Sunday, January 02, 2011

The Presumptuous Evangelicals

On Facebook last week, a family friend who is a lifelong member of the same church I belong to had posted a comment that Jesus would neither be a Democrat or a Republican. While I believe that this is a true statement, I also think its misleading as well. The problem with our political system is that one political party does in fact claim to be aligned with Jesus while insinuating that the other party is not and that voting for the other party will put one's eternal standing in jeopardy. When I brought this up, the lady was in complete denial about it. Of course, it doesn't surprise me because she is a Republican who can't see the truth about that party. She claims to be an independent, but she votes Republican, she speaks from Republican talking points, and she fits the demographic of a Republican (white Midwestern transplant who lives in the South).

You don't have to attend a regular meeting or pay your dues to be a party member. If you consistently vote Republican and argue their talking points, you are a de facto Republican and nothing you say will convince me otherwise. I know plenty of independent people and they are really independent. They have voted for politicians of either party or a third party in equal numbers, their critiques of both parties reflect an independent thinking, they aren't swayed by talking points, and they don't get defensive when you criticize one party over another.

I had posted a comment to her post that the problem wasn't with the Democrats, because Democratic politicians don't go around talking about religion and "family values" or telling voters that they might go to hell if they vote Republican. In 2004, the Catholic Church famously considered denying presidential candidate John Kerry (a Catholic) communion because of his stance on abortion. Also that year, there were churches in the South where the pastor told their congregation that anyone who voted for Kerry would not be welcome in church anymore, or that if Kerry became the president, the Bible would be banned from the USA, or that voting for Kerry would send the voter straight to hell when they died.

I mentioned on this lady's Facebook wall that there were many people in our own church who have mistaken the GOP for being "God's Own Party." All three Community of Christ congregations in the Atlanta area are solidly Republican. I knew that if I stayed in Atlanta for the rest of my life, I would have to leave the Community of Christ because I couldn't stand the politics of church members (it would slip out in actual church services, which are supposed to be free of politics). It annoys me that some people refuse to look at the truth that is so obvious for anyone with an opinion not shaped by Fox Propaganda Network. One political party has a history of using Jesus for their self-serving political agenda and too many good Christians have fallen for it. I know because I've been open about my Democratic Party allegiances all of my life and I've been called all kinds of bad names and had my Christianity questioned by such church members. Moving to the Pacific Northwest allowed me to remain in this church that I love, because most members out here are liberal / progressive, Democratic, or independent (a true independent, not a "pretend independent" to make Republicans look better because the independent voter finds that party more "credible"). A friend of mine out here has an awesome bumper sticker on his car: "God is not spelled G.O.P." Love it!!!

So let's get real and stop denying that the Republican Party has conned a great many fellow church members into thinking that Christians can only be Republicans because Democrats are so immoral. I think Jesus would think much differently, because on policy basis, the Democrats are actually more in line with Jesus' ministry in caring for the poor among us. Just looking at the economic data, one can see that the poor and middle class do much better during Democratic administrations while the gap between the rich and poor grows astronomically during the Republican administrations. The numbers don't lie. We can see the truth about the Republican Party (they only care about religion for the purposes of getting elected because there aren't enough rich Americans to ever win a majority vote in national elections).

I was stunned when a longtime friend of this Republican lady started attacking me. He claimed that I was "angry" and said that I needed Jesus! This illustrated the presumptuousness of evangelical Christians. He knew nothing about me and already, he's making presumptions about my spiritual beliefs? This example is exactly why I am so glad to leave the Bible Belt. They are so obsessed with Jesus and proselytizing to others, but having lived with them, there is not a whole lot of morality among these types. They have ignored Jesus' plea to hypocrites: "Take out the plank in your eye before you point out the splinter in another person's eye."

All my life, conservative people have made presumptions about me that simply was not true. At the core of my being, my values are kind of conservative. I've always been able to stand up to peer pressure and not go along with other people's immorality, even when they tried to entice me or taunt me into it. I was never one who needed to be preached morality. I learned from observation. I wanted to emulate the people I admired and I was disappointed when others did not live up to the high ideals I had of them. I was never "wild and crazy" or did things that were truly hideous and embarrassing. Thus, it always baffles me when a person who lived a wild and crazy life, doing many things that I would never dream of doing, then hitting rock bottom, finding Jesus, becoming "born again" and going out to tell strangers they don't even know that they "need Jesus."

