Sunday, May 10, 2020

Sunday of Worship

As I sit here listening to Devendra Barnhardt discuss the book, When Things Fall Apart, and the Buddhist concepts in this book are about how that regardless of the good or the bad eventually things fall away.   As a long time Yoga practitioner one of the many mantras I do when practice is the one about a river:  The Mind is like water. When it's turbulent, it's difficult to see. When it's calm, everything becomes clear.  - Prasad Mahes

There are many many sayings invoking the use of water, a strong biblical element, and in turn many that discuss the flow of water that flows in with both the good and the bad and how water and its stillness and deepness tests one's character and beliefs.  

Christianity, like water, on the surface seems still and promising it offers a respite on a hot day and on  a cold one it even permits one to walk upon it, but still waters run deep.  And that even calm waters can belie a storm.  And Christianity is built on lies, myths and bullshit that is based on suspension of disbelief and in turn heavily one based on fear.  Yeah that sounds great and I pass.

My open card carrying Atheism is quite freeing but to many despite their supposed intelligence and liberal views they refuse to go down that road and I see the eyes averted and discomfort cross their face.  Only one person here has ever asked me how I came to my views and assumed that my parents like all cultists (as that is how religion is passed on, like a contagious virus) were Atheists. No, no they were not.  I have no clue what my Father believed or did not.  My Mother went to Church and loved watching the Crystal Cathedral on Sunday mornings.  I had a Bible and I went to secular schools all my life - Luthern, Presbyterian, and Catholic.  My happiest school was a private non secular one that had Art, Dance, Swimming, Foreign Language.  In other words was progressive and I loved every minute of it until my folks enrolled me in the Catholic School within walking distance to my home and I remained in that program until grade 12.  So I had tons of religion shoved down my throat and in my curiousity about faith I explored them all, including literally reading in Christian Science libraries (which still publishes an amazing Journal of NEWS), Quaker Meetings, Bhai, Seventh Day Adventist, etc, etc, etc.   In College I took Theology courses and majored in Sociology and English that enabled me to take massive classes about religion and reading the Bible as Fiction.  Yes it is is fiction.  So I came to my Atheism as one would Veganism or whatever else one CHOOSES with awareness and knowledge.   And I had room for those who did not advocate my beliefs, or lack thereof, and welcomed anyone at the table to express their faith and prayers as they saw fit.  Then came Ethan.  His religion exposed me to zealotry in ways that again like racism, sexism and ageism I thought was something that was isolated and extreme and then I moved to Nashville and all that went out the window.

What I experienced in Nashville to this day no tornado, no pandemic will erode.  It is a place built on fraud and faith which are co-joined at the hip like Siamese Twins in the freak show.  And that is one city that is a freak show.  I may be in ground zero for Covid (and yes it appears that New York City is the super spreader for the cases around the country) I still feel safer here. Not one day goes by where I don't appreciate the miracle of this place while eschewing the leadership for their own failures and contributions to this chaos that envelops us all. 

As I sit and reflect during this time of quarantine it has allowed me to realize that I embrace my Atheism in the same way and see organized religion as the same type of virus that has propagated racism, sexism, classism/elitism, misogyny and child abuse.  Yes folks that Book of Myths is full of hate, loathing and criminal bullshit all excused, justified and explained as some bullshit that is conveniently ignored when questioned about its intent.  As crazy Ethan explained to me:  

Who wrote this, when was it written, why was it written, where was it written, and to whom was it written. You're also not trying to understand the laws behind those governances, not considering the written format of the book, either Law, Prophetic, Epistle, Poetic, et cetera. All of these things matter when pulling information from a Biblical text. That's Hermeneutics. 

When he read his first hateful text about him being God's warrior I said much of that to him, that we have no way of knowing the Author, the time frame, the intent and of course the translations of said text from a language not shared, with no ability to write at the time and the way oral storytelling evolves over time, so how does one know the validity or even the actual meaning of this text since every reader like every eyewitness ads their own biases, experiences and beliefs to their interpretation. Now he dismissed me as wrong and does so repeatedly when my view does not align with his and ignores and disregards any other references I send him from living writers and students of Theology who are women.  Point proven, that religion makes you hate people for whatever superficial reason you can concoct.  You can fuck religion hard as far as I care and it is why I no longer can even pretend to tolerate it.  I am just like them but smarter and less of a hypocrite.  

For God and Country review: Christian case for Trump is a thin read indeed

Amid the evasions and distortions lies evidence that Ralph Reed knows, really, that religion and politics can mix to noble ends – just not under this president

John S Gardner
The Guardian
Sun 10 May 2020 02.00 EDT

Ralph Reed, an evangelical leader and conservative political activist, first met Donald Trump in 2011, after being “coincidentally” seated next to Ivanka Trump at a meeting. The following year, he writes now, at his own Faith & Freedom conference, Trump “bounded on stage to the thumping strains of ‘Money, money, money’ from For the Love of Money, a song by the 70s soul group the O’Jays”.

On the page and off, Reed is usually quick to provide apposite quotes from the scriptures. In a book that is part history of the 2016 campaign, part apologia, part work of political theory, and part political shell game, he chooses not to include here 1 Timothy 6:10: “For the love of money is the root of all evil.”

Reed purports to offer “the Christian Case for Trump” but his preaching is largely to the converted – and, most urgently, to those worried by the potential flames of Joe Biden.

