A Vote for Religious Acceptance

Growing up in the Deep South as a closeted lesbian, out liberal, non-Christian who never used the N word, I had to make some choices when it came to making friends. On the large scale – and I’m talking in the 90th percentile – the people I grew up around disagreed with me on pretty much every issue you can imagine.

They’re adamantly racist, not big into education beyond what is mandated by the state, they hate the gays (or anyone else who has a lifestyle beyond a smidgen off of what their own is) and most of them really, truly believe that if we’re good in life that in death we get literal feathered appendages and travel to a miraculous land just above the clouds where they have gold-paved streets and non-stop harp music.

(A baby out of Zeus’ head? Confounding. Shape-shifting fowl? Preposterous. Resurrection that doesn’t end in a zombie apocalypse? Absolutely … why not?)

I remember wondering how in the hell people could be so adamant about things that were to me, so obviously banana-pants loony. Still, a person has to have someone to hang out with, so I made allowances. Looking back, I realize that my friends did too. They called me Yankee for not being a real Southerner and I wore the name proudly though I was actually born in Florida. It portrayed an integral difference between us that we overlooked because we were alike in lots of other important ways.

Today, the majority of the people I know from my hometown are still living a small town Georgia life like the one we grew up in. They love being there as much as I love being out of there. And just as I’ve grown more confident and secure in my basic beliefs, so have they.

Some of my dearest childhood friends are now fervent, outspoken, hard-nosed Christian adults who have a penchant for racial slurs and shooting cute, fluffy animals. They include one person who was rumored to be a KKK member, and another who as much as she loves me – believes that I’m going to an actual place called Hell where I will burn for all eternity because of my dirty, gay ways.

Like the rest of the world, I’ve reconnected with a lot of my childhood friends on Facebook. And because of what a lot of my childhood friends believe, I avoid discussing religion or politics online. I’m not kowtowing or being conciliatory; I just don’t want to stir up any shit that I don’t have to.

Though every once in a while I get really tempted.

When I saw this on another friend’s page my gut reaction was, “Hell YES!” but the truth is I don’t want to de-friend everyone who is going to vote for Mitt Romney. For instance, that friend of mine who believes I’m going to Hell, capital H, is voting for Mitt Romney, and I love her. She was my first college roommate and she’s the reason I had the guts to move out of Fitzgerald. And in the late 80’s, she stood up to her entire South Georgia high school faculty and a wide margin of the student body, openly protested their policy of segregated proms and was responsible for getting the story out to the media.

Then she danced her ass off at the first mixed prom in the school’s history. That’s fucking cool. So, yeah. She’s a Southern Baptist (Methodist?) Republican voting for a douche bag who plans to shit all over most of my personal rights if elected president. At the same time, she’s one of my oldest and dearest friends.

Now, as evidenced by the still-segregated Southern proms in many high schools nearly 70 years after Brown vs. Board of Education, progress moves hella slow down there. In light of that fact, you can actually interpret a vote for Mitt Romney as being a step in the right direction.

Okay, yeah, it’s an enormous step backwards when it comes to gays and anyone out there with genuine lady parts, but for religious freedom and acceptance … this is big time progress.

  • Voting against the black dude, not surprising.
  • Voting Republican, expected.
  • Voting for a practicing Mormon? Remarkable!

Seriously. Not in a million, billion years would I have thought that any of my born again pals in the Deep South would ever vote for someone who practices a religion so different from their own. I mean, remember how upset everyone got because they thought Obama was Muslim? (Remember how a lot of people still believe Obama is Muslim?)

A few days ago, I spent the afternoon learning about Mormonism from two women who grew up in the faith, but don’t currently practice it. I have to say, I’m pretty stunned at how open-minded the Southern Christians are being about Mitt being LDS.

