Sunday, November 23, 2008

Disgraced evangelical ex-pastor Ted Haggard "reinvents" self to become Christian businessman and reflections on my own religious roots

"Man will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest."
--Denis Diderot

--If you think there's any difference at all between an evangelical preacher or pastor from a "Christian businessman," you've already lost your ability to reason. Jesus would have laughed, then physically attacked these kinds of bastards, just as he's alleged to have done with the money-changers. Same kind of people.

The war between the Great Awakening and the Enlightenment that began in the 1700s continues unabated.

Why? Because some of us cannot--and will not--ever be able to cope with the fact that we have this short time on our earth, that life is a kind of "happy accident," and that we die and there's nothing after that. Why is this a bad thing? I don't get it and don't want to. Wanting to live forever sounds like vampirism. We die.

I can cope with it being that way, can you? Get a real goddamn job you bums, you liars, you assholes. Quit preying on the miserable, the vulnerable, and the lost. Leave them alone--there's your redemption, just leave people alone. My grandparents taught me that the preacher man has no more knowledge of God than anyone else. They taught me that these men--and very few women, even today--don't have any answers for your life or the meaning of all of this.

They were right. If a parish or a church helps people, that's fine, and that's all they should be there for. Otherwise, there is no point to their existence whatsoever.

In that sense, I can accept President-elect Obama's embracing of faith-based initiatives, because we're going to have to mobilize every single governmental and social institution to fix our economy and our world. But don't me or anyone else sing or pray for their meal as the Salvation Army and others do. Don't force your beliefs onto others for help. That's immoral, and you cannot change people, ultimately. When I look back at my family's history (the Blough-branch, the one I value the most), there's an impressive array of Anabaptism and Populism. They were people who fought "the good fight," the hardest ones, but the ones worth fighting for.

Nearly 500-hundred-years-ago during the Reformation, they arose in Switzerland, Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, and much of Western Europe, to challenge the power of the union between Church and State, religious intolerance, and the conscription of young and old for wars fought for the powerful. Someday, there won't be a need for churches. Democracy breaks-out in every era in so many different forms.

In the earliest-days of Christianity, there was no "orthodox" canon, and women were often treated as equals in religious settings. When orthodoxy (literally, "right thinking") crushed the democratic diversity of Christianity, we lost the voice and wisdom of women. We're only now recovering from the mistakes from that time, something that should give us pause. Would there have been the witch-hunts and the untold murders of women and homosexuals over the centuries? Would there have been so many wars with the shaping of the sword-wielding Jesus?

We're coming to a watershed period here where the repressive structures of traditional and modern authoritarianism are falling away. Will we take-up these opportunities, or will be miss them when they're right in-front of our faces? The possibilities are breathtaking. No, there won't be some "workers' paradise" afterward, that's for other, secular religions of the Left. But we can improve things. We can improve our lives, and the lives of our children and their children. We can leave a legacy behind that's redemptive, the real thing. This life is all that matters.

Knowing that at least my own branch of the family has retained these Anabaptist values, and that my ancestors have tended towards being on the right side of history, I can only feel proud. How they were transmitted unconsciously through our family culture over the centuries is the real mystery, but it happened. That's all that matters. Ted Haggard should quit using Jesus as his crutch and go get a real job as the rest of us have had to our entire lives. If he has to push a mop, so mote it be, the bum.