Mother! Hard to track at first … and then fascinating

mothermovie

 

I see where the media that caters to and to a certain extent is supported by an audience of devout and literal-minded Christian believers have stepped to the forefront waving a flag of religious offendedness at the message of this spectacularly intriguing, fascinating and thought-provoking film.

I went to see Mother! because my beautiful lady had read about it and wanted to see it. I knew nothing about the film, had never heard of it, and expected – oh, I don’t know, perhaps some sort of Mommy Dearest or Flowers in the Attic or some such melodrama.

It took about 20 minutes for me to involve myself in what I saw as slow-moving action and unfolding. Had I realized from the get-go that I was about to see a powerful metaphor of an assortment of moral ecological and religious themes defined by human behavior, I might have picked up on all the clues early on and found myself anticipating a predictable outcome.

It didn’t happen that way. After those 20 minutes or so I found myself intensely tracking every word of dialogue, camera angles, indoor and outdoor views while attempting to mentally cache each hint or clue and thereby foresee what would happen. Such a process led me to an intuited notion that the meaning and intent of the film was not hidden but layered.

Comparisons are being made to the public reaction to Martin Scorcese’s  The Last Temptation of Christ as a film to either love or hate. The mood engendered in me by Mother! reminded me of my mood when I watched The Witch (2015).

Love it or hate it as a film with a message rather than an endorsement of a cause or attack on a religion, if the film is so well done as to force you to actually WORK at picking up the metaphorical intent and message, it is a movie well made.

The “villains” in this film are none of the principal characters. The villains are in fact the almost mindless extras whose main function seems to be that of home invaders who show no respect for the protagonists or the home.

As we will probably see a furtherance of the amazing polarization between the religious,  the not-religious and the secular in the context of this film’s message, I point to the thin-skinned reaction to whoever challenges a cause or belief from both polarized points of view.

Remember the religious hysteria around the Da Vinci Code?

Remember the back and forth between the religious and nonreligious about the graphic violence of The Passion of the Christ, Mr. Gibson’s faith-driven homage to the Roman Catholic version of the crucifixion?

Those who want to offend will offend.

Those who look to be offended will be offended.

The media-who-sensationalize-for-money will eat it all up.

It’s probably an autumn preview of the War on Christmas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Masons and Mormon Temple Builders

kirtland-temple-13

Saw a blog article about the history of ownership of the LDS Kirtland Temple pictured above.

The picture reminded me of the Masonic Temple in Bannak, Mt which Lietta and I visited a couple of years ago.

bannak masonic
The Williamsburg Virginia Lodge

masonic williamsburgva

and the Warsaw, Ny Lodge  show essentially the same design.

Masonic Warsaw NY

Interestingly the “Cultural Hall” in Nauvoo which many think was a disguise for the actual Nauvoo Lodge and the Seventies Hall which looks like it could have been another disguised Lodge.

LDS culutral hall Nauvoo IllSeventies Hall Nauvoo
The current Nauvoo Temple which the Church obviously wanted to resemble the original.

Current Nauvoo_Templeoriginal nauvoo-temple

On the original the Moroni masonic image weather vane was atop the cupola. You can google that weathervane to see more images of it.

atop the nauvoo temple weathervane moroni and masonic image

Which brings me to the image below.

Who would be interested in buying the original Nauvoo Temple

Now who do you suppose the brethren back then thought might be interested in buying a building that looked like that?

One conservative viewpoint we as Americans must sustain

On American “religiousness.”

In combination with the theology around Atonement and Redemption, Jesus offered a practical means for letter-of-the-law human beings to transition into a compassionate and forgiving society. He pressed for a society liberated – at least spiritually- from the either/or governance of God as managed by Jewish leadership and either/or civil obedience as managed by Roman authority.

There IS one conservative viewpoint we as Americans must sustain – spiced however with more activism. It’s our Christian traditional way of looking at the teachings and role of Jesus as perhaps the most compassionate human being who ever lived.

In truth, such is the ultimate fundamentalism and evangelical literalism that must be the sole basis for a call to traditional values.

When Jesus asks that we take his gospel to all nations we take a message that has to do with our relationship to God and not God’s compulsion by extortion as a tactic rather than a theology.

The current religious political agitation will not result in the resolution of who is right over who is wrong. It could, however, result in a victory based on political scheming by one side over another… certainly not the way of the Master. Such would be a false victory in that both sides would lose, America would lose and would continue down the path toward curse and byword for the rest of the world at large.

