President, Politics & Principled Religion

On Christianity, Other Religions, Excusing Trump, and Basic Goodness

The Lord Jesus Christ was very clear that personal character and integrity are vitally important, and that one’s character, for good or bad, will plainly show in how they live out their lives on a daily basis and especially in what “grows” out from their lives:

The good person brings good things out of a good treasure, and the evil person brings evil things out of an evil treasure… for the tree is known by its fruit. I tell you, on the day of judgement you will have to give an account for every careless word you utter; for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.’ (Matthew 12. 33, 35 – 37)

So there is simply no justification for any Christian to excuse evil and wickedness, even if the perpetrator of such wickedness is somehow, to some extent benefiting them. Sin is sin, and evil is evil, and Christians are responsible before God to recognize such, and to “call a spade a spade.” Period. To do otherwise is in itself an abomination to the Lord.

ProphetIsaiahThe holy Scriptures of Judeo-Christianity are abundantly clear in God’s indictment of those who call good evil and evil good, of those who wink at sin and try to justify wickedness. Consider just one of the many proverbs of wise Solomon: “One who justifies the wicked and one who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the Lord.” (Proverbs 17.15) However, it is, perhaps, the warning of the Prophet Isaiah that strikes the deepest and most poignantly:

Ah, you who drag iniquity along with cords of falsehood, who drag sin along as with cart-ropes… Ah, you who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Ah, you who are wise in your own eyes, and shrewd in your own sight! Ah, you who are heroes in drinking wine and valiant at mixing drink, who acquit the guilty for a bribe, and deprive the innocent of their rights! Therefore, as the tongue of fire devours the stubble, and as dry grass sinks down in the flame, so their root will become rotten, and their blossom go up like dust; for they have rejected the instruction of the Lord of hosts, and have despised the word of the Holy One of Israel. (Isaiah 5.18, 20 – 24)

Of course, the Prophet Malachi was equally clear, if not quite as provocative, yet his particular warning is quite appropriate for professing Christians who continue to blindly support Donald Trump and defend his ongoing, multifarious acts of vile wickedness:

You have wearied the LORD with your words. Yet you say, ‘How have we wearied him?’ By saying, ‘All who do evil are good in the sight of the Lord, and he delights in them.’ (Malachi 2. 17)

And this is precisely where so many white, evangelical Protestants, as well as white, conservative Catholics, find themselves today. Not only do they continue to unabashedly support Trump and defend him, they actually go the extra mile in claiming Trump and his words and actions are “good in the sight of the Lord.” And there simply is no question regarding the eventual fate of such pretended-believers, pseudo-Christians: “Their root will become rotten, and their blossom go up like dust.”

Of course, Trump claims to be Christian, yet he seems not to be familiar with the several re warning in God’s holy Word about lying, deceit, treachery, self-aggrandizement and so much more. Such as the sharp warning given by David in the 52nd Psalm:

You are plotting destruction. Your tongue is like a sharp razor, you worker of treachery. You love evil more than good, and lying more than speaking the truth. You love all words that devour, O deceiver. But God will break you down for ever; he will snatch and tear you from your tent; he will uproot you from the land of the living. (Psalm 52. 2 – 5)

Perhaps, though, he is still to “young” a Christian, as some evangelical leaders have claimed in excusing all of his glaring faults and failings and shortcomings and misdeeds, but then … they bear the brunt of guilt for not having held Trump accountable, for not having provided guidance and direction for his growth and maturation in the Christian faith, for not having opposed clearly vile, nefarious words and actions of this President. And they have no excuse.

HinduPrayer

Furthermore, and along the same lines where Trump is concerned, “better is a poor but wise youth than an old but foolish king, who will no longer take advice, (Ecclesiastes 4. 13) and if anyone loves righteousness, her labors are virtues; for she teaches self-control and prudence, justice and courage; nothing in life is more profitable for mortals than these.” (Book of Wisdom 8. 7) And, no, Trump does not fit this bill, so that even if he is – somehow, beyond all reasonable comprehension, in some vague sense, Christian – he most certainly is not an effective leader, and can never be expected to be an effective and beneficial leader in his current state, his very nature being what it is in its quite deplorable, destructive condition.

And the major religions of the world recognize the same basic life principles requisite not only to being a good leader, but just to live a truly wholesome, healthy, happy life, to wit:

Under the sway of strong impulse, the man who is devoid of self-control willfully commits deeds that he knows to be fraught with future misery. But the man of discrimination, even though moved by desires, at once becomes conscious of the evil that is in them, and does not yield to their influence… (Srimad Bhagavatam 11.7 from Hinduism)

And from Buddhism:

It is little harm if one loses money in gambling with dice, even losing everything, including oneself; but if one bears ill-will towards well-conducted ones it is greater harm indeed. Insulting men of real worth, bearing ill-will in thought and speech, leads to eons upon eons in the states of misery. (Sutta Nipata 658-60)

