Archive | August 2020

Protestants, Politics, and Personality Cults

I have been Protestant and I have been Greek Orthodox, but I have never been Republican. And never will be. I can’t even imagine it, especially now.

The Republican party now officially stands for…(wait for it) nothing. It has no party platform. No ethics. No stances on any issue whatsoever. I am 53 years old. I have seen a few presidential elections. The party platforms of the Dems and Reps are endlessly debated ad nauseum. Not this year. The Republicans will simply support the insanity and amorality of Donald J. Trump. Welcome to the new American Banana Republic.

Here;s the reality Republicans are not discussing: Trump will not be President forever. He is mortal. Whether it is January of 2021 or 2025, he will be out of office someday. And there will be nothing left of the Republican party to resurrect. Trump’s base is dying off and the party has no platform. Even the pretense of being a fully-functioning political party is over. Trump has destroyed all the norms and when he dies or leaves office, there won’t be any rubble to rebuild upon.

What does this have to do with religion? A lot. Trump rallies are very Protestant in execution. The emotional manipulation, the call-and-response format (“Lock her up! Lock her up!”), the self-satisfaction of the speaker, etc., are all familiar to any charismatic Christian. Been there, done that. I know what I am looking at.

The Democrats are more similar to what I call the “Liturgical Churches” (which I will call LC), the Catholic and Orthodox churches. When you walk into an LC, you know what they stand for and against. You know the routine, the traditions, and the liturgies. The priest may vary. As long as he is properly ordained, he could be from anywhere in the world. It makes no difference whatsoever. You’re not there for the preaching. You’re there for the sacraments. There may not even be a sermon. (That was a shock to my Protestant system when I started attending the Greek church.) The pastors may be great or horrible. They could be pedophiles or embezzlers. Fine. You get rid of the bad priest and wait for a new one to be sent from the higher-ups. You don’t need to switch congregations. After all, what would the point be, to switch to another church exactly like the one you just left? You remain Catholic or Orthodox.

Contrast that with a lecherous Protestant pastor. Will the congregation survive? Maybe, maybe not. Even if the pastor was the best ever, he will die and the congregation may dissolve. It’s never the same without the original pastor’s personality. Even the son of the best preacher on earth is not his father. People go to listen to that particular person. The sermon is everything. Sacraments, schmackraments. It’s all about the preacher.

Joe Biden is the priest of the Democratic party. He is a fully-functioning politician. He’s been in politics over 40 years. He is neither the first nor last Democratic Presidential nominee. The party has a platform which will outlast Biden.

Trump is the last modern Republican. The party has no platform. It could very easily go the way of the Whig party. Remember the Whigs? Me neither.

Working on Everyone’s Healing

Ever since Barry passed, I have tried to focus on myself and making myself whole. As a wife, I never felt my life was about me. It was always “us.” I couldn’t disentangle myself from others’ opinions and systems. I couldn’t tell where I began and ended.

I feel a lot more separate now. Now I’m not just someone’s wife. I really live alone. I have privacy.

I have been making progress towards moving. I want to move to the west end of Lansing where I work. I don’t want to move out-of-state during the pandemic. I want to see where the dust settles when all is said and done. How many of my family members will die because they don’t take the virus seriously?

I know I am making progress emotionally. I feel more whole, like the dots are connected more easily and naturally and less traumatically.

I have made a friend at work. Her husband is having psychiatric problems. Barry had dementia from the Huntington’s. I have a brother with early dementia from cirrhosis. Not exact parallels, but I understand some issues more than normal people. I can be a good person to listen. It feels good to be useful. I have no answers, but no one does.

We live in messed-up times. I can listen. I’ll settle for that for now.

Roles at the Bottom

I’ve been looking lately at systems and roles. Systems demand that certain roles get played. These roles are almost always subconscious. Who the hell would volunteer to be the scapegoat in a family?

Now imagine being an outcast(e) in India. Sometimes I wonder how many of the ridiculously successful Indians in America (due to their unbelievable hard work) would be cleaning toilets in their homeland. What are the upper castes going to do if the untouchables all move to America and become rich?

Blacks in America face some of the same situation. The U.S. was founded on white supremacy. I am currently readingĀ White Too Long by Robert P. Jones. White Christianity has been a major player in maintaining the racist status quo. People criticized Malcolm X. because he called Christianity “the white man’s religion.” The problem was that he was correct. He nailed it and knew it. All the talk of Jesus being Israeli-born and Middle-Eastern does nothing to change the fact that American churches used the Bible to justify slavery for centuries. Not decades, centuries.

Now blacks are no longer playing their assigned roles willingly. Whites are trying to put blacks back “in their place,” but it’s not working. I saw this evening on TV that blacks were protesting in Kalamazoo and that whites were counter-protesting, trying to protect “their” neighborhoods, as if the blacks were from New York or something. Everyone of all the races were locals.

