Tag Archive: God Bless America

Let’s Play Smear the Queer

smear the queer

Last night, I attended a high school football game in which the fans on both sides of the field stood with hands over hearts as the band played our post-9/11 national anthem — God Bless America. This largely Evangelical, conservative, Republican crowd views religion and patriotism as one and the same. In their minds, the United States is a uniquely chosen and blessed nation, a people whose God is the deity found within the pages of the Bible. I doubt that any of these uber-patriotic Christians thought, as they stood to praise of Jesus, that what they were doing turned faith into a political football to be tossed to and fro according to the whims of our political elites. From their perspective, the United States has always been God’s Country®. Other religions are grudgingly permitted, and even atheists are allowed the freedom to live as they please, but no one should ever doubt that there is one true God, and J-E-S-U-S is his name.

Once the crowd was finished masturbating to the American flag and our country’s phallic “greatness,” they settled in to watch two-plus hours of rock-em-sock-em, mano a-mano organized violence. Christianity quickly faded into the distance as each side cheered their team, calling on them to pummel their opponent into submission. Players were encouraged to hit hard, incapacitating their enemy. So much was on the line: future tales of gridiron glory and a conference championship awaited the team with the most points at the end of the game. As the game wore on, one team got the upper hand and handily beat their rival into the ground. From both sides of the field, the people who just an hour or so ago were singing praises to their God were now screaming and cursing at the officials. One offended fan even went so far as to attack one of the officials because he was fat, leading my son to say, what does the official’s weight have to do with the call he made?

After the game, as I walking to my car, a man and his son passed by me. As they did, the father asked the son what he had been doing during the game (many children “attend” football games, but don’t actually watch the event). The boy replied, we were playing smear the queer. I thought, oh my God, here we are in the 21st century and a boyhood game is STILL called, with nary a thought, smear the QUEER. The boy’s father said nothing, giving tacit approval to his son’s disparaging use of the word “queer.” I suspect the boy has never bothered to consider that using the word QUEER (or any other pejorative word for LGBTQ people) might be offensive. But the father knew better, and yet he said nothing.

I am not surprised by the things I observed last night. After all, I live in rural Northwest Ohio; a land primarily inhabited by white Republican Christians; a land that gives white preference its color; a monoculture proud of its ignorance and simplistic view of the world. While I thoroughly enjoy watching (and photographing) high school sporting events, I find the cultural trappings surrounding these contests to be disheartening. I know that most fellow locals have never ventured far from the farm fields, manufacturing facilities, and Christian churches of Northwest Ohio. They are simply living out what they know, rarely, if ever, exposed to the complex, contradictory world that lies outside their borders. When those who live in a particular locality never come in contact with people different from them, and when the few who are different are dismissed and marginalized, it is no surprise that the locals think and behave the way they do. In their world, smearing a queer is just another childhood game; a game, however, that says much about place where it is played.

Note

It goes without saying, that not every local is as described above. I am deliberately painting with a broad brush. Over the past decade, I have met a few liberal-minded people who value pluralism and multiculturalism; people who know something about life beyond the flatlands and corn fields of rural Northwest Ohio. Personally, I love the place I call home, even if I am not loved back. I appreciate the slowness of small town life. I love living in town where I never have to worry about being burglarized or murdered; and if I leave my car unlocked it will still be there in the morning. I don’t want readers to think that I hate where I live. I don’t.  This is home. My children and grandchildren live here, and it is for them I continue to confront local bigotry, racism, and religious extremism. I want them to have a better tomorrow.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 60, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 39 years. He and his wife have six grown children and eleven grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

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Christian Nationalism and American Militarism on Display at Local High School Basketball Game

american militarism

It was ten after four as I pulled into the Bryan High School parking lot. I arrived thirty minutes before game time so I could make sure that I had a first-row seat for the night’s slate of basketball games between the Swanton Bulldogs and the Bryan Golden Bears.  Bethany, my daughter with Down Syndrome, was with me. Armed with pens and spiral notebooks, she spent the night drawing pictures and entertaining those who sat nearby.

I brought my camera equipment with me. I ALWAYS bring my cameras, feeling naked on those rare occasions when I leave them at home. I love watching high school basketball games. I am reminded of a time long ago — forty years ago now — when a young redhead boy sprinted up and down the court, hoping his meager effort would lead to a team victory. Never a great player, I still love the machinations of the game. Tonight’s varsity match was a blowout until late in the fourth quarter when Swanton mounted a comeback.  A flurry of shots fell through the net, trimming Bryan’s lead to eight. I wondered, would Swanton find a way to snatch victory out of jaws of defeat? Alas, it was not to be. Swanton lost all three games — ninth grade, junior varsity, and varsity.  My cousin’s son plays on Swanton’s ninth grade team. He, statistically, had a great game, but his fellow teammates did not.

I knew that tonight was going to be difficult me. It was Veteran’s Night — an opportunity for locals to recognize and applaud veterans for their service.  Surrounding me were fans wearing Trump tee shirts and hats, along with hundreds of people wearing flag apparel. These are the same people who would be outraged if I burnt a flag, demanding my arrest for violating the “flag code.” Lost on them are their own violations of the code with their Trumpesque accoutrements.

The public address announcer let the crowd know that the pregame events would begin with the Bryan band playing God Bless America. Everyone stood to their feet as the band began to play America’s second national anthem. Those near me put hands over their hearts, and several of them lustfully sang the words made infamous by the terrorist attacks on 9-11.

I did not stand, silently voicing my disapproval of the insertion of Christianity into a secular public high school event. It is not easy for me to do so. I can feel the stares, and in the past I have had people rebuke me for not giving Jesus his due. I remind those who dare to challenge me that I am an atheist and a secularist. Why should I give reverence to a mythical deity or show my support for those who care little for the separation of church and state.