All of these basic life principles are really self-apparent … except to the one who is foolish or wicked or both, which is often the case. But let’s hear one more teaching that so perfectly applies to Donald Trump, this time from the sacred Scriptures of Islam:

There are three characteristics of a hypocrite: when he speaks, he lies; when he makes a promise, he acts treacherously; and when he is trusted, he betrays. (Hadith of Muslim)

CelticSymbolForPurity

And with this much said, we will be content, especially since the point is well-made: There is no excusing the overt sin and wickedness of Donald Trump, no defending him with any sense of real moral integrity, no continual supporting of him by professed Christians apart from abject hypocrisy. And this last sin is especially egregious for those self-same “Christians,” who not only failed to extend “the grace card” even once to our previous President, Barack Obama, but actually attacked and vilified him more than any other President in the history of our country … even though he consistently proved himself to be of upstanding character and integrity, and not one scandal was attached to him during his entire eight years as President.

One final note: The result of ¾ of conservative, white, evangelical Protestants (and their white, conservative counterparts in the American Catholic Church) will sooner than later be the speedy decline and near-death of evangelical Christianity in the United States, and very possibly everywhere else in the world. And tragically, they will only realize this when it is far, far too late to do anything about it … except to lie down in their own self-dug graves.

I Need ‘Reeducation Camp’ to Correct My Perspective!

Dare to Question Trump? One Supporter Would Lock You Up for Reorientation

I have known for a bit over two years now that Donald Trump scrapes the bottom of the barrel simply as a matter of everyday, ordinary life. This is and has always been his nature, to wit: that of an ethnocentric, chauvinistic, megalomaniac only interested in advancing his own interests, no matter who it hurts, and generally intent on getting his way in everything, everyday no matter how big or small.

Trump supporters are another case. At first, I really believed most of his supporters were basically ill-informed Never-Hillary Clinton voters, i.e. they simply refused to vote for Clinton, no matter what the alternative. After his first six to eight months in office, though, I began to realize Trump supporters were actually devotees, but I still held out some hope that they might, in certain cases, at least be reasonable.

To the contrary, however, avid Trump supporters, now dubbed “Trumpians,” simply grew more and more devoted and, consequently, increasingly blinded to any and all faults of their President. Eventually, they reached the point of no return, not even daring to question any of his statements and/or actions. To diehard Trumpians, their leader, much like a cult ruler, must always be right … perfect, in fact.

Yesterday, though, I was astounded ~ and, yes, it’s evidently possible for me to still be surprised by Trumpians ~ when one FB association and staunch, intransigent Trump supporter actually responded to my perspective on the Ukraine scandal and, more specifically, Joe and Hunter Biden and their (in his mind) alleged culpability in the whole mess by saying:

If you think the ___________ narrative even approximates the truth, then you need a re-education camp. You’re supporting nonsense…

Ahhh! Reeducation camp??? The only instances in history where you read or hear this terminology is from within totalitarian regimes, i.e. Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, Maoist China, Cuba, etc. Yet here is one alt-right Trump supporter so blind in his loyalty to Trump that he actually went so far as to claim that someone ~ namely me ~ who disagrees with the statements, actions and propaganda of our current POTUS ought to be condemned to a reeducation camp!

TrumpCultIs there any longer any serious question that we now have present in American society a dangerous, socio-political cult centered upon Donald Trump? I think not, and it’s not only lamentable, it is also very frightening. How far will those so blinded by nefarious, hell-spawn lies and propaganda go? There’s no telling, but if history is any indication then actual violence may very well be in the offing. (And really, one could very well argue that alt-right, white supremist Trumpians have already committed acts of violence … numerous times!)

To top off this shocker, after I shared this in a primary post on my FB page, and responded appropriately, another Trumpian, whom I’ve known for umpteen years, actually jumped into the comment section lamenting that I’d become “so negative,” informing me she was sorely disappointed in me. What!!! And not one word about her fellow-Trumpian’ s remark about sending me to a reeducation camp. And I suppose that comment was not at all negative? Well, blind is blind and this is the unfortunate, tragic position of those imprisoned within a cult, religious or political or both.

And so, what now? Can these folks, these alt-right Trumpians, be somehow rescued? Made to see once again the truth of reality? Ah, but that’s just the problem, you see. I’ve come to realize that many, if not most, of these people have never actually had a good grasp on reality. Rather they’ve lived in a mostly white, Anglo-Saxon, evangelical, Protestant bubble, where until historically quite recently they’ve been quite safe and secure, unthreatened because they were in the majority and mostly calling the shots.

American society has drastically changed over the last two to three decades, though, and deep inside they’ve had to come to terms with the fact that they’re no longer in the driver’s seat, thus their deeply felt-need for Trump: loud-mouthed, crass, dictatorial bully (and buffoon), who promises to cater to all of their wants and wishes, even turning back the historical clock to a time when America was “their country.” And this is patently obvious in the way they speak, often referring to “saving our country.”

