Does Christianity suck?
The fall of Christianity. A post-Christian world.
I may say some things here that are offensive. Most of them won’t apply to you, I’m sure. You’ll probably agree with me for a few words and then think I’m an idiot after the comma. That’s fine. Criticizing something also doesn’t mean that I’m laying claims to perfection. So if you’d like to leave a comment or have a discussion or generally disagree, feel free. But I’d like to skip the part where we get defensive and then I have to say things like, “I obviously don’t mean everyone”.
Or “No, I don’t mean you.”
Or “Yes, I know that’s a generalization.”
Or “I’m sure your church does do good work in the community.”
I’m not trying to put down religion. But I understand why people do. And to be blunt, it’s about time, because too many people are using their religious affiliation as cover. To win elections. To skate after they do something heinous. To exploit others. For political manipulation. As an excuse to be and remain ignorant. To justify their own fear and hate. To project their own frailties, guilt and shame outward on to others.
To do nothing.
Religion and Christianity in particular are getting whooped up on in the public sphere. Watch the hip comedy and satire shows and check out the audience’s response when a quip about religion is made. It’s kind of a “stick it to the man” vibe.
I’ve commented a few times on the rise of Atheism. It’s a good thing that Atheists and Agnostics aren’t afraid to express themselves. Not as good that some of them have taken it upon themselves to be a-holes about it. Or try to erase it from the public sphere altogether. In the past few months I’ve heard a “new” sentiment in interviews and elsewhere. New to me, anyway. It goes like this:
Atheism isn’t worth the effort because it, in turn, legitimizes the collective delusion that is Christianity.
In other words, they’re saying that Christianity is such ridiculous and obvious bulls— that it shouldn’t be encouraged by giving it any attention. More or less. It’s very condescending, now that I think about it. Intentionally dismissive.
That’s not my opinion. I am Christian in my hippy, new agey way, as I’ve said before. But how has it come to this? The tenets of Christianity are all about peace, love, forgiveness, redemption, purpose, salvation. The Golden Rule. The Beatitudes. I mean, that’s even more of a slap in the face than “religion is the cause of everything bad in the world” or “religion is humanity’s single worst invention”.
Actually, I think I know how it’s come to this. I know why, seemingly, a growing number of good, respectable, decent people are too through with religion. Here’s the answer in one word:
I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.
The whole Catholic thing
If I say Christians, does that include Catholics, too? I think it does. Protestants and Catholics are always talked about as if they’re two different species, though. I wasn’t talking about Catholics just then, but let me lump ’em in for the next paragraph or two.
Here are things I’ve recently heard Catholics and religious conservatives railing against recently in the media in the past few weeks:
- Gay marriage
The biggest public scandal of the modern day — sexual abuse and tantamount child sex trafficking — by priests, bishops, etc. and they’ve circled the wagons. When I say “trafficking” I mean that it was an ongoing global conspiracy to protect priests who were accused of and known to abuse children. It was(/is?) the status quo.
I listen to and watch a number of Christian shows (most of whose interpretations and dogma I don’t agree with) and I’ve heard next to diddly about — because when there’s an 800 lb. gorilla sitting at the table I’m going to damn well acknowledge that there’s an 800 lb. gorilla sitting at the dinner table — this whole endemic child sexual abuse outrage. Endemic and systemic. It’s part of the Catholic culture. And frankly, an accepted part of the Catholic culture.
It’s encouraged by Catholic leaders and authority by their actions. They put the church over — everything else, including its members and most vulnerable members. And it’s accepted by the laity. This isn’t a secret. It’s not a shock to anyone.
America went through a phase of very public and traumatic abuse allegations, trials, lawsuits and settlements. Now Germany and Ireland. Canada a few years ago. Australia. And there’s more. We haven’t heard from South America and Central America yet. And you know what’s so crazy about this? We’re talking about this on the scale of countries and continents. In the 21st century! Can you imagine what it must have been like when women and children pretty much had no rights? Before all of these laws and sensibilities were in place to recognize the dignity and humanity of women, children and minorities?
But the Catholic Church is doing stuff like … threatening to pull their services to the homeless and poor from cities and states if those states allow gay marriage.
When a person who is not religious sees this, what’s their opinion going to be? They have every right to be seething with utter contempt.
Okay. Wait. Wait. I know. Just let me make my point.
Another awkward and inconvenient truth is that Christian Conservatives equate their religion with their politics. Politics is an ugly, pragmatic, dogmatic, petty, hypocritical game.
