BO to Forum, writing to a friend
Trying to write to someone I know and basically think highly of. Problem is that she is immersed in Evangelical Christianity. She also believes all of their premises, 1. It is not religion because it is just the Bible. 2. Religion and Politics are two entirely separate things. 3. Her church is not Protestant because it does not protest against the Catholic church.
Very difficult to talk with such a person. There is very little in America which has effected politics more than religion.
For this woman, Jesus saved she and members of her family from the more serious depths of alcoholism, "If not for Jesus I'd still be crashing cars."
The husband has serious alcoholism related health problems and probably won't live much longer. The brother died living on the street, addicted to drugs and alcohol. And there all sorts of other family problems, "Jesus giving me trials."
I don't want to be disrespectful to this woman, or to senselessly anger her. But when you are dealing with people's denial systems its really hard to avoid. More and more I see that there is a relationship between Evangelical Christianity and Intoxication.
"these people are not drunk"
Its very different when one is advancing a very small minority movement, than when one is getting intoxicated and silly over the most powerful idol in the land.
For me, I have never in my life been attracted to drugs, alcohol, or Born Again Christianity.
I've never been comfortable with that sort of sociability, camaraderie.
I miss trust it and defend myself against it.
The Evangelicals want to divide the world into those who are Christians and those who are not, those who are Born Again, and those who are not, those who are Saved and those who are not.
The result of this is that real social injustices based on economics and things like access to health care are ignored. Nothing could possibly be more political than a movement which does this, and then says that it is not political. Like Alan Ginsberg said, "Theism is Cosmic Fascism."
Pentecostalism, like she is involved, purports to offer direct filiation with the deity. Okay, but the price of that is submission to a movement in America which wants to establish a theocracy, and to some degree already has.
Intoxication is political, stupidity is political, pig headedness is political, and Born Again Christianity is political.
I try to convince this woman that her "religion" is not sobriety. I try to convince her that the churches have their own interest, a parasitical interest. But to go further, to challenge theism directly, I have to decline with her for now. Seems like it has to be one in stages, like a series of methadone programs.
I am very frustrated now. Very serious things are in play for me. I do intend to write some thoughtful responses. I am reading division three of Deleuze and Guattari's Anti-Oedipus. It is a disturbing text, but I see it as the most essential text.
More and more I am coming to see the close relationship which has always existed between alcohol and Christianity. When a group gives the appearance of intoxication, they are doing it for a reason, power is being wielded.
Yes my friend is a nice person. I agree that based on her beliefs she should be someone to write off. But on the other hand if I want to be involved in community affairs, these are the sorts of people I have to deal with. Once you get away from the strictly cash and carry and the real estate industry influence, then you have the religious groups. This woman is far from the worst. Actually the mega church she belongs to is not the most extreme.
I know a man. Let me call him B. B. lives in a beat up old motor home with disability money payments.
The nature of his disability is in my opinion marginal. I don't begrudge him his payments as I support the development of a complete welfare state. I just think he needs to be honest.
He is a potentially bright man, its just that the socio-cultural environment he comes from does not support education of any type. So he never developed much of a career. Had these things been different his disability would not be enough to hurt him. But he sees nothing wrong, nothing to redress or remedy in his background.
He had been a long term drug user and has a felony conviction. He doesn't see anything in his drug use, except the hand of Satan and his own weakness. The idea that there is repressed pain underneath substance addictions is irrelevant to him.
Despite having a felony conviction, he believes our justice system to be fair and has opposed efforts to promote another local person who is serving a life term over something bogus.
He is opposed to President Obama and talk of a new stimulus plan to create jobs. Rather, he wants a Capital Gains Tax cut to keep employers here and he supports the Republicans.
All of this despite the fact that he hasn't held anything like a regular job in decades. Before he had the motor home and his disability money, he lived in a shack on a river way.
He gets his disability money, food stamps, and medicare. But he supports a political party which wants to take all this way.
