Archive for May, 2010
FROM THE NORTH STAR PAPERS (a work in progress)
NOTE: This is written mainly to my nieces and nephews
Comments are closed because family and friends know how to reach me by email.
THAT OLD FAMILIAR GUT WRENCHING FEELING
I once counted myself among the membership of the cult-like Worldwide Church of God (WCG) in the 80s and 90s. I, like many family and friends of mine, learned first hand the power one man, one organization, and one belief system can have in creating a culture of conformity and control.
Rooted in rule-keeping (legalism) to gain and maintain salvation, the WCG leadership used the coercion of “you must” and the equally powerful, but seemingly more benign, “you should” to keep the membership on the same page.
“You musts” included at one time or another:
You must understand WCG teachings and dress appropriately to attend.
You must tithe 10 percent of your income, another 10 percent is saved to attend the Fall Festivals, and some years, you must keep a third tithe of another 10 percent for the less fortunate.
You must attend church on the Sabbath and only dire illness should keep you away.
“You shoulds” included at one time or another:
You women should not wear make-up
You should allow annointing to heal you, not medical doctors
You should find a job that doesn’t make you work on the Sabbath
Strong authoritarian leadership from the pulpit was known to insist women stay with abusive husbands. One woman I know felt compelled within this culture to marry a heavy-handed man so she could learn submissiveness. Another clan of folks considered it normal for men to spank their women as “correction” of bad behavior.
As with any cult or perversely authoritarian culture or system, obedience to the expected behavior patterns were rewarded with actions of inclusiveness. Non-obedience created a chastising that might come from direct ministerial council or be frowned upon, gossiped about, and perhaps even brought up in public.
Because the WCG insisted its teachings were the only way to salvation and any contact with “the outside world” could poison a member’s thinking, members tended to only socialize with other members. The close-knit bond increased a natural enforcement of behaviors and conformity.
Having lived within the WCG system for over a decade — but survived to tell the tale — I’m viscerally aware with every fiber of my being of any attempts by others to push their agenda on me. I instantly recognize the patterns of control with the subtle and not so subtle You musts and You shoulds.
The key to awareness is knowing when someone is “shoulding on” me or someone else. When someone tries to “should on” me, they come from a parental position and insist on a behavior or attitude change. This person tries to dictate with large or small amounts of guilt, shame, or a superior sense of knowing that my thoughts are inferior, less important, or simply ignorant.
It is a matter of trying to change me with external influence.
Those who don’t should on people, come from a different frame of mind. They understand lasting change comes from within, not from enforced conformity or arrogant correction or group-think. Instead of insisting on a person’s change to their perspective, they live their ideals without hypocrisy, they focus on their own inner work and issues, and they are supportive of the person, preferring to love the sinner, but not the sin.
It is a matter of allowing a person to change from within and based on a deeply personal revelation or growth.
Most of my family and WCG survivors understand the previous paragraphs. I wrote them to bring awaken those memories and feelings of being under victimizing authority so the following will make sense.
You see, those memories and feelings are surfacing again for me. I’m shaking my head and fearfully wondering why others don’t see what I see.
Let me show you:
I hear people insisting that I buy into the Green Movement and Global Warming as much as WCG pastors asked me to buy into “we are the only church that will survive and be saved.” If my research into the subject of our planet leads me to other conclusions, I’m called a Flat Earther (WCG talk would be “Worldly”).
I’m from a generation which saw Pluto lose it’s standing as our furtherst planet from the sun, which was told Vietnam soldiers were baby killers, and which watched Watergate unfold. But my skepticism about the vast finances and global governmental change surrounding the Green Movement is viewed as conspiracy theory, bad science, and disastrous to our planet. My opinion on the matter is viewed as regressive, stupid, and dangerous. I “should” know better.
I hear people insisting that health care, housing, jobs, education, and pensions are a right everyone should have. I’m told government can make these a right and fund them with taxes because human rights are more important than individual rights. The collective, the group, the human race are more important than my pursuit of happiness as a wealthy business person.
I’m from a generation that was taught by parents and grandparents that “anyone can grow up to be president in the United States and you can be anything you want to be.” My grandparents in Oklahoma carved out a farm from prairie land because that’s what they wanted. They made me believe effort, character, a good name, common sense, and a constant thirst to learn would help me make my way in the world.
