Monday, April 02, 2012
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Christian Values or Traditional Family Values?
One of the most powerful and politically influential Christian conservative ministries is something called 'Focus On the Family.' These people define their Christian mission as defending the ‘traditional family’ against the ‘homosexual agenda.’ James Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family, claims that the goals of homosexuals include “muzzling of the clergy and Christian media” and “overturning the laws prohibiting pedophilia.”1 Craig Osten, co-author of a book entitled, The Homosexual Agenda, maintains that homosexuals seek to “dethrone the (traditional) family based on blood relationships, in favor of the families that we choose … they want to destroy (heterosexual) marriage - and the family – as we know it.”2
Even if these vicious accusations were true (and they aren’t), are they correct in identifying traditional biological families as that most fundamental and distinctive Christian value? Is the traditional family something that all Christians should be defending as if it were the most basic tenet of our faith? In other words: Is God on the throne, or is Orsten correct in putting our “blood relationships” on the throne?
There is a fundamental problem in equating traditional family-centered values with a Christ-centered life. The problem is that it is not what Jesus taught. If anything, Jesus teachings on the family stand in direct opposition to what organizations like ‘Focus on the Family’ define as Christian values. The only time that Jesus even mentioned the family was in the context of statements like the following:
“For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household.” (Mat 10:35-36)
“And if any man comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters; yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26)
A very radical teaching! And this was especially true in Jesus' day when family bonds meant everything. So it is certainly understandable why many in the church would choose to ignore the implications of his words, or else try to explain them away. Some organizations like ‘Focus on the Family’ would have us believe that Jesus intended to express the polar opposite of what he actually said. That Jesus really meant that unless you remain completely devoted to your traditional nuclear family, you cannot be a Christian. Even though Jesus explicitly said that unless you hate your family, you cannot be a Christian.
How could they be more radical in their distortion of Jesus' teachings?
The same people who always argue for a very literal interpretation of scriptures elsewhere, argue that on this particular subject, Jesus was only speaking figuratively. That he was using hyperbole to emphasize the point that our allegiance to Christ must be first and foremost. And while this is certainly true enough as far as it goes, it obviously doesn’t go half far enough. Because if Jesus was using hyperbole, it was to make sure that we didn’t miss the point that they seem to have missed entirely in their worship of the traditional family.
No, Jesus wasn’t instructing his disciples to hate their families. But he was drawing a very sharp line of distinction between ‘traditional family values’ and ‘Christian values’ - a line that many Christians seem to have crossed over, and then kept right on going.
A choice must be made about what is to be the central focus of our life – not only in theory, as some legalistic theological abstraction - but in practice. Christianity isn’t about getting Christians to love and value their family - that’s something that comes naturally to just about everyone, even to some of the worse people. As Jesus pointed out:
“if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others.?” (Mat 5:46-47)
The instinctual love that people have for their family is a biologically determined behavioral trait pre-programmed into us, just like hunger, thirst, sexual desire, greed, or any other instinct of our flesh. Families that didn’t love and help each other out didn’t survive, and their genes were flushed from the gene pool. So just because you love your family, it doesn’t mean that you’re a good person – it only means that you’re a human being.
There is a tendency among Christians today to confuse the love that they have for their family with the love of God in Christ. However, in the original Greek language of the New Testament, there was no such confusion. There are four Greek words that were used for what we commonly call 'love' today: There is the Greek word ‘eros,’ used to signify a sexual love or passion. There is the word ‘storge,’ indicating the love between family members. There is ‘philia,’ expressing the love between close friends or companions. And finally there is ‘agape,’ marking the highest form of spiritual love. Whenever the New Testament speaks about Christian love it is talking about ‘agape’ love, as something very distinct from ‘storge’ or familial love.
Even Hitler loved his mother, Stalin doted on his daughter, and Saddam Hussein spoiled his two sons rotten. Were they practicing Christian values? I don't think so. Christianity is about loving God, through Christ, even more than our family. Being a Christian is a decision to re-center our love in God, and to expand our circle of love beyond just our immediate family so that we can love both our neighbors and our family, through Him. Our ‘traditional family’ is transformed, through the miracle Christ’s love, to include the interests and welfare of our neighbors – black or white, Arab, Jew or Gentile, rich or poor, gay or straight. That’s what it means to be a Christian.
Time and again, Jesus warned directly against the selfish, self-centered values that are so smugly disseminated in many churches today. They teach that the love for their family is the moral foundation of society. But Jesus taught that he was to be the rock and foundation upon which we were to build our lives, our families, and our communities. It’s simply not the case that by loving your own family that you will also love your neighbor. It is much more likely that the more your life is selfishly focused upon just your own interests, the more you will come to hate your neighbors whenever they seem to hinder those interests.
Ethnic bigotry, racism, anti-Semitism, misogyny, and homophobia – these are all ‘traditional values’ that are usually handed down within families, from one generation to another. That’s why Jesus defined his family as those who had left their own families (and prejudices) to follow him - and not by those who were related to him by blood.
“Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.” (Mat 12:47-50)
For the same reason that traditional families evolved to ensure the survival of our hereditary genes, human nature has programmed us to compete against, to fear, to hate, and even to kill our neighbors whenever it serves our selfish interests - or the interests of our family, our clan, our country, or our race. The same biological imperative that instructs us to love and support our family will inevitably lead us to hate and do harm to our neighbors. It’s for this very reason that nations are prone to make war against each another, and to express every kind of racial, religious, and ethnic hatred. As James wrote:
“From whence come wars and fighting among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?” (Jas 4:1)
The same biological imperative that drives our love for family also compels us to selfishly act against our neighbors. That’s why it will always be a matter of choosing Christ above the instincts of our flesh. The sort of self-centered love that only strengthens our contempt for our neighbors is exactly the kind of religious trap that Jesus was continuously, and strenuously, warning against whenever he spoke about the family. If we have died with Christ, that narrow, selfish, and biologically determined love, once a part of our flesh, has also died and been crucified, along with our predisposition to hate our neighbors.
It’s not by accident that the most distinctive thing about ‘traditional family values’ Christians is their hatred and contempt for their neighbors. A recent poll found that the three words most used by young people (those 16-29 who don’t regularly attend church) to describe Christians are 1. anti-homosexual – 91% 2. judgmental – 87%, and 3. hypocritical – 86%. And the numbers aren’t much better among young people who do attend church. 3 And it's hardly surprising that these Christians have declared (a cultural) war against their neighbors once you understand that it's exactly how their kind of love works ('storge').
Jesus elevated human love and established it on an a much higher footing, so that our flesh would no longer drive, define, and limit our ability to love. So that our capacity to love would no longer be limited by a selfish genetic imperative, but magnified by how much he loved us. Christian love can never be measured by how much we love our family, but only by the fact that “God so loved the world, that He gave his only Son.” (Joh 3:16) God sacrificed His family for us. Why? So that (in terms of our ultimate allegiance) we would be able to do the same for Him. His sacrifice made ours possible.
1. Dobson, Dr James (2005), Marriage Under Fire
2. Q&A: The Homosexual Agenda, an interview of Craig Osten by Pete Wynn, Citizenlink, A Website of Focus on the Family, July 25, 2003.
