The Hurtful Church of Jesus-less Christians

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I love John Pavlovitz’ blog.   He’s a Christian pastor, but the kind that’s tragically rare in America: a pastor who actually believes in the compassionate, loving Jesus of the Sermon on the Mount, a Jesus whose table included all types of people and always had room for one more.   This Jesus isn’t the Jesus of the prosperity gospel, dominionist, and right wing evangelical churches,  whose preachers seem to completely ignore the inclusive, loving Jesus in favor of their abusive and constantly angry God who gaslights his flock, holds them to endless harsh rules, constantly threatens Hell and punishment, shames and silences women and tells them they must tolerate abuse from their husbands and pastors (because as women, they must be doing something wrong to deserve the abuse of their “betters”), makes excuses as to why keeping children in cages and separating families is “godly,”  and tells poor people their poverty is due to their own moral failings and that if they were pleasing to God, they’d be rich.

Their God is forever changing the goalposts and is impossible to please.   Moreover, their God has “anointed” certain chosen people as “prophets” or “apostles,” people we are to obey without question and never criticize just because their God has elevated them above the rest of us (that’s where the “Trump is anointed by God” rhetoric comes from).    Their religion, so unlike the real Christ, is merely a cover for greed, hatred, exclusion, and fascism, and is used by sociopaths and narcissists as a means to control people.

They have created a God in their own image: their God is a sociopath or least a pathological narcissist, and good, decent people with a conscience and empathy want nothing to do with him.    But in America, unfortunately he is the loudest and most visible God.   The term Christianity itself is acquiring a bad name lately (this trend has increased since Trump was elected) because good people are associating it with authoritarianism, hatred, condemnation, elitism, American exceptionalism, misogyny, white male privilege, and harsh punishment.  No wonder so many good people are turning to atheism or non-Christian religions instead.

I too am finding the term Christianity offputting lately.  When someone tells me they’re a Christian, I automatically become wary and distance myself, assuming they follow the authoritarian, far right God that’s so prevalent in America today.    Theirs is a predatory, heartless religion that behaves more like a cult than a proper religion, and hurts millions more than it helps (mainly enriching its wealthy pastors and billionaire donors).

John Pavlovitz speaks for the rest of us, Christians and non-Christians alike, who reject the authoritarian American God, but who wish to emulate the Jesus of the Gospels.  Such Christians, to circumvent the recent negative connotations associated with “Christian,” have been calling themselves Christ Followers.   I kind of like that!

Here is another insightful and important article from John Pavlovitz’ “Stuff That Needs to Be Said” blog.

The Hurtful Church of Jesus-less Christians 

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Trump signing Bibles makes a mockery of faith.

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Just as ripping babies from their mothers at the border and throwing them in cages makes a mockery of America’s legacy of compassion for immigrants, and Trump’s tax breaks for the rich and endless fruitless investigations into people he considers his enemies make a mockery of democracy, Trump signing Bibles for Alabama tornado victims yesterday makes a mockery of Christianity, and even faith itself.

Trump’s faked empathy for people in a red state like Alabama, while victims of the California wildfires and Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico got nothing but disdain from this president, says more about Trump’s narcissism and the fact that the people in Alabama are much more likely to be part of his base (and therefore vote for him in 2020) than people in California.   And of course, as far as Trump is concerned, Puerto Rico isn’t even part of the United States, but a “shithole country” full of those brown people he doesn’t like, and as they can’t vote anyway, they certainly won’t be casting a ballot for him.  So why bother helping them in their time of need?   There’s nothing in it for him.

But beyond the selective “empathy” he’s showering on tornado stricken Alabamians, the Bible signing he staged for his evangelical base is far more unsettling.

Although it may seem like a minor thing,  I actually think it’s one of the most sinister things Trump has done (outside of atrocities like throwing babies in cages at the border or taking away healthcare from those who most need it, etc.).   Many people, even atheists and nonChristians, are also deeply unsettled by it.  

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How is it possible that people outside the Christian faith can see how diabolical this is, but Trump evangelicals, who pride themselves on how “Christian” they are, can’t?  Maybe it’s because they have enough distance from the situation that they aren’t blinded to the truth: in signing Bibles as if he himself is the author, Trump is actually attacking true Christianity, which rejects everything he stands for.  In signing Bibles for his gullible and cultlike  base, he is also consciously or unconsciously equating himself with God (“I alone can fix it.”)

