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Hurricane Katrina, and the good churchgoers of the U.S. South

category elsewhere | religion | news report author Sunday September 18, 2005 01:36author by prole cat - The Capital Terminus Anarchist-Communist Collective Report this post to the editors

Like many frustrated Southerners in the aftermath of the hurricane named Katrina, I drove a small truck-and-trailer full of food and water to South Mississippi. I met some refugees at a camp site, during the trip down. They appeared to be poor whites. One, a native of Bay St. Louis, was snarling against the "looters", using racial epithets. When informed that I planned to take food straight to the hungry people in the streets, this man (who had already taken offense when I challenged his bigotry) snorted, "Good. You gone find out then. Great. You go right ahead." His words left me more determined than ever.

Later that night, one of the man's campmates approached me. He had been told of my plans. He was on the verge of tears. "Hey man, I'm not wanting to be all hateful, or racist, or anything. Really, I'm not. But please, please don't just drive down there, and open up your truck, and start giving stuff away. Please don't. You don't know these people. You don't know what it's like, down there."

He seemed sincere. His words accomplished what neither his friend's words, nor the media news reports, had been able to. I hadn't been frightened before. But now I was scared.

The role of the good church people
We went first to the rural town of Wiggens, but relief had arrived there earlier in the day. We went to Poplarsville, which was militarized to an alarming degree. Soldiers carrying submachine guns guarded the gas pumps. (As it turned out, President Bush was doing a photo op in Poplarsville that day.) A National Guardsmen with rank told us that aid was still desperately needed (ironically enough) in Bay St. Louis, sixty miles outside of New Orleans. So we took off. (We believed New Orleans itself to be unapproachable due to martial law.)

The sunlight was beginning to dim on the second day of our trip as we approached Bay St. Louis. Adding to my apprehension, was the otherworldly sight of automobiles upended in drainage ditches. Motorboats were perched in the tops of trees, either thrown there by the wind, or perhaps nested there as the flood waters receded. Cars traveling on the road became rare, consisting mostly of military vehicles. Power was out, and so of course no gasoline was available. Occasionally a man in a bucket truck with a chainsaw was in evidence. I decided against camping in the area. We would drop the food as close as we could get to the people who needed it, and then get the hell out before nightfall. I, for one, had a family to return to.

A man in front of a wrecked convenience store directed us towards a National Guard armory, as the nearest exchange point for relief aid. Was this what I had traveled so far to do, hand the supplies over to the U.S. government, who had already demonstrated their callous indifference to all but the richest people in the area? A knot in my stomach tightened as we advanced.

Then we came to the intersection of two main roads. In the parking lot of a darkened K-Mart, a large tent had been erected. People were busily unloading food and water from trucks, and carrying them into the tent. Smoke rose from a large grill out back of the tent. All around the tent, people sorted through piles of clothes, carrying away what they needed, without paying. Inside the tent, blacks and whites mingled without apparent distinction. Immediately upon approaching, we were offered a meal. In the short time we were there, we saw a pair of men in cheap jeans and mill-worker tee shirts approach, carrying canned goods wrapped in the stomach portion of their shirts. Presumably, instead of hoarding, they were bringing what little they had, and throwing it into the common pile with everyone else's. It was the polar opposite of all the looting, murder, and rape that we had been told to expect.

We begun to unload the truck. I was so relieved not to have to give up the goods to the government soldiers, I never thought to ask under whose authority (if anyone's) the operation was being carried out. But as we stacked box after box, I was hardly surprised to note crosses hanging from chains around the necks of many of the relief workers, and Christian messages on tee shirts. This was Deep Dixie, after all. I struck up a conversation. I learned that a circle of volunteers from a small Baptist church in southeast Alabama, near Mobile, had been instrumental in organizing the particular relief site we had stumbled up on. We had been saved from the clutches of the soldiers, by common folks who had organized among themselves. And they had done so, in large part, by employing the mostly unofficial networks of their church contacts.

I was touched. I have long been antagonistic to the self-righteous evangelicals of my region. But here they were, in the vanguard of some fine, compassionate work. A new evaluation of their role in our society was surely in order.

In addition to my newfound appreciation for these kindhearted individuals, I was also moved to wonder, "Why does the government allow this?" It has long been apparent that the government and the corporations demand a monopoly on power. They either absorb, or infiltrate and destroy, unions, active community groups, food coops, coordinated anti-war activists, grassroots political organizations of all types, in short, any and everything that tries to operate outside the framework of the market place, and its corollary, the election booth. But churches are granted a remarkable, an incredible, amount of latitude. For example, everyone had been warned not to try to take food into, or even near to, New Orleans, because putting a stop to "looting" and "lawlessness" was being given a higher priority than relief. "If you go near the soldiers guarding the stores, you might get shot", was the clear-if-implicit message. But here were these good, simple people from the far corner of Alabama, a scant sixty miles outside of New Orleans, actually being allowed to give food away- out in front of a store! For what reason, I wondered, were they granted this exemption? Did the government have a secret soft spot, reserved solely for born-again Christians? Or was there a darker underlying motive?

The role of the Deity
A man approached my traveling companion (who had recently had a finger surgically removed, due to disease.) The stranger took my friend's crippled hand in his, and petitioned "God, through our Savior Jesus Christ", to heal the illness that caused the deformity. This, I found more spooky than touching. To change the subject away from invisible Physicians in the Sky, I commented that it was some mighty fine, generous work that was being done in that parking lot.

The man replied, "It's the Lord's work, son. The Lord is doing it all. We're born into sin, and left to our own devices, we would rip each other up, just like you see on TV. Only the grace of God can heal your friend's hand, or make a sinner help his brother."

So I had my answer.

Here is how it works: the little country churches are granted an exemption from the restrictions that the government (working for the corporations) places on everyone else. For example, churches are allowed to give food away, at the same time that kids doling out chow under the banner of Food Not Bombs are prosecuted for vending without a business license. Heck, churches don't even have to pay taxes! In exchange for all this special treatment, the churches agree to promote the fiction that "charity", giving, helping, is something otherworldly, "spiritual", exceptional. Helping out a sister in need, they insist, runs counter to "human nature". Only the mystical "Lord" can make a person give.

It is all lies, of course. To begin with, science has long known that there is no such thing as "human nature". The behavior of the human animal varies so widely according to the surrounding conditions, that talk of the innate goodness of humanity, or its evil nature, is nonsensical.

We do, however, have instincts, that were honed by eons of evolution. The deepest instincts of women and men, after tending to their own survival and that of their children, runs to helping their fellows. Now, the bosses know this. The CEOs and politicians know that we have to be conditioned to be selfish and fear our neighbors, if the reign of the corporate marketplace is to continue. And they also know that when a disaster strikes, they can't stop us from helping each other, in the process doing an end run around the structures of domination, the Wal-marts and Exxon stations and government offices. The U.S. government can barely subdue the Iraqi people right now; they don't have enough soldiers left, to put the entire South under martial law, and so prevent the free exchange of goods (as was done in New Orleans). Because they can't physically stop us, they have to find a way to limit the damage, to make sure that when the crisis is passed, we don't continue to give things to one another (and so undermine the buying and selling that they spend millions of dollars to promote, on television and elsewhere.) They have to, they must, have a means, in the months following a disaster in which communities have come together in sharing, to coax the good, common folks back into the old routines of acting selfishly.

Enter the churches. The churches assure us all that it is not possible to be giving and caring, all the time. We are born into sin. It is normal to live under the watchful eye of security cameras, to sleep with a loaded gun under one's pillow, to hoard one's goods, and to gouge one's neighbor. "Let the buyer beware". It is just human nature, they claim, to lie and cheat and strive to dominate, to separate ourselves into bosses, and servants of the bosses. Twas ever thus. "There will be poor among us always." It can't be helped. And it is a rarity- no, it is a by-god miracle- when a storm wrecks havoc on a region, and the people come together to help each other.

And miracles, though awesome, are of course brief. When the crisis and its attendant miracle are past, it will be time to go back to "reality", to hoarding and gouging and cheating and most of all, to turning a blind eye to the suffering of our sisters and brothers. We will return to blaming the victims, and insist that "if they were not so lazy, they would get jobs, and not be poor anymore." By treating compassion as something alien to humanity, the churches dutifully play their role in this sorry state of affairs.

The mystery is solved. Now we know why the politicians and their commanders, the corporate bigwigs, grant the various churches access and permissions that are denied to so many. Because they can't trust anyone else with the job.

prole cat
a member of the Capital Terminus Anarchist-Communist Collective
(This article was written in personal capacity, for anarkismo.net)

author by Agent Starchildpublication date Sun Sep 18, 2005 22:24author email maguyton at gmail dot comReport this post to the editors

Don't stereotype Christianity based upon what right-wing fundamentalists have to say. There has been a rise in the number of progressive Christians operating in the south. Rather than cynically slamming all religion as an opiate of the masses which would be as easy to do as calling all humanity evil-natured, you should subvert the system set in place by the powers that be. Wear "Jesus is a revolutionary" t-shirts and give away free food downtown. If you're questioned by the authorities, just tell them you're a Baptist. The real Jesus was an anarchist and played games with the 1st century AD Palestinian theocracy. He would applaud your subversion. There are many Christians like myself who see it as our mission to root out fundamentalism which is probably the single greatest evil in the universe.

author by prole cat - ctc (personal capacity)publication date Sun Sep 18, 2005 23:55Report this post to the editors

The article doesn't really address fundamentalism versus "progressive" Christianity. The vast majority of Southern Christians, I think, fall somewhere in between (though leaning more towards the former, than the latter.) The article addresses the role that the ideology of this vast Christian middle, plays in keeping acts of mutual aid exceptional.

