Take Your Choice of Preachers: Bible Sneaker or Plastic Smiler; Yeah, You Take Your Choice, Not Everyone Is That Naive

Mine is a quiet, one-block, cul de sac street.  In fact, even though a couple of families have teenage kids, I didn’t know it until I had lived in my house for about six months.  Aside from lawn mowers and edgers, the loudest it gets around here is on the rare occasions when the Vietnamese family that lives catty-corner plays Asian music out of their garage.  I’ve gotten to know a few of my neighbors enough to invite to my house or be invited over, but with the rest, it’s mostly a wave here and a “how’s it going” there.

My neighbors across the street fall into the “how’s it going” category.  They are a pleasant enough couple.  I had heard that the husband was a “preacher,” but that didn’t bother me, and they certainly like my dog.  And generally, anybody that likes my dog, I like.

  However, what these neighbors did after I arrived home from  an out-of-town, Christmas holidays trip still colors my view of them.

One night a couple of days before New Years, I was sitting watching a movie and the doorbell rang.  When I flicked on the porch light, there they were smiling, saying they had something for me.  During our quick chit-chat, an aluminum-foil covered paper plate was shoved into my hands; then a few more niceties were exchanged, and they headed back to their house.  I knew when the plate was given to me there was something else with it, but not until I had gotten into my lighted kitchen did I discover what accompanied the somewhat haggard (I love all the connotations that word brings ) plate of candy was a Bible.

It rubbed me the wrong way immediately, and even though a few days later, I threw everything into the trash, including the untouched candy, their little “present” makes me feel uncomfortable when I see these otherwise nice neighbors.  I think it’s pretty presumptuous of people to push off religious materials anywhere, but for neighbors to try to sneak me a Bible takes a lot of nerve, but it’s the kind of thing a lot of religionists do.  They somehow think they know what other people need.  These people don’t know anything about my personal beliefs, but I doubt that they would try to give a Bible to the Sikh family that lives a block away.

I wonder how they’d feel if someone tried to bring them a Koran.  Actually, if I wanted to push the “neighborly” envelope a bit, I’d cook up something tasty and slip a DVD of “Queer as Folk” under it and take over to them.  But, I do think they are decent enough people and are just who they are.

These people are a far cry from another Houstonian preacher, Joel Osteen.  Last Sunday morning, between gardening and coffee, I was flipping through the channels; there he was–with his smile, more plastic and longer-lasting that that of a Miss American pageant contestant.  That, along with the forever-blinking eyes and sing-song, nasal voice, made me click over to another channel in less than 30 seconds, but not before I saw “Joel Osteen Tickets” flash across the bottom of the screen.

It seems like  ever since the Osteen’s bought the Summit (more recently dubbed the Compaq Center), the former home of the Houston Rockets’ games and other sports events, to be his Lakewood Church, Osteen has been on the big-time gravy train.  I knew there were books and all kinds of TV interviews, where he has all kinds of unkind things to say about gay people.  Then last year, he bought a $10.5 million house in Houston’s swank River Oaks.  You’d think what is made from the crowd at the Houston location would be enough to make do.

But follow up on the “Joel Osteen Tickets”, and you find that he’s selling out huge venues, just like Lady Gaga–for Gaga-like ticket prices.  “Discounted” tickets are going for as high as $485 for one “show” in Raleigh, NC.

Do they sell tickets when the pope makes appearances?  I never heard that Billy Graham did, or Oral Roberts, even when he was doing all the laying-on-of hands “healing”.

It sure looks like it’s big business, but for every snake oil salesman, there are the hundreds, or thousands, who want a nip of that snake oil.

I’ll take the Bible sneaker over Mr. Plastic Smile. The former probably has his heart in the right place, but is a bit misguided; the latter is just a salesman, in not too convincing of a disguise, especially when those pockets are so filled up.

