Breaking Up With Jesus nightly in August

A dream of mine is coming true. I’m taking Breaking Up With Jesus to the 2023 Edinburgh Festival Fringe in Scotland this August!

It is both obvious and unreal to see this actually happening. But, here it is, actually on the Fringe website.

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is this awesome celebration of arts and culture that runs for three weeks every August. Artists and performers from around the globe take to hundreds of stages all over the city of Edinburgh to present shows including theatre, comedy, dance, opera, spoken word poetry and more. It’s an incredible festival where big names in the world of entertainment and unknown artists looking to build their careers (like me!) get the chance to showcase their creative energy for an international audience. 

The show I’m taking to Fringe is titled Breaking Up With Jesus. And it’s really what it sounds like from the title. It started as a terrible punchline I told at a local open mic in North Carolina. Thanks to the mentorship and direction of Joseph Megel the truth embodied in that punchline came into focus. And so a single punchline became an hour-long show. 

For most of my youth, into my early adulthood, I was what could best be described as an “evangelical Christian.” I mean, technically I was Southern Baptist, but my undiagnosed anxiety and autism and search for meaning meant I leapt full bodied into what promised to be the comfort of a heavenly father and son and holy spirit. The problem with leaping full body though is that the god I wanted didn’t want my full body. Breaking Up With Jesus is about my realization that in order to be my full self, I had to end what wound up being a toxic relationship. The show blends stand-up comedy and first-person dramatic storytelling as I realize the ways in which Christianity betrayed my relationships with my family, friends, loved ones, and myself. It’s not an easy story to tell, but it is mine and I find a bit of personal and communal healing every time I share it.

Breaking Up With Jesus (BUWJ) debuted at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA in December 2020. Thanks to the loving support of Kira Jones (who I’m like married to now and stuff, woah) and encouragement from Joseph Megel, I’m taking the show to Edinburgh in August. I’m so grateful and excited. 

At this point, two realities coexist and oppose one another. In one reality, let’s call it Festival Specifics World, getting to Edinburgh Fringe is costly. One must purchase plane tickets and rent housing and a venue and pay a music license and print flyers and secure liability insurance and, oh yeah, nibble on a bit of food while in Scotland. In the other reality, which somehow coexists and threatens the very existence of the other, I am a graduate student who makes about $14/hr for nine months of the year. In this reality, let’s call it Financially Strapped World, there is little to no university or foundational funding for graduate student international performances, which just happens to be my exact niche. 

So really, this post has two purposes. The first is to share the news that I am a few months away from a huge dream of mine happening, and to thank you for all the love and support you’ve given me over the years along my journey to this moment. 

The second is to share that I need the help of my community (you) to make this dream a tangible reality where my feet end up firmly planted on a stage in Scotland come August 2023.

For those of you who know me well, you know I hate asking for stuff. I always like to pretend I can do everything on my own, but that is not even remotely true. I would not have even gotten to the point where I could create, perform, and share a show like this without a lifetime of silly ass friends, mentors, and family who love and support me unconditionally. 

Thanks to Kira, I have a crowdfunding website where you can learn more about me, the show, the Fringe, and donate to help me get this thing fully funded by June 2023!

I’m taking you all with me on this journey.


Marriage and religion

6 March 2012

Last night I sat down to watch Piers Morgan’s interview with former Republican presidential hopeful and current US Representative from Minnesota, Michele Bachmann. I decided to tweet my thoughts during the segment.

My comments during the show led to my first ever Twitter disagreement with a Twitter user going by the handle @mikefromkormak. (One day, I hope to participate in a full-on Twitter war with someone.) Eventually, I felt the character limitations of Twitter stifling the need for full dialogue on the issues that arose from the disagreement.

It is my hope to use this blog to respond at more length to some of the points @mikefromkormak raised. It is also my hope that the user would feel free and respond to me.

With that preamble, let us jump into the meat of the issue.

The conversation started innocuously enough.

7:17 PM @mentalmacguyver (me) – “Is @michelebachmann standing up for Rush Limbaugh because healthcare will cause women to be sluts? @PiersTonight”

7:19 PM @mikefromkormak – “@mentalmacguyver @michelebachmann @pierstonight No that’s not fair ! She said he apologized that’s all she said”

7:21 PM @mentalmacguyver – “@mikefromkormak She said he apologized and noted this is what we get when we have one person in charge of healthcare.”

After discussing the Rush Limbaugh conversation and how Rep. Bachmann should have responded, we moved on to her misguided views on homosexuality, which surfaced when Mr. Morgan asked her about Kirk Cameron’s recent nonsensical public disdain for homosexuals. Although she did make the highly spurious claim that religious persons are more persecuted in the US than gay individuals (perhaps if that religious person is not of the dominate Christian belief), she generally sidestepped the direct question.

