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      Watch this video. It’s only 39 seconds. It’s worth it. What’s interesting to me about this video is NOT what Bernie says, it’s the reaction. It’s how genuinely uncomfortable the people interviewing him (The NYTimes editors) are. They really think he’s saying something terrible. Something awkward. Something embarrassing. What is he saying? “I ignore the […] […]
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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.

Judicial Mischief

Well, that didn’t take long.  The ink had barely dried on the Hobby Lobby case before a.) we learned that the ruling actually applied to *all* birth control, not just the ones Hobby Lobby erroneously decided were abortifacients, b.) Rick Warren, the evangelical lite preacher Obama insisted be shoved down our throats at his inauguration decided that asking him and his kind to associate with LGBT people at work was intruding on their “religious freedom” and c.) John Roberts was lying through his teeth when he said employers, like Wheaton College, would simply fill out a form to get their birth control exemption from Obamacare.

I’m guessing that it won’t take long for the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society to determine that none of its permanent unpaid interns at their Brooklyn and Bethel sites should get blood transfusions.  Oh, it could happen.

But the bigger problem is going to be the bureaucratic nightmare that now will descend on the labyrinthine monstrosity that is already Obamacare.  And, no, Paul Krugman, it is not all that.  The ACA is a horrible piece of legislation and I speak from experience since I don’t watch cable TV anymore.  You don’t have to be a Republican to absolutely hate it and every stupid destructive thing it has done to the workplace.

So, yeah.  It’s pretty bad right now.  On the other hand, this ruling could be the eucatastrophe that spurs the good side to victory down the road.  You know, a REAL national healthcare policy that’s genuinely universal and has cost controls.  One that doesn’t have holes open for the exploitation of working people and protects the rights of women and LGBT people.

Or not.  The Democrats seem to be in some sort of psychogenic fugue these days.  You would have thought they would have had a 24/7 internet news outlet where their supporters could go to get the best opinion and strategy but, um, I’m not aware of one.  Nor have I seen a line up of liberal clergy condemning this ruling and its implications.  It’s like the whole party sort of checked out.

What’s clear is that the Robert’s Court is determined to destabilize the culture in such a way as to create chaos.  I don’t think this ruling was motivated by the religious convictions of the majority.  I think it was motivated by the ideological convictions of the political party that nominated them.  But at this point, I’m not sure what their aims are.   Do they even know?  Or is it just a power trip without a purpose?  Because that’s what it looks like.

What we really need is a Churchill right about now.

 

Religious Narcissists and Ruth Bader-Ginsburg’s 8 best lines in her dissent

The religious narcissists think they have won this round but I guarantee you that this is only temporary.  Supreme Court justices die eventually.

When I talk about religious narcissists, I am referring to people who derive their self-worth and sense of superiority from their faith.  In this country, we have official separation of church and state but we worship those who worship.  Because we have a habit of deferring to the faithful, respectfully allowing them to propound on morality without interruption, religion has become another refuge for scoundrels.  Before you faithful go off on a hissy fit, allow me to clarify.  The Hobby Lobby case that was decided today does not reflect the views of all people of faith.  It reflects the views of a very narrow set of fundamentalist religious adherents whose voices have been magnified.

Let me explain why people who score high on the narcissism scale use religion to hide and how even more powerful narcissists use them to advance their goals.  To recap the characteristics of people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, here they are:

  • A grandiose sense of self-importance (may be shown as an exaggeration of abilities and talents, expectation that he or she will be seen as superior to all others).
  • Is obsessed with him- or herself.
  • Goals are almost always selfish and self-motivated.
  • Has troubles with healthy, normal relationships.
  • Becomes furious if criticized.
  • Has fantasies of unbound success, power, intelligence, love, and beauty.
  • Believes that he or she is unique and special, and therefore should only hang out with other special, high-status people.
  • Requires extreme admiration for everything.
  • Feels entitled – has unreasonable expectations of special treatment.
  • Takes advantage of others to further his or her own needs.
  • Has zero empathy – cannot (or will not) recognize the feelings of others.
  • May be envious of others or believe that others are envious of him or her.
  • Behaves arrogantly, haughtily.

– See more at: http://www.bandbacktogether.com/adult-children-of-Narcissistic-parents-resources/#sthash.HtiA1zJT.xqpRZ0p8.dpuf

If you can’t see how certain fundamentalist religions give the religious narcissist status, you haven’t been paying attention to Anita Bryant, Jerry Falwell, Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, Pat Robertson and the plethora of mega church pastors and their fan base over the past several decades.

