Tuesday, May 1

Don't Sugarcoat It Award for May 1

From Sister Nancy,
and you can tell that's a Great Lash wand, you bet your bouffant.
(order the thong here.)

Today's Don't Sugarcoat It Award goes to visiting journalist Joe Bageant at Talk2Action for his lovely post, "Redneck Liberation Theology --- Why are leftists so fucking afraid of God?" It's so nice, first off, to see another writer of faith use the fuck word. Makes me feel a little less alone. But Joe also cuts through the mustard, turkey, pickle, lettuce and tomato, with this insightful comment, which really hit home with Blue Gal's experience at the Divinity School up the river:

It's OK for Latin Americans to practice fundamental Catholic Christianity with great devotion (brown peoples are suckers for that superstitious stuff) but white American fundamentalists, well, that's another matter. As the left sees it, what they need is a good public stoning.

The egotism of the left hit very close to home with me in graduate school. It's perfectly alright for Africans to practice Islam in a fundamentalist way, Buddhists to do whatever they do, etc. But if a white American believes in following Jesus than yeah, gotta watch that one. I was laughed at in a class at Harvard Divinity School for daring to bring up Lazarus in a discussion of the afterlife. Seriously. People in the class laughed out loud to my face. It's okay to take apart biblical texts and piece together myriad translations and even to bring up how OTHER PEOPLE in OTHER COUNTRIES might use Biblical text to change their situation. But hey, you know what? We're better and smarter than that.

That's not only fucking patronizing, it's fucking racist. Just saying.

Maybe I'm misreading Joe, but the money quote for me in this article is that we, all of us, have to come to grips with the fact that both the American Empire and the planet itself are dangerously close to ending. And that if we, the left wing, the ones who always, always, congratulate ourselves that WE are the ones "paying attention," fail through our own egotistical trust in our own intellectual righteousness, to connect with anything outside that ego, we're screwed.

Busting through the delusional veil of any imperial state culture always spells acceptance of more tough news for its clueless citizenry. In our case means reconnection with the earth, and embracing the suffering and eventual death it provides every living thing as a matter of physics and cosmic order. That's where it begins and ends. Everything in between, the NGOs, the Internet, the theologians, and all the political theories in the world are just the signal static, the self-enforced interference between ourselves and the only worthwhile goals left in a doomed Empire---and all empires eventually meet their doom---humility, compassion and reconnection with the spirit.

We lefty Christians, on the other hand, must admit that it's our own damn fault for letting James Dobson tell America that he speaks for Christianity and yeah, we didn't call him on his bullshit early enough or loud enough. Because now, yeah, the majority of lefties hate Christians and don't want to even talk about it. They're justified.

We've started to undo that, I hope, with Blog Against Theocracy. I hope at least in the blogosphere, the three hundred or so bloggers who participated realize that Christians are not all James Dobson, and that scientists are not all Richard Dawkins. If you're here reading, you know they're not.

In either case, it's not about being right all the time. It's about listening.


  1. Those panties remind me of something a friend of mine said once. He told me that he'd seen a bumper sticker n a car that said, "In Case Of Rapture This Car Will Not Have a Driver." He said to me, "Now if I had written that it would have said, 'In Case of Rapture, I'll Be Driving Your Car.'" Personally, I have nothing against people who believe, I used to believe that stuff myself, all I ask is you stop trying to convert me. I am, as Webb Wilder says, a full grown man and I can make my own mind on those matters.

  2. Hey Eventsnoted: It's against my religion to attempt to convert you. God may have other plans for you, in my book, and it's none of my business.

  3. christians have different sects and views and they vary widely.

    people like dobson and falwell and swaggert and robertson went under other christian's radar til it was and still, may be, too late.
    there were quite a few years there where mainstream christians wouldn't say anything against them because after all they are christians.
    then a lot of these same people condemned main stream muslims for not stopping the radicals among them. what would they at first? they are fellow muslims.
    as to the brown skinned fundamentaists. hey, they can believe and practice as they want. i believe everyone must find their own path that fulfills and sustains and helps them to be the best that they can be.
    but the south american fundamentalist christians that nail themselves to crosses on good friday are talked about and i a lot of cases looked at with either ridicule or pity.
    christains have snake handles and such. every religion has followers that have a need to go to the extreme in their understanding of whatever scripture or holy book they follow.
    i think that is one of the ways that free will comes into play.
    i think that as long as your beliefs are not hurting anyone else, then you can nail yourself to a cross on good friday instead of carrying one thru the streets of a town as they do here in etna every year.
    i do not thing christians have a lot to worry about as far as being ostracised or demonized or discriminated against. christians, like other faiths have far more to worry about from members of the differing sects of their own religion. at least, that's how i see it.
    i ramble.

