Joining the ranks of celebrities who attempt to do religion in public -- Mel, Madonna, Britney, Tom, et al (Note to any celebrities reading this: Unless you're Bono, don't try it) -- Sir Elton John has opined that organized religion should be banned because it promotes homophobia, does not provide a compelling moral voice against war, and turns people into "hateful lemmings."
I heard Sir Elton's comments on television, juxtaposed against an Internet news article on "outraged" Pakistani Islamic fundamentalists (are they ever not outraged?)loudly fulminating over their government's plans to make rape a crime prosecuted under civil and not religious law, thus making obsolete such astoundingly stupid rules as requiring the accused woman to produce four male witnesses to her rape, and punishing both parties for adultery if the accused is found innocent. Which made my first thought, upon hearing Sir Elton, "Great -- when can we start?"
Then I thought of the inevitable anti-Elton backlash among the exciteable sectors of Christendom -- oh, great; thanks for representing. And I also felt a certain amount of defensive irritation: Hey, Elton -- you're dissing me too. But it also made me sad, even though -- and I might have to give up my toaster for saying this -- the last Elton John album I really liked was Madman Across the Water. I think before Christians open our pieholes about persecution and scorn at the hands of the dominant culture, we do indeed need to think about our own history of library burnings, forced conversions, inquisitions, pogroms, burnings at the stake, institutionalized bigotries of various kinds, and generally winding up on the wrong side of reality whenever we try to make declarative statements about matters of science or partisan politics.
But then I went to church on Sunday. And, experiencing our situation-normal-all-cobbled-up cacaphony of anarchic children, unfortunate extemporaneous harmonizing gone awry, AWOL microphone, unannounced announcements, missing worship helpers, misread lectionary texts, adolescent female fashion don'ts involving an excess of tummy and a minimum of top, a kerfuffled lay minister and my own red-faced choreographical missteps as an anxious assisting, it occurred to me -- my parish is such an example of disorganized religion that it would most certainly be exempted from Sir Elton's desired purge. Whew.