Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Weapon or Tool?

Of late I have been focusing on the usurping of Religion to exploit, use and do harm to those who don't share their same fucked up system of beliefs in fictitious supernatural beings.  Again I like the idea of prayer, sharing and community, the stuff that exists in the same book of laws and rules that seemingly has numerous  contradictions and variations within the same text.   In other words it can be whatever you want to be - a weapon or a tool.  Dead men do apparently tell tales

I again want to remind myself that I was duped and betrayed by a religious crazy who came into my life wearing one mask and over the five months we were were friends revealed the other mask who was the dark warrior of Christ and a hateful individual whose beliefs were so extreme and disturbing that I no longer could pretend that upon review of my laptop's history revealed a search engine of dead ministers who seemingly had grasped this young man by the balls to ensure whatever growth of life he was finding was firmly stopped. The sexual ideology is not lost as that is what most of it is and was.  I suspected that this boy was not fully heterosexual and that there were issues about that which I needed to provide a safe space in which to learn and explore that the world is beyond those four walls one calls Church.  I introduced him to MOOC's and that Harvard has a series on Comparative Religion which he signed up thinking it was just one about faith and scripture only to realize there were four and they were about varying faiths and their history and beliefs.  Immediately that was never taken and when shared with his family immediately discouraged.  It was then I realized that his fundamentalism was already ingrained but it was not until I was sent the hate speech video from another dead Minister called Will God Impeach America that this boy was firmly lost to me.  The hate and bile was so distressing I could not believe what I was listening to and when asked the convoluted explanation was equally distressing I wondered what kind of friendship would or could be salvaged from this.   I put it on him to determine the boundaries and to try to be friends on his terms and the reality was there is none. It ended the day I moved out of my Apartment and I knew then it was goodbye.  Our "relationship" is extended in fake texts that fall off without anything to them other than dead air which is I think a perfect reflection of this young man/boy's thought process.

I was angry, sad and confused but mostly I felt duped and used. But then again I knew of the odd leanings but I also thought this was why he moved here to try to find his own footing, he was entering the most critical phase of the seven year cycle of life and I wanted to mentor him and be a friend and in turn have a friend that on paper was so different that I could show that I could rise above my own issues with the South, the uneducated, the religious and more importantly with a man.  True 22 is not a man but I was not ready for a grown up yet so I too had to address my own issues.  I never felt sexually attracted to the boy and yet I wanted him to feel comfortable with the subject so admittedly I made up a sexual history that was not quite factual and then some truths including how a boy not much older than he tried to kill me seven years earlier through a combination of drugs, alcohol and enabling me to get behind the wheel of a car to careen into my near death.  Had I made it home I suspect he would have finished the job himself and to this day I have never had any sense of closure or sense of safety with regards to that and to me, to sex and to any kind of intimacy in friendship or romance of any kind since. So I came with my own baggage and I needed to leave this shit when I finally left Nashville to try to build my life again all at the end of my own seven year cycle.

So two very broken people became close friends in the course of four months and then to find out that religion was the reason it ended seemed again to be the antithesis of what I had learned those years attending non-secular schools.  While I found many parts of the Catholic faith off putting I enjoyed overall Mass and simply shared that part of worship as less responsibility and more as something of interest.   Religion is interesting and has a place of study as a social science and that is about it.  Again meeting people and sharing a communion I am all for but there were and have been in history many places that provided that but over time we have found those disappearing and in place many go to Church to do just that and beyond that the few that carry on beyond the walls fall directly into two camps - the believers and the crazy fucking believers.   Ethan falls into the latter but he also does not go to Church he follows dead Ministers online as no one living can preach the hate he believes quite as well. 

And a way to reconcile this pain and manage my anger I began to study this bullshit more closely rather than dismiss it as I once did.  The reality is that while they are not a large majority of our population they are a sector that cannot be ignored. Ethan is 22 and he is troubled, angry and very much alone.  I suspect he has few friends that he genuinely expresses these "thoughts" and through Pot, Booze and a fake persona he self medicates to somehow reconcile his own two masks.  I cannot handle it nor will I but it is hard to walk away from someone so troubled as I watch the stories unfold on the news over the many young men who seem to resolve their anger via gun violence.  But in a conversation yesterday we overlook that it is not just mass shootings it emerges in Domestic Violence, Drug Addiction, Rape and other abhorrent acts that are symptoms of misdirected anger about a multitude of problems - jobs, money, sex, self worth.

