I am sorry to hear of your illness. If it's any help, my great-grandfather was told he had a terminal illness when he was about fifty. He lived to be 93. What I'm saying is, doctors make prognoses, fate disposes. Hope your doctor is wrong.
Now I have a stupid question. This is coming from an eastern liberal, formerly Jewish, now turning Quaker. I like the Quakers since their principles roughly encompass my own. Not to be a total narcissist of course, I should say my own principles approximate theirs. Quakers are good people who believe in communal effort. They pray in Spirit, believe that all life has a spark of the Divine in it, and have been on the right side of the protest movements for 300 years.
As you can see in any daily paper, I have many reasons to not participate in organized Judaism any more.
Now some background for a stupid question.
I went and did a kindness for two poor women a while back. They were looking at this fine building's apartments and wondering how it was to live in. I invited them in for coffee and a chat. They hadn't the money to live here but later on found some nice little apartments nearby. So when one of them called me to ask if I wanted to go to a play I said, "Sure". I was working so hard on my book that I could use a break.
Well butter my ass and call me a biscuit. The "play" was in a fundie church. And the service came first. If you could call it that. I have never been in a rock concert or other scene of mass hysteria but this was a scene of mass psychosis. A grown woman stood near me babbling in "tongues" -- it sounded like an epileptic fit. People stood up and babbled about how great Jesus was.
I got up and walked out of the room and called a taxi to go home. One of the women apologized and said they WOULD have a play afterward and that they felt wrong having to make me take a taxi home and that they DIDN'T know about the service first. Not bloody likely, but I waited outside until the hysteria died down. The play wasn't half bad, though of course the hero has to come to Jesus at the end.
Sorry to say this but this was an infantile, self centered cult. It bears no resemblance to any Christian denomination I've experienced (and I've been to a lot of Catholic and Protestant services for weddings and various other ceremonies.) It reminded me of a hopped up kindergarten: everyone is told that they deserve the best without having to actually work for it or earn it; they tell stories and sing songs, are told that mummy/God/daddy loves YOU all the best, and they are sent home to bed. I did not see any milk and cookies.
Thirty years ago these people would have been prime candidates for "deprogramming".
Now to the question. Where are the 'real' Christian denominations on this? Is no one protesting the use of mass hypnosis and mass hysteria under the guise of 'religious activity?'
There WAS a preacher on this stand and (being the only person in the room who was immune to his influence) I could see that he was expertly manipulating his credulous audience. This was controlled psychosis.
So is anyone protesting about this hijacking of what used to be an understandable religion, if not one that necessarily practiced what it preached?
And one last chilling thought went through my head as I left the room: "These are the Bush voters."
Thanks and I hope this is not too insulting. But what cheek that these women repaid a kindness by grossly insulting ME.
(Reader warning: I don't know shit, but I can get all worked up and tell you what I've observed and what I think, then we can either let it go at that, or take it outside!)
What you witnessed is happening in tens of thousands of American churches and has always been there. But let's remember that fundamentalists are only one third of Americans and have always been about a third of Americans since the "Great Awakening" of the early 1800s. It's just that now they have far more proximity to political power.
Actually, secularism has been growing in America, but very slowly. In fact, the actual percentage in fundamentalist growth dropping a bit -- about 8% in the last decade. Affluence does that to a nation.
Even though I have written some rather disturbing pieces about the fundamentalist movement (simply because writing requires focusing on a subject, you cannot tell the story of the whole world in any essay), I would caution you to stand back from your shock, and look at the big picture.
The fundies want a theocratic state and always have since they left the shores of Scotland, Ireland, etc. They will never get it, despite all the lefty hyperbolic bullshit about a rising theocratic state. The fundies don't own the country, they are just fucking it up. And yes, the fundies can swing the outcome of any election, given their numbers. But the real danger is much larger. It is the one Orwell and the rest wrote about. Unfortunately, fundamentalist zeal has been harnessed by the larger forces of capitalism in the US to achieve something far worse than a theocracy, to my mind: a military enforced global corpocracy.
Liberals, are way too prone to seize upon the small picture, such as identity issues, ecology, gayness, animal rights, whatever ... then form little camps that try to stonewall on their particluar issues while the gangsters now running the country piss in their laps and laugh at how well the "divide and conquer" system really works. Important as queers and trees and the rights of bugs and wolves are, it does little good for liberals to sulk and/or rant and bicker among one another about who will support what when everbody on both sides knows they are incapable of forming a viable national left. Which is what is called for now. It is as if they insist on throwing water in one another while the house is burning down. Kick the fascists out, reform our schools and health system and environmental policy, guarantee equality for queers, all races, women, children (and really do it this time) THEN argue around the campfire later over the other stuff in a safer, more equitable world. Unfortunately, liberals love freedom, especially personal freedom and individuality, and that mightiest of virtues makes them damned near impossible to organize in this country.