3. David Kinnaman, Un-Christian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity (Baker Books, 2007), page 34.
Thursday, April 08, 2010
Made Eunuchs By the Pope
“For there are eunuchs who have been so by birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can." (Matthew 19:12)
At one point, when questioned about the legitimacy of divorce, Jesus said that for a man to divorce his wife and marry another was adultery. (Mat 19:9) His disciples responded that if there is no chance of getting out of a bad marriage, it may be better not to marry at all. Jesus responded, “all cannot receive this saying, save to whom it is given.” (Mat 19:11) In the words of Matthew Henry, Jesus “disallows it, as utterly mischievous, to forbid (anyone) marriage, because all men cannot receive this saying; indeed few can.”
Jesus then outlined three distinct categories of eunuchs: #1 those who are born incapable of having sex, #2 those who are made eunuchs by others, and #3 those who choose to remain chaste for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven.
It has become fashionable to presume the first and/or last category of eunuchs includes homosexuals. But that’s a misreading of scripture.
1.) Regarding those who are ‘born eunuchs’: a) Clearly, gays and lesbians aren’t incapable of having sex. They are persecuted for the kind of sex they are having, and that’s a very different thing; b) moreover, many gays and lesbians have been married to someone of the opposite sex, and they've even had children. We might assume this was even more the rule in Jesus’ culture. So how exactly are these people incapable of having sex, when in fact, they seem to be uniquely capable of having sex with either gender?
2.) Regarding those who have chosen to remain chaste ‘for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven’: a) Jesus never said that homosexuals must choose remain chaste for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven; b) he certainly never implied that they could remain chaste; and c) if the homosexuals in Jesus’ culture had to either remain chaste or be stoned to death, it certainly cannot have been by their choice. The fact is that many Christians today discriminate against homosexuals for not being able to do what they themselves could never do, and for wanting to do what they themselves have already have done by choosing their partner in marriage.
Being chaste himself, Jesus understood how difficult it was, and for that very reason, he never imposed that burden upon anybody. He only said that those who had the calling and capacity to remain chaste could do so, though he never made it a requirement for any group of people - not even his 12 disciples.
The burden that many Christians would impose upon homosexuals is more along the lines of the second category of eunuchs – those who are ‘made eunuchs by others.’ It’s really about the power that some (straight) men have always exercised over other (gay) men, and would like to perpetuate at all costs (to homosexuals). It’s symbolic of the power they feel they need to wield over other people’s lives, by reason of their own deep-seated fears and homophobic anxieties.
In the same way that wealthy and powerful men once had their household slaves surgically castrated and transformed into eunuchs - because they were afraid they might otherwise have intercourse with one of their wives - there are many in the church who would transform gays into virtual eunuchs, because they are afraid they might have sex period. These spiritual castrators are terrified at the prospect of two men having sex. So to protect themselves from their fears and to feel more secure in their manhood, they would make all gay men virtual eunuchs.
Eunuchs who are made eunuchs by others (as opposed to those who were born that way or received the calling from God) must include those who are forced to give up their sexuality through religious and/or legal intimidation. The practice of turning slaves into eunuchs was a very common practice in antiquity, and it was sanctioned by the laws and religious traditions of the past. But in differentiating these eunuchs from those who had freely chosen their path in life, Jesus saw it as another example of how some people use religion to maintain their power over others.
Some might argue that, being celibate himself, the Pope has the authority to demand that Catholic priests remain celibate. Yet even the Pope doesn’t have the moral authority to choose celibacy for others, since Jesus clearly indicated that they can only choose it for themselves.
The real scandal within the Catholic Church today is that many priests only became priests because of the homophobia within the church, and others may have had the calling to be a priest, but never a similar calling (or ability) to remain celibate. Instead, they’ve had celibacy imposed upon them by their church. Many would argue that since these priests knew what they were getting into that they chose celibacy as well; it was part of a package deal. But the reality of the situation is not that simple.
In the case of many gay priests (one sociologist estimated that up to 48.5% of Catholic priests are gay ) they may have only become priests because the Catholic Church never afforded them any reasonable alternative. Practically speaking, there was no other workable option open to gay Catholics, who wanted to remain Catholic, than to join the priesthood and struggle (often unsuccessfully) to remain celibate. That’s not to excuse what a small minority may have done by molesting children, but only to point out that the Church itself needs to acknowledge their own hand in the matter. The manner in which the Catholic Church continues to cover up the crimes of molesting priests is emblematic of a much deeper complicity – in putting such an impossible burden upon gay Catholics in the first place.
Certainly not all molesting priests are gay. Because just as heterosexual men in prison often turn to younger inmates to satisfy their sexual needs, so do many heterosexual priests. Though, unlike gay priests, they had a choice in whether or not to marry, they didn’t have the choice to both marry and become a minister of the gospel – which, not incidentally, was the choice that Jesus gave to his disciples. In that sense, the options of heterosexual priests have also been narrowed - not by God and for the sake of His Kingdom, but by the Pope, for the sake of the power and wealth of the Roman Catholic Church. The real reason they must remain chaste is because Rome wants to exercise strict control over their priests, and retain all the wealth that would otherwise have gone to their families.
It’s useful to point out that for the first thousand years, the church followed Jesus’ teaching on chastity and allowed married priests, even electing married Popes. But eventually church authorities decided that a sharper distinction needed to be made between clergy and laity in order to better control both. So they forcibly (and unnaturally) separated their priests from the laity by decree, requiring that they remain celibate. At the same time, to better control the laity, they made heterosexual marriage a sacrament of the church and increasingly began to persecute homosexuals.
The fallout of the power-grab, nearly a thousand years ago, is still being felt in the problem of molesting priests. It’s evidence of the danger in following the traditions of men rather than the teachings of the Bible. Jesus understood the difference between giving people a real choice and using religion to narrow their choices. He understood that compelling someone to forfeit their sexuality could be a dangerous proposition with detrimental consequences for everyone.
Though the Catholic Church acknowledges that homosexual orientation is neither a choice nor a sin, nevertheless, they believe that discriminating against homosexuals is “morally justifiable” for the preservation of heterosexual families. And at the same time that they single out homosexuals for persecution, they have covered up the felonies committed by their own priests.
According to CNN, approximately 4,450 (4%) of the 110,000 Roman Catholic clergy who served in the United States between 1950 and 2002 have been accused of molesting minors. Thomas Fox, in the National Catholic Reporter, estimated that “the average pedophile priest abuses 285 victims." 4,450 molesting priests, multiplied by 285 victims per priest, equals 1,268,250 estimated victims of felony child molestation that were covered up a church that believes it “morally justifiable” to discriminate against gays, lesbians, and their families because they represent an existential threat to “genuine (heterosexual) families.” Though over a million of these “genuine families” have had a child molested by a Priest because a homophobic Church was helping them to cover it up. It would be difficult to spell HYPOCRISY any bolder than that.
The problem of molesting priests will continue so long as there are Popes who cherish their power more than they respect the authority of Jesus. If only Popes were conservative enough to return to Jesus’ teaching on celibacy, and to the church as it used to be more than a thousand years ago. Because there is no way of transforming a Catholic priest made a eunuch by the Pope into one who was given the gift of chastity. Until we recognize that these are two separate and distinct categories of eunuchs – as Jesus did - the insidious problem within the Catholic Church will continue.
