“Pro-life” Group Touts Virtue of Suffering

Suffering - self-flagellationCatholic Pro-life organization wants you to just put up with suffering—and actually says so!

The American Life League mobilizes devout Catholics against medical options that, to their way of thinking, violate God’s will. If you should drive past a Planned Parenthood and see elderly women fingering rosary beads next to pictures of the Virgin Mary, or young men holding Bibles and praying, American Life League probably had a hand in their presence there. Ironically, ALL also spreads misinformation about birth control, for example via a Pill Kills campaign—which means they feed the line-up of Catholic women waiting for abortion services.

ALL promotes a passive, “let go and let God” approach to the dying process as well as family planning, so with ALL Euthanasia Sufferingdeath with dignity approved by the California legislature (and validated across Canada by a Supreme Court ruling), the group is fighting back—by touting the benefits of suffering. “Suffering is a grace-filled opportunity to participate in the passion of Jesus Christ. Euthanasia selfishly steals that opportunity.” So proclaims an ALL meme making its way across the internet.

Mother Teresa – “The Kiss of Jesus”

This is not a fringe position in the Catholic Church, which has long extolled the spiritual virtues of suffering. Mother Teresa’s attraction to pain shaped her ministry to the dying, and one of the most serious criticisms of her Calcutta homes was that patients were denied modern medical care to relieve pain even when the Missionaries of Charity had the funding to do so. By her own report, Mother Teresa once told a woman to imagine that her suffering was kisses from Jesus. “Suffering, pain, sorrow, humiliation, feelings of loneliness, are nothing but the kiss of Jesus, a sign that you have come so close that he can kiss you.”

“Tell Jesus to stop,” the woman responded.

The message the saint failed to absorb from her own story was this: Many people—Catholic or not, ill or not—reject the idea that suffering is a virtue. Whether we’re talking about nuns who would rather not self-flagellate, dying elders who would rather receive relief or even hasten the end, or desperate parents who would rather prevent the next childbirth—many people would rather not “let go and let God” manage their suffering or that of a loved one in their care. Many of us believe that causing unnecessary suffering or failing to mitigate suffering when we can is evil. Based on our moral and spiritual values, denying relief is not just wrong—it is horrific.

Catholic Hospitals Subject to Pro-Suffering Directives

One place this clash of values is playing out is in hospitals and outpatient clinics across the U.S. that have been absorbed by Catholic healthcare corporations. The mergers leave no non-Catholic care option in many communities—as, for example, in seven Washington counties where all hospitals are now Catholic owned or managed. By design, merger contracts between secular and Catholic health care systems often require that once secular institutions become subject to the “Ethical and Religious Directives” of the Catholic bishops. Despite support for palliative care, these religious directives promote suffering over patient choice in dying:

Catholic health care institutions may never condone or participate in [death with dignity] in any way. . . . Patients experiencing suffering that cannot be alleviated should be helped to appreciate the Christian understanding of redemptive suffering.

Besides opposing death with dignity, Catholic teachings warn against pain medications that cloud consciousness at the end of life.  This can lead to resistance when patients might otherwise choose sedation as the following comments, posted at Raw Story,  illustrate:

IndyGuy: I watched my father in law die of lung cancer and the Catholic hospital he was at convinced him not to take morphine but as he was close to death my wife was able to get a medic to give him the medication. I do not understand this medieval thinking that’s still alive with the Church

KRM1255: Last week a Catholic hospice nurse told me she didn’t believe in morphine for my 92 year old aunt. I told her that was too bad – my aunt was going to get it anyway.

Although hospital systems vary in terms of how forcefully they apply the Directives, in theory strict adherence is non-negotiable; and the aim of the bishops is to move Catholic-owned institutions toward more rigorous enforcement:

Catholic health care services must adopt these directives as policy, require adherence to them within the institution as a condition of medical privileges and employment, and provide appropriate instruction regarding the Directives for administration, medical and nursing staff, and other personnel.

Watchdog groups like CatholicWatch.org and MergerWatch.org warn that—thanks to increasingly bold religious freedom claims by Catholic institutions—unsuspecting Americans may find themselves, like Mother Teresa’s patient, experiencing the kiss of Jesus as they wait for the end.

Suffering with Jesus

The Bible teaches that the wages of sin is death. “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned . . .” (Romans 5:12) This kind of thinking is used to explain why Jesus had to die, and why his blood cleanses all of our sins, preparing us for heaven.