Later on, in another defense of Trump, the same alt-right intransigent supporter simply excused the President’s wrongdoing straight across the board, charging:

 Stop being naïve; this is the way it’s always worked… It’s how the game is played. Get over it!

Oh really? Just get over it? Get over my own country, this wonderful constitutional democracy, being taken over by a fascist megalomaniac and his radical, dangerous cult followers? Uh … hell no!!!

Trumping O’er X-tian Hypocrisy: An American Lamentation

Hating, race-baiting, berating any opposition, skating on thin moral ice,
How nice to be so religiously hypocritical in belittling all but their own,
Looking down long, pious, self-righteous noses with arrogant pretention
While supporting an ineloquent melomaniac bent on sole domination
In complete self-service underpinned by nothing more than buffoonery
Filled with humiliating poltroonery only matched by a pathetic dupery
That can only fool blind, foolish followers and those who stand to gain
But lose their souls in the process, dragging Christ into the filthy gutter
Of bigotry, nationalism, ill-dignity, and inhumane, dogmatic absolutism
Birthed in the pits of hell, not born from the life of the Nazarene savior,
Who lived among the poorest of the poor as an outcast, and downcast,
Cut down in his prime by soldiers and politicians and religious leaders,
Who looked much the same as these modern villains of our own time,
But when the cosmic clock chimes midnight for the world in its plight,
Then an heavenly light will brightly shine upon the nefarious deeds
Of pretended Christians who allowed one man to trump all conviction
Of love and grace from above, as well as all duty to the beauty of truth
In service to God, neighbor and strangers, community and country too,
Is there anything to do now to undo the wreckage of their lunacy,
Of their mad, self-centered absurdity with all of its detestable hubris?
If there is a God in heaven he will surely leaven judgment with mercy
For our sake, who cry neath ecclesial chains, waiting for a new dawn
In place of the false one that now occupies the presidential palace …

Race and Violence: An American Matter

Monday Musings

While the President resists being labelled “racist,” his own record and spoken words militate against him. This being the case, no one should hesitate to accuse where these accusations are factual, and no one should hesitate to hold the President accountable for his hand in racially, ethnically motivated, alt-right violence. No one ought to be shy in condemning him for adding fuel to prejudicial, bigoted, hate-filled ideas and perspectives, thoughts and feelings and beliefs.

Conversely, no one should stand in his defense, and only those who are themselves ethnocentric bigots and crazed nationalists (which is fundamentally different than patriotism) will, in fact, defend him.  And it is, indeed, a very sad day in the United States when millions of people do just that in defending the morally indefensible. And yet racism never really died in this country; it simply went underground … kind of, sort of. Now because of one man nationalism, bigotry and masochism are acceptable.

Well, at least these perspectives and attitudes have once again become openly acceptable is some quarters of America. Tragically, we are witnessing the fear-and-hate-driven resurrection of white supremacy, and the fear comes most obviously from the increasing numbers of the non-white population in this nation. Put simply, many conservative white folks are simply afraid of being taken over. And isn’t it interesting that this same group always refers itself to “our nation” or “our country?”

This is their convinced belief, though, that the United States is really, in some special sense, their country. As if African, Latino, Oriental and Native Americans have no claim on America. And it doesn’t matter that the Indigenous peoples were here long before Europeans began to settle North America (and Central and South America, too, for that matter.) It doesn’t seem to matter that most African Americans can trace their roots in this country back to a time well before the ancestors of most Caucasians came over.

Of course, for most of the history of the United States this nation was predominantly mastered by white, Anglo-Saxon Protestants (pejoratively called WASPs.) And in fact, the majority of the population fit into this mould, with the exception, perhaps, of predominantly Catholic Maryland and predominantly Mormon Utah. We might also add Massachusetts as being heavily Catholic in the 20th century. So when these people shout, “make America great again,” they actually mean make America white Protestant again.

This is, indeed, very sad and quite indefensible, yet this is precisely what we are facing today. This is the monster that’s finally crawled back out from under the bed. The old bones of white supremacy and nationalism have been fleshed again by the man who currently occupies the Oval Office. God have mercy and help us! Two years has already been too long, and we have to somehow survive the next two when, hopefully, voters will overwhelmingly make a better choice for President.

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Infection and Random Thoughts

Well, as said before, my hernia surgery went well enough, but then yesterday (August 2nd) the doctor/surgeon informed me that the area of surgery has become infected with some fluid build-up. Of course, I knew something was not quite right because the surgical area had reddened considerable and the incision was beginning to ooze … not to mention increased pain and burning. Anyway, my doctor/surgeon prescribed a fairly strong antibiotic and scheduled me to return Monday morning. She said she might have to drain the fluid and also run a couple of tests … Possibly!

Encouragement or Not

Why would anyone discourage someone from continuing their education? Most everyone in my immediate family has taken the opportunity to try to convince me not to take online courses in pursuit of a Master of Arts degree. I truly fail to understand, but my eldest sister told me the other day that it was only because they love and care about me… Huh? I don’t get it!

