Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Modern American Republican Christianity Confounds Me

Those of us that look to logic, data and facts to explain the world around us, sometimes have a hard time understanding the rules of religion. I understand and mostly follow the teachings of the Bible, not because they are the words of God (that, as the VP would say, is hogwash) but because treating others as I would myself, generally seems like a good idea. I don’t need “God” to tell me that. It’s not the Bible that I find confusing, but rather the modern rules of Christianity as currently practiced by many Christians in this country.

I suppose it would be more accurate to describe them as Republican Christians because in many parts of this country, and certainly in the media, church has merged with the GOP. It may be a vocal minority of right-wing religious nutjobs (James Dobson, Pat Robertson, Phyllis Schlafly, the list seems endless), but there’s no denying that the most high profile Christian “leaders” have chosen to call the GOP home and in return, the influential fascists (George Bush, Ann Coulter, Bill O’Reilly, another disturbingly long list) have laid claim to Christianity. It’s a symbiotic relationship. The politicos frame their agenda as a religious crusade and the preachers turn their churches into campaign offices. The losers in this deal are the rest of us, including the true believers.

If this relationship weren’t so dangerous, it would be funny, if for nothing else than the confounded logic employed to explain away the bad behavior of politically minded Christian leaders. Take for example, this story in the news today. According to modern American Republican Christianity, as practiced by the former president of the National Association of Evangelicals Ted Haggard, putting your dick in the mouth of a male prostitute doesn’t make you gay. I guess that means God still loves good old Ted.

But Ted, what if you stick your dick in your wife’s mouth while pretending she’s a male prostitute? Is that okay? God knows your thoughts right? Or is it simply that you can engage in gay sex or fantasize about gay sex while engaging in heterosexual sex as long as you feel ashamed by your thoughts and behavior afterward? Surely God wants His followers to hide who they are, have plummeting self-esteem and feel shame for simply being human. Probably just as much as He wants political dogma preached in His house.

What we take away from any book has a lot to do with who we are when we read it. I guess the Bible isn’t special in that regard.

9 Comments:

Anonymous Dale H. said...

LG~

Apropos this post, read this article in its entirety at the link below:

Christianists on the March
http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/20070128_christianists_on_the_march/
Posted on Jan 28, 2007
By Chris Hedges

Chris Hedges, who graduated from seminary at Harvard Divinity School and worked for many years as a foreign correspondent for The New York Times, warns that the Christian Right is the most dangerous mass movement in American history.

After two years reporting on the movement for his new book “American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America”, he writes that its engine is profound personal and economic despair caused by mounting social and economic inequities that fuel the creation of an American oligarchy. This despair, he said, has led tens of millions of Americans into the arms of demogogues who offer a world of miracles and magic, who sanctify and fuel the rage of America’s dispossessed and who plot the destruction the democratic state.

Also, go here: http://buffalobeast.com/113/50_most_loathsome_2006.htm for more of this.......

11. Ted Haggard

Charges: Owner of Colorado's most popular apse. Believes and preaches demonstrable falsehoods to the willfully ignorant. The quintessential hypocrite; Pastor Ted gives queer meth freaks a bad name and makes drug-dealing prostitutes seem like shining beacons of credibility by comparison. A born-again self-deluder who vainly tied to use religion as a magic force-field against natural human desires. Typifies the now-cliché evangelical method of obsessively condemning homosexuality in a thinly veiled act of self-loathing and compartmentalized denial. Haggard's been cruising Colorado Springs area gay bars for years in search of men to "save," and baptized many. As the leader of the 30-million strong National Association of Evangelicals, Haggard had a weekly meeting of the morons with the Cokehead in Chief, yet for all his riches he never figured out that quality cocaine is far superior to crystal meth.

Exhibit A: "We don't have to debate what we think about homosexuality – it's in the bible."

Sentence: Leviticus 20:13.

10:57 AM  
Anonymous david said...

Barach Obama's Christianity still exists. The UCC is a very open and eclectic union of churches. Good Christianity still is out there.

What is sad is the demise of progressive and liberal Christianity. It fell victim to the same vicious attacks that liberal and progressive Democrats felt.

It's time we turned the clock back and imagined what the world would have been like had MLK and RFK had not been assassinated in 1968. If Nixon had not won the White House and America had not been torn apart by those who hated Darwin.