But, as any moviegoer can tell you, a swift and painless death rarely makes a very satisfying story. In particular, a swift and painless death of Jesus might not seem sufficient to make up for all of the evil in the world since, according to the story, he remains dead for only three days. Consequently, Christians—and Catholics in particular—have long played up the protracted torture in the crucifixion story.Stations of the Cross - Glorified Suffering

In the Middle Ages, painters and sculptors competed to create the most graphic, visceral depictions of blood and anguish in the crucifixion story. Even today, the interior of many Catholic churches is ringed by a series of images called “The Stations of the Cross,” which depict the stages of torment leading up to the death scene. Mel Gibson’s movie “The Passion of the Christ” turned this sequence into feature-length torture porn, and churches bussed children and elders to witness the spectacle. Gibson sought to convey the exquisite skill with which our Iron Age ancestors inflicted protracted pain, a skill our species mastered early. This is the “passion” story in which the American Life League invites us all to participate, holding it up as a preferable alternative to choice in dying. Only their invitation isn’t really an invitation, because what they actually want is to prevent any of us from choosing otherwise.

Eve Cursed to Suffer

Catholic opposition to family planning including abortion has many roots, but one of those roots is theological glorification of pain and even death during childbirth. According to the Genesis story, Eve brought sin into the world, and the trauma of labor is her divinely appointed punishment:

To the woman he said, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” (Genesis 3:16)

Centuries later, the New Testament writer of 1 Timothy reminded his audience that “women will be saved through childbearing” (1 Timothy 2:15).

Through the ages, Christian leaders–both Catholic and Protestant–have echoed the Iron Age view of the Bible writers that women are dirty and morally vacant and must subjugate themselves to men.

In pain shall you bring forth children, woman, and you shall turn to your husband and he shall rule over you. And do you not know that you are Eve? God’s sentence hangs still over all your sex and His punishment weighs down upon you. You are the devil’s gateway; you are she who first violated the forbidden tree and broke the law of God. It was you who coaxed your way around him whom the devil had not the force to attack. With what ease you shattered that image of God: Man! Because of the death you merited, even the Son of God had to die… Woman, you are the gate to hell. –Tertullian, father of Latin Christianity

I fail to see what use woman can be to man, if one excludes the function of bearing children. –Saint Augustine

In this view—at its most extreme—if a woman should suffer or die in childbirth, that is simply the right and proper order of things. “Even though they grow weary and wear themselves out with child-bearing, that is of no consequence; let them go on bearing children till they die, that is what they are there for.” – Martin Luther [Erl. ed., 16 2 , p. 538].

Given the words of the Bible writers, and given the words of Christianity’s patriarchs, one can understand the muddled mentality that allows right-wing Christians to feel virtuous while promoting policies that force people to suffer against their will. If only pain has the power to cleanse sin, and only God gets to decide when enough is enough, then offering people choices about the beginnings or end of life denies the devil his due.

Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington. She is the author of Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light and Deas and Other Imaginings, and the founder of www.WisdomCommons.org.  Her articles about religion, reproductive health, and the role of women in society have been featured at sites including AlterNet, Salon, the Huffington Post, Grist, and Jezebel.  Subscribe at ValerieTarico.com.

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About Valerie Tarico

Seattle psychologist and writer. Author - Trusting Doubt and Deas and Other Imaginings. Founder - www.WisdomCommons.org.
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41 Responses to “Pro-life” Group Touts Virtue of Suffering

  1. Putney Swope says:

    Valerie, thanks for the article. It just boggles the mind that people can believe that stuff. The earth is billions of years old not 6000. There was no Adam and Eve. No Adam and Eve equals no original sin. No original sin then no need for all this superstitious bronze age thinking and storytelling about a preacher/philosopher that was required by his father/himself??? to die for our sins. What kind of a twisted convoluted story is that! Where is the fairness or personal responsibility in that? How can that be remotely justifiable? But some people (the dependent and simple minded) do have an overwhelming desire to believe in and belong to something they feel is greater than themselves. There has never been a shortage of charlatans to fill that need.
    That’s my take on it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • You’re welcome. And yes, alas–far too true.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Lowell Bushey says:

      Hi, Putney,

      I would go a little further. If someone responded “shucks, I done got me a third grade education,” at least I’d understand. What boggles the mind is, why do people with brains and college degrees believe this stuff?

      Liked by 2 people

      • Gunther says:

        Because too many of us have been brainwashed by religion organizations aided and abetted by our parents since the day we were born and unlike computer systems, the human brain can not be easily deprogrammed.

