The following is an email that was forwarded to me. I'm going to use it to show how the radical religious right distorts facts and truth so as to make it seem as if they are being persecuted when in fact, it is they who are doing the persecuting. I'm going to put the original email in its entirety here and those words will be offset from my comments.
AND WE SAID OK
This one will make you think.
In light of the many perversions and jokes we send to one another for a laugh, this is a little different: This is not intended to be a joke, it's not funny, it's intended to get you thinking.
OK, right here, right off the bat, the wording of this opening is implying that what you are about to read is factual ("This is not intended to be a joke...") and that there's no need to question those facts. After all, chances are you got this email from someone you trust, so why should you bother to look it up to see if all the facts are correctly reported?
Billy Graham's daughter was interviewed on the Early Show and Jane Clayson asked her "How could God let something like this happen?" (regarding the attacks on Sept. 11). Anne Graham gave an extremely profound and insightful response. She said, "I believe God is deeply saddened by this, just as we are, but for years we've been telling God to get out of our schools, to get out of our government and to get out of our lives. And being the gentleman He is, I believe He has calmly backed out. How can we expect God to give us His blessing and His protection if we demand He leave us alone?"
Here is the actual conversation taken from the transcript of the "Early Show" as posted on Break the Chain, a website who's aim is to stop the chain emails that are untrue.
CLAYSON: I've heard people say, those who are religious, those who are not, if God is good, how could God let this happen? To that, you say?
LOTZ: I say God is also angry when he sees something like this. I would say also for several years now Americans in a sense have shaken their fist at God and said, God, we want you out of our schools, our government, our business, we want you out of our marketplace. And God, who is a gentleman, has just quietly backed out of our national and political life, our public life. Removing his hand of blessing and protection. We need to turn to God first of all and say, God, we're sorry we have treated you this way and we invite you now to come into our national life."
So you see, the quote is taken out of context and completely and utterly misquoted. Before I get to the rest of the chain letter, I'd like to address Mrs. Lotz's comments, which I will put in quotes.
"I would say also for several years now Americans in a sense have shaken their fist at God and said, God, we want you out of our schools, our government, our business, we want you out of our marketplace."
First, none of the places listed are really appropriate places for God. You didn't see Jesus preaching at a school or before the Roman senate or while at work or even in the marketplace. In fact, you didn't see Jesus preaching anywhere. Jesus didn't go up to people and say "Let me tell you about God..." Instead, he waited until the people came to him and asked him to teach them. He told his disciples he was going to make them fishers of men. Now, if you've ever gone fishing, the kind you do because you love to do it, you stand on the bank or in the stream or on the deck of a ship, and you wait for the fish to come to you. Many of the disciples Jesus took were the kind of fishermen that went out and cast their nets and forced the fish to "come" to them. But Jesus took them away from that. Made them into a new kind of "fisherman"— the kind that does it out of love for what they're doing, not to make money.
Now look at the radical religious right and what kind of "fishermen" are they? The kind that goes out, throws their net over everyone and says "Come to me". The kind of fishermen that are doing it for the money. The kind of fishermen Jesus exhorted the disciples to give up so they could follow him.
But I digress.
What we were attempting to get rid of by "getting God out of our schools, etc." was not an individual's personal relationship with God, but a state-defined God. By doing so, we sought to guarantee that all who worship may worship as they see fit without feeling that the state is telling them they're wrong— even Christians! Let me give you an example of what I'm talking about here that involves the high school I graduated from far too many years ago...
Attendance at the graduation ceremony was a requirement. In years past, the graduation ceremony had always been opened with a prayer from a local pastor and usually invoked the name of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Several years ago, a non-Christian student sued the school to prevent the opening invocation and, because attendance was mandatory, they correctly won their case and a judge issued an injunction against the school which the school was not going to fight. However, at the graduation ceremony, one of the student speakers decided to ignore that injunction and received a standing ovation when she asked everyone to join her in saying the "Our Father" (Lord's Prayer).
I can virtually guarantee that had that young woman stood up and asked everyone to join her in a prayer to Allah or a prayer to Krishna that she'd have been booed off the stage or the crowd would have been shocked and angered at the audacity to force others to hear her heathen prayers. So it seems that it's okay for the RRR to force others to listen to THEIR prayers but they should not have to listen to anyone else's.
This is hypocrisy. This is what Jesus railed against wherever he found it. And in fact, Jesus himself says that those who pray in public and beat their breasts for all to see already have their reward. He tells everyone that when they pray, they should go into a closet and pray so that their prayers are between them and God. When Jesus says "Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's and render unto God that which is God's", is this not saying "Keep your government/business dealings in the government/business world and keep your faith between you and God?" Is this not advocating separation of church and state?
