by Randy Walker
Many people are quick to assert that America was founded by Christian men and based on Christian precepts and principles. Is this true? Or is this another repeated truism taken at face value because someone said so? If America was not founded by Christian men and based on Christian principles, then who were the men called the Founding Fathers, and what principles did they base the three major foundational documents (the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and the Constitution) on?
There are passionate and misinformed arguments on both sides of this issue. On the one hand, many fervent Christians will proudly proclaim how the Founding Fathers were devout Christians, and how they made sure that Christian principles were consulted and included in the foundational documents. On the other hand, many fervent agnostics, atheists, and free thinkers will contend that the Founding Fathers were not Christians, and how they framed the foundational documents on the principles of deism and free thought. As with most passionate controversial arguments, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.
For those unfamiliar with deism, it is a worldview–as opposed to a religious view–that sees God or the “Creator” as a “watchmaker.” A watchmaker creates or assembles a watch before setting it in motion and has little to no interest in what happens to the watch or how the watch feels, and so forth. Deism says God does not communicate with man or try to influence the world through action, thought, or revelation. He merely created, set in motion, and is now unconcerned with what is going on with the creation or any potential outcomes it may face. I am presuming that most readers are familiar with Christianity, its principles, and its dogma. Basically fundamental Christian principles and dogma state: Jesus is God’s son, who was sent to earth to suffer and die as atonement for the sins of humankind; he arose from the grave and will return one day to claim victory over sin and death. Believers will reign with him throughout eternity, and unbelievers are doomed and will face an eternal hell. Obviously, these two perspectives are quite different from each other. Deism places humankind’s fate in the hands of humans, while Christianity believes divine intervention will determine the fate of each individual human. Deism does not believe in an afterlife, while Christianity hinges on what happens in the afterlife.
by Zachary Bailes
On March, 4, 1861, Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated. Today, President Obama uses that same Bible to begin his second term. However, during Lincoln's inaugural speech he stated, "We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies."
Lincoln uttered these words to a struggling, soon to be divided, United States. We hear these words 152 years later knowing that they are all too familiar. While we may not be on the brink of another physical separation, our collective identity lives in a rhetorical civil war with all-too-real consequences.
During the past 12 years we have faced remarkable difficulties. From 9/11 to economic collapse our bodies, our heads still hang low. On both the Right and Left we have found in each other enemies, not allies. Indeed—we think it much more productive to stand against one another rather than stand with one another. At every turn we have found it easier to deny the other, to deny the ideas and identities that stand against our own rather than see them as opportunities for growth and change.
by Randy Walker
The senseless massacre that took place in a Connecticut elementary school is a tragic travesty of human behavior. There is little need to try and explain it because it was the act of an illogical, rage-filled human being. Trying to make it fit into a template of rational thought is futile.
What is even more futile and absurd are some of the Facebook posts I have seen claiming that because prayer is not allowed in schools, deranged mass murderers are permitted to murder children like shooting fish in a barrel! In essence, such untrained logic suggests that God is using innocent children as pawns to punish mankind. Give me a break! Then again, if religious fundamentalists cling to their rigid beliefs, maybe they really DO believe God is using innocent children as pawns.
Based on the logic of religious fundamentalists, God is omniscient and omnipotent, meaning: God is all-knowing and all-powerful. Stated plainly, God knows it all and can do anything God wants to do at any time. If so, then God must act in a twisted, morose manner sometimes when sick people are allowed to murder innocent children. But wait, this same God is also loving and merciful, and loves us unconditionally—except for maybe the children who die at the hands of insanity. Is anyone besides me getting dizzy on this merry-go-round fallacy?
C. S. Lewis came across some correspondence in his day, and published them as The Screwtape Letters. It seems that old Screwtape is writing again, to another nephew. Ron Clayton came across this and felt he should share it while he had the chance.
My Dear, Dear Nephew Bitterroot,
I once advised your cousin Wormwood that it is a good idea to try and get Christians off onto tangents. I cannot believe the wonderful job you have done with Rick Santorum. He has taken the compassion the Enemy taught and made it of no account, making literalism and pet causes the real issues. Be sure to get him to sound more and more strident and militant and extreme in his statements about those issues.
Your strategy is so brilliant! I likely would not have done better myself! Your counterparts assigned to Gingrich and Romney have even been picking up your lead, causing more division in the ranks of the Republicans as each candidate has to keep pace with the other. Don’t worry about the moderate Republicans who see through your strategy; the confusion and chaos your plan is causing is doing its job just fine.