That America's deindustrialization and the loss of unionized employement has something to do with the present state of affairs is meaningless to this man.
What he does do is promote the Born Again Christian Movement and oppposition to Satan. Most of his talk is filled with such things, when he is not saying things to support the Republicans. He also insists that Religion and Politics are completely separate.
He says that when he was a drug dealer that he had the best drugs around. Well, now is still a sort of a power broker in the role he serves in various churches and their ministries.
This is the social environment in which I live!
I want to fight back!
I commend your efforts with individuals who seem almost beyond help.
I say almost because I think other people and conversation can have a powerful effect, for bad, but also for good. I'm not someone who thinks a conversation with a staunch believer is always a waste of time. You just don't know.
But I have tried in the past to, for want of a better word, 'save' people.
I can see that most clearly now with my mother and her depressions. I couldn't at the time. How can you see the ways in which you 'sacrifice' yourself to try and induce an attentive response from someone at the age of four? And upwards. I see it now. And I could never give up. She sometimes told me I made her feel better. Fatal!! Well, one learns how to do that. So there was always the hope. Maybe I could save my mum from her sadness.
Consequently I have attracted, to some extent, in the past, a constituency of friends with problems, who tell me the same sort of things. That I always say the right things in a crisis. They often absent-mindedly forget to respond to my pleas for support. I'm not too good at asking for help, but I've got better. Some still don't hear though.
One of those friends was my oldest friend. So close and with such a similar sense of humour people told us we should be a comedy double act.
That was a long time ago. For years now she has been lost to mental illness. After a lousy childhood (much, much worse than mine), and then a marriage to a man who seemed to be a moderate muslim but turned into a religious monster, she escaped and I gave her shelter for 6 months. She slowly became paranoid and delusional, in ways I've never witnessed before. She believed herself to be the most evil and contaminating creature in the universe (something he repeatedly told her in the foulest of ways. I was described by him as a witch. Because I burnt candles).
I finally, after many horrific dramas, got her in hospital, where she thought she was going to be killed in medical experiments. She emerged out of this, only to slide back a few weeks later. Over the years of knowing her I always felt she needed some 'insight'. Some 'enlightenment' before something tipped her over the edge. There was a fantastic intelligence and wit to her coupled with a fragile, lost, sense of self.
I can now see, again, that nothing I did or said ever helped. She is back living with this man, in an even worse situation, and has been seen by a mutual friend muttering loudly to herself on the bus. She lives a 10 minute walk from me and I haven't seen her for 7 years. We were best friends at the age of six, 300 miles away from here. I thought she was smarter than anyone I knew.
I didn't used to believe in behaviours as addictions but now I do. I think people can be addicted (without going into medical characteristics) to being depressed, to pessimism (it's safe, no-one and nothing can disappoint you, and like alcohol it can numb you out), yes, shopping and so on. But I don't think it needs attention unless it's damaging you or others. Pride can prevent people from allowing an illuminating observation into the world they've built to give themselves a 'feeling' of safety. They're not going to let you be right. Not after years of emotional investment.
And on that basis, and many others, people will fight tooth and nail to stay right where they are and possibly using the need of people like me, who want to be needed, to keep themselves cared for! Oh, you know, what they call an 'enabler' in the recovery business.
Long story short. I really don't go in for trying to help or rescue anymore. Unless ASKED. I remain available to any friend in distress of course, unless I pick up that they wish to be left to live the way they've chosen. As this friend did.
I actively cultivate emotionally stable and non-neurotic friends. And I made the happy discovery that I'm not the mild screw-up I used to think I was when younger! All that stuff from my mother was kinda catching for a while!
Yes, I (think) I'm agreeing with you that the recovery movement is about telling people they have sinned and must make amends and with the happy clappy support of the group, can turn a consumptive addiction into an emotional/religious one. It's all the same crap.
I watch people, I learn. I watch drunks hanging out in a park. I listen to stories of AA members. I listen to people make the profession, "I am a Christian." I listen online to the sermons coming from the Word-Faith Pentecostal mega churches. They are all the same people!
