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Us and Them… And After All We’re Only Ordinary Men

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Look, about the subhead, “for Christians only.” If I wouldn’t have wanted everyone to feel welcome, I wouldn’t have arranged to pipe Pink Floyd music from the belfry. It was as much a feeble attempt at irony as a “Beware All Who Enter Here.” I’m a political Christian. I know who Jesus is. Knowing who is us and who is them, though, politically speaking, hasn’t gotten anything but harder.

Theocracy: Christians marching shoulder-to-shoulder at a pro-life rally may have certain political objectives in common, but establishing a theocracy in the USA shouldn’t be one of them. Most of us (them?) know this already, and if the rest of them (us?) could see a cartoon representation of such gatherings, with the staunchest and most inflexible eying one another suspiciously, the thought bubbles above their heads bearing unflattering caricatures of either Bloody Mary (if the head was submerged at baptism) or Oliver Cromwell (if the head was sprinkled), they’d know it, too.

Abortion: About those pro-life rallies. If the ACLU can go to bat for Fred “That’s Your Funeral” Phelps’ right to be an odious nuisance at public gatherings, it can jolly well go to bat for people who wait near the entrances of abortion clinics to make up the deficits in “informed consent” for women who are about to undergo a procedure some of them — notice I said some of them — will regret for the rest of their lives unless someone shows up at the eleventh hour to offer help and an alternative. It can jolly well go to bat for a group of nuns and stroller-pushing parents holding aloft, in front of the capitol building, posters of fetuses at various stages of development. Granted, some of those pictures are graphic and disturbing, and in contexts other than this one, perhaps even tasteless. Outlaw the display of disturbing and graphic images, though, and you’ve just stopped the beating heart of the entire enterprise of photojournalism. Photo. Journalists. Embedded. Cognitive. Dissonance. See “Middle Eastern Wars.”

On the other hand, all the grassroots rancor that exists between the passionate pro-lifers and the passionate pro-choicers should convince us that this country isn’t ready for a decision, one way or another, handed down from the Federal heights. There is a hue and cry raised, and there should be, when a person who possesses his own dog, as a woman possesses the fetus inside her own body, abuses that dog, who in turn is in possession of a nervous system as sensitive to noxious stimuli as the nervous systems of fetuses — or indeed, of embryos, depending on whose fetal pain research you believe. Conversely, there is no hue and cry raised, and there shouldn’t be, when a family brings a pet suffering the final stages of an incurable disease (or one they can’t afford to cure) to the vet to be put down as painlessly and humanely as possible. There are animal rights extremists, but most people seem to be able to agree on what is a reasonable level of respect for the life of a dog.

Oh, that the life and death decisions about every individual on the human life continuum — the embryos being considered for use in stem cell research, and the Terry Schiavos of the world, and the clients of Dr. Kevorkian — could be so straightforward! But they’re not, there it is. It’s hard to imagine what common ground between the abortion-pro and abortion-foe camps would even look like. That uncharted territory is nowhere near Washington DC, and until somebody discovers it, it isn’t a cop-out to remember that the Constitution gives States the right to make decisions about matters like these on their own. A poor woman living in South Dakota may have to get bus fare if she feels she needs an abortion, and a Catholic family living in upstate New York State may have to subsidize through taxes the abortions of welfare-recipients in New York City.

And in every state, there will be an Auntie Minty thumbing her nose at the Hippocratic Oath, her competitors in the abortion industry, and legislators of every stripe. She knows what she’s doing, her methods are safe (for the mother, I mean) and reasonably priced, if not legal; they’ve been used effectively for centuries by people who understand and can manage their deadly potency. Better to spend money on Pampers and baby clothes you find on sale to give to Birthright or a Crisis Pregnancy Center, than to spend it paying a soldier in the war on drugs to perform the Sisyphean task of scouring the land for pennyroyal.

