God help us

Sweetie and I drove back from Lake Casitas this morning after taking photos of docks, herons and reflections in the water.  I love going to the lake.  When  I told Yoram that I had chosen Casitas as my next subject for a photo project he said “Why?”  Good question.  We’ve been there a bunch of times and each time, if we wait long enough, an interesting subject generally appears.  Not always but, like one good golf shot in an otherwise unmemorable eighteen holes, it brings you back again and again.  The trip focuses your senses on the task at hand and that in itself is calming.

We finished taking photos of docks and, as has become our custom, got back in the car determined to drive around the lake in the hope of that once in a lifetime photo-op.  We didn’t get very far when I spotted some rowboats stacked up in drydock looking very forlorn.  We parked the car, got out, and looked for something that said “shoot me.”

A paunchy guy about my age joined us and stood by a heavy, black metal box that looked like an old boiler.  “What’s that” I said.  “A barbecue” he said.  “Built it myself.  Fact is, it’s one of four I put together awhile ago.”  He stared at the tow bar extending from the end of the barbecue.  It was lying flat on the ground in a position that didn’t look quite right.  “Loaned this thing to a guy who works in the coffee shop.  Broke the tow bar.”  I thought “What a nice thing to do for that guy and it’s a shame that he broke the bar.”  Before I could verbalize my thoughts, he said “What do you expect from a Mexican.”

Ila and I stared at each other with the kind of look that says “What a jerk.”  In a nanosecond I weighed the consequences and benefits of confronting the bigot with “What’s being a Mexican got to do with anything?”  Or…  But we just walked to our car and drove off.  Cowards.

That was our tasteless encounter for the day, I thought.  Driving down Highway 150 we looked at the mountains, yellow grass, blue sky and absolutely no other cars.  Beautiful.  We turned left at the 150/33 junction and came up on the Baptist church.  Nice looking property.  Rolling slopes, trees…and a very large painted sign stuck in the ground that said “Vote Yes on Prop. 8…Save Marriage.”

I forgot about the old bigot at the lake and focused on the new bigot stuck in the church lawn.  You’ve read all kinds of stuff about Prop 8, the California ballot proposition that amends the state constitution to proclaim that the word “marriage” only applies to the union of a man and a woman.

All sorts of arguments have been advanced that support the proposition.  All of them are a facade.  There is only one honest reason why proponents want to change the constitution…they dislike gays and lesbians and many are using the bible to justify their feelings.  No right thinking Prop 8 proponent believes that the institution of marriage will end, or that Junior will bring home pictures from his first grade class that show the seventeen sexual positions preferred by homosexuals, or that their very own pastor will be forced at gunpoint to conduct a wedding ceremony for Jack and Jim.  No, they just don’t like them.

But this was the first time I had actually seen a big sign, undoubtedly approved by the minister and his lay leadership, planted in the front of a church that said “Gays and Lesbians Not Welcome Here.”  I wondered if there were other signs, used long ago and gathering dust in the shed behind the church that said “Negroes Go Home” or “Jews Stay Out” or “Mexicans Leave Us Alone.”  I wondered if Barbecue Bob was a member of the church.  I wondered whether there was a sign, in temporary storage til after the election, that said “Do Unto Others.”  Probably not.


13 Responses to “God help us”

  1. 1 Joe Sixpack October 18, 2008 at 9:07 am

    This is so weird. Some of my best friends are Mexican Jews, and most of them are gay, and they love to BBQ.

    Grilled Matzoh ball tortilla soup is their favorite. Very tricky on the grill.


  2. 2 steven rothenberg October 18, 2008 at 10:53 am

    thanks for reminding me of and restoring my faith in the bigotry, ignorance, hate, and fear that sustains and nourishes this great nation of ours. ‘God hate us all…..’


  3. 3 steven rothenberg October 18, 2008 at 10:58 am

    or, ” God bless only those who are exactly like me and fit in with my narrow-minded way of thinking about the world. And please, God, see it in your all-compassionate and all-tolerant heart to damn everyone else to hell.”



  4. 4 steven rothenberg October 18, 2008 at 10:59 am

    and lastly, “Hi Dad. How’s it goin’ ?”


  5. 5 Anne Shrage October 18, 2008 at 12:28 pm

    My fervent belief that I have never seen any evidence to convince me that there is a god continues to grow. Religion has always been a convenient shield for the numerous bigots, the hateful, and the ignorant to hide behind.


  6. 6 Rabbi Yossi Carron October 18, 2008 at 3:08 pm

    I wish I could say I was surprised to read this most blatant of displays of hate. I’m a clergy person. I became a rabbi assuming that I was entering into a most holy and loving community, Jew and non-jew combined. I know I am often labeled naive. This time I was/am. Although many (MANY) of my cross-denominational colleagues are truly wonderful, there are so many who preach in ways that dismay me, all in the name of God.

    I cannot standing on a pulpit from which spews discrimination and intolerance. To the woman who is questioning God’s presence (or existence) I offer that God gave us the possibility of doing the right thing or the wrong thing. We humans are just that: human. God does not micro manage. But the idea that we have the spark of the divine inside of us means that we have a responsibilty to do kind and loving acts. I continue to try to do those things even in the face of prejudice and those who quote the bible as justification for inciting hatred.

