Blogging Against Theocracy

Blogging Against Theocracy

Even if George W. Bush has succeeded in drastically expanding the power of the executive branch, there is no anointed king here in America. No president has claimed to be a god, and senators are not priests.

In the United States, claims to divine authority tend to be somewhat more subterranean and implicit, if no less powerful. The religiously-tinged ideas of “manifest destiny” and “American exceptionalism” have served as covers for territorial acquisitions, genocidal violence, exploitation, and domination here and around the world. Domestically, I hope every American is aware of the costs to native tribal communities. Slavery was also rationalized under the banner of religion. The Massachusetts Bay Colony was dominated by Puritan ideology, and there were scattered theocracies across the colonies until they agreed to freedom of religion.

The pledge of allegiance, already a creepy nationalistic ritual, has claimed since 1954 the status of the nation as existing under (the protection of? guidance of? stamp of approval of?) God.

The literal meaning of theocracy is “rule by God or gods.” Theocratic governments can be formed of any significant mixture of claims to divine authority, the wielding of secular power by religious groups or figures, or a melding of the state with religion such that religious freedom is not possible. While there are subsets of society – intentional religious communities – that could be considered theocracies, these are protected under freedom of religion in the United States. We are in danger of – already in the the process of – forming a governmental theocracy here in the land of the free, and that is an entirely separate issue.

The specific theocratic threat to our nation right now is the erosion of the separation of the powers of church and state under an attempted coup by a very specific kind of christian ideology – dominionism.

Dominionism – a trans-denominational movement composed of radical fundamentalist, charismatic, and pentacostal protestants – openly seeks to establish totalitarian control over the nation and its people. To further their stated goals of secular domination, they have called for their followers to exert whatever influence they can – at any and every level and aspect of society – in order to bring our society into conformity with their beliefs.

Several years ago, these radical extremists found common purpose with the Republican party, which needed to expand its base (an interesting mirroring – al Qaeda: translation “the base”). Politics entered the congregations, and the congregations infused the party. Despite the uneasy nature of this unholy communion, the agendas of dominionists and their followers are now an established force in American politics. Their version of God’s requirements was very convenient.

Please remember that not all christians are dominionists. Many still understand that the kingdom of God is within, and that humility is a christian virtue. Some christians still remember and advocate forgiveness, compassion and kindness.

Dominionists, on the other hand, seem very comfortable with throwing the first stone (and any further stones that may be required). Instead of freedom and justice for all, they seek conformity to their warped (and very selective) biblical interpretations. Some do so because they honestly believe that it is ordained by God and destiny; others do so for even more unsavory reasons. All this under a paranoid fantasy of persecution, and in the name of a special – even exclusive – relationship with the divine.

In many ways, dominionism is an anti-christian movement. “Christian Reconstruction looks more like straightforward destruction of the Christian message and its values. Setting a christian example? Their version looks like a dance of hatred. I will never believe that power-hungry control freaks speak for God, or represent the teachings or example of Jesus, or stand for any profound religious insight at all. They do not help to bring people into a relationship with the divine, but instead appeal to the darker aspects of their followers while appearing to shine as angels of light. I believe that the beliefs and actions of such extremists are in profound contradiction with deeper spiritual truths.

I name you and yours false prophets
because you do define the phrase,
You lead the would-be faithful
always far and further astray.
Placing demon masks
on the faces of our kin,
undoing all the fragile good
that lets us breathe again.

More compassion-based religious people should continue to engage in debates and discussions about the issues – spiritual, ethical, even biblical – raised by dominionists, as well as the questionable interpretations that they rely upon. A wealth of credible biblical scholarship is available, and it is time for it to become more widely known. Contextual ethics needs to re-enter the public sphere as well.

No American should be forced to comply with (or participate in) any particular religious ideology, and this is especially the case for one that has such destructive repercussions on American life and liberty, and which seems to represent a fairly hateful infantile sort of God-character. In addition, let’s remember that freedom of religion also implies freedom from religion and its organizations.

I was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness, and I have seen some of the costs of pseudo-religious authoritarian control in terms of the real human lives it affects.

