!
     The "good news" is this:
     soon my Vengeance is His!,
for you’re not the lost sheep He sought.

And I found the whole "Jesus loves Christians and saves them by grace, but Gandhi and Einstein and the saints of other religions can all go to hell" thing very, very creepy. I used some cummings-like typography in the poem below to illustrate the way the "grace for Christians only" crowd seems to reduce God and Jesus to accomplices in their all-too-human crimes of intolerance and bigotry.

gimME that ol’ time religion!

fiddle-dee-dum, fiddle-dee-dee,
jesus
loves and understands ME!
safe in his grace, I’LL damn
them to hell—
the
strumpet, the harlot, the wild jezebel,
the
alky, the druggie, all queers short and tall!
let
them drink ashes and wormwood and gall,
’cause fiddle-dee-DUMB, fiddle-dee-WEE
EEEEEEEEEEEEEEee . . .
jesus
loves and understands
ME!


The poem below is one of my less vitriolic stabs at the "saved by grace" crowd. They wouldn't get on my nerves so much if they would quit insisting that only the "Chosen Few" will be saved by grace, with everyone else getting the short end of the stick.

Saving Graces

Life’s saving graces are love, pleasure, laughter
(wisdom, it seems, is for the Hereafter).

Because I'm an editor and publisher of Holocaust poetry, it troubles me that so many Jews and Christians use the Holocaust to excuse the inexcusable: the horrors of a new Holocaust, the Nakba ("Catastrophe") of the Palestinians. Is this the will of God and the revelation of the Holy Spirit, or just another example of how easily Christians are duped when they try to "believe" the Bible?

Starting from Scratch with Ol’ Scratch

Love, with a small, fatalistic sigh
went to the ovens. Please don’t bother to cry.
You could have saved her, but you were all tied up
complaining about the Jews to Reichmeister Grupp.

Scratch that. You were born after World War II.
You had something really important to do:
while the children of the Nakba were perishing in Gaza
with the complicity of your government, you had a noble cause (a
religious tract against homosexual marriage
and various other things gods and Christians disparage.)

Jesus will understand, I’m quite sure
that your intentions were good and ineluctably pure.
What the hell does he care about Palestinians?
Certainly, Christians were right about serfs, slaves and Indians.
Scratch that. You’re one of the Devil’s minions.

Like Mark Twain, I discovered to my chagrin that I was a Christian "for revenue only." There is no mention of a place called hell in the entire Old Testament, and barely a mention of anything like hell in the New Testament. The Hebrew word Sheol and the Greek word Hades both mean "the grave," not "hell." The other word commonly translated as "hell" in English Bibles, Gehenna, appears in only a scant ten verses in two of the four gospels: Matthew and Mark, which obviously derive from the same source text, and thus from the same writer. So it looks suspiciously as if one person cobbled "hell" into the Bible in a very clumsy manner, as he forgot to ever have God, Jesus or any of the prophets and apostles ever explain how and why "hell" popped into existence, after thousands of years in which it was never even discussed. It seems pretty obvious that "hell" was the ultimate scam: one that has been very, very good for church business.

Amazing “grace”

Amazing “grace”
how unsweet the sound
that made such a wretch of me:
I once was rich
but now I’m unsound . . .
since the church embezzled me.

Conservative Christians who claim to "believe" in Jesus seem especially creepy when they say Christians must support Israel, despite its despicable treatment of Palestinians, when they expect Jesus to send the vast majority of Jews to an "eternal hell" for not believing in his person.

Memo: The Divine Plan (an Update)

CC: Pat Robertson, G.W.B, the Religious Right, et al.

God,
the fundamentalist Fuck,
said,
“I love Christians, but Muslims just suck,
so . . .
let’s have a faith that is bound to annoy ’em
and
keep ’em in chains, until Palin destroys ’em.”

Sarah Palin scares me. She seems like the female doppelganger of George W. Bush and she has discussed "supporting Israel" by bombing Iran.

Baked Alaskan

There is a strange yokel so flirty
she makes whores seem icons of purity.
     With all her winkin’ and blinkin’
      she seems to be “thinkin’”—
Ah culd save th’ free world ’cause ah’m purty!

What are Sarah Palin's qualifications for elected office? She is a true believer, but always in the wrong things.

This Poem Is Irrefudiateable!

Sarah Palin is cute and bright —
cute as a button,
bright as a mite
(but her mite-y brain ain’t got no grammar
so she speaks with a stammer
and wields a big hammer).
Yet, despite her IQ, she’s come up with a “plan”—
to support Tel Aviv
by destroying Iran.
Yes, sweet Sarah Palin’s a cute thing, alright —
acute as the button
on a stick of dynamite.

“pls refudiate!”

Sarah Palin tweeted her disapproval of a plan to build a mosque close to Ground Zero: “Mosque supporters: doesn't it stab you in the heart, as it does ours throughout the heartland? Peaceful Muslims, pls refudiate.” When asked to explain what would have been a verbal gaffe for anyone else, Palin displayed the luminosity of her intellect by replying: "Refudiate, misunderestimate, wee-wee'd up. English is a living language. Shakespeare liked to coin words, too. Got to celebrate it!" In the process she borrowed a nonsense word from another charismatic moron, whose identity must be concealed, to protect the ignorant.