Ethan is troubled deeply troubled but he is likely only a danger to himself, he is unable to manage even the most rudimentary of responsibilities such as laundry, cooking, caring for himself and coping with conflict.   He drives home every day off to have his mother cook, do laundry and care for him and I am sure in true Oedipal fashion comfort him by praying and whatever else substitutes for intelligent dialogue and teaching him skills to be useful for independent living.  He has already been in therapy and his sister not much older is as well.  They are troubled, highly religious and lowly educated and cling to family as a way of shielding themselves from the greater world. Just this week a simple Stye in the eye (which I gave him all the tools and materials he would need to treat said stye) became so severe he has to drive home to have it lanced.  He cannot go to a medical clinic here apparently to take care of this but no has to go to a specialist in which to do what is a minor procedure.  He is co-dependent and utterly alone in a world that he is incapable of navigating.  That is on him but also on his family and particularly the Mother. 

Again women I want to remind you that is not about gender roles in teaching your children, regardless of sex,  simple basic skills in which to live - to cook, to do laundry, how to shop for food and in turn clean their clothes, care for themselves when they are independent.   Your son is not the MAN of the house, he is not your surrogate friend or partner he is your CHILD.  If there are men absent in his life find them. They are there as Teachers, Coaches and even your Neighbors.  Yes the religious figures are there but we have learned probably not a good idea.  But you are not a man and you are not teaching your man to be one that anyone wants to deal with.  Sorry I don't want to marry a child and there comes a time that men need to be adults.  So what is an adult?  Well one that is accountable and responsible. That can handle living and performing in society with values and the critical thinking skills needed to survive and thrive.  Clearly we have not managed to do even that.   The reality is that we still have gender divisions in the home with regards to care this is why.   Men do not seem to know how to manage even the most simplest of responsibilities and why? They have never been asked to do so with earnest expectations and deliberate outcomes.   Want clean clothes? Wash them. Want food? Cook it.  House dirty? Hire a Mexican! (that one is my LOL)  Stop worrying about toys, gender pronouns and other issues that seem to only distract the reality of learning basic skills that should have nothing to do with gender.  As an only child I had to and it comes in handy and it is why I a manage to put out fires and try to resolve issues as they come up, this man child could not manage a stye in his eye.    Maybe he should have just prayed as that seems to be constant refrain from these crackpots. 

Religion is a tool or a weapon. Clearly it is not being used well as the former and is now much like guns, an instrument of violence.

I was betrayed by Republican religion: What my years as a Christian fundamentalist taught me about right-wing faith

The political form of Christianity, championed by "The 700 Club" and Fox News, is selling a powerful snake oil

Edwin Lyngar
August 17, 2015

“If you have two shirts, give one to the poor. If you have food, share it with those who are hungry.”
— Luke 3:11 (NLT)

It is one of the great ironies of of contemporary American politics that, while The New Testament is further to the left than "The Communist Manifesto," somehow the book and much of the religion it created have been subsumed by the cruelest, most selfish conservative politics I’ve seen in my lifetime, replete with outright hatred toward poor people, immigrants and every other unwashed commoner for which Jesus professed his most intimate love.

(“Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me,” he said as clearly as one can possibly state in Matthew 25:40.)

There is a miscalculation spreading among my liberal friends and some of my fellow commentators that the demographic decline of organized religion in America augurs the end of the religious right as a dominant political force. This is a massive miscalculation, because the religious right has nothing whatsoever to do with faith, dogma, Jesus, or the afterlife. Instead, large sections of American Christendom exist solely to support reductive conservative politics as a hedge against progress. They are tools used by cynical politicians and bloviating television pundits to transform rage and tribalism into viewers and a compliant voting public. There’s no reason to think those who benefit will abandon such a calculated and successful effort just because gay people can now (thankfully) get married. If anything, the rhetoric on “religious freedom” and attacks on issues like women’s health has only gotten more outlandish over time. (See the latest GOP debate, for instance.)