        BTW, as comedian Bill Burr pointed out, God made us to fail so why should be judged by him? In addition, if Christ die for our sins, then we should not be born with original sin in the first place. Finally why should we be burden with Adam and Eve sin since we were not there at the time when it happen. It is kind of like blaming the workers for causing the downfall of their companies when it was actually the CEOs that destroy them and the workers had no say in how the companies is being run.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Putney Swope says:

        Right Lowell. Not sure what causes people with good educations to do that. College is suppose to teach you to think and to question. Is religion a security blanket? Is it a form of tribalism? Maybe they can’t handle the truth.
        I don’ know.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Gunther says:

        Dear Ms. Swope:

        Elementary school and high school should also be places where you are taught to question and to think as well. George Carlin gave credit to his 8 years of grammar school where he was taught to question things, think for himself, to trust in himself, and to trust his instincts.

        The home should also be a place where your parents should do the same things that Carlin learn in his school; however, even the good parents don’t want to do these things because they fear that their parental authority will be undermined, that their kids will find out that their parents don’t have the answers to everything and that they are not all powerful, and that parents will lose mental control over their kids.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Putney Swope says:

        Gunther,
        Agreed. But who was it that said, “Get them when they are young and you get them for life”? That seemed to be the theory behind the catholic grammar and high school I attended. It didn’t work. Perhaps it was because my parents appeared to go through their religious motions for their kids. Perhaps it was because I started catholic school in the 4th grade. Whatever the reason, by 7th grade I was pretty seriously questioning most of what the nuns said. I distinctly remember coming to the conclusion that anything about the supernatural was speculation at best and most likely fabrication. . I intuitively knew that I didn’t want to waste any of my time listening or thinking about it. The older I get the more convinced I am that I was right and I get really pissed off when people try to shove their fantasies down my throat.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Gunther says:

        Ms. Swope:

        “Who was it that said, “Get them when they are young and you get them for life”? That seemed to be the theory behind the catholic grammar and high school I attended.”

        That is also reinforce in the Catholic colleges and universities along with the other Christians ones. If I had informed my parents that I did not believe in God at your age, my parents would raise Cain with me and informed me that as long as I was in their house and they were paying the bill, I would have to do what the Bible and the church authorities says that I must do. Nice way to use economics as a tool of intimidation and fear to force God and religion down your throat on kids who have no political, social, and/or economic power.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. jg says:

    Ouch! (in a powerfully-written, I-am-moved sort of way).

    Like

  3. wostraub says:

    Valerie, your excellent article also implies that human suffering is unavoidable, so the church — unable to explain it away — simply made it into a virtue. Pain, suffering and misery are still with us today, but it must have been so much worse thousands of years ago. The church somehow found a way to make it sound “redemptive,” though I can’t see that approach alleviating the severity of great physical suffering and pain very much. The “kiss of Jesus” and lemonade from lemons, indeed.

    And let’s deny that human misery includes all forms of mental suffering as well, including Down’s syndrome, clinical severe depression and insanity, suffering that is “twice blessed” — afflicting not only the sufferers but their caregivers.

    These issues are also addressed in the book “God’s Problem” by University of North Carolina biblical studies professor Bart Ehrman. The book addresses the real issue behind suffering, which is theodicy — the question of why a loving, omnipotent God permits suffering as well as injustice. (I promise that I will get around to reading your books as well!)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sha'Tara says:

      It’s a paradox. To resolve the problem, you have to change your input. The less brainwashed realize the problem is the “loving God” concept – an entity which cannot exist simply because of the endless contradictions involved. God, as promoted, would instantly implode if any evidence was ever found that proved its actual existence. No one who has studied the nature of God could believe in the existence of that chimera.

      A smaller group approaches pain and suffering by claiming it’s all in the sufferer’s mind – that “we” choose to accept our pain and suffering thus making it real. I’ve had some very interesting discussions with such people – all of them non-theists. Some claim that it is “I” who promote pain and suffering by empathically “seeing” it and feeling it in others, seeking to alleviate it, thus feeding their pain, augmenting it by giving it greater reality.

      It’s not just Catholics or Biblicists who hold twisted thoughts on pain and suffering. My observations tell me that Earthians are at heart sadistic and masochistic, ever unable to distance themselves emotionally, once and for all, from either. They experience periods of sanity which require regular break up in periods of madness such as violent revolution, war, genocide, or pogroms based on racism, misogyny, rape, lynching mobs and as in India, regular and accepted attacks upon the poor, or lower castes by the Brahmins.

      You’re not looking at a particular group’s problem, you’re looking at a species-wide problem; a problem often ignored because it is controlled and constrained by a veneer of civilization, but never eradicated. Think “Fiddler on the Roof” and justification for the pogrom against that community of Jews: it’s tradition; it’s necessary; there has to be regular bloodletting and raping to prevent greater outbreaks. Property is destroyed, some girls are raped, some men die, then normalcy can return for a time. Isn’t that how it is also with the wildebeest after the lions have taken their allotted quota?

