Tuesday, November 15, 2005

When Christians Attack

Back in the late '90s, FOX television began pioneering "reality tv." During ratings season, clip shows thrown together from amateur and news videos were ubiquitous. Even I succombed to "World's Scariest Police Chases IV" and "When Good Pets Go Bad." (Look for the upcoming "When Homosexuals Queen Out," featuring me with this guy performing the duet "A Boy Like That" on the C train.)

Though most of these shows today have a tenuous relationship to "reality," and despite the fact that we marvel and despair at people's willingness to exploit their frailties and air their dirty laundry for a shot at fame and some cash, they are exceedingly popular. Their influence is such that even fictional shows, such as Battlestar Galactica, are filmed as quasi-documentaries.

Currently zooming its way around the internet is a clip from a recent episode of Fox's Trading Spouses. (Hat tip.)

I have to say this is truly one of the most terrifying things I have ever seen.

I'm sure a lot of people find it hysterical, but honestly for me it's profoundly disturbing. For one thing, the poor woman featured in the clip is clearly insane; skeptics of religion (in particular evangelical Christianity) probably assume that either insanity made her susceptible to the influence of religion, or vice versa, and they probably don't care which because it comforts them to think that religion and insanity are related.

Partly I found myself mad at this woman. She is monstrous; preposterous, overblown and offensive. She practically begs us to mock her pathological sincerity. But in the end, I can only pity her, and hope that she finds the help she so clearly needs.

The larger issue is that this clip now adds a newer, more terrifying dimension to the public perception of Christianity shaped by lunatics like Pat Robertson and George W. Bush, who claimed God told him to invade Iraq. I wonder if God forgot to tell Bush that Iraq no longer had WMD's, or if God was also duped by the CIA.

What's even sadder, though, is not what nonbelievers think Christianity means, but what some Christians apparently think it means. There is nothing in Margaret Perrin's rant that suggests even a passing familiarity with the Gospel. Prefacing your insults with, "In the name of the Lord" doesn't excuse or justify them. One might as well shout, "Go fuck yourself, in Jesus' name!" She seems inordinately terrified of "books on witchcraft" and astrology. Astrology? If I'm not mistaken, the three wise men were led to Bethelehem by reading signs in the heavens; literally, they followed a star.

Margaret's faith is fear-based. She perceives "darkness" everywhere. She's not wrong, of course, but she seems to have zero real comprehension of God's power. As mighty as Darkness is, anyone who really knows and believes in the Lord knows that they have nothing to fear from a book, no matter what's in it. "Yea, though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I will fear no evil." I am always amazed that the most publicly zealous believers tend to display no real confidence in their faith.

This pervasive perversion of Christianity, which ignores the Gospels in favor of a literal but out-of-context reading of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus and Revelation, and promotes the idea of an angry, easily-insulted God waiting to smite you the moment you step out of line, must be denounced as the heresy that it is. This is not Christian doctrine. The damage such beliefs cause can easily be witnessed by watching the Perrin children flinch in terror from their mother.

That's reality.

31 comments:

Michael said...

I know you don't like it when people make this comparison, but if I were God, I'd be angry and easily insulted.

I'm just sayin...

Steve said...

Andy,

I watched this "crash and burn" when the show aired. I felt so uncomfortable. It was like being a witness to a train wreck. She knew what she was getting into when she went on the show. I was fearful for the daughters and the husband.

As a believer who has been damaged by my experience with the church, I remember what bondage occurred when I lived in fear. There was a lack of joy, peace and grace in my life.

Almost 3 years ago, I was "exposed" by an anonymous source and removed from my ministry position. I was asked to resign from the church all together 6 months later. It was an issue of fear.

That is the hot commodity it seems. Keeping people fearful and not allowing them to experience the freedom found in a relationship with Christ that pushes comfort zones.

Thanks for the topic.

Jeff said...

I don't know if I'd make too much of this woman - she's clearly insane. If not Christianity, she would have latched onto something else. But it does annoy me how she uses the phrase "in Jesus's name" like it's some kind of cultish talisman.

Robb said...

