Friday, August 28, 2020

The prurient scandal surrounding the Falwells causes me to reflect back on the 25+ years I was a fundamentalist evangelical charismatic Christian. 
The culture of fundamentalist Christianity inculcates in its adherents that those in authority (pastors, televangelists, self-proclaimed prophets, etc.) are not to be challenged or scrutinized, lest one be branded as rebellious and ostracized from the church community or be guilty of attacking "God's anointed" and incur the wrath of the Almighty. I was once called a "son of Absalom" for questioning a pastor's authority (Absalom was David's son who committed rebellion against the king and was summarily executed for it). A common epithet applied to a woman who questions authority in the church is that she has a "Jezebel spirit" (named after the wicked biblical queen who worshipped pagan gods and suffered a gruesome death). 
This authoritarian culture within the fundamentalist Christian world results in a serious lack of accountability among its leaders. And then when a leader's transgression does come to light--be it financial or sexual or whatever--the response is "let he who is without sin cast the first stone." In other words, a demand for grace cheapened to the point of worthlessness is called for (unless the fallen one is a women and the matter is sexual, in which case she will never be allowed to forget or rise above her transgression). 
The end result is that the fundamentalist evangelical Christian world is riddled with sin and scandal and cons and scams perpetrated by leaders, and the "flock" gets fleeced over and over again. I've seen it with my own eyes so many times...

Sunday, August 23, 2020

In my faith journey, I've come to the place where I consider myself a follower of Jesus but not a Christian, a Buddhist who eschews ritual along with speculative ideas like reincarnation, a lapsed Quaker who is wary of faith community, an agnostic because I consider it the most honest position, someone who understands and respects and in some ways embraces atheism, a person with a Master's degree in Religion who can say without irony that I'm spiritual but not religious, someone who finds he no longer fits into the categories and silos and sects. This is sometimes liberating and sometimes disconcerting, but it's my journey and I'm happy with it.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

This morning I find myself pondering what's happened here in the U.S. over the last four years. The presidency of Donald Trump is not the thing I find most disturbing (and when I say "disturbing" I really mean "horrifying"); he is an anomaly; a political and sociological and statistical quirk; a polyp in the long intestine of history.

Sure Trump is an awful person, stunted in empathy, morality and intellect, but he would have remained a ne'er do well reality television personality if not for the people who enabled him. And this is the part that truly horrifies me: that politicians and bureaucrats promoted him and swore fealty to him, and carried out his toxic policies, and defended his indefensible actions; that federal law enforcement agents--average men and women--put children in cages, and tried to turn back people arriving on flights from countries that Trump had suddenly and capriciously banned with the stroke of a pen, and brutally attacked U.S. citizens peacefully protesting in U.S. cities (even violently clearing the streets of the U.S. capital so that Trump could have a photo opportunity in front of a church he doesn't attend holding a bible he doesn't understand).

When Trump is gone, his appointees that can be sacked will be sacked, his policies gradually reversed, his behavior scrutinized under legal microscopes for years to come so that he will spend the remainder of his life fighting to stay out of prison. Trust will slowly be rebuilt with our allies around the world. Loopholes will be closed and new laws will be enacted to prevent in future some of the most egregious acts perpetrated by Trump and his administration. His former cronies and sycophants and enablers will write books attempting to exonerate themselves, or become Fox News hosts, or fade into quiet obscurity.

But what will remain will be neighbors and friends and family members who accepted Trump's rank racism and misogyny and xenophobia and corruption. The revelation won't soon fade that an expedient moral equivalency lurked under the skin; a willingness to turn a blind eye to egregious acts and rhetoric and attitudes; a pharisaical moral brittleness that missed the teachings of Jesus by miles; a tribal willingness to welcome authoritarian violence.

Those are the things that are going to haunt me for a long time.