Saturday, November 26, 2016

Religious Liberty vs. Theonomy 2016

I posted on Facebook the other day regarding my dismay over President-Elect Trump’s choice of advisors and cabinet members.  My objections included, first of all, that he has chosen many of the same men whom he ran against, and beat, in the Primary!  Republicans voted for Trump as their candidate precisely because they were fed up with the GOP establishment and he, being a formerly libertarian-leaning “outsider,” represented change.  But, now he has appointed that same entrenched establishment to help him run the country, thereby defeating the voters’ desire for change.  I also said that one of the things I had liked about Mr. Trump was that, in contrast to most of those far-right guys, particularly Pence, Cruz, Carson and Romney, he was not a “religious wingnut.”

I had taken it for granted that people would understand why I object to America being run by “religious wingnuts,” but then one of my young friends from India asked, “Why are you against religious people?”  Realizing that he did not understand what “wingnut” means in this context, I proceeded to explain that the term refers not to all “religious” people, but specifically the far-right extremist fundie evangelical variety who, despite being a minority among religious Americans, are the loudest, and who want to inflict their own particular repressive religious agenda on everybody else via the political process, i.e. theonomy, in clear violation of our Constitution.  

I explained that because I am religious myself, I support the First Amendment freedom of religion, which necessarily also includes freedom from religion, the separation of church and state wisely established by our founders.  (1)  Therefore I am against religious extremism and State imposition of religion of whatever variety, whether it be Islamic Sharia or Christian Dominionism.

My young friend replied, “You are not religious!”  My feelings might have been hurt by that accusation, were it not so obviously false as to be laughable.  The fact is, I am indeed “religious” by more than one definition of the word, and very deeply so, and I am not ashamed to admit it despite the popular stigma associated with “religion” in America today, thanks to the fundies (both Islamic and Christian) who claim to speak for all of us and manage to make “religion” look bad.

Many people today, understandably wanting to avoid that stigma, refer to themselves as “spiritual but not religious.”  I, however, cannot make that claim, although I am a mystic and therefore certainly “spiritual.”  As I have described elsewhere (2), “God” for me is not a “belief” per se, but rather, a label that I put on my personal experience of Ineffable Love with which I am blessed thanks to Grace as well as a lifetime of serious yoga practice.  My emphasis on direct experience of the Divine is what attracts me to the ancient Liturgical churches centered on the Real Presence of Christ in the Sacrament, as opposed to the modern evangelical denominations who deny the Deep Magic, regarding Communion as “merely symbolic” (which is rather odd considering that they take everything else in the Bible quite literally while denying Jesus’ words in this one matter), and celebrate the Lord’s Supper only infrequently when it does not interfere with their long-winded sermons.

I am officially “religious” in that I belong to an established religion, the Episcopal Church, the U.S. branch of the Anglican Communion.  According to tradition (3), this is one of the oldest Christian churches, having been founded at Glastonbury by Joseph of Arimathea, who brought with him the cup with which Jesus celebrated the Last Supper, the Holy Grail in the Arthurian legends.   This all happened a couple of thousand years before the upstart “Religious Right” emerged only very recently in American history and declared itself to be the One True Christian Faith, as Frank Schaeffer explains in his very informative book (4), “Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back.”  

I am also “religious” by a second definition, namely, “a member of a monastic order, especially a nun or monk.”  I am such a Jesus Freak (5) that I wear His ring.  Even my religious relatives were mortified when I became a Third Order Sister and spent 14 blissful years living as a celibate monastic.  They were relieved when I eventually settled down with a mortal partner.  I remain a Sister, as Third Order religious persons living outside of the convent are permitted to marry.

Despite all of the above, my young friend continues to insist that I am not “religious” because my church, along with other mainstream churches, does not share the fundie dogma which he has somehow been indoctrinated to believe is the One True Christian Faith.  I find it puzzling, and a little alarming, that the American Religious Right could manage to persuade people in India, especially given that India is a former British colony and one would think that the Anglican tradition would be firmly established there.  Perhaps Indians find the Anglican Church to be an unpleasant reminder of their former colonization.  In any event, fundamentalist missionaries have been targeting India quite aggressively (6) and with apparent success, based on the fact that I am hearing their agenda from the mouths of kids over there.