"And God, who is a gentleman, has just quietly backed out of our national and political life, our public life."
According to the Christian teachings, God gave man free will. This is demonstrated in the Garden of Eden when he allowed Eve and then Adam to eat of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil even though God had forbidden them from doing so. If God "interferes" in our lives without being asked, he is then taking away our free will. At that point in time, no one can ever be held responsible for their own actions again since they can just say, "God interefered with my free will." We must ask God to intercede in our lives— and we only have the right to ask for our lives, not for the lives of those around us unless we have their permission. Otherwise, we're asking God to interfere in their free will. Would you want someone else praying to God and asking him to interfere with your free will? If God takes away our free will, even for an instant, then how can we ever trust him to not take away all the other things he has promised and upon which so many place their hope and trust?
"Removing his hand of blessing and protection."
This is fear-mongering. Very subtle fear-mongering, but fear-mongering nonetheless. It's subtle, almost subliminal message is, "If you don't do it the way God says [or more accurately, the way we say that God says], you're gonna get screwed!"
"We need to turn to God first of all and say, God, we're sorry we have treated you this way and we invite you now to come into our national life."
First, even Christian teaching says that we must develop a personal relationship with God. They also teach that God is our father. Do you now of any parent who relates to each of his/her children in exactly the same way all through the course of their entire lives? Rather than retype the contents of an article I wrote many years ago, I'll just point you to this link (which will open in a new window as will all other links in this article) to show you why it's not even possible for everyone to relate to God in exactly the same way.
The question then becomes "Is such a relationship desirable?" The answer is, "If we're to maintain our freedom of religion it's not." The US is not a democracy: it was never meant to be one and hopefully never will become one. We are a constitutional republic, and as such, the rule of the majority is subject to restrictions: those restrictions are simply that the rule of the majority can't violate the civil rights of even one individual. This is not a Christian nation: it was never meant to be one and hopefully never will become one. (For another article I wrote that goes more into that, you can click here.) Yes, the colonists at Plymouth Rock came here to expressly found a religious colony. But— and this is a big but— they did not come here to found a new nation! By the time the founding fathers were ironing out the US Constitution, in the words of Thomas Jefferson (from his autobiography), "they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and the Mohammedan [Muslim], the Hindoo and the Infidel of every denomination." [In the interest of being straight-forward, Jefferson was referring to the Virginia constitution here, but the principle is the same.]
"We put our trust in you. We have our trust in God on our coins, we need to practice it."
The founding fathers probably rolled over in their graves when we put "In God We Trust" on our money. Truth is, "In God We Trust" didn't appear on ANY US currency until 1864 and then it was on only a few coins. It didn't even appear on paper currency until 1957. So it's not something that's always been a part of our nation's heritage as some would like you to believe.
Now let's get to the rest of the email.
In light of recent events...terrorist attacks, school shootings, etc. I think it started when Madeleine Murray O'Hare (she was murdered, her body found recently) complained she didn't want prayer in our schools, and we said OK.
This is full of emotional manipulation. First, terrorist attacks and school shootings are the work of either extremists or very disturbed individuals, not the average American. What I find more disturbing is that, during the time when there was prayer in schools led by school officials, virtually the entire nation felt it was okay to lynch blacks if they "got uppity". Or to hold parties under the dead body of a black man hanging from a tree. That it was okay to enslave an entire race of people and to consider them only three fifths human and therefore not entitled to the most basic of human rights. That it was okay for a man to beat his wife if she refused to have sex with him or even rape her. That child abuse was not talked about and no one advocated protecting children from being forced to work in sweatshops. ALL of that was not only legal but condoned by almost the ENTIRE NATION. It wasn't the work of a few extremists or some very emotionally/mentally disturbed individuals. It was part of the nation's psyche! Utterly acceptable behavior even in the most upper-crusts of families. Perhaps even expected in the most upper-crusts of families.
So no, terrorist attacks and school shootings didn't start with Mrs. O'Hare's suit to get school led prayer out of schools (where it never belonged in the first place.) She only sought to force the government to abide by the US Constitution's First Amendment. Simply because a law is popular or "traditional" does not make it constitutional. Slavery was once popular and traditional, but it was utterly unconstitutional and rightly overturned.
And finally, the mention of Mrs. O'Hare's murder is almost like saying, "Ha! She got what she deserved!" or more subtle fear-mongering: "See what might happen to you if you don't believe in God!"
