[Content warning: Mention of suicide]
Happy Pride, friends! Rarely does a song touch me as deeply as "American Spirits" by Drumming Bird did when I first heard it several weeks ago. The song tells the story of a man deconstructing both his faith and what he's been taught about America. He sings:
I was raised on a Jesus who was white and prestigious.
Said he never would leave our little country behind.
Said the pledge of allegiance, said I'd never smoke weed.
And that my Bible, I'd read it, when I couldn't decide.
But the sermons were telling me Hell was a felony.
And heaven's the guilty plea that keeps me alive.
So my friend went and shot himself, the Jesus he asked for help.
Was probably somewhere else, said, "Son, get in line."
This lament searching for answers could be any of our voices. Almost everyone raised in American Christianity from at least the 1950s, was raised with the white Jesus, so altered not just to fit the appearance of the “average American,” but to attempt to recreate Jesus in the model of white supremacy. That Jesus took on the hollow personality of his creators to the point that when the singer's friend reaches out prior to ending his own life, the response was silence.
That church and the Jesus many of us were raised on further compelled us to "admit and repent our sins" or risk not going to heaven. Drumming Bird here calls heaven "the guilty plea that keeps me alive." It was as if we were on trial and facing the death penalty. Only if we pled guilty could we hope to avoid death. But that wasn't the worst part. The worst part was that we were innocent. Many of the "sins" that we were proverbially charged with were not sins. We were told that we were “intrinsically disordered” for being LGBTQIA and sinners if we “acted on it.”
Last week I was honored to have a short essay published in Red Letter Christians (click here). In that piece I reflected on finding Jesus during Pride Month. Too often we Queer people look around and wonder where Jesus is, when Jesus is already right there with us. The maximum toxicity of the white, straight Jesus is that he's absent from the lives of marginalized people; that he's somewhere else helping someone else. Quoting Psalm 22, Jesus too wondered where God had gone as he hung on the cross: "My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me?"
Where do you find Jesus where you expect him? Where do you find Jesus where you don't expect him?
Let us pray: Jesus, you know our want for God. You even know how it is to feel abandoned by God. Bless us as we make sense of what religion has taught us, both the lies and the truth. Guide us as we walk this path, particularly when we get stuck. We ask this in your name. Amen.
Blessings on your weeks, my friends! Let me know if there is anything I can do for you.