Spritzophrenia

humour, music, life, sociology. friendly agnostic.

Those Darn Religious Folk

Posted by spritzophrenia on December 31, 2010

I’m reading the wonderful Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich, courtesy of Happygirl. Early in the piece she’s working as a waitress in a bland hotel restaurant where, despite her best intentions, she discovers “customers are the enemy”.

The worst, for some reason, are the Visible Christians– like the ten-person table, all jolly and sanctified after Sunday night service, who run me mercilessly and then leave me $1 on a $92 bill. Or the guy with the crucifiction T-shirt (‘Someone to Look Up To’) who complains that his baked potato is too hard and his iced tea too icy (I cheerfully fix both) and leaves no tip at all. As a general rule, people wearing crosses or “What would Jesus do?” buttons look at us disapprovingly no matter what we do, as if they were confusing waitressing with Mary Magalene’s original profession.” ~ p 36

Depending on whose statistics you read over 75% of the USA identify as Christian. That’s three out of every four people you meet! So: How come the USA has the huge crime rate, divorce rate and sectarianism it does? Why do political debates there turn into hate-fests? Why is racism, homophobia and sexism still so common? Why is the US military still killing thousands overseas? Why is the USA not a paradise of love and acceptance? Why are there so many poor and homeless people and drug addicts there? Why is alcoholism and spouse abuse rampant? Why is the USA the world’s largest producer and consumer of porn?

Why, if the USA is largely populated by people who follow Jesus, do so many working people struggle in poverty and debt even while the richest 1% earn hundreds of millions annually? I don’t mean to offend anyone, I dearly love both the country and my friends who live there. There just seems to be a huge disconnect between beliefs and practice.

When I was a churchian, this sort of thing would make me sad. It still makes me sad. There’s something about hypocrisy that rankles us worse than many religious crimes.

What about you?

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36 Responses to “Those Darn Religious Folk”

  1. FatCatOnTheHill (Karen) said

    Hey Jonathan, that sounds like an excellent book HappyGirl gave you !

    [quote]Why, if the USA is largely populated by people who follow Jesus, do so many working people struggle in poverty and debt even while the richest 1% earn hundreds of millions annually? I don’t mean to offend anyone, I dearly love both the country and my friends who live there. There just seems to be a huge disconnect between beliefs and practice.[/unquote]

    In this case, I feel that religion is not to blame, but CAPITALISM is …

    The documentary made by Michael Moore “Capitalism, a Love Story” addresses this very well. Love him or hate him, this guy knows how to draw attention to social issues! 🙂

    • Hi Karen.

      Yes, its interesting that more than one person identifies Capitalism rather than christianity as the problem. I wonder if US christianity unthinkingly support capitalism.

      I generally like Michael Moore, although was kinda bored with that movie. “Bowling for Columbine” was great.

  2. Lydia said

    If you liked Nickel and Dimed I think you’ll really enjoy Barbara’s new book about positive thinking, “Bright Sided.” (Although as I type this I have the oddest feeling that we’ve discussed that book already?!?!?!)

    I don’t know why there’s the disparity between the religious allegiances of the US and their widening social inequalities. I suspect, though, that it has much more to do with their political and social structures than with God.

    Life in Canada is _so_ much easier in a myriad of ways: universal health care, 1 year of paid maternity/paternity leave for new parents (although I believe it only covers 60-70% of one’s previous income?), and a much less fragmented social safety net for the unemployed or low income just to name a few difference between the two countries. And yet the culture here is much less monolithically “Christian.”

  3. dogcicle said

    Most American Christians like the Baby Jesus, The dead Jesus , And the Risen Jesus and completely ignore the teachings of the living Jesus.
    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 gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.

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

    Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive 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 have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

    Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.

    I can hardly believe how many warmongering racists want to fight you if you say that the USA is not a Christian nation.

  4. My friend Hazey introduced me to a similar book: Deerhunting with Jesus.

    You can read it in Google Docs. It has a nice way of pulling the rug out from under us nice middle class liberals and showing that most of the USA is actually working class, just one paycheck from losing the house.

  5. leesis said

    i think all of us, religous or not, struggle to live in accord to our personal ideals. Perhaps hypocrisy irritates us the most because it mirrors our own inabilities to live up to our own standards. Daily I feel I fail if I compare how I want to act to how I actually act.

