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9 Similarities Between Samantha Bee’s Megachurch And Evangelical Heretics

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A recent Los Angeles Times profile is headlined, “In the Trump era, a visit to ‘Full Frontal With Samantha Bee’ feels like ‘feminist church.” Entertainment reporter Meredith Blake describes the “Trump bump” lifting subscription rates, clicks, and views for progressive programming since President Trump’s election. It’s also apparently filling chairs for comedienne Samantha Bee’s show, a woman-dominated “rarity in the boys’ club of late night.”

‘Full Frontal’ correspondent Allana Harkin comes out to rev up the crowd by asking how they’ve been contributing to ‘the resistance,’ the self-styled movement against Trump.

The vibrant response, and the overall kinetic mood is reflective of the weekly live audience for ‘Full Frontal,’ which, like other politically flavored comedy shows such as ‘Saturday Night Live’ and ‘The Daily Show with Trevor Noah,’ is enjoying a boost in viewership thanks to the relentless shifting controversies surrounding the Trump administration.

Executive producer and showrunner Jo Miller tells Blake “I have a friend who comes to the show sometimes and calls it ‘feminist church.’” She’s not wrong, which is not as much an indictment of Bee’s show as it is of American Christianity — or, as “Issues, Etc.” radio host Todd Wilken aptly labels this sizeable portion of American religion, “pop American Christianity.”

In no way should church be anything like a political television harangue, but for many Americans it is an accurate comparison. It’s not that the entertainment industry has stolen church; it’s that many churches have stolen their style from the entertainment industry. And, let’s be real: entertainers have always done entertainment better. When church is about the feels, of course rock bands and TV hosts and comedians are going to outdo some overgrown pajama-boy schmuck with frosted tips and a slightly visible tattoo. Beyonce, or this guy?

It’s not even a slightly difficult choice for this committed churchgoer who is not particularly a Beyonce fan. I’d pick the Beyonce every time, and so do millennials. I’m not going to review all the research discussing how the most theologically ignorant generation in American history was born to the most-churched parents in American history, but you can hop on over to Pew for some more datapoints and Notre Dame sociologist Christian Smith for some depth.

Fascinatingly, the “spiritual but not religious” attendees at the Church of Samantha Bee have something big in common with their worst enemy: The Trump tribe is more like them religiously than not. In the primaries, conservatives who were more religiously active were dramatically less likely to support Trump, and a good portion of these devout folks either stayed home on election day or voted third party. “Regular, weekly church attendance…predicted a statistically significant and substantive opposition to Trump,” noted political scientist Matthew MacWilliams. The typical Trump fan could be more fairly described as “spiritual…but not religious.”

Wow, what other demographic does that fit? Oh, right — millennials! Live that one down, guys.

As a number of articles on The Federalist have argued, many Americans are replacing their religious void with politics. It’s most visible on the Left right now, but it’s also a phenomenon on the Right, with Trump as its current avatar. These two opposing factions of rabid social justice warrior versus the “America, f— yeah!” types are united by the fact that politics is their religion.

For them, that makes politics apocalyptic. Losing is not just a temporary shift in a slight aspect of one’s temporal life, but another sign of the apocalypse, an immanentizing of the eschaton. This accounts for their unhinged behavior. If the antichrist really were president, a lot more folks would be anticipating the world’s imminent end.

Alright, enough philosophizing. Let’s look at some outward manifestations of these philosophical similarities between adherents to Samantha Bee’s show (and those like it) and your more typical megachurch.

1. Cult of Personality around Charismatic Leader

TV hosts need the force of personality to carry an entire show. Samantha Bee is a comedic descendant of the Jon Stewart family, which has spun off a number of such single-hosted shows. Same for religious institutions in which people come not for Jesus but the charisma, which elevate the pastor and his team to rock stars, complete with Vevo, major publishing, and music contracts instead of “He must increase, but I must decrease.”

It’s not that there is anything inherently bad about making money at preaching the gospel, but there is a definite tension between “the worker is worthy of his wages” and rampant gluttony that defames the name and work of Christ. Likewise, what may be entirely necessary for the professional world of temporal entertainment — an eponymous show host — may not be appropriate for a completely different kingdom’s economy.

