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       *** MANDOS POST *** I have been thinking about writing another post about Britain and Brexit for some time, but every time I started it, there’d be literally another new dramatic twist, so I’d stop.  But now it seems like a corner is being turned. What the corner really is, we’ll still have time […]
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Weekend Assignments: Wolf Hall, Zealotry and other stuff

What a week, What a week! With one week of work at a new job under my belt, I feel normal again. It has been very rare in the past year for me to have a whole weekend off. In fact, I think it only happened once in the last 12 months. I am going to soak up all 48 hours and try to get some stuff off my to-do list. Like clothes shopping. I *hate* to shop for clothes. But for the next two months, I have to look presentable so maybe they will give me a permanent regular job. That would be nice.

In the meantime, here are some things to check out, consider, do:

1.) Hilary Mantel’s books Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies come to PBS this weekend. I was able to find extended snippets from this BBC production on youtube before they were banished and it is really good. It’s not a trashy bodice ripper like The Tudors and it’s not improbably soapy like Downtown Abbey (which I liked initially but lost interest in over the years). This BBC production is dark and quiet. Literally dark. Some of the scenes were shot by candlelight using a special camera. I’ve read that it drove the Brits nuts, which means that Americans will whine even louder.

This version of the tale is told from Thomas Cromwell’s point of view. You will have to know some of the backstory and be a little bit familiar with the Renaissance, the Reformation and the War of the Roses. Maybe there will be a host who can bring people up to speed. But in general, this is not primarily about Henry and Anne’s sexytime. It’s about a crucial period in history when a number of factors converge to turn kingdoms into nations. This is when religion starts to take a back seat to government with its rules and regulations for everyone. Spoiler alert: both the feudal lords and the church do not like it one bit. I’ll leave it as an exercise for the reader as to whether this fight is over.

Also, towards the middle of the series, you may have a completely different idea about who is responsible for England’s break with Rome.

The books were very good. I’ve read them both twice. Mantel’s style is a little non-linear so if you’re going to use the audible book as a cleaning distraction device, be aware that you might have to stop and back up a few times to figure out where you are in the story. But I would still rate them five sponges.

Mark Rylance is brilliant here as Cromwell, Damien Lewis (Brody from Homeland) is Henry VIII and Claire Foy is the hard to like Anne Boleyn. Here’s a preview from PBS:

2.) I read Atrios’ puzzlement over at Eschaton yesterday about why religious people care so much about preventing gay people from loving one another. I’m not sure I can adequately answer his questions but I will give it a try. Some people are completely unhinged by the idea that two men are having sex with one another. They can spend hours haranguing you about all the various forms of gay sex. They know more about gay sex that you do. If you’re straight, you may never even think about these things for more than a minute or two but the people affected by Gay Sex Derangement Syndrome think about it quite a lot. And not because they are secretly gay.

Part of this may be due to the religious narcissism I’ve alluded to before. It is my unprofessional opinion that authoritarian religious churches and belief systems attract people with a tendency towards narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). We can go over what causes NPD at another time but I’ve done enough reading on the subject to make me want to do real research into the subject and study psychology. But I digress.

Basically, the theory is that people with NPD have had trauma early in their lives and they were too young to develop adequate coping skills. Their parents may not have recognized that they needed psychological assistance to help them deal with this early trauma. So these affected individuals have personalities that do not mature in some respects. They may have low self esteem, remain childlike in some aspects of their lives and demand attention from others. They are deeply insecure people. They are very envious of others.

Religion is like a life saver to these people. We’re not talking about average religious people who go to church in times of crisis and like to belong to the community of worshippers. No, we’re talking about people who are attracted to certain authoritarian religions because the rules and personal sacrifices give them status in the eyes of others. They go to churches that make the most demands on them because they stand out as being more holy, dedicated, superior.