Yes, I already have an M. A., but it is in an area that is rather obscure and really doesn’t amount to much more than one bright spot on my resume. In other words, I really can’t do very much with an M. A. in Christian Studies. I know because I’ve tried. So, yes, I’m quite pleased that I obtained that Master’s degree. It’s a symbol of accomplishment; however, it doesn’t really qualify me for very much at all.

No, I’m not shaming myself or belittling the degree, but I’d like to move into some truly rewarding profession, be it counselling or teaching (on the college level) or whatever… Consequently, I’ve decided to retool, plain and simple. And this is a good, healthy goal, so if I have the time and obtain the necessary financing, why should my own family come around telling me I don’t need to do it, and therefore shouldn’t go for it???

Come 2020 It’ll Hurt: Talking Impeachment

More and more Democrats are yelling for the impeachment of Donny Trump, and there is certainly good reasons for this; however, it’s unrealistic to think he’ll actually be thrown out of office. On top of this, the American people, by far, are really quite tired of hearing about it, and just want to move on. The Dems would be better off focusing on important issues, offering the American people a sensible, well-balanced agenda for the coming decade. Getting bogged down in the quagmire of possible impeachment might just cost them come 2020.

On Leviticus 19. 33-34

The word “alien” is also sometimes translated as “foreigner” and “stranger,” with the clear idea being that such a person is not a member of the community of Israel. Consequently, divine laws are established regarding foreigners (singular or plural!) who either visit, pass through, or reside within the land. Generally speaking, the same Law was to apply to both native-born and aliens (or strangers); however, when the Law did make some distinction, “the obligation to love and treat aliens like fellow citizens is a striking aspect of the Mosaic code.” (Revell Bible Dictionary, 44 – 45)

Along these lines, it is important to note that over and over again, “no fewer than 36 times,” the Hebrew scriptures warn Israel about the just treatment of foreigners, as well as orphans and widows, which ought to be especially inspired by their collective memory of having been strangers (or aliens) in the land of Egypt. (A. Noordzij, Bible Student Commentary: Leviticus, 207). The point here is really rather clear and simple: Israel endured oppression and injustice in Egypt. They ought to remember this “and seek to overcome” oppression and injustice “in (all of) their relationships …” these ethical demands “flowing from … concern for the weak,” the marginalized and disenfranchised, “such as the resident alien.” (W. H. Bellinger, Jr., NIBC: Leviticus, Numbers, 120; NISB, 174)

Good, solid research goes much further in fostering good, solid understanding than memes and/or opinions any day. The implication(s) of the Word of God regarding foreigners, strangers, the oppressed and marginalized, orphans and widows, and the poor is very, very clear and straightforward. It’s simply up to us as Christians to decide whether or not we will follow the divine mandate so forcefully laid out in Holy Scripture.

Ignoble Confessions 2: Undoubtedly Right About Being in the Right

Bringing the world under the rule of Divine Law, beginning with the United States, was the supreme goal and, presumably, the promise of holy Scripture — that is, the inspired and inerrant Word of God assured us that this world would eventually, providentially, grow into an authentic theocracy, and that, indeed, “at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2. 10-11, CSB)

Not that my parents were exactly Christian Reconstructionists, but this school of thought, propounded by theologian and philosopher Rousas John Rushdoony, who also happened to be an acquaintance of my father, did deeply influence our family. Not too surprisingly, then, I bought into it in my early adulthood, seeds having been planted during my teen years, and I found precious little resistance to this; rather, some in my circle even encouraged me, especially, of course, those who had already taken the plunge into what is also called theonomy, or dominion theology.

But what, more precisely, is Christian Reconstructionism? One good, succinct explanation is offered by the Apologetics Index, as follows:

Reconstructionism argues that the Bible is to be the governing text for all areas of life — such as government, education, law, and the arts, not merely ”social” or ”moral” issues like pornography, homosexuality, and abortion. Reconstructionists have formulated a ”Biblical world view” and ”Biblical principles” by which to examine contemporary matters. Reconstructionist theologian David Chilton … describes this view: ”The Christian goal for the world is the universal development of Biblical theocratic republics, in which every area of life is redeemed and placed under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the rule of God’s law.”

Since evangelical, Protestant Christianity, particularly of the Reformed Calvinist brand, was most certainly right, while all other strands of the Christian faith, and especially other religions, were decidedly wrong, dominion theology with the goal of “theocratic republics” under the rule of God’s law was very appealing to me. After all, if we were right in what we believed — that is, in what we knew to be truth — then of course we ought to work toward bringing the whole of the earth under divine lordship. And what was even more exciting was knowing I was part of this favored movement predestined to unmitigated success and glorious victory, especially since it would all be for the ultimate and greatest benefit to humanity.

