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Holy Terror July 14, 2012


“Becoming an activist is simply a matter of putting love into action.”

Holy Terror: Lies the Christian Right Tells Us to Deny Gay Equality
– Mel White
———–

Essential Reading!
This is another “I-wish-I-could-make-everyone-read-it” book.

“Holy Terror” contains vital recent past history, chronicling  and exposing the war on America by the religious right.  The material here isn’t conjecture, or hyped partial-truths.  This book is written by an “insider.”
Mr. White was a significant player in fundamentalist evangelical circles.  And for a time, he bought into the lies.
He knew, and worked with people like Billy Graham,  Francis Schaeffer, Jerry Falwell, James Dobson, D. James Kennedy, and Pat Robertson.

Mel White knows of what he speaks!  And what he speaks of is some very, very scary stuff!
We learn of secret meetings, political agendas, manipulation of the masses, and very “un-Christ-like” power-plays of this sect that wishes to control and conform the entirety of America into their own image.

There’s a story of how Mel was hired to ghost-write a book for Pat Roberston, and Pat wouldn’t even take the time to read it. Yet, there he was at a book signing, autographing a book with his name on it, not knowing what was actually in it.

There’s also information about how President Bush actually sought approval from James Dobson on who to appoint to office!!

Part of the book descriptions have this to say:

—-
“The Reverend Mel White, a deeply religious man who sees fundamentalism as “evangelical Christian orthodoxy gone cultic,” believes that it is not a stretch to say that the true goal of today’s fundamentalists is to break down the wall that separates church and state, superimpose their “moral values” on the U.S. Constitution, replace democracy with theocratic rule, and ultimately create a new “Christian America” in their image. White’s new book, Holy Terror, is a wake-up call to all of us to take heed.

White is singularly qualified to write this exposé of the Christian Right because he himself was a true believer who served the evangelical movement as pastor, professor, filmmaker, television producer, author, and ghostwriter. As he writes, “These are not just Neocons dressed in religious drag. These men see themselves as gurus called by God to rescue America from unrighteousness. They believe this is a Christian nation that must be returned forcibly to its Christian roots.”
—-

The section “Idolatry:  The Religion Of Fundamentalism”  should be a “must-read” for Christians everywhere.
It covers “God As Idol” (some GREAT insights here), “The Bible As Idol” (which I’ve covered in a number of other posts), “The Family As Idol” (focus on the Dobson), and “The Nation As Idol” (also see “The Myth of a Christian Nation).

Later we look at “Fascism: The Politics Of Fundamentalism.”  We’re shown the frightening similarities between what’s going on in America, and the way religion and the Bible were used by Hitler to deceive the masses and rally the troops. The “14 identifying characteristics of fascism” are disturbingly similar to fundamentalist Christianity!

Then, in Part Four of the book, we discuss ways to resist fundamentalism. Chapter’s 8 and 9 analyze how to reclaim our progressive political and moral values.
In the section on moral values, we look at the Old Testament prophets and the teachings of Jesus. There’s lots of scripture in this section. We see again how fundamentalists, like the Pharisees, major on the minors, while ignoring or dismissing the real meat of the Bible and of Jesus’ teachings.
While fundamentalists want to “reclaim America,” what’s really needed is to reclaim Christianity from the fundamentalists.

Finally, there’s “Discovering Soul Force.” We look at the examples of Martin Luther King Jr., and Ghandi as we discover the power of non-violent resistance (also known as “Christian Love”) which Jesus taught and lived. It can be, or rather is, very hard to not hate the haters. I see a lot of hater hating these days. It is understandable. But this portion of Mel’s book really helped me remember that love conquers hate. We also see that loving one’s enemies doesn’t mean rolling over and playing dead. It’s not violence or passivity. It is a third way.
[In relationship to that, check out the last paragraph of this previous post: Click HERE. ]

As a gay Christian, Mr. White does focus on the dangers of the religious right in their war against homosexuals, BUT these dangers are a threat to us ALL! History has has shown us the horrific results of the marriage between church and state.
The torture.
The intimidation.
The outright murder.
All in the name of God. That is the direction to which many fundamentalists are trying to take us.
As the famous phrase goes, “The Christian right is often neither.”

