Mike Warnke and Marriage Equality

Mike Warnke was a con artist. He traveled the country for years, packing the pews of evangelical churches with his message of salvation from Satan, selling thousands of books and records while hauling in millions in donations for the children he had supposedly rescued from the clutches of Satan-worshipping abusers.

Warnke arrived in churches like Harold Hill from The Music Man — as charming and charismatically beguiling as any con artist could be. “You’ve got trouble right here in River City,” he sang. “With a capital T that rhymes with B that stands for Beelzebub!” And he’d gradually segue from lighthearted jokes, mostly at his own expense, into gruesome tales of his dark past as a satanic high priest — stories of drug-fueled orgies and grisly rituals of bloodletting, torture and human sacrifice.

And none of it was true.

Warnke’s lies eventually unraveled. His unbelievable stories — for which he never produced a shred of evidence — proved to be chronologically impossible and were refuted by dozens of eyewitnesses who knew him throughout the time he was supposedly a satanic high priest with six-inch fingernails. The supposed “satanic church” to which he claimed to belong never existed. Nor did the children he was raising all that money to rescue. He was, quite simply, a fraud — a huckster whose lies convinced millions to buy his books and to hand over their money to help him combat an evil menace that never existed.

I’ve written about Mike Warnke before, and about the scrupulous yeoman’s work performed by journalists Mike Hertenstein and Jon Trott of Cornerstone magazine, who exposed his fraud, first in a detailed, 20,000-word article and then, even more expansively, in their excellent book Selling Satan: The Evangelical Media and the Mike Warnke Scandal. Their careful, painstaking work brought Warnke’s long-running con game to an end. You can read much of their work online at The Cornerstone series on Mike Warnke, and if that interests you, let me again recommend Selling Satan as a fascinating, thorough and yet deeply compassionate exposé.

Hertenstein and Trott marshal their evidence to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that Warnke was selling a lie and no reader could ask for a more comprehensive account of the supply side of that story.

But a similar account of the demand side still waits to be written. What was it about the lie that Mike Warnke was selling that made so many hundreds of thousands of evangelicals so desperate to buy it? If “Selling Satan” was a scandal, isn’t Buying Satan an even more scandalous, more disturbing phenomenon? What was the attraction? What made Warnke’s horrifying, lurid tales something that his eager audience wanted to be true?

Thanks to the valiant work of Hertenstein and Trott, Mike Warnke has gone away (mostly).

But that huge eager audience he tapped into is still there. The fascination or temptation or corruption that made so many evangelicals so enthusiastically gullible, so willing and eager to believe stories of imaginary monsters, is just as pervasive and popular as it was in Warnke’s heyday.

That demand-side aspect of the story is a much stranger phenomenon than the supply-side con game Mike Warnke was running. It’s not hard to understand what he was after or what he gained from selling his lies. He got rich and famous and lived the life of a rock star.

But what did his audience gain? What were they chasing after in choosing to believe his unbelievable and implausible tales?

I’ve wrestled with this question before when considering other scary stories, such as the ridiculous but persistent lies about Procter & Gamble (see earlier: False Witnesses and False Witnesses II) and I’ve speculated about some of what might motivate people to choose to believe scary stories they know to be false.

First, and perhaps most innocently, such scary stories are exciting. Most of us have, at some point, found delight or diversion in thrilling stories of monsters in the dark woods beyond the village. From Beowulf to Bilbo Baggins to Buffy to the BAU, we enjoy stories of monsters and the exciting lives of those who do battle with them.

For those who, in Thoreau’s phrase, “lead lives of quiet desperation,” those exciting stories of scary monsters can seem almost preferable to our safer, but duller, daily existence. For them the temptation can be to accept such stories as true in an effort to make life more exciting or meaningful. (For an illustration of how widespread such desperate credulity is, tune in to Coast to Coast with George Noory late at night, anywhere.) There’s always an element of self-deception in this embrace of thrilling fantasy, and self-deception is almost never wholly effective or wholly convincing. But if your situation is bad enough, almost convincing yourself that you’re the hero in an epic battle you almost believe may seem more attractive than your day-to-day reality.

It doesn’t speak well of our churches or our congregations that such a desperate need for excitement, even the excitement of a fantasy or delusion, is so widespread. The kingdom of heaven is near at hand. If that isn’t more than enough excitement for you, then you’re doing it wrong.

A second motive for why some would try to convince themselves to believe scary stories like Mike Warnke’s is that they promise a sense of clarity and simplicity.

I think of this as the Cape Fear Scenario. The movie starts and we learn that Nick Nolte and Jessica Lange have got problems* — deep-seated problems they find confounding and confusing. They don’t know how to fix whatever it is that’s wrong. Their marriage would seem to provide the basis for one of those literary art films from independent cinema that provides a character study of a family in crisis. But then Robert De Niro gets out of prison and the complex and complicated lives of this family suddenly get much, much simpler. Being stuck on a houseboat in a storm with a psychotic killer may not be pleasant, but it concentrates the mind wonderfully.

That clarity and simplicity, too, can seem preferable to the foggy complexity of real life. Mike Warnke’s scary stories offered his audience the chance to join him in pretending that life was just that simple: the bad, evil satanists are over there and we’re over here. Choices don’t have to be complicated or difficult or ambiguous, he told them — it’s just a matter of opposing the scary monsters.

And that leads us to the third motivation, the least innocent of the bunch and also, I think, the dominant factor. Warnke’s stories allowed his audience to pretend that they were righteous and heroic — better than others. The worse they pretended those others were, the better they could pretend to feel about themselves. Call it self-righteous indignation or Melon Morality, it’s an intoxicating and addictive drug.

Mike Warnke made a fortune because he realized that much of his evangelical audience was already addicted to that drug — jonesing for their next fix of offense and umbrage at the appalling monstrosity of The Other. He fed that addiction and fed off of it until the day he was busted by Hertenstein and Trott.

But taking one dealer off the streets doesn’t really change anything when there are still all those indignation junkies out there, desperate for the next illusory reassurance that they’re better than everybody else. And without the jolt of Satanic panic to satisfy their longing, they’ve moved on to other scary stories to get their fix.

Such as the scary story about the Big Gay Menace.

Warnke controlled most of the market selling scary stories about a conspiracy of satanists, but there’s a lot more competition in the marketplace among the fraudsters selling lies about the Big Gay Menace. The audience eagerly buying those lies, however, is much the same. And that audience is still seeking the same things — excitement, simplicity and pure, uncut indignation.

Lately, though, sales of this particular lie have been fading. The dropoff hasn’t been as abrupt and precipitous as what happened with Warnke. His customer-base dried up almost overnight once Cornerstone’s reporting hit newsstands. But while there hasn’t been one single and thorough exposé of the lies being sold about the Big Gay Menace, those lies are still being exposed little by little, bit by bit, whittling down the market for them to a dwindling base of hardcore self-righteousness addicts.

Vermont adopted civil unions and the sky did not fall. Over the following decade other states followed suit and none of the monstrous evils that the fraudsters insisted would happen have come to pass. And on a more intimate, more personal level, more and more of the people in that potential market for these scary stories have gotten to know gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people — gotten to know them as people rather than as some amorphous Other — and so have come to realize that they’re not the monsters the scary stories make them out to be.

The lies are becoming harder and harder to defend, harder and harder to sell. And without those lies, it becomes harder and harder to explain why one group of people should be denied the same legal rights and protections enjoyed by the rest of us.

– – – – – – – – – – – –

* I’m referring here to Martin Scorsese’s 1991 remake. The 1962 original is great, and Scorsese pays tribute to it by casting Gregory Peck and Robert Mitchum in his update, but the remake works better for what I’m getting at here. At the end of J. Lee Thompson’s movie, you get the sense that Peck and Polly Bergen can live happily ever after once Mitchum has been taken care of. At the end of Scorsese’s film he reminds you that De Niro’s menacing Max Cady was really just a distraction — that Nolte and Lange are back where they started, back in the complicated world of less lethal, but no less real, problems.

