13 red flags of a dominionist church.

angry-violent-god

I’ve written about Christian dominionism before, especially as it relates to our current political situation here in America, but what exactly is it, and how can you tell if your church has gone dominionist or has dominionist tendencies?

What is dominionism?

First, we need to define dominionism.  What exactly is it anyway?  Basically, it’s a postmillennialist theology that was started by Rousas Rushdoony in the 1960s, with the publication of his tome, Institutes of Biblical Law.  It has its roots in Calvinism, and is in fact Calvinism on steroids.   It’s a form of theonomy, or theological totalitarianism, that teaches that God has mandated humans to prepare the world for Christ’s return by “christianizing” the “7 mountains” of society: government, family, media, education, religion, entertainment/arts, and business.   They seek to do this by installing only Christians (specifically, dominionist evangelicals) into the top echelons of each of these seven “mountains”  who will then work on changing them.   One of the tasks of the people mandated to transform the “government” mountain is replacing the Constitution with Old Testament biblical (Mosaic) law.   In fact, they’re busy doing this right now, which is why there are so many dominionist Christians in the Trump administration.  Dominionists (and many “normal” evangelicals also)  believe that Trump has been “anointed” by God as a “wrecking ball” to help bring about God’s kindgom on earth.   Many people have compared dominionism to ISIS and the Taliban, two extremist factions of Islam that also don’t recognize the separation of religion and government and have made laws based on the Q’uran (sharia law) the law of the land in some Middle Eastern countries.

Dominionism isn’t a denomination.  It’s an authoritarian theology that has infiltrated a variety of Christian denominations in America, mostly evangelical, fundamentalist, or pentecostal (you’re pretty safe from it if you’re in a mainline or liberal Protestant or Catholic church — for now).  Dominionism has flown under the radar for years and has gone under several different names:  New Apostolic Reformation (NAR),  Manifest Sons of God, the Latter Rain movement (an early incarnation from the 1970s), Kingdom Now,  Kingdom Theology, Joel’s Army, and other names.    It’s actually a fascist and nationalist political agenda wrapped up in Christian piety.  As a post-millennialist doctrine, it has a different eschatology from “normal” evangelicalism, which is traditionally pre-millennialist and therefore teaches that the Tribulation and Rapture will occur before Christ returns.   “Normal” evangelicals (and mainline Christians who believe in the Second Coming) adhere to the biblical teaching that we have no way to know when Christ will return, and there is no way to “prepare” for it, since God’s kingdom is not of this world.

Dominionism is heretical for many reasons but mostly because it says Jesus can’t return until the planet is “Christianized.”   For Americans, this means a installing a theocracy based on Old Testament laws.   If that sounds a lot like radical Islam to you, that’s because it is.  Their agenda is eventual world domination (dominion) and a One World Religion.  This is unbiblical.  We were never called to force certain religious beliefs on others, only to spread the Gospel.  To force a religion on society by way of its laws negates the concept of free will.  It also corrupts both the religion and the government.   This is why the Founding Fathers were clear about the separation of church and state.

The Bible also never says that only Man can change the world for Christ.  In fact, we cannot facilitate Christ’s return ourselves because we can’t even know when He is returning (Mark 13:32).

God’s kingdom, according to John 18:36, is not of this world.   But dominionists believe it very much is and to be pleasing to God, the world must be changed to Jesus’ liking.   Dominionism is also extremely authoritarian and very cult-like.    Many survivors of spiritual or religious abuse came from churches that embraced tenets of dominionism and reconstructionism.

Here’s an excellent (and scary) description of dominionism from a political research website:

Dominionism Rising: A Theocratic Movement Hiding in Plain Sight 

Dominionism has been working its dark magic within American evangelical churches,  and even some charismatic Catholic churches.  Now that it’s infiltrated our political system, it threatens the integrity of our Constitution and our freedom.  Many of the current GOP in high level positions, and some members of Trump’s staff are actively trying to install dominionist doctrine into our laws.   Here are 13 red flags to look for.

1.  The church uses military imagery or language.  This is a very visible and immediately obvious red flag of a dominionist church.  Such symbolism indicates a church that has no respect for the separation of church and state — and even believes it is mandated to change the law of the land to its liking.  Ads and educational materials include military imagery such as shields, swords, guns,  images of soldiers at war, sometimes combining the cross with nationalistic symbols like American flags.   They use terms like spiritual warfare, warrior for Christ, soldier for Christ, prayer warrior, POTUS Shield, Joel’s Army, etc.   God himself is portrayed not as a loving Father, but as constantly angry, full of wrath and vengeance, intolerant, and punishing for the smallest infractions.    Extreme nationalism is prominent too.  America is believed to be God’s chosen nation (the “new Israel”) mandated to convert (by force, if necessary) the world.

soldiers4jesus

2.  The church tells you how you should vote.   In America, this nearly always means voting for the “pro-life” candidate, regardless of how immoral that candidate may be in other ways.   Abortion and to a lesser extent, homosexuality, are the two pet “culture wars” issues given outsized importance by these churches.    This red flag alone though does not indicate a dominionist church, since many conservative and fundamentalist/evangelical churches frown on abortion and homosexuality.  But taken in context with other red flags, it’s still something to be on the lookout for.    Be wary of any church that tells you to vote Republican, says Trump is “God’s anointed,” or rails on about abortion and homosexuality constantly but doesn’t seem to care  very much about other moral issues such as greed, pride, pedophilia, poverty, racism, human rights abuses, adultery, dishonesty, or cruelty.

