What if the far-right God is the true God?

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I’ve been thinking a lot about the nature of God lately.  The insidious rise of Christian fascism in this country is forcing me to do so.

The radical religious right’s beliefs about God — punishing, angry, and intolerant — are incomprehensible and repugnant to me.   The prospect of the Old Testament Law-based Christian theocracy this radical group of zealots are attempting to impose here in America fills me with terror, righteous anger, and makes me literally sick to my stomach.

No matter how hard I try to understand these far right religious leaders, their dominionist views, and their need for total control over every aspect of our lives (this is the same group that talks about “small government”), I just can’t.   I don’t get it at all.   They might as well be aliens from another planet.

Their message and plan for America (and yes, eventually the world) doesn’t contain a shred of love, compassion, forgiveness, or mercy.   They show nothing but contempt for just the kind of people — the vulnerable and weak — that Jesus loved and instructed us to care for.   They only care about power and money.  They will cheat, lie, exploit, destroy, kill, and even commit treason in order to get more of what they crave.    They have hijacked the Republican party by appealing to religious conservatives and their churches, and now those churches have become as corrupt and self-serving as they are.  It’s no wonder so many good people are leaving the churches.   They have managed to Christianize greed and hatred.  They believe oppressing or punishing everyone who is different from them is their holy duty to bring about their longed for Christian America.  They are no different from the Taliban or ISIS.

But there’s an enormous disconnect, because their real god is “the market” — which they consider infallible and think will solve all the world’s problems.   This is idolatry.   Trickle down economics has never worked and never will work.  Singing the praises of an unregulated free market that will always self-correct if left alone is just an easy way for them to rationalize trashing and poisoning our small planet, not having to pay their fair share, or contribute to the common good. Make no mistake — their plan for America, if it succeeds, will cause widespread, massive suffering, misery, sickness, poverty, injustice, and death — all things associated with evil and utterly alien to any civilized society.

I don’t know if I believe in end times or not, but 2 Timothy 3 is telling about the nature of the people who have claimed all the power:  

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.

Sound familiar?

The supporters of their fascist movement and its chosen leader are almost as bad, selling their souls at hate-filled Trump rallies held so he can puff himself up with narcissistic fuel, where they are encouraged to rough up and act out in violence against people their Dear Leader deems unfit to be treated as human beings.

A few days ago,  Dear Leader told assembled police it was okay to hit suspects’ heads on car doors as they are roughly pushed inside.  “Don’t be too nice,” he instructed them while laughing, then he turned around and spread his arms out wide as if he was expecting applause.   And of course, he got it.   Have those police sold their souls too? People seem to be selling their souls everywhere these days.

America is meaner and colder than it ever was.   Virtues of empathy, forgiveness, charity, and mercy are today seen as weaknesses or even sins — you’re called a snowflake, or a Marxist, or a bleeding-heart liberal.  If you try to remind these Bible-thumping legalists that these are the ways in which Jesus expected his followers to behave, they scoff and pull out their King James bibles and point to some passage in the Old Testament, while self-righteously telling you your God is false and “unbiblical.”  They tell you that good works don’t matter, and only faith does.

It may be true we are saved by grace alone, but if so, I believe your heart will change and you will begin to do good works and to care about others, especially the most vulnerable.  For the fake Christians in power, saying good works are meaningless simply gives them carte blanche to say they are Christian, but still go ahead and keep hurting and exploiting people.    “By their fruit you shall know them,” said Jesus, and that’s what I go by.   Are they bearing good fruit or not?

As Jack Johnson sang, Where did the good people go?  Do good people even exist anymore?   America just seems to get so much meaner and colder every day.

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But the truth is that good people are still here.  We are expressing our alarm, anger, and terror on blogs, in Facebook groups, in forums, on the streets, and in the comments sections of increasingly disturbing news stories as the country marches toward Christian Fascism.    We are crying out as our hearts break, hoping and praying someone will listen and care.   We are scared and yes, grieving that the country we love seems to have been lost.   If we are Christian, our hearts are hurting over what has been done to Jesus and his message of love, compassion, and forgiveness.    The gentle people are being persecuted and vilified just because they care — or because they need care themselves.

The silencing and oppression of the gentle people is due to differences in personality, I think.  It’s a war of values:  gentleness vs. aggressiveness, humility vs. pride, empathy vs. callousness, civility vs. rudeness, altruism vs. selfishness, egalitarianism vs. authoritarianism, critical thinking vs. ignorance, acceptance vs. exclusion, forgiveness vs. vindictiveness, integrity vs. lock-step obedience.

By their nature, gentle people have difficulty rising to the top of society.    Most get nowhere near it, because they lack the aggression and willingness to step on top of and exploit others to get there.  But the falsely macho, arrogant, conscienceless and predatory get there because because they are wired to do so.   The gentle and meek have little power because they do not go around seeking it aggressively or destroying whatever’s in their way to get it.   If they are Christians, they share their faith quietly and sincerely without requiring huge donations, huge audiences, or political power.

Like all scapegoats, the gentle people are blamed for their failure or inability to take power, or become wealthy.  If they suffer, they are callously told they brought those sufferings on themselves and got what they deserved.

The gaslighting and projection keeps getting worse.   We are told our beliefs are wrong and demonic. We are told that if we were real Christians, we should accept that Trump’s America is also God’s America and Trump was anointed by God to usher in Christ’s Kingdom.   We are told we are evil liberal obstructionists (even though it’s the president and his billionaire sycophants and donors who are the real obstructionists) and that we are cherry-picking the “nice” parts of the Bible that we like.

You begin to feel like you’re going insane.   If you were a member of a narcissistic family or were close to a narcissist in your life,  you know how crazy-making the mind games and manipulations and gaslighting can be.   You begin to doubt yourself and your own beliefs.  You start to question reality itself, because after all, everyone around you is telling you you’re crazy, or stupid, or deluded, or hysterical, or overreacting, or too sensitive.

That’s what’s happening on a much larger scale in America today.   The accusations from far-right Trump-supporting zealots (I’m not talking about garden variety conservatives here) sometimes make me wonder if my beliefs really are wrong.  What if the far-right preachers and pundits and politicians are right after all?   What if God really is a big bad bully in the sky who hates gays and Muslims and nonbelievers, and wants the rich and powerful to keep getting richer and more powerful because they are his golden children who are predestined to inherit heaven and earth? Never mind the fact that the Bible itself says the meek shall inherit the earth — you question and wonder anyway.   What if my God is the false one?

And then I start to think:   if they really are right, and their God is really the way they insist he is, would I want anything to do with him?   Would I want to live in a society ruled by their God?  Would I want to spend eternity in a heaven filled with those who worship a God who could be that cruel and heartless — a heaven where everyone looks the same and thinks and worships exactly the same way?  Would I want to live in a heaven where there are no liberals, no gays, no thinkers, no dreamers, no gentle souls, and where people don’t care about each other?  A heaven where the likes of Betsy DeVos, Ted Cruz, Paul Ryan, and Mitch McConnell rub elbows and congratulate themselves over their moral superiority and how much power they held while on earth?

