Preaching Hope vs. Spewing Sacred Coercion


“Salvation can look like ‘coercion’ to a person who has never rejoiced in the clarity of the Holy Spirit. To be born again is a gift that the saved offer to anyone in need. No time or method is unfitting when the final path leads to Heaven. Frex wasn’t ‘using’ his daughter as you imply in your article. He was helping her embrace her destiny as ordained by The Unnamed God.”

The former are some of the thoughts of a religion scholar who emailed me after having read Speaker for the Wicked Witch of the West. His words address this specific passage:
“At first glance, Elphie was neither lovable nor loving. Affection was perhaps a hard emotion to conjure while living under the shadow of a mother who wanted to drown her at birth, a father who used her for sacred coercion, and a sister who just used her. But things in life are never clear or simple; Elphie adored her little sister, worshiped the idea of an unprejudiced world, and loved a man who belonged to another.”

So… on the salvation comment; I read the emails (we exchanged about ten) several times, and wondered if this man was serious. And if he was, was he so deluded that he believed his own nonsense? I won’t even touch the bit about the Holy Spirit and its “clarity.”

I will, however, glare at anyone who says that “No time or method is unfitting when the final path leads to Heaven.” What is he saying? That anyone can burn people alive in order to release their souls from the evils of the flesh, if the act leads to his understanding of salvation? Or let me bring things a bit closer to home, and relate a situation that took place during my little brother’s viewing:

Family members, friends, and some strangers offered to bring their religious leaders to “offer prayers and consolation to the family.” I was thrilled. Light is light and the more the merrier, so I said, “Of course. But would you mind asking your pastor to recognize (aloud) the fact that Pabelo was Catholic. I don’t think that it would be respectful for people from other religions to officiate my little brother’s last goodbye without acknowledging his beliefs.”

No one liked my request. One actually said, “My pastor already knows to do that. Besides, religion is religion, and no one will care.” I let this person know that Pabelo would probably care. But it didn’t matter, for by the time we got to the viewing everybody decided that they didn’t want to embarrass their religious leaders by telling him or her how to do their jobs.

On the day of the viewing, I invited family and friends to share anecdotes about my brother, to share their last goodbye so that we all could lean on each other and know him (and each other) better. Many touching things were said, some extremely funny because my brother was that kind of person. I tried my best not to cry (my asthma acts up when I do), but when my favorite aunt reminded us of the time that my little brother told our 80-something-year-old grandmother that she would complain less if she had a boyfriend, the tears ran free. They were good tears. He lived! I thought.

Then, while I was thanking everyone who spoke, a stranger got to his feet and introduced himself as the religious leader of a few of the guests. He started well, saying that we needed to remember that only my little brother’s body was gone but that he was always going to be with us in spirit. Then he turned away from the gathering, put his hand on my shoulder, looked into my eyes, and said, “Only those who know me will know heaven.”

I bit my lip and looked away from him. I glanced toward my cousin; she was mouthing ‘Patience, Magaly, patience.’ My hands were shaking, so I crossed them. I saw my cousin cover her mouth. She was probably thinking that I was getting ready to punch the guy or at least drag him and his lack of ethics out of the place. But I didn’t. I just leaned closer to him, and said, “Thank you, I’m sure there is some honesty in your intentions, but you need to sit down now. My brother is dead behind us, and you are trying to use our pain to gather sheep for your church. Stop.” I might have said some other less kind things, but I can’t remember.

He said a few more words about people needing to repent or start planning for a very hot end. Then he gave me a last look before walking away from my little brother’s casket. I told the gathering that I didn’t know who the man was, and we went on with our mourning.

The man approached me twenty minutes or so after his heavenly recruiting speech, but before he opened his mouth, I told him that he needed to be glad that I respected my family’s pain and my brother’s memory, for those feelings kept me from embarrassing him in public. “This isn’t the time or the place, sir,” I said. He put a hand on my arm, and I gave him a look that made him pull it back. He left.

