Category Archives: Religion

The White Man’s Burden

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Heroic, Benevolent Conquerors

Ever notice that all groups have a tendency to create a mythology of superiority, complete with creation stories, cosmologies, and a prophesied ultimate victory?

Western Superiority

“Western civilization” is a loose term generally referring to the culture of Europe, and by extension to North America and other European settlements. It appears to be a universal human trait that self-identified groups think, quite simply, that they are the best people on earth. Other people are therefore (obviously) inferior. If the inferior group is no threat, they are seldom noticed, but if they are perceived to be a threat in any way, it becomes a duty approaching the sacred that the inferior group be subdued or destroyed.

The Chosen People

It is a sacred duty because the superior group is the best example of humanity on earth, the benchmark all other people should strive toward, God’s Chosen People, and whether that phrase is used or carefully avoided, the actions and attitudes of the superior group betray that this is how they regard themselves. This attitude can be seen in Jews, Muslims, and Christians, mixed with and empowered by their religious ideology. It is not limited to any of these, however, or to any religion. Anti-religious groups, such as the Russian and Chinese communist regimes, displayed the same superiority complex and zeal-no, duty-to eliminate threats from inferior groups.

Eurocentrism Creation Myth

Eurocentrism is a tendency to interpret the world in terms of European superiority. The mythological Eurocentric creation story, endlessly repeated in history books especially in the past few hundred years, is that Reason and Democracy sprang up fully-formed in ancient Greece, sort of a miraculous virgin birth of the virtues that would then flow through the mighty Roman Empire to Europe and to North America. Africa, India, and the Middle East, those barbarous, dark-skinned, and backward peoples, not only contributed nothing to the advancement of civilization, but are even now languishing in need of the superior virtues possessed by us.

Writings abound betraying the Eurocentric superiority complex, but few are as revealing as Rudyard Kipling’s poem, The White Man’s Burden (1899) The first stanza:

 Take up the White Man’s burden–
Send forth the best ye breed–
Go bind your sons to exile
To serve your captives’ need;
To wait in heavy harness,
On fluttered folk and wild–
Your new-caught, sullen peoples,
Half-devil and half-child.

Genocide and Sterilization

The poem continues for five more stanzas in this vein, but the first stanza is enough to illustrate several factors. For one thing, we are breeding superior stock, like conscientious farmers improving the herd. This may seem silly, but this is the idea behind the American Eugenics program, changes in U.S. immigration law, and the forced sterilization of over 60,000 “unfit” American citizens. That program was instrumental in and complicit with, Hitler’s plan to produce his blonde, blue-eyed superman and usher in 1,000 years of Amazing Aryan-ness. Ideas matter.

Serving the Backward

The poem also mentions that you will take captives in order to serve them. Your captives are sullen, half-devil and half-child. The Eurocentric worldview (and its child, American Exceptionalism) is totally blind to the possibility that when you invade a nation and take the people captive, treating them like half-devil and half-child, this might make them sullen. Why aren’t they grateful? You, the superior people have come to elevate their backward selves to something approaching the level of their own glorious civilization.

To be generous, this displays an innocence, a naiveté that is almost sad, and a blindness that does not bode well for missions to the strangely sullen. But I don’t feel like being generous, so I’ll say that this displays an arrogance and stupidity that can only end in tears.

When Will We Ever Learn?

This poem was written in 1899 and we haven’t learned our lesson yet. At a recent gathering I attended, an elderly man said that it was good that our troops were in Afghanistan, because our troops can show how nice and fair and kind Americans are. This will make the Afghan people want to be like us and so they will set up a capitalist democracy, which will make them prosperous and happy.

I had promised my daughter not to say anything radical at this gathering; these were her friends, and a promise is a promise.

Chinese Troops at the Mall

But imagine occupying Chinese troops wandering around town, patrolling the local mall, barging in to people’s homes and arresting them; treating everyone like inferior human beings. Some of the local boys in my neck of the woods would be taking pot shots at these troops. They would be called “insurgents” or “terrorists.” We would all (sullenly!) hate those troops, except for those of us who chose to collaborate, and most would secretly aid the insurgents. What we would want, with all our hearts, is for those funny-looking, heavily-armed, Chinese-speaking troops to get to hell out.