My answer is always, no, I do not.   To me, such a heaven would be hell.   And if there is a hell (I have doubts that hell really exists, but that’s a topic for another post), I think I might rather spend eternity there, with all the gentle and thinking and oppressed people.  I’d rather spend eternity burning in solidarity with Muslim mothers and their children, atheists, agnostics, Buddhists, rainbow-clad gays, open-minded liberals, feminists, artists, dreamers, curious thinkers, intellectuals, tree huggers, social misfits, truth-tellers, and civil rights activists.  I’d rather spend eternity suffering with all the people the religious right’s legalistic and narcissistic God does not favor:  the weak and the oppressed and the persecuted and the brokenhearted.

They have created a God in their own image — a God who is as sociopathic, rage-filled, greedy for power, and narcissistic as they are, and I refuse to worship such a God.

And then I look around me at the natural world.   I gaze at the sunset over the mountains, I listen to the night-birds and the crickets and the trees singing in the wind.  I feel the warm summer rain on my face, look up at the night sky and marvel at the vastness of the universe and all its billions of stars and galaxies.    I listen to the rhythm of the ocean and feel humbled and grateful to be standing next to it.   I watch the intricate, delicate rosebuds on the bush outside my window burst into full flower.   I listen to my cat purr and feel his warmth on my chest as I fall asleep.

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And I realize:   no God as evil and cruel as theirs could possibly have created such a world.  No, the world is not perfect, far from it.  But it’s still beautiful, and evil cannot create beauty or goodness.  There’s no way a sociopathic tyrant of a God could have made something so beautiful and magnificent.   The bad things in the world exist because of us, not because of God.

They will keep attempting to silence us, to make us think we are the crazy ones, the evil ones, the ones spreading (or listening to) fake news, the ones who are destined to spend eternity in a lake of fire.  They will try to convince us that we are the cause of the world’s problems, while they remain blameless and favored by the Almighty.      They will try to wear us down and exhaust us, because that’s how narcissists and sociopaths operate.  A sociopathic society brings out the worst in everyone, so we will be tempted to bury our heads in the sand and pretend it isn’t happening, or become filled with despair, apathy, cynicism, or hatred.   We have to stay mindful and not succumb to feelings of powerlessness and fear, because that’s what they want from us.   Remember that they feed off our pain because it makes them more powerful.

We must not listen to them.  We must listen to our own truth and our own hearts.  We will be required to go against our non-aggressive, possibly introverted, sensitive, and artistic natures and speak up loudly against those who wish us harm  — in righteous anger if necessary — but we cannot lose control or act out in violence and hatred.  If we are Christians, we need to pray for our enemies, no matter how outraged we may feel.   We are fighting a spiritual war, a war against truth and goodness, and if we don’t fight for ourselves, we must fight for the survival of those we love and those who have no voice.    If we allow them to beat us down and exhaust us into submission (which they are already trying to do), then they win, and all hope will be lost.

The following verse gives me courage when I start to feel hopeless and despairing and exhausted from fighting against this scourge, and I hope it helps you too, even if you’re a non-Christian.

Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. — Matthew 11:29

 

 

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What the Old Testament has to say about not taking care of the poor.

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We Christians already know the Gospels are filled with writings about Jesus instructing his followers to take care of the “least among us” — the poor, sick and otherwise afflicted.    We also know Jesus preferred the poor and less fortunate over the rich Pharisees of his day.    There’s not much argument about how Jesus felt about the greedy and the selfish, which is why the Christian Right usually references the Old Testament with its harsher, angrier God.   They can always find something there to use to make their greed, lack of compassion, and exploitation of the less fortunate for their own nefarious purposes (usually to enrich themselves) seem somehow moral, even God’s will.    They’re good at cherry picking from the Old Testament to excuse their un-Christian views, and cherry pick they must, because there’s plenty in the Old Testament that condemns those who worship mammon and turn their backs on the less fortunate.

No matter what version of the Bible is used, the message conveyed is the same:  we are to take care of and show compassion for the least among us, not exploit them and take away the little they have to enrich the already-wealthy.  This is exactly what the christians in the current Republican Party  (that is not a typo; I will not use a capital C to describe them because in my view they are not Christians) are trying to ram through the Senate in dark secrecy (which is in itself evil and dishonest).  Their “healthcare bill” is a lie.  It is nothing but yet another huge tax break for the richest 1% that will strip healthcare away from middle class and poor Americans, including the disabled and elderly (many who rely on Medicaid if they are in nursing homes or residential treatment since Medicare only pays a limited amount for long-term services); children, people with pre-existing conditions, older people like me who are still too young for Medicare (which, along with social security, might be gone by the time we hit age 65 or whatever the magic age is now) and families of limited means of any health insurance at all.

The huge irony here is this is the so-called pro-life party, but all they are is pro-birth.   They care more about “the sanctity of the embryo” than about a sick child who needs medical care who they would gladly deny the right to see a doctor if her parents can’t afford it.  If she dies, oh well, too bad, it was either “God’s will” or “her parents should have made better choices.”   These sociopaths and their sycophants will continue to get their Cadillac health care plans though, paid for by our taxes, while many of us must sacrifice our own right to see a doctor if we become sick, or risk losing everything we own.    Mike Pence once said that people who will lose their insurance “don’t need healthcare — they need more Jesus.”  Well, Mr. Pence, since you’re apparently one of God’s chosen ones who seems to know exactly what the rest of us who are less blessed than you need, why don’t YOU give up YOUR Cadillac plan and rely on faith healing for yourself and your own family?   If our only option after you rob us of healthcare is appealing to God for a cure and that’s supposed to be good enough for us, why isn’t it also good enough for you?   Give up your healthcare plan so at least we’re all on a level playing field.  No?  I thought not.   Of course, you don’t believe in fairness, because as one of God’s Elect, you deserve healthcare and I do not.

The hypocrisy and callousness of these swamp creatures is staggering.

Many innocent people will die if this abomination passes.     I look at Mitch McConnell, the turtle-faced, dead-eyed, smirking, Koch Brothers-funded ringleader orchestrating the secret dealings to pass this cruel travesty that will help only the most wealthy and the corporations (people just like himself), a “man” who has the temerity to try to ram this bill through in dark secrecy without  anyone knowing what’s in it except him and a few of his equally wealthy cronies — and he makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end.   He — perhaps more than anyone else in this administration (and they are all horrible human beings from everything I have seen of them) — reminds me of the Undead — some demonic swamp creature who seems to garner pleasure from the idea that millions of people will suffer and die.   And he’s not the only one.

The spectacle of the smirks, backslaps, laughter, beer toasting, and glad-handing going on among McConnell, Paul Ryan, Mark Meadows, Trump, and so many other of these hate-filled white racist thugs at the Rose Garden party after “Trumpcare” passed the House back in May was a wake up call that sent chills through my soul.  I realized with no uncertain terms that these creatures sold their souls for Mammon and walk on the side of darkness.  If they profess to be Christian, it’s merely a talking point intended to gain support from the gullible red state religious types who blindly believe everything this cabal of Dark Triad power-mongers and their lying, gaslighting, fake news-generating pundits on Fox News, Breitbart, and InfoWars tell them.     Their followers and supporters are in my prayers because to my mind, they are victims of a dangerous and powerful cult whose doctrine is anathema to anything Jesus taught.

Here are passages from the OLD TESTAMENT (I’ve included many versions of the Bible to illustrate it’s not just in the translation) that show that Jesus message in the Gospels is still God’s will for us.    God is a constant and his love is for ALL of us, not just a chosen few.

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Proverbs 22:16

Verse (Click for Chapter)
New International Version
One who oppresses the poor to increase his wealth and one who gives gifts to the rich–both come to poverty.

