Progressive Christian blogger Joe Forrest has a great piece up on Medium about conspiracy theories, that begins with the story of how he convinced his sixth grade class that the moon landing was faked. He rounds up plenty of thoughtful links, quotes, and observations about these dangerous beliefs in general, but also how they seduce and appeal to those who worship Jesus.
Maybe it’s because, from a young age, many of us were taught the “scientific establishment” was out to destroy our belief in the Bible.
Or maybe so many of us were convinced by the Left Behind books that a satanic one-world government was on the horizon, it just makes sense we need to be as vigilant as possible right now.
Or maybe because we’ve already been conditioned by our own belief system that there exists a hidden spiritual reality that making the leap to a hidden “shadow government” reality isn’t all that big of a deal.
And it’s important to note that a lot of Christians share conspiracy theories out of good faith. They believe they’re “exposing the truth.” But most conspiracy theories are rotten at the core. It’s obvious they’re rooted in fear, insecurity, and loneliness. And they’re often designed to give us more reasons to loathe our ideological enemies.
Forrest's faith is clearly one of radical empathy, not of evangelical self-persecution, which gives him a unique perspective. He's clearly familiar with all kinds of Christian life, and writes with that audience in mind. Read the rest
For all the good that many organized religions try to do in the world (albeit, often with ulterior motives,) there's no end to the amount of greasy shit that individual preachers and congregations get up too. Every creed has its assholes. Many are worse than others. If the allegations against SPAC Nation—a UK-based Christian organization, praised for working with young men and women in London to reduce the amount of knife violence that the city has been plagued by of late—are true, they'll have positioned themselves pretty high up there in the scummy religious ranks.
From The Telegram:
A scandal-hit church is being investigated by the charity watchdog over claims that pastors pressured young congregants into selling their blood for money to donate to the church.
The Charity Commission today announced that it had opened an inquiry into SPAC Nation, based in London, to probe financial and safeguarding concerns.
The commission, which describes the church as a charity set up to "advance Christianity" and that works particularly with young people, has ordered it to bank all cash while the investigation takes place.
The announcement comes after HuffPost UK reported allegations that some members of the church had been taking teenagers to donate blood for medical trials in a practice known as "bleeding for seed".
The publication reported that that some members go to donate blood and are paid up to £100 by medical trial companies. This money is then handed by the young people over to the church’s pastors.
I mean, is it on the same level as torturing and robbing native children of their cultural heritage in a residential school, marginalizing the rights of women or sexually abusing defenseless congregants? Read the rest
Pennsylvania has one-upped Ohio's lethal anti-abortion bill (which requires OB/GYNs to perform a non-existent operation to implant fertilized eggs from ectopic pregnancies in women's uteruses, on penalty of prison time), with anti-choice lawmakers introducing House Bill 1890, the Pennsylvania Final Disposition of Fetal Remains, which provides for prison sentences and fines for anyone disposing of a fertilized human egg without obtaining a death certificate and then holding a funeral for it.
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I've never been to Burning Man but this 700 Club report from 1996 really sells that year's festival theme of "The Inferno!" From the blog of Oliver Bonin, director of the Burning Man documentary Dust & Illusions:
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In 1996 a group under the name “The Sentinel Group” goes to Burning Man, right during the year themed as “HELL” [sic]. After gathering hours of footage during the event, they went to the TV show “The 700 Club” hosted by the wealthy, supposedly christian, Pat Robertson, one of those extremists that you can find only in America, preaching the bible and making millions at the same time.
I found this incredible excerpt of the 700 Club during my search for archival footage about Burning Man.
A bill to repeal Wyoming's death penalty law has failed in the state senate, thanks, in part, to the vote of Sen. Lynn Hutchings [R-Cheyenne, contact details], who said, "The greatest man who ever lived died via the death penalty for you and me. I’m grateful to him for our future hope because of this. Governments were instituted to execute justice. If it wasn’t for Jesus dying via the death penalty, we would all have no hope."
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For close to two thousand years, holy men from across the wide spectrum of the Christianity have rocked a completely or entirely shaved head--a hairstyle called a tonsure. A tonsure marked those that wore it as adherents to various monastic and priestly orders and, in some cases, were a symbol of controversy in the early Catholic church as opposing factions within it fought for legitimacy. This brief video from Vox outlines the history of the haircut, what it means and why it survived in a rapidly changing world for as long as it did.
