There’s a website, a forum, called “A Lonely Life,” which I ran across a few days ago. I sort’of jumped in to see if I could meet people and find fellow travelers in this fucked up world. I was prompted to explain why I am lonely and started writing what turned out to be a little autobiography. I realized it would be too long for a post so I decided to put it here on my occasionally visited and off the wall blog. The website is http://www.alonelylife.com. Here’s my would-be post:
I’ve been thinking about some things I might post on here but I hesitate to write some things and others I haven’t quite nailed it down.
I found this forum by typing in “I have nobody” in the Goog. That’s not exactly true. I’m married and have two little kids, well, not so little any more. I have a wild-child friend in San Marcos, a 22 yr old rock and roller but never get to see him. But outside of those people and a couple of my rock band buddy’s friends I have no real friends at all. It is probably my own damn fault but there’s still little I can do about it, or know how to do about it. Thus my search and arrival here.
On another place here I talked about how humanity seems to be divided into two types: sheep and goats. It’s an analogy that comes from christianity. The majority are sheep; happy, or at least content to be secure, in a fantasy world created by their Masters and held together by determination and fear. Those Masters are religion, government, peer groups, sometimes family. Goats, a minority, are those who cannot and will not live in a fabricated world. They must see the world and everything in it for what it is. They recognize the Masters as evil and self-serving. They demand truth, insist on evidence, refuse to suck up the bullshit the Masters dish out.
It is no accident that the sheep/goat analogy is deeply planted in christian mythology. Along with it comes promises of good stuff for good sheep and curses for goats. Sheep can stray and be found. Goats are doomed by their very nature. Goats are to be scorned, abused, ran off, or killed. Christians have compassion, theoretically, for sheep, lost or found. For goats they only have hatred. Remember, the devil himself is depicted as a goat.
This cornball analogy translates in the real world to how people act, what they believe, who they follow. Christians, religious sheep, are incredibly determined to believe an extreme load of bullshit and illogical ideas. They follow the Masters, those who claim to interpret ‘the word’ or speak for Jeeeezus, and rarely question. Of course sheep of other herds do the same. Non-religious sheep find another Master to drop in behind. Maybe they follow some corporate schmuck or suck up the lie of capitalism. Many fall into the liberal camp, actually think O’BamBam is trying to be good, and join the right wing fools in scorning those who point out the absolutely obvious truth that 9/11 was a lie and a setup. Whatever. Sheep follow. Sheep have their fuzzy little heads up their asses. Sheep are cowards.
To christians, goats are atheists, evolutionists, hedonists, etc. People of other religions, to christians, are merely misguided, but those who dare question religion itself, those who scorn and scoff at the idiotic ideas they teach (and point out how really badly they follow what Jesus taught them themselves) are goats. And goats deserve no mercy, no rights, no respect, and no love. Why bother, they’re bound for hell anyway.
The US is dominantly, and frighteningly, christian. Right wing nutcases are in a minority but they push the buttons of a lot more christians by designating goats as the cause of all our ills. They always exaggerate and lie, but what the hell, sheep don’t question and never look up facts themselves. Just consider the politician who called for a “registry of atheists” a few days ago. We who question the status-quo, who dare challenge the violations of our civil liberties by DHS, who demand an end to war, etc., are not the opposition. We’re ‘terrorists.’ We are the Enemy. The right wing sees its supposed rival as no problem. The opposition “liberal” class is a collection of pansy-ass do-gooders who spend their corporate-supplied dollars at Whole Foods and moan quietly about the environment or some bullshit while they nibble on sushi and drink expensive wine.
My story. I was, at one time, an extreme christian zealot. I believed the shit my mom and the church taught me. As a kid I saluted the fucking flag every night when the TV station signed off and played the national anthem. (Ahh, the sixties!) But I believed if christians were going to be christians it was their responsibility to BE christians. I tried.
On this board (A Lonely Life) I read young folks’ posts. They sound like I would have thirty five years ago. My home life was hell growing up. I went to a redneck segregated school where the only available victims redneck bigots had to torment were the clumsy and the fat. I was not a lot of either of those but I was available and enough of both to start catching hell in grade school. My first name didn’t help. The cruelest thing my parents ever did was give me a name that is sure to bring ridicule. My parents’ feet were deeply planted in the ground where we lived so I endured year after year of the worst kind of hell from the same people. Picking on me was institutionalized by the time I reached High School. And it was such a part of my personality I manged to carry a target on my back wherever I went for a long time.
Rather than coming to hate all those people who shoved me off sidewalks and stuck gum in my hair I felt sorry for them and wanted to get them saved. I started a decades-long crusade to save the whole fucking world. I bashed my head against walls over and over. I tried to rally the ‘christian soldiers’ so many times it ain’t funny. But they sat on their lazy, cowardly ass and called me a fanatic.
The older I got, the more I read about the sheep/goat analogy, the more I began to think I was a goat. I felt it in my gut. It scared me but I just made up my mind not to be one. Years passed and my open eyes and ears saw and heard just how stupid, blind and dumb sheep are. Eventually I saw how stupid, blind and dumb I was, too. One after the other the things I thought were true proved to be bullshit. There finally came a day, far too late in life, that I finally realized I had been fucked over, there is no god, and I’d been a total fool for decades.