You say, in effect, that Christians "are not all the same." I know that. I work with progressive Christians on a regular basis. (I also work in coalition with Leninists and primitivists at times. I have ideological points of agreement, and disagreement, with all of these.)

I don't think this article "smears" churchgoers at all. I admire the practical work they were doing in south Mississippi, and say as much. But I think the ideology they espouse, the anti-humanist perspective within which they frame their good deeds, is not at all helpful.

author by Oliver - ctcpublication date Mon Sep 19, 2005 00:21Report this post to the editors

"The real Jesus was an anarchist and played games with the 1st century AD Palestinian theocracy. He would applaud your subversion."

There's no reason to think these things - based on the spotty information we have (which is VERY spotty, and heavily manipulated by the roman imperial government if you're catholic or protestant), we know he obviously didnt get along with the colonial authorities - he was executed by them after all - but that's a far cry from being a revolutionary (the romans executed a hell of a lot of people).

A real contemporary revolutionary was spartacus - the man who led a slave rebellion that almost destroyed the roman empire. THAT's revolution.

author by Annepublication date Mon Sep 19, 2005 04:53Report this post to the editors

The idea that you have to be 'saved' in order to reach heaven is not a universal Christian view, only some protestant groups. That ideology is extremely anti-humanist, because it is based on a belief that you are bad unless you obey a certain ritual where you disown all the wisdom you previously had and follow the bible simplistically. It is based on a simplistic account of revealed truth.

This leaves no room for someone's independent and honest search for truth/ justice. It doesn't leave much room for the conscience. It degrades the ordinary human to be inferior to the so-called Believers- thereby denying them their dignity that they should have -simply by virtue of being alive.

I believe that that kind of ideology has disengaged their churches from modernity and Enlightenment thinking long ago- with serious consequences. This is in contrast with the Catholic (especially post Vatican II) social tradition (I have major criticisms of it too)- where the philosophical writings in Catholic Social Teaching are addressed to "All people of good will"- entering into a dialogue with the Secular.

anyway that's enough... in finishing,

Progressive Christianity should reclaim these principles:

*That humans are born good; evil becomes manifest in dehumanising social/economic structures and selfish decisions.

*That humans are relational, hence have obligations to society before the self

*The belief that charging interest (usury) is a sin. (This is a Jewish value that was forgotten about in the middle ages through the Church's anti-semitism and its own embeddedness in relationships of economic domination)

Anyway sorry I strayed off topic.

author by prole cat - ctcpublication date Mon Sep 19, 2005 06:32Report this post to the editors

"The idea that you have to be 'saved' in order to reach heaven is not a universal Christian view..."

But it is so common in the U.S. South, that, from a macro perspective, one can neglect any other ideas.

author by mitchpublication date Mon Sep 19, 2005 09:54Report this post to the editors

i really have nothing to say about the religious aspect of the discussion. just a quick shout out to say good work to prolecat in making the journey. while so many people are still in harms way, i am glad to hear prolecat made it to and from.

now i'm not sure if many of these little churches are formed around "a leader", perhaps so. what might be of interest is to see how folks have self-organized to carry out the tasks..often times "in crisies" (which this surely is) folks seem to organize in incredialy libertarian ways. committees to do this, committees to do that and so forth.things carried out in a very grass roots fashion.

prolecat, after folks left the tent, what did they do? were folks organizing to rebuild? did the goverment step in and carry out functions thereafter?

author by prole cat - ctc (per cap)publication date Mon Sep 19, 2005 10:54Report this post to the editors

I got the sense that is was pretty much as you describe, that committees were thrown together on the fly to respond to a need. I'd be surprised if the Falwell or Roberston types were calling the shots in what I saw. In my experience, quite often in these little country churches the congregation will get out ahead of the pastor (who actually serves at the pleasure of the congregation.)

As far as organizing to rebuild, they certainly weren't when I was there, which was something like a week after the storm hit. They were organizing to eat, sleep out of the elements, and (for many) to evacuate. I didn't spend enough time there, or dig deep enough to be able to say exactly who was doing what. I tried to make it clear that this article was pretty impressionistic, just my reflections on what I happened to run across.

But as far as what I personally witnessed, the only thing I saw "the government" doing was guarding gas pumps. And I've been kicking myself ever since, for not snapping a photograph of one of those sub-machine-gun toting young (white) men in cammo, beneath that giant all-American Exxon sign. Just gives ya goose bumps, makes you wanna go recite the pledge of allegiance or something.

author by Fil Manley - Web Monkeypublication date Tue Sep 20, 2005 03:26author address ellacheese@go.comReport this post to the editors

Ok, Prolecat, since you asked me to, I'll be glad to give you an unbiased review. I spent two hours writing it this morning. The question is, was my time wasted on you, do you actually care about what I (a Christian) have to say, or will you put me behind your uncle tom Christian, dancing the missing finger jig on the stage of your story??...

.....Alright your title sets the tone for your letter with sarcasm

......Web definitions for sarcasm
witty language used to convey insults or scorn;

Title: Hurricane Katrina, and the good churchgoers of the U.S. South

......I can't really know this till I read further, but your title is sarcasm and it's a setup for you to expound upon your particular beliefs about Christians and who, what they are, do, etc.

directly under your title, in which you connect Katrina and the "good churchgoers of the U.S. South", you have this paragraph......

Like many frustrated Southerners in the aftermath of the hurricane named Katrina, I drove a small truck-and-trailer full of food and water to South Mississippi. I met some refugees at a camp site, during the trip down. They appeared to be poor whites. One, a native of Bay St. Louis, was snarling against the "looters", using racial epithets. When informed that I planned to take food straight to the hungry people in the streets, this man (who had already taken offense when I challenged his bigotry) snorted, "Good. You gone find out then. Great. You go right ahead." His words left me more determined than ever.

......You put the paragraph (indented to single it out) directly under the title. The inference I read from that indention was that you were saying that this "poor white", a native of Bay St. Louis, was snarling against the looters using racial epithets." The inference being, from the way that you wrote it and indented it under the title, that this particular "poor white" was a church goer. Was he?

Next: Later that night, one of the man's campmates approached me. He had been told of my plans. He was on the verge of tears. "Hey man, I'm not wanting to be all hateful, or racist, or anything. Really, I'm not. But please, please don't just drive down there, and open up your truck, and start giving stuff away. Please don't. You don't know these people. You don't know what it's like, down there."

.....Am I to infer from the title of your article that this person was also a "Churchgoer"? That seems to be the case.

More Sarcasm: The role of the good church people then
We went first to the rural town of Wiggens, but relief had arrived there earlier in the day. We went to Poplarsville, which was militarized to an alarming degree. Soldiers carrying submachine guns guarded the gas pumps. (As it turned out, President Bush was doing a photo op in Poplarsville that day.) A National Guardsmen with rank told us that aid was still desperately needed (ironically enough) in Bay St. Louis, sixty miles outside of New Orleans. So we took off. (We believed New Orleans itself to be unapproachable due to martial law.)

We begun to unload the truck. I was so relieved not to have to give up the goods to the government soldiers, I never thought to ask under whose authority (if anyone's) the operation was being carried out. But as we stacked box after box, I was hardly surprised to note crosses hanging from chains around the necks of many of the relief workers, and Christian messages on tee shirts. This was Deep Dixie, after all.

.....So you find the fact that these people are helping out.. what? Notable? Exemplary? The fact that they are Christians matters... why?

I struck up a conversation. I learned that a circle of volunteers from a small Baptist church in southeast Alabama, near Mobile, had been instrumental in organizing the particular relief site we had stumbled up on. We had been saved from the clutches of the soldiers, by common folks who had organized among themselves. And they had done so, in large part, by employing the mostly unofficial networks of their church contacts.

I was touched. I have long been antagonistic to the self-righteous evangelicals of my region.

.....That statment is exactly like the behavior that your "poor white" person was making toward black people in the first paragraph. You make a blanket statement in which you apparently include ALL Christians "from your region" in which you categorize them under the heading of "self-righteous evangelicals." The word "Agnostic" cannot actually apply to a person. You're basically saying that you've only paid attention to the Christians that you don't like and you're judging all of us by that watermark. That makes you a bigot doesn't it?

Web definitions for Bigot
A bigot is a prejudiced person who is intolerant of any opinions differing from his own.
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bigot - Definition in context

But here they were, in the vanguard of some fine, compassionate work. A new evaluation of their role in our society was surely in order.

.....Where is the old evaluation? Or must I read that one between the lines?

In addition to my newfound appreciation for these kindhearted individuals, I was also moved to wonder, "Why does the government allow this?"