Trump and his dominionist and far right evangelical donors and sycophants (I’m looking at you, Franklin Graham and Jerry Falwell, Jr.)  have twisted Christ’s message of love and unity into its polar opposite.  Instead of teaching compassion for the needy, humility, and a life of service, and the recognition that “God’s kingdom is not of this world,” these fake Christians celebrate greed, unfettered capitalism (no protections against corporate excess and exploitation), destruction of the planet in the name of corporate profits, the torture of children and families, the denial of healthcare, and the oppression and removal of basic rights for women and people of color. They turn a blind eye to sexual abuse and infidelity (as long as the guilty party is a Republican), and they worship a hateful, narcissistic, eternally angry, vengeful diety who hates the sick, the poor, and foreigners, and rewards the wealthy and powerful with even more wealth and power, to whom he has given “dominion” to rule over the rest of us.

“Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.  “All this I will give You,” he said, “if You will fall down and worship me.”  — Matthew 4:9 

If Satan is real, this is exactly what he would do.   What better way to turn good people away from Christianity (or in the case of Islam, the Taliban/ISIS is used the same way) and at the same time attract sadists and sociopaths?   Do you think the devil would be transparent and use things like pentagrams?  Nope.  That would be too obvious. 

Trump signing Bibles (he not only signed them, he signed their covers!) as if he’s the author makes a mockery of Christianity (and the Abrahamic religions in general), as well as violates both the first and second commandments.   God has not elevated a serial adulterer, sociopathic narcissist, torturer of innocents, and treasonous criminal like Donald Trump to some exalted favored status, and anyone who believes Trump is God’s chosen is listening to the wrong preacher.

Although Christianity can and has been used for the betterment of humanity, it has also been used to justify slavery, genocide, torture, and other atrocities. That’s why the separation of church and state is so important to democracy, and to my way of thinking, democracy is the most Christlike, humane form of government possible.

If you’re a Christian (and even if you’re not), I highly recommend these awesome progressive Christian blogs (and the last one by a former evangelical who discusses the abuses of the New American Evangelism from personal experience).

John Pavlovitz: Stuff That Needs to Be Said

Jesus Without Baggage

Chris Kratzer blog

Rachel Held Evans blog

Not Your Mission Field (Chris Stroop is an ex-evangelical who left his church because he recognized how toxic and abusive it had become)

Trump supporting evangelicals are today’s Pharisees.   Many evangelicals of the dominionist persuasion (an increasing number of evangelicals and fundamentalists — and even some very conservative Catholics — have fallen prey to this dangerous Christofascist movement) even call themselves “prophets and apostles.”    Use your God given discretion when dealing with people who claim to be “anointed” or have certain “gifts of the Spirit.”

“By their fruits you will know them.”  (Matthew 7:16-20)

Narcissistic Supply.

I have one last concern, and it’s probably the most important one of all.
Trump’s evangelical supporters’ declarations that Trump was chosen by God (and their dangerous belief that any criticism of him constitutes disobedience to God) only feeds Trump’s malignant narcissism. Although he may not himself even believe in God (though I can’t prove this), the fact that so many people believe he was specially selected by God to usher in His kingdom must give him some pretty intense narcissistic supply. Anyone who is familiar with NPD knows that the more narcissistic supply you give to a narcissist, the worse and more abusive they get. Trump evangelicals are feeding and nurturing a monster.

Making changes.

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It’s time to change a couple of things about myself.   Laziness has been a factor in both, though there are other things involved too, and this post is where I will explain it all.

The first thing I’m changing is I’m going back to church.

Due to Trump’s far right evangelical base’s racism, greed, and general lack of empathy, and the twisted perversion of Christianity known as dominionism infiltrating many evangelical and fundamentalist churches, and also the highest echelons of our government (and corrupting every one of our vital protective institutions while violating the Founding Fathers’ idea of the separation of church and state), I’ve been finding the term and even the idea of  “Christianity” offputting.

I believe this is deliberate psychological manipulation enacted by people and organizations who (much like radical extremist Islamists) use religion as a weapon to control human beings and to justify cruelty, callousness, and even torture.  (Christianity was also used to justify slavery during the Civil War and many of the worst atrocities in western history).

What these individuals and churches are practicing is not Christianity at all.  These are Pharisees and false prophets, wolves in sheeps’ clothing.  Some followers may be hapless victims of their cult and not realize they are actually part of a fascist political movement overtaking the country, but their wealthy and famous leaders and televangelists most certainly know.  Some people have dubbed these false Christians “Christianists,” to delineate them from Christians with a more traditional, Christlike belief system.