Probably Jesus was a drunk.
For some people there is no reason not to drink if that makes one part of the group and it helps to avoid having to be in one's own skin and face one's own pain.
Likewise for some people there is also no reason not to make professions of belief, promoting a literal theism, if that makes one part of the group and helps them avoid having to live in their own skin and face their own pain.
Same thing goes for the Recovery Movement and Psycho Therapy. The common element is always, No Redress. With redress you have to face the pain, and it is immense. Redress means engagement with the harm perpetrated and the people who did it. But so long as you can have some doctrine of Live and Let Live, you don't have to face it.
The reason children continue to be abused is denial. The reason nothing is done about it is denial. Psycho Therapy, the Recovery Movement, and the Born Again Christian Movment are the primary sources of this denial. Born Again Christianity is also probably the largest single reason the United States doesn't have universal health care, as well as being the largest threat against our democracy.
Cheryl, thanks for the reply. My Pentecostal friend does not think she is beyond help. She is a local leader in a mega church and its activities. Lots of people follow her lead and think the world of her.
I wish I could just flip off everyone tied to such relgion. But I have an interest in community affairs. A big part of such are dominated by these sorts of religious groups. Idol worshipping always has mean real power. I can't say that they mean harm either. I mean, what they do in their community outreaches is better than what they do in their evangelical work and their sunday services. Things got funny because she recommended to me in an email a book written by one Rick Warren. I tell you, he and his movement are scary. Word-Faith Pentecostalism amounts to motivationalism repackaged in verses and terminology from the Bible. I feel that it acutally is a occult teaching.
How funny you posted a link to 'Gimme Shelter' by the Stones. It's one of my all time favourite songs and I can play it endlessly without getting numb to it!! Thanks, hadn't heard that version.
But I presume it was the message more than the song.
I have actually done community work with the homeless. Still mean to get back to it. One time I did a Christmas stint in a homeless women's refuge shelter. I thought I'd be spending acres of time cleaning up and peeling sprouts but in fact there was a lot of 'free' time. So I talked to people. And with my artistic skills, did portraits. I was told one woman kept her portrait under her pillow and the first thing she did each morning was pull it out to stare.
How fascinating the stories were! It was a relief to be told that part of our job was to just talk. Engage. These people needed to feel part of the world. So games of Scrabble ensued and the occasional life story. One of which I so dearly wish I'd recorded. So unlike anyone else's life was it. Not full of abuse, just adventure and political jeopardy. She was then old and becoming forgotten, which was why she was there.
So, I agree that none of us should turn away from the lost, the disenfranchised, those sliding towards the bottom. In fact I think it's a sign of emotional and societal health when people can put their needs aside and give some time to the wider community in which they live, whether just their street or the world itself, but the point I was groping towards above, is that sometimes some of us become very attached to trying to rescue people when we want to be rescued ourselves. This isn't a bad thing. Just worth taking in I think. Princess Diana was a good example.
But we also need to remember that our healthy selves are our very best gift to others. People who have that neither use another's misfortune to improve their self esteem (and please..I am in no way saying those are your motives exclusively-I'll explain in a minute), nor do they make the underconfident or the quiet wounded type feel overshadowed or left out. They give themselves freely because they have enough, because they understand that community matters, and perhaps crucially, they can 'model' personal ease. How to feel comfortable in your own skin.
I think we ALL do everything for a big mixture of motives. ALL OF US. I don't believe in pure altruism. That's fine by me. Something masquerading as absolute selflessness always disquiets me. I find superficial values underneath. Religion is especially good at making martyrdom and humility attractive. These are sick aspirations. And as I've said in other places, it is IMPOSSIBLE to aspire to humility. This is automatically vanity. Because to 'aspire' and achieve is to take pride in. And martyrdom only exists where a reward is offered. No sainthood required.
So, if the best you can be is the biggest gift we can share with others (in my humble opinion), what does that look like? And what is it made of?
