The Call of the Wild, and Some Very Great News!

It’s hard to believe another Halloween is rolling around. Last year we talked about how Halloween is an expression of “low Christianity” at its very finest, and how Christians today tend to not only misunderstand its origins but also its function in society. Since then, our friend the Apostate has written a gorgeous piece about how most Christians are heretics anyway and it’s gotten me thinking.

Before we get rolling, I wanted to remind y’all that the radio interview is on Sunday! Instructions are here and briefly, it’s on Sunday, November 2nd, at 9am-10am CST. If you’re not in the listening area (950KTNF AM), you can still hear it by heading to http://www.am950ktnf.com/, clicking the “listen” tab, and using “55412” as your ZIP code. You’re all invited to tune in!

Halloween cupcakes with candy corn and pumpkin...

Halloween cupcakes with candy corn and pumpkin decoration. (Photo credit: Wikipedia). SATANIC CUPCAKES! RUN! RUN!

I love this time of year. It’s not yet freezing cold, but the worst of the summer heat is gone. And people are ready to blow off a little steam by celebrating that wildness that is part of the human condition. Well, most people are.

That wildness can be really threatening to that particularly asexual, sanitized, prim and proper version of Christianity that is currently dominating the religious dialogue in my country. But that wildness still cries out for recognition–and Christian leaders don’t like that aspect of humanity much at all. The Apostate is quite correct when he asserts that almost all Christians are heretics who don’t usually even understand their religion’s core doctrines much less believe them, but that doesn’t stop them or their equally-ignorant leaders from trying to Christianize everything in sight.

I’ve noticed that Christians tend to put “religiosity” above every other quality that something can possibly possess. A Christian in a mixed-faith marriage often values “being Christian” above any other quality a spouse could possess–above decency, fairness, passion, consideration, even above not being violent or addicted to substances. Being Christian elevates even the worst spouse well above any other person and makes up for all the other awful qualities. Not being Christian negates every other good quality someone could have.

In the same way, Christians often elevate “having a super-duper-Christian message” above every other quality that a piece of entertainment could possess. No matter how awesome a movie is, if it doesn’t include sanctimonious altar calls at the end of it, then it is inferior to even the most schlocky, formulaic, poorly-acted, and horrendously paced Christian-themed movie. A Christian movie is above reproach of any kind. Christian music might be overly-sentimental, weirdly-sexualized, and downright derivative, but because its singers bleat about Jesus every other word it is superior to any other “worldly” music.

So it goes with Christianized holidays. Last year I despaired about the sterilized “harvest festivals” that churches often throw for the children hungering for the same sort of fun and revelry their “worldly” friends get, but even I didn’t imagine just how terrible these parties can be. Now we know! Enter the UNHalloween Party, described beautifully by a blogger with The Friendly Atheist. I admit I read this and just couldn’t believe just how terrible it sounded. From the weird 50s-throwback Candlestick Salad to the bizarre Bible verses strewn everywhere to the totally-awful games that make Christianity–already a very not-fun, grisly, violent religion–seem 1000% more not-fun, grisly, and violent, this book’s party ideas sound like the most embarrassing, excruciating foods and activities possible.

This book is hardly the worst or only offender of the lot, either.

Everywhere I looked, I saw various advice pages seeking to reassure worried Christian parents that this totally pagan-sounding holiday could be safely contained, confined, and sanitized. And I admit I don’t get it. Out of every holiday there is, Halloween (and its follow-up, All Saint’s Day on November 1st) is in a lot of ways the most Christian holiday of them all. And these sanitized parties are all done with this tentative air of hesitation, like the parents and church leaders involved are all saying to their embarrassed kids, “Well? See? This is fun, right? Isn’t this fun? Don’t you think this is fun? THIS IS TOTALLY FUN! Right? Fun? You’re having fun, right?” while the kids uneasily agree, sort of, kind of.

I’m very glad that I was in and out of Christianity before this current rush to sterilize everything fun and desirable. My Halloweens were wild, fun, even dangerous at times. I almost got the shit kicked out of me when I was 11 or 12 by a bunch of neighborhood older boys when I accidentally shone my flashlight right into one of their faces; they thought I was a boy because I was dressed as a hobo. Thankfully they realized I was scared to death and that it’d been an accident, and let me run away. But that didn’t dim my evening at all. I had a blast, got myself sick eating candy (except Candy Corn… ick! Is there a kid alive who likes those things?), and eagerly awaited the next year I could dress up and roam the streets at night. I dressed as a 1940s gangster, as a cat, as a hobo, as a wizard, scanning and scamming my parents’ closets for anything that’d make it all work.

Best of all, I had no reason to think that the fun would end once I got too old to go trick-or-treating for candy. My parents dressed up too for their parties, which never allowed kids in them–matching barbarians, farmers, gorillas, and the like; my mom almost got herself shot shortly after 9/11 when gatekeeping soldiers checking out her car on base during a random search discovered a plastic bow-and-arrow set in her trunk left over from one of these parties (and let me just inform you: those soldiers had no sense of humor whatsoever about the situation).

Even when I became Pentecostal I loved Halloween parties.

We didn’t need to Jesus-fy absolutely everything. We were dominant, and nobody really challenged that dominance. Sure, we tended to read Christian books and listen to Christian music, but I can’t look back and remember a lot of Christian movies or Christian takeovers of holidays and parties. We didn’t need to assert ourselves by pissing on every single cultural thing in sight.

But now I survey the landscape and see only inferior substitutes that are meant to do exactly that. Just like Christian movies uniformly suck, just like Christian music is all but unlistenable by any but other devoted Christians, just like Christian novels are simply impossible to read much less enjoy, these new-style Halloween parties are nowhere near as good as the real things they ape. It’s so unnecessary. It’s so doomed to backfire.

When somebody gets leashed every single day, without a single day or occasion to slip that leash and run free, that person’s bound to get itchy for freedom and to take it the second it seems available. There’s so more to rebel against now than there ever was. There’s so more reason to reject Christian control now that their rules are so impossibly constricting than there ever was when Christians weren’t quite as worried about dominating absolutely everything.

So what I’m saying is that things are getting better. It may not seem like it, but when a religion has to clamp down this hard, it means that its leaders know they’re losing control. The current push to shrink-wrap and sanitize even Halloween, the wildest holiday of them all, might well be a symptom of the disease, but it’s also a sign that the patient–humanity as a whole–is healing. Hang in there, folks. And have fun tonight!

Posted in Guides, Hypocrisy, Religion, The Games We Play, Theology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Choose Your Own Adventure About What “Free Speech” Actually Means.

I consider it a symptom of the disease of zealotry that so many Christians no longer understand exactly what “free speech” is anymore. (Yes, this is written partially in response to a couple of drive-by Christians who went that route.) It is the new favorite rallying cry used by Christians whenever they are not allowed to trample over others or are reined in in any way whatsoever. We’re going to talk briefly here about what it is, and why misunderstanding it is going to hasten the decline of a religion that deserves to decline.

Bumper sticker car parked in Santa Cruz, Calif...

Bumper sticker car parked in Santa Cruz, California. (Photo credit: Wikipedia). I always thought that the intelligence of the driver was inversely proportional to the number of bumper stickers on the car, but this goes into artistic territory. I guess this is one way to get out of having to repaint a car.

Catchphrases and slogans are very big among fundagelical Christians. They always were–in my day it was “Jesus said it, I believe it, that settles it!” on the bumper stickers and “In case of Rapture this car will be unmanned!” Apologetics as a field thrives on these sorts of sayings–did you know that one of our biases, as humans, is to believe statements that rhyme over statements that do not? I don’t think it even has to rhyme necessarily. Quick, pithy, catchy phrases stick in our minds and sound more believable, especially to folks who aren’t skilled in critical thinking. So “Know Jesus, know peace/no Jesus, no peace” and sayings like it catapult into popularity very quickly, as do “were you there?” and a variety of other slogans Christians spout in lieu of actual good reasons to believe what they’re saying. I suspect sometimes that they soothe the otherwise-unbearable cognitive dissonance that extremist Christians experience when challenged.

A couple of years ago, when Christians realized they were solidly losing the whole anti-gay marriage fight that they themselves had started, I began hearing new catchphrases entirely: “religious freedom” and “freedom of speech.” Obviously these are not catchphrases in the sense that they’re actually part of our government’s underpinnings, but Christians were using these terms in very new and strange–and distinctly self-serving–ways, in the same manner that young children who are losing a game often try to suddenly change the rules of that game so that they have a chance to win again.

I think Christians are getting the idea from the forced-birther crowd who believe that a fetus’ supposed “right to life” supersedes even the rights that society rightfully gives to actual people and even to corpses (which cannot be violated, even to have organs harvested from them, without their owners’ explicit permission given before death). That’s a very old idea and one that likely got absorbed into toxic Christianity as their association with forced-birther groups got more and more entrenched and their conceptualization of “consent” got more and more eroded. The idea that one entity’s rights can and do supersede actual people’s rights has now bled into all sorts of other situations. And it goes along with the idea that some rights are automatically more important than other rights, like the “right to life” always superseding the right to bodily ownership and consent.

Having been a forced-birther myself at the time that these half-baked ideas were first getting popular, I can easily see how toxic Christians have applied the same illogical thinking to the misunderstandings of other great American rights.

Well, world rights, I reckon. It’s not just American, of course. The idea of free speech is recognized by a great many countries (though very few theocracies, helLO Christian Right Dominionists! Tell us again, would you, how wonderful a Christian theocracy would be and how you’d do it just right?). As this link demonstrates, freedom of speech is understood to have three components: the right to seek information, the right to learn information, and the right to share that information. Amusingly, as I look over that short list, I notice right away (did you?) that the Christians bellowing the loudest about “free speech” are the ones most interested in limiting these rights for others, all while painting themselves as the oppressed and marginalized minority.

