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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!

Mean, Loathsome Individuals

Mean, Loathsome Individuals

These people – yes, that’s the perjorative phrase “these people” – fill me with bewilderment, disgust and just plain old loathing.

Baby used as a weapon:
In Erie, Pennsylvania, a month-old baby was critically injured when anti-mom Chytoria Graham (27) “allegedly” swung the baby through the air to strike her boyfriend – with her baby – in a domestic dispute. The baby suffers from a fractured skull and bleeding in the brain. Four other children were removed from the home.

Torture of an animal, terrorizing children:
Here in Atlanta, Joshua (17) and Justin Moulder (18) “are alleged to have” bound a puppy with duct tape, then doused her with paint and baked her in an oven at a community center of Englewood Manor Apartments. Then they enticed neighborhood children in to the center to see the dead puppy. Then they threatened to kill the children if they told anyone.

This one is a little more subtle:

Another Georgia Fanatic Wants to Ban Books from School:
Loganville anti-mom Laura Mallory is using every available means to insist that Harry Potter books are banned from all Gwinnett County public schools. She has gone over the head of the Gwinnett school board and presented the case to the state Board of Education. Mallory can still appeal to Gwinnett County Superior Court if this goes against her. She should sit down with the author J. K. Rowling and hear how the first book was written, so that she could develop a working definition of momhood.

Gwinnett County Taxpayer Cost: More than $4,000 – not counting staff time – and rising. MacBeth is next, and the Wizard of Oz, and the Narnia books, and most fairy tales, and….

Mallory is actually being taken seriously in her view that Harry Potter books represent an organised attempt to indoctrinate children in the Wicca religion. “I surely don’t want them indoctrinated into a religion whose practices are evil,” says Mallory.

An evangelical Wiccan conspiracy, yet. Now I’ve heard everything.

Now, what evil practices would those be again? And – oh, let me guess – what’s your religion? Don’t get me started on definitions of “evil practices,” just read some books on history or world economics (unless those aren’t allowed in your house either?).

How about this? You could always be a parent and monitor what your children are allowed to read (under your very limited ideas about acceptable education, literature and religion).

Keep your dour hands off our libraries and schools.

Harry Potter is fantasy literature. Fantasy literature is not identical to pagan belief or practice, Wiccan or otherwise.

If your kids are not able to distinguish between fantasy and reality, then they have bigger problems than an embarrassing mother. Yes, I know, a lot of people have problems distinguishing between fantasy and reality, but let’s just assume there’s a remedy here. You could start with Pilgrim’s Progress, for example (assuming that simple allegory and metaphor aren’t too traumatic for you).

I was raised in a Jehovah’s Witness household, but even my parents did not forbid me to read fantasy. I read Watchtower publications, sure, but I also read The Forgotten Beasts of Eld and Secret Garden and A Wind in the Door and The Magician’s Nephew (Narnia) and The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings Trilogy and the Dune books, and anything else I could get my hands on.

My love of imaginative and challenging works of fiction enabled me to grow and to thrive in ways that would have been impossible otherwise. Oh, and by the way, serious readers rarely have problems passing standardized tests. You learn a lot by osmosis.

Deny quality reading experiences to children at your peril!

I’m going to assume that I know your political party. I’m speculating that if times were just the slightest bit different, you’d be first in line to stone someone to death, first in line to hang a woman accused of witchcraft.

You’re a literalist, more concerned with rules than wisdom or understanding. Wave the flag, sieg heil, whatever.

You’re no better than a puppy torturer or a baby-thrower. You have the same basic lack of empathy, the same disregard for others.

You’re yet another symptom of the decline of our freedom and democracy, our literacy, our wisdom – and yes, our spirituality. The losses that we have sustained in these areas represent a clear and present danger to our country.

I know that there is some way of understanding how people can be twisted up in the ways that these people are, but I simply don’t have what it takes to try to understand right now (Lord, give me compassion…. but not yet.)

I spit in your general direction, you mean, vile, loathsome people.

Protesting Iraq – Anti-War Photos

Protesting Iraq – Anti-War Photos :: International Day of Protest on the second anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq

Some photos from all over the USA, and all over the World.

From signs:

Support the troops – bring them home
Dissent Protects Democracy
Who Would Jesus Bomb?
War is Terror
Drop Bush Not Bombs
It’s about Lives for Oil and Nothing about Freedom
Students Not Soliders
No To Imperialism Militarism and Bush
Iraq War is Anti-Christian
Making a Killing with Your Money
No War but Class War
Who Dies for Bush Lies?
Warning – You are Buying War, Poverty, Greed, and Fear
Third World Within (on a map of a bleeding USA)
9/11 Unanswered Questions: Why did FBI HQ block investigations in NY, Minneapolis, and Phoenix?
Iraquis aren’t Cheerleaders (with a photo from Abu Ghraib)
Jail Time for War Crimes
Destroy the War Machine
College Not Combat
War Loves to Prey on the Young
When Christ Disarmed Peter, he Disarmed Every Soldier
Dumbo – “Bring Them On”
Violence Breeds Violence
Books Not Bombs
Stop the Poverty Draft
Stop the War Junkies
Where are the WMDs?
Not Our President
Not in Our Name
War is Not the Answer
80% Unemployment in Harlem
Every Day a Soldier Dies for Cheney’s Oil and Bush’s Lies
Anything War can Do, Peace Can Do Better
Give Peace a Chance
Death is Forever
US Troops Out of the Middle East
Another Woman for Peace
Osama Toppled 2 Buildings, Bush Toppled Peace, Freedom and Democracy
21st Cent. terrorist murders -Bin Laden 3,000, Bush 15,000
Lee Harvey, where are you?
Bush Quit Your Vile War, Deal with WHY They Hate Us
Viva La Paz
End Occupation Corporate Exploitation Iraq to Haiti
Stop Imperialism
Why Aren’t You Outraged?
Uncle Sam Iraq will be your Vietnam
Anti-Bush – Pro-Schools
No War for Oil
US Out of the Middle East
History Will Condemn Us
Vietnam Mistake Iraq Bigger Mistake
A US Occupation is Still an Occupation
Use Law Not War
Military Families Say Bring Them Home Now
Bring Them Home
Money for Jobs and Education Not War
Don’t Send Our Troops to Commit Your War Crimes
Stop the Back Door Draft
Fight Corporate End Racist War
Separation Corporations and State
Silence is Acceptance
No War Between Nations, No Peace Between Classes
No More
Stop the War

