Friday, October 6, 2017

Birth Controlled

This Is How Violence Is Cutting Off Reproductive Choices Gina Rushton, Buzzfeed News August 14, 2017.

SO, today there is news that the DT administration is enthusiastically continuing both the destruction of the Obama legacy and the Republican war on women. The decimated and laughably named Health and Human Services department of the US government issued new rules today which will allow a “broad range of employers -- including nonprofits, private firms and publicly traded companies” to withhold contraceptive coverage through their employee health plans. Since I am pretty much drained of the ability to express fresh outrage any more this week, I am posting something I wrote a few years ago on the subject of the Republicans, the Christian right wing and the agenda to subjugate women through reproductive control. It’s long-ish but let’s face it — this bullshit has been going on so long, and in so many twisted ways and through so many underhanded attacks on women’s autonomy and ability to live independent lives-— maybe even an essay this long cannot adequately cover it.

Wait, Consent Means WHAT?  (originally published May 1, 2012)

Individual freedom and the right to bodily autonomy - the principles behind our understanding of consent - were the principles upon which many of us assume the Supreme Court's Roe v Wade decision was based, although the case itself was focused on a citizen's right to privacy around making decisions concerning her bodily autonomy and medical care.  Laws which deny a woman the right to bodily autonomy - including laws that deny a woman the right to control what happens to her own body in favor of giving any potential fetus the "right" to use her body against her will or without her consent - are an unconstitutional denial of individual freedom because they relegate a woman to a legal status that is less than human. The legal precedent that a woman actually has the right to consent to the risks and responsibilities of pregnancy, and an equal right to decline consent to those risks and responsibilities was thought to be finally established. But since Roe v Wade was argued as a case for privacy, it has never been a guarantee of women's reproductive rights. It has always been vulnerable to attack, either through court challenges or through legislation which has chipped away at it.

One way or another, the
Republican Party will find
a way to control those sluts!
From the moment Roe v Wade was decided, the religious right began working to overturn it. Outraged that women had at last been granted the right to choose if and when to be pregnant -  a right which conflicted with the patriarchal order which demands that men have complete authority over women - the "moral majority" began a campaign of slut-shaming, raising the specter- never far beneath the surface in any misogynist culture - that uncontrolled women would engage in wildly promiscuous and "irresponsible" sex and darkly warning that the new law would bring about the downfall of American civil society  However, when this tactic initially only gained traction within the most conservative and misogynistic segments of society, conservatives realized that the problem was that a majority of Americans in the late 1970's actually respected a woman's right to choose - and that most Americans believed that the consensual sexual activity of women was no more society's business than the consensual sexual activity of men.

Religious conservatives soon zeroed in on "consent" as a potentially malleable concept that they might be able to use to drive a wedge between women and their human rights, thereby setting the stage to put women back in their traditional place.  In order to overcome the legal issue of consent, religious and political conservatives began working tirelessly - using tactics including slut-shaming, abstinence-only purity campaigns inserted into public schools, and falsely equating microscopic blastocysts with full term babies - to entrench the notion that recreational sex involving the conscious avoidance of pregnancy is shameful and that only marital sex which welcomes the prospect of conception should be recognized and supported by society. Their aim was to increase public acceptance of explicitly Christian sexual mores in order to garner voter support for their social agenda. The ultimate goal was to get this explicitly Christian theology enshrined into law: that whenever a woman has consented to sex, she has automatically consented to pregnancy, too.
That's right, ladies, when you consent to sex, you consent to
pregnancy. And when you don't consent to sex, you
consent to pregnancy, too! You and your uteri are in a perpetual
state of consent to pregnancy! Ain't patriarchy grand?

Eventually, extreme conservatives began to worry that exceptions for rape and incest could possibly become a loophole through which some lying women could escape unwanted pregnancy, leading to the push for the elimination of exceptions for rape and incest as legal justifications for abortion. Building on the false premise that a conceptus is equal to a full-term baby, conservatives argued that a fertilized egg, no matter how it came into existence, is an innocent life deserving of protection. Completely ignoring the question of whether a woman who has been raped is deserving of society's protection and adroitly sidestepping Roe v Wade, forced-birth groups wrote bills denying abortion rights to women even in the case of rape or incest which their political arm, the Republican party, sponsored in state legislatures. In one giant leap of cruel imagination, conservatives managed to establish as a serious idea that even when a woman does not consent to sex, her consent to pregnancy should be automatic in the eyes of the law.