Stay in touch with the Slacktivist on Facebook:

Bowling with Jesus
Relitigating the Golden Rule
The Fall of the House of Graham (ongoing)
The sins of the fathers
  • rustywheeler

    Gorgeous.

  • Anonymous

    The biggest red flag in stories about Satanic cults is that human sacrifice is illegal. If the consumers would just think it about it for one second, they would wonder why someone who admits to being an accomplice to murder hasn’t gone to jail for it. They should wonder why that reformed person who was just an onlooker isn’t working with police to convict the actual murderer(s) and to find the bodies. This is what really annoyed me the most about Christine O’Donnell. If she had really “dabbled in witchcraft” that included human sacrifice, why didn’t she turn the murderer in to the police, or at least release the name of the supposed victim so their family can have closure?

    To me, this is a clear sign that deep down, these people don’t actually and truly believe what they are hearing. If they truly believed that someone was admitting witnessing murder, they would want to solve that crime. But they know it’s only a hypothetical person so they’re not too worried about getting justice for the victim that didn’t exist.

  • Lori

    Thinking things through is definitely not the strong suit of people who crave certainty. I can’t think of a single hot button issue in America right now that doesn’t suffer from this.

    On the slightly more amusing side, I’m now getting an ad for “The Satanic Superstore”. The jokes write themselves.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jon.maki Jon Maki

    If she had really “dabbled in witchcraft” that included human sacrifice, why didn’t she turn the murderer in to the police, or at least release the name of the supposed victim so their family can have closure?

    IIRC, in the case of Edna Elaine Moses, who, along with Rebecca Brown, provided a lot of “information” about Satanic cults and witchcraft to Jack Chick, the explanation was that she had gotten instruction from God stating that it was more important that she report on her experiences as a High Priestess and Regional Bride of Satan than to surrender herself to “man’s justice” for the crimes she witnessed and actively participated in.

  • Lori

    the explanation was that she had gotten instruction from God stating that it was more important that she report on her experiences as a High Priestess and Regional Bride of Satan than to surrender herself to “man’s justice” for the crimes she witnessed and actively participated in.

    How nice for her that God to let her know that.

    It’s good that it’s not actually possible for one’s face to “stick like that” or I’d be blind as a result of rolling my eyes at these people.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jon.maki Jon Maki

    How nice for her that God to let her know that

    I thought so, too. The thing is, in relating her “history” to Chick, she admitted to crimes beyond ritual sacrifice, such as brokering arms deals with terrorists. A little thing like treason, apparently, is a mere piffle once you’ve said the magic words. Especially when it frees you up to talk about things like Satan’s penchant for champagne and rough sex…
    I’ve read up a bit on Warnke, including the Cornerstone piece, but for some reason he’s never quite captured my imagination* in quite the same way that Elaine (as Edna Elaine Moses was referred to in the information Chick Publications presented) and Rebecca Brown have.
    I’m also considerably more fascinated** by the story of John Todd, who traveled in similar circles relating similar stories. In fact, if I weren’t lazy, and had any real inclination towards that sort of thing, I’d like to make a biopic about Todd (ideally starring a young Sean Penn).

    *For want of a better term.
    **See above.

  • Lori

    I thought so, too. The thing is, in relating her “history” to Chick, she admitted to crimes beyond ritual sacrifice, such as brokering arms deals with terrorists. A little thing like treason, apparently, is a mere piffle once you’ve said the magic words. Especially when it frees you up to talk about things like Satan’s penchant for champagne and rough sex…

    So Adnan Khashoggi really is Satan’s minion? Has someone mentined this to Homeland Security? (I’m sure the CIA already knows and doesn’t care, but DHS might be interested.)

    But seriously, this is a perfect example of what Fred is talking about. Why in the world would anyone take such a story seriously, especially with no corroborating evidence?

  • http://www.facebook.com/jon.maki Jon Maki

    But seriously, this is a perfect example of what Fred is talking about. Why in the world would anyone take such a story seriously, especially with no corroborating evidence?

    Well, in Chick’s case with Elaine/Rebecca, he believed it because it “confirmed” what he already believed. Of course, that doesn’t really answer the question of why he believed that in the first place, but it’s kind of interesting to read the transcripts of the conversations he had with the two of them.
    In particular, it’s interesting to note how he sort of steers the conversation. In discussing the cabal that secretly runs the world, they’d made no mention of Catholics, so Jack brings them up. With a deftness that is, in its way, rather impressive, they managed to weave the Pope into the narrative. It’s clear that it had never occurred to them to discuss the role of the RCC in the Satanic Conspiracy, and they couldn’t wedge it in properly, but they made a solid effort, and it was certainly good enough for Jack. (Basically, the Pope, they said, was just a high-level flunky in the Conspiracy, albeit a willing one.)
    And, of course, in addition to confirming his biases, they also fed his ego. Elaine talks about this concerted effort to launch “spiritual warfare” against one of their greatest enemies. Through astral projection, she accompanied some demons in their assault on this most dangerous foe, only to find themselves repulsed by the powerful Angels of God who were defending his home. This man, she said, was clearly the biggest threat he conspiracy had ever faced. And that man was (Paul Harvey voice)…Jack Chick.
    Jack was, naturally, delighted to learn that he was such a thorn in Satan’s side.
    So, again, it doesn’t really explain the underlying belief system, but the combination of confirming biases and flattery will go a long way towards getting certain people to believe just about anything.

  • http://mistharm.deviantart.com/ JJohnson

    You know what’s kind of sad about all this?

    If these people turned their talents toward storytelling*, they could probably make pretty solid money as writers. Granted that would probably require more effort** than they’d be willing to put out, but there’s clearly some measure of misused talent required for that kind of thing.

    *As in acknowledging that they’re peddling fiction.

    **The basic world building is there, the plot is there, all that’s left really is to decide if it’s a horror story, or if it’s an adventure story. Well okay and the hard part: Writing it down in a fashion that isn’t painful to read… that’s where the whole effort bit comes in.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jon.maki Jon Maki

    It’s true, and I’ve often thought the same thing.
    Edna and Rebecca had crafted quite an interesting world, what with the handsome, charismatic – but dangerous and sexually aggressive – Devil, dressed all in white and taking full advantage of his limited opportunities to fully manifest on the Earthly plane. And werewolves! In Rebecca’s world – I tend to think that she saw herself as a sort of proto-Buffy – which is, remember, supposed to be the same world we live in, there are werewolves.
    Of course, to be fair, Rebecca and Edna were, apparently, abusing prescription drugs quite heavily, so I’m sure that didn’t help any with the blurring of the lines between fact and fiction. So they couldn’t have billed themselves as writers of fiction because there’s a good chance that they didn’t know what what was true and what wasn’t.
    Warnke himself, IIRC, was billed as a “Christian Comedian,” and apparently did quite well, so it’s puzzling as to why he felt the the need to move on to the Satanic conspiracy stories.

  • Anonymous

    I’m not quite so sure. It’s been many years since I read This Present Darkness but as charismatic pentecostal fiction went, I don’t remember being terribly memorable — hey, wait a minute….

    And then there’s Left Behind which is bad theology but worse fiction.

    Still, there could be some gems in there.

  • http://mistharm.deviantart.com/ JJohnson

    Well I wasn’t meaning writing it as explicitly “Christian” fiction. There’ve been reams written about why it rarely works out well.

    I meant, take that worldbuilding and create an urban fantasy – you could still keep the overt Christian themes; but write it like serious fiction. That’s what I was meaning.

    (Granted, they could probably make just as much money, with less effort, peddling it to the L&J readers. *sigh*)

  • Anonymous

    A Christian urban fantasy? That could be interesting, actually. There are some fascinating parts to Christian theology that could make for interesting worldbuilding.

