When ‘evangelism’ intends to alienate and exclude

That Truth for Youth culture-war Bible we discussed yesterday is destined to be poorly received.

I think that’s by design.

The purpose of this new, improved Bible, allegedly, is to “reach youth with the gospel.” By the “gospel,” unfortunately, these folks mean the culture-war gospel — not the good news of Jesus the Christ, but a collection of sermons condemning abortion, homosexuality, sex, drugs & rock ‘n’ roll. But set aside that little matter of blasphemy and let’s just consider this publication’s purported “youth appeal.”

It doesn’t have any. And, again, I think that’s the point.

Imagine the certain fate of any poor kid who accepts the purported premise of this special Bible and attempts to do what he or she has been instructed to do with this Truth For Youth comic-book enhanced edition of the New Testament. Imagine what will happen — not what might happen, but what will happen — when this child takes copies of this horrifying book into school and attempts to distribute them to his or her classmates.

That attempt will not end well. “Here, this is for you. It’s a Bible — but you should like this Bible because it’s a special Bible just for you. It has comic-book stories about abortion and witchcraft in it.”

That will go badly, in part, because the “youth appeal” of this thing seems to have been crafted by people whose understanding of youth culture is roughly that of Principal Weatherbee in old Archie comics. But more importantly it will go badly because what these poor kids have been commissioned to do is deliberately inhospitable and rude.

There are, broadly speaking, two kinds of evangelism practiced and promoted by American Christians. One is hospitable and the other is not. One approach aims to cross lines and to erase boundaries. The other aims to draw lines and to enforce boundaries.

The latter always pretends to be the former, but that pretense is exposed by the way its practitioners determinedly stick with what isn’t working. When their approach offends, alienates and ostracizes the very people they claim to be trying to “reach,” they never reconsider or readjust that approach. They double down.

Because the truth is that their approach is working. It’s working perfectly. It’s doing just exactly what it was designed and intended to do: offend, alienate and ostracize.

That’s the point. Offensiveness is a feature, not a bug. Widening the gap between Us and Them was the plan and the purpose all along.

The poor kids being sent forth with those copies of Truth For Youth to give out at their schools don’t realize this. They’re young. They still believe what they’ve been told — that they are being sent out to share God’s love and to rescue sinners from the fires of Hell.

“Give these out to your unsaved friends,” they are told. And they will, and they do. And very soon, as a result, they have no unsaved friends — no friends at all outside of the tribe.

And that was the plan all along. If you want to control someone, you need to cut them off from every outside influence. Their loyalty to the tribe will be guaranteed because they will have nowhere else to turn.

After the debacle with their classmates, these children will return to church and will be far more receptive to the notion that American Christians are suffering “persecution” for their faith. Sent forth to give offense and to induce mockery, they will inevitably suffer mockery, and that can be twisted into evidence that the tribe is marginal, vulnerable, put-upon and grievously burdened.

Objectively, it’s not easy to convince American Christians of such a thing. It seems laughable to suggest that a pampered majority religion that enjoys countless privileges and cultural hegemony is somehow suffering “persecution.” But by encouraging young people to provoke the hostility and rejection of their peers, you can make those young people more likely to accept this absurd claim. And that’s useful, because fostering a sense of grievance and a persecution complex is an invaluable tool for maintaining control and discipline over the tribe.

All of which is to say that the Truth For Youth Bible will be spectacularly ineffective as a “soul-winning” evangelism tool. But it will be very effective, indeed, for it’s intended purpose.

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  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ mistformsquirrel

    Ya know, I’m not sure why I hadn’t thought of this myself Fred; but you make an excellent point here.  It’s a way to reinforce the untenable nature of the bubble…but it won’t work, not really.  Oh it’ll alienate a few kids* – cut them off, damage their childhoods…

    And then they’ll grow up, and most of them will be confronted with a never ending onslaught of completely decent, ordinary people who are not in the tribe.  The lie will become apparent, and eventually for most, there’ll come a point of epiphany where “If they lied about this… what else have they lied about?”  – And another one leaves the bubble, and quite possibly the faith altogether. 

    Needless to say, the dark side is hiring bakers. >_>

    *Great fucking job assholes.

  • http://accidental-historian.typepad.com/ Geds

     And then they’ll grow up, and most of them will be confronted with a
    never ending onslaught of completely decent, ordinary people who are not
    in the tribe.  The lie will become apparent, and eventually for most,
    there’ll come a point of epiphany where “If they lied about this… what
    else have they lied about?”  – And another one leaves the bubble, and
    quite possibly the faith altogether.

    I hit college, specifically a secular, state college, with every intention of becoming a pastor.  I was in the local InterVarsity chapter and they put me in charge of outreach.  It was difficult, since I was one of the few people who actually hung out with non-Christians.

    Also, most of the people in IV turned out to be assholes.  I’d started questioning all kinds of aspects of my religion and finally decided that the best approach was to say, “Eff this.”  I stopped hanging out with IV and hung out with the people I was supposed to be winning for Jesus, instead.  I still don’t regret that decision.

    So there’s another entire aspect of things: a lot of Christians are assholes.  That’s not surprising, since a lot of people are assholes.  But, at least in my experience, a certain kind of assholery is allowed or even encouraged in Evangelical circles.  Basically, if you play the Jesus card just right you can also play the, “That person over there isn’t being Christian enough,” card.  And that always ends well…

  • JenL

    And then they’ll grow up, and most of them will be confronted with a
    never ending onslaught of completely decent, ordinary people who are not
    in the tribe.  The lie will become apparent, and eventually for most,
    there’ll come a point of epiphany where “If they lied about this… what
    else have they lied about?”  – And another one leaves the bubble, and
    quite possibly the faith altogether. 

    Well, 2 things.

    For certain groups of “them”, the kids are sent to church elementary schools, where they are told that the public schools are full of horrible mean kids.  They then go on to church high schools, where they’re told that the public schools are full of drugs.  They go on to church colleges, where they are told that the public colleges are full of sex and alcohol (in a bad way).  And any networking that was done along the way was with folks in the church.  So where do they look for jobs?  Within the church.  Church-run hospitals, church-run schools, church-run businesses. 

    The ones who go to work for completely outside enterprises either are on their way out of the church to begin with, or go to work every day guarded against the people around them.  Those co-workers might *seem* pleasant enough, but if they’re not following the proper church teachings, they are mislead. 

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ mistformsquirrel

    That’s a fair point, and one I really should have thought of myself.  *sigh*  Well that’s depressing.

  • Tonio

    The most benign outcome I can see is that they adopt the Amish model of insularity. Imagine if they formed their own communities and set up a semi-independent economy. Of course, that would require a massive shift in their attitudes toward others, particularly evangelizing.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    So where do they look for jobs?  Within the church.  Church-run hospitals, church-run schools, church-run businesses.

