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.

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If Doug Jones does this, he will win Alabama.

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I’ve been very worried about the far-right religious demagogue and pedophile Roy Moore winning Alabama.   He and his Democratic opposition, Doug Jones, have been running neck and neck, and even after 9 women spoke up about Moore molesting them (in one case the woman was 14 years old when she was assaulted) and other complaints that Moore stalked teenagers at the mall, Roy Moore still has a better than good chance of winning in his state.  The reason he may still win, even though he is a horrible human being who preys on children, is because of where Roy Moore stands on abortion.

Even though I don’t live in Alabama (thank God), I’m worried about Moore winning because that will mean he’ll be in the Senate, and have greater influence and power.  We do not need religious extremists and unrepentant sexual predators (please don’t bring up Al Franken, because at least he apologized and took responsibility for his actions) like Moore in the US Senate or anywhere close to the federal government.

So I had a kind of brainstorm this morning.    Because so many Alabamans care so much about abortion, and vote on that one issue (even over homosexuality), Doug Jones needs to run on the abortion issue, and it doesn’t matter that he happens to be pro-choice.     He can make an excellent case why he’d be the better pro-life candidate (and why the Democratic Party is also the more pro-life party at the end of the day).

As it stands now, religious Alabamans will vote for Roy Moore because they believe Doug Jones is soft on abortion and therefore against God.  It doesn’t matter to them that Moore is himself an immoral man who preys on children and blasphemes Jesus when he justifies his molestation of a 14 year old by saying that Mary was only 14 when she was impregnated by Joseph (whatever happened to their belief in the Virgin Birth?).  No, they will still vote for Moore because of his anti-choice stance.

But here’s something to ponder.  It is a statistical fact that 50% — HALF! — of all births in America are paid for by Medicaid, which also covers children’s healthcare after they are born.  That’s a lot of babies that might have been aborted without Medicaid (and other support programs for mothers and their children).   Republicans like Roy Moore want to cut Medicaid or eliminate it altogether, as well as cut or eliminate other services that make it possible for poor women to have and raise their children.

If a poor woman loses or cannot access Medicaid, food stamps, and other services that help her and her unborn baby, both during pregnancy and after, do you think she is going to have the baby anyway without medical and other support?  No!  She is most likely going to choose abortion.  Most abortions in the US are done for financial reasons. Most women having abortions aren’t married middle or upper class women — they’re usually poor or very young women who have no health coverage and no support system in which they can raise their child.   If you refuse her Medicaid and support services, is she just going to say, “Hey, well, ok, I guess I’ll just give birth at home in my bathtub!”   Of course not.  This isn’t 1700.

Sure, there are a few women who can afford a child and have abortions because they just don’t want another child (or any at all), but they are in the minority. Even if abortion was outlawed, rich women would “take a trip to Europe” just like they did in the 1950s.

Facing an unplanned pregnancy is scary enough as it is.  If you have no money to afford prenatal care, labor and delivery, and medical care for the baby, and there is no support system that can help you, that’s even more terrifying.  Again, half of all births are funded by Medicaid. So if that is taken away or cut, most if not all of those poor women are NOT going to decide to have their babies in the bathtub.  It’s a lot easier to come up with $600 or $800 or so for an abortion than find the money for hospital care.  Even the poorest woman can usually get that kind of money in a pinch, even if she has to borrow it or use a payday lender.

Abortion rates have ALWAYS gone up during GOP administrations, when services like food stamps, Medicaid and family planning are cut.   Most women, when faced with other alternatives to abortion and given support, will choose to have their baby.  Cut off their support system and access to healthcare, more abortions.   It makes perfect sense.

Even though most Democrats are “pro-choice,” there are fewer abortions under Democratic administrations when access to family planning and healthcare and other services are more available.  This has been proven statistically.  Railing on about abortion being evil and then offering no alternatives to a desperate pregnant woman, especially if she’s poor, does absolutely nothing except shame and traumatize her.

Even if abortion were outlawed, desperate pregnant women who can’t afford a sudden “European vacation” would go to back alley butchers just like they did in the 1950s.  Illegal abortionists would pop up like mushrooms after a storm.   Women who are desperate are still going to get abortions even if they’re illegal, if no other support is given.