When hobos from the nearby railroad tracks came by for food, my grandparents told the men they could swap chores for food. When a neighbor house caught on fire, everyone pitched in during and afterward to help them get back on their feet. When someone died, the best food in the world arrived at the bereaving family’s door.
What did I learn from such an upbringing?
Adversity and challenges make us stronger people and bond us together.
No one can hold me back but myself.
If at first you don’t succeed, find another way or make one because “can’t” never succeeded.
Loving your neighbor as yourself takes work, but giving and generosity to those in our community builds character and friendship.
Of course my grandparents and parents put a lot of stock into “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps” and “There is no such thing as a free lunch, ” and “whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.”
The result of such messages and the legacy of personal responsibility created perseverance, patience, resiliency, courage, and personal drive. I never felt the world owed me anything, but I owed society a fully engaged, thinking, and civic-minded individual. I believed fully in the idea “Leave it better than you found it,” whether that was a wilderness trail or a community.
So when I hear those who argue for goods and services to be re-distributed equally to all, I wonder what message this sends to society.
Will this create a greater sense of personal responsibility?
Will this give hard workers the incentive to continue at normal levels?
By taking money from the wealthy, what motivation do they have to produce more?
How does this type of human right ethic create true, internalized generosity?
How does re-distribution not create a sense of entitlement vs. perseverance, patience, resiliency, courage, and drive?
Why would someone feel obligated to improve society if society is already there to improve them?
I hear people insisting that government must take more control, create more laws, and institute more regulations to save, to improve, and to guide our country. The recent health care bill alone is slated to create over 150 new boards or commissions*. The IRS ranks will swell with new employees (an agency that is allowed to act on guilty until you prove you are innocent). The Federal government now holds over half of mortgages and the federal government was responsible for up to 95 percent of all new home mortgages in the fourth quarter of 2009.** And student loans are no longer available from just any bank, the government wants to run and regulate them.
Large, invasive governments always lead to cronyism, corruption, and eventually censorship. Currently the typical federal worker is paid 20% more than a private-sector worker in the same occupation.*** That means my tax dollars and yours go to fund and fuel a quickly growing national bureaucracy that often hides within layers and layers of red tape.
If you’ve naturally birthed a baby at home and tried to get documentation later, you know what I mean. If you’ve dealt with any government service like the revenue services, post office, or local housing regulations, you know what I mean. If you’ve found yourself in court, you know what I mean.
But I’m told that I’m a hold-out, regressive, ignorant, or a conspiracy theorist if I don’t think big government is a good idea or even a better idea. If I was to march with the Tea Party folks to protest the colossal government I see being created with things like health care, I’m considered another Timothy McVeigh. Witness NYC Mayor Bloomberg’s conclusion jumping about the recent Times Square bombing attempt: “…homegrown, maybe a mentally deranged person or someone with a political agenda that doesn’t like the health care bill or something.”****
I hear people insist the free market, capitalism, and big business create an environment where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer:
“… changes are needed to keep this capitalism from really killing us–treating workers like road kill, treating the Earth like a sewer, and lowering our living standards–which is what is happening right now… “*****
If I think it’s not the system that’s broken, but what’s really needed are old fashioned American values, Godly character, and incentives to be more generous, then I’m hopelessly blind. If people offer these kinds of solutions, they are drowned out by “SAVE US, BIG GOVERNMENT:
1) Create huge tax breaks to all who either give to charity or develop workable and self-funding programs to aid literacy, health care needs, or other causes.
2) Create huge grants to viable, proven, and quickly self-sustaining programs, business, or ideas that help re-train those out of work, that break the cycle of poverty in a community, or that teach people how to develop their own small businesses.
3) Give huge tax breaks to companies, businesses, and individuals that help fund health care clinics, provide college scholarships, or otherwise powerfully impact their communities.
4) Empower people to use their skills in true volunteer work by creating and promoting a national volunteer clearinghouse online
5) Empower those using social media to fundraise for worthy causes.
6) Create a national challenge to inventors to come up with a job-creating product or service. First prize is Congressional decree that winner will never again have to pay taxes.
7) Create a national lottery that plays 4 times a year. All proceeds generated will go to grants for innovative technologies.
At the same time, put civic duty, citizenship awareness, character-building back into the school curriculum along with the understanding that personal merit and personal responsibility create value and societal improvement in and of themselves.
