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Possum # 1 Versus Minister

01/23/07

  03:25:59 am, by Nimble   , 3641 words  
Categories: Thoughts, People, Religion

Possum # 1 Versus Minister

There has been an interesting little saga going on over at Atheist in a Mini-van, regarding an incident where one of the bloggers' two young ones (Possum # 1) write a surprisingly eloquent essay in respond to a 'surprise essay' (much like a surprise quiz).

In momma's posting here, she posts the content of the essay. Behold the words of Possum # 1:

What I want for Christmas, by Possum#1
There's a movie that's frequently shown in twenty-four hour blocks in which the main character, Ralphie, wants nothing but a Red Ryder BB Gun for Christmas. Ironically enough, he's asked to write an essay about his Christmas desire by a slightly shrewd teacher and told that he'll shoot his eye out. As I glance around this classroom, I see that many of my friends are feverishly pumping out manifestos dictating what gadgets and goodies they wish to find under their Christmas tree on the morning of December 25th. My mind, however, is reeling over the presumption that my public school teacher has addressed our classroom and assigned an essay in which she presumes that the entire lot of us are Christian or celebrate Christmas.

I take another look around my classroom and notice that Mahmeed is absent-mindedly cleaning underneathe his fingernails with the cap from his pen. Emily is feverishly trying to catch my eye and, having done so, mouthing the words, "I don't celebrate Christmas...I'm Jewish." in a quizzical manner. Jayden is doing what he normally does during such pop essays: he's looking out the window- probably wondering where his parents will get the money for January's rent and feeling guilty for daring to think about a gift. He's pretty sensitive.

I have never admitted it to any of my friends, but I think I must be an atheist. My mother is an atheist and has always told me to find my own path to spiritual comfort. I think I must be an atheist because I can't fathom any God who would allow the celebration of the birth of his son to become a time when my friends are consumed with thoughts of how they can convince Grandma to buy them a new Nano Ipod while other kids are wondering how their parent will manage the rent. What do I want for Christmas, I want a less assuming teacher. I want a teacher who thinks past the standard "What I want for Christmas..." assignment when she's aware that three out of her twenty students probably don't celebrate Christmas. I want a world where my friends will be asked to write essays about how they might use their winter vacay' to help other people. I want my mom to be healthy again. I want my grandmother to quit smoking. I want my grandfather to quit bugging her about it. But most of all, I want to not get an "F" on this assignment because you get angry with me for saying all of the above. Merry Christmas, Mrs. "X"* (name changed to protect identities).

I remember having such empathy, but never such eloquence or forthrightness, at such an age.

What disturbed me a little later on was the reaction of the teacher, who gave Possum # 1 an A+ and asked Possum # 1 to see her after class.

Now I know this is coming out in quotes, and I do not know the exact words of the teacher, but this appears from the rest of the postings to be the essence of the conversation:

After class, possum#1 said that her teacher told her she couldn't be an atheist because her "ability to care for others feelings isn't an atheist trait." and that her "attitude was very Christian." WTF?!

Oh dear me. The ability to care for others' feelings isn't an atheist trait? Well, perhaps they're right: it's a human trait, but somehow, I don't think that's what the teacher was getting at.

I can understand but a little of how such naïveté can come to be. However, before I can explore this thought further, I run across comments by William G., a Baptist minister in the area:

I am a Baptist minister in your area. Why does your daughter expect her teacher to ignore Christmas? You do realize that you are living in the United States of America and that the teacher has just as much right to talk about faith as you do to turn your daughter into an atheist. Which I find to be morally reprehensible, how can you deny your child the beauty of God and His promises? How can you deny your children the love that comes from choosing Christ? It's obvious that your daughter is already lost. You will allow her to spin off in to the darkness of atheism and all of those consequences? I will pray for your daughter and for your family and that your "smart" children will see that there choices are not smart and that all of the wisdom in the world can not by you the love that comes from simply accepting Jesus Christ into your heart.

Besides a blindness to the establishment clause and its applications, it's evident that this misunderstanding of atheism is not merely the province of mere naïveté - this is willful ignorance. It's what you might expect of some Baptist ministers, of course, but the minister will not stop there.

