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Hello, everybody. I hope you’re having an absolutely fantastic, marvelous day. This podcast is very enlightening. I especially implore you to listen to the end of this podcast, where my interviewee Tammy, who is @TheoloGOP on Twitter (she spells it out during the podcast; I will also link it in the description), she talks about growing up in the evangelical faith, and understanding the evangelical faith relative to other parts of Christianity, and how this ties into politics.
Now, one thing: It’s been a few episodes. I’ve been trying to make the audio as clean as possible, and I hope you listen to the whole thing, because…
Even though the audio isn’t pristine,
I tried to make it clean,
So it can make your brain lean,
And then we can be mean…
You know, I’m just primetime rapping here before the podcast, but it’s a good long podcast. I let Tammy talk. You know, I think that’s the best interview: When you can just let it all go, and they can just drop the knowledge bombs from above on you.
Let me know what you guys think, and as always, stay Gucci everybody.
Well, Tammy, something I really want to cover, and something I don’t think a lot of people understand, I think it’s good to get out to an audience, is what an evangelical is, and I was wondering if you could explain to – imagine trying to explain what an evangelical is to – someone who barely understands Christianity. They understand God, maybe The Ten Commandments, maybe the concept of like sinning, and Heaven and Hell. How would you describe the evangelical faith to someone who really just has a small grasp of Christianity?
I think Christianity breaks into three large groups. One is Catholicism; one is mainline Protestantism; and one is evangelical Protestantism. It’s only Protestantism in the sense that it is not Catholicism, right? So the way that I would explain it is, mainline Protestants broke away from Catholics because the biggest beefs were, there should not be a human interceder between you and God – that you should be able to approach God with confession and forgiveness without having to go through another human being to do that; and the other big beef with the Catholic Church was their resistance to translating the Bible into readable language for the masses. That the high priests of Catholicism would be the holders of that sacred truth, and that if you had a question about God’s plan, God’s story, God’s creation, you needed to go to a priest to get the answer. So that was the big reason that Protestantism broke off
Now, Protestants… There are as many varieties of Protestants as there are of ice cream in The Universe. I don’t make any sweeping generalizations about even mainline Protestants, but I will say that what separates evangelicals from what I would consider to be mainline Protestantism, is what I would consider to be heresy. So in other words, you can believe a lot of really messed up things and point to biblical support for those belief systems, right? But there are certain things that you can believe in and you cannot find biblical support as a New Testament Christian. And so my sense of southern… and I’m just talking about white southern politically conservative Christian evangelicals. When I talk about “SWE,” what I mean is, southern white evangelicals. I’m not talking about black Pentecostals, because I don’t know anything about them, because that’s not the world that I’ve been exposed to.
For instance, when Hillary Clinton was running for president, her Methodist faith prevented her from essentially… in Texas… you’re new to Texas… We have an expression called “flashing ass.” Do you know what that is?
“Flashing ass” just kind of means showing off, but in a really obnoxious way.
So just, you know, just being obnoxiously in-your-face is “flashing ass.”
To a mainline Protestant, there are scriptures that say, “When you pray, go into your closet, and pray to me in private. Don’t be like the Pharisees who stand on the street corner and make a big deal about how pious they are. Come to me in your secret room in the privacy of your heart, bend the knee, and I will hear you,” right?
Hillary wasn’t going to get up on a stage and go on-and-on about how pious she is, because she was raised in the Methodist faith, which is a mainline Protestant religion. Evangelicals believe that wearing your faith on your sleeve is something that God wants you to do. That being pushy about your faith – and by the way there is a difference between evangelizing and proselytizing, okay?
Could you explain that?
Mainline Protestants perceive evangelism as simply living your life as best you can as what you understand Jesus would have done. So in other words, if Jesus says, “If you’re rich, sell everything you’ve got, and give all your money to the poor.” Okay, Mainline Protestants believe a part of evangelizing is simply doing what Jesus said to do, and then if somebody asks you, “Why are you doing that?” Say, “Because I’m a Christian,” right? So, that’s the form of evangelism that mainline Protestants engage in. The form of evangelism that SWE – southern white evangelicals who are very politically conservative – engage in, is what mainline Protestants refer to as “fire and brimstone,” which is, “Do what I say you should do, or you’re going to hell,” right? “The world’s going to end any minute, and you better get on the right side of Jesus, or you’re going to be tortured for all eternity.” That kind of thing.
So they heavily believe in the The Rapture more than other sects.
Well. (Laughter) For what it’s worth, the word “rapture” does not appear in the Bible to describe the event that evangelicals believe is going to happen.
And just to define it for the audience, is The Rapture?
That word? That’s Fake News. That’s a made-up word.
Okay, but just to define it for the audience, what I believe I was referring to is, The Rapture is The End of Times, when God comes back to the Earth, or Jesus.
And as I said, I’m not speaking for all evangelical faiths, just the southern white evangelicals that I’m familiar with. Their understanding of The Rapture is, when The Kingdom of God is at hand, the righteous are going to be… they’re not going to die. It’s not like they’re all going to drop dead. They’re going to disappear, and be taken into The Kingdom of Heaven, while The Kingdom of God establishes itself on earth. But there’s going to be a period of tribulation; and during this period of tribulation the unrighteous – the non-Christians – are going to have an opportunity to see the error of their ways, and they’re going to have to suffer – a lot – but you know, they’re going to have a chance to like see the error of their ways, and they’re going to have an opportunity.
I’m sure you’re familiar with the fact that there have been some diplomatic issues between the United States and Israel, because our SWEs like to go on vacation to Israel saying they’re going there to be tourists, when what they’re really trying to do is figure out a way to trigger The End Times, because it has to start there. Armageddon is actually a place. “Har Megiddon,” I believe, is how the Israelis pronounce it, but it’s actually supposed to start in Israel, right? Armageddon is the name of a place. It’s not a thing. It’s a geography name, right?