Whoever started that catchphrase did a good job; it took off bigtime and almost immediately became the rallying cry for toxic Christians of all stripes. But the big problem with crying wolf–especially when it is done in such an obviously, patently self-serving way as that–is that not only are such Christians demeaning the very real persecution and suppression that people experience all over the world in theocracies and dictatorships, but they are making non-Christians that much less sympathetic to their own message by making false claims. Worse yet is the fact that these false claims get made to excuse and cover up Christian attempts to strip freedoms and rights from other people and to push themselves back into dominance. It’s abusive and it’s controlling, and it’s not hard to see.

Let’s be clear here: what these Christians are really saying, when they claim that they have some inalienable right to treat unconsenting people like they do, when they claim that their freedom of speech is being limited when they are merely asked to be civil, respectful, courteous, and fair to others, is that their religion requires them to behave in controlling and abusive ways and that they cannot hold their religious beliefs or practice their religion without overriding the consent of non-Christians.

They all act like the goal here in having this “religious freedom” is to “save the lost” and to further this nebulous conceptualization they have of their “god’s kingdom” on Earth. But from here, to me, it looks a lot more like the goal is for them to entrench their religious privilege into law before it is too late and they hit a tipping point in membership and power. They’re definitely not going to convert anybody with these tactics, and they’re definitely not doing anything Jesus commanded his followers to do. But I don’t think that’s what they’ve truly wanted to do for a long, long time.

And now they think they’ve found the magic incantation that will achieve their real goals. A pity for them–and a good thing for the rest of us–they’re flat wrong.

Freedom of speech is not a magic shield that protects Christians from all criticism and resistance, forces non-Christians to comply with their desires, or compels people to stand there and listen to them until they are damned well finished talking. I really believe that’s what drives toxic Christians craziest–that not only are people laughing at them, not only are people disagreeing with and challenging them, but most of us don’t really care what they do or don’t like or want anymore. They talk like they have this idea that in the recent past, everybody bowed to their ideas and cared what they had to say and listened to their advice and parent-like instruction, and then those meaniepie atheists and feminists took it all away from them. Nothing could be further from the truth, and I’m getting a little tired of dealing with Christians who chant magic spells like “free speech!” without understanding what those terms mean.

So without further ado, here is the Captain Cassidy Choose Your Own Adventure: Freeze Peaches. Did you ever play one of these? They were very popular when I was a kid. I had almost every one of them. My sister got into the TSR D&D-style CYOA books, but I was a purist. I still have a couple around here somewhere. They’re very easy to do. You read an entry, decide what you’d do, and follow the italicized instructions. You keep going like that till you reach an ending. Have fun!

1. Does what you said fall under the category of libel/slander, threats, or other specifically-illegal stuff like hate speech? If you’re not abusing anybody at all or breaking laws, continue to page 2. If you just want to spew hate speech and threats at marginalized groups without worrying about social repercussions, go to page 8.

2. Are you just upset that someone is challenging what you said? If you’re upset that someone is disagreeing with you, go to page 9. If that’s not the problem, go to page 3.

3. Is what you said either demonstrably incorrect, clearly a personal opinion, or an otherwise unsupported claim? If yes, go to page 10. If no, go to page 4.

4. Is the big problem here that you just don’t want to follow the same exact rules everybody else has to follow and don’t like being told to behave respectfully and courteously while you are on another person’s site or in another person’s space? If you’re sure that you’re following the same rules everybody else is following, go to page 5. If you just want more rights than everybody else gets and you throw tantrums when asked to behave yourself, go to page 11.

5. Is a government or government agent involved here? If yes, go to page 6. If you’re talking to another private citizen, go to page 11.

6. Is this government or government agent threatening sanctions against you for saying or writing things that aren’t hate speech and aren’t overt threats against anybody, or otherwise not enforcing laws that should protect you as you speak out or seek information? If yes, go to page 7. If no, go to page 11.

7. Congratulations! Well, if that’s the right word, anyway, because you might possibly be dealing with an issue of free speech. By all means carry on. You are perfectly within your rights to demand an investigation of this matter with the proper authorities over a possible infringement of your rights as a citizen of a secular country that values free speech. The End.

8. This is not a free speech issue. It’s actually you wanting to abuse people and get away with it. In 50 years you are going to be the laughingstock of this country. Until then, no, you do not get to abuse people in the name of your religion. (PS: Nobody but you is fooled by your desire to hate on people no matter how fervently you call it “love”.) The End.

9. This is not a free speech issue. Free speech does not give you the right to be uncontested or unchallenged in whatever you say. If you’re going to say it out loud or write it in a space that others can see and access, then other people are allowed to criticize it and assess it. (And by the way, nobody but you is fooled by your attempt to weasel out of the free exchange of ideas that free speech proponents would consider vital to the process.) The End.

10. This probably isn’t a free speech issue, but it might be depending on other factors. A sincerely-held belief that is simply objectively wrong is your right to hold. This is America. Americans can be just as uneducated, ignorant, misinformed, and deceived as they want to be. That said, nobody is obligated to give you a platform or to listen to you if they don’t want to. But guess what? It’s not illegal to be willfully ignorant as long as you’re not breaking any laws. It is still your right to lie, deceive others, or to discuss unpopular opinions. So this is not the end. You may continue to page 4–and hopefully you will remember that everybody around you is similarly allowed to hold their own opinions and decide to listen or not to whatever you have to say.

11. This is not a free speech issue. You’re just misusing big words you don’t understand. Privately-held blogs are not a government. Businesses are not a government. Comment threads are not a government. Being banned from a website does not curtail your ability to get your own damned site, blog, or soapbox upon which to stand and from which you can say whatever you want (barring hate speech and other specifically prohibited forms of verbal and written abuse, but hopefully nobody needed to clarify that point). Having to follow the same rules everybody else follows or being asked by a private citizen on a privately-owned site to conform to simple rules of courtesy and civility are not a violation of your right to free speech. (Also, nobody but you is fooled by your blatant attempt to force unconsenting people to interact with you and to force your religious views down unwilling people’s throats.) The End.

Free speech demonstration

Free speech demonstration (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

——-

All kidding aside, though, this weirdness Christians are pulling around free speech is, ultimately, going to backfire on them in the worst way possible. It’s one of those stopgap measures that seems like it’s going to work great at first, but then you look back at it in retrospect and wonder what you were thinking (like me thinking it’d be hilare rather than hugely difficult to make a CYOA post and also is it just me or does that acronym look a lot like CYA?).

It’s going to be awesome when toxic Christians discover that those who live by the false-persecution fantasy, fail by the false-persecution fantasy. The laws that protect my right to believe as I see fit are the same laws that will protect Christians when suddenly they are not a tyrannical majority–and they will have very good reason, on that fine day, to thank their god that they live in a civilized country that believes that all citizens should be allowed to believe as they see fit and which takes no sides whatsoever in the matter of religion and which values even dissenting and unpopular speech.

The laws that protect me now will protect them as well–in way fewer years than they’d like to contemplate, and in way greater ways than they’d like to consider right now.

Posted in Religion, Hypocrisy, Theology, Guides, The Games We Play | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Leaping from Floe to Floe.

Our dear friend Charles at Skeptic Journey has brought something up that I wanted to talk about today: the growing sense of flailing that I get from modern Christian organizations as they try to stem the tide of apostates and attract new members to their groups.

YOUNG PEOPLE OF THE PENTECOSTAL CHURCH AFTER A...

YOUNG PEOPLE OF THE PENTECOSTAL CHURCH AFTER A MEETING – NARA – 552612 (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Statistically, perhaps one of those three kids are still Christian right now.

A long time ago, I worked for a call center whose owners weren’t doing all that well. It used to amaze me how often the business’ owners would lurch from idea to idea, model to model, trying to figure out what would work to grow their business. For the employees, things were often chaotic and shifting; we used to say that if someone didn’t like how things were being run now, wait five minutes and it’d all change. One month we were all focused on customer service and getting scores and bonuses exclusively based on how happy customers were with us; the next month nobody cared if customers were unhappy because it was all about handle time and how quickly we could get someone off the phone and get to the next caller. And the next nobody upstairs cared about anything except how much money employees got from customers from sales of add-on services and optional equipment.

As you can guess, this constant shift of priorities and practices was discombobulating at best and disastrous at worst for employees. As soon as employees got a grip on handle time, they had to turn around and start caring about after-call survey scores. Obviously, ideally employees would care about everything and do it all perfectly, but in the real world, customer service is often a zero-sum game; resources and time spent in one area means other areas will necessarily be shorted. The more the company lurched from side to side, the further the pendulum swung from one extreme to the other, the worse things seemed to get for the customers as a whole as employees struggled to find a balance and learn the new priorities. And the business continued to flounder as the owners sought the all-singing, all-dancing magic bullet that would fix everything.

And that’s just business nowadays. What I’m talking about isn’t unique to any company in the modern world, I don’t think. To a huge extent finding success, even for big companies, is about catching lightning in a bottle.

So it goes for churches. Anybody who doesn’t realize that religious organizations are, at heart, businesses is just being romantic or sentimental at this point. They are not only businesses, but they are businesses whose practices make even the most cutthroat silver-screen caricatures of businesses look tame by comparison. They get tax exemptions that secular businesses don’t get and they don’t have to follow the same rules that secular businesses must follow, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t just as focused on the bottom line. They can dress their behaviors in as many sanctimonious catchphrases as they like, but them’s still the facts. Without people giving them money, these organizations will fall apart. Without people voting the correct way and showing up for the rallies, these groups will lose their influence. So churches need wallets opened and butts in pews. And I don’t think they know how to do that anymore.

