Christianity has a track record of marginalising people for illegitimate reasons, writes Melvin Fechner.
WHEN TWO PEOPLE super close to me died over two years ago, it hit me hard as an out of control road train.
I hadn’t yet had to deal with real-life death and here were two deaths, both adored relatives, about six months apart. I stupidly turned to Fentanyl to cope and, very unlike me, sought out religion to try to make sense of it all.
Being of Barossa Valley Lutheran descent I was drawn to Protestantism, more specifically a gorgeous historic church in Adelaide’s CBD. They had a branch closer to where I lived in the suburbs, but that was held in a school hall and that seemed not very aesthetically pleasing to my queer sensibilities.
I started attending a Bible studies course. I never went to church as a kid. Both my parents were brought up very religiously but they didn't want to bring us kids up like that. Kudos to them: they let us decide for ourselves.
This was very rare in a small town like Tanunda where every human and their dog went to church and every kid went to Sunday School. In these classes, I enjoyed reading the Bible, as I have always enjoyed reading any classic literature. The stories, to me, seemed kind of camp and dramatic and colourful, and it was the first time I read it cover to cover.
I went to these classes for about six months. It was just me and a male student. The pastor was enthusiastic about my interest until I spilt the tea about a couple of personal things. They were the fact that I had a drug-related court case coming up (charges were later dropped) and because I was born with a malformed womb and thus can't have kids.
I had a strong feeling that up until then they thought the single guy in class and me would be a match made in heaven.
Their sudden disinterest was so blatantly awful that I stopped going; they really made me feel like I was of no use if I wasn't breeding material. I doubt Jesus would have treated me like that. So I decided to learn about an alternate religion. I was a former newspaper researcher after all and loved collecting information. I went to classes to learn about the Koran.
The Koran also read well, albeit with better female characters. The Muslim people running these classes were so friendly, kind and totally non-judgmental. The class was large, they had about 20 people as opposed to two at Bible study.
I never once felt judged about my perceived gender, appearance or anything else. They were a credit to their religion and I learned so many interesting things I didn't know about Islam. Such as they really do look after their people properly because everyone tithes directly to help poor Muslims, unlike money-hoarding Pentecostalism. They also have always strongly believed in science, unlike the anti-science history of Christianity.
In the end, I did not officially align myself with any religion. I got off drugs, cleaned up and got my life back together. I started writing again. Some people do find comfort in conversion for one reason or another. Years ago, I had a bestie who worked at the Adelaide Review at the same time I was working at News Corp.
I remember hearing all the stories about Pearson's sudden conversion to Catholicism. It sounded to us like it was a mix of him being a self-loathing type of gay man with a lot of guilt who decided he wanted to give up sex, but at the same time was also excited by the over-the-top homoerotic rituals of the Catholic Church.
The conversion seemed so bizarre, although not as bizarre as finding out later that Tony Abbott was beneficiary of Pearson's estate in the event both Pearson's mother and a South Australian museum curator both died before him.
His death was not shocking. His lifestyle was, by some accounts, very unhealthy: overindulging in rich foods at restaurants, no exercise and the rest. Pearson got more conservative the older he grew — like many seem to do. I often wonder if this is because of a fear of death.
If there is a so-called heaven that the "good" go to after death, would we want to go there anyway? If it was to be full of Pentecostal politicians, bigoted sportspeople and a bunch of other rich but mean people, I think the answer is no thanks.
Melvin Fechner is an Adelaide writer.
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