The dominionists’ goal is not just destruction of America as we know it, but also destruction of true Christianity.   What better way to turn good people away from Jesus (and turn them toward atheism or to Eastern religions or paganism) than to make the Christian God as cruel, narcissistic, mean, greedy, and punishing as possible?  To twist Jesus’ message of caring for the “least of these” into a barely concealed contempt for the most vulnerable among us, a Savior who reserves special treatment for the “anointed” wealthy (dominionists believe wealth and worldly power is a sign of God’s favor) and condemns the poor and sick (who are not “chosen”) to hell.    Dominionists believe that dissent or resistance to a political leader (no matter how immoral or unjust) is a sin that will send you straight to hell (They base this on one line in Romans 13).  Many dominionist preachers, from Franklin Graham to Lance Wallnau to Robert Jeffress, all insist Trump was anointed by God, and to defy or disapprove of Trump will ensure that you suffer in hell for eternity.    Of course, this only applies to the far right Republican leaders they approve of.   If you resisted Obama or Clinton, none of this applies.

Dominionism and far right evangelicalism bears no resemblance to any Christianity I ever heard of until it began to infiltrate our government and started getting more media coverage.   It bears no resemblance to the traditional idea of Jesus as a kind teacher who inspired the Golden Rule and healed the sick.  It also bears no resemblance to the Jesus who was so enraged by the greedy money changers in the temple that he overturned their tables and sent them running.   Dominionism is all about tithing and preachers reaping huge profits.  It’s all about power and dominating others.  The pervasiveness of this dangerous christofascist movement is, unfortunately, turning me off to Christianity.

If Satan is real, I imagine this is exactly how he’d go about turning people away from God.   He wouldn’t use pentagrams and blood sacrifice because that would be too transparent and obvious.   No, he’d disguise himself within an established religion such as Islam or Christianity, pretending that evil is good, and good is evil.    The Father of Lies wouldn’t be transparent enough to reveal himself.   He may well pretend to be God.

And so, my church attendance has gone way down.   The last time I attended mass was on Christmas.   I was happy to be there, but I still can’t shake the bad feeling I get these days from the mere idea of Christianity, whether Catholic, Protestant or nondenominational.  It isn’t my church itself, which I love.  My church is Catholic, but is also quite liberal, and the priest never brings up politically controversial subjects like abortion (I myself am pro-choice — up to a point).  Although my priest is careful not to talk about politics during the homily, he has made it pretty clear how he feels about the migrant situation, the rollback of environmental regulations, and the current president’s cruel policies without actually mentioning his name–and his opinion is not positive.    Although some conservative Catholics are Trump supporters (and there are Catholics working for Trump), the Catholic Church is actually vehemently opposed to Trumpism because of its disdain for immigrants, the sick, the poor, the disabled, children, the elderly, anyone who’s different or vulnerable, and all the “least of these” people that Jesus loved the most and demanded his followers treat with compassion.

But I still couldn’t shake the “Christian” stigma.   To many people today, the term “Christian” elicits the same negative mental image as “Muslim”:  oppressive, misogynistic, and often violent religious zealotry.    Of course in both cases, only the extremists are that way, and what they practice isn’t either true Islam or true Christianity.    And even as a Christian myself, the term “Christianity” was starting to make me recoil and turn my back on it.    I was “losing my religion.”

As a sort of compromise with myself (and God), one day in the early fall, I decided to attend a Unitarian Universalist service.   It was beautiful, uplifting, inspiring, and the people were friendly and welcoming.   I loved the sermon and its message of social justice, equality, kindness, and acceptance of diversity over exclusivity.     In fact, it was a perfect church for someone like me, except for one thing:  its failure to acknowledge the existence of God, or any higher power or higher intelligence.    That bothered me because I don’t think (and have never thought) we just got here by accident.  Yes, I believe in evolution, but I also think it wasn’t random, and there was some kind of higher intelligence — a God — overseeing the entire process.

Even more confused, I just decided not to go to church at all.  I made an exception for Christmas mass, but I do feel like something important is missing from my life.  I find myself slipping back into my old ways of thinking and feeling when I was agnostic, and that just doesn’t work for me, and never did.   I feel strongly that God has been calling me back, but I haven’t heeded that call.  Yet.

Lent is almost here, and last year for Lent I successfully gave up smoking.   I believe it was God’s presence that made it much easier for me to quit than it would have been otherwise.   I haven’t smoked a cigarette in a year!   So I have decided to return to my adopted church, and in doing so, give up something for Lent that will honor God and at the same time help me.

