Tuesday, June 6, 2006

Brace Yourselves... This Is Long...

So, Happy Devil's Day! Here it is, 6/6/06, and God didn't even have the decency to rapture the fundies before I had to go into work. Sigh. Oh well, another day, another dollar, another broken promise of the fundies. I shouldn't be surprised, but I am slightly disappointed, coming off a long weekend and not wanting to return to work, but whatever. So my brother Tom, after months of hiatus from his shared blog decided to write an undecidedly long post of ramblings and thoughts about where the rubber meets the road in our differing world views. I am always interested in what Tom has to say, as, even though I never thought of him as an older brother in the best sense of the word, I consider him a great person and friend. Of course, among his ramblings, I am shocked to read,

Scott is unabashedly Republican, while I'm a closet Republican. I'm also a closet Christian--what I like to refer to as Xian for reasons I can explain if the reader so desires.
The shocking parts are the words "closet Republican." Geez, you think you know a guy, am I right? :D So anywho, I digest this briefly, consider my brother, and realize that this isn't because of something they slip into the sacred marriage vows at the civil courthouse:

Judge: Sign here, and here, oh, and initial here...
Groom: Wait, what's that say?
Judge: Oh, that's nothing, it just changes your voter status...
Bride: Oh, like my last name for voting purposes?
Judge: Er, something like that. Man and wife, on your way, now. Congratulations...
In walks secretary.
Secretary: Got them to become Republicans?
Judge: They joined a sacred institution that evil gays and lesbians want to defile, they signed the papers, they took the vows to become Republican! Praise Jesus!
So he's republican. I'm actually okay with that. Some of the things that this administration sorely lacks are good republican values, such as small federal government and a balanced budget... But whatever. I continue reading as he breaks down his beliefs and labels, all very interesting and well said. I eventually get to his "direct address" of my posts, and one of the things he states is:

The fact that you and I [...] were born into a cultish family. [...] Two people with five kids doing the best they can with what they've been given, raised in a strict and poor environment reacting against the destruction and disillusionment of World War II, the Cold War, and all the fear and loss and abandonment issues that go along with all that: not a cult. Not even cultish environment. Not ideal? Perhaps. But what is an ideal environment? Ours was certainly better than most. If you don't believe me, go to Mexico, China, India, North Korea, much of Eastern Europe, South America, and Africa. This country is far, far from perfect, but it still is a great place to grow up and live in, considering the alternatives. And our parents, while far from ideal, are still great, great parents, considering the alternatives. Hell, you don't even have to go far to see that. Come with me to Reading for just one day and read the journals of my kids or get into a conversation with them about their home lives. I guarantee you your heart will cry out to them.
I would like to take the opportunity here to state, up front, in case I've mislead anyone, that I did not have a bad childhood. Never even crossed my mind, in fact. Even though there were five of us, we never wanted for anything (although we thought we did!). We had more toys, more square footage, more things to do and places to go than most other kids I knew growing up. Were my parents perfect? No, but they tried, and they tried damn hard! I can't even imagine how one child would screw up my lifestyle as it presently is, let alone five born within six years of each other! But they had a love and a desire for us to grow up healthy (despite my mothers' almost killing me twice as a child... funny story, for a later post!), happy, and god-fearing. Do I think there are things they could have done differently? Who doesn't? A childs number one job through their twenties is to let their parents know how they screwed up, and make sure they know we won't make those same mistakes... and in our thirties, when we become parents, if we do hold to our promise to not make the same mistakes, fresh ones are created, and we have to wait until our kids are in their twenties before we find out what those mistakes were... Circle of life and all that.

And while I'm not saying you have beefs with Mom and Dad, reading between the lines in many of your posts, and especially when you throw around words like "cultish" when describing our family, I sense that there are real feelings of anger. Perhaps this anger is justified, and I'm sure writing about it all is extremely therapeutic, like my writing was (and is even now) during my separation from Ann, but I just want to hopefully point out that Mom and Dad were doing the best they could with what they had, reacting and acting with and against a system of beliefs that has been giving security to untold millions for thousands of years--even before JC hit the planet. They haven't been given our discerning and inquisitive faculties, so we need to forgive them when they bust out the "Jesus in the heart" thing.
I do have anger. I will admit it. "Hi. My name is Jason, and I have anger." (Politely waiting while everyone shouts back, "Hi, Jason!") I do believe "cult-ish" is a very apt phrase for describing the right-wing church of today. They have dogma, and they have faith, but they have no sense of self-analyzation or self-awareness that allows them to break free from a poisonous atmosphere. My parents are victims of this mentality, and while it may not fit Webster's definition of the word, it's the best I can come up with at this point. But I'll digress.

