The Lesbian and the Fundamentalists
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Thu Jan 19, 2006 at 04:51:14 PM EST
I am a lesbian, feminist, single mother whose spirituality is closer to New Age and Buddhism than Christianity. This spring I battled the constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and civil unions in Kansas. Imagine my surprise when I realized how much I have in common with fundamentalists.

We don't subscribe to the same theology or the same politics. We might scream at each other if forced into the same room for more than five minutes. However, we do share one important thing: We both sense a hole in our culture.

This hole is the empty place left by the absence of spirit, or if you prefer, religion in American society. It's a hole created by a web of ideas that push people away from pursuing any form of spirituality. If a person is religious, this absence keeps many people, particularly those from the political left, from speaking out about their beliefs.

The hole is widened by the idea that if you can't measure something it doesn't exist. It's deepened by the belief that anyone who is religious is deluded or superstitious and that no sane, educated person would be that way. More than that, this hole is turned into a chasm by the idea that religion has nothing to add to our struggle to survive in a post-9/11, post-Katrina world.

We live in a time where a subway ride can be a death sentence and our government - the so-called good guys -- condone torture. This is a time when the people we voted into power can't even carry out the most basic of governmental tasks, which is to help people after a natural disaster.

Meanwhile, our jobs can be, or already have been, shipped overseas. Technology and culture change so quickly that even an old socially radical, Internet junkie like me can feel out of date in a matter of minutes. (They're doing what at my son's school? What the heck is a podcast?) All of this goes on, of course, against the backdrop of the heartbreak, illness and death -- the normal tragedies of life.

We stand on ground that's shaking beneath our feet, and we have no way of knowing when this quake will end. In all of this, I can't see how we can ignore anything that can bring us some perspective, maybe some solace, and perhaps even a bit of ethical or moral analysis.

More than that, I'm sick and tired of having to justify a belief that is as real to me as the twitter of birds or the crisp smell of fresh snow in my native Michigan. Pretending not to believe is like cutting off my arm and smiling while I hide the fact that I'm bleeding. It is no less destructive to my soul than hiding the fact that I'm a lesbian.

This blog entry is a plea, or perhaps even a challenge, to all those of a secular bent who think only fools have faith: Stop forcing me to lie. Stop ridiculing those who see a nonmaterial world where all you see is material. Stop claiming that talk of morality is based on immature superstition. We who believe are not necessarily your enemy any more than everyone who is secular is always your friend.

It's not the believing that sets us up in opposition. It's what we do with our beliefs.

This is where I part company with many fundamentalists. I believe there are many paths up the mountain to enlightenment, or if you prefer, to God. I believe there are many paths to morality, including secular paths.

The desperate need of some strands of Christianity and Islam to force people to live the same way they do, believe what they believe and to impose their laws on the rest of us is truly terrifying.

This is dictatorship at its worst. Whether imposed by violence, as some Islamic fundamentalists try to do, or by a political takeover, as some Christian fundamentalists want to do here, this impulse to mold everyone into one image could well destroy us all.

I stand in a decidedly odd place.

I am terrified of fundamentalism and the apparent need of some of its followers to destroy the religious freedom that is the foundation of this country. At the same time, I stand with my fundamentalist brothers and sisters in acknowledging the importance of faith and spirit.

As much as we disagree, we do have common ground. Perhaps that can yet save us all.

The differences are these:

No secularist is trying to take your spirituality away from you or to end your human rights to think as you choose.

Fundamentalists are committed to taking your sexual identity away from you and to end your human rights as a lesbian.

by cyncooper on Fri Jan 20, 2006 at 01:57:08 AM EST

As I see it:

 the secularist is looking for a more pragamatic basis for morality..for people can and  have lost their faith..,or "their gear of God".

They fear, and rightly so, that if morality is based solely on the "fear of God's punishment" than when people lose that fear, they will lose that "morality"

 the fundamentalist wants to define for me what my faith is and must be...while enshinring their fears and prejudices in law and society as being in sinc with God's will.

That's why the fundamentalist can say with out shame that a person has a right to be a racist, but for a person to love another consenting adult of the same gender is the most evil act imaginable.
Pax Christi,
Ninure Saunders aka Rainbow Christian

by Ninure on Wed Jan 25, 2006 at 03:00:06 PM EST


I agree with everything you're saying. Well put!