    Sometimes it can feel gratifying to judge others inability to walk their talk because we look better for it, and it seems the religous are enormous targets yet I wonder; which of us aren’t guilty of the same?

  6. Sarah said

    I think our society here calls itself Christian, but is really ruled by the religion called capitalism. There is really no way to be both a true capitalist and a true christian.

    I’m fairly dissolutioned by society, religion and the political process here in the US. It seems that the politicians have forgotten who exactly they work for.

    It seems that the majority of people have forgotten the true meaning of what it is to be a Christian.

    We are a very selfish society in the US. I see it everyday working in the court system. Everything is expected to be handed to you. You no longer are required to do any sort of work to receive what you would like. It’s all me, me, me.

    I’m one of the few who does try to not be selfish. I try to be as helpful as I can to all those around me. Though this may sound selfish, I sometimes wish that there were more people out there like me.

    • Sarah, I often think of how other cultures see the USA as a “Christian Nation”. Yet talk to US christians, and most of them would deny this. I wonder if Al-Quaeda would be as keen to characterise the US as “zionist christian crusaders” if they realised how little impact christianity actually has made in the US?

      Thankyou

  7. I’ve got an answer to your (USA) questions.
    I wrote a piece for Christmas back in 2006. (I only have it in PDF form right now. Can’t link you to The Ooze article – where it was first posted – ’cause TheOoze is sort of in a transitional mode right now.

    That 2006 Christmas piece/post was entitled XXX-mas: Porn for the Soul.

    I’ll try to email you the PDF file.

  8. Cristine said

    I agree with the others who said that Capitalism is more of the problem than religion. We (in the US) were taught that if you work hard, go to college, are responsible then you will have a solid middle class life. It may have been true at one point but now it is not and people feel cheated because they have worked so hard and are still struggling (especially with medical bills).

    The upper middle class and the rich (as a whole, obviously there are always individuals who differ) believe that anyone can do what they did. They don’t recognize any of the advantages, privilege, and just plain luck that they have had. So they frequently do not give because they believe the poor are just lazy and if they just applied themselves, they could succeed too.

    On the other end are those who work very hard but are struggling. Can you imagine how frustrating it is to be working that hard and not being able to spend time with your family or pursue what you interests are because you are always working and then have people who don’t work at all taking your money. (welfare) Now, of course, some people, especially recently, have no choice but to be on welfare for awhile as they are in dire circumstances that may or may not be a result of their own poor choices.

    However, there is so much fraud in the welfare system, that everyone on the system is suspect. There are so many people who can work that do choose not to and that isn’t fair to those who do work to pay for their hand-outs.

    As far as the killing overseas, do you really not understand that the US military believes they are fighting for a greater good? Whether you agree or not does not change that they believe they are helping a country that is oppressed.

    I am not necessarily defending my country as trying to explain. I certainly know first hand of a lot of the troubles here.

    more later! gotta go. Happy freaking New Year

    • “We (in the US) were taught that if you work hard, go to college, are responsible then you will have a solid middle class life.”

      Yes. This is exactly the point that Ehrenreich makes in her book. She tries to make a living as a working person, and finds she cannot. So the “american dream” of working hard = guaranteed good life actually is not true. I highly recommend her book, an easy and entertaining read.

      I’d be curious to know just how many people cheat the welfare system. I have a strong feeling that a good investigation would find that most people don’t cheat. I could be wrong of course. We have the same thing here, a sense that “lots of people cheat.” In my experience this just doesn’t happen and just isn’t possible. (With notable exceptions, of course.)

      And yeah, I realise that I am making a moral assumption when I talk about war. My own base ethic is pacifism, so any war is not going to look good to me. However, I think even someone who supports the idea of war when necessary can look at the current situations in Iraq and Afghanistan and say “actually, these wars aren’t helping us at all”. Much like they did for Vietnam.

      All my opinion, of course. Thanks for commenting! 🙂

      • Cristine said

        I started reading that book and didn’t finish. I should try to find it…I remember I was annoyed with some parts (as in didn’t agree with the author but it’s fuzzy why)

        I agree that the majority of people on welfare do need it, especially in our current economy. But that said, the rate of people stealing from taxpayers is high enough that it causes extreme resentment

    • “I agree with the others who said that Capitalism is more of the problem than religion”

      I wouldn’t specifically say it’s Capitalism (not by itself at least).

      I’d say it’s Capitalism-Consumerism. (I believe there are other forms of Capitalism out there).

