Caitlyn Jenner: A “Real” Woman?

The following is a hateful Facebook post I’ve seen making the rounds, with my own rebuttal after it. I realize I’ve posted a lot on Caitlyn Jenner in the last few weeks, but it’s because I am constantly being barraged with this sort of bigoted B.S. nearly every day.  The thought of a transgender individual dealing with what they have to deal with everyday, having to see this woman’s ignorant nonsense when they jump on their Facebook makes me sick to my stomach…

hateful jenner rant

“I’ve heard you say you “identify as a woman”. But I find that highly unlikely and insulting. You see, Mr. Jenner, there is more to being a woman than beautiful gowns and fake boobs. There is more to being a woman than makeup and pretty hair.” – Of course there’s more to being a woman than dresses and makeup.  Caitlyn Jenner never said there wasn’t.  However, there are plenty of women all throughout the world who do like to wear those things.  Does that make them less of a woman too? Who decides what a “real woman” is? You? Those women that choose to be just like you?

“This is something we mothers begin teaching our young daughters at an early age.” – So is every female without a daughter not considered a woman?  You do realize that not every woman chooses to have children, right? You should also probably know that not all mothers teach their children the same things that you teach yours.  Does that mean they aren’t real mothers too?

“As a woman of nearly 50 years, I can tell you what it is truly like to be a woman.” – You know what it’s been like for you to be a woman.  Your existence is unique to you, to your experiences, to your choices.  As with every other human being that exists, whether male, female, or any gender in between, everyone has a life different from everyone else’s.

“You may be able to understand or even empathize, but you are definitely NOT able to “identify.” – Of course Caitlyn can’t identify with your life, anymore than you can identify with her’s.

“For instance, you will never know what it is like to wake up every 28 days with searing stomach pain so bad it doubles you over, yet still trot off to work or school as though everything is fine.” -You will never know what it’s like to have to live in a body that your mind is telling you you don’t belong in.  You will never know what it’s like to have to pretend to be someone you’re not because of fear that if you live like you feel you will be disowned by family and friends, kicked out of your home, or fired from your job, just for trying to be you.

“You will never know what it is like to have your car break down on the side of the road and when a couple men stop to help your prayer is that their intentions are good because there is no way on earth you have the ability to physically hang let alone overpower them.” – You will never know what it’s like to be a transgender person in that same situation, fearing that the chances are good that if they discover you are transgender they will beat you, torture you, and probably murder you because you aren’t like them.

“You have no idea what it is like to long to have a child only to have your third miscarriage, yet still manage to be able to share in the joy of all the other young mothers in your life.  You will never know what it’s like to get pregnant, gain 40 lbs (1/3 your total body weight), hurl all morning long for 4 months straight, yet still care for your other two toddlers, and not drive your husband to the brink. You will never know what it is like to give birth to a 10 lb. baby boy with absolutely no medication!!!” – This comment is insulting to more than just transgender people.  Why?  Because you will never know what it’s like to live in despair because you want those things so badly, but you know you’ll never have them.  You will also never know what it’s like to be born barren, unable to ever have children of your own.  Again, your experiences as a woman don’t define what it is to be a woman for everyone. They are your experiences. No one else’s.

“You will never know what it is like at the age of 50 to be walking down the streets of Phoenix and popping in the Dairy Queen for a cool refreshing treat only to be gripped at that moment with your fourth hot flash of the day.”  – How are you to know what Caitlyn Jenner will or will not feel?  Have you ever been on extensive hormone treatments?

“In my life, met many women who have been widowed. For me to walk up to them and say I identify with them would be ludicrous.” – Exactly.  Yet you feel that it’s okay for you to say the definition of a woman matches up exactly to the way you’ve lived your life. As if without your exact experiences, your exact choices, a woman isn’t a “real” woman.

“Like I said earlier, I can empathize with them, but I cannot identify myself as one of them because I don’t know what that is like – I can only imagine. And let’s not even talk about women who have worked through their double mastectomy.”  – Again… Exactly.  Your experiences are not the same as theirs, anymore than your experiences are the same as Caitlyn Jenner’s experiences.

“No, Mr. Jenner” – It’s Ms. Jenner, whether you like it or not. So try to get it right.

“There is more to being a woman than you could ever experience or even imagine.”  – There is more to being a woman than you could ever experience or imagine.  You also can’t imagine what it’s like to be a transgender person in a world that would shame, beat, and kill you because you don’t meet the status quo.