Lest there be any doubt about the intentions of the religious conservatives and their hired guns in the state and federal legislatures to render the legal notion of female consent completely irrelevant and completely powerless, forced-birth organizations created "personhood bills" which they instructed their Republican lackeys to sponsor and pass in various states. "Personhood" bills, if signed into law, would confer the full rights of a "person" - a deliberately vague term, but generally considered to be equal to a live-born child - to all fertilized ova. Such laws would criminalize most forms of female-controlled contraception, emergency contraception, assisted reproduction and, of course, all abortions. They would also open the door to state-sponsored invasion of women's privacy and health care rights since legally protected "persons" could potentially be "murdered" before a conception is discovered to have taken place. Furthermore, such laws would criminalize anyone who attempted to help a woman abort the conceptus "person" either by performing a surgical procedure, providing medical abortifacents, or driving a woman across state lines to obtain an abortion in a non-"Personhood" state.
Got that, gals?

"Personhood" laws are the holy grail of the forced-birth movement and the ultimate goal of religious conservatives. If passed, such laws would strip women of all bodily autonomy in matters of reproduction. Women would be denied female-controlled birth control, they would be denied emergency birth control if their partner's birth control fails or he refuses to use it and they would be denied abortions - even if they are impregnated by rape and even if their health or lives are endangered by a pregnancy. In short, thanks to the twisted culture of "life" pushed so ruthlessly onto them by religious conservatives, women would be compelled to sacrifice their happiness, risk their health and even lose their lives because a single-celled conceptus has been granted a right to occupy her body which supersedes all of her rights including her humanity, her dignity and her right to life.

Keep that contraception out
of those sluts' hands!
The Republican Party, which has degenerated to little more than the political arm of the conservative religious right, has been striving relentlessly to ensure that women will be legally forced to bear all of the negative physical, social and most of the financial repercussions for any unplanned pregnancy, while the churches themselves underline and enforce the subordinate and inferior position of women in the culture. Through tireless efforts to withhold access to contraception from women, the religious right ensures that reproductive control remains primarily in the hands of men. Thanks to ideologically-driven appointments to the FDA and the business interests of both drug companies and the medical establishment, only male-controlled methods of reliable contraception are available without a prescription, forcing women to navigate (and pay for) "care" from layers of medical and pharmacy gatekeepers before they are permitted to obtain reliable female-controlled contraception.

Religious patriarchy allows society to label unplanned pregnancy a "women's issue" in spite of the fact that it takes both a man and a woman - both failing to use effective contraception - to create an unplanned pregnancy. The fact that society allows unplanned pregnancy to be framed as a women's issue reveals the depth of the unconscious misogyny which lays the responsibility for - and the consequences of - an unplanned pregnancy squarely in the woman's lap, while little thought - and almost no censure - is directed toward the "guilt", the "promiscuity" or the "irresponsibility" of the man involved.

The old joke about keeping women
barefoot and pregnant?
Not so funny anymore.
More insidiously, when pregnancy and the laws restricting women's rights over when and if they will become pregnant is framed as a women's issue, conservatives ensure that half the population at least may ignore the very real danger to women's health and safety. Few men pay attention when women's rights are being stripped away because the phrase "women's issue" is unconsciously received as a signal that the subject is unimportant and less than men's other concerns. When the subject of reproductive rights is framed as a "women's issue", even men who love the women in their lives can pretend that there is "nothing to worry about" as their wives, their sisters and their daughters are slowly but surely reduced to the legal status of walking wombs compelled under threat of criminal prosecution to gestate the offspring of any man who succeeds in impregnating them - whether by mutual and loving consent, by accidental failure of birth control or by force.

When the subject of reproductive rights is framed as a "women's issue", even men who love the women in their lives can pretend that there is  "nothing to worry about" as their wives, their sisters and their daughters are slowly but surely reduced to the legal status of walking wombs, compelled under threat of criminal prosecution to gestate the offspring of any man who succeeds in impregnating them - whether by mutual and loving consent, by accidental failure of birth control or by force.

In this way, the religious patriarchy ensures both that women cannot control their own reproduction completely (since women - even abstinent women - can be, and often are, the victims of forced impregnation) and that no man - not even a rapist - needs to accept the decision of a mere woman on the question of whether or not he can use her body to reproduce. That is because the "right to life" of a conceptus is, in fact, really just an extension of men's rights. A conceptus is always some man's potential offspring, and at its core, religious teaching is all about enshrining the right of every man to reproduce. If women are allowed the freedom to choose, some men would almost certainly have difficulty finding a willing mate with whom to procreate. Religions which enforce the authority of men over women and which restrict the freedom and choices of women therefore speak to the root of cultural misogyny - men's fear of the potential power of women to control their (men's) ability to reproduce. "Right to life" is actually the trojan horse by which male rights over women are being inserted directly into women's uteri. That's right. It's a great big legal 'fuck you, women'!

While religions pay lip service to condemning male brutality and offer assurances on how a "godly man" behaves, they strenuously resist efforts to enact laws which could increase rape prosecutions or extend protections for women against sexual assault, citing concerns about - you can guess - men's rights. The ultimate social priority of religion is to confirm and enforce the authority of men over women. To that end, religious conservatives - and their men in government - are willing to grant even rapists and abusers privileges over women, to safeguard the authority of "godly" men. In short, in order to protect the privilege of all men, themselves included of course, even "godly" men who profess to abhor rape willingly award rapists and abusers the right to reproduce using women's bodies against their will. As always, there is no thought spared for the humanity of the women who would be sacrificed to this Christian ideology. At best, they are dismissed as the "blessed" recipients of a "gift from God".

