Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Missing the Point

Well folks, the elections are finally over and I have heaved an enormous sigh of relief knowing that the Democratic takeover of the house means that I, along with all of my self-employed friends will still be able to purchase health insurance for at least another two years.

Perhaps my anxiety over this issue is overblown, but having watched so many people being denied coverage, or being charged literally twice their monthly income for premiums, I honestly don't think so. The orange beast and his minions can still do plenty of damage, but at least that one little piece of the puzzle is safe for the moment.

Anyhow, with that knot in my stomach fairly well dissipated, my mind has been set free to wander a bit this morning. So as I was scrolling through my Google news feed, I noticed an interesting article about a house for sale in Colorado - one inspired by Henry David Thoreau's classic, Walden.

Sounds interesting, doesn't it? Then I clicked on the link. Good Lord! I'm pretty sure Thoreau is rolling over in his grave. Call me crazy, but somehow I don't think that a lavish $29 million 10,500 square foot luxury estate with 7 bedrooms and 9 bathrooms is exactly what he had in mind when he penned these words:

It just sorta makes you wonder doesn't it? How could someone who claimed to be inspired by Walden, create something which is its absolute antithesis? And even more to the point, how could the people writing articles about the place fail to notice this rather glaring point?

I dunno, perhaps it's just another example of the enormous hypocrisy and contradictions that seem to permeate our society these days. As horrifying as I have found the political divide in this country to be, one thing is sure, a lot of true colors have come to light. 

I found it interesting and sad that as last night's election results came in, there was no repudiation by the evangelical community of the politics of hate, in fact, it was quite the opposite. I've never been a Christian, so perhaps I'm missing something, but it seems to me that the current administration, in terms of both policy and personal behavior, represents the exact opposite of what I understood to be "Christian values."

I'm curious to know what those of you who are Christians think about that. Do you consider it hypocritical to see people who consider themselves to be morally superior lining up behind a racist demagogue who seems to be actively working to harm as many people as possible? Or is there just some completely different interpretation of morality at work here... one that I'm obviously missing.  

Anyhow, those are my thoughts on this November morning. Hope you're all enjoying autumn. Here's the view from a recent bike ride - and I'm thrilled to report that I'm back on my bike - more on that lengthy topic later...


  1. In most circumstances, I follow the adage, "Never discuss politics or religion." However, I will make a couple of comments about being Christian that does not refer to anyone or anything in particular.

    Here's what I've been taught. (No scholar here, just lessons from Sunday School.) Being Christian or any other religion does not mean that you are better or will behave better than anyone else. Christians are humans and sin like everyone else who are not Christians. What is specific to Christianity is the belief that Christ come to give people eternal life when you ask forgiveness. Basically, Christianity believes in second chances. Hopefully, people who are practicing Christianity are trying to live a good life and to be more Christ like. Christ's teachings certainly encourage kindness and goodness toward all mankind.

    There are many variations on the details of this and how different denominations practice their faith. That's my simplistic version.

    And this small Blogger comment window is driving me crazy. I have to scroll constantly to see what I'm writing. Who knows what I actually wrote.

    1. Hmmm... so you're saying that Christians don't actually consider themselves to be morally superior. That's interesting because as a non-Christian, it's certainly not the message I see. But I think perhaps my view of Christianity is colored by the fact that I tend to only see and hear the loudest, and therefore probably the most extreme purveyors of the faith.

      I dunno, I try to keep an open mind, and I no longer believe the "Christianity is Evil" doctrine that I was raised with - I'm quite sure that the vast majority of Christians are good people, but I do have a hard time wrapping my brain around the enormous dissonance between the goal of "kindness and goodness toward all mankind" and the acts of hatred, bigotry and greed that so many who loudly and proudly display the mantle of Christianity seem to espouse.

      And I TOTALLY agree about Blogger's tiny comment box! I wonder if there's any way to hack that and make it bigger. Hmmm....

  2. I have always lived in communities where the majority of people were practicing Christians. I have found anyone who believes they are morally superior usually think they are superior in other ways. It's certainly not part of the doctrine that being a Christian makes you superior in any way.

    1. Perhaps what I'm reacting to is much more political than religious. I just don't understand the religious right wing - or the political right wing for that matter. But I suppose on some level it all boils down to insecurity. People who act superior generally do it because they're trying to compensate for a deeper but unacknowledged feeling of inferiority or helplessness - and I guess the same holds true for cultural groups. I guess the fear and insecurity trumps the whole "be kind to all humanity" thing - no pun intended!

