Fundamentalism: The Perversion of Jesus

“If I speak in tongues of men or of angels, but have not love, then I am nothing more than a clanging gong or a resounding cymbal.” (1Corinthians 13:1)

And if I continue to speak in terms of tolerance and acceptance of the fundamentalist poison being pumped into the body of Christ, then I am actively participating in the death of the Word made flesh. I will no longer do that. I may not wield a weapon much more effective than a fly swatter in battling this many-headed parasite within our midst; nonetheless, I will swat and swat and swat at it. I am tired- sick and tired- of the loveless clanging I hear constantly coming from the back of the Church.

For me, the Gong Show is over.

Fundamentalism, within whatever culture or religion it begins to coalesce, does so in reaction to perceived Modernism. It is, by its very nature, a reactionary movement based on fear of that which is new, unknown, and uncomfortable. Just as the Church in Europe dug its Inquisitive heels into the backs of powerless peasants as the onslaught of Science and Art began to encroach on its once exclusive domain of cultural influence (read: power), so is modern day fundamentalism motivated by fear. And fear, fundamentalist leaders have found, is always a more powerful crowd-pleaser than love.

Fundamentalist Characteristic #1- Fear

Fundamentalists are afraid. They’ll deny that, but listen in on any television evangelist’s resounding message or- better yet- venture into a local, so-called, revival meeting. You’ll hear, for a little while, about God, about the sacrifice of his son, Jesus, and about the joy and peace that comes from knowing Jesus as Savior and Lord. But it will amount to not much more than mere lip service to the language being used to present the evening’s real Star of the Show- Satan!

People who choose to live in fear need an enemy to be afraid of, and Satan fits that bill. He is not omniscient nor omnipresent, but somehow seems to know (according to the fear-mongering preacher) exactly where you are and exactly what your weaknesses are! He is always ready to attack, always prepared to tempt you, always whispering sweet seductive siren songs into your ready-to-hear ears. Most importantly, he is there to be blamed every time you fall from, or wiggle out of, God’s grace.

He wants your soul in hell,to burn eternally with the millions, billions of others he has already claimed. And to do that job, Satan needs helpers: the demonic hordes which do his bidding. There are, according to any number of deliverance ministries which fill tents and television studios across the land, a legion of demons out there, some of which are probably in you already. Which is why you smoke, drink, lust, fail to tithe, wear lipstick, have wet dreams, think goddam when you hit your thumb with a hammer, get bored in church, miss church, watch anything but “Christian” television, have debts, vote Democratic, despise the military-industrial complex, or drive a better car than the preacher.

Demons are everywhere. They are to be feared. If you’re having fun, feeling free, laughing, healthy, or making a good living- watch out! Because they’re getting ready to pounce- down your gullet, into your eyeballs, through your fingertips, or absorbed by your imagination. You must- you MUST- claim  the blood of Jesus as it is being hustled by the speaker of the moment. Only tithes and offerings, and a walk to the front of that preacher’s altar will afford you protection from them! Do it tonight! Because you might be dead tomorrow! (And, if the fear-mongering preacher has learned how “properly” to do it, he/she will, at this point, begin to list the many ways you might be dead tomorrow!)

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

Who said that? Who’s that rabble-rouser trying to interrupt the meeting? Who dares to speak serenity; who is it that dares to bring talk of peace to this arena of fear we’ve been building tonight?

Oh, it’s Jesus..*

(More will follow. Everything about fundamentalism derives from fear, but the means by which fear is invoked are many and subtle. Unfortunately, the ramifications of lives lived in this inflicted fear are not so subtle. And so there is more to write. Much more.

But right now, I need to go wash my hands. They’re filthy.)

* John 14:27

 

 

Padre Pio, Exposed! (to carbolic acid?)

According to a new book- The Other Christ: Padre Pio and 19th Century Italy, by historian Sergio Luzzatto- the “most popular Saint” in Italy, and one of the most popular in the world, might have faked his famous piety. (reference: The Telegraph- UK)

Padre Pio stigmata

Padre Pio. (The man was bleeding as he served the Host!)

