Monthly Archives: November 2013

Why I Hate Progressive Christianity

I was going to title this “Progressive Christianity Is A Demonic Lie” which seems right to me but that’s probably a little over the top. I apologize if this is disjointed but this arouses strong emotions in me so I will try to explain myself as best I can.

The idea of conservative Christianity as a negative social force, conservative Christians as mentally rigid, inflexible and intolerant people, and conservative Christianity as harming children are widespread and commonly accepted. The idea that this is true of progressive Christianity is held by almost no one, except me. But I think this is the case, first from my own personal experience, and also from my observations of life and the world.

My parents were Irish Catholic New Deal liberal Democrats born in the 1920’s, and believed totally and completely in the doctrines of the Catholic Church and all the progressive ideas from the 1930’s to the 1960’s. The two don’t differ that much- the Roman Catholic Church is theoretically an independent theological and intellectual entity with doctrines that far predate modern politics, but as a matter of practice the Irish Catholic North American church has always conformed to liberal and progressive policies except those relating to sex. My father was a little less liberal than my mother- he told me once he couldn’t stomach voting for McGovern, so he voted for a third-party candidate in 1972.

My parents strongly believed the central idea of progressivism, which is that poor people are special, and because they are poor are exempted from social norms, up to and including criminal law, but on a more common level such simple things as politeness and courtesy. Since poor people are oppressed, they must be forgiven and forborn any kind of bad behavior, and should be corrected, if at all, only by approved people such as social workers or liberal clergy in the most mild way possible.

You can reach this conclusion by Gramscian Marxism or by cherry-picking some things Jesus said. He certainly never said anything like this, but combining selective quotes with Buddhist or Hindu ideas and Victorian social ideas results in the social gospel, which reduces Christianity to being nice to and doing things for poor people.

There is a concept of sin here, but poor people are exempt from it. Rich people are regarded as evil, rich liberals excepted, although I’m not sure how they do this; so they are pretty much written off. Poor people are saints, especially poor non-whites, so the main focus of progressive Christianity is bullying middle-class people into serving poor people without question or resistance, to doing what the professional moral class, people such as teachers, social workers, and other government employees, progressive clergy, and rich liberals think they should do.

This works out fine for the moral elite of progressive Christianity- middle class people who are moral by virtue of working as advocates for the poor in some way, or rich people who support liberal causes. They only encounter poor people in controlled situations, or not at all. For those not so insulated, it’s not so great.

My parents were not well off, or not well off enough to insulate us from actual contact with poor people, or the uneducated common workers who pass for poor in the US but are actually pretty well off and treated pretty well. In my encounters with these people, I saw a wide gap between what my parents believed about them and the way they actually were. They were far from meek, humble, timid, needy, and oppressed; quite the contrary, they were usually aggressive, arrogant, cruel, sadistic, proud, and had a lot of material goods. They despised the type of behavior that my parents thought was appropriate- politeness, modesty, humility, and kindness. If you looked weak, they attacked you.

I suffered a lot of cognitive dissidence, between what I was taught was right, and how I was expected to behave at home, and the way people actually are. To the extent that I had trouble with these people, my parents, especially my mother, had the same answer- “Be nice”. That was it. If someone was being mean to me, it was obviously my fault for not being nice enough. My older brother was sort of able to make this work, being a more outgoing and social person than me, so he gave me the same message as well. My mother went nuts doing this, and died early of cancer. She believed one should never be angry at anyone about anything, and yet was one of the angriest people I have ever known, and believed deeply in social equality, and yet was one of the biggest snobs I have ever known.

I reached a point where I figured I was just not going to have a good life and I should just try to be a good Christian of the type my parents thought I should be and get my reward in the afterlife. Then the thought came to me- I remember it pretty distinctly, standing outside church one day- that, “No, this is not right. I don’t deserve to live like this and I don’t have to.”

My parents were educated people and had a variety of books. One was “The Story of Philosophy” by Will and Ariel Durant. I was particularly taken by the chapters on Schopenhauer and then Nietzsche.