Call me selfish and lazy, but I don't feel like I have the responsibility to even bother feeling pity for this woman. But that is my own problem. Whom I do empathize with is her poor family, whom have to live with that 24/7. Her obsession with religion is how it manifests, but the woman is clearly mentally ill. Rather than trying to help her, Fox exploited it which is shameful and, to me, embarassing. But it's her family that has to cope with it.

I've always thought that show sounded creepy - now I know what I've been avoiding.

Jarred said...

I found this post through Technorati. I thoroughly enjoyed it and am grateful to see someone such as yourself address this woman's madness. I've never watched this show, but I've heard plenty about it from other people.

Unfortunately, it seems there are whackjobs in all religions, no matter where you look. There are people who follow a Pagan path -- some of whom even presume to speak for the rest of us through public venues -- that annoy the everliving daylights out of me. So rest assured that I can empathize with your frustrations.

little-cicero said...

I don't defend this woman, but I do defend George W. Bush. If God exists and guides humanity on it's way, why would he not talk to the most powerful MAN on earth, not physically speaking of course, but guiding through divine grace. To say that Bush is cracking up because he sees himself as a purveyor of divine will shows that you are obsessed with the "separation of church and state" to the point of not accepting a public officials faithfullness for fear of his being a zealot. A president cannot make it alive without God, and I'd say that, considering the president's health, I'd say his faith is paying off.

You make this out to be some grand cataclism of piety in America, but there is a more appropriate name for the current transformation: The Return to Judeo-Christian Values. This values system, unlike many liberal christians' system, comes from a concentration on both the Old and New Testaments. Rather than passing off the Old Testament as old-fashioned, it observes Jesus's deference to it in addition to his own teachings.

What we have here is a sick woman turning to God with her neuroses. It obviously doesn't work because she is consumed by anger, and when consumed by anger, the soul cannot be comforted by any light, not even divine light. What she must do is turn to God to make her stronger and more peaceful, then turn to Him with her other problems.

little-cicero said...

Amen Jeff! If one believes in nothing, one is prone to believe in anything! Were it socialism that she clung to, she would react the same upon little cicero staying with her family! Every liberal's nightmare!

Trickish Knave said...

It is always a disservice when people rely on fear to prove a point. To use God as a tool of fear is clearly a sign that they miss the whole point of Christianity.

Whether or not God talks people in to doing things like bomb other countries is one of those fundamental traits of the religion. He did it in the Old Testament so why wouldn't he do it now. Perhaps in this case Allah beat God to the punch and told Suddam to hide the WMD's somewhere we would never find them.

/roll eyes

Perhaps God will reveal what Saddam really used to muder those Kurds in the mass graves.

Mary Ann said...

"I am always amazed that the most publicly zealous believers tend to display no real confidence in their faith."

Amen. Some friends of mine liberally sprinkle their conversation with what I call "God Talk". Instead of saying they're fine, they say they are "blessed". Instead of saying "hopefully" they say "by the grace of God". Interestingly, these are the same people who exhibit NO inclination to actually apply God's grace in their life. It bugs me.

Anonymous said...

battlestar gallactica is not fiction. it has happened before, it will happen again.

Steve said...

Faith is a very personal adventure for folks. I do not want people to be less faith-oriented. I think that faith has been a foundation in the nation.

My concern is when we use faith as a fear tactic. You have Pat Robertson declaring God will not help Dover, PA because of their vote regarding their school board. You have President Bush declaring his Christianity but he does not appear to care about the least among us. The folks in the Republican party used fear in last year's election by saying to the evangelicals if you don't vote for Bush- gay marriage will run like wildfire across the nation and abortion will forever be the legal right of women and whatever else. That is fear.

Is that the real way to live? Should we not be able to live in a way that we see the bigness of God? God is able to "handle" these things.

I think by living in fear, you don't ever live in the fullness of what Christ wants you to have.

Steve said...

As an atheist, I had a certain amount of schaudenfreude watching this woman, and I can appreciate that reasonable intelligent Christians must be terribly embarrased by her antics...

But I think it's far too comfortable for the Christians here to dismiss her as 'insane.' I don't think she's insane at all.