American Racism: Eugenics Overview

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Right-wing Deal with the Devil

death

Perfect Rightwing candidate: He's white, carries a weapon, loves wars, executions and hates health care

The trouble with making a deal with the devil is that you can never trust him not to turn on you in the end.

Faust is the star of a classic German legend in which a successful, but dissatisfied man makes a deal with the devil, exchanging his soul in order to get everything he wants on earth. A faustian bargain describes a deal in which an ambitious person trades their integrity to achieve power. This resonating theme keeps recurring in art, music, and literature-and maybe in real life. Al Pacino, in the movie The Devil’s Advocate, delivers such a powerful speech as the devil, that ever since I watched it I have to remind myself when I see him that, no, he’s not really the devil, just a very gifted actor.

Racism is Devilish

Human beings cherish devilish ideas at times and one of the most potent and persistent is racism. According to anthropologist Donald Brown in his book Human Universals, preference for our own kinship group, or tribe, is completely natural. It serves a good purpose, in that it motivates us to care for each other in manageable groups. We can’t care for all of mankind the way we care for those in our tribe. In fact, some who claim to care for all mankind fail to care for their own children, thus they avoid caring for anyone at all on a nitty-gritty level.

Prejudice is Common

Prejudice is also natural, defined as a tendency to judge quickly, to take a few cues and promptly put people or events into little pre-labeled boxes in our brain. We label people “thug” hick” “snob” and such things based on a glance. We are often wrong, so why do we do this? I call it part of the Principle of Cognitive Conservation, the tendency to avoid thinking too much. It can also be called stupidity. But it’s ubiquitous, saves us lots of energy, and can be corrected when we become aware of it.

Core Racist Beliefs

Racism is more sinister. It is a complete, organized belief system that maintains that the race to which you belong is superior (racists never think any other race is superior.) The superior race does not have to operate by normal laws of human decency toward members of lesser races. Lesser races are meant to either be eliminated or to serve the superior race. They can be abused in any manner the superior race deems fit-in their superior opinion.

Racism, Religion, and the Pit

Racism is a devilish idea, yet some religious racists justify racism from their scriptures, which generally take a dim view of the devil. Then again, anyone can justify anything from any collection of books. Racism is also a powerful idea, drawing strength from the natural and universal human preference for kinship groups and revving it up until it plummets right over the cliff of morality and into the pit.

Right Wing and Racism

Right wing groups, which rely heavily on fear and a consequent need for order, like to employ racism as a propellant to power. The Jew, the Mexican, the immigrant, the “other” is to blame for our difficulties. We can’t be to blame, we are superior-it’s the “other” we need to kill, export, or incarcerate and the right wing politician promises to take care of this for us. They will keep us safe; return us to the purity we once enjoyed. Obviously, we detect echoes of Hitler, but do we detect this in our current political discourse?

The “Other”

The Republican Party which once ran such honorable men as Dwight Eisenhower, has been playing footsie with the devil. The “other” is those lazy welfare queens Ronald Reagan mentioned, those brown people coming across our borders, those other brown people wearing funny scarves on their heads, well, really, brown people in general. Perhaps worse than the brown people are the white pointy-headed liberals who are traitors to their race and to the mythical pure beginnings of the Republic.

Death Debates

In two recent debates for Republican presidential candidates, the big applause-getters came when Rick Perry’s Texas was noted as having executed 234 more people than any other state. Applause. Kill them, kill them all. The next big applause-getter was when Ron Paul was asked a hypothetical question about a 30 year-old uninsured man who gets sick. Should he be allowed to die? Cheers from the audience-hell, yeah, let him die!

Now that they’ve let the demon out into the general population, has it taken control? Can a Republican get elected who isn’t in favor of death to ‘others?’ A Republican who tries to take a moderate position on war, or brown people, or sick people? Can you make a deal with the devil and expect him to dance to your tune? Or will he turn and consume you?

 

 

We are What we Believe

I am Right

Despite Differences, Humans Share Common Concepts

We all believe lots of things and they are important to us in relation to where they lie on our personal belief continuum. Our belief continuum is unique; differing from one person to the next at least as widely as our fingerprints do. Some things we disbelieve, that is, we believe they are false, some things we mildly assent to, but our positive core beliefs define to ourselves who we are.