      • (And before anyone asks me, What other forms – of Captialism – are there? allow me to preempt the question and outright answer it:

        For example, there’s Captialism-Socialism (May not be the official title, but that’s more or less what we have in Canada).

      • “What is the difference between Capitalism-Consumerism and Capitalism-Socialism?”

        I realize I’m probably going to oversimplfy this, but here goes:

        Ultimately, Capitialism is all about the amassment of wealth. (Which in and of itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing. No, it is not necessarily about greed).

        However, once Capitalism succeeds (once wealth has been attained), it doesn’t answer, what do with do with this amassed wealth?

        I believe when we put this question to Capitalism itself, its answer is Consumerism (which is all about material possession/identification, and – ultmately – greed). This is a bad thing.
        I personally think this is what led to the entire meltdown. (Remember, I’m oversimplifying…)

        There are other answers to this question of what do we do once Captialism has successfully amassed wealth. I realize the word “Socialism” has alot of baggage attached or assumed with it (especially for Americans). I’m sure there are many other words and terms we could use; maybe even better ones.
        Free feel to add…. I’m not point to drive home.

        🙂

        • I like this simple definition. Capitalism-Socialism would mean we still accumulate wealth, but we share some of it with those who don’t have as much.

          This is what countries like Canada (see Lydia’s comparison with the US above) and New Zealand do. We’ve been doing it for 80 years now, and there is still no sign of bloody revolution or whatever the fear-mongers try to suggest will happen if you look after the poor.

        • “I like this simple definition. Capitalism-Socialism would mean we still accumulate wealth, but we share some of it with those who don’t have as much”

          “With great power [wealth] there must also come… great responsibility [taking care of those who helped you get there]” Stan Lee, 1962

        • Cristine said

          I most certainly agree. I also like that Canada’s government (I know a bit more about my friendly neighbor to the North ..and South for me in Detroit..than I do about NZ) regulates companies so that it isn’t completely a free market system. With regulation, we wouldn’t have had the investment banking/mortgage crisis. Socialism doesn’t frighten me as I know that it isn’t communism 😉

        • ” I also like that Canada’s government… regulates companies so that it isn’t completely a free market system. With regulation, we wouldn’t have had the investment banking/mortgage crisis.”

          I couldnT agree more!
          Most especially with the/our banking system.

          “Socialism doesn’t frighten me as I know that it isn’t communism”

          Two big thumbs up! 🙂

    • For those interested in the Welfare Fraud question, I wrote a whole blog about it 🙂

      https://spritzophrenia.wordpress.com/2011/01/04/how-bad-is-welfare-fraud-in-the-usa/

  9. deWeb said

    i know a lot of cheap people who happen to be christians, and as a former waiter i can attest to the fact that the worst time for tips is sunday afternoon, right after church.

    i’m a christian, too, but it seems like often non-christ-followers are more generous than us, the ones who should be giving the shirt off our backs to those who need it.

    that’s why i decided to start being a good tipper. i know that sounds maybe a little petty or silly when other people are talking about welfare, world hunger, wars, etc…but it’s one thing that i can do. at least 20%. even if they suck as a waiter. just cause i should have a generous spirit.

    don’t worry, though, i still find other areas to be a hypocrite.

    • Yeah. Possibly I am too harsh on christians, but it still amazes me that so many people can be “christians” and yet it have so little impact on their behaviour.

      I too, am a hypocrite – see my story here https://spritzophrenia.wordpress.com/2010/08/20/who-am-i-to-tell-you-anything/

      I haven’t met anyone who is not a hypocrite. Welcome to humanity 🙂

    • Fofanna said

      Wish I’d gotten to this thead sooner! Great article and discussion. Below are my two cents:

      @DeWeb, you’re absolutely right, and how much generosity I can afford vs. what I cannot is something I struggle with in my life. I live in the statistically poorest city in the U.S., and though I work in a “nice” part of the city, I see a person without a home on every block. I want to help them all, but my resources are finite. I cannot carry a sandwich in my bag for all of the people who live on the streets. I too am a good tipper, and I help those poorer than me as much as I possibly can; still, it is not enough. It is heartbreaking that I have to choose who to help and who to pass by. Like many major cities in the U.S., our mayor has made it more difficult to feed the homeless; although it is not illegal for individuals to feed individuals, I fear that it may someday become illegal. If I knew of another way to help, I would do it.

