Little Known Bible Verses (Preceded by a Rather Long Note) or Why You Won’t Find This Piece on The Good Men Project

Editor’s Note: I knew within minutes of reading Rion Amilcar Scott’s essay that it deserved a home here, and I’m thrilled and proud for this to be the first piece I’ve selected for publication as a recent addition to the editorial team at As It Ought to Be. I am a big fan of The Good Men Project and the meaningful work they’re doing (see here or here or here), and there’s plenty to laud about the conversations in which they’re choosing to engage. (Full disclosure: TGMP reprinted an essay of mine from AIOTB days after I solicited Rion for this excellent piece.) Still, a significant part of community responsibility, even in the wake of our admiration or appreciation, is a willingness to have the tough conversations too. Rion’s experience sheds light on issues that are worthy of our consideration, and I hope that, in sharing them, the TGMP will feel challenged—and supported—to address them in a way that continues to move these many important conversations forward.

-Kirsten Clodfelter

An early draft of this piece.

An early draft of this piece, from the author’s journal

Little Known Bible Verses (Preceded by a Rather Long Note) or Why You Won’t Find This Piece on The Good Men Project

By

Rion Amilcar Scott

Author’s Note: I recently submitted this satirical piece to The Good Men Project, and it was accepted under the condition that I make a few revisions. I was asked, among other things, to cut the last section of the piece that pokes fun at Chick-fil-A.

A piece like this is similar to a game of Jenga, remove too many pieces or put them in the wrong place in the wrong way, and the whole thing topples over. I agreed to a few of his suggestions, but other parts in question were integral to the broader perspective and point-of-view of the piece. I didn’t care too much about getting “killed in the comments section,” since anyone who would take a “no homo” joke seriously in this context just isn’t paying close enough attention anyway. Bite my tongue for no one.

But it turns out that what it came down to for the editor was that we cut the Chik-fil-A reference because, as he put it, “They’re advertisers, so I’m concerned about that one.” 

Um, pause.

The Good Men Project identifies itself as an ongoing conversation about the contours and boundaries of masculinity. A worthy discussion. Playing out the scripts of bad or cartoonish manhood is at the heart of many of the problems our society seems to have a hard time shaking. Homophobia, much like racism, kills.

Participating in such a conversation is the very reason I decided to submit to The Good Men Project in the first place. My piece contains gags about transubstantiation, Halloween, the gluten-free craze, and a bunch of other subjects both serious and trivial, but the heart of the work deals with the very subjects The Good Men Project purports to tackle. Without those sections, it’s just a bunch of jokes about Facebook and football. Of course the Good Men Project needs to keep the heat and the lights on—that explains taking money from Chick-fil-A—but to do so at the expense of their very mission is the highest form of self-defeat.

These conversations make and shape us, and they can also bend and deform us. I’m not ashamed of much, but one of the things that often nags at me is how uncharitable my younger self could be toward classmates I perceived as queer. Many years later, after I had become a man and shed much of my childish homophobia, I heard my father speaking about acceptance and non-judgment toward gays and lesbians, and I wondered if things would have been different if we’d had that conversation much earlier. 

What does it mean when the perspectives and views of this social conversation—a conversation that should benefit everyone—are going unsaid to benefit only certain participants and leaving most others in the dark? More importantly, what does it mean when some of those engaged in the conversation are rape apologists or even anonymous rapists trying to justify their transgressions? What does it mean when a group of men’s rights activists show up to loudly proclaim that [white] men are an oppressed class? What it means is that we’ve ended up with one shitty, useless conversation.

It didn’t make sense to censor myself and mutilate my piece to make Chick-fil-A happy. I mean, all Chick-fil-A has ever given me is stomachaches and diarrhea. And I’m not pining to get accolades from the Chick-fil-A corporate offices. No writer has ever jumped up and said, “They love my work down at Chick-fil-A!” Most of all, even if my work appeared on a website called The Good Men Project, there’s no way I could reasonably call myself a Good Man while silencing my voice so some people somewhere could sell a few more homophobic chicken sandwiches. 