I really think if Doug Jones runs on this platform, and stresses the fact that abortions increase under GOP policies and decrease under Democratic policies, I think he could win over some if not most of the pro-life Christians.  Let’s face it.   Doug Jones seems like a good man and a nice person and unlike Roy Moore, I believe he actually cares about the people of Alabama, and he cares about women and children.    If pro-life Christians, many who vote on the abortion issue alone, could realize that Jones is actually the much more pro-life candidate at the end of the day, I definitely think they would vote for him  over an extremist, dishonest sexual predator like Roy Moore.

I’m actually going to send the link to this article to Doug Jones and urge him to address this issue in his campaign, because I think he’d win.  It’s important he wins so we don’t get someone like Roy Moore in the Senate.

Trump’s tax bill: we are in deep trouble.

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Holy cow.   Trump’s tax bill is bad enough for the average person who isn’t a corporation or a billionaire, as well as threatening the ACA (by removing the individual mandate), but look what else is hidden inside it.

Every American needs to be aware of this.   There’s all kinds of horrible things (many which I’m sure I’m not even aware of) hidden inside the tax bill, but this is probably the most dangerous and scary thing I’ve heard yet.    The plan, if this bill passes, is to remove any remaining separation between church and state, allowing a free and uncontrolled flow of dark money between the evangelical right wing churches and the government.

I wonder if many of the Senators who are going to be voting on this bill are even aware of this hidden clause.  The GOP seems to do just about everything in secrecy and darkness, without transparency (typical of authoritarian regimes).

The intent is to establish a “state religion” (remaking America as a “Christian nation”), which will result in the marginalization (and maybe worse) of anyone who doesn’t subscribe to their brand of toxic Christianity, which has nothing to do with actual Christianity and is really a political movement disguised as “Christianity.”

This is straight up authoritarianism & a great danger to democracy. These evangelical Christofascists are using Trump to carry out their wishes, and it’s all about money and power.   I wish this was just fake news, but I can tell you with confidence that this is real.

Hidden in GOP Tax Bill:  A Plan to Turn Churches into Dark Money Spigots

If you’re not freaking out about this, you’re either not paying attention or are part of the problem.  We cannot allow this to happen.  We are not Saudi Arabia.

Call your senators.  They may not be aware what they are about to vote for. 

Here’s another article, from Mother Jones.

Republicans Are Sneaking Right-Wing Social Policies Into Their Corporate Tax Cut. 

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

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

Lucky Otters Haven

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

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

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

Their message and plan for America (and yes, eventually the world)…

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I’m having doubts about Christianity.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Should we be hasty about Trump’s impeachment or removal?

mikepence

Many people are demanding Trump’s impeachment, if not for probable Russian collusion and obstruction of justice, then for mental incompetence.   I certainly agree with that.   In fact, I just ordered the book, The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, a compilation of essays from 27 mental health professionals, including those who specialize in Narcissistic and Antisocial Personality Disorder (there’s a consensus he has both — when they appear together we call it malignant narcissism), that explain why Trump’s impulsivity, general abusiveness, lack of conscience, and lack of empathy is all wrong for the presidency and is in fact extremely dangerous to the planet and all life on it.   I’m happy that so many psychologists and psychiatrists are abandoning the Goldwater Rule, which for decades meant that unless a leader was officially assessed in a clinical setting, a mental health professional could not offer a diagnosis.    The book, a project of Yale University’s “Duty to Warn” project, is gaining momentum in the mental health community and is a New York Times bestseller.   The conclusion of all the authors is that Trump must be removed from office under the 25th Amendment.

I wholeheartedly agree with these professionals, but there is one glaring problem I have with Trump’s removal:  Mike Pence.

On the surface, Pence appears to be a less dangerous choice to have in the White House.  He’s even-tempered, cool under pressure, doesn’t lash out at his real and imagined enemies on Twitter, and seems willing and able to work with others.   He’s probably a lot less likely to start nuclear war.

He’d also be able to get a lot more accomplished.   Hardline Republicans who dream of dismantling our institutions, removing healthcare from millions, and giving tax breaks to the most wealthy would be able to actually get their agenda through under a Pence presidency.

Pence would be dream come true for the religious right.   Pence has made no secret of his contempt for homosexuals and his desire to remove their civil rights and make them undergo conversion therapy, a brainwashing process that has been deemed by mental health professionals as both ineffective and traumatic.    Pence would also be able to pass legislation that would make womens’ healthcare, including birth control, harder to obtain (if not outright illegal).