The original version of this book came out (pun intended) in 2006, and we’ve seen this disease of religious control and manipulation spread even more since the book was written. Some of our current politicians think that their interpretation of the Bible should be the literal rule of the land for all of our blessedly diverse culture.

I echo the previous statement that this book sounds the alarm, and should be a wake-up call for those who value all American’s rights.

– df

[“Holy Terror is the paperback version of the previously released hard-cover “Religion Gone Bad.”  This book does have some new material, and is a great book to buy multiple copies of, and pass on to others!]

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

Check out the organization SOULFORCE. Click HERE.

—-

Read another review at Canyonwalker Connections. Click HERE.

“I strongly encourage Christians who are befuddled as to why we seem to have lost the message of the Gospel and have witnessed the Good News twisted into a Declaration of War to read ‘Holy Terror.’”
– Kathy Baldock

“Many anti-gay Christians I know are good people. But too often good people do bad things. I think in the end we are in a fast-moving world. Just read Mel White’s “Holy Terror” and you’ll get a quick, full understanding what is really going on under the sugar coated veneers of the Tony Perkins/Maggie Gallagher’s smiles.”
– Mitchell Gold

“I think this may be one of the most important books I have ever read.”
– Sharon

“A demanding and documented account of what happens when fanatical religion and fascistic politics merge an provide religion that simply can only be called terrorism.”
– Ric

—-


QUOTES FROM “HOLY TERROR”:

– The Bible is not a book of magic. It’s a book of mystery. You can’t just quote verses that support your prejudices or guarantee your health, wealth, and happiness and demand that God “follow through” as promised. God is not limited to the words of Scripture. God is still speaking.

– Fundamentalist Christians are my sisters and brothers, my family and friends, my oldest colleagues and coworkers. But I fear their love for the nation has become an obsession to reshape it in their own image.

– Like the people of Israel who created a golden calf to represent God while Moses was away, fundamentalist Christians have built their own idols to represent God until Jesus returns.
The religion of fundamentalism is idolatry.
Buy the book.  Click HERE.

– Fundamentalist Christianity is not just a threat to lesbians and gays, but to all Americans who cherish democracy and the rights and protections guaranteed us by the U.S. constitution.

– When Sally Williams asked her son Matthew why he killed “the two homos,” his answer was recorded by prison officials: “I had to obey God’s law rather than man’s law. I didn’t want to do this. I have followed a higher law. [I was] cleansing a sick society. I just plan to defend myself from the Scriptures.”

– “Fundamentalists are not happy when facts challenge their understanding. For biblical literalists, there is always an enemy to be defeated in mortal combat.” – John Shelby Spong [Rescuing the Bible From Fundamentalists]

– Jerry Falwell turned gay bashing into a very successful art form. [He is] the first fundamentalist to exploit the fear and loathing of homosexuals to raise hundreds of millions of dollars and add millions of new donors to his mailing list.

– It’s beginning to feel like there is no room in America for anyone who is not a fundamentalist Christian.
Buy the book.  Click HERE.

– Although He is regularly asked to do so, God does not take sides in American politics.” – Senator George Mitchell

– Gary Nixon and I have had a loving, committed, faithful relationship for twenty-five years (now over 30) yet we are denied more than a thousand rights and protections that go automatically with marriage.

– It would be catastrophic if one day these fundamentalists Christians gain enough political power to enforce their literal understanding of Mosaic Law.

– The Roman Catholic Church is without doubt the original source of suffering for gay and lesbian people.

– Because of their excessive commitment to a literal Bible, fundamentalist Christians have fallen into the trap of biblioltry.
Buy the book.  Click HERE.

– Doing justice, loving mercy, seeking truth…these are the issues [the Bible] is clear on.

