Sunday, September 18, 2022

Toxic Christianity

People have made Christianity so unappealing. No wonder people are turning away from it.

A recent article online posits that Christianity is in decline.  Three decades ago (time flies, eh?) as much as 90% of Americans identified as "Christian" while today, that number is about two-thirds.  And folks aren't flocking to alternative religions, either - many are simply saying "whatever" or "none of the above."

And it ain't hard to figure out why.

When I was a kid, we went to church every Sunday.  My parents were not attached to one particular church brand.  We were Protestants, although my Dad was raised Catholic and changed teams for career and marriage reasons.  We went to a Unitarian Church in Illinois and when we moved back to New York, joined the Presbyterian Church only because, I believe, it was the place for the upper crust to worship.

You put on your church clothes, went to church, sang a few songs, did a few rituals, and listened to the most boring sermons imaginable, and then went home, feeling all sanctified.  The church was a center of social activity - where you met people and caught up on weekly gossip.  When you had a cocktail party, you invited the minister and his wife.  It was a social affair as well as a spiritual one.

What changed? 

Well, we did, for starters.  Our society changed, and even though the Bible sanctions divorce (among other internal contradictions) many churches frowned upon it, particularly the Catholic church. The Catholic church has probably hemorrhaged more members than most.  If you were touched by a Priest as an altar boy, chances are, you aren't too keen on tithing to the church later in life.  When the scandal (which was going on for decades, perhaps centuries) finally broke, well, it made a lot of people wonder why they were going there and donating money - only to be paid out in hush-money settlements.

It didn't help any that the church was keen on throwing people out to make an example of them. They thought they were so powerful and popular that they could use the threat of excommunication to keep the sinners in line.  Problem is, when you have a club that throws people out when they break the rules, and everyone is breaking the rules, pretty soon, you have no club.  I know legions of Catholics and ex-Catholics and lapsed Catholics who are ambivalent about their church because they were told, basically, that they weren't welcome there anymore.

And yet the Vatican is mystified as to why attendance is down.  The more conservative Catholics, confusing correlation with causation, believe that if they went back to "the good old days" of strict Catholic laws, they would get people back in the pews - not realizing of course, that such strict practices were the reason people left, in droves.

Protestants are no better - and in fact, worse.  The real issue behind this statistic about people no longer identifying as "Christian" is akin to how people identify as "Democrat" or "Republican."   Maybe before January 6th, people were more likely to identify themselves, in response to a Pew Research survey, as "Republican."   But maybe after January 6th, they are more likely to say, "Independent."

The far-right "evangelical" Christian churches have been pushing an ideology that is dripping with hatred and violence.  Pastors are calling for the murder of people they don't like, from the pulpit, and, like the Catholic church, throwing people out that they deem less-than-worthy.  The antics of such "born again" ministers and followers is about as bad - if not worse - than wayward Catholic priests.  Every day, it seems, Pastor Cashmore is found in bed with an under-aged girl or the wife of a parishioner, and is found to be spending collection plate money on a new Rolls Royce.

Worse yet, these churches which have a storied history dating back several years now, have co-opted the definition of Christianity.   I have had interactions more than once with "born again" morons who ask me, "Are you a Christian?" and I reply, "well, we went to the Presbyterian Church when I was a kid...." and they interrupt me to say, "But are you a CHRISTIAN?  Born again in Christ???"

You see, they get to define who is or isn't a "real" Christian, and unless you go to their storefront church, and hand over all of  your disposable income to the minister, you ain't a real Christian.

These idiots have given Christianity a bad name.  They posit that Jesus - who is a white dude, by the way - has an AR-15 and is coming back any day now to gun down the sinners of the world, because that is what Christianity is all about - killing people.  To them, Jesus is a brand-name of bad-assedness, not a savior of souls.  These are folks who never read the Bible, but listen to pastor preach from the pulpit - who uses one verse, generally from the Old Testament, to "prove" some sort of asinine point.

I noted before that I heard a minister on the radio (while travelling through West Texas) use convoluted logic to argue that the phrase "Judge not, lest ye be judged" really means that Christians should be super-judges of other people, as they are well-prepared to be judged themselves, being born-again and all.  The admonition about judging others only applies to heathens and sinners who are in no position to cast stones.  Good Christians never live in glass houses - no, they live in concrete bunkers where no one can see what they're up to!

I think that is the reason this Pew survey shows fewer people "identifying" as Christian.  Back in 1990, if you surveyed me, and asked "Are you a Christian?" I would have said, "Well, um, sure," because that was the religion I was raised in.  But if you asked me today, I would not have been so sure - because the label of "Christian" has been so damaged by far-right-wing new-age denominations which are anything but Christian.

The brand has a dirty halo, if you'll pardon the pun.

Only severe masochists and psychopaths would want to join some of these churches - where the pastor basically calls them pieces of shit every Sunday, from the pulpit.  They take that sort of abuse because preacher tells them they are still better than everyone else, because they believe, and thus nothing they do is really wrong.  Hey, Jesus loves them best, which is why their business is successful and why they don't have to pay child support to their ex-wives.   And when it all goes horribly wrong, well, that's because other people have pissed-off God.

It is Christianity for Dummies - dangerous dummies at that.

There was a time, back in the late 1960's and early 1970's when Christianity tried to re-brand itself as a user-friendly religion - emphasizing the "Good News" brought by Christ.  A new version of the New Testament, called Good News for Modern Man was published, in plain English.  Notably missing: Old Testament.   It is funny, but many of the "born again" cult believe that not only was Jesus a white guy, but that he spoke in King James English - like Charlton Heston in The Ten Commandments.  Because that's how folks talked back in year zero - all "Thee and Ye" and lots of reckoning going on.

But the new, user-friendly version of Christianity didn't take off.  It seems a lot of people like a narrow set of rules, plus lots of hellfire and brimstone (for the other guy, of course).  As Trump aptly demonstrated, hate sells twice as much as love.   Go to any sports event and see what I mean.  People don't necessarily root for their home team so much as they shout epithets at the opposing team.  No one says "attaboy" to their star player - they's rather call the opposing team's star the N-word.   It's all about being a fan!

And that, sadly, is what Christianity has been reduced to - a fan club - where people root for their Jesus and run down the other guy's Jesus.

Christianity has become toxic.  And that is why fewer and fewer people are finding it attractive or identifying with it.

You know something?  Human beings really muck everything up.  Jesus was wasting his time here on Earth.  No one really listened to what he had to say.