The success of the historical Protestant Reformation might be best described as a win/win circumstance in that God did not repudiate one point of view at the expense of the other. Both Catholics and Protestants survived. Both remain powerfully connected to Christian tradition and beliefs today.

However, the weakness of that victory displays itself among Catholics and Protestants who remain steadfast in their insistence that the other does not have total truth or authority. A Pope recently declared Protestant invalidity by not being the original true church. Narrow-visioned Protestants with their merchant-like (must have it in writing) obsess about biblical authority and ignore Catholic wisdom as coming from a false or un-authorized source.

Protestant literalists seem to forget that all Luther did was yank the Bible out of the hands of his Catholic superiors while keeping for the most part the same theological assumptions that drove Catholicism with it’s insecurity about its own power and led to the Dark Ages.

The ultimate consequence from such absolutist thinking is of course the assumption that God is a nit-picker with note-taking angels from whom he will arbitrarily and without mercy or compassion declare who is good and worthy as well as who is sinful and deserving of punishment.

Right.

At issue is not whether the United States was founded with intent that America ultimately becomes a Christian nation. At issue is that we have more than 225 years of experience living under a Constitution that, in its own way, is one of the most successful historical documents ever.

In our history we have seen the evolution of a multi-faceted society based not only on religion and philosophy, but on cultural diversity without which our positive American mythology of a melting pot could not be such a uniting part of our national psyche.

Under our Constitution we have seen the growth of a habitual way of looking at things – an automatic stance if you will – that allows for diversity of opinion and the freedom to express opinion. It is hard to make the case that deterioration of those aspects of society  – according to our own sense of common good and the idea of public decency – is the fault of the Constitution and can be remedied by taking its proven formula of success and modifying it into something that codifies a specific viewpoint.

We absolutely have no need of religious reins-taking of our political process as a path to America’s personal and global salvation.

New theologies – whether they be about “Prosperity“, “Dominionism“, “Spiritual Warfare” or the “End Times” – ought not be the basis for seeking government power at the expense of society as a whole. If we are to reform moral and ethical practices in this country, we need to define Jesus’ Good Samaritan, Prodigal Son and Sermon on the Mount in relationship to our power as a diverse society,

to our prosperity as a tool of reform,

to our lost influential position on a global scale as an instrument of advocating peace,

to our lost spiritual and cultural values as a means toward compassion toward one another.

There IS a need for resurrection.

We all know what kind of restorative process I’m talking about.

The Most Powerful Religious Creed in the World

 
The Civic Integrity of Compassion and Understanding
 
 
On December 10, 1948 the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights the full text of which appears in the following pages. Following this historic act the Assembly called upon all Member countries to publicize the text of the Declaration and “to cause it to be disseminated, displayed, read and expounded principally in schools and other educational institutions, without distinction based on the political status of countries or territories.”
 
PREAMBLE
 
Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,
 
Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,
Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,
 
Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,
 
Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,
 
Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,
 
Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge,
 
Now, Therefore THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.
 
Article 1.
·         All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
 
Article 2.
·         Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.
 
Article 3.
·         Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.
 
Article 4.
·         No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.
 
Article 5.
·         No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
 
Article 6.
·          Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.
·          All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.
 
Article 8.
·          Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.
 
Article 9.
·          No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.
 
Article 10.
·          Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.
·          (1) Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.
·          (2) No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed.
 
Article 12.
·          No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.
 
Article 13.
·          (1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.
·          (2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.
 
Article 14.
·          (1) Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.
·          (2) This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.
 
Article 15.
·          (1) Everyone has the right to a nationality.
·          (2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.
 
Article 16.
·          (1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.
·          (2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.
·          (3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.
 
Article 17.
·          (1) Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others.
·          (2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.
 
Article 18.
·          Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.
 
Article 19.
·          Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
 
Article 20.
·          (1) Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
·          (2) No one may be compelled to belong to an association.
 
Article 21.
·          (1) Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.
·          (2) Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.
·          (3) The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.
 
Article 22.
·          Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.
 
Article 23.
·          (1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
·          (2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
·          (3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
·          (4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.
 
Article 24.
·          Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.
 
Article 25.
·          (1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
·          (2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.
 
Article 26.
·          (1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
·          (2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.
·          (3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.
 
Article 27.
·          (1) Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.
·          (2) Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.
 
Article 28.
·          Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.
 
Article 29.
·          (1) Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.
·          (2) In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.
·          (3) These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.
 
Article 30.
·          Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.