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Dog Poop, Religion, Homosexuality and the “Ick” Factor

Ever since I got Annie two years ago, I’ve had to pick up her poop. Depending on what she has eaten (a lot of dry food, more wet food, little tidbits from my plate), sometimes that poop comes out in nice firm turds, sometimes they’re more squishy, and sometimes–well–they can be runny. Even though we might go outside more often, Annie usually poops two times a day, once during our first short, sleepy walk of the morning, and then at our evening–five thirty-ish–walk after I get home from work.

Because she’s the first dog I’ve ever had on my own, she’s the first one I’ve had to clean up after. The dogs we used to have on the farm when I was growing up must have pooped somewhere, but never anywhere close to the house, and even if they had, I doubt whether it would have been a big concern, considering all the other poop that was around, mostly chicken poop and cow poop. Of course, from time to time, some of that poop did have to be cleaned up. Cleaning out a hot, stinky chicken house was a horrible task.

But when I got Annie, I knew that I would have to clean up her poop. I think if you have a dog in the city, you have to clean up after it. There are laws on the books, but I’m embarrassed by how many dog owners I see walking their dogs when I’m walking Annie who don’t or won’t clean up after them. But that’s another gripe of mine, not my particular one of the day.

When I brought Annie home, I was prepared. I had bought the little rolls of bio-degradable bags to use to collect her poop, and still save plastic grocery bags just in case I run out of the other. At first it was a little “icky” cleaning up her poop, but after a short while, it wasn’t “icky” or disgusting, just part of the routine. I’m sure the reason that some dog owners don’t, or won’t, clean up after their dogs is because they think it’s disgusting–because it’s poop, and they don’t want to even feel the poop. (Using the bags is super easy–put your hand inside the bag, grab the poop, turn the bag inside out around the poop, tie the end in a knot, and toss it away.) You don’t even have to touch the poop. But so what if you did? Would it be a big thing? Just wash your hands! Think how many parents have had to change dirty diapers. There’s poop in them too. But what would happen if they didn’t clean up their babies after pooping?

My point is that if you have a dog or a baby, you have to clean up the poop. And, soon enough, it’s part of the routine. Cleaning up the poop, and the poop itself, is no longer something disgusting. It’s part of the norm, like washing the coffee cup that has been sitting with a half cup of coffee with cream in it all day. You wash it; it’s clean. It’s not something “icky”.

So, you say, where does religion come into all of this?

Well, a lot of the things people go “ick” over are because of something their religion has taught them, and sometimes their culture. But a religious “ick” is very different from a mere cultural “ick”.

Meat is a good example. Some religions forbid eating pork. Some Jews have to have a kosher kitchen, and surprisingly, their counterparts, the Muslims, have something nearly the same. For the most part, they won’t eat ham and shrimp and other foods because of the culinary rules of the religions. I’ve seen them in places where a variety of meats are available–and if there’s ham or shrimp on the table, that “ick” factor comes into play, but it’s a religious “ick”.

In some countries, people eat foods, especially meats, which bring out the “ick” in people from other cultures. The French and the Kazakhs eat horse meat. Some Koreans and Chinese eat dogs. In some places, they eat monkeys. Those are all high on my “ick” factor for foods. I remember one time I went to the meat case in a store here in Houston and saw package after package of wrapped-up chicken feet, but people from a lot of cultural backgrounds cook up chicken feet in one way or another. We raised, killed, scalded, plucked, cleaned, cut up, and cooked our own chickens on the farm, but the chicken feet always got thrown out to the dogs, along with the entrails. Chicken entrails (guts) and chicken feet are very high up there on my “ick” factor as food. (How do you do with eating chicken guts?) Eating testicles of any animal is pretty high up there too. Unknowingly, I ate some goat testicles when I lived in Greece. The “ick” factor came into play later that night.

I’m not saying there is anything wrong with people having an “ick” factor, but we should understand why we feel that way. Culturally, things that some consider foods are not foods to others. Personally, chicken feet are not food. I just don’t see anything edible about them. Dogs are not food because they are pets. Others see it differently; it comes from our perspective of what is food and what is not food.