Once the Christian Tabernacle Choir® finished with their hymn of praise and worship to America’s God, it was time to move on to the patriotic portion of the pregame events. The announcer asked all the veterans in attendance to stand while the rest of us stayed seated.  Dozens of veterans stood as people cheered and young millennials ran to them, giving them high fives and thanking them for their service. I did not clap, hoping that since we were seated no one would notice my lack of applause. Alas, I was quickly outed as the crowd rose to its feet, applauding and cheering those who were lucky enough not to return home in a body bag. Their raucous applause went on for several minutes.

I was the only person not standing. Across the way stood my uncle, a veteran of the Vietnam War. I am sure my refusal to participate in the night’s glorification of American militarism offended him. However, he knows that my refusal to do so is a matter of principle for me. I resolutely stand in opposition American imperialism and militarism. My refusal to stand is me saying that I oppose America’s continued involvement in violent, unwinnable wars in the Middle East.  Without soldiers, politicians would not be able to stuff American exceptionalism down the throats of the world.  Most of all I refuse to stand because I don’t want one more drop of blood shed in my name. I don’t want American men and women dying just so I can have the “freedom” to watch basketball games. I will gladly not watch another sporting event if it means no more violence, carnage, and bloodshed. How dare we cheapen military deaths with empty words about freedom and the American way of life. Enough! I say, to the endless violence and destruction.

After the veterans were seated, it was time for the playing of the National Anthem. As is my custom, I stood, removed my hat, and held it over my heart with my right hand. As the band played, I turned my gaze to the flag and quietly sang the Anthem.  A tear trickled down my cheek as I pondered what has become of the United States of America, the land of the free and home of the brave.

Our “New” National Anthem — God Bless America

one-nation-under-god

The terrorist attacks on 9/11 deeply wounded the psyche of Christian nationalists. Thinking that the United States had favored nation status with God, these white, middle-class, Republican, Evangelical Christians thought that our country was invincible. The Christian nation myth is so deeply embedded in our culture that it is almost impossible to get Evangelicals to see and understand the facts of the matter — that the United States is a schoolyard bully that uses violence and extortion to advance its globalist agenda. No, no, no, the United States is a Christian nation, says Evangelicals. We are a good, kind, and loving people who want what’s best for the worldBest being, of course, Christianity and capitalism. From its earliest days, United States has used violence to conquer all those who oppose her. One need only to look to the Middle East to see that the United States still thinks that bombs and bullets are the best way to settle any conflict. Even more troubling is the fact that millions of Americans plan on voting for a man who not only embraces the use of violence but wants to expand its use, going so far as to suggest that the United States needs to drop nuclear bombs on its enemies

These violence-loving Christians — thinking that the United States is some sort of global dispenser of God’s justice — are increasingly incensed over what they perceive to be a lack of fealty to their version of the Christian God. Ignoring the fact that the United States is a secular state, flag-waving Evangelicals demand that their God and their religion be given preferential treatment. Any pushback from atheists, humanists, secularists, or Christians who support the separation of church and state is viewed as persecution. Pretty soon the Christmas season will be upon us, and social media, along with Faux News, will be filled with stories about the “war on Christmas.” Businesses that don’t have their employees say Merry Christmas to their customers are viewed as anti-Christian. The same story is played out over and over throughout the year as Evangelicals whine, scream, and complain about the supposed secularist takeover of America. Again, facts don’t matter. Christians feel threatened by the restoration of the proper place of the separation of church and state in our government institutions, and instead of realizing that Christianity actually benefits from this, Evangelicals attempt to force God on people through public displays of Christian power. One such display is the singing of God Bless America at sporting events.

Last Friday, I attended the Wayne Trace-Tinora high school football game. A few minutes before game time, Wayne Trace’s marching band came on the field to play what I thought would be the Star-Spangled Banner. Imagine my surprise when they played, not the national anthem, but God Bless America. Fans on both sides of the field stood, removed their hats, and placed their hands over the hearts as the band played America’s new national anthem. I, for one, did not stand, nor did I take my hat off or put my hand over my heart. I find such displays of Christian nationalism to be offensive and I refuse to give my tacit support to anything that promotes the America-is-a-Christian-Nation myth.

After the playing of God Bless America, the band played the Star-Spangled Banner. At that moment, I stood, removed my hat, placed my hand over my heart, and quietly mouthed the words to the national anthem. While I’m not a big fan of singing the national anthem at sporting events, I recognize doing so is an attempt to express the common patriotic bond Americans have with one another. Personally, I wish they’d stop singing the national anthem, especially since in recent years its singing has often been used to advance militarism and display American military prowess. How else can we explain the use of military personnel to unfurl the flag or the Air Force jet flyovers as the anthem is being sung?

Several years ago, I attended a Sunday service at a Lutheran Church outside of Newark Ohio. As part of its worship service — I kid you not —  the pastor led the congregation in singing the national anthem and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. I thought, at the time, how ironic to see this in a Lutheran Church. Seventy-five years ago, such displays of Christian nationalism were common in Hitler’s Germany. Both the Lutheran and Catholic churches played a significant part in Adolf Hitler’s rise to power. It is not beyond the pale of human imagination to see the same thing happening in the United States if Donald Trump is elected president. Like Hitler, Trump is not a Christian, but he is smart enough to see that Christian nationalism can be used to advance his political agenda. Evangelicals in particular have been manipulated and used by the Republican Party for the past 40 years. And once again, in 2016, they are being used to advance a pernicious agenda that could lead to World War III. And what will these God-fearing, flag-waving Christians do when war comes to the shores of the United States? Why, they will wave their flags, sing God Bless America, and with great pride pledge their allegiance to America’s Christian God.