Denominations

Bible

I have never been much interested in churches. Christianity has returned the favor by not being very interested in me.  I think that I will live forever.  Heaven doesn’t want me, and Hell is afraid that I’ll take over.

My little home town had at least 6 different churches for 1800 citizens, unlike some small towns on the buckle of the American Bible-belt, where you’d better be Southern Baptist, or be ridden out of town on a rail. It began as a fur-trading outpost, and soon became known as a center for lake-fishing. With a protective off-shore island, it developed into a lake-port and railway terminus. These all brought to the town, people of many varied ethnic and religious backgrounds.

Three churches occupied an intersection a block above the highway, wisely called ‘The Church Corner.’ At one apex stood the United Church.   It (the sect, not the building) was formed in 1925 through the union of Canadian Methodists, Congregationalists, 70% of Canadian Presbyterians, and an odd bunch of other religious malcontents.  It seems that, ever since Martin Luther showed them that they could, all most Christians want to do is ‘protest’ and establish their own independence.

A girlfriend dragged me to her United Church one Sunday. In long-bygone days when poor factory workers put change in the offering plate, the preacher announced that, “Today, there will be a silent offering.” meaning no coins!  Bills only!  It was probably a pure coincidence that, on Tuesday, he was driving a new car.

Across the street was ‘my’ Baptist Church. My Scottish mother had left the Presbyterian Church when she married my ‘Baptist’ father, and got a twice-a-year – at Christmas and Easter (maybe?) attendee.  It has gone into decline, and is now the site of an artisanal restaurant, attracting mainly tourists.

Unlike our Southern brethren, there was no hellfire and brimstone, but our next-door neighbor sang in the choir, and her daughter was ‘a missionary in India,’ (the arrogance!) so any empty liquor bottles were carefully concealed in the trash.

These two were the main depots for the blue-color factory workers. On the third corner was the Anglican Church, and the fourth side housed the rectory for its minister.  This seemed to be where most of the town’s merchants, lawyers and real-estate agents prayed for (or preyed on) more customers.

Directly beside the highway stood the Presbyterian Church, larger, richer, and more ornate than either the Anglican, or the little Catholic. It was attended, in all pomp and circumstance, by the descendants of the powerful Scottish traders and minor nobility immigrants and their attendants.

This church had a large bell tower, rather than the simple steeple my Baptist, or the Anglican Church had. It had a set of chimes, and an amplifier, and speakers in the tower to carry the music to its worshippers.

With my Mother’s connections, we were the caretakers for several years – dusting pews, mopping floors and firing two coal-burning furnaces in the basement early enough on wintery Sunday mornings to warm the gentry parishioners.

Right beside the bank at the main intersection was a narrow little storefront Pentecostal Church(?) Its members were reputed to ‘speak in tongues’, and handle snakes.  Immediately above was a small apartment intended for the pastor and family.  When she was an impressionable teenager, my friend’s mother had listened to a pastor’s forked tongue, and handled his snake….and the Church had to house and support them there.

If not for a couple of stained-glass windows, the tiny Catholic Church might have been mistaken for a small storage warehouse. There weren’t too many Catholics in town – except in the tourist season.  The rest of the churches might get the occasional summer visitor….but the Catholic Church??!

During the off-season, there was an 11:00 AM Mass. During the invasion, the gullible guilty faithful Catholic tourists packed it all day.  There was an 8AM mass, a 9AM Mass, one at 10, one at 11, and one at noon – and probably evening services as well.  No long sermons.  The priest kept it short and sweet, 45/50 minutes, instant salvation.  After each service, as the faithful filed out the front door, the priest scuttled out the back, and scurried a half a block to the bank with a deposit bag bulging with cash.

There were probably some Jews in town. Two schoolmate brothers, named Oscar and Myron, and a girlfriend’s friend named Leah, indicate the likelihood.  Too small a group to warrant a synagogue, they probably met in someone’s home.