Hypocrisy is the one “sin” that the public despises. You can cheat on your wife and abandon your kids and people will say, “It’s none of our business”. You can get caught on film smoking crack with a hooker in a hotel room and people will say, “He’s still the best. He was set up.” You can make a sex tape of yourself and a 15 year old, urinate on her, and people will say, “I don’t think it was him. Why not? ‘Cause that’s my boy! Besides, she was fifteen. That’s old enough to know if you don’t want to be urinated on.” You can give wine to children, play games called “rubba rubba” and sleep in the same bed with them in a room that has an alarm if anyone approaches and people will say, “Oh, he just never had a childhood.” You can have sex with your teenaged baby sitter and after a few years pass get your own TV show. You can make a career of being a drug addict.
As long as you don’t tell other people to behave themselves or aren’t judgmental. If you call yourself a champion of family values and then get caught with your gay lover, or abandon your post for your Argentinian mistress, or have sex and snort meth with a gay prostitute, or try to solicit sex in an airport public restroom, or show up on a phone list for an escort/expensive-hooker service, try to get in the pants of teenage senate pages, etc. — then you will be pummeled.
Once you conflate your religion with your politics it gets iffy. You lose your credibility because you get emotionally caught up in your side of the political aisle. Your interest no longer has anything to do what is just and Christ-like. It’s to make your point about political policy.
Do you remember Sean Hannity talking about what a scumbag John Edwards was for his affair? And in the same verbal paragraph saying that John McCain’s affair was understandable because McCain had been a POW.
Your religion doesn’t extend past your own daily pettiness and political persuasion? You’re supposed to represent Jesus the Christ? You can keep it.
The Spirit of Fear
Conservatism isn’t a bad thing. Christian Conservatism isn’t necessarily a bad thing. That’s not what I’m saying. What I’m saying is that you lead by example. And the example has been — lacking.
Obviously, these gross negative generalizations of Christianity and religion aren’t “the truth”. But they contain truths.
I watch the “700 Club” with Pat Robertson. Well, I skim through it, anyway. I watch “Jack Van Impe”. I watch “The Hal Lindsey Report”. I listen to “Focus on the Family”, particularly the two years or so before Dr. Dobson was ousted. I used to listen to the Concerned Women for America radio show — even back when Beverly LaHaye was hosting it and then when Sandy Rios took over. Listened after she was ousted and they went to podcast-only. They’ve pretty much given up on that, too. I used to listen to Janet Parshall. I’ve been exposed to Lara Ingraham, Michelle Malkin, Ann Coulter. Hugh Hewitt. Michael Medved. The self-proclaimed culture warriors.
At the moment I’m too tired to look up quotes so I’ll be paraphrasing here. You’ll just have to take my word that I’m attempting to be accurate and not misrepresent anyone. Besides, this isn’t a thesis. Not that you aren’t worth doing the research for, but you know how it goes.
These are the people getting media coverage. The groups with radio and TV shows and large, influential organizations or access to them.
It’s absolutely amazing how much fear they sow. That seems to be their purpose. To frighten Christian conservatives into a predictable political frenzied bloc.
I’ve been shocked — and I’m already kind of jaded — at the things they’ve said about Pres. Obama. You know. Socialist, Marxist, the Antichrist, anti-family. Apparently, it’s his plan to weaken or ruin America for … well, some reason. I would like to be able to say that it’s simply a matter of fearful racism. But no. It’s more like xenophobia. He’s not just a black guy. He’s a black guy who grew up, in part, in an Islamic culture. He’s a native of some exotic country named Hawaii or something like that. And he’s a liberal. And he’s black. And he was a bit of a hippy in his younger days.
Sandy Rios said that he shouldn’t be President because, “I don’t care what you say. He’s not one of us.”
In an interview on FotF, they were discussing Obama’s statement on 9/11. Mr. Obama said the remembrance of the tragedy of 9/11 should encourage us to focus on what makes us great and to make it a day of participation and service to one’s country and one’s neighbors. That’s my take, anyway. Dobson and his guest said that Obama didn’t care about the victims.
Jack Van Impe, and granted he’s farther out near the fringe, says that Obama has been groomed by [name I can’t remember] to be the first dictator of the world so he can head up the New World Order. That’s right. Obama’s plan is to be a fascist, socialist dictator of the entire world. You heard it here first.
Some think that Obama is the Antichrist. Of course, whenever any world public figure has charisma and is popular they think he’s the Antichrist.
There are so many more examples but this would get really long.
But what’s an agnostic, as an example, supposed to think about Christianity when, say, Ann Coulter calls John Edwards a fag or tells an Arabic man to ride a camel across the country (if air travel is uncomfortable for him) or says that God gave us the earth to take and rape or says:
We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity.