The Belief Continuum

The belief continuum has hundreds, maybe thousands of points. On one end is “No way, not ever,” and on the other is “Absolutely-beyond-a-shadow-of-a-doubt.” In between are such degrees as “Hmm, maybe,” “Probably,” “Dubious,” and I don’t think so.” The center of the continuum is cold; we don’t care very much whether the thing is true or not. Spreading from the cold center, our beliefs get warmer and warmer until the extreme ends of our continuum are blazing hot.

Belief in a Creator

For example, if I believe there is a Creator, the Ultimate Value, who is the source of all that is good, then I arrange my other beliefs in line with this belief. I try to live my life in line with what is good, with love and truth and beauty. This Absolutely-beyond-a-shadow-of-a-doubt belief is a hot belief that defines who I am. I find that this core belief makes me a more open, joyful, and loving person and think that if everyone believed the same, it would put an end to all the suffering man inflicts on his fellow man.

Belief in Reason or Science

On the other hand, if I believe that there is no Creator, that in fact this is a myth created to control people through fear, then the person who believes in a Creator is deluded and part of the root of all the suffering man inflicts on his fellow man. This belief should be stomped out in order to eliminate ignorance and suffering. Nevertheless, it is not enough to identify the source of evil. This person, too, must have a positive Ultimate Value. Perhaps it is Reason, or Science, the environment, or Art. This becomes a hot belief that defines who he is.

Which Belief is Right?

The prospect for irreconcilable conflict between these two persons is obvious. The conflict is irreconcilable because neither one really employs reason in the conflict.* These are hot beliefs being challenged, emotional attacks on the core of what the other person is. It is very personal, it feels-life threatening, and in a way, it is. If what you are is under attack, then it is an existential conflict. The conflict only appears irreconcilable, though. What the two people share is the belief that there is something transcendent, something of Ultimate Value, and the belief that man should stop inflicting suffering on his fellow man. It really boils down to an argument over who has discovered the correct Ultimate Value, and that argument cannot be resolved.

Unending and Futile Arguments

The argument can rage on and on, and in fact, it has…to no avail. The more argument, the more each side heats up and hardens their core belief; the more they each seek confirmation from others, from “authorities,” and from their social groups. This works the same with political or economic or child-rearing core beliefs. It seems hopeless, but there is a way out.

1). Admit that you choose what you believe. You have thought about it and your belief is justified as far as you can determine. I do not suggest thinking about the possible fallacy of your core belief because that’s too scary to contemplate. Just admit that the beliefs you hold dear are subjective, just like everyone else’s.

2). Realize that others also choose their core beliefs and they have the same right to do so that you do. Must you wipe out all opposition from the face of the earth to justify your beliefs? That betrays a certain insecurity, don’t you think?

3). Setting aside your differing Ultimate Values, do you have any common ground? Anthropologist Donald Brown in his book Human Universals listed 200 things that all humans have in common across all time and cultures, such as affection felt and expressed, planning for the future, and resistance to abuse of power. You do have some of these in common with any other human being, no matter how much you appear to differ.

Most people believe, and it’s a fairly hot belief, that we should extend to others the same rights we claim for ourselves. If that belief is acted upon, then the two persons mentioned should extend to each other not only the right to form their own beliefs, but also freedom from ridicule, attack, and attempts to stamp out their core beliefs.

Never in history has anyone changed what they deeply believe due to force or ridicule. They may have conformed to the oppressor outwardly to save their lives, but one other human universal-a private inner life-prevents the extinguishing of core beliefs by either tyrants or thought police.

*Cognitive researcher George Lakoff says the 18th Century Enlightenment view of human reason is way off. Our thoughts are actually 98% unconscious and employ frames and metaphors, not logic.

 

Ann Coulter’s Demonic

Ann Coulter's Demonic Needs a Warning Label

To borrow John Adams comment on the pamphlet Common Sense, “What a poor, ignorant, malicious, short-sighted, crapulous mass.” A conservative friend, knowing I am a Christian and a writer, suggested I read Ann Coulter’s latest book, Demonic. I appreciate the suggestion, because this is one beautiful piece of crapulous right-wing propaganda.

Coulter Quoting Scripture

Coulter starts out by quoting a Bible passage, the story of Jesus and the demon-possessed man of Gerasenes from the fifth chapter of Mark. To sum it up, Jesus landed on shore and commanded the demon to leave the man; then demanded its name, to which it replies, “My name is Legion, for we are many. “Legion,” Ms. Coulter informs us, means “many” and many means a mob.

