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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Extremism, Fundamentalism, Islamism and Jihadism – Understanding the Difference

Far right Christian extremism is no different from Islamic extremism. The religion used is merely a cultural vehicle used to push a harsh, authoritarian political agenda, which always dismisses or condemns education, art, and science, and subjugates or oppresses women, gays, and other vulnerable groups.   Inflicting a particular religious dogma on the population is intended to keep the people in line and suppress questioning and dissent.

Nothing good has ever resulted from the mixing of religion and politics. It has led to more wars, suffering and cruelty than anything else.
The separation of church and state does not seek to eliminate religion from people’s lives: it allows people the right to worship as they choose, and it prevents the inevitable political tyranny that results when one set of beliefs is forced on the people and informs the country’s constitution and laws, as it does in Muslim majority countries that practice Sharia Law and may do here in America if dominionists have their way and rewrite the constitution to suit their set of religious beliefs.

While reading this article, imagine replacing the words Islamism and Islamic extremism with far right Christian extremism or dominionism/reconstructionism and the article would be no less true.  The agenda, goals and methods are exactly the same.   Both believe that oppression and domination over others is God’s/Allah’s will  and that certain individuals have been chosen by God/Allah to carry out his will by any means necessary.  Both subscribe to a heirarchical, patriarchal view of humanity, in which certain men chosen by God must be obeyed without question.

There is no compromise or reasoning with extremists.  They are always right, because God/Allah has told them so.  If you disagree, you will be demonized as rebellious to God or an infidel.

disorderedworld

Although several Muslim countries are democracies – including most notably Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim majority nation – arguments about the incompatibility of Islam and democracy continue. On the one hand, research reveals a positive correlation between the proportion of a country’s population that is Muslim and its propensity toward authoritarianism. On the other hand, analysis of the World Values Survey, find that “surprisingly similar attitudes toward democracy are found in the West and the Islamic world.” While debates about the compatibility of Islam and democracy in general continue, the specific political ideology of islamism is an extreme, fundamentalist, political ideology that is vehemently opposed to the basic tenets of democracy.  

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Why write about politics and religion?

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When I started this blog, I remember saying I would never write about politics or religion.

Four years later, I’m writing about both politics and religion.   Though not every one of my posts covers these two divisive subjects, a good percentage of them do.    Sometimes I remember the promise I made when this blog was new, and feel like a bit of a hypocrite.

But then when I realize how closely our political situation (and religion too, since in America, right wing evangelical Christianity has become VERY political) ties in with narcissistic abuse and sociopathy, which was this blog’s original focus —  I realize I made the right decision in tossing aside my original vow to steer clear of religion and politics.

In 2019, narcissistic abuse is no longer a matter that only affects individuals, relationships, and families.   It’s the modus operandi of a criminal political organization or perhaps group of criminal political organizations that is affecting everyone under their rule on a nationwide, or even a worldwide, scale.    What is happening in the Republican Party — no longer your father’s, brother’s, or even your own conservative, small government, ‘family values’ party, but a treasonous terrorist organization of white supremacists and religiofascists that serves only the wealthy, white, straight, and male — is narcissistic abuse writ large.  Like it or not, all of us, to one degree or another, are affected by it.

Those of us who are horrified by what has become of America and the cruel way some vulnerable groups of people are being treated, and terrified by what Trump and his sociopathic regime may do to us next are most likely suffering some form of PTSD.    If we already were victims of narcissistic abuse, we are likely suffering a relapse of Complex PTSD (C-PTSD).  I know I sure as hell am.   Most days I feel like I’m just barely hanging on.   It’s hard to think or to function.   I feel constant anxiety, and sometimes depression.  When I’m not anxious or depressed, I’m in a white hot rage.   Peace of mind is a thing of the past, since I never know what fresh hell each new day will bring.    I know I’m far from alone.

Living in Trump’s America without being part of his cultish base feels a lot like waiting for your abusive husband to get home and not knowing whether he’ll beat you up again or mercifully just ignore you tonight.   It feels like being a scapegoated child in a family of narcissists, who blame you for everything that goes wrong, even though you don’t understand what you did wrong (and probably didn’t do anything).   You’re always anxious and on edge, always waiting for the “other shoe to drop.”  Narcissists like to keep you off balance, and Trump and his sycophants like to create the sort of chaos and say the kinds of things that keep us all off balance and constantly on edge.   What he’s doing isn’t any different than what your narcissistic mother did to you, and it has the same deleterious effect on your mental health.