I think she's an extremely fearful and weak person, and I think her anger comes from sensing the massive divide between her faith and her reality. She calls herself a warrior so many times, but I'm quite sure she has looked in the mirror, and she's well aware that she can barely climb a flight of stairs. On some hidden inner level, she must be thinking 'If God's so great, why is my life shit? If He works through me, why am I so weak and frightened?'

She probably blames herself for not believing strongly enough, and this self-loathing translates into lashing out at everything she sees as a threat to her faith.

I don't want to let left-wing liberal Christians off the hook so easily. Margaret is exactly what we should expect from Christianity. Congratulations for not being like her, but why the hell don't you call yourselves atheists, since that's what you really are, essentially?

Andy said...

Steve 2: if Margaret is what you expect from Christianity, then you don't know what to expect from Christianity. Christian doctrine does not teach that our lives will be happy and easy if we believe in God; rather that God gives us the strength and insight to deal with the frequently truly horrendous things life throws at us, to approach them with grace and dignity, and to grow spiritually with our trials.

It is true that one of the dangers of bad theology is the risk that desires unfulfilled will result in the petitioner's believing that a) they didn't believe hard enough, b) God doesn't exist, or c) God doesn't like them. But God is not a genie in a bottle who is there to fulfill our wishes. God loves us and knows our own needs far better than we ourselves; sometimes the answer to a prayer is "No," not because God doesn't love us, but because, like a good parent, He loves us so much that what's truly in our best interests is paramount to Him, and we must remember that He knows and sees things that we can't. We must trust His judgment. (There is also the possibility that the answer isn't "No" but rather "Not yet.")

I don't at all understand your assertion that religious lefties are actually atheists. God doesn't take sides in political debates, He wants the best for each and every one of us.

Anonymous said...

All of you are totally over-reacting. One person's insanity is another's destiny, as it seems Margaret's "insanity" is paying off -- so don't go poo-poo'ing her obviously sincere convictions, all you darkly-sidelined web imps.

Word has it that Margaret was very recently cast for *the* lead part in a new early-childhood Christian educational series: "HelloKitty Explains Jesus", featuring such episodes as "HelloKitty Explains: Who Does Jesus Hate?" and "HelloKitty Explains: The Father's Fanatical Wrath", among the other 15 engagingly phrased titles slated for production in the first half of 2006. Only adding to the growing hype surrounding the upcoming production, world famous costume/theatre designer Dunsi Dai has agreed to fit and construct Mrs. Perrin's Hello Kitty costume, promising to "uniquely capture Margaret's obviously power-filled faith, often wrought with emotion, never mind a ton of grace" while still preserving the traditional, ever-popular Hello Kitty image.

Go Margaret, you warrior of G-d.
Go.

rob@egoz.org

Andy said...

I would like to point out that HelloKitty Explains: Who Does Jesus Hate? will be airing on a rival network opposite When Homosexuals Queen Out so you'll have to TiVo it.

Jeff said...

Just another reason why God wants us all to have TiVos.

little-cicero said...

Steve 2: Why do you insist that there is no God if you have never touched the heavens. Atheism is as unscientific as Christianity in its approach to the question of God's existance. For you to insist so fervently that God does not exist, you must have some Faith of your own, but it is placed not in God, but in atheism.

We are people who believe that God created the universe and Jesus is our savior. That we do not believe that people involved in astrology are evil makes us followers of Jesus's words, not atheists. The problem here is that this woman is looking only at snippets of fire and brimstone theology without taking in to account the rest of the Bible.

DJRainDog said...

I'm with you, Andy (as is so often the case). I'm greatly disturbed and saddened at the images of so-called Christians presented in the media. Judging by what we're most often given, on television in particular, were I unfamiliar with the faith, I'd assume that Christians were not significantly different from extreme fundamentalist Muslims.