.....Ok, this statement is just weird. You see people helpling people, from what I read, the first ones who had set up a relief station that was non governmental that you had seen, but you assume that there is some twisted, dark motive for it happening. You imply that the government is somehow conspiring to keep people from helping other people, a point for which you have presented no evidence thus far.

next. It has long been apparent that the government and the corporations demand a monopoly on power. They either absorb, or infiltrate and destroy, unions, active community groups, food coops, coordinated anti-war activists, grassroots political organizations of all types, in short, any and everything that tries to operate outside the framework of the market place, and its corollary, the election booth. But churches are granted a remarkable, an incredible, amount of latitude.

.....This statement is somewhat disingenuous, as any non-profit organization, no matter what their beliefs is granted latitude by the government. This is allowed through the creation of the 501(c)3 non profit corporation, which relieves them (whoever they are) of the burden of having to pay taxes. Do you know of any organizations that take advantage of this boon from the government, which aren't religious in nature? This statement is unsupported in the context of your letter, other than a vague indication that there was something sinister about these people being allowed to give food away.

For example, everyone had been warned not to try to take food into, or even near to, New Orleans, because putting a stop to "looting" and "lawlessness" was being given a higher priority than relief.

......Warned by who? That "poor white" you met? A Cop? A firefighter? A disc jockey on the radio? It should be obvious to you that in a situation such as this, you would have to take anything that anyone says who is not actually working and staying in the area where you plan to go, with a grain of salt. Rumors are going to run rampant in a situation such as this and there would be no substitute for personal experience. You should expect this.

"If you go near the soldiers guarding the stores, you might get shot", was the clear-if-implicit message.

.....Once again, what was the source of this message?

But here were these good, simple people from the far corner of Alabama, a scant sixty miles outside of New Orleans, actually being allowed to give food away- out in front of a store!

.....EXCLAMATION POINT!!! You keep making a big deal out of this. Did you actually see, hear or experience an authority denying you or anyone else the right to distribute aid to anyone? If so, what were the circumstances?

For what reason, I wondered, were they granted this exemption?

.....Once again...

Did the government have a secret soft spot, reserved solely for born-again Christians? Or was there a darker underlying motive?

.....AHHHH, here it is. The nuts of the suppositions, implied in the sarcastic title. Let's look for the evil backbone of the Christians. You've implied that they were preventing people from giving away aid, but you've given no evidence of this. You give no evidence of this being the case, but then you set yourself up to attribute some dark and sinister reason for Christians being allowed to give food away.

next. The role of the Deity
A man approached my traveling companion (who had recently had a finger surgically removed, due to disease.) The stranger took my friend's crippled hand in his, and petitioned "God, through our Savior Jesus Christ", to heal the illness that caused the deformity. This, I found more spooky than touching. To change the subject away from invisible Physicians in the Sky, I commented that it was some mighty fine, generous work that was being done in that parking lot.

.....You bring out in the text above, your admiration for the "common folks" who worked so hard, used a network of contacts to distribute aid, you "had a conversation" with them... Yet when you decide to recount what a "churchgoer" said in your treatise, examining the heart of Christendom in the south, you pick out the one babbling, nervous wreck from your experience, to put on the stage of your story. Why didn't you tell us about your "conversations" with the "kind-hearted individuals" you spoke with above? Were you only interested in making Christians look like babbling lunatics? What did thos "kind hearted individuals" you spoke of above, have to say? You never told us.

The man replied, "It's the Lord's work, son. The Lord is doing it all. We're born into sin, and left to our own devices, we would rip each other up, just like you see on TV. Only the grace of God can heal your friend's hand, or make a sinner help his brother."

So I had my answer.

......I would say that every Christian might have a slightly different answer. It doesn't suprise me, having made it this far, that this is the one you chose to write about. You might have gotten a different answer had you directed this interrogatory to the "kind hearted individuals" you met earlier.

more. Here is how it works: the little country churches are granted an exemption from the restrictions that the government (working for the corporations) places on everyone else. For example, churches are allowed to give food away, at the same time that kids doling out chow under the banner of Food Not Bombs are prosecuted for vending without a business license. Heck, churches don't even have to pay taxes! In exchange for all this special treatment, the churches agree to promote the fiction that "charity", giving, helping, is something otherworldly, "spiritual", exceptional. Helping out a sister in need, they insist, runs counter to "human nature". Only the mystical "Lord" can make a person give.

......Excuse me, Food Not Bombs doesn't pay taxes either. As long as they're not too lazy to set up a 501(c)3 and have the same $275 fee that everyone else pays for the paperwork. Once again, you're referring to some sinister rule (little country churches are granted an exemption from the government) that you've not yet showed any evidence of having experienced directly, and then you make another giant leap and infer that these "kind people" are somehow getting around that sinister, law. You make an awful lot of assumptions based on very little knowledge of my faith, the way I practice it, and you act as if you expect Christians to be super-human, which we clearly are not.

It is all lies, of course.

......Where is your proof of this? Is that an empirical statement, or just a statement of belief? So you do actually have faith in something?

more.To begin with, science has long known that there is no such thing as "human nature". The behavior of the human animal varies so widely according to the surrounding conditions, that talk of the innate goodness of humanity, or its evil nature, is nonsensical.

.....Ahhh, so you're a scientist, as well.

.....So ,what you've done here, is pat yourself on the back in a very public way, for doing something kind, by going out into the deadly nether regions of the disaster (or did you actually make it that far?) so that you could come home and write a story which would allow you to expound upon your views of evolution, and how "nonsensical" my Christian beliefs are. I see.... You, unlike all the rest of humanity, believe that the "theory" of evolution is more than just that, because you were actually there when the first mud frog crawled out of the slime and started talking. And you felt that by pointing fingers at the "poor whites" and putting all Christians under the umbrella of bigotry and racism, that you could have an opportunity to tell the world how stupid that we all are and how "nonsensical" our beliefs are. Bravo.

more..We do, however, have instincts, that were honed by eons of evolution. The deepest instincts of women and men, after tending to their own survival and that of their children, runs to helping their fellows. Now, the bosses know this.

......You say this like you read it in a textbook somewhere.

more.. The CEOs and politicians know that we have to be conditioned to be selfish and fear our neighbors, if the reign of the corporate marketplace is to continue. And they also know that when a disaster strikes, they can't stop us from helping each other, in the process doing an end run around the structures of domination, the Wal-marts and Exxon stations and government offices. The U.S. government can barely subdue the Iraqi people right now; they don't have enough soldiers left, to put the entire South under martial law, and so prevent the free exchange of goods (as was done in New Orleans). Because they can't physically stop us, they have to find a way to limit the damage, to make sure that when the crisis is passed, we don't continue to give things to one another (and so undermine the buying and selling that they spend millions of dollars to promote, on television and elsewhere.) They have to, they must, have a means, in the months following a disaster in which communities have come together in sharing, to coax the good, common folks back into the old routines of acting selfishly.

.......Yes, BRAVO again, you've got it all figured out. I don't have any idea what this rant has to do with the "good churchgoers of the south" but BRAVO anyway. It at least sounds intelligent and literary in nature.

more. Enter the churches. The churches assure us all that it is not possible to be giving and caring, all the time.

..... You may infer that from the belief of original sin, but it's not how the Christians that I know act. It's not how I act.

more. We are born into sin. It is normal to live under the watchful eye of security cameras, to sleep with a loaded gun under one's pillow, to hoard one's goods, and to gouge one's neighbor. "Let the buyer beware". It is just human nature, they claim, to lie and cheat and strive to dominate, to separate ourselves into bosses, and servants of the bosses. Twas ever thus. "There will be poor among us always." It can't be helped. And it is a rarity- no, it is a by-god miracle- when a storm wrecks havoc on a region, and the people come together to help each other.

......Sarcasm again... Sarcasm is almost always a product of anger and it can rarely be used to convey real meaning. Truth is very hard to convey when you're speaking from an angry place. I don't own a gun. I don't know any Christian who owns a gun. Almost every person I know who owns a gun is a non-Christian. I hate security cameras, I hate the patriot act. I voted against Bush. I don't know any Christian, who actually practices the faith that spends a lot of time trying to dominate anyone. Domination (as in the tone of this message) is very draining, and nearly impossible to do. It always implies a tone of superiority (as is the case in your writing) which is usually baseless and hard to support. It's not a miracle when people in my church help people. We do it all the time, every day. I've been practicing a homeless ministry called Backpacks for the Homeless for almost 3 years, it's at http://www.ushelplines.org It has since spread to New York, Ohio, Minnesota, Texas and California. I've gotten hundreds of letters from people who have taken it up and it was inspired (dare I say it?). My church participates in the "Interfaith" homeless ministry, which uses churches as shelters for homeless families, including children. The network of churches works on a rotating schedule. The network houses the families (sometimes as many as 20 -30 people at a time until it can find homes for them. The people are cared for by church members, who cook for them, provide laundry and showers and drive them around during the day. I'm a member of the Volunteer State Rescue Squad. I'm a volunteer rescue diver and I've pulled more than a couple of homeless people out of the water dead.

more. And miracles, though awesome, are of course brief. When the crisis and its attendant miracle are past, it will be time to go back to "reality", to hoarding and gouging and cheating and most of all, to turning a blind eye to the suffering of our sisters and brothers. We will return to blaming the victims, and insist that "if they were not so lazy, they would get jobs, and not be poor anymore." By treating compassion as something alien to humanity, the churches dutifully play their role in this sorry state of affairs.