I’m no expert on scripture, but I spent a couple long, painful years during my early twenties trying to live as an authentic Fundamentalist Christian. It was an act of desperation in a doomed marriage, but I spent enough time in various Bible studies to know what the book says about poverty, suffering and rich people. “I'll say it again—it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!" Matthew 19:24. Rejoice Christians, at least you won’t have to see Donald Trump after you die.

Like many self-identified American Christians, I grew up calling myself such while adhering to few of the precepts and never going to church. I consider my secular upbringing the greatest gift my parents ever gave me, and it also made me understand how it feels to call oneself a Christian out of laziness. I was always far more defensive of the faith when I didn’t practice or understand it. I was insecure and perhaps a little embarrassed. These kinds of nominal “Easter Christians” are the easiest pickings for a GOP playing the worst kind of identity politics.

After my failed attempt at “real” Christianity, the religious right bothered me much more than when I was ignorant of the Bible. Even when I voted for George W. Bush, I could never shake my disgust with the toxic combination of religiosity and politics. The only way to control women’s bodies is with a holy book, and hating gay people is only sustainable with religious justification. This disconnect drove me into the arms of Atheists where I have been for many years, living a philosophy in which I find great comfort and peace.

The political version of Christianity is first and foremost a media construct, like so much of our lives these days. It’s championed by Fox News, the 700 Club and a parade of has-beens and never weres, selling the “prosperity gospel” like so much snake oil. It’s a powerful and toxic stew that is as relevant to Jesus as professional wrestling or a discarded Playboy. Conservative Christianity in America is less a religion and more of a secret handshake, a group signifier of exclusion and moral superiority. Its swaggering and masculine cruelty is at once its greatest weakness and most attractive feature for working class white people who have seen their lifestyles and power eroded.

The people most injured by the Fox News version of Christianity are those authentic, compassionate people of faith. There are many churches with a sense of sacrifice and love. I’ve seen them. They are Lutheran or Catholic, Buddhist and even Mormon. They are filled with nice people doing wonderful things from a sense community, but these groups are in grave danger. They are now being sold a bag of lies about threats to “religious liberty.” They’re being made into political puppets, manipulated into violating the precepts of their own faith in the voting booth and in their own, incendiary, hate-filled rhetoric. Those that sacrifice love for the poor, kindness and tolerance for the hyper-inflated political rhetoric of the moment will lose much more than credibility—the future of their religion is at stake. The only bright spot, I suppose, is for people like me. The politicization of Christianity by pundits and politicians is the greatest boon to Atheism since the birth of Christopher Hitchens.

There is no better example of disconnect between faith and deeds (James 2:14) than one of the hottest topics driving GOP politics at the moment: immigration. There’s a cottage industry of people building careers off hating immigrants and the Latino community in general, starting with Trump but also Bill O’Reilly, Laura Ingram and Todd Starnes, the Fox correspondent most steeped in manufactured, artificial piety. Starnes and Ingram both claim great commitment to “Christianity” while also taking great pains to use the phrase “illegal aliens,” at every opportunity because Jesus loved to dehumanize the huddled masses. “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me” he said in Matthew 25:35.

I could fill a dozen essays with examples of Bible verses that contradict the core ideas and statements of conservative candidates, politicians and talking heads, but it’s a waste of time. No matter what the politicians and pundits claim to believe, they are only using faith to exploit an angry and ignorant populace with a collective Bible literacy that wouldn’t fill a shot glass.

As the Republican base becomes both grayer and whiter, more homogenous and religious, fake Christianity will become an even more important wedge for conservatives to drive between people and their self-interest. We don’t care if a Republican politician throws grandma out of the nursing home or takes food stamps from poor people, so long as he weeps during Sunday service. The problem with America isn’t greed, out of control capitalism or the perversion of democracy with moneyed interests—it’s that we don’t go to church enough or we aren’t cruel enough to our gay nephew.

The Fox News/GOP version of Christianity has already betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver, and would do so again, just to get the matching set of spinning rims. Even though it’s a 21st century fabrication, it still has power and danger. Liberal Christians and anyone who values a secular republic need to stop pretending it’s been defeated.

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