More Than A Budget

Normally, it isn’t nice to speak ill of the dead. But sometimes one has to make an exception. Tr-mp’s budget offering to Congress (which actually only addresses discretionary spending by the government, not mandatory spending involving SS, Medicare, and Medicaid) is one of those exceptions. Although the budget is dead—actually it was still-born—it deserves to be called out for what it is. And Vox’s Dylan Matthews did just that:

Budgets are moral documents, and Trump’s is a moral failure

Most people don’t see budgets as moral documents. But what else could they be, especially discretionary budgets? Such documents tell us what the regime’s priorities are, what Tr-mp and his cronies consider to be important. And as Matthews says of this budget proposal, “the moral consequences of its implementation would be profound, and negative.”

Matthews, with help from the Center for American Progress, offers some reasons why that is so:

♦ Tr-mp cuts programs that help low-income Americans, like nutrition help for women and their kids (a $200 million cut in WIC).

♦ Tr-mp completely eliminates the popular “Meals on Wheels” program for the elderly.

♦ If Tr-mp had his way, there would be no more legal assistance for the poor, even in a justice system that already discriminates against them.

♦ A program designed to help low-income families with their utility bills in extreme cold and hot weather is eliminated.

♦ Job training programs for the poor and elderly, designed to get them back in the labor force, are gone.

♦ The Community Services Block Grant gets killed. Thus, no more funds for local efforts to help impoverished folks, some of whom, undoubtedly, voted for Tr-mp.

♦ The EPA’s budget is slashed (thank you, Jill F*cking Stein), meaning:

There’s no money to enforce the Clean Power Plan. There’s no EPA funding for climate research. The Energy Department’s clean energy R&D programs would be eliminated or scaled back. The State Department would have its climate programs cut. NASA and NOAA would see climate-related research money cut.

Dylan Matthews says:

These cuts might be less significant to the future course of climate change than Trump’s efforts to roll back the Clean Power Plan itself. But they nonetheless are a strong signal that the Trump administration just doesn’t care about the climate at all. And that’s terrifying.

It’s terrifying especially for the world’s poorest people, who are the “most vulnerable to climate change.” Matthews adds:

Vox’s Dave Roberts has argued that Trump’s election ended whatever hope there was of avoiding 2ºC of warming, after decades of climate negotiations centered around that threshold. The budget suggests that Roberts was right. The world’s poor — and the environment as a whole — will pay the price.

Make no mistake about it when Republicans are in power: the poor always pay the price. Always.

♦ The Tr-mp moral blueprint would also cut the State Department’s budget by a whopping 28%. No one knows exactly what that might mean in terms of our long-term ability to avoid wars, which, last time I checked, is part of the reason the State Department exists. But we know it likely means guns, not words, will help settle, or not settle, more conflicts in the future.

♦ One explicit cut in the State Department’s budget is to a fund that helps refugees, like those unfortunate fouls in Syria trying to escape ISIS and other terrorists we say we hate. But we don’t hate those terrorists as much as we hate to help the people they are killing and terrorizing.

Image result for evangelicals for trumpThis would be a good time to remind you that we are called a “Christian” nation by the evangelicals who flocked to Tr-mp last November. Ignoring fleeing refugees overseas, hurting the poor and elderly here at home, denying a changing climate that will hurt, first, the most vulnerable, and then everyone else, is what conservative Christianity—Tr-mpism behind a cross—looks like when it gets its hands on political power.

Yes, Tr-mp’s budget is definitely a moral document. But, because of how he came to power, with the critical help of right-wing zealots who had Jesus on their lips if not in their hearts, it is also a theological document. And the God this document represents is one cruel, heartless bastard.

Democrats Need To Learn Something From The 2014 Election And Evangelicals May Be Their Best Teachers

I know Democrats are still stunned and angered by last Tuesday’s election results. Over the weekend I heard a lot of talk about what went wrong and why it went wrong. Everyone, it seems, has an opinion, including me.

Beyond the unfavorable mathematics of the situation—so many Senate Democratic seats to defend in so many indefensible places—and beyond the problems with voter ID laws that right-wingers used to make it more difficult for Democrats to cast votes, there was the troubling notion that voters, who said they were dissatisfied with the economy and believed the country was on the wrong track, looked to Republicans to help fix things. That in itself is enough to tempt a rational person into abandoning all hope that there is in fact any rationality in our electoral process.

We all saw the news last Friday that 214,000 more jobs were created in October, lowering the unemployment rate to 5.8%, the best it has been since 2008. Amazingly, it was 7.2% just a year ago. We now have seen nine consecutive months in which more than 200,000 jobs were created—the strongest job growth since 1998—and in just over four and a half years 10.6 million private-sector jobs have been added to the economy. The stock market has soared beyond anyone’s wildest expectations. More people have health insurance now. We’ve come a helluva long way since Barack Hussein Obama’s first few months in office.

Yep, all that makes one wonder what people were thinking on Tuesday. And it makes one wonder what Democratic candidates were thinking before Tuesday when most of them didn’t bother to run on the progress that has been made—progress made despite Republicans sabotaging the economy with shutdowns, threats of shutdowns, threats of defaulting on our debt, not to mention their strategic legislative obstruction in Congress. You gotta scratch your head.

