I woke up the other morning and checked my twitter feed to see a tweet from a good friend that said something about Michelle Shocked turning into a hateful homophobe.
Some googling revealed numerous links to all kinds of posts, some written by journalists, that basically said that Michelle Shocked went on stage at Yoshi's in SAN FRANCISCO! and started channeling Fred Phelps, telling people to "go on twitter and say that Michelle Shocked says God hates Faggots."
The tweets about it all were even wilder because when you're limited to 140 characters and you are pissed off and affronted and trying to tweet with a lit torch in your hand there's not much room for more than name calling and belittling.
Over the course of the day on Tuesday her entire tour cancelled and there is a petition currently circulating encouraging promoters all over the world to cancel any future shows due to her "vile anti-gay tirade."
Because I can't help myself I just have to say - this all shocked the shit out me.
While I wouldn't profess to be on a friendship basis with Michelle, we have mutual friends, and I have had the pleasure of spending time with her and talking - in a real way - not in the LA "not really listening because we're scanning the room way." In those conversations I have found her to be authentic in expressing how she feels about life and the living of it. She joyously identifies as a Christian and like my family members who are aligned with the fundamentalist faction of that faith, she talks about it.
I myself have dipped in the Jesus pool which I've previously shared about here and here. There were so many things that I loved about the experience, but the joy found in the singing and hugging could not balance the judgment and fear in the message expressed by and to those who claimed to be saved.
The singing and hugging and feeling of connection did not offset the rhetoric spewed in the literal interpretation of the bible by people who were using those words/stories to create a power platform to exert social controls in ways that, in my opinion, had nothing to do with God or Jesus.
I was 17 when I said, "enough" and discovered joy, singing and hugging with the Grateful Dead.
But, back to Michelle Shocked and her "rant" - an audio recording from an audience member showed up all over the place yesterday so I could hear for myself, not only WHAT she said, but HOW she said it and you can listen to it here.
At this point people have already made their decisions about what she said, and what she meant, and what she thinks and believes - they have written her off as a hater and they are vociferously hating her right back.
What I heard was someone who is deeply connected to a community that is threatened to it's core by the idea of gay marriage - let's face it gay scares a lot of them. When she started talking about the prayer meeting I got a visual of people holding hands and praying to God and Jesus to intervene with the Supreme Court as they review DOMA and Prop. 8 - both are bad legislation paid for by religious groups who have all kinds of faith in God, but still have to hedge their bets by crossing that line that separates church and state. The tide of public opinion is turning (finally) in support of the rights of ALL people who love each other to enter into marriage. Organized religion has always, in my opinion, been a means to control the masses through fear. Losing control scares the crap out of most of us, but particularly those who band together in groups to decide what everyone else should believe (Taliban anyone?)
One thing I remember about being 'born again' is that you are told that you need to proselytize or witness about the Word (that's capitalized because it's that big a deal to these people who are literal interpreters). You want to save others as you've been saved. You want to spread the gospels like Jesus did.
My feeling is that this is where things went wrong at Yoshi's.
I do not believe that the point she wanted to make is that "Once Prop. 8 is instated, and once preachers are held at gunpoint and
forced to marry the ho-mo-sexuals that
will be the signal for Jesus to come on back. “ Yes, she said those words, but where she started was at her bible meeting with all the frightened people - "You’ve got to understand how scared folks on that side of the equation are. From their vantage point -- I really shouldn’t say their, because it’s mine, too -- we are near the end of time." Yes, she said those words and yes, she aligned herself with a group that represents in the media, and I'll be honest, in my mind, as a bunch of haters, BUT, the word that I heard was SCARED.
I feel deep compassion for how frightened fundamentalist Christians are as the world is changing. From my perspective their locus of control is externalized in the form of a magical being in the heavens who offers them the reward of eternal life with angelic choirs vs. eternal life in the fiery pit of hell, or you just get left behind in the purgatory that is earth after armegeddon. Michelle called him the "invisible man in the audience". But to get to heaven you gotta follow a lot of rules while you're here and, in my experience, a lot of fundamentalists end up acting like hall monitors for God. Which doesn't make sense because if you really believe that Jesus is coming back to get you then aren't the end times a good thing? If you REALLY believe then why would you be scared of ANYTHING?
Anyway, when she began, I believe that she wanted to talk about compassion for those who are scared, but when she got some less than receptive reaction it sounded to me like she got reactive herself and went off the rails with this statement: "If someone could be so gracious to tweet out, ‘Michelle Shocked just said from stage, God hates faggots,’ would you do it now?"
I do not for one minute believe that she was seriously espousing that as her personal belief. I think she was frustrated and disconcerted and quite frankly I think she sucks at extemporaneous speech making and getting defensively sardonic about it is proof that she was not grounded in her message in the first place.
It has got to be incredibly difficult to reconcile progressive ideals (someone who gets arrested on Occupy LA is defnitely aligned with the left) with fundamentalist beliefs; though I've always thought of Jesus as the original radical progressive, but look how that turned out. I believe that while he doesn't agree with the words Sister Shocked uttered on that stage, he does have compassion for what she was trying to say and for where she finds herself today. I believe he also has compassion for those who are mad at her.
I sent Michelle a tweet stating that I felt something was missing from the story because in my experience she is not someone I think of as a hater. Having listened to the audio recording of that night I stand by that statement. She retweeted my tweet and I got tweets from people who really wanted to change my mind. Some were hate-full. When I went and read their twitter feeds it's clear that they are operating in some fairly serious pain (those who name call with the word 'retard' should check themselves before they ever point a finger at anyone else).
Honestly, what makes me feel sad is the knee jerk reaction from so many people and not only their willingness, but their seeming enthusiasm, to see someone so negatively and then effectively crucify her. I see this reflected daily in the larger picture of our world and how we treat each other. Bullying is bullying - it's coming from both the left and right these days (mean is still mean people no matter what you're being mean in the name of) and technology allows us to hurt each other without having to actually witness the fallout from, or take responsibility for, the damage we do. Hateful rhetoric like that expressed by Fred Phelps is deeply offensive and hard to hear, but if your response to it is to be pulled into the angry, frightened energy that it comes from then you're living there too and you are allowing something that is not real to hurt you.
The words are the same but I did not hear Michelle Shocked say those words with the energy or intent that Fred Phelps says them.
If you did it's because you want to.
Regardless, the only good way to respond to hate is with love.
Love is louder, stronger and more enduring than anything else in our lives. Love is the only true thing and that's what I think Michelle believes and feels and lives - she just tripped over the fundamentalism while she was trying to get it out. She's the same fallible human being as the rest of us - and I ain't mad at her.