We’ve been talking lately about Kirk Cameron’s horrible new movie, Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas, and I wanted to touch on something I’ve been noticing all too often in toxic Christianity: this propensity toward coming up with tons of justifications for being shitbags to other people.
Jesus is supposed to have left some very explicit instructions to his followers:
* ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Luke 10:27)
* Feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, and beer the beerless (Matthew 25:35)
* Sell everything you own (Mark 10:21)
* Pray in private, not in public (Matthew 6:6)
* Do not resist an evil person who does something violent to you (Matthew 5:39)
* If sued for your coat, give that person your shirt too (Matthew 5:40)
* If a soldier demands you carry his gear a mile for him, carry it for two instead (Matthew 5:41)
* Whatever someone asks of you give it, and never turn down anybody who wants money (Matthew 5:42)
* Love your enemies and pray for anybody persecuting you (Matthew 5:44)
How much of this list even looks like anything in the loudmouthed varieties of Christianity we see nowadays? This list of Bible verses–all drawn from the Gospels, all supposedly stuff Jesus himself told his followers–describes a religion of self-denial, meekness, quiet servitude, and a truly alarming level of charity. Now, I don’t actually think personally that Jesus told his followers to do these things; I doubt anything ascribed to Jesus in the Bible actually is anything the founder of Christianity–whoever he was–said or did or taught. But Christians think he said those things, and Christians are ostensibly trying to follow his commandments, and even they aren’t doing any of this stuff despite being warned that if they do not, they will be cast out of his sight forever after death.
Indeed, here is the list of things in the Bible that Christians are told specifically, by their own Savior, will not earn them a mansion in Heaven, besides the obvious (the Bible verses listed cover between them all of the items on this list):
* Prophesying in his name,
* Performing exorcisms, and
* Performing miracles (Matthew 7:22);
* Eating and drinking in Jesus’ presence, as in Communion and fellowship, and
* Listening to Jesus’ teachings (Luke 13:26).
I’m listing all these things because I want to stress that even Christians, who generally believe in eternal punishments for not heeding the Bible’s threats and demands, not only totally ignore the Bible’s specific commands to them but actually practice the forms of religion that have been categorically stated to be what will keep them from reaching Heaven.
I’ve been saying for a while that modern Christianity as practiced by modern Christians bears very little resemblance to anything Jesus taught–but nowhere do we see that difference more starkly than in recent statements and actions from the Religious Right.
From the media arm of the Toxic Christian wing-nut-o-sphere, we have Fox News hosts informing viewers that “your kids are getting shafted” by schools feeding the children of illegal immigrants. Her lip curled contemptuously and eyebrows raised in a very Jesus-y faux-concerned way, the verrrrry verrrry concerned (and slender, blonde, well-dressed, and tanned) Anna Kooiman
fearmongered asked rhetorically concerning illegal immigrants,
Many of them are living in poverty. So, they’re going to be on free or reduced lunch. So, who’s going to be paying for that? You’re going to be paying for that.
Really? Is she really sure this is such a hardship for our government and taxpayers? Well, let’s head over to actual facts, where we discover that the federal government spends about USD$10Bn on school lunches. That sounds like quite a lot, yes. But we missed USD$92Bn by giving out corporate tax breaks in 2006, a number which grew to a simply staggering USD$154Bn in 2013. Border security costs us about USD$12Bn a year. The Iraq war alone (the one that ran from 2003-2010) cost us USD$757Bn just in direct spending alone, not counting interest on loans and whatnot. And all of that is stuff Jesus specifically stood against: materialism, commercialism, war, ostracism, and violence, whereas school lunches feed hungry children so they can learn which you’d think Christians would be all about.
