Tag Archives: shutdown

Evangelicals – cheerio, cheerio, cheerio!

Post-Shutdown the Evangelical Movement Is Going to Die Faster Than Ever — GOOD!– Now Actual Christianity Might Have a Chance to Flourish

October 12, 2013 By r

The 2 weeks of shutdown madness has accelerated evangelical movement’s devolution by 10 years or more. The shutdown is to the evangelical establishment what that fabled 4-hour erection is to Viagra users.

I predict that the unwinding of the loony literalistic evangelical “Bible-believing” movement, made respectable by people like Billy Graham and Christianity Today magazine, just took a quantum leap. American evangelicals are looking into a grim future where they’re both loathed and feared. They are already losing their young people in droves. I mean, who wants to be led by the likes of Ted Cruz and Franklin Graham?

Sometimes everything changes instantly: 9/11, the Kennedy assassination, rock-n’-roll, the discovery that women like sex too provided a new shared awareness when there was a definite before and after change in perception. Pre-WW II Germany was where you went to study medicine, music and culture. Post-1945, there were no good Germans. Even Bach couldn’t save their reputation. Pre 9/11 we were invulnerable. Post-9/11 America was a paranoid surveillance state scared of its own shadow filled with people busy taking off our shoes for TSA agents.

Post the evangelical-Tea-Party led shutdown, (Yes, the Tea Party and evangelical movements are more or less one and the same) there will be few serious people who want to associate with the people who share the theology of the raving morons who brought us to the shutdown anarchic brink.

The heart of the matter – the religious delusions that led to political delusions that have been near fatal — is what I explore, expose, mock and I pray, will help destroy — in my new book And God Said, “Billy!” My book is a work of dark humor (by a writer who used to be an inmate in the evangelical asylum). But the funny has just gone out of the movement I take aim at. My book is funny, but the make-believe world I expose in all its insane glory just crashed into our reality and no one is laughing.

It’s one thing for a Bible-thumper to hand you a tract. It’s another thing for that same delusional person to hijack the value of your home and IRA. Ted Cruz, the Tea Party and the Republicans have done to the respectability of the evangelical establishment that has backed the “family values” folks what the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. did to the “respectability” of social racism. Post-killing you might still have been a southern fried bigot but at least on business trips up north, you cooled it with your stock-in-trade racist jokes, at least in polite company.

So it is that the sort of people who used to think that working for some respectable evangelical outfit like Christianity Today magazine or Wheaton College or even a do-good feed the hungry-type NGO gave their literalistic theology cover will have to recalculate.

What’s looming now for the evangelicals is the realization that their cover is blown. They theologically affirm what is just one more version of fundamentalist Christianity– minus actual snake-handling. They may say “we’re not like Ted Cruz” and sniff at the Tea Party, but they’ll tell you, if pushed, that they believe in the “Rapture” and that gay people choose that “lifestyle.” They’ll tell you that the Bible is inerrant. In other words they can put on a tweed jacket and get a theology degree, but they’re still living in the thrall of very stupid ideas. And now we all know that living in make-believe land in one area of life leads to delusional behavior in other areas. In other words we all know that it’s not a coincidence that deluded religionists just led us to the brink. Their crazy faith made for crazy politics.

Like the Koch brothers, who’s doom is now irreversible in the history books, post-shutdown, so too will the respectable evangelicals have a hard time passing themselves off as normal or even morally decent responsible people. Tough to do with all those pictures of Ted Cruz being cheered by your cousin, your pastor and your denomination burned into the public mind. Tough to do when your friends discover that you believe in a myth-based reality where Jesus walked on water and so did Sarah Palin.

What Joe McCarthy did for anti-communism’s good name, Ted Cruz (not to mention his raving preacher daddy) and company just did for everyone that calls themselves conservative let alone evangelical. The accelerated evangelical discrediting means that evangelicals will:

  • Lose their young people at a faster pace
  • Have lost face for good
  • Have become a feared and pitied weird minority on a par with survivalist and bigamist communities as far as national respect goes
  • Will be the kiss of death for any serious political leader (Chris Christie stayed away from the “Values” gabfest this weak).

I guess the lesson is this: live in your own walled-off echo chamber long enough and you’ll start to believe your own nonsense. It started with belief in the Bible as “true in all it affirms,” despite science, “inerrant,” despite just about everything, and “prophetic” in spite of the fact Jesus never came back… and won’t.