That feeds their narcissism because others will look up to them, defer to them, consider them more moral people. These people go on and on about how they are “Christian”. If you want to see a younger version of this, check out this video of young Ben Seewald talking about faith and salvation with his sister-in-law Jinger Duggar. It’s a bit much. How much sinning can you do at 14 when you’re never allowed out of site from one of your same sex siblings and everything you do is videotaped for a nationwide audience? But never mind, the Duggar and Seewald kids have been thoroughly indoctrinated by their parents and there are few couples out there who are bigger religious narcissists than Jim-Bob and Michelle Duggar. They feed off their kids and there are no boundaries between parents and kids. This is also a classic characteristic of people with NPD. Family members are not allowed to have thoughts, feelings or opinions of their own. They must be controlled by the NPD parents.

Now, what happens when you dedicate a cable channel to fluffing people with NPD? We could be talking about the 700 Club or the Van Impe’s but they’re mostly religious channels. It’s quite a different thing when a news channel gets involved because news people have authority. History is replete with examples of propaganda and mob violence lowering the bounds of what is acceptable. Think of the French Revolution and fascist Europe. Little by little, propagandists were able to wear away the mental walls we put up between what we know is good and what we really want to do. Places like Fox News give permission to tear down those walls. It calls them politically correct. It flatters the religious authoritarian. It encourages them to intrude on people’s boundaries and tells them that those people who are suffering deserve it because they aren’t godly.

Now, throw in a soupçon of disgust. I think I have a previous blog post on it. Disgust is very powerful in propaganda. You can bet that Fox and their affiliates milk the disgust angle for all it’s worth. It’s both tittilating and revolting. That is why your 76 year old aunt may know all the details about fisting even if you never gave it a second thought. People have a visceral reaction to disgusting things. And a lot of women who came of age before birth control were conditioned to respond with disgust to sexual behavior. It probably didn’t help that some of them joined religions that TOTALLY FREEEEEEAAAK OUT over pre-marital sex. We are talking extreme over reactions. There is nothing normal about this. It is a pathological reaction to non-marital sex of any kind. As I said before, I think societal conditioning and especially a ton of guilt conditioning has something to do with this.

Nevertheless, we’re talking about regular human beings here. They might be conditioned to overreact but they still have hormones. Just because society may have come down like a hammer on them, doesn’t mean they don’t get what it’s all about. But why should other people be allowed to enjoy what they never were allowed to enjoy? Why should they have donned a life long hair shirt while two gay guys do what they’re going to do with all their orifices (ewwww, disgusting)? If they can get away with it, what was the point of all this self-sacrifice? Doesn’t it diminish their own status if society starts to find gay behavior acceptable?

The last part of this overly long explanation is that people suffering from NPD do not experience empathy for other people. You might say that religious authoritarianism encouraged their NPD but it’s a chicken-egg conundrum. Why would anyone voluntarily subject their families to these harsh, unforgiving, joyless religions, intrude on their personal boundaries and toss them out of their lives at the first sign of independent thought? This happens to many children in fundamentalist Christian families. Dissent is not allowed- at all. You could get thrown out of your house, cut off from your family and torn from the community you’ve known all your lives. You can bet the Duggar kids know this.

Lack of empathy is necessary to behave this way towards people. It means that the NPD affected individual does not have the capacity to look at another person and see that person as a unique individual with feelings that are as strong and personal as oneself’s. Gay people, poor people, other people, children and spouses, well, they’re not really people to the NPD sufferer. They aren’t perceived as having true emotions, or love. They’re not allowed to be sad. Jeez, never say you’re upset about something to a person with NPD. You have no right to your feelings or personal needs. They don’t recognize that humanity in you. Only they are entitled to feelings. You are not.

If you don’t have empathy, it’s easier to be mean, cruel, unsympathetic and still sleep at night. I suppose this can vary throughout a NPD sufferer’s life but from what I have read, NPD sufferers tend to get worse as they age. In a way, this is understandable, especially if they are the religious NPD kind. It is likely that throughout their lifetime of religious zealotry, no one has adequately challenged them. That’s because in this society, we revere the religious devotee. We don’t see them as people who potentially have NPD. We simply see them as moral and godly. It is impolite to challenge them. It’s OK to say they’re nutz behind their backs but normal people who have empathy do not do this to other people’s faces. It might hurt their feelings. The religious NPD person counts on you to have respect for their feelings even as they have no intention of respecting yours. If you never challenge them, they get the idea that this religious gig is working for them. That makes it easier for them to control others, pass judgement and crap all over your life. They’ve been conditioned to behave intrusively.