 

New Living Translation
A person who gets ahead by oppressing the poor or by showering gifts on the rich will end in poverty.

 

English Standard Version
Whoever oppresses the poor to increase his own wealth, or gives to the rich, will only come to poverty.

 

New American Standard Bible 
He who oppresses the poor to make more for himself Or who gives to the rich, will only come to poverty.

 

King James Bible
He that oppresseth the poor to increase his riches, and he that giveth to the rich, shall surely come to want.

 

Holman Christian Standard Bible
Oppressing the poor to enrich oneself, and giving to the rich–both lead only to poverty.

 

International Standard Version
Whoever oppresses the poor to enrich himself and whoever gives gifts to the wealthy will yield only loss.

 

NET Bible
The one who oppresses the poor to increase his own gain and the one who gives to the rich–both end up only in poverty.

 

New Heart English Bible
Whoever oppresses the poor for his own increase and whoever gives to the rich, both come to poverty.

 

Aramaic Bible in Plain English
He that harms the poor increases his own affliction and he that gives to the rich suffers loss to his soul.

 

GOD’S WORD® Translation
Oppressing the poor for profit [or] giving to the rich certainly leads to poverty.

 

JPS Tanakh 1917
One may oppress the poor, yet will their gain increase; One may give to the rich, yet will want come.

 

New American Standard 1977 
He who oppresses the poor to make much for himself
Or who gives to the rich, will only come to poverty.

 

Jubilee Bible 2000
He that oppresses the poor to increase his riches and who gives to the rich shall surely come to want.

 

King James 2000 Bible
He that oppresses the poor to increase his riches, and he that gives to the rich, shall surely come to poverty.

 

American King James Version
He that oppresses the poor to increase his riches, and he that gives to the rich, shall surely come to want.

 

American Standard Version
He that oppresseth the poor to increase his gain , And he that giveth to the rich,’shall come only to want.

 

Douay-Rheims Bible
He that oppresseth the poor, to in- crease his own riches, shall himself give to one that is richer, and shall be in need.

 

Darby Bible Translation
He that oppresseth the poor, it is to enrich him; he that giveth to the rich, [bringeth] only to want.

 

English Revised Version
He that oppresseth the poor to increase his gain, and he that giveth to the rich, cometh only to want.

 

Webster’s Bible Translation
He that oppresseth the poor to increase his riches, and he that giveth to the rich, shall surely come to want.

 

World English Bible
Whoever oppresses the poor for his own increase and whoever gives to the rich, both come to poverty.

 

Young’s Literal Translation
He is oppressing the poor to multiply to him, He is giving to the rich — only to want.

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Other Verses
James 2:13
For judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

 

Proverbs 22:22
Do not rob the poor because he is poor, Or crush the afflicted at the gate;

 

Proverbs 28:22
A man with an evil eye hastens after wealth And does not know that want will come upon him.

 

Ecclesiastes 5:8
If you see oppression of the poor and denial of justice and righteousness in the province, do not be shocked at the sight; for one official watches over another official, and there are higher officials over them.

On the oppressors:

Proverbs 22:22,23 Rob not the poor, because he is poor: neither oppress the afflicted …

Proverbs 14:31 He that oppresses the poor reproaches his Maker: but he that honors …

Proverbs 28:3 A poor man that oppresses the poor is like a sweeping rain which leaves no food.

Job 20:19 Because he has oppressed and has forsaken the poor; because he has …

Psalm 12:5 For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy, now …

Micah 2:2,3 And they covet fields, and take them by violence; and houses, and …

Zechariah 7:9-14 Thus speaks the LORD of hosts, saying, Execute true judgment, and …

James 2:13 For he shall have judgment without mercy, that has showed no mercy; …

James 5:1-5 Go to now, you rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall …

On those who give: 

Luke 6:33-35 And if you do good to them which do good to you, what thank have …

Luke 14:12-14 Then said he also to him that bade him, When you make a dinner or …

Luke 16:24 And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send …

 

Fake Christianity.

I have a problem.  I’m ashamed to admit I’m a Christian.    That’s because these days, open-minded, compassionate, tolerant people with a conscience give you side-eye if you tell them you’re a Christian.   They assume you embrace the far right values that many (if not most) churches today are teaching — values that embrace hatred, fear, paranoia, intolerance, xenophobia, homophobia, sexism, racism, authoritarianism, nationalism (as opposed to true patriotism) and — incredibly — greed (according to many Calvinist teachings, God rewards those who “live good lives” — the select He has already chosen — financially and materially).   According to many fundamentalist and charismatic churches (especially of the Dominionist or prosperity-gospel type), if you’re poor or sick or aren’t “blessed” in this life, then you are not favored by God and will suffer eternal torment in Hell after living a life of hell.     It’s unbelievable they can worship a God who is that cruel.

I’ve doubted for a long time that the far right “Christians” who run the nation are actually Christian at all, because their values seem to be in direct opposition to anything Jesus taught.    They follow Ayn Rand’s teachings more closely than those of Christ.  The reality is that it’s simply not possible to embrace Ayn Rand’s philosophy of selfishness and also be a Christian.  They are diametrically opposed.

Last night my doubts turned to certainty, after I watched in horrified astonishment as the GOP held a party at the  White House’s Rose Garden to celebrate their “victory” — a victory that, if it passes Senate — will destroy the lives or bankrupt tens of millions of average Americans and kill many, including innocent children and people with pre-existing conditions.    I don’t have to go into everything that is wrong with this bill, because it would fill an entire page.  That information is readily available elsewhere.   But the spectacle of watching these rich white thugs drinking beer and partying after such a devastating bill passed the House, convinced me once and for all that these monsters are not only not Christian, they are absolutely, unapologetically evil.     They may quote from the Bible and go to church and bloviate on about abortion and homosexuality, but they worship the god of Mammon.   They have sold out the American people they are supposed to serve in exchange for even more tax breaks for themselves and those just like them.  They are relentless in their cruelty and their greed is never satiated.  No matter how wealthy they become, they want more and more and more.   Last night I sat, horrified, watching these — beings (I hesitate to call them human) — toast each other and laugh about how they had stuck it to the rest of us who don’t have a prayer of ever having their kind of power and material wealth.    They were celebrating the fact that they were placing real lives at risk.  I turned off the TV, sickened and enraged and terrified by what I had seen.

No matter what they say, these are not good people or Christian people.  They walk on the side of darkness and their hearts are black and empty.   You can see it in their cold, dead eyes and their cruel, twisted smiles.    They use Christianity as a way to cloak how dark their souls really are — and as a way to get even more power.  Over a period of several decades starting in the 1970s, they have systematically co-opted Christianity as a means to win gullible and less-educated people (mostly in red states) over to their side.  They have persuaded them their way is the only moral way, the only American way, the only Christian way.  But it’s all lies.  Using Christianity as a selling point is a brilliant tactic to gain even more money and power because it works like a charm.   Using Christianity this way, these conscienceless criminals and power brokers have been able to hijack a nation and now have complete control of every branch of government.   But still, it’s not enough.  They want more, and more, and more.