But the biggest head-scratching fact of the election was, of course, the problems our side has with turnout. Hispanics, a strong Democratic Party constituency, constituted 11% of eligible voters this year yet only represented 8% of actual voters. And although Democrats won a significant share of the overall Hispanic vote nationally, in places like Texas, where Hispanics represent 17% of the electorate and where Democrats expect to become competitive in the near future, Hispanics gave Nugent-loving Greg Abbott 44% of their share. Texas Senator John Cornyn actually outperformed his Democratic opponent among Hispanics, 48% to 47%, as did reactionary Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, who won his race with only 49.96% of the vote but managed to win the Latino vote 47% to 46%. (I should point out that there are some analysts who believe the exit polling showing these results was skewed and that Republicans didn’t do so well.)

Democrats, as usual, won the 18- to 29-year old vote, this year by 11 points. Problem is that they only represented 13% of the electorate on Tuesday, down from 19% in 2012. Turnout among single women, another stronghold for the Democrats for many important reasons, was also down and those who showed up only favored Democrats this time by a 60-38 margin. Women overall only favored Dems by five points, compared to +11 just two years ago. African-American turnout was down slightly from 2012, even though they remain a reliable voting block for Democrats.

I can’t explain to you why all those groups, groups that have so much to lose if Republicans have their way, don’t bother to show up in droves for the mid-term elections. It boggles my brain. The folks that Democrats help the most aren’t very good at helping Democrats when they need the most help. I just don’t know why that is. I don’t know why such folks need to be energized by a presidential campaign. Makes no sense to me. And I don’t know how long the country can continue progressing with what essentially are two distinct electorates, a younger and darker and more liberal one for presidential years and an older and whiter and more conservative one for off years.

But as a former evangelical Christian, something I do know and understand is this:

White Evangelicals turned up at the polls in large numbers on Tuesday, playing a key role placing Congress in the hands of the Republican Party.

That’s from a HuffPo article on “the religious landscape” of the 2014 election. The fact that conservative Christians showed up and voted, and voted in large numbers like they always do, doesn’t surprise me a bit. Those folks, even though they sometimes get frustrated with politics, nevertheless play the long game. They organize at the local level, move on to control their state’s GOP, and have a big say in who gets on the ballot. They then volunteer in campaigns and make sure to get out their vote, no matter what the election is. They are largely responsible for what we have seen since 2009. Barack Obama scared the devil out of them, or somewhat more accurately from their point of view, Barack Hussein Obama is the devil.

Take my next-door neighbor, Arkansas:

52 percent of the electorate was composed of self-identified white evangelicals or born-again Christians. About 73 percent voted for Republican Rep. Tom Cotton, which helped unseat two-term Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor.

Now, Mark Pryor was no atheist. In fact, he was co-chair of the National Prayer Breakfast—where Republicans take time out from demonizing Democrats in order to assert their Christian values—four times. He was as sincere a Christian as one can find in politics (don’t laugh). But that didn’t stop the National Republican Senatorial Committee from attacking Pryor’s faith in December of last year, an attack that Tom Cotton even criticized, that is, just before Cotton attacked Pyror’s faith himself in July:

Barack Obama and Mark Pryor think that faith is something that only happens at 11 o’clock on Sunday mornings. That’s when we worship, but faith is what we live every single day.

Cotton, who apparently has more ambition in his bones than Christian charity in his heart, didn’t know in July whether he would beat Mark Pryor. Polls showed the race was fairly tight. But he had good reason to believe a whole lot of evangelical Christians would turn out to vote in November—turnout was actually up in Arkansas over what it was in 2010. So, why not take a shot at Pryor in Jesus’ name? And it was a nice touch putting Barack Obama’s name in that statement, don’t you think? What most evangelicals in Arkansas heard was, “The Devil and Mark Pryor think that faith is something that only happens at 11 o’clock on Sunday mornings.” Pryor, who didn’t want anything to ralph reed and faith and freedom coalitiondo with The Scary Negro because he is so unpopular in Arkansas, didn’t even get 40% of the vote last Tuesday. He lost by 17 points—in a state that saw 168,000 people, out of a population of only three million, benefit from ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion (the state had, until Tuesday, a Democratic governor).

But I can’t really blame Tom Cotton—who once called for the prosecution and imprisonment of three New York Times’ journalists—for such tactics, given the nature of electoral politics in Arkansas and across the Deep South (where, if Mary Landrieu loses in December, there will be no white Democrats in Congress). It isn’t as though we should expect that Cotton, being an “every single day” Christian, has any better manners or morals than your average beer-slamming blogger (don’t judge me too harshly). But he and his handlers understand his base. They know what buttons to push. They know what will get even more evangelicals than usual to the polls on Tuesdays in any November when there is an election going on. Cotton doesn’t care that he slandered a fellow Christian (actually, two fellow Christians, if you count that crypto-Muslim in the White’s House) in order to score points with white evangelicals in Arkansas. He wants to be a senator for God’s sake!

All of which gets me back to Democratic constituencies and our problems with turnout. It is simply a stubborn fact that we have to cobble together enough votes to win by appealing to a more diverse collection of people. We can’t rely on an overwhelming number of white voters (whose electoral strength is slowly dissipating), who this election made up 75% of the electorate, compared to 72% in 2012, and who gave the GOP 60% of their vote. Or, I hate to say it, we can’t rely on 65-year-old and older voters, who this time made up 22% of the electorate and, although most of them are living off Democratic programs like Social Security and Medicare, nevertheless voted Republican 57-42 .

We continue to heavily rely on the under-45 vote, the female vote, the union vote, and the minority vote, while getting significant shares of those between the ages of 45 and 64—they make up 43% of the electorate and we got 45% of their vote (yes, I know, these groups overlap). And as noted we continue to fail to get out our voters in sufficient numbers in off-year elections. As I said, beats me as to why that is or what we can do about it. I suggest, for a starter, not running away from our leader or our accomplishments.