“And lesson #1 for all true women is this – botox injections, plastic surgeries, designer clothing, and public approval is NOT what makes a woman. A real woman is one who in spite of the stretch marks, age spots, dirt under her nails and tired eyes, and even with 1/2 plastic photoshopped supermodels as her competition, she has carried herself in such a way that her family, husband, and children, see her real beauty and find her far more valuable than rubies or diamonds and they rise up and call her blessed.”  – Again… That’s your idea of what a woman is.  But there are plenty of “real” women who don’t meet your standards.  Everyone is different.  Do you really not understand that?  Your life as a woman is no where near the life of a woman living in say… South Africa? Mexico? China? Do you not consider them “real” women because their lives are different than yours?

“Mr. Jenner” – Again… Ms. Jenner.  Your condescension doesn’t change that.

“You are a privileged white male living in the U.S.A. In fact, you are so free and so privileged, you can even spend your massive amounts of money to change your outward appearance to whatever you wish.” – You are a privileged white woman who thinks your way of life is the only way that’s real. You are so free and privileged that you can sit on your throne in arrogant judgment over all others because they don’t live up to your standards of what a woman is.

“That is NOT something most women around the globe are free to do even if they wanted.”  – Neither is sitting on Facebook ranting at someone you’ll never meet who has lived a life with experiences, hardships, and struggles that you’ve never even come close to experiencing.  But that’s not stopping you, now is it?

“MOST women in our world don’t even have access to a high school education.”Most women in the world don’t have access to hundreds of things that we have in the United States.  Many women don’t have access to food, to proper clothing, to medicine, to a home, but that doesn’t mean those in the United States that do aren’t “real” women.  If that’s the standard you’re setting, then you’re not a real woman either!

“So, Mr. Jenner”Ms. Jenner.

“I find your claim to identify as “a woman” disingenuous, uneducated, and honestly – quite offensive.” – I find your entire rant extremely arrogant, hypocritical, condescending, bigoted, and hateful.  Not to mention that it lacks any sort of empathy or understanding for what transgender people struggle with and have to overcome in their lives.  Do you know that “41 percent of trans or gender non-conforming people surveyed have attempted suicide.”  Gee, I wonder why that is! Could it be because of the fact that hateful, ignorant, people like you shame them, bully them, beat them, and constantly remind them that they aren’t really who they feel they are? Could that possibly be it?  Perhaps if you stepped off of your high horse for just a few seconds you could possibly sympathize with someone like Caitlyn.  Is it likely you will? Probably not.  The ignorant who have placed themselves on a pedestal above others generally don’t want to realize that they might be completely wrong.  I’m not transgender, I’m not a woman.  I am a member of the LGBT community and I am male.  But I would never think for a second that I could ever tell anyone else who also happens to identify with those groups that they are not really LGBT, or not really male.  As I’ve said several times throughout this post, everyone is different, no matter what category they happen to fall into. Whether you agree with her life or not, it is her life.  Try to respect that.

  • James Garcia 7/30/2015

Over the Rainbow

The following is a response that I wrote to a blog entry titled “Pride” found here:

http://smilemeariver.blogspot.com/2015/06/pride.html

The comments from his blog are underlined in blue.  My comments are in black.

“Hello, I’ve just finished reading your blog entry titled “Pride”, and I have a few comments on it.   First off, voicing your opinion is perfectly fine, but you should be ready for others to voice theirs in return. So here’s my take on your post:

“I think it’s a trend. A cry for attention. From your government, a distraction. For $.”

  • racist businessOf course you do, and the reason is because it has no affect on you.  I imagine you would have said the same thing about the civil rights battles that took place in the 60s had you lived then.  For People like you interracial marriage wasn’t something they wanted so it wasn’t important.  They weren’t black, so overturning bigoted Jim Crow laws didn’t matter. Why should they care about the push to change those things? When something has absolutely no impact on your life it’s just not going to seem important to you.  For all of those interracial couples, and for all of those African Americans who had to see “Whites Only” signs in windows, it was a very important concern.  As for today’s battle for marriage equality and equal rights for LGBT people, it is a huge deal… To them and to their loved ones.  Think for one second how you’d feel if you were told that you couldn’t marry the person that you loved.  Imagine that you were denied the right to sit at the bedside of that person while they were sick or dying in the hospital.  The reason you’re being denied that right? Because someone else’s religion was being given control of our laws, in spite of the fact that the government is not supposed to respect any one religion.  Imagine if the Islamic religion were suddenly given control and Christians weren’t allowed to marry (or whatever group you’re a part of).  Would that feel good to you?  Would a move for equality feel like a trend to you then? Like it was a cry for attention? For money? Is it possible for you to have an ounce of empathy for a portion of society that you aren’t a part of for just one moment?