Let’s Pretend

6e9af-conformityLet’s Pretend We Don’t Know We Are Pretending
  
Enter with us into an imagined world … one myth among many
Once Upon A Time …
Children born into a Church are in most ways unaware and unwitting conscripts into an environment that is totally and unequivocally one of “let’s pretend.”
Since comparative critical thinking is not one of those innate gifts with which most children are born, those born into active, believing and participating families experience from the get-go a circumstance that – if explained to adult recruits/investigators in an honest, fair and responsible manner – might go something like this.
“Now, Brother Brown, we are here today because we are totally happy, totally satisfied, totally believing in the truths we are preaching. We have mentally moved into the world portrayed by these pretend truths and invite you to do the same.
These truths along with the duties and obligations that we consider legitimate, real and effectual in this pretend world, are what you should come to believe in. To get there we challenge you to suspend your disbelief and assume that everything we teach you is the truth.

We invite you to pretend along with us, go along with us, go along with all our stories, rationales and theologies. As you suspend disbelief, you will become more and more planted in this pretend reality we who are members all share.

If you are faithful, at some point, the disparities, the faulty rationales and theologies and the absolute truths will all be just that … absolutes. You will be so convinced that they are all true, that our drama – yours and mine – is the only true reality, that it will be hard to return back to that original curious state that led to your encounter with us.”


That would be the honest way to proselytize.
But such is too honest for a religious organization, especially one that believes and teaches unreasonable notions about itself. Getting lost in unreasonable religious notions means having lost yourself inside a make-believe world.
Whether born into a Church or converted now with a few years of total participation in  your history, you must pursue and suffer withdrawal pains from your addiction to  a pretended dramatic performance in which you have been recruited and commissioned as a participating actor.
This often becomes more challenging if you have been commissioned a more significant role as an actor of influence on a local, regional or home-office level.
Resisting the demands made by fellow actors also caught within this pretended performance may require nothing less than the resistance required in a Prisoner-of-War circumstance in which one has become entrapped and must endure until release is obtained.
The circumstances of the pretended drama for most religions may be porous and permeable allowing entry and exit easily according to desire and inclination. However, in some organizations, the let’s-pretend devolves in the the rigid, inflexible formalism of religious fundamentalism. Some of the circumstances became buttressed by equally pretended but nonetheless real “rules” and “conditions” that must be met in order for the drama to play itself out to a personally successful conclusion.
When such circumstances exist, fellow actors are empowered to work manipulatively (in many cases as unwitting participants) to keep you engaged in the pretended drama through what amounts mostly to mental and emotional coercion.
One becomes subject to threats, warnings and admonitions that are as pretentious as the entire scenario itself …  unless one has been mentally stampeded to believe that not only is the scenario real, but the threats are real and really legitimate.
Inside the pretended drama, belonging and participation validated by fellow actors’ opinions rise almost to paramount importance. It is only in that venue that theologically-based threats appear to be legitimate. The legitimacy lies mostly with our pretending that there IS a God who would let some mortals eternally course or impede the “progress” of other mortals toward some imaginary bliss.
However, without willing suspension of disbelief, such mortals can not be empowered.
Authorities of the earthly church cannot “do” anything to you physically or eternally. They can only request that the actual head of the church – God – do that … with the expectation that God will do what they request because God is in some way bound to go along with it.
If you believe in that kind of God, then I might say that you have been stampeded too far and for too long. You may now consciously (aware of what you are doing) or unconsciously believe in. 
Given that the genuine and loving Divine Parent ought not let one child abuse another for any personal or authoritative retribution, the Church can only physically restrict its validation of anything formal you accomplish, you say or do inside the walls of the formal and conforming church.
The Church can only enforce its specific earthly organizational “club rules” that are expressed in social ostracism, shunning, disfellowshipment and actual dis-enrolling in the earthly club, i.e. excommunication.
Any God who would actually countenance such congregational behavior and turn that sort of power and influence over to a few mortals at the expense of the rest is not a real God, has ceased to be God and in truth does not exist
… unless one is lost in an imagined reality and willing to pretend that such a god IS real
… in which case one in quiet desperation attempts to live in fear of the imaginary divine tyrant.

On chapels cathedrals and temples – I agree with Charles Eastman , a Santee Dakota physician:

 

 

“There were no temples or shrines among us save those of nature. Being a natural man, the Indian was intensely poetical.

He would deem it sacrilege to build a house for Him who may be met face to face in the mysterious, shadowy aisles of the primeval forest, or on the sunlit bosom of virgin prairies, upon dizzy spires and pinnacles of naked rock, and yonder in the jeweled vault of the night sky!

