Category Archives: Religion

Arkansas Baptistan Trigger Legislation

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I originally posted this on another social media site in February this year.

 

Only a fool writes about abortion. It strikes to the core of so much of our political choices. Many insist that it defined the 2016 election, the one which substantially proved that collectively we are quite addlebrained when the call arises. I’m still confused by the fact that a man who encouraged his paramours to have abortions when he was younger could galvanize the evangelicals to such a degree on this issue.

This post deals with the idea of using religion as one’s sole justification to ban all abortions. It doesn’t directly address the idea of abortion as an absolute. It’s a distinction that most will ignore. There are legitimate and genuine reasons to wish to abolish most abortion procedures. I’m poking at those sanctimonious legislators who hold up religion as their defense as if such a thing resonates with the spirit of democracy.

I would be a bigger fool to discount all arguments against abortion. I’m not refuting them. I’m refuting the insistence that religion dictates certainty in regards to personal or public policy. Religion as an argument for or against anything can be stretched to fit any issue. Its malleability is what makes it a dangerous tool for political uses. People can easily use it for political purposes, much like Trump has done with several issues.

Anyone watching the arc of current politics can see that Roe V. Wade is going to be abolished – at least for a generation.

Abortion isn’t a religious issue.

It certainly isn’t an easy one, either, nor one inviting an easy fix. It’s an issue that encapsulates so much human pain, agony, and economics. There’s a reason it’s both so personal and complicated for both the individual and society. Whether we realize it or not, it’s a fair bet we all have family or friends who chose abortion in their lives.

It isn’t a religious issue in the sense you say it is, though.

If this were true, it would follow that all religious people would wish to ban abortion in Arkansas.

They don’t.

Especially given the proposed prohibition of cases involving rape, incest, and viability in the recent ‘trigger’ legislation. It’s a strange twist that a gun metaphor defines the bill.

It’s possible to be both a person of faith and in favor of a woman’s right to choose, whether we’d choose the same option or not. Let’s be clear: cases of rape, incest, and viability are issues outside the scope of secular legislation using religious arguments.

Many of faith would never consider abortion as an option. Unlike their other religious counterparts, they tread with caution when they have the opportunity to insist that their choices be mandated as the only options for other citizens. This is doubly true when instances involving rape, incest or medical issues cloud the circumstances for the person needing options. If those with strong religious convictions wish to serve by example, they’ll simply choose to forego abortion services. History has shown that they don’t however, and seek abortion services like their non-religious counterparts. Banning abortion will result in only those with resources will be able to get them safely; everyone else will use the inevitable underground system with its inherent risk.

The ongoing insistence that abortion is within the scope of religious oversight weakens all religious considerations precisely because it falsely asserts that all those of faith will endorse it.

The hypocrisy of claiming to speak for all those of faith is ridiculous. Many people living here in Baptistan don’t abide by the politics of harshness

Watching people of Jason Rapert’s caliber preach to the entirety of Arkansas and women, in particular, is the best approximation of tomfoolery that I can conjure. I’ll give him a minute, though, because he’s undoubtedly planning some new affront to rationality as I write this. He’ll have heaven on his side, no doubt.

You’re going to have to get a better argument.

Opposition to abortion rights is one of choice and orientation, not religion. It’s convenient for you if you’ve convinced yourself that it is, as it relieves you or any burden of further thinking on the matter.

If you insist that religion indeed demands that abortion become illegal, you can’t escape the responsibility of telling all others of faith that they are completely wrong or that they don’t understand religion.

Other viewpoints don’t matter.

Other citizens? Ignored.

Conduct unbecoming for a legislator and of anyone of faith.

We all have friends and family who’ve had abortions, even if you’re unaware of it. There are better options than abortion in most cases – but not all. I can’t imagine judging someone’s life and heart with sufficient grace to be able to know anything with certainty. All of us can do better, starting with those tasked with making laws which reflect a conflicted democracy.

Bless your heart if you disagree.

In Memoriam Of The Truth

 

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Deanne at her confirmation…

 

 

This post needs a preface. My last wife died suddenly over a decade ago. I was ten years older than she was. She came from a large family, one like so many others; dysfunctional and complicated. Deanne was the youngest of many siblings. Like so many of us, she made some terrible choices when she was younger. Her family mostly failed to adapt to the fact that she grew out of much of her youth. The church and religion were two separate entities in her mind. One, rooted in the practical and loving faith of her paternal grandmother in South Dakota, and the other, insistent on concealment and manipulation. Because of something that happened when she was young, Deanne’s appraisal of the church as a whole was marked by suspicion and lack of trust.