The thing is, most people saw that I was a goat even before I knew it. I had too much confidence, even when I was confident about things that were not true. I had too much determination. I was not one of them. I was not accepted. Goats never are.
I’m not a blubbering sod but there is a deep compassion in me. Always has been. I hate bullies and mourn for their victims. I hate all things that destroy humanity and the earth. My conversion from patriotic right wing nutcase to extremist socialistic pacifistic environmentalist came about because I saw how destructive and horrible super-patriotism and blind faith can be. I studied war in great depth. I recognized the cruelty of religious domination. I’ve been broke and homeless and I’ve been a welfare caseworker so I came to understand and care about even those who are often considered trash by the world’s standards and even by religious people. I’ve been a foster parent and learned the depth and breath of the horrors children suffer from in this country. All of these things are important because they have motivated me to try and DO SOMETHING, over and over. But I’m a fucking goat. People don’t like goats. I’ve built several organizations over the years, worked my ass off and spent thousands, only to have it blow up in my face because so-called christians walked out when things got a little bumpy.
I’ve suffered humiliation and repeated defeat. I have literally become everything I used to warn people about. I love Heavy Metal music. I smoke. I drink any time I can afford it and excessively ever chance I get. And I don’t give a fuck how fucking offensive my goddamn language is. But I am still filled with compassion, a desire for peace, a wish for a world where humans are respectful to each other. In that world my music, my habits and my language would not matter. What would matter is that I’m a human being worthy of respect, love, companionship. But we don’t live in that world. We live in Orwell’s world, a world of cruelty, selfishness, hatred, meanness, and vanity. The only difference between the christian version and the ‘secular’ version of this nightmare is that christians wear crosses representing a man they claim to worship but upon whom they piss with regularity by their attitudes, actions, and beliefs.
I am a goat. And I am pissed off and disgusted. I believe in the principals of peace taught by Buddha, the real one named Gautama, because they are the answer to the world’s problems. I am convinced Jesus was a Buddhist, too, but self-serving bullies preempted his teachings, bound them to the nightmare world of Judaism, and created an oppressive, hateful fake religion which they used to manipulate the sheep for centuries, and still do. They have so ingrained the western world with this horrible shit that goats never stand a chance.
I believe the teachings of Buddha are true and good. I try hard to follow them towards others. I respect people. I respect good law designed to protect us all. I drive the speed limit. Cruelty, selfishness, and meanness pisses me off. I hate the actions of bullies. When I befriend someone I do everything in my power to be a friend, even if it means giving someone everything I have. I teach my children to respect others, to care when nobody else does, to be good people. I’m not so good at following his teachings for myself because if Karma is true I’m fucked already and either way I really don’t give two shits about myself.
But none of my compassion, my desire for peace, my choice to respect others, etc., matters because I am a goat. I am unworthy.
I tried to ‘conform.’ I tried faking it. But I felt like shit and a liar, and I was. The last expensive fiasco I was involved in, the one that could have saved thousands of children from abuse and neglect, taught me that the world is a hopeless case. It also taught me that I am hopeless, too. I am fucked.
Success in this world comes either to those who don’t give a shit about anything but making it to the top, no matter who they crush on the way, or to pansy-ass sheep who are gifted with a personality that I do not have. The former are goats without conscience. The latter are cowards without a conscience. Neither type speak truth or act honestly. The ambitious prick does whatever necessary and the pansy will absolutely never do anything to rock the boat filled with his little followers. Because I am neither I don’t have a prayers chance in the proverbial hell.
I love my family, the three of them. They love me. They are the only anchor holding me to this fucked up world. Even so, my family are also sheep. I am still alone. Sheep cannot understand a goat.
My decades of crusading and standing up for what is right has cost me dearly. I’ve lost the best jobs because I refused to be bullied and/or I took a stand for what is right. I would do it again, too. I am incapable of bowing to bullies. I refuse to lie, cheat, or steal, or fuck over clients/customers, or break the law to keep my job. Companies want sheep. They roast the goats. Thus I’ve been pushed through the exit repeatedly.
I could be called a natural born fuck-up. No question I’ve had a reputation for being that many times. But the fact is I have always done my job very well. I was a damn good driver, a dedicated caseworker, an excellent pizza cook, a skilled technician… the mechanics of a job I do well. I’ve been commended and respected for my actual abilities. But when it comes to dealing with situations where ethics are involved things have always gone to shit. I was fired because a fuck-head driver ran me off the road for reporting his reckless conduct, I confronted him, and he hit me. They kept the fuck-head bully driver because he got the load there even if it risked lives and broke the law to do it. I was nailed by a vindictive bitch bully because I filed a complaint against her for abusing her staff. I did not fuck up, I stood up. Sheep hate people with guts. At one job, a rental agent for Enterprise Rent-a-car, a discussion of promotions and ambition came up one day between me and a co-worker. I said I would never walk over anybody to get ahead. She said, “you will not last.” She was right. The story of my life.