Mobs are Demonic?

Making an impressive leap of thought Ms. Coulter reasons that “mob” means the mob of the French revolution, the Russian revolution, Maoist gangs looting and impaling babies, the KKK terrorizing Republican and blacks, the mob of the Los Angeles riots, the mob of the riots at 1968 Democratic convention, masked hoodlums smashing up Seattle when bankers came to town, throngs of Muslims at Khomeini’s funeral, and left-wing protesters at the Republican National Convention.

Demonizing Your Opponent

This deserves more than first place in the thought-leap contest. This deserves an Olympic gold medal. Granted that legion can mean many and many can mean a mob, the many in the Bible passage would mean a mob of demons, not revolutionaries or protesters, which are human beings. I’m quite certain she doesn’t mean to imply that humans beings, no matter how distasteful she finds them, are demons, because she clearly says that “demonization of opponents” is a characteristic of mob leaders, and you can’t demonize your opponents any more plainly than coming right out and calling your opponents demons.

Propagandist Images

I’m sure she doesn’t mean to create a false mental image of her opponents, either. In other words, she cannot mean that though she knows these are human beings, she wants the reader to form an image of them as demons. I know this because she says that relying on “propagandist images” is another characteristic of a mob leader.

Dead Baby Propaganda

The reference to Maoist gangs looting and impaling babies on bayonets certainly stirs the passions of any decent reader. A reader who is familiar with the history of propaganda, however, will have to wonder about it, because many war propaganda stories feature murdered babies. The story of babies being taken from incubators by Iraqi soldiers (false) and the British stories about Germans impaling Belgium babies on their pointy helmets (false) are good examples. But Ms. Coulter could not be lying to stir the passions of her readers, because according to Coulter, “stirring the passions” is a characteristic of a mob leader.

Revolutionary Democrats

Each of the mobs Ms. Coulter lists had complex and compelling reasons for revolting or rioting, and she must have studied enough history to know that. As Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence “…experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.” In other words, people do not rise up in revolt because they are bored, or mob-led by Democrats, but because they can no longer stand the abuses under which they have been suffering, often for many years.

Boston Tea Party

Admittedly, mob violence is not justified, and we must admire protesters who absorb the blows of the billy clubs without fighting back. Revolutions sometimes go bad-people get killed. Private property is often destroyed, like when the American colonists disguised themselves as Indians and threw the private property of British merchants into Boston Harbor. That mob, from the right-wing perspective, was a good mob; good enough to name a right-wing political movement after. It probably was not regarded as a good mob by the British merchants, however.

 Slogans, Slogans

Ms. Coulter accuses the left of relying on slogans, repeated over and over, to stir up the mobs. Republicans, she assures us, have only used slogans four times throughout history. This might make Republican consultant, Frank Luntz, 2009 Liar of the Year, feel insecure. After all, he is hired specifically to come up with slogans for Republicans to repeat over and over. “Tax and spend,” “Obamacare,” “tax relief,” “death tax,” “death panels,” are all phrases Republican politicians can be counted on to trot out for every speech.

Republican Liar of the Year

Luntz, who runs focus groups to determine which slogans have the most emotional impact, won Liar of the Year for labeling the Health Care plan a “Government Takeover.” Slogans for 2011 include, You Decide, No Excuses, Imagine, You Deserve, Let’s Get to Work, and others and Luntz claims that if Republicans are communicating properly, you can count on hearing these phrases fall frequently from Republican lips.

Felons and Welfare Recipients

Democrats, according to Coulter consist of “soccer moms, actresses, felons, MSNBC viewers, aging Red-diaper babies, welfare recipients, heads-up-their asses billionaires and government workers-who can never be laid off.” This is a great illustration of the level of debate she has built her career on. Apparently she has never advanced beyond the name-calling found so frequently on elementary school playgrounds, where kids call each other “poopy pants.”

Crowd Psychology

Coulter quotes from a book written in 1896 called The Crowd-a Study of the Popular Mind and claims that both Hitler and Mussolini used it. If you are so conservative that you are actually reactionary, 1896 is pretty current. Besides which, Hitler and Mussolini were fascists and fascists are not lefties. The crowd, according to the 1986 book, is transfixed by images (like American flags?) display extreme black and white thinking (like liberals are demons and conservatives are heroes?) and demonstrate a religious worship of their leaders (like the cult of Ronald Reagan?)