      BTW - I couldn't figure out how to make the comment box bigger by default, but if you click on the little diagonal stripes in the bottom right hand of the comment box you can drag it to be a bit bigger which makes it much easier for the (ahem) long-winded among us.

    2. I'm not sure exactly how to word my thoughts, so bear with me. I agree with you that there is a difference between what I think of as "political" Christianity versus actually believing in Christ and following His teachings. I think there are many politicians who claim to be "Christian" because it garners political support but whose personal lives are diametrically opposed to what it means to be a Christian. I think Live and Learn did a good job of summarizing the core beliefs of Christianity. To add to what she said, there is a passage of scripture which I think sums up how I am a Christian should live (Micah 6:8 if you are curious). "He has shown you, oh people, what is good and what the Lord requires of you; to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God". Justice should reflect our concern for the weaker among us who need a voice ... mercy is kindness and forgiveness, even to those who have wronged us ... humility before God is giving Him credit instead of patting ourselves on the back or drawing attention to ourselves for our "good" deeds. I am not a great scholar or theologian so bear that in mind when you read my comments!

      Please remember that the religious right wing is not necessarily the viewpoint of all of those who are Christians. They are just louder than the rest of us.

    3. Oops, meant to say "as a Christian", not "am a Christian"

    4. Hi Kris, Thanks so much for such a thoughtful reply. I do know that the right wing wackos are not representative of all Christians, and my comments/criticisms were intended toward that community, not toward Christianity as a whole. Or maybe there are evangelicals who are not right wing and don't support the politics of hate? I don't really know, to me the terms "evangelical" and "conservative right wing" seem synonymous.

      Anyhow, I still have a really hard time understanding why this sort of thing doesn't strike any of them as problematic. I guess extremism is like that - people conveniently see only what that want to in order to justify their own prejudices and behavior.

  3. i too am non christian and my views are very similar to yours. i have trouble understanding why my neighbor actually told me she is a better person because of her beliefs. im sorry, but God does not make garbage and i dont think He cares how we worship Him, just that we do thank Him for everything we are given in life.

    1. I'm sorry for your experience with your neighbor, that's just unacceptable IMHO. I've been fortunate not to have had many of those sorts of encounters - of course I tend to surround myself with left wing hippies, so there aren't too many people in my circle who adhere to "traditional" belief systems!

  4. As a Christian, I second what Kris and live and learn have said. And yes, you are only noticing just a small part of Christianity - the loud, angry, spiritually immature ones perhaps. And sad to say, just because a person proclaims to be a Christian doesn't mean that mental health issues are immediately taken care of.

    All of the Christians I know either are appalled by Trump and would never vote for him, or they hold their nose and vote for him because they believe that a Republican-led government is the best. Don't shoot the messenger; I'm just reporting what I see.

    I too get dismayed by Christians when they don't act how I think they should. But I also get dismayed by any human that doesn't act right - whether they proclaim to have more noble aspirations or not. For example, did you know that as Thoreau was inspired by nature and solitude, his mom and others would cook his food and clean up his laundry ( Good for Thoreau, but the same old drudgery for the women in his life.

    So believe me when I say there is a lot more variation out there in the Christian faith than evangelicals. (They aren't my spokespeople!) And even within the evangelical movement, there is more variation than mindless ones voting Republican. It's just not so black and white.

    1. Ha! I had heard that Thoreau's retreat to the woods was not quite as "rugged" as it may have seemed, but I didn't know that it was the women in his life doing the dirty work. I guess "enlightenment" only goes so far, eh?

      Anyhow, I really wasn't trying to criticize Christianity or Christians as a whole - I'm just trying to wrap my brain around the contradictions that I see in the behavior of the Christian right... I mean, how does it not make smoke come out of their ears?

      At first I thought it was all about abortion, and that at least makes a little bit of sense. But what doesn't make sense about that is that if you thought abortion was horrible (which I sorta do even though I think it should be safe and legal) then wouldn't you be trying to do everything possible to make sure women had access to birth control, and/or to make it economically feasible for poor single women to deal with raising a child? But instead they do the opposite. And why are they so dead set against policies that would at least protect a woman who was having a miscarriage or whose life was otherwise put at risk by the pregnancy?