Yeah, I have fucked up quite a few times. I alienated my wife by my misplaced zeal for ‘god.’ I was a goddamn fool for doing that. Quite a few times I’ve taken up the banner, collected a few ‘soldiers’ and charged ahead into the battle only to look around and find the soldiers were all chickenshits. I have trusted far too many untrustworthy people and expected sheep to have balls. Most recently I worked my ass off for a bunch of bands who sang good songs and who I thought believed what they sang. Their challenge to the world was bullshit, a lie, and I should not have counted on them to be anything other than the sheep they are. My bad!
So here I sit in my little shop, drinking my coffee and smoking my little cigars and writing this idiotic little biography. I am alone.
I am alone because even though I love my wife and she loves me we live in entirely different worlds. She will not even talk with me about the things I think about all the time, the idiocy of religion, the horror of war, the fucked up state of this country. I am alone because the few people in the world I know of with whom I might have fellowship do not live anywhere close and to have their friendship would mean to leave the only anchor in this world I have, my family. I am alone because I can’t stand the fucking idiot attitudes of these deep woods religious rednecks in this part of Texas and I know full well to them I am the worst of human beings and the most evil of enemies. I am alone because this fucked up country is falling apart, jobs are hard to come by, and employers not only want sheep but young, healthy sheep. I am neither young or healthy. And, of course, I am sure as hell not a sheep. Thus I can’t even afford to travel occasionally where there are a few sane people I could befriend.
When I was young, in the military, I didn’t have too many friends but enough to not always be depressed. Even so there were times I would go to a park with my guitar, alone, and sing songs, wishing I would attract some person or a few people to befriend. Through the years I had friends, virtually all of which turned out to be less than I thought them to be. I did not abandon them, they abandoned me. Sooner or later, being the goat that I am, I fell below the standards they had for friends. People, sheep, set limits and boundaries of acceptability. One must not go outside those or the sheep will scatter. And people, sheep, are cowards. Challenge them to have courage and they evaporate like water on a hot skillet.
I’m not like you, I just fuck up. Words from a song by Slipknot called “People=Shit.” If people, sheep, especially christian sheeple, actually gave a damn like they say they do me being a fuck-up would not matter. But they don’t. And they get all snooty and self-righteously offended and indignant when we who do fuck up, who are goats, who refuse to kiss the Master’s ass or accept his bullshit lies say and do things in protest. Only we understand the meaning of “People=Shit.” They just think we’re being rude and crude. Slipknot and many other metal bands sing their rude, crude songs to young crowds of kids who feel something just ain’t right, who feel the need to rebel, but who eventually will sink right into the morass of shit, follow a Master, and look back on their days of “rebellion” thinking how silly they were. Not even they really get it, except for the few who are goats. Those kids, I so feel sorry for them because they, like me, are fucked.
I am alone, most of all, because I just don’t understand sheep. They are an absolute mystery. They do stupid shit, think stupid shit, act stupid, and then look down their self-righteous noses at goats like me even though I know more and can do more and have a hell of a lot more respect and compassion for my fellow man than they do. I do not fuck up in their eyes because I am a moron. I fuck up because I’m like a redneck in Japan, a guy far from what he knows trying to survive a culture with extremely alien ways. That is the way it is. It cannot be changed.
There is no hope for this world. Everything will get worse. The earth is doomed. Sheep are going to follow their Master vultures right down into the abyss. And I’m going to sit here in this little patch of woods being lonely, hurt and bitter for another few years, maybe a decade or two, and then I will die. I’ll watch with a broken heart while everyone sinks into the shit. When I die my family will mourn me, miss me, and then follow everybody else right down into the pit. This is about as fucked up as it gets. And then, the end.
This morning a question was posted on a group I participate in on Facebook, The “A” Club, that asked members if their value system changed when they became an atheist. Some folks said it was their value system that led them to atheism. I must say the same is true for me. The constant lying, denial of truth and reality, refusal to consider any point of view not consistent with their programming, these things drove me crazy for years before I abandoned faith. It was not the beliefs but the failure of ‘believers’ to actually live their faith that ended my sojourn in Christendom.
Another person, however, said he was happier now as an atheist. I cannot say that I am. I am no more happy now than I was before. Nothing has changed within Christianity. The millions I once called my brothers and sisters remain deluded, programmed, and confused. They practice a moral standard far removed from that taught by their Jesus. And worse, they dismiss the whole of humanity and life on the earth as unimportant, fleeting, and temporary. Their obsessive and insane belief in heaven leads them to devalue life. I cannot be happy when so many people–including every member of my family–are so oppressed and oppressive.
I moved from Christianity to Buddhism. What most people do not know is that Buddhism is an atheistic religion. It hardly qualifies as a religion at all in the general sense. Buddha believed there were ‘spirits’ or other realms. He believed in a form of reincarnation. But he did not believe in a ‘god’ in the same sense that religion does. Buddha was the first evolutionist. Essentially he believed in the existence of a ‘life force,’ for want of a better term, a thread of energy that moves through every living thing. I do not translate the beliefs very well but the fact is that a true Buddhist is an atheist; he does not believe in a god or a ‘creator.’
I miss the idea of a creator. It was a comforting thought. Many people leave Christianity and other mainstream religions only to become Deists or New Age mystics or something similar because they can’t abandon the idea of a god altogether. Whatever I may have thought about Christians it was still very difficult for me to put aside the thought, “I see a sunrise and know who to thank.” Nothing in Christianity destroyed that feeling. Something else did: a photograph.