  4. don't mind the typos, my eyes are tired and typos are bad with me anyway. thanks

  5. oh and yes, listening is the best way to learn and grow.

  6. The egotism of the left hit very close to home with me in graduate school.

    While I think the rightwing echo chamber waaaay overplays this stereotype, and there are entire books on that, sadly, there is some truth to it, and it's something liberals need to address. I have some devout friends (both liberal and conservative) who will complain of this to me. One devout friend teaches and is finishing up her dissertation. She's very sincere in her faith, but she's also one of the sharpest and most independent thinkers I've met. I remember remarking to her one dinner that it was silly to disparage someone of faith as being stupid merely for being religious because faith and intellect were really different paradigms. She told me that in her experience in academia mine was an unusual sentiment and related an incident at a recent academic conference — essentially, the view that religion was the same as superstition was a given, and there was a whiff of condescension with it, basically, what is wrong with these people and there's really nothing we can do about it.

    (I'd be interested in hearing more about that Lazarus conversation, because if you're at Harvard Divinity School and you're discussing the afterlife, I would think it would be pretty directly relevant!)

    I have a friend who converted to Islam back in the early 90s, and he found it very interesting and hypocritical that some of his liberal activist crowd were so put off by it. Converting to Buddhism or even Hinduism was "cool," but not Islam. In his view, the self-proclaimed "tolerant" aren't always really that tolerant. To be fair, some of the people he knew were concerned about the treatment of women in Muslim nations, but that's a different issue from the religion itself. Personally, I don't like folks who proselytize versus umm, having a conversation, but one can be religious without proselytizing! Hell (doh!) heck, I'm happy to discuss theology with some individuals as well, from a curiosity standpoint if nothing else, but that's a social matter, since some people would enjoy that conversation but it can makes others very uncomfortable.

    I do think it's important to distinguish between theocrats and religious people in general. AS you note, the authoritarian religious right does not speak for all Christians in America, although folks such as James Dobson, William Donohue, Pat Robertson and Jimmy Falwell try to pretend they do. (There are also some influential authoritarian religious Democrats, as Talk to Action has documented.) Religious authoritarians have tried for decades to equate "non-religious" with "anti-religious" and "non-religious" with "secular humanist" or "secularist." In some cases, there's sincere feelings behind such language, but the labeling is inaccurate and generally deployed for political effect. Personally, I dislike blanket condemnations of religion and religious people, but I'm more irked by public figures bashing the non-religious. While there are social circles where being religious isn't considered cool, on the national political stage it seems pretty much reversed. Public officials and most MSM figures generally tread very carefully around religious people but are pretty comfortable bashing the non-religious, treating it as a given that atheists are immoral and no morality can exist independent of religious faith, etc. I have a passel of posts on some of these issues, but surely the Blog Against Theocracy weekend showed that both religious and non-religious people can oppose theocracy, and a little more accuracy and diversity is a good thing. Huzzah for more listening! ;-)

  7. Anonymous8:13 AM

    I just have to put in my two centavos. Mine is a different experience, because I did not get my MA in Theology at a liberal theological institution, but at an ecumenical evangelical seminary (Fuller). And the time is the 1970s, probably only lived by a tiny percentage of your readers. I and my associates tried to awaken the faithful to the social implications of "love thy neighbor as thyself", but we soon found out that our compadres did not derive an awareness of their neighbor's needs from their neighbor, but from their preconceptions based on theological positions. So taking the message to the streets meant offering a person salvation through faith in Christ, then helping that person find a place IN THE CHURCH, i.e. to become reeducated into the social values of evangelical Christianity. And what were those values? Not striking against a company that for years exploited workers then dumped them in their infirmity. Not advocating for the full rights of all persons regardless of sexual orientation/preferences. Not trying to end rampant militarism. Instead, the majority of evangelicals I encountered found Republicanism the most compatible world view.

    Since that time, the "liberal evangelical church" has remained a minority, while it is the FUNDAMENTALIST church which has grown. And it continues to side with Caesar in all things, and even seeks Cesar's help to enforce its "values."

    So I say, bravo to the BG that you can hold fundamental truths and in faith try to work out their meaning in fear and trembling, leading you to side with the oppressed. But you are a minority, sadly, and until then, the "Christian Right" will hold forth the banner as Christ's true messengers, and the Left will justifiably link fundamentalist evangelicalism with the jack boot of oppression.

    Christians of conscience need a new way. I invite the interested reader to go here:
    Just for the record, our group at Fuller was one of the first Christians for Socialism groups in the US. And as for the death of socialist ideology, ask Bernard Sanders if it’s irrelevant...


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