A major obstacle to creativity is wanting to be in the peak season of growth and generation at all times . . . but if we see the soul’s journey as cyclical, like the seasons. . . then we can accept the reality that periods of despair or fallowness are like winter – a resting time that offers us a period of creative hibernation, purification, and regeneration that prepare us for the births of spring.
-Linda Leonard, from Call to Create : Celebrating Acts of Imagination
Religion and Spirituality
When “Thinking Biblically” Means Violating Someone Else’s Civil Rights
Listening to Christian radio is something I do periodically. I do it because it’s helpful to know what Christians are actually saying and not rely on hearsay. The same goes for listening to Rush Limbaugh and the guy that makes my ears bleed, Glenn Beck. I listen also because I used to be part of that subculture and I like to hear all sides of a cultural issue, even if I do disagree with it. Janet Parshall is the host of a radio show on Moody Bible radio called “In the Market.” This show discusses cultural topics from a “biblical viewpoint.” Today’s show was about bullying and the LGBT public campaign called “It Gets Better.”
Parshall begins by outlining the tree criteria for defining a protected class. Three criteria to be met as a protected class:
Parshall and her guest today protest this campaign because they do not believe the bible supports homosexuality as an “immutable characteristic” but as a “lifestyle” that is chosen. Therefore, homosexuals should not be a protected class as defined by the government. They also take issue with the statistics provided by the campaign that 9 out of 10 LGBT are harassed at school and that fully 1/3 commit suicide. Parshall’s guest and Parshall herself take further issue with the whole campaign and believe it to be another way to “legitimize” homosexuality in our culture. This is also a common tactic to bring down the whole argument the campaign is trying to get through because of the personal characteristics of those asking for it. Over and over they emphasize that it’s not right to bully at all, end of story. Except it isn’t the end of their story. It never is. It’s like saying it’s never ok to abuse your wife and then go on to emphasize that Ephesians 6 gives husbands “authority.”
I must say that this is typical of Christian radio. They all agree that bullying is wrong or that ________ is something we should fight against, however, they make it particularly clear that the action these human beings commit are “biblically sinful” They believe they are “speaking truth in love” by pointing out that these people are sinful and even if they decry bullying as an action, their very denigration of homosexuality promotes the kind of thinking that steeps into their children and which grows into the idea that these people are “less than” “normal” human beings and are therefore not deserving of “special” treatment as they call it.
It is true that all bullying is wrong and should be dealt with, but since it isn’t AND since the bullying is also statistically more prevalent among the gay community, then it is absolutely incumbent upon them to not make things worse by marginalizing a group basing their justification for doing so on ancient, middle eastern principles that are questionable at best when used as universal principles for modern societies. Science has also backed the modern belief that homosexuality is far more complicated than waking up one day and deciding whom to be attracted to sexually. I did not “decide” who I was attracted to. In fact, to be perfectly honest, I experimented with kissing some girls in my class and even an older girl. The kissing was enjoyable, however, I just happened to find kissing boys more enjoyable. I didn’t decide to kiss more boys. It just turned out that way. If I’d gotten better offers from girls, I might have thought about it more!
The point is that “thinking biblically” will always trample on modern society’s civil rights, merely by being biblical. Being biblical means being frozen in time and having ancient ideas declared universal. Why this isn’t more obvious is inscrutable to some who don’t live by a set of scriptures, but having come out of it, I can only say that it is perfectly reasonable to think so if one is convinced that the bible is literally and irrevocably the word of God, dropped from his mouth to the hands of scribes writing it down; infallible, correct in all areas it touches, and binding for all time to those who believe it. It’s safe and effective for circumscribing one’s life with it. Until and unless you can prove this to be untrue, you will never penetrate that fundamentalist armor. Never. How did I do it? By having an open mind and by going to college that taught mythology, literature, and philosophy, and history. By seeing that time and cultures move and evolve and change and that the God of ancient scriptures also moves, evolves, and changes according to the men who wrote things down. And yes, being open to the ever evolving Spirit that exists in everyone and tells me truly that it matters not what a person does if they are harming no other human being because the Light of the Divine in them demands respect, dignity, and basic human rights, whether you agree with their essential and irrevocable genetic makeup or not. End of argument.