Ever since I was a kid I looked at the stars with a sense of wonder and excitement. The night sky has always overwhelmed me. Knowledge of the universe has increased exponentially since I was a kid. I was as excited as anyone could be when the Hubble was launched. Little could I know then that the Hubble would prove the death of faith for me.
Christians so blithely quote Genesis, that god created the ‘heavens and the earth,’ without giving a single thought to what they are saying. We’ve become aware of how incredible and immense the universe is. The simple, medieval belief in creation does not fit. It makes no sense that a creator with such power and ability would be all that interested in an obscure planet such as ours. I managed to rationalize my beliefs for a long time. Then I ran across the Hubble Deep Space Survey. That single photograph changed everything. It hit me that the idea of a creator was ridiculous.
With my discovery of the Hubble Deep Space photo came a total realization that belief in a creator was absurd. Thus the final string was cut between me and religion altogether. But that does not mean I like it.
Furthermore, I am, unfortunately, still far too “attached” to ideas, ideals, and humanity itself to be content with the knowledge I have. It was much easier to dump stuff on god than it is to face it directly.
I was taught to believe in the value of mankind and the necessity of ‘making a difference.’ These things remain a part of me. I am not content just to know truth myself. I am driven to figure out a way for all of humankind to find truth, too. Truth, I believe, is the answer to all our problems and conflicts as a race. But truth is very hard to pin down. Truth is much more a recognition of “what is not” than an understand of what “is.” I very often get the overwhelming sense that truth is in some way being withheld from us, not by ‘god,’ but by someone/something beyond our known world. That feeling really pisses me off.
I cannot accept the general scientific theory that we evolved. The gap between humanity and all other species is too great. There may be some superficial similarities between us and apes or chimpanzees but there is no other species that comes close not only to our intellectual abilities, our ability for abstract thought or appreciation for art and beauty. Apes do not make cave paintings. Chimps do not gaze at the sunset with adoration. And no species is as capable of selflessness or selfishness as humankind is. We are too different, too far removed from the nearest species to be directly descended in an evolutionary way.
I am forced into isolation for an assortment of reasons. Were I living in a place where there were a number of people who thought as I and I had a social life I might not dwell so much on these thoughts. But here I am, stranded, and thus forced to ask the proverbial ‘why?’ I ask, ‘who,’ too, but discard the idea that the ‘who’ we do not know is a ‘supreme being’ or god. I’m somewhat like the child crouching in the corner of a shack surrounded by the ravages of war asking, “what the fuck is going on?”
I became an atheist with reluctance. I did not want all I believed in for forty years to be a lie. I could not, however, hide my head in the sand. I cannot accept any notion that is not provable, logical, rational. But in loosing ‘the faith,’ I am bound up in a conundrum. The ‘god’ idea wrapped life in a nice little package and placed ‘the unexplainable’ in a little corner where I could say, ‘some day god will show me.’ God went away but all those unexplainable events, ideas, realities, did not. They’ve come out of the corner and dance around my head like a troop of malevolent ballet dancers.
Worst of all, I realize now that it’s unlikely I will ever know the truth. All I have is the life I live. Time is very short. My ability to discover truth is extremely limited. And that ultimate expectation that god would explain it all to me ‘over there’ is completely gone. Thus there is no happiness. There is only longing and desire for answers. So I continue to seek, to question, to look, and, in total contradiction to what I believe, to hope.
Whatever we may be. Wherever we come from. Wherever we’re going, there are answers and solutions. Either my days will end and I will dissolve into nothing and it will not matter or at some point before my last day it will all become clear. Until then, I remain, the seeker.
I have no faith.
I have no faith in an absent god and no faith in humankind.
Life is not going to get better.
People are not going to wake up from this hedonist, lascivious, selfish nightmare and realize “we are the world.”
Wars are going to get worse. Cruelty is going to get worse. Anger and meanness and resentment and selfishness and lying and stealing are going to get worse.
There’s not a damn thing I can do about it.
The American soul is dead.
Would somebody stop the world and let me off, please?
On Christian common sense…
If you’ll take a look over on the left column you’ll see a blog titled “Selling God.” It was all about First Assembly of God in Lufkin’s car giveaway. Being me, I wrote a letter to the paper. Find the letter here:
(If the links don’t work click the Contact Me link, let me know and I’ll send you a copy.)
Of course, First Assembly being one of the two local Megachurches, there were more than a few people unhappy with my letter. Several letters appeared in the paper countering my unkind words.
Read the rest of this story on the update 042809.
Years ago I used to tell the story I’d heard somewhere about a man who became a new Christian. In those days Christians were taught and expected to live a higher moral and ethical standard than people “in the world” or outside the church. A Christian was expected to stop living “like the world,” which mean not to curse, drink, or get involved in things that were “worldly.”
This guy, I’ll call Frank, became a Christian a few weeks before the annual fishing trip he always went on with “the guys.”
As he studied and learned about what was expected of him as a Christian Frank fretted over that trip. He and the guys always had plenty of beer, was loose with their language, talked about their sexual exploits, all that “guy” stuff. He realized the new standards he was supposed to follow were not compatible with what the guys did on that trip every year.