3.  The church encourages you to leave your non-believing loved ones.   Dominionist churches operate very much like cults because in fact they are cults.  Cults such as Scientology very often coerce their adherents into disconnecting with non-believing friends or family members, who are demonized.  Enemies of Scientology are called “Suppressive Persons” or SPs for short (here’s more about my own short foray into Scientology, in case anyone is interested).    In dominionist churches, anyone who isn’t a believer — even other kinds of Christians — are said to be doing Satan’s work.   In fact, some dominionists believe that non-dominionists are naturally evil because they come from Cain’s bloodline (they believe that the “right kind” of Christians are from Abel’s bloodline) so they are predestined for Hell no matter what (I told you this was Calvinism on steroids!)

So if your church leader tells you a relationship you have is sinful or accuses your friend or family member of being of the devil because they believe differently or have a lifestyle the church disapproves of, and they tell you you must cut off that person to avoid God’s wrath,  run away as fast as you can.  Dangerous people and organizations both attempt to isolate their prey from the people they love in order to control them.   It’s a form of divide and conquer.

4.  The church says we can and should seek signs and wonders.  Many evangelical churches emphasize “signs and wonders” (spontaneous healing, “glory clouds,” speaking in tongues, deliverance, exorcism, laying on hands, etc.) as a physical manifestation of the holy spirit.  Pentecostal and charismatic evangelical worship services focus on attempting to bring about these supernatural phenomena and as a result, it’s hard to not get drawn in by all the intense and uncontrolled emotion.  Dominionism goes a step further, saying humans are mandated by God to “manifest” signs and wonders, since God is in each of us.   This is very similar to New Age teaching.  In fact, many dominionist churches, such as the Bethel megachurch in California, are a strange hybrid of Christian fundamentalism and New age religion (Bethel is also known for an odd and disturbing practice known as “grave sucking.” ).    Dreams are also given great importance, and even quasi-occult practices such as astral projection are practiced: there are dominionist preachers and authors who claim they have traveled to heaven (and hell).   Signs and wonders (miracles) may be real for all I know, but I don’t think it’s a good idea to be conjuring them for their own sake or as “proof” God exists.   I think it could even be dangerous (not all supernatural occurrences come from God), so if you belong to a church that says you must take part in such occult activities or that something’s wrong if you can’t speak in tongues, conjure a “glory cloud,” or heal people spontaneously, find another church.

glory_cloud

Attendees at Bethel Church catching manifested gold dust from a “glory cloud.”

 

5.  The church says certain people are “anointed,” or chosen by God — and says you must obey those people.   In this regard, dominionism has been compared to the Roman Catholic Church, which believes in intercessors between us and God, such as popes, priests and bishops.   In dominionist churches, certain people are “anointed” (often self-proclaimed) as prophets or apostles, and they have dominion over everyone else.    To disobey or resist such an “anointed” person is considered a sin.   Since these churches consider Trump to be “anointed by God” (regardless of his continued immorality and lack of repentance for his sins),  to disagree with Trump means you disagree with God himself and have a “jezebel spirit.”

If your heart tells you something is wrong, I think it would be immoral not to disobey.  We were given a conscience which is a gift of God, and helps us manifest the holy spirit in the world (the same way our minds do — it is godly to use our critical thinking skills!)  While good works may or may not be necessary for salvation, they certainly are a “good fruit” proving we are using the conscience and thinking ability we were given and acting in a Christlike manner (even if we are not Christians).  Who can argue with that? It sure wasn’t Satan who gave us brains and a conscience!

If you know your leader is doing something immoral,  I think it’s the godly thing to call it out or at least refuse to take part in it.   What if your pastor asks you to perform a sexual act on them or cheat on your spouse?  Is to refuse to do so immoral? I certainly hope not!  I think there are always circumstances in which disobedience is not only the correct thing to do, it’s the only moral thing to do.

6.  The church puts great importance on blind obedience.   This ties closely with #5.   Dominionist churches put an inordinate amount of emphasis on unquestioning submission to authority, often quoting Romans 13, which says that every man in a position of power was put there by God, and therefore we are not to question God’s will.   Using this logic, even Hitler, Stalin and Mussolini were placed in power by God.   You could also ask a dominionist why Barack Obama was so vilified by the religious right, since according to their doctrine, he must have been put there by God as well.   Not only is blind obedience valued over critical thinking (which is a sin), to insist on “rights,” including civil rights, is considered to be satanic.

Here’s a thought experiment.  Dominionists might want to ask themselves if undergoing an abortion in China is the godly thing to do, since Chinese law mandates a couple must not have more than one child — and therefore to refuse an abortion is to disobey the law.    Likewise, would the American Revolution have ever happened — or any revolution in all of history ever happened — had disobedience or resistance to authority not come into play?

On a side note, I’ll add that dominionist child rearing methods are extremely authoritarian and oppressive, even cruel.   The goal of such draconian and harsh parenting is to “break the child’s will,” as you would “break” a horse — but really what happens is the child grows up to be a broken person unable to think for themselves, afraid to experience genuine emotion — and all too often becomes an abuser themselves.