While we do have important doctrinal disagreements which I’ve addressed above, such as their taking the entire Bible literally except for the part about the Body and Blood of Christ, fundies aren’t really concerned about that.  Rather, they are mainly obsessed about sex:  who is doing it with whom and in what manner.  They are especially upset about homosexuality or what they call “sodomy,” and so are we, although for entirely different reasons.  The fundie objection to gay marriage and homosexual relationships is based, among other things, on a misunderstanding of scripture in regard to the story of Sodom, where visiting strangers regardless of gender were routinely gang-raped.  Never mind that gang rape has nothing whatsoever in common with gay marriage.  (7)

Scripture clearly states what the “sin of Sodom” was: "Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy.  Thus they were haughty and committed abominations before Me. Therefore I removed them when I saw it.…” [Ezekiel 16:49-50, Study Bible]  It is the latter scriptural definition of “the sin of Sodom” which is of greater concern in American politics today, from the standpoint of the mainstream churches like mine.  But, the far-right politicians who want to impose their own brand of religion on America in violation of the Constitution prefer to ignore this verse about helping the poor and needy, in favor of focusing on gays and uppity women.

It is worth noting that the only thing Jesus ever said about gays was when the disciples asked whether or not everybody should get married, considering that divorce is a terrible sin (one which did not prevent 81% of evangelicals from electing twice-divorced Mr. Trump, now on his third wife, as President).  Jesus replied that not everyone is called to marriage, including men who “are born eunuchs,” the word “eunuch” in those days meaning “an effeminate man who is unsuited to marrying a woman,” i.e. what today we call “homosexual.”  This is in direct contradiction to the fundie assertion that people are not born that way and being gay is a “choice.”  (8)

I’m not going to address “what the Bible does or does not say about homosexuality” any further here because that has already been done, with considerable thoroughness, by many biblical scholars (9) and in any case, it is not the topic of this blog post which is religious liberty and why I, as a religious American, do not want theonomists running my country.

But the persecution of gays is part of a bigger right-wing agenda which makes essentially all non-procreative sex a sin:  Babies!  The Right says Americans aren’t having enough of them, especially white ones.  Brown people will soon outnumber us, and we can’t have that.  This is a point of common ground between the white supremacist Alt-Right (which is not particularly religious), as represented by Trump Chief Advisor Bannon, and the Religious Right, as represented by McConnell, Rubio, Santorum, Carson and Perry, among others with whom Trump has aligned himself.  “Adam and Steve” cannot have babies and therefore ought not to be having sex with each other.  Women can have babies, and should be forced to have more of them whether we want to or not.  

Incidentally, this is why unlike the ancient liturgical churches such as Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican, the modern evangelical protestant churches do not support the vocation of celibate religious orders.  Whereas even the relatively misogynist Roman Catholic Church acknowledged female celibacy in a life of prayer as a legitimate calling, modern fundies say that woman exists not to serve God, but to serve man, primarily by having babies.  Therefore celibate nuns are shirking their God-given duty by failing to procreate.  As Martin Luther, the guy who started this whole movement, told the nuns, "your vow is contrary to God and has no validity - don't delay but get married."  He also said,  “If women get tired and die of child-bearing, there is no harm in that; let them die, so long as they bear; they are made for that.”

The Episcopal church was among the first to permit birth control which, at one time in America, was illegal even for married couples.  We ordain female and gay priests and provide wedding ceremonies for gay people, all of which makes my church heathen according to the fundies.  But, per the fundamentalist interpretation of scripture, we can’t be having this conversation anyway, because women are not permitted to be ministers and/or to teach men.  So everything I say, including the links that I may provide to articles written by male biblical scholars, is to be conveniently disregarded, even though Saint Paul said in Galations 28: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, there is neither slave nor free, there is not male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”

Be that as it may, I believe in the principle of “religious liberty” as enshrined in the Constitution of the United States, and while I’m not a lawyer, I am pretty sure it does not mean, “The liberty to oppress or discriminate against other people based on your religious beliefs,” as Rafael “Theonomy” Cruz and other right-wing politicians and preachers maintain.  Thomas Jefferson stated in his letter to a Committee of the Danbury Baptist Association, Connecticut on January 1, 1802:

“Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between church and State.” (10)

I think that pretty much sums it up.  Religion is a deeply personal thing and not to be legislated or imposed, as our founders knew.  

No, I am not “against religious people,” even in public office.  President Jimmy Carter was an evangelical but not a theonomist.  He did not inflict his beliefs on other people or try to make his religion the law of the land.  He didn’t just talk, he walked the walk.  In his retirement he has been an exemplary Christian and won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work to advance democracy and human rights, especially women’s rights.  President Barry Obama, with whom I attended school in Hawaii, where he was born, said his atheist mother taught him, “Treat others the way you would want to be treated,” and likewise “my” candidate, Gary Johnson, when asked about his faith replied, “If there’s one thing that I’ve taken away from Christianity, it’s do unto others as you would have others do unto you...  The God that I speak to doesn’t have a particular religion.”

Amen.

