Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Pastor Blog 2.

            I love the dictionary. In my long years attending Bible Study Fellowship, I was taught that the dictionary could help us start with a clear understanding of what words mean so that we can speak about them cogently. It is a habit that I have come to love as an atheist. My skeptical mind wants you to notice what is NOT referenced in that definition. There is not one mention of sexual behavior or any appeal to a deity or ancient tome. In fact, there is only a communal understanding of what right and wrong and agreed upon. The implication is that each person knows and can see what is right and wrong and that the society at large in the form of social constructs and laws have agreed together what is morality. My personal definition, and one that agreed upon by very many, is that moral behavior is that which seeks the improvement of my life along with the improvement of the lives of those around me. The improvement of my life will not impair the improvement of the lives of those around me. My pastor friend has chosen the second of my questions to answer. He has written a blog about it here

            In this question, I wanted to know why Christians are really obsessed with behaviors that DO NOT impact society at large, least of all them INSTEAD of focusing PRIMARILY on the sheer number of people starving in our society, let alone ENTIRE GLOBE, every single day. Social ills in the world that actually are causing harm are copiously absent from the majority of the average believer’s timeline. (I have some really lovely notable exceptions to that rule and I love you people.) The average Christian these days is posting about the horror that is women using the women’s room in Target. Here is his response to that. I had to sit and stare in wonder at the levels of ignorance and pride in this answer. I’ll let you see what I saw,

            Why do Christians care about which bathroom a transgender person uses?
I can think of a few answers to this one:
  1. Christians and other religious people tend to be more concerned with privacy and modesty than the general population. This comes from our emphasis on sexual purity. Granted, Christians have done a terrible job of consistently upholding the lessons of the faith regarding sexual purity. Our hypocrisy on this topic is great.
  2. Christians highly value submitting to the will of God. Many Christians believe that a person who embraces a gender other than their biological sex has chosen a path of rebellion against the created order. The conservative Christian opposition to the LGBTQ worldview is partially based on a commitment to biblical sexual ethics, but it is also based upon a commitment to the “natural order” of creation.
  3. Christians in America are frightened by a world that is growing increasingly secular particularly because the past 400+ years of life in North America has been very favorable to the Christian worldview, and the prospect of losing the privileged status of Christianity is threatening. There is a religious reason for this fear, and I will address it below as well.
  4. Most of all, Christians believe that the morality taught in the Bible is not just commanded by God but beneficial for humans. Therefore, Christians draw the conclusion that when a society displays biblical morality, everyone wins overall. However, this attitude has caused two related problems. First, Christians often feel as if we must act as the moral police in our world. Secondly, Christians have failed to treat all moral issues equally, and have put undue emphasis on certain moral issues ignoring others.
As a result of these four things, Christians feel that normalizing transgenderism violates God’s created order, blurs the lines of modesty and privacy, threatens religious freedom, and will cause societal harm that must be spoken against.

            So far, I have some lovely reasons for why Christians should not engage in these behaviors, but has offered no reason why a non-Christian should act like Christians. He has said that Christians fear consequences and that there is societal harm. He fails miserably at saying what those consequences are and what He makes vague allusion to the “created” or what he means is “natural” order. He does not say what societal harm or privacy violations there are when women use the women’s bathroom. But boy there are some wide open barn doors in even this reasoning. The Christian might be able to swallow this pile of fecal matter from the great almighty, but I have lost the capacity. I will start with the natural order of this world. I love how Christians talk about the animal kingdom and the peg and hole designs of our bodies as proof that their god has shown us how to behave and what is good. When this argument appears in my life, it is like Saturnalia has come early and that lovely pagan god dressed in red, has gifted me with a big yummy present under my penis praising Saturnalia tree. Here is a link to 12 animal species that change sex in the absence of a certain sex. It just happens to them. In the course of their lives they are born either male or female and because life happened to them, they found themselves the opposite of where they started. According to nature, this is absolutely normal and not anything to be startled about. Or how about these 1,500, yes ONE THOUSAND FIVE HUNDREND, species that practice same sex acts to resolve disputes and because they seem to like each other. The article states that pairs of male dolphins can staytogether for years. Of course what you do not see very often in the animal kingdom is straight, life-long monogamy. This article states that only 3-5% of all animals practice life-long monogamy. It seems that if we look to the natural order, sex is something that is dependent on each individual and not a group dynamic. Apparently, giraffes love to be gay and exhibit more homosexual behaviors than hetero ones. So, that whole, “natural” or (gags on this term) “created” order of things is pretty much empty hollering. In fact males do have holes for other males to interact with and ALSO a known fact that there are some Christian women that LOVE anal penetration, but seeing as their anuses  are more… ahem…. “holy” ….. (snort) the godly spouse can penetrate that without fear he likes anuses…. I mean, men.
            But when have Christians been concerned with reality? He goes on. There is a lot of Bible verse quoting and apologizing for not being loving and the fact that Christians break these rules a lot but he ends here (Do remember I posted a link to the entire article.) Skipping a bit, I pick up here with his conclusion:

