Conversion: Compassion or Chauvinism?

I am a fan of Amy Putkonin’s version of the Tao Te Ching. I enjoy her blog “Tao Te Ching Daily” very much. This post of hers was eerily well timed to the somebody-get-Ronda-back-to-church avalanche of religion that comes from my family from time to time, especially around holidays.

From Tao Te Ching Daily:

“We had an interesting family dinner discussion the other night. We were talking about people trying to convert us to Christianity. My belief is that people are not generally trying to convert us, but Eric and Tatia pretty much agreed that people are. We all had quite a few experiences where people tried to convince us to accept Jesus, or whatever the correct wording is.

I said that I could not understand why people would try and convert people when one of the commandments is to treat others as you would like to be treated. I suggested that people would not want to be converted to a different religion, therefore they should not try to convert others to theirs. But Eric countered. He said that they don’t think of it like that. They think of it like if they were not Christian and someone had tried to convince them to be Christian, they would want them to. But that is thinking like a Christian! That makes no sense! It’s failed logic.

So I told Tatia to just listen under the surface of what they are saying when they are trying to convert you: they love you. They want you to be safe and to be in a good place. And leave it at that.

I think that many Christians are OK with people being other than Christian. What do you think? Have people tried to convert you or do they leave you alone? If you are Christian, what do people say about this at your church? Tell us about your experiences in the comments.”

My reply:

I’ve been mulling this over for a while.  Knowing my biases, at first I thought it better to say nothing. Since your post, other people have brought up the same topic. There are some observations that need to be made.

I was raised in the American south in a strongly evangelical, fundamentalist family. My Father was a Deacon, my mother and all of her sisters were Sunday school teachers, my uncle a minister. I grew up utterly saturated in the proselytizing evangelical fundamentalist christian culture you describe.

Based on my experience: NO Christians are definitely NOT OK with other beliefs. Even if they don’t evangelize directly to you, the thought is implicit and universal. The religion is by definition exclusive. Technically, to be Christian you have to renounce all other religions first. Other beliefs are believed to be invalid, whether they are tolerated or not.

You can’t paint Christianity with a broad brush, any more than any other group of humans. There are those who truly are tolerant and accepting, but those are never the ones who proselytize or try to convert others. The ones who evangelize are the most virulently intolerant. The tolerant, non-converting ones tend to be Catholic, Lutheran, or others on the liturgical end of the spectrum. But keep in mind, every Easter even Catholics pray for the conversion of the Jewish nation. I’ve been there with my husband. I’ve heard it.

I treasure those in my life who are true to their faith while respecting my world view. Sadly, I’m not genetically related to most of them. My birth family, the evangelicals, are quite another story.

Yes, they try to convert me (or re-convert, or whatever the term may be) on a regular basis. It isn’t only my family, either. I’ve had complete strangers who don’t know me at all on my front porch trying to promote their church and random people in front of a store asking me if I’d gone to church on Sunday. A woman in the local park approached me to ask if I went to church, because she only allowed her little girl play with Christians and her daughter wanted to play on the swings with my daughter. Yes, really, that actually happened.

For some, it is just exactly as bigoted as it sounds. The essential message of evangelicals is “agree with me or to hell with you.” Literally. Many will try to convert you out of a sincere desire to save you from the hell-bound fate of non-believers. Most are well meaning, but their thinking is so saturated with fundamentalist views that they don’t understand they are the ones condemning you in the first place! Penn Jillette very kindly compares religious proselytizing to someone warning you of a train coming when they see you standing on railroad tracks. That doesn’t change the fact that THEY are the ones driving the train! Sure they stick their head out of the window and tell you of the coming danger – but they do nothing to stop the train. Their warning consists of get on board or get squashed.

Failed logic? Logic has no place in their thinking, failed or otherwise.

“Do unto others”  – they are. They volunteer to go get harangued about their religion every Sunday. It is always, always, always repent & hellfire type stuff. Every single week they have “alter call” trying to “save” anyone who may have wandered into their midst. They are doing to you exactly as they already have done unto them.

They are absolutely, positively trying to convert you! They are explicitly told to convert others. It is part of their belief system. It is what they are taught and encouraged to do from a young age (or from the beginning of their own conversion). They think they are a bad person and some sort of failure if they don’t try to convert people.

Being born into it, my patience with them was exhausted long ago. Organized religion is psychologically toxic to me, and I not only need to avoid it but have every legitimate right to live life without it. I find it morally offensive that they would inject their bigotry into my life unbidden. They have every right to their religion but I also have every right to live without it. Christian proselytizing is at best arrogance, at worst bigotry and discrimination.

