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November 23, 2013
As I sat yesterday deep in the south (Mississippi) at a Southern Baptist funeral of a dear elderly friend, I was reminded about the importance of the right wing delimiting religion to matters of the afterlife and culture. For if the Southern Baptists (and other fundamentalists) of the U.S. ever became somewhat liberated from capitalist brainwashing, like Pope Francis is somewhat liberating the Catholic church, the politics of the U.S. could take a loving leftward turn. Nozickianism has taken its harsh toll in the U.S. by design.

The preacher rattled off, with quasi-liturgical precision, John 3:16, Romans 3:23, and Romans 6:23, verses that long ago became nearly void of meaning to me, and almost was I tempted to judge him for his rigid devotion to "the plan of salvation" as he explained it by rote. But it occurred to me that this was not a barrier to healing in the U.S. Fine for the preacher to preach about how he thought someone could get to heaven as long as he (and it still is always a "he" in the Southern Baptist church) also pounded the pulpit once in a while about sharing the wealth and doing unto others. I am not asking for a full-on Christian-Marxist dialogue, although that would be nice, but how about a little love for all of our neighbors in the world in the here and now.

The pallbearer standing across from me was an African-American southerner. I am a half-brown southerner. The dear old woman in the casket had been a white southern "belle" to the extreme. We all learned to love each other and to work well and equally together. So I am convinced that southern fundamentalism has made and can continue to make some progress about race. But why won't they "let their people go" to union meetings, support the food stamp program, get health care before they qualify for Medicare, and recognize that race prejudice and history is bound up with economic disparity? Because that would start an avalanche that could really change our world. (Just like perhaps having women in more pulpits and priestly robes could lead to better respect for women's rights.)

I am not holding my breath. We will not wait on the fundamentalists of the world to "give" us what is ours by virtue of our humanity--liberty and justice for all. But we would have a much stronger coalition in the U.S. if they would join us. Sad that in the U.S. "we" shall have to overcome the church of my childhood instead of it embracing liberty and justice for all, causes demanded by chapter and verse in its sacred text.

UPDATE (11/26/13): WOWSY. This is an edited version of a comment that I just made at ahumbleopinion's piece on Pope Francis's apostolic exhortation issued today:

The writings of the late Father Jean Yves Calvez, a Jesuit, are invaluable for insights into the Jesuit analysis of liberation theology, Marxism, and other related matters that has greatly influenced Pope Francis. (See also the similar non-Jesuit views of the late Bishop Paulose Mar Paulose of the Chaldian Syrian Church in Kerala, India.)

In a nutshell, the legalists of this world have turned matters upside down. Love is to inspire our understanding of justice, and this expanded understanding of justice is to lead to revisions to our laws to catch up to love. Instead, under capitalism, we virtually worship the laws given to us by (often racist) founding fathers and further impressed upon legislatures by the powerful, these laws become fixed against the powerless, our understanding of justice is stilted and mostly that of the powerful, and the poor are unloved.

One must watch out for the limitations of democracy, eloquently described by the protestant Reinhold Niebuhr.

Pope Francis, unlike many clerics, is keenly aware that, as Billy Bragg sings, "the third world is just around the corner."

SECOND UPDATE (11/26/13): And who can forget this timeless End-Times classic?:

(A lovely piece of hate-artwork I remember from my youth in the Southern Baptist church of the early 1970's, from http://www.chick.com/....)