Since 2016, mental health professionals say their caseloads are increasing, and most new caseloads are people suffering PTSD because of the trauma Trump is causing them.  Even if his cruel and hate filled policies don’t affect you or your loved ones directly, the threat of violence, the taking away of benefits and freedoms, and the mocking hatred is always there, like a black heaviness in the room.  The toxic rhetoric he and his base use against anyone who doesn’t act, believe and look the way they do never goes away, and it’s getting worse.  Now he’s goading his base (through his Twitter account) to actual violence against anyone who dares to criticize him or his policies.   I have no doubt he’s trying to rile up the police, the biker gangs, the gun nuts, and others to form a militia against liberals and progressives (and even moderates), truthtellers, and the lovers of democracy.    Make no mistake:  he’s gathering an army of brownshirts to terrorize, attack, and even kill anyone who isn’t on his side.

My point is that politics and religion in 2019 is very much tied up with narcissistic abuse and sociopathy, and to not address the fact this problem is now happening on a nationwide or even worldwide scale (and perhaps has been for a long time) is to deny that it is happening at all.  To not write about current events in light of narcissism and sociopathy would be irresponsible.

My first goal in writing about these issues is to educate and make those who might not have connected this presidency with the problem of narcissistic abuse more aware that it is happening.  With awareness and education, people are more equipped to see what is happening, when it’s happening, the various “tricks” they use (gaslighting, lying, blame shifting, demonization of groups, black and white thinking, employing “flying monkeys”, etc.) and take appropriate action or defense measures to guard against it.

Since most of us can’t go “no contact” with Trump (unless we have the means to emigrate to another country), we must stay vigilant and aware of the myriad ways he and his “flying monkeys” abuse us (he abuses his own base too, but they are in denial, like the cult members they are).  At the same time, we can’t forget about our families, our friends, and try to enjoy our lives as best we can.   The little things in life matter too.   We can (and must) take breaks from the news, and focus on more positive things, and try to find joy wherever we can.

Remember that even in the most depressing and darkest of circumstances, it is possible to find joy.     Read The Diary of Anne Frank for inspiration and strength.    If you believe in God, pray.   If you don’t, do positive things for yourself and others.    Give (and get) lots of hugs.  Volunteer.  Adopt an animal.   Do good things in your community.   Everything you do makes a difference.

Don’t put on horse blinders and pretend what’s happening isn’t, but in the midst of all the black chaos, take time out for joy and friendship.  Also remember that Trump is an angry, lost soul who has neither joy or true friends and never will.   You are better than that and that’s why he hates us.

The other reason I write about politics and religion is because it’s a way to personally cope with what’s happening.   Just as I wrote about my own abuse as a survivor of a narcissistic family and emotionally abusive marriage in order to heal, it’s also necessary for me to write about the ways I feel abused by Trump and his regime in order to keep my sanity.   Otherwise I might completely give up hope and put a bullet in my head.

*****

Further reading:

Narcissistic Abuse in Trumpistan

We Need a Lot More Awareness About Narcissism and Sociopathy

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.

I used to be a dominionist without even knowing it.

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I’ve written about dominionist Christianity extensively, so I won’t describe it at length here.  One of the most toxic and abusive doctrines of dominionism is that if you are vulnerable in any way — if you are poor, sick, disabled, mentally ill, or even a person of color (in dominionist doctrine, people of color are believed to be derived from the line of Ham, the son of Cain, who was Adam and Eve’s “bad” son — in the past this has been used as “biblical” justification of slavery) — these are all indications of God’s disfavor and people “afflicted” with these things deserve their lot.   In contrast, God’s favored people are always rewarded with great wealth, perfect health, and no disabilities.  They are also usually white and Republican.  This is why dominionist Christians feel no obligation to show compassion toward the sick, poor and disabled (as Christ would do) — because to help them would be to go against God’s will.   It’s also why they seem to think unlimited power and greed (and oppression of others) is perfectly moral.

But getting back to myself.  While I was never a dominionist Christian or even a conservative evangelical, my attitude in the past toward myself was a very negative, self punishing one.   I always had at least a nominal faith in God, but I truly believed he disliked me and my terrible luck, my bad relationships, my inability to form close relationships, my emotionally abusive family, and my poverty were all punishments God was inflicting on me because he hated me.    I looked at others and saw how fortunate they were (or at least seemed to be) and felt like God must like them much better.  Sometimes I thought God only put me on earth as an example to others of what not to be.