We see a woman who is likely mentally ill, who rather than turning to her God as a "refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble" (Ps. 46:1), she attempts to brandish God at all the shadows which her paranoid mind believes beset her. She claims, wild-eyed, to be a prayer-warrior (or a spirit-warrior? I can't remember, and I'm not inclined to watch the clip again -- it gave me nightmares last night), but fails to note the Lord's exhortation, "when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly." (Mt. 6:6) She also seems ignorant of the Lord's words which should surely comfort warriors in Isaiah 30:15, "In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength." She attempts to cast the camera crews out of her house (It seems as though one of them complied with her requests and resumed shooting from outside the door) as though they were demons, but there is clearly no faith behind her words, only fear. Greater familiarity with the scriptures (Psalm 23, anyone? Or 27, which I prefer: "The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?") would perhaps calm her troubled mind (or even hymns -- I'm no Lutheran, but I've always loved "Ein' fest Burg ist unser Gott" in times of strife). This is, sadly, one of the biggest problems with American Christians; they may attend church regularly, and they may hear what the preacher says, but they do not further educate themselves, studying the scriptures, reading the thoughts of the great theologians, sounding the depths of their own faith and carefully examining their relationships with God.

(Sidenote: What the farg is "dark-sided"? I'm reminded of the John Cafferty & Beaver Brown Band song from Eddie & the Cruisers. I date myself as I digress.)

We're also regularly shown "Christians" whose faith seems to be represented only by a strong sense of rectitude, built upon the shifting sands of hate and condemnation, which largely spring from fear. I won't list names here, as I have my own agenda as surely as anyone else, but I'm sure we can all think of examples. I searched the online text of the King James Version of the Bible for the phrases "God hates", "Lord hates" and "Father hates", and I found no occurrences of any of those phrases. I shouldn't be surprised; when asked by the Pharisees what commandment was the greatest, Jesus replied quite plainly: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment." This is not new; it seems I'm leaning heavily on Matthew today, but the same exhortation appears repeatedly in the Hebrew Bible (by some called the "Old Testament"), particularly in Deuteronomy (10:12-13) and in Micah's (6:8) decree of what God desires of mankind: "He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?" Jesus goes further, though, saying, "And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." And as if to emphasize that his word is final, he closes, "On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." Love is the cornerstone on which this religion is built. But these people do not love; they judge, with no fear that their judgment in this world might come back to them in the next, and again, with little regard for what the scriptures actually say, the political, social, economic and cultural circumstances surrounding their writing, and the spirit in which they were written.

I'm cutting myself short, here, because this is quickly turning into a sermon, or perhaps a few, and Andy's comments section is not an appropriate place for me to be preaching. (And I don't mean to imply in anything that I've said that I'm perfect; I think this evening I'll spend some time chronicling how I'm guilty of each of the seven mortal sins on a daily basis and why my relationship with the Lord's Grace allows me to continue living daily, attempting to follow Christ's example more closely, but not pointlessly flogging myself for my all-too-mortal failings...)

Finally, though, a word to Mike: I think you're onto something; I'm betting that God probably is feeling pretty angry and insulted these days by the twisted actions of those who "seeing see not; and hearing...hear not, neither do they understand." (Mt. 13:13).

Who hath ears, let him listen.

Anonymous said...

You might want to rethink some lifestyle choices.

Oral sex linked to mouth cancer: Swedish study
Nov 16 4:38 PM US/Eastern
Email this story

Certain cases of mouth cancer appear to be caused by a virus that can be contracted during oral sex, media reported, quoting a new Swedish study.

People who contract a high-risk variety of the human papilloma virus, HPV, during oral sex are more likely to fall ill with mouth cancer, according to a study conducted at the Malmo University Faculty of Odontology in southern Sweden.



"You should avoid having oral sex," dentist and researcher Kerstin Rosenquist, who headed the study, told Swedish news agency TT.

HPV is a wart virus that causes many cervical cancers, including endometrial cancer (in the uterus).

Comparing 132 patients with mouth cancer with a control group of 320 healthy people, Rosenquist found that 36 percent of the cancer patients were carriers of HPV while only one percent of the control group had the virus.

The main factors that contribute to mouth cancer, most commonly contracted by middle aged and older men, are smoking and drinking alcohol, scientists agree.

"But in recent years the illness has been on the rise among young individuals and we don't know why. But one could speculate that this virus (HPV) is one of the factors," Rosenquist said.

