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How religious narcissism works

Ah, the Duggars are making headlines again.  They’re little headlines but you should pay attention anyway because they are part of the pattern of religious narcissism that I have written about previously.

Jessa Duggar, the hot one, is dating courting Ben Seewald, another obnoxious Jesus freak Southern Independent Baptist.  I can’t remember where I heard this, it might have been somewhere in the free thought skeptic media, but it turns out that the Duggars follow this self-annoited preacher named Bill Gothard.  If America has a Taliban, and it does, Gothard would be its leader and his IBLP, Institute of Basic Life Principals, would be its Sharia Law.  Wait, that would have been last year.  THIS year, Gothard has resigned his position at IBLP due to sexual improprieties, as well as failing to report child abuse cases.  Yes, the man who brought America the chaste “side hug” has been accused by dozens of young women of inappropriate touching, groping and other no-nos.  Maybe their knees were exposed briefly and were asking for it.  So much for self-control. (Funny side note: while I was writing this, the WordPress autocorrect function kept replacing “Gothard” with “got hard”.  You can’t make this stuff up.)

In the Duggars’ world, the Southern Baptists are too worldly.  Yes, those teetotalling, non-dancing, patriarchical fundies are just too wild and crazy for the Duggars so the Duggar family mostly worships at home with other similar families.  Note that they don’t form “friendships” with these families.  They “fellowship”.  The distinction is significant.  That’s because if one of these families steps out of line, they have to be ready to jettison that family before the infection spreads.  It’s cold and unloving but their own salvation is at stake, so it’s necessary.

So, Ben Seewald, who is 2 years younger than Jessa, who is all of 20 or 21, writes a twitter about his catholic friend.  It’s been erased but someone has been kind enough to save the content.

“I have nothing against individuals who are Catholic. I know a lot of Catholics who are great people. What I DO have a problem with is the teaching that man can merit God’s favor through his own works or the works of other fallen men.

“My conscience is captive to the word of God. Where my Catholic friends adhere to God’s Word, I adhere. Where they depart from Scripture, I will in no way support, but will call them out because I love them and desire that they be turned from their deadly errors.”

Where to begin.  On the face of it, it looks innocent enough.  I mean, IBLP has been around for less than 100 years and is a niche sect, appealing to authoritarians and people who watch TLC and think it’s perfectly Ok to train children to be smiling, non-thinking, personality free, well behaved, chaste automatons in the name of Christ. (As my favorite aunt says, “Someday, one of those Duggar kids is going to write a book.”) The Catholic church has been around for 2000 years and has branch offices all around the world.  Catholics don’t have anything to fear from some American fundies in Arkansas.

But the debate of “saved by grace alone” vs “saved by good works” has been raging since Martin Luther.  In retrospect, Luther ignited a firestorm that to this day we can’t put out.  To many of us freethinkers or panentheist non-Christians, this debate is intensely boring and about as meaningful as how many angels dance on the head of a pin.  Really, who the hell cares whether it’s faith or good works??  Does preferring one to the other preclude you from being a good person?

Anyway, the money quote in the above tweet is:

“My conscience is captive to the word of God. Where my Catholic friends adhere to God’s Word, I adhere. Where they depart from Scripture, I will in no way support, but will call them out because I love them and desire that they be turned from their deadly errors.”

I’m sorry, who died and made Ben Seewald god?  That tweet almost sounds like it could have come from the pages of the Old Testament.

But this is pretty typical of the religious narcissist.  YOUR faith is not important to them.  Only THEIR faith is important.  They make it their business to interfere and make it their responsibility to set your ass straight.

Let’s recap: The Southern Baptists aren’t good enough for them.  They are superior to most of the denomination they consider their closest allies.  They worship at home because it’s safer for them and they can control who can bask in their reflected glory and who can’t.  They hold themselves up as paragons of virtue and expect that you show them respect for their life choices that they say are more moral than yours.  And they do not respect your boundaries as far as your life choices or religious beliefs are concerned.  Your beliefs are inconsequential and fungible, theirs are not.