Being raised in the church was a lot like being raised by... I'm not sure there's an apt correlation. You are told from day one all kinds of lies, and not the fuzzy-warm kind like Santa Claus. Santa brings you presents, Santa shows up one day a year, Santa was very godlike without all the smiting and "thou shalt nots" of the bible. He didn't make you feel bad about yourself, he simply gave you incentive to be good through bribery.

God, on the other hand... First off there's hell. Then there's all the lies you're fed as a child that have nothing to do with reality. Creation. Miracles. Sin. Talking snakes and donkeys. Worldwide floods, dinosaurs on the ark.

Sure, there's right and wrong, but then there's circumstances, red hair, left-handedness, homosexuality, life in general, not to mention taxes and a mortgage. I think it all boils down to this: God has no place in life. Sure, it's all well and good to say "Thou shalt not steal," but as one argument I had with a fundie went, If it came down to stealing a loaf of bread or letting your family starve to death, which would be the greater evil? Of course the fundie answered, Letting your family starve to death would be worse, and that he would steal a loaf of bread to feed said family, but it would still be wrong, and they wouldn't try to justify that wrong. I pointed out (quite kindly, I thought) that they had already justified the "sin," and that there were no two ways about it. I was promptly told to buzz off and leave him alone.

But life always comes down to these fuzzy gray areas of "justification," "morality," "relative evil," and all sorts of other such tidbits of right and wrong. Yes, there is something to be said for security blankets. Many people look to a higher power for purpose, for explanation, for a sense of control and the evading of responsibilities... But was your favorite blankie not taken away when you reached a certain age? Were Santa and the Tooth Fairy not revealed in all their ugly reality-ishness when it came down to the nitty-gritty of why you didn't get that bike? Or when you discovered Dad "helping" the tooth fairy when he accidentally woke you slipping that quarter under your pillow? There comes a time in everyone's life when they have a choice: to examine their beliefs, find out what holds water and what doesn't, figure out the why's, and move on to the next. Tom also wrote:

It was hard for me to learn that Dad's not exactly the smartest guy in the world. Like most boys, I remember viewing Dad as the be-all and end-all of knowledge. But when I started learning that things he told me were wrong, or when he would just flat-out tell me that he didn't know certain things--and even worse, that he didn't even think about certain things!--that blew my mind. I've come to learn that Dad's a simple guy, yet very wise and certainly very loving--even if he doesn't show it. He's also a deep dude that suppresses a lot because he doesn't have either the cognitive abilities or the desire or the stamina to get to the bottom of certain things. He questions some, but when it gets too hairy, he relies on others to do his thinking for him, and those whom he chooses to rely on are run-of-the-mill preachers and conservative thinkers, not intellectuals or academics. The problem is he's not much different than most people. People like cookie-cutter answers that they can rely on for security. They like these because life is too tough to think about. When you have to support your kids and maintain a home and property and please squabbling family members and financially help others and be a leader in the community and be a loving husband and father and wear all these hats--it's tough.
I don't doubt it! If anyone here thinks life is easy, please raise your hand.... (perusing the sea of millions of readers stopping by...) Okay then. I hold no issue with life being hard, or that life gets so crazy busy that we can't take the time to stop and smell a rose, let alone crack open a book for the sake of learning... But should that e an excuse to not learn? It is certainly a reason, but as an excuse it falls flat on its face. Not that Tom is guilty of doing this... I'm amazed at how much Tom cranks through even with wife, kids, and school. Ann as well! Tom has certainly found a spouse worthy of him!

But then you look at our parents... Mom thinks she's learning great and wonderful truth by simply turning on the boobtube every Sunday morning. Maybe she is, maybe she isn't. It certainly isn't learning to hear the same old crapola vomited out by another fundie pastor with a differing sermon title... But there can be learning and new insight in the very same repetition, I will say that. But what about hitting a temple every now and then? Sitting in the library and looking at the variety of points of view presented there? How about looking up Hindus for the hell of it, just to see their take on the whole thing? I mean, geez-louise, they have over 250 channels on the satellite, and what does Mom always tune in to watch? HGTV.

