Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Problem with Fundamentalist Christians

I was actually at a loss for what to write about for today's post (if you can believe that!). Nothing much of interest has captured my fancy until I came across an article that Dr. James Dobson was now criticizing Senator Obama for comments that he made about religion that the demented doctor claims to misrepresent Christianity. This, of course, piqued my interest. When I read the article, I couldn't believe the latest manufactured controversy. I couldn't find any fault in what Obama said. No surprise. I have a long bad history with fundamentalist Christians and have never found anything they had to say as being credible or even all that interesting. Too many are dogmatic, ideologically blind, and completely free of logic. I have no use for a belief system that encourages blind obedience to authority figures, antiquated "traditions", and general lack of personal freedom.

So, what bug got up Dobson's ass this time?

Here are some interesting bits of what Obama said:

"Even if we did have only Christians in our midst, if we expelled every non-Christian from the United States of America, whose Christianity would we teach in the schools? Would we go with James Dobson's or Al Sharpton's?" Obama also said that "folks haven't been reading their Bibles. " He cited examples from the book of Leviticus where slavery is okay but eating shellfish is an abomination in God's eyes. Even more impressive, Obama said that Jesus' Sermon on the Mount is "a passage that is so radical that it's doubtful that our own Defense Department would survive its application."

Wow! That's what I'm talking about! Finally, a politician who gets the absurdities of religion and how it's distorted by other politicians and charlatans like Dobson, Robertson and the late Falwell. Dobson was so offended by what Obama said that he accused the Senator of "dragging biblical understanding through the gutter." Most audacious of all, Dobson said: "I think he's deliberately distorting the traditional understanding of the Bible to fit his own worldview, his own confused theology."

Wow, he actually said that?!? Does the man even look at himself in the mirror? People like him (and Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Bob Jones, Erik Prince, Ted Haggard, Jimmy Swaggart, Fred Phelps and their ilk) have used their religion to serve a corporate and conservative agenda that hardly reflects Christ. So, why is Dobson pointing out the splinter in another's eye when his own has a huge beam in his own? His support of right-wing economic, corporate, and military power, is hardly the stuff Jesus would endorse. Anyone who thinks so is clearly deluded and will have to show me specific examples from the Bible where Jesus promoted a culture of greed, deceit, violence, and materialism. In one passage, a rich young man asked Jesus what more he could do to live a righteous life. Jesus' response was: "Give everything you have to the poor and follow me", NOT "invest in the stock market and buy an SUV."

So, where does Dr. Dobson get off on condemning a political candidate who has merely pointed out the obvious that previous politicians avoid because they worship at the altar of mammon, not God. It's shameless, but I don't expect anything less. I've never liked Dobson. It saddens me that there are people in my church whom I love, who think Dobson is a truly great spiritual leader and they follow his every utterance like it was gospel.

Here's my experience with the Dobson propaganda...

When I was a Junior or Senior, my home congregation (Atlanta North RLDS Church) used Dr. James Dobson's "Focus on the Family" materials for the Senior High Sunday school class. We didn't really question it until one issue completely knocked "Empire Strikes Back" as an example of Hollywood's sneaky attempt to influence impressionable minds with Buddhist ideas. As every fundamentalist Christian knows, Buddhism is synonymous with Satanism. In our church, no one I knew had a problem with "Star Wars" at all. This was the first time I heard of a Christian finding offense in that film series. I also had no idea that Yoda's ideas were taken from a lot of Buddhist concepts. So, I give credit to Dr. James Dobson for pointing it out. Up until that time, I had not explored Buddhism because of my being indoctrinated with Christian propaganda (from the protestant youth groups my dad made me attend when we lived in Germany) that Buddhism was satanic. If Yoda's views were Buddhist, then it only made me want to learn more about this belief system because I loved the ideas that Yoda presented to Luke Skywalker.

Thanks, Dr. Dobson! Your narrow-minded ignorance helped me to break out of the Christian propaganda and begin my long journey to learn more about this mysterious religion that predates Christianity by a half-millennium. To this day, I cannot find anything in Buddhism that would violate what Jesus taught. I consider Jesus and the Buddha to be spiritual brothers. One founded an extroverted religion, the other founded an introverted religion. Studying and integrating both belief systems can really give you a huge spiritual boost. And I know that from personal experience.

The second and final straw Dr. Dobson's propaganda presented us with was a series on religious cults. Of course, he put the Mormon church in that category. Because he was criticizing our religious "cousins", we had an interesting discussion in Sunday School about what he said and decided to drop his materials from our Sunday School class. While we obviously have our own issues with the Mormon church and numerous differences between our two churches, we understood that Dobson would most likely consider our church a cult as well. Why support his curriculum if he was going to attack any spiritual ideas that he doesn't agree with? Our church has materials we could use.