I’m pointing this out now because a couple of weeks ago, a bunch of anti-choice protestors interrupted a service at a Unitarian church in New Orleans.  Amanda Marcotte wrote of the protests recently, describing the actions of the protestors:

Some of the anti-choice activists invaded the First Unitarian Universalist Church of New Orleans while members were observing a moment of silence for a deceased congregant and proceeded to abuse and harass the people inside the church. The folks from Operation Save America were hardly ashamed of this deplorable behavior, instead bragging on their website about disrupting services at the “synagogue of Satan” and making special note of haranguing the female pastor, who they called a “pastor,” in scare quotes. (But they’re in this for “life” and not because they have a problem with women!) This behavior isn’t necessarily any worse than the miseries they subject clinic patients and workers to, but it serves as a reminder that the reason anti-choice “protesters” get into the lifestyle is that they are bullies, full stop.

The protestors did not recognize the authority of the female pastor and they violated the boundaries of the congregants’ faith in a very literal way.

Now, the Unitarians are not really Christians in the strictest sense of the word.  They’re more deists or pantheist non-Christians who are respectful of Christians.  You can even be an atheist at a Unitarian church.  On the scale of churches, Unitarians are waaaaay over there on the commie left.  So, what’s going on here?  Marcotte’s theory makes sense:

There are many pro-choice churches, but the religious pluralism of the Unitarians is what really sets fundamentalists off. Indeed, there’s a strong reason to believe that the religious right is basically using the battle over reproductive rights to advance a much larger agenda against religious tolerance. And the strategy is to argue that their own “religious freedom” cannot be protected without taking yours away.

There’s an actual quote about that somewhere from one of the Christian fundamentalist imams.  I think it might be in this video from a recent free thought convention.  Found it.  Here’s the quote attributed to Gary North, former curriculum advisor for Ron Paul:

“So let us be blunt about it, we must use the doctrine of religious liberty to gain independence for Christian schools until we train up a generation of people who know there is no religious neutrality, no neutral law, no neutral education and no neutral government.  Then they will get busy in constructing a bible based social and political order which finally denies the religious liberty of the enemies of god.”

But Catholics are hardly Kumbaya strumming hippies.  The church has its own authoritarian issues and, even though its members might think a bunch of red beanied single old dudes in Rome are cracked when it comes to reproductive health, it has had a significant impact on the American public through the appointment of 5 conservative Catholics to the Supreme Court.  The uber fundie independent baptist taliban in Arkansas has little to fear from Catholics.  They’re getting everything they claim they want through them.  Except that the Catholics don’t believe what they believe, and therefore, they must be “saved”.

No one is safe from this kind of religious narcissism.  First they came for the atheists and there are still laws on the books in some states that prohibit an atheist from holding a public office.  Then they came for the Unitarians because they’re all about inclusion and social justice.  They have no qualms about calling out Catholics.

When Ruth Bader Ginsberg said the 5 member majority in the Hobby Lobby case had “ventured into a minefield”, she only scratched the surface of the problem.  Political motives aside, the  conservative majority has given a tacit nod to the religious narcissists to continue to breach other people’s boundaries.  I think we’re going to see more of these protests and pretty soon, you won’t be able to go anywhere before some righteous religious person decides your beliefs need an attitude adjustment.  Countries have and are still to this day fighting religious wars.  Many people are hurt and lives are ruined over religion in other parts of the world.  For more than 200 years, we have decided we as a nation weren’t going to subject our citizens to a test when it comes to religion.  Are we now going to throw away that detente and for what reason?

What do we do about the religious narcissist?  I’m still trying to find the answer to that question.  There are some suggestions for dealing with narcissists in general.  I’ll talk about some of them in a future post.

The first (and possibly last time) I have ever agreed with ThereIsNoSpoon

David Adkins, aka ThereIsNoSpoon, tells it like it is on the contraception debate at Digby’s Hullabaloo:

These things don’t happen by accident. The conservative establishment decided early on that this was going to be a hill for them to die on. They weren’t forced to die on that hill. They could have let the Bishops stand alone. But they didn’t. They decided to run this ball all the way down the court.