You’re probably thinking what I’m thinking right now. But Ann Coulter is a wingnut! She is out there, man. Right. But then (shortly after the fag comment) she was invited to be a guest on Focus on the Family!! As an “outspoken”, “controversial” proponent of family/convserative values. Oof. I can not spell tonight. C-o-n-s-e-r-v-a-t-i-v-e. There we go.
What does that tell the world?
Rank and File
Now. That’s one part of the spectrum. Then you get to the other outspoken Christians. The radio show guys. You can get away with a lot more on the radio. You know who I’m talking about. I’m not going to get into all that. Just enough to say that now it’s down to the rank and file.
I was participating in a comment thread on Facebook where someone said that the recent health care plan was just another step towards tyranny. Another guy pointed out that it was far from perfect but it had some good points and was told that that was how we go from liberty to tyranny. One step at a time. That’s how the government controls your life. One socialist program at a time.
Also, I noticed that it’s kind of popular these days for Christians to have attitude. Like, that’s the thing. Because Christians can be hip, fun, trendy, and edgy, too, right? That was a lot of commas for one sentence.
It’s an education to read what Christians have to say to one another when there’s the illusion of personal space. Okay. Christians are people, too. They don’t claim to be perfect. Actually, one of the primary tenets is that we’re all flawed so it shouldn’t irk me to hear people call each other names or pray for the President to die or… wha?
Anyway, in that same comment thread, one of the guys said that — I guess I think of it as a Christian Libertarian thing. Here are some of the points people made:
- It’s un-Christian to accept help or assistance from the government.
- Someone else said that he and his young family would go without health insurance rather than get on any government-type program or assistance.
- Someone said that people dying because they can’t afford health insurance is an injustice. Someone else said that our taxes going towards health care — or spreading the cost — for the masses is an injustice. Hm.
I mentioned that if you choose to NOT get health insurance and then you get sick or have a medical emergency, the cost of your treatment that you can’t afford to pay is then shared throughout the population through higher premiums anyway. Right? Or taxes.
Socioeconomically Darwinian Christians
It’s so ironic that there are Christians who are espousing a Darwinian approach to social policy, i.e. survival of the fittest. There are Christians who believe that people who don’t have jobs and therefore don’t have health care are in that situation because they’re lazy and shiftless. You know. If you’re poor it’s your own fault.
Not that I don’t believe in personal responsibility and self determination, but there are a lot of people out there who don’t stand a chance unless they get help from somewhere. Intervention from the community, a church, after school programs, rec. centers, assistance from the government like scholarships, meal assistance programs for underprivileged kids in school, and so on.
There are Christians who think it’s un-Christian for the federal government to be regulating businesses. I wonder if they think it’s un-Christian for a business to knowingly allow conditions that endanger the lives of its employees. To sell tainted meat. To pollute a water source to the point of destroying the wildlife, crippling the economy of the region and poisoning the nearby residents. To pollute the air so thoroughly that it rains acid. To build a house of financial cards based on deceit and fraud.
Then again, there are also people who want the government to keep its hands off their Medicaid. So what can you do.
Like I said, conflating one’s religion with one’s politics.
You may be thinking, so what? Obama is a socialist, marxist, fascist who wants America to fail so it can become a Muslim dictatorship capital of the one-world New World Order coven.
But I doubt it. If you’re Christian — a good church-going, Bible reading, Jesus loving Christian — I assume that you spend a lot of time with people who think along the same lines as you. That leads to — I don’t know what to call it. Group-think? Exaggerated views and opinions that typically go unchallenged and are reinforced daily.
Also, in our media rich culture we have the option to choose to ONLY listen to and watch and interact with shows and people that reinforce our particular beliefs. In some circles, if you say that Obamacare is a deliberate attempt to take over 1/6th of the economy to control us in a socialist dystopia, you might get a pat on the back and nods of agreement.
Say that in mixed company and you might get a “What the f— are you talking about? That doesn’t make any sense!”
My point is that while you’re railing against some rhetorical slippery slope there are people literally hurting and dying because they can’t afford health insurance. Because health insurance companies are rationing their care for the sake of maximum profit. Pregnancy as a previous condition. Or acne, for example.
Capitalism is not inherently good or benevolent or Christian. It’s vicious if left unchecked.
And if you’re a Christian, people don’t just expect but they WANT to see and feel compassion from you. Even the most avid atheists want to see you walk the walk. They want to see you live your principles. Even if they can’t believe in God they want to believe in humanity. They want to see those who claim to have some truth to live that truth. But instead … they’re seeing rhetoric, diatribes, and talk of secession and revolution. Over HEALTH CARE.