    You know, I always wondered about the rise of sectarian businesses and sectarian education institutions.  Why have those things when we have perfectly serviceable non-sectarian versions of them accessible to all.  

    No I guess I know why: socially maladjusted people raised in The Bubble have fueled demand for jobs in The Bubble because they lack the skills to integrate in social environments outside The Bubble.  This in turn tends to push The Bubble to expand.  

    For some Christian Dominists, I can see that this might be the entire point.  

    Unfortunately, when The Bubble rests on the premise of being a persecuted minority, it tends to burst when it grows to be mainstream.  

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    You know, I wonder if a much better way to legitimately evangelize wouldn’t be to just ask ordinary teenagers who’ve managed to successfully stay socially connected to the mainstream how they might go about ‘marketing’ the Bible.

    One attraction I could see is that for teenagers questioning their place in the universe – what their purpose is – one possible answer is given in the Bible and its associated faith. But it has to be a process of self-discovery. You can’t just patly supply the answer and expect someone to uncritically accept it; that’s not the bedrock of a proper foundation of a faith-based existence.

  • Edo

    I’ve been mulling over something like that myself, albeit on the product end of things: looking over the Bible I was given by my church at age 13, and the shelves of Bibles that are specifically marketed for target demographics.

    What strikes me is how ill-conceived the whole thing is. Evangelicals have tons of teen Bibles, with very specific culture-war topical notes and horrid garish finishes that instantly doom them to a fate no Bible should ever have: being outgrown. (I can’t speak for the mainline, but I was given more or less a bonded-leather pew Bible; I have sentimental bonds to it but it’s been totally unapproachable my whole life.)

    Teenagers are questioning and establishing their place in the cosmos, and the Bibles they’re given either give them pat answers or walls of text that are clearly meant to be filled in by an outside source (which teens are *challenging.*) From a product-side view (inspired by lurking on the Better Bibles Blog), somebody needs to design a Bible that lends itself to being both critically engaged and *kept.*

  • PJ Evans

    the Bible I was given by my church at age 13

    They gave us bibles when we finished fifth grade – I still have mine somewhere, although the cover’s seriously worn. It’s an RSV with some good maps in the back and a presentation page. Useful, not flashy, and the closest it comes to ‘youth bible’ is the color plates illustrating some of the scenes (somewhat sentimental, but not bad).

  • Edo

    …it might have been fifth grade, now that you mention it; I benchmark it as “a long time ago.” And the description of your Bible is close enough to mine that the only difference was probably generational (RSV was out of print by the time I came of age.)

  • Steve Florman

     I think you’ll find that LDS youth have pretty good luck with their LDS editions of the KJV, with footnotes and cross-references to the other LDS scriptures, a really good Topical Guide, and a half-way-decent Bible Dictionary.  (And some nice maps.)

  • Edo

    Having been proselytized by Moonies and Jehovah’s Witnesses before, it strikes me that for Christian-y sectarian religions the key part of aggressive cold-call missionary work isn’t the few converts they make, but the MANY doors that get slammed in their faces. (It lends itself to kinda sinister sermons on 1 John 3:13 – you grew up in that milieu; did you ever hear sermons like that?”)

    There’s a bigger question here, about outreach vs. inreach (and the fact that there’s so *much* inreach disguised as outreach), but I’m not qualified to write it right now.

  • http://semperfiona.livejournal.com Semperfiona

    It might be just me, but my recollection is that even as a member of the evangelical bubble, when I was a teenager I was automatically put off by anything explicitly labeled as ‘For Youth’ or ‘For Teens’. Are today’s kids any different?

  • http://accidental-historian.typepad.com/ Geds

     It might be just me, but my recollection is that even as a member of the
    evangelical bubble, when I was a teenager I was automatically put off
    by anything explicitly labeled as ‘For Youth’ or ‘For Teens’. Are
    today’s kids any different?

    The Bible I carried through junior high and up until sometime in my freshman year of high school was one of the first of the experiments in marketing Bibles to teens.  It was filled with little stories and anecdotes and margin notes.  I think it was one of the first things that caused me to really take steps in doubting Christianity.  They’d have stories and link them to Bible passages that seemed to be completely unrelated unless I’d squint really hard and tilt my head to the left.  There would be links to say, “Here’s a prophecy from the Old Testament that came true because of Jesus,” and I’d flip back to the old “prophecy” and think, “Wait, what?  How does this one sentence that’s obviously about something else become a prophecy?”

    The thing that really tore it for me, though, was that it was a Living Bible, which is one o’ them paraphrased and modernized versions of the Bible.  I found myself reading passages that, I kid you not, spoke about the slave owing the master thousands of dollars.  I just couldn’t take that kind of crap and dumped the Bible in favor of a cheap NIV pew Bible.  Eventually I dumped that for a NASB pew Bible.

    But, on some level, I guess I should appreciate that youth Bible more.  Because in their zeal to convince me to read the Bible the “right” way, they actually convinced me not to trust the Bible and certainly not to trust anyone who told me the right way to read it.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    I think why I like the Revised Standard Version, besides the fact that I was given such a Bible in my youth, is that the preface to that Bible explained, in exhaustive detail, how they researched and translated it, taking care to note that they tried to find the oldest extant texts (as the Dead Sea Scrolls had been discovered not too long before the RSV project started, this was of particular note), while attempting to retain some of the linguistic flow of the King James (without being excessive about it).

    That, and while the language is sufficiently ‘antique’ to carry a kind of otherworldly flavor, it’s also well-annotated with proposed alternate translations and is reasonably accessible. I was reading the RSV at the age of eight, for example, and grasped most of what it had to say when I did read it.

  • SisterCoyote

    Nope.

    I’d place good money tomorrow’s kids won’t be, either.

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

    even as a member of the evangelical bubble, when I was a teenager I was automatically put off by anything explicitly labeled as ‘For Youth’ or ‘For Teens’.

    I was the opposite. I was so lonely, and so desperate to connect to people my own age, that anything “for teens” was something I really wanted to have.

  • DCFem

    A question about the market for this “bible” — would parents who will spend money on this piece of garbage actually send their kids to a public school? This seems like it’s tailored to the evangelical school & home school market where kids can be “shielded” from the truth of the original bible. And by truth I mean the lack of attention Jesus pays to abortion, homosexuality, sex, drugs, etc.

    I was not raised an evangelical so I don’t know what it’s like inside that bubble. But I wonder if problems with kids actually reading the bible and deciding that they want to be like Jesus and help the poor is the impetus behind the creation of this new garbage bible. People struggling to raise kids in their own image have got to be sick and tired of some of those kids reading the bible and having empathy for the poor and sick (like Jesus), and not a whole lot of hatred toward gays and sexually active women. This new garbage bible seems to me like it was created to guarantee more Franklin Graham’s than it was to just draw more lines in the sand between us and them.