7. The church preaches the “prosperity gospel.”  While not all prosperity gospel churches are dominionist, all dominionist churches preach the prosperity gospel.   Dominionism is really a sort of hyper-Calvinism, which states that God blesses those who please him with financial and material rewards (“name it and claim it”).   So if you are poor or struggling,  then you deserve your poverty.   You’re displeasing to God in some way, or your faith isn’t strong enough and God is trying to “awaken” you to the error of your ways.   It would therefore be wrong to offer such a person help because that’s interfering with God’s will.  The prosperity gospel also puts a great deal of emphasis on tithing, which I describe in #8.

8.  The church puts great importance on tithing and “donations.”   Even if you are poor and can’t feed your family, you are told you must tithe a large portion of your income to the church.  Failing to tithe the right amount is considered sinful.   This is another red flag of a cult, because cults always find ways to extract large amounts of money from you, often promising you nebulous things such as greater prosperity, happiness or peace of mind in return.    Failing to attain those goals means you have failed — or are displeasing to God.   The church is like a gambling casino: the house always wins.   It is always right, you are always wrong.  If you belong to a church whose leader is extremely wealthy and flaunts that wealth, and the poor are blamed for their own financial condition,  run.

9.  Women are treated as second class citizens.  Women are held in very low regard in dominionist churches, though not all churches that order women to be “helpmeets” and submit to the authority of their husbands, fathers, and other male relatives are necessarily dominionist.  They could just be ultraconservative.   But again, this is something you will see in dominionist churches.   Of course, abortion is forbidden in most conservative churches, but if birth control is also frowned on (outside the Catholic Church), and women are told their only value is to have as many children as God gives them, or if having many babies is referred to as “building an army for Christ,”  that should be a howling red flag.   The Quiverfull movement, which the Duggar family is a part of, is a fairly recent manifestation of dominionist theology at work.    The Taliban in Islam has very similar views of women and their proper roles in society.  In such a misogynistic environment, abuse is rampant.

handmaidstale

Scene from the Hulu TV series, The Handmaid’s Tale.

 

10.   Abuse is concealed, denied, or excused.   Women and children are extremely vulnerable to abuse because of their second class status.   Since the man is regarded to be biblically mandated to have headship over his wife and children — and because questioning authority is frowned upon and even condemned as sinful — reporting abuse or defending yourself or your children against it can be dangerous.   Many women who tell their preachers about the abuse are shamed and coldly ordered to go back home and try to be better wives, or to “make the best of it.”  Sometimes they are even accused of bringing it on themselves, and told they can stop the abuse by being more pleasing or obedient to their husbands.    Because a woman may be saddled with many children, or have been cut off from her family and friends (see #3), she may have nowhere to turn to get any help or relief, which takes us to #11.

11. Disdain for psychiatry, psychology and the mental health profession.   This attitude toward the mental health professions is very similar to that of Scientology, which also takes a very dark view of them.   In many dominionist churches, the only acceptable kind of therapy is that given by a Christian (dominionist) practitioner, who is rarely trained in psychology and counseling, and will often give advice that is not based on the client’s best interests but rather on obeying the religious doctrine.  For example, they might tell a gay person their sexuality is an abomination to God, and they need to undergo “conversion” therapy, or they might tell a wife she must obey her husband and try to “make the best of things” even if she and her children are in danger.  A secular therapist would encourage the gay person to accept themselves as they are, and urge the woman to leave her abusive husband and connect with people who can help her.

12.  The church demonizes the vulnerable.   I’ve already discussed the way dominionist doctrine demonizes the poor, blaming them for their lack of prosperity.  But it also demonizes the disabled, the sick, and other vulnerable groups of people.  Because dominionist doctrine holds that God blesses his elect with perfect health and wealth, a godly person would never become poor, sick or disabled.  Misfortune is only visited on those who don’t believe or who are morally offensive to God.   To suffer misfortune then, means you are doing something wrong.  The fault is always your own.  This is an extremely narcissistic, even sociopathic, worldview — and nothing at all like Christ, who loved the “least of these” the most.    Dominionists apparently have never read the Sermon on the Mount.

13.  The people are just…weird.   When people join cults, if they stay any length of time, eventually the indoctrination and mind control tactics begin to take a toll on their personalities and even their appearance.   Many people have noticed, for example, the “Scientology stare” so common in Scientology adherents like Tom Cruise.  This is a creepy blank stare, often combined with a fake smile that fails to reach the eyes.   I’ve never spent time in a dominionist church, but my fascination with it has led me to watch Youtube videos of dominionist preachers and public speakers, and almost all of them have that weird, robotic, predatory, almost psychopathic stare.  Watch videos of Paula White (Trump’s “spiritual advisor”) if you want to see a real world example of what I mean.

If you’re still not sure whether the church you attend has dominionist leanings, there’s an easy way to tell if it’s a good church or a bad one:  ask yourself if it bears good or rotten fruit (Matthew 7:17-18).   If the church is doing good works and helping others (without coercing them to convert),  its leaders seem humble and kind, and the congregants seem happy and contented without repressing their real desires and emotions, then it’s probably a healthy church environment.  If the leader seems distant (or “above” his congregation), the congregants seem fakely perky and happy (or miserable and afraid), and the overall feel of the church is one of fear, negativity, and anger,  it may not be a dominionist church, but it definitely could be a toxic one.