Middle Eastern Wars: Of course, most of the above discussion on abortion was completely moot. Repeal Roe v. Wade? Just as if! Some of us (them?) have spent the last thirty-five years reaching for the same old tarnished brass ring of a campaign promise, as the calliope goes ‘round, and ‘round, and ‘round. Pro-lifers, in good faith, have helped to elect people they thought were going to finally, this time maybe, once and for all, save babies in America. Meanwhile, the neoconservatives they’ve ensconced in office have few qualms about sacrificing babies (in or out of the womb) from Iraq, and Iran, Lebanon, Syria, Pakistan on the altar of Empire. The Democrats, willing to make the same sacrifice have other brass rings with which to lure the electorate. Madeleine Albright (President Bill Clinton’s Secretary of State) when asked on CBS’s 60 Minutes in 1996 to justify US sanctions in Iraq, directly responsible for the deaths of half a million children, described that sacrifice as “worth it.”

On the other hand, where I’m always looking to get a balanced perspective on things, Saddam Hussein put people through plastic shredders. Who put that clown in power anyway? The Iraqi people, the Christian ones certainly, have the good sense to be grateful for what the US did for them five years ago. What do you mean, you say they don’t? Do you think I’m being unfair to people who support the war? Us? Them? Look, it’s my other hand that I’m looking at, the hand that I smugly believed could keep me free from the taint of blood if it pulled the right levers in a voting booth.

I could give a Gospel message now, but sometimes a gal needs to sit in quiet contemplation of the filth on her own two hands. “There is a balm in Gilead, that makes the wounded whole. There is a balm in Gilead, that heals the sin-sick soul.”

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About Irene Athena

Wonderfully ordinary.
  • irene Athena

    What happened to the comment from Opehelia Phelps?

    • Irene Athena


    • Dunno. Are you sure it was here on this page?

  • Irene

    STM: as in waltzing Matilda. Totally. Jet–I read the whole comment, and I’m glad your faith is still there. 🙂

  • As I proofread this, I admit that it’s looking like a long harangue that no one will read past the first sentences or two. but I feel the need to get it out.

    My only regret is that now Pink Floyd will be stuck in my head singing for the next few days.


    The two heads of the dragon that aren’t often mentioned is Fear and Money.

    Those who are powerless often evoke God’s name. They are convinced that if they evoke God’s name often enough and loud enough, the peasants they’re trying to control or manipulate will “fear him as you fear me”. The “What if” factor plays a very important part of their lives… (What if God really is speaking
    through them, or worse yet what if God judges me for defying him, even if the almighty is not using that human as a “speaker phone from heaven”.

    I lost my fear of God as a teenager when I heard the original Jesus Christ Superstar-Not the soundtrack the real thing original album before it became a broadway play.

    Over my years I thought that nothing could ever change my love I felt for Christ

    …but I was wrong.

    You see Jesus left me alone down here with ordinary humans. As more and more of them preached hate instead of love, they wore down and skewed my love of God and tried to turn it into fear instead.

    When I’m alone with several of these “born-agains” I like to (excuse the expression) scare the hell out of them by looking up at the sky and screaming at the top of my lungs for God to strike me down for defying “his” teaching. Terror usually grips them as they back away.

    Usually afterward they say they were afraid I’d lost my mind and might hurt them, but the truth is they back away for fear-their fear-that God’s wrath may strike them down with me.

    Apparently God’s aim isn’t so good in his old age according to them. To stand next to me would be to fear that they haven’t made it safely to the other shoreline before God drops the Red Sea on me.

    My God is one of love, of gentle teaching, and of transformation-not one of hate and most of all Fear.

    Admit it-Most people fear God like a hated employer who is lurking in the shadows somewhere waiting to overhear something he can punnish you for saying.

    We fear what we don’t understand
    We kill what we fear.

    I do not, nor have I ever feared the almighty GOD and I’ve never been afraid to print out his awsome name anywhere. I don’t fear judgement from my god… I fear only man’s.

    Far too many ignorant people see God as some sadistic monster with a whip, waiting just beyond earth’s bounds laughing with St. Peter at the pearly gates, with his book of sins to punish you for.


    Then there’s the money changers at the steps of the temple. People who see a congregation not as a group of people joined in faith-no they are a group of people joined in fear that their spiritual leader will abandon them to god’s wrath unless they tithe their earnings to him.

    They disgust me, because they live by the saying “You get what you pay for” instead of anything they might selectively read in the Bible to justify their hate, or sins committed against others in “his” name.

    I’ve learned the hard way that the Phelp’s, the Anita Bryants and the Jerry Falwells of this world are very replaceable. One goes, and another immediately takes their place-hands extended with a collection plate instead fo a bible.

    I glory in God’s word, not fear it.