He who enrobes Himself in filmy veils of cloud, there on the rim of the visible world where our Great-Grandfather Sun kindles his evening camp-fire, He who rides upon the rigorous wind of the north, or breathes forth His spirit upon aromatic southern airs, whose war-canoe is launched upon majestic rivers and inland seas—He needs no lesser cathedral!”

Portrait of Dysfunctional Religion: The Mormon Model

I was born and raised in a fully LDS community some 160 miles north of Salt Lake City. I am culturally a heritage-based Mormon to this day. It is from that perspective then – the religious perspective with which I’ve spent most of my life – that I am able then to write this portrait.

What does it mean to live spiritually?
Mormonism can be defined as a performance-based religion with the following operational formula:
Obedience + Worthiness constitutes Spirituality … which leads to blessings
Churches that encourage the belief that heaven is the destiny and reward toward which one directs a life of accumulated accomplishments are known as performance-based religions. The LDS Church with its systematic theologies, doctrines and programs may very well be the ultimate example and pattern of this way of imagining god and god’s reality.
Although entirely lacking proof in any physical or spiritual form of such a realm organized after the pattern of that 19th-century reality,  Joseph Smith and a host of early American prophets, evangelists and circuit-riding preachers asserted in creatively imagined and described forms, the notion that the ultimate truthfulness of the spirit world is based on performance and worthiness.
The Divine Abusive Elephant in the Living Room
This imagined reality, consistently asserted over more than the past two centuries, is why most believing Mormons today – easily and perhaps without much critical thought – buy into Church legalism. It becomes almost second nature to accept the idea of an over-controlling detail-obsessed God whose portrayed behavior looks so much like a domineering patriarchal alcoholic who is in reality a controlling parent, spouse or lover.
Uncritically, as an act of faith, devotion and obedience many sincere believers buy without question into the notions such as