Crazy was okay, for a while, but then morphed into stuff sane people could test like, “Global warming isn’t real!” “Obama isn’t American!” “Being born gay is unnatural!” “There’s no need to raise the debt limit!” “Who needs an economy when Jesus is coming back?!”

One other thing: With evangelicalism out of the way — thank you Jesus! –  Christianity actually may flourish for the first time in American history. And to know what I think that inner spiritual flourishing might look like, you’ll have to read  And God Said, “Billy!” Hint: There’s more truth found in the least experience of ancient liturgical mysticism, love and mercy than in the entire commercialized politicized fake spiritual world of big time religion…. but that another story. Or as I put it in the book: “My final word to you is this Billy: If there is a Creator — and that is a big if — perhaps He, She or It embodies love. I believe that the source of love must be outside of our cold mechanical universe.”

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October 13, 2013 · 14:52

Fundamentalist Christianity and American Politics

This article originally appeared on Alternet.

 Why aren’t Republicans more afraid? The entire premise of both the government shutdown and the threats to force the government into debt default is that Democrats care more about the consequences of these actions than the Republicans do. Republicans may go on TV and shed crocodile tears about national monuments being shut down, but the act isn’t really fooling the voters: The only way to understand these fights is to understand that the GOP is threatening to destroy the government and the world economy in order to get rid of Obamacare (as well as a panoply of other right wing demands). Just as terrorists use the fact that you care more about the lives of the hostages than they do to get leverage, Republican threats rely on believing they don’t care about the consequences, while Democrats do.

So why aren’t they more afraid? Businessweek, hardly a liberal news organization, said the price of default would be “a financial apocalypse” that would cause a worldwide economic depression.  This is the sort of thing that affects everyone. Having a right wing ideology doesn’t magically protect your investments from crashing alongside the rest of the stock market.

The willingness of Republicans to take the debt ceiling and the federal budget hostage in order to try to extract concessions from Democrats is probably the most lasting gift that the Tea Party has granted the country. More reasonable Republican politicians fear being primaried by Tea Party candidates. A handful of wide-eyed fanatics in Congress have hijacked the party The Tea Party base and the hard right politicians driving this entire thing seem oblivious to the consequences. It’s no wonder, since so many of them—particularly those in leadership—are fundamentalist Christians whose religions have distorted their worldview until they cannot actually see what they’re doing and what kind of damage is being caused

The press often talks about the Tea Party like they’re secularist movement that is interested mainly in promoting “fiscal conservatism”, a vague notion that never actually seems to make good on the promise to save taxpayer money. The reality is much different: The Tea Party is actually driven primarily by fundamentalist Christians whose penchant for magical thinking and belief that they’re being guided by divine forces makes it tough for them to see the real world as it is.

It’s not just that the rogue’s gallery of congress people who are pushing the hardest for hostage-taking as a negotiation tactic also happens to be a bench full of Bible thumpers. Pew Research shows that people who align with the Tea Party are more likely to not only agree with the views of religious conservatives, but are likely to cite religious belief as their prime motivation for their political views.  White evangelicals are the religious group most likely to approve of the Tea Party. Looking over the data, it becomes evident that the “Tea Party” is just a new name for the same old white fundamentalists who would rather burn this country to the ground than share it with everyone else, and this latest power play from the Republicans is, in essence, a move from that demographic to assert their “right” to control the country, even if their politicians aren’t in power.

It’s no surprise, under the circumstances, that a movement controlled by fundamentalist Christians would be oblivious to the very real dangers that their actions present. Fundamentalist religion is extremely good at convincing its followers to be more afraid of imaginary threats than real ones, and to engage in downright magical thinking about the possibility that their own choices could work out very badly. When you believe that forcing the government into default in an attempt to derail Obamacare is the Lord’s work, it’s very difficult for you to see that it could have very real, negative effects.

It’s hard for the Christian fundamentalists who run the Republican Party now to worry about the serious economic danger they’re putting the world in, because they are swept up in worrying that President Obama is an agent of the devil and that the world is on the verge of mayhem and apocalypse if they don’t “stop” him somehow, presumably be derailing the Affordable Care Act. Christian conservatives such as Ellis Washington are running around telling each other that the ACA  will lead to “the systematic genocide of the weak, minorities, enfeebled, the elderly and political enemies of the God-state.” Twenty percent of Republicans believe Obama is the Antichrist. Washington Times columnist Jeffrey Kuhner argued that Obama is using his signature health care legislation to promote “the destruction of the family, Christian culture”, and demanded that Christians “need to engage in peaceful civil disobedience against President Obama’s signature health care law”.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops joined in, demanding that the Republicans shut down the government rather than let Obamacare go into effect. The excuse was their objection to the requirement that insurance make contraception available without a copayment, saying ending this requirement matters more than “serving their own employees or the neediest Americans.”