We can argue about what triggered the events that lead to so many people to join fundamentalist religions in the 70’s and 80’s.  I think Reagan had a lot to do with it.  There was a whole swath of people in the late 70’s who were left out of the social revolutions of the mid-20th century.  They just missed the cutoff to join modernity.  There are a lot of Betty Drapers out there who were conditioned to accept the limited roles for women that the 50’s relegated them to and a lot of men who started to feel economic pressure and competition from younger women and african americans entering the workforce.  Conservatives tapped into that confusion and anger by aligning themselves with the religious right.

I went to an open house type of event sponsored by my brother’s church once and I was at once struck by the amplified emotions.  There was a band where the participants became instant rock stars, lots of heart wrenching images flashed on huge projector screens and little children were being led to small above ground pools where they were baptized.  It was unnerving.  There was too much noise, too much music in just the right major chord progressions, too much stimulation, too much MUCH.  The whole effect was like highjacking the sympathetic nervous system, to make the heart beat in time and stimulate the lacrymal ducts.  I couldn’t take it.  I felt coerced.

But that’s just me.

I walk around with type 4 deflector shields deployed because I know that a religious narcissist does not respect boundaries.  It’s part of what makes them so successful.  They feel entitled to intrude on your privacy, your morality, your belief system.  In our culture, we Americans give the religious permission to do this because we do not feel it is polite to tell them to stop.  If you do tell them to stop, you must be persistent and forceful.  You must be so persistent and forceful that they take offense. And since they call foul so often and our culture reinforces their superior moral status, they usually get away with what they’re up to.  In this manner, the plutocracy is able to use them as an engine to promote their economic agenda by coupling it with social conservatism.  I’m sure I am not revealing anything new to readers here.

The introduction of faith based initiatives has exacerbated the problem.  Now, the executive branch has the ability to give money without accountability to churches who have the power to shape their congregations’ political views.  The Republicans made the churches flush in the Bush administration but, curiously, the Obama administration has done little to dismantle the program.

So, now we have religious institutions crowded with people who do not respect boundaries and feeling their cheerios and unwittingly serving Mammon.

Today, the religious narcissists got another shot of narcissistic supply.  They are sitting high and straight and “puffed up”.  This won’t be the last time they get their hit as long as this Supreme Court is composed by these members.  Note that the three women justices are all on the losing end of each ruling.  It should be clear now that the government is being conscripted to dismantle any autonomy that women have.  If they can be forced to pay additionally for their reproductive protection, there’s really no limit what can be forced on women in the name of religion.  Why are they working outside the home at all?  Do they really need as much money as a man?  Men support families.  Women also support families but only bad women support families on their own.  Men have authority, therefore, they should be bosses.  Women aren’t supposed to speak in congregation according to Paul.  If my corporation is “closely held” and religious, isn’t that like a congregation?  Can’t this congregation make rules to suit it without the interference of the government?

It’s coming.

But, like I said earlier, it’s not all religions that behave this way.  The mainstream protestant churches, especially those who ordain women, don’t seem to behave this way.  I hope we hear from them soon. It’s only the fundamentalist sects and fringe elements that attract a disproportionate number of narcissists that we need to worry about.  Nevertheless, it’s time we start to take on the religion industry in this country and one of the first places to start is by making a big stink over the faith based initiatives.  There’s no reason we need to give the religious narcissists more power with tax payer money.  I don’t care who is in the White House.  Find another, more ethical way to win elections.

We, on the other hand, must learn to identify the narcissist in religious clothing and make them feel unwanted and unpopular even at the risk of incurring their wrath.  And, yes, they will get very, very angry.  But better an angry genie in a bottle than a content one on the loose wrecking havoc.

Deploy your shields.

In the meantime, Ruth Bader-Ginsburg writes that the court has “ventured into a minefield” with this ruling.  Among her best lines from her dissent are:

“Approving some religious claims while deeming others unworthy of accommodation could be ‘perceived as favoring one religion over another,’ the very ‘risk the [Constitution’s] Establishment Clause was designed to preclude.”

and

“It bears note in this regard that the cost of an IUD is nearly equivalent to a month’s full-time pay for workers earning the minimum wage.”

Read the rest here.