Matt D is definitely one to watch in the exchanges; he's a very eloquent writer and reflects back some of the invective in style (more so in later postings).

In this further posting, we get this unlovely gem from William:

Virginia,
I don't have to know rapists to know that they sow the sins of evil. I know all that I need to know about atheists and the Non Prophets show has shown me that atheists are foul-mouthed and full of themselves. We don't have drinking games in our church. I don't have to assume that atheists are bad people. I can see the lack of Christ in their lives and how it impacts their spiritual lives. There may be some atheists who can feign morality, but they will not pass the judgement of God.

That particular post continues:

My wife and I have raised a family of strong young men with morals and values. I don't need the example of an atheist, no matter how nice she might be. The Bible gives me all of the parenting advise I need and my wife can hold her head high in public. Our children do not attack their classmates with venom on the eve of Christ's birth. Our children do not spend Sundays playing useless games and sucking on the tit of sarcasm and skeptism. if that is being a good parent then I don't want to be a "good parent".

It's tempting to ask whether that includes stoning them if they turn to other beliefs as in Deuteronomy 13:6-10, or stoning them if they are rebellious and disobedient as in Deuteronomy 21:18-21, but I'm sure the examples are more modern. Probably not even the slave-owning rules of Luke 12:45-48.

It continues on about insolence and such,

If I had a daughter, she wouldn't dare speak to an adult in the ways that Possums daughter speaks to adults. I do not tolerate insolense in my home. I would be ashamed of that essay.

I certainly wouldn't be ashamed of that essay. These are children, bright ones at that, not dogs.

Kazim responds:

William's last post highlights everything I find distasteful about the fundamentalist perspective about morality. William likens atheists to rapists, and as evidence of this connection, he offers the observations that:

1. We use naughty words
2. We joke about "drinking games" (by the way, as far as I have heard, the Non-Prophets drinking game has never been PLAYED using any actual alcohol, although I wouldn't be surprised if anyone contradicts me)
3. We are often sarcastic.

In his mind, there is essentially no distinction between, say, rape and naughty language. This is because his notion of morality is not based on actual harm done to people, but the random whims that he has developed from his personal interpretation of a holy book. In William's mind, saying the word "shit" is in no way qualitatively different from actually raping someone, or even murdering them. Both are worthy of not punishment -- and not just any old punishment, but eternal torture, which William contemplates in silent glee.

William continues on a tirade:

Kazim is right. In God's eyes, all sins are the same. However, God is perfectly just and His punishments will be distributed as such in the afterlife. I tell my flock to beware of "naughty words" because they lead to naughty thoughts and naughty behavior. Out of filth comes filth. It's easy to slide into the use of bad language. Satan has a slippery tongue.

I have read the rest of this blog and I think that we will find four possums with very black souls to account for. Too much pride and not enough respect. I don't have to judge. God will do that...

He doesn't have to judge... but he will... incessantly.

It enters the truly psychotic yet "honest" side of the fundamentalist mind in a later comment by William:

William said...

Erin, as a Christian you should already know that in God's eyes every sin is the same. James 2:10-11 teaches us that.

James 2:10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.

In God's eyes, rape is the same as denying God. I would even wager that God views denying him to be the bigger sin and will punish the atheist more than the rapist. The rapist might believe in God but be misled in his actions. The atheist knowlingly denies God. The atheist commits the unforgivable sin. The rapist only sins towards his fellow man.

My doctrine is not misguided. My doctrine is directly taken from the Word of the Lord. I do not pick and choose the verses that suit me in order to befriend the atheist. In supporting the atheist in her defiance, you are condoning her defiance and the sin counts against you. Have you attempted to witness to possummomma? Do you approve of the way she raises her children? Would you let her babysit your children? If you answer yes to any of the above, then you are guilty of helping her to sin and pass along the defiance of God.

How do you even begin to fathom a mind of such certainty, and of such wrong-headedness? The rapist "only" sins towards his fellow man? I will take good works over any deathbed recanting. Flipping life around to denigrate humanity like this is sick and filthy.

To equate non-belief with worse than rape is the delusion of a socially-approved madman.

For what it's worth, I'm beginning to see why my old 8-year-old self going to Baptist Sunday School found what they were teaching appalling.

