Monday, July 03, 2017


“Naked Pastor” (, a daily cartoon for “recovering Christians”) made a list explaining the reasons why churches can get away with spiritual abuse.  He means the Christian church and that means “mainstream” America.  At least they self-identify that way but one hopes are not typical or the majority.  

Nevertheless these are the values that the pastor sees and that drove him out of the formal ministry.  They are mainstream or slightly right-wing beliefs of the American Protestants but never admitted up front — just expressed in actions like legislation.  They are not the values that Trump claims to value, but he covertly accepts them as his modus operandi.  Because he is aligning himself with this powerful and secret undertow that guides us and is expressed in our fictional media -- the movies and series based on "being bad" -- he appeals to many.  He is proud to be a “bad-ass” president.

1 The church silences abuse in order to protect their ministries.
2 Parents entrust their children to church leaders without question.
3 The church nurtures a victim-blaming culture.
4 Christians tend to trust their leaders, even to their own peril.
5 Church leaders enjoy an incredible lack of accountability.
6 The church ghettoizes itself and presumes immunity from its critics.
7 The church prefers forgive and forget rather than offer restitution and reparation.
8 Criticizing and judging is explicitly unchristian and implicitly forbidden.  At least in-house.
9 Appealing to the secular courts is categorically unbiblical.
10 Many Christians can’t believe a spiritual leader would harm someone.

I do not agree with ANY of these ideas, but I did experience them, both in my childhood Presbyterian church and in my adult UU churches.  Also in secular boards as those for towns and schools.

This is George Lakoff’s list of Conservative Moral Values, expressed in terms of what takes precedence over what when making choices.  These are also Trumpian values as well as right-wing conservative priorities, and often explicit.  Where did they come from?  The “Game of Thrones” war culture of the bloody divided Europe that drove people to the Americas, where they set about re-enacting them.  Lakoff’s mission is to awaken consciousness of our repetition compulsion.

The Conservative Moral Hierarchy:

• God above Man [sic]
• Man [sic] above Nature
• The Disciplined (Strong) above the Undisciplined (Weak)
• The Rich above the Poor
• Employers above Employees
• Adults above Children
• Western culture above other cultures
• America above other countries
• Men above Women
• Whites above Nonwhites
• Christians above non-Christians
• Straights above Gays

The above will seem perfectly natural and defensible to most people around here.

Tracing it all out to the consequences becomes interesting as we figure out how the hierarchies came to be, what the alternatives are, how to do better, why they persist.  Of course, those committed to these priorities are not about to give them up, because they believe that’s who they ARE.  It would be asking them to stop being themselves.  Our best hope is that their health will be so bad that they die early, to be replaced by a more enlightened generation.

“Conservatives believe in individual responsibility alone, not social responsibility. They don’t think government should help its citizens. That is, they don’t think citizens should help each other. 

“The way to understand the conservative moral system is to consider a strict father family. The father is The Decider, the ultimate moral authority in the family. His authority must not be challenged. His job is to protect the family, to support the family (by winning competitions in the marketplace), and to teach his kids right from wrong by disciplining them physically when they do wrong. The use of force is necessary and required.” 

My own father considered himself progressive, enlightened, humane and tolerant.  But he was very much like this pattern.  And challenging that enraged him, though it was my mother who ended up earning the living.  We all learned to just go around him.

Technically, this way of seeing things reaches back to the idea of God as King, tribal leader, which came from Europe along with the founding of America though it was exactly what we were trying to get rid of.  We wanted democracy, but there was always a remnant who still wanted to be King, to be privileged by Kingness, and to make everyone else into narcissistic enablers.  They felt it was inevitable in the world, that institutions would only persist as hives with one King (well, a Queen if she would act like a King).

The problem is designing institutions larger than a Quaker congregation that could keep order.  About the size of the prairie Native American clan groups.  We need to face the death of God, the dethroning of fathers, the misguided priority of humanity, and the extent of the damage we’ve already done.  Then maybe we could solve drugs and suicide.

My working schema is that the goal of institutions is its own survival, maintenance of its own goals like a our legislators spending all its time and money on being re-elected.  Sometimes the best thing they could do is self-destruct BECAUSE an institution can begin to murder individuals or possibly even the ecology that they are part of.  That is, an institution is a human invention and must justify itself in terms of not just humans, but also the planet as a whole.  

Institutions include nations, religions, corporations, infra-structures, schools, and even media like print, television, internet, and so on.  Deconstructing them can become crucial when times change or they will prevent growth and understanding.  It is hard to admit that there are patterns bigger than any invented by humans and impossible for institutions to control.  But we are like the great schools of fish or flocks of birds that inexplicably self-form, not just according to greater forces but also by adjusting to adjacent individuals.

This is done with ideas.

The sources of ideas on the American frontier were brought mostly from Europe, but there were other ideas from the indigenous people and even some ideas from Africa, at least in the South.  Sometimes they were underground and unconscious, or forbidden by taboo and ideas of contamination.  

Different circumstances challenge what people think they know.  Everything is different now.  What was monogamy in a place where women die in childbirth so that it takes three or four wives to raise the children?  What was monogamy in a place where women were dependent on men who hunted or farmed but who were often killed in battle or out of exhaustion?

What is family in a place where the men contribute only fertility and then leave or are killed on the street?  What is a family if a woman isn’t sure who the father of each child might be?  What is a family if the only income a woman has is governmentally provided but constantly threatened?  What is a permanent home as the basic unit of wealth and safety if it is constantly threatened by fire or rising water no person can combat alone?  Or predatory banks, lending institutions, and tax schemes?  Red-lining, gerrymandering, and so on.  The system is not working.

The pope is faced with an insistence on punishing people who break technical rules from centuries ago, while all the time his top officials destroy children right under the nose of the church.

These are not idle questions.  At the moment I’m watching a denomination, the UUA; a tribe, the Blackfeet; and two towns, Valier and Browning; wrestle with these issues.  Too often they just leave the field, like the denominational officials when confronted with a woman who felt prejudice cost her a job; or the sixty-second mayor Valier had a few years ago who didn't know parliamentary procedure; or the calls to simply dissolve bankrupt Browning or pesky Valier.  We’re all watching the president with varying degrees of horror — or maybe pride if you prefer to identify with him.

This vid is Jimmy Carter about the disparity in income as a source of authoritarianism.

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