    God is present. It is up to us to continue living our lives in as open and, yes, holy a way as we are able. I cannot hope to change the world..but I am witnessing the greatest shift in attitudes that I could have ever hoped for back in 1969 when the “gay movement’ began. No one could have even hoped for a Proposition 8 back then. The fact that it is going to (hopefully) change our laws is an incredible thing to see. For this rabbi, it does reinforce the presence of God. Little by little, I pray, the world will concentrate on life and death issues and not what any of us do in the privacy of our own hearts and lives. The idea that Linda and Michelle getting married would in any way nullify or diminish John and Barbara’s marriage is, of course, absurd.

    The idea that the highest percentage of teen suicides are still committed by gay and lesbian teens who face a world filled with such hate should (and I pray, will) be far more of an urgent cry for equality. Not to mention that it is the right thing to do. None of us should be kept from honoring our relationships openly and lovingly. And legally.

    Thanks for letting me write more than I expected I would. That’s a rabbi thing.


  7. 7 Harry Levin October 18, 2008 at 5:31 pm

    If the church really wants to save marriage they need to concentrate more on the roughly 50% of the “straight” marriages that end in divorce.
    Marriage is a legal contract that The State recognizes as a contract between two people with rights and obligations and allows authorized clergy or judicial people to execute the contract. There may be a religious ceremony but marriage is a civil contract. The definition of marriage has no place in the constitution. I think it violated the concept of separation of church and state.
    Prop 8 is a thinly veiled attempt to demonize homosexuality by the so called rightous.


  8. 8 Jon October 19, 2008 at 7:38 am

    Unfortunately, the homophobic thinking that produces the prejudicial attitudes and behaviors encountered have been with us for millenia. The need to be ‘better’ than another person both makes one feel better about oneself (gotta address that diminished sense of one’s own self worth) ana allows for the displacement of a mismanagement of personal responsibility to a perceived less powerful or distant subject.

    It is an unfortunate continuum of scaapegoating that one would hope us human animals will overcome…oops! That would call for critical and honest thought processes. Guess, not yet.


  9. 9 Jon October 19, 2008 at 7:39 am

    One other thought… honesty would suggest that our signs should say: “NO TO HATE – NO ON 8.


  10. 10 Dick October 19, 2008 at 11:25 am

    Hi Fred:
    My father used to tell me about signs he saw in shop windows in his youth. Help Wanted…Irish and Italian need not apply


  11. 11 Mark Schneider October 19, 2008 at 8:56 pm

    Last week I sat by patiently waiting to execute a left turn from Hwy 33 onto Ojai Av. Hwy 150. There was a group bearing signs at the “Vons Lawn”, you know, at the Christmas tree. The group consisted of women and children holding up placards in support of ballot measure #8. The women had an endearing yet fearful look on their faces. The children present appeared condescended, the young faces behind the “Yes on 8” signs seemed to lack a genuine connection to the issue, as if they were there as a requirement, with a sense of responsibility to their “spiritual teachers”.
    My immediate inclination was to roll down the window and cry out; “I thought it was Muslimms that insist on forcing their dogma upon others”.
    The light changed, and I was relieved of my duties, “Praise God” I may have embarased myself.Don’t get me wrong, I am a Christian.
    When the people brought a woman accused of adultery before the Christ I know for judgment, they requested permission to stone her to death. The response of the Christ I know was; “may the person who has committed no sin throw the first stone”.
    Prop 8 folks, what is it that scares you? If you are true Christians , the issue is mute.


  12. 12 Anne Shrage October 21, 2008 at 10:43 pm

    I feel compelled to answer Rabbi Yossi. I admire your faith Rabbi, however, not believing in Religion or questioning the existence of god,is not a display of hate. In fact I consider myself a loving person and though I don’t believe in a supernatural being, I do believe in the inherent goodness of humans.I believe most persons strive to be good and not because god tells them to. I do kind and loving acts without feeling the presence of god. To be able to say, emphatically, “God is present”, without even questioning that statement, is something I am unable to understand. Why is it that it is perfectly all right to say that god gives us the possibility to do right or wrong, but not say that I give myself that possibility? I say no to hate and prop 8, but not because god told me to but because I know it is the right thing to do.


  13. 13 Rabbi Yossi Carron October 24, 2008 at 3:56 pm

    For Anne (and anyone else reading this):

    I hope I didn’t intimate that I believe you, or anyone, is in any way ‘evil’ or wrong if they do not feel a presence of God. It was not my intention to infer anything of the kind. I was responding in my own clearly rabbinic/believing way of my own sense of a divine presence. I totally respect the views of those who do not agree with me. And I certainly admire any of us whose lives are centered on doing the kind and loving things that this world so dearly needs.

    It is not up to me to decide what anyone else believes nor does it color my view of anyone I meet. In fact, Judaism has always been about questioning. I admire the fact that there are thoughts and questions about whether God is present or not. It is healthy and honest.


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