2. Skits and Rock Music During the Service

People love skits, people love rock music, people love R&B. That’s why all of these things are integral parts of TV shows like Bee’s. The fact that these are themselves good and enjoyable things, however, does not necessarily mean they are appropriate to a church service. To take a crass example, God says sex (within marriage) is a wonderful thing, and the Bible includes some rather erotic poetry. Almost nobody but utter barbarians, however, would argue this good thing should happen during Sunday worship.

So, what is the purpose of a church service? To make people feel good? HONK, nope, that’s the job of entertainment. Your pop American Christianity is showing. Try again, please.

Well, my religious tradition answers this question with some variation on “We go to church so God can give us his gifts, to strengthen and preserve us in our faith until Christ returns.” Christianity is singular among the world’s religions in that our God does all the work of saving people. In every other religion, adherents have to do something to merit eternal life. Not Christians. Our God does all the work, we just thank him for it (which power he also gives us, since he gives everything good). And that’s what church is for: Christ giving us his gifts (which the church has typically called word and sacraments, chief of which are communion and baptism); and us thanking him for those gifts, and ask him to keep giving them.

Appropriate to a ceremony in which the universe’s Creator comes down to serve beings that have to a man desecrated his offerings, my church practices reverential behavior and appearance during worship. We don’t put God’s body and blood on a stage on which crooning singers thrust their hips or on which people cavort in jungle costumes. That also comports with the historic practice of the church.

3. Salvation By Works

Like all the other world religions besides Christianity, in the Samantha Bee church and many megachurches adherents are given little to-do lists to effect their salvation. The LA Times profile says in Bee’s audience, “As fans trickle out of the studio after the taping, an audience coordinator urged them, ‘Call about Gorsuch. Call about healthcare. Keep fighting the good fight’…[and] a recent segment that encouraged viewers to call their representatives about a bill that would loosen hunting restrictions on national preserve lands in Alaska.”

Likewise, megachurch prosperity gospel preachers like Joel Osteen seem to offer their flock a “gospel” message: “Your best life now.” But underneath the optimistic facade is the heavy hand of religious law, as a careful review of Osteen and colleagues’ sermons will show. Their message is not about what Christ has done for you, but what your life will look like if you are a real Christian, which puts pressure and focus on your performance and outcomes rather than Christ’s completed work.

To be a member in good standing of these churches, you’ve got to do something: Call a senator. Leaflet your neighborhood. Put on a p-ssy hat. Be happy. Have lots of material “blessings.” Sow “seeds” of financial donations to religious hucksters. Push God’s buttons, and he’ll push yours.

4. The Politics Are Always Left

Ross Douthat’s “Bad Religion” tied the postwar decline of evangelicalism into its self-identification with the political religious right, but a number of American megachurch leaders trend politically left, and the politics doesn’t seem to hurt their size. The highest-profile example of this is Saddleback pastor Rick Warren, but it’s also notably true of his televangelist friend Oprah.

Dr. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has written about the inevitability that megachurches trend left as the culture becomes increasingly hostile to orthodox Christian teachings about sex, starting with divorce, on which most churches have already capitulated and which inevitably leads to downplaying the authority and inerrance of scripture, ending in a complete evisceration of Christianity itself (as the mainline denominations have shown). Once scripture isn’t really scripture, you lose the objectivity of truth and descend into subjectivism, in which your feelings determine reality.

That very state is an intrinsic part of modern progressivism. It’s not a baby. I’m really a woman inside. It doesn’t matter whether my big-spending program helps — or hurts — anyone so long as I feel good about having “done something” with other people’s time and money. Both theological and political liberalism are intrinsically tied to relativism — the refusal to acknowledge hard limits on one’s desires.

5. The Sacrament Is Self

For both the political and the religious megachurch, attendance is about managing your emotions rather than obedience to God’s commands or receiving his gifts. The focus is on you, the god who displaces Christ.

