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Starting Anew

With the coming of the new President, voted in by 88% of white evangelicals — this white evangelical is firing up the blog again.

I did not vote for Donald Trump.  I’m not going to write an essay because Andy Crouch said it better than I ever could.  Read it here.

Obamacare, Part One

So what does the religious right think about Obamacare?

Let us start with this.:  Despite what you might be told the religious right are all over the map on this one.  Perhaps this is because some have been touched by this issue.  Of course, there are those who think it smacks of socialism.  There are many of those.

Is the US turning into a socialistic country?  Hardly!   But I know that I will not convince  anyone so wild-eyed with fear and concern that they couldn’t hear the truth if it was presented to them in simple terms with pictures.

It must be such a fear-based life.  Always in terror of socialism or worried that somebody is going to take away from me what is mine.  Particularly, the force of the federal government is coercive.

How does this square with Jesus’ words and actions in the old and new testament.  Stay tuned and we’ll examine this.  Comment below.  Is it socialism?  What is the biblical reasoning behind the repeal of Obamacare?  Are there verses that directly or closely apply?

This is an intermittent blog but for sure it won’t be updated until the middle of August … unless I get comments.

Christian Liberatarianism, part the first

This always or has always seemed like an oxymoron to me.

When I think about libertarianism, I think about the Good Samaritan crossing to the other side of the road.  You know, not rescuing the man beaten by robbers, instead behaving as the priest and Levite did.

I think about the cheering when Ron Paul said a man in coma is to be left to shift for himself.  That exemplifies libertarianism to me.

“What he should do is whatever he wants to do and assume responsibility for himself,” Paul responded, adding, “That’s what freedom is all about, taking your own risk. This whole idea that you have to compare and take care of everybody…”

You know what is interesting to me  along with Jesus talking about the Samaritan is Jesus’ call to treat people better than yourself.

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[a] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be childrenof your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

The above is Jesus Christ himself  (the Christ part of the word Christian) speaking to his followers.

I have heard hard right Christians quote Proverbs 6:6.  I guess that means anyone who can’t afford health insurance is a sluggard.  And if you’re trying to get ahead and build your business to take care of yourself, that would mean certainly not offering health insurance to your workers no matter how industrious they are.

Do you see why that makes my brain ache?

I have more to say on Christian libertarianism but in the meantime help me out here.  Tell me how Christians can reconcile Jesus and the themes of caring for one another to Ron Paul’s audience last September.

Please comment below.  I truly want to know.

The Poor According to Rick Warren’s Edited Bible

Disclaimer:  I have the utmost respect for Warren’s call to dedication and to his focus on Jesus.

When I was surfing last week I came across a couple of articles about Rick Warren.  One was from the Daily Kos called Rick Warren is not a fan of this whole Jesus thing written by Hunter.  The other was from Mother Jones, Helping the Poor is apparently anti-Bible by Kevin Drum.  Both referred to an appearance by Rev. Rick Warren where he’s quoted as saying:

Well certainly the Bible says we are to care about the poor….But there’s a fundamental question on the meaning of “fairness.” Does fairness mean everybody makes the same amount of money? Or does fairness mean everybody gets the opportunity to make the same amount of money? I do not believe in wealth redistribution, I believe in wealth creation.

The only way to get people out of poverty is J-O-B-S. Create jobs. To create wealth, not to subsidize wealth. When you subsidize people, you create the dependency. You — you rob them of dignity. (Emphasis mine.)

Rev. Warren says there is over 2,000 verses in the Bible talking about the poor.  I haven’t counted them but that sounds about right.  Does he refer to these verses or to what they say though? No. No, because they don’t support his contention.  It is clear that we are to take care of the poor and treat them with parity.

It is beyond the scope of this blog to  go through each of these verses so I’ll cite only a couple of examples.  In Exodus (23:6 , 11) you are not to deny them justice and every seventh year you are let your land lie fallow and let them eat.  I see nothing about this kind of subsidization creating dependency.  In fact, it is a commandment to take care of them. And note, I think you have to twist yourself into a pretzel to say this type of concern was limited to the place and the time.

