JEFF PEARLMAN

Coming October 2022: "The Last Folk Hero: The Life and Myth of Bo Jackson"

Bigotry: II

198401

I came home this evening content to move on from my Tim Tebow rant. Then I saw an increasing number of people accuse me of bigotry. So I feel compelled to sort of respond.

I’ve has the true misfortune of knowing myriad bigots in my lifetime. I grew up in a town where interracial dating wasn’t tolerated, and where my closest friend had multiple crosses burned in his yard. Many of the Jewish kids I knew had pennies tossed at them by classmates, and once a year (or so) Swastikas were spray-painted on the local synagogue. My 8th grade history teacher once explained to us how blacks lack the ability to ski or swim—”but that’s OK, because they’re good at other stuff.” How many times were the phrases “fag” and “queer” uttered? Hundreds … thousands. I lost count.

I’m not whining here—certainly, my experiences as a boy mirror those of many others in this country. But when I think of bigotry, I think of an unjustified, universal hatred of a group and/or peoples. I, for the record, have nothing but respect for 99% of the Christians I have met in my lifetime. As a kid, I spent many Christmases at the Gargano household up the street, eating turkey and playing with Dennis’ presents. I’ve been to a dozen or so communions and Christenings, and always find the ceremonies rich in love. One of my closest friends is a die-hard Christian who believes in Jesus as her savior and attends church weekly. We have amazingly passionate religious debates, and at the end we agree to disagree. No harm, no foul. (Admittedly, these past few sentences sound a little bit like the racist who says, “I once even let a black person use my toilet! Without wiping the seat!”)

My issue with Tim Tebow and his ilk is not bigotry. It is, instead, a genuine fear of the cloaked-by-expressed-love hatred practiced in the name of the Lord. I know … I know—what many of these people are doing is supposed to be admirable, and I’m required by cliche to write that “Tim Tebow’s faith is inspiring and uplifting.” But I just can’t see it that way. Why is it OK to believe that you and I (the non-believers) are damned to an eternity in hell? And by “Why is it OK …” I don’t mean, “Why is this thought/opinion allowed?” What I mean is, why does society as a whole support such an ideal as legitimate and, quite often, virtuous? Were, say, a white supremacist group to say all Jews are damned to hell, they would be attacked as haters and evil-doers. But because the Bible is involved, all’s kosher? Furthermore, why is it OK to declare homosexuality a sin, as most churches do? Is that not as bigoted a take as racism and antisemitism? Yet because it’s stated in the name of God, we nod and (We might not agree, but we accept) and take the words “I love the sinner but hate the sin” as some sort of acceptable moralistic reasoning.

As for the missionary work, well, I just don’t comprehend how anyone can look at a missionary whose clearly stated goal is conversion and think, “Wow, that’s wonderful.” As we speak, Christian missionaries are scattered throughout Third World nations, trying their best to sell (with food; with clothing; with emotional support) the people of Nicaragua and Haiti and Chad on a certain view of God. I’m NOT saying all missionaries are bad, and I can (to a certain extent) appreciate the I-know-the-magic-of-God-and-it’d-be-wrong-not-to-share-it-with-the-world mindset. But  there is something genuinely abhorrent about religious missionary work where the primary goal is not to feed or house, but convert (And anyone who has gone to Tebow’s father’s website can see what the stated objectives are).

Does this all make me a bigot? No. It makes me someone unwilling to accept accepted behavior for convention’s sake.