This is already a real thing in
the conservative Christian world
In the Republican vision of the future - as in the past it idealizes - "freedom" and "rights" will only fully belong to men and to the potential offspring of men, while women will be, at best, reduced once again to second-class citizenship, and, at worst, returned to sexual and reproductive slavery. Political, financial and social oppression of women, reproductive slavery and viciously misogynistic church-mandated rules of correct behavior and dress (for women only) are the unceasing reality for millions of women in theocracies around the world.  All of these forms of oppression of women are rooted in the desire of these conservative societies to control the sexuality and reproductive freedom of their women. Almost without exception, societies based upon religious laws which both deny women fully human status and hold them accountable for the sexual activity of both genders strictly limit female freedom and impose exaggerated requirements for modest dress on their women and girls.  If a Christian theocracy is successfully installed by conservatives in the United States, ever-deepening oppression will become the inevitable future for women and girls here.

Religious conservatives want Roe v Wade overturned because they oppose the principles of individual freedom and the right to bodily autonomy for women upon which the decision was based.  That denial of those rights would relegate women to less than human status is exactly the point. Second-class status for women would be a feature, not a bug, for Christian conservatives since the Bible commands that women are not equal but subordinate to men. Bible-based religion asserts that man is the original human and woman, taken from man, is less than human. This is the reality of Bible-based governance. It seems like a nightmare from the dark ages, or some dystopian futuristic novel, but this is really happening right now in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Winners and Moochers, 2017 Edition

photo credit: Aaron P. Bernstein, Reuters                  "Monopoly Guy" on the Hill, CNBC story

"Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires." John Steinbeck

(Today's CNBC story about "Monopoly Man" photobombing the senate Banking Committee hearing on the Equifax data breach reminded me of a post I made back in 2012. Here it is, updated for 2017.)

Do you remember playing the board game Monopoly back when kids did not have awesome hand-held devices to play with? Do you remember how the "banker" carefully doled out an equal sum of money to every player so they all had equal "chances" before the first roll of the dice? Equal opportunity ended at this point, because the capricious odds of rolling the right number to land on the best spaces was entirely down to chance. As soon as one player had bought the best group of properties, his fortunes would steadily rise.

Sure, the other players would remain hopeful for another 20-30 minutes - after all, they, too, had managed to land on and purchase a few properties and who knew? Their luck could change at any minute and they might land on Free Parking and claim the pot of cash in the middle of the board! Meanwhile, the luckiest player on the board - the one who had the luckiest rolls of the dice in the early minutes of the game - would steadily add houses and hotels, steadily increase his holdings, as other players sold out to him to stay alive in the game. Inexorably, the player with the earliest advantage wound up winning the game - not merely winning a game with other players still respectably turned out - but overwhelmingly and singularly winning: raking in total ownership of the properties, the utilities, and the contents of the bank while every other player sat bankrupted; wiped off the board.

Republicans: If you start out in poverty, with
the dice fixed in favor of the rich kids uptown 

- and you fail - 
you only have yourself to blame, 
you lazy, shiftless moocher!
It turns out that what your dad told you is true: in many ways life really is like a Monopoly game. (Except for that part about starting the game off with an equal share of the available resources). Wealth builds on wealth. As the wealth of an elite few increases, the wealth of everyone else tends to decrease because in a world of finite resources,  the continued growth of wealth for those at the top of the social ladder inevitably means that they control more and more resources and property, buying or forcing out those people with fewer resources and less capital - and "those people" are the vast majority of people.

Monopoly rules at least give every player a fighting chance to win against the fickle finger of fate by starting them off with equal wealth and a clear playing board. In real life, this is tragically never the case. Societies do not provide a level playing field for all children to start out with equal opportunities in life.  Poverty, social stratification, racial and gender discrimination and destruction of public education mean that most children in our country are born disadvantaged, sometimes grossly so. Economic and personal success in life is closely linked to the economic status of one's parents.  Children of the poor are likely to remain poor, while children of the rich are likely to remain rich regardless of the personal efforts of the children from either socio-economic group. The elites who intend to ensure that their own children can ascend to even loftier perches over everyone else's children have myriad strategies to keep the game of life in America rigged in that way, and they have the economic resources to buy the political power to make those strategies the law of the land.