Jehovah’s Witnesses describe themselves as a theocracy. In their case God lives in Brooklyn, so to speak. God’s power, spirit and guidance are believed to be directed through the members of God’s channel (a group of men known as the Governing Body) and transmitted through the Watchtower magazine and other publications. Their somewhat anonymous leaders and authors claim to be a few of the 144,000 “slave class” who they believe are intended to rule with Christ over the post-apocalyptic paradise earth. Ever “faithful and discreet,” this slave class has created a very lucrative publishing empire with an unpaid sales force – the “great crowd.” The great crowd are second-class citizens, although they do not recognize themselves as such since most of them would rather live in Paradise than in Heaven. Still, they are unworthy of even partaking of the wine and bread at their yearly memorial of the last supper. In addition to their publications, the Watchtower corporations control their followers with circuit overseers, district overseers, local uneducated elders, multiple weekly meetings of repetitive pseudo-bible study, family and congregational peer pressure, and the threat of shunning. Their followers live in expectation of God’s immanent (and loving) slaughter of most of humanity at the hands of the Prince of Peace. Their judgment of society is just as rigid as the dominionists, with many of the same hatreds and prejudices, but their reaction is to separate their people from “worldly influences.” They don’t vote or salute the flag. They don’t fight in worldly wars. They don’t run for office, or join the boy scouts, or celebrate “pagan” holidays like Christmas, or even accept the blood of others to save their children’s lives.

From my perspective, dominionists are something like an example of “When Jehovah’s Witnesses Attack.”

America’s contract with its citizens is to be (or at least try to be?) a land of freedom, with liberty and justice for all. The rise of religion in America is directly associated with the national experiment of religious freedom. Without the separation of religion and the government, and the accompanying protection of religious freedom, religious groups could never have thrived as they do in this country. We have an amazingly diverse religious population, and this is because every American is free to choose the path of his or her own religious journey.

This weekend, many Americans are celebrating the risen Christ – whether with or without the traditional elements of spring fertility signified by the Easter bunny, bright clothing, and the hunt for colorful eggs filled with candy treats. Other Americans are observing the traditions of Passover. Others celebrate something else, or nothing at all.

Whatever your religious tradition or inclination, I would ask you – please – to take a moment or two to reflect upon the nuggets of spiritual insight that you may have collected and found to be valuable and wise. Consider whether any of them involve hatred, domination, or control over others.

It is an insecure (and I think inauthentic) kind of faith that cannot stand on its own merits and inspire others with its goodness. It is pure spiritual arrogance – hubris, really – to believe that anyone has the whole truth about God, or that they must impose it on everyone else. We are human. To target fellow humans simply because they do not subscribe to one fallible interpretation of what God may want of humanity is profoundly anti-religious. To do so at the level of government is anti-American. And to do so under the mantle of a claim of divine authority may be the closest thing I know of to blasphemy.

Is this not a sin against the spirit of love? Does this not take God’s name in vain?

There is no authentic spirituality based on fear and hatred of others or on the endless quest for power.

“There is no disguise that can for long conceal love where it exists or simulate it where it does not.” – Francois de La Rochefoucauld

“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering. I sense much fear in you.” – The character of Jedi master Yoda, in Episode I of the Star Wars films

Be sure to check out the other blog posts on the Blog Against Theocracy swarm. The logo was designed by Tengrain of Mock, Paper, Scissors.

A big thank you to Jolly Roger at Reconstitution for the invitation to join in. Thanks for thinking of me (smile).

First Freedom First: Sign the Petition Now!

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10 thoughts on “Blogging Against Theocracy

  1. Jehovah’s Witnesses are taught to HATE and see the rest of the world as pathetic and evil. I too was raised in this organization and have spoken to thousands of survivors since I left. Our stories are all eerily similar..

    In the Watchtower’s own literature (Dec. 1, 2005), they refer to YOU (if you are not a Jehovah’s Witness) this way: “Many wonder, however, why a God who is the very embodiment of love would inflict death and destruction on much of humankind. The situation might be compared to that of a pest-infested house. Would you not agree that a conscientious homeowner should safeguard the health and well-being of his family by exterminating the pests?…The battle of Armageddon is actually one of the best things that could happen to us!”

    …a pest that needs to be exterminated? Yes, Jehovah’s Witnesses believe you will be wiped out and then eaten by birds and that they will survive and have to clean up your bones in preparation for an Earthly paradise. There are dozens of other such quotes and hateful statements in their literature. When I read this quote, Hitler came to mind.

    Intolerance projected onto anyone by any person or group most certainly conveys insecurity and a degree of narcissism. To accept another only if he/she precisely mirrors your ideals is to love them only for the reflection that you see of yourself.

  2. Pledge of Allegiance pictures and Swastikas pictures expose shocking secrets about American history.

    Socialists in the USA originated the Nazi salute, robotic group-chanting to flags, Nazism, flag fetishism, and the modern swastika as “S” symbolism for “Socialism.”