Throughout his life as a priest, beginning in 1911, Padre Pio exhibited stigmata, simulations of the wounds suffered by Jesus on his hands and feet. He died in 1968 and was elevated to the status Saint in 2002 by Pope John Paul II, who is now on his own fast track to Beatification.

Some stigmata are visible– wounds on the hands, feet, back, or rib area that can be seen and cause real suffering in those who manifest them, however they are manifested. Others have invisible stigmata; they suffer for no outward and visible reason(My reaction to the invisible kind: How convenient..!)

stigmatageorgio 

Visible Stigmata                                                                       Invisible Stigmata

It seems that documents have been discovered that were collected from a pharmacist acquaintance of the visibly stigmatisized Padre. Maria Di Vito, an admitted admirer of Pio, claimed that in 1919 she spent a month with him in San Giovanni Rotondo, where he asked her to secretly have a bottle of pure carbolic acid refilled. “For disinfecting syringes,” don’t you know.

This evidence, the caliber of which has thwarted less popular nominees on the road to Sainthood, was apparently dismissed by the Holy See (We saw nothing..), since the very popular Pio’s election was successful. 

Pietro Siffi, the president of the Catholic Anti-Defamation League, said: “We would like to remind Mr Luzzatto that according to Catholic doctrine, canonisation carries with it papal infallibility. We would like to suggest to Mr Luzzatto that he dedicates his energies to studying religion properly.” Thus, doctrinally speaking, “if a Pope says it, I believe it, and that’s that!” Proper religious study, apparently for Signor Siffi, means the unquestioning regurgitation of what already is- supposedly- known.

My argument here is not with Padre Pio- I know nothing about him, other than the fact that his stigmata, along with those of every other stigmati, appear in the wrong place, since Roman nails were almost certainly driven through the wrists, not the hands themselves. My argument is with the blind obedience to religious thought, which always emanates through some human with a political agenda in the guise of holiness. And humans, as most of us can attest from personal experience, screw up. Our human screw-ups, our motivations,even our outright, however well-intended lies should be able to be studied when they have historical import.

And my argument certainly is not with Catholicism, at least not in the sense that Siffi would be accusing author Luzzato of. My argument is with anyone who uses trickery to fool the masses in the perpetuation of THEIR take on Jesus, THEIR “truths” about God, and THEIR authority. If Padre Pio was shown to be a fake on the order of the very non-Catholic Peter Popoff, so be it! Why should any believer have their faith in God threatened by the exposed fakery of someone  who skillfully and manipulatively uses God-language  for their own ends? Take a look below at Popoff exposed by the Amazing Randi.

Siffi’s argument is the type of argument (or non-argument) engaged in (or not engaged in) by the new (unbelievable!) followers of Popoff, all the adherents of the fraud Benny Hinn, and those who believe Pat Robertson has special ‘words of knowledge’ just for them. It is the kind of specious argument which causes a multi-million dollar waste of money called The Creation Museum to be built in Kentucky, in the perpetuation of human doctrine over God’s truths. It is the kind of argument that causes factions to dig in their heels, even pick up weapons, in the defense of what some pope/preacher/imam or other ‘holy’ personage says is just so.

Anyone who must look at a man, in order to see God, is looking the wrong way. And I see no threat to God at all in telling them that.

 

Televangelist Juanita Bynum prepares to mine the Church’s pockets some more..my take on 2002’s "Cute Christian Couple" of the Year..

