By: JANA GREENE
Gather ’round, Children. It’s storytime.
I was a big, fat OOPS to my family. My parents were teens who hastily got married in my mother’s advanced month of pregnancy, and divorced shortly thereafter, but in the wake of their “sinfulness,” was me. TA DAAAA!
I am from the South and born in 1969. While I was still no bigger than a baked bean in utero, I was scandalizing my entire family. My mother was ostracized to a degree and even more important: WHAT WILL THE NEIGHBORS THINK?? (I don’t know why the neighbors cared; it was just the arrival of a new fellow human.)
My grandparents got past the scandal, and scooped me up and loved me, but the extended family was not as thrilled.
I specifically remember the way one of my great-grandmothers treated me, and it was UGLY. And as I grew, it got worse. She made me feel like I tainted the whole family (like the rest of the family wasn’t batshit insane. Let’s call a spade a spade.)
I was different than the other greats and grands, because in HER mind, I wasn’t supposed to exist (never mind my parents’ shotgun wedding, I guess.) I got ass-whoopings for doing absolutely nothing.
Now my great grandmother – who I will refer to Memaw for the purposes of this article (because I’m Southern, so…) was a tough broad. She came down to Texas from Missouri via COVERED WAGON as a tween with her parents and a zillion siblings. She had the full-on Oregon Trail Experience (Texas Edition,) complete with at least one of her siblings dying of dysentery on the way. She had seen some shit. And I mean literally AND figuratively. Tragedy, toil, death.
And you’d think seeing some shit, it would have softened her heart, but no. If anything, it depleted her tolerance. Going through major trauma does one of the two things: Softens you or makes you strident, it’s always your choice.
I truly believe she felt justified in being horrible BECAUSE she was a “good Christian.” She had RIGHTEOUS ANGER on her side. And in case you don’t know, “righteous anger” can cover a multitude of issues and is in no way compatible with true GRACE.
Grace got lost in the shuffle, almost as if it was an afterthought of the gospel, and not the Gospel in whole. She never forgave me for being born, a product of “sin,” so I became the product of a world that loves a good stigma! I stood for everything that was wrong with the world to her, just by existing.
At her funeral, they used terms like “holy and blameless” when describing her in the little Baptist church she attended. A “pillar of the community!” If memory serves, she even had a Sunday School room named in her honor, because “She so loved the children.”
See this disconnect?
Now I’m not here to roast my ancestors, who I’m sure did the best they could at the time (whatever that even means.)
But I DO think maybe we take a deep dive into what makes a person a threat to the community pillars. Because this bruhaha over Drag Queens right now has me all up in my feelings.
Of course, we no longer treat children born outside of marriage poorly! It’s 2023! Surely, we don’t make others feel “less than” anymore. Surely we have evolved to BE the inclusive love to one another? Maybe we learned a thing or two. But we have a damn thing or two to learn still.
We are talking about not belonging.
We are talking about welcoming the stranger.
We are talking about the most fundamental of all human needs: Acceptance.
We are talking about the least Christ-like of Christian attitudes: Vilifying a fellow human-being who God made in his image. God is not, in fact, made in OUR image – flaky and flighty, quick to anger, with a penchant for smiting anyone different than us.
You see, the question was never did I deserve unkindness because I was born as some kind of counterfeit shadow-self of a child who was born in marriage. I deserved kindness because I was born. All humans deserve dignity and acceptance – red and yellow, black and white, we are ALL precious in his sight..
Next week, I am taking my adult daughters to a Drag Show fundraiser. I can’t wait.
Former Fundie Me would be breathing rapid-fire into a brown paper bag in order not to pass out from the shock! I would have called my future self “backslidden,” “fallen,” and worst of all, “someone who never knew Jesus in the first place.” THINK OF THE CHILDREN! I would say, tsk-tsking. To which I tell myself now, “Well, they are adults, now – pushing 30. And I am thinking of them.”
I’m thinking I want to show them that everyone deserves respect and acceptance.
And for the record, I did know Jesus in the first place. And I DO know him still. And he is the whole reason that I realized my heart didn’t only need softening. It needed OPENING.
What will the neighbors think, if you start loving people who are different than you? Would it be a “scandal” if you became an ally to the LGBTQ+ community? Would your friends say you’ve “turned,” if you changed your mind? Would your church kick you out for standing with that marginalized community?
Because they exist.
I don’t care what the neighbors think. I care what God thinks.
And at the end of the day, I finally care about what I myself THINK.