I had a much better explanation of what was going on. People didn’t hate me because I was a terrible person who was not nice enough. People hated me because I was better than them. I was very intelligent, nicely formed, and kind-natured. The belief system of my parents was a social control mechanism to keep people of a more excellent type, such as myself, under control.

We had moved to a new town, from an environment where I was mostly around the children of scientists and engineers to a blue-collar/lower middle-class community of high school graduates, who at this point in the mid-70’s were enjoying the new freedoms from social conformity and so being hedonistic dicks whenever possible. The adults were pretty much checked out and doing their own thing, which probably aggravated the feral environment among the children. Sixth grade was pretty bad, seventh grade a little less. Then I saw class assignments for eighth grade, and I said to myself “oh shit”. I was in with some really bad kids, so I went to my mom- this was not easy, she didn’t want to help me with anything- and asked her to go to the school and get me in another class.

She was non-committal. “See how it is the first few weeks” was her answer, and then maybe she would do something. I despaired. They weren’t going to move students after the start of the year. I was screwed.

I remember being particularly freak out over two guys. “Paul Kelly!” I thought. “Joe Hernandez!” I thought. (I include the full names because they are very common.) Paul Kelly I actually dealt with. He was poking me from behind one day, so I gave him a sharp elbow and he left me alone after that. Joe was another story though, a huge Mexican from the colonia- the kind of person my mother thought was particularly saintly- and I didn’t want to die. The idea of always standing up to bullies has its limits, I think. Kids about my size or a little bigger I would tangle with. Violent kids a lot bigger I did not. I always was ashamed of that, but years later I realized getting seriously hurt was not worth it, and wouldn’t have preserved my honor.

My confirmation class during eighth grade was particularly farcical. It was run by a childless couple who were humorless purveyors of the party line. Almost all the kids treated it like a joke. I took it seriously and actually asked some questions and I was the one who got smacked down. At the end of the year I went to my mother and told her I didn’t want to be confirmed. She was shocked. “Don’t you want to lead a Christian life?” she asked me. I didn’t say anything but my answer was, “No, fuck no, not if it means getting my ass kicked by people and loving them and forgiving them and not having any negative thoughts towards them.”

My mother insisted I call the lady running the class and see what I would need to do to do it later. The lady told me I would need to do it all over again, the whole year. The intent was to intimidate me into going along with it, but I wasn’t going for it. My mother chose to treat it as temporary insanity, to be remedied later.

I didn’t start the class the next fall, but the spring fo my freshman year in high school they had a short class which my mother insisted I attend and insisted I be confirmed. I went along with it, I figured a little oil on my forehead wasn’t going to hurt anything.

I thought maybe the Bible didn’t really say what my parents and the priests claimed it said and at some point I would read it myself and see. And it turns out, it doesn’t. The progressive reading is very selective and distorted.

The Nietzschean view of progressivism and socialism is mostly correct, as far as it goes. Progressivism is a social control system to give one group of people power over others, not the best, just the most manipulative.

Charles Dickens saw how this worked and had a character named Mrs. Jellyby, who was obsessed with helping people in Africa while neglecting and abusing her own daughter. Progressives are worse than this though- they actively hate non-elite white people and enjoy seeing them hurt by their pets, criminals and badly behaved non-whites.

A lot of people hate Christianity and think it’s crazy and evil, most publicly for its conservative aspects, but I think largely too for the get-out-of-jail-free card it has for badly behaved poor people like criminals and drug addicts. I can’t blame them. All I can say is read the Bible and come to your own educated conclusions.

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Midterm Motivation

When I went to the Marine Officer Candidate School they had something called Midterm Motivation. I was in Navy ROTC and it was a six-week program- it was ten weeks for regular OCS or the one-term Platoon Leaders Class, or two six-week terms in two separate summers for the two-term PLC.