Then someone said you better not read the Bible in school. The Bible says thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, and love your neighbor as yourself. And we said OK.
This is spreading misinformation. Reading the Bible is still legal in school. What is NOT legal is being forced to read the Bible as a work of religion. Or having the school teach you that you should believe the Bible says. Any student has the right to take a Bible to school and read it during their free time. Any student who is barred from doing so should contact the ACLU and alert them to this violation of their civil rights.
I again point out that when the Bible WAS required reading in school, all the same stuff I mentioned above was going on in spite of the Bible saying, "Thou shalt not kill" and "Love your neighbor as yourself." It's just that the folks back then seemed to have added "unless they're black" to those commandments from God.
Then Dr. Benjamin Spock said we shouldn't spank our children when they misbehave because their little personalities would be warped and we might damage their self-esteem (Dr. Spock's son committed suicide). We said an expert should know what he's talking about. And we said OK.
First and foremost, a correction. From Wikipedia, we learn that it was not Dr. Spock's son that committed suicide, but his grandson, who had struggled most of his life with mental illness. The intent of this paragraph is to lead the reader to believe that Dr. Spock didn't know what he was talking about and couldn't even save his own son. In fact the truth is that Dr. Spock's two children are both still alive and leading very successful lives. His son Michael is the former director of the Boston Children's Museum and his son John was a general contractor in the construction field.
It is also misleading because it insinuates that Dr. Spock felt we shouldn't hold our kids responsible for their behavior at all. In fact, Dr. Spock simply advocated alternatives to corporal punishment, believing that hitting a child only teaches that child to solve problems using physical violence.
Now we're asking ourselves why our children have no conscience, why they don't know right from wrong, and why it doesn't bother them to kill strangers, their classmates, and themselves.
Did the KKK come into being before or after Mrs. O'Hare? What do the white supremacists use to justify their beliefs? (Hint: It begins with a "B" and has five letters and ends in "ible".) Did slavery and the subjugation of women and the abuse of children begin before or after Dr. Spock? Killing strangers has been going on since the beginning of time. The biggest mass killing of strangers was perpetuated by the US when it dropped the atomic bomb on the civilians of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And that was long before Mrs. O'Hare and Dr. Spock. While many might say, "That's different! We were at war!", the "terrorists" would argue that they are at war also. Simply because we haven't declared war on them or acknowledged their declaration of war doesn't mean they're not at war.
Probably, if we think about it long and hard enough, we can figure it out. I think it has a great deal to do with "WE REAP WHAT WE SOW."
Exactly! And what exactly have we sown?
- We have Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, James Dobson et al trying to force the entire country to live according to their definition of "Christian". So that's telling kids "You can violate another's rights if it disagrees with yours."
- We have the Bush (I and II) and Reagan administrations saying, "If you don't stop giving women the option to have abortions [just an example, there are many other choices that could go here], we're gonna stop sending you aid and let your country fall apart." What's that telling kids? If people don't do it your way, find some way to hurt them until they do!
- We have some branches of Christianity telling us, "We're all born sinners and there's nothing we can do to 'fix' things and none of us deserve anything but death!" What's that telling our kids? You're all worthless: you were born that way and nothing you can do will change that.
- We have a society that, driven by the corporate greed that was fostered and encouraged under Reagan and Bush (I and II) telling us that we're real losers if we don't have the latest clothes or the fastest car. At the same time, we have those same administrations giving tax breaks to the rich and screwing the poor. This "me" mentality is teaching our kids "Do what you have to do to get ahead. Don't worry about those who have less than you. Don't worry about being fair or seeking justice."
- We have the deficit ballooning under Reagan and the Bushes, which teaches our kids to "Get what you want and worry about paying for it later. If ever. It's someone else's problem."
- We have a powerful gun lobby that demands that all Americans have the right to have whatever firearms they want. Despite the fact that statistics show that you're more likely to be killed/hurt by your own weapon than someone else's, we keep these things around. The handgun death rate in the US is more than 10000 deaths a year. That's more than one person an hour that dies from a handgun bullet— every hour, every day, every year. That's teaching our kids "We know these are dangerous and will more than likely harm you than protect you, but we don't care. It's our right, damn it, and we're gonna exercise it even if it means you get hurt."
Yes, my friends, we are most definitely reaping what we have sown.
Funny how simple it is for people to trash God and then wonder why the world's going to hell. Funny how we believe what the newspapers say, but question what the Bible says.
Now this is just plain silly, in my humble opinion. Newspapers report on objective facts and events. (Well, for the most part they do....) The Bible teaches spiritual truths, which are totally subjective. To compare the two is like comparing apples and pickles and creates a logical fallacy.