So, The End Times have to be triggered with a conflict in The Holy Land, which is what we understand to be modern-day Jerusalem. And yes, when The Kingdom of God… (laughter)
There’s three things: There’s The Kingdom of Man, The Kingdom of God, and The Kingdom of Heaven. The Kingdom of Heaven is where people are going to get raptured to. The Kingdom of Man during The End Times is going to come to an end, and The Kingdom of God is going to be established on Earth, And the understanding of southern white evangelicals, is that The Temple in Jerusalem will be re-established when The Kingdom of God is at hand.
So, yeah, they think that will be the epicenter of The Kingdom of God.
That is God’s home address, the way that they see it, and no matter what sits on that geography – you know, if you put up a Starbucks on that geography, it doesn’t stop being God’s home address, it’s just a matter of when does he decide to move back in. And when he does, that is the rebuilding of The Temple, and The Kingdom of God is at hand.
My parents weren’t that religious, but I went to I was a Catholic, and I went to a Catholic school from first grade to eighth grade. And I learned basically this notion of sinning. So, if you’re a good boy – if you don’t sin as much, and up to some standard – you will go to heaven. And if you kind of sin neutrally – not as much – you go to purgatory. And if not, Hell.
Right. You can work off your sins in purgatory, and people on Earth can help you work off your sins by lighting candles, and doing stuff.
Do evangelicals – help me understand this – how do they see sinning? Do they see it in a different way?
Very differently. You’re definitely too young to remember a very old TV PI procedural called “Baretta,” but the tagline was “Don’t do the crime, if you can’t do the time,” right? What makes the evangelicals different is they believe that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
Of course. Everybody. Everybody but Jesus. Everybody has sinned and fallen short of the grace of God and the glory of God. But! What’s interesting is where Catholics believe that all people come into the world marked by sin – because we have to (to be born) pass through a female body, and Catholics believe that women are the eviler sex, because woman fell for the snake’s sales pitch in The Garden, and offered Adam the apple… (The Freudian implications of the Garden of Eden story I could talk about for an hour, so I’m not going to go there.) The idea is, Eve the temptress made poor, innocent Adam – who had absolutely… you know, was obviously a totally malleable idiot – sin, and so it’s all her fault. And we have to come into the world through a woman, so we’re all born marked with sin, right?
And Catholics believe… Am I right? You’re a Catholic.
Yeah. No, that’s true, so, but the basic framing of the story is that it’s her fault. That’s what I was reflecting on. I never thought about that, I’ve heard that story.
“The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.” That’s Eve. “The serpent beguiled, me and I did eat.” It’s all on Eve. But we’re not going to get into the whole Freudian thing, and misogyny, and all of that…
For what it’s worth, all three of the world’s great monotheistic religions (and I use “great” because everybody uses “great;” I find none of them remotely morally acceptable), they’re all misogynistic, but here’s what’s different between Catholics, mainline Protestants, and SWEs. Mainline Protestants don’t believe that you get to heaven by being perfect, or you get to heaven by not sinning. They believe, as do evangelicals, that we’ve all sinned, That we’ve all fallen short of the glory of God, that the only way that you get to heaven is by grace, which is God’s forgiveness, which was purchased by the blood of His Son, who’s also him. We all believe in the Trinity. We all believe that Jesus and the Holy Ghost. all the same thing: One God in three different manifestations, but all the same entity.
What makes mainline Protestants different than SWEs is mainline Protestants seem to have taken the idea that since God was nice enough to – and I’m stealing this from the movie “Quills” – allow His Son (who is Himself) to be hung up like a side of beef to buy off our sins… Since God was willing to put His Son (a.k.a. Himself) through that, mainline Protestants believe that we owe it to God to do our best to be as good as we can possibly be, right? So mainline Protestants are like super-into like, charitable works on the sly. You don’t do charitable works and then flash ass. “Look how charitable I’m being!” You don’t do that. You do your charitable work. You’re as generous and as kind. You alleviate suffering everywhere that you possibly see it. You think before you speak. You try to preserve people’s feelings. You try to constantly – every minute of every day – be putting yourself in the other’s shoes, living The Golden Rule, which mainline Protestants believe is more important than any other rule, okay? So as an example:
The Golden Rule says, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” So a mainline Protestant looks at a gay man who’s in love with another gay man and says, “If I was a gay man, would I want to be allowed to marry my gay lover and start a family? Would I want to be allowed to do that?” Yes, I would, so that’s what I should do.
Southern white evangelicals don’t see it that way. They see The Golden Rule as, “If I was a gay man in love with my gay male lover, would I want to be allowed to be happy on Earth, and burn in hell for all eternity, or would I want to be forced not to sin? I would want to be forced not to sin! So let’s force them not to sin!”
Mainline Protestants are warm and fuzzy. They’re cooperative. They’re compassionate. They have a lot of empathy. I personally – as an atheist – have a lot of respect for social justice Catholics like Sister Simone Campbell(@Sr_Simone). I have a great deal of admiration for warm fuzzy mainline Protestants like The Reverend William Barber (@RevDrBarber), who does Moral Mondays (@MoralMondays), and is also (I believe) a Reverend Doctor in The Disciples of Christ Church.
My personal background is that my family started in a warm fuzzy Christian Church called The Disciples of Christ. When I was tween-ish, my mother moved us into a Southern Baptist Church, which was a culture shock for me. I will tell you that I don’t have a lot of strong memories of my childhood, but I do remember looking inside the Southern Baptist hymnal when we were first attending that church, and being shocked that there was language inside the first few pages about the necessity, as a member of the church, to let the leadership of the church know if I was aware of other members of the church engaging in sinful activities. Now, if I had been brought up in that church from birth, I wouldn’t have found that shocking. The ‘Please Snitch” inscription in the beginning, I wouldn’t have found that shocking. But I wasn’t, so I did. To me, who grew up watching like old movies and stuff, it just seemed a little Nazi-ish – you know, inform-on-your-neighbors kind of thing? Warm fuzzy Christians are very judge-not-lest-ye-be. Southern white evangelicals are not like that. That is not a priority for them.