For Reed, Trump offered an appealing path: “With his money and celebrity, combined with a socially conservative message aimed at evangelicals, he could make a serious run” for president and secure policy victories galore.

Reed is very fond of Mike Pence, and likely wishes the vice-president were top of the ticket this year. But he sees success under Trump on issues including abortion, religious freedom, support for Israel and helping ex-offenders re-enter society through the bipartisan First Step Act.

Ultimately, abortion and the supreme court are more important than personal failures. Talk about issues and a dig at Hillary constituted Reed’s response to the misogynistic Billy Bush video, in which Trump boasted of sexual assault.

This is pure and simple advocacy, and it is deceptive

Reed writes that “Trump has led with great moral clarity [on religious freedom]. If keeping one’s word is central to one’s character – and it clearly is – then Donald Trump has shown he has far more character than his critics.”

Writing about the appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the supreme court, Reed claims “all the doubts, reservations, even suspicions – every one of them had been false.”

Every one?

Reed’s reliance on the “teaching of Jesus about the difference between words and works” is misplaced. He writes: “I measure a man more by his actions than by the occasional rash or ill-advised word.” How about false? Allegedly defamatory? Demeaning? Belittling? Racist?

And this: “I have learned to be suspicious of the smooth talker who never delivers.”

As have those who plumped down money for Trump University.

This is pure and simple advocacy, and it is deceptive. Reed’s statements often have qualifications, feints and writing designed to obscure or distract. For instance, he writes: “The fact that [Trump] didn’t act or talk like a typical evangelical, didn’t come from the Bible Belt, and didn’t attend a Christian college or quote scripture also meant he could reach a new – and larger – audience.”
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What’s missing here? Oh yes – Trump didn’t usually attend church. (Barack Obama did, generally at Camp David so as not to disturb worshippers in regular churches.)

In essence, Reed invites readers not to look behind the curtain, positing instead a simple choice between Trump and “liberals”. His first and last chapters focus on the left, with bonus “Crooked Hillary” and “Liberal Hypocrisy” in the middle. Elsewhere, it’s Trump or “civic withdrawal”, a true straw argument.

Some of his political science has a point. Trump did talk about issues that mattered to many voters. But Reed can’t quite make up his mind.

“[E]vangelicals gravitated to Trump with ambivalence and more than a little reluctance,” he writes. “Some were dragged kicking and screaming to the voting booths.”

He seems happiest at a rally in Valdosta, Georgia: “It was as if a seventies band reunion had met a Nascar race – all for the enjoyment of the great unwashed of the American heartland, the forsaken and forgotten, the rejected and looked-down upon … these voters had found their Pied Piper, and his name was Donald J Trump.”

Does Reed really believe all this? Occasionally, glimpses of an earlier Republican party and flashes of honesty peek through the rhetoric. He gives some play to the opposition of evangelical critics such as Russell Moore, Al Mohler and Mark DeMoss. He offers nice words on the former Ohio governor John Kasich and Medicaid expansion. He writes that “[Jesus] showed concern for people’s physical needs for food, water, shelter and health, and so should we.” He even comments favourably on Hillary Clinton’s faith and devotional life.

And he is correct that many evangelicals did change their views on politicians who commit immoral acts. But here are straw arguments again: “Does the Gospel teach that someone who has had a personal moral failing is disqualified from serving in a position of public trust? In fact, the Bible teaches the opposite, offering redemption and hope through faith in Christ to all sinners.”

Curiously, Reed uses the example of Peter’s denial of Jesus and subsequent office in the church rather than the most obvious example in the state: King David’s adultery with Bathsheba and murder of her husband.

The key is – or should be – repentance, and Reed claims Trump “freely acknowledges … flaws and mistakes of his past”. Then why so many false statements, including those that are easily checkable? Avoiding responsibility seems the exact opposite of repentance – and leadership. Reed also omits Trump’s appalling behavior at two National Prayer Breakfasts.

Sometimes, Reed gets the theology right … He quotes Psalm 146: 'Put not your trust in princes'

Reed’s definition of the 2016 election is flawed: a choice between “diametrically opposed political agendas – one of which embraced the intrinsic good while the other advanced grave evil”. Surely, too narrow a definition on both counts.

Simple distortions of fact abound, formed by putting one hand on the scale and ignoring other evidence. Reed is quick to dismiss accusations against Trump while not giving the full story. His chapters on Russia and impeachment are particularly, almost clownishly one-sided.

Reed writes of “the Russia hoax”. Robert Mueller said election interference “was not a hoax”. Reed writes the Mueller investigation had nothing “to do with criminal wrongdoing”. Mueller said he would have cleared Trump if he could have but did not. We are a long way from the concerns of evangelicals – other than integrity in public life.

Reed calls impeachment “a partisan joke”. He also states that his Faith & Freedom Coalition offers no endorsements but merely presents candidates’ statements on issues. Then why not do the same for Lt Col Vindman, Ambassador Yovanovitch or Mueller? Reed quotes Hosea 4:6: “My people perish for lack of knowledge.” Indeed.

Sometimes, he gets the theology right. Political power should indeed be used “primarily to glorify God”. He quotes Psalm 146: “Put not your trust in princes.” And he wishes that whatever the outcome of the 2020 election, “We will glorify God and be witnesses in our time for the transcendent, heavenly values that can transform society today.”

That is a noble vision, far removed from the “muck and mire of politics”. In the end, there’s not really much of a case for Trump here.

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