It was after two and a half weeks, which since the first week was largely in-processing and the last week largely out-processing, was closer to a third of a way through, but that’s how they scheduled it. I suppose the reason they did this was they figured at a certain stress point they got a lot of drops, or a lot of candidates getting so discouraged they failed by giving up even if they didn’t formally drop. These people aren’t as stupid as they try to appear, and I think they wanted to make the training as hard as possible but have some check on attrition.

They marched us into a classroom after evening chow- we had evening classes sometimes- and showed us some of the standard motivational films. The highlight was Major Rollings, the company commander, getting up and giving us a few words of encouragement. It was the only time he, or anybody else was ever nice to us. “If yer doin’ good, that’s good, if you ain’t doin’ so good, keep tryin'” is the part I remember.

I can’t speak for anybody else, but I was getting the stuffing knocked out of me, so that helped a little. I was always very marginal as far as the Marines were concerned. The worst thing was the peer evals- I was regarded by the other candidates as bottom of the barrel. When I got to Basic School- the first school you go to after getting commissioned- we were talking to a student and he said peer evals were part of our official grade at Basic School, not just a tool for the instructors like at OCS. I thought to myself, “Oh boy, I’m in big trouble here” and I was. That leads to my quality spread story, but this is a Christianity blog, not a Thrasy’s funny stories blog, so I’ll skip that.

Anyway, I graduated from OCS, I graduated from Basic School, I did my term and went on to other things. It wasn’t pretty, and I got a lot of harsh words and judgments in the process, but I made it through and did my duty. That should be enough, but of course it’s not- in the Marines you can be a posthumous Medal of Honor recipient and have people slag on you.

There is a Calvinist concept called the perseverance of the saints, meaning the chosen will stay with God until the end. I’m about the half-century mark, so I don’t know where I am in my journey- a little past midterm, to be sure, but I may have five more years, or 45.

Frankly, it’s a struggle just to keep going a lot of the time. Just getting by is my usual goal, so I pray for that a lot. I fully expect to get a “marginal” if I get a passing grade at all, but right now I’m just hoping for some midterm motivation.

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The Death and Nightmare World

It’s a little late for a Halloween post, but something of this nature came to me, which I have to tell.

I had a dream- it wasn’t really a nightmare, it didn’t involve feelings of fear or terror to me- about what was a death and nightmare world, a world of things living and surviving, briefly and temporarily, in filth and darkness by feeding and preying on other things and living off the mire. Rats, maybe snakes and spiders, and creatures and combination of creatures we don’t see in this world.

The death and nightmare world for humans is power and social status. Some people are very involved in the death and nightmare world, some only a little. But power and social status rule humans, so the death and nightmare world rules humans. A person may appear to be good, but to the extent they are obsessed with dominating and controlling others, to elevate themselves or simply for its own sake they are involved in the death and nightmare world.

In the colder parts of the world, the coming of winter provides a visual reminder of the death and nightmare world. Deciduous plants shed their leaves, which die and begin to decay. The deciduous plants themselves seem to be dying, but are only sleeping for the winter. The remains of harvested plants die and decay in the fields. Many scavenger and predatory insects come out- in some places many spider webs appear at this time of year, and I have seen a large number of drone wasps recently. It’s a time of death for animals too- in the old days before refrigeration and animals not needed to regenerate the herd in the spring would be slaughtered, and it’s a time of hunting wild animals.

Along with representations of decaying plant matter and predatory insects, witches are a big part of Halloween. Witches are real. Witches are nasty, malevolent old women. Women who themselves are decaying and dying. In the old days bitter old women could use gossip to destroy people in small agricultural communities, so a malevolent, bitter, hostile, gossiping old woman was justifiably feared and hated.

Aside from the things we see this time of year, the death and nightmare world is always with us. Lower orders of human live intimately with this world. Entire civilizations practiced human sacrifice, in an attempt to gain the power of it. On an individual level criminals live by killing bodies and souls. But aside from obvious ugliness and death, any human obsessed with power, status and control of other humans is in this world. People who appear to be very good and upright may be involved in it. As I said before, the essence of Phariseeism is human sacrifice.