In the Bible, Jesus went around healing people. Sharing food. Bringing wisdom and comfort to the dregs of society. The only incident in the Bible where he gets mad to the point of violence is because the money changers in the church were cheating people out of their money — charging exorbitant fees for church currency. It was church corruption and hypocrisy that pissed him off.
Penn Gillette, of Penn and Teller fame, is what you could call, if you were writing a blog entry, a celebrity atheist. Or vice versa. You know what he said? Even though he didn’t believe any of it, he had a lot of respect for a man who said that he wanted to save Gillette’s soul. A man who expressed concern for Gillette’s (in this case eternal) well-being.
Christianity is a worthy endeavor not because of its followers but despite them.
I don’t remember where I heard that.
Post Modern Christianity
Are you familiar with the National Day of Prayer and the See You at the Pole business? They’ve come up against some lawsuits and all that. I think it’s fine. Free expression of religion, right? I think it’s fine also to acknowledge the role that religion played in the forming of America and its documents and laws. It’s … right.
You don’t rewrite history to fit your personal views or the sensibilities of the day. That’s disingenuous and dangerous.
But doesn’t it say in the Bible that when you pray, find a quiet spot to pray in private unlike the hypocrites who draw attention to themselves in public to show others how pious they are?
So does it suck?
Some of it does. Especially when it’s conflated with politics and militarism and chauvinism. When the “body of Christ” behaves like any other institution or corporation. The problem is that those who are most vocal are also those who are the most outrageous. I’d like to say that they aren’t representative but they do have a lot of influence. Their political message of the day is shared, amplified, conveyed and grows into more than the sum of its parts.
And you’ll notice that I’m not including Christian militias or that Fred Phelps cult or radicals or people who kill doctors who perform abortions or blow up clinics or whatever.
I can’t even make a case for religion at all based on the actions of those who consider themselves followers of Christ. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: You don’t judge a philosophy by those who abuse it.
Did you see this? http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2010/aprilweb-only/25-31.0.html
The top leader of the Assemblies of God wants his name removed from a civility statement signed by religious leaders after learning that its signatories included nonevangelicals.
I mean, come on.
As the influence of Christianity wanes in our culture, I don’t think we’ll be better off for it. Although, looking at the current public discussion and cultural confrontations … I can’t blame people for seeing it as backwards or as an anchor for the progress of humanity. We desperately need a reboot.
What’s the saying? GOP doesn’t stand for God’s Only Party. Christian principles can be found and observed in the best aspects of all of our major political parties. I know that sounds like a cop-out but I mean it. The responsibility and moderation of Republican ideals, the compassion and humane dignity of Democratic ideals.
You know. Let’s have the decency to get as close as possible to getting everyone some kind of affordable health care because it’s not right for the wealthiest and in many ways most blessed, if you want to look at it that way, country in the world to allow people to die and suffer due to bean counting. And let’s find a way to pay for it without causing crushing debt or oppressive and stifling taxes or increasing our dependence on other countries.
Right? What could make more sense. We don’t want to build a skyscraper on sand that will fall in on itself in a few decades.
Where the rubber meets the road
You ever read Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letters from a Birmingham Jail”? You should. We all should.
When I was in California, though, I was impressed and encouraged by my Christian friends. What great people.
Okay, except the one young lady who was about to ask me out until she decided I wasn’t Christian enough for her. Bah, humbug. Well, still a good person. Got to mark her down a few notches from “great” for that one, though. 🙂
And the churches and colleges had outreach programs and were so active and inclusive. They’d go on mission trips to other countries to help build houses and other humanitarian missions. They provided a place for kids and teens to go and be in a safe, fun and nurturing environment. They had singles groups. That is so cool. That’s what it’s supposed to be about. Community and reaching outward. Going outside the walls.
To my Christian friends:
I know this is controversial. I’ve written over the course of four or five nights after thinking about it for weeks. The tone isn’t consistent and isn’t really the tone I intended. But I hope it gives us something to think about, if not talk about.
I challenge all of my friends, Christian and otherwise, to interact with people outside of your philosophical comfort zone. Politely and with an open mind, of course. “He/she is an idiot and the world would be better off if he/she died” does not count as polite and open minded. Just in case you were wondering.
We all have something to offer if we stop shouting in each other’s faces.
Something to ponder
In the settling of America, before it was “America” probably, the residents of a town in Connecticut(?) felt guilt and shame for having stolen the land from the people native to the area. The town council decided to enact three new laws:
- God is sovereign.
- God grants His chosen people the land and resources to thrive and do His work.
- We are God’s chosen people.