***

(1) [When] the [Virginia] bill for establishing religious freedom... was finally passed,... a singular proposition proved that its protection of opinion was meant to be universal. Where the preamble declares that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed, by inserting the word "Jesus Christ," so that it should read "a departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion." The insertion was rejected by a great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend within the mantle of its protection the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan, the Hindoo and infidel of every denomination. --Thomas Jefferson: Autobiography, 1821. ME 1:67









(10) Thomas Jefferson letter to a Committee of the Danbury Baptist Association, Connecticut
Categories: Religious Liberty
Date: January 1, 1802

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Unfriendly Fallout from the 2016 Election

I’m still a little stunned in the wake of Mr. Trump’s rather unexpected election as President of the United States.  During the campaign he said that the polls, which overwhelmingly predicted an easy victory for Ms. Clinton, were wrong.  He was correct.  What was his source of intel that eluded all of the journalists and pollsters?  Did the Russian hackers tell him, and if so, how did they know?  Mr. Trump also insisted that the election was “rigged,” which turned out to be true but not, presumably, in the way that he meant.  Rather, the Electoral College with its winner-take-all system favors older, white, conservative rural voters.  Just as in the 2000 election, when the Electoral College enabled Bush to win despite the fact that Gore had won the Popular Vote, likewise nearly 2 million more people voted for Hillary than Donald, but he won the election anyway.  Our founders did not want a true democracy and the system they instituted has been successful in preventing it.  And of course, the system is also completely rigged against third parties.

So voters have taken to the streets in protest over the Electoral College trumping the will of the people as demonstrated by the Popular Vote, partisan interference by the FBI, and/or their dislike of Trump, his policies, his personality and perceived incompetence to run the country, to which conservatives have responded, “Shut up and go home!  He won fair and square.”  Ironically, Trump himself had said during the campaign that if he lost the election, he would not accept the results because the system was rigged, which it was - in his favor.  Imagine if the opposite had happened, if Donald had won 2 million more Popular Votes but Hillary became President via the Electoral College with the help of hackers from a hostile foreign country, say Iran:  Would Trump supporters quietly accept the outcome?  Probably not. They would take to the streets too, and justifiably so.  We the people have the right to peaceably assemble and express our opinions, among other Constitutional rights including bodily autonomy.  At least for now.  But since the GOP has managed to hijack the Supreme Court as well as gaining control of both the House and Senate, that could all change.  Mr. Trump has vowed to reestablish “law and order,” and to overturn Roe v. Wade, among his first priorities.

Needless to say, over half of the participating voters, i.e. those of us who voted for Hillary, are more than a little worried about what is going to happen to this country, particularly in regard to our civil rights.  But, I’m being told not to worry.  At least one of my friends who voted for Trump insists, “Give the guy a chance!”  This friend admits that she only voted for him as “the lesser of evils,” making me question whether there is a new definition of the words “lesser” and “evil” of which I am unaware.  Be that as it may, “Give him a chance” to do what, exactly?  A chance to follow through on the mostly hateful agenda that he promised during the campaign?  Or, the chance to show us that he wasn’t serious about all that stuff; he only said it to win over angry white male voters, and he’s actually going to be moderate and reasonable?  Too late, that ship has done sailed.  Y’all already gave him the “chance” when you voted him into office and handed him the keys to the White House and the nuclear code.  Now with the Supreme Court hobbled and the GOP controlling our entire government, President Trump is going to do pretty much whatever he wants and there is not a goddamn thing you or I can do about it.  

I think it’s very possible that Donald may have been serious about some of the less savory things he said during the campaign, judging by his selection of Stephen Bannon from Breitbart News as his Chief Strategist.  In case you haven’t heard of Breitbart, it is an uber-conservative, “alt-right” white supremacist, misogynist media source that resembles Fox News on steroids, except without any pretense about being “fair and balanced.”  White males should run the world, Jews and Muslims are evil, brown people should put up and shut up, and women ought to be pregnant and in the kitchen, but not barefoot, because that would be bad for the economy.  The women’s footwear industry generates a significant amount of revenue.  But don’t take my word for it and don’t even bother googling Breitbart’s critics. Just read their own articles and judge for yourself:

On the other hand, Donald is also making his wife and kids an official part of the Presidential team, even going so far as to obtain top-level security clearances for them.  While this is somewhat unusual, to say the least, and could be considered a conflict of interest since they will also be running his company, I’m in favor of it because I love Melania, who shares Michelle Obama’s progressive views, and I think she and the kids have way more sense than Donald does.  They might be able to help keep the crazy train from going off the rails.

BTW, building that wall and deporting all those people is going to be not only unkind, but more importantly, quite expensive.  How the hell are we going to fund it?  Mexico already said they will not pay for it.  Am I the only one who is worried that the hard-working middle class will once again end up footing the bill?  