Her findings confirm other international studies in recent years.



Here is the link:
http://www.breitbart.com/news/2005/11/16/051116213750.jnfvcpbv.html

Andy said...

Anonymous, thank you very much for your concern. I'm not too worried, as my sex life is only slightly more interesting than Terri Schiavo's.

Wow, so much to respond to, there. First of all, I'm gonna go out on a big gay limb and surmise that by "lifestyle choice" you meant homosexuality. Umkay, well, it wasn't a "choice" and there is no such thing as a "homosexual lifestyle." And whatever you think the "homosexual lifestyle" is, I can pretty much guarantee you I don't live it. I'm BO-RING.

Next: oral sex is not something that is unique to homosexuals. (Bonus shocker: straight people have anal sex, too!)

And lastly, the HPV virus cited in this study is the principle cause of cervical cancer in women, which kills thousands of women every year in the U.S. They get it through heterosexual intercourse.

Maybe you want to rethink your lifestyle choice.

little-cicero said...

That's interesting. I have a feeling he is talking about homosexuality, but could choice simply mean homosexual promiscuity as is the common steriotype of homosexuals (to constantly have oral and anal sex without committment). In that context, it is a lifestyle choice because promiscuity is a choice, but sexual preferance is not. Of course, you can be homosexual and wait until marriage to have sex like a heterosexual...I don't know what really happens, but what you have here is a steriotype of homosexual lifestyles.

DJRainDog said...

l-c: (Who dubbed you that, anyway? If you just gave it to yourself...Well...It wouldn't surprise me.) First off, Anonymous was WAY out of line, even if the issue WAS promiscuity, rather than homosexuality. Despite being cute, sweet, smart and a lot of fun, Andy's perhaps only slightly more promiscuous than the teddy-bear I sleep with every night, which has never slept with anybody but me. (NB: This does not imply that Andy has slept with me. Whether Andy has slept with me is nobody's business but Andy's and mine. My teddy-bear might get jealous.) And you, you little punk, write, "Of course, you can be homosexual and wait until marriage to have sex like a heterosexual." First, if you believe that even the slightest majority of heterosexuals wait until after marriage to have sex, you're incredibly naive. Second, I'm going to assume that you knew precisely what buttons you were pushing with that comment, and I'm not going to point out the obvious. (Sidenote: I recently had the pleasure of singing at the wedding, in Massachusetts, of two gay friends of mine (both BRILLIANT musicians), who've been together almost as long as I've known them (nearly a decade). It was a beautiful ceremony. I'm pretty sure the Lord smiled; after all, it rained, and rain is a blessing.) Oh, and one other thing: Please, proofread yourself, or at least employ some spell-checking function. I love this language we call English, and I do hate to see it ill-used.

Anonymous said...

No stereotyping intended. I showed my wife the article and then she said that she now had a valid reason to no longer engage in the practice. I think that all women and homosexuals should at least be informed of what they are doing.

Andy said...

I think that all women and homosexuals should at least be informed of what they are doing.

This is related to my original post how, exactly?

Jeff said...

I showed my wife the article and then she said that she now had a valid reason to no longer engage in the practice.

So I guess you're implying either that you yourself have the human papilloma virus, or you're in a non-monogamous marriage.

Esther said...

"I showed my wife the article and then she said that she now had a valid reason to no longer engage in the practice."

Anonymous: So you're saying that if your wife just did not want to do that then that's not a good enough reason? Talk about Too Much Information! I think I lose a bit of respect for you with every post. Starting with the moment that you called yourself "anonymous."

Andy said...

Esther, you took the words right out of my mouth! Good thing, too, because apparently I might have caught cancer.

little-cicero said...

djraindog (who named you, someone at an insane asylum?) You called me a punk and insulted my spelling (I had about 3 mistakes, not my best spelling day!) and I should tell you that I love the English language and am insulted that you would be so snotty as to imply otherwise. I do not like you as a result of this slander, needless to say. We agree that anonymous was out of line, but I'm speaking theoretically on the question of chastity, that homosexuals can have sex under a stable committed partnership if they are willing. The marriage clause was a slip-up, and I apologize (I meant to say civil union, but the point is to wait until a stable relationship.) I think, however, that it is you who could use a lesson in manners, djraindog!

