Previous experiences and current opinions

Which Christianity?

Speaking of Christian Nationalism, another facet of this idea is the subject of disunity.

“A house divided against itself cannot stand.” (Abraham Lincoln)

Christians say they think America was founded as a Christian nation, and they want it to become all Christian in its politics. I have already written about that being a fallacy, and how the founding fathers wanted a secular government.

I would like to ask the Christians, which Christianity?

There are so many different sects within Christianity. According to Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, there exist roughly 43,000 Christian denominations worldwide in 2012. Here are a few of them;

Catholics

Independent Catholics

Anglicans

Baptist

Lutheran

Calvinist

Methodist

Seventh-day Adventist

Anabaptist

Plymouth Brethren

Hussites

Quakers

Pentecostalist

Nondenominational

African initiated

Chinese Patriotic Christian

New Apostolic

Messianic Judaist

Offshoot Christian cults

Eastern Orthodoxy

Oriental Orthodoxy

Non-trinitarian Restorationism

They differ on some very fundamental religious tenants, such as:

The Bible is the Word of God and true in every word – The Bible is a guidebook to be interpreted for modern times.

From the hierarchy of the Church has total authority, to each individual carrying responsibility for their own choices and actions.

From stating the three well-known creeds are to be followed (Nicene, Athanasius, and Apostles), to not embracing any stated creed (Baptists).

Mary is a mediator between man and God, and she is not that.

Homosexuality is OK, and it is not.

Divorce is OK, and it is not.

Abortion is murder and should be state controlled, or it is a difficult personal choice to be made by the woman and those close to her.

The list goes on, and you can see that these tenants affect every single one of us when they are politicized.

Christianity is the most divided religion on the earth. If this contentious, divided lot were to rule our politics, they would bring their division into that arena also. They do not have a very good track record of providing unity among diverse peoples, but rather have a rather violent history of insisting that others convert to their belief system. If they were to rule politics, I do not believe that we as a nation will stand.

IndoctriNation

I recently watched part of the movie IndoctriNation, which is a documentary film by Colin Gunn. In this film, Gunn laments that public schools are no longer “Christian”. He blames the country’s problems on the lack of his personal religion being taught to all children, no matter what religion they might be.

The whole tone of his lament is from the religiocentric view that his religion is the only true one, and that it is his god’s will that his religion must be taught to everyone.

Religiocentrism or religio-centrism is defined (Corsini 1999:827) as the “conviction that a person’s own religion is more important or superior to other religions.” 

In my view this is the height of hubris.

hu·bris

noun

  1. excessive pride or self-confidence.

He does not express any acknowledgement of the rights of others to their beliefs.

This is one aspect of Christianity that continues to irk me.

I am a real human being with my own view of the world, and I feel it is the highest form of disrespect to insist that I believe the same way you do, or that I am immoral and in “sin” if I don’t believe in your god.

I used to be a fundamentalist Christian who looked down on all “heathens”. I now realize the evil inherent in “othering” people of different characteristics, beliefs, or culture.

I am glad that schools are kept secular, and I believe that no one religion should be allowed to proselytize in schools. Parents can raise their children in their own faith, but should not be allowed to foist their views onto other people’s children.

This is a topic I am feeling passionate about recently. Our country was founded on this principle that no one religion, including Christianity, should or would dictate the governance of our country.

It begins in my mind with the knowledge that government, and individuals, do not need religion in order to be moral. Those who say that we will only be moral if we have the punishment of a god hanging over our heads deliver a profound insult to our inner natures, our ability to think and care and help others.

The only place in the constitution where God is mentioned is in the section on keeping religion separate from government.

The famous Danbury letter from President Jefferson to the Baptists of Danbury, Connecticut, reassured them that no religion would run the government. The Baptists were afraid of persecution from the Congregationalists, by the way. “Mr. Jefferson, build that wall!” (Christopher Hutchinson, YouTube June 17, 2015)

Christians will argue that the founding fathers assumed that all moral governments would be based on religion – specifically the Christian religion. Where are the back-up documents to support that statement?

To the contrary, here are quotes from the founding fathers.

“The United States of America should have a foundation free from the influence of clergy.” – George Washington

“Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law.” – Thomas Jefferson

“The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe with blood for centuries.” – James Madison

“This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it.” – John Adams

“I have found Christian dogma unintelligible. Early in life, I absenteed myself from Christian assemblies.” – Benjamin Franklin

“All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.” – Thomas Paine

“Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise…During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What has been its fruits? More or less, in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in laity; in both, superstition, bigotry, and persecution.” – James Madison.

All quotes are from https://www.azquotes.com/quotes/topics/founding-fathers-atheist.html

I have experienced first-hand, in The Community of Jesus (CJ), what it is like to live under the totalitarian regime of a religion run community. If the Christian Nationalists take power of our government, I am afraid that CJ’s type of life will become a national template, and will bring about great strife and division.