As Method Man would say, “If you can’t join ‘em, beat ‘em”:

*

LITTLE KNOWN BIBLE VERSES

If thou giveth even a single Skittle to a six year old dressed as Spongebob on the 31st of October, then thou hath sinned against the Lord and worshipped mine enemy.

***

Thou shalt surrender ten percent of thy salary to a man in alligator-skin boots so that man may purchase a Rolls Royce, for that is the automobile of the Lord.

***

Thou shalt shout out the Lord thy God three to four times an hour in thy Facebook status.

***

Thee can pray all thou wants for a Superbowl victory, but if thou playest for the Buffalo Bills then thou shalt always lose for I am a petty and vengeful God and a long time ago a cornerback from the Bills cut in front of Me at Subway and then when the sandwich artist finally got to Me they were out of the kind of bread I like. So I turned to this fool, pointed my finger and was like, Thou shalt regret that.

***

On the Monday after the celebration of the resurrection of thy Lord and Savior, thou shalt return to thy sad and soul crushing labor. For on a day in November you will set aside a day for a gigantic meal with people thou don’t really like and that is worthy of a national holiday, but not the return of a man from the dead. Goeth and figureth.

***

And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat—” And before Jesus could finish speaking, the disciple Thomas cut him off and said, “Um, Jesus, you know if this bread is gluten free?”

***

All religions are just different paths to the same destination. Except Scientology. That shit’s crazy. So saith the Lord.

***

And forthwith Judas came to Jesus, and said, “Hail, master”; and kissed him. And there did follow a long awkward silence in which both Judas and Jesus looked first out into the sky and then down at their feet. And Judas did chuckle a bit and Jesus did blush. And Judas swept his hair with his hand and said, “Uh, no homo.”

***

On Easter Sunday and on Christmas day as well, if thou doth believeth, then thou shalt log onto thy social network accounts and proclaim thy superiority over those who do not believe. If thou doth not believe then thou shalt log on and spread the good word about thy fealty to reason and how it makes thou intellectually superior to the believer. And it shall all be very insufferable. And for everyone else—those who don’t really care that much—Facebook and Twitter shall be more unpleasant than usual. Best to just log off and go enjoy thy day.

***

After the Sermon, the disciple Tom raised his hand. “Jesus,” he said. “If your message boils down to ‘Just don’t be a dick,’ then why do so many act like dicks in your name?” Jesus nodded, then Jesus shrugged and then Jesus wept.

***

The animals on Noah’s Ark numbered in the millions—some more flavorsome than even goats and chickens and cows, but Noah’s family dined on the really, really delicious ones and after the flood cleared there were no truly tasty animals left.

***

“Dude, are we drinking your blood?”

***

And Jesus did see Mary Magdalene walking down a street in Galillee and she did look fine as frog’s hair. And He called out: “Turn the other cheek this way, baby!”

***

There came a time when the prophet Mike Huckabee appeareth on Fox News and said: “People, I have spoken to the Lord and he still hates the whole gay thing—I don’t know, something about butt sex. And here’s the bad news: He said you’re either with Him or against Him on this one. But the good news is, there’s a special chicken sandwich you can eat to ward off the gay.”

And the righteous did descend upon Chick-fil-a. After eating the greasy chicken patties upon dry bread, the righteous descended upon the bathroom and there followed much wailing and gnashing of teeth.

And the righteous cried out:

“God, what is this nasty shit?”

“This shit taste like some doodooronemy.”

“Lord, why has thou forsaken thee. Couldn’t you order us to eat at Friday’s or something?”

“Good God, is this nasty; I think I’d rather put a penis in my mouth.”

And the Lord did take pity upon His children, showering them in Barilla pasta. The righteous rejoiced and clapped and sang and waved their arms as their blood sugar spiked from the carbohydrate intake.

 

A version of this piece originally appeared on Rion Amilcar Scott’s blog, Datsun Flambe.

***

Rion Amilcar Scott has contributed to PANK, Fiction International, The Rumpus, and Confrontation, among others. Raised in Silver Spring, Maryland, he earned an MFA at George Mason University and presently teaches English at Bowie State University. He can also be found at forgottentunneltv.tumblr.com.