Other than seeing someone coming or going, I didn’t really know who attended what church – and didn’t care – and didn’t know anyone who did. With our already pureed population, and the vastly varied, and often foreign, summer invasion, the town was used to a wide range of opinions and actions.  Such tiny details as whether or not someone attended Church, and if so which one, were minute and insignificant.

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WOW #20

Stunned*

I just knew that, sooner or later, my love of language and my general disdain for organized religion would crash into each other, and cause me grief. In scanning some Atheist/anti-Atheist blog-posts recently, I came upon the Word Of the Week, which is

CATHOLIC

adjective

broad or wide-ranging in tastes, interests, or the like; having sympathies with all;
broad-minded; liberal.
universal in extent; involving all; of interest to all.
pertaining to the whole Christian body or church.

Origin of catholic

1300-1350; Middle English < Latin catholicus < Greek katholikós general, equivalent to kathól(ou) universally (contraction of phrase katà hólou according to the whole; see cata-, holo- ) + -ikos -ic

The word ‘catholic’ is a Janus-word, one of a few in English which have 2 different, contradictory meanings, like ‘cleave’, which can mean to split into pieces – or to make pieces into one solid whole, or the verb ‘table’, which can mean to set aside and not deal with – or to deal with immediately.

Even when the word catholic was first used to describe the Christian church/religion, the existence of Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, etc., clearly show that it violated definition #2. It was not universal!  It did not involve or was of interest to all!

The longer it has existed, the more it has diverged from definition #1. Instead of being broad-minded, liberal, and sympathetic to all, it has become increasingly more hidebound, narrow-minded and dogmatic.

The Roman Catholic Church even violates the third definition. It does not represent the entire body of the Christian faith, as proved by the existence of 33,000 Protestant denominations.  It split, or was split from, the Greek Orthodox Church, and the Russian Orthodox Church.  Even just linguistically, it cannot claim to be an only child, when it obviously has two brothers.

I hear/read Christian Apologetics try to deny evolution by asking questions like, “If we came from monkeys/apes, why are there still monkeys/apes?” I just want to scream, “Are you really as stupid and narrow-minded as that question makes you appear? Read a book – not just The Good Book.”  If all dogs came from wolves, why are there still wolves?  Or better, if all Christian denominations came from Catholic, why are there still Catholics?  We didn’t ‘come from apes/monkeys.’  Apes, monkeys and humans all came from a common ancestor.  It’s just that some of us are a little more evolved than others.

In arguments/discussions about Christianity/Faith/Bible, Christian Apologetics have answers to explain away every single thing, but not for everything.  If doubt were a building, they have individual arguments to refute bricks, doors, windows, floors and roofs – but not the entire house.  Their arguments against bricks contradict their claims denying the existence of windows, etc., etc., etc.!   😦  😯

Pint Sized

Pint

Always fascinated with the details of English word usage, I recently read a post titled Euphemisms. In it, a young female explained how the seemingly innocent words of many of the nursery rhymes we tell our children, had a much darker meaning when they were first composed.

She apparently had a real vendetta against royalty and religion. Her first story was about “Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary”, who was Queen “Bloody” Mary, trying to return now-Protestant England to the Catholic Church.  Her garden grew well, because it was fertilized with the corpses of the many that she had tortured and executed.

The writer claimed that “Three Blind Mice” were three noble men(sic) who plotted against Mary. She didn’t have them blinded, or mutilated (their ‘tails’ cut off), merely burned at the stake.  But, in reality, there were only two who plotted, and only one was a noble, the other, an Anglican Bishop.

“Goosey, Goosey, Gander” is about Catholic sympathisers hiding priests from Protestant torture and death squads. The line about grabbing them by their left leg was because priests were identified when they put their left foot forward as they genuflected.

Already cynical, she lost my belief when her mix of fact to fiction became too thin on the “Jack And Jill” story. This is word history, not political history, and something I’ve researched.

She stated that it referred to the execution of Louis XIII and Marie Antoinette. When Louis (not Jack – or even Jacques) was beheaded, he lost his ‘Crown.’  When Marie was guillotined, her head ‘came tumbling after.’  She didn’t explain why English commoners would make up rhymes about French monarchs.