  • Rikalous

    Well, there’s a series about Remy Chandler, PI and former Seraphim. I’ve only read one story about him, and only because it came with a Harry Dresden story (that, coincidentally, focused on Harry’s friendship with a Fist of God, and Harry’s rather strained relationship with God), but it was competently written. It involved the murder of Noah and some critters that were “supposed” to have died in the flood. One bit I especially liked was in a flashback to the building of the ark, where Noah’s performing the spell that will make the inside of the ark big enough to actually fit all those animals.

  • Anonymous

    Well, if this convenient message of God is what she received, she went to the right person. Jack Chick understands all about the evils of man’s laws and how forgiveness from God is all that matters. His infamous Lisa cartoon treated that subject. (Disturbing content warning, going to ROT13) Vg jnf nobhg n thl jub erthyneyl encrq uvf 5 lrne byq qnhtugre, orpnhfr ur qvqa’g unir Wrfhf va uvf yvsr boivbhfyl. Bapr ur qvq, ur avpryl fgbccrq encvat (Uhenl!), fb ur jrag gb urnira naq gung zrna-byq ngurvfg whqtr jub sryg ur fgvyy fubhyq or gevnyrq ol ynj sbe, lbh xabj, pbzzvggvat fbzr IREL frirer pevzrf jrag gb uryy sbe abg haqrefgnaqvat gung bapr lbh fnl gur cenlre, Wrfhf unf sbetvira lbh naq nalbar abg sbetvivat lbh vf guhf pbagenqvpgvat Wrfhf.

    This cartoon was so awefull it’s one of the few he supposedly pulled from roulation himself (and considering the cartoons that weren’t pooled, that’s saying something), but that doesn’t excuse him from drawing it in the first place. He apparently at some point thought this was a good message to send.

  • Dan Audy

    I’d never come across that particular dropping of Chick’s, though given he pulled it himself it isn’t entirely surprising. Even by his standards of hateful depictions of atheists (or *gasp* pagans) that is extreme. The worst part is I’m having trouble doubting that he pulled it not because he realised it was an awful and offensive statement but rather because the people on ‘his’ side were so offended by it that he risked losing their support because they actually cared about the rule of law.

    Also, how does he explain an atheist judge being in heaven in the first place? Isn’t failure to accept Jesus as your personal savior a guaranteed trip to hell under Chick’s worldview?

  • http://mistharm.deviantart.com/ JJohnson

    What.

    I just… what?!? That’s beyond… I mean… just…

    *brain fried*

  • ohiolibrarian

    Does it ever seem to you the ‘Like’ is not an appropriate response to some comments? Nevertheless I ‘Liked’ your comment if not the subject of the comment … which was disgusting.

  • ohiolibrarian

    Does it ever seem to you the ‘Like’ is not an appropriate response to some comments? Nevertheless I ‘Liked’ your comment if not the subject of the comment … which was disgusting.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    A little thing like treason, apparently, is a mere piffle once you’ve said the magic words. Especially when it frees you up to talk about things like Satan’s penchant for champagne and rough sex…

    i.e. “JUICY! JUICY! JUICY!”

    Ever figure this is “Just like JUICY Porn, Except CHRISTIAN(TM)!”?

  • Lori

    the explanation was that she had gotten instruction from God stating that it was more important that she report on her experiences as a High Priestess and Regional Bride of Satan than to surrender herself to “man’s justice” for the crimes she witnessed and actively participated in.

    How nice for her that God to let her know that.

    It’s good that it’s not actually possible for one’s face to “stick like that” or I’d be blind as a result of rolling my eyes at these people.

  • http://brandiweed.livejournal.com/ Brandi

    [quote]IIRC, in the case of Edna Elaine Moses, who, along with Rebecca Brown, provided a lot of “information” about Satanic cults and witchcraft to Jack Chick, the explanation was that she had gotten instruction from God stating that it was more important that she report on her experiences as a High Priestess and Regional Bride of Satan than to surrender herself to “man’s justice” for the crimes she witnessed and actively participated in.[/quote]

    Ah, what hilarity could’ve ensued if someone had decided to render unto Caesar and make a citizen’s arrest….

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=752002772 Andrew Glasgow

    …[S]he had gotten instruction from God stating that it was more important that she report on her experiences as a High Priestess and Regional Bride of Satan than to surrender herself to “man’s justice” for the crimes she witnessed and actively participated in.

    How very convenient! Why, it’s almost like she was trying to avoid having people ask those annoyingly persistent questions that come up when someone is trying to investigate a crime.

  • http://mistharm.deviantart.com/ JJohnson

    Absolutely.

    This was something I pointed out to my dad when I was 12… and of course would not give me any sort of straight answer. Of course I didn’t really think about it that hard, but now that you mention it is one of those fridge logic inducing things that really should be obvious even on first blush.

  • Anonymous

    Well I could talk with my dad and he never pretended to know all the answers, but he did help me with searching for it.

  • Anonymous

    Well I could talk with my dad and he never pretended to know all the answers, but he did help me with searching for it.

  • Anonymous

    The interesting thing about the term “Higurashi no Naku Koro ni” is that it is a saying in japan meaning that the usuual life you have is destroyed.

    So that your life is anything EXEPT quiet desperation.

  • King Beauregard

    Run out of external source of evil to combat, and you have to start taking a good hard look at yourself. Obviously a person can’t allow it to come to that.

  • http://twitter.com/yatima Yatima

    The church I belonged to in the eighties (St David’s, Forestville; Sydney Anglican, hardcore fundamentalist) was hopelessly ensnared by all of these hucksters. I remember teenaged and early-twenties youth ministers and fellowship leaders insisting very seriously upon the literal reality of demons and Satanism and ritual abuse.

    Part of it was wanting to believe that our small suburban lives were much more dramatic and interesting than they appeared on the surface. But I think now much more of it was horrified denial-of-and-fascination-with the drama that was actually taking place beneath the surface: that is, that our minister was orally raping a thirteen year old girl in the vestry after services.

    Ritual abuse, indeed.

  • http://twitter.com/yatima Yatima

    Did I mention that his favourite text was Isaiah 6:5-7?

    “5 And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” 6 Then flew one of the seraphim to me, having in his hand a burning coal which he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 And he touched my mouth, and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin forgiven.”

    Seriously, you can’t make this shit up.

  • Anonymous

    When I went to undergrad in a small private liberal arts school, I was naturally surrounded by a lot of hard lefties. Among these there were a couple of people there whose political philosophy I could never get a handle on, because it seemed to consist solely of telling the other hard lefties that they were doing everything wrong. I eventually came to think that they were just people whose politics revolved around making them feel better than everyone else. As it made them feel morally superior to bellyache about how no one cares about Darfur, they did that; as it made them feel morally superior to cluck their tongues at all the tunnel-vision bellyaching about Darfur, they did that. As it made them feel proactive to champion some grand internationalist plan to “end world poverty in 20 years,” they did that; as it made them feel prudent and sensible to rip the shit out of the presumptuous Eurocentric plan to “end world poverty in 20 years,” they did that.

    I think this sort of thing might spring from the same root as an addiction to self-righteous umbrage.

  • Anonymous

    When I went to undergrad in a small private liberal arts school, I was naturally surrounded by a lot of hard lefties. Among these there were a couple of people there whose political philosophy I could never get a handle on, because it seemed to consist solely of telling the other hard lefties that they were doing everything wrong. I eventually came to think that they were just people whose politics revolved around making them feel better than everyone else. As it made them feel morally superior to bellyache about how no one cares about Darfur, they did that; as it made them feel morally superior to cluck their tongues at all the tunnel-vision bellyaching about Darfur, they did that. As it made them feel proactive to champion some grand internationalist plan to “end world poverty in 20 years,” they did that; as it made them feel prudent and sensible to rip the shit out of the presumptuous Eurocentric plan to “end world poverty in 20 years,” they did that.

