Monday, March 6, 2017

Beware They Who Have All the Answers

I've written about this before. Years ago I was in my early 20s and I was invited and went somewhere with someone I knew from work. I was in the Air Force at the time. He and his wife picked me and my wife up at our house. Something I later regretted. We were driven unknowingly across the Washington state border up to a place deep into the Idaho hills to a religious compound of white supremacists.

They were very nice people, but with an underlying sense of dysfunction. Superiorities. Religious and racist superiority. We met their people, their congregation, then were invited into their church in their compound. Their national leader was in from Georgia that day.

As he gave his speech, he railed about racist things for about an hour from the pulpit. My wife was terrified. I was horrified. It was such a stark contrast to talk to very congenial people who suddenly got behind hate with such vehemence and passion.

It was only after the service that their national leader was told about us. That they had new people visiting, checking things out. People who were spoken for by one of their own and a member of the military, which they love. He came over and talked to us.

He couldn't have been nicer and apologized saying that had he known we were there as first timers, he would have toned it down. But I put on a big smile and put him at complete ease. I told him, quite honestly, that I was very happy he didn't hold back because I really wanted to know exactly what they truly believed. He relaxed and was more cheerful after that, less concerned about us.

We were at the back of the church, standing around the bench seats. Several of the oldest women in the group, all in their sixties or even seventies, and were very motivated about their beliefs. I had myself a lot of experience about religion and the bible.

Having grown up Catholic, having been lead Alter Boy, graduated from a Catholic school in 8th grade (actually the only year I attended a Catholic school...long story), then since high school I had been learning about various religions. Having graduated high school in 1973, I had known far too many of the Jesus Freak type's and got very acquainted with their favorite tactics and passages. I also held a large and practiced list in my mind of biblical conflicts.

I could easily shoot down anyone trying to convert me and had even convinced a few people they were following a lost cause. Something I stopped doing one day after I crushed one guy's beliefs and realized that I really had no right to destroy his comfort and religious delusions. He had been at peace, happy, and yet he walked away from me that day lost and confused.

Actually if his faith was that strong, I could never have broken it. Which also speaks some to that mindset that even in the face of reality and facts, people will still hold onto their religious delusions.

I hope it did him good though, because I feared it may not have. So I stopped doing that. I had only done it though because I had gotten so sick of the question from various strangers asking me, "Can I give you my testimony."

These self proclaimed Jesus Freaks wanted to give people some big long story about how they were "born again". I wasn't the only person who got sick of people doing that. You couldn't sit in the high school lunchroom without some nutcase coming up and offering to bore you to death over your meal. Boring because it always seemed to be the same story in general.

So when a bunch of tiny, old racist religious women surrounded my wife and I in the church in a compound in the back hills of Idaho where even the local Sheriff they told us was afraid of them, they didn't know who they were talking to. Still, I was also nervous from the stories we had just heard that day from the pulpit. By their national leader.

It seems someone like me who bought into them but later one day decided to abandon (escape?) them, complained to the Sheriff as soon as he got of their compound. So the local sheriff and friends drove to the compound gate and called up to them. They said the Sheriff's men were afraid of them and would never come onto their property. They said that proudly, with broad smiles. Things like that.

At one point, we realized that we could potentially disappear and NO one would ever know what happened to us or where we had gone. It hadn't occurred to me, thinking we would be going to a church there in town where we lived, that we should tell someone where we were going and who we were going with.

Anyway, I figured as long as we were nice to these people, and positive, we would be perfectly safe. It was pretty surreal and unnerving though. I acted like I was honestly seeking answers from the old women, though I was pretty sure I already had more than enough information on them to make an informed decision.

I quizzed them on the difficult parts of the bible to seem genuine. I had somehow turned from potential member of their flock, to spy. And they had answers. Very convincing answers. I would then say, in order to look like I wasn't sure and then give them the opportunity to convince me..."Okay, then what about..." and would give them another unsolvable, or unanswerable bible passage to respond to. And they always had solid answers. To the point that both my wife and I, started to feel a bit creeped out.

In the end, I gave them a good run. They believed they had us hooked. We thanked everyone, got driven home and....never talked to the guy again. I'd considered, since we had security clearances for nuclear weapons, perhaps I should report the guy.

Not that he did anything wrong. But it was a radical group and I thought it might be better our people knew and were aware, than not. However in telling all this to my best friend, he convinced me not to. Because during the day he pointed out, I worked fifteen miles away from home, on base, and they knew exactly where we lived now. What if I pissed them off? So I just dropped it and that ended it.

So here's my point. And it has to do with our new President. With the Trump administration and much of what we're seeing going on lately.

What I learned that day on that compound of armed, white, American Christian racists was that anytime you find a religion that has all the answers, they don't. They simply do not. So do not trust them. Never trust them. Something is wrong. Because that is the thing about theism and authoritarianism. You can NEVER know all the answers. When anyone ever does, they are seriously misleading you. They are either delusional (be scared) or lying to you (be very wary).

Authoritarians are like that. They think they know it all, or want you to believe they do. They have to seem like they have all the answers, so they can act decisively. But it's a mask. A lie. A sham.

And now we have one of these types in the white house. Only he's not religious. He's a capitalist, a narcissist and a petty, greedy little man.

It occurs to me the changes in human experience since the advent of electricity. Life used to be pretty quiet, pretty sedate. You go to an office, there was no radio, no sounds, people felt that was normal and changing it made you odd, or worrisome. But we adapted. Things started advancing faster, within our lifetime, rather than through several.

Then came radio and the 1960s, opening us to so much. Then Cable TV, MTV, instant media and now we are saturated, addicted to stimuli. Everything has to be bigger, better, stronger, more.

Donald Trump is now president and you see so far how that is going.

It's an obvious progression in that sense. We need a chance to acclimate to this, to learn to reconsider priorities. Not just to react, but to see what we are doing, what is being done to us, how we are acting in ways not us, but of others and too frequently against our own best interests.

We would rather elect drama than worker. Excitement than boredom. Entertainment than social worker. Social. A social worker works for and in society, in government, for people. Conservatives have warped it into something like the red menace, rather than people working with social conscience.

We really need to take a look at ourselves and work for our benefit and not just those who want us to work for their benefit.

How about some good news?

Our next president? It will be very easy for her (or him), to seem like a very awesome and great president indeed!


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