Two weeks after her husband, Bishop Thomas Weeks, wrestled her to the ground in the parking lot of an Atlanta hotel, beat her, and then was pulled off of her by a hotel bellhop, Televangelist Juanita Bynum has filed for divorce. (Read about it here)

This chapter in the marriage of Christian Nobility comes just five years after the million dollar televised extravaganza of the couple’s wedding ceremony, which featured a wedding party of 80, 1,000 guests, a 12- piece orchestra, and a 7.76-carat diamond ring. The black-tie wedding featured flowers flown in from around the world. “My dress,” Bynum said, “took nine months to make. All of the crystals (Swarovski) on the gown were hand-sewn. The headpiece was sterling silver, hand-designed. (Source)

They are the personification of Bling Bling Christianity and Self-serving Sham Spirituality. The glitz of the world is just stuff to be accumulated by them, shown off by them, flaunted and fought over by them, at the expense of thousands of slavish admirers who they have cowed into believing that the Jesus they preach is the Jesus who wants nothing more than to line YOUR pockets with the kind of cash that Thomas and Juanita have in their pockets (and designer purses).

They are darlings of the Fraternity of Christian Television Truth-benders who have molded the message of Jesus into a message of Prosperity (for themselves), who have turned The Way of Jesus into a driveway filled with Mercedes, leading to the front doors of their palatial estate homes, and who justify themselves by bestowing titles (Prophetess, Bishop, Annointed) on each other.

Now, since her beating, Bynum has said her ministry will focus on Domestic Violence. Well, good, that is always a timely topic. But I suspect these prophetic pimps (and pimpettes); I suspect Bynum of capitalizing (with cash and credit cards) on her recent problems. Yesterday, she appeared in the backseat of the Pimpmobile- Trinity Broadcasting Network– to proclaim her ‘forgiveness’ of her husband and to announce her new ministry to women victims of DV everywhere.

How about some time off from the cash flow machine, Ms. Bynum? How about telling women to do what they need to do to get their abusive spouses behind bars, and THEN cry their crocodile tears of forgiveness? How about showing your sincerity by liquidating some of your massive assets (does anyone really need TWO homes?) and seeding some women’s shelters for women and children who, unlike you, have NO financial or human resources to fall into the arms of? Or maybe take that 7.6 carat wedding band off and sell it to another Pimping Pastor, while you give the blood money assets to the Africans who mined those stones for virtual slave wages?

“Follow me,” Jesus invited the Sons of Thunder, and you, and me. Not to a choice of manors in the country, not to a million dollar orgy of self-appreciation, not to yet another New Pitch for funds, and certainly not for the seeking of ego-swelling sympathy and misdirected compassion. He invited us to sacrifice, and to a cross. For the sake of others, not ourselves.

Can I get a witness???

Can I?

Bob Larson: Demon Chaser, Demon User

Religionists and politicians share this basic operating maxim:

Tell a Lie often enough, and it will become the Truth.

Both religionists and politicians also depend on this subset of that truth: When caught in a lie, deny it often enough and your slave-like followers won’t care.

When politicians lie, we end up with higher taxes, fewer freedoms, or at war. But they’re not my nemesis here; they’re everybody’s nemesis, all the time. My object d’scorn are the religious charlatans, those foul manipulators of spiritual seekers and blasphemous betrayers of the divine. And among the many scoundrels fighting to lead that pack of dogs is one-time radio star, now mere shadow of former sleazy self (but I don’t think he knows that!), Bob Larson.

Bob Larson Ministries’ web page, in all of it’s 1995-era glory, may be found here. The whole front page is, of course, a hustle, for Larson’s books which will tell you all about the dangers of Islam and feng shui, and for his Spiritual Freedom Conferences. No surprise there; every time Larson opens his mouth it’s a hustle. For which, amazingly, large numbers of devotees continue to fall.

What is fascinating to me is the disclaimer found at the bottom of the front page:

“SPECIAL NOTICE… In your effort to locate our web site, you may have encountered other sites devoted to attacking our ministry. Be aware that these sites contain misinformation, disinformation, twisted facts and outright lies. Many of these accusations are sinister distortions of reality and fabrications designed to look truthful. Our response is that of Nehemiah: “I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you (Nehemiah 6:3)?” To those who maliciously malign our efforts to reach the lost for Christ and see those in demonic bondage set free, we respond as our Savior commanded us. We “pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).”

