Things I Learned from R. B. (April 12th, 2020)


Jonathots Daily Blog

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Episode 11

She was well-known for beauty pageants, plugging orange juice, singing sad songs and heading up a campaign against the homosexuals from her home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Her name was Anita Bryant, and her favorite phrase: “I love the sinners but hate the sin.”

We were still living in Shreveport, Louisiana, when Anita was the hottest thing on the news, stirring up hornets that seemed to have no nest.  Into this environment stepped R. B., right in the midst of the redneck, righteous South.

R. B. was skinny, almost frail—except for the small pouch of a belly which he had begun to accumulate through drinking his beer. His skin was ashen and pock-marked, giving him a face with the appearance of crushed gravel. He sported a huge head of hair growing from a widow’s peak and combed straight back into an Elvis pompadour—circa 1955.

He walked a little funny, leaning forward as he moved, dressed very conservatively and wore his clothes too long, avoiding a needful donation to Goodwill.

His voice was thin and wispy, with a tenor tone.

So in the heightened climate of bigotry sweeping the country, he was occasionally accused of being a “homo,” or having people quietly make the assumption.

Complicating the problem was his lack of interaction with females. Because his ego was very large and his listening skills very small, most women spent about thirty minutes with him before moving on to a better choice.

One night he confessed to me that he’d never been with a woman, explaining that only a year earlier he had discovered masturbation, but felt guilty every time he touched “his own.”

His lack of companionship with women, a daintiness in his demeanor, and an overwrought assessment of his viability made him a target for all the “Anitas” looking to victimize the gay community.

It all came to a head one night after we held our weekly meeting, at a local restaurant our gang favored. The manager was a friend of mine and always gave us a lovely banquet room in the back, where we could stay for a couple of hours, eating, drinking and enjoying our loud conversations.

One night there was a tussle. R. B. was talking to one of the fellows from our group. He explained that he wasn’t dating anyone and had no prospects in his near future.

The chap, lacking grace or style, jokingly asked R. B., “Well, if it’s not working out with the ladies, did you ever think about trying guys?”

It was barely audible to the rest of the table, but R. B. immediately stood up, grabbed the crass fellow by his shirt and threw him to the ground.

This led to a small, brief brawl. A table was knocked over and some chairs flew against the wall. It raised enough ruckus that the manager appeared, wide-eyed with horror. Some folks stepped between the feuding brothers, and I turned to the manager and explained that we had the situation in hand. He kindly chose not to call the police.

Normally in this type of predicament—after two feuding parties have their moment of physical struggle—they calm down, catch their breath and make peace. But oddly, as R. B. sat there, he became more angry—seething, breathing heavily, staring at his assaulter, ready to explode again at any moment.

I suggested we break off the evening and made sure R. B. got into his car as the other party quickly slipped away.

It was so odd—because R. B. never stopped fretting. Right before he started his vehicle, he rolled down his window and quipped to me, “I’m not coming back. I hate him.”

I did not know what to respond. I didn’t feel there was any future in trying to get him to mellow his mood, so I just said, “Go home—and don’t drive angry.”

He didn’t come to our fellowship for one month, two months, a third month. I heard little snippets about what he was doing through the grapevine—finally hearing that he lost his job and was moving to Dallas.

Figuring it was time for me to connect again, I dropped by his house. He came to the door shirtless, unkempt, with a bottle of beer in his hand.

He offered me one. I passed and sat down.

Concisely and briefly, he explained that he hadn’t shown up because he was too embarrassed and wasn’t sure anymore if he believed in “the God stuff” because he hadn’t gotten much out of it.

I chose not to evangelize. I just listened.

Deep in my heart, I believed he was just distressed and would change his mind. But three weeks later when I tried to visit again, his apartment had been rented to someone else, and he was long gone, leaving no forwarding address.

He didn’t contact me.

All I knew was that the last time we were together, he was going to Dallas.

Perhaps to my shame, I was relieved.

R. B. always turned me into a referee. He ruffled the feathers of those around him with his ego and his insecurity, and I was always cast in the role of his defender.

I was tired of being noble. I welcomed the distance between us.

Maybe we were never meant to be close. Perhaps it was just a friendship of convenience.

But I settled into a life—one which apparently was going to be conducted without R. B.

Salient…July 30th, 2018

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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There are matters that are too important to ignore or leave to chance. These are salient moments.

Anita Bryant.

I would guess, to my average reader, the name neither rings a bell nor stimulates any particular memory.