            So to conclude this point about modesty, privacy and sexual purity, Christians give these issues a great deal of attention because sexual immorality is a grievous sin for those who would follow Christ, and living in a modest society will be a spiritual benefit to everyone in it. However, Christians are at fault for giving these issues too much airtime while ignoring other sins like greed and slander and for judging the unbelieving world by a standard that was only supposed to apply to other believers.
This all helps to explain why Christians are opposed to transgenderism, but it doesn’t give an excuse for how they have opposed it.
The concern for submitting to the will of God is another key motivator for Christians opposing transgenderism and the sexual ethics of the LGBTQ worldview. Granted, there are some church traditions that embrace the entire LGBTQ worldview, but conservative Christians still reject it on the grounds that (1) the Bible opposes it and (2) natural law opposes it. Nevertheless, both of these grounds are actually the same at heart: the desire to submit to the will of the Creator God. The only reason to obey the Bible is to submit to God’s will, and the only reason to value natural law is to honor the Creator.
Christians therefore oppose the LGBTQ worldview because it is incompatible with submission to our Creator.

            Apparently our “Creator” wants us to be gay and polyamorous, but that is me actually looking at real nature. Not the nature that came off of the fairy land Noah’s ark boat in Kentucky. I need proof that living in a modest society is a spiritual benefit. The proof that I see is that the strict adherence to Judeo-Christian sexual standards is completely really bad for people. More on this later.

            He then talks about how “bad” “secularist” governments are. See, he is very confused. I will cut and paste:
            The fear of a secularized society is another motivation for Christians to oppose the current culture shift. Christians who are committed to the sexual ethics of the Bible are growing more and more aware that living in a secular society will demand they compromise their beliefs in public life or face ostracism when they hold their convictions in public life. So far, North American Christianity has experienced a level of religious freedom unmatched in the history of the world. There has been no moral command in the Bible opposed by American society until recently. Now, though, the society is embracing a sexual ethic that is directly opposed to the teaching of the Bible, and Christians are scared of the consequences.
As I said before, there are real reasons for this fear. One reason for this fear is that religious persecution has been around for nearly forever, but historically, it has been the worst in those societies that fully embraced secularism. Whether you are talking about Soviet Russia, North Korea, or China in our modern day or Rome of old (Yes, despite the Roman Pantheon, Rome was a very secularized society), Christians have always faced intense persecution in secularized societies. Another reason for this fear is that it will make difficult what Christians consider their “Great Commission” the spreading of the good news of Jesus to others. Yes, in a fully secularized society, Christians are afraid that it will be more difficult to share their faith.