Frank shared his concern with his wife. She, too, was a new Christian. They had both tried hard to live the new life “in Christ” as they were being taught. A Bible had replaced Frank’s Playboy, movies they watched were G rather than R rated. Frank tried to clean up his language. He even began to hint about his conversion at work. But the trip with the guys! What will they think?
They’ll call him a religious fanatic, that’s what. They’ll say he wimped out on them. They’ll call him a “goody two-shoes” if he turns down a beer and a wuss for avoiding rough talk. Frank knew the guys. That’s what would happen.
Eventually the day for the trip came. He’d thought about just not going, begging off for some made up reason, but he did so enjoy that annual trip. As he got ready to leave Frank’s wife asked, “what will you do?”
“About your being a Christian?”
“I don’t know,” he muttered. “Something.”
When his best bud picked him up Frank leaped into the truck cab with glee. Time for fun! Frank’s wife watched him go, wondering how he’d fare as a Christian among those wild men.
A week later Frank was back. When he came in the door, ragged, sunburned, happy, his wife asked him, “what did they say?”
“About your being a Christian.”
“Oh, that.” He looked at her flatly and said, “nothing. They never knew!”
In the old days when I was a Christian in ministry I used to tell that story as an example of “compromise.” In those days Frank was an exception, not the norm.
Ronald Reagan used to say of his leaving the Democratic Party: “I didn’t leave the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party left me.” To borrow his phrase, I didn’t leave Christianity, Christianity left me. Through the years I was a Christian the church grew more and more like Frank. By the time I’d walked away the differences between Christian culture and “the world” were so few that one mirrored the other.
Christians isolate themselves in their own clique and claim to lead “Christian” lives but what they do inside their little Christian Bubble is a mirror image to what goes on outside.
I’m working on a re-write of my book The Lies, The Truth, The Way that will greatly elaborate on this point. Today, though, I have a specific thing in mind: how churches sell God. In particular, I am almost speechless about the way the Christian youth culture has embraced non-Christian (in the old days I’d say “secular”) culture and blended with it. Corporations use gimmicks, give-aways and pop “music” to promote their new stuff. (I put music in quotes because rap and hip-hop is not music!) Church youth groups have adopted the exact same methodologies to “reach the youth” with the “message of Christ.”
The local First Assembly in my town is giving away a car. And an Xbox. And other trinkets. They’re giving it away today (April 15, 2009) at a “Christian rap concert.” The headline in the paper is this: “Lucky teen will take home a car from Lufkin First Assembly Church.”
“We are doing this because we feel this is our call here at Lufkin First Assembly to reach the next generation with the gospel of Jesus Christ,” said outreach minister Alvin VanderLeest. “This outreach is a fresh and new creative way to reach the youth of Deep East Texas.”
There’s nothing fresh or new about their methods. Coca-Cola and Hershey’s and Chevrolet and the TV Networks have used this kind of marketing for decades. It’s nothing more than gimmick marketing. Snake-oil salesmen used similar techniques a hundred and fifty years ago. First Assembly is just selling God. That is all.
Consider two conversations between Frank and the Guys that might have been:
“Hey, Frank, have a beer!”
“Oh, um,” Frank stutters, “well, I’m a Christian now. I think I’ll pass.”
“Oh,” Bud shoots back, “gone religious on us have you?”
That conversation might have been fifteen or twenty years ago. Now here’s today’s conversation:
“Hey, Frank, Have a beer!”
“Oh, well,” Frank pauses, “I, uh, I’m a Christian now.”
“Cool,” Bud says, tossing Frank the beer. “Religion is ok if it’s not to radical. Let’s go see if the fish are biting!” Bud and Frank walk to the lake with their cold brews.
One might not see the comparison between Frank’s story and the First Assembly giveaway but I sure do. I didn’t agree with fundamentalist junk way back when but I did believe Jesus taught a standard of living that would set Christians apart. That standards Jesus set includes selflessness, modesty, ethics, and morals designed to improve the human condition and end greed and hatred. Frank ignored those standards when he went along to get along. First Assembly, along with most modern “Christians,” have not just ignored but redefined the standards. Christianity is fun. Jesus is cool!
The minister said the church’s goal is to reach the next generation with the “gospel of Christ.” But what is that gospel? It is a worthless and meaningless idea that all one has to do to be “saved” is say a few words, pull the Slap Daddy sticker of your car and replace it with “Jesus Rapper” sticker, say “Praise the Lord” a few times and drop a dime from every dollar in the plate.
Preacher VanderLeest, the youth “pastor,” said “I always thought church was dull and boring but it would have been different from the beginning.” Different how? Less meaning? Less reverence? Less respect? Less demanding? Bingo! True Christianity, based upon what Jesus taught, would be far too demanding for the Jesus Jumping Rappers at First Assembly. They might have to stop “having fun” altogether. The sad thing is that VanderLeest can’t see how stupid all this is.
Read the article here: Church Car Giveaway
Read the letter the paper printed here: Christianity Giveaway
More comments are on an update (150409) under “Lufkin Daily News and Me” at right.