We believe what newspapers say because, for the most part, they are verifiable statements. They are objective issues we're dealing with and do not require anyone to believe in a diety whose very existence cannot be proven. And before anyone gets bent out of shape, the very definition of faith is the belief in that which is beyond proof. You cannot have faith in God if you can prove that he exists. You don't have faith that if you bang your head against a brick wall, it's going to hurt. You know it's going to hurt because of past experience with immovable objects hitting your head. We can all have personal proof, but there is no way to scientifically prove something that requires faith.
Now, the Bible, on the other hand, is a compilation of books that history records were written in several different languages by many different authors over a period of more than a half a century. Some of those books we only have bits and pieces of. Others are more extensive. But we also know, from history, that the Bible as we know it today was not even put together until hundreds of years after the death of Jesus the Christ. And the King James Version, which is held to be the "most authentic" by many Christian sects, wasn't commissioned until the 1600s. We also know that there are many books that are not included in the Bible or the Apocrypha. The Catholic faith holds the books of the Apochrypha to be canonical, but the Protestant faiths do not. Additionally, we know that the Council of Nicea edited the Bible and took out parts that didn't agree with the message they wanted the people to learn.
There's also the issue of translation. Here's a little example that I received in an email long ago from an unknown source.
Near the end of class one day, a college professor of English writes the following words on the chalkboard:
woman without her man is nothing
The assignment to the class was to punctuate the sentence. The only requirement was that the words had to remain in that order.
The next day, many of the women in the class had come up with:
Woman: without her, man is nothing.
While many of the men had come up with:
Woman, without her man, is nothing.
The same six words; two completely different meanings.
Remember that game we all played as kids called "Operator"? You'd have a whole circle of kids and the first one would whisper something in the ear of the person to their right. Then that person would whisper the same thing to the person on their right. You could get the phrase repeated once by saying "Operator". By the time the sentence got back to the originator, it was usually very different from what it had started out as.
Now, keeping these two examples in mind, and keeping in mind that for many words and phrases there is no direct interpretation from one language to the next, imagine a monk, working by candle or oil lamp, hand transcribing the Bible by copying it from one that was copied from another that was copied from God knows how many before it gets back to the original. An original that was written from either memory or from someone who was passing on oral tradition or listening to someone speak. There were no ball-point pens in those days and transcription was by quill and ink. A small splatter of ink might look like a period or comma. Or change a semi-colon to a colon. Or there might even be a tiny insect squished beween the two pages that looks like a comma or an apostrophe. Then, of course, there's the matter of putting into written word what has up til now been oral tradition. Even if you tell the story exactly as you heard it, is that pause in the story a place to insert a comma or a semi-colon or a period? Can you begin to see how the very act of transcription could lead to mistakes in the Bible?
Could God have prevented a mistake from being made? Yep. But did he? In order to show that he didn't always do so, you need only find one example. There was a story many years ago about a printer who had to recall more than one million copies of the Bible. The fifth commandment was "Thou shalt steal." So it's clear God doesn't prevent it from happening EVERY time.
Additionally, what we're dealing with in the Bible is spiritual truths. Like the very existence of God, there is no way to prove those spiritual truths except to live them in your life. For as much faith as Christians have in the truth as told by the Bible, Muslims have just as much faith in the truth as told by the Qur'an. And Mormons have just as much faith in the truth told in the Book of Mormons. There are more than 30,000 Christian churches and sects in the US, and every one of them has a different interpretation and understanding of the Bible. (If they did not, they would be of the same church/sect.) And each of them believes that their interpretation/understanding is THE best one. (If they didn't, they'd join the church/sect they thought did have THE best one.
So which of those interpretations do we use if we're to believe the truths of the Bible in the same manner that we believe a newspaper article? Is it immoral for a woman to cut her hair? Some Christian faiths say yes. Is it immoral for the races to intermarry? Some Christian faiths say yes. Is it immoral for someone to be gay? Some Christian faiths say yes. But there is NOTHING that all of them agree on when it comes to defining sin. Even killing! Some say it's okay in self-defense or time of war. Others say it's not.
And finally, there is no way to verify many of the events of the Bible. We can verify that the walls of Jericho fell one direction or the other— if we can find the city of Jericho. There are many who would argue that we could verify the existence of Jesus through historical writings. I'll even agree to that. But there's no way to verify that Jesus fed 5000 people with a mere five loaves and two fish. There's no way to verify that he walked across the water to Peter's boat. There's no way to verify that Judas betrayed him for 30 pieces of silver. There's no way to verify what Jesus even said. That is all a matter of recall by the authors of the various books of the Bible.