7:33 PM @mikefromkormak – “@mikefromkormak @mentalmacguyver She dodged the gay question too,, no guts”

7:35 PM @mentalmacguyver- “@mikefromkormak It is much easier to discriminate via legislation than on national television.”

From here, my conversation began taking an interesting turn toward the right of churches to discriminate (particularly in marriage) and just what gay rights means.

7:42 PM @mikefromkormak – “@mentalmacguyver the government has no place in the bedrooms of the individual, being said you shouldn’t force gay rights on churches”

7:43 PM @mikefromkormak – “@mikefromkormak @mentalmacguyver they cannot have it both ways”

Fair enough. If churches, many of whom talk incessantly about love and loving one’s neighbor and unconditional love, wish to claim that certain groups of humans are inferior, wrong, inadequate and worthy of hatred and discrimination, it certainly is well within their right to believe so. In this country, we can believe whatever we want to believe, no matter how misguided or hateful.

7:46 PM @mentalmacguyver – “@mikefromkormak I suppose some would argue churches have the right to be bigoted, discriminatory and hateful of their fellow humans.”

7:49 PM @mikefromkormak – “@mentalmacguyver well yes. People have the right not to be part of that church, and this is not a gay rights debate but a freedom debate”

7:49 PM @mikefromkormak – “@mentalmacguyver unless they get government money, then they have to be fair to all,”

Let’s start with “this is not a gay rights debate but a freedom debate.” Same thing. Freedom includes the ability of human beings to expect and receive equal treatment under the law and not to face discrimination and judgment simply for existing.

And I really hate to say it, but I love the argument that only organizations that receive government money should “have to be fair to all.” So, even though religious organizations (wrongly) receive exemption from taxes and have major influence over many of our elected officials, they should only concern themselves with universal welfare if the government forces them to do so? It would be difficult for me to make a better case for the moral bankruptcy of religion and the reasons why it should be separated from the state (which it currently is not in the US).

8:01 PM @mikefromkormak – “@mentalmacguyver how do you feel about gay marriage ? Should a catholique priest be forced to perform the ceremony ?”

8:45 PM @mentalmacguyver – “@mikefromkormak The issue is not just marriage, but individual rights. Churches have too much power to limit civil rights in the US.”

Marriage is marriage. Or at least it should be. Separating marriage into groups (gay marriage, heterosexual marriage, black marriage, Asian marriage, etc.) is patently wrong. As I mention later, marriage should be universal and should not be the property of the church.

Following these tweets, I logged off for the night to watch the first season of Fringe (which is where religion should be by the way). I awoke the next morning to find additional comments.

5:14 AM @mikefromkormak – “@mentalmacguyver Churches, people, should have the right to their own opinion, and government should not legislate them”

As I said before, I agree. Churches and people do have a right to their own opinion without fear of government legislation. However, the opinion of churches does not belong in the public sphere when deciding public policy. Marriage, a legal contract with various benefits for the parties engaging in the contract (tax breaks, hospital visitation rights, etc.), does not and should not belong to the church. Just as the state should not have authority to regulate churches, churches should have no business in matters of the state.

5:15 AM @mikefromkormak – “@mentalmacguyver Personally gay people should have the right to marry but forcing religions to do it just gives the far right an argument”

Marriage, as a state institution, should be available to all. If a church believes it has the right to cast judgment and not allow a certain person into its fold, then it certainly has the right to such a presumptuous prerogative. As I said before, marriage should not belong to the church. Additionally, the “far right” will always have an argument because (a) they have a right to argue and (b) they are trying desperately to hold on to their own sense of power and control and the only way to do so is to maintain unquestioned authority to separate “sheep from goats.”

5:28 AM @mikefromkormak – “@mentalmacguyver it’s always a dangerous slope when we make special provisions for only certain segments of society #gays #lesbians”

Equality for all members of society does not count as a special provision. Additionally, as I note below, gay persons are not simply a ‘segment’ of society. They are not separate from society. They are society. Just as heterosexual individuals are society. Just as persons of different races, ethnicities, beliefs, income levels, etc. are all society. Unfortunately, religion must create and insist on a nonexistent differentiation between “saints and sinners.” Just because religion chooses to embody and justify hate by targeting certain humans, does not mean these judgments have any justification or basis. (In fact, they do not.)

7:34 AM @mentalmacguyver – “@mikefromkormak We make special provisions for churches and religious folk. Besides, gay persons are not a just ‘segment’ of society.”

7:52 AM @mikefromkormak – “@mentalmacguyver When I say segment I mean no disrespect, but in the gay aspect they are a small part of society as a whole ,”

I would argue that the number of persons in a certain group does not excuse inhumane vitriol leveled against them. Perhaps I simply misunderstand this statement.

7:53 AM @mikefromkormak – “@mentalmacguyver I believe in live and let live , but you cannot have it both ways”

Unfortunately, religious persons do not believe in “live and let live.” The examples are nearly innumerable, but you can easily point to the Catholic Church’s ludicrous obstruction of no-cost birth control and the ever-growing list of anti-abortion regulation in states around the US. (Both examples happened within the last year and are still occurring. Frightening to think that we still live in a society that should be so backward.)