This little rhyme is all about governments getting more tax income by screwing with sizes. It was something citizens were complaining about 400 years ago, and they’re still screwing us today.

A “Jack” was a leather mug, in which inns and taverns served 12 ounces of beer or cheap wine. Taxes were paid on how many ‘Jacks’ were dispensed. Suddenly, by Royal decree, the size of a Jack was reduced to 10 ounces, and taxes on beer and wine went up by 20%.

Crown

Taxes were often paid in ‘Crowns’, silver English coins. Soon both barkeeps and the drinking working man were going bankrupt (broke).  When the Jack fell down, he/it broke his ‘Crown’.

The Gill – or Jill – was a quarter of a pint, the amount of a shot of harder liquor. The Incredible Shrinking Jack trick had worked so well that the government tried it again.  A gallon had been 160 ounces, therefore a quart (quarter gallon) was 40 ounces, a pint was 20….and a quarter-pint Gill, was 5.

The gallon was reduced to 128 ounces, a quart to 32, a pint to 16. The 5 ounce Gill became 4 ounces, the tax on liquor went up 25% with the stroke of a pen, “and Jill came tumbling after.”

A later government restored the gallon/quart, etc. sizes, but the results can still be seen. The UK has ‘Imperial’, 40 ounce quarts, but the US never changed back, keeping their 32 oz. version.  The US has a Fifth (of a 128 oz. gallon = 25.6 oz.) of booze, where Canada insists that it’s a 26er.

When I was but a mere child, dairies delivered 40 oz. quart glass bottles of milk to the house. When glass yielded to cardboard cartons, the international conglomerates who now provided cow juice, did so in 32 oz. American quarts, without changing our cost.

In 1971, when Canada went metric, no-one really knew anything about metric sizes. Containers were now (34oz. approx.) liters.  Cost went up, but uncertainty kept complaints down.  40 oz. glass pop bottles became 1-liter plastic containers – at the same price.

To lull the population into happily accepting metrification, the Canadian government actually solicited poems from citizens, extolling the beauty and benefits of the Metric System. They were disappointed by the low turnout, and definitely did not publish the one that said;

When things go Metric,
Prices rise!
Surprise, surprise,
Surprise, surprise!

The Portuguese lady selling bread at the Market continues to shout, “Three bags for $5.” The old loaves of bread suitable for making trencherman farmers’ sandwiches are now so small that they’re barely big enough to make petit-fours.  The hamburger and hot-dog buns remain the same size, but the bags which used to contain a dozen buns, first slipped to 10, slid to 9, fell to 8, and, hopefully, have bottomed out at a ridiculous 7 per pack.

The only thing that I have as much left in my wallet as I used to, is lint.

Dear Abby

Dear Abby, and her twin sister Ann Landers have both retired, and later died.  Abby’s daughter, Jeanne, was (is?) carrying on the advice column her mother penned.  Other yentas, both Jewish and not, have come, and some have rapidly gone.  From one of them, I give you the following question and answer.

Dear Abby; I recently discovered that my son, who is 17, is a homosexual.  We are part of a church group, and I fear that, if people in that group find out, they will make fun of me for having a gay child.

He won’t listen to reason, and he will not stop being gay.  I feel as if he is doing this just to get back at me for forgetting his birthday for the past three years.  I have a very busy work schedule.

Please help him make the right choice in life by not being gay.  He won’t listen to me, so maybe he’ll listen to you.

Feeling Betrayed

 

Dear Betrayed; You could teach your son an important lesson by changing your own sexuality, to show him how easy it is.  Try it for the next year or so.

Stop being a heterosexual to demonstrate to your son that a person’s sexual orientation is a matter of choice – to be dictated by one’s parents, the parents’ church, and social pressure.

I assume that my suggestion will evoke a reaction that your sexuality is at the core of who you are.  The same is true for your son.  He has the right to be accepted by his parents for being exactly who he is.

When you “forget” a child’s birthday, you are basically negating him as a person.  It is as if you are saying that you have forgotten his presence in the world.  How very sad for him.