    I presume to pity those who don’t and I’ll tell you why. My faith has been truly shaken in the last few years. Sometimes I think Job would blanche at my story.

    But my faith is still with me… shaken and stirred severely yes, but it’s still there.

    Oh and by the way, I liked your article here too, sorry for sort of writing one of my own in your space….

  • STM

    I want Fred Phelps and his pack of lunatics to come to Australia and do what he does up there, and see how long he lasts. They should probably book the ambulance first, though, to save time.

    I know some Americans value their skewed notions of what constitutes free speech, but somewhere, you have to draw the line with this madness.

    London to a brick on 10 seconds before he’s sleeping like a baby with black eye and a lump on his head.

    It’s interesting that Fred and his adherents think their hate-filled brand of “christianity” is the only road to heaven.

    Their ideas are so far removed from the teachings of Christ, which is what Christianity is about, they have no relevance whatsoever to any discussion of Christian thought or belief.

  • As I’ve said before, I would pay a very large fortune for a front row, grandstand seat to see the look on Fred Phelps’s face when he shows up at the Pearly Gates expecting to be waved through…

  • Irene

    Thanks Ruvy,Clavos,Baronius! Dr. Dreadful: it’s the pink glitter tote bag as draws ’em in every time.

  • Baronius

    Another interesting article, Irene. One of the rare BC articles written from a religious perspective.

    We’ve had an occasional Phelpser comment on this site, but never an actual Phelps before. It’s interesting that she uses the word “hypocrite”. Now, she may think me a hypocrite, and I may think the same of her, but one thing’s for sure. No one ever persuaded anyone by calling him a hypocrite.

    And that’s the problem I have with Phelps’s people. They don’t seem interested in persuading anyone. Most religious people seek to increase their numbers, to get more people on the same page. The Westboro people seem content to be the tiny remnant bound for Heaven. Margie misses the entire point of Irene’s article, that well-meaning Christians can differ on how to bring that faith to the worlds of politics and society.

  • I didn’t realize that this Sunday past was Easter Sunday – had I known, I’d have given you my good wishes, Irene.

    My sincerest apologies.

  • Ms. Phelps,

    Irene at least tries to worship a G-d of love. You appear to worship a god of hate and death, known to the ancients as Moloch.

    And you totally misconstrue the message of YeHezkél and his vision of G-d. How typical of “Christians” like you. If you want to mess around with the Christian book, be my guest, but stay away from the Tana”kh with your ignorance, hate and stupidity.

  • Very well written, Irene. I gave you a plug here, but one of your co-religionists had to come along and wreak his “havoc”.

    You show far greater wisdom by withholding your message….

  • Clavos


    Well written.

    All I can say for now; I have to think about it.

  • Wow, Irene.

    I don’t know exactly what part of your piece it was that did it, but I do believe you’re the first BC writer to succeed in bringing the WBC crawling out of the tar pit they wallow in.

    You must be so proud…


  • Margie Phelps

    There are three reasons the average anti-abortion picketer is not comparable to the picketing prophets of Westboro Baptist Church:

    First, usually they are self-righteous hypocrites, who would just as soon kill the WBC prophets for mentioning the word “sin,” let alone pointing out the hundreds of passages about the wrath of God. They think because they state the obvious — it’s wrong to kill the unborn — they are deserving of heaven, and of God kissing their backsides.

    Second, they frequently break the law. They apparently think the passages saying to obey the laws of man have less relevance than the ones that say not to kill.

    Third — and this is the important one — the King of Glory is not with them. God isn’t interested in your human standards, or your phony holy ways. None of the “Christians” of this nation obey God, fear God, or speak the truth about God. Just because, as foretold in 1 Th 2, satan is standing in the temple pretending he’s God — through these pink-glitter-tote-bag-toting hypocrites who pretend to be Christian — doesn’t make it so.

    So stop pretending these two groups — the phony pretend-Christians who break the law to put forth a small sliver of God’s standard because it happens to suit them vis-a-vis the prophets of God, who are described in Ezekiel 1 (among other places) who are telling this world, in the Last of All Days, that God the Avenger is coming up over the hill with his garments dyed red to punish you for your grievous sins, and Christ is coming through the clouds soon to punish the disobedient.


    Margie Phelps
    Westboro Baptist Church
    Topeka, KS