Tolerating the Intolerable? (Or: Why We Should Not be Tolerant of Chick-fil-A)

 

Tolerating the Intolerable? (Or: Why We Should Not be Tolerant of Chick-fil-A)

by Lindsey Mason

In our cosmopolitan society, what does it mean to be tolerant?  Should we always be tolerant of others’ opinions?  Or are we sometimes required to be intolerant?  I believe not all tolerance is morally required.  I believe there are opinions of which we ought not be tolerant.  I believe there are opinions we ought to criticize, reject, and discourage.  Below I will argue for which kinds of opinions we ought to tolerate and which kinds we ought not to tolerate.  The conclusion of my argument is that we should not be tolerant of Chick-fil-A.

This essay on tolerance is spurred by recent remarks by Chick-fil-A’s Dan Cathy.  Recently in the news, Cathy said the following two things: (1) “We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit.”[1]  For many, this implied that Cathy was taking a stand against any non-traditional marriage, including gay marriage.  Cathy also expressed his belief on the matter in a radio show, saying, (2) “I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say, ‘We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage,'” Cathy said. “And I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.”[2]  This second quotation clarified the first, thus making it obvious that Cathy is against gay marriage.

Cathy’s comments have sparked interest from conservatives and liberals.  The predominant conservative line seems to be in agreement with Cathy for the “traditional” and “biblical” definition of marriage, and the common liberal line seems to oppose Cathy in favor of gay marriage.  Liberals are vowing to boycott the restaurant in protest, sometimes going too far as when mayors of Boston and Chicago said they would not allow Chick-fil-A business into their cities.  Conservatives are gathering support for Chick-fil-A, and they are even calling for a “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day” on August 1st.

But the most troubling—and frankly confused—part of this whole debate is over the notion of “tolerance.”  Throughout the World Wide Web, I’ve read several authors accuse liberals of committing the very crime of which they’re accusing conservatives.  Liberals are accusing conservatives of being intolerant of homosexuality; conservatives respond by accusing liberals of being intolerant of their biblical-based definition of marriage.  For example, an article by Denny Burk is entitled, “Chick-fil-A and the Irony of the Tolerance Police” to suggest that liberals are supposed to be policing tolerance, but are here showing their very intolerant hand.  Ken Coleman (the host of the radio show on which Cathy talks of “God’s judgment”) points out a similar “irony” when he writes: “Increasingly, we see a well-oiled publicity machine that is redefining tolerance as, ‘either you agree with me or you need to button your lips.’ Those who throw the labels of intolerance and bigotry at those who share an opposing opinion are ironically modeling a glaring lack of tolerance.”[3]  So the objection to liberals in this debate seems to be that they’re being hypocrites.  They’re accusing Chick-fil-A of being intolerant, and yet showing their own intolerance—the very thing they’re against.

I believe that this diagnosis of the problem is incorrect.  There are certain differences of opinion we ought to be tolerant of, but that does not mean we ought to be tolerant of anything someone else believes, says, or does.  Consider two kinds of disagreements.  Suppose Sally believes in God and Joe does not believe in God.  Because of Sally’s beliefs, she acts in certain ways: she prays regularly, she attends church services, and she congregates with fellow believers, etc.  Because of Joe’s beliefs, he doesn’t engage in any of these activities.  Sally and Joe disagree about whether God exists, and their disagreement affects how they each live their own lives.  But notice: Sally’s belief that God exists doesn’t interfere with the way Joe wants to live his life.  Simply believing that God exists doesn’t harm Joe in any way; it doesn’t take away any of Joe’s freedoms, and it doesn’t make Joe’s life worse in any way.  Similarly, Joe’s belief that God doesn’t exist doesn’t interfere with Sally’s life.  In such a case, Joe ought to be tolerant of Sally’s different belief.  He also ought to continue to let her go to church, pray, etc., if that’s what she wants to do.  Similarly, Sally ought to tolerate Joe’s belief.  She ought to continue to let Joe live his life without praying or going to church.  Sally ought to be tolerant of Joe’s different belief.  The point of the example is this: in a situation such as the one encountered by Sally and Joe—where the disagreement over whether God exists does not harm anyone or take away anyone’s freedoms—everyone ought to be tolerant.