– There were families made up of Jewish soldiers and female prisoners of war; female rape victims forced by law to marry their attackers; and male slaves assigned to female slaves by their master. Jesus condemned divorce but did not condemn any of the family types common to his day.

– I am convinced that Christian fundamentalism is a far greater threat to this country than Muslim terrorists could ever be.

– “The government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion.”
[Article 11. Treaty of Tripoli. Signed into law by President John Adams. 1797.]

– The words “God is love” conclude a biblical warning, not a warm and fuzzy slogan. “He who doesn’t love [his neighbor] doesn’t love God, for God is love.”
Buy the book.  Click HERE.

– My commitment to the Bible [is my] source of progressive values.

– Although I claim to be a Christian, I live at a moment in time when the Christian faith is being defined by fundamentalists who have dishonored Christ and are in the process of destroying His church. I refuse to wear the “Christian” label without redefining it.

– Without faith in God, man can have faith neither in himself nor in others. The finite cannot be understood unless we know it is rooted in the Infinite. – Gandhi

– When you stand with the outcasts, you stand with Jesus, and when you despise the outcast, you despise Jesus, as well. Becoming an activist is simply a matter of putting love into action.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

Check out the organization SOULFORCE. Click HERE.

And be sure to check out Al Franken’s book,
“Lies, and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them.” Click HERE.

 

The Year Of Living Biblically June 8, 2012



I have a friend who, concerning the word “biblical,” has stated “Oh my gosh, I hate that word!”
She’s a very astute young woman.
It’s a word that’s tossed about, misused, and frankly has come to mean little more than saying “God is on my side.  You loose.”
If, however, the word has ever been used correctly, A. J. Jacobs has done so in his book “The Year Of Living Biblically.  One man’s humble quest to follow the Bible as literally as possible.”

Here’s a blurb from Mr. Jacob’s website:

“The Year of Living Biblically answers the question: What if a modern-day American followed every single rule in the Bible as literally as possible. Not just the famous rules – the Ten Commandments and Love Thy Neighbor (though certainly those). But the hundreds of oft-ignored ones: don’t wear clothes of mixed fibers. Grow your beard. Stone adulterers. A.J. Jacobs’ experiment is surprising, informative, timely and funny. It is both irreverent and reverent. It seeks to discover what’s good in the Bible and what is maybe not so relevant to 21st century life. And it will make you see the Good Book with new eyes.
Thou shalt not put it down.”

This book was recommended to me.  Otherwise, I probably wouldn’t have read it.
Had I not, I would have missed out on an entertaining, fun, poignant, and quite strange journey.

Officially, Mr. Jacobs is Jewish.  He is, though, in his own words:
“Jewish like the Olive Garden is an Italian restaurant.  Which is to say, not very.”

Having never been a very religious man, A.J. wanted to explore religion and the Bible for himself.
There are many things he discovered that were not surprising.
For example, the fact that no one, absolutely no one, follows all of the Bible literally.
Everyone “picks and chooses.”
He finds, as expected, that, passage to passage, there are many contradictions within the pages of scripture.
He also marvels at how “these ethically advanced rules and these bizarre decrees  [can] be found in the same book.”
“It’s not like the Bible has a section called ‘And Now for some Crazy Laws.'”

There were also some results the author did not expect.

He began to enjoy prayer:
“Prayer can be a sacred ritual. There is something transcendent, beyond the everyday.”

He became a more thankful person:
“I’m actually muttering to myself, ‘Thank you. . .thank you. . . thank you.’ It’s an odd way to live. But also kind of great and powerful. I’ve never before been so aware of the thousands of little good things, the thousands of things that go right every day.”

And he experienced a new-found power in forgiveness:
“There’s a beauty to forgiveness, especially forgiveness that goes beyond rationality. Unconditional love is an illogical notion, but such a great & powerful one.”