      Earthians are predators: there’s your “why?” answer.

      Liked by 1 person

      • tildeb says:

        No, predation is not the answer or we wouldn’t come equipped with mirror neurons. But we can suppress the urge to compassion by manually interpreting data through a learned filter (that’s why we can be trained not to feel the pain of another). So, yes, this problem that pretends suffering is good is very much a learned response and yes, the Church undertakes exactly this.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Sha'Tara says:

        Quote: “No, predation is not the answer or we wouldn’t come equipped with mirror neurons. But we can suppress the urge to compassion by manually interpreting data through a learned filter (that’s why we can be trained not to feel the pain of another). So, yes, this problem that pretends suffering is good is very much a learned response and yes, the Church undertakes exactly this.”

        Am seriously considering your comment. I had similar thoughts about predation after I commented: doesn’t fit. I get stuck on the term “mirror neurons” – not in my “dictionary” as yet. Care to explain, in context of the comments? As for learned response, I get it: She’s an adulteress; he’s a Jew; they’re black; you can’t see my daughter, you’re from the wrong side of the tracks; they’re Muslim, they’re terrorists… and etc. Is that what you mean? Yes, the church does, certainly did in my catechism, undertake to convince people, especially children and the underprivileged that suffering is something to attain to, a Christ like state. At age 12, prepping for Confirmation, I wanted to emulate such a life of suffering. Easy to see how someone like Mother Teresa, having made it through the ranks of such brainwashing, would promote this in full sincerity.

        Like

      • tildeb says:

        Mirror neurons are fascinating little buggers. The name kind of gives it away: from Wiki:

        “A mirror neuron is a neuron that fires both when an animal acts and when the animal observes the same action performed by another. Thus, the neuron “mirrors” the behavior of the other, as though the observer were itself acting. Such neurons have been directly observed in primate species.”

        Why the redundancy?

        Well, there’s s very robust correlation between critters that possess these and behaviours that we call ‘moral’ (up to and including rats). There’s also some evidence that people whop exhibit little to no social consideration for their actions seem to have a statistically significant lower activation of these neurons but there’s much debate about this finding.

        It makes sense to me that we improve our understanding of our environment when we personalize it, when we attribute what we would would do or feel into our environment, to put ourselves in place of the Other… be it critter or circumstance. This is an invaluable social tool for group cohesion, to assume that the Other is experiencing what we ourselves would experience if we were in their place. These neurons seem to allow us to experience first hand what we observe second hand and then we react accordingly. When primates observed other primates eating, the mirror neurons fired up so that the observing primate came as close as possible (from the brain’s perspective) to ‘experiencing’ what the other primate was actually doing.

        The proposed link to this biological mechanism for empathy is understandably appealing but these are early days. That we do feel compassion, empathy, remorse, and sympathy, is a pretty good indicator to me that there is a biological mechanism to produce the necessary chemicals for these versions of biological responses we call ’emotions’ and these mirror neurons offer us an interesting possibility (look at how powerful is the evidence from the mirror box for eliminating phantom pain from missing limbs). That we can turn off this empathetic response through targeted training (think of the military) is also good evidence that neural pathways are the means by which we feel such emotions.

        So the idea that we are no different than any other predator that exhibits little if any moral consideration I think is quite inaccurate. We do have mirror neurons that seem to be redundant and biology tends to get rid of redundancies because of the energy costs. In other words, we have them for a biological reason.

        I think we have compelling evidence that empathy is as natural to young children as curiosity, and the moral behaviours demonstrated by them even at very young ages good evidence that how much or little we nurture such development plays a key role in how these neural pathways are either enhanced or pared back. And how we are trained in childhood to deal with the suffering of others can’t help but affect how much or little compassion we carry forward into adulthood. Criticize the Church for the neural training of children it promotes to sustain its doctrines and it’s no wonder that people take this criticism personally… regardless of how accurate it may be. Put another way, have you ever met a person raised in Catholicism who wasn’t ready, willing, and able to feel shame for just about anything human?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Sha'Tara says:

        Question: “have you ever met a person raised in Catholicism who wasn’t ready, willing, and able to feel shame for just about anything human?”

        It’s been a long time since I interacted with a primarily Catholic mindset, but the level of “shame” over anything human was certainly LESS obvious than I found within the evangelical-fundamentalist protestant groups. More Puritanism in these groups.

        Liked by 1 person

      • tildeb says:

        I suspect they learned from the best!

