Who Hijacked Our Country

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Christianity’s Ugly Stepchild

This Newsweek column (by Lisa Miller) brought on waves of nostalgia. Those forgotten memories… I remember now: at one time Christianity was supposed to be about helping others; feeling a sense of duty; humility; and not judging others lest ye be judged.

Yes, it’s all coming back now. There really was a time when the “Homosexual Agenda” wasn’t the scariest threat facing our nation. Back then, fears of nuclear annihilation and worldwide destruction were much more alarming than dirty words on a TV show. Helping the less fortunate was more important than spewing hatred at everyone who was “different.”

What the fuck happened?

Most of today’s “Christians” are so obsessed with abortion and gay marriage, they’ve forgotten to look up, look around and see what's going on out there in the real world. We’re facing some unimaginable environmental catastrophes, whether they occur next year or the next century. We have a certifiable nutcase in the White House who’s determined to stir up as much trouble around the world as he possibly can. Millions of Americans are living in poverty. Millions more are one paycheck away from homelessness.

Hello??? Does this ring a bell? Any Christians out there? Regardless of anyone’s political opinions about these problems, these are moral issues if there ever was such a thing. Aren’t these the problems Christians should be concerned with? What Would Jesus Do?

As Lisa Miller says, Christians used to “put the suffering of those with less above the suffering of those with more.”

On the day of John F. Kennedy’s funeral, Robert Kennedy wrote a note to his oldest daughter, Kathleen (she was 12 at the time): “You seemed to understand that Jack died and was buried today. As the oldest of the Kennedy grandchildren—you have a particular responsibility now—a special responsibility to John and Joe. Be kind to others and work for your country. Love, Daddy.”

Kathleen Kennedy Townsend now has a book out, “Failing America’s Faithful.” As Lisa Miller puts it, this book is “mourning a world in which being Christian meant caring for others and making sacrifices to solve problems.”

America’s churches have been in the forefront of almost every battle for justice: abolishing slavery, women’s suffrage, the labor movement, the civil rights battles of the 1950s and ‘60s. Today, the people who fought those battles have been replaced by Jerry Falwell, Fred Phelps and James Dobson.

I’m on the American Family Association’s mailing list (“Know Your Enemy” and all that). You wouldn’t believe the hateful, simple-minded garbage they spit out several times a week. 99.9% of it is either about homosexuals or a TV show they're trying to ban. There's never a word about species’ being killed off, or people being downsized out of their jobs and onto the street. Their website has to be seen to be believed. Look at this shit. You'll either bust a gut laughing or be so pissed off you'll have steam coming out of your ears — or both.

There are undoubtedly millions of Christians who are well-intentioned and concerned about other people. But unfortunately their “leaders” — the ones who keep grabbing all the headlines (and the money) — are a bunch of simple-minded douchebags who wish they could turn the clock back to the good old days of the Spanish Inquisition and the Salem Witch Trials.

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Blogger J. Marquis said...

It really is amazing. When I was young and going to church it seemed like the emphasis was nearly always on kindness and helping people. And I do think there are a lot of mainstream churches out there that still have that attitude but they seem to get drowned out by the Falwells and Dobsons.

March 11, 2007 at 6:46 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

J. Marquis: Yup, things sure have mutated over the past few decades. I think you're right, that there are lots of churches that still emphasize helping and serving, but for some reason the Falwells and Dobsons have the loudest megaphones right now.

March 11, 2007 at 8:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As always, the true "Christians" are doing their thing quietly and unobtrusively. These loud people who are so busy pointing out how right they are (and you're not) are not Christians at all, not in the real meaning of the word. What a bunch of assholes. And how stupid are we if we continue to buy this line of bullshit?


March 11, 2007 at 8:47 PM  
Blogger Kvatch said...

Just flogging my own blog here. I just posted on, Dr. Albert Mohler, the President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and his insane defense of establishing the genetic basis of homosexuality...so that gays can be "cured" in the womb.

March 11, 2007 at 9:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

CAT: That's absolutely right, the true Christians are doing their work for the sake of the work itself, not so they can be in the limelight and thump the Bible in everyone's face. I think the Bible even has a quote from Jesus, telling people to pray privately, not to make a public display out of it. I don't know what the gung ho Fundamentalists have to say about that.

Kvatch: I'll check out your post. Gays being cured in the womb, eh -- those Fundies are getting funnier all the time.

March 11, 2007 at 9:33 PM  
Anonymous JollyRoger said...