......You imply here that the "original sin" belief is actually the "reality" of most Christians, or the way that they act. That they "hoard, gouge and cheat, turn a blind eye to the suffering of sisters and brothers... blame the victims, insist that if they were not so lazy, they would get jobs and not be ppor anymore, by treating compassion as something alien to humanity, blah blah blah... I've witnessed plenty of miracles in my life, and they weren't brief. They were stunning, beautiful and changed my life forever. I spent 5 days once in constant prayer for a friend, which culminated in an out of body experience which I can neither explain nor quantify. It also resulted in her having a dream, which was straight out of my own personal vision, at the exact same moment, while she slept. Even though we weren't even talking at that time, and she didn't know I was praying for her. I've seen lots of miracles. I'm one of those people who believes that we tend to create our own realities, and that if your reality is composed mostly of cynicism and finger pointing then you might find yourself seeing evil at every doorstep.

more. The mystery is solved. Now we know why the politicians and their commanders, the corporate bigwigs, grant the various churches access and permissions that are denied to so many. Because they can't trust anyone else with the job.

.......Once again, the non-profit corporation is available to everyone. Why don't you ask Earth First?

prole cat
a member of the Capital Terminus Anarchist-Communist Collective

..... Ahh, I see, you're an anarchist? Is that why you dumped your load on the first batch of Churchgoers (read: Kind hearted individuals???) you could find and turned tail and ran like the wind? I'm sure that had you kept going you would have found plenty of people who would actually have been practicing anarchists. They might even have had guns. Prolecat, I find your story to be a hypocrisy about hypocrisy. You rail against racism and bigotry, but you practice it against Christians, based on little or no personal experience with them.

When you have the opportunity to extoll things that were said by "Kind hearted" Christians, you decide instead to put the "Uncle Tom" variety of Christian on the stage of your writing. You didn't tell us anything that those "Kindhearted" Christians had to say, did you? You make inferences to rules and government regulations that you apparently have no personal experience of, then put forth a thesis about why these (maybe - maybe not) rules can be broken by churches, who you say are the "only" organziations that are given a break by the government, which is patently not true. You make statements about Christians, which in my life, just aren't true. You put them forth as being absolute truth, but you base them on suppositions that aren't supported by your personal experience.

Congratulations, Prole Cat. You've become your own worst enemy.

author by prole cat - ctc (per cap)publication date Tue Sep 20, 2005 07:23Report this post to the editors

Fil,

To begin with, I did not ask you to review this article. I said (in a private e-mail), that if you would *address the content* of the article, rather than continuing to attribute to me positions that I have not taken, that I would be willing to engage you in debate.

Sad to say, you still have not done this. You began your "review" by telling me what the title of the article "implies". This does not constitute "addressing the content." No, you continue to make stuff up, and then in effect to say, "That's what you think, and it's wrong."

Then after saying what I "really meant" by the title, you continue to insist that I have portrayed churchgoers as racists. No one else has been confused by this. I didn't bother to finish your post.

Goodbye.
pc

author by Fil Manleypublication date Tue Sep 20, 2005 07:55author email ellacheese at go dot comReport this post to the editors

I responded directly to what your wrote in the most succinct and straight forward way that I could. As for it being a "private" email, I posted it her because of what you said in your last email to me

quote.

If you'd like to read the article and then discuss it, or even debate it, I'd be happy to. There is a message board directly below the article, for just that purpose.

You said in that same letter..

quote.

You did not bother to read, or else you ignored, the part below:

So, I took that as an invitation to read the entire document because you said

quote.

The article actually commends the work being done by self-organized Christians (Baptists, no less) in south Mississippi.

I like the "no less" comment. That says a lot about your *position* before you even got started.

I read the entire article, which you suggested would give me the big picture of your compassion toward Christians. (Baptists, no less).

I didn't find any compassion and very little thankfulness on your part toward the people whom you dumped your load upon, to be distributed to those who actually needed it.

What I found it said was a bunch of self congratulatory blather and an orgy of Christian bashing that had little to do with the reality that I know as a Christian, and a lot to do with half formed ideas that you get, I would guess from watching television or the news.

If I said that you were calling Christians "racists" weren't you? Didn't your indention *the introduction* of your story imply that the first *poor white* you encountered was the crux of your writing? The *churchgoer* upon whom your premises were built? If not, then why did you indent that paragraph, right under the title?

I said that you're bigoted against Christians, which is not entirely the same thing. I think that you wrote in this venue because you expected a big pat on the back from lots of people who agree with you and that you never expected anyone to actually read what you said and hold you to it.

I think that if you felt like anyone might not actually share your party line, your writing might not have been so shallow, meandering and unsupported.

Reading what you wrote was kind of like being vomited on. Although I'm sure that you felt better after doing it, as anyone who vomits does.

I didn't put any words in your mouth, I just commented on them, and your refusal to even read what I wrote says a lot more about you than it does about me. I read everything you wrote to me and responded, one sentence at a time. I can't get any clearer or more direct than that.

If you want to disown your own words, so be it. You shouldn't write such hypocritical nonsense if you're not willing to stand behind it.

author by Fil Manleypublication date Tue Sep 20, 2005 09:03author email ellacheese at go dot comauthor address http://www.ushelplines.orgReport this post to the editors

I realize that you don't want to talk about this, and I realize that my last post held it's own share of sarcasm and anger and for that I apologize.

I was very disappointed that you refused to read or even respond to the points I made. I anticipated this in my very first sentence when I wrote you, that long post, which I spent two hours of my life writing, as I carefully read what you wrote, and then responded with what I perceived as your meaning (which is all that anyone can do).

In your response, you said....

quote.

Sad to say, you still have not done this. You began your "review" by telling me what the title of the article "implies". This does not constitute "addressing the content." No, you continue to make stuff up, and then in effect to say, "That's what you think, and it's wrong."

Are you saying that the title wasn't sarcastic in nature? Is that true?

Are you implying that the sarcasm in the tile did not set the tone for your writing?

If you didn't read what I wrote, what makes you so sure that I didn't "address the content." How can you judge what I said if you didn't bother to read it?

I never said quote. "that's what you think and it's wrong." Once again, I read what you wrote, and gave you an interpretation, which is all that any human can do.

Most of your meaning was implied. It was between the lines? Are you denying this? I was responding to the implied meaning... statements like....

"Baptists, no less..", and "the role of the good church people, and "this was deep dixie, after all" and "I have long been antagonistic to the self-righteous evngelicals of my regions. But here they were...", and "Why does the government allow this?" and "The role of the deity?" and "churches are granted an exemption" and "It's all lies" and "back to reality, to hoarding, and gouging and cheating and most of all, turning a blind eye to the suffering of our sisters and brothers.. We will blame the victims, and insist that if they were not so lays, they would get jobs and not be poor anymore" and "the corporate bigwigs grant the various churches access and permissions that are denied to so many.."

These are all direct quotes from your writing.

The last statement was particularly galling because as in your prior statement when you said "I have long been antagonistic to the self-righteous evngelicals of my regions. But here they were.." wasn't that a blanket statement, which lumped ALL Christians quoting... "In your area" into one giant lump of people, who if I may connect it to the summary of your story.... and this is the part that really gets me...

Quote.

"it will be time to go back to "reality", to hoarding and gouging and cheating and most of all, to turning a blind eye to the suffering of our sisters and brothers. We will return to blaming the victims, and insist that "if they were not so lazy, they would get jobs, and not be poor anymore." By treating compassion as something alien to humanity, the churches dutifully play their role in this sorry state of affairs"

This is a blanket statement isn't it? Aren't you making here a generalization of all Christians, and attributing these attributes to all of them (*generally*)??? Am I wrong?

Isn't what you did here, the very definition of the word "stereotype"??

Web definitions for Stereotype
Biased generalizations about a group based on hearsay, opinions, and distorted.

Didn't you just make a blanket statement about **me**, because I am "from your area" Isn't that what you said earlier??

That I and other christians are "hoarders?? Gougers?? Cheaters?? Turners of the Blind Eye to the Suffering of Brothers and Sisters?? That we Blame the Victims?? That we insist that "If they weren't so lazy, they would get jobs and not be poor anymore"?? Isn't that what you said about me and other Christians in your stereotyping? Or am I just making it up ?? Please, tell me.

Didn't you say that I an other Christians "from your area..."... "treat compassion as something alien to humanity..." and that my church "dutifully plays their role in this sorry state of affairs"??

Oh, so you're saying that you didn't stereotype there? You didn't make a blanket statement?? It sure sounded like it.

i hate to tell you, but I don't feel those things at all.

So, once again, I ask you, what words did I put in your mouth? What meaning did I misconstrue? What did I, my friend quote. "make up???"

author by prole cat - ctc (per cap)publication date Tue Sep 20, 2005 21:07Report this post to the editors

Fil Manly,

I wrote a factual account of my trip. If some of the people I met acted stereotypically, that's hardly my fault.

And, I wrote an analysis of the experience. That analysis did not portray Christians as innately, or even overwhelmingly, racist. (Now that you mention it, a good case could be made to that effect. But I DID NOT MAKE THAT CASE.) I made the case that the Christian "otherworldly" ideology, theology if you will, serves the purpose of keeping acts of mutual aid exceptional in society at large under "normal" circumstances, at least in the U.S. South.