- Gallagher advises future Bucks; we advise you to hear what else she’s said (pinkbananaworld.com)
- Mikko Alanne: 30,000 Leave Church in Finland over Gay Rights — A lesson in homophobia. (huffingtonpost.com)
- The Department of Education Moves to Stop Bullying of LGBT Students (gayrights.change.org)
- Julie Gray: It Takes a Village to End Bullying, So What Are We Doing Wrong? (huffingtonpost.com)
- In Minnesota, Catholics Support Marriage Equality. (queeringthechurch.wordpress.com)
It’s Not Hard to Get My Goat This Morning
A couple of things bother me today.
Yesterday, had a lovely lunch with my daughter, my best friend, and my sister. Alcohol and other things were involved and as usual it ends with my sister yelling at the top of her voice at me because she disagrees with me politically. My friend sits there bemused and the exchanges sends my daughter outside to smoke. Meanwhile everyone in the neighborhood can hear the exchange which is embarrassing. Should I have stopped it? Yes. Did I? No, because old habits die hard. You see, my sister is a Christian fundie racist who listens to Glenn Beck and believes all the apocalyptic things the quasi-Christian/Republican right says on the radio/fox news/etc. I used to be just like her. I believed all the doom and gloom stories that I was fed, was a racist, and wanted everyone to just leave me alone so I could do with my money as I saw fit.
Then I met someone on the other side of the world with a loving, compassion about them who challenged me. I also deconverted from a Christianity like my sister’s that blames people for the circumstances they are in without ever thinking “there but for the grace of God…” I no longer mix my politics and my religion. My personal ethic is based on “been there, done that” to the extent that my sister’s never will. I believe politics has to hit home somehow before the reality of what you are espousing sinks in. She says she’s not a bigot, yet rails on about blacks who come to the ER to get their drug fixes. I challenge her on it, but she says she’s right because she sees it. I said that doesn’t mean the whole world is that way and we had a few white people in our small town blowing themselves up in meth labs. We went round and round. Still, when I left that particular brand of Christianity and began listening to something more hopeful, more helpful, and less rugged “screw everybody else” individualism, I became a better person.
This ideological transformation didn’t happen overnight and I still harbor some of the same awful beliefs from that time, but I fight it and anyone who challenges me on it from a racist, fundie standpoint. They can keep their bigoted religious viewpoint if they want, but trying to get them to see without those tinted eyeglasses on seems a lost cause to me. What set this off? My suggestion to my sister that we’d all be better off if we had a system of health care that helped everyone not just the extortionist insurance industry. My sister is a nurse, and boy did that hit a nerve. Why? I don’t know. But she’s been “Beck-ified.” I wish I could say that her ideas aren’t typical, but sadly they are typical in the type of churches we hale from. These types of christians have not been converted to Jesus, but to a type of christo-facist nationalism that equates personal wealth and individualism with salvation, none of which Jesus personally preached.
She later apologized for yelling but “not for her viewpoints.” Of course not. That would mean changing one’s views, which requires a great deal of introspection and humility and an ability to admit when we are wrong. Pretty much in short supply in America these days.
And the other thing that bothered me today? …. er…I forgot.
- oh no, not again (righteousorbs.com)
- Democracy Now: Alexander Zaitchik on ‘Common Nonsense: Glenn Beck and the Triumph of Ignorance’ (crooksandliars.com)
- Time’s Klein: Beck a ‘Telecharlatan’ Who Will Have Hard Time Entering ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ (newsbusters.org)
“We the People”
And right after writing about individualism in religion, I come across this assessment of the “Restoring Honor” rally at Religion Dispatch:
Individually, most Tea Partiers probably are nice people, trying to do what’s right, motivated by good intentions that extend from their faith in God and in their understanding of what this nation stands for. And individualism is exactly what the rhetoric of the rally was all about; from the website: “throughout history America has seen many great leaders and noteworthy citizens change her course. It is through their personal virtues and by their example that we are able to live as a free people. Our freedom is possible only if we remain virtuous.” Mirroring their Christology, salvation for themselves and for the country is an individual act.The convenience of individualism is that others cannot be held accountable for personal failures, nor can an individual be held responsible for the actions of another. The problem with individualism is that it fails to connect the dots between a movement or ideology and how one person might interpret that ideology, thereby taking a course of action perhaps incongruous with the party’s original intent.
Individualism is beneficial for leaders to peg success or failure of a movement on each person’s virtue rather than the power of the collective to effect change. Individualism is focused on personal attainment, personal happiness, and personal livelihood, and fails to see how each relies on a system that empowers, privileges, or dispossess either the individual or others in the process. As I discovered at the rally, to shift the conversation from “I” to “we” in speaking of a collective liberation was quickly flagged as anti-American and dismissed.