Christians will undoubtedly see this as an outright attack on them and their beliefs. So be it. I’ve walked on those eggshells around Christians my whole life. Hopefully, this will give those who have lived outside of evangelical culture some reasoned insight when the evangelicals try to convert them away from what they have every right to believe.

 

onelily

Not a book’s worth of answer

Twitter feed had a new indie book about “everything god”

Get right down too it, there isn’t a book’s worth of anything about “god” especially the big G abrahamic triad one…

Where did God come from? – He didn’t. “He” doesn’t exist. “He” is man-made imagination. (3 sentences) I’m wondering if Browncoat Whovian Epiphany is doomed for lack of content apart from my personal ravings about how stupid useless and harmful christianity and by extension most if not all religion.

On one hand, there are better things to talk about. On the other, I’m so grateful, even today, for out atheists who continue to inspire….Adam Savage, Ron Reagan, Penn Gillette and more. I’m a fan.

It’s hubruis, perhaps, to think that something this small might let someone know they aren’t alone, given the reach celebrities like these have.

But if one questioning person – of any age – reads this and can know that they aren’t alone, then it is worth it.

God doesn’t exist, but love does. God doesn’t exist, but like minded people do. All the good things we know exist outside of religion too. Religion is useless. It isn’t needed one wit to have a happy, healthy, love filled, spiritually fulfilled life.

Don’t let fear tie you to the useless. Don’t let their emotional extortion succeed. Add your love to the world instead, love set free and independent from religion.

Posted in Opinion | Comments Off on Not a book’s worth of answer

Open Letter to Kim Davis

Dear Ms. Davis:

No one wants to limit or infringe upon your religious freedom. I personally don’t give a rat’s backside about your religion. That’s the point. Your religion is your business…but it is not the people’s business that you were elected to do.

It doesn’t matter one whit why you have chosen to stop issuing marriage licenses. The problem is that you have. It doesn’t matter why you have denied citizens access to a basic civil right, the problem is that you have, in fact, done just that. Your actions would be just as egregious if they were for non-religious reasons.

The problem is that you aren’t doing your job and still collecting a paycheck. That’s theft. Last I heard, God authority doesn’t extend to taking money that you weren’t given and didn’t earn. From what I’ve heard God isn’t fond of the stealing thing. “Thou shalt not” isn’t it? You didn’t earn your paycheck. You have shirked your sworn duty. Case closed.

Any other mentally and physically capable person who simply refused to do what they were hired to do (whatever the reason) would have been fired months ago. Why should you be so privileged above all others? Why should you be paid for your dereliction of duty?

This has nothing to do with accommodating your religious beliefs. You could have quietly taken your concerns to your state legislature and found a solution.  You could have sought to have your accomodation – but no. You acted in such a manner as to IMPOSE your beliefs on others. As an elected official, your actions therefor imposed your religion as an action of government, clearly in violation of the First Amendment.

Break the law, go to jail. Religion has nothing to do with it.

Let’s consider a hypothetical example:

Imagine a soldier, who also happened to be a devout Christian. What if that soldier suddenly put down his arms “on God’s authority” because of the Ten Commandments’ “Thou shalt not kill”  and as a consequence of his inaction people in his platoon died – what do you think should happen to that soldier?

People may not have died, but your situation is fundamentally the same. Because you, an elected official, used your position, privilege and power of office to assert your religion over the normal rule of law, innocent people came to harm. Innocent people were denied the marriage license for which they are legally qualified and constitutionally entitled.

Your actions are a violation of the Constitution. As a citizen of the United States governed by that Contstitution, I am offended by your actions and believe you should be removed from office.

You are a distilled example of all that is ugly and wrong about Christianity. You do a great disservice to those of your faith who are not, as you seem to be, the worst sort of bigoted demagogue.

Posted in Opinion | Comments Off on Open Letter to Kim Davis

It’s not a stereotype when people are really like that.

Sigh. I said it as diplomatically as I could. Still a very nice well meaning southern lady commented (on the Tarot site about the post below) that I should embrace where I’m from and just have a good laugh on the way home. She really truly didn’t mean to make light of the sentiment or throw fuel on my soapbox fire, but that just highlighted how UN-real these issues seem to some people – especially those poor folks that have to live with it and every day have to negotiate the social-philosophical mine field that is the American South.