Even if you're not a religious sort, it's a fascinating bit of history. Read the rest
Rowan County county clerk Kim Davis famously refused to issue licenses to gay couples after same-sex marriage was legalized in Kentucky. She was briefly jailed for contempt of court after refusing a judge's order to do her job or quit it, making her a hero to conservatives. Now she is writing a book.
“Under God’s Authority: The Kim Davis Story” is being promoted and sold by the Orlando-based Liberty Counsel, which defended Davis in her legal battles and describes itself as “a nationwide public interest religious civil liberties law firm.”
A description of the book says “Kim chronicles her dramatic encounters with furious, fist-pounding, homosexual men and the hate mail that flooded her office.”
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Gotta make those babies pray. Read the rest
At The New York Times, Peter Wehner is angry at evangelical leaders who rationalize their support of Donald Trump, a faithless huckster who talks of "Two Corinthians" and mocks the disabled.
This fulsome embrace of Mr. Trump is rather problematic, since he embodies a worldview that is incompatible with Christianity. If you trace that worldview to its source, Christ would not be anywhere in the vicinity.
Time and again Mr. Trump has shown contempt for those he perceives as weak and vulnerable — “losers,” in his vernacular. They include P.O.W.s, people with disabilities, those he deems physically unattractive and those he considers politically powerless. He bullies and threatens people he believes are obstacles to his ambitions. He disdains compassion and empathy, to the point where his instinctive response to the largest mass shooting in American history was to congratulate himself: “Appreciate the congrats for being right.”
What Mr. Trump admires is strength. For him, a person’s intrinsic worth is tied to worldly success and above all to power.
But that is evangelical Christianity in practice, isn't it? Dobson and Falwell and co., stripping naked at the slightest promise of money or political influence, is what they always do.
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Whether or not he has read a word of Nietzsche (I’m guessing not), Mr. Trump embodies a Nietzschean morality rather than a Christian one. ... It celebrates the “Übermensch,” or Superman, who rejects Christian morality in favor of his own. For Nietzsche, strength was intrinsically good and weakness was intrinsically bad.
When I was ten, my friend and I got excited by the rumor that if you play Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust" backwards, it says "Smoke marijuana." We tried it and it sounded clear as day! Then we played it for my dad who laughed and said that to him, it sounded like "Go to California." Of course, this was during the heyday of fantastic urban legends about the occult and backmasking in rock music. Evangelist Michael Mills fueled the insanity with this 1981 radio broadcast, featuring bits by Black Sabbath, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Judas Priest who famously went to trial (and won) over bullshit accusations of backmasking.
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This month, Examiner.com has been profiling "noted atheists who experienced dramatic shifts in their views, eventually becoming Christians." This week, it has a story about Douglas Ell, a former atheist who has undergraduate degrees in math and chemistry, and an MA in theoretical mathematics from the University of Maryland.
Using his advanced knowledge of mathematical analysis, combined with the latest science, Ell came up with probability calculations which were incredible: practical proof, he concluded, of a designed and ordered universe. Sitting with his friend Peter Fisher one evening, Ell told him, "You know, someone should write a book about this, because I'm finding modern science strongly supports belief in God." Fisher, who is now head of the physics department at MIT, responded, "Maybe that someone could be you."
Thus inspired, Ell poured out his findings into his book, Counting to God, which takes the more theoretical elements and breaks them down to an understandable level, where Ell hoped to show the beauty he saw in science and math to the eyes of each and every reader.
Douglas Ell: how an MIT atheist found God through math Read the rest
Christian ministry Answers In Genesis report that their massive Noah's Ark attraction will open next July in Williamstown, Kentucky. This is the same organization behind the infamous Creation Museum where cavemen frolic with dinosaurs. The 510-foot-long, $90 million wooden Ark will be the centerpiece of a Christian theme park. The state of Kentucky had originally given Answers In Genesis an $18 million tax break on the project but changed their mind "over concerns of 'religious indoctrination,'" according to the Associated Press. Answers In Genesis has filed a federal lawsuit to try to get the tax incentive reinstated.
I just hope the ark has room for the dragons and unicorns.
(Thanks, Bob Pescovitz!) Read the rest
Just days after yet another mass shooting in America, Tennessee's Lieutenant Governor says Christians who are ‘serious about their faith’ should consider buying guns. The unbelievably idiotic decree to God-fearing citizens by Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey (R) was delivered via Facebook, where indeed, so many idiotic decrees are delivered.
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That weird meeting between presidential candidate Donald Trump and a number of so-called Prosperity Gospel evangelists sounds weirder the more we learn about who was there, and what they actually say they believe. Read the rest