Would you say that it’s more about I guess them fulfilling their faith, over thinking about others? Or, I guess, doing the right thing, and being morally just?
Well, obviously as an atheist, I have found no faith – and believe me I looked far and wide, and outside of the three great monotheistic religions, to other spiritual practices, and occult and mystical practices and found none of them to be for me. My religion is science. That’s pretty much it. My sacred ritual is the scientific method. I belong to The Church of Reality, which is actually a church, but we don’t have worship services. We just believe in things that are real, and things that are established by the scientific method. It’s not a very complicated religion. It doesn’t require you to read a big book like the Bible.
I agree. In the Church of Science, you don’t have to… you don’t have to make any leaps of faith, right?
And if a scientist presents you with a… ‘Conclusion’ is the wrong word… a finding, and you believe that the supporting evidence has been screwed with, and even if you don’t, your job as a scientist in that field is to test, replicate and try to knock it down.
Every (laughter). I would say that most Americans… I’m not going to say anything about most Americans. I’m going to say that there are indications that some Americans don’t seem to understand how science works. But the whole purpose of science is to constantly be skeptical and be gunnin’ for each other. If a scientist does something impressive, the first thing that scientists in that discipline do, is try to find out “is this legit, or is this guy a fraud?”
To question everything. Right.
Einstein’s not a god. Einstein isn’t this unchallengeable entity. We all respect him because we reproduce his experiments for ourselves, and see that, “Oh! They are true!” We can prove it to ourselves. But we can also say, “Oh! He missed a spot here,” and we can add on to his formulas, in the case of Einstein. He’s not infallible.
Right. To us, scientists are not vessels that are channeling some divine being’s communication to us. They are us, using the tools that us (and by ‘us’ I mean the human species) have developed to try to find out what’s true. The pedestals that we place them on are simply admiring the creativity of the things that they try to find out. For instance, the story of what makes an Einstein wonder about general relativity; or what makes a Hawking wonder about black holes, and the possibility of light escaping them, or energy escaping them; or the possibility of what tripped Brian Greene into suddenly thinking about the universe like rubber bands. The reason that we admire them, is because the novelty and creativity of the questions…
We’re more impressed by the questions they think of to ask than we are by anything else about them. Because quite honestly, the questions that they ask sometimes seem so preposterous and out-of-left-field, that unless you know (as they do) what they expect the answer to be, it seems a little… loopy, right? And they already think they know the answer, and so they propose these incredibly elegant or inelegant models for what they think is real, and then they set about trying to find out if they’re right or wrong. Well, they already know how they’re going to do that, and what they’re hoping to find, but if all you’re doing is hearing a guy say, “You know what? I don’t think it’s waves or particles. I think it’s really loops of string, like, but rubbery ones.” Kind of, “The universe is all vibrating rubber bands.” If you hear that, you think this guy must have had a very fun time in college, and dropped a real lot of acid, right?
But when we find out that these incredibly creative people have managed to find their way to these incredibly novel and creative questions, and then turn out to be able to amass incredible quantities of data to prove that they’re not wrong… See? That’s the other thing but I think a lot of Americans don’t fully appreciate about science: Is you don’t ever set out to prove that you’re right. You only ever set out to prove that you’re not wrong, right?
Yes. You don’t. Yes.
That is the whole purpose.
You’re not, it’s not like… Yeah. You’re not setting some infallible law that can never be changed. You’re simply… You’re following the scientific method. You hypothesize, test, conclude.
Right. And the conclusion is: Is the hypothesis disproved, yes or no? So you’re setting out, basically, to prove… If you win this contest, all you’re doing is proving that you’re not wrong – that your hypothesis stands – but that means until the next scientist comes along, gathers more data, has a finer-tuned instrument, or a more creative or novel idea, and stands up on top of your shoulders, and reaches for a higher, truer hypothesis.
But anyway, we’ve kind of gotten a little bit off the track here. But I think what you were asking me is, “In the practice of their faith, what is the goal ultimately of the southern white evangelical?”
Yes, I don’t think many people understand. They just see Christianity, okay Catholicism, and they don’t see… When people talk about evangelicals, they don’t really understand the fervor behind it.
Well, what I will say is this: If you consider the Catholic Church to have originally started out as an organization that held the Word of God very tightly. You know, that that was the source of their power, was the fact that they could read, they could interpret, they could preach the word… That many of their flock could not read it all, of course. Other members of their flock could not read it in the original languages. I mean, everybody knows the story of King James and translating into English, and what a hugely controversial thing that was in the beginning. But the way that I think about the spectrum of Christianity is, I imagine the earliest Catholic Church, which basically said, this book that we’ve decided at The Council of Nicaea, or whatever it was, but this book that we put together is the revealed Word of God as written by his prophets on earth. This is the revealed Word of God, and we’re going to hold this very closely, because it’s a very powerful document, and our control of it imbues us – as a faith and as The State, because the Catholic Church was also The State at that time – imbues us with a great deal of power over not only our flock, but our subjects.
So that’s one end of the spectrum.
And then in the middle of the spectrum, you have mainline Protestantism, which basically says, we believe that book to be the revealed Word of God as delivered by his prophets, right, obviously with some changes. Catholics have a different Ten Commandments than Protestants do, but basically the same general idea. But we believe that every person can consume this document for themselves. The Spirit of God within them will help them understand it for themselves. That they can go to God in prayer and confess their sins to God, and they don’t need to go to a priest to do it.
Now we still believe – and when I say ‘we,’ understand that I’ve been a mainline Protestant. I was an Evangelic… I attended an evangel… I was NEVER an evangelical, but I attended a church that was evangelical, and I’m now an atheist. So I’m… when I say ‘we,’ I’m including myself, because of times in my life when that would have been true.
