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      One of the great crimes and tragedies of our world is how we treat the animals we eat (or whose milk or eggs or other products we eat and use.) Factory farming keeps them in tiny enclosures, feeds them monotonous foods, and then when they’re slaughtered it’s a terrible experience: they’re terrified and die in […]
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Wolf Hall, Arkansas and New Zealand #WeAreApostates

Mark Gattis as political priest Stephen Gardiner in Henry VIII’s court.

There’s a tryptych that doesn’t seem to go together, eh?

On this side of the Atlantic, there wasn’t that much of a big deal about Wolf Hall, the BBC adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s two novels, Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies. If you haven’t had a chance to see the series, check out PBS before it’s too late and you won’t be able to find the episodes on it’s unnecessarily complicated website.

One complaint I have about the television version is that it was too short. It could have easily been three times longer. It left out several characters that I liked, like Thomas Wyatt, and skimmed over the enigma of Jane Seymour.  And then there was the impact of the Renaissance and international banking on the medieval, feudal world. It’s the three estates all over again. What was lost was the reality of who ran the government, what little there was, back then. Primarily, it was the nobility who were appointed to their offices through birth. “Oh, yes”, you say, “I learned that back in 8th grade. There’s nothing new about that.” I thought that too until I really understood what that meant. It meant that all you needed to become the treasurer or whatever was to be born into the right family. You didn’t need any other qualification. You could be perfectly shitty at your job. Didn’t matter. Your inherited wealth and status gave you automatic access to the Privy Council. A self-made, educated man who rose on his merits, had no real right to be there.

Same with the clergy. They ran a good chunk of England. During the Peasant’s Revolt of the late 14th century, the abbeys and monasteries did not side with the peasants. No, no, no. They were as much a part of the feudal aristocracy as the nobility and had even less of an incentive to cooperate with any national government. Their liege lord was in Rome. In order to bring England into the 16th century, Cromwell had to strip them of their power locally. You can bet they had their daggers poised for him after that.

Mantel has been praised for her research on Cromwell and what he tried to accomplish. He thought wars were a waste of money and thought that infrastructure projects would be a better way of keeping the population calm and under control. He was opposed in this by the nobility and the clergy who thought that poverty was God’s divine will. Why mess with it by taxing the rich? Somewhere recently in a podcast I’d heard that the stronger the social safety net in a country, the less religious it is. That’s because the common person doesn’t have to continually turn to God and charity to have his or basic needs met.

Well, the religious will have none of that. No wonder they joined up with conservative and politically connected rich people in the 30s to undermine the New Deal. You can read all about it in nauseating detail in the book One Nation Under God: How Corporate America invented Christian America.

So, you know, nothing new under the sun. And we’re still fighting the same wars between the aristocracy, the clergy and the commoner.

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

I’ve never been a Duggar fan, as many of you well know. Still, I find it really sad that this family has been brought down by their actions 12 years ago when their eldest son Josh was found to have been forcibly fondling his sisters while they were sleeping. First it’s sad because if he were just a regular kid instead of a TV celebrity, he might have been forced to register as a sex offender. This is what the Duggar fan base would have demanded of any other person. Secondly, but no less importantly, it’s sad for his sisters who were brought up to consider their bodies as a no touch zone for any other reason than procreation. I can only imagine what they were thinking. Were they now impure? Would any man want them after that? Instead of getting family counseling, they probably were cautioned to not tempt their older brother.

And let’s just be honest here, although he was 14-16 when this all happened, it’s probably not all that uncommon. It’s serious because it went on for a long period of time and the parents did almost nothing when they became aware of it. But I still don’t think that makes Josh the kind of pedophile that some Christians would like to make him out to be. I think it made him a troubled young person in the middle of adolescence with a ton of younger siblings and parents who admit that they parentify their older kids. That’s negligence on their part. What’s awful is that the Duggar parents have isolated these young people in an artificially created world where they imagine the only hormones their daughters will come in contact with will be from the outside world through the discerning curating eye of their father. It’s insane. Something like this was bound to happen.

I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a lot more going on between the siblings than we think, even without Josh present. It could happen. They’re not allowed to date, they’re not in proximity with future mates for long enough to make their own choices. Should we be surprised that some of them turn to each other? They’re human beings, not model Christian soldiers. And with 19 kids in the family, some of them are going to be gay. Whether the parents approve or not, whether that poor kid(s) has to stay in the closet for a very long time, gay is going to be there. That kid or kids knows that the minute they are exposed, they’re going to be permanently ostracized or retrained. That’s sad.