We’ve been talking about how young people are leaving Christianity in vast numbers of late. This trend was likely beginning some years ago, probably around when I deconverted in the 90s, but it’s really coming into its own now. Young people don’t have a lot of money themselves now, but hopefully they will at some point. And they might not have kids now, but (according to these church leaders at least) hopefully they will at some point. Getting them properly indoctrinated well before they get their money and families established ensures that the cash keeps flowing and the membership numbers stay properly fluffy.

The problem is that nobody really knows exactly what makes one church successful while another one struggles and disintegrates. We know that having a charismatic leader helps quite a bit–megachurches especially tend to have way more extremely charismatic pastors than struggling churches do. Location is important as well; a robust church may have very low income so will need bigger numbers to acquire the same wealth and resources that smaller churches can do with way fewer but wealthier members. That UW study I just linked you to talks about how the very most successful megachurches focus on a technology-driven, generic message that is feel-good and exciting-sounding, but even a small church can share a very repressive, oppressive, focused theology and doctrine and grow if it’s in the right place at the right time.

The style of the church matters quite a bit as well; a hipster, internet-savvy group like Mars Hill could sell an essentially immoral, savagely brutal Calvinist message to Seattle Christians, but the same group would have had a great deal of trouble selling the same message elsewhere and indeed its tactics and core message were all but gibberish to some of the pastors who came in from very far away to help them out in their early days. And I don’t know if the Jesus People movement could have possibly begun anywhere but in California during the heady days of the 1960s; certainly it couldn’t survive in the way more hedonistic 1980s and was already fading out of relevance when I converted to Pentecostalism.

And in the wake of dwindling numbers and cries of doom and gloom from the skies, Christian leaders switch from tactic to tactic in hopes of finding something that works.

I lived through some of these trends. When I was in high school, I joined–briefly–my first megachurch, though I didn’t know the word for it at the time. I just knew it was absolutely huge, and looked nothing like the insular little Catholic communities I’d known for most of my life up till then. They were buying an abandoned grocery store nearby to turn it into a bowling alley for their youth group. I’m not even kidding. Until joining them I didn’t even know the term “youth group,” for that matter; in Catholic churches we’d had CCD, which was a bit like a more tightly-focused Sunday School, but the general spotlight shone on the adults, not the children.

That spotlight’s aim changed abruptly when I joined that Southern Baptist church. Suddenly young people were the whole focus of the church’s gaze and attention. I was awhirl with new experiences and a chock-full social schedule. And things only got busier when I later moved on to a Pentecostal church. My mom was actually a bit worried about just how busy I seemed to be with my new friends and religious hobbies. I barely had time to think. Maybe that was the whole idea–to keep folks busy and distracted. I guess the idea was to fill young people with so much rah-rah it’d carry them over while they learned the more hardcore doctrines of the church and got fully indoctrinated.

It didn’t work on me, obviously, nor on many other people who leave the religion the second they’re able to do so. Churches seem evenly split and ferociously divided over just how much to entertain children and young adults versus how much doctrine and theology to stuff into them. The two camps play pushme-pullyou over the issue. Both camps are however happy to accuse ex-Christians who leave the religion of having been entertained at the expense of learning theology, or having been drilled in doctrine to the exclusion of having found joy in the “Lord.” The ratio alters with the Christian observing it but it’s always to the detriment of the ex-Christian being accused.

Now I see trends that didn’t even exist back in my day, all designed to either inculcate young people with tons and tons of emotional fun experiences or else restrict their access to information and differing viewpoints. From the emphasis on “youth group” as a social phenomenon and culture all its own (as this adorable young Christian’s YouTube channel demonstrates) among the hipper, more progressive Christians all the way to the ultra-repressive fundagelical homeschooling movement and “courtship” culture in the far-right-wing flavors of the religion, churches are throwing everything they can at the wall to see what sticks–everything, that is, except for the objective truth, which is why these measures will fail.

All of these measures are being taken because they are seen as giving churches more control over young minds and greater access to those young people. This control can be exercised very subtly indeed. I saw that principle even in my own life: by occupying all of my time, church was slipping into spaces that once had been occupied by boyfriends, or hanging out with friends, or playing video games, or reading, or all the other stuff I did as a teenager. Much larger churches are moving from the small informal cells I once knew so well to formal “small groups” (a phrase I’d never even heard while Christian) that function as little churches-within-churches on their own; these groups often exercise power over their members, even punishing people for infractions of their rules and hassling people for leaving their small group without permission.

But regarding control, Princess Leia said it best: “The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers.” Christian churches could stand to take a little advice from the good ambassador! These measures’ sheer restrictiveness ensures their own failure. We don’t live in a society that values restrictiveness and the removal of access to information. Christians themselves may as a group celebrate ignorance and hold certainty up as being superior to actual knowledge, but in the real world, we increasingly value what can be shown to be true. The many people who escape the more restrictive, controlling Christian groups have that much more baggage to sift through and struggle with, but they escape anyway.

The next big trends are already visible on the walls of the world: a panicky bleating about free speech and religious freedom from people who understand neither idea; increased politicization especially on the right wing; an even-more-expansive push to make women’s bodies public property and control their sexuality and to marginalize LGBTQ people further/again; a sudden jump in hipster “relationship” Christianity; demands for equal time for their pseudoscience and junk history; laughably incorrect characterizations of Christian zealots as the real victims here. The main trend, though, is restriction of access to information through the use of homeschooling, courtship, and fundagelical colleges. That’s a very new idea, just something that arose in the last 10-15 years, but clearly a concept that seems to appeal very greatly to conservative church organizations.

These are all catchup plays and Hail Mary passes, though, and will do little more than perhaps keep their own sheep in the fold for perhaps a little longer. When numbers continue to fall, Christian leaders will abandon these trends for something new and different in hopes of regaining influence just like any business would tweak its operating model and paradigms to try to improve failing sales figures.

The evangelical and fundamentalist denominations active today look absolutely nothing like the ones I observed while Christian. In twenty years, the religion has changed so much it is barely even recognizable to me; it wasn’t easy for me to get caught up when I returned my attention to the religious landscape of American culture. The mainstream fundagelical groups now would have been considered dangerously extremist back in my day, but that’s what happens when zealots all try to outdo each other in demonstrating how hardcore and committed they are. And none of it’s really going to help in the long run because nothing they’re doing is seeking or cherishing the truth.

Just imagine how much this supposedly unchanging message will have changed in another twenty years. Because it will definitely change; it will have to, in order to survive. But that’s always been Christianity’s big strength, hasn’t it?–its ability to adapt and change.

It’s a bit early to write the religion off as a whole, but I can remain just floored at how far its leaders and most devoted adherents will go to maintain their fading dominance–even to the extent of sabotaging the young minds of their own children if it keeps their little butts parked in pews for a lifetime.

Posted in Biography, Feminism, Guides, Hypocrisy, Religion, The Games We Play, Theology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

The One Thing Christian Parents Aren’t Doing.

Before we start, there’s some breaking news: I’m getting interviewed on radio by a member of Minnesota Atheists next Sunday, November 2nd, at 9am-10am CST! It’s my first radio interview so I hope I won’t suck at it. If you’re not in the listening area (950KTNF AM), you can still hear it by heading to http://www.am950ktnf.com/, clicking the “listen” tab, and using “55412” as your ZIP code. I’m super excited. I’ve talked before about how impressed I am with this group; their YouTube series with Dr. Hector Avalos about Biblical archaeology really helped me learn about the topic, and they’ve had Robert Price and Dale McGowan on their podcasts in the past. That’s some very august company, and I’m very honored to be invited to join them for a little while. I’m not normally even awake at that hour, so this ought to be a lot of fun! Now on to our regularly scheduled thing:

Interior of the house of a Palestinian Christi...

Interior of the house of a Palestinian Christian family in Jerusalem. By W. H. Bartlett, ca 1850 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The other day this post popped up in my FB feed about what Christian parents are doing wrong along with an interesting comment attached to it from an ex-Christian parent about how whoever wrote that list forgot to include one very important thing. What my friend commented about the list fed into what I was thinking earlier about control, making me realize that those idea apply as well to the mass exodus of young people from Christianity and what their panicking parents and elders are doing to try to staunch the flow.

I’ve talked before about how quickly young people are leaving Christianity. Indeed, one doesn’t need to search far to find article after article talking about it. Yes, absolutely, young people are leaving Christianity, either fully deconverting or doing what one site called “disengaging” (I do love that word), which means to pull away from the actual practices of the religion–praying, going to church, witnessing, studying the Bible, etc; what Pope Francis calls practical atheism. The rates go from “whoa” to “holy shit” from 0 to 60 seconds–some surveys discovering that a third of Christian youth disengage; others head into the nosebleed percentages.

The usual suspects get blamed: colleges are soooooooo meeeeeeeean to Christianity and young people are “inarticulate and uninformed.” Colleges are sooooooo attractive to young people and filled with “rabidly anti-Christian” educators eager to tear apart those kids’ faith like the meanipies they are. Here’s a youth pastor who thinks that the problem is that young people are “illiterate” and that’s why they’re leaving–that link is especially useful because it lists a variety of books and studies, all of which paint a downright dramatic picture of a church that is greying in place.

It must be hard to be Christian parents in this climate and know anything about these statistics. For what it’s worth, I sympathize. Given the demonization done of ex-Christians and atheists, given how little most folks–especially fundagelical parents–know about either group, given how poorly most Christian denominations understand real love, I can totally get why they would worry about the state of their kids’ spiritual health. It’s misplaced, but it’s still there. Parents love their children. That doesn’t really change no matter what religion someone is. So of course they will want to do something to guide their kids as best they know how–and of course their peers and leaders will take advantage of that desire.