When mainline Protestants look at confession, forgiveness, redemption and all of that stuff. Catholics baptize their children at birth. Mainline Protestants baptize their children when their children confess, and asked to be baptized. So there was a time when I was a mainline Protestant, when I said to my family, “I’m ready to accept Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior. I’m willing to stand up in front of the congregation and say that I’ve sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and that I accept Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior, and I want to be baptized,” right? And I was. I was baptized in the mainline Protestant church.
But the Protestant church doesn’t have you go to some guy and say, “Hey, you know what? I had really, REALLY hot thoughts about this guy in my Physics I class. Please give me absolution.” We don’t do anything like that, okay?
So that’s in the middle of the spectrum. So as mainline Protestants, you can read the book, you can go to God in your prayer life, and ask him to help you understand his will as it is expressed in that book… And by the way, I’m a full-on nerd, so you need to understand that I’ve read the whole thing, okay? When you tell a nerd child that this book right here was written through human hands by the mind – the entity – that created everything that’s ever existed or will exist, that child is going to want to read that whole book. That child is not going to be interested in you curating that book for her, right? Picking out the verses that are important and the ones that aren’t? She’s not going to be interested in that, and she sure-as-shit isn’t going to be interested in you paraphrasing it for her, okay? So if you come to her and say, “Well, yes, Jesus says, ‘Any man who hates not his mother and father, sister and brother, his wife and children, yae his own life, cannot follow me,’ what Jesus MEANS is, ‘You’ve got to love me MORE than any of those things, but it’s okay to love those things…” When a person comes to a nerd child and tries to paraphrase the inspired Word of God, what a nerd child does is say, “That’s not what it says. I read it, and I know what it says. And don’t put words in Jesus’ mouth.” So nerd children are very problematic for any faith teacher.
Let’s just really quickly locate the spectrum, because this is going to probably have to do with your next question.
So, way over on one side we’ve got Catholics, who say the path to God goes through the Catholic hierarchy, which is your priests, your bishops your Cardinals and Popes, right?
In the center you’ve got the mainline Protestant Church, which says your path to God goes through The Book, your prayer life, your study, and your trying to model Jesus’ teachings in your life.
And on the other side you’ve got evangelicals. I’m sure you see which direction we’re moving, right? We’re moving away from controlling The Word, to democratizing The Word, to… And fill-in-the-blank for me. Do this for me, AJ: What is it? “_____-ing The Word.” What is it that evangelicals are doing?
Twisting The Word. Okay? Twisting it. A twisted heart goes to the Bible and says, well… Ask me your question, and then I’ll talk about what I think is going on with southern white Christian evangelicals.
Just go into that. I eventually want to get into how the evangelical faith plays into the Republican Party. How they kind of fuse together.
Well there’s no way to answer one question without answering the other. Here’s the thing: I – even as an atheist – I accept the maxim that a hammer can build a house or cave in a guy’s skull. Religion can build a beautiful society, or it can build a “Lord of the Flies” hellscape. I accept that, all right? I’m not a religion-hater. That’s not what I’m about. Religion doesn’t work for me. I know plenty of people that it works beautifully for. There are reform rabbis that I follow on Twitter, who are my spiritual guides, in the same way the Reverend Barber is, and I don’t believe a thing about the being that they worship. But I believe that social justice Catholics, and warm fuzzy Christian, and ex-Presidents who start groups like Habitat for Humanity and try to cure guinea worm… I’m down with those people. I don’t care what God they worship. They’re fabulous people doing fabulous things in the world.
But here’s… We’ve gone from the Catholics who are controlling The Word to hold power, to Protestants who are democratizing The Word to democratize the faith, and now we’re to another step, which is your southern white evangelicals – the ones I know. I’m not speaking for all of anything. I’m talking about your Missionary Baptists, your Southern Baptists, your hardcore. Southern. Baptists. (laughter) Okay? That’s the people that I know.
Here is the twisting of the faith. The twisting of the faith is, we pick and choose which passages matter based on our personal life experiences. So, if you’re rich, every red letter in the Bible – and the red letters are the letters spoken by God when he was on earth as Jesus Christ – so if you’re an incredibly rich person, you just toss out all of the red letters that have anything to do with the evils of money, the love of money, the accumulation of wealth on Earth, the lack of charity, the responsibility that if you’re rich, sell off all of your shit, and give your money to the poor, come follow me. Right?
If you are somebody who likes to go out drinkin’ and whorin’, then all of the passages about drinking, and fornication, and lust, and all of that? All of that gets thrown out, and you focus on something else.
If you are somebody who abuses your body with drugs or with food, you just throw out all of the my-body-is-a-temple, and all of the sort of implied discipline that Jesus talks about, right? You just throw all of that out. “It’s okay for me to be fat and to use crystal meth, but being gay? That’s a HUGE problem!” Or not having prayer at the beginning of…
And that’s another thing. (laughter) Southern white evangelicals are the reason that prayer in school is an issue.
Right. They’re the reason.
Yes, because Catholics gave up that fight. Because Catholics basically said, “We’re outnumbered. They’re not going to say our prayer. If they’re going to say a prayer, it’s going to be the Protestant prayer, which is different than our prayer.” The Pater Noster is not identical to the Protestant Lord’s Prayer. Jehovah’s Witnesses stood right up and said, “We’re not going to salute the flag.” I mean, it wasn’t non-believers… People don’t understand this. It was not non-believers that made forcing children to say the Pledge of Allegiance a thing, or made prayer in school a thing. It was believers who said, “Our faith doesn’t allow us to say that version of that prayer,” or “Our faith doesn’t allow us to salute or pledge our allegiance to a graven image or an idol, and that? That American flag? That’s an idol, and you can’t make our children pledge their allegiance to an idol.”