A.J. spends his biblical year going through the Bible front to back.  Thus, he doesn’t get to “New Testament living” until the last 3rd or last quarter of the book (month 9 in his year).  When he makes the transition he faces a question many still find confusing.  “Should I continue to follow all the rules of the Hebrew Bible?”
Unfortunately, he didn’t ask me. 😉

In this portion, he looks at many brands of Christianity (There are reportedly almost forty-THOUSAND  Christian denominations), including “The Pat Robertson-Jerry Falwell- style,” of conservative fundamentalists, and the “Red Letter Christians” who focus on social justice, poverty, and the environment.  Both camps use the Bible, “but they come out with radically different agendas.”

Through the old and the new, A.J. Jacobs’ year-long adventure is anything but dull.  He lets his beard grow (which his wife is not terribly fond of), he wears all white. He visits and consults all manner of bible-based religious groups from the Jewish cultures to the Amish to the Catholic and many many others.
One of the best parts is when he actually “stones” an adulterer.

This is a fun and very different type of memoir.
Where ever you are in your journey of life, I think you’ll find great pleasure in letting Mr. Jacobs share his journey with you.

– df

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

————–

Some Quotes:

– More and more, I feel it’s important to look at the Bible with an open heart.

– I’ve rarely said the word “Lord,” unless it’s followed by “of the Rings.”

– The problem with a lot of religion…is that people have interpreted the Gospel so much, we’ve started to believe the interpretations instead of what Jesus said.

– Your behavior shapes your beliefs. If you act like a good person, you eventually become a better person. I wasn’t allowed to gossip, so eventually I started to have fewer petty thoughts to gossip about. I had to help the less fortunate, so I started to become less self-absorbed. I am not Gandhi or Angelina Jolie, but I made some progress.

– Falwell’s version of Christianity bears practically no relation to Jesus’s message.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

– The whole bible is the working out of the relationship between God and man. God is not a dictator barking out orders and demanding silent obedience. Were it so, there would be no relationship at all. No real relationship goes just one way. There are always two active parties. We must have reverence and awe for God, and honor for the chain of tradition. But that doesn’t mean we can’t use new information to help us read the holy texts in new ways.

– Polygamy was, if not the norm, completely accepted. The Bible doesn’t forbid polygamy.

– It comes back to the old question: How can the Bible be so wise in some places and so barbaric in others? And why should we put any faith in a book that includes such brutality?
[This is where, due to an unhealthy view of scripture, many Christians say something stupid like “It’s all about balance.”  Sorry.  Wrong answer.  Some things just can’t be balanced.]

– My reading list grows exponentially. Every time I read a book, it’ll mention three other books I feel I have to read. It’s like a particularly relentless series of pop-up ads.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

– The flood is such a tragic story — the drowning of millions of people and animals — and how strange it is that it’s always made into cute kids’ toys.

– Dr. Ralph Blair is a hardcore Christian evangelical. Ralph Blair is gay. And out-of-the-closet gay.

– Who are we to say that the Bible contained all the wisdom? You can commit idolatry on the Bible itself.

– Ancient Israelites didn’t have the clearly formed concept of immortality of the soul, as we do now.

– There is no scandal in supposing that Jesus married and had children. It is very doubtful historically, but not troubling theologically.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

– There are thousands of fundamentalists who want to set up a biblical government. They are the American Taliban.

– Never blame a text from the Bible for your behavior. It’s irresponsible.

– The idea that we can work with God to evolve the Bible’s meaning — it’s a thrilling idea.

– I need something specific…Beauty is a general thing. It’s abstract. I need to see a rose. When I see that Jesus embraced lepers, that’s a reason for me to embrace those with AIDS. If He embraced Samaritans, that’s a reason for me to fight racism.

– The year showed me beyond a doubt that everyone practices cafeteria religion. It’s not just the moderates. Fundamentalists do it to. But the more important lesson was this: There’s nothing wrong with choosing. Cafeterias aren’t bad per se. The key is choosing the right dishes.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.