What better thing to give up for Lent than my Sunday morning laziness?  (I do love sleeping in on weekends).    Maybe by immersing myself in a Christianity where acceptance, respect for the planet, compassion, and all the other good qualities of Jesus are valued instead of denigrated,  I might be able to let go of some of the negative political associations I’ve developed toward Christianity because of what American Evangelicalism and the Trumpist GOP have done to it.

I’m making another change too.    I’m going to write in this blog every day.   There’s no reason I can’t make a New Year’s resolution in February.  It’s  still early in the year.

This blog may never regain the level of activity it used to get (due to the Google changes I talked about in another post), but writing something every day surely can’t hurt and will probably help.   It will also keep me centered and focused.    Even if all I do is post a photograph, or a few sentences about some small event or observation (Tony Burgess does this all the time, and his blog is very popular) it’s better than posting nothing at all.

Let the little children come to me

I just found this lovely blog.

In a time when migrant children at our southern border are being robbed of their childhood (and even their lives) and children within our own borders are being taught to hate (often in the name of God),  this post’s beautiful and simple message couldn’t be more timely or more important.

Please leave comments on the original post.

About Creation and the Creator

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Today my daughter and I wandered through the woods. After three days of cold and dreary weather we weren’t going to miss 60 degrees and a sunny sky. So we put on our sneakers and headed off to Latta Plantation Nature Preserve to play in the woods and eat marshmallows!

We started at the nature playground walking on logs, slack rope, crawling through rope tunnels, and trying a climbing wall. All of this made difficult by our very wet and muddy shoes, thanks to the 4-inches of rain we’ve received. I spent an hour hovering around my daughter, ready to catch her at a moments notice. My goal: to protect her from a slip or fall, a skinned knee, or worst of all; the dreaded muddy hands!

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After a time we headed down the trail. Again I was a father-hen, constantly keeping my daughter away from muddy puddles, keeping her…

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This Christmas is kind of a bummer for me.

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The house is  all decked out for the holidays more than it’s been in years, thanks to my daughter’s efforts.  But a couple of incidents have occurred in in the past  24 hours that have really put both of us in terrible moods and darkened our holiday spirit with worry and sadness.

I don’t really want to talk about what happened, because it’s not really a huge issue (no one died or is deathly ill)  and like all things, it will pass, but it’s ruining her Christmas so much she has been in tears for 24 hours.  As a person that is much more empathic than I ever used to believe I was (I think some of my natural empathy got freed up through therapy and self analysis), her low mood is affecting my own emotional state in a very negative way.    Any Christmas spirit I had feels like it’s gone.

I’m trying to make the best of it, going through the motions, and by tomorrow perhaps I will feel better and be able to enjoy Christmas day.   Gift giving is always fun and I have prepared a wonderful lasagna (my own Christmas tradition) and have a delicious buttercream chocolate/peppermint cake for dessert.

Another issue is I have drifted away from my church and religion in general (long story) and although I want to attend Christmas morning mass tomorrow, I doubt I actually will.

I’ve been having a lot of doubts about Christianity.   I blame much of this on the way Christianity has been poisoned and corrupted by American right wing evangelical/dominionist preachers, politicians, and megachurches.   Like a person with a specific phobia of elevators whose phobia generalizes to include all enclosed places, my entire outlook on Christianity (even the good kind that actually follows Christ’s teachings) is becoming poisoned.

I know the cure for this is to resist my negative feelings and go to church anyway, but every week I say I will go and then I don’t.    I can certainly understand why so many people these days are becoming atheists, especially younger people.    American right wing Christianity is turning good people away from God completely.  And why wouldn’t they?    Sociopathic people in power have made a God in their own image:  a merciless God that is sociopathic, cruel, punishing, impossible to please,  narcissistic, and who takes sadistic pleasure in endlessly and cruelly punishing the hapless humans he demands worship from.   I know that’s not what real Christianity is about, but the compassionate, Christlike Christians don’t seem numerous enough, and certainly aren’t loud enough.   Instead of fighting back, they turn the other cheek.

I hope you all have a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or Winter Solstice celebration.  I hope you are happy this holiday no matter what you celebrate and aren’t bogged down by stress and worry.

Oh yeah.  That reminds me.  The Winter Solstice.  The days are growing longer now, and that makes me very happy.

13 red flags of a dominionist church.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

False prophets.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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…

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