      Also, @Spritzophrenia, I must disagree with you somewhat when you say that there is a huge disconnect between belief and practice. I would argue that the connection between belief and a person’s living reality is inseparable. We make decisions based on how our deepest beliefs interact with any given situation. It’s just that what a person says they believe and what they actually do believe in are not always the same thing. One of the writers of the New Testament gives a common-sense reminder that talk is cheap. Stated belief without actions that back it up are useless (James 2:18-20).

  10. […] Those Darn Religious Folk […]

  11. Anne said

    Yes, I believe that capitalism is by nature a system that encourages (within a world of finite resources) the stronger to beat out the weaker, and fear to create greed. It’s possible that when America was a new country, resources seemed infinite and (although there are many stories of greed at that time, also) there was a larger sense of hope and enough to go around. As populations grow and economies become less stable, resources become more scarce and greed grows. But instead of blaming “the system” I would blame short-sighted behaviors that come out of fear and a feeling of being powerless. It is difficult to change a whole nation’s image/way of being, but it always comes down to individuals finding ways to do things differently.

    • “It is difficult to change a whole nation’s image/way of being, but it always comes down to individuals finding ways to do things differently.”

      I think this is very perceptive.

  12. Anne said

    …and, so timely, I just received a link to this news story from a friend in Minneapolis, my hometown, about the long lines of people waiting to pay to get their cars back after they were towed on Christmas Day (oh yes, I remember those days!). Her brother Karl is seen toward the end of the video stating that this is “a byproduct of the flawed industrial-capitalist society” that we live in. The news anchors have such an “Oh my!” reaction.
    http://www.kare11.com/video/default.aspx#/Local/No+present+for+those+towed+in+St.+Paul%2C+Mpls./48173211001/48322959001/725580230001

  13. New England patriot in the Midwest (formerly Rich Liberal) said

    “The upper middle class and the rich (as a whole, obviously there are always individuals who differ) believe that anyone can do what they did. They don’t recognize any of the advantages, privilege, and just plain luck that they have had. So they frequently do not give because they believe the poor are just lazy and if they just applied themselves, they could succeed too.”

    I think these notions are key. I’m not so sure about the “do not give” part because in my experience the rich do give, they just insist on choosing where and to whom they give. In other words, they do not want to “give” to the government, in the form of taxes, so that “the people” can decide where the need is and address it (and there are good reasons for this, but…more on this below). They prefer to form foundations and committees to fund and get together to decide who and what to help. This allows them to feel they are advancing the greater good; simultaneously, they can build influence in their communities, create opportunities for black tie events where they can wear their finery amongst like-minded (and well-heeled) individuals and politicians, and further the interests of their businesses. Their intentions are good in that they DO want to help people, but their perception is that they can do that more effectively privately than “the people” can do collectively in the form of government.

    So, the rich want to help those who they SEE doing all the right things (working hard, taking classes, availing themselves of the means of their pet organizations (including churches)) rather than the faceless people who benefit from social programs (socialism! abuse! laziness! corruption!) that their taxes support and over which their influence is far less direct. Their involvement in their pet philanthropies brings them influence over local politicians and goodwill amongst the working class within their sphere and solidifies the conservative notion that private enterprise can do a better job of bolstering the greater good than government can.

    It is just this sort of rich folks’ influence that creates the corruption, pork, and dysfunction we all rail about in government. As long as the rich folks are building hospitals and endowing things all over town, Joe Public is thankful, Joe Politician can justify doing the rich’s bidding (Joe Billionaire’s industry needs a wider bridge and his ideology values funding the local community college so let’s tie one issue to the other and get some money for our community!), the anti-government sentiments are perpetuated by the increasing imbalance between spending on social programs and revenues (mostly because revenues have been shrinking for more than a decade), and the good (Christian) conservatives will righteously support the rights of the rich to keep more of their money with which to do more of that visible good, all the while complaining about the cut hours at the library, the shrinking fire department, and the (rich guys’) businesses shipping jobs overseas.

    Oh gosh! I could go on and on–because its all interconnected and out of balance. Clearly the solution is in striving to achieve balance, but our political system is so broken, I fear there is little hope without revolution and, despite our nation’s seeming willingness to tell others how to run their countries, the chances of true patriots, in the pursuit of liberty, justice for ALL, and all those constitutional ideals, materializing are dismal at best.

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