“Refudiate” this,
miffed misunderstood Ms.!—
Shakespeare, you’re not
(more like Yoda, but hot).
Your grammar’s atrocious;
Great Poets would know this.

You lack any plan
save to flatten Iran
like some cute Mini-Me
cloned from G. W. B.

Admit it, Miss Palin!,
stop your winkin’ and wailin’—
only “heroes” like Nero
fiddle sparks at Ground Zero.

Sarah Palin: 2012 or Bust!

Winkin’ and Blinkin’
met Barely Thinkin’
goin’ to the fair.

Said Barely Thinkin’
to Winkin’ and Blinkin’ —
What does she have, “up there”?

Winkin’ replied —
There’s hot air inside;
it’s just her exterior that’s fair.

Blinkin’ agreed —
Her brain’s gone to seed
though her legs are quite smooth, thanks to Nair.

Joined by Abe Lincoln,
Winkin’ and Blinkin’
lifted a prayer up to God —

Save us, Good Lord,
from the Rod and the Sword
and remember us please, to old Nod!

Then off in the distance
with tremendous persistence
wild weepin’ and wailin’ ensued

for Sarah, elected,
had gone apoplectic
as soon as shocked Muslims had booed

and flattened Iran
(which was Tel Aviv’s plan),
but she looks awfully good, the dim boob,

on the Rube Tube!

The poem below pokes fun at two of my favorite targets: the Pope (who claims to be able to speak infallibly but sounds like an evil moron on the subjects of condoms, contraceptives, euthanasia, etc.) and the Southern Baptists, who have erected a nine-foot-tall statue of their hero, Billy Graham, here where I live in Nashville, Tennessee. 

The Trinity (an Update)

"And the three men I admire most, the Father, Son and the Holy Ghost, they took the last train for the coast ..."
—Don McLean, "American Pie"


The God of this World,
his-great-and-exalted-Holy-Eminence-etc.-etc.-blah-blah-blah
Pope Ratzinger/Benedict,
whose previous orifice—er, office—
was the only-recently-euphemized Grand Inquisitor’s,
but Who is now safely ensconced (if strangely diminutively, like Oz’s wizardly lepre-Con)
on His bejeweled throne
smiles, heaves chortling sighs, then raises His weasely face . . .
finished, finally!, with His 666th revision of the (un)Holey doctrine of Limbo,
having done his best to prevent his all-stupendous-etc.-etc.-blah-blah-blah
"god"—yahweh—from broiling more babies in "hell"
—blessed be his phenomenal name!—
for the inconceivable "sin"
of having died sans splashes of water by magic-imbued priests
who, if their intended victims had lived to the ripe ol’ age of accountability
and profitability
would no doubt have rewarded them with rudely reamed wallets, or rumps . . .
great He—the prophetically named rat-fink ruler/traitor of all mankind—
no longer down in the dumps,
smiles—understanding His own subtle artifice?—
the blind bleeding the blind.

Meanwhile, back in Nashville, the "Athens of the South,"
thousands of evangelicals trudge worshipfully from a replica of the Parthenon
with its strange pantheon of "gods," nymphs, satyrs and cupids
to gaze up in rapt, adorational awe
at the nine-foot statue of their one true Idol—Billy Graham:
earnest as a buzzsaw,
armed to the teeth with a Bible, the "Law,"
and the only surefire-get-out-of-jail-free’n-clear raffle ticket to heaven—"grace"
(theoretically, a gift;
theo-"logically", pure grift).
So ante up,
sell your soul to the Devil,
sign here, on the blood-dotted line!

Meanwhile, nearby at Graceland,
Elvis, like Jesus,
remains both omniscient
and conspicuously absent.

Amen

It's hard to understand why Christians have been the ringleaders in so many Crusades, Inquisitions, witch hunts, burnings of heretics at the stake, and Holocausts, if theirs is the "one true religion." Hitler was a fan of Martin Luther, who was a rabid anti-Semite.

Auschwitz Rose

There is a Rose at Auschwitz, in the briar,
a rose like Sharon's, lovely as her name.
The world forgot her, and is not the same.
I love her and would not forget desire,
but keep her memory exalted flame
to justify the thistles and the nettles.

On Auschwitz now the reddening sunset settles;
they sleep alike—diminutive and tall,
the innocent, the "surgeons."
                                                    Sleeping, all.
Red oxides of her blood, bright crimson petals,
if accidents of coloration, gall
my heart no less.
                              Amid thick weeds and muck
there lies a rose man's crackling lightning struck:
the only Rose I ever longed to pluck.
Soon I'll bed there and bid the world "Good Luck."

Christianity has also been a prime cause of a new Holocaust, the Nakba ("Catastrophe") of the Palestinians. According to most conservative Christians, God wants Christians to "support" Jews until Jesus returns and sends the vast majority of them to an "eternal hell" for the "crime" of not having believed in his person, even though he either chose or was unable to speak to them personally. Does any of that make any sense, if Jesus is good? But in any case millions of innocent Palestinian children now suffer because the governments of Israel and the United States have joined forces to deny them basic human rights, freedom and dignity. The suffering inflicted on millions of Palestinians during the Nakba was a direct cause of 9-11 and the subsequent wars. What sort of "true" religion continually practices racism and intolerance, creating Holocausts and successions of unnecessary wars?

