Education vs. indoctrination.

I spent today watching videos (because who really does anything productive on New Years Day, and besides, it was way too cold to go outside).

This video made my heart hurt.     In the first section, the late Carl Sagan is shown teaching a 6th grade class science.    You can tell how much Sagan loves what he is teaching and also how much he enjoys helping these kids open their minds, nurturing their curiosity about the world.

The second part is a jarring contrast.   It’s a scene from the documentary “Jesus Camp,” a Pentecostal Christian children’s camp.  The kids, rather than being encouraged to think and wonder and dream, are being indoctrinated in hatred and specifically, hatred toward the government and public education.

These kids are literally being trained as “warriors for Jesus.”   It reminds me so much of al-Quaeda training.

It makes me so sad that so many people in this country would rather have children getting the second type of “education” than the first.

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Fundies: I Hope This Breaks Your Hard Hearts

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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…

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10 reasons why the ‘war on Christmas’ is bogus.

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Why am I bringing this up in July?

Because HE did.

This infuriating article appeared in today’s Huffington Post:

Trump Launches the War on Christmas in July

Trump has railed on about the non-existent “war on Christmas” for the past several years, riling up his base of zealous far right religious supporters.   You may remember the drama over the Starbucks coffee cups two years ago.  Plastic throwaway takeout cups failing to have Christmas decorations printed on them  (Heaven help us!  They’re SOLID COLORED!) is apparently a more pressing issue than the Russia investigation, developing problems with North Korea, making sure every American has affordable healthcare, and keeping the planet from turning into Venus 2.0.

But Trump’s issue with people allegedly waging a war on Christmas is totally bogus and here are ten reasons why.

1.  Trump is not a Christian, so a war on Christmas should be of no concern to him.

I’m not here to judge the state of another person’s soul, but it’s pretty clear to me and to many others that if Trump was truly a Christian, it would show in his actions and general behavior toward others.    He is still a lying, gaslighting, cowardly, projecting, wrathful, spiteful, egotistic, name-calling, bullying, blame-shifting malignant narcissist who has surrounded himself with a cabinet of greedy sociopaths, and that’s about as far away from Jesus as you can get.   He shows no empathy and seems to think he’s above the law.  He denies reality.   If Trump was really a Christian, he would be repenting over his past actions both in business and in his personal life.  He has shown no remorse and in fact bragged that he doesn’t need God’s forgiveness.   He doesn’t seem at all sorry about anything he’s ever done and I have never heard him take any responsibility for anything, ever.  I have never heard him say he’s sorry or admit when he’s been wrong.

It makes no difference whether or not Trump attends church or SAYS he’s a Christian or allows a group of evangelicals to pray over him.    Anyone could do those things; it’s all window dressing intended to impress his religious base and please his wealthy Christian financial backers.   “By their fruits you shall know them,”  said Jesus in Matthew 7: 15-20, and so far, Trump has produced nothing but bad fruit.  A Christian doesn’t brag about grabbing women by the pussy or make sexual references about his own daughter, not to mention the many things he is doing to endanger people’s lives and happiness, and the health of the planet itself.   So no, from everything I can tell, Trump is not a Christian and I feel perfectly justified in saying so.   It doesn’t matter that I can’t see the state of his soul, but I can see and hear from his deeds and words that there is no Christ in his heart.  So I don’t want to hear Trump whine about a fictional war on Christmas, since from everything I can see, he’s a Christian in name only, if even that.

2. Christmas is based on a pagan feast.  Early Christians did not celebrate Christmas.

Nowhere in the Bible does it say we must celebrate Jesus’ birthday.  According to Google.com,

The first recorded date of Christmas being celebrated on December 25th was in 336, during the time of the Roman Emperor Constantine (he was the first Christian Roman Emperor). A few years later, Pope Julius I officially declared that the birth of Jesus would be celebrated on the 25th December.