As a child of the South, let me assure you that the Jesusistan element has always been out there. And I know of what I speak-there were 7 Baptist ministers among my uncles, and my grandpa was a Baptist minister himself. He didn't subscribe in any way to the Jesusistan philosophy, but we were certainly aware of it. Nn-Jesusistan Christianity is being drowned in that bathtub Norquist used to talk about, and it's being done with the willing cooperation of Chimpy, who needs a State religion to act as a permanent prop to his lunatic rule. The first, most important thing to do to break the Jesusistan hold on today's Christian discourse is to end Chimpy's "faith-based initiatives," which are in fact payoffs for Jesusistan preachers willing to toe the Chimpy line. The next most important thing to do is to shout about their hypocrisy from every mountaintop. Publish their crimes, sins and transgressions-make as many people as you can aware of who and what they REALLY are. This isn't hard to do-just check out the very real ties between groups like Focus on the Family and more dated "Christian" organizations that use white sheets and hot crosses as props.

March 11, 2007 at 11:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Suffrage, Slavery, Segregation? The Major Christian Churches were responsible for these problems in the first place. Throw in Antisemitism and temperance. It was always those minor "flakey" Christians like the quakers who led the reform, the big churches were slow to follow and they then had to fight other big churches.

The Catholics put the big rubber stamp on Slavery and Segregation then fought it in the south which was already anti-catholic. It was Pope John Paul II that finally apologized for the Catholic Church's endorsement (what?) 150 years afterwards.

In the 1990s the Southern Baptist Church, which had split from the mainstream Baptist Church over Slavery FINALLY Apologized for that in one of their conventions.

That was resolution number 2

Resolution number 1 was to boycott Disney for allowing domestic partner benefits.

We can see things haven't changed much in over 200 years eh?

Jerry Falwell wants you to forget (and most people have) that he used to debate Martin Luther King that the Bible supported segregation.

Why do you think Bob Jones University's racist policies have gone supported for so long?

Regards to the environment: Many people believe that God put us here to be the dominant animal and gave us this earth to do with what we please.


March 12, 2007 at 12:24 AM  
Blogger Snave said...

Ugh. Those links... phew. I should have known better than to have accessed them without a good pair of noseplugs.

I keep hoping that America is reaching a saturation point from which the evangelical movement will not be able to influence things more than it presently does, and from which their influence will begin to decline. I think that is what's happening with the right-wing media trash like AM radio, FOX "News", etc. We the people can only ingest so much of that crap before we can't hold any more and have to start spitting some of it back out.

As Bush continues to implode (at which point will he be unable to implode any further?), I think the rest of the right-wing stranglehold on power will decrease accordingly.

Here are some fun lyrics from Yo La Tengo. I think "Big Day Coming" was most likely intended to be a love song, but it could also be about other things, such as a national state of mind:

"Big Day Coming"

Let's be undecided, let's take our time
And sooner or later, we will know our mind
We'll be on the outside, we won't care
Cause we're together, that's somewhere

And there's a big day coming, about a mile away
There's a big day coming, I can hardly wait

Let's wake up the neighbors, let's turn up our amps
And we know we're used to without a plan
We can play a Stones song, sitting on a fence
And it'll sound pretty good, til I forget how it ends

I woke up early, couldn't go back to sleep
Cause I had been thinking of where it all would lead
So I made you wake up, I said, "Let's take a walk,
I wanna hold your hand, we don't have to talk"

March 12, 2007 at 12:33 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Jolly Roger: A lot of “Christian” leaders have been working hand-in-glove with racist groups and Big Business since at least the 1930s. Wayne Madsen specializes in researching these connections. I don’t know how credible he is, but if you Google that name you'll find some shocking information.

Those “faith-based” initiatives are a crock of shit. That’s just a way for Bush to get around that pesky church-state separation.

Erik: From the ‘50s through the ‘70s there were a lot of church groups involved in everything from civil rights to ending the Vietnam war. Even if these religious groups were on the fringe, they were a lot more prominent then than they are now. There's always been a lot of behind-the-scenes cooperation between church leaders and various rightwing groups (like I was saying above). But there were also lots of Christian groups who helped with progressive causes; who actually lived up to the Christian teachings about helping and serving. And those groups seem almost non-existent now, or else they're so far off the radar that nobody knows about them.

As far as the environment goes, the Bible refers to Man having stewardship over the Earth. Some Christians actually interpret that as meaning people should be taking care of animals and the environment. Supposedly a slight majority of Evangelicals are concerned about environmental problems, but they use the term “Creation Care” so they don’t have to associate themselves with those godless liberal environmentalists.

Snave: Yeah, noseplugs should be standard equipment when viewing those wacky rightwing sites. I sure hope Americans have gotten saturated with Fundamentalist propaganda and rightwing drivel in general. At some point the pendulum has to swing the other way or our government will end up being the Christian counterpart to the Taliban.

Interesting lyrics.

March 12, 2007 at 1:40 AM  
Blogger Candace said...

AMEN, Brother. Today's Christians apparently forgot to RTFM.

