We’re going to begin this day by looking at the stories of two awful people and figure out what they have in common.
The first you’ve probably heard of, Pastor Alois Bell. Pastor Bell decided that since she gives 10% of her income “to God” (read: to her church, which pays her to tell stories to her congregation every week, so to herself), then it doesn’t make sense to pay her server at an Applebee’s 18%. She further decided to write this horrible opinion down on her check. Well, we live on the internet and another server took a picture of this terrible woman’s terrible behavior, posted it on Reddit, and she got a whole lot of well-deserved criticism for it, which prompted her to turn around and get the server who posted the picture fired from her job.
Pastor Bell has this to say about the whole thing, “My heart is really broken…I’ve brought embarrassment to my church and ministry.”
Now, let us look at Bob Grisham, psychology teacher for Lauderdale County Public Schools in Alabama. Grisham decided to go on a bit of a rant that one of his students caught on tape.
Grisham: Like those lunches — you get 600-calorie lunches — you know who’s behind that?
(Different voice: Michelle Obama)
Grisham: Fat butt Michelle Obama… and look… look at her. She looks like she weighs 185 or 190. She’s overweight… Big fat gorilla… I’m serious. Y’all, our country is, is, is going in the wrong direction… You better be aware of it.
And people running around like, oh, it’ll get better, it’ll get better. No, it ain’t gon’ get no better…
… Y’all can get pissed off at me or not. You can go tell the principal, you can call the superintendent and tell her. I don’t believe in queers, I don’t like queers. I don’t… I don’t hate them as a person but what they do is wrong. It’s an abomination against God. I don’t like being around queers.
So, Bob Grisham is a fat-shaming, misogynistic, homophobic, racist religious right asshole, but those all tend to go together, especially in parts of the South, so no big surprise. However, we don’t live in a world anymore where you can just get away with this sort of shit, and after being shamed to hell and back, this is what Grisham had to say, “I misspoke in a debate-type situation,” he said. “I have no hatred toward anyone or any group. People that know my heart, they know that.”
What’s the connection? Both Bell and Grisham seem to think that anybody cares about what’s “in their heart.” Seriously, read over their “apologies” and you’ll see that in the former case, she tells us how hurt her heart is, which I’m sure is a great comfort to the newly unemployed server that she got fired because she was a horrible human being twice over. Grisham seems to think that despite his outword expressions of hatred, we’re supposed to believe that in his heart he really doesn’t hate anybody, he just occasionally “misspeaks” by talking about how much gay sex makes his pretend sky daddy want to throw up.
This is actually a fairly common new trope from the religious right on issues where their faith has prompted them to do or say something awful: that that’s not how they really feel. It’s not “hate” because they don’t feel active animosity toward any particular group or people, it’s just a “difference of opinion” and they actually feel love toward everybody.
Again, this is a classic case of elevating feelings over evidence, however.
I don’t much give a damn what you feel in your heart. You act like an asshole, so that’s what you are. If you behave like a bigot, you are a bigot, regardless of whether you think your personal fee-fees match the arbitrary standard for prejudice you’ve invented so you can be as terrible as you like without having to feel guilty about it.
The thing is, kids, we don’t get to decide what other people consider offensive, oppressive, or bigoted. Does that seem unfair? No, no it doesn’t, because offense is given and taken individually. It doesn’t matter if Bell had a bad day before taking it out on her server, twice, and now is doing a self-serving sermon on forgiveness and redemption. It doesn’t matter if Grisham has held his tongue so long about all these queers having the audacity to exist in his otherwise perfect, God-ordained world, and just finally burst. None of those things matter. All that matters is that they did terrible things and are now making excuses rather than actually owning up to them, telling us that that’s not actually how they feel.
Nobody cares how you actually feel. Talk to some people, learn a lesson, understand and express why what you did was wrong, don’t just insist that you aren’t really a selfish, bigoted jackwagon.
Let us also remember these two clearly devout people the next time somebody tells you that religion makes people better or more moral. While I’m not saying it universally makes people less moral, I am saying that the idea that belief in a deity imparts some sort of moral compass or necessarily promotes better behavior is demonstrably bogus, and it’s important that we break that particular myth in half whenever we hear it.
I have no doubt that religion can impart on people good intentions, but as we see from Grisham and Bell, those intentions are entirely meaningless. What’s “in their heart” will not make any gay kids (or black kids, or fat kids, or female kids) in Grisham’s class feel less threatened, nor will it get that server their job back.
If you’re acting like a complete asshole, you should be treated as one until your behavior changes, no matter if you think the details of your emotional state match the accusations against you. Period, end of chat.