That’s not to lessen the responsibility of individual priests who molest children and must ultimately answer to God. But until we allow everyone the free and un-coerced choice to either marry or remain chaste - and stop allowing some in the church to decide for others – lives will be ruined. And it really doesn’t matter whether it’s because of our irrational fears about homosexuality or because some in the church seek to enhance their own power – more lives will be devastated by people who have chosen to ignore Jesus’ teaching on celibacy.
Tuesday, February 09, 2010
The Corporate Antichrist
The recent Supreme Court decision, allowing Corporations to funnel an unlimited amount of BRIBES directly into the coffers of their hand-picked candidates, sounded like the death knell for freedom in America. The hope that we could salvage our ‘government of the people’ is being ground to pieces under the jackboot of corporate power. If Benito Mussolini was correct in proclaiming that: "Fascism should more properly be called 'corporatism,' since it is the marriage of government and corporate power." - then John Roberts is the presiding judge who performed the wedding ceremony.
But the hijacking of democratic government is only an outward manifestation of a deeper spiritual problem. As Paul pointed out, “we fight against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” The real enemies of democracy and freedom, of God and mankind, are the demonic spirits that once masqueraded as pagan gods but now have taken on the shape of Multinational Corporations.
Clement of Alexander (circa 150-213) proclaimed: "The verdict of the prophets is that the gods of all the nations are images of demons." Like the earlier pagan gods, corporations are both the inventions of human beings and demonic in character. Because any principality or power that we bow down to and serve, other than God, is demonic by definition. The pagan gods deceived and enslaved humanity, and kept us from knowing the true God. In the same way, modern corporations have deceived us into believing that they serve our interests, even though we are serving theirs.
If we were to worship a god carved out of a stick of wood, we would be worshiping a demon of our own creation. Any power attributed to our false god would be the power that it had to take away our freedom and deceive us spiritually.
In the same way, we’ve created thousands of Corporations out of wood/paper. And like pagan gods, we’ve created them in our image (by making them legal persons), made them potentially immortal, and given them power to direct our lives. So whether we bow down to Zeus and Hera, or allow Goldman-Sachs to hijack our government and make all the rules, is really beside the point. The point is that we are now doing their bidding. We were created to rule over God’s creation (Gen 1:26); but instead, we have created false gods/demons/corporations, to rule over us and direct our lives.
God is not a name, but a title. Whatever becomes the controlling passion of our life is our god. If our life is controlled and directed by greed, it was only natural and necessary that we would eventually bow down to the gods of greed = corporations. The principle that rules in our heart must eventually rule over our life.
America is a nation with a multitude of gods. The only difference is that our gods are listed on the stock exchange, which we follow with religious devotion. Wall Street has become Mt. Olympus, where our collective fate is in the hands of the corporate gods. Wherever the market decides we should go, we must follow. Whenever they are in financial trouble, we must bail them out. Whichever candidates they select, we have no other choice but to vote for. And whatever position they take on legislation, our government has no choice but to yield.
As David Korten pointed out in When Corporations Rule the World:
“In the quest for economic growth, free-market ideology has been embraced around the world with the fervor of a fundamentalist religious faith. Money is its sole measure of value…The economics profession serves as its priesthood. It champions values that demean the human spirit, it assumes an imaginary world divorced from reality, and it is restructuring our institutions of governance in ways that make our most difficult problems more difficult to resolve. Yet to question its doctrines has become virtual heresy, invoking risk and professional censure and damage to one’s career in most institutions of business, government and academia.”
Multinational Corporations command countless millions of employees and contractors, while directing the lives of billions of consumers across the globe. They determine whether or not we get basic health care, whether we can buy a house or a car, and whether we will go to war. The power once attributed to the gods has been actualized in modern corporations. Their only purpose is to make money, and people are only the means to that end.
The confused message of the tea party movement is symptomatic of the moral confusion that reigns in America today. Folks have every right to be angry when their lives are no longer under their control, but unfortunately, they don't seem not to understand who/what is responsible. Democratic governments is based upon the Judeo-Christian principal that “all people are created equal, with certain unalienable rights.” Self government is the antidote for corporate rule. The problem isn’t that our government spends too much money; the problem is that the tax code, along with most of the money our government spends, are both geared towards serving corporate interests.
The problem isn’t with our government but within ourselves; our government is the reflection of our values. If human greed empowered the rule of corporations, then by establishing justice we could make them less powerful. Health Care Reform, insuring that every American has basic health care, would have been one small step in that direction. But it seems that the power of corporate interests is already so strong, and the confusion among the public so complete, that our government is powerless to act on our behalf.
I've had to deal with my own health issues the past few years, which is why I haven't have the time or energy to post on this blog. I know first hand how screwed-up the system really is. More time and energy is spent in just trying to deal with the economic repercussions of getting sick than with the illness itself. That's not the way it should be in America, and that's not the way it is in every other industrialized country in the world. Basic health care should be the basic right of every American, instead of punishing people for getting sick. Maybe if we had a president who was as good at making that case as he is at trying to prove he's bi-partisan they would have passed a bill months ago. But that's another story.
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Robertson’s (and America’s) Deal With the Devil
Pat Robertson’s sickening statement last week, that the Haitians were cursed because they made a pact with the devil, reflected the sensitivity of a vehement Southern racist. It was also completely contrary to the truth of the Bible:
#1. The Bible indicates that children aren’t punished for the sins of their fathers, unless they continue in the evil ways of their parents. “The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous man will be credited to him, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against him.” (Ezekiel 18:20)
#2. Jesus pointed out that when disasters happen, it’s not because those who suffer through them were worse than other people. So we cannot judge the righteousness of a person by what they suffer on earth. Disaster can strike anyone, anytime, and therefore we should all be prepared lest we perish in the final judgment. “Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” (Luk 13:5-6)
#3. Jesus never interpreted poverty as a punishment from God. On the contrary, he said, “Blessed be ye poor, for yours is the Kingdom of Heaven” (Luk 6:20) and “Woe unto you that are rich! For ye have received your consolation.” (Luk 6:24)
#4. When Robertson accused the Haitians of overthrowing slavery with the help of the devil, he sounded just like the Pharisees when they accused Jesus of healing by the power of Satan. Jesus answered then, “if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand?” (Mat 12:26) Similarly, if the devil was helping the Haitians to overthrow slavery over 200 years ago - how is it that there is still so much evil in the world today? If you believe that slavery is an evil institution (and it certainly is) it makes no sense that the devil would help to abolish it. It only makes sense if you believe (as Robertson seems to) that slavery was ordained by God.
There are certain cases where the sins of the father have been passed along to the son. In Robertson's case, his distorted view of Christianity most likely originated with his father, Absalom Willis Robertson. Absalom Robertson was one of the founding members of a creepy fundamentalist cabal in Washington, more commonly known as "The Family." He was also an extremely racist Senator from Virginia - and close ally of Strom Thurmond - who opposed the Civil Rights Bill and Voting Rights Act.