Of course, for that USD$10Bn, the lunches produced on such a shoestring are of varying quality and appeal, but you needn’t worry: the Jesus Party’s self-elected ambassadors are also happy to blame kids for not wanting to eat unappetizing, cold food that nobody sane would ever want to eat–reminds one of that Disney movie The Three Musketeers where the nasty, evil, selfish king gave rotten, putrid food to the peasantry and then got angry when they wouldn’t touch it, doesn’t it? It’s quite a charming, heartwarming little anecdote of Christian mercy and charity for the current age, isn’t it? And that king is what modern Christians today are like. If that king were Pat Robertson or Ted Cruz they’d all cheer him on and openly damn those poor peasants for their lack of gratitude.
What should shock and surprise us is that Fox News, that bastion of toxic Christianity, is blaming poor people for the whole nation being higgledy-piggledy while ignoring the larger and way fatter elephants in the room. Their religion specifically told them to feed hungry people or risk going to Hell. They think their Savior specifically told them not to hurt people and not to fight against persecution. They think he specifically told them not to fight or to even defend themselves. But we’re not shocked at all to learn that they’re busy defending corporate fat cats to the skies and demonizing the very people they were told to help.
Modern Christianity is a tribal religion meant to express dominance over others. That’s it. It’s not about helping the poor or comforting those who are hurting. It’s not even about serving Jesus, if ever it was. Indeed, perhaps that ideal never really did play out in reality for most of the people who encountered its earliest incarnations. Maybe even back then people got presented a picture of a religion that posed as “the angle” that would give them a leg up that their pagan neighbors would never get.
No, modern Christianity is about controlling people in the name of doing so “for their own good.” It’s about lavishly displaying one’s wealth and resources in the name of “showing off the Lord’s blessings.” It’s about lying and deceiving people “to bring them closer to Christ.” And its adherents have evolved some truly sophisticated rationalizations for why they are totally ignoring the direct, easy-to-understand commandments of no less than their Lord and Savior.
I’ve seen them redefine love to allow themselves to hurt marginalized people, control them, deny them basic human rights, and try to take away everything they love out of sheer pernicious hatred and greed and control-lust.
I’ve seen them redefine “serving” to mean having to own a 3500-square-foot McMansion with all the trimmings (pergraniteel everything, “bonus room,” wine cellar, and a three car drive-through garage)–because huge mansions are “a gift from God”.
I’ve seen them redefine “the meaning of Christmas”–a desperately poor foreign baby born in a stranger’s barn in a strange city under the sketchiest of circumstances who was meant to unite a god with his failed creation, for good or for ill–to allow themselves to revel in crass consumerism and showy displays of gaudy, tacky, glitzy, shiny, sparkly wealth.
I regularly encounter Christians who sanctimoniously point to how utterly broken and flawed they are but follow it up immediately with a request that I not look closely at the sins they are committing but instead just take their word for it that their religion is the correct one and that its threats and promises are true even though they very clearly do not take those threats and promises seriously themselves.
We should be very wary indeed of Christians who condemn the idea of feeding the hungry and comforting the hurting and who live lives that Jesus himself–as presented in the Gospels–would condemn in nothing but the strongest terms. We should be calling out Christians who rail against charity efforts and who blame the poor for being poor after creating a system that all but guarantees that poor people will be victimized harder and harder as time goes on.
These Christian hypocrites are the symptom of the disease infecting their religion, and until this infection is stamped out, their religion is going to continue to slide into irrelevance.
Do you want to know what the disease is? I know they’re not interested in knowing–but are you?
It’s this: The religion toxic Christians say they follow isn’t valid. It makes claims that aren’t true and its practice creates an environment that is not good or healthy for people or sustainable for a civilized society. And the people who keep trying to follow it will strew only abuse and dysfunction in their wake because that is the only fruit that can possibly come of such corrupted seed.
Not all Christians buy into the toxic flavors of the religion (thank goodness!), but the ones who do are in a real quandary. If they actually follow it to the letter they will miss out on a lot of fun things, but even more importantly they will not be able to control other people quite so easily or get away with threatening and abusing them. They certainly won’t be the most important fish in the pond anymore if they lose the toxic elements of their religion. They’ll have no imagined right to dominate anybody else. And they can’t have any of that. So they put diacritical marks over their Bibles and shred them up like River Tam did in Firefly, negating and ignoring the inconvenient, problematic verses that stop them from doing what they really wanted to do anyway.