  • MaryKaye

    A “for youth” label is not necessarily the kiss of death–“Young Adult” classification novels sell very well, though I’m told that they sell particularly well to 10-13 year olds rather than the older teens one might picture from the genre label.  But there are some awesomely good books in that classification.  Church-based youth/teen stuff?  Well, it would depend on the church, but there’s certainly a large chance that they will be anti-this and anti-that and no fun at all.

    When I was a teenager I did tons of youth/teen stuff at my girlfriend’s Methodist church, because they did good stuff–choir and plays mostly.  (I was Mary Magdalene in _Godspell_, a very good experience.)  I did not do youth/teen stuff at my own Catholic church, because they didn’t.  (The reason I didn’t therefore become a Methodist was that I have a strong need for ritual and they didn’t have enough.)

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

    A “for youth” label is not necessarily the kiss of death–“Young Adult” classification novels sell very well

    “Young Adult” has “adult” in it; it acknowledges that the target reader isn’t a child anymore at an age when they’re desperate to prove that. “For youth” is condescending – it calls back to those “___ for Children” books and magazines in the pediatrician’s office.

  • http://semperfiona.livejournal.com Semperfiona

     Yes, exactly. Also, “Young Adult” books don’t generally have that in the title, only maybe somewhere on the spine. Or nowhere at all on the book, just that they’re in the YA section of the bookstore. Funny, I still read YA books, but I have never willingly read anything titled ‘xyz for youth’ or ‘xyz for teens’.

  • http://mordicai.livejournal.com Mordicai

    Not for nothing, but the evangelical bent of Christianity is also a reaction against exactly this sort of things.  Dietary law & clothing restrictions are there to keep the tribe of the Jewish religion apart from the rest of the world; it is there because it is a JEWISH religion, & they are markers of Jewishness.  Which I don’t say to condemn Judiasm but rather just to point out how badly the intention of the gospels is being mangled.

  • fraser

     I don’t agree Fred. There’s such a long tradition of insanely clueless pushing of morally uplifting books to kids, I don’t see a need to assume an ulterior motive.
    Case in point, Dr. Laura wrote a book called “But I want It!” nominally geared to kids: Kid begs Mom to buy him more toys. She humors him and does so. Then he realizes the only toy he really cares about is his beloved old “Mr. Cat” stuffed animal and he agrees to give the others away.
    I have flipped through this in the store simply from bafflement at who they think this message is going to reach. It’s so utterly boring and preachy (and it has no purpose other than preaching) that I can’t imagine any kid reading it by choice, let alone learning Valuable Lessons. So I’m guessing that like most uplifting literature, buying it is a way for parents to feel good about themselves.
    Same with this comic-book Bible thing.

  • vsm

    The Truth for Youth Ministry’s  website is totally rad: http://truthforyouth.com/

    You can even read some of the comics there. They’re drawn in a pseudo-manga style, feature racially diverse groups of friends and try for some sort of mainstream appeal. For instance, they  condemn gaybashing (because those poor souls need to be cured, of course) and racism (and link it to the theory of evolution, obviously). I don’t think it’s going to fool anyone either.

    Would anyone by chance be familiar with the Christian comic called Serenity, very much unrelated to the works of Josh Whedon? It tells the charming story of a bunch of Christian kids who decide to convert bad girl Serenity by harassing and borderline stalking her. It has plenty of objectionable content, but I kind of like how it doesn’t portray Christianity as a magical cure for everything that ails ya and had fairly well-rounded characters. For instance, one of the kids has a low self-esteem due to his body, and one is unsuccessful in praying her lesbianism away (though the story implies she should keep at it). At the very least, it doesn’t come off as a bad-faith effort.

  • http://www.xkcd.com/285 Eran Rathan

    Joss Whedon, not Josh.  

  • http://danel4d.livejournal.com/ Danel

    The rock music comic is fantastic – Madonna Dahmer – even if the message it tries to convey is utterly awful.

  • http://kingdomofsharks.com/ D Johnston

    What’s interesting about those comics is that they all feel just this side of dated, like they were aiming for Gen X appeal without realizing that X-ers are all adults now.  I think the artistic style is actually just as telling as, say, the railing against death metal (“Madonna Dahmer”? Really). Manga was very popular in the 90’s due to the comic book revival and the increasing interest in Japanese pop culture. These days, though? Manga is considered a nerd’s hobby, and the manga/anime style is rarely used outside of webcomics. They’re twenty years behind the curve.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    I was a teenager in the 90s, and didn’t even know what manga was. Now there are large sections for it in mainstream bookstores. It is significantly more popular today, whether it’s considered “nerdy” or not.

  • http://kingdomofsharks.com/ D Johnston

    That may be your experience, but the rise of manga was definitely a product of 90’s culture and the demand for more edgy entertainment. For instance, one of the earliest successes in US manga was Fist of the North Star, translated in the early 90s and released as a comic book. The interest precipitated a limited release of the anime, the production of the American film, and the importing of FotNS arcade machines. This, in turn, demonstrated that Japanese culture could sell in the United States, leading to MTV’s brief flirtation with anime. This led to the popularity of shows like Evangelion and Aeon Flux, which in turn led to the rise of anime and manga clubs which made Japanese entertainment more accessible to Americans, which in turn encouraged the creation of Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim. It’s an interesting demonstration of the mainstreaming of outside entertainment, and most of it happened in the 90’s.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    Manga started to become popularized in the U.S. in the 90s. It was not more popular in the 90s.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    They’re twenty years behind the curve.

    There is a trope for that.

  • vsm

     Those comics appear to be from 2004, so they were originally only a decade behind. Thinking you could use the same allegedly hip materials for eight years might reveal an even worse disconnect from youth culture, though.

    Incidentally, manga and anime didn’t become popular in Finland until the mid-2000’s. When we had our first manga-related manufactured moral outrage, it was over Dragon Ball. It was so retro I couldn’t even get upset over how stupid it was.

  • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

    Probably by no intention of theirs, ‘Madonna Dahmer’ is a perfectly believable stage name for one of Marilyn Manson’s band members, who all follow the “Beauty Queen/Serial Killer” structure. 

  • http://twitter.com/wonderbink Sheila O’Shea

    “Madonna Wayne Gacy” was the name of one of the band members from Marilyn Manson, IIRC.  I can’t recall which female icon’s first name they grafted onto the Dahmer surname, if they ever did.

  • vsm

     I’m pretty sure it was a deliberate reference, since Marilyn Manson used to be their go-to example of evil in music. Metal fans tend to find this amusing.