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (36+ / 0-)

    My avatar is a photograph I took in 2008 of the headwaters of a waterfall in the imperiled Parque Nacional de Garajonay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site on La Gomera, birthplace of my paternal grandfather, in the Canary Islands near the Sahara Desert.

    by Galtisalie on Sun Nov 24, 2013 at 05:11:51 AM PST

  •  Deprivation is the key to dominance. (5+ / 0-)

    Lording it over other people is only possible if they can be made subordinate by depriving them of their rights.
    Time is of the essence.
    Deprivation of rights is supposed to be reserved for punishment for crime -- crime being an unauthorized or unjustified deprivation of rights. That is, individuals are not supposed to be deprived of their rights until after they have committed a criminal act that has been proved against them.
    Some people, even the well-intentioned, do not get the importance of sequence, of the order in which things should/do happen. So, for example, they see something they want and take it without first asking whether someone else has a claim. They commit a theft because a claim or right was proved valid after. If nobody had a claim, the taking would have been inconsequential.
    Time, a sense of time, is essential to rights. Which is interesting in that "right" is a directional word, while time is sequential.

    Obamacare at your fingertips: 1-800-318-2596; TTY: 1-855-889-4325

    by hannah on Sun Nov 24, 2013 at 05:29:41 AM PST

  •  My southern baptist wife struggles (12+ / 0-)

    with that herself. While she is active in the very church she attended as a little girl with her mother and helps with the toddlers at Sunday school, the dichotomy between the church's message and what Jesus actually said and did has become increasingly difficult to reconcile.

    Marrying a raging liberal from "up north" perhaps opened her eyes a bit but I'd like to think many more attendees are equally torn yet somehow suppress those misgivings for the sake of conformity and group acceptance.

       

    "The philosophy of conservatism is inevitably doomed by its adherents' willingness to accept bluster as a sign of character and thick-headed devotion to meaningless symbols as sign of moral fiber." (Albert Einstein)

    by Jim R on Sun Nov 24, 2013 at 05:32:04 AM PST

  •  Even funerals are now part of the problem (9+ / 0-)

    as NPR found back in 1998

    Large funeral-home conglomerates have been purchasing smaller, local funeral homes and retaining the family names on those homes. The funeral homes that remain independent are worried about that consolidation. While ownership by a large corporation results in certain services being improved...such as bereavement counseling...costs are climbing and are threatening the smaller funeral home operators.
    Whatever you think of conventional American funerals, at least the money involved used to go to family businesses and stay in the local community. Not so much any more.
  •  for a long time Southern Baptists were (11+ / 0-)

    very different than we experience them today.  After all, both Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter came from a Southern Baptist upbringing.

    Fundamentalists deliberately took over the denomination some decades back, and what we see now is something very different than SBs were for much of their history.

    Yes, they split from other Baptists over slavery during the Civil War -  realistically, Episcopalians were one of the few Protestant denominations that did not so split.

    But there are many people of good will.

    One reason for the push for "charters" is a way to prevent their young people from mixing with people who are different, lest they lose them from the generosity and openness that demonstrates increasing acceptance and tolerance because they know people who are different, like Muslims and Jews and Gays.

    "We didn't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts." - Pema Chodron

    by teacherken on Sun Nov 24, 2013 at 06:02:47 AM PST

    •  Are you saying Jimmy Carter (0+ / 0-)

      was different that today's SB's?  (Bill Clinton sure wasn't).

      To me he's the outstanding example of opening the door to include major doses of crazy religiosity in the federal government and as a major pandering mechanism while politicking.  Something that RWR picked up on and ran with.  

      He was like that in oh so many ways, yet progressives seem absolutely blind to it for some reason.  

      •  It is a mixed bag. In the south, the (3+ / 0-)

        fundamentalist churches are the main institutions in many people's lives. To not use moral language that the people can understand and to cede the field is what the Nozickians want. President Carter was far from perfect, but he was ostracized from his denomination because he was not conservative and refused to follow the conservatively-politicized religious party line. I respect him for doing his best in life and continuing to grow as a human being. President Carter did not cause the entry of religiosity into politics. He was sincere about his religion and tried to bring a counter-narrative and was punished for it politically by the Southern Baptist Convention, which ran off all the liberals from churches and SBC-supported colleges and seminaries. Same thing was going on in the Catholic Church under Pope John Paul, to lesser success.