When I was talking about fear, I was attempting to say that some of us progressives may well be suffering from fear of what seems like the terrifying power of the dominationists. Sometimes, I wonder if we are too afraid to try to organize to fight them, or if we fear that the cause is already lost.

by Silver on Wed Jan 25, 2006 at 06:14:07 PM EST

I agree that the differences between most fundamentalists and me are real and extremely frightening.  However, I'm attempting in this essay to begin the discussion about how we can resolve this cultural confrontation without either spilling blood or losing our own souls. Right now, the only first step I can think to take is to acknowledge our shared humanity.

If fundamentalists are never able to see us as human beings who have things in common with them, they will continue to try to destroy us. If we refuse to see them as humans, who are just as frightened as we are, we may well feel that we have to do whatever it takes and turn this into a fight to the death. If that happens - and I wonder how close we are to this now - then what will be the result?

If we all see this only as a Culture War, with heavy emphasis on the "war" part of that term, then we all lose. One side would obviously lose because its way of life would be destroyed. Even the so-called  "victor" would lose, though, because whichever side that is would be required to impose fascist tactics in order to take away the civil rights of the other side. Personally, I don't want to pay either the practical or the spiritual cost for turning myself into a Nazi.

We have to find a way around this nightmare scenario. That way must be both politically practical and emotionally and spiritually sound. (In other words, I have no intention of destroying my core identity just to keep the peace.)

I don't have answers right now. All I have is questions and the need to start a dialogue with wise people like you. I have begun to explore these issues in more detail on my blog, In This Moment. Look particularly at two posts.

Can you be civil when the opposition is fighting to the death?

Why the culture war is a lousy idea

by Silver on Fri Jan 20, 2006 at 10:59:13 AM EST

Oddly, a few weeks ago I wrote a comment along the lines of your "The Culture War is A Lousy Idea" post.

I'd say this - two of the fiercest advocates of civility in political discourse I know, Frederick Clarkson and Chip Berlet, have also been fighting the Christian ( theocratic ) right movement for perhaps 30 years now each  ( they'll correct me if I'm wrong on those numbers, and that's fine. Suffice it to say : a heck of a long time ). But in their shared sensibility - and lexicon - to "fight" does not necessarily mean using invective and demonizing language though it most certainly does mean "working to build effective political opposition."

So much of the attention paid by the left and the non-theocratic center ( when attention is paid at all ) to the Christian supremacy movement is characterized by scorn, ridicule, abject horror, disbelief, and despair.

Very little energy or thought, however, is given to the most important response : building the strength of the opposition through effective political organizing.

by Bruce Wilson on Fri Jan 20, 2006 at 01:48:58 PM EST

Bruce, I like what you say when you comment that  very little energy or thought is being given to building strength through effective organizing.

I suspect that one reason why there's so much ridicule, scorn, etc, is because many folks simply don't understand the spiritual impulse. To them, we seem like we're from another planet when we talk about it. Part of that is because the religious right has monopolized the conversation about religion in this country. They have come to define religion as being only their one narrow brand of Christianity. I think it's up to us to make certain we talk long enough and loud enough to show that religion and spirituality can be quite diverse.

But deep down, I think the real issue is fear. Those of us in the progressive believe-in-seperation-of-church-and-state world are terrified. The right is gaining enormous power. If they were not so powerful, they wouldn't be so frightening.

I wonder if, perhaps, little organizing is going on because so many of us feel helpless. I see it all the time in Kansas. It is assumed that Kansas is ultra conservative, yet from what I can see, in the last 20 years the ONLY people who have been educating and working hard to push their ideas are religious conservatives. No wonder they're winning!

by Silver on Fri Jan 20, 2006 at 04:50:06 PM EST

OK, I'll take the challenge. Had to read your post a couple of times. Given the way you described yourself, I was puzzled by your identification with fundamentalists. Also wondered about some of your assumptions, e.g., that someone who is from the "political left," would necessarily think you "deluded" because of your spirituality and that there is a "hole" in the society because of the lack of religion. Would like to address these concerns from my perspective.

First, you describe yourself as "a lesbian, feminist, single mother whose spirituality is closer to New Age and Buddhism than Christianity." It seems that virtually everything that makes you who you are is something that fundamentalists demean and even demonize. Do you think that at least you share spirituality and they might be accepting of that? My sense is that people on the hard right are not particularly "spiritual" and often cover their fears and bigotry with a robe of religion. They are generally quite intolerant of any brand of religion that is not theirs. Perhaps, in part, you share a weakness with many of us on the left, a syndrome I call "hyper-tolerance." Since we tend to feel that it's important to be respectful of views different from our own, we assume (or hope) that if we're nice and reach out, others will be accepting of us. I think I finally and fully accepted the fact that this is an exercise in futility with theocrats when James Dobson's son, Ryan, published a book titled Be Intolerant. While in most areas and with most people tolerance may be desirable, I think we have to draw the line at being tolerant of intolerance from whatever side it comes. Otherwise we're acting like abused spouses and risk defining ourselves by the views of the abuser.