Can a rapist repent at the last minute and be saved? Apparently, yes. What does it take to turn an in-born sense of fairness around and revel in this twisted version of "justice"?

Anyhow, it matters in that unprovable beliefs about such skewed justice affect the way people behave here.

With that little rant out of the way, and back to the story, Matt chimes in:

Matt said...

William spewed:
"I only know that there is God's law and man's law"

Oh how we wish you knew just a little bit more than that.

"...and we would all be better served by serving God's law. God's law is that all sin is the same."

As a former Baptist who was studying for seminary, I'm familiar with that doctrine. It's unfortunate that you're not willing to meet your obligations as a Christian and actually demonstrate the reason(logos) for your faith (1 Peter 3:15)...and that you're content to spit out assertions and condemnations from your ivory tower.

I'm not only familiar with the doctrine that all sin is the same, I've actually managed to discover that this doctrine is fundamentally immoral.

This doctrine that you worship - and make no mistake, you're worshiping a book and a doctrine, there's no reason to think there's a real god behind it - is an abomination.

Picking up sticks on the sabbath warrants the same Earthly penalty as killing someone. Unruly children should be stoned to death. And, if you claim that I'm referring to outdated, Old Testament laws (like those pesky Ten Commandments) the entire doctrine of the New Testament is also immoral.

Infinite punishment for finite crimes can never be considered "perfectly just". Punishing one person for the crimes of another can never be considered "perfectly just".

Your god - is a fraud.

Your acceptance of this immoral doctrine has shackled your mind. Your attempts to shield your beliefs from reasonable investigation and rational evidentiary standards have confused your mind. Your inability to reconcile your beliefs in the face reality has poisoned your mind.

Your religious beliefs have rendered you incapable of tolerance or compassion toward those who don't share your beliefs. They've ensured that you'd rather misrepresent the opposition with straw-men than actually discuss the issue.

I bet you've got one of those "God said it, and that's good enough for me" plaques on a wall somewhere.

And now, when your precious beliefs are confronted, you lash out. Dangling red herrings, tossing out threats of damnation and frantically doing whatever you can to prevent us from pointing out that the emperor is naked.

While you're welcome to believe whatever you like, and you're welcome to think whatever you like about atheists - the truth is that you, as a Christian, as a Baptist minister, should be able to provide - better than anyone - the justification behind your beliefs.

You should be able to have a reasoned, civil, discussion or debate about your beliefs.

Instead, you fall back to the revivalist mantras about hellfire and damnation.

Later on, an anonymous contributor gives a more interesting view and breakdown of William's points, saying in some parts what many of us were thinking:

"I don't have to know rapists to know that they sow the sins of evil"

This is absurd and illogical. Nor does it see with the eyes of faith. Given the various pedophile and gay-sex scandals that have, in recent years, exposed the Christian community to criticism, there is no positing a less sinful, safe critical perch. Your distinction is meaningless.

"I know all that I need to know about atheists and the Non Prophets show has shown me that atheists are foul-mouthed and full of themselves. We don't have drinking games in our church. I don't have to assume that atheists are bad people."

I'm sorry "Non Prophets" You have something against NGOs? You're contradicting yourself, what you describe is an assumption of guilt based upon your own predispositions. What you're (not your) describing is a prejudice. What you are is arrogant. Is that a gift of the spirit? Arrogance?

"I can see the lack of Christ in their lives and how it impacts their spiritual lives."

Really? How exactly can you see this? Are you psychic? Do you have special, gnostic knowledge unavailable to others? If I remember my catecism correctly, gnosticism is as egregious a sin as pride.

"There may be some atheists who can feign morality,"

I hate reusing this one, but, after Hurricane Katrina, I took time off of my job - believe you me, I needed the money, but the decision wasn't hard - and was there the day after, helping to unload the worst victims as the helicopters disgorged them onto LSU's running track, and carrying them back to triage in the Field house. I wiped asses, fed the infirm, touched sores I had no business touching, but had to on account of a lack of proper hygienic supplies, I babysat the elderly and insane, drove supply runs for the Refugees at the River-Center and walked dogs at the Ag Center, I You might have even seen me on the papers, a big, confused looking guy who hadn't slept in a while, holding a women from Chalmette's kid so she could take a few minutes to rest, having spent the previous 2 days on a roof, waiting to load them on a bus. And I got nothing for it, not even the satisfaction of a cleansed conscience. The only thing that I did do was satisfy the drive me, common to ALL humans, to ease suffering. Deny the morality of my actions. The purity of my actions and those of tens of thousands of other people like me are beyond academic and philosophical quibbling about the nature of good, righteousness, and the moral. Deny it, go ahead, cease to be credible, not just here, but in your workaday life.