I posted this to Deanne’s ancestry records so that her truth would be preserved – and possibly outlive the revisionists who will read the words and be unable to resist lashing out against the truth I’ve shared. It’s uncomfortable hearing someone revise history or mischaracterize someone’s life. The purpose of my addition to Deanne’s posthumous biography isn’t to harm. The truth never harms unless those who hear it don’t wish to accept it.

 

Deanne Cordell was baptized in the Catholic church in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, on Nov. 28th, 1976, when she was two days old. Much of both sides of her family were Catholic. As she often joked, “I didn’t have a say in whether I was baptized, but I have a say about going to church.” Deanne loved her paternal grandparents, especially her grandmother Jessie Gosmire Cordell. She admired her faith and the way she lived it. Deanne often talked about how much she wished that people could have an open, honest, and compassionate faith like her grandmother. As for most other people, she had an intense impatience with their hypocrisy and lack of compassion toward those in need or those making mistakes. She’d look back at their life and see all the craziness and wonder how they didn’t recognize themselves in the lives of others, even as they criticized them. It caused friction with many people in her life.

 

I have no way of knowing what she was referring to or whether it was about her own life, but she knew a girl who had experienced some kind of abuse at the hands of clergy. She said that the girl had told her mother about it and had been punished repeatedly for lying about the church. It had a substantial impact on her views about the church. I tried to circumspectly discover the identity of the girl in question over the years. “It’s not a part of my life now, so it doesn’t matter,” she’d say. I knew it mattered, though.

 

By the time Deanne was an adult, she had grown to dislike the church intensely. She was unhappy with church politics, its policies, and also the way it concerned itself more with public relations than honesty. As an adult, she only attended church when mass was part of a Catholic wedding or funeral. Otherwise, she preferred to live a secular life. A great deal of her dissatisfaction with the church was the way so many had responded to her choices in life, some of them with great anger and disapproval. She found no holiness in their attitudes.

 

Oddly enough, had she remained in South Dakota or moved back as an adult, to be nearer her grandmother, I know she would have attended church with her. Her grandmother was her connection to faith, while her own mother was the wedge that distanced her from it. Her grandmother never held religion as a weapon and certainly didn’t sharpen it at people’s expense. Deanne admired that relentlessly.

 

Before she died, she talked about how ridiculous some of her family member’s ideas regarding religion were. One in particular was regarding cremation. She was fond of pointing out that those with the strongest views about cremation seldom managed to pay for their choice before departing, leaving other family members to bicker about the issue. When my Uncle Raymond died about a month before Deanne, it allowed us to talk about her own choices. She thought her mom’s antiquated ideas about cremation and Catholicism were ridiculous. She was adamant that she wanted to be cremated and not buried or memorialized in a Catholic church or cemetery. She was equally adamant that her middle name not be used. Given that I had legally changed my name, it was one of her wishes that she eventually change hers, too, and rid herself of the name. We joked a lot about choosing an entirely different name for herself, as I had done. Given enough time, I’m certain that she would have and I think she would have chosen “D” or “DeDe” as her first name. I had made and placed hand-painted “D” letters in a couple of places in the place we lived.

 

In my commentary, I’ve held back from the overt negativity Deanne had toward the church. She struggled to come to terms with her own beliefs, as most of do. She also struggled with her mom’s attitudes about religion, as they seemed to trigger her distaste for religion like nothing else. I’d laugh and talk her down from being angry about it. It’s part of the reason I still sometimes wonder whether Deanne was the girl she knew who had the story to tell about clergy.

 

Deanne has living family who would vainly attempt to revise my recounting of her attitudes. I was closer to Deanne than any other person in her life. No one knew her as an adult as I did. I married her when she was 20 years old. She died at 31. Many thought of her as the “kid” of the large group of siblings and half-siblings. They carried their prejudices about her youth into her adulthood and often discounted her opinions about life, whereas I only began to know her when her adulthood was starting. I had no preconceptions.

 

In the last year of her life, I attended a variety of different churches, trying to find one which might be worthwhile, despite my agnosticism. Deanne wasn’t interested in joining me. She was, however, interested in what I had to say about religion and the things I learned. Much to the surprise of many of her family members, she knew a great deal more than they realized. Many were simply too busy ignorantly trying to correct her instead of listening.