Pressuring your son to change his sexuality is wrong.  If you cannot accept him as he is, it might be safest for him to live elsewhere.

A group that could help you and your family figure out how to navigate this is pflag.org (In Canada, see pflagcanada.ca.)  This organization is founded for parents, families, friends and allies of LGBT people, and has helped countless families through this challenge.  Please research and connect with a local chapter.

***

Advice columnists have to be well-mannered and respectful.  Me??  My reply would probably started with, “Really, Bob??!  Do you think you could possibly make this any more about you?”  In this day and age, it still amazes me how powerful the religiously-driven willfully-blind syndrome can be.  Bad enough that he still thinks that being gay is a choice, and one made just to spite him and his ego, but even worse, that he thinks some advice columnist can, or will, do, what he as a parent, cannot.  There are none so blind, as those who will not see.

***

A man walks into a bookstore….

Sadly, this is not the opening line to a joke – at least not intentionally.  The “man” is the well-known, powerfully connected pastor of a large Protestant New York church.  After thundering from the pulpit about an attack on the Christian faith, he calls all his political buddies and complains to them, to the point that he is contacted by the TV show, The View, where he gets to complain an national television about how Christianity don’t get no  respect.

What was the trigger for all this, “Alas, woe is us?”  While he was in the bookstore, he saw some Bibles which were on sale.  That would seem to be a good thing for Christians….except, the shelf tag, advertising the sale, also listed them under “Fiction.”

As a minor addendum, after he finished whining to Elizabeth Hasselback, he finally admitted that it might have merely been an inattentive clerical oversight.  I think that, like above, the It’s All About Us button was pushed too soon and too hard, but, if it’s good enough for Brittany Spears and Lady Gaga, it’s good enough for the Bishop of New York.  I say, only change the tag when he can prove they’re not.

***

The pastor of a fairly large suburban Philadelphia Methodist church has been suspended for 30 days, to reflect on his actions and attitudes.  It was not said that he was suspended without pay, merely that his pastoral powers were temporarily removed.  He cannot perform weddings, or offer Holy Sacrament.

What was his crime, you ask?  He married his son, two years ago.  No, no!  Not like that!  He officiated at his son’s wedding.  I still see some confused faces, although that’s common on this site.  I’ll give you a hint.  Psst, his son is gay, and the Methodist Church don’t allow no equal rights, gay marriage ‘round here!

He was invited to a private little Star Chamber meeting by the ruling synod, who chastised him for marrying gays, in defiance of Church doctrine.  He fired back, rebuking them and the Methodist Church for not being more loving, acceptant, and inclusive.  That, at this late date, is what actually got him censured, this lack of blind faith and obedience, and of course, a tendency to think for himself.

This man has not been afflicted with the trials of Job himself, but I find it ironic, that, in a Denomination which does not believe in gays, three of the four children of this pastor, are gay.  It’s no wonder he’s fighting for their equality.

I love Jesus; it’s just many of his followers that I hate!

Not One Of Us!

This post could be considered Part 2 of my Ego And Insecurity post   I want to talk about “Those People”.  These are the ones that you find in every social, business, and political situation.  Perhaps it’s just me, but it seems the worst, the most noticeable, are to be found in religion.

These are the people who, to feel good, have to make others feel bad.  For them to stand tall, it must be on the bodies of their enemies and rivals, or at least on top of those they feel inferior to them – pretty much everybody.  For them to be the biggest frog, they just shrink the pond – exclude, exclude, exclude!

I laughed –behind my hand, and behind the back of – one young new-age New Order Mennonite lad that I worked with.  He was a member of a very elite, very select, break-away sect, comprised of all of 15 members, believing that they, and they alone, knew the road to Heaven, and possessed the keys to the holy gates when they got there.  They were SO different – just like all the others.

The logical end to these exclusionary beliefs and actions, lies with a population of one, the solitary psychopath, who believes that only he counts, and the rest of the world is there for him to do with as he wishes.  Evangelical Christianity is therefore but one short step away from both insanity and criminal behavior, and a disturbing number use their religion, to justify committing the others.

