No Ordinary Princess

...anything but ordinary...

Monday, August 07, 2006

Godbags, Wingnuts and Christians

I stopped by Fetch Me my Axe after work last night to discover the most interesting post on shame and religion and the former’s relative value for political progressives. I believe this originally sprung from a discussion of the value of the use of the term “godbag” at PunkAssBlog. What I started as a “good post and oh, by the way” comment took on a life of its own, grew completely out of control and settled in over here. Please go read Belledame’s whole post, if you’re at all inclined. I highly recommend it. I’ll be excerpting it below.

In a nutshell, Belle thinks it’s a bad idea for the left to risk offending “religious” people because we need all the help we can get.

And what I hear you saying here is that you don’t particularly mind offending religious folk.

I may be misunderstanding.

But if that’s the case–well, personally? I don’t think the left can afford it. Not in this country.

And lord (ha) knows I have no love for the theocrats. and no, I’m not always so careful–nomenclature’s a bitch, I know who I’m talking about, no doubt someone else might not. I know I used to use “godbag” fairly frequently. As terms go I actuallly think that one’s potentially useful–provided you do, in fact, use specifically for people who are using their supposed piety as a cover for the fact that they're basically just being 'bags. Blowhards. Bullies. Yes.

Okay, I'm trying to follow along here. Many of the things Bellle talks about are relatively new concepts for me so bear with me. And, damn, I wish I had her way with words!

I agree that shaming one’s opponent has very little political value. I happen to think that shame has very little value of any sort in society or interpersonal relationships, period. Mocking people as a group sport may well be my least favorite activity on the planet. I agree that name-calling, stick- and stone-throwing, belittling, condescending and shaming do little to positively influence undecided voters or those unsure of their stance on a given issue. And, if you think about it, are the kinds of people who would be positively influenced by shaming and other brutality-based behavior really the people we'd like as our allies?

I also believe a vast majority of the American public is basically good-hearted and finds little joy in mocking others and being unkind. I believe the average American believes in fairness, feels the suffering of those less fortunate and truly cares more for their fellow humans than for world domination, killing our planet and buck-a-gallon gas. I believe a large majority of Americans want to be good and to do the right and moral thing...many of them just don’t know how.

I believe there are a lot of very moral people out there in the middle of America...even, maybe especially, among fundamentalist Christians. I'm sure my lovely mother- and father-in-law, Fundies all their lives, cringe to their toes when they hear Ann Coulter vomit her venomous filth. I married their son in their church, a little white clapboard chapel in a small city in the middle of southern NJ farmlands. The pastor was a quiet 60-something with a gentle, golden soul. He counseled me when my marriage was in trouble. He had the heart (and patience) of a saint.

That church has now "grown" into a monstrosity. Gigantic congregation, huge cathedral, theater acoustics, fancy-schmancy, high-falootin', flashy, young pastor "on fire!" I may be exaggerating a bit but it has become a mini-mega in South Jersey. All of this was accomplished, of course, with a move from the heart of a tiny, "decaying" city to a patch of former farmland on the outskirts of town. I’ve been to the new church once or twice since construction was completed maybe fifteen years ago. There’s lots of money and flash and bling and glitz but very little of the heart and spirit I recall of that tiny church on a side street in a "dying" town. For those who have truly heard (figuratively, not literally) the voice of their Lord, for someone who truly strives to live their life in a Christ-like manner, the appropriation of spirituality for political purposes and material gain and the "rock-star-ization" of Christianity must settle like a cold, dead stone in the gut.

In a post a couple of weeks ago, I talked about Greg Boyd, the pastor of Woodland Hills Church, a megachurch in St. Paul, Minnesota. (And Belle was kind enough to leave a comment on that post, thanks.) I really must get his book because this subject greatly interests me. What comes to mind right now is the discussion in the NYT article about how the congregation's make-up changed following Pastor Boyd's series of sermons. The exodus included mostly white, upper- or middle-class, comfortably-situated members, who were replaced (nearly replaced...the membership dropped by a net of around 1,000, if I recall) by local poor/working/middle-class, Latino/a, black, Asian and white congregants.

I was not discouraged by this but, rather, encouraged. These are the people who are the heart of Christianity...the ones who come for the love of their Lord, not those people who are threatened by the expulsion of lawyers, guns, money and politics from the pulpit, not those who are wearing Christianity because it is de rigueur. These are the people who need to hear the sermon that making war is not a part of a Godly plan, that caring for one another is the primary charge of Christ. These are the people the liberals and progressives need to reach out to, not offend.

I read somewhere once that more people identify themselves as trying to live by the Golden Rule than say they go to church each Sunday or read the Bible daily or describe themselves as “religious” or claim that their “religion is very important to them.” (This is why I will never be a journalist or a good gossip...I simply can’t recall who told me what/when and I’m too lazy to go research it.)

Personally, I try never to refer to any group of people in derogatory terms or with malicious intent. I might fault the Religious Right but try not to refer to the whole category in demeaning ways. When I call GWB an “asshole” and Ann Coulter a “bitch” (though I cringe at her appropriation of my identifier), refer to Cheney as a lying, manipulative, evil prick and Rumsfeld as the American Mengele, I consider these factual assertions, not name-calling. Hell, they're all a bunch of assholes, as this fabulous video proves.