As you can imagine, resources abound for parents eager to ensure that their offspring stay Christian through those risky early-college years.

As you can also imagine, those resources range in value from “useless” to “guaranteed to backfire in the most hilariously catastrophic manner possible.”

Take this bit of wankery seen in the wild a few months ago that tells us all about “3 Common Traits of Youths Who Don’t Leave the Church.” Are you already wondering what those traits might be? Well, here they are:

1. They are converted.
2. They have been equipped, not entertained.
3. Their parents preached the gospel to them.

To which I can only say–before Christian parents heave a huge sigh of relief because they think they’re doing these things already–I know any number of ex-Christians who could easily say they once fit into all three of these categories. I myself fit them to a certain extent. Not that it’s difficult to fit into them; like a lot of other blather one encounters in fundagelical Christianity, not a single bit of these guidelines is actually concrete or verifiable through any objective means. They are just words, words, words–like “submission” and “true Christian.” They don’t mean anything. The author of them not only lacks citations for what he’s saying but also any concrete proof that it works; it’s just his observations and intuitions. As he even concedes, after blaming everybody for not indoctrinating kids well enough and lauding those parents to “made” their kids go to church (because that always makes kids super-fervent Christians who love Jesus and not simmering cauldrons of resentment eager to flee the second they’re able to do so), “it’s not a formula”–but insists, absent any evidence whatsoever, that “it’s also not a crapshoot.” Now that’s optimism! And he forgets to talk about the most important thing a parent can do to ensure a child moves in the direction the parent wants.

On the other hand, this site’s got a list of things not to do:

1) Falling into the temptation of using religion to control their children through guilt and shame.
2) The parents seem to be afraid of the world, instead of empowered to live in it.
3) The children do not see the parents drawing any joy from their faith.
4) The children are discouraged from finding answers to their questions.
5) The children believe they have nothing to offer the Christian community.

Again, this advice produces ex-Christians as often as it might Christians. The author of it advises parents to be “inspired” by Jesus, which will in turn inspire their children–but doesn’t quite describe exactly how parents will know they are being inspired by their Savior. And it, like the first piece, misses mentioning the most important thing possible that parents can do to keep their kids Christian.

I’ll spare you the rest of my research; it’s all pretty much of a muchness. I doubt you’ll find anything that is markedly different from what I’ve outlined here–nebulous bullshit promising results, or equally nebulous warnings of what not to do. None of it is very useful but it ticks all the boxes that Christians like to see ticked in these sorts of writings and gives them someone to blame when things go hideously wrong.

And it’s all so pointless. It’s not hard to find Christian parenting advice focusing on making sure kids are either so insulated from “the world” that they can’t possibly encounter anybody or anything challenging to their faith, or else so hugely indoctrinated that a ready apologetics answer springs from their lips the second they encounter an opportunity to use a talking-point. I didn’t see a single post or article that used any citations at all for their advice or reveal exactly how they knew that their advice was worth following. It’s like Christianity (its evangelical flavors especially) is running this massive social experiment on their own kids–and the results are in, amigo; what’s left to ponder? Christianity, despite this proliferation of words, words, words about keeping kids Christian, is losing them in droves anyway.

I’ve noticed that when Christians see themselves failing somehow, their response is to drill down harder on the tone-deaf message and backfired tactics rather than contemplate that either one is wrong (sorta like what our about-to-get-banned newly-banned drive-by Christian commenter is doing this evening on the Designated Adult post). They think that the problem is either not doing things hardcore enough, or not communicating their ideas just perfectly; we see this going on right now with the Republican Party’s constant attempts to “rebrand” that only seem to drive target groups further and further away from their viciously sexist, racist, classist banner. But the problem isn’t the way Christians are communicating their message, and no matter how they try to rebrand their overreach, it’s still a pretty bad message at heart–and not all of them even agree that rebranding is needed. Even where they can be made to agree on this subject, all their attempts do is try to whitewash and conceal their bad message. And the failure of that message certainly isn’t going to be fixed by being more disapproving and restrictive, or even by ever-more-savagely oppressing themselves and whoever else they can.

So I don’t hold out a lot of hope that Christian parents are going to start questioning this conventional wisdom about how to raise kids who stay Christian once they’ve flown free of Mommy and Daddy’s power. Control is the only real tool most Christians have in the ol’ toolbox at this point. Indeed, a number of panicking Christian parents are currently cheering on an evangelical abstinence-only lecturer, Pam Stenzel, who openly deceives and shames students about sexuality and contraception because she’s soooooo “moral.” That link is about how a school board was wasting taxpayer dollars to invite this overtly religious person to come preach to kids in an attempt to shame and terrorize them out of having sex, because that always works, right? (Since then, a private business decided to handle Ms. Stenzel’s fee, but it seems that even they’re ashamed of doing so; nobody’s saying which business it is, not even Ms. Stenzel herself–so much for Christian bravery! Remember during the Dover trial where Alan Bonsell got caught telling a bald-faced lie by a federal judge about how he got Creationist books into classrooms?)

It’s mind-blowing, considering that one of Christians’ big bugbears is “subjective morality.” I don’t know what could be more subjective than “the ends justify the means” and “it’s okay if I’m the one doing it.” Lying to and deceiving kids is fine, as long as it’s for a good cause. Ms. Stenzel can’t possibly tell them the truth, because–why? Is she scared they’ll have sex if they’re given honest and accurate information about their bodies (which is completely untrue)? Or because people who get lied to about their bodies never have non-marital sex (like my mother did to conceive me, after she’d received a purely abstinence-based sex education)? Would she rather kids wreck their lives with disease or pregnancy than to protect them, or does she prefer to terrorize and keep kids ignorant because that’s how kids stay Christian (holy cow, that’s downright evil!)?

Whatever her reasons for fearing the truth, Ms. Stenzel openly tells Christian audiences that she doesn’t care if abstinence-only education has been shown time and again to be hugely ineffective. Her goal is very clearly making and keeping kids Christian, not helping them stay safe, which is why she refers to what she’s doing as a ministry and not as education.

In this story about Pam Stenzel, I see a microcosm of the entire approach Christianity is using on youth.

And that approach isn’t going to work. Ms. Stenzel and her peers are making a lot of assumptions about young people that simply aren’t true.

They’re not like how we were at that age. I mean that in the best way possible. Of course there are always awful or dipshit kids, get offa my lawn, whatever. But overall, these are smart, caring, compassionate people coming of age now. I hear what they talk about, and it just staggers me to see the level of self-awareness they can bring. I feel a great deal of optimism when I look at what they’re doing and how they treat others, overall. The world is in pretty good hands. One thing young folks aren’t, though, and that is patient with deception. They live and move through a world filled with dishonesty and manipulation. What marks them more than any other generation, I think, is their desire for authenticity and truth. They may not always know how to get there, but they know that’s what they want.

And they’re going to get the truth whether their parents like it or not.

Speaking of which: right now, in almost every young person’s hand or pocket or purse, there is a little gadget that can access for its owner very nearly the sum total of human knowledge and experience. With that gadget, anybody can debunk a pastor’s talking-point on a Sunday morning before the altar call is even given, destroy an entire homeschooling curriculum in one otherwise-empty Saturday afternoon, and undo an entire Vacation Bible School’s rah-rah with one YouTube comment war.

It gets even worse, though. With the possible exception of the most insulated of young people, most folks know at least one person nowadays who isn’t Christian who can easily give the truth to the lies those young people have been taught by their well-meaning authority figures. Sooner or later, a Christian youth is going to encounter information that is going to connect with them and make them realize that the apologetics they’ve innocently gulped down and absorbed isn’t adequate to answer what they’ve just discovered. Sooner or later, those young people will run across a a gay person, or a feminist, or a Wiccan, or an atheist, or whatever else his or her church demonizes–and realize that what their church teaches about that label is totally wrong, and maybe that young person will wonder what else is wrong.

So… did you guess what all of these advice sites and speakers and writers forgot to include in how to keep kids Christian?

DON’T TEACH KIDS STUFF YOU CAN’T PROVE. USE FACTS. BE HONEST ABOUT WHAT IS OPINION-BASED OR SUBJECT TO CHANGE.

Isn’t that weird stuff for all these Christian writers to forget?

See, if something’s true, then it stands on its own. It doesn’t need fear to sell itself. It doesn’t manipulate. It doesn’t coerce. It can handle exposure to other viewpoints. The truth can be shown objectively. It is obvious and self-evident. It doesn’t need to abuse anybody or lie or contort things as being true “from a certain point of view” (goddamned Jedi). It might lose for a short while to a lie, but it comes out eventually.

Anything that can be destroyed by the truth deserves to be, as it’s said. And the harder Christian parents try to insulate their kids and drill down on these deceptions and teach them opinions as if they were facts–no matter how well-meaning their intention–the worse it’s going to be when those kids get a tiny glimpse of what’s real.

Young people are not leaving Christianity because they wanted to bonk like bunnies.

Nor are they leaving because they’re religiously illiterate.

And they’re not leaving because they were entertained too much, or because they weren’t insulated enough, or because they weren’t forced to attend church often enough, or because their parents weren’t “inspired” enough (seriously WTF!).

They are leaving because Christianity’s truth claims are not true, and they figured that out on some level.

Some of them may well return to Christianity or some form of it at least; for them, they make peace with these truth claims and come to an understanding within themselves about “metaphorical truth” or what-have-you. But for many others, they will leave entirely and never return. They will leave because they figured out what was real and what wasn’t–and did so on their own–and wanted no part of a religion that doesn’t seem to value truth-telling.

