Knowledge is Power
I’ve had it.
I cannot listen to another newscast or read another article about conservative, religious folks protesting a drag event or banning books. It makes me want to tear my hair out.
What in the hell is happening?
How did a religion that was supposed to be about love, mercy and inclusion become one of fear, repression, hatred and violence? Shouldn’t we be moving forward as a species and not going backward? How did caring for the poor, the downtrodden and immigrants become something so-called Christ-followers are against?
It also made me leave the church.
Jesus! Remember him? He told us to do two things: One, love your neighbour and treat them how you want to be treated. I think he meant “Treat them with respect.” Two: Love your enemies, in the exact same way. Treat them with respect. Don’t scream at them when you disagree. Listen to where they’re coming from. Open your heart and your mind. Pretty ‘woke’ if you ask me.
Well shit, that puts a fly in the ol’ communion cup, doesn’t it?
I made the mistake of listening to talk radio a few nights ago while I was driving, but if you dislike Trump and hate all that he stands for then it’s been a great week and it’s hard not to tune in just to revel in it for a while. The rest of the world suffered while he was president and constantly sowing chaos and hate so it feels a little poetic that he’s suffering now. Not exactly woke or evolved on my part, I know.
They were talking about the group “Moms for Liberty” which made me ask the question “Liberty for who? Is it for everyone or just the people who think exactly like you?” It sure doesn’t feel like liberty to me.
When we first moved back to Canada in 2003 we put our kids in Christian school because we wanted to protect them from the ‘gay agenda’, but a year later, after discovering there was no gay agenda, we decided to put them into public school. I had been looking forward to making friends with some of the other Moms there but found the Christian school to be one of the most unfriendly environments ever. They’d all grown up together, gone to church together, married each other and now had kids in the same school together. No one there needed or wanted a new friend. I also secretly started referring to it as ‘The Aryan Nation’ because most people there were blonde and blue-eyed, so maybe it’s partly my fault too. I knew after that year that I actually wanted our kids to have friends from different religions, different cultures, and different walks of life. Knowledge is power, and I wanted them to have the information necessary to make informed decisions as they grew and to be able to think for themselves.
Here’s the thing… knowledge, or information, isn’t just power, it’s a bunch of other things at the same time. Information informs. It gets us where we want to go, helps us to learn and grow, and to make up our minds about who we are and what we want to be. It gives us a broader understanding of the world around us while making us more accepting of other people’s differences. It helps us with critical thinking.
But these groups prey on people’s fears and cause us to shrink instead of grow, to live a more hidden existence rather than one that’s constantly expanding as it should, with new people, concepts and ideas spurring us on. It doesn’t allow us to show up as ourselves, who we were created to be. If you profess to believe in creation, that we were all created in God’s image, then shouldn’t we be free to just be?
It made me think about the story in the Bible of the Prodigal Son. It’s taught as a story all about God’s love, forgiveness and acceptance back into the fold, as long as we repent and say sorry.
What if it’s not about that though? What if the story is actually telling us that we need to experience pain, failure, rejection and a wander through the desert, in order to find God? Maybe a life of faith is supposed to be messy. Maybe we’re supposed to fall flat on our faces from time to time. In other words, be the prodigal son. The brother who stayed and played it safe, worked faithfully without asking questions, didn’t exactly win in the end, did he? He missed out on the party because he couldn’t let go of his resentment and anger toward his brother. His heart had become a few sizes too small and he was blinded by his own righteousness.
But isn’t faith something we should wrestle with? Shouldn’t it always be changing and growing? You can call yourself Christian all you want, but until it actually causes a change in how you treat the people around you and makes you more open to love, connection and acceptance of others who are different than you it’s not faith. If you’re going to church on Sunday to be told what to believe by the guy standing in the pulpit then maybe it’s not faith. Maybe it’s just doing what you’re told. It’s just an inherited system of belief until you wrestle with it to figure out who you are & what you believe. It shouldn’t be a system that allows you to look down on and judge other people. Real faith isn’t threatened by other belief systems or other ways of being in the world. I think it actually works the opposite way: faith is nurtured and grows when you’re open to new concepts and ideas. I came back to faith again, in a very different and more profound way, after studying and learning about other religions and philosophies. Now it’s my faith, not just what I was told to believe without question. Turns out I’m not very good at just doing what I’m told.
