Last year I received a handwritten invitation with a well-organized brochure to go to an unprecedented religious prophet-palooza, where I had a one-and-only chance to meet the “Prophet.” Mind you, I’m the one with numerous witty signs on my door asking solicitors to basically leave me alone—and that includes religious indoctrination by uninvited guests.
I wasn’t surprised to receive a letter in the mail. I’m sure they wanted to knock on my door but, upon reading the signs, employed other strategies to recruit me. Do I blame them? No. I’m a labor and social justice organizer myself. I may have distributed propaganda at some point, and it might’ve pissed someone off. But because I’m fed up with these religious organizing tactics, I decided to respond:
Although I appreciate your time and handwritten invitation, I wish you would invest your time and energy in more useful things than bullying others into joining your cult. Clearly you have community organizing skills and the will to promote a better life. Unfortunately religious zealots have created smoking mirrors with Bible education, diminishing, judging and assuming critical freethinkers like myself, aren’t educated enough. This harassment and belittlement must stop.
So, if you want a ‘World Government’ with a ‘Qualified New Ruler’ —quoting your brochure— start by rising against the injustices corrupt politicians and religious idiots have imposed on us.
Here’s the deal: if you have your entire church send letters to Obama demanding the freedom of political prisoner Oscar López Rivera and you send me proof, I will attend your event. Attached is the letter in English and Spanish. Make copies and have everyone at your church send them. Call the White House, do a special campaign, just like the one you’re part of. Otherwise, please refrain from contacting me again. The choice is yours.
In true Human Solidarity,
Already Saved Neighbor
Needless to say, I never went to the event. You may think I crossed the line. I accept that. Now, let’s talk about crossing the lines, shall we?
The first thing people tell me when I express my concerns over religious indoctrination is: “respect his or her beliefs.” This is where we’re wrong. We do not have to respect beliefs any more than the right to believe whatever we want, in privacy. Why are we asked to respect beliefs that are completely dissociated from reality, simply because those beliefs happen to be the basis upon a particular faith is built?
You can get away with just about anything as long as you’re doing it in the name of your God, even if it’s considered unacceptable in a civilized society populated by thinkers. Well, that is, unless someone commits mass murder.
No, a religious belief doesn’t need to be respected just because it’s a religious belief. And take notes, because the facts are coming out.
Last Sunday on HBO’s Last Week Tonight, John Oliver ran a hilarious and poignant segment over Televangelists.
Yes, there are many congregations that do fantastic work for their communities, so this is not about you do-gooders. This is about the televangelists out there like Robert Tilton and their prime-time telenovelas.
Televangelism started as an American phenomenon, as a result of deregulated media, to the point where there are networks devoted to this thriving business, including Trinity Broadcasting Network, Inspiration Ministries, The God Channel and Daystar. The overreaching arc has surpassed the American public. Religious entertainment fraudsters are able to become instant, worldwide, renown celebrities.
Dare I hazard the comparison to heavy metal bands in the Eighties and early Nineties, who claimed to be Satanists and did a lot of ritualistic choreography to show how satanic they were. Upon winning Grammys, they thanked God—Jesus first and foremost.
And if that weren’t bad enough, you can open up the Emmys now because there’s a new reality TV competition called So You Think You Can Preach.
Take for instance Creflo Dollar, the pastor and founder of World Changers Church International. He started a crowd-funding campaign to buy a $65 million dollar private jet. Appropriately so, the general public was up in arms criticizing his request. His response? “If You Don’t See Why I Need a $65 Million Plane, You Just Don’t Get the Bible.”
The sad part is, if you watch the video, the cheers and commotion are so deafening, you’d think it was a standing ovation at the premiere of a Broadway show.
Mike Murdock’s scripted tagline goes: “as you use your Faith, God is going to wipe out your credit card debt,” while a 1-800 number covers the screen under the words “Sow your seed gift of $1000.” These predatory tactics are nothing but the real destruction of our society.
Their hypnotic poetic chants, charming personalities and charismatic performances fuel their extreme wealth. One may argue a Hollywood high-profile actor or director may make the same amount in a year. True, but that performer 1) pays taxes and 2) isn’t selling us salvation or a zero balance on our credit cards by “harvesting the seed of faith”—unless of course, said actor is Reese Witherspoon playing Gloria Copeland in a Lifetime movie.
Now, why are these extreme and dangerous tactics? Because, simply put, we continue to foster a culture of “respecting beliefs.” If someone has cancer, and that person is a devout member of Gloria Copeland’s church, more than likely that person has digested the faith-healing policy she’s served at Sunday brunch. Jehovah Witnesses are known to be nothing if not invasive telemarketers planting a lemonade-stand-like church on every corner, stopping short of entering your home. Once recruited, forget about getting a blood transfusion, should you actually need it.
You do not find these shenanigans in the suburbs knocking door to door. You don’t hear televangelists pitching their donation speech to the rich. They often talk to us: poor, unemployed, sick, who live in a broken home (if not homeless already). They target military families. They target the so-called minorities. And yes, they target us Latinos.
Predatory financial wealth aside, senseless religious indoctrination is an intangible product that has permeated into the fabric of our society, all the way to the White House, and it’s dangerous. We even vote for “American values.”
The hack of Ashley Madison seems like hype and gossip. It’s more than that. It has exposed the truth: the myriad of politicians, community leaders and even religious leaders that instill the fear of God through our veins while, behind their mansion doors, they’re engaging in adultery and the sins of the flesh. (According to the hack, Alabama —deep in the Bible Belt— is the most unfaithful state in the Union, in case you were wondering.)
While not condoning fornication, everyone should have the right to engage in consensual sex between adults, and none of us should give a shit. But if your political platform involves abstinence-only courses, defunding Planned Parenthood, criminalizing abortions, bullying the LGBTTQ community, and at the same time forgiving the Duggars for their son’s “indiscretions” all for your religious beliefs, your names shouldn’t even be mentioned on that website. But they are.
These are the same hypocrites that wanted Clinton impeached for having an affair with Monica Lewinsky, but will forgive their Catholic priest for molesting a child; who are ok with Jared Fogle serving five years in prison for raping kids, but will jail us brown and black citizens for at least 10 years for consuming cannabis. Their reasoning is often centered in religious indoctrination. Forgiveness is a virtue, unless you’re a tattooed brown-skinned Latina such as myself; I have to pay cash for that.
The hypocrisy of the far-right politicians is repulsive and foul, just like the televangelists who target the oppressed, the poor, the hard-working class, the communities that seek to do the right thing—because we have nothing else to lose but our homes, our credit and apparently our souls. The idea that we have to cheer absentmindedly and accept, in total suspension of critical thinking, what a religious leader is teaching us, and then transfer that into the voting booth, must be recalibrated.
It’s time to leave Jesus, Yahweh, Muhammad, God or even Satan behind our mansion doors (alongside our sexual partners) and unify ourselves in the real efforts of community equity building. The IRS must audit these religious businesses, and politicians must stop building platforms over religious beliefs. Our values should include us all; that’s what America should be about. If we organized Occupy Wall Street over predatory lenders and the economy, let’s unmask these Bible-thumping clowns (starting with Joel Osteen), and vote out any politician that has lied to us in the name of God.