Two Things

Two things for Christians:

Trust in the power of your prayers.  This means if you are praying for someone you have to treat them as if that prayer was already answered.  Otherwise you aren’t praying in faith.  For example, if you were praying for someone to get a job you would have to treat them as if they already had one.

Things said about people on the margins are unfalsifiable.  For example if you say God is near people on the margins.  People who do not experience this will be silenced and ignored because they have no voice.  Conversely if you make a claim about the most powerful people that is false, they will immediately shut it down and will be listened to.

Friends’ Lives Matter

What Growing Up White in a Black Church Taught Me about Racial Justice:

People don’t fight for justice as an abstract concept—at least not for very long. What they do fight for is people. They’ll fight harder for those people with whom they can more easily empathize, and they’ll fight hardest for those people about whom they care most. If white people are going to make a robust and lasting commitment to racial justice work, then intimate inter-racial friendships must accompany and sustain that commitment.

God’s Inaction in Action

Christians are so turned off by people with disabilities because they display God’s inaction in action.  They are kryptonite for prayer, their conditions often worsen instead of better with time.  Christians are not allowed to resent God for his inaction directly so they do so vicariously through individuals with disabilities.  That’s why people with disabilities often get treated worse in church than other places.

imaginary love

Great article, questions that killed my faith:

The idea that there is a God who wants you to feel loved by him simply isn’t true. Some people are good at feeling imaginary love and other people aren’t. It’s another placebo. For some people the effect is strong enough that it really helps them feel happy on a day-to-day basis; other people get nothing out of it. If it works for you, they will say “great, isn’t God’s love amazing?” If it doesn’t work for you, “just hang in there and keep trying, God won’t give you a bigger dry spell than you can handle, he really does love you, don’t expect that your needs are going to be met in any specific way because that’s arrogant and God’s ways are beyond our understanding.” If we believe that God will absolutely draw near to us if we draw near to him, and he isn’t drawing near to us, then clearly we aren’t doing a good enough job of drawing near to him.

 

Critique of the Therapeutic Industrial Complex (TIC) by way of Christianity

A lot of critiques one levies against Christianity can be levied just as strongly against the therapeutic industrial complex (TIC).

Both are disingenuous about authority.  In Christianity this takes the form of denying the faith is in fact a religion and making people think their opinions actually come from God and not religious authorities (that’s why they’re fine with people being attuned to the voice of God so long as it doesn’t go against their teachings).  With the TIC therapists claim to be facilitating one’s own decision making process when they suggest things (the therapist I have to see told me to quit my job, which would have been bad had I done it).  The problem is in order for therapy to work one must trust in the authority of the therapist (for example sleep therapy where the therapists told the patients not to have such anxious thoughts about going to sleep).  One of the austerity measures in Britain was to force people on the disability roles to see therapists that would presumably tell them to get a job.  This brings up another thread where the dynamic of the doctor patient relationship changes depending on who is footing the bill (so an upper middle class professional seeing a therapist on private insurance might use a therapist as a sounding board only where someone lower down will be more controlled by them).

Both include thought crimes.  In Christianity this is obvious borne from Jesus’s teachings on lust and anger.  The negativity bitterness is met with also seems to indicate Christians are culpable for their emotions as well.  Things aren’t any better in the TIC.  Sexuality is left alone much more in the TIC but other thoughts get banned.  You enter the tyranny of self-esteem.  Feeling bad about yourself (even if it’s warranted though reasons grounded in anthropology and common sense) is off limits.  And to continue to do so just brings more guilt.  Negative thoughts are almost always seen as bad even though they are often accurate and ground a person in reality.  Treatments try to get deep inside your head and are really invasive with your thought processes with the promise of making you “healthy”.  But often, like a half done house, these mechanics applied poorly are worse than them not being applied at all.  People who can’t play the cognitive tricks needed to succeed in therapy are guilted the same way Christians who don’t experience God are (both require a brain way beyond mine).

Both have an unrealistic expectation for purity.  In Christianity this is obvious, there is an emphasis on sinful things and not being good enough.  In the TIC “unhealthy” replaces sinful as the term to stay away from though they are much less direct about this.  The TIC tends to assume one has the material, social, and emotional resources to live a successful hyper individualistic life and if one happens to fall short of this they aren’t healthy.  They demonize neediness because that implies dependence which is something to stay away from (plus a lot of people would see therapists less if they had good friends).  People of lower means often don’t have access to “healthy relationships”, simply because people who the TIC deems healthy generally don’t associate with people the TIC does not.  Like God’s perfection, being what the TIC calls healthy is an impossible goal only available to a small portion of the population.