In your vast reams of comment, supposedly on this article, you have yet to address that thesis. Furthermore, many of your comments make clear to me that you do not understand what you are reading. You argue against points that I have not made. And you do so repeatedly, even when it has been called to your attention. Since, to the best of my knowledge, no one else is having these conceptual difficulties with the article, I do not feel called upon to waste valuable time, continuing to try to explain it to you.

author by Fil Manley - Web Monkeypublication date Wed Sep 21, 2005 19:31author email ellacheese at go dot comReport this post to the editors

you wrote....I wrote a factual account of my trip. If some of the people I met acted stereotypically, that's hardly my fault.

..... Your ability to ignore the tone and content of your own writing is AMAZING... My "reams" of writing are actually, your own writing quoted, with very specific questions to you underneath, none of which you answered.

you wrote... And, I wrote an analysis of the experience. That analysis did not portray Christians as innately, or even overwhelmingly, racist. (Now that you mention it, a good case could be made to that effect. But I DID NOT MAKE THAT CASE.)

..... uh, huh....You're being funny here. I would say that you portrayed us more as "bigots" and "hypocrites" than as "racists", but mainly you made us all look like stupid idiots who don't meet up to the anarchist ideal that you're setting with your own life example. Thank God that they were smart enough to distribute your food...

You wrote... I made the case that the Christian "otherworldly" ideology, theology if you will, serves the purpose of keeping acts of mutual aid exceptional in society at large under "normal" circumstances, at least in the U.S. South. In your vast reams of comment, supposedly on this article, you have yet to address that thesis......

..... You "made the case...?" Your so called thesis was really just a blurted out opinion with zero factual data to back it up. Did I miss that again? Is that on another website somewhere? All of this in the midst of your putting the worst of the Christians you saw under the spotlight, while completely ignoring the so called "kind hearted" ones you met, who barely got an honorable mention. You said you talked with them. Were they wearing tin foil on their heads to keep the devil out? Their must have been someting CRAAAAAAAZY about them, you could share with us...

You said... Furthermore, many of your comments make clear to me that you do not understand what you are reading.

.....Ahhh, I get it, I'm not smart enough to read what you wrote and give an accurate interpretation. So when you're confronted with direct quotes and questions, (find these all through my writing) rather than answering those questions, you'll just call me dumb and ignore them. That tactic is straight out of Sun Tzu's the "art of war?" You should work for George Bush, I'm sure you could convince the world that he loves poor people.

You Said...You argue against points that I have not made. And you do so repeatedly, even when it has been called to your attention.....

.....Actually, what's happening is that you're arguing against points that you've made. You're denying your own words because you're not willing to admit what they meant. I mean, your writing was quite clear... shallow and meandering, but clear.

You said.... Since, to the best of my knowledge, no one else is having these conceptual difficulties with the article, I do not feel called upon to waste valuable time, continuing to try to explain it to you...

I don't hear them coming to your rescue either... do you?

Look, man, you don't make any sense at all. You say you didn't read what I wrote, but then you talk about what I wrote like you did. Did you read it or not? I asked you specific questions about specific things that you wrote, but you refuse to answer them. I completely understand why you are ashamed of what you wrote and refuse to answer direct questions, I think anyone with a conscience would be.

Your so called thesis was really just an angry opinion based on nothing, that you tried to pass off as intellectualism. It meant little, because your "thesis" was unsupported by facts or statistics. I could give you a THOUSAND examples of how Christians help people, right here in this little town, every single day when there's NO DISASTER.

The fact is that Christians are only human. Christians make mistakes, they're hypcritical, they hurt people and they say stupid things. They fail repeatedly every day in ways too numerous to describe. What's amazing is that you act as if you're a scholar of human suffering but you apply a yardstick to Christians that you don't to others. You hold them to a higher standard than other people and your writing is hateful and biased. If I said that I was a "Anarchist..." Would that make me one? Would the fact that I called myself one mean that I understand the underlying substructure of what the philosophy really means? Of course not. On first blush, it would be really easy to say that anarchism is stupid because of X, Y and Z, but then that would make me stupid because the truth is almost always more complicated than an opinion disguised as a thesis.

Lots of people say that they are Christians. But, just as the bible says, you will know a true Christian by the fruits of their life, or their labor. You can't judge an entire group of people, as in your sterotypes, based on what this person or that person says. You can only judge Christians individually based on what they do with their lives, just like you would judge the lives of any other person or group. To say that "Christianity" quote. "serves the purpose of keeping acts of mutual aid exceptional in society at large under "normal" circumstances" is a shallow, unsupported and unworthy thing of you to say. It's really easy for anyone to say that they are a Christian but practicing the mind of Christ is HARD AS HELL... Sexual purity is hard and gluttony, cursing, backstabbing, gossip, these things are anathema to the true practicioner of the faith. If you don't believe me, why don't you try fasting for about two weeks? Is the world full of people who say that they are Christians, but don't practice the faith? Of course.... So what's your point? What do you want us to do, commit ritual seppuku on the altar of YOUR nihlism?

Maybe you are right, maybe most people who say that they're Christians don't really do much to help. What does it say about you and YOUR beliefs that you care more about the ones that don't live up to the faith (ideology) than those who do?

You have no idea what Christianity is, or what it means. Your "thesis" is the very DEFINITION of stereotyping, because you lumped all Christians into the same big group by your own words.. "the Christian "otherworldly" ideology, theology if you will, serves the purpose of keeping acts of mutual aid exceptional " Christians aren't an "ideology." We are people, with hearts, minds, ideas, hopes, fears, loves, hates and all of the same weaknesses that are so evident in your writing. Christianity seems otherworldly to you because you have a one dimensional view of existence that keeps you blind to the spiritual world all around you.

If you had really supported your writing with meaningful ideas and concrete information, I wouldn't be able to question it, because it would ring of truth, would be self supporting and you would have actually done some homework before you started pointing out the flaws of others.

But of course, if that were the case, I would have never written my reams and you would've never been forced to fail to defend it.

:-)

Here is MY Christianity, for what it's worth to you...

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven...

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted...

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth...

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness sake, for they shall be filled...

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy...

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God...

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God...

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven...

~Fil Manley

:-)

a not so smart, hoarding, gouging, cheating, turner of the blind eye to suffering, blamer of the victim, who thinks poor people are lazy and should get jobs, who thinks that compassion is alien to humanity and a member of a church that dutifully plays its role in the sorry state of affairs, who also has conceptual difficulties and who sincerely hopes that God gives your friend a brand new finger.

author by M. Bakunin - the thinking man's marxpublication date Wed Sep 21, 2005 20:18Report this post to the editors

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven..."

What the hell is "poor in spirit" supposed to mean? The human spirit can never be in short supply. As for these people receiving the "kingdom of heaven", it's very nice of christianity to offer us this posthumous spiritual lottery-win, but it don't change a damn thing NOW.

"Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted..."

Erm... Nothing noble about mourning. Simply part of dealing with the extinction of someone close. And if one is doing it in some other circumstance other than a personal loss, then one should get a grip.

"Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth..."

The earth is no-one's property. It must belong to all. And while we're at it, being "meek" won't get anyone anywhere, but it will more than likely get you your ass kicked.

"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness sake, for they shall be filled..."

We certainly will... after the revolution.

"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy..."

Mercy, schmercy. Social justice (when there will be some) will do away with the need for "mercy".

"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God..."

If by "seeing God" you mean obtaining social justice, living in a world of full equality and solidarity with no authority, then fair enough. If by "seeing God" you mean getting a glimpse of some nebulous deity with a big white beard, then you should go have a cold shower.

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God..."

I don't think most anarchist anti-militarists would fancy the idea of being called "sons of God", but, hey, maybe anarchists are the new Messiahs...

"Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven..."

That would include anarchists again... shit, people, looks like we ARE the new Messiahs!


Oh and by the way, I wouldn't hold out too much hope if I were you about God handing out new fingers...

author by prole cat - ctc (personal capacity)publication date Wed Sep 21, 2005 21:14Report this post to the editors

"...mainly you made us all look like stupid idiots..."

No, you do that nicely without my help. I never suggested that Christians should have conversations with invisible spirits in public places. I merely reported the fact.

"...you portrayed us more as "bigots" and "hypocrites"

Wrong again. I portrayed most Christians, especially those Christians I met in south MS, as mostly good hearted folks. (I would say I was generalizing, rather than stereotyping). And, I also said these good people would do well to question the role that their misguided theism plays in society. I suspect (my opinion) that many are drawn to religion, Christianity, as the only socially available outlet for their better impulses. This article is intended to suggest, to argue that humanist mutual aid would be a more helpful outlet, than Christian charity. Don't be an unwitting dupe for the corporate bosses and politicians.

"… your "thesis" was unsupported by facts or statistics.."

I supported my argument with observations, coupled with sound reasoning, rather than by manipulating numbers. Numbers are easily contested by other numbers. Reason is more difficult to refute. As you are finding out, hence your strident tone. Perhaps you should put a spell on me, to negate my heresy. (This last sentence is sarcasm, btw.)

