piranha: red origami crane (Default)
[personal profile] piranha
i personally know a few christians who i consider to be actively using their religion to make the world a better place for all (i realize i would know more if i were a christian and participated in the right kind of church, so trust me, i am already extrapolating from those few). i personally know some more christians who try to make the world a better place for ... mostly their own kind, and while they're generally friendly towards me (at least at first, because hey, i could be convertable), i know they don't approve of my "lifestyle", and tend to pray for me -- patronizing me makes for short relationships, and since my former partner L grew out of zir christian phase, i no longer meet many such people (zir church was filled with them). i personally know a much larger number who seem to be christian by birth only, and it doesn't appear to affect their actions much -- they believe in god in a distant manner, and religion doesn't really inform their everyday life; i don't consider them "religious" like i consider the first and second groups.

but i live with a constant influx of news that show conservative christians undertake actions that are repugnant to me -- constant. not a day passes that i don't read about some christian in a position of leadership saying something outrageous -- and i am not seeking it out! it's not in particular these 24 people in saltillo [1] who cast a bad light on christianity (really, they hardly count at all; a mere drop in the bucket, and i even take a little heart that their pastor resigned), it's the ones who scream for anti-gay marriage amendments, for creationism in public schools, for the consistent rape of the environment (dominionism makes me furious), against sex education (heck, against any sex that's not of the married, missionary position kind), against feminist principles, against other religions, and for war. and i don't think you can blame the news for that, because these people do go out and vote accordingly, and their preachermen take to the airwaves and the net with gusto -- that all points directly to millions of christians who're IMO seriously in conflict with me about what matters, and who are perfectly willing to trample all over me and mine in their self-righteous pursuit of the bloody rapture or whatever heavenly afterlife they're imagining for themselves.

and these people seem to have a disproportionate influence on politics in the US. from surveys i've read, 75% of americans consider themselves to be christian, while 35% consider themselves born-again, fundamentalist, evangelical (and they don't even view more liberal christians as christians). they make a lot of noise, and they affect my life a great deal more than the other 40% who don't seem to be anywhere as politically active. so yes, i am letting that guide what i fear, because from what i can see they're hard at work towards the eradication of the church/state line, and are encroaching ever more on my personal liberties. fortunately they are much fewer in number in canada -- but i am really concerned that we now have a (minority government) prime minister who's one of them; that seems to be emboldening the ones we do have. i view this with much apprehension because the veneer of enlightened multi-culturalism and neutrality might as yet be too thin to withstand a concerted attack by people who seem to admire the state of affairs in the US.

so in effect, those 35% of christians account for 95% of my news about christianity, and those news are almost entirely negative, so much so that when i see a positive story, i write about it, to keep myself from falling down the rabbit hole. i try to make distinctions between fundamentalist christians and the rest, but really, it's not holding because the rest seem to be mostly silent, and i am tending towards "silence constitutes assent" when it comes to really important decisions. of course it doesn't help that my birth family belonged to a sect which believed in demon possession and was quite oppressive to anyone not toeing the line, which was part of what made my childhood hell -- and just a couple days ago i realized that while i once viewed them as extremely conservative, compared to US fundamentalists they were actually moderate, and retained a strong notion of the christian life as a life of service and stewardship instead of entitlement and dominion. and the thought made me shudder. because they were anything but moderate to live amongst in my reality as a child.

add to that occasional random personal encounters which tend towards the proselytizing kind, not the good samaritan one -- heck, the latter is often coupled with the former at salvation army collection points. i am tired of proselytizing. i grew up christian, in a christian society, how come you think i haven't heard the "good news"? i've heard it. it's coming out my ears. work on your own damn log already, will ya, and leave me alone. if god wants me, zie can damn well talk to me zirself.

all of that results in christianity having an image problem with me that's much worse than feminism's. i don't fear feminists. i fear christians.