But beyond that Monday-morning analysis, maybe we need to stop underestimating the power and influence of  white conservative evangelicals, who make up about one-fourth of the national electorate and a much higher percentage in states like Arkansas. There is no other group in American politics quite like these evangelicals. I think this explains a lot about why Republicans have a habit of winning mid-term elections. These folks don’t quit. They don’t tend to stay at home out of frustration. They don’t tend to let anything stand in their way, including voting for a Mormon in 2012, even though many evangelicals consider Mormonism to be a cult. They seem to have an immunity to apathy. Most of them believe every election, every vote, is crucial to fighting the tides of secularism that they are certain threaten their faith, perhaps their very existence. It is a good-versus-evil choice for them each and every time a national election is held.

Democrats, especially liberal Democrats, don’t seem to understand this reality. For some reason, instead of attempting to match or exceed evangelicals’ electoral enthusiasm—if that’s even possible—liberals keep wanting to wish it away. ThinkProgress published a piece two years ago, after Obama’s victory over Romney, that ended with this:

The 2012 election season appears to have been an ominous one for the Religious Right, and – if the trend continues – may very well signal the end of their traditional dominance of Republican politics…the Religious Right looks to have already lost persuasive power with many American voters.

Nope. Just ask Tom Cotton, uh, I mean, Senator-elect Tom Cotton.

Finally, I want to say that as a former evangelical I have spent a lot of time over the past several years writing about the influence of conservative Christians, whom I consider to be the most reactionary force in American society, especially in our politics. And I want to end this rather sad blog post by noting just how powerful the evangelical movement has been in terms of restricting reproductive freedom for women. Anyone who thinks that conservative Christians are losing their political clout, anyone who wants to ignore their influence over what happened last Tuesday in evangelical-rich Arkansas or Iowa or Colorado or Georgia or North Carolina or elsewhere, need only look at this headline:

Anti-Choice Group Moving Into Planned Parenthood Clinic Closed By Texas Abortion Restrictions 

Let that sink in for a moment or two. Now read this:

BRYAN/COLLEGE STATION, Texas, Nov. 6, 2014 /Christian Newswire/ — The worldwide 40 Days for Life movement is moving its headquarters into a former Planned Parenthood abortion center in Bryan/College Station, Texas. The pro-life initiative began outside that same facility ten years ago.

“This news shows what God can accomplish when His people pray,” said Shawn Carney, campaign director of 40 Days for Life. “More than 6,400 children lost their lives in this building, but God is making ‘all things new.’ What was once a place of death and despair is now going to be a place of life and hope. We are excited to start using this location to aid the rapid worldwide growth of 40 Days for Life, and to help other cities become abortion-free.”

Instead of ignoring or writing off right-wing Christians in America, Democrats have to find a way to stir up the same passion and commitment that evangelicals attach to their theocratic vision of a better society. If we don’t, then not only will the on-again, off-again electoral cycle we have seen continue, but in more places than Texas we will see liberal values diminish or disappear.

_______________________________

UPDATE: A commenter directed me to the following video, which captures much of the frustration on our side but also demonstrates the passion necessary for us to win again (for you folks who don’t like profanity, there are a few naughty words toward the end):

Christians Using Homophobia To Colonize Africa

Let’s don’t now argue over whether Christianity is, on balance, good or bad for human societies. I can come up with pretty good arguments for both sides of such a debate.

And let’s don’t argue whether or not earnest followers of Jesus, especially those who energetically attempt to convince people that their version of Christianity is the Truth, mean to do good, to improve society, to make the world a better place. Let’s assume at this point that they have the best of intentions.

But let us take a sober look at one case in the world where we know, we absolutely know, that Christianity, in its American evangelical form, has done, and is still doing, a lot of harm.

Let’s look at Uganda.

You probably remember that in February of this year, Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni signed “The Anti Homosexuality Bill” (that’s actually the title of the legislation) into law, which would criminalize “any form of sexual relations between person of the same sex” and would criminalize “the promotion or recognition of such sexual relations.” So, if you do it or get close to doing it, you’re in trouble. And even if you don’t do it but promote it or recognize it you still have a big problem.

I will spare you the definitional details written into the law about what constitutes sexual activity, but you should know that anyone who so much as “touches another person with the intention of committing the act of homosexuality” can be convicted and thrown in prison, where we know, of course, there is no homosexuality going on. Serial offenders can get life sentences (that is an improvement over the original draft that called for the death penalty, which is why people like Rachel Maddow were calling it the Kill The Gays bill.)

And the crime called “promotion of homosexuality,” which includes anyone who “acts as an accomplice or attempts to promote or in any way abets homosexuality and related practices,” can also get you some time in the slammer.

Oh, I almost forgot. The authors of this totalitarian piece of legislation thought of everything. Don’t imagine you are safe if you are a Ugandan who has gay sex or promotes homosexuality outside of Uganda. The government may attempt to get you extradited so you can face justice at home.

Now, there is a long tradition of such anti-gay laws in most of the West. Ecclesiastical courts in Europe once handled such matters, since they were considered offenses against God. But starting with the “Buggery Act 1533,” passed by the English parliament during Henry VIII’s time on the throne, sodomy became a civil offense. And up until 1861 the punishment was death. These days most Western countries have done away with such laws in one form or another (the U.S. Supreme Court officially invalidated sodomy laws in 2003), but in some parts of the world, including in the former British colony Uganda, there is still fierce opposition to homosexuality.

According to the research firm Consultancy Africa Intelligence,

The majority of countries around the world that still criminalise homosexuality are former British colonies or territories.  Sodomy laws are a common feature in 16 of the 18 African Commonwealth nations.