Advertisements

False prophets.

fakechristianscartoon

I am afraid, lest as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds should be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully. For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.  Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their deeds.

– 2 Corinthians 11:3-15

 

A Confession of Faith in a Time of Crisis

white-dove

I rarely share religious articles, since I know many or even most of my readers aren’t religious, but I think this one is so important I couldn’t let it pass by.  I also think the truths described in it are things we all need to remember in these confusing and dark days of our nation, regardless of your belief system.  If nothing else, they will help keep you sane.

I’ve been growing increasingly disturbed and even upset by what I see happening not just in our government, but in many of our churches, especially evangelical churches.  The Founding Fathers were wise to demand the separation of church and state, not because they were all atheists (they weren’t), but because when religion and state merge, they tend to corrupt each other.  It’s not just government being protected from religion, but also religion being protected from government.   As long as churches stayed out of politics, they tended to stay true to the teachings of Christ.   But something dark and unsettling is happening within Christian evangelism and it’s way too serious for us to ignore, because, Christian or not, it affects all of us.

Dominionism is a growing movement within evangelism that claims to be Christianity, but is more like what would happen if Christianity was turned inside out and stood on its head.  It’s an authoritarian, intolerant, unloving, unforgiving, punitive, and sociopathic belief system which seems to be equal parts Old Testament biblical law and Ayn Rand’s philosophy of selfishness.  It’s the Prosperity Gospel with an angry, narcissistic, and unloving God.  Christian dominionism is not actually a religion at all — it’s a fascist political movement which is to real Christianity what the Taliban or ISIS is to Islam, and like the Taliban, it hides its anti-woman, anti-gay, white supremacist, violent, and oppressive ideology behind a facade of “Christian” religion.

We are close to a rewriting of the Constitution (Constitutional Convention) by these sick control freaks.   The Republican Party and Trump’s cabinet in particular are infested with these zealots.   They cannot be reasoned with.  They will not compromise.  They will not back down.   There is nothing they won’t do to achieve complete domination over all of us and of the planet.   Their doctrine dictates that doing evil things is okay as long as the end result (Christ’s return and the rapture) is achieved.    These people believe they are prophets and apostles who have been anointed to be earthly rulers and have been given permission by God to oppress and abuse the rest of us who are not part of God’s ruling class.   There’s nothing biblical or remotely Christian about any of this.

The dominionist movement is aided and abetted by the Koch Brothers and other oligarchs (both American and Russian) who aren’t religious themselves but whose insatiable lust for even more wealth and power dovetails perfectly with what dominionists want (complete control).    If they ever do gain full control over our government or are able to rewrite our Constitution, we’ll be living a real life Handmaid’s Tale.   The Kochs, Mercers, and other oligarchs working in cahoots with the dominionists will be either be exempt from the oppressive and draconian laws the rest of us will be subject to, or they can just skip off to another country.

As I said in the first paragraph, I’ve been getting upset about this abusive belief system and the threat it poses to my freedom and my life, and the lives, rights, and freedoms of the people I love.    Some days I feel like they really are going to win and I start to get anxious and depressed.   So I’ve been praying a lot about it.

The following article feels like an answer to my prayer  — a reminder of what it really means to be Christian in these times and what is expected of us (because it’s easy to get confused these days with all the misinformation), and at the same time a manifesto against the heretical perversion of Christianity called dominionism.    I feel strongly that if Jesus were here sitting next to me, these words would be exactly what he’d say to me.

A Confession of Faith in a Time of Crisis

 

 

If the devil wanted to kill a religion.

goingtochurch

If the devil wanted to kill a religion, he would not be transparent or obvious about it.   If it was Christianity he was trying to destroy, he would not woo people with pentagrams, blood sacrifice, black masses, and upside down crosses, and new commandments telling us to blaspheme God, rape, kill, and steal.   That stuff is from the movies because it’s dramatic and scares most of us.   If the devil exists, he knows being that transparent would drive most people off rather than attract them.

On the contrary, if the devil wanted to kill a religion (say, Christianity), he would package his diabolical agenda in a nice, “Christian” package.   There’s a reason why he’s known as the “Father of Lies.”   He would use crosses and Bibles and images of European Jesus.   He would talk about vague “Christian values” or “the sanctity of the family.”

If the devil wanted to kill a religion, he would pick one or two culture-war issues that many religious people  have glommed onto (in our culture, this means abortion and homosexuality) and weaponize them.  This serves a dial purpose: (1) to deceive conservative Christians into believing his agenda is in fact “good,” and (2) to exert control over people, particularly women.  Because  people’s sex lives are so personal (and because these issues happen to be popular “culture war” issues today), these two things can be easily weaponized to instill shame and guilt, so those so deceived believe they are not being controlled but are in fact promoting “Godly morals.”