An author that accuses her opponents of doing things that she immediately, in full view of her readers, does-is either very stupid or very evil. I do not think Ann Coulter is stupid. To use the Bible to back up a pack of lies is disgusting and the devil, Jesus said, is a liar.

US Homegrown Terrorists-Could it Happen Here?

Homegrown US Terrorists

I just saw a headline asking if the US could experience homegrown terrorism like Norway recently did. Duh. Not only could we, we have, when Timothy McVeigh bombed the Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995, killing 168. The US Military defines terrorism as “The calculated use of unlawful violence or threat of unlawful violence to inculcate fear; intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious, or ideological. According to The Department of Defense, “Domestic terrorism is probably a more widespread phenomenon than international terrorism.”

Terrorism: Who did it?

When the early reports came in on the Norway tragedy, news outlets speculated on which Islamic terrorist group might be responsible. Even after blonde Norwegian Anders Breivak was arrested, a few news outlets suggested he might have been radicalized by outside forces. According to Breivak’s 1,500 page compendium, he worked alone and urged others to work alone as well, in order to avoid detection. Most of the forces that radicalized him were “inside” forces, inside Breivik himself.

US Terrorists

Besides Timothy McVeigh, many have forgotten that the Ku Klux Klan was responsible for beatings and lynchings for many years following the Civil War, though the KKK is now trying to clean up its image and presents itself as a political movement against immigration and for family values. The Aryan Nation is not going mainstream, however, and openly admires Hitler, militarism, and the wonders of the Master Race.

Terrorism: Why?

I have spent time with some Aryan Nation members. Are they terrorists? According to the definition, they would have to actually use violence to qualify. Talking about violence is not against the law in the land of the free, but talk about violence they did-and guns, lots and lots of guns. I questioned them about their ideology, which is quite…unmovable shall we say. If I thought the world was as they see it, I might think they made sense. Brievik shared their opinion that there was a conspiracy by inferior races to take over the world and destroy “civilization.” Think of it-the end of civilization-what sacrifices would an honorable make to prevent that? (The word “honor” comes up frequently among  Aryan Nation members.)

Terror Watch List

According to the ACLU, there are about one million names on the bloated Homeland Security terror watch list. With that many names, there must be tens of thousands of American citizens. It is highly unlikely that they are all potential terrorists, and also unlikely that a person operating under the radar like Breivik did would get listed.

Terrorism is Not About Religion

Terrorists come in all races and religions. Al Quaeda, as we are so well aware, is based on a certain interpretation of Islam. Timothy McVeigh was an atheist, as were the Weather Underground, an anti-war group that actually bombed the Pentagon in the 1970s (they also evaded capture for years and eventually turned them selves in.) Breivak was first labeled as a right-wing Christian fundamentalist, but according to his compendium, to him Christian simply meant “not Muslim, Hindu, or some other religion,” and he noted that Christian-atheists and Christian-agnostics were welcome to take part in the revolution. The Klan claims to be Christian, but many Christians would disagree.

Terrorism and Injustice

Terrorists have in common that they brood about an injustice that they believe cannot be corrected through normal channels. McVeigh witnessed what has come to be called the 1993 Waco siege, in which 76 men, women, and children died. McVeigh was also aware of the the 1992 Ruby Ridge incident, which involved the the Randy Weaver family and resulted in a Senate investigation calling for reforms in federal law enforcement. McVeigh decided he certainly couldn’t go to the police for justice, since the police were the perpetrators. The Weather Underground had protested against the Vietnam war peacefully for years before they decided that protesting had no effect. Breivik was convinced that no one could say anything negative about Muslim immigrants in Norway, or they would be branded a racist and fired from their job. Breivik despised “political correctness” and considered it to be a tool of the “Marxist multiculturalists” to further their plan for destroying civilization.

Terrorism in the US

Homegrown terrorism has happened and can happen again in the US. After all, the so-called Indian Wars certainly constituted terrorism to the Native Americans. Behind that question is the real question, “What can we do to be safe?” That would depend on how much liberty citizens are willing to trade for an ultimately dubious security.