As to what the fuck happened - The Fundies are the "spiritual" descendants of the Puritans, who were so obnoxious that they were kicked out of Europe. Thanks to Reagan's pandering for their votes and dollars (because he sure as hell didn't give a shit about their theology), they've returned to power.

I think they've been so successful because Fundamentalism (of any faith) attracts a certain mindset that is primal in its nature. Unfortunately, most of us have not evolved past that early, pack (tribal) mentality found in all primates. There's the need for a strong Alpha male leader ("God") who will, if properly appeased, protect the tribe from danger. It's a very simple setup - the Alpha makes all the rules and the Betas (male and female) help him enforce the rules. The Alpha decides who gets punished and who gets rewarded. So if you can't be Alpha, what you really want to do is ally yourself with him and become a good Beta. That way, you get to lord it over the lower members of the pack, plus you get to share the best food and in some cases, you even get breeding rights.

Flash forward to Homo Sapiens Sapiens, and we see the same principles in play. How secure the Fundies must feel, being so close to God (the Alpha) and all. How comforting to "know" that he will protect them from harm and give them rewards - maybe not now, but some day - and most importantly, how delicious to anticipate his punishments on the unbelievers. It's this delicious anticipation, I think, that attracts these judgmental types the most. Why else would the "shaming finger" be so frequently and gleefully wagged at the rest of us? And that's exactly what it is - shame! on you for not believing, for being homosexual, for fornicating, or whatever - shame! Once the offending individual has been pointed out, the pointer reinforces his own Beta status in his own mind, gets all the other Betas to join him in the shaming (strength in numbers), AND, will probably even get to take part in the punishment (locking people up, say, for sodomy), and will "certainly" get to watch the pointees being tortured for eternity from their comfy seats up in heaven where the Alpha sits.

I held my nose and signed up for the AFA mailing list. Gack. Um, thanks.

March 12, 2007 at 7:24 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Candace: Excellent analysis. I can't think of anything to add to that. You've got them dialed.

Have fun with the AFA's e-mails. Some of them are infuriating; some of them are hilarious.

March 12, 2007 at 11:30 AM  
Blogger Mags said...

Tom, you're so right.

The greatest levels of cognitive dissonance I experience usually happens when I come across these conservative "Christians" and read the hateful, exclusionary, and totally un-Christan-like behavior that they espouse and exhibit, in the name of G-O-D.

What freakin' god do they worship? Because I know it's certainly not the same as mine. Growing up, I was always taught that God = Love. And yes, I may be one of the few liberals who still practice some kind of faith, but I find that a lot of the religious values I espouse are a lot more "Christian" than these people.

Don't even get me started with the egregious hypocrisy we see in high-profile "ministers" as some of your commenters have already mentioned.

If one were to live his/her life as a Christian, they'd really be more liberal than conservative. I mean, whatever happened to "love thy neighbor"?

Somehow, somewhere, the message got all screwed up. It reminds me of a great Margaret Cho line, in which she says that somewhere in Heaven, God's looking down at us and saying,

"That's NOT what I meant!"

March 12, 2007 at 3:30 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Mags: Cognitive dissonance -- that's exactly what those people are suffering from. I don't know how they manage it. They claim they interpret the Bible literally, that it's 100% infallible; and yet they disregard 95% of it. They must be doing some serious compartmentalizing.

If there's a god, I'm sure he or she is yelling "That's NOT what I meant!"

March 12, 2007 at 5:57 PM  
Blogger Elvez73 said...

Tom, very astute analysis of so called modern Christian fundamentalists. It has always seemed to me that if these folks spent half as much time towards helping the poor and actual Christian ideals instead of banning books and movies and persecuting gay people, they could actually cahnge this country for the better. It will never happen while narrow minded bigots like Dobson, Robertson, and Falwell remain influential.

March 13, 2007 at 7:13 PM  
Blogger Ricardo said...

Yeah these guys got the limelight thanks to some conservative politicians that thought they too were on a mission from God and kind of let these guys use government as a bully pulpit. their 15 minutes are almost up. I think they don't speak for the majority of Christians and that sleeping giant has woken up. they will be sent home, tail between legs.

March 13, 2007 at 10:28 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Elvez73: Thanks. Yup, these Fundamentalists sure have their priorities twisted around. They spend so much time dithering over who’s gay and who’s reading dirty magazines, when they could really make a difference by helping people. It’s their own fault if the biggest assholes among them — Falwell, Robertson, Dobson — are their leaders.

Ricardo: I hope you're right, that these people’s 15 minutes of fame and their Mission from God are almost over. The rest of the country has suffered enough these past 3 decades. I sure hope they don’t speak for the majority of Christians.

March 14, 2007 at 12:24 AM  

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