To put things in context - the successful Haitian revolution, which was basically a slave revolt, occurred from 1791-1803. Understandably, this was a profound shock to slave-owners below the Mason-Dixon line. Confederate families like the Robertsons were terrified that a similar thing might happen to them. Southern Baptists had come to believe that slavery was a divinely inspired institution. They reasoned that Noah’s curse on Ham’s son Canaan (Gen 9:20-27) had ordained that black folks should become the slaves of white folks.
So Robertson was being somewhat disingenuous when he traced the curse only back as far as the Haitian revolution. His family always believed that black folks had been cursed from at least the time of Noah. The only difference is that, after the Haitians had upset the natural order by giving their white masters the boot, they were cursed in other ways – i.e. by suffering through abject poverty and major earthquakes. There’s a certain racist logic to it, so long as you neglect everything that Jesus ever taught … which also seems a Robertson family trait.
BTW: The ‘deal with the devil’ Robertson was referring to was a prayer delivered by Boukman Dutty in 1791, which served as the spark for the Revolution:
“The God who created the earth; who created the sun that gives us light. The God who holds up the ocean; who makes the thunder roar. Our God who has ears to hear. You who are hidden in the clouds; who watch us from where you are. You see all that the white has made us suffer. The white man’s God asks him to commit crimes. But the God within us wants to do good. Our God, who is so good, so just, He orders us to revenge our wrongs. It’s He who will direct our arms and bring us the victory. It’s He who will assist us. We all should throw away the image of the white men’s God who is so pitiless. Listen to the voice for liberty that sings in all our hearts.”
Dutty was pointing out that white slave-owners had made their own deal with the devil by profiting from the slave labor … and that their true god was mammon. He was absolutely correct on that point. That’s what happens when people make deals with the devil – they often become very rich by exploiting and harming other people. But they certainly don’t languish in the slums of Haiti.
Whatever he pretends, Robertson obviously understands that the prince of this world makes deals for money, because he's gotten very rich by making his own deals with corrupt and brutal dictators: It wasn’t bad enough that he cozied up to a murderer named Charles Taylor, to get his hands on some of Africa’s blood diamonds. Taylor is now imprisoned in the Hague, waiting to stand trial for crimes against humanity. Among his crimes is that he harbored Al Qaeda, ordered human sacrifice, and forced his troops to practice cannibalism. Yet Pat continues to praise him as “a Christian, Baptist president.” Robertson employed slave labor to get his diamonds, and even diverted planes that were supposed to deliver relief supplies to victims of the genocide in Rwanda, and had them deliver diamond-mining equipment instead. There is nothing he wouldn't do to make himself a little richer; that's why it has always been the easiest deal for the devil to close.
Robertson’s dad would be proud with his son. Pat's contracts with the devil have made even slavery seem like a church picnic. But the most disturbing fact is how many people in America still listen to him. Which seems to say more about the deals made by affluent Christians in this country, than it will ever say about the poor people of Haiti.
Sunday, January 03, 2010
A Publicity-Driven Phony & His Greed-Driven Miracle
I suppose Rick Warren was feeling a little neglected. During the Christmas holiday, people were beginning to think more about Jesus than about him. That seems the only rational explanation for why he felt compelled to dash out a letter, just a few days after Christmas, proclaiming that “THIS IS AN URGENT LETTER unlike any I’ve written in 30 years … Please read all of it and get back to me in the next 48 hours!”
So what was the cause of this unprecedented emergency – more urgent than anything that’s happened over the last 30 years? Had terrorists struck the homeland once again? Apparently, that was small potatoes next to what was bugging
We’ll probably never know the real story because the
We also know that he’s expanded his
Monday, December 14, 2009|
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
The Joy Of Our Faith
Just imagine how painful it is to grow up in a family that will never accept you as God created you. It may be all the worse, and all the more cruel, when families only superficially pretend to accept what they will never condone. Love the sinner, while hating everything that you stand for. They don't reject you outright because they don't like to think of themselves as terrible people. But neither would they allow you to have the same rights - and the same chance at happiness - that they have.
It must be kinder and more merciful to reject someone you cannot love and respect as an equal, than to dishonestly pretend that your hatred and bigotry is love. There is nothing crueler than that. At least in rejecting them you might also set them free, and give them a fighting chance to find out what real love is all about. Rather than teaching them how to love their family by hating themselves.
There's this thing that abusive people and families often do where they mistake their guilt for love. They are often cruel and feel guilty about it, but they mislabel the guilt they are feeling as if it were love. So instead of motivating them to change, they only become more abusive and shameless over time. But love is more than a mis-labeled feeling - it's how you treat other people.
I tried to warn him that his family would never be able to love and support him in the way that he needed. That he should stay away and live his own life, because they were destroying his self-esteem. You cannot be around people who hate who you are without some - or a whole lot - of it rubbing off. Sometimes the only way to save yourself is to stay away from your dysfunctional family. At least until you're strong enough, after you've discovered what the word "love" really means.
But he desperately needed and yearned for the kind of love and support that only a family could give, but that his family was never going to give him. He was caught in an impossible bind where he needed for them to accept and love him as a gay man, before he would finally be able to accept and love himself. He used drugs to deaden the excruciating pain of being hated and rejected by the people that he loved and needed the most.
I asked myself: How can I be a Christian when there are so many people just like him – gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered - being destroyed by people calling themselves Christians? How can I call myself a Christian when so many other Christians are emotionally crippling their own children, brothers, and sisters?
I'll tell you the truth - I really wanted to call down the wrath of God upon that family’s head. I would have liked that the Lord put that entire family in his place, so they would finally know what their hatred felt like. I wanted to see justice! Why is it that God allows some of the most heartless people in the world - who often call themselves religious - to triumph over what is right?
Then I remember how He allowed it to happen to His own Son. I remembered the Pharisees and what they did to Jesus. And I remember what Jesus said before it happened:
"These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full." (John 15:11)
Jesus had just told the disciples that he was going to be crucified, and yet he was full of joy. And if Jesus was full of joy it means that God must also have been full of joy - and not in spite of the cruel injustice that was about to be acted out, but because of it. Jesus was joyful because he was going to the Father, and it would be like a homecoming. God was joyful because He was about to overcome all the sins of the world through the blood of His Son. And His disciples should have been joyful, because they would never again need to be afraid of death or injustice.
And neither should we.
I was angry because, like the disciples, I was looking at the situation as the final act rather than just the beginning. A lifetime of injustice is a hard thing to carry around inside. It ends up breaking and destroying many people. But a lifetime of injustice is nothing when compared with an eternity of joy in the presence of God.
"Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh. Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake. Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets. But woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation. Woe unto you that are full! for ye shall hunger. Woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep. Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets." (Luke 6:21-26)
I suddenly realized that I should have felt worse for the family. They are the ones about to miss out on all we will have one day. People are only on earth for eighty or ninety years at best, and even the best life on earth still has its ups and downs. But what about the life that is always up, always joyful, forever?
I hope you pray for that family, because they're the ones who may have a much tougher time of it, and forever. They’re the ones we should pity and pray for. Because I have a feeling that, in spite of going to church, they don't believe in God's righteous judgment. That's why many outwardly religious people act as if they can get away with anything. They have no shame because they really don't believe, in their heart of hearts, there will be consequences for what they have done.