The Weather Underground arose in response to a perceived unjust war. McVeigh acted in response to perceived unjust acts by law enforcement. Brievik spent nine years planning a response to what he perceived as an unjust threat to civilization. We can not do much about the perceptions of extremists, though divisive fear-mongering from pundits and politicians only adds fuel to the fire of fevered imaginations. We can, however, do something about divisive fear-mongering, and we can do something about genuine injustice.

Right-Wing Extremists: An Inside View

Flag and cross

For God, the Fatherland, and the WASPs

Yesterday in Norway, a murderer apparently killed over 90 people with a bomb and automatic weapons. The knee-jerk response of the press was to speculate about which Islamic terrorist group was responsible. As of this writing, police have arrested a tall, blonde Norwegian man described as a Christian right-wing extremist. I have been warning about these groups for several years and tracing the scary growth of their influence, but we have been distracted by the preferred storyline of the brown-skinned, bearded terrorists until now.

My Landlord the Right-Wing Extremist

Since losing my job in the crash of 2008 my housing options had narrowed. I pulled up to the trailer park to ask about a rent and noticed that my potential landlord drove a huge pickup with a big Confederate flag in the back window. “Is there going to be a problem?” I wondered. I had run into plenty of racism in Deepsouth, since my daughter is bi-racial. I didn’t have a lot of choices, though. I took the rent and ended up drinking coffee every morning with my landlord, who I learned, belonged to the Aryan Nation. I also joined the group around the campfire every evening, just shooting the breeze and telling jokes. I try not to be judgmental; I try to view less-than-ideal situations as learning experiences.

My Daughter and the KKK

Strangely, my landlord was very fond of my daughter, but then she has such a sparkly personality, she had even won over a prominent member of the KKK in our previous town. The Klansman was a wealthy citizen and came to the local elementary school every St. Patrick’s Day to pass out candy to the kids. He was very friendly to my daughter. She asked him, “So I’m half black, why do you like me?” “Oh, it’s not your fault,” he answered, ruffling her curly hair. She was eleven years-old but knew what he meant by “fault.” “Whose fault is it?” she asked. “It’s your mother’s fault,” he said. “Why isn’t it my father’s fault?” she asked. “Oh, you’re father is an animal-he’s not responsible.”

Racism is Alive and Well in the USA

She wasn’t upset by this conversation. She had heard worse. I asked her what she thought about this prominent citizen’s remarks. “Nothing-he’s an ignorant bastard,” she answered matter-of-factly, and looked at me directly, daring me to rebuke her for using profanity. I did not. I realize that readers from more liberal climates may wonder why I didn’t lodge a complaint with the school system or crusade against discrimination or something. I didn’t do any of those things because I didn’t want to get killed. I had heard first-hand stories of cross-burnings and threatened lynchings and had heard the word “nigger” so often I had almost, but not quite, overcome my cringe-reflex

Eating Chicken Wings with the Aryan Nation

My landlord invited me a Christmas party he was throwing for his friends and I attended. “This gives a whole new meaning to “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas,” I thought as I watched the Aryan brotherhood eating their chicken wings. We talked about fishing and kids and hunting dogs, subjects where I could usually find common ground with Deepsouth racists. Talk turned to gator hunting. Having looked into getting a permit to hunt gators, I knew a little about that, too. “What’s the best gator bait,” a wiry short-haired guest asked rhetorically. “You just tie a nigger on a rope and throw him out there. If you can’t pull him in fast enough, just go get a fresh nigger and start over.”

The Coming Race War

At this point, I had a visual image and I realized I was in serious danger of throwing up. I glanced around for a wastebasket, just in case. I had to get out of there, but it was too awkward at that moment. They started talking about guns. When Obama was elected, they had started cranking up their arsenals-for when the socialists came to disarm and enslave them.

Well-Armed

Apparently the most recent gun shows had completely sold out of firearms and ammunition and this was alarming to them. A 1,000 rounds of ammo-rationing rule had gone into effect and they were overcoming this by sending their aunties and grannies in to buy another 1,000 rounds. “A thousand rounds? That sounds like a lot. How many thousand rounds do you need?” I asked. They looked at each other like this was a new concept. Apparently there would never be enough rounds for the coming race war which would be led by a coalition of people of any color besides white (blacks, Hispanics, people from the Middle East) and the worst traitors of all-“leftist” white people. They described their arsenals and their survival camps and their plans to blow up whatever place they were in when the end came. They seemed to know a lot about blowing things up. The end was coming, they were pretty sure, but they would die with honor and take a bunch of the enemy along with them.