The dominant emotion in Bee’s show is anger. She snarls at the screen. I feel like I have to start drinking as soon as her shrill, joyless voice comes out of my laptop speakers. The dominant emotion when watching megachurch services is comfort. Soothing. Tranquility. Synthesizers. Sleepy. Now, both anger and tranquility have their place, but emotion management is ultimately not the purpose of church, as I’ve discussed above. That’s because a real church is not about you; it’s about Christ for you. Anyone who says otherwise is a heretic.

6. The Sermons Are Really Pep Talks

In a real church, the sermon is an opportunity for a pastor educated in God’s word — its original language, history, and interpretation across centuries of church thinkers against various heresies — to administer that word to you for your soul’s eternal benefit.

In the political and religious megachurch, the sermons are instead substance-free pep talks. Megachurch pastors tell anecdotes and jokes and have clever pop-psychology acronyms, acrostics, and alliteration. High Priestess Bee makes you feel like she’s totally devastated some Trump Nation sidekick but actually just smeared somebody with snide, half-truth one-liners and microaggressions. You feel like you got something, but what you got was essentially an emotional experience untethered to reality. That’s why the high fades and leaves a crash.

7. Talk Therapy and Virtue Signaling

Megachurch pastors, including Osteen, are often adherents of the “word-faith” heresy. These people literally believe that saying what you want to have happen can make it happen. I’m sure all the Christian martyrs simply forgot to pray for God to prevent their brutal murders, right?

Millennial Samantha Bee churchgoers are also known for slacktivism and virtue signaling, behaviors in which saying or demonstrating your approval of a certain politics is supposed to magically accomplish those politics and make them effective in achieving your noble desires.

8. Rejection of Suffering

Speaking of martyrs, neither Bee’s church nor the typical platinum pastor is very much interested in the classic concept of suffering into truth. In the progressive world Bee inhabits, “when somebody hurts, government’s gotta move.” That was a managerial progressive, but same essential belief system. Millennials just transferred the hurt from physical to metaphysical, ratcheting up the religiosity. If anything is wrong anywhere, government should do something. In the progressive mindset there is no limiting principle for government power. The existence of a perceived problem is sufficient justification for government action.

The sofa-laden world of megachurches is little better. Typically the “gospel” preached in such churches whitewashes the blood, sweat, and tears out of real Christianity. The cross is Precious Momentsed. Sacrifice is reduced to financial donations, and missionary work to religious-themed entertainment safaris through the Third World that often harm the intended recipients.

For one megachurch, Jesus is a lottery ticket. For the other, government is.

9. Neither Offers a Real Religion

It should be clear at this point that these two substitutions for God do not and cannot do him justice. None can, of course. Part of the reason progressive politics is never satisfied is because government can not heal what are ultimately existential wounds. Part of the reason megachurches churn through so many people despite the high stadium numbers is the lack of spiritual nourishment they provide despite God’s clear direction for how and what his sheep need.

Government cannot fix sin. It can only partially mitigate it. The classic limiting principle for government in the Western tradition comes directly from religion, when it commands governments as God’s agents to execute justice. Government functions best when it does what it alone can do best, which is execute temporal restraint over evil (that is the only true justice available to broken men, not  “social justice,” which is a frame for attempting to have humans take God’s place to mete out spiritual justice, for which we are very ill-qualified).

Churches function best when they carry out their unique function, which is to preserve the means by which God has promised to provide eternal salvation. When we confuse the comparative roles of government and church, we get not only secular and religious megachurches, but a lot of hurting people roving about for a savior they can never seem to find.

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gangsterofboats
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THEY TOLD ME IF TRUMP WERE ELECTED, WEB CENSORSHIP WOULD RUN RAMPANT. AND THEY WERE RIGHT! Alterna…

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THEY TOLD ME IF TRUMP WERE ELECTED, WEB CENSORSHIP WOULD RUN RAMPANT. AND THEY WERE RIGHT! Alternative facts alert: Proposed legislation bans “fake news.”