  • reynard61

    “You can even read some of the comics there. They’re drawn in a pseudo-manga style, feature racially diverse groups of friends and try for some sort of mainstream appeal.”

    Sorry, but all I saw was a bunch of Jack Chick tracts* with a slicker and slightly-more-up-to-date art sense.

    *Patented Jack Chick footnotes included!

  • TheDarkArtist

    You’ve hit the nail on the head when it comes to the problem we have in this country right now, Fred. Let me share a bit of the story of how my  beliefs evolved.

    My family was always had kind of a post-Christian American secular belief structure. We believed in a God, but we didn’t go to church or read the Bible, and we definitely didn’t blaspheme, but it was because we respected all peoples’ religions.

    Then, when I was 12, my teacher for Physical Science saw me reading sci-fi books every day and gave me a copy of A Brief History of Time, and my world was instantly changed. I realized that I had no reason to believe in God, and I became a de-facto atheist right then. That also led me to be interested in finding out what it was about Christianity that made people flock to it in such numbers.

    When I looked, however, I didn’t like what I found. The people who represented the religion seemed to go against the grain of everything that I believed or held to be true, due to the fact that the most conservative voices tend to be the loudest and easiest to find (and this was in the days before blogs, Wikipedia, or even widespread internet access).

    So, I essentially evolved into an antitheist. I’m not proud of it (most of the time), to tell you the truth. These guys would hand out little mini-Bibles to people, and my friends and I would take them, find something that we thought was ridiculous, rip out the page and use it to roll a joint. To be fair, those things do make really good rolling papers, but I digress.

    Through an internet forum, where I befriended a moderate evangelical Christian, and had many long hours of online debates and discussions with him and other believers and atheists, I actually finally came to respect and understand the beliefs of people like him more than I had before.

    I even considered converting, oh why lie, I guess that I kind of did convert, but I must have done it wrong, because it didn’t stick very well. I think that a person needs many more coats of primer than what I had.

    All of which is to say that I absolutely agree with your point. I don’t necessarily think that the effect of separating the wheat from the chaff, as it were, is what they want, but I also don’t think that they’re disappointed that it happens. Because, as you point out, it reinforces that old idea of persecution and tribal resentment.

    The thing is, until that chance meeting online, I had never had any positive interactions with Christians, at least not with Christians acting in their capacity as religious people spreading the faith. When I complained and organized a group of atheists in my high school to have a bunch of posters with Christianity-based quotes taken down, I had people threatening to kick my ass or even kill me because of it (this was in the 1990’s, before that kind of thing was really zero-tolerance, and anyway, I don’t think many of the school’s administration disagreed with those students. The principal of the school made his disdain for my beliefs fully known to me).

    It’s a sad state of affairs that it puts us in as a community, and by “us” I mean “western civilization” and the US in particular, because all this tribalism does is foster resentment and intolerance. If I hadn’t eventually befriended a kind, patient and welcoming Christian, a huge part of my life would be different, I think, and not for the better. It’s kind of sad that such is the case. I’ve never had any interaction with a Muslim, or a Jew, or a Wiccan, or a Hindu, Buddhist or any other religious person where they threatened to kick my ass or kill me for wanting my rights as a non-believer to be respected in a public place. That’s how things should be, because that’s the decent and neighborly thing to do, whatever your religion or lack thereof.

  • Murfyn

    I think that you underrate Principal Weatherbee.   
    This is from Wikipedia  (which I rarely cite as a source):
    “In Archie Digest #233, Archie’s father accidentally reveals that Waldo was known as “Wild Wally” in high school. Wild Wally was a troublemaker, and, after the kids find out, contrary to what he expects, they learn to appreciate it. Many stories feature Archie and his friends discovering that Mr. Weatherbee in his younger days was thin with red hair and had many adventures similar to Archie’s. These stories often result in Archie worrying that as an adult, he will become more like Mr. Weatherbee.”

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    “Wedging”, a strategy that they taught us to look out for in high school health class.  In that context, wedging was something that an abuser did to isolate their partner from support networks other than them.  The lesson was that if a partner seems like they are trying to undermine your friends and family to draw you closer to them, that is a warning sign that you should get out of the relationship fast.  Someone who genuinely loves you will not try to do that.  

    The context is different, but I see that same strategy here.  Get those youth away from a support network that might tell them otherwise, and you can tell them whatever you want and they will pretty much have to accept it because they have no where else to go. Heck, if those youths are homosexual (for one example) then yes, I would even go so far as to call this emotional abuse if the intent is to keep them ashamed and in the closet as long as possible.  

    I find it ironic that many of these families in The Bubble keep their kids out of public school or secular secondary education because they are afraid of secular “indoctrination”.  Seems almost Orwellian, a “War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength” kind of thing.  Emphasis on that last one.  

  • http://kingdomofsharks.com/ D Johnston

    This gives me flashbacks to high school. There was a small clique of evangelical kids (maybe 15 students out of a student body of 400+) that met from time to time in my first period classroom. It was always the same group – no one ever brought friends for “witnessing.” They only ventured out of that room on rare occasions, for Rally Round the Flagpole or to stealthily drop tracts on windowsills (which my smart-ass friends and I would immediately collect). In class and on trips, they hung together and seldom tried to interact with anyone else. When they did, it came in two forms: Flat-out accusing students of being degenerate sinners, or playing weird little logic games that didn’t make much sense. People learned to give them a wide berth and never, ever bring up religion or politics when they were around.

    I never really understood their coarse behavior. It was a very pious community, but most of the churches were mainline or Catholic. Evangelicals were a definite minority – I think they were outnumbered by the Jehovah’s Witnesses. A situation like that calls for a fine touch. As a liberal in a overwhelmingly conservative area, I learned quickly that getting in people’s faces and ranting wasn’t the best way to challenge people’s beliefs. None of the evangelical kids ever learned that lesson, no matter how often it was taught to them.

    It wasn’t until I started reading accounts from current and former evangelicals that I realized that this is probably how they were taught to preach. I’m with Fred on this – that approach makes no sense if you’re trying to win hearts and minds, but it makes perfect sense if you’re just trying to keep the infantry in line.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    Its, no apostrophe, is the possessive.

    Are high school kids actually going to try to distribute these to friends? Middle school kids, maybe… but middle school is even more of a cannibalistic free-for-all than high school, so I doubt it. It took enough courage for one of my friends to ask me if I was saved in 10th grade; I can see him handing out normal New Testaments, but not this junk. I can’t see him thinking this junk was anything but junk either, though. Teenagers are a lot smarter than they get credit for.

  • October

    This is found other places besides the youth bible market. Recently I was at a mega-church attending a wedding. I expected the church to be on their best, most inclusive, behavior, but in fact it was just the opposite. The clear message was – If you don’t endorse our list of right wing talking points, you don’t belong here. Even communion was framed as a loyalty test rather than a sacrament. How did they get to be ‘mega’ if they keep turning people away?