[1] edited: the article was withdrawn by the newspaper. link is now to a rescue from google cache.

on 2006-08-25 19:44 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] beaq.livejournal.com
Maybe your family was conservative and these people are reactionary?

on 2006-08-25 20:03 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] kightp.livejournal.com
I've actually had this conversation with some friends of the well-intentioned -and-mostly-harmless Christian variety. And after listening to them hand-wring about not being That Other Sort of Christian, I've pointed out that if they don't want to be tarred with that brush, then they need to start speaking up and speaking out, both within their churches and without.

As far as I know, precious few have done so.

Me, too

on 2006-08-25 20:06 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] wiredferret.livejournal.com
Those people? They scare me, too.

It is sometimes difficult to be a verbal liberal Christian. There are some gotchas inbuilt. For example, there are pretty strong biblical and cultural injunctions against declaring someone else "not christian". If you have confessed your faith, you're in the club. So although I am worried about my reproductive rights, and aghast at the dominionism you cited, I can't say, "They're not REALLY one of us." Even though people identify as born-again, I can't cite their lack of actual church attendence or biblical knowledge. The Christ I follow accepted everyone who wanted in, prostitutes and occupying soldiers alike.

Obviously, the solution is for liberal Christians to become more verbal, to neutralize some of the vitriol with well-publicized lovingkindness. Sadly, lovingkindness is boring. Dead dull. More women than men are in protestant seminaries. So? Same is true of all grad school. Liberal churches are not kicking out gays. Is that news? Not so much. Feeding the hungry, clothing the poor. Blah blah blah. None of that is as interesting, to me or most people, as when that doorknob Phelps says something hateful. It's a bad interesting he gets from me, but I still read the damn article.

It's a problem I don't know the solution to. I know that I am seeing the beginnings of a liberal christian political movement, but I know that I didn't get my butt up to the rally, so I can only note that there was one. I just don't know.

Re: Me, too

on 2006-08-25 20:28 (UTC)
brooksmoses: (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] brooksmoses
I don't think that it's anywhere near so obvious how to implement that solution, though.

Mostly, when I speak up for something like teaching of proper science in schools, it's probably not apparent to anyone who doesn't know me that I'm speaking as a liberal Christian -- I don't usually reference my beliefs, because to me my religious position is irrelevant to the debate.

One of the things that I particularly resent about the fundamentalist political movement is their emphasis on inserting religion into politics; I find the idea of making a point of my Christianity in discussing my political views to be abhorrent. If I only hold a position because I am a Christian, rather than because I am an ethical person, then I consider it inappropriate to expect that opinion to be inserted into secular politics. So it feels completely wrong -- and counter to what I believe -- to bring up my Christianity in such debates.

I don't really know of a good solution to this. As you say, standing up and saying "Phelps isn't a Christian" isn't right. Saying "I disagree and I'm a Christian" is reducing my position to his level and assenting to making religion an issue in politics. Saying "I disagree" lets him appear to be the only Christian voice in the debate. That sort of rules everything out.

I suspect that's probably the case with many of the "40%" that [livejournal.com profile] pleonastic mentions. I actually doubt that we're any less politically outspoken, overall; it's just that most of our political outspokenness doesn't mention Christianity, and so it's indistinguishable from any other liberal political outspokenness.

Re: Me, too

on 2006-08-25 20:37 (UTC)
ext_481: origami crane (Default)
Posted by [identity profile] pir-anha.livejournal.com
there are pretty strong biblical and cultural injunctions against declaring someone else "not christian"

*nod*. i appreciate that it is much more difficult from the inside than from the outside. and ya know, i am ok with that, because to say otherwise would mean to screw with people's right to self-definition.

but i think it's still necessary to point out hatred as being counter to jesus' message, and still possible to say "that's not my kind of christianity". and yes, to become more verbal with the lovingkindness. and more ... proactive (i can't believe i am using that word!). come out with the lovingkindness campaign before the hate campaigns get really going. oprah did the random acts of kindness thing, and the angel network thing -- that's very christian messages there, and i don't even watch oprah. her audience clearly doesn't think those things are boring. ok, maybe some of that is her star power, but i doubt that accounts for all of it. it touches a need.