“I have previously stated how I feel about marriage in this post: MARRIAGE I have also created an event: Heterosexual Parade…”

  • StraightPrideI wonder if you also think there should be “White Pride” parades or parking spaces for “Non-Handicapped” people?  You do realize that the reason those things don’t exist is because they are not needed.  White people already have the most privileged position in our society.  Those that don’t have a physical disability don’t need special parking spaces, because they can walk perfectly fine with no trouble.  The same goes for straight people.  They already have the most privileged place in our society.  Their love isn’t questioned or looked down on.  All rights a straight couple could want, they already have.  There aren’t “straight pride” parades because straight people haven’t been beaten in the streets and murdered for being straight.  They don’t have to hide who they are because of fear they will be thrown out of their homes, disowned by their families, or fired from their jobs.  There is no stigma of shame attached to being straight because of misconceptions, misinformation, and flat out lies.  A straight pride parade would be like winning a race and then running around all of those that didn’t win pointing and saying “HAHAHAHAHA!!! I WON LOSER! I WOOOOOON!!! HAHAHAHAHA!!!! WHAT A LOSER YOU ARE!!! LOOK AT MY AWESOME TROPHY!!! LOOK AT THIS COOL PRIZE THAT I WON THAT YOU DON’T HAVE!!! WHAT A DAMNED LOSER YOU ARE!!! LOOOOOOSER!!! LOOOOOOSER!!!”  and then spitting on them and slapping them repeatedly. You know what that makes you?  A HUGE asshole.  Go ahead.  Have that if you want.  But don’t be surprised when everyone that is not a part of your already extremely privileged club wants nothing to do with you.

“Gay Mafia? Maybe animals should be allowed to get married? Would they govern and tax them too? While they’re at it, how about equal rights for insects?”

  • dog weddingI have no idea what “Gay Mafia” means so I’ll just ignore it.  As for the rest of your point, American contract law requires the ability to consent.  Animals and insects can’t speak, can’t read, can’t write, and therefore can’t consent to a contract, much less sign one.  You do realize that in this country marriage is just a contract that bestows certain rights and tax benefits, don’t you?  Have you figured out some way to teach animals to speak English? Have you figured out how to teach them to read and write and take part in our economy and in our society?  If so, why isn’t it national news yet? The fact of the matter is that members of the LGBT community that want to marry are consenting adults.  Two consenting adults should be able to enter into whatever type of contract they want to and there is no valid reason, outside of religious considerations (which should have no affect on our laws) for banning marriage equality for LGBT citizens who pay their taxes, just like any other American.

“In my opinion, there is a difference between a man and a woman. If you can’t appreciate those differences, you can’t enjoy those differences.”  

  • apples and orangesWho is saying there aren’t differences between men and women? Of course there are differences.  There are also differences between gay and straight people, black and white people, short and tall people, people with long hair and people with short hair.  What does that have to do with anything?  Differences and similarities among people aren’t requirements for entering into legal contracts.  In the 60s your statement could easily have been read “In my opinion, there is a difference between black people and white people.  If you can’t appreciate those differences, you can’t enjoy those differences”  as a defense for banning interracial marriage.  You see that, right?

“I don’t agree with boys turning into girls, and I don’t agree with girls turning into boys.”