Here are some things I learned about Mormon doctrine:

  • There is a heaven hierarchy with 3 levels: Celestial, Terrestrial and Telestial
  • Satan is Jesus’s little spirit brother
  • When Jesus was supposedly interred behind a boulder for 3 days in Jerusalem, he was actually visiting America
  • God the Father used to be a regular human just like you on a planet just like this (but not this one), and was so good at being Mormon that he got to go to the topmost heaven, Celestial, where he was turned into a god and was given his own planet (this one) to rule
  • Just like God, if you are good and follow the Mormon faith to the letter, YOU can be a god, too!
  • The second coming of Christ is scheduled to arrive in the Show Me State of Missouri

Here (mostly according to www.Mormon.org) is the backstory:

It was 1820 and this 15-year-old kid Joseph Smith was living upstate in Manchester, NY. His town was undergoing a big change in that the citizens were segregating themselves as to which religious sect they most identified with. (Joseph Smith – HistoryWell, Joseph couldn’t figure out which one to join so he went to the woods and asked God. God’s answer?

None, son.

From there, Joseph becomes a prophet, gets these golden plates upon which are written the story of Jesus’s visit to America. Oh, and the rules to the only true religion officially recognized by God: Mormonism.

The words on the plates are Hebrew, written in reformed Egyptian characters, but that’s okay. God also sent Joseph two “seer” stones that, when dropped into a hat, revealed the translation to Joseph.

Badda bing, badda boom: Book of Mormon

See what I’m saying? Mormonism is a far cry from any Christian denomination I’m aware of, so seeing my friends step so far out of their religious comfort zones and vote for Mitt Romney – a member of what most of them would call a cult – shows that they’re way more open-minded than people give them credit for.

 

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About Susan

Susan Kent is a small town Georgia girl living in Brooklyn, NY, and working on those deep rooted issues from her southern upbringing. She's a freelance writer and storyteller and co-host of Tell It: Brooklyn, a storytelling show for grownups. Susan frequently performs around NYC at shows like The Moth StorySLAM, Yum's the Word, and Mara Wilson's "What Are You Afraid Of?" Her stories have aired on a variety of podcasts and radio shows including, The Moth Radio Hour, Kevin Allison's Risk! podcast, Dingmantics, You Can't Make That Up and many others. If you want to get more intimate with Susan & her thoughts, feel free to follow her on Twitter @TheSusanKent. (Not to be confused with the Canadian actress of the same name, which happens more than you would believe.)

4 thoughts on “A Vote for Religious Acceptance

  1. I still live in the South and I don’t want to de-friend all my Republican friends either, but sometimes I excuse them from my news feed.

    Dating though….sheesh. I am an island here. I have actually gone out with two Republicans, but then we can’t talk about politics at all, or actually religion, so we split because that’s okay when you have on your visiting manners, but eventually you have to get real.

  2. I feel ya, SQM. I totally hide feeds all the time – well, mainly election season and hunting season.

    “Visiting manners” = priceless.

    I can’t imagine dating someone who didn’t agree with me on the major issues (or the ones that are major to me). I’m apparently not that open minded. But, really, I’m just being honest.

    xo/S

  3. If it makes you feel a little better, I teach high school English at a school not far from the town where you grew up. Last year I probably had a dozen students choose to write their research papers on the topic of gay marriage. Every paper was arguing for the legalization of same sex marriage. When the students discussed it in class, there was no real strong opinions against it. This wasn’t just the classes for the gifted kids either and in a town smaller and poorer than Fitzgerald.

    Maybe we’ll get there one day. It’d be nice.

    I found your site after listening to your story on The Moth podcast and wanting to know which part of South Georgia you were from.

    • Hey Jacob,

      I hope you gave them all F’s.

      Just kidding. This actually does make me feel better – especially because I love being surprised by the South. (I’m interested to know which town you’re in — is it small as Ty Ty or Omega?)

      Honestly, as slow going as it may seem, the people down there have progressed way faster than I expected. Though it is disheartening to realize that a lot of my high school friends are now the old, conservative parents trying to keep things the same.

      Thanks for reading & for sharing your story!

      xo/s

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