Make no mistake about it, in Western societies and in the colonies and territories they used to control, the opposition to homosexuality was (and is) largely based on biblical literalism, the kind that has pretty much gone out of fashion for all but conservative brands of Christianity.  And those particular expressions of conservative Christianity are motivated by the Great Commission, in which Jesus commanded true believers to,

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost…Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you…

If that sounds like a form of Christian colonizing to you, you are not alone. Reverend Kapya Kaoma, an Anglican priest and human rights activist from Zambia who has documented the attempt by American evangelicals to portray homosexuality as “evil,” has claimed that what American conservative Christians are doing in Africa is essentially “colonizing African values.” He writes:

Over the decades, the U.S. Christian Right has invested vast resources in promoting their ideologies across sub-Saharan Africa through  schools, universities, and perhaps most visibly, in the  television empires of Christian Broadcasting Network  and Trinity Broadcasting Network.

Kaoma notes that we first saw the extent of such influence during the initial controversy, beginning in 2009, over the anti-homosexuality bill that Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni signed into law this year. Despite worldwide denunciation of the disturbing legislation, conservative Christians were successful in “painting LGBT-rights campaigners as neocolonialist intruders,” and eventually “anti-gay protests, policies, and violence increased.” Kaoma says,

Homophobia proved a powerful rallying point for many established leaders on the continent…These leaders found they could earn easy support from religious factions, while winning nationalist votes for denouncing the West as neocolonial.

God Loves Uganda trailer: http://ow.ly/l8WuaYou have to admit that the whole thing is pretty slick. The evangelicals are really trying to colonize African spirituality and morality by attacking homosexuality, but they are doing so by calling the defenders of human rights the real neocolonialists. And they are largely able to do all of this these days because of a coincidental relationship between African spirituality and American Pentecostal (called “charismatic” in many places) Christianity, which have in common the idea that religion is central to everything in life and that there are unseen forces at work around us at all times. When I was a Bible-believing Christian, I was part of the Pentecostal-charismatic-prosperity gospel movement and I understand what Kaoma means when he writes:

In Africa, Pentecostalism resonates with indigenous African religions and African-initiated churches holding strong belief in spirits and exorcism, speaking in tongues, prophecy, and convulsions when demons are cast out of people.

That explains why American Christians, especially those who believe that demon possession is real, are so popular in Africa and why their proposals to criminalize homosexuality and abortion, demonic to the core, are so popular. A Pew poll found that in Uganda, nearly half of the country has “experienced or witnessed the devil or evil spirits being driven out of a person.” Exploiting this ignorance, and then tying it to homosexuality (and abortion), is why that same Pew poll found that nearly 80% of Ugandans, for instance, think “homosexual behavior” is “morally wrong” (98% of Kenyans so think).

And that is why when the Ugandan president signed that notorious anti-gay bill this year, the Associated Press published the following photo of “Ugandan pupils from different schools” who were taking part “in an event organised by born-again Christians to celebrate the signing of a new anti-gay bill that sets harsh penalties for homosexual sex”:

Uganda Gays

This sad picture, this sad picture that shows kids, African kids who have been brainwashed by American theological colonizers, celebrating a form of hatred is why we here in America must be diligent to, at every turn possible, aggressively challenge the kind of religious zeal and bigotry that leads to such misguided celebrations and such hatred.

In an article posted today at Vox (“The story behind how American Evangelicals exported homophobia to Uganda”), we learn more about one guy who is trying to make evangelical zealots uncomfortable. Roger Ross Williams, a filmmaker who has won an Academy Award, made a movie last year called “God Loves Uganda,” which Vox says,

tells the story of how Americans — both abrasive political leaders and fresh-faced kids from the Midwest — exported their anti-gay culture wars to Ugandan soil.

Those fresh-faced kids from the Midwest are affiliated with an evangelical Pentecostal-charismatic organization—headquartered here in Missouri—called the International House of Prayer, whose founder allegedly heard a voice that told him to raise up a work that will touch the ends of the earth” and who has had Apostle Paul-like experiences of visiting “the throne-room of God.” These are the kinds of people doing such disturbing things in Africa and elsewhere.

Roger Ross Williams says the anti-gay law in Uganda,

is incredibly popular because the Ugandan public has been mislead to believe homosexuals and homosexuality are a threat to their life. But actually, homophobia is the real western import starting with the first missionary and sodomy laws.

He was asked, “Do you really think the average American evangelical is a party to state-sponsored homophobia in Uganda?  He responded:

An American Christian does not want to condone violence or hatred, no matter if they believe something is sin or not. But we need to keep hate out of the collection plate, and challenge pastors: you might think you’re giving money to orphans, but make sure it’s not funding homophobia! Religion is the biggest business in Africa. It’s about exposing this to Americans so they can stop the flow of money to big, massive homophobic churches that throw hate rallies. This is the reality this is what it’s like over there.

I hope Williams is right about American Christians, that if they know what is really going on in Africa that they will “stop the flow of money” behind the homophobic hysteria and direct it toward more worthy efforts. But judging by the evangelicals I have known in my life, it will have to be the younger generation of Bible believers who put a stop to it.

Obama, Gog, Magog, And The Curse Of God

The Raw Story published an account of Louie Gohmert’s recent address to that teensy-weensy part of the nation who watches the “General Speeches” in the House of Representatives on C-SPAN. Gohmert, typically an earnest spokesman for GOP Jesus, was talking about the Obama administration’s latest moves in the Middle East when he said:

There are many who have been aware of Scripture, and it has often been a guide in our relations with Israel.