 

I write this in part because a few people have remarked that she was Catholic. She most certainly was not Catholic, despite the revisionist wishful thinking of some of those who knew her. Whether it is fair or note, Deanne would have much preferred a world without the church, or organized religion at all. One thing is certain: she believed that anyone involved in a sex scandal at church should not only be exposed and punished, but anyone protecting those who did so should be doubly punished.

 

I have no agenda to hide the truth or tarnish her image. Truth is its own reward, even as it leaves a bitter taste in some mouths.

 

X Teri

 

 

 

A Totally Accurate History of the Accordion

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The accordion is alleged to have been invented in Berlin in the 1820s. Historians have commented how appropriate it is that the accordion would reappear in Germany and might have been one of the forgotten reasons for WWI. A few modern conspiracists believe that accordions are extraterrestrial.

Weird Al Yankovic, Lawrence Welk, Billy Joel, Dennis Deyoung, George Clooney, Tom Cruise, and Meryl Streep are among the most famous modern accordionists.

According to recent historical finds, however, we now know that the first accordion was invented during the Spanish Inquisition in the 1400s. Given that the Catholic church and the Vatican in particular recently shared some of its archive with historians, we were able to read the original “Pope’s Guide To Stuff.”

Torquemada had been the Grand Inquisitor for fifteen years. Although the boot, thumbscrew, the Judas Chair, the rack, and the water cure were effective at terrorizing heretics, Torquemada’s servant noted that the greatest agony seemed to coincide with horrendously out of tune musical devices.

Since country music didn’t exist at the time, Torquemada’s servant diligently worked to devise something even worse than what we know as country music. After two years of working in secret, the servant connected a flame bellows to an intricate series of reeds and metal plates. During his first test, it is reported that he converted 37 heretics, but also 2,527 believers; their collective agony was so great that they simply fell to the ground and confessed their guilt, if only to stop the cacophony of the very first accordion. History tells us that 12,000 cats and dogs instantly died as well.

Due to the increasing number of people falsely confessing as the result of the effectiveness of the first accordion, Pope Sixtus IV decreed that the accordion was to be destroyed. Further, anyone attempting to replicate it would be put to death.

It wasn’t until about 1700 that an Italian re-invented the idea of a piano. It took another century, until 1820, before someone devised a version of the accordion that Torquemada’s servant invented. We know that modern accordions don’t quite match the horror of the one created during the Spanish Inquisition.

The results are similar, however.

Wikipedia asserts that the accordion and banjo are close cousins of the musical instrument world – and for obvious reasons.

Are We Equal?

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It is impossible to say this without sounding snarky or motivated by lesser intentions. If you continue reading this, you’re going to have to accept that I’m not coming from a place of distrust or anger: I’m just perplexed. Unlike most social media, I only share what I own. Nothing is more ‘me’ than the words I take the time to share.

Some people will read this and become angry or defensive. That reaction should serve as an indicator of how dissonant the issue can be. If you are convinced I’m wrong, you will do yourself a disservice by either lashing out in anger or attempting to craft an argument to convince me otherwise.

I’m just one man sharing my opinion. It’s mine, based on years of reading, observation, and insight.

Anyone with sufficiently confident ideas couldn’t possibly be rendered floorless by my wild ramblings. Truth should never avoid the footsteps of inquiry.

The longer I’m alive, the more perplexed and confused I become in observance of the obedience and participation women have toward doctrine or churches which continue to discriminate.

For all those giving up something for an observed religious holiday, I would ask you to instead consider giving up any religious organization which prohibits women from having an equal footing from top to bottom of the organization.

I’m not asking you to give up your understanding or relationship with your creator or your religion. I’m asking that you instead pledge allegiance to an organization which doesn’t openly take you task for having been born the opposite sex.

Don’t be fooled by mission statements honoring your “alternate role” or anything other than full participation.

Less is lesser, no matter how gilded or prophetic the language used to disguise it.

It’s not a slippery slope; it’s a sharp cliff.

It’s hard to imagine being 52% of the population, yet accepting membership in a church which refuses to stop discriminating.

For men reading this, it’s important that I’m clear: you are wrong if you persist in your insistence that religion demands that women accept lesser spiritual roles. Religious texts have been used to justify all manner of behavior and norms that we now find to be ridiculous. Clinging to tradition or the expository religious texts of your church does not compel intelligent agreement. It’s time. I’ve yet to hear a convincing argument from a man regarding why a woman can’t be a leader in his church. I’ve certainly heard some angry arguments – and often at high volume.

