He wore a sign on his chest that read: “God hates fags.” He paced the sidewalk, waving a Bible like it was a firearm.
The street-preacher zeroed in on me. He fired several ugly words in my direction. And true to his sandwich-sign, he was downright hateful.
I told him God didn’t hate anybody.
He told me to go to Hell.
From the looks of it, he was leading the way.
The first thing you should know is that I was raised in church. My people are the rural kind who believe in covered dishes, homecomings, and canned-food drives at Christmas.
The truth is, I don’t talk religion. I remember the words of Grandaddy, who said: “Don’t talk politics or religion in mixed company—and always carry toilet paper in your glovebox.”
Even so, I cannot abide rudeness. My people have come too far to be represented by Eddie the Evangelical in a plywood jumpsuit.
Besides, he’s got it all wrong. And it’s not fair to let him tinkle in our tea.
It’s not fair to Anne Miller—a seventy-year-old widow who adopted a teenage prostitute, then raised her crack-addicted baby.
It dishonors the legacy of Terry Johnson—with his weekly barbecues for fatherless boys. Who taught hundreds how to throw footballs, crank fishing reels, and swing Louisville Sluggers.
I don’t care what the hand-painted sign says. This kid’s never met Sister Caroline—a lesbian nun who started a women’s halfway house in an auto garage.
Or: Penny Dugan—mother of three. Whose husband said he’d been cheating on her with a man. He explained he was HIV positive. Penny nursed him until his death, then she cared for his dying boyfriend—and thousands more AIDS victims thereafter.
Dammit, this isn’t religion. This is my heritage you’re lifting your leg on. And as a card-carrying member of the Little Brown Church in the Vale, I’m obliged to tell you:
God isn’t hate.
He’s not that kind of fella. He cares for preachers the same as he does serial killers, fisherman, bloodhounds, and Barney Fife.
He even loves rapists; the man who murdered his wife and kids; the man who robbed the Tom Thumb; the alcoholic bleeding to death on the kitchen floor; the kid I met in Birmingham who lives under a bridge. He loves divorcees, baseball fanatics, orphans, those who mourn, veterans, non-voters, LSU fans, and the big-nosed dummy writing this.
Now take off that sign before you get a splinter in you hindparts. God loves you, kid. And even though you’re breaking His heart…
So do I.