When I was taking my mother home, we played a game of connect the dots on my iPhone to keep her mind off of her claustrophobia on the plane. Maybe that’s what got me to start thinking…
The Dots: Dot 1
Earlier this week I was in my hometown, Pensacola. My mother and I drove around town checking out what has become of the places I hung out as a child, where I went to school, where she grew up and went to school. A lot has changed. A lot remains the very same. We both enjoyed it.
I was fascinated by the place I went to school. It was a christian school that has grown into a large college campus funded entirely by the business genius of the retired founder, Arlin Horton, and his wife’s curriculum series: Beka Books. Their strategy was brilliant. I went on to earn two degrees from Bob Jones University. I was always impressed by the fact that Arlin Horton, unlike any of the Bob Jones (Sr., Jr., III) was never in the spotlight. His wife, Beka Horton, however, was another matter entirely. The Horton’s never had any children.
I had nothing to do with Bob Jones University after graduating. I had assumed that the chancellor when I was a student there, Bob Jones, Jr., had died by now (correct), that his son, Bob Jones, III, would be the chancellor now, if he were still living (correct), and that his son, Bob Jones, IV, would be the current president (incorrect).
The Dots: Dot 2
Facebook has reconnected me with a lot of people from high school and college days, people I haven’t seen or communicated with in many, many years. I find it fascinating and rather surprising that the overwhelming majority of my high school classmates remain in and around my hometown. I find it equally interesting that the friends and classmates of my youth (high school and college) remain, in very large measure, extremely conservative and deeply religious. “Train up a child in the way he should go…” The later shouldn’t surprise me about my hometown though. The only thing that distantly rivals the number of churches in Pensacola is the number of health care facilities targeting the elderly.
Reconnecting with people from the now distant past is always a bit challenging. I’m always very curious, assume they are as well, but am afraid to ask too many questions for fear of hurting their feelings. For example, asking about parents can be a difficult conversation as some have recently passed away.
As a result of these Facebook reconnects, I was recently so surprised and appalled to learn why one of the dormitories on the Bob Jones university campus was quietly renamed that I blogged about it. Bibb Graves, a former Alabama governor and university board member of many years, was the Grand Cyclops of the Montgomery chapter of the Ku Klux Klan. How did the university keep this quiet for so long? Why were they associated with this man save for most likely sharing his beliefs?
I was also rather surprised to learn that Bob Jones, IV, is not the current president at Bob Jones University, an extremely ultra-conservative, far-rightwing, religious institution. This young man suddenly vanished from the university in a screaming vacuum of silence. Sources that I consider to have good reliability say he rarely visits his family, who lives on the campus. The hushed speculation about his virtual non-existence has consistently been the same.
The Dots: Dot 3
Today I stumbled into a news article about Oral Roberts‘ grandson. I have made no secret of my disdain for Oral Roberts, having noted his passing in this blog post. His grandson, Randy Roberts Potts, is making news for coming out as a gay man. That wasn’t really that shocking. Lots of people are gay.
What I found shocking was that Randy’s uncle, Ronnie Roberts, Oral Roberts’ son, was also gay. The family turned away (an extreme euphemism) from Ronnie Roberts who then committed suicide. Apparently Oral Roberts saved his most blistering, caustic, hate-filled, bullying rhetoric for gay people. Perhaps he was trying to scare the gay out of his own son.
That all of the religious people I have named wall themselves into fortresses of fear is their own choice. However, that choice so insidiously limits their capacity to know, give, and receive love, kindness, and basic human dignity. Pontificating that they know love, they are very skilled at masquerading hatred around to look like love, thus diminishing the true face of unconditional love. That they try to force their fear and oppression on others is inexcusable, immoral, and the ugly face of evil itself. It should never be tolerated, only called out.
If your perception of god will not empower you to unconditionally love the people in your own family, your own children, then I want nothing to do with you or your perception of god. Perhaps these people have never actually encountered god.