Author Archives: Kate Harveston

The (Necessary) Death of Christianity as We Know It

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A majority of Americans large enough to win any election celebrates Christmas primarily as a religious holiday. Similar polling revealed that two-thirds of Evangelical Americans believe Christian nativity scenes and other specifically Christian ephemera have a right to be displayed on government-owned property.

Numbers like these reveal that there definitely is a long-sought wall between Church and State in America — it just happens to have been built to keep out all of humanity’s several thousand gods except one.

On the campaign trail, Candidate Donald Trump was asked in front of a live audience, at the “Family Leadership Summit 2015” a question which self-identifying Christians are supposed to dwell on regularly: “Have you asked God for forgiveness?” Candidate Trump tried fruitlessly for entire minutes to assemble a coherent answer. He failed a second time when the interviewer repeated the question.

Candidate Trump also claimed on the campaign trail that the Christian Bible is his favorite book and brags to this day of being a devout and humble Presbyterian-brand® Christian.

Many Christian believers insist their religion provides blueprints and instructions for how to live lives worthy of God’s favor. Those of us on the outside are supposed to believe that Christianity owns the one-and-only moral high ground and that the Bible’s instructions help us become better versions of ourselves. God is supposed to be a tool by which we revisit our failures and endeavor to do better in the future.

Even Trump says so. But when confronted with that simple question — As a self-identifying Christian, have you asked your god for forgiveness lately? — he replied, “That’s a difficult question.”

Is it really that difficult, though? It can be answered with either a “yes” or a “no.” And if we are supposed to believe that Donald Trump is a practicing Presbyterian Christian, there’s only one correct answer he can give. The second half of Trump’s non-answer, and his alternative to specifically asking his God for forgiveness and/or guidance, is to “try to do better” when he “does wrong things.”

Where Do “Values” Come From, Anyway?

But the Christian God is also supposed to be a “personal god” — even most Christians say so. So what does a word like “wrong” or “sin” actually mean to a man like Trump, whose idea of an ideal and worthy god does not at all seem to resemble the version worshipped by our grandparents?

In other words, how are we supposed to construct a functioning political and world civilization upon such a flimsy and subjective ideological foundation? Donald Trump has spent time bragging in public about sexually assaulting women and yet is the chosen exemplar for the “Party of Family Values.” No religion or any other type of ideology can hope to achieve a worldwide unity of purpose when its values are practiced with such wild inconsistency. Christianity in America walks arm-in-arm with a latter-day gestapo, all while hollering that sitting in that pew for an hour every Sunday makes you a more perfect being.

It is almost certainly true that a majority of American Christians are not fanatical enough about their faith to resemble Nazis and fascists to the degree that the “Alt-Right” movement does. All of the polling quoted above which reveals Christianity’s dominance in America also reveals an ever-smaller number of people who self-identify as both “religious” and “spiritual.” Most folks these days display an interest in becoming a better person without the preposterous baggage of predetermination, virgin births, resurrections and other physical impossibilities and supernatural mumbo-jumbo.

However, it is also true that entire generations of Conservatives who both vote and attend Sunday worship services have not bothered themselves with constructing or contributing to a new kind of politics which does not require them to vote for Nazis, fascists and child molesters. They gather in their congregations every Sunday to wait for God’s Kingdom to arrive on Earth — but we’ve seen those staff members, and the rest of us want no part of that type of government.

More than 80 percent of American evangelicals voted for Donald Trump — a man who had already been on the record for years as a proudly entitled “pu**y grabber.” It’s not like there haven’t been warning signs that their faith had outlived its usefulness — or had plumb gone off the rails.

Yes — the God of American Christians is as personal a god as any. Belief in Him, consequently, frequently results in unselfconscious walking contradictions like Donald J. Trump. But the Christian God also owes its existence to myths far older than itself — stories designed to explain why certain mysterious processes happen the way they do, such as:

  • Why does the sun appear to “rise” every morning?
  • Why does childbirth hurt?

The answers, according to traditional religious dogma, are: Because a god lifts it into the sky each morning and because a god is still punishing us for original sin, respectively.

As you can see, “God” can only live in the gaps in our knowledge. And because we collectively have fewer and fewer of those gaps, we need smaller and smaller gods to satisfy that particular psychological urge. The rise of the so-called “Alt-Right” in America resembles the death throes of an ethos that has finally recognized its own pointlessness but doesn’t want to go quietly.

Meanwhile, those same folks — the folks who somehow believe Christians are a “persecuted people” in a country that prints the name of their god on our money and who ran to Trump’s side because he promised deliverance from the unwashed infidel hordes — appear to be perfectly comfortable with watching their “values” bastardized and weaponized in the name of hanging onto congressional seats.

That’s how paltry a magic trick religion has become in a world that is still marching, slowly and fitfully, toward democratization and secularization. It’s political weaponry. By failing to recognize this, Christians are actively contributing to the destruction of their own religion.

A Time for New Gods

To a certain degree, the survival of our race now depends on a significant portion of the American electorate discovering for the first time that some earthly evils are far more urgent than the ones described in the Bible — and they require us to assemble a collection of humanistic values that is free once and for all from traditional, religious and political ideologies as we understand them today.

Nothing About the Conservative Christian Hero Is Consistent With the Bible

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Religious texts are powerful rhetorical devices because they are subject to interpretation. America has no state religion, but the right wing has strongly endorsed what it preaches are a set of Christian values, making the movement more approachable to the seventy percent of Americans who identify as Christians.

You might think that for people who hold this set of values, Alabama’s Republican candidate for Senate, Roy Moore, would be stoned after five women came forward and made claims that Moore came on to them or worse when they were teenagers. The Christian right, however, seems to have taken a position of denial.

Moore’s not the only one setting a bad example for Christians in politics, either. There’s also our president.
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Christmas Is on Its Way, and I’ve Never Felt Less Excited About It

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With Halloween now in the rear-view mirror, we all know the world is about to jump on the Christmas bandwagon for the next two months. Never mind the fact that there’s a whole other national holiday in between the two (not that Thanksgiving doesn’t have its fundamental flaws as well, but that’s for another rant…).
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Why Are Christians Using Natural Disasters to Bible-Push?

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The world is an opportunistic place. As Steve Jobs famously implied, in order to sell something, in order to manipulate a desired response from someone else, you need to be speaking the language of emotions. Whether fear, desire or shame, empires have been built on exploiting the base emotional reactions of other humans, and in some cases, monetizing them.
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On “Closing” a Megachurch: Why Were We Surprised?

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Natural disasters and acts of God tend to appear alongside each other on legal papers and insurance policies. It seems they’re touched on in Joel Osteen’s megachurch operations manual, too. You might think a former NBA basketball arena with capacity for 17,000 would make a good shelter in such a situation. Joel disagrees.

Despite being situated fairly ideally to assist the community during the worst hurricane to hit Texas in over fifty years, Osteen’s only first move was to encourage church members to donate to the church while insisting that flood waters made the facility inaccessible.
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Interesting Organizations Defying Their Party’s Stereotypes

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The current political climate might be unfortunately tinged by partisan politics, but that doesn’t mean new points of view cannot emerge. A healthy society needs people who ask questions, challenge the norm and explore new ideas.

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