But what really annoys me is that all of the focus is on making Josh Duggar to be some kind of pedophilic monster at the age of 14 when he really needed a good psychologist, and almost no attention on the radical, reactionary, mean spirited messages that his work with the Family Research Council promoted. Specifically, he and his family has gone on a tear hooking up with right wing politicians to portray LGBT individuals as disgusting, sex-crazed pedophiles who do not deserve equal protection under the law.

So, let this be a teachable moment for Josh. A lot of the godly types will find it in their hearts to forgive him for his adolescent indiscretions. But there will be quite a few who will now insist that he’s a sick, twisted sex addict who shouldn’t be allowed to be around children, whether or not his hormones have achieved their proper balance and outlet or not. Ah, yes, the backlash has started already. So much for Christian redemption. Once a 14 year old violator, always a 14 year old violator. Let’s see how he likes being treated like a paraiah by the fear conditioned Fox News junkies who used to worship his family.

They thought the Duggars had self-control. Apparently not. That smells like betrayal. Will it make them sit and think about why it is so important that right wing religious leaders feel it’s important to make the poor, women and the LGBT community out to be lazy, subservient and disgusting and how that might be tied to a 80 year initiative by the wealthy and religious to take back their feudal rights and getting rid of programs they hate like Social Security?

Probably not. That requires changing the channel.

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

I recommend to you another podcast from John Dehlin’s amazing podcast, Mormon Stories. (I wish I could donate, John, but no permanent full time job yet. Sorry.)

I can’t stress how good Dehlin is in terms of interviewing people. But it’s more than that. Mormon Stories is about the evolution of religion through the experiences of one man as he journeys out of the faith of his ancestors to, well, we don’t know what yet but it’s very exciting.

His latest podcast is with Gina Colvin, a half Maori Mormon from New Zealand. The first part of the podcast is about Gina’s background. It’s very colorful and entertaining. But the second part is the one that got my attention. In it, Gina describes her interaction with “Utah” Mormons, which are very different from Kiwi Mormons. She expresses her surprise and anger with the way that American Mormons are using their power to export an extremely conservative religious and political brand on the rest of the world. In one instance, she recounts how the Utah Mormon church has been trying to rouse its Christchurch Mormons to oppose gay equality in New Zealand. That, Gina says, was a lost cause. Gay equality and marriage in New Zealand was already part of the constitution. There was no going back, no way for the local Mormon church to oppose it and, more importantly, nobody cares.

She also says that a Utah Mormon official told her that Mormons are politically conservative. They are not allowed to be lefties. You just need to hear it to get a sense of how determined the unholy alliance of religion and right wing politics is to spreading its messages of fear, exclusion and cruelty around the world.

True story.

I liked this podcast because it was so cheerful and optimistic at the end, in spite of the crazy excommunications.

Worth a listen. Check it out here.

I get the feeling that the tide is turning against the religious right. It might be finally happening that it’s iron grip on the world is starting to slip. The world is evolving without them and getting impatient.

I especially like this brief post about Puritanism over at Lance Mannion’s blog:

Is this what we want, a grim, self-accusing, self-scolding, self-denying, self-abnegating, perversely and masochistically stoic, fearfully church-going citizenry, jealous, suspicious, defensively accepting of their lot in the certain, complacent, and stubborn knowledge that things could be worse without considering that they could also be better and asking why they’re not and how they could be made that way?

I’ve asked myself the same question for four decades. The answer is no, but how we reduce the influence of the Puritans without reprogramming is going to be very hard as long as we as a country reward the religious, no matter how fundamentalist they are.

Saturday: Cranky, old Christians

Nurses' Union members in Zuccotti Park

I found this prayer request from The Family Research Council from a link at Hullabaloo.  The religious right is using every trick in the book to keep the Christians from defecating.  Er, defecting.  I don’t know which.  Every time I’ve been to Occupy Wall Street at Zuccotti Park in Manhattan, I see a lot of perfectly normal looking people in the middle of the park, talking, laughing, socializing, having spontaneous meetings.  Oh, sure, there’s a thin layer of some bizarre looking “occupiers” hired straight out of central casting, no doubt.  I give Rove and his disciples the credit for that and no one will convince me otherwise.  Those creatures don’t really have a point they want to discuss.  They’re just there to frighten away the cranky old Christians.