        Like

  4. If your purpose was to persuade me to become Catholic, you’ve failed miserably. What I would like to see is religions taxed at the same rate as less toxic businesses.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Gunther says:

    I used to believe as a Catholic that self-sacrifice for the greater good of society was a form of virtue suffering because in the long run it would paid off for you. Sadly, it took me a long, long time for me to realizes that kind of attitude (though no fault of your mine own or anyone else) was only for suckers while the people who brainwashed you on it are enjoying the good life at your expense.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Sha'Tara says:

    Self-sacrifice for the greater good isn’t the problem Gunther. That usually means you are a compassionate person. The problem is in embracing, or even causing, suffering for the sake of suffering believing it makes one closer to God.

    Like

    • Gunther says:

      Sha Tara, I agreed with your perspective; but my problem I was brainwash into believing that we will be rewarded for our self-sacifice even if its means that we give up having some sort of a life? Why should we have to wait until we die to get our reward? It sounds selfish, but too many of us are tired of butting our heads against the wall and getting nothing for our efforts and then we no longer believe in God and drop out of church.,

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sha'Tara says:

        Oh boy, I totally understand that feeling. But something happened to me, personally, after I dropped out: I had to make choices now, and I realized I still wanted to serve – not because I expected any sort of reward, now or in some hereafter, but because, to me, it was the logical choice to make if I wanted my life to make any sense, to have any personal value, to have joy. I wanted to experience joy and I learned very quickly that joy is the flip side of sorrow: never one without the other. Both I found through the practice of compassion.

        It’s been a series of mind-expanding wonders. Freedom, for me, is making my own choices regardless of how any others, or any system judge me for those choices. At least those nuns laid out some groundwork I could later build on once the controlling apparatus was shed. I realize not everybody can understand that everything is energy; that one can use something essentially “evil” and make something good from it.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Jamie says:

    You are conflating opposition to euthanasia with opposition to palliative care. Catholic teaching is explicit, and always has been, about the importance of comforting the afflicted. The dying experience the sufferings of fear and uncertainty, of loss of control– and those are very real sufferings. I do not apologize for believing that they can be offered up fruitfully by people of faith. But Catholics do not propose that patients in physical pain should be told to suck it up because Jesus. Consider this piece from the USCCB site on the importance of effective pain management: http://www.usccb.org/about/pro-life-activities/respect-life-program/killing-the-pain.cfm

    This is far from a fringe position held only by ignorant people with Iron Age sensibilities. Atul Gawande, for instance, clearly opposes euthanasia in his excellent book Being Mortal. I encourage you again, Valerie, to respond to the actual teaching of the Catholic Church rather than a straw-man mischaracterization thereof.

    Like

    • Thank you. I revised to acknowledge that Catholic care systems support palliative care, which indeed they do, as long as it doesn’t decrease mental clarity at the end of life or hasten death.

      That said, I don’t think this is a straw man. Consider the following two comments, posted at Raw Story in response to this article:

      IndyGuy: I watched my father in law die of lung cancer and the Catholic hospital he was at convinced him not to take morphine but as he was close to death my wife was able to get a medic to give him the medication. I do not understand this medieval thinking that’s still alive with the Church

      KRM1255: Last week a Catholic hospice nurse told me she didn’t believe in morphine for my 92 year old aunt. I told her that was too bad – my aunt was going to get it anyway.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Lowell Bushey says:

    Hi, Sha’Tara,

    You referred to “regular and accepted attacks upon the poor, or lower castes by the Brahmins.”

    Your comment is eerily similar to the following statement by Economist Robert Reich:

    “For almost forty years Republicans have pursued a divide-and-conquer strategy intended to convince working-class whites that the poor were their enemies.

    Republicans told the working class that its hard-earned tax dollars were being siphoned off to pay for “welfare queens” (as Ronald Reagan decorously dubbed a black single woman on welfare) and other nefarious loafers. The poor were “them” – lazy, dependent on government handouts, and overwhelmingly black – in sharp contrast to “us,” who were working ever harder, proudly independent (even sending wives and mothers to work, in order to prop up family incomes dragged down by shrinking male paychecks), and white.”

    IMO, there’s very little difference between the caste system in India and the class system in the US, except that, instead of claiming that our system is ordained by some supernatural deity, the wealthy claim the fiction of a meritocracy. In other words the wealthy claim that they are wealthy because they earned it, and that the poor are poor because they are shiftless and lazy. Worse yet, a large portion of the population is stupid enough to believe it!

    Just in case anyone takes issue with this statement, here are a couple of statistics:

    The two richest families in the US, the Waltons and the Kochs, are collectively worth $240 billion, or NEARLY 1/4 OF A TRILLION DOLLARS. It’s all inherited; none of them did anything to earn it!