So, when Paul Ryan or Jason Chaffetz or Ron Johnson or Mitt Romney claim that 47% of the people in the United States are mooching "takers", think of Monopoly. For most Americans, the dice are loaded against them and they don't even get to start the game with an equal share of the bank. Republican claims that the struggling middle class and the disenfranchised poor have had just as much opportunity as the children of the wealthiest Americans, but simply are too lazy to work for the American dream is an appeal to the worst part of human psychology; the part that tells us we deserve our blessings and other people deserve their hardships. It is a lie. And it is a very convenient lie for the Republicans hoping to pass tax cuts for the wealthy since so many people are willing to believe it.

Pathways to the Middle Class: Balancing Personal and Public Responsibilities, Isabel V. Sawhill, Scott Winship, and Kerry Searle Grannis, The Brookings Institute, September 20, 2012.

Americans have an unusually strong belief in meritocracy. In other nations, circumstances at birth, family connections, and luck are considered more important factors in economic success than they are in the U.S. This meritocratic philosophy is one reason why Americans have had relatively little objection to high levels of inequality—as long as those at the bottom have a fair chance to work their way up the ladder. Similarly, Americans are more comfortable with the idea of increasing opportunities for success than with reducing inequality. When the American public is asked questions about the importance of tackling each, a far higher proportion is in favor of doing something about ensuring that more people have a shot at climbing the economic ladder than is in favor of reducing poverty or inequality.

Being Poor Is Too Expensive, Eric Ravenscraft, LifeHacker, October 20, 2015.

When you’re poor, you can’t afford to think about the “long run.” I knew that it was smart to buy some stuff from big membership stores, but I couldn’t even get past the membership fees. I knew that eating gas station hot dogs and ramen was going to kill me some day, but as long as that day wasn’t before rent was due, I had to live with it. I probably could’ve done marginally better if I planned to cook more meals ahead of time but I, like 6.8 million Americans according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, had to work multiple jobs to get by. I didn’t have enough time to be healthy, and I didn’t have enough money to save money.

Some Are More Unequal Than Others, Joseph E. Stiglitz, New York TImes, October 26, 2012.

Source: Congressional Budget Office
That American inequality is at historic highs is undisputed. It’s not just that the top 1 percent takes in about a fifth of the income, and controls more than a third of the wealth. America also has become the country (among the advanced industrial countries) with the least equality of opportunity. Meanwhile, those in the middle are faring badly, in every dimension, in security, in income, and in wealth — the wealth of the typical household is back to where it was in the 1990s. While the recession has made all of this worse, even before the recession they weren’t faring well: in 2007, the income of the typical family was lower than it was at the end of the last century...
America is fast becoming a country marked not by justice for all, but by justice for those who can afford it. (Just one of many examples is that no banker has been prosecuted, let alone convicted, for banks’ systematic lying to the court regarding the fraudulent practices that played so large a role in the 2008 crisis.) And with the increasing influence of money, especially notable in this election, the outcomes of our political process are becoming more like one dollar, one vote than one person, one vote. It’s even worse, because political inequality leads to economic inequality, which leads in turn to more political inequality, in a vicious spiral undermining our economy and our democracy.

Why We're In A New Gilded Age, Paul Krugman, The New York Review of Books, May 8, 2014.

The general presumption of most inequality researchers has been that earned income, usually salaries, is where all the action is, and that income from capital is neither important nor interesting. Piketty shows, however, that even today income from capital, not earnings, predominates at the top of the income distribution. He also shows that in the past—during Europe’s Belle Époque and, to a lesser extent, America’s Gilded Age—unequal ownership of assets, not unequal pay, was the prime driver of income disparities. And he argues that we’re on our way back to that kind of society.

Here is a photo of no Monopoly game ever.  Like the myth of the American Dream, it advertises a carefully staged image of equal distribution of wealth that is impossible to achieve when actually playing the game - or living in America - under the current rules.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Conservative Christians Declare Las Vegas Killer God's Henchman

A God of constant rages


the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, especially for political purposes.
the state of fear and submission produced by terrorism or terrorization.
a terroristic method of governing or of resisting government.

If you were frightened and confused by the horrific events in Las Vegas Sunday night, or in Sandy Hook, or in Aurora, Colorado or... the roughly 1400 mass shootings since Sandy Hook, (but, it's the "price of freedom", everyone), Christian hardliners want you to know that they have their God has everything under control.  They  believe that it is good that you were frightened. Hopefully, you will remain frightened for a long time. Your fear and anxiety are exactly what they say the Biblical god demands and wants. Christians want you to know that it was their god's rage over the slight easing of fearfulness in society which prompted Him to deputize these killers to ram the message of His righteous anger into the hearts and minds of the American people through the senseless slaughter of innocents.