    I think this sort of thing might spring from the same root as an addiction to self-righteous umbrage.

  • http://thatbeerguy.blogspot.com Chris Doggett

    The kingdom of heaven is near at hand. If that isn’t more than enough excitement for you, then you’re doing it wrong.

    …except that the kingdom of heaven has always been near at hand. The preachers told me it was near at hand when I was a child, it’s been near at hand throughout my entire adulthood, and I suspect it was near at hand when my grandmother sat in the pews.

    That’s not to say “the Satanists are lurking outside your windows at night” isn’t the same kind of appeal as “the kingdom of heaven is near at hand”, because in a context-free environment, both are offering the same rush of immediacy.

    Actually, there’s something to be learned from this process. Immediacy cannot be sustained over the long run; that’s something of a tautology, really. An imminent threat that doesn’t materialize isn’t imminent. So you start with “the kingdom of heaven is near at hand”, but after a while your parishoners realize that “near at hand” is a matter of perspective*. So you go looking for another immediate rush: “We are at war with Satanists!” And after a while, when no one in blood-drenched robes show up, “homosexuals are destroying America”.

    It’s no accident that the boogymen of yesteryear (communists, atheists, feminists) have been replaced with different boogymen (socialists, satanists, homosexuals) who will in turn be replaced by a new set of boogymen (Marxists? Rob-Bell-Anti-Hell types? Certainly transgendered folks look likely) and on & on. By the way, those triads aren’t accidental; the rush people get from these immediate threats usually hits the economic pressure points (“they want to take away your money and make you live like a slave!”) , the religious pressure points (“they want to take away your religion!”), and the sexual pressure points. (“Deviants warping your children with sexual urges!”)

    Debunking the lies and myths helps some; stories about “teaching children about fisting in public schools” is now about as dusty and unused as the Proctor/Gamble lies. But ultimately, it’s a matter of mental maturity. People tend to grow out of these patterns, realize the difference between geniune problems and drama. “Fighting” poverty and hunger and homelessness isn’t as dramatic as fighting a cloaked figure, but the reality is that donating food is actually doing something, while “fighting Satan” usually involves preparing to do something, which never actually happens.

    *The first time I heard the joke, the comedian was strumming away on a guitar. It helped with the pacing.
    “So I was talking to God the other day…”

    “…and I said to him, ‘God, what really matters?’…”

    “…and he said PERSPECTIVE.”

    “So I said, ‘God, what’s your perspective? What is a million years to you?'”

    “And he said IT IS BUT A SINGLE SECOND!

    “So I said, ‘God, what is a million dollars to you?’… and he said IT IS BUT A PENNY.”

    “So I said, ‘God, can you spare a penny?'”

    “And he said ‘SURE, CAN YOU WAIT A SECOND?

  • Anonymous

    …except that the kingdom of heaven has always been near at hand. The preachers told me it was near at hand when I was a child, it’s been near at hand throughout my entire adulthood, and I suspect it was near at hand when my grandmother sat in the pews.

    Same experience here. I am inspired, not by the Christians who think it is near at hand like a train barreling down the tracks right at you, but by the ones who think of “near at hand” in the sense of “at your fingertips, right there in front of you.”

  • Anonymous

    the kingdom of heaven has always been near at hand

    Growing up I always found this extremely creepy – primarily I think because it was clear to my teeny mind that getting to heaven involved dying first.

  • Anonymous

    the kingdom of heaven has always been near at hand

    Growing up I always found this extremely creepy – primarily I think because it was clear to my teeny mind that getting to heaven involved dying first.

  • Anonymous

    …except that the kingdom of heaven has always been near at hand. The preachers told me it was near at hand when I was a child, it’s been near at hand throughout my entire adulthood, and I suspect it was near at hand when my grandmother sat in the pews.

    Same experience here. I am inspired, not by the Christians who think it is near at hand like a train barreling down the tracks right at you, but by the ones who think of “near at hand” in the sense of “at your fingertips, right there in front of you.”

  • Anonymous

    …except that the kingdom of heaven has always been near at hand. The preachers told me it was near at hand when I was a child, it’s been near at hand throughout my entire adulthood, and I suspect it was near at hand when my grandmother sat in the pews.

    And they’ve all been right, assuming they meant it in the “Behold, I stand at the door and knock” sense that Fred surely means it in. (Fred certainly isn’t using that Scripture in a “end times are imminent” sense, I think we can all agree.) God is willing to be present in our lives, if we’re willing to let him take up residence there, and that is still a big f’ing deal, even after forty years in the Lord.

    The hard part, even after 40 years as a Christian, is being willing to keep the door open.

  • http://johnm55.wordpress.com/ johnm55

    I think that with a lot of people who believe this sort of stuff the mentality is a bit the same as that of a five year-old. A lot of five year-old’s are fascinated by dinosaurs. Because they know that a Tyrannosaurus Rex is big and scary and that if they met one walking down the High Street, it would eat them up in one bite. But a five year-old also knows that it’s extinct, so you are not going to meet one the next time you go to the shops, therefore it’s safe to be scared.
    I appreciate that this may seem to indicate that the intelligence of some fundamentalists is below that of the average five year old. I wouldn’t wish to comment on that but others might like to.

  • Anonymous

    A lot of five year-old’s are fascinated by dinosaurs. Because they know that a Tyrannosaurus Rex is big and scary and that if they met one walking down the High Street, it would eat them up in one bite. But a five year-old also knows that it’s extinct, so you are not going to meet one the next time you go to the shops, therefore it’s safe to be scared.
    I appreciate that this may seem to indicate that the intelligence of some fundamentalists is below that of the average five year old.

    There are fifty-five year olds who are fascinated by dinosaurs. It’s not something that always goes away when someone turns six.

    I think plenty of fundamentalists are very smart, but they’ve unfortunately bought into a worldview that leads to pain for people who are different from them.

    It’s not a question of intelligence; it’s a question of willing suspension of disbelief, and of habits and lifestyles.

  • http://johnm55.wordpress.com/ johnm55

    I think that with a lot of people who believe this sort of stuff the mentality is a bit the same as that of a five year-old. A lot of five year-old’s are fascinated by dinosaurs. Because they know that a Tyrannosaurus Rex is big and scary and that if they met one walking down the High Street, it would eat them up in one bite. But a five year-old also knows that it’s extinct, so you are not going to meet one the next time you go to the shops, therefore it’s safe to be scared.
    I appreciate that this may seem to indicate that the intelligence of some fundamentalists is below that of the average five year old. I wouldn’t wish to comment on that but others might like to.

  • Anonymous

    On the slightly more amusing side, I’m now getting an ad for “The Satanic Superstore”.

    I am too, and it really bothers me how guys like these have been driving all the mom-and-pop Satan stores out of business.

  • Anonymous

    I think you win the Internets for the day for that one.

  • Duncan W

    It is interesting that you mention Mike Warne’s fraud at the same time as Greg Mortenson is eposed as one himself.

  • http://timothy.green.name/ Timothy (TRiG)

    In related news, Marc Mutty, leader of Maine’s Yes on One Campaign, has admitted to lying.

    TRiG.

  • Emcee, cubed

    In completely unrelated news, Sarah Jane Smith has died.

  • Anonymous

    What? Mike Warnke wasn’t really an level-12 half-orc cleric-assassin crawling through the dungeons under San Diego!?!??

    A friend of mine used to loan me Mike Warnke tapes when I was in junior high. I actually enjoyed them quite a bit (though, I usually lost interest when he got his testimonial stuff). His act (at least on the cassettes I was given) was basically Cheech & Chong for people who disapproved of drugs. He would have made a halfway decent standup comic, maybe even landed a bad 80s sitcom*, if he had wanted to make an honest living.

    *Possbly titled That’s My Satan! or You Devil, You!.

  • Inferiae

    “…an level-12 half-orc cleric-assassin crawling through the dungeons under San Diego!?!??”