  • WeWantPie

    This.  I have never been able to understand the popularity of these megachurches.  I hope someone with more knowledge of how they work can respond.

  • Edo

    I don’t have much more experience, but I do have some (a megachurch *started* in town while I was growing up) and a fair number of anecdotes that I’ll pass as data, soooo…

    First and foremost, it’s EASIER to participate in a megachurch. They don’t usually identify as part of a historic church tradition (compare a megachurch website’s Statement of Faith to the list of stuff that, say, a Lutheran church believes), they’re not high-church, and they’re *spectacular.* There are no hymnals, and praise music is written for emotional impact. So (to my mind) at great theological cost, megachurches are more accessible and *feel* more moving.

    Second, megachurches *inevitably* have a youth pastor; I can’t think of any local churches that could afford one. I bring that up because my sister was introduced to the megachurch through a friend, and after my deciding vote left for college Mom started taking her there. If megachurches are giant and young and multi-generational, it bears noting that at least some of the adults aren’t converts but chauffeurs.

    Third, megachurches are structured and run more like a business than a church. Which is why once in a blue moon they’ll do un-churchy things like file for bankruptcy: all the numbers are bigger, including the overhead. (I’m not sure what the financial cultures of megachurches are like, but I do recall that my neighbors tithed to the local one.) In the religious marketplace, the megachurch is a corporation amidst co-ops.

    And fourth, megachurch attendance has to come from somewhere, and judging by demographics that somewhere is “other churches.” That has HUGE effects over time. My hometown had churches dating back to the Revolution, which (judging by the seating) have probably survived at 100-200 people for centuries. Even if it’s stable at that size, though, it only takes one or two families leaving for the megachurch, and a half-dozen high school graduates going to college, and suddenly the church is 75% gray-haired. At that point, if you go shopping, the obvious conclusion would be that the megachurch is the ONLY thriving one in the region, because all the rest are septagenarians.

    There’s more to it than that, much more, but I’m an outsider and all I can offer is an outsider’s observations.

  • Steve Florman

     There’s a certain appeal to exclusivity that leads people to want to be part of the group.  It can be used for good or for ill; you see it in bratty-girl junior high cliques or in things like recruiting.  When I joined the service, the Army was anxious to get anyone who could fog a mirror; the Marine Corps attitude was, “What makes you think you’re good enough to be one of us?”  (I joined the Marines.) 

    Some of those mega-churches, I think, get big by using the same psychology, and it feeds right into the phenomenon that Fred is talking about in his article.  They want to be confrontational and exclusionary.  The Mormons (fair disclosure:  I am one) are open about missionary work, but it takes commitment to be an active member of the church.  Nonetheless, they’re growing like crazy. 

    For good cause or for bad, there’s something about a group that requires commitment and sets itself apart that seems to attract people.

  • Kubricks_Rube

    According to the Truth for Youth website, their plan is to “legally smuggle Bibles into the public schools of America! Consider this: There has never been one law passed to prohibit the distribution of Bibles in America’s public schools.”

    I think I owe them an apology. I thought for sure they are going to claim the Bible has been banned from sch-

    “[T]oday many are trying to stop us from giving Bibles to the students in America’s public schools.”

    Getting closer…

    “Young people are being given condoms, but Bibles are forbidden! We have had to create drug free zones today as a result of creating Bible free zones in the sixties.”

    There it is!

    They couldn’t keep their story straight for even a few paragraphs? Is that really so much to ask?

  • Jared Bascomb

    This reminds me of the evangelicals who would come into LGBT neighborhoods on Saturday nights and do their generally non-offensive attempts at conversion. It probably: a) gave them a sense of courage, going into the lions’ den as it were, and b) reinforced their sense of persecution – and by extension, their fellow congregants’ – when they testified at church the next morning.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    This reminds me of the evangelicals who would come into LGBT neighborhoods on Saturday nights and do their generally non-offensive attempts at conversion. It probably: a) gave them a sense of courage, going into the lions’ den as it were, and b) reinforced their sense of persecution – and by extension, their fellow congregants’ – when they testified at church the next morning.

    In fairness, they are demonstrating great courage.  Going into gay neighborhoods to talk to actual gay people is a big risk for them.  I mean, getting to know actual people you have been demonizing means *gasp!* that you might find your conviction wavering !

  • Tonio

    I picture them reacting like Prudence Turnblad when she ventures into a black neighborhood. Do they fear that the LGBT folks will attempt to recruit them away from heterosexuality?

  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea

    Actually, I think that’s exactly what some of them think.  Listen to some Christian radio–people are terrified that if Heather Has Two Mommies or And Tango Makes Three are in the school library, little kids will be talked into teh ghey.

    And no, I honestly don’t know how they think sexuality really works: maybe they think that people wake up one morning when they’re about thirteen and just decide to be gay, because the Librul Media has made it sound so darn hip.

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

    people are terrified that [..] little kids will be talked into teh ghey.

    And no, I honestly don’t know how they think sexuality really works

    The working model I use of how they think sexuality works goes something like this: “The important thing about sexuality is not how people feel, or whom they’re attracted to, or whom they love. The important thing is how people contribute to the social order. More specifically, when it comes to sexuality people ought to fulfill the social role that is appropriate for their gender, which includes men marrying women and working hard to satisfy their family’s material needs, and women being married by men and working hard to satisfy their family’s emotional needs, and both of them bearing children and working hard to ensure their children contribute to the social order in their own turn. People who don’t do this are failing to do the important thing. Even more perniciously, some of them have managed to convince large groups of people that it’s not really important at all, and they are using superficially harmless means (e.g., children’s books) to communicate that message, and it’s working and we need to stop it. ” 

    That said, I can really only understand that intellectually.

    To actually empathize with these people, I pretty much have to flip the content around. That is, if I turn that into “The important thing about sexuality is not how people contribute to the social order. The important thing is how people feel, whom they’re attracted
    to, whom they love. More specifically, when it comes to sexuality people ought to find social roles that express their own preferences and emotions and relationships. People who don’t do this are failing to do the important
    thing. Even more perniciously, some of them have managed to convince
    large groups of people that it’s not really important at all, and they are using superficially harmless means (e.g., Bible study) to communicate that message, and it’s working and we need to stop it. “… if I turn it into that, my emotional reaction is pretty compelling.

  • arcseconds

    While functionally speaking I think what you say is correct: an important social function of homophobia is enforcing gender roles and social conformity.   And you’re certainly right that homophobia is is deeply connected to gender roles and social conformity, and the latter are extremely important to conservatives (whereas most of us here are pretty relaxed about those things).  