            Oh this is just adorable. He is correct in that these governments are “secular,” but what he also fails to notice or see is that they are mainly “Authoritarian.” Authoritarian dictatorship was done by Christians first and best during the middle ages. Catholic Queen Isabela was the best example Authoritarian leadership. If you did not like or agree with her Catholic only rules, you could go enjoy the comfort of her Spanish Inquisition. The issue with those evil governments was not that they were secularist, (Dear Jeff, America is a secularist government) but rather that they were Authoritarian and did not allow for other points of view. Secular atheist governments like the ones found in Scandinavia are reporting high numbers of health and happiness and very low numbers in crime and despair. This quote underscores that separation of church and state is not new, but rather it was the cornerstone of our government. Here is a litany of quotes about how secular America is supposed to be:
“The Government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.” ~1797 Treaty of Tripoli signed by Founding Father John Adams”
“I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibit the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state.” ~Founding Father Thomas Jefferson, letter to the Baptists of Danbury, Connecticut, 1802”
“In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own. It is error alone that needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself.” ~Founding Father Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to Horatio Spofford, 1814
“Every new and successful example of a perfect separation between ecclesiastical and civil matters is of importance.” ~Founding Father James Madison, letter, 1822
“When a religion is good, I conceive it will support itself; and when it does not support itself, and God does not take care to support it so that its professors are obligated to call for help of the civil power, it’s a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one.” ~Founding Father Benjamin Franklin, letter to Richard Price, October 9, 1780