So when they get reminded that their showy, ostentatious displays of wealth during the holidays aren’t very Christian, they’ll come up with entire movies to totally explain why they should–no, why they actually totally must–have showy, ostentatious displays of wealth during the holidays.
When they get reminded that refusing to feed the hungry goes against what Jesus specifically told them to do, they’ll come up with all kinds of reasons why they shouldn’t feed the hungry.
When they get reminded that Jesus also said to give shelter to the homeless, they’ll find reasons not to do that either, and the same goes for never resisting persecution or fighting back against those who try to take what is theirs. Oh, double and triple it goes for those two things. Those are really hard things to do! Best to ignore those commands or find some way out of doing them that’s both snide and hateful–oh, those most wondrous of all toxic Christian virtues! Same for getting divorced; the Bible’s pretty specific about divorce, but most Christians don’t feel compelled to follow those verses when they get in the way.
When they hear that they’re supposed to pray in private, not showboat in public, they’ll come up with rafts of rationalizations for why they need to showboat in public. Bonus points if those prayers terrify non-Christians and make them afraid for their personal physical safety, because nothing says “the love of Jesus” like making someone afraid of meeting with violence at the hands of the sanctimonious, pious, zealous, Jesus-smile-wearing ambassadors of the Prince of Peace and Lord of Love.
When they get reminded that Jesus told them to love their neighbors, they’ll just redefine love to include abusing and controlling their neighbors, especially if that redefinition lets them take vicious advantage of people’s hospitality and friendship to proselytize at them, which is a lot more fun for those sorts of Christians anyway.
When they get reminded that Jesus hated wealth and had absolutely unmistakeable opinions about rich people, they’ll come up with all sorts of reasons why it’s okay for them to be wealthy, because being poor.. well, see below, but being poor is the worst.
They’ll raise up huge, gaudy idols–sorry, monuments–to their religion and make us all wonder how many starving kids they could have fed with that money. (They’re not being graded by their god on their architecture or the size of their megachurch buildings, but on their love and charity–so I see no reason why I should evaluate them differently.)
They’ll rail against poor people and begrudge them every single nickle and penny parsed out from squeaking-tight purses, then judge any person receiving charity for every little way those poor people choose to spend that money, even screaming and yelling and sniping at total strangers in supermarket checkout lines to shame someone who’s already ashamed enough as it is–because giving someone charity automatically means that every single person in society gets to oversee the private decisions and personal lives of any person receiving that tiny bit of charity, and toxic Christians have internalized very well the lesson that all poor people, whether receiving public assistance or not, are evil scumbag sub-humans who bear the Mark of Cain and so therefore are totally safe targets to abuse.
They’ll short their own children as much as they humanly can in schools, then blame illegal immigrants for taking all the money that their oh-so-special kids should have gotten instead instead of providing enough money to feed everybody.
They’ll shriek and whine about “religious freedom” when it’s painfully obvious that what they really want is the power to trample other people’s religious choices and impose their desires on everybody else, like it or not.
In the absence of real persecution they’ll just make up first-world-style false persecution to make their own whining and hand-wringing seem less insufferable, then get even angrier and feel even more “persecuted” when nobody takes their stories seriously.
They’ll lie about science to their own children, hobbling and shackling those glorious little minds from reaching their full potential, and they will even physically hurt those children for the slightest display of courage or defiance or curiosity, all in the name of “training up a child the way he should go.” And oh, we could do post after post about how Christians hurt children in the name of “loving” them and “training them up,” but this post is getting long enough as it is.
Yeah, I think I see exactly what “the meaning of the season” is for Christians like the ones I’ve described.
It’s FUCK ALL’A Y’ALL, I’MA GET MINE.
I prefer my holidays a little freer of rank hypocrisy, deliberate ignorance, and outright evil than that.