That's what this conservative guy was doing. When I called him out on it, he got mad and claimed that I was "judging him". When the shoe is on the other foot, hypocrites hate it when people give them a taste of their own medicine. Was I judging? All I did was point out that he knew nothing about me and he automatically assumed that I was angry and needed Jesus. Is anger wrong? I hate hypocrisy and lies. Jesus got angry at religious hypocrites and lost his temper at the Temple. Pointing out the hypocrisy of evangelicals is a necessity. They have to be shown a mirror. Focus on your own spiritual life and don't worry so much about mine. I've been doing just fine for nearly 40 years now. My faith in God is strong. My belief system is so different from evangelical Christians, but I really can't accept their views for myself. It simply fails my standards of consistency and honesty. No offense.

I'm more into the Law of Attraction, as advocated by Jerry and Esther Hicks through the non-physical entity they call Abraham. I've seen it work in my life and I plan to continue my "Law of Attraction experiments" this year in the dating game. If being a born again Christian who goes around thumping Jesus on every stranger you meet without getting to know what they are all about works for you, well, good for you. But don't get angry when people reject your message. No one likes to be discounted or told that they need something by someone who knows nothing about them nor takes a real interest in getting to know them. What is it really about? EGO, that's what. Conformist minded people who have the born again experience REQUIRE other people believing the same thing as them in order to validate their viewpoints as being true. Probably because deep down, they still have doubts about their newfound beliefs. Well, newsflash, I'm not here to validate your viewpoints. Especially viewpoints that I believe is grossly mistaken. I will continue on my own spiritual journey, going with ideas that actually work for me. Where I can see real results in my life.

On New Year's Day, I met my brother at Clackamas Town Center to see the movie Tron: Legacy in XD 3-D. A movie review will be posted later on this week. Anyhow, after the movie, when I ate dinner in the food court, my brother was telling me about his life and the church he goes to. I'm convinced that he is in serious financial trouble and that the armed robbery he told me about on Christmas was not the complete truth. I gave him my thoughts about the people he has in his life. I told him that he needed to be more discreet about money and that a warning bell should ring in his mind anytime a friend of his brings up money with him. He said something that shocked me. "It's not my money. It's God's money!" That's his view? The church he goes to has really brainwashed him. They had told him that if he did not continue paying tithings, that God would "withdraw protection" from him, which I know with a certainty is a LIE.

I'm still stunned that my brother believes that. God is the creator of the entire universe and everything in it. What use is money to God? Money is a man-created system that improved upon the bartering system that used to be the norm. Money is a means to live. Yes, charity is great. Giving a portion to worthwhile causes or to better the lives of the poor is a good thing. However, giving money to greedy people or organizations is not a good thing. I don't believe God would hold it against a person who refuses to give to an organization that engages in lies, greed and deceit. I experienced the church my brother attends enough times to know that they are not the kind of Christians I want to associate with (the three services I attended during my first couple months in Portland in 2006, they claimed that Mormons are not Christian, that ALL Muslims want to kill every single American, and that Buddhists are evil and going to hell).

As my brother talked, his disposition was very dark. He became so hateful and truly wants the apocalypse to happen so that everyone who was ever mean to him will die horrible deaths! When I tried talking reason with him and tell him why that church is poisoning his mind, he almost broke down and cried in defending them. It was sad seeing him this way. I asked him, "What happened to the happy brother I once knew?" He said that he killed him off. I'm stunned. Its obvious that my brother is not happy. He is in far deeper trouble than he lets on. But how do you help someone who refuses to help himself? How do you help someone who seems to prefer being taken advantaged of by those who see him as an easy ATM machine?

A family friend back in South Carolina told me the last time we talked that I needed to be closer to my brother. But how can I? I can only tolerate my brother in small doses. Its hard to hear him say the same stories I've heard for twenty years. Nothing in his life ever changes. He has been living a Groundhog's Day for twenty years now. He keeps making the same mistakes over and over. So much of his money has gone into the pockets of his "friends". They are robbing him blind and he allows it to happen!! Why should I have to witness this? Its depressing and like people who have severe drug addictions, they put themselves in their hell. You can only do so much to help, but people have to help themselves first. My brother has to get to the point in life where he is tired of being taken advantaged of by his "friends" and disassociate. He needs to find a loving church community that doesn't fill his mind with poison. If people want to think of me as the "bad brother" who won't help, well, I can live with their opinions. You can't help people who don't want to be helped. Until my brother realizes who his real friends are, he is destined to repeat this cycle until he dies. Its sad that he can't see that his own family, who don't want his money, is who he should listen to. Instead, he listens to the people at that church and his "friends", who all want money from him. That's just warped.