Basically, it wasn’t the non-believers that secularized the public square. It was believers who said, “You can’t make our kids do that, because that’s not what we believe,” but people don’t understand that. And. They. Never. Will.
The point I’m making here, is for southern white evangelicals, what they do is say, as a group, “What are the things that we like? Well, We like guns, right? So the whole turn-the-other-cheek thing? That’s not really important to us. We’re not just about self-defense; we’re about Stand Your Ground, right? We’re about offensive. If somebody touches your shit, you have the right to blow their head off. Castle Doctrine. Stand Your Ground,” right? That kind of thing. So the whole turn-the-other-cheek thing, that’s out the window.
“Well, what else are we into? Well, we’re into country music. What’s that about, mostly? Well, it’s about fightin’, so again, the turn-the-other-cheek thing’s kinda gone. It’s about cheatin’, so fornication and adultery? We’re not really gonna be hittin’ on that real hard. Drinkin’, so we’re not really gonna be goin’ after alcohol or alcoholics. We’re not gonna try to re-institute Prohibition.”
So you get down to a really narrow band of sins that they want to focus on.
That’s what I was going to ask. Are there some sins that they can’t commit?
Yeah. Abortion and gayness. Those are The Big Ones.
I think you just… That fits into the Republican Party perfectly. Okay.
And, for what it’s worth, I’m a GenX-er, which means that I was banging my head mid-80s to mid-90s, and I’m still banging my head now. Okay, so southern white evangelicals during the mid-80s to mid-90s, they were up on their high-horse about that music being devil music. Judas Priest were agents of Satan. And The band Kiss was agents of Satan. And I’ll tell, you when I went to Texas A&M my freshman year, I had an evangelical roommate at the dorm. She found a Night Ranger album in my collection, and because it had the song “Sister Christian” on it, she called her mommy and daddy to say. “Get me out of this dorm, because I’m living with a Satan worshiper!”
Their pet passions, as a group, shift with the times.
So right now, the one thing that you can’t do politically – if you’re a southern white evangelical – is you cannot give an inch on abortion. You cannot give an inch on gun rights. They have totally thrown out the New Testament turn-the-other-cheek stuff. They are all about an-eye-for-an-eye. The thing that is so perverse about evangelicals: I wouldn’t have a problem if they just called themselves “evangelicals” and left “Christian” out of it. I mean, really. They’re very into the Old Testament. They’re like super-into it. They love Leviticus. They love all of the “vengeance is mine saith the Lord” and when you go to war, you know, leave not a single thing that flyeth in the air, or creepeth on the ground, and kill the babies, and the only people you don’t kill in war are the virgins, because you take them to be your sex slaves. They’re totally into torture. And what I’m saying is, these southern white evangelicals call themselves Christians, but anytime that you have a conversation, you know, with them about anything that is politically hot, like gay rights or abortion or guns or torture or anything, they have to reach back into the Old Testament to excuse what it is that they’re advocating for.
So for me, my transition in life was from mainline Protestant, to being required to attend an evangelical church – because my mother moved our family into one, right, a Southern Baptist Church, into a journey to decide: Is there any religion out there that’s morally acceptable to me? Is there any religion out there that doesn’t make my skin crawl in some fashion or another? Okay, no religions are going to do that. What about mystical practices? What about spiritual practices? What about this-that-and-the-other-thing? And basically getting to the end of the process, and saying, “You know what? All of it is hoo-hockey. And I’m not interested. And the thing that I really love – being a nerd – is science and reality, and that’s where I’m going to put my faith, if you can call it that. I have faith that the scientific method is a really excellent way of getting at the best achievable, knowable truth about what’s real. That’s my faith.
I spoke earlier in the week, as I’m sure you know, with Michael Brooks (@_michaelbrooks) on The Majority Report, (@MajorityFM); and Michael Brooks is very passionate about class as a political frame in American life.
They use it so well. The opposition uses it very well, I think, to divide us.
There are people that I consider credible on this subject. There’s an organization called Sojourners (@Sojourners), which is warm fuzzy Christians who are trying with all their might to wrest their faith back from the heretical and grotesque and cruel evangelical faces that now represent it to most of the American people in the media: The Franklin Grahams, the Pat Robertsons… even that horrible Catholic guy. What is his name? Bill something [Donohue]. I forget his name. He’s a real… unpleasant fellow.
The way that Michael Brooks was trying to frame my call to him, was to try to encourage me to see it all through a class prism. And what’s true about what Michael was trying to say, and I think he got off track talking about other parts of the world… My story is an American story. I can’t talk about any other story because I haven’t lived it, and I would only be re-telling somebody else’s story.
But in my lifetime, I have seen the Christian Church become a political action committee… The evangelical Christian Church assemble itself into an organization called The Moral Majority – which was neither moral nor a majority – and start leaning on the faithful to pour money into the Republican coffers, and to pour votes into the Republican Party.
And then I saw it morph itself into something called The Christian Coalition.
And did they start doing this after Johnson, after the Civil Rights Act? I’ve always heard the term “Southern Strategy.”
There is absolutely no way to pinpoint the beginning of this, There are a handful of things that happen between the mid-60s and the mid-70s that are sort of tipping points and determiners of where our political life is now. You’ve got The Civil Rights Act, The Voting Rights Act, The Women’s Liberation Movement, The Stonewall Riots, and the beginnings – the nascent flowerings – of gay people demanding their citizenship and dignity. All of these things kind of happening around the same time. And you also have something called The Powell Memo.
That man has screwed us more than most people will ever know. But yes…
It was a strategy for saying, “Let’s de-unionize the workers and let’s organize the powerful – the business owners, the oligarchs, the holders of great wealth – let’s organize them for political power, at the same time that we de-organize the people who work for a living to keep themselves alive.” In other words, “Let’s empower the powerful. Let’s disempower the ordinary person. Let’s turn citizens into consumers. Let’s turn workers into widgets.”