Here’s the problem for conservative whites: they are a shrinking majority and the people at the bottom are done with being treated like crap. Whites want a republic. Blacks, make no mistake, are looking for a democracy, now that the white majority is going the way of the Whig party. The only way conservatives can win in November is to suppress the vote. Trump is even trying to destroy the postal service. Here’s the problem with destroying the USPS: many Americans, including myself, get our prescriptions filled though the mail. So, let’s be clear, Trump is attempting to kill millions of Americans, many of them part of his elderly, white base. Even if Trump succeeds this November, he still won’t live forever and America is still becoming a multi-racial democracy, whether Trumpers like my folks approve or not. Their approval loses meaning by the day because they represent fewer and fewer Americans.

In the past, blacks, other minorities, and women had to accept the roles we had been given. Those days are OVER.

All Houses of Cards

I have been realizing lately that all dysfunctional systems are houses of cards: requiring vast amounts of time and energy to maintain an image with no foundational support to keep it going when times get tough.

It hit me a few weeks ago that my family doesn’t have relationships; we have roles. And mine is not worth playing. Exit stage left. No emotional needs of anyone at any time, as far as I can tell, have ever gotten met. It’s not just me. I feel like I have been trying my whole life not to upset my mother. Wait a minute. She’s the adult. I feel like I am trying to be the “good daughter.” That’s not a relationship; that’s a role. As I’ve gotten older, I have concluded that her mother never even wanted children. How awful is that? And yet we pretended to have “relationships” all the same. I have a brother that is an active alcoholic. His wife and children have begged him to stop drinking and he refuses. The disease is protected and so no learning occurs. Odds are that this brother will be dead by the time his son is thirty. This young man has no coping skills. His house of cards will implode and I can see him spiraling downward very quickly when that day arrives.

This idea goes for politics, as well. My mom and I were talking about statues being destroyed. She said, “They will have to all be fixed, at taxpayer expense, of course.” I said, “Uh, I doubt they will be fixed or replaced. The people that are bringing them down will not be having any of that.” “So what then? They’ll just be destroyed and these cities will look like Detroit?” “Maybe.” It does not occur to her that the people destroying these confederate monuments might have a better idea.

My mother wants the restoration of the old order. I understand that. And I understand that it is never going to happen. People today want an America that works for everyone, not just the old white Trumpers. The image is not worth investing in. The old house of cards is collapsing. Wholeness cannot be coerced, manipulated, or bribed. When something stops working for people, they refuse to invest in the charade any longer. The role is not worth playing. They want something that meets their needs.

All dysfunctional systems are houses of cards. They require vast amounts of energy and investment to keep functioning. It’s an image. It’s play acting. These dysfunctional systems protect the few at the expense of the many. The fastest way to produce something better is to invest in something better and to withdraw all emotional and financial support from the system that doesn’t meet one’s needs. It’s not brain surgery. You stop pretending that a system meets your needs and start meeting them yourself and find other like-minded people. You see what doesn’t work and abandon it. You move forward without that system. It’s painful, but healing, to move on.

Personal Evolution

I’ve worked at the Goodwill for almost two years. I have always felt like I have managed to say or do the wrong things around our district manager, K. I got paranoid a couple weeks ago. We made sales in June, which was astonishing given the occupancy restrictions. Others had already received their incentive vouchers, little purple gift certificates for employees. I hadn’t yet received mine. Had I pissed off K?

I asked a couple of different managers if I had offended K. Both said K had no problem with me and one even said K liked me. My response? “You’re kidding.” I wonder if K has no people skills whatsoever. I’ve been walking around for the past two years wondering if I was on the verge of getting fired by K. Everyone else thinks I’m great. I show up and work hard. I even got an extra voucher for helping in donations. My personal philosophy on being an authority figure is that one must provide positive (or at least some sort of) feedback. If one does not provide feedback, one becomes a blank screen for everyone to project their childhood issues onto. Then one runs the risk of unknowingly upsetting people and wondering where the hell their reactions are coming from.

Have I been doing this to everyone my entire life? Talking to my psychoanalyst, she asked me if K reminded me of my mother. I thought about it and said no, she was more like my dad, providing little positive feedback. No wonder I have issues with her. I sort of get along with my mother. Not so much with Dad.

Speaking of evolution, I’m seeing a lot of it lately–and a lot faster than I thought I would. Republican lawmakers are testing positive for the coronavirus. Herman Cain, a black Trumper, died from the virus after attending the Trump rally in Tulsa. And my mom thinks the numbers are exaggerated, even as numbers explode all over. At this point, my parents could die of this thing without any awareness that that’s what’s happening. It is now at a point I thought it wouldn’t reach until well after the election, maybe not until next year.

Everything is happening at such a dizzying pace that I wonder what on Earth could be next.