I think the healthy person can see humour in most things, including themselves, and they aren't threatened by different opinions from their own. They don't live in a state of morbid defensiveness. Or denial.
(I so remember meeting my friend - who became mentally ill - when she had been married a couple of years, seeing how thin and drawn she looked, ill, and how when I phoned her she sounded guarded if he was in the room. I suggested something wasn't right. She laughed it off. I said "Do you think maybe you're in denial about this?". Her answer, "Oh, I'm the Queen of de Nile, I'm the Queen of de Nile!!")
So, summing up my scattered points! We must protect ourselves as or more than we would others. No-one's no good to no-one otherwise! (Did the double negatives cancel each other out?!) Draw the line in the sand. But remember the others. Be there for them. Keep a sense of humour! It gives great perspective.
Yes, I do often listen to youtube music when I do things on the computer. Yes, Gimme Shelter is one that I can listen to over and over and over. I do want revolution. I want the forces of revolution to be unleashed. I want to strike back against things like Psycho Therapy, the Recovery Movement, and Born Again Christianity.
Personally I don't care one way or the other about people making professions of atheism. To me it seems just as arrogant and just as silly as the "I am a Christian" profession. Making professions of atheism is not opposing Born Again Christianity, its just a way of opting out privately. What's needed is more than that.
Thank you for your work at the women's shelter. I am sure that the people there get preached to and Saved continually. They are not really in a position to stand up to it either. As far as I can see, Born Again Christianity is very very similar to Alcoholism. I am convinced that both are rooted in not being able to be in one's skin, as you so aptly describe it. The pain of being in one's skin can be excruciating, when there is unredressed wrong. Alcoholism, Mental Illness, Born Again Christianity, Recovery, and Psycho Therapy all have the common element of zero redress for wrongs.
Tangible Results not Therapeutic Release.
Wars are won through Strategic Engagements with the enemy, not by Seeking Enlightenment.
There is no such thing as Healing without first restoring Honor.
Recently on a Recovery oriented forum I got booted because I protested their moderators deleting such statements about how Born Again Christianity is a drug just like alcohol out of my post.
So I thank you for being there at the shelter and just listening.
As far as writing to my Dry Alcoholic - Pentecostal friend, I don't really want to save her. Mostly I want to facilitate communications. Yes, I could be mean and flip her off. But she has power in community affairs which are of concern to me. Also, I don't see her as bad. She has rejected the worst of the mega churches too. Things became dicey when she recommended an extremely offensive book to me, by one Rick Warren. His is a motivational book, self help, striving to get ahead, wrapped in Biblical language. So I am trying to be straight with her about my feelings. Well sort of. My feelings about people like Rick Warren are negative beyond what you can possibly imagine. My views about all organized Christianity are negative. But I am bending over backwards to try and find common ground, to give a limited endorsement to a less demonic version of it. I'll post a redaction of what I am going to send her. Basically I am endorsing private reflections on the Bible and some aspects of liberal Protestantism, while denouncing the Evangelicals and Pentecostals. This way it makes it hard for her to attack me or dismiss me. While at the same time I am offering her something like Methadone. I am not trying to save her. Really I am trying to protect myself from her condemnation. Sometimes it is better to pay some tribute to local idols, like the Born Again Drunkard Jesus, when that lets you strike a harder blow at some later time.
Yes, our healthy selves are the best gift we can give to others. I've always known this, although I've never actually been in such a position.
I claim zero, ZERO, altruism in anything I do. Rather, there are circumstances which have shaped my life which compel me to fight a vicious war. These same circumstances require me to keep any details concealed as with concealment I have the greatest chance of victory.
I am not a proponent of Christianity. I am not a proponent of Atheism either. I am against professed Theism because I know that it creates idolatry and insanity. But this does not mean that people need to reject theistic feelings.
Thank you so much for your most thoughtful and insightful reply!