This made me feel completely worthless and made me want to hide in shame from the world.   It made me painfully shy, which only exacerbated my problems meeting people and socializing.    In my recovery from narcissistic abuse, I realized this negative, self defeating narrative was self inflicted due to internalizing abuse inflicted on me when I was young.   I began to realize that I had good qualities and never had the chance to develop them.

I like myself now.  No, I’m not living my “dream life” (that would involve traveling all over the world and writing bestselling books) and I will probably never have a high powered, high paying career at my age.  I probably won’t ever achieve all my dreams, but really, who does?   I’m still on the lower end of the income scale, but I wouldn’t say I’m impoverished anymore.   I have enough money to be comfortable and even buy a few luxuries (like occasional inexpensive vacations, beach trips, new books, the occasional dinner out, and nice clothing).

I’m still alone (not in a relationship), and even though sometimes that’s lonely and I even occasionally feel sorry for myself, I also know I prefer things that way for now.  I’m still working on myself, trying to find out more about me and what God wants for me (and what I want for myself).

I feel fortunate to have two wonderful adult children, both of whom I have a great relationship with, and three awesome cats.   I also live in a beautiful part of the country, with endless opportunities for photo taking and just enjoying the natural world.  Not everyone is so fortunate to have that.

Recovery from narcissistic abuse coupled with reframing God as a benevolent and loving Father who wants all his children to be happy and healthy rather than as a punishing and hateful bully who favors some of his children over others (and rewards them primarily with wealth and material abundance) has made all the difference.

I think this is why I find Christian dominionism so triggering and scary.  Not just because it’s become a real threat to our basic freedoms and rights, but because it’s a toxic, abusive, and hateful belief in an avenging, constantly angry, narcissistic God who likes to bully and punish the most vulnerable.  That sort of God, to me, is as bad as the devil.   I think that God was made in his narcissistic control freak human makers’ own image.

I’m so glad I don’t believe in that God anymore.

 

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.

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.

The Golden Rule in different religions.

goldenrule

Almost all world religions preach some form of the Golden Rule.   We should all strive to be good to each other and treat others as we want to be treated ourselves, and most religions recognize that.  We need to stop hating each other over our differences, and instead come together over our similarities.  To insist that wanting to find common ground with people of other faiths is something evil or diabolical is a huge lie that many of us are told.

Only a very few religions do not believe in or practice the Golden Rule.  Satanism generally doesn’t, but Anton LaVey’s version of Satanism (which is really just libertarianism dressed up with some “black magic” and its own “bible” — LaVey Satanists are actually atheists) does ask its followers to at least not hurt others or destroy the environment while you’re busy being a selfish SOB.  Most Pagan religions, including Wicca, follow some form of the Golden Rule too.  Many atheists also practice the Golden Rule as a matter of personal choice.  I think it’s ridiculous to suggest that a person can’t have morals or a conscience unless they believe in God or some higher intelligence.  Some of the most moral, caring, and compassionate people I can think of are atheists and agnostics.

There have been many violent and hateful religions as long as mankind has been on earth, but today the two most obvious examples that come to my mind are the twisted extremist perversions of Islam and Christianity known respectively as radical Islam and Christian Dominionism, both which seem to regard the Golden Rule as sinful or wrong and prefer to use the rhetoric of fear, terror, war and battle to achieve domination.  I have heard there’s an extremist branch of Hinduism that is like this too.  There may be others.  There are certainly many cults as well with nefarious goals and anti-social doctrine.

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

 

 

Educated Evangelicals, Academic Achievement, and Trumpism: On the Tensions in Valuing Education in an Anti-Intellectual Subculture

This is an excellent essay told from a personal perspective about why so many evangelicals reject science and the truth itself — and why they can embrace someone like Donald Trump.

Please leave comments under original post.

Not Your Mission Field

Authority First: The Enclave Strikes Back

“I sat in the waiting room wasting my time, and waiting for Judgment Day. I praise liberty, the freedom to obey.” – Green Day, “21st Century Breakdown,” 21st Century Breakdown (2009)

Fundamentalists force an inhumane choice on reflective, empathetic individuals who grow up in their enclave communities: assent that 2 + 2 = 5, or, if you can’t, shut up about it or leave. Conservative Evangelicalism is a variety of Christian fundamentalism, and, make no mistake, the data tells us with overwhelming clarity that (apart from the “special demographic” of Vladimir Putin, Mitch McConnell, and James Comey), white Evangelicals are the one demographic most responsible for electing the most patently unqualified and dangerously demagogic president in modern American history. I am often asked how they could vote for someone so impious, which is a question I’ve addressed multiple times, generally referring to white Evangelical subculture’s

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