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Disagreeing with Kris

2004-11-18 - 2:16 p.m.

I shouldn't be writing this. I should be working on Performativity and The Postcolonial Intellectual. I should be reading about activism in India, theatre in Africa, and the wise if totally incomprehensible words of Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (just a litte tease, Gayatri, you know I love you, especially after what I heard about you at that party and your comment about Moroccan men--I fell you, honey, I feel you). However, I felt the need to tell a little story.

My sophomore year at Penn, I woke up one morning to see a lot of flyers posted up on the bulletin boards all around campus. Now, all the bulletin boards on campus are always so covered in flyers that you can't actually see the boards themselves--the staples usually just adhered on flyer to the ten or so beneath it. However, these stood out. They were 8.5-11" sheets of paper, each one a highlighter color (radioactive shades of pink, yellow, green, orange, blue, and that sort of orangey-pink that lookss like salmon fished out of a river by Chernobyl), and each one bearing a single sentence written in all lower-case letters in a very typewriter-ish font. The sentence was "i agree with kris."

Naturally, all of us were perplexed. What on earth did "i agree with kris" mean? Student council elections were happening around that time, so we assumed that this was some sort of endorsement of a candidate named kris. Who was this Kris? Was Kris a boy or a girl, or some wonderful mixture of the two? What was Kris running for? Why would people feel the need to campaign by saying that people agree with him/her/hir?

We eventually found out that these posters had been put up by the Christian activists on campus. This left us even more confused. Was Kris some sort of new codeword for Jesus? Was this some sort of postmodern, "Buddy Christ"-esque revision of 2000 years of dogma for the new millenium. Were they all going to start calling themselves Kristians? And if they were, shouldn't they have kept the "t" at the end of the name?

Eventually, they gave us an answer: Kris was a guy on the Penn football team, apparently our up-and-cming star quarterback, or running-back, or wide-receiver, or something. He had, at some point, avowed his faith in Jesus. He was going to be their keynote speaker at their rally for Jesus Week, their annual celebration of faith that always seemed to come right after LGBTQ Pride Week. Ergo, the theme for the entire week of ceelebrations was "i agree with kris." They were even going to turn the sign into a T-sshirt. At which point everyone not in on this little movement, including a number of devout Christians of every denomination, said, "What?"

Or, to give you my expanded verions: "WHAT?! I mean, seriously, what?! What sort of theme is that for Jesus Week? It doesn't even mention Jesus, and there a lot of great things to talk about when you want to talk about Jesus. He was a cool guy! He helped a lot of people! And hey, there are a lot of great religious songs you can take a title from. How about "What a Friend We Have in Jesus?" Or maybe "Rock of Ages" and do a whole rock'n'roll theme? I mean, there are tons of closeted gay boys in the Christian movement; why haven't they come up with a good theme? The best all of you could come up with was having the statement of your faith being that you agree with a football player? Do you know how shitty the Penn football team is?"

After a lot of us shook off our incredulity, some people decided to invest their money in making "i disagree with kris" flyers and T-shirts. I decided to wait until the rally so I could here what this guy had to say. I went there, heard a speech by a closeted gay boy who said that he didn't know why his relationship with his girlfriend hadn't been working, and how he had read all sorts of self-help books about it (at which point, my gaydar short-circuited from the overload), and how he wondered if God really existed, and how after he asked God for a sign he found out he had cancer, and that ultimately gave him faith. Yeah, I don't know either, and he wasn't cute enough for me to try to offer an alternative as to why his relationships with women weren't working out. Then came Kris.

I can barely remember what Kris said. It was all fine until he said that not believing in Jesus was wrong. He wasn't eloquent or interesting, and I think looking out onto a crowd of people wearing dayglo shirts proclaiming that, whatever he said or did, the wearers agreed with them freaked him out more than he was willing to admit (I guess he must have felt like Jesus himself at that moment). I think I felt bad for the guy, or maybe I was just trying to see if there were other cute gay guys in the crowd.

After the rally, I talked to this guy who tried to convince me that God was love but was also implacably wrathful. He kept on asking me if I would kill someone if they raped and killed my mother. I said yeah, I probably would, but that wouldn't make it right. He seemed to have a problem with this.

The year before, Jesus Week had brought two ex-gays to speak at campus (neither of whom were cute); it should be noted that one of them was also described as an "ex-feminist." I, along with numerous other queers, went to hear them speak. They were weird, and when I asked them how to explain me when I was queer and had a strong faith in the divine, one couldn't answer and the other said, "Does man define God or does God define God?" and I didn't feel like telling him my answer to that question. Afterwards, a bunch of people came up to me and asked me to join them for their Christian coffee hour. I went, along with some other queers, and let me tell you, we were like some sort of rare endangered species being exhibited to a conference of amateur zoologists (I think one person asked me how often I molted my plumage, to which I said "Whenever I can find a willing partner"). Everyone was fascinated by us, and wanted to know everything about us. They nodded and smiled at just about everything I said, until I concluded my discussion of my construction of a view of the cosmos and my personal faith with "Of course, I could be wrong."

They couldn't handle that. They couldn't fathom my being able to hold a belief and also accept that it could be wrong. They couldn't handle doubt.

I stopped going to Jesus Week after the Kris thing. I didn't like to think about another year of people in the same T-shirt, agreeing with someone who hasn't asked anyone about whether or not they agree with him.

Right now, Colin Powell is packing up his desk. He is being replaced by a woman who has lied to the American people and helped lead the country to war under false pretenses. The current head of the CIA has said that he will not allow anyone in his agency to refute the policies of the administration. There is no room for doubt. There is no room for dissension. It doesn't matter if you have the best interests of president or the nation at heart--there will be no examination of alternatives. O-Ren Ishii in Kill Bill may be willing to listen to arguments as to why a particular plan of action may not be the wisest, but the president is not, an believes that he has an entire nation ready to chop off the heads of those who would stand against him, even out of love. It's time for the entire government to put on their "i agree with george" T-shirts, available in yellow, green, orange, pink, blue, and Chernobyl salmon.

I walked away from the rally. I don't know what I'm going to do now.

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