Now, before you are tempted to laugh at that statement, before you smirk at the idea that an Iron Age book is America’s go-to manual for 21st-century international relations, be aware that there is more than a little truth in it. Consider the following, from The Guardian:

Bush, Gog and Magog

Just when you thought it couldn’t get crazier, a well-sourced story claims Bush invaded Iraq because of Bible prophecies

Apparently, George W. Bush (who lately has a Jews for Jesus problem), in order to get support from French President Jacques Chirac for the neo-conservatives’ arbitrary war against Saddam Hussein, told Chirac that “Gog and Magog” were busy doing in the Middle East, well, the things that God and Magog are supposed to be doing. What they were (and now are) supposed to be doing, according to many Bible-believing evangelicals and fundamentalists, has something to do with the End of the World.

When I was an evangelical Christian, I heard a lot about Gog and Magog, even though I didn’t really understand how anyone could derive such fanciful notions about them from a few obscure passages in the Bible. I like the way Wikipedia describes the prophetic duo:

They are sometimes individuals, sometimes peoples, and sometimes geographic regions. 

Hmm. That’s quite an elastic description, no?

In any case, it is more than scary that people in our government, people in high places, have taken such things seriously, but they have. And many, like Louis Gohmert, still do. He wasn’t finished with his C-SPAN speech:

Some of us believe that the Bible is accurate. Certainly, so many prophesies have been fulfilled, and if that is true, this administration, unless they can find a verse that accurately says that those who betray Israel will be blessed, then this country is being dug in a deeper hole by this administration and its betrayals of Israel’s trust and Israel’s friendship.

As a former member of the evangelical community, let me translate that for you:

If Barack Obama doesn’t start paying attention to the prophecies of the Old and New Testaments, then our country will be cursed by God.

Now, what form that curse will take is, like most things in the Bible, open to interpretation. Here are the options I spontaneously see:

†♥ God will send droughts to starve us to death.

†♥ God will send floods to drown us—uh, no, he tried that and promised not to do it again. My bad.

†♥ God will send a horrible plague our way, like the Tea Party.

†♥ God will force us to watch Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Bill O’Reilly have sex—with each other.

Okay, okay. That last one is a little too much. I admit it. But it beats the curses for disobedience you will actually find in Deuteronomy 28, among them:

†♥ The LORD will send on you cursing, confusion, and rebuke in all that you set your hand to do, until you are destroyed and until you perish quickly…YIKES!

†♥ The LORD will strike you with consumption, with fever, with inflammation, with severe burning fever, with the sword, with scorching, and with mildew; they shall pursue you until you perish. YIKES!

†♥ Your carcasses shall be food for all the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and no one shall frighten them away. YIKES!

†♥ The LORD will strike you with the boils of Egypt, with tumors, with the scab, and with the itch, from which you cannot be healed. YIKES!

†♥ The LORD will strike you with madness and blindness and confusion of heart. YIKES!

†♥ Your sons and your daughters shall be given to another people, and your eyes shall look and fail with longing for them all day long…YIKES!

†♥ The LORD will strike you in the knees and on the legs with severe boils which cannot be healed, and from the sole of your foot to the top of your head…YIKES!

†♥ You shall eat the fruit of your own body, the flesh of your sons and your daughters whom the LORD your God has given you…YIKES!

Now, admit it, compared to all the real punishments God says he has in store for the disobedient, being forced to watch Limbaugh, Hannity, and O’Reilly do the nasty isn’t all that bad is it?

Greed, Evangelicals, And The Environment

You see we have a president, on the energy sector of our economy, who is doing everything possible—everything possible—to crush energy production in this country.”

Rick Santorum in Oklahoma City, February 9, 2012

From a report on Rick Santorum’s visit to Oklahoma City recently:

Santorum found a receptive crowd of nearly 1,000 people in an Oklahoma City hotel Thursday by giving an unflinching endorsement to hydraulic fracturing. That’s the controversial method for extracting natural gas using pressurized chemicals to break open gas-bearing rock.

Santorum says environmental concerns are unfounded. He called them “the new boogeyman” meant to scare the public.

Here is what led up to the boogeyman comments:

The left is always looking for a way to control you. They’re always trying to make you feel guilty so you’ll give them power so they can lord it over you…and they try to distort the truth…Now, they’re trying to do it again: hydrofracking.  Something like 800,000 wells have been hydrofracked in this country. And all of sudden since now we’ve seen natural gas prices go from thirteen bucks to two dollars and fifty cents, well now this is a problem.

And we have to have all sorts of government regulations now because of the threats of hydro—it’s the new bogeyman. It’s the new way to try to scare you…They’re preying on the northeast, saying, “Look what’s gonna happen, oooh, all this bad stuff’s gonna happen, we don’t know all these chemicals and all this stuff, what’s gonna happen.” Let me tell you what’s gonna happen: nothing’s gonna happen (loud cheers).

But they will use this to raise money for radical environmental groups who then go out and continue to try to pervade their reign of environmental terror on the United States of America.  We will stand up for the truth. We will stand up for making sure that we drill and that we keep those energy prices low…

I quoted all that because it is important to keep in mind just how reactionary Santorum’s (as well as the rest of the Republican presidential field) views are on the environment, and because it reminded me of a book I read many years ago, while still an evangelical Christian.

The book, written by the late evangelical guru of the Religious Right, Francis Schaeffer (and he remains a guru as far as his stance on abortion is concerned), was titled, Pollution and the Death of Man: The Christian View of Ecology.