My real problem with religion is something different, though, and why I have such a big problem with Moms for Liberty or other such groups. My problem is that at first glance if you squint a little and don’t look too closely, it all looks reasonable. Of course I want to protect my kids from harm, what loving parent doesn’t? But where is the actual danger? There is none, it’s a false narrative. It’s not at the local library or in school. There are zero stories of a child being abused or hurt in any way at a story hour hosted by drag queens, but there are a whole lot of instances of kids being abused by pastors, priests, and Sunday school teachers. It never happened to me personally, but I do know people that it did happen to, even in the church I grew up in.
Yes, knowledge is power, but it’s also protection. In order to explain what I mean I’m going to tell a personal story that I haven’t told many people about except Glenn, but I think it’s one that needs to be told.
I was raised in a Christian family and went to church two to three times a week, especially when I reached my teenage years. The kids’ clubs and youth group activities were fun and provided a community to belong to. But I was also very naive, as was everyone else, about the world around us and especially about sex. It was never talked about in a positive, healthy way, just as something dirty and only okay for married couples, which of course were only a man and a woman. So now you know why I and many others got married young. It’s because we were horny teenagers and twenty-somethings, but also very afraid of going to hell. Marriage at twenty was normal in that scenario.
I had my first boyfriend when I was fourteen and he may as well have been an octopus. Hands everywhere. I’m not going to lie, some of it I liked. But some of it I didn’t. I didn’t have the tools, or the knowledge, to say no. I didn’t even know I had the right to say no. I thought there must be something wrong with me.
On one hand, I was being pressured to have intercourse, long before I was ready, not just by him but also by his friends and I endured a lot of teasing and ridicule. I doubt that anyone else in that group had any sexual experience, but that’s beside the point when you’re that age.
On the other hand, at the same time that this was going on, a young couple in their early twenties was forced to get up in front of the church and confess that they had been having sex and she was pregnant. I felt nothing but compassion for that girl and contempt for the men in charge who made them do that. The shame she must have felt! I still think of her from time to time and hope she’s okay, even forty years later. They quickly got married and then she had a miscarriage. I wonder why?
That was the most effective form of birth control I’ve ever seen, but the damage that it caused was huge! What 14-year-old girl is going to ask for help after that? So I carried the guilt and shame with me for almost 40 years, long past the time when I finally understood that I didn’t do anything wrong. It was only a few years ago, after reading the story of a woman who was raped by her boyfriend, that I realized that I didn’t need to carry that anymore. I wasn’t raped, there was no intercourse involved, but everything she described leading up to the rape was the same. Confusion, nowhere to turn and no one to talk to, and blaming yourself because you were a willing participant in some of it. With knowledge and understanding, I finally found freedom.
So I want to say to those Moms for Liberty, and to those religious zealots who seem to be against everything, “Whose liberty are you fighting for?"
Your child isn’t going to become gay because of a book that was read to them, or one that they found in the library. They’re not going to be gay because their teacher is gay or someone in their class has two Moms or two Dads. Talk to them, even from a young age. Teach them about their body and about life in general. Give them a healthy view of sex, teach them about consent and how the body works. Kids are naturally curious and they’re going to find out one way or another. Wouldn’t you rather it be you rather than someone else, like a sixteen year old boy?
The best way to protect your children is to give them information.
They say knowledge is power, but knowledge is a lot of other things too. I’ve heard it said that “there ain’t no cure for stupid,” but there is actually. It’s knowledge and is accessible to whoever wants it. Sometimes you need to work for it, but it’s always there, just waiting for you.