...and do what the pastor tells you!
We need to pay attention to this. According to the American Family Association's Fred Jackson, killers are used by the Christian god to terrorize the American people. In spite of the ever-increasing radicalization of the population through Christian evangelism, and an historic level of unconstitutional religious encroachment into the public sphere, elite Christian leaders insist that there is still not enough fear in American society. Too few Americans accept the authority of church elites God with enough unquestioning obedience. Not enough Americans fear the power of Christianity God with the proper servility. And fundamentalist Christian church leaders know just who to blame:

"Jackson: I have to think that all of this, whether it’s the Hollywood movies, whether it’s what we see on the internets [sic], whether it’s liberal bias in the media, whether it’s our politicians changing public policy, I think all of those somehow have fit together—and I have to say also churches who are leaving the authority of Scripture and losing their fear of God—all of those things have seem to have come together to give us these kinds of incidents.
Newcombe: I think that’s so true. It’s as if we said to God, publicly or in the public arena, ‘get out, You’re not welcome here anymore’ and it’s as if God removed His protection from our land.
...and sometimes, "Love" hurts.
Jackson: I think the sources of this is [sic] multifaceted but you can put it all I think under the heading of rebellion to God, a rejection of the God of the Bible.* I think along with an education system that has produced our lawyers, our politicians, more teachers, more professors, all of that sort of thing, is our churches, mainline churches. We’ve been dealing Teddy and I know the AFA Journal has been dealing with denominations that no longer believe in the God of the Bible, they no longer believe that Jesus is the only way of salvation, they teach that God is OK with homosexuality, this is just increasing more and more. It is mankind shaking its fist at the authority of God.
James: And God will not be silent when he’s mocked, and we need to remember that. 
Jackson: We are seeing his judgment. You know, some people talk about ‘God’s judgment must be just around the corner,’ we are seeing it." -( conversation between the popular rightwing Christian radio host, Fred Jackson, Jerry Newcombe of Truth in Action Ministries and Jackson's co-host Teddy James of AFA Journal).

*(Let's cut to the chase here: "Rebellion against God" is code for "rebellion against unconstitutional religious influence". When civil rights groups protest the unconstitutional religious interference in government, they are accused of "rebellion against God". "Rejection of God" is code for "rejection of inappropriate religious attacks on individual rights and freedoms". When conservative Christian groups attempt to deprive citizens of their human rights, the people who protest are accused of "rejecting God").

According to the self-appointed spokesmen for God, the all-loving, all-knowing, all-powerful (also silent and invisible) Creator of the Universe is understandably outraged when humankind fails to tremble in terror at the very thought of Him, yet He is curiously incapable of easily and lovingly repairing the error in His own creation.  So, we are told that every now and then He causes a terrible event on earth (or fails to prevent a terrible event - same difference, really, since His presence and His absence are equally indiscernible) to remind us of our sinful failure to fear Him enough. His spokesmen then gleefully point to these disasters as evidence that all the things which threaten them Biblical supremacy in American society are evil and should be blamed for the pain and suffering of innocents. 

(Apparently, they can't explain why God never seems to target the specific objects of their His wrath directly, nor why they expect anyone to believe that a god who would rain down terrible suffering on innocent men, women and children as an object lesson to sinners should be considered a "loving" god.)

terrorizeterrorise [ˈtɛrəˌraɪz]
vb (tr)
1. to coerce or control by violence, fear, threats, etc.
2. to inspire with dread; terrify

The terror evoked by random acts of violence is a feature, not a bug, in the eyes of the powerful Christian elites Almighty. It has proven to be a very useful weapon in the ongoing battle for Christian world dominance By planting the seeds of fearful hatred in the minds of already traumatized believers and then redirecting that fear toward those who resist Christian hegemony, the religious right - and its political arm, the Republican party - divides and polarizes society into "us" and "others", with themselves as the authorities ruling over the ever-growing coalition of  "us". The fear of God's wrath is wielded to ensure fearful compliance, and - since "God" is never seen nor heard by anyone - Evangelical leaders appoint themselves as His spokesmen and the ultimate interpreters of His righteous will, ensuring that their will is rarely effectively challenged.  They systematically coerce the population of believers - through fear of their god inculcated from earliest childhood - and coerce non-believers - through social pressure (as believers' fear grows that other citizens who are not like "us" will bring god's wrath down on themselves, even if they are innocent, god-fearing believers!) - to be less and less tolerant of differences, and to demand greater and greater conformity to their religious authority. In short, they assign all of the power over society that is hypothetically "God's awesome power" - to themselves.  It is terrorism-by-proxy; stochastic terrorism. And it is very effective.
God hates whoever the church hates!
Are you listening, atheists and gays?

Random terrible events happen: they always have and they always will. The evil genius of fundamentalist Christians is that they know how to use these inevitable natural and man made disasters as tools for their own Machiavellian brand of power consolidation. They harness fear and bigotry created by religious teaching and redirect it into hatred toward the elements in society which threaten their own power, thus eliminating their enemies and removing all barriers to their dream of an American theocracyThey terrorize the vulnerable victims of a local or national disaster with the dread of an angry god - evoking the same terror of god's wrathful jealousy which was inculcated through childhood indoctrination - and then they direct that frightened anguish toward others whose refusal to accept Christian authority they accuse of bringing this suffering down upon innocent, persecuted Christians.