Indoctrination is about implanting untruths in kids’ heads, in much the same way that apologetics explains why reality never seems to conform to Christianity’s expectations. That’s why neither is honest, and why neither one works in the long run. They can only exist in squalid darkness, in a dank cave where the air is always stale and the light never penetrates, where their catchphrases can be repeated over and over again in perfect safety from challenges. And that doesn’t work as well as it once did.

The message itself is flawed because it’s not the truth. And the tactics are flawed because they are based around manipulating and forcing kids to accept stuff that isn’t, at heart, truthful. It’ll work for a short while because young children trust their parents and authority figures, but once they get older, they’ll start seeing cracks in the brick wall.

Those kids will then have to unravel the truth, at great personal cost and with much emotional pain and devastation, when they get older. It’s a brutal process; I’ve seen a number of ex-Christians go through it. Teaching kids pseudo-science and junk history squashes their curiosity and destroys their sense of wonder; religious indoctrination often rends apart young people’s sense of boundaries and justice and replaces both with brightly-parroted, chirped apologetics talking-points and a dull insistence on repeating phrases like “god did it!” and “everything happens for a reason.” Worst of all is that these young people will also have to recover from that strange sort of metallic shame religion pushes for feeling emotions that just about every human on the planet has felt since before we even became humans.

D’you think that after making that cruelly unnecessary journey that those who complete it will look back at their onetime religion and feel anything but anger and disgust for what it’s done to them?

At this point, Christian parents and pastors are the best allies that anybody could ever want in making kids disengage from Christianity.

It’s almost as if that’s what Christian leaders wanted all along. If they wanted to see legions of young people struggle and stumble and stagger out of their religion, they couldn’t have gone about that goal in a more direct and straightforward way than what they’ve chosen. The question is whether they’ll realize it before they destroy their religion.

Posted in Biography, Guides, Hypocrisy, Religion, The Games We Play, Theology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

(Christians Are Not) The Designated Adult.

(CN: Domestic violence, abuse, gaslighting.)

Hi and welcome back! We’re cruising right into the weekend, aren’t we? Last time we talked, I touched briefly on the way that Christians often insist on adjudicating and judging people’s lives and personal decisions. In response to a blogger who wrote that Christians’ hypocrisy was no excuse for not joining his religion, I said: “Citation needed, because I certainly think that’s more than enough of a reason.” But the guy’s audacity stuck in my head because the way he talked made me think he was trying to make himself into a Designated Adult for society.

English: An Engine key of Ferrari car 日本語: フェラ...

English: An Engine key of Ferrari car Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Have you ever heard that phrase, “Designated Adult?” I don’t remember exactly where I heard it the first time, but the moment I did, it just ricocheted all through me. A lot of things suddenly made sense both in my own relationships and in what I saw happening in society as a whole. And it explains a lot about what’s wrong with modern evangelical Christianity in particular and why it is failing.

A Designated Adult is a bit like a Designated Driver. The Designated Adult is the parent-like figure in a relationship, while the other person becomes a childlike one in turn. On a very few occasions you’ll see (mostly kinky) couples that knowingly and willingly choose this sort of dynamic–and more power to them if that’s what they both prefer, but most of the time it’s a done to an unwilling, non-consensual partner. One day a victim of this control tactic wakes up and realize it’s been ages since he or she got to make any personal decisions–or on the flip side, since he or she went a whole day without emotionally burping someone.

I talk about this concept in the context of control because that is what it is: an expression of control. Whoever makes the choice of who gets what role is the controller; the roles themselves are almost incidental. I’ve been in relationships where I landed on each end of that equation. In one relationship I was gradually made into a child dependent on my abusive partner for absolutely everything; in the very next, wherein I sought a man who was the polar opposite of that first jerk, I ended up as the Designated Adult and got controlled anyway by a man-child who needed a surrogate mommy to love and hate. Someone who presents him- or herself as terribly submissive or passive can still be awfully controlling. Kinksters call this “topping from the bottom” (NSFW).

And this behavior is not love. Love is not about control. Love is not even compatible with control–because control is about fear, not love. Someone who is trying to control another person isn’t expressing love but acting out of fear or getting a high out of the power they get through controlling others. Such a person desperately needs to be in complete power over all situations and at all times. Uncertainty is scary and threatening. Who knows what could happen? A meteor could hit the planet or something if people don’t listen to the controller! Controllers need to know exactly where all the pieces in the game are and be able to move any of them at any time. They need to be able to predict and account for any eventuality. Worse, other people moving pieces means a loss of dominance. Any threat to their total control of all the game-pieces must be eradicated immediately by any means fair or foul. Otherwise controllers just don’t feel comfortable or happy; they mistake a lack of control over other people as a sign of genuine helplessness in themselves.

And nothing drives controllers more crazy than someone refusing to be controlled. They’ll go to weirder and more extreme lengths as time goes by to get the power they desperately need over the person or people they’ve targeted as victims; in my personal life, my very controlling Christian husband even eventually resorted to threats of domestic violence to try to get me back under his thumb. It never even occurred to him that what he was doing could and would backfire by waking me up to just how dangerous he was. To the contrary: one day, he was sure, this would all just be a merry family story to tell to our many merry grandchildren, who he could already see swarming ’round his knees to ask him to tell, again, the hilarious story of how he threatened repeatedly to hack Grandma up with a butcher knife if she kept refusing to reconvert and return home. And he wanted me to see his campaign of terror as proof that he truly loved me and knew what was best for me, like he was my daddy and I was just a recalcitrant little girl. It’s just mind-blowing to look back at it all now and think that once I bought into the lie of control being an expression of love.

Love, by stark contrast, is not about control but rather about acceptance and grace. It’s about taking people’s hands where they stand and loving them in their entirety, not just in the controlled, sterilized, and sanitized form that controllers need them in. It’s about letting people live their lives and do what they think is best for themselves without interfering and meddling with them. It’s about showing respect for other people’s rights and autonomy. It’s about understanding that all people are equal, with no ands, ifs, or buts, and worthy of decent treatment and consideration. It’s about listening instead of assuming; it’s about affirming instead of dictating someone else’s opinions and experience. It’s about letting go instead of grabbing and treating adults like, well, adults and not children. Controllers can’t do a single bit of that. But with love all things are possible, I read somewhere once.

In short, love asks permission, while control can’t even ask forgiveness.

Some ex-Christian friends of mine and I have been talking about love lately. It’s not surprising that we would; leaving religion brings many of us to thoughts of what to keep and what to burn of our old lives. Many of us have to figure out what love even is so we can recover and get healthy again. And so much of what we learned and absorbed in Christianity is not loving at all. It can be really confusing when Christians say they’re being loving when we can clearly tell they aren’t. Relabeling hateful behavior as loving is part of an abuse technique called gaslighting; it’s meant to make victims second-guess their own judgment and accept an abuser’s self-serving redefinition of reality. So you can guess we’ve had a lot to unpack and figure out regarding love.

Setting boundaries is another place where ex-Christians can lose our footing. For many of us, we got taught that love is about fixing and improving each other. We almost never got taught that it’s not okay to try to fix or improve someone who hasn’t asked for that help. Consent isn’t something that pings Christianity’s radar much. It’s just assumed that of course the other person wants help, and if not, then Christians should force their help on even unwilling people because they know best. The victims of this help might object at first, but they’ll thank their Christian helpers once they’ve been repaired. On the other side of that equation, if someone is forcing help on us, then we should allow them to do so because it’s for our own good. This abuse gets dressed up in Christianese like “submission” and “accountability.” It takes a long time to unlearn that kind of programming and learn how to trust ourselves again.

In light of those twin pitfalls, gaslighting and boundary-setting, it’s not hard to see why ex-Christians have to be really careful navigating the trap of the Designated Adult. Usually in our case it’s the Christian who is trying to “parent” us. Most of us have relatives or friends going that route so they can get us back under control and into the fold again; sometimes this control is subtle, like passive-aggressive tricks: “hey, can you read this apologetics book and tell me why it’s wrong?” Sometimes it’s quite overt: “if you don’t start going to church again I’m taking away your college fund.” They do these things for our own good, they say. They’re damned proud of assuming the role of Designated Adult over us–implicitly declaring that we in turn are children in need of their sublime guidance. They seem confused, angry, or hurt-sounding when we reject their attempts to parent and fix us. They’re “just trying to help.”

This behavior is abusive, and we are right to call it for what it is and to refuse to play along with it.

But this form of abuse doesn’t just happen on the personal scale. It’s happening on the national scale as well.

For a long time Christians have been moving themselves into position as the Designated Adults of society itself. If you need illustrations of that claim, all you need to do is look at movies like Left Behind or study other Christian conceptualizations of the Rapture; a great many Christians seriously believe that when (ANY DAY NOW™) they get bodily taken up to Heaven in the blink of an eye by their magic invisible daddy, society will self-destruct and descend into madness, chaos, crime, and unbelievable, unthinkable perversions. All that holds the rest of us back from that fate is the presence of holy, pious, sanctimonious–er, sanctified Christian culture warriors who are trying their best to rein us all in and protect us from ourselves by running our lives, so when they leave, the rest of us are screwed. DAMN IT, why won’t people listen to them? Shut up and let Daddy drive!

After the Rapture, of course, once the good Christians have been taken away, they will not care anymore at all what happens to us because magic-reasons. And if we naughty children don’t behave and do as we’re told, one day we will get an eternal spanking from their Galactic Sky Daddy once we all die miserably in the Tribulation.

But until that joyous day they will do their best to save us all from our own idiocy by forcing us to behave by hook or by (ever-more-frequently) crook, even if we absolutely hate being forced to obey. Children never want to listen and they often don’t understand why they’re being controlled by their parents. If you saw a child walking into traffic/drinking poison/playing with fire, you’d have to do something! We’ll thank our Christian parents for their efforts one day. We’ll see. Or we’ll get what is coming to us–forever.