History.com explains why December 25th was selected:

Was Jesus really born on December 25 in the first place? Probably not. The Bible doesn’t mention his exact birthday, and the Nativity story contains conflicting clues. For instance, the presence of shepherds and their sheep suggest a spring birth. When church officials settled on December 25 at the end of the third century, they likely wanted the date to coincide with existing pagan festivals honoring Saturn (the Roman god of agriculture) and Mithra (the Persian god of light). That way, it became easier to convince Rome’s pagan subjects to accept Christianity as the empire’s official religion

The celebration of Christmas spread throughout the Western world over the next several centuries, but many Christians continued to view Epiphany and Easter as more important. Some, including the Puritans of colonial New England, even banned its observance because they viewed its traditions—the offering of gifts and decorating trees, for example—as linked to paganism. In the early days of the United States, celebrating Christmas was considered a British custom and fell out of style following the American Revolution. It wasn’t until 1870 that Christmas became a federal holiday.

3. Trump isn’t whining about the secular commercialism of Christmas.

Christmas in America has become much more about gift giving (and big business raking in lots of money every year) than it is about the birth of Jesus.   What do snowflakes on coffee cups, Christmas wreaths, coniferous trees, prettily wrapped gifts, Black Friday, and sparkly cards that say “Merry Christmas” have to do with actual Christianity?  Nothing, that’s what.  In fact, these traditions are engaged in by many Jews, atheists, and people of religions other than Christianity.  I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with  these things and they can be a lot of fun, but let’s not pretend these things are remotely religious because they aren’t.    Christmas, especially in America, is much more about celebrating capitalism (and the togetherness of family and friends) than it is to any Biblical event.     And, while the gift giving, decorations, and activities can be a lot of fun, they can also cause a lot of stress, especially for people who lack the money to buy gifts or don’t have close relationships with family or friends.   There’s a reason why so many people become so depressed during the holiday season.   But I don’t see Trump complaining about how commercialized Christmas has become; I only see him whining about people and groups who refuse to embrace its commercialism.

4. People have been saying “Happy Holidays” for DECADES.  Why is it suddenly an issue?

Trump acts like people saying “Happy Holidays” is a new development, but it’s actually very old.    I remember during the 1960s and 70s,  my parents always sent out cards that said “Happy Holidays” or “Seasons Greetings” because so many of the people they knew were Jewish.  No one took offense.   It wasn’t an issue for anyone, Christian or not.    I even remember some of the old Christmas songs said “Happy Holidays.”   Again, never an issue.    I’m sure the trend is a lot older even than I am.   Here’s a very old Christmas card, I’m not sure what year, but it looks to date from the early 20th century or even the late 19th:

Old-Christmas-Cards-christmas-119454_395_500

5. It’s even harder to enjoy Christmas now that it’s become political. 

It’s bad enough that we have to deal with the financial and emotional stresses of the Christmas season, but now we have to worry that we might offend someone by using the wrong holiday Christmas seasonal? greeting.   Maybe it’s just better to say nothing at all and not give out cards either because they also might offend somebody.    It sucks we can’t even enjoy the holidays anymore without it being a potential politically divisive issue.  Again, it was never like this before.  It’s been MADE a political issue.   #6 may be the reason why.

6. Trump is actually waging a war on non-Christians.

Okay, I can’t prove it, but it seems to me that Trump’s phony ‘war on Christmas’ is intended to anger his far right Christian base, who are not likely to think too critically and just take it on faith that whatever Trump says is the truth.  So if he says there’s a war on Christmas, then by God, there’s a war on Christmas and on Christianity itself.   This is intentional, as Trump and his fundamentalist/dominionist Christian backers and cabinet members have every intention of turning America into a theocracy, instead of a nation that has always prided itself on religious freedom and diversity.    To some of these extreme right-wing Christians, “religious freedom” means the freedom to force their beliefs on others, not the freedom to worship (or not worship) the way you choose.

According to today’s HuffPo,  at the “Celebrate Freedom” event at the Kennedy Center on Saturday night, Trump said,

“I remind you that we’re going to start staying ‘Merry Christmas’ again.”