If the devil wanted to kill a religion, he would twist and pervert Scripture so it became its opposite.  This would happen gradually, so the change would barely be noticed.   Values once normally accepted as ungodly or evil — greed, money-worship, sexual abuse, child abuse, pedophilia, rape, dishonesty, and treachery, for starters — would be excused, receive “mulligans,” or even be celebrated and encouraged in some situations.  Dominionist types believe the means justify the ends, which means that immoral or abusive behavior is okay as long as they help to bring about “God’s kingdom on Earth.”  At the same time, values espoused by Jesus in the Bible — charity, empathy, unconditional love, and concern for the poorest and most vulnerable — would be dismissed (at best) or even be called sins (the dominionist evangelical God doesn’t favor those who are sick, poor or disabled, so helping them becomes a “sin”).  This bears no resemblance to anything Jesus taught.    Religion is simply being used as a handy vehicle to promote a diabolical agenda.

If the devil wanted to kill a religion, he would cherry pick verses in the Bible to dupe people into thinking his twisted perversion of the original passage is the Word of God.  “See? It says so right here in the Bible!”  Scripture can be — and is — interpreted many different ways, depending on the translation, what we “read” into the passage, and other factors.   Much of the Bible is not as cut and dry as we’d like it to be.   Being able to quote from the Bible doesn’t make you a good person or a good Christian.  Even Satan can roll Bible verses off the tip of his forked tongue.  He could even use some Bible verses to justify evil — and some “Christians” today do just that.

mahatmagandhi

If the devil wanted to kill a religion, he would weaponize the religion against those people who most espouse the true values of that religion.  Good and moral people with kind hearts have been leaving the American evangelical churches in droves lately, because what is being preached is diametrically opposed to what’s in their own God-given conscience.  They deplore the hypocrisy, superstition, denial of science and truth, ignorance, hatred, intolerance, emotional abusiveness, and cruelty of the modern evangelical church.  But the devil wouldn’t miss these good people, because they’d all be replaced by those most like himself — liars, hypocrites, narcissists, sociopaths, abusers, sadists, control freaks, and those without conscience, compassion, or love.

If the devil wanted to kill a religion, he would encourage believers to destroy God’s creation (in the name of God, of course) and take no responsibility for its stewardship.  He would tell them it’s okay to dump toxic, life-destroying substances in the water and air.    He would tell them that laws that protect them against those who would poison them are bad.  He would tell them that to use the earth sustainably is a sin because it shows a lack of faith in God’s ability to replenish it.   How is this different from telling teenagers it’s not only okay to trash their parents’ home during a party but that to clean up their own mess is wrong because it shows a lack of faith in their parents’ ability to do so?

If the devil wanted to kill a religion, he would blaspheme God by attributing his own dark and destructive nature to that God.   Such a “God” would therefore be constantly angry, war-mongering, narcissistic, compassionless, sadistic, rejecting, hate-filled, and authoritarian.   Such a “God” would favor the most powerful and ruthless with riches and material goodies while meting out unspeakable suffering on the most vulnerable, who he hates.  He would tell us to steal from the poorest to give to the richest.  He would “punish homosexuals” by sending hurricanes that destroy entire cities (that kind of twisted reasoning we hear from the likes of Pat Robertson have no basis in logic at all).    He would call social justice and altruistic behavior “socialism” or even “communism” and ruthlessness and cruelty “law and order.”   He would be a God devoid of mercy or grace.   He would be a God who, were he to meet the Jesus of the Bible, would reject, deport, and even kill him because of his dark skin, poverty, and compassion for the “least of these.”  In fact, there would be precious little difference between that “God” and himself.

If the devil wanted to kill a religion, he would tell believers they must vote for and support a certain highly immoral, narcissistic, and cruel person and tell them they will go to hell if they do not.     He would gaslight those who can see through the hypocrisy and lies by attributing that same false idol’s depraved values and actions onto them.

It’s not just Christianity that has been perverted into its opposite.  The same thing is happening to Islam, once known worldwide as a religion of peace.  The Taliban, ISIS and Sharia Law are extremist factions of Islam that twisted this peaceful religion into a cult of war and death.

I don’t know if I believe in a literal devil or not.  But I do believe in evil, and in the idea that evil forces exist in this world.  The modern American evangelical churches are a hotbed of evildoings in these times.   In my opinion, it’s much better to be an atheist.  I know plenty of wonderful atheists who are extremely good people who always try to do the right thing, so it’s a total myth that a belief in God is a requirement to have morals or a conscience.

How does one avoid being duped into worshipping a false God?  Observe what sort of fruit a church or a religion is bearing.  If they bear only rotten fruit, or their teachings and values are authoritarian; or they talk about hell, death and punishment more than they talk about God’s grace or mercy; or if they weaponize their doctrine against the most empathetic or the most vulnerable; or even if you just feel really uncomfortable in that church or with those people, run away!

5 Ways Christian Patriarchy Harms Men

One of my favorite Christian bloggers talks about the ways patriarchal Christianity actually harms men.

Please comment under the original post.

Jesus Without Baggage

It is easy to understand how Christian patriarchy harms women, but it might not be so clear how patriarchy harms men. Patriarchy is a religious belief in which women must submit to their husbands, who are heads of their homes, earn the money, and make all the decisions—while their wives support and submit to them. In effect the husband is boss.