  • JennerYou’re perfectly welcome to your opinion, as ignorant as it is.  But the thing is, your opinion shouldn’t affect the lives and decisions of others if they aren’t harming anyone in any way. Don’t want to have gender reassignment surgery? Fine. Don’t have gender reassignment surgery.  Don’t take hormones.  But you don’t get to make that decision for others anymore than I can decide where you work, what you eat for dinner, or what church you go to.  Just because you “don’t agree” with something, doesn’t mean that it isn’t happening.  I can say I don’t agree the sky is blue, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t blue anyway, whether I like it or not.  There is so much that science doesn’t know about the biology and the psychology of gender.  If they don’t know for sure what causes someone to be transgender (or gay for that matter), then what makes you the “go to guy” for information?  What makes you think your opinion should matter when it comes to laws and regulations that affect the lives of others? Have you ever even bothered to sit down with a transgender person to have a heart-to-heart talk with them? Have you ever stopped to consider what that person has gone through, what chemicals and hormones are at work within their bodies, what changes their body went through in the womb and since birth that has brought them to where they are in their life? It goes back to that “empathy” thing I mentioned earlier.  You see something that has never affected you, that you’ve never felt or had to experience, and so it becomes something distasteful to you, something strange, and possibly… something that frightens you? So you lash out and act as if you should have a say in the lives of others, even though their lives and their decisions don’t affect you even a tiny bit.  Other than having to see people different than you happily living in society that is.  But if you can’t handle that, then that is your problem and no one else’s.

“The way I see it, some boys never turn into men, and some girls never turn into women. What a shitshow.”

  • babyYou’re absolutely right.  Some people never mature enough to realize that there are others in the world that aren’t like them, and that that isn’t a bad thing.  Some people never learn to embrace the differences of others and see that they can easily coexist in the world with them. Not in spite of, but because of those differences, and that those differences make the world a much more beautiful place to be.

“Welcome to the other side of the rainbow” Really? No thanks.

  • That’s perfectly fine.  Continue to live in your grey world where only those that look and believe exactly like you are welcome.  The rest of us will continue living happily together, enjoying our many differences without you.  For the rest of us the world will be a much more fun and colorful place to live in, and when you’re ready to join us there, you’ll be more than welcome.”

“Diversity is not about how we differ. Diversity is about embracing one another’s uniqueness.” – Ola Joseph

Rainbow2

James Garcia

July 25, 2015

Southern Revisionism and the Confederate Flag

Lately the idea of the Confederate flag has been a topic of discussion.  When arguing with some on the far Right, you hear excuses as to why the Confederate flag isn’t racist, such as; “It’s our heritage! It’s part of our history!”, “It wasn’t even the official flag of the Confederacy!”, and “The Civil War wasn’t about Slavery! It was about States Rights!” or “It was about the economy!” All of these reasons are quite ridiculous and ignore major parts of real history.

“It’s our heritage! It’s part of our history!”:  I am willing to admit that the Civil War and the Confederacy did play a part in American history, because it’s actually true.  The Civil War was a HUGE part of our history.  But that doesn’t mean that we should celebrate and honor those against which America fought.  The Nazi’s also played a big role in American history, but most of us don’t think it’s ok to fly Nazi flags from our vehicles and proudly wave them in the air.  One man I debated with a few days ago posted a meme in response showing the graves of Confederate soldiers with the words “These are American War Veterans too!” But what this man, and whoever made the meme, Gravesfails to recognize is that Confederate soldiers WEREN’T American veterans.  The Confederate states seceded (meaning they gave up their status as Americans) from the United States of America, forming a nation that rebelled against us at the cost of hundreds of thousands of lives.  In reality, Confederate soldiers weren’t Americans at all! They were Confederates.  Honoring the fact that your ancestors died in war is one thing, trying to honor them with equal status of actual American War veterans, who fought and died for the cause of freedom and liberty, many of which fought and died against those very Confederates, is a disgusting and insulting twisting of historical fact.  The Confederates were traitors fighting for the subjugation of African Americans. Period. When the war was over their leaders should have been arrested and tried as traitors.  Those in the South that are alive now don’t get to rewrite history and paint this picture of heroic Confederate soldiers fighting for honor.

kkk confederate“It wasn’t even the official flag of the Confederacy!”: Who cares what the official flag was?  Regardless of whether it was the official flag of the Confederacy, it is a Confederate flag and it is what is proudly flown around by many in the South and by groups like the KKK.  Since the Civil War, the Confederate flag that we know has been flown as a flag of white supremacy, fear, hatred, and racism.  Yes, there were many other Confederate battle flags, but this is the one that has stuck as the symbol of the Confederacy and of the “Southern” way.  As an article I read pointed out, you can claim the Confederate flag is a symbol of heritage, but normal, rational people don’t look at it that way.  When everyone else sees you flying that flag, they automatically label you as a racist, and rightly so.