Oddly, or maybe not so oddly given what evangelical Christianity has become, I never heard one sermon or one Sunday school lesson in my long evangelical life based on Schaeffer’s environmental views,
but I did hear a lot of talk about his anti-abortion views. And for good reason: his views on the environment would not pass orthodox muster in the man-has-dominion-over-the-earth, pro-business Republican, evangelical church today, as you will soon see.

But he did state the problem very concisely:

The simple fact is that if man is not able to solve his ecological problems, then man’s resources are going to die.

Schaeffer’s solution to those ecological problems began with what he considered a proper view of man’s status:

Man was given dominion over creation. This is true…but as a fallen creature he has used that dominion wrongly. Because he is fallen, he exploits created things as though they were nothing in themselves, and as though he has an autonomous right to them.

What has brought about the ugly destruction of the environment?” asks Schaeffer. “There is one reason: man’s greed.”  He continues:

It is always true that if you treat the land properly, you have to make two choices. The first is in the area of economics. It costs more money, at least at first, to treat the land well…

The second choice that is involved is that it usually takes longer to treat the land properly. These are the two factors that lead to the destruction of our environment: money and time — or to say it another way, greed and haste. The question is, or seems to be, are we going to have an immediate profit and an immediate saving of time, or are we going to do what we really should do as God’s children?

Now, it is impossible to imagine hearing Rick Santorum or any other contemporary conservative Republican talking like that. Nor is it possible to imagine them saying anything like the following, as Schaeffer pressed his point:

What we, the Christian community, have to do is to refuse men the right to ravish our land, just as we refuse them the right to ravish our women; to insist that somebody accepts a little less profit by not exploiting nature.

Compare that to what Santorum—the hope of evangelical America—said in Oklahoma City ten days or so ago:

We will stand up for the truth. We will stand up for making sure that we drill and that we keep those energy prices low…

Victim of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the surf at East Grand Terre Island, Louisiana.

[Photo taken by Charlie Riedel of the Associated Press]

Obama Should Not Yield To Reactionary Bishops

A commenter sent this in response to my post, The Hierarchy And The Hysteria:

Edwino Rasmijn Says:
February 9, 2012 at 11:21 am

The following article – from a separation of church and state standpoint – places this issue in a more comprehensive perspective. The article pinpoints that the catholic church considers it discrimination “if they aren’t given taxpayer dollars and the ‘religious’ freedom’ to spend those dollars in accordance with church law”. The article also demonstrates that this issue is just one of various concurrent issues in the same pipeline.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED READING

http://au.org/church-state/february-2012-church-state/featured/the-bishops-obama-and-religious

_______________________

My reply:

Edwino,

I’m glad you brought that article to my attention.

What is happening now—the blatant attack on President Obama by a reactionary group of church leaders and Republicans—is not just the product of the recent contraception decision, but has to do with gay rights and abortion and the larger battle for civil rights and equality in America.

We have to ask ourselves an important question: Will America, including American women and American homosexuals, be at the mercy of an Iron Age theology, wielded by powerful churchmen with well-financed lobbyists?

Obama is pro-choice and is evolving to an enlightened stance on gay marriage, which infuriates the reactionaries in the Catholic Church (even though the government reportedly gives it almost $800 million a year through Catholic Charities).

It also infuriates to the point of hysteria the evangelical and fundamentalist world (Tony Perkins has “welcomed” the Catholic bishops in “the fight for faith, family, and freedom” and that ought to scare us all).

The unprecedented decision by Health and Human Services to reject the FDA’s recommendation to make emergency contraception more available is, as the article pointed out, illustrative of the disturbing power of the reactionary forces in our country.

What has been upsetting to me throughout this whole fiasco (admittedly, the Administration could have done a better job of handling it) has been the number of liberal Catholics who have attacked the decision, some of them claiming that it was somewhat treacherous to the “friendly” Catholics, especially those who were very important players in winning the battle over health insurance reform.

But these liberal folks ought to be on the side of women’s health and equality, even if it means angering a lot of conservative bishops and priests around the country or even if it means disappointing more enlightened Catholics.

This issue is about employment law and the workplace. It is not and never was a “religious liberty” issue, but these religious fanatics are smart enough to know that Americans, who don’t pay much attention to details, resist any big-government intrusion into religious matters, even if this is not one of those big-government intrusions (there was a religious exemption, for God’s sake).

It is sickening what is happening.  Here is an important paragraph from the article regarding the religious liberty concept that is being misused:

Now that concept is being expanded to cover a host of other issues. Church leaders argue, for example, that the “religious liberty” of Catholics is violated when governments recognize same-sex marriage – even though no churches are required to sanction or perform such ceremonies.

Similarly, Catholic pharmacists and other health care providers are increasingly asserting that their “religious liberty” is violated if they are expected to provide certain medications (such as Plan B) or take part in certain medical procedures (emergency abortions and sterilizing operations, for example).

If we fail to fight off these reactionary forces on this issue, it is just a matter of time when they will be at the door demanding—and likely getting—their way on the others.  Rather than back off in some fashion (which I think may happen), Mr. Obama ought to stand up and aggressively defend what his Administration has done in the name of women’s health and cultural equality.

Because even if he backs off, the zealots will still oppose him vehemently and mercilessly.  It’s not like they will suddenly rush to his side and begin to thank him for his reasonableness.

The Catholic Church, indeed no church, should be able to trump the rights of women and homosexuals or anyone who happens not to share a fondness for falsely-righteous religious dogma.

Duane

Pick Rick Says GOP Jesus

Conservative evangelicals have finally heard from God—it only took Him three ballots to get through!—regarding whom they should support in the GOP primary, and the man with a God-sized Google problem, Rick Santorum, gets the Divine Nod.