I wonder about your experiences with people on the "political left" that have given you the impression that you can't speak out and would be rejected because of your spirituality. Haven't seen that with people here or that I know personally or on other blogs such as Street Prophets . It's certainly true that some liberals are rather caustic about religion but I think this is partly a reaction to the Religious Right who have given "Christianity," - and religion generally - a bad name. Some people on the left who tend to paint everyone with a broad brush really don't enough information to be able to discriminate. They need help with that - probably a much better investment of energy than trying to convert confirmed theocrats.

Re: the "hole" in our society left by the absence of religion, I wonder if you have evidence for that or if you've bought the fundamentalists' diagnosis of our societal ills. In actuality, the US is a more religious culture than most developed countries and I know of no convincing data to suggest that less religious countries are burdened by a sense of emptiness. Further, it's a mistake to assume that secularists are particularly empty, lacking in values, see you as an enemy or have more difficulty coping with 9-11, Katrina, or other disasters that befall us than people who are religious. And secularists might be a bit put off if you imply that. Or imply that they are forcing you to lie or ridiculing you.

Some fear in the country is the expected outcome of real events but it has been amplified way out of proportion by an administration that has used it to control and delude citizens, including the religious right, who have further amplified it because that is who they are and it fits with an apocalyptic world view. This is precisely the kind of authoritarian mindset that makes people vulnerable to totalitarian control. It's an interesting phenomenon: fundementalists/authoritarians are fearful but deal with it by being aggressive and trying to instill fear in others. If challenged, they adopt a defensive posture and say they are persecuted. Thus their targets tend to end up either afraid of them and giving them what they want or feeling guilty because they have resisted. If we accept either of their alternatives, we are lost. We cannot be intimidated or feel guilty; we need to protect ourselves and fight back. Rational, critical thinking is essential to resisting this control and making plans to take our country back.

by Psyche on Sat Jan 21, 2006 at 12:27:42 AM EST

Let me reinforce, unequivocally, that those of us on the secular left do not oppose the Christian right because of their religion. We may disagree with them, but totally defend their right to believe what they do. Our opposition is exclusively directed at their desire to impose their faith on everyone, particularly by using state power. To modify FDR's great statement: the only thing we have to be intolerant of is intolerance itself.

by Dave on Sat Jan 21, 2006 at 02:17:25 AM EST

by Psyche on Sat Jan 21, 2006 at 12:30:53 PM EST
It's late in the day, and I'm a bit punchy, so I hope this comes out right. However, I wanted to quickly respond to a couple of other things psyche said.

I believe there are many, many paths up the mountain to both enlightenment and to being a good and moral human being. A secular path is one of the many fine ways to get to the top.

On whether people of faith (even one as non traditional as Buddhism) are ever ridiculed by certain folks in this culture... I'm sorry, but my experience is that it does happen. It has happened to me, and I've seen it happen to other folks, AND I used to participate in it myself much to my unhappiness. Do all secular people feel this way? No, but there is at least one strand of secularism that does believe that only fools can believe.

On the topic of what I called the "hole in society"... this was the least satisfying part of my essay. I'm not certain I have yet said what I truly mean to say. This is my first attempt. Perhaps some folks can give me their ideas. That may be a bit off topic here, so I'd invite you to visit my blog, In This Moment, to discuss it more.

by Silver on Tue Jan 24, 2006 at 06:47:04 PM EST

I didn't suggest that people of faith are never ridiculed - quite the opposite.

by Psyche on Wed Jan 25, 2006 at 01:00:43 AM EST

I appreciate  your different perspective and actually agree with much that you say. I intend to post more on this next week, but am running out right now (Saturday) to spend a delightful weekend away from my computer. However, I did want you to know I'd seen your post, appreciate your views and will respond in more detail when I'm back in town.

by Silver on Sat Jan 21, 2006 at 12:26:48 PM EST

In a 1967 speech, Martin Luther King Jr. spoke about fighting injustice and the meaning of tolerance. He spoke about power and its abuses and about the best way to right wrongs. And he did that by noting one important truth. He said,"Darkness cannot put out darkness."
In other words, hatred cannot defeat hatred. Violence cannot defeat violence.

