Thursday, April 17, 2014

Surviving Easter Pt 1: Humanity's Biggest Guilt Trip And Religious Trauma Syndrome



There is no real joy in Easter. What you may feel - that springy, warm, pastel-ly glow -  may just be ... relief. Ecstatic relief. God sacrificed Himself to absolve you from sin, something literally everyone is born with. You've been absolved from sin - for the time being. You've thought long and hard about your birth defect. You've repented and mea-culpaed until you felt like a worthless piece of dust (to which you will return, of course) so that you will see Easter morning as being born again.

But when you come down to it, Easter is just temporary relief, like aspirin. The story of the Passion and Resurrection will melt like a chocolate bunny as soon as the first frustration of Monday arrives and guilt sets in again. 

Guilt: it's always the guilt. All three Abrahamic religions were founded on guilt. Two thirds of the world's population is subjected to guilt, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with extra heavy doses on some "Holy" days. The Bible is strewn with guilt trips: Adam and Eve, The Flood, Sodom and Gomorrah - punishment and guilt, followed by the greatest guilt trip of all, the Crucifixion. No wonder relief is so welcome!

Religious Trauma Syndrome

Dr. Marlene Winell (Journeyfree.org) has dealt with guilt over 20 years - first hers, then many others' - and she came up with the term Religious Trauma Syndrome after she witnessed recurring symptoms from abuse caused mostly by Fundamentalism. Guilt is a central issue in Fundamentalism:

     "The doctrines of original sin and eternal damnation cause the most psychological distress by creating the ultimate double bind. You are guilty and responsible, and face eternal punishment. Yet you have no ability to do anything about it."
Winell helps people deal with their guilt, especially when they wind up "leaving the fold." It's more difficult to be an apostate than people may think: the guilt stays with you for a long, long time. And without panaceas like Easter, it may be nearly impossible to survive emotionally. 

Surviving Easter

This short piece is a diary simply because it's more personal than a regular article - writing about guilt always is - and I want to see if, as a Christian, Easter actually does bring me any relief. I doubt it will, but miracles do happen. 

Happy Easter.

PT II: Did it work?


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

If You Don't Give Enough, You Go To Hell! An Extreme Take On Francis' Game Of Monopoly




Could it work?

In the game of life, as in Monopoly, there are penalties and consequences.
The man who knows 

he has enough

is rich.

                                                              - Lao Tsu (Confucius)

The pain of Fancis and his social justice philosophy runs deep in the Right's backside. You might even say it's downright hemorrhoidal. Of course, Francis has never intended to be a pain in anyone's rear, but his economics and quest for compassion have caused shock waves among the high and mighty of capitalism.
       "One truth shines out from the Bible: Jesus spoke to the individual, never to government or government policy. Jesus was a capitalist, preaching personal responsibility, not a socialist."

Yes, that bit of eschatology was from World Net Daily trying to prove that Jesus was against redistribution of wealth. Unfortunately, WND never touches upon the quandary of a rich man, a camel and the eye of a needle. They never talk about the poor inheriting the kingdom of heaven. They may covertly grieve over the wealthy man being asked to give all of his worldly goods to follow Jesus.  And capitalism's cheer leaders routinely neglect to site an important passage from Acts of the Apostles:
       "The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common. With great power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great favor was accorded them all.

There was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale, and put them at the feet of the apostles,

There was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale, and put them at the feet of the apostles, and they were distributed to each according to need. . ." (emphasis mine)

Of course, Karl Marx wrote it instead of Luke, so it certainly can't be in any sense Scripture. In fact, a husband (Ananais) and wife (Saphirra) were struck dead because they lied about their greed. Nope, can't possibly be Scripture.