Religion has no business in state affairs, such as marriage. If a person wishes to be married in a religious fashion (provided they live up to the capricious standards of that particular religion), they should be able to do so. However, that religious marriage should receive no state benefits. State, secular, marriage should be a separate agreement into which (most) anyone in this country should be able to enter.

I look forward to hearing what others think of this debate and conversation.

There is no I in religion

5 March 2012

The sun was out in Utah this weekend. However, the son (of god) was being obscured.

As you well know by now, I was once an avid (and rabid) Christian. The last time I actively tried to participate in religion was when I began graduate school in the fall of 2004. (I say “tried” because I went to a Catholic mass and found that I was simply anxious and uncomfortable the entire time.) Nearly eight years on, I am still talking about religion and how damaging and infantile it is. (In case you missed it, I believe religion should have no role in politics and blame the unrelenting number of recent anti-abortion regulations on state-sanctioned Christianity.)

Last week, I began reading a book I should have read a couple of years ago: god is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything by the late Christopher Hitchens.

The book sparked some great conversation with GF’s family over the role of and reason for religion and religious beliefs.

For me, the book pointed out that Christianity is not the only religion out there of which I should be critical. I often focus on Christianity in my critiques, but every religion ultimately is wrongheaded, misguided and immeasurably dangerous.

Because of the book, I began thinking about everything in which I do not believe. In much the same fashion as John Lennon’s “God,” I would like to list everything in which I do not believe.

I do not believe in:

  • god
  • religion
  • religious guilt
  • sin
  • spirituality
  • karma
  • hell
  • heaven
  • the afterlife
  • reincarnation
  • astrology
  • fate or destiny
  • eternity
  • humanity

However, much like John Lennon notes, I do believe in my loved ones and myself. That is about it. While I previously identified as atheist, I have to agree with Ricky Gervais that such a term should not even be necessary. Why should theism (or deism) be the default? I consider myself a-religious and a-spiritual—neither concept has any place in my life, my decisions or my morality (which, I might add, is far superior to the “morality” I claimed as a drooling, mind-numbed Christian).

So I’m curious, lovely reader—what do you believe? What do you not believe?

Abortion restrictions amount to legislated religion

Today, the Virginia Senate passed HB 462, which mandates that any woman having an abortion must first undergo an ultrasound, even against medical opinion. The bill passed 21-19 as two Democratic senators (Charles Colgan, Prince William, and Phil Puckett, Russell) opposed to abortion access voted for the mandate. (It is worth noting that Senator John Watkins, R-Powhatan, bucked the line and voted against the measure.) Following the vote, Delegate David Englin, D-Alexandria, told The Rachel Maddow Blog he believes the amended bill will pass the House and be signed by Governor Bob McDonnell.

With the high likelihood that the bill will become law, Virginia’s elected officials join their colleagues across the country in a repressive, single-minded effort to force all women to carry each pregnancy to term. No matter what.

As Laura Bassett notes in the Huffington Post, the debate includes a dispute on the role of government and government overreach. (Bassett deftly juxtaposes the mandatory ultrasound decision with the attempt to repeal Virginia’s HPV vaccine mandate.)

Virginia’s latest obstacle to abortion access does indeed raise the issue of government mandates and government overreach. Anti-abortion measures (like mandatory ultrasound, forced waiting periods, bans on financial assistance, etc.) amount to nothing less than government sanctioned religion.

In the United States, one of the greatest influences on our view of morality is our tendency to be religious. Many legislators see abortion as a moral issue. (Sadly, too many see it as the moral issue above all others.) As moral and religious individuals, our elected officials wrongly proselytize through policy, legislating their (primarily) Christian view of right and wrong.

When we accept bills that stand in the way of women obtaining safe, legal and affordable abortion, we tacitly accept that the Christian perspective has supreme value and power in our lives—even for individuals (and there are many to be sure) who are either not Christian or have no religious leanings.

Everyone in our country has the absolute right to believe anything (and everything should they choose). However, no one should have the right to legislate a religious view of life through policymaking. (In fact, because of the flawed views of religiously guided and mean-spirited legislators, if you live in Virginia and are a piece of metal designed to kill and injure people you have more rights than a woman.)

In the matters of medicine, the personal beliefs of presumptuous, sanctimonious lawmakers have no place. (Quick reminder: Despite all beliefs to the contrary, abortion is and will remain a medical procedure just as any other surgery is a medical procedure.) We should have a simple test for abortion-related measures: Is the proposed regulation medically necessary or does it represent the limited, wrongheaded belief of a few individuals who proclaim themselves spokespeople of a deity they invented? I’d prefer to have my medical decisions made based on medicine, not delusion.

-Joseph Patrick Richards @mentalmacguyver