The solution is to challenge the religious NPD sufferer. I’m not talking about the normal religious person who goes to church on Sunday and tells you about all the fun they had there. I’m referring to the person who conflates religion with their privilege to be part of the moral majority to tell you how to live. We are talking about the people who derive status from their judgmentalism.

We are now at a cross roads of sorts. If our evolving society wants to be inclusive and non-judgemental towards people whose lifestyles are none of our business, we have to become unpleasant towards people who have used religion as a screen behind which they hide their personality disorder. Those NPD sufferers have a very powerful media microphone right now and they are being used unwittingly by some very wealthy and well connected individuals who have a very specific agenda. The weird thing is that even knowing that they are tools of rich, powerful people might not be the turn off you would think it is. So, persistence is key here.

(If you DO successfully challenge, expect to be subjected to narcissistic rage. That’s a whole other blog post. It’s not like the kind of rage people experience rarely because they’re tired or frustrated with an ongoing situation with uncooperative people. No, this is something completely different. The mask comes off and you can see the real person hiding behind it. Their status and image has been threatened snd they want revenge. But once the mask comes off, you can’t be fooled again. You will see what all that religion has been hiding and it is not. pretty. Needless to say, it is not religious or holy either. Bill O’Reilly does narcissistic rage extremely well.)

Also, to challenge them, you simply need to reassert your boundaries. Their goal is to get you to lower your boundaries and allow them to control the conversation. They will rely on your conditioning to be polite to let them get away with it. Just don’t let them get away with it. If someone is intruding on your boundaries, THEY are the ones being rude. Assert your opinion until they either back down or go away. You have a right to believe that is not right to treat people badly, their families and loved ones unequally, just because some religious people find what they do behind closed doors icky. You have a right to demand that all public places and businesses treat everyone with courtesy, dignity and equality. You have the right to tell people that they’re being mean and their behavior is bullying and they need to stop or you’ll have nothing more to do with them. Deprive them of their status.

As Seth Andrews said last week, coexistence is not possible. Because if you back down in the name of coexistence and comity, they’re going to be the only ones speaking out about whatever the hell they want. Challenging the religious narcissist is not going to be easy or pleasant but it is vitally important because they are not going to stop with gay people.

Finally, people with NPD do not change. They aren’t going to have an epiphany and realize they have being bigoted jerks all their lives and suddenly become enlightened human beings. If they do, it’s because they see some advantage to it. They won’t change because NPD is a personality disorder. It is the way they see the world. They can’t change because they are not able to step outside the world they have carefully constructed for themselves. They will go to the grave wrecking vengeance on people who stood up to them. But eventually, they will go to their grave. That’s a prospect that the religious narcissist finds extremely unappealing. I predict you’ll find more religious NPD sufferers in rapture sects of Christianity because it is the ultimate status high. You never have to die but all those ungodly types who didn’t listen to you will.

So much for the whole resurrection concept. Happy Easter.

3.) The bus thing is going very well. Someone wrote in the comments yesterday that there is an attitude that only poor people take the bus. Well, I am here to tell you that if that’s true, they are incredibly smart poor people. The people on my bus are a diverse crowd but I’m just as likely to see businessmen in suits with briefcases and ladies in heels as anyone else.

In the last week, I’ve walked from a cold parking lot to a clean warm bus, read on the way, didn’t have to pay for parking and got off at my desired stop just a block from a Crazy Mocha where I was able to pick up a coffee and enjoy a nice brisk walk to my office.

I’d be stressed silly if I had to take a car downtown and pay for parking. So, mega Kudos to the PAT bus system, route P1 for making my life so easy last week. It was so much fun, I’m going to do it again next week.