    Somehow I’m going to work this into a campaign: A party of modern day people suddenly find themselves transformed into strange races and explore vast underground labyrinths under cities. ‘Yeah, you were an accountant. Now you’re Throthgar the savage, swinging a giant hammer around the under-sewers of New York city. Maybe when you reach topside again you can find a cheap hotel to stay in. Hope they take giant rat hides as barter material…’

  • http://mistharm.deviantart.com/ JJohnson

    I think I would totally play in that campaign lol ><

    I just like the idea of an accountant with a 'loincloth' made from his ripped suit trousers. Kind of like The Hulk I guess.

    "YOU NOT ANNOTATE DEDUCTIONS PROPERLY! ACCOUNTANT SMASH!!!!"

    (Yes okay, I don't know much about accounting. Math make brain melt.)

  • Anonymous

    HULK AUDIT!

  • http://jamoche.dreamwidth.org/ Jamoche

    I had a friend who’d stack his record player with Cheech and Chong, and Warnke. I don’t remember the satanic stuff but I do remember the line about “we didn’t listen to [bored voice] Contemporary Christian Music, we listened to [excited voice] Jesus Rock And Roll!”

  • http://www.facebook.com/geri.corvus Geri Corvus

    I used to listen to Cheech and Chong. My favourite line was “Before I found Jesus, I was all messed up on Drugs….. …but since I found Jesus, I’m all messed up on The Lord!”
    I’ve met a few Born-Agains like that…..

  • ohiolibrarian

    Very handy for some people to ‘find Jesus’. They can be the same jerks they always were and feel much better about it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Derek-Lyons/792600829 Derek Lyons

    @Cris – the Kingdom of God as been “near at hand” for at least a couple of millennia now.

  • Zorya

    I saw Mike Warnke back when I was in college in the mid 70’s. I think a couple of the churches in town arranged to have him in to do his thing. Whatever one can say about his deception he was good at what he did.

  • Green Eggs and Ham

    The narcissism of revulsion is a significant reason they want to buy the monster stories. They get to look at all the bad, evil, lurid things that others are doing and be revulsed. They take great pleasure in how revulsed and horrified they are.

    I read about this idea a long time ago. (I do not recall the publication; it was more than 20 years ago.) The idea was used to explain why there was so much pornographic content to the literature of the religious anti-porn crusaders and zealots.

  • muteKi

    Now I’m thinking of this sort of act as being the religious equivalent of the Jerry Springer show.

  • ohiolibrarian

    So the ‘narcissism of revulsion’ also applies to the endless and creepy fascination they have with other people’s sex lives? What about their evident belief that everyone/b> is teetering on the edge of homosexuality or Satan worship or whatever. Apparently, if they didn’t have hysterics about it (meaning whatever they are having hysterics about), then everyone else would just thoughtlessly fall into the habit of doing it.

  • ohiolibrarian

    Oh, blast the stupid tag. I never actually did that on the old site.

  • Anonymous

    @Lori:

    On the slightly more amusing side, I’m now getting an ad for “The Satanic Superstore”. The jokes write themselves.

    [glancing enviously over at Lori’s ads] I am not getting those Satanic Superstore ads, and it is making me feel seriously left out. First, they take away my ads for the new Easter suits with astonishing hats, and now the Satanists don’t think my money is good enough.

    On the other hand, in the ads I do get, Hallmark wants to personalize and mail my greeting cards (Why?–because it’s too much trouble if I want to let someone know I am thinking about them to actually, y’know, think about them?). I am also being encouraged to “discover the secrets productive pastors know.” Leading me to wonder what exactly counts as productivity in a pastor. The organization seems to be named “Pacesetting,” so maybe one of the secrets is “preach faster!”

    Back on topic, I think some of what’s going on with the antigay focus is the same thing that happens with many white racists. As long as African-Americans (and Latinos) are below them on the social scale, they are, at least, not at the bottom. For many people–not limited to evangelicals–as long as being gay is the big sin, they can think of their own sins as relatively minor. I think that’s one reason the Roman Catholic church ramped up the antigay rhetoric as soon as the child molestation scandals started coming home to roost.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=752002772 Andrew Glasgow

    [glancing enviously over at Lori’s ads] I am not getting those Satanic Superstore ads, and it is making me feel seriously left out. First, they take away my ads for the new Easter suits with astonishing hats, and now the Satanists don’t think my money is good enough.

    I’m getting ads from Groupon or some other coupon site with a rather delectable-looking hamburger. Also some text-based ads for churches.

  • Lori

    [glancing enviously over at Lori’s ads] I am not getting those Satanic Superstore ads, and it is making me feel seriously left out. First, they take away my ads for the new Easter suits with astonishing hats, and now the Satanists don’t think my money is good enough.

    On the other hand, in the ads I do get, Hallmark wants to personalize and mail my greeting cards (Why?–because it’s too much trouble if I want to let someone know I am thinking about them to actually, y’know, think about them?). I am also being encouraged to “discover the secrets productive pastors know.” Leading me to wonder what exactly counts as productivity in a pastor. The organization seems to be named “Pacesetting,” so maybe one of the secrets is “preach faster!”

    The Googleads fairies truly are against you. Have you considered leaving a saucer of milk next to your computer overnight? Or possibly you should look up pictures of milk on Google images.

    If it makes you feel any better I sometimes get those effective pastor ads too. Maybe you’ll eventually get the ones for Satan’s Superstore. (I didn’t click the link but it’s gotta be an ad for Walmart, right?)

    I’m getting ads from Groupon or some other coupon site with a rather delectable-looking hamburger. Also some text-based ads for churches.

    I also get this one and an add for putting the Bible on my browser that includes an extremely disturbing cartoon Jesus.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=752002772 Andrew Glasgow

    I also get this one and an ad for putting the Bible on my browser that includes an extremely disturbing cartoon Jesus.

    I take it you’ve never seen “Dogma”? It’s a rendition of the Buddy Christ from that movie.

  • Lori

    I take it you’ve never seen “Dogma”? It’s a rendition of the Buddy Christ from that movie.

    Oh, I have. That’s most of what’s so disturbing about it because the “put the Bible on your browser” part seems sincere. So odd, so totally missing the point.

  • Lori

    I take it you’ve never seen “Dogma”? It’s a rendition of the Buddy Christ from that movie.

    Oh, I have. That’s most of what’s so disturbing about it because the “put the Bible on your browser” part seems sincere. So odd, so totally missing the point.

  • Lori

    I take it you’ve never seen “Dogma”? It’s a rendition of the Buddy Christ from that movie.

    Oh, I have. That’s most of what’s so disturbing about it because the “put the Bible on your browser” part seems sincere. So odd, so totally missing the point.

  • Anonymous

    “You are not a lifestyle! Forbidden knowledge since the dark ages! Homosexuality is a gender! Would you like to know more?”
    ^The add I’m currently getting.

  • http://mistharm.deviantart.com/ JJohnson

    Yeah I saw that a couple days ago… freaking weird >.<

  • http://www.blogger.com/home?pli=1 Coleslaw

    I’m getting that one, too, but it says, “Homosexuals are a race. Homosexuality is a gender. It doesn’t make any sense, but when has that stopped people?

  • guest

    I am at least somewhat amused by all the people who go: “How do they do it? How do they justify these horrible things they do?”

    Same way you do. Same way you justify buying clothes from China, or eating chocolate. EVERYONE in the west (save for a few stinky hippies who make their own clothing and grow their own perfectly organic food) hurts someone else. You hurt people when you drive, and contribute to pollution. You hurt Mexican farm workers when you eat at Burger King. You hurt little chinese girls every time you buy a t-shirt. You hurt slaves on chocolate and coffee plantations for your pleasure. Hell, half the diamonds out there are blood diamonds- theres a fair chance your earrings paid for someone to be blown up. Even the chicken you ate last night was from something that suffered worse than Matt Shepard ever did.