I know that sounds awful, but yes, that really is the mindset: Christians like that believe that they are superior to non-believers in every way, and thus morally justified in “parenting” others.

As doctrines go, the Rapture is already one of the very worst in the whole history of a religion famous for awful doctrines. But second only to that has to be this very mistaken idea that Christians have that they are the morality-keepers of the world and that without them everything would just go to pieces–just like how parents know what happens if they let their toddlers go very long without supervision. Some Christians are so terrified of the idea of an uncontrolled “worldly” society that they’re starting to stock guns and sacks of beans for what they genuinely believe is a looming apocalypse caused by giving too many people civil rights and insisting that schoolchildren be taught only true things in public schools. (So much for perfect love casting out fear!) The only thing that soothes their terror somewhat is taking control over other people.

And the first steps of control are usually pretty subtle–such as demanding the right to judge the validity of another person’s personal decisions.

Just knowing that someone else has made a different personal decision about something is enough to drive a controlling person’s blood pressure skyward. That’s a challenge to the validity of their own decision, so obviously they have to force that other person into lockstep with themselves. So when I saw that Christian blogger whining that hypocrisy was no excuse for not joining his religion, that was a red flag for me. Who died and made him king? Because I sure don’t remember giving him the right to decide how valid another person’s decisions are. The real irony is that he was condemning people for using the “excuse” of hypocrisy to justify not joining his religion, all while blithely and supremely unaware that he was at that very moment practicing hypocrisy in being judgmental.

I’m not surprised he didn’t notice. Hypocrisy is deeply embedded in church culture. When the Barna Group undertook a study of how people both in and out of the religion view Christianity, they figured that outsiders wouldn’t be very pleased with their religion, but they had no idea just how negative these perceptions were or how grounded they were in actual experience rather than what they thought would be childish petulance:

When they labeled Christians as judgmental this was not merely spiritual defensiveness. It was frequently the result of truly ‘unChristian’ experiences. We discovered that the descriptions that young people offered of Christianity were more thoughtful, nuanced, and experiential than expected.

Indeed, they discovered that a shocking 85% of outsiders saw Christians as hypocritical–and that even half of young Christians saw their own religion that way. And whether Daddy thinks hypocrisy is a valid reason to avoid a religion or not, I think that it is. Given that no religion makes objectively-true supernatural claims, a religion’s validity all comes down to how good it is for its people and its surrounding society. Hypocrites are proving that even when taken metaphorically this religion doesn’t work well and isn’t relevant to even its own people’s lives. I’d expect a few bad apples in any large group, but when “hypocrisy” is one of the defining features of that group, that’s a good indication that even its own adherents aren’t taking its promises and threats seriously–so I see no reason why I should. Instead of fixing the problem, these Christians are instead attacking my right to view their hypocrisy as a problem at all.

This rush to judge others would be baffling if I thought that Christians as a group cared much about what their Savior told them to do. Indeed, they’re told quite explicitly not to judge other people, but that’s just another rule they contort to get out of having to obey. They’ve got tons of reasons why sometimes a Christian’s just gotta judge others anyway, just like they’ve got tons of reasons why a Christian should TOTALLY pray in public or behave hatefully toward other people, as shown in the depressing comments on this and any other blog post that dares take Christians to task for, well, not being loving. And any time a Christian steps out of line with the hate-filled, controlling, judgmental square dance, you can bet that other Christians will be right along to beat the dissenter back into line.

It shouldn’t take a casual observer long to realize that Christians don’t really want to obey these commandments in the first place. There’s simply no charitable read I can make for why they’d choose to disobey these very plain and simple commands from what they truly believe is no less than their Messiah. But there are plenty of uncharitable ones.

The primary conclusion I draw from my observations is that Christians are in no position whatsoever to consider themselves the moral powerhouses of the world. There is no reason whatsoever to grant them parental rights over me or anybody else.

In order for Christians to be the Designated Adults, first they have to be, as a group, worthy of holding that authority. As we just covered, they are not. Their magical friend is certainly not inducing them to behave morally. No magical processes make them superior to anybody. Even the threat of literally eternal, punitive, unending, excruciating torture isn’t enough to make them obey their very own rules. Meanwhile, I don’t lie, steal, hurt anybody, or cheat, and I don’t even have that gruesome threat looming over my head to force me into good behavior–so thanks, but I’ll captain my own ship; I think I know this patch of coastline better than they do anyway.

Whether Christians think my reasons for doing things are valid or not, it’s not up to them to approve or disapprove. It doesn’t matter if they’re comfortable or not with what I do. And more of us need to question why Christians want to grab the right to control us. Once we grant them even a small amount of unwarranted power, then they will grab for more and more of it. Abuse always escalates. Controllers aren’t ever content with what they have; when they realize they are not soothed by the control they already have, they’ll grab for more in the hopes that the next crossed boundary will soothe their anxieties. But the next seizing of power doesn’t do the trick either. There will always be more power demanded, until we find ourselves totally boxed in. That’s why we have to speak up when we see a Christian trying to take more power than he or she should have over others.

If you’re wondering why the religion seems to be staggering and faltering like it is, well, I think that’s why. The rest of us gave them way too much benefit of the doubt before, but not a day passes without us seeing some fresh new scandal erupting out of the Christosphere like a volcano rumbling into life. As more and more of these stories come into the light, the rest of us realize more and more that we shouldn’t let a group be our culture’s parent-figures when the people in that group don’t even know how to handle themselves. In two thousand years, they still haven’t managed to figure out how to live by their own rules.

But it’s a lot easier for Christians to try to control others than it is for them to confront their own shortcomings.

Hey, don’t look at me that way. Not everything in the Bible’s false.

Speaking of control, we’re going to talk next about what some Christian leaders are doing in their panic about their young people leaving the religion in such great numbers. I hope you’ll join me. Until then, have a good weekend!

Posted in Biography, Feminism, Hypocrisy, Religion, The Games We Play | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

The Most Misunderstood Word (Isn’t Kingdom, Sorry).

I saw this interview on Religion News Service with Scot McKnight, who argues that Christians talk a big game about this idea of “kingdom,” but don’t really understand what it means in the Bible or how it should play out in their everyday lives.

English: "Cenote de los Sacrificios"...

English: “Cenote de los Sacrificios” at Chichén Itzá, Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico. A karst lake, reflecting the karst’s water table. . (Photo credit: Wikipedia). Looks like the bottom fell out of here, too.

I admit, I was a little floored. Though I do agree with him entirely about the word “kingdom” being misunderstood (in that I certainly don’t know what he’s talking about; I deconverted before that became a trendy idea), I’d frankly disagree hugely with his assessment that it is the most misunderstood word in the Christian lexicon right now. That’d be the last word I’d ever have picked, speaking as someone who stands almost every day on the receiving end of a far greater misunderstanding.

I’d say that the most misunderstood word in the Bible today is “love.”

A year or so ago I talked about how Christians have been redefining the word ‘love’ for many years now.

I don’t see why “kingdom” matters if Christians can’t even figure out how to truly show love. Jesus didn’t tell his followers that “they will know you by how awesomely you live the KINGDOM,” but rather by how they love others.

A pity the most ardent, fervent followers of the Lord of Love haven’t got the faintest idea how to do that.

It is simply astonishing to me to witness just how many contortions Christians make in order to get out of doing exactly what their own Savior specifically and explicitly told them to do. When I run across Christians behaving hatefully, I helpfully mention to them that they are, and immediately get back reams of protests about how no no, they are totally being loving, and I’m just totally wrong–as if they’re the ones who get to define whether or not their deeds are loving rather than the recipient–or should I say “victim”–of their behavior.

Since writing that original post about how love gets redefined by so many Christians, I’ve come to understand that these same Christians tend to value intentions over reality. Just as feeling lust is exactly the same as committing adultery, just as wishing really hard for help to arrive at someone’s door is the same as actually doing something to help that person, wanting to behave lovingly is exactly the same as showing love toward others. Heck, it might even be superior.

And, too, if Christians reserve for themselves alone the self-serving right to be the sole arbiters of whether or not their behavior is loving, why then, that frees them of having to deal with the bloody inconvenience of being actually loving, or face any fallout from being called hateful instead. There’s a certain beauty in the logic here, and I’ll walk you through it:

1. A Christian is commanded by no less than Jesus Christ himself to be loving toward one’s neighbors.

2. Being loving is however very difficult for a variety of reasons.

3. Let’s just redefine what love means, so it now encompasses being very un-loving (controlling, bigoted, discriminatory), which will make it much easier to obey, since that’s how we wanted to behave in the first place;

4. We’ll need to totally ignore or shout down anybody who criticizes this new definition and deny to the very skies any denunciation or pushback of what we’re doing.

5. Hooray! We’re loving our neighbors! (And possibly being “persecuted” by people who don’t use our same definition of “love”–BONUS!)

6. Now we can celebrate being totally in the right because people are being critical of our behavior, which obviously they would never be otherwise. Obviously Jesus is totally happy with us now!

7. Who shall we “love” next?

See what I mean? They’ve removed every single mechanism for recognizing their wrongdoing and along with it every single means of correcting themselves. They’ve elevated this false definition to the status of an idol and worship at its stinking feet–because it lets them behave in shockingly controlling and nasty ways to people around them and, they think, get away with it. It really reminds me of people who can’t cook at all who use packaged turkey gravy mixes and are convinced these are as good as making a proper turkey gravy from scratch, and lick their lips and ask for more of it at Thanksgiving. And that’s okay, I ain’t going to judge busy people for doing what they think is best to do to get a big dinner on the table, and gravy does have a few tricks to making it, but barring the most disastrous kitchen misadventures a package mix for it not as good as the real thing is. Alas, by now a lot of people have never had from-scratch turkey gravy so they don’t even know what they’re comparing the mix to. In the same manner, a great many Christians don’t seem to have the faintest idea what love is, and I’ve got to wonder if the reason they’re acting this way is maybe because they’ve never really seen it themselves, so they don’t really know how to show or share it–so they think that their inferior substitute is just as good as the real thing.