Whatever else happens, what will become of all the lost friendships?  Over the course of this campaign I have been un-friended, blocked and/or banned because of Donald Trump, despite (or in some cases, because of) the fact that I sincerely gave him credit where it was due.  People became bitterly angry with me for not liking him.  At first I tried, I swear I really did, but then he kept opening his mouth and saying weird shit including reversing his previously held positions where I actually agreed with him, e.g. that he was pro-choice, pro-LGBT rights, and not religious.  Others criticized me when I supported him for the "wrong reasons," (yes, that actually happened), like back when he opposed the discrimination against LGBT people in North Carolina and when he boldly defied the GOP platform by saying that maybe abortion would be ok if the woman’s life was in danger or if she was a rape victim.  

A couple of people were horribly offended when I failed to censor other friends posting rude but accurate criticisms of Trump and his supporters on my Facebook page, e.g., “You are stupid to vote for a guy whose policies are not in your best interest.”  They demanded that I do something about it.  I was subsequently accused of “typical liberal censorship!” and un-friended when I politely invited people (both liberal and conservative) to say something positive about their own candidate without attacking their opponent.  As my mother used to say, “You can’t please everyone,” and sometimes you can’t please anyone.  I wonder if these people, some of whom were long-time dear friends, are planning to stay angry with me for the next 4 or, God forbid, 8 years, or can we be friends again now that their guy won?

In addition to the rejection by conservative friends, I also was un-friended by at least one liberal for having the nerve to suggest that Donald Trump might have any redeeming qualities.  I was also un-friended for defending his beautiful wife Melania against slut-shaming because she had modeled nude.  I suggested that people who call themselves “proud liberals” probably should not be slut-shaming women.  When I said that I myself have modeled nude in the past, I too was shamed for “confessing” it.  

Another Democrat un-friended me over whether or not Mr. Trump has Narcissistic Personality Disorder.  When asked my opinion about this, I replied that it seemed entirely possible based on some of his comments, a classic example being when he was asked during the debate, “What do you see as the proper role of the Supreme Court?” and he essentially responded, “Justice Ginsburg said some very mean things to me and I made her apologize!”  But, I went on to say that I do not diagnose people without having interviewed them and in any event I don’t think the psychological diagnoses in the DSM-IV are scientific, an opinion for which I was shunned despite the fact that the NIMH has recently said the same thing.

This was a difficult election for me, not only because of my doubts about Mr. Trump, but also due to the unusual circumstance of having to choose between several candidates that I liked very much.  Naturally I adore “my” Libertarian candidate, Gary Johnson, and his running mate Bill Weld, but would have happily voted for Bernie Sanders because he supports many of the same policies and besides, unlike Gary, he might have slightly more than a snowball’s chance in hell of winning.  While I am not a Democrat and don’t like her position on some issues including the enforcement of a Nanny State and her coziness with Wall Street and the pharmaceutical lobby, I do think Hillary is smart, strong, experienced and very competent.  And I would be thrilled to have a woman President, preferably Jill, but that was not going to happen, since Jill had even less of a chance than Gary.

Hillary supporters attacked me for favoring Bernie.  After he lost the primary, Bernie fans were horribly insulted when I suggested they ought to support Hillary (which Bernie himself recommended), and Democrats attacked Gary and Jill in an unprecedentedly vicious manner merely for having the audacity to dare run for office.  As much as I really wanted to vote for Gary, who at one point was polling at around 9%, there was tremendous peer pressure to vote for Hillary.  Democrats cried, “A vote for a third party is a vote for Trump!” and I went along with it, asking my Hillary-hating third-party friends, “Would you really prefer that Trump win?”, at which point they un-friended me merely for asking the question.  I joined Mr. Weld in suggesting that, given the respective qualifications of the major party candidates, perhaps we really ought to vote blue…  

Ultimately I cast my vote for Hillary, as did probably half of Gary’s other supporters, only to watch in horror on election night as state after state, including my own, turned solidly red and Donald Trump was declared the new President of the United States.  Gary ended up not getting the 5% he would have needed to obtain federal funding for Libertarians in the future.

And the viciousness didn’t stop there.  We were cruelly chastised for being unhappy about the outcome and/or questioning the Electoral College system.  One of my friends became quite upset with me when I merely posted on Facebook that my cat and horse both got sick over the election and a rat drowned itself.  The snark should have been obvious.  The horse and the rat could not possibly have known the results of the election since they have neither a t.v. nor a phone in the barn.  The cat, however, was actually watching t.v. with us and as he is very sensitive and will barf at the drop of a hat, could have been responding to the shock and dismay emanating from us, not that he probably preferred any of the candidates himself.  If the KittyCat party ran a candidate this year, he or she was not acknowledged by the media.