As you read this, you don’t have to agree with me. But please don’t ask me to agree with a president, a government, and a media that tells me my opinion, my beliefs, my religion, my choices and my respect for the Constitution and the rule of law are dangerous, hateful, fear-mongering, backward, stupid, or killing the planet.
More importantly, tell me why social justice and environmental justice and the rigorous application of political correctness seem so familiar?
Don’t you remember a time when certain jokes, music, and behavior was deemed “worldly” and to be avoided?
Don’t you remember when people tried to control you, but you kept an inner fire burning inside for the liberty of thought and action?
Don’t you remember the burning in indignation when those in power or position had the rules bent for them?
Don’t you remember the hypocrisy of it all?
Don’t you remember how easy it was to put on a fake face for church or for parents, but you hated doing it because it wasn’t you?
And what of all those divorces and the break-ups and fractioning of congregations — did they happen because people truly bought into and internalized the past controls or because they were finally free of those controls and able to think for themselves?
I hear certain people saying that social (economic/environmental) justice is an integral part of God’s plan for humanity. I hear that “Arizona’s SB 1070 must be named as a social and racial sin, and should be denounced as such by people of faith and conscience across the nation…Arizona is deciding whether to wage war on the body of Christ.” (Bill Wallis).
I don’t recall mandated redistribution of wealth by government that is a republic in the Bible. I don’t recall Christ involving himself with politics or political correctness of his day, or he would have taken on Rome’s racist, oppressive government.
I do recall this statement by Christ: “The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.”
If Christ had been coerced, mandated, regulated, or guilted into sacrificing himself, it would mean nothing. God does not force himself on anyone. He does not force people to do take certain actions. Choice matters to God, that’s why he let Adam and Eve make a choice. He could have easily stopped them “by stepping on their throats with his boot” (paraphrasing the Obama administration about BP oil), but intimidation, control, and manipulation are not his style:
“Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve…” 1 Peter 5:2
“Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians 9:7
To re-paint Christ as a political, social do-gooder is simply wrong. He came to change hearts and minds from the inside out with his Holy Spirit and Holy Word, not from the outside in with ever-growing enforcement of “this is what you should eat,” “this is how you should think,” “this must be done!” “Our planet and animals demand action now!” or “this is how we make life better.”
Look, you know me. You know I’m trained in self defense skills like pattern recognition and uncovering emotional predators. I’ve had my fill of parental authorities who mold the “law” and “truth” and “science” and “facts” to their convenience of the moment. I understand the manipulation of power and the subtlety of control.
With this perspective, I want you to know I feel the US is changing toward something more WCG than free. I think corruption, special interests, and cronyism are so rampant that less than 1 in 100 politicians and half of federal employees have integrity, and the bureaucracy is exploding with more such people and no real checks and balances anymore. Add to that the power to silence dissenters with demonizing, belittling rhetoric because they are deemed unworthy and too dangerous to the welfare of the nation. Add to that an endless bureaucracy that like a catfish in a huge lake never stops growing. Add to that a polarized media.
We have debts individually and as a nation that could crash and burn with one major earthquake, a series of dirty bomb attacks, or a cyber attack on the right infrastructure. We have a divisiveness pitting dems against repubs, red against blue, the coasts against the heartland, intellectual elites against blue collar workers, and the list goes on. The next crunch of mortgages about to hit is for commercial properties.
Yes, this problem has been part of several presidents’ legacy, but the tide has turned to make it far worse. Yes, I’ve lived in the Vietnam years, during the Cold War, and watched 9-11, so I know America is a strong, vibrant nation able to recover from much. But those instances came when less was on the table. Now the table is full and looking wobbly to me.
I know the progressives believe “if not now, when?” for fulfilling everyone’s human rights, health care rights, job rights, and housing rights and for saving the planet, but sometimes invasive or even exploratory surgery isn’t something a sick patient can undergo and survive.
Patterns. They are everywhere. The most irritating is that I feel a set up or trap about to be sprung. If walked into a room and felt this way, I’d take all the precautions necessary to judiciously assess and respond to keep myself and others safe.
This is my attempt to let you know there’s danger in the room.
Don’t assume you are safe and nothing will happen. Remember 9-11?
Don’t assume the authority figure across the room has no agenda. Remember Watergate?
Don’t assume the smiling person insisting you give up your money, property, or liberty to him is really going to use it for the benefit of all. Remember the Soviet Union?
Don’t assume what is considered “settled science” is truly settled. Remember Pluto?