“If You Ban the Confederate flag because of Slavery…”:  Another common cliche I’ve heard tossed around by Confederate flag apologists is that if we ban the Confederate flag because of slavery, then we have to ban the American flag too, because the North had slaves at one point.  My answer to this, is that the big difference is that America fought a long, drawn out war to end slavery.  America realized it’s horrible mistake and tried to fix it.  No, that doesn’t make up for the fact that America had slaves.  That is a disgusting part of our history that we should never forget, but nevertheless, America fought to change.  The Confederates fought America causing hundreds of thousands of deaths specifically so they could keep people in chains.  That is why we should ban the Confederate flag from government buildings and not the American flag.


Lost Cause 2“The Civil War wasn’t about slavery! It was about [insert made up Southern reason]”:
 Those in the South like to pretend that the Civil War was about something other than slavery, because they don’t want their ancestors to be seen as backwards, slave-mongering, racists who viewed another group of people as animals.  They throw things out like “States Rights” and “The Economy”, but in reality it was about slavery.  All of the letters, speeches, and documents written and spoken by Confederate leaders admit it.  No amount of Southern revisions on history can change this.  This Southern attempt at revisionism isn’t something new.  It goes all the way back to the end of the Civil war to something called “The Lost Cause.”  This was the Southern attempt to paint Confederate leaders as honorable and chivalrous, fighting for tradition, and it was all a big pile of bologna.  Why the United States didn’t stamp this rebellion out completely once the Confederacy surrendered, I guess we’ll never know.  Here are some quotes from Confederate leaders regarding their reason for seceding:

South Carolina’s Reason:…A geographical line has been drawn across the Union, and all the States north of that line have united in the election of a man to the high office of President of the United States, whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery. He is to be entrusted with the administration of the common Government, because he has declared that that “Government cannot endure permanently half slave, half free,” and that the public mind must rest in the belief that slavery is in the course of ultimate extinction. This sectional combination for the submersion of the Constitution, has been aided in some of the States by elevating to citizenship, persons who, by the supreme law of the land, are incapable of becoming citizens; and their votes have been used to inaugurate a new policy, hostile to the South, and destructive of its beliefs and safety.

Mississippi’s Reason: “Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery—the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin…”

Slavery 2Louisiana’s Reason:As a separate republic, Louisiana remembers too well the whisperings of European diplomacy for the abolition of slavery in the times of an­nexation not to be apprehensive of bolder demonstrations from the same quarter and the North in this country. The people of the slave holding States are bound together by the same necessity and determination to preserve African slavery.”

Alabama’s Reason:Upon the principles then announced by Mr. Lincoln and his leading friends, we are bound to expect his administration to be conducted. Hence it is, that in high places, among the Republi­can party, the election of Mr. Lincoln is hailed, not simply as it change of Administration, but as the inauguration of new princi­ples, and a new theory of Government, and even as the downfall of slavery. Therefore it is that the election of Mr. Lincoln cannot be regarded otherwise than a solemn declaration, on the part of a great majority of the Northern people, of hostility to the South, her property and her institutions—nothing less than an open declaration of war—for the triumph of this new theory of Government destroys the property of the South, lays waste her fields, and inaugurates all the horrors of a San Domingo servile insurrection, consigning her citizens to assassinations, and. her wives and daughters to pollution and violation, to gratify the lust of half-civilized Africans.

Slavery
“Mutually beneficial?”

Texas Reasoning:…in this free government all white men are and of right ought to be entitled to equal civil and political rights; that the servitude of the African race, as existing in these States, is mutually beneficial to both bond and free, and is abundantly authorized and justified by the experience of mankind, and the revealed will of the Almighty Creator, as recognized by all Christian nations; while the destruction of the existing relations between the two races, as advocated by our sectional enemies, would bring inevitable calamities upon both and desolation upon the fifteen slave-holding states….”

(Quotes pulled from The Atlantic.)

Any person claiming the cause of the Civil War wasn’t slavery, when the seceding states very plainly stated that it was, is either completely ignorant or they are blatant liars still trying to sew the revisionist  history of the Southern Lost Cause.

In the end, do I think that the Confederate flag should be made illegal?  For private citizens? No. Not at all.  Let them fly it. It identifies the racists in our midst and helps us to avoid them.  But I also don’t believe businesses should be required to sell it anymore than they should be required to sell Nazi paraphernalia.  I also most definitely believe it should not be flown on any government property.  If it is a states flag, it needs to be changed, because, as I’ve stated, it is the flag of a traitorous nation that attempted to undermine American values, and it is a symbol of hatred, oppression, and racism.  No amount of revisionism will change that fact.