And guess what? As Digby points out, it’s working. What just a few weeks ago was considered so mainstream as to an afterthought (providing contraception) is now seen as some sort of controversial touchstone, even as “religious freedom” has become a buzzword in the press.

Democrats can high-five one another about Republican overreach and laugh hysterically at the increased number of votes Barack Obama will receive in 2012 over Mitt Santorum. But ultimately the joke’s on us. It’s been on us ever since the Obama Administration decided to concede an inch to the misogynist conspiracy of extremist fanatics that are the Bishops, rather than mock them immediately for being out of touch with their own flock, to say nothing of the mainstream American public.

The political ground on contraception has suddenly shifted to the right faster than I have seen on any social issue in my lifetime. It’s incredible.

I think my tinfoil antenna were picking up the “Religious Liberty” meme a couple of months ago (damn, I really should be more thorough with tags) and wondered what the heck the Republicans were up to.  For some strange reason I thought it would have something to do with Faith Based Initiatives or something like that.  Definitely, this was going to be The Big Deal during the 2012 election season, The Wedge Issue of the Year.  Who knew it would take the form of a War on Contraception?

When are Democrats going to realize that the Republicans have a crack operation of skilled psychmetricians and marketing people who have have done expert data analysis and have strategized the best way to get their voters to the polls in November?  Democrats SUCK at this.  Yes, all you Kool-Aid addled Obots, Barack Obama didn’t win because he was some kind of wonderful.  He won because part of the Republican war machine got behind him in 2008 to take out the real Democrat.  He’s a fricking one-off.  His election was historic and that was the wedge issue of 2008.  Now, he’s no longer historic.  He’s just a lousy president.

So, while the feminists are justifiably tearing their hair out over the loss of more bodily autonomy, let’s examine why this is such a phenomenally successful wedge issue.  First, Obama and his entourage went on a rampage in 2008 and slashed and burned their way through the Democratic base.  Misogyny went unchecked and even gained a foothold.  Congratulations Democratic party!  You’ve just made a substantial portion of your base second class citizens.  Any woman who jumped on this bandwagon seeing a ticket to ride to the top of the access list should really have her head examined and none of us should be forced to listen to her or read about her anymore.  For damn sure, she should not be sitting on panels in places like the local branch of NOW in Kansas.   (H/T Katiebird)

It goes without saying, even though some women are apparently dumber than a box of rocks, that women should NEVER put their own interests second to the political ambitions of any man.  No, no, no.  Not until we have achieved full equality, which means not for the forseeable future. If you have an opportunity to vote for a reasonable woman, even if you do not agree with her 100%, you should vote for her if she represents your interests as a woman and is willing to fight for your equality. Your focus should be on what she will do for women because we are the majority of citizens in this country and what is best for us, tends to be best for everyone else as well.  You should not be distracted by someone else’s priorities and unless she is personally leading the convoy into Baghdad on the top of a tank like some modern day Boudicca, her views on war should be put into the same context as other candidates. In the future, I hope that women will hold each other accountable for maintaining unity.  Any stepping out of line should be met with swift and thorough correction.  We need to be a voting bloc to be feared, uncompromising and retributive.  Let’s learn from the Christian coalition playbook, shall we?

And let’s dispense with the idea that the Republicans are ignorant of the scientific method.  What did the Republicans learn by observation from 2008?  They learned that Barack Obama is a self centered, ambitious guy.  He’s a guy who doesn’t have any particular interest in women’s rights.  His fealty is to the banking class.  That’s who’s footing the bills.  Unfortunately for Obama (and this is what makes him such a lousy politician), he still needs women he’s been blowing off in order to win.  He needs their votes.  He doesn’t need banker votes because there aren’t enough of them to make a substantial dent in the electoral college. And what do bankers care about contraception?  Do they even have an opinion?  No.  The only people who really care about contraception are the conservatives and Obama’s not going to get their votes anyway, unless he intends to kiss up to them. And the only reason he would bow to their votes would be if he was intending to blow off his base and go right.

