Thursday, June 02, 2005

"Toxic Spiritual Nature" ... and Those Desks Pinch

From our ever vigilant and adorably perma-perturbed pals at Big Brass Blog we discover that the Southern Baptist Convention is calling to remove Baptist kids from public schools and their "toxic spiritual Nature."

Similar to one that failed last year, this resolution also asks churches "to lovingly warn all of their members concerning the toxic spiritual nature of the government school system."

Grady Arnold, a pastor in Texas who also directs, is submitting the measure along with David Scarbrough, minister of education at a Souther Baptist church in Tennessee.

"Southern Baptists have been playing the 'ostrich with its head in the sand' routine long enough," Arnold said. "The time is way overdue that we acknowledge the devastating effects public school is having on the faith of our children."

Arnold takes issue with Baptist leaders who argue that having their children in public schools is being "salt and light," a Christian influence and witness.

But Arnold points to the denomination's own data -- the SBC Council on Family Life Report of 2002 -- which says 88 percent of those Southern Baptist children after graduating from government high school are leaving the church.

The Arnold-Scarbrough Resolution: "(a) applauds Christians working in the government schools as missionaries, (b) calls on churches to warn their members of the devastating effects of sending their children to a totally secular institution for their education, (c) calls on churches to become aggressive and pro-active in starting Christian schools and in supporting homeschooling."

Now first off -- we know what the real issue here is. It's that 88% figure. How you gonna keep 'em down on the intellectual farm, once they've gone and read that other cultures are kinda interesting, science is our pal, and fags don't eat babies?

You'll note, interestingly, that that loss doesn't mean the 88% have stopped being Christians. I've met some of those "Ah, we'll be on our way, thank you" Baptists. We're friends. Some of them still call themselves Baptists and just go to a personally looser Church, some have drifted into the whole "generic vaguely Lutheran just not Papist" churches. But all are still practicing (and might I add, excellent living examples of) Christianity. They've just stopped practicing that particular brand of the Belief Line.

But that is not cool, as far as these boss guys are concerned. Because it doesn't matter that these exiles still have a deep and fulfilling relationship with God -- because being Christian to these religious Boss Tweeds means following their intepretation of the Word and no other. It's like a mini-papacy, but without the pointy hats and rather more smearily-mimeo'd newsletters. I doubt the irony is registering with them.

It's about control. That's what we're fighting here, folks, that's what the whole first half of the 21st Century is going to be about. It's not about worshipping God, it's about an angry 10% insisting other people believe the same way they do, and arguing with a straight face that they're being actively persecuted, thereby sucking in another 20% because one of the great secrets of human nature is that the one thing people want more than love, security, sex, chocolate or big-screen TV's is to feel hard done by.

Why? Because being hard done by is the shit. Feeling hard done by is the sweetest of drugs. If you're being persecuted -- it must mean you're doing the right thing, right? You get the mellow buzz of the moral high ground, but without arrogantly claiming it as your own. You get an instant, supportive community in a big dark scary world of such scope it may well literally be beyond rational human processing. When you are hard done by, you get purpose in a life where oitherwise, you'd have to find your own. And whe you ride that high, then no amount of logic, no pointing out that in actuality you and your beliefs are at a high point of popularity and influence for the last hundred years -- is going to pry that sweet crack-pipe of moral indignation from your hands.

I'm not saying that feeling hard done by is a sole diminion of the Religionistas. It is the nuke, people, the great vile vulgar key to the heart of all humanity, and can be seen in some form or another in every movement right or left, on every scale of social interaction from kindergarten class to nation-states. What we're seeing here is that one group is wielding the Ultimate Nullifier with amazing -- really, admirable -- precision.

To get back on the subject, I'm all for these folk pulling their kids from public school. I'm all for these communities trying to recreate entire social services and governmental structures on their own, and then dealing with the ramshackle results. Stop trying to teach intelligent design in my public school, teach it to your kids at home, and then enoy as they try to get jobs in the 21st Century. Let them form their little United States of Christ, and see how it fares in the world. I am genuinely all for that. *

Because if you have so little faith in your faith, so little belief in its strength and beauty and inner radiant truth that you don't believe it can deal with, oh, say the real world ... then exactly what the hell kind of religion are you following anyway?

