Amerika Off Line
Sam Aurelius Milam III
A few subscribers to the Frontiersman have arranged to receive notifications, via email, when each new issue of the newsletter becomes available. That reduces my expenses a little because I don't have to pay the copy and mailing costs of sending paper copies of the newsletter to those subscribers.
For some time now, AOL has refused to deliver messages sent from the Frontiersman email address. Apparently, the newsletter address has been placed on some kind of a "list". So far as I'm aware, not a single one of the affected subscribers has tried to find an email service that will deliver my messages.
It isn't costing me anything to have my messages bounce but I am getting tired of it. Also, it's annoying to think that somebody won't bother to get an email service that will deliver my messages, or that he hasn't noticed that he isn't receiving them, or that he doesn't even care. Why should I keep sending messages to such a subscriber? So, I've removed from my mailing list the email addresses of those subscribers mentioned above who use AOL. I'll reactivate the subscription of any such subscriber who wants it if he gets an email service that doesn't ban my messages.
Letters to the Editor
Well I'm back at Salinas Valley. I'm going to be here at least through April 2017. I have a parole hearing coming up in April so can't move until that is finished. I'm going to go but not much chance of me getting out. But they have been paroling some lifers but those who are conformists. I'm far from that.
Well please redirect the newsletter to my new address. And thank you for keeping me on your mailing list. I love that you keep this newsletter in real print and not on the web only.
Solidarity comrade. Truly.
—Ramon D. Hontiveros
Thank you for "The Frontiersman". This is in response to your recent article "Bibles, Goats, and Choices" [November 2016, page 3]. I certainly agree with much of what you've written. Many will agree that Christians have a bit of a PR problem in contemporary western culture. Part of that comes from the scandals the media love to feed on like a carcass any time one emerges. But another is because Christians leave so many with a bitter taste in their mouths with their recruitment (read: evangelism) techniques.
Yes, they may get some to come into the proverbial fold by doing what they do. But what about the millions (like you) who are so turned off by the experience that they wouldn't darken the door of a church if they were paid to? Too often, Christianity suffers too much from over-eagerness and a myopic sense of mission to keep a sensitivity for the humanity of the person we're talking to.
I got to thinking about evangelism in response to your article, and what it really means to follow Jesus. Winning people to Jesus is a favorite past time for some Christians, and it goes hand in hand with the style of Christianity many believers practice. Please note, contrary to your statement, not ALL Christians claim that only his beliefs are correctly based on the Bible, nor do all Christians share the guilt of evangelism.
I agree with you, Sam, that some Christian evangelists DO misstep when trying in one way or another to share their faith with others. For example, some may talk too much. I've been approached many times — and I mean a lot — by Christians who start out a conversation with something like the, "Let me tell you about my personal relationship with Jesus," or with a question like "Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior?" Granted, this second one is actually an open door to some kind of "dialogue," though maybe not the kind the other person wants. Too often Christians are way too eager to launch into their own script, rather than asking questions
|that express a genuine interest in another person,
regardless of what they believe or claim.
Many people think all Christians are bullies. The M.O. of most Christian evangelism involves at least one of two things: get people to accept Jesus and become part of our church. So this presumes that wherever that person is in their lives, what they need is to be Christian. This at worst comes across as spiritual bullying. The subtext is "you aren't right how you are; you need to be more like me to be O.K." And if someone turned the tables on a Christian and implied he/she had to be like them or else (fill in the blank), how would that Christian feel?
Christians haven't earned the right. The rules of social behavior generally dictate that Christians have to earn someone's trust by caring about them first, investing time in them and making themselves vulnerable to them before they have any reason to trust. And Christians sometimes confuse sharing their testimony with actual vulnerability. Regurgitating a rehearsed script about how Jesus came into their lives is not vulnerable. It's coercive, namely because Christians risk nothing on their own part, and put all of the pressure and expectation on the other person to change. The only other context in which this is expected in the Christian culture is in high pressure sales, which is what most people equate Christian evangelism with.
People don't see the difference. Too often, people can't tell the difference between how Christians are and anyone else. Often times as you suggest, Christians are perceived (rightly or not) as brash, opinionated and judgmental. And like it or not, these individuals are lumped in with any negative stereotype people have of Christians; it's then on other Christians (like me) to reveal a different kind of Christianity. As noted above, that takes time, personal risk and vulnerability. The old mantra of "show, don't tell" is the best remedy in this case. And it might take more than buying someone a cup of coffee or holding the door for them.
So what do Christians do if the old stand-by form of evangelism doesn't work, or at least does more harm than good (as it certainly has in your case, Sam)? There are two options as I see it. One is called servant evangelism which, in my eyes, is far more like the evangelism Jesus did for most people (save for a handful of his inner circle of disciples). He immersed himself in a local community, even went out of his way to cross social boundaries. He noticed what people needed and he responded. Then he encouraged people to go out, to live lives with purpose, focused on doing the same for others. Simple, but far from easy.