The new proposal bars the online publication of a “false or deceptive statement designed to influence the vote.” Bye-bye online news. On the flip side, this legislation would probably outlaw lawmakers’ and candidates’ online speech, too.

The bill is proposed by California Assemblyman Edwin “Ed” Chau, a Democrat representing a section of Southern California. The proposal, which is likely unconstitutional on its face, was supposed to have a committee hearing Tuesday afternoon, but it was pulled at the 11th hour.

The measure does have a laudable goal, however. It’s designed to combat the so-called “fake news” that filled the 2016 election season. Intentions aside, the Electronic Frontier Foundation on Monday began campaigning against the proposal.

“At a time when political leaders are promoting ‘alternative facts’ and branding unflattering reporting as ‘fake news,’ we don’t think it’s a good idea to give the government more power to punish speech,” the EFF said.

Actually, EFF, it’s never a good time to give the government more power to punish speech. Even when a Democrat is in power. You know, like Ed Chau. Or Hillary, who wanted people jailed for making a film that was critical of her, and who did jail a filmmaker when it provided a handy cover story. Making it sound like it’s somehow a Trump related problem in this context is unfair and dishonest.

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Social Justice Warrior High Commandant Anita Sarkesian Attacks Arch-Prog For Making Silly Joke About Being Attracted to Videogame Cartoon Character

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The reason she attacked him for a disposable silly joke? Because the character he (jokingly) said he'd been aroused by (a purple cartoon fox called "Krystal," if I have this right) was "damseled" -- this is her cute term for...
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“If the Schism Fits, Wear It,” TODAY at 3 p.m. ET (12 p.m. PT)

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Discussion and evaluation of two schisms that recently have been the subject of much discussion: one within the GOP and another within the Objectivist movement. More stories as well, see Program Notes, below, for all the stories, etc., I plan to discuss.

Join in live, either by phone or in the chat room at BlogTalk Radio!

The show can be accessed here.

To access the show’s page at BlogTalk Radio, which will allow you to check out a past episode or to subscribe via iTunes and other services, use this link.

To access the iTunes store page for “Don’t Let It Go…Unheard,” where you can find past episodes, subscribe, and leave ratings and reviews (pretty please!), use this link.

Finally, if you would like to support the show financially, please donate using your Pay Pal account or Credit Card here.

Program Notes

How a secret Freedom Caucus pact brought down Obamacare repeal

Those Freedom Caucus ‘Purists’ You’re Bashing? New Study Suggests They Actually Saved the GOP HT Rob Abiera

Repeal of Affordable Care Act Is Back on Agenda, Republicans Say

Freedom Caucus divided on tool to force Obamacare repeal vote

Hey, Brother, can you spare a retweet?

Witness (BBC) episode on Ayn Rand

Fact and Value

Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand

Sarrah Le Marquand: It should be illegal to be a stay-at-home mum HT Daniel Henry

Ayn Rand’s “objectivist” philosophy is now required reading for British teens HT Rob Abiera

Low Dose Naltrexone HT Aurora LePort




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gangsterofboats
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Is the White House trying to “erase” LGBTQ from the 2020 census?

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Everyone loves a good conspiracy theory, right? Well, here’s a new one for you. The Trump administration has “erased” questions about sexual orientation and gender status (?) from the upcoming 2020 census forms. Darn those scalawags and their endless, nefarious plans! What will they think of next? As we’ll explain shortly, this story is almost entirely vaporware but you couldn’t tell from the media coverage it’s receiving. It seems to have started with an announcement from the National LGBTQ Task Force with the enticing headline of, “We’ve Been Erased!” From there it exploded at places such as Out Magazine, inevitably leading to coverage at The Huffington Post.

The next census won’t include questions related to sexual orientation or gender identity, the Census Bureau announced Tuesday, a move that’s drawn sharp rebuke from LGBT rights organizations.

A draft of subjects planned for the 2020 census, the next year the decennial survey will be conducted, initially had a proposal to include sexual orientation and gender identity for the first time. However, that inclusion was not listed in the finalized report delivered to Congress this week.