      I dunno... perhaps I just need to stop expecting people to make logical sense. We're not logical creatures after all.

      My father (who was raised as a strict Catholic) has always said that Christianity is evil because it teaches people that the only way to salvation is by believing something which is obviously untrue - which is actually a tactic used in torture. So once you've gotten them to deny reality in one way, it makes it much easier to get them to deny it in others - and thereby to be controlled and manipulated by people who do not have their best interest in mind. I always thought that was overblown, but honestly this stuff makes me think that at least where a certain portion of the population is concerned, he might have a point.

    2. I love it that you are asking good questions, Cat, and I wish more people, both Christians and non-Christians, would do the same. I think we should try to build bridges, not walls, and no, that wasn't an overt political statement, but if the shoe fits .....

      In full disclosure, and usually I don't "go there" with anyone outside my immediate family, I have the same concerns about the whole abortion thing .... to me, logic would say that we need to be concerned about life throughout the whole life cycle and I agree that there are inconsistencies with the overall political mindset.

      If you look at the life of Christ, there are a lot of the same kinds of issues that you are talking about--the powerful Jewish religious leaders didn't like Him because they saw that the masses were drawn to His message so they tried to discredit Him (I think that many of the messages in the gospel section of the Bible about hypocrisy was aimed at them--the religious leaders of the time used their "faith" as a power expedient rather than allowing it to change who they were for the better). Many of the Jewish community thought that Jesus had come to improve the political system with Rome. To me, the over-arching message of Christ was that God had bigger plans in mind than addressing politics and the power structure--He wanted to change lives through Christ, and He was reaching out to all people, not just a small segment of the population. Again, looking at the life of Jesus, He consistently reached out to the under-represented (women and children, the lower class population i.e. Samaritans .... ) and sought to elevate their status.

      I feel like I am getting into deeper waters than I have the knowledge or ability to talk about, so I'm going to wind up my long-winded comments. Again, thank you for asking questions--you have a diversity of readers and I think it's because you are willing to ask and consider different viewpoints and I love that about your blog. My family and I have discovered a pastor/teacher named Tim Mackie. We enjoy his teaching videos (not scary right-wing, I promise) and have found it helpful in wading through teachings about our faith (I'm sure there are those out there who don't care for him and his teachings, but we all have a right to disagree). Here's a link if you are interested--most of his videos are quick to watch and he has a fun way of illustrating his points. You might want to start with Biblical themes as I feel it offers a good overall picture. Or if I've dumped too much info on you, it won't hurt my feelings if you ignore it! :)

    3. Hi Kris,

      Thanks so much for such a thoughtful comment. Sorry it's taken me forever to respond - I've been a little bit whelmed lately.

      Anyhow, I don't have time now to respond to everything you said, but as I read this one thing does occur to me. I think perhaps one of the reasons that Christians & non-Christians have such a hard time communicating is the whole evangelizing thing. I mean, when you grow up as a non-Christian in this culture, you sorta feel like you've got a target on your back, because Christians are always trying to convert you.

      I'm not saying that you came across that way at all, but I do admit that as I read your comment, there was a nagging little voice in the back of my head that kept saying "Watch out, here comes the sell." I think that probably comes much more from me and my lifetime of people wanting to take me to their church and convince me that I should join their religion, than it does from anything you said, but either way, I do think it's part of the reason this topic is so difficult for people to discuss - the whole converting people thing is always looming in the background.

      I'm not sure what that says about how Christians and non-Christians can more broadly engage in a dialogue, but I thought it was an interesting insight.

    4. Ha! I also hate the "hard sell" that so many Christians have. I can see why you (or anyone) would have your guard up and I'm sorry if I came across that way. I appreciate your honesty--feedback is a good thing (as long as everyone is respectful in the process, which you certainly were!).

    5. No no! You didn't come across that way at all. It's more that I felt my guard going up because so often that's where it goes. I think it has more to do with the religion than it does with the people. Hmmm... how to say this - I'm always afraid I'm gonna offend someone, and that's really not my point here. But from an outsider's perspective it seems like intolerance is built right into the Christian religion - because Christians believe that anyone who's not a Christian is going to hell - at least that's my understanding. So, of course anyone who believes that would want to convert people because not converting them and just letting them go to hell would be a terrible thing - so it's like you're duty to try. Maybe not all Christians believe that you have to be a Christian in order to not go to hell? Well anyway, I just think the fact that so many do genuinely believe that makes it really difficult to discuss the religion with non believers in an objective manner.