Now their real work begins:  dismantling everything good this nation ever stood for — discouraging and suppressing and ultimately destroying our freedoms and our  opportunities and our rights and our safety nets.    Their real goal is to create misery, chaos, despair, hopelessness, illness and suffering (both mental and physical — with no means to alleviate it), ignorance, poverty, strife, cruelty, slavery, and death.  Lots and lots of death.   It’s become increasingly obvious to me that their real agenda is to thin the herd.   They used to try to hide this ugly reality, but they don’t even try very hard anymore.   It’s all but out in the open for anyone who opens their eyes and ears.   Their excuses for the horrible things they do are transparent to all but the most obtuse (or brainwashed) person.  With every decision they have made, every executive order signed, every bill rammed through without ever asking once how the people feel about it, every lie they tell, they show their contempt for humanity, especially those who tell the truth or who are vulnerable and defenseless.

But it’s much more than just a show of contempt. They really are trying to kill off or silence the most vulnerable Americans — the poor (this includes the middle class and so their decimation will take a bit longer), the sick, the unwanted, the elderly, the disabled, the mentally ill (mental illness won’t be covered under this new bill but now the mentally ill can go out and buy guns — hmm, I wonder what message they are being sent?), immigrants, women, children, the unconventional, the artists, the dreamers, the truth-tellers, the whistle-blowers, and all the people who believe in justice and fairness and kindness and compassion and inclusion and opportunity and clean air and water and safe and healthy food.   They want us all gone, and as soon as possible.  Their “healthcare” bill is nothing less than slow mass genocide of those who aren’t useful to them.   They have even said so much.  If you protest against this mistreatment and yes, abuse — they scream about socialism and how the “liberal media” is destroying America.  Again, lies.   Under our new president, the lying and gaslighting has become so bad that lies are now facts, and facts are ‘fake news.’   Twisting the language and spinning lies into some kind of alternate reality is the way dictators gain their power — and it’s evil.  There’s nothing remotely Christian about what they do.

I saw this comment today under an article about the the cruel GOP healthcare bill that explains the fake “Christianity” behind such a move:

God sent Joshua to kill every man, woman, and child to take the land of the Canaanites.  The Bible is clear that sometimes God requires His people to commit genocide.

 

That’s the mentality we’re up against.  No mention of how Jesus healed the sick (without demanding payment or refusing due to inability to pay),  was friends with the downtrodden,  loved the poor and the disabled and the old and the ill, and warned about greed and what happens to those who worship money and power.    No, because all those things are “socialism” and to them, socialism is the greatest evil.     To them, socialism is “theft” from those who “earned” their riches — often through no effort of their own.

It wasn’t always this way.   There was once a time when Christianity leaned more to the left.   This used to be called the “social gospel,” something you rarely hear about anymore, though very recently there’s been a resurgence of left wing Christianity among those who can see through the false Christianity that’s pushed down our throats by the far right.  Peaceful Christian groups like the Quakers and Sojourners ministered to the poor, sick and others  in need — expecting nothing in return.  Mainstream Christian churches such as the Methodist or Episcopalian church held similar values.  Sure, things like abortion, homosexuality, and sex outside marriage were frowned upon or even forbidden, but the overall message of Christianity was one of love, compassion, and caring for those less fortunate.  Some Christians — and some (mostly mainstream) churches – still embrace this message, but the ones that were able to influence our current leaders are those that do not — and instead preach the prosperity gospel and a theology of exclusion (you’re going to hell if you are not “predestined” or chosen by God), fear (of hell and punishment on earth) and hatred (of anyone whose beliefs differ).

Starting in the late 1970s, a group called the Moral Majority began to change the political landscape, which until that time worked for the most part.   They funneled money to the GOP and the GOP knew a good deal when they saw it.  They realized they had to use Christianity to win over more supporters and soon, politicians were spouting Bible verses and talking about how schools should stop teaching evolution (or any science at all) and railing about abortion, and later, blaming those afflicted by poverty or disease for their “bad choices” or immoral behavior that led to their problems.   They preached about America being a Christian nation — when it was becoming anything but.     At the same time, the churches that had influenced the GOP were now telling their members that if they didn’t vote for so-and-so GOP politician, they were going to hell.    I have no doubt that fear of eternal damnation being constantly drummed into their minds and hearts by their pastors had a lot to do with why so many religious red staters switched from Democrat to Republican, since most would never benefit from the policies they were voting for.

Make no mistake — although they may talk endlessly about their Christianity and be able to spout Bible verses, these compassionless rulers aren’t pro-life and they don’t care about family values.    Railing on about how horrible abortion is, but denying healthcare to low and middle income pregnant women (by making pregnancy a pre-existing condition and putting pregnant women in a “high risk pool” where premiums will be astronomical) is going to make it financially impossible for many women to afford prenatal care.   For many of these women, abortion (which is far less expensive than prenatal care and labor and delivery) may seem like their only choice, so the number of abortions will skyrocket.   For those who courageously opt to have their child without the benefit of healthcare,  they will run the risk of themselves or their babies dying in childbirth — it might as well be 1917, not 2017.

Their anti-life stance goes way beyond the abortion issue.   Many of the newly uninsured will include families with children.     Last week, Jimmy Kimmel gave an emotional speech about his newborn son who had a serious heart problem.   In his moving plea, he talked about the fact that, while he is wealthy enough to have afforded healthcare for his son, even under the GOP plan, taking away healthcare from average and poor families will cause many children and babies who are sick to die.   Any bill that will force a parent of average or low income to have to face their own child’s preventable death just because they can no longer afford healthcare is both cruel and evil.

Pro-life isn’t just about babies and children.   Pro-life means preserving and enhancing lives no matter what your age or income.   Forcing older people, the unemployed, the disabled, the poor, and the sick off healthcare is sentencing them to possible preventable illness, pain, and death.   The powerful “Christians” in charge of things now think nothing about bombing other countries regardless of whether innocent civilians — including women and children — are killed or maimed.  Free public education, organizations like the EPA that protect our air and water, arts and humanities programs, federal grant programs that help kids afford college, access to scientific information about our climate and environment, organizations that help families and children thrive, and numerous other organizations that preserve and promote quality of life are all being threatened.   Their deliberate destruction is nothing short of abuse, as is the suppression of freedom of speech and truth in reporting.    To be pro-life, you must care about all human life.  To care only about the unborn and then callously offer no support or help to the already born — or rip away what support systems they have — isn’t pro-life, it’s pro-birth and anti-life.    Unfortunately, many people who are less educated or lack critical thinking skills are one-issue voters, and always vote for the anti-abortion candidate no matter what their stance on other issues — even though the pro-choice candidate may actually be the more pro-life one when you step back and view the big picture.

We live in dark times, and whistleblowers and truth tellers are increasingly in danger because they threaten to expose the real agenda of the sociopaths and abusers who have hijacked our country and hold it hostage.    Lying is their specialty.  Why would they make an exception and tell the truth about Christianity?   Look at their actions, not their words. These are fake Christians who only worship money and power.  If it’s the Enemy who’s behind far right “Christianity,” then he’s giving it a very bad reputation, and that’s precisely his intention — and to create shame in the act of calling yourself a Christian, which is what I’m struggling with these days.

***

I want to share this article someone just shared with me.   It was written by a therapist who has many patients traumatized by this president. She uses DBT principles to help them cope.   I think people may find this article as helpful as I did.

How to Stay Sane if Trump is Driving You Insane.