These words may sound a bit out of place or just weird coming from a non-Christian and a Buddhist. They’ll not be as accepted as they might be if they came from a conservative Christian writer. They’ll be ignored anyway. Such is the reality in this country these days, pick and choose what makes you happy, what makes you feel good, what makes you rich, and go for it. Some find happiness in parties, others in Jumping for Jesus.
Religion should not be malleable. True Religion should be solid, consistent, unchanging. How can a religion be valid that changes with the seasons and blows with the winds of culture? In my lifetime I’ve seen modern Christianity move through phase after phase. Ways to “reach the lost” are changed and adjusted. What it means to be a “Christian” change. Right out front is the “cutting edge” youth ministers pushing the envelope of acceptability.
Conservative Protestant Christianity as a whole should take a warning from the fate that befell Unitarianism. In colonial days Unitarianism was a strong movement. I could have been one easily. I did, in fact, subscribe to colonial era beliefs before my ability to believe anything crumbled away. Because they were a minority and trinitarians constantly fought them over doctrine their numbers waned. They joined with the Unitarians whose beliefs were more liberal but still somewhat similar. After the joining the new UU organization started listening to people in the group and changing things about the denomination rather than sticking with church roots. In the end UU became what it is these days, a religious organization devoid of any religious standard.
The Dali Llama said, “The whole purpose of religion is to facilitate love and compassion, patience, tolerance, humility, forgiveness.” How can giving cars and video games away, rap music and wild concerts accomplish any of that? It can’t. All First Assembly’s God Giveaway does is encourage greed, selfishness, avarice, and consumerism.
The image of Buddhism is of a person sitting in meditation, seeking understanding, calm, quiet, serene. The practice of Buddhism involves rejection of consumer goods, fancy things, and wealth. A Buddhist has no need for fancy cars or X-Boxes for the true Buddhist recognizes how those things are mere diversions that corrupt the mind.
A person whose heart and mind might be seeking truth, might be trying to understand the great questions of this world, will not be helped but terribly hindered by First Assembly’s God Giveaway. They’ll be shoved away the “still small voice” that speaks to the human heart that which is true and blasted with the noise of greed and selfishness.
My mom used to look at modern culture and moan, “what is this world coming to!?”
I must be a horrible person! Really, how can I put down a wonderful religious institution like Godtel? They do so much good! They feed and provide beds for homeless people. It is true, too, they do. They do a lot of “good.” After reading page after page of their web blog it’s clear they get loads of support from the religious community. Who am I to have sour grapes over such a wonderful place?
Well, you know, it goes like this. What Godtel does is great as far as providing help for people who are willing and of a mind to fit into the religious atmosphere there. But Godtel isn’t people helping people, it’s like-minded people helping like-minded people.
Everything on the Godtel website ooozes right wing Christian fundamentalism. Everything about Godtel IS Christian fundamentalism. Fundamentalism is the sap that sticks East Texas communities together. It’s a sticky, gooey mess that screws as much stuff up as it does bind “believers” together.
While I commend Godtel on the help they give I cannot help but step back and cast a sideways glance at some of the things they do and the attitudes they have.
I decided to write this post because of a little religious and political debate I’ve been having in our local paper with the guy who runs Godtel. (See above, Lufkin Daily News and Me!) In a letter he made a point to brag about the work he does there, how he helps the poor and homeless, and used his self-praise to take a stab at me, as in “what do YOU do that is good?”
The guy, Martin Baker, is no doubt sincere in his work. A lot of people have found help at Godtel. That is good. A lot more have either walked away and stayed homeless or been cast out into the street because they refused to submit to Godtel’s religiously oriented rules.
In the last letter Baker bragged about not accepting government funds. Of course not, he would be a hypocrite if he took federal money because he’s always blasting the “liberals” who have worked in government to divert a little bit of government funds away from the war machine in order to help the poor. More important, however, is that Federal money comes with strings attached, strings that would bind up his religious rule book and shut down his proseletizing ways. So Godtel trudges on, doing it’s self-righteous best to provide for the (chosen) poor of East Texas.
Baker is clearly dedicated to the right wing religious dogma he believes. It’s a screwy, wrong-headed, self-righteous kind of belief but what can I say? Nothing new there. There are those who say it is good for one to be sincere in their beliefs. I do not say that. It is not good for people to be sincere in beliefs that are damming, dangerous and just plain dumb.
Anyway, I pointed out to Baker in a letter carried by the News that Godtel is not so all-encompassing good as he says it is. His ministry does help some people but help comes with lots of strings attached. One must really toe the line if one is to get kind hearted help from Godtel. I’ve been around Lufkin enough to have heard a bit about the place.
I Googled Godtel and discovered their website. The website is a bit sparse. It has a few ultra-conservative “tracts,” a few similar religious articles, some stuff for sale, some history and so forth. The addresss is just godtel.org. They have a blog site where they give regular updates. I believe the updates are all written by Mrs. Baker. Reading those updates reveal just how restricted their help really is. And they seem to be proud of their prejudices, too! The link to that site is godtel.org/test.
I’ve tried but haven’t found a list of their “rules.” I have found that people who get help from them are required to abide by some strict rules including mandatory Bible study and drug testing. As I read along on their posts it is clear their rules has little to do with safety and order and everything to do with moral standards and religious observance. Though at times they mention bending the rules or allowing people to stay that break them there are also plenty of instances where people are cast out for failing to keep them.