But this religious “ick” about food is another matter. People adhere to their beliefs because some old book, the Bible, the Talmud, the Koran, or some other religious book contains rules about what could be eaten–in other words, what was healthy to eat–thousands of years ago. We’ve got all kinds of books with rules about this today, what to eat if you have high blood pressure, what to eat if you have diabetes. We also have books that can tell us what wild mushrooms are edible, what cereals have the highest fiber content, what fruits contain a lot of sugar. Nobody–but nobody–today would equate any of these “rules” to some religious rule. And this is wherein lies the problems with religion and the “ick” factor.

Which brings about the mistake made by these religious people–of any hair-brained cult religion–and their viewpoint against homosexuality. They try to use a few lines of text (which have been translated and interpreted through a number of languages over a couple of thousand years) to try to prove that homosexuality is wrong. I would bet that 95% of these people who think this way couldn’t even find these texts in whatever book they purport to believe in, let alone really be able to explain what the text might even be saying. In reality, these people–and others–who disagree with homosexuality are just trying to use religion to justify their own “ick” factor.

As a society, we have made sex–any kind of sex–“icky”. We can’t really talk about it; it’s too “icky”. Therefore, when most straight people start to have to deal with something like homosexuality, the “ick”: factor really kicks in. A straight guy really gets disgusted when he thinks about what two gay guys might do with each other. (Strange, though, how most straight guys get really intrigued if it’s two women doing something with each other.) I think a lot of other people just have fallen into society’s view that anything sexual is basically something that can’t be talked about. And the religious hardcore just use their religious book to support their own “ick” factor: “It’s something disgusting to me, so I’m going to use my Bible to prove it.”

PENIS. VAGINA. PENIS. ANUS. VAGINA. PENIS. VAGINA. PENIS. VAGINA. PENIS. VAGINA. ANUS. PENIS. VAGINA. PENIS. PENIS. VAGINA. VAGINA. PENIS. PENIS. ANUS. PENIS. PENIS. VAGINA. VAGINA. ANUS.

Look at these for several minutes. You can even think of them in different combinations and orders. You can get over your “ick” factor. Or maybe, you can’t. As a gay man, reading the word “vagina” is OK; anything more personal would still be pretty “icky”.

One thing we need to understand about our “ick” factors: they are not moral issues, nor should they be something that governments make laws restricting. This is the problem that is gotten into when governments start legislating based on religious “morality” (my quotes because I do not consider a lot of so-called christians moral in any way whatsoever): Should Ahmad feel guilty because he ate a ham sandwich? Should you feel guilty because Ahmad ate a ham sandwich? Should you feel guilty because Ahmad ate a ham sandwich? Should you feel guilty because Ahmad ate a ham sandwich? Should Ahmad be punished because he ate a ham sandwich? In the end, none of those should matter under the law. The only thing that matters is this: Ahmad should be punished if he stole the ham sandwich.

Just because someone or some group of people think pork is disgusting does not mean any government should write laws not permitting other people to eat pork. Just because you think people having sex in a way that is “icky” to you does not mean that any government should write laws not permitting others from doing it, and in turn, preventing them from any other benefit (i.e. gay marriage) that the rest of society has without question. I know of no government that ever outlawed left-handedness even though a lot of grade school teachers who didn’t like it gave a lot of whacks to little left-handed kids. I can’t imagine anybody thinking that any kid ever chose to be left-handed, and, thus, to be whacked by their teachers. Nor did any gay person ever choose to be gay, and, thus, be called names, have beer bottles thrown at them, denied having rights that others have, or worse, being beaten or killed.

It’s like this: if you don’t want to pick up dog poop, don’t get a dog, but your unwillingness to pick up dog poop should in no way interfere with my getting a dog, and, thereafter, picking up her poop.

(Oh, and if you’ve ever seen chickens pecking up their own poop and whatever else they might find, you might get some of that “ick” factor next time you stop off at KFC on your way home from work. Pigs, in my estimation, are a helluva lot cleaner than chickens, but neither a nice ham sandwich nor chicken salad brings out any “ick” factor in me.)