But embrace it? Did I mention the part about AR-fucking-15s being raffled off? Like the whole Donald Trump side show, this little trip over the river and through the woods is a real world example of how fucked up parts of america really are. Guns being given raffled away like candy. And chainsaws.

Did I mention it’s real? I’ve learned that when you live in a normal place long enough, when you are out of the southern insanity long enough and are detoxed for long enough….or never born into it in the first place…it is easy to be complacent. It is easy to forget, even after having lived though it, that all the craziness isn’t just some TV hype, some conflated stereotype.

It’s not.

There really are places that do an end run around gun control and gun safety and then tout the second amendment as their reason.

I’ve seen KKK meeting announcements stapled to public telephone poles with my own eyes.

I’ve driven past a house flying the confederate flag – prominently – within the past 48 hours.

There are people who will smile, be nice, shake your hand and sincerely consign you to hell because you don’t go to their particular flavor of church. There are a lot of very nice, kind, well meaning helpful people who really believe “think like I do or to hell with you…literally”…all at the same time.

There really are people who hate anyone and everyone in the LGBT community, either openly or implicitly. The ones that don’t hate them, really really REALLY disapprove of them.

There really are little old church ladies who go harass pregnant teens in crisis at a local clinic with their fundamentalist religion. I’m related to at least one of them.

Please, I beg of you…don’t be complacent. Vote. Every election. Write your senator. Rouse whatever rabble you need to rouse. Or at lease vocally live your truth. TELL the truth of the insanity and the idiocy you’ve survived. Tell your story of recovering from fundamentalism. SPEAK a greater truth of compassion and love and inclusion and diversity to whatever extent you are able.. Speak for whatever cause moves you…especially if it is in opposition to the overly vocal uber-right. The cure for hate speech is free speech. It isn’t a stereotype. Not everyone in the south is like the ones in this post…but there are a disturbing lot of the who are. As Jon Stewart said “if you smell something, say something”

Be careful. Be safe. Be well. And know beyond any doubt that there is a good life without God. And we are the only ones who can make it even better.

Re-posted from Modern Oracle Tarot:

Pope

After all these years, Tarot is still a frying pan to the face every now and then.

Today’s card was less the advice or caution kind of lesson and more of a ” it’s about-damn-time you really FEEL that lesson” kind of message. This particular frying pan was aimed right at my nose, not at yours, so you can relax. No frying pans for you today.

Got home a few hours ago from visiting my mother and sister in the tiny little southern town where I grew up. Going there isn’t always the heartwarming homecoming  kind of warm fuzzy feelings we are all conditioned to expect by Christmas cards and hallmark movies. Don’t get me wrong, they are my family, I love them, and I’m deeply grateful for all the help and kindness they get from our extended family and friends. I’m not saying everyone down there is alike – but daaaannnng they decided to live in a weird place! It was less a feeling of homecoming and more of Twilight-Zone-coming.

We visited the tiny town where I grew up and where mom has lived her entire life. It’s where Mom’s family has lived for generations…since long before the civil war in fact. It is about 60 miles from the even tinier town where Dad’s family lived for generations…long before the civil war too. Is it quaint and old fashioned there? Nope. It’s bizarre. Twin Peaks has nothing on these guys.

It’s a cultural thing, not so much a physical thing, really. The natural landscape is gorgeous. While many may disagree, I think the slowly turning wind generators dotting the mountaintops have an elegant, poetic beauty, adorning the environment as they turn to save it. There is forest, ancient and wise. Rocks and mountains and rivers, all lovely. The problem comes when you get to know how the people think. At the same time we drove by the windmills, we drove by houses flying the confederate flag. Still. Today. Even after everything in Charleston, SC. You can’t convince me it wasn’t an outright racist statement (the flags, not the windmills). Not after seeing KKK meeting posters stapled to the telephone poles in the dead center of town when I was a little kid.

In that same area … I swear this is true … there was a radio ad for a big fundraising festival & raffle at the fairground. The fairground in question is two blocks from the house where I grew up in “the field” neighborhood of Petersburg. Raise money for the fire department? Good idea, you say. Sounds old fashioned and quaint, you say. I wish.

One of the raffle prizes is an AR-15. An AR-effing-15! You know – one of those not for hunting, mass murderer, kill people in a theater guns.

As if that wasn’t incentive enough, “the ghost of Elvis” was going to be on hand to pull the first ticket (there’s a mental image for you). Plus there are lots of other prizes: a Ruger M77, a Remington 700, a Browning shotgun and a chainsaw with accessories.

Is that legal??