Right Wing Extremists Pseudo-Christianity

They knew I was a Christian from our campfire chats and they claimed to be Christian also. I asked what they did about the fact that Jesus was a Jew. They actually had a torturous explanation for this that was so convoluted, I couldn’t follow it. They used the Bible in bizarre and twisted ways to bolster their ideology: They were the only pure- blood people, the other, degenerate people were plotting to pollute their pure blood and thus destroy mankind.

Fear and the Master Race

My landlord had been adopted as a child, so I asked how he knew he had pure blood, since he didn’t know who his biological parents were. His answer was also convoluted and full of pagan and Biblical references. I realized that they were actually Hitler fans! Hitler wasn’t dead, but had sat on some magic stone and disappeared into another dimension. I looked around at the Master Race and wondered, “If you are superior, wouldn’t you be smarter, or taller, or have more teeth or something?” Didn’t they have mirrors? I did not ask this question-there was no penetrating the fear-yes-FEAR-that masqueraded as aggression.

Immigrants, Socialists, Terrorists

Never underestimate the power of fear. These people are extremely dangerous. They feed their ideology on stories of immigrants over-running the nation, Islamic terrorists, and any “socialist” government programs in the offing. Immigrants, terrorists, socialists. These code words may bring out the conservative voters, and they may get TV ratings, but they also feed the fear of the Hitler fans, sitting next to their many thousand rounds of ammo, automatic weapons, and homemade bombs, waiting and watching for the attack they are sure is coming.

You may think I am advocating for gun control. I am not. I am advocating for FEAR CONTROL. I am advocating for calling the right wing out every time they throw out hot-buttons words like immigrants, socialists and terrorists. The right wing superiority complex, pseudo-Christianity, and fear-fueled militancy is dangerous-and it is evil.

Christians and Sex

Venus in saran wrap

Sex, Christians, and Saran Wrap

I’m always perplexed by comments that Christians are anti-sex, as I am by comments that Christians are anti-Jew.

Pro-Sex Christians

I’ve been a Christian since 1972, having passed through Catholic-atheist-agnostic-Hindu, and I always found Christians to be quite pro-sex and way overboard pro-Israel. For example, I remember Total Woman, a book used in Bible studies, which suggested meeting your spouse at the door wearing nothing but Saran wrap. So I suspected the anti-sex, anti-Jew ideas come from past-nasty church history, of which there is a great deal, and that is the case. But it does not come from the Bible.

Sex is Good

In Genesis, God makes them male and female, tells them to be fruitful and multiply, and steps back and says, “Well, that’s good.” As the story progresses, people beget, fall in love, cheat on their partners, and let’s face it, have lots of sex. The Bible is at least R-rated, and the Song of Solomon is so hot, rumors have it that young people were once forbidden to read it until they reached marriageable age (which was much younger then.)

Progressive Revelation

The Bible is sixty-six books gathered together; some folk tales, some historical narratives, some poetry, and a whole bunch of song lyrics-otherwise known as Psalms. Revelation is progressive and culturally relevant to the time. That is to say, the culture of nomadic tribal warlords gradually becomes a culture of city-dwellers, artisans, and farmers. Voltaire said, “If God made man in his own image, we have certainly returned the favor.” The people passing the stories down did the same. What else could they do? The tribal God is a god of war, sometimes a god of the mountains, sometimes a god who fits in a certain location, like in the ark which they must carry into battle in order to win.

From Ritual to Relationship

By the time of Jeremiah, the concept has progressed to a God who does not dwell in temples made with human hands, and one who values justice, mercy, and humility. He  does not excuse his people from practicing those virtues because they are Chosen. He does not care about outward rules and rituals as much as what is going on in a man’s heart. By the time Jesus shows up, he has the audacity to say, “It is written…but I say to you….” giving the boot to rules and rituals and even “what is written.” Shocking.

Biblical Marriage?