The same friend who objected to my sharing about my cat barfing had told me that while she was not extremely thrilled with Mr. Trump, she very much likes VP Mike Pence “because of all the great things he did for Indiana.”  Now, this person is a highly intelligent, rational, extremely well-informed healthcare professional, non-religious, and [I thought] a feminist.  So I don’t know exactly which “great things” she was referring to - making it a felony for gay people to apply for a marriage license?  Trying to outlaw abortion and, failing that, to require funerals be performed for aborted or miscarried fetuses?  Promoting the spread of HIV and hepatitis C by opposing condoms and clean needles for addicts?  Requiring public schools to teach biblical creationism in science class?  I’m all in favor of kids learning about the Bible, the Gita, the Koran, the Torah, the Tripitaka and other religious mythologies in social studies or literature classes - but not in science class.  

My friend, who is not by any stretch of the imagination a Bible thumper, for some reason was not concerned when I informed her that Pence is a theonomist, but in all fairness, like most people she probably had never heard of “theonomy,” the belief that civil law ought to be based on biblical law.  A religious person [Episcopalian] myself, I find theonomy downright scary, but maybe that’s just me.

As if the outcome of the election wasn’t bad enough in itself, to add insult to injury, Democrats loudly blamed Donald’s victory on the people who had voted for the KittyCat, Libertarian, Green or any other third parties, and those of us who belong to those parties even though we did in fact vote for Hillary this time.  Samantha Bee, one of my favorite t.v. personalities, went so far as to say that she wished she’d thrown my beloved Gary off of the rock-climbing wall when she had the chance on her show.  Gary, Jill and any other third-party candidates and the citizens whom they represent are all a bunch of stupid, bad, horrible people who have helped Evil Donald destroy our country by stealing votes away from Saint Hillary.  How dare we campaign and/or vote for candidates who actually share our values and represent our interests?!  How foolish and uppity we are to think that Americans should have a choice between more than two parties, like our grown-up allies in Europe!  How deluded we are to think that our voice, our vote, could ever actually count!

And it can’t, you know.  At least mine will never count as long as I live in NW Florida, a state in the solidly red province of Dumbfuckistan, whose rural, conservative interests the Electoral College was designed to protect against the damn librul big city folk.  My own party will probably never have a chance in hell to win the Presidency during my lifetime and it’s rare that we ever run attractive candidates like Gary and Bill whom I can actually get behind, anyway.  Usually they are Koch-sucking, anti-choice Republican “Libertarian” poseurs who have a questionable understanding of “liberty,” advocating “small government,” which in their mind means deregulation of big business while regulating the hell out of individual citizens.  And given that Florida leans heavily red despite having all the Democratic gays, Jews and Hispanics in the southern part of the state, I will be lucky even to get my second choice, a Democrat.  It was a bizarre fluke of nature, if not a miracle, when my old schoolmate from Hawaii, Barry Obama, won Florida 51% to 48% in 2008 and 50% to 49% in 2012.  Now my state is back to being red again.  So that’s it.  I’m done playing this game.  My young godson Ian Newlove, a fellow Bernie fan. was right.  Since my vote doesn’t count anyway, from now on I am voting for the candidate that I really want.

News flash, Democrats and Republicans, I realize this won’t be easy for you to hear, but please listen:  It is actually not the job of the third party candidates to help your candidate get elected!  If your candidate cannot win the election on his or her own merits, however excellent they may be, without the paltry 5% to 10% or so that our third party candidates are able to gather, then too bad.  You’re on your own.  We tried things your way and see where it got us?  Nowhere.

Democrats, we refuse to take responsibility for your failure.  Around half of your own damn party members did not get out there to vote.  Let’s be brutally honest:  If you could not beat the bizarre freakshow that was the Trump campaign while running a candidate who was eminently more qualified in every way, whom President Obama called, “the most qualified presidential candidate ever,” then you have a serious problem here.  

The only obvious qualification that Hillary lacked is a penis, which may have been a factor since, after all, women did not get the right to vote until 50 years after black men and we just recently had our first [half]-black male President, so maybe it was too soon.  Maybe Americans really are more comfortable having as President a man with zero governing experience, little knowledge of foreign affairs and questionable sanity than a highly experienced and quite rational former Senator and Secretary of State who happens to be a woman.  Otherwise, I don’t know what to tell you.  Yes, there was a barrage of horrible, downright crazy and almost totally unfactual slander against Hillary, as well as documented interference by the Russian government in collusion with the Trump campaign which the FBI for some reason decided to overlook in favor of focusing on Hillary’s emails asking her assistant to help with her iPad or to print stuff on the other printer, but none of this was the fault of the Libertarian, Green or other third parties.

