Archive for the ‘Religious follies’ category

Annals Of Grift, Chapter [n]: “Pastoral Medicine”

April 26, 2016

This story is a perfect example of a truly elegant con.  On one side, the marks:  suffering, credulous, and primed to both reject and crave authority.  On the other, the grifters, offering valiant rebellion against the establishment, all the comfort of faith, and the knowledge that the truly dedicated marks will become repeat customers.

Ladles and jellyspoons, I give you pastoral medicine!

You’ve probably heard of the credentials M.D. and R.N., and maybe N.P. The people using those letters are doctors, registered nurses and nurse practitioners. But what about PSC.D or D.PSc? Those letters refer to someone who practices pastoral medicine — or “Bible-based” health care.

It’s a relatively new title being used by some alternative health practitioners. The Texas-based Pastoral Medical Association gives out “pastoral provider licenses” in all 50 states and 30 countries. Some providers call themselves doctors of pastoral medicine.

V0011224 Doctor and Mrs Syntax, with a party of friends, experimentin Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images images@wellcome.ac.uk http://wellcomeimages.org Doctor and Mrs Syntax, with a party of friends, experimenting with laughing gas. Coloured aquatint by T. Rowlandson after W. Combe. By: William Combeafter: Thomas RowlandsonPublished: - Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

And how do these fine practitioners roll?

[Stephen] Barrett [a retired psychiatrist and founder of the consumer protection siteQuackwatch.org] says the Pastoral Medical Association functions like a private club. Patients sign confidentiality agreements, pay out of pocket and are prohibited from suing if they’re unhappy with the care they receive. Any disputes are handled by an ecclesiastical tribunal.

“They’re claiming that ‘Any advice we give you is pastoral in nature,’ ” Barrett says. “In other words, ‘If I give you health advice that’s not health advice, that’s pastoral advice.’

The article goes on to dig up one person who felt helped by her pastoral “advisor” — a woman who believed “heavy metal detox, special diet and herbal supplements helped her lose weight and gain energy.”  And good for her! I’d hope she’d derive some comfort from her ~$5,000 donation to what the Pastoral Medical Association calls “the Almighty’s Health Care workers.”

A closing thought.  In the deregulated paradise sought by the Republican party and its Koch and Koch-esque paymasters, there’s no problem with such charlatanism.  Let people put their money where they like, regulatory oversight be damned, and let the market (and morbidity/mortality outcomes) decide the matter.  That sick people might not be fully at liberty to exercise their function as a homo economicus is somebody else’s problem.

Which is to say — this particular grift takes the form of the familiar American religious confidence game that has taken in its suckers since before the birth of the Republic.  At the same time, it’s a pretty good proxy for the same long con being run on too many Americans by the folks who have come to use the Republican Party as its front.

Image:T. Rowlandson after W. Combe, Doctor and Mrs. Syntax and a Party of Friends Making an Experiment in Pneumatics, 19th c.

Now This Is How You Prayer-Shame!

December 4, 2015

Mike Lukovich:

Lukovich prayer

And I’ll note that the good Dr. Pierce still has his fastball:

​Have you noticed? There’s a new thing that progressives should not do, because it will scare the horses and frighten the children, and harsh the holy mellows of the various tent-show evangelicals currently at work in Republican politics. It is called “prayer-shaming.”  It became a thing in the wake of the San Bernardino massacre, when Republican candidates immediately leaped onto Twitter to send “thoughts and prayers to the victims and their families.” This time, however, a  great number of people, most notably Senator Chris Murphy and the editors of the New York Daily News, decided that up with this pious swill was something that they no longer would put.*

Jean_Béraud_The_Magdalen_at_the_House_of_the_Pharisees

Well, Charles.  Tell me what you really think:

I am heartily fed up with this nonsense. I am heartily fed up with people whose personal relationships with their personal Lords And Saviors lead them to knuckle the poor, subjugate women, brag about their gunmanship, and topple inconvenient regimes that happen to be sitting on an ocean of oil. I am heartily fed up with people whose support for Israel is based on a couple of misunderstood passages from the craziest book in the Bible in which Jesus comes back to Earth as an X Man and gets into some enthusiastic disemboweling. …

There’s more stupid out there today on this heinous sin of identifying ostentatious piety as the gun-murder-enabling horse hockey it is. But we are none of us surprised, are we?  Channelling my inner (and likely apocryphal) Abe L., if the [insert favorite conception of the deity here] were to exist, we’d know s/he’d love hypocrites, ’cause s/he made so damn many of them.