Philip Roth's "The Plot Against America" paints a bleak picture of an alternate USA in the 1940s. If America is to regain hope, it has to reimagine the future it could have --should have-- had after the Summer of Love and Vatican II.

2:11 PM  
Anonymous drm said...

it is always laughable to listen to a non-religious, non-believer lecture religious people about the evils of religion... Too funny... Gee, I wonder why membership in "liberal", "progressive" churches is falling like a rock? Could it be that these churches are the ones that have beome too political?

5:15 PM  
Blogger The (liberal)Girl Next Door said...

DRM--I don't know that your assertion about liberal churches having declining memberships is accurate, but I'll give you my two cents on the topic anyway.

I would guess that liberal churches are the last step before not needing religion at all. Those that go through a liberal church, can, if they internalize the teachings, eventually graduate to a place where they don't need the crutch of church any longer. Why then would there would be a lack of new members coming into the liberal church? Well, it might suggest that there is no graduation (only indoctrination) possible from the other churches.

I'm sure this idea will not be taken well by many, but it's just my impromptu explanation. I'm an atheist, what else would you expect from me, a defense of liberal Christianity? Not likely.

10:06 PM  
Anonymous david said...

drm, you don't exactly make clear your religious affiliation.

I understand what LGND means when she refers to the church as a crutch. It can be when it's not a living faith. It's a crutch if the church just reinforces bigotry and egocentrism.

A living faith provides the vision we need for that side of our humanity that is irrational. Some of us, such as LGND, can manage the irrational alone. But many of us need a communal solution to the darkness.

Fundamentalist religion panders to the mean & petty side of human nature. It builds its members up by putting outsiders down. It offers false hope by making false promises. It's the inevitable faith of a consumer society --but there's no product guarantee and the warranty expires when we die.

I recently watched a sweet movie titled Eve & the Fire Horse. It tells a story of a Chinese American family coming to terms with the gods of Christianity, Buddhism, and Confucianism. I highly recommend it.

I find the bitterness in American debate about religion has more to do with the smallness of American belief. The bigness of faith expressed by such giants as Emerson, Thoreau, Whitman, James, Niebuhr, and Tillich frightens the Fundamentalist who wants religion to be what it never can: Fact.

We all need Faith. We need Faith that tomorrow will come; that Virtue is better than Vice; that the Stranger is not the Enemy; and that Love can conquer Hate.

The Chruch that decorates the altar with the Stars & Stripes and pictures of F-16s and preaches that 'our' God is bigger than 'their' God is commiting the greatest of blasphemies. This is not religion: it is idolatry. And yes, drm, it is Evil and to be feared.

12:14 PM  
Anonymous drm said...

debates about religion are useless. The one thing I do not like are non-religious people claiming to know the motives of those who believe in the teachings of religions. LGND says religion is a "crutch". Well that is pretty arrogant of LGND to claim to know why another believes the way they do.

I have no issue with LGND being an atheist but I would never say atheism is a crutch that shallow people use to give meaning to their meaningless lives.

I would claim most of the major social movements in this country have been lead by religious individuals. Somehow I do not think MLK felt hampered by his "crutch".

9:43 AM  
Blogger The (liberal)Girl Next Door said...

DRM--If you read my comment (and my post for that matter) carefully, you will recognize that I have merely presented my impressions of Christianity and how I see it practiced in the public sphere. I'm not "claiming" to know anything about the motives of individuals seeking meaning through religion, but rather expressing my opinion about the affects of institutionalized religion on public discourse.

Yes, my opinion that religion is a crutch for many may be arrogant, but it is not a "claim" as I have no scientific evidence to back it up (and as an atheist, I need that), it's just my impression and I'm entitled to that. Whether or not presenting my impression was useful in moving the conversation forward is debatable.

I don't find discussions about religion pointless in the least, but I do think that they are most useful when confined to how religion impacts government and society as a whole (especially when it negatively impacts those who don't subscribe to the dominant religion).

I do not like to get into debating anyone's personal religious beliefs (you’re right, that is usually a pointless conversation) and perhaps it was a mistake to respond to your last comment with my personal opinion, but hey, my blog is my personal opinion. My comment that religion is a crutch was couched in terms like “I guess” and “maybe” and “it seems” which should have clued you in.