DJRainDog said...

l-c: You're right; that was a cheap shot, and inflammatory (I never said I was a GOOD Christian; my manners, however, are usually pretty impeccable, when appropriate -- though if you think what I said was harsh, you have no concept of the potential scope of my wrath). I believed your "marriage" reference to be deliberate, and that angered me. Furthermore, I've read every comment you've posted to Andy's 'blog, and I've found them by turns frustrating, ill-informed, and occasionally, downright offensive (and -- to belabor a point -- rife with spelling errors). I generally choose to stay out of the fray, though, as I'm a very busy man, and I don't like to sow strife. The provenance of my moniker is a long story, for which this is not the forum, but it originated in college (I hope you'll be ambitious in your choice of schools; you're clearly a bright kid, but greater diversity of experience would benefit you tremendously) and was tied to my frequent role as a DJ at parties and my love of Tom Waits.

little-cicero said...

Good to hear. My abundance of spelling errors comes from a lack of emphasis on mechanics when posting comments. What matters is the point you are making. My own blog is not so careless, but frankly, if I worried about spelling on comments, I would not have the time to write so many, which would cut off the all-important exchange of ideas that I so enjoy on the blogosphere. I tend to take a philosophical, rather than a political approach to politics, so facts and figures do not play as large a role, but I have as much backing on my side as you do on many of these issues. It's not that one of us is less informed than the other, it's that one of us has different opinions than the other. Opinions can be changed without pure factual persuasion. As for my comments...though I make every effort not to be inflamatory or offensive, I know that gay people are going to read these comments, but it would be wrong to sugarcoat for the sake of tolerance and sensitivity. That's why I said I take a philosophical approach...a politician would base his approach in sensitivity and posturing, wlhereas I just want to exchange postulates with eople with whom I disaggree. If I hated gay people, there would be a plethra of anti-homosexual hate blogs that I could go to. I wish, however, that those who read my comments (after going to my blog) would take less offense and more civil disaggreement to my opinions. That's the Marketplace of Ideas!

Thank you for the compliment, and for giving me a betterinsight into your character.

DJRainDog said...

"if I worried about spelling on comments, I would not have the time to write so many"

In my dreams. (And those of a number of Andy's other readers, though I don't presume to speak for them.)

I tend to take a philosophical, rather than a political approach to politics, so facts and figures do not play as large a role, but I have as much backing on my side as you do on many of these issues.

I cannot begin to address the absurdity of the first two thirds of this sentence. As to the final statement, no, you don't, and you've proven it time and again, as you go spouting-off at the mouth with baseless platitudes.

I've read bits of your blog, and I stand by my conviction that you're no dolt (your writing reminds me a bit of myself when I was significantly younger), but perhaps a bit misguided. Your babble here on "exchanging postulates", "the blogosphere", and "the Marketplace of Ideas" further supports Andy's assertion that you seem to regurgitate "buzzwords" (I feel dirty for having used that term) without understanding their meaning -- and makes me wonder if you weren't perhaps hitting the sauce when you wrote that.

I'm overjoyed that there are ambitious children on the web, writing (Hurrah! If only more COULD! Seriously, though, watch the spelling, and learn to check it yourself, rather than relying on Microsquonk; if my generation valued proper spelling and grammar as little as yours does, there'd probably be no vowels or punctuation left in the English language.) about things other than school gossip, cafeteria food, television, and how unfairly their parents treat them. Furthering your education, however, and not merely by attending a major and preferably non-sectarian university, but also by spending time in the real world, leaving whatever province you currently inhabit (Texas? ;-) ) for a real city -- Chicago, New York, Boston, Seattle, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, or even D.C. -- or better yet, a city in another country -- Paris, London, Amsterdam, Berlin, Madrid, Rome, Tokyo -- would greatly behoove you.

(*sigh* 5 a.m. Sleep? or gym, shower, work? Dilemma.)