So let’s just chat among ourselves, shall we.  Today’s prompt:  which ethnic or racial group do you think Trump will insult next?  Bonus points for the most authentic sounding Trumpismo gibe.

 *Not to go all style police or anything (FSM knows, glass houses and all that), but my Brit mum used to attribute that construction to Winston Churchill in the original form “This is the kind of chicken shit up with which I shall not put,” and that’s how I think it ought to read here.
Image:  Jean Béraud, The Magdalen at the House of the Pharisees, 1891

“Prayer Shaming”? Jesus — and Isaiah — Wept

December 3, 2015

I identify as an atheist these days, but to be clear, I’m a Jewish one.  By that I mean that the religious education I received and the ongoing value I find in some ritual and more reading and thinking about the tradition to which I’m heir inform a lot of the way I try to understand and act in the world.

That’s the framework in which I found myself gagging and raging at the nonsense behind this “prayer shaming” horse hockey.

My response?  Ein bischen Deuteronomy:

29 The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever…*

That I (and many exegeses I’ve heard on this verse, which is slapped all over the Jewish High Holidays liturgy) gloss as that which we know, that which we see in the world — that’s what it falls to us to repair.

Then there’s James 2:14-16 — of which I was reminded by a Twitter correspondent when I started slinging scripture there earlier in the day:

14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?

15 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food,

16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?

Rembrandt_The_Hundred_Guilder_Print

To those of us whose scriptural knowledge resides mostly in the Jewish bible, the echoes of Isaiah 58: 3-7 are inescapable.  (This is another one of the greatest hits of Yom Kippur):

Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and thou seest not? wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and thou takest no knowledge? Behold, in the day of your fast ye find pleasure, and exact all your labours.

Behold, ye fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness: ye shall not fast as ye do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high.

Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul? is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the Lord?

Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?

Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?

All of which points to a conclusion obvious to the non-sociopathic: prayer is a conversation one has in private. It does not exhaust — it does not begin to meet — the sum of what a would-be good person must do.  And not just that:  Jewish scripture and Christian testament, and a metric fucktonne of secular reasoning all come to the conclusion that public piety is meaningless without the actual work of repairing the world (the Hebrew phrase is tikkun olam).

Which is why I find the crap purveyed by gun-murder-enablers suggesting that religiosity is no substitute for actually taking action so hateful, even vicious.  If I were a believer I would say that there are circles of hell for those who know why innocents are slaughtered, and yet do nothing, actually bar the way to doing anything, to prevent those deaths.

And yeah — I know that this is belaboring the obvious. But what’s a blog for, if not for the endless flogging of deceased equine quadrupeds?

*You may notice that all these quotes come from the King James version.  A heterodox choice for one who identifies as Jewish.  But oh, my friends, and ah, my foes, that music!

Image: Rembrandt van Rijn, The Hundred Guilder Print  (also: Christ Preaching and/or Jesus healing the sick) c. 1646-1650.

Nutpicking Can Be Fun…

November 5, 2015

…until you realize that these guys, were they to be nominated would get 45% of the vote just for showing up.

But still, some mid – day recreation, first from the kiddie table:

In a fundraising email flagged by The Washington Post’s Dave Weigel on Thursday, the Republican candidate bragged about his ability to take on “radical world leaders.”

Screen Shot 2015-11-05 at 1.33.20 PM

Damn, women can be pretty terrifying, eh, Ricky my boy?

Alright.  I admit that the closest Santorum is going to get to anything oval will be if he sits on a hula hoop, but still, that’s a Republican former senator who made an actual impact, for a time, on the presidential race as recently as four years ago.  That he’s not been gently, kindly escorted off stage in a nicely padded and very secure topcoat is a measure of how batshit insane half of the American body political has become.

Antônio_Parreiras_-_O_louco_de_Chevillat

But not as terrifying a measure as the current status of our next contributor:

Carson also defended the idea Wednesday evening when asked by reporters about it.

“The pyramids were made in a way that they had hermetically sealed compartments. You wouldn’t need hermetically sealed compartments for a sepulcher. You would need that if you were trying to preserve grain for a long period of time,” he said, according to MSNBC.

The only consolation I can take from the fact that the current GOP frontrunner doesn’t want you to pay any attention to that stupid archaeology stuff is that it isn’t just climate expertise he disdains. He’s an equal opportunity science denialist.

OK.  That’s no consolation at all.

I’d point and laugh — but then you’d see my own terror in the trembling of my finger tip.