(Think about it...die the hair and slim down the chest and Tim Curry is Coulter!)

I find it offensive when derogatory terminology is directed toward an entire class or group of people because that makes assumptions about all its members. While it might be fairly safe to assert that most right-wingnuts are Republicans, it’s not fair to say most Republicans are evangelicals or fundamentalists or even Christians. It is not fair to saddle Christians with the baggage of the Religious Right. There are wonderful groups of committed Christians who are doing good work, helping those less fortunate, even working for progressive and liberal political causes.

If the vast majority of Americans report their religion is “very important to them,” and even more respond that they try to live by the Golden Rule and if, like me, a majority of Americans are offended by stereotypes and name-calling, progressives risk alienating a large and important segment of the American electorate by the use of derogatory terms for right-wing groups.

I agree with Belle that “godbag(s)” or “right wingnut(s)” might be appropriate when calling out a blatant nut case or group of them but we need to exercise restraint when we include “Christian(s)” in those categories. I believe in the separation of church and state but, like it or not, America was founded by Christians and the vast majority of Americans identify themselves as Christians today. These people are not theocrats, just ordinary citizens like you and me who may be equally disgruntled and displeased by the direction in which our present “leadership” has been taking our nation. They could be powerful allies. Or they could be just as disgruntled with a group of “left wingnuts” who they feel has called them a derogatory name.

Damn, I hope this makes sense and I’ve gotten my point across. Basically, Americans are good, as a rule, and Christians don’t necessarily deserve to be lumped in with “godbags” and “wingnuts” and doing so may keep them further on the side of the godbags and wingnuts and away from the side of the 'right' (little "r").

Jesus is a liberal!

Technorati tags: bitchy / Christianity / liberal politics / progressive politics / religion / US politics


Blogger belledame222 said...

>These are the people who are the heart of Christianity...the ones who come for the love of their Lord, not those people who are threatened by the expulsion of lawyers, guns, money and politics from the pulpit...>

Well, hello, wouldn't you think?

i mean, if there's -one- thing that ought to be at the heart of any religion based on the teachings of Jesus, it ought to be that he was about the -underdog.- Blessed are the meek, the poor in spirit. Turn over those moneychanger tables. Break bread with the "pariahs" and -screw- the scandalized. Don't be a damn hypocrite. Share what you have. How much further from that than the theocratic machine-monstruosity what's trying to install itself could you possibly get?

It's weird; I'm definitely a cultural Jew as well as one by birth. but the Old Testament does very little for me. if it 'twere me I'd just as soon take the teachings of Jesus (excised books included) and pitch the rest--definitely including Paul.

which, well, is pretty much no one's idea of a "Christian;" and I can't say I'd ever see myself as one myself.

on the other hand, the worst of the Christian theocrats, when they're not just hypocritical snake-oil hucksters but rather sincere, they seem so much about the Old Testament--harsh, patriarchal, punitive--it's as though all of Jesus' actual message is an afterthought.

or he becomes this sort of...i don't know, cosmic teddy bear. it's gross. it's like really bad fanfic or something.

8/8/06 8:15 PM  
Blogger belledame222 said...

...the Old Testament and the most dour passages from Paul, I should say. and oh let's not forget Revelation. goddam Revelation. I wonder how much different the the history of the past umpteen years would be if that one weren't stamped into everyone's zeitgeist. Jesus II: He's back and He's Mad. whatever. great. more excuses to blow ourselves to smithereens! woo fucking hoo.

8/8/06 8:19 PM  
Blogger Cheryl said...

"if it 'twere me I'd just as soon take the teachings of Jesus (excised books included) and pitch the rest--definitely including Paul."

Beacuse that's what being a Christian is about. That's what Christ was about. That seems to have been forgotten during the rise of the Right-wing Neanderthals but not by *true* Christians.

The way I became a Christian, lo these many years ago, was through this argument: In the Old Testament, the old rules applied...sacrifice, the laws of, what, Leviticus?. Christ came as our sacrifice. We no longer had to obey archaic laws about not mixing meat and milk, we could slip up and be forgiven. We don't have to be perfect or offer up blood in atomement. Christ became the sacrifice and our route to God.

Christ made it so we no longer needed to heed the old rules and, indeed, challenged us to discard them and follow His teachings.

I think the sleeping giant of Christ-like Christians is going to rise up, throw the tv out the window and scream, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it any more!"

What passes for the Religious Right and supposed fundamentalist "Christians" these days are tin gods and I think genuine Christians are coming to realize that. Combine the power of the Christ-like Christians and the liberal or progressive left and I think we're unbeatable.

For the first time in 6 years, I feel a breath of refreshing air. That knot in my gut is just a little less tight...

9/8/06 3:36 PM  
Blogger Cheryl said...

"i mean, if there's -one- thing that ought to be at the heart of any religion based on the teachings of Jesus, it ought to be that he was about the -underdog.- Blessed are the meek, the poor in spirit. Turn over those moneychanger tables. Break bread with the "pariahs" and -screw- the scandalized. Don't be a damn hypocrite. Share what you have."

That is such a perfect description, Belle!

9/8/06 3:40 PM  

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