  •      humans are so imperfect that God created religion by which that Divine Male Patriarch could – in a loving but domineering manner – thrust guidelines for living into our lives.
  • Such guidelines almost casually become laws or, better said, doctrines “irrevocably decreed” which the children of said God are expected to follow.
  • This God of guidelines demands strict adherence to such doctrines which in fact do nothing more than establish a notion that obedience is elevated at the expense of agency.
  • The highest spiritual approval in life is nothing more than an experiential pat on the head for being an obedient child.
The implications of such internalized assumptions include an idea that the God and Father of Obedience created a world abundant with the fruits of creative activity, but then commanded adherence to a list of the performances – or in some cases, negative performances – that the children of God are expected to do … or not do …
A performance-based religion puts bans on what are perceived to be inappropriate things. These bans become “laws of the Church” which by implication become “Laws of God” which are viewed than as “Irrevocably Decreed” and upon which a worthiness obsessed God grants rewards.
In a performance-based-religion, members are banned from inappropriate music, television, movies, books and other literature. Freedom of  expression in art, music, and other forms of entertainment are seen as risks that may cause the Father to stop attending the disobedient.
In a performance-based-religion certain food and drink products are banned and seen as the causes of risks that the Father will stop attending the disobedient.
In a performance-based-religion the Father requires strict adherence to dress and personal appearance codes the rejection of which creates a risk that the Father will stop attending the disobedient.
In a performance-based-religion scriptures become the means and tool that can be utilized to effectively stand in for a lack of contemporary legitimate on-going revelation from the same God who started everything eons ago by speaking directly to his children. Scripture then becomes the weapon that confronts those who challenge would-be church-proclaimed prophets who don’t seem to do much contemporary prophesying, seeing or revelating themselves..
In a performance-based-religion, the very Father of Obedience – who has become in fact a Father of Conformity – does not speak to His church except through the voices of those who declare that the same silent Father has established in this performance-based-religion the only acceptable and effective means to salvation.
The Father of Conformity either refuses or is unwilling to justify or explain how such an only-right-means-to-salvation system and circumstance is equally fair and just to every other human being on the planet, not to mention why a privileged minority are granted the divine privilege of being born inside this only-right-means while the rest of the world must figure and work it out for themselves.
In a performance-based religion, like an overly strict and self-absorbed alcoholic parent, the Father of Conformity has authorized the use of emotional guilt, intimidation, thought control and coercion to keep family  members in line. He is also seen as justifying and endorsing guilt-ridden sermons and lessons designed to push believers into submitting to the authority of the leadership without question or criticism. Failure to respect the leadership creates a risk that the Father will stop attending the disobedient.
In a performance-based religion the Father of Conformity has authorized the use of the theory that people should spend long hours at the Church and do work in the Church in order to gain rewards in heaven. A bureaucracy has been created at all levels in order to engender, monitor and “lovingly” coerce this sort of working participation which then becomes the standard by which member spirituality is measured and recognized. This is not unlike the demand of an alcoholic tyrant that his family enable his behavior.
The same bureaucracy becomes then a powerful instrument for limiting criticism and dissention through emotional and spiritual abuse by perceived authority and endorsement by the Father of Conformity.
What is happening today and something about which the grand bureaucracy at all levels refuses to admit to being in denial about is that the process of establishing and enforcing man-made rules and doctrines creates mere man-made leadership. These leaders tend to nothing other than, or nothing better than the jot-and-tittle Pharisees of the New Testament. They are driving many away who would otherwise not be driven away.
Some who are driven away leave with emotional scars that cause depression, substance abuse and – unfortunately – suicide, along with the very activities against which the religion relentlessly preached. One can make a case the some of those driven off are at least temporarily not prepared to deal with life and society in a manner that is free from long-internalized judgmental and narrow notions.
The gentle but rigid Church programming involves and in fact revolves around forms of guilt and coercion. Within the Church as well as among those driven off there is a danger of low self-esteem that causes essentially unreasonable reactions to the Church itself.
Repentance becomes much more than returning to God.  It involves returning to the Church from which one has fled in desperation. This is not unlike a battered-wives syndrome where one consciously returns to a life at home with a mean and unrepentant battering inebriated spouse who wants her back but will –once she returns – continue business as usual.
There is a genuine tragedy when one feels driven off from the clan or out of the tribe because, like an enormous and ominous dark tower, the Church rises in the background or even the actual center of the tribal village. The Church thrusts itself with impunity into the middle of family relationships to which it has no moral or God-given right to interfere.
Members – unconsciously in many cases – are forced to choose between Church and family.
The Father of Conformity has said nothing about why this circumstance is a positive fruit by which that Father is known among the children of men. The either-or attitude may only be a perception of those driven off when the rest of the family remains inside the righteous but unseen walls of Church conformity. However, the Church does little or nothing to address that very family estrangement of which the Church and its historical narrative, that which informs it’s the Church’s justification for existing, is the principle cause.
Limited serenity that comes from separation from the direct and immediate sources of emotional pain still feels like something much better than the rigidly inflexible cauldron of conformity whose principal legacy is misery.
One day perhaps enough souls will be driven out of that imagined reality to change the face of the Church which might then turn away from the performance-based religious corporation it has become.
If not, those who imagine themselves to be living lives of actual free agency in the Great and Spacious Building may come to have greater power and influence than those who imagine themselves as children of the Father of Conformity.

 

Prayers to the God of War: Mark Twain’s Ultimate truth about getting what we pray for.

Prayers to the God of War

Prayers to the God of War

I have a book on my shelf about the United States of America. It’s title is A Country Made By War (Geoffrey Perett). Regardless of the theme of the book, its title is interesting in that it seems to imply the uncomfortable truth that our nation has made gun-points and wars the basis of our relationship to the rest of the world.

Our country has repeatedly placed American troops in harm’s way, leaving military families at home with the agony of worry and conflicts in many cases as to whether or not a particular war is absolutely necessary. Some families have spoken out against the war while others, praying all the time for safety for their loved ones, have chosen to follow an unspoken code of silence and support when troops are in action.

We all pray for God’s protection for our troops. But do we ask God to protect troops from enemies or should we ask God to protect troops from war itself?

Add to that politicians who play the religion card very cynically in trying to rally believers to blindly vote for them because in either party God talk evokes patriotism. We then find ourselves with that circumstance that prompted Lincoln to say that he hoped this country was on God’s side rather than that God was on our side.

Mark Twain had strong feelings about this and a passage from his famous War Prayer is one of those literal images that continues to speak very clearly to those who literally preach that God is on our side – those who preach that America should not only end wars, but, if our “Christian in the White House” regardless of party affiiation says so, should initiate them as well.

What images come to our minds when we hear someone pray for God to bless our armies with victory? What do we really say when we ask God to protect our troops and grant victory?

From Libertystory.net:

Outraged by American military intervention in the Phillipines, Mark Twain wrote this and sent it to Harper’s Bazaar. This women’s magazine rejected it for being too radical, and it wasn’t published until after Mark Twain’s death, when World War I made it even more timely. It appeared in Harper’s Monthly, November 1916.