Both pretend to care about you when all they want to do is control you.  I understand there are caring therapists and caring people in the faith but these are a minority.  Most people want to exploit and control you, it’s just that in some professions they have to do so while playing lip service to having concern for you.  Remember that the religious people who tell you to take your experience of God seriously won’t be there to pay the mental hospital bills when you do.  And therapists are not bound to what their work produces the way engineers are.  If a bridge fails an engineer will often suffer the consequences.  If a therapist ruins a life no one bats an eye.  In fact because patient confidentiality and the itinerant nature of that kind of care they more often than not will never know.

Yes You Hate Me

Article on Christians’ reaction to the Orlando Shooting:

Believing that I don’t have the right to exist exactly as I am is hatred. Fighting against my civil rights is hatred. Believing that Romans 1 applies to me and that I’m therefore “worthy of death” is hatred. Referring to my existence as an abomination— which has happened to me multiple times over the last few days– is hatred. One man on my public facebook page told me I was abomination, that my existence was just as evil the eyes of God as mass murder, but then two comments later said that he “loved” me and “mourned the deaths in Orlando”!

Three Poisonous Vestiges of Christian Implementation That Live On

Here are three poisonous vestiges of Christian implementation* that people who are no longer in the faith still often exhibit:

The protestant reward ethic.  There was nothing wrong with the protestant work ethic initially, especially when one had a guaranteed way to be a gainful member of society.  When there was a farm there were avenues to be productive by default.  In industrialization where there were jobs as well.  But as time went on implied reward for hard work became part of this ethic.  Eventually the rewards were seen as more important than the work.  A person who is working a tough retail job will be looked down upon in church while a person who got an easy better paying job through connections won’t be (little wonder working class people have been leaving the church).  If you can’t find a job you’ll be treated very bad in the church, particularly if you’re male.

Intolerance.  The intolerance and pettiness of Christian implementation is alive and well in those that have left the faith.  Now these people are just directing their intolerance different places.  Take the flak the moderators of the anti porn subreddit are getting.  Or how shallow and vapid our celebrity culture is and how gleeful we all are to pounce on anyone who offers an opinion that differs from our subculture’s dominant narrative.  The punk live-and-let-live ethos was never a part of Christian implementation (at least in America where people were Christian by default) and unsurprisingly is not part of post-Christian culture either.

Loaded metanarratives.  Most stories are not neutral spaces, particularly the important stories in our lives.  They are are loaded.  There is a right side and a wrong side to them and you’d better expend all your effort making sure you get and stay on the right side of them.  The most obvious of these is the Christian story which presents you with the right side (heaven) and the wrong side (hell), and a choice.  What happened in the late 1800’s is evangelists had sons who went into advertising.  Now the stories involved always being the bridesmaid and never the bride, just for not using the advertised mouthwash.  Because of the massive amount of money to be made, the best of art and science got poured into advertising and it became so good that rebellion became commodified.  Consumer culture may be even more pernicious than religion because by design it doesn’t allow doubt, but does so by making you think you’re thinking for yourself.  The shame and rejection once characterized by hell is mediated through peers channeled from the mass media.

* I say Christian implementation because people defending the faith seem to think that Christianity was pure and got corrupted and thus the corrupted element (including Christians’ behavior) doesn’t count for anything when ascertaining the value of the faith

 

Romanticizing Suffering Part 2

Suffering’s fallout hits men hard.  It’s easier for women to have romantic views of suffering than it is for men.  This is because, while suffering is horrible for either gender, the fallout of suffering hits men particularly bad.  This is because suffering often makes a man a less vocationally successful member of society and there is a lot more stigma for being an unsuccessful man than there is for being an unsuccessful woman.  Men are also expected to be strong and suffering saps strength and often engenders behaviors that in women would be rewarded but in men are seen as weak.  Not that suffering doesn’t hit women hard, it does but in ways that I wouldn’t understand because I’m not a woman.

Suffering hits Christianity at its weakest line of defense.  The problem of evil might not be the biggest problem religious people have to grapple with but it is one of the most existential and a problem everyone has grappled with.  People running the faith made a calculation and decided the best defense is a good offense.  So they turned the tables and called pain good.  This works because generally the people who experience the least pain hold the most power.  And those people drive the narrative.