      That's all I was saying. And I really hope I didn't offend you. Please know you in NO WAY offended me!

    6. I also am always afraid of offending people or being insensitive. Sometimes how I think something sounds in my head comes across very differently when I write it out, so thanks for the reassurance!

      I'm not sure how to address your comments about going to hell. For me, that's not the reason for my beliefs. I tend to think (some would say overthink) about these kinds of things for a long time before I make up my mind. Yes, I was raised in an actively Christian home, but I have spent a lot of time during my life investigating other options and trying to figure out what really makes sense .... and I always come back to the teachings of Jesus. I have a deep sense that there is something else out there, bigger than I am. In a nutshell, other religions seem to me to involve "earning" your way to enlightenment or a closer relationship with God, whereas, at the core of Christianity, and I'm going to directly quote L&L here, "What is specific to Christianity is the belief that Christ come to give people eternal life when you ask forgiveness. Basically, Christianity believes in second chances". My understanding is that a natural response for Christians is to then practice the example of Jesus, which, in my mind, would be a beautiful thing. Clear as mud??? This is a lot of thinking for me to do early in the day. Again, I appreciate your willingness to listen to thoughts outside of your own personal beliefs.

    7. Well, that's a beautiful reason to be a Christian. Personally, the whole anthropomorphized god of the Judaeo/Christian tradition has always been a bit of a hard concept to swallow. It's funny. I'm not sure I really subscribe to one religion or another, though "armchair Buddhist" would probably be the best description. And the funny thing is it's not like I heard about Buddhist beliefs and then adopted them, I just always assumed that was the way it worked. Seriously, even as a tiny child I just figured that we had all lived other lives before and would live other lives after this one - much to my atheist father's chagrin! Anyhow, I was thrilled when I found out there was an actual religion that believed the same things I did!

  5. I’m catholic, and the current government appalls me.

    1. Ha! You know, it's funny. I always thought that Catholics were supposed to be the most conservative in terms of religious doctrine, but especially with the new Pope (who I think totally rocks, BTW) the Catholic church seems downright progressive!

  6. I think Christians pick and choose which parts of the Bible to believe. Even the kindest of them choose to ignore the part about having to leave the village to use the bathroom, for example. Based on what's in the Bible, what you've been told is in the Bible, and various sources of interpretations, you can build up an idea of what society is supposed to be like as the fifties-idealized "Leave It To Beaver" kind of thing. It's a nice fantasy but they are missing the point that it can't work for some people. You and I want to fix society so that it can work for as many kinds of people as possible (maybe not serial killers). And they want to fix people to make them all the same. And if they can't be fixed (because they're gay or black or whatever, not because they can't stop being serial killers), then they should be gotten rid of somehow or at least punished. It helps if they haven't actually grown to care for any people like that.

    That's not all Trump voters, though. Many just hate liberal policies, feeling that the people are better at deciding how to spend their own money rather than being forced to hand it to the government and let the government decide. So, overall, it still seems safer to vote for these creeps, who at least (claim to) prefer similar policies to what they like.

    On the other hand, talking to my brother, who is a pro-Trump Christian, I would have to say he's very head-in-the-sand about what Trump is actually doing and encouraging. Also, my brother felt physically ill trying to listen to Clinton, even though she was no more corrupt than the average politician (probably less), and he fell for the idea that as a rich guy, Trump was uncorruptible.

    As for abortion, you can try to prevent it with education about and access to birth control (like we want), or you can decide that most (= all) people should turn themselves into people who don't have sex when they want to get pregnant. They may even know of some exceptions that they respect (such as rape and birth defects) but not realize how huge the problems are.

    On that ridiculous house, at least they can still experience the woods; they didn't chop it all down and (hire people to) create carefully manicured gardens. So they are probably slightly more like Thoreau than most of their rich friends, especially if they actually look out their windows sometimes, though I don't want to click on the link to the article to find out more.