Now consider a different kind of case.  Suppose Jefferson believes that it’s morally permissible to own slaves.  Because of this belief, Jefferson in fact owns several slaves, and he treats them as if they are animals.  He buys them and sells them like cattle; he beats them; he impregnates their wives.  In general, his belief that slavery is morally permissible entails that he believes that a certain class of people are subhuman, deserving fewer rights and privileges.  Tubman, however, disagrees with Jefferson.  She believes owning slaves is morally impermissible—we shouldn’t do it.  So, Tubman does not engage in any of Jefferson’s activities of owning slaves, beating them, buying and selling them like cattle, or impregnating their wives.  Instead, she believes that all people deserve equal rights, and that no human being should be treated as subhuman.  Jefferson and Tubman disagree about the issue of slavery, and this disagreement affects how they live their lives.  But notice a difference here compared to Sally and Joe above: Jefferson’s belief does interfere with the way Tubman wants to live her life.  Jefferson believes he should be allowed to capture and enslave Tubman, thus taking away her freedoms.  He believes that Tubman is subhuman, deserving fewer rights than he enjoys.  Should Tubman be tolerant of Jefferson’s beliefs?  No, she should not.  She should fight against people who believe and act as Jefferson does.  She should be intolerant of anyone who believes that another human being could be his slave.  Tubman’s intolerance of the differing opinion is not only morally acceptable—it is morally required.  When someone has a certain belief, and that belief takes away the life, liberty, or property of another, then that belief ought not to be tolerated.  Jefferson’s belief takes away the liberty of others.  And so Jefferson’s belief ought not to be tolerated.  Sally’s belief from above does not take away the life, liberty, or property of anyone else—not even Joe—and so her belief ought to be tolerated.  That is, we ought to be tolerant of others’ beliefs so long as those beliefs do not take away the life, liberty, or property of others.

Now back to Chick-fil-A.  When Cathy expresses his opinion that marriage should only be between a man and a woman, is his belief more like Sally’s or Jefferson’s?  What I mean by that is, does Cathy’s belief attempt to take away anyone else’s liberty?

I think Cathy’s belief is more like Jefferson’s (while obviously to a lesser degree).  By saying that marriage is only between a man and a woman, one is taking away another person’s liberty.  One is denying a gay man the right and privilege to join in marriage with another man.  One is denying a lesbian woman the right and privilege to join in marriage with another woman.  One is denying a bisexual man the right and privilege to join in marriage with another man.  And so on for bisexual women and for people who are transgendered.  There is a whole population of people here who are denied something—marriage—so that Cathy and others in agreement with him can hold a belief.  Cathy’s belief is not the kind of belief that calls for tolerance.  We should not stand by, idly tolerant of others’ beliefs when those beliefs take away the liberty of someone else.

Notice, however, that when someone believes that gay marriage is morally permissible, that does not take away anyone else’s liberty.  I’m not saying that every minister/priest/preacher has to actually marry homosexual couples.  They can choose not to participate in the actual marrying.  I’m not saying that every man has to go out, divorce his wife, and marry another man now.  That would be absurd.  Allowing gay marriage is not to demand gay marriage for everyone.  It is time to acknowledge that allowing Ben and Shaun to get married does not take away anyone else’s life, liberty, or property.  In fact, it doesn’t affect anyone else’s life at all.  So, if tolerance is ever called for, it’s called for in the case of proponents of gay marriage, and not for those who argue against it.  We ought to be tolerant of people who believe gay marriage should be allowed because that belief does not take away anyone’s liberty.  We ought to be intolerant of people who believe gay marriage is wrong because that belief takes away someone’s freedom to marry whomever he or she loves.

My goal here is quite narrow.  It is to show that the liberal position of criticizing Cathy is not hypocritical.  Tolerance is called for only when the belief or action being tolerated is different from your own, yet it is not taking away anyone else’s life, liberty, or property.  The belief that gay marriage is wrong should not be tolerated since it takes away other people’s liberty.  The liberal can hold this position—the position of not tolerating beliefs that take away others’ liberty—while agreeing that many other instances of tolerance ought to be encouraged.  One need not be tolerant of unjustified intolerance.  Cathy is the one being intolerant in the morally objectionable way, not the liberal.