Patriarchy believes God created men and women with rigid gender roles and that the Bible describes those specific roles (see arguments against patriarchy in the links at the bottom of this page).

Patriarchy puts men in charge at home and church. Men are empowered while women are disempowered. So, with such privilege, how can patriarchy HARM MEN? There are at least 5 ways, and I am sure there are more. During this series, a number of both men and women readers addressed this issue. Some of their anonymous contributions…

View original post 971 more words

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

Even though this article is less than four months old, I’m reblogging it because it provides a kind of lead in to the article I plan to write later on today. I also think its message is comforting in these turbulent times. Stay tuned for my later post!

Lucky Otters Haven

god

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)…

View original post 2,181 more words

I’m having doubts about Christianity.

bare lonely tree in black and white

I feel like my soul is lost in a snowstorm, and it’s because of the political situation.

The religious right is causing good people to leave their churches, or even Christianity altogether.    This is because so many churches, especially evangelical ones, have become little more than bullhorns for right wing propaganda that praise Trump as some sort of biblical hero.

Mainline Protestant churches and the Catholic Church have kept a healthy distance from politics, and if they lean any way at all, they tend to lean to the left and preach social justice, especially the mainline Protestant denominations.

The Catholic Church is awkwardly placed in all this.  While it’s always emphasized the importance of social justice and helping vulnerable populations, and is headed by a Pope (Francis) who appears to dislike Trump and is decidedly left-wing in his views,  the Catholic Church is still vehemently pro-life and is against artificial contraception (even though most Catholic women of childbearing age use it anyway).   It also considers homosexuality to be a sin and does not ordain female priests.   Many people have left the Catholic Church because they perceive it as being behind the times and out of touch with the needs of women.

Two years ago, I became Catholic, because of all the Christian religions, Catholicism had the most mystery and beauty, and I’ve always loved the liturgy. Although some Protestant churches (Episcopalian and Lutheran) also have a liturgy that’s almost identical to the Catholic one, I wanted the purity of the original one.   I also always liked the doctrine of transubstantiation:  the idea that the Eucharist is a real sacrament and the bread and wine actually turns into the body and blood of Christ, instead of being merely symbolic.

Catholicism is the oldest existing Christian religion, and I was attracted to all its rich and colorful history, both the good and the bad.   I loved the art, especially the serene paintings of Mary and baby Jesus.   I liked the saints.

I also was attracted to Catholicism because it was comforting to me.   Even though my family is not Catholic (my mother was but she left the Church during her teens), I grew up in a heavily Catholic neighborhood in New Jersey, and attended two Catholic schools between 5th and 10th grade.    Every Friday we attended mass in school, and I was so envious of the girls who got to take Communion, while I had to remain sitting in my chair.    I also was envious of all the cool stuff they got:  the lacy white Confirmation dresses, the Confirmation names (I finally got mine: it’s Catherine), the rosary beads.    I was given a set of blue plastic rosary beads one day at school (maybe they forgot I wasn’t Catholic?), even though I had no idea how to use them.  They were among my favorite possessions and I liked to finger them like worry beads.

During those years I attended Catholic school, it was like my home away from home.   I loved the nuns, who were always so serene and kind to me.    Things were very bad at home during those years, with both my parents drinking and fighting, and I felt unloved at home.   At school, that wasn’t the case.  A couple of the nuns treated me like loving parents, and I also had friends at school. Their families welcomed me as if I was one of them.   One girl, Lynn, came from a loud, big, boisterous Italian Catholic family.  Her grandmother, who spoke Italian, used to tell stories from the Old Country and they actually had a wine-making press in their basement where once a year they’d have a grape crushing party that all the neighbors were invited to.   Her grandmother used to cook a big Italian meal every Sunday after church.  What a contrast to my own home, where meals were a silent, stressful affair where my mother constantly criticized me if I wanted seconds and hounded me about my weight, even as a child.    When our dinners weren’t silent, they were interrupted by drunken arguments or either my mother or me in tears.

I’ve always been a spiritual seeker.     I dabbled in a number of different religions during my adult life, both Christian and not.    Still, I always found myself drawn to the Catholic church, and while I never seriously considered becoming one, on occasion I  would attend Mass and take Communion whenever I went.

I finally made the decision to become Catholic in 2014, and for a year attended RCIA classes at my local church.    At the Easter Vigil Mass in 2015, I was confirmed Catholic (my Methodist baptism, to my surprise, was accepted as valid).    I received my confirmation name of Catherine, and my  sponsor gave me a set of rose-scented rosary beads.  My father was perfectly fine with my Catholic conversion and sent me a crucifix.   It was one of the last gifts I would receive from him before he died in June 2016.

Overall, I like Catholic doctrine.  I like the idea of Mary and the saints, who are not actually worshipped the way Jesus is, but merely venerated and seen as intercessors (you ask them to pray for you, not pray to them directly).    I love the Sacraments, even Confession (penance), which to me seems like a way to unload.  It’s therapeutic rather than punishing or guilt-inducing.  At the same time, it keeps my conscience clear.   I always feel cleansed and relieved when I leave Confession (which is done in a small room facing the priest, rather than in a dark confession box).     The “penance” is usually nothing more than saying a couple of Hail Marys or Our Fathers. I always wonder why so many people are so turned off by this sacrament.  To me, it’s like an exercise for the soul.   More than anything, I love Communion.   After I eat my wafer, I really do feel different, as if Jesus is in me.   Maybe it’s a placebo effect of some kind, but I choose to believe it really is Christ’s physical presence, and that makes all the difference.