It is an awesome one-two punch: a form of terrorism more lethal to our pluralistic, democratic Republic than anything the United States has ever faced. Terrorized people historically bow to the perceived security of authoritarianism. It is a human response to fear. The power of religious belief, inculcated early and reinforced regularly - especially in the public sphere - enables church elites to use the fear of God to coerce a population to destroy church enemies, to support religious agendas and to obey church elites, all without lifting a finger!  Of course, in places where there is too much human-created peace, tolerant multi-cultural social order and too few natural disasters, strong Christians will do what they have to do to help themselves their god out.

In the USA, where there is no shortage of natural sources of human misery, the Christian right still furthers their own ambitions helps their god out by doing their utmost to incite violence and human conflict through the constant drumbeat of fear and othering.  The dignity and humanity of the victims of natural and man-made horrors is nothing to them, when measured against what they perceive is their god-given right to use the horrible tragedy for their own political gain. We don't know yet what the Las Vegas murderer's motive was, and we may never know, but whatever Paddock may think his own motives were,  influential Christians want everyone to believe that he was the unwitting lash of their God's judgment. The truth doesn't matter to the Christian right, nor does common human decency. For them, the massacre has already served its purpose.

...and we He won't hesitate to use terrorism to consolidate our His power!  Got that, America?

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Jeffress Inspires Revival of Barmy Bible Study!

Crusader doing God's Holy Work

It's that time of the week again - the night we all look forward to: Wednesday Night Barmy Bible Study!

Yes, I know we missed our bi-monthly Bible Study for awhile, but sometimes it takes a little time to recover from the horror  properly appreciate the goodness in holy scripture. Let's just get down to the business of wondering at the awesomeness of the Lord, shall we?

In honor of this week's Good News, we will depart a little from the usual Bible class structure of choosing a specific story and discussing it. Let's study a small sampling of the dozens of passages in the Bible wherein God/Yahweh/Jehovah promises his worshippers land, riches and all sort of success, and orders them to utterly destroy anyone and anything which gets in their way.

Deuteronomy 7: 1-6  Driving Out the Nations
1When the Lord your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations—the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, seven nations larger and stronger than you— 2and when the Lord your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy. 3Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, 4for they will turn your sons away from following me to serve other gods, and the Lord’s anger will burn against you and will quickly destroy you. 5This is what you are to do to them: Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones, cut down their Asherah poles and burn their idols in the fire. 6For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession.
Joshua - "saintly man and great leader"
doing God's holy work.

Deuteronomy 20: 10-18
10When you march up to attack a city, make its people an offer of peace. 11If they accept and open their gates, all the people in it shall be subject to forced labor and shall work for you. 12If they refuse to make peace and they engage you in battle, lay siege to that city. 13When the Lord your God delivers it into your hand, put to the sword all the men in it. 14As for the women, the children, the livestock and everything else in the city, you may take these as plunder for yourselves. And you may use the plunder the Lord your God gives you from your enemies. 15This is how you are to treat all the cities that are at a distance from you and do not belong to the nations nearby.
16However, in the cities of the nations the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes. 17Completely destroy them—the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—as the Lord your God has commanded you. 18Otherwise, they will teach you to follow all the detestable things they do in worshiping their gods, and you will sin against the Lord your God. 

1 Samuel 15: 3
Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.'" 

Joshua 10: 40-41
40So Joshua subdued the whole region, including the hill country, the Negev, the western foothills and the mountain slopes, together with all their kings. He left no survivors. He totally destroyed all who breathed, just as the Lord, the God of Israel, had commanded. 41Joshua subdued them from Kadesh Barnea to Gaza and from the whole region of Goshen to Gibeon. 42All these kings and their lands Joshua conquered in one campaign, because the Lord, the God of Israel, fought for Israel.

And of course, the verses which lay the foundation for absolute confidence that one is carrying out God's Holy Will, even for New Testament purists:

Romans 13: 1-5
1 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. 2 Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: 4 For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. 5 Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.

Joshua fought the battle of Jericho,
And the walls came tumbling down!
God is good!
Study Questions for Show Them No Mercy

1. What did Yahweh/Jehovah/God command the Israelites to do?

2. Why did God order them to do this?

3. How does the Bible teach us that the Israelites reacted to these commands and what does their reaction teach us?

Something that believers all know - but which those who do not believe that the Bible is the inerrant, literal word of God fail to understand - is that God chose one small group of people, out of all His creation, to be his especially chosen favorite people.  Just as the Hebrews had chosen Yahweh out of all the gods in the ancient pantheon of the desert region to be their one special God, the Bible says that Yahweh returned the favor. The Bible doesn't say that the other peoples in the region were privy to this unilateral decision by the Hebrews until the Hebrews descended upon them en masse expecting to take over their lands, their possessions and their women, as they believed their god had promised they could do. When the Amalekites, Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, et al continued to faithfully worship the gods of their ancestors equally to Yahweh - and in some case, with even greater fervor than they had worshipped Yahweh who was to them, after all, only a minor war god in the ancient pantheon - the newly promoted Lord, God of Israel was angered.