        My avatar is a photograph I took in 2008 of the headwaters of a waterfall in the imperiled Parque Nacional de Garajonay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site on La Gomera, birthplace of my paternal grandfather, in the Canary Islands near the Sahara Desert.

        by Galtisalie on Sun Nov 24, 2013 at 08:19:47 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  IOW, another example of the South (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Galtisalie

          fucking over the entire country.

          Oh well, we're (collectively) similar enough that we more or less deserve it.

          •  Dear Roadbed Guy, we come to (0+ / 0-)

            the same conclusion about our plight, but I still want to make sure I do three things, given this plight: (1) accept the things I cannot change while trying to envision better things and strategies for improvement, which to me ultimately means system change to deep democracy of the economy and political system, not only in the U.S. but around the world; (2) try to extend the hand of human friendship as much as possible, not least of which to all potential allies, however imperfectly-situated, and most importantly to the weak wherever they are; and (3) live a life of inner peace as much as I can. I can be honest and cynical while fighting like hell, and loving as much as possible. I am for now stuck in the Deep South but even if I was not stuck, I am fulfilled by being on the front lines of human resistance to reactionary domination. Many people, particularly the poor, have no flexibility like me to one day move out of the Deep South. I will befriend them as much as possible, hopefully until the day I die. Peace be with you brother.

            My avatar is a photograph I took in 2008 of the headwaters of a waterfall in the imperiled Parque Nacional de Garajonay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site on La Gomera, birthplace of my paternal grandfather, in the Canary Islands near the Sahara Desert.

            by Galtisalie on Mon Nov 25, 2013 at 07:58:44 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  Yes, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Galtisalie

    the irony is thick.

    "Those are my principles, and if you don't like them...well, I have others." --Groucho Marx

    by Dragon5616 on Sun Nov 24, 2013 at 07:03:03 AM PST

  •  One quibble (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Galtisalie, Bronx59
    But why won't they "let their people go" to union meetings, support the food stamp program, get health care before they qualify for Medicare, and recognize that race prejudice and history is bound up with economic disparity?
    We don't know anything about the deceased.  Maybe she was a staunch liberal and took the progressive side on all these issues?

    I mostly go to Jewish funerals, when I go to funerals, and the funeral services I go to remember the person who lived, their lives, their accomplishments, how we should remember them.  Family members also speak.  Regardless of faith, the clergy person delivering eulogy should focus on the person lying in the coffin before him/her and recognize that friends and family in attendance often belong to other faiths, or to no faith, and have come to say goodbye and to honor the deceased.

    "We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals, now we know that it is bad economics." Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jan. 20, 1937

    by Navy Vet Terp on Sun Nov 24, 2013 at 07:11:13 AM PST

    •  Good points. (4+ / 0-)

      She was politically conservative. She believed down the line what Fox told her to believe, and since her church, which was the only institution in her life, had no counter-narrative, she would listen to nothing else. I remember hearing her tell her WW2 war hero husband he needed to get with the program and support W on the Iraq war. Because of circumstances, I could not perform a counter-narrative function for her to any material effect. By the 70s, before I knew her, she and most of the white people in her culture had switched over to the Republican Party.

      Southern Baptist ministers by and large wear it as a badge of purity and honor that they pray "in Jesus name" and in general behave as if they are the only religion at funerals, etc. For them to choose the teenage preacher model from Matewan is calling for courage and almost certain ostracism. Yet even in the Southern Baptist churches of today, in those Sunday School rooms Jim R mentioned, the message that "God is love" is not so easily repressed. Sunday school teachers, like the ones who taught me when I was little, are unpaid volunteers. The preacher is paid and dependent for his salary on not upsetting the community status quo.

      My avatar is a photograph I took in 2008 of the headwaters of a waterfall in the imperiled Parque Nacional de Garajonay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site on La Gomera, birthplace of my paternal grandfather, in the Canary Islands near the Sahara Desert.

      by Galtisalie on Sun Nov 24, 2013 at 08:03:50 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

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