i don't really think that feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, and providing refuge for the persecuted is dull per se. it's when it comes always wrapped in begging for money, or in proselytizing, that i turn off. the UCC's campaign for the inclusion of gay people became pretty well known, though i guess part of that was CBS's refusal to air their ad, so the controversy made it better known. it still would have made the news otherwise.

i think that kind of message is more powerful in this day because of all the hatred out there, which is working itself to a fever pitch. yes, humans are tuned (evolutionarily, i believe) to listen more attentively to negative messages. but positive ones aren't lost. they maybe need to be peddled a little more, and peddled in the right way, which is tricky.

on 2006-08-25 20:27 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] pameladean.livejournal.com
I am a feminist, and I fear Christians for exactly the reasons that you lay out. I wasn't raised by them exactly; I was raised by a lapsed Southern Baptist and a potentially excommunicated Catholic. Eventually we wound up with the Unitarians. Right now I wouldn't go near any religious organization except for the Society of Friends. I have developed an allergy.

P.

on 2006-08-25 21:02 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] hobbitbabe.livejournal.com
I'm one of those invisible Christians. [personal profile] kightp's right, that I can't just complain that nobody knows my kind exists, without doing more to make my beliefs/actions visible.

However, I mostly don't, for a variety of reasons.

- My parents, both practising Christians, brought us up to believe that making one's religion part of one's public life was, er, in questionable taste. For my father, it was part of his convictions as a scholarly liberal Baptist, that separation of church-and-state was essential and would be facilitated by keeping religion private. For my mother, it was probably a Scottish-Presbyterian/neurotic/don't draw attention to yourself thing.

- As a result, my reaction to other people's public declarations of religious belief and religious connections to their convictions on social issues is often to kind of squirm in embarrassment. So I'm extremely reluctant to bring up my own religious background or convictions in making my own statements of social-issue conviction.

- Being the only Christian in my chosen family, I've become more sensitive to the ways that mentions of Christian tradition or belief that feel innocuous to me can actually feel exclusive or oppressive to other people.

- I don't believe that direct proselytizing works.

- These days, if I was going to encourage someone I knew to explore some spiritual avenue, it could as easily be The Artist's Way or a twelve-step fellowship or a practice of walking as it could be attending a United Church of Canada service or reading a book about Christian belief.

- And I'm a big old conflict-avoidant chicken.

on 2006-08-25 21:08 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] hobbitbabe.livejournal.com
Another thing is that although I still identify as a Christian, I no longer identify as a Baptist. While I was out of the country, the Canadian Baptist Federation went right and I went left. I realized that I didn't have the energy to be so atypical, and went looking for another denomination and downtown congregations that would be a better fit. It turns out to be quite a common path.

on 2006-08-25 21:08 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] rahaeli.livejournal.com
You should read [livejournal.com profile] slacktivist. Left-wing evangelical Christian who's fucking pissed off at what the nutjobs are doing to his religion. :)

on 2006-08-25 21:47 (UTC)
ext_481: origami crane (Default)
Posted by [identity profile] pir-anha.livejournal.com
after a quick sampling, i am convinced. funny, too! thanks for the pointer.

Here is where illiberal folks like to chime in with something like, "You liberals can tolerate anything except for intolerance." This they seem to imagine is a witty rejoinder that exposes some contradiction in our thinking, as though proponents of tolerance had just proposed the existence of the barber who cuts the hair of all those, and only those, who do not cut their own hair. "Hah!" they cackle, triumphantly, "Then who cuts the barber's hair?" The proper response to such people is to crush them under a rock that is so big even God couldn't lift it.

on 2006-08-31 17:50 (UTC)
brooksmoses: (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] brooksmoses
Hee.