It is very easy for a Biblical scholar to pick out what parts of the Bible were, for example, written by Paul because Paul's style and even understanding of what Jesus said was different from others. Paul's teachings on marriage, for example, are much less "encouraging" to people to marry and sees marriage as a last resort to avoid giving into their lusts. The very fact that Biblical scholars can tell who wrote what passage by the tone and style shows that what was written in the Bible was filtered through their limited understanding and knowledge. To suggest, therefore, that we should accept what these men wrote as spiritual truth in the same manner that we accept verifiable facts from a newspaper is illogical.
Funny how you can send 'jokes' through e-mail and they spread like wildfire but when you start sending messages regarding the Lord, people think twice about sharing.
Well, they SHOULD think twice about sending something like that. NOT because it talks about God or Jesus, but because it's full of misinformation, faulty logic/reasoning and emotional manipulation. Like that paragraph. It's intent is to make you feel guilty for having second thoughts about forwarding it. And that guilt is meant to make you question whether or not you're being a good Christian. No, it's meant to make you believe that unless you do forward this, you are not being a good Christian. That is emotional manipulation, which is a form of emotional abuse.
Funny how lewd, crude, vulgar and obscene articles pass freely through cyberspace, but public discussion of God is suppressed in the school and workplace.
More misinformation and half-truths. What is "suppressed"— and indeed illegal— in the school or workplace is not a discussion about God or one's faith, but preaching about God or one's faith usually with the intent of trying to covert another. (In my humble opinion, the act of trying to convert someone is in itself a sin because it is suggesting that the one to be converted practice idolatry. God has led each of us to the path that we're on because he knows what we need and he knows our level of spiritual maturity (reference the article linked above called "Two Truths" or this one, called Spiritual Maturity.) For me to tell you, "You must believe as I tell you to believe and ignore what God is telling you to believe in your heart of hearts" is asking the other to commit idolatry.) Preaching is illegal at work and in school because it is disregarding another's right to follow the faith that they hold dear.
Whenever someone attempts to convert me, I let them tell me what they want to tell me and then I ask them, "If I tell you what I believe, will you change what you believe simply because I tell you that what I believe is the truth for me?" They always respond, "No! Of course not" (or something similar.) I then ask them, "Then why do you expect me to change what I believe simply because you tell me that what you believe is the truth for you?" They usually have no answer. But this is just another example of the "Do as I say, not as I do" thinking of so many.
Are you laughing?
Funny how when you forward this message, you will not send it to many on your address list because you're not sure what they believe, or what they WILL think of you for sending it. Funny how we can be more worried about what other people think of us than what God thinks of us.
Pass it on if you think it has merit. If not then just discard it... no one will know you did. But, if you discard this thought process, don't sit back and complain about what bad shape the world is in!!
More emotional manipulation. More attempts to make you feel guilty. And even an attempt to intimidate you and question your own intelligence. "If you discard this thought process..." means, "If you can't follow the 'logic' of this email, then you're stupid!" When in fact the email is full of misinformation and faulty logic.
Go back through history to the time of the women's suffrage movement. Find some of the old speeches of the legislators who opposed giving women the vote. Read how they said that giving women equal rights will destroy the world the way God intended it to be. Then fast forward to the civil rights movement. And read some of the speeches of legislators who opposed giving blacks equal rights. Read how they said giving blacks equal rights would destroy the world the way God intended it to be. Then fast forward to the gay rights movement. And read the speeches of the legislators that oppose giving gays equal rights. Read how they say that giving gays equal rights will destroy the world the way God intended it to be.
You're hearing the same old tired arguments over and over again. What's destroying the world is not taking God out of the schools and places of business. What's destroying the world is taking God out of our hearts and putting him INTO the world by trying to make everyone relate to him the way we do. What's destroying the world is trying to give unto Caesar that which is God's. What's destroying the world is our arrogance in believing that we are the only ones who know the real truth— not just for ourselves, but for everyone. What's destroying the world is hatred. It's bigotry. It's intolerance. It's greed. It's fear of and disdain/scorn for those who are different than us. THAT is what's destroying the world.
So the next time you get one of these kinds of emails, listen to that voice in your heart of hearts that's saying, "Don't forward this." Read it— really read it. Between the lines that will invariably be there. If you find you still agree with it, then by all means pass it on. But if you find this kind of emotional and spiritual manipulation, this kind of misinformation and twisting of facts and faulty logic, then put it where it belongs: in the trash bin.