And from Protests Outside the US:

Only Democracies May Commit Mass Murder According to the American Empire
One Million Children
Another World is Possible
End the Occupation of Iraq and Palestine
No More War
Is This Your Peace Fu…ng Capitalists?
Global No
Troops Out Now
No to American Terrorism, No to Islamic Terrorism
Violence Leads to Violence
Bush (with a swastika for the S)
Latin Amerika Rebelde y Anti-Kapitali$ta
Bush the Tiny Tyrant
Put Bush, the war criminal, on trial
Support the Right to Resistance in Iraq and Palestine
No More Bush Wars
Bliar Bliar Iraq’s on Fire
No Nukes
Bush terrorist number one of the world
No to War Profiteering
“2-4-6-8, F..k The Police State
Oil War
All Out Iraq Now
Occupation is Not Freedom

“War is everywhere: a global war against humanity in which our bodies, the air we breathe, the water that we drink, what we are taught, the stories we tell and are told … become commodities bought and sold in an open market. Whether in the Iraqi killing fields or a prepaid drought in Phiri, Soweto, the logic is the same: the rule of money and the market over all of life – the logic of neoliberalism.” –South Africa IndyMedia

America, Imagine This!

America, Imagine This!

M. Shahid Alam: America, Imagine This!

Here is a very interesting thought experiment from M. Shahid at Northeastern University, writing for CourterPunch. He notes that the 9/11 Commission, charged preparing a “full and complete account of the circumstances surrounding the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, including preparedness for and the immediate response to the attacks,” and yet the 500 page report of the Commission “contains not a single mention of any possible connection between 9-11 and US policies towards the Middle East.”

Try this out for size:

“Imagine waking up tomorrow in an upside-down world, one in which the history of America’s relations with the Arabs is inverted. Iraq is now the global hegemon, the world’s richest democracy, a beacon of freedom; Iraq and the Arab democracies dominate the world and what was once the USA. Imagine that the Arabs have used their power to replace a United States of America with forty-four nominally independent states–with states for native Americans, African-Americans, Asians, Latinos, Italian Americans, German Americans, Anglo-Americans, Jews, Mormons, Sikhs, the Amish, etc–with most of these states run by despotic Iraqi surrogates.

Iraq, after colonizing New England and ethnically cleansing its native inhabitants, has converted it into an exclusive, racist, colonial-settler state for Arabs brought in from Sudan who were dying from a severe drought, the worst in a thousand years. This state, Arabistan, is by far the most powerful of the states on the American continent. It is Iraq’s strategic asset in the Americas, periodically mounting incursions against the neighboring states from where the New Englander refugees wage occasional guerilla attacks on Arabistan.

Starting in March 2003, the Iraqi marines, supported by two divisions from Palestine, had invaded and occupied Texas. The Iraqi administration argued that this was a preemptive invasion to prevent the fanatical Texans from developing biological weapons. However, some Arab publications on the Left have argued that the Texan oilfields were Iraq’s real target. It is well known that production from the Arab oil fields has been declining since 1997.

What would the Americans, now split, divided, corralled into forty-six racial, ethnic and sectarian states do if they found themselves in such a world? Would they resent the surrogate despotisms that ruled over them with Iraqi arms and money? Would some of their young men, faced with overwhelming Iraqi power, resort to suicidal attacks within Iraq itself? Would they too hate the Iraqis and Arabs and attack them because they are free, prosperous and democratic?

What would the New Englanders do, now scattered in refugee encampments in New York, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Ohio? Would they dream of returning to their country? Would they demand the right to return to their homes in New England? Would they demand compensation for the homes they had lost? Would they hate the Sudanese settlers who now lived in their homes, their towns and cities?

What would all the other Americans do if the New Englanders began to wage a campaign of terror against Iraqi interests in the former USA? What would they do if Arabistan–the Iraqi surrogate–then retaliated by bombing New York, Detroit, Washington and Albany? What would they do if the Iraqi media accused them ad nauseum of hating Iraq’s free, open, democratic society?

If only Americans could imagine all this–imagine all this for even a few seconds–how would this change the way they think about what their country, the United States, together with its democratic ally, Israel, have been doing to the Arabs? Can Americans imagine this? What would it do if they could imagine this–even for a few seconds?

Would they recognize in their imagined pain, in their imagined humiliation, in the imagined wars and destruction imposed upon them, the real wars, occupations, massacres, ethnic cleansings, tortures, bombings, sanctions and assassinations endured by Palestinians and Iraqis for more than eight decades?

Would they?”

The trouble is, we’ve almost completely lost our power for imagination, compassion, and empathy anyone outside our own country. We are underinformed and badly educated. We claim to be religious when we are being most heartless and anti-christian. And we swallow pretty much what is planned for us to swallow.

Give me back my USA.

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