One of my most amusing memories from (adult) sunday school at the Methodist church I went to when I first moved to California was the time that a relatively conservative fundamentalist started coming to the classes. He was quite friendly and polite, but firmly believed as an axiomatic truth that one had to profess Jesus Christ by name as one's lord and savior or otherwise would go to a literal Hell.

And they were tolerant of this, and tried so very hard to be respectful of his position in the discussions. And it was so obvious how hard people were trying, and how much their fundamental paradigm of "respect all opinions and welcome them in the conversation rather than directly disagreeing" really wasn't fitting -- with such widely different axioms, about every five minutes we got to a point of axiom-lock, and there wasn't anything useful to say, except to sort of change the subject a bit. But people kept trying, in the sort of futile hopeful way that one does with something that just isn't going to work but one can't accept that it won't, because it's an article of faith that it's the right way.

Eventually, after a month or so, he stopped coming. And there was, indeed, some soul-searching among the group of whether we could have been more welcoming.

on 2006-08-31 18:28 (UTC)
ext_481: origami crane (Default)
Posted by [identity profile] pir-anha.livejournal.com
this is a really common liberal doubt, i find -- i know that i chastise myself for intolerance, even if i express it towards very intolerant people, and that i try hard to listen more and read more and try to reach beyond the impasse. (and i definitely do it when i've been grossly intolerant, period -- i chastise myself for hating on religion as well; the bit in autopope's journal both blew off steam and made me feel guilty retroactively.)

that's why it's not the same. people who search their hearts for whether they could not have stretched a little further, could not have been a bit more welcoming are not the ones who should worry the most about intolerance. they already do.

on 2006-08-25 22:09 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] nex0s.livejournal.com
Totally OT:

YAY KABUKI!

I want that tee shirt someday.

n.

datapoints

on 2006-08-25 21:16 (UTC)
firecat: red panda looking happy (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] firecat
My family members are of the mostly harmless variety. I don't fear Christians.

I fear people in power using Christianity to advance their agendas, and I fear groups of people who aren't satisfied being subcultures but have to impose their values on everybody.

I think of the former as coming from power lust and not from Christian motives.

I think of the latter as coming from something akin to mob behavior. Groups on the left do the latter too when they feel like they're in the majority somewhere. I've participated in it, so I'm not immune. It pisses me off and I despair of its ever not being part of human behavior.

Re: datapoints

on 2006-08-25 22:41 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] prairierabbit.livejournal.com
I fear people in power using Christianity to advance their agendas, and I fear groups of people who aren't satisfied being subcultures but have to impose their values on everybody.

Thank you! I strongly agree. Oh, and I'm a liberal Christian, but one who will not raise my religion in debates about secular or political policies, since I think that public policy should be based on secular arguments.

I think one other often overlooked issue is fear. When people are afraid, rationally or not, they tend to view those who are "different" as much more of a threat and cling tightly to their commumities of "sameness". Many of those who follow the religious zealots are really afraid of the future, just like the Militia people. They feel they are under attack, and then they attack others to make themselves feel better/safer/more in control. Some of this is based on economic shifts, some on cultural shifts, and some on world affairs, as best I can tell from the reading I've done.

The best thing I feel I can do is to fight the fear-mongering (religious or not) and support those who favor diplomacy and dialogue and tolerance and reverance (which for me is a very broad concept involving respect for others and the world around one). While I have moments of gloom, I try really hard to stay positive and to challenge the voices of doom, especially those that leak into my head.

Re: datapoints

on 2006-08-25 23:17 (UTC)
firecat: red panda looking happy (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] firecat
YES

Satillo link...

on 2006-08-25 22:23 (UTC)
ext_87667: Huckbein from SRW series (Default)
Posted by [identity profile] mechaman.livejournal.com
I assume someone hotlinked to this article, because the paper (poorly) tried to remove it. Google's Cache still has the original, though who knows how long.

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piranha: red origami crane (Default)
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