It was not a great surprise that there is a term to describe the actions and attitudes I’ve previously observed and written about.  I was somewhat disappointed that I’d reached almost the age of 70, before I found out what it is.  I was greatly disturbed that it was my ancestors (great thinkers they) who produced it, and I was not aware!

It is known as the, “No True Scotsman Theorem.”  No True Scotsman puts sugar on his porridge!  Wait a minute, I put sugar on my porridge.  That just proves my point.  You’re not a true Scotsman.  Christianity is the religion of love and peace.  What about the Crusades, and the Inquisition?  Well, those weren’t True Christians.  If you own the definition, you can’t be wrong.

An eight-year-old girl was expelled from a Catholic school in California, because she didn’t fit the board’s definition of what a girl was.  She was a tom-boy, who wanted to play ball, and wrestle in the mud.  She wanted to dress in sweatshirts and jeans.  They wanted her in skirts and pink dresses.  She was accused of “gender confusion” because she wanted to go into the boys’ washroom – probably just curious, but the curiosity was more dangerous to the status quo than the non-existent sexual content.

The board denied the gender and dress-code accusations, and said that the reason she was expelled, was that she didn’t follow rules – which is true.  When you write the rules, and seize the definitions, she couldn’t be a “True Catholic,” or a “True Girl.”  Another Catholic elementary school quickly accepted her – but they probably weren’t “True Catholics” either.

The wife and I watch a number of British Television series on a specialty channel.  Last fall we got a new one we liked, imported all the way from Australia, titled Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, set in about 1930.

Miss Fisher is a 30ish, flapper-girl, monied Aussie, exempt from the worst of the beginning American Depression.  She is very intelligent, and independent-minded, like the little girl above.  She has joined a circus, traveled the world, learned self-defence, acquired a hammerless, gold-plated .45 calibre revolver, a nasty little garter-dagger, and come back to Melbourne to solve crimes.

She inherits a 20ish, sheltered, naïve, country-girl maid from a society woman she puts away for murder and drug smuggling.  At a time when Australia was PROTESTANT, this girl wears a tiny gold cross around her neck.  The producers and writers apparently like to point out religious hypocrisies, contradictions and exclusions.

The young police constable wants to get to know her, but quickly pulls back when he spots the gold cross – she might be Catholic.  “Go ahead,” his Inspector urges him, “It’s not as if she has two heads!”  “She might as well have, if my mother finds out.”

When she begins work for our heroine, she refuses to answer an often-ringing telephone.  Her priest has told her that this new-fangled gadget is “un-natural,” the electricity leaks into the planet, and too much usage will cause the Earth to explode.

You can protest that this is just the strange opinion of only one man, but, he’s the infallible, heavenly-inspired, to-be-blindly-obeyed, man in a position of authority, who tells her what she may and may not do to ensure her everlasting soul going to Heaven .

One scene shows her going to bed, clad in her voluminous nightgown, kneeling by the side of her bed, saying her prayers, like a six-year-old.  After asking God to protect the well-being of her parents, siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins, her new employer and fellow servants, the butcher, and the penguins at the zoo – she finally gets around to asking Him to protect the handsome young Police Constable.

“And, if You have enough time, God, after doing all of that for me, I would really appreciate it if you could give Constable Collins a Signthat You are Catholic.”

Something For Nothing

Damn, am I ever a cheap-ass old skinflint.  The lessons of childhood were well learned and, now in old age, not easily forgotten or ignored.

I was born just as the rationing of the Second World War was ending, to parents who had lived through the Great Depression of the ‘30s, with a mother who was Scottish.  You know how copper wire was invented??  Two Scotsmen, fighting over a penny!

Most of the men in my hometown worked at one of the four factories.  Most of the women stayed home to care for the kids.  My mother became an exception, but, most families had just about the same income.  Sure, there were merchants, and real estate and insurance brokers.  The preachers at six Protestant churches did better than most of their flock.