Christians have built entire websites around trying to explain away and spin-doctor this glaring shortcoming in their people. One has the audacity to declare that “The non-believer cannot be excused from believing just because it is possible to point to those who simply pretend to be what they are not.” (Citation needed, because I certainly think that’s more than enough of a reason.) Another site goes the route of nit-picking what the term “hypocrite” actually means to excuse away this signal failure in Christian believers as a group, reiterating that just because the religion is filled with hypocrites, that’s no excuse; the author of the page throws in a No True Scotsman about his peers just for good measure. (Did he become psychic, one must wonder? Isn’t that against the rules?) I find this sort of distancing act to be laughable–considering these same Christians genuinely believe that their god makes Christians better or more moral people, except when he doesn’t or if the Christians in question are just pretending.

But they’re not really getting away with this redefinition any more than they’re getting away with being unloving.

The problem (for them) is, more and more non-Christians are aware of these mindgames, and more and more Christians themselves are waking up to the reality of what their religion is doing to people. One of this blog’s dearest friends is a now-ex-Christian who found, as this other religion blogger did, that when it comes to sheer hatefulness, spit-flecked spite, and roiling nastiness, nothing, nothing, NOTHING beats a Christian with a keyboard. Indeed, as FaithStreet’s author discovered, once he began a blog about religion that wasn’t toeing the party line of fake “love” he got deluged with the nastiest, foulest, most horrifying and shocking threats you can possibly imagine from “loving” Christians determined to terrorize him into compliance. But there were some unexpected (to him at least) observations to be made:

Interestingly, the only other people I have gotten hate mail from are atheists. Atheist hate mail is usually of a more intellectual persuasion, and they have never been violent, but they are extremely contemptuous, insulting, and condescending. I once wrote about a barrage of hate mail I got from atheists and received dozens of apologies from other atheists. I have never gotten any personal hate mail from a Jew, a Muslim, a Hindu, a Buddhist, a pagan, an agnostic, or a humanist.

He’s a little confused about why so many Christians feel the need to shriek violent threats and hate-filled rhetoric at anybody who dissents. But I’m not.

The type of Christians who behave hatefully are tribal Christians who are part of the religion because they think it gives them a leg up over other people. It’s part of their identity as a dominant class. When anybody tries to point out their flaws and mistakes, even if that person technically is part of the “tribe,” that person becomes a threat to their dominance. And threats to dominance must be negated and destroyed as quickly as possible.

So we see with Christians’ current big targets: women’s rights and LGBTQ rights. Standing on the correct side of these culture-war issues is now more important to most Christian groups than showing love to one’s neighbor, as Godless in Dixie has noted. Both of these issues, once they filter their way through the system, will have profound impacts on Christian dominance; to some extent they already are. So obviously the holders of dissenting opinions on these topics are threats and must be vanquished.

Jesus might be the most powerful being in the universe to his followers, but he’s obviously not strong enough to withstand the threat these two forces present to his church. His followers have to help him out. And they do, by doing their best to squash those threats for him. And they call their efforts “love” even though nobody outside the choirloft is fooled and even though their behavior is as unloving as anything could ever be, and think this is how they advance their god’s “kingdom,” which brings us back around to Scot McKnight.

The word “kingdom” is just the latest soapy goopy feel-good word Christians like to make up. It’s one of those words that doesn’t really mean or quantify anything but which gets invested with huge-but-metaphorical importance, and because of that it’s a very easy word to pick fights over. It gives Christian leaders something else to nitpick over how Christians are doing everything wrong today; it lets them speculate as well about the growing numbers of almost-entirely-uninvolved Christians drifting into “None” status, as Scot McKnight even says in his interview: he blames this supposed misunderstanding about the word “kingdom” for–and I kid you not here–lower rates of involvement with local churches. Back in my day the word that fulfilled those exact same functions was “discipleship,” if you’re wondering, coming in from the retiring heavyweight “submission”; the terminology might change over time although the usage really doesn’t.

But this word is not even going to ping anybody’s radar in a decade or two any more than the other ones did. Christians can concentrate on it or not or pick another one entirely, as they like, and their choice won’t impact their religion’s health a single bit in the long run. But you know what will? How well they love–truly love, not the shitty substitute they’ve created for themselves and think is just as good as the real thing. By concentrating on this other word and fighting and squabbling over what it means and how Christians should live it, they’re ignoring the real problem.

By concentrating on correcting people’s misuse of the word “kingdom,” Scot McKnight is missing the elephant in the room: the abusive redefinition of love that so many of his peers are operating under. That’s the error that will destroy the Christian church if not seen and corrected, not the one around “kingdom.” He’s certainly allowed to care about whatever he wants to care about, and certainly there is room in Christianity for lots of concerns (hell, there really should be a lot more than there are). But the article about him characterizes this word as the most misunderstood one in the Bible–and while Mr. McKnight is certainly entitled to his own opinion, it’s a bit startling that he’d pick this word as the one to launch an education campaign around. I’d figure that if Christians could figure out what love really is, then this “kingdom” kerfluffle would likely figure itself out, and by the same token if they can’t figure out what “love” even is, then certainly secondary concepts like “kingdom” will remain elusive. Part of me wonders if so few of them are tackling “love” because doing so would alienate their core fanbase of fanatics and zealots, much like how I think the Republican Party can’t afford to change course on its various awful platforms or risk losing the one bloc they actually know for sure they have at this point.

Alas, there’s not a lot of time left in which these folks can monkey around and tinker with things. Growing numbers of people already know or are learning that Christianity hasn’t got a monopoly on the showing of love, and as the religion gets more and more polarized around its pet mission-drifts, they’re going to lose more and more people who don’t want to be part of a movement like the one their leaders are building. Indeed, one Christian polling group found like six ways of wording this exact same problem when they looked at why hordes of young people are leaving their religion. Either Christians will figure out what they’re doing wrong and why it’s so disastrously impacting their religion, or they’ll drill down on hate-as-love train and ride it all the way to irrelevance, which is nowhere near as fun as Space Mountain.

I figure that either which way this thing goes, humanity wins.

English: Space Mountain at Disneyland

English: Space Mountain at Disneyland (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Posted in Guides, Hypocrisy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Why I Support Brittany Maynard’s Right to Die.

(CN: The right to die; death with dignity; my mother’s death of cancer. This is going to be heavy. Also, fuck cancer.)

You could guess I do support the right to die, right? But not everybody does. Death with dignity is one of the causes that Christians tend to oppose bitterly. In fact I’m hard-pressed to find secular groups or movements that oppose it. The Secular Global Institute explicitly says that “Much of the opposition to the Right to Die and Death with Dignity movements arises out of religious beliefs, particularly those rooted in the tenet of the sanctity of life.” The American Humanist Organization specifically includes “death with dignity” in its Humanist Manifesto. Dying with Dignity Canada notes as well this tendency and adds that it doesn’t think religion’s going to win this fight because, frankly, it’s a monstrous fight done purely to please a god that “fewer & fewer people cleave to in educated, free thinking society.” There are some secular arguments against death with dignity, but overall you’re going to find that it’s religious groups out in the open opposing it and trying to work against it–while one in five doctors gets a request for this assistance at least once in their careers (according to one study in that link there, but that was in the 90s–I’m betting that number’s grown since).

Right now in the news there is a young woman named Brittany Maynard who is facing her own looming death from cancer. She’s thankfully going to have the ability to choose her own date of death and method of passage from this life, but the heated opposition rallying against her decision is just mystifying to me. I’m donotlinking to just one of these opposing people because I find these Christian attempts at concern-trolling and crocodile tears simply revolting, foul, repulsive, and disgusting. In this one, its writer preys upon a dying person’s fears and hopes to try to convert her through an open letter published on a Christian site to convince her in the chirpiest language possible to stick with her disease till it naturally kills her, and incidentally threatening her with Hell if she doesn’t comply. Yes, you heard me. Another very big conservative site is flat-out calling her a coward. Jesus fucking christ, these people sicken me. SICKEN me. I cannot find strong enough words to express my disgust. Their tactics all run about like that: dictating her lived experience to her, negating her, threatening her, cajoling her, tempting her. The less we say about them and their vile, rotted spewing, the better.

But I know a little about what this young woman is going through. I watched my mother die of cancer, and it’s about the most gruesome way possible to die.

—————–

Hypnotically Pink for the Cure (1488505615)

Hypnotically Pink for the Cure (1488505615) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Set the Wayback Machine for about ten years ago. I’m standing in a hospital–oh, how I hate hospitals–and my mother is in her bed. A few minutes ago, we just had the last coherent conversation we’ll ever have. A sudden wet throbbing lash of pain has just now stolen everything from her; she is screaming that she’s scared and that everything hurts. (Yes, of course it does; every organ in her body has just given out, but we don’t know that quite yet.) A flock of nurses can’t hold her down. One of them frantically rang a bell a second ago.