In my essay "The Lesbian and the Fundamentalists," I wasn't writing to ask fundamentalists to like me. I wasn't writing because I expected them to ever accept me. I wasn't writing because I think the only way to deal with our cultural struggle was or is to be so "tolerant" that we let dominationists destroy us or our country.

I was writing because I had noticed something that was quite bizarre to me. I realized that I actually had something in common with these people who hate me so much.

I wanted to acknowledge our shared humanity. I wanted to let what may only be a handful of
fundamentalists know that  I am not their enemy. (That would be the few religious conservatives who can allow themselves to listen to a queer.)

I am not under the delusion that this will make them like me, or that it will make them stop attempting to destroy me or my family. However, I refuse to battle darkness with darkness. I refuse to demonize the opposition for two very important reasons.

The first is that I think demonizing any political
opposition simply doesn't work from a practical, political point of view. My perspective comes from my experience in the cold, hard, crass world of politics.

I worked for years as a political reporter for a Knight-Ridder newspaper. I was press secretary for a candidate for governor in Kansas. Last year I ran the communications operation for the campaign to defeat the amendment banning same-sex marriage in Kansas. I serve on two political boards, and am currently vice chair of the first statewide organization fighting for equal rights for GLBT Kansans, the Kansas Equality Coalition. I've also worked as a public relations consultant for foundations and companies.

Now I'm not crazy -- or well, maybe I am given that I work in gay rights in Kansas -- but I'm not a political babe in the woods. I KNOW that a political message based on demonizing, or in today's
slang: "swift-boating" someone, can work. That message can move votes and actions.

But right now in this discussion, we're not talking about the message we're sending out. We're talking
about how we ourselves think about our opposition. The worst thing a campaign can do is to take a simplistic view of the people they have to reach. In order to fight effectively, you have to understand.

One of the political mistakes I think we make is to view religious conservatives as being monolithic and
identical. A 2004 survey of white evangelicals done for PBS' Religion and Ethics NewsWeekly shows
that isn't true. (You can find the survey here One of the results that floors me is that 10 percent of the evangelicals actually approveof same-sex marriage. Yes, I know 10 percent is tiny number, but supporting same-sex marriage has got to be the most radical social position an individual can take today, and yet, here are religious conservatives who agree with me.  Interestingly enough, only 42 percent of white evangelicals even approve of a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. Honestly, I would have thought the numbers on both of those questions would have been 100 percent.

The survey also reports that religious conservatives aren't uniform in their attitudes about their own leaders. While 76 percent rank James Dobson favorably (a rating which does worry me), only 55 percent think favorably of Pat Robertson.)

These numbers don't mean that evangelicals will be rushing out to vote for my rights anytime soon, but they do show that religious conservatives don't all think the same. Therefore, to approach them as if they do is a serious political error.

In watching religious conservatives here in Kansas, even in watching those who want to dominate us,
I've noticed that they break down into three main groups.

The first are those who simply want power, and may or may not agree with their own message. However, they can see that this kind of fear-based religion and politics is a way to control people. We will never win these people over.

The second are those who are so psychologically damaged that they feel that they must belong to a group with strict rules, harsh punishments and the certainty that everyone else is going to hell. These folks do not feel safe unless everyone agrees with them. They have an innate need to dominate, and there is nothing we can do to reach them.

The third group, though, are people who just want to have the freedom to worship the way they want. Their leaders have so terrified them that they truly think they're fighting a war for their own survival. Because of that, these folks think they have to dominate us or we will destroy them and take away their Bibles and their churches. These are the people we might well be able to reach. Even convincing a few of them can make a huge difference in our culture.

I also believe that demonizing the opposition hurts us with an important constituency: the many
middle-of-the-road Americans who simply want to live in peaceful coexistence with their neighbors.
If we fight evil by using evil methods, I believe it will ultimately lead this vast middle to believe that we are no different than the people we fight. If we cannot show that we are differnt than those who seek to impose a theocracy on this nation, then these good people will never support us. Instead, they will turn away in disgust. They won't go to the polls, and we will lose. In part, this is what has happened to the political parties. Many folks label the parties as being equally bad, so they don't vote and, well, we end up with the kind of disastrous government we've got right now.

Finally, I believe that refusing to acknowledge our shared humanity with our opposition does damage to our souls. It makes us shut down part of ourselves. We do to ourselves what soldiers
are forced to do. They must turn off their natural ability to feel and emphathize and deny the humanity of their opponents in order to kill them. I have no intention of doing that to myself.