We weren’t dirt-poor, as many other families in town were, because my mother practiced some basic birth control.  We only had two kids in our family.  On one of the paper routes I had, there were two families, living side-by-side in two shack-y houses, much smaller than ours.  One house had seven kids and five dogs.  The one next door had seven dogs and five kids.  There’s not a lot of disposable income left after feeding and clothing a mob like that.

I’ve written that I keep my eye open in places where people might drop money.  The hundred-dollar bill I picked up at a Meijer store was an exception, but I find bits of money all the time.  I had to take a bus the other day, to pick up the car from a repair garage.  The bill for the car was almost $350, but I was thrilled to pick up 20 cents off the floor of the bus.  A bill like that only happens every six months or a year, but I find money all the time.  By the next time the car needs to go in, I will have found a good chunk of what the next bill will be.

I am not exactly embarrassed, but still somewhat surreptitious about checking payphone coin returns.  It’s really interesting how many times people try to place a call, get no answer, and rush away without retrieving their quarter.  About coins lying in coin-return slots of pop machines, or snack vending machines – I can’t be the only one who notices them, but I’m often the first to notice them.

I don’t walk or bike-ride as much as I used to, but still pick up any beer bottles or cans that I see.  Not only do I clean the neighborhood, but I make a dime apiece refund on them.  Liquor and wine bottles are also worth 10 cents each, but, with the usual bureaucratic genius, you buy them at the Liquor Control Board store, but have to take them back to the Beer Store for refund.

The daughter watches when she’s out on her power wheel chair, as does the grandson.  I recently cleaned off the shelf I use in the basement to store them.  More than a year’s accumulation yielded $8.00.  I’ll add it into the fund to buy more American cash from the bank, towards our next trip south.

The supermarket a mile to my north has been selling the Toronto Sun newspaper as a loss-leader for 4 or 5 years.  $1.50 paper for 50 cents Monday to Thursday and $1 on Friday.  Recently that went to a buck, every day.  If we’re out for a doctor’s appointment or other shopping, it’s well worth stopping in.  If we’re not, does it cost 50 cents in gas to save on the paper?

The head-office of the store three blocks to the south used to give cash rebates to charities who collected cash-register receipts.  About a year ago, with great fanfare, they stopped, cutting off Boy Scouts, the Library, and seniors square-dance groups, but quietly continued for selected groups, including the Humane Society.

About once a week, I put a harness on the dog, and walk him over to pick up a paper.  I tie him to the outer of two garbage containers on one side of the entrance, and check inside it.  People often exit the store, and immediately throw away their receipt.  Then I check the one right beside the door, and enter the store.  I check under, and in the return chute of the coin-counting machine in the entryway.  Coins often drop and roll just under.  One day I got 40 pennies that were fed in too fast.

I buy my paper at the newspaper/cigarette/lottery kiosk at the front.  Cash register amounts can be significant, but these customers are often in a hurry.  I check for receipts in the waste-paper basket where dead lotto tickets are thrown.  On my way out, I often go through the opposite doors, and check the big garbage pail over there.  On my walk today, I brought home $245 worth of receipts….and another beer bottle.

Then the daughter phoned.  They have a Blu-Ray player on sale.  Would I go over and pick up the last one in stock?  By the time I got home, I had picked up another $250 worth of receipts.  The rebate is 1/5th of 1%, so that’s one can of food for an abandoned cat.  I have a wad of several thousand dollars worth, which we’ll turn in at the pet-food store, the next time we go in.

We have five rain-barrels from which we water shrubs and flowers, when we have a hot, dry spell in the summer.  The cost of 250 gallons of water from the hose is probably pennies, even if Canada doesn’t officially have pennies anymore, but there’s more nutrients, and less harmful chlorine in rainwater – usually.  A local woman also waters her plants from rain barrels, but had all her pretty flowers die.  Turns out, her busy-body neighbor was worried about mosquitoes breeding, so she poured in chlorine bleach.  Toting the water around gives me something to fill my time, and some exercise to keep me (relatively) strong and limber.