    Much of that history is the history of the Pledge Of Allegiance. Those historical facts explain the enormous size and scope of government today, and the USA’s growing police state. They are reasons for massive reductions in government, taxation, spending and socialism.

    The “Nazi salute” is more accurately called the “American salute” as it was created and popularized by national socialists in the USA. It was the early salute of the Pledge of Allegiance. The Pledge was written by Francis Bellamy, cousin and cohort of Edward Bellamy. Edward Bellamy and Francis Bellamy were self-proclaimed socialists in the Nationalism movement and they promoted military socialism.

    They wanted the government to take over education and use it to spread their worship of government. When the government granted their wish, the government’s schools imposed segregation by law and taught racism as official policy. The official racism and segregation was a bad example three decades before the National Socialist German Workers Party, and decades afterward.

    The Pledge was mandated by law in government schools for three decades before, and through, the creation of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party.

    Many people do not know that the term “Nazi” means “National Socialist German Workers’ Party.” Members of the horrid group did not call themselves Nazis. In that sense, there was no Nazi Party. They also did not call themselves Fascists. They called themselves socialists, just as their name indicates.

    The historian Dr. Rex Curry showed that the early Pledge Of Allegiance did not use an ancient Roman salute, and that the ‘ancient Roman salute’ myth came from the Pledge Of Allegiance. The discoveries have been reviewed and verified on wikipedia .

    The original pledge was anti libertarian and began with a military salute that then stretched out toward the flag. In actual use, the second part of the gesture was performed with a straight arm and palm down by children casually performing the forced ritual chanting. Due to the way that both gestures were used sequentially in the pledge, the military salute led to the Nazi salute. The Nazi salute is an extended military salute via the USA’s Pledge Of Allegiance.

    Media coverage about the discoveries continues to grow. Fan mail for work exposing the Pledge’s poisonous pedigree is at http://rexcurry.net/pledge_heart.html and listen at http://odeo.com/audio/1747108/view.

    The Pledge’s early salute caused quite a Fuhrer/furor. The dogma behind the Pledge was the same dogma that led to the socialist Wholecost (of which the Holocaust was a part): 62 million slaughtered under the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics; 49 million under the Peoples’ Republic of China; 21 million under the National Socialist German Workers’ Party. It was the worst slaughter of humanity ever.

    People were persecuted (beatings, lynchings, etc) for refusing to perform robotic chanting to the national flag at the same time in government schools in the USA and Germany (to the American flag, and to the German swastika flag).

    American socialists (Edward Bellamy teamed with the Theosophical Society) also bear some blame for the modern swastika. Swastikas became overlapping S-letters for “socialism,” all shown in the research of the noted symbologist Dr. Rex Curry. Although the swastika was an ancient symbol, its use was altered to alphabetic symbolism in modern times. As German socialism’s notorious flag symbol, the swastika was deliberately turned 45 degrees to the horizontal and always oriented in the S-direction. Similar alphabetic symbolism is still visible as Volkswagen logos.

    The bizarre acts in the USA began as early as 1875 and continued through the creation of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (German Nazis or NSGWP). American soldiers used the swastika symbol in WWI (against Germany) and the symbol was used by the American military during WWII.

    The NSGWP had clear roots in National Socialism promoted by socialists in the USA. Amazing graphic images that prove the point are here.

    The USA is still the worst example in the world of bizarre laws that require robotic chanting to a national flag in government schools (socialist schools) every day for 12 years. It has changed generations of Americans from libertarians to authoritarians. The government bamboozled individuals into believing that collective robotic chanting in government schools daily is a beautiful expression of freedom.

    (Note from VirusHead: I had to embed some of your links so as not to break the page)

  3. Hi –

    This is an amazing post – thanks, Thanks, THANKS for joining the blogswarm. It really is worth it for everyone to see all the support there is for this re-affirmation of one of our founding principles. Even here in the SF Bay Area (and I know this is a liberal island even within California) I am often scared by what I see in the way of orthodoxy and pressure to conform out in the burbs.

    Just curious: is it as an homage to William Burroughs or to Laurie Anderson that you chose “Language is a Virus” as your tagline?

    Best regards,

    Tengrain

  4. Tinny Ray has an agenda, and has told several lies here to make the pieces fit. I’ll address the “alpha lie,” from which the rest of the lies flow.