There was one major problem with all this, however, and that was the sad but undeniable fact that the overwhelming majority of the world did not share this most desirous goal. Point in fact, the world was resistant … even steadfastly opposed. So what were we to do to overcome this resistance? Evangelization, at least in the traditional sense, was largely out of the question because, when all the cards were on the table, the only people who would really eventually convert to the Christian faith were those predestined by God to become Christian, i.e. to be saved. Those who were not predestined were, of course, doomed to an eternity in hell, and there was really nothing we could do about that, no matter how much we may wanted.

What else was left to do, then, except work toward imposing Biblical law by any and all means necessary, even without the consent of the majority of people? Well, there was no room for democratic principles in God’s kingdom anyway; after all, theocracy is just divinely glorified, absolute monarchy, which has nothing whatsoever to do with democracy. And it’s interesting to note at this point that because of this, democracy itself was (and is) usually demonized within dominion theology-Reconstructionist circles. Constitutional republicanism, as a form of governance, seemed to be an acceptable precursor to “theocratic republics,” but not democracy, and this led us straight into the American political arena in an effort to restore decidedly “Constitutional republican norms and virtues” as the first, necessary step toward bringing the world under divine rule. Thus the advent of the Christian right.

Most folks probably don’t realize just what a profound influence Reconstructionism has had on the Christian right — and, for that matter, neo-conservatism, the alt-right, and other radical conservative groups, which often overlap, by the way — but the impact actually goes down to the very roots. Of course, not everyone in the Christian right has been, or is, an avowed Reconstructionist. In fact, some may not even know what Christian Reconstructionism is (exactly), or theonomy or dominion theology … but this doesn’t change the fact that the Christian right was born out of an ideology that had (and still has) as its goal the complete subjection of the nation and, eventually, the whole world to Judeo-Christian laws and principles. And I was definitely there, no doubt.

It might be enough to say I eventually made my exodus when I realised the sheer impracticality of it all, but more than this, I came to the honest-to-god recognition that I myself would really not want to live under the thumbs of any of the Reconstructionists I knew! Far from it, in fact! The thought of what it would probably be like living under their authority, especially as they ruled in God’s name, was absolutely abhorrent. This then led me to another conclusion, which should have been obvious to me all along, and that is: It is always, always dangerous and horrific to live in any society at any time in any part of the world, no matter the particular culture or religion, which claims to be divinely ruled, i.e. theocratic.

This has been tried before. Hell, it’s being attempted now! But it has never worked, it doesn’t work, and it will never work, no matter how good and pure the intentions of those involved. Which eventually led me to another conclusion: This is, perhaps, why God has given humanity free will. Even the Most High God knows it’s not worth compelling people to love him (or her), if that were even possible, or to obey… It has to be a choice freely made, and it has to naturally lead into an authentic, personal relationship, formed by the individual human person as much as it is by God. In other words, it must be genuinely divinely-human and humanly-divine.

At any rate, it was not too long after this awakening, if I may call it such, that I began rethinking some other deeply-held beliefs and perspectives, too … but that’s another story for next time.

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Ignoble Confessions 1: The Swastika and My Abhorrent Adolescence

It was admittedly an unnerving question, especially since it was thrown out pointblank on social media for all the world to read, asked by someone who has known me since the seventh grade. In fact, the question was quite jarring emotionally and psychologically, as it probably should have been since it had to do with something so loathsome as the swastika and the ethnocentric racism it represents.

“Didn’t you used to like the swastika and all it stands for?” he asked in response to a report I posted on how the alt-right, neo-Nazis, and white supremists generally identify politically, as well as, more specifically, their use of Twitter and this company’s response to date. Bottom line, the folks at Twitter have hesitated to weed out racial, ethnic, and religious hate speech by algorithm because it would allegedly target an entire group of people who tend to identify with one particular political party.

The swastika appeared in the illustration for the article, which is what (I suppose) gave rise to the question concerning my past feelings and viewpoints. Of course, I answered the question, which really came across more like an indictment (which I can guess it was meant to be … as well as an embarrassment), and in doing so reminded this person that he was referring all the way back to our adolescence … basically at a time when I was young and stupid. However, when I reflected a bit more on that period of my life, I realized that the charge against me was really more important than I first imagined.

The truth is, even though I was only an adolescent, the fact that I was fascinated by Hitler, Nazi Germany, the swastika and all that rubbish is serious. Yes, I grew out of that quickly — certainly before graduating high school — but, still, I had entered into the darkness of racial/ethnic extremism for some (thankfully) short period of time. And the question naturally arises: Why? What happened to me from around 12 to 14 years old? Or what had I allowed to happen to me? 

Well, the answer to these queries may honestly escape me — and by this I mean the “correct” answers, psychologically speaking — but I think I may at least have some ideas. For one thing, I had grown up in and lived within a culture — the southeastern United States — of embedded racism, oppression, marginalization and suspicion of non-Caucasians and non-Christians. In this cultural milieu it was expected that white Anglo-Saxon Protestants (or WASPs) would keep themselves separate and pure from all others, even while hypocritically claiming to be unprejudiced.