Condemning me to hell only serves to demonstrate how so many fail to see that we only truly preach by how we live. I never learn from an angry voice or a snarled lip and I suspect that no one else does, either.

Each of us must make our own choices for our own reasons. I know that it’s complicated.

But it doesn’t have to be.

I have great difficulty trying to come to terms with the idea of some of the strong women I know who tolerate organizations which do not honor their right to be equals at the table. Some say they’ve found great peace in their respective churches. I find it difficult to imagine that they’ve done so without great stirrings of distrust as they witness being excluded.

These same women, going about their regular lives, would be outraged at the institutionalized discrimination found in their own churches if it were to infect their daily lives.

If your church tells you that cannot be a pastor, priest, or equal to any man in the organization, it deserves to be replaced by another, one without such ideology.

There are a great number of churches which recognize women as equals in all matters spiritual. Are we to believe that their doctrine is wrong? And if they are wrong, you must accept that for some peculiar reason, women are not a man’s equal where religion is concerned. Most of us see it and recognize that it’s wrong. We just don’t know how to get from ‘here’ to ‘there.’

Logistics aside, if even half of all the women in gender-restricted religions and churches stop tolerating it, these churches would wither almost immediately. There are few such social systems in which the fix is both glaringly obvious and available.

Just stop.

Take your intelligence, your presence, your love, and your compassion and let it grace the door of a church which honors women as equals. Let your sons and daughters know that God is an insufficient excuse to continue to practice spiritual discrimination.

It might burn to hear it, but many of us are waiting for the other shoe to drop and for women to stand up and demand this change. It would happen immediately if every woman currently attending a church which does not recognize women as total equals stopped attending, stopped donating, stopped participating, stopped honoring, and stopped accepting being told “no.”

You might be surprised to know that many men already share your distaste with gender-spirituality. And for those that don’t, you can’t change their minds by waiting for them to come around to sensibility. It’s time for a slammed door or a proverbial skillet to the head.

It is true that you absolutely can find your own way inside such discriminatory organizations. I see that it’s a problem for a man to be pointing toward discrimination. It’s also true, though, that if you decide that it is unacceptable and shout your objections and immediately detach, church leaders will have no choice but to admit they’ve been derelict for a few thousand years.

No matter how old a church is, if 52% of the congregation shouts “NO more!” you can be sure that change will come immediately or that reluctance will clearly signal something fundamental is at work.

Whether your church intends to marginalize women by disallowing them full participation, the result is the same: your voice is among the lesser. You are not a full participant. You are condoning the perpetuation of the system which has identified you by gender as unequal.

Allegiance to such churches based on tradition dishonors our ability to determine our own course.

If you truly love your church, demand change.

If you truly love yourself, be open to the possibility.

Not at some imagined future point; rather, today. It will only sustain itself if it embraces this change. If it does not embrace it, it will eventually wither anyway.

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Universal Law of Religious Comparison

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“You sound weird.” -A quote from a member of one religion to every other member of any other religion or denomination.

Corollary: “Additionally, while I’m not specifically saying so, your way is misguided.” Also known as “The Highlander Rule of Religion” – as there can be only one.

Corollary Sequel Pertaining to Deniability: Even if you’re not aware of it, almost every religious person looks at the beliefs and practices of others with an aloof, if not a superior, critical, or comedic eye. Including yours.

Bacon? Temple garments? E-meters? Mysticism? Kaparot? Exorcism? Blood transfusions? Self-flagellation? Fasting? Confession? Scripture? Polygamy? Snake handling? Speaking in tongues? Animal sacrifice? Confirmation? Hymns? Silent worship? Reincarnation? Caffeine? Alcohol? Priesthood? Anointing? Penance? Communion/Eucharist/Transubstantiation? Meditation? Sin? Circumcision/Bris? Purification? Genuflecting? Faith healing? Praying? Guru? Karma? Baptism? Rapture? Armageddon? Prophets? Miracles? Crucifixion? Celibacy? Vows of silence? Pilgrimage? Cremation? Burial? Polytheism? Monotheism? Idolatry? Angels? Demons? Heaven? Hell? Purgatory? Sabbath? Original sin? Commandments? Male authority?

This post isn’t anti-religion. Any inspection of religion tends to spark an immediate and wrathful reaction from those who feel accused by outside observation or commentary, even if people are just asking questions. It’s an observation regarding how members of different religions react to how others practice their own distinct faiths. I’ve come to distrust those whose reactions tend to be angry or strident. The only sermon that works in the lives of others is one of example. “Words conceal, actions reveal” tends to be a great way to gauge someone’s convictions. Shouting may result in silence or cooperation but never conversion.