    The Nazis inserted the word “socialist” as a sop to ordinary Germans, who were (at the time) attracted to socialist ideals. There is plenty of factual documentation (from Hitler and others) to back this up-I’m not even going to put a link up here because it’s a well-known truth. What Tinny is describing is not socialism, as we all know-what Ray decribes is a melding of Corporation, Church, and Government. This melding is Benito Mussolini’s own definition of Fascism. Hitler, Mussolini, and Franco operated their countries as a combination of the three afrementioned forces. The Nazis were not socialists-they were Facsists with a racial taint.

    Dominionists are sometimes Fascists, and sometimes Nazis. The Christian Identity folks are, for the most part, Nazis in philosophy, and they honor Hitler as one of the leading lights of their own movement. The other Dominionists generally fall under the accepted definition of Fascists.

    And I am going to work on a pilot script for “When Jehova’s Witnesses Attack.” I am envisioning a knock on the door with one hand, while the other hand holds a bullwhip, or a machinegun 🙂

  5. Brenda: Yes, the extermination idea is very horrible and terrifying. It’s difficult to believe that current JWs can really bear to think through the implications of what they are saying about other human beings and about the nature of God.

    “To accept another only if he/she precisely mirrors your ideals is to love them only for the reflection that you see of yourself.”

    Yes – nicely put.

    Tinny Ray: I’ll do a little research of my own on the flag issue. My understanding at this point is that the Nazi salute may have been inspired partly by the pledge, but I need to look into it further. At first glance, it seems much closer to the Roman salute (i.e. “Hail Caesar”). I think the link to socialism and/or the occult are strange connections in the American setting, so I am very skeptical of some of your claims. Bellamy’s views were very interesting as I recall, particularly on history, and there are of course many kinds of socialism. I think that we are in agreement about the creepiness of the ritual, but the US is not the only country obsessed with flag waving, pledges of loyalty, and other nationalistic rituals (nor the worst).

    JR: Yes, there are some strange connections in Tinny Ray’s comments. Could you be more specific about what you think is the agenda here? The image you invoke of armed JWs at the door is powerfully funny. I had in my own mind a comic drawing.

    Tengrain: Glad you stopped in to visit and read the post. The tagline is in homage to BOTH the author Burroughs and the performance artist Anderson. My dissertation was a discourse analysis of how viruses are imagined in contemporary fiction. It’s how the site was named as well, because all I could think of were viruses – and I became a “VirusHead.”

  6. Watchtower LIE and people DIE

    Jehovah’s Witnesses are a doomsday destructive cult who exploit and prey on our fears.Their core dogma is that Jesus had his second coming already in 1914 and is working ‘invisibly’ through their Watchtower organization.

    They ‘trash’ all other religions because the ‘other’ religions have rejected this (false) Watchtower claim.

    The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Jehovah’s Witnesses is like the Enron corporation of the secular world and their leaders should all be held accountable for fraud.

    Yes,former employees/followers are speaking out against them LOUDLY.

    Watchtower LIE and people DIE

  7. Tinny Ray…

    In 1892, a big celebration (National Public School Celebration) was planned to have children observe the 400th anniversary of Columbus’s landing. James Upham, from The Youth’s Companion magazine, wasn’t happy with the versions of the pledge he tried to write, and finally asked Francis Bellamy to write it.

    Francis had been a Baptist minister, but was pushed out of the church because (like his cousin author Edward Bellamy) he was a utopian socialist and incorporated those ideals into his sermons. Francis recognized the absurdity of adding “equality” to the pledge, but for some reason felt solid on liberty and justice. Despite the French Revolutionary reference, fraternity doesn’t appear to have been considered… The “indivisible” part appears to have been a reference to the Civil War. In the original, neither the words “United States” or “under God” appear.

    The first massive pledge by adults was at a national liberty pole and flag raising in New Jersey (1893), which was set up by William McDowell (a founder of the Sons and Daughters of the American Revolution). Bellamy was there, talking about training young Americans to fulfill America’s “divine mission.” After that, Grover Cleveland led much pageantry at the Chicago World Fair (1893). New York was the first to mandate the pledge (1898). In 1923/24 the National Flag conference – pressured by the American Legion and Daughters of the American Revolution who feared that immigrants would actually be saluting the flags of their home countries with the US pledge – got “my flag” changed to “the Flag of the United States of America.” Bellamy’s protest was ignored.

    Originally, it was a military salute – right hand lifted, palm down, at forehead level, then arm outstretched. This was the historical civilian salute of the United States, from 1787-1934 (since 1892, known as the “Bellamy salute.”) The US was not alone; it was also the historical army salute in the Middle East and South America. In 1942 when pledge was officially recognized by Congress in the U.S. Flag Code, they also abolished the “Bellamy salute” as being too close to the Nazi one. President Roosevelt instituted the hand over the heart as the salute to be rendered by civilians during the pledge (and the national anthem).