Along with this was really ludicrous rhetoric so many of us imbibed, such as: “We’re not prejudice, they are just culturally different and it’s not good to ‘mix’ with them, at least not too much.” And, of course, “there are some ‘good ones,’ but most of them are lazy and no-good, and they can’t really reach the intellectual, spiritual, and economic achievements achieved by the white, European, Protestant Christian race.” And, then, “it’s not that they shouldn’t have the same rights… It’s just they can’t really handle the responsibility. They really need to be supervised, guided and directed, almost like children.” And one of my favorites, “They’ve never had it as good as they’ve had it here, and they couldn’t move anywhere else and hope to have it as good as they do now.”

This is not all, though, as I strongly suspect my own terrible and deep insecurities played a role in my short-lived fascination with Hitler and his Nazi regime. I mean, my personal insecurity must be at least one reason I felt so attracted (at that point in my life) to raw power. You know, the fact that Adolf Hitler could seemingly hypnotize and control an entire nation stirred something inside me that to this day I can’t really fully explain. But it was almost as if the achievements of powerful figures, however nefarious and ultimately doomed, gave me some sense of … what? Safety? It did seem to embolden me (at that time in my adolescent life.) As a side-note, it’s also intriguing that, for some reason, I found no solace or sense of security in my faith-religion or spiritual tradition.

Finally, the third idea that comes to mind is tied to the first two, and it’s certainly a common problem for young people, and that is peer pressure. No, no one in my rank of friends told me to like the swastika and all it stood for, but there was plenty of racial/ethnic prejudice, accompanied by all of the racist remarks and misguided notions and jokes, etc. To fit in and, more importantly (at the time), to be truly accepted, I had to be an ethnocentric racist, who used the same language and laughed at all the jokes and whatnot. This does not excuse me, but it is part of an overall understanding of who and what I was during that confusing, oftentimes turbulent chapter in my life.

More than anything, I wish I could undo it all. Hitler, the Nazis, as well as white supremists and neo-Nazis today, are vile and reprehensible … and very dangerous. I can truly say I am deeply and forever thankful that I left that diabolical garbage behind before I even reached adulthood. More than this, I’m very thankful that my life pilgrimage has led me to this point in life in which I can truly see and appreciate the beauty of all people, all races and ethnicities, each and every culture, and every spiritual-religious tradition. I’m really in a much better place in life, and for this I’m a better person overall.

Unfortunately, the swastika and what it stands for was not all I had to grow through and leave behind. There were other, more deeply rooted beliefs, perspectives, and practices I needed to shed, like Calvinism, “Christian Reconstructionism,” sympathy for the old Confederacy, and what has now come to be called “alt-right conservativism.” All of this would take time, the patience of really good and caring people, and progressive maturation, as well as good old-fashioned life experience … but more on this next time.

 

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Defending the Dream: A Political Poem

So many came some time ago with nothing to show,

But they paid the price and stayed and made a life,

Working their fingers to the bone, and cold as stone

To hone so many skills needed and they succeeded,

And so too were children born without any scorn

Only to be torn in two to please the arrogant few

Who mistake this country for their very possession

To an exclusion of differences, an expulsion of color,

And all that makes our nation great, now for hate,

And will we stand idly by and watch dreams die?

No, we’ll hold on tight and fight for what is right!

 


Read More: Create A Just Immigration System

We Believe They’re Evil: Party and Diversity in America

My good friend, Hank, alerted me to a recent survey and blog article that reported “many Americans think people in the other party are ignorant, spiteful, evil and generally destroying the country… About half of Democrats think Republicans are ignorant (54%) and spiteful (44%). Likewise, about half of Republicans think Democrats are ignorant (49%) and spiteful (54%). Twenty-one percent of Democrats think Republicans are evil, and about the same share of Republicans (23%) think Democrats are evil.” This is according to a November 2018 Axios poll first aired on HBO.

First of all I must respond by simply saying, “Wow!” Our country is, apparently, far more socio-politically divided than I imagined, but I haven’t had my head stuck in the sand either. Let me say for the record that, even though I identify as a democratic-socialist who aligns more comfortably with the Democrat Party, I do not believe most conservative Republicans are backward, ignorant, sexist, racists who are intent on destroying our country. In many, if not most cases misinformed and even misguided, perhaps, but not fiendish, nefarious individuals dedicated to wrecking society.

The results of the poll do point to an important divide in conviction and deeply held perception, though. How is it we’ve come to this point where so many folks in each party not only look at the “other side” with suspicion but even with disdain and loathing? Specifically, how is it each “side” has come to claim the moral high ground while at the same time condemning the other side as iniquitous and even malevolent? Well, perhaps part of the answer is that this is really not so completely new after all. It may be that when we look back upon the history of our country we may find some deep and wide moral-ethical ( as well as cultural and religious) divisions all along.