We live in dark times, but…

mlk_quote

Yes, we are living in very dark times.  Not just here in America, but in many other countries around the world.    It’s enough to send the most emotionally healthy person into the pits of despair, but we can’t allow that to happen.   Succumbing to despair and hopelessness is exactly what the enemy wants, because when we’re helpless and hopeless we can lose our souls. We become weak and malleable spiritually, and more easily used by the forces of darkness.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was a man of God, a preacher who fought for social justice and what was right and good in the eyes of God — a stark contrast to many American “Christians” of today, who somehow believe wealth, whiteness, material success, and greed are godly, and if you aren’t blessed with these things (and if you don’t vote Republican), you aren’t one of the “chosen.”

This uniquely American belief system is based on Calvinism, which is in my opinion an ugly and hateful philosophy that teaches that Jesus didn’t die to save everyone, but only the  “elect.”  The belief that only certain individuals can be saved and this was determined before you were born is called “predestination.”   Many fundamentalist Christian churches believe in this.  To those who hold this doctrine, there is nothing you can do if God hasn’t chosen you.  You will not only be cursed with disease, misery, and poverty, but will ultimately wind up being punished for all eternity — just because God didn’t favor you.   This horrible and cruel doctrine is in direct opposition to what Jesus taught us.   Today, of course, someone who acts the way Jesus did would be called a “socialist.”

If God is really like that, I want nothing to do with him.  That God is worse than the devil himself.  But I don’t believe God is like that.

We live in dark times, and more and more people are embracing a false Christianity that is anything but.  They may read their Bibles and attend church every Sunday, but it means nothing.  Even the enemy can spout Bible verses.     Those of us who practice kindness and compassion, and care about the less fortunate, the immigrants, the old, the sick, the children, and the oppressed and suffering people of this world (the way Jesus did) have a duty to pray for those who have been deceived.   We must not lose sight of the truth, whether it’s refusing to listen to “fake news” or “alternative facts,” or not denying such realities as climate change or the fact that none of us can survive without each other.  We are not islands and were never built for individualism above community.  We are tribal creatures, intended to support each other and work toward the greater good, not just what is good for us.    What benefits you benefits me, and benefits the entire society.

We must pray the ignorant ones see the truth and stop listening to and believing the lies that run rampant across the land these days.    America is not the promised land and it never was.    People who believe that America is God’s chosen nation and only the white and rich are blessed by God aren’t evil but they are ignorant.

America may fall just like the Roman empire, but those of us who believe God loves us all and who reach out to others rather than kicking them when they’re already down will be able to transcend all the hatred, violence, greed, and selfishness that defines America (and the world) today and find peace and joy in our relationship with God.

In spite of our differences…

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My dad wasn’t perfect and I don’t idealize him or his memory.  Lord knows, he wasn’t a great father.  In fact, he could be a pretty lousy father and he even admitted it later on.  But I loved my dad.  Deeply.  He was my rock, even though he could erupt at any moment like a volcano.  And I still love him, no matter what kind of “baggage” we had together.

My dad wasn’t crazy about Catholics, even though he married a lapsed Catholic woman (my mother).  I was sent to a Catholic school starting in 5th grade, for two reasons–the first one being that the public schools in my area weren’t very good and I’d get a better education at a Catholic school (Catholic schools are notorious for providing an excellent education and they do value a well-rounded worldview).  The second reason was because I was being bullied in the local public school.

In my Catholic school, I found a refuge away from the dysfunction at home.  I loved my school, and I loved the Friday masses, even though I was not allowed to participate in Communion.  It sometimes felt like my real home.  The nuns there took me under their wing.  I thought they were angels and (except for one of two of them who could be mean) I was always in awe of their kindness and compassion.  I loved the quiet and peaceful way they moved.  I loved their softness. I loved the way they seemed not quite of this world. These were the qualities I was starving for, coming from a home full of anger, chaos and sharp edges.

Because of my positive introduction to Catholicism, I was always attracted to it, in spite of not agreeing with all of its doctrine.    The Church has changed a lot over the years, since Vatican II, and embraces science rather than denies it.  Science, too, is about the truth.  I feel that the Catholic church is the “thinking person’s Christianity.”  Of course, I know it’s not the only one.  I know denomination doesn’t matter; it’s a matter of personal preference.  I love the liturgy and the history and the mystery of Catholicism.   But that’s just me.

I do have issues with their stance on abortion, birth control, women in the priesthood, and homosexuality.   But these things don’t affect me directly.    I believe with all my heart that the Communion wafer is not just symbolic.  Every time I partake of the communion wafer, I feel filled with the Holy Spirit and know this is Jesus’ gift to his people.

In April of 2015, after nearly a year of preparatory classes (RCIA), I became a Catholic during the Easter vigil mass.   My father, in spite of his misgivings about the Catholic church, gave me this Benedictine Crucifix, which hangs in my room across from my bed, so Jesus is always the first thing I see when I wake up.

Thank you, God, for giving me my new faith, and please help strengthen me in that faith, especially now when I’m in so much turmoil. And thank you for my Dad, who although we had our issues, was able to put aside his prejudices and give me such a beautiful gift from the heart.

Why I don’t think it’s wrong to pray for narcissists.

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Because I have readers of many religions (or none at all), I always hesitate before posting anything too religious or too Christian, but I’m making an exception here because I’ve noticed some ACONs believe it’s sinful to pray for narcissists. But I don’t think that’s true and I always pray for mine.

Whenever anyone tells me I’m wrong to pray for the souls of narcissists, I just use the example of the Apostle Paul. Saul was much worse than just a sinner; the Bible describes a man who seemed to be a high-spectrum, unrepentant malignant narcissist.

Following is an article from CBN.com called “How Saul Became the Apostle Paul.” It’s the fascinating story of a man–an arrogant, narcissistic, murderous Pharisee, who hated Jesus and his followers–whose heart was changed. If someone as malignantly narcissistic, even sociopathic, as Saul/Paul was, could change, why not others too?  We don’t know what God’s intentions are or whose heart he may be working on. No, chances are your narcissist won’t change and you shouldn’t wait around for them to do so or try to “fix” them, but I don’t see any harm in praying for them if you’re so inclined. We are not the judge and jury; only God is.

I still see narcissism and arrogance in Paul even after his miraculous conversion–I have to admit I never cared much for Paul’s personality, which I find abrasive. After all, he was still human and still a sinner. But at least he wasn’t harming others anymore, and had renounced his former life as a Pharisee and devoted himself to spreading the word of God.

How Saul Became The Apostle Paul
By Craig Von Busick, for CBN.com
http://www1.cbn.com/biblestudy/how-saul-became-the-apostle-paul

saul

“The best and the brightest.” It was a phrase used by some journalist to describe the administration of President John F. Kennedy. The same phrase could have been used to describe Saul of Tarsus; a child of the best upbringing; a student of the vaunted teacher, Gamaliel; a Roman citizen; trained in the best Jewish schools; groomed, perhaps, to even become chief priest.

And this pious man was bent on the destruction of the believers in Jesus.

In order to understand Saul of Tarsus it is important that we put him into historical context. Only a few short years had passed from the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus when a self-righteous religious zealot assisted in the systematic murder of one of Christianity’s earliest messengers, a godly man named Stephen. Luke punctuates Saul’s involvement in this murder with the chilling comment:

“Now Saul was consenting to his death.” (Acts 8:1)

But even before that fateful day when young Saul the Pharisee gloated over the brutal death of the innocent disciple Stephen, the Spirit of Jesus Christ was pricking his heart. God had designs for this bright young man, and in His sovereignty He was prepared to knock Saul off His high horse.