"but they will not pass the judgement of God."
There is no judge in judgment. It's nice to see that some people are still willing to step into the role of the almighty, in his absence, and speak for him.

"I don't need the example of an atheist, no matter how nice she might be."
Then kindly do without, it neither breaks your leg nor gives your fine young men with strong moral values herpes, they can manage that one all their own.

"The Bible gives me all of the parenting advise I need"
Oh really? So, how many kids did you stone to death before you spawned some compliant enough not to merit the requisite stoning for many and sundry offenses against your honor? Or do you selectively follow the parenting advice of the bible? Is that someone cavalier of you, to arrogantly ignore some advice from the bible?

"Our children do not spend Sundays playing useless games and sucking on the tit of sarcasm and skeptism."
You must have some pretty boring Sundays.

"if that is being a good parent then I don't want to be a "good parent"."

Don't worry, you're not. You sound as if you barely pass as an "asshole."

...

"I would be ashamed of that essay."
Of course you would. You're an arrogant, control-freak asshole. God's gift to you is an early stroke-out, and an ironic resemble to Islamic Fundamentalists.

"Her children may do well in this worldly life,"
Wow, faint praise emerging from the straining cofferdams of ignorance.

"but they may not do well in the next life."
About which you claim a monopoly of esoteric knowledge. Again, arrogating to yourself unknowable insight into the mind of god.

The escapades do not end there, however. Someone, a baptist, attends both the service of the minister and this time, attends his Young Adult Bible Study group:

"You will not believe this guy. He didn't make one reference to Possum's essay or the conversations he's had here to the entire congregation. I was a pleasantly suprised by that.

Because he seemed so nice, I decided to attend the young adult bible study that followed the sermon. There were about twenty people.

William started by reading the essay and then asking for thoughts. Alot of people doubted that a child could write that well and because William hadn't explained that Possum#1 is gifted, those in attendance came to the conclusion that an adult must've helped her. William said, "Let's pretend that a child wrote this... what would you have done if you were the teacher?" He told us that we should have done as the teacher had and taken the opportunity to witness to "a child so desperate for spiritual guidance."

I asked if that would be violating the belief that public schools should be neutral territory and he said that God's law trumped man's law. He also said that when we saw a lamb in trouble, we should help the lamb.

What shocked me most was what came next. He launched into a tirade against atheists. Said that they are, "by default, the worst parents." He said that he was "100% sure" that you must be "the most uneducated and sorry mother" because no good mother would leave their child in spiritual limbo and let them find their own way. He said that atheists deserved our pity and that their children should be our mission. It was kind of scary, actually. I had had enough by then, so I left. It was hands down the most uncomfortable Sunday school I had ever attended.

An eleven-year-old and her posse, causing the throbbing of minsterial forehead veins. Yikes. Although interesting, and certainly giving us an intriguing insight, it does make you worry about what psychotic things he might be led to do. I hope possum mom and her kids stay safe.

William chimes in after this incident:

William said...

I have not being "owned".
I should have known that you would sink to low blows by sending an ambassador of sin into my church. Member or not, your spy was there on Satan's work. I did read your daughter's essay to my congregation. I use magazines and other sources to show my flock what the world has to offer and how easily corrupt behavior and thought comes to those who are not careful. I used this essay to show that atheists are out there and they accuse us of wanting a theocracy when they would like nothing more than to have religion disappear completely. The essay shows how atheists are willing to corrupt their children and don't care about the childs soul. It saddens me.

I hope that's an indication of having calmed down, after exposing the sick underbelly of his faith.

I now have a 11-soon-to-be-12-year-old heroine, and I don't even know who she is. Kudos, Possum # 1, and for Possum Mom, who is raising her kids in a manner and standards to which I can but hope to aspire.

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