 

Religion Gone Bad February 16, 2012


“Becoming an activist is simply a matter of putting love into action.”

Religion Gone Bad: The Hidden Dangers Of The Christian Right
– Mel White
———–

My WordPress stats tell me this is my 200th blog post.
I’m glad it’s dedicated to reviewing a book of this much importance.

While this book seems a bit dated in spots, it remains essential.

[This book has been re-released in paperback with new material. The new version is called “Holy Terror: Lies the Christian Right Tells Us to Deny Gay Equality.”
Check out the full review: Click HERE.

 

Crazy For God September 22, 2011

“The only answer to ‘Who are you?’ is ‘When?'”
– Frank Schaeffer

“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]”
– Frank Schaeffer

I’ve seen some reviews refer to this book as an autobiography, even though the author states it is not.  This is a memoir.  And, Oh My, what a memoir!  It’s also a “foreign period piece” of sorts, as well as a chronology of the very birth of the religious right.

The book is written in four major sections: Childhood, Education, Turmoil, and Peace.  The largest of these sections is the first one.   This is where the “period piece” I spoke of comes into play.  Frank was raised in Switzerland in the 50’s and 60’s.  A very different time in a very different place.  This is where L’Abri, the ministry of his famous father Francis Schaeffer and mother Edith, was located.  His writings, though, go even farther back as he describes the upbringing of his parents.

His parents!  He doesn’t really speak of them in an intentionally demeaning way.  He’s just brutally honest.  He’s just as brutally honest about himself.
His mother comes off as loving, but incredibly, religiously self-righteous.  There seems to be no one on earth that’s quite as “Christian” as she is.  She has a very strange love/hate relationship with all things “secular.”  She “always had her own agenda.  She was interested in how we fit into that, not in us (her children).”
His father seems to live in a constant moral, mental and emotional dichotomy.  He is most at peace, and most happy when not involved in his “calling.” He’s also given to fits of rage, and occasional spousal abuse. He’s “locked” into a life for God, while missing much of the joy of life with God.
“Left to himself, Dad never talked about theology or God, let alone turned some conversation into a pious lesson the way Mom did. Reality seemed enough for Dad.”

As religious as the Schaeffer’s were, they fancied themselves rather cosmopolitan at the same time.  The traditional Christians of America at that time would have thought them quite liberal.

Frank is supposedly home-schooled during his early youth, but the truth is he’s not so much schooled as he is simply ignored.
He dwells in an awareness of the hypocrisy of his parents lives.   They don’t, I think, really mean to be hypocrites.  They just have this compartmentalization that I believe is inherent with religious legalism.

So we learn a lot about young Frank’s upbringing.  He of course rebels, wanting nothing to do with the “ministry.”  At age 10 He starts “real” school.
Away from home, he learns “strange” new ideas.  Like, “The thought that you could be a normal person and still believe…[that you could] let God do the worrying about how sincere other people were.”  Frank “began wondering if the ideas I’d grown up with were really the only good ideas to live by.”
There are so many good stories in this section, but moving on…

Eventually, Frank joins his parents in “God’s work.”  It was Frank who pushed his father into getting into bed with the quasi-christian right-wing political types.  They used Roe v. Wade as a platform, and used that platform as a spring-board to create the whole “Take America Back For God” nonsense.  The book makes it pretty clear that, although the Schaeffers were sincere in their beliefs, their new associates were more concerned with votes than with true morality.
Get people stirred up, tell them you and your party are their only hope, and send them to the voting booth.

They became associated with the self-appointed “Christian leaders” like Jerry Falwell (unreconstructed bigot reactionary), Dr. Dobson (power-crazed political manipulator), and Pat Robertson (lunatic).
They intentionally “created” an enemy of the secular humanists and the Democrats.
Both father and son began to clearly see “that the evangelical world was more or less being led by lunatics, psychopaths, and extremists,” but they kept their mouths shut.
They sold out.
They needed that “next pay check.”
“It paid handsomely to babble loudly about Christ and saving America.”
Here’s a clear, history-repeated warning:  When your paycheck is tied to your “preaching,” seduction and hypocrisy can be damn near impossible to avoid.