Consider the following excerpt from The War Prayer:

“The service proceeded; a war chapter from the Old Testament was read; the first prayer was said; it was followed by an organ burst that shook the building, and with one impulse the house rose, with glowing eyes and beating hearts, and poured out that tremendous invocation:

God the all-terrible! Thou who ordainest! Thunder thy clarion and lightning thy sword!

Then came the “long” prayer. None could remember the like of it for passionate pleading and moving and beautiful language. The burden of its supplication was, that an ever-merciful and benignant Father of us all would watch over our noble young soldiers, and aid, comfort, and encourage them in their patriotic work; bless them, shield them in the day of battle and the hour of peril, bear them in His mighty hand, make them strong and confident, invincible in the bloody onset; help them to crush the foe, grant to them and to their flag and country imperishable honor and glory —

An aged stranger entered and moved with slow and noiseless step up the main aisle, his eyes fixed upon the minister, his long body clothed in a robe that reached to his feet, his head bare, his white hair descending in a frothy cataract to his shoulders, his seamy face unnaturally pale, pale even to ghastliness. With all eyes following him and wondering, he made his silent way; without pausing, he ascended to the preacher’s side and stood there waiting. With shut lids the preacher, unconscious of his presence, continued with his moving prayer, and at last finished it with the words, uttered in fervent appeal,

“Bless our arms, grant us the victory, O Lord our God, Father and Protector of our land and flag!”

The stranger touched his arm, motioned him to step aside — which the startled minister did — and took his place. During some moments he surveyed the spellbound audience with solemn eyes, in which burned an uncanny light; then in a deep voice he said:

“I come from the Throne — bearing a message from Almighty God!”

The words smote the house with a shock; if the stranger perceived it he gave no attention.

“He has heard the prayer of His servant your shepherd, and will grant it if such shall be your desire after I, His messenger, shall have explained to you its import — that is to say, its full import. For it is like unto many of the prayers of men, in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of — except he pause and think.

“God’s servant and yours has prayed his prayer. Has he paused and taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two — one uttered, the other not. Both have reached the ear of Him Who heareth all supplications, the spoken and the unspoken.

Ponder this — keep it in mind. If you would beseech a blessing upon yourself, beware! lest without intent you invoke a curse upon a neighbor at the same time. If you pray for the blessing of rain upon your crop which needs it, by that act you are possibly praying for a curse upon some neighbor’s crop which may not need rain and can be injured by it.

“You have heard your servant’s prayer — the uttered part of it. I am commissioned of God to put into words the other part of it — that part which the pastor — and also you in your hearts — fervently prayed silently. And ignorantly and unthinkingly? God grant that it was so!

You heard these words: ‘Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!’ That is sufficient. the whole of the uttered prayer is compact into those pregnant words. Elaborations were not necessary. When you have prayed for victory you have prayed for many unmentioned results which follow victory — must follow it, cannot help but follow it.

Upon the listening spirit of God fell also the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!

“O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle — be Thou near them! With them — in spirit — we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe.

O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells;

help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead;

help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain;

help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire;

help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief;

help us to turn them out roofless with little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it — for our sakes who adore Thee,

Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet!

We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.

(After a pause.)

“Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! The messenger of the Most High waits!”

What would Jesus Do?

What did Jesus say?

“But I say unto you, That every idle world that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.”

Jesus was not casual about the taking of a life. Christian pro-life advocates have never been casual about the taking of a life.

Why is it so many are willing to support any leader who is willing to wage war before war has become a last resort; who then in the name of exceptionalism displays a casual disregard for human lives of those who die innocently as collateral damage?

Why are so many willing to look the other way on the issue of war and death because they believe that political god-talk matters more than Christ-like actions?

“actively and passively driven from faith, by people of faith.”

sadgirl

An excellent writing by John Pavlotvitz. There are so many valuable and worthy lines in his article, I’ll paste a couple but the only way to appreciate the fullness is to read it on his site.

Distorted Love: The Toll Of Our Christian Theology On The LGBT Community

This is the cost of our religion to the LGBT community. More accurately, it’s the cost of our religion to LGBT human beings. This is the painful collateral damage that comes when we see principles and ignore people; when we refuse to give them the dignity they deserve.

Apparently Love does hurt; really, really badly.

The most common defense I’ve heard over the past 14 days from Christians who believe that being gay is both chosen and sinful, has been some variation of the supposedly well-meaning, “Well, we’re just loving people by being honest with them, by giving them ‘the Truth’. Telling people the truth is loving them.”