    The mandated salute/pledge was legally challenged by Jehovah’s Witnesses and only one year later the Supreme Court ruled that school children could not be forced to recite it. The 1943 Barnette opinion still holds as constitutional doctrine with regard to the salute/pledge – and this is a great quote to use for those who pretend that the flag is sacred:

    Compulsory unification of opinion achieves only the unanimity of the graveyard…. There is no mysticism in the American concept of the State or of the nature or origin of its authority. We set up government by consent of the governed, and the Bill of Rights denies those in power any legal opportunity to coerce that consent….
    If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.

    Interesting that the Catholic group The Knights of Columbus are the ones that persuaded President Eisenhower to add the words “under God” in 1954. Dwight D. Eisenhower (with Jehovah’s Witness family members and cognizant of the rising power of the miltary-industrial complex) said “In this way we are reaffirming the transcendence of religious faith in America’s heritage and future; in this way we shall constantly strengthen those spiritual weapons which forever will be our country’s most powerful resource in peace and war.” This was in the context of the political and material battle against “godless Communism.”

    About the Nazi/socialist/flag connections… You might be on better footing if you researched whether or not the pledge affected Benito Mussolini rather than Hitler. The Italian fascists were already doing a similar thing, and they associated it with ancient Rome. As anyone might guess, the Germans claimed that Germans did it first: at the installation of ancient Germanic kings. From their perspective, if Roman rulers were actually migrants from Northern Europe, then the Romans stole it from Germany!

    Some propagandists used photos of people saluting the US flag this way, and just cut out the flag in order to make it appear that they were Nazis. Incidentally, use of the salute has been forbidden by law in Germany for political use since World War II. The salute is also still used by some Palestinian and Arab militant groups – that might be worth more research.

    On mystical symbols, including the swastika, there is of course much history and even more speculation. It is such an ancient symbol that its true origins are pretty much lost in time – it even predates the ancient Egyptian symbol, the Ankh – and it appears all over the world. The alphabet has nothing to do with it, although perhaps some socialists may have picked up the symbol for their own purposes. I don’t know, but it’s possible. The dollar sign is picked up that way, as in Bu$h. Have fun – there is a lot of great stuff to explore, but none of it is very pertinent to the topics of the flag or with socialist, fascist or Nazi movements in America. If anything, it’s a little strange that fundamentalists would be so fond of the flag and the pledge.

    Are you actually Rex Curry? Or perhaps someone sort of randomly cutting and pasting from his editorials? He may have above-the-ordinary reasons for telling his community college students not to quote Wikipedia. Anyway, I don’t really see any evidence that he could be considered either a “historian” or a “noted symbologist.”

    Claims to authority aren’t really the best way to argue, but if you are going to rely on them, you should pick credible authorities…

  8. Well, that settles that then, doesn’t it? 🙂

    It is almost impossible to hang practices like the Pledge on any particular “ism.” It is, if one wants to do so, possible to see how the education system in America began to change right about “Pledge time” from one which encouraged pupils to question everything into one designed to turn out a more compliant citizen for the factories (and wars) springing up everywhere.

    That’s another discussion though 🙂

  9. And that is the much more interesting set of questions, for sure.

    Do you ever remember as a child saying “It’s a free country”?

    How easily I said it then.

  10. Wish I wasn’t out of town for this one.

    When a government is allowed to hold its people hostage at the end of a crusader’s sword, assembling armies of red-tie legislators and black-robed judges, spouting totalitarian, pseudo-religious, master race moral superiority, it is our own moral imperative to draw a line in the sand and hold it. Manifest Destiny may have been a convenient excuse to build this country, but it is a weak and insecure administration that uses a land grab policy as a way to take control of the moral compass line we toe.

    I used to think that Americans were smart enough to know when this type of abuse of might had gone too far. I always thought there were enough of us who saw through political demagoguery to know the difference between political pandering and god-awful policy. It seems I was wrong.

    Even the changes in Congress last year are only a burp, more about Iraq than anything related to God and morals.

    The problem is we count on politicians to do right by us much in the same way some parents expect their children’s teachers to parent their kids. It is a responsibility we cannot, must not, abdicate to those in power. They will only do as much as they can get away with, and maybe slightly more if there’s enough money involved.

    God, like good character, starts in the home, not on Capitol Hill. Like past mistakes, one’s feelings toward God should inform one’s actions, not control them. If those who would put our necks to the sword could understand that, perhaps they would stop trying to control the rest of us.

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