I like the fact that Catholicism is science friendly.  Many of the greatest scientists and academics in history were Catholic clergy.  I was surprised when I found out during the RCIA classes that in spite of the Catholic doctrine of original sin,  evolution is accepted (albeit God-inspired, which I’ve always believed anyway).   Most of the books of the Old Testament,  including the Adam and Eve story, are regarded as allegorical rather than literal (as they are in mainline Protestantism).   I’m not sure how that squares with the concept of original sin, but so be it.

There are still some doctrinal points I have issues with, and becoming Catholic hasn’t changed my feelings.    One is the literal bodily assumption of Mary into Heaven.  Also the idea that Mary was a virgin and remained so after Christ was born.  Since Mary was also human and not divine, I don’t believe she was conceived without original sin.

I also still consider myself pro-choice, although with limitations.   Actually, I’m sort of on the fence about abortion.   I certainly don’t think it should be used as a form of birth control, or that abortion is okay just because a pregnancy is inconvenient, but I also think there are times it’s the only viable option, especially in cases of rape or incest, if the fetus has a fatal condition and will die anyway, or if the mother’s life is at stake.   The Catholic position is no abortion for any reason, ever.     I can accept this though, because the Catholic Church is pro-life across the board: they are also anti-war, anti-death penalty, and have a long tradition of helping the poor.   There is consistency there and so, to me, their position is not hypocritical.

I also don’t think there’s anything wrong with birth control.  As for homosexuality, well, I have always had gay friends and my son is gay, so I just can’t condemn it.  Some of my favorite people ever are gay.     I also disagree with the Catholic position about women in the clergy, although this may change in time (my priest doesn’t really know why women are barred from the clergy and said there’s no Biblical basis for this other than tradition).

In spite of my issues with some Catholic doctrine, I never once regretted my choice, and until about two months ago, I attended Mass regularly.   But lately, I’m having problems with my faith.   Not Catholicism in particular, but with Christianity in general.    And it’s because of the religious right and the Trump administration.   My church has never taken a position either for or against Donald Trump, and in fact politics is rarely if ever talked about during the homily (sermon in the Protestant faith).   We are merely asked to pray for our leaders.

It disturbs me that so many Catholics (not necessarily in my church but in general) are Trump supporters.   The Trump administration also includes Catholics and I have a problem with that too.     Never before have I judged people based on what their politics are or which politician they support, but that changed this year.    Because of the politicization of Christianity and its growing association with the far right, Christianity in general has been giving me a bad taste in my mouth, and unfortunately that includes my own faith.

I still consider myself a believer in Jesus Christ and I still pray a lot (mostly for a strengthening of faith these days), but mention the word “Christian” to me and I recoil.   I am aware there are Christian leftists and a growing movement toward the social gospel, and that’s attractive to me — but the Christian right eclipses that.    I consider myself a “red letter Christian,” which means I focus on the words of Jesus himself that appear in the gospels.  Unfortunately, those lessons of love, charity, and tolerance are minimized or even ignored by the Christian right.   In this country, the religious right is a lot more powerful and a lot louder than the Christian left, and it’s turning many good people off to Christianity.   It seems that these days, the loudest and most powerful voices of Christianity belong to horrible people devoid of empathy or any true sense of morality or grace toward others.

So I find myself being turned off by the whole idea of Christianity, even though I know real Christianity isn’t like that at all.  I pray about it all the time, but the doubts still remain.  One result of this cognitive dissonance is that I haven’t been to church in almost two months.    I’m going to have to call my priest and set up a time to talk to him about these issues, but it’s hard to motivate myself.  I feel like a hypocrite attending church or taking communion again until this is resolved.   It’s actually occurred to me this is exactly the way Satan would get people to leave the Christian faith.  He would hijack the churches and fill them with heartless and judgmental authoritarians and narcissists.  He would corrupt faith by making it political.  He would use religion as a weapon of hatred intended to divide and create a culture of fear,  which is the opposite of what Jesus intended.    Good people who otherwise might embrace Jesus would reject Christianity altogether.

Maybe this is just a “dark night of the soul” — a spiritual crisis in which I’ll emerge with my faith stronger than ever, or maybe I really am “losing my religion.”   I just don’t know anymore.   I’ll keep praying, though.

“I Dare To Dream”

This is a reblog of an excerpt from Pastor Paul J. Bern’s book “The Middle and Working Class Manifesto — 3rd Edition”

new manifesto cover

I found this excerpt on Pastor Bern’s blog, The Progressive Christian Blog, which is a politically and socially progressive blog based on biblical principles and is therefore truly progressive in the ways Jesus was during his time on earth, and expects Christians to follow his lead, rather than merely “liberal” (watered-down “feel good”) sort of Christianity that is more like junk food for the soul than spiritual nourishment.

I was thrilled to finally find a true social gospel that someone like Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. (such people are rarities today) could get behind — a biblically based blog that doesn’t engage in Trump-worshipping, blaming vulnerable populations, or the selfish “prosperity gospel” type of thinking so prevalant on the Christian Right.   I think what he has to say is important so I wanted to share it with all of you.