    However, I think your account misses a couple of important factors, which it needs to explain the horror that people have about the possibility of their children being infected with gayness.  If it was just failure to contribute to the social order, then being gay would be no worse than throwing away good prospects as a laywer in order to eek out an existence as a starving artist.  Bad and awkward, sure, but no-one’s writing screeds to protect children from art exhibits.

    Firstly, there’s what some blog post Fred linked to recently but I forget the details and can’t be bothered looking it up called ‘platonism’ about sex and gender.    Female and Male are part of the Cosmic Order, not just part of our particular social order.   Deviation from the cosmic order, if they aren’t deliberate acts of perversity, are a species of sickness and degeneracy (that’s pretty much how physical intersexness has been treated in our society up until recently – obviously no-one’s choice, but a horrific affliction that has to be fixed, like a cleft palette, but in some ways worse).

    (what’s going on behind this, I guess, is a reification of our particular social order into the One Proper Social Order, a mistake commonly committed by white middle class people in majority white societies for the last couple of centuries or so.  In earlier times, I think educated people at least were more aware of the particularity of their society, although that didn’t necessarily mean any less enthusiasm for defending their particular traditions within their own society.)

    Secondly, and closely related to this, is personal virtue, by which I don’t just mean moral goodness, but a wider concept that also includes virtù in Machiavelli’s sense, and maybe with a whiff of Nietzsche in there too.   For example, if your son should happen to turn out to be a promiscuous rake and ladies’ man, that may be a matter of regret morally speaking, but it’s proof of his masculine power.   Being a nancy would be so much worse.    (unfortunately I don’t know of any way women can be morally bad but nevertheless display feminine virtue under this schema.  Perhaps conniving to get their children into socially desirable places? maybe someone else can help).

    One reason for introducing these concepts is to account for how fragile people seem to think heterosexuality is, and to connect homosexuality with other ways of falling away from virtue: sex, drugs, poverty, ‘bad company’, failure to complete high school, etc.

    Finally,  I wanted to mention a more prosaic matter, which is somewhat implicit in your own account.  That’s the worry about practical matters.  If your child is going after members of the same sex, then there won’t be a wedding (no traditional wedding.  therefore no wedding), (so no mother-of-the-bride for you), who will they take to the prom, should they use a different changing-room to everyone else? are they going to start wearing hideous polo necks and courderouy jackets? no grandchildren! getting AIDS by casual sex in public toilets, &c. &c.

  • Tonio

    While I admire your theory, I suspect the cause of homophobia is far simpler – protection of male privilege. Without gender norms, there would be no basis for a gender hierarchy.

  • arcseconds

    Well, of course I think preserving male privilege is a part of it.   But I don’t think it’s as simple as that.

    Read my last paragraph again.  Surely you won’t deny that that kind of panicked fretting ends up going through the minds of many parents who wind up with non-straight offspring.   That fretting isn’t straightforwardly to do with male privilege – it’s to do with the abandonment of social roles that they’re familiar with.   They’re not thinking “if Lucy gets with another girl, how will we oppress women any more? ” they’re more thinking “ZOMG! I had all these vague ideas of what Lucy’s future life would be like, and now I have to through them out the window! Also, society provides me with virtually no framework for how it will work out for her! The future is a blank slate! Uncharted Waters! PANIC!!”

    And also, there’s a fair bit of honest concern for their child there too.

    (Remember, it’s highly likely that they’ll also be perhaps not this panicked, but Highly Concerned about Franky’s decision to through in Law for Art School, and I think that’s a similar phenomenon, and it’s not got a strong connection to male privilege (it is of course more acceptable for Franky to become a bohemian than Lucy, but that still doesn’t make it completely acceptable)).

    Also, even if you do think it’s to do with male privilege and male privilege only, once you unpack that, you already end up with a theory like mine. 

      For there to be male privilege, there need to be males in a straightforward sense, and they need to have different traits to everyone else (quintessentially masculine traits) , so you’re already having to have some kind of a ‘platonic’ take on gender.   Once you’ve got that set up, it’s important for everyone you’ve identified as being male to embody the masculine traits, and to the extent they don’t they’re not being sufficiently masculine, so you’ve recovered masculine virtue there too.

  • Tonio

    I wasn’t suggesting that the desire to preserve privilege was a conscious one. It’s more that masculinity is thought of as a commodity or asset, so whenever some men don’t conform to gender norms because of homosexuality or some other reason, others perceive this as masculinity losing its value. Sort of like HOAs that obsess over property values if residents hang their laundry or put up the wrong style of fence.

    And some of the parental behavior you describe could be simple selfishness, a desire to have grandchildren or to see the child follow the parents’ paths. I’m skeptical of parents who say their opposition to their children’s homosexuality is based in concern over them being ostracized. That’s because of my on family’s experience with children who have dated people of different ethnicities. 

  • arcseconds

    I understand that you don’t think it’s a conscious desire, and my paraphrases are no meant to denote explicit conscious activity, either.  What a socially conservative parent experiences on discovering their child is gay is emotional turmoil, and that’s what we’re trying to make sense of by referring to unconscious or subconscious thought-process.

    Let’s put it this way.  My take on this is that there’s a whole lot of different things going on in that emotional turmoil, which varies from case to case.  Your stated position is that it’s all just about male privilege.

    The big advantage of my position over yours (in my eyes) is that it accounts for similar kinds of outrage, frustration, anger and concern that socially conservative parents display on other occasions.  You’ve mentioned one yourself: dating people of different ethnicities.  I suppose you’ll say that’s about preserving a different kind of privilege, and I’ll agree that’s probably a part of it, although it starts to get tricky to explain the fact that parents of  minority, underprivileged ethnicities also often don’t take too kindly about their kids dating outside their ethnic group. 

    Perhaps you can indeed explain that in terms of preserving privilege — I can vaguely see how you could. 

    However, there are others that provoke similar reactions which really don’t seem to be about privilege at all.  Dying your hair an outrageous colour or getting a tattoo spring to mind.  I can guarantee that doing either will provoke all sorts of fireworks even in only mildly socially conservative households.   These can straightforwardly be interpreted as sins against social norms.  Explaining in terms of privilege might be possible, but it’ll be convoluted, and I can’t see how it’d explain the strength of the outrage – the hair will grow out before too long, and tattoos can be covered.  I also suspect such an explanation will end up importing concern with the social order, again. 

    And if you allow that people do get outraged about violations of the social order, and not just about privilege, then it’d be odd to maintain that they somehow don’t care about the violations of the social order when their kid turns out to be gay, but only the undermining of male privilege.