I’m writing my memoir. It’s been a 10-year journey. I have worked on it and set it aside, back and forth over those years. Sometimes thinking through what happened was too painful and I would have to step away, sometimes for a month, once for over a year. It is now written, and I am working with an editor to clean it up, and to add in bits and pieces where she has questions. She is doing a first read-through from the perspective of a new reader, and giving me feedback on what the reader will want to know. She is very encouraging which keeps me moving forward.

I didn’t know how much I didn’t know about getting a book out to the world. I started out with two friends gathering bi-weekly or weekly on Zoom. We would each read what we had written, and give comments to each other. I found that very helpful. Just reading it out loud showed me many places I needed to tweak or add something in, and their comments were great.

I think because of my friend book-club group, the manuscript is in pretty good shape, and my editor is able to go through it quickly. It’s pretty long at this point so the next phase will be to tighten it up, and make certain sections more dynamic – as in maybe making it a dialogue instead of a description.

She has also put me into contact with a copy editor who will do the picky scrutiny of grammar, etc., as well as formatting the type, lay-out and book cover. I also have to see about getting the pictures I have used copied at a high quality.

Then there is the decision about eBook and/or paperback book. I want to do both. eBooks are all the rage now, and are very accessible to everyone. However, I also want a paperback version available to sell, to give as gifts, and for anyone who prefers to read paper instead of a screen.

I have my work cut out for me. I have to now educate myself about Print on Demand with Amazon, Apple’s iBook, Barnes & Nobles Nook Reader, Book Baby, etc., etc. I have to start drafting marketing letters, and identify which areas I want to market it in. Who will want to read it? There are many populations to consider, from the casual reader to educators, ex-cult members to the helping profession. And there is pricing to consider. What do comparable books sell for?

It’s like being back in school. I have to buckle down and do my research. While that feels daunting at times, I am excited that I am nearing the end, and will soon be able to launch my book. Look for announcements to come!

Anyone out there who is considering writing their story, I encourage it. The more we tell what has happened to us, the more of a spotlight we shine on the abuse we have suffered, the more the world knows about it and who knows? Maybe someday something will actually happen to bring about justice.

When to Forgive

Forgiveness. There seems to be a lot of hype these days about forgiveness – how it is a health benefit, and unforgiveness perpetrates a feeling of bitterness in the victim, which will hinder their recovery.

I beg to differ with the broad sweep of these statements.

Forgiveness is directly tied up with the perpetrator being held accountable.

If forgiveness is given before the perpetrator owns up to the harm done, and asks for it, I don’t see how forgiveness can be real.

If the victim “tries” to forgive, says the words, but there has been no justice, is it real?

As a friend of mine said, “Real forgiveness bubbles up from inside. It can’t be dictated from outside. When it is – it’s a fallacy. All the anger, hurt, and sadness are still there and it’s getting buried beneath an acceptable façade. Who benefits? The perpetrator. Who betrays themselves? The victim. So “forgiveness” becomes salt in the wound, a self-inflicted gaslighting.”

If the victim forgives too soon, the perpetrator gets a free pass. They are allowed to think everything is ok now, and they don’t have to do the work or acknowledge the harm that they, or their organization, has done. Without that acknowledgment, nothing will change, and people will continue to get hurt.

My opinion? Don’t beat up on yourself if you are still angry. That is a normal response to what has been done to you. Don’t let religious people, or other dispensers of morality, tell you what to do. It is your journey, and you are the only one who can decide what is best for you.

Letter to the Editor

I was reading Volume 12, No.1, 2021, of ICSA Today, which I enjoy and appreciate. As I was reading the book review that Joseph Szimhart wrote on The Worm at the Core: On the Role of Death in Life, by Sheldon Solomon, Jeff Greenberg, and Tom Pyszczynski, I was struck by something that I have noticed before, and therefore wrote this response.

Joseph Szimhart does a thorough and good review of this book. What I would like to respond to is in his last paragraph, where he states that “The authors found overwhelming evidence confirming Becker’s central claim that, without constructing necessary illusions to cope with death, we humans would collapse in total despair” (p. 27). This statement gives me pause, because I cannot see how it relates to my current life. If we truly do “…accept that we live between a ‘rock and a hard place’…” where “…belief systems and values are also malleable…” where is the despair? With acceptance of the fact that we do not have answers comes a release of that despair, a relaxing of the demand to have answers, and an appreciation of the beauty and value of each day of life.

I have not read the book, or the “…more than five hundred studies…”, so I have only my own view and experience to speak from, but I do not think I am completely alone in how I view life and death. I got plenty of black-and-white thinking in the cult I was in, where heaven was held out as the carrot to justify a great deal of suffering in this life. Having left that way of thinking, I am happy with not knowing. I don’t believe there is life after death, but I know I could be wrong, since there is no proof one way or the other. I’ll find out when I die – or not. This does not leave me in despair. To the contrary, it puts my focus on living a good life now, knowing that it is finite, it has an end.