Psyche, you note, that "we cannot be intimidated or feel guilty: we need to protect ourselves and fight back."

I agree with you completely.

But I think you misunderstand me. Acknowledging my shared humanity with those who would seek to
destroy me has nothing to do with feeling intimated or guilty. It doesn't even have anything to do with being tolerant. I DO have something in common with them, but I refuse to tolerate their actions. I fight by knowing we share much, by knowing many of them are probably just as frightened as I am, but I also fight by speaking MY truth and by organizing.  

This reply has already gotten too long, so I will save the second issue you raised about secularists
approach to people of faith for another post.

by Silver on Mon Jan 23, 2006 at 01:09:47 PM EST

At least in this respect. You say:

One of the political mistakes I think we make is to view religious conservatives as being monolithic and identical.

I've seen little of this attitude here and when it's expressed, it tends to get challenged. This site seems to be particularly careful about sorting out the different streams of Christianity/conservatives. If you think someone here is painting with a broad brush, it's important to say so but would avoid statements about what "we" think.

by Psyche on Mon Jan 23, 2006 at 04:16:46 PM EST

I most decidedly appreciate the ideas and information I have seen posted here, and I look forward to reading more of them.

When I said "we," I was referring to what I have seen outside of this site from many of the progressives/liberals I have worked with in the last 20 years.  Obviously, "we" liberals are a diverse group. My perceptions are only my own and only apply to those people I've worked with.

Psyche, I'm interested in what you think of the other ideas in the post. How would you pick them a part? Do you agree or disagree?

FYI, if you'd like to see more about my ideas on this subject, please visit my blog, In This Moment You might be particularly interested in The Fundamentalists Bad Bet

by Silver on Mon Jan 23, 2006 at 06:33:11 PM EST

As someone who is not only pagan but bi and trans to boot, my issues with dominionism are rather less "faith based", and more towards the following:

a) The fact that dominionism, especially the particular flavours of dominionism practiced in pente and "charismatic" neopentecostal groups, is coercive and spiritually abusive

b) There is quite a bit of evidence (if one goes to the very root of dominionism, the "Christian Reconstructionist" movements among "fundamentalist Baptist" groups and "dominion theology" in pente groups (especially the Assemblies of God and the "independent" neopentecostal groups)) that dominionism itself can be argued to be an extension of coercive and abusive practices that are endemic in those particular religious movements

c) The fact that the dominionist movement is using the fear of others to legislate abusive and coercive tactics into the very letter of the law and establishing a de facto theocracy run by groups that have frightening parallels to other abusive groups

I speak on this from a rather different perspective than most, I'll admit.  I was raised in an Assemblies church that was (and to large extent still is) the de facto center of the dominionist movement in my state.  I survived 26 years of religiously motivated abuse (including physical, mental, emotional and spiritual) from both the church and from parents who were quite convinced they were doing the "right thing"; to this day, I dare not ever use my real name on forums where I post in regards to dominionism nor do I dare ever "out" myself to my family as either bi or pagan (much less that I am essentially a bi man in a woman's body who is a very, very eclectic pagan!) because I could be at "real life" risk of harm--at the least by people in my church stalking and harassing me, and possibly even via involuntary exorcism.  My family has enough of a documented history of attempting "annointings" and deathbed conversions (both by my mom directly and especially by the pastor of the church I'm walking away from) that I'm investigating legal options to specifically exclude anyone from the church I walked away from being involved in any care, end-of-life decision making, etc. and am even investigating methods to essentially prevent anyone from that church contacting me if I am in hospital.

One of the things I began to realise (when I started working with anti-censorship and anti-hate groups against dominionists) is that--again, I can't speak for the SBC but with the pentes in particular--the tactics that are used by dominionists are, very often, almost identical to those used by other abusive groups like Scientology, Aum Shinrikyo, the Moonies, etc.  (Yes, this even includes political movements trying to establish theocracies--Scientology, Aum, and the Moonies all have theologies that essentially call for theocracies to be established by any  means necessary.  The Moonies have even explicitly helped non-Moonie dominionist groups.)