            I don't want an "atheist government". I'm not even sure what that would look like. I want a *secular* government. I want my government to keep the hospitals running, the roads in good condition, make sure the garbage is collected, govern economic policy, implement law and order, and when they set laws and pursue social policy I want them to do it based on solid evidence, not on a faith I do not share or reference to scriptures which, when not viewed through the lens of that faith seem archaic and scarcely relevant. I want a government that doesn't see it as their business to tell people what they can and cannot believe. That is not, nor should be, what government is for.
            This is, as far as I know, what pretty much every atheist I have ever met wants out of their government too. When Christians cherry pick Stalin or Pol Pot as their examples of "atheist" government, I take that as a slight to my character. It would be far easier to take Christian critiques of atheism seriously is they addressed atheists as they actually are instead of demonizing and othering them and turning them into childish bogeymen.
            If they want to know what kind of government atheists want, even if it's only for the purpose of criticizing it, perhaps they should try researching atheists' writings on the matter (of which there are plenty) and engaging with them and asking pertinent questions instead of uncritically accepting the frankly insulting propaganda preached to them from the pulpit.
            In fact, in all cases, a secular government is absolutely the best option. The fear that Christians have in finding out other people’s values are as important to them as Christians values are to Christians is they losing the special privileges they had heretofore enjoyed. Christians are not losing any rights at all. Authoritarian systems are completely broken and need to stop. I can’t help but to think that Christian families and on too many levels, conservative churches are run just like little authoritarian governments. Authoritarian leaders are damaging leaders. The fact that he thinks that a secular government lead by people who did not inject their religion into everything would be an evil government is a personal insult not only to me as an atheist, it is an insult to the high American ideal of a completely free civil government that meets the needs of the people so that they could be free to worship or not worship as they chose. Dear Christians, women using the women’s restroom is not an issue that takes away any of your access to any restroom you choose, metaphorically and literally.
            I would now like to speak out the unending damage done by Christians and churches, divorce and marriage, and the mind raping “Purity culture.” But first, a word from our pastor friend,
            Okay, you caught us. North American Christians are selfish. We are hypocrites, and we haven’t solved the biggest problems in the world, nor have we spoken out as loudly about global poverty as we have about homeland sexual ethics. But do not conclude that Christians don’t care about the big problems in the world. In fact, a great argument can be made that Christians are almost always the first to care about the big problems in our world. 
            Now, I do not want to down play the list of nice things Christians have done through the ages and are doing today. I just wonder where all that charitable taxable money is going. Right now, this article, is saying that $30 billion a year is needed to end world hunger. This link says that in 2014 $114 billion was donated to churches. So, it is true that Christians are leading the charge on donating money, but where in the useless name of their ridiculous god is it going? We are talking about less than 30% of their annual budget eradicating WORLD HUNGER. I see that Clear River built a new church they are in debt to the bank to finish, Faith Church is planning yet another church building improvement, and what do these pastors actually make a year anyways? But don’t worry, while this incorporeal god needs a fancy pants house whose doors are locked to the down trodden, people are starving in the streets. It is all good. Thank you Christians for all that tithing you do! I can see the difference every time I drive past your ridiculous edifices.
            But you are correct. Atheists do need to donate more money. These famous people can’t carry us all, but they are the most famous philanthropists of our times. They are also atheists. Also in our very heavily “everyone claims Christian on their stupid census paper,” country, finding people who claim Christianity and donate isn’t hard. The question is where is the money going?
            Back to the harm done by this OVERFOCUSING on sexual morality versus morality. A word from Jeff:
Therefore, the best way to answer the question is this:
  1. Christians have legitimate biblical and moral reasons for opposing the societal acceptance of the LGBTQ worldview. (That word legitimate. I do not think it means what YOU think it means.)
  2. Christians have frequently done so in an improper fashion, offering more judgment than love and overemphasizing sexual morals. (I am going to address the ridiculous damage that has done next.)
  3. Nevertheless, Christians have not allowed that issue to distract them from the humanitarian causes that have been at the core of Christianity for centuries. (Numbers do not lie. Where is the money going Jeff? They give a LOT OF MONEY and you listed charities. But you and I both know that the money is going to the care and keeping of church houses and… well… you.)
  4. Still, they tend to get the most vocal over societal moral issues which leads people in the non-Christian world into thinking that we care more about people’s morality than about their dignity. (It is the shrill screaming and the RFRA discrimination laws that keep getting passed. Also our illustrious Christian governor took away money from preschools and women’s health. Far be it from me to get confused.)
Christians have at times failed to speak about what is most important, but we have, with a few exceptions, led the way in almost every area of humanitarian concern.
            I left Christianity. My mother told me that she and I had nothing of importance in common anymore and because I had slept with my now fiancé Ross Balmer and am also an atheist, I “have no morals to speak of.” She yelled that last bit to my face in the door of my ex’s house where she lives. She yelled that to me in front of and in the hearing of my children. “Mommy what does Nanny mean by that?” Oh nothing kids, it is grown up stuff. I have morals, Nanny is struggling right now. Abuse and PTSD. I spend a lot of time in the groups that cater to ex-churched people. Some of these people are still trying to cling to Jesus and some are walking away. I have left mythologies completely behind.