*(On a personal, perhaps irrational, note I am firmly convinced that the United States population and infrastructure are now so huge, the country's essentially become ungovernable/untenable as a united country in the future. I derive no joy from the idea. But I do believe the tides of history will eventually splinter the nation. There's a comparison on how the Religious Right are the United States' Quebec, but that probably requires more thought than I have time for today.)


Kevin Church said...

This is one of those things that really resonated with me in the original Matrix movie - the system of control that is impressed upon people is an obvious statement about how many organized religions work, and the fact that these Baptists their own faith to hand down mandates for the masses makes me want to kick them in the head, like Neo. That's why I mentioned The Matrix there - the kicking stuff. And don't even get me started on the Catholic Church...

Steve Peterson said...

Really nice post, and nice insight on the "hard done by" business. There definitely does seem to be a streak of that running through humanity.

Perhaps getting a little pretentious here -- but the one bit I liked in Nietzsche was his analysis of how we shifted from a what he called "Master" morality to a "slave" morality.

Unfortunate choice of words but the basic idea was that heroes like Oedipus and Achilles weren't about turning the other cheek or uniting the downtrodden -- they were about crushing the enemies of the state and that was considered the greatest good. Modern heroes, like Christ or Socrates, are about creating change through their own suffering, or from within the social system.

One place where Nietzsche got it wrong is that the struggle between those moral systems still survives. Fascism just was about the Achillean hero; both Hussein and Al Quaeda make (or made) public statements to their own followers about the importance of annhilating the enemy (and the enemy's women and children...) while putting on a different face and complaining to the rest of the world about how they're persecuted.

Anonymous said...

Because if you have so little faith in your faith, so little belief in its strength and beauty and inner radiant truth that you don't believe it can deal with, oh, say the real world ... then exactly what the hell kind of religion are you following anyway?

Never been much of a religious person, but that's probably one of the wisest things I've ever heard on the matter. Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

Very nice post. The Baptist struggle to maintain their business model reminds me RIAA. And it is fantastic that you used Boss Tweed, crack pipe, and Ultimate Nullifier all in one post. Bravo!

Anonymous said...

great post, kfm.

i've had the same feeling that the u.s. will split into separate nations during this century.

it'll be bloody. it will puzzle historians of the future as much as they puzzle on how germany fell under the control of the nazis.

unfortunately, i have a bad feeling that the blacks in the south, if this comes about, will be resegregated. the whites will quote the bible to justify it, as they have in the past.

as for nietzsche and his comments about christianity being a slave religion, iirc, he grew up in a house full of pious lutheran women, since his mother was a widow and she lived with her sisters.

many times, pious women are masochistic. it probably drove him crazy.

and the crusaders, when they went to free the holy land from the moslems, didn't use their love vibes -- instead, they used swords, spears, and all the available war technologies of the 12th century.

how many times have professed christians really practices what they messiah taught?

Anonymous said...

Wow. I thought I had calmed down for the evening, then I read the story about the drillship heading to the center of the Earth (!!!) and this scintillating shotgun blast of sense and, well, I'll be up for a while now.

Thanks. You rock with the rock and the rock on top.

Garth1066 said...

Good post. I come from a Unitarian Universalist tradition. I have lived free, loved my work and have seen my beautiful family grow and begin their own lives. I have kept the christianist controllers at arms length but try and maintain respect for individuals such as Mother Teresa. Now I am disabled and yes "hard done by." My life is constant pain and will be until I die. These people you speak of now see me as easy prey. These Christians who are the dominant, affluent, powerful in our country want me to identify my pain with them. As my spirit struggles to maintain my love and appreciation of beauty, feeling persecuted and hard done by does not help. Being with those that are alive and happy does help. Now I read that Mother Teresa denied those that came to her, to die in pain, available pain killers because she believed their conscious suffering had religious meaning. F*%k her and anyone who sees suffering, being hard done by as any kind of good. IT JUST HURTS. THERE IS NO MEANING. I will be damned if I do not die happily even if drugged. I have never expressed this before. Good post. Its late at night but thanks for the vent. Live well. Be happy.

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