My friend, Hank, quoted the blog author (whom I’ve not had an opportunity to read) as opening his article by observing, “Our political and cultural environment has become so intensely moralized, in the sense of seeking with zeal virtue, absent prudence, that to compromise seems like giving in to evil.” And I agree with the second part of his statement — that is, that for many people compromising feels like giving in to evil — however, even though our political and cultural environment is very divided, it has not just now become so “intensely moralized” in its zealous quest for collective, socio-political and economic virtue, thus leading members of the two (or more) parties to harshly condemn members of the other (or some other) party.

Hank, quite gifted and deeply intelligent, surmises that if the blog author’s assessment is correct, then:

[T]he only way … it is correct is that fundamental change to our system, which includes change to the fundamental worldview of that system … is giving up what made us great as a country… The multi-cultural pluralism message is only a message because it doesn’t take into account the reality of fundamental transformation of our country and way of life … Everything may be already ‘gone with the wind,’ but there is a vast residual, in that case, who never were informed of the transformation and who never had a choice or chance to have themselves heard as the changes took place. So, the evil is what people expect to happen when the last vestige of our tradition is no more.

One might justly ask, however, precisely who is meant by “our” and specifically what is meant by “tradition.” In other words, just what is “our tradition?” To many white, Anglo-Saxon Protestants (the WASPs of old), the answer seems to come rather easily … but it also betrays gross over-simplification of American history. For in fact, America has always been multi-cultural, and the embryonic promises of the unique, constitutional, American democracy have only grown and matured down through the generations.

Yes, as Hank also observes, the newly formed United States was informed by an overall Judeo-Christian worldview, broadly speaking, and this broad worldview continued to influence our country at least until somewhat recently, historically speaking. Yet beneath the umbrella of Judeo-Christianity there existed quite some variety marking very important differences between groups, sects, and denominations. From the beginning, there were Quakers and Roman Catholics, Methodists and Presbyterians, Baptists and Congregationalists. There were also Jews and, among the slave population, even Muslims. And we certainly cannot forget the number of Deists and Unitarians to be counted among the Founders of this country… So there we have it: Diversity.

big-time-cover.jpegAnd culturally, there were, of course, English and Scottish, French and Germans, Africans and Spanish, and many Indigenous Peoples, as well as others. Each race and ethnic group brought with it their own cultural history and heritage, norms and habits, traditions and ways of life. This was all part of what made the American colonies so very unique, and the founding of the United States so different and even astonishing. That all of these disparate groups came together under the broad panoply of Judeo-Christianity is an important fact of history, yet one that ought not distort our view of that same rich and variegated history.

Certainly we must recognize that socio-political (and economic) controversy, and in the process claiming the moral high ground, has been part and parcel of American history. After all, the very nation itself was predicated upon self-evident, moral truth, and right from the beginning our Founders wrangled over the question of slavery. And there was some controversy in some states over tax-supported churches, and then there was the question of our relationship with the various Indigenous Peoples. And what about women and their “rightful place” in society? And the manufacturing and selling of alcohol? And the rights of common laborers? Safety in the workplace, quality standards for meats sold on the market, regulation of medications for public safety?

There is so much more from early on in our history that we can mention: Should we maintain a strong military or be more pacifist? Should we invade and conquer the West as part of our “Manifest Destiny” or respect the boundaries of Mexico? Should slaves be counted in the population of a state or not … or partly counted? Should an atheist be allowed to hold public office? And, yes, this was a question, but by the first half of the 20th century was, for the most part, answered in the affirmative. If the majority of voters vote someone into an office, then that individual should be allowed to serve, period. 

But my friend nevertheless laments, “we have lost something great in this country and that is character,” and I do agree with him, though perhaps not in quite the same way. Character includes, among other virtues: honesty, integrity, and courage with love and compassion, and I simply do not see this currently issuing from the White House or the Republican Party in general. Still, we should not conclude that there has been some great overturning of the American society, or that what was established and generally accepted before is now “gone with the wind.” The wind has always been blowing in this part of the world, at least, and still blows today. Where it carries us largely depends on how we set our sails, and that is largely up to us, to be decided by “we the people.”

Now we should conclude by observing that, yes, as a matter of fact Judeo-Christianity has waned in this country, its influence much diminished, but why is that? Perhaps it is not so much that the larger population has rejected truth or, especially, the love of Christ Jesus presented in the Gospel, but rather has altogether and quite understandably rejected an overly-politicized, sham gospel that Jesus of Nazareth would also reject just as vehemently as he renounced the message of the religious leaders of his own day and time. Perhaps it is time for self-professing Christians, especially of the evangelical ilk, to “get back to the basics,” so to speak, in order to re-present the light, life, and love of Christ to the whole of the hungering world suffering in darkness, sin, and death. Maybe then the masses would listen once again. Maybe then the Judeo-Christian worldview would be taken seriously… Perhaps. 