There can be little doubt that Saul was familiar with the Galilean man who was known as Jesus. Though Saul may have been consumed by his study of the Torah and Talmud – the Jewish holy books, there was talk of this back woods preacher and the stir He was creating throughout Israel. Numerous reports were made of so-called messiahs emerging from every corner of the land, so Saul and his classmates undoubtedly debated the authenticity of the reports of Jesus’ miracles.

He may have been one of the unnamed lawyers who confronted Jesus with questions in the Gospel accounts? Saul may have gathered with the other scribes and Pharisees at the river Jordan when John the Baptist declared, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Was he outraged to learn that Jesus had cleared the moneychangers and vendors of religious trinkets from the temple while snapping a whip?

It is conceivable that Saul was one of the pious Pharisees trying to console a weeping Mary and Martha at the death of their brother Lazarus. Whether he was physically present when Jesus raised the 3-day dead Lazarus from his rotting rest, it is sure that Saul heard of and pondered this indisputable miracle. This shocking development created such a sensation that the panicked religious leaders ramped up their efforts to arrest and execute the backwater mystic before he brought down the wrath of Rome on their heads.

Saul could have been in attendance at the infamous midnight trial of Jesus before the Sanhedrin. Perhaps he was outside in the courtyard of Caiaphas warming himself next to the fire. Maybe he heard the servant girl accusing a gruff-looking Galilean of being a follower of this Jesus. He may have been amused at the unrefined manner in which this fisherman cursed and raved the third time he was accused.

Though he approved of the barbarous stoning of Stephen, it is entirely possible that Saul’s heart was pricked when he heard him say, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.”

We don’t know how long the Lord was at work in the heart of Saul, but we know the Holy Spirit was goading him – and Saul was kicking back hard, primarily against the disciples of Jesus. After the death of Stephen, Saul was fanatical about destroying this new sect. Saul launched a holy war against the Church, scattering the believers. He made havoc, entering homes, sending many to prison – even putting some to death. He was beginning to attain the notoriety that he had always craved. If he was going to rise to the level of prestige and power that he believed was his destiny, he would have to prove himself worthy.

When word came that these followers of Jesus had spread into Syria, Saul requested permission to go to Damascus. With great delight the High Priest granted him letters to take to the synagogues of Syria.

As Saul and his colleagues came near Damascus, suddenly they were flooded with glorious light. It was like looking into the sun from only a yard away. Saul fell to the ground and suddenly a voice emanated from within the light. The voice was both terrifying and soothing at the same time. “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.”

Was this an angel? Or worse, could it be a messenger from Satan, trying to distract him from his holy quest? No, if it were the devil he wouldn’t feel this mix of peace and awe. Humbly Saul inquired, “Who are you, Lord?”

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.”

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No. It couldn’t be Jesus, the carpenter from Nazareth, the backwoods preacher, the so-called messiah who was put to death by Pontius Pilate? If this was Jesus, that would mean that nearly every great leader in Israel was wrong … so very wrong. How could they have misjudged him? Unless those confusing passages of Scripture concerning a suffering savior could somehow speak of the Messiah?

Saul began to tremble.

How could he have been so wrong? But then he remembered watching the life ebbing from Stephen, and hearing those haunting words, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”

This was the same Jesus that Stephen saw as he peered into heaven. This is the same Jesus that gave strength to so many of Saul’s victims. Saul began shaking uncontrollably. No longer able to bear the intensity of the light, he closed his eyes as tightly as he could.

“This must be the One – the glorious Messiah, promised from ages past.” Saul slowly lifted his head and asked, “Lord, what do you want me to do?”

Jesus replied, “Arise and go into the city…”

Saul obeyed, and in the blindness that resulted from the intense light, he was led into the city. There he was met by a disciple named Ananias, who was sent by Jesus to prophesy, “he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles….” (Acts 9:15, NKJV)

Years later, in obedience to this heavenly vision, and living out his own teaching – “I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some.” (1 Cor. 9:22b, NLT) – this former Pharisee so embraced his calling to minister the Gospel to the Gentiles that he forsook his Jewish name, Saul, and forever adopted the Greek name for which he is remembered … Paul.

Happy Pentecost!

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Pentecost is a Christian holy day and is always celebrated exactly seven weeks after Easter Sunday. It commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles and other followers of Jesus Christ before He ascended back into Heaven (Acts of the Apostles 2:1-31). The descent of the Holy Spirit ensured that his followers would continue to spread his Word and convert others to Christianity. In the Catholic Church, Pentecost marks the end of the Lent (Easter) season. The Holy Spirit’s descent is often symbolized by a dove and a flame.

The Holy Spirit isn’t limited to Christians. Anyone can feel the presence of the Holy Spirit. You simply have to be in the right frame of mind and be open to its presence. You can ask God (or a Higher Power if you prefer) to fill you with the Holy Spirit. For me, music, nature and writing are three things that open me to its presence. Today’s a gorgeous, sunny day, not too hot, so after church (Mass is going to be held outside this year), I think I am going to take a drive and just enjoy the beauty of nature during this beautiful time of year.

Spend some time with nature, or if the weather is inclement, listen to some music that inspires you while engaging in a creative activity. It could be anything that inspires you–writing, painting, singing, cooking, even doing a spring cleaning. Spend some time in prayer. Don’t dwell on the negative. Give your worries a break. If you can’t take your mind off your cares, ask God to help you focus on the positive and on his presence.

Here is a website that lists some prayers you can say today:

http://www.faithandworship.com/prayers_Pentecost.htm

Why I love liturgy.

A view of the famed Rose Window in Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, France.

A view of the famed Rose Window in Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, France.

Back in April, during the Easter Vigil mass, I became a Roman Catholic. This came as a surprise to many people I know, since I’d spent most of my life as an agnostic and at times veered close to atheism. I’ve also toyed with Buddhism and Scientology (and I admit I still have a soft spot for Buddhism because it appeals to my rational mind, and that isn’t likely to change). Due to the recent charges of sexual abuse taking place in the Catholic church, this oldest and largest of all Christian denominations has become more criticized than ever, and probably rightfully so. I don’t think it’s the only religious organization that has been guilty of such behaviors, but I think it’s the most publicized. I’m also not ignorant of the fact that the Catholic Church has a bloody and often very un-Christlike history, especially during the Middle Ages, as well as being the wealthiest religious organization in the world and often full of hypocrisy. In addition, I do not believe that being a Catholic is the only way to salvation. Any Christian who has accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior in their hearts will get to Heaven, regardless of denomination (why did I almost spell that DEMONination?) and don’t necessary even have to attend church at all.

So why did I become a Catholic, you ask. Why did I join a church that’s so rife with its past of violence, and a present still full of intolerance, sexism, and heirarchy? The answer to this is complicated.