            Christians are so completely out of touch with what morality is and isn’t they go around like pious children asking questions like these “Is a husband selfish for having sex with his wife when she is not in the mood?” and getting the answer that “….a Christian wife should never give her husband a flat no, BUT she can humbly and gently ask for a delay. There may be legitimate physical or mental issues that might prompt your wife to ask you for a delay.  But this must be done humbly and respectfully, and always with the attitude in mind that her body does belong to her husband.” All of this is taught from pulpits and makes women completely powerless in their lives. A Christian woman’s no does not mean no. Which leads to this mess
“’Rape culture,’ as young feminists now call this, isn’t limited to India. It lives anywhere that has a “traditional” vision of women’s sexuality. A culture in which women are expected to remain virgins until marriage is a rape culture. In that vision, women’s bodies are for use primarily for procreation or male pleasure. They must be kept pureWhile cultural conservatives would disagree, this attitude gives men license to patrol—in some cases with violence—women's hopes for controlling their lives and bodies. In October, responding to Richard Mourdock's incredible comment about rape, I mentioned an absolutely essential piece by The Nation's Jessica Valenti in a way I want to reprise here, if you'll excuse the self-quotation:  
            As Tennessee Senator Douglas Henry said in 2008, “Rape, ladies and gentlemen, is not today what rape was. Rape, when I was learning these things, was the violation of a chaste woman, against her will, by some party not her spouse.” In other words, only virgins can be raped—sweetly white-gloved, white-skinned virgins. Any woman who ever wanted sex—yes, that includes married women who unconditionally give permission when they put on that ring—deserves what she gets." 
            This is the ugliest side of the Christian Authoritarian movement. If we follow that Christians’ “legitimate” concerns for a society being run opposite to what they see as important in terms of stopping LGBTQ and focusing on Christian marriages looks a lot like an agenda that is known to be psychologically scarring and permanently damaging. Religion prohibits things that people are going to do anyways like eat certain foods and have sex, then when they break these prohibitions, they need to go back to the religion for forgiveness. when we step outside of religion and embrace normal, healthy, clearly natural, human sexuality we are confident and no longer in need of going back and groveling to the religion for forgiveness. Purity culture keeps people in shackles of fake sins and thus keeps the religion alive while killing the members in psychological torment and self-doubt. This obsession with who is sinning and who isn't inculcates a cycle of obsession through false piety (IF I follow this rule, I am pious), the guilty, thrilling pleasure of breaking this rule (I think I can get away with keeping this secret); and finally the release of false guilt by admitting the fake sin to the church (I can be free from my addiction.) When you remove the prohibitions on normal, healthy, sexual behaviors, you remove this weird addictive pattern. We see this is mostly Christian states where churches are the loudest groups and marriages all have god in them. This article talks about the church’s embarrassing porn issues. That link is from Christianity Today, not "Atheists are us." Seems those Christian marriages are not as happy as they report on surveys. You see, Christians are taught to lie because if they do not lie, they have to go through reprogramming in the form of counseling with the pastor. Lying about the reality of the situation lead to this child keeping her sexual abuse a secret because she felt guilt and shame. When she finally did step forward with what was happening, she was scorned as a temptress and it was further rubbed in that her stepfather was blameless in these moments. Now, at this point, you are saying how rare and awful this is, how unheard of in our church circles. I tell you that isn’t at all true. In 1998, when I was 21 and about to marry my fiancé, Don Whipple of Kossuth Street Baptist church in Lafayette, Indiana told me in his office, “Now Karen, there is no such thing as rape in marriage.” I have told that story many many many times, everyone plays it off or ignores it. That man gave that advice out for decades and did not stop. In 2016, when a friend I’d had for years, wanted to tell me about her divorce in 2014 and how Don Whipple had counselled her and her ex in his office, he looked at her and said, “Now ‘Ana’ (name changed), you know there is no such thing as rape in marriage.” How many women do you think suffered in silent hell repeating his words over and over in their minds? How many men got a free pass to just ill use their wives and rape them whenever the mood hit? This is not in some place we don’t know with people we can’t ask, what crimes does Don Whipple have on his hands, personally? Rape in marriage is not some fringe outer Christian fundamentalist view, it is the NORM. I turn to you Jeff Mikels and say, “As a secular humanist with the best interests of actual people on my heart, what are the Christian’s legitimate concerns for homosexuals to openly marry? My attention is now taken up with all manner of legitimate concerns for Christian women in Christian marriages.”
            My sexual morality focuses on consent. Please refer to my definition of general morality. My life improving should not impede or damage the improvement of other people. So, I will never rape another living soul whether I am married to him or her. I will always seek consent and what happens between consenting adults who are happy and enjoying themselves has absolutely no consequences on my life at all. I do not understand what you mean by, “Christians fear the consequences of a society that accepts the LGBTQ community.” I fear the consequences of having women I work with broken down by nightly raping from their godly husbands. My fears are validated as it seems that depression and mental illness seems to be on the rise in the Christian culture. This article sites a study that was conducted thusly: “Entitled ‘Spiritual and religious beliefs as risk factors for the onset of major depression: an international cohort study’, the relationship with religious and spiritual belief was investigated in depth by researchers led by Professor Michael King from University College London. Over 8,000 people visiting general practices across seven countries were followed up at six and 12 months. The general practices were in the UK, Spain, Slovenia, Estonia, the Netherlands, Portugal and Chile. These general practices covered urban and rural populations with considerable socio-economic variation.” And that found this: “People who held a religious or spiritual understanding of life had a higher incidence of depression than those with a secular life view. However, this finding varied by country; in particular, people in the UK who had a spiritual understanding of life were the most vulnerable to the onset of major depression.” 
               So, after digging through all of these articles and statistics, Jeff, my concerns are more founded and real than yours. There again, you never really said what your concerns were about happily married people living in your neighborhood and walking their dogs, did you?