Seriously:  that people like Santorum and Carson matter even momentarily in a presidential race is more than just a measure of GOP pathology.  It’s a sign of its own version of endtimes.  I think I want to save the full thumbsucker for another post, but the derangement of so much of the electorate (Houston voters freak out over even the remote possibility of a penis in a women’s bathroom?!) is not just-a-once-every-four-years freak show.  It’s not even on some level political, or not entirely so.  The world is apocaplyptically misbehaving for a lot of folks, and Carson and Santorum are as much as anything the straws in the wind of that much greater dislocation.

And with that, I’m galumphing into dread pundit territory.  Run away! (and talk amongst yourselves).

Image:  Antonio Parreiras, The crazy man from Chevillat, 1920.

You Know You’re Bugf**k When…

February 28, 2015

Bill O’Reilly is the sane one in the room.

Ladles and Jellyspoons, I present you with the comic stylings [via TPM] of self-made son and purveyor of a gospel that is good news only  in his fevered brain…

Put your hands together for our own, all American Franklin Graham!

“One of the problems we have in the West is that our governments, especially in Washington, has been infiltrated by Muslims who are advising the White House, who I think are part of the problem,” Graham said. “And we see this also in Western Europe. They have gotten into the halls of power.”

Oh Noes! We’re doomed until a good Christian Soldier may come to save the day!

Giovanni_Battista_Tiepolo_-_St_James_the_Greater_Conquering_the_Moors_-_WGA22297

Uhhh. Wrongo on so many axes-o, Frankie boy.  So much so, in fact, that Bill O’Reilly, veteran of so many battles fought within his own mind, could not help but do that Village media rarity, and ask a follow up:

O’Reilly pushed back, asking for Graham to name a Muslim adviser to President Obama.

Franklin replied with equal measures of Joe McCarthy and Mole MacCaroney*:

“I do know that they are there. I’ve been told this by a number of people,” Graham responded. “I’m not saying that they’re sitting next to the President, whispering into his ear. But they are in the halls.”

Channelling my inner Abe:  hurts too much to laugh and I’m too big to cry.

BTW:  just to point out the obvious, being saner than Franklin Graham does not make Bill Legend In His Own Memoirs O’Reilly actually on the beam.  The question that prompted Franklin’s first reply was why the west hadn’t united to defeat ISIS — which is, as we say in the halls of reason, a question marred by assumptions not in evidence.

And with that, my fine feathered friends (and the non-avian amongst us), I give you Modern American Conservatism.

 

*Not that its all that easy to distinguish between those two, by Walt Kelly’s design, of course.

Image: Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, St. James the Greater Conquering the Moors, betw. 1749 and 1750.  Truly horrible work, IMHO, (sorry), but so apposite.

 

 

When You’re Right, You’re Right

December 18, 2014

No GG fanboi, me, I can’t find anything amiss with this statement:

Screen Shot 2014-12-18 at 3.12.59 PM

140 characters (+/-) of truth.

Then there’s this:

Screen Shot 2014-12-18 at 3.16.33 PM

I know.  Calling out Republican hypocrisy is akin to blaring Dog Bites Man above the fold, but still — I remain almost impressed by how thoroughly President Obama’s critics are so damn good at being utterly blind to the contradictions.

I’d say we should just point and laugh, but these feral children have real power.  Feh.

My New Favorite Mayor…

July 20, 2014

…would be Her Honor Kimberley Driscoll, chief executive of the town of Salem, MA, now caught up in a  dispute with Gordon College.   Gordon is a Christian school with an educational mission it describes thusly:

The best foundation for Christian higher education is the narrative of Scripture, and the goal of Christian higher learning is love—for both God and neighbor.”

That love does not extend to all neighbors.

Thomas_Eakins_-_Swimming_(1895)

The college recently requested an exemption from President Obama’s LGBT anti-workplace-discrimination order, a decision that caught the attention of Salem officials.  In response, the city  ended a contract it had with the school to manage its town hall.

That caught the attention of, among others, Glenn Beck, who warmed up the usual suspects to object to Salem’s decision.   In a letter posted to her Facebook page on Wednesday, Salem Mayor Kimberley Driscoll said her office had received more than 50 calls that day from supporters of Beck and “right-leaning” blogs result,  many of them…how to say this?…not what you would call civil:

Driscoll said the callers expressed “some patently offensive views regarding LGBT individuals.”

No surprise there. But what came next turns this from a conventional story of conservative/religious push-button rage that the exercise of the their first amendment rights were not without consequences into a lovely moment, courtesy of Mayor Driscoll:

So to fight back, she said she planned to donate $5 for every phone call to the North Shore Alliance of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Youth (nAGLY).

Hee!

You go, Madam Mayor.

Image:  Thomas Eakins, Swimming/The swimming hole, 1885