Is he actually attempting to legislate the words we use?   It sure seems like it from his choice of words.   The intent here is to bring us farther away from democracy than we already are and closer to theocratic rule.    A free country does not tell people what they can and cannot say, at Christmas or at any other time or for any other reason.

waronchristmas

7. Would Jesus actually care if people said “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas”?

I highly doubt it.  I doubt Jesus was narcissistic enough to insist we use his name when celebrating his non-birthday.  As mentioned before, nowhere in the Bible are we told we must celebrate Christmas or use a particular greeting.  In fact, I bet Jesus would be ashamed of us for attaching his name to a holiday that has become mostly secular and fun at best, and a crass celebration of greed and materialism at worst.    Again, Christmas wasn’t celebrated by anyone until the 300’s when a Pope decided it was a holy day.

8.  The “war on Christmas” is most likely a distraction from the real issues. 

Trump seems to like to stir up drama whenever the heat is on and he’s being criticized for much more serious issues.   This is classic Cluster B behavior and Trump displays it every. single. day.   In deflecting attention from himself and pointing fingers at others (primarily the media, but individuals too), he is really trying to take the light of truth off his own shady, amoral, and possibly illegal activities.

9.  It’s things like this that make people despise Christians.

When Christians (or any other group) whine incessantly about how persecuted they are (when they really aren’t) and fixate on minor issues (like the fictional war on Christmas) they believe prove they are being persecuted, it makes people hate them, and for good reason.   As a Christian myself, I’m embarrassed to be associated with phony “Christians” like Trump who try to restrict our freedoms and obsess over trivia in their efforts to alienate people with different beliefs and divide a nation.

10. He’s yapping about this in JULY.

Yes, fellow Americans, Trump is whining about his bogus war on Christmas the day before we celebrate America’s independence.   Does that historical event mean nothing to him?   It’s an insult to all those who have fought and died for our country.   But what else can we expect from a man who does nothing but insult others?

We live in dark times, but…

mlk_quote

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Fundamentalism of the 1960s Has Changed for the Worse—Considerably Worse

This article from one of my favorite bloggers is about how religious fundamentalism, like politics, has also moved so far to the “right” since the 1960s that these churches now resemble dangerous cults more than churches, and they seem preoccupied with control, a doctrine of hate and punishment, and make excuses for the abuse of women and children.

Jesus Without Baggage

We became fundamentalists in 1958 when I was 7, and I ate it up! We joined a Freewill Baptist Church and I was with those churches until 1970. However, I did not absorb fundamentalism only from FWB churches; my strongest influences were from the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) movement which was even more fundamentalist than the FWB churches.

We subscribed to John R. Rice’s influential paper The Sword of the Lord, which I read devotedly. I also read many of John Rice’s booklets, including Bobbed Hair, Bossy Wives, and Women Preachers. In addition, I read articles and books by other IFB leaders such as Bob Jones, Jack Hyles, and Oliver Greene. I listened to Lester Roloff on the radio. Other fundamentalist influences were Carl McIntire and the Moody radio station. I was pretty much saturated with fundamentalism.

fundamentalism

Characteristics of Fundamentalism in the 1960s

Like evangelicals, fundamentalists subscribed to…

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How did narcissism get so “popular”? (part one of two)

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When I was compiling my lists of songs about narcissism, it didn’t pass my notice how few songs there were prior to the 1980s that focused on it. Oh sure, there have always been a few here and there (Carly Simon’s 1972 hit “You’re So Vain” immediately comes to mind) and there were always those “you/he/she done me wrong” love songs, but songs specifically about narcissism were pretty rare.

I think the reason for this is because it wasn’t until the 1980s that narcissism became so dominant in western (especially American) culture that it became a new virtue–something to aspire to if you wanted to be financially and professionally successful. And it wasn’t until the 1990s that narcissism became recognized as a real problem and websites, blogs and forums about narcissistic abuse began to spring up all over the Internet.

But I think the problem really started long before that, back in the post-WWII days when the Baby Boomers started being born. Of course there are exceptions, but as a generation, the Boomer generation was raised to be grandiose, entitled and lack a collective sense of empathy for others. As the Boomers aged, their collective sense of entitlement bled over into everything they touched–politics, business, and the culture at large. Today this narcissism affects all living generations, but generations older than the Boomers generally frowned on it.