"… you (are) blind to the spiritual world all around you…"

If your visions were anything other than Christian, (or at least religious) the bosses would put you in a straight jacket.

author by Fil Manley - Web Monkeypublication date Wed Sep 21, 2005 22:44author email ellacheese at go dot comauthor address ChattanoogaReport this post to the editors

.....No, you do that nicely without my help. I never suggested that Christians should have conversations with invisible spirits in public places. I merely reported the fact.

.....Yet again, you ignored my glaring point, that when you had the opportunity to discuss your "conversations" with the "kind hearted Christians" you met, the ones who you admired so much, the ones who were actually doing the work, you chose to report the words of the one you thought sounded retarded, to support your central theme, which wasn't humanitarian in nature at all. You didn't tell us ANYTHING that those kind hearted people said to you, did you?."

.....Wrong again. I portrayed most Christians, especially those Christians I met in south MS, as mostly good hearted folks.

Was this the "most" you're talking about??..

"you said.. It will be time to go back to "reality", to hoarding and gouging and cheating and most of all, to turning a blind eye to the suffering of our sisters and brothers. We will return to blaming the victims, and insist that "if they were not so lazy, they would get jobs, and not be poor anymore." By treating compassion as something alien to humanity, the churches dutifully play their role in this sorry state of affairs. "

you said...(I would say I was generalizing, rather than stereotyping).

....??.... Is that like saying.. I'm not actually lying, I'm rationalizing...

you said....And, I also said these good people would do well to question the role that their misguided theism plays in society.

....Where did you say or imply that?

You said...I suspect (my opinion) that many are drawn to religion, Christianity, as the only socially available outlet for their better impulses.

......hhmmm... Is that wrong? Even if what you say is true, it doesn't take into account the possiblity of the supernatural and contact with a supernatural God. The mere fact that you're hidebound to your disbelief does not mean that spirituality is empty.

You Said.....This article is intended to suggest, to argue that humanist mutual aid would be a more helpful outlet, than Christian charity.

...You may be thinking that now, but you never said that, or even suggested it. You've only made these points in your follow up posts, your writing content into your original post that didn't exist. Maybe you can go back and tell me where you said that.

you said.. Don't be an unwitting dupe for the corporate bosses and politicians.

....I'll anwer that if you tell me what it's supposed to mean.

You Said...I supported my argument with observations...

... What observations?

....I dare you to go back into your original post and find one sentence which was an "observation" that supported your supposition that Christianity "serves the purpose of keeping acts of mutual aid exceptional in society at large under "normal" circumstances, at least in the U.S. South."

.....You made a lot of empty accusations, which were disguisesd as observations, but you didn't back them up with any specific incidents or experiences from your own life.

You said... coupled with sound reasoning

.....If this is your sound reasoning, I'd hate to see your unsound reasoning.

You Said... rather than by manipulating numbers. Numbers are easily contested by other numbers. Reason is more difficult to refute.

Look, you've yet to come up with any reasoning it all. You've spent this entire post rewriting history.

You Said... As you are finding out, hence your strident tone. Perhaps you should put a spell on me, to negate my heresy. (This last sentence is sarcasm, btw.)

blah blah blah, obfuscate, pretend, the art of war, ignore the questions. Maybe I WILL put a spell on you.. "Holding hand to forehead, eyes closed, eerie music playing in background... "From now on, your writing will be credible and well founded... I predict that next time you take a load of food to people in need, you will find some nice humanists to distribute it for you."

"… you (are) blind to the spiritual world all around you…"

You said.... If your visions were anything other than Christian, (or at least religious) the bosses would put you in a straight jacket.

......and to blind people, light doesn't exist...

Related Link: http://www.ushelplines.org
author by Fil Manley - Web Monkeypublication date Thu Sep 22, 2005 02:40author email ellacheese at go dot comauthor address http://www.backpacksforthehomeless.org/index.phpReport this post to the editors

You Said...What the hell is "poor in spirit" supposed to mean? The human spirit can never be in short supply. As for these people receiving the "kingdom of heaven", it's very nice of christianity to offer us this posthumous spiritual lottery-win, but it don't change a damn thing NOW.

....Just because it's offered, doesn't mean you have to accept it. Neither does your talking back and forth, here in this forum with people who agree with you change anything. We call that "preching to the choir." I'm probably the only thing interesting that's happened here in weeks.

You Said... Erm... Nothing noble about mourning. Simply part of dealing with the extinction of someone close. And if one is doing it in some other circumstance other than a personal loss, then one should get a grip.

.... Ahhh, yes. All human suffering, misery, apathy and pain summed up succinctly by the compassionate Marxist who said... "Get a grip..."

You Said...The earth is no-one's property. It must belong to all. And while we're at it, being "meek" won't get anyone anywhere, but it will more than likely get you your ass kicked.

.... I think that in the context of this beatitude, meekness refers to a situation where one focuses on internal growth and lets people with big egos, who like to scream and rail and shake their fists at the ether, do so. Because their railing never accomplishes much anyway.

You Said.... We certainly will... after the revolution.

.... Is this a violent, or non-violent revolution? I read that Karl Marx said that capitalism could only be supplanted by violence, because he said, capitalists would never relinquish their grip on control willingly

You Said...Mercy, schmercy. Social justice (when there will be some) will do away with the need for "mercy".

....Please tell me your definition of "social justice" and tell me what is your plan to implement it?

You said...If by "seeing God" you mean obtaining social justice, living in a world of full equality and solidarity with no authority, then fair enough. If by "seeing God" you mean getting a glimpse of some nebulous deity with a big white beard, then you should go have a cold shower.

....Your sarcasm aside, I have no problem with equality, solidarity and no authority. Once again, how do you propose to set up your framework of social justice? How do you ensure that equality is "equal"? What if someone you feel "solidarity" with acts human and decides to take advantage of someone else... What do you do then, since no one has any authority?

You Said...I don't think most anarchist anti-militarists would fancy the idea of being called "sons of God", but, hey, maybe anarchists are the new Messiahs...

....Your sarcasm aside, How can you be an "anarchist", "anti-militarst", "Marxist" who's expecting a "revolution" but doesn't plan on fighting in it? If, as Marx said, capitalism can only be struck down through violence, who do you hope to commit your violence for you if you don't plan on having a military?

You Said...Oh and by the way, I wouldn't hold out too much hope if I were you about God handing out new fingers...

That wasn't my idea, it was from the original post by your prevaricating friend. It was what he chose to talk about instead of his pet Christians who gave his food away. Unfortunately, he was unable to find any congregation of "humanist mutual aid" workers on the long road to disaster. All he found were Christians.

author by prole cat - ctc (personal capacity)publication date Thu Sep 22, 2005 09:45Report this post to the editors

The dialogue between Fil Manley and myself has gone on far beyond the point of usefulness. So I am withdrawing from it. I am certain that to continue would not bring us any closer to a meeting of the minds, nor serve to better illuminate either of our views, for anyone who may be following the discussion. We have each had our say (or if one of us has not, he never will.)

author by Fil Manley - Web Flunkypublication date Thu Sep 22, 2005 10:10author email ellacheese at go dot comauthor address http://www.esthersplaceoutreach.orgReport this post to the editors

Thanks...

I did have my say, I'm still waiting on yours.

author by Laura Georgepublication date Fri Sep 23, 2005 00:39author email llgeorge10 at yahoo dot comauthor address 98 Parks Circle Woodstock GA 30188author phone 770-928-2108Report this post to the editors

I stumbled across your site as I was searching for a story about Bay St. Louis, MS. I was working at a relief center with my 20+ students in our town when I met an evacuee that shared her story. In trying to find out more about her home, I bumped into you two arguing and was captivated. Sorry to eavesdrop on a somewhat personal battle, but as an evangelical Christian, I couldn't help being amazed at the misunderstanding taking place before my eyes.

First of all, with all due respect, Mr. Fil has a little too much time on his hands. And maybe something stuck in his underpants. I, myself, am the mother of eleven, a home educator, run a small alternative non-traditiional school and try to be active in church and community. I should be doing laundry or teaching spelling right now, but this little verbal altercation has me so intrigued that I just couldn't resist.

On the other hand, you Mr. M, sound young and idealistic about the potential goodness human race. You may be 62 and a left-over hippie. Pardon me if I'm wrong and have stereotyped you terribly. (I have to admit, I'm very curious about your age and background!)
It seems that your view of man is that, if the government and others would just lay aside all laws/regulations and other forms of oppression, we would all love each other, live in peace and take care of others in times of crisis. Is that a fair summary? I am not being sarcastic, just trying to fairly view your position.

Now for my position. Except for being a mother of a multitude (yes, they are all mine, with one husband over 28 years of marriage) and a homeschooler and a member of a very conservative, Bible-believing all Republican (not all pro-Bush) church....I'm actually quite "normal" :) Seriously. Our family is pretty mainstream as far as the music our kids listen to, movies we watch, books we read...we would actually be the "liberals" in our church community and sometimes viewed with suspicion if not disdain. All that to say, I think that I'm a bit more objective than most fundamental Baptists (no less).

Ok, now for my point. I appreciate very much the effort it took to gather the goods needed and take it into what you had been told would be dangerous territory. One does not have to be motivated by Christian beliefs to actually act like a human and help someone else. The reason for that is not the inherant goodness of man, however. It has more to do with every human having the image of God stamped on their being and the law of God written on their hearts. See Romans 1.
I applaud your courage and caring to go and do in the face of unknown circumstances.