And, of course, NEVER discourage division within the ranks of the Enemy! If Mr. Santorum want to divide ranks by declaring half or more of the Enemy’s forces are not TRUE followers, then all the better! That means less communication between various parts of the Enemy’s forces and thus less coordination of the Enemy’s forces.
(This article is also posted as audio file read by the author at the end of the post).
Dear John and Jane Public,
Honestly, don't fret over it. I get it. Dear God, I get it. You've found a new god. Truthfully, I've seen this coming for awhile. I tried to deny it. I even tried to change it. (I have to admit, even in all my divine wisdom, I just did not see the whole MLK, contemporary prophet thing not working. But humans, YOU try to figure them out).
You know, there was a brief time there, just after 9/11 that I thought we were going to make it. I really thought you finally “got it.” In the midst of chaos you sought out community. In the midst of anger and fear you united over differences and seemed to be hoping for a greater good. Good times. Hopeful, even.
It's OK, I understand why the new god in your life is so appealing. Sure, it hurts a little, but c'mon, I'm God. Seriously, I'll be OK. This new god of yours is all shiny and is promising you “prosperity.” Let's face it, the certitude of the “prosperity” your new god offers has a particular kind of appeal that the hope of love, peace and grace that I offer you just can't touch. This new God of yours, he offers you everything without sacrifice (well, without sacrifice on your part; others will pay quite dearly), and admittedly I ask a lot of you. I ask you to lay down your life for the sake of others. I ask you to love your enemies and to be a servant of all. Honestly, I get why you want to be with him.
In a lot of ways, it's better like this for now. This relationship between us hasn't been very good for me either. Don't get me wrong, I still love you. You have no idea. But, honestly, you've been more of a user of me than a follower of me. I thought Jesus put it about as clearly as possible when he said, “you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.” Really, I thought that was pretty clear, but like I said, “Humans, YOU try to figure them out.” You post My name on your money and even added Me to your pledge, but you deny the sacrifice it takes to follow Me every time a child dies of hunger in your nation of plenty, every time a person dies of a curable disease for lack of health insurance, every time you kill people to show them that killing people is wrong. Did you realize that both corporate profits and the poverty rate are growing? That's one Hell of a problem... and I'm finally getting the message.
You know when I really knew it was over? Or at least when I finally admitted it to Myself? In the last two debates. Please, don't act like you don't know what I'm talking about. I'm God. I know you know. When they cheered for death. Twice. That's when I had to admit it. You see, I came to put an end to death, not celebrate it... at least not that way.
There were lots of tell tale signs. I just love you so much, so I guess I let myself overlook them. Take for instance, until recently it was only the things I created that were considered people, but now the things you've created are considered people. (How something as literally heartless as a Corporation can be treated as a person, in all of My infinite knowledge, I will never understand). I don't think you are actually playing God by doing it (much), but I do think you are denying Me and, in doing so, denying who I created you to be.
I'm not giving up, just giving in a bit, for now. I love you - so much. I will keep sending my prophets. You will know them by their love. If the people you follow are teaching you to hate and fear, to exclude people for any reason, then they are not sent by Me, even if they say they are. So, when your infatuation with this new god of extremism, nationalism, might-makes-right, and privilege is through using you... I'll still be here. Waiting. Loving.
My Peace, Love and Grace to you,
No time to read this article? Listen in while you work:
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“In the beginning God created”...us. Shape it however you want, a fairy tale, the literal truth, a divine metaphor for evolution, Christians around the world believe that those words tell us the truth about our relationship with God no matter what our takes are in regards to their literary form. The Creation Stories in Genesis tell us that the life we have is a gift from God. The stories that follow in the 66 books which compile the Protestant Bible, particularly the life of Jesus, remind us that the only reasonable, the only rational response, to that gift, to that act of grace from God is to take care of the gift, including taking care of each other.
When it comes to church attendance, it would seem that the majority of church goers, have missed that point. They lean heavy to the political right and toward policies that actually do the opposite of caring for creation and each other.
Please note, I did not say “when it comes to most Christians.” Unfortunately, the variance between people who practice Christianity and people who attend church is wide and seems to be increasing. And yes, I speak from personal experience as a minister. There are churches, of course, that are bucking the trend, but there are far too few. And, yes, I am speaking from personal experience again.