So, scripture says that the God of Israel commanded the Israelites to invade these lands, kill all the people and livestock, destroy everything that is sacred to these ill-favored wretches and then claim the lands for themselves. One might think that an all-loving, all-powerful god could be expected to love all of the people He created equally - or at least would be able to hand over the Promised Lands to his Chosen people without harming the other people who did not make the "favored people" cut (rapture them? uncreate them? surely nothing would be impossible for the omnipotent One?) - but one would be wrong.
Nobody can see, hear, touch or feel God
but we know in our hearts that 

He wants exactly what we want!
The _?_ god is an awesome god!

The Lord, God of Israel was a jealous god. Just because those other people had not received the memo that the Hebrews had chosen Yahweh for special One True God™ status, they unwittingly had signed their own death warrants. It was their own fault! Nothing would do but that they be wiped from the face of the earth and the Hebrews were just the people to do it! Amazingly, not only did the Hebrews know in their hearts what God wanted them to do, but they also managed to do every bit of the invading, killing, raping and plundering by themselves, too!  Of course, they knew in their hearts that they had the Lord, God of Israel rooting for them, but they did it all themselves - with His silent, invisible blessing. Praise God!

This is one of the great things about the Bible to which non-believers should really pay more attention. Of all the peoples on the planet, God decided to elevate one group over all the others for no particular reason. That happily blessed group just happens to be Christians!  Well, at first it was the Jews, but now Christians have their own Testament which clearly teaches that there is a New Covenant and in this new deal, Christians are the ones! Well, God is the One and Only, of course (and He is very, very powerful, so don't cross Christians Him if you know what is good for you!), but since He cannot be seen nor heard nor felt nor...well, Christians are His ambassadors on earth and speak for Him - they know in their hearts what God wants, so whatever Christians say, goes. Capice?

Christians doing God's holy work.
(Sabra-Shatila Massacre)
Of course, since Christians co-opted the Jewish Bible Old Testament, too, they still politely refer to the Jews as the "chosen people"... for now. Besides, Christians need the cooperation of the Jews in order to take over the Promised Land in time for the second coming of Christ!  Shhh, no, that is not shamelessly using the Jewish people for Christian ends.  God has clearly given the OK to any means necessary to bring about the glorious destiny of His Chosen People - lying, stealing, cheating, murdering - everything is permitted, even ordered, by God within the sacred pages of the Good Book™. When Christians have total dominion over the earth - as they believe that God has promised - then the Jews will have the same chance as everyone else to fall on their knees and accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Then, they will truly be the chosen people...because they will be Christians!  You see? The Christian god is an awesome god!  Of course, if they refuse to bow down to the true Chosen people (Christians), well then one only has to read Deuteronomy 20 to know what God commands Christians to do with people who refuse to accept their His holy word, submit humbly to forced labor and hand over everything they love and value.

Jews doing God's holy work.
(Gaza Massacre, December 2008)
Some people may argue that just as the Christians cobbled together a New Testament to justify their claim to the status of the newly chosen people of God through the blood of Jesus Christ, so did other religious groups. Mohammed dictated the sacred Koran which clearly shows that Islam is the one true faith and Muslims are the chosen people of God. Likewise, the Mormons produced a sacred Testament - the Book of Mormon - which establishes that they are the chosen people of God.  Indeed, just as the Jewish Bible justified the ancient invasionsmassacresrapes and plundering by God's chosen people: the Israelites,
and the Old and New Testaments justified the invasionsmassacres*, rapes and plundering by God's chosen people: the Christians,
so the Koran justifies invasionsmassacresrapes and plundering by God's chosen people: the Muslims
and the Book of Mormon justifies violencemassacresrapes and plundering by God's chosen people: the Mormons.

Muslims doing God's holy work
(Nigeria, Christmas Day Massacre)
Except that all of those other religions and all their made-up "sacred scriptures" are simply dead wrong. Christians believe they are commanded by God to take righteous dominion over the world. They believe they are commanded by God to utterly destroy any and all who stand in the way of them in fulfilling this Great Commission. Non-believers will get one chance to accept the Christian dogma and submit to life under Christian rule, but if they refuse to submit, Bible-believing Christians will have no choice but to annihilate them all. Christians always want others to choose life, but if non-believers refuse to bow down to Christian supremacy, then unfortunately yet inescapably the non-believers will have chosen death.

How do we know this?  The Bible tells us so.

Class dismissed.


* Bonus points for the use of "I came like a thief!" a favorite self-referential passage of dominionist Christians when describing their long-term stealth strategy to infiltrate every avenue of world power.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

We Are All Americans - Go Fourth!