Congratulations, GOP.  You ran like, how many candidates in the primary, and this was the result?  If you are unhappy now, boo hoo, you made your bed and now you have to lie in it.  But you’re good at lying so I’m sure you will figure out some way to make this Obama’s fault.  Hey, it could be worse, at least we didn’t end up with Rafael “Theonomy” Cruz or Ben “the Bible is factual” Carson as President.  Republican voters are pissed off at the GOP establishment and rightfully so.  It has taken a long time, but they are finally starting to figure out that you do not represent their interests.  They chose Donald Trump because they were sick and fucking tired of y’all and your smug, smarmy platitudes about “family values” and how “anyone who works hard can succeed in America” while middle class voters worked their fucking asses off at low-paying jobs to support their families, or to turn a profit running small businesses bogged down by government red tape, trying desperately not to slide into poverty while being taxed literally to death and watching the wealth trickle up to the 1% while you were busy kissing the asses of your corporate masters.  The people wanted change and Mr. Trump offered that, in a similar manner as Barry Obama did in 2008.  

Will Donald be able to change the system?  I hope so, for better or worse.  God knows something needs to be done.  And if the GOP is falling apart and you have people defecting to the Libertarian party, the true platform of “small government,” you have nobody but yourselves to blame.  And by the way, FYI, “small government” does not mean, “Allowing the banks and multinational corporations to weasel out of paying taxes and exploit the hell out of workers and consumers in every possible way, while keeping private citizens on a very short leash and regulating wombs, bathrooms and herbal substances.”  I hope that President Donald, despite his poor choice in theonomist VP Mr. Pence, has the balls to call you on your bullshit and stand up for the voters.  Because that’s why they elected him.

As for me, I’m crawling back into my cave now.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

I'm Done

Lately I've had an intense, Down the Rabbit Hole/ Twilight Zone feeling, an increasing sense of unreality/ insanity as to what is happening in our country and the world, I think I am coming to kind of a crossroads or the end of a cycle in my life. As discussed in a previous blog post, "An Aging Yogini...", in my youth I was very political and actively involved in "trying to make the world a better place," writing editorials, engaging in protests, etc., with disappointing results. So I turned inward and spent the next 20 odd years in prayer and meditation.
I started to become "political" again after the 2000 election, when George Bush Jr.'s brother Jeb helped him steal the election in Florida and then, unbelievably, George Jr. was reelected in 2004. The 2008 and 2012 elections gave me a sense of urgency with the looming specter of another GOP, especially a Romney "Great White Hope" presidency. I was relieved when my old school-mate Barry Obama won both elections, but then increasingly alarmed at the behavior of the Republican-dominated Congress obstructing him every step of the way, as well as their [allegedly nonexistent] War on Women, and I resumed active involvement and writing as I'd done in my youth.
Over the past several years I've been blogging a lot and doing my best to "get the word out," sharing my thoughts and insights, petitions, links to organizations, resources, book reviews and news items, engaging in debate as politely and persistently as possible on Facebook and other venues - all with the intent of changing the world. And I think I am close to being done and going back into my cave.
In the process of helping somebody apply for jobs online recently, I discovered that I am unable to pass an employment test for Burger King and other retail stores, and this has led to a lot of existential angst and soul-searching, not that I have the desire (or the physical ability) to work at those places. Rather, it has shown me how vastly different my perception of "reality" is from that of most other people. My educated liberal friends said, "Don't worry, those tests are not intended for people like you anyway. We couldn't pass it, either." A few of them calmly opined that such tests are ridiculous, inaccurate, and/or discriminatory. But society at large apparently has accepted the process without questioning, while conservatives continue to loudly insist that the 7.8 million Americans who are out of work are just "lazy." I seem to be the only person who is screaming, "OMFG this [among so many other things] is so fucking wrong! WTF is happening to our country??!!" Am I the only frog that can feel the water temperature rising?
I feel like a lone voice crying in the wilderness, but I'm not. There are plenty of other people crying out, more loudly and clearly than me. We join our voices together and - what happens? Not a damn thing. Because we are preaching to the mutual choir. Those who are aware, nod in agreement and approve of each other's writings, arguments and political projects, while the brainwashed masses continue to support politicians who view them only as votes, fools, baby-making machines, low-wage labor and cannon fodder. In my many years as an "activist," I think it is safe to say that I have never succeeded in enlightening even one person or changing a single mind. Not one. People are like well-trained lemmings intent on going over the cliff, only getting annoyed and biting me as I try to gently herd them away from the edge. Because, the world doesn't want to change. The world is happily going to hell in a handbasket, and who am I to object?!
Meanwhile, in my job as a Spiritual Advisor working for the Famous Psychic Company which Cannot Be Named for Contractual Reasons, people call me for advice, including those in positions where they can actually help to shape world events; politicians, high-powered attorneys, CEOs, celebrities, inventors, authors, diplomats, doctors, and wealthy donors to charity and NGOs. Amazingly, they WANT my input. This is where I need to focus my energies, not on arguments with people who either don't give a shit, or else are so brainwashed that my words sound to them like, "blah, blah, Fifi, blah, blah, blah, Fifi." [from The Far Side cartoon].
I will probably still write on my 3 blogs only because, as explained previously, it's like mental vomiting; the words and ideas roll around in my head and I'm uncomfortable until I spew them out. As for the Medical Heresies blog, I will finish parts 2 and 3 of "How I Became a Medical Heretic" because it bothers me to leave projects unfinished, and will write the new one about diabetes as a classic example of mainstream medicine being full of shit, mostly for the sake of my dear mother (may she RIP), whom doctors permitted to subsist on a diet of cookies washed down by soda pop until it eventually resulted in her horrible, prolonged demise. But, I won't fool myself into thinking that anybody will learn or benefit from it. Only free thinkers with a medical education like a handful of my friends will even get it, and again, I'm preaching to the choir. Laypeople won't understand and most mainstream medical professionals will quickly discredit whatever I write since I'm not an M.D. and that particular blog has already been censored on Disqus. As for the political and yoga blogs, only approximately 3 people read them anyway and I will write whenever the mood strikes.
But, I'm done wasting my time and energy debating on Facebook, Patheos, Daily Kos, Disqus, etc. Go ahead, folks, vote for whichever insane asshat politician you want, believe whatever they say, surely they have your best interests in mind and they would never lie to you. Maybe nuclear war isn't such a bad thing after all; there are too many humans as it is, and if we're going to stop using birth control, something's got to give at some point and maybe the planet will thank us for blowing ourselves to kingdom come. And by all means, until that happens, keep on taking every prescription drug and vaccine that your doctor recommends, and eating every genetically modified and/or pesticide-drenched and/or nutritionally bankrupt "food" on the market, because you know it's all totally safe since the government and the corporations who pull the puppet strings of our elected "representatives" wouldn't lie to us.
BLECH!!! There, I feel so much better now. Nothing to see here. Carry on.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Putting Yourself in Their Shoes