I know personally about a few of their rules. I had a friend a few years ago who was not religious and who would not stay there because of their rules and religious preaching. I’ve learned more recently that the rule about attendance at Bible study is so rigid that people are kicked out when they manage to find a job if work hours interfere with the Bible study. This is ridiculous. Isn’t the whole point of a homeless shelter to help homeless get on their feet? Restricting their ability to work seems stupid and counter productive.
The rule book includes drug testing too. People who test positive are kicked out, according to reports on their website. This, too, seems totally counter productive and unkind. As I wrote in a letter I sent in to the paper today, people with the greatest vices are often those with the greatest needs. Some drugs are gone from a person’s system in a matter of hours. Some, however, like Marijuana, take weeks to clear out. I can understand a rule preventing drug use in the shelter or even being stoned but a drug test is another thing. It’s a violation of privacy no person should be submitted to just to be given a place to sleep out of the rain.
There’s a particular instance I read about a poor man who died after being kicked out. Read the paragraph for yourself:
Dan (not his real name) checked into GODTEL January 2008. He was not a healthy man. Days passed and he regained his strength. He was attending Bible Study, a requirement for staying here. From time to time he would come into the office and ask questions about God and the Bible. He got well enough to get a job. Dan moved out. Things did not go well for him. He would come by and say he would be checking in again, but he didn’t. One day, in desperation, a friend brought Dan back to GODTEL. His health, once again, was in decline. Dan got another job. He worked the night shift. We found out that he was abusing his prescription medicines. We told him to stop. He continued in this behavior. Dan had to move out. That was a Friday. Sunday morning he was dead. (http://www.godtel.org/test/)
“Dan” needed help. What help did he get? None. Rather than helping the man the people at Godtel only tried shoving God down his throat. There’s no mention of drug treatment or even any indication that the people at Godtel even knows how to deal with drug abuse. The man was not even abusing illegal drugs, just his own prescriptions, which a doctor had to be providing. What did Godtel do to help? They told him to stop! Good grief. When he didn’t they kicked him out!
The article continues about how poor Dan might have made it but he just didn’t want to “give up his life to God.” Right. More like submit to drakonian rules and absurd morality dictated at Godtel. The subject of Dead Dan ends this way: “We have a tiny bit of hope that sometime between Friday afternoon and Sunday morning that Dan decided to let Jesus carry his burdens, but we won’t know until we pass on to walk on those streets of gold ourselves. We will miss him.” Poor Dan, gone to hell. We’ll miss him but, oh well….
The callousness of this story is apalling. The paragraph or two that tells the story of Dan are written matter-of-fact. No compassion, no love, no forgiveness and no concern for the problems Dan faced. What an example of “Christian love and compassion.”
Pages on the website are littered with statements like the following:
Our heart’s desire for each soul who comes through our door is for them to be convicted, touched by the Lord and say YES to Him. We don’t know their hearts, but we can see the torn lives and situations that brought these hurting people to GODTEL. By listening to Bible Study and reading, for themselves, God’s word, we pray that salvation and submission to our Lord will be the result and gift of their stay at GODTEL. (http://www.godtel.org/test/?paged=2)
Reading the pages I get the impression that the people at Godtel really believe something magical happens when someone “says yes to the Lord.” They talk of “torn lives and situations” and “hurting people” but don’t seem to have much of a clue about how to really help them other than shove Jesus down their throat. It’s sad, really. Reading a book, holy or not, is not going to reach into the lives of broken, addicted, selfish people and turn them around. There’s no magic. Many times people never turn around. It’s not our place as humans to force them to or reject them if they don’t. It is our place to love them and do the best we can for them, no matter what.
How about this little tidbit:
A few residents were here twice this past month. Second chances that were thrown away. Do we want to have to test for alcohol and illegal drugs? NO! Do we want to have to tell people to leave because they did not hold up their end of the agreement? NO! This is not what we want, but then God doesn’t want His children to say no and disappoint Him, either. Oh, how many times have I failed and disappointed my Father in heaven. Forgiveness and mercy are great, but consequences always follow. Phyllis was cleaning out one of the rooms and gathering clothes and personal belongings together when she came to the coat hanging up. Phyllis took the coat off the hanger and found two empty beer cans in the pockets. That woman will probably not be able to return if she needs our help in the future. Another woman was waiting for a bed in a rehab center. She decided to enjoy her last days of “freedom” and went out drinking several times before leaving. I was told this information after she left. Oh my”how that may effect her next stay at GODTEL. (http://www.godtel.org/test/?paged=2 March 8, 2008)
Isn’t it nice how the leadershsip at Godtel is so convinced they’re doing God’s bidding! THEY don’t want to give drug tests or kick people out for breaking rules but God says they must! I wish I could get such a direct connection to God!
“Forgiveness and mercy are great, but consequences always follow,” they say. You can be sure, too, that forgiveness and mercy are not going to get in the way of those rules!