    Analysis of Donald Trump’s fortune indicates that he’d be wealthier if he;d put his money into an index fund. Obviously, his wealth is due primarily to inheriting a large amount of money from his dad.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Lowell Bushey says:

    Hi, Putney,

    After thinking about it for 24 hours, I see a far more insidious problem. It’s not so much that there are religious extremists out there, but that far too many people have a benign attitude toward them (as long as they’re Christian).

    No doubt we should all thank Valerie for trying to set the record straight!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Putney Swope says:

      Lowell,
      How true. I think you are absolutely right. I was talking to my sister yesterday. She lives in N. Carolina. She would love to tell the locals to dispense with all their prayers at social gatherings but fears the her view would be met with open hostility. I would suspect there are others who think the way she does but they too are too intimidated by the aggressive majority to speak out. I see some hope with the millennials asserting themselves more. They seem less tolerant of backward traditions and prejudice against minorities.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Lowell Bushey says:

        Hi, Putney,

        I tend to agree with you about the younger folks. Being educated does seem to help. :)

        I’ve generally kept a low profile as well, although I’ve never been afraid to point out the lunacy of certain religious beliefs, such as Noah’s Ark (there are nearly 500,000 species of insects), or the idea that the universe is 8000 years old (the Andromeda Galaxy, for example, is 2 billion light years away, which means that an observer sees it as it was 2 billion years ago), or the Ten Commandments (the Tenth Commandment states, in effect, “do not covet another man’s property, including his wife and his slaves”).

        (Perhaps like your sister) I’m faced with a conundrum. I was born and raised in a small town, and I’m a “fish out of water” in a large metropolitan area. Unfortunately for me, small communities, where I’m much more comfortable, are usually very Conservative. I was lucky to find a small “college town”, (Pullman, WA) that is adjacent to another small “college town” (Moscow, ID), so at least I have plenty of company when it comes to sensible ideas. :)

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Putney Swope says:

    Lowell,
    Ahhh, now that seems to be the crux of the problem. How do we negotiate our positions in the community. I will be relocating to a small town in NY. They seem to be cliquish and too ready to brand and banish people. I already have the “heathen” tag for my refusal to join a church. I try not to piss in anyone’s cheerios but, like you, I become frustrated with stupid. The link below is to an article that calls out the wackos. The comments that followed illustrate the conundrum. There are offensive believers and there are some good people that we need to win over to foster a more accepting and less judgmental society. We don’t want to alienate them.
    I suppose it boils down to how much you respect or want to avoid offending the other person.
    http://www.salon.com/2015/09/27/make_them_shut_up_about_god_the_right_wings_religious_delusions_are_killing_us_and_them/

    Liked by 1 person

    • Gunther says:

      Good luck in dealing with small-minded people in small towns. I knew of a lady who had lived in several small towns and she had experience the same problems with them only the difference was she was black but then again, these small town people can and do discriminate against you even if you come from the same racial, religious, ethnic group like they are. Believe me, they are not like the friendly people of Mayberry or Petticoat Junction. More like Peyton Place and a Town without Pity..

      Liked by 1 person

      • Lowell Bushey says:

        Hi, Gunther,

        I couldn’t disagree with you more on this one; in fact, my experience has been just the opposite. (Note that my analysis doesn’t apply to all residents, so it’s clearly oversimplified, but it’s essentially true.)

        In Rochester, NY, in the ’60’s and ’70’s, the following happened: Blacks moved into an Italian neighborhood; Italians couldn’t stand Blacks, so they moved into a German neighborhood, Germans couldn’t stand Italians, so they moved into a Ukrainian neighborhood, etc., etc. Finally when there was no place left in the city, everyone, except the Blacks, moved to the suburbs. (Apparently, the groups’ hatred for each other was superseded by their common hatred for Blacks.)

        Eventually, of course, Blacks moved into formerly “lily white” suburbs (no doubt due to the enforcement of anti-discrimination laws). Finally, after nearly 50 years, this trend appears to be reversing (no doubt aided by a decrease in prejudice among younger adults).

        (One further note: Whether most people realize it or not, the “benediction” case that recently came before the Supreme Court, Galloway v Town of Greece, did not not involve a small town “in the middle of nowhere”. Greece, NY is a Rochester suburb with a population of over 100,000!)