Now, don't get me wrong. I enjoy boobtube time just as much as the next American. There are times when I just sit back, prop my feet on the coffee table, and mindlessly watch a few hours of nothing at all. But there are those times when you just need to learn. To search on the web for a few hours and learn something. Am I wrong here?

Mom and Dad are simple folk. They grew up poor. My Dad ate green bean soup most of his childhood. My Mom heard about how she was ugly and worthless from my grandmother, and that it was her fault my grandmother had a rotten life because grandmom spread her legs when she was sixteen for my grandfather. (Crude? Yes. Any less truthful? No.) It's amazing my Dad had the where-with-all to go to college and achieve that better life for himself. It's amazing my mother didn't turn out to be a monster like her mother. I have been very blessed with parents that had enough sense to want to do the right thing, even if they couldn't analyze the depths of where that wanting I feel should have taken them. But I do feel my brother is wrong when he says I hold anger toward them, because I honestly don't. I am angry at a belief system they cling to that doesn't help them grow as people but stagnates them into a swamp of dead faith. I am angry at the pervasive tendrils of poison the "mother church" seeps into every aspect of our secular nation, trying to usurp the Constitution and the freedom of religion guaranteed to us all. But I am also angry at myself, for the lost years I spent perpetuating that evil.

Yes, my parents could get off their duffs and learn something new. But they are comfortable with their lives. I cannot fault them for that. They have mellowed (to a degree) in their middle-age years, and for that I am grateful. My mother continues to be semi-open to new ideas. My father still believes in a literal 7 day creation process in which god apparently made "every creature to produce after it's own kind," his main argument against evolution, which I can tear apart later.

Maybe Tom also projects his (former?) anger into my posts a bit. Maybe I am more angry than I realize. I am not sure. Maybe it is all one therapeutic conundrum of a blog and eventually will go the way of the treadmill in the American home. (Mine presently makes a great hanging-plant staging area!) Or perhaps this is just more of nothing. Who knows?

Tom continues:

Stop, think, and look at yourself. Look at people. As you have rightly and recently stated, and as I myself have recently learned from one of my greatest teachers out in California, all of our knowledge has come from one person telling another person. Even if you stick revelation from an outside source into the mix (as I would do because I do believe in God who speaks in revelations, but I certainly am open to refutations on this premise as I journey at all times seeking unadulterated truth), revelation only comes in spurts, and that revelation only comes to certain individuals. So this revelation needs to be disseminated somehow, and the only way is person to person. So don't be angry at God or Jesus, be angry at people, be angry at yourself, and then start investigating once the purging has ended. Too many people think they are seeking, when really they are just stoking the fires of their own malice deep inside of them.
I did state that, but I do believe I also stated that "revelation," as it were, does not need a divine source. It simply needs a mind that puts 2 and 2 together to come to 4. Do we always like that 4? No, and most people will eventually follow the 4 to another 4 and arrive at 8, while a lot of people are still discussing the merits and fallacies of the original 4. The bible can be boiled down to two points Jesus supposedly made back in the day: Love God with all your heart, mind, and soul; and love your neighbor as you love yourself.

Point 1 is irrelevant. Love the intangible, invisible, won't directly intervene in life even though he loves you to death god? May as well love the triple-breasted whore of Eroticon 6. This divine revelation Tom speaks of really (in my honest opinion) has not one shred of relevance or use in man's day to day life.

But point 2? Love your neighbor as you love yourself? This is the whole of human interaction at its finest. The ability to treat other people, regardless of race, religion, background, ethnicity, sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation, gender perceptions, hell, lawn care procedures and dandelion removal techniques. When one treats another as they would like to be treated, the human reality gets beautiful. Truly, amazingly beautiful. Why does this need a divine being behind it? Why couldn't a young lady in Middlesex, England, have come up with this? Why des it need a god? Why does anyone?

It does (sort of) come back to a security blanket of sorts. A godless existence is scary for many. A godless, pointless existence maybe even more so, depending on who you ask.