As far as the good churchgoers are concerned, I have an idea that their quick and deliberate relief to the victims of Hurricane Katrina were neither coincidental, cultural or undercover. If you will read a little ancient history, you will find that since the inception of the church after the death of Christ, Christians have always had a reputation for rushing to the aid of the helpless. Josephus, a secular historian around 70 AD, wrote with amazement about how these people who call themselves "Christians" (still a very new term at this time) were the first to open their homes to the homeless, take food to the starving, minister to the lepers, rescue abandoned babies from under the bridges where they were put to be washed away with the rising waters, etc. The phenomenon of Christians racing to set up relief centers is nothing new. it's not just because someone has mandated that they do it (cultural) Followers of Christ, notj just people who call themselves Christians, are motivated by a humble, genuine love for others to do sacrificial acts of kindness. If you want to know what a real Christian should look like, find out what Christ himself looked like and there you have it. The whole WWJD thing is cheesy, but kinda true. That's the end goal for every Christian. Lastly, Christians aren't some part of an undercover scheme by the federal government. I really hope you were just kidding when you implied that (forgive me if that's not what you were implying) because you sounded like a real thinking man in most of what you wrote until I came across that comment. Seriously, you sounded a little over-the-top paranoid. Maybe it's the youthful idealism for your cause of anarchy or the old man cynicism of a fading hippie. Maybe neither.

Well, that's my two cents, three with inflation. I'd love to correspond with you further if you're interested. Love good ideological discussions. Email me, or come speak to my class of 18 high school students studying 20th century history and share your thoughts. I want them to learn how to think and people like you can help them cement their own worldview. I appreciate the opportunity to respond and dialog. And thank you again for your courage and for being a "good-hearted" anarchist.

Sincerely,
Laura George, Woodstock, GA

author by Laura Georgepublication date Fri Sep 23, 2005 01:34Report this post to the editors

I referred to Mr. "M" as the author to whom my response was written. It should have been "prole cat". My first visit, don't know who's who. Sorry Mr. M, didn't mean to catch you in the crossfire! Your response to Christ's sermon on the mount was equally interesting, however sadly cynical and full of misunderstanding, but don't have time to respond. I will pray for your enlightenment as I do my six loads of laundry, make dinner and wipe some runny noses.
Laura George

author by prole cat - ctc (personal capacity)publication date Fri Sep 23, 2005 03:16Report this post to the editors

For whatever difference it makes- very little, in my opinion- I am neither young nor old, but rather middle-aged. Like yourself, I am a home-schooling parent (my wife is self-employed- but with no employees to exploit.) I became an anarchist, because a quarter century of blue-collar wage-slavery taught me that the American Dream is a myth, the cruelest of lies, calculated to keep people trudging on towards a promised destination that most never quite manage to arrive at.

Your question regarding human nature, I consider much more relevant. Most people, not just the religious, believe that something called "human nature" is a fixed, immutable trait. But I disagree. "Human nature", I am sure, is infinitely malleable. Without going into irrelevant personal details, I have experienced seismic shifts in my own personality. You would no doubt call it a "spiritual experience", but it is not necessary to resort to such mystification, in order to understand. I had experiences, that changed me. Physical experiences. Emotional experiences. Intellectual epiphanies. It is not necessary to postulate a god, in order to appreciate this phenomena.

What does all this have to do with the rule of the bosses, the corporate CEO's and military generals and politicians? Only this: they use their wealth and power to dominate television, print media, public schools, and yes, religious dogma. By so doing, they control a portion of our culture, that is out of all proportion to the appeal of their ideas, or the soundness of their arguments' reasoning. The fear mongering on TV around the events in New Orleans (and treating the millions of examples of mutual aid as if they were rare and isolated acts) is only the most recent example of what I refer to. Take away this malevolent influence, allow the people to organize themselves (as they are quite capable of doing in the absence of coercion, as this article notes), and not only will people self-organize, but *over a period of time* what we call "human nature" itself will change.

No, all will not be utopian. Problems, conflicts, will still exist. But when a self-organized working class overthrows corporate/government rule and organizes itself into a classless society (or a single class society, if you prefer) I am convinced that *the worst* of the problems that exist today, will have been solved. People will cease to starve in the shadow of mansions. (I am no pacifist, btw. Of necessity, blood will be spilled. The ruling class that targets civilian populations in Iraq for bombing, will never step down willingly or non-violently.) Imagine a self-organized society, if you can: no bosses!! Can you seriously suggest that people would not become more giving and caring, and soon, in the absence of bosses and cops? Do you claim to love your brothers and sisters on the one hand, and yet insist that they are innately and resolutely evil, on the other? What is there to love in that?


Finally, I never said Christians were part of a government conspiracy. I said promoting Christian ideology, is to serve as un unwitting dupe of the bosses. And please do not pray for me. I find it very offensive, when I tell someone I am an atheist, and they disrespect my views in that manner. Can I pass out anarchist literature to your class, when I come to speak? Warm regards, you sound like any one of my neighbors, pc

author by laurapublication date Fri Sep 23, 2005 23:43Report this post to the editors

To Mr. Fil,
I want to apologize for my rash, sarcastic and abrupt comments I made in my post to pc yesterday. I really don't know what possessed me to say those things, just a bit of frustration, a strange sense of humor and a typical impulsivness that I often regret. Please forgive me, there is no excuse for my being so unkind and harsh. You seem to be a sincere Christian defending his faith. This is an interesting discussion going on here and I look forward to checking in from time to time.
Sincerely,
LG

author by Jamespublication date Tue Sep 27, 2005 18:55Report this post to the editors

Prolecat: “Most people, not just the religious, believe that something called "human nature" is a fixed, immutable trait. But I disagree. "Human nature", I am sure, is infinitely malleable.”

I'd tend to disagree with this. Our evolutionary legacy has programmed certain behavioural traits into us. For example, we are are social animals, we tend to be quite groupy, i.e. to engage in generous behaviour towards people within our group and more aggressive to those outside it (hence, nationalism has a solid basis to build upon), to having sex in private, to having communal eating occasions, and paired male-female relationships are present in almost all, if not all, societies. There is also some promiscuity, unlike orangutans, but not wild promiscuity, unlike chimpanzees. Each culture possesses these traits to some degree, therefore it seems likely that they are a legacy of our evolutionary history.

Some of the inherent behaviour programmed into us is quite good, our social nature, our willingness to share food, language. Others bad – out tendency to make war being the most glaring example.

Culture, the influence of society, is built upon this natural base and can't change this natural base unless it finds some way to select mutations in the genes which support the changes. What society can do is influence the development of particular tendencies in any given society – but only for that period. Stalinist Russia, which lasted at least two generations didn't permanently change the Russians' humanity even though conditions there were substantially different to those in Ireland for the same period. The societal differences didn't feed into the gene pool. And couldn't really in such a short period in evolutionary time.

In political terms, it means there is no permanent solution to an unjust world. If we wish to create a society which maximises the opportunities for the good tendencies to flourish and to depress the opportunities for the unpleasant ones, then society's structures will have to be constantly maintained by a vigilant population. And even then, I suspect there are limits to what society can accomplish, and this isn't necessarily a bad thing. A society which tries to work with human nature rather than against it will be more stable. I'm thinking here of some fanatical communists' in Maoist China with their harsh attitudes to family members in the name of revolutionary purity. It's one thing to try to not favour family members, it's another to actively discriminate against them to prove one's dedication to a cause.

author by prole cat - ctc (personal capacity)publication date Wed Sep 28, 2005 00:31Report this post to the editors

I am sure I overstated the case. I do that sometimes, in the heat of rhetorical excess.

But i remain convinced that the argument employed by Social Darwinists (and by other market worshipers with similar ideas, including the religious who consider humanity to be innately "evil"), that the behavior exhibited by people under capitalist rule is the only behavior that they are capable of, does not have merit, nor stand up to a closer examination. Under different conditions, behavior changes (although not "infinitely", contrary to my statement.)

Nature AND nuture have a part.

"...If we wish to create a society which maximises the opportunities for the good tendencies to flourish ... then society's structures will have to be constantly maintained by a vigilant population..."

I couldn't agree more.

author by Oliver - CTCpublication date Wed Sep 28, 2005 03:12Report this post to the editors

"i.e. to engage in generous behaviour towards people within our group and more aggressive to those outside it (hence, nationalism has a solid basis to build upon), to having sex in private, to having communal eating occasions, and paired male-female relationships are present in almost all, if not all, societies."

The first is certainly true, though nationalism has only had a base as long as there have been nations, but people have identified by other in-groups and out-groups as well - most prominently, class has been a factor which has probably been identified with more than nation.