Even if it is, it’s appalling and terrifying. I wanted to stop the car on the spot and wrap my daughter head to toe in bulletproof Kevlar.

Then at the stoplight, (one of three in the entire county) there was another radio ad for a shop touting their extensive selection of “glass tobacco pipes.” Tobacco. Riiiiiiiiight. My daughter asked me if it was legal to advertise tobacco like that.

thinkerfacepalm

I’m not saying every single person is a gun-toting teavangelical. By the same token, it’s all absolutely real. It isn’t a manufactured media stereotype. Down there right-wing, gun loving, bible thumping, racist, bigoted, homophobics are a very real presence, if not an outright majority. That kind of thinking was always tacitly held up as examples of what good people “should” be like. Which explains why the Hierophant and Judgment cards are such personal nemesis. Of all the cards, those two hit me where I live(d). They activate more brain-parts than just the Tarot reading ones. Anything that gets too close to that American South, evangelical, christian fundamentalist, right wing conservative republican culture gives me a twitch…preacher-pope cards and judgement cards included.

And yet, there it is, staring me in the face today of all days.

There it sits, hitting me with the exact same interpretation that comes with the Hierophant whenever I read for other people. Basically, it advises to either work within social expectations in order to find your best path OR to set aside social & cultural expectations and do what you know is right.

I spent a scary lot of time in my early 20s trying to do the former. I spent years upon years trying to be a “good Baptist girl” and trying to fit in with that Elvis loving, AR-15 raffling, best friend hating, deep ruby red southern sub-culture. It didn’t work. That created an enormous amount heart-breaking and brain-bending emotional and intellectual dissonance. To remotely imply that I might agree with any of it was painfully and intolerably dishonest. Then comes Tarot, and the journey down a different path. The Pope card (among many other things) patiently pan-slammed me in a better direction. Namely, to do what I know is right, not what I was told was right.

It’s hard to admit to yourself that people you care about (and who genuinely care about you) are the antithesis to everything you value and you are the antithesis to all they hold dear. Or maybe they are  just plain abnormal.  It’s a hard lesson, deserving of it’s place within the major arcana. For me, it was a lesson decades in the learning. It’s difficult when a Tarot card is a hard frying pan to the face…no matter what individual lesson that frying pan holds for you. It’s hard whenever life requires you to let go and move on.

AND it’s a nice frying pan to the face to realize that you have moved on.

The way I read Tarot, any given card in any given position or layout can have one of several “flavors” or nuances to the message. It can be advice (do what you know is right even if it is counter-culture, or “abnormal” compared to your friends and family). It can be a reassurance or a promise (you will make a new home and new friends that are right for you). It can be a caution (don’t let them shake your confidence. Don’t sink back into the insanity just to please them or ‘fit in’). Or it can be validation (it’s about damn time you realize you are not from there anymore. You aren’t that … you never were that.) A validation type card message is a nice homecoming gift.

Of all days. After a surreal visit to the old “hometown” pulling the Heirophant card for today’s post  is the freaky icing on a freaky cake. My nemesis card is giving me a nice validation. Who would have thought?

It’s hard to put into words, so I’ll let Disney put it into a picture for me.

You know that moment when you realize you aren’t from there anymore….

P.S.

Think I’m making that raffle thing up? I grew up two blocks away from the Fair Grounds in Petersburg…Check this…

http://www.moorefieldfire.com/Pages/events/2015/fallbash/giveaways.html

2015FallBashFrontLarge

That Moment…

That moment when you realize you are not “from” that right wing republican, gun loving, homophobic, racist, bigoted, evangelical fundamentalist hyper-religious nut case tiny southern town anymore…

From Disney’s Alice in Wonderland…perfectly describes how it feels to get home from a visit to my own bizarre, through-the-looking-glass insane place of upbringing. Thank you people who made this movie!

Happy Warrior

Zydeco music? Free Ben & Jerry’s? Described by MSNBC as a “happy warrior” “truth teller in the public square” and “having authenticity in spades”? I am SO voting for Bernie Sanders

Fangirl Squee…take 2 #Pittsburgh

Don’t know why the video isn’t showing in yesterday’s post, but here is hubster playing drums for Pittsburgh band Egomyth.

Check out their page on Reverbnation…hubster is in the songs labeled “rehearsal”…other track are good, but with the previous drummer and I am very extremely biased…sorry mr drummer I never met.

Rumor has it Egomyth will be performing at Hop House June 20, 2015 at 8:30 pm

And because Vampires