Way of the Master, Way of the Meek

Every once in a while my compulsive nature seizes upon some new activity. After I moved back home from my little cave in New York, I spent the whole summer and fall wandering the aisles of Bay Area gardening centers, lugging home pots and plants and bags of fertile soil, for my fledging back deck garden.

A year later I bought a Playstation and wandered the streets of post-Apocalyptic D.C. with a number of impressive weapons, protecting myself from marauders, ghouls, and large green mutants.

I keep waiting for the day when my compulsive nature lines up with my professional calling, so I can get a little more writing done. Unfortunately these pursuits are almost always a distraction from writing. Like my newest compulsion, Facebook Scrabble. At first I started playing with the Manly Fireplug, and a couple of friends. Eventually I joined public games with random Facebook strangers, and at one time I counted twenty-two matches in my “Active Games” list.

It’s not really in my nature to socialize with strangers. Hell, close friends would say it’s not in my nature to socialize at all. But clearly I can set aside long-held, deeply-set personal traits solely to feed my compulsions.

Facebook Scrabble even provides a little chat window for each game, so you can make small talk with the random strangers, if so inclined. Of course I’m rarely inclined, but I was raised to be polite to everyone, even to Christian Evangelists who try to convert me through a chat window.

I suppose there were little clues. I started our game with the word, “Urine.”

“Yikes!” he typed.

“Sorry,” I replied. “That’s all I had.”  He stayed quiet after that.

But a few moves later he popped up again to chat. “Hey,” he typed. “When you get a chance, check out the website, “The Way of the Master,” and take the “Are You a Good Person? quiz.”

Like there was some big mystery as to what I would find.

Way of the Master features the tag line, “Seek and save the lost the way Jesus did.” Kirk Cameron, former star of Growing Pains, is one of its founders.

I don’t know why my Scrabble opponent targeted me. He couldn’t see, in his limited access to my profile, that I was engaged to a man. But he could see that I lived in San Francisco, and that alone might have been enough. Then again, it probably had nothing to do with me. No doubt he spends his days converting random Scrabble strangers regardless of where they live or who they sleep with.

Clicking on the “Are You a Good Person Quiz” brought up an audio clip.

“Almost everyone thinks they are a good person,” the voice said earnestly. “But the question you should be asking is, ‘Am I good enough to go to heaven?’”

Naturally the quiz is based upon your adherence to the Ten Commandments. I quit the quiz after the second.

I’d be hard-pressed to come up with an approach to life more opposite to mine than “Way of the Master.”  This need of evangelists, to spread “the word,” to stand on street corners and interrupt the lives of complete strangers, to me smacks of insecurity and desperation.

Not to mention their condescending nature: bringing their word to “the lost,” who, as we all know by now, is anyone who holds a different world view than Kirk Cameron’s. Naturally, a brief google search of “Way of the Master” and “homosexuality” offers up a variety of YouTube videos featuring Cameron lecturing us helpfully on sin.

I suppose he sleeps at night comforting himself that he is helping others through this relentless promotion, but I couldn’t help but take notice of the many forms of merchandise available to the public on “The Way of the Master,” including a thirteen-episode dvd series retailing for $99. Tuition to their four-day “Training Academy” currently runs for $600. Do the math, and it’s easy to see why Cameron wants to spread the word to as many of “the lost” as possible.

But then his career path hasn’t exactly been stratospheric since “Growing Pains,” and everyone needs to pay the rent.

Even more questionable to me is this “Way of the Master” approach to life. We are raised in the West to consider ourselves masters of our lives, fearless men and women who conquer life through discipline, hard work, and pulling ourselves up by the proverbial bootstraps.

But this is a fallacy. There is little in this life that we have control over, especially when it comes to other people. We can’t get through life very far without their help, and all too often we are at their mercy.

Two days ago the Fireplug and I had a fight, an unremarkable one, ignited by impatience and missed signals on both of our sides. Still, the intensity of my anger surprised even me, but it wasn’t hard to catch the timing; all morning we’d been hearing bad news from the California Supreme Court.

With each passing month, my anger over Prop 8 only seems to intensify. I can barely handle reading an op-ed in our favor, let alone one against us. I stopped reading the comments on blogs and the LA Times and the Huffington Post a long time ago, as they just made me insane with rage.

Consider the damning pronouncements of ministers and politicians and Catholics and Mormons, none of whom have walked a single inch in our shoes, telling us who we are and what we deserve. People who stand on street corners and wave signs telling us the so-called truth of homosexuality, a truth they’ve garnered only from their their churches and Sarah Palin. People who, from the looks of them on the nightly news, roll their fat asses off the couch for only three things: the refrigerator, church, and protesting our rights. These are the people deciding what we do and do not deserve.

These are the people, these are the religions, who use us as scapegoats, so they can avoid examining their own lives.

They use a handful of quotes from the Bible to defend their views, conveniently cherry-picking their way past advice on slave handling and the dangers of shellfish.

I read in the papers columnists reprimanding us for using the capitalist tool of boycotting, the same tool our opponents threatened to use against Apple and other companies who donated to the No on 8 Campaign. We are kicked like a dog and then shamed when we dare bite back.

I listen to people tell tell me that I don’t deserve to use the term “civil rights.” I’m told that marriage is not a right by the same people who take this right for granted, by people who would kick and scream and throw a tantrum if this right were ever taken from them.

I watch politicians who know better, politicians who have the capacity and the resources to lead, instead follow the biases of their constituents. What’s wrong with civil unions? they ask, as if separate but equal was some hot new idea.

And I read the headlines, that our state Supreme Court will no doubt vote to hold up the legality of Prop 8, while also voting to keep intact the thousands of marriages which took place before the election. Two decisions which I suppose make sense, when you dissect the language of law, but which make absolutely no sense when seen from a distance, when one looks at the consequence of these decisions in the big picture: only some gay people get to marry.

So I am angry, and my anger shoves me into insanity, but I suspect that I am not the only one. That every gay person in the country isn’t stalking local Wal-Marts with an AK-47 seems to me a miracle, but then we as a group have rarely tended towards violence, for better or worse.

We are at their mercy, but at least we sometimes have each other. That night the Fireplug and I made up. “We’re on the same team,” he said.

I closed the “Way of the Master” window, and returned to the Scrabble game. And there my fingers hovered over the keyboard, as I fought over the emotions churning within me. I wanted a fight. I wanted to tear him to shreds so badly that I tasted venom.

“I took the ‘Are You a Good Person Quiz,”‘ I typed, “and I failed.” I looked at those words waiting for me to hit “send.”

But in the end I swallowed my anger, no easy task, and I typed a single word:


I can’t say I did this out of tolerance, or the goodness of my heart, or any other quality one might find in a “good person.” I was polite to him for my own selfish motives. I may not be good enough to go to heaven, but I’m good enough at something. I was beating him at Scrabble, and I wanted to finish him off.

He said nothing further, but stay in the game he did, and I went on to kick his ass, by 111 points.