Surrender

Speaking in Tongues: A Sign From God or Human Will?

The following is a hate laced rant at my mother from a family member of ours because I frequently support equality and because I came out as a member of the LGBT community myself:

rant

While reading the rant (some of it was cut off, but it doesn’t add anything to the “discussion”), this relative makes mention of me being “baptized in the Holy Spirit” and that me giving up religion is tantamount to “blasphemy of the Holy Spirit!” While I don’t think that not believing in or being unsure of something can be considered blasphemy, at one time I was what Pentecostals would call “baptized in the Holy Spirit.”  In the Pentecostal religion, this is something that his highly sought after.  It’s seen as something special and mysterious.  The Bible is clear that it is just one of many gifts, but to the Pentecostals it is the gift.  For United Pentecostals and Apostolics (we were Trinitarian Pentecostals) you can’t even consider yourself “saved” unless you’ve spoken in tongues.

I don’t claim to understand what happened to me.  Whenever it happened it was an interesting, frightening experience that I couldn’t understand.  All I know, is that up until the first time I was “slain in the Spirit”, as Pentecostals call it, I wanted it.  I thought this would surely cure me of my gay “problem” and that I would finally feel like a good Christian, not doomed to Hell.  I don’t remember the exact event that spurred it, but all I remember is that I was in my early to mid 20’s at a youth meeting and some school shooting or some other disaster had happened and one of the church moms had come into the meeting to tell us about it and said we should all pray to be baptized in the Holy Spirit.  We all joined hands and stood in a circle for at least 15 minutes basically begging God to give us the gift of tongues (how this would have helped the victims of wellwhatever disaster had happened, I don’t know…)  Eventually I remember feeling like I’d drifted off, like I was lying at the bottom of a deep pit staring up at the entrance which seemed like a tiny speck of light far above me.  I could hear others speaking around me and could hear myself speaking words that I couldn’t understand, but it all sounded like it was in another room.  Experiences like this happened a few more times in my life, and I remember a time where my Uncle (who happened to be the pastor of the church I was attending) whispering in my ear (making me feel more than a little uncomfortable) “There will come a time when your mind will tell you this isn’t real, that it’s all in your head, but you remember this conversation! You remember this feeling!” I think I will always remember that feeling and he was absolutely right…  

There were multiple times when I have been “slain in the Spirit”. One time myself and a lady that went to the same church that I did were caught in uncontrollable bouts of laughter, another time at a prayer meeting I got this foreboding sense that something horrible had happened to a family member and couldn’t stop crying about it (in fact, nothing had happened to anyone). Each and every time I had a “Holy Spirit” experience, I wasn’t overjoyed.  What I actually felt was that I wasn’t in control of myself.  While sometimes (as in the case with the laughter) there was a sense of euphoria, there was also a sense of fear.  Even though I was always told that this is the Holy Spirit, it’s still a somewhat frightening sensation “losing control” of oneself.  Having given up religion, it would be very easy for me to just pretend like nothing ever happened, but something did happen, and I’ve always wanted to know what it was.

In the book of Acts in the Bible, “Speaking in Tongues” is described in the following way:

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each Pentecostof us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!”Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?” (Acts 2:1-12)

If that is what speaking in tongues is supposed to be, then everyone in any church I’ve ever went to was doing it wrong, because that wasn’t what I was doing, or what anyone in any church I’ve been to has done… Some United Pentecostals I’ve spoken with have said that there were two versions of the “Gift of Tongues.” One was the first that those in Acts experienced, which was just the initial “outpouring of the Spirit” and the other was the sign that you’re saved, but all of the passages of the Bible that I’ve read on the subject don’t give any indication that there are two separate gifts.  If we are to take the Bible as truth, and surely if the “gift of tongues” was meant to be the way it’s done now, then the Bible would give mention of it.  Right?  Why did the “gift of tongues” seem to die out until 1901 when a woman in a small church started it up again?  If this was the filling of the Holy Spirit that was supposed to be available for all Christians, then why did it disappear for nearly 2000 years?