This is where we are.  Obama had a choice.  He could either stick up for women’s equality and bodily autonomy and tell the religious they were being intrusive.  Or he could try to be all things to all people and hope that the bishops would negotiate with him in good faith so he could grab the religious while keeping the women relatively quiet.  Remember, this is no-drama Obama we’re talking about.  He’s not into confrontation.  He prefers quiet little negotiation sessions where no one raises their voices and everything is on the table- because that’s worked so well in negotiations on our behalf with the bankers in the recent past {{rolling eyes}}.

(Note to loyal Democrats: Once you experience the “Pain of Independence“, you’ll never be able to look at Obama in the same way again. The nausea and disorientation can be alarming but your perspective will change and you will be almost desperate to get him out of the Oval Office.)

The Republicans see this as passivity, which it is.  In the corporate world, we have management training courses on personal power and dynamics.  The facilitator would describe Obama’s modus operandi as a losing strategy.  Imagine there is a passive-aggressive scale from 1-10 with passive on the lower end and aggressive on the higher end.  To be truly effective as a negotiator, you should stay in the sweet spot of 5-7.  A 4 or below is too passive; 7 and above is too aggressive.  Ideally, both parties want to stay in the sweet spot.  But if you normally operate as a 4 and your opponent is at 7, you need to go up to level 7 to be effective.  If he goes to 8, you need to go to 8.  He has to see that you’re not backing down so that he must in order to strike a deal.

The problem with Republicans is that they are always at level 8.  And if you don’t come right back and smash them at 8 or above, they’ll escalate.  We are now at escalation.  They’ve gone to 11 and Obama et al are at level 5.  Great, just great.

That’s why ThereIsNoSpoon is disconcerted by the way Republicans have dominated this issue.  They went from 8 to 11 and now anything Obama does is going to look defensive.  If he had come out swinging in the first couple of days and told the Republicans that they were setting new precedent and moving the goalpost back on women’s rights and he, Obama, was not going to yield on contraception unless Jesus tapdancin’ Christ came down personally to negotiate on behalf of the bishops, he would have ruled the day and even *I* might have had some kind of grudging respect for him.

But he’s a baaaaaaad politician.  Craven, selfish, indifferent, calculating and a poor decision maker with equally bad political consultants.  So, now, the idea that a religious institution can have a say over whether or not you get birth control when 98% of its own adherents ignore said religious institution’s very clear, very unambiguous proscriptions against it, suddenly, that idea looks pretty reasonable.  Americans don’t tend to think these things through very carefully these days because they are overwhelmed with personal and financial obligations, so they rely on the media to tell them what’s going on.  Obama managed to be so ineffective at stopping the meme through his own inept handling of the matter that the right wing noise machine’s religious liberty meme is just hitting its stride.  It’s going to be repeated and repeated and repeated until it seems normal until suddenly, women will start having a devil of a time getting their prescriptions filled without some byzantine procedure.

And let’s not forget that the only people who really care about denying people contraceptives are highly conservative seniors and their church hierarchy.  No one else gives a damn.  The wedge issue is just a clever way for Republicans to separate a few more women’s votes from Obama when they realize that, once again, he threw them under a bus and doesn’t seem to understand how much harder he has made their lives.  In the meantime, the religious right will think they’re being persecuted (oh PLEEZE) and will have a very good reason to show up at the polls this November to toss the Democrats out on their asses.

Now, I could be wrong about this but I don’t think that there is anyway *this* president is going to be able to fix this particular issue at this point in time.  He may go on to win as a result of some other catastrophe but he’s lost the edge he had on the contraceptive issue.  Maybe another player will be able to change this around but not Obama.  So, the Democrats better have something else up their sleeves or the Republicans will eat their lunch.

Just because they don’t like their present candidates doesn’t mean the Republicans can’t get their voters spitting nails by November.  And Democrats shouldn’t count on independent liberals to save their bacon at the last minute.  We’ve got our eyes on a different prize these days.  We’ll just sit on the sidelines and watch the bloodbath.  We’re into solving problems and this election isn’t going to solve any problems.  If I were the Democrats, I might have curbed the impulse to squash OWS and women and ignore the unemployed for so long.