The Christian right media has been hammering home the message that Christians should oppose the Affordable Care Act. Pat Necerato of the Christian News Network accused the supporters of the law of committing idolatry and accused people who want health care of being covetous. The Christian Post approvingly reported various Christian leaders, including Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, saying things like the health care law is “a profound attack on our liberties” and lamented “Today is the day I will tell my grandchildren about when they ask me what happened to freedom in America.”

Some in the Christian right straight up believe Obamacare portends the end times. Rick Phillips, writing for Christianity.com, hinted that Obamacare might be predicted in Revelations, though he held back from saying that was certain. Others are less cautious. On the right wing fundamentalist email underground, a conspiracy theory has arisen claiming that Obamacare will require all citizens to have a microchip implanted. While it’s completely untrue, many Christians believe that this means the “mark of the beast” predicted in Revelations that portends the return of Christ and the end of the world.

In other words, the Christian right has worked itself into a frenzy of believing that if this health care law is implemented fully, then we are, in fact, facing down either the end of American Christianity itself or quite possibly the end times themselves. In comparison, it’s hard to be too scared by the worldwide financial collapse that they’re promising to unleash if the Democrats don’t just give up their power and let Republicans do what they want. Sure, crashing stock markets, soaring unemployment, and worldwide economic depression sounds bad, but for the Christian right, the alternative is fire and brimstone and God unleashing all sorts of hell on the world.

This is a problem that extends beyond just the immediate manufactured crisis. The Christian right has become the primary vehicle in American politics for minimizing the problems of the real world while inventing imaginary problems as distractions. Witness, for instance, the way that fundamentalist Christianity has been harnessed to promote the notion that climate change isn’t a real problem. Average global temperatures are creeping up, but the majority of Christian conservatives are too worried about the supposed existential threats of abortion and gay rights to care.

Under the circumstances, it’s no surprise that it’s easy for Christian conservatives to worry more about imaginary threats from Obamacare than it is for them to worry about the very real threat to worldwide economic stability if the go along with their harebrained scheme of forcing the government into default. To make it worse, many have convinced themselves that it’s their opponents who are deluded. Take right wing Christian Senator Tom Coburn, who celebrated the possibility of default back in January by saying it would be a “wonderful experiment”. Being able to blow past all the advice of experts just to make stuff up you want to believe isn’t a quality that is unique to fundamentalists, but as these budget negotiations are making clear, they do have a uniquely strong ability to lie to themselves about what is and isn’t a real danger to themselves and to the world

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American Shutdown (October 2013) via Huff Post

How The Government Shutdown Affects Religious Groups
Kevin Eckstrom, Cathy Lynn Grossman, Sarah Pulliam Bailey, David Gibson, Adelle M. Bank, and Katherine BurgessReligion News ServiceOct 09, 2013
WASHINGTON (RNS) As the government shutdown enters its second week, some religious groups are starting to feel the pinch, and they’re also finding ways to reach out.

More than 90 Catholic, evangelical and Protestant leaders have signed a statement rebuking “pro-life” lawmakers for the shutdown, saying they are “appalled that elected officials are pursuing an extreme ideological agenda at the expense of the working poor and vulnerable families” who won’t receive government benefits.

Starting Wednesday, evangelical, Catholic and mainline Protestant leaders will hold a daily “Faithful Filibuster” on Capitol Hill with Bible verses on the poor “to remind Congress that its dysfunction hurts struggling families and low-income people.”

Here’s how the shutdown is impacting religious groups in ways large and small:

Rescheduled weddings

The national parks closure has prompted a blessing for some couples locked out of their planned wedding venues. Churches are opening their gardens and doors to shutdown refugees.

First, Washington Episcopal Bishop Mariann Budde invited displaced couples to wed at the Bishop’s Garden at the Washington National Cathedral. There are at least 11 weddings booked during the next two weeks, diocesan spokesman Jim Naughton said. Three have been held so far.