I was raised in a family that although nominally Christian, was basically agnostic. We did not attend church regularly (although I was sent to Sunday school as a young child), and holidays like Christmas and Easter were recognized more for their fun/materialistic secularity (gift giving, Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, new Easter dresses and coats, etc.) than for the solemn events in the life of Christ they actually honor. My family regarded them as “children’s holidays” that adults indulged and that would eventually be outgrown. Although I was baptized Methodist (and I was surprised to learn my Protestant baptism was recognized as valid by the Catholic Church), we never became very active in any church and therefore were not part of any enduring “church family.” When church was attended, it was a sterile, secular affair, full of feel-good stories of God’s unconditional love, lessons about tolerance and social justice (nothing wrong with that, of course, but it wasn’t very religious nor fill me with a sense of awe or wonder), and very little that was Biblical or traditional. Services revolved mainly around the sermon, always a feel-good pep talk about God’s all-encompassing love and loving one another. All of this clap-happy, touchy feely reformed-Protestant stuff flew in the face of the constant anger, rage, loneliness, and discord that was constantly going on at home. Due to that, all the messages about positive-thinking and feel-goodness seemed insincere and meaningless, and didn’t address the very real problems in my family that made me feel so defective and different from everyone else.

For a short time–maybe one or two years–my father became fascinated by Christian Science, and I was sent to a Christian Science Sunday school. I was too young to comprehend the metaphysical beliefs they espoused, which basically preached that all that was material was an illusion, and only Spirit mattered (later my father would become active in Religious Science, a similar belief system that isn’t based in Christianity and overlaps a great deal with New Thought, part of the New Age movement). I couldn’t wrap my young brain around the metaphysical mumbo jumbo I heard on Sunday and I desperately needed something tangible to offset my growing feelings of dissociation from myself and the rest of humanity and from God Himself. I was filled with uncertainty about what was real and what wasn’t. Living on a diet of spiritual junk food, I was starving for emotional and spiritual sustenance. Although I coudn’t have put it into words, I needed to experience the Divine with my five senses.

holy_communion
How I envied these girls!

Enter Catholic school. In 5th grade, the bullying at the local public school became so bad that my parents decided to take matters into their own hands and despite their misgivings about the Catholic Church, I was sent to a Catholic girls’ school. My grades immediately improved and I found it easier to make friends with these girls than at the public school. My parents were surprised (and probably a little disturbed) that one of my favorite classes (and the one I did best at) was Religion. I didn’t become religious back then, nor did my faith in God deepen (I was for all intents and purposes agnostic), but I found myself always looking forward to the masses we used to have at school on religious days. Although the highly liturgical services confused me at first (knowing when to stand up and sit down, memorize the various prayers, etc) I found myself drawn to the orderliness and beauty of the Mass. It somehow seemed Godlike and was steeped in history that the Protestant services I’d attended with my parents just didn’t have. I envied the cool trappings of Catholicism (when the other girls were going through Confirmation, they got a new name and a pretty dress and I wanted that too) and longed to be able to take Communion with everyone else. I wanted a set of my own rosary beads. Today I know these things really don’t matter (I think whatever denomination you are–even if none at all–is a matter of personal preference) but at my tender age, these tangible things seemed part of some wonderful, sacred, mysterious and heavenly world I couldn’t be part of. Sitting there in my folding chair watching the proceedings, I always felt the presence of God and a benevolent, forgiving love I never felt from my own family, even though I had to remain seated during the communion. It was one of the few places where I could feel the benevolence of God.

Many cradle Catholics remember negative experiences from their childhood about the Church and turned away from it as they came of age, but as someone who only knew it as a refuge from the harsh realities that took place in my agnostic home, I never developed those negative associations with Catholicism. I loved most of the nuns at my school. With one or two exceptions, they seemed so kind and compassionate, very saintlike–and they seemed to care about me in a way I never felt I got from my own family. Although I never talked about what went on at home, one nun in particular who seemed to favor me for some reason, guessed that things at home weren’t ideal, and told me to come see her anytime I needed to talk. I never did (for fear of what might happen if I “squealed” about the family to an outsider), but it felt good to know that she cared enough to reach out to me.

As I grew older I fell away from Christianity (not that I’d ever really embraced it much and knew next to nothing about the Bible or the life of Christ), and experimented with other belief systems, including Scientology and Buddhism, if anything at all. The Bible seemed to me like a book of ancient fairy tales with no relevance to my own life. I rarely prayed and looked down on churchgoing and religious people as ignorant and deluded. Although I never embraced full-on atheism (it was too depressing to think there was no afterlife at all), I thought that if God existed, he was pretty much hands-off and that everyone, other than the most hardened criminals and mean, cruel people, would get to Heaven, if there even was such a place. The concept of reincarnation made a lot more logical sense to me than the idea of heaven or hell.

But my soul was still starving and I think deep down I always knew this. Every once in a while, in spite of my doubts about the existence of God, I’d make time to attend a Catholic mass. I didn’t believe what they preached, in fact I thought most of it was pretty silly, but I loved the ritual and the order, and somehow always came away feeling transcended. I’d go take Communion (knowing as a non-Catholic I wasn’t supposed to) and feel somehow nourished. In a way I couldn’t explain, witnessing the reverence and beauty of the Mass, made me feel like part of something much bigger than myself and accepted for who I was, not (as in my FOO) expected to be someone I could never be.

I toyed with other Christian faiths, including Lutheranism and the Southern Baptist church. During the late 1980s, I attended a Lutheran church (and was confirmed as Lutheran) mainly because the man I married was Lutheran. The services were called masses and were very liturgical and quite similar in many ways to the Catholic mass, but they seemed watered down, somehow. For instance, the communion wafer was regarded as symbolic rather than being the actual Body of Christ. We never became deeply involved with the Lutheran church, and although we had our kids baptized Lutheran, we did not attend church on Sundays or otherwise do much to encourage their spiritual development.

When we moved to North Carolina from northern New Jersey, we were faced with culture shock–instead of having mostly Catholic and Jewish neighbors, suddenly we found ourselves surrounded by Southern Baptists who insisted we needed to be “saved.” Still looking for spiritual nourishment, I started attending services at the local Baptist church as well as Bible studies on Tuesdays nights. My kids attended 2 years of Vacation Bible School. I never cottoned to the hellfire-and-brimstone preaching though, or the literal interpretation of the Bible. I was especially turned off by the church’s conservative political agenda, that actually told us we were “going to Hell” if we didn’t vote Republican, as well as their dismissal of science. I decided to stop attending church there.

hellfire
Hellfire-and-brimstone preaching is a turn off to me.

A few years later, my daughter had a friend at school whose parents were Southern Baptists, and my daughter, age 9 at the time, decided to be baptized in their church. I was fine with that, even though I disagreed with the southern Baptist belief system, because it took the burden off of me to be responsible for her spiritual growth. I attended her baptism and was surprised at how modern the service was, with a pop-rock band that played contemporary Christian music rather than traditional hymns. Intrigued, I decided to attend a few more services, but I always felt like I was at a rock concert rather than at church. In spite of the emphasis on Biblical literalism, during the long, emotional sermons, I never felt my soul uplifted or any real feeling of spiritual transcendence. Although very different from the touchy-feely, heaven-awaits-no matter-what-you-do preaching of the liberal Protestantism of my childhood, this hellfire-and-brimstone preaching bookended by Christian contemporary music with the words splashed on a huge TV screen didn’t do much for me either. I longed for tradition, for history, for meaning.

I still occasionally attended Catholic masses, but never thought I’d actually become one. But shortly after I went No Contact with my ex (who freeloaded off me and mentally abused me for almost 7 years following our divorce and nearly bled me dry emotionally, mentally, financially, and spiritually) I began to blog. My mental and physical health came back first, and then I realized I was still starving spiritually. I needed God, who after all, had been watching and protecting me all the time I was in an abusive marriage and had shown me on several occasions how real He was. Last October, I decided to start attending Mass as well as RCIA classes (the classes you take to become Catholic). I had doubts about much of the doctrine (and truth be told, still do). I still wasn’t sure I wanted to become Catholic, but I thought I should at least take the classes and make an educated decision.