Joel Watts (Huffington Post)
"Jon Moseley, a Tea Party member, declares Jesus Christ is a capitalist. He writes against Pope Francis's Apostolic Exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel. Jon sells vacation packages to the Bahamas. The Holy Father is a trained theologian, chemist, and philosopher who is the spiritual leader of the Roman Catholic Church standing in the line of St. Peter. One of these is not like the other. Which is why I was surprised with the Holy Father started to sell vacation packages, er, I mean when Moseley started to spout off against the pope's theological position."
Mandating Compassion Through Scripture

There are many reasons the Right's Christian Right gives for one's soul going to hell, but being rich isn't one of them. Even greed isn't given the status of other "Hell and Damnation" sins which today are Abortion and Homosexuality. Theft and murder are even given short shrift (both can be justified and easily repented, unless you're in Texas). Greed? Greed is a sin, to be sure, but it's never been touted as serious enough to send one to eternal damnation. A Wall Street denizen might be thought of as evil, but if he donates money to a university, he can't be all bad - it exonerates him in a way. Al Capone founded a successful school milk program in Chicago, so he couldn't be as greedy as everyone thought, right? So greed as a sin is, ah, somewhere down the line. Anyway, if it's capitalism, it's not greed. 

But what if greed were made one of the uppermost "Hell and Damnation" sins? What if any semblance of greed were to be treated as a capital crime, eschatologically speaking? What if Biblical exhortations against greed were, like the Ten Commandments, enshrined in public places? What if religious leaders like Francis were to make it more than just a "deadly" (meaning harmful) sin and make it THE road to hell? What if wanting more than enough ostracized one from the community, like wearing a large letter "G"?

Enough Is Not Enough 

The road to greed lies in having enough but wanting more. Of course "enough" is relative simply because our needs are relative. "Enough" can be rationalized out of existence: a man can have "enough" after he has secured substantial livelihoods for his family, or financial security for the rest of his life, or ... anything capitalism can bring. And another conundrum: how do you determine what "enough" is when it involves a person who just can't get "enough"? 

Of course, we live in a country where "enough" rarely exists. America's 1% has proven that: prosperity preachers abound, televangelists travel in private jets, bishops build "retirement" mansions. Politicians have off-shore investments, sports gods have vast estates, movie stars have hi-tech villas. If "enough" really existed, Beverly Hills would not. 

Go To Hell: Greed Is The Definitive Sin

Making Greed the definitive sin is, of course, a ridiculous dream since it is impossible in our world. Demonizing greed to extinction just can't be done. Sure, it's always fun to think of greedy people being emptied of their wealth and made equal and forced to admit to what is really "enough." But greater compassion, greater charity, and greater financial equilibrium are not impossible. 

Francis is opening our eyes to the fact that his variation of Monopoly may in fact be the "Game of Life." 













Sunday, April 6, 2014

Battle of the Bullies?




Everyone agrees that bullying on a large scale is really fascism. Pushing an agenda with such force that the general populace has to submit to it is certainly against American ideals. There are degrees, to be sure, but America is sensitive to the least of it.

Last week's resignation of Brenden Eich at Mozilla brought about a furious reaction to bullying (fascism) ... on both sides of the cultures war.
Andrew Sullivan:
Will he now be forced to walk through the streets in shame? Why not the stocks? The whole episode disgusts me – as it should disgust anyone interested in a tolerant and diverse society. If this is the gay rights movement today – hounding our opponents with a fanaticism more like the religious right than anyone else – then count me out. If we are about intimidating the free speech of others, we are no better than the anti-gay bullies who came before us.
The New Yorker:
The real mystery here, then, is not why Eich stepped down but why he ever got hired in the first place. His unquestioned technical ability notwithstanding, this was a candidate who divided the board, who had already been controversial, and whose promotion was guaranteed to generate reams of bad publicity.
Slate:
Simply put, if conservatives are frustrated by the treatment of Eich for his role in Proposition 8, then they should be outraged by the treatment of ordinary people at the hands of the people who employ them.

LA Times
The "witch hunt" theory of Eich's ouster holds that his personal views shouldn't matter: If he's gone because of his donation to Prop. 8, why not purge every corporate employee anywhere who did the same? This argument is exemplified by Slate's William Saletan, who calls disapproval of support for Proposition 8 a "new standard" and writes, "perhaps we should put down the pitchforks."
The term homo-fascism has been thrust into the mainstream dialogue (actually, not a dialogue, but a shouting fest). And with an error-ridden fury that is hard to believe:
homofascism (Urban Dictionary)
Homosexual activists are vehemently promoting homosexuality throughout the media, academia, and politics as spelled out in their manifesto titled After The Ball. "Sensitivity" classes in schools are required to children as young as kindergarden where they brainwash a child within minutes into believing homosexuality is the same as trying a new food. This is pure Pavlonian style brainwashing, indoctrination, and ideological subversion. All states that legalize same sex "marriage" require schools to have these classes, and parents who opt their kids out can potential get thrown in jail and pay fines.