In a previous post I stated that every time I think I've said everything I could possibly say about the abortion debate, something else comes up that I feel I must address.  I had a conversation recently that took a very interesting turn.

This friendly conversation with a nice Christian woman started out not about abortion, but rather, her opinion that sex outside of marriage is destroying women's self respect as well as the very fabric of society.  I agreed that for me personally as a yogi and a Christian, sex is sacred and promiscuity has zero appeal.  However, I do not see fit to impose my own values on other people, and adults should be free to do whatever they want, provided that they use birth control.  In my opinion, it's not casual sex per se that is destroying society but rather, casual breeding, 

She insisted that casual sex can only lead to bad consequences, and I replied that bringing an innocent child into the world should not be one of them.  She countered that pregnancy is the natural result of sex, and birth control encourages people to have sex irresponsibly without consequences.  She said it allows men to use women for their own selfish purposes without considering the woman's happiness and well-being.  I responded that selfish, irresponsible people make bad parents and therefore they ought to use birth control.

From my perspective, the primary purpose of sex is spiritual, or what the Catholics call "unitive." But, contrary to the Catholic doctrine, which emphasizes "procreative" sex, in my view pregnancy should be a rare and special occurrence resulting from a serious, intentional act when the lovers are ready and willing to welcome a baby into a good home.  Two strangers meeting in a bar, screwing in a car, and "oops!" is not a valid reason to have a child.  Life is both too precious and too fraught with peril for kids to be brought into this world unwanted as an accident or an afterthought from a random booty call.

She asked, what if promiscuous people don't use birth control and a pregnancy does occur; what then?  Surely not abortion?!  I answered that sometimes, yes, abortion is the best option.  But, she protested, it's not the child's fault that the parents were irresponsible sluts!  That is true, it is not the child's fault, which is why the child deserves better.  Every child deserves to be wanted.

I explained, contrary to the "pro-life" presupposition that being born is always the ideal outcome of every pregnancy, sometimes not being born is in the best interest of everyone involved, including the potential baby.  It has been argued that being born is never the best choice, but I would not go that far except perhaps in my most cynical moods.  I discussed some of the circumstances under which bringing a child into the world is not a good idea, such as extreme poverty, drug addiction, rape and/or abusive relationships, and above all, being unwanted.  I described how the pregnant woman's emotional state including extreme stress, fear, anxiety and depression, in addition to poor nutrition, cigarettes, street and prescription drugs, and alcohol, not to mention suicide attempts (which are not uncommon in countries where abortion is illegal) can create a chemically hostile uterine environment for the fetus, causing distress and disability both in the womb and later in life.

We on the pro-choice side have always suggested that people put themselves in the pregnant woman's shoes, but the pro-lifers say the selfish woman should have to endure the "inconvenience" of pregnancy and birth for the sake of the baby whether she wants to or not.  They then claim to be concerned about the alleged detrimental effects of abortion on a woman's physical and mental health, while having no such concerns about gestational diabetes, birth trauma, postpartum depression and other complications of pregnancy.  But, regardless of the impact on the mother, the baby has an absolute right to life.  Predictably, my debater expressed that position.  And this is where the conversation took an unusual turn.