In my case, it's not the spirituality that bugs me.  It's the abuse inherent in dominionism.  It hurts other people, it hurts its own members longterm, it gravely harms kids raised in it (sometimes to the point that they can't function outside of dominionist society--which is why the pressure to isolate and indoctrinate kids is especially worrisome to me).  It is a system based almost entirely on hatred and fear designed to keep people in control, where people are alternately "love-bombed" and terrified out of their minds to keep them in line, keep them from questioning, and keep them supplying money and resources (including "sweat equity") to their cause.  And because they are playing off base emotions like fear, anger and the need for comfort and protection, logic often has little to do with it.  (There's a reason so many dominionist groups use "Family" and "Heritage" in their names--groups like Focus on the Family are focusing on the fear that Something Bad could happen to your family and using that as a tool for recruitment and indoctrination, and lovebombing people by saying "We can keep your family safe from all the bad stuff out there".  Very much reptilian-brain stuff.)

This is one reason I have posted a lot on the specifically spiritually abusive tactics used by dominionist groups--the tactics are the same used by other spiritually abusive groups that don't wrap up the abusive methods in the Bible (and really, that's all they are doing--preaching abuse and wrapping it up in the very book that Christians hold to be the Word of God).  The problem isn't Christianity at all.  The problem is that they are abusive and they want to mandate that abuse in law, and they give justifications for that abuse by twisting the Bible.

This is one reason I don't refer to dominionism as particularly Christian.  To be honest, I see dominion theology (as practiced in pente churches, and which is being spread to the SBC and mainstream churches) as, put it bluntly, cultic.  Spiritually abusive.  (People are less likely to term it a spiritually abusive group, largely because the dominionist movement itself is large and includes several large denominations of Protestant "Christianity".)  Pushers of dominion theology are pushers of a religion of hate that is at its core the same as many, many other spiritually abusive movements, and covering it with a veneer of twisted Scripture.

One of my hopes I've had (in posting examples of how "scripture twisting" occurs, the abusive practices, etc.) is that mainstream, spiritual Christianity--what I refer to as "sane Christianity"--can use this to show that what is being practiced by dominionists is not Christian.  Heck, a lot of what I've posted from (especially regarding the history of dominion theology) has been from various Christian apologetics sites because that's some of the best resources--and sometimes, the only resources--out there documenting this.

I myself DO think there's a role for the spiritual Christian in fighting dominionism.  In fact, to be honest, I think a huge part of whether or not dominionism actually "wins" is going to depend on mainstream Christianity--the sane, spiritual Christians who are sick to death of seeing the Word of God warped by the dominionists--getting mad enough to start raising holy hell and indulging in a bit of "spiritual warfare" against their tactics on their own.  (This is why I am so encouraged by the pastors of 34 churches filing IRS complaints against the two churches at the center of the Ohio Restoration Movement.  If there were more of this, both from pastors and from congregations saying "NO MORE" we would have the dominionists on the run.)

I in fact was actually encouraged to post on dominionism and my experiences in a dominionist church by someone whom I respect very much--enough to consider him my brother, really.  He is bi, is also trans, and--of note--is also Catholic.  (Yes, he does disagree re the Church's position on homosexuality and transgendered persons.  There are aspects of church theology he very much believes in, however.)  In fact, he suggested in part I write so that it could be distributed in churches to show people that dominionism is not a thing of God.  So that people could see what they were really supporting if they supported groups like Focus on the Family or the American Family Association.  To teach people who were confirmed Christians, who wanted to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, who actually thought on a daily basis what Jesus would do in a situation--to warn them of the false prophets in their midst, so to speak.

I'll say it now to all of you folks in "sane Christianity"--the Catholics, the mainstream Christians, the conservative Evangelicals who have a real problem with things like the AFA being promoted in your churches--you guys are going to make or break the fight against dominionist hijacking of Christianity and of the country.  Seriously.  The more you can educate, teach, get your groups "fired up for God" against the dominionists who would use the very word of God as a mere veneer for a culture and religion of hatred and fear and manipulation--the better chance we ALL are going to have.  Seriously.

I myself am probably never going to be comfortable in a church or consider myself Christian (yes, I respect Jesus deeply.  I've just been, sadly, too badly burned) but I think it's going to be the Christians who are going to need to fight the hardest.  Don't let other folks end up like me.  Run the moneylenders and theocrats out of the temples, out of the storehouses.  Teach your people that these groups are not things of God.  Show them the way.  As the Dine' might put it, show them a path of beauty.

by dogemperor on Sat Jan 21, 2006 at 03:37:20 PM EST

Thank you so much for your amazing courage in both surviving the trauma of your religious background and in having the courage to speak openly about it. You have such an important battle to fight: to teach about how religion can be used to destroy people. I honor you, and I second your call for all people of faith to speak truth.