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Happy Independence Day, Everyone! 

In honor of the holiday, I am republishing an older post which still manages to be true, even in these challenging times. The post was in response to remarks made by one Bishop Giminez, the organizer of a prayer rally back in 2012. She declared that America was "mired in moral depravity" and that nothing but a mass rally begging the favor of the Almighty could ever put us to rights again. I had something to say about that:

No. America is not mired in moral depravity. America is a land of diverse people; hardworking, industrious, innovative, tolerant, forward-thinking people. We are red, brown, white, black, and every beautiful shade of human skin. We are all American. We are atheist, Christian, Jewish, Muslim and every religious and political stripe. We are all American. We are female and male, gay and lesbian, bisexual and transsexual and every gender identity on the wide, wonderful spectrum of human sexuality. And 

We are all Americans

We coexist in relative peace, as imperfectly as current human limitations might predict and as transcendently as human aspiration can occasionally soar. We have succeeded as a country because America is founded on principles which limit the power of religions to divide, conquer and destroy us. As messy and imperfect and unjust as much of our history has been, it has still stood out as a beacon of hope in a world of messy, imperfect and unjust systems of government which - nearly always using religion - continued to oppress and abuse their people long after the American journey toward 'liberty and justice for all' was haltingly begun. For more than 200 years, we have struggled and fought and inched our way toward realizing the dream - toward living the ideals - that those founding documents point us toward. We are a people evolving, with a roadmap to liberty in the Declaration of Independence and a blueprint for achieving it in the Bill of Rights. We will continue to negotiate and argue and push and pull toward a more perfect union of equal citizens because this country is a work in progress. And we are all American.

No. America is not mired in moral depravity. It is power-hungry wealthy and religious elites who are mired in moral depravity. It is the religious elites who call injustice "justice", who fight relentlessly against equality and human rights and who seek to enshrine bigotry and misogyny into our laws without a shred of remorse or compassion for the human suffering they would cause. It is the conservative religious right which seeks to overturn the natural order of things - calling myth "science", calling oppression "justice", calling evil "good", calling what is immoral "moral". Those who call themselves "righteous" - who pretend to speak for God! - are the ones who are mired in moral depravity. They have lost their moral compass, but their fellow citizens can help them find their way again. Because,

We are all Americans

America does not need theocratic "saving". It needs protection from dangerous, ambitious, vicious religious power-mongers like Bishop Giminez, and the wealthy Christian elites that they represent. America needs saving from the approaching train wreck of Christian totalitarianism which a privileged few wish to force upon all of us. America does not need "saving" by ambitious men claiming to represent their silent, invisible God. America needs saving from them. This nation has the tools to fend off this attack from the religious right. We have the diversity and the strength in numbers to resist a takeover attempt by one hardline fundamentalist faction among us. We can weather this storm. We are all Americans!

No. America is not mired in moral depravity. America is mired in political and social turmoil which was deliberately created by the conservative Christian right-wing for their own political gain. It is the powerful, wealthy elites who seek to drag this entire country to the brink of disaster, just as religious extremists elsewhere in the world have done to their countries. It is the power-hungry religious elites who hope to precipitate a cultural crisis in this country out of which they hope to wrest ultimate control over everyone and everything that is American. Right wing extremists hope to destroy the America that is and build an America that they can control. But they underestimate the passion for liberty and justice in this country. They underestimate the American spirit. We are not all Christians. Yet,

 We are all Americans

Whether or not one believes there is a god - or any higher power that cares about the welfare of humanity - constant historical evidence has proven beyond the shadow of a doubt that He does not reside within the ruthlessly implacable ambition of religious elites. The success of the great American experiment in nationhood has only been possible - painfully, lurchingly, imperfectly and minimally  not thanks to religious belief, but in spite of it. Before the ink had even dried on the founding documents, religious groups launched their efforts to subvert the American dream of a more just and democratic Republic to their own theocratic agenda. And they have never ceased in their efforts since.

We are red, brown, white, black...
every beautiful shade of human skin.
We are all American. 
There is a seat at the national table for conservative Christians just as there are seats for every other kind of American. The difference is that conservative Christians want to banish everyone else except conservative Christians from the American table and in that sense, they are profoundly unAmerican. I only hope the basic goodness and common sense of the American people has been awakened to this looming crisis at last and that we can come together for the good of the country before it is too late.

America can only be saved by Americans. By performing our civic duty: educating ourselves on the crisis before us, registering and voting in every election and holding our elected representatives to their Constitutional responsibilities, the American people can save America.  Let's not allow one religious sect to hijack the ship of state and sink the hopes and dreams of freedom-loving people everywhere. It is not the silent, invisible God, nor the men who claim to represent ultimate godly authority who speak for America. Only Americans speak for America. 

Educate yourself. Register. Vote. Let no one speak for you. Speak up for yourself. We are all in this together and the future of this country depends on all of us. We are all Americans.