In Matthew 19,  Jesus tells the young rich man to sell all he has and give it to the poor.  I’m not sure Jesus knew what He was doing here.  Surely this would create a dependency.  And …  isn’t Jesus advocating for wealth re-distribution?  Looks to me as if that was what He was doing.  These poor weren’t creating wealth, Jesus was asking the young man to redistribute his wealth to them.  Again, I suggest that to limit the verse to New Testament times misses the thrust of what Jesus was saying.

I looked up fair and fairness in the NIV, NASB and KJV versions of the Bible.  Fairness is not referred to once as Rev. Warren defines it and fair only a handful of times, none translated as Rev. Warren does. I believe Rev. Warren’s concern is misplaced.

I believe the Trinity was concerned with justice.  Justice and fairness are not the same thing.  Frankly, in fairness we’d all go to hell but instead we are given mercy and grace.  Far more mercy and grace than Warren seems to want to provide the poor of our era.  Perhaps Rev. Warren believes he and the religious right are the only ones who can “fairly” ascertain who is deserving of mercy and care.  Funny, I thought that was God’s job.

It continues to surprise me how strongly Christian people can embrace the type of fiscal conservatism that the Bible in no way encourages.  If this country was a theocracy maybe there would be some weight to this viewpoint but we’re not; nor likely ever to be.

I believe the work the Church (including Rev. Warren’s congregation) does in feeding and caring and helping the poor is utterly Biblical.  Unfortunately, tied as the religious right is to the Republican Party and its redistribution of wealth to the rich,  many cannot stand apart and see objectively how they are being led to repudiate what they were raised to know is true.

This makes me sad.


John 3:16

New International Version (NIV)

 16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Today I remember what unites me to all who believe as I do, that Jesus Christ is no longer dead.  He is risen.

Can We All Get Along?

Do you remember Rodney King?  If you remember the riots of 1992 you probably do.  King was beaten by white police who were then found not guilty of it.  It sparked major riots.

Can we all get along? He asked.

I was exchanging emails with a friend on opposite sides of the fence politically.  I said healthcare was a right especially for our children.  She said it was a luxury and went on to say that people who believed as I did were “duped” and “kindergartners.”

Now I did and do love her dearly but this took me aback.  If you knew her you’d know she was a gentle, thoughtful, intelligent woman who has gone through a lot and seen a lot.  I admire her. Yet the terms she used were contemptuous of those who did not believe as she did.

As I considered her words, I thought of my own, which have been no more flattering of “conservatives” at times.  I don’t use these words to their faces but I do think them.  How can they vote against their own self interests?  How can they let income inequality turn them into serfs?  How can they be so selfish and so uncaringly brutal as to condemn little children to face the failures of their parents?  And by failure I mean not only criminality, addiction and abuse but being a member of the working poor, and/or uneducated.

Then Nicholas Kristof wrote an opinion piece about this book: The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt.  It brought me up short.  In it, apparently, Haidt finds that conservatives understand liberals far better than liberals understand them.

Haidt and colleagues have found that morality is under-girded by basics: care, fairness, liberty, loyalty, authority and sanctity.   Haidt says (at least he says so according to William Saleton of Slate) that conservatives embrace all of these foundations. Liberals focus on only two:  care and oppression.

Wait a moment, you’re saying that I’m too narrow-minded, too focused?  There is more to life than equity and caring for people?  But Jesus talks a lot about that.  He reached out to those without means or power.  He was not rich himself.  He condemned those who put riches and position before their spiritual well-being.

Jesus and the whole scope of the Bible, however, address all of these things; authority and sanctity, loyalty and liberty.  Now He doesn’t make liberty above all of the others.  Conservatives for whom liberty is preeminent I think are leaving out swathes of intent and wisdom from the Bible.  Doesn’t Paul say we have freedom to do many things that perhaps we ought not to do?

I believe humankind is sinful.  I believe that Jesus came to save us because we couldn’t save ourselves and couldn’t meet God’s justness.  Given that, I still don’t think that we should heap the sins of the fathers on the children.  I still support healthcare as a right not a privilege.  I do acknowledge though I should respect the broader view of many conservatives and seek to understand … yeah even before being understood.

Hey Religious Right, the Republican Establishment Doesn’t Want You

So why should you want to support them?