I was glad to be rid of Dobson's propaganda from our Sunday School. To this day, I have no qualms to say bluntly that I do not like fundamentalist Christians at all. I haven't met a smart one yet. So many of them seem proud of their ignorance. Knowledge is scary to them and they take a silly offense for God, thinking that by bashing anyone who views religious beliefs from a standpoint of logic and history as being corrupted by their own arrogant thirst for knowledge. However, let's get real here. No matter how much we learn, we will never know all the knowledge that God has, yet to remain willfully ignorant in the face of new ideas is self-sabotage. Why remain ignorant?

Here's a bit of history that these types don't like to think about. Our country was settled in part by Pilgrims who escaped religious persecution in Europe. What did they do when they set up a colony in present day Massachusetts? They created the first theocratic police state on the continent. They chased away dissenters. They burned "witches" (most of whom were the foremothers to today's feminists). They couldn't see the hypocrisy in themselves, doing to others what others had done to them. It's an interesting twist of fate that Massachusetts has become perhaps the most liberal state in the union. And like Scientology is to California, the Mormons to Utah, the Unitarian-Universalists have churches everywhere you look in Massachusetts. The most liberal of Christian churches has taken hold in this state that was founded by the most rigid and hypocritical of religious puritans. How does history twist that way?

My wish for those who prefer to remain in the dark cave of fundamentalist Christianity should follow the lead of the Amish or the Jehovah's Witnesses. Don't participate in the political process. We have a democracy where all religious views are tolerated, so long as they don't violate the law. We'll never have a theocratic police state like some of these people desire. You have to wonder why they are so threatened by freedom that they want to deny it to others, even as they proudly claim to live in the most free country on earth. Don't they see the disconnect? Wanting freedom for yourself but denying it to those who don't share your views is not what freedom is about. If you want to remain ignorant, give your money to Dobson, watch the 700 Club all day, and listen to Haggard's homophobic remarks without thinking that he might be getting some in a dark closet somewhere, go ahead. Be my guest. You can have those intolerant religions. Just let those who have no problems with diversity live in peace.

I once asked a person who was quite conservative in his views (to the point of being fundamentalist), yet had a pretty wild past why he felt the need to control other people's behaviour. I notice this trait a lot. Introduce me to a fundamentalist, and I will discover their wild past everytime. That they can't see the glaring contradiction is fascinating to me. Anyhow, this guy told me that what most appealed to him about fundamentalism is that it has helped control his addictive personality. He couldn't imagine living life without some sort of control over his behaviour. He didn't want to hit rock bottom again. That's understandable. I countered his example with one of my own. Because I've never been a wild person and I've been in situations as a young teenager and as an older teenager where people were doing things that I strongly disagreed with, but I never needed someone to make me live a moral life. I trusted myself that I was strong enough to stand up to peer pressure, and I was. So, it's interesting to me that the people who fall easily into addictions need fundamentalist religion to keep them living right while a person like me belongs in a church that allows me complete freedom and doesn't try to control me. That's why I love our church. Though there are fundamentalist types within our church, the leadership of the church itself has never been about making morality statements to members all the time. It truly does allow members complete freedom of conscience without fear that they'll be disfellowshipped or excommunicated (unless it's something really bad, like murder or trying to operate a personal cult on church property).

That's what the different religions are for. Obama is smart enough to see that. Why fundamentalists can't appreciate our democracy for allowing them to live in ignorance is amazing to me. Because they have major control issues to work out, I'm of the view that we should not allow anyone of a fundamentalist mindset to ever hold political office or have power over policies that affect the diversity of a community, state or entire nation. We have Bush as a perfect example of rigid belief systems rendering him incapable of changing course in the midst of disaster. He's another fundamentalist type with a wild past who desires to control others, even if those who've never had a wild rebellion are quite capable of living well without his intolerant religious beliefs.

Finally, to Dr. Dobson, I'd have to say..."Read the Bible and get a clue. You won't find the Christ you claim to worship in Bush's underwear. Stop conning the masses with your mammon lies. You're nothing but a stooge for godless capitalism and Ayn Rand-greed."

Obama is proving himself to be the opposite of John Kerry, which I'm glad. Anyone who picks a battle with the religious reich is a hero of mine. It's time that America really gets serious about religion and stop our blasphemous posturing that we're God's favourite country. Until we truly learn what Jesus was really about, we'll always be suckered by the phony puppet prophets that are merely marionettes dancing to the hand movements of the neo-conservative kleptomaniacs.

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