But listen to what the Family Research Council says about the Occupations:

Days of Rage Turn Violent — The expanded Wall Street Occupation is endorsed by labor unions, liberal mayors, governors, the White House, the American Nazi and Communist parties, ACORN, Hollywood enertainers and a long list of supra-liberal and liberal groups, not the least of which is the liberal media. Encampments in major cities, including Washington, DC, are not only a nuisance, a health hazard and an embarassment to thinking Americans, they are increasingly becoming violent. Ideological anarchists intimidate and abuse bystanders, damage automobiles, jump on and in front of moving vehicles, urinate and defacate on private and public property, go naked and perform sex acts in public, produce tons of garbage that taxpayers have to collect and haul away, etc. Yet the mainstream press, which villainized the Tea Party movement, after long ignoring it, flagrantly idealizes the Occupiers and ignores the damage and ugly crimes happening in most places where an occupation is in progress. Fortunately the movement is “losing its bloom,” and beginning to die out. The honeymoon among these diverse activists may be coming to an end (see ViolenceMedia Ignores Violence,Bloom FadingSplitTime to EndOriginal PlanBroken Windows).

  • May the movement simply fizzle. May God protect those who live nearby and must encounter these raucus groups. May God harvest souls for Christ from among them just as He did discontented youth in  the Jesus Movment of the 60’s and 70’s (1 Sam 22:1-2; 2 Chr 15:4-7; Ps 18:40-50; Is 42:14-18; Lk 19:39-40; Rom 8:15-16; 10:20).

How come I always miss the orgies?  And how did we ever get the Nazis AND the communists to collaborate?  Jeez, doesn’t the Family Research Council know anything about the difference between Nazis, *real* socialists and communists?  Or are they just repeating trigger words in order to provoke a trance like response in the target audience.  Nazis, pray, defecators, socialists, nuisance, communists, violence, Nazis.  Lather, rinse, repeat.  I’ve got an idea!  Let’s go through the right wing literature and talk radio and tv broadcasts and count how many times and in what context the words “nazis”, “fascists”, “socialists” and “communists” turn up.  We can compare it to the lead up to the Iraq War where Bush and his lackeys made sure to say “Al Qaeda”, “weapons of mass destruction” and “Saddam Hussein” together all the time.  If I heard that all day long on the news, I might be scared stupid into thinking that Saddam Hussein had trucked off a bunch of chemical weapons to the desert where he and his Al Qaeda buddies were going to launch them on missiles that would reach the United States in 45 minutes.  Can you believe people actually got suckered into believing that crap?

The technical word for that is psychological manipulation and it works.  Skillful practitioners can make even perfectly rational people putty in his hands with the right reframing and trigger words.  That’s why I tell people to never get their news from TV or radio.  I think it’s easier to reframe with an audio format, much harder to do when you read it because your eye can spot the pattern.

I can say with pretty good authority that I have never seen tons of garbage at Zuccotti park.  The occupiers are almost anal (maybe a bad choice of words) in their committment to cleaning up and recycling.  They’ve even built  trash and recycle stations out of recyclable cardboard.

And another thing they did was start a kitchen.  Yep, it smells delicious.  You can walk right up and get something to eat.  No one will read a bible to you or make you feel ashamed of your plight or pray over you to ask you to accept Jesus as your personal savior in return for a meal.  If you have a problem because you are angry or frustrated or unemployed, there is a counselor available you can talk to.

Yes, it looks a bit disorganized.  Getting 99% of the population together to discuss what the hell happened to them in the last 30 years is hard.  You’ve got people from all different walks of life, young people, old people.  No, really, there are older women in Zuccotti park that are indistinguishable from the ones who volunteer for after services potluck lunches at church complete with cream of mushroom soup hot dish casseroles.  And you don’t need a PhD.  There are a lot of very smart people who never went to college.  They may be entertainers or union people or anyone.

But the Family Research Council wants to make their members terrified to go anywhere near those occupations.  That’s why their friends in the Republican party pay the weirdos to go hang out there.  Or ask them to stir up trouble.  Because if a cranky old Christians actually went to an occupation, they might find themselves right at home among the 99%, provided they can refrain from making converts.

In fact, the surest way the Family Research Council has to make the occupation “fizzle” is to send Christians down to occupation sites to convert the occupiers.  Yep, nothing like a bunch of pain-in-the-ass, persistent, self-righteous, hyper-religious evangelicals for breaking up a good thing.  Just a heads up to the occupiers.  They may be headed your way and are harder to get rid of than violent anarchists.  Well, I’m sure you can handle this.  😉

What kind of messed up people would pray for the downtrodden to lose hope in their struggle against the rich?  That doesn’t sound even remotely Christian to me.  What the cranky old Christian may need is some mind altering drugs, not that they’re going to find them at an occupation (unless Rove’s droogs are selling them).  I’ve read studies of the effect of magic mushrooms on people in controlled experiments.  Psilocybin can lift moods, has long term psychological effects and tends to make people more compassionate afterwards.  Maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad thing to spike their tea to mellow those people out and rejuvenate them and make them nice.  Because compassion is what they seriously lack even as they have an excess of prayers.