This from Rush Limbaugh no less:

The Republican establishment, for the most part, if they could, would simply excommunicate every social conservative Republican they could find. They’d kick ’em out of the party, and they would gag ’em.  They’d find a way to make sure they couldn’t speak.  That’s how much they hate ’em, detest ’em, are embarrassed by them.  And it’s based on one thing, primarily. It’s based on the fact that these establishment Republicans and others who don’t like the social conservatives are primarily, singularly worried about what people are going to think of them for being in the same party with the social conservatives.  It really is no more complicated than that.  I mean there are other things.  They think social conservatives lose elections.  They think social conservatives make the whole Republican Party a big target, like what’s going on now, this contraception business.

Sorry but I think he’s right on from things I’m reading now.  Romney, who is a moderate in conservative clothing, is focused on the economy.  Republican establishment types are rallying around him.  He is a fiscal conservative for sure, but not really a social one.

I’m just saying here, people, the old-money wealthy Republican leadership doesn’t want your kind.  They hold their nose and accept you because you’ll vote Republican faithfully but they wish you’d forget about all that social stuff.

I still rue the years I was convinced that if I elected a conservative President he’d appoint conservative members of the SCOTUS.  They in turn would disassemble Roe vs Wade.

Well now we have Citizen’s United unleashing holy hell on political elections (because corporations are people and deserve their first amendment rights) and Roe vs. Wade is still the law of the land.

Right, Left, Moderate — Mitt Romney vs. Rick Santorum.

So Mr. Santorum is nearly at the level of support as Mr. Romney for the next Republican nominee for President,  The Republican establishment is blanching.  At least that’s what I’ve heard.  It is clear to me that Mr. Romney is the better candidate to defeat President Obama.  Whatever he says, Mr. Romney has shown himself to be a secret moderate.  That and his war chest should assure a battle this November.

I’m of two minds.  As a voter, I’d prefer the choice between Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama.  As a progressive I’d prefer Rick Santorum to be the President’s rival.  I don’t believe that Mr. Santorum will even be able to seriously contest this election.  

And my third mind, that of a Bible-believing, church-going Christian, is also on the President’s side.  In my last post I said I thought Mr. Santorum was a Christian, serious and committed in his faith.  Pro-life myself, I have a lot of sympathy for his ardent pro-life views and his seeming determination to live that faith in public.  As we all should, you know.  

As well, Mr. Santorum is a rich man but not part of the the 1% like Mr. Romney.  I sense that Mr. Santorum knows what it is to struggle with bills, fix his own house, shop for his own groceries, to live the life I live.

Mr. Romney’s economic plans would continue to solidify and entrench he and his buddies’ place in the American class system.  More money would flow to the elites who in turn would continue to buy the politicians. Romney’s plans for president would surely serve self, whether that is conscious in his mind or not.  Even were I a Republican I cannot vote for a president who is for the elite and by the elite.

That leaves Mr. Santorum.  His social views are an anathema to most progressives and they sit ill with me at times.  But worse than that, his economic plans would favor money flowing upwards, away from the poor and needy.  Either Republican candidate could send us back into war.  Apparently, the Promised Land is any nation that opposes the United States and the way it does things.  No that’s not fair, I don’t believe any sitting president would send us heedless into battle.

I also believe most of our presidents moderate because ultimately we are a moderate nation, to lead me as well as the Tea Party the president has to land somewhere between us. Certainly our president has made several decisions I think are wimpy or kowtowing to the powerful.

That’s a good thing really.  And that brings me back to Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum.  If we’re to be stuck with a Republican for President, I’d not want it to be either of them.

Evangelicals Rally Around Rick Santorum

An evangelical group chooses Rick Santorum.

The choice came down to Gingrich or Santorum.

It seems clear to me that Santorum was one of the candidates with real social conservative cred.  He, along with Bachmann and Perry, were the people I felt were the most genuine in their appeal to evangelicals.  Romney majestically ignores the that block of voters.  He doesn’t need ’em.  Ron Paul is not a social conservative.  I think Huntsman knows he and evangelicals aren’t a natural match.  Stephen Colbert however might be the real deal. Or not.