When I bid him goodbye that evening, I felt bad about the conversation. To see my brother in such turmoil is disturbing. Its also frustrating that nothing I said seems to have gotten through to him. He really believes he is more spiritual than I am, but he watches mostly violent movies and horror films and he is unable to discern the intentions of the people he associates with in life. By comparison, I've had a pretty blessed life. I have many amazing experiences in life, I belong to a church where I feel a strong sense of family among the fellow church members, I'm filled with gratitude, my friends all add value to my life, I am able to see things appear in my life that I have wished for and thought about. I wish there was a way to convince my brother that his life won't change until he makes a complete break from his life now. The trouble is, my brother lives among the lower class world, where people have so many problems (many "hard living folks"). They see in my brother someone who is easy to manipulate and control, and he allows it to happen. I don't have that problem in life because I don't tolerate it. I'm strict about who I allow into my life and I think that's a smart way to live life.

This past weekend, I guess what I learn from this is that I really don't want the negative energy in my life. I need to keep focused on what I want for my life and build on the positive energy vibrations I experience each day. People have to be free to live their lives and until they hate their lives enough to make a change, we really can't help them. They live in a world of their own reality and cannot see the reality in which I live. Its all a matter of choice. Too bad that it had to be my brother who has gotten suckered into a world I don't even recognize. But, I simply cannot go there with him. I like the direction I'm heading in.


Anonymous said...

This is an interesting post for me on many levels. I'm not sure what strain of theology your church follows, but just from reading your personal thoughts, you actually have a Catholic outlook. By that I mean that the Catholic Church doesn't force people to believe a certain way. There are many "charisms" in the Church, and so long as they don't lead one to deny the basic truths that the Church has received, they are free to grow spiritually. (Obviously this topic is way too complex for a simple blog comment, but I hope you get where I'm coming from). If I could sum up the Church's position on being "evangelical" it would be through the words of St. Francis of Assisi: "Preach the gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words."

I'm also in a similar situation with my own brother, only with us, the coin has been flipped: he thinks I'm the intolerant one because I stand by my convictions (both religious and natural) about his alternative lifestyle as an active gay. For one, I refuse to "label" my brother based on a desire. Unfortunately, once he accepted the gay label, everything about his life was then seen through that lens, and if one didn't accept it, they were considered fundamental, judgmental, etc. Secondly, as a Catholic, I see the wisdom in the Church's teachings calling EVERYONE to a life of chastity, whether we are married, single, or celibate. And please understand that chastity is not to be confused with celibacy. Celibacy is renouncing something very good (a lifelong, monogamous sexual relationship in marriage between one man and one woman)for something better (an eternal, intimate relationship with God). Celibate priests and religious show the rest of us pilgrims on earth that as wonderful as this life can be, coupled with the many beautiful relationships formed on our journey, none of them compare to the ultimate union with God. So, in effect, they are a reminder to the rest of us about our ultimate goal, only they've freely chosen to embrace it now, in a very “incarnational” way.

Chastity is living with your sexual powers rightly directed. And as I said above, it's for everybody. The problems come when we don't live according to those powers, and all hell (figuratively and literally) breaks loose. Just look at the societal problems associated with the misuse of our sexual powers: the historic abuse of women at the hands of men; the tragedy of rape; AIDS and a host of other STDs; unwed mothers; "fatherless" children; abortion; adultery; skyrocketing divorce rates; prostitution; a multi-billion dollar pornography industry, etc. There is a new movement in the Church currently gaining momentum that has found a new way of addressing all these issues. It's largely based on the late John Paul II's "Theology of the Body." I am one of many who see it as the answer for all the problems listed above. It's also helped me come to terms with my brother's choices as well as deal with the many bad choices I have made in the past. And all of this is not my way of having you validate my viewpoint, by the way. It's just my way of explaining what I found to work for me. :-)

Is it harder for someone with a homosexual orientation to live according to this truth? It certainly can be, but I've met enough people with same-sex attraction who also found peace in the Church's teachings, and with the grace of God offered to them - particularly in the sacraments of the Eucharist and Confession - those individuals have gone on to live very fulfilled lives. The problem is, no one hears about these folks because they aren't trying to force their stories into the public square, unlike those who have chosen to live an active lifestyle and want the rest of society to come on board, no matter what. Sound a little familiar? I guess it just goes to show that there are "presumptuous evangelicals" of all stripes out there.

Thanks for letting me share.

Sansego said...

I appreciate your thoughts. Thank you for posting them.

I have to disagree on the Catholic outlook, though. I am definitely not Catholic in my outlook, as I consider it to be far too traditional, formal, and authoritarian for my liking. I also think that church lost credibility with the Spanish Inquisition and forcing Galileo to recant his view that the earth revolved around the sun.

Pope John Paul II is far and away the best Pope and I liked that he issued a formal apology to Galileo, though it occurred 400 years too late. The damage is already done, though. Too many people were killed for their honesty that the Catholic Church viewed as heresy. I cannot overlook that historical blemish, thus why I am no fan of Catholicism.