That evangelical Christian leaders have explicitly thrown in with one political party in America doesn’t seem to bother the likes of James Dobson or Donald Wildmon, among the organizers of this current group of religious fanatics who have a mission to rid American leadership of people like fellow-Christian, but insufficiently godly or American, Barack Hussein Obama.

The spokesman for the event in Texas this weekend was Tony Perkins, a zealot who leads the Family Research Council, which oversees GOP compliance with so-called biblical morality. Mr. Perkins offered this extraordinary bit of insight into the evangelical psyche:

Mr. Perkins declined to explain why participants moved toward Mr. Santorum, other than to praise his consistent record on social and economic issues. In the discussions, Mr. Perkins said, participants were as concerned about repealing Mr. Obama’s health care law and fighting the national debt as they were about abortion and same-sex marriage.

And many evangelicals have said they are bothered not only by Mr. Gingrich’s three marriages, but by his attacks on Mr. Romney’s work in private equity, which they believe amounts to attacks on free enterprise.

Now, you can search the Bible from Genesis to Revelation and I dare say you will not find in it an attack on the Affordable Care Act or concern about America’s indebtedness or abortion or, for that matter, “same-sex marriage” (it is a civil-rights issue in 21st-century America, not a moral one).

Nor will you find a defense of private equity firms or the kind of buzzard-blessed capitalism practiced by Bain Capital and Mitt Romney, even if some want to call such activity “free enterprise.”

But the Bible that evangelicals tote and thump does say this (in James 1:9-11):

Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower.  For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business.

It is clear that the Republican Party has become the home of conservative evangelicals and it is clear that conservative evangelicals are attempting to make the square pegs of Christian theology fit into the round holes of GOP-protected greed—just look at Tony Perkins’ tweet after Republicans in Wisconsin attacked, successfully (for now), unions:

Again, you will not find in the Bible an attack in any form on labor unions, but you will find in the history of the Religious Right’s relationship with the Republican Party an attempt, as a service to big-business interests, to crush organized labor.

And speaking of using the Bible nefariously, you may have heard that the Speaker of the House of my former home state of Kansas recently distributed an email with a reference to the dreadful Psalm 109:8, known in some places as the “Obama Prayer“:

May his days be few;

      may another take his place of leadership.

The email came with this plea:

At last — I can honestly voice a Biblical prayer for our president! Look it up — it is word for word! Let us all bow our heads and pray. Brothers and Sisters, can I get an AMEN? AMEN!!!!!!

In his defense, the Speaker, Mike O’Neal (who seems to have a problem with forwarding emails about the Obamas), said,

This email is about prayer expressing what Republicans around the country are working toward — voting into office a like-minded president in 2012.

The problem is, as I posted more than two years ago, that Psalm 109:8 does not sit in isolation. The Psalmist was once again whining to God about “wicked and deceitful men” persecuting him, and he wanted some revenge, including death and plunder and punishment of children and grandchildren (as well as, retroactively, the offender’s “fathers”).

But interestingly enough, Mr. O’Neal may have helped identify the eventual GOP nominee in his reference to Psalm 109, which the NIV translates:

Appoint an evil man to oppose him;

          let an accuser stand at his right hand.

When he is tried, let him be found guilty,

         and may his prayers  condemn him.

May his days be few;

         may another take his place of leadership.

Before the Psalmist and Mr. O’Neal say, “may another take [Obama’s] place of leadership,” the scripture says, “Appoint an evil man to oppose him.” 

Someone should ask the too-clever-by-half Mr. O’Neal—and other Republicans who promote this nonsense—just who that “evil man” could be: Mitt, Newt, or one of the Rick brothers?

Strange Things From The Mouths Of Evangelicals

“Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me…See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven…So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.”

—Jesus of Nazareth

 

As a former evangelical Christian I know that evangelical Christians sometimes say strange things.

For instance, after the St. Louis Cardinals’ heart-stopping victory in Game Six of the World Series, Josh Hamilton, who had hit for the Texas Rangers what appeared to be a series-clinching two-run home run in the top of the 10th inning, told reporters about the dramatic hit:

I would tell y’all something, but y’all wouldn’t believe me. The Lord told me it was going to happen before it happened.

Hamilton said the Lord’s words were: “You hadn’t hit a home run in a while. You’re about to right now.”

Now, it’s not unusual that people like Josh Hamilton—who very publicly claims the Lord helped him with a severe addiction to drugs and alcohol—believe the God of the Universe speaks to them and tells them things before they actually happen.

What is unusual in Josh Hamilton’s case is that God chose that particular time and that particular game to get all chatty with the talented outfielder. You see, in July at another Texas Rangers game, when God could have done some real good in the world, he didn’t have much to say.

Everyone remembers that on that sad day a fireman named Shannon Stone, 39-years-old, was at the Rangers game with his little boy, six-year-old Cooper. Cooper’s favorite baseball player is Josh Hamilton and his dad was trying to get Hamilton to toss him a foul ball to give to his son.

Hamilton said that he heard the father shout, “Hey, Hamilton, how about the next one?” after Hamilton had tossed a foul ball to the ball girl. “I just gave him a nod,” Hamilton said, “When I got it, I found them again.”

He tossed the ball to Shannon Stone who reached for it over the railing and fell 20 feet to his death.

This tragedy was not Josh Hamilton’s fault and he was obviously distraught over it.  But that’s not the point. My question for Mr. Hamilton is this: If you honestly believe that God would give you a heads-up on a tie-breaking home run and you felt it necessary to tell the world about it, then you owe the world an explanation as to why God did not whisper in your mind, just before you tossed that ball to Shannon Stone, to throw it somewhere else, or give it to the ball girl.