    And you know what? Most of us don’t really think about all this, because we’ve got more important things to do. We have lives to lead, we have shit to do.
    SO DO THEY. So do the homophobes. The difference is that when they hurt someone, theres a whole bunch of people who take time to point it out. How do they not notice? Same way you and I do- they don’t care, and they have more important things to do.

  • Anonymous

    @Guest
    You have some excellent points. As citizens of any the developed countries, it is not possible for us to avoid contributing to exploitation and, as you point out, outright cruelty–we will contribute to it simply by living our lives in the contexts in which we exist. Yes, absolutely, we have a moral obligation to minimize the negative effects our lives generate.

    But there is a difference between that an making oneself an enthusiastic spokesperson for (to take just one of your examples) the slaughterhouse industry. A parallel to the kind of activity that is being talked about here is closer to someone who argues for even more cruelty in slaughtering chickens or who fights tooth and nail every effort to improve conditions for animals or to turn people away from mass-produced meat.

    The parallel here is closer to someone who says, “the conditions in Chinese sweatshops are precisely as they should be, and in fact I refuse to buy clothing made in the developed world.”

    This isn’t to say that the points you raise don’t merit further discussion, though. We just need to be clear what we’re talking about.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    That said, it perhaps does not behoove people like me who quietly benefit from a morally bankrupt system to quite so vigorously denounce my neighbors who vocally defend that system.

  • Lori

    That said, it perhaps does not behoove people like me who quietly benefit from a morally bankrupt system to quite so vigorously denounce my neighbors who vocally defend that system.

    I think it does if the vocal defense is a major part of what’s keeping the system in place and thus making it difficult for you to make different, better choices.

    Try to buy clothes not made with sweatshop labor from materials grown or produced in an environmentally unsustainable way. Even if you have the best of intentions it’s going to be very difficult. That situation didn’t come about as a natural result of consumer apathy, although there are plenty of people who will try to tell you that it did. It’s the result of a great many decisions that had people very consciously pushing for them. The only way for you personally to be able to make better choices is to push back against that. The only way to push back effectively is not to get so bogged down in false equivalence guilt that you become unwilling or unable to speak out.

  • http://mistharm.deviantart.com/ JJohnson

    Agreed completely.

    ——

    Also, I don’t want to annoy anyone or anything; but I do feel it’s important to say this:

    It’s this kind of thing that I think sometimes turns people off of the progressive message too. A lot of folks don’t exactly have a lot of choice in where or what they buy clothing-wise; because the only game in town is Wal-Mart.

    Even if you have more options in terms of location, you may not have the financial ability to buy anything but the cheapest, which is usually made in sweatshops.

    So if you’re struggling by on 17,000 dollars a year, and you’ve been raised in a conservative small town – it’s pretty easy to hear a comment like Guest’s as condemning you, personally; even though you have no choice. That, of course, breeds resentment.

    Now I want to be clear: Obviously that’s not the whole story – there are a lot of other things in play. Likewise, the goal is perfectly admirable.

    The point is more that we live in a situation where a lot of folks quite literally do not have the option to go for non-sweatshop based goods, or can’t afford a hybrid car, or need a truck for work and can’t afford a second non-truck vehicle for getting around everywhere.

    I guess my real point with all this is that while the criticism is absolutely accurate and relevant, it takes on a very different character when you look at it from the perspective of poverty and/or a rural location.

    As with anything: It’s more complicated than even that, but it’s hard to convince people that the progressive message is the one that will help them out when they feel like they’re condemned for doing what they have to to get by.

    Hopefully people will understand where I’m coming from here.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    Agreed.

    That said: it would be preferable if we were willing to own our complicity.

    It would be preferable for me to admit that yes, I am doing this morally questionable thing, even if I’m doing it because my choices are limited and, within those limited choices, I judge doing it to be better than suffering the consequences of not doing it.

    More generally, it would be preferable if we were regularly encouraged to look inside the cell in the center of Omelas.

    But I acknowledge that isn’t how the world is. I acknowledge that in the world as it is, pointing out my complicity in immoral enterprises does anger me, and polarize me, and encourage me to reject the message altogether, and is often counterproductive.

    And I reluctantly endorse the strategy, as you suggest, of keeping silent about someone’s complicity in an immoral enterprise in situations where pointing it out makes them less likely to oppose such an enterprise. Sometimes, I guess, it really is better to ignore the beam in our own eye.

    I’m not happy about it, though.

  • Lori

    That said: it would be preferable if we were willing to own our complicity.

    I agree with this, I just don’t think the complicity that really counts happens at the point of purchase. At least not for the average person with relatively little money to spend. I think our real complicity happens in the voting booth, with the money we invest and give to charity and when we disengage from politics.

    I think that ultimately the idea that we as consumers can buy our way to a better world was well-intentioned, but unrealistic and misguided and has ultimately played into the hands of the very people getting rich off making the world worse.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    I agree with you that the complicity that happens (or fails to happen) while voting, donating, and engaging in politics is important.

    In my own life, I don’t experience those as being mutually exclusive, or even mutually inhibitory, with the importance of other forms of complicity.

    But I certainly agree that if someone does experience them that way then they need to make choices, and choosing to own their complicity around voting, donating, and engaging in politics may well be the better choice. For example, if engaging with the social implications of my consumer choices inhibits me from voting, donating, or engaging in politics then I may do better to ignore the former altogether.

    Not because it doesn’t “really count,” but because it’s not the most valuable use of my time and energy.

  • http://mistharm.deviantart.com/ JJohnson

    Well, that’s not precisely what I was meaning really.

    Silence isn’t the answer.

    I think we need to borrow a page (But just a page, and we can probably dump the first paragraph or two) from the right wing:

    That is, we need to play the long game, not just do damage control; and we need to target those with the greatest power to affect change: government and corporations.

    And I’m not saying that we bear no responsibility or anything like that – but it’s one thing if you’re already in the progressive camp, see the faults of the way we live, and can say “Yeah, I’m at least partly to blame for this.” And quite another if you’re on the outside in the mainstream-media bubble, and someone is telling you how horrible you are for buying clothes at Wal-Mart.

    One is a self-acceptance of responsibility, the other one is blaming and shaming – which may be accurate, but is generally counterproductive.

    —-

    But I think the big thing we need to do is really work to increase labor protections here, and increase tariffs on country’s with weak labor protections, with some kind of sliding scale that makes it worth while for say… China, to beef up it’s labor laws so it has competitive access to the US market.

    A lot of it is also education; starting with self interest. That is – my rural neighbors need to understand who actually has their back, and who’s actually got a knife to it. The first step is basically getting our people into a position economically where somewhat more expensive clothing will not be a real burden.

    Like I said – we need to play the long game – it took the Republicans what… 15 years to get Reagan in office, and then spent the next 30 years ramping up their rhetoric? It took them all that time; but until GWB they almost had the country. It took a colossal fuck-up of a president to give us a real shot to come back.

    Aaaaand I admit, we’ve got a more-than uphill fight in all this, given the tepidity of the Democratic party, and the lack of viability in any third party’s.

    One idea that I’ve heard that has a lot of appeal though, is to push for election laws that allow you to choose multiple candidates in order of preference, OR to list party-line when voting.*

    ——-

    So yeah again, the basic idea is

    A) Don’t antagonize people who don’t necessarily even have a choice in the matter.

    B) Try to educate those people as to who’s covering them; and follow through on that; thus increasing our voter base. Obviously we want to work hard on equality issues too, particularly acceptance so that people in this category are more likely to at least willing to tolerate a Pro-Choice Pro-Marriage Equality candidate, even if they’re not necessarily thrilled with it. Preferably though we can convince people that it’s the right thing to do. I think we’re headed that direction already.

    C) As poverty levels here decrease, work on making it unprofitable to make goods in country’s with weak labor laws.