And of course The Vietnam War, Watergate, the price shocks of OPEC, and of course in 68, all of the assassinations – Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Bobby Kennedy, you know, assassination after assassination. So there’s this great upheaval in American life, but the thing that gets overlooked, is after you get through that period of 65 to 75, and The Reagan Revolution begins all of those tipping points, and all of those little historical realities that had set certain things in motion, by the time Ronald Reagan took power in partnership with the Christian Coalition [Moral Majority], he kicks off his campaign by going to Philadelphia Mississippi, as in “Mississippi Burning,” as in three dead civil rights workers who tried to register blacks to vote.
Hand-in-glove, all of these reactionary, oligarchical, whoristocratic (that’s with the W-H, whoristocratic) fellow travelers, these odious people in my view (I have very strong political opinions, but I feel like I can back them up), realize their dreams of dismantling both The New Deal of Franklin Roosevelt and The Great Society of Lyndon Johnson, when they put Reagan in the White House in 1980.
Now I’ve said that I’m nerd. I’m also a geek. I love science; but I also love math. I believe it’s the only language about which there is no argument. Numbers don’t have connotations, and denotations, and shades of meaning; and numbers can’t be co-opted where one day “queer” is a pejorative, and the next day it’s a badge of honor. Numbers are just numbers.
The Reagan Revolution was the beginning of the great untethering of the numbers.
So what you need to understand is, if you develop a religious practice – southern white evangelical conservative Christianity – to essentially be an Old Testament, hard-hearted, cruel, uncompassionate, selfish practice of religion; at the same time that you’re disempowering the people that are most likely to find religion a comfort because their lives are difficult – middle and working class people; rural people – if you manage to sync up all of these things, and you present them with a religious practice that says, “You get to go to heaven, and you don’t have to be nice. You can drink all you want. You can cheat all you want. You can lie all you want. You can steal all you want. You can be as mean as you want.” I mean, people may not know this, but the Bible actually says not to be mean – not to call, you know, your fellow man a fool. It actually prohibits being Donald Trump. The New Testament prohibits trolling.
But imagine you create a religion that as practiced says, “There is only one rule, and that is, you have to say that ‘I accept Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior.’ That’s it, just that one rule. If you can stick that landing, all of that other crap in the Bible? Obey it, don’t obey it. March around banging your chest about the one sin that you never commit. You’re never going to be gay, so really go after gay people. And you’re never going to have an abortion, so really go after abortion. And whatever it is… You’re never going to be a Jew, so really go after being Jews, or being Muslims. You know you’re never going to be a Muslim, so what if they believe in the same God you believe in.”
I would bet you dimes-to-diamonds but there are evangelicals walking around out there that don’t know that Abraham is in their Bible. I would bet money on it.
I am NOT a conspiracy theorist, but I do believe that people do what they want to do to achieve their self-interest, whatever that is to them. So if your self-interest – politically or financially – is to enrich yourself or empower yourself, and you see co-opting religious practice in your nation as a way to do that, and you know that it’s pretty simple, that the people at the top of this particular religion are all charlatans and con-artists who can be bought, it doesn’t take a conspiracy. It was right out in the open the whole time.
I agree. I don’t think it’s a conspiracy. I just think if you’re rich in a democracy, you have a very big problem. (laughter) If you’re rich, you’re probably in the minority, you know. Getting your laws passed, and getting your views passed, it’s probably going to be very difficult, because you have to vote on things.
Much in the same way that I don’t put all Christians – or even all evangelicals – in a basket… I don’t know what Western evangelicals, or northern evangelicals, or evangelicals in Hawaii are like. I only know what they’re like in the American South. I know what they’re like in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, places like that. Because that’s where the people I know are, okay? And Oklahoma. Oklahoma AND Arkansas. I know people in Arkansas. Okay, so pretty much The Confederacy. Okay, that’s what I’m talking about.
But I want to say something about rich people. There are some rich people out there who are giving away their wealth to charity, who are pouring money into getting money out of politics. There are your Nick Hanauers (@NickHanauer), your Bill Gateses (@BillGates), your Warren Buffetts (@WarrenBuffett), and although he is a mixed bag, there are yourMichael Bloombergs (@MikeBloomberg), who aren’t interested in using their money to create laws to make them richer, or get themselves out of paying taxes. I do not paint any group with a single color. I never have.
What I see is a coalition of selfishness, cruelty, and charlatanism. In the same way that southern white evangelicals believe in The Prosperity Gospel Heresy, modern Republicans believe in The Supply-Side Nonsense. There is a suspension of logic, reason; and there is a disrespect for fact, data, and lived history, in both of these camps. This is not a conspiracy. What it is, is a coalition in rejection of reality. That is what it is. It’s rich people who are rejecting reality, making common cause with religious people who are rejecting the reality of the book that they say is their faith.
They do have something very much in common…
Flagrantly, and flamboyantly, about what they are.
So lying, and not admitting to facts. Not living in reality. I agree with you.
Yeah. A rich person says, “I want supply-side economics to be true, because supply-side economics says cut taxes on the wealthy.” Yes, we’ve tried it, and every time we tried it, the mouse died.
You know what I mean?
They only want to do things that benefit them.
And you have Christian evangelicals who are saying… Who are espousing beliefs from the Old Testament that Jesus specifically re-wrote when he came to – if you believe that Jesus was God, and he came to Earth, and the New Testament is his teachings, and commentary on his teachings by his non-contemporaries… If you believe in that, you can’t stick with an-eye-for-an-eye, because Jesus said uh-uh. Jesus said, turn-the-other-cheek-seven-times-seventy. That’s 490 times. You can’t DO that.