by Silver on Mon Jan 23, 2006 at 01:26:12 PM EST

 I agree with you, we have to fight fire with fire to get the dominionists out of control... reading earlier posts on how the religious right moved  up and organized  it's way  to take over the the republican party . Why can't we learn from their tactics and do the same thing....If they could move and organize and get evangelicals to vote for the candidate they favor and I read they could mobilize several millions to vote, why doesn't the religious left use the same tactics to  fight fire with fire? I'm not saying to dominate and control a certain party but to kick the religious right out..Get more of mainstream Americans to see through their games, educate them about dominionists and their potential danger they are and get them  to vote for candidates who support democracy and religious freedom and uphold our constitution... People also need to be educated about the spiritually abusive practices of these cults as well. So they can avoid them or their churches.Knowlege is power, the more we know about them the less power they have over people's lives... Indeed you are correct in calling the dominionists cultish, their leaders have the same charisma as well known cult leaders such as Jim Jones or David Koresh, they seem to have  this power over their followers who would do anything they suggested... How dangerous...... People are like blind puppets who believe these type of people and will do anything they say....

by akaladystar on Sun Feb 05, 2006 at 01:16:10 AM EST

I think the "hole" is a strawman. Religion and spirituality are not the same in my opinion, but neither belong in politics or policy. Whether someone is a liberal or a conservative who believes in an invisable friend or friends does not affect me.

It is difficult discussing US society and/or policy from a rational or logical perspective and having your point of view dismissed as "secular" because of ridiculous arguments and/or fears. When did secular become a negative term? Many deeply religious people are secular when it comes to government or policy.

Another point to consider:

Does NASA consult with alien abductees or alien channelers before a launch? Do homebuilders consult with ghosthunters before building? Of course not, but that is how it comes across to some secular advocates when debating or discussing morality and culture when religion or spirituality are thrown into the discussion.

by rational on Sat Jan 28, 2006 at 05:26:47 PM EST

Haven't known of people to consult ghostbusters before building houses, but I have heard of architectural firms in Hong Kong and even their American branches here specifically hiring feng-shui geomancers to measure the best orientation of a building for good qi :3  So it's not unheard of.

Anyways, this isn't about that.  Quite a number of folks actually don't think religion should mix with politics, and yet are quite spiritual people.

The difference, methinks, is that non-dominionists use their spirituality to guide them in how to live in general in walking a "path of beauty"--of generally doing right by one's self, one's Powers (assuming one follows a path that even recognises Powers--some, like some sects of Buddhism and Deism, don't acknowledge a "god" as, say, Christian or even Hindu or animist sects recognise gods), and one's fellow beings.  Examples of this would be Jimmy Carter and his humanitarian activism after his presidency (which is actually based on his own spirituality, but it's not something he ramrods down your throat).  It's not seen as something that needs to be written as the law of the land, people are free to follow it or not as long as they don't hurt other people.

Dominionists (and other spiritually abusive groups too, but that's kind of a tangent) follow a path where much of the base belief system is based on not only an us-versus-them viewpoint but (in dominion theology explicitly) a mentality that the world must be converted--willing or not--using the force of law or other methods of coercion, if necessary.  

People who use their own spirituality as a guide to "good behaviour" still see people who don't share their belief system as human.

Dominionists and other spiritually abusive groups literally demonise anyone outside of the group, especially critics or people who have left the group.  (In an Amway seminar--Amway being a coercive business group that has very tight links with dominionism, both in funding and in promotion by dominionists, and which has promoted the pentecostal variants of dominion theology--a person who was at a fairly high level in the org who merely looked up critical articles regarding a controversy was literally called "Satan-possessed".  This type of demonisation is becoming increasingly common even in groups relatively new to the dominionist movement such as the Southern Baptist Convention.)

Ironically, a major part of my "moral code" is that if a group is using deceitful and harmful tactics to either gain power or recruit members one should warn about it.  (This is coloured by my being raised in a spiritually abusive group, and is one of the reasons I'm so outspoken about dominionism and in particular the spiritually abusive tactics used to recruit and keep members in dominionist groups.)  