    D) Above all else work on our goddamn marketing. Srsly. We’re right, we just need to make sure people know it and don’t hate us for being right. >.< (So much easier said than done though – it's much, much easier to get people to rally around something they hate )

    —-

    It’s hardly perfect of course, and it’s pretty involved but I think it’s a reasonable goal.

    I think that’s really another thing too: I notice some – not most, but some progressives want everything NOW. I sympathize entirely with this; but like with the healthcare law, we need to take every gain we can get no matter how small. That’s how the Republicans do it – they whittle away as well as hack away; we can, and should, do the same.

    So yah, long story short – we need to kick the Democratic party in the butt, and get ourselves organized and on message. (Fuck if I know how to actually pull it all off though >< Yeah I'm a huge help.)

    *This is slightly more involved than it sounds. The idea is that if you vote for say… the Democratic candidate in an election; you could write Green party in; so that the Democrat in question knows what part of their base is from the Green camp; rather than straight Dem. The idea being that the politician in question now has to at least try to please this constituency or risk a protest-vote that could cost them their next election.

    I prefer the multiple choice ballot myself, but I can see this working too.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    > The only way to push back effectively is not to get so bogged down in false equivalence guilt that you become unwilling or unable to speak out.

    Perhaps you’re right.

    OTOH, perhaps my making the decision to spend more time and money on my clothing choices, and on communicating to my clothing vendors why I’m buying or not buying their products, would also have an effect.

    Perhaps it would even have an effect comparable in scale to the other forms of speaking out you have in mind.

    I’m not sure.

    That said, I do agree with you that if I’m making it easier for someone to make morally questionable choices than to make morally defensible ones, I bear some responsibility for the results of their choices.

  • Lori

    @Guest: I think you’re seriously missing the point of most of the WTH? comments here. We aren’t marveling because Satanic panic and homophobia hurt people. Humans are often deeply, profoundly mean to each other. It makes me sad and angry, but it’s rarely a source of surprise. For me there are 2 points to the WTH? discussion.

    The first is that Satanic panic and the anti-marriage equality arguments are deeply, profoundly stupid. It takes about 30 seconds actual thought to realize that these things don’t make any sense and yet they live on. The things on your liberal guilt parade actually make sense in their own way. Cheap food and clothing are logical and self-interested on a surface level. You’re right that most people don’t take the time to dig below that surface to see the ways that bad labor practices and environmentally destructive food production are ultimately not in our best interests. That doesn’t mean that it’s obviously dumb to want inexpensive clothing and food.

    The second point is the way that people invite these modern day Harold Hills into their lives and revel in the (deeply illogical, obvious fictional) stories they tell. There’s a conscious savoring of all the nasty little details in these stories of Satan worship and gay sex that doesn’t map onto buying sweatshop cloths or fast food burgers.

  • Anonymous

    One more comment: I was expecting a somewhat different ending to Fred’s post than the one that he wrote, about relief that the Big Gay Scare is losing its potency.

    Because after the market for the Big Gay Menace withers, there will surely be another scare, and another, and another – because the demand for such scares doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. The only unknown detail is what will be next year’s scare, and who will be next year’s enemy that all RTCs should rally in opposition to.

    But the big question will remain: why is evangelical Christianity like this? Why does it so desperately need to create enemies, out of whole cloth if necessary?

  • Anonymous

    It doesn’t seem to be peculiar or specific to evangelical Christianity, but rather to authoritarianism in general, to have some sort of scapegoat, societal omega, or Other. (“We have always been at war with Eastasia….”)

  • http://mistharm.deviantart.com/ JJohnson

    Definitely this.

    Authoritarians NEED an “other” to rage against, just like they need rigid control from the top.

    Read The Authoritarians – http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/~altemey/

    It gives a lot of insight into the mindset, and the twisty-turny cognitive backflips authoritarians often use to keep themselves from exploding due to contradictory beliefs.

    (Ex: American right wingers constantly talking about “Freedom” and “Democracy” – but then going spastic when Democracy goes against them, and seeking to destroy other people’s Freedom (such as, of religion, or who to marry))

  • Anonymous

    I read it some time ago, and find it a fascinating thing to go back to and read. =) It’s a fascinating and eye-opening study. (I don’t recommend reading Simulacra and Simulation immediately after. It’s a bit of a head-trip!)

  • http://mistharm.deviantart.com/ JJohnson

    I feel like a dummy ;

    I was replying to you because I was agreeing with what you said… but I was posting the bit about The Authoritarians for lowtechcyclist. >_<; (I know you'd mentioned to me you'd read it before hehe b)

  • Anonymous

    Whoops! No worries, I should’ve caught that! ^_^;;

  • ohiolibrarian

    Oh, they’ll probably recycle witches again (the only thing they do recycle) or some other old chestnut.

    As for why, I think Fred is right when he frames them as junkies jonesing for their next fix of horror/outrage/self-satisfaction. Probably a more potent addiction than heroin.

  • http://mistharm.deviantart.com/ JJohnson

    Oh, and another thing:

    Voting laws, we could really stand to work on changing them.

    1) Public financing of elections. You get 500,000 dollars to campaign with – no other money is acceptable. Period.

    2) Multiple choice ballots with candidates able to be selected in order of preference:

    Ex: I could have a Green candidate as choice 1, and a Democrat as choice 2. If the Green candidate fails to garner first or second place in the first round, then my vote will go to the Democrat in the second round, preventing my vote from helping the Republican candidate.

    This lets us drive the Democratic party a little to the left, and also allowing third party’s to stake out at least some electoral turf.

    3) Voter education/turnout. We already know this one – the more people who turn out, the better we do. One big thing is, imo, a mandatory holiday on Election Day so everyone has at least a chance to go vote.

    —–

    Again, all of this is going to be in bits and pieces, this isn’t “Tomorrow we’ll totally have this” stuff. But it’s where I think we ought to aim; because if we reform the voting system, then we may not necessarily increase our share of the voting population (though I think we would); but we would at least have a better shot at actual progressive candidates, rather than mushy centrists.

  • Lori

    In my own life, I don’t experience those as being mutually exclusive, or even mutually inhibitory, with the importance of other forms of complicity.

    In the life of any one person they aren’t mutually exclusive and if you have the wherewithal to put energy into both I say more power to you.

    My point is that as an overall strategy I think consumer focus is basically a failure and that energy put into pushing it has been drained from more effective strategies. I honestly think that we’d be far better off, both in the US and globally, if Liberals had spent the last couple decades revitalizing the labor movement and getting single payer healthcare rather than buying free trade coffee and wearing pink ribbons and yellow wrist bands while chastising poor people for shopping at Walmart.

    And I’ll own my part in that. I hate Walmart as much as the next person. I try to avoid shopping there and I struggle not to think badly of people who do. I’ve also spent plenty of time believing in shopping for a better world. Buying this or that organic thing and boycotting this or that crappy company. I still try not to give my (very, very) limited dollars to companies that offend my principles. That definitely matters to me personally. However, I no longer think that makes any real difference in the world.

  • http://timothy.green.name/ Timothy (TRiG)

    I still try not to give my (very, very) limited dollars to companies that offend my principles.

    We could do with a list of such companies, actually. Does anyone know of any lists of “Companies you should boycott”? If not, I might consider making one. Would need fact-checking, though.

    Currently, I’m boycotting anything that has a visible Nestlé logo, which I’m sure isn’t all their produce. I’m sure there are a lot of other companies I could be (should be) boycotting.

    (Incidentally, does anyone know of substitutes for Aero bars or Yorkie bars?)

    TRiG.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=752002772 Andrew Glasgow

    Interesting. Apparently, companiesyoushouldboycott.com and productsyoushouldboycott.com are both available. Would be interesting to set up. I happen to work at a domain registrar so I could help you get things taken care of if you’d like.

  • ohiolibrarian

    There is a list of Koch brothers companies/consumer goods. That would be a good start for a boycott.