Not used in the melee (yet), is the term Christofascism.
Christofascism (Urban Dictionary)
Evangelical, semi-theocratical movement or temperment of Americans who stand against abortion, sexual education, homosexuality, science, anti-Zionism, and the separation of church and state. 
Not as vindictive as the prior definition, but just as definitive of certain viewpoints.

The saga of Brendan Eich has broadened to conservative free speech in general it seems, but with the passage of Mississippi new religious freedom bill, enabling small businesses and individuals to discriminate on the grounds of religious conscience, the Christian Right and Christofascism are the subjects of focus.

Who Is The Bigger Bully?

There little doubt that gay rights advocates have been flexing their collective political muscle lately, with so many states now granting (or about to grant) same-sex marriages. Some see the flexing as abuse of power, while others simply see it as a natural reaction to years of being bullied - on the playground and in the workplace - by predominantly Christian Right forces. Nobody wants to be labeled a bigot any more than they want to be labeled a sinner. Yet Andrew Sullivan's concern is legitimate: more than a condemnation, it is a warning not to become as bloodthirsty as the enemy. (He may be wrong, however, to consider it a free speech issue as Michael Hiltzik of the LA Times points out). 

What full analysis of the situation seems to point out in the long run, is that Brendan Eich was not a victim of dreaded homofascism, but Christofascism itself: supporting a Christofascist enterprise (e.g. Prop 8) has come to mean to both sides that you support the Christian Right wholeheartedly. In a sense, Eich was a victim of his own ideology (indeed, he still holds same-sex marriage to be wrong) probably thrust upon him by the Christian Right in a Christofascist manner. 

Christofascism is definitely the big bully - a bully gay rights advocates would be wise not to emulate. 




Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Preachers of Bling and Their Ensuing War With Francis: "Sacrifice? You've Got To Be Kidding!"




"For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs." 1 Timothy 6:10

“The church doesn’t need apologists for their own agendas or crusaders for their own battles, but humble and faithful sowers of the truth.”

There is no doubt that Pope Francis I is shaking things up in today's world of religion - and not without plenty of hostility from some of America's most visible Christian preachers. Above, Francis called upon his clergy to be humble and not seek to climb any hierarchical ladder. But in perhaps his most provocative statement, he also called on clerics to live simply and humbly:  his address to the cardinals and staff who make up the Congregation for Bishops, Francis said that "self-denial and sacrifice are written into the bishop’s DNA."

Catholics across the country are responding accordingly:

ATLANTA — The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Atlanta apologized Monday for building a $2.2 million mansion for himself, a decision criticized by local Catholics who cited the example of austerity set by the new pope.
Archbishop Wilton Gregory recently moved into a nearly 6,400-square-foot residence. Its construction was made possible by a large donation from the estate of Joseph Mitchell, nephew of Margaret Mitchell, author of “Gone With The Wind,” a Civil War epic that made his family wealthy. When Mitchell died in 2011, he left an estate worth more than $15 million to the archdiocese on the condition it be used for “general religious and charitable purposes.”
In New Jersey, Newark Archbishop John Myers hasn’t opted for penitence, and instead isdefending the expenditure of some $500,000 to add a three-story, 3,000-square-foot addition to his already spacious retirement home. The new wing will include an indoor exercise pool, a hot tub, three fireplaces, a library and an elevator.
The Diocese of Camden, N.J., includes one of the poorest cities in the country, which is partly why Bishop Dennis Sullivan made headlines in January for spending $500,000 to buy an historic 7,000-square-foot mansion with eight bedrooms, six bathrooms, three fireplaces, a library, a five-car garage and an in-ground pool. The diocese said Sullivan needs the space to entertain dignitaries and donors. Not everyone’s buying that. “This is a joke,” parishioner John Miller told the local paper. “Jesus was born in a stable.”
In one his latest articles on Pope Francis, OpEdNews' Rob Kall called Francis' call for serving and sacrifice, The Pope's Bottom Up Revolution. To be sure, Kall's article focuses on church hierarchy and not "bling", but bishops in the past (as in present day prosperity "bishops" and preachers) have always associated hierarchy with lavish lifestyles - certainly better than any in their congregations. Certain "Bishops" like T.D. Jakes and Eddie Long created their own hierarchy in order to give their gospel the cache that goes with the cash.*