To my surprise, I found that Catholic doctrine isn’t very different from what I’ve always believed anyway. The Bible is held as important (more important than many fundamentalist Christians believe we do) but much of its content is not not interpreted literally and therefore doesn’t fly in the face of centuries of scientific discovery and achievement. Yes, we are saved by grace alone (all Christians are), but works are also important and are tangible evidence of God’s grace. Sacraments (communion, confession, etc) give tangibility to God’s grace although (I don’t think) they are necessary for salvation. Confession is not a punishment; it is an opportunity to unload to someone else and makes you feel better afterwards (very similar to a 4th step in a 12-step program). Although I had my doubts at first, I’ve come to believe the Host (the communion wafer) does actually become the body of Christ, due to the glorious, transcended way I always feel after partaking. I do feel like my soul is being changed for the better, even though it’s not a Saul-to-Paul-like sudden conversion full of fireworks and drama.

I admit I do still have some issues, mostly having to do with the Catholic church’s stance on social matters such as abortion and homosexuality, as well as the fact that priests still must be male. I don’t think the Pope is infallible either (he is just a man), but I understand the reasoning behind having a Pope and I happen to like the current Pope anyway. I don’t venerate Mary and the saints, although I have utmost respect for them. Veneration isn’t the same as worship, anyway. Only Jesus as God is worshipped so there’s nothing un-Christian there, a far as I’m concerned.

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Because of my doubts and personal proclivities, I’ll probably never be the “perfect Catholic” or “perfect Christian” but that’s okay. I pray that God keeps working on my soul to cleanse it from sin and I’m willing to believe anything God wants me to believe. I’m willing to turn my soul and my life over to the Creator. Whenever I’m at mass, I feel part of a vast family and something glorious, beautiful and so much bigger than myself or all humanity. I feel accepted in God’s kingdom and have begun to fear death and the future less than I used to. The tangibility, beauty and order of the liturgical tradition–the memorized call-and-response prayers, the communion procession, the incense, the swelling organ music and the singing, the kneeling and the standing, the Sign of the Cross, and all the rest of these “silly rituals”–makes me feel that God is a tangible, real thing, someone who is RIGHT THERE and that I can see, hear, smell, feel, touch and even taste. The traditional hymns with their pipe-organ and piano music and the ancient prayers imbue a sense of mystery and history into the services that neither liberal Protestantism or fundamentalist pop-rock sing-alongs do for me. And I love the Bible readings too. I’m beginning to feel that the messages in the Bible do have meaning for me personally. The orderliness and ritual of the mass is regarded by some as mindless, dull and lacking spontaneity (and to some extent I can understand this view), but I find the repetitive and predictable aspects such as the call-and-response prayers and chants to have an uncanny way of eventually filtering down from my mind into the deepest part of my heart, in a way a hellfire-and-brimstone or feel-good, prosperity-gospel sermonizing can never do.

Before becoming Catholic, I toyed with the idea of becoming Eastern Orthodox, a religion which, if anything, is even more liturgical and steeped in ritual, history, and tradition than the modern Catholic church (and is somewhat more liberal in its stance on women’s rights and birth control), but finding a sizable Orthodox community here in the Southern United States is a huge challenge to say the least. I did actually attend one Orthodox mass about five years ago (my son’s Kung Fu teacher was Russian Orthodox and invited us to attend his church), and although it was incredibly beautiful (and the food served afterwards was delicious), the feel of the Orthodox mass was a little too “foreign” for my taste. Anglicanism (The Church of England) also has a rich liturgical tradition (please see my Christmas post “O Come All Ye Faithful”) but again, is uncommon here in the southern US, and it’s still Protestantism anyway. I like the idea of being part of the oldest and largest practicing Christian community in the world that has such a rich and colorful history (even if at times in the past it wasn’t especially Christ-like). I feel proud to be a part of that. Although I know the trappings and ritual are more a matter of personal preference than salvation, for me they make an abstract God seem more real. Coming from such a chaotic, unpredictable background, the order and predictability of the liturgy is food for my soul. My adopted religion may not be the only road to salvation, but it’s the only road for me. Thanks be to God.

Millennials and liturgical Christianity.
As an aside, the Millennial generation, although largely turned off by religion, are, when drawn to religion, are converting to “high church” (liturgical) Christianity such as Anglicanism, Catholicism, and the Orthodox church. They are a generation that (like me, even though I’m not a Millennial) longs for a sense of tradition and connection with history that’s lacking in the evangelical, fundamentalist, and liberal Protestantism or New Age or atheistic belief systems they were raised with, all of which largely ignore or dismiss 1800 years of Christian history and tradition.

Further reading:
Why Millennials Long for Liturgy: http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/why-millennials-long-for-liturgy/
Millennials are Seeking Tradition, Sacramentality, and Liturgy: http://www.catholicvote.org/millennials-are-seeking-tradition-sacramentality-and-liturgy/

“Soulmates in Hell: Religious Narcissists–Evil in Disguise. “

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I stumbled on a new blog and just read this article. Every word the author says is true. I’ve known so many religious types who use religion as a tool to abuse. These are truly the wolves in sheep’s clothing. Unfortunately, such people’s children are often turned off my the whole idea of God and religion because it becomes so triggering.

Soulmates in Hell: Religious Narcissists–Evil in Disguise
By Larry Giddens

If you have had the unfortunate experience of being in a relationship with a narcissist with religious pretensions, you know how difficult and confusing it can be. The narc spouts scripture and postures as “holy”, and they use religion to create a veneer of “godliness”.

Now, I’ve read various articles on the topic that seem to miss the point, which is, that a religious narcissist will just drive you crazy with their constantly letting you know how much better they are than you, or anyone else, for that matter. There is no situation for which they won’t butt in with some scripture quote, and no conversation that won’t soon turn into a sermon, just to let you know that while you have mundane, everyday concerns like whether you need to buy milk, their mind is on “the things of God”.

The rest of this article can be read here.
http://soulmateinhell.blogspot.com/2015/10/religious-narcissists-evil-in-disguise.html

To My Non-Christian Friends: What You Should Know

This is one of the most intelligent articles I’ve ever seen written by an evangelical Christian. I don’t have much more to say, just read the article, because everything I could say is already said here.

I’m a Christian, but so many Christians disappoint me because they cannot tolerate the fact that my Christianity isn’t exactly the same as their Christianity. I wish all Christians would think more like the person who wrote this article.

All My Roads

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I am a Christian. As a Christian- particularly one of the Evangelical bent- mine is a tradition that has a reputation for abrasive condemnations of those who aren’t Christians: screaming brimstone and judgment from street corners, condemning alternate viewpoints and pushing legislation in an attempt to perpetuate our own beliefs. We’ve not exactly painted ourselves in a good light.

But the flag under which Christians are called to die isn’t one of religious propaganda, nor is the heart of our gospel a ‘turn or burn’ story. That said, there are things I- as a Christian- hope, want, pray, desire and truly want all non-Christians to know.

Here’s a few of them:

1) You are a person, not a project.

When I look at you I don’t see a box to be checked, a sinner to be saved, a victory to be won or a task to be accomplished. I see…

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