So… back to the first quote; I say that there are indeed times and places when and where it is totally inappropriate to spew sacred coercion, even if disguised as a message of hope and solace. I’m not talking about the odd family member who, overtaken by loss, screams of repentance and of a need for Jesus or some other god; that’s natural for many. But the religious professional who believes that it is ethical (even holy!) to use grief as a weapon of fear, is not only a despicable person but also an insult to the faith he or she pretends to revere. 
I couldn’t find a picture that said ‘Jesus would probably be ashamed of your lack of ethics,’ 
so I chose an owl that seems to be freaked out by well crafted fakery.

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49 comments:

  1. Wow, I don't know that I could have kept myself restrained. I mean the balls of that guy to stand up and start proselytizing at a funeral. Just wow.

    High five for keeping a lid on your temper.

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    1. It wasn't all that easy, but I had already gotten some practice on restrained from dealing with other idiots. It was quite a day...

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  2. I just don't even know what to say right now. I could go on a rant about respect and jackassery, but instead I'll just tell you well done, that you handled it much better than I would have. And may I suggest that if you ever need someone to drink and cry with, we'd (Dragon and I both) be happy to find a way to get together and regale each other with tales from the "dark" side...

    All the best and brightest blessings, Magaly. And much Love.
    -Fox.

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    1. When I go home after the funeral, I wanted to write (rant and rant and rant) for hours, but I told myself that it wasn't worth my time. People will be stupid, you know? So when things like this happen I breathe and remember that it has to be horrible to walk around being such an ass.

      I might have to take you up on those tales ;-)

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  3. An approach so brazen, tactless and transparent -- I have to wonder.... is ever actually effective? Just who, if anyone, actually falls for that sort of thing?

    I am so sorry to read of all this sadness and frustration. Humans certainly like to muck up an already mucky situation. You're a strong one Maglay.

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    1. I wondered the same thing. Does this kind of nonsense actually work? And if it does, do the people who fall for this kind of idiocy have mud for brains?

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  4. That man's words belong to a never ending collection of the same tactless and "I-think-it's-right" and "you-are-a-lost-soul" type of behavior. I remember you used to post about someone telling you about your pentagram, and other things alike. Well, take it, you can't change people..
    I'm sorry that in your grief you still have to be even stronger as to protect your very "I" and prove something, or at least, try to. Take care!
    Blessings your side!

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    1. People are weird, and sometimes totally clueless.

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  5. A well crafted fakery is what many chose to follow. There are so many "leaders" that have decided how to interpret the Bible and tell us how to live.
    I grow weary of their rhetoric.
    Jesus was all about forgiveness, love, charity. Take a hint fellows.
    Hugs
    SueAnn

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    1. And this kind of people make it really, really, really difficult for those who really answer the calling. It's sad.

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  6. You are a much better person than me. I would probably have punched him. (Like Hulk, I am always angry.)

    As for the e-mail: "To be born again is a gift that the saved offer to anyone in need." Really? Thanks a lot, but WE DON'T NEED ANYTHING. Except for chocolates. If he is offering free chocolates, send him my way. ^^

    This morning I read about a woman in Syria, who obviously was raped and killed by people associated with her brother because she identified as Pagan. (Source: http://pncminnesota.com/2013/03/21/in-memory-yana/) Obviously SOMEONE WHO THOUGHT THEY HAVE THE ONE AND ONLY TRUE RELIGION thought that this method was the right one to show her the way.

    (I am just waiting for someone to punch.)

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    1. I went and read your post, and my gods! What's wrong with people? How can they go around thinking for one second that raping a person can be holy or redeeming? I say this all the time, but here it goes again: some beasts don't deserve to be called human.

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  7. (Sorry for the shouting.)

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    1. No need for apologies. I've been shouting in my head for a while. It's nice to have accompaniment.

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  8. The things that are done in the name of Jesus make me very sad. Probably make Jesus sad too. Anyway, I look forward to the day when the Goddess can be worshipped freely and openly in our society. Take care Magaly, thinking about you.

