My first run-ins with the damning illogic of the Right
NOTICE: Rough sledding ahead. The effort is to be as honest as I can be, which for many may be a ride too tough to handle; language and verbal images employed accordingly.
I was born in January, 1946, and raised in Allen Park, a suburb of Detroit. From just about the first (which is to say, around age five) through when I graduated from high school, attendance at Sunday services at the Allen Park United Presbyterian Church on Park Avenue was mandatory. Even an off-grimace would subject me to . . . only Lord knows what, which I sampled from my dad on random occasions when I dared be so bold to suggest by look or other that I'd rather not. This was the also the age of mandatory conformance; "I have a list . . ." and Ann Landers and Dear Abby's stern and widely believed proclamations that "Boys dated girls who did, but married girls who didn't."
However my guess as to exactly when I hit that first storm of hurricane intensity known as puberty is vague, the recollections of the sense of the crashing, crushing waves are yet vivid. Any adult male who tells you that upwards of 90 percent of his waking post-pubescent hours were not devoted to thoughts of sex is either: a.) lying through his teeth, or b.) has an incredibly weak memory. From 12 years on, the only moments that thoughts and schemings of how I could get my hands down Ellen Guthrie's bra and panties were not foremost were when I was playing baseball or football. Sorry Mr. Bullion, but that's just how it was. Compared to Ellen's loveliness, Hamlet's travails were but a distant and insignificant dot.
None of this is to say I ever really got my hands within Ellen's unmentionables, which I never did. Rather, that's where my focus was. Besides, along with Ann Landers and Dear Abby, we, as males, were well schooled, though not especially frightened off, by warnings about statutory rape. It wouldn't matter whether Ellen or any of her distaff Sirens desired the affirmation of the incredible command just as much as her male counterparts, it was the male counterparts who would be subject to the harsh retribution of the law, for any trespass of the relevant statues.
We knew these things, if not from 12, certainly from 13 onward. And that gets me to my first brush with the fundamentalist Christian conservative Right's clasp of illogic and delusion: Mary, and the birth of Jesus.
(Remember when I said this could get rough? Well, this is where it does.)
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Even in our Sunday Bible studies, there was agreement that Mary was impregnated by God (Or, the Holy Spirit) around the age of 12, and without her mutual consent. I raised the issue of her youthful age. "Oh . . . times were different then," would be the non-answer; non-answer because, however times may have been different, the question encompassed what had nothing to do with times long ago. It had to do with what had not changed over the millennia: incredible sexual desire, contrasted with the "60's suggestions that they were to be ignored, tossed off, not dealt with. "Like, I gotta tell ya Mr. Wainsworth, Michigan is loaded with summer mosquitoes, and when they bite, ya can't simply ignore them, because someone says so." And saying we should, or could, for any reason, was a just plain stupid thing to say. Furthermore, it was insulting as hell, thinking none of us sitting there, getting that lecture, would or could see through the thin fabric of that one.
And the phoneyness of the proffered proposition led directly to questions of the ever more consequent religious dicta, the story about God and Mary and her pregnancy. I mean, if the first premise that the hard push to sex and its easy dismissal was at best a lousy ruse perpetrated by adults, what else that they were claiming and pushing might also be false, or at least, not completely as advertised? And please do not ask me to dare not issue the inquiry on the basis of heresy. Oh my God, the illogic of that one is beyond reconciliation with a thinking mind, and is as equally offensive as the first one about sex that I introduced above. "Oh . . . an almighty entity, capable of creating the entire universe, is going to crumble, like Rumpelstiltskin, if some insignificant mere mortal asks an honest and honestly understandable question?" That is no trait of a god, it's the trait of an emotionally insecure con artist. Or, as they say on the farm, it's B*** S***.
But phew . . . that wasn't even the hard hoist I was struggling with as a teenager. This one is: If I, or any male, by any method (drugs, sleep, or persuasion), had managed to get more than my hands down 13-, 14-, 15-, 16-, or 17-year old Ellen's panties, whether or not Ellen became pregnant as a consequence, by definition I would have been guilty of rape. The statutory prefix only diminishes the tone of the statutory offense, it does not eliminate what would have been my liability to legal sanctions that prohibited it. Careful. Draw a deep breath. Think. Do not fall into emotional hysteria. The teenage me pondered the proposition fomented by all the biblical "shalt nots" in the Old Testament vis-a-vis the story in the New Testament that clearly was a defilement of the O.T. "shalt nots", not to mention what were then legally enforceable prohibitions in every state. And, what had God done?
At the time, and even now, I held and hold that either the N.T. version was false, or the criminal rape statutes were without justifiable foundation. As I held, and hold, that respect for every man and woman can under no circumstances tolerate rape of any kind, and that no god would violate a woman's dignity, the story must therefore be false.
Whether it is, or not a true rendition . . . no human can truly know, or have the slightest idea. Nor is any of that of moment now, as I try to understand where the fundamentalist, conservative, Christian right is coming from: the proposition that anyone ought to believe anything, because they or other conservatives say so.
It's all a case of "fool me once . . ." And today, closing in at 65 much more rapidly than I could have imagined, it's not being a cynic, but being a skeptic. Evidence and its pursuit, not simple faith and its following, is the only proven path to a brighter future.