I’m arguing with the doctor who just arrived in response to the bell, rushing into the room. I’ve never seen him; he’s just the doctor on night rotation, I think. He’s an East Indian chap, youngish, thin, charismatic, probably about my age at the time (30s), wearing a crisp white coat. I’m telling him that there must be something he can do to ease my mother through this crisis of agony. No, he says, there is not. He can’t give her more morphine, which is what she’s been dining on for the last couple of days, because–get this–if he does, she might be at risk of developing an opiate addiction, and you see, there are rules–

I am simply stunned. An opiate addiction. He is worried about–about–

I still remember my upper lip curling up above my canines as I snarl and turn on him. If he hadn’t retreated until his back was pressed against the foyer’s wall, I’d have shoved him against it. In a very low voice I inform him that my mother–that lady, that one over there, the one screaming and thrashing and crying–is in horrific amounts of pain, and everybody here is well aware of the fact that an opiate addiction is the very last thing she’ll ever have to worry about. Our eyes lock. I point at him. “You will help her and you will do it right now,” I tell him, “or so help me God.” Somewhere in the back of my mind my thoughts whirl in shock: Did I seriously just threaten to hurt a doctor? Yes. Yes, I did. It’s the only time I’ve ever said anything threatening to anybody. But the prickles of sweat blossoming along my bare arms in the chilly room make me realize I’m serious.

The doctor doesn’t seem frightened, but he still studies me–an angry, hissing little kitchen beetle–for a long moment, gauging me somehow. Then he suddenly, finally nods and steps past me to my mother’s bedside. He does some dialing-things with her IV and then some other fiddly things, and suddenly my mother gasps and falls quiet, her labored breathing echoing in the room before becoming soft, rhythmic, and peaceful. That near-silence is the most beautiful symphony I’ve ever heard in my life. After looking me up and down once more, the doctor leaves. I don’t ever see him again.

I spend the night beside my mother’s bed. I can’t even really touch her because the medications she’s on, which I’ve been told make her swollen skin very tender, but I rest one of my hands underneath one of hers, underneath the waxy, jaundiced hand that has held and touched and hugged and helped me my entire life. I hope beyond all hope that this very faint contact at least is comforting rather than excruciating, and I sit like that all night.

My mother never regains consciousness.

The next morning she dies with a rattle and a long sigh of what sounds for all the world like relief.

Her body is so battered and destroyed and consumed that the hospital people can’t even use her corneas.

Her last words were about how much pain she was in and how terrified she was. The last time she directed the movement of her own body was to flail and thrash to escape that pain. I had to almost assault a doctor to get her some kind of relief.

Fuck cancer.

Let’s take a break for a minute.

———————————-

Everybody back? You can probably imagine that the preceding paragraphs have not been easy to write. I’m still a little fucked-up about my mother’s death and there’s still stuff I’m unpacking about it. I was of two minds about detailing this event. The last thing I want to do is take a spotlight away from someone else who needs it, or to act like what happened to my mom is somehow unique. I have been sitting on this story for days as I mull over the right way to approach this subject.

But in the end it came down to this: I want you to understand what a specific person’s death from cancer was like.

I want you to see the very human face of cancer and understand what dying of it can actually look like and what it’s like to see it happen. And I want you to comprehend what Christians are demanding when they want someone to suffer from cancer in the way they think correct and best. When all the chirping is done, when all the cajoling is past, when the name-calling fades, this barbaric scene is what actually happens. That kind of death is what they are wishing on the people they want to control. That experience is what they are inflicting on someone they don’t even know and will never even learn about, all so they can feel smugly satisfied that nobody, anywhere in this world, is doing something they don’t feel comfortable with or fully approve of.

That kind of death is what they think is okay to force someone to endure, all in the name of narrative.

A narrative is a storyline, a way that an event should unfold. Myths are narratives, as are fairy tales and advertisements on television. Christians tend to have this strong affection for them, and I don’t think they cope very well with people stepping outside the bounds of their favored narratives. Love must look like this; death must look like that. There’s only one way to conduct a marriage, and only one way to conduct the having of a terminal illness. Children have to act like this; elderly people must act like that. Women are meant to do this, men are meant to do that, and there aren’t any other genders or ways of expressing anything. TRUE CHRISTIANS™ are always like this, atheists are like that, and ex-Christians, well, they’re just deluded if they think they were ever real Christians in the first place.

It’s not true that humanity only has one certain best way to do everything, and demanding people act along with these imposed storylines is not only a form of negation of those other people’s experiences and needs but also an attempt at controlling them. It’s disrespectful and cruel, especially when one considers that this life might be all we’ll ever get.

If you’ve ever seen those “inspirational” memes about brave cancer sufferers, you’ll know now why I dislike those memes. I’m really glad that the people in them are doing well. But my fear is that people will see those memes and think all cancer sufferers act like that, and think less of people who don’t have cancer the correct way. My mom was sick for the whole last three years of her life and ate nothing but won-ton soup and Gummi bears and played video games for the last few months of it because that’s all she could handle. She was not going dancing in South America or fulfilling a bucket list. And I constantly had to defend her choices to her worried friends, who all had suggestions and admonitions for her.

I saw then that when someone suffering from cancer doesn’t follow the right narrative, people whose entire worldviews depend on the idea of universality for their narratives seem like they get really threatened. People like my mother remind them that the real world doesn’t work like they think it does, and their response to this bit of dissonance is to either cajole or force people into stepping into the story and roleplaying it “correctly.”

My mother’s passing was not some Steve Jobs-like romp, no metaphysical journey-to-the-next-level. It was not some Victorian romantic event with a sorrowful lady expiring peacefully amid a room full of lilies. Her death was gruesome. Ghastly. Grisly. Terrifying. Undignified. Traumatically painful. Every organ in her body was corrupted and blown at the end, and her last conscious hour of life was wracked with the sheerest agony, fear, and discomfort.

Though she was a lifelong fervent Catholic, her god certainly didn’t step in to help. (Maybe she just hadn’t racked up enough social-media upvotes…?) But I’m not surprised. Cancer is one of those places where dogma and ideology bump up against reality in an especially sticky and uncomfortable way. All the singing and praying and clapping and believing in the world won’t change a thing. It’s no accident that it was my pastor’s death from brain cancer years before that began my journey right out of Christendom. People’s most desperate and wild hopes collide with simple, torturous reality, and unless someone’s in that very situation, it’s impossible to tell anybody how to live or die with this disease. For some folks it goes like it did for Steve Jobs. For others it goes like it did for my mother. And you can’t really tell who’ll go what direction till they’re going down that road.

Now Brittany Maynard finds herself on that road.

I think what drives Christians spare is that she’s beautiful, young, so-very-alive, and yet facing death. Nothing about it seems right. And this bright, lovely young woman is being harangued by people who are trying to convince her to stick with this cancer she’s got till the end “just in case, you never know,” their god might just do a miracle. But if he did, it’d be the first one he ever performed, and certainly he has time to perform this first miracle before she leaves this world; he doesn’t have to wait till the last second like in movies! I find the idea grotesque to offer out as a hope to someone who is dying. I find it even more ghoulish that someone might suggest that she stick with it because of some nebulous spiritual benefit or heroism it will confer on her for having done so. Believe me, there is nothing glamorous or heroic about dying of cancer and there was no fulfillment or great meaning my mother found in that kind of death.

At heart, this issue–the right to choose one’s death–is a matter of consent and bodily ownership, just like abortion is. Nobody gets a veto to use on another person’s body. If she chooses to leave this life and doesn’t want to stay, then it’s barbaric to force her to stay and endure pain, fear, and discomfort. There’s no right way or wrong way to deal with cancer, either, much less a moral way or an immoral way. Every one of us deserves the right to decide how we individually will deal with our own bodies and our own medical decisions. Every one of us has the right to deal with our own impending mortality the way we think best, too, and that includes the use of coping methods that other people might not like.

I know it makes Christians very uncomfortable that Brittany Maynard is making this choice, but their comfort isn’t really important, and neither is their approval. They’re not the ones dying and facing that fear and pain. She is. When it’s their own fear and pain, they are welcome to handle it however they like, and if they choose to endure it to the very end of the line, then I will support them just like I support Ms. Maynard. But this is her fear and pain, not theirs, and she–not anybody else–owns her body and can handle that fear and pain as she sees fit. She doesn’t have to justify her decision to anybody or prove she’s doing the right thing to Glenn Fuckin’ Beck to somehow earn the right to direct her own fate free of his name-calling and plucking and meddling. (If he and his venomous ilk can’t show real compassion to someone in great need of it, then the rest of us will show it double.)

I find it ghoulish and repulsive that the people who say they care most about “life” care so very little about individual people’s particular lives. I suspect such folks are using her as a pawn to advance their own agenda of control and power over others. And I’m glad she is refusing to allow them to seize control of her life and body. I say often that this may be the only life we ever get and that we must use our finite lifetimes as best we can. That idea applies double to someone dying of a dreadful, horrible disease.

If I were in Ms. Maynard’s position, knowing what I know about what a death from cancer looks like, I don’t think I’d be doing anything differently. And I’d have done anything, given anything for my mother to have had a similar option. I don’t know if she’d have taken that way out if she’d had it; as I mentioned, she was very Catholic, and her religion is run by joyless, evil, soulless, vile, heartless bastards who don’t care that their ivory-tower policies and dictates increase suffering exponentially in the real world. But I really wish she’d at least had the option.

I can’t give that option to my mother anymore, but you’re damned right I support Ms. Maynard in whatever she needs to do. I hope her efforts to raise awareness result in greater understanding of the right to die with dignity. And may her remaining days on this earth be spent exactly the way she wants them to be spent–with those she loves, doing what she thinks is right. May her passing be as dignified and as stress-free and pain-free as possible. If at the last moment she decides not to take advantage of the option she’s now chosen, then that’s her choice too. Whatever she decides, I support her–as I support every other cancer sufferer’s right to direct his or her own fate.

Also, fuck cancer.

Posted in Biography, Hypocrisy, Religion, The Games We Play | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments