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.
a⋅the⋅ist – a person who denies or disbelieves the existence of a supreme being or beings. (Dictionary.com)
Yes this is Christmas. I’m back from hiatus for a short time.
A few years ago in my zeal to put the local idiotic right wingers in their place I wrote letters to the paper. True to form those “good Christian brethren” responded with nasty words and accusations. One of the accusations was that I was an atheist. My mom was still with us and her dear old Baptist friends had shared with her something of the letters and she was worried. One day while I was re-roofing her home due to hurricane damage she looked up at me on the house and asked, “son, are you an atheist?”
“No, mah, I’m not,” I said. And I wasn’t. I was at that time trying to hold onto some kind of faith after having been ripped asunder by a collection of cowardly Christians (the story is in the archives of this blog). I tried hard. I really did. But faith just would not come.
As my mom lay dying in the hospital and I spent every minute with her (more archived stories here) my faith in a so-called God fizzled away. My conservative Christian siblings were in large part the main reason I lost all faith. As I’ve written before here, by the time Mom died I’d become a true Buddhist. But I wasn’t yet ready to call myself an atheist. That seemed so hopeless and final!
Buddha, of course, believed in the existence of “gods,” spirit beings, though he did not consider them any more than consciousnesses on a higher plane. He did not from all accounts ever believe there was a “supreme being” of any sort. For some time I tried to believe in the “Higher Power” concept, that there must be a creator or “God,” just not the one described and worshiped by the Big Three, Christianity, Judaism and Islam.
Over the course of the year since Mom passed I’ve wrestled with that word “atheist.” It is the antithesis of everything I stood for for more than forty-five years. Atheists were, at one time, the ultimate enemy. I moved closer and closer to the term “Agnostic,” which means “a person who holds that the existence of the ultimate cause, as God, and the essential nature of things are unknown and unknowable, or that human knowledge is limited to experience,” according to dictionary.com. It’s a convenient cop-out for a lot of folks who are really atheists and for a lot more who just won’t accept all of their particular learned religion but can’t turn loose of it altogether. But being an “agnostic” is merely choosing not to deal with the subject: “…yeah, maybe, sure, there has to be a God or something, doesn’t there? I mean, just look….” The “just look” is followed by assorted “evidence” provided by that person’s learned religion.
I was just like that. I didn’t want to call myself an “atheist.” it sounded to final, too cold. But I knew I could not accept the idea of a “supreme” God. I have no problem believing there are entities that some call spirits that inhabit some kind of existential or other-world place. I’ve witnessed things in my life that makes it hard to deny there are some kinds of evil spirits around, or at least spirits that contradict Christian belief. Or maybe it’s all part of a spiritual game being played on us by the other-world entities, or aliens, or who knows what. I don’t. But what I cannot any longer believe is that there is a “Creator” who created the whole universe.
One of the clinchers for me was a wonderful but terrifying graphic derived from Hubble called the Deep Space Survey. I think I’ve written about that here too. Considering the unfathomable size of this universe it’s impossible to believe all that is “out there” was “created.” If it was, if that entire vastness was or is the creation of some kind of deity, there’s no logical reason such a deity would visit itself on this planet as the Big Three contend. We’re a speck on a speck on a speck. Our galaxy is a dot on a slide on some distant alien’s telescope. We are nothing. So no, I can’t accept the idea of a “Creator.”
Beyond that, I cannot accept anything the Christian church teaches with the exception that a man named Jesus may have existed. There is really so little about him in the book Christians use and so little paid to the teachings attributed to him that he’s really an insignificant figure used as a figurehead for a religion full of cruelty, condescending attitudes, hatred and fear. Especially fear.
In Christian circles one hears the word “love” thrown about as if it matters. Many quote the “Love chapter,” a very nice set of verses in an otherwise unbelievable and contradictory collection of “letters” supposedly written by a guy named Saul/Paul. Don’t kid yourself. Christians are not Christians out of love. They are Christians out of fear. There is such tremendous and deep-seated fear within every Christian that they with few exceptions ever step outside the walls, ever listen honestly to anything “non-Christian” or ever for a split second consider abandoning their religion. To do so is to send oneself to hell. It is fear of hell, not “love of God” or “the love of Jesus” that keeps them nailed to the cross with Jesus.
I know. I was one of them. Nothing matters more to an evangelical Christian than being “saved.” My mother on her dying bed sought me out and asked me, “son, are you saved.” I smiled a kind smile to my beloved mother and lied. “Yes, mom, you don’t have to worry about me.” To say anything else would have meant she would die with a broken heart. So, I told her what she wanted to hear when by that time I had concluded there was no such thing as “salvation.”
Long after my mom died I felt an obligation to family (and any who might be a friend though I have so very few) to “respect” their faith and not be so blatantly defiant by saying I did not believe in their god or their religion. I still think it’s rude to verbally slap someone in the face deliberately with my lack of belief but I am no longer skittish about saying I do not believe or that I think Christianity is a bad thing. It is a bad thing. If it were truly based upon the teachings of the Christ they claim for “Savior” it would be a good thing. Christianity is not based on that person’s teachings. Not at all. It is a political concoction designed to enslave ignorant populations. It did just that for many centuries. It still serves to enslave though fortunately in some places the ties with government have been cut to some extent. In America the ties were never entirely severed even with all the talk of “freedom of religion.” In the past decade conservative Christian fools managed to dig in and increase the corruption of our already corrupt system.
Now that the greedy people behind the scenes have the control they’ve sought they have thrown off their conservative Christian facade, much to the chagrin of conservatives who now twist in the wind. They went from believing they were the power behind the president to recognizing they’re the village idiots and they just don’t like that at all. Nothing proves the illegitimacy of Christianity more than the way so-called Conservative Christians have been acting since they got kicked in the balls by the present administration. For all their grand claims and intensive prayer sessions and really naive views they get nothing but the boot. Some powerful god they serve, huh?
Although the U.S. government has excised religious conservatives Texas still suffers from the obnoxious fumes of conservative Christianity. Our state government is in a terrible struggle against the idiotic attitudes of religious nuts who want to cram their ideas down our throats and our kids’ throats. I sure hope they loose.
In this little ramble I’ve sure stirred a lot of hornet nests. And all I started out to do was declare that I am an atheist. Finally I can say that without any qualms. The idea of a supreme god is absurd. The Christian view of a god who on the one hand loves us all and on the other is firing up the furnaces of hell for the vast majority of the earth’s population doesn’t sound like a god I’m interested in. The Catholic view of god isn’t much better. Of course the Jewish and Islamic views of god are even worse. God is good and loving, so good and loving he sat back and watched six million of his people roast in Nazi extermination camps. Muslims can kill themselves and win a few virgins in paradise or they can fuck up just a little and find real retribution right here as they loose hands, fingers, eyes or whatever at the hands of their religious governments. But god is love, right?
I’ve seen the fools storm the White House and get duped. I’ve seen my beloved state turned to crap by religious idiots. I’ve heard all the arguments. I’ve measured all the “evidence” and sifted all the bullshit. There is no supreme god. yes, mom, I am an atheist. But I know you still love me, where ever you are! Merry Xmas.
I mean, really. They’ve finally gotten their way in the Lufkin Daily News. All those nasty “liberals” have been cut off, after a few right wing nuts had a few nasty swipes at their favorite whipping post–me.
But the thing is, I really hope I didn’t look so ignorant and absurd when I was a conservative Christian. I fear I was. Arg.
Of course everything Christian conservatives are involved in is always a matter of God/devil, good/evil, or some kind of asinine prophecy.
Hey, religious person, go ahead and get mad at me. I know you will. Heaven help you (if there was a heaven) figure out how totally off the wall you are. You’ll find out some day but it’ll be too late for all the people you have hurt. Shame on you.
Anyway, today on CNN there was a video about a woman who blamed all the ills of the country on homosexuals and abortion. How dumb can you get? If God punishes countries because they are not being very Christian then why are the oil nations so rich? Why is the insanely extravagant dubai not getting roasted with bolts of lightening from hell?
America has never been a “Christian” nation. I wish Christians would get over it. Really, I sound hateful and I’m sort’of sorry about it but those people are really annoying sometimes. They need to get their head out of their good book and learn some real history.
Like this dorky thing from the Economist: According to the Virginian-Pilot, Mr Gingrich also “said the ties to religion in American government date to the Declaration of Independence, when Thomas Jefferson wrote that men are endowed by God with certain inalienable rights.”
Jefferson was NOT a Christian. He did not believe in the supernatural.
This story is about how Nutt Gingrich and Huckabutt from Arkantsee are balming pagans for all of America’s troubles. Of course that would include Buddhists like me. Hmmpf.
I could go on and on but I just don’t have the time. I have to go get my girl from school.
In the mean time write and complain or something, huh?
A little over a week ago my wife and I did something we have not done for many years. Seven years, in fact. We went on a little trip all by ourselves. It was great. We had a good time and grew our relationship.
My wife, as usual, wanted to shop. We spent some time in a mall west of Houston. When we left the mall we went in search of a grocery store to get some snacks. Waiting to turn under a freeway I saw a man with a sign: “I’m Old, I’m Ugly, and I’m Hungry.” He looked pretty ragged. I took a few bucks from my bill fold and gave it to him. As usual, all my money was in the bank so I didn’t have much cash. I wanted to give more.
Leaving the man behind I drove half a block to a massive super HEB grocery. It was a huge store, the largest HEB I’ve seen. The amount of food in that store and the incredible variety and the price of most of it made me very guilty. What a contrast, a man probably my age in ragged clothes begging for money half a block from a store with enough food to feed a whole community for weeks full of shoppers spending hundreds of dollars for expensive wines, fancy cheeses, foreign delicacies, and so much more. There’s just no equity in this world. Life is not fair.
I am working on a re-write of my book The Lies, The Truth, The Way. When I finish that I’m going to write a short book called Buddha is not God… and other things Christians need to know. Those are top priorities. But they are yesterday’s projects. I have to decide what I am going to do next. Where shall I put my effort?
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’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?
Just below is an excerpt from my book The Lies, The Truth, The Way. I wrote it three years ago. At the time I was a Unitarian Christian with universalist leanings and Buddhist sympathies. I have, since then, completely rejected Christianity. I am now an agnostic Buddhist. The following excerpt was written when I was much more sympathetic towards Christianity and, thus, less direct in my prose.
Here’s the excerpt:
May as well tackle the biggest taboo first. The Bible, that most venerable and venerated of books, upon which the whole of Christianity is supposed to be based upon, did not fall from the sky like manna from Heaven. I am often amazed at how little Christians actually know ABOUT the book. Oh, sure, they know what it says, they quote it, they reference it, they base their lives upon this or that passage. But they never question where it came from. “The Bible is the Inspired, Infallible Word of God!” This statement in some form or other graces the top level of every doctrinal statement. But why? Where does it come from? How did it get here?
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.