I think this is the general difference that we're trying to note--one can be intensely spiritual and at the same time be intensely against having religious beliefs encoded into law.  (If anything, I'm personally inclined to say the existing "wall of separation" needs to be strengthened even more, but that's a delicate balancing act.  The big problem is with spiritually abusive groups with political aspirations--the dominionists, the Moonies, the Taliban, the Scientologists, et al--that cause the problems, and the big problem with those groups is much more in that they use the same core framework of spiritually abusive tactics whilst wrapping them up in different dressings to justify the abuse.)

by dogemperor on Sun Jan 29, 2006 at 02:20:10 AM EST

You wish to be open about your faith and sexual identity but do not believe in imposing those choices you have made on others by force : you believe in the rights of others to freedom of belief and to religious liberty.

Yes, I also perceive a hole - or holes - in American culture. I do not watch television, I buy few things because I want less and I can repair the things I own. I acknowledge that, in how I live my life, I have much in common  with many a Christian right homeschooling family.

Along one axis, I share values with many on the Christian right who endeavour to live simply, to be self reliant, to live apart from the grotesque material excess of American consumer culture.

On another axis, I differ - well - fundamentally - in beliefs and values I share with you and others on this site -  in my unwillingness to forcibly impose my religious or spiritual faith ( or lack thereof ) on others - my belief in religious liberty - and in my support for the rights of minorities within society, my support for Democratic pluralism.

by Bruce Wilson on Thu Jan 19, 2006 at 06:42:46 PM EST

This essay was one of the most difficult I've ever written, and I've been working as a professional writer for more than 30 years now. What was hard was actually "coming out" as spiritual and committing the blasphemy of saying that even as a lesbian, I have something in common with people who are working so hard to destroy me.

Honestly, I wasn't certain who was going to attack me first: fundamentalists, lesbians or those who follow a secular path. So far, though, the piece has received positive responses, or at least, those who disagree are being polite about it.

The point is that we do have much in common with our political enemies. They are  human, just like we're human. They believe in the importance of the life of the spirit, just as we do.

If we can't begin to see that, and if we can't find a way to convince them of that, then the only solution will be for one side to destroy the other. What will most likely happen is that both will be destroyed if we can't find a way to acknowledge our shared humanity and learn to leave in peaceful coexistence.

by Silver on Fri Jan 20, 2006 at 10:31:35 AM EST

I think you'll find that part of the underlying ethic and philosophy of this site - and part of the underlying political strategy - involves the idea that we do indeed share things in common with even our worst foes and, further, that we must extend civility to our political enemies. If we fail to do that, and employ demonizing language, we simply feed the growth of hostility and polarization in the American political and cultural climate.

Here's a wonderful piece by Chip Berlet on this issue you raise :

Stop Labeling and Start Organizing!

 More than a decade ago I sat in a conference room in Washington D.C. and was told I had to start using the phrase "religious political extremist." This was the new way for people on the political left to frame our opponents on the political right. It made me unhappy. I already had problems with language such as "radical religious right," "lunatic fringe," and "wing-nut." This new phrase just seemed wrong to me.

I'm uncomfortable when I hear people of sincere religious faith described as religious political extremists.What does that term mean? I worry that many people hear it as a term of derision that says we're good and they're bad. There is no topical content. It's a label that says folks are outside the mainstream; and it lumps together leaders and followers, and blurs distinctions within the Christian Right that I think are important.....

Polls show that most people in the United States do not agree with the narrow legislative agenda of the leaders of the Christian Right. Polls also show that most people think of themselves as part of an organized religion, and that as many as 100 million of our neighbors think of themselves as Christian evangelicals or "born again." Why would an organizer start out by offending half their potential audience with language that is abrasive?

by Bruce Wilson on Fri Jan 20, 2006 at 01:33:30 PM EST

to feel silenced about your spirituality, and to yearn for true community where you can come out as a religious person, without having to check your brain or your identity at the door. Yet it takes courage to own our spirituality in front of secular friends who sometimes act dismissive or belittling, just as it takes courage for you to come out as a lesbian before some religious folks who might disapprove. However, there are spiritual communities and churches that are open, inclusive, and affirming, where everyone is welcomed and celebrated for who God made them to be. In my essay, "Wake up, Neo!" I point to this diary, suggesting that:
...we can show our fellow Americans that it is possible to seek spirituality and intellectual honesty at the same time. As Silver suggests in her diary, "The Lesbian and the Fundamentalist," we can build community around people who want it all -- spirituality, morality, and intellectual integrity.

by jhutson on Fri Jan 20, 2006 at 10:52:16 AM EST

Thanks Silver for starting this interesting and important conversation. Michael Lerner expresses some similar thoughts in Tikkun magazine.

by Carlos on Fri Jan 20, 2006 at 01:15:53 PM EST

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