    Finally, sadly most of us have plenty of hypocrisy. I, for example, kill lots of bugs and plants that bother me, and I still drive all over the place even though I know about global warming. It's just very hard not to be. And it's hard to stay informed on politics when you have lots of other worries (job, the financial worries of living paycheck to paycheck, kids and other relatives, pets, transportation, and things you actually enjoy like friends and hobbies). It's easier once you've picked a side to stay "pro" that side. Which is why I wrote a thank-you on facebook to all conservatives who held their nose and voted for liberals just so they could vote against hate or corruption or even worse stupidity or whatever.

    Anyway, I think it's good for us to keep taking, but lots of people I know have given up talking to the other side.

    1. Hi Debbie,

      Wow. Lots to unpack here... I fear my brain might not get to it all, but you've given me lots to think about.

      CatMan always says that the Bible is a lot like a Rorschach test - and the things people take from it say a lot more about the people doing the taking than they do about the Bible or the religion itself.

      But I do think that you've really hit on something with the whole idea that conservatives want people to change so that they're more like the society, and liberals want the society to change so that it's more like the people. Hmmmmm... Have you ever seen that liberal/conservative quiz that asks all sorts of random questions that have absolutely nothing to do with politics? Here's one: I found the whole idea very interesting and compelling and it does seem to jive a bit with what you're saying.

      Anyhow, I find it sort of mind boggling that anyone would believe that having lots of money makes Trump un-corruptible. I guess there is a bit of logic there, but that assumes that you know absolutely nothing about the man or his business practices!

      It's funny - people have such weird ideas about wealth and rich people. At one point back when I was still running the music school, the organization needed to hire a new executive director. Being a lefty sort of a place, they decided to let both program directors (me and the concert director) be included in the process. It was a bit of a challenge because the organization ran on a shoestring and we couldn't pay very much, so we got all kinds of strange and interesting candidates.

      Anyhow, we had this whole process for rating them, the first of which was to review the resumes and toss out anyone who was obviously not qualified. That was the first of numerous steps. Anyhow, we got it whittled down from about 500 applicants to 5 - but in the end 4 of the 5 dropped out because the salary was so crummy. So the board decided they needed to have at least 2 candidates to vote from, so they dragged out one of the resumes which had been discarded in step one because someone figured out that the guy was a very wealthy trust fund baby.

      Long story short, he ended up getting the job despite the fact that he was totally unqualified, and nearly drove the organization into bankruptcy. But watching the whole thing unfold was very interesting. It was like people just couldn't get it through their heads that being rich didn't make him qualified. It was like they somehow thought that everything he touched would magically turn to gold because he'd be "our" rich guy. It still boggles my mind to think about it, but I guess it shouldn't surprise me that a hefty chunk of the population made the same calculation with Trump.

    2. I don't remember seeing that quiz before. Very odd. It calls me 68% liberal. So the more cool you are with whackiness, the more liberal they say you are. That only addresses social issues, though, not financial issues. I do wish the government would waste less money paying interest; I think they should spend less than they get in good times so they can spend more than they get in tough times. And I wish they would try to stop spending money on strategies that are known not to work or that almost likely won't work just because they sound good (both major parties accuse the other party of doing this).

      Very interesting story about the rich candidate--he had enough money that he didn't need a good salary, but I'm surprised that your coworkers thought he also would have magical money-making powers.

      I agree that people can't coerce Trump into voting for profits over general humanity with bribes--but it's because he already puts profits ahead of humanity!

      But some people think he must know how to run a business because he got rich by running businesses, which makes sense. Even knowing that he went bankrupt doesn't change that, because no one's perfect. They don't get that he had so many handouts and got rescued from so many problems by his dad, and they don't get that no one in America will loan him money anymore and like you said, they don't get just how awful his money-making strategies are.

    3. Ultimately, I think he's a con man, and lots of folks fell for the con.

  7. I live in a red state (it's the Southeast) and yes, around here it appears the majority of the white Christians and some of the minority populations that are Christian support Trump. My husband and I are not Christians. My husband is a health care professional at our local hospital here in our small town and he is in the minority as a liberal amongst his peers.

    1. That must be a challenge to live in the "belly of the beast" so to speak. The south has always been a great mystery to me. I only recently learned that many folks down there have a totally... um... let's say "different" understanding of the civil war than the one I've always been taught. "The War of Northern Aggressions?" Seriously?

      Well anyhow, I'm not holding my breath for the south to turn blue, but some of the election results during the midterms were quite encouraging. I dunno. It just seems like at some point people are going to have to figure out that giving all the money to the rich people really isn't in their best interest!


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