Second, if Christians want more of a how-to model, look no further than twelve-step. With nearly no budget, no marketing, and no leadership, twelve-step groups continue to grow and radically change lives all over the world. Part of this success is because of how they govern themselves. The focus is on personal story, mutual accountability and encouragement and personal growth rather than numeric growth. You can earn the right over time to invite someone only once to join you at a twelve-step meeting, then you let it go. You don't preach at people, you live what you practice instead, and recovery is something you do, one day at a time, rather than something you are, once and for all, by reciting a handful of words or taking part on a one-time ritual.
Talk is cheap. Christians need to focus less on being Christian, especially as the world has come to understand it, and invest more of themselves in being more Christ-like, at least for today.
Do you think I am on the right track? Thanks again for your wonderful newsletter!
—Tom from Redwood City
Thank you for your message. I appreciate your comments and your attitude. Just don't forget that Christian evangelists are still active and that I'll continue to oppose them in my writing.
The real evil of Christian evangelism is when Christians enact their dogma into legislation. Such legislation is repressive in that it forces people to comply with beliefs with which they don't agree and punishes people who refuse. All such legislation should be repealed. Of course, that applies to all evangelists, not just to Christians. Evangelism is contagious.
Hope you had a grand Christmas and great start to the new year. Now that California's prop 57 has passed, I should get some action. My sentence was 10 + a 5 year enhancement. "57" is supposed to abolish enhancements. March 3rd will be my 10 year mark. As it is, I got an 85% term so, if they abolish my 5
|year enhancement, that would be 10 @ 85% = 8
1/2 years. In a perfect world, I should be out. Wish me luck.
—Sticky of San Diego
Greetings Cousin Sam,
I was fascinated with your genealogy article comparing the number of one's ancestors to the world population. Well, the obvious explanation for having more ancestors than existing population is that we all share some ancestors and that makes us all cousins. So whenever we put anyone down we are insulting a family member.
I shared the table with some of the members of my genealogy club and it drew a lot of smiles. However, all the genealogists did say, "Oh yeah." So your article was a great contribution to their knowledge and wisdom.
—Bob O. Link
Genealogical Overkill is available as an article in the February 2011 Frontiersman and, more recently, as an essay in the Miscellaneous Essays section of Pharos. In both cases I noted that, in theory, I could be descended from every person who was alive on the planet as few as 800 years ago. So, it doesn't matter if I had an ancestor back in the middle ages who was a king. In that same generation, I also had ancestors who were everything else. Ancient lineage isn't much of a bragging point.
Whether or not recent ancestry is more important than the ancient kind is a matter of opinion. In that regard, it's interesting to speculate about the current fad of using DNA samples for ancestry research. Thousands of people, apparently, are sending DNA samples to companies that purport to do ancestry research. I suggest some caution about that. Even their own TV commercials contain cautionary hints. There's the man who thought that he was German but learned that he was Scottish. To me, that suggests wild oats in the family tree. Seemingly unconcerned, he just traded in his lederhosen for a kilt. Then there's the woman who was surprised to learn that she was one-quarter American Indian. You'd think that she'd have noticed if one of her grandfathers was an Indian, unless her grandmother was married to somebody else. That brings me to my point.
I've known more than one family in which the siblings didn't seem to share much of a family resemblance. In such cases, nobody knows but the mother, and women have often proven to be unreliable about reporting the identities of the fathers. So, this DNA thing might be a big mistake. There might be a lot of surprises in store, and some embarrassed mothers, if the DNA doesn't match that of the alleged father. With that in mind, somebody who's thinking about sending in that DNA sample should probably think twice and then maybe not do it at all.
Of course, I consider voluntarily sending out a DNA sample to be a big mistake anyway, for other reasons. It seems to me to be about on a par with sending out fingerprints or a social security number. How people can be in such a dither about so-called identity theft, and then send DNA samples to an institution that's complicit with the government and over which they don't have any control at all, is a mystery to me.
Sam Aurelius Milam III
There never was any such thing as Original Sin. There wasn't ever any sin at all. There was and is misbehavior, but not sin. However, there was an original agenda.
Has anybody noticed that the things that are called sins are usually things that people want to do? Undesirable things usually aren't called sins. I don't think that's an accident. Sin has been a scheme of the members of the clergy for as far back into history as anybody can search. The religious bosses have always created rules, allegedly received directly from God, with which people are told to comply. So, why are the rules usually restrictions or prohibitions on things that people want? Because otherwise there wouldn't be a way to manipulate people into the fear of God's punishment. Therein is revealed the original agenda.
Sin was created by people as a weapon by which to dominate and control other people. Sins are things that members of the clergy know that people will try to do, anyway, regardless of the rules. Thus, sin can be reliably used to keep people feeling guilty, so that they'll keep going to church to seek forgiveness, and keep putting funds into the offering plates, to support the members of the clergy. Sin is a creation of the clergy and a tool of the clergy. Its only purpose is to control people's behavior, for the benefit of the members of the clergy. Why does it work? Why do people put up with it? I don't know. It's a mystery to me.
My thanks to the following: SantaClara Bob; Lady Jan the Voluptuous; Betty; Eric, of Ione, California; and Robert, of Murphys, California.
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— Sam Aurelius Milam III, editor