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    1. If all Christians 'really' followed the teachings of Jesus, the world would be a better place. But there are so many living their interpretation of what he might or might not have said, that by the time they are done the message is dead and filthy. It's sad, and I agree with you, Jesus is probably sad.

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  9. "WE DON'T NEED ANYTHING. Except for chocolates. If he is offering free chocolates, send him my way." Love it, Diandra. Magaly, I'm so sorry you had to deal with that man's very Un-Christ-like behavior. Jesus would definitely have been ashamed of his actions, and would have rebuffed him and made him see the error of his ways. One might say that you were the more "Christ-like" of the two of you. It saddens and angers me that many religious leaders & their followers justify anything and everything in the name of their interpretation of God. "No time or method is unfitting when the final path leads to Heaven." This is dangerous reasoning. A host of evils can be justified with that phrase. I watched TWOO over and over and over as a kid. I always identified with the "wicked" witch, and triply so after Mr. Maguire came out with his further fleshing out of Elphaba. I get equally enraged thinking about her father using her for sacred coercion and when I think about Pastor Phulochit using your family's pain as fuel for his personal fire. I'm delighted that one of the sheep he was attempting to gather gave him the kick he so richly deserved. BB

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    1. I just visualized a sheep kicking that insensitive, uneducated, unethical, low life of a preacher and grinned. Thank you, your words are therapy ;-)

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  10. An evangelical church preyed on a former co-worker of mine at the very end of her life when she was dying and afraid. When I went to her funeral, it was full of these strangers, rejoicing and praising god because she had gone to heaven. The funeral erased virtually any personal reference to, or remembrances of, her actual life. The whole thing just turned my stomach.

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    1. It hurts me to see how fast the person who dies is forgotten and a faceless icon is born. I won't allow that to be done with my little brother; not in my heart. He was a trouble maker, made me yell at him more than 100 times, wasn't awesome about doing his dishes or cleaning his room, gave people all he had without asking for anything in return, smiled without effort, danced like a star, and I loved all who he was. So there.

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  11. You were far more courteous than I ever could have been. I lost it at a child's funeral when the "minister" (uneducated person "called to preach the gospel" without any theological training) said the child was doomed because he hadn't claimed "Jesus as his personal savior". I interupted him, told the parents I couldn't believe anything the man said, and walked out.

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    1. That is one of the saddest (and most despicable) things I've ever heard. How can any parent allowed that? Or live one day thinking that such horribleness is true. Poor people...

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  12. Well I think he was totally out of order...and laying hands on a stranger is also unacceptable. I would have been for less restrained, and I am a hugger...I don't go round randomly hugging people without asking if they mind being touched first....and I would most definitely "raised my voice" as he "left" the building...imediately!!! XXX

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    1. I was very tempted to bite his hand off, but his rotten flesh would have probably made me sick to my stomach.

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  13. Ah Magaley. that's their schtick. coercion. if you don't accept my way, my view, my belief, it's the lake of fire for you. they call their god a god of love and compassion and then they try to coerce you into belief and faith by threatening you with everlasting pain in hell if you don't. nice.

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    1. It is a terrible thing. There are so many decent Christians, but the self-centered beasts seem to be becoming more and more common. I think they speak for themselves, and the god they've made up has nothing to do with goodness, just control.

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  14. I actually have a clause in my will that bars certain members of my family from having custody of my body in the event of my death.

    I mentioned that because of someone assuming that "religion is religion, no one will care."

    On the contrary, many, many people care. I would care. My brother and my husband and my children and my ex husband would all care. The last thing we would want is some self serving, self absorbed preacher or religious leader hijacking our memorials by making them a place for preaching and gathering people to fill their pews.

    I saw a disgusting display of just that at the funeral I attended over the summer for a friend of my son's. I have never been so embarrassed for a person in my life, but I was the only one who actually saw them for the horse's heiney they were being.

    I commend you for being as patient as that. I would not have been. I would have very likely grabbed that man by the whispy hairs on the back of his neck and tossed him out on his arse on the pavement.