And yes, your Christian beliefs should influence your politics. They should influence your relationships, your work life, the way you drive, the way you treat people with whom you disagree... every element of your life. If they do not, you are not taking “In the beginning God created” seriously enough. If you do not, you are not taking “no greater love has anyone than this, that they lay down their life for their friends” seriously enough.
Your Christian life is to be first, primary, and above all things in your life, even if it means you must leave a relationship as primary as family to do it: “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me,” said Jesus.
I'm left to wonder if the Modern Day Jesus might not say to U.S. church goers that your Christian life is to be above all things in your life, even if it means you must leave a relationship as primary as your political party to do it: “Anyone who loves their political party more than me is not worthy of me.”
You don't have to like it. It is difficult and it will make your life less than... well, less than convenient. Which is, quite frankly, what many on the far right are truly interested in: a life that is easy and convenient – no pressure to give up what I have, even when others suffer, even if it cause others to suffer; no laws limiting my ability to excerpt power other others (a BIG biblical no-no); no strangers from a foreign land encroaching on my white-privilege... I think you get the picture.
You don't have to like it. It is difficult and it will make your life less than... well, less than convenient, but I think that is exactly what Jesus expected. Just read Mathew 10 as Jesus sends out the twelve disciples saying things like, “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves,” “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death,” “You will be hated by everyone because of me.” Christianity is antithetical to the far right's pursuit of an easy and convenient life.
Christianity is to be the filter through which all your life's perspectives and actions are filtered. Nothing comes before it and everything is viewed through it. You don't have to like it, and it will be difficult, but if you want to call yourself Christian, you do always have to attempt to do it. That does not mean fighting for a Christian nation, prayer in schools and the Ten Commandments posted on every open wall in government buildings. (In many ways it means the exact opposite of that).
Politically, it simply means voting for and supporting candidates who hold these things to be self evident, that all people were created equal, created equally by God. It means supporting candidates, who because of it, govern with a bias toward the least of these and with a disposition of love and caring toward all people regardless of sex, skin color, religion or lack of religion, nation of origin, sexual orientation, ability or disability, age, economic position, heath, employment, addiction... or any number of things for which the far right continue to try to penalize people.
“In the beginning God created”...us. Not you. Not me. Us. We are the children of God. If one of us suffers, we all suffer. If one of us is marginalized, we all suffer. If one of us goes hungry, we all suffer. We must stop pretending that Christianity is somehow different than that and start voting with our Christian filters on.
Corporate coffers are stuffed full. Their piggy banks runneth over. And, as the chart below shows, since the mid-70s all
real income growth has happened in the top 10% of earners – top managers, owners and CEOs. Businesses, however, continue to lay off workers. Then they demand more from those 'lucky' enough to keep their jobs (even though US workers already work more and get less time off than the workers of all the other industrialized nations
Us? We complain. We post on Facebook and Tweet our anger and dissatisfaction out in 140 character bursts. Some try to organize, but the numbers never materialize in a way that has real impact.
From Economic Policy Institute. This chart is licensed under a Creative Commons License
All the while, the fat cats not only get fatter and continue to over stuff their piggy banks, but they use the money they make at our expense to buy off D.C. in order to not only keep the loopholes which allow them to hold on to more of their money than the people who work for them, but to pass laws which make it easier to step on their workers, make themselves richer, and eliminate the very government assistance that would help the people they lay off or massively underpay.
Us? We bask in our staycations and try to forget for a few days that the future is bleak at the hands of our wealthy overlords.
For me, as a minister, one of the worst parts is that the wealthy do all of this, including stepping on the “least of these,” so they can have even more U.S. currency which ironically proclaims "In God we trust." Then the salt in the wound from my ministerial perspective is how these fat cats convince people who understand themselves to be Christian to support the politicians and policies that will insure the rich get richer and that the “least of these” remain the “least of these”... only more so. In God we trust?
Us? We argue with our neighbors about which political party is more to blame, completely missing the fact that it is just as much about who suffers as it is about who's to blame. Who suffers? All of us - including the people with which we are arguing on a daily bases.