    Anyway, you just admitted that there could be other contributing factors, such as selfishness.  Now, if I could just convince you that they could be selfishly concerned about their place in the social order, I’d basically have made my case…

  • Tonio

    I’m not claiming that homophobia is solely but about male privilege. Instead, I see little practical difference between wanting to preserve the social order and wanting to preserve one’s privilege, whatever type of privilege it happens to be. The old saw that people become conservative when they have something to conserve. These parents are indeed selfishly concerned about their place in the social order. The only difference with the males is that they perceive themselves as having more to lose if the Neuter Apocalypse becomes a reality. 

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     

    Read my last paragraph again.  Surely you won’t deny that that kind of
    panicked fretting ends up going through the minds of many parents who
    wind up with non-straight offspring.   That fretting isn’t
    straightforwardly to do with male privilege – it’s to do with the
    abandonment of social roles that they’re familiar with.   They’re not
    thinking “if Lucy gets with another girl, how will we oppress women any
    more? ” they’re more thinking “ZOMG! I had all these vague ideas of what
    Lucy’s future life would be like, and now I have to through them out
    the window! Also, society provides me with virtually no framework for
    how it will work out for her! The future is a blank slate! Uncharted
    Waters! PANIC!!”

    It is generally fraught to try to draw conclusions from the consequences of the posiitons of people like that.

    One of Fred’s favorite rhetorical methods is to assume that those he opposes have thought out their actions, so he follows them forward to their consequences and then works backward to hypothesize as to intent: their methods of fighting abortion lead inevitably and obviously to an increase in human suffering, therefore their _goal_ must have been an increase in human suffering. The inevitable and obvious conclusion of their evangelizing methods is to alienate the evangelist and cut him off from those outside the tribe, therefore the *goal* must have been to get him alienated and ostracised.

    But the truth of the matter is, a lot of these people hold the views they do only by virtue of the fact that they have built up immense mental barriers to *stop* them thinking these things through to their natural conclusion. THey do not think “If I oppose marriage equality, that will force the  gays to magically turn straight,” nor “If I oppose gay marriage, the gays will be unable to marry and therefore will be condemned to unhappy lives,” and they don’t think “If I ban abortion, these women will suffer,” nor “If I ban abortion, those sluts will magically change into happy mothers.”  They compose a mental block between action and consequence to *stop* them having to think things through.

    In mqny cases, they don’t even really think about the thing they’re supporting or opposing at all: they think one thing: “Is this an “us” position or a “them” position?” 

    That’s how they can say things like “Obama is a atheist muslim kenyan nazi communist who is the biological son of malcolm X”: those words don’t actually *mean* anything to them other than “Them”.

    And they can stand behind someone spouting literally medieval medical science because being anti-abortion is an “us” position.

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

     

    I don’t know of any way women can be morally bad but
    nevertheless display feminine virtue under this schema.

    If I’m understanding the schema you have in mind, I would think that lying and cheating to get a better husband than they would otherwise obtain falls into the category.

  • arcseconds

    Yes, that sounds reasonable. 

  • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

    Do they fear that the LGBT folks will attempt to recruit them away from heterosexuality?

    That may have secretly been the hope for more than a few, I suspect. 

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Do they fear that the LGBT folks will attempt to recruit them away from heterosexuality?

    As a matter of fact, some do.  However, it is mostly a “Think of the children!” type fear.  In that sense, they have the courage of a parent who thinks their child is under threat.  

    Sadly, most parents’ danger sense has a habit of being a bit miscalibrated where their children are concerned… 

  • Jared Bascomb

    Re: “Prudence Turnblad” — that would be Prudie Pingleton.

  • Tonio

    Oops! Thanks for the correction – I’ve only seen Waters’ original movie, and not for many years.

  • Jared Bascomb

    IMHO, the original John Waters movie is by far the best version of “Hairspray.”

  • Jared Bascomb

    @twitter-15487831:disqus You’re correct that it is a form of courage, but I see it more as them thinking they’re the angels visiting Lot in Sodom. For realz. I think they come into the Castro or wherever from their suburban enclave, literally expecting the locals to be fornicating in the streets or that they themselves will be taken by force. And when they finally return home, they do so with a sense of relief that their worst nightmare didn’t happen.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    I think they come into the Castro or wherever from their suburban enclave, literally expecting the locals to be fornicating in the streets or that they themselves will be taken by force. And when they finally return home, they do so with a sense of relief that their worst nightmare didn’t happen.

    I am not sure that “relief” is the emotion I would infer that they feel.  I mean, these are people who have demonstrated a remarkable and well-practiced talent for self-deception.  Just because observational evidence that contradicts their established belief’s passes their eyes does not mean they are willing to see it.  If anything, absence of evidence just strikes them as evidence well hidden.  In that scenario, relief would not be what they feel, but a mounting sense of tension that does not break.  

  • Madhabmatics

    You see, Evangelicals understand how city demographics work:

    Just like Saints Row. You see, if enough gay people move in, that means that their gay gang has ownership of the area and if you try to pick a fight with a gay dude a van will pull up and six gay dudes will get out and beat you with grotesquely large purple sex toys.

    Just wait for the news story next week where they drop bibles from a helicopter into a YMCA facility while playing Kanye West’s “Power”

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=581585394 Nicholas Kapur

    (With apologies to An(n)als of Online Dating.)
     
    Today, we’ll be looking at Parental Controls: The Truth About Pornography.

    ———-

    +3 for literally everything about Marty. “Hey, man, let’s look at some soccer sites SURPRISE NOW YOU’RE LOOKING AT TITS HAHA!”

    +2 for “your dad’s webserver.” I half expected them to go into “cyberspace” and drive down the “information superhighway.”

    +10 for Mr. Flintner’s entrance

    Bonus +2 for his face on the second page

    +5 for “He hasn’t had much luck with women!” = “He’s a fucking serial rapist!”

    +3 for “Eve’s Garden of Eden Girlies”

    +2 for Jesse’s sole purpose in hanging out with Marty in the first place being to “witness”

    +1 for “once you’ve *looked*, you’ll be *hooked!*

    +1 for the fruit of the Tree of Life being pornography

    +4 for using King “8 Wives and 10+ Concubines” David’s affair with Bathsheba as an example of lust destroying a family, because clearly the problem was adultery and not David arranging to have her husband killed on the battlefield

    +1 for describing Bathsheba as “something that wasn’t right and wasn’t [David’s]”

    Another +4 for “Bathsheba’s Bad Bathing Babes.” Admit it you guys, you were having way too much fun coming up with Biblical-themed porn sites.

    +0 for I’m pretty sure Marty’s dad just got back from raping someone

    +2 for the look of pure anguish on Jesse’s face at having encountered boobies for the first time. For the rest of his grade school and college life, this will be the day he incorrectly blames every time he sees some girl’s bra strap sticking out of her tank top and pops a shame boner

    Total score: +40

  • Hth

    In other news, my punk rock alternate persona is absolutely going to be named Madonna Dahmer.  Thanks, Truth for Youth!