I strongly believe that fundamentalist Christianity is the result of a horrendous lack of faith. They don't really believe that God will righteously judge the world, or they wouldn't be doing the things they are doing. Like Jesus said, "By their fruit you know them."
When we truly believe we have joy, and we love in the right way. But when we really don't believe in the things that we say we do, everything that we do is wrong and sinful, because none of it was done in faith, and even what we call love isn't really love at all.
"Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone." (Mt 23:23)
The reason that so many fundamentalists feel the need to judge and condemn homosexuals is because they really don't believe there is a God who will do it - if and when it needs to be done. They persecute others to prove to themselves that they have the kind of faith they really don't have - or they wouldn't be hating and persecuting others. They need to establish their own version of justice right now, and in their own cruel way; because they really don't believe that God will ever get around to doing it, His way. They need to force everyone to believe what they do, so they can finally believe it too. They are always struggling to hide their lack of faith by condemning and persecuting others. They refused to put all their trust in God, and consequently, they needed to prop up their weak and disabled faith by judging and punishing others.
We all struggle somewhere between faith and doubt, joy and despair, anger and forgiveness. I am still somewhere between feeling angry towards that family because of the evil they’ve done, and realizing that I need to pray for them. Being a Christian means that none of us is perfect and we are all sinners. But as Christians, we either struggle to believe, or we struggle to hide the fact that we've already given up and refuse to believe. Hopefully, we will never fall into that black hole of faithlessness where religious hypocrites hang out. There is no real joy in that kind of faith because there is no real hope for a better life to come. There is only a kind of sanctimonious smugness that too often passes for joy in many fundamentalist churches today.
Being a Christian means living in the joy of knowing that our life will go on forever in the presence of God. And whatever injustice we may suffer now, we should think of it as a cause for celebration, knowing that God is just, and that those who are unjustly despised and dishonored today will one day be honored and rewarded in heaven.
That family will probably go to their graves thinking they did the right thing. But whether they repent or not is not really the point. God is just, and the point is that today we can rest in Him. We don't need to waste our energy being angry at religious hypocrites. We don't need to make everyone that hates us and does us wrong, feel guilty about it. We can wait for God to deal with them His way, in His own time. And because we know there will ultimately be justice, we should already be celebrating, and living in the joy of our faith.
Monday, February 25, 2008
In the serenity prayer there’s a line that says “accepting hardship as the pathway to peace.” That’s quite a statement because it’s counter-intuitive. Our common sense tells us that if only we could solve all our problems and eliminate all hardships, the causes of stress in our life, that we could find peace and serenity. We tend to believe the reason for our anxieties lies in circumstances over which we have little, or no, control; and that by gaining more control and solving all our problems, we could then have serenity. That’s why we struggle so hard to gain control over difficult people and impossible situations, to finally find some measure of peace and serenity. But what we inevitably discover is that the more we struggle against circumstances over which we have little or no control, the further we are from peace.
The real problem is that we are looking for serenity in the wrong place – in our circumstances rather than in our relationship with God. We foolishly act like gods ourselves, pretending that we can control everything, rather than admitting we’re only human and giving that control over to God, where it belongs. We secretly tell ourselves that we will only be happy once we become more omnipotent like God; but what we become instead is dysfunctional, desperately trying to manipulate people and things over which we have no control. We will only find peace in our relationship with the God, who is already in control of everything.
The serenity prayer is saying it is precisely by accepting hardships – rather than by struggling against them - that we find peace. By accepting hardship we are giving that control over to God and acknowledging His authority in the matter; and this is the only thing that can bring us peace with God and serenity within ourselves. The reason for our anxiety lies not in our circumstances but in whom we are trusting: it’s a matter of whether we’re trusting in our own limited powers and resources, or trusting in God’s. Peace is the by-product of trusting God. Real peace means resting in God instead of struggling with some imaginary power we have to control everyone and everything, and ending up failing and upset because we always fall short in one way or another.
Jesus said “Peace I leave you, my peace I give unto you, not as the world gives give I unto you.” The peace that the world offers will always be temporary and conditional since it is dependent upon circumstances that necessarily change. None of us can forever avoid accident, illness, or death, to name just a few. The question is: are we struggling to find the kind of peace that is fleeting at best? Or are we looking for the kind of peace that can never be taken away from us? We can discover serenity in the midst of hardships once we know where to look.
By accepting hardship, we are beginning to look at it in terms of God’s will rather than our own. Whenever something bad happens, our first instinct is to receive it in terms of how much we would like it to go away, and this is measured by the level of anxiety and stress we are feeling. It’s not the thing itself that makes us feel anxious and depressed, but how we are choosing to react to it. The more resistance, the more anxious we feel.
When Jesus began praying at Gethsemane he was overwhelmed by anxiety, so that he was sweating “great drops of blood.” Though the son of God, he was also a man like other men and he didn’t want to suffer and die. Jesus wasn’t a masochist and he wasn't suicidal. He wanted to go on living, and was struggling in prayer with God’s will, searching to see if there was another way for us to be saved, rather than to be crucified. He prayed and struggled three times, and yet each time he finished his prayer with “nevertheless not my will, but thine be done.” Jesus ultimately faced crucifixion with peace and serenity because he embraced God’s will rather than his own.
It’s fine to struggle with God in prayer, and there’s nothing wrong with bringing Him our problems and being honest about how we feel. But the goal of prayer is not to get God to do what we want – which is just another way of trying to impose our will and taking control – the goal is getting us to do what He wants. The happy result is once we accept God’s will in trials and hardships, we find peace and serenity. We’re no longer putting ourselves – and our will - in conflict with the will of God.
It’s certainly much easier to accept God’s blessings, and it’s often wise to focus upon those instead of all our problems; but blessings alone can’t bring us serenity in a troubled world. If blessings and an easier life equaled peace and serenity, the rich and famous would be most serene rather than, very often, being the most anxious and depressed. If having the most control over people and events meant serenity than kings and presidents would have the least stress of all. If peace could only be experienced by those whose problems were eliminated, none of us would have serenity.
We will never have control over all the challenges we experience in life. The only way to find serenity in the midst of trouble is to accept God’s will for us. Moreover, the greater the hardship we can accept in faith, the greater the serenity we will have in this life. Accepting hardship is the path to greater peace because it teaches us Who to trust, rather than trusting too much in our ability to solve every problem.
We need to stop looking at hardship as a barrier to serenity and begin looking at it as the pathway to a much deeper and more enduring kind of peace; the kind not dependent upon passing circumstances, but only upon the faithfulness of God. We should not be aiming at the quick alleviation of all our problems, because that will never happen. Instead, we should be thanking God for hardships and challenges which, by accepting them, can lead us to a much greater peace in the presence of God. Not that we need to go looking for trouble; but when trouble comes looking for us and there is nothing we can reasonably do about it, we should know that it was meant to lead us to the peace that is God. Hardship is God’s way of teaching us serenity; it’s the pathway to peace that we’re on.