At the higher levels of human existence, biological life can reach some kind of an equilibrium with the death and nightmare world. No gross evil is done, life and good things are produced, death destroys no faster than life produces. But this is pretty rare, in the human society we see and in human life historically.

The only thing that seems to be an absolute antidote to the death and nightmare world in Jesus. Eastern religions, Buddhism and Hinduism, seem to be primarily concerned with submitting to and managing it. Islam is a phony legalistic religion which is really a cover for the death and nightmare world and Satan himself. Judaism attempts to use the law to give life, but the law only enhances life, it can’t give life in the first place.

Jesus said a lot of stuff about the law, but in my simple understanding of him, he showed more importantly than he told, by curing disease, in some cases raising people from the dead, but in the greater scheme by lifting the shame that disease and death represented in these cases.

We can sometimes cope with death and evil, and sometimes not. When we can attack and destroy it, we should. When we can’t, we must resist evil by not participating in it. Jesus sometimes advocated passive resistance, but it was still resistance. Pacifism is not resistance, avoidance of conflict all together. Pacifism from a religious standpoint has to be seen as Buddhist or possibly Hindu, but it is not Christian.

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Why Protestants Like Faith So Much

I was in the bookstore recently and I picked up a book called “Explicit Gospel” by a Dallas megachurch pastor named Matt Chandler. I flipped through it, and he mainly contrasts two opposing ways of approaching the Gospel- what he calls the gospel of the air, trying to address society in general, and the gospel on the ground, which is addressing the situations of particular people. He sees drawbacks in both, the gospel of the air becoming too weak and accommodating, as I understand, and the gospel on the ground being sometime too hard on people. Or maybe I missed something important.

At one point, however, he makes what appears to be an aside and talks about all the great things about faith, and makes a long numbered list. Why do Protestants, or at least many Protestants, have such faith in faith?

I think it comes from the nature of medieval society and the reformers. The daily life of the typical member of medieval society is very distant from us. Most people were farmers, doing manual labor to produce food. Some where craftsmen, making things needed for farming and food production, such as farm implements, horseshoes and barrels, or food from raw products, such as bakers, brewers or butchers. A few were rulers controlling things, a few were priests performing public prayers.

But in any case, unlike today, almost everyone was performing a function necessary for society to keep going. People needed food, or essential tools or products, and they needed basic government control. It was very important for a farmer to be a good, hardworking farmer, for a baker to be a good, hardworking baker, and for a warrior/lord to be a good, hardworking warrior and lord. If they weren’t, things fell apart quickly.

Abstracts had very little meaning for such people. Such people did a lot, and though little. Even the priests were mainly doing, performing a set of rituals and prayers, and not thinking about theology. If we look at doing as “works”, works was the most critical thing to having a well-functioning society.

The primary reformers, Luther and Calvin, were on the other hand very modern people. Luther was a university professor and Calvin a lawyer. They were people who did little, but instead dealt in abstracts all day. Doing wasn’t important to them at all. A cow has to get milked every day, and a fire needs constant tending. A farmer realistically can be off for half a day once a week, any more and the farm falls apart. If a professor or lawyer is gone for a month, hardly anybody notices.

I can see why Luther and Calvin would be puzzled by the idea of religion as something to be done, rather than something thought. To them the most important thing was always to be right rather than wrong. To most of the world, this was a meaningless idea, there were only things to be done, and it was hard to be wrong about them because you learned them from an early age from your parents. The moral thing was to perform your duties, and the immoral thing to neglect them.

To the extent that Luther and Calvin were right, it was in that there is a limit to doing, a point at which there is no more doing, only believing. People who deal with abstracts and don’t live with the necessity of doing something reliably and consistently are more comfortable with emphasizing believing rather than doing.

If you really believe something, you’ll do it, and if you do something you probably believe it even if you don’t think you do. Just as there is a point where there is no more doing, only believing, there is a point at which there is no more believing, only doing.

Ironically the people who now say you are evil if you don’t do as they say are mostly the intellectual heirs of Luther and Calvin.

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