As an outsider, it’s fascinating to observe the huge variety of religions and denominations. Most adherents tend to practice supremacy in regard to their own particular faith and rituals. It’s the human way of doing things. It makes for some dreadful consequences at times, especially to those of other faiths or no faith whatsoever. The insistence of certainty clouds human interaction as thickly as just about any other human condition.

Having lived more than half a century, I still sit in amazement as I observe the faithful from one group interact and observe others as they go about the practice of their faith. One of life’s greatest pleasures is discovering someone with faith who walks their path without regard to the path another person chooses. They often get drowned out, though. The urge to judge the path of another is almost inescapable.

“We all sound crazy to somebody else.”

Except in my case. I sound crazy to everybody else.
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A Rescued Audio Recording from 1994, Pastor James Huffman

This is a recording that pastor James Huffman made with his wife Jean, and his daugthers Jené and Jenise.

They recorded it in Bandy Brownlee’s studio in Virginia in 1994.

James rescued this recording from a copy of a copy of a copy before it was lost forever.

James E. Huffman is pastor of Christ’s Church in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Christ’s Church Website

Christ’s Church Facebook Page

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May You Never…

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May you never…

I wrote this for a friend, who like so many of us, struggles with those who voluntarily and contrarily reside in a harsher world than we do. My apologies for the tone. I wrote it in one sitting, with my mind wide open.

1) Never tell someone that they weren’t bullied or that they are blowing it out of proportion. Fear sits in an invisible nest and those who inflict it often hide behind a smile and perfect teeth. Failure to protect those who need it is a hallmark of pathology.

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2) Never tell someone that they weren’t sexually harassed or that most of the cases are blown out of proportion. It is incredible how many people have been abused or harassed and have never spoken of it.

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3) Never tell a person sitting in a wheelchair or dealing with a disability that he or she has ignorant ideas about disability or how society can make their lives easier. We can endure a little discomfort if it makes another person’s life more manageable and dignified. In a rich society, we can also certainly afford a few dollars to magnify everyone’s ability to live a fuller life. Most of us sit in confusion as we hear people argue against such a fundamental idea.

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4) Never attempt to tell a black person that slavery had its benefits, about the ‘real’ reasons the Civil War was fought – or that there are no lingering, pervasive effects of discrimination in modern society.

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5) Never forget that many people endure hardship, suffering, and loss through no fault of their own. If you’re sitting in a house with granite countertops and most of the people surrounding you are similar to you in demographics, take a moment to give thanks rather than drag out the clichéd argument of merit or hard work. Many people do everything right and still suffer. If you are reading these words and think that just because you have granite countertops, that I’m referring to you, you are missing the point entirely. If you worked hard to get where you are, all good people will be glad for you. Your success is not the issue.

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6) Never insist that a person chooses their sexuality. I didn’t choose mine. Did you? If this kind of issue is important to you, attacking a person for being gay is exactly the same mentality that allowed blacks to be bought and sold, attacked, and vilified. The greater your reluctance to accept this as true is inversely proportional to how likely it is that you didn’t learn this prejudice – you acquired it.

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7) Never make an argument that a woman can’t or shouldn’t hold any position, office or authority that a man can. All qualifications exist independently of the letter on a birth certificate and should be judged accordingly.

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8) Never forget that being right will not make your life easier if you are shouting it with a snarled lip or with a repetitious and malignant tone. Preach through practice and let your life shine as an undeniable example.

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9) Never overlook that all human beings burn with the certainty that they have the right interpretation of religion. Most have become adept at citations, justifications, and all manner of argument to buttress the beliefs they hold. Most good people know that “Be kind” and “Do as little harm as possible” are key components of any religion and yet we violate these basic ideas from fear and pride. Religion which demands that we attack that of another fails to see the seed of its own demise.

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10) Never stop reminding yourself that although we may have perfected some small part of our lives or society as a whole, there will always be major roadblocks and setbacks. We are all going to encounter people who are fearful or looking back to the past as their anchor. We blind ourselves to our own ignorance and perpetuate the cycle by making decisions in society which veer us off course.

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Be who you are and live a good life in the best way you can.

If you feel like you need to shout in the face of disagreement, stop and consider.

If you feel the need to silence words which conflict with your own, pause.

Above religion, race, sex, creed or geography, fight for the side in which the lesser needs a hand.