Since when did “we the people” become synonymous with Socialism? How can we convince people that “loving their neighbor” means more than just praying for them, that it means supporting a system that raises each of us up through access to education, health care, jobs, and a livable life? How can we encourage people to stop thinking of themselves as living in subdivisions and start living in neighborhoods? How can we shift from the Jesus of the comfortable to the “sell all your possessions” Jesus?
I don’t think we change the nature of the conversation by berating those with whom we disagree, further sowing the seeds of resentment and faction. We change the nature of the conversation by connecting our own work to the values or faith by which it is motivated. The Christianity I practice requires that I love my neighbor even when it isn’t easy, that I work for “the least of these” even when I want to quit, that I give my two coins even if they are the last two I have, and that Jesus died not only for my sins but also those of the tax collector, the Samaritan woman, and the Pharisee.
Alex McNeill is absolutely right about what makes the rugged individualists of America so opposed to anything they see as threatening by labeling it “socialist.” Forgetting that Jesus was a “socialist” in the purest sense, it’s easy for us to ignore the bigger picture and concentrate only on ourselves. I should take a lesson from my sister and mother, who are as viciously anti-socialist as anybody I know. It is convenient to be able to just pray for people rather than actual help them, and that’s the biggest critique I have of Christianity as a movement. I’m guilty of this individualism myself probably because I see the futility of engaging in debate with entrenched ideologues, my own family among them. But what do we do when those on opposing sides refuse to do anything but berate, deride, marginalize, and curse? When do you realize you can’t have a conversation with rabid ideologues and move along? That’s my question. No one seems to be able to answer it.
- Mary Ann West: Standing In Solidarity Against Islamophobia (huffingtonpost.com)
- Can religion be apolitical? | Mary Kenny (guardian.co.uk)
- The Gospel according to Glenn Beck (geneveith.com)
Quitting Christianity a la Anne Rice: a Manifesto of sorts
I’ve gotten angry with religion quite often lately. Like being part of a nation or state which also angers you because of their stupid policies and marginalizing of certain groups, finding your religion consistently betraying its preached principles is very disheartening. And although I’ve claimed atheism at various times in my life, I can never willfully give up that part of me that convinces me personally through experience a belief in a Divine Will that operates in/throughout/above/below the Universe. Many times I throw my hands up in despair and say, “No more of this bullshit for me!” Yet, I always come back.
Anne Rice has gotten a lot of flack lately for quitting Christianity. Some say that quitting Christianity is not possible. I would agree with the semantics of that. If you believe Christianity is an institution, you can quit it. There are differing definitions of “church” although I believe the church is made up of Christians no matter where they are. Others are in agreement with her and have come out of their religious institutions as well. We all agree that the polarization Christians (and all religions) cause when they insist on following this or that dogma, tenet, doctrine, or “prophetic” saying are the prime motive for our coming out. On her Facebook page, Rice has posted the various responses and there are so many that I can’t single out just one. However, I can say that I agree with her 100%.
When I became a Christian, I was not evangelized nor did I “come forward” in an alter call at a church. I had my own experience of Jesus and “God” on my own time and in my own way through personal prayer and from reading parts of the new testament. The Divine manifested itself to me in terms I could understand. It just happened to be in Jesus’ form. My first mistake after this experience was searching out a church where I could meet with fellow believers and connect with others and perhaps compare notes about our experiences. That would have been great, had it stopped right there. Unfortunately, becoming part of a community such as that seems to imply that others can become your moral compass and tell you what you can and cannot do and what you can and cannot believe. This got me wondering what the church is for then. Is it primarily a place where others can compare experiences or is it a club where only those who pay the right amount or who follow all the rules others laid down for us by others, away from the secular world and all its contaminates? Is it supposed to welcome all who wish to come to it or is it primarily set up to exclude? You will find as many explanations as there are religious sects, so nothing can be decided either way. What’s left is the kind of individualism that Rice espouses and that church leaders so despise. It is fundamentally a lack of faith in people to do the right thing at the right time and for the right reasons. I think it’s time we grow up from that.