REPLY TO A FRIEND ON ANOTHER FORUM:
Thank you for reading my posts with interest. That's good to know.
Though I can't stop you from doing so, and though I am not going to try, it still sounds like you are arguing for Live and Let Live. You ask me, "what if that is alright for other people?" What this means is am I willing to approach them with Live and Let Live? Do I live by bourgiose propriety, temple of the will, or other sorts of Sacred Cow doctrines? The answer is NO!
Yes, certainly most of us do end up letting most slights roll off. Most of us do have to accept that most things which we feel were done wrong to us, we just have to let be.
Where I take exception to all of this is when Live and Let Live becomes a prescibed ideology. As I have noticed, in areas like Religion and the Recovery Movement, and amoungst people who use intoxicating substances to tune out, Live and Let Live is a prescribed ideology. It is also usually so for those who have been the most seriously abused as children.
Why? Because the pain is so so great that it is hard to live in one's skin.
I am not a supporter of religion either. But in the country I live in it is everywhere. Most community oriented groups are religious. Today it just so happened that I was interacting with one, and a man who always does so was preaching. The main message was as it always is, "Jesus died for you sins, so get down on your knees you worthless slime."
This time someone else started counter attacking, accusing the preacher of spreading falsehood and hate. Later on the preacher spoke of alcoholism and I asked him, "Do you know that Evangelical Christianity is a lot like alcoholism?"
Things were getting nasty today. I told someone that Born Again Christianity is the reason we don't have universal health care.
Yes, I could flip all of these people off. But then again, thats kind of like Live and Let Live too. In the end nothing changes.
So I asked the preacher for his influences. First he said he had none, just the Bible. So I challenged that and it went on and on and finally he recited a list. They are all people from England in the 1800's. I have just looked them up and I am going to read. Of course most of them are people who preach that the big end is coming, etc.
It makes no difference what they say, or whether this preacher is saying the same or not. Rather what is important is to surface that there are different views. There are churches that say different things. And I see things differently than this preacher.
We all have the right to our shared religious traditions and our shared scripture. Its not just those who make professions of faith, belief, or religiousness, its all of us. So if we want change, then it will come via engagement, not via silence or secession.
The man who was attacking this preacher was accusing him of being a hate monger. I agree fully. The preacher gets away with it because he keeps it very narrow, with this us versus God angle. But once in a while it comes out in other ways.
Yes, I could flip these people off. The man who was attacking the preacher finally walked out.
But I have a community interest. I also know that if we are ever to have universal health care, or meaningful employment and a living wage for all, then it is going to be necessary to stand up to religious argumentation. Again, I am against a prescriptive doctrine of Live and Let Live when it comes to religion, just as I would be were it the Nazi Party.
I commend this man who stood up to the preacher.
Now, about the larger subject of redress and those who might see no need for such. I see a very strong need for such redress. I know from things people have shared on my own forums and in private communications to me that there is a huge need for redress. I know that there are many who want it and simply do not see a means of obtaining it. Some see the State as protecting perpetrators. Often this is true, but I don't see it as insurmountable.
So once again, I don't take any issue with those who have no cause to seek redress. What I take issue with are those who precribe a doctrine against redress. Usually they do this so that they will not have to face their own pain. Often they are even getting off on the pain of others.
There is no such thing as abstract awareness, awareness in a vacuum, awareness without action. So one will see the need for redress, the cause for redress, when one sees that redress is a possiblity. As long as one sees redress as impossible, the awareness of the need for it will be absent.
I do see redress as possible. Difficult, but possible. The reason it is not realilzed is that things like Religion, the Recovery Movement, Psycho Therapy, and the Self-Reliance Ethic are designed to prevent us from seeking it. So it is these things which I oppose. And no, I reject Live and Let Live in dealing with these things. So I do not ask for a law against religion, but I demand separation of Church and State and I encourage eductation about the problems with religion. Same goes for the Recovery Movement, Psycho Therapy, and the Self-Reliance Ethic.