1950s.

boomer_girl

After our WWII victory, America became very hubristic. We had become a superpower to be reckoned with the world over, and American life never seemed better. Life was very different than it had been even a decade earlier, and most newlyweds now had TVs, new kitchens with modern appliances that made a wife’s job much easier and left her more time to spend with her children, and often two cars. Employment was high and jobs paid well compared to the cost of living at the time. Young husbands were able to afford to buy tract homes and new cars on the GI bill, and could afford to support a wife and children. Of course, these were very conformist times too, and “keeping up with the Joneses” was a thing.

Enter the victory babies born in this national mood of optimism following the war: the Baby Boomers. Raised according to Dr. Benjamin Spock’s indulgent philosophy of “feeding on demand” and “Johnny will clean up his room when he feels like cleaning up his room,” Boomer infants and toddlers were pampered, indulged, and trained to be entitled. They were given anything they wanted and discipline tended to be light and consist of trying to “reason” with children. There was an endless array of new toys and snacks marketed to children, and mothers were made to feel like bad parents if they refused to comply with what advertisers told them to buy. The kids caught onto this attitude of entitlement, and if Sally got the new Barbie doll or Eric got the new battery operated toy truck, then Debbie and Paul had to have them too. The culture at the time was child-centered. It was a given that a child’s needs and wants always came before the parents’ and children were constantly told how “special” they were.

As they entered school, young Boomers’ attitude of entitlement and specialness carried over into the classroom. As a generation, they expected to be treated as little gods and goddesses, just as their parents had treated them.

1960s.

hippies

As the Boomers entered their teens, they began to rebel against the parents who had showered attention and material comforts on them. I believe this rebellion was due to a collective fear of engulfment by overindulgent parents. They were attempting to break away by reacting against the very lifestyle that had given them so much. Of course not every child had overindulgent parents, but teenagers always try to emulate what’s popular or cool. Rebelling against “the Establishment” or the Vietnam War (which also represented the values of their parents) became hip and cool. Adolescent Boomers, having been raised to believe they were unique and special (and most of those middle class and above were able to attend college and were often the first in their family to be able to do so) embraced causes that were anathema to the values of “the old fogies” and at first, really believed their causes were superior to those of their parents. They tuned in, turned on, and dropped out. They experimented with marijuana and LSD. They dressed in hippie clothing and wore their hair long, which horrified “The Establishment.” They listened to rock music, the louder and harder and more offensive to the older generation, the better. They protested the war, attended “love ins” and participated in campus sit-ins, and eventually riots. Young Boomers believed their values were exactly what the world needed, but their attitude was based on entitlement rather than realism. They were idealists who believed the world could be changed by smoking pot and listening to the right sort of music.

Due to the sheer size of the Boomer generation, anything they did got a lot of national attention. Besides the many disapproving and negative news stories about the Vietnam protests, communal living, and recreational drug use, others were also beginning to emulate them. The next-older generation (The Silents), who had been largely ignored as they came of age, tried to seem younger by emulating the Boomers in their dress, tastes, and general lifestyle. The Boomers were never short on collective narcissistic supply (both negative and positive), and this continued to feed their attention-getting behavior.

Parents wondered where they had gone wrong, and why the children they had raised so lovingly had turned so rebellious and so insistent on “doing their own thing.” They wondered why this new generation seemed to hate them so much.

By the end of the 1960s, the “hippie lifestyle,” like everything else the Boomers would ever start, had become a lucrative market. But by the time The Establishment caught on, the Boomers were beginning to move on to other things, including embracing what they had rejected.

The power was still in the hands of the older generation of course, so narcissism had not yet become a noticeable part of the culture (although hubris and conformity definitely still was). By the 1970s, the first signs of a growing narcissistic culture would begin to make themselves felt.