This conspiracy to not mention that the Emperor’s naked. This conspiracy to not mention that supply-side economics is not economics; it is a fairytale. This conspiracy to never point out that you stockpiling an armory, because if anybody steps toe over your threshold you intend to blow their head off, and every other part of them off, with your bump-stock, pimped-out AK-47 or AR-15 rifle… The conspiracy to say, “That’s a totally Christian thing to do, and I can show you this passage here in the Old Testament that says ‘arm yourself for battle’.”
It’s just a preposterous gathering of people who are living in a fantasyland of their own creation, that makes their own cruelty, selfishness, stupidity, and anti-social, damaging behavior acceptable.
It’s a… CULT.
It is a cult, and as we learned from the 2016 election, they can all drag us down. They can take over the government. So this cult, in a way, has overtaken all three branches of federal government. And so (laughter), you know, it’s just amazing the times we live in. But it’s a powerful lesson, I think, to understand what this side… how they think and how they operate, because obviously we’ve dismissed them, and that hasn’t worked. They’ve gained even more power.
The thing that I would say… Look, I’m a sweet person. I can’t help it. It’s how I was raised, okay? Like I said, I started out in a warm fuzzy Christian Church, so my brain still runs that code. Some of it is malicious, but some of it is really helpful. I really do treat other people the way that I want to be treated, I really do believe in being charitable and generous, and being the best person that you can be. I really believe that honesty is a good thing, and that it’s bad to steal, and to lie. I still have a lot of that software running in my brain, but I also have a lot of malicious software running in my brain. “He who loves his life will lose it, but he who hates his life will gain life eternal.” So I have in my life struggled with feeling guilty when I’m happy, and I have to remind myself that my brain is just running malicious code from my Christian upbringing, and don’t feel bad about being happy.
It’s okay to laugh at this movie. It’s alright to enjoy this meal. It’s okay to enjoy being around your family. It’s okay.
When I am dealing with people that I know are in this cult… When I am interacting with them, it’s like waking a sleepwalker. If you wake a sleepwalker, they’re going to swing at you, and you’re going to get hurt; or they’re gonna fall or bump into something, and they’re gonna get hurt. Talking to an evangelical is like talking to a sleepwalker.
You’ve got to be very careful.
Okay. You bring up sleepwalking. I was just saying, I think of it… I just slightly… My slight critique is that I think of it as brain… they’re brainwashed.
They don’t… They’re not logical. You can’t come at them from a logical point of view.
What brainwashing is – the way that I understand the process is – creating an environment in which a person is programmed to respond a certain way to certain things. In other words, you get them to abdicate their personal judgment in a given situation, and simply run the programming that you’ve put in their brain. That’s what brainwashing is. The way that I understand interacting with evangelicals is, I believe that they have been brainwashed.
They have been programmed, where if you say certain words, like “voting,” they’re going to say “voter-fraud-three-million-illegal-voters-Voter-ID.” They’re going to spout off a bunch of nonsense that they heard on Fox News and in their pulpits, because believe it or not all, of this stuff about how preachers are not supposed to preach politics in the pulpit is a joke. Everyone does it, from warm fuzzy Christians to Catholics to evangelicals. They all do it. They all basically – without saying, “Vote for candidate X” – they get up there and let you know, “Vote for candidate X.” It happens. We all live in the real world. Let’s not pretend that doesn’t happen.
The thing that I would love to convince people who have been very hurt by the behavior of SWEs…
Look. If you’re a gay person, I’m not asking you to ever engage with these people AT ALL.
And if you’re a darker-skinned person, I’m not asking you to ever engage with these racist people AT ALL.
And if you’re a disabled person, these people are trying to take away your Medicaid and your ability to live at home with your loved ones, and not be warehoused like some animal. I’m not asking you to engage with these people AT ALL.
I’m not asking anybody to engage with these people AT ALL.
What I’m saying to the brave and foolhardy among you, who want to engage with these people (at all), is you cannot win them over with logic, facts, or reason. It cannot be done. What you’ve got to do, is try to find one square millimeter of their heart tissue that isn’t scarred over with this venom that they have been drinking for years. So for me – for me – I try to get a person talking about themselves; and I try to frame what they’re telling me through the prism of my liberal values, whatever that may be.
So for instance, I was visiting with my family, and I met people while I was there that name their pets after Trump, and introduce themselves by saying, “I’m a hundred percent Trump,” and the sweetest people you could possibly imagine. Very friendly, you know… You sit down and have a conversation with them, and people will open up and tell you about themselves.
One lady told me that her daughter had been murdered. That her daughter had been prescribed some gentle tranquilizers by her doctor – I want to say it was Xanax – and her boyfriend and her boyfriends friend broke in and stole the Xanax, and gave her some harder drugs intravenously, and beat her up, and hung her. And this nice – very nice – lady told me that the police ruled it a suicide – even though these guys had her cell phone, right? Had stolen all of this stuff from her apartment, including her cell phone – that the police just wrote it off as a suicide.
And I basically very gently – VERY GENTLY – tried to plant the idea in her head that a lot of people feel like they didn’t get justice from police officers. A lot of people have been through things that have made them have serious doubts that justice is the top priority of law enforcement in a lot of places. I told her, “Your story hurts my heart,” because that’s phrase that we use in the South, “hurts my heart.” “Your story hurts my heart, and it’s not the first one like it that I’ve heard. A lot of people feel like police officers want to feel powerful, and maybe solving the murder of a girl who had problems, and needed to take tranquilizers because she had some problems in her personal life, maybe that’s not sexy enough or exciting enough for these people to do their job, and it hurts my heart that that’s true.”
Now understand that when I’m having this conversation with her, I’m coming at it from the perspective of an atheist. She’s coming at it from the perspective of an evangelical. So she believes no matter what problems her daughter had, or what sins her daughter committed – like let’s say her daughter was having sex with her boyfriend, and they weren’t married – her daughter’s in heaven now, in Paradise, which is going to last for all eternity, when life on Earth is just the blink of an eye. So she’s telling me a story that’s sadder for me than it is for her. For her, her daughter’s dead but not gone. Her daughter’s dead and went to heaven. For me, her daughter is dead AND gone. Everything her daughter ever is, ever learned, ever believed, ever experienced, ever dreamed of, ever wanted to be, ended when her daughter ended. So for me, it’s a sadder story than it is for her.