Epitaph for a Palestinian Child

I lived as best I could, and then I died.
Be careful where you step: the grave is wide.

Sarah Palin, the latest darling of the Religious Right, has spoken rather calmly about "supporting" Israel by bombing Iran. But Israel is a belligerent, bellicose, bullying nation that practices systematic racism against millions of Palestinians on a daily basis. Why should Americans focus narrowly on Iran, which doesn't have nuclear weapons, when Israel is even more aggressive and has hundreds of nukes? While I am not a fan of the current Iranian regime, I see no reason to start a third unnecessary war in the Middle East, when the first two have accomplished little or nothing of any benefit to anyone.

Brother Iran

Brother Iran, I feel your pain.
I feel it as when the Turk fled Spain.
As the Jew fled, too, that constricting span,
I feel your pain, Brother Iran.

Brother Iran, I know you are noble!
I too fear Hiroshima and Chernobyl.
But though my heart shudders, I have a plan,
and I know you are noble, Brother Iran.

Brother Iran, I salute your Poets!
your Mathematicians!, all your great Wits!
O, come join the earth’s great Caravan.
We’ll include your Poets, Brother Iran.

Brother Iran, I love your Verse!
Come take my hand now, let’s rehearse
the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.
For I love your Verse, Brother Iran.

Bother Iran, civilization’s Flower!
How high flew your towers in man’s early hours!
Let us build them yet higher, for that’s my plan,
civilization’s first flower, Brother Iran.

The United States has famously been called a "Christian" nation. But it seems to be one of the most belligerent, bellicose, bullying nations on earth, along with Israel. If believing the Bible causes people to become bullies, perhaps they should stop reading it so much.

Piercing the Shell

If we strip away all the accouterments of war,
perhaps we'll discover what the heart is for.

The Bible is full of commandments for "men of God" to go to war, and even to slaughter captured women and children (Numbers 31, for instance). The horrendous book of Revelation says Jesus Christ will return to earth to murder the children of a woman because she committed adultery, and that he will then go on the warpath, destroying a large portion of the earth's human and animal populations. After that, human beings will be tortured with fire and brimstone "in the presence of the Lamb and Holy Angels." So much for hell being "separation from God." It seems to me that someone who calls himself a "Savior" should go around saving people, not torturing and murdering them.

Autumn Conundrum

It's not that every leaf must finally fall,
it's just that we can never catch them all.

This poem questions the "growth" of God. How did someone so intolerant manage to acquire such a huge following, really?

I see u-turn

o, tiny intolerant god,
the savior of only the FEW,
the respecter of any HUGE CLOD
who preemptively whispers, “I love u!”
and turns you into a smashed sod
so stoned on one-hundred-proof brew
that you crow, like a HUGE GIANT FRAUD . . .
is this, perhaps how you grew?

This cummings-ish poem expresses a belief in Love and Sex, rather than a moralistic "God."

i believe

i believe in eversolovely slovenly love
and in melting rigid moralists at the stake;
i believe in sweet liberating euthanasia
and that every “commandment” was an ancient mistake
(except the ones that protect fledglings and poodles
from men with limp, icky, religion-besotted noodles);
i believe we should make love in oodles ’n caboodles
and can the canoodles;
i believe

What Christians obviously can't do is explain why God loves them so much, and yet allows them and their children to die like everyone else. Is there any evidence that the love and compassion of God accomplish anything, really?

’Tis so sweet, etc.

It is no secret
what God can do.
What he’s done for others,
he’ll do for you:
with arms wide open,
he’ll let you die,
then kill your children.
Never ask him why.

The poem below is one I wrote at a time that I was struggling to believe that Jesus was good, not an intolerant lunatic. Later, I decided to stop worrying about Jesus altogether, since years of prayer as a child had never caused him to materialize. How can someone "love" me, yet refuse to give me the time of day? Still, I like the poem because it stresses human friendship in this life. I no longer think of Jesus as "Lord" or "Savior" but if there is a life beyond this one, perhaps he might be a friend worth getting to know.

The Gardener’s Roses

Mary Magdalene, supposing him to be the gardener,
saith unto him, "Sir, if thou have borne him hence,
tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away."


I too have come to the cave;
within: strange, half-glimpsed forms
and ghostly paradigms of things.
Here, nothing warms

this lightening moment of the dawn,
pale tendrils spreading east.
And I, of all who followed him,
by far the least . . .

The women take no note of me;
I do not recognize
the men in white, the gardener,
these unfamiliar skies . . .

Faint scent of roses, thena touch!
I turn, and I seeYou.
My Lord, why do You tarry here?
Another waits, Whose love is true.

Although my father waits, and bliss;
though angels call—ecstatic crew!—
I gathered roses for a Friend.
I waited here, for You.


The HyperTexts