Sure sounds like a devious Trump plan to wipe out the LGBTQZHIJK (or whatever the acronym is this week) community, right? But there are a couple of problems with this particular story line. First of all, the two versions of the proposed census questions being examined go back quite a ways. The document which listed “Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity” as a category was prepared well over a year ago and was a draft of a work in progress which had been going on for some time. In it, that category is clearly listed as one which was “proposed” but had not been finalized. (They consider new categories covering a variety of topics every decade.) The final document came out this month, but had obviously been through a number of refinements. Something that bulky and encompassing wasn’t getting entirely rewritten at the last minute. Odds are it was near its final form well before this. Trump has been in office for all of two months and a few days. With all of the fires his team has been alternately starting and putting out over that period of time, does anyone honestly believe this was even on his radar?

Further, let’s see who Trump put in charge of this evil scheme. The person currently running the program over at the Census Bureau is John H. Thompson. He was appointed to that lofty position in August of 2013. (Remind me again… who was the president then?) Given all the leaks coming out of every nook and cranny of the White House these days, if Trump had sent somebody down to strongarm Thompson on this bit of paperwork, don’t you think we’d have heard about it? Further, as even the Huffington Post article concedes, those questions have never appeared on the census in the entire history of the project. Shouldn’t you have been yelling at Barack Obama about it for the last eight years?

The reality is that the census has grown into a gigantic, complicated mess over the years and there are constant reviews and arguments over what shows up in it and how it’s conducted. NPR actually had a good analysis of it this month, delving into the details of the various questions which are asked, why they are on there and what happens to the data. Most of this has grown far beyond the original description of the census, or the “enumeration” as it was called in Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution. The founders apparently thought it sufficient to simply count all the people in the country for purposes of “representation and direct taxation” without trying to analyze every aspect of their lives. (Okay… not all the people back then, but you get the general drift of what I mean.)

I still have to wonder if this is something anyone is really fighting over. We already ask all sorts of questions which probably shouldn’t be the government’s business, so what’s a few more at this point? But if they fail to include this or that slice of demographics it’s difficult to see the “harm” being done.

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Rep. Nunes: ‘Democrats aren’t really serious about this investigaton’

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House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes suggested Wednesday that Democrats are not serious about the ongoing investigation into Russia’s involvement in the election. Politico reports Nunes told NBC News, “We’re beginning to figure out who’s actually serious about the investigation because it appears like the Democrats aren’t really serious about this investigation.”

Fox News had a brief interview with Nunes outside his Capitol Hill office. “As far as I know they’ve done very little to even look through the documents that the intelligence agencies have provided,” Nunes said. He added, “At the end of the day here, we’re going to get to the truth and we’re going to find out who’s actually doing a real investigation. And you’ll find out that we are very much doing an investigation and have been for a long time.”

Asked about conflict with the House Intelligence Committee’s ranking member Adam Schiff, Nunes said, “We’re always concerned about this and we always want to keep the committee bipartisan but at the end of the day we’re going to do an investigation with or without them.” He continued, “If they want to participate that’s fine, but the facts of the matter are pretty clear that they have no…we don’t even know who their witnesses [are] that they want to call.”  Nunes concluded saying to the Fox News reporter, “I would encourage you guys to go and start to follow them around and figure out who they want to bring in and interview.”

Yesterday a Democratic member of the Intelligence Committee accused Nunes of being part of a White House-orchestrated cover-up. Other Democrats including ranking member Adam Schiff and minority leader Pelosi have called on Nunes to recuse himself. Meanwhile, Republicans including House Speaker Paul Ryan and Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz have stood by Nunes. Yesterday Chaffetz said calls for an investigation of Nunes by Democrats were “silly.”

That the case against Nunes is ultimately silly was made clear last night by a six-minute segment on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. The segment featured the usual Jon Stewart-style hyperbole and gimmicks and culminated with Colbert using a chalkboard to draw a stick figure of Nunes with his head inside Trump’s posterior. The Democrats are pulling out all the stops against Nunes, but ultimately the stick-figure gag really does sum up their argument.

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gangsterofboats
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