How about those “mercy fumes!” A woman with kids was breaking the rules. She had to be reminded to clean her room and throw away diapers. While at Godtel she miscarried her third child. “She was confident that we would not put her out because she had children, but we did. She asked for another chance and so she was allowed to stay on mercy fumes.” She had a little job and daycare but by george rules are rules! Toss the poor woman out and when she begs let her back in on “mercy fumes.” What are “mercy fumes” anyway? The paragraph concludes by saying that (thank heaven!) the woman is gone and maybe some day she’ll appreciate the help she received at Godtel!
Those darned rules:
One woman with two children checked in, but didn’t stay. It is amazing to me when people have “nowhere to go”. They come to GODTEL. They hear the rules when they are checked in then they leave and never come back. However, it is better to hear the rules and leave than to check in and break the rules so you have to leave.
It’s better to sleep in a car than having Jesus shoved in your face, huh? Watching people go away when they have nothing because they won’t abide by the rules seems a common thread in these posts. I honestly don’t know how the people at Godtel can live with themselves!
I’ve made my point. I think I have, anyway. The point is that doing good is not always doing good. Like the Venerable Dhammananda said in the book What Buddhists Believe, charity with the ulterior motive to convert is not true charity. True charity gives with no motive other than a concern for others.
Godtel does “good.” They help people. But their motives are not to help the poor so much as it is to “win the lost.” From beginning to end it’s all about “God and Jesus,” not human need. Statements about how God will provide and give strength and so forth are hollow to people who are dragging bottom. I wonder how many times the folks at Godtel are asked if God loves them why are they in such horrible conditions? Why can’t they seem to kick habits even after making a “decision for Christ” or memorizing the Bible? Why are their best efforts never enough?
I suppose I am able to see through the “good deed” Godtel and feel for those rejected or who turn away because of the rules and because they recognize how judgmental and condescending leadership at Godtel often is. I know what it’s like to be on the bottom. I know what it feels like to give best efforts over and over and still fail. I understand how sometimes people just need an “I love you” without condition and the last thing they need is another shallow “Jesus Saves” message.
Today I sent another letter that will be taken the wrong way. I’ll be blasted by Baker and probably talked about all around town as the hateful liberal. How little they know about me! I conclude by saying I’ll pitch in to help the poor and homeless with no strings attached and asked for others also willing to send me an email. I bet nobody responds if the letter is printed.
I wish I could reach out and help every single hurting person. I wish I could give food and shelter to every homeless, comfort to every addict, love to every unloved person. Where I live and having no resources there’s nothing I can do. All I can do for now is teach my kids the right way and look for an opportunity to open up. I have given of myself in the past. Maybe I will be able to in the future. What I won’t ever do is put conditions on anything I might do.
Reading those Godtel posts sounds really strange. They’re written in “Christianese,” a language I used to speak fluently but one that sounds so weird to me now. It’ spooky to hear it. What a different way of thinking! It’s the mind set, the attitude, the religious brainwashing that makes Godtel what it is. It could be so much more and do so much more if only the people there would stop looking down their noses at truth and the wonderful teaching of the Buddha. They’d do much better if they’d only practice the unending love Jesus taught with no strings attached and stop pre-judging people by their willingness to “submit.”
I see so much of the old me in the words of Godtel’s website. It makes me sad and sorry that I wasted so many years with such attitudes. I can only hope I’ll get a chance to do something to make up for it. I hope so. someday.
I’ve been reading a magnificent book called What Buddhists Believe. The copy I have was printed by the Texas Buddhist Association*. I’m a bit slow in getting through it, haven’t finished it yet, but on about every page I find stuff that just thrills my soul. What a wonderful world this would be if people would abide by what this book teaches!
Consider these examples:
In the world today, there is sufficient material wealth. There are very advanced individuals, brilliant writers, talented speakers, philosophers, psychologists, scientists, religious advisors, wonderful poets and powerful world leaders. In spite of these intellectuals, there’s no real peace and security in the world today. Something must be lacking. What is lacking is loving-kindness or goodwill amongst mankind. (p165)
Man should learn how to practice selfless love to maintain real peace and his own salvation. Just as suicide kills physically, selfishness kills spiritual progress. Loving-kindness in Buddhism is neither emotional or selfish. It is loving-kindness that radiates through the purified mind after erradicating hatred, jealousy, cruelty, enmity and grudges. (p166)
All my life I’ve had one question on my mind. That question is WHY? Well, there’s actually a few thousand questions that begin with the word, “why?” Why are humans so cruel, so hateful, so rude, so selfish? I grew up in the sixties. The news carried video of dead VC, gave body counts, told about the war in Vietnam. The next story on the news was of some race riot or protest. It was a quiet day around the house when someone wasn’t arguing, mom wasn’t complaining about some illness, or some other crap was going on. Why?
Have I blogged on the Bible before? Hmm, I think I have. I searched myself (the blog!) and didn’t find anything. Oh well, short brain loss! (My daughter’s phrase)
A couple years ago, three years now I guess (time flies) I entered a time of crisis when I lost all faith. I drug my ass out of the hole as I usually do, by looking things up, finding things out, and trying to understand what was true. One of the things I researched was the Bible. I spent a lot of time digging up information about the origins of the Bible, how it got to be what it is. What I discovered was that it is so not what people, namely Christians, think it is.