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    1. LJ, I've made so many adjustments to my will that it's probably long enough to drive a few lawyers crazy. I don't want anyone to turn my last goodbye into an ugly religious circus.

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  15. Quite a few people believe strongly as they person you exchanged emails with. For example, a great many conservative Christians who have managed to get elected. They believe that they are doing Gods' work & therefore cannot & willnot compromise. My youngest sister follows this line of thought.

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    1. The idea of a head of state thinking that "they are doing their god's work" is very scary. And mildly illegal. Too bad most of the ones who get to judge the legality of such acts are the same ones who think they are doing their god's work *sigh* I pray for change...

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  16. You're a better person than I am. I would have dragged him outside and beat the ever loving shit out of him. You deserve a metal and a crate of juicy mangoes for your ability to keep a lid on things out of love and respect.

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    1. I wanted to, particularly when he grinned like a nasty imp who had just discovered fresh (dumb) meat. The man made me a little sick, Danni. I don't understand how anyone can find this kind of behavior charming.

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  17. Oh wow, I'm sorry you had to go through that. I suspect you weren't the only person there who was angry with that man.

    I saw something similar at a memorial service I attended last September. It was for a former coworker's son, who I hadn't met. But I know they were Christian, and I assumed that the person doing the "Let us hope Max believed in God and is in heaven! You must let Jesus into your own hearts!" thing was doing so with the family's consent. Now I have to wonder, though.

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    1. My goodness, someone said that!?! How disgusting, and sad.

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    2. Maybe not those exact words, but that was the message. I thought it was pretty saddening.

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  18. Totally random...just noticed "Rose" in the "currently reading" section of your side bar. As someone who LOVES the Bone books I would love to hear what you think about it.

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    1. I got my first volume of Bone because of you. I'm a few chapters in and already love it. Will tell you all about it when I'm done ;-)

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  19. Magaly, you were good! I would have punched the guy and kicked him, where it counts! The nerve of some people! Pathetic!!@@

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    1. Oh, the idea of that man curled up into a nasty little ball of pain on the floor made giggle a little ;-)

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  20. That is both insane and rude! He really had no right to do anything but comfort those who were from his church.

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    1. I think some people exchange sense for faith and become worshipers of stupidity.

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  21. So as I pull my jaw up off of my keyboard, let me tell you how APPALLED both of those situations make me. Perhaps Mr. Thing, who sent you the email, should sign up for the Oz party next year at which time he will be fully free to assign his unwanted opinions. And yes, he was saying that burning humans is acceptable to free a soul.

    Now the religious leader's behavior was at least 100 times worse. How dare he do such a thing. Honey, he is so lucky you did not just kick his ass right there. How dare he use your family and your pain for his own gains.

    Both of them should be ashamed of themselves. Sending you my deepest light, comfort, and love. Mina

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    1. You are so funny, Mina. I actually invited him to make his comment publicly, but he declined. I stressed the fact that the only way we can learn form each other is by talking, but he was not interested in talking.

      And yes, that preacher is insult to anything that is spiritual. I'm sure someone will kick his behind one of these days, and perhaps he won't be lucky enough for the kicking to be physical.

      Love and light, my Mina ;-)

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  22. My knight in shinning Hispanic and his puerto rican friends used to call me bruja hablador and warn people to leave if I was truly angry for fear I might say something off hand that would later come true. They believed when I was angry I could make things happen by saying something in anger. My mum says the same thing but not in spanish. I'd have cursed him to live a long, long life suffering from itchy boils on his ass.

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    1. You have the gift of laughter, my dear friend. Thank you. I needed that this morning, and always ;-D

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  23. Oh my Goddess ... my jaw literally dropped when I read that. That's horrible and just so wrong. I probably would have bitten him if he put his hand on me after that little "speech" during the viewing.

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    1. I wanted to. But I was afraid of catching his stupidity infection.

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  24. I feel like washing that guy off my skin...that's how oily he came across...ew!!

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    1. I was stuck between wanting to vomit and rubbing my skin off with detergent, so I totally get the feeling.

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