Church leaders argue that Jesus set up these rules, but of course there is no evidence of this. The bible cannot even be counted on to accurately record the words of Jesus or to set down the history of the church without those, who happened to win the power play of sects back then, redacting those portions that came down to us ahead of time. The one thing that convinces me that religions as practiced in the world are not absolute truth is due to the confusing witness provided by the varied sects, churches, religions, and practices throughout the world. None are in agreement. If such dogmas were ABSOLUTE TRUTH, there would be consensus about these issues and there is not. Individualism is the only answer here. Actions such as peace, simplicity, and love are its evidence. What I think these so-called leaders fear most is being out of a job! Do they not think that a Divine Will can’t accomplish what it wants with or without us?
My individualism imposes no belief on anyone. My individualism does the most good and spends my money where I see fit. I don’t funnel funds through the church and expect it will go where I want it to go. I send it directly. I don’t evangelize nor do I believe every believer called to do that. This thinking is only an institutional tool to garner the most numbers. In this day and age, it isn’t necessary to evangelize. The information is out there. It’s up to the Divine to speak, not me. Much like the Religious Society of Friends, I believe in the Light that is in every person. This is the Light of God and it has to be trusted that whoever or whatever Divine Will is accomplishing in the world, what is accomplished is what is meant to be accomplished. The church as a traditional institution has done irreparable harm in the world by not trusting this concept. They believe “truth” is funneled through authority and hierarchy. Judaism and Islam share in the harm done and in believing in imams, priests, prophets, or “special” people. The “big three” have a lot to answer for and I’m not going to blindly follow the herd and say “They told me to” because they claim authority over me. My only authority is my conscience informed by my spirit, however that comes to me (brain, soul, outside me, whatever), through a community I choose, if I choose, and through information garnered from experts in other fields; scientific, religious, or otherwise. Therefore, I will stand or fall on my own decisions, no one else’s.
- Anne Rice Further Explains Her Break Up with Christianity (beliefnet.com)
- Fallout Following Anne Rice’s Decision To Quit Jesus Fanclub [Christ The Lord] (jezebel.com)
- Anne Rice On Her Decision To Quit Christianity (VIDEO) (huffingtonpost.com)
- Anne Rice Quits… (beliefnet.com)
- Anne Rice Quits Christianity (firstthings.com)
Atheists and Theists Will Never Agree
One thing I know for sure is that atheists and theists will never agree nor will they ever agree to disagree. I believe that if I bet on this, 50 years from now, I will have one the bet. Greta Christina has a great argument about why feeling God is real is not a real argument for believing God is real. She’s right, it can’t be the sole evidence for one’s faith. There should be other evidence; like the testimonies of millions of people who believe, those who claim to be healed or have had visions, etc. However there are also reasons why I would never live my life at the level of sight verification that she does. Take her story about the zebra:
If I saw a zebra in front of my house, I would want to test that perception before assuming that it was correct. I’d ask other people in my neighborhood if they’d seen a zebra. I’d call the zoo and ask if any of their zebras had escaped. I’d call the newspaper, and ask if they’d heard any other reports of zebra sightings. I’d post on Facebook, ditto. I’d check for zebra droppings.And if none of these inquiries confirmed my sighting of a zebra, I would conclude that I almost certainly hadn’t seen a zebra after all. I’d conclude that I was sleep deprived, or that it had been an optical illusion, or that some neighborhood prankster had painted a horse to look like a zebra.
Really? You’d really go through all those steps before you would admit there is a zebra in your yard? Why would you doubt your own senses? Maybe the zebra didn’t come from the zoo. Maybe no one was home in your neighborhood when you saw it. Perhaps the zebra didn’t poop in your yard. You wouldn’t believe your own eyes? Well here I must say that I would. In fact sight is what I would believe first. You can’t say you didn’t see it even if it was a mind trick. She wants to rationally use her mind to test things in one breath and then doubt her mind when she sees or experiences something the next. Question: when CAN you trust your own mind, if at all? Her argument is like the fundamentalist who says you should never trust your own mind but only the bible. Same argument, different mistrust.
But even if this was a good example of testing every hypothesis which I don’t believe it is, I stand by my assertion; atheists and theists will never agree, nor will they ever agree to disagree. Why? Because each side is convinced of its “rightness.” Each have valid arguments yet neither will admit the other has valid arguments. Each will continue to make fun of the other side and their purveyors and to what end? Our premises will forever be at odds. And at some point, each of us makes a choice. Greta’s made a choice and believers have made choices. The problem comes in when we try to convince others of our rightness. Why do we do this? Let’s just say we remain unconvinced and move on. Stop trying to convert each other to score points “for the team.” Living peacefully together is more important. As long as laws are in place where government does not coerce belief or condone religion we can do this.