Pence is a far right evangelical, and also a dominionist.  Christian dominionism/reconstructionism is an extreme form of Calvinism/neo-Puritanism:  it’s a religio-political cult whose ultimate goal is the replacement of our Constitution with Old Testament biblical law, including the return of slavery, the stoning of homosexuals and adulterers, capital punishment for dissenters, the abolishment of public education, and the dismantling of the civil rights women have gained, including the right to vote.   Dominionists believe that the wealthy are wealthy because God is rewarding them and has given them “dominion.”   They believe if you’re poor, it’s because of your “moral failures” and therefore it’s wrong to interfere with God’s will by providing governmental safety nets.  They believe environmentalism is a form of earth-worship or paganism and that’s why they think it’s okay to keep raping and pillaging the planet.   After all, God will clean it up.  Their attitude reminds me of entitled teenagers who trash the house while their parents are away and don’t think they should have to clean up their mess because “my parents will do that.”

There is a lot of rhetoric among far right evangelicals and dominionists about religious freedom, but this has been redefined from the freedom to worship as you choose, to the “freedom” to impose your beliefs on others.   They think their inability to enforce or legislate their religious beliefs means they are being persecuted.  They trot out phony non-issues like the “war on Christmas” or the teaching of evolution in schools as proof of how persecuted they are.  This is a dangerously Orwellian mindset and unsuspecting evangelicals have bought it hook, line and sinker.

Christian dominionism/reconstructionism  is basically a Christian version of the Taliban,  with its own terrifying form of Sharia Law.   Their “Christianity” isn’t based on the Gospels or the New Covenant; instead it borrows heavily from the harsh Judaic legalism of Leviticus and Deuteronomy.   Dominionists talk a lot about the need for Jesus, but rarely quote from the Gospels and certainly don’t follow anything Christ taught during his ministry.    In fact, what they propose is the opposite of anything remotely Christian, and their toxic legalism and religious fascism is turning a lot of good people away from Christianity (isn’t that the way Satan would operate?).

While overall this fringe group of Christians (really a cult) is a tiny minority of the population (even among conservative evangelicals),  there are many dominionists and reconstructionists very high up in government right now, including Mike Pence, and they wield a scary amount of power.     Donald Trump, in spite of his own beliefs (or lack thereof) is enabling these religious extremists (and vice versa) and he welcomes their support. They actually believe Trump is “opening the door to Christ’s kingdom” and has been “anointed by God” to destroy our democracy, which they see as satanic.  This, of course, gives Trump massive narcissistic supply and the effect is to embolden him even further.   Trump, having no real ideals or positions of his own, embraces whatever group gives him the adulation he craves, no matter how damaging their agenda.   That being said, these extremist evangelicals haven’t been able to get much or any of their agenda through due to Trump’s combativeness, talent for creating chaos and discord even within his own party, and general incompetence.

There’s another group of hard right Republicans that are also a tiny minority and have an overwhelming amount of power:  hardline fiscal conservatives, or “federalists,” who aren’t so much religiously motivated, but are instead motivated by the gospel of Ayn Rand.  Instead of an angry, punishing old Testament God, they find their spiritual mentor in the Koch Brothers and other billionaire oligarchs.    Their goal is the same as the religious extremists: replacing our democracy with a “federalist” regime that would favor property owners and the wealthy — and punish and oppress the most vulnerable.   Nancy MacLean’s exhaustively well-researched book Democracy in Chains (you can read my review here), outlines their entire terrifying agenda.    The federalist oligarchs wielding all this power aren’t necessarily religious (in fact some are atheists, like their mentor Ayn Rand was).  They don’t concern themselves much with social issues or hard right “family values,” which has come to mean being anti-gay and anti-abortion and that’s about it.    They are willing though, to ignore this as a mere inconvenience and work with the dominionists if it means they can get their cruel agenda through and gain even more power and wealth than they already have.    To them, the end always justifies the means.  If that means they have to hold their noses and put up with religious oppression (which wouldn’t effect them anyway, because their wealth would give them immunity from oppression), then so be it.  The alliance between the federalists and the dominionists is evil to the core, and their agenda is frighteningly close to being fulfilled.  Religious demagogues and white supremacists like Alabama’s Roy Moore are becoming more common in high government positions and their outrageous claims and hatred of those not like themselves are becoming normalized.  This is extremely concerning to those of us who value our freedom and democracy.