Then, a small church near Cincinnati, Church of Our Saviour/La Iglesia de Nuestro Salvador in Mount Auburn, Ohio, followed the cathedral’s lead.

“We have a small garden, but it’s really nice,” the Rev. Paula Jackson told a local website. “We don’t know how long this shutdown is going to last … This is one thing we can do for people, who have a very important moment in their lives planned.”

For couples whose Grand Teton National Park wedding dreams were dashed, there’s hope: St. John’s Church in Jackson Hole, Wyo., is offering shut-out sweethearts the spacious community green in front of the main sanctuary.

St. John’s Rector Ken Asel said he will put out the word that the biggest private green space in Jackson Hole will be available for the couples. Unfortunately, St. John’s most famous chapel, the Chapel of the Transfiguration with its window view of Grand Teton, will not be available because it is surrounded by the national park.

Workmen who needed to winterize the building for the season had to outrun park rangers once the roads through the park to the chapel were locked down.

D.C. sites shuttered

The play “The Laramie Project,” about gay rights icon Matthew Shepard, was scheduled to be performed at the historic Ford’s Theatre in Washington, but several of its October dates have shifted to the nearby First Congregational United Church of Christ. The theater, where President Lincoln was shot in 1865, is operated through a partnership between Ford’s Theatre Society and the National Park Service.

Church bus accident

The National Transportation Safety Board might have investigated the Oct. 2 church bus accident in which eight people died in eastern Tennessee. But all of its highway investigators were furloughed.

“In this particular case I think it’s highly likely that we would have responded to it, but again, with our investigators furloughed, it’s impossible to do that,” Sharon Bryson, the NTSB’s deputy director of communications, told NBC News.

Charitable funds dry up

The government shutdown also threatens to reduce or shutter charitable services operated by faith-based groups that use federal funds.

As Catholic News Service reports, the Diocese of Wichita (Kansas) is covering the costs of programs for homeless families and battered women run by the local branch of Catholic Charities. In Washington, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said it would be able to continue assisting immigrants through its Migration and Refugee Services for a couple of months if necessary.

But officials also made it clear that these are only stopgap measures that still leave the poor and vulnerable at greater risk.

“It is hypocritical and shameful for those who tout their commitment to family values to show such callous indifference,” said an Oct. 2 statement released by Faith in Public Life and signed by a range of Catholic and other Christian leaders.

Contraception mandate lawsuits

Justice Department lawyers are asking for more time in a case challenging the Obama administration’s contraception mandate, which has drawn strong opposition from a number of religious groups and institutions, including a suit filed by Geneva College in western Pennsylvania.

During the shutdown, government attorneys “are prohibited from working, even on a voluntary basis, except in very limited circumstances, including ‘emergencies involving the safety of human life or the protection of property,’” federal attorneys told a federal court in Pittsburgh, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Military chaplains

The shutdown caused some initial confusion about whether military chaplains would be able to perform religious services. The House passed a resolution Saturday (Oct. 5) urging the secretary of defense to not allow the government shutdown to reduce religious services on military bases. The Senate has not yet voted on the bill.

Military chaplains continue to work during the shutdown, but the resolution was aimed at contract chaplains involved in performing religious services or conducting religious activities, according to Military Times. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said he would reinstate almost all of the 350,000 civilian employees of the Defense Department, which was expected to allow contract priests to say Mass.

Still, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese for the Military Services says the shutdown is threatening Catholic service members’ religious rights. “Priests who minister to Catholics on military bases worldwide are not permitted to work — not even to volunteer. During the shutdown, it is illegal for them to minister on base and they risk being arrested if they attempt to do so,” warned John Schlageter, general counsel for the military archdiocese.

Fun for furloughed federal employees

A short walk from the Capitol sits Sixth & I, a restored synagogue that is now part synagogue and part cultural center and that has proven especially popular with younger Jewish adults. During the shutdown, Sixth & I sponsors “Shutdown Central” under the motto “A shutdown shouldn’t mean putting your mind to rest. Let’s make something out of this nothing.”

On any given day, that means a roster of programming that can include improv classes with local comedians, a class on government transparency and a knitting circle. But every day there’s “Political Ping Pong,” board games and the constant streaming of “The West Wing.”

In Vernal, Utah, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church offered free lunch to furloughed employees on Sunday (Oct. 6): “We recognize that those who are employed by the Federal Government are an integral part of what makes our community work and that their loss of wages is through no fault of their own.”

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