As for sex, it is reported without so much as a blush, and nowhere is sex reported as dirty or bad. There are rules about sex, just like there are in every society. Rape is proscribed and incest is taboo. Sex is a good thing, but so is chocolate cake. It is not good to eat chocolate cake all day or to have sex with whoever strikes your fancy, such as your mother, your sister, or another man’s wife. It would be hard to take the whole Bible and say, “This is biblical marriage.” King David had several wives, as befits an Oriental potentate, and his son Solomon famously had seven hundred wives and concubines. He could go almost two years without sleeping with the same woman twice, and that was just fine in his society.

You’ve Got be Kidding, Jesus

Jesus comes along and holds up the Ideal in human relationships-this is the highest and best. The first time I read the Sermon on the Mount about turning the other cheek and doing good to those who despitefully use you, I had the reaction his original audience had-“You’ve GOT to be kidding me.” The Sermon on the Mount still bothers me, because I know he wasn’t kidding and I fall short. My falling short is no reason to argue that he was wrong, or to throw out the Ideal. We need a target to aim at, I just find it to be a very tiny bullseye and keep missing. “To miss the mark” is the literal meaning of the word “sin,” though sin has morphed into meaning “some fun God doesn’t want you to have.” The Ideal Jesus holds up about sex is lifetime commitment. Lots of objections can be raised to this Ideal, and I have raised them. But I admit that to fall in love with one person who also loves you and to live together all your life as partners in every possible way-that is a good Ideal. That would be awesome. That it seldom happens means we miss the mark, not that the Ideal is flawed.

Paul and Sex

The Apostle Paul advocated singleness on the basis of the belief that the world would soon end. If the world will end next week, it is better not to marry. Paul goes on to say that if you do marry, that’s OK and by the way, neither of you should deny sex to your partner. So the Bible is consistently pro-sex. Where does the anti-sex stuff come from?

Evil Bodies

Certain Church Fathers influenced by Greek, Roman and Persian philosophies, and pushing Paul’s celibacy option to the extreme, came up with the strange idea that sex is detestable and women are evil because, basically, they walk around looking sexy. Plato had said that the soul and the body are at war, and the Persian Gnostics said the soul is good but the body is evil, your poor good soul is trapped in your evil body, and salvation comes by denying that evil body until it gets free. Persian Gnostics-boo. Certain early “Church Fathers” wrote commentaries on scriptures twisted to their own weird worldview. Current church fathers continue to do this, by the way.

Tertullian (150-230) “The woman is in his eyes a public menace. The man has everything to fear from her, and the first Adam would have done well to be wary about her. The eye with which he looks at her is singularly critical, and not only in De cultu. No occasion is lost to show her vain, conceited, sensual, frivolous, avid and at the same time stupid and cunning.”

St. Augustine (354-430) St. Augustine, a very influential early theologian, had a son with a women he lived with for thirteen years. He also claimed to have prayed before he went out to party, “Lord, make me chaste…tomorrow.” He was heavily influenced by Plato and the struggle between body and soul, a battle which he said he frequently lost before his conversion.

St. Jerome (331-420) St. Jerome was rather extreme in that he wanted even married couples to abstain from sex on the grounds that “corruption attaches to all intercourse.” Although married couples can never be as pure as virgins, he said, at least they can abstain from sex and come closer. Today, St. Jerome would be laughed off stage. Three hundred years earlier, the disciples might have suggested he stop listening to those flaky Persian Gnostics and go find himself a hot Church Mother.

Asceticism vs. “Let’s Party!”

Tertullian and Jerome’s disdain for women is nowhere to be justified by Jesus’ words or interactions with females, and their disgust at sex is nowhere to be found in the rather lusty approach to life, including “corn, oil, and wine” depicted in the Bible. Unfortunately, the rise of monasticism as an ideal held sway until Martin Luther protested, quit being a monk, married a nun, and declared that family life was just was as holy a calling as celibacy. He protested and so was called a Protestant, you see.

Sex Saturation

We stand too close to our own culture to judge it objectively, but even a tiny bit of critical thinking applied to ads leads to the conclusion that here, sex is used to sell everything from cars, to boob jobs, to gym memberships, to toothpaste. An ideal of unrestricted sex with anyone any time, and with no strings attached is presented as natural and healthy, and must have great appeal for say, a seventeen year-old male. Over against that is the ideal of sex with one partner for a lifetime. I actually know a few couples who have achieved this and I’ve been watching for over twenty years for signs of disease or mental illness, but no, they are doing quite well.

Boring, you might say. But you never know, she may be meeting him at the door dressed only in Saran Wrap.