  • LL

    Yeah, but it’s not only the young people dumb enough to believe this “persecution” bullshit. Plenty of older people believe it, too. My mother, who is 67 years old, for instance. Old enough to know better. But when you’ve gone to a church for 25 years that tells you that the earth is only 6,000 years old and Santa Claus is a Satanic device to steal Christmas away from Jesus, I guess you’ll believe anything they tell you.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Santa Claus? SANTA CLAUS?

    *jaw drops*

    “Santa” is such a staple of modern Western culture that I can’t imagine how the Santa Claus delivers presents thing could be anything but a relatively harmless way to present the bounty and good will that people should bestow upon one another.

    I mean, just wow. O.o

  • SisterCoyote

    1) Santa Clause is a tradition that was tacked onto Christianity – more evidence of Evil Pagan Influence.

    2) Santa Claus is also known as Saint Nick, and as we all know, sainthood is just dressed-up idolatry.

    3) If the emphasis of Christmas is on glitter and materialism, it’s not on Jesus.

    (3 is one I actually agree with. But it can and should still be a fun holiday – just not a free-for-all greedfest. There’s certainly a medium.)

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    I agree with #3 and I know Santa is kind of a “bolt-on” (e.g. Sinter Klaas in Europe) from legends in the 1500s and 1600s – however this idea that Santa represents a War on Christmas is … wow. Just wow, you know?

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

    ) Santa Claus is also known as Saint Nick, and as we all know, sainthood is just dressed-up idolatry.

    And Saint Nick is just one word away from Old Nick, which is a name for the devil.

  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea

    Much like when the Church Lady demonstrated how one can change SANTA into SATAN by rearranging the letters.

  • http://caffinatedlemur.wordpress.com/ caffinatedlemur

    Neutrino, Santa being out to steal Christmas from the babbyJeebus is old hat. It’s one of the many prongs of the fake “war on Christmas”. Also because Western culture (advertisers) pretty much accepted that we can use Santa as a symbol of the general goodwill around that time so that even Jewish people or Muslims or atheists* can buy stuff at Christmas. The prevalence of Santa Claus simply confirms that the big bad world is out to take even the most Christian of holidays (that we stole from the Pagans, but never mind that) and make it eeeeevil and “of the world”

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    I have a friend who is devout and does not celebrate Christmas, seeing it as a “pagan” holiday rather than a “Christian” one.  

    But kudos to them that they freely acknowledge that such a thing is simply their personal choice as a family, and not something that threatens their beliefs simply for being prominent, nor something they begrudge anyone else.  

  • Andrew

    I can respect that more than I respect the whole “War on Christmas” folks – there was a time when celebration of Christmas was discouraged by American governments – but that was back when those governments were explicitly Christian (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christm…an_New_England)

  • http://caffinatedlemur.wordpress.com/ caffinatedlemur

     See I totally respect that. Indeed, kudos to them in recognizing that their choice is exactly that and that anybody doing anything else isn’t automatically a rejection of them or their beliefs, which is what I think the Xmas Crusaders really want to believe.

    Alternately, may I ask if you know if they celebrate Easter? Or if they do, how? I actually think it’s really cool to see the blending of traditions as religions merged together (yes, unfortunately sometimes forcibly instead of willingly). And it does provide for some amusing moments when somebody’s all red in the face about how War on Christmas!!1!111!1!!! really is crying about a…not historically accurate holiday.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Alternately, may I ask if you know if they celebrate Easter? Or if they do, how?

    The topic never came up.  Unfortunately, I do not hang out with that friend much these days.  Partially because our interest venues do not overlap as much, and unfortunately our circles of friendship overlap little too, ever since the wife of the guy she had a crush on (before he even met that wife-to-be) had it in for her, largely driving her from our mutual contact.  

    She holds different political values than I do, one might assume, but she was always intelligent, articulate, and reasonable, which are qualities sorely lacking in most political debates, and I had nothing but respect for her over that.  However, the way the political discourse in this country has been going over the last four years has made me want to stay away from the topic around her.  I am afraid of what I might find.  

    I once caught her defending Rick Santorum on a Facebook group, asserting that when he was saying that women who were raped should not abort, it was that there is no sense adding the tragedy of baby murder to the tragedy of traumatic rape.

    … so yeah.  :(

  • Mary Kaye

    To be fair, for a lot of people Santa is the symbol of Greedmas.  I don’t blame people for not wanting their religious holiday to get tangled up with Greedmas–with the pathological pressure to buy stuff and to get stuff.  I have an adopted child who has  hangups in this area, and it makes me hate the whole holiday.  So if people want to rag on Santa, I feel a lot of sympathy.  Not because of his Pagan roots, but because of Coca-Cola and Macy’s.

  • AnonymousSam

    It’s so interesting how similar these people are to what the Bible termed “antichrist”…

  • arcseconds

    I’m sure this strategy will have the effect that Fred describes.

    It’s been noted before that the practice of sending relatively fresh inductees out going door-to-door looking for new blood generally ends up strengthening solidarity with the religion for the missionaries.  There’s nothing like forcing someone to argue for something to cement their belief in it themselves, and furthermore they’re in hostile territory with no-one but a co-religionist for company.

    I do wonder how consciously deliberate this is, though.

  • Lily

    I have a huge terror of hell because my family’s either mostly Southern Baptist or raised Southern Baptist. I also attended a very exclusive, cliquey Methodist church for most of my life and only left in tenth grade when we got a new youth pastor. I was the only physically disabled kid in that youth group and can tell anyone with absolute certainty that I felt excluded and hypocritical once I doubted my faith. I’m talking about this because I’m in a very difficult place spiritually and I’m terrified any religious leader I go to will tell me off.  Being excluded for so long left an awful taste in my mouth and I did feel like I’d been lied to when I met wonderful people who didn’t attend church.

    I was homeschooled, so we were taught that Darwin’s theories had no weight. I’m 23 and I only learned recently that Darwin lost two children, one of whom had Down’s Syndrome. It’s sort of akin to being told Santa never existed and it is terribly, terribly painful to break out of the tribe when you’ve been told certain things from the time you were small. I don’t know where to go.

    ~Lily~

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

    Hi Lily.
    Thanks for writing.

    There do exist religious leaders who won’t tell you off, and there also exist other sources of support outside of religious leaders, but I’m not sure how you can find them. So I don’t have any useful advice to give here, though others might.

    But I wanted to at least let you know that someone’s listening.

    And that, yeah, breaking free of the constraints of our birth tribes can be painful, but often extremely valuable.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

     Hello Lily. I’m sorry for what you’ve gone through.

    There are a lot of judgmental churches and groups out there, and I can certainly understand your fear.

    Are you looking for advice on particular groups to seek out?


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