        Although the small town in which I grew up (Beaver Falls, NY, pop. 300) was “lily white”, there was a good deal of religious diversity in the area, including, but not limited to, 2 sects of Mennonites, Anabaptists, Evangelical Protestants, Methodists, Roman Catholics, and Evangelical United Brethren. Due to the large number of denominations in such a small area, (and possibly because they all were “insiders”) these groups respected, tolerated, and learned to live with each other. Note that Mennonites, especially Mennonite women, stood out, because they dressed differently. No one bullied, denigrated, or ridiculed them. Also note that, according to their own statements, Black students at Jefferson Community College (in Watertown, 35 miles away) experienced far less prejudice that they had ever experienced anywhere else!

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      • Putney Swope says:

        Lowell,
        I found your observations, assessment and advice to be spot on. Growing up in Irondequoit, and I know you know where that is, I worked building homes for the great white exodus from Rochester in the 60’s and 70’s. I did that in Greece, Irondequoit and Victor. The parochial high school I attended was one of two built to serve parents that did not want their children going to Rochester public schools. As a further coincidence, I’m relocating to a community in Jefferson County. When I become better acquainted with the politics, personalities and dynamics of my new area, I’ll employ the strategies you suggest.
        Also, I agree that there is no way to reason with those whose opinion was not formed by reason.

        Like

      • Lowell Bushey says:

        Hi, Putney,

        Wow; what an amazing series of coincidences!

        I knew several people in Rochester who sent their kids to parochial schools to avoid sending them to city schools. Of course, Rochester also has two “lily white” parochial high schools, Aquinas and Nazareth.

        I grew up in Beaver Falls, which (assuming that you know the area a little) is roughly midway between Carthage and Lowville. I always joke that Lewis County has more cows than people. :) (Just to give you an idea of the “established” families in the area, people with the last name of Lehman, Virkler, or Zehr, occupy several pages in a (very small) phone book.)

        I haven’t been back to Beaver Falls since my mother died (in 1981). I’ve been trying to find out if there’s going to be a 50th reunion next year; If indeed it’s happening, I may attend. (I tried to get some information from classmates.com, but some of the things they did made me suspect that it was a scam.)

        The political situation in this country, and the lack of political savvy of most Americans, is incredibly frustrating. For example, I asked two of my female friends (who consider themselves independents) if they’d watched the Democratic and Republican conventions in 2012 (Both said no). I told them that, if they’d tuned in long enough for the camera to pan into the audience, they’d have seen something remarkable. At the Democratic convention, a large number of the delegates, (a majority, IMO) were women, there were also people of color, Asians, and Hispanics in significant numbers. The Republican Convention, on the other hand, was a sea of white males! (Note that I’m just as frustrated with the Democrats. Why didn’t they use this in their campaign commercials? IMO, they’ve lost white working class males, and educated white males would more than likely welcome diversity.)

        Also, too many people don’t understand that, as long as the Republican party needs bigots, religious extremists, and “low information voters” to win, voting for any Republican essentially means voting for the agenda of these three groups.

        Before I forget, to which locality are you going to move?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Putney Swope says:

        Yes Lowell, that is pretty funny. I’m due west of Beaver Falls. . I can’t go any further west or I’ll get my feet wet. What is more interesting to me is how we arrived at the same place politically while passing through the same locations at different times.
        I see the Republicans pandering to a shallow, ill-informed, uninformed and possibly bigoted bunch of people that are responding emotionally to an anxiousness they can’t articulate and are too lazy to figure out. Their visceral reactions give them a temporary rush. They can shout “build a wall”, or “drill baby drill”, or “let them die” when talking about people without health insurance and they think they did something. Those are our good evangelical Christian neighbors. How pathetic. Too bad they can’t see that the charlatan’s that gin them up can’t deliver any real solutions or relief for the malaise they feel. The GOP demigods squander precious time interfering in the reproductive rights of women instead of addressing the really important problems we face. They do that because those issues fuel the insecurities and superstitions of a group of people that are likely to vote in the primaries. I am embarrassed to say that is our demographic Lowell.
        I started watching the Democratic and Republican conventions in 1972. I was a geriatric orderly on the night shift and it was the only thing on. I got hooked and have watched them ever since. I listen to the speeches as carefully as I can. You mentioned diversity and wondered why the Dems don’t capitalize on it more. I always wondered why they don’t point out the real difference between the parties to our citizen lemmings. One party is always against this and we have to cut that program. One party is always for bombing some other country or sending our troops to teach them a lesson. One party is always for cutting the taxes on the rich because they are the “job creators” even though we have done that for 25 years now and the jobs keep going overseas. The other party talks about education, infrastructure and helping people. I’m not saying one party is much better than the other. But there is an undeniable difference. For the bottom third or the middle class to vote for the Republicans is for them to vote against their best interests. But such is the power of the TV attack ads in this age of Citizen’s United. Such is the power of Madison Avenue to manipulate emotions. Such is the result of stupid.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Lowell Bushey says:

        Hi, Putney,

        To avoid “foot in mouth” (usually a good idea :)). I checked the map. Given that you’re due west of Beaver Falls, and you can’t go any further without getting your feet wet, it looks like you’re headed for either Henderson Harbor or Sacketts Harbor.