Really?

Theology is NEVER a truth … yes, I said NEVER a truth, divine or otherwise.

Original sin is not and never was a real thing … nor was the consequential need for redemption and atonement … none of that is any kind of truth.

Theology is merely a righteousness tool most frequently used as a cudgel by people who want to FEEL morally superior in any desperate way to someone to whom they are in fact not superior in any way.

Then there are those who do passive/aggressive ostraciscm of friends and loved ones who doubt or stop believing their societal or cultural “truths.” This from John Shore:

Is this fundamentalist mother’s letter to her daughter loving, or horrible?

Or as John Pavlovitz expressed it: “actively and passively driven from faith, by people of faith.”

Very True … only the shallowest think we are deep divers from another place stuck here under earthly skies while being linked to the above by some doofus holy air-hose.

pantheise quotes Sagan

Revering the Universe. Caring for Nature. Celebrating Life.
Learn more about Scientific Pantheism and the World Pantheist Movement!
www.pantheism.net
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… using faith to exploit an angry and ignorant populace with a collective Bible literacy that wouldn’t fill a shot glass.

Us believers gotta stick together!

Us believers gotta stick together!

This, dear readers, is mandatory reading for any American who takes his religion seriously … along with his understanding of civic duty.

  • Luke 3:11 He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise.
  • Matthew 25:40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
  • 1 Corinthians 13:4  Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,

I Was Betrayed by Republican Religion: What my years as a Christian fundamentalist taught me about right-wing faith – 

It is one of the great ironies of of contemporary American politics that, while The New Testament is further to the left than “The Communist Manifesto,” somehow the book and much of the religion it created have been subsumed by the cruelest, most selfish conservative politics I’ve seen in my lifetime, replete with outright hatred toward poor people, immigrants and every other unwashed commoner for which Jesus professed his most intimate love.

Claiming to be spiritually informed by Jesus, politicians pretending to Christian morals, aided and abetted by media more interested in viewer interest that civic and religious honesty, these pretenders have built what Lyngar calls a “media construct” … something that is not real. This media construct is presented to the gullibles as part of the effort to encourage a mass unconscious conspiracy to consider a lie the truth.

The political version of Christianity is first and foremost a media construct, like so much of our lives these days. It’s championed by Fox News, the 700 Club and a parade of has-beens and never-weres, selling the “prosperity gospel” like so much snake oil. It’s a powerful and toxic stew that is as relevant to Jesus as professional wrestling or a discarded Playboy. 

Lyngar:

I could fill a dozen essays with examples of Bible verses that contradict the core ideas and statements of conservative candidates, politicians and talking heads, but it’s a waste of time. No matter what the politicians and pundits claim to believe, they are only using faith to exploit an angry and ignorant populace with a collective Bible literacy that wouldn’t fill a shot glass.

We attended a Sunday service at the Spokane Unitarian Universalist Church. You might know them as that liberal religion that had the gall to go against the self-righteous public religious norm and openly invite non-traditional believers to come worship and dine at the Lord’s table with them.

I found a business-sized card that I now carry in my wallet. It begins with What Do Unitarian Universalists Believe?:

Well, for starters …

The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in congregations;
A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within congregations and in society at large;
The goal of world community with peace, liberty and justice for all;
Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

Not one dang thing wrong with any of that. We met several impressive individuals, several of which have never formally joined the UU church but whose personal spirituality and belief in goodness for the sake of goodness has nothing to do with religious orthodoxy, born again moments or accepting a mythical god as a personal savior.

I felt like I had encountered a religious organization to whom I would entrust my family to be taught goodness for the sake of goodness, charity for the sake of charity and love for the sake of love.

So who really “owns” Jesus? What does social and political activism in the name of Jesus really look like?

Before one lets the candidates and parties tell you what God wants of you, think about what it means to be Christian in America.

Think about the revised “tradition” of belief and attitude that is being pushed in this country at the expense of social justice, equality and compassion:

Who wants mandatory prayer in school?

Who wants to weaken separation of church and state?

Who wants censorship?

Who wants literal interpretation of Religious Scripture?

Who opposes women’s rights?

Who rejects the theory of evolution?

Who favored on invasion of Iraq?

Who opposes gay rights?

Who opposes contraceptives?

Who opposes sex education?

Who favors corporal punishment?

Who declares that there is only one TRUE God?

Who declares that dissent is disloyalty?

Who looks the other way when torture and murder happen – especially if it is the torture and murder of non-citizens?