If you’ve ever gone on a long hike, you know the importance of staying on the trail. The trail is what keeps us from getting lost in the wilderness, so we can arrive safely at our desired destination. Often the trail is steep and very difficult to follow, and there are times when we feel lost, and feel like giving up. But we also have a certain faith in whoever made the trail that we’re on, and we know that if we just keep following it, rather than trying to find our own way, we’ll eventually come out at a beautiful place. Hardship is like that. It’s our way through the wilderness, so that we don’t get lost, and can arrive at a more beautiful place. And the bonus is that once we accept it’s going to be a difficult hike and stop complaining about it, we can look up, and begin to enjoy the scenery along the way.
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
The Pentagram & the Pachyderm
The elephant/flag symbol on the left is the official icon of the GOP/Republican party. The red and white bars and three white stars on a field of blue are supposed to represent the American flag. But there’s a problem. The stars are inverted, and instead of pointing up they point down. In that sense, it is the representation of an upside-down American flag.
There’s no criminal penalty because it’s considered free speech. Still, it’s technically illegal to represent an American flag with the stars upside down.
The law entitled “Respect for the Flag,” US Code Title 4 Section 8(a ) reads “The flag should never be displayed with the union (the stars represent the union of the states) down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.”
There is also section 8 (g) “The flag should never have placed upon it, nor on any part of it, nor attached to it any mark, insignia, letter, word, figure, design, picture, or drawing of any nature” That would supposedly include superimposing the American flag upon any
design, picture, or drawing of an elephant.
And section 8 (i) reads: “The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever.”That would certainly include using the flag to advertise your party affiliation.
It seems pretty peculiar that the same party that every year tries to ram through a constitutional amendment to criminalize flag-burning and other desecrations, are themselves openly disrespecting the American flag in at least three different ways at once, and in countless millions of mailers, websites, and bumper stickers. But when is the last time you saw an American burning the American flag? Since there’s no law criminalizing political hypocrisy, Republicans might do better pushing through a constitutional amendment against it, thereby killing two birds with one stone.
The interesting thing about a star is how easily it can be turned into a satanic pentagram. When it’s pointing up it’s a star and a symbol for good. When it’s pointing down it’s a pentagram, a sign of evil.
"Let us keep the figure of the Five-pointed Star always upright, with the topmost triangle pointing to heaven, for it is the seat of wisdom, and if the figure is reversed, perversion and evil will be the result." Franz Hartman Magic, White and Black. (1895).
"A reversed pentagram, with two points projecting upwards, is a symbol of evil and attracts sinister forces because it overturns the proper order of things and demonstrates the triumph of matter over spirit. It is the goat of lust attacking the heavens with its horns, a sign execrated by initiates." Levi Eliphas Transcendental Magic, its Doctrine and Ritual. (1855)
The 5-pointed star is a symbol for man, and the points were originally associated with spirit and the four elements – earth, water, fire, and air. When the point or head of the star is facing up it’s symbolic of spirit ruling over matter, and when down, it symbolizes humanity overcome by our most destructive instincts like greed and violence. Facing up towards the heavens we are under God’s authority, and when reversed, under the devil’s rule.
In witchcraft the pentangle is used with the "head" of the star pointed down, illustrating man worshiping Satan. When pointed down it also becomes the face of the goat. Satanists use a pentagram with two points up, often inscribed in a double circle to emphasize the exclusion of God, and sometimes with the head of a goat inside the pentagram.
Another website points out how “Symbologists (like that idiot Robert Langdon in “The DaVinci Code”) agree that the five pointed star, or pentagram, is an ancient symbol for the number “6”. Let me spell this out. Three pentagrams (on the Republican elephant) equals 666. This is the symbol for my arch-enemy, Satan, or his minion, the Anti-Christ. Why in the world would our symbol have the emblem of Satan on it?”
Why indeed. Why would an American president go around constantly flashing the devil’s salute? Why would a 'Christian nation' install as its leader someone who was a member of a secretive satanic cult called Skull and Bones? After 7 years of leading our country deeper into the squalid sewer of torture and political corruption, it seems a little late to be asking such questions. But for the record, my understanding is that the stars were inverted and turned upside down when Bush was appointed president. They weren’t like that before.
It should also be pointed out that using the elephant as a luck charm is a custom rooted in the Hindu religion of pagan India, where the god Ganesha, the elephant-headed son of Siva and Parvati, is worshiped as the god of good luck. The British overlords of India imported this pagan superstition into the west during the 19th century in the form of various good-luck elephant knick-knacks that became all the rage. The front story is that the Republican Party adopted the elephant symbol because of some obscure cartoon that appeared in Harper's Weekly in 1874. But the truth is that the elephant god Ganesha had already been established in the west as the pagan symbol of good luck. One thing more - the other representation of the same good-luck god Ganesha is the SWASTIKA, the symbol adopted by the National Socialist German Workers (NAZI) Party in the 1920’s. The elephant god Ganesha bears the characteristic mark of the swastika in his hand.
The most remarkable thing about Bush’s state of the Union address (beside the fact that he never admitted to the drastically deteriorating state of the union, as he was Constitutionally obligated to do) was his mindlessly cheerful disregard for all the suffering and death he has caused – and is still causing. As one blogger put it, “Bush seems almost pathologically detached from any real understanding of the effects of what he says and does. If you're him, that's probably a good thing. If you're anybody else, it's horrifying.”
We live in a shallow, consumer-based society, and we are taught to focus on style rather than substance. We judge by the most superficial standards rather than considering their real effect. We see a leader who seems very cheerful and personable, and the fact that he’s bankrupted the nation to enrich his class by torturing and murdering about a million Iraqis doesn’t sink in. We look at a pagan Nazi elephant branded with three satanic pentagrams, and think it probably some innocent mistake, that perhaps it's more fashionable that way. We flock to hear a messianic candidate who says he’s going to bring us all together and do great things, though he never gets around to saying exactly how and what. The advantage of only looking at the surface of things is that you never need to find out what’s really going on. It makes life easier and less complicated in the short run, though it turns out badly in the end.
Sunday, January 20, 2008
The Politician We'd All Love to Forget
“I assured him (King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia) that our intelligence services came to an independent judgment (about whether Iran has a nuclear program). I reminded him of what I said at my press conference when we got involved with that story: they were a threat, they are a threat, and they will be a threat… (Why? Because Bush says so)
“I was making it clear it (the NIE report) was an independent judgment, because what they basically came to the conclusion of, is that he's trying -- you know, this is a way to make sure that all options aren't (??) on the table (misquote or Freudian slip?). So I defended our intelligence services (by dismissing their findings and facts as merely opinions), but made it clear that they're an independent agency; that they come to conclusions separate from what I may or may not want. (Presumably, what Bush wants to hear are the only facts he’s interested in.)
What Bush seems to be saying, in his own peculiar and disjointed fashion, is that he needed to “defend” the NIE report to the Saudis, while assuring them that Iran is still very much a threat. He seems to be indicating that – despite all pretenses to the contrary - the Saudi Dictators (as well as the Israeli government) want the US to do something about Iran before Her Fuehrer leaves office. They didn’t like the NIE report because it seemed to throw cold water on the idea. He was n Saudi Arabia to reassure them that, report or no report, he still sees them as a threat and a military confrontation with Iran is coming.