We also look into the life of Frank the husband, Frank the father, Frank the movie producer (“Baby On Board”) and Frank the down-on-his-luck, broke thief!
He’s actually going to the grocery and stuffing pork chops down his pants.
“I’d remember that if it came down to it, I’d rather be arrested for shoplifting than ever be an evangelical leader again.  There was a certain basic and decent honesty about stealing pork chops that selling God had lacked.”

Finally, his novel “Portofino” hits the stands, and things start to take a turn for the better.  He even makes restitution for the pork chops.

Toward the end, he talks again of his mother.  I’ll let you read the details, but it almost brought tears to my eyes.
Mr. Schaeffer not only takes on the religious right, but takes to task those on the left a few times as well.
And, Frank uses one of his brothers-in-law (John) as a prime example of true faith, love and integrity.

This book has many stories, but the one that hit me the most is the story of how religion can rob people of their entire life.  It turns good people into a distortion of their inner beings in order to “serve God,”  while the true person God created gets trampled under foot.

I think “Crazy For God” falls under the category of “stranger than fiction.”  I’m glad Frank has invited us to see inside his soul, and somewhat share his journey.

– df

Buy The Book.  Click HERE.

( Also read the excerpt “Prayer.” )

——————

From Amazon:

By the time he was nineteen, Frank Schaeffer’s parents, Francis and Edith Schaeffer, had achieved global fame as bestselling evangelical authors and speakers, and Frank had joined his father on the evangelical circuit. He would go on to speak before thousands in arenas around America, publish his own evangelical bestseller, and work with such figures as Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and Dr. James Dobson. But all the while Schaeffer felt increasingly alienated, precipitating a crisis of faith that would ultimately lead to his departure —even if it meant losing everything.

With honesty, empathy, and humor, Schaeffer delivers “a brave and important book” (Andre Dubus III, author of House of Sand and Fog)—both a fascinating insider’s look at the American evangelical movement and a deeply affecting personal odyssey of faith.

Buy The Book.  Click HERE.

———————

Some Quotes:

You can lose your faith and still pretend, because there are bills to be paid, because you are booked up for a year, because this is what you do.

Fundamentalists never can just disagree.  The person they fall out with is not only on the wrong side of an issue; they are on the wrong side of God.

People’s eternal destinies hinged on a word or tiny event, maybe on no more than an unfriendly look.  Even an improperly served high tea on Sunday afternoon could send someone to hell.

The new religious right was all about religiously motivated “morality,” which it used for nakedly political purposes.

The evangelical homeschool movement was becoming profoundly anti-American.

Buy The Book.  Click HERE.

Single issue politics deforms the process and derails common sense.

By the 1970’s the evangelicals had come up with an alternate “gated” America.  It wasn’t about being something but about not being secular.  What it was for, no one knew.

If [Americans] are asked to make a choice between freedom and security they’ll choose security.  It will be the new fascism. (Francis Schaeffer, circa 1972!)

Bush Jr., the Bible-believing, born-again president, delivered up his Iraqi fellow Christians to be destroyed.  A “faith-based” evangelical American president stupidly unleashed a civil war.

Buy The Book.  Click HERE.

If you push the so-called Sola Scriptura Calvinist approach and the “inerrancy” ideas to their absurd limit, all real study of the Bible stops… Scholarship can only be meaningful when you are allowed to ask real questions and let the chips fall where they may.

In John Calvin’s Reformation Geneva, women pregnant out of wedlock were to be drowned along with their unborn babies, and of course homosexuals were to be killed and heretics burned at the stake.  [Yeah, I really want a “Christian” America!]

Evangelicalism is not so much a religion as a series of fast-moving personality cults.

According to Jesus, community is spirituality: “Love one another.”

Buy The Book.  Click HERE.

 

 
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