I know plenty of people who find real meaning and strength in their religious beliefs, and in many ways I envy them. The inner peace I derive from atheism is not well understood by others and more importantly, it’s fleeting. I find that I have to constantly re-evaluate my beliefs when I acquire new information and I must constantly work to achieve a sense of calm and understanding of my place in the world. Believe me, giving it up to God would be a relief, but I’m just not built that way. Besides, I’d just be trading one set challenges for another. As a Christian, I’d struggle with which parts of the Bible to adhere to and which to cast aside. I certainly don’t envy Christians that.

I put my atheism out there and I'm willing to defend it, so when Christianity starts impacting my civic life, I figure it's fair game.

10:46 AM  
Anonymous drm said...

LGND,

You said, "but I do think that they are most useful when confined to how religion impacts government and society as a whole (especially when it negatively impacts those who don't subscribe to the dominant religion)"

I think your statement is exactly what I find most offensive by many people who make similar points.

In my opinion, everyone is influenced by something. There is something that drives their decissions and actions. This also applies to government. Voters and legislators take action because they are guided by some belief. Given that, I believe what drives one person is no more or less legitimate than what drives another. I find it repulsive when people say something to the effect of "Don't impose your religious beliefs on me via legislation". Well I can respond the same way, "Don't impose your atheism or liberalism or progressivism on me via legislation".

You say "how religion impacts government and society as a whole". I say the same thing with regards to atheism and liberalism, we should discuss how these beliefs impact society.

Many say their is no place for religion in government and I view that as a way to disqualify those who hold religious beliefs from governing.

9:50 AM  
Anonymous DH said...

drm~

"You state "I find it repulsive when people say something to the effect of "Don't impose your religious beliefs on me via legislation". Well I can respond the same way, "Don't impose your atheism or liberalism or progressivism on me via legislation".

You say "how religion impacts government and society as a whole". I say the same thing with regards to atheism and liberalism, we should discuss how these beliefs impact society.

Many say their is no place for religion in government and I viewthat as a way to disqualify those who hold religious beliefs from governing."


What nonsense! Want to identify, at any level of government but most especially the federal level, ANY elected official that is not a professed Christian, Jew and just recently, a Muslim? So much for 'disqualification".

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

YOU may state that atheism, or liberalism or progressivism are 'religions' and therefore warranting establishment clause prohibition, but you would be bat shit crazy WRONG!

A little education for 'family values/tax cut" Charlie or Charline:

Subject: Jesus Is Not a Republican.

"As I argued in my testimony as an expert witness in the Alabama Ten Commandments case, religion has prospered in this country precisely because the government has stayed out of the religion business. The tireless efforts on the part of the religious right to eviscerate the First Amendment in the interests of imposing its own theocratic vision ultimately demeans the faith even as it undermines the foundations of a democratic order that thrives on pluralism.

Religion functions best outside the political order, and often as a challenge to the political order. When it identifies too closely with the state, it becomes complacent and ossified, and efforts to coerce piety or to proscribe certain behavior in the interests of moral conformity are unavailing.
Thankfully, the founding fathers recognized that wisdom and codified it into the First Amendment, the best friend that religion has ever had. The First Amendment was a concession to pluralism, and its guarantee of a "free market" of religion has ensured a salubrious religious marketplace unmatched anywhere else in the world.

The leaders of the religious right have led their sheep astray from the gospel of Jesus Christ to the false gospel of neoconservative ideology and into the maw of the Republican Party."

"Verily, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a Republican Wingnut to comprehend, let alone repect, The Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause of the First amendment."
(Mt 19:24...DH 02:20:07)

And then there's this object reminder of why wingnutistan will NEVER prevail in overturning the separation of church and State.

You folks are just too damned dangerous!

After student raises ire over teacher telling class disbelievers 'going to hell,' he faces death threats


A New Jersey student enmeshed in a classroom dispute over religion is attracting allies in his defense, The New York Times reports.

Matthew LaClair, a 16-year-old junior at Kearny High School, "drew some legal heavyweights into his battle with school officials over a teacher's proselytizing in class," writes Patrick McGeehan for the Times.

LaClair taped a teacher of his saying to students in a history class "that if they do not believe that Jesus died for their sins, they 'belong in hell,'" writes McGeehan.

On the same recordings, the article continues, the teacher is heard telling the students "that there were dinosaurs aboard Noah's ark and that there is no scientific basis for evolution or the Big Bang theory of the origin of the universe."

LaClair has reportedly been "the target of harassment and a death threat from fellow students and 'retaliation' by school officials who have treated him, not the teacher, as the problem," McGeehan says.

1:59 PM  

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