Saudi Arabia is very worried about Iran. They have been obsessed about their nuclear program, as well as their growing influence in Iraq. In 1987, when Saudi security forces suppressed a demonstration by Shiite worshippers in front of Mecca’s Grand Mosque, it led to the slaughter of 400 religious pilgrims, most of them Iranians. This, in turn, led to angry mobs ransacking the Saudi embassy in Tehran, and a complete severing of diplomatic relations that were only normalized when Iran’s mortal enemy – Saddam Hussein – also began to threaten Saudi Arabia. Iran has frequently called on Muslims to overthrow the Saudi ruling family, seize its oil wealth and strip it of its role as guardian of Islamic holy places.
According to one source, “The main reason for Bush's visit to four Gulf states … was to gauge how much diplomatic support and practical help the desert sheikdoms might give if the United States or Israel attacked Iran.” It certainly wasn’t to get them to pump more oil. The skyrocketing price of oil is the best thing that ever happened to Bush and his oil company cronies. The reason Bush removed Saddam Hussein was to stop him from flooding the market with cheap oil. This was a point I made nearly tree years ago in the post entitled “Oil, Iraq and the Antichrist.” You can read it here.
The consensus in Washington and the media is that it’s now politically impossible for Bush to attack Iran. But a year is a very long time, and a lot of things could happen, and it’s difficult to believe that a megalomanic frat boy who never let reality stand in the way of doing whatever he wants, is going to go away quietly and accept the fact that his was a failed presidency. After all the death and destruction that he’s caused over the last seven years, it’s difficult to believe that he’s through with us yet.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
The Nobel Prize for Warmongers
warmonger (noun) plural warmongers; : 1. one who attempts to stir up war
2. see Dick Cheney
I was thinking how it’s a shame that the Nobel Committee doesn’t give out a prize for warmongers like Bush.
Sure, the Nobel Peace Prize is fine, and there’s nothing wrong with giving it out. But when you think about it, does it really matter? I mean, did Al Gore do everything that he’s doing about global warming because he was trying to win the Nobel Peace Prize? Of course not. Would he have become discouraged and stopped doing what he’s doing if he hadn’t received the prize? I don’t think so. How about Nelson Mandela or Jimmy Carter? No, and no.
The Nobel Peace prize doesn’t motivate the more virtuous leaders of the world, the ones really seeking Peace, because their own character and ideals are what motivate them. It doesn’t substantially change anything or help to promote peace in the world. It only rewards people who would be promoting peace anyway, even without any prize.
What we really need is to get at the root of the problem, and start singling out and humiliating all the warmongers of the world. It’s the warmongers that we need to focus on and motivate to change, since they are the ones purely motivated by ego. That's why we need to make a public spectacle of them.
The Nobel Committee would be much more effective at promoting world peace if they also handed out booby prizes to the most dangerous war criminals. How much more effective would it have been if, at the same time that Gore received his Nobel Prize for Peace, Bush were to receive the prize for warmongering? Much more effective! It would say that you can steal an election and become the most powerful man in the world, but you will still be a failure in life.
How could Bush keep projecting evil on other world leaders when he already had the Nobel prize for evildoers? And how could his hypocritical wife complain about the leaders of Burma after her own husband was awarded first prize for killing innocent people? There would be a lot fewer pots calling kettles black.
Rather than a medal cast in solid gold, bearing the image of Albert Nobel, the medal for warmongers could be cast in cow manure, bearing the likeness of Hitler. And rather than giving the recipient money, they could give the money out to his victims, one of whom could be flown to Stockholm to receive the medal by ceremoniously tossing it on the ground and grinding it under foot. This could be broadcast over the entire world to the ecstatic jubilation of billions.
It’s one thing when your political opposition calls you names. People like Bush are immune to that. It goes in one ear and out the other. It’s another thing an esteemed and leaned world panel gives you the most notorious prize for in the world. Imagine getting the same prize as Saddam Hussein and Pol Pot! Most leaders would do everything they could to avoid it.
Bush’s preoccupation with his legacy and what history will say about him seem evidence of how badly we need to give out such a prize. It might be the only thing that could make Bush face the truth about himself, before he ends up doing more damage. Nothing else has worked.
The thing about power is that some world leaders – those, like Bush, who have no character - come to believe that power itself is the proof of their goodness. They tend to believe that it was God or destiny that gave them power, and that they can do no wrong. They consider power their natural right, rather than the undeserved responsibility that it is. They define evil as anyone who threatens their power, or their right to more power. It’s easy to be corrupted by power when you don’t know who you are.
Everyone knows that Bush has lied us into an endless war for profit and killed hundreds of thousands of innocent human beings. The entire world despises him and knows that he’s the greatest threat to world peace today. The real tragedy is that he doesn’t have a medal to prove it.
Note: My brother Don is in the hospital and having a pretty rough time. I would really appreciate any prayers for him to recover and be well.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Is Bush Threatening to Start WWIII ?
"So I've told people that, if you're interested in avoiding World War III, it
seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon," said Bush.
Notice that he didn't say "prevent them from acquiring a nuclear weapon" but "preventing them from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon." The difference is significant because even though Bush mixes up his words and syntax and he has trouble forming a complete sentence or keeping a coherent though in his head, he is careful about the substance of what he says.
For instance, even though we know (and many of us knew at the time) that Bush always intended to invade Iraq, he always said (for political reasons) that he had not made up his mind. Though if you looked closely at what he actually did and said at the time, he was never committed to peace, and everything that he said and did was to further the argument for war.
It seems much the same way now, concerning Iran. If anything, he seems to be pushing back the goal posts and making it impossible for Iran to avoid a showdown, the way that he did with Saddam. Saddam let inspectors in and even offered to resign - but it was all irrelevant, because Bush was determined to attack.
He knows that Iran won't have a nuclear weapon within the next year, even if it wanted one. He also know that last month's report by the Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Iran’s nuclear programs said that that Iran has neither the intention nor the capabilities to develop nuclear weapons. So what does Bush do? Does he breathe a sigh of relief? Does he admit to the possibility that he may have been wrong? Is he willing to let the next (more competent) president handle the issue? Surely you jest.
Instead, he starts talking about WWIII, and the fact that the Iranians already know too much. It's all about "having the knowledge." Knowledge that's available to anyone who really wants to look for it. Knowledge that the Bush govenment has already published for building a bomb, over the Internet.
Everything that he says - and that the US military is currently doing - seems to advance the argument for war. The only way to prevent Iran from having the knowledge and capability to make a nuclear weapon, at this point, is to go to war and destroy their capability, kill or imprison the Iranian scientists who have the knowledge and skill, and bomb the country back to the stone age.
What is so diabolical is that at same time Bush professes to be seeking a peaceful solution, he's steadily advancing the rational and rhetoric to justify war. He claims that he wants to avoid WWIII, all while making the argument for starting WWIII, regardless of what Iran does.
I don't think there's any question that Bush would like to go to war with Iran. The only question is whether he can manufacture the right opportunity. There was recently an article in Salon that argued "Why Bush Won't Attack Iraq." It might be useful to go over some of the points made:"If he were (going to attack Iran), he wouldn't be playing good cop/bad cop with Iran and proposing engagement."