Go ahead, try it and see what he is talking about. Google “Bob Larson” and you’ll find site after site of former employees, legitimate news organizations, and Christian organizations of all stripes who have experienced or investigated Larson, and found him (caught him!) lying about his background, his affairs, his finances, and his claims, again and again and again and again. Here are two, of many:

Inside Edition

CanadianChristianity.com

So what is the niche within the overcrowded Christian ministry industry that Larson has developed into a feed trough for both his ego and his finances?

Demons

You know, those “spiritual entities” that can’t be seen but can only be discerned by those specially trained to do so; those “angels of Satan” which provide a ready excuse for anyone caught in abysmal human behaviors; those modern day versions of State Fair midway geeks who bit the heads off chickens to the delight of countrified adolescent boys and their hardy-har-harring daddies who’d drunk way too many beers under the hot summer sun.

Those demons. The ones that some Christians believe they’re able to identify in everyone around them the day after the night they walked that center aisle and gave their lives to Jesus. The ones that reappear in the same persons at Spiritual Freedom Conference after Spiritual Freedom Conference. The ones that Bob Larson can talk about with an air of believable authority that rivals any presidential candidate’s claim that “If I’m elected, things are gonna change!”

Those demons. Those human conjured spirits that fueled the Inquisition as the Church lusted after and found a way to legitimately grab the property of countless Spanish, French, Italian, and German land-owners, accused and convicted of cavorting with Satan. Those demons, grabbed from preacher’s arsenals of fear, when words about God’s love will not suffice. Those demons, still being used as ushers when the collection plate is passed.

The pleasure I take is writing about Larson is, I discover, a perverse pleasure. He is too easy to make fun of. The sarcasm he inspires from me is masking the real sadness I feel for those whom he has brow beat and lied to in his quest for their money and adulation. So here, let these video clips do the talking. Then pass them on to anyone you may know whose pockets and hearts are being ransacked by spiritual parasites like Larson.

Case in point: The national media has followed him and found him wanting. Pretend otherwise, often and loudly. The lemmings will continue to come.

The Spirit of Jezebel, always the Spirit of Jezebel..the evil, conniving, seducing Woman Spirit..Oh, Please..!

 

 

A Demonic Rant, or..one more thing I HATE about religion..

I became a Christian in 1984. At that time, there was great hub-bub on both “Christian” and secular media about Satanic rituals and the attendant child abuse allegedly happening with great frequency around the United States. As a new Christian, in a job in which I was in the car much of the day, I listened to the radio and lapped that stuff up.

I’ve spent many years since spitting it all back out. It turned out the whole Satanic Ritual Abuse scare was nonsense. It was founded almost solely on the imaginations of authors who discovered a real, ready, and gullible market for books that somehow confirmed for millions of book buyers that, if Satan was real, then their God must be real, too! Books like Michelle Remembers, Satan’s Underground, and The Satan Seller gave millions of grasping believers the confidence that their fight was a good one and that their God was vulnerable, and needed their help.

One by one, these books were exposed to be false, usually by more reputable Christian publications. Their authors were taking shreds of childhood memories and making the rest up. They were lying for the glory of speaking to thousands of hungry church-goers and, not incidentally, for quick and easy access to those listeners’ wallets and purses.

Some psychotherapists became envious of the spiritual gravy train rolling through town and came up with an elaboration of Freud’s Repressed Memories, called Recovered Memories, which enabled them to lead troubled adults backward in time to recover “memories” of their own Satanic Ritual Abuse. Thousands of families were wrongfully torn apart, hundreds of innocent people, particularly daycare workers, were wrongfully prosecuted, and all of Christendom took another hit (and rightfully so) for jumping uncritically, even enthusiastically, into the quagmire of this nonsense.

But, of course, the beat goes on. There are still “evangelists” tramping the back roads of America, regaling small-town audiences with tales of their involvement with witchcraft and their own halcyon days of (literal) hell-raising. They even do exorcisms! And- surprise! They can find demons in a roomful of desirous believers faster than a fly finds..melting ice cream. There’s the demon of nicotine, of alcohol, and of slothfulness. There’s the all-inclusive sexual demon of Jezebel, the specialized demon of Succubus, and the catch-all demon of Rebellion. There is a demon to fit the excuses anyone needs for wrong behavior, and these self-anointed demon-finders are happy to help you find one that will fit your needs! (Before “casting” it out of you.)