    Maybe there’s an app for that? It would be handy to have it in a phone. (As if I have an iphone or Blackberry.)

  • Lori

    We could do with a list of such companies, actually. Does anyone know of any lists of “Companies you should boycott”? If not, I might consider making one. Would need fact-checking, though.

    In the past there have been whole books written about which companies you should and should not support. The problem with creating a list is that you have to have agreement on what constitutes a good reason to boycott and how good is good enough on various metrics. It’s complicated, not to mention the fact that it’s virtually impossible to boycott every company that anyone thinks you should boycott, even if you stick with legitimate progressive issues.

    I try to stay well informed about the polices of companies that sell things I’m likely to buy and avoid giving my business to companies that I feel are outright hostile to the values I hold most dear. However, I don’t kid myself that I never give money to businesses that are evil in some way.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=752002772 Andrew Glasgow

    Well, the optimum resource might be a list of companies by the particular things that make them boycott-worthy — environmental problems, labor issues, support of sweatshops or dictatorships, opposition to civil rights or privacy, and so forth. One might even be able to have a way to have a personal boycott list that one could access remotely.

  • Anonymous

    I read not just this article today, but False Witness 1 & 2, and On Offendedness. Somewhere in there I remembered this story; I have a brother in law who used to be a druggy, and lost custody of my neice and nephew. He pulled himself out of it by becoming an evangelical, and then becoming a minister. (My array of the first 6 or 7 Left Behind books were gifts from him … “You like Science Fiction? This is *Godly* Science Fiction”.) Sorry dude, my SF is written by better authors.

    Anyway, some years ago he sent an email to a bunch of people, including me, about JK Rowling… something about her worshipping satan and sucking his cock. Now, I’d never made it through the Harry Potter books, (but I do read the Fanfiction) but something about that sounded wrong. A few minutes later and a trip to the Onion and Snopes landed me at the origin of the myth, so I put in my debunction and hit reply all.

    As you can imagine from someone who gifts Left Behind novels, I was not thanked for my efforts. Instead, I was given an earnest little lecture about if I found some incorrect fact, I was to tell HIM about it, and trust him to inform the others he misled. A huh. Needless to say, I’m not on his mass email lists anymore.

  • Lori

    Needless to say, I’m not on his mass email lists anymore.

    You are soooo lucky that’s all it took to get off his list. Count it as a blessing. As much as I’ve hoped for it, Snoops slapping has never gotten that result for me. It did get me a lecture from my father about how my disagreement with the (untrue, mean-spirited) emails he sends out means I don’t respect him. That was a real pleasure, let me tell you.

  • Anonymous

    Pfwah! Snopes slapping. I like the expression.

    I’ve gotten a remarkably similar lecture about how disagreement with nonfactual, mean-spirited and downright awful emails makes me a Disrespectful Bad Person.

    I wonder if there is a script they read it from.

  • Anonymous

    Pfwah! Snopes slapping. I like the expression.

    I’ve gotten a remarkably similar lecture about how disagreement with nonfactual, mean-spirited and downright awful emails makes me a Disrespectful Bad Person.

    I wonder if there is a script they read it from.

  • Lori

    I wonder if there is a script they read it from.

    It was probably part of the one and only wingnut mass email that they didn’t forward to us.

  • Anonymous

    Well, he and my sisters actually like me. At the time I was a professing pagan (tho not practicing), and they were trying to “save” me. I chalked it up to him being embarrassed or something. When I was in the hospital last year, his wife, her twin and my next eldest sister came from AK, OR, and Northern CA to visit me there and wish me well.

    Strange thing is, After the email incident I visited my next oldest sister and mom in Redding, and attended their megachurch; Bethel to be polite. To my agnostic/questioning self’s astonishment I answered an altar call and gave my life to Jesus. Surprised my husband and athiest son, too. I’m rather to the left of most of my family, but the change has stuck. All the reasons I used to dislike Christianity are still there, but now I know the difference between the RTC’s (who are anything BUT) and the real mccoys.

  • http://jamoche.dreamwidth.org/ Jamoche

    It may have been here that I heard about this book: Europe’s Inner Demons: The Demonization of Christians in Medieval Christendom – but basically no matter how far back in history you go, you’re going to find the same accusations of “drug-fueled orgies and grisly rituals of bloodletting, torture and human sacrifice” being thrown around. It’s kind of depressing.

  • ako

    And I’ll own my part in that. I hate Walmart as much as the next person. I try to avoid shopping there and I struggle not to think badly of people who do. I’ve also spent plenty of time believing in shopping for a better world. Buying this or that organic thing and boycotting this or that crappy company. I still try not to give my (very, very) limited dollars to companies that offend my principles. That definitely matters to me personally. However, I no longer think that makes any real difference in the world.

    This. Shopping your way to a better world does have some upsides, but it has its problems. For one thing, an excess focus on shopping and consumer choices can make it seem like you can only be a good progressive if you have the money to spend on the more expensive options (this is particularly common when comfortably well-off leftists give angry lectures using the word “we” or “you” a lot and forget that many of their readers can’t comfortably stroll around their walkable neighborhoods in their ample leisure time and pay twice the price for the more ethical version). Additionally, there’s the complexity factor – when you look seriously at these issues, it involves a lot of balancing comparative harm. Morally clean products are rare, and often it comes down to choices like “Should I contribute to global warming with the massive shipping distance, put money in the hands of people who commit habitual labor abuses, or pay people to dump toxins in the water? Which is less bad?” That can eat up a lot of time and energy, and for some people it can drain their capacity to do anything else. (I’ve got a perfectionist streak and I have to go “I’ll make this much effort and call it good enough!” or fretting about the ethics of shopping will be the only thing I get around to doing.) And it can become a distraction. Corporations can easily create a specialty line of greenwashed fair trade organic whatever for the people who actually care that much, sell it along with the damaging stuff, and end up making almost no change to their overall habits.

    That doesn’t mean everyone buying organic vegetables as a farmer’s market needs to put them down and go to McDonalds instead. Watching what you buy can make some difference, and if it’s a practical way for you to good in the world, go for it. But it needs to be acknowledged that for many people it’s not that easy, for many people there are limits to how much effort they can put into it, and no one’s going to fix the world through morally perfect shopping. And I think the left has suffered from too much focus on perfecting ourselves on an individual level while letting the big picture politics slide.

  • Jesusisma5t3r

    mike warnke is over here in the uk and preaching at the abundant life centre in newport sth wales this weekend tried to warn a friend about him .I don’t think pastor Mal Holland will believe anything said about him.thankyou and blessings in Jesus

  • http://profiles.google.com/kameshinjite Kagi Soracia

    I know this comment is two years old, but I just had to remark on this…as a sociolinguist I find it fascinating the way language use evolves so quickly in an online environment, trends appearing and fading much more quickly than they do in speech and offline print, it’s very interesting! But my specific point is, I’ve been on the internet a long time (10-12 years, heavily so in the last 8-9) and the use of ROT13 to hide spoilers or disturbing content was before my time, probably because the techonology moved on & we now have coding that does that in many places, but I had never heard of it referenced in this way and I had to look it up – I recognised it as a simple cipher and debated about taking the few minutes to solve it on my own, but I’m glad I looked it up because I had assumed that you brought the idea of using it from some other offline hobby or vocation, and didn’t realise that it used to be widespread on usenet & similar forums for that kind of purpose. How cool!

  • Frankie Metro

    Mike Warnke’s discussions on Satanism are witnessed and recorded within the pages of Blind Date at the Glass Eye Disco by Lindsey Thomas (Kleft Jaw Press 2013): http://kleftjaw.weebly.com/kleft-jaw-press.html Here’s an excerpt that mentions the fact:http://kleftjaw.weebly.com/1/post/2013/07/blind-date-at-the-glass-eye-disco-interior-sneak-peek.html


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X