1970s.

disco_ball

Boomers, now entering their 20s, had by now largely abandoned their earlier hippie incarnation for a more subdued “back to the land” movement, in which they opted for whole foods, fresh air, and healthy living. Others began to infiltrate the job market, often with degrees in esoteric subjects. Having children was something to be avoided, as Boomers wanted to prolong their adolescence or make a mark on the world. The Pill and newly legal abortion made all this possible. Around the same time, women began to demand equal rights in society and the workplace. The 70s wave of feminism was very anti-child and pro-career. If you preferred to marry and raise children, you were looked upon as a throwback to the 1950s.

Around the same time, various forms of non-traditional, humanist psychotherapies (EST, Esalen, etc.), grassroots religions, and cults became popular. Collectively known as “the human potential movement,” self-improvement and self-development became a priority for Boomers. Putting your own needs before those of others was not only normal, it was considered healthy. New York Magazine dubbed the 1970s “The Me Decade” for this reason. Couples opted to cohabitate rather than marry(because it was easier to break a commitment), and divorce was becoming very common. Children raised during this time (Generation X) found themselves ignored, treated as second class citizens, or sometimes even abandoned by their self-involved Boomer parents who seemed to put their own needs ahead of theirs.

Around the middle of the 1970s, a new kind of music (disco) became associated with materialism, hedonism, and over the top sexuality. By now, Boomers had done a 180 from their emergence during the 1960s as hippies, and now embraced the crass materialism they had once rejected. They were ready for a President who would encourage their pursuit of luxury and material success.

At the same time, fundamentalist Christianity, which had been “rediscovered” by some Boomers as an outgrowth of the Jesus movement of the 1960s, was becoming increasingly popular, and the new conservatism was using it as a way to attract newly saved Christian voters.

The new narcissism wasn’t lost on Christopher Lasch, who published his book, “The Culture of Narcissism,” in 1979.

1980s.

yuppies

Ronald Reagan popularized trickle-down (or “supply side” economics), which basically meant allowing people to pay less taxes and keep more of what they earned. This played right into the hands of financially successful, entitled Boomers, who didn’t want to share their newfound wealth. The hippies had become the Yuppies–young urban professionals who had to “dress for success,” live to impress, and have the best of everything. Clothing wasn’t acceptable unless it had a designer’s logo on it. Housewares weren’t acceptable unless they were handmade in Outer Mongolia by native women. Food wasn’t acceptable unless it was “nouvelle cuisine.”

Having the perfect body was a priority, and Boomers started going to the gym or even personal trainers to tone and sculpt their bodies, sometimes to the point of unhealthy obsession. Boomers, mostly in their 30s by now, were finally deciding to have families, but children themselves became a status symbol, and getting your child into the “right” preschool or having the “right” designer clothing, or the “right” dance instructor became all-important. It was common for Boomer parents to watch other people’s children closely, to find out what they needed to do to “one up” each other as parents.

In 1987, a popular movie called “Wall Street” was released, in which its most famous quip, “greed is good,” became a national meme. While it was intended as a joke at first, “greed is good” quickly became a new philosophy of life, in which greed was not only good but became a virtue. Greed may have been one of the seven deadly sins, but even Christians made an exception for it, and we even had a Christian president who encouraged as much of it as possible. After all, it was the American way and America was a Christian nation, right?

Please continue reading Part Two of this article. 

*****

For further reading, see my articles:
1. Are Millennials Really the Most Narcissistic Generation Ever?
2. Why is Narcissism so Hot These Days?

Do dogs go to heaven?

This is the first time I am reblogging a post I disagree with. I respect this blogger’s religious beliefs and I’m a Christian, but sometimes the crazy on this blog is off the charts, with all its hellfire and brimstone pontifications and nutty conspiracy theories about things like the Illuminati. He has a vendetta against Catholics and I do have a problem with that.

I follow his blog anyway because of its WTF factor. I never commented on any of this blogger’s posts before but I couldn’t let this one pass.

When I look into the eyes of my dog (or any dog, or cat for that matter) I see love, pain, shame, joy, sadness, fear– the whole gamut of emotions humans experience there. They must have a soul. I think animals automatically go to heaven because they do not have free will.
Besides, Heaven without pets in it would be hell to me.