The First Breakout Duggar?

My bet has always been Jessa and I might be right.

Let me back up and say that I don’t watch 19 Kids and Counting on a regular basis. For one thing, I cut the cord so any Duggar stuff I get is from YouTube.  But even with YouTube, it’s a bit much. And it’s intensely boring, if such a thing was possible. But every now and then, a Duggar girl starts to court and my curiosity is piqued, so I go back to some of those earlier videos and try to get a feel for the personality, what little is allowed to express itself.

I’ve been tracking Jessa for awhile now. Jinger has her own FreeJinger humanitarian campaign that was a response to her facial expressions and stated desire to move to New York City someday, a notion that was promptly squashed by her parents.

Jessa always looked like a spring that has been wound too tightly. Her “jurisdiction” in the Duggar household is organization. This girl would make a good general. Instead, she’s been stuck with this holier-than-thou family and their zillion kids and no way to get a decent education or go to work. Here and there in the videos, one Duggar or another has dropped hints that, unlike Jill, who was the perfect child and family valedictorian, Jessa was, to put it bluntly, a pain in the ass. She’s willful.  In DuggarWorld, that’s almost the worst sin.  It’s hinted that she’s difficult to get along with and that her husband Ben Seewald could have a balancing effect.

In the recent episode featuring Jill’s wedding, Jessa seems to have partially given up the pretense of loving the Duggar life.  She expresses dismay at the idea that Jill is going to start popping out babies. (she is) She tells her dad that if he stands in the way of her marriage with Ben Seewald that she’ll elope. She says it in a “kidding on the square” manner. It’s surprising that the TLC cameras kept that in because I thought it was a big tell. It’s becoming more and more clear that her courtship with Seewald was more lusty than her sister’s purer than Ivory Soap courtship with her new husband.

Then there was the root beer float comment.  Jinger goes on and on about how everyone at Jill’s wedding got their root beer floats and they were delicious. Then Jessa says with deadpan sincerity and perfect timing, “I don’t like root beer”. In other words, she’s not anything like the other Duggars and she doesn’t mind telling you that.

So, this was the kid who has been acting the part for 21 years but may be fed up. She’s not really cut out to be a Duggar. It’s not her thing.

She married last week. It was a bit of a surprise but in Duggar World, courtships are long and engagements are short. That’s to keep you from feeling each other up before the big day. I’ve found it a little weird that they would allow Jessa to court Seewald in the first place. They’ve got an older unmarried daughter who isn’t courting. Ben is only 18 or 19 and it’s clear that his interest is carnal. Well, maybe not exclusively but it’s hard to miss. She’s hot and has an amazingly photogenic face. So, I’m guessing that the Duggars figured it’s better to marry her off quickly than to let her get into trouble.

But then the big day arrives and Jessa struck her first blow at independence from the Duggar family. They said their vows, the pastor pronounced them, and Jim-Bob gave the official go ahead for Ben to kiss his daughter and they said NO.

They decided, like the rest of the sane world, that their first kiss is intimate and they needed privacy.  Imagine that, a DUGGAR finally sticks up for her right to have a moment to herself without a sibling minder, or chaperone, without a million people watching.  She decided that she could make up her own mind as to what was good for her without someone else imposing their expectations on her.

It came as a surprise to the rest of the church and Jim-Bob. I hope they were applauded. I know I certainly did when I read about it. So, Jessa and Ben didn’t kiss in front of a crowd of screaming fundies. Instead, they left the altar unkissed and made out in a room of the church after the ceremony. Rumor has it they had sex there too but that’s ridiculous. But what difference does it make what they did? It’s none of our business and none of their parents’ business either.

And if Jessa and Ben still end up being a couple of sanctimonious churchy types, I don’t expect it to last long. She’s already waaaaay ahead of some of her siblings in her mind. The crack has been open and Jessa is making a run for it.

BTW, Jessa posted a very unDuggar like lusty photo of her and Ben kissing.  It’s absolutely wonderful.

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.