The Tangled Web of Capitalist Churches

Perhaps the most common defense today's "prosperity gospel" preachers will have against Francis's message will be the same as Rep. Paul Ryan's: this new pope just doesn't understand the workings of America's wonderful capitalism. Its churches create a stronger belief and bring in lost souls!

They don't add "through greed". They don't have to. Kate Blowler's article Believers in Bling highlights the Prosperity "Preachers of L.A."
Many believers in the prosperity gospel will despise the “The Preachers of L.A.” for advertising the humanity of the man behind the message. Still others will tune in because of their deep belief that the high life might actually be divine.
 Or the preacher himself might be divine: Pastor Steven Furtick's  Elevation Church hands out coloring books to young worshippers stating "Elevation Church is based upon the vision given by God to Pastor Steven. We will protect our unity in supporting his vision." Furtick's new $3.3 million mansion certainly demonstrates the amount of support his "vision" has engendered besides all that adoration. 

The key to all of capitalist churches today may be transparency - or lack of it: few churches subscribe to the Evangelical Council For Financial Accountability. Lack of transparency puts them on Ministry Watch's "Donor Alert". Among those on the alert are:

Creflo Dollar Ministries
Benny Hinn
Rod Parsley (Breakthrough Ministries)
Trinity Broadcasting Network
Ken Copeland Ministries

Other churches equally culpable in shifting "bling" to their pastors and "bishops", however, may seem transparent, but have low "efficiency ratings', churches like:

John Hagee Ministries
TD Jakes Ministries
Mars Hill (Pastor Mark Driscoll**)

An Ensuing War

Whether on not capitalist churches like Ken Copeland's will address the "Francis Dilemma" head on has yet to be seen. So far, only ultra-conservatives like Paul Ryan (himself as Catholic) have made noises against Francis (ditto Rush Limbaugh, of course). But if Francis' theology of servitude and sacrifice truly takes flight, stronger names than "Marxist" will flow out of some of America's pulpits. 

Never come between a "bishop of bling" and his dreams. 



The below video is years old, but the preachers featured still thrive along with many more. 


*The Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship that "consecrated" Long as Bishop is less than twenty years old and the original membership included Long himself. 
** Driscoll's latest scandal involves using church funds to pay for a "consulting" firm to place his latest book on bestseller lists. Up to $220,000. What Driscoll got from this fraud has still been undisclosed. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

When Your Little Boy Needs A Life-Saving Experimental Drug, What Do You Do? Turn To Facebook.





Yesterday:

7-year-old Josh Hardy was dying.

Today, however, that headline has changed to:

7-year-old Josh Hardy might live.


With the help of thousands of friends - via facebook and change.org - Josh may be given a new lease on life through an experimental drug previously denied to him.

A Durham drug maker announced Tuesday evening that it will provide critical drugs for a dying 7-year-old boy after his family put pressure on the company to do so, largely through social media.

Supporters of a dying 7-year-old had planned to travel to Durham Thursday to convince drug maker Chimerix to release an experimental drug that could save the boy.

"Josh's Army", numbering in the tens of thousands, responded to his dilemma last week with angry tweets and notes on Facebook, and Chimerix's executives have gotten death threats. They screamed for "compassionate use."

CNN

Here's the way it [compassionate use] works: According to the Food and Drug Administration, if someone has a serious or immediately life-threatening disease and has tried and failed other available treatments, they can ask a drug company for an experimental drug, one that they're still studying and has not yet been approved by the FDA.