Gingrich appeared to be trying to fit a mold that evangelicals would recognize.  My conscience does not allow me to question his faith.  That’s not mine to judge.  Truth is evangelicals know they’re saved by grace.  They know also that they have been forgiven much.  At least I’d hope so.  Gingrich sells the story of repentance and forgiveness.  That is something we’re intimately familiar with.

I myself felt that he “enhanced” his appeal to social conservatives. I found his record much clearer on fiscal conservatism. I thought his earlier incarnations showed him to be a man of vast intelligence and cynicism, a ne plus ultra political insider.

Santorum troubles me.  Yes, I know he’s a “true” conservative, define that as you will.  He seems to have lived his faith out.  He has taken unpopular stances.  Maybe it is just that I’m not a fiscal conservative so his pay to play politics look a bit like he’s one of those believers who Jesus exhorts not to favor the rich (James 2:1-4).

Yet does it really matter?  Are there really people who do not believe the wealthy businessman will be the Republican candidate?  It surely will not be Santorum.

And Then Sometimes The Left Set Fire to a Straw Man

I guess because they like to see ’em burn.

Subtitle to my rant:  Pot taking aim at kettle.

I probably should read The Anointed: Evangelical Truth in a Secular Age (link is to NYT review).  But why?  Might as well enjoy fruitless speculation which is not based on fact but instead faith.  We* evangelicals are all about that.  At least you’d think so based on this book by Stephens and Giberson as reviewed by Molly Worthen.

This investigation appears to be about how evangelicals have put their brains in neutral (if not in reverse) while they try to fit science into their beliefs.  I’m not saying there isn’t some truth to that or even that I may not be guilty of that — I am.  However Stephens and Giberson appear to cherry-pick the low hanging fruit or some other mixed metaphor.

It seems their exemplars are  Dr. James Dobson and Ken Ham.  This is called shooting ducks in a barrel,  guys.  If most evangelicals consider those two to be among the pantheon of greatest thinkers nobody has told me and I’ve been of the faith for more years than I care to say.  I respected Dr. Dobson’s child-raising views and emphasis on family until he fell off the Right side of the cart.   I still call them both my brothers in the faith however though they may not claim me.

Then the book gets worse.  If the reviewer Dr. Worthen is correct, the authors continue on to mock us for disdaining scholarship and rigorous intellectual thought while we secretly wish we had all the trappings such can claim. Er, what? That’s a bale of hay right there.  Of course the reviewer is an academic and nicely separates herself from the chaff of us religious non-thinkers. Grant you this is only anecdotal but once again this whole contention is outside my daily experience.  I have never heard or read about anyone expressing these views openly or privately.  I’m sure that opinion is out there but its not common.

The reviewer (I think it is the reviewer and not the authors) twits us for CS Lewis love  (link to his foundation here).   She indicates that we admire many of his writings only because he had a “plummy” accent and was an Oxford don.  Not.  Lewis didn’t shy away from talking about difficult things and did not presume to have the only right or best or in fact any answer to all Christianity’s paradoxes.  That paragraph of the review alone encapsulates Worthen’s own snobbery and simplistic view about evangelicals while revealing how little she actually knows.

We are told the authors don’t treat evangelicals as a monolithic group. Well somebody is doing so.  Or maybe, as I suspect, they are conflating my flavor of faith with conservatism and anti-intellectualism in a simple false syllogism.  You know the kind we were warned not to make when we were in middle school?  They all ought to know better.

So for the record Dr. Worthen and Mssrs. Stephens and Giberson, evangelicals come in all belief-sets, politics, and approaches to “secular” knowledge.  Many of us do have a secular education and our heads have not (yet) exploded.  Many of us either embrace troublesome “facts’ or at least allow them into our worldview.  Many look for a deeper truth that combines all we believe into a unified faith narrative.

If Frank Schaeffer were to write this book or even review it, I’d have to pay attention but these guys are clearly sensationalists trying to sell their wares to puzzled NYT-type readers for whom my faith is an oddity.

*For the sake of this blog, I self-identify with many evangelicals and so use “we” and “us”.  Please note that my view may not represent any other evangelical except in the broadest sense.