This past Friday night I watched the movie Dallas Buyers Club. Let me attempt to articulate the myriad emotions that flooded my soul as I watched this gut-wrenching movie. By the way, if you are Baptist like I was for 29 years and required to sign papers that you will not see “R” rated movies, Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto turned in Academy-Award winning performances, McConaughey shedding 38 pounds to play his AIDS stricken character.
At first I felt repulsed by the character Rayon—a transexual portrayed by Leto. You see, it’s my background. I grew up in much the same redneck environment (read my latest book, ha!) as the character Ron Woodruff played by Matthew McConaughey. To make the viewing experience even more unsettling, I have my Christian bigotry and hatred to deal with. Watching the story unfold I found myself experiencing emotions eerily similar to the reluctant protagonist. I felt a growing identification and empathy for Rayon. But sadly, I couldn’t even muster the courage to admit to my wife Gina who was watching the movie with me, that I was choking back tears as Rayon visited her disapproving and shame-spewing Dad and again later as she eventually died of AIDS exacerbated by her drug-addiction.
I’d like to think I’ve escaped the matrix—my Christian cloning—but unfortunately I still have a long way to go. You see, a transexual contradicts everything I’ve been taught to believe is right. In much the same way a radical Muslim has been trained—to hate those who are different and that it’s just and godly to hate (and in essence kill) them with a righteous religious hatred—my “fundamentalist” indoctrination insists I abhor and repress certain “sins.” We praetorians (those who call God Allah and those who call “him” Jehovah) love to hate sin—especially sexual sin. We hide our porn and sexual dysfunction so that we can condemn the same in others. This hideous hypocrisy we subdue in ourselves renders the ability to restore and love others guilty of the same (and many times lesser) “sins” impossible.
The virulence shown by “Christians” and “Christian artists” toward gay couples and marriage during the recent World Vision debacle illustrates yet again how far we have strayed from Jesus’ (and Allah’s) simple yet profound teaching of love. Reading the angry tirades by evangelicals about the movie Noah harkens back to a time when “Christians” sent death threats to the director of the movie Last Temptation of Christ. Yes, death threats. In the name of God, of course.
Muslim fundamentalists kill people with bombs and airplanes. We Christian fundamentalists utilize far more insidious methods. To paraphrase scripture, “The Muslims have slain their thousands, but we Christians have slain our ten thousands.” History cannot be denied. And tragically repeats itself even today.
Now to finish my tirade on a lighter (albeit ironic) note. Matthew McConaughey attends a Southern Baptist church in Austin. They are proud to call him a member. Or at least they were. A friend of mine is the arts pastor, in fact, I once interviewed there for a job. As I watched the frequent display of tits and ass, heard the “f” bombs fly, and cringed (yep, I admit it) at the blatant display of sexual debauchery—at the very onset of the movie, rodeo bull-rider Woodruff (played brilliantly by McConaughey) takes two women from behind, emulating the sweat and tension of the bull ride taking place only inches from them—I couldn’t help but wonder about the conversation between Matthew and his straight-laced baptist pastor about this role and the content and premise of the movie.
But it was only a movie….right? Sort of like Noah. Oh yeah, Noah was the guy who cursed and enslaved his own son because he got caught naked and drunk inside his tent doing who knows what.
Some things never change. History repeats itself. It has in my life and it will in yours. But I once read somewhere that if we learn history there is a chance we won’t be doomed to make the same mistakes.
I’m thinking I might possibly meet Rayon (or someone much like her) in heaven and if so, I want to love her like Jesus and (and come to think of it) Allah teach me to. Totally, completely and unconditionally.