We are a divide nation, but it isn't as simple as John Edward's “Two Americas.” We are divided in at least four ways. The richest of the rich are in charge. They aren't Republican, they aren't Libertarians... they are Privileged Plutocrats. That's group one. Group two are the poorest of the poor. They aren't Democrats, they aren't Blue-collar Republicans... they are Survivalist. Then there's the rest of us: Democrats, Republican, Independents, and a whole hoard of political movement wanna-bes from The Tea Party to The Green Party. Ultimately though, all those groups are really just two groups. We've all bought into the narrative the Plutocrats and their hired political henchmen have been selling us. When it comes right down to it we are well divided down the middle, those who like what the current President (Bush, Obama) is doing and those who don't.
A true governing class: Plutocrats. A class struggling for basic needs: Survivalist. And the divided middle: Us versus Them. Four Americas. Only one group benefits from that structure and not only do they like it that way, they designed it that way.
Us? We need to learn to see it for what it really is. Despite his deplorable morals, Edwards was right; there are “Two Americas.” He just drew the dividing line in the wrong place. There are “Two Americas”: the Plutocrat Overloards and The Rest of Us.
I'm afraid the Two Americas of which Edwards spoke are so divided against each other that we might never see the real divide. It is not political, religious, philosophical, or even ideological... it is economical.
The result of it all is that we've not only substituted real vacations for staycations but we've substituted protesting in the streets for protesting in 140 character posts. (Ouch. I'm sure that really hits the Plutocrats where it hurts). Worst of all, we've substituted the convenient enemy (those who don't agree with us about the job the President is doing) for the actual enemy, the wealthiest Americans whose lives are more and more so a constant vacation.
It's time to focus our genuine and understandable disdain solely on the real enemy, the wealthy Plutocrats and their political henchmen, and stop taking it out on each other. If we want to actually hit them where it hurts we have to support movements like The Peoples Boycott
and stick to our guns even when it means we have to pay a little extra for our bananas and paper plates. We must take to the streets in ever increasing numbers; we must stand for each other even when the issue doesn't effect us personally. When we vote, there must be only one issue that influences our vote: where the candidate's voting record stands on supporting the continued wealth grab by those who already have plenty of it.
It is time to take a stand - to do otherwise is to concede defeat... and that's what they are counting on.
Here's the thing about money, it's not magic. It doesn't poof
away in a cloud of smoke. If there is a recession and you are losing money (no longer getting a paycheck, paying too much for every day goods, losing money in stocks, whatever), your money isn't magically disappearing. Although, admittedly, that is exactly what it feels like.
I'm sorry to be the one to break this to you, and you might want to be sitting down for this, but when your money is no longer with you, it is with someone else. Oh yeah, they don't call it dirty money for nothing. It no longer likes your meager, substandard, peanut butter and jelly eating lifestyle. It is living it up with someone who can provide it with the standard of living it knows it deserves - champagne wishes and caviar dreams, rather than PBR hangovers and tuna fish sandwiches.
Deny it all you want, the GOP is trying to keep us in a recession. "Nonsense," you say, "why would anyone want to keep us in a recession?" I'm glad you asked. It's trickle up economics. When the middle and lower classes are relegated to a place where they find it increasingly difficult to hold on to their money because they are unemployed, or because Unions are shut down and can't defend worker's rights, or because of any number of other outcomes connected with financially related policies of the GOP, the super-wealthy benefit.
While money isn't magic, it is remarkably buoyant and has a tendency to float to the top if the middle and lower classes aren't able to, literally, hold on to it for dear life. At that point, it is like shooting fish in a barrel for Momma and Daddy Warbucks. Maybe that's a bad metaphor.... um, it's like bobbing for dollars for the absurdly financially stable? Well, you get the picture. They are stuffing their pockets, purses, bank accounts (on and off-shore), and probably even their mattresses (some of those folk are... well, eccentric) with your
money (cue the cheesy 70s porn music). And your money is loving the change of scenery (not to mention it no longer has to listen to you going on and on about how it doesn't do for you what it used to do for you).
The role of the travel agent in this indecent little tale is being played by the GOP... technically, it is more like they
are being played, like puppets (which is a whole different level of dirty). They are being played by wealthy corporations and the abundantly rich. These corporations and high net-worth individuals (HNWIs) own the GOP as well as an unfortunately large chunk of what used to be a system of government of, for and by the people. That's why they want a double dip recession. Yes, it also would give them something to throw at the man who was Commander in Chief when his forces took down our nation's most diabolical enemy in decades as he runs for what is likely to be a second term in office, but the real strength of doing it is making money for HNWIs.