I, for one, put my faith in people. And although I have been extremely disappointed in the past, both by secular and religious types, being the eternal optimist that I am, I believe quite strongly that each and every person on this earth not only has the ability to be a decent and wonderful creature, but to make life meaningful in and of itself. Without an outside "divine" set of mores and values, without a stone tablet carved from on high by an old man crazed by the desert heat leading his tribe away from their oppressors, and without a horned beast whose favorite number is triple 6's bent on destroying us.

We do plenty of that ourselves.

As a complete at utter side note, Tom pointed me in the direction of this article which is a great fuzzy-warm and filled with truths of a sort, that I haven't completely all soaked up yet but is still an interesting read, especially for you fundies! (Adam, that means you!)


Ergo Sum said...

Daaamn! It's long!

Now, I'll actually try and read it.

terriamachine said...

So... some of the stuff I wrote I recant. Like I said, I wrote that missive in disjointed spurts without editing it. I'll take care of the recants soon enough. And... some of your reply was predictable while some of it was surprising. Again, will take care of that in due time as well. But one thing you said that was wrong--the only thing you said that was wrong, by the way--was your comment on the "fuzzy-warm" and that it would be an interesting read for the fundies. I can assure you that fundies would not appreciate this type of article at all and that they would see it as heretical. Read the article, see what it's truly saying, look at the source, look at other articles written by this person, and even look at the sponsors on the web page from which the article is printed. It's quite liberal, actually. Fundies hate fuzzy-warms, don't they? And I wouldn't even classify it as a fuzzy-warm, either, because that connotes a shallowness--and even a callowness--that belies the author's deep convictions and radical worldview--radical in terms of fundamentalism, and even sometimes mainstream Christianity, depending on who one might be talking to. Other than this seemingly indifferent dismissal of said article, solid stuff which will be internalized, digested, and mulled...

DaBich said...

Well, I'll say one thing, Jason. You sure have your family thinking :)
Who knows, maybe they will think even more one day.

Jason Hughes said...

Tom, Tom, Tom... you need to work on your "pick up on sarcasm" skills...

I said: [...] which is a great fuzzy-warm and filled with truths of a sort, [...]

implying that I know there are deeper issues that need further attention, which is why I said: [...] that I haven't completely all soaked up yet but is still an interesting read, [...]

And I knew fundies would find it disagreeable, but maybe eye-opening, which is why I sent my favorite e-mail stalker Adam there by saying: [...]especially for you fundies! (Adam, that means you!)

There are no factual wrongs there, but you apparently read something factually wrong because you disagreed with my first impression of the article, even after I said I haven't finished digesting it all yet?

:D I love you, man!

Tenebris said...

One point. You suggest that a human being maybe should want to learn (new perspectives, new things) ... but what I see around me suggests the opposite: that human beings seek rather security and reaffirmation of their existing moral structures (however self-contradictory). In other words, self-justification. And, for the irony: you and I are no exceptions in this. It is only that our existing moral structures maybe have a bit more "give" to them than most ... but be certain that there are challenges out there which would make us dig in our heels every bit as much as the person who values only a single source for moral guidance.

Jason Hughes said...

Dabich: The minute I stop making them think, shoot me... :D

Tenebris: Thanks for stopping by! Alwasy nice to see a new face... or name, as it were... :D

Yes, there are times when I know I am more stubborn than a mule hooked up to the plow and three carrots hanging in front of him who still won't move, but I hope that if I ever am that stubborn about something to which I should be a little more open that I get a swift kick in the ass...

Of course, sometimes that swift kick will have the opposite effect.

People do seek out things that reinforce previously held beliefs, they seek to fnd sources of information that almost always follow what they already think about life in general, esp. when it comes to spiritual or moral issues...

They should want to learn and experience al life has to offer, but I know some that don'r go unless they're hog-tied...

Oh well. :D

Tenebris said...

One point. You suggest that a human being maybe should want to learn (new perspectives, new things) ... but what I see around me suggests the opposite: that human beings seek rather security and reaffirmation of their existing moral structures (however self-contradictory). In other words, self-justification. And, for the irony: you and I are no exceptions in this. It is only that our existing moral structures maybe have a bit more "give" to them than most ... but be certain that there are challenges out there which would make us dig in our heels every bit as much as the person who values only a single source for moral guidance.

Ergo Sum said...

Daaamn! It's long!

Now, I'll actually try and read it.