Who favors the death penalty?

One answer to the above questions: Osama Bin Laden

Anyone else come to mind?

And finally this from my own cultural heritage … how I was raised to think … and I remind my cultural brethren who take the pretenders far more seriously than they ought:

Book of Mormon: Mosiah chapter 4:

13 And ye will not have a mind to injure one another, but to live peaceably, and to render to every man according to that which is his due.

14 And ye will not suffer your children that they go hungry, or naked; neither will ye suffer that they transgress the laws of God, and fight and quarrel one with another, and serve the devil, who is the master of sin, or who is the evil spirit which hath been spoken of by our fathers, he being an enemy to all righteousness.

15 But ye will teach them to walk in the ways of truth and soberness; ye will teach them to love one another, and to serve one another.

16 And also, ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish.

17 Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just—

18 But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God.

19 For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?

20 And behold, even at this time, ye have been calling on his name, and begging for a remission of your sins. And has he suffered that ye have begged in vain? Nay; he has poured out his Spirit upon you, and has caused that your hearts should be filled with joy, and has caused that your mouths should be stopped that ye could not find utterance, so exceedingly great was your joy.

21 And now, if God, who has created you, on whom you are dependent for your lives and for all that ye have and are, doth grant unto you whatsoever ye ask that is right, in faith, believing that ye shall receive, O then, how ye ought to impart of the substance that ye have one to another.

22 And if ye judge the man who putteth up his petition to you for your substance that he perish not, and condemn him, how much more just will be your condemnation for withholding your substance, which doth not belong to you but to God, to whom also your life belongeth; and yet ye put up no petition, nor repent of the thing which thou hast done.

23 I say unto you, wo be unto that man, for his substance shall perish with him; and now, I say these things unto those who are rich as pertaining to the things of this world.

24 And again, I say unto the poor, ye who have not and yet have sufficient, that ye remain from day to day; I mean all you who deny the beggar, because ye have not; I would that ye say in your hearts that: I give not because I have not, but if I had I would give.

25 And now, if ye say this in your hearts ye remain guiltless, otherwise ye are condemned; and your condemnation is just for ye covet that which ye have not received.

26 And now, for the sake of these things which I have spoken unto you—that is, for the sake of retaining a remission of your sins from day to day, that ye may walk guiltless before God—I would that ye should impart of your substance to the poor, every man according to that which he hath, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants.

to know God as God is

The Second is like unto the First.

The Second is like unto the First.

Whether Jesus was real or mythical, if we try to live by shallow view of the life of Jesus we may very much limiting ourselves to the idea that we never measure up to the traditional theological notions about who Jesus was and is. We, for example, then see the ideas and concepts that Jesus teaches about our relationship to God as our being stricken with some consequence of original sin or possessing inherent evil. Both are in fact nothing more than old sectarian notions. Regardless of anyone’s convictions, the reality of original sin and a need for redemption … isn’t.

Were we in fact not in possession of the capacity to know God as God is because of an inability to measure up, we then cannot relate one-to-one with Jesus who – according to mere theology – was not born guilty of original sin or possessing inherent evil. This if we follow the logic of those who insist that Jesus in the most unique and powerful way, was and is God.

Our relationship to the God, however is the same as Jesus’ relationship to the God.

less to do with salvation and its assumed requirements and more to do with …

Jesus’ gift of salvation – as a gift – is one given without conditions. A gift once given is like bread cast on the water. We no longer own the gift and its belongs to the recipient to enjoy. Otherwise, it’s a contractual loan.

Striving to be and live the life of a Christ-like person could then be founded on the idea of Jesus’ love for humanity

… an unconditionally given gift that has less to do with salvation and its assumed requirements and more to do with having learn to see things as Jesus saw them and know things as Jesus knew them.

grounded in a truthful spirit

I think we should be grounded in a truthful spirit that is honest enough to desire instruction, correction and enlightenment from the Compassionate God. We then can “judge” ourselves by considering our ways.

But we are not to judge anybody else. We can consider their ways and determine our own comportment toward them accordingly but without condemnation.

If we then are desirous to know God as God is and perhaps come to understand how we are in God and God is in us, we become unshackled from the self-judging and often self-condemning mind set that comes from too much theology and not enough search, ponder and pray by one’s own methods whatever those methods be.

“The eye through which I see God is the same eye through which God sees me; my eye and God’s eye are one eye, one seeing, one knowing, one love.”
― Meister Eckhart, Sermons of Meister Eckhart