The All Or Nothing Dillemma

Chimerix, the producer of the experimental drug brincidofovir, at first denied the drug because it was not yet approved by the FDA for Josh's kind of virus. That's when people started screaming "compassionate use" at Chimerix. But the company said that if they gave it to Josh, they would have to give it to the hundreds of others waiting for it - at $50,000 each - a sum that would significantly halt the research on the drug. Chimerix is not a large company - it employs only about 50 people.

For the Chimerix/FDA solution, read HERE.

Let's hope that the combined efforts of Josh, his parents, Facebook, change.org, the FDA and, yes, Chimerix produce the results everyone is hoping for. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

CPAC For Laughs: It's The Only Way To Take It.



Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, Michele Bachmann, Sarah Palin and Paul Ryan walk into a bar...

Except the "bar" was last week's CPAC, and the unintended hilarity proved that Conservatives (read: anybody not a commie-pinko-leftist) can't take a joke - because they ARE a joke.

In terms of intelligent dialogue, CPAC was almost painful: yes, Bachmann actually said that about the Tea Party, setting the tone for the whole affair. Rand Paul got the most applause, actually, because quoting Pink Floyd was, well, cool:
And did they get you to trade
Your heros for ghosts?
Hot ashes for trees?
Hot air for a cool breeze?
Cold comfort for change?
And did you exchange
A walk on part in the war
For a lead role in a cage?
To hell with the fact that most of Pink Floyd's lyrics railed against capitalism and the establishment that Paul's form of Libertarianism is trying to bring back. Yeah, it was real cool, man. Obama-bashing at it best!

Of course, while paling in comparison to Rand Paul's eloquent and oh-so-timely address, others did their best to regale the politico-culture war troops with their bravado: Mitch McConnell, for example, entered waving a rifle and Sarah Palin read her own version of Green Eggs and Ham:
I do not like this Uncle Sam, I do not like his health care scam;
I do not like these dirty crooks or how they lie and cook the books;
I do not like when Congress steals, I do not like their crony deals;
I do not like this buy-in man, I do not like ‘oh yes we can’;
I do not like this spending spree, we’re smart, we know there’s nothing free;
I do not like reporters’ smug replies when I complain about their lies;
I do not like this kind of hope and we won’t take it ‘nope, nope, nope’
The crowd didn''t seem to care that Palin might be mocking Ted Cruz as well. Of course, SHE didn't know she was mocking Ted Cruz. Using one of the iconic political buffooneries of the last decade to lambaste the current administration only seemed to prove that conservatives are stuck in one gear: stupid. 

Speaking of stupid, Paul Ryan told a fake story about a little boy and his love of lunches in paper bags. "The left is making a big mistake here. What they’re offering people is a full stomach and an empty soul." Unfortunately, while the totally untrue story had wings among CPAC attendants, Ryan had to admit to his fakery. They don't call him Lyin' Ryan for nothing!

And on the environment ...

Alex Epstein of the Ayn-Rand worshipping Center For Industrial Progress... said that it was silly to ask if humans are behind climate change, because that assumes that "if man did change climate, it would be a bad thing.”
Epstein added that if you are worried about man-made climate change, you are displaying “a prejudice against the man-made” or as he likes to put it, “human racism.”
CPAC: Working hard to make conservatism cool with the video, ‘N*gga, please’ Yes, you read that right. Real Story's full story about Raymmar Tirado's attendance at CPAC can be reader in the title, and the offending video is here. (I didn't want to dignify it by embedding it - see for yourself). It's all about "reverse racism" and how blacks are just as racist as whites. It purports to show how divisive reverse racism is by being divisive itself. So for a political group that's striving to "reach out to minorities," the video was the most counterproductive thing imaginable. 

And speaking about minority outreach, the "diversity" panel was a bit sparse.