Why not? He did the same thing with Iraq. At the same time that he said that he wanted to go through the UN and achieve a peaceful solution, we know that he was determined for war. He went through the motions of trying diplomacy, even though it was irrelevant."If the bombs were at the ready, Bush would be doing a lot more to prepare the nation and the military for a war far more consequential than the invasion of Iraq."
Why would he think it would be far more consequential? Did he know how long, drawn out, and costly the War in Iraq would be? In spite of what his own military advisors were telling him - that he needed a force of at least 1/2 million - he still managed to convince himself otherwise. There is no reason to believe it would be any different with Iran. If we know one thing, it's that Bush has the peculiar ability to never learn from his mistakes. What he does is keep repeating the same ones, only making them much bigger, and digging the hole deeper."Bush met in "the Tank" with his senior national security counselors and the military's command staff and walked out with the impression that either the costs of military action against Iran were simply too high, or that the prospects for success for the mission too low. "
On the contrary: Bush has demonstrated that he eventually gets rid of the generals who don't agree with him. He trusts his gut, not his generals. He likely walked out with the impression that it was politically impossible to attack Iran as long as the joint chiefs were unanimously against the idea. That's why General Peter Pace is no longer Chairman of the JCS. It's not evidence that he's changed his mind. It only means that he must find another way - some other pretext - to go ahead with it anyway, in spite of what they think."We know Bush rebuffed Cheney's view and is seeking other alternatives."
How do we know that? Where is the evidence, when he's now talking about WWIII and stopping Iran from having "the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon" ? Certainly it's in his interest to be perceived as wanting to pursue a peaceful course, just like before the invasion of Iraq. Even though he is heading us in the other direction. The last thing that Bush would do now is openly side with Cheney; that's not how the good cop, bad cop game is played out. He must be for peace until the very end so that it can seem like he had no choice in the matter.
This idea that Cheney is the evil, warmongering mastermind while Bush is his innocent pawn is just so much media claptrap. They are on the same team and they think alike. But Cheney must play the role of bad cop because Bush is the president, and must always be seen in the role of the good cop - as someone on the side of peace, even though he obviously isn't. The act doesn't work the other way around.
I would not be surprised if Bush were even more of a warmonger, and more determined to attack Iran, than Cheney. Fortunately for him, he has Cheney to always play the foil. That's why they make such a good team. Whenever we start thinking that Bush and Cheney are working at cross purposes, they have already been successfully at accomplishing their real purpose. When you look at Cheney you're seeing the real Bush; and when you look at Bush, you're seeing a pathological liar and master of deception.
The question isn't whether or not Bush wants to attack Iran because he does. The question is whether he can bring it about without dropping the act and looking too much like the war monger that he is.
Sunday, October 14, 2007
Is the USA a Christian Nation?
WASHINGTON — Sixty-five percent
of Americans believe that the nation's founders intended the U.S. to be a
Christian nation and 55% believe that the Constitution establishes a Christian
nation, according to the “State of the First Amendment 2007” national survey
released Sept. 11 by the First Amendment Center.
Sometimes it seems like people keep arguing about things that entirely miss the point. Were the founding fathers really Christians? Did they want the United States to become a Christian nation? Who the heck cares? Because whatever you (mistakenly) believe the nation’s founders intended, and whatever you (ignorantly) think the Constitution says, the simple FACT is that the United States is NOT a Christian nation.
That’s not to say that America doesn’t have a lot of people who like to go around calling themselves Christians. We have more people going to church and calling themselves Christians than in any other country in the world. But that’s not the point, and that's not for any of us to judge, since Jesus will ultimately decide and judge who is and who isn’t a Christian. But what we can know and judge is what sort of country we are right now, by the kind of things we are doing. You know a tree by its fruit, and you know a country by its policies.
The issue is whether we are a Christian nation (if there is such a thing), and whether – as a nation – we exhibit those values and qualities that are uniquely Christian. If you want to keep arguing about whether the Constitution and the founding fathers intended to establish a Christian nation – it’s completely beside the point if, in fact, they failed miserably and were fools. You might as well argue about how many angels fit on the head of a pin. It’s not about what the founding fathers wanted, but about what we are doing as a nation. And we can’t blame it on them because they’re all dead.
I don’t believe the founding fathers failed or the Constitution has failed, but that fundamentalist Christians in America have completely failed to understand what being a Christian is all about; let alone what a Christian country might look like. They have no clue. That’s the problem.
A week and a half ago their president, George W Bush, vetoed the State Children's Health Insurance Program because it asked for $35 billion more in funding over the next five years than he wanted to pay. At the same time, he’s requesting another $190 billion over the next year alone, to keep killing more Iraqis. Is that what Christians do – deny their own children health care, so they can use the money to kill somebody else’s children? But that’s exactly what our country is doing.
Jesus said “resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” But our country spends more on resisting evil and weaponry than all the other countries in the world combined. And America is the only country in the world that has taken upon itself the right to preemptively strike another nation. America not only refuses to turn the other cheek, it insists upon taking the first shot.
Jesus said “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you.” But America tortures those it calls its enemies. It holds them in concentration camps and in secret prisons, without any rights. And America has murdered 700,000 people who never did any harm to us.
Jesus said, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth,” but our country is arguably the greediest and most materialistic society on face of the earth. He said, “you cannot serve God and mammon,” and yet Americans not only serve mammon with gusto, but they despise the poor for not serving mammon well enough.
Jesus said “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned” But many Americans think that by judging and condemning lesbians and gays, that they are demonstrating the moral quality that makes them Christians. But by making their hatred and intolerance the quality that is most distinctive about them as Christians, they’ve turned the Gospel of Jesus Christ completely on its head, and turned their hatred for their neighbors into a (sac)religious crusade.
They have transformed the ‘Good News’ that was intended for the poor and oppressed, into even better news for bigots and all the greedy people who like to call themselves Christians – news that they can keep on cheating and robbing the poor, just as long as they continue hating and discriminating against homosexuals.
The character of America certainly isn’t the character of a Christian. It’s the character of a selfish, arrogant, and lawless bully. It’s the character of the Antichrist, only pretending to be a Christian. It’s a reflection of the American people and their corruption by money and power. The people tolerate corrupt and lawless leaders because they themselves are corrupt and don’t care. They complain about their politicians being crooks, but never do anything about it, let alone, take a good hard look in the mirror.
If you want to see what a Christian nation might look like, look at all the countries that guarantee their citizens health care. Look at the ones who mind their own business and spend more on social programs and infinitely less on the military. Look at the few who treat all of their citizens equally – including homosexuals. Look at the countries that are not torturing people or holding them in secret prisons. Look at societies where money isn’t everything, and where the gap between rich and poor isn’t so extreme.
But please, whatever you do, don’t look at America, because America is about the furthest thing from a Christian country possible in the world today. And don’t ask Americans to look more objectively at their own country, because that’s why they keep arguing about the founding fathers instead. Because turning America into a meek Christian country is about the last thing that most proud and greedy Christians in America would ever vote for, or even tolerate.