As it turns out, they can make plenty of money with a democratic President in place as long as the recession continues. Having a Republican President is just icing on the cake. Just check out Capgemini and Merrill Lynch Global Wealth Management's "World Wealth Report 2011
" and you'll see how true it is. While the rest of us were lucky if our income stayed stable, let alone increased any, the HNWIs of the world thrived growing more than 10% last year alone and experiencing growth during the previous years of recession even when there was a democratic President. Let none of us believe that we are equally sharing the burden of the recession. We are not.
You want your money back? Stop sitting around moping about how it left you. Tell it you want it back. That you are sorry for ignoring it. That you won't let Big Corporations and HNWIs jerk it around any more. If you have to pick a fight with the people who took it, so be it. Tell it that you really do value it. Tell it by voting out the GOP. Tell it by insisting on laws that protect the middle and lower classes and their money rather than ones that play into the hand of the super rich. Tell it you care by investing it in companies that give back to the community and to those in need. Because I can tell you this, until we stand up for it and for the middle and lower classes,our money is going to be sleeping at our wealthy "friends" home and sooner or later it will get so comfortable that it may never come home.
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Let's just face it, sexual scandal in US politics is more about US politics than sexual scandal. In each event, the “other side” fain disdain for the “God awful, repugnant act.” Of course, when it was their team caught up in the act, they somehow manage to press the mute button on their supposed genuine moral disgust of such behavior.
It's all a game (and that should bother us more than anything). It isn't about morals, it's about politics, and for heavens sake let's start admitting that politics haven't been about morals for a very, very long time – if ever. We are not going to solve any real issues if we allow ourselves to continually get distracted by the sexual side shows . And, yes, I'm saying that sexual hanky-panky is a political side-show. In terms of governmental leadership, it certainly isn't the main event, nor should it be.
We've bought into the idea that sexual promiscuity somehow speaks to an elected official's ability to lead, that it “speaks to their character.” Really?!? They are politicians! Politicians lie; let's stop pretending we are shocked by it. In the current Wiener roast by the press and public, one of the repeated themes of disgruntlement is the fact that he lied to the press about it. Really? A politician lied to the press about something that could effect their ability to continue to lord over we wee minions?
Heavens to Betsy, say it ain't so! The world has gone mad! Really?
Politicians lie. They have power. Some of them, use the power of their office to have sex. Then they use their power to lie about having sex. We act surprised and disturbed. Yet, it will happen again and, sadly, probably soon. And, somehow, we will be surprised and disturbed, yet again.
On a personal level, I'm not a fan of their actions. So, don't read this as a discourse on broadening the acceptance of this kind of behavior, because it is not. I'm just calling out the press, the opposing political side (depending on the sex scandal) and the Church on their less than honest and less than logical take on the whole thing. Let's admit it is political and get on with real governance.
I am particularly bothered by those of us in the Church that try to play the holier-than-thou card by falsely claiming to be the personal bringers of God's judgment on any given situation. This is especially true in matters of sex and politics. The Church tends to get real judgmental, real fast about politicians caught up in sexual scandal and we love to bring down the judgment of God on offenders.
The only thing is, it is not God's judgment; it is our own personal judgment thinly veiled in religiosity. It seems to me that, biblically, God is fairly ambivalent about the whole thing, at least in terms of how a person's ghastly sexual morals relate to their ability to lead. One name: David.
King David is arguably God's greatest political leader. He was plagued by a massive sexual scandal that would effect the rest of his life and the life of his children. His scandal even involved death. It was bad. Yet God did not pass a judgment on him that would remove him from office. God used David to lead a nation. So, let's stop playing political games with the name of God. (That actually turns out to be something with which God is very concerned - the whole "You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the LORD your God..." commandment thing).
So, in summary:
1) Politicians lie. Stop pretending like it is surprising.
2) Like too many non-politicians (who don't lose their jobs), some politicians have sex outside of their committed relationship. It happens. It is deplorable. It will continue to happen. Stop pretending like it is surprising.
3) Sexually indiscriminate people can still be good leaders even though they are horrible spouses.
4) God has no problem using those people to lead.
5) So, stop co-opting Christianity in thinly veiled inferences in order to pass your personal or political judgment.
6) Turns out God is a little sensitive about the things we claim in God's name, particularly when all we are really trying to do is hurt someone else or get our own way.
In this episode, Zac Bailes from Crazy Liberals and Conservatives
and I discuss the debt ceiling and the Church's role in advocating for justice. Enjoy!