But what I’m trying to do is plant in her head just a seed that says, “You’ve told me this thing that happened to you, where the police didn’t do their jobs the right way when you needed them to,” and I’m just planting the seed that, “A lot of people feel that way. A lot of people have experiences like that; and a lot of police officers are not living up to their obligations to serve and protect the public.” And I just gently plant the seed.
I don’t say “black lives matter,” and I don’t say “fuck the police,” because she can’t hear that. She’s too far into the society that I’m describing to understand what black lives matter is about, is about agents of The State abusing their power, and not doing their jobs the way they should… Which is exactly what happened to this woman’s family, right? But I can’t say that to her, because she can’t hear that. What she can hear is, “Your story hurts my heart, but it’s not a unique story.” That she can hear, and maybe it can make a difference in her future.
I will say, by the way, to your listeners. I do have a wordpress blog, TheoloGOP, which is spelled like “theologop,” like the word “theology,” but with a -GOP on the end instead of a -GY on the end, at WordPress, and I have a post on there called “Fuck The Police: My Personal Story.”
This woman told me a story that hurt my heart, and as we say in the South, you know, “I’m fixing to tell you I got one of those, too.”
What I try to say to people… First of all, I don’t believe that anything is hopeless, okay? In my lifetime, IN MY LIFETIME, I was okay with gay people the whole way through, because I was bullied in school, and I saw kids that were called “faggot” (I don’t know if they were they weren’t), but they were called that, and they were hurt and in the same way that I was hurt. And so when it came to the whole gay issue, I was like, “Gays are outcasts like me; and they get hurt for no good reason like me; and I’m on their side,” you know, period, full stop. So even when I was a warm fuzzy Christian, you couldn’t have gotten me to say anything bad about gay people, or believe for a second that they were going to hell, because “blessed are the meek, they shall inherit the earth.” And in my schools growing up, the gays were very meek. They were like me. They were the ones getting their asses kicked. So I was pretty sure gay people were goin’ to Heaven. You know just, again, based on The Word…
And also because Jesus didn’t say fuck-all about gay people, and I know, because I read it.
I just want to encourage people not to give up hope that people who have been brainwashed, and bought into this belief system, and are living their lives in this incredibly hedonistic, selfish, cruel way, can never change. Anybody can change. I believe that. I believe that sincerely. But what I want to say to people is, before you approach a person to have a conversation, ask yourself… Do a little audit of your personal emotions and ask yourself: “Am I engaging this person in a conversation because I want to make the world a better place? Or am I engaging this person in a conversation because I want to give them a piece of my mind?” And if it’s the latter, please keep your mouth shut. You’re not helping.
Try to find a way inside of yourself to the part of your heart that can look a monster in the eye, and try to find some part of that monster that’s soft. Try to find that soft spot and work on it. And the next time try to make that soft spot a little bit bigger.
This is not a snap-your-fingers, get-your-wish kind of situation. This is just very simply… I mean honestly, I will say that I had an experience where… it doesn’t matter what.
Here’s the thing:
It may take some loved ones of some evangelicals becoming very ill, or very disabled, or very institutionalized, or warehoused, or dead, for evangelicals to decide that maybe repealing Obamacare wasn’t a great idea. It may require that to happen. It may… Talk therapy may not be enough to unbrainwash people enough to stop them before they do incredibly serious damage to other people, but I believe it’s worth trying.
And I would just say, part of being a mature adult is accepting things that are true, even when they make you unhappy. And it may be true that for the next two, four, eight, or twenty years, this particular political philosophy wed to this particular religious heresy – as a coalition – is going to rule our lives for a period of time. You know, it’s indeterminate right now how long it’s going to last.
But I would just ask everybody out there who’s in the business of saving the world, like I am (as a hobby), if you’re going to try to bring people into the light, just remember:
Be gentle. You know? Don’t burn their retinas. Don’t try to do it quickly. Just a little bit at a time, try to find the part of them that can be reached, and try to reach it, GENTLY.
And if they snap at your hand, back off, and come back another time.
That’s a great point, Tammy, thank you. I think we’ll end it there. Thank you so much.
I feel like I completely monopolized this conversation, AJ. I warned you I chatter when I’m nervous.
I know, I know, but that’s why it’s good… Good for podcasting.
Thank you everybody for watching. Keep it Gucci. If you want to support the show, check out the articles I post on psychowarfare.com (P-S-Y-C-H-O-warfare.com). You can contribute to patreon, check out my articles, follow me on Twitter at @psychowarfareHQ, and I also do periscopes. If you guys like periscoping, please follow me on periscope. I love periscoping
Let’s hang out
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and stay Gucci, everyone!
LINKS & REFERENCES
People & Organizations Mentioned:
Sister Simone Campbell (@Sr_Simone)
The Reverend William Barber (@RevDrBarber)
Moral Mondays (@MoralMondays)
The Disciples of Christ Church
Sir Isaac Newton
Brian Greene (@BGreene)|
The Church of Reality
Habitat for Humanity
Guinea Worm Eradication Program
Michael Brooks (@_michaelbrooks)
The Majority Report (@MajorityFM)
Nick Hanauer (@NickHanauer)
Bill Gates (@BillGates)
Warren Buffett (@WarrenBuffett)
Michael Bloomberg (@MikeBloomberg)
The Council of Nicaea
The Pater Noster is not identical to the Protestant Lord’s Prayer.
It was not non-believers that made forcing children to say the Pledge of Allegiance a thing, or made prayer in school a thing.
Name-calling is, scripturally speaking, a no-no.