And don’t look now but the Republicans are going to turn off the gas spigot this summer and stop UI bennies in September.  If the Democrats had stored up some goodwill over the past four years, the impending pain and chaos wouldn’t look so horrible.  But they didn’t and it will.  If I were them, I’d pass on the White House and work like madmen to elect new faces to Congress.

**********************

More of Titli’s Busy Kitchen.  This recipe is for Caramel Shortbread.  Stick with it.

Shame! Shame! Shame!

UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi goes on trial in the court of public opinion today for allowing campus police to pepper spray at will.  To be fair, she’s not the only authority that has acquiesced to an overwhelming and disproportionate display of police force against peaceful protestors.  It’s just that in this case, helicopter parents are involved.  When it happened to Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Oakland, and Occupy Seattle it was just a bunch of dirty f%&*ing hippies.  And 84 year old women.  And Iraq War vets.  And pregnant women.  And people who were protesting while black.  And, you know, liberals.  Nobody important.

In this video, Katehi does the walk of shame between phalanxes of seated protestors.  In absolute silence.

If that doesn’t humble you, nothing will.

**************************

Spain has a change election and throws out the socialists in favor of conservatives in the hope that there will be some relief.  This is the equivalent of jumping into the fire from the frying pan.  Maybe they have a contingent of older seniors who still remember the good old days under Franco.  i don’t know.  But if I were the Democrats, I’d be worried.  Because they really screwed up after 2008 and I smell another change election coming.  So far, we’ve seen Spain and Ireland go for the more conservative option.  Maybe it has to do with the fact that they are both Catholic countries and feel like they deserve it.

******************************

Speaking of Catholics, it looks like the Democrats are getting worried about their base.  Obama appears to be ready to create a broad exception for religious institutions to the requirement that insurance companies provide contraception for their employees. Once again, Catholic bishops and fundamentalist groups have been pressuring him to do it.  But let’s face it, Obama went out of his way to court these people in the 2008 election.  He needed them to win.  He can’t piss them off, can he?  All they want is to deny women the right to their own consciences.  Is that *so* much to ask?  Democrats went along with it in the last election cycle when they scrubbed reproductive rights issues from their campaign web pages?  Why not do it again?  Oh, that’s right.  Women make up 51% of the population.  It looks like Democrats have finally learned to count.

And the right’s new talking point “religious liberty”, gets rolled out:

The issue resonates at the local level, as Catholic priests around the country have urged parishioners to tell federal officials why they object to the new mandate.

In a letter to the administration, the bishops’ conference said the requirement for coverage of contraceptives and sterilization was “an unprecedented attack on religious liberty.”

Yes, men are entitled to religious liberty.  But not women.  I’m not sure how anyone’s religious liberty is damaged by a healthcare requirement.  People are not required to take contraception.  Or Cialis.

Democrats need us next year and can’t afford to piss us off.  I can almost hear their panic and disbelief.  “What is he doing?!  I can’t win my election if he’s going to piss off more women.  Who talked us into supporting this bozo in the first place?  Jeez, why didn’t we stick with Hillary?  At least she wasn’t afraid of neanderthal pro-lifers.”

See??  THAT’S the way you do it.  That wasn’t so hard, was it?  You explain to your voters what you value and that you will forcefully defend those values and you give them a choice.  They can vote for you or the other guy.  You do not expect your base to give up what they value in order to attract the more conservative voters from the other party.  Next year  is an economy election.  If your positions on the economy are good, your voters will have to take the whole package.

Well, I’m holding on to my vote until I see results.  BIG results.  Yes, I want them to kiss up to me.  They’d better make it good.  And forget about me ever voting for Barry.  He’s not a very good president and I’m not over the primary of 2008 where the DNC dehumanized the Clintonistas in order to dismiss our votes.  If women were smart, they’d vow to never vote for him and then stick to that vow.  I might vote for a Democrat for Congress.  But Obama?  After we’ve gotten proof of his capabilities (or lack thereof) and his absolutely disgraceful tolerance of shitty treatment of women in the White House?  Never.

Never, ever, ever.

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