The concept of life having an end does not have to be a fearful one. How often have we worked on a project for the sole purpose of completing it? Isn’t that the goal and purpose of most of what we do? To bring our work to a point of completion, of satisfaction? Why should it be any different with our life as a whole? My life is a project I am working on, and if I do a “good enough” job, perhaps there will be a picture of a good life lived at the end that succeeding generations can appreciate, like a good painting that lasts after the artist’s death.

Having been in a fundamentalist Christian cult, I equate this fear of death with the Christian belief, although I know they do not have an exclusive claim on that framework. What I find frustrating is the idea many Christians have, and that I have heard expressed many times, that unless you believe in a god, and a life after death, you are stuck in an unhappy place of chaos. And in particular many of them seem to believe that it is their god that you should believe in. I raise my voice against that assumption. I no longer believe there is any god and I have never been happier, I have never been more at peace with my life, and with the knowledge that this is all there is, folks. I am not in an existential angst struggle to find the meaning of life. I know my meaning – to live each day as lovingly and fully as I can, and to be kind to others. I am satisfied with that.

Another member of Trump’s family speaks out. They know him the best, Good idea to listen and believe what they say.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/maryanne-trump-barry-secret-recordings/2020/08/22/30d457f4-e334-11ea-ade1-28daf1a5e919_story.html

Albert Einstein

“If I were to remain silent, I’d be guilty of complicity.”

― Albert Einstein

A lot of what I see on social media portrays the Democrats of some kind of evil conspiracy. Those portrayals are the evil conspiracy. Anyone who is wondering what is going on would do good to take a look at the Federalist Papers and see what the Founding Fathers had in mind for how our government should work.

The Great Courses has a lecture series on them that is very informative.

https://www.thegreatcoursesplus.com/books-that-matter-the-federalist-papers

Professor Daniel Nagin is the 2014 recipient of the prestigious Stockholm Prize on Criminology, an elected fellow of the American Society of Criminology, and the Teresa and H. John Heinz III University Professor of Public Policy and Statistics. His research focuses on the evolution of criminal and antisocial behaviors over the life course, the deterrent effect of criminal and non-criminal penalties on illegal behaviors, and the development of statistical methods for analyzing longitudinal data.

Daniel Nagin: The Black Lives Matter Movement has to be understood in the context of the historical legacy of the ill treatment of blacks by the police and the criminal justice system and American political and social institutions more generally. That legacy is a fact. The Movement, I think, is a reflection of and reaction to that legacy. I don’t think people should be surprised by it, and it’s part of why people should listen to the Black Lives Matter position. At the same time getting people to listen has been greatly complicated by the lethal ambushes of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge.

When you see video, for example, of the incident in North Charleston, where a police officer gunned down a man who was running away from him—you can’t deny those facts. I don’t know what motivated this cop to do it, but I’m not surprised that black people interpreted it as still another instance of their mistreatment by the police.

Once you use data to identify what the problem is, then you’re going to have to change what the police do, and how they interact with the public. And in that regard, there is wide agreement among policing scholars that the research on the effectiveness of police training is woefully inadequate. There are very few careful studies on what’s effective and what’s not effective in changing the behavior of police in the field.

For example: when police do use force, how well considered is it? Would a trained observer conclude that the use of force was necessary and appropriate? Was there a conceivable way that the use of force could have been avoided by some kind of de-escalation tactic?

The comparison I would give is that police, in general, do not receive anywhere near the level of training that we give to the members of our military on how to control their emotions and respond in a way that is going to be effective and constructive in conflict situations. People in our military, and in the best militaries in the world, get intensive training in those kinds of things, and by and large police don’t get anywhere near that level of training.

Right now, for obvious reasons, the pendulum is focused very much on what the police can do to improve their credibility in the community. 20 years ago, when crime rates were high, the focus was on doing anything they could to reduce the crime rate. What police departments ultimately have to do is to recognize that both of these values are important. It’s important that they do things to help make the community safe. But it is also important that they do things in a way that leaves the community with confidence and trust in them, and to keep in mind that sometimes these two different objectives can wind up being in conflict. They’ve got to balance these two objectives, and know that one shouldn’t have the status to trump the other. The idea is not to have a safe police state. The idea is to have a safe democratic society.

Founding Fathers quotes

“I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church.” —Thomas Paine

“When a religion is good, I conceive it will support itself; and when it does not support itself, and God does not take care to support it, so that its professors are obliged to call for the help of the civil power, ’tis a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one.” —Benjamin Franklin

“Religious controversies are always productive of more acrimony & irreconcilable hatreds than those which spring from any other cause …” —George Washington

“Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear…” —Thomas Jefferson

“During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the Clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity, in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution…” —James Madison