Pence is fully on board with both groups of far-right conservatives.   He is a wolf in sheep’s clothing,  and slimy as they come.   There’s something sinister about a man who addresses his wife as “Mother” and refuses to be in a room alone with another woman for any reason.  I believe if Trump were removed from office — whether through impeachment or the 25th Amendment — a Pence presidency could be even more dangerous to democracy, because the man is more politically savvy and less likely to sabotage his own goals.    I think he’s just as sociopathic as Trump, but more purely psychopathic than narcissistic,  and thus will be able to get Congress and Senate Republicans to work with him.   Trump’s narcissism and fragile ego stands in the way of his being able to pass any agenda.     Pence might be less likely to start nuclear war, and might be less appealing to Trump’s racist base, but he’d have a lot more clout with those who can pass legislation that would destroy our democracy.   So be careful what you wish for.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure if living in a real-life Handmaid’s Tale would be preferable to the threat of nuclear holocaust.      We can and should demand Trump’s removal, but Pence must go with him.  Better yet, the entire cabal must be taken down and a new election must be held.

If nothing else, we must wait this travesty out, but we cannot afford to be apathetic about the next election, or even the midterm (2018) elections.  The stranglehold the hard right has on both Congress and Senate must be loosened, and ALL of us voting is the only way to do that.

Don’t call yourself pro-life…

george-carlin-abortion

Don’t even think about calling yourself pro-life if…

  • You support taking health insurance away from low income, sick, and disabled people.
  • You support abolishing or cutting Medicaid (which covers HALF of all pregnant women and 45 million children).
  • You  support privatizing or cutting Medicare and Social Security.
  • You want to abolish Planned Parenthood, which is NOT an abortion clinic (only 2% of their services are abortion-related) but provides healthcare (including pregnancy care) and birth control information to low income women.
  • You’re OK with a president who allowed CHIP (a health insurance program for low income children who do not qualify for Medicaid) to expire, leaving millions of children uninsured.
  • You support dismantling public schools.
  • You support removing laws that protect college women from on-campus rapists and give more rights to the rapists.
  • You think programs like Meals on Wheels and school lunches are a waste of taxpayer money.
  • You think climate change is a hoax.
  • You support fracking, drilling, and mining on our public lands.
  • You believe in removing laws that protect our air and water against pollution.
  • You think laws that protect consumers from dangerous products and predatory  practices is interfering with free enterprise.
  • You support the death penalty.
  • You support the idea of using torture on suspected terrorists.
  • You believe in detaining documented immigrants, even when it means separating parents from their children.
  • You support deporting refugee mothers and their children, even when it means they could die horribly in their countries of origin.
  • You support deporting productive young people who came here as children with their parents, even when it means sending them back to countries they can’t remember and know nothing about.
  • You think Puerto Ricans who have been devastated by a Category 5 hurricane and have no food, electricity, or drinking water “aren’t doing enough for themselves.”
  • You demand “respect for the flag and the Anthem” but don’t respect people’s right to exercise their First Amendment rights.
  • You’re okay with a president who plays nuclear chicken on Twitter with an unstable rogue nation dictator because his ego is hurt.
  • You think we should “completely destroy” North Korea, even its innocent civilians, women, and children.
  • You’re okay with a president who in all likelihood sold our democracy out to a hostile foreign power.
  • You’re okay with police brutality, especially against people of color.
  • You admire dictators and bullies.
  • You think white supremacy, Naziism, and racism are okay.
  • You’re okay with a president who treats women with disrespect and brags about grabbing their private parts.
  • You don’t see anything wrong with a president who plays golf and complains about NFL players exercising their First Amendment rights when people are dying of thirst and starvation in Puerto Rico.

If you oppose abortion but support the things above, you aren’t pro-life.  All you are is a  hypocrite.

ETA: Since last night’s tragic Las Vegas shooting, I would like to add one more:   Don’t call yourself pro-life if you agree with Trump lifting gun checks on people with mental illness.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sound familiar?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

sunset_asheville1

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

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

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

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

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