I Dare To Dream

By Pastor Paul J. Bern

The march of economic inequality, from which springs the source of racism, poverty, crime, violence, and lack of access to healthcare and higher education, has become the new civil rights issue of the 21st century. (I like to call it Rev. Dr. MLK, Jr. 2.0.) King’s dream of unconditional equality throughout the country can finish becoming a reality when the economic barriers that we all face on a daily basis finally come down for good, like an economic Berlin Wall circa 1989. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke to the masses during the 1963 civil rights march on Washington and said, “I have a dream…”. By writing and publishing these words it is my intent to help take up where King’s Dream left off, and to do anything I can to help finish the job that he started. And so let me slightly change that to, “I dare to dream”.

I dare to dream of a world in which the gap between rich and poor is gone forever. We all deserve to live in a world where wealth has been redistributed in a peaceful and orderly manner and not by the barrel of a gun. I dare to dream of a country where wealth has been redistributed in 4 ways. First, every worker earns a living wage so poverty can be eliminated. Second, free higher education and vocational retraining must be available to every worker for life, including daycare available to all, that would be based on the worker’s or student’s ability to pay on a sliding scale, because everyone has the right to better themselves at will. Third, I envision an America where quality health care is available to every worker at nominal cost for life. Single-payer healthcare based on the current Medicare model must not be reserved only for those who can afford it, but it must be a fundamental human right for all ages. I dare to dream of an America where there will be no such thing as someone without health insurance, where every citizen will have lifetime healthcare and prescription drug coverage without qualification, and where there will be the fewest sick days for American workers and their children of any country in the developed world. Fourth, “we the people” demand the abolition of the federal tax code, including elimination of the despised federal withholding tax, which would give every American worker or business owner an immediate 18% pay raise.

I dare to dream of a new America with a robust and viable economy. That is why I have been insisting on a $14.00 per hour minimum wage since 2010. I dare to dream of a new America where education will be subsidized from the cradle to the grave so that the US develops the most formidable work force the world has ever seen. I dare to dream of an America where all workers have the right to organize, to a flexible work week and to paid family or maternity leave. Most other developed countries already do this. The US is the only exception and that has got to change. The only remaining question in my mind is whether we can accomplish this peacefully or otherwise, and it looks more and more to me like it will be the latter.

I dare to dream of an America where affordable housing is the law of the land, where home ownership becomes a right and not a privilege so we can wipe out homelessness, and where the price of a house is limited to the sum total of ten years income of any given individual or household purchasers. I insist on a country where home ownership isn’t part of an exclusive club with the highest “credit scores”. It is, and must become, a basic human right. Even the cave men lived in caves of their own!

I dare to dream of a country with new public works programs that put an end to unemployment forever so the USA can have full employment all the time. America’s infrastructure needs to be rebuilt, and its inner cities are in dire need of an overhaul. What a better way to accomplish this!

I dare to dream of a new America with an all-new public school and university system that has an Internet-based curriculum that can be updated at will, and that is second to none in the developed world, with a new and more intensive school year, and that has viable replacements for standardized testing, and where class size is limited by law. I dare to dream of a country where teachers make what their Congressional representatives make, and vice verse.

I dare to dream of a new nation where unconditional equality is the law of the land for every citizen without exception, and this will include economic equality. I dare to dream of a new America where there is no more income tax, no capital gains tax, no alternative minimum tax, no estate tax, no self-employment tax, and where families and businesses can have a tax free income unless they are very wealthy. In its place would be a national sales tax, such as a Consumption Tax, where everyone pays proportionately the same tax rate on only what they consume, plus an “excess wealth tax” for persons with annual incomes exceeding $3 million, and for businesses with annual proceeds exceeding $300 million, so America’s budget can be balanced and fair.

Please read the rest of this post here.

 

Listen up, fake Christians and white nationalists.

Members of the Ku Klux Klan yell as they fly Confederate flags during a rally at the statehouse in Columbia

The Bible you claim to love so much has a lot to say about racism and the kind of deplorable behavior shown in Charlottesville, Virginia this morning.   Maybe it’s time to admit you’ve been wrong about this, and a lot of other things.

racismbible

And that’s just for starters.

You are no better than ISIS terrorists.  They think they’re right too.

 

Fundies: I Hope This Breaks Your Hard Hearts

Comments are disabled.  Please comment under the original post.

Flee from Christian Fundamentalism

A training manual rests on a shelf in the library of my church. It claims there is no such thing as poverty in the United States.  Evidence point?  People defined as poor in the United States own and use cellular telephones and other modern conveniences. People who own such things cannot possibly be classified as poor. Therefore, no authentic poor people live in the United States. True Biblical poverty exists only in foreign countries, and it looks like this photograph:

Poverty in Africa

This training manual was prepared and published by The Heritage Foundation, apparently for use in American churches. Some person unknown to me brought this despicable, God-hating training manual into my United Methodist Church and sneaked it onto a library shelf. Best I can tell from flipping through this training manual, it is designed for adult Sunday school teachers so they can teach the members of their Sunday school classes…

View original post 3,720 more words