See: Romanticizing Suffering

 

Unexpected Evangelism Roadblocks

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People trying to get millennials into or back to the faith have their work cut out for them.  Sometimes for reasons they don’t expect:

Psychotropic medications have done a better job at giving us hope, strength, and peace than our experience of God has.  Anti anxiety drugs like Ativan and Xanax give us peace.  Antidepressants like Prozac give us strength and hope.  Antipsychotics like Zyprexa and Seroquel keep demons at bay.  Experience with mental illness and mental illness treatment instills a kind of kinetic materialism; for those of us inside of it it’s difficult to believe we are any more than our brain (keep in mind as many as one in four millennials have a mental illness).  Add to that a lot of us don’t trust our minds and are pretty metacognitive.  This allows us to see the “man behind the curtain” in our supposedly spiritual experiences.

Screen time and isolation have meant that social skills have atrophied.  The same social skills needed to interact with people are ones needed to interact with God.  People without social skills such as those on the autistic spectrum have much higher rates of non religiosity than the general population.  On a more practical level group cohesion is a prerequisite for spreading and nurturing religiosity and in populations with impaired social skills this is a more difficult thing to achieve.

We trust God the way we trust a person.  We keep a stiff upper lip and tell people we don’t need God but deeper down we need him too much.  We took God up on his promises of hope and sustenance because we didn’t have anything to hope for in this world (no career, no stable relationships, no house).  However, when nothing materialized we fell away, but it was because we were often so close to the edge we couldn’t afford to give cart blanch and unlimited second chances to those who didn’t come through.  Rejecting those who don’t come through is a sign of respect (for their word) and we’d expect the same if the situation was reversed and we didn’t come through for them.  This applies to all relationships including our relationship with God.

Meekness is seen as weakness and selected against, even in Christian circles.  We are steeped in culture where people do the most self serving thing and the only way to preempt this is to overpower them.  We’ll do things for nothing like working for free at an internship to get our foot in the door for jobs but we are well aware virtue is weakness.  Then you have women complaining Christian guys are “too nice” and people who care about the state of the world being denigrated as “social justice warriors”.  The only situations where one can be both virtuous and strong is when there are a critical mass of virtuous people around them.  For example at a job which is OK with and supportive of a person having a mental illness.  Or a church where people are actually helping each other.  It’s like the prisoner’s dilemma where if both parties cooperate, there is a good outcome, and if both parties defect, there is a good outcome, but the party who defects always has the upper hand so naturally everyone ends up defecting.

Our definition of truth is often reactionary; a reaction against the way we’ve been lied to.  How we are lied to has informed how we reckon truth.  We have been marketed to and fed B.S. basically from the cradle.  We push against this.  Some of us turn into empiricists, if something is put forth and the evidence says otherwise, then we trust what the evidence points to (when we were 3 we saw that McDonald’s burgers didn’t look like what they did in the commercials).  Others of us come to the conclusion that since we’ve been swimming in a sea of lies for so long, there mustn’t be any truth at all.  Some of us even want to be lied to because we no longer see the truth as a safe space.  What doesn’t usually end up happening is any of us seeing any beauty at all in truth.

Shame has supplanted guilt as the primary corrective force in society.  Religion is largely powered by guilt but modern culture is more powered by shame.  Boomers can’t fathom why a lot of us don’t feel guilt for sleeping around but get worked up over still having a flip phone.  The moral dynamic has changed under their noses.  Shame drives everything partly as an artifact of consumerism (you got shamed into buying things, not guilted into buying them).  Part of the culture’s power is it’s just so potent and pervasive that the shame of resisting it crowds out any guilt we might have felt over what we were going to do.  With guilt there is the possibility of absolution, with shame absolution is a farce.  This makes the gospel, largely a cycle of guilt and absolution, seem strange to us.  We don’t feel guilty and we know we will never be forgiven for the shameful things we do (that is part of what made the Bart Simpson permanent record folder joke so funny).

We often don’t have (and often don’t want) a car.  It’s true one can get rides initially for church functions but as people have become more atomized it’s gotten harder finding people who will give consistent rides places.  Public transportation runs the least on Sundays and even then many churches are in the nicer parts of the suburbs where there is none.

The thought of living forever (even in heaven) creeps a lot of us out.  We’ve been taught not to trust bliss.  Bliss could be bipolar mania or a trip on meth.  Either way there will be consequences.  Eventually the heat death of the universe will happen and there will be nothing again.  We are at peace with the prospect of eventually not existing.