When I think about speaking in tongues and my newfound agnosticism, I still get a little uneasy and afraid.  After over 30 years of indoctrination, it’s hard to get rid of those “Oh my gosh! If I question this I’ll burn in Hell forever!!!!!” feelings. You’d be surprised how many times that feeling strikes you at the strangest moments… Either way, there are explanations out there.  The Skeptic’s Dictionary states:

Psychiatrist Andrew Newberg, Director of the Center for Spirituality and the Mind at the University of Pennsylvania, studied five African-American Pentecostal women who frequently speak in tongues. As a control activity, Newberg had the women sing gospel tunes while moving their arms and swaying.

Newberg gave the Pentecostals an intravenous injection of a radioactive tracer that allowed him to measure blood flow and “see” which brain areas were most active during the behaviors. Newberg and his associates published their findings in the November 2006 issue of Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging. During glossolalia, the part of the brain than normally makes a person feel in control was essentially shut down. The findings make sense, says Newberg, because speaking in tongues involves giving up control and feeling a “very intense experience of how the self relates to [a] god.

After reading this, one might think “Wow! Surely this is a miracle!” But if it is, then it’s not unique to Christian Pentecostals.  As the Skeptic’s Dictionary continues, this altered mental state exists in other beliefs, but in a slightly different way:

Newberg noted that the glossolalia responses were the opposite of those of people in a meditative state. When people meditate their frontal lobe activity increases, while their parietal activity decreases. In meditation, one loses the sense of self while controlling one’s focus and concentration.

There are countless cultures and religions that have had some form of trance state, for instance Native American Shamanic healers have utilized methods to produce altered states of consciousness in themselves and their patients for thousands of years. A wide variety of plants are used by Medicine Men to alter consciousness and enter the trance state.”  As author John R. Rice notes in his book “The Charismatic Movement” (though he does so in a negative light):

ShamanPhenomena of this type are common among savages and pagan peoples of lower culture. Ecstatic utterances interpreted by a person in a sane state of mind have been verified. In the Sandwich Islands, for example, the god Oro gave his oracles through a priest who “ceased to act or speak as a voluntary agent, but with his limbs convulsed, his features distorted and terrific, his eyes wild and strained, would roll on the ground foaming at the mouth, and reveal the will of the god in shrill cries and sounds violent and indistinct, which the attending priests duly interpreted to the people.

and…

Tongues occupied a significant place in ancient Greek religion. The seeress at Delphi, not far from Corinth, spoke in tongues. According to Plutarch (A.D. 44-117), interpreters were kept in attendance to explain her incoherent utterances. Many scholars have stated that tongues were experienced in the mystery religions (Osirius, Mithra, Eleusinian, Dionsyian, and Orphic cults). Some have concluded that the unintelligible lists of “words” in the “magical papyri” and in certain Gnostic “prayers” are records of ecstatic utterances. About A.D. 180 Celsus reported ecstatic utterances among the Gnostics. Lucian of Samosata (A.D. 120-198) described tongues speaking as it was practiced by the devotees of the Syrian goddess, Juno.

Today shamans (witch doctors, priests, or medicine men) in Haiti, Greenland, Micronesia, and countries of Africa, Australia, Asia, and North and South America speak in tongues. Several groups use drugs to aid in inducing the ecstatic state and utterances. Voodoo practitioners speak in tongues. Buddhist and Shinto priest have been heard speaking in tongues. Moslems have spoken in tongues, and an ancient tradition even reports that Mohammed himself spoke in tongues. According to his own account, after his ecstatic experiences  he found it difficult to return to “logical and intelligible speech

So… I still can’t entirely explain this phenomenon, however I do believe that with enough willpower the human mind is capable of powerful things, even temporarily altering its own chemistry. There are many instances of this happening, (i.e. a mother lifting a car off of her trapped child…)  Perhaps there is a god out there somewhere influencing humanity, causing them to fall into a trance and speak in tongues.  But if there is, he / she / it certainly doesn’t influence Christianity uniquely.  As I’ve shown, there are countless examples of other religions and other cultures experiencing this phenomenon in almost the same exact way.  Surely if speaking in tongues was god showing Pentecostals that they’re his chosen religion, and not just humans willfully altering their brain chemistry, then that god would make it distinct enough to tell it apart from what goes on in so many other cultures… Right?

Worldly Wisdom: A Danger to Belief?