But back in 1977 (when a few determined dinosaurs still roamed the Earth), Anita Bryant was voted “The Most Trusted Woman in America.”

She was a former Miss America contestant who had a singing career and was well-known as the pitch person for Florida orange juice.

She was vibrant.

She was youthful.

And she was, as we gradually discovered, quite political.

For you see, when the Fort Lauderdale City Council passed an ordinance removing all limitations on lodging and civil considerations for the homosexual community, Anita objected.

And we’re not talking about an op-ed letter to the newspaper. She hit the streets, held rallies, and turned a local situation into a national debate over the issue of whether people who pursued a homosexual lifestyle should be granted all of their civil liberties.

She was in demand. Her performances were packed. She did interviews on all the Christian talk shows, and even one for Playboy Magazine. She was America’s sweetheart.

For you see, at that time in our country, the jury was not only out on the gay community, but was leaning toward the “rejection penalty.”

It was popular to be anti-gay.

It was considered patriotic to be against them.

As we arrived in the 1980s, and the horrific AIDS epidemic spread across the land, those who believed homosexuality to be an abomination to God also whispered that perhaps this new virus was the Almighty’s punishment.

Things changed.

Suddenly a little boy in Indiana got AIDS from a blood transfusion–and it was no longer merely an infection of the flaming queens. Ryan White, with his generous spirit, refused to believe that his particular AIDS was any different from the AIDS contracted by those in San Francisco.

He was humble, he was non-judgmental, and he was strong until the day he died.

He made those who condemned their brothers and sisters look foolish–especially Anita Bryant.

She is still alive, but unfortunately, her name is equated with intolerance instead of righteousness–or orange juice, for that matter.

An interesting fact that you may want to tuck away in your memory: lepers are remembered more favorably than Pharisees.

So here is your salient moment:

You can’t defend God or morality by attacking behavior and hurting people.

 

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Jesonian: Reasonable (Part 3) UnJudging … December 20th, 2015

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Jesonian hands

Into a world filled with religious intolerance, promoted by souls who deemed themselves exceptional, Jesus arrived as a contrarian.

The Jews disrespected women, hated the Samaritans and despised the Romans. Not only did Jesus refuse to participate in this national pastime, but he actually propagated the notion that women were to be treated as equals, Samaritans deserved a revival and that Caesar was to be honored for what Caesar accomplished.

For this piece of insight, the Jews gave him a cross response.

Meanwhile, in the midst of our determining whether we have the impetus to stop judging other folks, a more serious situation has settled in on the children of the Kingdom.

At times we find ourselves uncomfortably linked with religious extremists who seem to share some of our batch of prejudice. After all, ISIS does not like women, ISIS has great fear and condemnation for sexual expression of almost any kind.

So until we wake up and realize that we not only need to cease judging the world, but also need to set in motion a path to “unjudge” what has already been done, we just may find ourselves irrelevant to the next generation of searchers.

I have never owned a slave but my ancestors did.

I do not treat women as weaker vessels, but I grew up in a church and a society where females were relegated to lesser positions.

I have never personally lobbied against homosexuals and their rights as American citizens, but I lived through a time when the Moral Majority was insulting and even threatening to these brothers and sisters.

So it falls my lot, mission and joy to repent for the stupidity of the past.

Yes–I get to unjudge the world.

  • I get to apologize for 400 years of slavery, segregation, Jim Crow, racial profiling and alienation.
  • I get to act out acceptance and equality, to atone for the sins of mistreating women by refusing them rights and place.
  • And I get a chance to preach the Gospel and let the Holy Spirit do its work instead of deciding what is wheat and what is weeds.

It is a reasonable thing–the necessary step to becoming Jesonian.

Not only do we stop judging those around us, but we allow ourselves a season of sackcloth and ashes, to admit the evil that has occurred in our history, which has forbidden racial inclusion, female equivalency with males and social liberty for all Americans.

So I apologize for my brother Paul, who one day made some sideways comments about women which ended up in a holy book, producing hurtful results.

I’m sorry for Jerry Falwell and Anita Bryant, who used the Gospel to isolate people instead of including them in the fold.

And I’m sorry that we seem to be so afraid of the world around us that we cannot allow the mercy in our souls to realize that evil does have life, but a very short span.

It is time to unjudge the world.

If we do so, we have a message for the next generation, filled with promise.

If we don’t, our religion is the dinosaur that must die so people can walk in peace on the earth.

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