Crisis, Constitution, and Bible Classes

It is an attempted power grab, no two ways about it, and no one should really be surprised that President Trump actually went ahead by declaring a national emergency at our southern border. What should, perhaps, surprise us is that the Republican Party is almost completely silent, if not complicit, with this unconstitutional move. And, no, the 1976 National Emergencies Act does not give the President the authority to do what he is attempting. As the Brennan Center for Justice pointed out recently, nearly all cases of declared emergencies have involved foreign governments, outside terroristic threats, and gross human rights violations, never the President of the United States circumventing funds already appropriated by Congress and signed into law by the Executive Branch.

Of course, one could argue the finer points of the law, and sooner than later the Courts will decide the proper interpretation and possible application of the National Emergencies Act, which will in all likelihood make its way to the Supreme Court where we can only hope and pray a majority of Justices are faithful enough to the Constitution, not to mention frightened enough by the prospect of giving the President so much power, that they will rule Trump’s attempted move illegal. In the meantime, we might ask some simple but very sensible questions about all this … questions that, really, any good Republican should be asking him/herself right now, such as:

  1. Why did President Trump fail to get his billions of dollars in border wall funding during his first two years of office when the GOP controlled both chambers of Congress, especially if it was so imperative?
  2. When Trump did not receive adequate funding for the Wall, why did he not declare a national emergency in 2017 or 2018? Did this “national emergency” just suddenly arise in 2019, after the Democrats took back control of the House? Hmmm …. suspicious at best.
  3. If there really is a national emergence at the southern border, where’s the proof? No, we mean good, solid evidence rooted in reality, which begs the question: Why is illegal immigration at a nearly 50-year low if there really is a crisis along the Mexican border?
  4. Does this crisis primarily have to do with narcotics and other contraband? But studies and reports have consistently shown that most illegal drugs come into the United States through legal ports of entry… So how does this allow President Trump to declare a national emergence along our southern border?

The most important question I have for Republicans ~ and I’m really kind of frightened I even have to ask this ~ is, “Why in the world would you stand idly by and allow, if not support, any President so obviously circumventing the Constitution? Why would you … how could you support someone striking at the very balance of power we have enjoyed in our country since its foundation? Do you not realize that this sort of action threatens to erode the very foundation of our nation?”

We can only hope and pray the challengers to Trump’s power grab are successful, that they prevail. Even back in the 1930s, good ole FDR had to be challenged for his own attempted power grab, and he was … and his challengers were, thankfully, successful. However, bear in mind that many of his challengers were, as a matter of fact, from his own party. Sadly, this is seemingly not the case today!

Bible in the Classrooms?

Some states evidently have proposals on the table to offer Bible classes in public schools. Proponents offer all kinds of arguments for doing this, such as: Judeo-Christian Scriptures contain good teaching to which children need to be exposed, especially in character development. Also, the Bible constitutes some of the great literature of the world, and it has also been an integral part of the history and heritage of the United States.

Besides all this, the Bible class would only be offered as an elective, not as a requirement, so parents should not be offended because their children would not be forced into religious instruction. So there should presumably be no problem, and President Trump is evidently all for it … and at this point we might make the salient observation that he himself could use a good class or two in biblical competency! At any rate, the real question is: Would this be a good idea assuming it is not ultimately deemed unconstitutional. (And, of course, if state legislatures pass bills for Bible classes, even as electives, there will be court challenges.)

Well, there are probably many objections. For instance: Why offer an elective in the Bible and not, say, the Qur’an? Or the Upanishads? Or the Bhagavad Gita? Or the Analects of Confucius? One can easily argue that these religious writings also comprise part of the world’s great literature, and that they offer good teachings conducive to character development. Of course, they have not, perhaps, played a major role in the history and heritage of America, yet it is also true that many of these important spiritual/religious works were studied by educated Americans as part of a classical education, including many (if not most) of the Founding Fathers. (Both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, for example, had personal copies of the Qur’an.)

But one additional concern, fairly simple and straightforward, is the question of just who would write the curriculum, and who would actually teach the class. Imagine offering a Bible class in southeast Alabama created by, say, Paulist Press and taught by the local, Roman Catholic priest! This would not go over at all, of course, even if the class were an elective and even if the priest received no monetary compensation. Most folks in this area of the country just would not put up with it, their attitude being: “How dare you when the overwhelming majority of us are Southern Baptists, and we don’t believe in prayers to Mary and the saints, the real presence of Christ in Holy Communion, etc. etc.!” So you see, this could be a problem: Who would end up teaching these classes?

Personally, I would not really object to a comparative world religions class offered as an elective to, maybe, juniors and seniors with curriculum produced by, say, MacMillan or Oxford and taught by an astute PhD in Religion (with said PhD eared from a fully-accredited institution of higher learning.) Such a course would possibly further expose students to the various cultures and belief systems of the Earth, which could be very helpful, indeed … especially since we live here in the “melting pot of the world.”