Sometimes I wish the Nazi bootheel would finally drop-kick liberal asses into action. But it won't because things are working well enough for repressive conservatives the way it is. If the neocons wait long enough and keep the steady even pressure, the last few reaming liberals will drop from the exhaustion if masturbating their rage on the Internet, then the neo-cons can loot the rest of the coffers, appoint a few middle class slave masters and retire to Bimini.
Anyway, those pesky blood loving fundies will be around a long long time in this weirdo Christian cult loving country. So forget the fuckers. They are gonna be what they are gonna be. If we can get past our own fixation on "the other," the strangeness of fundie beliefs, etc., and actually get off our asses and do real things -- such as inform and organize the working class Americans, ON THE GROUND, we have a fighting chance. Of course we will probably have to wait until the economy crashes due to Peak oil or Bush's wars, or any number of guaranteed hits coming down the pike. Unfortunately, you gotta knock the mist working class mooks (and I say that with true affection, I really do) out of economic saddle and let the horse drag them a few miles before you can get their attention in such a media engorged nation of Wal-Mart zombies. But we should start working now so we will be ready, or our children can be ready.
Yeah, I know. It sounds like too much trouble and too long a time with no guarantees and it's easier to go to the movies or Starbucks and wait for the revolution. Not everybody is listening to NPR and pissing and moanin about the fundies. The leadership of more moderate and dedicated mainstream churches are trying hard to take back their churches which have been seized by fundamentalism from the inside. It's a tough fight, but at least they have begun. Of course their dog is directly in the fight, but at least their dog ain't listening to NPR and and sitting on their asses reading Harpers or Mother Jones.
The antidote for the dangerous theocratic thinking of fundamentalists everywhere is education and elightenment about the world and how it works. Unfortunately, we have let too many Americans rot in ignorance and stuffed them with pizza and patriotic horseshit now we are paying the price. It was a failure in brotherhood and human justice and THAT I do blame on the left in this country. The left must represent those things and stand up for them every inch of the way every day of their lives.
Brotherhood. Justice. Willingness to sacrifice. That is what it means to be left, to be liberal. That is what is=t has always meant. Taking care of our fellow man in unity. Period. Look at, say, Denmark or any of the countries that dedicated resources to uplifting their people. It could have been done here too in what was once the world's richest civilization. But comely whore of increasing national affluence lured most of my generation into her arms. Not that it was hard.
Most of my generation never had an original thought in their lives either. they were and are the same mindless cattle as their children are today. (Honey, I think we need Sirius radio in the house and the cars) But some of them were beautiful and strong in the Sixties and still are, but are now relegated to the most thankless corners of the Empire, teaching in inner city schools or working in clinics or dead from drugs and alcohol because the rising pain was just too great for artists and true seekers. Whatever the case, what needs to be done in health and education and the common welfare may never be done because of the huge expense and effort it would require here in this stumbling giant, the bankrupt rogue state.
But that does not mean hope is lost. It just means that we may or may not see one of the most dramatic social movements in history take back its government, cut its lifestyle down to something sustainable so that all men have equal opportunity for real personal and intellectual growth. Or at least a warm place to shit and the ability to read in a meaningful way. To use a cliche, the choice is ours.
The main thing though, is that we not fall prey to the divisive politics of "the other." I speak in political terms here because the answer is political. Not what we call politics today here in the war zombie consumer state, but the politics of a viable future.
Aggravating as they sometimes are, the fundies are just ordinary people who have turned to the only existing institution that always has been there for them. Within its walls they are seized by its emotionalism and find release from anxiety and the earthly pain caused by our ever emerging totalist state, which they are taught to see as their godly protector, and their own unenlightened minds, some by dint of fate, others by choice.
It's gonna get much worse before it gets better, if it gets better at all. But if we simply stand by in horror, or just keep on cataloguing on the internet the crimes of the politicorporate mobsters who exploit the fundies for their own purposes, well, an idiot can guess the outcome.
I am no expert. But that's my take on it.
Your friend in art and labor,
PS: Thank you for your concern regarding my health. Ya know what I've learned from this lung nightmare? Health ain't everything. In fact, life itself don't mean shit unless you use it up with dignity, misery be damned! I can obsess like a typical American on my health so I can live a longer, increasingly pointless materilist life, or I can learn something about humanity and the nature of mercy and justice before I die.