        From the tone of your last post, you’ve suggested (and I believe!) that the Democrats have done a lousy job of getting their message out. (Also note that, in the last election, they outraised and outspent the Republicans, although the analysis might not have included superpac money.) Witness the following statement from former economics correspondent Ben Casserman: “So voters want a higher minimum wage, legal pot, abortion access and GOP representation. OK then.”

        I suspect that the Democrats are still living in the past. Indeed they had the white working class more or less to themselves from 1828 (Andrew Jackson) until 1968, but they lost this group in 1968 over issues such as school busing, affirmative action, and the Vietnam war, and, if I’m not mistaken, they haven’t had it since (despite contributions and political activism from organized labor). On the other hand, educated individuals, who used to lean Republican, now go (sometimes overwhelmingly) Democrat. I suspect that, as bizarre as it sounds, the Democrats aren’t aware of these demographic shifts, and/or they’re not adjusting their message accordingly.

        Worse yet, the Democrats often don’t “pounce” when the Republicans reveal their true colors. For example, at one point, Dubya ACTUALLY SAID that “money buys you access”. Although the obvious response was “in a democracy, all the people need to have access, not just those who buy their way in,” as far as I know, not a single Democrat responded at all. The steam came out of my ears for about a week! Similarly, the Democrats have failed to dispute the Republican Party’s fiction of “big labor”. Clearly, there’s a big difference between (what is, in effect) the small contributions of thousands of workers and one large contribution from a billionaire!

        I also think that the Democrats have a strong rebuttal to the “pro-life” party. By opposing Obamacare, and trying to cut programs for the poor, the Republicans clearly are OK with thousands of poverty stricken infants dying, and thousands of poverty stricken adults dying before their time, due to inadequate nutrition and improper medical care. In fact, they are trying to defund the only organization whose goal is to fix this problem!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Putney Swope says:

        Hey Lowell,
        The Democrats never seem as organized as the GOP. With the exception of the masterful job David Axelrod did for Obama, I haven’t seen too many noteworthy things happening from their camp.. Hillary has done the fence straddling we expected until Bernie make her move to the left a bit. I think they are gaining momentum but I agree with you they haven’t created a shared vision. They could do better refuting the GOP crazies. Bernie has done a far better job of that. I think that is why he is eating her lunch. He is a leader. That is what leaders are suppose to do. I suspect she is too beholden to Wall Street and others to make waves.
        I would agree that the Great Society programs lost the South for the Democrats. Now the moneyed interests want to dismantle all of that. Valerie’s excellent article this morning exposed the folly of those efforts.

        Like

    • Lowell Bushey says:

      Hi, Putney,

      My “gut feeling” is that your difficulties stem more from your “outsider status” than your (lack of) religious belief. One of the difficulties with small towns is that there are families whose ancestors moved there several generations ago. Obviously, any newcomer is an outsider, almost by definition.

      If you were raised in a metropolitan area, it could further complicate things. (You’ll have to trust me on this one. I lived in a fairly large metropolitan area (Rochester, NY) for 32 years before moving to Pullman When I would tell Pullman residents that I was from Rochester, the almost universal reaction was “you don’t talk like someone from a big city,”)

      In addition, many of the activities in a small town are connected to one or more of the local churches. (I’m being somewhat speculative here, but asking you to join a local church might have been a way of extending the welcome mat.)

      Hopefully, I’ve given you a little guidance in navigating the small town environment. One thing you might try is participating in an activity that (hopefully) doesn’t involve a local church e.g. the animal shelter or food bank. Someone there might even find you likable. :)

      Like

      • Lowell Bushey says:

        Hi, Putney,

        I thought I’d follow up on my previous post. Like you, I have a lot of frustration with the Religious Right If we encounter someone who is thinking about breaking away from fundamentalism, we can (and should!) offer assistance, or perhaps refer them to a hotline or a professional. However, IMO, trying to reason with a fundamentalist is a needless waste of time and energy.

        IMO, we can best counter fundamentalism by:

        1. Countering their propaganda with the truth. (We all can thank Valerie for that!)

        2. Doing our best to ensure that fundamentalist backed candidates don’t win elections, or (perhaps more importantly) ensuring that the (n + 1)/2 th vote that decides an election doesn’t come from a fundamentalist.

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