As for the others, those are very specific to certain societies. Many people do not have sex in private, whether part of indigenous or youth cultures. In several pacific islander cultures which i've heard of, meals consist of boiled roots (like potatoes) which are eaten at leisure. Many cultures do not have a male-female dichotomy; those that do often do not have a heterosexual paradigm; and those that have both a male-female dichotomy and a heterosexual paradigm often sanction relationships between one man and many women. So it is impossible to say any of those things are common to humans.

author by Jamespublication date Thu Sep 29, 2005 08:17Report this post to the editors

The list of attributes wasn't exhaustive by a long way! Behaviour which in some sense contradicts theses ones can also exist. For example, there could well be genes which, other things being equal, promote homosexuality. This doesn't contradict the fact that humans also form male-female bonds. They can do both. I would think, though I'm no expert, that it is likely that there will be frequent male-female relationships because individuals' genes wouldn't be passed on otherwise. Heterosexual relationships have an evolutionary advantage in this regard. Some societies do indeed promote bisexuality, ancient Sparta, and I think a tribe in New Guinea men used have 3 or 4 teenage boyfriends and keep their wives and daughters in a separate house. But both societies also have to have male-female relationships if they are to reproduce. As do all societies.

As for sex in private, I would say it is far more frequent than sex in public. It's not a 100% case though, human behaviour rarely is. What we are talking about is tendencies. Tendencies which can be modified temporarily by cultural influences and more permanently by natural or sexual selection. How many times have you invited friends, acquaintances around for tea or dinner? How common is it for the same group to have sex in a cafe or a host's living room. Not saying it doesn't happen, but it doesn't happen as much as going for a coffee. And not because humans prefer going for coffee over sex. The conclusion I draw is that humans are more into communal eating than communal sex and by a long way going on the people I know from various Arabic, African and European cultures.

Which cultures do not have a male-female dichotomy? I haven't heard of that and would be interested in any good links that you know of. Humanity, like most mammals and indeed reasonably sized animals to my knowledge, are for the most part divided into male and female. What percentage of the population is not categorised as male or female? It is by no means the only option used in evolution; hermaphrodites are common enough in plants and insects. But they are very much a minority amongst humanity. There has to be some reason why there are two distinct sexes, as you'd think that it would benefit the genes to simply clone off offspring (as they'd have 100% of the parent's genes instead of 50%). I think the reason has something to do with keeping individuals' immune system well shuffled and up to speed against fast evolving parasites which would otherwise kill off asexual offspring. Can't remember why hermaphrodites are less common. Could be that those genes which influence this are less able to compete against specialised male/female genes. There's a lot genetic competition going on between genes of the same species. More so than between species. But it's been a while since I read up on that...

The political point though, was basically that it's not likely to be very successful to try to artificially mold strong tendencies which are widespread, for example, the tendency for humans to form families to look after their young.

author by Fil Manley - WEb Monkeypublication date Mon Oct 10, 2005 23:17Report this post to the editors

How can anyone perform maintenance on the structure of society if no one has the authority to do so?

author by gerry m.publication date Tue Oct 11, 2005 00:39Report this post to the editors

Society itself has the authority. Any maintenance that needs doing is decided and performed by the collective. You don't need an authority to tell you that your house needs repainting... the people who live in the house can see it for themselves, decide to paint it and paint it. And all without bosses. Take this principle to a larger scale and nothing changes, except the scale.

author by Whack -a- Molepublication date Mon Oct 17, 2005 23:46Report this post to the editors

You say that like society and people can be treated as separate.

They can't. I don't think it's possible for a collective to exist without a leader, otherwise nothing would get done. When you have a hundred people trying to make a decision, you end up with a hundred choices. Someone has to narrow those choices down. Inherently, by being the person who takes on that responsibility, you are also assuming authority. It's impossible for a collective to exist otherwise.

Can you think of an instance in nature where your paradigm exists? I can't.

I think it's a great ideal, but not a realistic one.

author by gerry mpublication date Tue Oct 18, 2005 01:25Report this post to the editors

No, Whack, I absolutely do NOT mean that society and people can be separated.

You agree. But going from there to saying "I don't think it's possible for a collective to exist without a leader, otherwise nothing would get done" just doesn't add up.

There are many many examples throughout the history of society of people working together for the common good, of deciding for themselves without a leader. Only young children need decisions to be taken for them. To quote two examples of non-authoritarian social organization where anarchists were closely involved (but not the only ones involved... they were actually a tiny minority), just read up on Ukraine (1917-1922) and Spain during the Revolution/Civil War, where the workers of the Barcelona public transport system managed quite sucessfully to run the trams and bus services without leaders using antiauthoritarian decision-making methods (even more efficiently than with "managers"!)

Sure, in some circumstances it is necessary for a person (or more likely under an anarchist system, a [small] group of people) to have executive powers, but that is very far from giving them authority. The system of recallable mandates for any task eliminates that possibility.

I'm no expert on nature or in examples of non-authoritarian social structures in nature, but I'm pretty sure Elisee Reclus and Peter Kropotkin, 2 eminent 19th-century natural scientists, did find examples. Not sure though how relevant that is to human society.

Finally, not only is anarchist, anti-authoritarian social organization a great ideal, it is also an extremely realistic one, one that HAS been experimented - successfully. Of course, why these successful experiments failed to survive is another story, but there is every reason to believe that it is not due to any inherent fault in anti-authoritarianism.

author by Martinpublication date Tue Mar 06, 2007 00:03Report this post to the editors

PC, thanks for sharing your experience in New Orleans-area. I really liked your post. I think your analysis of why the state encourages the church is provocative but no less true. This I took to be your point. the (sometimes) mutual aid quality of churches draws power away from the state & capital. But what it takes away in practice, it more than gives back in ideology. The church expounds a justification for the state. Because humans are bad, left unrestrained by power, society would be chaos. As a result, the state is justified by the iron-clad dictates of human nature.

As much as I agree with your analysis I think that the Church is a player in its own right. During the European middle ages the Church exercised a power that often exceeded that of states. For example, Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV walked to Canossa, barefoot through the snow and fors days stood outside the door of pope waiting for forgiveness. No doubt the church has much less power, but powerful it still is.

So why doesn't the state forbid the mutual aid of churches? Because the state may not have sufficient power. I know Cuba, China, Russia are counterexamples. But did they really stamp out the Churches or merely their outward expression? Moreover, would it be worth it to a state to attempt to do so? I mean the costs would exceed the benefits (in part for the reasons you articulate). As an aside I think Russia had to attack the Church, if only because of close alliance with the Czar.


Martin

author by Tom - WSA (personal capacity)publication date Tue Mar 06, 2007 08:39Report this post to the editors

Actually, prole cat, you're a bit inconsistent when you say that we've got certain drives that have been imprinted by evolution but no "human nature." That's because those drives will be part of our nature.

we do know some things about human nature. That we are an inherently social, interdependent species. The ability to communicate with sentences that differentiate objects and traits in the world is universal.

given what we know about the way evolution works, it's not possible that human nature has been "adapted" to fit in with the class dominated societies of the last two or three thousand years. That's because human biological nature hasn't changed in 20,000 years. Becuase humans have created a great variety of social systems and institutions, we know that human nature has great flexibility, but i would not say it is "infinite" in this flexibility.

Moreover, i think that a need for planning and controlling our own activities is itself part of human nature, as shown by the cognitive capacities we have, the ability to imagine in advance what we want to produce, what insitutions we want to set up, and then go about figuring out how to do it. Capitalism, and all systems based on class domination and oppression, are inconsistent with human nature precisely because it tramples on our human capacity and need for self-management.

When we look at how people actually behave around us, we need to consider how certain habits and behaviors are encouraged by the existing social institutions, and how other behaviors are discouraged. Capitalism is a system that encourages screwing others because people profit from it, and it discourages solidarity with others.

What the existing society does is concentrate knowledge and training and decision-making authority into the hands of elite classes, and underdevelops the skills and capacities of the majority. From the fact that the existing system is based on hierarchy, we can't infer that this is required by human nature. On the contrary, we can infer that it is contrary to human nature given that it is inconsistent with our need for self-managing of our activities. The capacity to become an initiator, a person with ideas, someone who is active factor in decision-making can be developed broadly, and thus reduce the "need" for top-down hierarchies.

People have a nature tendency to seek explanations...and this too is part of human nature, part of our inherited cognitive equipment. So it's nature people will be inclined to seek out ideas about the origins of the whole physical cosmos around us, and God is such a hypothesis. But of course different humans come to different conclusions as to what this might mean. (My grandmother, raised as a Baptist, came to the conclusion that "God" is "just an old-fashioned name for the universe." In her view the universe was a self-creative force.)

There is no reason for a person who believes in such a creative force to not accept the idea that humans are created with the capacities they have by nature, and that the life that is best for them is the life they create for themselves, that enables them to fulfill that nature. Those of us who seek a world based on human social self-management -- and that's what social anarchism seeks -- is consistent with that. But a recognition of the reality of oppression, and given what we know about the tendency of those with power and wealth to want to keep it, overcoming oppression and creating a world based on self-management is not something likely to happen unless the oppressed create a very powerful movement to dismantle the existing structures of oppression.

author by a religious studies studentpublication date Thu May 10, 2007 05:06Report this post to the editors

Laura,

Josephus was NOT secular. He was an observant Jew of priestly descent wrote immensely valuable works on such topics as late second-temple Judaism, the Jewish revolts against Rome and Jewish oral-tradition. I know you won't read this 20 months after Hurricane Katrina but I just wanted to make it clear that just because Joshephus wasn't a Christian does not mean that he didn't believe in G-d.

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