What must Shannon Stone’s family have thought upon hearing that the Almighty is on speaking terms with Josh Hamilton?

If he can go public with the homer revelation from God in October, Hamilton can also go public about God’s stunning and deadly silence in July. He should tell us how God has the time and inclination to talk baseball with Hamilton in a World Series game but apparently not the time and inclination to issue a warning to save a little boy’s dad at a regular season contest.

_______________________________________

Michele Bachmann, who says she gave her heart to Christ and “wept before the Lord” when she was in high school, believes she is “pro-life.”  She said so, just last week:

I want you to know quite firmly, I stand for life – from conception to natural death.

Quite firmly,” she said, she stands “for life.”  “From conception to natural death.” We know this all-inclusive statement means she believes that just-fertilized eggs are deserving of the full protection of the U.S. Constitution, which, no doubt, her followers find quite charitable and godly.

By Saturday, however, her all-inclusive statement about firmly standing for life had been subjected to what appears to me to be a rather uncharitable and ungodly revision. MSNBC reported:

A 19 year-old college student, identifying himself as Latino, asked what Bachmann would “do to” the children of illegal immigrants.

Bachmann responded that she is “not doing anything to them,” and described why she is against the federal government rewarding citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants.

“Their parents are the ones who brought them here,” Bachmann said.

“They did not have the legal right to come to the United States,” Bachmann added, of the parents.  “We do not owe people who broke our laws to come into the country.  We don’t owe them anything.”

Bachmann is right of course. We don’t “owe them anything” in a frosty technical sense. Their parents did bring them here illegally, obviously for a better life, and the children have no legal claim to stay and no legal claim on our American stuff.

But all that Arctic Christian hair-splitting is not exactly what most people understand someone to mean when they say, again:

I want you to know quite firmly, I stand for life – from conception to natural death.

And neither is it all that spirtually becoming for someone who says she “wept before the Lord” and gave her heart to Jesus so long ago, to harden her heart toward kids brought here to live.  That same Jesus who allegedly witnessed a weeping Bachmann told a famous little story that went sort of like this:

A certain family with children was going up from Juarez to El Paso to escape poverty and drug dealers, who were destroying their homeland.

By chance a certain conservative evangelical Christian presidential candidate was going up that way.  When she saw them, she passed by on the other side.  She said, “We don’t owe these people or their children anything.We need to build a secure double fence because they are burdening taxpayers in America.”

In the same way, a conservative Mormon presidential candidate also, when he came to the place and saw them, passed by on the other side. “These folks are just here for the in-state tuition,” he said. “It’s like a magnet.”

But a certain liberal, as he traveled, came where the family was.  When he saw them, he was moved with compassion, came to them and told them: “Look, we’ll let your kids go to school, we’ll get them some food and make sure they have health care. After all, this is supposed to be a Christian nation.”

Which now of these three, do you think, was neighbor to him that came to America for a better life?

For someone who has made her Christianity a very public matter, it seems to me an answer to Jesus’ updated question is in order.

 

How Old Is The Earth? And Other Tests Of Republican Rationality

I am weary of homeschoolers, most of whom are homeschooling because they want to indoctrinate their children into the ways of some form or other of fundamentalist Christianity.

While I support religious freedom, I’m not sure our country can afford to support the freedom to isolate children from the intellectual lifeblood of the nation, so their parents can condition them to believe that the Bible, a book two to three thousand years old, is a greater source of scientific knowledge than modern science itself.

But that’s for another day.

Today, I want to point out how powerful the fundamentalist-evangelical voter is in the Republican Party and suggest a question the Joplin Globe could put to all local candidates for political office.

A Kentucky blogger, Barefoot and Progressive, posted a video of Rand Paul‘s appearance at a conference of Christian Homeschool Educators last Friday.  The Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate was asked a question by one of his Christian brothers as to how old the libertarian-conservative believed the earth was:

Paul:  I’m gonna pass on the age of the earth. I think I’m just gonna have to pass on that one.

Obviously, the questioner put Paul in a political dilemma—no matter what his views are.

If he believes the earth is only 6000-10,000 years old—the typical fundamentalist belief—then he certainly can’t say so and risk losing what little intellectual credibility he has left with the rational world.

If he doesn’t believe the earth is about the same age as Joan Rivers, but instead believes it is 13.7 billion years old, then he certainly can’t say so at a conference of homeschool educators, especially in Kentucky, where conservative Christian voters make up a large chunk of the electorate.

So, what does he do?

Paul:  I’m gonna pass on the age of the earth. I think I’m just gonna have to pass on that one.

Well, I’m not going to let him pass.  I’m going to assume, since he won’t defend Reason—remember, he is supposedly a rational libertarian?—that he is a boneheaded fundamentalist fool, who believes  Adam and Eve were real folks who lived about 6,000 years ago.

All of which leads me to suggest something to the Joplin Globe, currently running a weekly Sunday feature called the 100 words project, in which the paper solicits questions from local folks (so far, local conservatives) to ask the zillion candidates running to replace Roy Blunt, who are supposed to answer in 100 words or less.

Here’s my simple question suggestion, the same one which Rand Paul was asked:

How old is the earth?” 

Or, how about one I use as a test of rationality:

Were the biblical Adam and Eve real people who lived less than 10,000 years ago?

The answer to either one of those questions would tell me more about the candidates than a thousand questions like,What specific steps will you take, if you are elected, to make sure you are responsive to your constituents back home?

What say you, Joplin Globe?

 

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