CPAC's hilarity overflowed out into the streets and down the road to other PACs:

SPLC:
The Family Research Council’s executive vice president, Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin (retired), was caught on a “hot mic” following a panel yesterday at the National Security Action Summit, which was held just down the street from the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). Boykin could be heard, in an awkward attempt at humor, telling a reporter from Israel that “Jews are the problem” and the “cause of all the problems in the world.” Boykin told another reporter that President Obama identifies with and supports Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood and uses subliminal messages to express this support.
Even laugh-fests must come to an end, and Ann Coulter brought everyone back to reality and declared:
“Amnesty is forever and you got to vote for the Republicans one more time and just make it clear; but if you pass amnesty, that’s it, it’s over and then we organize the death squads for the people who wrecked America.”
Of course, Ann Coulter(geist) can put a damper on anything.

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Coming War: Arizona Was Only A Skirmish





It's My RELIGION, Stupid!

Religion has held a place in America's political and emotional landscape far greater than in most countries in recent history: the reverence paid to all things religious has been so resolute, so fierce, that whenever religion enters an arena, it is taken for granted that religion will gain the upper hand.* 

Religion in America has always gotten special privileges. Tax exemption is one, of course, but it has always been given the privilege to discriminate: it rarely has to "put up with" anything. After all, telling religion that it MUST do something is akin to ordering around God. Religion may be God's representative, but Americans have a tendency to equate the two instead. 

Perhaps that's why the relatively small fracas in Arizona caught the attention of the American public: in an article titled Arizona on Steriods, Think Progress wonders if the Supreme Court will make the ultimate decision on discrimination:

Unfortunately, Arizona is far from the only state where lawmakers are contemplating bills that would give the government, private businesses, and others the a license to discriminate under the guise of “religious liberty.” As Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards wrote yesterday, “this didn’t start with Arizona, and it won’t end with Arizona.”
Freedom To Discriminate

For years, the gay rights movement has described itself as one of civil rights, with a great many people (especially African Americans) aghast at the idea that the two were ever alike. The situation in Arizona, however, gave more credence to the gay-rights-as-civil-rights meme than the Christian Right imagined: in other words, while crying for "religious freedom", it had to admit to another freedom it already had - the freedom to discriminate. Rich Lowry of the National Review stated as much (see below): Arizona SB 1062 was simply attempting to define a form of discrimination that was already on the books, and it was clearly aimed at discrimination against gays. It's undoing was it's broad terminology - so broad that it could be used to discriminate against anyone else for any number of reasons as long as providing the service or goods to someone was "against my religion." Gays were not only grouped in with unwed mothers and prostitutes, they were lost in a vast sea of people one's religion might not abide: discrimination is limited only to the thousands of doctrinal variants. 

The Coming War

The weapons used in any war depend upon who you are attacking, and the weapons of choice by the Christian Right will be the Bible and the Constitution, both used in the legislatures and the courts. To some, this might seem an unfair advantage, given America's reverence for religion: the enemy seems only to have the Constitution. But there is another weapon - totally ethical - which now eludes the Christian Right: America's conscience, it's sense of fairness. 

The strategy of the Christian Right in terms of it's newly found cry of  "religious freedom" will be to pitch each battle individually in each state, just as it has in its front on abortion. The battles will be won easily in states like Alabama and Mississippi, but expect blood to be shed in other states.

Bloodshed

The coming war may seem to some to be bloodless, a battle for the rights of bakers to refuse to make wedding cakes for gay couples. Indeed, this is how the Right is portraying the whole confrontation: "We insist on our religious freedom to discriminate. Just go to another bakery!" This, however, is but a pretense: the implications and ramifications are far reaching and the Right can see victory on other fronts: discrimination can seep into the very fabric of America while under the guise of religion. 

And the Christian Right is still a formidable adversary - formidable to inflict wounds into gay rights, pro choice and other progressive movements. Spurred on by its own wounds from federal court reversals, the Christian Right feels that it is fighting for its life. 

... and it's "freedom."






*Case in point: the title "Reverend". The title is legal in over 28 states, giving the title holder the authority to perform marriages and conduct funerals regardless of which institution (if any) bestowed it on the holder. Yes, it's the reason I am able to call myself (legally), "Rev. Dan". To me, it is not only a statement of faith and commitment to the basic truths of Christianity, but also an acknowledgement of my studies in today's  theologies. But while I consider my right to it as legitimate as anyone else's, there are others who take umbrage and consider it an offense to the clergy.