Wisdom

I was perusing the reviews for a book called “Misquoting Jesus” by Bart D. Ehrman to see if it might be something that I’d want to read, and one of the reviews really stuck out to me… First off, it was written by someone who obviously didn’t read the book, but beyond that I mis Jesuswas struck by the content.  The review, written by Amazon user Suz617, states:

So very sorry I ordered any of these books. They were recommended by someone I know, and it is entirely my fault for not researching the author before ordering. I believe you can become “too informed” to be a believer, and this man seems to have done that. While the book is well written, I was very disappointed to learn that he is not a believer – nor does he seem to believe in God.

At first glance, the review doesn’t seem too bad, but as I read it again the part “I believe you can become “too informed” to be a believer, and this man seems to have done that.”  Hmm…  She seems to be stating that the more you know and learn the less likely it is that you’ll be a believer, but paints this as a… bad thing?  She seems to be saying “Don’t study! Don’t research! If you do, you’ll lose your faith!” Ok… But… If a belief doesn’t stand up to reason, logic, and reality, isn’t it better that it be rejected as false? Should we have rejected medical science to continue believing that evil spirits cause illness? What is wrong with learning enough to realize you’ve been wrong?  I am sad to admit, but I used to be the very same way as Suz617.  As my sister and I frequently discuss our basic deconversion from religion, one of the main questions that consistently arises is “How were we misled for so long? How did we not see the glaring contradictions?” The only answer I can come up with is that from a young age religious leaders teach you not to question, not to think for yourself, they even hint that education itself is somehow corrupt and will lead you astray if you’re not careful, and these ideas are backed up by scripture.

TreeFrom the very beginning of the Bible, knowledge is taught to be something wicked, something we should avoid.  What is the one big mistake that Adam and Eve made that got them kicked out of the garden? The answer is that they ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  It was knowledge that got them expelled from the garden. There are even more verses in the Bible that seem to paint an “ignorance is bliss” (Or in this case, “ignorance is your key to eternal life”) picture:

Your wisdom and your knowledge, they have deluded you; For you have said in your heart, ‘I am, and there is no one besides me.’ “But evil will come on you Which you will not know how to charm away; And disaster will fall on you For which you cannot atone; And destruction about which you do not know Will come on you suddenly.” – Isaiah 47:10-11

“At that time Jesus said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants.” Matthew 11:25

“See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.” Colossians 2:8

“O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called “knowledge”– which some have professed and thus gone astray from the faith Grace be with you.”1 Timothy 6:20-21

“For it is written, “I WILL DESTROY THE WISDOM OF THE WISE, AND THE CLEVERNESS OF THE CLEVER I WILL SET ASIDE.” 1 Corinthians 1:19

“Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.”1 Corinthians 8:1

“Then I applied myself to the understanding of wisdom . . . but I learned that this, too, is a chasing after the wind. For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief”Ecclesiastes 1:17-18

…and lastly, one I was told frequently growing up in the goold ol’ Assemblies of God:

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;” – Proverbs 3:5

Or in other words trust blindly that a higher power will fix everything for you.

As I’ve pointed out, Adam and Eve were tossed out of the garden for eating the forbidden fruit of knowledge and also the infamous tale of Solomon is about a man having too much wisdom. These are just a few verses from the Bible that paint knowledge and wisdom in a bad light.  It doesn’t just make it seem sinful, it makes learning seem downright dangerous, with threats of severe destruction and retribution.

But the question is why? Why do fundamentalist Christian leaders warn against knowledge? Why do they teach their children from a young age not to question? Why has this anti-knowledge sentiment been written into the scriptures?  Is it

This is not a wealthy neighborhood... This is the actual Meyers Compound...
This is not a wealthy neighborhood… This is the actual Meyers Compound…

perhaps because, as Suz617 says, you can become too learned to be a believer and because it threatens church power?  Because it’s easier to control those who don’t question and who won’t bother to study the Bible and its history on their own? Could it be because fundamentalist leaders, past and present, like Joyce Meyers, with her massive compound (complete with several mansions and golf course), or Pat Robertson with his own massive homes and personal diamond mine, need their parishioners not to ask why their spiritual leaders get to fly around in personal jets while they are expected to hand over 10% of their meager income every week?  Maybe, for these “leaders” ignorance actually is bliss.  But in their case, their followers remain ignorant, while keeping the Joyce Meyers of the world living in luxurious bliss.  Sounds like a great trade off, doesn’t it?

russell-wisdom-so-rare