I said that as a Christian my basic moral compass is, "Do unto others as you would be done by."  If I were the fetus, I would not want to be born under those circumstances!  Now, you could argue it is a silly point because a fetus is not conscious and therefore not able to "want" anything.  However, in light of the pro-life belief that a zygote is a person from the moment of conception, I think it is a valid proposition: putting oneself in the other person's shoes, or baby booties as the case may be.  I personally would not want to stay inside the body of a woman who did not want me in there, and put her through the torture of childbirth against her will.  What a horrible situation for anyone to be in!  If I were that embryo, I'd want to get the hell out of there.  I would rather voluntarily miscarry, if such a thing is possible, or else be aborted very early, than be trapped in the role of a 9-month rapist and inflict so much suffering on another person.

I asked, "Would you want to be put in the position of doing that to someone?" and she replied, "but the baby has a right to live!"  I had to ask a couple more times because she kept evading the question, saying things like, "it's not their fault," "they aren't to blame for the circumstances," "it's only a 9-month inconvenience," etc.  I pointed out that she had not answered my question and said, "I did not ask about 'they' or who has a 'right' to what.  I asked, if you yourself were that fetus, would you impose your alleged 'right' to force an unwilling woman to carry you inside of her body for 9 months and inflict the agony of childbirth on her?"

Finally, the nice Christian woman replied, "Babies deserve a chance at life and yes, I would want that chance."  I was utterly taken aback and said, "Wow.  You seem like such a nice person, I can't believe you would want to do that to someone.  So, you would use a woman's body against her will, putting your own desires above her happiness and well-being.  Isn't that exactly the kind of selfishness that you argued against in the beginning of this conversation?  Why is it wrong for a man to use a willing woman's body for even a few minutes to fulfill his own needs, but perfectly ok for a fetus to do it to an unwilling woman for 9 months?"

She replied, "But you make it sound like pregnancy is a terrible thing, when the gift of a child can be a great blessing if only the woman would just accept it!"  Yeah, just lie back and accept it - ?!

Thankfully, I have no personal experience of this either way, as I have chosen not to breed and always had access to effective contraception.  But from what I have been told by a great many women, yes, pregnancy can be among the most wonderful, magical experiences, when you are voluntarily expecting a child, especially with somebody you love!  And while childbirth is certainly no picnic even under the best of circumstances, when a woman truly wants to be a mother and is excited to welcome her beloved child into the world, she can turn the unimaginable pain into a positive, empowering, life-affirming experience.

On the other hand, women tell me that being pregnant when you don't want to be is horrible, like your body has been hijacked by an alien literally sucking the life out of you, and forced birth is absolute torture.  Which is why, throughout history and even today in parts of the world where abortion is illegal, women risk their own death by back-alleys abortions or, failing that, commit suicide to escape an unwanted pregnancy.  Apparently, it really is that bad.  And once again, if I were an embryo, no, I would not want to do that to any woman.  Would you?

For religious or spiritual people, discussion of abortion from the perspective of the fetus would not be complete without addressing another important consideration, namely, what happens to the soul that would otherwise have incarnated?  This, of course, presupposes that an embryo - or anybody else, for that matter! - has a soul.  For atheists it is a non-issue.  

Christians disagree as to the origins of the human soul and when it enters the body.  The traditional Jewish view as expressed in the Bible is that the soul is preexisting and enters the body with the first breath, as reflected in the word "ruach," which means "spirit" or "breath," a common theme among various religions.  A Wiccan midwife friend has explained that the soul may "visit" the developing fetus but only "moves in" with the first breath, in much the same way that you can visit a house under construction but you can't live there until everything including plumbing and electric is complete.  Early Christianity proposed that the soul enters the body at a stage of development when the fetus becomes "animated," sometimes called "quickening."  Some modern Christians believe the soul is created at the moment of conception and/or "arises from the body," developing progressively along with the nervous system.  Hindus say that the soul preexists and is infused at conception.

Whatever the origin of the soul, if the embryo is lost whether through miscarriage or induced abortion, where does the soul go?  Most Christians believe that miscarried babies go to heaven.   Hinduism allows the soul to reincarnate and be born into a more favorable situation.  Another view is that the soul can return to the same mother at a later time under better circumstances, and there are fascinating accounts of children who claim to have done exactly that!  Either way, putting oneself in the baby's booties, the option of being able to bypass a potentially miserable life with bad parents who did not want you, versus going straight to heaven or getting another chance at a better life here on earth, is certainly appealing.  If you were the fetus, what would you prefer?