There’s much more I want to rant say about this, including special mention of the Grand Kontinuing Kleagle perpetuating this nonsense, Bob Larson; who, in my days of flirting with fundamentalism, I actually sent $40 to, in the absurdly mistaken notion that I was helping finance the cause of Christ. Turns out, I was more likely helping finance one of Larson’s vacations with his mistress-of-the-month.

C’est la vie. I have amends to make..

A Christian’s Response to Harry Potter

Read ’em. If you want to. That’s my response.

I am not (cannot be!) one of those Christians who, because of rank or status (ordained or self-anointed), would label what comes out of my mind or mouth as doctrinal. I am not one of those who would have the audacity to label anything I say or write as THE Christian response to anything. I’m just a guy who tries to follow Jesus, makes mistakes in doing so from time to time, but has (as you can probably tell by now) LOTS of opinions.

HarryPotter2

(for anyone unable to tell, all the people in the above picture are actors)

I’ve never read a Harry Potter book, and never will. But among the people whose opinions I value, my wife and daughters do read Rowling’s books, enjoy them, and none of them have become witches. I did see the first movie, and smiled all the way through it. I’ve missed the others, and don’t remember why; I probably had building committee meetings or something equally invigorating to go to.

If you want to see THE Christian response to Harry Potter, here are three of them:

here- Focus on the Family

here- Christian Answers for the New Age

and here- Exposing Satanism (this one’s the most fun!)

The common objection by these defenders of the faith seem to center around, “But what about the children??” Yeah, what about them?

Half the kids between 10 and 20 that I know have read all the Potter books. And I have yet to see any of them on broomsticks, doing incantations, or so much as carrying a magic wand. I don’t know how the reading of Harry Potter manifests itself among children in churches where there is more talk about the fear of Satan than about the love of God, but in the churches I spend time in (the latter), Harry Potter has not had any behavioral impact that I can see.

Except for the fact that there are a bunch of kids who have learned to love to read and are not watching some dismal sit-com on TV while they do it!

Can I suggest that no one anywhere has seen a child doing occult, witchy, or otherwise “dark” things because of their having read Harry Potter books? Kids are not the stupid lumps of clay many adults think they are. They have, at the age of 9 or 10- about the time most would even begin to read these books- real abilities to discern between truth and fantasy. Notice that you can’t fool them with your silly magic tricks, the way you could when they were 2 or 3; none of them will play peek-a-boo with you anymore. That’s because they are learning the difference between what is real and not-real!

And that will continue! If they are older than 8, 9, or 10, children’s cognitive abilities are getting even better, and more complex. Even the ones who think, for a moment, that there might be something to this broomstick business, will, after about three seconds of experimentation, realize there is not.

Relax. That’s another of this Christian’s responses to almost everything, come to think about it. Relax and, while doing so, take a look at the money angle of those who have lots to say about the Potter books. Are they raising money for themselves through their usual ploy of fear, yet again? Are they, through their own painfully minute exegesis of the Potter books, trying to build more credibility among those who willingly hand over their own abilities to discern to these “experts”?

Just relax. Stop reacting to the “panic” of others. I’d be far more concerned about my young child watching anything on (so-called) Christian TV than I would about her reading a Harry Potter book. (Which wouldn’t be hard to do, since I’d have NO concern over her reading a Potter book.)

Relax; stop trying to scare children into loving God. Take a child outside today, to the park or to the woods, and let God do all the talking.

For once.

Thriller..Sometimes, Things Just Make No Sense

And this is one of them.

A group of prisoners in the Philippines practice for a production..of some sort. I laughed all the way through it- it may be the Most Ludicrous Video, ever..

There may well be some ontological, existential, surrealistic, neo-realistic, Jungian, Freudian, or post-Christian meaning to all of this. If there is..well, frankly, my dear, I don’t care.