I want to follow up a little more. I spoke of a preacher yesterday and a clever young man who started taking him on. He accused the preacher of being an "Aggressive Christian". Well I love it any time someone can turn the word Christian into something dirty. I just laughed and then asked, "Is that like an aggressive panhandler?" He said, "Yes, except the panhandler is straight up, he just needs the money. The Aggressive Christian is saying things to you while he's got a knife ready." And he made a belly stabbing gesture.
The man was so angry that he compared the preacher to Satanists, and then left shortly after. The preacher just go louder and more rigid. I would not have called the preacher a Satanist because that too is reinforcing yet another of the Christianists dichotomies. I want to attack them directly. The Biblical Prophets attack by showing how people don't live up to their own values. Sometimes that is good. But here I don't want to do that. I want to attack Christianism without in anyway legitimating any aspect of it.
Maybe I should try to follow those like the late Rap Artist Tupack Shakur, How Do You Want It? .... "comin' up as a nigger in the cash game ... " ( sorry, its not the X-rated version )
Or like Akon from Senegal who says that what we all need is, "Money, Power, and Respect".
I said about the Pentecostal Alcoholic that I want to answer her. She has embraced a moderate strain of mega churches. I know, that's rather like talking about a moderate member of the Ku Klux Klan. But she and lots of other people see nothing wrong with such churches. So I want to answer her thoughtfully. If I make broad sweeping condemnations then I am being "intolerant and judgemental". I once got an indignant response back from a Born Again, "As a Christian I am prohibited from judging."
So to some extent you have to learn to beat these people at their own game. Although when one really does want to sever contact, its great if they can be provoked to anger. Better still if they can be provoked to violence.
Live and Let Live is not acceptable. It is necessary to retake social space and drive the Christianists out of it. We have to fight them street by street and house by house. And no, this is not like the hatred many of them display for gays. Its different because gays are not a totalizing force which wants to destroy democracy and replace it with theocracy and demand that everyone make verbal prostrations to their idol.
So on the one hand I want to offer methadone in the form of a nationally recognized liberal Protestant church. But one problem is that I don't really want to endorse that either. I can't even say that it is 100.00% different from what this Pentecostal woman has embraced. So I am having to study it all closely.
And then I want to make cogent criticism of her moderate form of mega-church.
So I am reviewing both. These days most everything is online. I will probably have to write my text over again. This is taking time.
The current form of Pentecostalism is Word-Faith. But as it has developed, it is pure motivationalism, though wrapped in Biblical language. So for anyone who has had their understanding of the Bible and their own spirituality shaped by an orthodox understanding of scripture, Word-Faith is pure non-sense, its down right superstition. But to someone who lacks that, then it might just sound really appealing, and not like the occult teaching that it is.
It was after the 2000 Presidential Election that I decided that it was necessary to learn to criticize religion, and to do it directly. What I mean is, the news media will criticize it when there is a scandal involving sex or money. They can do this because these churches seem to be violating their own standards. But what if they are not violating their own standards? What if it is not based on homophobia and assaults on reproductive choice. Does that mean it is just okay to be manipulating people as these groups do? Its still a drug. Its still at core based on demanding statements of explicit theism. Even the non-Biblicalized forms of motivationalism are poison. The news media does not know how to criticize any of this. So it all becomes just one big Sacred Cow.
Make no mistake, these Mega-Churches are 100% manufactured. No different from political candidates. Their doctrines and presentations are concocted after doing surveys and focus groups. They have learned that getting like minded people makes the church grow faster. They need this in order to pay their mortgages. So even if it sounds moderate, its still totalizing because of how narrow it is. If one has contact with it and finds that its hard to give cogent comment, its because it has been developed in such a manner.
So I do my best to offer reasoned and insightful criticism. But the truth is that I don't support any of it, nothing what so ever of the "I am a Christian" movement. But this per se does not mean that I am intolerant. I just want to stop the movement. Beyond that, yes we all have vices. I actually am tolerant of such.